New Clause 6 - Police directions stopping the harassment etc of a person in his home

Part of Criminal Justice and Police Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:30 pm on 6th March 2001.

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Photo of Stephen Ladyman Stephen Ladyman Labour, South Thanet 12:30 pm, 6th March 2001

In a letter to members of the Committee, the Research Defence Society said that it was delighted with the Government's efforts, but it hoped that they would pay further attention to the issues mentioned and perhaps consider them at a later stage. We may be able to deal with them now, while we are considering the amendments, and I shall encourage the Government to do so.

I return to new clause 6 and say, in reply to the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey, that I do not believe that Members of Parliament should be exempted from the provision. Members are entitled to have their private homes protected.

A colleague was telling me in the Tea Room the other day that local demonstrators who objected to a recent bombing raid conducted a demonstration at her home and left a coffin on her front lawn. That is not a reasonable demonstration against a Member of Parliament; such a demonstration should have been at her constituency office, at the House of Commons or in the local high street. It is not appropriate to demonstrate at someone's private home. Before Opposition Members jump up and ask about hunt saboteurs, I say that if people are engaged in a legal activity they are entitled to the protection of the law, whether they are hunting or doing anything else. It will not be lawful for people to hunt in a few months' time and we will expect the law to be invoked. The law cuts both ways. We should ensure that it works like that.

I am worried about new clause 6. What will happen if people acting in concert demonstrate at someone's home, much in the way that was mentioned by the hon. Member for Surrey Heath? A small group of people turn up with placards one day and are sent away by the police. Two other people turn up the next day and are sent away by the police. Each time, the home owner will have to call the police, who will arrive 45 minutes later and send the demonstrators away. That will go on day after day.

Will the Minister give some thought to tightening up the legislation still further on Report, to provide some mechanism to enable the police to prosecute people who are acting in concert to carry out such demonstrations?