Carmichael calls for full scrutiny of “draconian” Policing Bill

Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, has today called for the government to give full time for scrutiny of the controversial Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill when it returns to the House of Commons. The Bill is currently under consideration in the House of Lords, where the government has added significant new police powers and regulations, including restrictions on the right to protest, which were not included in the version of the Bill previously debated in the Commons. 

Speaking in the House during Business Questions, Mr Carmichael said:

“When the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill left this House it was woefully under-scrutinised, since which time the Government have ladled amendments into it hand over fist in the other place. Those amendments include many draconian restrictions on our prized freedoms, especially the right to protest. Can the Leader of the House give me some assurance that, if the Government are successful in getting those amendments through the other place, when the Bill comes back to this House we will be given proper time—at least half a day or a day—to debate those amendments and not just the usual one hour?”

Responding, the Leader of the House, Jacob Rees-Mogg MP said:

“This House and the other place are both here to protect the freedoms of this nation and of the individuals within it, but also to protect their right to go about their lives in an orderly way. Therefore, there must be a balance between the right to protest and the right of people to go about their business. Amendments from the House of Lords go through a normal process. The precise timing for any consideration of Lords amendments is a matter for discussion; his representations have been made and I have heard them, but it will depend on the other business going through the House at the time.”

Reacting after the exchange, Mr Carmichael said:

“There is always time for debate if the government is willing to make time – when the government refuses to make the necessary space we have to ask why that is. Constituents in the isles have written to me in recent days to voice their growing unease with the draconian measures being thrown into the Policing Bill with little democratic oversight – their views must be heard.

“When our government takes illiberal and authoritarian steps to curb the right to protest, others around the world take notice. We risk undermining our reputation as a defender of the rule of law when we threaten these fundamental rights.

“It seems ridiculous that Parliament sat for just four hours yesterday because debates ran short, and yet the government cannot commit to giving the time necessary for full scrutiny of this enormously important bill. When the Policing Bill is next up for debate in the House of Commons it must have full time for debate. With basic individual rights at stake we deserve nothing less.”

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