Tents to be banned in Parliament Square

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Loudhailers and tents will be banned from Parliament Square as Home Secretary Theresa May pledged to clear the area of protesters ahead of the royal wedding next spring.

Powers to restore the right to non-violent protests while also clearing the square by the House of Commons and Westminster Abbey in central London were outlined in today's Police Reform and Social Responsibility bill.

Mrs May said that, "as to the need to clear Parliament Square, in particular for a certain event next April, it is our intention that Parliament Square will be clear by then".

Prince William and Kate Middleton intend to marry at Westminster Abbey on April 29 next year.

Last week Prime Minister David Cameron said he wanted the peace camp on the pavement in Parliament Square removed before the royal wedding and could not understand why demonstrators should be allowed to sleep there.

Mrs May said today: "We're restoring rights to non-violent protest and taking powers to ensure Parliament Square, and the area around Parliament Square, is free from tents and other such encampments and structures that we've been seeing over recent years."

Loudhailers will only be allowed to be used if authorised beforehand. All tents, structures and "any sleeping equipment" will be banned.

The square was sealed off in July after anti-war protesters were forcibly evicted by bailiffs.

A handful of demonstrators were left voicing their disapproval from the street, where new protests have now been set up, after temporary metal fencing was put up around the square.

The protesters in the makeshift camp known as Democracy Village were removed after losing a Court of Appeal battle to stay there.

Colin Barrow, Westminster City Council leader, said the Government needed to act "to end the blight of Parliament Square by enacting legislation which we, along with all the relevant authorities, can use to end the current mess".

But he warned that the proposed bill only covered the centre of the square and concerns remained over the protesters' ability to "simply decamp to areas elsewhere in the square" or to erect totem poles, hoardings or other structures.

"It has been deeply frustrating to see the pavement taken over and turned into a squalid campsite by these vociferous groups," he said.

"We welcome peaceful protest, but what we've seen here in recent years has been a flagrant abuse of these rights, at the cost to ordinary Londoners and visitors who have lost their rights to appreciate the beauty of our city."