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Lord Alderdice moved Amendment No. 15:

Page 9, line 24, at end insert--
("( ) Where a person to whom subsection (1) or subsection (3) applies fails to comply with a requirement imposed on him under subsection (1) or subsection (3), a constable may use such force as may be reasonable in the circumstances to seize or dispose of any intoxicating liquor in the possession of that person.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in Committee--it is referred to in the Official Report at col. CWH 78-- I raised with the Minister the powers of the RUC should it be confronted with a minibus load of people attempting to take part in a procession who had chanced to bring along with them a number of cans of intoxicating liquor. I ask him what would be the position of the police if they tried to remove the offending cans on the reasonable assumption that if the marchers were

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to proceed without the alcohol they would be likely to be less disorderly than if they proceeded with the alcohol.

The Minister clarified the position in the following column. He pointed out that the police could remove the offending alcohol, but only with the power of arrest. That leaves the RUC in an invidious position. I shall look briefly at the type of circumstances that the police are likely to find, particularly around the time when parades are commonly held. We may find large numbers of minibus loads and carloads of Orangemen and others descending upon a particular locality, and, usually, to protect themselves against the vagaries of Northern Irish weather and to provide themselves with a little amusement, they bring along some sustenance, and, indeed, something with which to wash it down.

If the police were to stop such a minibus load of attempted paraders, and point out to them that it would not be in anyone's best interests for them to bring those large consignments, and they frequently are large consignments, to the field--as it is often described--it may be that those normally law-abiding citizens would immediately consent, and indicate to the police that they would happily convey themselves to the nearest police station on the following day to collect the cans of lager, or whatever, and consume them in a more appropriate place.

On the other hand, in certain circumstances the would-be paraders might not accede so readily, particularly if they had already opened the consignment and had gone some way towards consuming it. There are a number of possibilities for the police. First, they could accept that they were unable to remove the lager, and they could proceed to issue a summons at a later stage. That does not seem to be helpful in terms of dealing with the immediate problems of the day of the march, because the police know well that if they remove the alcohol they would probably remove the danger of a problem arising.

The police could, of course, just arrest them on the spot. That would be likely to put that particular minibus load of paraders out of action for the day, but they are frequently accompanied by colleagues, who may come in minibus loads behind. If one bus load is stopped and arrested, one might be sure that their colleagues would make clear their view that that was not well-advised action by the RUC. What started as an attempt to remove some danger from the situation would create a greater danger. However, if the police were to have the possibility of simply removing the cans of lager, or whatever it might be, and telling the paraders that they should proceed on their way, and quickly too, or they would be late for the march, it would be much less likely that either they or their colleagues coming behind would create anything like so much trouble. The police would thus have the power to defuse the situation rather than be forced to use the power of arrest, which is much more likely to inflame the situation.

I have explained the amendment in some detail because I readily accept that there is a degree of inelegance in the terminology I have struggled with. However, I think the House will understand the point

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I am trying to make and the power which I hope will be made available to the RUC. I believe myself, although it will be for others to make a judgment, that this would be a useful power to confer on the RUC. It has frequently been remarked on that when paraders are entirely sober they are often easier to deal with than when they have consumed one or two, and on occasion more, cans of lager. Arrest is using something of a sledgehammer to crack the nut. I beg to move.

Lord Molyneaux of Killead: My Lords, I know that, through no fault of his own, the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, is not as yet a member of what people refer to as the Loyal Orders. Perhaps I may correct any impression, particularly as one of the right reverend Prelates is present, about one of those main institutions which I have the honour to lead. They are under strict instructions, and have been for many years, that if it is reported to me or any of my senior officers that they have been transporting intoxicating liquor to, or consuming it at, the venue, in the field or recreation ground or in the vicinity of such, the unit concerned--whether it be the lodge or the band--will never walk again in my lifetime. I hope that that will entice the noble Lord to apply for an application form, which I would be very happy to supply.

Lord Fitt: My Lords, anyone who knows Northern Ireland would have to question the sentiments expressed by the mover of the amendment, and particularly the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux. I have lived in Belfast for most of my life. It may be that noble Lords will not understand the geographic designations. The parade takes place on 12th July. It starts off at Carlisle Circus. It passes by Donegall Street into the main arterial road of Royal Avenue and Donegall Place. At the beginning of the parade the vast majority of the people taking part are sober. They then proceed to the field. If I were to believe what I do not believe and accept what the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, said about drinking at the field or in surrounding areas, there would be mass expulsions from the Orange Order. There would be very few of them left.

Everyone in Northern Ireland knows that when they go to the field they have already established their traditionality and what they are there for. They have paraded to the field. They have then to stand there and listen to the most boring speeches they have heard all year. There will be all kinds of resolutions--loyalty to the Queen, loyalty to the Crown and loyalty to all kinds of other people--and religious acclamations as well. One has only to look at the pictures in the Belfast Telegraph that evening to see the expression of terrible boredom on the faces of those people who are unfortunate enough to be there to listen to the awful speeches being made. What else are they going to do during the interminable one or two hours there?

I have to tell the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, what they do. They set about opening up these cans and consuming them to the best of their ability as the speeches come through the loudspeakers. Is that an offence? The noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, says that it

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is. I do not believe that it is against the law for people to take part in a parade and sit down in a park, a field or wherever it may be, and consume alcoholic liquor. It is not an offence; nor should it be an offence. If the police apprehend a minibus or van which is taking some cans of lager or perhaps something stronger and the occupants of that minibus or van are stone-cold sober--this is the beginning of the parade and they have not heard all the boring speeches that are liable to drive them to drink--the police will then speak to the occupants who are there to do their traditionality without causing offence to anyone. It would be terribly wrong for the police to say, "You haven't got that there for decoration. You are going to take it somewhere and drink it." That is exactly what they are going to do.

What is more worrying about Clause 11 is that it says that the police can confiscate the alcoholic cargo and dispose of it in whatever way they think fit. That puts a great onus on the police. There will be quite a lot of police present. They will seize lots of cans of lager. They could confiscate it in their own interests. That would cause quite a lot of trouble in Northern Ireland. I can see people turning up at the police station to say that six, and not two, cases of lager had been confiscated.

I do not think it should be an offence for Orangemen to drink at the field. They have been doing it for many years. They continue to do it. I do not think it would be right to place a legal restriction on them. They will have marched five or six miles. They bring their wives and the female members of the family. Some of the women I know who take part in the parades are just as big drinkers as some of their husbands or boyfriends taking part in the parade. I do not think that any restriction should be placed on people who are obviously sober. I hope that that gets me in well with the Orange Order.

4.45 p.m.

Lord Lyell: My Lords, it is difficult to try to follow the noble Lord, Lord Fitt. I shall make a humble attempt so to do. Those of your Lordships who attended the Committee will remember that I moved a somewhat mischievous amendment to subsection (5) about what would happen to the alcoholic liquid in cans. Are they called alcopops or something of that nature? I suggested that some members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary should take responsibility for the disposal of the liquid. I paid close attention to the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, and I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, will go by the name of "Mineral Water Molyneaux". I served for six happy Orange occasions in Northern Ireland and I was under the perhaps mistaken impression that many of the parades were official Orange parades. I was quickly disabused of that notion by being told that there were all kinds of unofficial and independent Orange parades, let alone the Apprentice Boys, who were more militant than many of the others. I just wonder whether there is a more serious aspect to the amendment.

Seventeen years ago I was in the position of the Minister, having to move amendments to the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill 1980, dealing with what might be in the context of this Bill something akin to a cultural

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identity, which was confiscating large amounts of alcohol moving about Scotland--indeed, past my home--on arterial routes. Members of the warring tribes, if I may call them that, north of the Border, were attending matches where their favourite football team was playing. The noble Lord, Lord Fitt, has it absolutely right. It was not necessarily the content of the alcohol. In Scotland we call them "controlled containers". One can throw them and make use of them. That applies even to mineral water or alcopops, let alone what had been taken by the participants in these cultural identity parades and football matches before anyone even arrived at them.

It seems to me that the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, gives a grain of flexibility to the police and the Royal Ulster Constabulary to take action swiftly, on the spot and without further ado. In moving the amendment it was suggested that there could be problems. I believe the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, went on to ask about what happened to the can of lager which was not the one that was sent along. It was a different one and there would be an argument about that. There was a grain of good sense in the amendment put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice. The Minister very kindly put me in my place when I moved an amendment which was akin to the one that we have today. He very tactfully and kindly said at an earlier stage that he could perhaps look on the amendment favourably or might give some argument as to the flexibility which perhaps the RUC and the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, are looking for.

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