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Noble Lords have raised examples where the police and public authorities have intervened in relation to other such legislation. The noble Baroness, Lady Knight, raised that point, as did others. I cannot comment on individual cases but I can say that it is very important that there should be appropriate guidance to the police on the new legislation. I am confident that perfectly sensible guidance can be produced.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I cannot say that I have studied the existing guidance with extensive care. I am happy to do so and am happy to respond to the noble Lord. I have no reason to think that guidance issued by the Crown Prosecution Service is not adequate.
Lord Tebbit: My Lords, if the Minister has no reason to think that the guidance is not adequate, how have the incidents that have been spoken about this evening occurred? What guarantee or prospect is there for us that future guidance will avoid those sorts of incidents?
Lord Smith of Finsbury: My Lords, I am trying to be helpful. My noble friend might perhaps wish to observe to the noble Lord that the provision that he is concerned about is not yet on the statute book.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, that, as ever, is a helpful comment. I say to the noble Lord that he would not expect me to comment on the individual cases that have been raised. I am confident that there is no reason to suppose that the Crown Prosecution Service cannot produce perfectly adequate guidance, or that that guidance will not be followed. If that guidance is not followed, there are perfectly appropriate mechanisms for making complaints.
Lord Tebbit: My Lords, I thank the Minister, but I still do not think that he has understood quite what I said to him. Under the existing lawI am aware that this Bill has not yet been enactedthere is guidance. I make no reference to individual cases; I merely ask if the noble Lord is satisfied that the existing guidance is proper, adequate and effective. He must be able to say yes or no to that question.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I have no reason to believe that the current guidance is inadequate. That is what I have said. I have no reason to believe that guidance, if this Bill is enacted, as I hope it will be, will not be adequate. Such guidance having been produced, remedies are available if the authorities act outwith that guidance. I understand why the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, wishes to bring this to the attention of the House, and his concerns regarding freedom of speech, but his amendment will not help the case. In many ways it will confuse. At the end of the day, the issue stands or falls on the offence itself and the fact that the law covers conduct that is threatening and intends to stir up hatred on the basis of sexual orientation.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, it will be in the eye of the court which, eventually, might come to make a judgment. I am afraid that the amendment will not help the court in any way at all. It is perfectly clear what the legislation means. It is perfectly plain from the meaning of the statute whether a matter is threatening or intentionally stirring up hatred. I do not believe that the noble Lords amendment will help the cause at all. It will not clarify; it will confuse. I invite the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.
Lord Waddington: My Lords, I am extremely grateful to all those who have spoken tonight, particularly those who have spoken in support of the amendment. I am particularly grateful to so many noble Lords who have taken the trouble to stay so late to listen to this debate and, in some cases, to take part. I am bound to say that I was slightly wounded by the contribution made by the noble Baroness, Lady Turner of Camden. After the Committee debate I went through every contribution, taking heed of the criticisms made, and I take account of those criticisms in the new amendment. I remember clearly that the noble Baroness was concerned that the original wording might be taken to license homophobic behaviour. I do not think that anybody could say that that was a justifiable criticism of the new amendment.
The noble Lord, Lord Smith, defended the clause, as did the noble Baroness. I am not attacking the clause; we are talking about the amendment. Surely, the noble Lord was not saying that, by the greatest stretch of the imagination, the amendment could be
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I am grateful to the right reverend Prelate for his observations. He seemed to be saying that, certainly, my amendment would do no harm but he favoured guidance. I do want to repeat what I said earlier, but guidance did a fat lot of good over the past few years, when it was apparently referred to now and again before the police took completely wrong action under the Public Order Act.
I listened carefully to what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford. He is a very distinguished lawyer, and, of course, he was entirely right in saying that it would not be difficult to direct a jury correctly on how to approach the wording of the clause. However, that is not the point. As my noble friend Lady Knight of Collingtree said, we are not talking about what happens before a jury; we are talking about how the police react in these circumstances. We know perfectly well that they have reacted in the wrong way when they have come to consider the Public Order Act.
The noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, said that it was easy to understand the concept of intent to stir up hatred. He said that they were strong words. Goodness me, there are strong words in the Public Order Act: the words threatening, abusive and insulting. Those strong words did not stop the police investigating the behaviour of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester, who could not possibly have been guilty of threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour when he commented in an article on the possibility of some people being reorientated sexually.
We are not dealing with juries; we are dealing with bizarre action taken by the police under the existing law. We have a duty to see that it does not happen under the new law. That is the purpose of the amendment, and I commend it heartily to the House.
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