Joint Committee on the Draft Constitutional Renewal Bill Minutes of Evidence

Further supplementary memorandum by the Minister of State (Ev 80)

  Clarifying queries from the Joint Committee about byelaws to deal with encampments and injunctions to tackle noise from loudspeakers.


  I understand that the Greater London Authority used the Trafalgar Square and Parliament Square Garden Byelaws 2000 to remove a number of tents from Parliament Square Garden in August 2007. It is a breach of the byelaws to camp, or erect or cause to be erected any structure, tent or enclosure without written permission. These byelaws do not extend to the pavement currently occupied by Mr Haw, which is under the control of Westminster City Council.

  There are also provisions to deal with obstructions of the highway. Under section 137 of the Highways Act 1980, if a person without lawful authority or excuse in any way wilfully obstructs the free passage along a highway, he is guilty of an offence.

  Westminster City Council's claim in 2002 for an injunction to remove Brian Haw's display of banners from the pavement opposite Carriage Gates was dismissed on the basis that his use of the highway was not unreasonable in the circumstances, having regard in particular to his right to freedom of expression under Article 10 of the ECHR. However, the courts will account for the duration, place, purpose and effect of obstructions and may well take a different view in relation to a protest obstructing a pavement or road somewhere else.

  I believe it is more appropriate to deal with issue of encampments by ensuring that there are sufficient byelaws in place, rather than addressing the issue through primary legislation. In their oral evidence, Westminster City Council indicated that there was scope for further discussion with the Greater London Authority as to their responsibilities for managing the piece of pavement opposite Carriage Gates.


  The injunction to which I referred was granted to the University of Oxford by the High Court in 2006 to protect staff, current and former students, and all contractors working for the University from intimidation, harassment, and potential violence from animal rights activists. Among other things, the order imposes restrictions on the use of megaphones, klaxons, sirens, drums, whistles and other noise amplification devices within the exclusion zone (the area where protestors are prohibited from entering except for permitted demonstrations) and bans all noise amplification devices within the exclusion zone along certain roads.

Rt Hon Tony McNulty MP

July 2008

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