rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 6 November be approved.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I apologise in advance because I have a rather heavy cold and I am full of pills. If my voice goes, I shall try to keep it loud enough for everyone to hear.
The order extends Section 17 of the Crime and Disorder Act to cover the Greater London Authority, Transport for London and the London Development Agency. This section places a duty on named agencies to consider the implications for crime, which includes terrorism, disorder, anti-social behaviour and substance misuse, as they carry out their business and do all that they reasonably can to prevent such activity.
The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 introduced the practice of partnership working to reduce crime and disorder, and places a statutory duty on the police, police authorities, local authorities, fire and rescue authorities, primary care trusts in England and local health boards in Wales to develop and implement a strategy to tackle crime and disorder, including anti-social behaviour and substance misuse in their area. In doing so, these responsible authorities are required to work in partnership with other local public, private, community and voluntary groups, and with the community itself. This approach recognises that the causes of crime and disorder and the interventions required to deliver safer, more secure communities lie with a range of organisations, groups and individuals working in partnership.
This Act recognises that key groups have responsibility for the provision of a wide and varied range of services to and within the community and, in undertaking these functions, that they have a duty to do all that they reasonably can to prevent crime and disorder in their area. This duty means that these agencies have to consider crime and disorder reduction while exercising all their other responsibilities. This reflects the reality that there are crime and/or disorder implications in decisions made across many different agencies. Section 17 is aimed at giving the vital work of crime and disorder reduction a focus across the wide range of local services and putting it at the heart of local decision making. Currently, this duty applies only to local authorities, joint authorities, national park authorities and the Broads Authority, police authorities and all fire and rescue authorities. The Home Secretary has the power to add to the list of agencies affected by the duty.
This order seeks to add the Greater London Authority, Transport for London and the London Development Agency to the list of agencies affected by this duty. The Home Secretary took the decision to include these agencies after a wider government consultation on the future of the Greater London Authority. This consultation included a suggestion to extend Section 17 to cover the Greater London Authority and those of its functional bodies not already covered by it.
There was widespread support for such a move and the commitment to extend the duty was included in the Government’s policy statement on the Greater London Authority. The Government’s final proposals for additional powers and responsibilities for the mayor and Assembly were published in July 2006. A minority was concerned that Section 17 duties would overshadow and undermine current GLA powers, as defined in Section 30 of the Greater London Authority Act 1999. This states that the GLA has power to do anything in the interest of promoting economic development, social development or the environment within Greater London. We do not agree: we believe that Section 17 will complement the general powers and explicitly underline the extent to which community safety has a vital part to play in securing the wider GLA objectives.
Since then, the Greater London Authority, Transport for London and the London Development Agency have adopted voluntarily the principles underpinning this duty. As part of its work to ensure sustainable social, economic and environmental development, the London Development Agency has published a community safety statement which states clearly its commitment to crime reduction and gives examples of the work that it is doing to support crime reduction and community safety.
To improve community safety on the London transport system, Transport for London has produced a community safety plan outlining the work that it is doing, again emphasising its commitment to adopting Section 17 principles. It is worth noting that this duty to consider crime and disorder, as an agency carries out its business, is different from the duty to work in partnership with others to reduce crime. That duty falls within Section 5 of the Crime and Disorder Act. These three agencies are not included in the list of authorities covered by Section 5. As such, the Greater London Authority, the London Development Agency and Transport for London do not become responsible authorities within crime and disorder reduction partnerships in London. They are not under a duty to engage with all 33 crime and disorder reduction partnerships nor are they affected by other legislation concerning responsible authorities in those partnerships.
The Government believe that extending Section 17 to these three agencies will strengthen and improve efforts to reduce crime and improve community safety across London. Introducing this new duty formalises the work that they have undertaken voluntarily and reflects the commitment of these agencies to ensure that crime reduction and community safety lie at the heart of decisions made by the Greater London Assembly and the function bodies. I commend this order to the House. I beg to move.
Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 6 November be approved.—First Report from the Statutory Instruments Committee.—(Lord West of Spithead.)
My Lords, I start by apologising that my noble friend Lady Hanham, who is our principal spokesman on home affairs, is not able to be here for this important order. I commend the noble Lord for his positively Stakhanovite devotion to duty in coming to the House to speak to orders of such fundamental importance. I think that, on this occasion, the noble Lord could quite happily have left the order to one of his colleagues; certainly we on these Benches would not have objected if someone other than the noble Lord had moved the Motion, particularly in light of the fact that he has a cold.
Quite frankly, as I think the noble Lord could have said, the order is relatively minor. It simply adds the Greater London Authority, the London Development Agency and Transport for London to the list of those authorities with powers conferred on them by the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. As I recall, I was then the spokesman for home affairs, but it all seems a long time ago.
I do not want to add anything other than to ask the noble Lord how he thinks the Act has been working since 1998. Presumably he and the Government feel that it has made some progress, which is why they would like to extend the powers to these three bodies. I shall be interested to hear what the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, has to say because I believe that she is still a member of the GLA and therefore will speak with greater authority. I leave that to her. Other than those brief comments, I will just say that we have no objection to the order.
My Lords, in view of the exchange at the end of the last short debate, in declaring an interest I will not describe myself as a stakeholder, a term that I, too, dislike very much. However, I have to declare an interest as a Member and currently the chair of the London Assembly, which is one of the constituent arms of the Greater London Authority and therefore will be affected by this order. The Assembly is a scrutiny body rather than one with executive powers, so the order will not affect it to the same extent as it will the mayor in the discharge of his executive functions. I have checked with the mayor’s office and discovered that he supports the order. I also asked my noble friend Lord Tope—I acknowledge what the Minister said about this order not extending to crime and disorder reduction partnerships; my noble friend is a member of one—what this would add to the duties under Section 30 of the Greater London Authority Act 1999, which covers economic and social development. My noble friend replied by saying, “Not much”, but suggested that I might get a longer response from the Government. But I wonder what it adds and my question is, “Why now?”. The answer may be that this is a tidying-up exercise following the White Paper, to which the Minister referred.
I think that the Minister has answered my final question, but nevertheless I shall ask it. The Explanatory Memorandum talks about putting,
“community safety at the heart of decisions made by both the Mayor and the Assembly”.
We are not accustomed to reading that sort of phrase in legislation. Indeed, if I may say so, it is rather a new Labour term. It raises this question: how can everything be at the heart of something? I think that the answer may be that it is complementary; perhaps another way of looking at it is to say that local government and London strategic government and its functional bodies need to be big-hearted. I should have made it clear that I welcome the order, but I conclude by remarking that I am glad to see the use of the term “community safety”. It is much more productive to use positive phrases than to talk about crime and disorder. In so far as this order will support the promotion of community safety, from these Benches I support it.
My Lords, although there are few of us, I welcome the contributions to the debate. All of us would agree on the importance of ensuring that our communities are safer, and the debate turns on the best way of achieving that. The Government believe that this order is one strand in increasing the effectiveness with which we tackle crime and disorder.
I shall respond to the specific points that were raised. The noble Lord, Lord Henley, asked what is being achieved. It is agreed that partnership working is the most effective way of reducing crime and disorder as well as other problems such as substance abuse. That is borne out by the crime statistics. For example, the British Crime Survey shows that there has been a reduction in crime of 42 per cent since 1995; in London, the statistics up to October 2007 show that crime has fallen by 6 per cent per annum. I think that it is having the desired effect. There is no doubt that we expect these agencies to build on this and work the prevention and reduction of problems into their decision-making processes and thus into their policies and strategies. I think that it will prove to be of genuine benefit as we move forward.
The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, raised again the issue of the relationship with Section 30 of the Greater London Authority Act 1999. I know that it was a concern at the time, but the Mayor now firmly believes that this is the right way to go. It possibly has not conferred the level of authority that he hoped might have come out of the section, but it is a good compromise. I have no doubt whatsoever that this Section 17 order will complement the general powers to deal with issues of economic and social development by underlining explicitly the extent to which community safety has a fundamental part to play. That is one of the benefits of the order.
I thank noble Lords for the important points that they have made. I believe that Section 17 is a valuable tool in ensuring that agencies consider how they can support crime reduction and increase community safety.
On Question, Motion agreed to.
House adjourned at 7.57 pm.