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.
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.
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.
During a debate on the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill on 17th January 2022, the Bishop of Gloucester voiced concerns regarding provisions in the bill that would restrict noise in protests:
The Lord Bishop of Bristol: The city of Bristol is a city of activists and protesters, and it has been so for a very long time, particularly at the time of the Great Reform Bill. Many protests nowadays focus on College Green, in the shadow of the cathedral; as a result, I am well aware of the passion and commitment of Bristol activists, and the very real hurt and trauma when protests are mishandled.
Often protests can be annoying, and often they are disruptive—but that is the point. Public spaces, like College Green in Bristol and Parliament Square, are places which are felt to belong to the public, and which have been places where decision-makers like us are confronted by people’s concerns.
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 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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