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Police to gain powers to dictate protest times, as Lords expected to concede on policing bill

The government has been accused of seeking ‘Russian-style sanctions on protest and liberty’.

Police are set to be given the power to impose start and end times on protests they believe could cause serious disruption, The Big Issue has learned, with the House of Lords due to make a concession on the government’s policing bill tomorrow.

Peers had been resisting the government’s plans to give police the power to ban disruptive assemblies, but after MPs put the measures back in for a second time this week, Labour withdrew its support for a move to scrap the powers.

Instead, Lib Dem peer Lord Brian Paddick is planning to put forward a move to give police the power to impose start and end times on assemblies, with Labour’s support for the compromise.

Paddick, a former police officer, told The Big Issue: “Labour told us they weren’t prepared to support simply maintaining our current position, so there had to be a shift.

“The new amendment would allow the police, if they felt that the meeting was going to be disruptive to local people, to set the start and end time for the meeting. 

He added: “They can already specify where the meeting takes place. It’s a minor change but necessary in order to ensure that it goes back to the commons.”

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Labour will continue fighting the government on its plans to allow police to ban disruptive processions, The Big Issue understands, in the hope of extracting concessions from the government.

That push is separate to Paddick’s Lib Dem-led fight, which concerns assemblies and meetings.

Discussions were still underway on Wednesday, as peers hoped to ensure police would not be able to unreasonably change the day a protest was held.

The Police, Crime, Sentencing, and Courts bill has caused controversy and concern, with its plans to grant police the power to ban and impose conditions on protests for causing “serious disruption” or making too much noise.

The bill sparked widespread “Kill the Bill” protests across the country, with activists coming out in their thousands to defend the right to protest.

The government’s first attempt to introduce the measures was defeated in the Lords in January, during a session where 14 defeats were inflicted by opposition peers.

However, MPs have twice voted to put the powers back in the bill – with the bill going between the two houses in a process known as “ping pong”.

The votes of Labour’s peers have so far been crucial in imposing defeats on the government in the Lords.

But with time running out for the bill to pass, peers must decide whether to dig in with resistance or to offer concessions.

Green Party peer Baroness Jenny Jones said the number of contentious bills passing through the Lords was a cause for concern, and could mean anti-protest measures do not get proper scrutiny.

She told The Big Issue: “It’s been very hard to concentrate on the supposedly smaller bills, so the government’s getting away with Russian-style sanctions on protest and liberty.”

Peers will vote tomorrow on whether to continue trying to scrap the bill’s anti-protest measures.

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