Former Gedling MP Vernon Coaker leads opposition to controversial Government anti-protest legislation
Former Gedling MP and Labor colleague Vernon Coaker led a successful opposition to a government bill aimed at cracking down on disruptive protests.
The Public Order Bill, which is at the draft stage, was stopped in the House of Lords on Monday 30 January.
Lord Coaker (Lab), who became a peer in March 2021, led an amendment to amend the Government’s proposal to lower the threshold for defining ‘serious disorders’.
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The peers voted 243 to 221 in favor of a higher threshold before authorities can intervene in a protest, specifically exempting the legislation from the phrase “or is capable of causing serious disruption”.
Lord Coaker argued that such a fact “should trouble us all”, saying: “My goodness, many of us, noble lords in this chamber and others who are observing these proceedings, would have been arrested or would have been in with the law under these provisions conflict.”
But Home Office Secretary Lord Sharpe (Con) said the bill was simply aimed at preventing obstruction of the UK public.
Similarly, another section of the bill that sought to prevent protesting an issue in the current debate that is being used as a defense was also defeated by a vote of 244 to 221.
The defeat comes as teachers across Nottinghamshire and beyond took part in strike action on Wednesday February 1, the latest in a series of strikes by public sector workers.
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Lord Coaker said in The Lords: “It is my contention, and that of my party and other parties across the House, that the bill has gone too far.
“From my perspective and that of others, there is a risk that the police will be given many new powers which, rather than providing clarity, will end up undermining and suppressing peaceful and legitimate protests.”
He added: “I want us all to take that into account when deciding how to vote on these matters. In other words, on some of the details of these amendments, we have to keep in mind that there doesn’t even have to be an infringement; it just has to be possible, and that should worry us all.”
Lord Sharpe of Epsom, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Office, said: “The debate is not about whether these measures ban protests: quite simply, they do not and I thank the noble lord, Lord Coaker, for emphasizing his comments this fact.
“We are trying to find out to what extent protesters can disrupt the life of the general public.
“The position of this government is clear: we are on the side of the public.
“The government wants to protect the public’s right to go about their daily lives freely or unhindered. I don’t think his amendment supports that aim; therefore I cannot support it.”
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