A government bill aimed at cracking down on protest has suffered a number of setbacks in the House of Lords, setting the stage for a tense showdown between parliament’s two chambers.
Peers inflicted a number of defeats on the wide-ranging public order bill, which is aimed at curbing guerrilla tactics used by protest groups.
The draft legislation’s first defeat in the Lords came when peers voted by a majority of 22 (243-221) in favour of a higher threshold before police can intervene in protests.
It means a stricter definition of “serious disruption” will be required to prevent protests by groups such as Just Stop Oil, Insulate Britain and Extinction Rebellion.
Their tactics have included blocking roads during rush hour periods.
Arguing for a higher bar before the bill’s provisions are triggered, Labour peer Vernon Coaker said: “We are going to pass legislation here where protests that all of us would regard as reasonable, all of us would regard as acceptable, are going to be illegal.”
In response, the Home Office minister Andrew Sharpe said: “What we are trying to ascertain is the point to which protesters can disrupt the lives of the general public. And the government position is clear – we are on the side of the public.
“The government wants to protect the rights of the public to go about their daily lives without let or hindrance.”
A further defeat came as a government-backed move to prevent protesting about “an issue of current debate” being used as a reasonable defence was narrowly rejected by 224 votes to 221. This part of the legislation referred to offences such as locking-on, tunnelling and blocking roads.
The defeats have set the stage for a tussle between the unelected chamber and the Commons over the proposed law, known as parliamentary ping-pong.
The debate came on a day of drama in the Lords, in which 12 Extinction Rebellion protesters disrupted proceedings, leading to a temporary adjournment.
Demonstrators wore shirts emblazoned with the slogan Defend Human Rights and were escorted from the upper chamber by doorkeepers and security staff.
No arrests were made and campaigners later shared footage of the protest.
Extinction Rebellion protester Marion Malcher, 67, from Woking, told PA Media: “This draconian legislation severely infringes on our human right to peacefully protest.
“Never in my lifetime have I seen the government push through such oppressive laws with such a low threshold for criminality.”