Letter to a Member of Parliament regarding the Parliament Square demonstration restrictions Designated Area

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In the hope of inspiring a few more people to write to their Members of Parliament about the restrictions on "demonstrations" around Parliament Square, below is the text of a letter to my MP.

Use this as inspiration (but do not simply cut and paste it) when you write to your own Member of Parliament, either directly, or by using, for example, WriteToThem

"XXXX
Member of Parliament for YYYY
House of Commons
Parliament Square
London

20th June 2005

Dear XXXX

I am writing to you as a constituent, regarding the new restrictions on demonstrations around Parliament Square which come into force on the 1st of July, following the publication of

Statutory Instrument 2005 No. 1537

The Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (Designated Area) Order 2005

http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si2005/20051537.htm

The extent of the Designated Area is vast, far in excess of what is required to deal with any "eyesore" problems caused by the controversial "peace camp" lone protester Brian Haw.

http://www.parliament-square.org.uk

For no fathomable "security" reasons, this Designated Area encompasses the London Eye wheel on the other side of the River Thames, whilst at the same time, it does not include St. James's Park, only a few metres away from Downing Street.

Of equal concern to me as a constituent, is that the entire Palace of Westminster is covered by the Designated Area.

The Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 defines

"(b) "public place" means any highway or any place to which at the material time the public or any section of the public has access, on payment or otherwise, as of right or by virtue of express or implied permission,"

http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts2005/50015--l.htm#132

This means that all the public areas of the Houses of Parliament, including the public lobbies, viewing galleries, restaurants and bars etc. also now require prior written permission from the "Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis" i.e. Sir Ian Blair, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, "at least six clear days" or in exceptional circumstances "at least 24 hours" prior to any "demonstration".

Whether a single person or a group of people is deemed to be holding "demonstration" or "protest" is entirely a subjective, on the spot judgement by a Police Officer, against which there is no mechanism of appeal.

Simply walking within the Designated Area, wearing a "political" slogan on a T-shirt or a badge, or carrying leaflets etc. could , at a whim, be deemed to be a "demonstration", with severe penalties for not having sought and obtained prior written permission.

This seems to me to include any attempt by myself as an individual, or any group of your constituents who wish to lobby you or any other Member of Parliament in the traditional way, in person, at the House of Commons.

What business is it of an unelected, politically appointed Police chief, to keep a record of my name and address and a log of every time that I might wish to lobby my Member of Parliament ? How long is such data retained for, and who else gets access to it and why ?

This concept of "prior permission", even it it is automatically granted, with no extra restrictions applied, has a chilling effect on our Parliamentary democracy.

I urge you to either get your fellow Members of Parliament to repeal these clauses of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005, or to restrict the Designated Area to just the pavement opposite the Carriage Gate where the "peace camp" is set up.

There is no good reason why Parliament cannot pass an amendment, and purchase the piece of pavement where the "peace camp" is set up, and add it to the Parliamentary Estate, which would then allow the removal of any unsightly permanent or semi permanent banners etc., without restricting the democratic rights and freedoms of all of the rest of us.

yours sincerely"

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