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Conservative MP breaks ranks to slam ‘appalling’ threat to right to protest

A TORY MP has broken ranks to attack the Government’s Public Order Bill, comparing it to the disastrous “mini-Budget” which plunged the UK into economic crisis.

Walker told the Commons that the Public Order Bill, which includes new powers such as protest banning orders, was “unconservative” and more likely to be brought in in China.

The Tory government was forced to exclude some new powers from its Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act after they were voted down in the House of Lords earlier this year.

READ MORE: Joanna Cherry: Protest is a fundamental right, not a mere inconvenience for police

Walker said that “Serious Disruption Prevention Orders” – which will function in a similar way to an Asbo in letting authorities bar certain people from engaging in certain behaviour, being in a certain place, or carrying certain items – were “not the answer”.

The MP for Broxbourne went on: “They leave me absolutely cold. In fact, I go as far as to say they are appalling. Absolutely appalling, because there are plenty of existing laws that can be utilised to deal with people who specialise in making other people’s lives miserable.”

Making an intervention during his speech, Home Office minister Jeremy Quin told him “there is a point of accumulation here which is difficult”, pointing to the number of times Just Stop Oil protesters have been rearrested.

The senior backbencher rebuked saying “it is absolute nonsense” and insisted the Chinese government might sign up for some of the measures contained in the bill.

He said: “The idea that in this country, we are going to ankle tag someone who has not been convicted in a court of law… I mean, I tell you what, those Chinese in their embassy will be watching this very closely at the moment, they might actually be applying for some of this stuff when we pass it in this place as I suspect we will.”

Walker concluded his speech by saying: “This is as unconservative as our budget of a few weeks ago.

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“This is not what the Conservative Party does, we believe in proportionate laws, like we used to believe in sound money.

“So I will be voting against this. I will be joining with honourable members across the House to vote against this piece of legislation.”

Home Secretary Suella Braverman (below) unveiled the plans for a major crackdown on people’s right to protest on Sunday – as she pledged to stop demonstrators holding the public “to ransom”.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman has announced plans to crack down on people's right to protest <i>(Image: PA)</i>

Braverman said she will give the police new powers to take a more “proactive” approach to some protests, with measures specifically targeted at the tactics used by some environmental groups.

Just Stop Oil and Extinction Rebellion activists have staged various protests and demonstrations in recent months, causing disruption to commuters and traffic in central London.

Accusing protesters of draining police resources, Braverman will use the Government’s Public Order Bill to allow secretaries of state to apply for injunctions in the “public interest” where protests are causing or threatening “serious disruption or a serious adverse impact on public safety”.

According to the Home Office, this will include protecting access to “essential” goods, services and “key” infrastructure.

Braverman said: “I will not bend to protestors attempting to hold the British public to ransom.

READ MORE: Scottish activists glue themselves outside Downing Street in climate protest

“Preventing our emergency services from reaching those who desperately need them is indefensible, hideously selfish and in no way in the public interest.

“This serious and dangerous disruption, let alone the vandalism, is not a freedom of expression, nor a human right. It must stop.”

The Home Office said the proposed public order legislation would create a new criminal offence of interfering with infrastructure such as oil refineries, airports, railways and printing presses.

Such an offence would carry a maximum sentence of 12 months in prison, an unlimited fine, or both.

“Locking on” or “going equipped to lock-on” to other people, objects or buildings to cause “serious disruption” could see people imprisoned for six months or hit with an unlimited fine.

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