MP wants Govt to accept Lords’ free speech vote

Fri, 10 Jan 2014

The Government should listen to the House of Lords and drop its plan to outlaw annoying behaviour, an MP has said.

Sir Edward Leigh MP was responding to an overwhelming vote in the House of Lords to amend the Government’s Anti-social Behaviour Bill.

He said the hundreds of Peers who voted against the Government “agreed that the wording of this Bill was draconian, illiberal and had to be changed”.

Preach

Under Clause 1 of the legislation Anti-social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) were to be replaced with Injunctions to Prevent Nuisance and Annoyance (IPNAs).

However, there were serious concerns that the injunctions would be too vague, and could catch protestors, buskers and street preachers.

On Wednesday Peers voted by 306 to 178 in favour of changing the legislation, but the Government Minister in charge of the Bill – Norman Baker – could still try to roll back the move.

Muddled

Sir Edward said the vote sent, “a very clear message to the Government that their plans to outlaw annoying and nuisance behaviour are unclear, represent muddled thinking and could have a chilling effect on free speech”.

“It was interesting to note that despite repeated questions, the Government side failed to give a single example of thuggish and loutish behaviour that would not be caught by the existing ASBO wording – not one!

“And the size of the majority against their proposals, which seems to have caught them by surprise, puts huge pressure on the Minister to accept these changes to the legislation”, he said.

Strengthens

Former Chief Constable, Lord Dear, tabled the successful amendment which protects free speech while still allowing the courts to tackle anti-social behaviour.

“I hope that Mr Baker accepts the amendment from Lord Dear as it strengthens the Bill rather than weakens it, which is why this change is backed by a range of civil liberty groups, the police and many of his own colleagues”, Sir Edward said.

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