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Lord Dubs: I understand what the noble Lord is saying--that there is a difficulty because when we are dealing with a march we are dealing with organisers. Therefore, we can have a code of conduct which the organisers would have available to them so that they would know what was expected of them. The trouble is we may not know precisely who the protestors are. Therefore, it is difficult to make available to the protestors the code of conduct when we are not aware of who they are. It is a practical difficulty. The problem is also that if the marchers are in breach of the code of conduct, that will be held against them in the future should they wish to march again.

It is difficult to apply the same principle to protestors because one cannot say, "Here is a code of conduct, and if you protest again this is what the problem will be", because protestors are by definition not organised in a way that marchers are. I am not trying to denigrate what the amendment is seeking to do. I said that the Government would consider it. I am simply pointing out that there are some practical difficulties to doing it precisely in the way the noble Lord who moved the amendment has suggested.

6.30 p.m.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: I was just going to respond to say that the Minister is surely aware that counter-demonstrations are often organised; there is an organiser behind them. His name may not be apparent and of course he does not have to give 28 days' notice or whatever that he is going to organise a counter-demonstration. The idea that therefore he will not have a copy of the code of conduct seems to me to be rather naive, if I may say so to the noble Lord. The code of conduct will, after all, be widely available, dealing with both processions and counter-processions if the amendment were carried, and would be known to all sorts of people and I believe would be helpful to those organising peaceful counter-demonstrations.

It is wrong to say that the code of conduct will go only to those people to whom the commission sends it. It will no doubt be available widely in public libraries

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and everywhere else and will get into an awful lot of hands in addition to those to whom the commission actually sends it.

Lord Molyneaux of Killead: As we are all trying desperately to be helpful to each other, I can be helpful to the Minister, with great respect. If he looks at his Clause 14, the offence is stated quite clearly there, and what is more important, the penalty is also stated--Clause 14, page 10 "Breaking up public procession".

Lord Dubs: I was just reading Clause 14. I said we would consider the point. I am not sure I can be more helpful than that. I have said we will consider it and I repeat that we will do so. I am just concerned about the precise way of giving effect to what the noble Lord wishes to achieve; that is why we want to consider it.

Lord Molyneaux of Killead: I could quote the penalty section:

    "(2) A person guilty of an offence under subsection (1) shall be liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale, or to both".

There are those who believe that that should perhaps be increased, but we will not come to that one for a moment.

Lord Dubs: Could I respond, not so much on the offence, because we are coming on to the offences in a later amendment, but just to say that one of the reasons I want to consider it is that I want to consider what we already have in Clause 14, assuming that the Committee and Parliament as a whole approve it, in relation to what the noble Lord has attempted to achieve with the amendment we are now discussing, to see whether Clause 14 is sufficient, or whether the further powers might be appropriate. That is again a reason why I want to think about it.

Lord Molyneaux of Killead: My purpose in tabling the amendment for an earlier stage in the Bill was to ensure that there was a degree of priority in bringing it forward in the legislation.

In the mood of co-operation existing between all sides of the Committee, I beg to leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 4 agreed to.

Clauses 5 and 6 agreed to.

Clause 7 [Advance notice of public processions]:

Lord Molyneaux of Killead moved Amendment No. 10:

Page 3, line 29, leave out ("28") and insert ("7").

The noble Lord said: Given the degree of co-operation received thus far it would be a pity to spoil it by making a long speech. The reason for our suggesting that "28" should be left out and "7" should take its place is that there is reason to believe that notice as long as 28 days would be a standing temptation to all manner of people to organise that which we have just been discussing, namely counter-measures and all the

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rest of it. It is not something which would affect many of the organisations of which I am a member because, as has been already said, many of these plans are known and published as far as a year ahead. If all parades, and particularly those in sensitive areas, were required to observe 28 days instead of seven as at present, this could place temptation in the minds of people who were not terribly sympathetic to the maintenance of law and order.

On the second point, processions are customarily held in an area or areas. We have given that a fair amount of coverage in the debates on the amendments moved by the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, and I do not think that it is necessary to go back over that.

Amendment No. 12, would add:

    "a procession to or from a church for or in connection with a service of divine worship".

I beg to move.

Lord Dubs: I am grateful to the noble Lord for his amendments, but we are not happy with them. His suggestion that the proposed period of notice be reduced from 28 days to seven days would do nothing to address the problems presented by such a short period of notice which Dr. North and his review team identified. To take the amendment on board would therefore run counter to the North Report's recommendations, which suggested extending the period of notice to allow information to be made available to the local community and for anyone who might wish to make representations to the commission to do so. That process would be made impossible. The extension of the notice period would also give the commission time properly to assess representations made to it, and enable the RUC to plan the policing of potentially contentious parades.

Neither can I agree with his proposals that parades which may be considered traditional, or which have particular associations with church services, should be exempt from these notice requirements. Surely, if a parade is of long standing, it is generally known from year to year when it will take place in any case. Indeed, one noble Lord said we normally knew 100 years in advance when these parades were to take place. There are, as I hope the noble Lord will recognise, additional difficulties in trying to differentiate in law between parades of long standing and those which are not, and those which have a religious character or otherwise. We are committed to balance and even-handedness in this legislation, and believe that creating privileged categories of parades in this way would run counter to that. I therefore hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw these amendments.

Lord Alderdice: In a spirit of co-operation and mutual elucidation, upon which the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux of Killead, has remarked, I bring to his attention that were his amendments to proceed--particularly Amendments Nos. 11 and 12, referring to what we would call traditional parades and parades to and from a church--that would mean that the parade at Drumcree would therefore be removed from the remit not once but twice, all in one go. Given that this whole Bill has largely come about through the difficulties

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there, I am sure that my having pointed that out to the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, it will immediately become clear to him that it would not be the best thing to do to proceed with these amendments.

Lord Molyneaux of Killead: In the light of that very helpful advice, and given that I conceded that there were some difficulties, I hope that we can accept that in principle, in an ideal world, this ought to be the position. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 11 and 12 not moved.]

Lord Cope of Berkeley moved Amendment No.13:

Page 4, line 38, at end insert ("or
(b) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years or to a fine, or to both").

The noble Lord said: We have been searching for ways in which to improve the balance of this Bill as between those who organise parades and those who break them up, among other balances, but that is the particular balance to which this amendment is addressed. The amendment increases the possible penalties under this part of the Bill so as to make the penalties the same for breaking a procession up and subsequently for organising a wholly illegal procession the same as the penalties for a legal organiser of a procession which breaks the conditions imposed on it by the commission. It seems to me that it is only fair that the potential fine and the potential prison sentence should be the same for those who organise processions which go wrong and for those who break them up. To have a lower limit on the breakers-up of processions seems to me to be unbalanced.

I appreciate that in both cases--that of the organiser of the processions which go wrong in some way, and those who try to break them up--other offences will often be committed, in particular public order offences. Those people may find themselves in greater trouble and liable to longer sentences as a result of the public order offences with which they are charged than from the offences under the Bill. In that sense, the Minister may argue, as he did at Second Reading, that there is no need to have a higher maximum level, but that there is a need to make the Bill balance on the face of it, as well as fairness in having the same fine for the different offences and the same possibility of being sent to prison on indictment for the different offences.

I am aware that the disparity between the two levels of sentencing for the different offences reflects precisely the Public Order (Northern Ireland) Order 1987. There is the difference in the existing order. However, that is not necessarily a reason for continuing the difference if it is unfair and unbalanced. We should not be so hidebound by tradition that we feel it necessary to carry forward the offences from one document to another just because they have existed in the old document. It seems to me that it was probably wrong in the 1987 order to have different levels of punishment for the corresponding offences. But it seems to me that it would

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be right in this Bill, in the interests of balance and effect, to have the same punishments for the two different kinds of offences. I beg to move.

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