HL Deb 09 July 1996 vol 574 cc175-6
Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a third time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a third time.—(Lord McIntosh of Haringey.)

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, I wish to ask why it is thought right on the one hand to ban stalking in England and Wales but to do nothing about it apparently in Scotland and Northern Ireland. What is the reason for the different treatment?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, the Bill which I have been taking through your Lordships' House is confined to England and Wales because it is concerned with civil penalties. I understand that the law of Scotland has a differential provision in the civil courts and that the courts in Scotland are more satisfied with their ability to pursue stalkers, using the existing law.

Perhaps it may be for the convenience of the House if I say now what I was going to say on the Question that the Bill do now pass. I wish to welcome the indication that the Government gave this week that they are making advances in their thinking on how to deal with stalking; to record the fact that the Bill, having been examined in Committee, has not been found technically defective by government Ministers; to record the fact that the Bill fulfils one, but only one, of the functions which would be provided by government legislation when it finally reaches Parliament; and therefore to express the hope that the Government may see fit to allow the Bill to proceed through all its stages rapidly in another place later this week in order that one of the objectives—although admittedly only one—of the Government in pursuing the dreadful offence of stalking can be achieved earlier than would be the case if we waited for legislation in the next Session. I commend the Bill.

On Question, Bill read a third time.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill do now pass.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(Lord McIntosh of Haringey.)

Lord Pearson of Rannoch

My Lords, would it be possible for the promoters of the Bill, when it reaches another place, to consider changing the title? As the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, may be aware, at least in Scotland stalking is an honourable pursuit. Perhaps he could indulge many noble Lords on all sides of the House on the point. The insinuation that their activities on the Scottish hills are an offence is not a good one. Perhaps the noble Lord would consider something like "aggressive and continuous molestation".

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I apologise to the business managers for the fact that a debate is taking place on what was intended to be a formal Motion. Of course, your Lordships have full freedom to intervene at any stage of the Bill and I take no exception to either of the questions I have been asked.

I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, would agree that the word "stalking" has a different resonance for most people in the country from that given it by those who spend part of their time on the moors of Scotland. Stalking is generally understood to include the activities covered by this Bill which are defined for the purposes of the Bill as being subject to a non-molestation order comparable to a non-molestation order as provided for in the Family Law Act. I hope therefore that the noble Lord will feel on reflection that any slight difficulties of nomenclature in his part of Scotland should not weigh against the Bill or go to argue that it should not now pass and go to another place.

The Lord Privy Seal (Viscount Cranborne)

My Lords, perhaps I may intervene briefly for the convenience of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, who has been most patient during these exchanges. Perhaps I may be allowed to draw the attention of the House to the Companion, as amended by the fourth report of the Procedure Committee, which states that the Third Reading is taken formally and not debated. However, the Motion that the Bill do now pass may be debated. This enables the House to debate the Bill in its final form, taking into account any amendments that have been made at Third Reading. The Motion that the Bill do now pass may be opposed in the same ways as the Motion for Second Reading.

In view of the exchanges that have taken place and the patience shown by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, it may be for the convenience of the House if I remind your Lordships of the amended procedures.

On Question, Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.