Charles Clarke was accused of showing contempt for democracy yesterday after it emerged that he wants to restrict the right to demonstrate near Parliament.

Opposition MPs spoke out after they discovered he is using powers under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act, to create a half-mile ''exclusion zone'' around the House of Commons. Under the Act, which was passed last year, the Home Secretary has the power to create an exclusion zone stretching up to a 1,000 yards from Parliament.

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