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Baroness Anelay of St Johns: Just to clarify the matter, I was not trying to draw out the proceedings at all. The difficulty was that the Minister had moved the amendment only after we had passed the clause, so she was not able to do it. However, in all matters we shall work closely together, and we have got the right result.
Lord Haworth: I gave notice of my intention to oppose the Question that Clause 125 stand part of the Bill. I am very concerned that this clause, which creates a new criminal offence of trespass in a designated area, is likely to be passed in this House tonightindeed, I think that is fairly certainand be enacted in statute yet it has not been debated at all in either House of Parliament. I took the trouble to check what occurred in the other place. There was no discussion of the measure in Committee or on Report, yet this clause creates a new criminal offence. It could be regarded as an encroachment upon our civil liberties. It is at least incumbent on the Minister to justify the reason for this clause appearing in this Bill at all.
It was suggested on Second Reading in your Lordships' House that possibly the sweepings from the Home Secretary's cupboard had somehow found their way into this Bill. There was a discussion about whether that was a gallimaufry or whether it was a portmanteau. Either way, the suggestion was made by other noble Lords that the clausesbecause Clauses 126, 127 and
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128 also relate to thishave appeared as if by magic, and yet they are gravely in danger of being enacted without any parliamentary scrutiny whatever.
I am very well aware that in making my first intervention ever in your Lordships' House on the scrutiny of legislation I have picked a spectacularly bad time; the day that the general election is called, when there is clear agreement between the major parties in this House to hurry through this Bill. I sense impatience in the Chamber tonight to proceed with some expedition, but I would be grateful if the Minister would explain the justification for taking those powers, so that it is on the record in this House and for the public outside.
A number of organisations with which I am connected have raised their concerns, which were expressed briefly in the Second Reading debate by the noble Baroness, Lady Gibson of Market Rasen. The Minister did reply to her, but it was in the nature of a two-sentence reply that merely said that this had been recommended by some committee. I hope that a fuller explanation can be offered tonight.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: The noble Lord has no reason to apologise for delaying the Committee on this important matter, which I referred to, albeit briefly, in my Second Reading speech. That brevity does not reflect any lack of concern. I too have received briefings not only from the Ramblers' Association but from the Open Spaces Society. I sympathise fully with the Ramblers' Association in its first comment that it had not anticipated by looking at the title of the Bill, either short or long, that there would be anything in the Bill that would directly affect them, and so it was at a late stage that it cottoned on to the implications of the clauses.
Having had discussions on this matter with the Government, it is my belief that the Government have no intention at all of penalising what one would consider to be the rambler who enjoys peaceful exercise in the countryside. The noble Lord is the right person to have raised the question of clause stand part. I took the opportunity to look at his maiden speech, and I now realise his expertise as a mountaineer, one of the few that I have ever seen. On a modest scale I also enjoy walking; I do so regularly on Crown land where I pay to park and use the privileges. I am also aware that if I sought to leave that particular Crown land to go onto other land where I am not supposed to go at presentor indeed after the Bill goes throughthere would not be any notices to let me know that I was going into the wrong area.
The clauses have been brought forward for the right reasons, and the noble Lord is right to invite the Minister to explain the purposes behind them. I hope that the noble Baroness will be able to indicate to the Committee the kind of sites that the Government anticipate will be covered by this new criminal trespass. I am sure that none of us want to be in the situation where the normal
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enjoyment of the countryside would be prevented by the provisions, and I do not believe that that will be the result.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, for her correct outline of the Government's position. The noble Baroness and other noble Lords will know that I have written in response to a proper concern expressed by the Ramblers' Association about the Government's intention. I reassure my noble friend that although this matter has been dealt with late in tonight's deliberations, that is not because of any lack of care.
It may assist my noble friend and other Members of the Committee if I say, briefly, that Clauses 125 to 128 should be seen in their proper context. They respond to the Armstrong report of July 2003, following Aaron Barschak's intrusion at Windsor Castle on 21 June 2003. That report recommended that an offence of criminal trespass be created. That was supported by the Security Commission inquiry report of May 2004, which was conducted following revelations of Ryan Parry's activities at Buckingham Palace late in 2003. I am sure that the Committee remembers the incursions into our Palace of Westminster last year.
That is the background against which the provisions should be seen. I am aware that concern has been expressed that the powers are too wide-ranging and could be used to designate large areas of Crown land to which the public have access. I take this opportunity to reassure the Committee, including my noble friend, that that is categorically not our intention. The offence created under Clause 125 will be limited to a small number of sites which will be designated by order under subsection (2). In making designations under the powers, the Secretary of State will be mindful of the need to provide a proportionate response to the potential for intrusion at a small number of sensitive sites, such as Buckingham Palace, Parliament and elsewhere.
It is very unlikely that members of the public will be denied access to any land which they currently enjoy. I have responded to my noble friend Lord Judd, who raised the issue in terms of trespass on behalf of the Ramblers' Association. I wrote to him on 14 March and am happy to place a copy of that letter in the Library. I had understood that the Ramblers' Association had been provided with the information in the letter.
I commend my noble friend Lord Haworth if this is his first incursion into our deliberations on a Bill. I hope that it has not put him off, and we will welcome him even more warmly on all other occasions.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I had rather assumed that the orders would be negative, because all that they would do is identify the specific sites deserving of certain protection. When we debated the issues in 2003-04, Members of this House properly expressed great concernI particularly remember the noble Lord, Lord Renton, doing sothat we were not doing
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enough to make sure that the sites were properly protected. The provisions are to make sure that particularly sensitive sites get the protection that they merit. That is the limit, so a negative resolution would be the proper way to determine that the sites were the ones that had been so identified.
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