Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill: Bishop of Leeds questions definition of “significant” disruption

On 17th January 2022, during a debate on the Police, Crime, Sentencing, and Courts Bill, the Bishop of Leeds spoke in support of amendments to relating to the definition of “significant” disruption caused by protests:

The Lord Bishop of Leeds: My Lords, I have a number of problems with this part of the Bill that are to do with form and content. The fact that these amendments were brought in at the stage they were seems an abuse of parliamentary scrutiny. Some of the debates we are having could have been sorted out had they been addressed in the normal way. That fits into a pattern of intimations about breaking the rule of law and the authoritarian complexion of the way in which some things are being done in, through or around Parliament. That is my problem with form.

On content, it seems that we would have to remove the statues of Gandhi and Mandela from Parliament Square were these provisions to go through. You cannot laud people later as being great and prophetic actors by exercising the right to dissent, at the same time as clamping down on that in the building over the road. We have heard a lot in recent debates about freedom, particularly in relation to Covid, freedom passes and things like that, but we cannot just pick and choose which freedoms are convenient to us in a democracy.

I say to the noble Lord, Lord Hain, that the dry run for Cable Street was actually the week before, in Holbeck Moor in Leeds. It would have been ruled out as well. There is a significant point to make about the word “significant”, which was mentioned earlier. How is it that in legislation we are able to use words that are so incapable of definition? If something is significant, it is “significant of” something. It is not just significant; that is meaningless as a definition. That is like when people write that something is incredible, which, if it was, would have no credibility; they actually mean the opposite. You can get away with it in ordinary parlance but not in legislation.


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