Minister brands eco zealots 'Waitrose-card holders who can afford to pay £1k fines'

10 May 2022, 08:24 | Updated: 10 May 2022, 09:01

Kit Malthouse said protesters such as those from Insulate Britain could afford to pay the fines issued to them
Kit Malthouse said protesters such as those from Insulate Britain could afford to pay the fines issued to them. Picture: LBC/Alamy

By Daisy Stephens

Eco-protesters who block roads are "often Waitrose card-holders" for whom a £1,000 fine is "of no consequence to them", a Home Office minister has said.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Speaking on LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast about the Government crackdown on eco protesters due to be outlined in the Queen's Speech, Kit Malthouse said said the current deterrents were not sufficient because the demonstrators could afford to pay the fine.

"The offences that [the police] can prosecute people under don't carry deterrent sentences, so for example obstructing the highway, which was being used when people were blocking motorways, was a level three fine which was up to £1,000 with no threat of prison," he told Nick.

Read more: Crackdown on eco zealots using 'locking on' tactics to be unveiled in Queen's Speech

Read more: 'Entitled' mum slammed for money saving tips which include ditching £40k-a-year nanny

"These individuals, they're often Waitrose card-holders and the money that they have to spend on fines is neither here nor there, so the deterrent effect isn't there, so what we're trying to do is bring more of a deterrent which previously we have done through some of the injunctions that we've obtained... but we need it encoded in the criminal law."

Nick replied: "Just a point of clarification - these protesters are 'Waitrose card holders'?

"What does that mean, Minister?"

Mr Malthouse replied: "I meant very often a £1,000 fine is of no consequence to them."

Minister explains plans to stop 'Waitrose card holding eco protesters'

Eco protesters from Insulate Britain blocked major roads up and down the UK in the second half of 2021, calling on the Government to insulate the UK's social housing stock.

An offshoot of the group, Just Stop Oil, then caused chaos for motorists by blocking oil refineries in April this year.

The Government is expected to announce plans for stricter punishments for such eco protesters, particularly ones who use "lock-on" tactics such as glueing themselves to the highway.

Explaining the plans to Nick, Mr Malthouse said the changes would "bring a more specificity" to the offences and would introduce prison sentences for protesters for the first time.

"One of the things we've experienced is there are a number of these protesters who are very persistent, notwithstanding the fines and the penalties that are handed out they keep coming back again and again," he said.

Read more: The Queen will miss the State Opening of Parliament with Charles to take her place

Watch: Inflation could reach 10% and last until 2024, ex-Bank of England chief economist warns

"So we're going to bring in a thing called a serious disruption prevention order which we can place on them as an individual, which will mean there are specific restrictions on what they can and can't do so as to protect the rest of us."

He said protest was "key to our national identity and our democracy" but added it had to be "balanced against the rights of others to go about their business".

Insulate Britain protesters received fines for blocking roads last year
Insulate Britain protesters received fines for blocking roads last year. Picture: Alamy

Mr Malthouse then defended the police's handing of previous protests, saying: "We got to a situation where those protesters around the M25 were at times being removed within minutes of arriving and as we developed our approach towards those tactics, the police were getting ahead of them faster and faster.

"What we're trying to do today through the Queen's Speech, through this bill, is strengthen the powers that the police have to deal with these protests so that there are proper penalties that will deter them taking place in the first place.

Watch: Andrew Marr: PM will be laughing with relief over Starmer's Beergate resignation vow

Read more: Labour 'can show Keir Starmer did not break lockdown rules' after vow to resign

"We want people to protest, to make noisy protests outside parliament, to talk about these issues, but not in a way that blocks motorways and puts them and the police officers in danger at fuel depots.

"That's what we're trying to achieve through this bill today."

More Nick Ferrari

See more More Nick Ferrari

Nick Ferrari pressed Shadow Education Secretary Bridget Phillipson regarding trans women and bathrooms.

'So which lavatory would they actually use?': Nick Ferrari presses shadow minister on trans women and public toilets

Postal minister Kevin Hollinrake has said a future Tory government could intervene in the deal for Czech billionaire Daniel Kretinsky to take over the Royal Mail.

'Not a done deal': Minister says Royal Mail sale to foreign owner may not take place

Exclusive
Home Secretary James Cleverly (left) and shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper take part in a live immigration debate on LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast at Global Studios in Leicester Square, London. Picture date: Tuesday June 25, 2024.

James Cleverly debates Yvette Cooper on immigration | Watch Again

Yvette Cooper slammed Just Stop Oil as 'pathetic'

Yvette Cooper slams 'pathetic' Just Stop Oil as she brands Stonehenge stunt a 'total disgrace'

Laura Saunders, the Conservative candidate for Bristol North West

Tory candidate being investigated over alleged election date bet is 'married to Conservative Director of Campaigns'

Gambling probes into two Tory candidates are a 'betrayal of trust' in Rishi Sunak, Michael Gove has said.

Gove says election bets are ‘betrayal of Prime Minister’s trust’ as second Tory candidate investigated by regulator

Keir Starmer came out on top after LBC’s two exclusive phone-ins

Keir Starmer comes out on top after LBC phone-ins – as Rishi Sunak seen as ‘overwhelmingly negative’

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer during LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast

'We would seek a better agreement' Keir Starmer tells LBC where he thinks "botched" Brexit deal can be improved

Exclusive
Sir Keir Starmer speaks to LBC

‘No magic wand’ to recruit more teachers as Starmer insists removing ‘tax breaks’ for private schools is ‘tough choice’

Tom Weatherall is still searching for his treasured medals which went missing in France

Renewed plea for missing medals lost in France as RAF veteran gifted with set of replicas

'Economically Brexit's working': Nigel Farage says but claims it has 'not been properly implimented'

'Economically Brexit's working': Nigel Farage says but claims it has 'not been properly implemented'

Nigel Farage says Germans should 'get a sense of humour' amid calls for football fans who chant 'Ten German Bombers' to be prosecuted

Nigel Farage says Germans need to 'get a sense of humour' if football fans sing Ten German Bombers chant

Nigel Farage in the LBC studio today and (right) on the Reform UK campaign bus in Barnsley, South Yorkshire this week

'This is how ordinary people speak': Farage defends Reform UK candidates after anti-Islam and far-right comments exposed

Exclusive
Tory Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride was put on the spot by an LBC listener from a "Blue Wall" constituency rained down a barrage of complaints about soaring mortgages, the NHS crisis, crumbling schools and roads, and dentist shortages.

'Why would anyone sane vote for the Tories?': Minister put on the spot with barrage of complaints from LBC listener

Mr Weatherall's lost medals

Nick Ferrari offers £500 reward for return of RAF veteran's medals lost yesterday in Ranville, France

Kemi Badenoch rules out serving alongside Nigel Farage after he hints at Tory takeover.

Nigel Farage 'wants to destroy the Conservative Party', Kemi Badenoch tells LBC