Labour councillor Theresa Norton should not have been allowed to carry out sit-down protest in middle of road in Scarborough, says MP Robert Goodwill during Policing Bill debate

A Labour councillor should not have been allowed to carry out a solo protest in the middle of the street in Scarborough during a Bank Holiday weekend because of the disruption it caused to people's lives, a Yorkshire Tory MP has claimed.

Scarborough and Whitby MP Robert Goodwill praised the action being taken by Ministers against single-person protests in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill as it was debated in the Commons today.

The Government wants to introduce conditions on protests that are noisy enough to cause "intimidation or harassment" or "serious unease, alarm or distress to bystanders", which includes protests consisting of one person.

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Scarborough and Whitby MP Robert Goodwill praised the action being taken by Ministers against single-person protests in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill as it was debated in the Commons today. Pic: Richard Ponter

Former Minister Mr Goodwill criticised amendments proposed by Liberal Democrat and Labour MPs which he said would have watered down the public order elements of the Bill.

"I went on the countryside march, I've also marched at the head of an opposition demonstration in Minsk, which I have to say had a slightly less jolly atmosphere to it.

"But the Government must take action to prevent deliberate acts of vandalism or obstruction such as that we saw associated with Extinction Rebellion, and I'm sorry to say Black Lives Matter.

"Yes, people have the right to demonstrate but not in a way that prevents people going about their lawful business, travelling to work, being taken to hospital by ambulance or indeed Members of Parliament being able to access this building to exercise our democratic mandate."

Mr Goodwill also praised the action against single person protests.

He told MPs: "During the spring bank holiday in May, a local labour Councillor, Teresa Norton, sat in the middle of the street, in the middle of Scarborough, on the first weekend when many of our hard pressed tourist businesses were keen to make up some of the money they'd lost during the pandemic, sat in the middle of the street and caused a massive traffic jam, supposedly demonstrating in the cause of Extinction Rebellion.

"That is sort of behaviour that should not be allowed to take place because it disrupts people's lives and I believe actually antagonises people against those issues."

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill allows the police to put conditions on certain protests as well as making changes to sentencing and introducing powers to more closely monitor terrorism offenders.

The Government says it delivers on its commitment "to crack down on crime and build safer communities".

The proposed law was first debated by MPs just days after a vigil was held for York woman Sarah Everard, amid concerns over the way the event had been policed.

And so-called Kill the Bill protests were held in cities across the UK by campaigners who believe proposed curbs to protest go against individual human rights.

Veteran Labour MP Harriet Harman has proposed an amendment which would define "an express statutory right to protest", with new obligations on public authorities, while also recognising that there should be some limits on the right to protest to protect other legitimate public interests.

Almost 600,000 people have signed a petition opposing the proposals. And the signatures handed to Government show the "scale of dissent" and "strength" of public feeling against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, according to campaign groups.

Charities and organisations, environmentalists, those campaigning for human rights including those of Gypsy, Roma and Travellers, joined forces for the petition which gained 598,442 signatures, Liberty said.

Representatives of 38 Degrees,, Friends of the Earth, Global Justice Now, Greenpeace, Liberty, SumOfUs and Tipping Point delivered the petition to the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, and Justice Secretary, Robert Buckland, on Monday ahead of the draft legislation going through its remaining stages in the Commons, before being considered by the Lords.

It comes after more than 30,000 people are said to have written directly to the Prime Minister to object to the Bill.

Liberty director, Gracie Bradley, said: "No matter where we come from or what we believe, we all want to know we can speak out against injustice, to live life freely, as we choose, without fear of oppressive state surveillance and discrimination. Those in power want to take this away from all of us.

"Opposition to the Government's dangerous proposals is growing in strength as people begin to understand how much this legislation would undermine fundamental rights. Those in power must listen to the chorus of opposition they are facing and scrap these plans."