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Advance notice of protest meetings related to public processions

(".--(1) Where notice has been given under section 6 in relation to a public procession, a person proposing to organise a related protest meeting shall give notice of that proposal in accordance with subsections (2) to (4) to a member of the Royal Ulster Constabulary not below the rank of sergeant by leaving the notice with him at the police station nearest to the place at which the meeting is to be held.
(2) Notice under this section shall be given--
(a) not later than 14 days before the date on which the meeting is to be held; or
(b) if that is not reasonably practicable, as soon as it is reasonably practicable to give such notice.
(3) Notice under this section shall--
(a) be given in writing in such form as may be prescribed by regulations made by the Secretary of State; and
(b) be signed by the person giving the notice.
(4) The form prescribed under subsection (3)(a) shall require a person giving notice under this section to specify--
(a) the date and time when the meeting is to be held;
(b) the place at which it is to be held;
(c) the number of persons likely to take part in it;
(d) the arrangements for its control being made by the person proposing to organise it;
(e) the name and address of that person;
(f) where the notice is given as mentioned in paragraph (b) of subsection (2), the reason why it was not reasonably practicable to give notice in accordance with paragraph (a) of that subsection; and
(g) such other matters as appear to the Secretary of State to be necessary for, or appropriate for facilitating, the exercise by the Secretary of State or members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary of any function in relation to the meeting.
(5) The Chief Constable shall ensure that a copy of a notice given under this section is immediately sent to the Commission.
(6) A person who organises or takes part in a protest meeting--
(a) in respect of which the requirements of this section as to notice have not been satisfied; or
(b) which is held on a date or at a time or place which differs from the date, time or place specified in relation to it in the notice given under this section,
shall be guilty of an offence.
(7) In proceedings for an offence under subsection (6) it is a defence for the accused to prove that he did not know of, and neither suspected nor had reason to suspect, the failure to satisfy the requirements of this section or (as the case may be) the difference of date, time or place.

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(8) To the extent that an alleged offence under subsection (6) turns on a difference of date, time or place it is a defence for the accused to prove that the difference arose from--
(a) circumstances beyond his control;
(b) something done in compliance with conditions imposed under Article 4(2) of the Public Order (Northern Ireland) Order 1987; or
(c) something done with the agreement of a member of the Royal Ulster Constabulary not below the rank of inspector or by his direction.
(9) A person guilty of an offence under subsection (6) 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.")
6

Clause 7, page 5, line 14, leave out ("or any previous procession") and insert ("or any related protest meeting or in relation to any previous procession or protest meeting")

Lord Dubs: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 3 to 6.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 3 to 6.--(Lord Dubs.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

COMMONS AMENDMENT

7

Clause 10, page 7, line 14, at end insert ("and")

Lord Dubs: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 7. It may be helpful if I speak also to Amendments Nos. 8, 16, 17, 18 and 19.

Amendments Nos. 7 and 8 remove the Secretary of State's duty under Clause 10 to consult the Public Order Committee of the Police Authority for Northern Ireland before making an order prohibiting a public procession. Amendments Nos. 16, 17, 18 and 19 are consequential. These amendments reflect the setting up of the Parades Commission and the changing responsibilities of the police authority as a result of the Police Bill which is at present being considered in the other place.

There are two main reasons why it is no longer necessary for the Secretary of State to consult this committee. The first is that establishing the Parades Commission has provided a forum for the sort of community representation work in this area which formerly fell to the police authority.

The establishment of the Parades Commission will lead to extensive consultation taking place across the community in relation to contentious parades and we hope that it will lead to a more brokered local accommodation. Where the Parades Commission has to issue a determination on a parade it will do so in full knowledge of the views of all sides of the community. Clause 10(5) will require the Secretary of State, where practicable, to consult the commission before making an order prohibiting a parade; and the commission will, as a result of its consultation exercise, be well placed to advise the Secretary of State of the community's views of the parade in question. In the circumstances, we believe that consultation with another body with community representation responsibility is no longer necessary.

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Secondly, the changes that the Police Bill will bring about in structures governing policing mean that the police authority will no longer have responsibility for day-to-day resource issues. Resource issues would of course have been one of the main reasons for consulting the committee of the police authority under the old system. That is not to say that the police authority will have no interest in the policing of public processions and counter demonstrations. Indeed, the chief constable will remain accountable to the authority for the policing of such controversial events on the ground.

I believe that these amendments represent a significant improvement over existing legislation in terms of the information which would be available to the Secretary of State about the views of the community on a contentious parade, in circumstances where she is considering making a prohibition order.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 7.--(Lord Dubs.)

Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, as the Minister said, the amendments anticipate the Police Bill with which we shall deal in due course. When these amendments and those like them were discussed in another place, the view was expressed--I believe correctly, although it was expressed rather more strongly than I would have done--that the cutting out of the police authority from this particular loop would expose the RUC a little more politically. I am sure that that is not what we would wish to do. However, in any event, it seems to me that the Secretary of State and the RUC, especially in cases where a procession is actually being banned, will be in the front line in such disputes. We discussed that aspect during the earlier stages of the Bill. Therefore, I am content for the amendments to be put in place.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

COMMONS AMENDMENT

8

Page 7, line 15, leave out from ("Constable") to end of line 18

Lord Dubs: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 8.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 8.--(Lord Dubs.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

COMMONS AMENDMENT

9

Clause 11, page 7, line 40, after ("court") insert ("or other body or person")

Lord Dubs: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 9. The amendment deals with the Secretary of State's powers under Clause 11 to make an order introducing a registration scheme for bands. Clause 11 provides that, should the Secretary of State make such an order, the scheme to be introduced would be court-based. The amendment would increase the Secretary of State's flexibility in that it would provide that an order made

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under Clause 11 could provide for applications for registration to be made either to a court or to such other body or person as may be specified in the order.

Noble Lords will recall the debate that we had in Committee about the issue of bands. I pointed out that the North report recommended that the Government "give active consideration" to a registration scheme for bands and suggested that a court-based scheme along the lines of the scheme for clubs in Northern Ireland might be appropriate. As I explained in Committee, the Government consider that the commission should have sufficient power to deal with the mischief caused by some bands. It will be able to impose conditions on parades which may cover which bands may take part in the parade, or set conditions as to their conduct.

Clause 11 should, therefore, be viewed as very much a reserve power. However, if it did transpire that it needed to be activated, it makes sense for the Secretary of State to keep her options open as to the type of registration scheme which would be most appropriate, court-based or otherwise.

Moved, that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 9.--(Lord Dubs.)


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