HL Deb 24 May 1994 vol 555 cc609-85

3.5 p.m.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now again resolve itself into Committee.—(Earl Ferrers.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (Lord Ampthill) in the Chair.]

Clause 55 [Powers to stop and search in anticipation of violence]:

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 46: Page 39, line 19, leave out ("superintendent") and insert ("commander").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 46, I speak also to Amendments Nos. 47, 48, 49, 51, 53 and 54. The amendments relate to Clause 55 of the Bill which comes under the general heading of "Powers of police to stop and search". Those Members of the Committee who have long memories will recall that "stop and search" is a phrase of considerable hallowed significance in the British legal system. Not so many years ago, after many years of outcry against the use of the power to stop and search—it used to be called the sus laws—the powers which existed for police to stop and search without any reasonable suspicion were abolished. They were used in many parts of the country quite conspicuously as an element of discrimination in particular against black people, but also against young people and unconventional people of all ages. Clause 55 proposes that there should be a return to stop and search procedures under certain circumstances.

I remind the Committee that the stop and search measure involves the power of arrest, detention and search, if necessary without any requirement that there should be any suspicion, let alone reasonable suspicion, of any offence having been committed. The Government have chosen to bring in the provision in Clause 55 by way of what I can only describe as a device. The device is to say that a police officer of or above the rank of superintendent under certain circumstances, which are entirely up to him to decide, may give an authorisation that stop and search powers -shall be given in any given locality for a period not exceeding 24 hours but capable of being extended by a further six hours. That set of procedures is fraught with uncertainty and inconsistency. I take the issues one by one and as expeditiously as I can.

First, it states in the first line of the clause that it is, a police officer of or above the rank of superintendent",

but in subsection (2) the provision immediately continues that such an authorisation can be given by an inspector. Therefore the provision regarding rank does not stand up well.

Then there is the question about the reasonable belief of the officer. That sounds all right because the word "reasonable" has a meaning in law. However, the provision continues that it is expedient to give an authorisation to prevent the occurrence of incidents involving serious violence. Expedience is as expedience does. Expedience can mean almost anything. Expedient is in the mind of the person who decides about expediency. It has nothing to do with whether the action is reasonable. Therefore that limitation on the powers does not survive well.

In subsection (1) (a) the phrase "serious violence" is used. What is serious violence? There is no crime of serious violence. There is a range of crimes which, in the opinion of the superintendent or inspector referred to in subsection (2), may be described as serious violence. There is no legal definition. Any restraint on that power which depends on the use of the words "serious violence" does not stand up.

Subsection (1) states that, the powers … conferred by this section shall be exercisable at any place within that locality".

What is a locality? A superintendent's area can be wide. A locality can be any part or all of that area. A "place" can be any part or all of that locality and therefore of that area. In other words, within the clause as drafted there is no significant geographical restriction other than the restriction of being within a superintendent's area.

It appears at the outset from subsection (1) that the restriction is for 24 hours, but further down Clause 55 we find that the 24-hour period can be extended by a further six hours. Here, a new offence is being created under Clause 55(7) which provides even for a month's imprisonment for failing to stop and agree to a search under such circumstances. No crime has been committed; there is no suspicion—reasonable or otherwise—that anyone has been involved in a crime. There is no suspicion required—reasonable or otherwise —that the person being stopped and searched has in his possession anything which might be thought to be suspicious, whether in the form of an offensive weapon, a dangerous instrument or anything else. The person could be walking, cycling, driving, riding a horse or anything. If he fails—perhaps because he has not heard of the authorisation—to stop and be searched by someone who does not produce a warrant and is not accusing him of anything but who just says, "I want to look in your car", he is already guilty of an offence for which he can be imprisoned for up to a month.

I suggest that here we have not merely a return to the sus laws; that would be bad enough. But we also have a return to the public order provisions which were common in the 18th and 19th centuries and probably earlier. I would rather we went back to the Riot Act where we had a magistrate appearing before a mob and reading a piece of paper which then gave the police powers to do something about the situation. That at least was an open and honest provision. But the provision which is allowed here, which permits interference with the liberty of the individual on no suspicion whatever other than the virtually untrammelled power of a police officer to make a declaration, seems to me to be excessive. I gladly give way to the noble Lord.

Lord Harmar-Nicholls

Is the noble Lord suggesting that a senior police officer shall under no circumstances be allowed to use his judgment in a possible incident which may develop into something serious? Is he never to be allowed to implement a judgment which an experienced man ought to have?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I suggest that all officers of police have the power to use their judgment when they have a suspicion—reasonable or not—that an offence has been committed or is about to be committed. They use their judgment under the present law. They do not need a provision like the one in Clause 55 in order to do so.

My final point is very serious. It is highly likely that the provisions in the Bill are in conflict with Articles 5 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. I refer to Article 5(1) (c) of the convention which states that: no one shall be deprived of his liberty…save for…the lawful arrest or detention of a person effected for the purpose of bringing him before the competent legal authority on reasonable suspicion of having committed an offence. That is what Article 5 says. I do not believe that it can seriously be claimed that the use of the stop and search powers given here has anything to do with reasonable suspicion of someone having committed an offence.

Article 8 of the convention provides that a person's privacy must not be interfered with unless the interference is, in accordance with the law [and] … necessary in a democratic society". I suggest that the virtually untrammelled powers—I repeat the words—which are given to police officers go beyond the basis of policing in this country, which is that detention, stopping and searching are carried out only when there is reasonable suspicion of an offence being committed. The clause goes well beyond the powers which the police ought to have and need to have in a democratic and free society. It is seriously defective in those respects.

This is a revising Chamber and we have not sought to take out the entire clause. In the amendments we have sought in detail to remedy the defects of the clause to which I referred. In Amendment No. 46 we propose that the rank of superintendent should be changed to that of inspector or commander. In Amendment No. 47 we propose that the vague statement "serious violence" should be changed to: grievous bodily harm, attempted murder, [murder] or rape". In Amendment No. 48 we propose that the 24 hours should be reduced to six hours. In amendment—

Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone

Amendment No. 49.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

No, I have the group. I am delighted to see that the noble and learned Lord is with me all the way. In Amendment No. 51 we propose that the provision that it should be expedient to give an authorisation should be altered. In Amendment No. 54 we propose that anything which is neither an offensive weapon nor a dangerous instrument which is found in the course of an investigation under Clause 55 should not be admissible in evidence in any other proceedings. In other words, Clause 55 should not be used as a cover for some other kind of search which ought to be carried out under other powers.

We do not wish to oppose clauses as a whole unless we have to. We believe that Clause 55 is capable of amendment for the protection of civil liberties and that this group of amendments will help to amend it. I beg to move.

3.15 p.m.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

I take a different view from the noble Lord. Serious violence has become a plague on our society, whether in demonstrations or in connection with football. Without the assistance of the police, the whole country would be at a certain degree of risk. We either trust the police or we do not trust them; if we trust them, we give them the powers to help them do what they should do to protect us and the public.

The noble Lord said that that is not open and honest. I cannot quite understand why. He said that it involved untrammelled power. The power is limited; it is limited within the reasonable belief of a police officer. If we do not trust the police officers or the police, where do we end? This is a necessary reserve power, as I see it, for the police to protect our society in the situation in which it now finds itself. Assuredly, it is not a fair analogy to suggest that it is a return to what is commonly called the sus laws.

By and large, I cannot see the objection in the amendment. The noble Lord says that Clause 55 does not stand up. With the greatest respect to him, I do not think that his criticism of it stands up.

The Minister of State, Scottish Office (Lord Fraser of Carmyllie)

The purpose of Clause 55 is to give the police the power to search for offensive weapons in a particular area and for a limited period of time when they anticipate the likelihood of serious violence taking place. I listened to the noble Lord opening on the amendments with some surprise. My understanding was that when the provision was introduced in another place, not only was there a wide measure of cross-party support for such powers, but also, if there was any disagreement displayed, it was over who might claim the credit for the measures first being introduced.

Clause 55 is about the prevention of crime. Its provisions accordingly need to be appropriate to that purpose. I have to advise the Committee that this group of amendments would have the effect of seriously reducing the usefulness of the powers. Perhaps I might explain by reference to each amendment that has been tabled.

First, Amendment No. 46 would have the effect of increasing the level of authorisation for the exercise of the powers to stop and search from superintendent to commander, which is the first ACPO rank in London and, as I think the noble Lord will appreciate, is not a rank known outwith London. It is equivalent to assistant chief constable elsewhere. We have adopted the terminology of "commander" in this amendment. We recognise that it is important that the power to stop and search without having grounds for reasonable suspicion against an individual should be available only on the authorisation of a supervisory officer of appropriate rank. In our view the right level is that of superintendent. The superintendent is the most senior police officer with direct operational policing responsibilities. In our view, and harking back to debates on a previous Bill, it would seem that the superintendent is indeed the person who is best able to assess the local situation. His involvement will ensure a full assessment of the wider consequences in the local community. Authorisation at ACPO level would remove that important decision too far from the local community. For that reason we remain of the view that superintendent is the right level.

Amendment No. 47 would change the grounds on which the senior police officer could authorise the exercise of the powers of stop and search from where he believes that incidents involving "serious violence" may take place to where he believes that incidents involving "grievous bodily harm, attempted murder or rape" may take place.

As I have sought to explain, the purpose of Clause 55 —as my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway also pointed out—is to enable the police to take measures to prevent violent disorder involving the use of offensive weapons from taking place. It is not possible for the police to anticipate that particular crimes will take place, still less crimes such as rape or attempted murder. So the amendment would render the power very difficult to use unless the police—unusually —had very particular and precise intelligence as to the intentions of those involved. In our view this amendment would render the power nugatory in most cases.

Perhaps I may pass to Amendment No. 48, which would reduce the maximum period for which the exercise of the power to stop and search could be authorised from a period not exceeding "twenty four" hours to a period not exceeding "six" hours. Of course, the maximum period will not always be needed and will not always be authorised. But there will be occasions when 24 hours will be necessary and when six hours would not be sufficient. I would point out that there is no provision for a renewal or extension of the period of authorisation except after violent incidents have actually taken place. So again, this amendment would seriously reduce the effectiveness of the power as an important crime prevention measure.

Amendment No. 49 would remove the urgency provision that would allow an officer of the rank below superintendent to authorise the use of the power to stop and search if he believed that violent disorder was imminent and no superintendent was available. If we are giving a power to the police, then we have a duty to ensure that it is capable of being used in all the circumstances that we can reasonably anticipate Superintendents are sometimes absent from their areas. Serious trouble can blow up very suddenly. If we do not cater for these eventualities in framing the law, the public will rightly say that we have fudged our duty.

The noble Lord's amendment would also remove the provision that allows the original period of authorisation for the exercise of the power to stop and search to be; extended for a further six hours in the event that serious violence actually occurs. This provision was included precisely to reflect the views of Opposition Members in another place that powers were needed to deal retrospectively with violence that had broken out. The police are very keen to have a power of this kind. This amendment proposes to limit severely the use of the power to even fewer situations than the restricted number that we envisage. Again, it would seriously reduce the value of the power.

Amendment No. 51 is an alternative to the second part of Amendment No. 49. It would change the grounds on which the original period of authorisation could be extended for a further six hours after incidents of serious violence had actually taken place from because, it is expedient to do so", to because, he has reasonable grounds to believe that it is necessary". If a provision of this kind were to be made law, it would be necessary to spell out what those grounds might be related to: for example to gather evidence or to prevent further violence. With respect, I do not think that that would add anything. Given that in this situation incidents of serious violence will be known or will be reported to have taken place, there will always be such grounds. I believe, as a matter of drafting, that the present wording is clearer and simpler.

Amendment No. 53 is probably intended to refer to line 14 instead of line 12, but it would require that, where a written statement is provided to a person who has been stopped and searched under these powers, the statement would have to, set out the reasons why this provision was used on this occasion". In many instances the decisions of authorising officers will be based on intelligence or other sensitive sources of information. The intention of this provision is to do no more than provide confirmation that the person concerned has been lawfully stopped and searched under these particular powers. If that person wishes to challenge the police about their use of the power—for example, by claiming false imprisonment—the proper place to do so would be in the courts, which would be able to consider questions such as the release of sensitive information.

Finally, Amendment No. 54 would make evidence of any offence, other than the carrying of knives and other offensive weapons found during any search made under this section, inadmissible in any criminal trial. This would prevent the police from arresting a person who had been stopped under this power and found to be in possession of prohibited items other than knives or other offensive weapons; for example, drugs or suspected stolen articles. I think it is probable that the police would not wish to be diverted from searching for knives and offensive weapons to prevent an outbreak of violence in order, for example, to deal with possession of a small quantity of cannabis; but it is possible that they will discover evidence of a more serious crime and I wonder whether the public would not think that the law would be coming into disrepute if in such circumstances the police could take no action whatsoever to bring that offender to justice.

To sum up, we must ensure that the powers that we give to the police are adequate to deal with the problems that they are intended to address and to deal with all reasonably foreseeable contingencies. The effect of this group of amendments would be seriously to reduce the usefulness of the power to stop and search to prevent violence. They are not just small modifying provisions. They would bring about that effect. I can only conclude by saying, as I started, that my clear understanding is that in another place there was clear cross-party support for this measure. I invite the Committee to reject these amendments.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill

I do not go so far as the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, does in his amendments, but I speak in support of two of them, Amendments Nos. 46 and 49, which are narrow but important.

As the Minister just indicated, the powers conferred by Clause 55 are new and important powers resulting from an all-party initiative in the other place. They are designed to enable the police to tackle a serious social problem; namely, serious violence on our streets. But because the exercise of the powers of stop and search is capable of interfering with personal liberty and personal privacy, there must be adequate safeguards against their misuse.

At Report stage of the Bill in another place the Minister of State, Mr. David Maclean, recognised that situation and pointed out that the powers proposed by a Labour Party amendment departed from the safeguards against the misuse of police powers in Section 1 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act. Those powers may only be lawfully exercised if the police have reasonable grounds for suspecting that they will find stolen or prohibited articles.

Clause 55 abandons the safeguard that there must be reasonable suspicion before the new powers are exercised. Because it does so, I suggest that it is essential for other adequate and effective safeguards to be in place to reduce the dangers of the misuse of the new powers, especially the danger of damaging public confidence in the police service among members of ethnic minorities, who were justifiably concerned about the ways in which the bad old sus law used to be misused before the enactment of PACE in 1984.

Therefore I support Amendment No. 46, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, because it introduces an important safeguard as to the level at which this important decision will be taken, triggering the exercise of these new powers. No doubt at that more senior level regard will be had to what the local police say is the position within the local community. In the same way, I support Amendment No. 49, which would remove the power of a police inspector to authorise the special powers of stop and search. They are draconian powers which should be exercised at above inspector level.

I do not believe that the language of Clause 55 as it stands provides adequate safeguards. The requirement that a superintendent must have a reasonable belief that incidents involving serious violence may take place in any locality in his area is indeed a safeguard; but the courts would give a very wide margin of discretion to the superintendent in deciding (in the words of Clause 55(1) (b)) whether he reasonably believes that it is expedient to give the necessary authorisation to prevent occurrence of serious violence.

The courts will only review the exercise of such a wide discretion if it has been done in bad faith or for an improper purpose, or because the superintendent had taken leave of his senses. As the Committee knows, our courts do not review whether public powers are properly exercised according to a stricter standard known as the principle of proportionality. They do not review whether the powers are exercised only to the extent necessary to enable the police to achieve their legitimate aims. In other words, the police will enjoy very wide discretionary powers under Clause 55 and be virtually immune from judicial review about their exercise. That is why I suggest that it is appropriate for key decisions to be taken only at a very senior level within the police service.

Perhaps I may add that I agree with the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, that, if the powers were abused, there would be a serious risk of breaches of Articles 5 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. I suggest that that is a further reason for doing what we can as legislators to minimise the risk of breaches of that kind.

The noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, advanced what I regard as the dangerous argument that one can trust the police. There is no question of not trusting the police service to do its job properly. But our society is one which is based on respect for human rights and the rule of law. These amendments would have the beneficial effect of providing some adequate safeguards against the possibility of abuse.

3.30 p.m.

Lord Finsberg

After listening to that speech, it occurs to me that we are looking at one issue: whether we believe that it is better to try to prevent crime than to let it happen. From the speeches of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, and the noble Lord who has just spoken, it seems to me that they do not share that point of view. For example, if there is no superintendent available, are we to wait until a superintendent is found from somewhere or is it wiser that under those circumstances an inspector should be entitled to act? Moreover, surely anybody who has nothing to hide will not object to being stopped, as suggested in this clause.

With regard to Article 8, over the past 10 years I have had to read with some care most of the judgments that came from the European Court of Human Rights. I believe that the point made by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, is misconceived. The noble Lord spoke of a democratic society. A democratic society is governed by parliamentary democracy. If Parliament passes a law which it believes will preserve democracy and prevent crime, I do not believe that the Commission (and now, under the new set-up, the Court) is likely to say that we are outwith the Convention on Human Rights.

For those reasons, I believe that the whole collection of amendments is misconceived and ought not to be accepted.

Lord Harmar-Nicholls

Nobody who reads these clauses and makes a fair assessment of them could in any way say that they come within the bounds of what is known as the sus law. Even the effect of that sus law, which earned such a reputation in the past, was exaggerated. I feel that it would be a grievous mistake at this stage to interfere with the clauses as they stand. Even if there were any strength in the arguments of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, and others about different words easing the position a little, they would reflect a reluctance on the part of Parliament to give the powers that the police need if they are to face up to the problems that we know they must face every Saturday when there is a football match, quite apart from other matters in the meantime.

I do not believe that at this time, with the circumstances that we all know exist, Parliament ought to be reluctant to recognise that in this issue the police, and particularly senior officers, have a part to play and their judgment should be allowed to stand up, quite apart from the detailed examinations that would flow from the amendments proposed by the noble Lord.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

The Minister has done a service to the Committee in setting out more clearly and accurately than I the effect in detail of my amendments. I am sure he would agree that what both the Government and those of us who put forward the amendments are trying to do is to strike a balance. We are trying to secure public order, which we consider to be of very great importance, but not at the expense of individual liberty.

There are a number of different balances that different people will strike under different circumstances. I suggest that those who have been accustomed to having their individual liberty put at risk—in particular, young people, black people, people in inner city areas and poor people—may well take a different view from the view taken by some Members of this Committee. It is very unlikely that many Members of this Committee were stopped by the police under the sus laws when those laws were enforced. Even when they were young, it is unlikely that many Members of this Committee were stopped for anything other than possibly taking policemen's helmets on Boat Race night. There seems to be a considerable difference between the way in which upper-class violence, as at Twickenham or on Boat Race night, is treated compared with the violence of people who pursue other kinds of sporting activities.

It is therefore a balance that we are seeking to strike. The fundamental difference between these Benches and the Government on this issue is the extent to which it is permissible to go beyond the principle behind both British and European law; that is, that interference with liberty, except in wholly exceptional circumstances, is confined to occasions when the police have a suspicion, or a reasonable suspicion, that a crime has been or is going to be committed. In these amendments we are saying that the extension of the ability of the police, without suspicion or reasonable suspicion, to interfere with liberty goes too far.

I take seriously the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Lester, who is so much more experienced than I both in the courts and particularly in the interpretation of European legislation. If he says to me that my amendments, other than Amendments Nos. 46 and 49, go too far—I understand that to be his position—I shall bow to his greater experience. I propose, therefore, that a decision taken on Amendment No. 46 should only be taken to apply also to Amendment No. 49, and that the other amendments in the group should not be moved. They will not be taken as part of the group and to that extent I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Lester, for his wise advice.

But we must draw the line somewhere. We must oppose the extension of police powers to interfere with individual liberty without suspicion or reasonable suspicion well before the line that the Government have drawn. Some restriction must be brought on Clause 55. That should be an issue which commands respect and support in all political parties and in none. On that issue I seek the opinion of the Committee.

3.42 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 46) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 99; Not-Contents, 201.

Division No. 1
Airedale, L. Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.
Archer of Sandwell, L. Dormand of Easington, L.
Ardwick, L. Eatwell, L.
Avebury, L. Ennals, L.
Barnett, L. Ezra, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. Gallacher, L.
Bonham-Carter, L. Geraint, L.
Boston of Faversham, L. Glasgow, E.
Bottomley, L. Gould of Potternewton, B.
Bruce of Donington, L. [Teller.]
Campbell of Eskan, L. Graham of Edmonton, L
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. Gregson, L.
Carter, L. Grey, E.
Castle of Blackburn, B. Harris of Greenwich, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Haskel, L.
Clinton-Davis, L. Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L. Hollis of Heigham, B.
Dahrendorf, L. Howell, L.[Teller.]
David, B. Howie of Troon, L.
Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B. Hunt, L.
Desai, L. Hylton, L.
Irvine of Lairg, L. Parry, L.
Jacques, L. Peston, L.
Jay, L. Plant of Highfield, L.
Jenkins of Hillhead, L. Prys-Davies, L.
Jenkins of Putney, L. Rea, L.
Kagan, L. Richard, L.
Kilbracken, L. Robson of Kiddington, B.
Kirkhill, L. Rochester, L.
Lester of Herne Hill, L. Sainsbury, L.
Lincoln, Bp. Seear, B.
Listowel, E. Sefton of Garston, L.
Liverpool, Bp. Serota, B.
Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. Shannon, E.
Lockwood, B. Shepherd, L.
Longford, E. Stallard, L.
Macaulay of Bragar, L. Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Mackie of Benshie, L. Strabolgi, L.
Mallalieu, B. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Masham of Ilton, B. Taylor of Gryfe, L.
Mason of Bamsley, L. Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Mayhew, L. Tordoff, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L. Turner of Camden, B.
McNair, L. Varley, L.
Merlyn-Rees, L. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Milner of Leeds, L. Whaddon, L.
Molloy, L. White, B.
Morris of Castle Morris, L. Wigoder, L.
Nicol, B. Williams of Elvel, L.
Ogmore. L. Williams of Mostyn, L.
Aberdare, L. Craig of Radley, L.
Ackner, L. Cranborne, V.
Aldington, L. Crawshaw, L.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Cross, V.
Alexander of Weedon, L. Cumberlege, B.
Alport, L. Dacre of Glanton, L.
Annaly, L. Daventry, V.
Annan, L. Davidson, V.
Archer of Weston-Super-Mare, L. Dean of Harptree, L.
Arran, E. Denham, L.
Ashbourne, L. Denton of Wakefield, B.
Astor of Hever, L. Derwent, L.
Attlee, E. Dixon-Smith, L.
Balfour of Inchrye, L. Donegall, M.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Eccles, V.
Bellwin, L. Ellenborough, L.
Biddulph, L. Elles, B.
Blatch, B. Elliott of Morpeth, L.
Blyth, L. Elton, L.
Boardman, L. Erroll of Hale, L.
Borthwick, L. Fanshawe of Richmond, L.
Boyd-Carpenter, L. Ferrers, E.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Finsberg, L.
Brain, L. Foley, L.
Braine of Wheatley, L. Forbes, L.
Brightman, L. Forteviot, L.
Brigstocke, B. Fraser of Carmyllie, L.
Burnham, L. Fraser of Kilmorack, L.
Burton, L. Gainford, L.
Butterworth, L. Gardner of Parkes, B.
Cadman, L. Geddes, L.
Caldecote, V. Gisborough, L.
Campbell of Alloway, L. Goschen, V.
Campbell of Croy, L. Gridley, L.
Camegy of Lour, B. Grimston of Westbury, L.
Carnock, L. Haddington, E.
Carr of Hadley, L. Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.
Chalker of Wallasey, B. Hamilton of Dalzell, L.
Chelmsford, V. Hampden, V.
Chesham, L. Hardinge of Penshurst, L.
Clifford of Chudleigh, L. Harmar-Nicholls, L.
Clitheroe, L. Harmsworth, L.
Cochrane of Cults, L. Hayhoe, L.
Cockfield, L. Hayter, L.
Colnbrook, L. Henley, L.
Constantine of Stanmore, L. Hives, L.
Courtown, E. Holderness, L.
Coventry, E. HolmPatrick, L.
Cox, B. Hood, V.
Hothfield, L. Pym, L.
Hylton-Foster, B. Quinton, L.
Ironside, L. Rankeillour, L.
Johnston of Rockport, L. Rawlinson of Ewell, L.
Kenyon, L. Renfrew of Kaimsthorn, L.
Kimball, L. Renton, L.
Kinloss, Ly. Renwick, L.
Kinnaird, L. Rippon of Hexham, L.
Kinnoull, E. Rodger of Earlsferry, L.
Kintore, E. Romney, E.
Lauderdale, E. Roskill, L.
Lloyd-George of Dwyfor, E. Salisbury, M.
Long, V. Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Lonsdale, E. Sandford, L.
Lucas of Chilworth, L. Savile, L.
Lyell, L. Seccombe, B.
Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L. Selborne, E.
Mackay of Clashfem, L. [Lord Sempill, Ly.
Chancellor.] Sharpies, B.
Macleod of Borve, B. Skidelsky, L.
Macpherson of Drumochter, L. Slim, V.
Manchester, D. Somerset, D.
Mancroft, L. Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L.
Manton, L. St. Davids, V.
Marlesford, L. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Marsh, L. Stodart of Leaston, L.
Melville, V. Strange, B.
Merrivale, L. Strathclyde, L.
Mersey, V. Strathmore and Kinghorne, E.
Middleton, L. [Teller.]
Milverton, L. Sudeley, L.
Monk Bretton, L. Swansea, L.
Monson, L. Swinfen, L.
Montgomery of Alamein, V. Swinton, E.
Morris, L. Terrington, L.
Mottistone, L. Teviot, L.
Mountgarret, V. Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Moyola, L. Tonypandy, V.
Munster, E. Trefgarne, L.
Murton of Lindisfame, L. Trevethin and Oaksey, L.
Nelson, E. Trumpington, B.
Norfolk, D. Ullswater, V. [Teller.]
Norrie, L. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Northboume, L. Vivian, L.
Oppenheim-Barnes, B. Wade of Chorlton, L.
Orr-Ewing, L. Wakeham, L. [Lord Privy Seal.]
Palmer, L. Wamock, B.
Peel, E. Waterford, M.
Pender, L. Whitelaw, V.
Peyton of Yeovil, L. Wise, L.
Pike, B. Wynford, L.
Platt of Writtle, B. Young, B.
Plummer of St. Marylebone, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

3.53 p.m.

[Amendments Nos. 47 to 49 not moved.]

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie moved Amendment No. 50:

Page 39, line 27, at end insert ("a chief inspector or").

The noble and learned Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 50 I shall speak also to Amendment No. 52. The amendments are relatively minor and are designed to tighten up the drafting of Clause 55.

Amendment No. 50 would allow the emergency authorisation to be given by either a chief inspector or an inspector, in recognition of the fact that, following the decision of your Lordships' House, the rank of chief inspector is no longer to be abolished by the Police and Magistrates' Courts Bill. It makes sense to allow either a chief inspector or an inspector to give an emergency authorisation because in some basic command units the second in command will be a chief inspector but in others it will be an inspector.

Amendment No. 52 seeks to amend Clause 55 to ensure that the police are able to seize any offensive weapon or dangerous item that they discover when conducting a search using this new power. Clause 55 currently empowers police officers in certain circum-stances to stop and search pedestrians and vehicles for offensive weapons or dangerous articles, but there is no express provision to allow the police to seize any such weapons or articles that they find. It is obviously desirable that such items should be immediately taken out of circulation.

I would add that we are not seeking to extend the power of seizure to other illegal items which might be found, such as drugs. The reason is that Clause 55 is narrowly addressed to the matter of offensive weapons and violence and we do not wish to go beyond the narrow purposes of the clause. I am sure your Lordships will agree that both amendments are sensible and improve the drafting of the Bill. I beg to move.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

The Committee will be glad to have confirmation from the Minister that the Government do not intend to overturn the decision taken by your Lordships on the consideration of the Police and Magistrates' Courts Bill to retain the rank of chief inspector. We understand from the proceedings in another place that that is the case, but it is nice to have it confirmed here. We hope that the only amendments we shall have to consider when the Bill comes back from another place will be those carried by my right honourable and honourable friends.

Amendment No. 52 is welcome, but it is curious that all of this elaborate procedure for providing for stop and search powers has never extended to the power to seize a dangerous weapon. I cannot think what the draftsman must have been doing before now and how the provision got through another place without this obviously necessary amendment.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

Perhaps I may follow up that point. As I understand the position, there is no provision at the moment for giving the power to the police to seize a dangerous weapon. Is that the case? Secondly, I echo what was said by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh. Your Lordships will recall the rather substantial debate that we had on the issue of ranks in the police service. I too welcome the fact, notwithstanding that the Government were defeated on the question in your Lordships' House, that they have now accepted the judgment of the House. That will be widely welcomed both in the House and outside it.

Lord Avebury

I understand very well what the Minister said about not wanting to widen this clause beyond the power to stop and search, but I was a little amazed to hear him say that if a substantial quantity of drugs was to be found during an operation of this kind the police could simply allow the possessor of those drugs to drive off with them. The noble and learned Lord shakes his head, so I am obviously wrong about that. However, I should like a fuller explanation of what happens when in the course of a search under this clause the police find quantities of dangerous drugs.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

I am happy briefly to elaborate and explain the position. I understood that it was the desire of the House that this power should be kept as narrowly defined as possible. However, if other unlawful items were found the police would then have the option of arresting the person and instituting criminal proceedings. In such circumstances the arrest itself would trigger any necessary seizure powers. It seems to the Government that that is the desirable way to approach any other illegal items—not by an extension of this power.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 51 not moved.]

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie moved Amendment No. 52:

Page 39, line 44, at end insert:

("( ) If in the course of a search under this section a constable discovers a dangerous instrument or an article which he has reasonable grounds for suspecting to be an offensive weapon, he may seize it.").

The noble and learned Lord said: I have already spoken to Amendment No. 52. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 53 and 54 not moved.]

Clause 55, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 56 [Power to remove trespassers on land]:

Baroness Mallalieu moved Amendment No. 55:

Page 40, line 30, leave out from ("If) to ("that") in line. 31 and insert ("a county court is satisfied").

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 55 I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 57, 59, 59ZB, 60, 61 and 83A. I omit Amendment No. 82 which is grouped with the other amendments because I think it is in error.

Clause 56 extends the existing powers to remove trespassers on land. The powers are currently contained in Section 39 of the Public Order Act 1986. That provision was introduced to deal with mass trespass and trespass which involved damage or offensive behaviour. The proposal in Clause 56 gives a police officer at the scene who reasonably believes that two or more people are trespassing on land with the intention of living there for any period of time after the occupier has asked them to leave and who have either caused damage or behaved in an insulting or threatening manner, or simply have six or more vehicles, the power to direct them to leave. If they fail to go as soon as is practicable or return within three months, they face penalties of up to three months' imprisonment or a substantial fine. The offences are arrestable ones.

The provisions are extended to land which adjoins highways, minor roads and bridleways as well. They also apply to Scotland. As I understand it, the reasons for the provisions in Clause 56 are an increase in mass trespass by large groups of what I understand to be the New Age traveller variety. Perhaps I may make it clear from these Benches that we have the greatest sympathy particularly with rural communities who have suffered a very real problem and with farmers who have found their livelihood disrupted by trespass involving grazing land, crops and often damage, or the threat of damage, to sheep as a result of dogs which are part of such invasions of their land.

We are concerned that as a consequence of Clause 56 small family groups of gypsies and travellers are likely to be caught. The reduction from the Public Order Act minimum of 12 vehicles to six vehicles in the clause, possibly comprising three residential caravans and three towing vehicles, could affect two family groups travelling together, as they increasingly wish to do for reasons of security.

What troubles us primarily about the clause is that no court order will be required in order to direct such groups to go. A single police officer telling them to leave is to be sufficient. Your Lordships will be considering at later stages of the Bill matters concerned with the provision of caravan sites for those who choose a nomadic way of life. But it is beyond argument that in many parts of the country -I would go so far as to say that it applies in almost every part of the country-there is a shortage of official, residential and transit site accommodation for those who have a nomadic lifestyle.

Over the centuries we have tolerated small nomadic groups. That toleration must surely be the mark of a civilised society, even one which is becoming increasingly urban and suburban. Our worry about the provision is that it will extend the powers for speedy removal of small groups and thus inevitably lead to an increase in such evictions.

Clause 56 provides that a single police officer may order such a group to go even where no nuisance is being caused, no damage has been caused, and there has been no threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour, but simply because there are six vehicles present. As I indicated, we are concerned primarily about small family groups who surely need some leeway. Such groups will often require urgent access to health care, to a general practitioner; for example, to facilities in connection with childbirth and ante-natal and post-natal provision. Above all, because they are groups which more often than not have small children among them they need access to educational facilities.

Hardship, especially to family groups and those with small children, is likely to be increased by the Bill. It does not take a great deal of imagination to picture a group who stop near a village where they can have access to a local doctor when a child is ill or when a mother is about to give birth and who cause no damage on the land where they settle, who behave in no way offensively to the landowner and who at the present time would have a short breathing space while a court order was being obtained in which to find somewhere suitable to move to where they can still have access to the services they require. Under Clause 56 they would have to move as soon as practicable; otherwise they would be committing an arrestable offence for which they were liable to imprisonment. I ask this: they would have to move, but where to? We are in very real danger of putting people in Britain in 1994 in the position of the road sweeper in Bleak House in the last century who was forever being told to move on but had nowhere to go.

It may be perfectly proper that in many cases those who trespass should be directed to go and go speedily, particularly where damage or harassment is being caused to others in the community. What we say-and it is the purpose of these amendments-is that it is the court that should make the order, not simply a single police officer who happens to be on duty and passing at the time. Toleration does involve sometimes tolerating a degree of inconvenience from one's neighbours. I hope that we shall hear from the Government, when they respond to these amendments, that they accept that it is a basic principle that those who choose to have a nomadic way of life are entitled to do so and that there will be provision for possibly putting up with some inconvenience. That is the mark, I say again, of a civilised society. These minor amendments make very small changes to the provision but provide some safeguard and leeway for small family groups. I commend the amendments to the Committee. I beg to move.

Lord Macaulay of Bragar

Amendment No. 83A, which applies to Clause 65 and trespassory assemblies and is tabled in my name, is designed to make sure, as my noble friend said, that it is the court which deals with these matters and not the council. The amendment deletes "a council" and inserts, the court after ordering intimation and hearing such representations as it deems fit". It shall then make the appropriate order. The amendment ensures that the court will be in control of matters and that it will not be merely a case of a constable going to a member of a local authority and asking for an order, so to speak, willy-nilly without the matter being properly examined in the usual way. It will also give those affected by the order being sought the opportunity to come before the court and explain why the order should not be sought; for example, if the people are there for what appears to the court to be reasonable cause. There will be practical difficulties in carrying out intimation and hearing representations, but that should not be a barrier to justice between the parties. It certainly should not be used as an excuse to impose restrictions on individuals who are doing the community no harm. There must be some control over random applications without the application being demonstrably necessary for the interests set out in Clause 65.

This raises quite an important point. It may seem to be a minor point, but it is not because most trespassory assemblies will probably take place at the week-end. Who is going to find a member of a council at the weekend? The courts are always available because there is a duty magistrate or duty judge in every area of the country who can be dragged from his bed if necessary to consider any application. Furthermore, the Bill does not spell out who in the council will be responsible for acceding to the request for the order. Will the chief executive delegate powers so that any constable who comes along and asks him for an order can grant it off his own bat, so to speak, on behalf of the council?

It is interesting to note in Clause 65 that the phrase "trespassory assemblies" is not defined-I am not quite sure how to pronounce the word "trespassory"-so what we have is someone seeking an order for some undefined breach of something from an undefined member of a council. It is therefore important that the courts should retain some measure of control over the fairly draconian measures that are contained in Clause 65.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

When moving her amendment, the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, talked about where the travellers should be moved to. With respect, we shall deal with that matter in considerable detail later. As I understand it, Amendment No. 55 means that before moving on any travellers, a police officer would have to apply to the county court. If that is correct, the amendment is, if I may say so, a complete wrecker because in practice it would take months before the travellers could be moved on. Historically, as far as the use of Section 39 is concerned-that is what these provisions are basically replacing-police officers have been very careful before using their powers.

Lord Renton

I am bound to agree with what my noble friend Lord Stanley of Alderley says. Although I do not agree that the procedure would necessarily take months, it would be bad enough if it took only days. As the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, has already made clear, she and her noble friends agree with the Government that, as stated in the clause, something must be done about people trespassing on land. I should have thought that if something is to be done, we do not want much delay. Even getting a constable could take a bit of time because he might have to come some miles from the nearest town. Alas, we no longer have a village constable in every village as we used to have.

Having to refer the matter to a court means not merely applying to a county court judge for an injunction which in civil actions, in England at any rate, is fairly easily done -indeed, one sometimes had to telephone a judge's private house at the weekend and ask him if he could come along (perhaps when he had finished a round of golf) to grant an injunction-but no, the amendment suggests that the court should be involved. That means a court hearing with both sides being heard.

If we are to make effective the power in Clause 56 to remove trespassers from land, I believe that what the Government have proposed is much more practical and realistic. I believe that the purpose of the clause would be defeated if Amendment No. 55, and those that are grouped with it, were to be accepted.

Surely the noble Lord, Lord Macaulay of Bragar, who said that a court is always readily available, must, with his knowledge of Scotland, agree on reflection that the distances in Scotland are such that one might have to go a very long way to obtain the services of even a sheriff substitute. Further delay would be involved. I very much hope that my noble friend Lord Ferrers will resist the amendment.

4.15 p.m.

Lord Hylton

Perhaps I may give two examples of nuisance and aggravation that have recently been caused in the past year by New Age travellers. One example is from Somerset and one from Avon. In the first case, some six vehicles almost blocked a public footpath and bridleway, making access along it very difficult, Furthermore, the travellers' dogs frightened young and timid walkers. In the second case, a group of travellers placed themselves in the middle of a public park which had been rather nicely landscaped by the local authority In both cases it took a very long time to remove the groups. I think that the amendment goes too far.

Lord Hooson

If there is any justification for Clause 56-from my experience, I think that there is considerable justification for it-it is that action is taken swiftly to prevent the build-up of the kind of troubles that have been experienced in Mid Wales and elsewhere. I share many of the sentiments that were expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, when she moved her amendment, but when one looks at the impracticality of what is proposed with the reference to county courts and so on, one must realise that that makes a complete nonsense of Clause 56.

As I have said, I share many of the noble Baronesses' sentiments, particularly about gypsies. I think that they need to be given careful consideration as a separate body. However, that is not the basic mischief against which the clause is directed. Everybody knows the tremendous problems that have been encountered with the build-up of large conglomerations of people in caravans in the past few years. I am referring to New Age travellers. It is when those groups grow to such a size that they are totally impossible to manage that the real difficulties arise. Therefore, I am bound to say that I cannot support the amendment.

Lord Finsberg

The noble Lord, Lord Hooson, said much of what I wanted to say, so I can be brief. Having analysed what the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, said, I think that she has presented some problems. I believe that the first problem that I have with the provisions is shared by many Members of the Committee. I would love to find some way of defining the Romanies so that they would not be affected in any way by this piece of legislation. I hope that it might be possible to find some way of doing that because they are the only people whom I regard as genuine nomadic travellers with a long history and culture of their own.

Most of the others who follow a nomadic lifestyle do it by choice and they are perfectly entitled to decide to do that, provided that they do not interfere with the enjoyment of other people. But the noble Baroness very clearly did not say that. I believe that the noble Baroness said something to the effect that such people are not causing trouble and that police constables should not be doing what they are doing. However, Clause 56(1) refers to the person who owns the land and who must have a right. If one is trespassing, one is interfering with the rights of somebody else. Therefore, I believe that the clause is correct as it stands.

My last point is that having had experience both in London and elsewhere of the appalling slowness of bringing a matter to court, like many other noble Lords I do not believe that the court angle is even a starter, as the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, said.

Lord Avebury

I agree with my noble friend Lord Hooson that the procedure would be far too long-winded if an application had to be made to a country court. I also agree with those who say that a distinction ought to be made between New Age travellers and gypsies. That distinction is not apparent in the clause which hits both groups equally. If one reads the clause in conjunction with Clause 72, which we have not yet reached, but upon which the Committee will no doubt have a lot to say when we do reach it, one can imagine that gypsies may be evicted from an unauthorised site under Clause 72 and then camp on another piece of land where they become liable to victimisation under Clause 56.

The defect of Clause 56 is that it is indiscriminate in its application. It applies just as much to gypsies. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Finsberg, that we must give them special consideration, because it is their traditional way of life. Those people who take to the road voluntarily, perhaps by acquiring a vehicle in which they reside, become nomadic, and thus fall technically within the definition of gypsies. I can assure the noble Lord that we shall deal with that point later because various amendments have been tabled making the distinction between the two categories of nomadic persons—those who are traditionally of a nomadic habit of life, and are, as he would say, genuine gypsies, and those who, like the New Age travellers, have recently adopted a nomadic way of life and who are causing all the nuisance, as the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, has described it. We all know about that. We have seen it in many counties.

The clause rightly gives the police power to put an end to those nuisances promptly instead of having to wait for the months a county court would take. I beg the Government to consider more carefully than they have done hitherto the wording of Clause 56 so that it can remedy the evil, which we all agree exists, of large numbers of people descending upon an area, or camping near a built up area, without any sanitary provision or running water, causing an enormous amount of disturbance and health risk to people in the neighbourhood. For genuine gypsies, as we shall see later, adequate provision was not made under the 1968 Act, although we are moving towards a position where we can say that there will be full provision in the near future. Will the Government undertake to consider the wording of Clause 56 between now and Report so that it touches the evil that we all agree exists of New Age travellers camping unexpectedly in large numbers in rural areas or near to villages and towns, and provides also for the genuine gypsies for whom this place and another place have always agreed special provision has to be made.

Lord Renton

Before the noble Lord sits down, will he, on reflection, agree—

Lord Clifford of Chudleigh

The amendment is totally and absolutely out of touch. People ask the police for help; but no one policeman will ever go to those described, in this ghastly terminology, as New Age travellers. I travel today, and I call this a new age compared to the last century. Those people are hippies. They are wasters. Let us be clear, if we have people coming along to a particular patch of land, the farmers want them removed. Those farmers will get together, tow the vehicles away and dump them on the highways. They have already done that.

We must also get clear the fact that if a person wants to have a mobile home, or whatever, he must be able to afford it. Such people then get social security and continue to afford their lives at the expense of those people whom we are supposed to be representing-that is to say, the majority of the country. The majority of the country knows jolly well where the hospitals and schools are. Let us not dilly dally around these people who come along and make their names with the press. Let us get a grip on this problem and not set a precedent with regard to the number of vehicles, and so forth. Those people are trespassing, as the Government have suggested.

Lord Burton

The amendment tabled by the noble Baroness is flawed, because, if I am not mistaken, this is UK legislation and there is no such thing as a county court in Scotland.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe

I presume that we shall resume this debate on Clause 72 where we deal with the provision of sites by local authorities, the point which is at the root of the problem. I am tempted to rise only because of the speech that has just been made by the noble Lord, Lord Clifford, in which New Age travellers, among others, were described as wasters. There are people in our society who prefer to opt out of the orthodox behaviour which most of us observe. We do not, as the noble Lord suggested, represent only the majority of our people; we have in our society a responsibility to protect minorities. That is what democracy is about: protecting minorities.

Lord Clifford of Chudleigh

That is why we have social security and provide minorities with the ability to live.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe

If the noble Lord reads his speech in Hansard tomorrow he will see that he described that minority collectively as wasters. As I say, there are people who prefer that way of life. It is a problem with which our society must deal. I hope that we will deal with it when we discuss Clause 72 and the provision of facilities.

I commend the interesting document which has been provided to me, among many other documents I have received, by Save the Children. It raises the important issue of the provision for children. What do we want to do when dealing with some of these cases? Do we want to take the children into care—that is the alternative of not providing facilities—and turn their parents into the occupants of cardboard city in London? We have a problem to deal with. There are people who choose that way of life. We should not consider them collectively as wasters. The media frequently highlight some of the extreme elements in those groups; but at the same time we have the right in a civilised society to acknowledge that that situation exists. I hope that when we come to the subject of alternative sites we will observe our right and exercise our right.

Lord Burnham

I find myself in some difficulty in agreeing with those Members of the Committee who sympathise with the gypsies, because I know of only one incident of a gypsy whom we have had anywhere near us who has kept the ground upon which he has lived for a period even remotely clean. That was a man who was prepared to clean up after those who went before him, but he is a rare beast.

I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, does not suffer, as we have suffered, from lamed horses because of the glass, metal and other substances which are left behind by ordinary gypsies—I am not talking about New Age travellers—as part of their normal way of life. Their normal way of life seems to generate that rubbish.

A tenant farmer was foolish enough to leave a field empty. The gypsies got in by breaking down the gates. In the 10 days before they could be removed they caused so much damage that it cost £2,000 to make that field habitable again. This is an area where, thank goodness, we have not so far had New Age travellers, or any of that lot. Damage is caused, and it takes a long time to obtain a remedy. During that time the amount of damage increases. If one is lucky enough to catch a gang of gypsies before they have unhitched their vehicles, one can get rid of them almost at once. This is a game of grandmother's footsteps. It needs careful liaison between the farmers in the area.

It takes time to persuade a magistrates' court to take action. In south Buckinghamshire we have an efficient and sympathetic gypsy officer. If the council will take action, we can get rid of such people within four or five days. If one has to go to the county court, as the landowner has to, and an order to remove those people from the land is made, first, the landowner is responsible for the costs of so doing or of employing a contractor to do it for him. But the longer the time, the greater the expense, and the more trouble he is put to, to make his land habitable and usable for agricultural purposes.

4.30 p.m.

Lord Avebury

Will the noble Lord say how many authorised sites have been provided in south Buckinghamshire for the gypsies residing in or resorting to that area?

Lord Burnham

I believe that there are four but I am not certain. The matter is under discussion; but I can tell the noble Lord where the most prominent sites are. The amendment must make matters worse rather than better. If such people would only behave themselves and keep the place clean, no one would have any such problems.

Lord Northbourne

Will the noble Lord accept that his experience is not universal? My family has known a family of gypsies who have always wintered in a particular wood at the intersection of a Roman road and a Saxon road. My guess is that gypsies have been wintering there for hundreds if not thousands of years. Certainly, I am not going to be the person to turn them away. I have tucked them in behind a woodland so that people do not complain about them.

The essential point is that they should be there for only part of the year because the nature of the true gypsies is that they are nomadic. They are there by permission and they keep the site clean because they want to come back next year. The trouble arises on sites which gypsy families occupy as of right. If the site is to be kept clean, some form of discipline is necessary.

However, I believe that the New Age travellers are a different kettle of fish. The only such people to have been on land which I am privileged to own threw buckets of dog muck at me when after a long delay I asked them to move off. They broke up the local social services office because the social service payments did not arrive on time. They are, indeed, people who have opted out of our society. But surely in our society rights should carry with them some obligations.

Lord Macaulay of Bragar

Perhaps I may take up the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Renton. I am sure that he did not mean to create the impression that Scotland is like the Wild West and that if you need a judge you jump on your horse and ride off into the sunset hoping to find one.

There are 49 sheriffdoms in Scotland, each with a resident judge. Within each sheriffdom there are district courts and there is no difficulty in accessibility to justice in Scotland. Ex parte applications can be dealt with in a matter of hours. I am advised that a 1989 Scottish Office study demonstrated that no person in Scotland is more: than 30 minutes from a legal adviser. The so-called difficulty of getting to the court to make these: applications does not exist in Scotland, whatever maybe; the case in England.

Lord Renton

Perhaps I may quickly reply. The noble Lord gave examples of easy cases, which do not always prevail bearing in mind the distances in. Scotland. In any event, if the amendments were accepted, there would have to be a court hearing and that: is quite different from asking a police officer to assume responsibility.

Lord Roskill

Perhaps I may disclose an interest. I have lived all my life in a house on the edge of a common, which my parents owned before me. We on that common have suffered again and again from New Age travellers. They leave behind an indescribable mess and filth which compares with that described by the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne. Excrement has been left everywhere and trees have been cut down. People have been frightened and dogs have been set upon anyone who tried to intervene.

The noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, said that people should not be evicted without a court order. In a perfect life that would be right; one can always get a court order. During my days as a Queen's Bench judge I was called out of bed in the middle of the night to grant injunctions or bail. One gladly does so when that is necessary. The problem is not to obtain an order but to enforce it. As one Member of the Committee said, the law's delays are quite appalling. As a Law Lord, I apologise for saying that.

Our common is managed by the local authority; there was no registered owner. That local authority had a standing High Court injunction against New Age travellers, which it enforced from time to time. However, taking advantage, the New Age travellers arrived shortly before the bank holiday weekend at either Christmas or Easter, which was a long weekend. During a bank holiday weekend nothing is more immovable than an under-sheriff's office. The result was that the travellers were able to sit there continuing to do damage for several days before anyone could do anything about it.

I respectfully agree with those who say that something must be done about it. No one wishes to penalise the gypsy, the genuine nomadic person. We all see them about the place and we have great affection for them. However, they are a very small portion of those who are causing the trouble. Those who are causing the trouble have opted out and are defying the ordinary conventions of society. Those are the people who are allowed to behave as appalling nuisances all over the south of England and elsewhere, and we must stop that. I venture to submit to the Committee that the Government are on the right lines.

Lord Ogmore

I have received personal representations about New Age travellers. We must be careful that this is not the thin end of the wedge. Certain sections of the public are worried that if we are not careful representations will be disallowed. Any protest involving more than a certain number of people could be disallowed. Many people are worried that any kind of feeling will be stamped out if we are not careful. That is why the position is causing considerable worry to some people, who are perhaps in the nature of protest but are doing so peacefully and are not causing a nuisance. Some people are worried that the provision could affect a peaceful protest or demonstration, and they are concerned that the Government should keep that in mind.

Earl Ferrers

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Roskill, made as good a defence of the reasons for keeping this clause in the Bill as one could possibly wish for. He is absolutely right. When such people appear, one must deal with them quickly. As was said by the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, if ever there were a justification for this clause—and I am glad that he said, "And there is"—it is the matter of speed.

We are dealing with large invasions of travellers and people who so upset the countryside, as experienced by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Roskill, and the noble Lord, Lord Hylton. However, the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, was anxious about small groups of people. She asked for an undertaking that gypsies, if they wish, should have a nomadic way of life. Of course, the nomadic way of life is part and parcel of the lives of many people in this country. Our only stipulation is that they do that within the confines of the law. That is what we are talking about.

The noble Baroness was concerned that there might be small groups of people, one of whom is about to have a baby, and the group wants a short breathing space. Let us recall the conditions under which such people will be moved. There must be two or more on land as trespassers; they must have had the intention of residing there; they must have caused damage to that land or used threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour or to have brought with them more than six vehicles and the owner has asked them to go. Only then can the provision come into effect. The noble Baroness gave an example of people wandering around and hoping to find somewhere to spend the night. If there were less than six vehicles, and they had not used abusive language they would not be caught by the provision. Here we are talking about a nuisance. The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, asks us to reconsider the words of Clause 56 so that they cover New Age travellers and not gypsies. The noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe, said that there are a few protesting minorities. The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, referred to people protesting peacefully. Here we are talking about people who are trespassing. It does not matter whether or not they are protesting peacefully. The question here is whether they are trespassing. When they trespass, then these provisions come into force.

The amendments would restrict very considerably the ability of the police to defend local communities from the travellers and the ravers. Members of the Committee may be worried that the police are being given too much power but the powers are not mandatory; they are discretionary. The police have the power to move these people on if they have fulfilled the criteria and if the police consider that it is proper to do so.

The noble Lord, Lord Macaulay, suggests that the police should be kept out of this matter and that it should be dealt with by the courts. I agree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Roskill, that that would delay the whole process. The police have always found that once the New Age travellers arrive and settle, the difficulties arise in relation to moving them on. Therefore, it is important to have the facility to move on those people when they have gathered in relatively small numbers in order to avoid an increase in the numbers, with all the devastation that we have seen at Castlemorton Common and elsewhere. For that reason, it is wholly appropriate that the police should take the action rather than the courts.

Baroness Mallalieu

I moved the amendment with knowledge and experience that is very similar to that of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Roskill, and the noble Lord, Lord Burnham. I come from an area of South Buckinghamshire which has a large number of gypsies and also a New Age traveller problem. The village in which or near which I live now has a common which is protectively surrounded by barricades.

Therefore, I move the amendment with a personal knowledge of the inconvenience and difficulties that such trespass can provoke. But I am concerned about two matters that I do not believe are being addressed at present.

Under this clause, a single police officer is, in effect, being asked to discharge a judicial function. He has to make a number of decisions and the noble Earl has just indicated what they are. Some of them are easy. He must be satisfied that two or more people are trespassing. He has to be satisfied about their intentions; namely, that they are there with the intention of living there. That may not present him with too many difficulties, but it is a decision that he must take on the material before him. He must be satisfied that reasonable steps have been taken on behalf of the occupier to ask them to leave. He then has to take decisions about damage to land, abuse, numbers of vehicles and so on. Essentially he is being asked to exercise a judicial function. He is being asked to make a decision, partly no doubt on his own observation, but partly no doubt on evidence that is presented to him by other people.

If he gets it wrong and makes a mistake, under the clause there is no way in which his decision, his order that the people should leave, can be reviewed. I make it abundantly clear, because of what the noble Lord, Lord Finsberg, said, that anybody who is nomadic either by tradition or choice—and I make no distinction in that —has an obligation not to disrupt the lives of others. I do not for one second skate over that or omit that from the reasoning behind the amendments.

But the end result of the clause will not deal with the problem. The officer will merely order groups to leave; they will have to go; and they will move elsewhere to cause trouble and possibly damage in another location to another landowner or another set of people.

I am not in any way reassured by what the noble Earl said in relation to providing protection for the small family groups who have always been tolerated hitherto and about whom we are primarily concerned. But it seems to me that there are other parts of the Bill—and in particular, Clauses 72 to 75—where the basic issues will have to be debated by this Chamber. In those circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

4.45 p.m.

Lord Stanley of Alderley moved Amendment No. 55A:

Page 40, line 34, after ("leave") insert (", or where the occupier cannot be found after reasonable enquiries or is not immediately available the senior police officer present has asked them to leave.").

The noble Lord said: This clause gives the police powers to act urgently to seek control of a developing mass trespass incident. As drafted, the Bill provides that reasonable steps must have been taken by or on behalf of the occupier to ask people to leave. There may be circumstances where the occupier is not immediately available and yet the police wish to act quickly which, as we have just discussed, is very important to contain and control the situation before it gets out of hand.

This amendment seeks to allow the senior police officer present to ask trespassers to leave on behalf of the occupier. I hope that my noble friend will be able to tell me that in those circumstances, a senior police officer could take action without the occupier being present. I beg to move.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

There have been a number of occasions on which great offence has been caused to some people when occupiers have actually invited travellers onto their land. The case of the Glastonbury festival is probably the best known example. Must the owner or occupier be around all the time? Is the noble Lord saying that in the owner's absence, people whom he has invited onto his land can be thrown off without him being contacted if he is not immediately available? I find that a very strange extension of the already draconian powers provided in this part of the Bill.

Lord Elton

As a sideline to what the noble Lord has just said, I believe that my noble friend has in mind occasions on which the persons trespassing on the land, who may be there at the invitation of the landowner, are causing considerable and grievous discomfort and unhappiness to the neighbourhood. If the landowner has so invited them, it is only right that he should be there to share that discomfort and unhappiness and defend it when the police request the removal of the people.

Lord Renton

Also, we need to consider the position where the owner is either in hospital or on a holiday or is away for some other good reason.

Lord Kenyon

In supporting my noble friend's amendment, I speak from experience. I had a case recently where the owner of a piece of derelict land lived more than 100 miles away from the land itself. He had bought it in order to develop it but was unable to obtain permission to develop it. When the council discovered where he lived, it found that he was on holiday and it took nearly three weeks to obtain the owner's permission to serve the injunction. Therefore, I support the amendment.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

But I do not believe that the noble Lord, Lord Elton, or other noble Lords have read what the clause says. Clause 56 applies if: any of those persons has caused damage to the land or to property on the land or used threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour towards the occupier, a member of his family or an employee or agent of his". The clause is not concerned with damage that may be caused to other people. It concerns damage caused to the occupier.

The amendment proposes that a police officer may go on to an occupier's land, assert that the occupier's interest is being damaged and kick them off without even consulting the occupier. That includes cases where the occupier may well have invited those people onto the land.

Lord Hooson

It appears to me that this amendment raises a very important point. If a landowner is away, for example on holiday, it seems to me ridiculous that the police cannot take action. The prior requirement, as stated in Clause 56(1), reads as follows: If the senior police officer present at the scene reasonably believes that two or more persons are trespassing on land". If the landlord has invited them on to the land, they are obviously not trespassing. I believe there are defects in the proposed amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley. However, this point needs further thought and inquiry on the part of the Government.

The Marquess of Hertford

I support my noble friend Lord Stanley of Alderley with a personal example. A few years ago I happened to be here when my wife asked our local police to get rid of some people who were in our park. They said they could not do that because I was not there and my wife was not the owner.

Earl Ferrers

I am bound to say that I quite understand the anxiety of my noble friend Lord Stanley of Alderley. However, I am afraid that I believe the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, is right. The purpose of Clause 56 is to help occupiers to protect their land. We are dealing here with the law of trespass. I do not think one can achieve that by giving the police powers to move people on irrespective of whether the occupier himself was remotely concerned by the invasion of those people. The occupier may have disappeared off to the Caribbean and does not care what happens to his land. That may be inconvenient for his neighbours, but if people are trespassing on land and the occupier does not request them to be removed, it is difficult for the police to do that or to, as it were, be in loco parentis for the occupier.

I was surprised at what my noble friend Lord—I apologise; I was referring to my noble friend Lord Hertford. If I momentarily forgot his name it was a mental aberration that happens from time to time. I was surprised at what my noble friend Lord Hertford said. If someone goes on holiday, it is perfectly all right for him to delegate his responsibility to his agent or even to his wife to enable them to say to trespassers, "You are trespassers and you should go".

I fully appreciate what my noble friend is trying to do but I do not think that it would be justified to empower the police to remove people from land on which those people might have permission to be, or where anyhow they had certainly not been told that they should not be. This is a difficult matter but a balance needs to be achieved. I believe that the draft clause just about achieves it. We must remember that the police have ample powers as regards specific nuisances such as loud music at night, damage to land or property or in cases of theft or abusive language. However, where people have permission to stay on a property but the next-door neighbours do not like it, the travellers are in the position of being unwelcome next-door neighbours. There is nothing one can do about it when they have been given permission to stay. It is difficult to see that they ought to be removed when the landlord has not complained.

I can only repeat that we are dealing with the law of trespass. I have a great deal of sympathy with my noble friend and indeed with the experience of my noble friend Lord Kenyon, but I do not think one can alter a clause in this way to deal with the law of trespass.

Viscount Mountgarret

Before my noble friend sits down, I hope I may ask him whether there is merit in considering whether to accept some part of the amendment. As far as I could discover, the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, was reasonably sympathetic to this principle. However, there is a difficulty as regards defining the word "owner", as my noble friend Lord Hertford pointed out. Would it not perhaps be possible for the words "owner or agent"—I appreciate one would have to define those words—to be used? If an owner knew he was due to go away on holiday, perhaps he could delegate his wishes and authority in relation to his house, garden, estate or whatever to a recognised person. I wonder whether that might find favour with my noble friend.

Earl Ferrers

I have no reason to believe that the landlord cannot do that at the moment. I do not think we need to put it into the Bill.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

I thank the Committee for that constructive debate. I would point out to the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, that I have tabled an amendment which deals with the very case he has brought up where a landlord or occupier has asked travellers on to his land and then later decides to turn them off. However, we shall discuss that matter a little later in the evening. The noble Lord, Lord Hooson, summed up the position pretty fairly. As my noble friend Lord Ferrers and indeed the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, have said, I believe my amendment may be too widely drawn. I am not entirely happy as regards whether the clause would allow an occupier to delegate his responsibility. But I shall certainly look at that matter before Report. Meanwhile I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 56:

Page 40, line 39, leave out ("six") and insert ("twelve").

The noble Lord said: My noble friend Lady Mallalieu referred to this amendment when she was speaking on the group headed by Amendment No. 55. I shall not repeat her arguments on that point. I shall treat this as a probing amendment to see what the Minister says in response.

The point that my noble friend was making is that the existing law concerns itself with groups of 12 or more vehicles. The restriction to six vehicles does not single out particularly disruptive groups: it is a blanket restriction and it applies equally to—whatever one cares to call them—genuine gypsies or romanies and to so-called New Age travellers. We cannot keep worrying too much about the terminology: what we have to recognise is that all sorts of people in our society take to the roads and they have rights as well as other people. They deliberately give up some rights but they do not give up the rights to find somewhere to park their caravans. There must be some particular reason why those rights should be abrogated, but not on general principle. I suggest to the Committee that the provision that the size of the caravan (using it in its other sense) should be as low as six vehicles is a particularly restrictive condition which applies equally to romanies as to other people of nomadic habit. I beg to move.

Viscount Mountgarret

I think I am right in saying that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, referred three times to caravans. I agree with him that one cannot get too many people into a caravan. But what is the definition of a vehicle? To my mind it usually has four wheels on the ground and a steering wheel and it goes from A to B. Minibuses can carry anything up to about 18 people. If one extended the provision from six vehicles to 12 vehicles, it could cover, instead of approximately 120 people who are in a particular place illegally or are not desired to be there, some 240 people. I should have thought that that was rather a lot. I should have thought that the Bill as drafted is more appropriate.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I thought I had made it clear to the noble Viscount—perhaps I did not do this adequately—that when I used the word "caravan" I was using it in the sense of the battered caravanserai of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam; in other words, a collective noun for vehicles of all kinds. Vehicles and caravans are adequately defined in the Bill.

Earl Ferrers

The noble Lord said that this was a probing amendment to ascertain why we were reducing the number from 12 to six. The number of vehicles which triggered this provision was originally set at 12 by the 1986 Act so as not to catch small groups of gypsies and other such people. We are still anxious not to do so under these provisions. However, over the years we have been worried that encampments which are too small to be caught by Section 39, as it now is—which refers to 12 vehicles—are nevertheless sufficiently large to cause significant discomfort for the unfortunate and unwilling people who find themselves the hosts of these itinerant characters. We therefore believe that it is right to set the number at six. That represents a sensible middle course which I commend to the Committee. I believe that it is the right figure: 12 has proved to be too many.

5 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

That sounds very much like assertion in place of argument. I have not heard any examples of where 12 has proved to be too many.

I believe that we shall have to return to this whole issue. I appreciate the strength of numbers present in the Chamber this afternoon in favour of established landowners and against anybody of nomadic habit. I shall not press the amendment to a vote for that reason. Nevertheless, I am deeply dissatisfied with the approach of this part of the Bill. I shall find some way to seek to persuade the House at a later stage that a profound intrusion on civil liberties is brought about by this part of the Bill.

Earl Ferrers

The noble Lord says that he is profoundly dissatisfied. Am I right in interpreting his dissatisfaction as due to the fact that he wants people to continue to break the law and to trespass where the law says they should not be?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I want the law to be restricted to proven nuisance rather than extended to a whole range of perfectly valid alternative ways of life.

Earl Ferrers

Is the noble Lord saying that trespass is perfectly all right and that the breaking of law is acceptable under certain circumstances?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

The Minister must not seek again to put words into my mouth. There has been a law of trespass for many years. There have been specific complaints of occasions where the present law of trespass is inadequate. Nothing that I have said has been in opposition to a law of trespass or to a law of trespass which is extended to deal with specific and well defined nuisances. My complaint is that the law of trespass is being extended very widely on the grounds of particular nuisances which have been identified in ministerial speeches and at Conservative Party conferences and that the effects of the changes in the law which are proposed are very much wider than the nuisances which have been identified. That does not mean that I am opposed to an effective law of trespass.

Earl Ferrers

I do not want to prolong this exchange, but the noble Lord cannot get away with that. He says that the law of trespass is being expanded. The law of trespass is the same. It is the abuse of the law which has been expanded. All we say is that it ought to be put into a reasonable state.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

Perhaps I may continue, if the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, will forgive me. I shall not seek to withdraw the amendment before he has had an opportunity to speak.

We are talking about turning what has been the law of trespass into, under certain circumstances, a law of criminal trespass. It is the extent of the interpretation of criminal trespass to which we object, not the attempt to deal with certain specified, identified nuisances.

Lord Hooson

I took exception to the way in which the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, dealt with this point. We were discussing an amendment to a specific clause of the Bill. The noble Lord referred to people's rights. There are rights and obligations. He did not at one stage mention people's obligations.

I am against a libertarian society in all its manifestations, whether in its sophisticated manifesta-tion of rave parties and so on, which we shall deal with presently, or in the form of New Age travellers who take; advantage of a situation and pay no regard to their obligations. They have rights. I believe, as do my colleagues on these Benches, that the Government have: certain obligations, which they are not discharging in this Bill, with regard to certain travellers, including New Age travellers. However, that is not the point of the amendment or of the clause. The clause deals with a specific problem which has manifested itself all over the country in recent times. If the party of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, were in power it would have to do something about that problem, just as the present Government are doing something about it.

Lord Avebury

I take a middle position between my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, in that I did not hear the Minister say anything that justified the figure in the Bill. It needs to be justified on some objective grounds rather than for the Minister simply to say that that appears to be the appropriate figure.

As has been said by a number of Members of the Committee, New Age travellers tend to move around in large numbers. That is why they are so objectionable. If a hundred or so caravans descend on a quiet rural village, it is extremely disruptive and annoying for the people who live there. As I said earlier, it may even cause health hazards. However, if there are between six and 12 caravans, the nuisance is that much less. Bearing in mind that, as the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, says, we are criminalising trespass, we have to be more objective in defining the circumstances in which those criminal penalties may be brought into play.

Therefore, without necessarily agreeing that six is the appropriate figure, I believe that consideration has to be given as to whether 12 or six should be the figure in the Bill and that we may need to return to the matter at Report stage.

Lord Hylton

In defence of the figure six, I believe that we ought to take into consideration the fact that the vehicles concerned can be, and sometimes are, coaches or buses, which can accommodate a large number of people.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil

I should like briefly to support the position which my noble friend on the Front Bench has taken and also to endorse strongly what the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, said.

Turning to what the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, said, I very much regretted the introduction of Conservative Party conferences into the debate. It is many years since I went to one, and even longer since I enjoyed one, but for the noble Lord to suggest that these proposals were hatched at Conservative Party conferences is very wide of the mark. There is a genuine problem, and the use of loose phrases such as "valid alternative ways of life", which I believe was the phrase used by the noble Lord, does not help. Such phrases have to be carefully defined if they are to mean anything at all. I say with great respect to the noble Lord, for whom I have great regard, that I do not believe that his performance was up to his usual level today.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I enjoy this sort of thing. When I am attacked by both the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, and the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, not for what I say but for the way that I say it then I believe that I am striking home after all.

I do not think that I shall ever reach agreement with the noble Lords who have spoken in that way about the issues. There is a genuine difference of view between us and those who think that the rights of the established part of the community can be widely extended at the expense of minorities in our society. That is perhaps a philosophical point of view rather than a party political point of view, and clearly I shall not persuade the Committee of that point.

The noble Lord, Lord Peyton, says that I am speaking loosely. I say to him that if that is so it is a grievous fault, but it is nothing like as grievous a fault as drafting legislation loosely, which is happening here. The legislation is being drafted apparently in response to specific nuisances which have been identified and which are far better known to many Members of the Committee than they are to me as a town dweller. But I seek to suggest that the effect of the legislation will be very much wider than the nuisances which it seeks to remedy.

That is the fundamental point behind my objection. I sought to save time rather than anything else by referring to the general nature of my objection to these provisions in reference to this particular amendment. I do not believe that the case has been answered. There are matters which will have to be considered, but for the present I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 57and 58 not moved.]

Lord Stanley of Alderley moved Amendment No. 58A:

Page 41, line 3, at end insert ("who may enter any vehicle for this purpose.").

The noble Lord said: With the permission of the Committee, in moving Amendment No. 58A I shall speak also to the other amendment standing in my name, Amendment No. 58B.

If Clause 56 is to work effectively, trespassers should be in no doubt that they have been given a direction to leave the land by the police. There have been cases where trespassers have hidden in their vehicles so as to claim that they have never received a direction from the police. The amendment ensures that if necessary the police could enter the vehicle for the purpose of communicating the direction. I hope that my noble friend will be able to tell me that my amendment is unnecessary and that the police have that power anyhow.

Amendment No. 58B is similar. The provision puts it beyond a legal doubt that trespassers have received a direction to leave. There may be practical difficulties for the police in communicating a direction where a large number of people and their vehicles are involved. The police may overcome that difficulty, for example, by using a loud hailer from a police helicopter. Amendment No. 58B uses exactly the same words as those contained in Clause 58(4) concerning communications directed at ravers. If it is right to have that power in Clause 58, I do not understand why it is not included in Clause 56. I beg to move.

Earl Ferrers

My noble friend encouragingly invites me to tell him that his amendment is unnecessary. I am happy to do so. I should be quite happy to tell a number of noble Lords that their amendments, too, are unnecessary, but I shall resist the temptation.

Under the terms of Clause 56 as drafted, the senior police officer present at the scene can direct people to leave land. There is no need for each person to be told individually or face to face in order for the direction to take effect. It will not be necessary for police officers to enter vehicles in order to give a direction. To give them the power to do that would run the risk of unnecessarily inflaming passions and sparking disorder.

Amendment No. 58B would have the effect that people would be treated as having been directed to leave the site of a trespass on land if reasonable steps had been taken to bring the direction to their attention.

I do not believe that the amendment is necessary. We envisage that the police will issue a direction, for example by using a loud hailer, or even by some other methods of informing people globally of the fact that they have to leave. I do not think that it is necessary therefore to have a provision of this kind. It would mean that each person would have to be given a personal instruction to leave. I do not think that that is right.

5.15 p.m.

Lord Avebury

Let us suppose that the police come onto the site and issue the directions by loud hailer but not all the persons who own the vehicles are present at the time. Some are shopping, or are about their business in a neighbouring town, or are perhaps at work. After a while several vehicles are removed from the site. However, one is not and the person who occupies that vehicle pleads that he was not present when the directions were given by the police by loud hailer. Will the Minister say what the position would then be if an attempt is made to invoke the criminal provisions of the clause by charging the person subsequently with failure to obey the order of the police to leave the site?

Earl Ferrers

The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, stimulates my imagination. Let us suppose that there are 300 vehicles on the site, the police say that everyone has to leave and all the vehicles depart, but about 12 hours later the police return and find one vehicle on the site with no one in it. I find it extraordinary to think that the occupants of the vehicle would be so trusting as to leave their vehicle surrounded by a whole lot of other people in order to do their shopping. If that were the case, I think that the police would come back and say, "What are you doing here? There has been a direction to leave". The occupant would say, "Oh dear, I was away shopping. I didn't know". The policeman would say, "I think you had better go".

Lord Avebury

I sought clarification of the point. The Minister says that he thinks that that is what will happen. Clearly if there were 300 vehicles on the site and 299 left there would be a presumption that the occupant of the vehicle which remained had deliberately ignored the notice given by loud hailer because he would surely have been told by some of the other people on the site that those directions had been given.

However, if we consider a small number of vehicles on the site, let us say six vehicles, and five had left, with only one remaining, it could well be that by the time the occupant of that vehicle returned from his work in the neighbouring town, or from a shopping trip, he would be in ignorance of the directions that had been given. I wish to be sure that criminal penalties will not be imposed on him for something that was not his fault.

Earl Ferrers

The noble Lord continues to excite my imagination. If there were only six vehicles on the land I find it unlikely that the police would go round with a loud hailer telling the occupants that they must all go. With a small number, the police would probably tell the occupants individually that they should go. The point about a loud hailer is this. Where one has a huge number of people there should be no requirement for those people to say, "I have not been served with a piece of paper directly and personally". People will know—it will be up to the police to make sure that everyone on the site knows—that they have to leave. It will depend on the circumstances of the case exactly how the police will ensure that.

The Earl of Dudley

Is the noble Earl satisfied that the police and the courts will on all occasions be able effectively and as a matter of law to distinguish between night and day?

Earl Ferrers

If the police were present yesterday evening, they might have found that rather difficult. I agree with my noble friend. Where we are referring to raves there is no question about night and day. The strict answer—I shall need confirmation of it—is that night starts at sundown.

Lord Burton

Will my noble friend at some time consider the whole question about asking those persons to leave. The matter has taxed me. The position may be easier for the police who have loud speakers. However, the occupier has first to notify those people. I should not have thought that the average occupier would have a loud speaker. If there were 20 or 30 people on the site the occupier might have considerable difficulty in notifying them. The police may have difficulty but not as much as the occupier.

Earl Ferrers

I should be surprised if the ingenuity of the occupier was so stultified that if he found 20 or 30 people on his land he could not find some way of telling them that he wished them to go. That is a matter for the individual judgments of occupiers.

We cannot cater for every single conceivable scenario. The position is perfectly simple: the occupier has to tell people that they have to go, whether it is a collection of six vehicles or more. If those persons do not go then the police can come along and take such action as the Bill allows.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

I always believe every word that Ministers say. Therefore I shall take it for granted that what my noble friend says is right. I am pleased to hear that my two amendments are not needed.

I do not know whether my noble friend can answer this question. Why was it necessary to put the words used in Amendment No. 58B in Clause 58, which deals with raves, but not in Clause 56? I find that somewhat disturbing. If the Minister does not wish to answer that point now, I shall consider the matter between now and Report. I see that obviously he does not wish to answer, so I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 58B not moved.]

Lord Avebury moved Amendment No. 58BA:

Page 41, line 11, leave out ("imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months or").

The noble Lord said: I have already mentioned this point in passing. It causes me immense concern. Throughout the whole of this part of the Bill we are creating new criminal offences at a time when the prisons are bursting at the seams and plans are having to be made for alternative provision for the people in police stations and elsewhere. Yet, under the Bill, we propose to criminalise the offence of trespass and, under later clauses, actions which have never been treated as criminal before will now be subject to three months' or, in one case, six months' imprisonment. I wonder whether that is the right way to proceed.

Is it not better to take such measures as we need against those causing nuisance? I in no way disagree with what has been said by Members of the Committee on previous amendments. The occupation of land by substantial numbers of New Age travellers is a threat to the peaceable enjoyment of a neighbourhood and it has to be countered by Parliament. However, if we go so far as to say that ultimately if someone refuses to accept a direction by a police officer to leave the site, he makes himself liable to a heavy fine, or the confiscation of his vehicle, that should be adequate. Why do we need to put him in prison as well?

What will be the result of that in terms of his future activities? Does it mean that he desists from his trespass because he has lost the vehicle? Does it mean that he behaves in a civilised and law-abiding manner in future? Alternatively, by putting him in prison for three months, do we provoke in him a sense of bitter resentment which is likely to increase the anti-social way in which he behaves, to the extent that he may be a recurrent client of the prison system?

I shall not suggest many scenarios that would cause the Minister's imagination to work overtime because the Committee can already see the dangers of the provision. We can see the dangers of increasing the numbers in our prison system and in particular putting people in prison who may be a nuisance but whose conduct has for centuries past been treated as a matter for the civil law. Surely we do not wish to expand indefinitely the number of actions or types of behaviour which render a person liable to action in the criminal courts at a time when we have perhaps the largest proportion of the population in prison of any country in Europe. I hope that the Government will think again about this retrograde and reactionary provision. I beg to move.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I strongly support this group of amendments. The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, is quite right in pointing out that not only are we increasing the number of criminal offences, but also at a time when we have overcrowded prisons and a high prison population anyway, we propose to put considerable numbers of people in prison. We not only put more people into prison but we put in people who do not think that they have done anything wrong. There may be disagreement about that; it may well be that people have different views. I recognise the sincerity of Members of the Committee who express the view that New Age travellers are not to be tolerated in any circumstances, and that all the provisions of the Bill are necessary in order to restrain them. But the travellers do not go on the road in order to become criminals, they do not believe that they have committed a criminal offence. They do so because they have chosen an alternative way of life, as I said earlier. If we are serious about putting in our prisons a significant number of people who think that they are, in effect, political prisoners, it may be good for the morale of the prison population, but it is not the right way for a society to behave.

Lord Hylton

Imprisonment seems to be a somewhat excessive penalty for a case like that. Can the Minister at least assure us that the provision would only be used in cases of persistent offenders who have also behaved violently and destructively?

Lord Harris of Greenwich

I do not agree with much that has been said in this short discussion. If the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, will forgive me, I do not believe that such people as New Age travellers can reasonably regard themselves as political prisoners. If they are judged to be guilty of an offence it is because Parliament has decided that that constitutes the criminal law.

However, I must express my anxiety at the penalty of imprisonment. The noble Earl and I, and others, have debated on many occasions the size of the prison population. I am warmly in favour of people who breach the law rightly being punished, either by a fine or under this legislation by the confiscation of a vehicle in certain circumstances. I suspect that that will be the most effective penalty. But constantly adding new offences which are to be imprisonable, is, in my view, extraordinarily foolish at a time when there are hundreds of prisoners packed into police cells. It is absurd to do that. I hope that the Government will reflect upon the matter. A fine, yes; confiscation, yes; but imprisonment, no.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

There are two simple answers to the noble Lord, Lord Hylton. First, the Government cannot give an assurance that the courts will not commit someone to prison in particular cases because it is the responsibility of the magistrates and the courts, not of the Government. The second answer is that if, as the noble Lord suggests, such people have committed crimes of violence, then no one—neither the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, nor I—suggests that it might not be appropriate for them to be committed to prison. The Bill proposes that they should be committed to prison for the offence of criminal trespass, not for any other offence. If the noble Lord's arguments are against the amendment, I do not believe that they hold water.

Earl Peel

I find the attitude of the two noble Lords opposite quite extraordinary. We are talking about offences which have developed and the Government are responding positively to what has happened. Is the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, saying that if new offences develop, we should not put anyone in prison and that we only put people in prison for old offences, not new ones? It seems an extraordinary attitude. The Government have considered this carefully. Many people have given clear examples where grievous offences have taken place; that is why the Government decided to make the offence criminal rather than civil. It is well proven and we should support them.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

I do not suppose for a moment that large numbers of people would be committed to prison under this provision. Therefore, alarm about increasing the prison population seems quite uncalled for.

However, where we are concerned with providing a measure of protection for members of the public who are worried about the New Age travellers, it seems to me right that there should be an ultimate penalty of imprisonment for those who deliberately defy the law and stand out against the prohibition.

There is also the practical point that people who stand out regularly against the law, as some New Age travellers no doubt will, will have all their money taken from them, at any rate by way of fines. Therefore the only effective penalty will be imprisonment. I hope that my noble friend will stand firm on the matter.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

Before my noble friend replies I should like to follow my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter on that point. The problem will be that they will not pay their fines. They will be on social security. I should like to ask my noble friend, and indeed my noble kinsman when he sums up, in that case, when they have not paid the fines, presumably it is then up to the courts to impose a prison sentence.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

That is the practical issue at the moment so far as prostitution is concerned. Prostitutes cannot be sent to prison for the offence of prostitution; but they can of course find themselves in prison, as many do, as a result of their failure to pay the fine.

5.30 p.m.

Earl Ferrers

With regard to the point that was raised by my noble friend Lord Stanley of Alderley, he is quite right. Where a court issues a fine and where the fine is not paid, the court will have to take other steps to make sure that the sentence for any offence that has been committed is carried out properly.

I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh. He gave such an impeccable answer to the noble Lord, Lord Hylton—that does not often happen—that I wish the noble Lord would give such impeccable answers to some of the other questions that I am asked, whether by him or by others. It was a perfect answer.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

After the next general election I will.

Earl Ferrers

The noble Lord has a long time to wait for that. His answer was so impeccable that it contrasted amazingly with what he had said. The noble Lord said that the Government were proposing to put lots of extra people into prison who do not think that they are doing any harm. Well, I will not elaborate on the question of whether they think they are doing any harm. The New Age travellers who go along and sit on other people's land in great masses and do a lot of trespassing know perfectly well what they are doing. I simply advise the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, that he might like to have a look at the video of what was known as "the battle of the bean field", which as he may remember took place (I believe) in Wiltshire some 10 years ago. If the noble Lord saw what went on there he would know perfectly well that everyone knew that what they were doing was not right and was illegal.

I find it astonishing, if I may say so to the noble Lords, Lord Harris, Lord Avebury and Lord McIntosh of Haringey, that they say that measures like this should not be put into a Bill when the prisons are already bursting at the seams and people are in police cells. That argument does not hold any water whatsoever. What we are doing in legislation is saying, "These are offences which we believe will have to be punished in a certain way; it is up to the courts to decide what punishment to give, and these are the maxima". The penalties which are suggested here fit into a range of similar existing penalties.

The amendments seek to remove imprisonment as a sanction which the courts might impose on those convicted—let us be clear about this—of failing to obey a police direction to leave land where they are trespassing with intent to reside, attending or preparing for a rave or committing or intending to commit aggravated trespass or those convicted of attending a trespassory assembly.

The penalties are not new. They already exist in legislation. The penalties for the various offences of collective trespass and nuisance on land are in line with the existing legal framework which is contained in the Public Order Act 1986. The Act provides police powers to deal with trespass on land. It is correct that these penalties should be in the Bill. I hope the Committee will agree.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

Perhaps I may return to the point that the noble Earl made a few moments ago. The implication, in so far as I was able to understand it, was that if an offence is created it is always right that there should be a period of imprisonment available to the sentencing court. I hope that the noble Earl will remember that there was a great deal of disquiet about the activities of prostitutes in the streets in many residential areas of London. Disquiet was expressed, particularly in the House of Commons. Notwithstanding that, the present Government decided to make that no longer an imprisonable offence. That was what the noble Earl and his friends decided. So there were plenty of precedents for Parliament to take note of the consequences of making offences imprisonable.

The noble Earl constantly comes here and tells us how grief-stricken he is that there are hundreds of prisoners in police cells; and here he cheerfully asks the Committee to make this offence imprisonable, notwithstanding the fact that there is a provision in this section of the Bill for confiscation of vehicles, which in my view is a far more adequate penalty to direct at those who commit the offence.

Earl Ferrers

Unlike the noble Lord, I am not too familiar with the activities of prostitutes. I shall have to look at what he says. But the comparison between prostitutes and New Age travellers really does extend the imagination. I am not quite so sure as the noble Lord, Lord Avebury; there may be some connection, but I suggest that the argument that the noble Lord puts forward is very tenuous. The point here is that we suggest a level of fines, a level of penalties, for certain crimes. The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, knows perfectly well that if in the event people do not pay fines for the penalties that they incur, eventually there has to be another sanction. I do not believe for a moment that the courts will use the penalty of imprisonment very often, but that is no reason why it should not be there.

Lord Avebury

We are not here to please Mr. Howard, who wants to increase the number of offences which justify imprisonment and to lengthen the time for which people are locked up. We are trying to legislate for what is undoubtedly a serious social evil; namely, the presence of large numbers of New Age travellers on land where they are trespassing and their refusal to leave on the directions of a police officer.

I challenge the Minister to say why he thinks that the penalties, as set out in the Bill, of a fine and the confiscation of a vehicle—which, after all, must be very serious for a person who is living in that vehicle and who has nowhere else to go—will not be an adequate disincentive to such a person to leave the land on the direction of a police officer.

I also point out to the Committee that we are not just talking about New Age travellers. As we said in relation to an earlier amendment, if the number of vehicles is reduced to six, a large number of groups of gypsies will be included, whom everybody says they do not want to penalise. I pointed out earlier that under Clause 72 of this Bill it will be made impossible for a gypsy to camp anywhere lawfully. He will move from one place to another, and will undoubtedly, on occasions, settle on land where he is trespassing and will render himself liable to the penalties that are imposed under this section if he is in company with members of his family numbering more than two and occupying at least six vehicles. We are not attacking simply the evil of the New Age travellers; we are rendering everybody who adopts a nomadic way of life liable to the penalties of imprisonment as an ultimate sanction.

The noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, says that he does not think that those penalties will very often need to be used. I must say that I am bound to agree with him. If one looks at the Financial Memorandum on page xviii, one sees that there are no costs associated with the imprisonment of people under this part of the Bill. I ask the Minister to comment on that. If nobody is to be put in prison under this clause, why have it there in the first place? On the other hand, if people are to be put in prison, then as the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, is well aware, it costs about £3,000 a week to keep somebody in an average prison establishment in England and Wales. That figure, multiplied by the number of people who will be caught under this provision, ought to have been included in the Financial Memorandum. Let us find out why it has not been included.

Obviously at this stage I shall not convince the Committee of the undesirable nature of multiplying offences without necessity. But perhaps I may remind the Committee of what Occam said: Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem. I say that offences which render a person liable to imprisonment should not be multiplied without the most severe necessity, when we have clogged up our prisons to the extent that we have. We have a larger proportion of our population in prison than any other country in Europe.

That is what the Minister proposes. It is neither extraordinary, as his noble friend on the Back Benches said, nor astonishing that some people should seek to remedy that situation by preventing the Government from embarking on a policy of multiplying offences which result in imprisonment. We make no apology for that.

I can see that this is not the moment to press the amendment to a Division. However, I shall return to it at a later stage, when I hope that the Minister will take a more reasonable view.

Earl Ferrers

Before the noble Lord withdraws his amendment, although we do not want to spend too much time on it or we shall be here until tomorrow morning, I ought to point out to him that the penalty which is appropriate for any offence is a matter for the judgment of the court. In these cases we are talking about activities which include threatening behaviour and intimidation. In my view it is appropriate that imprisonment is a facility available to the courts.

Baroness Faithfull

Before the noble Lord sits down, may I ask him what would be the alternative to imprisonment?

Lord Avebury

The alternative is set out in the Bill. There are fines at level 3 or ultimately there is the confiscation of the vehicle. As I pointed out, if a person lives in a vehicle and that is the only accommodation that he has, confiscation becomes a very severe penalty indeed. It is one which I should have thought quite sufficient without adding a period of three months in prison to it. As I said, I am not sure that we shall convince the noble Earl on the Front Bench this afternoon. We shall just have to come back to the matter at Report stage, when I hope that the Committee will have had an opportunity to reflect on not just this clause but the imprisonment provisions all the way through Part V of the Bill and the effect that they will have on the prison population.

I hope that at some point the Minister will give me an answer to my question about the Financial Memorandum and why there was nothing on page xviii which deals with Clause 56 and subsequent clauses to show what the cost will be of putting people into prison under this clause. I hope that I shall have that information before we reach Report stage. We shall then be able to discuss the matter in the light of the cost as well as the social penalties that will be inflicted, I suppose, on a large number of people by shutting them up in prison for what is at present a civil offence.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

Before the noble Lord sits down, does he appreciate that simply to say that confiscation of the vehicle is the right penalty misses the whole point? Whereas confiscation of the vehicle may well be a penalty to the owner of the vehicle, it is not a penalty to any of the other occupants. That is why it is fallacious to say that confiscation rather than imprisonment should in all cases be the appropriate penalty for the severe offence.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

It is a penalty if the people have nowhere to live.

Lord Avebury

As the noble Lord asked the question, I must tell him that I disagree with him. The other occupants of the vehicle in 99 out of 100 cases are the family of the owner of the vehicle. If they are not the family, they may be people living in other kinds of ménage. They may be the partners of the person who lives in the vehicle. Obviously they are very closely associated with the owner. If the vehicle is confiscated, they too will lose their only means of accommodation. That is a very severe penalty and one which renders homeless all the occupants of the vehicle, not just the owner of the vehicle.

Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge

I must point out that they can get their vehicle back immediately by going away.

Lord Avebury

As I said, in view of the fact that the Minister does not wish to give me an answer on the cost and is intransigent on the main point that I am trying to get across, I shall return to the matter at a later stage. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 58BB not moved.]

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Serota)

I must tell the Committee that if Amendment No. 58C is agreed to, I cannot call Amendment No. 59.

5.45 p.m.

Lord Stanley of Alderley moved Amendment No. 58C:

Page 42, leave out lines 4 to 14.

The noble Lord said: Section 39 of the Public Order Act 1986 specifically excludes all highways and land on which police can operate their powers. Clause 56 now contains an improvement in the position, in that footpaths and driveways are brought into the scope of the law. However, the Government have continued to resist the notion that powers be made available on all highways, apparently on the grounds that it is off private land and onto highways that trespassers would normally be moved, and also on the grounds of their powers under the Highways Act to remove persons obstructing highways.

I do not agree. Experience in recent years has shown that there have been several cases where travellers have parked on highway verges, causing great difficulties for adjoining occupiers but not in fact obstructing the free flow of traffic on the highway. Therefore, highway authorities as such decline to take any interest in the problem. As many Members of the Committee will know, there are instances of what I call oxbows of highway land where the main road has been improved and a large lay-by created on the old route. There is an instance on the A.249 on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent where there is an area of highway land near the bridge which is used by travellers and is a known trouble spat for the authorities.

I must remind the Committee that Clause 56 can only operate when the police, in their discretion, choose to use their powers. As I said, all the evidence is that they exercise great caution when contemplating doing so. Yet they are frustrated when circumstances demand their use. They cannot act because trespassers happen to be parked up on a highway land.

Under Clause 72, to which we shall come later, local authorities are given new powers to direct unauthorised campers to leave the land, whether it be unoccupied land, occupied land without the consent of the occupier or any land forming part of a highway. A highway is not defined in Clause 72. Local authorities can therefore move on campers.

Once again, I must tell my noble friend that that seems quite inconsistent with the restriction on the police use of powers in Clause 56. I believe that Clause 56 should be widened to bring it into line with Clause 72 and give the police the operational flexibility, if they so wish, to move on people in major trespass situations. I beg to move.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

When I saw my Amendment No. 59 grouped with the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley, for one moment I thought that we were in agreement. Much as I love the noble Lord, that would not be appropriate. In fact my amendment is the exact opposite of his amendment. His amendment seeks to bring all highways within the scope of the new criminal trespass provisions. My amendment seeks to exclude not only formal highways but also footpaths, bridleways, byways open to traffic or cycle tracks. Nobody wants to see cycle tracks or bridle paths blocked by travellers of any description, but surely it is an extension of the concept of trespass to make it cover highways and "green highways", as may be the best way to describe them.

The point of which the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, rightly continues to remind us is that in many cases travellers, including gypsy travellers, will, if Clauses 72 to 75 are agreed to, have nowhere to move to. What happens in practice is that where local authorities have not provided sites under the Caravan Sites Act, the gypsies park along the sides of the road. The noble Lord cites one example of where a nuisance is caused. But I suggest that the kind of oxbow which he describes, or the kinds of lay-by or certain parts of highway land, are the only available places for travellers, including gypsies, to go. To seek to take those out and make them subject to the provisions of criminal trespass under Clause 56 would seem to me harsh indeed.

Earl Ferrers

Clause 56 gives the police powers over lanes, bridleways and by-ways open to all traffic. My noble friend Lord Stanley wants them extended to major highways. The police already possess adequate powers in that regard. It would not be right to extend them to highways. Not only is the type of nuisance created by people camping en masse on a highway very different from that which afflicts an occupier, but the police already have perfectly adequate powers under highway law to clear any obstruction. The amendment would bring unwelcome duplication and confusion to the law and I hope that my noble friend will be satisfied with the knowledge that the police already possess adequate powers to deal with highways.

Amendment No. 59 seeks to achieve precisely the opposite result, by disapplying the provisions of Clause 56 to any land which forms part of a highway. That would return us to the position under Section 39 of the Public Order Act 1986 where no highways—whether roads, boats or green lanes—are covered. That is one of the areas which gave rise to so many problems in the past.

Clause 56 is intended to improve Section 39. The police and others represented to us strongly that the inability to use Section 39, where vehicles may be on footpaths or bridleways, has been a considerable hinderance to the protection of rightful occupiers. Footpaths, bridleways, green lanes and so forth are meant for the purpose of passing and re-passing. It is unacceptable that they should be camped upon with scant regard for the rights of others. Clause 56 seeks to put the matter right. I hope that my noble friend Lord Stanley will realise, when he tries to transpose the position on to major highways, that the police already hold adequate powers in that regard.

Lord Burton

There are three areas near me where the loops referred to by my noble friend occur, where the road has been straightened. They are used by New Age travellers and cause considerable problems. The police say that they are unable to move them on because the loops form part of a public highway. It may be that the situation is worse in Scotland because, under the Roads (Scotland) Act 1984, any road, including private roads, comes under that Act. I ask my noble friend to look at that point, which is even more severe than the point in relation to loops in public roads.

Earl Ferrers

I know that Scotland has all kinds of idiosyncrasies peculiar to itself which are not reflected always in England. But I shall certainly look at the point raised by my noble friend.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

I cannot agree with my noble friend. Indeed, about 10 years ago I did not agree with my noble friend Lord Glenarthur on Section 39 on this matter of the highways—it may have been my noble friend Lord Caithness, I cannot remember. I shall try to explain to my noble friend why he is wrong.

Section 137 of the Highways Act makes it an offence when a person, wilfully obstructs the free passage along a highway". That person may not be so doing; he may just be on the side of the highway, in which case the provision does not cover the situation. Section 143 of the same Act allows an authority by written notice to require the person having control or possession of the structure to remove it", from the highway within one month. The time period cannot be reduced.

We have been over this matter before and the Highways Act does not work. Moreover, the point is reinforced by the Powys County Council report. The council studied the problem, as the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, may know, after the trouble that they experienced. It recommended that Section 143 of the Highways Act be amended to allow highway authorities to serve notice to remove vehicles and structures set up upon the highway within 24 hours. It comes to a question of time, as my noble friend Lord Renton mentioned. In one month an enormous amount of harm can be done and the problem can increase tremendously. I do not know whether my noble friend wishes to comment on that, but if he does not, then I must come back to the matter on Report.

Earl Ferrers

My only comment is this. My noble friend makes out a perfectly good case and I shall certainly look at it between now and Report stage. I cannot tell him what the answer will be but I shall certainly look at what he said.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

I am grateful to my noble friend. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 59 not moved.]

Lord Macaulay of Bragar moved Amendment No. 59ZA:

Page 42, line 43, after ("vehicle") insert ("but shall exclude the personal belongings of the vehicle's owner or his family").

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 59 refers to the definition of "vehicle" in Clause 56. It is designed to ensure that the personal belongings of anyone to whom a vehicle belongs are excluded from the definition or are not covered by the word "load" in the definition. The definition of "vehicle" reads, any vehicle, whether or not it is in a fit state for use on roads, and includes any chassis or body, with or without wheels, appearing to have formed part of such a vehicle, and any load carried by, and anything attached to, such a vehicle".

The amendment seeks to ensure that the power to remove the vehicle does not mean that the personal belongings of the persons to whom the vehicle belongs will also be removed; for example, clothing and tools of trade. The amendment is in keeping with other forms of diligence where people are left with a means of livelihood when other materials are taken from them. I beg to move.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

I believe I am right in saying that Amendment Nos. 59A and 59B are grouped with Amendment No. 59. Clause 56 provides the police with powers to direct trespassers to leave the land and to remove vehicles and other property that they have with them off the land. Clause 57 provides back-up powers to the police to seize and remove the vehicle that has not been removed. However, the clause does not extend to other property which might include, for example, dogs. There have been numerous incidents—I need hardly remind the Committee—of farmers' sheep being worried by such dogs. The police should be able to deal with property other than vehicles which have not been removed, but which are causing obstruction and nuisance or are a threat to persons or indeed animals.

Earl Ferrers

Amendment No. 59ZA seeks to amend the definition of "vehicle" so as to exclude the personal property of the vehicle's owner or his family. In so doing, where a constable exercised his power to seize a vehicle left behind by a person who had been directed to leave land under Clause 56, he could remove the vehicle but not its contents.

That is not a practical solution. We are providing the police with powers to enable them to deal promptly and effectively with those who fail to obey a direction to leave land. In practice, when most people are directed to leave land, they will comply with the direction and take their property with them, as in most cases their vehicle is their home. That is the experience under the existing legislation, which is contained in Section 39 of the Public Order Act 1986. But if someone ignores such a direction, the supplementary police powers, which are provided under Clause 57, will enable vehicles to be removed and so to end the nuisance. If the vehicle has been left behind, under this amendment the constable would have to go into the vehicle, dig out its contents and leave them on the land. I cannot believe that is what the noble Lord, Lord Macaulay, had in mind. We believe that if people are prepared to leave their property, it is right that it is removed to deal with the nuisance.

Amendments Nos. 59A and 59B in the name of my noble friend Lord Stanley address a somewhat different point. We brought in Clause 57 for use in the last resort where people disobey a police direction to leave land and to take their vehicles with them. The vehicles are the key in this situation: if the vehicles go, the trespass effectively ends. I understand why my noble friend wishes to extend this police power to "other property", but I fear that it would not work. The police would not welcome a power to remove worn out old tyres or bits of clapped out car engines. Nor would they have the ability or need to take care of goats or chickens. The Government believe that the deterrent of having their vehicles removed will be sufficient to deter all but the most hardened trespassers to leave. We therefore think that Clause 57, as drafted, is as far as we need to go.

6 p.m.

Lord Macaulay of Bragar

There is a humane object behind the amendment which is that people should not be left bereft and without the necessities of life. I note with interest the noble Earl's reply. In the circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 56 agreed to.

Clause 57 [Supplementary powers of seizure]:

[Amendment No.59ZB not moved.]

Lord Stanley of Alderley had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 59A:

Page 43, line 4, after ("vehicle") insert ("or other property").

The noble Lord said: I have already spoken to this amendment and my noble friend has replied. I shall have to think about what he said. I am a little concerned that there may be a need to remove the dogs or whatever without removing the vehicles. I shall have to look at the Bill very carefully. My noble friend may well be right.

[Amendment No. 59A not moved.]

[Amendments Nos. 59AA, 59B and 59BA not moved.]

Clause 57 agreed to.

Clause 58 [Powers to remove persons attending or preparing for a rave]:

Lord Stanley of Alderley moved Amendment No 59C:

Page 43, line 16, leave out ("during the night").

The noble Lord said: We move to raves. Clauses 58 to 61 provide a new range of powers to control raves which have not been properly licensed by the local authority. While Clause 58 introduces the welcome concept of causing serious distress to the inhabitants of the locality, unfortunately the police power to direct persons to leave the land to prevent the disturbance caused by the playing of amplified musk: relates only to music played during the night. The difference between day and night was raised earlier by a noble Lord and my noble friend gave a reply on which I was not too keen

Obviously, loud music is more likely to cause serious distress when played at night; but surely it could do so during the daylight hours, too, if it is very loud and if its source is close to local residents, a village or a collection of farm buildings. Moreover, there is no definition of "night". I look to noble Lords who live north of the Border where, according to my memory, it hardly gets dark at all at this time of the year. The duration varies according to the latitude and indeed the season. Although under Section 34 of the Game Act 1831 there is a statutory precedent for night—as my noble friend on the Front Bench said, one hour after sunset to one hour before sunrise—I feel that does not apply to raves. If I lived in Scotland, I do not think I would welcome being kept awake until two o'clock in the morning and woken up at three. I beg to move.

Earl Ferrers

I do not mind saying that I have a great deal of sympathy for my noble friend's amendments and for what prompted him to put them down. My difficulty is that I fear that they would be difficult to work in practice. We thought very hard indeed and carefully when drafting these clauses. The intention is to stop innocent local communities being kept awake at night. That is where the most insidious damage occurs. I accept that my noble friend does not like raves during the day—and I dare say a number of your Lordships feel that, too—but it is the constant noise at night which destroys the lives of everyone and prevents people from sleeping.

We all know what we want to stop but it is very difficult sometimes to put these things into draftsman's language which will make for easy interpretation later on. If my noble friend's amendment were carried, a whole host of events would be liable to be prohibited —barbecues with recorded music; a pub that had music being played during the day; Christmas carol collections outside a supermarket; the Notting Hill carnival; and even a Pavarotti concert. Each of those things, other than possibly a Pavarotti concert, might cause serious distress to the more genteel appreciation of music which sometimes your Lordships have and indeed many other people have too. They would be caught by virtue of the amplified music which is played even if they take place on private land, and even if they have the consent of the occupier. That kind of permission would not protect them from Clause 38.

It is quite obvious that one cannot catch events like that. While it may be deeply unpleasant and deeply distressing to have a noisy party in a neighbour's garden, tolerance levels during the day, when most people are not trying to sleep, tend to be higher than at night. We think it is the night time noise that has to be addressed. We are giving the police wide-ranging powers and it is right that they should be provided. However, it is important too that they should not extend further than is necessary. While I have a great deal of sympathy for his personal involvement and distress, I think that to put that into law would be quite difficult.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

Does my noble friend the Minister recognise that serious injury could be inflicted on people if loud music or other loud noises are made during the day? The essence of so many of the places where the New Age travellers go is quiet and peace. Indeed, in many of them there are a number of elderly people, perhaps invalids, who require quiet and peace if they are to be allowed to convalesce. It is a pity that we should do nothing to restrain excessive noise unless it is made during the night. I hope my noble friend will be able to think a little further about this. He will well understand what an appalling menace it could be to have loud, blaring noises—so-called music; whether it is music is perhaps a matter of opinion—for hour after hour during the day. The effect of that, particularly on elderly invalids, could be very serious indeed. With great respect, my noble friend ought to think a little further about this.

Earl Ferrers

I say to my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter that I am happy to think about this matter if he will also be good enough to do so. He might like to draft a clause which would catch a rave party but would not also catch a Pavarotti concert, a barbecue or people having a dance in the early hours of the evening. It is very difficult. I entirely agree with my noble friend that some loud music is deeply offensive, but when we start to tell people that they must not play such music under any circumstances and even during the day, that is quite an intrusion into their life. The real danger comes at night-time and that is the reason why we have limited the provision to night-time. I have personal sympathy with what my noble friend said.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I hope that the noble Earl is not accusing Pavarotti of emitting, sounds wholly or predominantly characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats".

Lord Harris of Greenwich

I hope that we shall also do our best to avoid sending Pavarotti to prison for three months.

Lord Avebury

Before we leave this matter perhaps I may say something in support of my noble kinsman. It may be to his astonishment, but I point out to the Minister that during the month of June it does not get dark until about 10.30 p.m. or even later in northern parts of the country. It is light at 4 o'clock in the morning. People have parties that go on during these hours. Not so long ago we had in our neighbourhood a party that went on all night and it was still going on at 6.30 the next morning. I believe that it was held in a house, so it probably would not have been covered by the clause. But let us suppose that it had been held in the open air and that someone had called it to the attention of the police. The police would have been unable to do anything about it because by that time it would have been broad daylight.

The phrase "during the night" needs a little careful thought. We should not allow people to flout this particular provision during the hours of daylight in the summer when many people are still trying to sleep. Perhaps I may also point out that children in civilised households go to bed between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. and that it is still broad daylight in June at that time of the evening. If you want people to have loud parties at a time when the children are being put to bed or when people are still trying to sleep in the morning, then you should leave the clause as it is. If you want people to have a reasonable night's sleep then you might consider altering it.

Earl Ferrers

I say to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, that I understand the problem he had with his neighbour's party which went on until 6.30 in the morning. It must have been a jolly good party and no doubt the noble Lord regretted not being invited to it. In such cases the police would not get involved, but the environmental health officer would do so because there are enhanced and speedy local authority powers which deal with noisy neighbours and noise as a problem. That comes under the jurisdiction of the environmental health officers and the local authorities. Here we are dealing with raves which are a particular and peculiar manifestation.

6.15 p.m.

Lord Monson

I venture to suggest that the noble Earl has not listened attentively to what the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, said. Some children may have to get up early to go to school the next morning and for them to be kept up to 11 p.m. in Scotland or in the north of England, because night has not occurred by then, is no laughing matter. Although I believe that the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Stanley, goes a little too far, might it not be possible by the next stage to provide that for the purposes of this section "night" shall be deemed to start at not later than 10 p.m?

Earl Ferrers

That is certainly an interesting observation. I realise that if you live in the north of Scotland you would get no sleep there if there was such a rave party going on—you would not have very much sleep because, according to the noble Lord, Lord Monson, the party would be going on during the day! I fancy that not many people would want to have rave parties in the north of Scotland.

Noble Lords


Earl Ferrers

Perhaps they do. That shows that many things happen in Scotland which one does not know about. I shall consider the matter because there is a difficulty about the definition of "night". I am not sure whether, off-the-cuff or off-hand, that will satisfy. I shall certainly look at it.

Lord Mishcon

Before we leave this matter and in considering these great nuisances which do exist, I wonder whether the noble Earl will also look at the definition of "music". He mentioned the revered name of Pavarotti. I am not going to add any jokes in regard to that matter. Does the noble Earl realise that amplified singing by about 100 people would not amount to music if no musical instrument was used or no repetitive beat occurred? Is the noble Earl aware of that? Is he equally aware what a nuisance over 100 people singing, many of them out of key, no doubt, can be to music lovers?

Baroness Carnegie of Lour

Before my noble friend replies, perhaps I may give him an example which illustrates the problem as regards an incident near where I live in Scotland which occurred during the last weekend. On Dunnichen Hill close to the site of the battle of Nechtansmere, which happened a very long time ago in the early stages of Scottish history, 700 New Age travellers (so-called Picts) encamped themselves as they have done in previous years. The drum beats from the music were amplified and could be heard all night. At present night ends at about half-past five in the morning where I live. At the same time, and only about four miles away, there is a permanent camp owned by the Girl Guides. No doubt they were having a camp fire, possibly after it got dark. So whatever my noble friend is able to do to the law to limit the one, one would have to be very careful not to limit the other because doubtless the Girl Guides were singing quite loudly too.

Lord Macaulay of Bragar

Is not the noble Baroness aware that that matter could have been dealt with very simply by applying the law of a breach of the peace in Scotland without any convoluted legislation?

Earl Ferrers

My noble friend makes a valid point which shows how difficult it is when you want to try to catch one particular problem without catching something else which you did not intend to catch. It would be a tragedy, for instance, if a Welsh male voice choir of 100 people were to be caught by this provision, which would no doubt greatly disturb the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, even if it caught another 100 people who were singing out of tune without any repetitive beat. These are not easy matters to define. It would be wrong for us to consider that we have got them wholly right. So far we believe that we have got them in as good a position as one is likely to get them. I shall certainly consider what has been said.

Lord Hooson

Does the noble Earl appreciate that no Welsh male voice choir worthy of the name needs to be amplified?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

Cannot the Minister come clean and admit that Clause 58(1) (b) which refers to, sounds wholly or predominantly characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats is in fact drafted to cover the music of Philip Glass?

Earl Ferrers

No, I would not give such an undertaking.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

I thank all Members of the Committee for their support and that includes my noble friend on the Front Bench. I am not at all happy that the environmental health officer could deal with this problem. I am taken with the suggestion made by the noble Lord, Lord Monson, that perhaps we could try to redraft this matter. I am sure that my noble friend would be pleased to put in a time. At my home at the moment it does not get dark before about 10 o'clock at night and it is light again well before half-past three, so it is quite a short night. In Scotland it would be even shorter.

I was pleased to have support from my noble kinsman. For a change perhaps he might even be a noble friend today. I was also very pleased to get support from the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter. He quoted a case which was almost similar to the one which occurred in Bala a few years ago when old people in the village were shaken to the core by the noise that went on. It is not acceptable. I shall leave the matter like this: my noble friend gave the Committee quite a lot of comfort to the extent that he understood the situation. I believe that the whole House understands the problem here. It is a question of drafting. I shall try to get those who draft for me to try to do better and to come back on this matter at report stage. Meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw this amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 59D to 61 not moved.]

Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 62:

Page 43, line 35, after first ("to") insert ("prepare or wait for or to").

The noble Earl said: This is a technical amendment to ensure that the direction to leave the site of a rave; applies to all those who might subsequently wish to come to such an event whether they come while it is in progress, whether they are preparing for it or whether they are waiting for it. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Macaulay of Bragar moved Amendment No. 62A:

Page 43, line 35, after ("and") insert ("to").

The noble Lord said: This is a minor amendment which I hope will meet with the Government's acceptance. It seeks to clarify the direction given by the officer in terms of Clause 58(2), which states that the officer, may give a direction that those persons and any other persons who come to attend the gathering are to leave the land and remove any vehicles or other property which they have with them on the land".

That is capable of two readings: that the person who is ordered to leave the land removes the vehicles or it may by implication give the officer a power to remove the vehicles. The word that I seek to insert by this amendment has been included at line 41 of Clause 56(1). It looks as if there may have been an omission on the part of the draftsman or the printer. I beg to move.

Earl Ferrers

As befits a lawyer, the noble Lord, Lord Macaulay, has looked at this matter with great care —as I have because I thought that the noble Lord may have a point. The power in this clause is to direct that vehicles should be removed. The noble Lord's fear is that, as the clause stands, it does not give the police officer a power to remove. I think that such a reading is pretty far-fetched given that the powers of seizure are specifically dealt with in Clause 59. I have taken advice as to whether the amendment would be a suitable addition. I am told that it is not necessary and that the interpretation of the provisions is fairly obvious. I commend that thought to the noble Lord.

Lord Macaulay of Bragar

I thank the noble Earl for that answer. However, it is far-fetched propositions that make money for lawyers and keep the courts occupied. I wonder whether the Minister will take another look at the amendment, but, in the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 63 not moved.]

Lord Avebury moved Amendment No. 63A:

Page 44, line 4, leave out ("imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months or").

The noble Lord said: I can dispose of this amendment fairly briefly because the arguments on it are precisely the same as those which applied on the previous clause in which imprisonment was introduced for something that was previously a civil offence. I repeat that throughout this part of the Bill we are threatening to lock up people for something which has not previously been an imprisonable offence, and we are extending the range of criminal offences which can result in persons spending three months (or in one case six months) in prison without sufficient justification.

We have not only the imposition of fines, but also in Clause 59 the confiscation of not only vehicles but sound equipment. I warmly welcome those provisions because I can think of nothing which would hit the organisers of the raves harder than to have their expensive sound equipment confiscated. Therefore, I do not object to that provision in the slightest and nor do I object to the imposition of heavy fines on persons who are no doubt making a lot of money (as they do) from organising such events.

However, I do think that it is objectionable in principle to threaten to send such people to prison if they fail to comply with the directions of a police officer to leave the land. I repeat that the Minister has not answered the questions that I asked him. What is going to be the cost to the public purse of imprisoning large numbers (or even small numbers) of persons who fail to comply with the directions of a police officer? As I have pointed out, there is nothing in the Financial Memorandum on page xviii to indicate that the Government have even contemplated the thought that a cost would arise from that clause.

Let us not increase the number of offences which render people liable to imprisonment. Let us not clog up our prison system totally unnecessarily. Let us leave the penalties to be dealt with by means of fines and the confiscation of equipment. I beg to move.

Earl Ferrers

If I may put it in the most gentle of ways, I really think that the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, went a bit over the top when he spoke about clogging up the prisons. This is the same argument as we had previously on Amendment No. 58BA, and I can only tell the noble Lord what I told him then. These penalties form a range of penalties which equate with other penalties of a similar nature in the statute. The noble Lord says that I will not tell him what it will cost the Government to lock up all those people in prison, but the answer is that I do not have the slightest idea and nor does anyone else for the simple reason that we do not know how many people the courts will decide should go to prison. My guess is that there will be very few indeed, but that is a matter for the courts.

The point is, as the noble Lord knows perfectly well, that whenever you have an offence, you have to have a penalty and there is sometimes a variety of penalties, and one is sometimes imprisonment. However, that does not mean that anyone who has contravened the Act will therefore go to prison. The noble Lord seems to think that the Government are getting too enthusiastic about locking up people, but the Government do not lock them up; it is the courts that would subject people to imprisonment if they thought it necessary—and that would only be in the worst of cases.

Lord Avebury

The Government cannot slide out of their responsibilities by saying that it is the courts which lock up people. It is the Government—or rather Parliament—who lay down what the penalties are. That is why we are here. If we were not going to object to anything that the Government wanted to do, we might as well all go home and have a nice evening in front of the fire. We are here to look at the penalties which the Government propose to impose—or rather, to allow the courts to impose, if the Minister wants to make that fine distinction.

I cannot accept the noble Earl's argument that because the Government do not know how many people will be locked up under that provision, they cannot estimate the cost in the Financial Memorandum. There are many other examples in Financial Memoranda of where the Government have had only the slightest and haziest idea of what the costs would be, yet they still managed to make some estimate, even if only a range. The Minister has given a completely spurious reason for not including an amount in the Financial Memorandum. I can only conclude that the Government completely forgot that they had to calculate and include some amount and that, therefore, in default of their duty to give Parliament the necessary information that it has to have before it can reach a decision, the Minister made that spurious argument.

Before we reach Report stage, I hope that the Minister will come up with some estimate so that the House will then be able to consider the full implications of the proposal. In the meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 63B not moved.]

The Deputy Chairman of Committees

I must advise the Committee that Amendment No. 63C is to page 44, line 22, and not as it appears on the Marshalled List.

Lord Macaulay of Bragar moved Amendment No. 63C:

Page 44, line 22, at end insert ("or in Scotland a licence granted in terms of Schedule 1 of the Licensing (Scotland) Act 1776").

The noble Lord said: Amendments Nos. 63C, 70B and 178A run together. The first two would be consequential upon acceptance of the third—that is, Amendment No. 178A—which is a probing amendment to inquire whether the Government have any view of whether the provisions relating to so-called "raves" should be extended to Scotland. As the Bill stands at the moment, the provisions do not apply to Scotland. There is a danger—probably a real danger—that if the law is rigorously applied in England and Wales through this legislation, there will be some cross-border transference of activity in terms of raves into Scotland and, apart from the provisions that I mentioned earlier relating to breaches of the peace, very little could be done to stop that happening.

I am puzzled, as may be other Members of the Committee, as to where the word "rave" comes from. It does not appear in the Bill's Long Title. It appears in the heading and the side note to Clause 58, but is nowhere defined. Would the Minister care to embark upon the definition of a rave? I can think of a number of ways it could be applied, apart from loud music and so on. The Committee will be aware that one of the problems is that a rave is an extension of disco dancing, lights and all the rest of it, but within the context and under the cover of a rave the drugs people move in and use the musical attraction as a vehicle for getting rid of drugs and, in particular, for supplying drugs to young people.

Unfortunately, two teenagers have died within the past two months from being supplied with drugs at a rave on the west coast of Scotland. That in itself was sufficient to sound alarm bells that there is an activity in Scotland which may require to be covered by legislation. The amendment is a probing one to allow the Minister to indicate whether any representations have been received from the police, social workers, local authorities or any other group in Scotland suggesting that there should be legislation to cover Scotland. I await the Minister's answer with interest. I beg to move.

6.30 p.m.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

The word "rave" does not appear other than in a side note, but if the noble Lord looks at Clause 58(1) (b) he will see that music is defined as: sounds wholly or predominantly characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats".

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

If the noble and learned Lord will forgive me, it is not defined as that; it is defined as including that.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

It is time for Beethoven to roll over if that is to be the definition of "music". I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving me the opportunity to respond to the amendment. If carried, the amendment will extend to Scotland and Northern Ireland powers in relation to raves and power to retain and charge for seized vehicles and property under Clause 59.

Our original view was that the extension of those powers to Scotland was unnecessary. Contrary to some criticism to which we have been subjected in Scotland, we had not intended that the whole of Part: V should be adopted for Scotland merely because it was perceived that there were provisions which might be useful in England and Wales unless we could ascertain that they would serve some comparably useful purpose in Scotland. For that reason, having looked at the existing powers, we concluded that they were adequate to deal with the current and estimated future scale of any problems likely to be encountered in controlling unlicensed raves.

The majority of raves in Scotland are relatively orderly events held in licensed premises. The noble: Lord referred to an unfortunate recent event where two young people in Scotland appeared to have been supplied with one or more drugs and died as a consequence. That rave took place in premises subjected to licence conditions. It was not part of the uncontrolled unlicensed activity which has been a feature of the scene: this side of the Border. Our experience is that organisers of raves in Scotland have invariably co-operated fully with the police in ensuring that the arrangements for them are satisfactory and that necessary security precautions are in place. The type of disruptive, illegal rave witnessed in parts of England which can cause considerable distress to local residents has, fortunately, not been replicated in Scotland.

Any problems or complaints resulting from open-air gatherings at which loud music is played made by local residents in Scotland are usually resolved quickly through co-operation on the site between the police and those responsible for holding the event. In extreme cases, the police have powers to seize music-making equipment where an offence has been committed under Section 54 of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982, but such action has seldom been found to be necessary. The power of seizure is in itself most probably an effective deterrent to persons who might be inclined to hold illegal raves in Scotland and thus lose valuable equipment. Similarly, the existing law in Northern Ireland seems to be adequate to deal with any problems there which might be encountered with illegal raves.

However, having listened to what the noble Lord said, I would invite him not to press his amendment on the undertaking that we will reconsider the position in Scotland. I am sure that he will appreciate that that is not a promise to introduce our own amendments, but we shall take the opportunity of the gap between Committee and Report to check again with the police and others and to secure an up-to-date assessment of the risks of a growth in illegal raves of the kind that have been experienced in England. If the assessment is that there is a substantial risk, we would clearly wish to avoid it. If our existing powers are not sufficient, we know from the amendments that the noble Lord has tabled that there are provisions for Scotland that we could adopt satisfactorily.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

Before my noble and learned friend sits down, when considering the matter will he bear in mind the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Macaulay, that the pressure to have illegal raves in Scotland might increase if and when the English legislation becomes law?

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

That is a valid point. That is why I said that I should like to secure an up-to-date assessment of the possible risk of illegal raves in Scotland. Part of that assessment may be that they might be driven out of production, as it were, in England and Wales.

Lord Macaulay of Bragar

I am grateful to the Minister for the caring and thoughtful reply which he has given to this serious problem. That the two boys died in licensed premises may underline the fact that the sooner we can control raves outwith licensed premises the better it will be. I am obliged to the Minister for undertaking the review that he has promised. I look forward with interest to hearing his conclusions in due course, whether or not they are reflected in an amendment. Perhaps he will be good enough to write to me on the matter if he does not propose to put down an amendment. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 64:

Page 44, line 31, after ("(b)") insert ("in England").

The noble Earl said: I shall speak also, if I may, to Amendments Nos. 65, 66 and 85. These are technical amendments designed to ensure that the provisions of the Bill will apply properly in Wales after the reorganisation of local government there on 1st April 1996, as a consequence of the Local Government (Wales) Bill. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Earl Ferrers moved Amendments Nos. 65 and 66:

Page 44, line 32, after ("Scilly;") insert:

("(c) in Wales, a county council or county borough council;").

Page 44, line 33, at end insert:

("(11) Until 1st April 1996, in this section "local authority" means, in Wales, a district council".").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 58, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 59 agreed to.

Clause 60 [Raves: power to stop persons from proceeding]:

Lord Stanley of Alderley moved Amendment No. 66A:

Page 45, line 22, after ("force") insert ("or to land to which a direction under section 56(1) is in force,").

The noble Lord said: With the Committee's permission, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 66B and 68A. The amendments extend the five-mile exclusion zone concept applied by Clause 60 to raves under Clause 58 to trespass incidents under Clause 56. In cases of mass trespass—Castlemorton Common in 1992 was an example—the police can be faced with serious difficulties in containing and controlling large numbers of people and vehicles. It is clearly desirable that there be a means for the police to prevent what may already be a serious incident from becoming worse with the arrival of fresh groups of people. There is therefore just as much a case for an exclusion zone under Clause 56 trespass situations as under Clause 58 raves. I believe that Amendment No. 68 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, does not express similar sentiments. I beg to move.

Baroness Mallalieu

Amendment No. 68, tabled by my noble friend Lord McIntosh, merely reflects the anxiety felt by many of us that five miles by way of an exclusion zone is somewhat excessive. The amendment proposes to introduce instead 500 metres. I hope that the noble Earl will consider that five miles is excessive and involves a considerably unnecessary exclusion.

Lord Monson

I have considerable sympathy with what was said by the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, but perhaps 500 metres is too small a radius. It is draconian for the police in peacetime to be able to stop people who are not committing a crime from going from A to B. It began only at the time of the miners' strike some 10 years ago and was scarcely known in this country prior to that. It may be necessary in current circumstances; indeed, I am prepared to be convinced that it is. However, the power should be used sparingly and I agree that five miles is excessive.

Earl Ferrers

Amendments Nos. 66A, 66B and 68A seek to extend the police powers to stop persons proceeding in the direction of a rave to occasions where there have been a direction to leave land under the provisions of Clause 56, which deals with trespass with intent to reside. I have some sympathy with my noble friend's intentions but I do not think that his amendments would be enforceable.

The provisions of this Bill give extensive—some might say even draconian—powers to the police to prevent raves. These are unusual in that they impose significant restrictions upon people's rights to travel and to assemble. But, such is the nuisance to whole communities of these large-scale events that we consider that the powers are justified.

Encampments of New Age travellers and the like are also a dreadful nuisance. That is why the Government have brought forward the enhanced powers which are in Clause 56. But I am not convinced that it would be right to go as far as my noble friend would wish and to give these powers over small groups of others. For all the misery which is caused by groups of New Age travellers and so forth, a simple encampment cannot be said to create the wide-scale problems of raves. As regards raves, we are dealing with a major public nuisance rather than a private wrong and it is easier to see that wider-ranging powers are required.

In the case of raves there is hard evidence on which the police can act; published leaflets give details of potential rave sites, for example. Where large numbers of New Age travellers are heading purposefully for a large gathering, our new provisions in Clause 65 against trespassing assemblies can be invoked. In the case of small groups of New Age travellers making haphazardly from place to place, there simply is not this evidence available and the police would be hard pressed to justify a belief that people were travelling to a particular piece of land. This would open the way for all kinds of legal arguments.

Amendment No. 68 seeks to draw the teeth of Clause 60, which enables a police officer to stop people proceeding in the direction of a rave site within five miles of that site. If this amendment were carried that distance of five miles would be reduced to 500 metres. That is hardly any distance, in particular in view of the number who are congregating. When the police are trying to stop a rave happening it is essential that they have the ability to turn people away before they gather in numbers sufficient to make a dispersal operation impractical. If the police could act only within 500 metres of the site this essential preventive power would effectively be removed. Five miles is, I believe, a reasonable distance given that these powers are envisaged for use in rural areas (and given the safeguards which will apply) and I hope that Members of the Committee will agree that the Bill is best left as it is.

6.45 p.m.

Lord Avebury

Will the Minister tell the Committee what powers the police already enjoy which they use at some large gatherings? For instance, when hippies congregate at Stonehenge, the police turn back persons whom they believe to be intending to join the gathering. Therefore, there must already be powers on the statute book. We should be told why those powers are inadequate and why the new powers given to the police to stop persons intending to join a rave within a radius of five miles are considered to be necessary.

If the types of gathering to which those persons intend going are different from those contained in the Bill, might it not be best to ensure that the two sets of powers are in harmony? Alternatively, if we are creating new powers for the police but are not repealing any of the powers that already exist, a conflict could arise and the police might be confused as to which set of powers they should use. If the Minister will explain the position we can decide whether it is necessary at a later stage to delete the other powers from the statute book or, alternatively, to ensure that they are in harmony with those that we intend to enact now.

Earl Ferrers

The police have all kinds of powers over traffic control, the movement of vehicles and so forth. However, in instances such as Stonehenge they are very different. The powers used there must be obtained under Section 13 of the Public Order Act relating to processions. That is a fairly cumbersome procedure which requires the approval of the Secretary of State.

We are now looking at a much simpler provision that is easier to deal with. We are dealing with the possibility of large numbers of people converging on a site, the result of which will be loud noise throughout the evening and congestion of the roads. Once people arrive on a site and the music begins it is difficult to prevent the congregation, as it were, appearing. We suggest in the Bill that, when the police believe that a rave is to take place on a certain site and when a constable reasonably believes that people are going there, it is right for him to say, "I am sorry, you cannot do so. You must turn away from there because the rave should not take place". That must be done over a reasonable distance and that is the reason why we make this proposal.

Lord Avebury

I do not necessarily object to the provision but we must be clear about what we are doing. Is it right that in the case of large gatherings, such as at Stonehenge or Glastonbury, where there is no intention on the part of the organisers—if there are any, because it may be a completely anarchic event where people come together by a process of telepathy —to have music as defined in Clause 58, the police must depend on powers which the noble Earl says are cumbersome to stop people going there? I am merely throwing this out for consideration.

Apart from the evil that we are seeking to address —the large rave concerts which cause an enormous amount of disturbance in the neighbourhood—there is also the question of the protection of ancient monuments. I should have thought that that was equally important. I am not saying that the police should necessarily have the power to stop people attending gatherings of 100 or more persons. But, if in our wisdom we see fit to give powers to the police to stop people attending large-style gatherings where music of a particular nature is to be played, then we should consider whether they should have the same power in respect of gatherings which are likely to cause damage to archaeological monuments.

Earl Ferrers

The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, is quite right to refer to that, because they are important powers. There is a distinction to be drawn. Perhaps I may take the noble Lord back historically. Some years ago those assemblies began to be held at Stonehenge. They created great problems for the police and the people in the locality before one even thinks of the problems in relation to damage caused to the site itself. Therefore, it was decided that the powers under Section 13 of the Public Order Act should be used. Those powers deal with that specific situation and require the approval of my right honourable friend the Home Secretary before they can be used.

The Bill deals with two separate matters: trespassing, and the possibility of New Age travellers suddenly converging on a place, trespassing and creating mayhem in the locality. That will cover, as I understand it, the Stonehenge case where people arrive in large numbers and trespass. Provided that they fulfil the necessary criteria, they can be moved on under the trespassing provisions in the Bill.

The third area to be dealt with is raves. It is easy to consider trespassing and New Age travellers as on a par with raves but the difference in relation to raves is that although people congregate in large numbers, the additional factor is the noise. Therefore, it is not just people in the immediate locality who are offended by the physical arrival of large numbers of people but other people who may be miles away are affected by the noise which is emitted. Therefore, there are those three distinct parts.

I believe that I am right to say that, although Section 13 of the Public Order Act, which is used at Stonehenge, is the section that is and will be used, the people attending the raves will be caught also under the trespassing provisions which we agreed earlier. I hope that that has explained the position to the noble Lord.

Lord Moyne

Is not the distinction between Stonehenge and Glastonbury on the one hand and raves on the other that Stonehenge is always in the same place whereas raves can take place anywhere?

Earl Ferrers

That is a remarkably philosophical and intelligent distinction to draw. I cannot disagree with my noble friend. However, such a distinction rather muddies the issue in so far as raves involve music which offends the ears and the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, referred to Stonehenge, which is a site of archaeological interest and, therefore, special provisions apply.

Lord Clifford of Chudleigh

Will the Minister consider that—I coin his phrase—we are muddying the waters somewhat for the police by imposing a five mile limit? My noble friend on the Cross Benches believes that to be rather draconian. I can understand that limit being applied with regard to Stonehenge. However, people from caravan sites within counties may go to raves which are very near to those caravan sites and which may well be within the five-mile limit from the caravan site. I believe that it will cause complications to impose a five mile limit. I believe that the problem may be best addressed if the superintendent or chief constable refers back to the Secretary of State in order to alter that limit if there are any difficulties.

Lord Cochrane of Cults

May I ask the noble Lord why he picked on caravan sites? I can see the problem which he addresses but not that it originates in those circumstances. Will he clarify that point?

Lord Clifford of Chudleigh

I apologise. I was not trying merely to pick out caravan sites. I was just trying to point out that the difficulties may arise not only in relation to Stonehenge, which has been referred to, but they may arise in relation to a particular site. I was addressing the imposition of the five-mile limit.

Earl Ferrers

The poor noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, fell into a trap. Had he had the privilege of being here during our debates on the Sunday Trading Bill, he would have realised that my noble friend Lord Cochrane of Cults has a particular interest in caravan sites, which he tried to protect during our discussions on that Bill. Hence his sensitivity when the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, dared to mention the words "caravan sites".

I know what the noble Lord, Lord Clifford, is referring to. I do not believe that it would be possible for a senior police officer to refer back to the Home Secretary to request an expansion of the distance over which he could turn people back. Raves involve a large number of people who converge from all directions. If the provision is to work and if we are to prevent raves from taking place, for all the reasons of inconvenience and environmental offensiveness which they create, the police must be given reasonable powers. With the greatest respect to the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, it is no good allowing the police to turn people away only within only 500 yards of the site. That cannot be done if thousands of vehicles are involved. The roads will become jammed and so on. The police must have a reasonable area within which to work. That is why we have imposed a limit of five miles. That does not mean that in every case the police will choose to use that limit. They may wish to turn back people within a shorter distance but that depends upon the topography, the site in question and the view of the chief officer concerned. We are trying to provide the police with the authority to use a five-mile limit where it is necessary.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

I am extremely grateful to my noble kinsman Lord Avebury for raising the issue with regard to which powers the police will use under which part of the Bill. I am grateful, too, to my noble friend on the Front Bench for explaining so carefully the position. I shall read what he said with great care because I find it quite difficult to understand why there is a Clause 56 offence and then a different set of offences and problems under Clause 72.

Earl Ferrers

I thank my noble friend Lord Stanley for informing the Committee who is his noble kinsman. He referred to him on a number of occasions and I wondered who it was. I have been thinking about that for the past hour. At one point, I thought it was me but then it turned out not to be so. I now discover that it is the noble Lord, Lord Avebury. That is one confusion in life cleared up.

Lord Burnham

Perhaps I may say to the Minister that about half the Members of the Committee are kinsmen of the noble Lord, Lord Stanley.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

Unfortunately so.

Baroness Faithfull

What do you mean, unfortunately?

Lord Stanley of Alderley

Well perhaps fortunately. I must return to the problem. I found it difficult to understand the difference between Clauses 56 and 72 and there are also problems in relation to Clauses 60 and 56.

My amendment asks for a widening of the powers. My noble friend on the Front Bench has said, I believe, that he will consider the matter. I should point out that the police will not use the powers unnecessarily. One can see that they have used very sparingly the powers given to them under the 1986 Act.

I just feel that, as regards raves, trespass, or whatever part of the Bill we are dealing with, the police should be given as much latitude as possible. I believe that we should trust them to use it sparingly. They have done so in the past. I finish by saying that prevention is better than cure. If the chief officer of police feels it is best to stop something that is going to cause trouble at a greater distance from the place in question, I believe that he should be given that power. However, I shall certainly consider everything that the Committee has said between now and Report and I shall consider whether to return to this matter at a later stage. In the meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 66B not moved.]

7 p.m.

Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 67:

Page 45, line 26, leave out ("this section") and insert ("subsection (1) above").

The noble Earl said: In moving Amendment No. 67 I wish to speak also to Amendments Nos. 69, 70 and 86. These amendments seek to create new offences of failing to obey a constable's direction not to proceed in the direction of a rave or a "trespassory" assembly. When these matters were discussed in another place, the Government took the view that specific offences such as these were probably not necessary as anyone failing to obey a constable's direction not to proceed could, we believed, be arrested for the offence of obstructing a police officer in the execution of his duty. But, in the light of comments made in another place and of the representations of the Police Federation, we undertook to reflect on the matter. We have concluded that, in order that there can be no possible doubt, it would be sensible to create new offences of failing to obey these directions. I commend the amendments to the Committee.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 68 not moved.]

[Amendment No. 68A not moved.]

Earl Ferrers moved Amendments Nos. 69 and 70:

Page 45, line 28, leave out ("this section") and insert ("subsection (1) above").

Page 45, line 28, at end insert:

("( ) If a person knowing that a direction under subsection (1) above has been given to him fails to comply with that direction, he commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale.

( ) A constable in uniform who reasonably suspects that a person is committing an offence under this section may arrest him without a warrant.").

The noble Earl said: I have already spoken to these amendments with Amendment No. 67. I beg to move.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Lord Stanley of Alderley had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 70A:

Page 45, line 30, at end insert:

("(5) If a person knowing that a direction has been given which applies to him under this section proceeds in the direction of the gathering or the land concerned, he commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale.

(6) A constable in uniform who reasonably suspects that a person is committing an offence under this section may arrest him without a warrant.").

The noble Lord said: As I understand it, Amendment No. 70 in the name of my noble friend Lord Ferrers has dealt with this problem, in which case I have great pleasure in thanking him for that. I shall not move the amendment.

[Amendment No. 70A not moved.]

Clause 60, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 61 [Power of court to forfeit sound equipment]:

[Amendment No. 70B not moved.]

Clause 61 agreed to.

Clause 62 [Retention and charges for seized property]:

Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 71:

Page 47, line 11, at end insert ("or for different circumstances.").

The noble Earl said: This is a technical amendment to ensure that the Secretary of State has the power, subject to the negative resolution procedure, to make regulations in respect of vehicles which have been seized and retained which may differ to take account of different circumstances. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 62, as amended, agreed to.

Lord Ackner moved Amendment No. 72:

After Clause 62, insert the following new clause:

("Breaches of privacy with intent to obtain and publish information

  1. —(1) A person who—
    1. (a) enters or remains on private property without the consent of the lawful occupant with intent to obtain personal information with a view to its publication, or
    2. (b) places a surveillance device on private properly without the consent of the lawful occupant with intent to obtain personal information with a view to its publication, or
    3. (c) uses a surveillance device (whether on private property or elsewhere) in relation to an individual who is on private property, without the consent of the individual to such use with intent to obtain personal information about that individual with a view to its publication, or
    4. (d)takes a photograph or records the voice of an individual who is on private property without his consent to the taping or recording, with a view to its publication and with intent that the individual shall be identifiable,
      • commits an offence.
  2. (2) It shall be a defence to any of the offences specified in subsection (1) above that the act was done—
    1. (a) for the purpose of preventing, detecting or exposing the commission of a crime or other seriously anti-social conduct; or
    2. (b) for the purpose of preventing the public from being misled by some public statement or action of the individual concerned; or
    3. (c) for the purpose of informing the public about matters directly affecting the discharge of any public function of the individual concerned; or
    4. (d) for the protection of public health or safety; or
    5. (e) under any lawful authority.
  3. (3) A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable—
    1. (a) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year or a fine or both;
    2. (b) on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum or both.").

The noble and learned Lord said: The Committee on Privacy and Related Matters was set up by Mr. Douglas Hurd and was chaired by Sir David Calcutt QC. Its terms of reference were as follows: In the light of the recent public concern about intrusions into the private lives of individuals by certain sections of the press, to consider what measures (whether legislative or otherwise) are needed to give further protection to individual privacy from the activities of the press and improve recourse against the press for the individual citizen, taking account of existing remedies, including the law on defamation and breach of confidence; and to make recommendations".

The committee reported in June 1990. It recorded in paragraph 1.5, among other things, that, there have been numerous allegations of declining press standards and of growing intrusion into individual privacy".

It referred to a number of striking instances in which, sections of the press had been severely criticised for intruding upon accident victims and other patients in hospital, for using stolen private correspondence or photographs and for publishing scurrilous (and sometimes false) details of individuals' private lives".

The committee dealt with the position with regard to the existing law and pointed out that there is no general criminal offence of trespass to land, although over the years there have been a number of statutory inroads. It commented that there is little protection against intrusion on private property, and that after the incidents in 1982, when an intruder entered Buckingham Palace, consideration was given to the creation in England and Wales of an offence of trespassing on residential property in a manner likely to cause the occupier alarm and distress, but that the Government had made as yet no proposal for self-regulation. It accordingly proposed, among other things, new criminal offences. It pointed out in paragraph 6.30 that, 'The main desire of a victim of physical intrusion, whether of harassment, surveillance or trespass, is for the intrusion to be stopped immediately".

It explained that the victim would, much prefer the police to arrest or remove those who are intruding, as can happen in Scotland".

It further stated that, Only the criminal law can guarantee prompt relief to the victim and provide a sufficient deterrent to the intruder".

The committee noted in particular that, France, West Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands all have criminal offences of physical intrusion without apparent conflict with the European Convention".

It accordingly recommended that three forms of physical intrusion should be criminal offences in England and Wales. These I have largely mirrored in the amendment which I have proposed and which I will refer to later.

At the request of the Secretary of State for the Department of National Heritage, Sir David Calcutt was asked to conduct a review of press self-regulation. He duly reported on 8th January. He said in terms that he considered that the Press Commission is not an effective regulator of the press. He said: It has not been set up in a way, and is not operating a code of practice, which enables it to command not only press but also public confidence".

It did not, in his view, hold the balance fairly between the press and the individual. It is not the truly independent body which it should be. As constituted, it is, in essence, a body set up by the industry, financed by the industry, dominated by the industry, and operating a code of practice devised by the industry and which is over-favourable to the industry".

He accordingly went back to the proposals which had been made by the committee. He suggested that, with modifications which are reflected in my amendment, they should be enacted. Accordingly, what I propose has, fortunately, no stamp of personal originality about it. It is the product of careful thought by a committee set up by the Government in order to advise on this matter.

Perhaps I may draw the Committee's attention to what is proposed in the amendment. It is to create criminal offences which will arise when a person:

  1. "(a) enters or remains on private property without the consent of the lawful occupant with intent to obtain personal information with a view to its publication, or
  2. 672
  3. (b) places a surveillance device on private property without the consent of the lawful occupant with intent to obtain personal information with a view to its publication, or
  4. (c) uses a surveillance device (whether on private property or elsewhere) in relation to an individual who is on private property, without the consent of the individual to such use with intent to obtain personal information about that individual with a view to its publication, or
  5. (d) takes a photograph or records the voice of an individual who is on private property without his consent to the taping or recording, with a view to its publication and with intent that the individual shall be identifiable".

Then the defences are set out, again as proposed by the committee and subsequently endorsed by Sir David Calcutt, namely:

"(2) It shall be a defence to any of the offences specified in subsection (1) above that the act was done—

  1. (a) for the purpose of preventing, detecting or exposing the commission of a crime or other seriously anti-social conduct; or
  2. (b) for the purpose of preventing the public from being misled by some public statement or action of the individual concerned; or
  3. (c) for the purpose of informing the public about matters directly affecting the discharge of any public function of the individual concerned; or
  4. (d) for the protection of public health or safety; or
  5. (e) under any lawful authority".

Subsection (3) sets out the situation on conviction on indictment or on summary conviction.

I accept that no government wish to lose popularity by being antagonistic to the press. The press are unforgiving and take their revenge whenever possible. Indeed, I have cautioned my wife to read no obituary of mine in due course.

The Government have been subject to such a consistent campaign of press hostility that I submit that they have little to lose and much to gain by showing that they have the courage to stand up to the press. They will improve their standing, albeit not with the media but with the electorate.

We have been told in the past that a White Paper was due to be published and that there would be a consultative document. I hesitated before putting down the amendment because I thought that I would be trumped with the usual excuse that the whole issue was under intense and close scrutiny, that one section could not be dealt with on its own, and that I should show patience and wait for the current consultation to continue and be productive. I hope that that is not correct. However, there is a growing impression that the Government's approach to this very real and increasing problem is pusillanimous and, accordingly, to test the position I put down the amendment. I beg to move.

7.15 p.m.

Lord Colnbrook

I agree entirely with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, in what he seeks to achieve with the amendment. I utterly deplore the activities described—the use of bugging devices to overhear private conversations, the taking of photographs of unsuspecting persons in their own homes and gardens with long-range cameras, and the like. I think that I am safe in saying that the overwhelming majority of people in this country feel just as I do and as he does. It is interesting that, according to their public statements, so do the press.

I do not speak for the press in any way. They can speak for themselves. However, as it happens I am a member of the Press Complaints Commission—which I know is derided by Sir David Calcutt—which is charged with the duty of seeing that the code of practice which the press themselves have laid down is adhered to so far as possible. That code specifically states that editors should not publish material obtained by undesirable methods save in the public interest, which is defined in very much the same terms as in the noble and learned Lord's amendment.

The argument for legislation, which I wholly understand, is that the Press Complaints Commission has no power to enforce the code or to impose penalties if the code is broken, whereas an Act of Parliament would do so. It is again of passing interest to note that, according to my understanding, the press have already said that they would not object to such legislation. I certainly would not. However, I must take issue with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, and I shall tell the Committee why.

In my view his amendment goes for the wrong man. The noble and learned Lord quoted from Sir David Calcutt's first report, which referred to intrusions by the press. There is nothing about intrusions by the press in the amendment. For example, the amendment states that it would be an offence to take a photograph of: an individual who is on private property without his consent … with a view to its publication". I have taken photographs of individuals on private property without their consent and so, I suggest, have many Members of the Committee. Many of us will have taken photographs at a wedding reception, although not with the intention that they should be published. I have such photographs, and I have put them in my album. If an editor came to me and said, "That's an interesting photograph. Here is Mr. X kissing Miss Y. He should not be doing so; his wife is somewhere else. Will you sell it to me?", I would not do so. Neither would any of your Lordships. Some people would, and some people do. Yet if I did so, because I did not take the photograph with a view to its publication I would escape prosecution. That cannot be right, and it cannot be what the noble and learned Lord intends.

The mischief occurs not with the taking of the photograph but with its publication. That is when the trouble arises. Just as the Press Complaints Commission's code of practice, which your Lordships may well say is weak because it cannot be enforced, refers to the duty of the editor not to publish such material, so should any Act of Parliament. There is nothing about editors in the amendment. There ought to be.

I accept that people who go on to private property and place bugs on telephones, for example, should be liable to the criminal law. However, the real trouble arises when somebody publishes the material obtained, and there is no mention of that here. One day I daresay that there will be such reference. If there is, I shall welcome it. But I cannot advise the Committee to accept the amendment as it stands.

Lord Morris

I, too, have a problem with the amendment. The amendment of the noble and learned Lord addresses a mischief. The mischief is a breach or invasion of privacy. This part of the Bill addresses totally different matters; namely, collective trespass and nuisance on land. The instances that he adumbrates at paragraphs (a) and (b) involve trespass, but that is, incidental to the nuisance. Paragraphs (c) and (d) do not involve such trespass. All Members of the Committee will have the utmost sympathy with the underlying point of the amendment. The noble and learned Lord was quite right to draw attention to the fact that Her Majesty's Government have been looking at this vitally important public issue over many years. Indeed they are looking into the possibility of creating a new tort of invasion of privacy. I believe that that will be welcomed throughout the land.

In the amendment the noble and learned Lord attempts to create a new crime of invasion or breach of privacy. With the greatest respect—I really mean that; I do not use those words as a buzz phrase—I believe that it is not right to place even part of that immensely important aspect of the law within the scope of this Bill. It is a huge and vitally important subject. Although the noble and learned Lord foresaw the argument against his amendment, I beseech him to await events. So far as I know there is a determined intention that that area of the law shall be comprehensively covered by Her Majesty's Government some time in the future.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill

I believe that the Committee will be grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, for having raised extremely important issues in the amendment. Perhaps I may briefly explain why, like other Members of the Committee, on balance I am opposed to the amendment.

I begin by saying that the press are not above the law. I fully recognise that there is a serious social evil occasionally committed by newspapers and others when they intrude upon personal privacy in outrageous ways. I also agree that that mischief needs to be dealt with effectively.

One of the difficulties about the amendment is that it is raised in a context unlike that in Sweden, Germany, France or other countries which have criminal and civil sanctions and remedies. In those countries they guarantee a right to free speech and privacy. There is a proper constitutional framework in which courts can decide on the balance between the right to free speech and freedom of the press and the right to personal privacy.

That has not yet happened in this country, even though noble Lords have several times sought to secure that position by passing Bills to incorporate the European Convention on Human Rights into our law. The European Convention on Human Rights guarantees both freedom of expression and a personal right of privacy.

If one considers the specific proposal, one central problem about the amendment is that there is no positive statutory right to free speech and therefore it seeks to introduce criminal sanctions and penalties in an area where magistrates, juries and judges would be unguided on the need to respect freedom of expression except in the language of the defences in subsection (2). The magistrates or a jury would have to decide whether an offence has been committed by a journalist on the basis not of paragraph 2 of Article 10 of the European Convention—that is, whether a finding of guilt or a punishment were necessary in a democratic society for protecting the right to personal privacy—but of whether the act was done for the purpose of preventing, detecting or exposing the commission of a crime or other seriously anti-social conduct.

That was a test which, Sir David Calcutt accepted in paragraph 7.21 of his report, might be considered too difficult a concept for criminal legislation". Incidentally, unlike the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, Sir David Calcutt recommended that the offence should be summary only in nature, with a maximum financial penalty of the level 5 fine, whereas the amendment proposes an indictable offence. The magistrates or jury would have to decide also whether the act was done, for the purpose of informing the public about matters directly affecting the discharge of any public function of the individual concerned". That is rubbery and elusive language which would have a chilling effect, I suggest, on the function of the media as gatherers and purveyors of information to the public about the workings of Government and the activities of Ministers and public officials.

Perhaps I may give a few examples. First, perhaps I may take the easy and the gross example. A popular actor lies gravely ill in hospital, attached to a life support system. His photograph is taken by intruding press photographers. That is what happened to Gordon Kaye, who obtained an injunction against the Daily Sport for its quite monstrous invasion of his privacy. The injunction, it is true, was based on malicious falsehood and not on privacy. But I would expect the Law Lords to create a tort of privacy in just such a case, as was strongly indicated by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Keith of Kinkel, in the Spycatcher case. The case relating to Gordon Kaye would also be caught, and rightly so, by the amendment of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner. I am also confident that the Princess of Wales has an effective civil remedy for the again gross invasion of her personal privacy when she was working out in a private gym.

Perhaps I may quickly give the more difficult examples. What about the Minister agog with schemes to make fathers more responsible for their families who is revealed to have serial mistresses? What about another Minister's foreign holiday revealed to have come courtesy of a PLO paymaster's daughter? The proposed defences in the amendment are completely uncertain in their application to cases of that kind where many would think that the public had a right to be informed. Newspaper editors and their staff would be at a loss to know whether information about matters of that kind could lawfully be published, and, rather than risk the hazards of criminal prosecutions, they would tend to err on the side of caution and freedom of speech would be the casualty.

I suggest that the central problem is that these defences are too narrow. But if they were broadened they would be even more unforeseeable. For my part I would leave the courts to develop common law remedies on a case by case basis in what is a notoriously complex and hazardous area. Given the opportunity, I believe that the Law Lords would develop a right of privacy using cases on confidentiality and on private nuisance to go beyond narrow proprietary interests. I also agree with the noble Lord, Lord Colnbrook, that we should give the Press Complaints Commission a full opportunity to use non-legal sanctions too. However, in the last resort, I believe that the courts have a vital role to play.

Lord Renton

As I understand it, the amendment proposed by the noble and learned Lord happens to be within the Long Title of the Bill, which, as I said at Second Reading, is perhaps the longest Long Title in modern times. The provision confers, new powers on the police to take samples from or search persons"— that is irrelevant. It makes, further provision in relation to persons unlawfully or without authorisation on land". Those are wide words. I therefore do not believe that we should be afraid of the amendment merely because it seems to be beyond the scope of this part of the Bill.

The speeches of the noble Lord, Lord Lester, are always interesting, although I do not necessarily agree with them. He complained that there was no constitutional framework for what is proposed; but, my goodness!, if we needed a constitutional framework in our unwritten constitution for every proposal put before Parliament, we would not have much law enacted.

The speech of my noble friend Lord Colnbrook was interesting, especially coming from a person with his responsibilities with regard to the press. However, I point out that publication is not made an offence; doing something with the intent to publish is made an offence and that is rather different. The truth is that the noble and learned Lord's amendment is of limited application in protecting people's privacy.

7.30 p.m.

Lord Harmar-Nicholls

Will the noble Lord allow me to intervene? If the intent is carried out and the photograph is published, is that not sufficient?

Lord Renton

No, strangely enough, if my noble friend looks at the amendment carefully he will see that the offence is committed, whether or not publication follows later. The Committee may think that this is an unusual consequence, but no doubt it has been carefully thought out by the noble and learned Lord who is anxious to prevent people trespassing on private property and doing something which might infringe the law of privacy. I use broad terms now, rather than expressing the present law which is not covered by the amendment. It can be said that to trespass on someone's land or enter someone's house and take photographs or take notes of what they are up to, and similar actions, is, in broad terms and leaving aside the law, an invasion of privacy.

In passing, after the incursion into Buckingham Palace, I was one of those in your Lordships' House who were anxious that the Government should take steps in the matter. I went so far as to draft a Bill which was moved by my noble friend Lord Onslow some years ago. It would have dealt with the matter; but for some reason the Home Office did not like it and nothing was done.

The noble and learned Lord's amendment does not attempt to deal with that. He merely mentioned it as part of the background, to draw attention to the fact that under our law as it stands it is too easy for people to go into someone else's house, garden or elsewhere on their property and do all kinds of things without the law stepping in.

I shall not take it upon myself to say that I agree with all the details of the noble and learned Lord's amendment. In particular, I doubt whether it is necessary for subsection (2) to be as broadly drawn as it is. Subsection (1) states the intention that has to be proved. If that intention is not proved, it is in itself a defence and that is why I have doubts about subsection (2).

Without putting the press into any jeopardy at all and, to that extent, without interfering with the freedom of the press, the noble and learned Lord has put forward a suggestion which most of us would wish to find a protection in law. It is that people should not go into our homes or gardens or take photographs without consent with the kind of intentions which the noble and learned Lord expressed in subsection (1). I hope that either now or at a later stage in our parliamentary life, something on the lines of the noble and learned Lord's amendment will be made part of the law.

Lord Avebury

We have already decided that we wish to criminalise some kinds of trespass, so it is logical that in the new clause we find an extension of that principle, albeit a rather drastic one. The noble and learned Lord proposes to put people in prison for periods of up to a year, whereas so far we have only been talking about three months. I object to the proposal for the same reason as I object to the other two provisions in the Bill which I have mentioned. I do not like the great extension of criminalisation that we find all the way through the Bill, nor the submission of such a proposal in the middle of a Bill to which it does not relate. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Renton; I have read the Long Title and the amendment falls partly within the provision that he read out.

Some matters in the new clause do not relate to trespass at all. Subsection (1) (d) regarding the offence refers to a photograph which is taken from any place. It does not have to be from within the land belonging to the person concerned. The amendment covers cases like the well-known examples of telephoto pictures being taken of members of the Royal Family from quite a distance. The surveillance devices mentioned in subsection (1) (c) defining the offence do not necessarily have to be on land so the offence could and often will be committed when no trespass has taken place. That too is to be criminalised.

One can place a surveillance device in the neighbourhood of a person's property and pick up their voice or whatever other sounds may occur within the premises and one is committing as great an offence and rendering oneself just as liable to imprisonment as if one had the additional ingredient of trespass.

The noble Lord, Lord Renton, said that if we waited for a constitutional framework, we would probably never have any Acts passed at all. However he missed the other point made by my noble friend that we are talking here about the interaction between the law on privacy and the law on freedom of speech. We are not talking about a general constitutional framework, but the interplay of two important principles which are not being considered together here. The defences which the noble and learned Lord proposes are specific. He is not trying to put the new clause within the context of any general provisions on freedom of speech or even to address the reconciliation of the two opposing principles.

I agree with my noble friend Lord Lester about the dangers of what he called the "rubbery and elusive" wording of subsection (2) (c). I wish to mention one instance where the subsection would lead to serious consequences. It is a defence to the accusation under the clause that one has been seeking information about a matter of public interest from the person immediately concerned. Thus, a Minister may be suspected of doing something improper and someone may reveal that in his newspaper, having obtained a tape recording of words spoken by the Minister which prove the allegation the person is making. Supposing that instead of the Minister, someone in his department, like the Permanent Secretary, who has knowledge of the improper activities of the Minister and is talking about it on his own private property. One may detect the offence by recording his words, but there is then no defence under subsection (2) (c) because it is not the words of the Minister himself that one is picking up but those of someone in his department.

We need to consider much more carefully than the noble and learned Lord has, if I may say that to him with great respect, what kinds of defence there should be which do not enormously limit the activities of whistle-blowers, which, as my noble friend pointed out have on some occasions been quite important. We need to have people in the newspapers who actively seek information about wrong-doing in the public service and frequently reveal it. I suggest that we must tolerate an element of invasion of privacy in that regard.

If sometimes the press goes much further in perfectly frivolous and unfounded acts of invasion of privacy, then let us address the problem by some other means. Again, let us not multiply the criminal offences that we find in the Bill. Let us look at privacy as a completely separate issue, and not as part of a Bill that deals with completely different matters.

Lord Harmar-Nicolls

I do not disagree with the noble Lord's last words. I do not know whether the noble and learned Lord has it in mind to push this matter to a vote. I rather doubt it. But whether he does or not, I hope that my noble friend who is representing the Government will take heed of the message that this amendment contains. There is no doubt about it, it is generally understood that at the moment people are being damaged by the misuse of illicit photographs that are being distributed.

I do not know whether my noble friend will give any kind of welcome to the words of this amendment, but I hope that he will not give the answer that the Government gave to my private Bill which tried to deal with one section of this matter as recently as a month ago. It is clear now that a distorted, contorted photograph is more damaging than a 1,000-word article. The photograph can be more damaging than the pen to people's reputation and to people's right to freedom. Whether this is the right Bill in which to try to make the improvements that the noble and learned Lord has in mind, I do not know. But in my Bill I attached the same argument regarding photographs to the copyright Bill. It was quite in accordance with procedures and passed all of the tests as being accurate. But people who opposed it a month ago said that the copyright Bill was not the right one. Now, I have no doubt, others will repeat what has already been said; namely, that this is not the right Bill to which to attach this particular group of amendments.

The only reason that I make a contribution is to impress upon the Government that they ought to give a lead on this issue. The explanation that they gave to my Private Member's Bill at its Second Reading was that they were already quite a way along the road of preparing a White Paper with the idea of doing something about the law of privacy generally. I have no faith in intentions of that kind. One has heard government promises to do something in general terms, and years pass and nothing is done.

I only urge my noble friends on this occasion, whatever the noble and learned Lord does with this particular amendment, to stir their stumps as a government and face up to the dangers that are thrown at people with the illicit use of such photographs. We have already had mentioned the example of the Princess of Wales. We also had the example of the Duchess of York, who had similar treatment. When she put her defence in France for preserving her freedom she received £50,000 compensation and an injunction against the intrusion being repeated. Why can we not give our people the same protection in this country? If it cannot be done by my Bill, attaching a proposal to the copyright Bill, or by the noble and learned Lord attaching his amendment to this Bill, the Government really ought to do something about producing a Bill.

The noble Lord, Lord Colnbrook, did the same as was done in regard to my Bill. The noble Lord defended the press under the general umbrella of the freedom of the press to be able to do its duty. The press and the photographer together are the problem. If certain sections of the press did not offer exorbitant amounts of money to cowboys who deliberately take distorted pictures and hawk them round because they are salacious and because the pictures have some circulation value, the problem would not occur.

Lord Colnbrook

Perhaps my noble friend will allow me to intervene. He cannot have listened very carefully to what I said. One of the things that I said was wrong with this amendment was that it does not cover the press, and it should do. I did not defend the press. I said that the press should be covered by the amendment too, but it is not.

Lord Harmar-Nicholls

No, the noble Lord said something else. He did say that, if he wants to stand just on that clause but he also said that the commission of which he is a member had powers to do something about the problem but that those powers were not enough.

Lord Colnbrook

No, it has no powers.

Lord Harmar-Nicholls

Self-regulation adds up to nothing. We know perfectly well that self-regulation does not meet the requirement. Profit is a much greater influence on people than self-regulation whether it be in the interests of privacy or of anything else. I urge what my noble friend claims that he said: I urge the Government to do something about this matter.

At the Second Reading of my Bill only two months ago, it was said that the Government were well on the way with a White Paper. By the time that we had reached the Report stage the announcement had been made that they had had to call off the White Paper preparation because certain things had prevented it. What were those things that prevented the White Paper going ahead? The only point that I am making, in the light of my own experience, is that I hope the Government will not hide behind the reluctance of the civil servants to have any kind of intrusion on a field that they want to keep as their own. I always felt that their objection to my Bill was just that they hoped eventually that they might get down to dealing with privacy and did not want any kind of obstacle put in its way.

Lord Burnham

I thank my noble friend for giving way. Those of us who opposed my noble friend's Bill did so for a considerable number of reasons. The basic one was that in its wording and conception it was flawed.

Lord Harmar-Nicholls

As in this case, neither the noble Lord, who represents the press—he has a personal interest—nor the Member who represented the photographers liked the Bill. In the end the House accepted the objection of the noble Lord, Lord McGregor, who is the chairman of the Press Complaints Commission, because there were not many Members here. Self-interest overcame the real need for this kind of thing to be dealt with. That is what happened in this House.

If the Government cannot override the self-interest obstacle, then they are not doing their duty. No nation could have had more evidence than we have had over the past 12 months that intrusive photographs are not only putting the country in a bad light but are damaging people unfairly and to a great extent. Even the Prime Minister could have suffered in that way. We saw the photograph of the occasion when he attended a dinner and someone proposing the Grace had made a witty speech. He was thinking of a reasonably appropriate reply, and in the process of doing so—as it was afterwards proved—he sat down. There were bottles in front of him (it was a dinner) and he looked intent. The photograph made it look as though he were a distraught man at the end of his tether who ought not to be in charge of a whelk-stall never mind being the Prime Minister of this country. The picture was presented in a way that was so damaging that it did the country real harm.

The only purpose of my words tonight to my noble friend—it is to him that I speak—is to urge him to take the further evidence of these amendments as a need for the Government to do something about the matter. They are the only people who can do so. If neither a copyright Bill nor this Bill is the right vehicle, then let the Government with their powers produce the legislation. They should not keep promising to do something about the matter only for us to find at the end of the day that nothing happens.

Baroness Strange

Perhaps I may intervene very briefly in support of the noble and learned Lord. Basically his amendment is about two very pernicious things: eavesdropping and Peeping-Toms. My mother once had a daily who constantly used to listen in on the telephone. My mother would say, "I am sorry but I cannot say anything to you now because Ann is listening in", and Ann would say, "I am not". The point is that my mother knew that someone was listening in and was aware of eavesdropping on her conversation. The noble and learned Lord says that people are not aware and do not know what is happening. I think therefore that they should be protected.

Baroness Mallalieu

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, raised matters which have caused concern in all parts of the Chamber. Many of the examples cause a great deal of distress and worry to many of us. However, this clause is not one that we on these Benches feel should be considered in this Bill. We believe that it should be part of a wider review of the law of privacy, which should come as soon as possible. For those reasons, sadly, we cannot support the noble and learned Lord.

Earl Ferrers

The noble Baroness has put very clearly a point of view which reflected a number of speeches made this evening on the noble and learned Lord's amendment. He described vividly the concerns which led him to table the new clause. There is no doubt that the behaviour of certain sections of the press, intruding into the personal lives of both celebrities and ordinary members of the public, has on occasion been nothing less than deplorable.

Modern technology has made it easy for people to be photographed at considerable distances and to have their private conversations listened to. I was disturbed when I heard my noble friend Lord Colnbrook say that he envisaged himself going round at weddings photographing his friends kissing the wives of other friends who were not there at the wedding; but I was delighted that he was at least gracious enough to say that, if he had done that, he would not sell them to the press.

I am sure that the Committee will be as irritated as I am at the excuses which are sometimes put forward as justification. They are generally based on some spurious argument of public interest. Then, when any suggestion is made that there should be legislation to curtail such activities, there is a pathetic cry of "Don't touch the press". If there is to be freedom of the press—and there should be—it is a privilege which carries a two-way responsibility. It is one which should not be abused or manipulated.

As the noble and learned Lord pointed out, the problem of physical intrusion into personal privacy by the press and possible ways of combating it have been examined a number of times over the years. Various studies which have been carried out show that there is a considerable degree of concern—as expressed by the Committee this evening—that the press cannot be trusted effectively to discipline their rogue members. The broad consensus is that Parliament will have to intervene in the absence of such discipline in order to introduce sanctions against those who intrude into the privacy of others for the purposes of publication. It is provisions of that kind which the Committee has been considering this evening.

The proposals put forward by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, are identical with those recommended by Sir David Calcutt in his review of press self-regulation. They are based on the principle that a mischief which is sufficient to justify criminal sanctions occurs when personal information is sought without the subject's consent by intrusive means and in circumstances where he has a legitimate right to privacy.

In any proposal for legislation which attempts to balance two rights, there are inevitably problems of principle and of definition which have to be resolved. It is essential that any proposals in this field should find the right balance between, on the one hand, the application of the criminal and civil law and, on the other hand, the freedom of the press and the rights of others, notably the right to privacy. Any legal formulation in this difficult and sensitive area must be defined as clearly and unambiguously as possible if we are to ensure that it catches unacceptable intrusions but that it allows legitimate investigative work to continue. I shall not conceal from the Committee that we have found it very difficult to reconcile those conflicting claims and to ensure the necessary precision in any legislative proposal.

The various efforts that have been made in the past to control the excesses of press behaviour are only too well known. The Committee is aware of how much time has passed and the fact that the Government have not yet made up their mind on these important questions. But I can assure the Committee that the Government have not been idle. It has become plain to us that the issues involved are very complex and sensitive and that they need to be considered as a whole in order to ensure that the balance is properly struck. With an issue of such importance, it is essential that we get things right and that any proposal should be the subject of fully informed and national consideration.

My noble friend Lord Harmar-Nicholls said that the Government ought to give a lead. He said that the amendment was further evidence that something ought to be done and the Government ought to act. I can understand that view and my noble friend's personal interest in the matter because of his Bill. I can assure him that the Government are giving a lead. We propose to issue a White Paper on the whole subject of press intrusion into privacy. In addition to dealing with the questions of self-regulation and a new civil tort, the White Paper will also consider in some detail the various questions, both of practice and of principle, to which any extension of the criminal law in this area would give rise. That will give Parliament and the public an opportunity to consider fully these complex issues.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, said that he was hesitant to table an amendment on this subject. I admire him for his humility. He is not normally hesitant about tabling amendments, particularly on subjects about which he feels strongly. But his hesitancy came only from his feeling that he would be trumped by remarks such as, "A wide and careful scrutiny will take place", "Careful consideration is being given to these matters", "We must deal with the whole problem and not with a bit of it" and "We must wait a little longer". I do not know whether the noble and learned Lord had a look at my brief before I rose to speak. He might have chosen those words from it.

I am bound to tell him that that must be the answer that I give him. It is not a bad answer considering the speeches that have been made this evening. A number of Members have been against the proposal: my noble friend Lord Colnbrook said that he could not support the amendment; my noble friend Lord Morris said that we should wait for the Government to make some proposals; the noble Lord, Lord Lester of Herne Hill, said that he had doubts about the amendment; and my noble friend Lord Harmar-Nicholls said that it was very important to get the matter right.

I feel that this debate will be of great value. It has shown that it would be unwise to attempt to legislate in a particular area if we do not get the matter right.

I know that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, will be disappointed and possibly irritated—I hope not —that I ask him to be patient a little longer. But it is a sensitive area. In the Government's view, it would be unwise to introduce one set of controls in the form of criminal offences without considering how they interact with other possible measures. The Committee has already accepted, in the context of the Bill introduced earlier by my noble friend Lord Harmar-Nicholls, that a piecemeal approach is not the right one. The White Paper will provide an opportunity for us to take a wider and fuller view. I ask the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, therefore, to be graciously patient a little longer.

8 p.m.

Lord Ackner

Before the noble Earl sits down, perhaps he can give the Committee some indication as to when the White Paper will be provided.

Earl Ferrers

It is always the short questions which are the most difficult to answer. The White Paper will be produced when it is ready and I cannot go further than that. It is unlikely to be immediate because the Government have yet to make up their mind. A debate such as we have had this evening will help them to consider their views. But it will be produced as soon as possible. I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, wants to make an intervention.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

I was clarifying the observations about timing with my noble friend, having just returned from an important Home Office function.

Lord Renton

Before my noble friend concludes on this matter perhaps I can say that I was gratified, as I am sure we all were, to hear that the Government intend to consider the matter and produce a White Paper. But it has become customary in recent years for a Green Paper —namely, a consultative document—to be produced first. A consultative document is an open-minded document in which problems are posed and people invited to reply as to how they should be solved. On the other hand, a White Paper is rather conclusive and is usually a prelude to legislation. Does my noble friend mean that it will be a consultative document or a final document?

Earl Ferrers

I do not know that there is any virtue in going into these nuances. It is clear to my noble friend Lord Renton and the Committee that the Government have not yet made up their mind and are considering the position. The object of a White Paper is to enable the Government to say, "These are our thoughts", and find out what is the reaction of the public. That will be the purpose of the White Paper.

Lord Ackner

Perhaps I may first assure the noble Earl that I did not look at his brief. But in the short period during which I have taken a relatively active part in the affairs of this Chamber, that is a refrain that I have heard so often that it took no great imagination to anticipate that it would be repeated again tonight.

At the outset of my submissions to the Committee I was at pains to disavow the parentage of the amendment. That prevents me taking advantage of its modesty, because modest it is. It in no way seeks to fetter freedom of speech. It is not directed to freedom of speech; it is directed to intrusion into other people's property without their consent. It does not include a co-defendant, which the noble Lord, Lord Colnbrook suggested. It does not include the editor, whom the noble Lord submits ought to be a defendant either on his own or as a co-defendant. It does not include him because it is a modest amendment.

It was said in terms by the noble Lord that it is of limited application. So it is. In this field one proceeds slowly. If one had started by being ambitious one could anticipate the comments that would have been made. Basically the criticism is, "You have not gone far enough". But that is not a basis for saying, "Don't go at all". Let us build upon what is a new feature. It is rather like our recent references to the right of silence. One is introducing something quite new; let us proceed with appropriate safeguards. That is what I sought to do in this case.

I have heard what Members of the Committee said, in particular that the punishment is too severe. One of the advantages of the matter being raised at this stage is that it can always be altered. I heard the suggestion that one of the defences is too narrow. If that criticism can be made, the defence can be widened. It is intended to be a start. It is apparent that the Government need stimulation on this subject. If that is all I achieve at this stage in moving this amendment, then it is something. At this time I beg leave to withdraw the amendment, but with the reservation that by improving it I hope to bring it back at a later stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Annaly

I beg to move that the House do now resume. In moving this Motion I suggest that the Committee stage begin again at five minutes past nine o'clock.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.