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Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, I, too, thank the Minister for listening to the concerns that we expressed in Committee. We have now witnessed the strange resurrection of liberal Bassam. He has been demugged on the issue and we are grateful to him for bringing forward a reasonable system for entry and inspection.
However, I am persuaded by the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, about the use of the word, "exclusively". I understand what the Minister and those who have drafted the Bill are getting at, but there is a danger that the loss of status of private dwelling by reason of an unrelated business could open up the licence holder to inspection without the need for a warrant. The drafting should be looked at again.
Lord Marlesford: My Lords, I add my tribute and thanks to the Minister for having moved so far. However, there is still a significant difference of opinion--not, perhaps, between the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, and my noble friend Lord Cope and me, but between the Home Office and us. In the administration of the laws, rules and regulations with which our complicated society is inevitably involved, there is a need for entry to premises. I totally accept that. That need will apply in many spheres, but the philosophy of Amendment No. 27 is that it should be by agreement and normally by prior arrangement. There are some welcome phrases along those lines in one of the government amendments.
However, the power to insist on entry in the case of a refusal is a much more serious matter and should be seen as such by the entering authority and the citizen. It should be flagged up as such. If there is to be any insistence on entry in such a case--I am not talking about forcible entry in the physical sense--it should be necessary to use warrants. It should be a step which any honest citizen would seek to avoid.
If an official had legitimate reasons for coming to see me anywhere on business or private premises, I would certainly expect to be as co-operative as possible. I would hope that the time arranged for such a meeting would be mutually convenient. I should be extremely unhappy if it were felt necessary to obtain a warrant in order to enter my premises. Indeed, as the sort of person who wishes our society to work properly, I would consider that to be a considerable reflection on my status. I suggest that, if there were to be any recalcitrance with regard to reasonable entry, that in itself would show that there was an advantage in making a warrant necessary.
Frankly, if it is necessary to obtain a warrant in order to enter premises--I fully accept that situations will arise in which that is so--that in itself is quite important in illustrating non-compliance. Therefore, I hope that the Minister will feel able to move that much further and to accept at least the spirit of the amendment--perhaps redrafted at Third Reading--in the name of my noble friend Lord Cope.
Lord Swinfen: My Lords, I have been reading the amendments in the name of the Minister and I wish to make a small point in relation to Amendment No. 28. It may be simply that I am not a lawyer and therefore do not understand the lawyer's translations of words. However, the second line of subsection (2B)(b) of Amendment No. 28 refers to "and his conduct". I may be naive but, as I understand it, "conduct" means the way in which someone behaves himself--that is, whether he does so well and honourably. I believe that the Minister may be referring to the actions taken while the person exercising the power is on the premises. I suspect that a clever lawyer in court may be prepared to misconstrue that one word in the Bill in an endeavour to get a mischievous client off the hook. I wonder whether the Minister can either put my mind at rest on that point or put forward an amendment at Third Reading.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I shall deal with the last point first. I am not sure that I could ever put the noble Lord's mind at rest. I would not seek to do so because his is clearly a mind exercised by important points of detail. That is most important. I believe that the noble Lord is right. Here, we seek to capture the details of what occurred, what transactions took place and what was found. That is what we describe when we talk about "conduct"--that is, the business transacted.
I move on to the contribution made by the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford. He seemed to be making, as I have heard him do in the past, a rather more broad critique of the powers of entry. He was inviting me to sign up to the philosophy behind the--we have used this term previously in these debates--modest amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, which seeks simply to leave out the word "exclusively".
I understand the problem identified by the noble Lord, Lord Cope, in relation to the use of that term in this particular context. He raised the matter of a licence holder being exempted by using his home as his business premises and having that qualified by his partner or his wife also having a business on those
In general terms, I have heard nothing other than support for the amendments which we brought forward to qualify what some saw as the rather draconian approach adopted by the Bill. I do not believe that it is draconian; I consider it to be proportionate. As I said earlier, I believe that people in that line of business will expect to be regulated in this way. We have sought to qualify that through our amendments and to set out the reasonable conduct and behaviour that we expect of those who are involved in enforcement in those situations.
However, I believe that it is important that a range of powers is available for entry. It is right that we should be in a position where the enforcing authorities can carry out proper enforcement, given the potential for mischief and, as the noble Viscount, Lord Goschen, said earlier, the fact that in some limited circumstances there may well be rogue operators at the heart of this business. Therefore, these powers--let us not dismiss them--are essential. We have simply further qualified them and made them as reasonable as possible without fettering the ability of those involved to be effective in enforcement for the good of the industry as a whole.
("(2A) A person exercising the power conferred by subsection (1) shall do so only at a reasonable hour.
(2B) A person exercising such a power shall--
(a) comply with any reasonable request made (whether before or after entry is gained to the premises) by any person present on the premises to do any one or more of the following--
(i) state the purpose for which the power is being exercised;
(ii) show the authorisation by the Authority for his exercise of the power;
(iii) produce evidence of his identity;
(b) make a record of the date and time of his entry, the period for which he remained there and his conduct while there; and
(c) if requested to do so by any person present on the premises at the time of the entry, provide that person with a copy of that record.").