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Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 33:

Page 16, line 7, at end insert--
("(5) Where the Commission refuses to receive oral representations under sub-paragraph (4), it shall give reasons for that refusal in writing to the parties concerned.").

The noble Baroness said: I shall be very brief in moving Amendment No. 33. The simple request behind this amendment is that where the commission refuses to receive oral representations under sub-paragraph (4) it shall give reasons for that refusal in writing. I believe that the Minister will find it hard to refuse that request. I beg to move.

Baroness Blackstone: Schedule 3 provides for the person on whom a non-discrimination notice is served to have the opportunity to make both written and oral representations. Furthermore, it allows a period of 28 days for any such representations to be made.

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Paragraph 8(4) enables the commission to refuse to receive oral representations on behalf of the person concerned by someone whom it has reasonable grounds to consider unsuitable. Similar provisions to this are to be found in the Sex Discrimination Act and the Race Relations Act. As far as I am aware, there have been no suggestions that the existing commissions have exercised their powers inappropriately, and I believe the new commission must be trusted to exercise its judgment in a fair and balanced manner.

I reassure the Committee that the Government fully expect that almost invariably it will be right for the commission to give its reasons and that in 99.9 per cent. of cases it will do so. However, should it decide in the unusual circumstances of a particular case that some good reason exists to refuse to do so, then the courts, which will be able to approach the matter knowing the exact circumstances that have arisen, will be well placed to adjudicate. I hope that the noble Baroness will understand the case for being chary about imposing a rigid rule on the commission in such circumstances and therefore will agree to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Blatch: I shall withdraw the amendment, but I believe that the arguments for giving reasons are very powerful. I shall return to this matter at Report stage. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 3 agreed to.

Remaining schedules agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported without amendment.

Social Security Benefits Up-rating (No. 2) Order 1999

8.4 p.m.

Baroness Amos rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 26th January be approved [6th Report from the Joint Committee].

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Baroness Hollis of Heigham I beg to move the order standing in her name on the Order Paper.

During the drafting of the original uprating order a transcription error meant that the amount of benefit for widowers' pensions in industrial injuries benefits was shown as £66.25 whereas the actual uprated amount equals £66.75. This is the corrected order. This matter was fully discussed in the House on the 21st January. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 26th January be approved [6th Report from the Joint Committee].--(Baroness Amos.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

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Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (Codes of Practice No. 5) Order 1998

8.5 p.m.

Lord Hoyle rose to move, That the order laid before the House on 15th December 1998 be approved [4th Report from the Joint Committee].

The noble Lord said: My Lords, as noble Lords will be aware, police powers to stop and search are contained in a number of different statutes. The Code of Practice A issued under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) is a very important document because it specifies how the police should exercise their powers to conduct stops and searches. A draft revised Code A has been laid before Parliament because it is necessary to update it to reflect changes in legislation. At the same time the opportunity is being taken to clarify how searches under stop and search powers are to be conducted. The majority of the proposed revisions to Code A are purely consequential to the changes in legislation which have already been approved by Parliament.

Section 8 of the Knives Act 1997 amended Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. It allows an inspector to authorise the exercise of stop and search powers for up to 24 hours if he or she reasonably believes that incidents involving serious violence may take place or that people are carrying dangerous instruments or offensive weapons in a specified locality in the police area. Section 25 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 further amended Section 60 of the 1994 Act. It provides a power for a constable to require the removal of, and to seize, items used to conceal identity within the specified locality for which authority under Section 60 of the 1994 Act has been given. Section 13B of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989 allows an officer of the rank of assistant chief constable, where it appears expedient to do so to prevent acts of terrorism, to authorise his officers in a specific area to stop and search pedestrians and anything carried by them for articles which could be used for terrorist purposes.

As for the conduct of searches under stop/search powers, Code A currently requires any search involving more than the removal of an outer coat, jacket or gloves to be done,

    "out of public view, for example in a police van or police station if there is one nearby".
Code A does not currently specify the extent of a search that may be conducted in a police van, nor does it specify how searches conducted at a nearby police station are to be conducted. Consequently, there is uncertainty about the procedures for conducting these searches and the relationship with the procedures for searching detainees at police stations contained in PACE Code C on detention. A revision is proposed so that searches involving exposure of intimate parts of the body may not take place in the back of a police van. If such a search involves a juvenile (under 17 years old) the presence of an appropriate adult will be required, as is already required for similar searches under Code C on detention.

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It is a statutory requirement under Section 67 of PACE that when the Secretary of State wishes to revise a PACE code of practice there must be a public consultation exercise before the revised code is placed before Parliament for approval. A draft revised Code A was therefore published together with a consultation paper in August 1998. I am pleased to say that in general the proposed revisions were welcomed. In particular, all of the police associations have welcomed the proposed revisions resulting from changes in legislation. Both the Police Federation and the Superintendents Association have warmly welcomed the clarification on the conduct of searches under stop/search powers. This is a most encouraging response from the police service.

There is concern about the actual way in which the police exercise their stop and search powers. Publication last December of the results of the second year's ethnic monitoring of police activity shows black people in particular are still getting disproportionate attention from the police.

We are currently awaiting the report of the inquiry into the death of Stephen Lawrence. Getting to grips with the issue of stop and search will be one of the key challenges for the police service as it works to gain the trust and confidence of all sections of the community.

The Government welcome the initiative that is under way in the Metropolitan Police Service to ensure that stop and search is used fairly and effectively--by focusing on ensuring that managers control the way in which the power is used and challenge unfair practices. Also most welcome is the work being taken forward by the Association of Chief Police Officers which will lead to a good practice guide for forces on the effective use of ethnic monitoring data.

Managing the use of the power is the key. That is why we have included a new note for guidance in the draft code which emphasises the importance of supervising officers considering and addressing any evidence that stop and search powers were being used in a discriminatory way.

The Government propose to commence Section 8 of the Knives Act and Section 25 of the Crime and Disorder Act at the same time that the revised Code A would, subject to the agreement of this House, come into force--that is, on 1st March 1999. Section 13B of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act came into force on 3rd April 1996. I beg to move.

Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that explanation. We on these Benches are content with the order.

Lord McNally: My Lords, when an order such as this comes before the House it is important that we have some discussion of its implications. As a society we have a somewhat schizophrenic view of police powers. Polls indicate that people are concerned about crime, even in areas where the level of crime is relatively low. They want to see the bobby on the beat. They want a tough line against criminals and terrorists; yet that same society is jealous of its civil liberties and reluctant to give the police excessive powers.

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I wish to draw attention to one part of the code. As the Minister indicated, it is a matter of ongoing concern and, I suspect, ongoing debate. I refer to the use of stop and search powers in relation to ethnic minorities. In his evidence to the Lawrence Inquiry, Sir Paul Condon said:

    "There is considerable concern about the disproportionate application of police powers to some minority ethnic groups, especially those powers involving a significant element of discretion. London is becoming increasingly diverse and we accept that our officers are not fully equipped to deal with the increasingly rich diversity of the public we serve".
As the Minister said, black people are five times more likely to be stopped and searched. Sir Herman Ouseley said:

    "For too long the police in particular have acted as if they are untouchable when it comes to any disciplinary action involving ethnic minorities or allegations of racism. They have felt few constraints preventing them from treating black people as more likely to be criminals than the victims of crime, even though the facts show this not to be the case".

We on these Benches particularly welcome Note 4DA of the guidance which asks supervising officers to monitor any evidence that officers are using their discretion on the basis of stereotype images of certain persons or groups. There is a need for the police to be aware that the powers in this order are special powers to be used in specified circumstances. We welcome the emphasis of courteousness and consideration and the request to be aware of religious sensitivities.

We live in a less deferential society, and in many ways a society more difficult to police. As I have said in previous debates, I grew up on stories from my father of a very tough part of Liverpool which was policed by a policeman affectionately known as "Klearoff" because when he saw trouble brewing that is what he told the assembly to do. Today's police have to deal with much tougher problems: drugs; terrorism; an increased use of firearms and knives; and an increase in casual violence. On these Benches we recognise that when the police have to implement such orders, they are not dealing with choir boys or even choir girls. We recognise that we often ask our police officers to go into extremely tough and dangerous situations.

We also recognise the fact--it is a matter in which we can take considerable pride--that the sight of a policeman coming round the corner in our society in the main is a reassuring rather than a threatening sight for the great majority of our citizens. That is a matter in which both the police and we can take pride. But that remains true as long as both Parliament and police are alert to the implications of legislation, and that legislation should be drawn up not only with the operational needs of the police in mind but also with due care to civil liberties.

We believe that in the order and guidance the Government have got it right. We urge that in their implementation there should be consistency, sensitivity and integrity. In that way the police will retain public confidence and trust, which is the prerequisite of good policing in a free and civilised society.

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