HL Deb 03 July 1963 vol 251 cc957-74

6.29 p.m.

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The LORD AILWYN in the Chair.]

Clause 1 [Increased penalties for certain offences]:


had given Notice of two Amendments to subsection (1), the first being, after "guilty" to insert "(i)".

The noble Lord said: In rising to move this Amendment, may I at the outset say how pleased I am that the noble and learned Lord is sufficiently recovered from his indisposition to be here this afternoon, and how grateful I am personally to him for coming at what I am afraid may have been some physical inconvenience? This Amendment is, one can almost say, little more than a drafting Amendment to the clause. It in no way seeks to alter what the Bill sets out to do. What it attempts to do is to clarify what it sets out to do so that there can be no misunderstanding on the part of anybody, either lawyer or layman. The Amendment, in fact, spells out specifically one particular form of offence which may—and, as I hope I can convince the Committee, does at the present time—come within the ambit of the Public Order Bill. In other words, it spells out the fact that it is now an offence to utter or publish words constituting incitement to hatred on grounds of religion, race or colour.

My authority for making that statement is an impeccable one; it is the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor. Those of your Lordships who were here at the Second Reading debate, or who read it will recall his words; but I should like to quote them. The noble and learned Lord was referring to the case of Mr. Colin Jordan, and he said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 251 (No. 103), col. 1406]: We dislike incitement to racial hatred just as much as anyone else. But the position now is this. As a result of the appeal which held that the conviction was wrongly quashed, it is, I think, as clear as it can be made under the law of to-day that anyone who incites racial hatred is using threatening, abusive or insulting words; and, indeed, I myself find it impossible to envisage words used at a public meeting which really incite hatred of any racial group which are not also at the same time threatening, abusive or insulting.

Those words, if I may say so in parenthesis, gave enormous encouragement to many of us who for some time have had strong feelings on this question of incitement to racial hatred. I hope it will not be thought presumptuous on my part if I suggest, in moving this Amendment, that, fine though they are and right though they undoubtedly are, we need just a little more than words uttered in this Chamber—even by the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor. After all, we as legislators here have to ensure not only that the laws which are passed are good laws, but also that the full implication of the legislation which we promote here is understood by all who are affected by it. That is basically the purpose of this Amendment: to make it abundantly clear to those outside Parliament, and those who are not learned lawyers or judges, just how the law stands to-day.

If this were a matter of minor public interest it might be said that it is not necessary to introduce any Amendments to make this sort of thing clear: that those who have any experience in law know it, and, anyway, ignorance of the law is no excuse. But I do not think it needs argument on my part to convince the Committee that this question of racial hatred and discrimination is of the widest possible public interest and also of political and international importance. Some of your Lordships may have read the reports of a speech by the noble Earl, the Foreign Secretary, a few days ago in which he stated that in his opinion racialism to-day was even more dangerous than nuclear warfare. That is sufficient authority for us to realise that we are not dealing here with some ordinary, minor offence, but with something which the Foreign Secretary of this country regards as being the most serious threat to our own civilisation. Of course, he is absolutely right in that. Nuclear warfare, ghastly though it is, affects only the body: racial hatred affects the mind of man, which is of greater and higher importance. Moreover, and perhaps, more practically, nuclear warfare is something which, so far, we have been spared, and which we all hope we shall be spared; whereas racial hatred is something we are not being spared and to which at the present time, in all countries of the world, man is being subjected. Therefore it is important that, not only in this country but also outside it, people should know just where we, as Government and country, stand; and just what the law of the land lays down in this matter.

Taking a purely topical and recent example of an essentially practical kind, may I remind noble Lords of the Question put to the Minister of State by the noble Lord, Lord Colyton, in dealing with the situation in Kenya. I have not his exact words with me, and I do not wish to misquote him. The noble Lord inquired, quite rightly, if, in the proposals for granting Kenya independence, steps would be taken to ensure that at least, in so far as land tenure was concerned, there was no victimisation and no discrimination. That was a very proper question and a very proper hope; and one which all noble Lords would like to see fulfilled. But it is very hard for us in this country to insist that in East Africa, or any other country, there should be no discrimination on the grounds of race, colour or religion when it is held, with some justice, that in this country such things do exist.

I am not going outside the terms of this Amendment in order to discuss the wider aspects of racial discrimination: it would not be appropriate or correct to do so now. But it is extremely difficult for us here to conduct our negotiations with other countries, to try to lead them, to encourage them along the lines which we all think they should follow, when it is thought, with some justice, that we in this country allow not only racial discrimination but incitement to racial hatred to go unchecked. For that reason, I think it is of the utmost importance that we should (having this opportunity here in the Public Order Bill, and having the authority of the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, in his statement that I have just quoted) make it clear to the very small but important minority of transgressors and would-be transgressors that incitement to racial hatred is against the law; and we should let it be known throughout the world that that is the law of the land. For those reasons I sincerely hope that the Government will see their way to accept this Amendment. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 1, line 5, after ("guilty") insert ("(i)").—(Lord Walston.)


I would support the noble Lord, Lord Walston, and join with him in thanking the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor for coming here when physically inconvenienced. I know that he has given a great deal of special attention to this problem, and that makes it particularly valuable that he should be with us. I realise that in this Amendment we are talking about racial hatred and not racial discrimination; and I will not wander into that subject, except to say that if we cannot ban racial hatred, then we open the way to every kind of racial discrimination. The abolition, so far as is possible, of racial hatred is the main requirement of a reasonable attitude about racial discrimination.

I do not want to stress too alarmist a note, because I agree with something which the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor said on Second Reading. I do not think that the position is getting worse, but I feel sure that some step of this kind must be taken to make it better. We seem to be making progress in our public, our official and legal attitude to this question. Formerly, when a spokesman like my noble friend Lord Walston suggested an Amendment of this kind, there was a general disposition to say that a measure of this kind would be a gross interference with liberty. We seem to have progressed beyond that point, because now I gather that no one is saying—and I do not imagine that the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor will be saying—that an Amendment of this sort would be dangerous to liberty.

For a time it was argued that it was impossible to draft any Amendment of this kind: that while it was desirable, it was impossible. That position also seems to have been abandoned. I may be guessing wrongly, but I think that we shall be told now that it is neither dangerous nor impossible, but that it is, in fact, unnecessary. If that is our official public attitude, we have made great progress. If the noble and learned Viscount is going to resist the Amendment, I hope that he will rely on the argument that it is unnecessary because the law already forbids what we are seeking to forbid under this Amendment.

If that is so, I have little to add to what my noble friend Lord Walston said, except to quote something that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor said on the last ocasion [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 250 (No. 97) col. 1406] that while in a layman's eyes the issue lay in doubt … a great many of us devoted a great many hours to seeing what would be the best way of strengthening the law in that particular provision if the appeal failed. It could not have seemed beyond the bounds of impossibility for the appeal to fail, otherwise they would have hardly wasted their time, which we know is valuable, in these profound studies, so there must be an element of doubt about what the law is. If it is doubtful, surely we are entitled to demand, respectfully a clarification of the law on the lines of this Amendment.

I would add just this comment. I realise that Statute Law cannot be composed of a lot of high-sounding declarations. It must be aimed at particular evils, and laws are passed in order to stop an evil only when the evil would otherwise proceed unchecked. But I hope that the noble and learned Lord will agree that one of the important services which the criminal law renders, apart from deterring wrongdoers, is to have a salutary effect on the attitude of the public generally, who do not themselves contemplate crime. I hope that the noble and learned Lord will agree that that elevating purpose of the law would be served by a clear declaration on this matter. If he says that the matter is already so clear that it would be redundant to make a declaration, all I can say is how difficult it is for us to understand how that could be, if the issue lay in doubt until quite recently.

Speaking as a layman and on behalf of many other laymen who are not here to-day, I beg the noble and learned Lord to believe that the law could be of far more value in affecting the attitude of the public to this problem if the public knew what the law was. It is very hard for them to know the law, if it is decided in one way in one court and in another way in another court and finally left to the pronouncement of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor in this House. Our debates are not studied as widely as they might well be. The noble and learned Lord may tell us that the law is all right as it is, but it would be of far more value to us in stamping out this horrible racial hatred if we could have a clear statement put into the law of the land.

6.46 p.m.


Before my noble and learned friend replies, I should like briefly to give a different point of view. I am sure that the noble Earl, Lord Longford, will accept from me that I respect the ideas to which he has given utterance and his sincerity, and that of the mover of the Amendment, in thinking that an Amendment on these lines is desirable. Frankly, I do not. First of all, I think that it is unnecessary, for the reasons which have already been given by my noble and learned friend, and, if it is unnecessary in a matter that can have a considerable effect on the freedom of speech, it is better to leave these matters to the Common Law and to existing Statutes, unless good reason can be shown for their present insufficiency.

If I thought that any additional words were desirable in this Statute, I frankly say that I am opposed to what is here proposed. I think that the noble Earl would probably take the same view as I do about any speech that incites to the hatred of anybody. I do not believe that it is a good thing to incite people to hate other people and I believe that the noble Earl takes the same view. But if these words were put in, what is the reason for this curious limitation and selection of the hatreds that are to be prohibited out of the many hatreds which are presumably not to be prohibited?

Why only hatred on grounds of religion, race or colour? What about hatred on grounds of lawful occupations? What about hatred on grounds of a trade or profession which somebody is pursuing? What about incitement to hatred of landlords, which sometimes appears in political speeches? What about incitement to hatred of political Parties? What about including in a speech such words as, "The Tories are lower than vermin"? Is that obviously all right and unexceptionable? I do not think that these things are.


Since we are descending to this kind of exchange, what about such words as, "If the Labour Party come in, they would introduce a Gestapo"?


I do not want to curb liberty on any of these grounds. I think that that would be wrong if that were the genuine belief of the person saying it. What I am saying to the noble Earl is that if we are going to add words like these, I cannot see the reason for this curious limitation. I think that incitement to hate a man because of his job certainly deserves as much consideration as anything else and certainly incitement to the hatred of a great political party would deserve it, but I am not suggesting any of these additions. What I am suggesting seriously for the consideration of the noble Lord is that if we are to add something, it is quite impossible to justify a particular limited addition of this sort. I would much rather leave these matters to the courts to decide in the light of the Common Law, which has some useful things to say on these matters, and to the existing Statutes. I put this forward with all sincerity to noble Lords opposite. These words which they suggest are altogether too limited, and it would be quite wrong, if any addition were required, to say that this particular addition, and nothing more, should be made.

6.50 p.m.


I should like to support this Amendment, and I do so for a much more feminine reason than perhaps I should—namely, that I have been working with minorities for over thirty years, and I think that the Amendment would be in the nature of something that would help to deter. I know it is a rather pedestrian way to look at it, but, at the same time, I know that thirty years' work has shown me a great deal of tragedy which might have been averted if people had realised what there was which could be used as a strength against the lines that were taken. Unless one is steeped in the difficulties and problems one encounters, I do not think one realises the full difficulty on the ground in connection with minorities.

I believe that in this country there is tremendous tolerance; but I know also that tolerance needs a great deal of backing. The need for the Amendment is probably not apparent to those who are not steeped in the work or the problems. The noble Lord who has just spoken could be right in saying that the language is not strong enough, but I think it would be of inestimable help to minorities in the country. Some people say that the situation is so good that we do not need to think about this question now. Others say differently. I must declare an Interest because I am the Chairman of the Council of Immigrants. I do not, however, speak in that guise, but only as an experienced worker in the field of minorities. I think that great value could come to the work that is being done in the country, and, even more important, the atmospheres that are generated, if this support were in the background, possibly only invoked in thought, hopefully, never used, but nevertheless in existence well ahead of time. I think this question of having the implication in existence well ahead of time is perhaps the most important thing that we can consider.

There is no question that this country is basically good, and that the people are decent and honourable citizens; but there are those who want to create trouble. They exist everywhere in the world, and we should be foolish if we thought they were not here. Unfortunately, they know exactly how far to go and how near to trim their sails to the wind. It is in order to be ready to cope with these few that I should like to see this Amendment accepted. That is why I support the noble Lord who moved the Amendment.

6.53 p.m.


I should like to say a word or two in support of this Amendment. I am sure your Lordships must have heard what has fallen from the noble Baroness, Lady Swanborough, with great interest and sympathy. After all, there is probably nobody in the whole country who can speak with greater authority on this side of the matter than the noble Baroness. I felt that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Conesford, was rather trying to draw a red herring across the path of the Amendment with his references to political invective, which has been, and I suppose always will be, not uncommon on the hustings. He may remember the case of Mr. Corn, who was tried by the late Lord Birkett at Lancaster Assizes just after the war, in which learned counsel who defended Mr. Corn quoted a passage from a speech of Sir Winston Churchill as an example of the sort of thing that could happen and that was technically within the law of sedition. It would be unfair, I think, not to say also that he quoted a passage from a speech of the late Sir Stafford Cripps. This, of course, is really on quite a different footing from that.

I do not think the noble Lord is right when he says that the law of sedition is adequate—I think that was at the back of his mind, although he did not mention sedition—because sedition would not cover all these cases. Religion has to be by law established to come within the law of sedition. I think racial attacks would be seditious only if they were directed at citizens in this country. It is important that this should be wider.

I think the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor is probably right when he says that this sort of action is within the law as it at present stands. But we cannot be entirely certain about that, and I would remind him of something which is very much within his recollection: that an ex-Attorney General and, I believe, two ex-Lord Chancellors all expressed the view that the sort of conduct which was recently prosecuted, I think by him when he was Attorney General, after the march on the airfield was outside the scope of the Official Secrets Act; that was said by those very eminent lawyers. Yet he took a different view, and his view was found by the courts to be right. So it does show that it is just as well to dot the i's and cross the t's and to make these things explicit in Acts of Parliament.

Another reason for doing this which seems to me to be one of great importance, and one which has not been sufficiently underlined in our discussion, is to make it perfectly clear (I think this is really what the noble Baroness was saying in rather a different way) to all the people that this is the law so that they know that it is. I imagine that Mr. Jordan may have known that he was doing something which was very objectionable, but it cannot have been perfectly clear to him—or I should have been surprised if it was—that what he was doing was a criminal offence. It is not right to leave it to people to discover afterwards, when they make speeches which they think politically justifiable, that they have overstepped the line, especially when you can make it clear to them in an Act of Parliament that what they are doing is criminal. It seems to me that this is the most cogent argument to persuade the Government to accept this Amendment.

6.58 p.m.


I would thank the noble Lords, Lord Walston and Lord Longford, for their very kind remarks at the commencement of their observations, and I am glad to be able to reply to the Amendment and to deal, I hope at not too great length, with the points that have been advanced. I must confess that it was with considerable astonishment that I heard the noble Lord, Lord Walston, say that this was little more than a drafting Amendment, and heard him seek to base that statement upon a passage from the speech I made on moving the Second Reading of this measure. When your Lordships come to examine this Amendment in relation to the Bill, your Lordships will speedily see that it is the very reverse of a drafting Amendment. I have heard many Amendments described as drafting, but I think no Amendment so far removed from a drafting Amendment as the one now under consideration. Your Lordships will see that this Amendment is not seeking to amend Section 5 of the Public Order Act, but is seeking to constitute an entirely new and, as I shall seek to show, an entirely different offence from anything which would be comprehended under Section 5 of that Act. I want to deal with it, if I may, at a little length.

The first point to which I want to draw the attention of your Lordships is this: that the sole purpose of this Bill, as expressed in the Long Title, is to increase the penalties for offences under Section 5 of the Public Order Act, 1936, and Section 1 of the Public Meeting Act, 1908. The Bill does not seek to create any new offence or to amend the definition of any offence contained in those two Acts. The passage cited from my speech on Second Reading was dealing with the question, which is not raised by this Amendment, of amending the definition of "offence" under the Public Order Act, 1936.

As I have said, the Amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Walston, does not seek to change the wording of the offence under Section 5. Nor, indeed, does it seek to change the wording of this Bill except by adding to it a new and novel criminal offence. This would be a radical change in the character of the Bill, and in this connection I think I should remind your Lordships of the Minute written in 1931 by Counsel to the Chairman of Committees, which was as follows: The test usually applied in practice to the advisability of an amendment is whether or not it is relevant to the subject matter of the Bill, but the decision upon this point and the action taken on that decision can only be made by the House itself. The subject matter of this Bill being the increase of penalties for existing offences and no more, the creation of a new criminal offence cannot, I submit, be regarded as relevant to the subject matter of the Bill—and that is one ground on which I would ask your Lordships, if this Amendment is pressed, to reject it.

But that is not the only ground on which I ask your Lordships to reject this Amendment. I ask your Lordships to consider the actual language of the Amendment. The first thing I would ask your Lordships to note is that the proposed new offence is not related in any way to provocation to a breach of the peace. If this offence were enacted, anyone who used words in private conversation which were held to constitute incitement to hatred on grounds of religion, race or colour, would be guilty of a criminal offence. I would say myself that incitement to hatred on grounds of religion, race or colour, covers a very wide field indeed, although I agree with my noble friend Lord Conesford that there may be many other forms of incitement to hatred which are also objectionable. But if this Amendment were enacted, it would not, I think, be going too far to say that some of the remarks which are made at an international soccer or rugger match might render the person who made them liable to a criminal prosecution.


I am sorry, but I am afraid I did not follow the noble and learned Lord there. Why an international football match?


I was merely giving an instance where you might get observations which might amount to uttering words inciting to hatred. I put that forward as an example. The words here are, in fact, very general, and in my view they are far too wide for a criminal offence. An offence so defined would be liable to operate as an unjustified invasion of the right of freedom of speech.

I think, and I hope your Lordships will agree with me, that the Public Order Act, 1936, Section 5, is right in linking the use of threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour with either an intent to provoke a breach of the peace or with the condition which is expressed in the section whereby a breach of the peace is likely to be occasioned. If there is a prosecution under the Public Order Act, 1936, Section 5, the prosecution have to establish, not only that the words used were threatening, abusive or insulting, but also either that they were intended to provoke a breach of the peace or that a breach of the peace was likely to be occasioned by the use of them. In my submission to your Lordships, that is the right test. Surely there must be an intent established to provoke a breach of the peace or a real likelihood that a breach of the peace will be occasioned.

I say that for this reason. It may well be that the noble Earl, Lord Longford, and I would not disagree on a particular question as to whether words amounted to incitement to hatred on the ground of religion, race or colour. It would be a matter of opinion, and opinions on that might well differ. You might be facing the court with the task of having to say whether or not a charge was proved beyond reasonable doubt, and having to say that on an opinion expressed by witnesses on behalf of the prosecution, in the first place, and, maybe, to reject a contrary opinion expressed by witnesses called on behalf of the defence. Surely there ought to be some more objective test. Without an objective test which could be applied, I do not think it would be at all satisfactory. It is for those reasons that I think the Public Order Act, Section 5, is right in its approach.


My Lords, I do not want to quibble, but the noble Lord quite rightly is analysing the Amendment, and perhaps I am allowed to analyse his analysis. He talks of an objective test; but the question whether particular words are likely to produce a breach of the peace cannot be settled by any objective test.


I think they can. I am sorry to disagree with the noble Earl, but I think the courts, when they hear the words and the evidence, and the circumstances in which they are uttered, may not find it difficult to determine that the words used were words the use of which was likely to occasion a breach of the peace; and may not find it difficult from the context to say that they must have been uttered with intent to provoke a breach of the peace. Those two elements, whether they are objective or not—do not let us quarrel about it—are completely absent from the definition of the proposed new criminal offence contained in this Amendment.

The question to which I was directing my mind on the Second Reading was not the creation of an entirely new and separate offence as this Amendment proposes, but the question whether any advantage or improvement could be gained, or an improvement made, by amendment of the language used in Section 5 of the Public Order Act, 1936. That was the question I considered. The noble Earl, Lord Longford, and the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, attached some weight to the fact that the conviction of Mr. Jordan was quashed at London Sessions. Those things happen now and then, and happen wrongly. Here, the Divisional Court said that the quashing of that conviction was wrong, and they have laid that down without any doubt at all. It does not depend upon what I say to your Lordships in this House; it is a decision of the Courts upon that issue which is binding on all inferior courts. As the law now stands, I think it is entirely satisfactory to deal with the kind of situation which I know is in your Lordships' minds, and in the mind of the noble Lady. As I said on Second Reading, we shall see how it goes and whether occasion arises for any change, if any change can usefully be made.

But at the present time, to summarise it, the position is this. If anyone uses words which incite to hatred, whether it be on racial, religious or colour grounds, or any other grounds, and those words are, to use the language of the Public Order Act, threatening, abusive or insulting—and I find it very difficult indeed (I would not put it any higher than that) to see how words of the character of those in the noble Lord's mind could fail to be either threatening, abusive or insulting—and a breach of the peace is likely to be occasioned as a result, then a criminal prosecution should succeed. That is the position under the law as it now stands. I do not myself think that anything can be gained from the point of view of noble Lords opposite by seeking to identify particular forms of use of threatening, abusive or insulting language and putting them, by amendment, into the Public Order Act, 1936.

I have dealt with this on a somewhat technical approach, for the simple reason that we are dealing here with an amendment of the criminal law, and it is vital that the criminal law should be as precise and certain as possible. And, however desirable it may be, and, indeed, is, that the public should be as fully informed as possible of the law, I think it would be entirely wrong for us to put on the Statute, in the form of a criminal offence, wide generalisations which lack precision and which might lead to very opposite consequences to those desired by the noble Lord.

I covered this question of an amendment to the Public Order Act, 1936, in my speech on June 20. The fact that there was an appeal pending, I can assure the noble Earl, Lord Longford, did not raise any doubt in my mind as to the law, and I was glad to find that the Divisional Court decision supported the view that I had myself formed on consideration of the Statute.


My Lords, I cannot help returning to the words used by the noble and learned Lord on June 20. He said that a great many people had devoted a great many hours to considering what would be the best way to change the law. Therefore, someone must have been very worried.


I can tell the noble Lord this: that if he had any experience of law he would know that you cannot always rely on winning the case, however right you think you may be. It is sometimes wise to look sufficiently far ahead to see what steps you can take if the view you hold should be held by the court to be wrong. It is really no more than that. I said that on Second Reading merely to show that we appreciated the importance of this point and of this question, and to make it quite clear that we would give very full and careful consideration to it.

For the reasons I have given, I ask your Lordships to reject these Amendments, if they are pressed, for the simple reason that they will not constitute an improvement of our criminal law but will create a completely new and novel criminal offence and, indeed, do not seek to amend Section 5 of the Public Order Act, 1936.


I am most grateful to the noble and learned Lord for his remarks. Before turning to them, I should like briefly to take up one general point of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Conesford. I found it very hard to understand exactly what he was driving at. He said at one point—and I think these were his words: "I do not want a curb on any of these things". And by "these things" he meant freedom of expression at political meetings and possibly at football matches and so on; and, by implication, also freedom of incitement to racial hatred.


Perhaps I might interrupt the noble Lord, to say that I do not want a curb by the insertion of something like this in a Statute. I am perfectly willing to leave it to Common Law, plus the existing. Statute; and I am sorry if I did not make that clear to the noble Lord.


That makes it a little clearer to my mind, though still not abundantly clear. I am afraid, having no legal mind, that some of the legalistic niceties escape me. To me the issue is simple: does one wish people to have the freedom to incite racial hatred or not. I think the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, does not wish people to have that freedom and certainly does not wish them to use that freedom; so, if I am right so far, we are at one in that. The question is: legally, administratively and constitutionally, what is the best means of doing it? I say, with all respect, that he was being far too legalistic and, what is more, at the same time inhumane (which is very unlike him) in attempting to draw any comparison whatsoever between the "vermin" speech or the "Gestapo" speech, whichever side you wish to choose, and the incitement to racial hatred in statements that Hitler was right, in that Jews should be burnt. I do not think he would wish to support that either.

The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor at times raised my spirits and at times lowered them. His penultimate sentence raised them considerably, but I am afraid that his last sentence lowered them somewhat, though not entirely. In the earlier part of his speech he spoke of this Amendment as creating an entirely new and different offence. But he later went on to say that the subject which this Amendment sets out to deal with is, in fact, already, in his opinion, an offence. I find that in my mind rather hard to reconcile. I certainly have no intention, in this Amendment (though possibly at some later stage I may wish to do so), to attempt to create a new offence. All I wished to do was to specify and make quite clear what the existing offence was as described by the noble and learned Lord himself.

He spoke later, with an intervention from the noble Earl, Lord Longford, concerning this question of a matter of opinion and an objective test. But surely my noble friend was perfectly right in that. All these things are matters of opinion. Is certain behaviour likely to cause a breach of the peace or not? Is certain behaviour insulting? Is certain driving careless? You will find people on both sides: there are those who are prepared to come along and swear on oath that an action performed by a driver in a particular case was careless driving, while others, equally honest and respectable, will say that it was not careless. All these things are matters of opinion; and surely we cannot legislate in such a way that there can be only one objective answer to these matters.

I think that perhaps the noble and learned Lord himself gave the answer to this question when, in his final remarks, he spoke of the uncertainty of the law, and told us that it cannot be said in advance how any court is going to decide a given case. If it could so state, there would be very many lawyers, however learned they might be, who would be out of work. It is in an attempt to overcome that uncertainty in this matter of enormous importance to this country, and abroad, too, that this Amendment is put forward. I will clutch only at the rather substantial straw which the noble and learned Lord held out when he once more gave it as his very strong opinion that, as the law stands, the type of behaviour which we are discussing, however ill-defined it may have been in the Amendment, is, in fact, as things are to-day, under the law of the land, an offence. In the light of that assurance, I beg leave to withdraw this Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Remaining clause agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported without amendment; Report received.