Power of Commanding Officer to Authorise Entry and Search of Certain Premises

Part of Clause 7 – in the House of Commons at 6:39 pm on 2nd April 2001.

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Photo of Gerald Howarth Gerald Howarth Conservative, Aldershot 6:39 pm, 2nd April 2001

Will the Minister comment on one aspect of the clause, which relates also to clause 8? Clause 7(3) states that a person authorised under subsection (1) may seize and retain anything for which the search under this section was authorised. The Minister will be aware of the case of Major Milos Stankovic, a former member of the Parachute Regiment who has now retired from the Army. He is not one of my constituents, but is represented by my right hon. Friend the Member for South-West Surrey (Mrs. Bottomley). The Minister will know of the anxiety that exists about the seizure of documents and other items that have not yet been returned to Major Stankovic. I know that the Government intend that procedures on judicial matters concerning the armed forces should, as far as possible, reflect the arrangements that apply to civilian life. In the light of that intention, should not there be more specific provision to ensure that where no charges are brought against an individual, it is presumed that any possessions obtained from that person through the use of a search warrant must be returned?

I realise that we shall deal with clause 8 shortly, but I should point out that it contains related provision. Clause 8(2) states: In relation to review under this section —the review will be authorised by a senior officer— a judicial officer shall have such powers and duties as may be prescribed by the Secretary of State by order. Bearing it in mind that we are discussing clause 7, will the Minister comment on the extent to which any orders made under clause 8 might deal with the case of Major Stankovic, which is also relevant to clause 7? Of course, he might not want to speak about an individual case, especially when it is that of Major Stankovic. It would be helpful if he did so, as the matter has been aired a number of times on the Floor of the House. If he cannot provide a further explanation now, however, will he at least address the underlying principle?