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Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank: My Lords, perhaps I may associate these Benches with the remarks made by the Lord Privy Seal and the noble Viscount. However, they omitted to say--and I am sure that it was by oversight--that the noble Lord served as a Liberal

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Member of Parliament for 22 years and represented that most interesting part of Britain, East Anglia, the politics of which have always fascinated us.

It has been a life of distinction and, as the noble Lord, Lord Richard, said, one also of courage. To put it at its very least, the thought that the noble Lord is 100 years of age today makes many of us feel a great deal younger than we supposed.

Lord Weatherill: My Lords, on behalf of the Cross-Benches I wish a happy birthday to the senior of our 326 Cross-Bench Peers. Long may he continue to keep that number up.

The Lord Bishop of Chichester: My Lords, I associate these Benches with the congratulations to the noble Lord and send him our best wishes and many happy returns of the day.


Lord Carter: My Lords, it may be for the convenience of the House if I inform your Lordships that it has been agreed through the usual channels that because of the situation in Iraq there should be a debate in this House next Tuesday on Iraq. The other place will debate the same subject on the same day. The fourth Committee day of the Crime and Disorder Bill, which was scheduled for that day, has now been moved to Tuesday, 24th February.

Business: Written Answer

Lord Chesham: My Lords, with the leave of the House, I wish to raise an important matter. At 11.30 this morning I received a telephone call from a journalist who asked questions about a Written Answer in response to a Question which I had tabled. She apparently had been advised by the Cabinet Office that the Answer was available and she obtained a copy. I have still not received a copy of that reply. May I please have an explanation for this and an assurance that a similar disregard of Parliament will not happen again?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am completely mortified by what the noble Lord has just said. I offer him unqualified apologies both on behalf of myself, as I signed the Answer to the Question late yesterday evening, and also on behalf of the Government as a whole. I can assure the noble Lord that there will be a full investigation as to how what he described politely as a disregard of Parliament took place. He will be informed of all the details and I shall make whatever public announcement is necessary as a result. That will happen as soon as possible.

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Crime and Disorder Bill [H.L.]

3.30 p.m.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now again resolve itself into Committee.--(Lord Williams of Mostyn.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.


Clause 22 [Meaning of "racially aggravated"]:

The Chairman of Committees: In calling Amendment No. 157 I point out to the Committee that if that amendment is agreed to, I cannot call Amendment No. 157A.

Lord Monson moved Amendment No. 157:

Page 18, leave out lines 21 to 24.

The noble Lord said: I hope the Committee will forgive me if I start by speaking to Clause 22 as a whole to set the scene so to speak. The Labour manifesto promised to create,

    "a new crime of racially motivated violence".

That is what Clause 22(1)(b) does, fleshed out by Clause 23. But the various offences set out in Clause 23--common assault, actual bodily harm and grievous bodily harm--are already crimes, whoever the victim and whatever the motive. They quite rightly already attract severe punishment. Therefore when the Government speak of "new crimes" they are not making illegal what is presently legal but are simply proposing that existing offences deserve a more severe punishment if any racial or national element comes into the equation.

At Second Reading two noble Lords--one from the Conservative Front Bench and one from the Liberal Democrat Benches--expressed some unease at these proposals. However, the really pungent and telling attacks had come earlier from the press in July and October respectively last year. As luck would have it I was in the middle of photocopying the extracts in question in the Library when I noted that Question Time was finishing much earlier than expected. I have left them in the Library and I shall not be able to quote them now but I shall do so a little later this afternoon as they are worth quoting.

The Times' leading article asked why one kind of crime should be punished more severely than a similar crime. That was timely because only three days earlier--I think The Times' leading article appeared on 3rd October--it was revealed that a 13 year-old girl had committed suicide as a result of being bullied by 17 year-old youths. She was not bullied because of her race; she was of the same race as those who committed the bullying. However, she was unusually fat and wore glasses. We know, of course, that people are frequently harassed and bullied because of their clothes, their lifestyle or because they are fat, thin or disabled. Not so long ago some people in wheelchairs in Oxford were attacked by thugs who said that they did not like

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crippled people. People are attacked because of their accents, whether they be regional accents or so-called "class" accents. Many noble Lords will know that students at northern universities who have been to public school--there are attested cases here--have been headbutted by locals in pubs who do not like their accents. The victims have ended up with broken noses, broken cheekbones, chipped teeth and so on. However, none of these categories receives special protection although all suffer equally.

Notwithstanding the powerful and compelling press attacks to which I shall return later, the Government will obviously stick to their guns as regards offences motivated by hostility towards people of another race or nationality. That was a manifesto commitment and there is obviously no point in opposing it, although I suggest that the inclusion of offences which are partly motivated by hostility will lead to a legal minefield. Let us consider the case of Arabs and other people from the Middle East who are frequently targeted by black and white gangs alike on the supposition that they are more likely than others to have Rolex watches and large sums of money on their person and large amounts of jewellery in their safes. Part of the motivation for these attacks is obviously mercenary, but I suspect that quite a lot of racial antipathy from both black and white comes into it as well. Again that is a matter that I do not think we can change because although it is ambiguous it is in the manifesto.

I turn to Amendment No. 157 which seeks to delete Clause 22(1)(a); a proposal which was not in the Labour manifesto and is more draconian than what I have just been discussing. Indeed it is positively Orwellian in that it seeks to police people's emotions. It increases maximum sentences by up to 300 per cent. for offences which have nothing to do initially with race or nationality and where there is no racial motivation, but where, in the course of the attack, some hostility or resentment may emerge accidentally. Indeed the hostility could be merely transient. A bomb attack in Belfast, Jerusalem or Colombo could well provoke a generalised hostility towards the nationality or race of the perpetrators which might fade after two or three weeks.

Let me show how this law would work in practice if it is not amended. Let us consider road rage. Tempers are at their shortest when people are trying to drive on our overcrowded roads. A man in the south of England may buy a new car of which he is extremely proud. He polishes it every Sunday and does not let anyone else touch it. One day, about a month after buying it, he is stationary at traffic lights with his handbrake on when someone drives up behind him who is chatting to his passenger or twiddling the knobs of his radio and crashes into the rear of the car in front, smashing it up considerably and breaking the tail lights. The enraged driver of the car in front gets out of his car intending to hit the person who did it. That is no doubt naughty, but this is what happens on such occasions. He hears the man speaking with the accent of north east England and takes a swing at him saying, "That is for smashing my car, you Geordie so-and-so". He would probably be found guilty of common assault and sentenced to a

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maximum of six months' imprisonment. However, if the careless driver lived 30 or 40 miles further north and the aggrieved driver heard him speaking with a Scottish accent, he could well take a swing at him saying, "That is for damaging my car you Scottish so-and-so". Under the terms of the Bill he would be liable for two years' imprisonment--four times as long.

Let us also consider disputes between neighbours. As we all know, those are another cause of great tension. Let us suppose that there is a tough Londoner, of the kind depicted by Harry Enfield on television, usually with a fierce Rottweiler in tow, who lives in a street in East London. His neighbour on the left comes from the Indian subcontinent; his neighbour on the right comes from a West Midlands conurbation. The East Londoner in the middle is infuriated by his neighbours, who let their cats come into his garden and mess things up or park their cars so that he cannot get on to his drive. One day his patience snaps and he says to the neighbour on his left, "If you park your car across my drive one more time, I'll thump you, you Paki so-and-so". He then immediately goes to the neighbour on his right and says, "If you park your car across my drive one more time, I'll thump you, you Brummie so-and-so". Again, the sentence for threatening the neighbour on the left will be four times as high as that for threatening the neighbour on the right, if the Bill remains unamended.

That will not improve community relations; quite the reverse. Moreover, it contravenes Labour's traditional policy on sentencing. Throughout the 1980s and the first half at least of the 1990s, Labour both inside and outside Parliament and Labour-supporting newspapers never stopped criticising Conservatives for constantly increasing maximum sentences for all kinds of offences. They argued with some justification that long sentences were wasteful and expensive and that what counted was near certainty of detection and conviction. This kind of provision will do nothing to add to the near certainty of detection. It may actually reduce the near certainty of conviction because juries may well be less willing to convict if they suspect that there has been evidence of positive discrimination in sentencing.

The British people are prepared to treat everyone else fairly--no better, no worse than anyone else. They do not want to treat an incomer worse than anyone else, but nor do they want to treat him better. Positive discrimination, albeit with another name, is what the subsections represent. I beg to move.

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