HL Deb 24 May 1994 vol 555 cc697-752

House again in Committee.

Clause 63 [Offence of aggravated trespass]:

Baroness Mallalieu moved Amendment No. 73:

Page 47, line 31, leave out ("activity") and insert ("sport").

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 73, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 77, 78 and 79 which are consequential.

The amendments all relate to the provisions of Clause 63 which creates an offence of aggravated trespass when a trespasser on land does anything with the intention of intimidating people engaged in a lawful activity on that land or indeed of obstructing or disrupting that activity.

As I understand it, the provision is designed to deal with increasing violence in the countryside, a matter which causes great anxiety to many of us on all sides of the Committee. That violence has arisen not just on the hunting field but also in connection with shooting, fishing and racing.

The anxiety of those of us on this side of the Committee is that a provision which was introduced to deal with violence in those areas may well, because of the way in which the clause is drafted, catch people, for example, who are protesting about road schemes, tree felling or other matters of that kind. These amendments merely confine the clause so that it deals with sports and in particular the sports which have suffered from the attention of those who attempt to disrupt them. Amendment No. 79 defines the sports in relation to which the provision would apply as: any activities traditionally carried out in the open air and in the countryside, and shall include hunting, shooting and fishing That would of course cover racing too.

We are concerned that, by its wording, what was intended as a provision to deal with violence in a particular area may well be used and extended to cover quite separate forms of protest which, as far as I am aware, the Government had not intended to cover. When the noble Earl replies, I hope that he will agree that the clause be confined to those areas with which it was designed to deal. I beg to move.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley

The first two or three clauses in Part V of the Bill target specifically the activities carried out by people protesting peacefully. A new offence of aggravated trespass will outlaw many forms of peaceful protest and peaceful gatherings will be illegal as trespassory assemblies—Clauses 65 and 66.

Clauses 63 to 66 are drafted so broadly that they could be used against anybody holding a peaceful protest on private land. As a result, ordinary people exercising their legitimate and historic right to peaceful protest may now be taken into police custody under arrest and will have to appear before the courts. There is no right written into the constitution, because we do not have a constitution, to peaceful protest but it has always been assumed that in a democratic country we can tolerate those who voice opposition in a non-violent way against activities about which they feel strongly. Peaceful protest is often one of the only ways in which the minority can voice their objections to the activities of the majority, or the weak can protest against the powerful. Many British people believe that peaceful protest which is open and public is a traditional and a legitimate right. It is often vaunted as an example of why this country has no need for a constitution.

The United Kingdom is a party to the European Convention on Human Rights. Article 11 of the European Convention provides for everyone to have the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association with others. The article states that any restrictions placed on that freedom should be only those necessary for the prevention of disorder or crime, in the interests of national security or public safety, for the protection of health or morals or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. Article 10 provides for freedom of expression. It includes a right to freedom to hold opinions and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority regardless of frontiers. There are many who believe that the clauses as drafted are likely to breach Articles 10 and 11.

We have been told—the noble Baroness who has just spoken has also mentioned this—that the clauses were drafted in response to concern by landowners about the activities of certain animal welfare and anti-bloodsports groups aimed at disrupting hunting and shooting, and as a result of government concerns about motorway protesters. There is as at present nothing in the clauses specifically to demonstrate this intent. The clauses will outlaw non-violent protests which would previously have been dealt with through the civil court. The civil court has traditionally been the place where breaches of individual proprietary rights have been dealt with by way of injunction and damages for trespass and nuisance.

The purpose of the criminal law is to penalise those whose anti-social behaviour is such that society needs to be protected from them. The criminal law usually penalises those whose acts specifically cause harm as opposed to nuisance. But there is nothing in these clauses which reflects the degree of harm against which the public are to be protected. These clauses will label those involved in peaceful protest as anti-society and give them a criminal record for activities such as protesting against hospital or school closures, against road schemes or shortages or in favour of nursery schools.

Let us take the instance of Friends of the Earth or Greenpeace. Those are two bodies on which Members of the Committee will hold different opinions, but on the whole the general feeling is that, while their activities may not always be such as to be commended, nevertheless they are on the side of the angels and the things that they fight for are worth fighting for. Their members are ordinary citizens; they are all volunteers and representative of all groups within society. It is those people who are in danger of being caught by these clauses if they are not amended in the way the noble Baroness outlined.

It is possible, and many people believe, that the Government have purposely drafted the clauses widely and intend to close the avenue of peaceful protest. It is up to the Government to deny that, as I hope they will want to, and to show their true purpose. If it is their true purpose to restrict the activities of anti-blood sport groups and motorway protesters then we cannot see that they would object to amendments whose purpose is to tighten up the language to reflect that. If they do object they ought to make a statement as to the true purpose of the clauses.

Clause 63 is too broad and has the potential to outlaw previously legitimate forms of peaceful protest. It does not include any safeguards against arbitrary arrest. The clause will allow a person to be arrested who is a mere trespasser upon proof of an attempt to disrupt, obstruct or intimidate—terms which can be very widely defined. It is likely to damage relations between the police and the community. It deals mainly with victimless crimes. The clause does not require any person to have been disrupted, obstructed or intimidated.

Current public order legislation and civil injunctions are more than adequate to deal with situations of public disorder where the public are likely to suffer some genuine harm. The Public Order Act 1986 was the result of seven years' consideration of public order law, commencing with a Green Paper in 1980 and a White Paper published in May 1985. It introduced five new offences: riot, violent disorder, affray, threatening behaviour and disorderly conduct. The latter offence penalises threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour or disorderly behaviour within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress. It embraces behaviour which falls short of violence or the threat or fear of violence. That section extended the then existing law into areas of annoyance, inconvenience, disturbance or disruption.

Apart from criminalising the act of trespass, which is in itself deplorable, it is difficult to appreciate how these new clauses add to the existing public order legislation to their benefit.

9.15 p.m.

Lord Mancroft

I have some sympathy with the amendments as framed on the Marshalled List. Perhaps the definition may be improved by the use of the word "sport" and sporting connotations and limiting the offence to such activities.

When I first read the amendments I thought that there was no doubt that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, and the noble Baroness were seeking through the amendments to make the offences in this part of the Bill more workable and practicable. On that basis I was inclined to support them, and in principle am possibly still inclined to do so.

However, my worries about the amendment relate to the concerns of those in farming who consider that certain of the offences which are dealt with in this part of the Bill encompass some of their activities. That applies particularly to pig farming and chicken rearing, because the same people who commit offences in connection with country sports sometimes attempt to and occasionally commit the same offences in regard to such farming activities. That was not something of which I was aware before this issue arose, but it was raised when I took advice and discussed the matter before this evening's discussions.

I do not have a firm view on the subject, but it is worth drawing to the attention of the Committee the possibility that in limiting the offence to sporting activities, which would appear to be sensible or reasonable, we may be limiting it too much. That is undoubtedly a matter of concern.

Turning to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, while listening to him carefully it appeared to me that we were living on a different planet. His description of the possible offences and the activities which had taken place as a precursor to the introduction to these offences in my view bore no resemblance to the offences at which the clauses are aimed. Towards the end of his remarks, the noble Lord commented that we were dealing with what he called victimless crimes. They are not victimless crimes. Over the past years many people who have been abused, intimidated or violently attacked and have ended up in hospital would not regard those crimes as victimless.

The problem to which this part of the Bill relates is much greater than the problem to which the noble Lord refers. He stated that the criminal law penalises anti-social behaviour. Such crimes involve very anti-social behaviour.

The noble Lord referred, too, to the dangers of catching those involved in non-violent protests. In order to be charged and found guilty under the provision in the Bill one has to do something which has the effect, of intimidating those persons or any of them so as to deter them or any of them from engaging in that activity, of obstructing that activity, or of disrupting that activity". That is not peaceful protest. We are not discussing peaceful protests. I accept that there is concern from all sides of the Committee that we should ensure that the two clauses deal only, as is their aim, with those who engage in violent, disruptive or intimidating behaviour. As framed at present, I cannot envisage how the provisions would encompass those engaged in peaceful protests. That is a right which the Committee should attempt to defend.

I do not believe that the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, is right. The way in which the provision is framed is suitable. The measure takes account of the anxiety expressed. I do not believe that the amendments are appropriate at this stage of the Bill.

Lord Burton

Is it peaceful protest when someone throws stones into a pool which is being fished by some innocent fisherman? Is it peaceful protest when someone who walks past a notice board pointing out that deer are being culled disrupts the day's work of two or three people going about their legitimate duties? Is that carrying out a peaceful protest?

I believe that the amendments originated in Scotland. Consequently, perhaps I may point out some of the comments by the Scottish Landowners' Federation convenor at the federation's annual conference on 8th March. He stated: We have examined the Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill very carefully and are quite confident that people enjoying the countryside in a reasonable way such as walkers and campers could not possibly be convicted of aggravated trespass. We do need this legislation. If Scotland is excluded we shall certainly see mass trespass. This has started already". He referred to the effects on the Scottish economy and the jobs in remote places that will go. He then stated: Reasonable people are not going to be affected". The Scottish Landowners' Federation legal adviser wrote to the Law Society of Scotland stating: We do not think that walkers, climbers and others enjoying the countryside in a reasonable way could be convicted of aggravated trespass". If that is the case, I cannot understand why the amendments have been introduced.

Lord Macaulay of Bragar

Before the noble Lord sits down, will he agree that whether a person is transgressing this piece of legislation depends entirely on the view of the landowner and not of the alleged trespasser? How will the situation be resolved in reality in the middle of a field?

Lord Burton

I do not follow the noble Lord. It is not a question of whether it is the view of the landowner or anyone else. The debate relates to the provisions in the Bill. That seems perfectly straightforward. The. legal advisers in Scotland have confirmed that.

Lord Macaulay of Bragar

With respect, I am not interested in the opinion of legal advisers. The Bill is concerned with the practicality of access to land where people are doing no harm. The judgment as to whether a person is doing harm will be entirely in the hands of the landowner who considers that his rights have been transgressed.

Lord Burton

That is quite possibly true because many people come to the countryside, whether or not they wilfully create a disturbance or cause trouble or anything else. As landowners, we know we experience considerable trouble from people who know nothing about the countryside. They let their dogs chase animals all over the place and we have all kinds of problems; they light fires and leave litter behind. That does not come into the Bill but it is clear that this legislation is perfectly reasonable and covers any problem which may arise.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

The noble Lord, Lord Burton, is confident, but I have to tell the Committee that he did not complete his reading from the evidence of the Scottish Landowners' Federation. It is necessary to complete that evidence, and the federation starts by saying: The Scottish Landowners Federation, which represents; the owners of most rural land in Scotland, has supported the application to Scotland of suitably targeted UK legislation to deal with the problem of deliberate disruption of field sports". So far, we are in agreement. The view of the Federation is that innocent walkers, climbers and others enjoying the countryside in a reasonable way would not be affected by the new legislation as such people do not have the intention to intimidate, disrupt or obstruct the lawful activity of others". So far, I think that the noble Lord, Lord Burton, and I are in accord. The federation continues: However, the [Scottish Landowners Federation] is conscious of the concerns which have been expressed about the scope of this clause. In particular, any suggestion that the legislation might restrict normal public access to the countryside might prejudice the spirit of understanding and tolerance which are so important on the issue of access to the countryside. For this reason, and in particular to improve harmony in the Highlands without in any way detracting from the proper scope of the clause, the Scottish Landowners Federation encourages their Lordships to support the [following] amendments: 73, 77, 78 and 79". Those are the amendments moved by my noble friend Lady Mallalieu.

Viscount Mountgarret

Does the noble Lord agree that Scotland is slightly different from England? Nonetheless, it is possible that in Scotland they too might be somewhat misguided. Noble Lords may laugh but it is true that bodies can be misguided as well as being anxious. As my noble friend Lord Mancroft said, it is clearly laid down in the Bill that anyone intimidating, obstructing or disrupting perfectly legal and fair activities going on in the open air are committing an offence. That must be plain for all to see and I am astonished that the Scottish Landowners' Federation does not appear to understand that.

Lord Burton

Perhaps I may rise again at this juncture. I quoted the comments of the chairman of the Scottish Landowners' Federation in March. Since then, with remarkably little consultation with any of the other members of the federation, some influence appears to have been brought—and we have suspicions as to where it has come from—to try to put the extra bit in. That has been done through a small number of members and it has affected members who are seriously considering not renewing their subscription to the federation.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

The problems within the Scottish Landowners' Federation are the least of my concerns.

Earl Peel

Perhaps I may take up the point made by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, about the decision being that of the landlord. As I understand it, that is simply not the case. The landlord is quite within his rights to draw to the attention of the police the problems that are occurring, but it is up to the police, the senior police officer on the scene, to decide—it is a discretionary power—whether he wishes to take action. I believe that that is a fundamental part of both Clauses 63 and 64.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley

The debate so far demonstrates the need for some kind of limiting amendments such as those that have been moved. Everyone has spoken of the skyline, hunting, fishing and throwing stones into ponds. These clauses as drafted will catch the peaceful demonstrator demonstrating outside Sainsbury's on a market day to try to stop Sainsbury's selling ozone depleting gases. That has happened and, thanks to Sainsbury's good sense—

9.30 p.m.

Lord Mancroft

Will the noble Lord be kind enough to give way? Is he really trying to tell the Committee that peaceful protesters outside Sainsbury's will intimidate, obstruct and disrupt? It is quite clear that they will not do that; and, if they do not do that, they will not be targeted by this Bill.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley

What I am saying is that innocent protesters outside Sainsbury's will be accused of obstructing and intimidating. That is what the managers of the stores will say. That is what they will tell the police and that will be taken to be the case from then on. Perfectly decent citizens who are protesting against something that they really believe is wrong will have a criminal record.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

I am amazed that the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, should have such a low opinion of the police. The police will read the Bill just as the noble Lord and I can read it on the matter of intimidation.

Perhaps I may put just one point to the Committee that concerns me. (It is not so much on the sporting side.) Members of the Committee must have seen and heard of the number of demonstrations by animal liberationists against farmers carrying out certain practices in respect of pigs and chickens which perhaps you or I do not like terribly but which are within the law. But, more important than that—and I cannot believe that there is a single Member of the Committee who has not suffered from some form of disease in his or her family —they demonstrate against the medical profession. This clause would help prevent those demonstrations. I cannot believe that any Member of the Committee would not wish to see animals used, very carefully, in vivisection to help the human race.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

The noble Lord, Lord Stanley, as so often, puts his finger on the crux of what we are talking about. Of course some of us agree and some disagree with the particular objectives of protest. I personally am very strongly opposed to the Animal Liberation Front and those who would oppose experiments on animals for human benefit. I personally have no particular sympathy with hunt saboteurs—none at all. I have a lot of sympathy with those who protest on environmental grounds against government schemes which would involve, for example, cutting through sites of special scientific interest or areas of natural beauty for the benefit of road schemes. We all have our different views. We are entitled to those views, and we should continue to express them and to disagree with each other about them.

What we cannot do is use a measure which is apparently designed to protect society against a particular group of people—hunt saboteurs—in order to inhibit the ability of ordinary people to protest peacefully against lawful activities to which they are opposed.

The noble Lord, Lord Stanley, referred specifically to "intimidating". What the noble Lord did not say was that the clause goes on to say, obstructing that activity … or … disrupting that activity". It is right that, on occasion, even if we disagree with them, people should have the ability to protest, obstructing or disrupting even the lawful activities of authorities in this country. That principle goes back hundreds of years in our society. If we abandon it and make it a criminal offence to begin to do that, we are losing something that is very profound in the civil liberties of this country.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

I am sorry to come back to the noble Lord. I agree with a lot of what he says. As my noble friends on the Front Bench know better than anybody, I am the biggest protester that we should have that right. But we should have it within the law. This proposal says that it must be within the law; it must be done civilly. I shall not go on because the noble Lord will finally defeat me. He is a politician and I am a farmer. But that is what I feel and I feel it very strongly.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I cannot have that. The noble Lord, Lord Stanley, and I are both amateurs in politics. He is a farmer and I am a market researcher. Neither of us earns our living in politics. The fundamental point behind the amendment is that we can all disagree with authority and we have a right to protest against authority on certain occasions. In practice, if the noble Lord and I found ourselves on the barricades we would be on the same side. I do not believe that he is in favour of an authoritarian society. Unless there are amendments, this clause will bring in an authoritarian society.

Earl Peel

I should like to return specifically to the amendment. As I understand it, the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, is attempting to restrict these activities to sporting activities. But what happens in the case to which my noble friend Lord Stanley made reference? Say that animal liberationists went on to a farm in order to try to disrupt a perfectly legitimate and legal farming activity. Farming is not a sport. If it were, I suspect that the Inland Revenue would have quite a lot of fun over it. Presumably that would be caught by the noble Lord's amendment, although I do not think that such is his intention.

Perhaps I may give one other example. It may be fairly remote but I feel it is relevant. The noble Lord has used the words: shall include any activities traditionally carried out in the open air and the countryside". What about whippet racing? It may sound fairly obscure but I understand that there has been at least one case in which a demonstration has taken place against whippet racing. That would be covered by the noble Lord's amendment in a way which I feel sure he does not intend. I too have a degree of sympathy for what he intends but I think the amendment is too narrow and for that reason will probably not be acceptable.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

Let us search for a way to put it right, shall we? Nobody is defending violence. Let us be clear about that. If there is violence, whether in opposition to a sport or any other lawful activity, none of us will defend it. We oppose the creation of a new criminal offence of aggravated trespass which applies not only to sport but to lawful activities. That is our difficulty with the clause as drafted. That is why, even at the expense of hunt saboteurs (and other people with whom some of us—not my noble friend Lady Mallalieu—may have some sympathy), we want to restrict the new offence of aggravated trespass as much as we can. If there is violence, let us deal with it by the existing legislation.

The noble Earl need have no fear that there is any limitation on the ability of the police or the courts to deal with violence. That has always been so, whether it concerns the Animal Liberation Front or anybody else. A quite different sanction is proposed in this clause— the sanction of aggravated trespass. That is what we want to limit.

Earl Peel

Let me reply by saying that the noble Lord opposite should have no fear. The people who carry out peaceful demonstrations and do not disrupt these activities will not be caught by this legislation.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

That is not what the Bill says.

Lord Avebury

The point is that an area of conduct which is treated as criminal is being extended by these provisions. Actions which are lawful at the moment will be made imprisonable. We shall come on to that point in a few minutes. Surely the noble Lord must see that it is legitimate for people to express anxieties when conduct that is perfectly peaceful—that is to say, non-violent—and has never before been touched by the law is suddenly to be brought within the ambit of the criminal law. Plenty of examples of that have been given.

Whether or not my noble friend is correct in saying that demonstrators outside Sainsbury's who obstruct the entrance to the store and thereby prevent shoppers having the same ease of access to the doors of the premises as they would otherwise enjoy in the absence of the demonstrators, will not be caught by the Bill is a matter for the courts to determine. We cannot say how a court will act if such a case is brought to its attention.

A group of demonstrators standing in front of the entrance to Sainsbury's holding placards and chanting slogans may be deemed to be intimidating to shoppers who would otherwise go into the store to do their shopping but who turn away and shop at Safeway's instead. The manager of Sainsbury's would be perfectly entitled, under the Bill, to call a policeman and say, "Here is the evidence. This lady normally comes here every week to buy groceries. She watched the demonstration, turned away and went into another shop. By definition, therefore, she was obstructed or intimidated from shopping at Sainsbury's"; and the Bill must then bite.

Many similar cases can be envisaged. I know that I sometimes upset the Minister when I use my imagination in these cases. But what about the person who lies down in front of a bulldozer on a contractor's site where a motorway is being constructed? At the moment he can do that and all the police can do—they have done so on many occasions—is remove the person by picking him up, placing him in a transit van and driving him off the site. After the Bill is enacted, if anyone goes to places of special scientific interest or outstanding natural beauty, for instance, where the Government propose to drive through a six-lane highway —such as Oxleas Wood—those persons lying down in front of the bulldozer will be committing an offence under this section because they will be obstructing the contractors in the lawful exercise of their duty to construct that road. I cannot see any way in which the police could avoid taking action if that matter was drawn to their attention.

I want to give one more example which came into my head when I saw the picket line of the BBC standing on the road between here and Lambeth Bridge. If peaceful pickets were standing on land which belonged to a building rather than the highway, they would be committing an offence. They would be setting our. to prevent fellow workers from entering the premises. The people on strike at the BBC intend to prevent their colleagues entering the building and assisting the BBC to put out its programmes. As I read the clause, as long as they are doing that on the footpath or the public highway, they are not committing an offence. But if they were on the forecourt and the forecourt belonged to the BBC, they would be committing an offence; they would be setting out to intimidate or obstruct colleagues from entering and performing their normal duties in pursuance of the picket that they were conducting.

Therefore, what is at present lawful trade union activity and with which no one suggests we should interfere—it is a longstanding right of trade unionists to picket buildings or premises which belong to employers with whom they are in dispute—will need to be carried out on a public highway or on a footpath rather than on land belonging to the employer, otherwise the participants immediately become liable to conviction of a criminal offence. Is that what we are after? I agree with Members of the Committee who say that the clause must be restricted as much as possible. I would prefer to see the criminalisation of these activities removed altogether. But in the absence of any indication that the Government are prepared to remove the penalty of imprisonment from the clause—of which they have so far shown no sign—I shall be prepared to support the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh.

Viscount Mountgarret

Before the noble Lord sits down perhaps he will clarify one point for me. Is he saying that those who wish to object to the possible destruction of an area of outstanding beauty—he mentioned Oxleas Wood—are acting lawfully? Is he saying that it would be unfair to stop them obstructing the activity of building the road in question? Surely there are other ways to make one's feelings known in a proper and civilised fashion. We have seen too much of this petty and ridiculous obstruction, which the Government wish to cease.

9.45 p.m.

Lord Avebury

The noble Viscount is a lawyer so he can tell me, if he likes, whether people who go onto a contractor's land and lie down in front of the bulldozers, as I am suggesting they have done, have been committing a criminal offence in the past. I am not conscious of seeing the prosecution of demonstrators who obstruct contractors in that way on their own premises. I do not believe that it would be a criminal offence at the moment. The police may come along and remove them from the site, but I do not think that any prosecution would result from their activities.

Earl Ferrers

We have had a delightfully circuitous debate. The amendments seek to restrict the application of aggravated trespass to sporting events. The noble Baroness very fairly said that she was concerned about road traffic matters and tree felling and she argued that there ought to be a right of protest on such things. The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, said that there ought to be a right to protest against authority. After hearing the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, I agreed with my noble friend Lord Mancroft in that I thought that the noble Lord was living on another planet. He said that there must be a right to protest and that people who protested were not being anti-society. He said that these were non-violent activities, that it was a traditional and legitimate right of people and that that was why we have no need of a written constitution. He talked of the freedom of expression and said that the Government were trying to close the avenue of peaceful protest. With the greatest respect to the noble Lord, I wondered what on earth he was talking about. What we are talking about has nothing to do with protest; it is trespass and the law of trespass. The noble Lord said that the Public Order Act 1986 is adequate to deal with all cases. It manifestly is not. That is the reason why we have made the alterations in the Bill. The Public Order Act 1986 has not been adequate.

Perhaps I may readdress the mind of the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, to what we are talking about. When the noble Lord started talking about picketing outside Sainsbury's I thought that had absolutely nothing to do with aggravated trespass—

Noble Lords


Earl Ferrers

If you picket outside Sainsbury's you are usually picketing on the highway and on the pavement. That has nothing to do with aggravated trespass.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley:

If you are on Sainsbury's forecourt and if you are going to protest outside the supermarkets these days, as often as not you are on an enormous area which belongs to the shop itself. It is exactly that which is being caught by the Bill as drafted.

Earl Ferrers

If that is the case it seems to be fundamentally a very good reason why the clause is in the Bill. Is the noble Lord saying that here is a patch of ground owned by Sainsbury's upon which it has built its supermarket and that everyone else can come along, clobber up the land and fill it up by protests and that the owner is not liable to say, "This is not right. This is unfair"? I think that the noble Lord has made the case for the clause.

Perhaps I may redirect his mind again. A person commits the offence of aggravated trespass if he trespasses on land in the open air and does anything which is intended to have the effect of intimidating those persons, or any of them, so as to deter them from engaging in that activity, or which is intended to obstruct that activity, or to disrupt that activity. That is what we are talking about.

It is perfectly true that country sports are affected. The disorder of field sports events is only one of the primary factors behind the Government promoting this legislation. But we do not believe that it would be right to restrict the provisions solely to that sphere. There is no good reason why other lawful activities should not be protected from obstruction or disruption. There is no good reason why their participants should not be protected from intimidation. Those who take part in garden parties, building a motorway or running Sainsbury's, if the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, wishes to take that view, have just as much right to pursue their lawful activities without hindrance and trespass as do those who are playing croquet or cricket.

If there is to be a law of aggravated trespass—which is what is proposed—then it should apply equally across the board and not just to one set of people, such as those engaging in sport, and not apply to others. That makes no sense and it is not in any way fair.

Baroness Mallalieu

I am grateful to the noble Earl for indicating that it is the intention of the Government to extend the application of this clause beyond the field which I believe most of us thought that it had been introduced to deal with. I shall try to straddle the two strands of the argument and hope not to fall between the two horses that I am trying to ride this evening. Having seen at first hand, as I know a number of other Members of the Committee have, what has passed as peaceful protest but which has involved bullying, violence and intimidation, and speaking purely on a personal basis, I am in no doubt that additional legislation is needed. The noble Earl has been good enough to hear me on occasions outside this Chamber when I have spoken to him about my fears that people would be seriously injured or killed if legislation were not brought in to deal with what has been happening and what I have unhappily seen occur at far too close quarters.

But I, and others on all sides of the Committee, are concerned that in the legislation which the Government now seek to introduce people should not be caught who do not fall into the category of those who are not just protesting or putting their views, but who are actually trying to bully and intimidate others. There is a real anxiety that if this clause remains without any restriction it may catch some whom I believe that even the noble Earl would accept were not in the Government's contemplation and may restrict the freedom of some people who, as they feel, demonstrate and express their views.

I am anxious that there are Members of the Committee opposite who feel that this provision should remain wider than the proposed amendments would allow in order to deal, for example, with disruption to certain farming activities. I see that there are other amendments which this House will consider later which would appear to meet those matters. I am anxious that restrictions which are proposed should be confined to the purpose for which they are designed. If there are other areas of disruption in which there is a need to restrict protest, then they should be contained in separate clauses. I am anxious at the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, that this clause as it stands will affect those who do no more than peacefully protest. I cannot agree with him because I believe that it is designed in such a way as to deal with those whose activities go far beyond what he would consider to be legitimate if he were to face them himself.

For that reason I feel that this legislation is necessary; but in the amended form of the proposal of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh. Having heard anxieties expressed from different parts of the Committee, I hope that the Government will not dismiss them because they are real. If this provision can be restricted so that it applies in this instance specifically to sports, and if there are other areas which are causing anxiety and real concern to the police at the present time where the veneer of peaceful protest is being used as an excuse for bullying, intimidation and violence, then there should be clauses to deal with them and the House should have an opportunity of looking at those situations and deciding whether legislation is needed. All that should not be lumped together in one clause in this way. It is for that reason that my noble friends and I—and noble Lords of other parties—have expressed those reservations.

I shall no doubt take a view on later clauses which the noble Earl would not wish to hear, but, so far as concerns this series of amendments, I should point out that they are very restricted. All that they do is to ensure that the provisions of this clause are restricted to the purpose for which, as I understand it, they were designed. I appreciate that at this stage the noble Earl makes no concessions; but I hope that when he has time to reflect and to consider people's real anxieties about many aspects of this matter, he will feel that some restriction along these lines is necessary.

The Earl of Haddington

Perhaps I may add a note of support to the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, and the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh. I think that the clause as it stands is too broadly based. It encompasses activities by private individuals and by public bodies. I refer specifically to roadworks. I know that they are as close to the heart of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, as they are to mine. Roadworks are becoming more and more extensive in the south of England. They destroy much of the countryside across which my noble friends like to hunt. They really should think about that point.

There is much reference in Clause 65 to penalties against those who vandalise and damage sites of historical and archaeological interest. The Department of Transport is one of the greatest offenders in that respect. In our part of the world, in Scotland, the department wants to march a by-pass through Trimontium, which is one of the largest and least excavated Roman settlements north of the Border. Much knowledge would be lost by that intrusion. In the Winchester area, despite much protest by the local population, an ancient and important burial site at Twyford Down has been disturbed; and at Stonehenge, the greatest of our megalithic monuments, there is a threat to build a dual carriageway in a 48-metre trench no more than about 100 yards away from Stonehenge itself. That would ruin the site —but the sight has already been ruined, if your Lordships will forgive the pun. At Bath, the Swainswick by-pass has caused much excitement and people are protesting about it. It goes past Salisbury Hill at the top of which there is a labyrinth, one of the few ancient British labyrinths—

Lord Elton

I wonder whether the noble Earl will give way for a second. I want to clear my mind as to whether we are still talking about Amendment No. 73 which, as far as I understand it, has not been withdrawn, or whether we have moved on without formal procedure to some other part of the Bill.

The Earl of Haddington

My apologies. Have we moved on?

Baroness Mallalieu

We have not moved on due to my failure to ask the leave of the Committee to withdraw Amendment No. 73. I now beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 73A:

Page 47, line 32, leave out from first ("in") to ("on").

The noble Lord said: I had expected that Amendments Nos. 73A, 74, 75 and 76 would be grouped together, but they are not. In the circumstances and at this stage, I do not intend to move the amendment.

[Amendment No. 73A not moved.]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 74:

Page 47, line 33, leave out from ("anything") to end of line 34 and insert ("with the primary purpose").

The noble Lord said: I thought that Amendments Nos. 74, 75 and 76 were grouped and that they made a coherent whole. Under the circumstances, I shall not move my amendments, but we may return to them at a later stage.

[Amendment No. 74 not moved.]

[Amendments Nos. 75 and 76 not moved.]

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Grantchester)

I have to tell the Committee that if Amendment No. 77 is agreed to I cannot call Amendment No. 78.

[Amendments Nos. 77 and 78 not moved.]

10 p.m.

Lord Macaulay of Bragar moved Amendment No. 78ZA:

Page 47, line 42, at end insert:

("(3) A person exclusively exercising his rights as a bona fide rambler, hillwalker or other recreational user of the countryside shall not commit an offence under this Act.").

The noble Lord said: This amendment is designed to exclude from offences under the Bill any:

person exclusively exercising his rights as a bona fide rambler, hill walker or other recreational user of the countryside".

Most of this has been discussed at an earlier stage. Much of the heat that has been generated by the Bill and the firing that has gone on between landowners and the people who want to exercise rights of access over land arises from doubts that individuals will still be able to exercise rights of access to the land within the law. The object of the amendment is to enshrine in the statute the rights mentioned in the amendment so that people do not end up having a confrontation with the landowner or the police when they are walking about on land doing no harm to anyone.

We have already heard the views of the Scottish Landowners' Federation from my noble friend Lord McIntosh. It would be of interest to know whether the Government have received any representations from any landowners' associations in England and Wales about sustaining the rights of innocent people—if I may put it that way—going about the countryside as they have done since time immemorial. I beg to move.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

As the noble Lord has said, the amendment covers much the same ground as that which has already been discussed. I know that there is concern, particularly in Scotland, that there may be some problem in identifying the intention of those people who are innocently walking across land: are they intending to be innocent or are they not?

The amendment is slightly strange because, were it to be inserted into the Bill, how would one argue in court who is a bona fide rambler? It could be a rose, quite apart from anything else. The noble Lord is a lawyer and will know the answer to that, but it is a strange way to word a statute.

Earl Ferrers

The anxieties of the noble Lord, Lord Macaulay—if I may say so—are misplaced. Those who peacefully enjoy the countryside have nothing to fear. They will not come within the scope of the offence. The offence of aggravated trespass will bite only on those trespassers who wilfully disrupt or obstruct, or who intimidate others who are engaging in lawful activity, or who seek to disrupt, obstruct or intimidate those people.

Intent is a crucial element of the offence. Those who are merely enjoying a recreational pursuit should have nothing to fear. The same goes for ramblers. But it would be wrong to seek to restrict the protection which is available from the criminal law by excluding some people from its scope. The law should apply equally to everyone. Where ramblers, hill walkers and others behave offensively—if they do—it is right that aggravated trespass should apply to them. As I think the noble Lord will agree, that is highly unlikely, but it would be wrong to exclude any particular section of people from the offence.

Lord Macaulay of Bragar

I am obliged to the Minister for that reply. That was never the intention. The amendment may have been badly worded with the use of the phrase bona fide, but its intention was to enshrine in statute the right of the citizen as opposed to the right of the landlord. At the moment it is all one-sided. As I observed earlier, the landlord will make the decision. The amendment would at least give some statutory recognition to the fact that there are people who wish to exercise their rights. One can take away the words bona fide—I did not hear the noble Baroness's alternative to bona fide. People who are exercising their well-known and well-established rights to walk over the land should have that right enshrined in statute.

I listened with interest to what the Minister said. Obviously, at this time of night we are not going to enter into a prolonged debate and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Avebury moved Amendment No. 78ZB:

Page 47, line 44, leave out ("imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months or").

The noble Lord said: I should not have objected to any of the provisions in the clause had it not been for the criminalisation of the activities that it covers. If the Government had merely presented us with the notion that aggravated trespass was a harmful activity which needed to be deterred and that substantial fines could be imposed on those engaged in it I should have had little to say. The existence of the three months' imprisonment provision has made me think more carefully about the matter and I was not reassured by what the Minister said at an earlier stage.

Dismissive remarks about my noble friend's examples were not helpful. Obviously, the noble Earl knows nothing about the topography of Sainsbury's or he would be aware that in almost every case the shop is surrounded by a large area of car parking and forecourt where people might well wish to demonstrate. And why should they not do so? The noble Earl at the conclusion of his reply was almost saying that no one should have the right to go into Sainsbury's premises and in front of the entrance do anything which would in the slightest inhibit shoppers from entering.

The lack of a proper definition of the activities that will be lawful and what will be caught by the provisions worries me too. Clearly, at one end of the scale is the violence which the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, deplored. I warmly share her views, but we are not talking about that because it is dealt with under other legislation. It is the nature of the intimidation or obstruction, which will be covered by these clauses and which may result in the person's imprisonment, that causes me great anxiety.

People have done things which hitherto under the law they have been able to get away with and which have resulted in important changes as they see it—whether it be as regards environmental destruction wrought by the indiscriminate policy of motorway building or even as regards sport. Perhaps I may say to the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, that a few years ago I was a defence witness in the trial of Peter Hain who ran an organisation called Stop the '70 Tour. The South Africans were proposing to come to this country to play cricket and many of us thought it was undesirable for us to play host to racist selected teams which came from that country.

As a result of the activities of my friend Peter Hain, who is now a Member of another place, public attention was drawn to the evils of the apartheid system, which mercifully has been brought to an end. My friend Peter Hain made a significant contribution to that in his attacks on apartheid sport, which he would not have been able to conduct under the provisions of the Bill. He was acquitted of every one of the charges brought against him on that occasion, except one of a comparatively minor nature for which he was fined.

If the Bill had applied at the time of the Stop the '70 Tour Peter Hain would have been liable to three months' imprisonment. I do not see that we want to extend the scope of imprisonment in this way. I have said that three times tonight. I said it twice in relation to Clauses 56 and 58 and a third time in relation to the new clause proposed by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner.

I repeat that, by extending the criminal law to a greater range of what have hitherto been considered normal activities, we are making a serious mistake. We should deal with aggravated trespass, as we deal with all the other provisions in Part V, by a process of fines only.

I have no hope that the Minister will give me a favourable reply to this as he has not done so on the earlier occasion. However, I wish to register the fact that this is the third time that we have dealt with offences punishable by imprisonment and it is not the last example that we shall come to in the Bill. I regret that and I hope that, when Members of the Committee have had an opportunity to consider everything that has been said on this subject, we may encounter a more responsive attitude at the next stage of the Bill. I beg to move.

Lord Elton

Is it not the case that when a statute creates an offence that offence may be committed to any number of degrees, either very trivial or very serious? Is it not the case also that statutes sometimes lay down a minimum but always lay down a maximum? The maximum is supposed to be appropriate for the most serious degree to which the offence is committed. Is it not the case that the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, merely removes the appropriate penalty for the maximum degree and substitutes nothing whatsoever? Therefore, it is entirely inappropriate.

Lord Archer of Sandwell

There is no issue in this Committee that unlawful conduct should be visited by a sanction. The issue in the debate in which Members of the Committee participated a few moments ago was as to which unlawful conduct can be left safely to a civil remedy and which is so serious that it should be visited with a criminal sanction.

We understood from the noble Earl that it is the Government's intention that the objectors on Sainsbury's forecourt who may obstruct the path of the odd shopper are guilty of conduct so serious that we should attach to it a criminal sanction; that we should make those objectors criminals. But, if that is the case, I certainly support the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, that we should not then attach to that offence a penalty of imprisonment. Of course that is a maximum. But we are saying that the people demonstrating outside Sainsbury's could fall into the area which is punishable by imprisonment.

If the noble Earl had given a different answer a. few moments ago and had said that it is the Government's intention to confine those clauses to really serious conduct of the kind of which examples have been given by some Members of the Committee, then I should have agreed that there are kinds of criminal conduct which merit imprisonment and I do not believe that I should have supported the noble Lord, Lord Avebury. But if the noble Earl says that the Sainsbury's category is quite deliberately being brought into the clause, then it seems to me that it is quite disproportionate that those people should be liable to imprisonment.

Lord Mancroft

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, and the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, have both expressed considerable anxiety about the prospect of the clause catching inadvertently the innocent peaceful protester. That is why the noble Lord, Lord Avebury has moved the amendment so that peaceful protesters are not caught by the criminal law and sent to prison.

That is all very well but the fact is that the noble Lard failed to convince the Committee during the course of the debate on the last amendment that the legislation would catch out those peaceful protesters. He has not taken into account the fact that the purpose of the clauses is to catch out one particular group—and that is not peaceful protesters. If the noble Lord's amendment is accepted, those protesters who are decidedly unpeaceful and, indeed, very warlike, will avoid the sanctions of the law.

Lord Archer of Sandwell

Perhaps the noble Lord will allow me to intervene. If he takes the view that the peaceful protesters outside Sainsbury's are not caught by the clauses, then he will need to persuade the noble Earl because the noble Earl assured us a few moments ago that they would be and should be caught.

Lord Mancroft

I do not wish to speak to the noble Earl but, having listened to what he said, it seemed to me that he was not talking about the peaceful protester. He was talking about the obstructive or intimidating protester which is very different from the peaceful protester referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury.

The key to the mistake in the reasoning of the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, on this matter is when he used, in his own words, a few minutes ago the phrase "get away with". The reason these clauses have been brought forward is that people who have been breaking the law and who have been committing serious offences—for example, attacking people and abusing people—which are contrary to the Public Order Act have been getting away with that because the police and private landowners, and anyone else for that matter, have been unable to obtain convictions. That is why the Government have brought these offences forward and that is why they are being introduced. We need these penalties so that those who have escaped the consequences of their behaviour under the Public Order Act will escape them no longer.

10.15 p.m.

Lord Avebury

I do not know whether the noble Lord has ever been convicted of obstruction but I have. The circumstances were that I was passing the Aeroflot offices on Piccadilly minding my own business and there was a demonstration of Jewish emigres who were protesting at the refusal of the Soviet Union to allow their relatives and friends to leave the Soviet Union. One of them accosted me and said, "You spoke at a meeting of the campaign against psychiatric abuse the other day. You will be interested in this". I was then handed a leaflet. I was reading the leaflet on a pavement in Piccadilly when a policeman came up to me and said, "Move". I replied, "Excuse me but I am just talking to this lady about the reasons for the occupation of the Aeroflot offices". He said, "No you are not. When I tell you to move, you move and if you do not move you are committing an offence". I said, "You must be joking". He said, "You will see whether I am joking". He grabbed me by the arm, drew it behind my back and twisted it, dug his nails into my wrist and marched me off to the police car. I was taken to the station and charged with obstruction. When I consulted a lawyer about this he said, "You are causing an obstruction when the police say you are causing an obstruction and therefore there is no way you will rebut this charge in court". The only thing I could do was to make a complaint against the officer—I did so, naturally without success—on account of the violence which he had exhibited against me in the course of the arrest.

I only mention that story to show that a person standing on a pavement, or indeed on the forecourt of premises where he may be protesting against some activity which is lawful in itself, is ipso facto committing an offence and he can be charged with obstruction by the police. If obstruction in this clause means the same thing as obstruction in the ordinary law, to be committing it one does not have to be doing anything violent at all, or anything particularly intimidating. One simply has to be standing in front of premises and perhaps displaying a placard, giving out leaflets, shouting slogans or anything of that sort. If that is the kind of activity that the noble Lord and the Government wish to criminalise, I have to part company with them.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

How can anyone say that the police do not have the power to deal with issues of this kind, perhaps excessively? I agree entirely with the noble Lord, Lord Avebury. I was present some years ago at a march of the National Front through Haringey. In the course of that march there was peaceful protest by many of us against the intrusion of racists into our borough. In the course of that march I saw one of the people I was with bundled forcibly into a police van. I took out a piece of paper from my pocket and I wrote down the letter and the number of the policeman who did that. Another policeman came up to me, snatched the piece of paper from my inside pocket and said, "If you use that I am taking you in as well". If it was not for the fact that I had my two teenage sons with me at the time I would certainly have been taken by force into a police van under those circumstances.

There is no shortage of powers for the police at the present time to obstruct peaceful protests on a political basis. What is proposed here is the justification in statute of that aggressive power against the community by authority. I do not approve of the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, raising this matter again when it was grouped with an earlier amendment. I must say that on a procedural point. However, as regards the issue he raises, he is entirely right.

Earl Peel

It is quite clear that the noble Lord is really opposed to these additional powers of pre-emption. He does not like the idea of the police officers or officer having the power to anticipate what this individual or these individuals are going to do. Yet there is clear evidence of the need for pre-emption to prevent such people stopping others from carrying on a perfectly legitimate activity. I suspect that that is the root cause of the noble Lord's objection to the Bill—the provision to allow the police powers of pre-emption. I believe that that power is essential if this Bill is to be effective.

Earl Russell

Can the noble Earl explain how the anticipation of what people may be going to do is compatible with the presumption of innocence?

Earl Peel

The police have great experience in these matters, particularly in relation to field sports. These activities have been taking place for many years. They are becoming worse and worse. That is one of the main reasons why we have these two clauses in front of us in the Bill.

As I said, the police have had experience in these matters for some time. It is clear to them and to those of us who have witnessed these goings on that these people gather with the clear intention of disrupting a perfectly legal activity. If we are to prevent that disruption from taking place I contend that the police must have these pre-emptive powers. Otherwise these provisions will not be effective.

Lord Hylton

In the past I have corresponded with the noble Earl the Minister about the disruption of traditional field sports, in which I do not indulge myself, although I recognise the right of others to indulge in them. What seems to me to be necessary is a clarification of the law on peaceful persuasion. I am not convinced that this Bill sets about achieving that in an appropriate manner, particularly when it creates new imprisonable offences.

Earl Ferrers

One of the advantages of the procedures of this Chamber is that periodically we group amendments together so as to expedite the proceedings. The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, moved Amendment No. 58BA. Eleven other amendments were grouped with that amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, said with a certain pride that he had already spoken three times this evening on imprisonment. Having done my little bit of mathematics, I can tell him that we are now on the fifth of the 12 amendments upon which the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, has already spoken three times. Therefore, heaven help us, how many times will he speak on the same subject? He is entitled to do so, but it is rather like having one's dinner three times over. We have heard the arguments which he has pursued this evening three times before.

The trouble is that we get carried away and hear extraordinary things, and, with respect, we waste a great deal of time. The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, said that he was talking on a street outside the Aeroflot office. The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, said that he was nearly shoved into a police van in a demonstration in Haringey and that this issue is all about peaceful protest. It has nothing to do with peaceful protest. We are discussing aggravated trespass. The offence of aggravated trespass is perfectly clear. It is committed when, in relation to any lawful activity in which persons are engaged, a person trespasses on land in the open air with the object of intimidation, and obstruction and the disruption of that activity.

The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, and others keep coming back to what happens at Sainsbury's. I feel that Members of the Committee are letting the line run out of the fishing rod. We are discussing aggravated trespass. The definition of that offence states quite clearly that, where people are engaged in lawful activity and others trespass on land with the specific objective of preventing those people from engaging in that lawful activity, that ought to be a criminal offence.

Lord Archer of Sandwell

I am sorry to be tiresome, but will the noble Earl give us a straight answer? Does he consider that the people on Sainsbury's forecourt who may get in the way of a shopper should be liable to be sent to prison for three months?

Earl Ferrers

I would not be prepared to say whether a person outside Sainsbury's would be incriminated by a court. However, what is perfectly fair is that, if people are trespassing, and aggravatedly trespassing, on someone else's private land—whether that is Sainsbury's private land or on the estate of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, wherever he has it in Sandwell—it is the offence of trespass.

I was surprised that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer —he has been a Solicitor General; he knows the law backwards and forwards—asked whether these people ought to be in prison. As my noble friend Lord Elton said, when one makes laws, one has to allow for the worst; and the worst is imprisonment. But for that to occur on every or any occasion is unlikely.

I cannot and will not, with respect, answer the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, as to whether it is right for the person who carried out a peaceful protest or aggravated trespass outside Sainsbury's to go to prison. The fact is that if aggravated trespass is to operate, in the end an imprisonable offence might be created. But the chances of people going to prison for such an offence are small. I am sure that the noble and learned Lord realises that.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

The Minister must have some historical sense. I agree that if Jack Cade marches from Kent into London and hangs the Lord Mayor of London there might be some legitimate sanctions against him. But perhaps the noble Earl will look back to the Levellers on Saint George's Hill in Weybridge—private land in 1642—to Peterloo in Manchester, to any of the protests of the Chartists, or to any of the legitimate protests of the suffragists in our history. Virtually all those legitimate political protests which have promoted political change in our society over the centuries would now be outlawed by more stringent legal constraints than British law has encompassed in the past. That cannot be right.

Earl Ferrers

I simply say that I do not agree. The majority of protests occur in the public domain, on the streets, in Whitehall, or on the road. If the noble Lord says, "Because we wish to protest over something, let us go into someone's else's house; let us go into their private domain, and let us intrude in order to make that protest", one comes to criminal law. If someone makes a protest in the house of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, he is entitled to contact the police and say, "There are people coming on to my premises who are carrying out actions which are against the law. Will you please remove them?".

Lord Avebury

Although the Minister commented on Sainsbury's, he refused to give an answer as to whether the conduct described was lawful or would be liable to imprisonment. However, he deliberately ignored the other two examples that have been given. He made no comment on my suggestion that if lawful pickets in front of the BBC were on the land of the BBC, they would be criminalised. He also ignored my other example of the Stop the '70 Tour protest. I hope that most people in this Chamber would agree that anyone who demonstrated against apartheid, even to the extent of trespassing upon the pitch at Lord's Cricket Ground, performed a useful service in drawing attention to the wickedness of the racist regime in South Africa and helped to bring about the liberation of South Africa with a democratic Government responsible to the whole of its people, to everyone's enjoyment and wonder.

Was it not right that we should try to do everything possible to secure that outcome? Why did the Minister refrain from any comment on whether Mr. Peter Hain would have been liable to prosecution for a criminal offence and imprisonment for three months for the activities in which he engaged in the Stop the '70 Tour protest?

I am quite certain in my own mind that that would have been imprisonable conduct. If in future anyone wishes to stop a racist regime or dictatorship by taking action against the sporting activities which connect this country and that dictatorship, they would be unable to follow the same tactics as Mr. Hain did in 1970.

The nature of the conduct which has become criminal has not been properly defined and is still—in my mind at any rate —misty and cloudy. I do not understand what I would lawfully be able to do in demonstrations against a dictatorship, a racist regime, a chain of shops or an employer who was in dispute with his workers. Because one of the cardinal requirements of the law is that it should be certain in its application, I think this is a bad clause. The imposition of criminal penalties for conduct which is so ill-defined is not the right course for Parliament to take.

However, I realise that I have not impressed the Minister with my arguments this evening on this or Clauses 56 and 58. I can only leave what has been said this evening for Members of the Committee to consider at greater leisure so that we may return to the matter at Report stage. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 78ZC and 78A not moved.]

10.30 p.m.

Earl Peel moved Amendment No. 78B:

Page 48, line 3, at end insert:

("( ) For the avoidance of doubt, for the purposes of this section a trespass may be committed whether or not the occupier or person entitled to possession is present on the land").

The noble Earl said: While speaking to this amendment, I wish, with the leave of the Committee, to speak to Amendment No. 79H, which refers to Clause 64.

The amendment is similar to the one moved by my noble friend Lord Stanley when he was discussing the New Age travellers. It is important to establish whether the new offence of aggravated trespass can be committed in the absence of the occupier of the land or the person entitled to possession of the land in question. For example, the owner or the person with the shooting rights could have let a day's shooting. The owner or the person who had the shooting rights might not be present; aggravated trespass might be on the horizon, taking place, or the police might pre-empt its occurrence. Would the new offences be operational without the presence of the owner or occupier on the land? It is clear that the police require guidance on this, and I ask the Minister to give me an assurance that that is the case. I beg to move.

Earl Ferrers

These amendments seek to confirm that the occupier of the land need not be present when the offence of aggravated trespass is committed. I think that I can give my noble friend the comfort for which he is looking.

The powers are exercisable only against people who are reasonably believed by the police to be trespassers. Those who are reasonably but wrongly ordered to leave as trespassers are protected by a defence that they were not on the land as trespassers. I hope that that will satisfy my noble friend.

Earl Peel

I am grateful to my noble friend for that reply. I am satisfied with it and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Mancroft moved Amendment No. 78C:

Page 48, line 4, leave out subsection (5).

The noble Lord said: I beg to move this amendment on behalf of my noble friend. As the Committee will recall, the purpose of the clause is the prevention of the new offence of aggravated trespass. As yet, the offence does not apply to roads; subsection (5) gives an exemption for roads and my amendment omits that subsection.

The matter was discussed by my noble friend Lord Stanley earlier in connection with the New Age travellers. I wish to return to it because one of the areas of most serious disruption in the countryside is from the roads—the sides of the roads, not the middle. In answering my noble friend earlier, my noble friend on the Front Bench made two comments with which I gently take issue.

First, he said that there was no trespass on roads. He may have inadvertently misled the Committee; or I may have been misinformed. I am under the impression that there is indeed an offence of civil trespass on roads. It happens to be trespass on the roads of the highway authority, whereas on a piece of private land it is against the owner of that land. So there is already a precedent of trespass on roads.

Secondly, in the Bill as it stands there is no exemption—in other words, the trespass is included— on bridleways, footpaths and rights of way. As the Committee will remember, the purpose of a right of way is for a person to go from A to B. He commits a trespass if he does anything else, anything that is for instance undesirable or unlawful, on that right of way. There is no reason why the same should not apply to roads.

My noble friend on the Front Bench made another point with which I would take issue. He said that the police already have adequate powers. Quite clearly the police do not have adequate powers, or we would not have this problem. And the problem is very severe. When asked to leave private land or when prevented from going onto private land, many of the demonstrators and disrupters—the hunt saboteurs or whatever they may be—retire to the roadside, not the middle of the road. If they were in the middle of the road, they could be moved on by the police for obstruction. They retire to the side of the road and they cause disruption to what is going on in the fields or on the moorland near the road.

We are not talking here about any minor or tiresome disruption. I shall cite three out of many recent examples. In January 1992 a hound belonging to the Oakley hunt was called onto the A.6 by hunt saboteurs and was killed there. In December 1992, another hound of the same hunt was killed on the A.6 for exactly the same reason. In 1993 one of the Barlow foxhounds was killed on the A.61. All those incidents caused damage to cars and might have resulted in very much more serious accidents. Some such accidents have occurred in the past.

The reason that I have taken those three examples is that they were produced by the League Against Cruel Sports in a recent briefing document entitled Riot, which was sent round in another place during the passage of the Bill there as examples of hunt trespass. What it failed to point out in those examples is that hunt saboteurs were using their voices and hunting horns to call hounds onto the road, to the distress of the huntsmen and masters and the followers of those hounds, and ultimately the distress of other road users.

On those occasions, and on many others, about which I know my noble friend on the Front Bench has been informed, as have other Members of this House, the police failed to stop those activities, even though on several of those occasions the police were present. One of the reasons is that, when such people are taken into court, some courts say that the blowing of a horn is an offence and others say that it is not. They leave the court and they can do the same the following week, causing accidents and risk again.

If the police had had the powers to deal with this matter, they would have dealt with it. They have been unable to do so. The reason that the whole offence of aggravated trespass was brought forward was that the police were unable to deal with it on private land. The police are equally unable to deal with it on the sides of roads. At the moment there is therefore a huge loophole in this offence. The purpose of bringing these clauses forward is to deal with an extremely unpleasant, undesirable problem which the Government and the Association of Chief Police Officers have accepted and upon which a variety of people in the countryside have been pressing the Government for some time.

It therefore seems a pity if we allow these clauses to go forward and leave a large gap in them which would allow the disorder, violence, intimidation and danger to road users to continue. On that basis, I hope that my noble friend will look favourably upon this amendment. I beg to move.

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Ampthill)

I should remind the Committee that, if this amendment is agreed to, I shall be unable to call Amendment No. 78D.

Lord Renton

I rise only to point out—if it has already been pointed out, I hope that I shall be forgiven for raising the matter —that there appears to be a printing error on page 48 at line 6, where the reference should be to Section 56 instead of Section 55.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I could scarcely believe my ears when I heard the arguments put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft. Is not it bad enough that already, under the excuse of restricting hunt saboteurs, we are restricting peaceful political protest on private land on any subject whatsoever? That must be bad enough. But the idea that we should extend that restriction to the highway goes against every tradition of diversity of opinion in this country over 1,000 or even 2,000 years.

I can scarcely believe that it can be the desire of the Government that the protest which has been an essential part of the progress of our society should be made a criminal offence in the way proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft.

Viscount Mountgarret

I sympathise with and understand what the noble Lord is trying to say. However, I must ask him whether it does not go a little: far when people deliberately encourage hounds—I refer to hunting—to get on to the road, maybe for the purpose: of having them killed, running the risk of car accidents and so on, because they object to the sport. There is evidence that that has happened on more than one occasion. It is unpalatable but it is true. It may be necessary to have the measures that have been suggested in this amendment.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I tabled and supported amendments which would restrict the provisions of this part of the Bill to sporting activities which included hunting, shooting and fishing. The noble Viscount makes me wonder whether I was in error to make that conciliatory gesture. If disorder spills onto the roads, there are plenty of measures under the criminal law by which that disorder can be contained and violence can be prosecuted. The idea of using the law of aggravated trespass for that purpose is frankly incredible.

Earl Russell

I should be grateful if I could probe a little further the arguments put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft. Clearly the incidents that he described are serious breaches of the peace. Clearly they create a great danger. I should want to be convinced that there is no other adequate power available to deal with them.

In the first place, one would have thought that the conduct that he described was conduct tending to a breach of the peace. In the second place, should anyone die as a result of people encouraging hounds onto the A.6, it would be possible to imagine an indictment for manslaughter, which is a fairly severe charge. Thirdly, the noble Lord has already mentioned the Public Order Act. He said that the powers were not sufficient.

I beg his pardon if I have missed comments made earlier in the day, but I have not heard why those powers are insufficient. We seem to have here a clash between two perfectly genuine arguments. There is a clash between on the one hand the Queen's peace and on the other hand the civil liberties. It seems to me that a clash between those two objectives is one which ought to be avoided if possible, because they are both laudable objectives.

We ought to explore very carefully whether there exist any adequate powers to curb dangerous conduct of that kind, powers which do not have the spill-over effects that we have been discussing in relation to this clause. If such powers exist they should be used.

10.45 p.m.

Earl Ferrers

The noble Earl, Lord Russell, says that in the final instance given there was clearly a breach of the peace and we must ensure that breaches of the peace do not take place. I agree with him. I do not believe that anyone considers that this kind of activity, where danger and possible loss of human life is involved, is acceptable, correct or proper.

I agree also with the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, that there is a great deal of highway legislation. It is clear and provides many powers to deal with obstruction and so forth. Equally, I listened to my noble friend Lord Mancroft and in his view it does not seem to work, for the reasons he gave. Perhaps the best thing I can do for my noble friend is say that I shall certainly consider the position between now and the next stage, and consider all the suggestions that Members of the Committee have put forward, to see whether or not there is a way round the problem.

Lord Mancroft

In closing perhaps I may say to the noble Earl, Lord Russell —who raised some interesting points in an extremely constructive way—that there do not appear to be adequate powers. It is rather a case of the proof of the pudding being in the eating. The police have told us, the Government and various others, that they have been unable to obtain convictions in these situations. Had they been able to obtain convictions and deal with the problem, I should not be introducing the amendment this evening.

I agree, and the noble Earl hit the nail on the head, that I need to convince the Committee and the Government that the powers are inadequate. If I have failed to do that, then the Committee and the Government are quite right to turf me out. But I can safely say that there is considerable evidence that there are not adequate powers or, if there are adequate powers, that they are not working.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

Perhaps I can ask the noble Lord one question. He cited a number of examples and indicated that there has been either a failure of prosecution or a decision not to arrest those who have been involved in conduct of this sort. Has the noble Lord been told by a chief officer of police that the police cannot act because of deficiencies in the law, or is it his own judgment? I shall be grateful if he will clear that matter up.

Lord Mancroft

I have been in constant contact with a variety of senior police officers, ACPO and representatives of ACPO, official and unofficial. Obviously they have individual theories and ideas of their own, but it generally appears that senior police officers are saying that they have not been able to obtain the convictions for which they hoped, due to a variety of small and tiresome details—they have not been able to obtain the evidence or identification has been a problem. As far as far as I know, we have not yet suffered a case of manslaughter in this area, though we cannot be far from it. The situation is that at the moment the evidence appears to indicate that the system has not been working; the rules and the powers that have been given have not been working.

Lord Avebury

If one is not able to obtain evidence of identification, then the noble Lord's amendment will not help. Is it possible that between now and Report stage the noble Lord could devise a much more limited amendment which would deal with the offence of enticing hounds on to the highway and causing danger to the public, which would not be extended to all the other kinds of activity which are at present caught by the clause?

Earl Russell

My noble friend Lord Avebury has hit the nail on the head. I am extremely worried about the prospect of convicting people without identification. I should like to be reassured, before the amendment reaches the statute book, that we shall not be convicting people unless we have actually identified them as people committing an offence.

Earl Ferrers

Perhaps I may just help the noble Earl. I find it difficult to imagine any situation where a person can be convicted without being identified.

Lord Mancroft

My noble friend has perhaps answered that point for me. Before I conclude, perhaps I may put forward one point which I hope may persuade the Committee of the danger of not closing this loophole. I suspect that some Members may have missed it because I doubt whether many take the particularly attractive newspaper called Green Anarchist. Issue No. 33, entitled, "Smash the Howard Bill", contained a paragraph which reads, 'The good news is that this only applies in "open air' … and that no provision has been made for 'disruption' from public highways". That is not the only documentary evidence. The Hunt Saboteurs' Association, in its charming quarterly newspaper, has also been trumpeting its ability to carry on its behaviour from the roads because it, too, has spotted the loophole in the Bill.

I am extremely grateful for the reply given by my noble friend on the Front Bench. He has realised that there is a problem. I do not pretend that today, in this amendment, I have found the perfect solution to it by any means—and I would not dreaming of doing so—but I am glad that I have managed to persuade him that there is a problem. It is very serious. While I accept the concern of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, about peaceful protesters and about moving forward, his concern has been registered to the Committee. My noble friend has been kind enough to see that there is a loophole and I hope that at a later stage we may have a solution.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

Before the noble Lord decides what action he will take on his amendment, if he notes the concern and if he recognises the concern which we have expressed on Amendment No. 73, it is a great pity that he did not express that concern when we were considering the amendment.

Lord Mancroft

I think I did express it and I expressed it in the very first remarks I made on this series of amendments. I thank my noble friend for his answer. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Earl Peel moved Amendment No. 78D:

Page 48, line 4, after ("land") insert ("includes water, common land and forestry land, but").

The noble Earl said: This is simply a probing amendment to try to clarify that the offence of aggravated trespass could apply on all water, common land and forestry land.

So far as concerns water, I am sure the Committee is aware that the activities of those who wish to disrupt the sport have grown considerably in recent times. The disrupting of angling has become quite widespread. Clearly, it is important that water needs to be covered in the Bill. I am really asking my noble friend whether land in this case covers water.

So far as concerns common land, I am convinced that because common land is private land it would be covered under Clauses 63 and 64 for the purposes of aggravated trespass. However, for reasons which I fully understand, common land has been specifically mentioned earlier in the Bill in Clause 56(7) when dealing with New Age travellers. As such, and because it has been omitted from Clauses 63 and 64, it could lead to claims in court that it was Parliament's intention that aggravated trespass should not apply to such land. Perhaps my noble friend the Minister can confirm that it is included, as much disruption does occur on common land.

I seek a further assurance from my noble friend. There are some commons where the public have a right of open access—generally speaking, established under Section 193 of the Law of Property Act 1925. In addition, there are areas of land, such as in the Peak District or the Lake District, where on non-commons access agreements have been agreed. I am asking my noble friend to confirm that, when anyone behaves in a way that would be an offence under the Bill in conditions where there is what I might describe as a more liberal access arrangement than normal, the police will be able to take action if they think it necessary. Those in breach of aggravated trespass laws must not be able to hide behind the fact that they are on land where access is not restricted simply to footpaths and bridleways. I include forestry as well, though the remarks I have made appertaining to common land would, I feel quite confident, cover forestry as well. This is a purely probing amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Renton

It may be that my noble friend Lord Ferrers will say that this is not necessary and that it is slightly overzealous. But one must remember that meets of hounds take place frequently on village greens and on other bits of common land. I know of one such village green where there is a shallow stream flowing down the middle. If it were held that that was not the kind of land to which the clause refers it would be very unfortunate. I am not quite so sure about forestry land, which I would have thought would be included in the expression "land only".

Earl Ferrers

I should like to think that I could lay the anxieties of both my noble friends to rest. Land includes all land in the open air except major highways. The Interpretation Act helpfully tells us that land includes land which is covered by water. My noble friends were concerned about common land. While there are public rights of access to common land and forestry land, if a person exceeds his licence to be on the land he may be trespassing.

Earl Peel

I am very grateful to my noble friend for that reply. It certainly covers the points which I have raised. I feel satisfied and therefore I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley moved Amendment No. 78E:

Page 48, line 9, at end insert:

("( ) No private prosecution may be brought under this section.").

The noble Lord said: This is a probing amendment. I believe that it is common ground that this is an extension of the criminal law into an area where it has not been before. It has also emerged in the course of debate that there are likely to be many cases where there is not necessarily complete agreement as to whether an offence has been committed. It is also an area in which there may well be, for perfectly justifiable reasons, very high passions aroused. In that situation I wonder whether it is a good thing, in extending the criminal law here, that there should be a right of private prosecution. I merely ask. I beg to move,

Lord Renton

I hope that my noble friend will not accept this amendment and I say that with deep respect to the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley. The right to bring a prosecution is one of the fundamental rights in our country and has been for centuries. It has been limited not by abolishing that right, but by saying that it cannot be exercised except with the consent of the Attorney-General. I hope that: I am right about that. That is certainly my recollection. I see no case for abolishing that right in the circumstances of this clause.

Earl Peel

I cannot understand why the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, could wish for one moment that those who perpetrate the crimes which are covered in these two clauses should have special protection. We have seen time and again the League Against Cruel Sports and hunt saboteurs bring private prosecutions against hunt supporters. I can see no reason why on earth we should change the law so that we cannot do something in return.

Earl Ferrers

My noble friend Lord Renton is, as so often, quite correct. In England and Wales the right to private prosecution is a fundamental right. It is important in so far as it secures access to the courts for everyone and not just for the Crown. Where a prosecution is considered to be frivolous or malicious the Crown Prosecution Service has the right to take over the proceedings from the person who initiated them. The Crown Prosecution Service would apply the evidential test—that is, that there must be a realistic prospect of conviction—and the public interest test in making a decision on whether or not to discontinue the proceedings. In so far as that was a probing amendment by the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, I hope that he feels satisfied with the answer which I have given him.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley

Yes, I believe that I do. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 79 not moved.]

Clause 63 agreed to.

Clause 64 [Powers to remove persons committing or participating in aggravated trespass]:

11 p.m.

Earl Peel moved Amendment No. 79A:

Page 48, line 10, leave out ("on any land") and insert ("at the scene").

The noble Earl said: I am moving this amendment as it would appear that a legal loophole might otherwise have emerged. Under Clause 64 a police officer would not be able to give a direction to an individual or individuals to leave the land as he or she - the police officer - may be standing on the road. That must be a drafting error. My noble friend the Minister gave an example earlier about the use of loud-hailers from a car. If the instruction was coming from a loud-hailer and the saboteurs were on the land, it would not be very effective and they would not need to pay any attention to what the police officer was saying. It would be infinitely preferable to follow the precedent of Clause 56 regarding New Age travellers and to substitute the words "on any land" with the words "at the scene". I beg to move.

Earl Ferrers

Under Clause 64 a police officer on any land may direct trespassers to leave land where they have committed aggravated trespass. Under the legislation "land" excludes major roads. This amendment seeks to close a possible loophole by ensuring that the officer could issue a direction to leave while he himself is standing on a road, although the offence which is being committed is on land and not on the road. I think that my noble friend has identified, as they say, a lacuna and I am content to accept his amendment.

Earl Peel

I am grateful to my noble friend.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Earl Peel moved Amendment No. 79B:

Page 48, line 13, leave out ("on land in the open air").

The noble Earl said: I feel confident now that my noble friend will accept this tiny little amendment which seeks to correct what I suspect is again merely a drafting error. The words, on land in the open air",

are, I believe, superfluous as they already form part of the definition of aggravated trespass under Clause 63(1). I beg to move.

Earl Ferrers

My noble friend should not push his luck too far. I understand that the intention behind his amendment is to remove words which may be superfluous from the legislation. But in this case the words, on land in the open air", are necessary, I am advised, to pick up and to amplify the reference to "land" at the beginning of the clause. That is why they are also repeated in Clause 64(1) (b).

Earl Peel

I would not even contemplate pushing my luck too far in view of my noble friend's generosity. Therefore, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley moved Amendment No. 79C:

Page 48, line 14, leave out paragraph (b).

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, I understand that we are to discuss also Amendment No. 79D. The object of this amendment is to ensure against arbitrary arrest under the common purpose principle. There is no definition in the clause of common purpose or any safeguard against innocent bystanders being arrested, something about which we have already spoken. Proof of a common purpose can only ever be inferred by conduct - conduct which is not required in the present drafting of the legislation as it relies upon persons having a guilty mind. There is no requirement with common purpose for any prior plan or agreement. I beg to move.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I should like briefly to support the amendment. It is important that it should be seen in context. Clause 64(1) begins, If the senior police officer present on any land reasonably believes", he may direct that person to leave the land. The noble Lord seeks to leave out paragraph (b) which follows. The criterion of "reasonably believes" does not sit well with paragraph (b). I hope that the Government will recognise that the effect of the two provisions together is oppressive.

Lord Mancroft

My understanding of this—it is difficult to understand, but I believe that I have it right —is that the paragraph that the amendment seeks to remove is part of subsection (1) that covers pre-emption. The most important points of the two subsections are that they allow the police to pre-empt. Rather than acting as a cure, this could be a prevention. It would prevent the activities from taking place. My reading of that clause is that where the senior police officer present reasonably believes, that two or more persons are trespassing on land…and are there with the common purpose of intimidating that means that they have not yet intimidated. The senior police officer believes that there is a very good chance that they will do so, and he will give them an instruction which will prevent them from doing that.

That is a great deal better than waiting for people to commit an offence with various people then being carried away with black eyes and broken heads. It seems to me that once again the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, is trying to water down something which does not require watering down and we should resist that.

Lord Avebury

Far from watering down the clause, my noble friend is making it easier for the police, because if paragraph (b) is deleted then the senior police officer has only to establish: that a person is committing, has committed or intends to commit the offence of aggravated trespass". But if the paragraph that he is seeking to remove is left in, the police have also to establish that that person and other persons have a common purpose. I must agree with my noble friend. I do not know how a police officer will form an opinion on such a matter.

There may be several persons present one of whom may have evinced the intention to commit the offence of aggravated trespass in ways that lead the police officer reasonably to conclude that that was his intention. The person may, for example, come equipped with horns, placards or other devices which he intends to use to disrupt lawful activities on the site. There may be another person present who is not in possession of any of those articles and who may be merely standing around. He may be a bystander, as my noble friend pointed out, or he may be there out of curiosity to see what: happens when the demonstration begins.

The police officer then seeing two or more persons gathered in the same spot may conclude wrongly that there is a common purpose, and arrest them both, or he might find it extremely difficult to decide whether they have a common purpose. It causes confusion in the mind of the police officer and makes it more difficult for him to carry out his duty. If he has only to identify that each person on the land has the intention to commit the offence, that places a plain, simple duty upon the police officer, which he will have no difficulty in carrying out. My noble friend has an extremely good point which should be upheld.

Earl Peel

It is clear that this is another example of Members of the Committee opposite attempting to cut out, water down or reduce this fundamental power of pre-emption which is given to the police in the Bill. I do not understand why they are so against it, because, as I have said previously, the police have a considerable degree of experience in dealing with these matters. The essence is to allow the police to intervene before an offence is committed.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley

Will the noble Earl give way? The police can do that under paragraph (a). What is the need for paragraph (b)? Paragraph (a) includes the intent to commit and covers that point. Why is paragraph (b) needed?

Earl Peel

When dealing with a large number of people, which I think is the purpose of the amendment, it is clearly more difficult to give an instruction unless it can be done as suggested in the Bill.

Lord Avebury

If the noble Earl has considerable experience in these matters, perhaps he can cite other examples of legislation where the police have to establish common purpose. Will he say in what proportion of cases where prosecutions are brought against such persons the common purpose is established to the satisfaction of the courts?

Earl Peel

As I understand it, the main purpose of the amendment is to have a power of reducing the ability —whichever way one looks at it—of the police effectively to carry out this new power of pre-emption—

Lord Beaumont of Whitley

No, no. Withdraw. That is not the purpose.

Earl Peel

Will the noble Lord please explain to me precisely what the purpose is because I have misunderstood him?

Lord Beaumont of Whitley

Indeed. The purpose is to simplify the whole thing and to make it easier for the police in addition to everyone else. Subsection (1) (a) is all that is needed. It covers the points that the noble Earl raised. Subsection (1) (b) is quite unnecessary.

Lord Wigoder

My noble friend is correct in this matter. It is a perfectly simple question of law. Under Clause 64(1) (a) the police may give directions to any person who intends to commit the offence of aggravated trespass. That is the pre-emptive element. Subsection (1) (b) deals with the situation in which there are two or more people who have a common purpose, according to the view of the police, in intimidating and so forth; in other words, in committing the offence of aggravated trespass. If two or more people have a common purpose to do that, in law each intends to commit the offence of aggravated trespass. Therefore, each is covered by subsection (1) (a). As a matter of law, I cannot see that Clause 64(1) (b) adds anything except a certain complexity so far as the police are concerned.

Lord Mancroft

Perhaps I may help the Committee. The problem probably lies in the fact that the noble Lords, Lord Beaumont, Lord Avebury and Lord Wigoder, have never been present at one of these rather unpleasant incidents in our countryside at which this part of the Bill is aimed. One of the points that I raised earlier, which Members of the Committee found difficult to understand, was the problem of identification.

Perhaps your Lordships will visualise yourselves in the middle of one, two or three large fields and imagine that there are one or two policemen. Some 30 or 40 people are milling about, some of whom are wearing Balaclava helmets to disguise their identity. One person runs out of the crowd and hits someone on a horse or attempts to intimidate someone using a gun and then runs back into that crowd. In those circumstances, the policeman on the spot will find it very difficult to identify that individual in order to issue an instruction to him. Even though at that moment he is after only that one individual, the best way he will be able to proceed is to order off the entire group on the basis that they are consorting with that one individual. Hence the fact that the police require powers to instruct one individual or a group in which that one individual may have concealed himself. Thus they need those two seemingly parallel powers which in practice it will be important to retain.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

It is only in respect of hunting that we have to have this new provision. In every other criminal offence before the law a policeman has to be convinced that the person he is about to arrest has committed or was about to commit an offence. It is only in these circumstances that the Government seem to believe that there must be a new concept of common purpose which is expressed in totally different terms. Subsection (1) (a) contains a clear use of the phrase "aggravated trespass" which has been introduced in a previous clause to which the Committee have agreed. In subsection (1) (b) that definition is totally abandoned and we have a completely new view of common purpose.

If the Government or the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, want to introduce the concept of conspiracy to commit an offence, we will look at that on its own merits. That is not what is proposed here, however. What is proposed here is an extra freedom for police who cannot identify someone as committing an offence to arrest people at random regardless.

11.15 p.m.

Lord Mancroft

Perhaps I may help the noble Lord. He foresees a problem, his solution to which is to use a much larger hammer to crack the nut than is desirable. He spoke of the special circumstances surrounding hunting. One of the reasons that the Government, after considerable pressure and with some reluctance, have brought forward this provision and seen the need for it is because there are, as there are in many other areas of life, slightly different circumstances here.

Let us suppose that the provisions were aimed particularly at problems encountered in other sports; for example, football, cricket or something like that. Those sports take place in a fixed area. The police are able to be there hours in advance if they wish to be. They can ring the area and have as many policemen there as they like. It is very difficult for them to do that in the hunting field because the hunting field moves rather rapidly. Therefore situations arise in which the police—it may be one policeman on his feet or several in different vehicles—move about very rapidly after the saboteurs, who are also moving around very rapidly in vehicles in different groups all over the place. The problem is that it is very difficult at times for the police to get their hands on the individual person.

Surely it is very much better for the police to say, "We can see that trouble is brewing. People are getting over-excited and they are starting to run. People will end up in hospital." It would be much better to order the whole lot of them off and the problem is then nipped in the bud. The trouble is then prevented before it even starts.

The removal of the clause will make the job of the police more difficult in preventing crime.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

Including the hunt, of course. The police should order the whole lot off, including the hunt, should they not?

Lord Mancroft

Hunts are as liable to the law as anybody else. If the police ask a hunt to move in any directions, it does so. The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, and other members of his party do not seem to understand—and I wish that they would understand— that there is no issue of hunt trespass because no groups have come forward and said that there is a problem. Nobody has ever called the police to prevent the hunt beating him up. That simply does not happen. It is only when we reach the details of the debate that the noble Lord's real concerns start to surface. He can put them well aside.

The police need the power to deal with a small group of extremely unpleasant animal rights activists whose intention is to break the law and get away with it. The Government have responded and the Opposition and other Members of the Committee are trying to water that down. It is simply not acceptable.

Lord Wigoder

I understand what the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, is saying. I assure him that I am not trying to water anything down. I am merely seeking to look at the matter as a matter of law.

Perhaps I may take it out of the context of the hunt and take it in a context with which I am rather more familiar. if the police see a man punching another man and causing him actual bodily harm or assaulting him and there are a group of men around who are egging on the man doing the punching and encouraging him by their attitude or by what they say—for example, "Good old Charlie, give it to him Charlie", and shaking their fists or whatever it may be—each of those people is guilty of the offence of causing grievous bodily harm. Even if they lose the ringleader because they cannot identify him, the police are fully entitled to arrest any of the other people present for that offence. There is no need to prescribe in the statute that the police must be satisfied that there is a common purpose. It follows from the state of the law as it is that, if there is that common purpose which the noble Lord postulates, the police are entitled to move in and arrest anybody there.

Therefore, I am merely saying that, if that is applied to the terms of this clause, subsection (1) (b) adds nothing in law and does not water down anything. It does not do anything which is not covered by subsection (1) (a).

Lord Boardman

I have tried to follow the argument but I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder is wrong. There is a clear distinction between paragraphs (a) and (b). Paragraph (a) provides that it must be shown that a person has committed or intends to commit an offence and paragraph (b) deals with a group of people who are clearly, by their actions, doing the very thing which the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, suggests would be an offence; that is, collectively intimidating or threatening to intimidate. I believe that there is a very clear distinction and both paragraphs (a) and (b) are necessary to secure the protection at which the Bill aims.

Lord Archer of Sandwell

Before the noble Lord sits down, can he think of a situation in which a group of people have a common purpose to do something in which each of them does not intend to do it?

Lord Boardman

If we are talking about a group of people, an unruly mob—whatever situation is covered in the Bill—it would under paragraph (a), be necessary to show that each one of them had committed or intended to commit the offence for the police to be entitled to act. Instead of trying to show that each of 100 people—that is the sort of size of crowd one gets on some of these occasions—is committing or intending to commit the offence, under paragraph (b) if the whole group quite clearly has a common purpose of shouting and yelling and disrupting and intimidating, the police are entitled to tell them to leave. I believe there is a real distinction between paragraphs (a) and (b) and one that it is necessary to retain for the Bill to be effective.

Lord Avebury

I am no great expert on hunting but I will follow the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, in considering the example that he puts to the Committee, and that is the case where there are a number of persons in a field, some of whom may be wearing balaclavas and one of whom runs out and commits an act of violence against members of the hunt in the immediate vicinity of this crowd. The police officer has two alternatives. He can either say under paragraph (a), "Each of the persons in that group intends to commit, or in one case has committed, the offence of aggravated trespass" and he then directs each of those persons to leave the land, or he concludes that they have a common purpose and he again issues a direction under Clause 64(1) that they must leave the land. Either way the outcome is the same —the police officer gives directions to all the persons in that group.

But let us suppose that there was a court case and one of the persons said that the police officer was wrong, that he did not have a common purpose with all the rest of the group and that while he was a member of the Animal Liberation Front the rest of them were members of the hunt saboteurs league and so he had a completely different view on the matter, and therefore the police officer was wrong in ascribing a common purpose to him and all the rest of the people in that group. He still intended to commit the offence of aggravated trespass, and therefore he would be caught by paragraph (a). The police officer would be on much stronger ground therefore if he used paragraph (a) and not paragraph (b). It seems to me that the particular case that the noble Lord has offered us as an example of why paragraph (b) is necessary proves the exact opposite.

Lord Burnham

I should like to suggest that this is not a matter which is solely confined to hunting. I cannot give examples from shooting or fishing although I know them to have existed. But there was the notorious case of the riot on Newmarket racecourse in the 1970s. There was also the case of an illegal bare-knuckle boxing match at the Lambourn lurcher show at about the same period. Both these were clearly illegal events with which the police were unable to deal at the time.

Earl Ferrers

One of the interesting aspects of debates in this Chamber is that one gets to know quite a bit about your Lordships. My noble friend Lord Mancroft graphically described his terrible experiences on the hunting field. That was quite alarming, but it so baffled the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, that he said, "Let me return to a scene with which I am more familiar —where one man punches another". It is nice to note the kind of company the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, keeps. This amendment, which is moved by the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, would remove the power of the police under Clause 64 to direct people to leave land where they are trespassing, with the common purpose of intimidating persons so as to deter them from engaging in a lawful activity or of obstructing or disrupting a lawful activity". If that were to happen and the amendment were to be passed, the police would have to satisfy themselves that each individual, as my noble friend Lord Boardman said, intended to intimidate others. The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, said that this was a special power and the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, thought that it was a peculiar power and he wanted some examples of it. There is a perfectly good example; this is not a new power. Section 1 of the Public Order Act says quite clearly: Where 12 or more persons who are present together use or threaten unlawful violence for a common purpose and the conduct of them (taken together) is; such as would cause a person of reasonable firmness present at the scene to fear for his personal safety, each of the persons using unlawful violence for the common purpose is guilty of riot". Therefore, the concept of common purpose is not new. My noble friend Lord Mancroft is correct in saying that events have shown that it is not uncommon for protesters to be present in large numbers with the intention of preventing a lawful activity.

As my noble friend Lord Boardman said, Clause 64(1) (b) allows a police officer to take effective action by directing an entire group to leave where the police officer believes that they are present on land with the common purpose of disrupting, obstructing or intimidating. Without this provision an officer would be restricted because he would have to form a belief as to the intention of each individual in a group. The language of "common purpose" is used in existing public order legislation to deal with gatherings where there is a clear intention to act together to achieve a common end.

I believe that the pre-emptive powers contained in Clause 64 are essential if the police are to act effectively and efficiently against disruptive trespassers. The amendment would severely hamper their ability to take swift and decisive action. That is why I hope that the Committee will agree not to accept the amendment.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley

In these debates it is amazing what simple little amendments trigger such wide-ranging discussion. I detected two main points. I shall deal first with the point relating to foxhunting, of which I have considerable knowledge. I was very interested that the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, said that the Government introduced the provision reluctantly under great pressure. One wonders who exerted that pressure and how it was exerted. I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, is possibly beginning to regret the concessions made to the blood sports lobby.

Lord Mancroft

If the noble Lord will be kind enough to give way, I can make that point very simply.

Many hundreds of thousands of law-abiding citizens in the countryside, who vote Conservative, Labour, Liberal, or for any other party they may wish to support, made their anxieties clear to the Government, through various different organisations—the National Farmers Union, the British Field Sports Society, the Country Landowners' Association, their MPs, those councillors who are not stupidly trying to ban hunting, and a variety of other routes. In addition, the national newspapers constantly carry stories of horrific violence.

As the Committee will know, the Government do not want to legislate unless they have to and a need is shown. Finally, pushed by the Association of Chief Police Officers, which told them that the problem is serious and needs to be dealt with, the Government accepted that there is an unpleasant problem. They said that they do not want violence in our countryside and they agreed to help to solve the problem. Hence this legislation and the lack of support in the Committee for the desire of the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, to water it down.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley

I have already explained that I did not intend to water it down. I hope that your Lordships take one's statements made in this Chamber as truth. I put forward the amendment as a simplification. It was supported as such by a number of Members of the Committee, including my noble friend Lord Wigoder, who is a very distinguished lawyer and who has no axe to grind on this particular issue.

I was going to go on to say, before the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, so kindly and helpfully expanded on his earlier remarks, that I do not accept what the Government have to say. I do not accept that paragraph (b) is necessary. It seems that those of us who said that paragraph (a) was perfectly acceptable by itself and covered all the points had the better of the argument.

This is a matter to which we ought to return at Report stage, but for the moment I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

11.30 p.m.

Earl Peel moved Amendment No. 79D:

Page 48, line 19, at end insert:

("( ) A direction under subsection (1) above, if not communicated to the persons referred to in subsection (1) by the police officer giving the direction, may be communicated to them by any constable at the scene.").

The noble Earl said: As Clause 64 is drafted at present, the senior police officer must give a direction to all saboteurs present himself or herself. Clearly, as has already been discussed, this may prove to be a somewhat difficult, if not impossible, task when one is dealing with large numbers. As those of us who have witnessed these scenes know, one could be talking of numbers in excess of 200. The amendment allows the direction to be relayed through the other police present, as in Clause 56 to New Age travellers and Clause 58 dealing with raves. I beg to move.

Earl Ferrers

The amendment removes the need for the senior police officer making the direction to leave the land under the aggravated trespass provisions to communicate it personally to all people to whom it should apply. I can see that there might also be occasions where protesters may be present on land in sufficiently large numbers to make it difficult for the senior police officer to ensure that his direction to leave was known to all those committing, or intending to commit, aggravated trespass. The amendment would be of practical value in those circumstances and I should be content to accept it.

Earl Peel

I am extremely grateful to my noble friend for allowing me to push my luck again successfully. I commend the amendment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Avebury moved Amendment No. 79E:

Page 48, line 27, leave out ("imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months or").

The noble Lord said: At the risk of incurring the wrath of the Minister, I return for the fourth time to the imposition of imprisonment under the various clauses of this part of the Bill. I make no apologies for doing so because every time I rise to move the amendments I hope that I establish in the Committee's minds the fact that we are extending the criminal law very substantially. Although it is unfortunate that it is so late in the evening, I believe that it is necessary for the Committee to consider whether we wish to impose a three-month sentence of imprisonment on people who are found to be guilty of such offences.

In answer to previous similar amendments, the noble Earl has stated that three months is the maximum sentence and that there are few cases for which it will be imposed. However, he cannot tell me even remotely the number of cases.

I have pointed out twice already that there is nothing in the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum about the increased costs that will be incurred to the taxpayer by people spending three months in prison at a cost of £3,000 per head per week. The Government ought not to find difficulty in telling the Committee about such substantial amounts of money, even if the numbers of people going to prison are small.

We are dealing with a range of offences which are not as serious as the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, has sought to describe to the Committee. The offences of violence would already be covered. Perhaps we may take the example that he gave a moment ago.

Viscount Mountgarret

Perhaps the noble Lord will be kind enough to give way on one point. I may be mistaken, but I believe that the amendment was addressed some time ago. It was grouped with Amendment No. 58BA. Having listened to the noble Lord, the same arguments have been deployed. Does he not feel that he tests the patience of the Committee a little in bringing forward the argument for, I think, the third time?

Lord Harris of Greenwich

Perhaps I may say that it is made absolutely clear that the groupings of amendments are suggestions. They are not requirements imposed upon the movers of those amendments. Whether people deploy their arguments in particular ways is a different issue, but on the narrow issue of the procedure of the Committee, one is not obliged to accept the recommendations on grouping of amendments placed before us.

Viscount Mountgarret

I agree entirely with what the noble Lord, Lord Harris, has said. I was merely asking whether, since the arguments being deployed now are so closely allied to those which were deployed previously, perhaps at this hour and knowing the point we wish to reach, it might be more worth while if we proceeded with the other amendments.

Lord Avebury

The answer is no, I do not feel that it would be right for me to forgo moving an amendment which I have placed on the Marshalled List, just as anyone else whose name is to an amendment has moved it in due course. I am taking longer in moving the amendment because of the noble Viscount's intervention. If he wishes to go home, he had better refrain from intervening and let me get on with my speech.

I move the amendment for the simple reason that we are dealing with a different offence from those on which I proposed earlier amendments. It so happens that the speeches are fairly similar because in every case except one the Government have specified a term of imprisonment of three months. Naturally, I have to argue in that context, but the offences themselves are different. Here we are dealing with the case where directions have been given to people by the police officer to leave the land and the person or persons have failed to comply with them, whether or not they were correctly judged by the police officer to be there for a common purpose. It could well be that someone was there simply as a spectator and was caught up in the activities of the police in trying to prevent the unlawful behaviour of some of the group. It is a matter for serious consideration and is not to be dismissed, passed over or ignored altogether, as some Members on the other side of the Committee appear to wish. We are extending the criminal code into more and more areas of conduct which have hitherto been dealt with under the civil law.

I deplore as much as anyone else the violence of hunt saboteurs. I believe that where they commit offences of violence they should be dealt with properly by the courts and sentenced under the existing law which deals with that kind of activity. However, we are talking about something of a lesser nature which the Minister has been reluctant to define. He has failed to comment on any of the examples we have given. I repeat that I believe that the Committee ought to consider carefully whether your Lordships want to extend the criminal law as widely as they are doing under the Bill or whether the cumulative effect of all the additional offences which are being created is to criminalise a new and large class of people who have hitherto been left to be dealt with by the civil law. I beg to move.

Earl Ferrers

The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, said that he made no apology for returning to the matter. My noble friend Lord Mountgarret was quite right. This was one of the amendments grouped with Amendment No. 58BA, of which there were 12. This is the seventh and the noble Lord has spoken four times on the same subject. The noble Lord, Lord Harris, says that the groupings are merely for the convenience of the Committee; people do not have to abide by them. He is quite right, but I emphasise that they are for the convenience of the Committee. Noble Lords might think that it is not convenient for the Committee to hear the same argument repeated four times on the same subject. I have expounded all the arguments on the other three occasions and I shall leave it at that.

Lord Avebury

I was not anticipating that the Minister would have anything fundamentally new to say, but I am disappointed that he cannot even address his mind to the creation of the new offence under Clause 64.

I felt it was necessary, to be perfectly honest, to deal with the amendment separately, even though on the Marshalled List it was grouped with a number of others because it related to a completely different offence. That was a perfectly legitimate view for me to take. It would have been reasonable to expect the Minister to answer this amendment separately instead of behaving as though his replies to the previous amendments on different clauses had satisfied the arguments that I raised. I am extremely disappointed, but not altogether surprised, by the attitude of the noble Earl, which has been nothing if not consistent all the way through this Bill so far as the proposed criminal offences are concerned.

I can only say that we have not exhausted the arguments on the matter. We shall have to return to them in even greater detail when we come to the Report stage. Meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Chairman of Committees

Amendment No. 79F. The Lord Avebury?

Lord Avebury

Not moved.

Earl Ferrers

May I just ask the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, whether he means not to move the amendment?

Lord Avebury

Yes, on this occasion I did mean to say "not moved".

Lord Beaumont of Whitley moved Amendment No. 79G:

Page 48, line 37, at end insert:


  1. (a) he engages in offensive conduct which would constitute an offence under this section and the constable warns him to stop, and
  2. (b) he engages in further offensive conduct immediately after the warning.").

The noble Lord said: The object of this amendment is to ensure that there is some safeguard in the Bill against arbitrary arrest and detention. The amendment ensures that the police must be made aware of the offensive conduct by way of complaint and are able to warn the offender against such behaviour. They are then further witnesses to any offending behaviour should the suspect not desist.

The provision for a warning prior to arrest is already required by Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986, which deals with disorderly conduct. Trespass has only ever been a criminal offence in this country within very limited circumstances. This Bill will criminalise trespass where there is associated conduct which it describes as offending conduct.

The police have very wide existing powers of arrest, both in common law for breach of the peace and under Section 25 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. Legislating for a requirement that the police officer must first warn the offender against his behaviour safeguards against unnecessary arrests. Only if the offender does not desist from his behaviour will the police exercise their powers of arrest. Of course this provision would not exclude the police from being able to arrest by using either their common law powers of arrest or under Section 25 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984.

The police do not appear to have experienced any particular difficulties in the application of a warning under Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986. It has enabled them quickly to identify and respond to those protesters who wish to engage in non-violent protest and those who may intend to inflame the situation, thereby avoiding mass arrests and keeping good order. I beg to move.

Lord Mancroft

So far as I can make out, this amendment means not only that the offence cannot be pre-empted by the police but that offence has to be committed twice with a warning in between, which implies that, an offence having been committed, the officer can then get hold of the chap, who will presumably have moved rather rapidly at that stage in the proceedings. In other words, it makes the powers of arrest of the officer conditional; it hamstrings the police; and it puts one more obstacle in the way of making these offences and absolutions workable. I hope that my noble friend will reject it.

Earl Ferrers

The offence under Clause 64 is one of failing to obey a police direction to leave the land, and not the substantive offence of aggravated trespass which would have led to the direction being given. To warn someone not to continue to engage in aggravated trespass or face arrest is, I believe the Committee will agree, inappropriate. But I think that the intention behind the amendment is misplaced. I presume that the noble Lord wishes to introduce a provision similar to the one that is contained in Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986. That deals with disorderly behaviour which is likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress. A constable may arrest a person only if he continues to engage in offensive conduct after being warned to stop.

However, the two offences are quite different. Intent is not an element of Section 5 and a person may be unaware of the effect of his behaviour on others. By contrast, intent is crucial to the offence of aggravated trespass. A person will have set out to disrupt, obstruct or intimidate others. The offence will be quite clear. I do not see any reason for giving him a warning about his conduct and then allowing him the opportunity to continue to intimidate others before effecting an arrest. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, will agree that that would be inappropriate.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley

I thank the noble Earl for his very full explanation. I shall want to look at it very carefully. Until then, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 79H not moved.]

Clause 64, as amended, agreed to.

11.45 p.m.

Lord Archer of Sandwell moved Amendment No. 80:

After Clause 64, insert the following new clause:

(Trespass by uncontrolled dogs

. In subsection (3) of section 3 of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 after paragraph (b) there shall be inserted—

or (c) it injures any domestic animal either owned by, or authorised to be in that place by, the landowner or occupier.".").

The noble and learned Lord said: A few moments ago the noble Earl observed that groupings are for the convenience of the Committee. I am perfectly content that this amendment should be grouped with those standing in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Walton. But since I am not sure of the situation to which the noble Lord's amendments are addressed, I cannot guarantee that there will be a common theme running through this debate. But perhaps time will tell.

The purpose of my amendment is to explore what has been perceived as a discriminatory element in the proposals in Clauses 63 and 64. In this amendment I do not seek to call in question the content of those clauses. I have little sympathy with those who, however motivated, deliberately intimidate or disrupt lawful activities on someone else's property.

It has emerged during the course of this debate—it was probably suspected by most of us in any event— that the clauses are directed principally at hunt saboteurs and at the motivation of those who hunt. I make no secret of the fact—I should be dishonest if I concealed it—that I am opposed to hunting. But that is a matter that we may debate on another occasion. I believe that issues of that kind should be debated within Parliament. If the Government had addressed the whole of the problem, consulted with all the lawful groups involved and attempted to deal fairly with the whole situation, I should not have troubled the Committee with this amendment—certainly not at this time in the evening.

But if it is true that the clauses were included largely at the instance of those who hunt, the request might have been more acceptable if it had been accompanied by a genuine offer to address instances of complaints against those who participate in hunting. In another place my honourable friend Mr. Elliot Morley introduced an amendment designed to deal with instances of trespass on other people's land by hunts themselves, sometimes by members of the hunt deliberately riding upon the land, but more usually by dogs which were out of control. The answer which Mr. Morley received was that there is an important distinction between trespassing when the unintended consequence is damage and destruction and trespassing for the very purpose of causing damage and destruction.

I say at once that I understand and accept that distinction. I should be reluctant in any event to see the concept of trespass, which traditionally has been dealt with by way of civil remedies, as the subject of a criminal sanction in any but the most compelling cases. For that reason I have not sought in this Chamber to introduce a similar clause, although there can be a degree of indifference to damage which is scarcely distinguishable from intention.

I accept what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, a few moments ago, that many hunts— probably the majority—try to behave with considera-tion, try to avoid entering people's gardens, try to control their hounds and, where there is unintentional trespass, make a handsome apology and an offer of compensation. If that were invariable, again I should not trouble the Committee with this amendment. But unhappily it is not always the case. The League Against Cruel Sports holds correspondence relating to what I would regard as totally inconsiderate and arrogant behaviour by hunt members. I am told that there is a total of around 270 letters from those who appear, on the face of it, to have legitimate complaints. The Committee will be relieved to hear that I do not propose to read them all; I propose to read a brief extract from one of them. It says, I could see my own animals just fleeing in terror … and many more were chased in pure terror down my long drive … We were met with what I can only describe as arrogant indifference from the Master of the hounds—we were barely acknowledged when I told him how undisciplined I thought the hounds were as not one had obeyed the horn or the calling of the "whipper-in"'.

Probably the major mischief is the terrorising and sometimes the infliction of physical injury on the animals of those who are the victims of the trespass. It is for that reason that I tabled this new clause. If the Government are concerned for those who hunt, then should they not display some concern that they in turn show consideration for others? Admittedly my amendment goes wider than the mischief I described. What is proposed is that the sanctions already imposed by the Dangerous Dogs Act on those who fail to prevent their animals from trespassing on other people's property and injuring people should be applied where a dog or dogs injure any domestic animal which is lawfully on the land. That is not an unreasonable constraint on the activities of dog owners, among whom I say at once I include myself.

I believe I owe the noble Earl an apology. I accept that the mischief at which the amendment is directed is not readily discernible from the terms of the proposal itself, unless his officials noticed that it was identical with one that was moved in another place. I had intended to write to the noble Earl explaining what I had in mind, but I confess that in the course of dealing with other matters I overlooked it. For that reason I certainly do not propose to seek a decision tonight, either from the Committee or, if he wishes for time to reflect on the matter, from the noble Earl. However, now that I have elaborated on the theme I look forward to hearing the noble Earl's reaction and in that spirit I beg to move.

Lord Mancroft

I wondered what the noble and learned Lord would say when he moved his amendment. It was a source of interest to me. Though he called it "his" amendment, the Committee may realise that it is not actually the amendment of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer; it is an amendment produced by the League Against Cruel Sports and put forward in another place—which is fair enough but that is the way it is. And of course, the League Against Cruel Sports, is an animal rights organisation and not, as the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, said in an earlier debate, an animal welfare organisation. Many of its members are former hunt saboteurs and one or two of its members are present hunt saboteurs. These are people who move outside the; law quite happily.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

Perhaps the noble Lord will permit me to intervene. It is not advantageous to the standard of debate in this Committee if the noble Lord insists on the practice of "abuse plaintiff's attorney". It is not suitable. Members of the Committee put forward amendments on their own behalf at the urging of numerous bodies outside. It does not do to abuse them in the way that the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, has just done.

Lord Mancroft

I ask the forgiveness of the Committee, but I do not believe that I abused the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer. I would not dream of doing such a thing. I merely pointed out something which is entirely correct. It is important that the Committee be aware of that fact. I also believe that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, who I am quite sure is doing what he believes to be the best thing in the right place, is being duped—if that is the right word. I do not believe that the noble and learned Lord is aware of the full facts behind this matter.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

If the noble Lord persists in this line of argument it will be necessary for me to move Standing Order 30, which deals with asperity of speech.

Lord Mancroft

I hear what the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, says and I am extremely sorry about that. But the facts are the facts. I shall therefore turn to the amendment.

The amendment seeks to compare in some way the actions of hunt saboteurs with the actions of hunts. That comparison is not easy to make. Hunt saboteurs happily and consciously step outside the law and seek to interfere on purpose with a perfectly legal activity. No hunt, I believe, in the history of fox hunting, which is a very, very long history, has ever tried to do that. It is true that on certain occasions—a few occasions—hunts undoubtedly go where they are probably not welcome. I hope that they would invariably, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, believes they do not do invariably, apologise and withdraw very quickly.

Possibly, if we search very hard, on one or two occasions that has not happened. The noble and learned Lord's friends have searched very hard for him and have produced 270 letters, but I think it is worth reminding the Committee that hunting takes place on more than 27,000 days each year. If all they can come up with is 270 letters, this is not a very large problem, particularly as the police have not had to be called and as violence has not taken place. As the noble and learned Lord said in making his remarks, where damage has occurred there has been compensation and invariably an apology has been given.

Lord Archer of Sandwell

I certainly did not say that wherever damage has occurred it has been compensated for. I said that, if there were a handsome apology and an offer of compensation, the problem would not be exacerbated in the way that it is.

Lord Mancroft

I do not take issue with the noble and learned Lord's comments but I take issue with him when he says that the problem has been exacerbated. This problem has been cooked up. If the noble and learned Lord would go back into the shades of the past, the Scott Henderson Commission made a comment in its inter-departmental report in 1949 which is as true today as it was then, as are many things in the world of fox hunting. I quote: It has become apparent to us that many people who think they know what takes place obtain their information from propaganda issued by organisations who, in turn, rely to a surprising extent on press reports of particular incidents which, in their turn, are based on misconceptions". The fact is that these two problems are not comparable. One is a large public order problem involving the police, cost, crime and a great deal of trouble. The other is a tiny pinprick in the affairs of this country and is of no consequence; and it is certainly not one that should involve the Dangerous Dogs Act.

As a solution to the problem, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, has used the Dangerous Dogs Act. I am rather sad in a way that the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, is not here this evening, as he would have a great deal to say about that. The Committee will remember what he thinks of the Dangerous Dogs Act. That Act was brought forward by the Government to react against serious attacks by dogs on human beings. It is an extraordinary and specific Act. To attempt to include this area in it is quite ludicrous and is absolutely and completely inappropriate. I hope therefore that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, will withdraw the amendment. I hope, too, that my noble friends will register how dismayed they are that this disgraceful amendment should have been brought forward.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

That really is one of the silliest remarks I have heard in the 20 years or more that I have sat in this House. A very moderate speech has been made by a distinguished Member of the House and it deserves to be taken serious note of. I have no passionate views on either side of this controversy but extreme language of that kind does no credit to the noble Lord who has just used it.

Lord Burton

I know a lady who lives just over a mile from this Palace who used to have a little mongrel terrier. It was, not unsurprisingly, let out in her garden. Every now and then a fox was indiscreet enough to jump into the garden and the terrier would dispose of it. Would that lady have been a criminal if an amendment of this kind had been passed into law?

The Earl of Selborne

Perhaps I may ask for the advice of the Committee. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, indicated, the grouping in this case is perhaps a little eccentric. I am proposing to move Amendments Nos. 80A and 80B, or at least speak to them, but I see no common interest. In those circumstances, sacred though groupings should norm-ally be, perhaps the Committee will allow me to come in later.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

The noble Earl is entirely within his rights.


Earl Ferrers

Not only is the noble Earl within his rights, but I believe that he is very sensible, too. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, said that he intended to write to me and he apologised for not doing so. I wholly accept his apology. Had he written it would merely have been another letter for me to open and read, but I would take particular pleasure in reading any letter which comes from him.

In this matter the Government, as a whole, have to be equal. We take the view that people ought to be able to go about their lawful pursuits without let or hindrance provided that they keep within the law. People ought to be able to protest provided that they keep within the law. They ought to have the security of their homes or gardens. If dogs or hounds stray, as inevitably animals do, that is the responsibility of the owners and they should take responsibility for what their charges do.

The noble Lord was quite right and fair in saying that he did not like foxhunting and, if one likes, this is an amendment which is aimed at foxhunting. The amendment would create a new criminal offence; namely, it would be an offence for any owner to allow his dog to enter private property and injure an animal. It goes very wide indeed, criminalising any trespass by a dog which resulted in injury to another domestic animal.

The trespass provisions in the Bill rely on intention. I doubt whether it is possible for a dog to intend to breach an Act even if it can intend to kill a chicken. The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 already creates an offence in respect of dogs which are dangerously out of control or which injure any person. Under the Dogs Act 1871 the magistrates have the power to make a control order over a dog which is considered dangerous —in other words, a dog which attacks people or animals. An order made under that Act may specify how the control should be exercised. For instance, it could require the dog to be muzzled, kept on a lead or excluded from specific places such as school playgrounds.

I would be hesitant about suggesting that we should introduce further controls. If an intrusion into a garden is done deliberately the hunt would commit an offence. If it is done accidentally the owners of the hounds are liable to civil damages and the hunt would have to pay for any damage caused. The noble and learned Lord Archer suggested that the offence of aggravated trespass is not evenhanded because it does not catch trespass by hunts where the trespass is not intentional, but nevertheless causes distress.

I think that the offence is evenhanded because as drafted it catches all trespassers who intend to disrupt, obstruct or intimidate. Intention is a very important part of it. But to introduce proposals which can be committed only by hunters would be discriminatory. I understand the noble and learned Lord's anxiety over this, but over all these matters the intention must be there to disrupt, intimidate or obstruct. I do not believe that that can be said as regards what would happen if a hound or a dog accidentally strayed. The fact that it did so would be the responsibility of the owner and also in civil law.

Lord Archer of Sandwell

I appreciate the distinction which the noble Earl has just made, and I said so in my speech. I would like to reflect further on this matter. I moved the amendment with some diffidence. I said at the outset that I had no sympathy with hunt saboteurs. I was interested to hear the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft. If he had said that he, for his part, had no sympathy with hunts which behaved thoughtlessly and arrogantly and that there were incidents which were to be regretted, and that he would be happy to do anything he could to discourage it then I would have hesitated to pursue the matter, but the noble Lord's reaction was to say that the whole thing was cooked up; that it was a tiny pinprick; that hunts behaved perfectly properly and that he saw nothing wrong in the incidents I mentioned.

That has persuaded me, as I do not think that anything else would, that this is a matter that should be pursued. However, I take the point that one does not readily want to criminalise the domestic dog owner whose dog strays into the next garden. I should certainly like to reflect further on this in the light not only of this debate but of all of today's debates. At this stage, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Earl of Selborne moved Amendment No. 80A:

After Clause 64, insert the following new clause:

("Offence of disruptive trespass

  1. .—(1) A person commits the offence of disruptive trespass if he trespasses on any land other than in the open air or in any building and, in relation to any lawful activity which persons are engaging in or about to engage in on that land or adjoining land or in that building, as the case may be, does anything which is intended by him to have the affect—
    1. (a) of intimidating those persons or any of them so as to deter them or any of them from engaging in that activity,
    2. (b) of obstructing that activity, or
    3. (c) of disrupting that activity.
  2. (2) Activity on any occasion on the part of a person or persons on land or in buildings is "lawful" for the purposes of this section if he or they may engage in the activity on the land or in the building on that occasion without committing an offence or trespassing on the land or in the building.
  3. (3) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months or a fine not exceeding level 4 on the standard scale, or both.
  4. 746
  5. (4) A constable in uniform who reasonably suspects that a person is committing an offence under this section may arrest him without a warrant.
  6. (5) In this section "lawful activity" and "land in the open air" have the same meaning as in section 52.").

The noble Earl said: I rise to move Amendment No. 80A, which stands in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Walton, and myself. We have rightly spent a lot of time this evening trying to establish the balance between the legitimate right of protest and the legitimate right of people to go about their lawful business. We have been talking about the countryside. There has been common ground throughout the Committee that it is a difficult balance to strike. We have not been talking about inside buildings because the Bill is framed specifically to exclude them. No doubt Members of the Committee will feel that on the whole the existing legislation adequately covers disruptive trespass or aggravated trespass inside buildings.

However, I believe that there has proved to be one specific area where that is not the case. I refer to where research laboratories, particularly those conducting medical or agricultural research and experiments that involve the use of animals, have been subjected to an unacceptable degree of disruption by animal welfare interests. I believe that that cause of concern is getting out of hand in this country. By any standards, the degree of aggravated trespass is well beyond that which one could reasonably be asked to put up with even in the interests of the balance of legitimate rights of protest.

The reason why it appears that the present law is defective is that one of the most common types of such raids on research laboratories sees an activist or activists in a group entering the premises during the working day and seeking to remove documentation—records, computer discs and the like—and bringing with them a document which sets out a claim that any papers or other material removed will be copied and returned. Since the law of trespass requires the intention to deprive permanently, that is not a crime, and it has proved a very successful defence. Time after time extremely unpleasant incidents have arisen in which research workers, conducting their own business in, I believe, the best interests of public service, have found themselves intimidated by that degree of trespass and, in a very distressing way, the law seems to have been ineffective.

I may be wrong about this. It may be that the existing laws could be used more effectively. I am fairly sure that these rather sweeping amendments are probably not the right way to settle the problem, but one thing as to which I am clear is that this is an opportunity to address the problem. I believe that Parliament should take note of the alarming increase in such incidents.

It is clear that documents are removed to disrupt research. Often personal documents are taken, such as staff lists, which are then used for intimidation. That is very frightening for the research workers involved. The provisions are precisely the same as the measures relating to the countryside with which we wrestled over such a long period this evening, but do not involve, I hope, quite such emotive issues. I think that there is clearly a need to protect research workers in laboratories who are conducting their business lawfully, and this the amendment aims to do.

I am certain in my own mind that this is an area that should be addressed in the Bill and I very much hope that my noble friend the Minister will be able to tell us how he would like to see this matter dealt with. I beg to move.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

I express no view on the terms of the amendment, but I do express a view on the substance of the noble Lord's argument. There is a matter of concern here. Research workers have on a number of occasions been intimidated in the most distressing fashion. If there is a gap in the law here, I hope that the Minister will consider the matter because, speaking from my limited knowledge of the problem, it causes serious disquiet to many members of the scientific community.

Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior

I have pleasure in supporting the amendment on disruptive trespass, especially in buildings, moved by my noble friend Lord Selborne. That, as my noble friend said, pertains particularly to the actions of individuals who seek to disrupt the legitimate use of animals in medical and other research. They intimidate workers in scientific laboratories and disrupt scientific meetings and conferences. There have been many instances of that happening, of forced entry into buildings and of the theft of animals, some prepared for experimental purposes. There were 3,000 incidents in the period 1990 to 1992. More recently the offices and laboratories of certain institutes have been set on fire. One of those was the Centre for Tropical Veterinary Medicine in Edinburgh and another was the Macauley Institute in Scotland.

Should one stand up and speak against those individuals, one's house may be daubed with paint and other graffiti or one's family may be jostled or even abused in public. I was the victim of such public abuse at a conference in Brighton. My wife was spat upon by those individuals as we walked the gauntlet from the hotel to the conference room. Despite that type of distress, and it is distressing, as I am sure the Committee will recognise, the more serious threats are those of letter bombs and bombs placed under cars with the intention of maiming or even killing.

The intimidation that results from the efforts of those individuals is very real. It leads at times to an unwillingness, by young people in particular, to attend scientific conferences and to publish scientific data because the authors feel that they might be pilloried in public by members of the Animal Liberation Front or even by newspapers, as has happened recently in relation to the Animal Health Trust at Newmarket.

There is a widespread sense that the activists of the ALF fail to be checked and prosecuted by existing legislation, as my noble friend said. Their disruptive and intimidatory activities seem to go unchecked and unchallenged. While the points contained in the amendment would not cover all the aspects that I have briefly described, nevertheless some legislation to deal with disruptive trespass in buildings and its application to individuals who wish to disrupt the legitimate business of medical and other research would go some way towards deterring such activities. They are widely drawn, except that they now refer to: disruptive trespass … other than in the open air". They are as widely drawn as other clauses to which we have objected for that reason. I hope that the Minister will be able to say either that they are not necessary and that there are powers to deal with this undoubted abuse or that the Government are prepared to introduce more limited specific powers which will deal with any defects in the law as it exists.

12.15 a.m.

Earl Russell

It is common ground on all sides of the Committee that Her Majesty's subjects have a right to go about their lawful business and that that right is not in any way diminished if other of Her Majesty's subjects happen to disapprove of that business.

The question here is: what are the appropriate powers? Indeed, are the powers already on the statute book put to a sufficiently appropriate use? It is also a question of whether it is always appropriate to deal with a new mischief by piling up a mass of new criminal statutes, as was done in the criminal legislation of the 18th century. As one historian put it, MPs proposing a criminal offence of stealing their turnips never thought that the misfortune that happened that year to their turnips might happen next year to their potatoes.

In particular, we should pay attention to the powers which remain in the common law. There is one which is particularly appropriate to the case that the noble Earl, Lord Selborne, has put before us. It is the common law offence of sedition. It is defined in law as endeavouring otherwise than by lawful means to alter any matter in church or state by law established. Prosecutions are rare, but there are clear precedents. It is designed to deal with exactly this type of case where there is a systematic campaign to prevent the carrying on of a lawful activity.

I hope that among the other points that the noble Earl will consider is the question of whether that offence may provide the appropriate remedy in this case.

Earl Ferrers

I am grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Russell, for drawing the Committee's attention to the law of sedition. It is not one to which I had directed my mind, but I shall do so. I cannot comment on the effects that it does, might or would have.

We all feel a great deal of anxiety about researchers and the intolerable way in which animal rights activists and so forth behave towards them. My noble friend Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior said that he had experienced graffiti and his wife had been spat on. And all for what? Because one is undertaking research which is on the whole for the benefit of the country and often for the benefit of human beings.

We all have great sympathy with what lies behind the amendment. However, the new clauses seek to extend to buildings both the offence of aggravated trespass, which is contained in Clause 63, and the associated police power to direct persons to leave land, which is contained in Clause 64. The new offence of disruptive trespass, which the amendment proposes, is no different from aggravated trespass save for where it can be committed.

I do not believe that an extension to include buildings is necessary. The offence of aggravated trespass was designed to deal primarily with the various specific circumstances where trespassers in the open air behave so as to create public order problems. Experience has shown that that is where the real difficulties occur. If the protesters are in the open air and those who are protested against are in the building or, rather less likely, vice versa, not only is the risk of disorder reduced but the immediate effect on the victims is considerably less simply by virtue of the fact that there is a substantial barrier of bricks and mortar between the two groups of people.

I turn now to the point to which the noble Earl, Lord Russell, drew our attention. He wondered whether it was right to deal with new mischiefs by piling up new offences and whether the common law does not provide a number of remedies. We have looked frequently at the problem and we have reached the conclusion, rightly or wrong, that the existing criminal law provides very substantial protection where the protesters and victims are inside buildings. In that respect the amendments seek to widen the law more than we believe to be necessary. For example, where the animal rights protesters protest and misbehave against researchers, there is protection in the criminal law. There are offences of burglary, breaking and entering and theft. It is difficult to see how one can set about a building, a person or somebody's possessions without breaking and entering or committing a burglary or theft or an aggravated offence, grievous bodily harm or, indeed, industrial espionage.

My noble friend Lord Selborne referred to people taking discs or papers, copying them and then returning them. I should have thought that that would have been covered by the criminal law. I was surprised when he said that that did not constitute theft. I should think that it would be breaking and entering or that protection may be available under the laws of copyright. I should not care to give a definitive answer on a generality, but when we have looked at the problem we have reached the conclusion that the offences which are created—and they are terrible offences —are provided for already in the criminal law. The difficulty may be to gather sufficient evidence which is sustainable in court. If an offence is covered by the criminal law, then it would seem unnecessary to add a new offence and fall into the trap to which the noble Earl, Lord Russell, referred of piling up new offences.

Of course I shall take note of what my noble friends Lord Selborne and Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior and other Members of the Committee have said and I shall consider it. However, that is the position as the Government see it at present.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

I indicated when I spoke before that I did not necessarily accept the precise language of the amendment and partly for the very good reason given by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey.

But there is a real difficulty here, as I am sure the noble Earl recognises. Many years ago when I held the office that he holds, this matter was drawn to my attention by the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury. This problem has existed for 20 years. He pointed out that the raids were being carried out on laboratories where animals were being subjected to various forms of scientific experiment and the consequence of that could lead to a very serious public health danger which was not appreciated by many people outside the scientific community. I did then speak to the then Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police with a view to seeing what could be done to step up the police response to deal with the problem.

That situation has escalated over the past 20 years. I do not believe in using extravagant language, but some of the people involved are on the fringe of committing a form of terrorist offence. In reality, that is what we are talking about. The character of some of the operations carried out by some of those rather deranged people raises a very serious threat to the life of many of our fellow citizens. There have been substantial police operations aimed at dealing with the difficulty. All I can say at this late hour is that I very much hope that the noble Earl will reflect on the matter. I am quite sure that the language of this amendment is not at all appropriate. As to whether there is any weakness in the existing law, perhaps between now and the Report stage we can have discussions with the crime committee of the Association of Chief Police Officers to see whether it has any views on this matter. That might be helpful.

Earl Ferrers

I think that the point which the noble Lord, Lord Harris, makes is a valid one. Many of these offences are now being carried out and they are becoming wicked. People poison food and set fire to lorries and blow things up. I believe that the noble Lord said that they are nearly as bad as terrorist activities. That may well be true but those actions are already crimes and just altering the law will not enable one to catch the people committing them. That is the difficulty and that is what makes us believe that the criminal law is right; the difficulty is being able to locate the people, identify them and bring sufficient evidence to prosecute them. However, as I said, I shall consider what has been said.

The Earl of Selborne

May I say at the outset how grateful I am for the recognition of the problem from all parts of the Chamber. I must make it quite clear—I think I did when I was introducing this amendment—that I was not in any way expecting the format, as proposed, to be acceptable. I am sure that it is not and that it would be far too all-embracing. Nevertheless it was clearly a device to try to demonstrate that there is one essential difference which has to be highlighted—that one can or might have a trespass which is not at the moment adequately covered by the law. '

The only part of this short debate which has disconcerted me is that I do not think I have entirely persuaded my noble friend the Minister that the existing law is, or has, proved inadequate. I am bound to admit I have not considered with the noble Earl, Lord Russell, whether the laws of sedition might be brought to bear on this problem. But leaving that aside—I shall have to think about it a bit more carefully —it is the case that on a number of occasions documents have been removed from laboratories at a time when the laboratories might otherwise be open to access (that is during working hours) so it has been difficult to prove trespass. The documents have been thrown into the bags of waiting motor cyclists who have driven off with them. Some 43 activists were arrested by police when this happened to Boots research laboratory in November 1990, and there was no difficulty with identification, as my noble friend the Minister seemed to think there might be; but in practice because the documents were returned the charge of theft was apparently incapable of being sustained. As the people concerned refused to be bound over to keep the peace, nothing whatsoever happened.

That seems to me an extremely worrying situation. I agree entirely with all who have said that, before one rushes into making laws, one should look carefully at whether one can operate the criminal laws more effectively. But before I withdraw this amendment I ask my noble friend the Minister to reflect once more as to whether he thinks that there might be here a lacuna in the law which should be addressed at a later stage. Perhaps he will tell me whether he can give me any hope that he will look rather more constructively at the possibility that the law of theft, the law of copyright and the other laws we have referred to all might not adequately address the problem which seems to have been successfully evaded up till now.

Earl Ferrers

I gave the undertaking that I would certainly look at what has been said; and in so far as that covers the points which my noble friend has just made, of course I will look at that.

The Earl of Selborne

With that assurance, I thank the noble Earl and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 80B not moved.]

Clause 65 [Trespassory assemblies]:

[Amendments Nos 81, 82, 83, 83A and 84 not moved.]

Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 85:

Page 51, line 11, at end insert:

("(11) In relation to Wales, the references in subsection (1) above to a district and to the council of the district shall be construed, as respects applications on and after 1st April 1996, as references to a county or county borough and to the council for that county or county borough.").

The noble Earl said: I have spoken to this amendment with Amendment No. 64. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Avebury moved Amendment No. 85A:

Page 51, line 25, leave out ("imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 months or").

The noble Lord said: I only rise to mention that this is the fifth occasion on which criminal offences have been created under this Bill. Before anybody reminds me, I should say that I recognise that the amendment was grouped with some others. However, it is not the same as the others because it relates to a different type of offence. The fact that the three months' imprisonment is the same as in the earlier clauses does not make me any happier about the multiplication of offences under this Bill.

I simply record the fact that this is the fifth occasion on which an additional offence has been created, to my mind unnecessarily, under this piece of legislation and under this part of the Bill alone. I beg to move.

Earl Ferrers

I am so glad that the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, reminded us that this is the fifth, sixth or seventh time on which he has spoken on this group of amendments. I shall not bore the Committee by rehearsing the answers.

Lord Avebury

I knew that if I had not reminded the Committee that it was the fifth time that I had raised the matter the noble Earl would have done so. In view of the fact that his answers have been very much the same on each occasion, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 85B to 85D not moved.]

Clause 65, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 66 [Trespassory assemblies: power to stop persons from proceeding]:

Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 86:

Page 52, line 4, at end insert:

("(3) A person who fails to comply with a direction under subsection (1) which he knows has been given to him is guilty of an offence.

(4) A constable in uniform may arrest without a warrant anyone he reasonably suspects to be committing an offence under this section.

(5) A person guilty of an offence under subsection (3) is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale.").

The noble Earl said: I spoke to the amendment with Amendment No. 67. The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, will be glad to know that I do not propose to make another speech on the subject. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 66, as amended, agreed to.

Lord Annaly

I beg to move that the House do now resume.

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

House resumed.

House adjourned at twenty-eight minutes before one o'clock.