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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I do not know whether that remark was addressed to me. I certainly do not devote any of my time at this Dispatch Box or anywhere else to protecting the perpetrators of evil. The Minister chose to respond by praising the police and saying that she did not believe the police would behave unreasonably. I do not dissent from what she says. In introducing these amendments I did not dissent from that. I did not claim that the police would deliberately behave unreasonably. I made a point that was not addressed in the Minister's reply. I said it was a matter of protection for the police that there should be an objective test of whether or not their behaviour was reasonable, and for that objective test to be capable of being tested in the courts.

I remind the Committee of the rest of the wording of Clause (1)(1). It states:

Chambers Dictionary defines "expedient" as "profitable or convenient" rather than "fair or just". It is important, not that we lose sight of the need to take convenient action in an emergency, but that we should balance that judgment with the need to be reasonable as well. Reasonable police officers would not object to the possibility of this objective test being included in the legislation. That is as much a defence of the police on my part as the defence the Minister gave.

The noble Lord, Lord Finsberg, talked as though we were separated from the general public. He did not make a party point of that. Despite his 80 letters a day, the general public do not think of turning to politicians to protect them from day-to-day inconveniences or injustices. Had I been a constituent of the noble Lord, I do not think that I should necessarily have written to him had I been stopped and searched, as I thought, unreasonably. I think I should take the matter up through police procedures. The work of the Police Complaints Authority and police internal discipline procedures has increased enormously over the years as there have been increases in police powers.

Force majeure, we recognise that these powers are necessary for the prevention of terrorism. We hope that they will go away, and we hope the reason for them will go away. But while we have these problems, surely it is right that they should be approached in as objective and

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controlled a way as possible for the protection of the large majority of innocent citizens who will inevitably be affected by this legislation.

Only in accordance with my self-denying ordinance that in order to get this Bill enacted it will not be possible to insert amendments here and force them to be reconsidered by another place, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Blatch: I wonder whether the Committee will allow me to make the point that I did not make in reply to the noble Lord, Lord Blyth. I believe it important that I respond to that particular point on record. Were a policeman to stop somebody simply because he knew that that person had an Irish accent, he would certainly be acting unprofessionally. He would be in breach of the rules if that were the only reason that the person was stopped. The police must not act in a discriminatory way in that sense.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 3 not moved.]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 4:

Page 2, line 22, leave out ("48") and insert ("36").

The noble Lord said: This amendment relates to a part of Clause 1 to which I have already referred, if in a negative sense, in discussing other amendments.

New subsections (8) and (9) provide that,

    "A person [the senior police officer] giving an authorisation under this section",
must tell the Secretary of State as soon as possible, and the Secretary of State may cancel the authorisation. Subsection (9) states, most importantly, that it,

    "ceases to have effect if it is not confirmed ... before the end of the period of 48 hours".
That is a fail-safe provision. In other words, the authorisation falls unless there is positive action by the Secretary of State. I welcome that. It is the right way round. It should not need positive action on the part of the Secretary of State to continue the authorisation; it should be the other way round.

However, I seriously question whether it is necessary to have a period of 48 hours before the Secretary of State responds. The Secretary of State is not flesh and blood. The Secretary of State is a concept. If the Secretary of State is in the Bahamas or wherever, then there is somebody authorised to act on behalf of the Secretary of State. I should have thought that the least we could provide is that the Home Office, or whatever department it is where the Secretary of State is located, should respond in rather less than 48 hours to what is being claimed as, and indeed is, an emergency. I should like to have specified 24 hours, but I thought about the matter and compromised. A fast response to terrorist action is the crux of this Bill and the Prevention of Terrorism Act. Surely we can have a fast response from the Secretary of State as well.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I support this amendment. By definition, if these powers are to be utilised by an officer in a police force of a seniority

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described in the Bill, it will be an occasion of grave public emergency. At the very least, confirmation of these powers--which may be necessarily draconian--should be forthcoming from the Secretary of State after 36 hours.

The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, said that he had internally compromised at 36. Some would say that 24 hours might be more appropriate. In circumstances of serious public emergency, 48 hours is far too long without the Secretary of State's personal and responsible intervention.

Earl Russell: This amendment goes to the point I made on the previous amendment. The more tight the limits are governing the use of these powers, the more likely it is that they will be confined, as they should be, to matters dealing with terrorism.

Perhaps I might take this chance to respond to the noble Baroness's remarks on the previous amendment. I was really rather pleased that she chose to describe me as cynical. It protects me against the accusation of "foolish idealism" which came from the noble Lord, Lord Milverton. I would rather be accused of idealism by the noble Lord and of cynicism by the noble Baroness than vice versa.

Perhaps I may supply some of the evidence that led me to say what I did. It was an incident that happened to my wife when she was out shopping. Somebody attempted to steal her purse--fortunately, unsuccessfully. She observed the gang and was able to give a physical description and describe the m.o. She telephoned the police to report the crime and the police said that they did not have the time to take the report of that crime until 12.30 a.m. Naturally, she did not feel like hanging around until 12.30 in the morning in order to report the crime. The result was that the crime was not reported and did not go into the statistics of crimes which were not cleared up.

If that was not done in the light of performance indicators, I can think of no conceivable reason why it was done. So I speak with at least a little knowledge of the matter.

3.30 p.m.

Baroness Blatch: It might be my fault but I do not see the relevance of the story that we have just heard to the particular circumstances in which the noble Lord described rub-down searches with a view to notching up convictions to make the policeman's record look better.

With regard to this amendment, the powers of stop and search will be authorised by a senior police officer.

Earl Russell: Perhaps I may interrupt the noble Baroness. She said that she did not see any relevance. I believe that the relevance is that the desire to improve the performance according to indicators is capable of changing police performance. If that is not true of the police, they are unique among human beings.

Baroness Blatch: The noble Earl and I will simply have to agree to differ. There are so many checks and balances in the system that the police, like those in almost every other walk of life, are not infallible. From

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time to time they will make mistakes. I do not agree with what appears to be the blanket criticism that they operate in such a cynical way. I am not prepared to accept the point other than to appreciate that the noble Earl has clearly had an unfortunate experience.

The powers of stop and search will be authorised by a senior police officer. They will lapse unless confirmed by the Secretary of State within 48 hours of authorisation. We believe that that is a valuable safeguard, as was recognised by both noble Lords who spoke to the amendment. A decision should not be taken lightly. Any increased pressure on the Secretary of State by virtue of the reduced timetable proposed, just might curtail detailed deliberation over whether his confirmation should be given. At the end of the day it is a balance. Because we are writing this provision on the face of the Bill, it would be awful if he took slightly more than 36 hours to confirm the order for lack of clarification or another piece of information that was needed. Equally, we have taken the view that to leave the matter for more than 48 hours is unacceptable.

It may be that there is just a difference of opinion. We believe that 48 hours is just about right to give full consideration of what is a very exceptional power to be taken.

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