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Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I always listen to argument but I do not want to mislead. We have listened to the arguments quite carefully. I have put forward our response to Amendment No. 22 and I have put forward a completely different response to Amendments Nos. 23 and 24, where we thought the arguments were such that we were persuaded. I have not been persuaded so far. I think it is unlikely that any of my colleagues in another place will be persuaded. But obviously everything that is said in your Lordships' House is discussed by the Solicitor-General, the Lord Advocate and myself, and frequently we transmit our views about--I say this carefully--the virtue and merit of arguments in your Lordship' House to our masters above us; and they sometimes listen--in fact they always listen, but they do not always agree.

Baroness David: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, if they are going to have this discussion, surely they can have it before the next stage of the Bill. I should like to hear the result of that discussion with the Secretary of State, or whoever it is. Could that not happen please?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, there will be a concluded government view before the Bill goes from your Lordships' House. Whether it will be pleasing or displeasing is another question.

Baroness David: My Lords, if there are going to be discussions, I think my best plan is to withdraw the amendment now and come forward with it or something very similar at Third Reading and hope that there will have been discussions--and perhaps more profitable discussions from my point of view than seem to have happened so far. With that in mind, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendments Nos. 23 and 24:


Page 8, line 12, leave out ("where the person convicted of the offence is under the age of 16,") and insert--
("(a) in a case falling within paragraph (a) of subsection (1) of section 8 above;
(b) in a case falling within paragraph (b) or (c) of that subsection, where the person concerned is under the age of 16; or

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(c) in a case falling within paragraph (d) of that subsection, where the person to whom the offence related is under that age,").
Page 8, line 43, after ("parent") insert ("without reasonable excuse").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have already spoken to Amendments Nos. 23 and 24. I beg to move them en bloc.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 11 [Child safety orders]:

The Deputy Speaker: My Lords, in calling Amendment No. 25 I must advise the House that, should it be agreed to, I cannot call Amendment No. 26 due to pre-emption.

[Amendment No. 25 not moved.]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton moved Amendment No. 26:


Page 10, line 13, leave out ("two") and insert ("one").

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, this amendment has already been spoken to. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 14 [Local child curfew schemes]:

Baroness Anelay of St. Johns moved Amendment No. 27:


Page 12, line 15, at end insert ("or under the effective control of the parent of the child").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, Clause 14 introduces local child curfew schemes. A local authority will be able to impose a curfew scheme over a specified area and the local authority can further then specify which age groups of children under 10 will be forbidden by that ban from leaving their homes between the hours of 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. or at some period between those two times. What I would call the let out clause is in subsection (2)(b). The only way that children can go out legally in curfew time is by being under the effective control of a responsible person aged 18 or over. My amendment would make it legal for them to go out in curfew time in addition if they were then under the effective control of their own parent, a parent who could be under the age of 18.

That may at first sound a rather odd objective but it is a fact that young people under the age of 18 could be parents of children covered by a curfew order since such schemes can affect children between the ages of nought and 10. I rather suspect that the order itself will be so difficult to implement in the eyes of a local authority if different ages are specified that local authorities will be tempted to impose a blanket ban on all children in an area under the age of 10.

The report issued last Thursday by the Office for National Statistics shows that under-age pregnancies have now hit a 10-year high with almost 9,000 girls becoming pregnant in 1996. It is the third successive annual rise in pregnancies among girls aged between 13 and 15 years. It is estimated that about 48 per cent. of those young girls will not have an abortion and therefore will give birth. Some of the children will be put up for adoption, but it is estimated that the majority will remain with their natural mothers.

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As it stands, this Bill would make it an absolute offence for a parent under the age of 18 years to take his or her own child out of the home in an area covered by a curfew scheme. Perhaps the parent wants to take the child to the grandparents or away on holiday travelling on an overnight train or a flight. Is it really what the Government intend that they should fall foul of such an absolute offence? Surely it is not good practice to create offences as a consequence of which innocent parents must rely on the mercy of administrative indulgence in order to escape prosecution.

I note that the Government seem perhaps to agree with that general principle given their support last night for the Criminal Justice (International Co-operation) (Amendment) Bill, which received its Second Reading in this House. Last night the noble Lord, Lord Evans of Parkside, the sponsor of that Bill, said that the purpose of it was to put an end to reliance upon an administrative arrangement which the police and the CPS can use in individual cases to give chemical manufacturers freedom from prosecution when they are assisting the police.

When responding for the Government, the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, said,


    "It is perfectly true that the Crown Prosecution Service can, by arrangement with the police, give an undertaking that a manufacturer or supplier will not be prosecuted. We believe that that should be on a proper statutory basis".--[Official Report, 16/3/98; col. 548.]

I believe that there is a "read-across" of principle here. I beg to move.

Lord Goodhart: My Lords, I pointed out this matter myself at Second Reading. I said that, as it stands, if a curfew scheme is in force, a 17 year-old girl carrying her baby through the area in which the scheme operates technically would be in breach of the scheme. Therefore, I naturally support the amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay. It seems to me to be an obvious matter of common sense.

Lord Renton: My Lords, I, too, support this amendment. The basic point is a very simple and short one. Alas, there are now too many parents, especially mothers, under the age of 18. But that does not make them other than loving towards their children and anxious to protect and do all they can for them. Therefore, we should bear that in mind. This amendment is necessary.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, the noble Baroness put her point extremely clearly and well. She had very eloquent support from the two noble Lords. There is plainly potential for a problem. Therefore, I agree in principle with the thrust of the noble Baroness's amendment. If she is prepared to withdraw it, I can give her an undertaking now that I will return at Third Reading with an amendment to the same effect.

Baroness Anelay of St. Johns: My Lords, I am almost speechless, but not quite, because I have further amendments on which I shall try to persuade the Government tonight. I thank the Minister for his

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courtesy and the offer to look at this matter again, bringing back an amendment in his name on the same subject. On the basis of the undertaking he has given, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton moved Amendment No. 28:


Page 12, line 17, leave out ("with").

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 87 and 106. Amendment No. 28 responds to a concern raised by the noble Lord, Lord Henley, at Committee stage when he pointed out that the use of the word "with" in Clause 14(3) was otiose and inelegant English. My noble friend Lord Williams of Mostyn wrote to him on 20th February to indicate that at Report stage we would table an amendment to remove the word "with" in Clause 14(3). The other two amendments have the same effect in relation to Clauses 30 and 40 respectively. I beg to move.

Lord Henley: My Lords, I accept that this amendment is not as important as the amendment previously moved by my noble friend Lady Anelay. But I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord for meeting my particular requirements. I believe that I moved only one amendment deleting the word "with", and the noble and learned Lord and those who advise him have found the use of the word in two other instances in the Bill. I trust that there are no further ones that need removing, but if there are, that can be done along with the raft of other amendments that no doubt the noble and learned Lord and his friends will be bringing forward at Third Reading to meet other requirements that we may make during the passage of this Bill. I believe that we have something of the order of 221 amendments before us at Report stage, over half of which are government amendments. I am very grateful that a great many of the government amendments such as these are in response to requests made by Members on all sides of the House.

On Question, amendment agreed to.


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