The Protection of Freedoms Bill returned to the House of Lords yesterday (Tuesday 24 April) for consideration of amendments made by the House of Commons. The House completed ping pong after two votes and it now awaits royal assent.
Powers of entry division (vote)
Lord Henley opened the debate on behalf of the government with Motion A asking the House not to insist on amendments 16 to 18. The Commons had disagreed the group of amendments because they considered that exercising the powers of entry with those amendments 'could undermine actions to protect public safety'.
Lord Marlesford proposed Motion A1 with a redrafted amendment which aimes to 'cut back on the intrusive powers of entry into homes' and ensure safeguards were in place. Lord Henley explained that the government wants to reduce the 1,300 powers of entry and that a two year review is in place to examine each of them. Lord Marlesford argued that the amendment did not interfere with the review but allows certain exceptions and provisions while the review takes place and called for a vote. Members voted with 89 for and 190 against the amendment.
Stalking and fear of violence division (vote)
Lord Henley asked the House to agree with the Commons in their amendments to 51A to 51E. He explained that the Lords amendments were introduced to address 'two specific offences of stalking and stalking involving fear of violence' in the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. He argued that the Commons amendments allow Section 4A of the act to be used 'where stalking behaviour causes the victim serious alarm or distress such that it substantially affects their day-to-day activity'.
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon argued that the government concessions were welcome but 'did not heed calls from experts to strengthen the proposals on police powers and to allow for cases prosecuted under the new Section 2A offence to be referred up to the Crown Court should new evidence emerge'. She stated that the amendment would protect victims who have 'serious concerns about their personal safety as a result of their stalker's actions - even if explicit threats of violence are not made - would be covered by the same protection under the Section 4A offence'. Members of the House voted on Motion B1 with a majority against the amendment with 160 for and 207 against.
The House of Lords completed the final stage of ping pong by agreeing the Commons amendments in Motion C.
The Protection of Freedoms Bill now awaits royal assent to become law.
What is royal assent?
Once a bill has completed all its parliamentary stages in both Houses, it's ready to receive royal assent and become an act of Parliament (law). Royal assent is the Queen's formal agreement to make the bill into an act.
There is no set time period between the consideration of amendments and royal assent.
When royal assent has been given, an announcement is made in both Houses by the Lord Speaker in the Lords and the Speaker in the Commons.
At prorogation (the formal end to a parliamentary session), Black Rod interrupts the proceedings of the Commons and summons MPs to the Lords chamber to hear the Lords commissioners announce royal assent for each bill.
Protection of Freedoms Bill: Key areas
- Brings in a new framework for police retention of fingerprints and DNA data, and requires schools to get parents’ consent before processing children’s biometric information.
- Introduces a code of practice for surveillance camera systems and provides for judicial approval of certain surveillance activities by local authorities.
- Provides for a code of practice to cover officials’ powers of entry, with these powers being subject to review and repeal.
- Outlaws wheel-clamping on private land.
- Introduces a new regime for police stops and searches under the Terrorism Act 2000 and reduces the maximum pre-charge detention period under that Act from 28 to 14 days.
- Restricts the scope of the 'vetting and barring' scheme for protecting vulnerable groups and makes changes to the system of criminal records checks.
- Enables those with convictions for consensual sexual relations between men aged 16 or over (which have since been decriminalised) to apply to have them disregarded.
- Extends Freedom of Information rights by requiring datasets to be available in a re-usable format.
- Repeals provisions (never brought into force) which would have allowed trial without a jury in complex fraud cases.
- Removes time restrictions on when marriage or civil partnership ceremonies may take place.
Catch up on the Protection of Freedoms Bill
The Protection of Freedoms Bill now awaits royal assent.
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