HC Deb 02 April 1996 vol 275 cc209-99

Order for Second Reading read.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Morris)

I have to announce that Madam Speaker has selected the amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara).

6.59 pm
The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Michael Howard)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

When I gave notice to the House yesterday of my intention to introduce the Bill, I spoke of my anger and sorrow that the emergency powers continue to be needed, but they are needed to defend and protect our citizens from terrorists who seek to dominate, disrupt and destroy our peaceful way of life. The Bill provides additional practical powers to strengthen the ability of the police to protect the public against the threat from terrorism.

The House—and those whom we represent here—was shocked and appalled by the way in which the IRA signalled its return to violence on 9 February. Its actions that night, resulting in death and injury, shattered the hopes of the British people that the peace might be a lasting one. The door to peace nevertheless remains open. A date has been set for all-party talks. The necessary steps to establish the elective process for entry into those talks are under way. Sinn Fein-IRA has yet to seize the opportunity to take part, but the peace process will go forward—with or without that organisation.

We continue to hope for the best, but we must prepare for and guard against the worse so that we can deal effectively with whatever may come. We continue to face a serious threat from terrorism. The need to maintain our existing defences is beyond question. That is why three weeks ago I asked the House to renew the provisions of the prevention of terrorism Act for a further 12 months, but I now believe that we need to do more.

I have kept in close contact with the police since the South Quay bomb. I was determined to ensure that they had all the powers that they needed to combat terrorism and protect the public. I have concluded that additional powers are now necessary. The Bill will provide those powers.

The Bill makes a number of amendments to the prevention of terrorism Act. Each will clarify and strengthen the powers of the police, reinforcing their ability to protect the public against the IRA and other terrorists. The Bill will enable the police to stop and search pedestrians for articles that can be used in the commission, preparation or instigation of terrorist acts; search non-residential premises for evidence that will be of value to a terrorist investigation; search unaccompanied freight in ports; cordon off areas to look for a bomb or to collect forensic evidence after a bomb has been found or has exploded; and impose temporary parking restrictions in response to a general threat to vulnerable sites, such as Government buildings.

Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington)

Are there circumstances other than those involving Northern Ireland in which the Home Secretary can envisage the powers to which he has just referred being used?

Mr. Howard

The purpose of the powers is to enable the police to combat all terrorism effectively. It is conceivable that a terrorist threat from another source, related to another matter, could cause the police to regard the exercise of those powers as desirable. I would certainly not wish to exclude that possibility.

Mr. Patrick Nicholls (Teignbridge)

What is proposed, albeit in limited circumstances, is a stop-and-search power. Those of us who voted for the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984—I served on the Standing Committee that considered PACE—feel that the balance of power is too much in favour of the criminal. If my right hon. and learned Friend is prepared to consider a stop-and-search power in the current circumstances, is it not time to reconsider PACE, bearing in mind the fact that we are 10 years on and that the powers in that measure need to be reviewed? He could then invite the Labour party to join us on that as well.

Mr. Howard

That is no part of today's proposals. I hope that my hon. Friend will forgive me if I do not join him in speculating about the possibilities that he has attempted to put before me.

Mr. Max Madden (Bradford, West)

Perhaps this is an opportune moment for me to ask the question of which I gave the Secretary of State's office notice this morning and earlier in today's proceedings. How many people in the City and the Metropolitan police area have been arrested and charged with terrorist-related offences under the existing stop-and-search powers? How many people in Northern Ireland, where stop-and-search powers have applied for some years, have been arrested and charged with and convicted of offences related to terrorism?

Mr. Howard

I do not have the figures for Northern Ireland at present and I am not certain that I shall have them today. I shall certainly let the hon. Gentleman have them as soon as they are available.

The hon. Gentleman has asked a series of detailed questions about the use of the existing section 13A powers by the Metropolitan police. The figures are as follows: in the five Metropolitan police areas, there have been 1, 746 vehicle stops under the power; there have been 8, 142 vehicle stops within the Heathrow perimeter; there have been 1, 695 searches of vehicles within the Metropolitan police area and 6, 854 within the Heathrow perimeter; 2, 373 persons have been searched as occupants of a vehicle within the Metropolitan police area and 40 within the Heathrow perimeter. That has led to two arrests under the prevention of terrorism Act and 66 other arrests. I hope that I have been able to answer the hon. Gentleman's questions, at least in part.

Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South)

The use of stop-and-search powers in Northern Ireland has diverted would-be terrorists from their task. In addition, people have been apprehended and weapons have been found.

Mr. Howard

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right in his analysis. The number of arrests does not present the whole picture. The value of the power extends far beyond the number of arrests. Those who have experience of its use, such as those whom the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth) and his colleagues represent in the House, are fully aware of the value of that power in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Will the Home Secretary be a little more explicit in his reply to the hon. Member for Teignbridge (Mr. Nicholls)? The hon. Gentleman asked about further extending PACE and the Secretary of State replied that he felt that it was not part of the Bill and that therefore he could not reply specifically. Is he ruling out for the rest of this Parliament the recommendation that the hon. Gentleman made in his intervention?

Mr. Howard

I have no plans at the moment to go along the road that my hon. Friend invited me to travel with him, but in the context of today's debate I am not ruling in or out other changes to the criminal law and our system of criminal justice. I certainly agree with the general point made by my hon. Friend that the balance in our criminal justice system has tilted much too far in favour of the criminal and away from the protection of the public. We have taken a number of measures to remedy that in the past few years and I have plans, which I shall announce shortly, further to improve that balance. I have no plans to introduce the particular remedy that my hon. Friend suggested.

Mr. Neil Gerrard (Walthamstow)

The Home Secretary told us that two arrests were made under the stop-and-search powers in the PTA. Were charges laid and, if so, what were they and were there any convictions?

Mr. Howard

I cannot give the hon. Gentleman that information. I am sure that he has been listening attentively to the debate, so I remind him of my exchange with the hon. Member for Belfast, South, which clearly reinforced the proposition that the value of the powers is not simply to be derived from an examination of the statistics.

Each of the new provisions will make a difference. Each is designed to ensure that the police will be better equipped to protect and safeguard the public, and to combat terrorism. I have, as I said yesterday and earlier today, discussed my proposals with Opposition spokesmen. I welcome the support of the hon. Members for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble) and for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley). I very much welcome the recognition by the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) of the need to act quickly.

Mr. Tony Benn (Chesterfield)

New section 13B(2) suggests that searching may be carried out when there is a suspicion of the instigation of acts of terrorism. Would "instigation" include written material containing political objectives which, it might be argued before a court, constituted an instigation to terrorism? What does the phrase mean? "Instigation" has a political flavour of a wholly different character from the other acts referred to.

Mr. Howard

Whether the possession of written material might constitute evidence of instigation would depend on the nature of the written material; in the end it would be a matter for the court to determine. It would clearly have to be more than political propaganda, which would not amount to an instigation to terrorism. But there could be written material that showed that someone was involved in encouraging others to commit terrorist acts, or something of that kind. That might well involve the instigation of terrorism—

Mr. Benn

But instigation has many meanings. If someone writes a pamphlet, or has pamphlets on him, containing the argument that Britain should not be in Northern Ireland, and if that pamphlet were distributed, might it be held, in the Home Secretary's view, that the very presentation of the arguments in the pamphlet would instigate some people to terrorist acts? The right hon. and learned Gentleman must be clear about that.

Mr. Howard

I can be perfectly clear about that example. Of course advocacy of a particular status for Northern Ireland would not involve instigation to terrorism—that is the expression of a political view. I do not know whether it will reassure the right hon. Gentleman—it may or may not—to learn that this is not a new phrase designed specifically for this Bill. It is time-honoured language, used in the prevention of terrorism Act in a different but similar context. As the House would expect, we seek to follow and reproduce the language in the PTA to the fullest possible extent.

I turn next to the detailed content of the Bill. Clause 1 fills a lacuna in the existing powers under section 13A of the prevention of terrorism Act. Section 13A was added to the Act by the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. It currently allows a constable to stop and search any vehicle, its driver and any passenger in it. He may also stop any pedestrian and search anything he is carrying for articles of a kind that could be used in preparing, commissioning or instigating terrorist acts. But he cannot search the pedestrian for anything which he or she may have concealed about them—for example, in a jacket pocket.

The operation of the existing stop-and-search powers has led the police to believe that an additional power to search pedestrians would be of real practical benefit. I accept that. Bombs and incendiary devices do not need to be very large to kill or destroy. A typical device may be no bigger than an audio cassette. I have seen examples of what has been found, and I must tell the House that it is perfectly possible to carry one or more of these devices in pockets without an observer being any the wiser. But these things are not just carried in pockets. In Northern Ireland, explosives and other material have been found in shoes; and guns and other weaponry can easily be concealed under a shirt or jacket.

Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)

If, under the terms of this clause, a constable carries out a search of outer clothing and finds nothing but becomes suspicious about the behaviour of the person, would he, under existing powers, then be able to proceed to examine the person's shirt pocket, which could equally well accommodate the item being looked for?

Mr. Howard

Not under these powers; but once a constable entertains suspicions relating to the person whom he is searching, the powers under PACE come into play, and the usual search powers are available to him: he can search the person in the way the right hon. Gentleman has described, or take the person to a police station.

Clause 1 accordingly inserts new section 13B into the PTA, giving the police power to stop and search pedestrians in a designated area. Clear safeguards will apply, as in section 13A. Searches will be allowed only within an area authorised by an assistant chief constable and only for a specified period of up to 28 days. In addition, authorisation of the exercise of the new powers must be confirmed by the Secretary of State within 48 hours of the authorisation having been given. If that confirmation is not forthcoming, the authorisation will lapse. The Bill further provides that the Secretary of State will have the power to cancel the authorisation and/or if he wishes, to substitute a shorter period during which the powers will be exercised.

Mr. David Trimble (Upper Bann)

I wonder whether the procedure whereby areas must be specified before the powers become exercisable is not unduly restrictive. Under section 13A, the procedure has been used only after incidents have occurred, which suggests closing the stable door after the event. Such measures may be of general reassurance to the public, but they do nothing to prevent serious incidents from occurring. Do we not really need powers of this nature to become operative before incidents occur, not after them?

Mr. Howard

We do, and these powers would so apply. The reason why thus far they have been used only after the event is, as the hon. Gentleman rightly points out, that they came into force only after the ceasefire was declared and have been used only since the South Quay bomb. But that is no sure guide to how they will be used in future. I would expect them to be used in advance of a terrorist outrage when there is intelligence that such an outrage may be committed in a particular area. Therein lies the real necessity for these powers—not just to be used after an outrage but in anticipation of one, thereby enabling it to be prevented. That is what the powers are designed to achieve.

Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Port Glasgow)

A moment ago the Home Secretary referred to the role of the Secretary of State. Will he confirm that, where Scotland is concerned, he is talking about the Secretary of State for Scotland—except perhaps when he is absent and his role may be taken on by the Home Secretary?

Were senior Scottish police officers consulted on these matters?

Mr. Howard

The hon. Gentleman is quite right. The Home Secretary would usually give the authorisation in England and Wales, and the Scottish Secretary would give it in Scotland. As the hon. Gentleman appreciates, there will be times when the Secretary of State is not available and it is appropriate for some other Secretary of State to act in his place.

As for consultation, I said earlier that my discussions had been with the senior police officer responsible for countering the terrorist threat in Great Britain. I have no doubt that he reflected the views of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Scotland) as well as those of the rest of the police service.

Once authorisation has been given, a police officer will be able to stop any pedestrian and search him and anything he is carrying for terrorist devices or other material. The search will be a rub-down search. The officer may ask the pedestrian to remove his outer coat, jacket, footwear, gloves or headgear in public to facilitate the search.

To enforce the new power, clause 1 also creates offences of failing to stop when asked to do so and of wilfully obstructing a constable in the exercise of the new powers. These mirror the offences in section 13A and will carry the same penalty—on summary conviction, up to six months' imprisonment, or a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale, or both. Prosecution for either offence will proceed only by or with the agreement of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Mr. Dennis Canavan (Falkirk, West)

I see no specific reference in clause 1 to a warrant to enable a police officer to use the stop-and-search powers in relation to people, yet in clause 2 there is a specific reference to a warrant from a justice of the peace to enable the police to search non-residential premises. Does that mean that people are less important than non-residential premises?

Mr. Howard

No, it does not mean that. If the hon. Gentleman reflects for just a moment, he will understand that it would not be practicable to expect a police officer to ask a magistrate for a warrant to search the outer garment of someone he encountered in the street in an area where a terrorist outrage was anticipated. On the other hand, it is perfectly practicable for the police to go to a magistrate if they wish to search premises for bomb-making equipment or a lorry used in the course of an outrage. That is the reason for the distinction between the two clauses.

Mr. Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock)

Will the Home Secretary clarify two points? First, was the Association of Chief Police Officers consulted, did ACPO ask for the powers or did the senior police officer dealing with terrorism ask for the powers? Secondly, if a uniformed British Transport police officer is travelling between railway stations—and he is not in the jurisdiction of railway property—and is in one of the designated areas, will the powers extend to him or her?

Mr. Howard

On the second question, the Bill does not extend the power of British Transport police officers to act outside the places where they are entitled to act under existing powers, but the Bill will give them the enhanced power to stop and search pedestrians if the places in which they are entitled to act are within a wider area designated by a senior police officer in accordance with the Bill.

On the first question, I said earlier that the need for the powers evolved during discussions that I had with senior police officers in the aftermath of the South Quay bomb. I had a number of such discussions when reviewing the security situation. My recollection is that in the course of those discussions I asked an officer whether he was satisfied that the police had all the powers they needed. That is my best recollection of the way in which the conversation developed. The need for the powers evolved and was identified. Thus we find ourselves here today.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)

The proposals, which are very limited in scope, have clearly been requested by the police, especially those dealing with terrorism. Is not the deterrence of terrorist acts and the preservation of life worth a little inconvenience?

Mr. Howard

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. I am sure that those of my hon. Friends and some Opposition Members who earlier expressed the view that the greatest civil liberty is to live one's life free of the threat of terrorist bombs and bullets speak for the nation. I am sure that that is the view of our constituents.

Mrs. Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley)

Will the Home Secretary give way?

Mr. Howard

I will give way to the hon. Lady, but then I must make some progress. I am conscious that we have little time.

Mrs. Clwyd

I wish to ask for clarification on a point. Will the searches of women be carried out by women police officers?

Mr. Howard

I cannot possibly give the hon. Lady that assurance. If a police officer, in an area designated for the purposes of clause 1 and where a terrorist outrage is believed to be imminent, encounters a woman whom he may have no particular reason to suspect but whom he needs to search to see whether she is carrying a bomb or some other device, it is unrealistic to suggest that he should not do so because a woman police officer is not immediately in the vicinity. I hope that the hon. Lady, on reflection, will see the complete impracticality of her suggestion.

Mrs. Audrey Wise (Preston)

Will the Home Secretary give way?

Mr. Howard

I will not, if the hon. Lady will forgive me. We have limited time and I must make some progress. [Interruption.] I do not suppose that Opposition Members would thank me if I took all the time for the Second Reading of the Bill.

The police are well aware that the new power will need to be exercised with circumspection and sensitivity. Clear guidance will be issued to police forces to ensure consistent and careful operation. The hon. Member for Blackburn said yesterday that Parliament should receive regular reports on the operation of the new stop-and-search powers. I readily gave that assurance. The hon. Gentleman also asked about monitoring. Again, I have given the assurance that the operation of the stop-and-search powers will be monitored, just as the existing section 13A powers are under the relevant PACE code.

Mrs. Wise

A pedestrian may not know that the area is a designated area. If she refuses to be searched in a designated area, she will be committing an offence—but she will not know that she is doing so. If I were walking along the street and a police officer said that he wanted to search me, my instinct would be to say no, but I might be committing an offence. What safeguards are there for people in those circumstances? In the event of complaint, it would be the pedestrian's word against that of the police constable. Clause 1 seems to be an invitation for harassment, which worries me.

Mr. Howard

I shall try to allay the hon. Lady's anxieties. In the situation that she envisages, the police officer would tell the woman concerned that she was in an area designated by a senior police officer to enable the police to ask her to stop to be searched. The police officer would tell the woman that if she refused to comply with the request, she would be arrested because she would have committed an offence. The officer would explain clearly to the pedestrian that the area had been designated, the significance of that and the consequences of failing to comply with the officer's request. If the hon. Lady ever found herself in that position, I hope that she would, in the circumstances, comply with the request.

Clause 2 relates to searches of non-residential premises. As hon. Members know, the police sometimes receive reliable intelligence—for example, that explosives are concealed in a garage in a particular area of London or that a lorry carrying home-made explosives has been left in a lorry park near a motorway intersection. Such information is of clear importance and needs to be investigated, but often the intelligence received is not sufficient to identify precisely the garage or lorry park in question. It is currently impossible to obtain a search warrant to enter all relevant premises and examine them.

The new search power in clause 2 will enable a magistrate—or a sheriff in Scotland—to issue a warrant for the police to search a list of premises. The police will not be required to say in which of those listed premises they believe they will find the material. A warrant may be issued only on the application of an officer of at least superintendent rank. Any search of premises named in the warrant must be made within 24 hours of the warrant being issued.

Clause 3 will enable examining officers at ports to search unaccompanied freight. At present, the police may stop and examine individuals coming through ports and, in the course of examining them, they may search their baggage and their vehicles for anti-terrorist purposes. Customs officers can search goods that have come from outside the United Kingdom, but police officers cannot, at present, search cargo that is not accompanied by an individual. Clause 3 will allow them to do so.

With trade increasing and up to 10, 000 items of freight coming through west-coast ports each day, the police cannot and will not search all of them. But spot checks and checks following intelligence received should do much to deter and disrupt terrorists' plans and the restocking of their armoury. That is the only one of the powers that is not currently available in Northern Ireland and the Bill will therefore extend that power to the Province as well as to Great Britain.

Clause 4 will enable the police to cordon off an area and restrict access while they look for a bomb or while they collect forensic evidence following the discovery of a bomb or an explosion. The police already have limited powers under common law to impose cordons, but the extent of their existing powers is uncertain. Clause 4 will provide a firm statutory basis and will remove that uncertainty. It will ensure that the police can exclude people from a cordon for their own safety and for the safety of others, and it will ensure that they can keep a zone sterile until they have completed any forensic examination of the scene.

The new power will be exercised initially for a period of up to 14 days and will be capable of renewal for up to a further 14 days. However, past experience suggests that most cordons will be kept in place for less than two weeks. The new power will be subject to the authorisation of an officer of at least superintendent rank. However, in an emergency it may be invoked by any constable and then confirmed by a superintendent or officer of more senior rank.

Rev. Ian Paisley (North Antrim)

The Home Secretary spoke about the common law. If the Bill is challenged in Europe, can the Home Secretary revert to the common law principle that the police have the right to cordon off certain areas and search them?

Mr. Howard

Yes, I can give the hon. Gentleman that assurance because the Bill provides that its powers are additional to existing powers. In the event that the hon. Gentleman anticipates, which I hope will not arise, common law powers would still be available for use.

Mr. Mackinlay

I do not think that the chief officer of the Royal Parks constabulary is of superintendent rank. Who would retrospectively confirm an urgent action that had been taken by royal parks officers? Does the "urgency" power that is mentioned in clause 4 extend to ports police forces, which are privately owned and controlled? Northern Ireland airports and the ports of Tilbury, Teesside and Felixstowe all have private police forces of sworn constables, but those forces certainly do not have anybody of superintendent rank in their structures.

Mr. Howard

The officer would be the superintendent of the police force in whose area the royal park, for example, was situated. If there were any question of retrospective authorisation, that superintendent would be responsible for it. I hope that that deals with the hon. Gentleman's point.

Mr. Mackinlay

What about ports?

Mr. Howard

Exactly the same consideration would apply. Authorisation would be by the superintendent of the force within whose area the port was situated.

The schedule sets out the powers that may be exercised by the police inside the cordon. These include power to search premises within the cordon for any device or other terrorist material and to collect any forensic evidence found. Offences are created of failing to leave the cordon when required to do so and of breaking the cordon and obstructing a constable in the exercise of any of his powers within the cordon. Prosecution will proceed only by or with the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions. As an additional safeguard, a defence is provided for those who can prove that they have lawful authority or a reasonable excuse for their actions.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett (Denton and Reddish)

How will the search powers apply inside and outside a cordoned area? I understand that outside such an area the police have to apply to a magistrate for a search warrant, which occasionally takes some time. Is putting a cordon around an area a short cut so that they do not have to apply for a warrant?

Mr. Howard

I understood the hon. Gentleman's question to relate to the power to search premises within a cordon. As the cordon will be set up only in circumstances of some urgency, I understand that the power to search premises within it will not require a warrant.

Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, North)

The right hon. and learned Gentleman is on an important point. In speaking to clause 4 he spoke specifically in terms of the possibility of bombs, explosives and so on, but the clause is not that limited. It relates to the preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism. It is not as finely defined as the Home Secretary suggests. Therefore, the point that he made in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett) would not necessarily apply.

Mr. Howard

I make no apology for the fact that the police should be allowed to search for material that might help to bring to justice those who made the bombs or who might be prepared to use weapons, and not simply to look for bombs or bullets. If the hon. Gentleman takes the view that it would be reasonable to allow the police to look only for bombs or bullets, that is not a view that I share.

Mr. McNamara

That was not the point that I made. My point was that, normally, one would need a warrant to search premises, but for a cordoned area a warrant is not needed. [Interruption.] I am sorry that I have an effect on my hon. Friends. Designating an area could be seen as a short cut to a mass search of premises. That was the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Denton and Reddish made.

Mr. Howard

I ask the hon. Gentleman to reflect on the circumstances that we are considering. We are considering circumstances in which the police are endeavouring to find a bomb or evidence about the identity of those who were responsible for planting a bomb. The police will wish to search for any evidence that will assist them in those objectives, and it is right that they should have the power to do that. That is why the power is so framed.

The Whip reminds me about the length of time for which I have been speaking. I must seek to make more progress.

Clause 5 will give the police the power to impose temporary parking restrictions on roads or parts of roads in response to a general threat to vulnerable targets such as Government buildings, financial centres, major transport facilities and so on. Again, the police have powers under common law, but there is uncertainty as to their extent and the length of time for which they can be used. The powers of the police in this area require statutory underpinning.

The power in clause 5 will be subject to the authorisation of an assistant chief constable or equivalent ranking officer. It will be exercisable only for a stipulated period of up to 28 days. There is no intention to prohibit loading or unloading, so business should be little disturbed. Offences will be created of failure to remove a vehicle when asked to do so and of parking in breach of a prohibition or restriction. Again, the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions will be required for any prosecution, and a defence of lawful authority or reasonable excuse has been provided.

Mr. Bennett

Will the Home Secretary give way?

Mr. Howard

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I do not. I must finish my speech.

Clause 6 provides that the Director of Public Prosecutions must consent to any prosecution for the offences created to enforce the powers given in clauses 1, 4 and 5. Clause 7 deals with the territorial extent of the new powers. Clause 3 extends to the whole of the United Kingdom. All the other provisions in the Bill apply only to Great Britain, since these powers are already available to the police and the security forces in Northern Ireland.

The measures in the Bill are sensible and practical. They are subject to clear and careful safeguards. I referred earlier to the concerns expressed yesterday by the hon. Member for Blackburn about the exercise of the new power to stop and search pedestrians. I have given him assurances that Parliament will receive regular reports on the operation of that power, and that its exercise will be monitored. I have considered whether putting this in the Bill would provide any additional safeguard, and I have concluded that that is not necessary. PACE code A will apply to new section 13B of the prevention of terrorism Act as it does to existing section 13A. I am glad to take this opportunity to reiterate the assurances that I gave yesterday.

These measures will be of real practical benefit to the police in protecting the public against the threat of terrorism. The need for them is immediate. The police deserve the support of the House in their fight against terrorism. I hope that the House will give them that support. I commend the Bill to the House.

7.39 pm
Mr. Jack Straw (Blackburn)

In August 1994, the Provisional IRA gave notice that it had agreed to a ceasefire, and Sinn Fein gave notice that it had agreed to take part in a process leading to a negotiated peace in Ireland. Both Sinn Fein and the IRA left the impression that they were fully committed to a democratic approach to politics. On 9 February this year, the Provisional IRA ended the ceasefire, unilaterally and without notice.

It was a large bomb which announced the withdrawal of the Provisional IRA from the peace process—a grotesque reminder of the organisation's ambiguous approach to participation in that peace process and in democratic politics. A number of people were killed by the Canary wharf bomb; many more were injured or shocked, and millions of pounds of damage was done to homes and businesses. The people and the area have still not recovered from the deep trauma of that bombing. It was followed by the explosion of a bomb on a bus at the Aldwych—a bomb which happened to kill only the perpetrator of the proposed outrage, but which could easily have caused scores of injuries and deaths in central London.

We need to remember that the resumption of violence by the Provisional IRA, and that alone, prompted the introduction of the Bill and our support for it. Any additional powers, such as the powers contained in the Bill, are bound to cause some inconvenience to innocent members of the public, but we consider that that inconvenience is vastly outweighed by the need to secure public safety.

Mr. Nick Hawkins (Blackpool, South)

Given all that the hon. Gentleman has rightly said, and given his welcome bipartisan approach, does he not feel somewhat embarrassed by the nit-picking approach of many of his hon. Friends—particularly that of the hon. Member for Preston (Mrs. Wise), who said that, if stopped by a police officer and asked to agree to a search, she would refuse? In the light of recent events, is the hon. Gentleman not even more embarrassed by the fact that the hon. Member for Woolwich (Mr. Austin-Walker) agreed to appear on the platform at a Sinn Fein conference? Does he not feel that the party Whip should have been withdrawn from his hon. Friend, as many Conservative Members—including me—demanded?

Mr. Straw

I am not embarrassed by the concerns of my colleagues.

Sir Ivan Lawrence (Burton)

Yes you are.

Mr. Straw

With respect, I will speak for myself. I would tell the hon. and learned Gentleman if I were embarrassed by those concerns, but I am not in the least embarrassed. I recognise them, but I do not share them, and I hope to persuade some of my hon. Friends that they are misplaced. As for the question about my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich (Mr. Austin-Walker), it has already been made very clear that the Labour party did not approve of his speaking on a Sinn Fein platform, and he has apologised for so doing.

Mr. Clive Soley (Hammersmith)

Just to make sure that hon. Members do not become too party political, may I remind Conservative Members that theirs was the party that talked to the IRA, and also flew the IRA around in RAF helicopters at public expense? The hon. Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Hawkins) should be a little more careful about whom he accuses.

Mr. Straw

My hon. Friend knows a good deal more about the details. He is absolutely right: we need to be very careful before trying to score partisan points in a debate such as this. Nevertheless, it is true that the British Government negotiated with the IRA for a long time before admitting it: indeed, while they were negotiating, they publicly denied it. We have never made too much of a point of the fact that—perhaps for good reasons—the House was misled about what was going on.

As I have said, we are satisfied that the powers in the Bill are proportionate to the threat. Let me make it clear, however—especially to my hon. Friends who are anxious about those powers—that, when we were asked to support the Bill, my hon. Friends the Members for Redcar (Ms Mowlam) and for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) and I, along with colleagues, went to great lengths to examine the proposals, and to judge for ourselves whether the powers were necessary. We decided that, given the history of the sus law—with which, as I explained during the debate on the timetable motion, I happen to be particularly familiar—and the anxiety about the disproportionate number of black people, for example, who are arrested under the ordinary stop-and-search powers, we would have to give careful consideration to the provision of any further search powers.

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

Is my hon. Friend aware that, in recent vehicle searches in London in connection with the PTA, a disproportionate number of cars with either black drivers or black occupants, or both, have been stopped? That suggests that the police target the black community to a disproportionate extent when they have the power to stop and search vehicles. Can my hon. Friend give any guarantee that the police will not do exactly the same with black pedestrians if the power in the Bill is given to them?

Mr. Straw

I appreciate my hon. Friend's point. I recall that, according to a parliamentary answer given on, I believe, Friday of last week, some 60 per cent. of 160, 000 people who were stopped by the police in the Greater London area last year—not under powers connected with the PTA, but under general powers to stop people on reasonable suspicion—were black or of Asian origin. That obviously gives cause for concern.

The police have their own explanation. They say that the same proportion of people are arrested following stops of black people as are arrested following other stops. I am very concerned about the issue, however, and feel that we should examine it carefully. Perhaps, in time, the Commission for Racial Equality should investigate it. We must ensure that every citizen is treated in exactly the same way, regardless of skin colour. I give my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) that thorough undertaking. One of the reasons why I raised with the Home Secretary, almost immediately, the need for explicit monitoring of the way in which this power is used—including ethnic monitoring—was my concern about the possibility that a disproportionate number of black people could be stopped and searched.

Mrs. Wise

In view of Conservative comments, does my hon. Friend agree that a woman walking in an area that was familiar to her, unaware that it had suddenly become a designated area, would be entitled to be distinctly startled and suspicious if approached by a male police officer who wanted to carry out a rub-down search? Is it not reasonable for female Members to express some concern about that aspect of the proposals?

Mr. Straw

I understand what my hon. Friend is saying. The point is raised in an amendment that I have tabled, along with some of my hon. Friends.

In his statement yesterday, the Home Secretary said that he expected the police to undertake such searches with—I think—circumspection and sensitivity. That will have to happen. It is essential for proper guidance to be given to the police about the circumstances in which the searches are conducted, and—as I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North—for them to be properly monitored.

As I said earlier, I believe that anyone who looks carefully at the nature of the additional powers conferred by clause 1 cannot fail to conclude that those powers do not involve any gratuitous erosion of the liberty of the subject. Although they are important, they do not differ in character from powers that were placed on the statute book in 1994. Let me point out to my hon. Friends that, when section 13A of the 1989 Act was discussed during the Committee stage of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994—in our debates on clause 62 of the Bill—although we raised a number of probing points, we did not challenge the principle behind section 13A; nor, as far as I am aware, did any of my hon. Friends raise any question about it on Report.

We supported the need for those powers relating to searches of vehicle occupants. If it is appropriate in the limited circumstances of the PTA for the occupant of a vehicle to be subject to an outer-body rub-down search, I do not fully understand the argument that that is not an erosion of civil liberties—so small an erosion of civil liberties that none of my hon. Friends raised any question about it when it came up in February 1994—but stopping a person who happens to be outside a vehicle in exactly similar circumstances and giving them an outer-body rub-down search is a major erosion of civil liberties. Frankly, that argument does not hold.

The second argument is whether there is any parallel between the power under section 13B and the old sus law. Although I went into that point in detail during the debate on the timetable motion, it is worth repeating one or two points about the sus law. The sus law was based on section 14 of the Vagrancy Act 1824, which made it an offence to be a suspected person loitering with intent to commit an arrestable offence. The offence was risible. The law enabled any pair of police officers not only to charge somebody but to convict them if they did not like the person's face or what they appeared to be doing.

All that was required was that first, the offender committed one act that gave rise to a suspicion, and, secondly, the offender committed another act that gave rise to him being a suspicious person loitering with intent. It required only that someone felt one car door, and then felt another. There needed to be no separation in time for an offence to be committed. I am not saying that if two door handles were felt it would not arouse suspicion in the mind of anybody watching, but there could easily be a perfectly good explanation. Under the sus law, however, simply feeling two car door handles amounted to the offence.

Moreover, under the sus law—this is unique as far as I am aware in English criminal law, save when someone puts their own character into evidence—an individual's previous convictions, if any, were adducible in evidence as proof of the fact that he was a suspicious person and likely to have developed an intent to commit an arrestable offence. It was the most outrageous offence and open to patent abuse, but on any analysis, there is no parallel whatever between the sus law and the commission of an offence under section 13B.

Sir Ivan Lawrence

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Straw

I give way to a man whom I know to be an even greater expert than me on the sus law.

Sir Ivan Lawrence

I deny that, but what I do not deny, and perhaps the hon. Gentleman will not deny, Is that a Conservative Government abolished the Vagrancy Act after it had been on the statute book through years of the Labour Government.

Mr. Corbyn

The Tories introduced it.

Mr. Straw

I cast my mind back to who was in power in 1824. I was expecting some parallel to be drawn not only with the sus law but with the six Acts introduced in 1819 to suppress all kinds of political activity. I am glad that such a parallel has not been drawn. The hon. and learned Member for Burton (Sir I. Lawrence) is right that the change was made in the Criminal Justice Act 1980. We supported that Act. It was deeply liberal, and I am glad to have it on record that he supported it, as did the liberal Home Secretary. We will ensure that it is well known to the electors of Folkestone and any other constituency in which the right hon. and learned Gentleman appears during the general election campaign that he is guilty of replacing the sus law with something more liberal.

Mr. Howard

I am very sorry to disappoint the hon. Gentleman. I dare say that I would have supported the Bill if I had been in the House at the time, but I was not.

Mr. Straw

The hon. and learned Member for Burton, who usually speaks for the Home Secretary, was, I think, in the House, and is certainly guilty of that piece of liberality—soft on suspected persons.

Mr. Madden

I regret to interrupt the jovial encounter, but may I ask my hon. Friend to consider the realities of someone who, say, late on a Saturday night when the pubs and clubs are spilling out, has the misfortune to find himself or herself in a designated area and is stopped and searched by a police officer in the circumstances described by my hon. Friend the Member for Preston (Mrs. Wise)? That person would be stopped for no good reason, according to him or her. If they refused, they could find themselves imprisoned for six months or fined £5, 000. There is very little difference in practice between what we are discussing and the sus law, which we are all glad ended some time ago. Will my hon. Friend reflect on the practice of the police and the security services in recent years to keep known terrorists who are in possession of explosives under surveillance while they drive for hundreds of miles around the motorway network in this country? There was of course the famous case of someone—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. Interventions are traditionally reasonably short. The hon. Member's has gone on for well over a minute.

Mr. Madden


Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman has already asked two or three questions. Perhaps the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) could answer them.

Mr. Madden

I was merely asking my hon. Friend to contrast that practice with what is mere guesswork.

Mr. Straw

Let me try again. On any analysis, there is no parallel between this power and the sus law. The sus law made it an offence to be a suspected person loitering with intent. A person did not have to be searched for anything; he just had to be there. If the police suspected somebody, a well-known old lag for example, or one who looked dodgy, one had only to do two things, such as brushing against a car door, that in the police officer's view aroused a suspicion and then aroused the view that one was a suspicious person. Those were the two limbs of the offence. The police officer did not have to know necessarily about a person's previous convictions, but when the case went to court, those previous convictions could be brought up, just to bang home the point that the person was suspicious and was loitering with intent. The result was that the person would be fined or imprisoned. I cannot begin to understand how that offence has any parallel with a situation in which for their own good reasons—

Mr. McNamara

For no good reason.

Mr. Straw

For good reasons that are related to the suppression of terrorism, the police decide to stop and search a number of members of the public and to conduct rub-down body searches. My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) said, "No good reason." Of course we examined carefully the provision that a police officer in such limited circumstances, operating for a limited time, and within a designated area, does not have to show reasonable cause in order to stop someone and search them. I work on the basis, however, that the police do not search people randomly. They will have an operational reason—they might not have to justify that reason in court—to use the power. That is obvious, and that operational reason is related to the suppression of terrorism.

Mr. Bennett

My hon. Friend has been talking about the power's selective use and the Home Secretary has talked of its limited use. Will my hon. Friend confirm that, under the Bill as it stands, it would be possible to stop and search everyone coming across Westminster bridge, for instance, if Westminster were a designated area?

Mr. Straw

In legal theory, that is true. The police could stop and search everybody coming over the bridge, but there is an issue of proportion and practicality. Police resources are not unlimited. They have plenty of other things to do.

I return to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North. One has to work on the basis that the police are making their judgments about how best to deploy their resources in order, in this case, to suppress terrorism. They will not randomly scatter their resources, and will make their own judgments about where they think searches are best held.

A number of my hon. Friends wish to speak, so I shall deal rapidly with some of the other points that made us believe that the powers were justified and proportionate. First, the Secretary of State explained that there are closer restrictions on the use of the power related to pedestrians than those relating to vehicle occupants. A senior police officer can activate the power for 48 hours only, before he must get the approval of the Secretary of State. Secondly—this applies to the other power contained in the measure—there can be no prosecution without the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions. Thirdly—this is important in relation to monitoring—any person who has been the subject of one of those searches can gain within 12 months a written notice that he has been searched under the powers and not under, for example, the reasonable suspicion powers under other criminal justice measures. Fourthly—a matter to which the House's attention has not been drawn—there is an important limit on the physical extent of the searches that can be made. The Bill states: Nothing in this section authorises a constable to require a person to remove any of his clothing in public other than any headgear, footwear, outer coat, jacket or gloves.

Mr. Harry Barnes (North-East Derbyshire)

There are four women Members in the House. How would the measure apply to them in connection with the wearing of jackets?

Mr. Straw

As I read the Bill, somebody wearing an outer jacket—

Mr. Barnes

How would the measure apply to the four hon. Ladies in the Chamber?

Mr. Straw

I am sorry, but I am not going to speculate on what the four hon. Ladies are wearing underneath their jackets. I must decline my hon. Friend's invitation. But if he is asking whether it would be reasonable for a police officer to require someone to remove their jacket if they were wearing nothing underneath it, the answer I think would be no. That would mean that the search had become an intimate body search and would have to be dealt with under separate powers.

Mr. Barnes

It is a serious point. The legislation may be drafted in such a way that it is quite appropriate for men, but it must also apply to women. We can see that the hon. Ladies in the House are not wearing coats that could be removed by an officer under these powers, but are wearing different forms of dress. Would those count as jackets or not? How much clothing can be removed from a woman in those circumstances?

Mr. Straw

The clause says: Nothing in this section authorises a constable to require a person to remove any of his clothing in public other than any headgear, footwear, outer coat, jacket or gloves. If a woman were wearing a jacket with nothing underneath it, she could justifiably claim that it is unreasonable to expect her to remove that jacket.

I make this point to my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Derbyshire (Mr. Barnes). Sometimes, in Standing Committees, we feel that our job is worthless. We grind away, tabling amendments that we think fall on deaf ears. Having spent 17 years in opposition, I must say that that has often been my experience, and that of some of my hon. Friends. No one could have spent longer in opposition continuously than me and those of my hon. Friends who came to Parliament with me on 3 May 1979. But that impression is untrue. On 30 January 1996, some of my hon. Friends—including the hon. Members for Lewisham, West (Mr. Dowd) and for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington)—tabled an amendment to the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Bill. The amendment proposed that an equivalent power to the one we are discussing today be included in the Bill, and said: this is not to be construed as authorising any person conducting a search under this section to require a person being searched to remove any of his clothing in public other than an outer coat, jacket, headgear or gloves. Despite the persuasive powers of my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West, the amendment was not accepted, but—somehow or other—the view of the Opposition has filtered through the ether and has been reflected in section 13B(4), or clause 1 of the Bill. We can hardly complain that an important safeguard that we asked for in respect of the Northern Ireland legislation has now been included in the legislation for Great Britain.

Mr. Jim Dowd (Lewisham, West)

Has my hon. Friend received a mirror-image assurance from the Government that they will now extend that measure to the powers exercised in Northern Ireland?

Mr. Straw

I have not discussed that matter, but the Minister may wish to comment on that when he winds up.

The Secretary of State has dealt with both the additional safeguards that I suggested ought to be brought in, and I am grateful to him for what he said. We accept that those do not need to be written into the Bill, since monitoring will be triggered under the other statutory powers that he has announced. He has made it clear that the House will be notified regularly of the use of the powers.

The last thing that I want to say in respect of the search powers—I shall repeat a point that I made during the debate on the timetable motion—is that the nature of searches that we are requiring people to be subject to under section 13B is no different from the searches that we require daily of people visiting the Palace of Westminster. They are almost exactly the same.

Mr. McNamara

When did my hon. Friend last have to take his shoes off when entering the Palace?

Mr. Straw

With great respect to my hon. Friend, it is perfectly possible for people to be asked to do that. People coming to visit us in the Palace are subject to checks by electronic machinery. To my certain knowledge—I see it almost every day in the entrance to 1 Parliament street—guards who think that they have seen someone suspicious going through then subject that person to an outer-body search. What is more, those checks have been put in place for the safety of hon. Members, and the Palace would be extremely dangerous were it not for them.

I do not find it convincing to compare the number of searches with the number of arrests. I do not have the figures, but I suspect that following the hundreds of thousands of searches that have been carried out of visitors to the Palace of Westminster, scarcely one arrest has ever been made. But by God, if those searches had not been carried out, not only would there have been a need for arrests, but a number of bombs would have been placed within the Palace of Westminster. We know that that is true, and we do not need to look in a crystal ball to know that. In 1979—when security was not as good as it is now—Airey Neave, in a terrible outrage, was blown up as he left the car park. That is the reality, and the idea that there is some arithmetical connection between the number of searches carried out and the number of arrests made as a result is, frankly, one that I do not properly comprehend.

Rev. Ian Paisley

We must also remember that a bomb was brought into, and detonated in, this House, causing damage to Westminster Hall.

Mr. Straw

I was not in the House when that happened, but I remember it. I have no doubt that—as the IRA has decided to resume its bombing campaign—were it not for the searches that have been reintroduced far more rigorously, hon. Members, members of staff and the public within the Palace would be vulnerable to terrorist outrages.

Mr. Barnes

The Palace of Westminster could presumably be included in an area in which searches were taking place, so people could be searched outside as they arrived here. Yet the public do have rights of access to the Palace. Will the legislation in any way interfere with those rights? Will a special provision be operated around the Palace, as people might be subject to two searches?

Mr. Straw

Frankly, that is a matter for the Secretary of State to answer, and I invite him to do so when he winds up. From my reading of the Bill, I do not think that it makes any difference to the normal right of access of members of the public to this building, expect when it comes to the first of the four remaining parts of the Bill—if there is a cordon.

I now pick up a point that exercised some of my hon. Friends. I work on the basis, again, that the police will not suddenly throw up a cordon for the hell of it; they will do so for a reason. What is more, although, under the schedule, certain search powers are triggered where there is a cordon, a cordon can be permitted only in very specific circumstances. The circumstances, which are spelled out in clause 4, are: If it appears to a police officer of at least the rank of superintendent that it is expedient to do so in connection with an investigation into the commission, preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism to which this section applies". That is a very specific circumstance in which either there has been an act of terrorism or the police have every reason to believe that there might be one.

Nobody can argue with the parking restrictions proposed in the Bill nor with the proposal that it should be made—

Mr. Bennett

Does my hon. Friend accept that, while it may be reasonable to restrict parking, there is a problem in requiring cars to be moved? Will he get assurances that someone who is not in a fit state to drive a car is not required to move a car from outside his house?

Mr. Straw

That is a matter for the police. However, I say this to my hon. Friend. I was present—my hon. Friend has raised this matter tangentially—at the Old Bailey when the bomb went up in 1973. The bomb had been placed in a Cortina which was parked outside the Old Bailey. If parking restrictions such as those in the Bill had been in force and if the threat had been anticipated, that bomb would not have gone up. Of course the police must take account of the fact of a driver being disabled, but in circumstances in which a cordon is being erected or parking restrictions are being enforced in anticipation of a bomb going off, the overriding concern must be the safety of the public.

I shall now deal with non-residential dwelling search warrants. It seems perfectly reasonable to make it easier for the police to get search warrants and it should certainly be made easier for them to search unaccompanied cargo. Such searches can currently be undertaken by Customs and Excise but not, apparently, by the police.

As I said earlier in my speech, and as I said yesterday, the Bill has been prompted solely by the unilateral resumption of terrorism by the Provisional IRA. If it had not ended the ceasefire and if it had not killed people, there would be no need for the Bill.

My hon. Friend the Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett) yesterday raised an important question about what happens if the ceasefire is resumed and there is an end to the violence which is deemed permanent. I was asked that question on the "Today" programme this morning. It seems obvious that if we arrive at a situation where a judgment has been made by the Government and the Opposition that there is a permanent ceasefire and that a peace process is well in hand, there is no need for these measures. I repeat that the measures have been triggered only by the fact that the IRA decided to end the ceasefire. We have, however, tabled a probing amendment which would give a power to the Secretary of State to abrogate the proposed new sections if and when we arrived at the happier situation where there was a working assumption of a permanent peace.

We regret the necessity for the Bill, as I believe the whole House does, but we are satisfied that it is needed and we will not impede its passage today.

8.12 pm
Mr. Andrew Hunter (Basingstoke)

I am sure that the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) seizes every opportunity to distance himself from my political views, so I make the point as objectively as I can that I believe that many commentators will applaud his position and the points he has made. I hope that few will dissent from joining in that applause.

On 14 March, when my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary was speaking in the debate on the prevention and suppression of terrorism, he made this point: Governments cannot shrink from deciding whether to take the measures necessary to protect the public from terrorism."-[Official Report, 14 March 1996; Vol. 273, c. 1133.]

Conservative Members agreed with him unreservedly.

In his statement yesterday, my right hon. and learned Friend announced that he had discussed with senior police officers whether there were any additional powers which would strengthen their ability to safeguard the public.

Conservative Members would have criticised him if he had not held such discussions. My right hon. and learned Friend continued by explaining that his proposals, which constitute the Bill, were designed to meet the real needs that they"—

senior police officers— have identified … they are necessary changes, which will increase public safety."—[Official Report, 1 April 1996; Vol. 275, c. 35.] Conservative Members would have condemned the Home Secretary if, the real needs having been identified, he had not sought to implement them, and without delay.

We agree with the Home Secretary because, by any criterion of judgment, Government and Parliament should give the highest priority to ensuring that the police have the powers that are needed to safeguard the public from terrorist activity. I hear the argument of those who object that the Government are moving with excessive speed and unseemly haste. It is understandable that those arguments should be made, but I do not believe that they should carry the day. My right hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery), in his speech on the guillotine motion, stressed that everyone was reluctant to see the guillotine being used. It is not a desirable state of affairs, but given the wider circumstances, we argue that it is the lesser of evils.

In the light of intelligence reports and having ascertained that there are weaknesses in our anti-terrorist legislation, it would be irresponsible and indefensible for the Government not to accelerate through Parliament, by timetabled debates, the measures that are necessary to increase public safety. Likewise, it would be irresponsible of the House to oppose those measures.

It is a proven fact that, during the 18 months of the so-called ceasefire, the IRA not only maintained but improved its operational capability. It recruited, trained and targeted; it further researched and developed improvised weapons; it raised funds to maintain its structures and to enhance its capabilities; and, most significantly, it actively prepared for the resumption of violence. It is, therefore, scarcely surprising that intelligence reports confirm that the IRA is even more active now than it was during the so-called ceasefire. There is every reason for urgency and the Government are right to respond with urgency.

Nor should we overlook a second, albeit lesser, on-going reality—the continuing threat from international terrorism and the need to combat it. Successive prevention of terrorism Acts have been designed to respond to threats from sources other than Northern Ireland and Irish terrorism. The slaughter of the innocents over Lockerbie stands as a bitter reminder of that reality. Less than two years ago, the Israeli embassy and Balfour house were attacked. Last year, 50 per cent. of extensions of detention related to international terrorism. The continuing need for effective and updated legislation is self-evident. Such legislation is essential to enable a free and open democratic society to protect itself against terrorism.

Some hon. Members and others oppose the Bill on the ground that it infringes civil liberties. On the civil liberties theme in general, I counter-argue that they fail to grasp some essential truths. First, as we have heard, the greatest threat to civil liberties comes not from counter-terrorist legislation but from those who believe in the bomb and the bullet and put that belief into practice. Secondly, almost all Governments of free, open, democratic societies have found it necessary to assume greater powers when confronted by people prepared to exploit freedom in their bid to destroy it and deny it to others. Thirdly, our emergency powers seek to maintain a delicate balance. In certain circumstances, they may inconvenience and restrict some people, but they contain checks and balances that minimise that and provide some safeguards. Fourthly, our counter-terrorist legislation seeks to protect the overwhelming majority from the smallest of all minorities and the evil that it would inflict. The majority understands and accepts the limitations and restrictions demanded by such legislation. Above all, as the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) said, it is right to err on the side of caution in such matters.

On the specific measures in the Bill, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary said earlier, there are no new questions of principle. Its principles have been in the public domain for years and have been debated many times. Many people would be surprised to learn that they do not already exist in law. Clause 1 gives power to the police to stop and search the outer garments of pedestrians if an authorisation has been given by a senior police officer, to be confirmed by the Secretary of State, and compensates for a deficiency in the 1989 Act. That power already exists under the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1991. It is also contained in the new edition of that Act. Given the terrorist threat, it does not undermine civil liberties but promotes them by making it safer for us all to move about our towns and cities.

Clause 2, which enables the police on a warrant to search one or more non-residential premises for the artefacts of terrorism, infringes no civil liberty. It is common sense that the power should be available. Both powers have been well tested in Northern Ireland. The House has approved them there many times. Sadly, they are needed throughout the United Kingdom.

Clause 3, which enables an examining officer to search unaccompanied goods which have arrived in or are about to leave the United Kingdom, is likewise a highly desirable power for the police. One may say that they should have had it many years ago. There is nothing unreasonable or genuinely controversial in those three clauses. The deterrent factor is prominent. The knowledge of their existence is likely to deter terrorist activity. The same applies to clauses 4 and 5. If, in the judgment of senior police officers, practice and experience have shown that the powers and precedent of common law are insufficient and a statutory basis is deemed desirable for cordoning areas and controlling parking, so let it be. There is no valid objection to that.

In the light of the proven threats from the IRA and international terrorism, the Government are surely right to introduce those measures. They are right to do so with urgency and through timetabled debate. The measures are necessary and reasonable. They do not constitute an unacceptable threat to civil liberties and those who claim that they do are simply wrong. I greatly hope that the House will overwhelmingly accept and endorse the Bill.

8.24 pm
Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, North)

I beg to move, That this House declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill which will not be subject to proper Parliamentary scrutiny, and whose powers may prove to be counterproductive and contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights.

I was flattered that my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) quoted so extensively from my speeches when the Act first went through. I am proud that he has read my words and found them comforting. I recall that my hon. Friend fought the 1983 general election on a manifesto that supported full restoration of trade union rights, withdrawal from the European Economic Community, unilateral nuclear disarmament and nationalisation of industries that had been denationalised. Doubtless his speeches during the campaign while that was Labour party policy reflected those views.

I understand that there is a possibility that my hon. Friend has changed his mind on those matters. He may have done so for a variety of reasons, such as that he would not be sitting on the Front Bench if he had not. However, I do not challenge his good faith in changing his opinions, because we should be able to realise that we have made mistakes. The mistake that I made was not listening to my friend Tom Litterick, who was then a Member of the House, when the original legislation was going through and he said that we were reacting in panic. He said that we were prepared to do almost anything to protect the Irish population and stop Irish people from being attacked in factories and on the streets, having their windows put in, being thrown through the doors of clubs and being subject to abuse as a terrified British population sought scapegoats in the place of the people who had perpetrated that terrible crime in Birmingham. As a result, all people were being tarred with that odour—if one can be tarred with an odour.

People can take courses of action and change their minds. I have changed my mind about the prevention of terrorism Act for the reasons that I have given over the years. I believe that the balance in this legislation has gone the wrong way. It has been counter-productive. That was shown by the great trawls of the Irish population in London in the 1970s and early 1980s. People were picked up just because they were Irish, taken away, questioned and released without charge. I know how it alienated a whole generation of people who came to this country to be law abiding. They wanted to be good citizens and to work. They wanted to make a way for themselves and their families. It alienated them from the forces of law and order because they thought that they were being unfairly treated and singled out.

I believe that two powers that were contained in that legislation, exclusion orders and the power to detain a person without access to a magistrate for up to seven days, were wrong. I still believe that they are wrong. I have changed my mind.

I have changed my mind also about the Birmingham Six. On one occasion when I was arguing in favour of not renewing the Act, I said—I freely admit this—that the Birmingham Six had been caught by ordinary police methods. That was before all the horrible evidence about how they had been treated came to light. However, where people have been caught, they have generally been caught not by virtue of those powers, but by normal good police work. As that is so, we must look carefully at the sort of powers that we are giving.

I now leave my "Apologia pro Vita Sua"—and, in retrospect, one for my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn too—and turn to the reasoned amendment. We have already dealt with at length, so I shall not repeat to the House, the arguments about the time provided to discuss the Bill and the manner in which it has been introduced. Those arguments stand on the record.

However, I shall take up one point—the claim that less time was given for discussing amendments when the original Act was passed than has been allowed with this Bill. That is not the case. Less time was in fact taken up, but there was no limit on the time that could have been used—whereas here there is a specific and direct time limit for dealing with matters connected with the Bill.

My second point arises from the issue that I raised before—the danger of alienating a generation. My hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn says that the proposed powers are very different from the sus laws. Indeed, judging by the way in which he describes the sus laws, that is correct; nobody doubts it. However, the phrase "the sus laws" has come to have a meaning different from the precise meaning that my hon. Friend used. It was associated with the arbitrary stopping and searching of people.

Clause 1 asks us to support the arbitrary power to stop and search people in a designated area, without giving any reason. My hon. Friend says that the police—because we can all trust the police—would not dispose of their people in an arbitrary fashion to behave in that way. I wish that that were true. I am sure that it would be true when the original decision was taken, but it would not apply to the individual bobby on the beat who took part in the searches.

We know from the cases that come up in the London metropolitan area how such powers have been used. My hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) has already drawn the attention of the House to the disproportionate number of black people in cars who are stopped within the cordons that already exist—a point that my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn has already accepted.

Mr. Straw

I am following my hon. Friend's argument with some care. If his arguments about section 13B are so strong, they must also have applied to section 13A, which raises exactly the same issues with respect to the occupants of vehicles. So could my hon. Friend explain why, when the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 was before the House under the usual procedures—its passage took not one day but four months—he raised no objections on any occasion to section 13A?

Mr. McNamara

The answer is simple: examples have now been given by my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North of the way in which section 13A has been used and abused.

Mr. Straw

There is no evidence whatever that section 13A has been abused. The figures that I gave, and those to which my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) referred, relate to powers contained within ordinary criminal justice legislation, which give the police the power to stop and search people on reasonable suspicion. I have not been made aware—nor, I believe, has my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North—of any evidence of abuse of that power. Indeed, it has been used on only one occasion—following the Canary wharf bomb on 9 February.

Mr. McNamara

I take my hon. Friend's point, but let me carefully explain that we do have evidence that where there has been reasonable suspicion, most people who have been stopped have been people of Asian or Caribbean background. Within a designated area the police have the power to stop and search people without rhyme or reason. The Home Secretary can, if he wishes, prevent that from happening—but, judging by past evidence, that is unlikely to happen. That is what happens with reasonable suspicion.

Secondly, and more important, young people are the ones who will be stopped—perhaps coming back from a dance or out with their girlfriends or boyfriends—and be subjected to a search. We know from our experience in Northern Ireland that those stop-and-search powers have had an alienating effect on the attitudes of young people from both communities and in both areas to the forces of law and order.

We are creating exactly the same phenomenon that followed the trawls that took place under the terms of the original legislation. We are therefore in a dangerous position. Regardless of the operational reason for the exercise, the ordinary bobby on the street, acting with such powers, may use them to pick up specific people for other reasons. When the Home Secretary was asked yesterday about whether, if evidence of other crimes were found, it would be used, he said yes. Given the proposed powers, the temptation for the police to go in that direction is well understood, and I believe that it would be followed.

Mr. Alun Michael (Cardiff, South and Penarth)

I think that my hon. Friend is getting confused. He has referred to people being stopped not under the powers in the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 but under those in other legislation. So far as I am aware, the powers in the 1994 Act were seen as reassuring, rather than the reverse, by people in London. My hon. Friend alleged that young people would be stopped and subjected to searches, but there is no suggestion that that has happened as a result of section 13A, which was added to the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989. On what basis does he make that suggestion? He seems to have plucked it out of the air.

Mr. McNamara

On the basis of what has happened in Northern Ireland. My hon. Friend should be aware of that. Under the stop-and-search powers in Northern Ireland, it is young people who have been stopped.

Mr. Michael

My hon. Friend has confirmed that he is getting confused. When we debated what is now the 1994 Act, we raised precisely those issues. I asked during our debates on that Act how we could be reassured that those powers would not be used disproportionately on people from ethnic minorities and on young people. We were given reassurance, and protections were built in. The provisions before us today share the protections and provisions of the 1994 Act, precisely because we raised those issues.

Mr. McNamara

With the greatest respect to my hon. Friend, the point that I am making arises from legislation in Northern Ireland, and the effect of the stop-and-search power. That power has not existed in Great Britain, which is why it now appears in the Bill, and why I am drawing the attention of the House to the defect, and its likely consequences.

Finally, I shall deal with the right to establish a cordon. I do not believe that anybody can argue about the other matters in the Bill—the parking restrictions, the power in respect of non-residential buildings, and the power to search non-accompanied cargo. However, a letter from my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn and the Opposition Chief Whip says that the power in question is designed to enforce a cordon around a bomb warning area.

It is true that that is part of the power contained in the Bill, but the power goes far wider than that.

Nobody could possibly object to giving the police or anybody else power to establish a cordon around an area where there was a suspected explosive device or to establish one afterwards to protect people or for necessary forensic work to be carried out. But the power goes far wider than those purposes and is in connection with an investigation into the commission, preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism

to which the Act applies, and it can be in relation to any political violence.

Mr. Straw

I am sorry; I simply do not begin to understand my hon. Friend's arguments. Is he seriously suggesting that if the police believe that there has been the commission, preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism"— which, I remind my hon. Friend, usually results in a loss of life, maiming of innocent people and serious damage—the police should not be entitled to put a cordon around an area for their protection and to further their investigation into who has committed the act?

Mr. McNamara

My hon. Friend should have listened very carefully to what I said. I said in particular that if there had been a bomb or a device that was likely to go off or had gone off, a cordon was necessary to protect people. I argued that we were examining not just the issue of explosives or immediate danger to limb; the Bill provides a far wider power, and many other powers follow from it, such as authority for searches.

My hon. Friend the Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett) asked the Home Secretary how, if there is a cordon, we can be certain that it will not be abused by the police and used to avoid getting a warrant to enter premises. The fact is that that necessity can be contravened.

I believe the power goes far beyond the limitations stated by the Home Secretary and by my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn in their letter to us. The problem is that my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn and I are at cross-purposes, with occasional interjections from the Home Secretary, but we do not have time to explore the matters in detail. Ultimately, my hon. Friend and I may be ad idem on these issues, but the argument that is being made is rather slipshod. The Bill's powers are far wider, far stronger and go far deeper than has been suggested in this debate, and the Bill merits far more consideration.

My hon. Friend the Member for Denton and Reddish suggested that some of the powers in the Bill may be contrary to the European convention on human rights. The hon. Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley) asked specifically about that point and was told that, should the statute be ruled out by the convention, common law would still prevail. I was under the impression that common law could be ruled out by the convention, but the hon. Gentleman seemed to consider that answer satisfactory.

The point has been made that the Bill is a codification of powers. The Government are very uncertain about their position, however, particularly in relation to the provision on cordons. Paragraph 10 of the schedule states: The powers conferred by this Schedule are additional to any other powers which a constable has either at common law or under or by virtue of any other enactment and are not to be taken to affect any of those other powers.

The Government have suggested that there is some uncertainty about the position in common law. It is their intention to codify it, but, just in case they have gone too far and limited it too much, they intend to maintain the position in common law. That is not good legislation, and it shows the slipshod way in which this matter has been dealt with.

We have been told that the need for the legislation suddenly transpired between last Thursday's Cabinet meeting and today. I do not think it all adds up. I think that much of the legislation has to do with the Government's being in two minds about the issue. The Government have not mentioned an Easter scare or the general security situation, other than references to the continuing threat from the IRA—which is real and live, and which I would not dispute for a moment. It has in fact been my hon. Friends on the Labour Front Bench who have expressed the need for urgency in supporting the Bill.

Labour Front Benchers have urged on us the belief that something is likely to happen over Easter. We have been told that it will be on our consciences if a life is lost that could have been saved had we passed this legislation. But we were told that the IRA planned, prepared and placed its South Quay bomb months before the announcement of the ceasefire breakdown. That must have been done months in advance. The IRA's planning ability—for which it receives credit from the Government—makes one wonder whether, if there is a major incident this weekend, this legislation will have any effect.

There are now cassette-type bombs that can be carried in coats, but we cannot subject people to intimate searches. If an area is designated, that may prevent people from going into the area, but it will not prevent incidents involving cassette-type bombs from happening elsewhere. I find that argument very strange. If I felt that the power to cordon areas would be effective and that it was necessary and not likely to lead to harassment of individuals or groups—having particular regard to the concern expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Preston (Mrs. Wise) about women and searches and to the technical point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Derbyshire (Mr. Barnes), which might cause problems—I might be prepared to give the Government the benefit of the doubt.

I have not been convinced by the Government's reasons for the necessity of this legislation. I do not think that the House should be pressurised into passing a far-reaching measure affecting civil liberties, which is concerned not only with the Irish situation but with terrorism generally, as the hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Hunter) pointed out. The Bill will not merely affect London or the home counties; it could apply in Bradford, Leicester or Hull, where an area could be designated. These powers could be abused because there are no reasonable grounds for considering their operation, not even any semblance of judicial review. The person who has to be satisfied in all these cases will be the same person who felt that the powers were necessary—the Home Secretary. I do not think that it adds up.

8.48 pm
Sir Ivan Lawrence (Burton)

The assumption behind the rather long and rambling speech of the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) that the police have called for the improvements in the anti-terrorist legislation in order to harass ethnic minority groups or anybody else is too ludicrous for words. The legislation is framed specifically to combat terrorism. It bears no relationship to any law that used to exist and which was used to harass ethnic minorities or anyone else.

The hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) is always at his best when he agrees with us. I seem to remember, however, that when he last agreed with us about the prevention of terrorism legislation that we debated the other day, he ended up abstaining when it came to the vote. I did not hear him say tonight that he intended to vote with us. I hope that we can have some suggestion from the hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael) that all his hon. Friend's good, supportive words for the Bill mean that the Labour party will vote with the Government on the Bill.

The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North once again floated the kite—rather more of a hare—that the terms of the European convention on human rights will be opposed to the Bill. A lot of people here do not care too much what the European Court of Human Rights or the European convention on human rights say about the Bill, but I can reassure him that any legislation that a nation state considers to be important and necessary for the curtailment of terrorism is not opposed by the European convention on human rights.

Legislation does not stop terrorism, but if it gives the police necessary powers, it can help to prevent some terrorism. If it becomes easier to catch terrorists and put them out of harm's way, that can help to deter them.

Mr. Bennett

Does the hon. and learned Gentleman accept that when we dealt with the PTA about three weeks ago, the Government had to move an amendment because they had been found to be in breach of the European convention?

Sir Ivan Lawrence

All I can say is that I do not suppose for one moment that the Bill is likely to fall foul of that convention. Even if it did, I do not suppose that anyone in the country would think it at all wrong for us to maintain our position in the face of whatever ruling might be imposed upon us by a foreign court that is not subject to the kind of pressure to restrict terrorism as that faced by us and the rest of the British people.

The House must consider whether the Bill gives the police powers that they do not already have, and powers that they need, and whether the public will be content with such legislation, even if it does mean some inconvenience to honest, decent law-abiding citizens. Quite frankly, I think that the public will be astonished to learn of the lacunae that have caused the Bill to be [Sir Ivan Lawrence] introduced. They will be astonished to discover that the police can stop and search any vehicle, driver, passenger or even pedestrian if he or she is carrying a bag, but that they are not allowed to search that person's coat, jacket, shoes or other item for articles connected with terrorism. The British people will want that power to be given to the police, and they will want that power to be given to them now, before it is too late.

The British people will be astonished that the police do not have the power to search non-residential premises, given that they have the right to search residential premises. It is obvious that terrorists can hide away bombs and other articles connected with their miserable trade in lock-up garages under railway arches. The fact that we do not have a law to enable the police to search such premises adequately will be astounding to ordinary people in our society. They want the police to be given that power, and they want them to be given it now.

The public will also be astonished that the police do not have the same powers as customs officers to search unaccompanied container lorries left at ports.

Mr. Peter Bottomley (Eltham)

That is astonishing.

Sir Ivan Lawrence

Yes, it is. People will want the police to be given that power now, before it is too late.

The public will also be astonished to learn that the police are not able to cordon off an area while they are looking for a bomb or to impose temporary parking restrictions outside Government buildings and royal buildings. I thought that the police had always had such powers, and it is amazing for us in Parliament, and just as amazing to people outside, to learn that they do not have them. The people will want the police to have those powers now, before it is too late.

If those powers do not exist now, surprisingly and astonishingly, they need to exist, and I am sure that the public will give full-hearted support to them. After all, the protection of citizens and visitors to our country—tourism is an important part of our industry and trade—from death and mutilation is one of the clearest responsibilities of Parliament and has been recognised as such by all responsible parties in the House.

Despite his denial, it must be very embarrassing for the hon. Member for Blackburn that between 30 and 40 of his supporters do not believe that those additional powers are necessary. They would like us to take so long discussing them, day after day, or week after week, or month after month, that the terrorists could get on with exploiting the lacunae in the law in order to bomb more of our territories.

Certain Opposition Members argue that the threat to the civil liberties of the individual outweighs the threat to the civil liberties of the entire nation. That majority, however, has a right to feel safe and to be safe. An Opposition amendment calls for the word "reasonable" to be inserted instead of "expedient"; another that the word "pedestrian" should be followed by the words "or cyclist"; another states that a constable shall be regarded as in uniform only if his identification number is clearly visible";

and another states: any person so stopped shall on being stopped be given the warrant number of the constable stopping him.".

That is all interesting stuff, but not when we are dealing with terrorists who blow people and their property to pieces. I accept that those amendments may be important to some Opposition Members, but they are not important to most people in this country.

I am concerned about civil liberties. All my legal life has been dedicated to them and I do not take any lectures from anyone in the House about the need for civil liberties. But there are civil liberties and civil liberties—[Interruption.] I note that the hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth is getting angry. I wonder why, if he is so supportive of the Bill.

Mr. Michael

This is a pathetic speech.

Sir Ivan Lawrence

I can understand the hon. Gentleman being irritated that so many of his colleagues—between 30 and 40 of them—intend to divide the House against the Bill because they think that it is unnecessary. I can understand him being embarrassed. As I said, there are civil liberties and civil liberties, but some civil liberties are more important than others. The civil liberty of the individual's right not to be searched is one thing, but the right of the British public to walk freely in the streets without bombs is the greatest of civil liberties.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Hunter) has said, it is difficult to see why some Opposition Members can complain that the Bill will infringe civil liberties. The stop-and-search powers can be used only in limited areas and only for 28 days, and then only with the authority of the chief constable or an assistant chief constable. A prosecution can be brought only if the Director of Public Prosecutions says so. Non-residential searches can be carried out only with a magistrate's warrant, if it has been applied for by a superintendent, and it can last for only 24 days. We know that these provisions are useful and that they can work because they work in Northern Ireland—and the only one that has not applied to Northern Ireland will now be applied under the legislation.

The public have a right to expect more protection—and they have a right to expect it now. The police, on our behalf, have a right to expect these powers—and they have a right to expect them now, because they are at the front line of our defences.

I feel sorry for hon. Members who lead for the Opposition because their colleagues have asked questions such as: why are so many people being stopped and so few people being charged? They have a blind spot about the fact that if these pieces of legislation are in place, they are a deterrent to the kind of terrorism and activity that goes on. There is a much more practical side to these provisions than interference with the civil liberties of individuals.

Mr. Gerrard

Will the hon. and learned Gentleman give way?

Sir Ivan Lawrence

No, I shall not give way to the hon. Gentleman. Time is short because his hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North made a long speech. Who will be most unhappy when the legislation is passed? That question can be answered in only one way: the terrorists. That justifies the legislation.

Let us pray that one day there will be no terrorism and that the need for these powers will disappear. We shall then be able to withdraw the powers when we come to debate the prevention of terrorism legislation, as we do every year. I look forward to that day, and it will come more quickly if we have this legislation. At the moment, we live in sad and dangerous times which make this legislation necessary. Hon. Members must support it: if they do not, they will be betraying the people of this country who sent them to this place.

9.1 pm

Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)

The hon. and learned Member for Burton (Sir I. Lawrence) expressed astonishment on behalf of the public that all of the powers in the Bill are not already on the statute book. He is a practising lawyer, he is Chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee and he is prominent in his party. The Government have been in power for 17 years and they have introduced criminal justice legislation and prevention of terrorism legislation every year, including a Bill three weeks ago. It is therefore a bit much for the hon. and learned Gentleman to express astonishment that these powers are not on the statute book. It has taken the Home Secretary a little time to make up his mind whether the legislation is desirable and he has left the House with almost no time at all to work out whether it is desirable.

I start from the assumption that the IRA is likely to plant a bomb at any time, an assumption that I continued to hold during much of the ceasefire as I am very suspicious about its intentions. None of our security forces should be varied simply because ceasefire discussions are in process; they should be varied only when we perceive that the security threat has diminished. That is the background against which I judge this legislation. I therefore think it quite reasonable that the police should seek to clarify the powers within which they carry out searches, cordons and other activities referred to in the legislation. I insist that, for the most part, these are things that they do now but which they need greater clarity to do.

In the limited time available to us in Committee, we have to ask: does the legislation achieve that purpose? Does it do so with unnecessary restriction on civil liberties? Could it be improved so that it serves its purpose better or so that it places less limitation on civil liberties? Could there be more effective safeguards? Because we believe that the police are right to seek more effective powers and that the Bill represents a reasonable attempt to do that—give or take improvements that we might make—Liberal Democrats will vote in favour of the Second Reading of the Bill; we shall not abstain.

I refer to the specific features of the Bill. The stop-and search-power is restrictive—it needs to be authorised for a given area and it is limited to 28 days. The worry is that it is not related to the belief that any individual being searched is carrying materials likely to lead to a terrorist act. When one creates a cordon or tries to deal with a situation in which one expects a bomb to be brought into an area, one has to search a large number of people who one knows very well are not likely to be carrying it. One has to carry out a general search in those circumstances. It is important to be clear that one does that only if there is an apprehension that a bomb is likely to be brought into the area, on the basis of intelligence information or something of that kind. General searching would not otherwise be justified.

There are then powers for a general search of non-residential premises on a magistrate's warrant. Such searches must be exercised with care as it would be seriously counter-productive to lead an entire community to believe that it is being targeted because a warrant is issued to search every garage in the area. On the whole, the public are very supportive of that type of activity—indeed, they are pleased to see the police making a careful check—but the power might be counter-productively used in some circumstances and should therefore be exercised with care.

Obviously, something should be done to give powers to deal with goods on an aircraft or ship not carried by a passenger, but some of the provisions are slightly worrying. For example, subsection (2) of clause 3 creates an offence of seeking to frustrate the object of … a search". I can imagine the fury that would be generated in the luggage collection area of an airport if passengers were unsure whether their luggage had been delayed by the baggage handlers, the airline or a security firm searching it on behalf of the police. I have seen irate people complain vigorously to airline staff in those circumstances. If they are then told, "Any more cheek like that and you will be charged with seeking to frustrate the object of a search," relations between the police and public might be impaired. I am therefore worried about the formulation of that offence.

There are also anxieties about precisely who in Scotland is authorised to use reasonable force in seeking to carry out a search. It appears on the face of the Bill—my hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) will wish to refer to this if we are allowed to reach that point in Committee—that persons who are not police officers will be authorised in Scotland to use reasonable force when carrying out a search. That will include persons who are not trained in the restrained use of force, and it needs to be clarified.

Clause 4 and the schedule, which deal with cordons, are very sweeping. They allow cordons to be maintained for 14 days, and on extension for 28 days, which is far more than one is accustomed to in these circumstances. Police cordons are usually of fairly short duration. They present problems, and must be handled carefully.

A school party from my constituency came down to London and visited me the other week, when there was a bomb in the west end. They were in a café having a cup of tea. They were all evacuated from the café6, but the teacher had great difficulty persuading the police—indeed, I believe that she did not succeed—that she should be allowed to collect one of the girls, who had gone to the toilet. So they were faced with the possibility of all being evacuated from the café, leaving one bewildered girl in the toilet of an empty café in a strange capital city, with no one from whom to find out where to go. Those powers need to be exercised with considerable care.

Dr. Robert Spink (Castle Point)

indicated dissent.

Mr. Beith

The hon. Gentleman, who claims to be a parliamentary private secretary, shakes his head. Does he not realise that young people and children are especially vulnerable in such circumstances? The provisions about parking appear obvious and sensible for most people, but we must consider the position of someone who might be required to move a car when he would be placing himself in danger, or believed that he would be placing himself in danger, in order to do so. If a police officer tells someone, "Go and move that car because we think that there is a bomb in the car next to it," the person concerned is in a position to say, "I would rather see my car go up than go up with it." The use of that power needs to be clarified, as does its use in relation to disabled people.

It is not clear what other police forces are involved. I was surprised that the Home Secretary appeared to say that every private police force in the country, including those run by private enterprise organisations such as ports, will be brought within the ambit of the Bill. It does not say so on the face of the Bill. Indeed, the only definition of police officers in the Bill is in clause 5, which refers to police officers of a force maintained for any other police force area. That does not sound to me like the Tilbury docks police or even the Royal Parks constabulary.

Those are illustrations of the problems of dealing in haste and without a proper Committee stage with a very technical Bill. That is why we should have more time and why the Committee stage should have been set out with time for each clause. We nevertheless believe that the Bill should have a Second Reading and we shall vote accordingly. We will therefore vote against the amendment declining to give a Second Reading to the Bill.

9.7 pm

Mr. David Wilshire (Spelthorne)

Both the Bill and the procedures that we are using raise two separate issues, and there are two distinct ways of looking at both. One can either look at those issues in a detached philosophical way and have a debate about the theory of such things as civil rights, or one can look at them in a personally involved way and have a debate about how to protect innocent people.

I make no apology for looking at the Bill in a personally involved way, because I feel personally involved. Along with all others in the House and outside the House who are caught up in Northern Ireland affairs, it crosses my mind from time to time that I too might be a terrorist target. It is hardly surprising, when someone thinks like that—and thousands of people do—that such people feel personally involved and, when it comes to debates of this type, place public safety first, before all other matters.

I also feel involved on behalf of my constituents. Hon. Members should remember that Spelthorne residents have seen terrorism at first hand. They have seen mortars fired from the edge of a housing estate in Stanwell on to the runways of Heathrow airport and they have seen mortars fired from outside my constituency into the part of the airport that is located within it. Thank God none of those mortars exploded. It is hardly surprising that my constituents also feel personally involved and seek to put public safety first in the debate.

I shall give the House another example of my constituents' involvement in the debate. Only last week, when a group of children and teachers from an infant school in my constituency came to Downing street to receive an award and to celebrate and enjoy themselves, worried parents sought reassurance from the head teacher about the terrorist threat in Whitehall. It is hardly surprising that my constituents feel personally involved in the situation and want to see public safety put above all other considerations. It makes the protection of life and limb a prime duty of the House at all times and a particular duty when considering the legislation tonight. Therefore, I approach every part of the Bill and of the procedure with that in mind.

If one feels personally involved in an issue such as this, it colours how one looks at philosophical issues such as civil liberties. I shall explain how I approach it and how I believe that my constituents deal with the question of civil liberties. I am proud to live in a liberal democracy; I am proud that our society is founded on the rule of law and is underpinned by a belief in the supremacy of individual human rights. I defer to no one and I shall take lectures from no one regarding my commitment to those fundamental principles: the most fundamental of which is the individual right to life—the very principle that the terrorists challenge at every turn.

If we believe that, we dare not overlook one of the weaknesses of the high-minded, principled approach. If societies use such principles to run their normal affairs, they find it very difficult to handle those who seek to undermine the fabric and the principles upon which the societies are based. The people who seek to undermine those principles often view those very principles as a weakness. Therefore, they treat them with contempt and they do not accept, as the rest of us do, that we should be bound by a common respect for civil liberties and for human rights.

I believe that that is the practical challenge confronting those who wish to philosophise—as we have heard tonight—and who want to focus on general civil liberties. Terrorists do not respect civil rights. That fact is evidenced by the spate of murders that occurred in Northern Ireland over Christmas. On those occasions, we are told that Sinn Fein-IRA decided to conduct investigations, but it did not tell anyone what it discovered—there goes the first civil right. Sinn Fein-IRA then decided to act and to behave as judge and jury based upon its investigations. It gave the people whom it decided to judge not a moment in which to defend themselves nor any right of appeal—there go more civil rights. Sinn Fein-IRA acted as the executioner as well as the judge and the jury, giving people no chance for redress or to be heard before they were murdered. Where is the civil liberty in that action? How can we treat people like that in the same way as we treat others going about their daily lives?

I judge that those evil people place themselves outside normal society and deny themselves the privileges that membership of such a society confers on the rest of us. The vast majority of those whom I represent willingly accept that if effectively dealing with those evil people involves the temporary inconvenience of the rest of us or the temporary interruption of some of our rights, so be it. That is the public view. We are quite prepared to pay that price to maintain life and limb.

I turn briefly to the two issues that are raised by the business before the House—the need for five new powers and the speed of enactment. Let me deal first with the five new powers. I suspect that there is little need to say much more because every twist and every turn has been explored by the exchanges between Labour Members and it ill becomes me intrude on the private grief of the Labour party as it tries to sort itself out.

I judge that four of the five powers do not raise significant civil liberties issues. In regard to searching freight, customs officers do it and I am amazed to discover that the police cannot. Setting up cordons and placing restrictions on parking are probably covered by the common law, as I understand it, but if they are not, they should be placed on a statutory footing—we are not seeking to change anything, only to clarify it. As for searching premises, it is a nonsense if, after a terrorist has killed himself in a bomb explosion on a bus, the police are entitled to search his home and the homes of his friends, but do not have the power to search the non-residential premises where terrorist weapons and explosives may have been stored. If that is the position, the quicker we sort it out, the better.

Only the fifth power—the searching of pedestrians—needs a little more exploration. Anybody who has witnessed what, sadly, we see every day of the week—the vehicle and occupant searches in the streets around the Palace of Westminster—will know only too well what is involved. It is entirely proper that we should spend a moment or two asking ourselves whether we want to inflict that experience on pedestrians as well as on the occupants of vehicles.

I conclude quite simply that given the sophistication of today's terrorist and the ability to conceal items in a coat or jacket pocket rather than in a vehicle, and given the loopholes in the law that have been identified, it is total nonsense to contemplate continuing to allow the police to search vehicles and their occupants, but not to search pedestrians. I understand only too well the concerns that have been expressed by Labour Members, but I am reassured—as I understand are Labour Front-Bench Members—by the safeguards that have been spelt out by my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary and others. Given those safeguards and the current position, I believe that the fifth power is indeed necessary.

Finally, let me turn to the legislative haste. It would help to reassure the House if the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East (Mr. Kirkhope), could say a little more about the reasons for that haste. As someone who is closely involved in Northern Ireland affairs, I suspect that the explanation for that lies in the confidential security briefings given to a select and privileged few and not shared with the remainder of us. Can my hon. Friend confirm that inquiries following the Canary wharf and Aldwych bombs led directly to the Bill? Although I do not want or expect anyone to give us the full details in public, it would help the House if my hon. Friend could confirm that the new security information that has come to light in the past few weeks has made it imperative that we act before Easter.

It gives me no pleasure to support this Bill, nor do I enjoy using procedures of this sort. But I have absolutely no doubt where my priorities lie. They are these: to seek the safety and security of the innocent citizens of this country, and to put them above all else. Faced with a clear, renewed threat from those who are prepared to kill and maim in the furtherance of their twisted ideology, faced by evil people who despise democracy and who are prepared to treat civil liberties with contempt, and faced with clear advice that extra powers are needed now, I arrive at the simple conclusion that this House has no choice but to act swiftly and decisively.

9.20 pm
Mr. David Trimble (Upper Bann)

As has been said a number of times today, we in the Ulster Unionist party will be supporting the Bill. Most of it applies to England and Wales, but we particularly welcome clause 3, which extends to Northern Ireland. The terms of clause 3 remind me of the incident in the summer of 1994, just before the ceasefire, when a large bomb was intercepted at Heysham, en route, we believe, to London—possibly to Canary wharf. It was larger than the one that went off in Canary wharf on 9 February. That clearly underlines the need for the relevant power to be clarified.

The power already exists for Customs and Excise to search goods in transit, but the Bill clearly gives the police in all parts of the United Kingdom the power to act too. That is wholly appropriate.

Although we support the Bill, we take the view that, if anything, it does not go far enough. There is a need for more comprehensive legislation on a UK basis. That becomes apparent when we reflect on what happened with the bomb at Canary wharf. While we cannot know for certain—there is an element of supposition in what I am about to say—the signs are that the bomb that went off there was constructed by a small team in the IRA based on what it calls its GHQ units, with persons drawn from its England department—people located in the Republic of Ireland, some of Northern Ireland origin but all domiciled in the Republic and operating from there.

The bomb was made by a small, tightly knit group composed of these elements and then loaded on to a truck which had been the subject of some engineering work in the Republic. It was then run through Northern Ireland, southern Scotland and England to London, where it was primed and put in position.

Bearing in mind this sequence of events and the fact that there was no intelligence warning before the bomb went off, there are certain questions that need to be asked. First, why was there no intelligence warning? Part of the answer lies in the way in which the IRA operated. It did not involve people domiciled in Northern Ireland because it rightly believed that, were it to do so, the security forces in Northern Ireland would have got wind of what was going on. So it operated purely inside the Republic, where the Irish police missed what was going on. We have reason to believe that they missed it partly because they had ceased surveillance of key IRA personnel during the ceasefire in response to the act of faith on the part of the Irish Government that the ceasefire would be permanent. That led to a relaxation of vigilance.

There are lessons to be drawn from this. The bombers ignored the administrative and legal boundaries in the United Kingdom. The bomb went off in London but started its life south of the border in the Republic of Ireland; and its movement through the United Kingdom involved not just Northern Ireland and Scotland, but I know not how many police force areas in England and Wales. That is a reason for us to reconsider why we have so many administrative and legal boundaries.

There is not much sense now in maintaining a separate anti-terrorist code in Northern Ireland and one in the rest of the United Kingdom. The terrorists do not recognise those boundaries and we should not be limited by them. That underlines the reason for a single Act covering Northern Ireland. When I suggested that in my question on the statement yesterday, the Home Secretary rightly referred to the Lloyd review, but the review's terms of reference direct it to consider the legislation that would be necessary on the basis that the peace was permanent. We now know that the peace is not permanent, so the existence of the Lloyd review may not be a good reason to fail to consider what is needed by way of comprehensive legislation throughout the United Kingdom.

I bear in mind also the valid point made by the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath) a couple of years ago when the first major bombs occurred in London. The right hon. Gentleman called for a single Cabinet Minister to be responsible for the anti-terrorist drive throughout the United Kingdom. We need to reconsider that point.

The circumstances of Canary wharf again underline the need for effective surveillance, especially in the Republic of Ireland. The Republic's capability is limited, partly by lack of resources. I notice that recently, after the middle eastern bombs, the United States Government have made available substantial sums of money to enhance the capability of the Israeli Government in bomb detection and surveillance. That is an interesting precedent. I know that the United Kingdom Government have in the past offered similar assistance to the Irish Government which, for a variety of reasons, they have refused. Perhaps one might suggest to the Government of the United States that they might make an offer to the Irish Government that they could not refuse. Such an approach might be fruitful.

Mr. William Ross (East Londonderry)

Does my hon. Friend agree that his latter comment is given added force by the fact that the Government of the Irish Republic have recently had to move so many police officers to the border to prevent the smuggling of cattle as a result of the BSE scare and, therefore, their need for financial and other assistance from the United States is even greater than it was 10 days ago?

Mr. Trimble

That is an interesting comment by my hon. Friend and it could give rise to a number of comments about the exertions of the Irish authorities to ensure that their cattle are not affected in comparison with their comparative lack of exertion to protect the lives of human beings in Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom.

Mr. Soley

If the hon. Gentleman wants to win support from people in this country, it is important that he understands that attacks of that type on the Irish are totally counter-productive, not least because the Irish Government and the Irish people spend more per head of the population on the fight against terrorism than the British people. The Irish Government do that not least because they have put immense effort into trying to defeat terrorism that was born and bred in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Trimble

The hon. Gentleman has completely misunderstood the point that I was making. I think his comment was quite inaccurate. I hope that he will read Hansard tomorrow to see what I have said. If he considers Hansard carefully, he will see that it was not accurate of him to characterise what I have said as an attack on the Irish people. When he makes the point about the involvement in anti-terrorist activity and the greater burden on the resources of the Irish Government, that merely reinforces the point that I made earlier about the need to enhance their capability. If the Irish Government are not prepared to accept assistance from the United Kingdom Government, perhaps they would accept assistance from other sources.

Mr. Soley

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Trimble

No, I shall not give way again because time is limited. I have replied to the hon. Gentleman's point and, having done that, I shall continue.

Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South)

Does my hon. Friend agree that during the so-called peace and truce there was mortar bomb testing in County Monaghan and nobody was apprehended for it?

Mr. Trimble

Yes, indeed.

Rev. Ian Paisley

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Trimble

No, I will not. I am sorry, but time is limited and the winding-up speeches must begin shortly. I have given undertakings in that respect which I shall struggle to maintain.

However, I wish to make one final comment about the Irish Republic which is interesting in this context. Comment has been made about infringement of civil liberties, and people have mentioned the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. At the moment in the Irish Republic, what is called the right to silence is being widely questioned at many levels in southern society, and restrictions on that right similar to those that were introduced here may be applied there. The Home Secretary may be interested to learn that the Irish Government propose to introduce a power to detain suspected drug traffickers for up to seven days. If the Irish Government have found a way to reconcile that with the European convention on human rights, the Home Secretary might like to follow their example so that we shall no longer need the Brophy derogation.

Since the Aldwych bombing in which the bomber was killed, there has been a pause in IRA activity here. That incident undermines the point made by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara), who said that security force action provoked people and led them to join the IRA. I wonder how that happened in connection with an inhabitant of the small town of Gorey in County Wexford, who was not subject at any time to oppressive behaviour by the British or Irish security forces. However, that is by the way.

The pause since the Aldwych explosion may be due to the fact that finds of explosive material have disrupted the IRA's capability and it needs time to sort out whatever led to the premature explosion and to restock with equipment. However, there are signs that the pause will end. I understand that IRA units in Northern Ireland which have been restive because of inactivity since the declared end of the ceasefire are being told by their leaders that the violence will continue in London first and that they will then endeavour to provoke loyalists in Northern Ireland, thus leading to a more general resumption of violence. Consequently, greater vigilance in the nation's capital will save lives not only in London but perhaps in Ulster. That is an added reason for our support for the legislation.

Of course we say to those involved in loyalist organisations that, no matter what the provocation, they must show utter and complete restraint. Nothing should be allowed to divert the security forces from the need to maintain order. What happened at Canary wharf and at the Aldwych and other circumstances underline the need to protect not only the targets here but to go to the source and consider ways and means by which we can be more effective in preventing bombs being moved from the areas where they are constructed.

9.31 pm
Mr. Alun Michael (Cardiff, South and Penarth)

In their contributions, most hon. Members sought to deal with the Bill sensibly and reasonably. The only exceptions were the partisan comments of the hon. Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Hawkins) and the ill-judged contribution of the hon. and learned Member for Burton (Sir I. Lawrence), which must have been particularly embarrassing for the Home Secretary, who has not been partisan in dealing with the measure.

I have sympathy for the view expressed by the hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire): that fear and concern is shared by his ordinary constituents. I have shared that experience because a grandmother attended my surgery last week to ask whether it was safe for her grandchildren to have a day trip in London. We need to offer as much reassurance and protection as we can to ordinary people who have such fear.

I say to the hon. Member for Spelthorne that we must take care because balance is required in providing new powers to the police and other authorities. Our case is simply that we are satisfied with the restrictions that were put in place by the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 and which apply here. I was greatly involved in the Committee that scrutinised that measure. I seem to have been kept busy on many Bills introduced by the Home Secretary over the past few years. He will know that each of those Bills was carefully scrutinised and challenged in Committee. We try to explore the Government's intentions.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) said, in examining the Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill we were satisfied, following discussions, that it struck the right balance between the exercise of its powers and the limits that were placed on them to prevent their misuse by the police. That is different from the conditions that existed under the sus laws, as my hon. Friend rightly said.

The hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble) made a thoughtful contribution about the problems across the different parts of the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland. His speech went well beyond the scope of the Bill. The House will have to return to what he said in due course, but I hope that he will forgive me if I do not follow him down that path now.

What underlies our debate is that people throughout Great Britain have been shocked and appalled by the return to violence. Without that, we should not be faced with our current serious dilemma—the balance between protecting civil liberties in a free society and protecting the safety, liberty and rights of innocent members of the public. We have sought to get that balance right, which is why we support the Bill.

Lady Olga Maitland (Sutton and Cheam)

The hon. Gentleman said that he supported the Bill. Will he therefore condemn the 40-odd Opposition Back Benchers who wish to defy him? Does he not agree that their defiance would send a very unfortunate message to those who want to be protected from terrorism, and could constitute an invitation that might be little short of disastrous?

Mr. Michael

The hon. Lady should not follow the partisan line taken by her hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton. I think that the public will understand what is happening today perfectly well. My hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn has made our position absolutely clear. If there is any embarrassment, it has been created by petty partisan contributions such as that of the hon. and learned Gentleman. There are always hon. Members on both sides of the House who raise issues that are different from those raised by Front Benchers, but important points have been raised, and assurances sought, by Opposition Members who have engaged in a reasonable debate, and it is to their points that I seek to respond.

In general, the Bill clarifies the law and expands on certain aspects of the 1994 Act, rather than introducing draconian new powers. I was surprised by the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara), which seemed rather confused. His speech on 28 November 1974, which was referred to earlier, made exactly the point that I am making about the need for strong measures balanced with appropriate safeguards. In his speech today, he predicted that young people would be stopped and searched. I see no justification for that prediction in the Bill as it stands, or any indication that—as he seemed to suggest—members of ethnic minorities have been stopped and searched to a disproportionate extent as a result of the provisions of the 1994 Act. There have been other provisions, and on occasion the police have used their powers in a way that has seemed to affect young people or ethnic minorities disproportionately; that is appalling when it happens, but it does not appear to have happened as a result of the 1994 Act, and I do not think it likely that it will happen as a result of this Bill.

Hon. Members have expressed realistic fears about the way in which police powers may be misused unless the right protections are built in. The police need genuine, meaningful powers to intervene when necessary, and those powers must be protected by mechanisms to preclude their misuse. That is what we want; it is what the police want; it is what the public want; and, I believe, it is what the Home Secretary wants, because that is the sort of point on which he has given us assurances. The public have a right to expect the Home Secretary and the House to get the balance right.

My hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Mr. Mackinlay) referred to the powers of non-territorial police forces. I am always slightly unsure how to refer to them—whatever phrase is used seems to leave someone out—but an example is the powers of the British Transport police between stations, rather than on railway property. We drew attention to that anomaly during the passage of the Bill that became the Police and Magistrates' Courts Act 1994, and sought to correct it, suggesting that the British Transport police should have the powers of a constable but should exercise them in the support of the local police, or under the supervision of the local police, in such circumstances. That anomaly is not a matter for this Bill, but it must be tackled at some point.

My hon. Friend also referred to the parks police and others. I hope that the Minister will clarify the position. My understanding is that the Bill's powers are in the hands of the territorial forces, headed by the Commissioners of Police of the Metropolis and the City of London police and chief constables of England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, and not by specialised forces. In general it seems inappropriate for specialised forces to have such powers. I make that point in particular because, in debating the Police and Magistrates' Courts Bill, we found that the long list of police forces included such organisations as the Barnet dog catchers. If we extended the powers beyond the territorial police forces, we would therefore get into difficult territory. It would help if the Home Secretary would clarify the powers.

A number of points appropriate to Second Reading were made by a number of my hon. Friends in the debate on the guillotine motion, which was opposed by the Liberal Democrats and the nationalists. I hope to reassure them by supplementing the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn.

Let us consider the powers in the Bill. Clause 1 confers the power to stop pedestrians and search anything carried by them. It extends only to the searching of outer garments. Surely that is not a massive and draconian extension of the powers available to the police.

I can understand how, on first reading the Bill in isolation from the legislation that it amends, my hon. Friends could have come to a different conclusion, but if they read the Bill, the earlier debate and the legislation that it amends, I cannot see how they can conclude that the power is extreme or draconian. It is also subject to the limitations in the existing legislation.

Clause 2 refers to the search of non-residential premises. We all know from our constituencies that garages are often built in rows. It is unreasonable under the present legislation that permission has to be given to search individual premises when there is a more general fear about the use of a collection of premises. That power is hardly major and draconian either.

Clause 3 relates to unaccompanied goods arriving in or about to leave Great Britain or Northern Ireland. With the decline of the capacity of the powers of customs to deal with many cargoes coming into or going out of the United Kingdom—we have certainly seen worrying signs of that in places such as Cardiff Wales airport—it is surely right that the powers, to which clause 3 refers, should be strengthened, as the Bill proposes.

Clause 4 gives the police power to establish a temporary cordon in a police area. The requirements mirror some of those in previous legislation because they require a senior officer to decide that it is expedient to make use of the powers. Clause 4(3) limits it to applying to acts of terrorism connected with the affairs of Northern Ireland.

On the leaving of vehicles on particular premises, I am reminded of sitting in my office, which was then in Old Palace yard, and seeing the van that was used in Parliament street to attack No. 10 Downing street. We are not therefore talking about things that have never happened. Nor are we talking about things that are remote from our experiences in the House. It is reasonable that there should be such powers to tackle danger on occasions when there is seen to be danger.

We have tabled amendments that may encourage the Home Secretary or the Under-Secretary to reassure us about the sensitivity with which the powers will be used and of the Home Secretary's expectations of the way in which the police will exercise them. It is surely in the best interests of the public and of the police that the powers are exercised reasonably, rationally and with sensitivity, and every chief police officer would agree with that. The chief officers with whom my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn and I have discussed the issues certainly agree with that in relation to this Bill and other terrorism measures.

I assure my hon. Friends who have expressed concern about the Bill that my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn and I are no less concerned than they are that the limitations on the liberty of the individual and of the public should not be constrained any more than is necessary to give the police the powers that they need to protect the public against those who have no respect for civil liberties or the rights of the individual. In that balanced way, we believe that we are right not to place obstacles in the way of the Home Secretary as he seeks to speed through the House a measure that makes reasonable additions to the powers of the police in dealing with these matters.

9.45 pm
Mr. Howard

We have had a constructive and helpful Second Reading debate. As I have made clear, these are clear and practical measures—they are not revolutionary, but they are necessary. The police believe that and I do so too. If it is too optimistic to hope that all quarters of the House believe it, I hope that at least the overwhelming majority of hon. Members will do so.

My aim has been to meet the real needs of the police, as they have been put to me in my discussions with them in the wake of the South Quay bomb. I have also been careful to consider what safeguards are needed to prevent the risk of misuse, and the combination of authorisation by senior officers, limitations of duration and geographical extent and annual scrutiny and renewal of the rest of the Act provide the necessary assurance. We all recognise that the stop and search of pedestrians is the most sensitive issue, so the power is subject to confirmation or alteration by the Secretary of State.

We have endeavoured to strike the right balance between the powers necessary for the police to do the job that we ask them to do and the freedom of the citizen to go about his business without interference. I hope that the overwhelming majority of hon. Members will agree that we have got the balance right. I was grateful for the support of my hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Hunter), who, in a robust speech, rightly identified the important part that these powers can play. I am sorry that I missed some of the other speeches, but I agree with the hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael) that the interesting speech made by the hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble) raised a number of points to which we will have to return in due course, but they are not for this evening.

I was grateful for the attitude taken to the powers by the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) and his hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth. It is important—as I have urged before on many occasions—that as united a signal as possible goes out from the House to show that we are resolved to meet the terrorist threat. I believe that the greater the extent to which we can achieve that unity, the more impressive the signal will be. It is therefore somewhat disappointing that we have not been able to achieve complete unity in our deliberations.

I am sorry that I missed the speech of the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara), but I understand that he repeated some of the points that he made in his speech on the timetable motion and in interventions on my speech and on those of other hon. Members.

I understand that these powers inevitably give rise to concerns. They are, in common with all the powers that we take under the prevention of terrorism Act, exceptional powers. They are powers that are needed exceptionally to meet an exceptional threat.

We recognise that in some instances the legislation gives powers to the police that go beyond what they would require or would be given by Parliament in the normal course of their duties of maintaining law and order and combating crime. We have always recognised that; it was recognised from the outset of the prevention of terrorism legislation. Indeed, as the hon. Member for Blackburn pointed out rather effectively, that point was recognised by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North during debates on the need for the powers in the original substantive legislation.

Even though people have not always maintained the same position over the years in relation to this legislation, there has been a wide measure of support for it. Against that wide measure of support—against that background—we have introduced the Bill this evening. Although concerns continued to be expressed during our deliberations, even those who expressed them recognised that some attempt has been made to insert the necessary safeguards to try to ensure that the powers are exercised responsibly.

Mr. Beith

indicated assent.

Mr. Howard

I am glad to see a nod of assent to that proposition from the right hon. Gentleman, whose speech I was sorry to miss. I understand that he said in that speech that he would support the Bill on Second Reading.

We are still somewhat on tenterhooks to know what attitude the official Opposition will take when we go into the Division Lobbies, if there is a Division on Second Reading, because we do not quite know whether the Labour party will abstain or vote in favour of the Bill in that event.

Sir Ivan Lawrence

We would like to know.

Mr. Howard

Indeed, as my hon. and learned Friend points out, we would like to know.

I have paid tribute to the hon. Member for Blackburn on more than one occasion this evening; I hope that I have not embarrassed him unduly by doing so. It is difficult to see, in the light of his speech and the speech by the hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth, how Labour could do anything other than come into the Lobby with the Government if there is a Division on Second Reading. I do not believe that any other course would remotely make sense.

Mr. Mackinlay

indicated assent.

Mr. Howard

If hon. Members are still weighing up how to vote and what action to take at that point, they may derive some comfort from the nods given to that proposition by the hon. Member for Thurrock (Mr. Mackinlay) and others who clearly agree that the only approach consistent with the observations made by the hon. Members for Blackburn and for Cardiff, South and Penarth is to vote with the Government, if we have a vote on Second Reading. I am sure that there will be a vote and I think that there is unanimity about the proposition that I have just advanced. I see, however, no vigorous nods of assent from the hon. Members for Blackburn and for Cardiff, South and Penarth, and they show no great disposition to answer the question posed by me and my hon. Friends.

I was sorry to have missed the speeches by my hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire) and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Sir I. Lawrence). I am sure that I would not have shared the view of the speech by my hon. and learned Friend that was expressed by the hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth. Although the hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth and I are old sparring partners, even I draw back from taking issue with him about the contents of a speech that I did not hear. I shall not take up the cudgels with the view that he expressed, although I am certain that if I had heard my hon. and learned Friend's speech I would not have agreed with the hon. Gentleman's strictures.

The Government's job is to safeguard the ability of law-abiding citizens to go about their business in peace. The terrorist strikes directly at that prime responsibility. It must be our duty to take every reasonable measure to frustrate the terrorist's plans and to bring him to justice. As has been said, that may sometimes mean some inconvenience to the public, which we all regret. There can be few people who would object to some occasional inconvenience if that is the price of tightening the screw on terrorists who threaten disruption. That point was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) earlier and I endorse it.

Sir Michael Shersby (Uxbridge)

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the best guarantee that the House has that these powers will be exercised responsibly is the sheer professionalism and training of the British police service? The public have every right to expect a professional approach to the exercise of the powers.

Mr. Howard

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. His point is very important because it illustrates that some of the concerns that have been expressed by the Opposition are somewhat remote from reality and have not given credit to or taken into account precisely those qualities of [Mr. Howard] the police to which my hon. Friend has drawn attention. The police would have nothing to gain from exercising the powers with anything other than the circumspection and sensitivity to which I referred when I made my statement yesterday. The police have exercised the powers that are available to them under the prevention of terrorism Act with that circumspection and sensitivity. They are entitled to some praise and credit from the House for the way in which they have exercised those powers. I am certain that they will exercise the additional powers, if they are granted by Parliament, in the same way.

The Bill will not prevent all acts of terrorism, but if it prevents one it will have been worth putting on the statute book. If it disrupts terrorists' plans, it will be worth while. If it strengthens the hand of the police in protecting the public and bringing terrorists to justice, it will be welcome to every law-abiding citizen. I ask the House with some confidence to give it a Second Reading.

Question put, that the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 21, Noes 244.

Division No. 94] [9.58 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane McGrady, Eddie
Barnes, Harry McNamara, Kevin
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Madden, Max
Bennett, Andrew F Mallon, Seamus
Canavan, Dennis Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Pike, Peter L
Cohen, Harry Sedgemore, Brian
Grant, Bernie (Tottenham) Skinner, Dennis
Home Robertson, John Wise, Audrey
Lewis, Terry Tellers for the Ayes:
Livingstone, Ken Mr. Neil Gerrard and
Loyden, Eddie Mr. Jeremy Corbyn.
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey) Browning, Mrs Angela
Aitken, Rt Hon Jonathan Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)
Alexander, Richard Burns, Simon
Alton, David Burt, Alistair
Amess, David Butcher, John
Ancram, Rt Hon Michael Butler, Peter
Arbuthnot, James Carlisle, John (Luton North)
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Carrington, Matthew
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv) Carttiss, Michael
Ashby, David Cash, William
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Chapman, Sir Sydney
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Chidgey, David
Banks, Matthew (Southport) Clappison, James
Bates, Michael Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ru'clif)
Batiste, Spencer Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Beggs, Roy Coe, Sebastian
Beith, Rt Hon A J Congdon, David
Bellingham, Henry Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st)
Beresford, Sir Paul Couchman, James
Biffen, Rt Hon John Cran, James
Body, Sir Richard Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire)
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon)
Booth, Hartley Davies, Quentin (Stamford)
Boswell, Tim Davis, David (Boothferry)
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham) Day, Stephen
Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia Deva, Nirj Joseph
Bowis, John Devlin, Tim
Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen
Brandreth, Gyles Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Brazier, Julian Duncan Smith, Iain
Bright, Sir Graham Dunn, Bob
Eggar, Rt Hon Tim McLoughlin, Patrick
Elletson, Harold Maddock, Diana
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield) Maginnis, Ken
Evans, Jonathan (Brecon) Maitland, Lady Olga
Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley) Major, Rt Hon John
Evans, Roger (Monmouth) Mans, Keith
Evennett, David Marland, Paul
Faber, David Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Fabricant, Michael Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Fenner, Dame Peggy Merchant, Piers
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) Mills, Iain
Forman, Nigel Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Forsyth, Rt Hon Michael (Stirling) Mitchell, Sir David (NW Hants)
Forth, Eric Moate, Sir Roger
Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring) Molyneaux, Rt Hon Sir James
Fox, Rt Hon Sir Marcus (Shipley) Monro, Rt Hon Sir Hector
Freeman, Rt Hon Roger Montgomery, Sir Fergus
French, Douglas Moss, Malcolm
Gallie, Phil Nelson, Anthony
Garnier, Edward Neubert, Sir Michael
Gillan, Cheryl Newton, Rt Hon Tony
Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair Nicholls, Patrick
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Gorst, Sir John Norris, Steve
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N) Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley
Greenway, John (Ryedale) Oppenheim, Phillip
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N) Ottaway, Richard
Grylls, Sir Michael Page, Richard
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archibald Paice, James
Hampson, Dr Keith Paisley, The Reverend Ian
Hannam, Sir John Patnick, Sir Irvine
Hargreaves, Andrew Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Harris, David Pawsey, James
Hawkins, Nick Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Hawksley, Warren Pickles, Eric
Heald, Oliver Porter, Barry (Wirral S)
Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David Porter, David (Waveney)
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Portillo, Rt Hon Michael
Hicks, Robert Powell, William (Corby)
Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence Redwood, Rt Hon John
Hill, James (Southampton Test) Rendel, David
Horam, John Renton, Rt Hon Tim
Howard, Rt Hon Michael Riddick, Graham
Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford) Robathan, Andrew
Howell, Sir Ralph (N Norfolk) Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn
Hughes, Robert G (Harrow W) Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S)
Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W) Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne) Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Hunter, Andrew Ross, William (E Londonderry)
Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent)
Jack, Michael Scott, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Jenkin, Bernard Shaw, David (Dover)
Jessel, Toby Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Shepherd, Sir Colin (Hereford)
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Shersby, Sir Michael
Jones, Robert B (W Hertfdshr) Sims, Roger
Key, Robert Skeet, Sir Trevor
King, Rt Hon Tom Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Kirkhope, Timothy Smyth, The Reverend Martin
Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash) Soames, Nicholas
Knight, Rt Hon Greg (Derby N) Spencer, Sir Derek
Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n) Spicer, Sir Michael (S Worcs)
Kynoch, George (Kincardine) Spink, Dr Robert
Lait, Mrs Jacqui Spring, Richard
Lang, Rt Hon Ian Sproat, Iain
Lawrence, Sir Ivan Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)
Leigh, Edward Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Lester, Sir James (Broxtowe) Steen, Anthony
Lidington, David Stephen, Michael
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham) Stern, Michael
Lord, Michael Stewart, Allan
Luff, Peter Streeter, Gary
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Sumberg, David
McCrea, The Reverend William Sweeney, Walter
MacKay, Andrew Sykes, John
Maclean, Rt Hon David Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E) Watts, John
Temple-Morris, Peter Wells, Bowen
Thomason, Roy Whittingdale, John
Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V) Widdecombe, Ann
Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N) Wiggin, Sir Jerry
Townsend, Cyril D (Bexl'yh'th) Wilkinson, John
Trimble, David Willetts, David
Trotter, Neville Wilshire, David
Twinn, Dr Ian Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Viggers, Peter Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'fld)
Walden, George Wolfson, Mark
Walker, Bill (N Tayside) Wood, Timothy
Wallace, James Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Waller, Gary
Ward, John Tellers for the Noes:
Wardle, Charles (Bexhill) Mr. Roger Knapman and
Waterson, Nigel Mr. Derek Conway.

Question accordingly negatived.

Main Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 60 (Amendment on Second or Third Reading):

The House divided: Ayes 236, Noes 18.

Division No. 95] [10.10 pm
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey) Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire)
Alexander, Richard Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon)
Alton, David Davies, Quentin (Stamford)
Amess, David Davis, David (Boothferry)
Ancram, Rt Hon Michael Day, Stephen
Arbuthnot, James Deva, Nirj Joseph
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Devlin, Tim
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv) Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen
Ashby, David Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Duncan Smith, Iain
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Dunn, Bob
Banks, Matthew (Southport) Eggar, Rt Hon Tim
Bates, Michael Elletson, Harold
Beggs, Roy Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)
Beith, Rt Hon A J Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)
Bellingham, Henry Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley)
Beresford, Sir Paul Evans, Roger (Monmouth)
Biffen, Rt Hon John Evennett, David
Body, Sir Richard Faber, David
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Fabricant, Michael
Booth, Hartley Fenner, Dame Peggy
Boswell, Tim Field, Barry (Isle Of Wight)
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham) Forman, Nigel
Bowis, John Forsyth, Rt Hon Michael (Stirling)
Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes Forth, Eric
Brandreth, Gyles Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)
Brazier, Julian Fox, Rt Hon Sir Marcus (Shipley)
Browning, Mrs Angela Freeman, Rt Hon Roger
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) French, Douglas
Burns, Simon Gallie, Phil
Burt, Alistair Garnier, Edward
Butcher, John Gillan, Cheryl
Butler, Peter Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair
Carrington, Matthew Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Carttiss, Michael Gorst, Sir John
Cash, William Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Chapman, Sir Sydney Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Chidgey, David Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)
Clappison, James Grylls, Sir Michael
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ru'clif) Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archibald
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Hampson, Dr Keith
Coe, Sebastian Hannam, Sir John
Congdon, David Hargreaves, Andrew
Conway, Derek Harris, David
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st) Hawkins, Nick
Couchman, James Hawksley, Warren
Cran, James Heald, Oliver
Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David Porter, David (Waveney)
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Portillo, Rt Hon Michael
Hicks, Robert Powell, William (Corby)
Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence Redwood, Rt Hon John
Hill, James (Southampton Test) Rendel, David
Horam, John Renton, Rt Hon Tim
Howard, Rt Hon Michael Richards, Rod
Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford) Riddick, Graham
Howell, Sir Ralph (N Norfolk) Robathan, Andrew
Hughes, Robert G (Harrow W) Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn
Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W) Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S)
Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne) Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Hunter, Andrew Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas Ross, William (E Londonderry)
Jenkin, Bernard Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent)
Jessel, Toby Scott, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Shaw, David (Dover)
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Jones, Robert B (W Hertfdshr) Shepherd, Sir Colin (Hereford)
Key, Robert Shepherd, Sir Michael
King, Rt Hon Tom Sims, Roger
Kirkhope, Timothy Skeet, Sir Trevor
Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash) Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Knight, Rt Hon Greg (Derby N) Smyth, The Reverend Martin
Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n) Soames, Nicholas
Kynoch, George (Kincardine) Spencer, Sir Derek
Lait, Mrs Jacqui Spicer, Sir Michael (S Worcs)
Lang, Rt Hon Ian Spink, Dr Robert
Lawrence, Sir Ivan Spring, Richard
Leigh, Edward Sproat, Iain
Lester, Sir James (Broxtowe) Stanely, Rt Hon Sir John
Lidington, David Steen, Anthony
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham) Stephen, Michael
Lord, Michael Stern, Michael
Luff, Peter Stewart, Allan
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Streeter, Gray
McCrea, The Reverend William Sumberg, David
MacKay, Andrew Sweeney, Walter
Maclean, Rt Hon David Sykes, John
McLoughlin, Patrick Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Maddock, Diana Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)
Maginnis, Ken Temple-Morris, Peter
Maitland, Lady Olga Thomason, Roy
Major, Rt Hon John Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)
Mans, Keith Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Marland, Paul Townsend, Cyril D (Bexl'yh'th)
Marshall, John (Hendon S) Trimble, David
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Trotter, Neville
Merchant, Piers Twinn, Dr Ian
Mills, Iain Viggers, Peter
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Walden, George
Mitchell, Sir David (NW Hants) Walker, Bill (N Tayside)
Moate, Sir Roger Wallace, James
Molyneaux, Rt Hon Sir James Waller, Gary
Monro, Rt Hon Sir Hector Ward, John
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Moss, Malcolm Waterson, Nigel
Nelson, Anthony Watts, John
Neubert, Sir Michael Wells, Bowen
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Whittingdale, John
Nicholls, Patrick Widdecombe, Ann
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Wiggin, Sir Jerry
Norris, Steve Wilkinson, John
Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley Willetts, David
Oppenheim, Phillip Wilshire, David
Ottaway, Richard Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Page, Richard Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld)
Paice, James Wolfson, Mark
Paisley, The Reverend Ian Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Patnick, Sir Irvine
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Tellers for the Ayes:
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Mr. Timothy Wood and
Pickles, Eric Mr. Roger Knapman.
Abbott, Ms Diane McNamara, Kevin
Barnes, Harry Madden, Max
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Mallon, Seamus
Bennett, Andrew F Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Canavan, Dennis Sedgemore, Brian
Cohen, Harry Skinner, Dennis
Grant, Bernie (Tottenham) Wise, Audrey
Lewis, Terry
Livingstone, Ken Tellers for the Noes:
Loyden, Eddie Mr. Jeremy Corbyn and
McGrady, Eddie Mr. Neil Gerrard.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Committee of the whole House, pursuant to Order [this day].

Considered in Committee.

  1. Clause 1
    1. cc257-99
    2. POWER TO STOP AND SEARCH PEDESTRIANS 23,224 words, 2 divisions
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