JUSTICE – PROTEST NOISE – 25 October 2007

Dr Julian Lewis: Does the Lord Chancellor accept that when we exercise our right to free speech, whether in this Chamber or in public places such as Parliament Square, that does not confer an unlimited right to shout and bawl one's message using amplification equipment in a deliberate attempt to disturb other people? Is he aware that when that happens, in breach of the over-generous permission already given to the protesters by Westminster Council, there is nothing the police can do about it other than retrospectively take the perpetrators to court? That is because the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 removed the power of the police to cross the road, take the equipment away and stop the people from breaking the rules. Will he address that loophole?

[The Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor (Mr Jack Straw): My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will indeed address that issue. If I may say so, the hon. Gentleman makes a rather important and wider point. I commend a lecture that I am giving at the University of Cambridge later on today.]

Dr Lewis: Send me an advance copy!

[Mr Straw: I think that the hon. Gentleman may have discovered that on his desk there is a little box called a computer; if it is working, I will send him an e-mail.]

Dr Lewis: Excellent!

[Mr Straw: The point that I make in my speech, which is by no means original, is that rights have to go with obligations, and privileges with duties, and that we need to do more to ensure that that side of the equation is better understood.]