Political Violence and Disruption: Walney Report Debate

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Department: Home Office

Political Violence and Disruption: Walney Report

Joanna Cherry Excerpts
Wednesday 22nd May 2024

(1 month, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Tom Tugendhat Portrait Tom Tugendhat
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As usual, I will listen very carefully to my hon. Friend’s suggestions. As for addresses, I do not think the election system will change between now and the second half of the year, as we have now learned. I look forward to standing in that election, whenever it comes, and for my address to be recorded as an address in the Tunbridge constituency.

Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry (Edinburgh South West) (SNP)
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There are aspects of this report that I welcome. For example, the careful cataloguing of the harassment and intimidation of gender critical feminists across the United Kingdom is a valuable contribution to our public debate. However, I consider the recommendations to be largely far too draconian. The Joint Committee on Human Rights, which I chair, has repeatedly stressed that public authorities, including the Government and the police, are under a negative obligation not to interfere with the right to peaceful protest, and a positive obligation to facilitate peaceful protest. Yesterday’s High Court ruling, which was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow Central (Alison Thewliss), gave a very clear message that, in regulating protest, the Government must act within the law, and they must not pursue an anti-protest agenda at the expense of human rights, particularly freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. I would like a cast-iron assurance from the Minister that protection of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and the right to protest will be at the heart of the Government’s consideration of the report’s recommendations.

Tom Tugendhat Portrait Tom Tugendhat
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I pay tribute to the hon. and learned Lady for her courage in speaking out on women’s rights, which she has done with enormous dignity and integrity, when others have sought to silence her by shouting her down, closing her out, or using genuinely quite vile language against her. She will, I hope, excuse me when I say that I have had the misfortune to see what some people have said to her on social media, and they are things that should not be said to anyone.

The hon. and learned Lady’s approach is pragmatic, as usual, and I am grateful for that. This is a challenging report. The points that she makes about our having the civil rights to assemble, debate and discuss are correct. This Government are not trying to—and never will try to—silence the British people. Hearing the voices of our fellow citizens in the ways in which they choose to express them is, of course, part of a democracy, but the ways in which they choose to express them is also mitigated by the ways in which we choose to live as a community. Those choices we call laws, as she knows. My hon. and learned Friend is absolutely right in holding all of us to the principles that we have agreed in advance. What we are looking to do is ensure that those prior agreements—those laws—reflect the reality that everybody has the right to express their views and to live freely in our society, and that extremism and extremists have no place in it.