MP Jeremy Wright considers bill which aims to restrict protesting tactics - The Leamington Observer

MP Jeremy Wright considers bill which aims to restrict protesting tactics

Leamington Editorial 28th May, 2022   0

THE HOUSE  of Commons debated the Public Order Bill this week and did so with some passion on both sides. The Bill seeks to create new offences and to restrict in other ways protester tactics that are highly disruptive. That includes so-called ‘locking on’, or chaining or attaching yourself to structures in order to prevent progress being made on a project of which you disapprove.

This is legislation that raises significant and serious questions about rights in our society and it deserves careful scrutiny to ensure it does not go too far, but I believe it is needed. We have seen over recent months protesters on a variety of subjects adopt increasingly dramatic methods to make a point, affecting an increasing number of their fellow citizens. We have seen motorways closed by protesters gluing themselves to the road surface, causing not just inconvenience but immense distress to some, for example, on their way to hospital. Nobody should seriously dispute the need in a democratic society for a right to protest, and in such a society the exercise of few rights has no effect at all on the rights of others, but the exercise of rights is very often a matter of balance.

 

The exercise of individual rights must not ignore the consequences to the rest of us. In some cases the right of the individual will outweigh the effect on others and in other cases it will not. It must then be appropriate for legislation to restrict in some circumstances individual rights to do things which would harm the interests of others and this is not a new concept. The Public Order Bill is in that territory. It is not going to make the United Kingdom into Putin’s Russia, as some of its critics suggest, but it must be limited in its scope. It is not protests that are irritating or expensive that are its proper targets, but protests that cause real harm, including, ironically, to some who share the objectives of the protesters. That has been the case with some Extinction Rebellion climate protests for example.




We have also experienced protests against HS2 locally that have involved significant risk to those asked to remove protesters from dangerous places, as well as the danger to the protesters themselves. Plenty will sympathise with the case those protesters make, but there are bad ways to make good arguments. However good the cause, it cannot be right to jeopardise the health and wellbeing of others in pursuit of it.


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