Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Armed Forces (Review of Search and Seizure) Order 2003

8.10 p.m.

Lord Bach rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 28th April be approved [19th Report from the Joint Committee].

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the draft order will be made under the Armed Forces Act 2001, which requires that it will follow the affirmative procedure, needing approval by both Houses. The draft was approved in another place on 2nd July.

Part 2 of the 2001 Act provides a statutory regime for powers of entry, search and seizure in connection with the investigations of offences under the Army Act 1955, the Air Force Act 1955 and the Naval Discipline Act 1957. It does not affect commanding officers' powers to authorise searches within their units for purposes other than the investigation of offences, or to search service premises that are not living accommodation. That is spelt out in Section 16 of the Act.

By and large, Part 2 reflects the procedures that have to be followed by the civil police under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. Thus, the usual

8 Jul 2003 : Column 219

procedure for entering and searching premises will be by warrant granted by a judicial officer under Section 5 of the Act.

However, Part 2 is also designed to cater for the realities of service life. It is recognised that it will not always be practicable in the Armed Forces to obtain a warrant in advance of an entry and search of premises. Section 7 of the Act therefore provides commanding officers with a limited power to authorise a search without a warrant of the living accommodation of persons under their command.

Following a search under Section 7, in which property has been seized and retained, Section 8 provides that the commanding officer must request a judicial officer to undertake a review of the search and of the seizure and retention of the property. That is to provide appropriate retrospective safeguards in the absence of a warrant. Section 8 also enables the Secretary of State to make orders prescribing the powers and duties of judicial officers in respect of these reviews. This draft order sets out those powers and duties, particularly the criteria for decisions on the retention or return of property that has been seized. The judicial officer shall adopt such procedures at the review as he sees fit, although he shall take into account representations made by certain people, including the officer who authorised the search and the occupier of the premises that were searched.

The draft order details the circumstances when seized property should be returned. Special provision is made for when the judicial officer is satisfied that it would be in the interests of justice to permit the retention of property. The legal services in the Armed Forces are content with this section of the Bill. They were obviously consulted when the Bill went through the House and of course they have been consulted on this draft order.

Part 2 of the 2001 Act responds to the need for the services to remove uncertainty and to have a clear structure and definition for their powers of search and the seizure of property. It is planned that it will be commenced in its entirety on 30th September this year. The provisions of this order have to be in place before Part 2 as a whole can take effect. I commend the draft order to the House. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 28th April be approved [19th Report from the Joint Committee].—(Lord Bach.)

Lord Vivian: My Lords, with the leave of the House, I have nothing further to add to my original statement.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now adjourn during pleasure until 8.37 p.m.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

[The Sitting was suspended from 8.14 p.m. to 8.37 p.m.]

8 Jul 2003 : Column 220

Communications Bill

Proceedings after Third Reading resumed on Clause 268.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 32:

    Page 242, line 23, leave out subsection (11).

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 278 [Appointed news providers for Channel 3]:

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 33:

    Page 252, line 45, leave out paragraphs (a) and (b).

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I speak also to Amendments Nos. 34 to 45, 72, 80, 117, 119, 122, 126 and 145 to 147.

During Committee we listened with interest to very considerable debate on the nomination and ownership rules for the Channel 3 news provider. We were convinced by the arguments in favour of their removal. I indicated on Report that I would be tabling amendments to make changes to the Bill. These amendments lift most of the ownership restrictions of the Channel 3 news provider and remove the obligation that the news provider be selected from bodies nominated by Ofcom.

The Bill will still require that national news on regional Channel 3 programmes is provided by a single body corporate, but removes the system that requires that body to be nominated by Ofcom.

The amendments will remove the rules restricting anyone from owning more than 20 per cent of the appointed news provider, which prevented ITV from owning its own news provider.

Ownership restrictions will still apply so that any body which is prevented from holding a Channel 3 licence by Part 2 of Schedule 2 to the 1990 Act faces equivalent restrictions as regards being, or having an interest in, the Channel 3 news provider. For example, political bodies would not be able to be, control, or own more than a 5 per cent interest in, the news provider.

In addition, ownership restrictions that apply to a Channel 3 licence also apply to the news provider so that, for example, a national or local newspaper with 20 per cent or more of the market cannot be the Channel 3 news provider. A national newspaper with 20 per cent or more of the market cannot have more than a 20 per cent share in the news provider and the news provider cannot have more than a 20 per cent interest in such a newspaper.

We believe that these rules are fair. It would be odd, to say the least, to allow a body that could not hold a Channel 3 licence to provide the news for it. The current rules prevent anyone from holding more than a 20 per cent interest in the news provider, so the new rules leave those affected in the same position as everyone is under current rules.

We have been careful to maintain the quality regulation applied to the news provider contract. There will continue to be provisions requiring that

8 Jul 2003 : Column 221

Channel 3's national news is able to compete with other national news services. The requirements for Ofcom to approve the contract for the appointed news provider to ensure that it is adequately funded will also remain.

We have also included provisions so that Ofcom will be able to obtain all the information it needs from ITV or the appointed news provider to assure itself that the necessary arrangements are in place and working properly. We are grateful to both ITN and ITV, whom we have consulted on the transitional provisions.

The Bill as amended will also allow for the creation of a Channel 5 scheme comparable to the appointed news provider system for Channel 3 and we will be able to modify by order the quality and ownership aspects of the Channel 3 scheme and any Channel 5 scheme. I beg to move.

Baroness Buscombe: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his helpful explanation of the purpose and effect of these amendments. He made a fulsome statement at the Report stage in which he signalled that the Government had been persuaded by the case for change and he has been true to his word.

These amendments are good news for ITN and will help to ensure that there is strong competition in the news supply market between ITN, the BBC and Sky News in the years to come.

In removing unnecessary ownership regulation and the arcane nominated news provider arrangements, these amendments bring the Bill closer to the Government's original intention. But, importantly, as the Minister has said, they also retain the quality aspects of Clause 278 that require ITV to supply a news programme that is competitive with other national news programmes and that give Ofcom the power to approve the terms of any future contract as adequate to deliver ITV's news obligations.

I understand from discussions with ITN and ITV that the amendments in no way affect the status of the current ITV news contract, which will run unchanged until 2008, and that they will have no effect on other important ITN contracts such as that for Channel 4. That is good news.

Finally, I thank the Minister once again for bringing forward these amendments and for being persuaded of the case for change that was made so eloquently by distinguished Members on all sides of your Lordships' House. We support the amendments.

Lord McNally: My Lords, I echo what has been said by the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe. I had great pleasure in working with her on these matters at an earlier stage of the Bill. Would that we could have worked together on some other aspects—but there it is.

It was touching to find that the 20:20 rules, which at four o'clock today were part of yesterday's legislation, appear back spanking new. I am pleased that the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, is not present to hear that. But as the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, said, this is good news; it is a win-win situation.

8 Jul 2003 : Column 222

It is good news for the British people because they have a chance of getting ITN back to its glory days. One of the interesting issues about the Iraq war was that when ITN was given the extra resources during the war, it showed that it had lost none of its old elan, skills and zip. That is only to the good.

Whatever happens as regards the ownership of ITV, surely the lesson is that a news provider which is an integral part of the organisation, as BBC news is with BBC and Sky News is with Sky, is better cared for and a better organisation. That gives us genuine competition, quality and diversity, which is to be welcomed.

I welcome the positive way in which the Minister has approached the matter and we fully support the amendments.

8.45 p.m.

Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, I was one of the signatories on the previous occasion. I should also like to thank the Minister for seeing the sense of what was proposed and coming forward with these amendments. I know how happy everyone concerned is.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page