I wanted to make a statement about the Police, Crime, Sentencing, and Courts Bill that is being debated in Parliament and being voted on tomorrow at second reading.
Firstly, I want to be clear that I am voting against this Bill. I informed the Labour whip that was my intention last week, as soon as I understood that this Bill is being used as a cover for authoritarianism.
I am also supporting the cross-party reasoned amendment tabled by Bell Ribeiro-Addy. If it gets support from the House of Commons, it will have the Bill thrown out of Parliament.
I am opposing this Bill in the strongest possible terms because it is an extreme threat to the fundamental rights and civil liberties of my constituents, and the people of this country.
There are few occasions when the British state reveals its true power. In this legislation, we see the very real consequences of having an unwritten constitution that gives unfettered power to an overcentralised Government in Westminster, and no enshrined protections for the inalienable rights and freedoms of the public.
This 300-page Bill is being rushed through Parliament at break-neck speed for no reason. Parts 3 and 4 are particularly alarming.
Part 3 contains a deliberate and malicious attack on the right to protest, which is the lifeblood of a democracy.
For example, it gives the Home Secretary the power to define what constitutes serious disruption, which would allow protest by any group to be targeted without scrutiny. It includes a staggering 266% increase in criminal sanctions for organisers. This would criminalise people and imprison them simply for exercising a democratic right. It would also severely restrict protest in the vicinity of the Palace of Westminster.
The cumulative effect would be an effective ban on the right to protest, and the protection of those in power from public criticism and accountability.
Part 4 of the Bill would create a criminal offence for trespass.
This would criminalise the way of life of nomadic Gypsy, Roma, and Traveller people, who are already marginalised and persecuted. This will also have the effect of making the countryside a more hostile place for anyone who wants to enjoy it, whether that is cyclists or wild campers. This benefits a small handful of private landowners, not the public.
So, whatever other elements may or may not be desirable in this Bill, it is clear they are being cynically used to give cover to an attack on OUR democracy.
We must see this Bill for what it is. It is part of a calculated programme to tear down the democratic features stapled onto the UK’s ‘elective dictatorship’.
Do I think that what the bulk of the public wants is for our hard-won fundamental rights and freedoms to be suspended?
No, it is not the public who wants this authoritarian crackdown. It is what vested interests demand.
To better enable their ability to suppress the demand for change the Government is attacking our core democratic rights. Rights that have already been eroded these past 40 years and handed to large, opaque vested interests, both individual and corporate. This is the crisis of democracy.
The Government wants to stifle dissent, so they are not accountable to the public.
After banning protest, they are also coming for free speech, our right to vote, our human rights, our right to challenge the Government in court, and our rights in the workplace. All of it.
I hope everyone who wants the UK to be a democracy – fellow MPs from across parties, civil society, the public – can stand in unity against this attack on our rights and the agenda to legislate democracy out of existence.
The Reasoned Amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing, and Courts Bill that I am supporting can be read here: https://twitter.com/BellRibeiroAddy/status/1371525305039470592?s=