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Enforcement Officers (Searches)

Volume 437: debated on Tuesday 13 May 1947

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asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury if he will instruct Departments that enforcement officers and inspectors, authorised to search private dwellings, shall not seek admission unless accompanied by a police officer in uniform.

No, Sir. Apart from the merits of the hon. Member's proposal, any such general instructions would be inappropriate.

How can householders distinguish between authorised officials with genuine credentials and robbers with forged credentials?

The number of cases where enforcement officers have to visit private residences is very small indeed. Where it does occur an effort is made for the visit to take place by arrangement with the person concerned. It would, in my view, be unfair to the individual who is visited if the neighbours saw a police officer arrive in uniform.

Are not householders entitled to refuse admission to these officials unless they are vouched for by the police?

Can the right hon. Gentleman say why if, as he says, the number of these visits is small, it is impossible to arrange for regular police officers to accompany the enforcement officers?

I think that the view of the hon. Baronet who asked this Question is one which is shared by all. I have gone into the matter and I am informed that every effort is made to arrange the visit so that the person who is to be visited is told in advance, and he has every right to discover whether the people are there on official business or not.

I asked whether the officer or visitor has official credentials which he can produce.

Yes, Sir. The enforcement officer, of course, has this right, and he has official credentials for making the visit,

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the greatest care should be taken in this matter which is destroying the greatest liberty of the British citizen?