The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill would give police the power to impose conditions on protests judged to be “too noisy” and give the home secretary powers to create laws to define “serious disruption” - which could be used to crack down on demonstrations.
Civil liberties groups have warned that the bill would damage the right to protest, while Labour has said it will oppose the “poorly thought-out” and “divisive” measures.
Now, the former PM has joined those criticising the proposals, warning that she has “concerns” about the bill’s potential impact on freedom of speech.
May told the Commons:
“I do have some concerns about some of the aspects of public order provisions in this Bill. I absolutely accept that the police have got certain challenges, for example when people glue themselves to vehicles or the gates of parliament.
“But freedom of speech is an important right in our democracy, however annoying or uncomfortable sometimes that might be and I know there will be people who will have seen scenes of protest and will have said, ‘why isn’t the government doing something?’, to which the answer in many cases may simply be because we live in a democratic, free society.”
Of course, none of these concerns will matter unless Tory MPs actually vote against the bill when they get the chance this evening.
If they don’t, there will be other opportunities to amend or block the legislation when it goes to the House of Lords and when it returns to the Commons later this year - but with the government’s huge majority, Conservatives need to stand up to prevent it becoming law.