Documents to download

The Public Order Bill (Bill 008 2022-23) was introduced to the House of Commons on 11 May 2022. The aim of the Bill is to provide the police with greater powers to respond to protests causing serious disruption.

The Bill was given second reading on 23 May 2022 and considered by a Public Bill Committee over seven sittings between 9 and 21 June 2022. The remaining stages of the Bill are due to take place on 13 September 2022.

Full policy background to the Bill as it was introduced is set out in the Library briefing: Public Order Bill, Bill 008 of 2022-23.  

Government amendments: additional protest-related offences

The Committee agreed – without division – several Government new clauses and amendments that would expand the number of protest-related offences in the Bill. The new clauses introduce criminal offences for causing serious disruption by creating a tunnel; causing serious disruption by occupying a tunnel; and being equipped for tunnelling. Kit Malthouse, then Minister of State in the Home Office and Ministry of Justice, said this was to show that the “reckless practice” of building tunnels to disrupt legitimate activity and which endangers protestors and the police and emergency services “will not be tolerated”.

The Committee also agreed concurrent amendments to both suspicion-led and suspicion-less stop and search clauses in the Bill to enable them to apply to these additional offences. The Committee then divided on whether the clauses for stop and search (as amended) should stand part. Both were ordered to stand part of the Bill by 10 votes to six.

Unsuccessful opposition amendments

There were several reoccurring concerns raised throughout the Committee’s debates about the Bill, including concern that:

  • the Bill is too broad and imprecise, putting the burden on police to interpret the legislation and making it difficult to apply consistently;
  • the threshold for triggering the new offences and Serious Disruption Prevention Orders is too low and casts the net too wide, risking legitimate, peaceful protests and non-criminal action falling “within the scope” of the Bill;
  • the Bill will disproportionately interfere with human rights legislation and there are not enough safeguards in place to mitigate this risk.

To address these concerns, opposition parties tabled several amendments intended to narrow the scope of the Bill and increase the threshold at which the proposed new offences apply. However, the opposition were not successful in these amendments. The Committee divided on an amendment which sought to raise the trigger for the offence of locking-on, but the amendment was defeated. Others that were debated were either withdrawn by the member or negatived by the Committee.

Opposition members also tabled amendments to remove Serious Disruption Prevention Orders from the Bill, however these were not successful. The Committee then divided on whether clauses 12 and 13 (that would give the power to issues Serious Disruption Prevention Orders) should stand part and it was agreed (in both cases by seven votes to six) that they would stand part of the Bill. All clauses pertaining to Serious Disruption Prevention Orders will stand part of the Bill.  

Labour also tabled an amendment to add a new clause to the Bill which would have enabled ‘buffer zones’ to be established around abortion clinics. Under the proposed measure, an individual would be guilty of an offence if, within the buffer zone, they interfered with access to, or the provision of, abortion services. The clause was withdrawn after debate.

Documents to download

Related posts