Demonstrations in the vicinity of Parliament
49.In November 2003 the House of Commons Select Committee on Procedure published a report on Sessional Orders and procedures (Third Report, Session 2002/3, HC 855). Amongst other things, the Report considered the issue of access to Parliament and demonstrations in Parliament Square. The Committee made the following recommendation:
““We therefore recommend that the Government should introduce appropriate legislation to prohibit long-term demonstrations and to ensure that the laws about access are adequate and enforceable. We also expect the appropriate authorities to explore fully the possibility of using existing legislation to control the use of loud-hailers and other amplification equipment; failing that, the Government should consider legislation on this subject.””
50.The Committee published the Government’s response to the Committee’s Report in May 2004 (Second Special report, 2003/4 Session, HC 613). In response to the recommendation above the Government said:
“The Government's first principle is that the right of free expression under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights should be protected. It accepts that access to Parliament must be maintained, the working environment of Parliament safeguarded and the right of people working in Parliament not to be subject to anti-social behaviour. The Government does, however, note with interest the Mayor of London World Squares for All proposals for Parliament Square and looks forward to the conclusions of the Steering Group.
The Home Office will, however, undertake a consultation exercise on developing police powers and making sure that the police are empowered to act effectively and proportionately, including using their existing powers, taking into account advice from the Police and Security Service on security implications for the Palace of Westminster as a result of their current review.”
51.The Government duly sought views (in the police powers consultation paper) on the effectiveness of existing legislation to control demonstrations in Parliament Square and whether extending the power to impose conditions on all demonstrations in the vicinity of Parliament would be desirable.
52.The Procedure Committee’s report and the Government's response were debated in the House of Commons on 3 November 2004 (Hansard col. 370-423).