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Lord Bach: I too congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, on his--to use the words of the noble Lord, Lord Cope--ingenious way of bringing this debate before the Committee. On the government side, we appreciate the fact that he has brought forward these amendments aimed to assist the police and in Northern Ireland the Army to carry out their powers under Clause 44 and under Part VII, Clause 89. The Government welcome the intentions of the noble Lord, but he will not be entirely surprised to hear that I am not in a position to accept the amendments.
Amendment No. 115 would fundamentally change the nature of Clause 44. As drafted, that clause provides the police with the power, when authorised, to stop and search when expedient for the prevention of acts of terrorism. The amendment would widen the scope of the authorisation to enable a constable in uniform to stop and question, as well as to search, to ascertain identity and movements. The amendment
Counter-terrorism provisions in Northern Ireland have traditionally included a specific stop and question power for use usually in the wake of a terrorist incident by the police and the Army. That allows the security forces to stop and question anyone about their identity and movements and makes it an offence not to answer questions.
By any standards, those are necessary but wide powers that we believe continue to be appropriate for the time being in the special circumstances of Northern Ireland, but we do not believe that they should be part of the permanent United Kingdom-wide counter-terrorist powers, with which this Bill is largely concerned. We believe that it is sufficient that the police are able to stop and search people to prevent acts of terrorism. Of course, if terrorist articles are found in their possession, arrest may follow, with the right to detain and question. We do not believe that a more general stop and question power is called for and the police have not asked for such a power. In those circumstances, the Government cannot support that measure. We see the aim, but we do not believe that the case has been made for introducing a new power of this type outside Northern Ireland.
The noble Lord's Amendments Nos. 118 and 119 would, of course, be a safeguard for a person stopped under Clause 44, in that they would give him a right to ask for and to receive a written statement that he was stopped under the identity requirement provided for in Amendment No. 115. Of course, if the substantive amendment is not passed that provision is not necessary.
I now turn to the second limb of Amendment No. 115, with which we should consider Amendments Nos. 120, 121, 122 and 161. The aim is to require specific information to be provided on the exercise of the powers in Clauses 44 and 89. Before dealing with the specifics of those amendments, I say to the noble Lord that his concerns about carrying documentation for proving identity have a wider application which will be raised with the Home Secretary. I know that my noble friend Lord Bassam also is particularly interested in them.
The amendments would require a person to provide the officer with his National Health Service number--that may be a little difficult for the noble Lord, Lord Cope, if tonight's experience is anything to go by--if he is a United Kingdom citizen or with his passport or other immigration details if he is not. It would be an offence to fail to do so under the Clause 44 power, but failure would not, as I read the amendment, constitute an offence under Clause 89. Leaving that point to one side, we do not believe that the amendments tabled by the noble Lord present a practical proposition that the Government could accept.
As I have tried to make clear during my response, the Government will ensure that the general point made by the noble Lord previously and again tonight is carefully considered. The Government see the aim of the amendments but we believe them to be both unnecessary and impractical. We hope that they will not be pressed.
Lord Marlesford: I am grateful to the Minister for the way in which he has replied and I am grateful to other noble Lords who have contributed to the debate. I must assure the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, that of course one recognises that there are some people who, for the reason that he gives, do not have documents when they come to this country. However, that is a totally different problem relating to asylum seeking and so on, and the sooner such people receive whatever documents they need or whatever number they needed, the better.
The subject of an identity card is an emotive one. I would not wish people to have to carry cards or passports or any other form of documentation. However, if people find it convenient to do so, as I understand they do in most EU countries that have such systems, that would be a perfectly welcome development and it would be in accordance with the civil liberty approach that I would endorse.
I am grateful to the Minister. Of course, I intended these amendments to be probing. I had no intention of pressing them. I hope that the Government, in their internal discussions on the way forward in relation to requiring more certain forms of identification that are needed in many areas, of which terrorism is only one, will have found these few minutes of value. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment No. 124 is of limited purpose. As the Bill stands, a scheme of this character can be introduced under paragraph 16 of Schedule 7 by order of the Secretary of State who can, subsequently, under the part of the clause to which Amendment No. 124 refers, repeal that paragraph by order, thus finishing the carding scheme. But he can only do that once. Once the carding scheme has begun as a result of paragraph 16, then the Secretary of State can only repeal the whole paragraph and leave it out, thus stopping the scheme for good. That means that a carding scheme, once started, would remain permanent and be there for all time. Amendment No. 124 would enable the Secretary of State to revoke the order so that the carding scheme could be suspended for the time being but restarted if the terrorist situation altered.
Amendment No. 130 is a probing amendment to inquire what the intentions of the Government are in relation to these schemes. Will they be used relatively briefly in connection with specific counter-terrorist operations when there is a specific threat? Or is it the intention that they should become a permanent feature of travel within the United Kingdom as well as further afield? It is an important question for the operators because, to introduce such a scheme, would place them in considerable difficulty, about which they are concerned. There is also the wider question from the general civil liberties point of view as to whether or not it is intended to permanently operate these schemes.
A number of other questions arise in this regard. One is to whom responsibility is to be given for the accuracy of the information on the cards. It is difficult to expect the operators to be responsible for the accuracy of the information. They are not in a position to check it even if everybody had their passports with them. In theory it may be possible, but some people are not required to carry passports, identity cards or anything else. In those circumstances, it is difficult for the operator to be held responsible. Indeed, we know that false information is often given on passenger lists for both good reasons and bad.
Viscount Simon: Amendment No. 131 seeks to ensure that the provisions for the supply of information contained within this paragraph take proper account of the intricate logistics of airline operations.
Any request for information places an additional burden upon already tight airline schedules. It is therefore vital to the integrity of the operation that airlines can ensure that complying with such a request causes minimum impact. Consequently, a request for carding to be applied to a specific flight could--if applied inconsiderately--jeopardise the schedule and punctuality of the airline concerned. And punctuality, as Members of the Committee will know, is one of the most important factors in passengers' choice of airline.
Paragraph 16(2), as it currently stands, is unclear concerning at what point in the journey any requirement for carding would be required. The simplest interpretation of the provision is that passengers would be required to complete a card on the ground, either before boarding an aircraft or ferry or, alternatively, after disembarking at their destination. Neither course would be easy to implement and both would risk compromising the punctuality of operations.
Many Members of the Committee will have experienced queues to get onto an aircraft and some may even have complained. To have to queue after getting off the aircraft would not endear the airline to its passengers, and I can well understand operators' concerns to ensure that that does not happen. And, of course, there is the physical aspect of finding a flat surface upon which to write in the cramped confines of an aircraft gate lounge.
The purpose of my amendment, therefore, is to ensure that operators have sufficient flexibility in meeting the carding requirement. It simply enables an additional option for operators to distribute cards to their captive passengers during the flight when they might complete them at their leisure and hand them in before the flight lands without any interruption to the operation. In that way, passengers will be able to embark and disembark with minimum disruption and the Home Office's requirements would be met. As that procedure already exists on international flights, it should be logical and easy to extend it to domestic flights.
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