Howard is forced into retreat on Police Bill
Saturday 08 February 1997
The Home Secretary will announce this week that police must seek a warrant before carrying out electronic surveillance operations on homes. In emergencies, they will be able to go ahead and then apply to a Home Office-appointed commissioner within 24 hours for consent.
Mr Howard's retreat follows a long-fought battle over the civil liberties implications of the Police Bill which led to two House of Lords defeats and a threatened rebellion by Conservative backbenchers. As MPs prepare to debate the beleaguered Bill next week, Mr Howard met potential rebels in an attempt to persuade them to accept his latest amendment.
The Bill has already been altered once in a vain attempt to avoid defeat by a hostile alliance of backbench peers and law lords. But Mr Howard's plan for police to tell commissioners of their activities as soon as possible was rejected, and now, amended so that they must seek prior permission, it will face a similar trial in the House of Commons on Wednesday.
Among those who have expressed concern about the measure is Norman Lamont, the former Chancellor. Last night, Mr Lamont described the proposals in the Bill as "somewhat alarming" but added that he had not spoken to Mr Howard about them.
Ministers are also believed to have had representations from the two main opposition parties about the future of the Bill after each inflicted its own defeat on it in the Lords.
Mr Howard's revisions will please Labour, which was forced to retreat from its initial support for the measures in the face of an outcry from its own supporters, including civil liberties campaigners. However, it will not satisfy the Liberal Democrats and will only partially calm protests from civil liberties campaigners.
Last night Mr Lamont said: "I was concerned, but that doesn't mean my concern could not be met. I think some of the powers in the Bill are somewhat alarming."
Other Conservative MPs were more outspoken in their criticisms. Richard Shepherd, the member for Aldridge-Brownhills, said the measures would mean a loss of liberty.
"People in Australia, New Zealand and the US would not allow anyone to go into their home without a warrant. Why have we dropped from that standard?" he asked.
The Liberal Democrats, who had argued that circuit judges rather than commissioners should give consent for surveil- lance operations, said they would vote against the revised Bill next week.
Alan Beith, the party's home affairs spokesman, said: "We have been expecting a cosy carve-up between the Home Secretary and his ally, Mr Straw. The impression Mr Howard has given is that he is not looking for a broad consensus."
Mr Beith said the change was inadequate because it would allow judges appointed as commissioners by the Home Secretary both to issue warrants and to adjudicate on whether they had been issued correctly.
The director of the civil rights group Liberty, John Wadham, said: "The heart of our problem with the Police Bill has been the absence of prior consent by an independent authority. This agreement appears to deal with that, but there are many other issues which are of concern."
- 1 iOS 8 apps and features: eight iPhone settings you need to look at after you install update
- 2 Kim Kardashian 'nude photos' leaked on 4chan weeks after Jennifer Lawrence scandal
- 3 'F*ck it, I quit': KTVA reporter Charlo Greene quits live on air in spectacular fashion
- 4 Scotland could still declare independence – even without referendum, says Alex Salmond
- 5 Hitler’s former food taster reveals the horrors of the Wolf’s Lair
Rihanna 'nude pictures' claims emerge on 4Chan as hacking scandal continues
Kim Kardashian 'nude photos' leaked on 4chan weeks after Jennifer Lawrence scandal
Khorasan: Muhsin al-Fadhli - the man leading a terror group more feared by US officials than Isis
'F*ck it, I quit': KTVA reporter Charlo Greene quits live on air in spectacular fashion
Alicia Keys leaks nude photo 'to create a kinder and more peaceful world'
Scotland could still declare independence – even without referendum, says Alex Salmond
Scottish referendum results: Cross-party consensus collapses amid Tory-Labour spat on the 'English question'
Hilary Mantel 'should be investigated by police' over Margaret Thatcher assassination story, says Lord Bell
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Plebgate MP Andrew Mitchell called officer a 'little s**t', claim court documents 'exposing ex-Chief Whip's 'record of abusing police'
Archbishop of Canterbury admits doubts about existence of God
£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Humanities teacher required for ...
£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: ENGLISH TEACHER REQUIRED - Humbe...
£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: We are looking for a Qualified C...
£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education are currently...