This week the new Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill receives its second reading in the House of Commons.
The Bill includes a host of wide ranging new police powers and contains threats to the right to peaceful protest - and could potentially have a negative impact on our access to the countryside. Despite profound and far-reaching consequences, this large and complex piece of legislation is being rushed through parliament.
Along with colleagues in other access organisations, British Canoeing is particularly concerned that the Bill threatens:
Access to the countryside. The focus of the Bill’s trespass provisions is on ‘residing in a vehicle on land without permission’. However, the lack of clear definitions in the legislation mean that this could have a wider impact - and serve to increase tensions between landowners and those accessing the outdoors
Progress on other critical legislation. This Bill is being rushed through parliament at a time when critical legislation like the Environment Bill has been repeatedly delayed due to lack of parliamentary time
The right to peaceful protest. Many of the rights that enable our access to the outdoors have been built on the legitimate protest of previous generations.
The Government has made assurances to concerned groups that the new Bill is not aimed at criminalising users of the countryside.
British Canoeing has previously expressed its concerns regarding the new proposals, both in the Home Office Consultation and also through letters to the Secretary of State. In January 2021, British Canoeing joined a group of campaigners in stating their concerns through a joint letter to the Home Office, Ministry of Justice and Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs. A copy of the letter can be foundhere.
British Canoeing will continue to monitor the progress of the Bill, to safeguard the interests of paddlers and all users of the countryside.