HL Deb 11 February 1997 vol 578 cc14-5WA
Lord Brougham and Vaux

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What plans they have for further amendments to Part III of the Police Bill.

Baroness Blatch

Contradictory amendments to Part III of the Police Bill have been passed. The Government do not believe that either of these amendments is acceptable as it stands. Further amendment is therefore essential.

We have considered carefully the points raised during the debate. There are two key principles that we believe must be maintained. First, the authorisation of intrusive operations should remain the responsibility of chief officers. There should be effective external scrutiny of those decisions but they should not be the subject of second guessing. Second, chief officers must remain fully accountable for their decisions and remain liable to answer in court as to why they have authorised these operations. They should also be answerable for any complaint arising from the authorisation of an operation and be liable to be named in the annual report of the commissioner for any wrongly authorised operation.

Accordingly, we shall table amendments which will provide:

that responsibility for authorising operations should be that of the chief officer;

that the prior approval of a commissioner will be required where there are reasonable grounds for thinking that the operation could affect legal, medical or journalistic privilege or where the operation involves intrusion into residential dwellings, offices and hotel bedrooms. Prior approval would not be necessary where the chief officer was acting with the consent of the person able to give permission in respect of the relevant premises or in urgent cases;

that the commissioner will approve an authorisation if he is satisfied there are reasonable grounds for believing that the action is likely to be of substantial value in the prevention or detection of serious crime andthat what the action seeks to achieve could not reasonably be achieved by other means;

a right of appeal to the chief commissioner against a decision taken by the commissioner;

for commissioners to serve for a fixed period of three years, and for their removal from office within that period to require the consent of both Houses.