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Lord Molyneaux of Killead: My Lords, whatever feelings one might have about the Bill and the central objectives--some of us cannot be terribly optimistic--nevertheless it would be churlish not to say that we greatly appreciate the patience and the diligence of the Minister and the effectiveness with which he must have put forward our ideas embodied in these amendments when dealing with various arms of government. It is certainly my intention to reward the Minister in a small way by supporting the amendments which he will move.

Lord Alderdice: My Lords, we are grateful to the Minister for all the work he has done thus far in the passage of this piece of legislation. First, we ought to be grateful to the Government that they wisely chose to carry this measure through as a Bill rather than as an Order in Council. So much of Northern Ireland's legislation is tackled through Orders in Council. This measure was presented as a Bill in order that it could be fully and properly considered. Secondly, it was also a wise decision to conduct the Committee stage in the Moses Room. The atmosphere in the Committee stage was most conducive to discussion not only as regards the environment of the committee but also the participation of all noble Lords who gave considerable time and thought to the measure.

Much thoughtful work was done on all sides. I pay tribute to all noble Lords who participated in a thoughtful, constructive, and at times good humoured way--something that is not often a characteristic when dealing with our problems in Northern Ireland. Of the contributions from Government, the Opposition, the Cross-Benches and colleagues in the Ulster Unionist Party, the noble Lord, Lord Eames, made a striking, moving and extremely significant contribution on Clause 3.

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I believe that it was a wise decision for the Government to bring the Bill to your Lordships' House first rather than to another place. My experience of much esteemed friends and colleagues in another place indicates that there is a tendency to expand the contentiousness of such matters and such a course might have made it difficult to achieve the consensus and thoughtful and reflective material that has resulted. The Government will be rewarded by taking a better piece of legislation to another place and, it is to be hoped, will find that it has a reasonably smooth passage there.

I have found that there is appreciation in Northern Ireland that the legislation passing through is rather better than when it came to us. It does credit to all of us--the Government, and your Lordships' House. I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Holme of Cheltenham for his kind words on the small part that I played. I found it a most fruitful piece of work. I think that the people of Northern Ireland will be grateful to us. I only hope that the co-operativeness that was obvious in your Lordships' House will infect other forums in which I operate where we are struggling with the matter of talks and finding a resolution. If that infection from your Lordships' House could travel, goodness knows what the new year might bring for us there. I and my colleagues will support the amendments that the Minister puts forward.

Lord Dubs: My Lords, I am enormously grateful for all those comments, for the words of support, and for the welcome that the House has given to the procedure that we followed, both by having a Bill on the subject, and, as the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, said, by using the Grand Committee procedure for the Committee stage in the Moses Room. That was the result of discussions through the usual channels. I agree with the noble Lord that it led to an informed, interesting, balanced, reasonable, good natured and helpful Committee stage. I think that the Bill has become all the better because of the atmosphere and the way in which we were able to debate in the Moses Room. It may well influence us when looking at future Committee stages, given the success of this one. But I must not prejudge what my noble friend the Chief Whip will wish to do as regards future Bills. I am most grateful for the support expressed, and for the support for this set of amendments which delete Clause 3. I commend the amendment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

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

Lord Cope of Berkeley moved Amendment No. 2:

Leave out Clause 3.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 4 [Code of Conduct]:

Lord Cope of Berkeley moved Amendment No. 3:

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

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendments Nos. 3, 5 and 11 are grouped together. Amendment No. 3 would mean that the Parades Commission not only has to draw up a code of conduct for those organising and

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participating in parades but also for those protesting against a legal parade. When I argued the point at Report stage, the Minister said that the point would be considered further; and that the results of the further consideration would be dealt with in another place. I entirely accept that. I advance the amendment today only to draw attention to the North committee's view on the matter.

During Report stage, the Minister said at column 1195 that the North Report did not believe that it would be appropriate for the commission to have such a code dealing with protesters. I pointed out at the time that I believed that that was not an accurate statement of the position. The Minister may have confused the position with the subsequent recommendations in Chapter 13, paragraph 55 of the North Report which recommends that the police consider a code of conduct for open air meetings. The Parades Commission has nothing to do with those. In fact at Chapter 13, paragraph 40 of the North Report recommends that the commission's code of conduct should cover protesters. It sets out in some detail what might be in that part of the code. I hope that the Minister and his colleagues will take this clear recommendation of the North Report into account in discussing the matter before reporting their conclusions in another place.

Amendments Nos. 5 and 11 deal with a separate point. They give the Secretary of State the power to ban a counter demonstration. We sought to improve the wording of our amendments between Report stage and Third Reading. I do not think it fanciful to suppose that there may be occasions where counter-demonstrations are expected and the Secretary of State may take the view that the procession should take place, that re-routing the procession is not possible and that the counter-demonstration should be banned. As I understand the Bill as drafted, the Secretary of State can only ban the whole procession, thus removing the cause of the counter-demonstration and indirectly banning that. But by doing so he gives way to the protesters themselves.

I hope that between now and consideration of the Bill in another place that possibility will be considered so that the Bill can be amended along the lines of Amendment No. 11 in particular, but also of Amendment No. 5. I beg to move.

Lord Molyneaux of Killead: My Lords, I believe that there is a strong case for accepting this modest amendment in line with the recommendation of the North Report in particular to deal with the situation which will arise when the date and details of a traditional procession will be known many months in advance. A protest group perhaps organised by a military body--such groups are nearly always organised by such bodies--launches notice of a counter- demonstration, usually with no justification whatever except to create trouble. Clause 4 requires the commission to issue a code of conduct regulating the conduct of organisers of a public procession, but inadvertently your Lordships are denying the commission the power to act in a similar role with

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regard to organisers of a protest demonstration designed, as the Bill states in another clause, to break up a legal procession.

The Minister stressed the need for balance between sections of the Northern Ireland community. In line with the generosity he showed earlier, and his capacity to influence his colleagues in the Northern Ireland Office, I hope that he will recognise the need for balance between legal behaviour and illegal activities.

Lord Monson: My Lords, Clause 3, which we have just consigned to oblivion, was originally conceived by the Government as a means of achieving balance between what we must now call the traditions. Subsequently, it was realised by almost everyone that Clause 3 went too far and, moreover, that it might well lead to all kinds of unintended consequences. Accordingly, it has rightly been deleted from the Bill. However, we are still faced with a need to achieve balance between the traditions. This group of amendments goes some way towards achieving that end.

3.30 p.m.

Lord Dubs: My Lords, I should like to deal separately with Amendment No. 3 and Amendments Nos. 5 and 11. They deal with substantially different points, although I appreciate that at first sight they seem to cover the same issue.

In regard to Amendment No. 3, the point at issue has already been discussed at both Committee and Report stages. As I said on Report, the Government feel that further consideration of this point would be more appropriate in the other place. However, I wish to take the opportunity of clarifying a point that the noble Lord made at Report stage, on which he has subsequently tabled a Parliamentary Question and to which he referred in his comments a few moments ago.

I accept that there is a certain amount of ambiguity about the North Report's recommendations on the code of conduct and counter-demonstrations. This Bill, which implements the report's recommendations, would treat a counter-demonstration as an "open-air public meeting". It would therefore fall to be regulated by the police under the public order order. The North Report recommended that the police,

    "give serious consideration to preparing a Code of Conduct in relation to such meetings similar to that prepared for parades by the Parades Commission".
At the same time, however, the report recommended that the commission have ownership of a code of conduct covering the behaviour both of participants and protesters. That is slightly curious, particularly as the form the code of conduct is recommended to take clearly covers matters such as the organisation of a parade and behaviour on it, which are subjects on which the police rather than the Parades Commission can impose conditions. Moreover, while the North Report makes clear that past breaches of the code of conduct can be taken into account in future determinations on contested parades, it is hard to identify a corresponding sanction which could apply to counter-demonstrators.

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As I mentioned earlier, the Government believe it would be more appropriate to deal with this issue when the Bill goes back to another place. The police and the commission will have their own views, and I do not believe we want to introduce hasty amendments at this stage. I would be grateful, therefore, if this amendment could be withdrawn, and we will report back in the other place as to our conclusions on this matter.

Amendments Nos. 5 and 11 deal with the power of the Secretary of State to ban processions, whereas Amendment No. 3 deals with the power of the Parades Commission to determine matters relating to processions, such as the route. As I made clear in Committee and on Report, we are content that the Secretary of State already has sufficient powers to deal with the disorder, disruption etc. resulting from counter-demonstrations. Those powers are contained in the public order order, as amended by Schedule 3 to this Bill.

The amendments introduced on Report by the noble Lord, Lord Cope, would not have had the effect that he sought. The amendments tabled for debate today are, however, technically defective in a different way from those that he introduced on Report. I am sorry to have to say that; I remember, when in Opposition, I was frequently stung by being told that my amendments, both in this House and the other place, were technically defective. However, that is the truth, and I hope that the noble Lord will accept it.

The first problem with these amendments lies in the concept of a "counter-procession". That is nowhere defined in legislation. Indeed, a counter-procession is presumably simply a public procession. If local residents or anyone else sought to oppose a public procession by holding another one in protest, that "counter-procession" would itself fall to be regulated by the commission and could be banned by the Secretary of State, if necessary using her powers under Clause 11 as currently drafted.

On the assumption that this amendment is intended to cover counter-demonstrations rather than counter-processions, however, the noble Lord's amendments would still not have the desired effect. The amendment does not make clear that the revised Clause 11 is intended to cover both public processions and protesters to it. But unlike the amendments laid at Report stage, the factors which the Secretary of State must take into account have not this time been amended. That would mean that the Secretary of State could theoretically permit a public procession to go ahead but ban a counter-demonstration, only taking into account the likely disorder or disruption which the original procession might cause, rather than disorder or disruption as a result of the counter-demonstration which is being banned. That may seem perverse, but it is an inevitable consequence of the amendment as drafted, because, as it stands, the Secretary of State has no power to consider the likely effect of the counter-demonstration in deciding whether to ban it. I therefore urge noble Lords to reject this amendment.

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Indeed, I should welcome a comment from the noble Lord, Lord Cope, as to his intentions regarding Amendments Nos. 5 and 11. As I said, the fact that counter-demonstrations are not covered in this clause is by no means a sign that the Government do not believe they can be just as much a source of trouble as the original procession. Rather, the Secretary of State has equal powers to deal with both the original procession and the counter-demonstration, but those powers simply happen to be set out in different places in the legislation.

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