PRITI Patel has not ruled out putting environmental protesters to work in chain gangs as punishment for disruptive tactics.

The Home Secretary was asked about introducing the measure by a Tory MP who complained about environmental protests in his constituency.

It followed the announcement that Downing Street wants to pass a Public Order Bill to combat “guerrilla tactics” used by activists.

Ashfield MP Lee Anderson said: “The Public Order Bill, as she [Patel] knows, will be music to the ears of many residents in Ashfield. We have seen these eco-whatever-they-are with their little hammers smashing petrol stations up.

“Does she think it is a good idea that we should give them bigger hammers, some tools, and put them to work seven days a week like the rest of us?”

Patel did not rule out the idea, instead talking more generally about the potential dangers of protests.

“Well my Honourable friend, like me, believes in work,” she replied. “And that is effectively what we’re doing in this government. We’re cracking on with the job, basically, delivering for the British people on the people’s priorities.”

The Home Secretary went on to reference a recent climate protest in Scotland, in which Just Stop Oil activists blockaded the Nustar Clydebank facility in West Dunbartonshire by climbing on top of tankers and locking on to the entrance. More than 30 people were arrested following the demonstration.

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Patel continued: “The dangerous nature of these protests should not be lost on anyone in this House. Particularly when we saw the recent Just Stop Oil protests.

“There were, particularly, sites and oil refineries where these protesters imposed themselves, and it is really just a miracle that somebody was not killed or injured because of the tactics that were being used.”

The exchange came during a tense Queen’s Speech debate in the Commons.

Labour shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper accused the Tory minister of being “afraid” to take questions during her speech.

She said there was an “astonishing refusal by the Home Secretary to take interventions and questions from the shadow home secretary”.

She added: “I have been taking part in Queen’s Speech debates for 25 years and I have never seen a Government minister at the despatch box afraid to take questions from her opposite number.”

As Cooper spoke, MPs on both sides of the House exchanged remarks and Patel accused one Labour MP of making “sexist” comments.

Tory MP Anderson has previously hit the headlines for declaring he would boycott the England men’s football team during Euro 2020 because the players took the knee before the game.

Angered by the anti-racism gesture, the Conservative announced: “For the first time in my life I will not be watching my beloved England team whilst they are supporting a political movement whose core principles aim to undermine our very way of life.”

In November, Anderson was forced to apologise after accusing SNP MPs of "drunken loutish” behaviour during a trip to Gibraltar.