"Managing Protest Around Parliament" consulatation on SOCPA ss 132-138 Designated Area around Parliament Square


The Government have today published a public consultation document on the notorious Sections 132 to 138 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 Designated Area around Parliament Square.

There is no question but that this legislation has significantly undermined the right to peaceful protests in central London, without providing any extra real "security", It has causied lots of headaches for the Metropolitan Police, and has increased public contempt for the Government.

The Labour politicians and civil service apparatchiki seem to be desperate for a face saving way out of the shameful, hypocritical, undemocratic mess which, for which they are to blame.

Interestingly the language in the consultation paper focuses entirely on Parliament, whilst failing to provide any justification for the current and theoretical extent of the Designated Area. The Designated Area currently also encompasses Downing Street, Whitehall, Labour party HQ, Liberal Democrat party HQ, the Metropolitan Police HQ, the Home Office, the MI5 Security Service building, and the Millennium ferris wheel on the other side of the river Thames from Parliament, none of which are directly relevant to the smooth running of Parliament, which is the supposed justification for the Sessional Orders and for SOCPA sections 132 to 138.

Managing Protest Around Parliament

The consultation paper Managing Protest around Parliament stems from a Governance of Britain green paper in which the government committed to consulting on the sections of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act covering demonstrations near Parliament.

This consultation takes another look at sections 132-138 of that act, and explores whether there is another way to address the situation that would both uphold the right to protest while also giving police the powers they need to keep the peace.

This consultation will close on 17 January 2008.

Full consultation document (360Kb .pdf): Managing Protest around Parliament

This "public consultation" does not guarantee that they will take any actual notice of the public who might choose to express their views, but it is worth going through the motions, so that they cannot claim that nobody raised any objections to the status quo.

If you do not trust this Government sufficiently (why should you ?) to send in an individual response, you are welcome to add comments here on this blog, or to send them in via anonymous or pseudo anonymous email and we will submit them anonymously alongside our own response to this public consultation.

You can use our PGP public encryption key for info@ParliamentProtest.org.uk, if you understand how to do so.


Happy to support a common response via this blog.

It's currently getting worse (before hopefully it can get better). A mailing list I got forwarded (don't know if they want the credit) pointed out that Schedule 6, Part 2, s59 of the Serious Crime Bill amends SOCPA to include up to 1 year imprisonment for anyone who commits the offence of 'encouraging or assisting' someone committing an offence under SOCPA.

br -d

Another view on the consultation:

"The Home Office has recently published a consultation paper which hints at what was really meant by Gordon Brown's promise to look again at the law which restricts demonstrations near parliament, far from repealing this legislation the consultation indicates that the government wants to extend the restrictions on demonstrations to cover the whole country..."


It's a whole consultation paper about some controversial legislation that has been in force for two years.

It makes not one single reference to an instance where the legislation has been used!

It's an absolutely worthless and biased document.

My experience as an organiser has been limited to my lone demonstrations (and from SOCPA 132(7)(d) it looks like that doesn't even make me an organiser) so I have gone through the frustration imposed by SOCPA but don't know too much about all the issues one must anticipate in potentially large gatherings and marches. Here's my first draft attempt at answering the consultation. Feel free to comment. Peaceful Demonstrator, do you want to send in a joint response (with anyone else contributing here as well)?

@Julian, it is a very biased document indeed pushing for an adoption of the situation concerning marches to be used for assemblies - and it is not upfront about this. There are many public examples of where some of the legislation has been used (Section 132 of SOCPA in particular), including on this blog. What I find more lacking is examples of situations where the additional circumstances and conditions demanded by the Police have been used and to what effect.

Q1. Marches and assemblies are different in nature and hence there's no reason for the powers to generally to be the same.

Q.2 Some level of harmonisation could be achieved on the conditions that can be imposed on assemblies and marches. The basis for such harmonisation should be the current possible conditions on assemblies: place, duration and numbers. For marches, place must be replaced by route. Having a limited list of the conditions that can be imposed in either assemblies or marches is essential.

These conditions should be imposed only by a senior officer if s/he reasonably the believe the march or the assembly may result in: serious public disorder, serious damage to property, serious disruption to the life of the community, serious risk to the safety of members of the public, or, that the purpose of the march or assembly is to coerce by intimidation.

Q.3 The only special provision that appear needed is the one from the sessional orders: that the conditions can be imposed to prevent hindrance to persons wishing to enter/leave the Palace of Westminster.

Q.4 The document mentions "security risk". This is a much too general catch-all expression. If the Police raise the need to impose conditions to "security risks" (in the designated zone or elsewhere), the risks must be clearly listed.

Q.5 My views are that Sections 132-138 of SOCPA should be repealed.

Q.6 No, there should not be any requirement of a prior notification (or authorisation) scheme for static demonstrations in the vicinity of Parliament.

Q.7 I agree that there should be free passage for persons wishing to enter or leave the Palace of Westminster. As mentioned above I am opposed for conditions based on an ill defined catch-all expression "security risks" (presumably specific to static demonstrations).

Q.8 There should not be distinct provisions for marches or assemblies in the area around Parliament. The specific provision of free passage could be included in general provisions if the sessional orders are not to be used anymore.

br -d

The Repeal-SOCPA.info website has some useful briefing material for anyone wishing to make a submission to this consultation, which closes >strong>this Thursday 17th January


Individual submissions will probably carry more weight han combined ones, but if anyone is too scared to submit one directly, this blog will happily pass on your comments on your behalf (the Home Office knows all our personal details already !)

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Peaceful resistance to the curtailment of our rights to Free Assembly and Free Speech in the SOCPA Designated Area around Parliament Square and beyond

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Recent Comments

  • Peaceful Demonstrator: The Repeal-SOCPA.info website has some useful briefing material for anyone read more
  • David Mery: My experience as an organiser has been limited to my read more
  • Julian Todd: It's a whole consultation paper about some controversial legislation that read more
  • Jason Sands: Another view on the consultation: "The Home Office has recently read more
  • David Mery: Happy to support a common response via this blog. It's read more

Campaign Button Links

NO2ID  Campaign
NO2ID - opposition to the Home Office's Compulsory Biometric ID Card and National Identity Register centralised database.

UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign
UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign

link to www.peopleincommon.org

People in Common - weekly Picnics etc. in Parliament Square, every Sunday at about 1pm.

Save Parliament: Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (and other issues)
Save Parliament - Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (and other issues)

Campaign for the Freedom of Information

Please help us to find this man! He was arrested(?) in Parliament Square on 1st August 2005

This man was one of the very first people arrested in Parliament Square on 1st August 2005, but he has apparently disappeared.

link to SilentProtest.org.uk
Silent Protest - a web photo gallery "encouraging people to stage a virtual, government un-sanctioned protest. All you need to do is get a picture of yourself, or your friends, within the protest free zone. Assume the pose (hand over mouth), aim and click."

. repeal-SOCPA.info - useful background briefings for the Managing Protest around Parliament public consultation, and model letters to MPs etc.

About this blog

This web blog has been set up as an information resource and discussion area (please be polite in the comments) to help organise resistance to the restrictions on peaceful democratic demonstrations and protests, which have been enacted by law, in a wide Designated Area around Parliament Square in London.

It appears that in order to remove the peace protester Brian Haw, who has now been demonstrating continuously in Parliament Square, day and night, for over 5 6 years, the NuLabour Government have overreacted, and have granted themselves draconian and arbitrary powers, which affect the rights of all individual British citizens to lobby their Members of Parliament, or to walk in a vast Designated Area wearing a "political slogan" T-shirt, badge, rubber wristband etc. without first seeking prior written permission from the Police.

This is an affront to democracy and is not justified even on any spurious "climate of fear" alleged "security" grounds.

Email Contact

Please feel free to email us your news, views or suggestions about this blog, and about the issues it highlights.

info @ParliamentProtest [dot] org [dot].uk

For those of you who want to send us information in confidence, here is our PGP Public Encryption Key

A low volume e-mail list (with a daily digest option) has been set up for those of you who /want to share ideas about how the restrictions on demonstrations without prior written permission etc. can be resisted legally and peacefully:

parliamentsquare-subscribe@ yahoogroups.com

Syndicate this site (XML):

Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005

The Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 was rushed through, "on the nod", with minimal debate, during the undemocratic "wash up" process at the end of the last Parliament when the General Election had been called.

The bulk of the Act deals with the setting up of the Serious Organised Crime Agency, but there are also sections such as:

Section 110 Powers of Arrest

From 1st January 2006 this section makes any offence, no matter how minor, into an arrestable offence. Arrests by the police these days can mean taking 10 fingerprints and two palm prints, a DNA tissue sample and processing it into a digital "DNA fingerprint", forcing you to remove any facial coverings, (even those worn for religous purposes) to take photographs of your face etc. All of these items of personal data can then be retained forever, even if you are not charged, or any charges against you are dropped, or if you go to court and are found not guilty.

These new powers are regulated by the new statutory Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) Code of Practice G (.pdf)

Section 128 Trespass on a Designated Site - e.g. Crown Property or National Security

Sections 132 to 138 Demonstrations in the vicinity of Parliament - the controversial restrictions in detail.

The Public Whip website has details of how the Members of the House of Commons voted on these controversial clauses.

Designated Area

The current Designated Area is set out in: Statutory Instrument 2005 No. 1537 The Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (Designated Area) Order 2005

Read more about the Designated Area in our category archive.

Write to politicians

Write To Them - identify and contact your local councillors, Members of Parliament, devolved Assembly members and Members of the European Parliament

You can also write to the Home Secretary David Blunkett Charles Clarke John Reid Jacqui Smith

You can send an email public.enquiries@ homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk or a letter to:

Rt. Hon. Jacqui Smith MP
Home Secretary
c/o Direct Communications Unit
Home Office
2 Marsham Street
London SW1P 4DF

Home Office Contact Us page

Mass Lone Demonstrations

Comedian Mark Thomas's website has details of Mass Lone Demonstrations which legally show up the absurdity of this law, and the bureaucracy involved in enforcing it. These multiple independent one person demonstrations take place on the third Wednesday of the month, from 5pm - 7.30pm within the Designated Area (often in Parliament Square, but not exclusively so)

Meet on the second Wednesday of each month outside Charing Cross police station (located at Agar Street, London, WC2N 4JP - see the map) any time between: 5.30 pm -7.30pm to hand in your Metropolitan Police SOCPA forms (download the optional Word or PDF forms from the Metroplitan Police) or your own personal Written Applications for Prior Permission.

Regular Protests in Parliament Square

Parliament Square - supporting the long running, 24/7, peace protest by Brian Haw in Parliament Square

Global Women's Strike who held "open mike" loudspeaker protests every Wednesday for over two and a half years, which are now banned.

London Critical Mass - group bicycle ride on the last Friday of every month, for the last 10 years, which often strays into the Designated Area.

The People's Commons Meeting / Tea Party / Picnic-Protest is now meeting every Sunday afternoon starting at 1 for 1.30pm on the Green in Parliament Square. wiki - new website PeopleInCommon.org

Website Links

Home Office - "Not fit for purpose. It is inadequate in terms of its scope, it is inadequate in terms of its information technology, leadership, management, systems and processes" - Home Secretary John Reid. 23rd May 2006.

Metropolitan Police Service

Metropolitan Police Authority - meant democratically to supervise the Metropolitan Police Service

Independent Police Complaints Commission

United Kingdom Parliament - Palace of Westminster, House of Lords, House of Commons etc.

Booking Parliament Square - Greater London Authority booking forms, terms and conditions for filming and photography for Parliament Square - "The GLA does not grant permission for demonstration, rallies and public meetings on Parliament Square Gardens".

They Work For You - a more user friendly version of the House of Commons Hansard

Pledgebank pledge:

"I will form part of a human chain around the Westminster no protest zone but only if 6,000 other people will join in."

Repeal-SOCPA-Info has useful briefing material for the Public Consultation into the laws restricting demonstrations, marches and assemblies, sample letters to MPs etc..

Blog Links

Spy Blog - Privacy and Security and Civil liberties campaigning

Mayor of London Blog - unnofficial comments on the Mayor of London and Greater London Assembly

Fuel Crisis Blog - Petrol at £1 per litre ! Protest !

Bloggerheads graphics of the 1km zone and the actual Designated Area

Charity Sweet - who has been harrassed for reading a copy of the Independent newspaper outside Downing Street etc.

BBC Travel Jam Cams

BBC Radio London has some links to Traffic Monitoring CCTV cameras, which they publish every 5 or 10 minutes, not usually in real time.

Whenever there is an "incident" or a march or demonstration, these online images are deliverately censored i.e. "not available for operational reasons", This is despite the images being of too low a resolution to identify anybody, and, the effect of not diverting traffic away from the incident, which should be the whole point of the online Traffic Cam images in the first place.

Whitehall / Parliament Square - this camera view sometimes shows Brian Haw's peace camp, and the new GLA fence around Parliament Square Gardens. (now removed, for the time being)

Northumberland Avenue / Victoria Embankment

Trafalgar Square (on the edge of the Designated Area)


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