Initimate Searches

Orders of the Day — Police and Criminal Evidence Bill – in the House of Commons at 6:45 pm on 25th October 1984.

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Lords amendments: No. 154, in page 49, line 3, at beginning insert Subject to the following provisions of this section.".

Mr. Shaw:

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

Photo of Mr Ernest Armstrong Mr Ernest Armstrong , North West Durham

With this, it is convenient to discuss Lords amendments Nos. 156 and amendment (a) thereto, 157 to 163, 166, 167, 169, 171 to 173, 174 and amendment (a) thereto, 289 and 291.

Mr. Shaw:

We now come to clause 53 which is concerned with the powers of intimate search. I know that this issue has been of concern to hon. Members on both sides of the House as well as to their Lordships. The amendments permit, in the first place, nurses as well as doctors to undertake an intimate search, and, in the second place, the authorisation of doctors and nurses to search for class A drugs in certain circumstances. In addition, the Customs' powers of investigative intimate search are unaffected by these provisions.

7.30 pm

The Bill as passed by this House made no provision far intimate searches to be undertaken by anyone other than a registered medical practitioner or police constable, nor did it provide for an intimate search to be carried out for any reason other than to remove a concealed or potential weapon. The first Bill provided for an intimate search to be carried out for investigation purposes—to obtain concealed evidence of a serious arrestable offence—but when my right hon. Friend reviewed the provisions of the Bill before reintroducing it into this House he took the view that this investigative power should be removed from the police.

However, in another place there was general agreement on all sides that this position was not satisfactory. It was urged that nurses and midwives as well as doctors should be able to undertake intimate searches, on the basis that, if such a search had to be undertaken in the first place, it was preferable for it to be undertaken by someone who was better qualified than a police officer. The Government were wholly sympathetic to this argument. We have always made it clear that intimate searches should be undertaken by police officers only as a last resort, where the risk of injury to the detained person himself or those guarding him outweigh the risk of injury caused by the search. Accordingly, after consultation with the relevant professional bodies, amendments were brought forward which would permit registered nurses to carry out intimate searches. These are amendments Nos. 162, 171, 172 and 174.

I should like to stress several points. First, intimate searches now take place only in exceptional circumstances. The new safeguards contained in the clause will ensure that the need to resort to a compulsory search of this nature arises only where there is no acceptable alternative. Secondly, if the need for such a search arises, the first port of call for the police is, and will remain, their own police surgeon, if this is practicable and he or she is available. It follows that the participation of nurses will be far from a routine occurrence. Thirdly, the Bill does not oblige any doctor or nurse to undertake a search on the authorisation of a senior police officer; it simply provides the authority in law for a search to be made.

The second point on which there was general agreement in another place was that, in view of the threat to the life and health of many young people posed by the growing trade in dangerous drugs, there should be a clear provision in the Bill for an intimate search to be carried out when a dealer or carrier is suspected, on reasonable grounds, of internally concealing drugs, particularly heroin. The amendments now before the House meet this need. They provide a power of search related to a class A drug which is being carried with intent to supply or export it. So the power is focused on those directly concerned in trading in these evil substances. It is also limited in other ways. Unlike a search for a concealed weapon, considerations of great urgency will not arise, and search for a class A drug may be carried out only by a registered medical practitioner or nurse—not by a police officer—and only at a hospital, surgery or other medical premises—that is, not at a police station. Because the power to remove class A drugs is vested solely in doctors and nurses, we have to recognise——

Photo of Clare Short Clare Short , Birmingham, Ladywood

The Minister must be aware that the British Medical Association is unhappy with the amendment. Most doctors will refuse to conduct such searches and police constables will have to conduct them. That is the consequence of the amendment. Untrained police constables will conduct intimate body searches on large numbers of people.

Mr. Shaw:

I am not entirely persuaded that the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms. Short) is right in her allegation that the consequence of the amendment is that police officers will have to conduct searches. I am aware of the objections from certain branches of the profession, but the arrangements in the Bill do not require members of the profession to carry out searches. I accept that there are different views about who should carry out these searches.

Photo of Mr Alex Carlile Mr Alex Carlile , Montgomery

Will the Minister give an undertaking that the Home Office will instruct chief constables to ensure that all police surgeons and deputy police surgeons on their appointment indicate their willingness to conduct intimate searches so that police surgeons cannot object on principle, and therefore the problem will not arise? Will chief constables also be instructed that when an intimate search is thought necessary the police surgeon or his deputy will be contacted, not some other doctor who is known to object to intimate searches, so giving the police an excuse to conduct the search themselves?

Mr. Shaw:

The police will not seek to interpret the powers in that restrictive way. They will recognise that the medical practitioner may—not must—carry out a search if invited to do so and that it is lawful for him to refuse.

I take note of the hon. and learned Gentleman's other remarks and hope to reply later.

We naturally hope that if doctors or nurses are called upon to help the police to remove drugs from a suspected dealer or carrier, they will co-operate to the maximum degree possible, consistent of course with conscience and their own professional and ethical responsibilities.

Because of the restriction of the power to searches involving suspected supplies of class A drugs, it is much more limited in scope than the power in the Police Bill mark I. Since the decision to remove that power was taken over a year ago, we have all become much more aware of the threat posed by heroin and other hard drugs; and I believe that a strictly controlled search power should remain a weapon available for use in the campaign against hard drugs.

Photo of Mr Gerry Bermingham Mr Gerry Bermingham , St Helens South

Will the Minister take note of the terms of amendment No. 156 which refers only to the male person with regard to weapons, and, in paragraph (b)(i), states: may have a Class A drug concealed on him; and (ii) was in possession of it with the appropriate criminal intent before his arrest"? Is it intended that intimate searches should apply only to the male population, or does the word "him" also apply to females?

Mr. Shaw:

The powers are not confined to one sex. It is accepted that in legislation "him" also means "her". We are talking about medical practitioners of either sex or nurses of either sex.

We have restricted the power to class A drugs on the basis that an exceptional power of this type should be limited to the most serious crimes. No one will doubt that drug smuggling is a very serious offence. The smuggling of lesser drugs, such as cannabis, remains a very serious offence, but it does not follow that the same threat is involved. Trafficking in heroin and other hard drugs is unique, and we believe that such powers are appropriate.

Photo of Clare Short Clare Short , Birmingham, Ladywood

The BMA says that class A drugs comprise 85 substances, some of which are not addictive and not dangerous. If the Minister wants to deal with the heroin problem, why is heroin not named in the Bill? The BMA is worried because so many substances are in the class A category. The BMA is worried in case the power becomes a licence to search unnecessarily. The Minister has not justified the power to search for so many different substances.

Mr. Shaw:

We have no intention of using the reference to class A drugs as an invitation to search for every drug in that category. We are dealing with the classification of drugs and their potential seriously to damage health. It is most likely that heroin will be the drug for which a search is made. Searching will not take place if no criminal element is involved in the drug concerned. Trafficking in drugs, particularly heroin, is the cause of much crime and drug addiction.

The power can also be regarded as consonant with the protective intimate search power already in the Bill, since the internal concealment of toxic substances is very dangerous for the person concerned because of the risks of leakage or rupture.

I wish to stress one point. The Government brought forward the amendments, not—as has been suggested in the press—in response to pressure from the police, although it is certainly no secret that the police have indeed pressed us for the power to search for drugs. The reason that we brought forward the amendments was a genuine consensus in the other place that the repeal of the investigative search power should not extend to the most dangerous drugs. The Opposition there made it clear that they supported the retention of a power narrowed in that way, and we decided that it would be right to respect and to respond to that concern from all quarters.

Photo of Stuart Bell Stuart Bell , Middlesbrough

The Minister is telling the House why the Government wish to accept the amendments. Has he any statistical evidence to support the Government's judgment?

Mr. Shaw:

The statistical evidence is of drug abuse, drug carrying and drug trafficking. We are discussing whether the use of an intimate search power would be an effective way to deal with one aspect of criminal activity. I cannot give any statistics about intimate search recovery, because the power has not previously been available.

In this group of amendments there are amendments that permit Customs and Excise to apply to itself the power of protective intimate search contained in clause 55. That is a desirable safeguard that should clearly be available to Customs officers. However, Customs and Excise does have investigate search powers that derive from section 164 of the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979. That permits both intimate and non-intimate searches. In keeping with Customs' role in controlling the movement of goods in and out of the country, its search provision is not limited to class A drugs. Unlike the power now proposed for the police, the Customs provision permits searches only of persons within ports or airports, or entering or leaving the United Kingdom, and is therefore exercisable only at those places. In short, section 164 of the Customs and Excise Management Act is shaped expressly to enable it to fulfil its particular functions.

Were Customs to adopt clause 53 in full, the investigative power provided for the police would call its own power into question. The first amendment to clause 107, therefore, limits its adoption of the clause to the protective power and search. Its present power of investigative search is maintained intact by the second amendment, in accordance with undertakings given here and in another place.

Photo of Mr Robin Corbett Mr Robin Corbett , Birmingham, Erdington

The House will be grateful to the Minister for dealing with the amendments at some length. There is concern in every part of the House about the explosion in the trafficking and use of drugs such as heroin. It is a scar on many of our inner city areas. I say quite frankly to the Minister that a contribution to that has been the reduction in Customs and Excise staff at ports of entry. It has been estimated that at the major ports of Dover and Heathrow millions of pounds worth of heroin are smuggled into the country. The Minister may be interested to know that recently a member of the Customs and Excise staff told me that at an airport outside London at certain times of the day and night—and I am being careful not to mention the exact times—it is not possible to man even the red channel, let alone the green channel with its random searches.

We are now discussing intimate body searches and the possibility of their being carried out under compulsion. The Minister does not need me to remind him that the Opposition find that an offensive principle, and we have opposed it throughout the lengthy passage of the Bill. However, I am pleased that the Government now accept that such searches should be carried out only by a suitably qualified person, only at a hospital or similar premises, and that they will not, in any circumstances, be carried out by other people.

7.45 pm

I listened carefully to the Minister's argument in favour of changing the status of a suitable person from a registered medical practitioner to suitably qualified persons, such as nurses and midwives. I was glad that he made it clear that it would not be just any old body who had taken a first-aid course.

I grudgingly welcome the fact that under no circumstances will a constable be allowed to carry out intimate searches for drugs. For the life of me, I cannot foresee any circumstances in which, when an intimate search is required, it will prove impossible to find someone suitably qualified. It is going too far even to envisage circumstances in which, on the authority of a superintendent or senior police officer, a constable could be asked to carry out the search.

Photo of Clare Short Clare Short , Birmingham, Ladywood

My hon. Friend appears to be suggesting that it is inconceivable under the clause that a constable could carry out an intimate body search on the suspicion of drugs being carried. I fear that that is not the case. If it is not practicable to have a doctor—and we know that the medical profession objects to the power—untrained constables can poke around in the orifices of men and women.

Mr. Shaw:

The hon. Lady is under a misapprehension, and I apologise if I contributed to that. When she intervened in my speech, I thought that she was referring to police surgeons, as opposed to doctors and qualified people. I wish to make it clear that there is no power for police officers to carry out intimate searches for drugs. Such searches must be carried out by a police surgeon or another qualified person, such as a medical practitioner or a registered nurse or midwife. If doctors, nurses or the police surgeon are not available to undertake a search, there will be no search.

Photo of Mr Robin Corbett Mr Robin Corbett , Birmingham, Erdington

I am glad that the Minister has clarified that point.

The Opposition have two major objections to the Government's proposals for intimate searches for drugs that could be carried out with the use of force. In all the consultations during the passage of the Bill the doctors have made clear their distaste at being required to search for evidence. Doctors and others in the medical profession have found that prospect alarming. They are reluctant to be asked not simply to search for evidence during an examination, but, if necessary, to do so with the application of force. I am sure that the Minister and others will take on board the fact that it is a matter of medical ethics, which must not be taken lightly in this place or elsewhere. It is certainly not taken lightly in the medical profession. Many members of the medical profession may decline to become involved in such practices. I noted that the Minister was careful to say that, where someone in the medical profession came to that conclusion, that view would be accepted.

A doctor, or, in the terms of one of the amendments, a "suitably qualified person", does not have ethical problems when the search—perhaps involving the use of force—of an arrested person is justified on ground of danger to the life of the individual. As the BMA has told us: It is our view that there can be no objection to a medical practitioner carrying out an intimate body search where the purpose is to remove an object which is of immediate danger to the life or personal safety of the suspect or of those people responsible for the suspect's custody and supervision. I am glad that the Minister acknowledges the strength of that argument. In other words, the BMA accepts that where the concealed drug could cause danger or physical injury to the suspect, its members would be prepared to search.

As the Minister and the House will recognise, this is an important distinction, because we are being told that the BMA does not support the search for evidence but would support a search if the reasons for it involved the safety of the suspect and that is the reasonable judgment of the suitably qualified person. That is a mile away from the clumsy compulsion in other parts of the Bill.

The second problem relates to the class A list of drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. The BMA was in consultation with the Home Office and made some proposals to the Department, but then the lines went dead. It was expecting a response from those responsible in the Home Office, but, in the words of the old song, "Answer came there none." As the Minister and the House will be aware, more than 85 drugs are listed in schedule 2, part I, to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. The House will be delighted to know that I do not intend to read them out, mainly because of the problems that I anticipate over pronunciation of names of the drugs.

A wide range of drugs are set out in the list. There are a few of immediate interest, such as heroin, which the Minister mentioned. The others are the cocaine and cocaine-based drugs and the morphine and morphine-derivative drugs. I have taken advice, and I am informed that those are a small number of the drugs listed in the class A schedule. The amendment implies that we expect police officers not simply to be able to suspect that there may be morphine or cocaine-related drugs concealed in the intimate parts of the suspect, but to be able to spot the difference between cannabinol, either with or without cannabis or cannabis resin around it.

Amendment No. 156 allows for forceful intimate searches where a superintendent or more senior officer has reasonable grounds for believing that the suspect may have a class A drug concealed on him. Are we saying that a superintendent, or the generality of senior officers above that, can tell his ethylmethylthiambutene from his 4-Cyano-2-dimethylamino-4? It is ludicrous to suggest that, and, with the greatest respect to those in the medical profession, I should think that one would have to go a long way round that profession before one could find a qualified doctor who could instantly tell one the use of most of the drugs on the class A list.

The BMA further tells us that it acknowledges the point about the need for much better efforts to be made to stop the entry of heroin, the trafficking in it and its use. It is very much a linked process. As I have already said, if better efforts were made to stop heroin coming into the country in the first place, it would help to solve the problem.

The BMA also says this: We appreciate the size of the current problem relating to the illegal importation of heroin but we believe that any provision made in respect of heroin would need to be a specific temporary provision. It appears to us that this could be done within the Bill by giving the Secretary of State the power to permit searches for heroin by laying the appropriate regulation. We believe these powers should be covered by an Affirmative Regulation. It goes on to make the point that on the class A schedule is a drug called Fentanyl. It is used in carefully controlled circumstances in operating theatres, and there is no known case of addiction to it.

Photo of Mr Eldon Griffiths Mr Eldon Griffiths , Bury St Edmunds

The hon. Gentleman and I have debated this before. Like him, I have carefully read the BMA's memorandum. Does he think that the BMA's advice to Parliament as to how this should be done under regulations is sound?

Photo of Mr Robin Corbett Mr Robin Corbett , Birmingham, Erdington

We should listen to what the BMA and those who practise medicine say. Throughout the passage of the Bill, the hon. Gentleman has been telling us how important it is to take notice, through him, because of his links with the Police Federation, of what he described as the people at the sharp end. The BMA also has people at the sharp end and has stated its objection to what is suggested in the amendment. We should take on board what it is saying.

The list is far too long to be sensible. There is no need for it. As the Minister has already implied, if the main purpose of the amendment is to do something about the heroin and hard drugs problem, why do the Government not say so and limit what they are proposing precisely to that problem? I hope, although I am being optimistic, that it may not be too late for the Minister to change his mind.

I think the Minister appreciates that the medical profession dislikes being involved in intimate searches, perhaps with the use of force, where evidence is being looked for by the police on the suspect. A suitably qualified person may be involved in a case in which the police are on the verge of requesting an intimate search and are able, under the terms of the Act, to use force. In this case, the medical practitioner may come to believe that there is no danger to the life or safety of the individual. For example, there may be a suspicion of the concealment of heroin in an intimate part of the body, and a suitably qualified person may have to make a judgment. Why not let nature take its course? Nature will eventually produce what the police suspect may be concealed.

Photo of Mr Robin Corbett Mr Robin Corbett , Birmingham, Erdington

I am not a "not always" man but I accept that there is no such thing as 100 per cent. of anything. In the generality, and with suitable patience and given suitable time, the drug, if that is what is being concealed, will be produced from the suspect. That is the alternative to be set against the judgment of suitably qualified persons who, in a general sense, are able to examine the suspect.

The Opposition dislike the powers that are set out in the clause. We think that they are far too wide and that they are dangerous in what we like to regard as a free society. We think that they are unnecessary for drugs and that there are are more effective measures that can be taken to deal with those who traffic in the vile trade of drugs.

8 pm

Photo of Mr Eldon Griffiths Mr Eldon Griffiths , Bury St Edmunds

I agree with the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Corbett) that we are talking about matters that are dangerous to a free society. The most dangerous feature that we face is the avalanche of drugs that are coming into the country. When the Bill was discussed on Report the hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. Fraser) suggested that the use of hard drugs was taking on epidemic proportions. We must judge the danger to our society against that description.

I am obliged to three police officers for the information that they have made available. The chief constable of Sussex reported that in 1983 he executed 69 search warrants in his police area with a positive result for hard drugs. In 1984 he successfully executed 120—nearly double the 1983 figure. Seven arrests were made in 1982 involving heroin and 50 in 1983. So far this year 29 such arrests have been made at his count. The progression is clear. It is, of course, steeply upwards.

Secondly, I refer to the report of the chief constable of Lothian and the Borders police area. I have chosen areas that are representative of the country as a whole. The chief constable of Lothian and the Borders, in his annual report, stated: Drug abuse in Edinburgh has reached the stage where heroin is in prolific use in several districts of the city. He reported that there was a serious involvement of the criminal fraternity in the market for heroin, morphine and cocaine, that large sums of money are readily available for financing drug dealings and that there is evidence that the so-called customers are turning to crime to raise the money to feed their addiction. Those are the considered words of the chief constable in his report to his police authority.

The Times reported recently that a survey of those arrested for theft or house breaking in Edinburgh in a six-month period last year showed that more than 34 per cent. of those offences had direct links with drug abuse. The connection between hard drugs and violent crime is proven beyond peradventure.

Photo of Mr Gerry Bermingham Mr Gerry Bermingham , St Helens South

How many of the search warrants to which the hon. Gentleman has referred were connected with an intimate search of the person against whom the warrant was issued? On how many occasions in Edinburgh have heroin-based drugs been found to be concealed in the intimate parts of a female? I hope that the hon. Gentleman will agree that we must direct our remarks to the subject matter, which is intimate searches.

Photo of Mr Eldon Griffiths Mr Eldon Griffiths , Bury St Edmunds

I think that I am entitled, Mr. Deputy Speaker, with your agreement, to set out the general context against which we have to consider the amendment. I am setting out the general context and I intend to complete it. I shall deal with intimate searches in a moment.

The chief constable of the Thames Valley area, Mr. Peter Imbert, stated: The epidemic is spreading from the cities into the towns and is affecting more and more young people. He speaks eloquently, in my view, of the tragedy, and says: In the past few years the age of addicts has become younger and the accessibility of drugs is moving towards younger people in our society. That is what he said while chairing a conference of the Association of Chief Police Officers in Hutton in Lancashire. In my view, Lord Lane said it all in a recent speech. He said that the hard drugs problem is becoming deadly serious and that its link with violent crime is clear cut. It is against that background that we must consider——

Photo of Clare Short Clare Short , Birmingham, Ladywood

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) has not yet mentioned intimate body searches, which is the subject of the amendment. He has spoken generally about the problem of drugs in our society and their association with violent crime. Surely that is not in order, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Photo of Mr Ernest Armstrong Mr Ernest Armstrong , North West Durham

I am listening carefully to the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths). It is for the occupant of the Chair to decide whether a Member is out of order.

Photo of Mr Eldon Griffiths Mr Eldon Griffiths , Bury St Edmunds

I am obliged, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Member for Ladywood should know, after our long service on the Bill, that I speak in order.

In the context that I have described, with hard drugs becoming a major problem and perhaps an epidemic in Britain, and with their proven connection with violent crime, I turn to the question before us. How do we deal with it, and is it necessary to have the disagreeable business of intimate searching? No police officer wants to be involved with a distasteful and unpleasant practice. The suggestions made in some of the anti-police literature that has been put about by the Greater London council and the hard Left, that the police are slavering at the lips to get into intimate searching, is a perversion of the truth. However, the police have a duty, and they have often to carry through a disagreeable duty.

The power to carry out an intimate search, whoever performs it, is most valuable, because often it causes the offender to produce the drugs himself or herself rather than submit to an intimate search. I recall giving one example in Committee which bears repetition. I think that the matter arose in the Gloucester police area, but I am not sure. There was a series of offences involving thefts from parked cars at a beauty spot. The police were keeping observation and a couple were observed. To use the rather quaint language of the police description, the lady was walking rather peculiarly.

Photo of Mr Eldon Griffiths Mr Eldon Griffiths , Bury St Edmunds

Yes, it is revolting. It emerged that many of the keys that had been used in stealing from the parked cars had been carried in what is politely known as the body orifice. When challenged by the police, the lady produced those keys, because she knew, and was told, that it was possible that she would be submitted to an intimate search. The intimate search was, therefore, unnecessary.

When we debated this subject previously, we considered the problem of the police search for evidence. The House, in its wisdom or otherwise, disagreed on the issue of whether the police could search for evidence. The Government now propose to add a much more limiting power to the Bill. The power deals specifically with two points. It deals with the possibility of searching for those things that could be used to cause harm to the individual concerned or to others in his proximity and—I am glad of this measure—class A drugs.

Photo of Mr Gerry Bermingham Mr Gerry Bermingham , St Helens South

As this is the last occasion on which the hon. Gentleman can do so, will he answer the question that I asked him previously when he referred to the Gloucestershire story? The question is simple: upon what authority was the lady told that she could be subjected to an intimate search? Even under the provisions of the new Bill, a bunch of keys could not be said to be a weapon, and certainly not a class A drug.

Photo of Mr Eldon Griffiths Mr Eldon Griffiths , Bury St Edmunds

I understand that, even before we came to debate this Bill, the power of the police to require a search to be carried out already existed. That may well be a common law power, and the hon. Gentleman might wish to comment on that point later.

The amendment will allow a search for items that can cause injury to the person concerned or to others in his vicinity. Without going into distasteful detail, I point out that it is extraordinary to note the remarkable collection of items that have been carried in the body orifices. I shall not go into detail, save to mention two examples. In one case, a man was found outside a police station with a listening device within his body. He was listening to an interrogation that was going on in the police station.

I must mention another case, because we are living in the aftermath of the terrible events in Brighton. It is not uncommon for microdetonators to be carried within the body. No one can exclude the possibility of terrorists carrying in their bodies the microdetonators or radio timing devices that can be used to trigger explosions. I know that hon. Members do not lke to hear about those matters, but they are the facts of the modern technological age, and the police service must cope with them. It is right to have this power to cause a search to take place if there are reasonable grounds for believing that a person is carrying items that can damage himself or those within his immediate vicinity. I am glad that the Government have included this measure in the Bill.

I am sorry that hon. Members were not able to dispose of the drugs matter on Report. I moved an amendment to that effect, but at that stage the measure was not favoured by the Government. I am pleased that the other place has been more persuasive than I was. I have two questions to ask, one of which has been asked already by the hon. Member for Erdington. I do not understand the logic of the class A drugs list. I do not believe that all the drugs on that list are addictive. Having read what the British Medical Association said, I am inclined to feel that my opinion is correct.

8.15 pm

If the class A list does not hang together because the items on it are addictive, what is the peculiar justification of that classification? I regard other class B drugs as damaging. I certainly do not think that people should traffic in those drugs in this country, but they are to be excluded. As the hon. Member for Erdington said, no police officer, when he requires a search to take place, can possibly tell the type of drug he is searching for. The answer to the hon. Gentleman's question about how police officers can tell the type of drug for which they are searching is that they do not know. In practice, the police turn over any evidence of drugs of that type to the forensic department. The police require the forensic department to determine what the particular drug is.

There is a danger with this practice. Suppose there is good reason to believe that a person is a trafficker in these terrible things which place children in the most appalling danger and is carrying such drugs and a search is made and the forensic people determine that the drug found is not class A but class B. The police have a certain amount of humour. One police office said to me, "I suppose that if it is a class B drug, they have to put it back". That is preposterous. No one imagines for one moment that that would happen. There must be a more logical explanation—I am sure that my hon. Friend the Minister of State will provide it—why the classification of class A is appropriate. No doubt at some stage this measure will be embodied in force orders so that the forensic people will know how to handle the drugs.

The BMA lectured the Committee about how we should conduct our business. I, among others, asked the BMA to meet us and explain its difficulties. I do not know why the BMA did not do so. Perhaps it was frightened that its case was not very good. I do not believe that the BMA's professional performance in advising Parliament on this Bill has been very good. Moreover, there is no evidence that the BMA speaks for the Association of Police Surgeons of Great Britain. The police surgeons have their own professional body. I should be interested to hear from my hon. Friend the Minister of State—if not now, perhaps on some other occasion—whether the Association of Police Surgeons, which is separate from the BMA, has a considered view.

I believe that the Government have got the amendments right. They should be passed. They will assist in the fight against terrorism and hard drugs.

Photo of Mr Gerry Bermingham Mr Gerry Bermingham , St Helens South

Once again I listened with great care to the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths). Much of what he said tonight was said in other places, including in Committee. I do not believe that the Bill can be allowed to go on to the statute book without, at some stage, someone answering certain fundamental questions. I have posed those questions to Government Ministers and to the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds on a number of occasions, but have not yet received answers.

I intervened during the speech of the Minister of State to draw his attention to the wording of Lords amendment No. 156, which is in the male, rather than the male or female, form. Perhaps the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds inadvertently misled hon. Members in Committee, on Report and in the House. I appreciate the cause that he seeks to espouse, and I understand his position in these matters, but I do not see how the listening device referred to in the first example can be said to be an object likely to cause physical injury to himself or others; and (ii) he might so use while he is in police detention or in custody of a court; I cannot see how the type of detonator that needs other firing devices can be said to fall within the provisions of amendment No. 156. I have often puzzled over the Gloucestershire case and I have never been able to understand how a bunch of keys would come under the terms of the amendment.

When one talks about intimate body searches, whether of male or female persons, one is beginning to go down the road which says that even the human body is no longer sacrosanct within the English legal system. It is easy, in the context and times of dreadful events, to use a dreadful event as an excuse to pervert—if I may put it as strongly as that—some of the basic principles that we have held strongly for a long time.

Everyone in the House wishes to facilitate the fight against crime, to ensure that the guilty are captured and sentenced and that society is protected, but liberty also has its price. I have heard no evidence at any stage of the discussions on the Bill which has convinced me that intimate body searches will assist in the fight against the drug pusher. Not one example has been given, as far as I can recall—if anyone can think of an example I shall stand to be corrected—of intimate body searches having facilitated the conviction of a drug pusher. The reality is that when a person suspected of being a drug pusher or carrier is taken to the police station it is easy to make a claim, "We suspect that you are." What worries me is that if the amendment reaches the statute book that allegation will become the justification for the extensive use of intimate body searches.

I am also worried that the amendment talks of a class A drug only. How is anyone to know beore the search whether one is searching for—I believe that the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds recognised the point—class A or class B drugs? It will be sought to justify the search by saying that it might be a class A drug, even if it turns out to be a class B drug or nothing. How, why and what justification will be sought? We all know that in practice it will be recorded in the notebook, "I believed that". That is a justification, but it is not good enough. We have stepped down the road of licence. We have started licensing intimate body searches. The moment one starts down that road, one starts to negate liberties.

In a civilised society we do not need these provisions. There are many other ways in which we can secure the protection of our liberties. For example, we could employ people to find these offenders, but I shall not waste the time of the House by canvassing what has been said by other hon. Members about other methods.

I shall leave the House with one last thought. It goes back to something that the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds said tonight. He asked whether the Association of Police Surgeons of Great Britain would take the same ethical view as the BMA. The BMA objects to intimate body searches on the ethical ground that it is wrong to probe the human body where there is no danger to life or limb from whatever that person has been using his body for. If the hon. Gentleman looks at the letter from the BMA dated 23 October, of which no doubt he has received a copy, he will see that it sets out clearly the basis of its ethical objections. It is simple. If there is no danger, there should be no probe.

I cannot see how the Association of Police Surgeons can take a different view. Its members are invariably members of the BMA and no doubt are subject to the same rules of the ethics committee. Perhaps we could end the argument if the members of the medical profession stood united. Whether they be doctors, nurses or midwives, the basis of their ethics is the same. They believe in the sanctity of human life and the protection and sanctity of the human body. If they stand firm, as the Minister said, there will be no intimate searches and our country will be that little bit more civilised.

Photo of Mr Roger Sims Mr Roger Sims , Chislehurst

I rise to speak lest my silence on the amendment be interpreted as enthusiastic support for it. I believe that intimate body searches are distasteful and disagreeable, but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) said, the power needs to exist because more often than not the simple threat that it can be used is sufficient to produce what would otherwise be found by the search.

The first Bill that we discussed codified powers of intimate search as being for a weapon or evidence of an offence. The latter part was dropped in the later Bill for reasons that I have yet to hear clearly explained. In Committee, I endeavoured to reintroduce the proposal because I believe that the police should have the ultimate power to search for evidence of an offence. I suggested that it was easy for people to conceal on their person evidence of an offence such as keys, money, credit cards and drugs. I was unable to persuade the Government despite the long list of offences where such evidence had been found, but I am pleased that they considered the strong representations on this issue made in another place. My regret is that the solution they reached is most unsatisfactory and the worst of all worlds.

The amendment specifies certain drugs only and, therefore, we have the ridiculous position that an intimate search can be carried out if it is believed that a person is carrying within him or herself heroin but not if it is believed that he is carrying cannabis. The other is the difficulty, highlighted by the hon. Member for St. Helens, South (Mr. Bermingham), of what the position is if the police require an intimate body search to be carried out on the ground that the person is believed to be carrying within himself a class A drug but it is found that he is not carrying the drug but is carrying something else which is evidence of an offence such as keys, money or a credit card.

As I understand it, although it could be argued that the search should not have been carried out, having been carried out and the evidence having been produced, it can then be used. The opportunities for improper procedures and abuse are self-evident. I believe that that is an unsatisfactory solution to the problem, but on the ground that half a loaf is better than no bread, I shall reluctantly support the amendment.

Photo of Clare Short Clare Short , Birmingham, Ladywood

I cannot let the amendment pass without objecting to the provisions that the Government are introducing. When one discusses the Bill with members of the public, women find the provisions that permit the police to organise intimate body searches the most objectionable.

When we discuss the Bill's provisions we tend to talk as though such searches will be made only when they are justified. But in the nature of the provision that is not so. When we say, "If there is reasonable suspicion this can be done," it follows inevitably that people will be searched who are not guilty and forcibly searched in the most intimate parts of their bodies when there is nothing incriminating to be found and they should not be searched in that way.

8.30 pm

I am grateful for the Minister's assurance that, in the case of drugs, with this widening of the power it will not be possible for the police to search an individual forcibly if a nurse or a doctor is unwilling to agree to it. But I fear that this will not be the protection that it may be in these days of massive unemployment and poverty, even in the medical profession and especially amongst nurses. I fear that there will always be someone willing to carry out such a search in return for the money that he or she will be paid.

In our inner cities especially, in the name of looking for drugs the police can and do stop and search every young black whom they feel like stopping and searching. It follows inevitably from this provision that the police will be able to threaten with an intimate body search every young black whom they pick up whenever they feel like doing so. That is what will flow from this provision.

The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) talked with relish, as he did in Committee, of the need for intimate body searches. In doing so he demonstrates the low level to which society is descending. I find it appalling that we happily and openly take powers to search forcibly the most intimate parts of the bodies of human beings. We do not appear to justify reluctantly the powers being taken and we hear from Government supporters calls for even more powers so that the police will be able to search forcibly anyone in these intimate places whenever they like.

There has to be some basic standard of decency. Probing around in the most intimate parts of the bodies of human beings or threatening such probes is indecent. We should not take this power. It is disgraceful and objectionable. I object to it strongly.

Photo of Mr Giles Shaw Mr Giles Shaw , Pudsey

With the leave of the House, perhaps I may respond to one or two matters raised in the debate.

I ought perhaps to remind the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms. Short) that the amendment approved in the other place was moved by my noble Friend Baroness Masham of Ilton. If my noble Friend had heard the remarks of the hon. Member for Ladywood she would be rightly shocked. It is not an issue which anyone takes any relish in debating or legislating about. It is unfortunately an issue which the length to which members of the criminal fraternity are prepared to go in drug dealing has brought to our attention. We are doing our best in the amendments approved in the other place to solve the problem.

I wish to comment on three issues raised in the debate. The first refers to class A drugs. By their definition, class A drugs are highly dangerous. There is no doubt that some are more dangerous than heroin. LSD is an example. As for addictiveness, since the power is restricted to possession with intent to supply in practice it will bite only in the case of drugs which have a market and for which there is a demand.

Our main concern at the moment is with heroin. But there are other drugs which are also of concern although they are not so common or popular with addicts at present. I have in mind some of the pain-killing drugs—the opiates, morphine, pethidine and, of course, cocaine. But there are reasons for saying that the class A drugs are the most dangerous and that those drugs which become marketed as part of the criminal intention to create addiction are the ones which in due course will be covered by police activities in this area.

As for the BMA, the medical profession has made it clear that doctors can ethically and properly carry out intimate searches to remove articles which pose an immediate threat to the lives of the persons concerned or those guarding them. The BMA has now accepted that, because of the threat posed by heroin to the health of society, it may be right and necessary for doctors to participate in its removal from a suspected dealer. But the amendments are not limited to heroin, because there are other class A drugs, and there can be no logical difference between the removal of one dangerous drug and that of another. Internal concealment and danger to the health of the carrier which is posed by it make the drugs even more dangerous, and we hope that doctors will be able to agree to act upon police requests for assistance.

The nursing professions have accepted that the voluntary involvement of their members is permissible in the exceptional circumstances for which this power provides. The Royal College of Midwives has not accepted it, but in many cases members of that college are also registered nurses. The Bill makes it clear that the searching for drugs in terms of the intimate search powers will have to be carried out by a registered medical practitioner or a registered nurse.

My final comment relates to the remarks of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Corbett). The real issue at stake should be the prevention of drugs coming into the country, anyhow. We know that this is a big world-wide traffic. We have to do our best to improve the sources of detection before they reach the market. I assure the House that the Government have taken action in terms of additional customs provision. My right hon. and learned Friend the Minister for Health announced recently that 100 new customs posts will be provided to fight drug smuggling alone, that there will be additional customs staff on the Central Drugs Intelligence Unit and that senior customs officers have been posted to Karachi to improve operational intelligence about that market from which so many drugs come. I accept entirely that what has to come about is stifling the trade at birth rather than being involved in pieces of legislation which give no one pleasure when discussing the Police and Criminal Evidence Bill and these amendments.

Photo of Mr Robin Corbett Mr Robin Corbett , Birmingham, Erdington

Are the customs posts to which the hon. Gentleman has just referred additional jobs, or are officers being transferred from other duties?

Photo of Mr Giles Shaw Mr Giles Shaw , Pudsey

As far as I am aware, they are additional jobs. However, the hon. Gentleman knows that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer is responsible for the customs service.

Question put and agreed to.

Lords amendment No. 155 agreed to.

Lords amendment: No. 156, in page 49, leave out lines 7 to 10 and insert—

  1. "(i) he could use to cause physical injury to himself or others; and
  2. (ii) he might so use while he is in police detention or in the custody of a court; or

(b) that such a person-—

  1. (i) nay have a Class A drug concealed on him; and
  2. (ii) was in possession of it with the appropriate criminal intent before his arrest,"

Read a Second time.

Amendment to the Lords amendment proposed: (a), leave out from 'court' to end of line 10.

Question put, That the amendment to the Lords amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 129, Noes 239

Division No. 474][8.37 pm
Anderson, DonaldHaynes, Frank
Archer, Rt Hon PeterHogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Ashton, JoeHolland, Stuart (Vauxhall)
Atkinson, N. (Tottenham)Home Robertson, John
Banks, Tony (Newham NW)Hoyle, Douglas
Barnett, GuyHughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Barron, KevinHughes, Roy (Newport East)
Beckett, Mrs MargaretJanner, Hon Greville
Bell, StuartJohn, Brynmor
Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh)Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Bermingham, GeraldKilroy-Silk, Robert
Bidwell, SydneyLeadbitter, Ted
Blair, AnthonyLewis, Terence (Worsley)
Boyes, RolandLitherland, Robert
Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E)Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E)Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith)McCartney, Hugh
Buchan, NormanMcDonald, Dr Oonagh
Caborn, RichardMcGuire, Michael
Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M)McKelvey, William
Campbell-Savours, DaleMackenzie, Rt Hon Gregor
Clark, Dr David (S Shields)McNamara, Kevin
Clarke, ThomasMcTaggart, Robert
Clwyd, Mrs AnnMcWilliam, John
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.)Madden, Max
Cohen, HarryMarek, Dr John
Cook, Frank (Stockton North)Martin, Michael
Cook, Robin F. (Livingston)Maxton, John
Craigen, J. M.Meacher, Michael
Crowther, StanMichie, William
Dalyell, TamMikardo, Ian
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli)Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly)Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'I)Morris, Rt Hon J, (Aberavon)
Deakins, EricNellist, David
Dewar, DonaldO'Brien, William
Dobson, FrankO'Neill, Martin
Dormand, JackOrme, Rt Hon Stanley
Douglas, DickPark, George
Dubs, AlfredParry, Robert
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.Patchett, Terry
Edwards, Bob (W'h'mpt'n SE)Pavitt, Laurie
Evans, John (St. Helens N)Pike, Peter
Fatchett, DerekPowell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Faulds, AndrewPrescott, John
Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn)Radice, Giles
Flannery, MartinRandall, Stuart
Foot, Rt Hon MichaelRedmond, M.
Foster, DerekRichardson, Ms Jo
Foulkes, GeorgeRobertson, George
George, BruceRogers, Allan
Godman, Dr NormanRowlands, Ted
Gould, BryanSheerman, Barry
Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)Sheldon, Rt Hon R.
Hardy, PeterShort, Ms Clare (Ladywood)
Harman, Ms HarrietShort, Mrs R.(W'hampt'n NE)
Harrison, Rt Hon WalterSkinner, Dennis
Smith, Rt Hon J. (M'kl'ds E)Welsh, Michael
Snape, PeterWilliams, Rt Hon A.
Soley, CliveWinnick, David
Spearing, NigelWoodall, Alec
Stott, RogerYoung, David (Bolton SE)
Straw, Jack
Tinn, JamesTellers for the Ayes:
Torney, TomMr. Allen McKay and Mr. Robin Corbett.
Wareing, Robert
Weetch, Ken
Adley, RobertFavell, Anthony
Aitken, JonathanFenner, Mrs Peggy
Alexander, RichardFinsberg, Sir Geoffrey
Amess, DavidForman, Nigel
Ancram, MichaelForsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Ashby, DavidForth, Eric
Ashdown, PaddyFox, Marcus
Atkins, Robert (South Ribble)Franks, Cecil
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)Fraser, Peter (Angus East)
Banks, Robert (Harrogate)Freeman, Roger
Beith, A. J.Freud, Clement
Bellingham, HenryGale, Roger
Bendall, VivianGardiner, George (Reigate)
Benyon, WilliamGardner, Sir Edward (Fylde)
Best, KeithGarel-Jones, Tristan
Biffen, Rt Hon JohnGilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Biggs-Davison, Sir JohnGlyn, Dr Alan
Blackburn, JohnGrant, Sir Anthony
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir PeterGreenway, Harry
Bonsor, Sir NicholasGriffiths, E. (B'y St Edm'ds)
Bottomley, PeterGriffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)
Bottomley, Mrs VirginiaGround, Patrick
Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n)Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Braine, Sir BernardHanley, Jeremy
Brandon-Bravo, MartinHargreaves, Kenneth
Bright, GrahamHarris, David
Brinton, TimHaselhurst, Alan
Brittan, Rt Hon LeonHawkins, C. (High Peak)
Brooke, Hon PeterHawkins, Sir Paul (SW N'folk)
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes)Hawksley, Warren
Bruinvels, PeterHayes, J.
Budgen, NickHayward, Robert
Bulmer, EsmondHeathcoat-Amory, David
Burt, AlistairHeddle, John
Butler, Hon AdamHenderson, Barry
Butterfill, JohnHickmet, Richard
Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y)Hicks, Robert
Carlisle, John (N Luton)Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Hill, James
Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (W'ton S)Hind, Kenneth
Carttiss, MichaelHirst, Michael
Cartwright, JohnHogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)
Cash, WilliamHolt, Richard
Chalker, Mrs LyndaHooson, Tom
Chapman, SydneyHoward, Michael
Chope, ChristopherHowarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)Howell, Ralph (N Norfolk)
Colvin, MichaelHowells, Geraint
Coombs, SimonHubbard-Miles, Peter
Cope, JohnHunt, David (Wirral)
Corrie, JohnHunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Cranborne, ViscountHunter, Andrew
Critchley, JulianJackson, Robert
Crouch, DavidJenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Hillh'd)
Currie, Mrs EdwinaJessel, Toby
Dickens, GeoffreyJones, Robert (W Herts)
Dorrell, StephenKellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine
du Cann, Rt Hon EdwardKennedy, Charles
Dunn, RobertKey, Robert
Durant, TonyKnight, Gregory (Derby N)
Dykes, HughKnight, Mrs Jill (Edgbaston)
Eggar, TimKnox, David
Emery, Sir PeterLang, Ian
Evennett, DavidLatham, Michael
Eyre, Sir ReginaldLawler, Geoffrey
Fallon, MichaelLawrence, Ivan
Farr, Sir JohnLee, John (Pendle)
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)Sims, Roger
Lester, JimSkeet, T. H. H.
Lilley, PeterSmith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Lloyd, Ian (Havant)Soames, Hon Nicholas
Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham)Speed, Keith
Lyell, NicholasSpicer, Jim (W Dorset)
McCrea, Rev WilliamSpicer, Michael (S Worcs)
McCrindle, RobertSquire, Robin
McCurley, Mrs AnnaStanbrook, Ivor
Maclennan, RobertSteen, Anthony
Madel, DavidStern, Michael
Malins, HumfreyStevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)
Maples, JohnStevens, Martin (Fulham)
Marlow, AntonyStewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
Mather, CarolStokes, John
Maude, Hon FrancisStradling Thomas, J.
Maxwell-Hyslop, RobinSumberg, David
Meadowcroft, MichaelTapsell, Peter
Merchant, PiersTaylor, John (Solihull)
Moate, RogerTaylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Monro, Sir HectorTemple-Morris, Peter
Montgomery, FergusThomas, Rt Hon Peter
Moore, JohnThompson, Donald (Calder V)
Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)
Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)Thorne, Neil (Ilford S)
Moynihan, Hon C.Thurnham, Peter
Neubert, MichaelTownsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Newton, TonyTwinn, Dr Ian
Nicholls, PatrickWaddington, David
Norris, StevenWaldegrave, Hon William
Ottaway, RichardWalden, George
Page, Sir John (Harrow W)Walker, Bill (T'side N)
Page, Richard (Herts SW)Wall, Sir Patrick
Pawsey, JamesWaller, Gary
Pollock, AlexanderWard, John
Porter, BarryWardle, C. (Bexhill)
Powell, William (Corby)Warren, Kenneth
Powley, JohnWatson, John
Raffan, KeithWatts, John
Raison, Rt Hon TimothyWells, Bowen (Hertford)
Rhodes James, RobertWells, Sir John (Maidstone)
Ridley, Rt Hon NicholasWheeler, John
Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)Whitfield, John
Robinson, Mark (N'port W)Whitney, Raymond
Rossi, Sir HughWinterton, Mrs Ann
Rumbold, Mrs AngelaWinterton, Nicholas
Ryder, RichardWolfson, Mark
Sackville, Hon ThomasWood, Timothy
Sainsbury, Hon TimothyYeo, Tim
Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Shelton, William (Streatham)Tellers for the Noes:
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)Mr. John Major and Mr. Mark Lennox-Boyd.
Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Shersby, Michael

Question accordingly negatived.

Lords amendments Nos. 156 to 178 agreed to.