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Lord Marlesford: My Lords, of course I shall withdraw the words lent on. The discussions were useful and constructive. ACPO decided that it would like to have intra-ACPO discussions. All I say is, Well done, Sir Humphrey.
Of course the police need to consider carefully how they would use a power such as the one that we are discussing. They need to use their judgment. They have to consider carefully the range of issues involved, whether that be removing guns or community relations. But that does not mean that they should not have an instrument that enables them to remove guns. It is for Parliament to give that instrument to the police and it is for the police to use their judgment appropriately and properly to apply the measure as and where they feel that it would be helpful.
I want to send a clear message to the criminal fraternity that it will become extremely risky for anyone to carry an illegal gun. That would also send a clear message to the public that the police now have a clear and simple statement of legislative power to take guns off the streets before they are used. I beg to move.
Lord Dholakia: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, has always been persistent on this issue. I have often supported him on this during Questions to the Minister, and today will be no exception.
An unacceptable gun culture has obviously developed in this country during recent times. Shootings in the streets or in fast food restaurants are often reflected in newspaper headlines. Gun crime has grown at an alarming rate in this country, with overall gun crime doubling since 1997. Crimes involving imitation firearms have quadrupled. When this matter was brought forward in Committee, I was somewhat concerned about the very wide nature of the amendment. Since then, in our discussions with the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, it has been tightened by the use of the word that in paragraph (a). We are now happy to support the amendment.
The vast majority of people who own guns legally use them responsibly. The aim of further changes to the law must be to tackle the threat from weapons that are held or used illegally. Gun crime is a complex problem, and tackling it requires a holistic approach. We need to use intelligence-led policing to attack the organised criminal gangs that are responsible for many shootings. In order to achieve a better rate of conviction, we need to encourage more people to come forward by improving the protection offered to vulnerable witnesses. It is also important that the Government support the community groups working with those young people who are at risk of becoming involved in drugs and gun crime. We hope that the amendment will send a signal that more needs to be done to tackle this problem. I support the intention behind the amendment.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I strongly support my noble friend, and I have added my name to his amendment. He is right to bring this matter before the House again, and I hope that it may be resolved in his favour tonightI hope by the Minister
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Since Committee, my noble friend has carefully considered the drafting of his amendment, and he has made one small change which should meet the concerns of those who felt that the power might appear to go more widely than my noble friend intended. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, for indicating that the change has helped him to support my noble friend. If the Government wish to give a clear message about their commitment to reducing the level of gun crime, they have the opportunity to do so tonight by accepting my noble friends amendment.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I say straight away that the Government agree with the sentiment expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, agreed by the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, and supported by the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay. The recent tragic shootings have highlighted once again that the fight against gun crime is far from over. We have already put in place legislation to support that fight; for example the five year minimum sentence for those adults convicted of unlawful possession of prohibited firearms.
The Government take gun crime extremely seriously. That is why I was grateful for the opportunity to discuss the issue with the noble Lord in our telephone conversation last week. There was nothing on which we disagreed about the nature of the crime and the need to face it with all possible tools. There is legislation in place that provides a range of enforcement powers to the police under Section 47 of the Firearms Act 1968. I realise that I am repeating what has been said on this issue, but the facts remain the same. For example, in the circumstances specified in the legislation, a constable can require a firearm or ammunition to be handed over for examination; the person can be searched and detained for the purpose of the search; if a vehicle is involved, the vehicle may be searched and the person driving or in control of it can be required to stop it; and, furthermore, for the purpose of exercising these powers a constable may enter any place.
The Government have made clear their commitment to tackling gun crime and to ensuring that the police have sufficient and proportionate powers to help make communities safe. The existing
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Further, I cannot accept that the inclusion of the amendment in the Bill would serve as a declaratory statement either to the police or to the general public. The police are well aware of the high priority that we place on the fight against gun crime and are already fully trained in the use of their powers under existing legislation. The introduction of powers that duplicate existing provisions could only serve to confuse them, and I know that is not something the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, would wish.
The House will be aware that, lamentably, the general public are not in the habit of reading Bills or Hansard. Indeed, rumour has it that following the deliberations of this House late at night does not cull from the public the interest that it might otherwise deserve, which is much to be lamented. Therefore, I cannot agree that the amendment would raise the profile of gun crime in the publics consciousness in the way that the noble Lord suggests. We have run a number of public information campaigns about the issue, and we will continue to do so in the future. I respectfully suggest that those are more likely to have the effect that the noble Lord is seeking to achieve than a declaratory amendment to the Bill. The noble Lord does not suggest that the amendment adds anything to the legislation that we already have; it simply adds a new complex arrangement that police officers would be burdened to have to learn in addition to all the others. It adds very little.
Given that we now have a clear view from the Association of Chief Police Officers that the new power is not needed, I ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment. He is to be commended for his persistence on this important issue. He is right to raise it, but may I suggest that the benefit of so doing has already been delivered and we should press the matter no further? It has now had five outings and it is perhaps time to put the amendment to bed. I ask the noble Lord not to press the amendment this evening.
Lord Marlesford: My Lords, the telephone conversation that I had with the noble Baroness was of course immensely agreeable, as is any conversation with her either on the telephone or face to face. Her speech was exactly what I thought it would be; it was
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I am not concerned at all as to whether there would be some duplication. This clear statement of the law would quickly get through to the public; not by reading Hansardof course notbut the media do a good job sometimes and they are taking a great interest in gun crime at present, and rightly so. If I had been given the opportunity of talking to her right honourable friend the Home Secretary, he might well have been pretty much in favour of this amendment. If I were a politician in the Government, I would see this as an opportunity to take action, rather than using words and setting up further consultations for the long term. The long term is too long because, as Keynes notably, or rather, lamentably, saidsadly, in this case, with accuracypeople are dead.
(1A) A circuit judge may on the application of a constable of the rank of inspector or above issue a warrant in relation to specified passenger or service information under this section if he is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that there are likely to be circumstances in which it can be required under subsection (2).
The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 61 is grouped with Amendment No. 62, which was tabled in Committee but not debated. These amendments address the extension of powers granted in the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 to reveal passenger lists to the law agencies. Those powers will be extended under the Bill to domestic flightsthat is, to flights starting from and ending in this country. Our concern, and the reason for the amendment, is the increase in surveillance. We want to support the Government in disrupting terrorism and preventing crime, but, as ever, doing that leads to tensions over peoples civil liberties and their right to a private life.
How effective will the measures be? There will not be equal surveillance on the roads or the railways. A terrorist who is creating a pattern for police officers to observe might well choose different forms of transport, so we are not sure that such powers are an effective tool for disruption. However, they could be, so we should consider them seriously. We need to consider appropriate safeguards to protect the individuals right to privacy.
There is also the question of whether a circuit judge is at the appropriate level for this measure. In some ways, a magistrate might be more appropriate because the Government propose that a superintendent makes the request for information and a magistrate is at an equivalent level. There is a belief on these Benches that some judicial oversight is needed because there is a principle in common law that a decision that has been made by law should be able to be reviewed later. We understand from the Home Office that the purpose of these measures is to spot developing patterns and to track such things so that crimes can be prevented and terrorism disrupted.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, again I understand the purport of the noble Lords amendment. However, requiring a police officer to obtain a warrant from a circuit judge each time he wants to submit a request for data would be a huge
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If the purpose of this amendment is to introduce a safeguard, I assure the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, that a number of safeguards are already built into the process; I shall outline them. It will be lawful under Section 32(4) of the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006 for a police constable at the rank of superintendent or above to request information only if it is necessary for police purposes. Any request must specify the period during which it has effect, up to a maximum period of six months. The police and all public authorities are under a duty pursuant to Section 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998 to ensure that they comply with convention rights. The use of personal data will also be compliant with the obligations under the Data Protection Act 1998. We do not consider that this amendment is necessary or practicable.
However, I thank the noble Lord for giving me an opportunity to outline the safeguards because I know that people have concerns about how this procedure will operate, how we will make sure that personal and private data are properly protected and whether the Data Protection Act applies. I understand that those concerns have been in circulation and therefore I am pleased to have an opportunity to state on the record that the safeguards are there and we do not think that the anxiety that people properly have is founded in fact. I hope that with that reassurance the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment was debated in Committee. We do not object to Clause 14, which gives trading standards inspectors the power to impose fixed penalties on people who sell alcohol to children. Our objection is to Clause 15, which gives the Secretary of State a delegated power to specify unlimited categories of people whom chief police officers would be able to accredit with the power to give fixed penalty notices. There would be no restriction on the groups of people who could be specified. The Government could use this power to give punitive powers to wholly inappropriate groups
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Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, Clause 15 gives the Secretary of State an order-making power to specify unlimited categories of people to whom chief officers of police could give the power to give fixed penalty notices. That is a clear, straightforward and wide-ranging power and it is right that we should look carefully at the potential it has to change the way in which our courts work.
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