Powers to enter and search premises

Ivory Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:30 am on 19 June 2018.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Steve McCabe Steve McCabe Labour, Birmingham, Selly Oak

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Clauses 18 and 19 stand part.

That schedule 2 be the Second schedule to the Bill.

Photo of Sue Hayman Sue Hayman Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The hon. Member for Cheltenham said during one of our evidence sessions that some people had raised concerns about the fact that accredited civilian officers at present have quite swingeing powers to enter premises, search, check and so on. He asked Anthony Browne, the chairman of the British Art Market Federation, whether he had any concerns about the scope and nature of those powers, and Mr Browne’s reply was that there were concerns and that he was very glad that the hon. Gentleman had raised the issue.

Mr Browne said that one of the federation’s members had been given legal advice—he said he was happy to make that available to the Committee, although I am not sure whether he has—that giving those powers to civilians was

“most unusual…if not unprecedented, except where public safety considerations are in prospect.”––[Official Report, Ivory Public Bill Committee, 12 June 2018; c. 49, Q105.]

I wonder whether Mr Browne has submitted that advice to the Minister. He did say that he had a memorandum that he was happy to submit for consideration. Has the Minister had any more thoughts on that? I thought that the hon. Member for Cheltenham made a very good point. He said that it is not entirely clear in the legislation who the accredited civilian officers would be, their qualifications and where they would be drawn from. I would be grateful if the Minister would clarify those points.

Photo of Alex Chalk Alex Chalk Conservative, Cheltenham

The hon. Member for Workington has put it very well. I have nothing to add but, for obvious reasons, endorse the remarks she has made.

Photo of David Rutley David Rutley Assistant Whip (HM Treasury), The Lord Commissioner of HM Treasury, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The hon. Lady makes some important points. I will wait for a little inspiration to help with some of them. It is important to recognise that accredited civilian officers are members of the OPSS and already have powers of entry and search under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 in relation to products subject to trade.

It is about recognising the new role. The regulator is new and, therefore, we are trying to understand what it can do. They already have a pre-existing role and within that they have these powers to enter and search. They also have powers under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005. These are specific servants given a particular role and they do have pre-existing powers that they could use in trying to prohibit the sale of ivory, or commercial activity relating to it, that does not qualify for exemption. I hope that answers the hon. Lady’s question.

Photo of Alex Chalk Alex Chalk Conservative, Cheltenham

Will my hon. Friend be kind enough to indicate the training that takes place before someone is qualified to use these important powers? Bearing in mind that the individual would be entitled under the legislation to enter premises—albeit non-dwelling premises—and to search in an intrusive way, we need to ensure that the people exercising those important powers have been fully trained, so that civil liberties are protected.

Photo of David Rutley David Rutley Assistant Whip (HM Treasury), The Lord Commissioner of HM Treasury, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

My hon. Friend makes an important point. Of course, there will be a strong training regime to ensure that these individuals are able to carry out their current role and we want to ensure that they have adequate training to take on new roles related to the ivory prohibition. I will write to him with details of how that will be moved forward.

Photo of Sue Hayman Sue Hayman Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Further to that point, the situation has been described as possibly unprecedented. How often does the Minister see these civilian officers taking part in investigations? Would that be rare or a regular part of the enforcement process? That would clearly affect resources and training. I would be grateful for clarification on that.

Photo of David Rutley David Rutley Assistant Whip (HM Treasury), The Lord Commissioner of HM Treasury, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The Bill is clear that the powers given to the body and its members will be strictly controlled. The relationship with customs officers and police officers is tightly defined. As for the number of times it will be used, we are putting more focus on civil sanctions. The key point is that officers or members of the OPSS will need these powers to carry out their work and move matters through. The hon. Lady will note that clause 17 requires the OPSS to issue reasonable notice of intent to enter. The move to enter premises is not just to search; it can also be to ensure compliance. It is important to remember that the job of the OPSS is to help educate and train as well as ensure compliance and enforcement. It is a matter of thinking about their role more broadly. In many situations, as set out in the Bill, reasonable notice will be required.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 17 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 18 and 19 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 2 agreed to.

Clauses 20 to 26 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 27