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Lord Avebury: My Lords, at the risk of boring your Lordships, I would like to clear up the question that has been raised by several noble Lords on the offences in paragraphs (b) and (c). The noble Lord, Lord Renton, the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford, in an intervention and the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, in winding up all mentioned these two common law offences which have fallen into disuse for centuries. I referred to the Law Commission's report of 1985 and I remind your Lordships that it refers to statements in Hawkins' Pleas of the Crown to the effect that,

The cases referred to are R. v Parry of 1686 and R v Wroughton of 1765.

The report goes on to mention that it is an offence,

The cases referred to there are Wilson v Greaves of 1757 and Penhallo's case of 1590.

The offences in paragraphs (b) and (c) fell into disuse centuries ago and have been replaced in modern times by statutory offences such as common assault, for example, in the case of striking a minister in the churchyard. I hope that that will dispose of the point raised by several of your Lordships. I could also refer to the Select Committee's report, at paragraph 21, but I will not bother to quote that in detail because the point has been sufficiently made. However, your Lordships should allow that it was reasonable to put these other common law offences up for abolition at the same time as blasphemy.
8 Nov 2005 : Column 542

I am most grateful to all those who have taken part in this debate. It is right for me to observe that only the noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, and possibly the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, opposed the proposition that blasphemy should be abolished outright. Every other speaker, including the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford and the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, speaking from the Conservative Front Bench, has said that it is ridiculous still to have this offence, but this is not the right place to abolish it.

The Minister repeated what the Home Secretary has said elsewhere: that he does not want to move to legislate on the matter until there has been proper consultation. I do not know what we were doing for a year in the Select Committee. We took evidence from everyone: the Church of England, the Catholics, the Methodists, the Muslims, the Sikhs, the Hindus—you name it, they all came. We spent a whole year examining just this question. Now the Minister wants us to start on another round of consultation. That is an excuse for procrastination.

As St Augustine said in The City of God,

"give me chastity, but not yet". The Minister says, "This is a wonderful idea, but we are not going to do it now". She invited me not to test the opinion of the House, but there has been sufficient interest in this debate for me to do so now.

5.16 pm

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 2) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 113; Not-Contents, 153.

Division No. 1


Ackner, L.
Addington, L. [Teller]
Allenby of Megiddo, V.
Attlee, E.
Avebury, L.
Barker, B.
Beaumont of Whitley, L.
Blackstone, B.
Blackwell, L.
Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury, B.
Bradshaw, L.
Carlile of Berriew, L.
Craigavon, V.
Dahrendorf, L.
Dean of Harptree, L.
Denham, L.
Desai, L.
Dholakia, L.
D'Souza, B.
Dundee, E.
Dykes, L.
Elder, L.
Elystan-Morgan, L.
Evans of Parkside, L.
Falkland, V.
Falkner of Margravine, B.
Fearn, L.
Finlay of Llandaff, B.
Flather, B.
Garden, L.
Gavron, L.
Gilbert, L.
Glasgow, E.
Goodhart, L.
Greaves, L.
Greengross, B.
Hamwee, B.
Harris of Richmond, B.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Holme of Cheltenham, L.
Howard of Rising, L.
Howie of Troon, L.
Jones of Cheltenham, L.
Jopling, L.
Judd, L.
Kennedy of The Shaws, B.
Kirkham, L.
Kirkwood of Kirkhope, L.
Laird, L.
Lawson of Blaby, L.
Lester of Herne Hill, L.
Linklater of Butterstone, B.
Lipsey, L.
Livsey of Talgarth, L.
Lucas, L.
Macdonald of Tradeston, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L.
Mackie of Benshie, L.
Maclennan of Rogart, L.
McNally, L.
Maddock, B.
Mar, C.
Mar and Kellie, E.
Maxton, L.
Methuen, L.
Michie of Gallanach, B.
Miller of Chilthorne Domer, B.
Moonie, L.
Morgan, L.
Neuberger, B.
Newby, L.
Northover, B.
Onslow, E.
Palmer, L.
Pendry, L.
Phillips of Sudbury, L.
Pilkington of Oxenford, L.
Plant of Highfield, L.
Plumb, L.
Prashar, B.
Prys-Davies, L.
Razzall, L.
Rea, L.
Rennard, L.
Roberts of Llandudno, L.
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Roper, L.
Sandberg, L.
Scott of Needham Market, B.
Sewel, L.
Sharp of Guildford, B.
Sheldon, L.
Shutt of Greetland, L. [Teller]
Skidelsky, L.
Smith of Clifton, L.
Smith of Finsbury, L.
Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L.
Steel of Aikwood, L.
Stern, B.
Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Taverne, L.
Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Tomlinson, L.
Tonge, B.
Tope, L.
Tordoff, L.
Turner of Camden, B.
Tyler, L.
Ullswater, V.
Wallace of Saltaire, L.
Walmsley, B.
Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Williamson of Horton, L.


Adams of Craigielea, B.
Adonis, L.
Ahmed, L.
Alli, L.
Alton of Liverpool, L.
Amos, B. [Lord President of the Council.]
Andrews, B.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Armstrong of Ilminster, L.
Ashcroft, L.
Ashley of Stoke, L.
Ashton of Upholland, B.
Bach, L.
Baker of Dorking, L.
Barnett, L.
Bassam of Brighton, L.
Bernstein of Craigweil, L.
Bhattacharyya, L.
Billingham, B.
Bilston, L.
Blaker, L.
Bledisloe, V.
Boothroyd, B.
Bragg, L.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.
Brookman, L.
Byford, B.
Campbell-Savours, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B.
Carter, L.
Carter of Coles, L.
Christopher, L.
Clark of Calton, B.
Clark of Windermere, L.
Clinton-Davis, L.
Colville of Culross, V.
Colwyn, L.
Corbett of Castle Vale, L.
Crawley, B.
Crickhowell, L.
Cunningham of Felling, L.
Darcy de Knayth, B.
David, B.
Davies of Coity, L.
Davies of Oldham, L. [Teller]
Donoughue, L.
Drayson, L.
Elton, L.
Erroll, E.
Evans of Temple Guiting, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Faulkner of Worcester, L.
Filkin, L.
Foulkes of Cumnock, L.
Fyfe of Fairfield, L.
Gale, B.
Gibson of Market Rasen, B.
Goldsmith, L.
Gould of Brookwood, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Gregson, L.
Griffiths of Burry Port, L.
Grocott, L. [Teller]
Harris of Haringey, L.
Hart of Chilton, L.
Henig, B.
Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, L.
Howarth of Newport, L.
Howe of Aberavon, L.
Howe of Idlicote, B.
Howells of St. Davids, B.
Hughes of Woodside, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Janner of Braunstone, L.
Jay of Paddington, B.
Jones, L.
Kimball, L.
King of West Bromwich, L.
Knight of Collingtree, B.
Lamont of Lerwick, L.
Layard, L.
Lea of Crondall, L.
Leitch, L.
Lewis of Newnham, L.
MacGregor of Pulham Market, L.
Mackay of Clashfern, L.
MacKenzie of Culkein, L.
Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L.
McKenzie of Luton, L.
Manchester, Bp.
Masham of Ilton, B.
Mason of Barnsley, L.
Mayhew of Twysden, L.
Merlyn-Rees, L.
Monson, L.
Montrose, D.
Morgan of Drefelin, B.
Morris of Aberavon, L.
Morris of Manchester, L.
Murphy, B.
Newcastle, Bp.
Nicol, B.
Northbourne, L.
O'Cathain, B.
O'Neill of Bengarve, B.
O'Neill of Clackmannan, L.
Patel of Blackburn, L.
Paul, L.
Peyton of Yeovil, L.
Radice, L.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Randall of St. Budeaux, L.
Reay, L.
Renton, L.
Richard, L.
Rogan, L.
Rooker, L.
Rosser, L.
Rowlands, L.
Royall of Blaisdon, B.
Sainsbury of Turville, L.
Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Scotland of Asthal, B.
Selborne, E.
Selsdon, L.
Sharples, B.
Simon, V.
Skelmersdale, L.
Slynn of Hadley, L.
Smith of Leigh, L.
Snape, L.
Soley, L.
Stewartby, L.
Stone of Blackheath, L.
Strabolgi, L.
Stratford, L.
Swinfen, L.
Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Temple-Morris, L.
Tenby, V.
Triesman, L.
Truscott, L.
Tunnicliffe, L.
Turnberg, L.
Uddin, B.
Waddington, L.
Wall of New Barnet, B.
Walpole, L.
Warner, L.
Weatherill, L.
Williams of Elvel, L.
Woolmer of Leeds, L.
Young of Norwood Green, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

8 Nov 2005 : Column 544
5.28 pm

Lord Avebury moved Amendment No. 3:

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