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Lord Filkin moved Amendment No. 80:

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns moved Amendment No. 81:

    Page 55, line 44, at end insert—

"(4A) Nothing in this section shall render lawful the carrying of a firearm within the United Kingdom by a foreign police or customs officer except with the permission of either—
(a) the Secretary of State acting personally, or
(b) a chief officer of police acting personally.
(4B) The permission to carry a firearm referred to in subsection (4A) may only be given in circumstances in which it would be given to a constable acting under the law of the United Kingdom.
(4C) Where the permission to carry a firearm is given to a foreign police or customs officer under this section, then that firearm may only be used reasonably and in self-defence."

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The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the amendment seeks to probe further than we could in Committee the issue of the carrying of firearms by foreign officers—police and customs officers. While the Schengen convention specifically allows firearms to be carried by officers conducting a hot surveillance, the noble Lord, Lord Filkin, stressed on several occasions in Grand Committee that foreign police and customs officers carrying out hot surveillance will not be permitted to carry firearms in the United Kingdom, despite the provisions of the Schengen convention which appear to make provision to the contrary. He made it clear at one point that he anticipated that people who tried to carry firearms could be arrested when they entered the United Kingdom.

I make it clear that I do not wish to see firearms carried on streets of the United Kingdom by foreign police officers or customs officers but I do want to ensure that there is clarity in the law in these matters. In particular, I want to ensure that when our officers are exercising their quid pro quo rights of hot surveillance overseas, they are clear about their position and that their lives are not put at risk.

I am grateful to the Minister for his clarification in a letter of 18th February in which he dealt with a point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, about whether a blanket prohibition on the carriage of firearms is compatible with the terms of the Schengen convention. He wrote:

    "It is our view that a blanket prohibition, rather than a case by case consideration, is permitted by the Convention. This is because the officers conducting the observation must comply with the law of the contracting party . . . It is illegal for anyone—including overseas police officers—to bring a firearm into the UK, let alone carry it loaded on their person . . . Furthermore States that already participate in these provisions of the Schengen Convention have made blanket decisions on the type of weapons that may be carried by officers entering their territory that are applied in every case".

I recognise that these are complex operational matters. However, I am troubled about the possibility of the situation arising in which a foreign officer's life might be put at risk because he was operating under cover but was required to surrender his firearm on entering the United Kingdom. I do not want such people to carry arms in the United Kingdom but I am concerned about the practicalities about what happens when they try to obey our laws of not carrying a firearm when he comes here. For example, if I were a foreign officer and masquerading as a member of a criminal gang—that is quite possible—I could hardly explain the need to throw away my gun as I enter the UK; that would be a dead give-away in every sense of the word. I should welcome an assurance from the Government that they had at least considered that possibility when they reflected on our debates in Grand Committee. Can they clarify whether there are any circumstances at all in which they would permit firearms to be brought into the UK by officers carrying out hot surveillance?

Can the Minister also tell the House whether the Government have consulted our European partners who are party to the Schengen convention about their proposed interpretation and whether it is acceptable to them? On an operational level, have the Government

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liaised with the authorities in other member states who might expect to take advantage of hot surveillance provisions in the future to advise them of the position that the UK will take in respect of the carrying of firearms?

We also need to know whether the Government have had discussions with other EU countries about the position of our own police and Customs officers with regard to travelling abroad and carrying firearms. I beg to move.

Lord Carlisle of Bucklow: My Lords, I support my noble friend Lady Anelay on this amendment. In Committee, the Minister said clearly that the powers available to those who carried out surveillance would not in any circumstances allow them to carry guns. But I suggest, as I did in Committee, that one must be realistic.

If people are followed under surveillance in another country in connection with serious offences and the police who carry out the surveillance are armed, surely, in providing the right to carry out that surveillance in this country, it is unreasonable to insist that those police should not be able to be armed. That is particularly so when, as the Minister said, the British police who take over, having been given authority to do so, will, in appropriate circumstances, be armed.

It seems to me that, as my noble friend Lady Anelay said, by requiring a foreign officer to do away with the gun which he considers necessary for his own preservation, one is unnecessarily putting his life at risk when he is carrying out his duty and doing what is allowed under the law. As I understand it, the amendment attempts to put that officer, during the period of what I shall call "hot surveillance", in the same position as a British officer carrying out the surveillance with authority. I believe that, as a form of protection, if for no other reason, we should agree to this amendment to the Bill.

Lord Goodhart: My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Filkin, for sending me the letter to which the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, referred. In view of the facts that he set out in that letter, I do not wish to press any further the suggestion that there can be no valid blanket ban on the carrying of weapons. Given that blanket bans have sometimes been applied by a number of countries over the years, that now seems to be established as the proper interpretation of the convention, and I would not wish to challenge it. Obviously, the point raised specifically by the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, is a matter of interest and concern for us. However, I am not sure that the amendment, as currently drafted, covers the situation that she discussed.

Lord Renton: My Lords, I have already spoken prematurely twice this evening. It seemed to me that this amendment had a bearing on an earlier one and that is why I referred to it. It is a very important amendment, and I believe that the crux of the matter lies in proposed new subsection (4B) to which I referred previously. We cannot have foreign police

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officers coming into this country and using powers that our own police do not have. Therefore, I very much hope that the Government will agree to the amendment.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, I believe that the assurances given to us by the noble Lord, Lord Filkin, are sound, valid and acceptable. I am not at all sure that I agree with the aim of the amendment, and I should be loath to agree to it without it being given much further thought.

If it were agreed to, it would put foreign policemen in a different position from that of our own police. Our police may become involved very suddenly in surveillance operations. They are not armed and must apply to their superiors—very high-ranking officers—before that can happen. It is difficult to know how to phrase this, but I believe that it would be entirely wrong to allow foreign policemen to have what I was going to call "preferential treatment", although I do not know whether I should use those words. However, they should not be in a position different from that of our own police or, indeed, different from that of ordinary civilians in this country.

I should be loath to support any amendment which would give foreign policemen—even for a few hours—any advantage or position which our own police would not and should not enjoy. There is considerable opposition to the carrying of arms by the police, not only among the general public but in the police service itself. I do not know how the noble Lord, Lord Filkin, intends to reply but I hope that he will think long and hard before agreeing to the amendment.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, I rather find myself agreeing with the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, but I read my noble friend's amendment—at least, I hope that I do—as covering the point that, in effect, we should place foreign policemen in the position that they would find themselves in were they British policemen.

In passing this law, I believe that at the same time we should consider how we wish our special forces to be allowed to operate in other countries when they are in hot pursuit of, say, an Al'Qaeda suspect in a difficult part of the world. It is possible that, under those circumstances, we would wish them to be able to carry firearms, should it be permitted by the laws of that country.

I believe it is entirely appropriate that we should extend to foreign policemen in our country the same facilities as we would wish to be given to our forces operating abroad. Beyond anything else, if other countries were to ban British operatives from carrying firearms, it would pose substantial difficulties for James Bond.

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