House of Lords
Monday, 9 October 2006.
The House met at half-past two of the clock: the LORD SPEAKER on the Woolsack.
Prayers—Read by the Lord Bishop of Coventry.
Afghanistan: Helicopter Force Levels
My Lords, I am sure that the House will wish to join me in offering our deepest condolences to the families and friends of all those killed and injured on operations in Iraq and Afghanistan over the Summer Recess, and in paying tribute to the hard, dangerous but vital work that is carried out on behalf of us all.
Since 25 July we have sent two additional Chinooks to Afghanistan, making a total of eight, and increased the number of flying hours. This capability meets the operational commander's requirement at present but is kept under constant review. In addition, we continue to have regular discussions with the NATO Secretary-General, NATO allies and other ISAF troop-contributing nations on force generation for ISAF, including, where appropriate, assets such as helicopters.
My Lords, we on these Benches also send our condolences to the families of those killed, and our thoughts are with the troops who have been very seriously wounded in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
Brigadier Ed Butler has publicly asked for more helicopter lift. In the light of the Prime Minister's promise that commanders will get whatever they need to defeat the Taliban, and in light of the fact that we apparently have no helicopters to send and that many of those there are on their last legs, will the Government consider, as the Americans do, contracting independent companies with helicopters in the region to provide logistical support for the RAF and to help with reconstruction? Might the cost be part-funded by those NATO allies unable to make good their promises of men and material?
My Lords, we are considering such an avenue. I returned from Afghanistan yesterday after spending time there talking to our troops on the ground and gaining an understanding of what they saw as the key lessons that we should learn relating to equipment such as helicopters and to their needs. The whole area of helicopters is complex. None the less, there are a number of important avenues which we can take and are taking. We have a very active programme at the moment which is looking to address our helicopter capability. It includes the use of commercial assets but also looks at areas such as crews, spares and airframes to ensure that our requirements are met in going forward in theatre.
My Lords, from these Benches I add our condolences to the families of those who have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan and our hope for a speedy and full recovery for those injured since we last talked about those theatres.
On 3 July, the Minister told me that, with regard to the eight grounded HC3 Chinooks:
“We are working very hard to find a fix-to-field solution for those Chinooks that makes sense and I hope that we get that done this year”.—[Official Report, 3/7/06; col. 77.]
Given that General Richards said on the radio this morning that we now have only six months to sort out the problem in Afghanistan, what progress has the Minister made over the past three months with regard to these helicopters?
My Lords, I have spent a considerable time talking to both the company involved—Boeing, from which we procured those helicopters originally—and the team in the Ministry of Defence which has responsibility for fixing the problem. It gets absolutely the highest priority. I had a meeting today on the whole picture of helicopters, which included the grounded Mk3 Chinooks. I am expecting today an answer from the company concerned. We are doing absolutely everything we can to improve the position relating to helicopter assets. There is no doubt, as I have said in this House, that we have a shortage of helicopter assets overall. We need to address that. We are learning in Afghanistan that helicopters are a real force multiplier and we need to provide additional resources. It is complex. It is not just about the airframes, as I have said, but I am confident that everything that can be done is being done, and I have responsibility to make sure that that follows through to have effect on the ground in response to what I have been told in the past few days by the troops in Afghanistan.
My Lords, will my noble friend take this opportunity to remind everyone—not least the media in this country at times—that this is not just a British and American operation? It is NATO plus many other countries under the auspices of the United Nations, and it is profoundly important that we achieve what we set out to achieve in Afghanistan because the ability otherwise to destabilise the whole of an already unstable region is very high. All power to the Minister’s elbow in terms of getting more helicopters in, but there are 30-odd nations involved in this, so it is much wider than just Britain and the United States.
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend. He is absolutely right—this is a NATO operation—but we must be realistic. We have a responsibility to our troops to make sure that they have the resources to do the job. We are putting considerable pressure on our NATO allies, which includes talking to them about the provision to us of assets such as helicopters. Notwithstanding what is agreed within NATO, we must push NATO to deliver, to make sure that our forces have what they need to do the job. They have done an outstanding job in Afghanistan this summer. We underestimated what we were up against in Afghanistan but, despite that, because of their courage and dedication, they have inflicted a tactical defeat on the enemy. We now need to build on that over the next six months. I am committed to making sure that they have the resources to do so.
My Lords, the implication of what the Minister says is that there is inadequate helicopter effort elsewhere, other than in Afghanistan. He is suggesting that there is a need for considerably more helicopter airframes and hairs. Where is the lack of helicopters impinging on the services at present?
My Lords, a decision was taken two years ago on the forward investment in the helicopter programme, which did not take into account what are, with the benefit of hindsight, the enduring operations that we are now undertaking. That has put pressure on our helicopter capability, which I have been very open about with this House. The question is not how we got here but what we are going to do about it now. We are making robust efforts to improve our helicopter capability. The shortages relate to the pressure of going back into training back in the UK. Assets are being sent forward to support operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, which then puts pressure back in the home base in terms of the opportunities for crews to train and practise. We need to address that and we are doing so.
My Lords, has not the shortage of helicopters, to which the noble Lord again referred this afternoon, been a problem for as many years as some of us can remember—at least for as long as he and several of his predecessors have presided over these matters? Is not the real problem that the Chancellor of the Exchequer simply failed to provide enough money for these purposes, and that is why there is a continuing shortage?
My Lords, absolutely not. The noble Lord is wrong. All resources required to carry out operations in either Iraq or Afghanistan have been funded. Nothing asked for has been refused on the basis of a decision from the Treasury or Ministers.
The nature of our operations has significantly changed from what we faced some years ago. My challenge as the Procurement Minister is to ensure that we are more rapid and adaptable in the development of the procurement of equipment to meet today’s challenges. We are making real progress; for example, on the protected patrol vehicles this summer. Identifying and delivering a requirement in under a year is pretty fast work.
My Lords, we are well into the ninth minute.
Road Safety: Child Seats
My Lords, the Government are impressed that so many parents have been keen to comply with the new requirements for their children to travel in child seats and boosters. We appreciate that there have been some practical problems for parents and carers. The regulations provide some flexibility. However, the general obligation that children should use a child seat or booster is important for their safety.
My Lords, I thank the Minister. I do not question the need to protect children in car accidents. However, what assessments have been made of the other risks to child safety, when a child cannot be given a lift home, even by a reliable person, because they do not have a child seat, therefore the child must walk alone—perhaps on a street which one would not wish them to walk along?
The Minister will be aware that child seats cost quite a lot of money, and are meant to be professionally fitted. Most parents, as he says, will have them. However, grandparents and others not regularly transporting a child could not be expected to have them: they are bulky and expensive. Is not the answer to design the rear seats of cars to have sections which drop down to form a child’s seat, and can the Minister press car manufacturers to do that? I saw one in a taxi on the way back from the airport. Even more cheaply, they could develop a new type of seat belt. Whether there is a danger is a question of the level at which the seat belt hits the child.
My Lords, the noble Baroness is always constructive in her supplementary questions. That we may be able to significantly address car seat design is an important point. For the time being, however, we all recognise that car seats are designed to provide considerable safety to adults and people of a reasonable size through the fitting of seat belts but there is a problem regarding children.
We have introduced elements of flexibility and recognised that where there is an unplanned necessity—where someone is taking an additional child in a car as an act of helpfulness—there would be no question of prosecution. We emphasise, however, that parents, friends and grandparents ought not to think of taking children home if there is not adequate provision for their safety in the car.
My Lords, perhaps I may, as a grandfather, give the House and the noble Baroness some advice. Is the House aware that booster seats have been available at a well known store in Ayr and throughout the United Kingdom for just under £5? Surely that is a small price to pay for the safety of children.
My Lords, my noble friend is always adept at speaking on behalf of the majority, and I have no doubt he takes the House with him in referring to grandparents.
We were conscious of the extra cost to parents, and had sought to keep it down. The industry has participated in the publicity, as we would expect, and has provided the seats in good time, for the most part. The seats are not too expensive, although—with appropriate Scottish acumen—my noble friend identifies a lower figure than that which some of us have been able to obtain.
My Lords, I acknowledge that booster seats are available and education is the best way of causing people to do things, rather than laws that will be very difficult to enforce, but will the Minister also remember that 30 per cent of driver deaths are caused by not wearing a seat belt, and two thirds of these are judged by the police to be avoidable? Would he take the opportunity now, while the Road Safety Bill is in another place, to produce an amendment to make wearing seat belts more usual?
My Lords, compliance with the law is a well known feature of the British nation, including with regard to seat belts. Drivers have a high rate of compliance, although the noble Lord is right that those who do not wear seat belts are taking risks. The problem with compliance in cars seems related more to seat belt use by back-seat passengers, on which we do need to educate more effectively. But it is easier for the police to regulate and control drivers’ use of seat belts; it is more difficult with passengers in the rear seats. The noble Lord is right: it is an issue of education and safety.
My Lords, there are standards. The provision that has come on stream meets the standards of reputable suppliers. There is always a danger that people will cut corners, but obviously any parent or responsible adult who decides to provide a booster seat will seek to ensure that it does the job.
My Lords, we strongly support any measure that will save the lives of children, but we still have doubts about how these measures can be effectively enforced. Is the Minister aware that the police in Cornwall have said that at the moment they will not prosecute people for committing this offence? Has he discussed with police forces around the country the practicability of enforcing these measures?
My Lords, we would not expect the police to move swiftly into action on a requirement that has been in operation only since 18 September. There may be difficulty in obtaining these seats in a small number of cases. But in due course, two things happen: first, from time to time the police prosecute and people become aware of that; and, secondly, the public see the good sense of the legislation.
Energy: Winter Gas Supplies
My Lords, the supply of gas is likely to be tight this winter and we remain concerned about high prices. National Grid’s Winter 2006/07 Consultation Report, published by Ofgem on 21 September, indicates, however, that under all reasonable weather-related scenarios supply should be able to meet daily demand. There is now greater certainty about new import infrastructure being on line for winter. The Langeled pipeline from Norway is already flowing gas; other major projects are on schedule; and the Rough storage facility is full.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for his comprehensive and generally encouraging response. While it is satisfactory to note that we shall have extra pipeline capacity this winter, I am sure the noble Lord will agree that the essential issue is the amount of gas that will actually flow through those pipelines, bearing in mind our experience last winter and bearing in mind that we shall have to import about 30 per cent of our requirements this winter, according to estimates published by Ofgem. Does he further agree that, pending long-term measures to reduce our growing dependence on imported gas from increasingly uncertain sources, it is essential in the short term to increase our storage capacity which, even after the repair of the Rough facility, is still way below continental levels? Will he agree that the recent experience with the over-supply of gas during tests on the new Langeled pipeline emphasises the need for the UK urgently to increase its gas storage capacity?
My Lords, the noble Lord is quite right in two respects. First, of course the position will depend critically on how much gas flows through the new interconnectors. We have been working on that issue for some time with the EU Commission to make certain that as much flows through as we want.
The second issue is the amount of storage. Because the Rough storage will be fully available this year, we hope—unlike last year, when it went out of action in February—and we will also have Humberley Grove available for the whole year, compared to only half of last year, we will have better storage. However, long term, we need to increase the amount of storage.
My Lords, I cannot give the exact figure. Such comparisons tend not to be very helpful because there is a wide difference between countries which have their own gas supply, which tend to have virtually no storage, and countries which have no gas supply, which have substantial storage. In the UK, we are going from one situation, where we have had virtually no gas storage because we have had our own North Sea gas supply, to another, where by 2020 we will be importing 80 per cent. So, at the moment, such comparisons are not very useful.
My Lords, does the Minister know that at a recent conference convened by Ofgem, its chairman was asked how long it is likely to take before continental supplies are as liberalised as they are in this country? Is it not clear that what happened last year was due to all sorts of restrictions by continental suppliers, so that gas did not reflect differential prices? Is the Minister aware that the answer we were given was that it would take at least 10 years before the continental systems were liberalised? Is that not rather disturbing?
My Lords, if it were to take 10 years, that would indeed be disappointing, but the Commission has taken very strong action on this. It is also important not to confuse forward buying plans of particular countries with monopolistic practices. Those are two different things and the current situation is a combination of them.
My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the short-term position is very encouraging, given last year's difficulties, but that, in the medium term, we will become increasingly dependent on Russia? At present, Gazprom has about 95 per cent of the gas export capability in Russia and we in Europe are dependent on Russia for 25 per cent of our supplies. Given the stickiness and lack of investment on the scale that our increasing demands will require—that is, in the European Union—we need to be keeping a close watch on what is happening in Russia.
My Lords, I agree that, although the short-term situation is much better, we need constantly to monitor the extent to which we get our supplies of gas from one particular country. The strategy is to make certain that they are well spread across the world, so that we have secure supplies from different parts of it. That must also be reflected in the overall policy, which is to spread the risk widely across different energy sources.
My Lords, last winter, gas was available to flow through the interconnectors, but it was not pumped to this country because of the cost forced on us by the unliberalised market within Europe. Has the DTI worked out the figure for what that unliberalised market cost British gas suppliers and, ultimately, consumers?
My Lords, I think one has to be very careful. People are supplying gas. The question is the basis on which they are doing so. If other countries have long-term gas contracts and we are taking the spot-price market, it is not a monopolistic practice that we do not get our gas. This is a question both of the forward buy-in practices of the companies involved and of unliberalised markets. We need to keep that in mind.
Immigration: Tuberculosis Testing
My Lords, currently, we screen for TB those arriving from countries with a high rate of TB who want to remain for longer than six months. We also screen abroad applicants for entry clearance in six countries that are high-risk for TB. We will shortly be making an announcement on the next phase of this overseas screening programme, which will extend the scheme to other high-risk countries.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. I declare an interest in that I had TB in my teens, so I know how infectious this disease is. Now that we are threatened with the spread of this new TB strain, which apparently is drug-resistant, what are we going to do about that?
My Lords, I can assure the noble Baroness that we are taking every step to ensure that we have a robust response. The first step is to screen those who are coming into this country and, if they are identified as carriers of tuberculosis, to deal with it before they come here. The second step is to ensure that those who come to this country are progressively screened so that we can identify the disease early and deal with it more robustly.
My Lords, the BCG vaccination has been causing concern. There is an issue about whether children should be given it at 12. The new procedure has meant that we are now looking more at the neonatal stage and giving the vaccination to children much earlier. We know that there is an anxiety about older children, but it is very much part of the Department of Health’s agenda to deal aggressively with this matter and ensure that people are reassured that the changes are safely being made.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reassuring answer. I ask her to note that the incidence of TB is not restricted simply to immigrants either from abroad or in this country. Will she explain whether any facilities are now available for people from other countries to have information in their own language so that they know where to go for treatment when they suffer such a crisis?
My Lords, I do not have a specific answer, but the noble Lord will know that, in the general way in which we are now trying to give information, we are providing information in as many languages as possible so that those who may be affected by it are better able to understand it. All government departments have been carrying out that process with a great deal of energy for some time. I assure noble Lords that I know of nothing that indicates that we are not doing exactly the same in this regard. But if that is the case, I will certainly undertake to write to the noble Lord about that.
My Lords, I cannot answer that question specifically, but I know, as will the noble Lord, that in developing these procedures we try ordinarily to collate as much information as possible from those who may have specialist knowledge. I therefore assume that that has been done, but I regret again that I am deficient and do not know the answer. I shall certainly undertake to ensure that the noble Lord has a reply. I should say that, although I answer for the Government, I would have thought that this was perhaps more of a Home Office-type question.
My Lords, is the Minister aware that, according to the Health Protection Agency, only 27 per cent of those entering this country from places with a high prevalence of TB are X-rayed at the port of entry, and that a third of all high-risk entrants are not being referred for medical examination at all? Do the Government consider that to be adequate, and what plans do they have to ensure a more rigorous testing programme?
My Lords, the noble Earl will know that the Department of Health took the rise of TB incredibly seriously and launched the TB action plan in 2004. The key strands were to increase awareness and to provide strong commitment and leadership, high quality surveillance, excellence in clinical care, well organised and co-ordinated patient services, first-class laboratory services and effective disease control in the population level. The expert workforce was a real issue. We are asking for a greater degree of acuity and understanding on what would work in the most effective way. The action plan is being energetically pursued. In a short while, we hope to say what further steps can be taken.
North Korea: Nuclear Test
My Lords, in response to the nuclear test, the Prime Minister issued the following Statement at 8.15 this morning:
“I condemn this completely irresponsible act by the government of the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea). The international community has repeatedly urged them to refrain from both missile testing and nuclear testing. This further act of defiance shows North Korea’s disregard for the concerns of its neighbours and the wider international community and contravenes DPRK’s commitments under the Non-Proliferation Treaty and UN Security Council Resolution 1695”.
The UN Security Council will meet later today in New York to discuss the international response to the nuclear test, further to the council’s presidential statement of 6 October. We will work closely with our partners in the Security Council to ensure a swift and robust response.
My Lords, I am very grateful to the Minister for repeating that Statement and commenting on the words of his right honourable friend. Does he agree that it is extremely important for the United Nations Security Council to decide on firm and definite action? Is it not the case that there have been endless deadlines and a great many carrots—all kinds of sweeteners—offered to North Korea, all of which have been simply ignored or turned down, and that all attempts to go along that route seem to have come to a dead end? Should these new measures include not only additional sanctions, which are clearly called for on top of existing sanctions, but also the tightening up of the Proliferation Security Initiative? That would help to limit North Korea’s weapons exports more effectively, which have been all too profligate in the direction of Iran and other countries.
Finally, is it not immensely helpful that Shinzo Abe, the new Japanese Prime Minister, who is this country’s very good friend, was in Beijing this weekend and gained full Chinese support against North Korea? Have we any ideas to put forward from London about ways of turning that Chinese support into positive proposals—more than rhetoric, but firm action—to bring North Korea to its senses?
My Lords, I also welcome the new Japanese Prime Minister’s visit to Peking. It was helpful in ensuring that regional security issues rose to the top of the agenda, as in the circumstances they should. The Security Council faces a severe task. In my view, it has the following component parts: it must try to get the same unanimity as it got on the presidential statement on 6 October, because unanimity with China’s involvement is essential; it must try to get the unanimity that Security Council Resolution 1695 achieved; and it must deal with the issues robustly. That will probably require a very detailed discussion. However, I do not think that anybody could doubt the anger expressed over the past 24 hours—even more so in the past 12—by the Chinese Government, along with everyone else in the international community. That leaves me feeling that the chances of unanimity on a robust position are good.
My Lords, is it not clear that North Korea is prepared to defy international opinion and, for its own reasons, to pay a very heavy political price? In the Government’s view, are there any sanctions or pressure points that are likely to be effective, and what are the prospects of achieving an international consensus to prevent the seepage of nuclear materials to North Korea?
My Lords, as I have just said, a very stringent approach will need to be taken in the new Security Council discussion this afternoon and it is hard to prejudge all the elements in the programme on which the council will find unanimity. However, the economic sanctions introduced under Security Council Resolution 1695 had in themselves a stinging effect on the regime, not least because they affected some people personally. I expect a fuller array of sanctions on this occasion. I hope the House will forgive me if I do not try to guess what all the parties to the discussion today will bring to the table. I suspect that over the next few days we will have an opportunity to consider it specifically.
My Lords, I noted the Prime Minister’s reference to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, although I believe that North Korea is no longer a signatory to it. Will the Minister give an assurance that the British Government will be equally scrupulous in attending to the terms of the treaty when we come to consider the upgrading of Trident?
My Lords, today I shall try to focus on the affront caused by North Korea in the international community. As the House knows, a thorough review on the United Kingdom’s position on Trident is to be published later.
Article 10 of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty sets out specifically how states can withdraw from it, because it is always within a state’s power to do so. We do not believe that North Korea has gone through the process at all. I know that others in the international community believe that it may have, but having looked at the papers this morning, I am clear that nothing approximating full adherence to Article 10 has taken place.
My Lords, we should all recognise that Britain cannot be a key player in any response to North Korea and that our influence must be exerted through multilateral channels, in what we hope may be a more coherent European approach to China as the key external influence, and of course through the United Nations. How satisfied is the Minister that the European relationship with China, as a key player in the region, is becoming more coherent and constructive, and is there full awareness of the political importance of that dialogue?
My Lords, I have absolutely no doubt of the political importance of that dialogue. Obviously this could become a kitchen with far too many cooks in it, and the bargaining strategy has been to try to concentrate it around six parties. However, we do a great deal of work with the European Union, which is an appropriate channel for us. There is no doubt that the Union is working seriously not only with China but also with other neighbours in the Korean peninsula to ensure that there is a regional understanding of the need for security. It is partly through those channels that I am so confident in saying today to the House that the anger of all those partners with whom both we and the European Union have been dealing is acute.
My Lords, I remind the House of my non-financial interest as chairman of the All-Party British-North Korea Group. In the 1990s some 2 million people died in North Korea as a result of the violations which took place in that excessively Stalinist regime. That should have concentrated the minds of the country’s leaders on tackling their domestic problems rather than using nuclear weapons. Does the Minister not agree that to add to the woes of the North Korean people by imposing through China, which provides 80 per cent of the country’s aid, anything that might affect the food aid programme is not the way to proceed, and that what is needed is a naval blockade around North Korea to prevent the seepage of nuclear materials to other states which might use them?
My Lords, perhaps I may take the questions in reverse order. Of course we need to take every step to ensure that nuclear materials do not get to other states or, indeed, to non-state actors—terrorist groups and others who might very well exploit them. I do not believe that Her Majesty’s Government have any intention of trying to persuade people to inflict further starvation on the people of North Korea. They are as much victims of this as anyone. We must use all our endeavours to ensure that we make progress not only on the nuclear issue, and those of missile firing and testing, but also on human rights. My right honourable friend Ian McCartney has been telling the North Korean Government, day by day, week by week, that these attacks on their own citizens are intolerable.
My Lords, does the Minister not agree that, historically, sanctions have not influenced the leaders of recalcitrant countries such as North Korea but they have had a massive impact on poor people, who then starve, as they have been doing in North Korea?
My Lords, that is a very fair point. Let me emphasise one of the sanctions which I believe has caused acute irritation to the ruling clique of what I regard as a regime bent on what amount to lunatic methods of dealing with its international neighbours: severe financial sanctions. I mention that because those sanctions have had a personal impact on a group of people who apparently live in great modesty but appear very concerned about whether their cash is found in banks overseas.
My Lords, perhaps I may make a short business statement about a repeated Statement that we shall have later this afternoon. The subject is children and young people in care. With the leave of the House, we shall take this at a convenient time after four o’clock. The Statement will be repeated by my noble friend Lord Adonis.
Police and Justice Bill
My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.
Moved, That the amendments for the Report stage be marshalled and considered in the following order:
Clauses 2 and 3,
Clauses 4 to 8,
Clauses 10 to 14,
Clauses 15 to 18,
Clauses 19 to 21,
Clauses 22 to 26,
Clauses 27 to 34,
Clauses 35 and 36,
Clauses 38 to 44,
Clauses 46 and 47,
Clauses 48 to 55,
Schedules 15 and 16,
Clauses 56 to 58.—(Baroness Scotland of Asthal.)
On Question, Motion agreed to.
Police and Justice Bill
Schedule 1 [National Policing Improvement Agency]:
Page 51, line 29, leave out paragraphs (b) and (c) and insert-
“(b) the Association of Police Authorities, (c) the Association of Chief Police Officers, and”
The noble Lord said: My Lords, the purpose of both the government amendment and the amendment on the Marshalled List in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, is to reinforce the tripartite framework which governs policing. We attach considerable importance to the tripartite framework and have sought to reinforce it through the recent creation of the National Policing Board, a development which has been welcomed both by the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Association of Police Authorities. The board underpins the position of the Home Secretary, the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Association of Police Authorities, as well as the collective leadership of the police service.
The noble Baroness tabled an amendment in Committee which would have named the Association of Chief Police Officers in the Bill in relation to a duty to consult in respect of the National Policing Improvement Agency. In responding, I indicated that we were sympathetic in principle but that a number of questions needed to be resolved in relation to that amendment. We undertook to explore the options of putting both the ACPO and the APA on a statutory footing, together with relevant stakeholders. ACPO has put to us that the Police Act 1996 does not properly recognise the position of the association within the tripartite framework. There are many references to the Secretary of State but where the legislation refers to ACPO officers as the professional leaders of the service it does so only indirectly. At present, the 1996 Act and other legislation place a number of duties on the Home Secretary to consult persons whom he considers to represent the interests of chief officers of police and persons whom he considers to represent the interests of police authorities.
The amendments will make it plain that such consultation should be with the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Association of Police Authorities. As such, they will accord appropriate recognition to the two associations and their place in the tripartite framework. While both the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Association of Police Authorities are long-established organisations, we need to guard against the possibility that they might at some stage consider changing their title. To accommodate such a possibility, Amendment No. 55 includes an order-making power which will enable the Government to change the statutory references to either association to reflect any new nomenclature.
For the record, I emphasise that on any matters which affect the terms and conditions of employment of chief officers, we will continue to consult the Chief Police Officers’ Staff Association rather than the Association of Chief Police Officers, which represents chief officers on such matters.
I am grateful to the noble Baroness for her part in drawing our attention to this issue. I beg to move.
My Lords, my Amendment No. 2 is grouped with Amendment No. 1. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, for having a meeting with me on 21 September, at which it was possible to make significant progress on a number of matters. There are two issues of principle on which our views continue to diverge, and we will debate those later today and tomorrow. However, on this issue we were at one.
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, for not only picking up my point about consultation with ACPO but very properly approaching the Association of Police Authorities to ensure that they also are consultees named in the Bill. I support the Government’s amendment, particularly their order-making power in Amendment No. 55. The Minister will know that I am not normally persuaded by order-making powers, but this one is highly sensible to adapt to future circumstances.
I shall not be moving my Amendment No. 2 when it is called by the Lord Speaker. I realise that we are under a significant amount of pressure regarding time; I have therefore agreed that I will not move Amendments Nos. 4, 10 and 50. Amendment No. 10 is an odd one out: I tabled it so that the House may hear first in that group of amendments from the Minister. I am aware that on Report, if the Government are forced to speak last when they hold the major hand of cards, it is not possible for the House to cross-examine the Minister’s position. This will enable the Minister to open and then respond to any points.
On Amendment No. 4, I understand that the Government are, in effect, on my side with regard to keeping the size of the board of the agency to 10 or 12, and do not wish to labour the point. On Amendment No. 50, which would delete Schedule 2, I feel that I and other noble Lords will have ample opportunity to make any points they wish on other amendments. I support the Government’s amendment.
Page 51, line 38, leave out paragraphs (b) and (c) and insert-
“(b) the Association of Chief Police Officers, and (c) the Association of Police Authorities.”
On Question, amendment agreed to.
[Amendment No. 4 not moved.]
Page 52, line 28, leave out paragraphs (a) and (b) and insert-
“(a) the Association of Police Authorities, and (b) the Association of Chief Police Officers.”
Page 52, line 37, leave out paragraphs (a) and (b) and insert-
“(a) at least one member nominated by the Association of Police Authorities, (b) at least one member nominated by the Association of Chief Police Officers, and”
Page 64, line 13, at end insert-
““the Association of Chief Police Officers” means the Association of Chief Police Officers of England, Wales and Northern Ireland.”
Page 65, line 29, leave out paragraphs (b) and (c) and insert-
“(b) the Association of Police Authorities, and (c) the Association of Chief Police Officers.”
On Question, amendments agreed to.
Schedule 2 [Amendments to the Police Act 1996]:
Page 76, line 30, leave out paragraphs 1 and 2.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment removes from the Bill the provision which would place basic command units on a statutory footing. In explaining why we are withdrawing this provision, it is perhaps worth reminding the House why we included it in the first instance. There is widespread agreement that agencies involved in tackling crime and disorder can work best together if their boundaries are aligned. This is particularly true in the case of basic command units and local authorities, which are the two key pillars of crime and disorder reduction partnerships and strategies. Most, if not all, chief constables already recognise this, but it is open to any new chief constable to alter BCU boundaries.
Paragraphs 1 and 2 of Schedule 2, therefore, simply sought to enshrine in statute the requirement for BCU and local authority boundaries to be aligned and coterminous, and to place a duty on chief constables to consult key partners before altering BCU boundaries. It is undoubtedly the case that other motives have been read into this provision. In Committee, the noble Baroness, Lady Harris of Richmond, talked of preparing BCUs for “future developments”, including direct funding from central government. The noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, expressed similar concerns, as has the Association of Chief Police Officers and the APA, as they are entitled to do.
I repeat that, in bringing forward this provision, we are concerned solely with ensuring that BCUs are coterminous with local authority boundaries to aid partnership working on community safety issues. Happily, the police service shares that objective. A number of chief constables have moved during the past year or so to review their BCU boundaries. I am now aware of only six BCUs out of some 225 which are not coterminous with local authorities, and in four of these cases the discrepancy is very minor.
As the situation on the ground now largely reflects the outcome we were seeking, the Government are ready to withdraw this provision from the Bill. My ministerial colleague, the Minister for Policing, Security and Community Safety, has, however, written to the Association of Chief Police Officers to reinforce our expectation that the principle of coterminosity will be observed, save where there are compelling reasons for departing from this general rule.
We have a happy situation here where a policy objective is shared; there is commitment to it; and, in large measure, it is in place without the more rigorous hand of statute imposing its print on the way in which policing operates. That happy outcome enables me to move the amendment. I beg to move.
My Lords, in Committee, we were accused of being paranoid on these issues, so I am absolutely delighted that the Government have moved to consider our concerns. I am very grateful to them for doing that. This is one of the smaller issues which we wanted to bring forward and on which we wished to see some movement. We will raise rather larger issues later, which we also hope that they will consider.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
[Amendment No. 10 not moved.]
Page 78, line 25, leave out paragraphs 3 and 4 and insert-
“ In section 4 (membership of police authorities outside Greater London), in subsection (4), for “Schedules 2 and 3” there is substituted “Schedule 2”.
For Schedule 2 there is substituted-
SCHEDULE 2 Section 4 POLICE AUTHORITIES ESTABLISHED UNDER SECTION 3 Membership of police authorities 1 (1) The Secretary of State shall by regulations make provision in relation to the membership of police authorities established under section 3.
(2) Regulations under this paragraph shall provide for a police authority to consist of-
(a) persons who are members of a relevant council, and (b) other persons, including at least one lay justice. (3) Those regulations shall-
(a) specify the number of members falling within paragraph (a) and paragraph (b) of sub-paragraph (2), and (b) secure that the majority of members of a police authority are persons falling within paragraph (a) of that sub-paragraph. (4) Those regulations may make further provision as to qualification for membership, and may provide for a specified number of the members of a police authority to be persons of a specified description.
(5) Those regulations may include provision as to-
(a) how a member is to be appointed; (b) disqualification for membership; (c) the tenure of office of a member (including the circumstances in which a member ceases to hold office or may be removed or suspended from office); (d) re-appointment as a member; (e) the validity of acts and proceedings of a person appointed as a member in the event of his disqualification or lack of qualification; (f) the validity of proceedings of a police authority in the event of a vacancy in membership or of a defect in the appointment of a member or in the composition of the authority; (g) the payment of remuneration and allowances to a member and the reimbursement of expenses. Appointment of councillor members 2 Regulations under paragraph 1 shall provide that-
(a) in the case of a police authority in relation to which there is only one relevant council, the members falling within paragraph 1(2)(a) are to be appointed by that council; (b) in any other case, those members are to be appointed by a joint committee consisting of persons appointed by the relevant councils from among their own members. Appointment of other members 3 (1) Regulations under paragraph 1 shall provide that the members falling within paragraph 1(2)(b) are to be appointed-
(a) by the existing members of the authority, (b) from among persons on a short-list prepared by a selection panel. (2) Those regulations may make provision as to qualification for membership of a selection panel, and may provide for a specified number of the members of a panel to be persons of a specified description.
(3) Those regulations may include provision as to-
(a) the number of members of a selection panel; (b) how and by whom a member of a panel is to be appointed; (c) disqualification for membership; (d) the tenure of office of a member of a panel (including the circumstances in which a member ceases to hold office or may be removed or suspended from office); (e) re-appointment as a member of a panel; (f) the conduct of proceedings of a panel, including any procedures that a panel is to follow; (g) the validity of acts and proceedings of a person appointed as a member of a panel in the event of his disqualification or lack of qualification; (h) the validity of proceedings of a panel in the event of a vacancy in membership or of a defect in the appointment of a member or in the composition of the panel; (i) the payment of remuneration and allowances to a member of a panel and the reimbursement of expenses. Chairman and vice chairmen 4 (1) The Secretary of State shall by regulations provide that-
(a) a police authority is to appoint a chairman from among its members at each annual meeting; and (b) at an annual meeting a police authority may appoint one or more vice-chairmen from among its members. (2) Regulations under this paragraph may make further provision about how a chairman or vice-chairman is to be appointed, and provision as to-
(a) qualification and disqualification for appointment; (b) the tenure of office of a chairman or vice-chairman (including the circumstances in which a chairman or vice-chairman ceases to hold office or may be removed or suspended from office); (c) eligibility for re-appointment; (d) the validity of acts and proceedings of a person appointed as chairman or vice-chairman in the event of his disqualification or lack of qualification; (e) the validity of proceedings of a police authority in the event of a vacancy in the office of chairman or vice-chairman or of a defect in the appointment of a chairman or vice-chairman; (f) the payment of remuneration and allowances to a chairman or vice-chairman and the reimbursement of expenses. Standards committees 5 The Secretary of State may by regulations make provision as to the payment of remuneration and allowances to, and the reimbursement of expenses of, members of the standards committee of a police authority established under section 3.
Consultation 6 Before making regulations under this Schedule the Secretary of State shall consult-
(a) the Association of Police Authorities, (b) persons whom he considers to represent the interests of county and district councils in England and county and county borough councils in Wales, (c) in the case of regulations that are not to apply to all police authorities established under section 3- (i) any police authority to which the regulations are to apply, and (ii) any relevant council in relation to such an authority, and (d) such other persons as he thinks fit. Supplementary 7 (1) Regulations under this Schedule may make different provision for different police authorities.
(2) Regulations under this Schedule may make transitional, consequential, incidental and supplemental provision or savings.
(3) A statutory instrument containing regulations under this Schedule shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.
Interpretation 8 (1) For the purposes of this Schedule a council is a “relevant council” in relation to a police authority in England if it is the council for-
(a) a county, or (b) a district comprised in an area for which there is no county council, which constitutes, or is wholly within, the authority's police area. (2) For the purposes of this Schedule a council is a “relevant council” in relation to a police authority in Wales if it is the council for a county or county borough which constitutes, or is wholly within, the authority's police area.
9 In this Schedule “lay justice” has the meaning given by section 9 of the Courts Act 2003.””
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I hope that I can continue in the happy frame in which we have started. I assure the House that we listened very carefully to debates in Committee on the provisions of the Bill that relate to membership of police authorities, and to the discussions that we have had in the mean time, before Report. I appreciate the concerns that have been so elegantly articulated about the need to retain the core principles governing the composition of the police authorities in primary legislation. The government amendments in this group will restore much of the detail of these provisions to the Police Act 1996.
The Bill currently leaves the procedure for appointing the members of the police authority entirely to regulations and, in particular, does not specify who is responsible for appointing the councillor and independent members. Having heard the arguments in this House and those put to us by the Association of Police Authorities, in these amendments we seek to strike a better balance between primary and secondary legislation. It became clear in our debates that there was no difference between us on this; it was simply a matter of how we were going to express our comity in relation to this area.
The amendments put into primary legislation a provision to stipulate that councillor members should be appointed by the councils from which they are drawn and that independent members should be appointed by the existing membership of the police authority from among the shortlist of candidates recommended as suitable for appointment by a selection panel.
I also understand the concerns that several noble Lords have raised about the appointment of the chair and vice-chairs to the police authority. Accordingly, the amendments will now stipulate in the Police Act who should make these appointments. The chair and vice-chair would, as now, be appointed by the authority from among its members. Amendment No. 14, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, is in similar vein. Other provisions relating to these appointments, including eligibility for appointment and the duration of such appointments, remuneration and allowances, should rightly be left to regulations.
I have also listened closely to the heartfelt views expressed by many noble Lords on retaining the separate category of magistrate members on police authorities. I feel some confidence that that will give particular pleasure to the noble Baroness opposite. As I said in Committee, I recognise the valuable skills and knowledge that magistrates bring to authorities. We certainly did not want to lose that entirely, so Amendment No. 11 provides that at least one of the independent members of the police authority should be a magistrate. I hope that Members on the Benches opposite will accept that as a sensible compromise.
Finally, the government amendments restore the existing Section 4 of the Police Act, which provides for police authorities to have a standard membership of 17. I recognise that the Bill could, hypothetically, empower some future Home Secretary to create police authorities with a membership of as few as three. That was never our intention. We will retain, as now, a power to increase the size of individual police authorities by regulations.
I trust that the amendments I have tabled will give the House the reassurance that many noble Lords have asked for. I am sorry that we have not been able to make all the amendments that noble Lords have sought, but I hope that the major amendments about which people were most anxious have all been satisfied, and this wonderful atmosphere that we are developing in debating this Bill can continue for a while longer. I beg to move.
My Lords, we look forward later on today to the Minister conceding on other matters and accepting our principles with regard to issues on tripartite balance. The comity could continue—let us see.
I shall speak to my Amendments Nos. 12, 14, 15, 16 and 17 and the government amendments. As the Minister said, we return to the concerns that we expressed in Committee regarding the Government’s intentions in shaping the membership of police authorities. The Minister says that the new amendments achieve a better balance between what goes into primary and secondary legislation. We are prepared to accept the government amendments, although not on the basis that we think that they are 100 per cent correct, because we would have preferred to retain the matters in primary legislation.
We noted the report of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, which states at paragraph 20 that it considered it inappropriate for the Bill to leave so much to subordinate legislation. The committee drew attention to the fact that a police authority has a key role to play in the delicate constitutional balance between the Secretary of State, the police authority and the chief constable. The composition of the authority is therefore more significant than that of many other statutory bodies.
However, we accept that the Government have tabled amendments which meet most of our concerns. As the noble Baroness anticipated, I am grateful to her that the position of lay magistrates on the authority will be protected and that at least one member should be a lay justice. I recognise the ability and expertise that is brought to police authorities by lay magistrates. I hope that in areas where it is appropriate more than one will be appointed. The police authority should make that decision. In particular, it is important that chairs and vice-chairs should not be appointed by the Secretary of State, or that he should influence the matter. I welcome that change.
I certainly welcome the progress that has been made. I shall listen with interest to what the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, says. His proposals have the full support of the Association of Police Authorities. I record my thanks to that association for coming to the House during the Recess to brief me further on progress that might be made on the Bill. I support the government amendments and will not press mine.
My Lords, I, too, support Amendment No. 10, which puts magistrates back in a separate category of member, and Amendments Nos. 14 and 15, which concern electing chairs and vice-chairs—which has been dealt with by the Government’s amendment—although, frankly, I prefer the Conservative amendment which deletes all regulation-making powers.
I wish to speak briefly to Amendments Nos. 11, 13, 19 and 20 in this large grouping. The Government have conceded some of the provisions that we requested, such as 17 members for most police authorities, but political balance is the key to the way in which police authorities operate. It has kept them free from party political control for many years, not to mention free from control by extremist groups, single issue groups and so forth. This means that the police, and particularly the chief officer, are not controlled in a partisan way, whether political or otherwise, and leaves him or her free to use best professional judgment. An approach that did not guarantee political balance would mean that police authorities were not properly representative of the communities they serve. The measure must be written into primary legislation as an underlying principle of the councillor membership of police authorities or this balanced approach risks being lost.
Amendment No. 20 addresses the deputy chairs of the NPIA. The Bill proposes that in addition to nominating the chair—which I understand the NPIA somewhat reluctantly accepts—the Mayor of London can also nominate the two vice-chairs of the body. The NPIA should be able to elect its own vice-chairs, as do all other police authorities. If that were not the case, it would be undemocratic. It is necessary to underpin local accountability for policing with the police authority, as distinct from the local authority. The two have different responsibilities and we should not blur them.
My Lords, I hope that I shall contribute to the wonderful atmosphere to which the Minister has referred by thanking her for agreeing not to throw out the baby with the bath water in getting rid of the magistrates’ representation on the new authorities. They are a vital part of the mix. I am trying to choose my words with care. To do away with them would be absolute folly. Therefore, I am very grateful to the Minister, as I am sure are others. I dare say that in some cases you could have more than one of the relevant people, as the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, said. I again thank the Minister.
My Lords, I hesitate to change the tone of some of the discussion that has taken place, but I will do so in the nicest possible way. First, I apologise to my noble friend for having missed the first few seconds of her remarks in introducing her very welcome group of amendments. They are welcome as regards what they say; my concern is about one or two things that they leave out and where they have gone beyond what makes sense or beyond a consensus that is emerging around those issues. I will speak to Amendments Nos. 13, 19 and 20.
Amendments Nos. 13 and 19 make it a requirement that the local authority members of police authorities and the GLA members of the Metropolitan Police authorities should be selected so as to deliver a proportion of members broadly in line with the political balance in the areas concerned. That is important because it makes it an obligation on councils in nominating members to police authorities. Currently, local government law requires that an individual local authority making nominations to an external body should do so in line with political balance, but it is not at all clear that there is such a requirement where this is being done jointly by a number of local authorities, particularly where there are authorities with different levels of responsibility in that mix. That is extremely important in the context of the operation of police authorities.
Clearly, a great deal of effort has been put in over the years to achieve a balanced membership of police authorities, so that until now elected members have been in a majority of one over independent and magistrate members. That provides a democratic legitimacy to what is being done but with room for a range of other experience and backgrounds to be represented as well. The principle that councillor members should reflect the political balance of the area that the police authority covers is important because it emphasises that democratic link, but it also ensure that the full range of political views in an area is represented.
I put it to your Lordships that if there were an area where most of the local councils were led by one political party rather than another, a committee of those authorities would automatically send to the police authority representation solely of that political party. There might be a circumstance in which a political party led by one seat in each of the councils, but the nature of bringing them together in a joint committee and inviting them to nominate could, without this amendment, lead to a single party dominating the situation. The removal of the provision for a majority of one—we talk simply about a majority, for reasons that we all understand—could lead to the domination of a police authority by one political party.
I suppose that, like the political Members of your Lordships’ House, if it was our political party in that dominant position we might think that that would be absolutely fine and dandy, but I rather suspect that the reality would be much more complicated. It seems to me that ensuring such a balance is a way of ensuring that decisions about policing are achieved by cross-party consensus in the areas concerned. It has been the reality that police authorities around the country have operated in a consensual fashion on most of the issues with which they have had to contend. That does not mean that there have not been political arguments or arguments about matters affecting policing, but those arguments have tended not to be along party political lines, except on very specific matters. We are in danger of creating a situation where police authorities as a whole would be attacked on political grounds by people from other political parties who had been unfairly excluded from the process or had had reduced representation because there would not be the requirement for political balance.
If we want, as I am sure all your Lordships do, a fair and impartial service that is seen to be fair and impartial and one that is not influenced by the political concerns of one political party or another, it is important that that principle is written into primary legislation. I would have thought that my amendments would enable that to happen and would ensure that the political membership of police authorities was balanced across the area concerned. Those are my reasons for tabling Amendments Nos. 13 and 19.
Amendment No. 20 looks at the unique position of the Metropolitan Police Authority. I declare a current interest in that I remain a member of that authority. Indeed, I am grateful to my noble friend for reinforcing the position under which I hold a mandate to sit on that authority by ensuring that that mandate is contained within the Bill and that I am the Home Office nominee to the police authority in London.
In London, following consultations conducted by the government office over the past year, it has been decided that the chair of the police authority should be appointed by the Mayor of London. A broad consensus has emerged and the formulation contained in the Bill on that matter is probably the best statement that one can have: that the Mayor can chose to appoint himself, or herself, to the police authority, in which case he should chair the authority. That is a sensible arrangement should the Mayor, whoever that might be, want to be seen to be taking the lead role on policing. But if the Mayor chose not to appoint himself to that office, he would choose from among the members of the police authority. The inclusion of that provision is welcome and there has been some discussion about that.
But nowhere previously has there been any discussion about the Mayor of London appointing the vice-chairs of the police authority—and I am not sure where that suggestion has come from. It does not seem to have emanated from the Mayor’s office or from New Scotland Yard; and I can assure noble Lords, given my discussions in the past week, that it has not emanated from the Metropolitan Police Authority. It may be that some over-worked civil servant, desperate to prepare the amendments in time for consideration by your Lordships’ House, has simply read across from one bit of legislation to another. After all, these things do not happen in such a slapdash and inconsequential way, but there seems to be some strange read-across regarding this. We want to avoid a situation in which the other members of the police authority feel alienated from the Mayor of London. There may be an acceptance that the Mayor should chair the police authority, or should appoint the chair, but it would seem a step too far to state that the main officers of the police authority should be mayoral appointments, even if they are members of the police authority.
Perhaps my noble friend might take this away. There are several days before we need to consider this Bill at Third Reading and there will be ample opportunity to put this matter right. I am not sure that such a proposal was the original intention and it was certainly not discussed during the earlier phases of consultation.
My Lords, I hope that I will be able to reassure my noble friend Lord Harris that comity can prevail. I thank the noble Viscount, Lord Tenby, for his thanks, because I know how anxious he has been on behalf of magistrates. It has given me considerable pleasure to give him a little pleasure in relation to this matter.
My noble friend Lord Harris’s amendment to place the principle of political proportionality in the Bill is important. In deciding what to place in the Bill and what to leave to secondary legislation, we have had carefully to balance the need to protect the constitutional position of police authorities against the need to increase the flexibility of the legislation. We feel that we have struck the right balance with these amendments. However, I accept that the principle of political proportionality is important and my noble friend’s comments graphically illustrated why. That principle was also conceded by the noble Baroness, Lady Harris. I make no comment about their two names, but they always appear to act in unison in relation to these matters. I am happy to give an undertaking that it will form part of the regulations that the Government intend to table under this provision because I understand the anxiety about them.
I shall also respond to my noble friend’s amendment in relation to the appointment of the vice-chairman of the Metropolitan Police Authority and explain how this came about. As my noble friend identified, Amendment No. 18 enables the Mayor of London to appoint the chairman and the vice-chairman of the authority. My noble friend’s amendment gives the power in relation to the vice-chairman to the authority itself. It is our view that, as a vice-chairman is empowered to act as chair in the absence of the chairman, it is logical for that position to be appointed in the same way. That will bring the authority into line with other Greater London Authority functional bodies.
I hope that, in the light of the movement that the Government have made on the other issues, my noble friend—
My Lords, I understand that the Mayor currently appoints the other chairs, the vice-chair fulfils the position in the chair’s absence and that that is a perfectly acceptable way of dealing with these matters. Bearing in mind the munificence that the Government have showered on the Bill so far, I hesitate to suggest that my noble friend would not appreciate the delicacy of the balance that we now seek to strike. This is our current view, and I hope my noble friend will be able to accept it as an appropriate accommodation. I understand if he wishes to talk further, but I assure him that this is not a capricious settlement. It has come about as a result of looking at all the other issues and reaching a fair accommodation and a proportionate settlement. I hope that my noble friend will feel able to withdraw his objection and that the noble Baronesses, Lady Anelay and Lady Harris, will also do so.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
[Amendments Nos. 12 to 17 not moved.]
Page 80, line 35, leave out paragraph 5 and insert-
“ In section 5C (membership etc of Metropolitan Police Authority), in subsection (6), for “Schedules 2A and 3” there is substituted “Schedule 2A”.
For Schedule 2A there is substituted-
SCHEDULE 2A Section 5C THE METROPOLITAN POLICE AUTHORITY Membership of Authority 1 (1) The Secretary of State shall by regulations make provision in relation to the membership of the Metropolitan Police Authority.
(2) Regulations under this paragraph shall provide for the Authority to consist of-
(a) persons appointed from among the persons specified in sub-paragraph (3), and (b) other persons, including at least one lay justice. (3) The persons referred to in sub-paragraph (2)(a) are-
(a) the Mayor of London, and (b) members of the London Assembly. (4) Regulations under this paragraph shall-
(a) specify the number of members falling within paragraph (a) and paragraph (b) of sub-paragraph (2), and (b) secure that the majority of members of the Authority are persons falling within paragraph (a) of that sub-paragraph. (5) Those regulations may make further provision as to qualification for membership, and may provide for a specified number of the members of the Authority to be persons of a specified description.
(6) Those regulations may include provision as to-
(a) how a member is to be appointed; (b) disqualification for membership; (c) the tenure of office of a member (including the circumstances in which a member ceases to hold office or may be removed or suspended from office); (d) re-appointment as a member; (e) the validity of acts and proceedings of a person appointed as a member in the event of his disqualification or lack of qualification; (f) the validity of proceedings of the Authority in the event of a vacancy in membership or of a defect in the appointment of a member or in the composition of the Authority; (g) the payment of remuneration and allowances to a member and the reimbursement of expenses. Appointment of members from London Assembly etc 2 Regulations under paragraph 1 shall provide that the members falling within paragraph 1(2)(a) are to be appointed by the Mayor of London.
Appointment of other members 3 (1) Regulations under paragraph 1 shall provide that-
(a) one of the members falling within paragraph 1(2)(b) is to be appointed by the Secretary of State, and (b) the other members are to be appointed by the existing members of the Metropolitan Police Authority from among persons on a short-list prepared by a selection panel. (2) Those regulations may make provision as to qualification for membership of a selection panel, and may provide for a specified number of the members of a panel to be persons of a specified description.
(3) Those regulations may include provision as to-
(a) the number of members of a selection panel; (b) how and by whom a member of a panel is to be appointed; (c) disqualification for membership; (d) the tenure of office of a member of a panel (including the circumstances in which a member ceases to hold office or may be removed or suspended from office); (e) re-appointment as a member of a panel; (f) the conduct of proceedings of a panel, including any procedures that a panel is to follow; (g) the validity of acts and proceedings of a person appointed as a member of a panel in the event of his disqualification or lack of qualification; (h) the validity of proceedings of a panel in the event of a vacancy in membership or of a defect in the appointment of a member or in the composition of the panel; (i) the payment of remuneration and allowances to a member of a panel and the reimbursement of expenses. Chairman and vice chairmen 4 (1) The Secretary of State shall by regulations provide that-
(a) if the Mayor of London is a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority, he is to be the chairman; (b) if not, the Mayor of London is to appoint a chairman from among the members of the Authority. (2) The Secretary of State shall by regulations provide that the Mayor of London may appoint one or more vice-chairmen from among the members of the Authority.
(3) Regulations under this paragraph may make further provision about how a chairman or vice-chairman is to be appointed, and provision as to-
(a) qualification and disqualification for appointment; (b) the tenure of office of a chairman or vice-chairman (including the circumstances in which a chairman or vice-chairman ceases to hold office or may be removed or suspended from office); (c) eligibility for re-appointment; (d) the validity of acts and proceedings of a person appointed as chairman or vice-chairman in the event of his disqualification or lack of qualification; (e) the validity of proceedings of the Authority in the event of a vacancy in the office of chairman or vice-chairman or of a defect in the appointment of a chairman or vice-chairman; (f) the payment of remuneration and allowances to a chairman or vice-chairman and the reimbursement of expenses. Standards committees 5 The Secretary of State may by regulations make provision as to the payment of remuneration and allowances to, and the reimbursement of expenses of, members of the Metropolitan Police Authority's standards committee.
Consultation 6 Before making any regulations under this Schedule, the Secretary of State shall consult-
(a) the Metropolitan Police Authority, (b) the Association of Police Authorities, (c) the Greater London Authority, (d) persons whom he considers to represent the interests of London boroughs, and (e) such other persons as he thinks fit. Supplementary 7 (1) Regulations under this Schedule may make transitional, consequential, incidental and supplemental provision or savings.
(2) A statutory instrument containing regulations under this Schedule shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.
Interpretation 8 In this Schedule “lay justice” has the meaning given by section 9 of the Courts Act 2003.””
On Question, amendment agreed to.
Page 82, line 40, leave out “section 4(10)” and insert “paragraph 8 of Schedule 2”
Page 82, line 41, leave out paragraph 7.
Page 83, line 3, leave out from “Schedules” to “are” and insert “3 (police authorities: selection of independent members) and 3A (police authorities: selection of lay justice members)”
On Question, amendments agreed to.
Page 83, line 6, leave out paragraphs 9 and 10.
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, Amendment No. 24 tackles another aspect of the Secretary of State’s powers to supervise police authorities. Yet again, the Government are trying to move matters from primary legislation to secondary legislation. This amendment removes two paragraphs from Schedule 2. Paragraph 9 adds to the general functions of a police authority that are set out in Section 6 of the Police Act 1996. The primary duty under existing legislation is to secure an efficient and effective police force for the police authority’s area. The change introduced in paragraph 9 makes clear that it is the job of police authorities to hold the chief officer of police to account in the exercise of his functions and those of persons under his control and direction. The change has been welcomed by the Association of Police Authorities, but ACPO is concerned about it. Its view is that this new provision, when taken together with other changes currently taking place to the way in which the personal performance of chief officers is assessed, will create a linear relationship between police authorities and chief officers. They are also concerned about moving to secondary legislation the provisions relating to policy plans.
When the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, responded to the debate in Committee, at col. 703 of Hansard, he said that the Government were prepared to look at this issue in particular in time for Report. I tabled the amendment to ask the Government whether they have used the past three months since Committee to consult ACPO further on these matters, and, if so, what the response has been. I beg to move.
My Lords, I shall speak to Amendment No. 25 in my name and, in doing so, shall comment on the points that have just been made by the noble Baroness in respect of Amendment No. 24.
If you believe in the principle that police authorities should be able to set the strategic direction of police forces, part of that should be about being able to hold the chief officer of police to account for the exercise of those functions. If you do not have that provision, essentially you are saying that chief officers of police are not accountable and that there is no transparency in the way in which they choose to exercise their functions. That is very different from saying that the police authority “shall instruct” or “will require” a police chief to operate in a particular way. It is saying that chief officers of police will be accountable for the decisions that they have made. Most of the chief officers of police that I have accounted for have usually been more than capable of giving an account of themselves and explaining the reasons for the actions that they took, but it is important that under the legislation they are required to do so and that they do so publicly and transparently. That is why I believe that Amendment No. 24 is not entirely helpful.
Perhaps unlike the amendments that I put forward earlier, Amendment No. 25 is intended to be entirely helpful towards the Government, as ever. Here, I am seeking to place in the Bill a requirement—meaning that it is something that police authorities will have to take very seriously—for different police forces and authorities to work together wherever necessary or expedient. It is important that police authorities ensure that their forces co-operate with other forces and their partners; that should be something that police authorities do. But I believe that, by stating it explicitly in the Bill, one gives it particular force and it will ensure that we see authorities working together better than has been the experience in the past.
I note that when my right honourable friend the Home Secretary withdrew from some of the proposals to create strategic police forces and put them into the long grass—I am sure that he used a more elegant phrase than that—he said very clearly that there was an expectation that there would be better collaboration and working together between police forces in neighbouring areas, not only on matters concerning level 2 crime and the sorts of strategic issues that have been of concern but on other matters—for example, in trying to reduce back-office and joint procurement costs and so on. My amendment would provide a framework essentially requiring police authorities and police forces to work together. I believe that that is in the spirit of what the Government have been seeking to do, perhaps by going slower on the question of police service mergers, and it would be helpful to the objectives that my right honourable friend has set out. Therefore, I hope that my noble friend will feel able to support my amendment.
My Lords, I very much regret that these Benches cannot support Amendment No. 24 as it would remove the part of the Bill that refers to a key police authority function—that of holding the chief officer to account for the exercise of his or her functions, as the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, said. I simply do not know what a police authority does if it does not do that. What is a police authority for? It should therefore be in primary legislation.
I am aware, of course, that ACPO is concerned about this and refers to the creation of the linear relationship, but in some senses it has that already, in that the police authority appoints those of ACPO rank. However, I assume that it is concerned about its operational independence, but we do not believe that the amendment interferes with that at all. Holding a chief officer to account for the delivery of his or her functions is about asking for an account after those functions have been carried out. It is not a mechanism that would allow anyone to direct a chief officer before something happened on how, where, why, or against whom he or she should take action. That is a misunderstanding of the meaning of holding to account.
I regret that we could not support Amendment No. 24. However, we support entirely Amendment No. 25, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Harris. It places a duty on police authorities in primary legislation to ensure that their forces co-operate with other forces and partners. This is very important in the post-merger landscape, where the focus is now going to be on increased collaboration between forces to deal with protective services—the area that we are all very concerned about. Section 23 of the 1996 Act allows chief constables to act jointly in more effectively carrying out force functions, but it seems to allow police authorities to act jointly only in terms of back-office functions. In addition, the over-arching function of a police authority is to secure an effective and efficient police service for its area, which seems to place a limitation on considering the wider good to policing to be had from co-operation.
For those reasons it is extremely important to put something in primary legislation that places a duty on police authorities to consider the wider landscape and enables police authorities to ensure that wider collaboration happens. It is also important that authorities are given specific governance powers to exercise oversight of force activity for those protective services. If not, it is easy for chief officers to circumvent authorities and come to their own arrangements with other forces. This means that they cannot be held properly to account for those functions by the police authority. That makes it sufficiently important to be in primary legislation.
My Lords, as ever, I listened with interest to the arguments made by the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, on Amendment No. 24, and with great interest to the noble Lord, Lord Harris, and the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, on Amendment No. 25.
It will not have escaped your Lordships’ notice that we have tabled amendments to paragraph 11 of Schedule 2, which deals with the policing plans. That set of amendments return some of the detail on the functions of police authorities into primary legislation, which we shall come to in due course. I recognise the importance of preserving key principles in primary legislation, and we have made that plain previously. The primary police authority functions of maintaining an efficient and effective police force and holding the chief officer to account for the way in which he or she discharges his or her functions will remain in the Police Act 1996.
In amendments to come we are also restoring to the 1996 legislation the functions relating to the issuing of policing plans. It is entirely appropriate therefore that, having set out in primary legislation the core functions of police authorities, there should be some flexibility to add other functions by secondary legislation.
Amendment No. 24, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, would remove the new order-making power inserted by paragraph 10 of Schedule 2. It would also remove paragraph 9 of Schedule 2, which includes the new function of holding the chief officer to account. These new functions, as we have heard this afternoon from the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, have been welcomed by the Association of Police Authorities—rightly and understandably so. Indeed, the association offered them up as propositions. I cannot believe that the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, really wishes to deny police authorities that enhanced role, which would be the effect of her amendment. I have listened carefully to the important rhetoric of new localism from all parts of your Lordships’ House. If we were to go down the route of the noble Baroness, we would fundamentally undermine that.
The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, described his Amendment No. 25 as helpful, and I see the measure of help therein. I understand his argument to include a duty in the Police Act on police authorities to secure arrangements for their police forces to co-operate with other forces whenever necessary or expedient. We are certainly in the same policy ballpark, and operating with a similar intent. It would be hard for me to disagree with the sentiments behind this amendment, given that he has lifted the wording from new Section 6ZA(2)(b) of the 1996 Act.
It is essential, in the absence of mergers—the noble Lord said they had been kicked into the long grass; one might say that they have been placed in deep freeze—that forces co-operate more effectively to narrow the protective services gap and secure greater efficiencies in the provision of back-office functions. While I wholly endorse what my noble friend seeks to achieve—we have a similar view—our intention is to use the new order-making power in new Section 6ZA to confer such functions on police authorities. It is perhaps worth reiterating that the Delegated Powers Committee had no difficulty with that order-making power.
I ask my noble friend not to press his amendment on the basis that we seek the same end—a shared policy objective—albeit that the Bill takes a slightly different path to the one he proposes. I hope that noble Lords will take some encouragement from those comments.
My Lords, I am interested in the use of “that would be the effect”. The Minister then said “yes”, which I hope is an absolute answer to the question of the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey. We might consider that further.
I shall deal first with the Minister’s response to my Amendment No. 24. I have always made it clear that it was tabled so that ACPO might have an opportunity for a response. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, and the noble Baroness, Lady Harris of Richmond, that it is vital that we have local accountability—the thrust of the Bill—whereas we all agree that there should be no interference with operational matters. We will return to that in a later debate.
I am interested in the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey. It was tabled in exactly the right spirit: post the Government’s haste in seeking to force mergers, we must look at the new policing landscape which will obtain. It is important to see how to improve collaboration, particularly on protective services and strategic services overall. I should perhaps now declare an interest, or my thanks, to my own police in Surrey. This summer, they asked if I would like to see one of the strategic services in operation, and I went along to Fairoaks where the Surrey police helicopter is based. Of course, one never knows if the helicopter is going to be called into service; whether it was fortunate for the people of Surrey or not, it was fortunate for me that it was. I was therefore able to observe the remarkable service they provide to Surrey at close quarters, and how they co-operate with other police forces. We shall need to consider how that is best delivered in the months and, I hope, years to come—if the Government do not press ahead with forced mergers until the next Prime Minister calls an election.
It was never my intent to press this amendment, but I am grateful to the Minister for his response. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[Amendment No. 25 not moved.]
Children and Young People: Care
My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement made in another place by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education and Skills. The Statement is as follows:
“With permission, I would like to make a Statement on the children in care Green Paper that I have published today, copies of which have been placed in the House of Commons Library.
“Mr Speaker, at the heart of this Green Paper is one simple presumption: that the aspirations of the state for children in care should match those which each individual parent has for their own children.
“Members of this House recognise this moral imperative, and I would like to pay tribute to the associate parliamentary group for children in and leaving care and to my honourable friend the Member for Stafford for highlighting many of the issues which this Green Paper seeks to resolve.
“They have pointed out vociferously that this area has received too little attention for too long. We know the depressing statistics: children in care are five times less likely to achieve five good GCSEs and nine times more likely to get expelled from school. Indeed, one quarter of people in prison today have spent some time in our care system.
“The Government have introduced a number of measures to address the complex problems of children in care. Since 1997, we have invested almost a billion pounds into the quality protects initiative to improve outcomes for children in care. We have taken steps to encourage adoption instead of care. And we have put a duty on local authorities to improve educational outcomes for this specific group of children. But this has clearly not been enough.
“Today’s Green Paper builds on these efforts and the implementation of Every Child Matters, which for the first time provides the infrastructure to deal with this issue in a co-ordinated way.
“The first priority must be to prevent children from slipping into care where there are family alternatives. We must take effective pre-emptive and preventive action so that no child is sucked into the system by default. If there is a chance that a child could be restored to a healing family environment, we must seize it. We will trial a new kind of intensive family therapy which will address the parents’ problems, making sure that children are more than just helpless bystanders. It will seek to get to the heart of the domestic problem, tackling the most difficult situations of abuse, neglect or violence with a mix of conciliation and targeted care. To raise our knowledge of what works in this new area, we will create a national centre of excellence to share experience and knowledge.
“Secondly, the care system must act more like a traditional loving family, with all the extra responsibility this implies. Just because a child is in care does not mean that he should be deprived of the emotional support and development which most children can rely on. The state must ensure that children are always in the best hands, constantly supported, with continuous guidance and motivation investing in their futures and shaping their decisions.
“The care profession already comprises many dedicated, experienced professionals, but we need to ensure that all carers reach the standard of the best. We will begin a round of specially tailored recruitment campaigns. We will also take steps to match foster carers with children more intelligently, fitting the complex needs of the child with the specialised skills of the carer.
“A new tiered framework of qualifications, payments and standards will be used to steer these difficult decisions. By taking more trouble to get it right first time, we will avoid children being bounced from placement to placement, which is so damaging to them personally and disruptive to their studies.
“Thirdly, we must ensure that children in care receive an excellent education. Results have steadily improved for children in care, but, still today, nine out of 10 do not achieve five good GCSEs. In order to ensure that they benefit from access to sport, music and drama, which instil cultural values and equip them with social capital, we will encourage local authorities to open their sports centres and leisure clubs to children in care free of charge. Social workers will receive individual budgets to spend on the personal needs of the child, so that they have flexibility to find money quickly when a child needs extra support, such as speech or language therapy.
“We will appoint a new virtual head teacher in every area with over-arching responsibility for driving up results among local children in care. We will guarantee catch-up lessons. With the passage of the Education and Inspections Bill, we will also require schools to take in children in care even if the school is full, so that children are elevated to the best schools, not dumped in the worst.
“We will do more to prevent children in care being excluded. Nothing is more damaging to a child’s chances of success than moving school after they have made their GCSE choices. Children who change school after year 10 drop around one and a half grades per subject: so eight C grades become four Ds and four Es. We will therefore create a presumption that children in care will not move schools in years 10 and 11.
“When children have to move home, we will do all that we can to avoid them moving school as well. We have proposed that, in such circumstances, children in care will get free transport to their existing school, rather than move to a new one.
“Fourthly, we need to ensure that children who leave care do so in a measured way. Too often, children in care feel that the system spits them out on their 16th birthday, and only 6 per cent make it to university, compared with 38 per cent of their peer group. We must ensure that children get a soft landing when they leave the system, particularly during those crucial years when decisions are made about their future.
“We will give every child in care a right to decide when they leave the system and the chance to stay with their foster families up to the age of 21—or longer still, if they are continuing in education. We will establish a new £2,000 bursary to encourage them to attend university. We will also put an extra £100 into their child trust funds for every year they are in care.
“Parenting is a weighty responsibility and institutions need to be held accountable, just as individuals would be. Every local authority will be subject to regular inspections by Ofsted. They will also be encouraged to set up children in care councils, so that the voices of these children are properly heard. My department will make it a specific priority to improve the academic performance of children in care, and Ministers will hold an annual stock-take.
“Too often, decisions about children in care are taken without listening to those with most at stake: the children themselves. For this Green Paper, we will ensure that our consultation stretches right into children’s homes to connect with people who have been through the system.
“This is a Green Paper with as many ideas as prescriptions. We recognise that during open consultation, many further ideas will emerge, particularly from those who have been in care and the dedicated professionals who work in this area day in and day out. They are not to blame for the collective failure that this report highlights: we are. We need to provide a more co-ordinated approach to these entrenched issues, ensuring that our care system is focused less on systems and more on care. These children are our responsibility. We cannot continue to fail them.”
My Lords, that concludes the Statement.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement made earlier by the Secretary of State in the other place and for giving us the opportunity to comment on an issue that is much discussed and is such a priority in your Lordships' House.
The care of children in the guardianship of the state has been a shameful side of the welfare system for far too long. As the Minister said, we have the depressing shopping list of familiar statistics. Half of all children in care are failing to achieve a single qualification in school, with only six in 100 making it to university. They are far more likely—indeed, five times more likely—to have a diagnosable mental illness and almost one third will not have received their basic inoculations. The tale of woe of far too many children in care ending up in prison or turning to drugs and prostitution is a depressing indictment of the role of the state as a parent in the world’s fifth largest economy. It has taken 10 years of deteriorating outcomes for these vulnerable children for this Green Paper to be produced, so we very much welcome it.
The Government say that their first priority is preventing children slipping into care, especially where there are family alternatives. We have long been an advocate of the state supporting parents and families to stay together. Intervention at an early stage to support and guide is welcome, but not in the way envisaged by the Prime Minister in his speech on 5 September, which would see more children condemned to a life in care. We are told that the Government will trial a new kind of intensive family treatment. May I suggest that there are already excellent models of such practice right here, right now?
In earlier debates, I mentioned the pioneering work of Kent County Council, which has invested enormously in helping families stay together by placing children with members of their extended family if possible. Only when all that fails does it consider taking the child into care. When it does so, there is a strong presumption towards adoption. As a consequence, it saves money on its care budget and has money to put back into early support and prevention, so creating a virtuous circle. None of this will work, however, unless we support, value and empower social workers and so get away from the view of them as child snatchers and re-energise their profession to work proactively in support of families.
However well early support and intervention works, there will always be children for whom the state is a refuge, and the state must be the very best parent that it can be. When your world falls apart, the last thing you want is to be removed from all that is loved and familiar. Too many children are moved too often, and too many are moved too far away from all they have known. This is potentially damaging, not least to the healthy attachment of babies and very young children. And how can their key or responsible social worker keep a proper watching brief if they are living hundreds of miles away? The role that the responsible social worker plays is vital. They should assume the role of the pushy parent: standing up for the best interests of that child, challenging mediocrity and refusing to accept inappropriate decisions. We welcome the commitment to extend care provision from 16 to 18, and we also welcome the additional financial and educational support for people leaving care. We should never again have to witness a child leaving care with all their worldly belongings in a black bin liner.
It is good that children in care will no longer simply be dumped in the worst schools, but going to the best schools will not be the answer if children are moved from area to area. What will be done to keep children closer to home? As part of this, will the Government be looking at an enhanced package of support for foster carers? Will the Minister also tell us what is being done to strengthen the social worker workforce, which, as I said earlier, is currently undervalued, demoralised and under-resourced? Will the Government be looking at what happens in other countries, such as the highly trained social worker pedagogue workforce in Finland and Denmark? In all this, there is the voice of the child. But it is not enough simply to listen: the most important part of listening is demonstrating that you have heard. The Secretary of State is right when he says that we should expect no less for children in the care of the state than we would for our own children, and when the Government advance proposals to achieve this, we will support them.
I, too, thank the Minister for repeating the Statement. I am not going to bash the Government: that has just been done extremely effectively. The Government quite rightly are bashing themselves, and I am very pleased to hear that they have taken on board the fact that nowhere near enough has been done and that they have shown the commitment that we have heard this afternoon to do something about it. I very much welcome that.
The most disadvantaged children of all are those in care. To be deprived of living with your family is the most catastrophic thing that can happen to any child, whatever the reason. I therefore very much welcome the Government’s first priority to prevent children slipping into care where there are family alternatives. However, will that mean increased funding for kinship care, which can be one of the most effective and cost-effective alternatives to children living with their parents?
I welcome the commitment to intensive family therapy, but will there be adequate resources? Will attention be given to early intervention in order to avoid some of the misery that families go through when they are not coping with their children? Will health visitors be involved? They provide a trusted and universal service, have no stigma attached to them and are very capable of delivering some of this intensive family therapy. Perhaps the Minister will tell us whether they are involved. I also welcome the specially tailored recruitment campaign and the greater efforts to match foster carers to children so that they will not be bounced around. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Bolton, I am concerned that improved training packages should be offered to foster carers. They can deal with very difficult children. There is a great turnover of social workers: their recruitment and retention is also very important. In addition, is the Minister able to reassure us that in future no happy and thriving child in a good foster home will be moved against his will for financial reasons? Today, I heard of a situation in Lincolnshire where that apparently is about to happen. It seems that no one has asked the child.
A good education can be the lever for a child to lift himself above his disadvantage in losing his family. Again, I welcome some of the noble Lord’s proposals; for example, encouraging local authorities to open sports centres and so on to these young people. But from where will these children get the money? How will local authorities ensure that no stigma is attached to children who use these services for free? I also welcome the individual budgets to be given to social workers, which could be very flexible. Will that money be owned by individual children or will it be one big pot? If so, how will social workers be accountable for funding decisions?
The Minister mentioned proposals that will require funding: for example, catch-up lessons, the prevention of children in care being excluded and full schools being forced to take another child will need resources. Will adequate resources be supplied? The money should follow the child. On these Benches we call that the “pupil premium”, which should go to all children with special needs, and this is the most special need of all. Such an arrangement would encourage schools to take such children, rather than seek not to take them. Free transport to enable children to stay at a school, even when unfortunately they have to change their placement, is a good idea. However, the biggest lack of access for many of these children is access to the internet. I was very disappointed that the Minister was not able to announce that every child in public care will have a computer and access to a broadband connection. That would be one of the best things that the Government could do to improve educational opportunities for these children.
Like the noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Bolton, I was delighted to hear that the Government will listen to children more. The Minister mentioned children’s homes. Will there be consultation with individual children in individual foster home placements? And what about children in prison; will they be consulted? Unfortunately, many of them land up in prison because they were originally in care and no one really looked after them. Like my noble friends and others speaking on the Front Benches today, I too think that children should not be in prison at all, but if they are, at the very least we should listen to them to find out whether it had anything to do with the fact that they were in care and what went wrong.
The Minister has said much that is positive and we will certainly support the Government. But what is crucial is the amount of money put behind the various promises, so we need some reassurance on that.
My Lords, I welcome the extremely constructive responses of the noble Baronesses, Lady Morris and Lady Walmsley, to the Statement. As it made clear, we accept that there is a huge amount more to do; the Government’s response is in no way complacent. Indeed, no one who looks at the shocking statistics that I relayed, which are set out in the Green Paper, could afford to take pride in the current situation.
The noble Baroness, Lady Morris, said that the position is deteriorating, but I am glad to say that it is actually moving in the right direction, although it is not moving fast enough. Outcomes for the 60,000 children in care at any one time have improved in recent years. The proportion gaining five or more GCSEs rose from 7 per cent in 2000 to 11 per cent in 2005. That is still a pitiful figure, but it represents a greater than 50 per cent increase over only six years in the proportion of children in care getting five or more good GCSEs. Moreover, the proportion known to be participating in education, employment or training at the age of 19 has increased by 8 per cent since 2002 when the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000 came into effect. So while policies are making some impact, we need to see a dramatically improved rate of progress.
Many schools have an outstanding record in dealing with children in care, including schools with boarding accommodation. One of the possibilities raised in the Green Paper is that of extending the use of boarding accommodation for children in care where that would be appropriate to their circumstances and schools are prepared to take it on. There are also areas of excellent practice which we want to examine more closely and learn from. For example, the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, referred to the much higher level of social worker pedagogy and the more highly trained workforces in Finland and Denmark. My right honourable friend the Minister for Children has been studying that closely. The Green Paper makes a proposal to set up social care practices, enabling social workers to group together in much the same way as GPs so that they can operate quasi-independently of the local authority. We believe that that has the potential to raise quality and stability and to reduce the bureaucracy which at present can be so stifling to the role of social workers. So there is plenty of good practice both nationally and internationally, but the issue is to learn from it and then to apply it systematically. That is what we seek to do in all the ways set out in the Green Paper, and I am sure that there are other examples of good practice that we should take into account. That is why we have produced a Green Paper and we welcome all responses to it, including those from noble Lords.
The noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, is always on my case when it comes to resources, and she is right to be so. As we were told by the Bard,
“Nothing will come of nothing”,
and many of these policies are expensive. However, I have noted the words of Martin Narey, the chief executive of Barnardo’s and one of the most respected figures in this field. It has been announced in the Green Paper that he will conduct a review of the future of the concept of care and how we see it developing over the next generation. On the “Today” programme this morning, he said:
“This is one of those rare things that I’ve come across in public life where we don’t think that what is needed here is more money. We spend nearly £2 billion on children in care—that’s about a quarter of a million for each child—and we do a pretty bad job”.
Martin Narey speaks with the experience of being the chief executive of Barnardo’s and before that the director general of the Prison Service, so he knows what he is talking about. Indeed, the amount of money spent specifically on children in care has risen very substantially in recent years. It is now £1.9 billion, which is a 50 per cent increase in barely six years. So the proportion of funding available for children in care has risen substantially.
A comprehensive spending review will take place next year and the particular impact of the proposals set out in the Green Paper will be carefully examined in the call for additional resources over and above what we spend at the moment. But, as those of us who have looked at what takes place in children’s homes, with social workers and in schools recognise, if we get the policies right and are particularly successful at early identification—an issue that both noble Baronesses highlighted in their remarks—the expenditure over time is likely to be less and not more, and massively less if we avoid the terribly poor outcomes for children in care that lead them into the custody system, which has the highest level of expense of all.
So the more successful we are at early intervention, early placements, the intensive therapy referred to in the Green Paper and the initiatives that the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, rightly raised in respect of the more innovative and successful local authorities in this area, such as Kent—for example, the placing of children with extended families—the less call on public resources there is likely to be over time.
Stability in schooling is a vital part of that because the more stable a child’s schooling the more successfully they are likely to perform in school. The statistics on this are particularly stark: children in care are five times more likely to move school in years 10 and 11—that is in the two years leading up to their major public examinations—and yet pupils who move school after the start of year 10 on average score about 1.5 grades per subject lower than those who are not moving school. This has one of the biggest effects in our model of school performance of any change in circumstance among pupils—bigger even, I am informed, than the effect of having special educational needs, free school meals or being looked after.
Getting stability in school placements is vital. That is why, for example, we propose in the Green Paper that there should be free transport to school, so that if there are movements in placements but it is still possible for children to attend the same school, albeit with a longer journey to the school, the expense of travel to school is not a factor in requiring pupils to change schools.
I have been asked a large number of questions and I have dealt with many of them. There were others and I may write to the noble Baronesses to deal with them. But let me deal with one vital aspect: the availability and training of foster carers. This is a crucial issue, which the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, particularly highlighted. One of the most radical proposals in the Green Paper, which is set out on page 49, is to move to a tiered set of arrangements for foster carers. There will be three tiers: tier 1 will be foster carers for children with few additional needs relative to those outside care; tier 2 will be carers for children with some additional needs; and tier 3—which is the really substantial innovation—will be carers for children with severe or complex needs requiring specialist care, who, of course, are the most difficult children to look after. The proposal in the Green Paper is not only that these foster carers should have much more intensive support, including immediate access to multi-disciplinary teams, as set out on page 49, but also that this category of foster carers should be salaried for the first time in this country. We believe that taking forward the availability of salaries for foster carers dealing with the most difficult and challenging group of children could radically address both the issue of recruitment, a matter raised by the noble Baroness, and the quality of care and stability of placements.
There are a whole host of proposals in the Green Paper which I hope will be constructive. We look forward to a dialogue with noble Lords as they study the proposals. I am available, as is my right honourable friend the Minister for Children, to discuss them with noble Lords as they come forward with their responses.
My Lords, I would like from these Benches to support the Green Paper. Many of us believe that it is overdue, but it is a good paper and I support it.
The Minister placed great emphasis on improving educational achievements among people in care, which is very important. I would like the Government to stress two points that are mentioned in the Green Paper. The first is that no one should end up in care by default, which is what I call the question asked by those in care, “How did I get here?”. It is an important point because once people are in care a certain course is open to them and they cannot get away from it. The other point concerns the end of care—the soft landing—and the question, “Where am I going next?”. That also is an important point. So an emphasis on education, yes, but the beginning and the end of care are also extremely important for operating the system.
I have one specific question about exclusion from schools. I understand the point that the Minister has made, but I am not sure how the policy will operate in practice. Does it mean that every school has to be told beforehand that it has to treat some children differently? The practical question of treating people differently where there is a threat of exclusion seems quite difficult to arrange. Perhaps the Minister will comment on that.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, rightly raises the issue of children not entering or leaving care by default. It is vital that children are placed in care only where there is an imperative need. The big increase in the number of care placements over the past 10 years has been a result of care orders, not voluntary placements. The evidence is that it is only because of imperative need that the number of children in care has increased from 50,000 to 60,000 over the past 10 years.
The noble Lord’s point about not leaving care by default is well taken; it is a major theme of the Green Paper. About a quarter of children in care leave care at 16. That is much better than was the case before the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000 was implemented in 2002, but we believe that there is scope for significant further improvements. That is why we have proposed giving children in care the right to determine when they leave and providing the right for foster placements to continue up to the age of 21, or further still if the child is in education.
There is already very strong guidance to schools in respect of children with special educational needs and those in care that full account should be taken of their circumstances before the decision is made to exclude them. That must also involve identifying their circumstances beforehand; in that way, schools and head teachers are aware of a child’s particular conditions and the ways in which they can help to deal with those conditions so that issues to do with exclusion do not arise in the first place.
One of the ideas raised in the Green Paper relates to the fact that parents have the right to avail themselves of the appeals process for exclusions, as indeed they do. As a Minister, I know that one of the most fraught areas of educational practice is when schools find it necessary to exclude pupils, particularly permanently, and deeply aggrieved parents go through the appeals process. The Green Paper says that the corporate parent—the social worker—should consider using that process on behalf of the child in care in much the same way as a parent would. We believe that, by engaging with the system in this way and taking a much more active role in ensuring that the subsequent education for the child is taken seriously and the best possible placement is made, corporate parents will start to replicate the conditions that apply to children with parents who are directly acting on their behalf.
My Lords, I welcome the Statement and the Green Paper. As usual, there is considerable consensus around the House about matters to do with children, and we must never be complacent when it comes to children who are often extremely vulnerable.
I welcome the additional funding and the commitment to consult children who have been through care and are in care. I also welcome the reference to Every Child Matters, which should be at the heart of everything to do with children.
I have three specific points. First, I want to reinforce a question asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, about kinship care. We have to get to grips with this and look in some detail at how it can be funded. I am thinking in particular of grandparents, an issue that I have raised before in the House. Secondly, what do we mean by family therapy? Where will it be trialled and how will it work? Thirdly, there is the question of staffing, which is mentioned in children’s legislation. The quality of staffing is key when dealing with vulnerable children. The recruitment, training and payment of staff must be considered when we look at dealing with vulnerable children.
My Lords, I welcome my noble friend’s remarks, which, as always, are absolutely to the point. Much of the funding issue that she raised relates to social work: seeing to it that support is made available to enable social workers to be more successful in their jobs, and addressing the acute problems in respect of recruitment and training that exist in some parts of the country, particularly London and the south-east.
These issues are not directly addressed in this Green Paper, because a review process—as my noble friend will know, it is called Options for Excellence and is led by the Department of Health—is looking specifically at the training and recruitment of the social work profession. The final report of the Options for Excellence initiative is due later this month, and I will see that it is sent to my noble friend.
However, our broad objective in this area is clear: to repeat in respect of social work our great success during the past 15 years in raising the status of the teaching profession, improving its training and increasing the number of good-quality recruits, thereby improving outcomes for children. We seek to replicate many of the processes which we have put in place. Let us be clear that there is a pay and conditions element to our proposals, but they relate also to the quality of recruitment efforts—the kind of work which the Training and Development Agency for Schools does in respect of teachers, which has been radically to professionalise the recruitment exercise and the training provided for teachers. We want to see that become much more widespread across the social work profession.
Chapter 2 of the Green Paper has a great deal to say about family therapy, and gives a whole set of examples of local authorities and other agencies which have taken forward positive initiatives in this area which we wish to see replicated more widely.
I understand my noble friend’s great concerns about kinship care. She also knows the Government’s position on paying grandparents. I fear that we do not have a complete meeting of minds on the issue at the moment, but we remain open to persuasion.
My Lords, can I direct the Minister’s attention to a problem which is not often recognised or referred to and which is associated with the welcome initiative on a soft landing which, if it is to succeed, will inevitably involve various voluntary agencies? I can best explain the difficulty by describing what happened when I was a Minister in the Department of Health and Social Security and then in the Home Office. When in the DHSS, I was responsible for the welfare of children in areas other than their health, which meant children who were locked up by local authorities. I was introduced then to an admirable scheme, which involved intervening with children before they reached the condition in which they would be taken into care and thereby preventing it, often quite late in their careers.
The Department of Health was responsible for any funding that would be given to that part of the voluntary sector. The department which benefited from it, by a reduction in the prison population, was the Home Office, which did not have to find a penny. Therefore, the economic incentive lay with the department which had no access, and the moral incentive rested with the department which got no benefit. This break between funding departments and benefiting departments crucially affects policy. Will the Minister ask his colleagues to look at this now, long before they go to the White Paper which will result from this discussion?
My Lords, the noble Lord, who speaks with great experience on these issues, raises an absolutely valid point, which is that the single biggest expense incurred in this whole process is by the custody system, which is overseen by the department with the least ability to have an impact on the behaviour which gives rise to the expenditure in the first place. However, I hope that my department, which has so much to contribute in this area, has some incentives. We now have massive incentives to see educational attainment rise, because all our performance indicators and capacity to justify the great expenditure of public money in which we are engaged depend on rising performance. The fact that we now publish annual statistics on the performance of children in care—and put them up in lights, if that is the expression—as a national indicator of success, puts great pressure on my department and therefore on local authorities and schools to take this issue with wholly greater seriousness than has been the case.
There are now powers to require schools, whether or not they see the benefit, to take account of children in care. Local authorities now have a power to require schools to admit children in care, not only at the beginning of the school year but at any point, because children in care so frequently move placements during the year. They will have to take account of that power, even though it may not enhance their success in GCSEs and other public examinations and tests. I hope that we are getting the incentives more aligned than was often the case in the past, but I completely accept that there is by no means a complete alignment of incentives at the moment, and we should examine that more during the Green Paper consultation.
My Lords, as vice-chair of the associate parliamentary group for children and young people in and leaving care, I thank the Minister for his comments on that group.
Developing the point that the noble Baroness, Lady Massey of Darwen, made, in considering the minimum standards for children’s homes, and in the Options for Excellence programme to which the Minister referred, will he look at implementing finally the recommendation in the report of the noble Lord, Lord Warner, in 1992, Choosing with Care, that staff in those homes receive regular consultation from an expert in mental health? Does he agree with the noble Lord, Lord Warner, that that would contribute to the development of the staff and their attention and that it would be beneficial to the mental health of looked-after children in children’s homes? They are often the most traumatised children, with the Office for National Statistics establishing a rate of 72 per cent with mental disorders in this group. Will the Minister look at that again? In the interim, will he also look at encouraging children’s homes to consider the model of introducing a teacher or a social worker, or both, into the home on a part-time basis, for two and a half days a week, to boost the professional capacity of the staff and benefit the children?
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl for his remarks. He has made an early contribution to the debate on many of the issues in the Green Paper, and we will take seriously his remarks, although some of them have a large price tag attached and we would have to work out their resource implications.
There has been a significant expansion of the CAMHS service in recent years, which goes some way to meeting the noble Earl’s first point. However, I accept that there is further to go and that to meet the full recommendations of my noble friend Lord Warner we need to seek substantial further progress on the track that we have started on.
My Lords, the Green Paper is very welcome. I speak on this matter with some passion because I spent four years of my life, between six and 10, in care, which may be somewhat unusual for a Member of this House. The circumstances were not unusual: my father had been killed in the war and my mother got TB, as a lot of people did at that time. She was taken to a sanatorium and was away for four years before the health service and streptomycin, as I think it is called, cured her, and she came back home again. But in those intervening years I was taken into a very loving foster home in my own village of Wendover, in Buckinghamshire, where I was beautifully cared for. The teachers in my primary school looked after me and gave me additional help, and the day that my mother came out of the sanatorium was the day that I heard that I had passed the 11-plus. So I was the lucky one, but millions were not. That is why this Green Paper is so important to ensure that all the good fortune that I had is shared by others. I hope that the Minister will ensure that this happens.
My Lords, like my noble friend I spent part of my childhood in care, and I can only echo all the remarks that she made. This is a matter of the utmost national importance, not only for the individuals concerned, but if we are to have a fair and just society.
My Lords, I add my congratulations to the Government, who have moved a very long way. There is still a great deal more to do, but there are some exciting ideas in this Green Paper. Can I have a tiny moan, however? It would be nice if Green Papers were available to us before or at the same time as they are available to members of the press, who seem to have a better view of everything of this kind. However, that is a side issue.
I very much support all that is being done with regard to schools and the extra effort that local authorities will be making, as well as the requirement on schools themselves. I am sure that will help. The preventive side is vital and that is clearly in place. I add my support for kinship care. I gather from what the noble Lord has said that this is not a matter on which there has been movement but it could save much money and contribute to a great deal more family cohesion.
The local authority’s responsibility and the need for the child to be consulted have been re-emphasised. That is crucial. However, I wonder whether there is not still a place for those children who do not have any family or friends to have a mentor—an extra person who could undertake the role of a parent, as it were. The local authority is not a parent in that sense. Such a person could befriend such children. Organisations such as HomeStart already have such schemes. Over the years trained volunteers have done so much in this country to map out new areas where government help is needed. They are vital partners in all this. Foster parents are volunteers and all the ideas for increasing their support and training are very welcome, but I still feel that there is room for the extra help which a mentor could give.
My Lords, the noble Baroness makes a good point about the need for enhanced mentoring and for the support which mentors can give, particularly to children in care who have no relatives to take an interest and support them. The previous Government introduced the very welcome concept of the independent visitor, who has a role in mentoring a child in care who has no relatives. In the Green Paper we are consulting on whether the offer of an independent visitor should be extended to other children in care and on how we can revitalise the role of the independent visitor. This is all set out in the Green Paper. We welcome the noble Baroness’s views on it.
My Lords, I too am pleased by much of the Green Paper, which I look forward to reading in detail. I endorse the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, about people in prison. I was concerned to discover that those responsible for young people in care who were entering prison rather switched off once those young people went into prison and did not carry on that duty of care while they were there. That was particularly problematic when those people came out of prison, in the preparations for their coming out and in the transition to their being released. That was one of the reasons for the concern that the Children Act did not apply to those people when they were in prison. I hope that that will be picked up and added to all the other good things in the paper because it is badly needed in the whole context of offender management, particularly young offender management.
My Lords, the noble Lord makes an important point about the welfare of children in care who end up in custody. There is a long section on that at page 82 of the Green Paper. We will greatly welcome the noble Lord’s comments on that when he has had a chance to read the Green Paper in full. As he knows, at the moment those in custody who are subject to a care order should be supported by their local authority. That includes visiting and the six-monthly review of care plans, as with other children in care. We need to ensure that that duty is taken more seriously, particularly when the children in care are about to be released, as the noble Lord said. It is so important that proper arrangements are made for them after their release.
However, the Green Paper proposes to go beyond that and to require local authorities to assess the needs of young people in care who are there on a voluntary basis, but who enter youth custody, with an expectation that those children too will continue to be supported as children in care. In most cases this would entail a social worker, a care plan and continued support as a child in care on leaving custody. We seek to enhance the provision for children in care who end up in custody, including for those in voluntary care. Although their care is voluntary, by definition they often have inadequate family arrangements to support them while they are in custody.
Police and Justice Bill
Consideration of amendments on Report resumed on Schedule 2.
Page 83, line 21, at end insert-
“( ) After subsection (3) there is inserted-
“(3A) In discharging its functions under subsection 6(1) above, a police authority shall monitor the performance of the police force maintained for its area in carrying out any policing priorities and shall make arrangements to secure continuous improvements in the performance of that force.””
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this amendment describes a function of police authorities that is so important that it should be in primary legislation: the job of monitoring the performance of a force to ensure that it is carrying out its duties to deliver the policing priorities and objectives that have been set for it. The amendment also includes wording that would ensure that police authorities were responsible for ensuring improvements in force performance. It is particularly important that this should be in primary legislation as it is proposed in the Bill that police authorities are to lose many of their best value powers. I will speak about best value under later amendments. For now, I commend this as an alternative to those provisions. It would enable police authorities to secure improvement, which is what best value does, without the bureaucracy that best value involves.
A police authority is there to ensure that local police are accountable to local people. A key element of that is ensuring that the local force is delivering against the priorities that are important to local communities. The ability to provide a level of independent monitoring of performance is vital to reassuring communities about their own safety, and demonstrating that they have a voice in deciding what their police should focus on and also ensuring that the police are tackling the issues that are of most concern to them. It is a function that underpins the relationship between the police authority and the people that it serves, and it deserves to be in primary legislation. I beg to move.
My Lords, this is an interesting amendment which, as the noble Baroness set out, would confer an additional duty on police authorities; that is what it is. In principle, we would have no objection to the proposition, but our question is simply whether the provision as set out in the amendment is at all necessary, given that the ground is already covered elsewhere. Schedule 2(9) amends Section 6 of the Police Act to give police authorities an express function of holding the chief constable to account for the exercise of his or her functions. This is no more than a statement of what happens already, but it is as well to make such a function explicit.
The amendment would place a new two-part duty on police authorities. The first part requires a police authority to monitor the performance of the police force in carrying out any policing priorities. No one can argue with the aims of the amendment, but such monitoring is in effect a subset of the new function of holding the chief constable to account. No police authority will be able effectively to discharge this function without monitoring performance. Such monitoring is a means to an end, not an end in itself. As such, we are not persuaded that we need to write such a duty into the legislation.
The second part of the new duty would require police authorities to make arrangements to secure continuous improvements in the performance of their force. Again, while I entirely understand and could wholeheartedly endorse the appropriateness of such a duty, it is our contention that there is no need to write this into the Police Act 1996. To do so would be no more than to repeat what we see as the overarching best value duty contained in Part I of the Local Government Act 1999, which I am sure the noble Baroness will be well aware of. Police authorities are, of course, already subject to the best value duty. While Clause 5 will be revising the application of the best value regime to police authorities, the overarching duty will be retained. In short, we see merit in the sentiments behind the amendment, but I put it to the noble Baroness that the ground is already more than adequately covered. I invite her to withdraw the amendment.
My Lords, predictably, having listened to the Minister’s response, I am slightly disappointed. We may well have to come back to this at a later stage. I will hear what he has to say on my later amendment on best value, which may echo what he has said now. I will carefully read what he has said, but, for the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
moved Amendment No. 27:
Page 83, line 43, leave out from beginning to end of line 2 on page 84 and insert-
“(a) the Association of Police Authorities, (b) the Association of Chief Police Officers, and”
On Question, amendment agreed to.
Page 84, line 11, leave out from beginning to end of line 8 on page 85 and insert-
““6ZB PLANS BY POLICE AUTHORITIES
(1) Before the beginning of each financial year every police authority shall issue a plan (a “policing plan”) setting out-
(a) the authority's objectives (“policing objectives”) for the policing of its area during that year; and (b) the proposed arrangements for the policing of that area for the period of three years beginning with that year. (2) Policing objectives shall be so framed as to be consistent with any strategic priorities determined under section 37A.
(3) Before determining policing objectives, a police authority shall-
(a) consult the relevant chief officer of police, and (b) consider any views obtained by the authority in accordance with arrangements made under section 96. (4) A draft of a policing plan required to be issued by a police authority under this section shall be prepared by the relevant chief officer of police and submitted by him to the authority for it to consider.
The authority shall consult the relevant chief officer of police before issuing a policing plan which differs from the draft submitted by him under this subsection. (5) The Secretary of State may by regulations make provision supplementing that made by this section.
(6) The regulations may make provision (further to that made by subsection (3)) as to persons who are to be consulted, and matters that are to be considered, before determining policing objectives.
(7) The regulations may contain provision as to-
(a) matters to be dealt with in policing plans (in addition to those mentioned in subsection (1)); (b) persons who are to be consulted, and matters that are to be considered, in preparing policing plans; (c) modification of policing plans; (d) persons to whom copies of policing plans are to be sent. (8) Before making regulations under this section the Secretary of State must consult-
(a) the Association of Police Authorities, (b) the Association of Chief Police Officers, and (c) such other persons as he thinks fit. (9) Regulations under this section may make different provision for different police authorities.
(10) A statutory instrument containing regulations under this section shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.
(11) In this section “the relevant chief officer of police”, in relation to a police authority, means the chief officer of police of the police force maintained by that authority.
6ZC REPORTS BY POLICE AUTHORITIES
(1) The Secretary of State may by order require police authorities to issue reports concerning the policing of their areas.
(2) An order under this section may contain provision as to-
(a) the periods to be covered by reports, and, as regards each period, the date by which reports are to be issued; (b) the matters to be dealt with in reports; (c) persons to whom copies of reports are to be sent. (3) Before making an order under this section the Secretary of State must consult-
(a) the Association of Police Authorities, (b) the Association of Chief Police Officers, and (c) such other persons as he thinks fit. (4) An order under this section may make different provision for different police authorities.
(5) A statutory instrument containing an order under this section shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.””
The noble Lord said: My Lords, government Amendments Nos. 28, 30, 31, 32, 49, 147 and 150 respond to the concerns voiced in Committee about the extent to which established functions of police authorities are moved from primary to secondary legislation. The Association of Police Authorities has made representations to us on this issue. In addition, the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee has recommended that, due to the wide nature of the regulation-making power in relation to police authority plans and reports, it should be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure.
We accept the spirit of the committee’s recommendation, but opted for a slightly different solution. These government amendments go a step further and restore to the Police Act 1996 core requirements in respect of the planning process and in relation to consultation with local communities. We will now provide in primary legislation for police authorities to issue before the beginning of the financial year a rolling three-year policing plan. It will set out the proposed arrangements for policing the authority’s area during the three years that it covers. It must include a statement of objectives determined by the authority, following consultation with the chief constable, for policing the authority’s area for the period of the first year covered by that plan.
As the core provisions relating to policing plans will now be in primary legislation and the regulation-making power is much more tightly focused, we do not propose to make it subject to the affirmative procedure. ACPO and the APA will of course be consulted on any regulations made under the order. We will use the regulation-making power to stipulate what other matters should be included in policing plans. It would be our intention, and we certainly envisage, that the regulations would require, as now, the policing plan to include any performance targets set by the authority and a statement of the resources available.
Amendment No. 29 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, seeks to incorporate these requirements in primary legislation. Undoubtedly, these are important matters that should be included in the policing plan, but our argument is this: they are secondary details that can safely be left to regulations.
Amendment No. 49 also restores to the Police Act the duty on police authorities to obtain the views of their local communities. This will be supplemented by a power to make regulations covering review arrangements, persons whom the police authority should consult and reports to be made by the Home Secretary where arrangements are not adequate.
I recognise the importance of preserving key points of detail in primary legislation and, as we have made plain previously, the primary functions of maintaining an efficient and effective police force and of holding the chief officer to account for the way in which they discharge their functions will remain in the Police Act 1996—and now, on the basis of these government amendments, so will the functions relating to the issuing of plans and consultation with the community.
I hope that noble Lords on the Liberal Democrat Benches will be reassured by those comments and agree not to press Amendment No. 29. I commend the amendments to the House.
My Lords, I rise to speak to Amendment No. 29, to which the noble Lord has already responded, unfortunately.
First, I welcome the spirit of the amendments put forward on behalf of the Government. The ability of police authorities to determine and issue local policing plans has now been put back into the Bill. That represents real progress, but it does not go quite far enough. Two key elements of what is currently in the law have been omitted from the government amendment. Our amendment aims to put those back into the Bill. I acknowledge my debt to the Front Benches, as I have borrowed heavily from their wording in this amendment, except in the elements they have omitted.
The first is the ability of an authority to establish performance targets for its force. The second is the ability to include in the plan a statement setting out the resources available and the proposed allocation of those resources against policing priorities. I am sure the Minister will agree that these are important functions of police authorities, but will tell me that it is more satisfactory that they should be placed in secondary legislation, which he has already intimated, to keep things simple and to increase flexibility. I shall see whether I can convince him and the House that these two elements are important enough to be in primary legislation.
First, on setting targets, the government amendment acknowledges that it is the job of an authority to set objectives for policing its area. But how does an authority know whether those objectives are being met unless it sets targets to measure them? Police authorities have duties under primary legislation to report back to local people on how well their local police force is performing. How can a police authority reassure the public that issues of concern to them are being addressed if it is not setting targets to measure that? Given that the duty of authorities to report on meeting performance targets is in primary legislation, it is inconsistent that the ability to set those targets is not.
Secondly, including a statement of resources available and the way in which they will be allocated to priorities is key because it impacts on funding and that goes to the heart of accountability. Police authorities hold the budgets for police forces and receive funds from central government towards those budgets, but some elements of the budgets come from local taxation. It is the duty of police authorities to raise those funds through the police element of council tax. Police authorities are accountable to local communities for how that money is spent, so is it not right that they should be able to ensure that policing funds are allocated appropriately in line with priorities? After all, those priorities are set after consulting the public, who fund police forces, to find out what most concerns them. This is not a matter of constraining the operational independence of chief officers but of accounting to the public for money that is collected from them and demonstrating that their money is being spent on addressing issues that concern them. This is a significant and important responsibility that should be in primary legislation. It has been for many years, and I see no reason to change that.
My Lords, I listened carefully to what the noble Baroness said on this matter, not for the first time, and I conclude that, while this is an interesting debate, it is a debate about means and the ends are shared. We all want to see standards raised and plans actively pursued and fulfilled. I do not think it is essential to have this provision in the Bill. In fact, by putting it there, we may be constraining ourselves and removing an important and necessary element of flexibility to reflect and change priorities over time. I heard what the noble Baroness said on this issue, but I am not persuaded and I have to insist on the Government’s amendment.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
Page 84, line 11, leave out from beginning to end of line 13 on page 85 and insert-
““6ZB Policing objectives and policing plans
(1) Before the beginning of each financial year every police authority shall issue a plan (a “policing plan”) setting out-
(a) the authority's objectives (“policing objectives”) for the policing of its area during that year; (b) any performance targets established by the authority; (c) a statement of the financial resources expected to be available and the proposed allocation of those resources against the policing objectives established by the authority; and (d) the proposed arrangements for the policing of that area for a period of 3 years beginning with that year. (2) Policing objectives shall be so framed as to be consistent with any strategic priorities determined under section 37A.
(3) Before determining policing objectives, a police authority shall-
(a) consult the relevant chief officer of police; and (b) consider any views obtained by the authority in accordance with arrangements made under section 96.””
On Question, amendment negatived.
Page 85, leave out lines 19 to 22 and insert-
“(b) the policing plan issued by the Metropolitan Police Authority under section 6ZB.””
Page 85, leave out lines 27 to 30 and insert-
“(b) the policing plan issued by the police authority for his area under section 6ZB.””
Page 85, line 31, leave out paragraph 15 and insert-
“15 (1) Section 96B (national and international functions: application of requirements relating to reports etc) is amended as follows.
(2) In subsection (2), for “section 7(1) shall have effect as if the reference” there is substituted “section 6ZB(1) shall have effect as if a reference”.
(3) Subsection (3) is repealed.
(4) In subsection (4), for “section 9(1)” there is substituted “section 6ZC(1)”.”
On Question, amendments agreed to.
Page 86, leave out lines 22 to 25 and insert-
“(1B) The police authority responsible for maintaining a force that has more than one deputy chief officer shall, after consulting with the chief officer, designate the deputy chief officers in order of seniority for the purpose of subsection (1A)(B).”
The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment, I am simply seeking to reinstate the existing provisions of the Police Act 1996 after allowing for the possibility that there may be more than one deputy chief constable and, in particular, that the police authority appoints the deputy or deputies.
Earlier today, your Lordships listened to an impassioned argument from my noble friend Lady Scotland in which she said that if the Mayor of London appointed the chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority, just as the deputy chair or chairs of the police authority would act in the absence of the chair, it followed inexorably that the Mayor of London should appoint the deputy chairs. I think that there are differences in substance between the police authority in London and other police authorities under the Bill, but the substance of my noble friend’s argument seemed to be clearly that as the deputy acts in place of the chair, then the same person who appoints the chair should appoint the deputy chairs. Given the logic put forward by my noble friend just a few minutes ago, it follows that if the police authority appoints the chief officer and deputy chief officers and decides the order in which they deputise, then the police authority should determine which of the assistant chief constables will act on behalf of the chief constable. That is what is proposed in the amendment.
Currently the police authority and not the chief constable determines which senior officer should act in place of the chief constable during his or her absence. The Bill would change that arrangement to make it the responsibility of the chief officer. Frankly, I do not believe that a satisfactory case has been made for why that should be so. Indeed, your Lordships will recall that at an earlier stage of the Bill I argued that the police authority should explicitly be responsible for appointments right down to operational command unit level. That is still my view but, given the enormous progress that has been made on the Bill, I am not proposing to press that today. However, it seems to me that this very simple change in the provision of the deputy goes to the heart of the issue. If the police authority appoints the chief constable, then logically, as my noble friend has already conceded on related points, the authority should decide who acts in his or her place.
I make it clear to your Lordships that I do not believe that this is an operational decision. It is a matter of the strategic oversight of the capacity of a force. As such, it is a responsibility that falls to the authority. This is where my careful analogy with the Mayor appointing the deputy chairs of the police authority in London breaks down. The argument here does not apply so far as concerns the police authority in London because nowhere is the Mayor of London given a strategic oversight of the operations of the police authority, whereas under the Police Act the police authority is given that strategic oversight. Accordingly, while my noble friend's argument that those who appoint the chief officer or the chair should automatically appoint the deputies still applies, there is an additional argument in this case because of the authority's role in strategic oversight. This is about strategic oversight of a force, which is why the deputy should be appointed by the authority.
Finally and perhaps most importantly, my proposal would ensure that there was adequate resilience and flexibility in the arrangement at senior level where the absence of the chief constable was long-term or even permanent but such resilience would be owned and supported by the police authority. I beg to move.
My Lords, it should remain the responsibility of the police authority, otherwise the force, as the noble Lord, Lord Harris, said, potentially lacks resilience, depth and flexibility. It is perfectly conceivable that both the chief and the deputy might for different reasons be absent—retirement, illness, secondment elsewhere, and so on. It is much less likely that all 17 members of the police authority might be similarly indisposed.
The police authority appoints the chief officer, so it is right that they should also decide who acts up as chief officer. This is a decision about strategic capacity, not an operational decision. I wonder whether a couple of examples might be helpful. The first is from the West Midlands, which prompted a change in the law in the first place, so that it became the responsibility of the police authority, through the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001. The chief retires; the designated deputy is taken into hospital; and there is no one to decide who should act as chief. The result is a state of inaction and limbo. Example number two is from Thames Valley. The chief is seconded effectively permanently to the NPIA and is absent for more than a year. The deputy is appointed acting chief. What happens if she is taken ill? That is not a problem under the current arrangements but it would be under the proposals. Who is there to decide which of the ACCs will act up? I support Amendment No. 33 wholeheartedly.
My Lords, Amendments Nos. 33 and 34 make arrangements for the designation of deputy chief constables and assistant chief constables to exercise the functions of chief constables in their absence. As we made clear when we considered similar amendments in Committee, we consider such arrangements to be a direction and control matter, and therefore, properly the primary responsibility of the chief constable. In providing for the chief constable to make such designations after consultation with the police authority, we are simply reverting to the position that existed under the Police and Magistrates’ Courts Act 1994.
Deputising for the chief constable is but one of the duties of a deputy chief constable or assistant chief constable. Given that the chief constable is responsible for allocating portfolios to his or her senior management team, it is logical that he or she should also determine which of his or her senior officers should deputise in their absence. That is how we see it. We see it as being part of the chief constable's general direction of the senior management team, and appropriately we feel that it is important to protect the constitutional position of chief officers in having operational direction and control of their force, including their senior management team. I heard what the noble Lord, Lord Harris, said. He did not see it as being part of an operational matter but we take a different view, and I invite the noble Lord to consider his view. We see it operating in that way.
The noble Baroness, Lady Harris, said that she thought that the Bill’s provisions changed the appointment arrangements for ACPO ranks. We do not see that in the same way. The police authority will continue to appoint the deputy chief constable and assistant chief constables, and the Bill does nothing to interfere with those arrangements. In any event, in the absence of mergers, it is very unlikely that any force will have more than one deputy, so it is unlikely to be an issue of concern in the future, although I take careful note of the noble Baroness’s examples.
The Bill would enable the chief constable to identify which assistant chief constable would act in the absence of both the chief constable and the deputy chief constable. The problems that the noble Baroness has identified will not arise in effect and practice. It is a difference of view; we take one and the noble Lord and Baroness another. I therefore cannot agree with these amendments.
My Lords, are the Government therefore moving away from the position they held so forcefully only an hour or so ago—that where somebody appoints the most senior person, they should also appoint the person who deputises for them? If so, that would be helpful for our earlier arguments. I hope the Minister is not trying to have it both ways. Clearly, if it applies to the police authority in London, the same argument must apply to the appointment of chief officers of police.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, was transferring his logic from one argument to the other. I was impressed by the adept transference of logic, but I am not drawn to support it. We therefore simply disagree on the operational importance and stature of the chief constable, and the fact that they are there to direct, manage and control the police service—in practice, in consultation with the police authority. I understand the nature of the noble Lord’s argument; I simply disagree with him.
My Lords, I suppose I am deeply grateful to the Minister for highlighting this possible area of inconsistency in government thinking. I urge the Government to consider carefully the responses they have given me on both this amendment and one an hour or so ago. It seems to me that you cannot apply completely different logic to the two cases. If the Government are saying that the person appointing the chairman of a police authority must also appoint the deputies because they might act as chair in the chair’s absence, the same logic must surely apply for the appointments of chief officers of police.
The Minister says, with a look of regret and sorrow, that he begs to differ on the fundamental point of principle that this is an operational matter, an issue of direction and control, rather than one of strategy. We surely recognise the central leadership role of chief officers of police. How they exercise it is very much about the strategic direction of the force. Parliament explicitly gave police authorities the right to appoint not only the chief officer of police but also the deputy chief officer of police in the 1996 Act because that strategic role is so fundamental.
I am not quite sure what attracts the Minister to the 1994 Act rather than the 1996 Act, let alone whether it is related to the sad disagreement on the point of principle he has referred to. However, I urge my noble friends to consider how they make coherent their logical arguments in the various answers I have received this afternoon and, while they do so, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[Amendment No. 34 not moved.]
Page 87, line 27, at end insert-
“Clerks to police authorities renamed chief executives 19A (1) Section 16 (appointment of clerk by police authority) is amended as follows.
(2) In subsections (1) and (2), for “clerk to” there is substituted “chief executive of”.
(3) In the heading, for “clerk” there is substituted “chief executive”.
19B In Schedule 6 (appeals to police appeal tribunals), in paragraph 6(2), for “clerk” there is substituted “chief executive”.
19C (1) A reference in subordinate legislation (within the meaning of the Interpretation Act 1978 (c. 30)) to the clerk to a police authority has effect as a reference to the chief executive of the authority.
(2) A person holding office as clerk to a police authority on the commencement of paragraph 19A continues in that office as chief executive of the authority.
(3) In this paragraph “police authority” means-
(a) a police authority established under section 3 of the Police Act 1996 (c. 16); (b) the Metropolitan Police Authority.”
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I think that we have a measure of agreement with this amendment in principle. Before I get stuck into the meat of the subject, I should like to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Harris of Richmond, once again for tabling her amendment in Committee to change the title of the “clerk to the authority” to “chief executive” of the police authority. We made clear at the time that we supported the amendment but had some concerns about the proposed wording. I am therefore pleased that we can bring forward these amendments which implement the changes proposed by the Liberal Democrat Benches.
The proposed change in terminology derives from Review of the Selection and Appointment Process of Independent Members of Police Authorities conducted by Kenneth Hamer. The relevant recommendation was:
“I recommend that the title Clerk to the Police Authority should be replaced with a more modern business title such as Chief Executive, or Executive Director, and that section 16 of the Police Act 1996 which requires police authorities to appoint ‘a Clerk’ is a barrier to modernisation”.
We agree with that sentiment. Indeed, I recognise that, in practice, the new terminology is in place and that a number of clerks have already adopted the chief executive title.
It is of course preferable for the relevant legislation to be updated in accordance with that change. For that reason, I beg to move.
My Lords, clerks of police authorities up and down the land are cheering and celebrating the Government’s acceptance of the amendment we tabled in Committee, albeit in their own inimitable legalese, and now they are all chief executives. I very much thank the Government for making them so, and warmly welcome the amendment.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
Page 87, line 39, at end insert-
“Cost benefit analysis of alterations of police areas ( ) In section 32 (power to alter police areas by order), after subsection (3) there is inserted-
“(3A) The Secretary of State shall not lay a statutory instrument containing an order made under this section before Parliament unless it is accompanied by a cost-benefit analysis commissioned from an independent body, which shall include the financial cost and benefits of each proposed alteration proposed by the order laid.””
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, Amendment No. 36 would ensure that the Secretary of State could not lay a statutory instrument containing an order regarding alteration or merging of police areas unless it was accompanied by a cost benefit analysis commissioned from an independent body, which included the financial cost and benefits of each and every suggested alteration.
In Committee, on 20 June at cols. 721-23, I said that it is essential that before the Home Secretary forces the merger of police forces, he should ensure that the changes are certain to be both cost-effective and accepted by the communities affected by the merger. The amendment would help to give the public the confidence that, should mergers once again arise on the agenda, these matters have been properly considered in an independent, transparent and accountable manner.
We had a detailed debate in Committee, to which I certainly shall not return because on Report it would not be appropriate to do so, when we considered the Government’s assessment of the costs of the proposed mergers, an assessment that was not recognised by the police authorities and police forces as being anywhere near the real figure.
Over the summer it has emerged that £6.1 million has been spent on preparing for the Government’s failed merger scheme by just 27 out of 43 forces. The total financial cost to police forces alone could be well over £10 million, and many have made claims to the Home Office for the funds that could have meant 271 extra police employed on the beat. It is a staggering waste of taxpayers’ hard-earned money, all for a programme of merger that Moira Wallace, the director-general of crime, policing and counter-terrorism at the Home Office, admitted two weeks ago when she spoke at the Police Superintendents Association conference was “not well enough planned” and,
“was not well enough managed”.
We certainly agree with that.
With the Home Office budget effectively frozen by the Chancellor of the Exchequer from 2008 onwards, we on these Benches remain concerned that forced mergers would put pressure on other parts of police expenditure. I believe that the revelations over the summer have only highlighted what a disaster police regionalisation would be and have shown that the preparation costs have already dented local policing capability. It is important for the Minister to bring the House up to date with the Government’s policy regarding forced mergers.
There have been many press reports over the summer saying that Ministers have scrapped the plans to force mergers. There have been reports of speeches by Ministers in which they have allegedly given commitments that they will not require forces to merge unless they have demonstrated positively that they wish to do so. Yet the language in Parliament has been less clear, until today perhaps. It has been couched in terms that imply that Ministers will return to the fray when they think that attention has been diverted away from this matter.
Earlier this evening we heard of a little progress. The noble Lord, Lord Bassam, said that it was not just a matter of these plans being kicked into the long grass but that—he used the words—they are in the deep freeze. Are the Government going to bring a blow torch to that deep freeze in the near future and let loose on the enforced mergers again? I made it clear to the Minister when we met to discuss these matters about a month ago that I would table this amendment, not to press it today but to give the Government the opportunity to put on the record, in as clear terms as any government Minister is able, what their plans are regarding police mergers. My colleagues in another place can then properly reflect on the Minister’s answer when the matter on which we won a Division earlier this year returns shortly to another place for debate. I beg to move.
My Lords, we most definitely support this amendment. It is absolutely essential that we never again get into the ridiculous state of affairs we were pressed into which ensure that police officers and police authority members spend ludicrous amounts of time trying to work through the Government’s proposals. The cost of all this ill thought-out enforced activity has been enormous, as the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, has so rightly pointed out. In my own force alone it amounts to hundreds of thousands of pounds. In future whenever any government feel the need to be radical it should be imperative that a cost benefit analysis is undertaken before proposals are brought before Parliament. We support very strongly this amendment.
My Lords, the points raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, are very helpful. I recollect a considerable amount of time being spent by noble Lords on all sides of the House trying to work out what precisely the Government had in mind when police mergers were being discussed. At one stage there was not adequate time for consultation. People were crying out for a timescale within which the decision should be taken. We were told that certain police forces up north were likely to be merged. A new Minister was then appointed who has come along and said that the matter has been put in the long grass or the deep freeze—or whatever expression one wants to use.
Considerable time has been wasted on this matter, not only by Ministers and others, but there has been pressure on a number of noble Lords with police authorities making representations and wanting a clear answer. It would be very helpful if the Minister were clearly to indicate whether the merger plans will still be enacted at some stage. If not, what went wrong and why were the plans stopped?
My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, for giving me this opportunity to clarify the situation. Her generosity beggars belief on occasion.
On 19 June my right honourable friend the Home Secretary made it clear that he was not going to force through mergers where they were not wanted. As a corollary to that clear statement, the notices of intention to merge which were issued on 3 March and 11 April were withdrawn on 13 July.
That is not to say that the issues in Denis O’Connor’s report, Closing the Gap have gone away; far from it. There is a widespread recognition that the status quo is not an option. We need to make progress in enhancing forces’ capacity and capability to protect the public from the threats posed by terrorism, serious and organised crime and civil emergencies. We now need to focus more on the outcomes that we want to achieve and less on structural questions. Earlier today, the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, gave us an example of her local force working energetically with other forces in the locality to address some of those issues. Collaboration and co-operation are obligatory for all of us.
We want to work with police forces and police authorities to see how best we can deliver the required improvements in protective services while preserving neighbourhood policing. To this end, the Minister for policing and security, my honourable friend Tony McNulty, has written to all chief constables and police authorities seeking their views on how best to narrow the protective services gap in the absence of mergers. He has followed up that letter with a series of meetings with forces and authorities to listen to their views at first hand. As part of that dialogue with the service, we have made it clear that we are open to all possibilities ranging from collaboration to federation and to the lead force model. We are ready to do what we can to facilitate any innovative solutions to the issue.
What matters is what works and what delivers real improvement in the quality of level 2 policing while protecting neighbourhood policing, rather than details of structure. The public want their local force to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour. They also want and deserve to be properly protected from threats posed by serious organised crime and terrorism. We are no longer looking to mergers to deal with that issue, but the merger option must remain available as a last resort. We cannot say that we will never have to use it. No responsible Minister and no responsible Government could ever give a guarantee such as that, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, referred. But I reiterate that enforced mergers are off the agenda. We shall return to that only if it is clear that none of the other options being considered could produce worthwhile results.
As in all our debates, there did not seem to be any disagreement between us that we had to improve; the question is simply how. How do we deliver the change that everyone has identified as needed? It is for that reason that we must preserve the existing provisions in the Police Act 1996 which enable the Home Secretary of the day to initiate mergers where that would be in the interests of policing and protecting the public. Such a provision has been on the statute book for many decades and was retained and, indeed, updated, by the previous Conservative Administration in 1994. That is why we shall invite the other place to reject the amendment made by this House in Committee.
I turn briefly to the amendment. Its effect would be to outsource decisions about whether to alter police areas to an unidentified and unaccountable independent body. Any merger needs to be supported by a well founded business case, but it is ultimately for those who advocate change to put the case for it. In the case of initiating police mergers, Section 33 of the Police Act already effectively provides for that by requiring that the Home Secretary of the day must set out his or her reasons for the proposed alteration of police areas.
I hope that the House will be satisfied that the Home Secretary's decision to withdraw the merger notices issued in the spring has settled the issue. What matters now is how we work with the police service to strengthen the protection of the public against the threat posed by terrorism and organised crime. All the conversations that we have had have addressed that issue with a degree of urgency. That is the debate that we need to have now. The provisions for amalgamating police force areas in the 1996 Act are perfectly adequate as they stand and should be left on the statute book as a back-stop but, as mergers are no longer on the agenda, it is time for us to move on.
On that basis, I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, will be content to withdraw her amendment, having given me a delightful opportunity better to explain where we now find ourselves concerning force mergers.
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister. My colleagues in another place will study her words carefully. I certainly agree with her, as we always have, that the outcome of better and strengthened policing, supported by Government and police authorities, is something that we are all trying to achieve at a time when level 2 policing is under severe strain. We all seek to assist the police better to serve the public—that is what the police wish to do themselves.
I was pleased to hear the Minister say that the Government would not seek to return to forced mergers until all the other viable options had been tried and had been shown not to deliver worthwhile results. That implies a lack of haste in returning to mergers and a willingness at least to try alternative methods.
One problem was that we and, I know, the noble Baroness, Lady Harris of Richmond, felt that the Government had been proceeding with forced mergers without giving the federated model or the other alternative routes to improvement an opportunity to operate first. I accept that the Minister does not agree with the result of the Division and the will of the House earlier this year, but she will not be surprised to hear that I rather expect that the Government might try to overturn our victory when the Bill returns to another place. It will be for another place to consider her words, not for me to pre-empt the decision of another place. For the moment, the amendment was tabled to elicit her statement rather than to force it to a Division. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Page 88, leave out lines 11 to 14 and insert-
“(a) the Association of Police Authorities, and (b) the Association of Chief Police Officers.”
On Question, amendment agreed to.
Page 88, line 31, leave out paragraphs 26 to 28.
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving the amendment, I first welcome the amendments moved by the Minister. They go some way towards limiting the powers of the Secretary of State to intervene in police forces, so that the inspectorate will be involved in deciding whether a force is failing. Unfortunately, they do not deal with the underlying problem with this part. I shall explain that. It is the power of the Secretary of State to give directions to chief officers of police. That is completely unconstitutional and represents a radical unbalancing of the tripartite relationship. It is also potentially a very dangerous weapon in the wrong hands. In fairness, the Minister's amendments suggest that in most circumstances the Secretary of State's directions should be made through the police authority, but there is a sting in the tail of the amendments, which renders them almost meaningless. The Secretary of State may direct the chief officer where he deems that the authority is failing. There is no independent judgment built into the process. It is the Secretary of State who decides what “failing” means. It is widely drawn, covering any functions of an authority whether generally or in a particular respect.
In theory, that means that if, say, a police force was not very good at clearing dead dogs off a motorway or a police authority was not very good at keeping hard-copy archived records—which, I understand, have to be bound on green paper of a particular quality—going back for ever, the Secretary of State could give directions to the chief officer. I do not suggest that the current Secretary of State would use such a power injudiciously or unfairly; I merely observe that it would be easy for a Secretary of State whose motives may be more questionable to misuse such a wide power at some point in the future.
In addition, the government amendments do nothing to ameliorate the concerns expressed in Committee about the Secretary of State being blessed with foreknowledge about when a force or authority will fail. Again, this could be open to misuse. I accept that a role envisaged for the inspectorate with regard to forces should provide some comfort in this respect, but there is silence about any equivalent role with regard to authorities. This is the key issue in the direction of chief officers. Amendment No. 38, which would leave out paragraphs 26 to 28 on “Power to give directions to police authority or chief officer”, would dispense altogether with what could be a dangerous part of the Bill. That would be my preference. However, I am a realist and I recognise that it is always sensible to have a plan B. The other amendments would provide an alternative that would prevent the Secretary of State giving directions to chief officers but would allow him some intervention powers through the authority. Crucially, however, it would place sensible limitations on what “failing” means. This is an important matter that goes to the heart of the balance between central and local powers and between chief officers, police authorities and the Secretary of State—the tripartite balance. The other centralising measures in the Bill are a grave cause for concern, but these proposals must be where the line is drawn.
I also ask the Minister to say how the Government think they will find the capacity and the expertise to intervene in police authorities. To date, the Home Office’s policing support unit has used a few civil servants in its intervention work with forces, but it has relied mostly on seconded police officers. Given that most police authorities run an extremely tight ship, it is unlikely that they will be able to find some spare people to undertake these duties.
Finally, I return to the nub of my concerns: if the Secretary of State can tell chief officers what to do, all the other arguments about exactly how the balance will be shared between the tripartite partners are simply whistling in the wind. I beg to move.
My Lords, I remind the House that if the amendment is agreed to, I will not be able to call Amendments Nos. 39 to 48.
My Lords, I strongly support all the amendments in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Harris of Richmond, and the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia; indeed, I have added my name to them. We on these Benches believe that the Bill would give Ministers greater powers to interfere in operational policing matters than is acceptable. Policing should not be politicised. The police must be able to investigate crime independently and to apply the laws passed by Parliament free from party-political pressure. The amendments tabled by the noble Baroness reflect the deep concern expressed about the powers to be conferred on the Secretary of State to direct the chief officers of the police. ACPO put it concisely:
“This is an unprecedented and seismic shift in the balance of roles and responsibilities within the tri-partite relationship and must be withdrawn”.
We believe that the Home Secretary should not have the power to intervene in a way that interferes in failing police forces and police authorities, as it so clearly would under the Bill. That is where the difficulty lies. It looks as though the Government are trying to get through the back door the provisions that they failed to get through the front door in our debates on the Police Reform Act 2002. What was important at that stage was that the Government agreed to think again. They stepped back from the position that they had taken on the intervention powers of the Secretary of State in policing matters, and they were right to do so. The Home Secretary is mistaken in seeking to go forward now.
In our debate on these matters on 20 June, the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, tabled amendments that sought to describe more carefully and narrowly the circumstances in which the Secretary of State might exercise his extended powers. I said that if it were possible to find an appropriate way of including in the Bill a very narrowly defined set of circumstances in which the Secretary of State’s extended power could be exercised, that might prove acceptable. I accept that the Minister has used the summer to try to achieve that. She has tried to make progress in drafting amendments that more narrowly describe the route by which the Secretary of State could exercise his powers. The difficulty is that the route to taking a decision may be slightly more hampered by the odd building brick in the way, but the result could be the same.
I should say in passing that, when I read the government amendments last week, I noted that Amendment No. 45 refers to a chief inspector for custody, among other things. I merely put on record the fact that I have noticed the reference to that. I do not seek to debate whether it is appropriate for that reference to be in the amendment, because we will have a substantive debate on that tomorrow.
The problem remains that, despite the Government’s amendments, a Secretary of State who is determined to issue directions and extend his authority over the police could do so in a manner that would distort the tripartite relationship that we all hold so dear. My colleagues in another place and I have looked very carefully at the Government’s proposals, and they believe that we should stick by our principles on this matter—principles that were tested in Divisions on the Police Reform Act in 2002 when the Government agreed to withdraw their plans. I hope that they are prepared to think again today. I support the noble Baroness, Lady Harris of Richmond.
My Lords, before my noble friend replies, I should say that the matter has already been referred to; indeed, I raised it in Committee. I was extremely concerned about these issues and I welcome the fact that my noble friend has tried to narrow down the basis of intervention, in a way that I welcome.
I hear what the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, says about police authorities. Both she and I know that some police authorities, although probably only one or two, might well have problems and be in some disarray. She and I have had experience of that. There is a way through the point that she makes: we know that police authorities will be inspected in the near future, and I take her point that the Secretary of State should not take his decisions on any grounds other than established fact and objective assessment. It seems that if police authorities are to be inspected, as indeed they are under the legislation, there will be an objective basis on which to categorise them. Therefore at least that objective could be met, because there will be ways in which one can determine where the police authorities are doing their job and where they are not. To that extent, the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, could be addressed through police inspections, and the Secretary of State could reasonably take note of those inspections when coming to a view about police authorities. As I say, although I recognise the anxieties that have been expressed, I feel that the Government have made progress on trying to narrow the basis on which direct intervention would be made, which I welcome.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baronesses, Lady Harris of Richmond and Lady Anelay of St Johns, and my noble friend Lady Henig for welcoming the government amendments to the extent to which they each did. Perhaps I may ask for a little more generous welcome from the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, for the following reasons. We understood the import of the concern expressed. In our previous debates, it was clear that Members of this House wished these powers to be used as a matter of last resort and that the direction to the police force or the police authority would be given when they failed to provide the standard of service that we all expect. I do not think that there was any dissent on that. I appreciate that the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, and my noble friend Lady Henig were particularly concerned that there should be no inappropriate, improper, heavy-handed, not-thought-through interference, and we agree.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, has made plain, we have worked very hard to think of how we could accommodate this concern, which we not only accept but want to allay because it was not our intention. The noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, was right to raise the concerns expressed by ACPO and the Association of Police Authorities. In all fairness, I must tell your Lordships that the two government amendments in this group provide those associations with considerable and significant reassurance. They are now both in a position to welcome the Government’s amendments.
Perhaps I may explore why they have welcomed them. Beyond choosing where to live, local people have no effective choice about the police service that they receive. The intervention powers therefore need to be in place to ensure that the Government have a means of driving performance improvement in cases where policing has fallen below an acceptable level. As I said, intervention powers are powers of last resort. I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, gave exciting examples, but I think that even as she said them she did not suggest that they were really convincing as a basis on which a Home Secretary was likely to intervene. Her smile gave that away, as enchanting as it always is.
Our experience of last resort is borne out by the first five years or so of these powers being available to the Home Secretary. He has not needed to use them, as other non-statutory resolutions to performance issues have proved sufficient. A situation will require formal intervention only if results are not forthcoming or police forces or police authorities are unwilling to engage. The rationale for the Government’s revisions to existing powers is based on experience of dealing with performance failings gained since the inception of the original powers. The revisions are about framing the powers to provide the most focused and effective response to performance failings in police forces and police authorities.
Amendment No. 38, tabled in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, seeks to remove all the changes introduced in the Bill. We believe that the changes are necessary to better reflect how we work in practice with forces and authorities, and to ensure that they serve as an effective lever of continuous performance improvement. The Government have been concerned about the length of time that forces and authorities can take to put effective improvement plans into operation. Effective powers need to be available if performance improvements are not forthcoming. The changes to be provided by this Bill are merely intended to make the process more efficient and more in line with how they may be used in practice.
Amendments Nos. 39 and 46 propose a definition for the level of performance failing that would lead to intervention as “serious and permanent” failure. Furthermore, the intervention will occur exceptionally, only if there is no alternative. We realise that to clarify or define the type or level of failing may provide some comfort, although we are not convinced that it would be helpful to add such wording. Intervention powers are intended to be used only in the most serious cases, but it would be illogical to wait for any failing to become permanent before action was taken. It is worth reminding the House that there is no such test in the existing intervention powers approved by this House in 2002, which has not inured to our disadvantage.
There are a number of safeguards to ensure that the powers of intervention are used in only the most exceptional cases and when all other methods of achieving the necessary improvements in performance have been attempted. Most importantly, intervention will not take place unless the police force or police authority had previously been made aware of the performance failings and had been given the opportunity to remedy those failings. There is also the option of non-statutory engagement with the Police Standards Unit, which in practice is most likely to occur before any intervention is considered.
We have listened to the previous debate on the definition of a threshold that must be met before intervention powers are utilised. Moreover, we are aware that the removal of the inspectorate as the only trigger for the intervention powers has also raised concern. That is why government Amendment No. 45 places an obligation on the Secretary of State to consult the new Inspectorate for Justice, Community Safety and Custody—I hear what the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, says about that—in all cases where it is proposed that the powers are used, and to publish the inspectorate’s opinion on the evidence which has led to that proposed course of action. That is intended to ensure that the inspectorate’s professional, independent advice is available to the Secretary of State on whether the use of the powers is, in its opinion, the right course of action.
I listened carefully to what the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, said about police authorities. I agree that the new requirement on the Home Secretary to seek the views of the Chief Inspector for Justice, Community Safety and Custody before issuing a direction in relation to the police force should also apply before any direction is issued in relation to a police authority. That makes sense, and I can see why the noble Baroness makes that suggestion. I can therefore assure the noble Baroness that we will bring forward an appropriate amendment at Third Reading. I endorse what my noble friend Lady Henig said. Inspecting police authorities and their function gives us a good avenue through which to ensure that we respond proportionately and appropriately.
The noble Baroness, Lady Harris, also said that the Home Office basically has the skills and knowledge to intervene in this way. I of course accept that this is new territory, but that should not stop us from doing the right thing. Elsewhere this Bill provides, for the first time, for police authorities to be inspected. These amendments go hand in glove with that change.
Amendments Nos. 41 and 42 would remove the ability of the Secretary of State to intervene directly with a chief officer of a failing force rather than via the police authority. Learning through our non-statutory work with police forces has demonstrated that the best way to deal with performance problems is to go straight to those, such as the chief officer, who can implement the changes necessary to turn around performance. That is more easily achieved if direct contact is made from the start. The same is true of initial direct contact with the police authority. The change we are making in the Bill is not intended to bypass the police authority or its critical role in holding the force to account for its performance. It has always been our intention that the usual route for intervention would be through the police authority, but we recognise that there might be some occasions when the police authority may not feel able or be able to take the necessary steps.
We are, however, sensitive to the concerns that this direct intervention has raised during the passage of the Bill. Government Amendment No. 43 makes our intentions clearer and will hopefully reassure the House. The amendment provides that the powers are routed directly to the chief officer only in two specific instances: first, where the police authority has also been shown to be failing; and, secondly, where the police authority has specifically requested intervention by the Home Secretary as the most effective way to rectify the problems.
Finally, Amendment No. 44 seeks to remove the Secretary of State’s ability to intervene without delay when he is satisfied that the chief officer or the police authority have, in respect of the police force or police authority, failings, having been given sufficient information and time to remedy those failings. Again, these revisions to the Police Act are not about removing safeguards, but reflect our experience of working with underperforming forces and what is needed to enable us to get to the heart of the problem quickly. Where a new performance issue arises, of course the expectation is that the force and the authority will be given the time and opportunity to address it, and we would work to help them were such a request for assistance to be made. However, when the force or authority has failed to address problems it has been made aware of and on which it has been given ample time to act, for example via an engagement with the Police Standards Unit or an earlier inspection report, a different solution would need to apply. We feel that it would be illogical, where a longstanding and known performance issue had persisted and gone unresolved, for our response at that point to be to hand back the problem to the force or authority without any stronger and more immediate requirement for its resolution. These provisions will ensure that the necessary action can be taken to address serious failings which have gone unattended.
In conclusion, we have listened very carefully to the concerns about these provisions and we believe that the government amendments meet them. We believe, too, that we have satisfied the concerns raised by the Association of Police Authorities and the Association of Chief Police Officers, both of which have welcomed our amendments. In those circumstances, we invite noble Lords also to welcome them and ask the noble Baroness not to press her amendments.
My Lords, first I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, and Members on the Conservative Benches for their support. I have listened carefully to the Minister and I am grateful for her long clarification. I acknowledge that she has given some reassurance about the role of HMIC in determining whether a force is failing. I also acknowledge that an authority must be failing before the Secretary of State can intervene in a force, or that the authority must first request such an intervention. Again, I agree that that is a significant step forward. However, having considered this carefully, and given the constitutional importance of this part of the Bill, I think that more is needed.
I have already rehearsed my fundamental objections to these proposals so I shall not dwell on them again, but these are matters of significant constitutional importance that, if implemented as they stand, could unbalance the tripartite relationship through which our policing in this country is governed. They also go to the core of the balance that needs to be achieved between central prescription and local determination in order to safeguard the interests of our communities. In this Bill, and especially in this schedule, we have seen clause after clause giving additional powers to the Secretary of State to determine through regulation many aspects which until now have been set out in primary legislation, particularly in respect of the role of police authorities. I am delighted that, as a result of our arguments and debates in this House, at least some of these provisions will now be put back into primary legislation, but much is left which represents a charter to micromanage significant elements of policing if the Secretary of State is so minded. Does he not have enough to do at the moment?
We all want to ensure that the policing of this country is the most effective we can make it, but driving a cart and horse through key constitutional safeguards is not the way to go about it. I believe that this is a step too far in the direction of central prescription and direction. I wish to test the opinion of the House.
Page 92, line 7, leave out paragraph 29 and insert-
“29 (1) Section 96 (arrangements for obtaining the views of the community on policing) is amended as follows.
(2) In subsection (1)(b), after “crime” there is inserted “and anti-social behaviour”.
(3) In subsection (2), for “subsection (6)” there is substituted “provision made by virtue of subsection (6)(b)”.
(4) For subsections (6) to (10) there is substituted-
“(6) The Secretary of State may by regulations-
(a) make provision supplementing that made by this section (or by regulations under paragraph (b)); (b) make provision applying in place of subsection (2) in relation to the City of London police area. (7) Regulations under subsection (6)(a) may contain-
(a) provision requiring a police authority to review arrangements made under this section from time to time; (b) provision (further to that made by subsection (2) or by regulations under subsection (6)(b)) as to persons whom a police authority is to consult in making or reviewing the arrangements; (c) provision as to matters to which a police authority is to have regard in making or reviewing the arrangements; (d) provision for the Secretary of State, if not satisfied with the adequacy of arrangements made under this section by a police authority, to require the authority- (i) to submit reports to him concerning the arrangements; (ii) to review the arrangements. (8) Before making regulations under this section the Secretary of State must consult-
(a) the Association of Police Authorities, (b) the Association of Chief Police Officers, and (c) such other persons as he thinks fit. (9) Regulations under this section may make different provision for different police authorities.
(10) A statutory instrument containing regulations under this section shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.””
On Question, amendment agreed to.
[Amendment No. 50 not moved.]
After Schedule 2, insert the following new schedule-
“POWER TO MERGE POLICE PENSION SCHEMES Introduction 1 In this Schedule-
“the 1976 Act” means the Police Pensions Act 1976; “1976 Act scheme” means a pension scheme established by regulations under section 1 of the 1976 Act (pensions for police in Great Britain); “the 1998 Act” means the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 1998; “1998 Act scheme” means a pension scheme established by regulations under section 25(2)(k) of the 1998 Act (pensions for members of Police Service of Northern Ireland) or section 26(2)(g) of that Act (pensions for members of Police Service of Northern Ireland Reserve); “police pension scheme” means a 1976 Act scheme or a 1998 Act scheme; “police pensions regulations” means- (a) regulations under section 1 of the 1976 Act; (b) regulations under section 25(2)(k) or 26(2)(g) of the 1998 Act. Power to merge police pension schemes 2 (1) Regulations may-
(a) revoke those provisions of the police pensions regulations that apply to persons who became members of a police pension scheme before 6th April 2006, and (b) make equivalent provision establishing a single pension scheme for the benefit of those persons. (2) In sub-paragraph (1)(b) “equivalent provision” means, subject to sub-paragraph (3), provision having the same effect as the provisions revoked.
(3) The regulations may make changes to the effect of the provisions revoked if the changes-
(a) are made as a result of consolidating the provisions of the different police pensions regulations into a single pension scheme, and (b) do not make the scheme less beneficial to any member of it than the police pension scheme of which he was previously a member. Exercise of power to establish merged scheme 3 (1) This paragraph applies to the first regulations under this Schedule.
(2) The power to make the regulations is exercisable by the Secretary of State with the consent of the Treasury.
(3) Before exercising the power the Secretary of State shall consult with the Police Negotiating Board for the United Kingdom.
(4) The regulations may be framed so as to have effect as from a date before the making of the regulations.
Exercise of power to amend merged scheme 4 (1) The power to make amending regulations is exercisable as if-
(a) any provision of the 1976 Act applying to regulations under section 1 of that Act, (b) any provision of Northern Ireland legislation applying to regulations under section 25(2)(k) of the 1998 Act, and (c) any provision of Northern Ireland legislation applying to regulations under section 26(2)(g) of that Act, applied also to the amending regulations. (2) In this paragraph “amending regulations” means regulations amending regulations previously made under this Schedule.
Application of provisions of other Acts 5 (1) The provisions of-
(a) section 8A of the 1976 Act (information in connection with police pensions etc), (b) section 9 of that Act (assignment etc of pension to be void), and (c) section 10 of that Act (obtaining pension by self-inflicted injury etc), apply to regulations under this Schedule, so far as relating to persons who are former members of a 1976 Act Scheme, as they apply to regulations under section 1 of the 1976 Act. (2) The Pensions (Increase) Act 1971 has effect as if a reference in paragraph 15 or 43 of Schedule 2 to a pension payable under the Police Pensions Act 1976 included a reference to a pension payable under regulations under this Schedule to a person who is a former member of a 1976 Act Scheme.
Transitional provision 6 A reference, however expressed, in any document (including an enactment) to-
(a) regulations under section 1 of the 1976 Act, (b) regulations under section 25(2)(k) of the 1998 Act, or (c) regulations under section 26(2)(g) of that Act, is to be read, where the context allows, as including a reference to regulations under this Schedule. Continuity of schemes for tax purposes 7 A pension scheme established under this Schedule is to be regarded for the purposes of Part 4 of the Finance Act 2004 (taxation of pension schemes etc) as a continuation of each police pension scheme that it replaces, and not as a different scheme.”
The noble Lord said: My Lords, the Finance Act 2004 brought in new rules relating to pension benefits and to formally register pension schemes. At the same time, new police pension schemes were opened and the existing police pension scheme for the police in Great Britain and the almost identical scheme for members of the Police Service of Northern Ireland were closed to new entrants. These changes do not affect officers who are members of the old scheme transferring from one police force to another within Great Britain, but police officers transferring permanently between Northern Ireland and Great Britain in either direction would be obliged to join the new pension scheme on transfer.
The Government are keen for officers to join the new scheme and are giving all serving officers across the United Kingdom the opportunity to do so during a comprehensive options exercise. It was not our intention to compel police officers to do so on transferring between home department forces within the United Kingdom. These amendments would give the Secretary of State the power to merge the old pension schemes, thus removing this unintended consequence of the recent changes in pensions policy. The merging of the schemes will bring no disadvantage to officers and is essentially an administrative measure designed to facilitate the transfer of police officers from the Police Service of Northern Ireland to forces in Great Britain and vice versa. Such transfers are particularly important for the Police Service of Northern Ireland so that it can draw on the skills and experience of senior officers from Great British forces. This move is widely supported by the police, including the Police Federation, the Police Negotiating Board and the Northern Ireland Policing Board.
I understand that this is a riveting subject for most Members of your Lordships’ House. With that comment and observation, I beg to move.
My Lords, the amendment relates also to Northern Ireland and the pensions of police officers there. There is nothing we cannot support in it but we must ask the Government specifically to confirm that no police officer in Northern Ireland will be worse off under the new arrangements.
My Lords, we support the amendments and are grateful to the Government for taking the care in advance to send to noble Lords taking part in these debates the Statement to be made by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in another place, and placing it in the Library. It alerted outside organisations to this issue and made it possible, I hope, for these amendments to go through very quickly.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, for her support. I am pleased that the Statement made by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has been carefully studied and welcomed. I can confirm that no serving police officer will be any worse off as a consequence of the amendments that we have brought before your Lordships' House this evening. I hope that that satisfies the noble Baroness, Lady Harris.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
After Schedule 2, insert the following new schedule-
“CONSULTATION WITH APA AND ACPO Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (c. 60) 1 In section 67 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (supplementary provisions about codes), for paragraphs (a) and (b) of subsection (4) there is substituted-
“(a) the Association of Police Authorities, (b) the Association of Chief Police Officers of England, Wales and Northern Ireland,”. Police Act 1996 (c. 16) 2 In section 8A of the Police Act 1996 (local policing summaries), for paragraphs (a) and (b) of subsection (6) there is substituted-
“(a) the Association of Police Authorities; (b) the Association of Chief Police Officers; and”. 3 In section 39A of that Act (codes of practice for chief officers), for paragraphs (a) and (b) of subsection (4) there is substituted-
“(a) the Association of Police Authorities; (b) the Association of Chief Police Officers; and”. 4 In section 42A of that Act (procedure in relation to removal of senior officers), for paragraphs (a) and (b) of subsection (2) there is substituted-
“(a) the Association of Police Authorities; (b) the Association of Chief Police Officers; and”. 5 In section 53 of that Act (regulations as to standard of equipment), for paragraphs (a) and (b) of subsection (2) there is substituted-
“(a) the Association of Police Authorities; (b) the Association of Chief Police Officers; and”. 6 (1) Section 53A of that Act (regulation of procedures and practices) is amended as follows.
(2) For paragraphs (a) and (b) of subsection (3) there is substituted-
“(a) the Association of Police Authorities; and (b) the Association of Chief Police Officers.” (3) For paragraphs (a) and (b) of subsection (5) there is substituted-
“(a) the Association of Police Authorities; and (b) the Association of Chief Police Officers; and”. 7 In section 57 of that Act (common services), for paragraphs (a) and (b) of subsection (4) there is substituted-
“(a) the Association of Police Authorities; (b) the Association of Chief Police Officers; and”. 8 In section 101 of that Act (interpretation), at the beginning of the list of definitions in subsection (1) there is inserted-
““the Association of Chief Police Officers” means the Association of Chief Police Officers of England, Wales and Northern Ireland;”. Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996 (c. 25) 9 In section 21A of the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996 (code of practice for police interviews of certain witnesses), in subsection (4)-
(a) before paragraph (a) there is inserted- “(za) the Association of Chief Police Officers of England, Wales and Northern Ireland;”; (b) sub-paragraph (i) of paragraph (a) is omitted. Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001 (c. 16) 10 In section 97 of the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001 (regulations for police forces), for paragraphs (c) and (d) of subsection (4) there is substituted-
“(c) the Association of Police Authorities; and (d) the Association of Chief Police Officers of England, Wales and Northern Ireland.” Police Reform Act 2002 (c. 30) 11 In section 22 of the Police Reform Act 2002 (power of Independent Police Complaints Commission to issue guidance), for paragraphs (a) and (b) of subsection (3) there is substituted-
“(a) the Association of Police Authorities; (b) the Association of Chief Police Officers; and”. 12 In section 24 of that Act (consultation on regulations), for paragraphs (b) and (c) there is substituted-
“(b) the Association of Police Authorities; (c) the Association of Chief Police Officers; and”. 13 In section 39 of that Act (police powers for contracted-out staff), for paragraphs (a) and (b) of subsection (11) there is substituted-
“(a) the Association of Police Authorities; (b) the Association of Chief Police Officers;”. 14 In section 43 of that Act (railway safety accreditation scheme), in subsection (9)-
(a) for paragraph (a) there is substituted- “(a) the Association of Chief Police Officers;”; (b) for paragraph (c) there is substituted- “(c) the Association of Police Authorities;”. 15 In section 45 of that Act (code of practice relating to chief officers' powers under Chapter 1 of Part 4), in subsection (3)-
(a) for paragraph (c) there is substituted- “(c) the Association of Police Authorities;”; (b) for paragraph (f) there is substituted- “(f) the Association of Chief Police Officers;”. 16 In section 51 of that Act (independent custody visitors for places of detention), for paragraphs (a) and (b) of subsection (7) there is substituted-
“(a) the Association of Police Authorities; (b) the Association of Chief Police Officers; and”. 17 In section 96 of that Act (president of ACPO), the words “of England, Wales and Northern Ireland” are omitted.
18 In section 106 of that Act (general interpretation), at the appropriate place there is inserted-
“the Association of Chief Police Officers” means the Association of Chief Police Officers of England, Wales and Northern Ireland;”.”
On Question, amendment agreed to.
Clause 5 [Police authorities as best value authorities]:
Leave out Clause 5 and insert the following new Clause-
“POLICE AUTHORITIES AS BEST VALUE AUTHORITIES
The following amendments to the Local Government Act 1999 (c. 27) shall have effect-
(a) section 1(1)(d) is omitted; (b) section 1(4) is omitted; (c) section 24 is omitted.”
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, we are back to best value once more. I make no bones about the fact that the amendment would disapply best value legislation to police authorities.
It seems to me that the proposals in the Bill leave police authorities with all the responsibilities to secure best value but none of the powers to make sure that it happens. This is an impossible situation. Subsequent letters between the Government and myself have failed to find a meeting of minds, so I will plod on and expand once again on why I do not like what the Government are proposing.
Best value effectively does two things: it adds the word “economic” to police authorities’ responsibilities to ensure an efficient and an effective police service for their area and it gives them a responsibility for ensuring continuous improvement in their force. But to make sure that these things happen, the legislation says that an authority must commission a best value review to assess what is working and what is not. Where it is not working, an improvement plan must be put in place to remedy the situation.
The Bill proposes to remove this power to commission reviews. If a police authority cannot do reviews, it cannot do best value because it has lost the ability to assess what is working and what is not. It is as simple as that. The Government believe that this can be replaced by the existing power of authorities to require reports from chief officers. But that is not the same at all. It lacks the crucial element of assessment, particularly the requirement to look at what is now called contestability—in other words, competition.
I think we all accept that best value as applied by what was formerly the ODPM—now the DCLG—became a classic example of red tape and bureaucracy gone mad. Sometimes it tied up far more resources than it ever saved, despite its intentions of greater economy and efficiency. The sensible way to remove this red tape is to remove the legislation, not tinker with it so that some bits apply and some do not, particularly when the bits that have been removed carry a meaningful purpose.
If the overarching aim of best value is still required, it would be easy enough to add “economic” to the requirement on police authorities to be “efficient” and “effective” and to include a duty to secure improvements as a specific function of police authorities. But let us be clear that keeping the duties without the powers is an iniquitous and impossible task. It would be better, I suggest, to disapply best value altogether and be rid of this obsolete requirement. I beg to move.
My Lords, I return to this issue feeling rather perplexed and not a little confused as to what Liberal Democrat politicians are really about when it comes to best value. I thought that I would feel rather more enlightened after listening to the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, but as she went on I became, if not confused, more concerned about the illogical thread on which the argument was based.
It is right that Clause 5 removes the bureaucracy associated with best value reviews. I thought I heard the noble Baroness agree that the best value regime needed to be less bureaucratic. Having heard that statement, I thought that the noble Baroness would then have agreed with the Government’s position.
It may be worth reminding the House what the overarching duty amounts to. It is a duty on police authorities to make arrangements to secure continuous improvement in the way in which police functions are exercised. Amendment No. 53 would remove that duty from police authorities, at least in the context of the Local Government Act 1999.
In the debate on Amendment No. 26, the noble Baroness sought to re-enact the overarching duty in the Police Act 1996. She argues that it is unreasonable to leave police authorities with the best value duty without the tools to discharge it. That is not an argument I can accept. Police authorities will have the necessary tools at their disposal—they have them now. They will still be able to conduct reviews and call on the chief constable to submit reports. I do not recall hearing the noble Baroness say that police authorities do not have the wherewithal, knowledge or ability to discharge their other statutory functions without having express powers to go with each and every one of them. If that were the case, we would have a very cumbersome statutory process indeed.
It has also been argued that the residual best value duty is redundant as it overlaps with the police authorities’ duty under the Police Act to maintain an efficient and effective police force. I can accept that there is some overlap, but a duty to secure continuous improvement in the delivery of service goes a step further and, as such, is well worth retaining in its own terms.
I genuinely believe that there is little in practice between what the Government are seeking to do and what the noble Baroness wishes to achieve. I think that we both believe in continuous improvement and that police forces should be run in an effective and efficient manner, but we have tried to lighten the bureaucratic burden. Having listened to Liberal Democrat politicians, I thought for a long time that they adhered to that part of the Government’s philosophy.
Perhaps that is no longer the case. Perhaps over the summer the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, decided that she would rather have more bureaucracy and more precision in the way in which a statutory objective is deemed to work. If that is so, I regret it, because I do not think that that is what police authorities want or that it is necessarily in the best interests of the service.
I hope that having heard what I have had to say and reflected more on some of the illogicality of her argument, the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw the amendment, which would actually change very little.
My Lords, I have listened again to a rather disappointing response from the Minister. He accuses my party of wanting more bureaucracy. Of course we do not—that is a ludicrous idea. Perhaps the noble Lord will look more carefully at what I have said. We will definitely come back to this at Third Reading.
I simply want to ask whether it is the Home Office that is running this agenda, because it is not entirely within its remit. If it is the case, could it put its foot down and explain to whoever is running it how this is going to affect police authorities? The whole best value area needs to be sorted out. As I said, we will come back to it at Third Reading, but, for the moment, I will withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
After Clause 5, insert the following new clause-
“Police pension schemes POWER TO MERGE SCHEMES
Schedule (Power to merge police pension schemes) has effect.”
After Clause 5, insert the following new clause-
“Statutory consultation requirements CONSULTATION WITH APA AND ACPO
(1) Schedule (Consultation with APA and ACPO) (which amends provisions requiring consultation with persons representing the interests of police authorities or chief officers of police so that they require consultation with the Association of Police Authorities or the Association of Chief Police Officers) has effect.
(2) If it is appears to the Secretary of State that, by reason of a change of name or otherwise-
(a) the interests of police authorities are represented by a body that is not called the Association of Police Authorities, or (b) the interests of chief officers of police are represented by a body that is not called the Association of Chief Police Officers of England, Wales and Northern Ireland, he may by order make the appropriate consequential amendments to any statutory provision (including this subsection) containing a reference to the association in question. (3) In subsection (2) “statutory provision” means provision contained in, or in any instrument made under, any Act.”
On Question, amendments agreed to.
Clause 6 [Standard powers and duties of community support officers]:
Page 3, line 34, after “4” insert “but excluding the powers contained under paragraph 2 of that Schedule”
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I have received some excellent briefings on this amendment from the APA, the Metropolitan Police Service and HMIC. The amendment would limit the minimum powers of police community support officers to those which are below detention level. The Government are keen to standardise the powers of police community support officers so that people across the country know what common set of duties will be carried out by them and understand what to expect from them. This is a reasonable aim. The difficulty with the Government’s approach is that they are leaving themselves complete flexibility in what they might centrally prescribe by way of community support duties through secondary legislation. I expect the Minister will tell me that this flexibility is necessary to future-proof the legislation, but this is not standardisation, but centralisation. There are other practical difficulties with this approach.
At present, it is the job of the chief officer of police to decide what range of duties PCSOs within his force will carry out. This means that their duties can be tailored to local policing style and that there is some variation between forces in what tasks they carry out, but that is the whole point of having local forces accountable to local people.
The key roles that PCSOs play in all areas are: offering increased visibility to provide greater reassurance to the public, improving community engagement through getting to know communities and the issues that concern them, and gathering intelligence from local people about what is going on in their neighbourhoods. It is precisely because they are not quite police that they are more trusted by the sections of the community which react badly to the more authoritarian image of fully sworn police officers, yet standardising their powers in the way suggested by the Government will simply make them more like sworn officers. They risk losing these advantages and there is no clear distinction.
If we are to give PCSOs standard powers, this standard should represent a set of minimum powers, with flexibility for chief officers to increase them if it is appropriate to their area. This means drawing a line in the sand about the limit of standard powers, which should be set below detention level for a number of reasons. First, if community support officers are to take on the more confrontational roles which detention powers would imply, their training will be very much longer and consequently more expensive. Secondly, if their role is expanded to include additional tasks, PCSOs could quite reasonably expect to be paid more. Both of these could add a significant additional burden to police budgets, which we know will already be under great pressure over the next few years. Thirdly, the distinction between community support officers and police officers will become more blurred, potentially leading to a loss of the trust they currently enjoy among sections of the population which feel alienated from the mainstream. This would be extremely unhelpful in the troubled times in which we live. Fourthly, having detention powers would mean that they would have to start completing more paperwork, making court appearances and so on. Time spent on this would be time they would not be on the front line providing a greater level of reassurance to, and engagement with, the public. Fifthly, expanding their role is likely to give the impression that forces are trying to recruit police on the cheap. This could have unwelcome implications both for public perception generally and for relationships with sworn officers and the organisations that represent them. Finally, we must ask what kind of people will be attracted to becoming community support officers if it is seen not to be a community-based post, but one that carries rather more authoritarian powers.
Taken together, these represent a compelling set of arguments for ensuring that any standard powers are minimum powers, with the line drawn as I have described. Chief police officers will still have the ability to increase those powers if and when they feel it is necessary. For the reasons that I have outlined, it is unhelpful to prescribe greater powers for all areas. This is important for the confidence of the public in policing and deserves to be in primary legislation. I beg to move.
My Lords, I understand the anxiety of the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, but I do not accept that it is merited on this occasion. Perhaps I may explain to her why. The key question is the intention of the Bill in relation to the powers of the police community support officers and whether the amendment improves it.
The Bill’s intention is to bring clarity to the policing powers currently designated to community support officers. I welcomed the noble Baroness’s acceptance at the beginning of her speech that this was a reasonable aim, because if we are to have the benefit of using community support officers, we should know the ambit of what they are likely to do in any given area.
There is great variation among forces, a fact with which the noble Baroness is all too familiar. Clause 6 allows the Secretary of State to propose to both Houses which of the existing powers available in the legislation should be designated as standard for all community support officers. The amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, would preclude from the consideration of the Home Secretary, this House and another place one specific power. We cannot accept that this is how we should frame the legislation. If the principle that a standard set of powers may be drawn up is accepted, we would not at this stage interpose our personal views into primary legislation and prejudge or preclude the consultation which the Bill requires, or the debate and the vote on the draft order.
I reiterate that this Bill does not prescribe what the standard set of powers should be; it sets out a statutory process for determining the standard set—and it is a comprehensive process. If, after debate on a draft order, this House thinks that we have got it wrong, it may then reject the draft order, but we do not think that the Bill is the place to debate the individual existing powers or skewer the Bill’s intention.
I am reluctant to discuss the merit of exercising the power or the reasoning for including it in a standard set because the key point is to safeguard the integrity of the existing clause. All policing powers, whoever exercises them, are coercive—that is their nature. CSOs are appropriately trained and recruited to a task from a wider and more diverse background than are police officers. Some 15 per cent come from minority ethnic groups, for example. Their nature is that they are local, immediate and known by people. It is quite clear that we want to retain that distinct and valuable flavour. Not everyone welcomed CSOs initially, but we all welcome them now as being a thoroughly good thing. They are not only to engage and to reassure, but they solve problems about anti-social behaviour that people face, and we should dispel the myth that they are not up to the job of doing that—because we know that they are.
Noble Lords will be aware that we did a pilot study on the use of the power to require someone to remain for 30 minutes. The result was really favourable. It is an important sanction when a CSO is dissatisfied with the response given to a request for a name and address. Whether to exercise that power is at the discretion of the CSO and on the basis of local operational instructions. It is then for a constable to resolve the situation, not the CSO. The CSO may not restrain someone; that requires the designation of a separate power.
We are having discussions with the police service on the shape of a list of standard powers and debating with it the merits and the composition of such a list. We are seeking to reach an agreement with the service on this and we will pursue this aim, if necessary, through formal consultation required by the Bill. For transparency’s sake, we published the previous Home Secretary’s proposal for a standard list in the annexe of the Explanatory Notes to the Bill, but it was never intended to be the final word. There is a lot of debate about what that core should be, where the dividing line should be and what should be left for local determination. That is a debate that we need to have. All the Bill proposes to do is to enable us to have a standard; it does not determine what that standard will be. The standard will depend on the consultation and on the iterative process through which we have to try to craft something.
I hope that on that basis I can urge the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment. There will be scope for us to have this debate in due course after those consultations have come to fruition.
My Lords, the proposal is that they would then go into a list, which this House and another place would have an opportunity to debate and which we would review. All that we are doing at this stage is setting a framework to say that there should be a standard and that this is the process that we are going to use to develop that standard and the process through which the Houses will be able to review what the standard should be. We are in agreement that it would be a good thing to have a standard set of core things that CSOs can do, but at this stage it would be arbitrary to pick out one issue and say that it is outwith what CSOs should do. That would be precipitate. The one pilot that we have had so far indicates that allowing the CSOs to stay for half an hour is a good idea.
My Lords, I am grateful. I listened carefully to what the Minister said. It is slightly cart-before-horse to bring in a standard at this stage if at a later stage we will be talking about it. However, as the Minister put some things on record, I shall also put on the record the concerns of Sir Ian Blair, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, who in writing to the Home Secretary said that he believed that the powers could be,
“potentially coercive, or more confrontational than those that exist at present, or have a more significant investigative requirement than current training supports”.
Sir Ian asked for a shorter list of standard powers, which he said would be preferable, and expressed concerns,
“over the widening of the list of offences which can be dealt with by way of a Fixed Penalty Notice. These include offences of common assault, possession of Class C Drugs and possession of an offensive weapon”.
He believes that all those are unsuitable for PCSOs and, as set out in the attachment to the letter, has concerns as to their use by police officers in some circumstances. I hope that the Government take very seriously all the concerns expressed by the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. If I can be assured that that will be the case—and the noble Baroness is nodding in assent—I would be happy to withdraw my amendment.
My Lords, I am happy to confirm that. I have tried to indicate that we are in discussions with chief police officers to discuss with them what the standards should be, so we will have ample opportunity to review these issues and to talk with the police about how best to go forward.
Page 3, leave out lines 41 to 44 and insert-
“(a) the Association of Police Authorities; and (b) the Association of Chief Police Officers.”
On Question, amendment agreed to.
Schedule 4 [Police bail]:
Page 96, line 18, at end insert-
“( ) Conditions of the bail imposed under subsection (3B) shall expire on either—
(a) the time at which the person attends at a police station; and (b) seven days from the time at which the person was released on bail.”
The noble Lord said: My Lords, this was a revised version of the amendment that we discussed in Committee. It would restrict the maximum duration of conditions on street bail, specifying that the conditions would expire either seven days after the person was released or when he or she attended a police station, whichever was earlier. The amendment would not remove the power to impose a condition on street bail; that is not the purpose. It would merely impose generous limits on the duration of this condition.
Street bail can be beneficial for both police and suspect. We know of an example of street bail being used in the case of a mother who, while out with her three young children, was arrested for shoplifting. She was given street bail to attend a police station at a later date so that she could arrange care for her children. In such circumstances, unnecessary inconvenience was avoided. We do not wish to see people being taken to a police station at times that are inconvenient for them and the police. That is the purpose behind the amendment and I hope that the Minister can respond to it. I beg to move.
My Lords, I should say straight away that I acknowledge the sentiment behind the amendment, which is to minimise the potential for a suspected person to be placed for an undue period of time on conditions that are disproportionate to the offence or the offender. The noble Lord gave a graphic example of where the provision works incredibly well and is a sensible way forward. That is a sentiment that we absolutely share, but the effect of the amendment, for three reasons, would be to achieve the opposite.
First, under the Bill, the person granted street bail has an immediate right to appeal to the custody officer and then to a magistrate. A person granted bail pre-charge at the police station can apply to the magistrate for those conditions to be changed.
Secondly, an officer setting conditions of bail will do so on the basis of a risk assessment, taking into account the condition of the victim, the circumstances of the offender, the nature of the offence and the needs of the investigation. Automatic expiry of conditions after seven days does not mean automatic expiry of the risk. If the noble Lord’s amendment was enacted, the almost certain outcome is that suspects would be required to return to the police station at the end of a completely arbitrary period of seven days. The officers could consider whether to issue a further period of bail with conditions attached if the investigation was still in progress.
Let us take the example that the noble Lord gave of a mother who has real difficulties with childcare because her mother is away and she has no one else. That mother can say, “I can come back—there is no urgency—if you give me 10 days”. If there was an obligation for that to happen in seven days, there would not be that flexibility; it would mean prescribing a strict timetable that would be disadvantageous to the mother, time-consuming and unnecessary, because it would prescribe an arbitrary time, which might not meet the needs or the risk assessment done by the police officer, who might think that it was not necessary. We believe that this would not only be disruptive to the suspect but create a bureaucratic and time-consuming process for the police. We cannot see the benefits of that and I do not believe that it is what the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, wants either. The Bill currently provides the officer with the ability to determine the period of bail that best suits the needs of the investigation. That has to be the driver and not a bureaucratic and arbitrary process.
Thirdly, one of the aims of bail is to ensure that people spend as little time as possible in police detention. We are looking to encourage officers to make effective use of bail and to do so in an environment that recognises the needs and concerns of the victim. The application of conditions proportionate to the offence should both help to protect the victim and minimise the time that the person needs to spend in a police cell. I recognise the concern that a person might be subject to almost indefinite conditions or periods of bail. I am sure that the noble Lord has that anxiety about the provision. In Committee, I indicated that it was mentioned in Committee in the other place that we had anticipated that potential when we introduced the street bail provisions in 2003. The Home Office guidance that accompanied the provisions made it clear that a period of more than six weeks to respond to bail should be considered only in exceptional circumstances. We repeat the same guidance for both street and pre-charge bail, but we do not envisage placing such a time limit in the Bill. Instead, we wish to allow officers to retain the operational flexibility to best meet the needs of the investigation.
The 2003 circular requires the monitoring by supervisory management of the use of street bail, particularly regarding disproportionality—another issue about which the noble Lord and I are anxious. We would extend that requirement to the conditions attached to bail and to the periods to which those conditions are attached. Police officers are accountable for their actions but are also answerable to their communities regarding tackling and investigating crime. We believe that these proposals will help to achieve both objectives. We want police officers to behave safely but compassionately and sensitively, if the need arises. We believe that the measure enables them to do that. I hope that the noble Lord is reassured. He and I believe that the way in which these matters are tackled has worked well, and that we need to replicate that.
Government Amendment No. 142 corrects the reference in Section 142(3) of the 1988 Act. For some time—given the date of the legislation—it has incorrectly referred to conditions as set out in Section 142(1)(b). That provision does not contain any conditions; the relevant subsection is (1)(c). Accordingly, the amendment will require a justice of the peace to consider conditions that must be satisfied to authorise entry and search of premises for offensive weapons. A justice of the peace would already take those matters into account. In any event, the conditions reflect the framework set out in PACE in relation to authorising entry to the premises. I hope that I shall satisfy the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, that he and I, as always, want the same thing, but that we have found a good way of doing it for him.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for that explanation. On future occasions we shall have plenty of opportunities to monitor how the provision affects individuals. I have no doubt that in the coming months we shall have a plethora of criminal justice legislation that will provide further opportunities to deal with the matter. I am grateful to the Minister and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
After Clause 11, insert the following new clause-
“POWER TO SEARCH FOR FIREARMS
If a police constable has reason to believe that a person or persons in a particular area may be carrying firearms, he may arrange—
(a) for that area to be sealed off; and (b) for the searching for firearms of any people or vehicles in that particular area, by whatever means he considers appropriate.”
The noble Lord said: My Lords, this simple amendment would provide a clear power to help the police to get guns off the streets before they are used. The situation on gun crime has become considerably worse since we previously discussed it, which was on 4 July. The Library has kindly provided me with cuttings that cover the period since then. They tell a horrific story. I shall mention only two figures. In Manchester alone, there is an average of five firearm offences every two days, committed by boys and men aged 15 to 20. In London, shootings are almost one a day with more than two fatal shootings a month.
I should like briefly to quote Kevin Davis, who, as the head of Scotland Yard’s Operation Trident, is one of the most senior law enforcement officers in the United Kingdom. He has pointed out that a minority of young people think that it is,
“socially and morally acceptable to carry guns”.
“Offenders are using firearms over trivial disputes like arguments over spilt drinks, bumping into one another or minor road collisions”.
Two-thirds of the shootings investigated by Trident officers occurred in just six of the capital’s poorest boroughs. Three-quarters of the victims are black. Intimidation is rife and Davis admits that protecting the entire extended family of a witness is impossible.
After terrorism, firearms crime is perhaps the most serious challenge to law and order that we face. Luckily, I believe that we can do something about it. Unlike searching for drugs or collecting drugs, which is extremely difficult, finding a firearm with a hand-held metal detector is very simple. My amendment seeks to give the police powers to use that means when they wish to do so.
In previous debates, the Minister has said that there are already many powers in relation to firearms. She is absolutely right. I refer to Section 1 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. I shall not go on, but suffice it to say that the Home Office’s firearms website emphasises that firearms law is very complicated. Complicated law is not good law. Simple law is needed, which is understood by both the public and the police.
Do the police want the measure? In July, I said that the part of ACPO responsible for gun crime was anxious to have it. Since that time, the Home Office has lent on ACPO and ACPO has suggested that its different sections—the police section and the section dealing with community relations—
My Lords, I cannot let it stand that we have lent on ACPO. We asked for ACPO’s view because we were worried that it might have concerns about the matter. We wanted to hear from ACPO whether there was a gap and what the gap was so that we could assist. Nothing would give me more pleasure than to come back to the House and say to the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, “You’re right and there is something more that we can do”. I reassure the noble Lord that we asked ACPO about the matter, but it was certainly not lent on.
My Lords, of course I shall withdraw the words “lent on”. The discussions were useful and constructive. ACPO decided that it would like to have intra-ACPO discussions. All I say is, “Well done, Sir Humphrey”.
Of course the police need to consider carefully how they would use a power such as the one that we are discussing. They need to use their judgment. They have to consider carefully the range of issues involved, whether that be removing guns or community relations. But that does not mean that they should not have an instrument that enables them to remove guns. It is for Parliament to give that instrument to the police and it is for the police to use their judgment appropriately and properly to apply the measure as and where they feel that it would be helpful.
I want to send a clear message to the criminal fraternity that it will become extremely risky for anyone to carry an illegal gun. That would also send a clear message to the public that the police now have a clear and simple statement of legislative power to take guns off the streets before they are used. I beg to move.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, has always been persistent on this issue. I have often supported him on this during Questions to the Minister, and today will be no exception.
An unacceptable gun culture has obviously developed in this country during recent times. Shootings in the streets or in fast food restaurants are often reflected in newspaper headlines. Gun crime has grown at an alarming rate in this country, with overall gun crime doubling since 1997. Crimes involving imitation firearms have quadrupled. When this matter was brought forward in Committee, I was somewhat concerned about the very wide nature of the amendment. Since then, in our discussions with the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, it has been tightened by the use of the word “that” in paragraph (a). We are now happy to support the amendment.
The vast majority of people who own guns legally use them responsibly. The aim of further changes to the law must be to tackle the threat from weapons that are held or used illegally. Gun crime is a complex problem, and tackling it requires a holistic approach. We need to use intelligence-led policing to attack the organised criminal gangs that are responsible for many shootings. In order to achieve a better rate of conviction, we need to encourage more people to come forward by improving the protection offered to vulnerable witnesses. It is also important that the Government support the community groups working with those young people who are at risk of becoming involved in drugs and gun crime. We hope that the amendment will send a signal that more needs to be done to tackle this problem. I support the intention behind the amendment.
My Lords, I strongly support my noble friend, and I have added my name to his amendment. He is right to bring this matter before the House again, and I hope that it may be resolved in his favour tonight—I hope by the Minister being able to agree with my noble friend. It is also right, as the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, said, that the majority of firearms are legally held and responsibly used. None of us is trying to target legislation at those who behave responsibly. The fear of gun crime is strong, and the risk of gun crime is real in some parts of the country. The illegal use of guns on some of our streets brings injury to some and misery to many; it is the scourge of a generation in some parts of our society. The considerable merit of my noble friend’s amendment is in the simplicity of the description of the powers that he seeks to confer on the police. I am aware, of course, that powers already exist to enable the police in certain circumstances to search people, but those powers are to be extracted from a myriad legislative instruments.
Since Committee, my noble friend has carefully considered the drafting of his amendment, and he has made one small change which should meet the concerns of those who felt that the power might appear to go more widely than my noble friend intended. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, for indicating that the change has helped him to support my noble friend. If the Government wish to give a clear message about their commitment to reducing the level of gun crime, they have the opportunity to do so tonight by accepting my noble friend’s amendment.
My Lords, I say straight away that the Government agree with the sentiment expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, agreed by the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, and supported by the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay. The recent tragic shootings have highlighted once again that the fight against gun crime is far from over. We have already put in place legislation to support that fight; for example the five year minimum sentence for those adults convicted of unlawful possession of prohibited firearms.
The Government take gun crime extremely seriously. That is why I was grateful for the opportunity to discuss the issue with the noble Lord in our telephone conversation last week. There was nothing on which we disagreed about the nature of the crime and the need to face it with all possible tools. There is legislation in place that provides a range of enforcement powers to the police under Section 47 of the Firearms Act 1968. I realise that I am repeating what has been said on this issue, but the facts remain the same. For example, in the circumstances specified in the legislation, a constable can require a firearm or ammunition to be handed over for examination; the person can be searched and detained for the purpose of the search; if a vehicle is involved, the vehicle may be searched and the person driving or in control of it can be required to stop it; and, furthermore, for the purpose of exercising these powers a constable may enter any place.
The Government have made clear their commitment to tackling gun crime and to ensuring that the police have sufficient and proportionate powers to help make communities safe. The existing legislation helps meet those objectives, and no purpose would be served by duplicating the powers available under existing legislation. The police agree with that view. The Association of Chief Police Officers’ lead on stop and search, Deputy Chief Constable Craig Mackay of Gloucestershire, said that he was not aware from his portfolio of the service asking for this power or identifying a gap in current legislation that requires a new power and that, as drafted, the amendment is a major extension to police powers and raises some real issues of interpretation that could cause community concerns. The ACPO’s lead on the criminal use of firearms, Chief Constable Keith Bristow of Warwickshire, concluded that this might be a step too far, due to the complexities stated by DCC Mackay. He confirmed that while appreciating the support of the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, for the police, ACPO is unable to support his amendment.
Further, I cannot accept that the inclusion of the amendment in the Bill would serve as a declaratory statement either to the police or to the general public. The police are well aware of the high priority that we place on the fight against gun crime and are already fully trained in the use of their powers under existing legislation. The introduction of powers that duplicate existing provisions could only serve to confuse them, and I know that is not something the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, would wish.
The House will be aware that, lamentably, the general public are not in the habit of reading Bills or Hansard. Indeed, rumour has it that following the deliberations of this House late at night does not cull from the public the interest that it might otherwise deserve, which is much to be lamented. Therefore, I cannot agree that the amendment would raise the profile of gun crime in the public’s consciousness in the way that the noble Lord suggests. We have run a number of public information campaigns about the issue, and we will continue to do so in the future. I respectfully suggest that those are more likely to have the effect that the noble Lord is seeking to achieve than a declaratory amendment to the Bill. The noble Lord does not suggest that the amendment adds anything to the legislation that we already have; it simply adds a new complex arrangement that police officers would be burdened to have to learn in addition to all the others. It adds very little.
Given that we now have a clear view from the Association of Chief Police Officers that the new power is not needed, I ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment. He is to be commended for his persistence on this important issue. He is right to raise it, but may I suggest that the benefit of so doing has already been delivered and we should press the matter no further? It has now had five outings and it is perhaps time to put the amendment to bed. I ask the noble Lord not to press the amendment this evening.