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Counter-Terrorism Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:00 pm on 9th October 2008.

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Photo of Lord West of Spithead Lord West of Spithead Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Security and Counter-terrorism), Home Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Security and Counter-terrorism) 3:00 pm, 9th October 2008

The provisions in Clauses 10, 11 and 12 intend to regularise police powers across the UK to take routinely, use, store and retain fingerprints and non-intimate samples of individuals subject to control orders.

To demand authorisation from an inspector or above in England, Wales and Northern Ireland would create an unnecessary difference between the current framework under PACE and that for control orders. The public consultation exercise on the review of PACE has clearly shown that the current framework works effectively. To introduce a further tier to that framework would cause confusion and place unnecessary demands on operational resources. Consequently, we do not believe that there should be an exceptional level of authorisation for the collection or use of fingerprints and non-intimate samples for individuals subject to control orders.

In the other place, the Minister of State for Security, Counter-Terrorism, Crime and Policing accepted there was a wider debate to be had about PACE, although he disagreed with the argument that the levels of authorisation should be raised as a result of that debate. But he emphasised that it is not appropriate to debate the wider issue of the levels of authorisation contained in PACE and PACE Northern Ireland in this specific, narrow context.

In Scotland, as I have said, under the 1995 Act the taking of some but not all samples requires the authorisation of an inspector or above. So, again to avoid the confusion that would be caused by having two different regimes for the taking of fingerprints in Scotland, Clause 11 mirrors those standard requirements for the taking of fingerprints or samples of individuals subject to a control order in Scotland.

On a more technical level, it is worth noting that if the intention of these amendments was to mirror Scotland, they are, on that basis, flawed too. First, authorisation from an inspector is required in Scotland in relation to only some, but not all, samples. Fingerprints are one of the samples that do not require inspector-level authorisation in Scotland. These amendments propose inspector-level authorisation for taking all fingerprints in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Secondly, authorisation from an inspector is not needed in Scotland for a constable to require an individual to attend a police station to have samples taken; these amendments propose that there should be such authorisation in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

In two respects, therefore, the amendments go beyond the position in Scotland. There is also a third technical point to note: the amendments are inconsistent in their impact on the operation of the powers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The effect of the amendments is to raise the level of authorisation required for the taking of fingerprints, but not to do so for the taking of non-intimate samples. Thus, while the intention may have been to mirror the position in Scotland, it is only a slight simplification to say that in practice these amendments would mean that the position in England, Wales and Northern Ireland would be opposite to the position in Scotland.

I hope that explains the reasoning. In conclusion, for both principled and practical reasons, I disagree with the proposed amendment.