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Baroness Blatch: Oh!

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:

    (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".
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.

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

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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

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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

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been raised and I shall touch on some of them. Those I miss, which I hope will not be 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

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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.

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