My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, who moved the amendment, which is about the need for fast-track exclusion zones around schools to prevent, in particular, anti-vaccination protests in the vicinity of schools.
If she will allow me, I said to the noble Baroness, Lady Fox of Buckley, I think after we finished on Monday night, how important it is to have her voice in the Chamber to test these sorts of issues. All I would say to her on this occasion is that the amendment talks about “activities carried on” that have
“a detrimental effect on the quality of life for pupils and staff”.
So it is not simply a question of banning any demonstration in the vicinity of a school. It would have to have that detrimental effect. I understand that that is a subjective judgment, but at least there is something there, rather than just a blanket ban on anybody protesting about anything at all.
Noble Lords will not need me to tell them that this is not about protecting children, perhaps older school-age children, from not being vaccinated. It is about protecting the whole community because, as we know from previous times in the pandemic, there is a risk of schoolchildren infecting vulnerable parents and grandparents. We also know from the health data that being double-vaccinated does not necessarily protect you completely from the worst effects of Covid, and in particular long Covid, although it gives you much better protection. On the news yesterday, an expert was talking about the fact that, although Covid has mild effects on children, it is not known how much they could be affected by long Covid. So this is not simply about a demonstration outside a school; this is a wider public health issue. However, I understand that, although that is what the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, is aiming at here, the amendment, if passed, would have wider implications than just for anti-vaccination protests.
Amendment 292S, from the noble Lord, Lord Bassam of Brighton, relates to online racism against footballers and enabling football banning orders to be made against those guilty of online racial hatred directed at a member of a football team. He is probably the best-qualified noble Lord to talk on this issue, bearing in mind his experience on the Front Bench in the Home Office under the Labour Government who introduced the banning orders in the first place, and the beneficial effect that they have had in rooting out racism in football. It is a serious problem.
Talking about a hierarchy of diversity is fraught with danger. But, as a gay man, I have always considered racism to be a far more serious issue than, say, homophobia. Some people might argue against this; but I could conceal my sexuality if people from a different planet did not know who I was or what my background was. But you cannot hide your colour; you cannot avoid racism in the way that some gay people, at least, could avoid homophobia; it would not be obvious to people.
I do not know of any professional footballers who have been open about their sexuality, because of their concerns about being open about it. Hopefully, as years go by and social attitudes change, some professional footballers will be open about their sexuality. They should be able to benefit from similar protection, so this legislation should not exclusively provide protection for racism, which is the major issue at the moment, while professional footballers’ sexuality is not. This is a good idea, and hopefully the Government will discuss how this can be taken forward.
This group is diverse—not in the sense of “diversity,” but in terms of the different subjects covered. Amendment 292U, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester, highlights a loophole in the law. My understanding—although I am not sure as there was no explanatory note—is that it is unlawful for scrap metal dealers to pay cash for scrap metal, but it is not against the law to sell it on for cash. That is the loophole. A scrap metal dealer who surreptitiously acquires stolen metal could sell it on for cash, and the noble Lord’s amendment would disallow that. The payment would have to be made by a traceable means, thus clamping down in the other side of the transaction, which makes sense.
We have debated the issue of scrap metal and the impact on the railway system and churches, for example, and the problem with catalytic converters. As shortages of resources are exacerbated by countries coming out of lockdown and the demand for raw materials grows, scrap metal will become an increasingly important issue. Therefore, closing this loophole regarding the other side of the transaction seems sensible, and we support it.