Jeremy Corbyn launches furious tirade against Priti Patel as he compares her to a dictator
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Speaking at a rally in Liverpool, the former Labour leader criticised new laws proposed by the Home Secretary. He claimed the Government was cracking down on the right to free speech.
The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill is a wide-ranging piece of legislation with implications on everything from the sentencing of child murder to the right to protest.
The Bill gives police in England and Wales more powers to impose conditions on non-violent protests judged to be too noisy and thereby causing “intimidation or harassment” or “serious unease, alarm or distress” to the public.
It also aims to expand the area around Parliament where some protest activities are banned.
The legislation has passed through the Commons and will be voted on in the House of Lords in September.
Criticising the plans, Mr Corbyn said this afternoon: “That police Bill is a fundamental attack on our rights and our civil liberties, and our right to organise and our right to demonstrate.
“People in power often find opposition questions, criticism, accountability uncomfortable.
“That’s what democracy is about.
“It’s not about making life comfortable for those in power, it’s about making sure they’re answerable for what they do.
“Demonstrations are part of an open, free and democratic society.”
The Islington North MP was appearing at a trade union rally demonstrating against the compulsory redundancies of two members of staff when he made the remarks.
He went on to then compare Ms Patel to dictators cracking down on human rights.
The former Labour leader added: “When the British Government condemns authoritarian regimes around the world for curtaining free speech, for curtailing the right to protest, or undermining the universal declaration of human rights – which includes those rights – fine, I agree.
“And it also applies here.
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“Defend the right to protest, defend the right to organise.”
Campaigners fear the new Bill will lead to more protests being shut down.
However, Ms Patel has denied the government is seeking to crack down on free speech.
Debating the legislation in Parliament earlier this year she said peaceful protest was a “cornerstone of democracy”.
Explaining the reasoning for the Bill, she added: “The current legislation police use to manage protests, the Public Order Act 1986, was enacted over 30 years ago.
“In recent years we’ve seen significant change in protest tactics, with protesters exploiting gaps in the law which have led to disproportionate amounts of disruption.”
One of the biggest changes in the legislation will be the ability for police to set time and noise limits on static demonstrations.
Since the 2016 referendum some pro-EU campaigners have held loud protests outside the House of Commons on a daily basis.
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