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Lord Holme of Cheltenham: Could I interpose before the Minister sits down and press him again on this point? Is he saying--and I will put it in my own words--that, if there were wording to the effect that in making individual determination the commission shall bear in mind the possibility of a local pattern or package, that would be acceptable?

Lord Dubs: I think I would want to consider the implications of that if the noble Lord tables an amendment. What we do not want to do is to proceed in a way which fetters the commission's discretion or in any way leaves us open to a breach of the European convention. We are dealing with basic freedoms here and these are very fundamental issues for the community. If the noble Lord tables the amendment, I would want to think hard about the implications.

Lord Alderdice: We wish to consider whether an alternative wording might be more helpful and we will revisit it. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 2 agreed to.

Clause 3 [Functions of the Commission in relation to other expressions of cultural identity]:

Lord Cope of Berkeley moved Amendment No. 4:

Page 2, line 14, leave out ("wholly or partly open to the air").

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 4 and Amendments Nos. 5, 6 and 7, which it is suggested we should discuss with it, bring us back to Clause 3 which we discussed earlier. During that discussion, I pressed the Minister for a little more of the Government's thinking as to what other expressions of cultural identity might be covered by Clause 3 and hence might be considered by the commission. The Minister said that the Committee would understand why he was reluctant to get drawn into this subject. I understand that he would be very reluctant to get drawn into a very different area, but that is not quite what the Minister meant. He meant that he did not want to fetter the hands of the commission by stating in advance the expressions of cultural interest which it might look at. I understand that, and the court case of Pepper v. Hart makes Ministers extremely cautious about what they say on such occasions which might later be used in courts of law and elsewhere to draw a meaning out of the Bill which is not on the face of the Bill.

Nevertheless, it seemed to me when I read the clause that there was some very precise wording both left in and left out to which presumably, as the Minister was saying in respect of the previous amendment, careful consideration was given by the Government and by the legislative draftsmen. These amendments press the Government to tell us at least why various items have been included or excluded from the things that the commission may consider.

Amendment No. 4 relates to the phrase,

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I am not quite sure what "partly open to the air" means; presumably part of the event in question is inside and part is outside. That seems to me to be odd in itself. In any case, I am not sure that one should limit the commission's discretion to look into things wholly to things that are out of doors. There are some extremely contentious expressions of cultural identity that take place indoors at meetings of one sort or another, often fully reported outside with the aid of television and so on and extremely offensive to people of a different persuasion. It might be that the commission would think that some of those indoor meetings were just as much to be looked into as outdoor meetings that happened to be held in a field instead of a hall.

It seems to be that at least some explanation needs to be given there. I appreciate that the amendment would very much widen the duties of the commission under Clause 3 because all sorts of additional matters would need to be considered. I therefore proposed Amendment No. 5, at least ruling out services held in a recognised place of worship. In the presence of the noble Lord, Lord Eames, I wish to emphasise that I was anxious that the commission should not be given the duty of inquiring into whether Church services are expressions of cultural identity that offend people, although, sadly, the fact is that the cultural identities in Northern Ireland are often expressed in terms of the religious denomination to which people belong.

There is, incidentally, nothing exclusive about this kind of division causing difficulties. People sometimes think in this country that Northern Ireland is unique in having such difficulties. When they do, I point out to them that the keys of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, one of the holiest places in the world to any Christian, have traditionally been kept by a Moslem family. The Christian denominations cannot agree who should keep the keys because it would imply ownership of the church, and they have been kept by the same Moslem family since around 600 AD, which is a very long time indeed. Some of the problems between different parts of the Christian Church, therefore, go back even further than they do in Northern Ireland. Nevertheless, an outdoor service, as I understand it at the moment, could be held to be an expression of cultural identity and might give rise to the commission looking into it under Clause 3 as it is worded.

One of the most contentious areas is sporting events. I have drawn attention to this in Amendment No. 6. We all know that sporting events can also be a clear expression of cultural identity and the events themselves, and certainly the events surrounding a sporting occasion, can give offence and cause difficulty to other people.

The notes on clauses, which were helpfully made available to us before we came, contain an error in this respect. I am sure it is a mistake rather than anything else. But in relation to Clause 3 they say that subsection (3) provides,

    "that this section does not apply to public processions or sporting events which are covered by the provision of the rest of the Bill".

Of course, public processions are covered by the provisions in the rest of the Bill but sporting events are not. Sporting events are unique in being left out of the

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provisions both in Clause 2 that cover processions for the commission to make determinations and in Clause 3 for the commission to look at and make recommendations as to any changes there might be in the law. In the context of Northern Ireland, that is not a balanced provision if Clause 3 is to exist at all.

Lastly, in Amendment No. 7 I have drawn attention to the painting of property. At Second Reading a good deal of mention was made of gable ends with King Billy painted on them in some places and the Pope in other places, and with paramilitaries of both sorts represented on different gable ends in different parts. We all also know of the kerbstones being rather gaily painted but nevertheless in a definite expression of cultural identity--either red, white and blue or green and white. If the commission is to involve itself in whether a particular gable end, or gable ends in general, should be painted, in whatever direction, it will get into a good deal of trouble.

The noble Lord, Lord Fitt, said at Second Reading that he would not give much for the chances of the person whose duty it was to paint out a picture either of King Billy or of anybody else who might be thought undesirable on a gable end. I agree with the noble Lord in that. I have therefore suggested that we should take out the painting of property to rule out both these types of things. Of course, it can be offensive, and some of the individual graffiti, never mind the more artistic efforts, can be offensive to people, and they are certainly expressions of cultural identity as we understand the words. I would personally wish to rule them out from the commission's powers under Clause 3.

All these four amendments seek to press the Government more as to what the commission will be expected to look at under Clause 3, if we pass it. This runs alongside the debate we had earlier as to whether Clause 3 should exist in this Bill. We are not trying to fetter the commission, except by precise wordings that might be added to the Bill--it will be at its discretion. But if we had a better idea as to what the commission might look at, we would have a better idea as to whether Clause 3 would add balance to the Bill, and we want a balanced Bill. That is why it is important that, if possible, the Minister can give us more indication of what was in the Government's mind in preparing this clause, particularly about the four matters to which I have drawn attention in the four amendments. I beg to move.

Lord Molyneaux of Killead: I wonder whether the Minister would be in a position to give us a definition as to what was meant by the section about open-air events and whether he intended to include, perhaps on the advice of the authorities, some measures to control what are called festivals but which take the form of the installation of loudspeakers which can be clearly heard at least one mile away. The sinister thing about that is that it is not entertainment.

What happens, and I have checked on this myself with my own hearing, is that a republican song--I am just taking that side; there is no doubt it works both ways--is played over this loudspeaker system and the announcer says, "This is dedicated to John Smith,

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number such and such Whitewell Road, and John Smith had better pay heed to what befalls the person concerned in the verse because he will suffer the same fate very soon", meaning he will be shot fairly soon. I know it sounds rather facetious, but it is a real concern to law-abiding people of both communities living in the areas selected for this type of action. My understanding is that there is a loophole in the existing law and I wonder whether the Minister might undertake to consider it. He may not be able to get an undertaking, but it would be a help to know whether those so-called festivals are included within the meaning of that phrase.

5.45 p.m.

Lord Holme of Cheltenham: I am inclined to support the noble Lord's amendments but on the grounds that they are trying to make the best of a bad job and the bad job is Clause 3. The longer this discussion goes on, the more apparent it is that the Government are in an impossible dilemma. On the one hand, they say it is up to the commission to arrive at a definition of cultural identity; they cannot possibly do that--yet we know very well that the commission does not want to do that. The commission does not want to be landed with this task of defining cultural identity because it is a poisoned chalice; and this short discussion indicates just how difficult the matter is.

Having generally supported the amendments, not least because they expose the problems with Clause 3, I am not sure I followed--perhaps it is my fault--the reasons why the noble Lord, Lord Cope, wanted to leave out "or sporting events". It seems to me particularly undesirable that sporting events are sucked into this terrible definition of cultural identity. Certainly from these benches we do not want sporting events to become the subset of cultural identity; sport is sport. Although I know traditionally there are arguments about Irish sports and other sports, if we end up with Clause 3 in its present form--which I would very much regret--I hope that we do not throw on to the commission the yet further burden of defining which sporting events are not just sport but manifestations of cultural identity.

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