AUtoritarian, reactionary, repressive: The criticism of possible restrictions on the freedom to demonstrate through the planned British police law in the House of Lords could hardly have been more scathing. Members of the House of Lords inflicted one vote defeat after the other on Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government on Tuesday night.
By a large majority, the Lords rejected several paragraphs in the draft of the proposed new Police Act. For example, it provided for significant restrictions on protests if the police considered them to be a noise nuisance or block traffic routes.
With the “Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill”, the Johnson government wants to put climate and anti-racism protests in their place, which have made headlines in recent years. The bill went through the last stage in the upper house on Tuesday night – and should then return to the lower house. The government is expected to largely reverse the Lords’ changes to the Commons. Usually the House of Lords gives way in this case.
Critics see human rights in question
Critics fear that the vague regulations and powers for the police could lead to the dissolution of any demo as illegal. If one can no longer express one’s disapproval of the government’s actions with noise on the street, “human rights are seriously at stake,” said Conservative House of Lords member John Gummer during the debate on Monday evening. The Bishop of Leeds, Nick Baines, who also sits in the House of Lords, referred to Mahatma Ghandi and Nelson Mandela, who were honored with statues erected in the square in front of the British Parliament: their protest, Baines said, would not have taken place under the circumstances be able.
But the planned police law is by far not the only instrument that critics believe the Johnson administration is trying to undermine the foundations of separation of powers and democracy.
Crop, restrict, ignore
Among other things, the control of norms in the country is to be severely restricted according to the will of the Tories. Justice Minister Dominic Raab wants to break the power of the judiciary to check government decisions for their legality with a judicial reform. Its Judicial Review and Courts Bill reportedly allows the government to simply ignore unwelcome court rulings. Judicial scrutiny has been a thorn in the side of the Johnson administration since the Supreme Court declared Johnson’s parliamentary recess illegal in 2019.
Another Raabs project envisages taking Great Britain out of the European Convention on Human Rights and thus escaping the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. With the Nationality and Borders Bill, Home Secretary Priti Patel wants to make it almost impossible for asylum seekers who have entered the country illegally to obtain a right to stay in Great Britain.