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Mr. Maclean : No. I wish to conclude.

This is what they would have to do. First, they would have to trespass. Secondly, they would have to intend to disrupt or obstruct a lawful activity. The hon. Member for Denton and Reddish made the case about walkers being caught in a whiteout, or coming down the side of the mountain and then being forced to walk through some lawful activity to save their lives or protect themselves from the weather. Although that may have caused disruption and intervened in a lawful activity, unless they had the deliberate intention of disrupting that activity, they would not be caught by the amendment.

Mrs. Ewing : Surely the issue at stake is who defines what is a deliberate intention. Would the Minister care to define that and write it into the Bill ?

Mr. Maclean : First, it will be the constable on the scene who will decide whether he should form the reasonable belief that people may have done that. Then, of course, it is up to the court.

Mrs. Ewing : Does that mean that the Minister will argue that, on 12 August, during grouse shooting, constables will be appropriated from the local police force to be constantly in attendance ? If so, will he put the resources into that ?

Mr. Maclean : The hon. Lady misunderstands the point. The amendment does not give landowners or lairds some private right to demand a police presence on all their land. It is entirely up to chief constables how they deploy their resources. It does not happen in England at the moment, even in areas where there is disruption. No landowner has the right to say, "I want a team of policemen guarding my shoot, my ploughing match or fishing match." It is entirely up to the chief constables to decide whether there are sufficient grounds or sufficient public-- [Interruption.] We want to make progress tonight. If the Opposition want to shout me down, I am happy to resume my seat right now-- [Interruption.] In that case, I am happy to draw my remarks to a conclusion by saying that I can see no prospect of this law being used against legitimate walkers, climbers or any others who are carrying out a lawful activity.

Mr. Morley : Will the Minister give way ?

Mr. Maclean : No.

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It can be used only against people, whether they are doctors, ministers of religion, politicians or whatever, if they deliberately intend to disrupt or obstruct a lawful activity and are trespassing to do so.

Finally, I wish to deal with the point that was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, North in amendment No. 47. I know that he feels strongly about the Government's proposals on aggravated trespass, but I fear that I do not think that his amendment would be an improvement. If carried, aggravated trespass would catch only those who succeeded in obstructing or disrupting a lawful activity, or who succeeded in intimidating persons so as to deter them from taking part in one. Those who tried to disrupt and, for whatever reason, failed would be immune from prosecution. That cannot be right.

We discussed this last night so I shall mention only briefly the fact that the amendment would also remove the need for a mens rea. It would catch all obstruction or disruption of lawful activities by trespassers, whether or not they intended to cause such obstruction or disruption. That would widen the offence considerably. A rambler who happened to stray on to private land and, for example, disrupted farming activity quite accidentally or unintentionally, would be guilty of aggravated trespass if we went along with my hon. Friend's suggestion. That cannot be the right solution either.

I have thought carefully about what my hon. Friend has said and about the discussions that we have had in private. I regret to tell him that I cannot find an alternative way to deal with the mischief that exists and which was acknowledged by the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan).

Mr. Gale : I asked my hon. Friend the Minister to put on record a very specific undertaking. Does he believe that the legislation will apply even handedly to the hunt and the landowner ? If so, if notice has been given to a hunt by a landowner that he does not want the hunt on his land, will it be regarded as aggravated trespass if the hunt crosses his land ?

Mr. Maclean : I am absolutely convinced that the law is even handed. Anyone who invades someone else's land, intending to cause disruption, will fall foul of the law. I condemn anyone who causes such disruption and I condemn hunts or people who deliberately set out to do so--they deserve to receive the full weight of the law. It would be deplorable if anyone behaved in that way at the moment, but it will be even more so in future, and he will then be caught by the law. The point of interest for my hon. Friend is that it would be up to the courts to decide proof of intention after a notice had been served to the effect that a landowner did not want someone on his land. I cannot give a guarantee-- [Interruption.] Pepper v . Hart relates only to interpretation of the law where it is ambiguous. The legislation is not ambiguous--it is clear and even handed to all involved. We do not need to build into it exemptions for any category of people because every person is exempt if he obeys the law and every person will be caught if he intends to cause disruption.

Mr. Michael : With the leave of the House, I shall speak again. The Minister clearly does not understand what he is doing in bringing this bad law before the House. He is defending badly drafted and impractical law which will be unfair to walkers and others who use the countryside. I

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invite my hon. Friends and any Conservatives who care about such issues to vote for amendment No. 9 in order to express our distaste for the Government's rejection of the pleas that have been made in our debate.

Amendment negatived.

Amendment proposed : No. 9, in page 43, line 10, leave out anything' and insert any unlawful activity'.-- [Mr. Michael.] Question put , That the amendment be made :

The House divided : Ayes 244, Noes 290.

Division No. 204] [9.37 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane

Adams, Mrs Irene

Ainger, Nick

Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)

Allen, Graham

Alton, David

Armstrong, Hilary

Ashton, Joe

Austin-Walker, John

Barnes, Harry

Barron, Kevin

Bayley, Hugh

Beith, Rt Hon A. J.

Bell, Stuart

Benn, Rt Hon Tony

Bennett, Andrew F.

Benton, Joe

Bermingham, Gerald

Berry, Roger

Betts, Clive

Blair, Tony

Boateng, Paul

Bradley, Keith

Bray, Dr Jeremy

Brown, Gordon (Dunfermline E)

Brown, N. (N'c'tle upon Tyne E)

Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)

Burden, Richard

Byers, Stephen

Caborn, Richard

Callaghan, Jim

Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)

Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)

Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)

Campbell-Savours, D. N.

Cann, Jamie

Chisholm, Malcolm

Clapham, Michael

Clark, Dr David (South Shields)

Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)

Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)

Clelland, David

Clwyd, Mrs Ann

Coffey, Ann

Connarty, Michael

Cook, Frank (Stockton N)

Cook, Robin (Livingston)

Corbett, Robin

Corbyn, Jeremy

Corston, Ms Jean

Cousins, Jim

Cox, Tom

Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE)

Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr John

Dafis, Cynog

Dalyell, Tam

Darling, Alistair

Davidson, Ian

Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral)

Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)

Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)

Denham, John

Dixon, Don

Dobson, Frank

Donohoe, Brian H.

Dowd, Jim

Dunnachie, Jimmy

Eagle, Ms Angela

Enright, Derek

Etherington, Bill

Evans, John (St Helens N)

Ewing, Mrs Margaret

Faulds, Andrew

Field, Frank (Birkenhead)

Fisher, Mark

Flynn, Paul

Foster, Rt Hon Derek

Foster, Don (Bath)

Fraser, John

Fyfe, Maria

Galbraith, Sam

Galloway, George

Gapes, Mike

Garrett, John

George, Bruce

Godman, Dr Norman A.

Godsiff, Roger

Golding, Mrs Llin

Gordon, Mildred

Graham, Thomas

Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)

Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)

Grocott, Bruce

Gunnell, John

Hain, Peter

Hanson, David

Harvey, Nick

Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy

Heppell, John

Hill, Keith (Streatham)

Hinchliffe, David

Hoey, Kate

Hogg, Norman (Cumbernauld)

Home Robertson, John

Hood, Jimmy

Hoon, Geoffrey

Howarth, George (Knowsley N)

Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)

Hoyle, Doug

Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)

Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)

Hughes, Roy (Newport E)

Hutton, John

Illsley, Eric

Jackson, Glenda (H'stead)

Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H)

Jamieson, David

Janner, Greville

Jones, Ieuan Wyn (Ynys Mo n)

Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O)

Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW)

Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)

Jowell, Tessa

Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald

Keen, Alan

Kennedy, Charles (Ross,C&S)

Kennedy, Jane (Lpool Brdgn)

Khabra, Piara S.

Kilfedder, Sir James

Kilfoyle, Peter

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