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Lord Brabazon of Tara: I support Amendment No. 131, to which I added my name and to which the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, spoke, and also support the amendment of my noble friend. I should declare an interest which applies also to later amendments. I was recently involved in a Channel Islands-based airline which will be affected by the Bill, along with all other airlines.
The airlines want to know when they have to produce this card. That is not at all clear in the Bill as presently drafted. Amendment No. 131 merely seeks to introduce a requirement that it should be on the arrival of the relevant voyage or flight. As the noble Viscount said, that is precisely what happens when a flight comes in from anywhere else in the world. Non-EU residents are handed cards by the flight crew during the flight and they are then completed. If that is acceptable for the Immigration Service, it should be acceptable for anybody else. The problem is that doing it in any other way could affect the punctuality of
Lord Greenway: I should like broadly to support the two amendments tabled in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, and in some measure the amendment just spoken to, although, as I shall explain in a moment, I shall part company with the airline interest.
The noble Lord, Lord Cope, was worried about the proposed use of this power, and that is a matter of some concern to the ferry industry. Ferries have used cards in the past. One particular occasion related to the Aintree incident. When there is a specific emergency, passengers are, by and large, quite willing to fill in these cards. However, if it were proposed to do so on a permanent basis, I suspect that there would a good deal of adverse passenger reaction.
As regards Amendment No. 131 tabled in the name of the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, it may be all well and good for airline passengers to be able to fill in their cards either in the terminal building or on the aircraft. After all, when some of us travel to foreign parts we are asked to fill in such cards on the aircraft, and that never seems to present too much of a problem. Indeed, everyone sits in neat little rows. However, that is totally different on a ferry where there may be 2,000 passengers milling around. Therefore, as far as concerns the ferry industry, it would be preferable to leave how the carding is done to the discretion of the operator.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: These amendments have provided us with a useful debate and have given us the opportunity to discuss the carding powers in the Bill. Such powers allow the examining officers to require people who have travelled from one part of the common travel area to another, excluding journeys within Great Britain, to complete and produce a card containing specified information about themselves. There is also the related power to require owners or agents to supply passengers with these cards. So the ultimate responsibility for the completion of the card does not lie with the carrier; that responsibility, in terms of accuracy, is a matter for the individual.
The carding power is to be found in the PTA, though not precisely in this form. The police have found it to be an extremely useful tool in tackling terrorism. It enables them quickly to obtain self-supplied details about passengers. However, as we recognised in our consultation paper, the power has been the source of some concern in certain quarters. Indeed, Members of the Committee have expressed that concern this evening. Objections have included that its use can delay journeys on occasions and that it can appear to be used disproportionately against Irish people.
Perhaps I may turn to the detail of the amendments. Amendment No. 124 seeks to delete from the face of the Bill the possibility of the repeal by order of the carding power but in its place make specific reference to the power to revoke a carding order. I take, first, the second effect, which we believe to be completely unnecessary. The Interpretation Act provides that any power to make an order includes the power to revoke. As to the proposal to delete the possibility of repeal by order altogether, we understand the concern at providing for repeal of a provision of an Act of Parliament in this manner. Such a decision would obviously not be taken lightly. In the first place, a revocation of a current order would be much more likely. But the carding power has been a long-term cause of concern for some and we think it right to provide an express provision on the face of the Bill to allow for its repeal at some point in the future, subject to Parliament's agreement via the affirmative resolution procedure.
The second difficulty goes to the heart of the way the carding power is used. The approach proposed in the amendment is used very occasionally when a whole flight or sailing is "blanket" carded and passengers are asked to fill out their cards on the journey. However, this is rare. It is much more common for the police to use the carding power highly selectively in the context of their wider examination powers. In these
Lord Avebury: I hope that I may ask the Minister a question. He said that he was not suggesting that carding would be used on all flights and sailings and that it could be applied to particular flights as the police determine is necessary. If they think that a terrorist or terrorists might embark on a particular flight, they can designate that flight as one to which carding applies.
However, the wording of paragraph 16 in Schedule 7 is general. It appears to indicate that the Secretary of State has to make an order which applies to all flights or sailings of the descriptions mentioned in subparagraph (3). How can the Minister claim that the power is selective, as he says? I wish to be assured that we shall not have blanket and unnecessary carding of all flights to or from particular destinations but that the order can be limited to those flights on which there is reasonable cause to suspect that terrorists may be carried. However, if that is the case, the order will not apply continuously over a long period but will apply only when those suspicions have arisen. One would like to see a flexible power which enables the Secretary of State to amend the order without coming back to Parliament for a second affirmative resolution to state that it now applies to certain flights rather than those which featured in the original order. Will the Minister give us an assurance on that point?
Lord Elton: I beg to interject that the idea of a terrorist revealing his profession by means of filling in a card on an aeroplane seems to me rather far-fetched. However, putting that aside, I raise a point now that I had intended to raise later. Will the Minister consider the advisability of putting on the statute book yet another item which almost invites us to be treated as a bargaining counter or a barometer of the temperature of relations between Dublin and London?
If the Bill states that we shall discard this measure when it is no longer necessary, that seems to me to put the Government in a difficult position in the future when there may appear to be no immediate prospect of the necessity for the power but the power may be needed again later and diplomatic pressure is brought to bear to discard it now for political reasons. We have frequently been in that position in the past. It seems to me rather odd gratuitously to create another such instance. I believe that my noble friend's Amendment No. 124 gets over that difficulty in a way which is
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