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New Clause 14

Volume 114: debated on Wednesday 8 April 1987

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Exercise Of Arrest Powers

`The following section shall be inserted after section 20(8) of the 1978 Act—

"(8A) No detention or arrest without warrant of a person which is incidental to the exercise of a power contained in this Part of this Act shall be deemed to be authorised unless it is reasonable in all the circumstances, and does not exceed a period of four hours.".'.—[Mr. Archer]

Brought up, and read the First time.

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

I looked somewhat surprised because I was not expecting to have to move this new clause, but it seems that I am left holding whatever baby is enshrined in it. Not only can I speak briefly; I have to.

In Committee, a discussion arose about what we might call incidental powers to detain people when, for example, in the course of the search of premises they sought to interfere wth the search, or it became necessary in some way to restrain them in order that the search could proceed, or when exercising any of the other powers in the principal Act it became necessary as an incident to the exercise of those powers to restrain someone.

My recollection is that the Minister of State, helpfully setting out the position as he understood it, said that one does not need to spell out all those powers specifically because they are incidental to the exercise of the powers which are given and therefore they are implied. Someone —it may have been the right hon. Member for South Down (Mr. Powell)—asked whether that was a rather dangerous way to proceed and whether it would be better to spell out the powers so that we would know precisely what their limits were and the conditions to which they were subject.

The purpose of this new clause is to meet that problem. It may not be all that specific, but it is intended to say that powers which are exercised as being incidental to other powers set out in the principal Act shall be exercised reasonably.

There are two elements in the new clause. The first concerns the incidental powers, and the second concerns the time limits themselves. My concern on time limits is that the proposed new clause could turn out to be counter-productive in that the time limit which it spells out might easily become the norm. I am legally advised that the rest of the new clause is unnecessary because any incidental power to detain a person while he, his home or vehicle is searched, or while he is answering questions put to him under section 18, is already constrained by the requirement that it should be reasonable in all circumstances. Therefore, the new clause is unnecessary.

Again, I am not sure whether I have wholly taken in the Minister's argument or whether I wholly concur with it. I believe that it is a matter to which we should all give much more careful consideration than seems possible at this stage. Therefore, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.