Priti Patel is expected to be announcing tougher punishments against motorway activists in her conference speech on Tuesday
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has branded climate change activists who have blocked motorways and caused disruption “irresponsible crusties” in recent weeks.
Speaking to LBC, the prime minister has said that those involved are “doing considerable damage to the economy” and are “not” legitimate protesters.
Mr Johnson’s father, Stanley Johnson, who is also an environmental campaigner and international ambassador for the Conservative Environment Network, has said that the actions of Insulate Britain activists are not helping their cause.
It comes as UK Home Secretary Priti Patel is expected to warn protesters who block the motorway could face unlimited fines and a prison sentence of up to six months during her conference speech on Tuesday.
Police will also be given the power to stop and search activists for “lock-on” equipment that can be used in order to prevent them from being moved, the police believe.
The move follows days of protests by the group Insulate Britain, which has staged sit-down demonstrations on a series of key roads surrounding London, including the M25, M1, and M4.
This comes after a group of climate demonstrators sat down on the northbound A102 and had glued themselves to the tunnel causing large queues to keep building up during the nation’s rush hour.
On the 2nd of October, the government had obtained a fresh injunction banning the group from obstructing traffic, as well as access to motorways and major A roads across London.
These new powers will be introduced by Ms Patel and will be added as an amendment into the Police, Crime, Courts and Sentencing Bill, that is currently going through parliament.
The PM’s father told Sky News that “Extinction Rebellion and Insulate Britain are making a mistake if they think antagonising ordinary people is going to help the cause”.
He added: “It is not a good idea, it needs to stop – whether it needs to stop by legal means – Kit Malthouse or whatever – I do not know, but I am simply saying as a matter of practical politics those who lead Extinction Rebellion and Insulate Britain need to realise that this is not actually going to advance the cause they are seeking to support.”
Ahead of her conference speech, the Home Secretary said: “The right to protest is a fundamental principle of our democracy but we will not tolerate guerrilla tactics that obstruct people going about their day-to-day business.
“Whilst the Labour Party stand on the side of these so-called ‘activists’, the Conservative Party will always back the law-abiding, hard-working majority of people in this country.”
The PM added that his government “will give the police the powers they need to stop their reckless and selfish behaviour”.
Speaking earlier on Sky News, the UK’s Policing Minister Kit Malthouse said that Insulate Britain protestors have “crossed the line” of peaceful protests after video footage had been released showing a paramedic having to remove an individual from out of the middle of the road.
This comes after Chancellor Rishi Sunak has suggested that he may have to introduce further tax rises on the public as the economy emerges from the global COVID-19 crisis, declaring that: “Our recovery comes with a cost.”
Describing the footage as being “deeply distressing”, the policing minister said that something “does” need to be done about this situation.
“While we obviously all value the right to protest, there is a difference between causing disruption and causing damage,” he said.
“We believe that these protesters and some of the others that we have seen in the last couple of years have crossed the line between exercising their right but also their responsibility towards the rest of us and something needs to be done.”
Mr Malthouse added that the UK government will be “announcing a raft of new measures” in order to curb protests such as this later on Tuesday.
Ms Patel is due to make her conference speech within the main hall at 11.50am.