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Howarth makes a stand for right to peaceful protest

November 5, 2008 5:22 PM

Cambridge MP David Howarth has made a stand for the right of demonstrators to hold peaceful protests without police interference during a debate in the Commons.

He called for assurances that all Government departments would impress upon the police that they should give absolute priority to the right of peaceful protest.

Mr Howarth's call for action came as MPs debated the policing of the Kent-based Kingsnorth Camp for Climate Action in the summer.

One hundred people were arrested after they set up camp on the site of a proposed new power station as part of a week of action.

During the debate, MPs were told that at the camp there was "aggressive policing, unprovoked violence against peaceful protesters, an extraordinary number of police on site and tactics such as confiscating toilet rolls, board games and clown costumes from peaceful demonstrators."

Despite these claims, Home Department Minister Vernon Coaker maintained that the police had acted "appropriately and proportionately in this case"

He emphasised that this was a matter for the local chief police officer rather than the Government and representation could be made to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

But Mr Howarth said: "It is not just the IPCC that has jurisdiction over the matter, because the Government are offering to pay half the £5.9 million cost of policing."

He urged Mr Coaker to assure the House "that every Government Department that has been in contact with the police over the policing of the climate camps has given absolute priority to the right of peaceful protest?"