MPs will debate the second reading of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, later today.

The controversial bill is designed to give the police and UK government more powers to crackdown on protests in Wales and England.

Policing and criminal justice isn’t devolved to the Senedd, meaning laws made by the UK Government in the areas of policing and crime apply in Wales and England.

The UK Government says the proposed legislation will allow the police to take a “more proactive approach” to managing “highly disruptive” protests that are deemed to cause a public disturbance.

They follow a year of protests from organisations like Extinction Rebellion and Black Lives Matter.

Both have been criticised by UK Government ministers for ‘going too far’ and causing severe disruption to public activities.

The bill references Extinction Rebellion’s protests, saying the group’s “April Uprising” demonstrations cost £16m police.

What will the bill allow police to do?

The bill will give the police more powers to deal with ‘static protests’, such as ‘sit ins’ and occasions where protestors refuse to disperse. Extinction Rebellion have used this tactic when they have glued themselves to buildings.

The UK Government intends to impose start and finish times on protests, as well as “maximum noise limits”.

Aren’t all protests noisy? And does that mean banning them?

Ministers insist it does not mean blocking the right to protest on the basis of too much noise.

However, the bill does says it will empower police to impose conditions on a protest when noise is causing a significant impact on those in the vicinity or the running of an organisation.

What else will the bill introduce?

It will make it easier to convict protesters for ignoring conditions placed on protests.

It will also prevent protests taking place around the UK Parliament by ensuring vehicle access is maintained.

The offence of creating a public nuisance will also be reinstating into common law.

New court orders will make it easier for police to stop and search those they suspect are carrying a knife.

Sports coaches and faith leaders who have sexual relationships with 16 and 17-year-olds in their care will be breaking the law.

The National: Creating a public nuisance could be reinstated into common law. Source: PA WireCreating a public nuisance could be reinstated into common law. Source: PA Wire

When will it become law?

The bill won’t become law today.

Bills must pass through multiple stages of the House of Commons and House of Lords before they become law.

Today is the second reading, if it passes, it will move on to the committee stage, where amendments may be proposed.

Other MPs will then be given the opportunity to suggest amendments, before the bill reaches its final stage in the House of Commons, the third reading, where it receives its final vote before being passed to the House of Lords.

What are opponents of the bill saying?

Gracie Bradley, director of the civil liberties campaign group, Liberty, said: “It’s a primary duty of Government to ensure that our communities are safe and free, but parts of this bill will facilitate discrimination and undermine protest, which is the lifeblood of a healthy democracy.

“We should all be able to stand up for what we believe in, yet these proposals would give the police yet more powers to clamp down on protest. They risk stifling dissent and making it harder for us to hold the powerful to account.

“If enacted, these proposals would expose already marginalised communities to profiling and disproportionate police powers through the expansion of stop and search.

"Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities may face increased police enforcement through the criminalisation of trespass.

“While we are still in the grip of a pandemic that has changed all our lives and handed enormous powers to the Government, it is shocking that this executive has chosen now to launch such a broad assault on our rights under the guise of safer communities.


Labour’s Shadow Justice Secretary, David Lammy, said Labour will oppose the bill, adding that the legislation was a “mess” that could “divide the country”.

Plaid Cymru’s spokesperson on Justice, Liz Saville Roberts, has warned the bill will “exacerbate the existing inequalities in our criminal justice system”.

Ms Saville Roberts also called for more powers over justice to be devolved to Wales in order to create a “more humane and more accountable justice system.”