House of Lords votes against Gov't's Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill. But not the reflectors bit.

Lords reject ‘Reflectorgate’ bill (but not reflectors bit)

A key part of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill was last night heavily defeated in the House of Lords. The Government was defeated by 306 to 178 votes. Most Labour peers voted against the bill; Tory peer Lord Coe was one of those who voted for the bill.

The badly drafted bill had many clauses that would have severely restricted civil liberties. The Government planned to replace anti-social behaviour orders with Ipnas, Injunctions to Prevent Nuisance and Annoyance, which could have been used by the state to oppress anybody engaging – or threatening to engage – in "conduct capable of causing nuisance or annoyance to any person."

Lord Dear said if the bill became law it risked "being used for those who seek to protest peacefully, noisy children in the street, street preachers, canvassers, carol singers, trick-or-treaters, church bell ringers, clay pigeon shooters, nudists.

The Home Office promised the vaguely defined clauses about "annoying behaviour" would never have been imposed in an unreasonable way; an empty claim, believed campaigners against the bill.

The bill still has to go through its third reading in the House of Lords. Afterwards the Government will have to decide whether to radically prune the bill before it returns to the House of Commons. Last night’s vote didn’t defeat the ‘Reflectorgate’ part of the bill.

As has previously reported, and billed as ‘Reflectorgate’, the bill planned to introduce new powers for police community support officers. They would have been able to stop and fine cyclists for offences including not having British Standard reflectors on their pedals. Strictly speaking, all cyclists who ride after dark must have pedal reflectors fitted even though they cannot be easily fitted to modern clipless pedals. Currently, police officers do not tend to stop and fine cyclists for this offence – sensibly, they tend to prefer that cyclists are visible and use lights – but in future "blitzes" and "crackdowns" PCSOs could use these new powers to stop and fine cyclists who may be kitted out with hundreds of pounds worth of lights but who don’t have pedal reflectors fitted.

Last night the Lords voted in support of a cross-bench peer’s amendment to remove the Government-backed clauses, which had previously been passed by the Commons, that would have introduced IPNAs as a replacement for ASBOs.

The Lords did not vote on the bits of the bill that would allow PCSOs to enforce the (dated) regulations on lights, reflectors and other moving traffic offences.

The debate on these has been deferred until later in January, advises Roger Geffen of CTC.

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