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Clause 2

Duty to assess, plan and advise

Lords amendment: No. 7.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. David Jamieson): I beg to move, That this House disagrees with the Lords in the said amendment.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: With this we may discuss Lords amendment No. 56. I inform the House that privilege is involved in Lords amendment No. 7. If the House agrees the amendment, I shall arrange for the necessary entry to be made in the Journal.

Mr. Jamieson: The United Kingdom's resilience to disruptive challenges is already high. We have not been complacent. Since 11 September 2001, the Government have substantially increased the country's counter-terrorism efforts and improved contingency planning for and resilience to a range of emergencies. The amendments relate to the Government's powers to take effective action to protect the public and United Kingdom interests against acts of terror.

Amendment No. 56 comprises a group of changes in one amendment. Its purpose is to provide a clearer legal basis for regulating traffic to prevent or reduce the impact of vehicle-borne terrorist attacks, especially no-warning vehicle suicide bombings, with which, around the world, we have sadly become all too familiar. We need to be able to protect critical national infrastructure sites, iconic buildings, places hosting events such as intergovernmental conferences and diplomatic premises from the threat of vehicle-borne terrorist attacks. For some sites, traffic restrictions may have an important role to play as part of a counter-terrorist strategy.

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We need traffic controls that put a distance between the detonation of a bomb and the target, to reduce the impacts of such an attack. Likewise, reducing speeds at which vehicles loaded with explosives can approach a target enhances defensive measures and can significantly lessen the impacts of an attack. Over the past three years a great deal of technical development has been undertaken to counter the threat of vehicle-borne suicide bombs.

The purpose of the Government's motion is to ensure that a clear legal framework is in place to control traffic and deploy the necessary measures. It amends the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 to enable anti-terrorist traffic regulation orders to be made by traffic authorities on the recommendation of the police; by providing for a Secretary of State override in order to direct a traffic authority to make such an order if it proves necessary; by enhancing existing police powers to control traffic in an emergency to cover terrorism or the prospect of terrorism; and by providing that traffic calming measures normally used to control vehicle speeds for road safety purposes, such as chicanes and pinch points, may also be used as anti-terrorist measures.

Our anti-terrorism efforts must not be hamstrung by doubts or hesitation about legal powers, the consequences of which could be devastating. It is therefore crucial that the measures be agreed today.
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Lords amendment No. 7 relates to the Government's powers to require ports, airports and local authorities to purchase equipment designed to identify the presence of chemical, biological, radioactive or nuclear material—CBRN material—and to deploy it at ports and airports. As we demonstrated with the amendments relating to anti-terrorism traffic regulation orders, the Government are resolved to take the powers they need to combat terrorism.

I fully understand the points that were made in the other place. However, the Government already have the powers that their noble lordships have sought to confer on us with their amendment No. 7. Under the Airports Act 1986, the Secretary of State may give directions to the operators of airports in the interests of national security. The Aviation and Maritime Security Act 1990 gives the Government wide-ranging power to require port authorities to undertake screening and monitoring. Detailed requirements relating to maritime security have been adopted at an international level, particularly in the international ship and port facility security code, and at Community level, particularly in regulation 725/2004 on enhancing ship and port facility security. The requirements include provisions relating to security assessments for port facilities, provision of information and port facility plans. The provisions are enforced under the Ship and Port Facility (Security) Regulations 2004, under which ships and port facilities can be inspected to ensure that they comply with the Government's security requirements. Under clause 5 of the Bill an order could be made requiring local authorities—or any other category 1 responder—to perform their functions in a particular way. This could include the purchase and deployment of equipment that Lord Jopling suggested in the other place.

The powers that the amendment confers on the Government are therefore unnecessary and otiose. In addition, the new provisions could undermine the robust procedural safeguards set out in the existing powers. Existing legislation sets out in much greater detail the scope of the powers and the procedures to be followed when they are used. If left on the statute book, the provisions of their lordships' amendment would cause significant confusion.

I am sure that hon. Members will understand that, from the Government's point of view, the amendment simply would not make sense, and confusion over issues of implementing security arrangements are the last thing we would want.

Patrick Mercer: I am grateful for the opportunity to reply to the Minister, who has made a very clear case in terms of Lords amendments Nos. 56 and 7. If I deal with them in that order, I hope that that will be convenient.

I begin with Lords amendment No. 56. The Government continue to talk about a lack of complacency and a need for awareness of the new types of threat that we face today. It is reassuring, therefore, to hear that the threat of, in the colloquial phrase, suicide bombers is being looked at in more detail. It would be interesting to know exactly how far planning has gone within Government to counter the threat to, for example, the approach roads to critical national infrastructure sites, routes that are frequently used for chemical and radiological material, and other high profile targets and iconic targets around the country. Exactly what is being done to counter that threat?
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The Minister will be well aware of the pressure, particularly from the private sector, for security industries to help the wider police family in resisting such a threat and of the difficulty that the private security industry has encountered in training operatives to spot terrorist reconnaissance and the build-up to a suicide-type attack. I should be extremely interested to hear from the Minister not just the theory of this but the practice.

I entirely take the Minister's points about Lords amendment No. 7. I pay tribute to Lord Jopling and the points that he raised in another place, because they do, so to speak, hold the Government's feet to the fire on a series of different measures on which it would be quite incorrect to suggest that nothing has been done yet, but which have yet properly to be implemented in all our ports and all the different points of entry to this country.

Lord Jopling suggests that special equipment needs to be installed to monitor the contents of lorries, and that we need further special equipment designed to monitor persons, ships, other conveyances or other objects for radiological—I think that should be "radioactive"—material. The amendments also require local authorities and other public bodies to obtain specific static or mobile equipment that is designed to identify the presence of chemical material, biological organisms or radioactive substances that might be used in a terrorist attack.

Undoubtedly, the Government have done something about this. I do not want to go into the details of Project Cyclamen, because if I were to do so it might provide aid and succour to the enemies of this country. It is fair to say, however, that many of Lord Jopling's points have been at least partially addressed by Project Cyclamen and the installation of various bits of specialist equipment.

How thorough has the deployment of that equipment been? Can the Minister say for certain that all airports are covered? I take the point about the Airports Act 1986 and the Aviation and Maritime Security Act 1990. The fact remains, however, that with the exception of some areas we are wide open to equipment being brought into this country. I have no doubt that trials in the near future will provide a focus for the subject under discussion today.

I should be interested to hear from the Minister how far Project Cyclamen has got, how successful its implementation has been, exactly how far the Minister intends to extend it and whether, indeed, our airports are as thoroughly covered as Lord Bassam suggests in his reply to Lord Jopling.

Mr. John Gummer (Suffolk, Coastal) (Con): Those of us who represent major ports have concerns about my hon. Friend's point about not going into the details of Project Cyclamen. Does he agree that it is important that those who live in the vicinity of airports and seaports know enough about these matters to be secure in their minds that the work is being done properly? At the moment, they do not have such knowledge, which is a serious worry.

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