HL Deb 30 June 1982 vol 432 cc227-8

[References are to Bill 94 as first printed for the Commons]

1 Clause 1, page 1, line 6, leave out "without lawful excuse".

Lord Belstead

My Lords, I beg to move that this House doth agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 1. I am advised that the original purpose of the inclusion of the words "without lawful excuse" in Clause 1 can be safeguarded, should the need arise, by the proper exercise of the Attorney-General's or the Lord Advocate's discretion to refuse to give consent to a prosecution in cases of a clearly non-criminal nature, even though they may be technically caught by the definition of the offence. This was a point to which my noble friend Lord Renton originally drew attention on Third Reading when this Bill was before your Lordships' House. Although on that occasion my noble friend withdrew his amendment, subsequently in another place the Government have met the point by bringing forward this amendment, which I now commend to your Lordships' House.

Moved, That this House doth agree with the Commons in the said amendment.—(Lord Belstead.)

Lord Bishopston

My Lords, I welcome this amendment, the substance of which—as the noble Lord indicated—was raised during debate in this House on 22nd March on an amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Renton, to which I gave support on behalf of the Opposition. As I said in the earlier debate, the words "without lawful excuse" do not appear in the convention nor in legislation which other countries have tabled. These are important points. I agree that the inclusion of the phrase "without lawful excuse" is bound to suggest that there could be circumstances when the taking of hostages could be reasonable and indeed acceptable. As the noble Lord has said, Clause 2—which requires the Attorney-General's consent—takes care of the situation. The amendment which was originally raised here and which has now come to us from another place is certainly welcome, and I will pay tribute to the Government for having reconsidered the matter, which has now been debated in both Houses.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, as the originator of this amendment, which found scant favour in your Lordships' House, and notwithstanding the fact that it was moved on Third Reading by my noble friend Lord Renton, I commend ii to your Lordships yet again, albeit that it comes from another place. The reason for commending it is simply this: that it is wholly requisite in submission to give legal precision to Clause 1, within the general intendment of the Bill.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, I owe an apology to my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway for not attributing the origination of this amendment to him. The fact that my noble friend originated it and my noble friend Lord Renton spoke to it, and now the noble Lord, Lord Bishopston, has commended it, makes it, I hope, all the more attractive to your Lordships' House.

On Question, Motion agreed to.