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Peers’ mauling of Government protest crackdown ‘disappointing’ says No 10

Home Secretary Priti Patel accused peers of defending ‘vandals and thugs’ by rejecting the Government’s plans.

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Demonstrators during a ‘Kill The Bill’ protest against The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill in College Green, Bristol. Picture date: Saturday January 15, 2022.

Demonstrators during a ‘Kill The Bill’ protest against The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill in College Green, Bristol. Picture date: Saturday January 15, 2022.

Demonstrators during a ‘Kill The Bill’ protest against The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill in College Green, Bristol. Picture date: Saturday January 15, 2022.

Downing Street defended measures to tackle protesters’ “guerrilla tactics” after peers gutted the legislation with a series of defeats for the Government.

Home Secretary Priti Patel accused peers of siding with “vandals and thugs” after a string of defeats saw the House of Lords reject controversial measures designed to combat the tactics adopted by groups including Extinction Rebellion and Insulate Britain.

Number 10 said it would reflect on the mauling delivered by peers but the Government could use its Commons majority to overturn the defeats inflicted in the unelected chamber.

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill was torn apart by peers in a series of votes on Monday night.

“We will reflect on last night’s votes before the Bill returns to the Commons,” the Prime Minister’s spokesman said.

He added: “It is disappointing the Lords did not back the public order measures that will ensure the everyday lives of the overwhelming majority are not disrupted by a selfish minority of protesters whose actions endanger lives and cost the public millions of pounds.”

The spokesman said policing Extinction Rebellion protests in April and October 2019 had cost £37 million, “more than twice the annual budget of London’s violent crime taskforce”, while Insulate Britain cost forces £4 million in three months last year.

“This is something where action needs to be taken, it’s something the public want us to deliver on,” the spokesman said.

Ms Patel accused Labour of blocking measures to stop Insulate Britain and Extinction Rebellion “bringing our country to a standstill”.

“Once again Labour’s actions are proving they are not on the side of the law-abiding majority – instead choosing to defend vandals and thugs,” she said.

Justice Secretary Dominic Raab suggested the Government would bring back controversial measures against noisy protests in the wake of a string of defeats in the Lords.

Mr Raab told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We’ll look very carefully at all of that, but, yes, absolutely.

“In relation to noise, of course we support the right of peaceful and rambunctious protest, but it cannot be allowed to interfere with the lives of the law-abiding majority.”

Other new powers turned down by the unelected chamber included allowing police officers to stop and search anyone at a protest “without suspicion” for items used to prevent a person being moved, known as “locking on”.

A move that would allow individuals with a history of causing serious disruption to be banned by the courts from attending certain protests was also dismissed, along with a proposal to make it an offence for a person to disrupt the operation of key national infrastructure, including airports and newspaper printers.

In a separate defeat, peers backed restricting the imposition of tougher sentences for blocking a highway to major routes and motorways rather than all roads.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said the 14 defeats in the Lords should force the Government to think again.

“Labour peers voted against the Government’s last-minute protest amendments and it was striking how many Conservative peers were not prepared to support the Government’s approach,” she said.

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