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Lord Ackner: My Lords, I have a slightly unusual invitation to offer the Government. It is not unexpected because I have given them notice. My invitation is that they should adjourn today's proceedings until tomorrow. My reason for doing so, quite simply, is that I tabled three amendments of some importance which were moved at about 10.30 p.m. last night. After the Minister had conceded that he would be able to give me additional information if I tabled my amendments today, I withdrew last night's amendments on the express ground that there was an understanding that I would be able to bring forward these matters without objection on Third Reading.
On that basis, as soon as the Public Bill Office opened I asked for my amendment to be put down again, with a significant alteration--an alteration designed to persuade the noble Lord that what I was asking for was nothing like as strenuous as he thought. I then learned for the first time that because of Standing Order No. 48, and I quote:
I understand that the Public Bill Office let it be known yesterday that it normally closed the list at 6 p.m. but on yesterday's occasion they would be more flexible. That did not sound as if at 10.30 it was going to be possible, and in any event I wished to think again about the amendment to see whether I could
The Public Bill Office was, unbeknown to me, still available to take minutes through the devotion to duty of their Principal Clerk up until midnight, I believe. But no one had pointed that out and no one had suggested it, either to me or to the noble Lord, Lord Bassam. We were both under the impression, or at least I was, that in this super-fast-track Bill time limits had been waived: otherwise there would be absurdities. It would mean that if the Bill had gone on, as it nearly did, beyond midnight there would be no prospect of putting any amendments down in respect of that material--
Lord Carter: My Lords, the noble and learned Lord is not quite correct on that last point because the parliamentary day does not end until the business of that day is completed. So even if that stage of the Bill had continued until 2 o'clock in the morning that was still the day on which it started. The Public Bill Office was open until after midnight, and a phone call there would have provided the answer.
Lord Ackner: My Lords, it was not a phone call that the noble Lord the Minister thought was necessary: otherwise he would not have said to me that he would look further at a particular point if I tabled my amendments tomorrow. He said that at col. 394 of Hansard. However, I am grateful for the Chief Whip's intervention. I always learn something from him whenever he stands up, sometimes to my benefit and sometimes not.
I was about to stress to your Lordships the importance of the amendment. When a number of us attended a meeting which the Home Secretary called about a week ago, the noble Lord, Lord Alexander, raised a point about the sunset clause. I raised the point which is covered by my amendments. Quite simply, it is this: that if notices were to be served by the police based upon their suspicions or based upon their belief, it was then right that the respondent to those notices should be given proper details as to the basis of the belief or the suspicions alleged.
The Government had stressed that these were in the nature of civil proceedings, and it is established procedure in civil proceedings that if you make an unparticularised allegation you have to face up to a request for further and better particulars. Take the simplest of cases: if the rather incompetent draftsman had entered particulars of claim or a statement of claim alleging that a driver was negligent, full stop, and if as a result of that negligence the plaintiff had suffered damage, he would immediately be required to provide further and better particulars of the alleged negligence, stating the facts of the matters relied upon in support of that allegation. In other words, was the negligence in driving too fast, not staying awake, driving on the wrong side of the road or whatever it was?
The result of my making this type of observation at the meeting was held as an important contribution, and the two contributions which were in fact looked upon as being of significance were the sunset clause and my clause in regard to notice. On Second Reading, the noble Lord the Minister in his winding-up speech said:
The Bill itself had recognised the point that I had made by providing in new Section 21A, which is concerned with summary detention, that the police officer who had reasonable grounds for suspecting that the respondent had at any time caused or contributed to any violence or disorder and had reasonable grounds to believe that making a banning order in his case would help to prevent violence or disorder at or in connection with any regulated football matches would be required to give his reasons for detaining him in writing. These reasons, quite simply, could be the grounds he had for suspecting and his belief. I accordingly requested that it should be an obligation to provide full particulars of the facts and matters relied upon in support of his suspicion for belief. I did likewise under new Section 21B.
I asked the Minister specifically if he could tell me what he envisaged would be covered by the reasons. He was unable to do so, but offered to make inquiries and provide that information today. The same applied to the grounds under new Section 21B. He said that guidance would be provided. He was unable to tell us what the guidance would be but promised that it would be provided tomorrow--today that is. This important matter of informing a respondent of the nature of the case that he has to meet under this very strange legislation, with allegations of suspicion and belief being the foundation of the police's case, just does not exist at the moment. It will not exist unless the Minister is prepared to adjourn today's proceedings until tomorrow. By that time I shall be able to comply with the requirements of standing orders. It cannot do the Government any harm because many noble Lords thought that was the result of yesterday's successful amendment on this very subject.
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