§ 12.31 p.m.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.
My right honourable friend the Home Secretary gave notice of his intention to bring forward this Bill when he made a Statement on Monday in another place. As we have always made clear, this Government have no relish for the use of emergency powers. But such powers are needed to protect the people of this country from the violent actions of the terrorist who seeks to destroy both life and property and to dominate and disrupt our very way of life. The Bill will give the police a number of further practical powers which will strengthen their ability to protect the public against this threat.
The measures now before your Lordships' House were debated last night in another place. Naturally there were concerns about the limited time available to debate the measures, and I am sure that that concern—we have heard it today—will be shared by many noble Lords. But as my right honourable friend the Home Secretary made clear, this Bill has been brought before Parliament as expeditiously as possible; and in view of the present security situation, we cannot take the risk of waiting until after the Easter Recess. I am pleased to say that this view was shared by the Opposition Front Bench in another place, and the Government welcome the co-operation shown in securing the swift passage of this Bill.
It is important to set this Bill in the context of recent events. Members on all sides of this House were horrified and appalled by the resumption of violence which occurred on 9th February. The bombing of South Quay, in which two lives were lost and when many others were injured, dealt a cruel blow to the hope of people in this country. Following the end of the IRA ceasefire, my right honourable friend discussed with senior police officers whether any additional powers were necessary to help them safeguard the public.
291 We have concluded that additional powers are now necessary. This Bill will add five specific new powers to the armoury of the police in their fight against the terrorist threat.
I recognise and share the concern of this House for the protection of the liberty of the individual. There is, however, no liberty more important than the right of men and women to life. That is a liberty for which the terrorist has no regard. This Bill makes a number of amendments to the PTA which will clarify and strengthen the powers of the police, reinforcing their ability to protect the public against such threats. The Bill will enable the police to stop and search pedestrians for articles which can be used in the commission, preparation or instigation of terrorist acts; to search non-residential premises for evidence which will be of value to a terrorist investigation; to search unaccompanied freight in ports; to cordon off areas in order to look for a bomb or to collect forensic evidence after a bomb has been found or has exploded; and to impose temporary parking restrictions in response to a general threat to vulnerable sites such as schools, major transport facilities and government buildings.
I believe that each of these new provisions will make a difference. They will better equip the police to protect the public and combat terrorism. Each measure will also be circumscribed by important safeguards.
Before giving notice of his intention to bring forward this Bill, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary discussed these proposals with Opposition spokesmen, and I am glad to remind this House that the Opposition co-operated with the passage of the Bill in another place. As my right honourable friend made clear, the Government very much welcome the recognition of the honourable gentleman, the Member for Blackburn, of the need to act quickly.
I turn now to the detailed content of the Bill. Section 13A of the Prevention of Terrorism Act was added to that 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 within it. It also allows a constable to stop any pedestrian and search anything he is carrying for articles of a kind which could be used in preparing, commissioning or instigating terrorist acts. But under the current law, a constable may not search the pedestrian himself for anything which he may have concealed about him; for example, in a jacket pocket. This clause fills that gap in the current powers.
The operation of the existing stop and search powers, have led the police to believe that an additional power to search pedestrians would be of real practical benefit and the Government have accepted 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 and can be carried in a coat pocket without being apparent to the observer.
Clause 1 inserts a new Section 13B into the Prevention of Terrorism Act, giving the police power to stop and search pedestrians within a designated area. Clear safeguards will apply, as in the existing Section 13A. Searches will only be allowed within an area authorised by an Assistant Chief Constable and only for 292 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 or, if he wishes, to substitute a shorter period during which the power will be exercised.
Once authorisation has been given, a police officer will be able to stop any pedestrian within that area. The search will be a "rub-down" search. The officer may ask the pedestrian to remove his outer coat, jacket, footwear, gloves or head gear in order to facilitate the search.
Such a power requires a means of enforcement. Therefore Clause 1 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 which exist 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 of these offences will proceed only by or with the agreement of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
The police are well aware that the new power will need to be exercised with circumspection and sensitivity. My right honourable friend will issue immediate provisional guidance and in the short term, the police have undertaken to apply the relevant PACE code voluntarily. In due course, the PACE code will be formally amended and will govern the exercise of the new stop and search powers just as it does the existing powers under Section 13A. Concern has been expressed that Parliament should receive regular reports on the operation of the new stop and search powers and yesterday my right honourable friend the Home Secretary gave that assurance in another place. Furthermore, as with the existing Section 13A powers, the exercise of this new power will be monitored under the relevant PACE code.
Clause 2 relates to searches of non-residential premises. As the House will be aware, the use of intelligence information is an important part of the response of the police to terrorist activity. The nature of such information—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 particular motorway intersection—is quite often insufficient to identify precisely the garage or lorry park in question. It is currently impossible to obtain a search warrant to enter every relevant premises and examine them.
The search power contained 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 these listed premises they believe they will find the material. Such a warrant may only be issued on the application of an officer of at least superintendent rank and any search of premises named in the warrant must be made within 24 hours of the warrant being issued.
293 Clause 3 will provide examining officers at ports with the power to search unaccompanied freight. At present the police may stop and examine individuals coming through ports. In the course of examining them, they may search their baggage and their vehicles for anti-terrorist purposes. Customs officers can search goods which have come from outside the United Kingdom, but police officers cannot at present search unaccompanied cargo. Clause 3 will allow them to do so and should help to deter and disrupt terrorist plans and the re-stocking of their armoury.
Clause 4 will enable the police to cordon off an area and restrict access while they look for a bomb or collect forensic evidence following the discovery or the explosion of a bomb. 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 remove that uncertainty. It will ensure that the police can exclude people from a cordon for their own safety and for that of others and it will, as I have said, assist the police in carrying out forensic work.
The new power will be exercised initially for a period of up to 14 days, capable of renewal for up to a further 14 days. I might add 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.
The schedule sets out the powers which 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.
This clause will also create offences of failing to leave the cordon when required to do so; and breaking the cordon and obstructing a constable in the exercise of any of his powers within the cordon. Prosecution for any of these offences 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.
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 and major transport facilities. Powers are currently available to the police under common law but here also there is uncertainty as to their extent and the length of time for which they can be used. In the Government's view 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. Offences will be created of failure to remove a vehicle when asked to do so and of parking in breach of a prohibition or 294 restriction. Again, the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions will be required for any prosecution to proceed. A defence of lawful authority or reasonable excuse has been provided.
Clause 6 provides that the Director of Public Prosecutions must consent to any prosecution made 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 provisions. 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.
I made reference a moment ago to what I know will be your Lordships' concern for the liberty of the individual. The measures in this Bill are sensible and practical and I can confirm that they are subject to clear and careful safeguards.
I have also made reference to the assurance which my right honourable friend the Home Secretary has given that Parliament will receive regular reports on the operation of the new power to stop and search pedestrians. I am pleased to have this opportunity to re-state that commitment in this House. I can also confirm that there will be monitoring of the exercise. PACE Code A will apply to new Section 13B of the Prevention of Terrorism Act, as it does to existing Section 13A. Guidance will ensure the considerate and sensitive exercise of the new powers. For this reason, the Government have taken the view that it is not necessary to put this safeguard on the face of the Bill.
The Government believe that the measures will be of real practical assistance to the police in their work. The police bear an enormous responsibility; it is to them that we look to protect the public against the evil of terrorism. The police deserve the support of this House in their fight against terrorism and I hope that your Lordships will give them that support. I commend the Bill to the House. I beg to move.
Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(Baroness Blatch.)
§ 12.45 p.m.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
My Lords, I made it clear in my brief intervention on the Business Motion that Her Majesty's Opposition not only do not object to the manner of the introduction of the Bill but also we do not propose to oppose it. It will be no surprise to the Minister that we have thought it appropriate to put down a number of amendments to the Bill, mostly for the purpose of clarification and partly to secure assurances from the Minister about the introduction of the Bill.
When speaking on the Business Motion, I did not think it appropriate to talk about the content of the Bill or its origin. However, now that we are dealing with the substance, it is surprising that a Bill of this complexity should be produced in such a short time-scale and a short time after the debate in this House on the continuance order which was only two weeks ago. If the Government—as would have been entirely proper—had been giving consideration to the need for the police to have extra powers for the prevention of terrorism, they 295 must have had those considerations at all times after the resumption of hostilities by the IRA. At any time immediately after 9th February, it would have been entirely proper for the Government to give consideration to what further powers were needed, to talk to the police about what further powers were needed and to advise Parliament of the fact that further powers might be needed. Under those circumstances, it would have been proper for warning to have been given to Parliament that such matters were under consideration. Then some of the difficulties which have been experienced in the past 48 hours through the sudden nature of the Bill might have been at any rate ameliorated, if not removed.
I also remind the Minister that the Government have asked the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, to inquire into the matter. I am glad to see him in his place this afternoon. I do not have with me the exact text of his terms of reference, but they are to inquire in general into the operation of the Prevention of Terrorism Act and what should succeed it in the event of a more permanent ceasefire. I should have thought that it would be proper for the Minister and the Home Secretary to include reference to the noble and learned Lord's inquiry in talking about the justification for the Bill and its extent and continuance, as it is to be part of the temporary provisions Act 1989, as amended by the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.
The Minister introduced the Bill as being largely technical and not involving a great extension to police powers in threat of civil liberty. I think it would be fair to say that she did not claim that there were great intrusions on civil liberties which were justified. She said rather that the intrusions on civil liberty were not as great as might be feared. I am paraphrasing her words. If that is the case—and having read the Bill, I accept that it is the case; I do not believe that there are great intrusions here on civil liberty—surely the opportunity for mature consideration which has been available over the past eight weeks could have been taken and consultation could have taken place over a period longer then the six days since the matter first arose in discussions between the Government and the Opposition.
That said, when I examine the Bill in detail I do not find very great positive threats. I do find a number of inconsistencies with which it will be very difficult to deal; and it may be my inadequate reading, but I also find a number of points that are not clear.
Let me deal mainly with Clause 1, which is the most important clause. It gives a power to a constable in uniform to stop any pedestrian and search him, and goes on in subsection (4) to refer to the removal of outer clothing:headgear, footwear, outer coat, jacket or gloves".In introducing Clause 1, the Minister spoke about this as being a "rub-down" search. I did not hear that said by the Home Secretary in another place yesterday. It raises the question of what powers are actually involved under the clause.
We accept of course that it is proper to extend the power to search from those outer objects that are carried to outer clothing. That is common between us. But what 296 does a "rub-down" search mean? Does it include, for example, a power to say, "Open your mouth", to see what is inside? Does it include the power to search pockets? Does it mean simply the kind of passing of the hands that applies in airport security or security at the entrance to party conferences? Does it include the power to take non-intimate samples, for example? None of those points is entirely clear to me. I fear that the Minister's remark in her introduction may be in conflict with the wording of the Bill as we have it.
Therefore we believe that amendments are necessary to Clause 1 of the Bill. We have tabled a number of amendments to ensure the possibility of greater clarity. We hope that can be achieved, not by amending the Bill itself, but by ensuring as in our Amendment No. 1 that the Secretary of State should give adequate guidance; and as in our Amendment No. 5 that there should be consultation with the Association of Chief Police Officers about the operation of these powers and the sensitivity with which they are to be operated.
I said earlier that Clause 1 was the only clause considered in detail in another place. Perhaps that is appropriate since it is by far the most important. However, consideration was not completed when the Guillotine fell and it is important that we should be as clear as possible about the powers.
Clauses 2, 3, 4 and 5 refer respectively to non-residential premises, ports, temporary cordons and parking restrictions. It has been made clear that most of those powers are already exercised, normally under common law powers rather than legislative powers. It is entirely appropriate that, wherever possible, there should be statutory authority for the kind of controls that are necessary. Therefore, in general, we shall not oppose or even comment on Clauses 2, 3, 4 and 5, except to say, as we do in Amendment No. 7, that there should be a test of reasonableness before Clause 4 and indeed Clause 1 are triggered.
In relation to Clause 7, concerned with interpretation and extent, we raise wider issues, some of which were raised in the debate on the business Motion. We welcome the Minister's remark that there have already been undertakings that there will be reports to Parliament—I do not know whether she said at "regular" intervals, but certainly at sufficient intervals. I am sure that we can rely on her word in that respect. We are also conscious that when she referred to monitoring, Code A under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act is itself subject to a measure of parliamentary scrutiny. We welcome the assurance that new Section 13B, to be inserted in the 1989 Act and in Clause 1 of this Bill, is to be covered by Code A of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act.
We are also conscious that the device that has been adopted of making this Act entirely in the form of amendments to the 1989 temporary provisions Act means that there will be parliamentary scrutiny of a sort under the affirmative procedures resolution at 12-month intervals. To that extent we welcome the opportunity that will exist in March next year to consider the implementation of this Bill as well as of the original 1989 Act as amended.
297 I have had no discussion with my honourable friends on this matter. However, I am bound to say that I am personally attracted by the idea put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead. The example of a Labour Government introducing emergency legislation in November 1974 and, just over a year later, re-enacting that legislation without any of the constraints of unusual procedures or the Guillotine was a good example. The fact that it was enacted by a Labour Government and is now repeated by a Liberal Democrat Peer does not seem to me to cause any political difficulty. I certainly urge on my right honourable and honourable friends that they should seek suitable opportunities to see to it that some such procedure is adopted in regard to this Bill. I take this opportunity to ask the Minister whether she will be able, in her response to the Second Reading debate, to give assurances that at least this issue will be considered; and possibly even to go further and say that the example of 1974 and 1976 was a good example. That might help there to be cross-party agreement on these measures, and they might recommend themselves to the Home Secretary and her other colleagues in government.
It is of the utmost importance that there should be cross-party agreement on all legislation that relates to terrorism. It is important in the message that it sends not only to the IRA and all other terrorists, that we in this country are united in our condemnation of terrorism and our determination to take such proper steps as are available to us to counter terrorism, both to prevent and diminish its effect; but also to our people, who suffer when there is terrorism, not only directly but indirectly from the restrictions imposed by anti-terrorist legislation. I put it to the Minister that she would be well advised to seek the agreement of her right honourable friend to a measure which I believe would increase the effectiveness of this legislation by ensuring that we can all support it wholeheartedly without any hesitations or reservations about the way in which it was necessary to introduce it.
As Mr. Jack Straw said in another place yesterday, we agree that on this occasion the measures proposed are proportionate to the threat that we face. However, that is not the end of the matter. There could be, and should be, further opportunities for Parliament to see to it that we have the best possible anti-terrorist legislation.
§ 12.59 p.m.
§ Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank
My Lords, in the course of our discussion on the business Motion, the noble Lord, Lord Merlyn-Rees, asked the question: what is the point of staying? He did so in relation to the procedure and the fact that we are taking the Second Reading and all subsequent stages in one day. I certainly would not go so far as that. However, rightly or wrongly, the Bill having got this far, it being before the House and there being no prospect of amendment in Committee, I certainly have no reason to wish to see it delayed. For that reason I intend to speak very briefly at Second Reading.
298 In the debate on the Business Motion, I made what I thought were two positive and helpful suggestions. They are relevant to the Bill itself and not only to the procedure that we were then discussing. The first suggestion, which was entirely ignored by the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, in his reply and his subsequent and additional reply, was whether the procedure should not be considered by the Procedure Committee. We might have got off to a better start today had we felt that the procedure being followed by the Government had been endorsed by the House itself. I hope that that point will not be overlooked, although I do not ask the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, to do more than acknowledge that it has been made. I do not expect her to give a substantive reply.
My second proposal, for which I am delighted to have the support of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, is to adopt the procedure of 1974–1976. The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, referred to regular reports in reference to Clause 1 of the Bill. No doubt this House and another place will wish to have them. But that does not take away from the need to look at the Bill when there is more time at our disposal and, I suggest, with the experience of the Bill before us. There is no doubt at all that, even if the subsequent clauses do not create difficulties, Clause 1 might create real difficulties for the police and the community.
I shall make one further important point about our earlier discussion. I do not believe that what the noble Earl said represented the view of any party in this House. He argued that because consultation took place with opposition parties in another place, there was no need for it here. That is a very dangerous principle. I was very surprised to hear it from a Conservative Minister in particular. It is a principle which puts party above Parliament and assumes that relationships and communications between parties are more important than communications within a House between parties in the spirit of the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, about co-operation on issues of terrorism. I do not want to labour the point or ask for a lesson to be learnt. But I would not want it to stand on record—I do not believe that the noble Baroness would want it, either—that consultation between parties is at any time in any circumstances a substitute for consultation and communication between parties in this House or another place.
In the course of her opening remarks, the noble Baroness said:No liberty is more important than the liberty of the individual to life".I understand what she said. I understand also the remarks of the noble Viscount, Lord Tonypandy, at an earlier stage about the extent to which we must accept some restriction on our liberty in the very defence of it. That is at the heart of the right approach to legislation of this kind. But it is fair to ask: what is life without freedom? Speaking for myself, I hold my freedom more dear than my life. For that reason, although I do not suggest that any essential freedoms are threatened by this legislation, we cannot simply dismiss the idea of our freedoms and civil liberties on the grounds that life is to be protected. The time would come when the 299 protection of life could so infringe the freedom of the individual that it would endanger the quality of life itself for innocent people as well as those who might be potentially guilty.
Again, I do not want to pursue that philosophical point but it is an important basis for the consideration of all legislation of this kind. How far can we reasonably go against terrorism in defence of our freedom in restricting the freedom that we take for granted?
On this occasion as on others when we have discussed, for example, the Renewal of Terrorism Order, I have returned, and do so again briefly today, to the original debate of 1974. In that debate two speeches struck me in particular. One was the speech of my noble friend Lord Harris of Greenwich when he introduced the legislation. He said:I should certainly not want to suggest today that, rigorous and wide-ranging though our proposals are, they will lead to a swift end to the present terrorist campaign in our cities".We have to take note of that and we must not raise expectations unreasonably high, even by a Bill which, in the view of this House, it may be necessary to introduce a second time. The noble Lord continued:But this Bill in my judgment will powerfully reinforce the security forces in the struggle against terrorists".I do not think that the noble Baroness put it quite so strongly but that is the sentiment that she expressed. I do not quarrel with it at all.
The other point made by my noble friend, which comes back to my recent remarks, warned against:powers of [this] kind … involving as they must some encroachment on the liberties of individual citizens".We must recognise that there is some encroachment on the liberties of individual citizens in this Bill, even if it is a price worth paying.
The other speech to which I need draw your Lordships' attention was that of the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder. At that time he did not speak from the same Bench as the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich. The noble Lord said:all of us who treasure our civil liberties—and that means every Member of your Lordships' House—is bound to want to consider with the greatest care emergency legislation which may have been hastily conceived, hurriedly drafted and passed into law without careful detailed examination in your Lordships' House".He said that there were certain tests which should be applied:First, does it match up to the existing emergency? Does it neither exaggerate it nor under-estimate it?I am prepared to give an answer. Yes, it does match up to the existing emergency, subject to some further reassurances that I hope we shall be given today. The noble Lord continued:Second, is the encroachment upon our liberty that is inevitably involved the very minimum that is necessary for the purpose?I think that I need to suspend judgment there, particularly on the consequences that may follow from the implementation of Clause 1. It is right to give the Government the benefit of the doubt today. But this is a very good reason why we should look again at the substance of the Bill at an early date. The noble Lord went on: 300Third, has every possible step been taken to ensure that such encroachment upon our liberty is of a purely temporary nature and is in no danger of drifting into becoming the permanent law of the land?As the noble Baroness will remember, that is a point to which I and other noble Lords referred when we renewed the legislation only a fortnight ago.
We all greatly regret the resumption of terrorism. We all entirely support the need to fight it in every reasonable way. But we must make sure that when that terrorism is over, as we must all hope it will be, we do not leave for all time on the statute book legislation which would be inappropriate in very different circumstances.
The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, concluded by saying that the fight against terrorism—I should like to say the defence of our liberties in the face of it—is a cross-party matter. He spoke the truth and that is my view as well.
§ 1.8 p.m.
§ Lord McConnell
My Lords, I rise to express my support and that of the Ulster Unionist Party for this piece of legislation. It applies not only to Northern Ireland but mostly to Great Britain. It deals not only with terrorism which originates in our part of the world but also with international terrorism. Therefore it is to be welcomed. We are, as some noble Lords have said, reaching the stage when our legislation is becoming more and more piecemeal. Therefore, I look forward with anticipation to the report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, on permanent and comprehensive legislation covering the whole subject and the whole kingdom.
Clause 3 extends to Northern Ireland—it is the only one that specifically does—where there is power to search any goods that arrive in or are about to leave Great Britain or Northern Ireland on any ship, aircraft or vehicle. That is particularly welcome. It has been suggested—I do not know whether truthfully or not—that before the Canary Wharf explosion the bomb was mounted on a vehicle, driven through Northern Ireland, taken across the sea to Scotland and driven through England to London. It is essential, particularly when it is more easily done at a port, that there be the power to examine vehicles of that kind so that bombs can be discovered.
My views on this subject are well known—I have expressed them several times before—and therefore I do not intend to weary the House beyond saying that I welcome that in Great Britain many of the powers we already have in Northern Ireland will be available to the security forces in the future. There has been mention both here and in another place of civil liberties and personal freedom. I would join those who have said that the greatest civil liberty is the right to live and the right not to be maimed by a terrorist bomb. That freedom is much greater than being able to walk down the street without being searched.
I conclude by offering an apology to the noble Baroness the Minister and to the House if I leave before the conclusion of the Second Reading debate. The reason for that is transport to get me home, possibly 301 straight to bed, if noble Lords have listened to my throat and chest at the moment. But I express full approval for the Bill.
§ 1.12 p.m.
§ Baroness Park of Monmouth
My Lords, the noble Viscount, Lord Tonypandy, said what needed to be said and said it all, but I, too, should like to say a little. Gerry Adams was perfectly open in the Sinn Fein Congress of 1995 when he said that Sinn Fein/IRA had entered,a new phase of struggle which needs new thinking and new tactics".He added that their principles must not change and their strategic objectives and strategy must be rooted in—a familiar Marxist phrase—objective reality. The object of the political phase of the struggle which began with the ceasefire and ended with the resumption of IRA violence earlier this year had been achieved:The winning of international allies, the building of a broad consensus throughout nationalist Ireland".In those 15 months the IRA became a quasi-respectable political force. Noraid was succeeded by the Friends of Ireland in the United States. Gerry Adams' visits raised more than £1.5 million in a year, half of which went to Dublin. Gerry Adams has claimed that the money has gone to the Northern Ireland economy. The question is: which economy is that—the IRA drug rings, the supply of new sophisticated arms or money to pay the devoted IRA members who recently drove metal spikes through the elbows and legs of an 18 year-old boy?
The issue before us today and the measure recognises that for the foreseeable future Sinn Fein/IRA believe they have extracted the maximum advantage from the political phase of the struggle and are back to what they know best—violence; and violence on the mainland to avoid any Loyalist reaction in Northern Ireland. Gerry Adams recently quoted the IRA's spokesman who met him and John Hume as saying that if the British wanted war the IRA would give them another 25 years of war. He also said that there would be no surrender of IRA weapons under any circumstances and to anyone. And it is perhaps relevant to our debate today that the Sinn Fein/IRA paper—the discussion document on policing—published recently calls for the disbandment of the RUC and the Special Branch, the immediate withdrawal of the force from nationalist areas and the immediate repeal of all emergency legislation.
It has been asked why we should pass these extensions of that legislation now, and why so fast. We should perhaps remember that the IRA spent the whole time of the ceasefire collecting money for more arms and tried several raids on cash shipments in the Republic in recent months. They collected information on more possible targets and did their dummy run for Canary Wharf in December, well before the Mitchell Report put them in a corner and also provided their excuse for ending the ceasefire. From their point of view they were simply switching back to another military phase of the struggle after extracting the maximum benefit from a political phase.
302 The anti-terrorist unit in this country found plenty of evidence when it searched the house and garden of the bomber in the bus of planned operations on the mainland, and that cannot be ignored. We are in for a long haul. But perhaps one of the strongest reasons for the need to be able, if necessary, to search an apparently innocent, ordinary man or woman in the street, apart from the fact that the IRA have long had access to very sophisticated weapons as well as the home made variety, is that the IRA Council has shifted from using experienced and therefore probably known operators to the use of sleepers to carry out operations. These are young people with no previous record, sometimes known too, it seems, as lily-whites, who come over to the mainland, some probably as unskilled labourers, with orders to establish themselves and be ready to do the work for which they were trained when the order comes. Edward O'Brien, the bomber who died in the bus, was evidently one. Even his family knew nothing of his sentiments. The anti-terrorist squad must clearly expect others, and it must be given the powers to act.
In Vietnam it was a practice of the Vietcong to smuggle bombs past a checkpoint by concealing them in a baby's clothes: The young sleeper is the IRA version of the same technique. Would a fresh-faced young man or woman about his or her normal concerns on the street be a natural suspect? Unfortunately, the IRA cynically counts on that and the undoubted idealism of these young people in many cases. I urge that we do not tie the hands of the police behind their backs. The victims of IRA bombs are innocent too. They have a right to protection. I share the hope of many noble Lords that there should be some review of this measure in due course—I welcome the promise of regular reports though I do not regard them as a substitute—and I believe very strongly that proper scrutiny is our right and our duty, but the IRA do not play by our rules. They know nothing about our procedures and care less. It would be irresponsible not to listen and to act in time when they make their own murderous intentions so clear.
§ 1.18 p.m.
§ Lord Stoddart of Swindon
My Lords, I decided to speak today not because I am necessarily opposed to the provisions of the Bill but because I am very concerned at the way in which it has been handled. Noble Lords should recall the experiences we have had with Bills which have been rushed through Parliament. We have learnt and lived to regret such Bills as time has gone on. Our experience of rushed Bills has not been a happy one.
The Minister will know that I cannot be accused of being a softie on crime or terrorism. I am, if anything, a hardliner. I am anti-criminal—very anti-criminal; I am victim friendly; I detest the terrorist murderers of the IRA and regret that, instead of being defeated and routed before the peace process, they were let off the hook and allowed to re-arm and regroup. So, basically, I am in favour of any measures to deal with the terrorists and to protect our own people from their activities. But, if we do bring in measures without proper democratic 303 scrutiny, then it is the terrorists who have won, particularly if these measures impinge on the freedom of our people to go about their business unhindered.
I believe that this point was raised by my noble friend earlier; namely, that there is a suspicion that the police asked for these powers some weeks ago in anticipation of problems arising around the 80th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising. If that is true, and perhaps the noble Baroness can tell us whether it is, why on earth was no legislation brought forward earlier so that we could indeed have had a proper discussion? But, even if the police did not ask for powers, the Government themselves should have shown intelligent anticipation, after the ceasefire was so brutally ended, and asked Parliament to consider new measures, but again with adequate time for proper scrutiny of those measures. As it is, we have a raft of significant measures of which the House of Commons was given only one day's notice. The measures were railroaded through on a guillotine, allowing only six hours for all stages of the Bill. That is hardly time to put forward any amendments in Committee, let alone at Report stage, and no time for consultation with, or representations from, individuals and organisations. Democracy means that people have the right of representation in Parliament and that their views can be considered and taken into account.
It is simply not good enough to say that the Official Opposition Front Bench is content to allow the Bill to be forced through Parliament without proper discussion. It really is intolerable that the Front Benches should behave in this way, particularly the Labour Front Bench in the House of Commons. As I said earlier, I have some sympathy with my noble friend Lord McIntosh, since he really has not had time to consider the matter properly. Nevertheless, I shall listen to his advice. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, once referred to the House of Commons as an "elected dictatorship". I rather fear that things have moved on since then and that we now have a one-party state, certainly in respect of this Bill.
I now turn to the Bill itself. As has already been mentioned, Clause 1 is the most onerous. Stop and search powers may very well be necessary, but Parliament is entitled to consider the implications and to consider them properly. The powers are bound to cause resentment. The Irish community and other minority communities, may very well fear that they will be unduly targeted. There is a risk that people will remonstrate with the police. If one is stopped in the street and asked to take off one's clothes, one's coat, gloves and hat, people may very well get angry and remonstrate with the police. The people will be very severely punished. We should understand that the penalties for obstructing the police are very severe. They are six months in prison or a fine of £5,000 or both. We are considering heavy penalties. We also have to have regard to the shame that people will feel on being stopped and body-searched in the street.
I ask the noble Baroness this question: what is the position of women in particular? Women do engage in terrorism and they are just as suspect as anyone else. Can I have an assurance from the Minister that those searches will be conducted by female officers? What 304 about privacy? These are matters which should concern us. What is the position as regards juveniles? They can carry bombs, too, and they can have bombs planted on them by adults. The present position, as I understand it, is that juveniles must be searched at the police station in the presence of a parent, guardian or a social worker. Do the provisions of Clause 1 of the Bill transcend the protection of juveniles that we have at the present time? These are relevant matters which we would have wanted to explore in a reasonable Committee stage debate. Now I have to ask the noble Baroness if she will answer those questions now, because they are important points. Other parts of the Bill which are less draconian than Clause 1 give rise to questions that need to be asked.
As regards Clause 2, are we all satisfied that warrants to search premises are to be issued by magistrates? Some of us might feel that such warrants should be signed more appropriately by a circuit judge. What is the position if some minor fine or misdeed is discovered as a result of a warrant issued under this Bill? Such questions need consideration and that is being denied. Again under this clause, penalties of three months' imprisonment and/or a fine of £2,500 are involved. In Clause 5, which deals with prohibitions and restrictions and the removal of vehicles, there is a stipulation that disabled persons are not exempt from its provisions. In a panic situation, disabled people may feel very flustered. They may do all kinds of things: they are in a particularly vulnerable position. At least the disabled and their representatives are entitled to be consulted and make representation to Parliament, but that is being denied to them.
Finally, although I have expressed my opposition to the handling of this Bill by the Government and Her Majesty's Opposition, I nevertheless understand and accept the urgency of the measure and will certainly not seek to divide the House on Second Reading, even if that were to do any good anyway. I shall not seek to do it. I understand the need and the Government's position. However, to meet the points which I have raised, I have tabled an amendment by which the Government can redeem themselves and give Parliament the opportunity to give proper consideration to a replacement Bill after the Easter Recess. It is an amendment to allow the legislation to run for three months.
The noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, supported by my noble friend on the Front Bench, put forward an alternative solution which I found very attractive indeed. I believe it to be very relevant, and, if the Government accepted it, they will do a great deal to assuage the fears that many of us have about parliamentary democracy and the need to scrutinise this sort of legislation. I hope that the noble Baroness will give very serious consideration to what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers. If that measure were accepted, I should then feel able to withdraw my amendment. I cannot wish the Bill well, although I understand its provisions and support them. I wish that we had had proper time to discuss them.
§ 1.27 p.m.
§ Earl Russell
My Lords, I hope that I may save the noble Baroness time when she comes to reply. I know 305 about the evil of terrorism. During the 1970s and 1980s, my youngest son had two escapes from bombs, which were a good deal narrower than I would have wished. Even when I was abroad and working in the United States, I was not able to get away from it. I shall not forget in a hurry the experience of sitting up waiting for news, with the pregnant wife of one of my postgraduates, on the day the Harrods bomb went off, which was the day on which he was doing his Christmas shopping there. Fortunately, the call, when it came, was from New York airport.
I am well aware that there is a real and a continuing threat from terrorism. My wife's best friend was two cars behind the bus that blew up in the Aldwych. Her passenger, who was much less shaken than she was, was able to assist with pulling the victims out of the bus. I do not think there is any dispute about the reality or the evil of the threat from terrorism. There is only one thing for which I feel more contempt than I do for the IRA's principles—and that is its intelligence. The IRA's weakness is that it is unable to obtain the majority of the votes or indeed, I believe, even of the guns of Northern Ireland. Anything that it may do on the British mainland will not get it one inch nearer to overcoming that obstacle.
The noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, was pleased to describe my remarks as "infantile". The noble Earl, like Augustus in Ruthless Rhymes, enjoys his little bit of fun, but he might perhaps reflect that there is authority for the view that wisdom can come out of the mouths of babes and sucklings. I do not think that anything we say about terrorism absolves us of the need, first, to consider whether the Bill will actually do anything to help to prevent terrorism, which is a question that the House has not yet addressed, and, secondly, to consider whether it has got right the balance between civil liberties and fighting terrorism. In both cases I find that I am handicapped in reaching a balanced opinion because I do not have the time to do it. So when I ask whether the Bill achieves those objectives, I can only reply in the words of Marcel Proust who, when asked whether he believed in ghosts, replied:Madame, their appearances are against them".I understand the view of the police. I understand that every Home Secretary, of whatever party, has to listen with great care to the police. However, the police are an expert witness. They are to be treated with the respect due to an expert witness and not with the respect due to an executive authority. When one listens to an expert witness, unless another is saying the opposite, one has to take what that expert witness says within the area of his expertise. However, when making a political judgment, one has to take it in a rather wider context.
I consider this matter as a resident of Kilburn, which is perhaps the most Irish area in the whole of London, more Irish even than the former constituency of the noble Lord, Lord Stallard. It is very rarely indeed that my Irish neighbours talk to me about their views of the IRA. Indeed, I am flattered that they have occasionally done so. What I hear from them when they do is a hatred of the IRA such as to make the Home Secretary appear moderate. They feel that the IRA is prostituting an ideal 306 in which they believe. On the other hand, they have a very limited faith in what they still describe as the "Conservative and Unionist Party" and not always all the confidence in the police that we would wish.
It is absolutely vital for the detection of terrorism that people should be prepared to come forward to give evidence. Since 1974 there has been a very great improvement in that respect. So much so that I believe that the area of which I speak, which used to be near the IRA's London headquarters, is now very far from safe for them. Members of the public tend to resent being stopped and searched, especially if they see it as being done for no particular reason. It is possible—I put it no higher—that that resentment may make them less eager to come forward with evidence which the security forces would be extremely glad to know. There is a balancing act to be struck here. I do not know the right way to strike it, but I should like to see the question considered at rather more leisure than has so far been the case.
With the leave of the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, I wish to correct something he said. He said that my right honourable friend Mr. Beith had been consulted about the Bill. My right honourable friend assures me that he was informed, but he was not consulted. There is quite a significant distinction. I should be grateful if that correction could go on the record.
We have to admit that the task of striking a balance is difficult. I have respect for anyone who strikes it either way so long as they understand that it is difficult. I have less respect for anyone who does not agree that it is difficult. One could go to almost absurd lengths in the course of collecting information to prevent crime. One could technologically now have a situation in which it was literally always true that Big Brother was watching one. It would mean that the security forces had a vast amount of information about all our physical infirmities and that crime was almost impossible. I do not think that anyone would be better off. Somewhere, somehow, a balance has to be struck. That question will have to be addressed in any new Bill.
Speaking to the Business Motion, the noble Lord, Lord Elton, mentioned trust. I remember the 1974 Bill. I was then a private citizen, getting information from the newspapers. I weighed the arguments on both sides carefully and the scale appeared to be heavy. When I finally decided that it was a good thing that that measure was going forward, it was in large part because my noble friend, as he has since become, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, was putting it forward. The present Home Secretary does not enjoy—I do not think he would want to enjoy—as strong a reputation as a champion of civil liberties as my noble friend Lord Jenkins of Hillhead. That is a matter of political judgment, but it must affect the political judgment of those who reply.
The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, said that the Government have no relish for taking these powers. To an extent that argument is devalued by repeated use. I note that these powers are extremely similar to those contained in Clause 7 of the Asylum and Immigration Bill which we shall be discussing shortly. I cannot help 307 feeling that the repeated use of those powers tends at least slightly to devalue each occasion on which they are claimed.
There are other problems about the use of such powers. We are told in Clause 1 that the police may search whether or not they have grounds to suspect a particular person. Terrorism is not confined to IRA terrorism. We should never forget that when considering the Bill. I have read reports of Sir Paul Condon's speech yesterday. It was a brave speech and I congratulate him on it. He admitted that there are racists within the police. I take his point: the police are a cross-section of the population, so one would expect cross-sections of opinion. However, that means, especially in any terrorism that comes from people with a black skin, that there is a possibility that the powers may be disproportionately used to stop black rather than white people. That could lead to resentment which might be very harmful.
Other parts of Clause 1 concern me. I am not clear—I have read the wording several times—whether the powers extend only to seizing matters which have a security implication; whether the police will be entitled to bring charges about matters with no security implication which they find during the course of searches; and whether they may give rise to what in the 17th century was called a springing offence arising from the search rather than any previous suspicion. I am also concerned about what may happen to information discovered in the course of searches. I recall the noble Lord, Lord Denham, who was here earlier today—I gave him notice that I would mention the point—putting down a Question about occasions when information which came into the possession of the police and was not used to prefer a charge nevertheless ended up in headlines in the tabloid press. The noble Baroness may remind me that last time I wrote to her about a case which appeared to be of that kind it turned out that the police were not responsible for passing on the evidence. I was very glad to discover it. But there is a risk. I have not put down an amendment because in the time available I have not had access to proper legal drafting. I would like the Bill to make it an offence to publish in the press any information obtained by searches which does not give rise to a charge. There could be security reasons, as well as ones of liberty and common decency, for such a restriction. It is perfectly possible that security may find information on which it does not want to base a charge but which it nevertheless wants to keep quiet and use for future reference.
I reserve a number of other points for the Committee stage. It remains my dominant feeling that, whether or not there is a good case for the Bill—at present I simply do not know—I deeply regret that something of this importance is passed through in an extremely hasty manner. It does not make us look good.
§ 1.42 p.m.
§ Lord Stallard
My Lords, I have four minutes. I could take the rest of the afternoon in dealing with some of these measures. First, I completely disagree with the introduction of the speech of my noble friend Lord Stoddart, although I agree with most of his remarks 308 in relation to the Bill. We have just emerged from a period of comparative peace in Northern Ireland. The situation is extremely fragile. Thousands of people here and all over Ireland pray and hope that the peace process can be speeded up and all-party talks can commence. That is the priority of thousands of people, unlike the priority of this Government at the moment. They want the mammoth task of seeking a solution to the problems of Northern Ireland to be given that kind of priority. This Bill does nothing to further a peaceful solution. On the contrary, it will create tension, confusion and opposition. In many cases, it will cause difficulties and hardship to a large section of the population who, God knows, do not deserve any of this. It will be counter-productive.
If we seek a reason to rush through legislation, I quote the words of my honourable friend in the other place, Mr. Dennis Canavan, MP:If we are looking to rush through emergency legislation in a few hours between now and the Easter Recess, I honestly believe that there is a stronger case—and that there would be widespread public support—for rushing through emergency legislation on gun control in view of the recent Dunblane massacre … The Home Secretary continues to allow gunmen to walk the streets while innocent people can be stopped and searched while going about their lawful business".—[Official Report, Commons, 2/4/96; cols. 171–2.]That brief statement has a lot to commend it both in relation to emergency legislation and the probable defects of this legislation.
The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, mentioned the ceasefire. In my view, the United Kingdom Government completely failed to make full use of the prevailing ceasefire; instead, they erected one obstacle after another to avoid setting up all-party talks. The genuine and constructive Mitchell Report was ignored and its recommendations rubbished by the government spokesman. The Government gave the impression, rightly or wrongly, that they were more concerned with retaining the Ulster Unionist vote on a range of measures and prevaricating on the need for all-party talks.
This Bill, which is being rushed through without due consideration, will not help the peace process. The peace process is nothing to do with the Prevention of Terrorism Act. The Act did not influence the peace process. The peace process came about as a result of dialogue between the SDLP and Sinn Fein, together with the then Taoiseach in the south of Ireland. Under the 1974 Act some 27,000 people were detained, the vast majority of whom were innocent people who were put to a great deal of bother and suffering. Most of them were Irish people. I believe that the Act will threaten the peace process. I suggest that if we are talking about referenda, it may be a good idea to have a referendum involving the entire population to see whether or not plans should be drawn up for the eventual relinquishment of control of that part of Ireland and so save billions of pounds of taxpayers' money.
§ 1.46 p.m.
§ Lord Monkswell
My Lords, in the limited amount of time that I have to speak in the gap, I wish to make a few brief points. First, I believe that we need to 309 question what the Bill is about. Having read it a number of times, I still cannot accept that the Government intend, by what is written in the Bill, effectively to say that Scottish, Welsh or English terrorism is OK but if it is Irish or foreign terrorism it is not.
§ Lord Monkswell
My Lords, unfortunately that is the way the Bill is written. The noble Baroness looks horrified. In that respect, I share her horror. If one looks at Clause 4 and the provisions of new Section 16C(3) one sees what is covered:One of the difficulties we face is that we have virtually no opportunity to amend the Bill before us. Effectively, it is government by decree and, almost by definition, governments get it wrong.
- "(a) acts of terrorism connected with the affairs of Northern Ireland; and
- (b) acts of terrorism of any other description except acts connected solely with the affairs of the United Kingdom or any other part of the United Kingdom other than Northern Ireland".
Mention has been made by the Minister of Home Office ministerial guidance being given to the police. I am grateful for that. If I put to the noble Baroness a number of questions I hope that she will be able to reassure me and the public and, in so doing, give some guidance to the courts as to the way this Bill may be used. First, I should like to ask about footwear and headgear. Curiously, under this Bill a police constable is given power to ask somebody to remove footwear. The same or another police constable may require that person to leave a cordoned area precipitately. I am sure that it is not the Minister's intention that the power should be used in that way. Any guidance and reassurance that she can give would help.
On headgear, we must recognise the sensibilities and religious affiliation of Sikhs and the importance they place on their headgear. Presumably it is not the Government's intention to require Sikhs to remove their turbans.
One of the intriguing things about the Bill is that it sets up a legal basis for cordons, but it does so for investigation only. There is nothing in the Bill that says a cordon may be set up around the area where a bomb may be liable to go off and that the police be given powers to evacuate the area for the protection of the public. That is not written into the Bill. One might think that it is common sense, but the police have powers for investigation purposes only. I am sure that the Minister does not accept that that should be the case.
The Bill refers to those people having lawful authority to be in a cordoned area and those who would have reasonable excuse. Perhaps the Minister will advise the House as to who will be in those categories.
§ 1.51 p.m.
§ Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton
My Lords, the first question anyone involved in the debate must ask themselves is: is the Bill a threat to human rights? The answer, as so many speakers have said, must be yes. That 310 question must be followed by a second: is there justification in the interests of protecting people for such legislation?
In political life there are many occasions when, as individual politicians, we lack the quantity, depth or type of knowledge that colleagues, because of their role, inevitably have. On this occasion I am dependent upon the judgment and advice of the shadow Secretary of State, my honourable friend Jack Straw, and of my noble friend Lord McIntosh of Haringey, because of their knowledge, that such a judgment needs to be made, and this legislation needs to be supported. For that reason, I support it.
I share the concerns and questions relating to the length of time before the legislation comes up for review and consideration, and look forward to listening to the answers. That leads me to my next question: can the powers in this proposed legislation be abused? Do people genuinely fear that they may be? The answer to both those questions must be yes.
As a former member of a police authority who has worked with ACPO, I am concerned to protect the good name of what I choose on all occasions to call the police service rather than the police force. I speak as someone who wishes to protect that good name on the overwhelming majority of occasions when that good name should and must be protected.
All those involved with the police service are aware of the fragile nature of liaison with the community, with minority sections of the community and certain age groups within the community. For that reason I should like to ask the Minister whether there is any justification for considering the need for an additional—I stress additional and not in place of—report to Parliament and additional scrutiny of the occasions upon which the legislation is used by the police service. There should be some form of additional scrutiny. I do not seek to be prescriptive about the form. But people may be reassured if a genuinely independent body, committee or group had the opportunity to question closely those who had authorised the use of the legislation, prior to, and not instead of, reporting fully to Parliament in the appropriate way.
That might give the opportunity for fears to be allayed. Such a body could receive reports and questions, as appropriate, from those concerned with the use of the powers proposed in this legislation. I await with deep concern the Minister's answer to that question, because I believe that we are trapped in an extremely difficult situation. I fear that we could damage the good community relations that exist with the police.
§ 1.55 p.m.
§ Lord Skelmersdale
My Lords, I had not intended to intervene in the debate. But from what I have heard it seems to me that great chunks have been taken so out of context that I feel honour-bound to say a few words. I have twice had occasion to take the advice of the security forces. The first time I had a fortnight's warning. The second time I had only three days in which to act.
From what we have heard today, it is clear to me that my right honourable friend the Home Secretary was advised of the need for these high powers at a very late 311 stage. It would have been irresponsible of me not to have followed the advice of the security forces on my own behalf. How much more irresponsible of the Home Secretary would it have been for him not to follow the advice of the security forces in relation to the whole population?
I am happy to believe that my right honourable friend had little, if no, inkling of the need for this Bill on 19th March—the last time upon which we debated the Prevention of Terrorism Act. Even if he did, what effect, other than warning us, would there have been? I can find no provision in the parent Act to amend it by order. It may only be continued in force by that means, although the powers contained within it can be dropped and reintroduced by order.
I assume that when the Bill becomes an Act Clause 7(8) means that it will be continued in force by the same extension order as the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989. That Act, together with this addition, is harsh. It does to a certain extent infringe civil liberties. That said, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, who asked what attention terrorists pay to civil liberties. I would go slightly further and say that one has to fight fire with fire. I believe that is what the Bill does.
The PTA, with this Bill added, will, as I say, do just that. It is right that Parliament should discuss renewing it at regular intervals. Today's argument has been, rightly, about this Bill, which is only one of several amendments to the parent Act, itself, as we have heard, originally emergency legislation in 1974.
That Act has been reintroduced and properly debated over time in both Houses. Back in 1974–75 there was only one piece of legislation, so it was appropriate to leave the existing legislation on the statute book and to discuss it in full as a Bill later.
As I said, in the intervening years the Act has been amended more than once. I therefore venture to suggest that there is another legislative way of considering such legislation; that is, by means of a Consolidation Bill, possibly with a committee specially chosen by the House for that specific purpose. I am reinforced in that view by the fact that we have heard almost no comparison between this Bill and the Prevention of Terrorism Act this afternoon. The speech of the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, reinforces that point more deeply than it was already reinforced. For now, my advice to the House is to enact the Bill. There will be plenty of time to review it in the near future, even in the unlikely event that we are legislating in haste and will have to repent at leisure. I just do not believe that.
§ 2 p.m.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, this has been a valuable and constructive debate and I am well aware that it is under considerable constraints of time. The powers that I have described to your Lordships' House are sensible. They are practical measures which build on those already exercised by the police. They are supported by the police and I hope that Members on all sides of the House will support them today. A number of points have 312 been raised and I shall touch on some of them. Those I miss, which I hope will not he material to the passing of the Bill, I shall deal with in letters to noble Lords.
The noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, asked why not allow the Bill to be brought back for re-enactment. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, who has tabled an amendment to that effect, put forward another variation for allowing the House to reconsider it. The 1974 Act, which was used as an analogy, was a wholly new proposition to Parliament. The present Bill provides new statutory powers but they build on the existing framework of anti-terrorist legislation and on the common law powers exercised by the police. The operation of the powers will be scrutinised annually by a wholly independent reviewer and will be subject to annual renewal. Therefore, it is not sensible to allow the powers to lapse in, say, three months and bring them back for re-enactment. The powers are needed now and we should provide them to the police. That was wholly accepted by the right honourable Member in another place, the Shadow Home Secretary.
The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, was concerned about rub-down searches. The term has been used previously and I am sure that many noble Lords are familiar with them at our party conferences. A rub-down search is less intrusive than a strip search or an intimate search. A constable will be able to examine the contents of an individual's pockets. He will also be able to examine clothing, which he can ask the individual to remove. As I have said, that is the outer coat, jacket, headgear, gloves and foot wear. A constable may not take non-intimate or even intimate samples, nor may he make examinations of an individual's mouth, which was raised by the noble Lord. Rub-down searches are made by the police in a non-terrorist context under PACE.
The noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, spoke about the future of the PTA and asked whether it would be repealed once there was a lasting peace. I believe that noble Lords know that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, who I am delighted to see has been present throughout the debate, is currently examining the need for specific counter-terrorism once there is a lasting peace in Northern Ireland. It would be wrong of us to pre-empt the conclusions of that inquiry, but I cannot do so in any event.
The noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, rightly spoke about the balance of freedom versus the threat to life. I can say to him hand on heart that freedom of the individual is not lightly tossed aside by the Government. The way in which the Prevention of Terrorism Act works is constantly monitored and there are annual reports. As I said, a thorough review is being undertaken by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick. We believe that this is a necessary piece of legislation and we understand all the sensitivities about individual freedom. Therefore, constant scrutiny is important in that context.
Much has been said about the need for cross-party agreement. I agree with that. The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, made the point. That is precisely how my right honourable friend has approached this legislation. Noble Lords asked how he led up to where 313 we are today. It is true that after the bombing at South Quay the police raised their anxieties generally with my right honourable friend the Home Secretary. He is discussing operational matters with the police all the time. It was necessary for him to consider whether those concerns needed to be met with specific measures. It was also necessary for him to secure agreement from his colleagues in Cabinet as to whether they could be met and by this particular means. I can say that without any delay whatever when Ministers agreed on 28th March—last Thursday—that these additional powers should be made available, my right honourable friend even before he left Downing Street contacted oppositional spokesmen of all parties.
Only when agreement was reached on Monday of this week between the official Opposition spokesman and the Government—without that agreement we would not be using these emergency measures today—were the emergency procedures appropriate and the whole matter became available for wider discussion. We have assumed that the leaders of parties in another place have spoken with their colleagues in each of those parties. It seems inconceivable that Mr. Beith would not have spoken to his colleagues in the Liberal Democrat Party. Indeed, I know that Mr. Straw discussed these matters with colleagues in his party.
A Statement was offered to both Houses on Monday but it was refused by this House. Therefore, the House was denied an opportunity to discuss the measures which we have put before it today. It fell to my noble friend the Chief Whip to make it known to the House on Monday that this business would be taken by these emergency measures in this House today.
The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, referred to children and asked what would happen if a juvenile crime were discovered. Normal police powers and judgments of appropriate action apply as they would to any other police powers of search which revealed evidence of other crimes. I understand that if as a result of a rub-down search the police become concerned and had reasonable grounds for believing that a more intimate search was necessary that would have to be enacted. The person would be arrested and taken to the police station and the search would be enacted in accordance with PACE and other powers under other legislation.
Noble Lords raised the matter of rub-down searches of women. For obvious operational reasons it would be impossible for the police to provide a woman police officer to undertake every search of a woman under these provisions. These are exceptional provisions and they would be exceptional circumstances. The police will exercise these powers very carefully and with sensitivity, which is the point of the guidance, and they will be free to use their discretion. The same applies when searching juveniles.
§ Lord Stoddart of Swindon
My Lords, I am sorry to intervene and I thank the Minister for giving way. What she said about the searches of women is extremely worrying. Can she say whether in all circumstances such searches will be conducted by uniformed officers and not by plain clothes officers? What on earth will women 314 say if they are asked to remove an outer garment which may be revealing in a way that a man will not be revealed if he removes an outer garment? What the Minister has said is extremely worrying.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, the context of the Bill must be considered. It is an anti-terrorist measure. The record shows that women are as capable of terrorist acts as are men and sometimes young people. It is in that context that the searches are carried out. I have been subject to rub-down searches by both men and women and I have always judged that the reason it is being done is to protect my freedom and that of other people. I am reassured to know that such searches take place.
As regards the measure in this Bill, only outer garments can be removed. It is a rub-down, frisk-type search of the body. If the police become suspicious that something is concealed in those garments and this Bill is not applicable, other powers apply. An arrest would be made and there would be reasonable grounds for a more thorough, intimate search. That would be enacted under different legislation and no doubt it would be carried out by a policewoman. However, under the circumstances of this Bill there may be no time to think about the matter and the searches must be done quickly. It would be wrong to allow a dangerous situation to become even more dangerous, perhaps even fatal for someone, because there was not a police woman on sight to carry out a rub-down search of a woman. But it must be said that clearly if it were possible to use a policewoman, that would no doubt be covered in the guidance. However, if that were not possible, the search would go ahead in any event.
I believe that the noble Earl, Lord Russell, referred to disabled persons and asked why they are not exempt from the parking restrictions. It would be impossible to allow an exemption from the provisions for those holding a current disabled person's badge. If we made such an exemption, the IRA could easily evade the provisions by stealing the badges which are fixed to a car. They could place a bomb in such a car and park it in a vulnerable site. That cannot he right, but I do not believe that, just because they are disabled, the disabled would wish to be allowed to park in a vulnerable area which the police have already declared to be a security risk.
Referring to Clause 2, the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, asked whether a search warrant would be issued by a circuit judge. The present search warrant procedure in Schedule 7 to the Prevention of Terrorism Act applies on application to a JP. There is no reason to impose a stricter requirement for the type of searches provided for in Clause 2. There is certainly no evidence that the present procedures in Schedule 7 are inappropriate.
The noble Earl, Lord Russell, commented that people resent being stopped and searched. We have no evidence yet to suggest that that is so in any great measure in relation to those who have been stopped under the existing Section 13A of the Prevention of Terrorism Act; that is, the stop and search of vehicles, drivers, passengers and bags carried by a pedestrian. There is every sign that the public welcomes the reassurance which such searches provide.
315 The noble Earl, Lord Russell, said that the stop and search powers could be used against minorities, and that is an important point. The noble Earl knows that much has been done to provide safeguards. The safeguards in place are that authorisation must be from a senior officer; there is a limited duration for the measures; geographical extent must be defined; the Home Secretary's endorsement must be sought; there is an annual review of the PTA; and the Home Secretary has agreed that the use of this power should be covered by PACE Code A which applies to existing stop and search powers. Therefore, a number of safeguards are in place and we shall make sure that the new guidance also covers those points.
The noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, asked about the territorial coverage of the Bill and whether it covered Scotland, Wales and other parts of the United Kingdom. The definition referred to in Clause 4 applies already in the Prevention of Terrorism Act. That Act addresses the exceptional problems we face. Existing criminal law and public order legislation provide substantial powers to deal with, for example, arson in Wales or violent campaigns for Scottish independence. Of course, a prevention Act is in operation in Northern Ireland which goes further than the powers provided in England.
The noble Earl, Lord Russell, referred to information obtained in the course of a search. We have no evidence that information obtained by the police in the course of a search of premises or persons has been passed to the press. PACE Code B specifies the purposes for which information seized may be used. It covers the use of evidence at trial and forensic investigation. The police would be acting inconsistently with PACE if they disclosed information to the press. Of course, there may also be a defamation consideration, a subject which was discussed in this House yesterday.
The noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, mentioned headgear and the particular sensitivity when dealing with Sikhs who wear a particular form of headgear. First, I agree with him that the police would have to act with discretion and great sensitivity. But it is just as easy to conceal a device under Sikh headgear as it is under any hat. Therefore, again, it would be quite wrong to exempt those people simply because they wear a different form of headgear. Terrorism is terrorism and wherever it is, it must be countered.
The noble Baroness, Lady Farrington, asked whether there was any justification for additional scrutiny of the Act's powers. There is considerable monitoring of the use of the stop and search powers and that will continue. The provisions of the Act are reviewed annually by a wholly independent reviewer who has access to officials, Ministers and to the files. He can talk to whomsoever he chooses. His visits and consultations are listed in his report each year and that will continue. We believe that that provides extremely extensive safeguards and the kind of scrutiny which the noble Baroness believes to be important.
The noble Lord, Lord Stallard, said that the priority must be to restore the peace in Northern Ireland. I agree absolutely with that. That must be a priority. No effort is spared in pursuing the restoration of that peace. We 316 should take note of what my noble friend Lady Park and the noble Viscount, Lord Tonypandy, said. While the restoration of that peace is being pursued, the protection of the peoples of the United Kingdom is absolutely paramount. Sadly, no powers can provide complete protection against the evil intent of those who seek to kill, maim and undermine our democratic way of life. The powers before your Lordships will be of practical operational benefit to the police. If, as a result, just one life is saved, those powers will be welcomed by every law-abiding citizen in this country.
§ Lord Monkswell
My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, perhaps I may seek some clarification. I thank the noble Baroness for answering the questions I put to her. However, I asked about those who would have lawful authority to be in a cordoned area and what a reasonable excuse might be. Those are defences available for persons prosecuted under the Act. I believe that it would be useful for the House and for the public at large to know what "lawful authority" would mean in that context and what is a reasonable excuse.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, we have provided that defence but it would be a matter for the courts to determine whether the reason given was reasonable. It is for the courts to decide whether someone has good reason to be there. I noticed that the noble Lord said in his speech that it is for the Government to guide the courts; but that is not so. The courts must make their own judgments about those matters. I commend the Bill to the House.
On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.
The Earl of Courtown
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do adjourn during pleasure until 2.40 p.m.
Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
§ [The Sitting was suspended from 2.19 to 2.40 p.m.]
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.
Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Baroness Blatch.)
On Question, Motion agreed to.
House in Committee accordingly.
[The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF COMMITIBES (Lord Elliott of Morpeth) in the Chair.]
Clause 1 [Power to stop and search pedestrians]:
Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 1:
Page 1, line 6, at beginning insert ("Subject to any guidance issued by the Secretary of State under subsection (11) or otherwise,").
The noble Lord said: In moving the amendment I shall, with the leave of the Committee, speak also to Amendment No. 5. I apologise if there is any confusion in the wording of the amendment. It refers to "subsection (11)" which would follow subsection (10)
of Clause 1 which is the new Clause 13B to be inserted in the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989. The purpose of the amendment is solely to pave the way for Amendment No. 5 which refers to the necessity, as we see it, for,
consultation with the Association of Chief Police Officers and such other persons or bodies as he deems appropriate, [to] issue guidance on the sensitivity with which the powers contained in section 13A and this section should be exercised and the circumstances in which the powers should be used".
§ In the brief time available to us on Second Reading, a number of concerns arose about the wording of this clause in the Bill. Those concerns were about the nature of the search which would be allowed; about the place in which the search would be allowed; about the circumstances; about the period of the order which might be made; and, indeed, about who might make that order. All of them mean that, as is inevitable with legislation which is being produced at high speed and being legislated at an even higher speed, there will be possibilities for confusion. Where there are possibilities for such confusion, there are possibilities for misapplication of the law and either or both injustice and a failure of the law to achieve its effects in countering terrorism effectively.
§ After we tabled the amendments we were glad to hear from the Home Secretary that guidance should be issued by him and that the chief officers of police in England and Wales, in Scotland, and wherever the Act applies, should be consulted about the practical details of the clause. It may seem that the legislation is relatively straightforward. It may well be—indeed, I believe that it is the case—that the legislation follows the format of Section 13A of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act. Nevertheless, the opportunity for misunderstanding and for misuse is still great. It seems to us desirable that that sort of consultation should not only be in place but that it should also be on the face of the Bill if the Government find it possible to agree to it.
§ We are not suggesting that there should be any delay in the implementation of the Bill. Clearly, guidance could only take place when the Secretary of State has had the opportunity to consult. But we understood from the Home Secretary's response in another place yesterday that he was prepared to act very speedily to introduce the guidance which is necessary. We also understood—and perhaps this is the most important aspect in the short term—that the police were prepared to use the guidance which already exists under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act as their rule book, so to speak, for the implementation of this part of the Act.
§ I emphasise the need for guidance because there is confusion between the stop and search powers which exist under Section 13A introduced in the Criminal Justice Public Order Act 1994 and such powers as still survive under common law and under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. Those of my friends who have been involved more closely than I have with the old sus law and who are aware of the extent to which that law was abused will know that where there is confusion in the law or where there is reliance on 318 common law, there is the possibility, which should be avoided wherever possible, that the police will misuse the powers they have to stop people.
§ Over the years the police have used their powers to stop and search people in the street in a discriminatory way. It is an admitted fact. Indeed, the Metropolitan Police admitted that 60 per cent. of the people stopped and searched in the street are black. That is despite the fact that the proportion of black people in the population as a whole does not represent one-tenth of that figure. That is an unfortunate fact. It is also the case that the power to stop and search people is excessively applied to young people. Again, that is way out of proportion as regards their numbers in the population. It is possible—indeed, I do not doubt it—that young people, especially young men, are more likely to be involved in crime than other people. But anyone who knows about the way in which the existing law has been implemented knows that those powers are used in a discriminatory way.
§ Members of the Committee may ask, "Well, what's the harm in being stopped and searched?" People may say that, for example, anyone who goes on an aeroplane journey knows that he will be stopped and searched before he is allowed to board the plane. Of course, that is true: but, in that case, the person is undertaking a positive initiative by going onto a plane and is doing so in the knowledge that he will be stopped and searched. What young people object to—especially young black people—is the knowledge that by going about their ordinary business on the street they are likely to be stopped and searched. Indeed, they are likely to be stopped and searched over and over again.
§ The evidence from the City of London police cordon which, we were told, was set up almost entirely to deal with IRA and international terrorism shows that a high proportion of people who were stopped going into and out of the City were black people and black motorists. I am not aware that there is a significant number of black people in the IRA.
§ There is cause for concern as regards the previous legislation. There is concern about the way it is implemented. There will inevitably be cause for concern about this legislation and, inevitably, there will be a need for both guidance from the Secretary of State and scrutiny and sensitivity in the application of this legislation by the police if justice is to be done, and indeed if anti-terrorist legislation is to work. I beg to move.
§ Lord Stoddart of Swindon
I rise to speak briefly because I raised a number of matters during the Second Reading which I fear were not answered by the noble Baroness to my satisfaction. I believe that the police should act extremely sensitively, and the Home Secretary should be satisfied that they will act with extreme sensitivity, because there is a certain indignity in being stopped in the street by a constable—I accept now that it has to be a constable in uniform—and asked to remove certain articles of clothing. There is indignity involved there and the way this is done has to be in such a way as to put a person who is placed in such a position as much at ease as possible. I hope that that matter will be taken up.
319 I am particularly worried about the position of women. Even in this politically correct age when women are supposed to be equal, and indeed are equal in every respect except as regards biology, there is a sensitivity as regards the way in which women are treated. I sincerely hope that the police will be asked to ensure that wherever possible women subjected to this sort of search will have the search undertaken by a female officer. I should not have thought that was too difficult an assurance to give to me this afternoon. I hope that the noble Baroness will be able to do so.
I am also concerned about the position of juveniles. As I understand the law, juveniles are not children but are people up to the age of 17. I am concerned about fair treatment. Again I ask that it should be put to the Metropolitan Police and any other police force, that they should use particular sensitivity in relation to those people. Will there be any record of a person who is searched, and will the name and address of the person who is searched be taken by the constable? Will that information be registered, where will it be registered and for how long will the record, if there is a to be a record, remain on police files?
§ Baroness O'Cathain
I ask for clarification on the point the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, made about searching women. Women have a particular problem in this respect and it is right to show some sensitivity. However, as far as I recall, when one passes through security at airports, women are not always searched by women. Certainly in some overseas countries that is not the case. However, I believe that some machines can now he used to search women. The machines are big round things with handles and they are run up and down a person's body. One is not actually touched by either a man or a woman when one is being searched. I should have thought that such a machine would be useful in the case we are discussing because I do not think it is feasible to say that every woman should be searched by a woman. I do not know what is the proportion of women officers in the police force but I should have thought that it is still significantly lower than 50 per cent. of the total police force, whereas women comprise more than 50 per cent. of the population. I believe there is a problem here which I am sure could be overcome. The noble Lord has raised an important point.
§ Baroness Park of Monmouth
Naturally, with the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, I hope that this can be conducted in a sensitive way. However, I remind the Committee that it was a charming woman who gave a young soldier at a checkpoint in Belfast a cake at Christmas which contained a bomb.
§ Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton
I wish to mention an anxiety—in support of the amendment—about the need for sensitivity when asking women to remove their headwear when that is worn because of their religious faith. I think particularly of Moslem women.
§ Lord Stoddart of Swindon
Before the noble Baroness replies I wish to refer to what the noble 320 Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, has just mentioned. I appreciate that there are women terrorists and of course people are searched at airports. However, the situation I am discussing is where people will be searched in the street. When people go to an airport they expect to be searched; I hope, usually, by someone of the same sex, but nevertheless they expect to be subjected to a search procedure. In the case I am discussing a person who is just walking along the street may be approached by a constable who asks to search that person. I believe that particular sensitivity needs to be shown as regards searching people on the street who have no prior knowledge that they will be searched and who will be surprised by that.
§ Baroness Strange
This is a question of sensitivity. My mother was once stopped and asked to remove her hat because it was thought she might have a gun underneath it. She was delighted to remove it and the person who searched her very kindly helped her to put her hat back on again, with the hat pins!
§ Baroness Blatch
This is an important point and I certainly do not take it lightly. I repeat the assurance given by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary that there certainly will be guidance on the use of these powers in consultation with the Association of Chief Police Officers and others, as the noble Lord has asked. While that guidance is in preparation we think it important not to have a hiatus and therefore my right honourable friend will issue immediate provisional guidance. He will also advise that the relevant PACE Code A for stop and search should be applied to all the stop and search provisions. As has already been said by myself and the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, the police have already told us that they will apply the PACE code voluntarily until the new provisions are formally brought within its scope.
I wish to clear up a point which the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, made. There are no common law stop and search powers. They were swept away by PACE, and therefore they should no longer be a concern. My understanding of the registration point referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, is that names of persons are taken and recorded, and indeed so too is their ethnic origin. That is all part of the way in which the police must operate under PACE. The monitoring that will be carried out will include ethnic monitoring. The ring of steel to which the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, referred was established by means of powers to control the movement of traffic and not for security reasons, although it has to be said that it helps to maintain security. For those reasons I hope that the amendment will not be pressed.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
I am grateful to the Minister for correcting me as regards common law powers. I was amused by what she said about the ring of steel. Of course it was introduced by the Corporation of the City of London under traffic regulations but it was never hesitant about saying that it was doing it for security purposes. I do not think we should be diverted from the aim of ensuring sensitivity in the operation of such controls by the ostensible purpose rather than the 321 real purpose of the measures. This may not be relevant to the Bill, but I happen to be a little cynical about the ring of steel altogether. I thought that it was simply an exercise in public relations and that it largely involved moving potential trouble away from one area into another area. I know that people in Hackney, Islington and Tower Hamlets thought the same. It is a great pity that it is now being extended to parts of the docklands. I believe that it is a misguided activity and I hope that guidance as regards this clause would help to stop people using such crude measures as the City corporation's ring of steel.
The debate has been useful—not in the sense that I intended to seek the opinion of the Committee, because I have the assurances that I sought. It is useful in that it has been an opportunity for noble Lords to give expression to their many concerns about the operation of these powers. None of those concerns in any way diminishes our support for anti-terrorist measures. But there can be no doubt that anti-terrorist measures introduced as such have an impact on civil liberties which goes beyond the need to combat terrorism. That has been the case in the past. It would be extraordinary if it were not the case in the future. Issues debated later in Committee about review will be most relevant to that.
In the meantime, in view of the assurances that I have been given, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 3 p.m.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 2:
Page 1, line 6, after ("appears") insert ("reasonable").
The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 2, I speak also to Amendment No. 7, both of which insert the word "reasonable", first, in Clause 1, and, secondly, in Clause 4. On reflection, they are not perhaps the most elegant in syntactical terms. Amendment No. 1 provides,
Where it appears reasonable to a police officer of the rank … that it is expedient to do so".
§ That is not very pretty. Perhaps we should have used the phrase, "Where it reasonably appears to a police officer", rather than face the problems that I now have. Again it is not my intention to press the amendments to a Division.
§ However, it is important that all noble Lords should recognise the extent to which those powers are exercised solely on the authorisation of, and by, the police themselves. There is no outside intervention in the exercise of these powers until subsections (8) and (9). Other powers in the Bill are subject to a warrant issued by a magistrate. Even then, after a certain period, there is intervention by a Secretary of State. But initially an area can be declared by the police; and the authorisation can be enforced by them, as the Bill stands, for a period of 48 hours without any other agency having a say in the matter. It seems to me, if only for their protection, that the police should be required explicitly in the legislation to act reasonably. Therefore there should be objective tests which can be tested in a court of whether their action was reasonable.322
§ Clearly no one in a case of an emergency which could result in a bomb will worry about the niceties of what might be said in a court afterwards. I do not argue that. However, experience as regards stop and search provisions over the years has indicated that hundreds of thousands of people have been stopped and searched with a minimal result in arrests and an even smaller result in arrests for terrorist offences.
§ That is not to say that the provisions are wrong. It may well be necessary to carry out a huge screening in order to find a limited number of terrorists. It needs only a limited number of terrorists to cause a great deal of damage. I do not argue on that point. But where the police alone are involved for a period of up to 48 hours, as the Bill provides, then an objective test which can be challenged in the courts as to whether they behaved reasonably is a desirable practice.
§ I may be told that police have to behave reasonably anyway. That is often the response to such amendments. However, if we seek not only to ensure that legislation is effective but is seen to be effective by the general public, these amendments are desirable. I hope that the Government will accept them. I beg to move.
§ Earl Russell
I support the amendments. They appear to me to be sensible and helpful. How far the powers under the Bill in practice will he restricted to the prevention of terrorism is rapidly emerging as one of the relevant points of debate. Prevention of terrorism is an objective which on occasion justifies restrictive powers which one would not wish to use in any other context. However, I cannot help wondering whether the use made in particular of the powers of search will in practice result in more charges on matters of terrorism than on anything else.
All of us nowadays are subject to performance indicators. All of us are aware of pressure to improve our performance according to those indicators. It is perfectly possible to imagine a police officer, either in a state of acute frustration about the operation of those indicators or convinced that he knows who is doing something when he has no actual evidence to prove it, using the powers under Clause 1 to stop and search in an area where he believes that he might find cannabis; and coming up with, let us say, 20 convictions, thus improving his performance no end without any real, reasonable grounds to suspect that he might be detecting potential terrorists.
If the powers under Clause 1 were to be used in anything like that way on even so much as one or two occasions, we can be certain that that would result in a good deal of publicity and ill feeling, and, I am afraid, in a diminishing respect for the law.
If the amendment were adopted, it could do something to protect us against those dangers. Therefore, I hope that the noble Baroness will look on it with at least a grain of sympathy.
§ Lord Finsberg
The amendment shows a great divide—not between the parties in this Chamber but the politicians, the media and the citizen. I do not believe that the citizen will consider the measure in the light that the two noble Lords have put to us.
323 Perhaps I may refer to the stop and search powers. For 22 years I represented a London marginal constituency, receiving 80 letters a day. During those 22 years I received precisely one complaint that someone had been stopped and searched. It is, frankly, a matter that I hope my noble friend will take into account. I believe that the normal citizen will recognise that the Bill is not before us for pleasure or for any reason other than to save lives. I do not believe that the arguments that we have heard today, sincere though they are—I do not criticise them in that sense—hold water for the ordinary citizen. It is a different game for politicians and the media.
§ Earl Russell
I wonder whether the noble Lord will agree that normal citizens differ as much as normal politicians.
§ Baroness Park of Monmouth
I should like to make a special plea that ethnic minorities, too, comprise normal, ordinary citizens. We fall into grave danger if we consider that these powers could be aimed at them as though they are aliens in our midst. Many of them have served in the forces—their fathers and mothers too. They are certain to regard themselves as ordinary citizens who wish to see terrorism ended and are prepared to take some discomfort in order to achieve that.
§ Lord Monkswell
I support the amendment but wish to refer to my remarks and the lack of response from the Minister in the Second Reading debate. I asked about persons having lawful authority or other reasonable excuse for failing to comply, in contravention of the Act. In the break between the Second Reading and Committee stage, I had the opportunity to seek legal advice on what the provision might mean. The advice I was given was that a lawful authority would be an authority that was conferred by a policeman. That is revealing about the powers which we are conferring in the situation that is likely to occur. As I understand it—and the Minister will correct me if I am wrong—the police can designate an area and, under the Bill, they would have the powers to stop and search any individual without cause within that area. They will have the powers to require people to move out of it or move about in it and the area will become totally police controlled.
My noble friend Lord McIntosh is right. We should ensure that the police are themselves protected. The insertion of the word "reasonable" will ensure that there is a mechanism for testing in the courts the judgment of the police in the designation of the area and how the police operated. As I understand it, the way in which the Bill is drafted means that it would be impossible for the operations of the police, in the 48-hour period before the Secretary of State becomes involved, to be totally unquestioned. I am sure that it is not the Government's intention that a group of citizens in our country, circumscribed by a boundary determined by the police, should come totally under police control, with virtually no alternative. I am sure that the Government do not 324 intend that. I hope that in her response to my noble friend's amendment, the Minister can give us reassurance. Failing that, it would be in order for us to insert the word "reasonable". I understand that that would enable the courts to make a judgment, if necessary, as to what was right and what was wrong.
I was asked within this building this morning whether the Bill meant that if one had an Irish accent one was liable to be stopped and searched. It is a difficult problem for people from Ireland of whom a small minority support any form of terrorism.
§ Lord Stoddart of Swindon
It is entirely reasonable for my noble friend to propose the amendment because the Bill is sloppily drafted. The proposed Section 13B states:Where it appears to a police officer".That means "if it seems to a police officer". It is not tough enough. If the wording stated:Where ‖ a police officer of the rank … believes",there would be no problem. I wish that when Bills are drafted the draftsman would say exactly what he means; then people would know what is meant.
§ Lord Milverton
There is much talk about liberty and freedom but if we are to have them, surely we should be ready and prepared, in exceptional cases where there is a clear danger, to have intrusions into our liberty and freedom for the safety and security not only of ourselves but of everyone—not only whites but also the ethnic communities. To me all that is being done is reasonable. A lot of nonsense is talked about the danger of the citizen, whoever he or she is, losing his freedom. If we want freedom, then at times we must be prepared for governments to take extraordinary measures which they would not otherwise take. They do not wish to take them, but if there is terror about we must meet it and not be afraid.
§ 3.15 p.m.
§ Baroness Blatch
That is an appropriate moment for me to intervene on the amendment. I believe that what my noble friend Lord Milverton says is right. Where there is terrorism we must meet it. Those of us who are interested in freedom must accept that inconvenience will go with it.
Clauses 1 and 4 as drafted enable a senior police officer to authorise the exercise of the powers in each case if he forms the view that the use of those powers is appropriate in the circumstances in order to prevent acts of terrorism. That is what the Bill means by the word "expedient". In the case of Clause 1, the authorisation must come from an assistant chief constable. In the case of Clause 4, it must come from an officer of the rank of superintendent or above. The formulation in Clauses 1 and 4 is the same as appears in the existing Section 13A of the Act and elsewhere in the Act. For example, Section 4 provides that the Secretary of State may exercise the power of exclusion if he thinks it expedient to do so to prevent acts of terrorism.
325 I do not believe that senior police officers would act unreasonably in coming to a decision on the use of the powers. They are well aware of the sensitivities and of the need to carry the public with them. The Secretary of State will issue guidance, as I said, in relation to all the new powers to ensure that they are applied carefully, sensitively and consistently.
In relation to the stop and search of pedestrians, the additional safeguard is provided that authorisation will require confirmation from the Secretary of State within 48 hours. Any unreasonable exercise of the powers could be challenged by way of judicial review. That partly answers the question put by the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell. The court would decide whether the officer's conclusion that it was expedient to use the power was reasonable.
Reference was made by the noble Earl, Lord Russell, to possible abuse of power under the proposed Section 13B to improve statistics. I have to say that that is a terribly cynical view of the way in which the police act in this country against the evil of terrorism. It is our belief that the powers will not be used in that way. The authorisation would be unlawful. The safeguard of confirmation of authorisation by the Secretary of State is intended to prevent that happening. However, I do not believe that a police officer would try to use the powers in that way. If he did, it would be revealed in the careful monitoring that goes on throughout the year.
The noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, referred to my lack of response to his question about having a defence inside the cordon. I hope he will accept that I answered it when reminded of it at the end of Second Reading. I repeat that if a policeman decides that because of the particular circumstances at a particular time and in a particular place he needs to cordon off an area and take the powers under what will then be the Act, it would be his judgment at the time. The decision is judicially reviewable, so it can be challenged.
If someone is caught in those circumstances it may be that the reason given by a person at that moment is fully accepted by a policeman and that is an end to it. However, if the policeman believes that there is a case for prosecution, it will still have to be subject to the Director of Public Prosecutions to confirm that the case should go before the courts. If it goes before the courts and the person is given a full opportunity to press his case, his defence of why he was there and that he had good reason to be there, it would be for the courts, quite independently, to make a judgment about the strength of the case put by the individual. I do not think we can be more careful than that in balancing the right of the individual against a very difficult judgment having to be made on the spot by a policeman.
My noble friend Lady Park made a telling point about ethnic minorities. While we are concerned about monitoring and concerned to make sure that any police powers are not exercised in a discriminatory way, I believe quite strongly that they are as deserving of protection and the full effect of these measures before the Committee as any other citizen. That is how I prefer to think of them.
326 My noble friend Lord Finsberg confirmed a point I made earlier at Second Reading; namely, we do not believe there is a body of evidence that tells us there is overwhelming concern about the inconvenience suffered by those of us who from time to time are caught in an area cordoned off by the police or in a particular security check. At the end of the day, most reasonable people in this country know it is for the good of everybody. Certainly we know that it is about saving lives.
There is a comment that I have longed to make, and it is timely to make it now since this has been such a repetitive issue at the Dispatch Box. I really do wish that noble Lords would spend as much energy and parliamentary time concerning themselves about the victims and the innocent people in this country as they do about the perpetrators of evil.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
I do not know whether that remark was addressed to me. I certainly do not devote any of my time at this Dispatch Box or anywhere else to protecting the perpetrators of evil. The Minister chose to respond by praising the police and saying that she did not believe the police would behave unreasonably. I do not dissent from what she says. In introducing these amendments I did not dissent from that. I did not claim that the police would deliberately behave unreasonably. I made a point that was not addressed in the Minister's reply. I said it was a matter of protection for the police that there should he an objective test of whether or not their behaviour was reasonable, and for that objective test to be capable of being tested in the courts.
I remind the Committee of the rest of the wording of Clause (1)(1). It states:Where it appears to a police officer ‖ that it is expedient to do so in order to prevent acts of terrorism".Chambers Dictionary defines "expedient" as "profitable or convenient" rather than "fair or just". It is important, not that we lose sight of the need to take convenient action in an emergency, but that we should balance that judgment with the need to be reasonable as well. Reasonable police officers would not object to the possibility of this objective test being included in the legislation. That is as much a defence of the police on my part as the defence the Minister gave.
The noble Lord, Lord Finsberg, talked as though we were separated from the general public. He did not make a party point of that. Despite his 80 letters a day, the general public do not think of turning to politicians to protect them from day-to-day inconveniences or injustices. Had I been a constituent of the noble Lord, I do not think that I should necessarily have written to him had I been stopped and searched, as I thought, unreasonably. I think I should take the matter up through police procedures. The work of the Police Complaints Authority and police internal discipline procedures has increased enormously over the years as there have been increases in police powers.
Force majeure, we recognise that these powers are necessary for the prevention of terrorism. We hope that they will go away, and we hope the reason for them will go away. But while we have these problems, surely it is right that they should be approached in as objective and 327 controlled a way as possible for the protection of the large majority of innocent citizens who will inevitably be affected by this legislation.
Only in accordance with my self-denying ordinance that in order to get this Bill enacted it will not be possible to insert amendments here and force them to be reconsidered by another place, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Baroness Blatch
I wonder whether the Committee will allow me to make the point that I did not make in reply to the noble Lord, Lord Blyth. I believe it important that I respond to that particular point on record. Were a policeman to stop somebody simply because he knew that that person had an Irish accent, he would certainly be acting unprofessionally. He would be in breach of the rules if that were the only reason that the person was stopped. The police must not act in a discriminatory way in that sense.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendment No. 3 not moved.]
Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 4:
Page 2, line 22, leave out ("48") and insert ("36").
§ The noble Lord said: This amendment relates to a part of Clause 1 to which I have already referred, if in a negative sense, in discussing other amendments.
New subsections (8) and (9) provide that,
A person [the senior police officer] giving an authorisation under this section",
must tell the Secretary of State as soon as possible, and the Secretary of State may cancel the authorisation. Subsection (9) states, most importantly, that it,
ceases to have effect if it is not confirmed … before the end of the period of 48 hours".
That is a fail-safe provision. In other words, the authorisation falls unless there is positive action by the Secretary of State. I welcome that. It is the right way round. It should not need positive action on the part of the Secretary of State to continue the authorisation; it should be the other way round.
§ However, I seriously question whether it is necessary to have a period of 48 hours before the Secretary of State responds. The Secretary of State is not flesh and blood. The Secretary of State is a concept. If the Secretary of State is in the Bahamas or wherever, then there is somebody authorised to act on behalf of the Secretary of State. I should have thought that the least we could provide is that the Home Office, or whatever department it is where the Secretary of State is located, should respond in rather less than 48 hours to what is being claimed as, and indeed is, an emergency. I should like to have specified 24 hours, but I thought about the matter and compromised. A fast response to terrorist action is the crux of this Bill and the Prevention of Terrorism Act. Surely we can have a fast response from the Secretary of State as well.
§ Lord Williams of Mostyn
I support this amendment. By definition, if these powers are to be utilised by an officer in a police force of a seniority 328 described in the Bill, it will be an occasion of grave public emergency. At the very least, confirmation of these powers—which may be necessarily draconian—should be forthcoming from the Secretary of State after 36 hours.
The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, said that he had internally compromised at 36. Some would say that 24 hours might be more appropriate. In circumstances of serious public emergency, 48 hours is far too long without the Secretary of State's personal and responsible intervention.
§ Earl Russell
This amendment goes to the point I made on the previous amendment. The more tight the limits are governing the use of these powers, the more likely it is that they will be confined, as they should be, to matters dealing with terrorism.
Perhaps I might take this chance to respond to the noble Baroness's remarks on the previous amendment. I was really rather pleased that she chose to describe me as cynical. It protects me against the accusation of "foolish idealism" which came from the noble Lord, Lord Milverton. I would rather be accused of idealism by the noble Lord and of cynicism by the noble Baroness than vice versa.
Perhaps I may supply some of the evidence that led me to say what I did. It was an incident that happened to my wife when she was out shopping. Somebody attempted to steal her purse—fortunately, unsuccessfully. She observed the gang and was able to give a physical description and describe the m.o. She telephoned the police to report the crime and the police said that they did not have the time to take the report of that crime until 12.30 a.m. Naturally, she did not feel like hanging around until 12.30 in the morning in order to report the crime. The result was that the crime was not reported and did not go into the statistics of crimes which were not cleared up.
If that was not done in the light of performance indicators, I can think of no conceivable reason why it was done. So I speak with at least a little knowledge of the matter.
§ 3.30 p.m.
§ Baroness Blatch
It might be my fault but I do not see the relevance of the story that we have just heard to the particular circumstances in which the noble Lord described rub-down searches with a view to notching up convictions to make the policeman's record look better.
With regard to this amendment, the powers of stop and search will be authorised by a senior police officer.
§ Earl Russell
Perhaps I may interrupt the noble Baroness. She said that she did not see any relevance. I believe that the relevance is that the desire to improve the performance according to indicators is capable of changing police performance. If that is not true of the police, they are unique among human beings.
§ Baroness Blatch
The noble Earl and I will simply have to agree to differ. There are so many checks and balances in the system that the police, like those in almost every other walk of life, are not infallible. From 329 time to time they will make mistakes. I do not agree with what appears to be the blanket criticism that they operate in such a cynical way. I am not prepared to accept the point other than to appreciate that the noble Earl has clearly had an unfortunate experience.
The powers of stop and search will be authorised by a senior police officer. They will lapse unless confirmed by the Secretary of State within 48 hours of authorisation. We believe that that is a valuable safeguard, as was recognised by both noble Lords who spoke to the amendment. A decision should not be taken lightly. Any increased pressure on the Secretary of State by virtue of the reduced timetable proposed, just might curtail detailed deliberation over whether his confirmation should be given. At the end of the day it is a balance. Because we are writing this provision on the face of the Bill, it would be awful if he took slightly more than 36 hours to confirm the order for lack of clarification or another piece of information that was needed. Equally, we have taken the view that to leave the matter for more than 48 hours is unacceptable.
It may be that there is just a difference of opinion. We believe that 48 hours is just about right to give full consideration of what is a very exceptional power to be taken.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
I do not find that argument very convincing. After all, in subsection (9)(c) the confirmation which enables the authorisation to continue can be not only:(i) for such period, not exceeding 28 days",but also:(ii) for such shorter period as the Secretary of State may direct".Therefore, it may be perfectly possible for the Secretary of State at the end of 36 hours to say, "I am not yet satisfied because some information hasn't come in. I shall confirm it for another 36 hours"—or 48 hours or whatever.
The difficulty that the Minister raised does not seem to me to be a real one, whereas the difficulty that I raise of the police being left on their own potentially for 48 hours does seem to me a real difficulty. I do not find the response at all convincing.
However, in line with my self-denying ordinance—this will not be the last time—I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendment No. 5 not moved.]
Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 6:
Page 2, line 35, at end insert—
("() If, following the exercise of the powers contained in section 13A above or this section a person is arrested and charged with an offence other than an offence under this Act or otherwise connected with terrorism, the fact and nature of the initial exercise of stop and search powers shall be made known to the court.").
§ The noble Lord said: It has been pointed out to me by my noble friend Lord Williams of Mostyn that this amendment is defective. In the fourth line the word "shall" forces the nature of the initial exercise of stop 330 and search powers to be reported to the court, whereas it may well be—I think my noble friend is right—that the person before the court, the accused, does not want the nature of the exercise of powers to be reported.
§ My noble friend kindly said that if he were representing me, he would wish to report it, but there might be circumstances in which somebody has something to hide, as I patently do not—or rather I do not necessarily accept that additional piece of exemplification. Nevertheless, he has a point. Therefore, on this occasion I shall in the end seek to withdraw the amendment, not only because of my self-denying ordinance but because the amendment does not represent what I want to say.
§ However, the fundamental point behind the amendment remains. The fundamental point is that it makes a difference whether an offence arises—the noble Earl, Lord Russell, used the word "sprang"—out of a random search or a search which, so far as the accused is concerned, is a random search because in those circumstances he is not involved in terrorism. It does matter if I am going about my business and for some reason which is entirely irrelevant the police use powers which they would not otherwise have in order to discover something which might be to my disadvantage and might bring me before the courts. This very modest amendment does not say that those who are stopped and searched should not be accused of minor offences not connected with terrorism but that the fact that the person has been apprehended in this way should be recorded.
§ A Conservative Back-Bencher in another place, Mr. Peter Bottomley, yesterday went so far as to say that if a person was found to have committed other irrelevant minor offences, he should not be charged. That is going a bit far. Perhaps the Conservative Party has its own divisions on this matter. I do not think my modest amendment raises that problem. Properly worded, it would have served to preserve a proper balance between the apprehension of crime and what we all wish to avoid, which is a general use of stop and search powers under wider circumstances than is necessary. I beg to move.
§ Earl Russell
One very useful purpose that the amendment, or a redrafted version of it, would serve would be to make it possible to compile statistics on how many of the charges arising out of searches under this clause related to terrorist offences and how many to other offences. That would enable what is becoming a running argument between me and the noble Baroness ultimately to be resolved. When, in whatever form, this legislation comes to be reviewed, that would be material evidence by which I should abide. I should be very interested to see it.
§ Baroness Blatch
If the question is how many searches subsequently turned out to be in relation to terrorism and how many to other offences, the whole rationale for these measures in this Bill is that they should be used as a prevention against terrorism. Therefore, any searches carried out under these powers are done because the policeman concerned believes that it is part of counter-terrorism activity.
331 On the other hand, if the question were rather differently phrased—how many crimes are discovered subsequently as a result of searches which were carried out under these powers—that is a very different matter. But the noble Earl did not put the question that way round when he first spoke
§ Earl Russell
The second was the way I put it. What I want to know is how many charges result from these searches relating to terrorism and how many to other things. I should like that to be discoverable.
§ Baroness Blatch
I do not know whether that can be discovered or whether it is part of the monitoring process. As long as the powers under the Bill are used properly—that is, there is proper justification for carrying out the searches—it is almost irrelevant that other crimes are uncovered. If the powers are being properly used, and other crimes are uncovered, that has to be a consequence of searching people, but under these circumstances.
We feel it is very hard to see how a person could be dealt with in court without the nature of the original stop and search being made clear in the prosecution evidence. It would be for the court to decide whether such evidence was admissible in any particular case. As the effect of the amendment is therefore already met by existing arrangements, I do not feel it is necessary. But the noble Lord has already said that he is not entirely happy with the words.
It has to be said that, in the circumstances in which a person was suspected of having committed a crime as a result of a search which led to a case being brought in court, it would be very important for the circumstances in which that crime was discovered to be part of the case brought in court. Therefore, I believe it would be a matter for information to the court and for the court to determine how to use that information.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
I think that is helpful. I draw from the answer that the desirability of monitoring and the desirability of giving extra help to the court will mean that in as many cases as possible the nature of the arrest will be brought before the court. For that reason, and for the reason I have already given, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clauses 2 and 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 [Police cordons]:
§ [Amendment No. 7 not moved.]
§ Clause 4 agreed to.
§ Clauses 5 and 6 agreed to.
§ Clause 7 [Short title, interpretation and extent etc.]:
Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 8:
Page 8, line 35, at end insert—
("() The Secretary of State may, having regard to any evidence leading him to judge that there is no longer any serious and continuing threat of terrorism emanating from within the United Kingdom or the Republic of Ireland, make an order suspending the operation of sections 13A and 13B of the 1989 Act.").
§ The noble Lord said: It occurs to me, although I was not able to influence the matter, that this amendment is on the same subject as Amendment No. 9 in the name of my noble friend Lord Stoddart of Swindon. All of us are concerned that the Bill should not survive for longer than is absolutely necessary and that its powers should be limited not only geographically and in terms of the powers given by the Bill but also in terms of time. One solution is along the lines proposed by my noble friend Lord Stoddart; another is along the lines proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, in the debate on the Business Motion. A third, and a rather different, one is the approach in Amendment No. 8. We are saying that, whether or not the Bill continues until the necessity for a continuation order, Sections 13A and 13B—both of the stop and search additions to the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act—should be capable of being suspended if, in the judgment of the Secretary of State, having examined the evidence, there is no longer any serious and continuing threat of terrorism emanating from within the United Kingdom or the Republic of Ireland.
§ I am conscious that I am trespassing on the terms of reference of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, and I am conscious that his charge will almost certainly make it impossible for him to comment on my amendment. If he did he would in a sense be pre-judging the report he will make this summer. But it is worth airing the matter at the very least for debate. Surely one of the options that he must be considering, and the Government must be considering, is the option that if the ceasefire is re-established and we receive satisfactory assurances from the IRA and other terrorist organisations that they do not intend to resume terrorism and that therefore, presumably, they fulfil the conditions for taking part in the talks which are due to start on 10th June, there really is not much point in retaining the onerous provisions of Sections 13A and 13B of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act.
§ Of course, it is a matter of trust, and trust is a very difficult thing to establish or rely on when one is dealing with people who have already declared a ceasefire and have reneged on it. Nevertheless, surely it might be—I put it no higher than that—a weapon in the armoury of the Secretary of State if he were able to say, "Yes, you have abandoned terrorism; yes, you have told us in the terms that we required that your abandonment is an act of permanent policy and you are prepared to take part in good faith in the talks which are due to take place. In return for that we will suspend for the time being the operation of Sections 13A and 13B of the Act." That might be a rather useful bargaining counter in the negotiations which would lead up to full participation in the all-party talks.
§ I also think that it would be a considerable benefit for those who have to operate these sections—the police and the security services—because they would have the assurance that they were only operating the sections at a time when it was shown to be necessary that the sections should be operating. In other words, there would be no temptation and no pressure on them to operate the sections under conditions of ceasefire.333
§ The amendment is by no means prescriptive. It says "The Secretary of State may". It refers to evidence before the Secretary of State. It allows him to make his judgment and it allows him to suspend the operation rather than to cancel it. Every protection is given for the continued effective prevention of terrorism. But there are real advantages which the Government should seriously consider. I beg to move.
§ 3.45 p.m.
§ Lord Skelmersdale
In this amendment the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, has given me the opportunity to reinforce the point I made at Second Reading earlier today; namely, that the Bill when enacted will be part and parcel of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989. It is clear in Section 27(6)(b) that the Secretary of State may, by order made by statutory instrument, provide that all or any of those provisions which are for the time being in force shall cease to be in force. In other words, the powers that the noble Lord is seeking in his amendment already exist under the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act. I hope I am right, and I am sure that my noble friend on the Front Bench will correct me if I am wrong. Perhaps I may point out gently that she did not give me an answer at Second Reading.
§ Baroness Blatch
I am doubly ashamed, first, for not giving an answer at Second Reading and, secondly, for not answering when attending to a point made by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh. So I may ask my noble friend to come back on that.
We all look forward to the day when we will have seen the last of Irish terrorism. That is why the Government have asked the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, to review the continuing need for counter-terrorist legislation once the peace process has achieved its object. We are contributing to some of the information that the noble and learned Lord will be taking into account—not just through this debate today but also through the debate we had recently.
I can assure the House that in those circumstances the police will rarely want to invoke these powers unless, of course, there was justification; for example, in relation to cases involving international terrorism. However, there may be other Prevention of Terrorism Act powers that we shall want to withdraw at such a time. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, would include not just the measures in the Bill that we are passing today but those in the Prevention of Terrorism Act itself. That is why the existing Section 27 of the Act gives the Secretary of State the right to revoke any or all of the powers in the Act at any time. That means that this amendment is otiose.
§ Lord Skelmersdale
My noble friend is very percipient. Even without listening she has answered my point at last. I am grateful to her.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
This is not an amendment that I wish to press for all the reasons that I have given. My noble friend the Chief Whip is inciting me to divide the Committee.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
I do not believe that he can be serious, even if he is determined to wake up those Members of the Committee who have not even had time for lunch.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
It is always difficult to say under precisely what circumstances these powers should not be used. The Minister said that if there were a ceasefire the measures would rarely be used and I accept that. I still believe that my first argument stands about protection for the police and the public. I do not retract the arguments that I used in favour of these amendments, but for the reasons I have already given, I beg leave to withdraw this amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Lord Stoddart of Swindon moved Amendment No. 9:
Page 9, line 15, at end insert—
("() This Act shall cease to have effect three months after the day on which it receives Royal Assent.").
§ The noble Lord said: The object of this amendment is to give Parliament an opportunity to discuss this measure at greater length. During the intervening period after the Recess the Government will bring forward a replacement Bill to take the place of the present one. It will then go through the normal parliamentary procedures. I wish that my honourable friend the shadow Home Secretary had in fact made his support for this measure conditional on the same or a similar procedure, as suggested in my amendment. That would have had the beauty of accepting that there was an emergency situation that had to be dealt with immediately, but also that Parliament would at greater leisure be able to consider through a similar Bill the very serious issues involved. That would have recognised the emergency situation and also the fears that people properly have and ensured that the proper parliamentary procedure came afterwards. I believe that then we would have the best of both worlds and we probably would not be having this debate this afternoon.
§ That course of action would in any event ensure proper parliamentary debate. It would also ensure that individuals and organisations could make representations to the Government and to their Members of Parliament. In a parliamentary democracy they must have that right and it is essential that we should ensure that they continue to have that right. My amendment would do exactly that while realising and recognising the emergency situation which undoubtedly exists.335
§ It would ensure that problems would be confronted, opinions aired and difficulties, I hope, overcome. It would then be a properly considered measure in which Parliament, not the Government or the Opposition, would take full responsibility for the consequences, good or bad. In the light of the reply given by the noble Baroness to the noble Lords, Lord Jenkins and Lord Rodgers, to their similar suggestion of perhaps a more leisurely approach—but nevertheless an excellent suggestion—that does not give me any hope that the Government will accept my amendment. But I believe that the Government would be wrong not to accept it. In fact, if they accepted it it would do their reputation a devil of a lot of good at the present time—and it needs helping! They would realise that there is good will from this side of the House over what they are trying to do. But it would nevertheless tell us that they recognise that there are serious problems of democratic accountability, consultation and consideration to be addressed. This amendment is one way in which they can do that. I beg to move.
§ Lord Monkswell
I support my noble friend Lord Stoddart in this amendment. I also recognise that in reality, even if it were pressed to a Division, it would not get through. On that basis I hope that the Government will say that they will listen sympathetically and in due course come back to the House with their considered view as to how they might take this matter forward, not committing themselves at this stage to doing what the amendment asks to be done. I hope that they will think about the matter, come back after the Recess and give the House some advice as to their thinking on these issues.
One of the things I have learnt this afternoon is that this kind of procedure, or one similar to that being suggested by my noble friend Lord Stoddart, was undergone with the original Prevention of Terrorism Act. Prior to this afternoon, my understanding was that that Act was installed within 48 hours in 1974 and thereafter it was renewed annually, initially for the first 10 to 15 years, without amendment. The information that we have been given this afternoon that that Act went through a much longer period of parliamentary scrutiny some time after it came into being was new to me. I hope that, in the interests of parliamentary democracy and the need for the citizens of this country to know that Parliament is there looking after their interests and considering things sensibly, the Government will take on board my noble friend's suggestion.
§ Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank
I express some sympathy for the amendment standing in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon. As he made clear, it represents an alternative approach to that put forward at Second Reading for getting a proper scrutiny of the Bill. I rise only to deal with the point made by the noble Baroness in reply to the Second Reading debate, when she gave a very much more convincing reason for rejecting the formula put forward by my noble friend Lord Jenkins and myself, but the reason was not quite convincing enough. I wish her to say why that is so.
336 The noble Baroness said in an ingenious reply—these are not her exact words—that it was only an amending Bill and that it did not carry the same weight and did not have the same status as the legislation of 1974. Indeed, if this were not an important Bill, amending or not, we would not be taking it today. I suggest that the real reason for considering bringing back the Bill in one form or another is not related to whether it is or is not an amending Bill; it is that the substance of it is sufficient to deserve further scrutiny in your Lordships' House. That has been plain even from the restrained way in which noble Lords have dealt with this Committee stage, anxious as we all are that the Bill should make progress.
If I felt that there was no prospect whatever for the proposal made earlier and if the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, were to press his amendment to a Division with any prospect of winning, I would find myself supporting him. However, as there is no prospect of so winning and as I have more faith in the Minister than is perhaps entirely justified, I hope that the noble Baroness will revert to the proposal made earlier and, if she does not favour the amendment, that she will be able to offer something so much better.
§ 4 p.m.
§ The Earl of Longford
I should like to express some sympathy with the amendment, although three months is perhaps too short a period for any essential changes to be brought about. I should like to raise with the noble Baroness a point which may or may not have been raised up to now; I have not been present throughout these debates. I am entirely in sympathy in general terms with the police in their attempts to prosecute criminals, although not with our sentencing policy. In my discussions with the police, their essential point has always been that there should be an increase in the number of police. Last year at the Conservative Party Conference it was promised that 5,000 more police would be introduced. Perhaps I may suggest to the Minister that the situation would look very different today if steps had been taken to fulfil that pledge. What is being done about the pledge to increase the police force by 5,000?
§ Lord Monson
I should like to give qualified support to the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart. Experience teaches us that rushed legislation is nearly always defective legislation in ways large or small. However, having said that, I somewhat agree with the noble Earl, Lord Longford, that three months is rather a tight time-scale. I think that four months, which would take us up to 3rd August, would be preferable. In essence, however, I support the amendment.
§ Lord Annan
I, too, support the principle enunciated by the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart. I am entirely behind the Government in bringing forward this Bill. Presumably on advice from intelligence, they realised that it was necessary to pass it quickly. Nevertheless, there is always the problem that emergency regulations tend to stand for ever. Let us not forget what happened 337 with the Defence of the Realm Act 1914, as a result of which no one could have a drink at a pub in the afternoon for about 65 years.
I do not believe that it would be wise to have an amendment of this kind, but when the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, considers these matters I hope that he will address himself to the question of when one should recognise that emergency legislation is no longer necessary. I say that because, although this emergency has arisen as a result of the activities of the IRA, I fear that there will never be a time in our lifetime when terrorists from some quarter or some country or another will not operate in this country.
§ Earl Russell
This House is a revising Chamber. We live by the creed that, right or wrong, a Bill might as well be as well drafted as possible. Nobody's initial drafting is perfect, and even in the very brief Committee stage that we have had, we have detected one or two ways in which, if we discussed the Bill quietly around a table in private, we could succeed in improving it.
However, we have not succeeded in ventilating a number of other questions. In particular and for the benefit of those of us who are not quite up to pace, if I may put it like that, it would be nice to know exactly what the Bill adds—it does not add—toexisting powers of the police. For all those reasons, it would be an extremely good thing in matters where liberty may be at stake if we could consider the Bill together to make it as good as possible. We have not had the opportunity to do that today, but I hope that we shall have such an opportunity fairly soon.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
The noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, said that he might be inclined to give the Minister more credit than she was entitled to. I have sometimes been accused of giving the Minister less credit than she is entitled to, but during the Second Reading debate I was very disappointed by her response to the suggestion made by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead. The noble Baroness said that the difference between the 1974 legislation and this legislation was that that was new legislation whereas this was—I quote because I wrote it down—"new powers to build on the existing framework of anti-terrorist legislation". I did not think that our intention was to establish an "existing framework of anti-terrorist legislation". I thought that the whole intention was to have only that anti-terrorist legislation which was necessary to fulfil the task of combating terrorism, and that when that task was reduced or eliminated there would be no anti-terrorist legislation. The whole of our debate as between civil safety and civil liberty has been on that basis.
The noble Lord, Lord Annan, is right that temporary legislation tends to become permanent. Anyone who has been involved in local government knows that there is nothing so permanent as temporary planning permission. It is virtually impossible to get rid of it. I suspect that the same is true of anti-terrorist legislation. However, we should try, and the particular virtue of the amendment tabled by my noble friend Lord Stoddart is that it raises that issue in Committee.
338 I happen to think that my noble friend's amendment is mistaken. I think that he is wrong to choose three months. That is too short a period. My noble friend is also wrong to suggest the stick of the Act ceasing to have effect. We have never suggested that the Act should cease to have effect before any further consideration takes place. However, the idea put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, that there should be an opportunity for full parliamentary consideration of the provisions of this Act within the next year before the order comes up next March as a continuance order seems sensible. I speak personally, not having had the time to consult my honourable friends in another place. Indeed, it seems a more sensible suggestion than that put forward by my noble friend. On that basis and in the light of developments since my noble friend tabled his amendment, I hope that he may see fit to withdraw it.
Nevertheless, some further scrutiny will be required. It will have to be parliamentary scrutiny because I am sure that those who say that legislation brought forward in this way is almost bound to have defects are right. Indeed, my noble friend Lord Houghton of Sowerby has been in his seat twice during the past week to give proof of that when referring to the defects of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, which was rushed through in a similar way. We would do well to take account of the reconsideration of that Act which has been called for on many occasions and the amount of parliamentary time that has been devoted to such a reconsideration when we consider the possibility that we may have got something wrong in this legislation. I think that that is highly likely. The Government should recognise that fact and stretch out an olive branch to parliamentary reconsideration, which is what my noble friend Lord Stoddart is suggesting.
§ Viscount Slim
I apologise for not being present throughout the debate, but I have had other duties. I hate to disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, with whom I agree on so many things. I do not think that the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, and I would agree on very much.
The noble Lord, Lord Annan, said that the problem of terrorism will be with us for the rest of our lives. I believe that. I believe that we are starting to see the commencement of other forms of terrorism which could well be worse than what we have suffered from the IRA.
It has been my experience over 25 years in your Lordships' House—where I have learnt so much—that it has an ability to take matters through the usual channels quite fast when necessary. Your Lordships' House also has the ability to come back to something if a Bill or amendment has gone too far. I should like to think that most noble Lords will see the grave dangers upon us, which may well increase, and agree that immediate steps should be taken to get this right. We cannot have true liberty until we destroy terrorism. Therefore, the actions that we take must be for the moment or for the long term. I have faith in your Lordships that it will be viewed in that way. We are better able to handle this particular question than another place where there is a lot of noise, whingeing or 339 whatever it may be called. I hate to disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, but I suggest that this measure should continue until we are satisfied that it has run its course and we can revert to true liberty. I strongly disagree with the tone that one or two of your Lordships have used in the best interests and in a most noble way. We have to defeat terrorism to gain true liberty, and I believe that we should think that way.
§ Baroness Blatch
I am deeply grateful to the noble Viscount, Lord Slim, for what he has said. I believe that it makes it so much easier for me to reply to the question in the context set for me by the noble Viscount.
I have to deal with the amendment that is on the table before me, not all the other suggestions that may well be preferable options. I believe that I have dealt with them in passing. This amendment provides that the Bill should lapse in three months' time. The noble Lord, Lord Monson, has suggested that perhaps three months is a bit too short and it should be four months. That will take us into August. It would mean either special sittings of the House in August to cope with what would be almost immediately a vacuum—these measures would not be on the statute book and the police would not have these powers to counter terrorism—or the powers would remain on the statute book until the House sat again in the autumn and they would be at the mercy of the parliamentary timetable.
§ Lord Monson
I believe that the noble Baroness has misinterpreted the point. We were not suggesting that the powers should lapse but that time should be given to devise perhaps a better Bill and one more thought through in the three or four months between the Easter Recess and the time that the House rises in July.
§ Baroness Blatch
I understand what the noble Lord has said. However, this amendment says that the Bill should lapse in three months' time. It will then be for Parliament to consider what to do in the absence of the Bill, given that "three months" is literally a matter of a few weeks away. One solution raised after the Statement in another place on Monday—it is no more convincing today—was that if the powers were needed, as I believe they are, they would certainly be needed for as long as the Prevention of Terrorism Act was required. That Act is already subject to annual renewal. Debates on the renewal are informed by the report of the independent reviewer who scrutinises its operation. I cannot see how it would help us to debate again the content of this Bill after three months when there would be very little material on which to base any conclusions about its use. It would certainly help the terrorist if the powers were allowed to lapse, even for a very short time.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
There is no suggestion by my noble friend or anybody else that the Bill should cease to have effect before Parliament takes any action. I am sure that what was intended by my noble friend, and indeed all other noble Lords who spoke, was that Parliament should take action before the three months elapsed, not that there should be any interregnum.
§ Baroness Blatch
That is even more extraordinary. According to this amendment, the time when the Bill 340 will lapse is 12 weeks away. We would have to start considering the matter almost this minute, with a very full parliamentary timetable.
§ Earl Russell
I am a little puzzled by the argument of the noble Baroness. Is she telling us that the Government had time to put together a Bill between last Thursday and today but would not have enough time to put one together in the next three months?
§ Baroness Blatch
We have responded very quickly, and I believe effectively, to a particular situation. We have brought this Bill before the House for consideration today. It has been given consideration in another place. This Committee is being invited to accept it today. It is suggested that we may find another, perhaps hurried, period between now and three months' hence when we may have another Bill on the statute book, which perhaps will simply confirm these powers, when we will not even have the experience of policemen as to how these powers have worked in operation. I do not accept that it would be right to do that.
I say that against the background that the Prevention of Terrorism Act—of which this Bill will be part—more than any other Act of Parliament in history is constantly monitored. It has an independent reviewer who makes a full report to Parliament on an annual basis. He looks at files, interviews people and inspects all of the practical operations and the way in which the Act of Parliament is used. He makes a recommendation to Parliament on an annual basis. Alongside that, we think it right that Parliament should give thought to what would happen if there was a cessation of hostilities in Ireland but nevertheless we had to face the real possibility raised by the noble Lord, Lord Annan, the noble Viscount, Lord Slim, and my noble friend Baroness Cox (in previous amendments this afternoon), that terrorism in one form or another would be with us. It is right that the work now being undertaken by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, should consider this new scenario. What happens when the present hostilities cease? Will there be a place for a permanent Prevention of Terrorism Act on the statute book?
As I said in respect of the last amendment, Section 27 of the Prevention of Terrorism Act, of which this measure will be a part, gives the Secretary of State power to revoke any part or all of the Act if he believes that there is a case for so doing. I believe that he has taken the best possible advice that he can. In response to the police saying that they need these powers, he has asked Parliament for them. He has asked for those powers speedily, because he believes it is right that the police should have these powers as soon as possible. Full all-party discussions have taken place. The shadow Home Secretary, Mr. Jack Straw, has agreed not only that the powers should be accepted but the speed at which the Bill is being taken through Parliament.
I make no excuses for saying that I do not believe this amendment, or any alternative suggestion, should be accepted. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Annan, said that temporary legislation tended to last for ever. This is rather different, in that there is a formal 341 reviewing process. Parliament returns to it on an annual basis. We also have a major review going on. This is not a piece of legislation that is without constant review.
The noble Earl, Lord Russell, asked me what the Bill added. Perhaps slightly disingenuously, he does not accept that I gave a fairly full description of each of the clauses of the Bill. I explained where they added to existing powers. They are extensions of existing powers. I also explained that some clauses of the Bill cleared up uncertainties in the present law, and it was important that this matter should be statutorily underpinned.
The point raised by the noble Earl, Lord Longford, had nothing whatsoever to do with this particular amendment or indeed the Bill.
It has everything to do with it. Security depends entirely on the number of police, according to the police.
§ Baroness Blatch
This matter is about whether or not the Bill should lapse in three months' time. That is the point that I address at the moment. Nevertheless, I shall answer the noble Earl's question. We have agreed that there should be 5,000 extra policemen. The first tranche has been dealt with in this year's expenditure round. This pledge was made over a three-year period. It is our intention that over a three-year period there will be funding for 5,000 extra policemen.
As the proposers of the amendment appear to believe, the Bill is not a radically new approach to the problems of terrorism. It builds on the existing powers and provides further practical and sensible measures. We do not believe that it warrants such excessive caution that it should lapse in three months' time and another Bill should be hurriedly prepared in its stead. I believe that we should allow the normal processes to apply, pass the Bill today, await the proper monitoring exercise and report to Parliament in a year's time.
§ Earl Russell
I must apologise to the Minister if she thought I was being disingenuous. I shall, naturally, read extremely carefully what she said on Second Reading. It is not possible, in a technical matter of this sort, to take in every word the first time one hears it. No doubt, in a perfect world, one might be able to. If I failed, I apologise.
However, I am not satisfied by the Minister's reply to me on the other point about the drafting of the Bill. She said that she did not see what could be different in three months. What could be different is that we could have a parliamentary input into the drafting of the legislation. That seems to me to be important.
The Minister said "we", and by "we" she appeared to mean the Home Office—I hope that she will correct me if I am wrong—would not have had time to do the monitoring and would not have been able to think of a better version. But is it not possible that in any clause or subsection of the Bill all the accumulated wisdom of this place might not think of a better wording than that of the Government? I find that a strange suggestion. My right honourable friend Mr. Beith said yesterday in 342 another place that this appeared to him to be legislation by decree and that Parliament might as well go home. I had not repeated that remark, but now I do.
§ Baroness Blatch
Perhaps I may come back on that point. I do not believe that I said, although I, too, will have to read what I did say in Hansard tomorrow, that we would not have time. When I say "we" I mean the Government. I speak for the Government on this matter. I merely said that if the Bill, according to the amendment, is to lapse in three months' time, then work to determine what should follow it, if anything, would have to start immediately. These provisions will only go on the statute book today. Therefore there will be no experience of the operation of the measures to give us any feel of how they should be modified, removed, or added to. That is the point I was making.
The noble Earl talked of government by decree. When my right honourable friend took the view, and gained the agreement of the whole Cabinet, that these provisions should be asked for of Parliament he made it his business, as I said, without any delay, to involve all of the parties in that process. As the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, said earlier, it is better that there should be an all-party approach to legislation of this kind. We could not have resorted to the procedure without the acquiesence of the Official Opposition. That was necessary. Without it, we could not have proceeded in this way. We could not have used this process to bring the Bill before Parliament.
It was my right honourable friend's intention to bring before Parliament a Bill containing these powers. But we may have had to resort to other measures to do so. The honourable Member, the shadow Home Secretary in another place, did not just accept the case for the measures; he accepted the need for speed. It was because he agreed with that that we are today dealing with the Bill in this way. Therefore it is not government by decree. I find that a disparaging remark about a Home Secretary responding to what I believe was a request by the police who are at the front line of fighting terrorism on behalf of us all.
§ Lord Stoddart of Swindon
This has been an interesting debate, and, I believe, probably a useful one. I thank all noble Lords who spoke to the amendment and who have given me support, sympathy, qualified sympathy, qualified support, or what have you. I shall not attempt to reply to all the points made; they were all extremely useful. However, I should like to comment on the remarks made by the noble Viscount, Lord Slim, who paid me the compliment of saying that he usually agrees with me. Perhaps I can return it and say that I usually agree with him. That means that there are two great minds operating in this place at present. However, I do not believe that he was here for the Second Reading debate. I want to make clear what I said then, because it is important that he and the Committee know that I support the measures contained in the Bill but not the way the Bill is being put through Parliament.
I said on Second Reading that I cannot be accused of being a softie on crime or terrorism. I am, if anything, a hard-liner, anti-criminal, and victim friendly. I detest 343 the terrorist murderers of the IRA and regret that instead of being defeated and routed before the peace process got under way they were let off the hook and allowed to rearm and regroup. I hope that the noble Viscount will not disagree with that.
My noble friend Lord McIntosh reminded us of previous Bills which have gone through this place in haste and which have been repented at leisure. He mentioned the Dangerous Dogs Bill. The one that comes to my mind introduced unit fines. We found ourselves fining burglars £40 and fining people who parked on double yellow lines £500. That is why the strictures of the noble Earl, Lord Russell, should be taken into account.
I fully expected the Minister to reject the amendment. I did not think she would reject it so unsympathetically. I was proposing not merely that the Bill should lapse. I began my remarks by saying that we would expect another Bill to come to this place immediately after the Whitsun Recess. That would have given this place three months to consider properly and fully the important measures that are being proposed. That would be much more preferable than pushing through both Houses in a couple of days measures which cannot be properly considered.
I greatly regret that the Government will not take on board some of the suggestions made, particularly those of the noble Lords, Lord Jenkins and Lord Rodgers, giving a much longer time than my three months which I appreciate may be a little short. The Government have not accepted in any way that there can be room for further consideration and discussion. That I greatly regret.
As I said, I understand the need for the legislation. I am only sorry that the Government will not give on parliamentary discussion and the rights of Parliament to ensure that legislation of this sort is considered properly. Having said that, I am not intending to press the amendment. I thank the Committee for discussing it seriously and in depth. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 7 agreed to.
Schedule agreed to.
House resumed: Bill reported without amendment; Report received.
Bill read a third time, and passed.