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Lord Bassam of Brighton: As I said earlier to the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, we find the measure attractive. It is clear from press coverage--perhaps of remarks attributed to my right honourable friend Dr Mowlam--that we regard this as an important area. At this stage we are content with the provisions that we have put in place. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, that as this is part of a wider and more complex picture we hope that noble Lords will not press their amendments at this stage. We recognise their importance and significance, but because of the complexity of the matter we wish to ensure that the provisions we introduce are workable and appropriate in all circumstances. We are grateful to the noble Lord for prompting this important debate.

Lord Glentoran: I thank the noble Lord for that explanation. Like my noble friend Lord Cope, I am not entirely convinced by the arguments that have been put forward but I understand that there is quite a lot of work going on behind the scenes. We look forward to hearing more, perhaps at Report stage of the Bill. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 52B not moved.]

Clause 25 agreed to.

Clause 26 agreed to.

Clause 27 [Detained cash]:

Lord Bach moved Amendment No. 53:

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 53 I wish to speak also to Amendments Nos. 54 and 55. These are three minor government amendments. Amendments Nos. 53 and 54 were suggested by parliamentary counsel and are purely drafting amendments. They achieve precisely the same effect as the original wording but make it more concise. Amendment No. 55 provides an opportunity for third parties to be heard in civil forfeiture proceedings similar to the opportunities provided in connection with criminal forfeiture proceedings in Clauses 23(7) and 58(6). This is an additional safeguard which I hope will be welcomed by the Committee. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bach moved Amendment No. 54:

    Page 13, leave out lines 41 to 44.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 27, as amended, agreed to.

23 May 2000 : Column 659

Clause 28 [Forfeiture]:

Lord Bach moved Amendment No. 55:

    Page 14, line 23, at end insert--

("( ) Before making an order under this section, a magistrates' court or the sheriff must give an opportunity to be heard to any person--
(a) who is not a party to the proceedings, and
(b) who claims to be the owner of or otherwise interested in any of the cash which can be forfeited under this section.").

The noble Lord said: This amendment has already been spoken to. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 28, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 29 to 32 agreed to.

Clause 33 [Cordoned areas]:

Lord Goodhart moved Amendment No. 56:

    Page 16, line 9, leave out ("expedient") and insert ("reasonably necessary").

The noble Lord said: Before I deal with the substance of the amendment I should say that I asked for Amendments Nos. 57 and 58 to be removed from the group we are discussing. I was too late to secure a change to the groupings list but I hope that I shall be excused if I deal with Amendments Nos. 57 and 58 separately.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: They have been decoupled. Therefore they will form the subject of a separate debate. I hope that that helps the noble Lord.

Lord Goodhart: I am grateful for those comments. I obtained my groupings list from outside the Chamber. It was not marked with the word "draft" and therefore I assumed that it was the final version.

Lord Bach: It was the final one, but not the final, final one. Apparently there is a revised version outside.

Lord Goodhart: The first group of amendments I wish to address comprises Amendments Nos. 56, 117 and 123. These amendments seek to tighten up the requirements before certain action can be taken, in each case by requiring the action in question to be "reasonably necessary" rather than, as provided by the Bill, "expedient". Amendment No. 56 applies to Clause 33(2) of the Bill which allows a police officer to designate an area as a cordoned area if he or she considers it expedient for purposes of terrorist investigation.

Amendment No. 117 applies to Clause 44(3) which allows police officers to authorise the stop and search of vehicles if,

    "expedient for the prevention of acts of terrorism".

Amendment No. 123 applies to Clause 48(2) which concerns the imposition of parking restrictions.

These are all, of course, actions which impose inconvenience on the public. No one in their senses would object to suffering some degree of inconvenience if there was a real possibility that as a result an act of terrorism would be prevented or if there

23 May 2000 : Column 660

was a chance of catching a terrorist. However, the action must be proportionate to the objective. I would have expected the test in the Bill to be that the action must be reasonably necessary, not absolutely necessary or essential.

The Government may say that "expedient" means the same thing as "reasonably necessary". Therefore this is in effect a probing amendment. Do the Government say that "expedient" means the same as "reasonably necessary"? If not, what is the difference between the two expressions? Can the Government give examples of differences? I beg to move.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: I am not an expert in Fowler's Modern English Usage but I shall try to enter into the spirit of a debate about words.

Amendment No. 56 would alter the way in which the cordon designation regime under the Bill, which replicates that currently available under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, would work. It would replace the existing test that a cordon designation must be "expedient" for the purposes of a terrorist investigation with a "reasonably necessary" test. As the noble Lord said, Amendments Nos. 117 and 123 would similarly replace "expedient" with "reasonably necessary" in Clause 44, which covers stop and search, and Clause 48, which covers parking.

As we explained when a similar amendment was tabled at Committee stage in another place, we do not think that this quite meets the case. The police would not impose or maintain a cordon if they did not believe that to be the appropriate course of action in all the circumstances--and the involvement of a senior police officer in the process provides an adequate check on any tendency for over-use. However, that is not the same as requiring a reasonable belief that the cordon is necessary--which is what I take the amendment to mean. I am not sure that something which can be described as being "reasonably necessary" achieves exactly that. However, I shall not over-egg that argument.

An example might be where a bomb warning was imprecise, or the police believed it was inaccurate--deliberately or otherwise. In such a case the necessity for a cordon might be debatable, but it makes good sense to have one. Similarly, in the case of stop and search or parking restriction powers, there could be cases where a cordon might not be considered "reasonably necessary" but could be to the general advantage. That is the important test. For instance, this might be the case if the alternatives, in the light of a terrorist threat to an event, were to authorise the use of the stop and search power or parking restrictions around the venue or to see the event cancelled altogether.

That is not to say that the "expediency" requirement gives carte blanche for the police to set up cordons without good cause. The term has been criticised as being too broad or, perhaps, overly subjective. In debating it at the Commons Committee stage, Simon Hughes quoted a dictionary definition

23 May 2000 : Column 661

which suggested that the term carried a sense of being "morally dubious". But that is not the primary meaning or understanding of the term.

The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary advises that the term means,

    "Advantageous ... fit, proper; suitable to the circumstances".

That last expression provides the basis for the kind of criteria on which we expect the police to make judgments when considering whether or not to set up a cordon.

I hope that that explanation helps the noble Lord. In that spirit, I hope that he will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

4.30 p.m.

Lord Glentoran: Perhaps I may make a short comment, having lived in an atmosphere and environment of cordons, searches and so on for 30 years. In my experience, "expedient" is a word which is understood by those in the services; it is used fairly frequently in different ways. It denotes a positive attitude; a positive way forward. Those of us who have lived in such an environment know that we do not want our security forces pussyfooting around and hesitating about whether or not to cordon off an area. If there is a likelihood that an area should be cordoned-off and you live around there, you would want it cordoned quickly.

Lord Goodhart: I listened with interest to what the Minister said. His examples all seemed to be cases where the test of "reasonable necessity" would have been satisfied. Certainly if the police think that a bomb warning is inaccurate as to the location of the bomb, any area where they suspect a bomb might be would be cordoned-off not only as a matter of reasonable necessity but as a matter of virtually absolute necessity. I have no difficulty with that.

However, I am left with a slight sense of uncertainty. I question whether the test of what even a relatively senior policeman thinks is "expedient" is necessarily the right one. As to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, I take them very much on board. He has great experience of those conditions. But, again, the kinds of circumstances he spoke about would satisfy the test of reasonable necessity.

Having said that, we shall take the amendment away, think about it again and consider whether this matter is of sufficient importance to bring back at a later stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 33 agreed to.

Clause 34 agreed to.

Clause 35 [Duration]:

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