Police Bill set to be salvaged

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Indy Politics
Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, was yesterday expected to reach a compromise with the Opposition over the authorisation of controversial police powers to enter and bug private property, in the wake of the double defeat by peers of a key part of the Police Bill on Monday night.

The climbdown is likely to come ahead of the Third Reading of the measure next Tuesday, following discussions yesterday between Mr Howard and his Labour shadow, Jack Straw.

The Government had wanted to give police the power to install surveillance equipment without having to get approval from a judge, and the Association of Chief Police Officers insisted yesterday that opposition amendments insisting on judicial authorisation would "significantly hamper" police efforts against serious and organised crime.

But attempting to reverse the defeat when the Bill reaches the Commons would be a high-risk exercise because of the lack of a Commons majority and limited parliamentary time. Government amendments are expected to be tabled by the end of this week.

Labour's amendment on Monday night called for prior authorisation by one of a panel of senior judges acting as commissioners in respect of intrusive surveillance on premises and in respect of doctors, lawyers and journalists, except in urgent cases. Peers backed it by 209 votes to 145.

Following his meetings with Mr Howard, Mr Straw said: "I believe that, provided the Government accepts the spirit of the amendment from the Labour Party, cross-party understanding will be possible."