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 12:45 pm on 6th March 2001.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Stephen Ladyman Stephen Ladyman Labour, South Thanet 12:45 pm, 6th March 2001

I am perfectly prepared to accept that Her Majesty's Opposition do not support any illegal activities. I am simply pointing out that they have shown themselves to be entirely luddite in their attitude to the scientific development of biotechnology. If the hon. Member for Surrey Heath can make such an attack on the Labour party, he can take some of it back.

However, let us return to the amendments. If a jury can acquit someone who destroyed crops, it could acquit someone who defended himself on the basis that he wrote to someone threatening to destroy crops because he believed that he had a right to do so. I want the legislation to be amended to make it absolutely clear that someone cannot send through the post threats of any illegal activity. Someone can send threats of legal retribution, but not of illegal retribution. That is the rationale behind my amendment.

New clause 20 deals with directors' addresses. I simply repeat the point that, for people who have already registered themselves as directors, the genie is clearly out of the bottle. They have put their name and address in the public domain. Nevertheless, they may be able to provide themselves with some protection by re-registering in the way allowed by the new clause, if it is allowed. When someone has got hold of a director's name and address, there is nothing that the Government can do to take it back, but someone who makes a new application to Companies House to find out a director's address would be unable to find it if such people were allowed to re-register. I should like the Minister to think about the possibility that a mechanism will be put in place to allow people to re-register.

New clause 20 will protect people who will be directors or permanent representatives of companies, but will not necessarily protect all shareholders. I would still like to hear from the Department of Trade and Industry what it intends to do to protect ordinary shareholders. Many of the activities aimed at Huntingdon Life Sciences were aimed at its shareholders. I have said publicly that it was reprehensible for the Labour party to withdraw its pension funds from that company as a result of threats. It was a gross misjudgment, which came about because our pension shareholding was identifiable—which meant that protesters could lobby us directly, putting us under intimidatory pressure. Shareholders should also be protected.

Finally, I asked for clarification on whether the Liberal Democrats' new clause 19 should be included in the group of amendments because it is not, in my view, about animal experiments. It is about crimes of hate. I completely understand and agree with the sentiment underlying the new clause, but I believe that unprovoked actions against individuals should be treated seriously, whatever their motivation. Under new clause 19, it would be considered an aggravated offence if I assaulted the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey because I disapproved of his sexual orientation—I do not know his sexual orientation or whether I would disapprove of it; I am not making any comment about him. However, if I assaulted him because he is a Liberal Democrat, that would not be an aggravated offence. [Interruption.] All right, I withdraw that example. The hon. Gentleman none the less gets my point. His new clause would create anomalies that I do not want in the law.

I look forward to hearing the Minister's response to what I have said and hope that he will take my comments, which were offered in the spirit of constructive criticism, in good part. He mistakenly said that the Opposition tabled my amendment.