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Lord Hunt of Wirral: My Lords, not only am I confident, I am certain that I shall be following the right course in withdrawing the amendment. The Minister has answered not only the points I raised, but he has also responded very effectively to the rather curious intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Borrie. I sought to follow the traditional course, which is to probe and check on such an important area as the need to ensure that court security staff are subject to adequate checks. The Minister has now given me the assurances I sought. Therefore I have pleasure in withdrawing my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Swinfen moved Amendment No. 106:

(c) the procedure to be followed by court security staff in the discharge of their functions"

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 106, I shall speak at the same time to Amendment No. 107. Clause 46(2) enables the Lord Chancellor, by regulation, to make provision for court security officers to be properly trained, and to set out the conditions to be met before a person may become a court security officer. Amendment No. 106 would enable the Lord Chancellor, by regulation, to lay down the procedure to be followed by court security staff in the discharge of their functions. This would include their powers of search.

Amendment No. 107, if accepted, would remove from the Bill the limitations on a search included in Clause 47(2). As the House knows, we live in an age of fast-moving and rapidly changing terrorist tactics. As the Bill is drafted, it would require another Act of Parliament to change court security officers' powers of search. That is not something that can usually be done in a hurry, in particular if such a change was needed when Parliament was in Recess.

The two amendments are designed to give the Lord Chancellor much greater and much-needed flexibility in changing the powers of search to meet new conditions as and when they arise. If the amendments are accepted, Amendment No. 107 will override Amendment No. 108, tabled in the name of the Lord Chancellor which, in my view and with great respect, does little to improve the Bill. I commend the amendment to the House. I beg to move.

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Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, Clause 46(2) gives the Lord Chancellor a power to make regulations concerning training courses to be completed by court security officers and the conditions to be met before a person may be designated as such. Effective training is a crucial part of effective court security. The regulation-making power will ensure that this is provided for court security officers in England and Wales. In addition, the power to make regulations regarding conditions to be met prior to appointment or designation will ensure that all officers meet a satisfactory minimum acceptable standard of competence, background and qualities.

The amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, seeks to give the Lord Chancellor an additional power to make regulations providing for the procedure to be followed by court security staff in the discharge of their functions. The Government fully recognise the importance of ensuring consistency in the procedures followed by court security staff and we are grateful to the noble Lord for raising this important point. However, for several reasons, the Government consider that in this instance regulations are an inappropriate vehicle for dealing with the procedure to be followed by court security officers in the discharge of their functions.

Changes in training and conditions of employment are different from procedural change. The former are matters that evolve steadily, allowing plenty of time for necessary alterations to be identified and for the correct mechanisms to be put in place to facilitate change. Accordingly, these areas are suitable to be dealt with by regulations, particularly as, being subject to the parliamentary process, amending regulations can take time. Conversely, procedural matters often need to be varied rapidly in response to a particular event or situation—for example, a new terrorist threat—and so containing prescribing procedure in regulations is likely to prove inflexible.

Some issues that may fall under the umbrella of "procedural matters" may also be connected with training. As I have said, formulating regulations can be time-consuming and resource intensive, and so the Government are keen to avoid duplication wherever possible.

Publishing the procedure to be followed by court security staff could also compromise security. The public would have access to regulations that could highlight information through which to exploit the system.

The proposed amendment refers to "court security staff" rather than to "court security officers". This is at odds with the remainder of Part 4 of the Bill, which refers throughout to "court security officers".

The Government appreciate the need for clear, defined procedure relating to the discharge of court security officers' powers, which should be implemented uniformly across all courts. However, it is considered that regulations are not the appropriate mechanism for

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ensuring this. It is preferable for these procedures to be laid down through the production of internal security bulletins and guidance notes. This will be more flexible.

Lord Hunt of Wirral: My Lords, I support my noble friend. I am a little concerned about the Minister's reliance on the time-consuming nature and cost of drafting these regulations. My noble friend stressed the importance of the procedures to be followed. Recent terrorist activity has indicated that the courts could well be targets—the Minister has assured the House in the past that the authorities are aware of this—but a public debate of the procedures to be followed need not touch on secret matters which should be kept from the public. This would enable the House and another place to discuss some of the serious issues arising from the threat now posed to society, and especially to our courts.

6.45 p.m.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, the noble Lord makes a perfectly respectable point. No one is suggesting that there should not be other opportunities for such a debate to take place. However, the mechanism suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, is time consuming and is not perhaps flexible enough to deal with an urgent situation that may arise from time to time.

Lord Swinfen: My Lords, I realise that the drafting of regulations can take time, but the essence of my argument on both amendments is that the procedure is being laid down in a Bill. It will require an Act of Parliament to pass through both Houses, with three opportunities in this place and two in another place to amend it. Regulations can be drafted fairly quickly and, in some instances, can be brought into effect before their due date.

It may not be appropriate to this debate, but in the past we have dealt with various orders relating to shellfish and shellfish poisoning that were brought into effect on the day that they were laid before Parliament as an important safety measure. We are discussing a safety matter for the public, the court officials, the court staff and anyone attending court.

In Committee I mentioned the long delay in changing the procedure for security in courts. The noble Lord will recall that that is the only point that I have raised on the Bill. In my view, it is extremely unwise to state in a Bill what a security officer may or may not do. We live in a very fast-moving age compared with the days of the spear and the bow and arrow in which the noble Lord seems to be stuck. We live in an age of electronic devices that can set off explosives within split seconds. We need to be a great deal more flexible. I do not believe that the noble Lord is addressing the problem.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, in some senses, the noble Lord appears to be agreeing with me. We are seeking to retain that flexibility so that we can be more responsive. That is why we believe it will be preferable for the procedures to be laid down through the

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production of internal security bulletins and guidance notes. In our view, the latter approach is more flexible than the regulations approach that the noble Lord is recommending. It also avoids the prospect of compromising security—a concern that I believe the noble Lord shares—while ensuring clarity and uniformity of procedure. I invite the noble Lord to reconsider his position on that amendment.

Amendment No. 107 would remove Clause 47(2). The subsection limits a court security officer's power of search by authorising the officer to require the removal of only,

    "a coat, jacket, gloves or hat".

This reflects a justified concern, expressed at great length in Committee, to ensure that the security provisions included in the Bill are sufficient to protect court users. We are most grateful to noble Lords for raising this point, not just today but also on previous occasions.

The Government gave an undertaking to consider the wording of the subsection to ensure that it is adequate. This has been done with Amendment No. 108. Although the conclusion remains that subsection (2) should be retained, we have accepted that the wording needs to be changed. The Government consider that the combined "search on entry" measures and procedures that will be in place will be adequate to deal with the level of terrorist threat faced by court premises.

On entering the Royal Courts of Justice and all Crown Court buildings, a person must pass through a metal detection arch. If that is activated, the court security officer will then use a metal detection wand to identify more precisely where the metal is located. Both the metal detection arch and the wand will pick up metallic elements in wires and timing devices, or power sources attached to explosives that may be strapped to the body of a terrorist.

The provisions in the Bill do not prevent a non-intimate physical search in the manner of a frisk by airport security officers if, for instance, this should prove necessary to identify the nature of an object detected by the wand. Combined with the removal of outer clothes, as permitted under subsection (2), this will be sufficient for court security officers to identify the presence of explosives strapped closely to the body. If a court security officer remains in doubt as to the intentions of a person, he may either exclude the person from the court building or request the presence of a police officer with the powers to conduct a more intimate search. The Government consider that the combination of these factors is sufficient to combat the current level of terrorist threats posed to the courts.

Subsection (2) provides a restriction on the power of search that is akin to restrictions on similar powers in other Acts. Importantly, it reflects the position of court security officers in Northern Ireland, as contained in Section 80(2) of the Justice (Northern Ireland) Act 2002. It should be noted that this Act was passed after the atrocity of 11th September 2001, when

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terrorism fears were at their height. With this in mind, it would be hard to justify giving court security officers in England and Wales an unfettered power of search that would be substantially wider than that of their Northern Ireland counterparts.

Significantly, the Terrorism Act itself also limits an authorised constable's powers of search in public to requesting the removal of an outer coat, headgear, gloves, jacket and footwear.

As I have mentioned, the Government have tabled an amendment to subsection (2) to widen it to include footwear. Particular account was taken of the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, that subsection (2) is ethnocentric. In recognition of this, it is proposed that the word "hat" be replaced with the term "headgear". It is appreciated that the removal of certain items may be subject to religious guidelines, and guidance will be produced to ensure that situations are handled with the appropriate sensitivity.

We are grateful to those who have raised an important consideration in this debate and appreciate the concerns by which they were prompted.

I think Amendment No. 109 is in this group—no, we have not got there yet. In that case, I think that deals with the amendments that have been raised so far.

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