URGENT REQUEST FROM THE CORNWALL FOR CAMPAIGNS TEAM

January 2022

Dear Cornwall for Europe member,

If like us you are worried about what the government is trying to do to our democracy, you may be wondering what you can do about it.  It so happens that the Nationality and Borders Bill and the PCSC Bill are both going to be considered by the House of Lords within the next couple of weeks, so we are asking our members to write to members of the Lords as soon as possible setting out their concerns. 

As members of CfE we are particularly concerned about these issues:

The clause in the Nationality and Borders Bill that gives the Home Secretary power to remove UK citizenship from someone without giving any notice to them not just because they cannot reasonably be found or informed but also if it appears to the Sec of State that notice should not be given in the interests of national security, in the interests of the relationship between the UK and another country, or otherwise in the public interest. 

This could apply both to naturalised citizens who have a potential alternative citizenship as the UK government argued in the case of Shamina Begum, but also to dual nationals which applies to many naturalised UK citizens who have retained their EU citizenship. These are the broadest such powers in the G20.  According to the New Statesman’s analysis of data from the Office for National Statistics, this could render six million UK citizens liable to have their citizenship removed without notice. 

This Bill is due to receive its second reading in the HoL on 5th January and will then proceed to the Committee stage so it’s vital that we reach as many members of the Lords to let them know about our worries as soon as possible. 

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts [“PCSC”] Bill will continue its report stage in the HoL on 10th, 12th and 17th January.  Our main concerns are:

If passed the Bill could severely curtail our rights to protest which the European Court of Human Rights has repeatedly said is a fundamental right in a democratic society.  Power to decide on whether a protest is too noisy or even whether there may be  “intimidation or harassment of persons of reasonable firmness…” or if such persons “suffer serious unease, alarm or distress” will be given to police officers on the ground who could suddenly decide that a lawful protest has become unlawful without protestors becoming aware of it.  Furthermore the Bill establishes a new offence where a person breaches a condition that they “ought to have known” existed – thereby criminalising inadvertent breaches. To compound that, it also increases the maximum custodial sentence where an organiser breaches a condition from 3 months to 51 weeks, and increases the fines for other protestors breaching a condition. This is liable to be seen as a considerable drawback for those organising protests and may end up as a form of self-censorship, stifling protest at birth. 

In addition the provisions of the Public Order Act are expanded to allow a senior police officer to impose any conditions they consider necessary to prevent “disorder, damage, disruption, impact or intimidation”. What reasonably sized protest does not have impact? Indeed what would be the point of it if it didn’t? And other powers are given to the Home Secretary to define what serious disruption means without returning to Parliament thus giving her – and her successors –  virtually untrammelled powers to restrict protest as they see fit. 

Since the Bill passed to the HoL further clauses have been added introducing “Criminal Disruption Prevention Orders” which will effectively give a criminal court the power to issue an injunction on those “likely to commit offences” from attending particular protests. The level of evidence required and how these orders might be challenged by those affected is not clear.  Stop and search powers are also to be extended to allow the police to stop anyone in the area of a protest to search for items that could be used to cause “serious disruption”. 

We are therefore asking you to write to as many members of the HoL as you feel able about this issue.  It seems sensible to target opposition peers [see list of Labour peers  below] but some Tories may also be amenable to persuasion on liberty of the subject/human rights grounds.  Please feel free to use the talking points above but It’s important not to send the same letter each time as this may end up with them all being deleted as spam.  By personalising each letter you improve the chances of its getting through. 

Contact details for Lords can be found here:-

Labour Lords
All Lords

With best wishes for a happier and healthier 2022

Your CfE Campaigns Team 

PS – if you send a letter and get a reply, please let us know!