Public Order Bill: Bishop of Manchester supports amendments related to access to abortion clinics and to curtailing excessive police powers

On 22nd November 2022, the House of Lords debated the Public Order Bill in the second day of the committee stage. The Bishop of Manchester spoke regarding two sets of amendments: firstly, in support of amendments to Clause 9, pertaining to access issues around abortion providers, and secondly in opposition to clauses remaining in the bill which would grant excessive police powers, particularly regarding the right to protest.

The Lord Bishop of Manchester: I rise to address Amendments 85 to 88, 90 and 92, to which my right reverend friend the Bishop of St Albans has added his name. He regrets that he is unable to be in his place today. I also have sympathy with a number of other amendments in this group.

It is a heated and emotive debate on this clause, and it was heated and emotive when it was added in the other place. The danger is that we get dragged into debates about whether abortion is morally right or wrong. Indeed, I have had plenty of emails over the past few days, as I am sure other noble Lords have, tending in that direction. As it happens, I take the view that the present law on abortion strikes a reasonable balance; in particular, it respects the consciences of women faced, sometimes with very little support, with making deeply difficult decisions.

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Public Order Bill: Bishop of St Albans highlights concerns of excessive police powers

On 1st November 2022, the House of Lords debated the Public Order Bill in its second reading. The Bishop of St Albans spoke in the debate, highlighting concerns that the bill would grant excessive powers to the police:

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, I think many of us in this debate will have a feeling of déjà vu. No matter how many pieces of legislation come through here granting the police additional powers, it seems that they are never enough. It seems we are always one more public order provision away from solving the problem.

Along with other noble Lords, I want to support the police and the rule of law. We are grateful for all the police do; they stand in our place and, very often, have to take very difficult decisions. But we already have the Public Order Act 1986, which grants the police powers to place restrictions on protests and to prohibit those which threaten to cause serious disruption to public order. We already have the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, which introduced the offence of aggravated trespass. We have the offence of obstruction of a highway and the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, which allows for civil injunctions to prevent protesters demonstrating in a way which causes harm or harassment. As recently as last year, remarkably extensive powers, including on noisy and disruptive protests, were granted in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022.

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Votes: Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

On 31st March 2022, the House of Lords debated Commons Amendments to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. There were votes on several amendments, in which Bishops took part.

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Votes: Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

On 22nd March 2022, the House of Lords considered Commons amendments to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. Votes were held on further amendments to the bill, in which Bishops took part.

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Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill: Bishop of Leeds speaks in debate regarding protest regulations

On 22nd March 2022, the House of Lords debated Commons Amendments to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. The Bishop of Leeds spoke in the debate:

The Lord Bishop of Leeds: My Lords, I was not going to add to the argument, but—and I do not want to depress the noble Lord, Lord Coaker—I have never been on a demonstration. At least, I have not been on a demonstration that was protesting against something.

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Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill: Bishop of Manchester speaks on violence reduction and on regulations on noise from protests

On 22nd March 2022, the House of Lords debated Commons amendments to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. The Bishop of Manchester spoke twice in the debate, first voicing his concerns regarding serious violence reduction orders:

My Lords, I echo the thoughts that the noble Lord, Lord Young, has just shared. I declare my interest as chair of the Manchester Homelessness Partnership board and as co-chair of the national police ethics committee, because I also wish to speak to the Motion regarding serious violence reduction orders.

I support the Vagrancy Act repeal, as I know my right reverend and most reverend friends on these Benches do, and have sought to see that included in previous Bills. I am grateful that it is now on track and I look forward to working with Ministers and others to ensure that we avoid any unintended consequences and do not simply recreate the old Act in more modern language.

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Bishop of Ripon and Leeds speaks in favour of amendment to reduce noise disturbance around Westminster Abbey

Westminster-abbeyOn 20th January 2014, the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds spoke in favour of an amendment to the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill, during the Bill’s Report Stage. The amendment, proposed by Lord Deben and co-sponsored by the Bishop of Newcastle, related to the use of amplified noise equipment in vicinity of the Palace of Westminster, and the Bishop spoke of the impact that such equipment has on worship in Westminster Abbey and St Margaret’s Church. 

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