§ '(1) Any rule of common law which authorises a police constable to exercise a power in circumstances which are in substance the same as circumstances in which a particular power is given to a constable by this Act shall be abolished.
§ (2) Any such common law rule shall cease to apply on the date when the section of this Act creating a power applicable in the same circumstances as the rule comes into force.'.—[Mr. Bell.]
§ Brought up, and read the First time.
§ Mr. Bell
I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.
I am grateful for the opportunity to move the new clause, especially as we have had stimulating debates in Committee on the common law and statutory powers. I refer the Minister, if he needs to be reminded of it, to the 23rd sitting of Standing Committee E, when we discussed the powers of citizen's arrest and whether that was being abrogated by the Bill or whether we could abrogate the citizen's power of arrest. I do not want to repeat our interesting and stimulating discussion in its entirety, but it was indicative of our difficulties when dealing with the common law in relation to statute.
The Government, during our 59 sittings in Committee, consistently said that they were simply codifying the common law. The Opposition said, and I repeat, that, if that were so, why could we not codify the common law in the Bill by accepting new clause 16? If the Government believe that we are putting on to the statute book laws that have existed for many years as part of the common law, it is right and proper for them to say so. New clause 16 would then go to the heart of the matter.
The Government introduced new clause 6, which tackled a small area of police powers. They propose to abolish the statutory or common law powers relating to personal or intimate body searches at a police station. That is a rather limited approach, which arose specifically from our challenges in Committee during debates on clauses 48 and 49. We believe that the common law, if we are referring to it in relation to the Bill, should be generalised and put on the statute book.
New clause 16 is intended to deal with powers that exist in common law and to make clear that, where there is an overlap, the Bill should prevail. The areas that we believe would be affected include the circumstances of an arrest, with the requirement that a person must be told that he is being arrested and the reason for it, the extent to which he can be searched when arrested and the extent to which premises where he is or where he lives can be searched.
The codification of the common law in the statute would cover the seizure of property belonging to innocent third parties or where no arrest is made, as well as the power to stop a vehicle—that is, the power to set up road checks. We discussed the relevant clause earlier this evening.
Clause 4 sets out for the first time the circumstances in which the police may stop vehicles by means of a road check. We believe that the common law power to stop vehicles at a road check is limited to when the police are 110 looking for a person who is unlawfully at large. The Minister referred to the public order aspects of the common law, but that common law right has been extended to cover a variety of other reasons why a road check should be set up—notably a search for a witness or for those who might commit a crime, and a search in areas that might be subject to a crime wave at a certain time. In such circumstances. the setting up of a road check would be sensible. That shows the extension of the common law rather than its codification.
The aim of our amendment is clearly to set and define the limits under which the statute and the common law will be abrogated and substituted. We felt that the criteria under which we have been operating, certainly in relation to clause 4, were too wide. We have criticised the random setting up of road blocks in most inner city areas at any time.
The new clause, which seeks to abolish common law powers, imposes a restriction on the powers of the police. We seek to redefine them in the law, so that there are no difficulties in interpretation. There was a difficulty in interpretation when we dealt with road checks. It was said that the road blocks set up by the police in the Dartford tunnel episode had been set up not in relation to the common law powers as they might relate to the Police and Criminal Evidence Bill but in relation to the Public Order Act. The Minister nods. That must be the right approach by the Government to this matter and the right interpretation. When those road blocks were set up, we were not fully aware of the legal situation.
Earlier in the debate I quoted the Attorney-General, who gave rulings on the common law relating to the setting up of road blocks by the police. I also quoted from the appeal court, which was slightly different. That quotation highlighted the difficulties in which we find ourselves with a Bill which seeks to clarify and define the law, but which, in the end, simply confuses it.
Therefore, the clause is important for the citizen, so that he knows exactly what his rights are and how they are to be defined. I referred to the report of the Royal Commission on criminal procedure. The Government took as their starting point in their Green Paper the need to safeguard fundamental human rights. We are still discussing the safeguarding of human rights today. We believe that through our new clause we are assisting in the safeguarding of those fundamental human rights. If the Government believe that these clauses are related to the common law, I cannot see why they would not wish to accept new clause 16.
§ Mr. Lofthouse
As my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. Bell) said, clause 4, for the first time, sets out the circumstances in which the police may stop vehicles by means of a road check. It remains clear that the criteria are far too wide and could enable the setting up of random road blocks in most inner city areas at any time.
The new clause, which seeks to abolish common law powers, would impose a restriction on the power to set up road blocks. Therefore, it would affect police practice during the current miners' dispute. They would be able 10 set up road blocks under powers within clause 4. It provides for a road check if a person who is suspected of a serious arrestable offence is in the area, or the pattern of crime in the area is such that a serious arrestable offence is likely to be committed.
111 10.15 pm
I was tempted to speak in the debate because of the road blocks that the police have set up during the past nine or 10 weeks to deal with the miners' dispute. We need clarification on the criminal and civil laws. The police should be strictly confined to what is properly defined by statute. They should no longer be able to use common law, which is sometimes many years old, to cover circumstances that are not met by statute. The miners' strike highlighted that problem. Some police officers have referred to grey areas. All hon. Members know about the problems relating to the incident at the Dartford tunnel. It caused arguments, and the Attorney-General gave his views on the matter. At the court hearing the judge found against the miners' case, but he did not pass judgment on several aspects of the union's case.
The interpretation of a law appears to be a senior police officer's interpretation of it at a particular time. The miners have therefore been unable to understand why they were stopped, arrested and questioned. They heard the opinions of the Attorney-General, but then they switched on their televisions and saw the chief constable of Greater Manchester telling them that, had he been the officer in charge, he would not have stopped them at the Dartford tunnel, which confused them. They are law-abiding men and most of them have never been in trouble before. The Government are responsible for putting an end to this uncertainty, and they have an opportunity to do so. New clause 16 goes a long way to assisting with that.
Other chief constables are also greatly anxious about the present position in relation to the law. In today's Yorkshire Post it states:Road blocks could be illegal, say police.The use of police roadblocks to stop miners reaching picket lines could be illegal, a police federation spokesman admitted yesterday. Insp. Bob Lax, spokesman for South Yorkshire Police Federation, said it would like the law tried and tested in court. Police say they have a legal right to stop and turn back cars if they fear the occupants might cause a breach of the peace if they were allowed through to picket lines. But Insp. Lax said: 'The difficulty is that you have to try to prove someone's state of mind in advance, and anticipate their intentions'".He is yet another senior police officer who questions the instructions of senior officers to young police officers, who must carry out the duties.
The Times today quoted police officers and the Police Federation expressing some anxiety about police activity on the picket lines and in stopping miners from reaching picket lines. Martin Kettle, the home affairs editor of The Times, states:Activists in the 115,000-strong Police Federation, which represents officers below the rank of superintendent, believe that chief constables have been pushing officers into 'a legal no-man's land' in ordering them to cordon off the coalfields and prevent pickets from travelling to working colliery areas. 'We are really stretching the law', one official said last week.Can one imagine the confusion, anxiety and annoyance of many law-abiding miners?
The Government have a responsibility to define the difference between civil and criminal law not only so that those who are not well-versed in the law can understand it, but so that the police authorities and senior policemen can understand it. If they cannot understand it it is hard lines for the people on the receiving end.
The article in The Times states:The chief constable of Leicestershire, Alan Goodson, whose area contains nine pits that are still working, said: 'There are new dimensions to these disorders. I think there is an obligation on chief constables to sit down and see what measures if any, are 112 appropriate and to put those ideas up to the government.' The chief officers' association is stressing, however, that it has not been receiving complaints that police powers are inadequate to deal with the mass pickets.Of course, the powers have been adequate because they have succeeded, but have they succeeded by the police acting lawfully? The law must be simplified and rectified. The position might have lasted for many years, but it has been highlighted by the miners' dispute.
The article continues:The proforma statement, issued by Nottinghamshire Constabulary, is described by the federation in its monthly magazine as 'highly politicised verbiage'. Some officers have refused to use it when making arrests.
It might be for the convenience of the House, since some hon. Members might not yet have read it, to quote the article in the Police Federation magazine. It states:Who is the organising genius in Notts who dreamed up the idea of a standard witness statement to be signed by arresting officers in cases of breach of the peace and suchlike during the mining dispute? It states: 'I keep myself fairly conversant with current affairs by daily reference to local and national newspapers. Whenever possible, I also listen to local and national radio and watch television news broadcasts. I am well aware that for some weeks now there has been a dispute between the NUM and the NCB. During this particular dispute I have witnessed on the television scenes where large numbers of pickets and demonstrators have congregated outside Nottinghamshire coal mines in an effort to prevent local miners getting to work. Some of the scenes on television or information gleamed from the media has portrayed large crowds acting in an abusive, threatening or disorderly manner. The mere fact of large numbers acting in such a manner must, I believe, have a frightening effect upon people wishing to go about their ordinary course of business.I know from briefings whilst performing my duties in connection with the NUM dispute, unlawful demonstrations have occurred at local collieries and it is my belief, that to allow persons to visit local collieries to unlawfully picket, or demonstrate in large numbers would intimidate local workers. I consider this conduct is likely to cause a breach of the peace.'I understand that that is meant to be signed. The magazine goes on to say:The officer then completes the form by giving details of the particular incident which has led to the arrest and charge. Just what the courts might make of a succession of such identical statements, all giving the sworn views of picketing of the testifying officer, is best left to the imagination of the lawyers who, instructed by the NUM, would have a field day.Fortunately, some members of visiting PSUs have refused to go along with this highly politicised verbiage, and have insisted on making their witness statements in their own way. After all they are professional police officers, are they not?Those involved are thus told beforehand what form to fill in. It is reported that 20,000 arrests have been made of those on the miners' picket lines and of those travelling to them. The vast majority of those men are law-abiding and have never been in trouble in their lives. They are never likely to be in trouble again. The Government have a great responsibility to put matters right. Given all that has been said by senior police officers and by the Police Federation, one can conclude only that many of the men have been wrongfully arrested. Through the new clause, the Government have a chance to put the matter right.
§ Mr. Barron
Does my hon. Friend agree that a considerable number of people have been charged using that pro forma? Furthermore, does he agree that to say that people who are miles away can be charged and found guilty tends to cloud the issue?
§ Mr. Lofthouse
I certainly agree. We are concerned with the protection of innocent people, including miners, but I am sure that young policemen would also welcome 113 clarification of the law, as they have to administer it. That should certainly be welcomed by senior police officers, who have admitted, in the quotations that I have given, that they are confused about the situation. I hope that the Government will, therefore, accept the new clause.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
The main thrust of the new clause is virtually to get rid of the common law powers of the police, but presumably not those of the citizen. I do not know whether the intention behind the new clause, in putting an end to the common law in respect of police officers, is to include all citizens, but if it is, I hope that that will be made clear. I cannot believe that the Opposition intend that the ordinary common law rights, powers, and responsibilities of the citizen should be washed out by a new clause that has been introduced on Report. It would be a massive upheaval in the whole philosophy of law and practice in this country if we did that. Therefore, I must assume that the new clause is intended to apply solely to the police.
§ Mr. Lofthouse
It does not apply solely to the police. It seeks to clarify the situation that has developed during the past few months in the mining industry.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I am grateful for that explanation, but the House has to deal with what appears on the Order Paper rather than what the hon. Gentleman divines it to mean. As it stands, the new clause would certainly mean that any rule of common law authorising a police officer to exercise a power would be at an end in respect of the new powers provided in the Bill. I asked the question and I think that I have the answer. I believe that this is intended to apply to the police and to the police alone, not to ordinary citizens. As it stands, the police henceforth would be unable to exercise any common law power in substance the same as the powers conferred on them by the Bill. That is what the new clause says.
I therefore return to my question. Is it intended that only the police will lose those common law powers, or will all citizens lose them? The latter would be a radical change without any consultation and with the gravest possible consequences. If, however, the Opposition intend that the police and the police alone shall be thus inhibited, the strange situation will arise in which an ordinary citizen who is not a police officer can carry out certain powers under the common law whereas police officers cannot. To put it mildly, it is a practical absurdity and a logical nonsense for Parliament to inhibit a police officer from doing that which a citizen may do, so on that ground alone the new clause is technically defective.
I appreciate, however, that the new clause is designed to permit discussion of a matter of far greater concern to the House—the common law powers used by the police in the miners' dispute—and there is no reason why we should not debate on Report a matter that I believe has been insufficiently debated in the House. I believe that I carry the hon. Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Barron) with me on that.
On the specific matter of Inspector Lax and the speech so effectively made by the hon. Member for Pontefract and Castleford (Mr. Lofthouse), I should point out that I had already quoted the passage that the hon. Gentleman read from the Police Federation magazine during an earlier debate in which he did not take part. I make no complaint 114 about that. Indeed, I suspect that it will be picked up by the editor of the magazine as one of the few publications ever to be quoted twice from opposite sides of the House on the same occasion. That is a matter of credit.
I remind the House that I associated myself entirely with the Police Federation view of the pro forma. So far as I am aware—I am subject to correction here—that pro forma has not yet been used in any case that so far has been brought and I hope that it never will be used. In my view, it would be improper for the police to base themselves on such a rigid, formalised document. I believe, too, that it is an insult to their intelligence. If a professional police officer is incapable of putting forward the evidence and the case that he is making on his own recognisance, he should not be in the police service at all. To put it in plain English, whoever dreamed up that formula needs to have his head examined. I hope that members of PSUs who go up into the coal mining areas will have nothing to do with such forms but will make their own judgments as professionals in their own way. If the form has emerged from the Nottinghamshire force, that force should drop it forthwith. I hope that that is clear enough for the hon. Member for Pontefract and Castleford.
I turn to the position as the new clause would have it. At the moment, in respect of the miners' strike or any other incidents that may threaten the public peace, the police are using powers that arise for the most part under the common law. There is a web of other laws, including the Public Order Act and the Road Traffic Acts, but at the moment we are talking about the common law powers.
I suggest that if any person — whether he be a member of the NUM, or any citizen or any Member of the House — believes that the police have exceeded the proper powers that the common law provides to them, he should act in two ways. First, he should found a complaint against the individual police officer concerned. Under the existing law, let alone this Bill which greatly extends the complaints procedure, that complaint will be investigated thoroughly. I believe that it is right to bring such complaints if there is evidence to sustain them. But when some trade union leaders or certain political members of police authorities allege that the police have exceeded their powers and are asked either by the federation or by chief officers to bring complaints so that they can be investigated, either they refuse to do so or they are unable to provide any evidence to sustain them.
The real test of those who wish to complain is that they should come forward and put before the relevant authority the evidence that they have.
§ Mr. Terry Patchett (Barnsley, East)
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is aware that that requires the police officer's number and name. If he wears no number and gives his name as that of Mr. Policeman, how can a miner or anyone else pursue a complaint against him? What is more, the complainant is frightened to press the police officer in case he makes further charges. I am sure that these incidents have occurred. How can the complaints procedure be followed in those circumstances?
§ Mr. Griffiths
I deal quite explicitly with the challenge that the hon. Gentleman has thrown down across the Floor. If he provides the evidence of when he says or his informant tells him that a police officer stopped him on the motorway or anywhere else when not wearing uniform—
§ Mr. Griffiths
If the hon. Gentleman is saying that some police officers are wearing improper uniform, he makes an even more serious allegation. Let him give chapter and verse. Let him give the time, the place and the circumstances, and I can assure him that the matter of which he complains will be taken with the utmost seriousness because it is not only the allegation that the police have usurped their powers that he makes; he is saying that police officers are going about in uniform improperly dressed, that they are refusing to give their names and refusing to have their numbers examined. That is a serious disciplinary offence. If he makes that allegation in the House, he ought to be prepared to sustain it. I challenge him to do so.
That is only the first remedy. That is the proper procedure of making a complaint if any miner or any Member of the House believes that a police officer has behaved improperly. But, secondly, if there is a charge against the police along these lines, almost certainly it will amount to a breach of the law, and the police are accountable to the law as well as to their own discipline codes. Hon. Members may disagree with that view, but that is the formal position. If there is evidence that the police have broken the law, it is up to every Member of the House, which is more concerned for the rule of law than any other place, to bring that evidence before a court of law.
The hon. Member for Pontefract and Castleford referred to the Dartford tunnel episode. When that was reported in the press I too was surprised. I have been involved with the police service for far longer than I like to remember, certainly for all of 14 years. I was genuinely surprised. I took note of the rather, if I may say so, foolish remark of the chief constable of Greater Manchester, who, on a television programme, offered an opinion about a matter of which he knew nothing. To that extent —I choose my words carefully—he stabbed a fellow police officer, the chief constable of Kent, in the back without bothering first to do his homework. That is not the proper thing for the chief constable of Greater Manchester to do.
§ Mr. Bell
I saw that particular programme. Is it not the case that the chief constable of Greater Manchester was following the view of the Court of Appeal that where there was an imminent likelihood of a breach of the peace it was right for police to act in the way that they did? Therefore, is it not a fact that the chief constable was simply following a rule laid down by the Court of Appeal?
§ Mr. Griffiths
I am sure that we have all from time to time been on radio and television programmes. We have all been confronted by difficult questions. When Mr. Anderson replied to that question he was in a difficult position. As the hon. Gentleman says, he was making reference to a previous judgment of the Court of Appeal. But he then went further to offer his opinion that if he had been handling the situation he would not have done what the chief constable of Kent did in those circumstances. That was unwise for any chief officer because it is a fairly good rule of the road that individual chief officers cannot tell other chief officers what to do in their areas.
§ Mr. Barron
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will pass comment not on the chief constable of Greater Manchester 116 but on Inspector Lax, an official of the South Yorkshire Police Federation, who also questioned about whether it was within the law to stop and in some instances charge people at police road blocks in the current dispute.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I was getting to Inspector Lax after having made my way to him by way of the chief constable of Greater Manchester.
I simply say on this central issue that if any mining picket, NUM official, Member of the House or anybody else has a complaint to make they owe it to the police and to themselves to bring that complaint and the evidence so that it can be examined. Secondly, if there is sufficient evidence they need as well to bring an action before the courts so that the courts can determine whether the police have exceeded their powers. That is the proper way to proceed.
There has been a great deal of unsustained allegation, but as yet there has been no proof. With great respect to hon. Members, it is being hopelessly unfair upon the police service to make a series of undocumented allegations and not to be able to come forward in any case that I am aware of with proof, or at least a demonstration to a court of law, which would sustain the charges that have been made. None of us wants to scatter around allegations without charge.
§ Mr. Griffiths
That is a matter not for the police but for the courts. On any issue at all, be it the powers of the police or anything else, what happens in the courts of law is entirely separate from the police. The proper remedy is the one I have described.
§ Mr. Bell
I trust that the hon. Gentleman will not be provocative at this time of night in relation to picketing in the miners' dispute. Is it not a fact that the failure of the Kent miners to get an injunction against the police to stop them interfering with the movement of pickets did not mean that the action of the police was found to have been lawful?
§ Mr. Griffiths
This is a matter, I believe, for the courts. It is important to bring it before the courts. So far, I repeat, there has been a whole series of wild allegations. As yet, there has been no proof. If there is proof, let us have it, and the sooner the better.
I have to refer to some of the allegations. It has been said, for example, that the police are engaged in political policing and that it is justified by the common law with which we are dealing in the new clause. The truth is that the police are not engaged in political action. The police have nothing to do with the Government's trade union legislation. They are in no way involved in that, because that is a civil matter. As all hon. Members know, the Coal Board—and, indeed, most other such bodies—has shied away from the civil legislation, for reasons to which no doubt the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) will wish to refer. But the police are not involved in any sense in this legislation. To allege against them that they are engaged in political policing, and are enforcing the Government's trade union laws, is simply untrue, and it ought not to be alleged against them.
The second allegation is that the police are using the common law to introduce into the country paramilitary policing. On behalf of the large number of men and 117 women in the Police Federation I want to say that they very much resent the suggestion that they are acting like the police of South Africa or of Poland. They are doing no such thing. In the policing that we have seen so far in this dispute—and some of it has had to be fairly hard—there has been none of the apparatus of paramilitary policing with which we have become all too familiar in other countries. In most countries, paramilitary policing means the use of water cannon, the use of the baton charge, the use of the gun, and the many other actions that are strictly paramilitary. Our police have involved themselves in none of those powers. To allege that they have done so under the common law powers that the House is now debating is a travesty of the facts.
§ Mr. Lofthouse
Could the hon. Gentleman inform the House which hon. Members have made the allegation in the debate to which he refers?
§ Mr. Griffiths
I have with me—but I think that the House would prefer that I draw my remarks to a conclusion —allegations that have been made of the police tapping telephones. No evidence has been provided. I have allegations of paramilitary policing. There is no such evidence. I have allegations of political policing. There is no such evidence. Hon. Gentlemen ought not to put their names to allegations for which they are unable to provide any proof.
§ Mr. Maxton
The hon. Gentleman has been accusing other hon. Members of making allegations and accusations for which there is no proof. He is now making the same allegations without being prepared to name people. If he is now prepared to do that, fair enough.
§ Mr. Griffiths
It is important that other hon. Members should be able to speak. I have given way something like eight times, and I had better not give way any more. The police service is at the receiving end of allegations of the worst possible kind of policing—paramilitary policing, a national police state and so on. There is no truth in those allegations.
I promised that I would say a word about Inspector Lax. I had the pleasure of sitting next to him at a dinner. I listened to his descriptions of the difficulties of policing on the motorways with massive convoys of cars creating considerable difficulty for the riders, among others. Mr. Lax is a chairman of a joint branch board. What he says is, of course, his responsibility. The manner in which Mr. Lax's comments have been presented to the House bears no resemblance to his judgment in this matter.
The Police Federation is not a trade union; it is a statutory association of officers who are under discipline. the inspector has to be responsible for what he says. Like many other Police Federation officers, he offered an opinion of the difficulties that they face when doing a very onerous job. They are caught between the need to implement the law and uphold the Queen's peace and their understanding of the feelings of many people in the communities where they live. A remarkable feature of the policing of the dispute has been the good relationships that have been created between many police officers and members of mining communities. But that does not get into the press.
The new clause would destroy the flexibility that the police need to deal with the many diverse situations that 118 they face. Labour Members may not like it, but the new clause would do harm to the maintenance of the Queen's peace and, much more important, to the upholding of the civil liberties of all the people of this country, including those in the mining communities.
§ Mr. Skinner
The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) said that we should not be debating new clause 16, presumably because we are in the middle of a miners' strike. However, one of the results of having Bills stretched out through Committee and Report stages is that, if something happens outside the House during the passage of a Bill, that can become part of a debate that changes the nature of the Bill.
This Bill started on its way long before the miners' strike began, and we now have a perfect opportunity to discuss the Bill against a background not of theory but of the fact that the police are carrying out measures that are far in excess of anything included in the Bill. The House should be pleased that new clause 16 is before us, because it gives us the chance to look at the Bill against the background of what is happening in the coalfields.
On Friday, there was a police block to stop people moving about in north Derbyshire. At midday, Mrs. Kelwick, a warden who looks after about 20 old people in my constituency, was stopped from returning home to look after those old people, some of them disabled. If an old person had been found lying dead in a bungalow, there would have been an outcry in the local press; but the police got away with keeping that 'warden on the motorway near Barlborough for two or three hours and preventing leer from reaching her home. That is one good reason for this debate.
A similar thing happened the previous Friday. My hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton) and I decided to tour the Derbyshire and north Nottinghamshire coalfields in a bus with many members of the press to test the law. We wanted to see whether we could go about our business in our constituencies. My hon. Friend had not got very far when he was told by a chief inspector that he was not allowed to go to Welbeck colliery in his constituency, to the picket line or anywhere else. The representatives of the Press were able to see at first hand an interference with the civil liberties not only of my hon. Friend but of all the people who were on the bus.
We have come across examples in the past 10 weeks in which the police have, without exception, been acting like the Prime Minister's army to stop the miners fighting for the right to work. I remember, when the mining dispute began, the Home Secretary gave instructions from the Dispatch Box to every police force in the country to get stuck in. That was roughly what he said. That was followed by answers from other Ministers, giving precise details of how the police could carry out the wishes of the Tory Government, who want to try to smash the miners. They are not content with forcing their laws down the miners' throats, as they have done in many other disputes through which they are trying to smash the trade union movement at various levels. They are taking on industries in salami fashion. On this occasion, because it is the miners, the Prime Minister and the Government knew that they would have to get some assistance, so they turned to the police force to carry out their anti-trade union policy. That is one of the reasons why it is important that we debate this matter today.
119 We often hear Tory Members talking about paramilitary forces. There is no doubt for anyone who lives in a mining area that the police force is acting like a private army to try to stop the miners from winning what will be an historic victory against this Government.
§ Mr. Skinner
It will be a victory, do not worry about that.
Tory Members talk of defeat. Perhaps that is why the Government are refusing to give precise figures for coal stocks — something that has not happened in the 14 years that I have been a Member. They ask why the people do not complain. although a small number of people do complain, the miners do not complain because they do not trust the system of investigation, with the police themselves carrying out the investigation.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Ernest Armstrong)
The hon. Member for Leicestershire, North-West (Mr. Ashby) knows that if the hon. Member who is speaking does not give way he must not remain standing.
§ Mr. Skinner
We are also concerned about the cost of policing. It is now costing millions of pounds for the policing of the dispute. I have a novel suggestion—
§ Mr. Skinner
The hon. Gentleman should deal with the Libyans first.
I have a novel suggestion for the cost. I call on all our friends in the local authorities in the areas with police committees not to pay a penny of the extra policing bill, but to send the account to the Government.
The hon. Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow), who sometimes speaks for the Libyans in this House, ought to support new clause 16. Only a few weeks ago, another group of people, in two buses, were travelling to take part in a demonstration. They were not stopped 150 miles away. They were allowed to come from Manchester with their hoods and masks, and were escorted to the Libyan picket line to hold what was supposed to be a peaceful demonstration.
§ 11 pm
§ Mr. Skinner
I hope that the hon. Gentleman appreciates the double standards of the Government with regard to the policing of demonstrations. The Government are attacking the miners and kicking lumps out of them, yet those anti-Gaddafi demonstrators were allowed to go straight to the picket line, with the result that a young police woman was shot.
I am pleased that we have been able to have this debate today on the Police and Criminal Evidence Bill. It has given us an opportunity to speak at first hand about the way in which the police have been carrying out the Tory Government's policy of trying to smash the trade union movement. The new clause should be supported by all Opposition Members for that reason alone.
120 The strike has made one thing plain. Many miners have been in the front line against the police in the past 10 weeks, but I and my hon. Friends have received scores of letters from people not involved in the strike or connected with the industry in any way. They have been affronted by the number of times they have been stopped by the police at road blocks. Millions of people now understand that the best thing would be for this House to get rid of the Police and Criminal Evidence Bill.
§ Mr. Hurd
The nature of the debate has been changed, and I am not sad about that. Half an hour ago or so, the hon. Member for Pontefract and Castleford (Mr. Lofthouse) raised the matter of the common law powers of the police. The hon. Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Barron) had referred to the same matter earlier, in an emptier Chamber.
Everyone who has followed the matter knows that what the police are doing to prevent breaches of the peace in the coalfield is governed by the common law. It is not governed by statute, and certainly not by the Bill. My right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General gave his views on the legal aspect of the matter on 16 March, and there is no need for me either to repeat or to justify them.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) is perfectly right on the guts of the matter. It is not the police, the Government or the House that decides whether individuals are innocent or guilty of an offence; it is the courts. Equally, it is the courts that decide, if the question is put before them, whether the use of common law powers, or any other powers, by the police has been stretched beyond what the law can stand.
What those hon. Gentlemen who have come fresh to the discussion of the Bill propose to do is to clarify the power of the police under the common law by simply abolishing it. They propose to get rid of the confusion by getting rid of the crucial protection of the liberty of the individual which is provided by the police.
What the police are doing, although to listen to the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) one would not think it, is enabling the constituents of the hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members to work—despite the intimidation to which they are exposed—if they wish to do so. If the Opposition believe that the police should do nothing to deter and prevent the accumulation of pickets at pits, so allowing possible violence and disorder. I hope that they will say so from the Front Bench.
§ Mr. Lofthouse
Does not the Minister think that it is sensible that the police should be clear about their powers? It is obvious from the events of the past two months that they are not. Indeed, senior police officers have admitted it.
§ Mr. Hurd
I do not agree. I think that the police have conducted this difficult and complicated operation with a great deal of skill and success. I do not see the evidence of confusion that the hon. Gentleman mentions. The Bill is concerned not with all of the powers and duties of the police but with the enforcement of law in regard to criminal offences and the treatment of detained people.
The powers that the police possess at common law in pursuance of their duty to maintain the Queen's peace and to prevent public disorder are not within the scope of the Bill. Those who support new clause 16 are asking us to be much more ambitious and to sweep within the scope of the Bill something that has always been outside it, as those 121 who have sat through the 59 sittings of the Standing Committee know. Moreover, the Royal Commission said that the police's public order powers should remain outside the Bill.
Even if it would be effective to do so, we are not asking hon. Members to be silent. We are not denying them their opinions on public order legislation. We are reviewing and will shortly announce the results of the review of public order law. There will be plenty of opportunities to discuss the matter thereafter. This is not the right place to try to clarify what Opposition Members see as confusion. New clause 16 would simply complicate matters, and I therefore have no hesitation in inviting the House to reject it.
§ Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—
§ The House divided: Ayes, 113, Noes 188.123
|Division No. 297]||[11.06 pm|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Hughes, Simon (Southwark)|
|Atkinson, N. (Tottenham)||Janner, Hon Greville|
|Banks, Tony (Newham NW)||Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald|
|Barron, Kevin||Kennedy, Charles|
|Beckett, Mrs Margaret||Kilroy-Silk, Robert|
|Beith, A. J.||Kirkwood, Archibald|
|Bell, Stuart||Lambie, David|
|Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh)||Lamond, James|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Leadbitter, Ted|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Leighton, Ronald|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Lewis, Terence (Worsley)|
|Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E)||Litherland, Robert|
|Bruce, Malcolm||Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)|
|Caborn, Richard||Lofthouse, Geoffrey|
|Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M)||Loyden, Edward|
|Campbell-Savours, Dale||McDonald, Dr Oonagh|
|Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y)||McKay, Allen (Penistone)|
|Clark, Dr David (S Shields)||MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor|
|Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.)||McNamara, Kevin|
|Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.||McTaggart, Robert|
|Cook, Robin F. (Livingston)||Marek, Dr John|
|Corbett, Robin||Maxton, John|
|Cowans, Harry||Maynard, Miss Joan|
|Craigen, J. M.||Millan, Rt Hon Bruce|
|Crowther, Stan||Nellist, David|
|Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly)||Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon|
|Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l)||O'Brien, William|
|Deakins, Eric||O'Neill, Martin|
|Dewar, Donald||Park, George|
|Dixon, Donald||Parry, Robert|
|Dormand, Jack||Patchett, Terry|
|Dubs, Alfred||Pike, Peter|
|Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.||Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)|
|Eadie, Alex||Prescott, John|
|Eastham, Ken||Redmond, M.|
|Evans, John (St. Helens N)||Roberts, Allan (Bootle)|
|Fatchett, Derek||Robertson, George|
|Fisher, Mark||Ross, Ernest (Dundee W)|
|Forrester, John||Rowlands, Ted|
|Foster, Derek||Sheerman, Barry|
|Foulkes, George||Short, Ms Clare (Ladywood)|
|George, Bruce||Short, Mrs R.(W'hampt'n NE)|
|Golding, John||Skinner, Dennis|
|Gould, Bryan||Smith, C.(Isl'ton S & F'bury)|
|Hamilton, James (M'well N)||Smith, Rt Hon J. (M'kl'ds E)|
|Hardy, Peter||Spearing, Nigel|
|Harman, Ms Harriet||Steel, Rt Hon David|
|Harrison, Rt Hon Walter||Stott, Roger|
|Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith||Strang, Gavin|
|Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)||Thompson, J. (Wansbeck)|
|Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall)||Torney, Tom|
|Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)||Wallace, James|
|Howells, Geraint||Wardell, Gareth (Gower)|
|Hughes, Roy (Newport East)||Wareing, Robert|
|Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)||Welsh, Michael|
|Winnick, David||Mr. James Hamilton and|
|Mr. Frank Haynes.|
|Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Alexander, Richard||Lang, Ian|
|Amess, David||Lawrence, Ivan|
|Ancram, Michael||Lester, Jim|
|Arnold, Tom||Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)|
|Ashby, David||Lightbown, David|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Lilley, Peter|
|Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H.||Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham)|
|Atkins, Robert (South Ribble)||Lord, Michael|
|Atkinson, David (B'm'th E)||Luce, Richard|
|Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)||Lyell, Nicholas|
|Baldry, Anthony||McCurley, Mrs Anna|
|Batiste, Spencer||MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Maclean, David John|
|Bellingham, Henry||Major, John|
|Benyon, William||Malone, Gerald|
|Berry, Sir Anthony||Marlow, Antony|
|Bevan, David Gilroy||Marshall, Michael (Arundel)|
|Biggs-Davison, Sir John||Mates, Michael|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Mather, Carol|
|Bottomley, Peter||Maude, Hon Francis|
|Bottomley, Mrs Virginia||Mayhew, Sir Patrick|
|Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)||Mellor, David|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Merchant, Piers|
|Brandon-Bravo, Martin||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Brinton, Tim||Miller, Hal (B'grove)|
|Brittan, Rt Hon Leon||Mitchell, David (NW Hants)|
|Brooke, Hon Peter||Moate, Roger|
|Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes)||Montgomery, Fergus|
|Bruinvels, Peter||Morris, M. (N'hampton, S)|
|Buck, Sir Antony||Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)|
|Budgen, Nick||Moynihan, Hon C.|
|Burt, Alistair||Mudd, David|
|Butterfill, John||Neale, Gerrard|
|Carlisle, John (N Luton)||Needham, Richard|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||Newton, Tony|
|Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (W'ton S)||Nicholls, Patrick|
|Cash, William||Norris, Steven|
|Chapman, Sydney||Onslow, Cranley|
|Chope, Christopher||Oppenheim, Philip|
|Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n)||Osborn, Sir John|
|Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)||Page, John (Harrow W)|
|Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)||Page, Richard (Herts SW)|
|Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)||Parris, Matthew|
|Cockeram, Eric||Pawsey, James|
|Colvin, Michael||Pollock, Alexander|
|Coombs, Simon||Powell, William (Corby)|
|Cope, John||Powley, John|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Prentice, Rt Hon Reg|
|Currie, Mrs Edwina||Proctor, K. Harvey|
|Dorrell, Stephen||Raffan, Keith|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.||Renton, Tim|
|Dover, Den||Rhodes James, Robert|
|Durant, Tony||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Dykes, Hugh||Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas|
|Eggar, Tim||Ridsdale, Sir Julian|
|Eyre, Sir Reginald||Rifkind, Malcolm|
|Favell, Anthony||Robinson, Mark (N'port W)|
|Forman, Nigel||Roe, Mrs Marion|
|Freeman, Roger||Rossi, Sir Hugh|
|Garel-Jones, Tristan||Rowe, Andrew|
|Glyn, Dr Alan||Rumbold, Mrs Angela|
|Good lad, Alastair||Ryder, Richard|
|Griffiths, E. (B'y St Edm'ds)||Sackville, Hon Thomas|
|Hargreaves, Kenneth||Sainsbury, Hon Timothy|
|Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)||Sayeed, Jonathan|
|Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling)||Scott, Nicholas|
|Holt, Richard||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)|
|Hordern, Peter||Shelton, William (Streatham)|
|Howard, Michael||Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)|
|Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)||Sims, Roger|
|Hunt, David (Wirral)||Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)|
|Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas||Soames, Hon Nicholas|
|Jones, Robert (W Herts)||Speller, Tony|
|Knight, Gregory (Derby N)||Spencer, Derek|
|Knowles, Michael||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Stern, Michael||Viggers, Peter|
|Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)||Wakeham, Rt Hon John|
|Stevens, Martin (Fulham)||Walden, George|
|Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)||Waller, Gary|
|Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)||Ward, John|
|Stradling Thomas, J.||Wardle, C. (Bexhill)|
|Sumberg, David||Watson, John|
|Taylor, John (Solihull)||Watts, John|
|Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)||Wells, Bowen (Hertford)|
|Temple-Morris, Peter||Wheeler, John|
|Terlezki, Stefan||Whitney, Raymond|
|Thomas, Rt Hon Peter||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Thompson, Donald (Calder V)||Wolfson, Mark|
|Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)||Wood, Timothy|
|Thorne, Neil (Ilford S)||Woodcock, Michael|
|Thornton, Malcolm||Yeo, Tim|
|Thurnham, Peter||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Trotter, Neville||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Twinn, Dr Ian||Mr. Archie Hamilton and|
|Vaughan, Sir Gerard||Mr. Michael Neubert.|
§ Question accordingly negatived.
§ Further consideration of the Bill adjourned.—[Mr. Major.]
§ Bill, as amended (in the Standing Committee), to be further considered tomorrow.