Permission to demonstrate

Lord Soley

The question of rights to demonstrate in Parliament Square and Downing Street came up yesterday. Following criticism of police action against demonstrators in Downing Street the Act that requires you to obtain permission prior to a demonstration is under review.
The problem is about numbers. Parliament has always guarded the right to free and unrestricted right to access the two Houses not least because a mass demonstration could be used to deliberately stop the work of Parliament. Downing Street has a similar problem. The real problem here arises when people won’t seek permission or there are concerns about numbers.
This is not a new problem. During the miners strike I found the police were preventing people from selling copies of the miner’s newpaper. I argued that they must be allowed to sell it and then accompanied the newpsper sellers in Hammersmith. The result was that police tried to serve a summons on me in Parliament. They are not allowed to do this and were refused entry by the Sergeant at Arms! It was finally sent to my home address by post.
The origins of this Act in 1918 applied to London and was designed to prevent people claiming to be war wounded so the idea of permission to sell a paper was introduced in order to ensure they really were war wounded.
The police eventually dropped legal proceeedings against me much to the dissappointment of my lawyer who was looking forward to a landmark case at Strasbourg!
It is perferctly possible to resolve this problem but it requires flexibility in the Act. The following link takes you to the question.
Protecting democratic rights can be more complicated than we think at times!
www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200708/ldhansrd/text/80205-0001.htm#08020540000005