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Coronation: Policing of Protests | Commons debates

The coronation of King Charles III involved the largest police effort ever undertaken. I thank the thousands of police officers who ensured that so many people were able to enjoy such a historic occasion without incident. Rightly in our democracy, the police had operational responsibility and had to take decisions at pace and under pressure. Rightly in our democracy, we have scrutiny and accountability where problems arise. Hundreds of people who chose to do so were able to protest. As the Minister stated, some plans to disrupt were foiled, but serious concerns have been raised about some of the arrests.

The six people from Republic were arrested under new powers in the Public Order Act for

“being equipped for locking on”,

which came into force two days before the coronation. They have now been released with no further action, and the Met has expressed regret. The Minister knows that I have warned him and his colleagues repeatedly that the new powers mean that people might be arrested for the wrong thing, such as carrying in their bag a bike lock or, as in this case, some luggage straps. Many former police officers have warned that the powers put the police in a difficult position and risk undermining the notion of policing by consent.

The arrests raise questions that we want answers to. Why did the arresting officers not know or take into account that Republic had been working with the police? Why were those people held for 16 hours? Does the Minister support the Mayor of London’s review, so that Parliament can see the lessons to be learned? Will the Minister ask the inspectorate and the College of Policing to monitor and review the new public order powers and report back to Parliament? Will he support the recommendations in the inspectorate’s report for more specific training on public order for our officers?

This weekend was a celebration, and one that could not have happened without the dedication of our police service. But just as important to our British democracy as our constitutional monarchy is our historic model of policing by consent, trust and our freedom to protest peacefully. It is our job as Members of Parliament to come up with laws that solve problems rather than creating them. I urge the Minister to learn the lessons and take responsibility for protecting that careful balance between the police and the people.