Power to Search for Munitions, Radio Transmitters and Scanning Receivers

Orders of the Day — Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Bill – in the House of Commons at 5:30 pm on 20th June 1991.

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Lords amendment: No. 2, in page 13, line 23, leave out from beginning to ("any") in line 25 and insert— ("(3) If it is necessary for the purpose of effectively carrying out a search—

  1. (a) a member of Her Majesty's forces or constable exercising the powers conferred by subsection (1) above may be accompanied by other persons; and
  2. (b)")

Photo of Dr Brian Mawhinney Dr Brian Mawhinney , Peterborough

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

Clause 19(3) of the Bill creates a new power to enable civilian specialists to accompany searches of premises, including dwelling houses or other places where there are munitions or transmitters.

When this provision was considered in Committee on 15 January concern was expressed by the hon. Members for Leicester, South (Mr. Marshall) and for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) that the provision was too widely drafted and could enable almost anyone to be authorised to accompany a search. At that time the hon. Member for Leicester, South said that the clause contained no provision that requires someone's presence to be "both justifiable and or necessary." We have given thought to that matter. The Government amended the provision in another place to provide that other persons may accompany a search or be authorised to accompany a house search only if it is necessary effectively to carry out the search. Therefore, the amendment requires a person's presence to be justifiable and necessary, which would be a further safeguard on the operation of the new provision.

Photo of Mr Kevin McNamara Mr Kevin McNamara , Kingston upon Hull North

The Opposition are grateful to the Government for accepting our argument that more precision is needed in the safeguarding of individuals. We welcome what has been done.

Question put and agreed to.

Lords amendment: No. 3, in page 14, line 22, at end insert—

  1. ("(7A) Where a member of Her Majesty's forces or a constable carries out a search under subsection (1) or (2) above he shall, unless it is not practicable to do so, make a written record of the search which shall specify—
    1. (a) the address of the premises, or a description of the place, which is searched;
    2. (b) the date and time of the search;
    3. (c) any damage caused in the course of the search; and
    4. (d) anything seized in the course of the search.
  2. (7B) Such a record shall also include the name (if known) of any person appearing to the person making the record to be the occupier of the premises or other place searched; but—
    1. (a) a person may not be detained to find out his name; and
    2. (b) if the person making the record does not know the name of a person appearing to him to be the occupier of the premises or other place searched, he shall include in the record a note otherwise describing him.
  3. (7C) Such a record shall identify the person by whom the search is carried out—
    1. (a) in the case of a constable, by reference to his police number; and
    2. (b) in the case of a member of Her Majesty's forces, by reference to his service number, rank and regiment.
  4. (7D) Where a record of a search is made under this section a copy of the record shall be supplied at once or, where that is not practicable, as soon as is practicable to any person appearing to the person making the record to be the occupier of the premises or other place searched.")

Photo of Dr Brian Mawhinney Dr Brian Mawhinney , Peterborough

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

Photo of Mr Harold Walker Mr Harold Walker , Doncaster Central

With this it will be convenient to consider Lords amendment No. 8.

Photo of Dr Brian Mawhinney Dr Brian Mawhinney , Peterborough

The purpose of Lords amendment No. 3 is to place a duty on the police and the armed forces to make a written record, subject to practicability, when they carry out searches of premises, including dwelling houses, or other places under the powers in clause 19.

Lords amendment No. 8 requires similar written records for searches of vehicles, vessels or aircraft under clause 26, but only when they have been removed for the purposes of a search.

While such searches are clearly necessary in the interests of security, it is right that the Government should seek, wherever possible and practicable, to build in safeguards in the exercise of those powers. I know that some hon. Members might wish that the Government had gone further and had required written records for searches of persons in a public place under clause 19(6), or when the power to stop and question under clause 23 is exercised. However, as I said before, such powers are used so frequently that it would not be possible or practicable to complete a written record when they are exercised.

The amendments place a duty on the police and armed forces to make a written record, which must also specify the address of the premises or a description of the place, the date and time of the search, any damage caused and anything seized in the course of the search. It would identify the constable or member of the armed forces making the search, and there is a requirement for a copy of the record to be supplied to the occupier of the premises, or other place searched, at once or as soon as is practicable.

The Government believe that this is an important new safeguard, and I hope that the House will welcome it.

Photo of Mr Kevin McNamara Mr Kevin McNamara , Kingston upon Hull North

I welcome this amendment, but we could have been saved all this time if the Government had accepted it when we originally tabled it in Committee.

Question put and agreed to.