I have recently found out that Hillingdon Council is trying to very severely limit the freedom of users of their public spaces from handing out information to others, regardless of whether or not they are causing a nuisance or obstruction. I have therefore decided to launch the following petition which I plan to present to Hillingdon Council when completed. If you agree, please sign, and if you live in Hillingdon please indicate as such so that this data can be presented to the Council.
An illegal gathering, if the new law goes through as written.
Hillingdon Council is currently consulting on the introduction of a new Public Space Protection Order as the last version is expiring. Most of the terms of the new PSPO are uncontroversial, but hiding in the clauses is a direct attack on our freedom of speech.
Section 2 clause d says that “No person(s) shall place a table/stand/signage or similar within any part of the public area without written authorisation from the Council”.
This is a blatant attack on our freedom to talk to one another as users of the Hillingdon public spaces, and it is far out of proportion to any problems that might be solved by any such law. In addition, the UK has signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which contains the following Sections:
18) Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
19) Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
20 (1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
27 (1) Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.
29 (2) In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.
This restriction affects religious groups, entertainers, political activists and anyone wanting to put up a poster or hand out flyers. Clearly this is an overreach of authority, and the Council must withdraw Section 2 clause d completely to avoid a major Human Rights violation.
This is important because it affects our freedom of speech as a society. If communication and advertising for events and movements is limited such that it requires the permission of the Council, then such permission can be withheld for issues that the Council does not approve of, including religions that they do not practice or political parties of which they are not members.
This is a genuine worry that the law as written is sufficient to effectively block the right to free speech and free exercise of religion or political party.
To give an idea of what would be banned, the picture shown above is of a recent Action Day in Eastcote, where we set up a stand outside the station and talked to people that wanted to engage with us. We didn’t block anyone’s route or force anyone to engage with us, but if this order goes through we would have been subject to removal by the police. For wanting to talk to people.
I plan to send this petition to Hillingdon Council with a request to be allowed to speak against the proposal as written.