Category: Security

South Korea

My Lords, following the invasion of South Korea by North Korea, 16 UN member nations, including the United Kingdom, sent fighting units to the peninsula under the auspices of the United Nations—we sent more than 100,000 servicemen. The United Nations command provided core military strategic direction. Subsequently, the UN has passed resolutions and applied sanctions. In 1953, an armistice agreement was signed, but no formal peace agreement has ever been signed. Recently, the situation in North Korea has deteriorated. I would like to ask my noble friend the Minister if the UN can play a more active role in achieving peace. Can we influence this in any way?


Link to full debate on Hansard. 

Security Industry

Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they will take to increase membership of the leisure security industry among small and medium-sized enterprises.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Neville-Jones): The Security Industry Authority (SIA) was set up under the Private Security Industry Act 2001 to drive out criminality and raise standards in the private security industry, and is responsible for the mandatory licensing of individuals working in it. Before the SIA will grant a licence, it carries out criminal record and other checks to establish that the applicant has the required training and qualifications. One of the sectors where a licence is required under the 2001 Act is door supervision.

Decisions on the employment of door supervisors and other private security industry personnel are a matter for individual businesses, subject to compliance with any legal requirements.

Crime and Security Bill: Second Reading

My Lords, this Bill covers many areas of importance that have a significant impact on our civil liberties and our fundamental human rights. These are the very principles on which our democracy was founded. I hope that this legislation will make a contribution to tackling the injustices in our society that it highlights.

Clause 1 relates to the amount of information that officers would be required to record under stop and search powers. I commend the Government for proposing that a number of recording requirements should now be either removed or significantly reduced. Some officers have made reference to a target culture that is prevalent in their everyday duties, so I am grateful that this has been given due consideration. I support measures to reduce bureaucracy and therefore hope that this section significantly reduces the length of the stop and search documentation.

Staffordshire Police successfully reduced the length of administrative time spent on recording information. There is no reason why this good practice cannot be implemented in other police authorities. I am concerned at the stop and search activities undertaken by the police for purposes that are not related to terrorism. I have previously spoken about this issue in your Lordships’ House. Since 1997-8, black people have been almost eight times more likely to be stopped and Asian people are twice as likely to be stopped by the police in comparison with their white counterparts. This situation must be addressed as a matter of urgency.

It is important for the police to retain the respect and confidence of minority groups, which can prove vital in solving crimes and gathering intelligence. Sections 44 and 45 of the Terrorism Act 2000 authorise police to stop and search individuals in the absence of reasonable suspicion. I fear that this situation could have disastrous consequences in all our communities. In fact, only 0.6 per cent of the people stopped under Section 44 powers in the second quarter of 2008 were subsequently arrested. The European Court of Human Rights has also raised concerns about the use of stop and search powers under Sections 44 and 45, stating that they should be used in a proportionate manner.

Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 also does not require police officers to have reasonable suspicion about an individual before they carry out a stop and search operation. The latest figures suggest that 25,294 searches under current legislation were carried out last year in the London Borough of Newham. I was in the area last Saturday and addressed a gathering where there were people of Sri Lankan and Bangladeshi extraction and I spoke to some of them individually. Newham also happens to have one of the largest percentages of ethnic minorities in the country. The activities of the police may send a poor message and possibly breed resentment among the ethnic minorities. Therefore, powers under Sections 44 and 45 of the Terrorism Act and Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 need further examination and reappraisal.

Clause 14 concerns the retention and use of DNA samples. DNA technology is of high importance in detecting and preventing crime. Making use of this system is a question of finding the right balance between applying the law and not compromising the dignity and rights of individuals. I do not dispute the retention of the DNA of guilty individuals. However, I am concerned about the DNA of innocent people. A transparent and consistent approach to the removal of innocent people’s DNA from the database would be most welcome. The current system may cause concern among certain members of our society. For example, 77 per cent of people on the DNA database are black youths, which is disproportionate to the number of convictions brought against this group.

Some police forces refuse to remove DNA samples even when a person is declared innocent once a case has been closed. Research has revealed that only 22 per cent of requests for the removal of DNA samples are granted. Certain police forces agree with the majority of requests, but a large proportion do not. There needs to be consistency and clarity among the processes undertaken in all 43 forces, as the current figures give rise to a postcode lottery. By October 2009, over 5 million DNA samples were on the database. This situation is unnecessary and has rightly drawn criticism from many circles. There is evidence to suggest that less than 1 per cent of crimes are solved due to the DNA database. I would be grateful if the Minister could explain to your Lordships’ House why the DNA database has continued to increase while the number of crimes for which a DNA match is available has continued to decline.

The Bill requires all DNA samples to be destroyed after six years. I would like to see the Scottish system adopted, whereby the DNA of innocent people is not retained at all. I am encouraged by the ruling by the European Court of Human Rights that it is illegal to store one’s DNA indefinitely. The court stated that our DNA database has,

“a blanket and indiscriminate nature”.

That is a criticism of the present system by an institution of great stature. The court also ruled in 2008 that the retention of DNA samples belonging to individuals who had not been convicted of any crime was unlawful and unnecessary in a democratic society.

I welcome Clause 24 and subsequent clauses, as they introduce measures to tackle domestic violence and reinforce the protection of victims after a suspected offence. The subject of domestic violence is something on which I feel strongly and about which I have previously spoken in your Lordships’ House. The intentions of the Government are highly admirable on this issue, but I am concerned as to how domestic violence protection notices and orders will work in practice. It is important that they are not used as substitutes for pursuing proper sanctions in the courts against perpetrators of domestic violence. More police officers should be encouraged to prosecute perpetrators of domestic violence, even in the absence of the victims’ testimony, by reasonable use of circumstantial or medical evidence relating to the offence. Research suggests that approximately 3 million British women are victims of domestic abuse each year. Some 14 per cent of violent offences involve domestic violence. The unfortunate reality is that the actual figure is inevitably higher, as a number of victims do not come forward to report such abuses.

The physical and psychological trauma suffered as a result of domestic violence should be assessed immediately after victims are identified. May I ask the Minister what extra assistance will be given to children who have witnessed domestic abuse? Domestic violence is prevalent in all communities and all classes of people. It is an abhorrent practice, which causes untold harm to the victims and their families.

At this juncture I should like to declare an interest. I am the chairman of an insurance broking organisation that has provided specialist insurance to the security industry over many years. My company has acted as insurance brokers to the British Security Industry Association, as well as to the International Professional Security Association. The security industry performs a valuable service and is now very much part of the extended police family.

I have always believed in maintaining and strengthening standards in the security industry and have applied strict criteria to the acceptance of security companies and personnel under our insurance scheme. We welcomed the enactment of the Private Security Industry Act 2001 and the formation of the Security Industry Authority. I welcome Clauses 42 and 43, which amend and extend the Private Security Industry Act 2001 and will introduce a licence requirement for businesses carrying out vehicle immobilisation or restriction and removal of vehicles.

Clause 43 proposes that the approved contractors scheme under Section 15 of the 2001 Act be extended to those persons who carry out in-house security activities. Certain organisations have in-house security arrangements and this proposal will ensure parity with companies providing security under contract. I welcome the establishment of an independent tribunal, or adjudication system, for release fees applied by wheel-clamping companies, as some motorists may feel that they have been badly treated in this regard. At present, the approved contractors scheme, which is supervised and managed by the Security Industry Authority, is voluntary, but I would like to see this scheme become mandatory for all security companies, as that will further regulate the security industry.

I support Clause 47 and subsequent clauses relating to compensation for victims of overseas terrorism. I spoke in your Lordships’ House when the noble Lord, Lord Brennan, introduced his Bill. I see that he is not in his place, but I appreciate his perseverance.

We must defend the civil liberties and values that are vital to our society. I am particularly concerned about the collection of DNA samples and the use of stop and search powers in relation to ethnic minorities. The current state of affairs does not bode well for community cohesion. The situation in Newham shows that the facts speak for themselves. It is important to ensure that no group feels as though it is the constant target of discrimination.

Although I welcome any provisions to address domestic violence, I feel that the Bill must gain more clarity. I fear that the Bill is not adequately far-reaching in its present state to have a pivotal impact. I sincerely hope that it will be strengthened in Committee.


National Security Strategy – Debate

My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord King for initiating this timely debate. The main threats to our national security in the 21st century come from an array of challenges such as nuclear proliferation and energy security. However, terrorism stands out as a tangible threat, as we sadly experienced in July 2005.

On our military involvement in Afghanistan, Members in the other place paid tribute yesterday to the latest servicemen to lose their lives in the region. We have a duty to our citizens and Armed Forces to shoulder the collective task of formulating a robust security strategy for an increasingly dangerous world. We need a comprehensive approach to national security that will call on the expertise of many rather than on the opinions of a select few. Heads of government departments such as the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Home Office, the Department for International Development, the Ministry of Defence and the Chancellor should form an integral part of any decision to embark on military action overseas. This was seen to be lacking in the Iraq invasion. The last defence review took place some years ago, and since then we have experienced September 11 in America and 7 July on our own territory. An annual status report should be introduced that will enable decision-makers to determine the progress of existing security policies.

Border security is crucial to enhancing our national security. It is in our best interests to work with our European partners to achieve this aim. We must also strengthen our historic alliance with the United States. We must innovate and update our defence capacity if we are to maintain our military prowess on the world stage. Failure to do so may jeopardise our standing in the UN Security Council. Foreign policy and national security are linked and should be treated as such. The success of our foreign policy will work to promote our national security and interests at home and abroad. We can take the lead, along with our international partners and supranational organisations, to prevent conflicts from occurring. It is especially important that we adopt this method for Commonwealth countries, particularly as we are bound by history. When I spoke on this subject recently in your Lordships’ House, I made that point.

The shared border between Afghanistan and Pakistan has become a hotbed of terrorist strategy and activity. The region is set to account for approximately 75 per cent of investigated terrorism plots in Britain. Closer co-operation with Pakistan and assistance to that country is crucial to our success in Afghanistan and to safeguard our own security. Failure in Afghanistan could have a devastating effect in terms of our national security and stability in the region. History tells us that the war in Afghanistan will be challenging for our servicemen and allies.

Our troops do not have adequate equipment and support in order to fulfil their important tasks. What action is being taken to remedy that unacceptable situation? Furthermore, it is imperative that we build the infrastructure of the country, combat corruption and win the hearts and minds of the people of Afghanistan to stop radicalisation in that area.

The internet has undoubtedly enriched many areas of everyday life. However, it has also heightened the possibility of cyber attacks. Terrorists and extremist groups are using the internet to convey their messages to a worldwide audience at minimal cost and with minimal effort. A successful national security strategy should pay particular attention to this growing threat.

This country has a proud history of promoting democratic values around the world and in our local communities. Although we are in a heightened state of external threats, legislation must not be allowed to compromise our civil liberties. It is important to strike a balance to ensure that no ethnic or socio groups feel as though they have been targeted. We must foster greater integration and tolerance in our communities.

The 7 July terrorist attack in London was an immense tragedy. Most disturbing was the fact that two of the suicide bombers who carried out the attacks were born in Britain. As a Muslim, I totally condemn any form of terrorist or extremist activity. Nearly all Muslims are peace-loving and law-abiding citizens, but I accept that there is a problem with a tiny minority. In regard to suicide bombings, I should like to state categorically that Islam forbids the committal of suicide.

In the Holy Koran it is written:

“Whoever kills a human being then it is as though he has killed all mankind; and whoever saves a human life it is as though he had saved all mankind”.

In addition to taking security measures to combat terrorism and extremism, we need to examine fully why some young people undertake these unacceptable activities. At the present time, I feel that we are concentrating more on what I call firefighting. We need to look equally at the root causes of the problems and to undertake remedial actions. To enable us to do this we need the input and participation of the Government, police, security services, local authorities, voluntary bodies and members of the Muslim communities. I add that the media and politicians need to refrain from the use of inflammatory language. We also need to recognise the considerable achievements of the Muslim youth who act as role models. I would like the Minister to comment on what I have said.

I conclude by saying that the question of national security covers a multitude of areas, which is why a narrow approach to the issue will never succeed. Our national and domestic security should be the shared responsibility of many government departments and agencies. Co-operation with our partners in the European Union and other supranational organisations is vital to ensuring that we further our national interests while protecting our national security.

2012 Olympics: Security

Lord Sheikh asked Her Majesty’s Government:

    In view of the comments made by the Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police at the annual conference of the Association of Chief Police Officers, what assessment they have made of the adequacy of the Olympic security preparations; and whether they have proposals for legislation on this subject.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, the Government are committed to supporting the police and other agencies in providing a safe and secure Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2012. The Home Secretary has appointed an experienced assistant commissioner to co-ordinate the development of the security arrangements for the Games. Planning and preparations are proceeding. Plans will change and develop over time in response to changes in the security situation. At present, there are no plans for an Act of Parliament specifically on Olympic security.

Lord Sheikh: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that response. Has a decision yet been made on the budget figure for the security provision? Will he confirm that the organisation that takes responsibility for overall security provision will have total control of, and accountability for, the budget?


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Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, Tessa Jowell announced on 15 March that the overall budget for the Olympics includes an allocation of some £600 million for wider security issues. The current allocation is subject to continuing oversight and scrutiny in the light of developing security assessments made by the Government and the Olympic Security Directorate.