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?

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