Debates between Lord Faulks and Lord Anderson of Ipswich during the 2019 Parliament

Mon 30th Jan 2023
Public Order Bill
Lords Chamber

Report stage: Part 1

Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill

Debate between Lord Faulks and Lord Anderson of Ipswich
Lord Faulks Portrait Lord Faulks (Non-Afl)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

My Lords, I promise I will be brief. First, there appears to be agreement that there was not total agreement on the position of international law. Noble Lords will remember the speech of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hoffman, referring to the article in Policy Exchange. This is not the time to repeat the arguments, one way or another.

It was also agreed that the procedure adopted by the European Court of Human Rights was sub-optimal and there is room for improvement. Improvement may come along the line in due course; we wait to see, and there are some hopeful signs. However, the current position is that it is not a satisfactory procedure.

We then come down to the power. It is important to stress that the Minister has a power, not a duty, which he or she can exercise to ignore the ruling. The Minister does not have to ignore the ruling, and no doubt they will look carefully at the reasons given. Amendment 37 suggests that the Minister will consult the Attorney-General, who I am glad to see sitting in her place beneath the Throne today. I imagine that in a normal course of events, a Minister taking a decision of that gravity would consult the Attorney-General. However, the fact that there is a slender basis for the jurisdiction, that the interim procedure is unsatisfactory, and that there is a power, seem to me to hedge around this provision with appropriate safeguards.

Lord Anderson of Ipswich Portrait Lord Anderson of Ipswich (CB)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I support all the amendments in this group and will be sorry if, as I suspect may be the case, none of them is put to the vote.

I spoke in Committee on the status of interim measures of the European Court in international law. I will not repeat any of that now, although I remind the Minister, as I did informally a moment ago, of the exchange we had at the end of that debate, at about 10.30 pm on 19 February. I asked him whether he agreed with me that if a Minister decided not to comply with an interim measure, as Clause 5 permits, this would place the United Kingdom in breach of its international obligations. He gave me no answer—and frankly accepted that he was giving me no answer—but did undertake to write to me. The Minister did tell me a moment ago that such a letter has been sent, but I am afraid that, despite his best efforts, it has not yet reached me. Will he please be kind enough to read the relevant passage when he answers this debate?

The European Court of Human Rights takes one view, which is generally accepted to be binding on contracting states—including our own—by Article 32 of the ECHR. In brief reference to the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Lilley—I thank him for the courtesy he extended to me earlier in today’s debates—the binding effect of interim measures rulings was clearly accepted in this case by the French Conseil d’Etat, in its judgment of 7 December 2023. I know the noble Lord is very conversant with the French language; if he reads paragraph 5 of that judgment, he will be left in no doubt as to the relevant position.

If, as the noble Lord, Lord Jackson, suggested, the French Government are flouting both the interim measures of the European Court of Human Rights and the judgment of their own highest court, shame on the French Government. Shame on any Government who behave like this. We are used to seeing the Russian Government, the former Government in Poland, behave like this, and we have to make up our mind which camp we are in. That is why it is so important that we understand what the Government’s position is before we vote on the Bill. Is the purpose of Article 5 to permit Ministers to involve this country in breaches of international law, or is it not? I hope that this time, we will have some clarity from the Front Bench.

Public Order Bill

Debate between Lord Faulks and Lord Anderson of Ipswich
Lord Faulks Portrait Lord Faulks (Non-Afl)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

My Lords, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, said, the Constitution Committee considered that a definition of “serious disruption” would be useful. I think there is a measure of agreement around the House that it would be, but the debate is about how best to define it. The amendment tabled by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, to which I have added my name, is an attempt to provide that clarification. I can well imagine a court asking itself, “What is a serious disruption?”, and looking to see whether Parliament has given any help. None is provided at the moment. So I welcome that the Government have accepted, albeit somewhat at the 11th hour, that a definition will be useful.

Amendment 1, moved by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, and which has the support of others who have already spoken to it, places the bar high. When combined with the necessity of proving not only intention or recklessness on behalf of the putative offender but the absence of a reasonable excuse, which—if the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, is accepted—is a prerequisite before you get to the other elements in the offence, it seems to me that, with all those requirements combined, it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to establish that an offence had been committed. That may well be the underlying purpose behind the combination of amendments. The opposition parties may not approve of the legislation, and, if they cannot get rid of it altogether, they may wish to emasculate it to such an extent that, practically, it cannot be relied upon. That is a perfectly tenable point of view, but not one that I share—and neither do the general public, I think, having seen the effect of some recent demonstrations.

The definition proposed by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, does not place the bar as high as the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, does in his amendment. The former provides for an act that

“will result in, or will be capable of causing, serious disruption if it prevents or would hinder to more than a minor degree”—

he emphasised that last phrase—

“the individuals or the organisation from carrying out their daily activities.”

Clearly, that would exclude mere inconvenience, but it would include “disrupting”—that is an important word—people going to work, hospital, a funeral or a sporting event or taking a child to school; in other words, their “daily activities”. If they were inconvenienced only to a minor degree, that would not be a serious disruption, but the amendment tabled by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, would, I suggest, be a useful guide to courts in determining what amounts to a serious disruption. If it is suggested that it sets the bar too low, we should bear in mind those additional requirements: mere accidental interference is not enough. We should bear in mind, too, how those are bespoke amendments to deal with locking on or tunnelling; they are not general or vague attempts to raise the bar to a particular level.

I also think the opposition parties may wish to bear in mind what the Labour Party shadow Justice Secretary said in connection to this:

“Our brave emergency services are being held up from helping those in distress, and lives have been put at risk. On top of that, the public has been stopped from going about their everyday business.”

I do not suppose that the Opposition would wish to disassociate themselves from that. It seems entirely consistent with the amendments tabled by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, on serious disruption—and, when we come to them, on “reasonable excuse”.

Of course, I entirely accept that the right to protest is fundamental, and we must, as citizens, be prepared to put up with inconvenience caused by those exercising that important democratic right. We may find it noisy and annoying—depending on how much we sympathise with the cause, even very annoying—but that would not be enough to be a serious disruption. It must be something more than annoying, but less than the very high hurdle which must be surmounted by the wording of the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker. Ultimately, it may come down to whether your Lordships consider that the right to protest is so fundamental that it must trump the rights of ordinary people going about their everyday lives. It is a difficult balance to strike, but although I profoundly respect the right to protest and have sympathy for many of the relevant causes, it seems to me that one has to counterbalance that with the rights of others to go about their lives—those rights are entitled to protection, too, and this amendment attempts to achieve a balance between those respective rights.

Lord Anderson of Ipswich Portrait Lord Anderson of Ipswich (CB)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I am also glad that your Lordships’ House is trying to explain for the benefit of protesters and police what is meant by “serious disruption”, even if we are not finding it very easy.

I will start with the new tunnelling offences in Clauses 3 and 4, which, as I said in Committee in support of the consistent approach of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, are in a very particular category. The key point, recognised in Amendments 14 and 24, is that the disruption liable to be caused by tunnelling is not to the general public but to construction or maintenance works. Delays to the delivery of time-sensitive products, and prolonged disruption of access to a rather specific range of goods and services specified in Amendment 1 of the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, are not really to the point. The one-size-fits-all approach in Amendment 1 is neither designed for nor appropriate to the tunnelling offences. I would add that to require disruption to be “more than minor” in order to constitute the new offences seems quite sufficiently generous to tunnellers who are seeking to disrupt those engaged in lawfully organised works. That is why I put my name to Amendments 14 and 24 and shall support them if they are put to a vote.

The arguments are more finely balanced in relation to Amendment 5. The locking-on offence, as the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, has said, can be constituted by a remarkably wide range of actions. I am wary of a test that is too easy to satisfy, bearing in mind that serious disruption, or the prospect of serious disruption, is the trigger for the no-suspicion stop and search power, and for SDPOs, the whole existence of which is controversial, at least to me. But I take comfort from the fact that, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, has explained, hindrance to the public needs to be significant before it can meet the test of being more than minor. Indeed, “significant”, not “substantial”, is the very word used in Amendment 1 when it refers not only to “significant harm” but to “significant delay”.

The recent Policy Exchange briefing, to which the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, referred, complains that the “more than minor” test may be interpreted in the light of the Strasbourg case law

“so as to maximise the space for protest”.

I agree that it will have to be interpreted in conformity with the ECHR. Policy Exchange seems dismayed by that; I am rather encouraged by it. When the definition offered by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, is criticised from one side for being too easy to satisfy and from the other for being too difficult to satisfy, perhaps it is not too wide of the mark, even in this more sensitive context.

My main point is that whatever view noble Lords may take of Amendment 5, the case for Amendments 14 and 24 is a strong one. I hope we will have the chance to vote for them.