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.

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Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 12:45 pm, 6th March 2001

I will not raise a point of order, but the Liberal Democrats have always taken the view that we need more time, so we support the hon. Member for North-East Hertfordshire on that.

The new clauses and amendments are important. On Second Reading on 29 January, I anticipated that the Government would table new clauses on these matters and said that my hon. Friends would be sympathetic because the law was inadequate in certain respects. The Liberal Democrats will support Government new clause 6. However, we shall table amendments on Report to improve it. That is sensible and we could then consider what further needs to be done. A catching-up exercise is necessary.

The group includes Government new clauses and the amendment to one of them by the hon. Member for South Thanet; Conservative new clauses; and a Liberal new clause. They are somewhat strangely grouped together. They raise several issues about the right to protest and its limits, and the circumstances in which civil disobedience should be prevented from going too far.

Let me tell the hon. Member for Surrey Heath that civil disobedience is entirely proper and laudable, provided it does not turn into violence and aggression. He must be careful not to confuse the two. The right to protest sometimes includes civil disobedience; it is not the same as threatening, intimidating, causing aggression and attacking. I put my hands up to having taken part in civil disobedience protests over the years—to save Twyford down, for example—but always avoiding violence towards those who are going about their business in other contexts.

Freedom of information issues are also important and one of the new clauses restricts the right to know shareholders' addresses; we debated who else should fall under that category and in what circumstances.

Our new clause 19 is a probing one in the sense that it provides an opportunity to raise with the Government how best to deal with the linked matters of specific forms of insidious crime and their perpetrators, through sentencing and punishment. The Government said that that was on their agenda. Neither I nor my hon. Friend the Member for Taunton were responsible for home affairs at the time, but my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Allan) raised important issues during the passage of what became the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. My hon. Friend distinguished between race hate crimes and other hate crimes—some based on sexuality, as mentioned by the hon. Member for South Thanet, others on religion and gender. We want to elicit the Government's views on those matters.

We shall support the amendment tabled by the hon. Member for South Thanet to Government new clause 7. As to the Conservative new clauses, new clause 14 is appropriate. It would change the law, dispensing with the need for a recurrence of harassment, which is unduly restrictive. We are happy to move on, but we think—