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Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, I am not quite sure that this amendment is directed at the right part of the Bill, or that it is perfectly drafted from the point of view of the commission on human rights. I realise that both those objectives are difficult to achieve judging from the debates that were held in Committee. However, I most certainly support the sentiment that lies behind this amendment. Clearly a parade once or a few times a year is much more tolerable than parades taking place every few weeks down the same road. There is nothing surprising in that. If one's neighbour holds a noisy party once in a while to celebrate some special family occasion no one complains, or not much. However, if one's neighbour holds noisy parties every weekend or at frequent intervals, that becomes intolerable. The same principle can apply to parades in certain parts of Northern Ireland. It is not the case in Northern Ireland that it is only local people who are concerned about this; some people travel quite long distances in order to be offended by a parade. Nevertheless we need to consider those who live in the areas where parades take place, particularly if those parades are held frequently. Therefore I support the sentiment behind this amendment. I shall be interested to hear how the Minister is progressing with the drafting to ensure that the measure is explicit and can work.

Lord Desai: My Lords, at Second Reading I said that it would be a mistake to make this into a big problem. There are few parades. If one can establish legislation to give the commission the flexibility to compromise on

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the few parades which are known to cause problems, that would be the solution. As I have said before, it is not that this is not "broke" but the breakage is small. To fix it we must apply a small remedy and not dismantle the whole machine and try to put it together again. It is important to avoid general statements and to allow for every contingency. The commission has been appointed and is doing a good job. It should be allowed full flexibility. The less said on the face of the Bill from that point of view, the better.

Lord Molyneaux of Killead: My Lords, at an earlier stage I expressed some reservations about how the laudable objective of achieving balance could be secured by the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice. I contrasted the position with regard to processions using a main arterial road as a legitimate and sensible means of getting from A to B--which would entail use of the road by several traditional or customary processions organised by several different organisations over the years--with, on the other hand, processions taking place in a small village or hamlet where there are perhaps no more than three such events in one calendar year. In Committee I asked whether the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, had in mind some form of rationing of processions. The noble Lord explained that his objective was to persuade the commission to look at the broader picture. I do not take issue with that. As the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, said, we sometimes have 100 years' notice of certain parades which have been held on an annual basis on a fixed, traditional date and a fixed, traditional route. I assume that such a factor would be given due weight, perhaps in conjunction with the common sense view that insistence on processing through housing estates should be discouraged and the residents of such estates should be protected from such intimidation outlined by the noble Lord, Lord Cope. I refer to the pressure applied to them to rise from their beds before seven o'clock in the morning and, complete with their children and other persons, to proceed to a traditional arterial route to be offended by a procession lasting some 15 minutes; and then, it is to be hoped, they go back to their beds.

I gathered from the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, that he did not have in mind a rigid directive, even in a limited area--no equivalent to what I call a Heathrow air traffic slot. If that is the case, I shall feel much easier in my mind.

Lord Dubs: My Lords, I fully share the desire of the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, for the commission to take a broader view. Perhaps I may say how grateful I am that the noble Lord is present this afternoon. I know that he has had difficulties because of the talks. I am glad that he has managed to be, as it were, in two places at the same time--at the talks on some days and in the Chamber this afternoon. Perhaps I may also say how pleased I am to see my noble friend Lord Callaghan. I know that he has a lot of experience of this issue. It is a pleasure to have him with us.

I listened carefully in Committee and today to the arguments put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice. But I am satisfied that the Bill as currently

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drafted enables the commission to do that which the noble Lord requires. The amendment would make it clear that in making decisions on individual parades the commission can take account of the broader view in the area. For example, no matter how innocuous an individual application may be, if it is requesting the 27th parade in the past couple of weeks in a major flashpoint area, this is clearly a factor which the commission should be able to take into account.

As we discussed in Committee, the North Report wanted to go further if possible, and recommended that the commission should have power to set out its determinations for a particular area for the entire marching season, and even for years ahead. We do not believe this is practicable for the reasons I described in Committee.

But it is entirely clear in both the guidelines and the procedural rules which the commission has already issued in draft form that the frequency of parades in a given location is a factor which can be taken into account. The commission will be working very hard to ensure local accommodation, not just on individual parades which have caused trouble in the past, but will be seeking to broker agreement in flashpoint areas over a longer period. Indeed, not only will the commission be seeking to broker voluntary agreements, but in the draft procedural rules it makes it clear that the Parades Commission will be setting out its preliminary views on the forthcoming marching season well in advance.

Many noble Lords will have heard the chairman of the Parades Commission, Mr. Alistair Graham, on Radio Ulster's "Talkback" early last week, in which he announced that it was planning to publish a preliminary view by early April; that is, before the marching season begins. This preliminary view will attempt to set out what the commission is achieving, taking into account the broader pattern of parades.

Therefore, I believe that the commission has made it clear that it will meet precisely what the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, wants it to do without the requirement of this binding amendment. In the circumstances, I do not believe that the proposed amendment is necessary. I urge the noble Lord to withdraw it.

Lord Alderdice: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister, first, for his kind remarks about my attendance, but more particularly for his explanation of the Government's views of the matter.

In terms of what we all aim to do, I do not think that we are far apart. I believe that there is an appreciation that these matters should be available to the commission in coming to its determinations; and that it should be able to give a form of guidance. As noble Lords know, my main concern is that there should be no dispute about whether or not the commission has the power. It would be greatly disadvantageous if shortly into its proceedings the matter was taken to judicial review or some other form of legal process. That would only diminish the commission and its laudable work.

I realise that the Government have given considerable thought to this matter and for that I am grateful. It is clear that as the Bill has proceeded through this place it

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has achieved some refinement of a fairly considerable order. It will, of course, go to another place where further refinements may take place. I am much reassured by the Minister's undertaking to deal with Clause 3 and other matters before the Bill leaves this House. That is extremely important.

That being the case, I shall be content for the present to see how matters move along while keeping an eye on this issue as the Bill continues its passage. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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

[Amendment No. 3 not moved.]

Clause 4: [Code of conduct]:

Lord Cope of Berkeley moved Amendment No. 4:

Page 2, line 26, at end insert ("or a counter-demonstration to a public procession").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Clause 4 provides for the commission to issue a code of conduct providing guidance to persons organising a public procession. That code of conduct has already been issued in draft by the commission. It lays down in great detail what parade organisers should do, how people should behave, dress, and so on, when taking part in a parade, what tunes bands should play on certain occasions, and many other details. But there is no code of conduct, and no indication of what should be done, for those seeking to arrange counter demonstrations to a parade.

The idea underlying the Bill is that people should be able to express their views, traditions, and so on, by processing within a framework of acceptable rules of conduct. The code of conduct forms a large part of that aim. Similarly, those who take an alternative view to that being expressed by a procession should be able to make their alternative view clear within acceptable rules of conduct. Frankly, no procession leads to a great deal of trouble with the police unless there is a counter demonstration. It does not seem right or sensible to lay down elaborate rules in a code of conduct for the organisers but no rules for the protesters who are likely to object to the procession taking place.

I believe that this omission is an example of why the Bill looks to some people like an anti-parades Bill, despite the Government's protestations. I believe that those are genuine protestations and that the Government do not deceive us by saying that they do not intend it to be an anti-parades Bill. But the Government should take account of some of the points which make people believe that it is an anti-parades Bill. There is a lack of a code of conduct for those who wish to make clear that they do not agree with those taking part in the procession. I believe that this is an instance where the Government could make such provision. That is why I commend the amendment to your Lordships.

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