Powers of entry

A power of entry is a right for a person (usually a state official such as a police officer, local authority trading standards officer or a member of enforcement staff of a regulatory body) to legally enter defined premises, such as businesses, vehicles or land for specific purposes.

This power of entry might include undertaking an inspection, dealing with an emergency or searching for evidence during an investigation. Often, the power to enter is accompanied by what are known as 'associated powers', which set out what the official is allowed to do once they have entered the premises. This might, for instance, include conducting a search, seizing relevant items or collecting samples. Currently, there are around 1,200 separate powers of entry contained under primary and secondary legislation.

Protection of Freedoms Bill

On 11 February 2011, the Prime Minister announced the introduction of the Protection of Freedoms Bill as part of the government's civil liberties and freedoms agenda. The bill includes reforms to rationalise the known powers of entry relating to domestic, commercial and other types of premises. You can read a list of all identified powers of entry. 

The provisions contained in the bill, when enacted, will provide the 'tools' needed to:

  • repeal unnecessary or unjustifiable powers
  • add safeguards to powers where they are weak or missing
  • consolidate groups of similar powers where there is unnecessary duplication

Review of all powers of entry

The bill also places a duty on secretaries of state to review the powers of entry they are responsible for and report back to Parliament, following the necessary detailed analysis, within two years following royal assent. 

The purpose of the review will be to examine each individual power to determine whether or not it is still required or whether it should be repealed, safeguards added to it or consolidated with other, similar, powers so reducing the overall number.

Code of practice

There are a number of powers of entry that exist beyond the traditional enforcement used by state officials or members of private organisations who undertake administrative, public or regulatory functions. 

To standardise approaches to powers of entry, and help drive transparency and accountability, the government intends to create a new statutory code of practice for all powers where none currently exists. The Home Office will be conducting a consultation on the new code in late 2011.

Introduction of new or amended powers of entry

A new 'gateway' has been created to prevent the creation of needless powers and reduce unnecessary intrusion into people's homes. All new or amended powers of entry must now be submitted to the Home Office for ministerial approval. If approved, the power still needs to undergo parliamentary scrutiny. 

The guidance is primarily aimed at people working in central government departments and agencies, who are thinking about creating, amending or re-enacting powers of entry. 

Government departments and agencies need to complete a new Home Office template form setting out the background, necessity, proportionality and safeguards attached to the powers and submit it to the powers of entry gateway team email.

We will then consider the application and may ask you for further clarification before recommending to ministers whether or not to approve the creation of the new power.

For any queries about the powers of entry gateway process, please email the powers of entry gateway team.

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