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Bid to curb powers of entry to private homes

A fresh bid to curb wide-ranging powers for officials to enter private homes was launched in the Lords yesterday.

Spearheading the move, Tory Lord Selsdon said he had unearthed about 1,200 powers of entry in dozens of different Acts of Parliament.

He called for a code of practice to put strict limits on entry powers for all cases except those involving suspected serious crime or terrorism.

Introducing his Powers of Entry Bill, Lord Selsdon said he had been pursuing the issue for more than 30 years and had introduced several previous Bills.

He said the problem was that no one knew exactly how many powers of entry there were, adding: "Worse than that, the householder has no idea either. "The householder feels more and more insecure. He fears the knock on the door."

Under the Bill, entry would have to be authorised by a judge or magistrate and the householder would have to agree to it.

A maximum of four officials would be allowed in, only between 8am and 6pm on Mondays to Fridays, or between 8am and 1pm on a Saturday.

Backing the Bill, crossbencher Lord Scott of Foscote, a law lord and former Attorney General, said far too many powers of entry were exercisable not only without the consent of the occupier but also without the authority of a warrant.

Tory Lord Marlesford welcomed the Bill as an attempt to overthrow "overbearing, disproportionate and intrusive" powers. Too often, powers of entry were made without a magistrate and followed by "every officious officer", he said.

For the Liberal Democrats, Baroness Hamwee supported the premise of the Bill but cautioned that the situation required a "rather more complex and detailed, more subtle approach".

For the Tories, Lord Skelmersdale said: "Powers of entry have become so widespread and so draconian over this Government's time in office that there has arisen a considerable amount of unease to put it mildly, both in and outside Parliament." He added: "The whole purpose of this Bill is that we can't go on like this and I commend Lord Selsdon for bringing this issue forward."

Government spokesman Lord Brett suggested the Bill amounted to an "inflexible approach" towards limiting powers of entry. He told peers the Government did recognise there were "difficulties" that needed to be addressed.

He added: "What we are proposing is that any new or amending powers of entry are put before Parliament for consideration, in that case the sponsoring department must comply with a code of practice that sets out the considerations that I believe, many of the points that peers have raised today."

The Bill gained an unopposed second reading but without Government support is unlikely to become law.

 
 
 

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