Events / Webinars

‘Serious Disruption’: Parliament, Public Order Acts and protest regulations – What’s going on?

9 Jun 2023
Just Stop Oil activists, Whitehall. ©Alisdare Hickson (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Just Stop Oil activists, Whitehall. ©Alisdare Hickson (CC BY-SA 2.0)

On 13 June, Members of the House of Lords are due to consider a ‘fatal’ motion, aimed at killing the Government’s controversial draft regulations that would lower the threshold of what constitutes ‘serious disruption’ by protestors. However, the legislation, procedures and events in Parliament are complex and confusing. This event outlined exactly what’s going on.

[Closed] 12:30pm, 9 June 2023 Online (Zoom) and hosted by Blackstone Chambers

‘Serious Disruption’: Parliament, Public Order Acts and protest regulations – What’s going on?

Tom Hickman KC Barrister, Blackstone Chambers; and Professor of Public Law, UCL

Ruth Fox Director, Hansard Society

Questions can be submitted to our speakers throughout the event via the Zoom app, and we encourage you to send them through.

Earlier this year the Government attempted to lower the threshold for whether a procession or assembly is likely to cause “serious disruption” to community life via a late amendment to the Public Order Bill 2023. The amendment came about at a time of heightened concern about public protests by organisations such as Insulate Britain and Just Stop Oil.

The amendment was rejected by the House of Lords. But just weeks later the same proposal was repackaged by the Government and put to Parliament again in the form of a Statutory Instrument which cannot be amended by Parliament and generally attracts less parliamentary scrutiny than a Bill. The Minister was able to do this by using a ‘Henry VIII’ power in an Act of Parliament passed in 1986.

But the Government’s legislative manoeuvre did not pass unnoticed. A House of Lords committee, tasked with scrutinising SIs, brought the proposed regulations to the wider attention of Parliament in a critical report published on 11 May. It said it was unaware of any previous example of a Government bringing back a policy via a Statutory Instrument that had recently been rejected by Parliament during passage of a Bill. Concerned Members of the House of Lords have subsequently tabled two motions for consideration on 13 June, including one ‘fatal’ motion aimed at rejecting it outright.

Due to the implications of the SI for public protest and the constitutional controversy surrounding the Government’s legislative tactics, the forthcoming Lords debates have attracted considerable attention from campaign groups, the press and across social media. But as the conversation has grown, so has the confusion surrounding what has actually happened, and what Parliament can do about it.

Still here? Some of the legal and procedural detail is complex. If you find all of this slightly baffling, but want a firmer grasp on exactly what is going on in Parliament including how events may play out on 13 June then this event is for you. You will also have the opportunity to submit questions to our expert speakers via the Zoom app, and we encourage you to do so.

  • What has happened in Parliament so far surrounding the Public Order Statutory Instrument (SI)?

  • What’s the relationship between the Public Order Act 2023, the Public Order Act 1986 and the SI in question?

  • What procedures apply to the SI and what do they mean for parliamentary scrutiny?

  • Why is going to happen in the House of Lords on 13 June? What is being debated? What are ‘fatal’ and ‘non-fatal’ motions? And what are the possible and likely outcomes?

  • Why is this issue constitutionally important and what does it mean for parliamentary democracy?

News / Parliament Matters – Legislative bodging: No way to run a chip shop! (Episode 6)

Mark and Ruth look at the growing fashion for re-writing Bills mid-air as they pass through Parliament, adding on all sorts of policy bells and whistles at the last minute.

24 Nov 2023
Read more

Publications / Delegated Legislation: What types are there, and how are they made?

Delegated legislation is the most common form of legislation in the United Kingdom. It is the legislation of everyday life, impacting millions of citizens daily. But the terminology and procedures that surround it are complex and often confusing. This explainer unpacks delegated legislation - the terminology and Parliament's role in scrutinising it - to reveal more about how delegated legislation really works.

05 Dec 2023
Read more

News / Parliament Matters: Total reshuffle, emergency legislation and Parliament’s ‘Golden Ticket’ (Episode 4)

What a week! Suella Braverman's sacking from Government was immediately eclipsed by the appointment of former Prime Minister David Cameron as the new Foreign Secretary. Mark and Ruth explore the many questions this raises, not least for scrutiny of foreign affairs by MPs.

17 Nov 2023
Read more

Blog / HS2 fiasco: What does it mean for Parliament?

The Prime Minister’s decision to cancel the next stage of HS2 has given rise to criticism that once again the Government has ridden roughshod over Parliament. Just over 1,300 hours of legislative time have been spent on four HS2-related Bills over nine Sessions in the last decade. Why has it taken so long and what now happens to that legislation?

15 Oct 2023
Read more

Briefings / 6 things to look out for in Parliament in the next Session

When parliamentarians reassemble at Westminster on 7 November for the start of the new Session, all eyes will be on the legislative programme to be announced in the King’s Speech. Speculation about the likely date of the next general election is rife at Westminster, but until the date is settled there are a lot of parliamentary issues still to be tackled. We’ve picked out a few things to look out for on the political horizon.

07 Nov 2023
Read more