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The Public Order Bill 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 disruptive protests.

Lords report stage took place across two sittings on 30 January 2023 and 7 February 2023, with third reading on 21 February 2023.The Bill was extensively amended at report stage. The Lords amendments are due to be considered by the Commons on 7 March 2023.  

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. A second Library briefing, Public Order Bill: Progress of the Bill, discusses in more detail what happened during Commons second reading and committee stage.

Government defeats in the Lords

During Lords report stage the Government suffered several defeats:

  • An overarching definition of ‘serious disruption’ was inserted for the purposes of the Bill which refers to “significant harm to persons, organisations or the life of the community”, “significant delay to the delivery of a time-sensitive product”, and “prolonged disruption” to access to essential goods and services;
  • The power for the police to conduct suspicion-less stop and search for protest-related items was removed from the Bill;
  • A new clause that provides specific protections for journalists was added to the Bill. This expressly prohibits the police from exercising their powers to prevent journalists and other people monitoring protests from reporting on, or monitoring, either a protest itself or the police exercise of powers in relation to a protest;
  • Some of the triggers that would allow Serious Disruption Prevention orders (SDPOs) to be issued on conviction were removed so that one could only be issued where an individual has already been convicted of another protest-related offence in the past five years or been found in contempt of court for breaching a protest-related injunction; and
  • The SDPOs issued following an application from the police and not on conviction were completely removed from the Bill.

Government concessions

The Government moved two of its own amendments to limit the scope of SDPOs as an offer to the Lords to address criticisms made about them. This included removing electronic monitoring from the list of requirements that could be issued as part of an SDPO and limiting SDPOs so they could only be renewed once (where previously there was no limit specified).

Additional changes: interfering with abortion services

The offence of interfering with access to, or provision, of abortion services was replaced with an alternative version of the offence. The new version has an updated definition for ‘interfering with’ abortion services in order to narrow the scope of the offence. It also removed the option of a custodial sentence and created exemptions for private dwellings, places of worship, and those accompanying someone to an abortion clinic with their consent. The Government took a neutral stance during the debate.

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