We are surprised not to have seen any Government amendments to the clause in view of what the Minister for Policing, Crime Reduction and Community Safety said in an exchange with my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin) on Second Reading. The amendment seeks to introduce political accountability so that there can be parliamentary scrutiny of the procedures in the Bill. We also suggest that a senior British police officer should take an active part in the scrutiny. Amendment No. 118 has a similar purpose. The Liberal Democrats obviously do not like, any more than we do, the vagueness of the phrase ''an appropriate person''. Amendment No. 16 seeks to delete subsection (3) because we believe that it should be put on the face of that Bill that only British police officers should have the powers to use the warrant.
I should like to refer back to what was said on Second Reading to reinforce our surprise at the absence of Government amendments. My right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset asked:
''The Minister said that only a British constable would exercise the warrant. Does that mean that he accepts that we need to amend clause 3, which allows the Secretary of State to designate absolutely anyone as an appropriate officer?''
The Minister of State responded:
''I said that it is the Government's intention that only British law enforcement personnel would be permitted to execute a European arrest warrant in this country. That means the police, but it could also include Customs and Excise. There are plenty of legal precedents for using the term 'appropriate person', including in legislation adopted by the Conservatives when they were in government to deal with powers of stop, search and entry that
gave an even wider range of discretion to the Home Secretary. Given the point of principle that I have outlined, I have no doubt that the precise wording can be considered in Committee.''
That is what we are doing. My right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset then intervened again and said:
''It would be helpful if I could take it that the Minister is willing to redefine the clause so that it clearly applies to British law enforcement officers.''
The Minister replied:
''I am saying that there is plenty of precedent in almost identical circumstances in which Governments, including Conservative Governments, have restricted a power to British law enforcement personnel even though they have used the term 'appropriate person', or something similar, in legislation. That should give the House sufficient confidence in this Government's intention to use the Bill in the same way. I have no doubt that the matter will be considered in Committee.''—[Official Report, 9 December 2002; Vol. 396, c. 42–43.]
After that exchange, in which my right hon. Friend expressed serious concerns about what should be in the Bill, which many outside commentators and bodies share, I was reasonably confident that the Government would clarify the matter by tabling their own amendments to specify a British police officer or a member of Customs and Excise. They have not done so, and as a result the Bill remains defective. It is not good enough for Ministers in the future to have the power to designate anyone to be an appropriate person. It should be stated in the Bill, and I hope that the Minister will undertake to keep the matter under consideration. There may be precedents in other legislation, as the Minister said, in which the phrase ''appropriate person'' has been used, but in this case the Government are introducing new and much more draconian powers. Therefore, British citizens need the protection of knowing exactly who will be able to use the powers. It should be just a British police officer or a member of Customs and Excise and the Bill should state that.