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Lord Northbourne: I am no more happy with this amendment than is the noble and learned Lord the Solicitor-General. On the other hand, is there not some scope for amending the text on the face of the Bill for two reasons? The noble and learned Lord said that the order would be introduced only if there were no other way. That seems to be a better expression than to use the words "exceptional circumstances". Perhaps at Report stage we could insert into the Bill some clarification which will indicate that it is a measure to be used only in extreme circumstances.

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In Clause 14(1)(b) the purpose of the order is described as being,

    "for the purpose of maintaining order".

The noble and learned Lord said--I suspect it is the most important reason for the order--that it is to help the children, to avoid them getting into harm. That objective should be on the face of the Bill.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie: Perhaps I may virtually propose a verbal probing amendment. At line 5, would it not be better to replace "maintain" by "restoring"? Most local authorities would not wish to have a local child curfew scheme in place. In fact it would mark the fact that they had lost control and it resulted from riots and disturbances. The local authority would use these child curfews only in extreme circumstances.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: Perhaps I may deal with those three points. First, the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, correctly pointed out that I said that these orders would be used only when the local authority concerned believed that there was no other way of dealing with the particular issue of unsupervised young children. One would hope that it would be that sort of issue that would be involved, both in the consultation process and in relation to what the Home Secretary was applying his mind to when considering whether to confirm the order. As a matter of drafting and as a matter of law, if you put in the words, "there is no other way of dealing with it", you simply create too great a difficulty for yourself. Is it not much more sensible, as a matter of drafting, to impose considerable consultation and also the need to acquire the approval of the Home Secretary? Putting those practical steps in place, with people who are concerned about the practical effect, may well be a much better way of dealing with the matter than writing artificial hurdles into the Bill. With respect, I ask the noble to reflect on that point in considering whether the drafting is sensible--to provide protection against such orders being made, save in circumstances when there is no other way of dealing with a particular problem.

Secondly, the noble Lord made the point that the purpose given was the protection of order--whereas I had said in the course of debate that it was both the maintenance of order and the protection of children. I reiterate that protection of the children concerned is just as important an issue. We do not believe it necessary to set that on the face of the Bill, because, for example, child safety orders can be made on the basis that a local curfew order has been breached. In other words, the Bill provides the means whereby the child safety order can be made if there is a breach. Of itself, a local curfew order will not provide protection to an individual child. All it says is that the child cannot be out on the streets between particular times. By providing for that order, if there is a breach intervention can then take place. So it is in relation to the consequences of an order being breached that the child's interests may then be protected. That is the way the provision works.

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The noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, asked whether we should use the phrase, "restore order", rather than "maintain order". I had not thought about that point before he suggested it. I am not sure that it makes that much difference--though "maintain" strikes me at first blush as a better phrase. "Restore order" suggests that a much more comprehensive riot is going on than is envisaged in the order. I am minded to stick with the provision as drafted. On that basis, I ask all noble Lords who have tabled amendments to withdraw them.

Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws: I beg leave to withdraw Amendment No. 142.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Henley: Before the next amendment is called, perhaps I might ask the government what their intentions are as to how late the debate will go. We have started debating the number of amendments--some 10 or more--dealing with child curfew schemes. I should be more than happy to continue debate on child curfew schemes now that we have started. But beyond that, as noble Lords will be aware, there are a number of very important amendments relating to racially aggravated offences both in England and Wales and in Scotland which I believe a number of noble Lords think deserve fairly thorough discussion at a brighter time of day. Beyond that, there is an amendment proposing a new clause providing an offence of publishing telephone conversations. If it is to be almost beyond midnight before we reach the end of our debate on child curfew schemes, noble Lords should consider very carefully whether we want to go beyond, for example, amendment No. 155A. I am interested to hear what the noble Lord has to say.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I do not think that the noble Lord's request is unreasonable. Sometimes we seem to spend an awful lot of time on certain amendments which might more happily have been spent on other matters. But that is a matter for your Lordships. I suggest that perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Hoyle, might take soundings from the Deputy Chief Whip, who was present a moment or two ago seeing how his chickens were getting on, and then left quite promptly. There will come a time--possibly about three o'clock--when we are rather tired and will need to go home. Perhaps the best thing is to press on at least with the issue of child curfew and see what message the noble Lord, Lord Hoyle, brings back.

11.15 p.m.

Lord Henley: I am grateful to the noble Lord for saying that. I do not know whether the Government even have a House at this stage. Of course, it is open to us in effect to ask the opinion of the House on the matter and if there is not a House, we shall not

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continue. I should be grateful if the noble Lord, Lord Hoyle, could take soundings before we feel we have to take such measures.

Lord Monson: As regards what the noble Lord, Lord Henley, asked for, it is now quarter past 11 and no one has been filibustering or wasting time in any way. The problem is that we had a Statement which took up nearly 40 minutes and that brought us to the point we have reached. I should be grateful if the Government could consider the request.

Lord Bridges: Before the matter goes any further, perhaps I may say a word. The last amendment on the list is in my name, Amendment No. 171. I suggest to the Government Front Bench that certain things have happened in the course of organising the debate which leave something to be desired. For example, the groupings list was not available at 2 o'clock on either the first or the second day of the Committee stage. I do not know the reason for it, but it meant that we came into prayers before we knew how the groupings had been arranged. It may simply have been inefficiency, but it was discourteous to all Members of your Lordships' Committee.

I find it odd that the amendment in my name, which I believe is of considerable significance and which has attracted quite a lot of attention from noble Lords in all parts of the House, is the last. I would have welcomed debating it at a time when we could have a fairer view of the opinion of the Committee. I do not have access to the usual channels and we all know that they move in mysterious ways, but it strained my credulity somewhat that this amendment, which I believe to be of great importance, should have been assigned to being the last to be moved.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I sympathise with what the noble Lord said. The amendment is certainly of great importance and I have taken the trouble to research it in order to deal with it. However I take the point that we may be quite late reaching it. As the noble Lord rightly said, access to the usual channels is somewhat mysterious. Perhaps one might even contemplate a non-taped telephone call to the usual channels. But I will bring what message and comfort I can as soon as I have it.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns moved Amendment No. 143:

Page 12, line 6, leave out ("(not exceeding 90 days)").

The noble Baroness said: As the Minister explained, Clause 14 gives the local authority the power to establish a local child curfew scheme. Subsection (1) allows a local authority to make such a curfew scheme under which it may issue a notice imposing a ban for a specified period not exceeding 90 days, for the purpose of maintaining order.

This is a probing amendment, as will be obvious, to ask the Government to explain their justification for imposing this period of 90 days as a maximum. Why not allow the local authority the discretion to

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determine the maximum period, using local knowledge of local conditions to have a scheme that meets local needs?

It has been put to me by several local authorities that the effort of putting up a scheme and obtaining approval, when it would last for a maximum of only 90 days, would make it questionable as to whether the authority would even apply for such a scheme, even if it were needed by the local area. Also, the implication, they felt, was that if we have a maximum of 90 days, there would be shorter periods under which a scheme would operate. That would make it even more difficult for anyone to apply for, set up and administer a scheme. They felt that 90 days was not a practical period and that it would not be possible to publicise the scheme effectively and feel that it was fair that it should be enforced.

This is a probing amendment, I look forward to hearing the Minister's response. I beg to move.

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