UK Liberty

No anti-war protest near Parliament

Posted in freedom of assembly by ukliberty on October 2, 2007

Reports the Times:

Thousands of demonstrators planning to march on Parliament to call for the withdrawal of troops from Afrghanistan and Iraq have been told that their protest has been banned.

The Metropolitan Police told organisers of the Stop the War Coalition that no march would now be allowed “within one mile of Parliament” while MPs were in session.

The rules.


IanP kindly pointed me toward the Sessional Orders. I cannot find the 1839 Act itself. However there seems to be some useful background here, and here is the Text of the Sessional Orders and Resolutions.

This article seems relatively popular so I will leave you with this link while I read through it myself.

Oh this is interesting:

12. The House’s Order to the Metropolitan Police (together with a similar order made each session by the House of Lords) is transmitted to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, and results in his giving directions to constables under powers in section 52 of the Metropolitan Police Act 1839.[10]

13. Directions made under this provision of the 1839 Act can apply to anywhere in the metropolitan police district and may contain measures to prevent obstruction not only of Parliament but also of “Her Majesty’s palaces and the public offices, … the courts … , the theatres, and other places of public resort”. The Commissioner’s directions resulting from the Sessional Order relate to the dispersing of assemblies, processions or any other cause of obstruction within a specified area surrounding the Palace of Westminster to enable free passage by Peers and Members on days on which Parliament is sitting.

14. Directions under the Act do not confer any specific powers of arrest on the constables to whom it is addressed; to enforce it, the people concerned need to be informed of the Commissioner’s direction, and any subsequent arrest would have to be under other, general, powers, such as for wilfully obstructing a police officer in the execution of his duty, for breach of the peace, or for public order offences.[11]

24. We believe that legislation on demonstrations is the only way to ensure that the police have adequate powers to achieve the result intended by the Sessional Order. Without such legislation, the Sessional Order is misleading; with such legislation, it would be unnecessary.

25. Until the legislation comes into force, however, we believe that it would be sensible to continue with a Sessional Order, to reflect the House’s concerns and to act as a marker that it expects Members’ access to Parliament to be maintained as far as the existing law allows. (It would also act as an annual reminder that the new legislation had not yet come into force.) References to Westminster Hall and the precincts of the House could, however, sensibly be removed from the Order, and it might also be desirable to insert words to include the whole Parliamentary estate, rather than just the House itself. We therefore suggest that, until legislation is passed, the Order should take the following form:

That the Commissioner of the Police of the Metropolis do take care that the passages through the streets leading to this House be kept free and open and that no obstruction be permitted to hinder the passage of Members to and from this House during the sitting of Parliament, or to hinder Members by any means in the pursuit of their Parliamentary duties in the Parliamentary Estate; and that the Serjeant at Arms attending this House do communicate this Order to the Commissioner.

15. Thus, although passing a Sessional Order may, in the words of the Clerk, “make the House feel better”,[12] it does not confer any extra legal powers on the police, and the Clerk and Serjeant told us that the lack of powers to enforce the 1839 Act mean that “the police’s approach to the control of the streets in the immediate vicinity of the Palace of Westminster cannot in practice be different from its approach elsewhere”. They conclude that passing the Sessional Order means “that successive generations of Members are encouraged in the mistaken belief that its effect is to confer special and additional legal authority on the police in relation to the precincts of Parliament”. As this misapprehension would apply equally to any updated Order, they recommend discontinuing the Sessional Order and considering new legislation.[13]

16. The Metropolitan Police Commissioner also believed that legislation was necessary.[14] In a supplementary paper, he pointed out that powers to impose conditions on public assemblies under section 14 of the Public Order Act 1986 do not apply to groups of under twenty persons and operate only in specified conditions including that the assembly might cause serious public disorder or serious disruption to the life of the community; these powers do not necessarily prevent obstruction.[15]


6 Responses

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  1. IanP said, on October 2, 2007 at 8:06 pm

    But Tony Benn says it is still on, and he is using his Privy Councillor immunity for all to do it.

  2. IanP said, on October 2, 2007 at 8:10 pm

    Unfortunately the Times has reported incorrectly.

    It is not being banned under the s132 of SOCPA, which has a 1 kilometre zone, but the little known or used 1839 Sessional legislation which grants a 1 mile ban during Parliamentary sessions.

    This law was however repealed by the SOCPA, so in effect to stop the march using the 1839 law would place the police in the position of acting outside of the law.

    Welcome to Browns Britain – the newest of police states.

  3. ukliberty said, on October 2, 2007 at 9:21 pm

    I had a look through all the repeals and nothing stood out. Would you mind giving me a link?

  4. IanP said, on October 2, 2007 at 10:04 pm

    ok, a little complicated.

    Sessional orders relate to the mainly traditional aspects of Parliament, they are orders of either House that remain only for the rest of that session or Parliament and are passed by the House on the day of the State Opening.

    The introduction of s132 of SOCPA allowed the existing sessional order to be cancelled in 2005 for that session.

    After the Queen’s Speech the Commons return to their Chamber and later pass the sessional orders providing for good order and access to the House as well as for the protection of witnesses.

    They are passed in parliament, after the Queens speech, i.e. the State opening of Parliament, not by order of a Minister.

    The State Opening of Parliament for the 2007-08 session will take place on Tuesday 6 November 2007, therefore when the ‘Stop the War’ march takes place on October 9th, no sessional order will be in place.

  5. ukliberty said, on October 2, 2007 at 10:15 pm

    Ok, but I don’t understand why the Met would resort to that. As I understand SOCPA, the police may not refuse a demonstration outright but they can impose conditions such as where it may or may not take place.

    Thank you for your responses so far.

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