Boris Johnson to force through new anti-protest curbs in Queen’s speech


Boris Johnson’s government will force through police powers to prevent disruptive yet peaceful protests as one of 38 new bills in Tuesday’s Queen’s speech.

In a move to reinstate measures thrown out by the House of Lords in January, the government will announce new offences to stop protesters from “locking on” to infrastructure, extend stop and search powers, and make it illegal to obstruct transport projects.

The public order bill will be aimed at quashing tactics employed by protest groups such as Extinction Rebellion, Insulate Britain and Just Stop Oil.

It will be seen as part of a plan by Johnson to boost his premiership with proposals which will appeal to core Tory supporters.

The development came as Buckingham Palace announced on Monday night that the Queen will miss the state opening of parliament. The Prince of Wales will instead read the Queen’s speech for the first time on her behalf.

In a move that will anger civil liberty groups, the new public order measures will include:

  • New criminal offences of locking on, and going equipped to lock on to others, objects or buildings – carrying a maximum penalty of six months’ imprisonment and an unlimited fine.
  • The creation of a new criminal offence of interfering with key national infrastructure, such as airports, railways and printing presses – carrying a maximum sentence of 12 months in prison and an unlimited fine.
  • Measures to make it illegal to obstruct major transport works, including disrupting the construction or maintenance of projects like HS2 – punishable by up to six months in prison and an unlimited fine.

The bill is expected to extend stop and search powers so the police can seize articles related to these new offences. New preventive “serious disruption prevention orders” will also be available for repeat offenders, a statement said.

The home secretary, Priti Patel, first announced plans to disrupt the tactics of protesters last October at the Conservative party conference. But in January, peers rejected half a dozen government amendments to the police, crime, sentencing and courts bill which would have introduced the measures.

Because the amendments were introduced in the House of Lords once the bill had passed through the Commons they could not be sent back to MPs. However, the latest plan will mean that the government can rely on its Commons majority to force through a new law.

Commenting on the new measures, Patel said: “The public order bill will give the police the powers they need to clamp down on this outrageous behaviour and ensure the British public can go about their lives without disruption.”

The programme includes seven bills intended to remove EU regulation, covering areas from data reform to gene editing and financial services.

Other new laws are expected to try to boost economic growth across the country to address the cost of living crisis. The government will also try to create the conditions for more people to have high wage, high skilled jobs, and keep the public safe, a statement said.

“Because in spite of everything we have been through, we are going to ensure that over the two years we have left in this parliament, we spend every second uniting and levelling up this country, exactly as we said we would.”

Following Conservative backbench concerns over the cost of living crisis, the government is widely expected to make announcements on its energy strategy. Other expected announcements include changes to Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit border arrangements and a replacement for the Human Rights Act.

Addressing cost of living challenges, Johnson is expected to say: “We will get the country through the aftershocks of Covid, just as we got through Covid, with every ounce of ingenuity and compassion and hard work.

“By urgently pressing on with our mission to create the high wage, high skilled jobs that will drive economic growth across our whole United Kingdom.”

Buckingham Palace said in a statement that the Queen, 96, has pulled out of the ceremonial occasion after experiencing “episodic mobility problems”.

“At Her Majesty’s request, and with the agreement of the relevant authorities, the Prince of Wales will read the Queen’s speech on Her Majesty’s behalf, with the Duke of Cambridge also in attendance,” the statement said.

Source: The Guardian