Parliament debated this petition on 19Apr2021
The government maintains that the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts (PCSC) Bill is designed to criminalise the act of trespassing when making an unauthorised encampment, and would not criminalise the act of trespass itself. The Bill’s explanatory notes says “the provisions do not capture ramblers and those who wish to enjoy the countryside” because to commit the offence you must be “residing in or intending to reside in, or with, a vehicle”. Failure to comply with a police direction to leave land occupied as part of an unauthorised encampment is already a criminal offence.
Unfortunately, none of this really addresses the root of George Monbiot’s concerns below….
Boris Johnson’s attack on English planning laws is both very new and very old. It is new because it scraps the system for deciding how land should be used, replacing it with something closer to the US model. It is old because it represents yet another transfer of power from the rest of us to the lords of the land, a process that has been happening, with occasional reversals, since 1066.
A power that in 1947 was secured for the public – the democratic right to influence the building that affects our lives – is now being retrieved by building companies, developers and the people who profit most from development, the landowners. This is part of England’s long tradition of enclosure: seizing a common good and giving it to the rich and powerful. Democracy is replaced with the power of money.
Almost all of us, in England and many other nations, are born on the wrong side of the law. The disproportionate weight that the law gives to property rights makes nearly everyone a second-class citizen before they draw their first breath, fenced out of the good life we could lead.
Our legislation’s failure to moderate the claims of property denies other fundamental rights. Among them is equality before the law. If you own large tracts of land, a great weight of law sits on your side, defending your inordinate privileges from those who don’t. We are forbidden to exercise a crucial democratic right – the right to protest – on all but the diminishing pockets of publicly owned land. If we try to express dissent anywhere else, we can be arrested immediately.
A petition to parliament launched by Guy Shrubsole, author of ‘Who Owns England?’, seeks to stop the criminalisation of trespass. If you are a British citizen or UK resident, please sign it. The petition is currently at 43,415 signatures — at 100,000 signatures, this petition will be considered for debate in Parliament. Deadline: 5 September 2020.
We can expect these efforts to be testerically opposed in the billionaire press. This is what happened when a group of us launched the Land for the Many report last year: it was greeted by furious attacks and outrageous falsehoods across the rightwing papers. Even the mildest attempts to rebalance our rights are treated as an existential threat by those whose privilege is ratified by law. But we cannot allow their fury to deter us. It is time to decolonise the land.