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.