POINT OF ORDER – PROTEST NOISE – 21 February 2012

Dr Julian Lewis rose –

Mr Speaker: I am sure that the hon. Gentleman wishes to raise an entirely separate and unrelated point of order.

Dr Lewis: On an entirely separate and unrelated point of order, Mr Speaker. No doubt you will recall the excellent work done by the Leader of the House [Sir George Young] – whom I am pleased to see sitting on the Front Bench at this moment – in relation to the question of the demonstrations in Parliament Square. I believe that we have freedom of speech in the House, but that does not mean that we have the freedom to shout and bawl our opinions incessantly whether people wish to hear them or not. I understand, however, that an application has been made to Westminster City Council to reinstate permission for amplified noise to be used to broadcast, for hours on end, abusive and hostile political messages at this House, in the way that was done – causing maximum disturbance – by the late Brian Haw, notwithstanding his lawyers' assurances to Westminster City Council when they applied for a licence that he would not use it to harass people going about their normal work in the Chamber.

May I ask, Mr Speaker, whether you have had any indication of a statement from the Leader of the House on whether he is willing to make representations to the City Council that no requirement of freedom of speech enables people to have the right to broadcast at top volume, when no demonstration is taking place, political messages which are intended to disturb people going about their lawful occasions, not least the armed security guards who have to be on constant readiness in front of the Houses of Parliament?

Mr Speaker: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. Certainly no concept of free speech should mean that some people have a right to shout at the tops of their voices through an amplifier at other people irrespective of those other people's wishes. The point that the hon. Gentleman has made seems to me to be entirely reasonable; but the Leader of the House is stirring in his seat, and I feel certain that the House will want to hear what he has to say.

The Leader of the House of Commons (Sir George Young): Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I share my hon. Friend's concern, and I am planning to respond to the application to Westminster City Council in terms of which I think he would approve.

Hon. Members: Hear, hear.

Mr Speaker: It sounds as if the Leader of the House may not be the only one, but we are grateful to him for what he has said.