Nickie Aiken, MP for the Cities of London & Westminster reinforced the need to balance the right to protest with the rights of local residents.
During the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill debate, Nickie defended not only the right to protest but reinforced the rights of local residents whose lives, routines and loss of amenity are disrupted frequently by the 500+ demonstrations, marches and protests experienced each year in Westminster.
Victoria Atkins MP, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Office, stated that such balancing exercises are what the Government is trying to address by updating the laws which are 35 years old. The new laws are implementing recommendations made by the Independent Law Commission. To put this in context, in a three month period earlier this year, the National Police Chiefs Council assessed that out of more than two and a half thousand protests, no more than a dozen had conditions attached to them. These conditions, amongst others, include the generation of noise and they will continue as now to take into consideration protestors' freedom of speech and assembly.
In the Chamber, Nickie said,
"As the member for the Cities of London and Westminster, which sees 500 protests in Westminster every year, would my honourable friend agree with me, that human rights of protesters is absolutely important, but so is the human rights of local people who live yards away from this place?"
Victoria Atkins responded,
"That sums up the balancing exercise that this government is drawing, on the advice I have to say of the Independent Police Inspectorate. The bill does not stop the freedom to demonstrate, it balances that freedom against the rights and liberties of others. These laws that exist at the moment are 35 years old, and we want to update them and implement recommendations made by the Independent Law Commission.
"It will continue to be the case that the police attach conditions to only a small proportion of protests, and just to put this in context, in a three month period earlier this year, the National Police Chiefs Council assessed that out of more than two and a half thousand protests, no more than a dozen had conditions attached to them. Twelve out of two and a half thousand. If I may, 'cause I genuinely do have other things to, other matters I do want to address. In deciding whether to do so, including in respect of the generation of noise, they will continue as now to take into consideration protestors' freedom of speech and assembly."