VoteClimate: Climate Protests in Cambridge: Police Response - 3rd March 2020

Climate Protests in Cambridge: Police Response - 3rd March 2020

Here are the climate-related sections of speeches by MPs during the Commons debate Climate Protests in Cambridge: Police Response.

Full text: https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2020-03-03/debates/69B3DD72-8229-4E60-8A35-6ACBAB282E6A/ClimateProtestsInCambridgePoliceResponse

15:39 Anthony Browne (Conservative)

The lack of police action against law-breaking protesters caused public fury across social media, the airwaves, the letters pages and my inbox. Virtually no one has argued that the police were right not to act. That public anger is very understandable. We rely on the police to uphold the rule of law, and not to let mob rule unfold. When those tasked with law enforcement appear to be unwilling or unable to intervene in flagrant criminal conduct, the public start to feel threatened. The public are also annoyed by the perceived double standard. Many said to me, “If I had blockaded the road or committed criminal damage, I’d be arrested on the spot. Why aren’t the protesters?” I want to put on record that I strongly support the ultimate objective of Extinction Rebellion in combating climate change, but I do not support its means.

The hon. Member is making a powerful legalistic argument, but I put it to him that this is actually a political argument. There are many people in my constituency who think we face a climate emergency so serious that it justifies what would in normal times be considered extreme action. Does he understand how strongly people feel about this? The police have used these powers on the A14 diversions, and there has been less disruption for my constituents over the past few years than was suffered the other week.

I understand the passion, the urgency and the importance that people feel about climate change, but that does not justify breaking the law.

This is also clearly counterproductive. I have had lots of correspondence from my constituents, as perhaps the hon. Gentleman has had from his, saying that people cannot be won over to a cause by alienating them. If we want to make a political argument, I would say that Extinction Rebellion portrays itself as a fringe group with a fringe cause and actually undermines support for action on climate change. It must obey the law, which is the way to win people over.

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16:01 Chris Philp (Conservative)

Strong points have been made about the law needing to be enforced, but the Government are continually dragged through the courts for failing to meet their air quality responsibilities, so when are we going to see Ministers pursued by the police to tackle the climate emergency? There cannot be one law for one set of people; surely it has to be the same law for everybody.

The Government have an extremely proud record on climate change. As I have just said, we have been reducing our CO 2 emissions and have virtually eliminated coal-fired power stations. There is scope to do more, though, and the Environment Bill will again be before the House shortly, and it contains further measures, including on clean air, which I am extremely interested in as a London MP.

The country can be proud of its record on climate change and the Government will continue to do more. Moreover, the Government fully recognise, respect and embrace the right to peaceful protest. A free society is built on the foundations of free speech and free protest, and the Government will never do anything to impede the public’s right to express their views. Indeed, we have seen that outside, in Parliament Square, on quite a frequent basis over the past year—sometimes quite noisily.

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