HC Deb 04 June 1951 vol 488 cc679-80
39. Mr. H. A. Price

asked the Attorney-General if, in view of the recent legal decision that gas inspectors, under the Gas Act, 1948, have power to force an entry into private premises without a warrant, he will consider the introduction of legislation removing such powers from all who possess them and making it necessary for a warrant to be obtained in all such cases.

The Attorney-General

Powers such as those exercised by the gas inspector in the case to which the hon. Gentleman refers, have existed as part of our legislation since the Gasworks Clauses Act, 1871. I am not aware that they have been oppressively or unfairly exercised. I do not think there is any ground for the change which the hon. Gentleman suggests in relation to these powers, or for making it necessary for a warrant to be obtained before any powers of entry available under our law are exercised.

42. Mr. Bossom

asked the Attorney-General if he will consider restoring the traditional privacy of the British home by removing the right of entry of any official or other person without a court order or a search warrant.

The Attorney-General

It is, unfortunately, unavoidable that the law should in certain circumstances permit of entry without warrant into private houses, and this has been found necessary in our legislation for a long time past. Generally, the power is only exercisable when the premises are also used for business purposes. I do not think that a wholesale change in the law such as suggested by the hon. Gentleman is either necessary or practicable.

Mr. Bossom

Does not the Minister realise that for a great many years the legal system of Great Britain was considered entirely satisfactory, and that the great majority of people are quite as honest as the snoopers who go into their houses?

The Attorney-General

I certainly realise that the system has been considered satisfactory. These powers have been inherent in it for a long time.

Colonel Gomme-Duncan

Is it not the first duty of this House not to make laws but to preserve freedom? Will the Attorney-General not admit that however sympathetically the law may be administered at the moment it is the basis of the police State to have the right of entry without warrant?

Mr. Braine

Is this question not the most important on the Order Paper today, and is there not at least a case for restricting the number of officials in the exercise of these powers?

The Attorney-General

I entirely agree that powers to enter private houses should be used as sparingly as possible. So far as I am aware there is no power in our legislative system which transgresses that principle.