James Cleverly says MPs must not feel ‘bullied’ as government mulls protest rule changes

James Cleverly has said the government is mulling changing protest rules as the pro-Palestine demonstrations are putting “huge pressure” on policing.

In an interview with The Times newspaper, the home secretary suggested that protest organisers could be required to give more than the currently mandated six days of notice to police.

This was a change recommended by the Home Affairs Committee in a report released on Tuesday.

The report also found that more than £25 million was spent policing pro-Palestinian protests between October 7 and December 17.

£19 million was spent by Scotland Yard and another £6.5 million by forces outside the capital. 

The committee said the marches were “draining” police resources.

Cleverly’s intervention also comes on the same day as the government unveils a £31m security funding package for MPs amid rising threats

Speaking to The Times, the home secretary also directly addressed the organisers of pro-Palestine demonstrators, saying they have “made their point” and are “not really saying anything new”.

He said it is critical that MPs do not feel “bullied” into changing their stance on the Israel-Hamas war.

Pro-Palestinian protesters recently gathered outside the home of Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood earlier this month. 

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Police warned his family to “stay away” as arriving could “antagonise” the situation.

It also comes after the House of Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle broke with precedent last week out of concern for MP safety during a vote related to the war in the Middle East.

“I think the organisers should recognise that they’ve made their point, they’ve made it loudly and they’re not adding to it by repeating themselves”, Cleverly told The Times.

He added that the protests are “putting a huge amount of pressure onto UK policing, not just the Metropolitan Police but also other police forces”.

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He went on: “I think it’s really important that no one, no parliamentarian, feels that they should be bullied into taking a position they don’t believe is the right position”, Cleverly said.

“So I genuinely don’t know what these regular protests are seeking to achieve.

“They have made their position clear, we recognise that there are many people in the UK that hold that position, we respect that, but the UK government’s position is a disagreement with that for very practical, well-thought-out reasons.”

On Tuesday, prime minister Rishi Sunak rejected a suggestion that MPs should be able to speak and vote from their constituencies because of concerns about security at Westminster.

Downing Street said the prime minister believed it was “really important that we maintain parliament as a place for free debate and expression of views”.

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