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Earl Russell: I listened with very great interest to that speech. I am pleased to say that here the noble Baroness has successfully matched the remedy to the problem. The evidence in that Coventry case and counsel's opinion from Sir Louis Blom-Cooper I found extremely compelling.

It is possible that the amendment says only that the law is what it is already. But, as the amendment puts it, for the avoidance of doubt I think it would be a very good thing to have in the Bill, and I am happy to support the amendment.

Lord Lucas: The short answer to the noble Baroness's amendment is yes--yes, we agree with what she says--but the long answer is rather more complicated than that.

First, let me issue a caveat. The local authority's power under Section 222 is very flexible. Any attempt to codify it in the way proposed in this amendment for particular uses would, we fear, reduce that flexibility. I have some counter examples to offer to the noble Baroness of cases where it has been used effectively. The London Borough of Hackney, for example, issued injunctions under Section 222 to prevent a gang of youths from outside the estate--in this case, the Kingsmead Estate--from coming on to it and causing untold serious problems by anti-social behaviour. They included attacking local authority officials and burgling and destroying council property.

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Injunctions provided the solutions and we believe that one of the youths was subsequently jailed. I can also offer the case of Stoke City Council v. B&Q, where the court considered that it was in everyone's interest, particularly in urban areas, that a local authority should do what it could do to establish and maintain an ambience of law-abiding community and that what should be done for that purpose was for the local authority to decide.

Having listened to the noble Baroness, it is quite clear that our positive views of what can be achieved under Section 222 are not shared by some serious members of the legal community and have not been followed by a number of local authorities which have serious problems to deal with. That is a situation that concerns us greatly. If the noble Baroness will agree to work with my officials and provide us with the evidence that she has, we shall put all the effort we can into providing a suitable remedy for whatever problem may exist, before the Bill leaves this Chamber.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: I am very grateful indeed not only for the support of the noble Earl, Lord Russell, but for the Minister's response. I am delighted to take up his offer and very much hope that we can strengthen the Bill in that way. With the leave of the Committee, I shall withdraw the amendment, in the expectation that we shall revisit it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 263ZAGE:

After Clause 140, insert the following new clause--

Data protection: crime and taxation

(". At the end of section 28 of the Data Protection Act 1984 there shall be inserted--
"(5) For the avoidance of doubt a local authority is acting for the purposes referred to in subsection (1) (a) and (b) when, in the exercise of any powers under Chapter III of Part V of the Housing Act 1996, they are investigating any matters which amount to or could amount to a criminal offence notwithstanding that the local authority may be considering civil rather than criminal proceedings as a result of those investigations.".")

The noble Baroness said: This amendment stands in my name and that of the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis. The proposed new clause deals with the matter of data protection. Its purpose is to ensure that the police and local authorities can exchange information held on computer when they carry out joint investigations or strategies to tackle crime in an area, recognising the value of a multi-agency approach to dealing with crime.

The problem, as I understand it, is that some police forces are advised that they may release information to a local authority; others are advised that they are not to do so. Some police forces argue that local authorities are involved in the prevention of crime, even when they are taking action for possession or seeking injunctions; but others have been advised that the position is not clear cut and they should not

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release information. The effect of the proposed amendment is to make clear that a local authority is acting to prevent or detect crime or to apprehend or prosecute offenders when it is investigating matters that might amount to criminal offences, even if in fact the decision subsequently is to take civil action rather than pursue criminal proceedings or to encourage the police to prosecute. I beg to move.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: I would like to support this amendment whole-heartedly.

Lord Lucas: This new clause seeks to alter the Data Protection Act provisions on disclosure of police data. Under the Data Protection Act 1984, data users have to comply with eight data protection principles, including one that says:

    "The information to be contained in personal data shall be obtained, and personal data shall be processed, fairly and lawfully".
Processing is interpreted by the relevant enforcement body, the Data Protection Registrar, to cover disclosure of data. So, to summarise, data must be obtained, processed and disclosed fairly and lawfully.

It is accepted practice, endorsed by the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Registrar's Office, that provided they have properly registered the purpose the police may disclose to other public bodies data originally collected for or relevant to the prevention or investigation of crime. The acceptable purposes of such disclosures include not only direct action under the criminal law but also helping local authorities deal with difficult tenants; for example, using houses for drugs or immoral purposes in breach of tenancy agreements. If, however, local authorities feel that they have encountered problems in this area, it is open to them to contact the Association of Chief Police Officers' Data Protection Working Group to discuss any proposals they may have.

Therefore, we feel that the new clause is not necessary to provide the power for police disclosure which we believe local authorities want in this case. It already exists. Of course neither it nor the present Data Protection Act would force police to share data; that is and should remain a matter for their collective judgment.

If the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, has any particular examples where the systems that I have set out in my answer are not working well, perhaps she would let us know so that we might follow them up.

Baroness Hamwee: I thank the Minister for that response. I was not seeking by this amendment to require a police authority to share information if it did not wish to do so but merely to ensure that it had the assurance that it was entitled to do so. I will take advice as to whether what the Minister has said by way of putting the matter clearly on the record is adequate. I am not sure that it will be, given the

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powers of the registrar. I will take up his offer, if necessary, to come back to the matter. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 141 agreed to.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: I beg to move that the House do now resume.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

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House resumed.

Allied Irish Banks Bill

Brought from the Commons, read a first time, and referred to the Examiners.

Armed Forces Bill

Reported from the Committee in the Moses Room without amendment.

        House adjourned at sixteen minutes before midnight.

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Official Report of the Committee on the

Armed Forces Bill

Tuesday, 18th June 1996.

The Committee met in the Moses Room at half past three of the clock.

[The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Viscount St. Davids) in the Chair.]

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Viscount St. Davids): Before I put the Question that the Title be postponed, it may be helpful to remind your Lordships of the procedure for today's Committee stage. Except in one important respect, our proceedings will be exactly as in a normal Committee of the Whole House. We shall go through the Bill clause by clause; noble Lords will speak standing; all Lords are free to attend and participate; and the proceedings will be recorded in Hansard. The House has agreed on the recommendation of the Procedure Committee that there shall be no Divisions in this Committee. Any issue on which agreement cannot be reached should be considered again at the Report stage when, if necessary, a Division may be called. Unless, therefore, an amendment is likely to be agreed to, it should be withdrawn.

I should also explain what will happen if there is a Division in the Chamber while we are sitting. This Committee will adjourn as soon as the Division bells are rung and will then resume after 10 minutes.

On Question, Title postponed.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 [Enlistment or entry for local service]:

Lord Judd moved Amendment No. 1:

Page 2, line 10, at end insert ("but no regulations shall be made under paragraphs (j) and (k) above until a full report on the consultative process and pilot studies relating to the Ministry of Defence police has been laid before both Houses of Parliament.").

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, I want to place on record at the outset how grateful I am to all those with whom it has been possible to discuss the crucial issues at stake.

This amendment deals with the military local service engagements and the military provost guard service. Both concepts, one implementing the other, have far-reaching implications. The proposals have been described by some as the military equivalent of a new standing army.

There is to be a consultative process and also pilot studies and if these are not to be regarded as a cynical formality, it is obviously essential that the outcomes of both should be fully considered by Parliament before it is decided whether the scheme should proceed. Literally in the midst of the Second Reading we became acquainted with the consultation paper, which was kindly distributed during our deliberations. I would like

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to make the point that the consultation paper has great implications for most of those involved. Thirty working days for people with a bevy of civil servants and others assisting them may seem a reasonable time in which to complete consultations; but, for example, for the Ministry of Defence Police up and down the country to assemble the various arguments and to make sure that ordinary members have a chance to take into account what is being proposed, I want to suggest that the timescale is rather tight.

I also want to draw attention to telling little phrases in the document. For example, on page 2, there is the phrase,

    "On the assumption that the pilot scheme is a success".

That wording may seem quite innocent in the drafting but to those who feel that there is a tremendous amount at stake it begins to acquire a different kind of significance. It is lending some weight to the anxiety that everything is decided and that the consultation is a formality. Anything that the noble Earl is able to say to reassure me in that context would be deeply appreciated.

I am sure we would all agree that it is not appropriate for a scheme of this significance to be introduced by the back door via a brief clause in a general Bill of this sort. Already some very cogent anxieties have been expressed by the defence police themselves. Perhaps I may ask for the indulgence of noble Lords in order to quote fairly fully from some of the letters I have received. In that way we who are deliberating at this level can take into account the real anxieties at the front line of this concern.

I quote first from Michael Jones, who is the national chairman of the Defence Police Federation:

    "Ministry of Defence Police Officers come into constant contact with members of the public, sometimes hostile; but at other times, in need of assistance. Our members are fully trained and at tested police constables, possessing all the powers, privileges and responsibilities that the law confers on their colleagues in The Scottish Office's and Home Department's forces. They never function solely as 'armed guards', as the MSLE proposal implies. It is wrong to replace civilian police officers who might come into contact with ordinary members of the public as well as armed force personnel with an armed military guard. A soldier with a gun should not be regarded as a proper replacement for a police officer in this function. Bringing military armed guards into contact with civilian members of the public, be they contractors, protesters, trespassers, etc., is frankly dangerous. It could also create a gross infringement of civil liberties. In a democratic country such as ours, a force of this nature should not be brought into existence except in times of war".

That is the federation.

From the Base Ordnance Depot, Donnington, I have received a letter. I expect other noble Lords have received a similar letter. It makes the point:

    "BOD Donnington is one of the stations where it is proposed to implement a trial period of the Military Provost Guard Service (MPGS) with effect from April 1997. Initially it was proposed in the Rucker Report that the MPGS would be implemented at establishments where the service personnel exceeded 50 per cent. of the establishment population. At Donnington this is not the case. The civilian population here well outweighs the service personnel by more than 85 per cent. It was proposed that the MPGS would replace the Ministry of Defence Police (MDP) on a one for one basis on armed and unarmed guarding. However, the MDP at Donnington do not carry out static armed guarding duties, although they are armed whilst on duty. Furthermore, how can this transition

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    be classed as a trial period when the proposals are that MDP at Donnington are to be replaced before the end of the trial period (one month after implementation)".

Finally, a particularly interesting letter comes from Ministry of Defence Police personnel at Chetwynd barracks, Chilwell. It says:

    "As you know, the MPGS scheme proposes that Ministry of Defence policemen are to be replaced on a one-for-one basis by infantry-trained, non-regular soldiers where those policemen are employed solely on armed guarding duties. This is what the scheme's protagonists within the MoD and Government have been telling Parliament, but it is far from the truth. Hardly any MDP on stations without a nuclear association are employed solely as armed guards. At the three MDP manned stations chosen to pilot the scheme, Chilwell, Donnington and Wilton, the MDP complements are and have for years been employed on primary policing duties with the added capability to provide an armed response if necessary".

The letter continues:

    "On my own station, Chilwell, a complementing review scheduled for September 1996 was rushed forward to mid-April. This resulted in our being retrospectively relegated on paper only to the required status of armed guards, although our actual employment has not changed at all. This review also increased our complement, again on paper only, from our current total of 20 men to the 26 men which the MPGS would require. This represents a hidden increase in manning by the MPGS over our current true MDP numbers".

The letter concludes with the observation:

    "The scheme is being promoted on the basis that it will return more MDP to policing duties. This idea is fallacious. Almost all MDP employed on armed guarding duties do so on nuclear associated stations and presumably will continue to do so. If the MPGS scheme is carried through fully, the result will be a much reduced Ministry of Defence Police with, paradoxically, a much smaller percentage of its men and women carrying out the policing duties within the MoD estate for which the force exists. The armed guarding duties would be almost untouched whilst civilian policing of MoD(A) establishments, with their large civilian workforce and married quarters estates, as well as of civilian contractors and visitors, would largely disappear. The real purpose behind the MPGS scheme is to provide MoD(A) with an extra battalion of trained infantry, albeit of limited capability, outside of normal funding, the funds required being provided by the virtual eradication of the MDP within MoD(A) establishments".

I hope the Committee will forgive me for having quoted at length but on these issues it is sometimes important to see them from the perspective of those upon whom we are relying and who are deeply affected. As one experienced MoD policemen put it to me only yesterday, "MoD police are not armed guards; they are constables trained in the use of firearms." Many of the doubts they express are shared by noble Lords in all parts of this House and certainly by honourable Members in all parts of the other place. Statements by the Minister of State for the Armed Forces have frankly so far failed to reassure or to deal with the key points.

Let me reiterate some of them. First, what really would be the financial cost of this scheme? For example, what precise estimates have been made of the redundancy costs for MoD police? What precise estimates have been made for recruitment and training costs, presumably more for raw civilians than for ex-soldiers? How many will in the end be ex-soldiers, and how many civilians? What kind of reliable surveys have been conducted on all this? What would be the consequent costs for the civil police, who will inevitably have to take on additional community and other policing

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responsibilities? What will be the net saving for the Defence budget--indeed, will there be any such saving? When will the break-even date be? And what will be the net savings to the nation as a whole, taking into account the costs of additional duties for the civil police? Or is it possible that we are on a disruptive, expensive, hare-brained ride to nothing, or worse, of the poll tax variety?

Secondly, as the letters I quoted indicated, is it not true that local soldiers guarding defence installations will not have the same responsibilities and powers as the MoD police for wider policing duties; for example, policing MoD housing estates or dealing with burglaries or car theft? What exactly will be their powers over civilians as distinct from service personnel? Is it not the case that civilians constitute the main threat to defence property? Indeed, what will happen to the public's rights? The MoD police are subject to the Police Complaints Authority--soldiers obviously will not be.

Thirdly, with their lower rates of pay and generally unfavourable conditions of service as compared with the real Army, with the absence of long-term job security, with the prospect of little but monotonous static armed guarding ahead--never a switch-on for the average soldier--with all this coupled nevertheless with being subject to service discipline, just how many people of the right calibre will really be prepared to serve and for how long will they put up with it?

Fourthly, what will characterise the interface with the real Army? In times of pressure, how local will local service prove to be? Is there not some substance in the fear that the MoD is indeed seeking a cheap source of infantry? Why otherwise are the Government not ideologically sub-contracting in their usual way to the private sector, bringing in Securicor or whoever? These are just some of the questions on which convincing evidence and answers need to be available before this far-reaching proposal is considered for a possible full go-ahead. Hence the amendment.

I am sure the Committee agrees that the MoD police have a very special role, not least because of the sensitive nature of the materials held by MoD, the requirement to carry arms and the presence on the defence estate of service married quarters containing large numbers of civilian dependants. I cannot do better than refer the Committee to the sentiments of the Minister of State himself in the other place on 9th March, when he emphasised that the MoD police do a splendid job and are a fine force that are greatly respected. We all agree with that. If we respect them, we must take their concerns about the effectiveness of the new scheme as seriously as we take our own concerns. I beg to move.

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