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Lord Molyneaux of Killead: I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Whether Clause 3 shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Alderdice: We have had a fairly full debate on this issue and I have to say that I fully expect that we shall be revisiting it even as we continue our discussions; that is already clear. Before withdrawing my objection on the understanding that the Government have indicated their preparedness to look very seriously at this matter, I mention one further matter which has come out of some of the comments of the Minister.

The Minister made it clear that one major concern about the other amendments that I and my noble friend put forward is the conflict with the European Convention on Human Rights. I am concerned to ensure that there is no conflict in the legislation. I put it to the Minister that he may very well have a problem with Clause 3, because the ECHR enshrines the right to express cultural identity. If Clause 3 stands part of the Bill, it is quite possible that that right will effectively be removed, not just for an individual or a group in an area for a specific circumstance, but in general terms over a certain area. There is a difference between adverse aspects of relationships and the denial of rights because they impact, or potentially impact, as an infringement of someone else's rights.

The Government's lawyers will need to look carefully at whether handing to the commission not just the right to make representation back to the Secretary of State with its advice but the fact that it will be expected effectively to give advice is in contravention of the ECHR. Of course, it may be the case that there is no real intention to introduce the clause. However, that would be an entirely unfortunate way to proceed with a piece of legislation--including for political purposes something which one specifically did not want to find oneself acting upon--and I cannot see that the Government could possibly wish to proceed in that way.

Lord Dubs: Perhaps I could just comment on the noble Lord's point about the European Convention on Human Rights. The action that would be taken as a result of whatever the commission recommends under Clause 3 would be for the Secretary of State to consider the commission's recommendations. Therefore, it would be up to the Secretary of State to take or not to take whatever action she saw fit, and I am absolutely certain that she would take the requirements of the European Convention into account in deciding what action to take. However, the onus would be on the Government through the Secretary of State to make sure that we comply with the European convention. I do not think the commission could be in breach of the convention

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merely for making a recommendation to the Secretary of State. It would be the action that the Government took that would determine whether we were in breach of the convention. I can assure the noble Lord that we believe very much in the European convention, as does he, and we do not want to find ourselves in breach of it.

Lord Alderdice: I am grateful to the Minister for clarifying that point. It does rather seem to confirm that the commission might be encouraged to consider all these contentious issues and make doubly contentious recommendations only with the possibility that the Secretary of State would be in a position to declare herself completely unable to proceed with the legislation and with the empowerment because it would contravene ECHR. Perhaps the Minister will come back to that at a later stage. At this point I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 3 agreed to.

Clause 4 [Code of Conduct]:

Lord Molyneaux of Killead moved Amendment No. 9:

Page 2, line 26, at end insert ("or a counter-demonstration to a public procession").

The noble Lord said: The North review body has been mentioned favourably many times this afternoon and was very clear in its thinking. In all my contact with the members of that body it was clear that they were determined that where a procession had been approved, any person attempting to obstruct or break up such a public procession should be severely punished. That meant that where the statutory requirement had been met in terms of giving notice in compliance with any changes suggested by the Royal Ulster Constabulary and when all that had been done, they were obstructed sometimes at the last minute by a person or persons--usually persons--very well organised.

When I met the North review body in its very initial stages, I noticed that the members could not understand why such disruptive behaviour had been tolerated in the past. It was something that I could not explain away. I note that the conclusions of the North review body have been reflected in Clause 14, but I am convinced that the recommendation must be included earlier in the Bill, in the code of conduct mentioned in Clause 4, to ensure fairness and balance to all concerned. I beg to move.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: I rise briefly to support the amendment. In discussing parts of the Bill earlier, particularly Clause 3, a large number of us emphasised the desire to achieve balance in the Bill. There are on the Marshalled List a number of occasions when a greater balance can be put into the Bill as it stands, and this is the first of them.

We all know that processions go wrong not so much when the procession itself takes place but when there is a counter-demonstration. To a great degree it is the counter-demonstration that sets off the trouble. I do not mean to say that the blame is necessarily wholly on one side or the other, but the counter-demonstration is what leads to the trouble and to the police having to get

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involved, and so on. On many occasions there is no counter-demonstration, even though the parade might be regarded as provocative, either because the police are holding people back sufficiently to make it impossible or not disruptive if it does take place or because those involved do not press it to the point where difficulties arise.

Where there is a counter-demonstration that is serious, that is what leads to the loss of order, which the police then have to do their best to restore. It seems to me, therefore, that this is one of the occasions where balance can be put into the Bill. I support the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux.

Lord Monson: The Minister has just defended the inclusion of Clause 3 in the Bill on the grounds that it will provide an element of balance between the different cultural traditions in the Province. I would have thought that acceptance of amendments like Amendment No. 9 might be a better way of achieving this.

Lord Alderdice: The Minister referred earlier to his wish to see other possible balances than Clause 3. I must agree with the two previous noble Lords who have indicated that they see this as one of a number of contexts in which the balance could be provided in a better way than in Clause 3. I am minded, with my colleagues, to support the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux of Killead, in his proposition.

Lord Dubs: I am aware that some in the unionist community, and particularly those in the loyal orders, feel that this legislation is excessively targeted at those organising and taking part in public processions. It has been suggested that the thrust of this legislation is that marches are the problem and must somehow be dealt with. Many feel this is unfair and point to the provocation which some marchers have been subjected to. I understand those feelings. It is often clear from scenes of disturbances associated with parades that the fault is not only on one side, and this Government have never attempted to argue the contrary.

The Government are determined that the legislation and the structures established under it should show balance and even-handedness in practice. My only doubts about the amendment are what its practical effects will be. The amendment deals with changing the code of conduct. Breaking the code of conduct does not itself constitute a criminal offence. Many of the things which counter-demonstrators are accused of--for example, blocking roads--are criminal offences in their own right. The purpose of the code of conduct is both to enable march organisers to demonstrate in a practical way that they have taken account in all reasonable ways of the sensitivities of those in areas through which they are passing and to enable the commission in those rare cases where that is not the case to take account of that in future determinations. I am not quite clear what conclusions the commission will be expected to draw from the misbehaviour of protesters. There is a difficulty in terms of how the amendment will work in practice.

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The Government are, however, prepared to consider the amendment, or any other ways of enhancing the structures, to ensure that they operate in an even-handed way in practice. I am aware of the technical difficulties of drafting an amendment to achieve that end.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: The Minister says the code of conduct is designed to enable march organisers to organise their marches in an acceptable way. It seems to me perfectly proper to permit counter-demonstrators to organise counter-demonstrations in an acceptable way in order to make clear their opposition to the particular parade or point of view of it taking place without disrupting it and without necessarily causing a public order difficulty but nevertheless indicating that their point is different from the marchers in a reasonable way. That is why I think the code of conduct should provide for counter-demonstrations as well as for the processions themselves.

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