[Media-watch] FWD: Blunkett legislates to silence lone protestor at Westminster - Independent - 24/10/2004

Julie-ann Davies jadavies2004 at yahoo.co.uk
Sun Oct 24 02:49:46 BST 2004


Blunkett legislates to silence lone protester at Westminster

By Francis Elliott and Michael Fitzwilliams

24 October 2004

  His home is a roll of green plastic sheeting, his possessions no more 
than necessary to make coffee, keep warm and roll the occasional 

Approaching his fourth winter on Parliament Green, few passers-by even 
notice Brian Haw and his collection of anti-war posters.

For ministers, however, the 55-year-old peace protester is about to 
become Britain's most wanted man, the first target of new legislation 
to crack down on organised crime.

David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, will announce next week he is to 
outlaw "permanent encampments" outside Parliament as well as the use of 
megaphones. The measure will be included in legislation establishing 
the Serious Organised Crime Agency, the FBI-style body that ministers 
say is needed to fight gangsters.

Ministers have been forced to pass a specific law against Mr Haw's 
activities as a desperate last resort.

Westminster Council was first to try to evict him, but its injunction 
was thrown out by a judge who ruled that the peace protester was not an 

The Speaker, driven to distraction by Mr Haw's amplified harangues, 
inspired an effort to search Parliament's own "sessional orders" to see 
whether they provided legal authority to evict him.

However, in May the Commons Procedure Committee was forced to admit 
that Mr Haw's rights to protest could not be over-ridden by medieval 
statutes guaranteeing MPs safe passage in the streets of Westminster.

Sir George Young, the Tory MP for Hampshire North West, has led the 
charge against Mr Haw, accusing ministers of an "inexcusable paralysis" 
for failing to get rid of him earlier.

In a Commons debate in May he said that terrorists could hide behind 
the peace protester's banners and "pick us off as we arrive at or leave 
the House". No other democracy would allow "this shanty town" in the 
middle of the its capital, he said.

Mr Blunkett agrees. He has decided to take the matter on with an 
amendment to the Serious Organised Crime Bill to be unveiled in the 
Queen's Speech next month.

"David's just decided that enough is enough and that something has got 
to be done," said one senior government source last night.

Mr Haw was defiant when told the news of his imminent criminalisation 
yesterday. "It's my right to be here. It is my life to be here ... all 
the lords and ladies opposite bleating away as if I had found a 
loophole in the law that entitles me to be here. Yes. It is called the 
Human Rights Act."

Mr Haw, born in Woodford in Essex, lives off what sympathisers provide 
him with and appears to have weathered the months of basic survival 
fairly well.

The response to his megaphone sloganising is mixed, he says. "I've had 
Americans crying as they stand here reading the posters, and then there 
are the bad Americans. They're the ones who walk by with their fingers 
in the air."

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