Notice of Street Processions

Nottinghamshire County Council Bill [Lords] (By Order) – in the House of Commons at 6:46 pm on 13th February 1983.

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Amendment proposed [19 January], No. 1 in page 7, line 3, leave out clause 6.—[Ms. Harman.]

Question again proposed, That the amendment be made.

7 pm

Photo of Mr Ian Mikardo Mr Ian Mikardo , Tower Hamlets Bethnal Green and Bow

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am well aware that the selection and grouping of amendments is entirely within your discretion, and in normal circumstances I would not dream of calling that selection and grouping into question. With respect, I draw your attention to the position that arises out of your decision to group with amendment No. 1 the following amendments: No. 5, in page 7, line 26, leave out subsection (4).

No. 6, in page 7, line 34, at end insert— '(4A) The Chief Constable shall prepare the code of practice provided for in subsection (4) above as soon as may be after the passing of this Act, and shall forward a copy of it to the Secretary of State for the Home Department; and the Secretary of State for the Home Department shall cause further copies to be laid before each House of Parliament:Provided that the Chief Constable may from time to time amend the code of practice, and in that case shall forward a copy of the code as amended to the Secretary of State for the Home Department, who shall cause copies of the code as amended to be laid before each House of Parliament.'

As you will know, Mr. Speaker, amendment No. 1 was moved at our last sitting on 19 January by my hon. Friend the Member for Peckham (Ms. Harman), since when amendments Nos. 5 and 6 have been tabled. If amendments Nos. 5 and 6 had been tabled on 19 January, I am certain that my hon. Friend would have addressed part of her observations to the substance of those amendments. Those amendments represent a fall-back position—a common practice in Committee and in the House, as you know—in the event of amendment No. 1 being defeated. But as my hon. Friend had spoken on 19 January on amendment No. 1, she will be prevented from speaking again. Therefore, she will not have the opportunity of commenting—as I know she would have wished—on amendments Nos. 5 and 6.

I realise that my hon. Friend can speak again with the leave of the House, but it takes only one hon. Member to deny that leave, and I am not sure that all hon. Members would wish to give my hon. Friend leave. Therefore, may I put it to you that it would be fair to my hon. Friend if amendments Nos. 5 and 6 were to be grouped separately from amendment No. 1.

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

I thank the hon. Member for Bow and Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) for giving me notice of his point of order. In grouping amendments Nos. 5 and 6 with amendment No. 1, I had no desire to exclude the hon. Member for Peckham (Ms. Harman) from speaking to amendments Nos. 5 and 6, which have been tabled by the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett). My object in grouping the amendments was to enable them to be debated. If amendments Nos. 5 and 6 had not been grouped with amendment No. 1, they would have fallen if amendment No. 1 had been agreed to, and could not then have been debated.

I do not propose to change my selection. On the other hand, since the amendments represent an attempt at compromise, I shall have no objection to the hon. Member for Peckham speaking again on the Question before the House, provided that she limits herself strictly to the content of amendments Nos. 5 and 6 and does not range over the whole of clause 6.

I hope that, in the light of what the hon. Member for Bow and Poplar has said, the House will give the hon. Member for Peckham leave to speak.

Photo of Mr Ian Mikardo Mr Ian Mikardo , Tower Hamlets Bethnal Green and Bow

May I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for that ruling and for your observation? I share your hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Peckham will have leave to address the House on the subject of amendments Nos. 5 and 6.

Mr. Richard Ottaway:

I wish to object, Mr. Speaker

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

Order. The question has not yet arisen. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman, in the light of what I have said about the matter, will have second thoughts. But I must put the Question if there is no one else who wishes to speak on the matter.

Mr. Dave Nellist:

I wish to speak to clause 6, concerning the right to hold processions and demonstrations. The Bill seeks to introduce a criminal offence. Should the organisers of a demonstration not give the required notice under the Bill, those who have organised it will be liable to criminal proceedings and fined.

Over the past century or more, many of the rights that working people in Britain enjoy—including the right to vote—were won as a result of protests, marches and demonstrations, and by the coming together of public feeling. Therefore, it is wrong that a Bill should seek to limit the rights of freedom of assembly, of demonstration and of procession, thereby curtailing free speech within a particular area.

It is notable that many Conservative Members have spent much time, particularly in the past three or four years, in arguing about the lack of human rights in Eastern European countries that I would categorise as being in the hands of a Stalinist bureaucracy. In those countries, for millions of working people the rights of assembly, of free speech, and of belonging to a political party of their own choice or a trade union of their choice, are curtailed, as are the rights to demonstration and to assembly. Therefore, it seems a little odd that supporters of the Tory party should seek to confuse the lack of rights enjoyed by people in eastern Europe with the genuine ideas of Socialism in Britain. On the one hand, they criticise the lack of freedom in eastern Europe; on the other hand, by their presence here tonight, they seek to support the erosion of freedoms that can only be guaranteed by the pressure of working people in Britain.

It has been said in many learned reports on public order and on the rights of procession that in approximately 80 per cent. of all cases the organisers of processions give notice to the police. That is understandable. Anyone organising a procession or demonstration wishes to get the maximum publicity to ensure the largest possible turnout. The police, with their ever-increasing resources, do not seem to have too much trouble in finding out about the majority of demonstrations.

Reports by Lord Scarman and others have referred to perhaps 20 per cent. of demonstrations of which notice has not been given. But when, during the Committee stage of the Bill, we asked the representatives of the police in Nottingham what problems they had with the demonstrations of which they had not been given notice, they could not give us one example.

The Bill, by clause 6, seeks to limit the spontaneous right of assembly, of procession and demonstration, and it is incumbent on the promoters, and the Tory Members present here tonight, to justify to this House and to working people outside, by practical examples, why they think it is necessary to have such a clause in the Bill. The clause is not reflected in the local legislation of the surrounding authorities of South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire and Derbyshire. Within the areas of those authorities, no such provision exists to limit the organisers of a demonstration through the requirement to give notice of it. Spontaneous demonstrations arise from circumstances to which they are an immediate and necessary response. I shall give an example that will illustrate the process. Let us suppose that there were a serious traffic accident and a young child was maimed or killed. I know from reading my local papers and the national press the feelings that can be engendered among parents in that area. I have seen reports of parents organising a spontaneous demonstration, perhaps to block the road for an hour or so to show the need for a pelican crossing or a zebra crossing.

Under the clause, if parents organise such a demonstration and then proceed to march to the town hall to demonstrate to their local council the need for improved facilities on the road to prevent such serious accidents, such action will be illegal. The organisers of such a demonstration, if it were possible to identify them—this is another point that we may debate later—could be liable to fines of up to £200.

Mr. Gerald Bermingham:

Is there not an even more ludicrous example than that which my hon. Friend has just used? If the accident occurred, for example, on the A52, which runs between Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, to the Doncaster area, where it crosses into the constituency of Bassetlaw, a demonstration could legitimately and spontaneously start in south Yorkshire or Derbyshire but, by the time that it got to the county border — if it could find it— it would have had to give 24 hours' notice to turn an illegal demonstration into a legal event. That shows how ludicrous it is for one county council to seek to have a time limit when the surrounding areas have no such time limit.

Mr. Nellist:

That example, particularly using the road that my hon. Friend described, proves my point. The fact that the areas that surround Nottinghamshire — south Yorkshire, west Yorkshire and Derbyshire — have no such provision could cause the problem that he explained. There would be no requirement in those areas for a procession to give notice whereas if the Bill were to be passed, that requirement would be in force within Nottinghamshire. That would cause problems where parents organised, in my hypothetical case, such a demonstration against the inadequacies of a particular stretch of road and the dangers that vehicles might cause to children.

My second example is that of a spontaneous demonstration about unemployment caused by a factory closure or redundancies announced by management. For a trade union to generate a mood among its members of solidarity, of sticking together and not allowing the management, sometimes at the behest of the Tory Government, to cause job losses, it is often necessary to hold a meeting and to protest at a town hall, a Manpower Services Commission office, the head office of the company at the centre of town, or a number of other places. Trade unionists, who initiated most of the rights that working people enjoy in Britain, would be under the threat of having committed an illegal act if the clause were to go through.

The rights of freedom of assembly and to process are a demonstration of the democratic rights that we still enjoy, although some of my hon. Friends may think that they are limited. Democracy is more than placing 13 or 14 crosses on a ballot paper and electing Parliaments during one's lifetime. It is more than electing a county council every four years. Democracy is about participation in the life of society, and the rights to freedom of demonstration and assembly and to free speech are attacked by the clause.

7.15 pm

Many organisations have launched petitions and complaints about clause 6 and the restrictions on the freedoms to demonstrate and process. One of the organisations, the National Council for Civil Liberties, has sent material to the Committee and to other hon. Members. It points out that while, in the United Kingdom, there is no constitutional freedom of assembly that includes the right of possession and therefore meetings and processions are subject to the law of trespass, the United Kingdom is the signatory of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which was adopted in 1948 by the United Nations. That provides that everyone has the right to freedom, of peaceful assembly and of association. The United Kingdom is also signatory to the European convention of 1950 and has ratified article 11, which provides that everyone has the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of association. Despite restrictions placed on the freedom of demonstration by English domestic law, these obligations should apply in favour of freedom of expression and association. Clause 6 seeks to restrict that freedom.

I have said that the clause seeks to make the organisation of spontaneous demonstrations a criminal offence. I have tried to give community examples, such as that of parents and the effects of traffic, and industrial examples, such as that of the possibility of redundancies and factory closures. However, the clause also generates organisational problems. Those who are organising street demonstrations will be caused problems by the inclusion of the words: as soon as reasonably practicable". That would be difficult to prove in a court of law to the satisfaction of all concerned. If parents were to organise a spontaneous demonstration over the death of a child on the road, and at the same time tell the police, who would decide whether sufficient notice has been given? I have always thought that in English law one is innocent until proven guilty. In other words, the proof of guilt in a criminal offence lies with those who are prosecuting. With my limited knowledge of the law, it would seem to me that clause 6 would reverse that process and put the burden of proof on those who had organised that demonstration to show that they did not commit a criminal offence. That is a wider implication than can be dealt with by one local Bill from one local county council.

What is more, this Bill sets a precedent, as other Bills have set precedents. Political control can be exercised over the content of demonstrations. It could be argued that were this to remain on the local statute book in Nottinghamshire, it might give encouragement to other councils which seek to bring similar laws from the other place to this Chamber. That encouragement could induce other councils, perhaps less sympathetic in their political nature than Nottingham council, to differentiate between demonstrations that they like and those that they do not. A council could decide in some cases that the notice given for a demonstration with which it was sympathetic was all right but the notice given for a demonstration with which it was out of sympathy was not. Such a political orientation of the decision of councillors would be reinforced if the clause were to be passed. Why is it that the majority support given to the Bill in all stages of its passage through Parliament has come from Tory Members? By and large, the response of organisations within Nottinghamshire connected with the Labour movement has been overwhelmingly against this clause being introduced.

The local organisations that have petitioned for the removal of clause 6 include the Nottinghamshire association of trades councils, the Nottingham and district trades council, the Worksop and district trades council, the National Union of Public Employees social services branch Nottingham, the NUPE divisional council Nottingham, the Association of Professional, Executive, Clerical and Computer Staff Nottingham No. 1 branch, the regional executive of the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education, Park Labour party, Beeston Labour party, Lenton branch Labour party, Newark and district trades council, Stapleford and Beeston trades council, Mansfield and district trades council, Retford and district trades council, Nottinghamshire administrative, professional and clerical branch of NUPE, the Association of Scientific, Technical and Managerial Staffs Nottingham university branch, and a number of single-issue campaigns and other organisations in the area.

That widespread opposition of numerous democratic organisations in the Nottinghamshire area represents the views of tens of thousands of workers. Each trades council has a number of affiliated trade union branches, which may have between a few hundred and 1,000 members. So why, given that opposition, do Conservative Members support the clause?

Mr. Ottaway:

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that at 4 o'clock this afternoon, the Nottingham branch of the NCCL said that it had no objection to the Bill and advised hon. Members to abstain?

Photo of Mr Don Concannon Mr Don Concannon , Mansfield

I do not mind my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, South-East (Mr. Nellist) building his case, but it is not true to say that the organisations that he read out represent a large number of people in Nottinghamshire. Those organisations represent only a minuscule proportion of the people of Nottinghamshire. If my hon. Friend had come up with a long list of trade union and Labour parties in the area, I might take a different view, but I have not had one letter of complaint from anyone in Nottinghamshire.

Mr. Nellist:

The NCCL is a national organisation and it was the national body which made known its opposition to the Bill. I have not had the opportunity to consult the local branch within the last three hours, but I say to both hon. Members who have intervened that I stand by the list that I read out. Each trades council has an affiliated membership, in most cases comprising tens of thousands of members. Those councils will have considered the matter and reported in their minutes that they oppose clause 6. The minutes will have been circulated to each affiliated trade union and read out at each branch meeting. That sort of representative democracy in the trade union movement is an adequate test of the opinion of the organisations that are most likely to organise marches, demonstrations and processions in Nottinghamshire.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

Does my hon. Friend agree that it seems a strange argument for anyone to put forward that, although trades councils comprise members of various trade unions in their areas, they should not be taken notice of? After all, they are acting as a sort of representative democracy. Does my hon. Friend agree that there are many other occasions when, say, Mansfield trades council, Worksop trades council or Newark trades council makes representations to Labour Members and it would be strange to find that any Labour Member objected to a trades council, which is comprised of representatives of various trade unions, making such representations?

We tend to accept that that is a form of representative democracy. Two miners are elected by their NUM branch to serve on, say, Mansfield trades council and they act on behalf of that branch. Since trades councils make representations on countless other occasions and we accept that the trades council system is a form of representative democracy, surely we ought to accept that on this occasion as well.

Mr. Nellist:

I thank my hon. Friend for that clarification of the position in the area from which he comes. He has outlined correctly the representational nature of those trades councils.

I have been interested to note that support for the Bill comes overwhelmingly from Conservative Members. I wondered why that was so. Many organisations in Nottinghamshire have protested about clause 6. Could it be that Conservative Members look a little further into the future when considering the use of such clauses? Are they taking what was once called the long view of history?

I wish to draw the attention of the House and of working people outside to two crucial reasons why the Bill should not be passed in its present form. I shall draw a lesson from events in London 100 years ago, which I regard as extremely apposite to the Bill.

In London 100 years ago, poverty was much deeper and the conditions of working people — in terms of unemployment, living standards and so on— were, by any objective measurement, far worse than they are today. I believe that the programmes and policies of the Government are rapidly taking us back towards those conditions.

I have been reading about conditions in those days and about the marches of the unemployed in London. Because of the laws restricting demonstrations, a favourite tactic was to organise the swelling of church congregations and to use them as a platform for the discussion of poverty and the need for jobs. In October 1887, a demonstration took place following a march to Westminster by a huge number of unemployed people. The 19th century equivalent of the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, Sir Charles Warren, had hundreds of police officers, the Grenadier guards and a host of other forces on duty to contain that demonstration.

The demonstrators went into Westminster abbey and spoke to Canon Rowsell who allowed them to take part in the service, which they did, without interrupting it. Unfortunately, when they tried to leave the abbey, the reactionary Sir Charles Warren instructed the police to apprehend people, attack marchers and so on. After that demonstration, meetings took place daily, particularly in Hyde park. Even the Illustrated London News, which was not a particularly liberal paper, said that there were thousands of demonstrators protesting about unemployment.

The people who assembled in Hyde park to protest about unemployment attempted to march to Trafalgar square. The square was built between 1829 and 1841 and in the first six years after its completion — it was declared Crown property in 1844 — it was the responsibility of the commissioners of woods and forests. I am not sure how many woods and forests there were in the Trafalgar square area at that time. Later it was transferred to the Commissioner of Works. The right to prohibit public meetings in the square was assumed in this House by a majority of 316 to 224 in March 1888. The 3,000 or 4,000 demonstrators who left Hyde Park to demonstrate about mass unemployment and poverty swelled to a number of 10,000 as they marched through London, and they wanted to assemble in Trafalgar square. Sir Charles Warren attempted to prevent that. A few days later he issued a notice that gave him the power, with the sanction of the Secretary of State and the Commissioner of Her Majesty's Works and Public Buildings, until further instruction, to order that no public meetings would be allowed to assemble in Trafalgar square, nor would speeches be allowed to be delivered—

Photo of Mr Ernest Armstrong Mr Ernest Armstrong , North West Durham

Order. The House is debating not whether demonstrations should be held, but whether notice should be given. I ask the hon. Gentleman to address his remarks to clause 6.

Mr. Nellist:

Despite that history of London today no local law is in operation that seeks to give a period of notice within which the organisers of a demonstration in London must inform the authorities. About 600 to 800 demonstrations take place a year in London. Despite a history of mass national protest, when those tens of thousands of workers illegally marched from Hyde park to Trafalgar square some 97 years ago, and the response of the police commissioner in banning public meetings, no requirement of notice to demonstrate in London exists.

7.30 pm

I ask Conservative Members who support the clause why, despite repeated requests in debate for example in the area of Nottinghamshire, on which they rest their case, no such example has been given. I ask Conservative Members why it is necessary to have such a clause, in the absence of such an example. It is not necessary to go back 100 years. An example in the last five, 10, 15, 20 years would be adequate to demonstrate why it is necessary to give notice of a procession.

Conservative Members may be looking further into the future, as I suggested. While there has been no example in the last five, 10, 15 years of the necessity to enforce such a provision because of spontaneous demonstrations of the unemployed, or of redundant industrial workers, the Government may be anticipating the necessity for such a provision as their policies of mass unemployment and of impoverishment of working people take further effect.

I consider next the attitude of those who advise local councils on the need for notice of processions, and the imposition of fines if no such notice is given. The most outspoken of such advice, which is given not only nationally but to the local chief constables in each area, including Nottingham, is that which comes from such chief constables as Mr. Anderton of the north-west area. In course of the BBC 1 programme "Question Time" on 16 October 1979 he said: I think that from the police point of view … basic crime … theft, burglary, even violent crime … will not be the predominant police feature. What will be the matter of greatest concern to me will be the covert and ultimately overt attempt to overthrow democracy, to subvert the authority of the state, and, in fact to involve themselves in acts of sedition designed to destroy our parliamentary system and the democratic government in this country. The Association of Chief Police Officers, to which Mr. Anderton belongs, complained to the parliamentary Select Committee on Home Affairs in February 1980 that the right to demonstrate is widely exploited, and marching is the most chosen form of demonstration adopted by protestors. Irrespective of the peaceful nature of the procession the numbers involved bring town centres to a halt, business is disrupted and the public bus services is thrown out of schedule. In short, a general annoyance is created to the normal process of daily life.

Despite the clarification given by one of my hon. Friends when the House last debated the subject, I firmly believe that senior police officers and police chiefs, acting under the general advice of the Association of Chief Police Officers, and repeating the protest they made to the Select Committee on Home Affairs in February 1980, are promoting in the Nottinghamshire County Council Bill —and in Bills relating to other areas in the other place, destined to come before the House —the extension of the control of marches by requiring advance notice and seeking to impose their own code of practice on demonstrators.

The Select Committee on Home Affairs recommended in February 1980 that organisers of marches be legally requird to give at least seventy-two hours' advance notice"— the clause under consideration provides for a different period of notice of their intentions, or such notice as may be reasonably practicable after that time. As I said earlier, I believe that "reasonably practicable" will give rise to a host of problems relating to the burden of proof of what is reasonably practicable when organising a demonstration. The Select Committee recommendation stated that, in the case of organising a demonstration, it would then be an offence, punishable by a fine of £400"— this provision differs again from that in the clause under discussion dealing with proceeding with a march without notice, or contrary to police direction.

By the promotion of this clause by Nottinghamshire county council, receiving, as it does, support from Conservative Members, the democratic rights of working people, the right to freedom of association and of assembly and the right spontaneously to put a point of view to working people, through the organisation of marches and demonstrations, are put at risk and threatened.

Much was made in an earlier debate of the fact that this is not an uncommon measure, and that approximately 107 local authorities have included such a clause in local legislation. To my understanding that is less than a quarter of the total number of local authorities in the country. I still think it is necessary for Conservative Members who support the Bill to put before the House, and before working people who read reports of our debates, their reasons for seeking to insert such clauses in private Members' Bills covering one quarter of the country as opposed to the majority, of the country, that is not so covered. Do the Government anticipate problems in the Nottinghamshire area with spontaneous demonstrations of an industrial or community nature?

Although it is a small clause in a Bill that began in the other place and although until today it may have attracted little national publicity, there has been debate and argument of the kind that has taken place in the Nottinghamshire area—and that largely resulting from the organisations that I mentioned having promoted opposition to the clause. Accordingly, I argue that the traditional rights of freedom of assembly gained by the Labour movement, and the right to demonstrate and process without giving notice, are an essential feature of democracy. It is imperative to be able to hold meetings and protest by marching on a town hall, or company headquarters to protest about redundancies. The requirement to give notice is a restriction upon that right. During the remainder of the debate I hope that Government supporters will say why they support the clause. I also hope that others of my hon. Friends will explain in greater detail our opposition to the clause.

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Oxon Mid

It may perhaps help the House if I intervene at this stage to give the Government's view on clause 6, which is the subject of the amendment. I can do that reasonably briefly.

Clause 6 requires a person who organises or conducts a procession through any street in the county to give notice of his intention to the chief officer of police, the notice to be given 24 hours before the beginning of the procession or as soon as is reasonably practicable.

As with other similar provisions in local legislation which has already been before and approved by the House, it must be for the House in the end to decide whether the promoters have made out a case for the provision in the light of circumstances in the county of Nottinghamshire. But, from the Government's point of view, there is no objection to the clause.

I shall deal with a couple of matters which have arisen in the debate because they affect Government policy.

I was asked about national legislation to introduce an advance notice requirement on the organisers of processions. Hon. Members will be aware that my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland are now conducting a review of the Public Order Act and related legislation. One of the issues being considered is whether a national requirement to give advance notice of processions should be imposed. Work on the review continues. I cannot give a precise date for its completion. We hope that it will be possible to complete the work and announce conclusions within the next few months, as I explained on 19 January in a written answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Bedfordshire, South-West (Mr. Madel).

Hon. Members may suggest that, if that is the case, clause 6 of the Nottinghamshire County Council Bill should be shelved pending the outcome of the review. That is not a valid argument. I cannot anticipate the conclusions to which the review will come, but, even if the review concluded that national legislation including an advance notice requirement should be introduced, the legislation might not follow quickly. In view of the present procedure in Nottinghamshire, I think that it would be wrong to remove clause 6 from the Bill simply because of the existence of a review of public order law.

Photo of Mr Ian Mikardo Mr Ian Mikardo , Tower Hamlets Bethnal Green and Bow

The Minister of State partly anticipated what I was about to say. When that review is finished—the right hon. Gentleman says that he cannot anticipate what it will say—it is certain that one of two events will follow. Either there will be no legislation or there will be some legislation. If there is no legislation, that will give Nottinghamshire a strong case after that for introducing its measure. If there is to be legislation, either it is the same as Nottinghamshire's in which case the county does not need it and can wait, or it is different from Nottinghamshire's, in which case the county will be at variance with national legislation, which is not desirable. Does not all that add up to a case for Nottinghamshire biding its time?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Oxon Mid

Not a very strong case. We have a provision which has been embodied in local government legislation passed by the House. We have a review of national legislation on the matter which is not complete and the content of which is uncertain. After that there would be uncertainty about the timing and content of legislation that the House would approve. The uncertainties are such that it would not be a valid argument against this provision to say that this review was in progress.

There is the wider argument that I have also heard from Opposition Members that a provision such as clause 6 should, by its very nature, be national rather than local legislation. But when the principles governing local Bills following the Local Government Act 1972 were being established, the local authority associations and their supporters persuaded Parliament that a provision should not fall simply because it could be seen to have a national character. Since the reorganisation of local government in 1974, seven local measures including a requirement to give advance notice of processions have been enacted. It follows that Parliament has not taken the view that, as a matter of principle, such provisions should not be included in local legislation.

Mr. Bermingham:

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that this is the sort of controversial measure contained in a local government Bill that has national implications, for the reasons that I gave earlier when I intervened in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, South-East (Mr. Nellist)? Does the right hon. Gentleman further agree, therefore, that he has just argued against himself when suggesting that, because a national review is going on, this is not the moment to debate the subject? Surely it would make sense to have a national provision, and that can come only at the end of the review. Therefore, should not all matters logically wait until then?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Oxon Mid

It may be that at the end of the day the House will decide in favour of a national provision. But we are a long way from that stage and there is no reason why the House should not decide that Nottinghamshire, like other counties which have gone before it in this respect, is entitled to this clause. That is a matter for the House to decide. From the Government's point of view there is no national reason why the House should take a different view or should decide to hold up this measure or to vote against it.

I should take this opportunity to comment briefly on the two amendments grouped with this one. Subsection (4) would be omitted by amendment No. 5. We should welcome the intention of the subsection as it stands, which is to encourage co-operation between the organisers of processions and the police. The subsection has precedents in four recent local Acts. A chief constable does not need statutory authority to issue guidance to the organisers of processions, so, from the Government's point of view, the subsection is agreeable but not absolutely necessary.

Amendment No. 6 would impose a duty on my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary — not perhaps a very onerous one but one on which I should comment. The new subsection requires the chief constable to forward a copy of his code of practice to the Home Secretary, and my right hon. and learned Friend would be obliged to lay copies of the code before each House of Parliament.

That is neither necessary nor desirable. It is not necessary if its purpose is to publicise the code, since clause 6(4) already obliges the chief constable to issue that. The provision is undesirable because it would give a misleading impression that the code and any amendments to it have been endorsed by the Home Secretary, whereas he would have had no part in the drafting. For those two reasons—that it is unnecessary and that a somewhat confusing, misleading impression would be given—the amendment is undesirable.

Mr. Nellist:

Will the Minister of State explain what it is about Nottinghamshire that leads him to lend the Government's support to the maintenance of clause 6? What information does the right hon. Gentleman have that convinces him that it is necessary to have a requirement for notice of processions?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Oxon Mid

Under our procedures, that is not for the Government to say. It is for the promoters to argue, as they have argued in their statement. There are precedents. From the Government's point of view, there is no objection to the clause.

Photo of Harriet Harman Harriet Harman , Southwark Peckham

With the leave of the House, for which I am most grateful, I shall confine my remarks to the amendments that deal with the code of practice. The first amendment says that there should be no code of practice, and the second provides that, after the chief constable has drawn up the code of practice, it shall be brought back to the House.

It is right for us to have a proper discussion of the clause. As far as I am aware, proper consideration has never been given on the Floor of the House to what is an unprecedented clause in constitutional, apart from practical, terms. It originated with the West Midlands County Council Bill, now an Act. There was a great deal of petitioning against a clause in that legislation that would make it a criminal offence not to give notice of processions in the west midlands. There was a great deal of local concern, and petitions were drawn up against the clause. It was a 72-hour notice clause, unlike this clause. The subsection about a code of practice was put into the West Midlands County Council Act in an attempt to mitigate the effect of the criminal offence of failing to give notice and to reassure people who were worried about the effects on the right to demonstrate of this criminal offence of failing to give notice. I support the amendments because, in my opinion, the subsection, far from mitigating the effects of the original clause, makes matters worse.

I want to deal first with the status of the code of practice. If a code of practice is important, it should be a schedule to the Bill and subject to the same consideration as the rest of the Bill. We are accustomed to codes of practice in employment law. Industrial tribunals consider not only employment legislation but codes of practice approved by the Secretary of State under the legislation. What we are not familiar with—and, as far as I am aware, there is no precedent for—is the idea of a code of practice in relation to the criminal law. How will it be used in court? How are the magistrates courts to interpret a breach of the code of practice compared with a breach of the Act itself? There is no precedent. Magistrates will not know what weight to give to it. A code of practice is an unprecedented creature in criminal law. The idea of this creature being introduced in a local Bill is unsatisfactory constitutionally.

We are giving parliamentary authority to the chief constable to write bits of the criminal law, because the chief constable has responsibility to draw up the code of practice. The House has no business to delegate to a chief constable the power to draw up extra bits of the criminal law without any comeback from the House as to whether the bits that he adds to the code of practice are what we would approve. We should remember that we are talking about a code of practice that is issued under a provision that makes something a criminal offence.

The west midlands code of practice, which was drawn up under the West Midlands County Council Act, did not have wide circulation. Most people did not know about it, and they probably still do not know about it. We know that ignorance of the law is no excuse. If one breaks the law, one has to bear the consequences, whether or not one knew of the law. Is it the same here? Will ignorance of the code of practice be no excuse? Even if one has not managed to get a copy of the code of practice, and breaches one of its provisions, is one still transgressing the criminal law?

When I was working for the National Council for Civil Liberties and tried to get a copy for someone in the west midlands who wanted to know what the code of practice said, it was with the utmost difficulty that I managed to find a copy of the code of practice. We tried the police, the local library and local solicitors. The code of practice will be important in the courts, but it is quite inaccessible. That is a bad precedent.

Let us consider what we are asking the chief constable to do. He is to issue the code of practice. The provision does not say that he should consult the local police authority. It does not say that he should consult the local authority, let alone the Home Office or this House. We are giving the chief constable a power that is completely without local accountability. That is an extremely bad precedent.

We say that the chief constable can put into the code of practice "any matter that he deems to be relevant." It is extraordinary that anyone should say in a provision that could lead to a criminal conviction that the chief constable can draw up a code of practice, off his own bat, without consulting anybody, locally or nationally, in which he can put any matter that he deems to be relevant. It is an entirely subjective test.

Mr. Nellist:

Am I right in my understanding that, according to the present proposal in the Nottinghamshire County Council Bill, the code of practice would not have the force of law because it is not a schedule to the legislation, but that it could be treated as such? The only example that I have found was given to me by a senior police officer. It relates to the guidelines for organising juvenile jazz band parades, and it is four pages long. Paragraph 4 of the guidelines says: You must discuss your proposed route with the Police as they are aware of the current road hazards for that area, so you should make an appointment for this purpose. Unless prior consent is obtained no parade can take place. Is not that an example of a guideline from the chief constable that is at variance with existing law? Even if the Bill were enacted in its present form, the clause would include a fine for not notifying the police, although of itself it does not ban the procession from taking place. These guidelines, which are the only example that I can find, actually say that unless prior consent can be obtained, no parade can take place". In my opinion, that is wrong.

Photo of Harriet Harman Harriet Harman , Southwark Peckham

What my hon. Friend says is quite right—in other words, this is an open invitation to chief constables to put in whatever they deem relevant to the way in which a procession should be conducted, whether or not it goes beyond the law. Clearly, there would be a temptation to extend the criminal law and the restrictions on demonstrations. Chief constables would be able to do that, as the clause stands.

Photo of Mr Ian Mikardo Mr Ian Mikardo , Tower Hamlets Bethnal Green and Bow

A chief constable may consider it relevant to make it a condition that a trade union shall not carry its banner or that a miners' lodge shall not have its brass band playing in the procession. It would change the whole character of political protest as we have known it in this country for centuries.

Photo of Harriet Harman Harriet Harman , Southwark Peckham

When I come to my detailed criticisms of the west midlands code of practice, it will be apparent that the chief constable there has done precisely that.

Clause 6(4)(b) says that the code of practice must draw attention to the need to agree the route with the police. That is saying that the route is no longer the choice of those who organise or take part in the procession, but that it has to be arranged by agreement with the police. Under the Public Order Act, the police can refuse to allow people to go on a route, or advise against a route, only if they think that the taking of a particular route will cause "serious public disorder". That is right. The police should not be able to determine which streets demonstrators should go down. Demonstrators know where they want to go, and it is right that the Public Order Act should say that the police should be able to reroute marches only if there is a serious threat of public order. Yet in the clause the chief constable is being told to tell demonstrators that they must agree the route with the police. I am sure that the original drawing up under the West Midlands County Council Act was done very hastily, and so, inadvertently and via the back door, a major restriction is being imposed on the right to demonstrate.

8 pm

Nottinghamshire county council has not produced a draft of the code of practice for hon. Members to see. It has not yet asked the chief constable to draw up a specimen draft, which would help us to know what we are talking about and whether we think the chief constable is right. The fact that the council has not produced a draft shows how much outside our control this legislation is. I can only ask hon. Members to consider one code of practice which has been drawn up under an identical section in the West Midlands County Council Act. The code of practice is dated September 1980, but no one looking at it would have any idea whether it is the latest code. A solicitor might have a copy of it in his office and the police might have a copy at the police station. However, because of its peculiar status, no one will know whether it has been superseded.

Photo of Harriet Harman Harriet Harman , Southwark Peckham

My hon. Friend is right. I assume that the code of practice that I have for the west midlands is up to date. We do not know how many versions of the code of practice there will be, how often it will be amended, or whether the chief constable will be prepared to amend it following suggestions, say, from the police or local authority. That is not written into the Bill.

As the code of practice for the west midlands is the nearest we have to a code of practice for Nottinghamshire county council, I shall comment on its framework. It begins by stating that it is drawn up under section 38 of the West Midlands County Council Act. Anyone picking it up would think that it was an authoritative legal document and that anyone breaching it would be guilty of a criminal offence. It then mixes up the criminal law in the west midlands with what the chief constable would like to see by way of good practice. Someone who knew the law, had read the section and knew public order law could distinguish between the chief constable's suggestions and the obligations. However, the code of practice is no doubt given to those who notify the police that they intend to march in the west midlands. Such people have no way of being able to distinguish between what they have to do and what is merely optional. Although an expert in public order law could distinguish between them, an ordinary solicitor would be unable to say what was binding under the law and what were simply the chief constable's suggestions.

The code states that it is drawn up under the Act and then sets out the legal requirements. Later, there is a huge list of all the offences which should not be committed when demonstrating. The person reading it would immediately think that he might teeter over the brink when demonstrating and commit one of four criminal offences involving offensive weapons, using abusive behaviour, inciting racial hatred and so on. The offences are set out in great detail and the person reading it would think immediately that he had to be careful, because otherwise he might commit one of them. He would begin to think that what he was doing was almost unlawful in itself. The code then sets out the information needed from organisers.

Mr. Martin M. Brandon-Bravo:

Would those three items give offence to any reasonable person?

Photo of Harriet Harman Harriet Harman , Southwark Peckham

The hon. Gentleman will understand my point when I come to the things that are not included in the code of practice. It forbids this, that and the other, and is full of prohibitions. I am just giving the House an idea of what is in the code, as it has not been given a copy of the Nottinghamshire code of practice.

The code of practice then mentions the information that organisers must give to the police. It states: Persons wishing to organise a procession are advised to notify the police either in writing … or by calling at a police station … where … organisers will be asked to meet with senior police officers".

Hon. Members may imagine 20 parents who want to demonstrate about a school crossing having to go through all that palaver and having to meet "senior police officers." They must then give 20 items of information. Anyone reading the code would imagine that the police must be talking about a huge operation—

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

I wonder where we can obtain a copy of that code of practice. It is generally argued that if a code of practice is not available to all hon. Members, the whole thing should be abandoned until it is made available. I am astounded by what has happened. I hope that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, are aware that the code of practice, telling us exactly what it is all about, is not available to hon. Members. It is an affront to parliamentary democracy that we do not have a code of practice to look at. Perhaps, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you will tell us whether it is in order for the debate to continue when the code of practice is not available.

Photo of Mr Ernest Armstrong Mr Ernest Armstrong , North West Durham

The debate is certainly in order. The necessary documents are before the House.

Photo of Harriet Harman Harriet Harman , Southwark Peckham

I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) is trying to point out that one of the documents that should be before the House is the code of practice that relates to the Bill. I am not aware of any code of practice or draft being before the House. The sponsors know that some of us are very concerned about the Bill's implications for civil liberty, yet we do not have a copy of the code.

Mr. Nellist:

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You said that the necessary documents were before the House. Can you tell me where I can get a copy of the code of practice?

Photo of Mr Ernest Armstrong Mr Ernest Armstrong , North West Durham

I meant that the necessary documents, as laid down by the rules of order, are before the House. It is, of course, for the sponsors to argue their case and to present any other documents that they think fit.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

Further to that point of order. Mr. Deputy Speaker. I think that you will fully appreciate that on several occasions when all the relevant material has not been available, the Chair has deemed it necessary to suspend all further discussion until it has been placed before us. My hon. Friend the Member for Peckham (Ms. Harman) is telling us about something that is in a code of practice, but none of us has the document. It is an affront to the House that we are not in possession of it. Nottinghamshire county council has a cheek to press the legislation when that document has not been made available. To use a legal term, this debate is ultra vires.

Photo of Mr Ernest Armstrong Mr Ernest Armstrong , North West Durham

I shall decide when the debate is out of order.

Photo of Harriet Harman Harriet Harman , Southwark Peckham

I am genuinely trying not to take up too much time, and that is why I shall not read out all the items that are requested from the organisers.

Photo of Harriet Harman Harriet Harman , Southwark Peckham

I shall mention just a few items. Hon. Members should bear in mind that the demonstrations might involve only 10 people, or small local marches. Nevertheless, there will be all that bureaucracy, and senior police officers will crunch into action requiring 20 items of information, including the name and address of the organiser. No doubt that will go on to police files. Many people do not mind having their names and addresses placed on police files. Indeed, I am sure that the names and addresses of many people are already held on police files. However, some people will wonder whether their names need to be placed on all the criminal records that the police keep simply because they are organising a perfectly peaceful demonstration. There is a whole load of other information that must be given in writing or at a meeting with senior police officers.

Once someone has decided, despite all the criminal offences listed, to go ahead, he must give that exhaustive list of information. He must wade through the 20 items of information and say, for example, whether or not flags, banners or emblems are to be carried. That is the very point that my hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) made. One must supply information about flags, banners or emblems, and presumably senior police officers can say whether or not one is allowed to carry them.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

I distinctly heard some Tory Members laugh at my hon. Friend's suggestion that the name and address of the organiser might be put on criminal files. This is no laughing matter. Not so long ago a young woman in the south of England—

Mr. Nellist:

In Sutton Coldfield.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

—wrote a letter as a supporter of CND. Subsequently, parts of the national press reported that she had become subject to police investigation as a result of her name going on file and that the Special Branch turned up at her house. Therefore, Tory Members should not regard the placing of names and addresses on file as a laughing matter. It happened in that case, and my hon. Friend makes an important point.

Photo of Harriet Harman Harriet Harman , Southwark Peckham

All Labour Members are very much in favour of people who engage in perfectly peaceful demonstrations co-operating with the police —and the overwhelming majority of demonstrations are peaceful. However, many people will not like the idea of giving their name and address and these 20 items of information, which include whether flags and banners will be carried and the number of vehicles that will accompany the march.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

That is another disturbing aspect of the code of practice. In Nottinghamshire, particularly in Mansfield, demonstrations take place in which, generally speaking, the miners form the bulk of those participating. The chief constable has a damned cheek asking for information so that he can decide whether or not the NUM branches in Nottinghamshire can parade their banners. We know only too well that over the years the miners have demonstrated in a proper and peaceful manner. Indeed, I and some of my hon. Friends have been proud to take part in those demonstrations. Things are coming to a pretty pass when it is suggested that they must now give advance information about pit banners.

Photo of Mr Don Concannon Mr Don Concannon , Mansfield

I should point out that the Nottinghamshire miners' gala is always held in my constituency. That demonstration is always talked over with the police, the route is agreed, everything goes well and the police escort us through the town. Therefore, there is no problem with the police over the Nottinghamshire miners' gala.

Photo of Harriet Harman Harriet Harman , Southwark Peckham

To its credit, the NUM is extremely well organised and confident, knows how to deal with the police and is sure of its rights. However, there have been cases where people, who are less well-organised and do not know about demonstrations, have tried to take banners and have been told by the police—quite beyond their powers — that they are not allowed to do so. [HON. MEMBERS: "Which people?"] A CND group had just finished painting its banner and was told that it was not allowed to take it. Other such groups will not realise that they have a choice, and that this is not laid down in law. By inserting such a provision in a code of practice, the whole thing is put up for grabs.

On vehicles accompanying marches, the code of practice states that vehicles will only be permitted at the front and rear of marches, never in the main body". I have been on many large demonstrations that have marched a long distance, when it has been excellent to have a band halfway down the demonstration to keep the people at the rear in tune with what is going on. Yet this code of practice lays down, with no consultation, that vehicles will be permitted only at the front and rear of marches. That is a creeping extension of the law.

Mr. Bermingham:

My hon. Friend is quoting from the west midlands code of practice, but the House is being asked to approve a clause containing a subsection which refers to a code of practice, of the details and content of which it is utterly unaware. There is no way in which any hon. Member can know what, if anything, will be in that code of conduct. Is not that a complete negation of democracy? In the past, the House has usually known what it is talking about when it has been asked to approve a clause in a Bill.

Photo of Harriet Harman Harriet Harman , Southwark Peckham

I merely use the West Midlands County Council Act as an example, because we do not have a clue about the code under this Bill. No one can say whether or not the chief constable of Nottinghamshire will introduce a provision such as this, but it is relevant to mention this so that hon. Members have some idea of how such a clause could involve an extension of the law.

Besides all the information that is required, the west midlands code of practice contains guidance to organisers on the employment of stewards. There is an exhaustive piece on what the stewards should do—that they should wear armbands as well as lapel badges, that there should be one for every 50 people taking part, that they should not become involved in incidents and should immediately refer such incidents to the police. There is a whole series of injunctions.

Photo of Mr Frank Haynes Mr Frank Haynes , Ashfield

Having listened carefully to what my hon. Friend has said, I should point out that at a recent two-day miners' conference in Nottinghamshire the Bill was not discussed at all. As my hon. Friend knows, we discussed the Bill not so long ago, and that debate attracted a fair amount of publicity in Nottinghamshire. However, I have received no representations on the Bill. I received one letter from a constituency party in Nottinghamshire, but it had nothing to do with this.

I should have thought that the miners would have raised this subject at their two-day conference. I am convinced that the Nottinghamshire NUM president consults the police on the miners' demonstrations. Bearing in mind that about 300 people attended that conference, many of whom belong to other small groups, I should have thought that an emergency resolution could have been tabled for debate so that they could decide whether they were for or against the Nottinghamshire County Council Bill. I feel that that should be put on record in view of what my hon. Friend has said and the fact that I have received no correspondence objecting to the Bill.

Photo of Harriet Harman Harriet Harman , Southwark Peckham

I do not know whether the Nottinghamshire NUM, as a union, has any policy on this clause, but I know that the NUM in Kent strongly petitioned against a self same clause in the Kent County Council Bill.

Of course we want to have full co-operation and consultation. That must be encouraged. But it is a contradiction in terms to think that one can force co-operation. When talking about the use of the criminal law, one is no longer talking of ways whereby organisers and police meet to discuss what is mutually beneficial. Instead, one is talking about the chief constable enforcing the criminal law. That is quite different.

Mr. Nellist:

My hon. Friend the Member for Ashfield (Mr. Haynes) said that he had received no correspondence. Is my hon. Friend aware that I received petitions from 30 or 40 trade union and labour organisations within the Nottinghamshire area which do object to the clause? Therefore, Parliament was petitioned by a large number of working people.

Photo of Harriet Harman Harriet Harman , Southwark Peckham

I take my hon. Friend's point about the considerable local concern about the Bill.

In the code of practice, the duties of stewards are laid out—

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

We must try to meet the problem raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Ashfield (Mr. Haynes). He mentioned the well-attended two-day conference. I understand that it was a good conference, and I do not doubt his word for a minute. However, I hope that both he and my right hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield (Mr. Concannon) agree that the miners will not necessarily be worked up, because at the end of the day they will do what they must do. I remember the famous occasion in 1972 when the Labour party won a magnificent victory and put a Labour Prime Minister in No. 10. A demonstration was organised the following morning at 10 am in Mansfield and another was subsequently organised in Chesterfield.

The important point is that the chief constable knows that the miners in Nottinghamshire are strong. He will be careful not to take them on. But other organisations are not as strong as the miners; they do not have the same clout. We are concerned about them. I well understand that the miners did not table an emergency resolution about the Bill, but the various trades councils have made their objections known.

Photo of Harriet Harman Harriet Harman , Southwark Peckham

Under the duties of stewards, the code of practice states: The police have a duty to avoid breaches of the peace where possible and on occasions have to direct a procession by another route. The only ground on which the police are entitled to redirect a march is if they fear that a particular route will cause "serious public disorder", not a "breach of the peace." So the police have reduced the hurdle over which they must jump before they can alter a route.

The code of practice continues: The police will inform the organiser(s) in writing confirming the arrangements and the route to be followed subject to the proviso that the route may be varied by police either before or during the event". The chief constable is not entitled to vary the route before or during the event. He is entitled to vary the route chosen by the organisers only if he fears "serious public disorder"—and he must go through certain procedures before he is entitled to do that. That is part of the criminal law. Yet something quite different has been drawn up by a chief constable. It is a serious constitutional point.

It is instructive to note what the code of practice does not state. For example, it does not say, "You, the organiser of a procession, have a perfect right to demonstrate peacefully in a democracy." There is nothing encouraging or reassuring anywhere in the code of practice. It is full of inhibitions and prohibitions. It does not convey the idea that most demonstrations are entirely peaceful. It sounds as though one is organising a military operation. That will put off the inexperienced person organising a demonstration for the first time. It also transgresses the principle that the organisers decide the route. It does not anywhere suggest that the police will do all they can to help, support and encourage an exercise by citizens of their rights in a democracy.

The best course would be to knock out the clause altogether. The second best course would be to knock out the code of practice, which gives the chief constable the opportunity that I have mentioned. The third best course would be to accept amendment No. 6 which, although it puts forward the least desirable option, is better than what is offered in the Bill as it stands. If we accept amendment No. 6, at least we would have in the Library a copy of a code of practice so that we could at least study it. If the Minister does not approve of a code of practice, there is not much that he can do about it, but at least the House will know what it contains.

Laying a copy of the code of practice before the House does not deal with the constitutional status point; it does not explain how the criminal courts should interpret the code of practice; it does not deal with the lack of accountability at local level; it does not deal with the problem of accessibility to the code; and it does not deal with the House abdicating its responsibility by allowing chief constables to make criminal law.

We are dealing not with a requirement to give notice, but with a criminal offence—no matter how peaceful a demonstration or whether it is spontaneous. We have no statutory right to march, and there is already over-policing of peaceful marches. The code of practice will be seen as extending the area in which one has to apply to the police for permission to hold a march, to follow a particular route, to display flags or banners or to use vehicles. The House has no business to delegate such authority to chief constables, whether in Nottinghamshire or anywhere else. The matter constitutionally lies with us. We should not limit the freedom to demonstrate.

Photo of Mr Don Concannon Mr Don Concannon , Mansfield

I shall be brief because I do not intend to argue the merits of the Bill, or even the clause under discussion. I do not change my mind between Monday and Wednesday in one week. If we are told on a Monday that local authorities know what is best for them and their areas, the selfsame thing must apply on a Wednesday, even though I might not personally agree with what those authorities intend to do.

After the various comments made in our previous debate on the matter, I thought that there would be uproar in Nottinghamshire against the Bill. I want it firmly to be placed on record that I have not received one objection to the Bill—not a letter or a phone call.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

This is the second time that my right hon. Friend has made the point about local people knowing best. On the other occasions when my hon. Friends have fought similar measures line by line and clause by clause — especially during the period of the Labour Government from 1974 to 1979—did my right hon. Friend join me, the Chief Whip, and our hon. Friends in marching into the Lobbies to stop the local authorities who apparently knew best? If he casts back his mind to those occasions, he will remember that there was total Labour support for refusing similar clauses.

Photo of Mr Don Concannon Mr Don Concannon , Mansfield

I cannot remember my views on every occasion. I am simply saying that although I am not entirely in agreement with what is intended by the Bill, I shall stand up and fight for the right of that council to do what it thinks is best. It must be free to put forward its views.

My hon. Friends have said that the chief constable will be able to do this and that, and that he has Labour councillors in his pocket. I must tell my hon. Friends that the chairman of the police committee in Nottinghamshire is Labour, as is the vice-chairman, and that the committee is firmly under Labour control.

Photo of Harriet Harman Harriet Harman , Southwark Peckham

I did not say that the chief constable had the Labour-controlled council or police authority in his pocket. That does not even matter, because Parliament would be delegating to the chief constable powers above and beyond those of the local authority and the police authority.

Photo of Mr Don Concannon Mr Don Concannon , Mansfield 8:30 pm, 13th February 1983

I do not seek to argue with my hon. Friend, but the matter was put in such crude terms earlier. The elected Labour councillors form the vast majority on the county council and I back them to the hilt. Some of them have probably been in the Labour party for longer than some of their critics have been alive. It is extraordinary that elected councillors should be taken to task in that way. If there is uproar in Nottinghamshire about the Bill or the clause, I have certainly not heard of it. I have not had one letter, phone call or other complaint from any organisation in Mansfield or in Nottinghamshire generally.

Photo of Harriet Harman Harriet Harman , Southwark Peckham

I am not criticising the Labour group in Nottinghamshire. I am simply exercising my right when a measure of this kind is before the House to express a fundamental objection to a proposal that is more than a local issue because it affects the criminal law. I am not criticising the Labour councillors. I am simply saying that on this issue I think that they are wrong.

Photo of Mr Don Concannon Mr Don Concannon , Mansfield

My hon. Friend is perfectly entitled to take the view that the councillors are wrong. Unfortunately, the elected county councillors of Nottinghamshire believe that they are right. It is not a matter of whether I think that they are right. As I have said, the Labour group of councillors went back four times to discuss this and four times reached the same conclusion. On one of those occasions, they discussed the matter again because I had specifically asked them to do so, but their answer was still the same. Some of those Labour councillors are as strongly principled in their minds as some of my hon. Friends. There is a clash of principle. It is no longer a matter of what is in the clause but of the county council's entitlement to stick up for its right to make decisions for its area. My hon. Friend may think that the councillors are wrong, but they believe that they are right. Whether they are right or wrong, I am here to defend their right to do as they are doing.

Mr. Brandon-Bravo:

rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put:—

Question put, That the Question be now put:—

The House divided: Ayes 100, Noes 34.

Division No. 159][8.32 pm
AYES
Alexander, RichardHardy, Peter
Aspinwall, JackHargreaves, Kenneth
Atkinson, David (B'm'th E)Harvey, Robert
Baldry, AnthonyHawkins, C. (High Peak)
Beaumont-Dark, AnthonyHawkins, Sir Paul (SW N'fotk)
Boscawen, Hon RobertHaynes, Frank
Bottomley, PeterHeathcoat-Amory, David
Brandon-Bravo, MartinHirst, Michael
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes)Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)
Burt, AlistairHooson, Tom
Butterfill, JohnHowarth, Gerald (Cannock)
Carlisle, John (N Luton)Howell, Ralph (N Norfolk)
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Hunt, David (Wirral)
Chapman, SydneyHurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Chope, ChristopherKey, Robert
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)King, Roger (B'ham N'field)
Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.King, Rt Hon Tom
Coombs, SimonKnox, David
Cope, JohnLeigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)
Currie, Mrs EdwinaLewis, Ron (Carlisle)
du Cann, Rt Hon EdwardLightbown, David
Fallon, MichaelLloyd, Peter, (Fareham)
Farr, JohnLyell, Nicholas
Fookes, Miss JanetMacfarlane, Neil
Forman, NigelMacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)
Fox, MarcusMacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)
Franks, CecilMadel, David
Gardner, Sir Edward (Fylde)Major, John
Garel-Jones, TristanMarlow, Antony
Griffiths, E. (B'y St Edm'ds)Mather, Carol
Grist, IanMeyer, Sir Anthony
Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon)Spence, John
Moynihan, Hon C.Spencer, D.
Murphy, ChristopherStern, Michael
Neale, GerrardStevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)
Neubert, MichaelStewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Nicholls, PatrickStewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
Onslow, CranleyStradling Thomas, J.
Osborn, Sir JohnThompson, Donald (Calder V)
Page, John (Harrow W)Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)
Peacock, Mrs ElizabethThurnham, Peter
Raffan, Keithvan Straubenzee, Sir W.
Rhodes James, RobertWakeham, Rt Hon John
Rifkind, MalcolmWaller, Gary
Robinson, Mark (N'port W)Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Rowe, AndrewWiggin, Jerry
Sackville, Hon ThomasWilkinson, John
Shersby, MichaelWood, Timothy
Skeet, T. H. H.
Soames, Hon NicholasTellers for the Ayes:
Speed, KeithMr. Richard Ottaway and
Speller, TonyMr. Michael Knowles.
NOES
Ashdown, PaddyLamond, James
Beith, A. J.Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Bermingham, GeraldMadden, Max
Bruce, MalcolmMikardo, Ian
Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M)Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Canavan, DennisNellist, David
Clark, Dr David (S Shields)Pike, Peter
Cohen, HarryRichardson, Ms Jo
Corbyn, JeremyRoss, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Dalyell, TamSkinner, Dennis
Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly)Smith, C.(Isl'ton S & F'bury)
Dixon, DonaldSpearing, Nigel
Dobson, FrankWainwright, R.
Eadie, AlexWareing, Robert
Golding, JohnWoodall, Alec
Hamilton, James (M'well N)
Harman, Ms HarrietTellers for the Noes:
Howells, GeraintMr. Stan Thorne and
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)Mr. Andrew F. Bennett.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Question put accordingly, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 38, Noes 98.

Division No. 160][8.43 pm
AYES
Anderson, DonaldHarman, Ms Harriet
Ashdown, PaddyHowells, Geraint
Beith, A. J.Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh)Lamond, James
Bermingham, GeraldLloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Bruce, MalcolmMcDonald, Dr Oonagh
Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M)McNamara, Kevin
Canavan, DennisMadden, Max
Clark, Dr David (S Shields)Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Cohen, HarryNellist, David
Corbyn, JeremyPike, Peter
Dalyell, TamRichardson, Ms Jo
Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly)Skinner, Dennis
Dixon, DonaldSmith, C.(Isl'ton S & F'bury)
Dobson, FrankSpearing, Nigel
Eadie, AlexWainwright, R.
Evans, John (St. Helens N)Wareing, Robert
Golding, John
Gourlay, HarryTellers for the Ayes:
Hamilton, James (M'well N)Mr. Ian Mikardo and
Hardy, PeterMr. Stan Thorne.
NOES
Alexander, RichardBoscawen, Hon Robert
Aspinwall, JackBottomley, Peter
Atkinson, David (B'm'th E)Brandon-Bravo, Martin
Baldry, AnthonyBrown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes)
Beaumont-Dark, AnthonyBurt, Alistair
Butterfill, JohnMajor, John
Carlisle, John (N Luton)Mather, Carol
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Meyer, Sir Anthony
Chapman, SydneyMills, Sir Peter (West Devon)
Chope, ChristopherMoynihan, Hon C.
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)Murphy, Christopher
Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.Neale, Gerrard
Coombs, SimonNeubert, Michael
Cope, JohnNewton, Tony
Currie, Mrs EdwinaNicholls, Patrick
du Cann, Rt Hon EdwardOnslow, Cranley
Fallon, MichaelOsborn, Sir John
Farr, JohnPage, John (Harrow W)
Fookes, Miss JanetPeacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Forman, NigelRaffan, Keith
Franks, CecilRhodes James, Robert
Gardner, Sir Edward (Fylde)Rifkind, Malcolm
Garel-Jones, TristanRobinson, Mark (N'port W)
Griffiths, E. (B'y St Edm'ds)Rowe, Andrew
Grist, IanSackville, Hon Thomas
Hargreaves, KennethShersby, Michael
Harvey, RobertSkeet, T. H. H.
Hawkins, C. (High Peak)Soames, Hon Nicholas
Hawkins, Sir Paul (SW N'folk)Speed, Keith
Haynes, FrankSpeller, Tony
Heathcoat-Amory, DavidSpence, John
Hirst, MichaelSpencer, D.
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)Stern, Michael
Hooson, TomStevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)
Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Howell, Ralph (N Norfolk)Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
Hunt, David (Wirral)Stradling Thomas, J.
Hurd, Rt Hon DouglasThompson, Donald (Calder V)
Key, RobertThompson, Patrick (N'ich N)
King, Roger (B'ham N'field)Thurnham, Peter
King, Rt Hon Tomvan Straubenzee, Sir W.
Knox, DavidWakeham, Rt Hon John
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)Waller, Gary
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Lightbown, DavidWiggin, Jerry
Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham)Wilkinson, John
Lyell, NicholasWood, Timothy
Macfarlane, Neil
MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)Tellers for the Noes:
MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)Mr. Richard Ottaway and
Madel, DavidMr. Michael Knowles.

Question accordingly negatived.

Amendment proposed: No. 5, in page 7, line 26, leave out subsection(4).—[Mr. Andrew F. Bennett.]

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 36, Noes 75.

Division No. 161][8.56 pm
AYES
Ashdown, PaddyJones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Beith, A. J.Lamond, James
Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh)Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Bruce, MalcolmMcDonald, Dr Oonagh
Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M)McNamara, Kevin
Canavan, DennisMadden, Max
Clark, Dr David (S Shields)Mikardo, Ian
Cohen, HarryMorris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Corbyn, JeremyNellist, David
Dalyell, TamPike, Peter
Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly)Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Dixon, DonaldSkinner, Dennis
Dobson, FrankSmith, C.(Isl'ton S & F'bury)
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.Thorne, Stan (Preston)
Eadie, AlexWainwright, R.
Evans, John (St. Helens N)Wareing, Robert
Golding, John
Hardy, PeterTellers for the Ayes:
Harman, Ms HarrietMs. Jo Richardson and
Howells, GeraintMr. Gerald Bermingham.
NOES
Alexander, RichardLewis, Ron (Carlisle)
Aspinwall, JackLightbown, David
Atkinson, David (B'm'th E)Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham)
Beaumont-Dark, AnthonyLyell, Nicholas
Boscawen, Hon RobertMacfarlane, Neil
Bottomley, PeterMacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)
Brandon-Bravo, MartinMajor, John
Burt, AlistairMeyer, Sir Anthony
Butterfill, JohnMurphy, Christopher
Carlisle, John (N Luton)Neubert, Michael
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Newton, Tony
Chapman, SydneyNicholls, Patrick
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)Onslow, Cranley
Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.Osborn, Sir John
Coombs, SimonPeacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Cope, JohnRaffan, Keith
Currie, Mrs EdwinaRifkind, Malcolm
du Cann, Rt Hon EdwardRobinson, Mark (N'port W)
Farr, JohnRowe, Andrew
Fookes, Miss JanetShersby, Michael
Forman, NigelSkeet, T. H. H.
Franks, CecilSoames, Hon Nicholas
Gardner, Sir Edward (Fylde)Speed, Keith
Garel-Jones, TristanSpence, John
Griffiths, E. (B'y St Edm'ds)Spencer, D.
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)Stern, Michael
Hargreaves, KennethStewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Harvey, RobertStewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
Hawkins, C. (High Peak)Stradling Thomas, J.
Hawkins, Sir Paul (SW N'folk)Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)
Haynes, FrankThurnham, Peter
Heathcoat-Amory, DavidWakeham, Rt Hon John
Hirst, MichaelWardle, C. (Bexhill)
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)Wiggin, Jerry
Hooson, TomWilkinson, John
Howell, Ralph (N Norfolk)Wood, Timothy
Hunt, David (Wirral)
Hurd, Rt Hon DouglasTellers for the Noes:
King, Roger (B'ham N'field)Mr. Richard Ottaway and
King, Rt Hon TomMr. Michael Knowles.
Knox, David

Question accordingly negatived.