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Lord Dubs: I thank the many Members of the Committee who have spoken in this debate on all sides of the argument. May I try to deal with some of the specific points that have been raised before dealing with the main issue of principle.

If I may take the point of the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, first, it was a question about threats issued by loudspeakers which could be heard some distance away. I am certainly happy to look into that. My first inclination is to think that that sort of reprehensible behaviour would already be covered by existing legislation, namely by public order legislation dealing with provocative or threatening conduct or intimidatory behaviour. If that is so, I shall be able at a later stage to assure the noble Lord; if it is not so, we will have to think again. But I will look into what he has said.

I should make it clear at the outset that under Clause 3 the commission has one power in keeping under review these expressions of cultural identity; that is to make recommendations to the Secretary of State. That is the sum total of the powers that Clause 3 will give to the commission.

Secondly, within Clause 3 it is made clear that we are concerned with those expressions of cultural identity that have an adverse impact on relationships within the community. I would suggest to the noble Lord, Lord Cope, that some of the examples that he has introduced by way of amendment would be unlikely to have an adverse impact on relationships within the community because of the nature and locations he has described. It is important to know what are the powers of the commission and the fact that they are limited to those expressions that have an adverse impact on relationships within the community. Therefore, as the clause now stands, sporting events are specifically excluded--it says so very clearly--and they would only be included if the noble Lord's amendments were to be accepted.

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If the noble Lord, Lord Rathcavan, who is concerned with sporting events, gets dragged into this, I can assure him that if he does not support the amendment he will keep sporting events out of it. I appreciate nevertheless that many noble Lords are concerned about the point which the noble Lord, Lord Eames, made about putting too much of a burden on the commission and diluting its main task. That is why this clause will not come into effect until the commission has had a chance to deal with its main task for several months. It will not be an immediate responsibility of the commission to take on board the extra responsibility in Clause 3.

The noble Lord, Lord Fitt, asked me why we had Clause 3 in the Bill. But indeed he answered the question: it is to achieve a sense of balance. We want to persuade the whole of the community in Northern Ireland, of both traditions, that the Bill is even-handed. We want to do this in such a way that we will achieve wider support for the Bill than we would have if it were perceived to be unbalanced and only had an impact on one section of the community and not on the other. That is the sole purpose. The noble Lord may think we have not achieved that end, but that is our proper aim.

Let me now deal with the specific points in the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Cope. Clearly, they would imply quite a considerable extension of the commission's remit. I would suggest that some of these extensions would be into areas which would not be helpful.

On the definition of a public place, for example, we have been careful to restrict it to remain as close as possible to what the ordinary man or woman in the street would understand by it. If the noble Lord's amendment were accepted, the committee would realise that the sort of public places covered would involve not only churches, as the noble Lord recognised in a subsequent amendment, but also, say, concert halls or pubs. The commission would then be required to consider manifestations of cultural identity which may take place in, say, a pub in an area solidly of one tradition or the other. Being realistic, we have to recognise that quite a lot of cultural manifestations in those areas would not pass muster if they were taking place in a public space shared by those of both traditions. Similarly, it seems bizarre to cover cultural manifestations which may take place in a hall which those present had chosen to attend or to which they had even paid admission. If they did not like what they were going to hear or see, they would not need to attend, and I would think that in the situation in Northern Ireland they would not attend.

The last amendment relates to the painting of property. I know many noble Lords have expressed reservations about how the commission could really get to grips with problems like kerbstones and murals, and this has been a thread running through the discussions on this clause. If the commission is to have an extended remit, and I recognise that opinions are divided on this subject, it would be strange to exclude those manifestations of cultural identity which are perhaps most obvious and may have the greatest potential for causing offence. That is not to say that the Government are indicating to the commission that that is what they should do as regards Clause 3, but simply that by

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excluding the painting of property we would be unduly restricting the effect of Clause 3 in a way which might go against its intentions.

The noble Lord also proposes to introduce sporting events. We left out sporting events after some thought. First, we do not want to politicise sport. Secondly, while the event may take place in the open air, it too is an activity which people are entitled to take or leave as they wish. Nobody is forcing anyone to watch Linfield play football or attend a GAA match. What we are seeking to achieve by the new remit is ideas and proposals on how to ensure that cultural manifestations in shared public space can be regulated so that they do not give offence to those of the opposing tradition.

There has been considerable discussion of the clause, and I am aware that views are divided. All I would say is that the Government will listen and take account of what has been said here this afternoon. I cannot go further than that, but we will scrutinise the contributions that have been made to the debate and we will think hard about the implications of what has been said. At this stage, I cannot say more than that.

Lord Holme of Cheltenham: Before the noble Lord sits down, he has in a sense just given the game away. He said he did not want sport to be politicised. The implication is that everything else will be politicised, and that is precisely the issue which has concerned most of the noble Lords who have spoken this afternoon. They are putting into an arena of contention, of analysis, of adjudication, things which are part of the tapestry of life in Northern Ireland. Then the Government, and we can all understand what they are trying to do, are attempting to reach an accommodation that allows the unionists to say, "There is something for us in it". I am sceptical, incidentally, if that is the case, because they are very hard on many of the traditional practices of unionists in Northern Ireland. But let us assume that that was the Government's motive in doing it.

The effect in the Bill of the Government in trying to reach that accommodation is to put the whole onus of picking up the pieces after the Government on to the wretched commission, which has a big enough problem trying to deal with parades. I am pleased to hear the noble Lord say the Government will think about it and I hope they will think about it very hard.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: We have had a further interesting debate on the principles behind Clause 3, as well as on the detail of the amendments, and I am grateful to the Minister for saying that he will reflect on what has been said in our debates today. I do not want to add much more at this point, but he said that the Government do not want to politicise sport, and of course I agree with that as a principle, but it is far too late in the case of the GAA. It has been highly political for a very long time, and if he doubts that he should look at the rules of the GAA, particularly those which refer to members of the RUC, for example, who are not permitted to join in any circumstances. That is obviously a highly political rule.

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We have been trying both to insert and to exclude various items from the clause and the discussion has been useful. I am grateful to the noble Lord for undertaking to consider what has been said. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 5 to 7 not moved.]

6.15 p.m.

Lord Molyneaux of Killead moved Amendment No. 8:

Page 2, line 20, leave out subsection (5).

The noble Lord said: As a parliamentarian of some 27 years, I have a natural horror of untidiness in drafting legislation. I am not accusing the draftsmen in this case because no doubt they were under a number of pressures.

It is true that subordinate legislation is frequently used by departments in phasing implementation of sections of wide-ranging legislation where there is need for what one might call a timed sequence. In this Bill there appears to be no good reason for two separate commencement dates. That is my elementary instinct, but it may be that, given the opposition to Clause 3 in its entirety, the need for any amendment such as mine may be removed. Although I move it, I shall not press it to a conclusion. I beg to move.

Lord Dubs: In tabling the amendment, the noble Lord seeks to commence immediately Clause 3 of the Bill, which extends the remit of the Parades Commission to include expressions of cultural identity other than parades and sporting events. I acknowledged in my speech introducing the Bill that we have added this provision to it in recognition of the widely expressed concerns that the commission would focus too narrowly on parades, in practice, of course, the predominant form of cultural expression of one side of the community.

It is our view that to include at the outset this very considerable additional burden to the commission as it begins the difficult task of considering and deliberating upon parades would be to ask too much of its members, dedicated though they have shown themselves to be. No one can yet know just how the commission will in practice take forward its responsibilities, and the Government consider that a bedding-in period is desirable to allow the commission to establish itself in its new role.

The timing of the Bill coming into effect will not give us very long before the marching season commences, and to give the commission this additional responsibility from the outset might well detract it from paying full attention to the parades. I am not therefore happy that we should seek to fetter the power of the commission to deal with parades in the first instance by putting these other responsibilities upon it.

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As I have said before, the Secretary of State will keep the commission's remit under close review and she hopes to activate it within a matter of months. However, the noble Lord's amendment would make things unduly difficult for the commission.

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