Amendment No. 2 is quite a useful shorthand amendment in that it deals with the problem of inadvertence far more subtly than did the Scottish drafting. I am assured by the Home Office and legal advisers that the phrase “without reasonable excuse” covers all that is required, and does so singularly succinctly. I commend the amendment to the Committee.
In effect, we have already had the debate on assault, but I shall make one observation: it is one thing to talk about what a Government Bill can do, and another to talk about what is achievable with a private Member’s Bill. I do not wish to tweak the tail of thehon. Member for Arundel and South Downs, but on his Benches sits the scourge of the private Member’s Bill, who delights in sabotaging Bill after Bill, and does so with great ability. He ominously stood up, early on, and made it clear to me that he would not tolerate the inclusion of a new offence of assault. Since I like him very much and admire him enormously—at one time, I had a similar job to his on the Front Bench, giving us a sort of union compatibility—I recognised that his threat was not insignificant. It was more of a threat in some ways than that of my hon. Friend the Minister, I think. As we shall have only one day for Report, I responded not just to the pressures from my own Benches, but to the formidable pressures from the Opposition Benches.