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Labour Lords vote against Police Bill measures after BASW UK intervention

Kerri Prince, BASW UK Public Affairs Lead, provides an update on the Police Bill

Yesterday (17 January 2022) the House of Lords voted down several highly controversial UK Government amendments to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.

The amendments threatened fundamental aspects of our democratic right to protest, be heard and be visible - and were opposed by BASW UK and many other civil society organisations.

One amendment would have made it an offence to ‘be equipped to lock on’, with wheelchairs potentially being viewed as ‘locking on equipment’. This would mean it could be an offence for a person who uses a wheelchair in the vicinity of a protest, as they would be considered to have equipment that could be used for ‘locking on’.

The Government's amendments also tried to criminalise the vague issue of “noise”, but this was also voted against by members of the House of Lords.

Together, the amendments would have created a slippery slope towards any and all protests being halted for breaching the law for superfluous reasons. 

This is why BASW UK wrote to the Shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper, and Leader of the Labour Party, Keir Starmer, outlining our opposition to the Government proposals and asking them to use their influence to oppose the proposals too. 

We are pleased that the Labour Party took a stand - the Government were defeated 14 times in total in the House of Lords last night, and the Bill will soon move to ‘ping pong’ stage where the Bill (like a game of ping pong) goes back and forth between the two Houses until there is an agreement.

There is some doubt as to what the Government can now do to try and reintroduce the measures that were defeated last night. As the amendments were not in the original Bill when it was in the Commons, they have never stood part of the Bill and therefore the Government cannot bring them back in their original form. You cannot just keep submitting amendments that are voted down.

But this Government is not one to take defeat easily, and I expect they will now be exploring their options to push through their agenda, such as the re-writing of amendments. Ping pong can be a complicated stage when the two Houses disagree vehemently, and this certainly isn’t the end.

We had a victory last night, but we need to stand prepared ready for what the UK Government does next.