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Suella Braverman tells peers to back 'proper penalties' for disruptive protesters ahead of Lords vote

Home Secretary Suella Braverman has urged peers to back "proper penalties" for disruptive protesters in a proposed new law.

The new powers would allow police officers to intervene before protests become "highly disruptive" and give them greater clarity about when they can intervene to stop demonstrators blocking roads or slow marching, the government said.

The amendments to the Public Order Bill are aimed at curbing tactics used by groups such as Just Stop Oil, Insulate Britain and Extinction Rebellion, according to the home secretary.

On Monday, the bill reaches the report stage in the House of Lords, with debates on measures used by some protesters such as locking-on and tunnelling, the thresholds as to what point the police can intervene, and new stop and search powers.

Under the proposed changes, police would not need to wait for disruption to take place and could shut demonstrations down before they escalate.

Ahead of the debate, Ms Braverman said: "Enough is enough. Blocking motorways and slow walking in roads delays our life-saving emergency services, stops people getting to work and drains police resources.

"Around 75 days of Just Stop Oil action alone cost the taxpayer £12.5m in policing response. This is simply not fair on the British public.

"I urge colleagues across the House of Lords to pass this measure tonight - it is our duty to stand up for the law-abiding public and protect their right to go about their business."

The Public Order Bill is considered a successor to the controversial Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act passed last year, which was criticised for introducing curbs on the right to protest.

A Just Stop Oil spokesperson said: "Suella Braverman may borrow phrases from popular protest movements, but she is part of an anti-democratic minority that is on the wrong side of history.

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"The government is seeking to close all avenues for legitimate protest - by anyone about anything. The police already have adequate powers to arrest people for obstructing the highway."

Oliver Feeley-Sprague, the military, security and police programme director at Amnesty UK, said: "This bill, and its last-minute amendments, are deeply draconian and must be called out and rejected before it's too late.

"The right to protest is fundamental to a free and fair society - a right for which people have had to fight long and hard. Without the right to protest, everyone's ability to hold the powerful to account suffers.

"These types of restrictions are likely to have a chilling effect by seriously dissuading people from joining protests in the first place."