|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Mr. Blunkett: The issue is incitement to hate. The things to which the hon. Gentleman has referred would not be caught. I was thinking about this last night as I went to the Archbishop's Advent service. We were singing a hymn, which begins, "Thy Kingdom come, O God, Thy rule, O Christ, begin". That includes the verse,
We are not talking about the issue of a particular faith's expression; we are talking about people using the faith of individuals to incite hate by others, so that they take actions that are unacceptable.
Mr. Grieve: We all agree that right-thinking people should express themselves in moderate terms about others, including individuals whom they might heartily dislike, but the Bill as drafted will cover devil worshippers' sects and satanists. Why should people not tell others that they should hate and dislike people who have cruel or depraved religious beliefs?
Mr. Blunkett: We can deal with satan worshippers quite easily through the law. What we would not want to do is to incite people to do something themselves against them[Interruption.] This is about upholding the rule of law. It is about ensuring that where there are loopholes that exclude a particular group because they are a faith group, as opposed to a nationality, they can be included. I do not want people going out inciting others against devil worshippers; I want to deal with the devil worshipping in whatever form it takes.
Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham) (Con): For the avoidance of doubt, I respect absolutely the Home Secretary's integrity and good motives in relation to this clause. What my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin), the former shadow Home Secretary, said on that subject is very sound indeed. We must be specific, however. Can I put it to the Home Secretary that were the offence narrowly defined in terms of incitement to hatred to practise violence, that would greatly assist matters? Narrowing down the matter in that way, which, periodically, sub-clauses of his sentences suggested, would aid us. If it is too broad and amorphous, however, it does not aid us at all.
Mr. Blunkett: The difficulty with that is that we are talking about incitement to hate, which causes others to take the action. If the action taken were the issue, the other clause that we passed in the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001, which was about aggravation, would apply. It is incitement to taking the action that is the crucial issue.
I did not answer the hon. Member for North Antrim on the issue of the gateway or lock, and I should have done. As a filter, through the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Attorney-General will have a hand in determining the way in which this operates. Of course, we will test case law in the courts in any case, in relation to how it would operate, should the House pass the clause.
I have tried to respond directly to questions rather than simply going through the Bill, but I now wish to return to clauses 116 to 118. They will enable us to deal with an important issue on which I think there is unanimity: animal rights extremists, or rather the protection of those going about their lawful businessincluding commercial businessunder the very strict licensing that we have. As we have said before, the issue of economic sabotage is under discussion. I have lumbered my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State with further meetings about it, which I am sure she has set in train.
Mrs. Anne Campbell (Cambridge) (Lab): I welcome the measures to deal with animal extremism, which is very damaging to many of my constituents working in the biotech industry, but I was reassured by my right hon. Friend's statement that other measures would be considered. I do not think that the measures in the Bill will be sufficient to ensure that important medical advances will not be damaged by animal rights extremists.
Mr. Blunkett: We must not only consider what additional powers may be required, but use existing mechanisms, such as the national co-ordinator. We must not rely purely on changing the law; we need much more effective enforcement and immediate action. I think that there has already been a transformation.
I pay tribute to Members on both sides of the House with constituency interests, who have been extremely helpful in working with us, and to outside organisations, including the companies involved. I also pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State, who has worked extremely hard with my colleagues in the Department of Trade and Industry. The experience of getting two Departments and their Ministers to work together has been very instructive.
7 Dec 2004 : Column 1057
Harassment, alarm or distress will be dealt with by directing protesters and banning them from the locality for up to three months. The Protection from Harassment Act 1997 will be amended to cover two or more connective persons. All that will make a big difference, and we look forward to discussing it in Committee.
Clauses 120 to 122 deal with trespass. They arise from the investigation that followed an intrusion in Windsor castle. Clauses 123 and 124 follow recommendations by the Procedure Committee. They have been described by some, including me, as a sledgehammer to crack a nut, but sometimes a sledgehammer is needed for that purpose, and this is a tough nut. It is important for people, including protesters, to be able to go about their business, and for people coming to our capital city to be able to enjoy the environment surrounding the Palace of Westminster. It is daft that we should have to pass a law for the purpose, but that is what happens when people make a monkey of the existing law.
Clauses 125 to 128 are an extension of work on antisocial behaviour. They allow local communities to be involved in the justice system by ensuring that breaches of antisocial behaviour orders can be publicised, so that people can see who is doing what and where it is being done. Proposals for civil compensation orders will be presented in Committee. Such orders will require parents to pay compensation when young childrenchildren under 10, sayhave deliberately committed criminal damage and caused harassment and damage to other people. At present nothing can be done in such cases. Our measures will reinforce parental responsibility and the importance of taking the consequences of one's actions.
Mrs. Louise Ellman (Liverpool, Riverside) (Lab/Co-op): Will the Home Secretary ensure that the legislation can adapt to new information? That is relevant to the new community justice centre that is being established in my constituency.
Mr. Blunkett: Our proposals are very much concerned with ensuring that the community can not only monitor justice, but participate and be a positive force for justice. I hope that the new community justice centre, which I think will start functioning on Thursday, will prove to be an exemplar, showing that vigilante justice can be replaced by genuine neighbourhood and community justice. I saw that happening at Red Hook, and the Lord Chief Justice, who was enthusiastic about Red Hook when he saw it, agrees entirely with what we are doing. I believe that it will make a real difference to people's lives.
: The clauses dealing with trespass and extending antisocial behaviour orders are welcome, but does either of them, or any other clause, constitute a peg for action to deal with something that concerns a great many members of all partiesthe continuing difficulties caused by some Travellers when they alight in our constituencies? Is there any possibility that that could be dealt with by means of amendment or further Government proposals during the Bill's progress?
7 Dec 2004 : Column 1058
Mr. Blunkett: It falls under the auspices of my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister, but we are considering the unique situation that has arisen. As my hon. Friend knows, existing powers were extended in the antisocial behaviour legislation and the Housing Act 2004; but the purchase of land and the subsequent unauthorised encampment and building on it has been almost unique to the past two or three years, and has changed the perspective. I shall be happy to discuss ways of tackling it with the Deputy Prime Minister.
The miscellaneous measures in the Bill include powers to seize uninsured vehicles. It is a remarkable fact that one vehicle in 20 is uninsured, adding £30 to the premiums of other vehicle users. That is an absolute scandal. Our provision is linked with a Bill that will shortly be presented by the Department for Transport.
I welcome this measure. My right hon. Friend will know of my campaign to bridge the gap between the offences of careless driving and causing death by dangerous driving. Would he consider introducing a new charge, such as causing death by driving, to achieve that, with the possibility of aggravated offences to apply to those driving without insurance or without having ever passed a driving test?
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|