Speaking from Parliament, Fiona Bruce MP said,
"Everyone has the right to freedom of assembly and speech. Not only are these vital parts of our democracy but I have spoken about them on a number of times in Parliament most recently this summer when I said;
“In this country, it is a long-standing tradition that people are free to gather together and to demonstrate their views. This is something to be rightly proud of,” as I said, “freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of conscience, freedom of expression, the right to peaceably protest, and the right to receive information are all fundamental liberties, many hard-won, underpinning our democracy.”
However, protestors do not have the right to break the law and disrupt the lives of others, and the exercise of such rights should be done peaceably. As I have seen during the past week through the activities of the Extinction Rebellion protestors, seeking to promote the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill, roads have been blocked around Parliament as people try to go to work or go home, businesses have been disrupted, enormous and valuable police resources have been taken up, causing difficulties for emergency vehicles and completely unreasonable levels of noise have been made, including in one case I saw as I walked home from Parliament late one night after work last week. This late night, noisy demonstration must have prevented many people, including children, getting to sleep.
And last weekend’s disruption to the distribution of newspapers by Extinction Rebellion was completely unacceptable, causing inconvenience to millions across the country, and I have no doubt harming the income of many small newsagent’s businesses, many of whom will live on their margins providing a service to their local communities. The free press is a precious part of our democracy and no individual or group should seek to dictate what information the public have access to. It was particularly ironic that one of the newspapers targeted by Extinction Rebellion carried an article that day by Sir David Attenborough regarding the climate crisis. Extinction Rebellion therefore appear to have limited public access to information on the very issue they care about, and unfortunately appear to have done their cause a disservice through their above actions by alienating potential supporters, including some young people I have spoken to.
What is particularly sad is that across the board increasingly the public have a lot of sympathy and support for environmental concerns and the issue of climate change – as do I. Only this week I participated in a meeting on the All Party Parliamentary Group on Woods and Trees, of which I am a Member, and the purpose of which is “To raise awareness of the UK’s woods and trees and to discuss the steps necessary to protect, restore and expand them in a time of climate and nature crises.” And with regard to the Bill itself, tackling climate change is a priority for this Conservative Government; the UK was the first G7 country to legislate to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 and our country remains committed to environmentally sustainable development as set out in the Millennium Development Goals and the Sustainable Development Goals. In September 2019 the Prime Minster committed to doubling the UK’s international climate finance over the next five years, something I fully support and which I hope will enable the UK to play a particularly proactive part in protecting the environment and reversing biodiversity loss. And the UK is also on course to increasingly protect our waters. We now have 357 Marine Protected Areas of different types and no activities deemed damaging to designated features will be allowed to take place in these areas.
Much is therefore being done to improve our environment and address climate change concerns, and so whilst I welcome the aims of this Bill to raise awareness and increase debate – provided this is done peaceably and within the law – I do not believe the Bill is required as so much good work is already underway in this regard."