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Lord Avebury: My Lords, there is something in what the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, has said. Having spent a long time looking at the SHAC website and having studied reports of some of its activities, I observe that its practice has been to enter the offices or factories of target companies. It says that that renders it immune from the provisions of the 1994 Act, which refers only to activities on land and in the open air. As I understand him, the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, has taken those provisions and extended them so that they apply to the same intimidatory or disruptive activities when they take place in enclosed premises as if they had been in the open air. If that is the case, and I have understood him correctly, we would give that support.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill: My Lords, I must confess that I have serious reservations with what is here proposed, although I entirely sympathise with the aim. Wherever possible, my general approach is that one should avoid using criminal law if civil-law sanctions will do the job perfectly well. The law of trespass is primarily a law created to protect property and the person in the civil law field. Sometimes one has to use the criminal law in aid of that as well. I am troubled that the width of what is proposed is disproportionate and that the better approach is the one that I advocated in the previous debate on my amendment—namely, a much wider use of civil injunctions rather than extending criminal law in this way.

I do not know whether the police service would welcome that. As with family disputes, which the Minister knows much more about through her law practice than I, one finds that the police do not wish to

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get involved in those kinds of disputes. In this area, I would worry about the use of criminal law in a wider sense. So I would have some reservations, while sympathising with the amendment. But I shall be very interested to hear the Minister's response.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, perhaps I may say straight away that I recognise that, although the noble Lord's amendment does not refer to GM crops, it is targeted at the problems identified in the past in relation to prosecutions of those who damaged such crops. We recognise the need to look carefully at legislation in that area. I sympathise with the mischief which the amendment seeks to cure.

Although we sympathise, we do not necessarily think that this is the best way to do it. It is totally unacceptable for farmers going about their legitimate business to have their crops damaged. I say that very clearly. While I recognise the noble Lord's aim in amending the offence of aggravated trespass, this is not the only way of dealing with the problem. The proposal that we have just debated in relation to Clause 62, in certain circumstances, may be something that can be used. Twenty protesters were required. If the House is content, that will be reduced to two protesters, which may greatly assist the police. In terms of an office protest, that was the precise reason for Clause 64 being introduced.

We recognise the nature of the problem. It may be—I say "may be" because we have to look at this—that a better way of going forward would be to amend the offence of criminal damage. We need to look at all the options very carefully and to continue our discussions across government, with the police and other agencies on the best way forward. However, we do not want to rush into decisions without due consideration of what is the most appropriate action.

There is always a temptation to treat a Bill going through the House like a passing bus on to which one must jump in case one does not get another chance. On occasions, that is very successful. We shall turn to that later when we talk about high hedges. But it cannot be the vehicle on to which everything jumps. This is a difficult area, with which we must deal seriously and properly. We must find the best vehicle. We are not sure that this is the right bus for the provision, but we are hopeful that there may be a better bus that will come along fairly soon. We want to legislate on the issue at a later date. I hope that the noble Lord will understand our position.

Section 14 of the Public Order Act 1986, now referred to as Clause 62, could be used to deal with GM protestors. That, too, may be in our tool kit. I hope that the noble Lord will not be too disappointed. We are with him in spirit, although not on this bus.

Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for her sympathy. There is an old saying in my part of the world: an ounce of help is

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worth a ton of sympathy. This is a serious issue; it is a difficult problem, which will not wait for the next bus. Farmers have to plan their next year's cropping. In fact, they will have already planned next year's and the subsequent year's cropping.

If the noble Baroness had been able to say what the next bus was and when it was likely to arrive—although, given most people's bus timetables, one would still have an element of doubt in their actually arriving—

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, the noble Lord will know that convention would never allow me to indicate anything of that sort. The timetable is never known.

Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, that is what gives us the problem. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, for his support. I always listen to the noble Lord, Lord Lester, with great interest. He has unparalleled legal expertise in this kind of field. The noble Baroness was not absolutely clear about whether Clause 62 might assist. She said that it was possible. The reality is that pulling up a crop out in the country is not on the same scale of vexation and intimidation as protestors being in someone's garden. Therefore, unless the police have very clear guidance—which, again is not indicated—perhaps they would hesitate to use the legislation in this way.

This is something that needs to be dealt with. Because it is a matter that affects many commercial decisions, some of which have to be made in the very short term, I should like to test the opinion of the House.

7.29 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 105) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 58; Not-Contents, 133.

Division No. 4


Anelay of St Johns, B.
Attlee, E.
Blatch, B.
Bridgeman, V.
Brougham and Vaux, L.
Buscombe, B.
Byford, B.
Campbell of Alloway, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B.
Chadlington, L.
Chester, Bp.
Colwyn, L.
Cope of Berkeley, L. [Teller]
Craig of Radley, L.
Dixon-Smith, L.
Eccles of Moulton, B.
Elton, L.
Fookes, B.
Gardner of Parkes, B.
Gray of Contin, L.
Greenway, L.
Hanham, B.
Howe, E.
Howell of Guildford, L.
Hunt of Wirral, L.
Jenkin of Roding, L.
King of Bridgwater, L.
Laird, L.
Lyell, L.
McColl of Dulwich, L.
Mancroft, L.
Marlesford, L.
Marshall of Knightsbridge, L.
Masham of Ilton, B.
Miller of Hendon, B.
Newton of Braintree, L.
Noakes, B.
Northbrook, L.
O'Cathain, B.
Onslow, E.
Palmer, L.
Parkinson, L.
Pilkington of Oxenford, L.
Platt of Writtle, B.
Plumb, L.
Renton, L.
Rotherwick, L.
Saatchi, L.
Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Seccombe, B. [Teller]
Selsdon, L.
Sharples, B.
Shrewsbury, E.
Skelmersdale, L.
Strathclyde, L.
Waddington, L.
Walpole, L.
Wilcox, B.


Acton, L.
Addington, L.
Ahmed, L.
Alli, L.
Amos, B. (Lord President)
Andrews, B.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Ashton of Upholland, B.
Bach, L.
Barker, B.
Bassam of Brighton, L.
Bernstein of Craigweil, L.
Billingham, B.
Blackstone, B.
Borrie, L.
Bradshaw, L.
Brennan, L.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.
Brookman, L.
Burlison, L.
Campbell-Savours, L.
Carlile of Berriew, L.
Carter, L.
Chandos, V.
Clark of Windermere, L.
Clarke of Hampstead, L.
Clement-Jones, L.
Clinton-Davis, L.
Cohen of Pimlico, B.
Corbett of Castle Vale, L.
Crawley, B. [Teller]
Darcy de Knayth, B.
David, B.
Davies of Coity, L.
Desai, L.
Dixon, L.
Donoughue, L.
Dormand of Easington, L.
Dubs, L.
Elder, L.
Evans of Parkside, L.
Evans of Temple Guiting, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Faulkner of Worcester, L.
Fearn, L.
Filkin, L.
Finlay of Llandaff, B.
Gale, B.
Gibson of Market Rasen, B.
Goldsmith, L.
Gordon of Strathblane, L.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Greenfield, B.
Grocott, L. [Teller]
Hamwee, B.
Harris of Haringey, L.
Harris of Richmond, B.
Haskel, L.
Hayman, B.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Hogg of Cumbernauld, L.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Howarth of Breckland, B.
Hoyle, L.
Hughes of Woodside, L.
Hunt of Chesterton, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Jay of Paddington, B.
Jones, L.
Kennedy of The Shaws, B.
King of West Bromwich, L.
Kirkhill, L.
Layard, L.
Lea of Crondall, L.
Lester of Herne Hill, L.
Linklater of Butterstone, B.
Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.
McCarthy, L.
Macdonald of Tradeston, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L.
McIntosh of Hudnall, B.
MacKenzie of Culkein, L.
Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L.
Mackie of Benshie, L.
Maddock, B.
Mallalieu, B.
Massey of Darwen, B.
Merlyn-Rees, L.
Miller of Chilthorne Domer, B.
Mitchell, L.
Morgan, L.
Morris of Manchester, L.
Newby, L.
Parekh, L.
Pendry, L.
Phillips of Sudbury, L.
Pitkeathley, B.
Plant of Highfield, L.
Powell of Bayswater, L.
Radice, L.
Randall of St. Budeaux, L.
Rennard, L.
Richard, L.
Rooker, L.
Roper, L.
Sainsbury of Turville, L.
Sawyer, L.
Scotland of Asthal, B.
Sharp of Guildford, B.
Shutt of Greetland, L.
Simon, V.
Smith of Clifton, L.
Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Taverne, L.
Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Temple-Morris, L.
Thomas of Gresford, L.
Thornton, B.
Tordoff, L.
Turnberg, L.
Turner of Camden, B.
Wallace of Saltaire, L.
Walmsley, B.
Walton of Detchant, L.
Warner, L.
Watson of Richmond, L.
Weatherill, L.
Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Whitaker, B.
Whitty, L.
Williamson of Horton, L.
Woolmer of Leeds, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

3 Nov 2003 : Column 596

7.38 p.m.

Lord Avebury moved Amendment No. 105A:

    Before Clause 65, insert the following new clause—

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