Committee (3rd Day) (Continued)
Amendments 40 and 40A not moved.
Amendment 40B had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.
Schedule 2 : Chief constables
41: Schedule 2, page 108, line 25, leave out paragraph 2
My Lords, I am going to speak to 24 amendments in this group that stand in my name and one to which I have added my name. First, I want to address Amendments 41 and 64A but I am also going to put forward some alternative proposals that are set out in Amendments 42, 46 and 64C and need to be taken together. These broadly relate to my concerns about using the construct of a corporation sole within which to encompass the functions of a chief officer of police and the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. I am then going to talk about Amendments 66A, 67, 67A, 67B and 234A to 234Q, and also say a little about Amendment 44 in this group, which I support although I did not put my name to it. These all relate to concerns I have regarding the creation of two chief finance officers and auditable bodies for one police fund. I apologise to the House as I will go into some detail and also for trying to put my own construction on this idea of corporation sole. I cannot claim to be an expert but looking around the Chamber there may be noble Lords who are more expert than me in this area, who might perhaps allay some of my concerns—or possibly add to them, I do not know.
I start off with my concerns regarding corporation sole. I am extremely uncomfortable with this idea. Chief officers, to me, are meant to be police officers, not corporations or commercial enterprises. Amendments 41 and 64A remove the status of corporation sole from chief officers and the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, while Amendments 42, 46 and 64C limit the scope of the status of a chief officer and the Metropolitan Police Commissioner as a corporation sole for the purpose of employment of staff only. I start by probing what this construct of a corporation sole means in practice and what the implications are for corporate governance of policing and the accountability of chief police officers.
As I have already said, I am not a lawyer and I do not know a great deal about corporation sole, but even the name seems to be a contradiction in terms: a corporation suggests a collective body but sole most certainly does not. Putting aside for a moment what is said in the Bill about the accountability of chief officers of police, the very name corporation sole suggests that the incumbent is accountable to him or herself. What laws set rules about corporate governance within corporations sole? What general powers and duties do these laws give the incumbent and what do they say about the accountability of the incumbent for those powers and duties? Do any of those laws or any other common practice within corporations sole conflict with what is being proposed in this Bill, whether in relation to the powers and duties of chief officers, the corporate governance regime of policing, or the accountability and operational responsibility of chief officers?
I am concerned that this construct creates technical difficulties in other areas of the Bill, for instance by creating two auditable bodies for one police fund—which are the subject of other amendments—or additional bureaucracy and expense in relation to transfer schemes. It might also create other unintended consequences. I am having a very hard time seeing what the benefits of this extra difficulty and expense will be.
I shall briefly explain how things work at the moment. The governing body is the police authority, which holds all the assets, funding and land for the police force. It is also the employer of all police staff. The chief officer has operational independence and also has direction and control of all police staff and officers. As an aside, I think it worthy of note that police officers are not employed by either the authority or the force but hold warrants from the Crown, and this will not change under the proposed new arrangements. The police authority then delegates functions to the chief officer so that he or she can manage the force and police funding on a daily basis. The delegation framework is a flexible document that can contain freedoms or restrictions on the functions delegated according to what is appropriate to the context. Typically, a scheme of delegation would contain limits, for instance, on the value of contracts that a chief police officer could sign before he must refer it to the authority for approval. This enables the authority to give chief officers freedom to exercise their professionalism, unless they give cause for concern, but also enables the authority to have the final say, as the governing body, about how public money is spent.
It seems to me that this current practice is both more flexible in practice and more robust in terms of corporate governance and accountability than the artificial construct of corporations sole. I am completely unclear, for instance, how this new arrangement will enable funding to be passed from the elected policing body to the chief constable or Metropolitan Police Commissioner to manage the police force yet still give enough traction to the elected policing body to determine how that money should be spent. How can a corporation have any influence over how its money is spent once it has been given to another corporation? Surely the money passes out of its jurisdiction and control.
I ask the Government to explain how this arrangement fulfils the policy intent and why the existing arrangement, whereby the chief officer has operational independence, command and control of police staff and delegated functions, is inadequate. Frankly, I have to say that I think that the Government have tied themselves in several knots in an effort first to create powerful individuals, in the form of police and crime commissioners, and then to set about limiting the powers of the police and crime commissioners for fear that they will have created a monster. One way in which the Government have done that is by creating equally powerful chief police officers; another way has been to deprive the police and crime commissioners of the powers and duties that police authorities currently have as employers of all police staff.
This brings me on to my alternative amendments, Amendments 42 and 64C. It is clear that the Bill intends that employment responsibilities for police staff should be passed to chief officers, but it is less clear whether that also includes powers for chief officers to enter into contracts, borrow money and so forth, and the extent to which chief officers will need the permission of the police and crime commissioner, or the equivalent in London, if they wish to do so. I apologise for the lengthy quotation that follows, but this is an extract from what the Policing Minister said to the Public Bill Committee in the other place:
“We recognise the operational independence of chief constables, as we have discussed, and we believe that they should have the professional freedom to employ their force staff directly … we have made it clear that it is the police and crime commissioner who owns the assets and passes them to the chief constable to manage on a day-to-day basis. After all, it is the police and crime commissioner who has the democratic mandate to decide on the advice of the chief constable and on behalf of the people in the force area how their money is to be spent. … the question is whether the provision is too widely drawn. It is intended only to apply to the employment of staff; it is not intended to give a wider power to chief constables on assets … I would, therefore, like to look again at whether we should provide further clarification of the measure. I agree with the general view of the Committee that it is important that we provide clarification where we can. I immediately make it clear that it is absolutely not our intention to cut across the decision that assets will be held by the police and crime commissioner”.—[Official Report, Commons, Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill Committee, 27/1/11; col. 252.]
It seems to me that no such amendment has been made, so perhaps the noble Baroness could explain why in her response.
I am very apprehensive about giving a corporate status to chief officers, but if we must do so because the Government have tied themselves in knots over police and crime commissioners, I am keen to see that such a status is strictly limited and is only for the purposes of employment. There are a number of reasons for doing so. Currently, paragraph 7 of Schedule 2 and paragraph 3 of Schedule 4 enable chief officers, and the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, to own all assets except land. That would include intellectual property, contractual assets, fleet and IT. Those paragraphs also enable chief officers, and the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, to enter into contracts without recourse to the elected policing body—with no limitation at all. That would include multimillion-pound contracts for the provision of services such as IT and the supply of goods, where the chief officer does not acquire ownership of those assets. I am particularly uncomfortable with the current wording in these paragraphs, which provide that a chief officer of police,
“may do anything which is calculated to facilitate, or is conducive or incidental to … entering into contracts and other agreements … acquiring and disposing of property … borrowing money”.
Granted, the last two items in that list are subject to the agreement of the relevant police and crime commissioner, but the wording is exceptionally widely drawn.
The effect of Amendments 46 and 67B would be to vary and to tighten considerably those incidental powers. If we accept that an elected policing body should have a mandate on behalf of local people to determine how police money is spent—and my earlier quotation suggests that the Government accept that—that is entirely inconsistent with the current wording of the Bill. The corporate status for employment only still leaves significant questions about accountability for how public money is spent as approximately 80 per cent of police budgets are currently spent on people. But it would at least greatly simplify the transfer arrangements envisaged later in the Bill that will pass assets and contracts from police authorities to police and crime commissioners. It would avoid the major expense that would otherwise be incurred in listing and determining the ownership of individual assets; it would also avoid difficult and protracted negotiations about ownership between chief officers and their governing bodies locally, both present and future. These amendments are central to clarifying the respective roles of the elected policing body and the chief officer.
The next amendments are concerned with the duplicate chief finance officer roles created by the current drafting of the Bill. Having a chief finance officer for both the force and the police and crime commissioner is a recipe for confusion. Different titles and different status are needed. Amendment 66A proposes a different title of finance director for the Metropolitan Police Service, while Amendments 44 and 67 deal with the key issue of having two statutory finance officers. It is debatable whether the force chief finance officer really needs statutory powers, but phrasing these under the Local Government Finance Act 1988 as currently proposed is unworkable and could be disastrous.
The Act requires the chief finance officer to act in the event that a body is about to enter into unlawful expenditure or exceed its available resources. It gives powers to the chief finance officer to stop expenditure in such circumstances. Clearly, this is a power that should rest ultimately with the elected local policing body, or someone who is directly accountable to him or her as the individual responsible to communities for safeguarding how public money is spent. I do not believe that it is a power that should rest with the chief officer or someone who is accountable only to a chief officer. The creation of two statutory chief finance officers would also have the consequence, whether intended or not, of creating two separate auditable bodies. This cannot surely be correct for what is a single police fund. It also raises real concerns about the access that a police and crime commissioner would have to financial information or the ability that they would have to check how money is being spent if it is held in separate corporations sole and subject to a separate audit regime. For this reason, Amendments 234A to 234P remove references to a separate statutory chief finance officer for the force.
Lastly, and very importantly, Amendment 234Q removes the current proposed amendment to the Audit Commission Act 1998, which would set up chief constables and the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police as auditable bodies. The Bill would have the consequence of creating two statutory finance officers and duplicate audit arrangements again for one police fund. That would be a complete waste of resources and blur the lines of accountability. This amendment will, I hope, make it clear that the local elected policing body is the auditable body. I beg to move.
My Lords, I have added my name in support of Amendments 41, 42 and 46, which the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, has set out in very clear detail, so I will be brief.
These are important amendments to test the implications of chief officers being corporations sole. Like the noble Baroness, I am uncomfortable with chief officers being given a legal status as corporations sole, and I look forward to an explanation from the Minister outlining answers to some of the questions that have already been asked about what this means for accountability and corporate governance.
The alternative amendments here deal with limiting the status of corporations sole to powers of employment only. As I understand it, that would prevent chief officers from owning assets or entering into contracts not directly related to employment. I have to say that I also have some significant concerns about giving chief officers unfettered responsibilities for employment of police staff without any role for the governing body. At the very least the latter should have an oversight role in grievance and professional standards, or the chief officer will become both judge and jury in these matters. But I am sure we will return to this later in the Bill. However, I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, that the most objectionable aspect of the current wording is the role that chief officers could play in determining how huge sums of public money should be spent, for instance through entering into multimillion-pound contracts or borrowing money in their own right. I hope that my noble friend the Minister can reassure me on this matter.
My Lords, I shall speak to my Amendment 64B, which differs only in a minor fashion from one or two of the others, and in support of Amendments 66A, 67, 67B and 234A to 234Q, to which I have added my name. I want to say why all this stuff matters. It no doubt seems like a terribly arcane set of arguments, but I rather suspect that some of our discussions on this group of amendments will determine whether what the Government are trying to do on police accountability actually happens. The way that the Government have framed all this is a recipe to undermine police accountability rather than strengthen it. I am sure that that is not the intention, but I suspect we have ended up here almost by accident.
Let me explain what I mean: it relates to the amendments dealing with corporations sole. The Government have decided that it would be appropriate for chief officers of police and the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis to have responsibility for the employment of police staff—a function currently carried out by police authorities. I think that is the wrong decision because it places too much power in the hands of a single individual. It is the argument that we have about policing and crime commissioners, and everything else. However, it is particularly difficult in a policing context.
There is a tendency among some chief officers of police to have around them a group of blue-eyed boys and girls who they see as their favoured supporters, and who they tend to promote in favour of others. One of the checks and balances that we have at the moment is that appointments at ACPO rank—commanders in the Met and assistant chief constables and above outside—are appointed by a panel from the police authority rather than simply on the decision of the chief officer of police. I am suggesting not that chief officers of police would use this power capriciously but that the temptation or tendency might be there. Having worked closely with a number of chief officers of police, I am well aware that some of them have extremely strong personalities and that they like to get their own way. This is about creating some checks and balances on those very strong personalities from getting their own way on every single occasion. It is going to be particularly important on employment.
It is actually a protection for the chief officers of police not to be doing this or not to be taking sole responsibility. I lose track of the number of instances where there have been complaints following appointment processes in the police service—the police are a particularly litigious lot. The complaints were about whether processes have been followed properly, whether there has been favouritism or whether individuals have been discriminated against. For a chief officer of police to be able to say, “Actually, this was done through a proper equal opportunities process and properly documented by the police authority” is an important protection. However, Ministers in their wisdom have decided that the employment function for police staff, as well as for the appointment of senior officers, should pass to the chief officer of police.
If that is the decision that the Government have taken, it is of course not too late for them to reconsider this matter. I do not believe that it runs to the centre of the main political headline that the Government wish to achieve by all of this, so they have that opportunity but they have made that commitment. To make that commitment work, as police officers have a particular status of being officers of the Crown, if you transfer responsibility for police staff across to chief officers of police you have to create the legal framework around which that can happen.
The solution that the Government have come up with is to create chief officers of police as corporations sole. It might be “corporation soles” but I leave that for others with a more distinguished track record in the English language to determine. Creating them as a corporation sole is seen as a solution. The trouble is that the corporation sole is defined in this Bill not just in relation to employment purposes but in general terms. That gives the chief officer of police all sorts of additional power as has been referred to. There has already been mention of entering into contracts and all these other things. Therefore, you have transferred power from what is currently the body to which the chief officer of police is accountable to the chief officer of police. You have diminished the line of accountability.
I am sure the Government would argue that, because in their preferred model the police and crime commissioner is directly elected, the extra authority of being directly elected will counterbalance the transfer of power that has been achieved by some of the other changes to the chief officer of police. I have to say to your Lordships that I am not sure that that is the case. Part of exercising power, responsibility and your role in terms of accountability is having a number of levers to operate and strings to pull. Some of those are about contracts and these other processes. This is about finance and the ownership of property.
The noble Lord, Lord Stevens of Kirkwhelpington, will recall an occasion when I was chair of the police authority and he was the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, when we disagreed on some point. I admit that I can no longer remember the precise nature of the disagreement. The consequence of this was that for an exciting 48 hours the Metropolitan Police Authority withdrew financial delegation from the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis. This produced a dramatic reaction and much toing and froing. The Home Office was called in and there was all sorts of excitement. However, the point was made. It was the exercise of, if not soft power, semi-hard power by using the levers that were available. What the Government are in danger of doing is removing some of those levers. It will make it more difficult on occasions, when perhaps an amicable agreement has not been reached in the way it normally would. Most of the time our relations were extremely amicable. However, sometimes you need those powers and that facility.
The Government are in danger of taking away all that. You will end up with elected police and crime commissioners, or whatever other model, if the Government ultimately have their way on this Bill. The expectation of the public will be that these individuals—or the commission, or whatever it turns out to be—have the power to hold the chief officer to account. However, it will be a case of the emperor’s new clothes. Although you will have the elected authority, you will not have the mechanisms to make something happen in extremis. This is likely to lead to disputes. There will be areas where the question of what is operational, as opposed to what is the legitimate role of the body that holds the police to account, will come into sharp relief.
I recall lengthy debates, mostly after my time as chair of the police authority, between the police authority and the Metropolitan Police about the use of Tasers. This is often a controversial area. We were concerned about the move to have Tasers more widely used within the Metropolitan Police district. Under the arrangements here, if you are not careful, the chief officer of police, holding out the protocol that the Home Office has carefully crafted, may say, “This is my operational decision”. Not only will the chief officer of police be able to say that, he could also say, “Because I am a corporation sole, I have placed a contract for the delivery of 2,000 Tasers with a company and there is nothing that you, as the elected police body, can do about it”. I rather suspect that when Ministers went down the road of strengthening police accountability they believed that there were some matters over which the elected police and crime commissioner could say to the chief officer, “I believe, as a matter of public policy, and as the individual directly elected by the public, that you should be much more cautious about the use of Tasers”.
One could give plenty of other examples but the same principles apply. By having such a broad definition of “corporation sole” so as to protect the decision that apparently has been taken with regard to the employment of staff, the Government are in danger of throwing away all the other mechanisms that the elected individual and the elected policing body can use to ensure that the police service is accountable. I do not think that that is what the Government want to do. That is why these amendments have been tabled. They are central to the thrust of the Bill. Irrespective of what the Government, this House and Parliament as a whole end up doing as regards the headlines of the Bill, this matter must be right because if the Government get it wrong they will end up with completely toothless bodies allegedly holding the police to account. The public will expect them to hold the police to account but they will not have the mechanisms to do so.
I wish to say a few words about the amendments relating to the chief finance officer. Again, I suspect this is something that the Government have not thought deeply about. It is part of the same process of giving a little bit more to the chief officer of police and forgetting that you are throwing away some of the mechanisms by which he may be held accountable. The Government are creating—I am sure this is not deliberate—two parallel but totally separate financial systems and two statutory chief finance officers, one in the force and one in the policing body. That means that there will have to be two completely separate sets of accounts, audited for the time being by the Audit Commission while it continues to exist, but both will be externally audited separately. There will be separate audit departments. A whole series of separate arrangements will be put in place because that will be required.
There will be an extraordinary situation in London if the Government bring forward some of these changes early there, which means that they may occur as soon as 1 October. A set of accounts will have to be produced for the period up to 30 September and then, by 1 October, two entirely separate financial systems will have to be set up. Those will be separately audited in order to produce two completely new sets of audited accounts for the period from 1 October to 31 March. If nothing else, this seems to me a cavalier use of public money at a time when we are told that every effort should be made to economise. I suspect that this duplication is unnecessary and unintended. I hope that the Minister will take this matter back, the Home Office will look at it again and that it can be sorted out without this unnecessary duplication.
My Lords, I speak from a position of neutrality on these amendments. I wish to illustrate my remarks by recounting something that happened to me when I was a Member of the other place. A rave occurred in rural Montgomeryshire, which involved 10,000 people, loosely described as hippies, invading a couple of fields in the south of the constituency. As the local Member of Parliament, I made an arrangement with the police that I would telephone them late every evening for a report on what was going on in relation to public order around the rave and all the other issues that arose. One evening I telephoned at midnight from my then home in Berriew to the public line of the Dyfed Powys police. The telephone was answered by a man called Ray White, who was the chief constable of Dyfed Powys at the time. He was manning the public telephone line, doing his turn in the office of constable.
I tell that anecdote because in my view whether a chief officer of police is a corporation sole and however we dance on the head of a pin about the legal definition of a corporation sole, I suggest that the overwhelming purpose of a chief constable—I look forward to hearing the Minister’s response—is that he acts, albeit as chief, in the office of constable. I therefore urge the Minister to recognise that whatever grand titles are given to him, and whatever the legal technicalities of the matter—far be it from me to avoid legal technicalities; many of my learned friends make a good living from them—it should be recognised that in this legislation we are seeking to strengthen the role of the chief officer of a police force, not in the role of manager but in the office of constable at the head of his force.
Having said that and having watched at close quarters the splendid Mr White, for whom I came to have enormous admiration, running his force, I realised in our many meetings that he was also the chief executive of an organisation that covered in Dyfed Powys a huge area and, like all police forces, had a massive budget and set of responsibilities. As it happens, Mr White had some good management qualifications that he had acquired along the way through his life as a police officer, and he put them to good use. I hope that my noble friend will confirm in her response that the purpose behind the Bill and the creation of a chief constable as a corporation sole is to enable him or her more effectively to be the chief executive of what is, in effect, a large public business, and to remove from that chief officer some of the inhibitions that may currently exist in running that business.
I hope, too, that the Minister will confirm that the chief officer who is a corporation sole will have to pay extremely close attention to employment law and employment law standards as they are today. For example, it was suggested that a chief officer might surround himself or herself with chums—people who he or she likes because they happen to agree with him or her on most issues. As political party leaders learn quickly, it is actually a bad idea not to have among your top team people who are prepared to disagree with you on a daily basis and to act as devil’s advocate in any event.
However, in order to achieve a real top management team, whether or not they agree with the chief constable, I hope that the Minister will confirm that appointments standards will have to be high and that they will have to accord with the self-same standards that are required in the appointment of senior managers in companies. One can also look at the public sector for examples. The Judicial Appointments Commission has a transparent system for the appointment of judges that includes lay membership of appointment bodies. I hope that the Minister will confirm that fair interview techniques and appointment systems will conform to the very best standards in the public sector.
I know that later we will debate matters of discipline, but it would help if at this stage my noble friend also confirmed that in conduct and disciplinary matters—a difficult area for chief officers of police—the same high standards that are applied elsewhere in the public sector will apply to police forces. I hope she can also confirm that a chief officer, albeit as a corporation sole, will never be able to act as judge and jury in their own cause. I promise the Minister that my learned friends will make a real killing if that is what occurs, because every such decision would be open to immediate judicial review, and the chief officer would lose if he or she did not act in a way that was neither arbitrary nor disproportionate.
Finally, I wanted to say something about finance directors. I return to my experience of Dyfed Powys and of some other forces for which I have acted as an adviser professionally, either for the police force or for the police authority. I observed that the chief finance officer of the police force was an extremely important figure, who held a sort of honorary ACPO rank, although he or she was not a police officer. The chief finance officer of the police force and the accounting officer of the police authority seemed to carry out completely different roles. The chief finance officer of the police force was really the chief accountant of a very big business. The accounting officer of the police authority carried out a much more restricted role, because the turnover of the police authority was inevitably much smaller—at least as regards its functions, as opposed to those of the force. Duplication would be unwelcome, and I hope that my noble friend will confirm that if there are to be separate finance officers, they will not carry out duplicated roles. Perhaps she will explain to the House what their different roles will be, at least in outline.
Does the noble Lord accept that it is possible to construct a situation where you have a finance officer in the force and a finance officer in the authority, the commission, commissioner or whatever it is, with different roles, so you do not have duplication; but you have removed from the commissioner, authority or whatever the opportunity adequately to control the financial matters which, as the body to which the chief officer of police is accountable, it should control?
I am always prepared to defer to the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, because he is a much greater expert than I am on how police forces are run. I see the potential for constructive tension, if it has to be tension, between two finance officers carrying out different roles. I see them as providing a check and balance on one another and their roles as being markedly different in any event. That is something we can learn from the current situation in which, as I said, the chief finance officer of a police force carries out a major managerial role and the accounting officer of the police authority a very different function.
Can the Minister confirm that the Government feel satisfied that we will not have a high degree of duplication and that the role of the finance officer in the force will be related to operational matters and that of the other finance officer to the rather different strategic matters? There, perhaps, we have the answer to the question of the noble Lord, Lord Harris, about Tasers. Tasers are the sort of thing which may well be strategic and one would expect to be discussed by the commissioner and those to whom he is accountable, whatever structure we end up with at the end of the Bill. The deployment of such Tasers as are purchased at any incident is plainly an operational matter, which must be left in the hands of the chief officer. That is an example of how different functions will deal with different aspects of police activity.
I was going to speak at length about the points that have been very adequately covered by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, and, not for the first time, I find myself in complete agreement with what he said. I will just pick up one or two of the points in an effort to be brief. Let us get a sense of reality back to this. I have heard phrases such as chief officers getting their own way and blue-eyed boys—by which I assume we mean blue-eyed girls as well. As has been said, no chief officer today or in the past 15 to 20 years could get away with that sort of piratical approach to policing. They have to prefer discussion and challenge. Of course, they like winning but I think that if one gets used to winning all the time, there is an in-built problem with the management style.
As for blue-eyed boys and girls, I suppose that loosely you could say the same thing about generals, captains of industry or the judiciary. The whole point is that if, as I think will be demanded under the new regime, you have a system with independent assessment and/or a proper board structure but, above all, transparency which in the final analysis is defensible in the courts, there is nothing to lose. I, for one, would not want to see the legislation being overprescriptive on this. You have to leave some room for balance and common sense, appreciating that, if you go past a certain line, particularly in the area of appointments, you are going to be challenged, so you do not tread over that line in the first place.
I want to say a brief word about the finance officers. There are of course two in place at the moment—one in the police authority and one within the force itself. I am not sure whether I was the first but I was certainly one of the early chief constables who civilianised the old police role of assistant chief constable, admin and finance, bringing in a very well-qualified civilian. I put them on ACPO rates of pay and ranked them equal with ACPO. You would certainly find that model in many police forces up and down the country today. There is some risk of duplication but I think one has to avoid that risk. One has to recognise the two roles, as has already been said, and expect a constructive tension between them.
I close by saying once again that I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, and I am sure that this will not be the last time that I do so.
Perhaps I may follow on briefly from what my noble friend Lord Harris said. He made a very thoughtful and, as usual, very forensic analysis of this part of the Bill. When he referred to the Taser issue, I was reminded that police forces have purchased contentious weapons on a number of occasions. Many years ago, there was a big argument about rubber bullets, for example. It is not immediately clear to me from the Bill but, as I understand it—I do not think I am wrong about this—when police forces purchase guns, which they have to have in store, there are very tight Home Office controls on what they can buy and in what number and so on. With the corporation sole model, to which my noble friend referred, I am not sure whether they would be able to choose the number of their weapons and, more importantly in a sense, the nature of the weapons, which can determine the outcome in certain critical situations. That may not change at all and the Home Office may retain full control over it. However, in view of my noble friend’s comments about Tasers, I should like reassurance that there will be some control over the overall picture and that it will not be left to individual police forces to determine what they need.
What seems to be missing in this debate and in the Bill as a whole is a clear indication of the net cost of these proposals. There are existing costs both within a police force and within a police authority, but everything I hear and read suggests that the cost of police commissioners, with their offices and staff, will be significantly higher than the costs that we currently meet. There will be 41 full-time police and crime commissioners. They will have an undefined number of staff, with buildings to house them in, and they will have their running costs. Given that the police commissioner will work full time and, I understand, be paid a low six-figure sum of money, the implication is that the cost of a police and crime commissioner’s office is likely to run into several million pounds a year. The figure is very hard to estimate and it is not clear from the Bill documentation what it is likely to be. It seems to suggest that the net cost will not be significantly different from current spending. We will see, but I have come to the conclusion that the total net cost of police and crime commissioners, with the structures that will underpin them, is likely to be somewhere between £100 million and £200 million. I could be out and it could be higher than that.
It goes back to the nub of the issue about duplication, on which we have had a very good debate and I hesitate to repeat things. I have not understood who will be making exactly what decision on spending. I understand that there is operational and there is strategic, but there is also the challenge from the commissioner’s office on day-to-day spending on the basis of the police and crime plan and the challenge from the finance staff of their colleagues on the operational side of finance about what money is being spent. The Bill says that a chief constable will have a chief finance officer. Words matter because a chief implies that there will be others as well. A chief constable will have a chief finance officer for the police force’s financial affairs and the commissioner will have a chief finance officer for the commissioner’s financial affairs.
These are not different things. The commissioner is responsible for constructing the police and crime plan. That plan implies a budget as a budget is a statement of policy. The statement of policy is therefore the plan. There is the budget, the heads of expenditure and the precept. I find it hard to understand how you will not end up with conflict if you run two separate staffing structures on finance. There will be conflict and difficulty because there will have to be an assessment of whether the police and crime commissioner’s plan, which is the budget, is being carried out operationally. That requires the staff to work very closely together. I think there is great cause for concern about how the structure is being put in place. At the moment the costs on the police authority side are comparatively low, and certainly a great deal lower than the costs on the force side.
We are about to put up the overall costs of a public service at a time when there are major reductions in the numbers of police officers on the beat. The priority needs to be to keep neighbourhood policing at a high level rather than increase the costs of accountability. It is in that accountability between the two parts—the police force and the police commissioner’s office—that we will end up with it not being clear who is in charge of what. That will cost money because people will be challenging it. There will be more meetings, more reports, more audits, more explanations, and so on.
I am very concerned about this. Amendments 43 and 44 are probing amendments to see whether there is clarity on who would be responsible for what. I feel that some work now needs to be done to get these issues clear. That would start with a clear costing of the overall cost of this. That then would produce a definition of what the policy really is.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, talked about the office of chief constable and the business of corporation sole. I shall not take up the Committee’s time longer than to say that it needs to be looked at in terms of where the office of chief constable and corporation sole stand in a legal context.
It is one of the principles of policing in this country to be apolitical and independent in terms of delivery. A little bit of work could be done to ensure that your Lordships’ House is more satisfied that there is no conflict between the two. The area in which I would ask for caution to be used is finance. The Metropolitan Police historically had two commissioners: one to deliver on the operational side; and the other who then became the received person to deal with the financial side. With a budget of more than £3 billion, which it was when I was commissioner, I had a delightful relationship with the noble Lord, Lord Harris. Being a pussycat we always got on together; I was the pussycat and he was the other. It was essential for delivery on the financial side that there was an expert on financing in the Metropolitan Police. More importantly, there had to be political accountability outside that for creating contracts, sometimes for hundreds of millions of pounds, which could have got in the way of delivering what we were doing over a period of time in the Metropolitan Police, namely driving down crime and keeping the terrorists away.
There were similar lessons for me when I was Chief Constable of Northumbria Police, the fourth or fifth largest force in the country. It was essential for me and my top team to concentrate on the operational requirements in 1991, after the riots, when I and the police authority inherited Northumbria Police. A system of controlling, and being responsible for, highly complex contracts in a way that might take place now, is something that needs to be thought about with caution. We must consider accountability. Although it is very appealing to chief officers, when they think about it further, and think about delivery, they might not find it so.
As far as concerns appointments, I am agnostic. I was an HMI, like the noble Lord, Lord Dear. I was involved in 17 appointments of chief constables and heads of the National Crime Squad and of the National Criminal Intelligence Service, as an independent adviser to HMIC. Each and every one of those appointments was the right one. I do not believe in blue-eyed boys or blue-eyed girls. Somewhere along the line, employment law must be followed and there must be an independent assessment. Most chief constables and chief officers will want to appoint their own top team. In my experience, I have never heard of a police authority that did not take account of what the chief officer wanted, and of what HMIC wanted. I urge caution on the Minister in relation to the business of finance. We must be absolutely clear that chief constables, chief officers and commissioners will not inherit a nightmare.
My Lords, this has been a very interesting and important debate. My noble friend and other noble Lords raised very pertinent questions about the status of the elected police commissioner and chief constable as corporations sole, the financial consequences of the proposed arrangements, referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, and the financial relationship between the commissioner and the chief constable. I will start with that. Since it is the commissioner who will set the precept and ultimately sign off the plan, he will have considerable influence over the chief constable, because he who controls the resources tends to pull the strings. It will be rather like the relationship between Her Majesty's Treasury and the Home Office. My experience of friends in the Treasury over 10 years as a Minister was that they delighted in micromanaging the affairs of departments, which they did not think could organise a you-know-what in a brewery. It will be inevitable that the commissioner, who in the end will have total control over how much money the chief constable gets, will be able to exercise considerable operational control. We should bear that in mind when we consider the construct of the Bill.
My other concern is about the lack of good corporate governance when it comes to the concept of corporation sole and issues of expenditure, contracts and the employment of staff. As I said on our previous day in Committee, it is puzzling that the party opposite, the Conservatives, who 20 years ago were very concerned about ensuring good corporate governance both in the public and private sectors, seem to have forgotten all this when they came to construct the Bill. This has been a very good debate and noble Lords have used their experience of how the police service currently operates to tease out some of the issues.
The noble Lord, Lord Carlile, talked about the chief officer as chief executive. He thought that it was probably a good thing, provided that it was done in the right way. The problem I have with that is that, as I read the Bill, the chief constable, being corporation sole, is not just the chief executive; he or she is also the chair and the non-executive directors. It is the realisation of a Gilbertian fantasy: the Lord High Everything Else. The chief constable is not just the Lord High Everything Else; he is the Lord High Everything. Of course the noble Lord was right to ask the Minister whether there will be structures, such as good employment practice and all the other constraints and necessary safeguards, and I am sure the Minister will seek to give an affirmative response, but, in the end, it will be down to the chief constable as a corporation sole. As the noble Lord, Lord Stevens, said, in the end those who make, for instance, employment decisions will be employed by the chief constable, the corporation sole, and that must have an impact on their behaviour.
This corporate governance structure, or the absence of it, would never be contemplated by the Government if this were a private sector operation. The idea that you can have one person without some kind of board structure and without non-executives to give the check and balance would not be contemplated. Why is this kind of structure being contemplated in this part of the public sector? It is a puzzle to me. I have always paid tribute to the previous Conservative Government for the emphasis they gave to good corporate governance, the encouragement they gave to the Institute of Directors and the CBI and the work by Cadbury. The previous Conservative Government encouraged all these things. Why are they ignoring that when it comes to this Bill?
My Lords, I am grateful. This has been a very constructive debate on a very important part of this legislation. In her opening remarks, the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, mentioned the corporation sole, and I shall begin by setting out where the Government are coming from on this. As Members of the Committee will know, a corporation is a body that has its own legal personality distinct from that of its members. This means that a corporation can own property, enter into contracts and take part in legal proceedings in its own capacity and that its assets, rights and liabilities are those of the corporation rather than the members. Typically, corporations have more than one member. Such corporations are called corporations aggregate. Local authorities are a typical example. However, a corporation can consist of only one person: the corporation sole. The sovereign is a corporation sole, as are various ecclesiastical figures, such as bishops, and various other public offices have been created corporations sole by legislation, such as the Treasury Solicitor, the Information Commissioner and the Children’s Commissioner, so this is not something completely new that has been contrived for the purposes of this legislation.
The amendments concerning this part of the Bill and particularly concerning the chief officer’s status as a corporation sole remove or limit the status to apply to employment matters. They also remove the chief officer’s ability to enter into other contracts and agreements, including the ability to borrow money and sell property. The Government are clear about the need to establish chief constables as corporations sole. This legal status will allow them to employ staff in their official capacity and thus have greater control over running their forces. We believe that it is a very important move for chief constables to be able to have that more direct link with the employment of the police. I accept what noble Lords have said about the status of existing police officers who are not employed as such by any one particular body. It is quite right that that has been mentioned. But this does not in any way detract from the oath that they take or from their status. They would go into a direct employment situation as far as the chief constable is concerned.
My noble friend Lord Carlile of Berriew clearly set out what I thought was exactly spot on as to why we want to do this. In terms of the increased capacity that the chief constable would have, particularly in the employment field, we want to ensure that a PCC is also enabled to focus on accountability rather than on running the force. Those two roles are quite distinct. We believe that the corporation sole allows the chief constable to fulfil that clearly defined role. The legal status that allows them to employ staff in their official capacity is very important in its vital function in the context of providing greater autonomy over the day-to-day management of the force. It is at the heart of clear operational independence, about which a lot has been said in our deliberations so far. This clearly, we believe, would contribute to it.
However, noble Lords have raised issues that are of concern and I hope that I can reassure them. As currently drafted, there are parts of this part of the Bill that we intend to change. Perhaps I may set them out. The noble Lord, Lord Stevens of Kirkwhelpington, and my noble friend Lady Harris raised the concern that chief officers will have significant powers to enter into contracts and agreements. It is our intention to consider this further. We will consider laying amendments which would prevent the chief constable from borrowing money and require him or her to obtain permission from the police and crime commissioner before entering into any contract other than a contract of employment. I hope that noble Lords will accept that we have already revisited this. They have made some important points around this aspect and at later stages of the Bill we will bring forward government amendments to try to correct this.
The amendments tabled by my noble friends Lady Hamwee and Lord Shipley and the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, would mean that, while the chief police officer would be able to appoint a chief finance officer, they would not be required to do so. Nor would they be required to appoint someone suitably qualified to hold that role. Currently, the Bill will require each chief police officer to appoint a chief finance officer of the force and require that person to be a member of a chartered financial institute. This is not about gathering chums around; it is about making sure that there is proper professional support for the role. I understand that the requirement for separate chief finance officers reporting to the chief police officer and the police and crime commissioner may on the face of it seem like duplication. Several Members of your Lordships’ House have mentioned that tonight but I stress that this is not the case. The noble Lord, Lord Dear, made the point that there is a situation here with the police authority and the chief constable.
The Bill makes key changes to the current system of financial governance for the police, flowing from the fact that it will be the chief police officers who employ the police staff currently employed by police authorities. The Bill provides for chief police officers to be corporation sole so that they can do this in their official capacity. As two distinct bodies both legally capable of holding moneys and entering into contracts, it is right and proper that chief police officers and police and crime commissioners both have suitably qualified people responsible for the propriety and efficiency of their financial affairs.
The provisions in the Bill set up two distinct bodies whose financial responsibilities will have to be formal, clear and accountable in law and to the public. I want to clarify any confusion between the role of the two. The chief finance officer to the force will be primarily involved in the propriety of operational spending and employment. The PCC’s chief financial officer will have the overall oversight of spending, including grant-making functions. I can confirm that there is no reason why there cannot be group audits of these two functions.
I turn to the question of the cost of having two finance officers. As has already been mentioned, forces already have finance directors, so this is not that great a change. I stress here that it is the Government’s intention that each chief finance officer be responsible for their corporation sole for ensuring the proper management of the corporation’s financial affairs. This is the duty that Section 151 of the Local Government Act 1972 places on a local authority, which is extended to all police authorities by Section 112 of the Local Government Finance Act 1988. Therefore, it simply cannot be appropriate for a chief officer to have a discretion as to whether to have a chief finance officer with these important statutory duties. It is necessary for a safeguard to be in place which ensures that if the chief officer were to make, or plan to make, an illegal or unlawful transaction, then the chief finance officer would be bound by the legislation to which I have referred to make a report to the chief officer informing them of their view, and copy this to the accountable authority. In this case, the authority would be the PCC. I therefore respectfully ask that noble Lords who have tabled these amendments consider not pressing them.
Before the Minister sits down—and I apologise for interrupting her—I have been slowly digesting something she said about the making of contracts. I well understand what she said about the Government reconsidering issues about whether chief constables could make contracts, but can she reassure us that there will be no inhibition on the making of contracts required for the best conduct of individual investigations? I am not citing “Cracker” as a good example of what occurs, because it does not occur; but sometimes it is true that one-off forensic science services are required for a particular investigation at short notice. Sometimes one-off accountancy services are required for investigations at short notice, and one can think of many other examples. Can she confirm that the chief officer will be able to purchase those services in such circumstances without having to go through elaborate consultation hoops on contracts?
My Lords, I may have misheard her, but I thought that the Minister hinted or said that amendments would be brought forward which would make it clear that contracts would have to be approved by the police commissioner. I can see why the Government have come back with that proposal, but to my mind, it just gives the commissioner that much more control over the chief constable. Because the commissioner is being given so much power with regard to money, whatever a protocol says about the relationship between the commissioner and the chief constable, the fact is that the person who holds the dosh usually controls what goes on. I hope the Government will give this further thought.
I want to question whether my noble friend has got the correct nuance of the argument. We have to be very clear about what we are trying to achieve with this Bill. My understanding is that the Government are trying to achieve stronger accountability, and that the mechanism for accountability is an elected police and crime commissioner—or we may end up with some other model. The danger is that, inadvertently, that accountability will be weakened. While my noble friend is right to say that being able to set the overall budget and strategy provides some degree of control, it does not provide the full picture. If you have a situation in which the corporation sole status of the chief officer of police is untrammelled—I was very pleased to hear what the Minister said about putting some limits around that, and I think it would be helpful to see those sooner rather than later—the danger is that chief officers of police will ignore what the body to whom they are supposed to be accountable will say are the key strategic issues that matter to their local communities. We would not want every minor arrangement in respect of an individual investigation to be referred to the accountable body, but we should have some system that ensures that those key decisions lie clearly with the body to which the chief officer of police is being held accountable.
My Lords, I am very grateful for the further contributions that have just been made to the debate. I can assure my noble friend Lord Carlile of Berriew that if, for example, forensic science commissioning were suddenly needed, there would not be a time lag while permission was sought. That is not our intention. I also take on board what noble Lords opposite have said about getting the balance right. I can assure the Committee that we will bring forward an amendment that I hope meets the concerns that have been expressed.
Would the Minister answer my question, which arose from the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Harris, about the number and type of weapons purchased? Does she need more time to find out what the situation would be if it is a corporation sole? Does she want to come back to the Committee, or can she answer the question now?
My Lords, the Minister has given a very helpful explanation in relation to the chief financial officer. I do not think anyone is suggesting that the chief officer of police should not have financial support from somebody who was suitably qualified. It is told, no doubt apocryphally, that the Metropolitan Police, when it was under the control of the Home Office, had only two qualified accountants responsible for a budget of £3 billion, which may have explained why it did not have a system for knowing whether it had paid bills more than once. Having a senior financial person who is a qualified accountant is not the same as having a chief finance officer, which has a specific meaning in local government law. It is clear that the post is intended to have that specific meaning in local government law. I do not think that anyone is suggesting that we should move away from the situation that exists at the moment, where every force has a senior finance person, but the person who is clearly responsible for accounts and everything else resides within the police authority or, in this case given the Government’s construct, with the police and crime commissioner.
It has been an extremely interesting debate which has teased out a number of important issues, many of which I am sure we will come back to. I am most grateful to the Minister for her response and for telling us that the Government will bring forward an amendment in relation to some of the issues. I am sure that we will have further debate at that point simply because so many important, technical issues relating to where the balance of power lies in different situations are still to be clarified. Given that we shall come back to a number of them, and given the important assurances that the Minister has provided, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 41 withdrawn.
Amendments 42 to 48 not moved.
Schedule 2 agreed.
Clause 3 : Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime
49: Clause 3, page 3, line 13, at end insert “and the City of London”
My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendments 53, 54, 55 and 56. I see that Amendment 55, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, is in this group. I do not quite know what it means and I am not sure that it is meant to be in this group, but the noble Baroness will no doubt enlighten us later.
The purpose of the amendment in my name is to extend the responsibility of the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime to cover the City of London Police. I put this forward because I was sure that it would be a minor and non-controversial change to the Bill—something that would attract universal approbation and something that the Government would have done had they thought of it at the time.
We are all familiar with the City of London Police force. Of course, it does an excellent and much-respected job. It has an annual budget of around £61 million, which is what the Metropolitan Police gets through in a week. The City of London Police force covers a population of 8,000 people, which is rather smaller than most local government wards in Greater London. There is of course a slight commuter issue in that some 300,000 people come into the area each day. The area covers just over one square mile. It has 800-plus police officers, 85 special constables, 48 PCSOs, a number of police staff and three police stations. It is the smallest territorial police force in England and Wales. It is something of an anomaly.
The argument is that because of the economic significance of the City of London, it has historically had a separate police force. That argument has prevailed every single time in the past 180 years that people have considered whether there should be different policing arrangements in London, but I hope that it is something that we can consider afresh today. I looked at the figures from the City of London Police annual report. Apparently, the average monthly number of crimes recorded in the City of London Police district is 505. The Metropolitan Police force clocks that up in around six hours. That gives noble Lords some idea of the different scales.
The noble Lord, Lord Condon, who is not in his place, is apocryphally said to have been asked on one occasion, “Commissioner, what would you do if you were given responsibility for the City of London Police?”. I have never asked him whether he actually said this, but he is alleged to have replied, “I would put a sergeant in charge”. I say that not to be pejorative about the City of London Police, but to highlight what a strange anomaly it is to have within Greater London this tiny enclave catering for a tiny population with the full panoply of staff. It has its own commissioner—a commissioner in the policing of the metropolis sense rather than in terms of an elected police and crime commissioner. The Bill is silent on whether there will be any changes in governance of the force. It will continue to be governed by the Corporation of London Police Committee with no changes whatever to reflect the general drift of government policy in this area, whether amended or not by your Lordships' House or Parliament.
I hope that the Minister, in responding, will be able to enlighten us as to why the Corporation of London is exempt from the general provisions of the Bill. If one believes in the principle of seeing direct and visible accountability, what could be better than to say that the entire police service within Greater London should be accountable to the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime? Surely that is the way to do it. That is the way to make it explicit and demonstrate that the entire police service in London is the responsibility of the mayor's office.
In an earlier debate in Committee, we talked about the problem of the confusion of members of the public. The City of London Police force goes to great lengths to ensure that its officers are distinguishable. The little squares on the cap band are red rather than black and the insignia and helmet are different, so it should be immediately apparent to members of the public that they are now being dealt with by the City of London Police as opposed to the Metropolitan Police. However, I rather suspect that this is a distinction—even though enormous efforts are made to demonstrate it—that will be lost on most Londoners.
The point in putting forward this amendment is to say, for the sake of completeness, that Greater London contains the square mile of the City of London. Its 8,000 residents—who vote for the Mayor of London—should have the right, through that process, to see their police service being governed through the same arrangements as the rest of London, the mayor’s Office of Policing and Crime as envisaged in this Bill. I am sure that the five people who were subjected to firearms offences in 2009-10, or the four instances of trade description offences that the force dealt with, or the two offences relating to obscene publications or the two offences of dangerous driving—and this is an area where 300,000 cars come in each day—would all be better served it if it was seen as part of a Greater London police force, accountable to the Mayor of London’s Office of Policing and Crime. I beg to move.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, is using this group of amendments to seek to achieve, at a late hour and in Committee, the merger of the City of London Police with the Metropolitan Police, a matter that has been around not just since 1829 but goes back to 1785. The matter is frankly for the Minister to respond to, as the Minister in charge of the Bill, but I must put a small gloss on it, having been the Member of Parliament for the City of London for the third longest length of time since 1283. It goes back to 1785 because there was a genuine essay to secure a London police force that went wider than the City in the 1780s. William Pitt the Younger embarked on it because of the Gordon Riots, when he felt a police force was needed. The City of London Police—this is the one thing I concede to the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey—did actually scupper that idea by saying that they would not themselves have anything to do with it. Pitt himself confessed to the House of Commons that this was a subject of which he was himself insufficiently the master and therefore he would not press the point. Thereafter, it was decided to create a police force in the city of Dublin and it was the existence of that force that prompted Peel, who served as Chief Secretary for Ireland between 1812 and 1818, to pursue the idea when he became Home Secretary on his return to London in the 1820s. Of course, from 1829 onwards, everything is history.
I will fast forward from 1829 to 1977, when I entered the House of Commons at a by-election as the Member of Parliament for the City. I recall that before I had made my maiden speech, the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Oldham, had moved a 10 minute rule Bill in the House of Commons to abolish the City of London Police, to which I was not allowed to reply because it was a controversial subject and you should not make your maiden speech on a controversial subject. The late, lamented Lord Finsberg opposed it himself. I have to remark on the coincidence that these Bills always came forward in the spring of a GLC election, because they were quite clearly intended to provide further grist to the political mill.
Your Lordships’ House will be glad to hear that I am not going to make a prolonged defence at this hour but I will say that I did think that the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, was a little selective in the observations that he made. There is no question at all that the City of London Police response to the terrorist outrages that occurred within the square mile was both prompt and efficient. I can recall long, long ago reporting to the House of Commons on the technology that the Corporation of London had developed so that any car approaching the ring of steel was photographed and, at the moment that it reached the ring of steel, the policeman on duty knew perfectly well who the driver was and who it was registered to et cetera. The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, made no reference to the expertise developed by the City of London Police in the context of fraud or to the international implications of the City of London and its police force nor did he allude in general to the terrorist issue to which the ring of steel contributed as a defence, but he did refer to the City of London’s population, on which his figures were broadly right. The 8,000 residents do not all have votes, but I agree that that is approximately the right figure. He was certainly right about the number of commuters. The number of commuters is the reason why the European Commission says, erroneously, that the City of London, the City of Westminster and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea are the richest areas in the whole of the European Union. The reason why the European Commission’s statement is ill founded is that, in the context of the City, it is the 300,000 commuters who contribute to the area’s wealth rather than the 8,000 people who live there. However, in working out its calculations, the European Commission takes the GDP produced in those three local authority areas and divides the figure by the resident population rather than by the number who come in to work there, who make such an enormous contribution to the economy of this country.
My noble friend Lord Eccles was present during our Committee stage debates on the Bill last week; I just want to allude briefly to his late father, who was the 1st Viscount Eccles, or David Eccles as was. In 1944, David Eccles moved an amendment to the Education Bill—no doubt it was also moved late at night—at a time when David Eccles had been in the House of Commons for a year. His amendment said that, once the war was over, all women teachers in the United Kingdom should receive equal salaries with all male teachers. The Division was the only one in the House of Commons throughout the war on which the Government were defeated. Rab Butler, who was the Minister in charge of the Bill, was not the fastest of movers and was actually not in the Chamber when the vote was taken, although he was proceeding towards it. The amendment was carried by 117 votes to 116. The next morning, Churchill sent for the Chief Whip and said that Herr Goebbels would make such an enormous profit out of this defeat for the Government that it had to be reversed on Report as a matter of confidence. The amendment was reversed by 417 votes to 25 and, thus, the Bill was restored to its original form. I tell that story in the context of the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, because, once all that had been done, the then Prime Minister sent for David Eccles and—I shall not put on a Churchillian accent at this late hour—said words to the effect, “Young man, I have a great deal of personal sympathy with the underlying proposition and principle that you were advancing in your amendment, but to do so late at night on the Education Bill, in the midst of the greatest conflict the world has ever seen, is frankly the equivalent of putting an elephant in a perambulator”. If I may say so to the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, in my view that is what he is seeking to do tonight. I hope that he will be wholly convinced by the arguments advanced by my noble friend.
I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way—or perhaps he had resumed his seat anyway—but he has referred three times to the lateness of the hour. There is no desire on my part for us to be debating at this hour; we are doing so as an assistance to the Government, who have decided that the House should sit beyond 10 pm tonight despite the normal convention that we do not sit late on occasions when the House will sit early the following morning. I would have been much happier to have debated this at an earlier hour, when no doubt we could have devoted much more time to the particular arrangements in the City of London.
My Lords, it is a late hour, but that is not anyone’s doing, and I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Harris, has sustained greater insults than that in his career.
I am not sure, either, what Amendment 155 is doing in this group. It was in another group. I observed that it should be in a group on London and this is where it ended up. It is one of a number of amendments that say that the London Assembly should be able to decide its own procedures and how it works as a policing and crime panel. However, we will debate that point in another group.
I have considerable sympathy with these amendments on the City of London. I am asking myself why there is a separate force and why the issue has not been brought within what seems entirely the right vehicle for addressing the matter. I can only assume that it is in the filing tray that has “too hard” written on it and that the Government are unwilling to take on the City. But it is an important issue. If we are being asked, as we are, to look at inserting democracy into the governance of our policing arrangements, the City should not be exempt from that. They have a lot of experience of elections in the City—there is no problem in carrying that out.
There are so many anomalies, with the separate precepting arrangements and what has always seemed to me unnecessary bureaucracy and complication because of the division. The noble Lord, Lord Brooke, referred to expertise, and I accept that there is enormous expertise, but it is transferable and needs to be so, because whether or not the City likes it London’s financial centre is not only where it used to be. It has moved eastwards, and the expertise in fraud and other matters specific to business are no longer, in the 21st century, relevant only to the Square Mile.
This Bill is the right context for this debate. There is a considerable distinction between this issue and that of teachers’ salaries in 1944, and I am sorry that the Government have not felt able to extend the new governance arrangements to the whole of England.
My Lords, this is clearly a perfectly legitimate amendment and this is clearly the time when the issues that this amendment raises ought to be discussed. They ought to be discussed as part of this Bill. Having listened to the complaint that this is not a matter that should be discussed late in the evening, I am not sure whether that means—if the Minister is not going to accept the amendment—that if it appeared at Report stage at five o’clock in the afternoon it would be universally welcomed and supported. I was not quite clear on the significance of the comment about the time of day.
Clearly, the purpose of the amendment is to bring the arrangements for the City of London in line with the proposals for the rest of England and Wales—and one looks forward to the explanation that we will receive from the Minister as to why, one assumes, the Government are not entirely enthusiastic about going down this road. The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, made the interesting and relevant point that, if the argument is that you need a separate police force for the City of London because it is a financial centre, it should be taken into account that we now have around Canary Wharf another financial centre. Presumably, it is under the Metropolitan Police, unless I am to be told otherwise. If the Metropolitan Police is considered to have the expertise to handle the issues that might arise there, why is it not considered that it could encompass, by taking over or by merger, the City of London Police as well? The Metropolitan Police force has considerable expertise which is recognised internationally and which is used on a national basis in England and Wales, not simply confined to its area. Yet the inference through having a separate force for the City of London is that somehow the Metropolitan Police, despite the expertise that it has, would just not be able to cope.
The other possibility is that the Government think, with their Localism Bill, that the City of London Police force is localism personified. You have a small area with its own police. Are they therefore going to extend that principle elsewhere? The noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, said that it was an efficient police force and he may well be right. I am certainly not going to stand here and say that it is not efficient but, equally, the efficient police forces and police authorities which we have at the moment are not being exempted from the legislation before us on the grounds that they are efficient. I am not sure what relevance the argument has that the City of London Police may be an efficient force, because that argument has not been applied to police forces in other parts of the country.
I simply conclude that one looks forward with interest to hearing what the response is going to be. Finally, will the Minister say whether the Government seriously considered doing away with a separate police force in the City of London, through merger or takeover—or whatever word they want to use—into or by the Metropolitan Police? Or, as I think the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, said, was this considered to be so awkward and difficult that it was never even considered at all?
Would the noble Lord care to answer one thing? Will he comment on why the previous Labour Government, against what I would have thought were all their natural instincts, chose to confer on the City of London Corporation the right to have elections for democratic representation in the City, in which all businesses in the City were allowed to have a vote that was calculated in a particular way? Indeed, they pressed the Corporation to go down that route. Was it really not because there was a recognition that the City at large worked extraordinarily well and that fiddling around with it was not a very profitable use of time, not least in the context of the City of London's success?
I do not know specifically what the reasons were. They may well have been those that the noble Lord has said. However, I am not sure that that necessarily applies to an argument about the City of London Police, which is what we are discussing, particularly in the context of the expertise which the Metropolitan Police has—and in the context that the City of London is no longer the only financial centre in London. As the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, said, the financial centre has moved further east to an extent and nobody has said that those responsible should set up or extend the powers of the City of London Police to cover those new centres, which presumably come under the Metropolitan Police.
It is not irrelevant for this question to be asked when we are talking about a major reorganisation of our police forces, with a major change in how they are run and in governance. Maybe there is a good answer, and I am waiting to hear what the Minister has to say, but the question should be asked: did the Government look at the issue of the retention of the City of London Police and was it justified? If so, what were the reasons for coming to the decision that they did, bearing in mind that they think that all other police forces should be covered by the changes that they are putting forward in this Bill?
My Lords, this has been a very interesting debate. I am very grateful to noble Lords for the history that has been contributed. Not much of it appeared in my notes but it has helped me to put into context the City of London and the role of its police. I hope noble Lords will not mind if I begin by paying tribute to that police force. It is a small force but it has in recent times dealt with significant investigations and major incidents. It has dealt with them and acquitted itself extremely well. Because of its position it has a national role. I hear what has been said about the movement of financial services around not only the country but the globe. None the less, the force has taken a lead in tackling white-collar crime that continues today.
When the noble Lord, Lord Harris, began, I thought this would be one of those sublime moments when, as a politician, one could sit back, listen to two arguments and make up one’s mind as to which was the more persuasive. As a Minister, I do not have that luxury, as Members will know, more is the pity. It would be very nice to do so. However, the noble Lord, Lord Harris, lost me when he mentioned motoring offences in comparison with what my noble friend Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville said about the much more significant and recent role that this police force has played. Neither the Mayor of London nor the Metropolitan Police Authority has a role in the governance of the City of London Police.
The position of the Common Council as the police authority for the City of London Police has, as we have heard, remained essentially unchanged. It was not altered by the Police Act 1996, which created the police authorities that currently exist outside London. Nor, I have to say to the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, was it changed when his Government introduced the Greater London Authority Act 1999, which created the Metropolitan Police Authority. Therefore, when he asked me why we are not doing this and said that the amendments are reasonable, I noted that he did not refer at all to what his own Government did. I assume they, too, when they were legislating for London would have looked at this issue. There was no offering or crumb there to persuade me that the previous Labour Government looked at this and decided that it was an appropriate thing to do.
Not at all, my Lords. We studied very closely the actions or lack of actions of the previous Labour Government. I assure the noble Lord that they are on our radar screen all the time. However, we have this situation not just because of the many years that the City of London Police has been in place but because of the exemplary way in which it conducts itself. The size of the population of the City of London has been mentioned. There are 8,000 voters but one must put that in the context of there being 25 wards in the City, of which only four have residents. To translate that into representation would be quite complex. The City of London is unique and has unique policing governance to recognise that fact. I suspect that various Governments down the years have looked at this and probably all came to the same conclusion. It operates on a non-party political basis through its lord mayor, aldermen and the members of the Court of Common Council. The governance is tailored to the particular institutions and traditions of the City of London. I am sorry to disappoint your Lordships, but it is not my intention to change that tonight. I hope the noble Lord will withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, I am enormously grateful to Members of the Committee for their consideration of the amendment. I am particularly grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, for his history lesson as it demonstrated the extraordinarily effective lobbying power of the Corporation of London over the past two and a bit centuries.
Noble Lords have asked why the previous Labour Government did not address this issue. I was very engaged in the discussions that led to the creation of the Greater London Authority and I can let your Lordships into a secret: the then Prime Minister, who was renowned for his bravery in taking on international conflicts when other counsels might have prevailed, was not prepared to enter into a conflict with the massed troops of the Corporation of London. He did not wish to see tanks trundling down Ludgate Hill towards Westminster to try to suppress any uprising on the part of the unruly citizens of Westminster vis-à-vis the traditional powers and role of the Corporation of London.
I am sure the Committee will recognise that my amendment is very modest. It does not propose subsuming the City of London Police into the Metropolitan Police. It merely suggests that the City of London Police should be accountable to the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime in the same way that the Metropolitan Police are. That would not necessarily mean any disruption of the City of London Police’s excellent work, particularly on economic crime. It may have been unfair of me to refer to the heavy load of traffic offences with which the force deals. I was talking to a colleague in the House earlier this evening who remarked that the City of London Police dealt with a particularly high number of cases of indecent exposure, and that that factor should be taken into account when arguing for a separate force. However, the argument has always been about economic crime, certainly during my involvement in this area. We are talking about 213 new investigations during the past year, which is a comparatively modest figure.
This was intended to be a minimalist amendment to try to bring the City of London Police into line with some of the arrangements prevailing in the rest of the country. London is already an anomaly in the Bill, as we shall discuss further in a few minutes. The amendment is not intended to destroy the City of London Police or its work; it simply tries to create a system of accountability which would at least be parallel to that in the rest of London, if not in the rest of the country.
I note that the Minister is as susceptible as all previous holders of that office and, indeed, all previous Ministers in every other department of government, when it comes to the lobbying power of the Corporation of London, to which I defer. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 49 withdrawn.
50: Clause 3, page 3, line 15, leave out subsections (3) and (4) and insert—
“(3) There is to be a Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime for the metropolitan police district and the City of London.
(4) The Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime is to be elected, and hold office, in accordance with Chapter 6.
(4A) The person who has been given the title of deputy mayor and particular responsibility for policing and crime by the Mayor of London at the time this section is brought into effect is to be the occupant for the time being of the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime.”
My Lords, in moving Amendment 50, I wish to speak to an extremely long list of amendments which, because of the lateness of the hour, I will not proceed to go through individually and in detail.
The purpose of this amendment is to try to bring some of the arrangements in Greater London more into line with the Government’s original intentions in the Bill. The principle of the Bill was that there would be greater visible accountability of the police service through the election of a police and crime commissioner. That is what the Government have proposed everywhere in the country apart from London. However, it is proposed that because we already have a directly elected Mayor of London, the processes will not be the same in London as they will be elsewhere. Instead, there will be created the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime, which will be a functional body of the Greater London Authority. There is recognition of the very wide range of duties of the Mayor of London. Therefore, it is understood that he might not be able to fulfil the office of Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime—there is a very strange use of language in the Bill—but might appoint a deputy mayor of London to fulfil that role. There are clauses in the Bill that describe the functions of the deputy mayor for policing and crime; how they relate to the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime and to the Mayor of London; the arrangements for the appointment of that person who might or might not be an elected member of the London Assembly; the arrangements that would occur in the event of a vacancy in that office; what would happen if that person were disqualified or incapacitated; and so on. However, the real gap in those proposals is that if the Government believe, as they do, that the single act of election and the visibility of the person fulfilling the role of holding the police to account is the key element, why does it not apply in London?
The purpose of the amendment is to try to achieve for the Government what they see as their objective elsewhere in the country. It proposes that on the same day that Londoners elect their mayor, they would also vote for the deputy mayor for policing and crime. The ballot paper would include two posts, and people would vote accordingly. The process of election would be the same as those adopted for the police and crime commissioners, if that is the direction in which Parliament were to choose to go, following your Lordships’ decision on the first day of Committee. The elections would be held at the same time and Londoners would be choosing the person who would visibly be responsible for holding the Metropolitan Police Service to account.
My amendments also provide for arrangements in the event of a vacancy. The amendments do not have the problems that were described earlier as to what happens if a policing and crime commissioner is incapacitated or disqualified for whatever reason. My proposal is that in the event of the deputy mayor for policing and crime being temporarily unavailable for whatever reason, the Mayor of London would act as his or her own deputy in respect of that function. While I do not think that it is possible for the Mayor of London to fulfil the role of the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime for a full four-year term, the role could be managed during the period of a vacancy or while a new election was held.
The remaining amendments are designed to bring into place an exactly parallel structure as that which the Government originally envisaged for the policing and crime commissioners. The principle is simple—Londoners should also have what the Government wanted to extend to everyone else in the country, which is the right to elect the person to be responsible for policing and crime. That person would be the deputy mayor for policing and crime.
Why am I not proposing the creation of a separate police and crime commissioner for London? It is because I recognise that we have a Greater London Authority and the Mayor of London. In the same way that we have a transport commissioner, we would have someone in charge of policing. Indeed, if I were rewriting the Greater London Authority Act—although that would be inappropriate in terms of the Bill or at this stage—I would have looked to creating at the same time as the elected mayor a number of directly elected posts that would have been responsible for a number of different functions, because that system of direct democracy and accountability would have worked well. People raise the horrid spectre of what would happen if the Mayor of London were of one party and the person elected as deputy mayor for policing and crime were of another party. If that were what the people of London wanted, the elected politicians concerned would have to find a way of managing that.
I am interested in the concept suggested by my noble friend of different people being elected to a position in the same authority. What does he think about the Government’s proposal to appoint shadow mayors? Can I take him from the great city of London to the equally great city of Birmingham and the situation whereby the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government is intending to nominate Councillor Mike Whitby, the Leader of the Conservative-Lib Dem council, to be the shadow mayor of Birmingham at the very time when it is clear that he will lose control of the council next May? We have a bizarre situation of having a shadow mayor with all the powers of the mayor, and the council being Labour-led. What does my noble friend think about that?
I think that that is a consequence of extending discussion in your Lordships' House past our normal finishing time of 10 pm, when we tend to range more widely on subjects.
My noble friend raises an important point. Neither I in my amendment nor the Government in their original proposal were doing anything as bizarre as seems to be suggested under the Localism Bill. Had they followed the same principle, no doubt we would have had chairs of police authorities all over the country suddenly becoming shadow commissioners of police and crime for their areas. Although many chairs of police authorities would no doubt have relished that transformation and enjoyed their brief period in that role, we are not in the Bill being offered the same arrangements that are being offered under the Localism Bill for the creation of mayors in major cities. The Localism Bill also envisages that there would then be a referendum of the local community. Some of us had hoped that we would have an interesting debate on that, but my noble friend chose to deny us that opportunity and is perhaps, by the back door, trying to give us the opportunity to have such a debate now. I shall not be lured down that path.
The purpose of my amendment is that, if the principle is clarity—that the person who holds the police to account should be directly elected and visible in that role—that individual in London should also be directly elected. In the Bill, we have a system where the Mayor of London is elected but, effectively, will automatically delegate an individual who need not be directly elected—and certainly will not be directly elected to fulfil that function—to carry out the role of the police and crime commissioner. That is wrong. It is a mistake. It runs against the entire premise of the Government's proposals, which is that there should be a directly elected individual who holds the police to account. I beg to move.
I intervene very briefly. When I am attending your Lordships' House, I stay in a club in my former constituency. In the 1930s, a Duke was slumbering in that club after lunch one day when he became conscious that a man and a woman had entered the room. He waited until they had left and then pressed a bell. The club servant arrived and said, “You rang, your Grace?”. The Duke said, “What was that?”. The club servant said, “That, your Grace, was the club secretary and Her Majesty the Queen”. “Thin end of the wedge”, said the Duke, shut his eyes and went to sleep again.
I will not expand on the point at this hour of the night, but I wanted the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, to know that I have noticed, as the thin end of the wedge, that the City of London again creeps into his Amendment 50.
One reads with interest the amendment, which, as my noble friend Lord Harris of Haringey said, provides for the deputy mayor for policing and crime to be elected, on the basis that it ought to be done on the same terms as the Government proposed for everywhere else in the country under the Bill, namely, for the police commissioner to be directly elected. Clearly, as long as the Bill remains as it is, where there is no elected police commissioner, we will not press for the deputy mayor for policing and crime to be elected. We will be consistent and say that we will stick with the same arrangement in London as the Bill currently has, having been amended by your Lordships' House.
If the Government are to make an effort in future to restore elected police and crime commissioners to the Bill, it would appear rather odd if they did not also say that, if that is what is to happen outside London, Londoners should also be able directly to elect the person who in reality will be responsible for policing. The arrangement that we appear to have at present is for an elected mayor to appoint a deputy mayor, who takes over the role that, if the Government get their way, an elected police commissioner will have elsewhere. I suppose the only parallel—although it is hardly a parallel—is that, if we had elected police commissioners and one were suspended or otherwise unable to operate, that elected police commissioner would, as the Bill stands, appoint someone from their own staff to act in their stead. The arrangement that we appear to be moving towards in London is not that of the mayor waiting to be suspended or otherwise unable to act before appointing someone, but that the mayor, immediately he or she comes into office, appoints someone else to act as the deputy mayor responsible for policing and crime.
We look forward to the Minister’s response on this. As I said, as long as the Bill remains as it is without elected police commissioners, we do not wish to be inconsistent by saying that the deputy mayor for policing and crime in London should be elected. However, if the Government intend to try to restore elected police commissioners to the Bill, we look forward to their explanation of why they think Londoners should not be able to elect the person responsible for policing as well.
My Lords, these amendments would prevent the mayor holding the mayor’s office for policing and crime and would instead create an elected deputy mayor for policing and crime to hold that office.
This Government’s policy is to introduce a directly elected police and crime commissioner in every force area in England and Wales outside London but, as your Lordships are only too well aware, these provisions have been removed from the Bill. It therefore seems rather odd that your Lordships should now be debating whether those self-same provisions should apply to the Metropolitan Police Service. I noted the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, about wanting to remain consistent. However, having struck out from the Bill the part that proposed elected police and crime commissioners, your Lordships now seem to be applying the same arguments to elect the deputy mayor for London.
The Government had not intended to introduce a new elected person to hold the police to account in London for the very simple reason that the whole of London already elects a single person to take responsibility for strategic issues such as policing, and that of course is the Mayor of London. The mayor is in the unique position of having responsibility for a whole force area and, as such, it seems sensible for him to have overall responsibility for holding the police to account as well.
The amendment would create a situation in which both the mayor and the deputy mayor had a direct democratic mandate across a whole force area, although they might have different ideas about what should happen. I do not think that that could work. It is right and fitting that the mayor should take on formal responsibility for holding the Metropolitan Police to account and, in turn, the mayor should be directly accountable to the public for how that is done. I am tempted to say to the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, “Nice try”, but I regret that I am not able to accept his amendment.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lords who have contributed to this short debate. As ever, the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, highlighted what he called the thin end of the wedge. There is a choice and it goes to the heart of the Minister’s response to this. One can either envisage that the deputy mayor for policing and crime is elected by all Londoners on the same day and in the same manner as the Mayor of London, in which case the logic is that the 8,000 electors in the City of London should cast a vote for the deputy mayor of London as they vote for the Mayor of London. Alternatively, if the noble Lord preferred it and would be happy to support it on a later occasion, we could exclude the 8,000 electors from the Corporation of London area and have a deputy mayor elected on a slightly different franchise from that of the Mayor of London. That would, of course, completely undermine the Minister’s argument about how difficult it would be if these two individuals were elected on the same basis. The Government cannot have it both ways—I am trying to—by saying that we should not include the City of London in this. If you do not include the City of London, you therefore require that the franchise for the deputy mayor of London should be different from that for the Mayor of London and the argument about having the same franchise, being elected on the same basis and possible conflict, disappears.
The reason for including it was to try to achieve some consistency with the arrangements for the election of the Mayor of London. If it makes the Minister happier I am sure that we can construct the amendments in a way that excludes the City of London. That would then mean that she had achieved her objectives in terms of my previous amendment as well as this one. I am not clear that even had we altered the franchise slightly the Minister would have been happy with the amendment.
I have to say that there is a difficulty. I do not believe through very close observation that it is possible for the Mayor of London to fulfil the full range of activities of the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime. I was certainly clear when I chaired the police authority about the amount of time that that took up. The role of being responsible for the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime will take up more time than that, and it would be impossible to combine that with the other responsibilities of the Mayor of London. The present Mayor of London, who no doubt is the role model for which the MOPC is being created, tried for a period, having made a manifesto pledge, to chair the police authority as well as being Mayor of London. After a comparatively short period, he decided that it was impracticable and not possible. We now have the situation that the Mayor of London appoints the chair of the police authority.
The difficulty is arguing that the arrangements will somehow be an improvement in transparency with current arrangements. Essentially, you are saying that the Mayor of London will appoint a person to fulfil the responsibilities in respect of holding the police service to account. That is the arrangement that we have at the moment. The Mayor of London appoints the chair of the police authority and that person, who is called the deputy mayor, although it is not a statutory title, fulfils those functions. That dilutes the principle of direct accountability. People might feel that the Mayor of London was doing a wonderful job on transport arrangements, introducing bicycle schemes, representing London on an international stage in such a way that all Londoners feel that the cockles of their hearts are warmed by seeing him perform. They might feel that or they might not, but they might have very different views about the conduct of the role on policing.
Under these arrangements being proposed by the Government, people cannot differentiate between them. All of it is subsumed in the responsibilities of the single elected mayor and the mayor can distance him or herself from what happens in policing by the fact that they appoint somebody else to do it. That is a weakness. If the Government are intent on restoring the principle of direct election to the rest of the Bill they need to think again about restoring the principle of direct election to the position in the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime. If they are worried about duplication, they could take policing out of the Mayor of London’s area of responsibility. That is not something that I would personally advocate. The proposals are intended to balance those different responsibilities.
I will think carefully about what the Minister has said. When we know the Government’s intent it will be clear whether something like this needs to be put into the Bill at a later stage. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 50 withdrawn.
51: Clause 3, page 3, line 22, at end insert—
“( ) Subsections (3) and (4) are subject to section (Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime: term of office).”
My Lords, Amendment 51, too, concerns London and to an extent follows the theme of the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey. Amendments 51 and 214 deal with the term of office of MOPC. I am aware that the pair of amendments is incomplete. In seeking to align the term of the London-elected commissioner with the terms of commissioners in the rest of England and in Wales, one faces the difficulty that under the GLA Acts the mayor’s term is not limited. During the passage of both GLA Acts, I attempted to introduce a two-term limit for the Mayor of London, but I was unsuccessful.
I drafted an amendment that would have dealt with that, because I realised that one cannot suggest that the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime—which is such a strange title for an individual—should be limited to two terms if the mayor, who is the same person, is not so limited. However, the Public Bill Office was not persuaded that it came within the scope of the Bill. Therefore, I accept that there is a problem. I would be interested to know why the Government did not attempt to deal with this matter. Again, perhaps it was too difficult and they did not want to disturb the GLA arrangements. However, there is an inconsistency and it is right that we should highlight it.
Amendments 61 and 62 deal with the issue of who will be the deputy mayor for policing and crime. I am sure that my noble friend Lady Doocey will speak to this. A number of my amendments—this is just how things fall—are acting as trailers for her interventions, which are based on experience that is more current than mine. It is right that the deputy mayor should have a democratic mandate: that is the reason for the amendments.
Amendments 70, 71, 74, 151, 157 and 158 deal with who in London should carry out the functions equivalent to those of the policing and crime panels elsewhere. As I said when we debated the last-but-one group of amendments, it should be for the London Assembly to determine whether the whole Assembly carries out the panel functions. It should not have forced on it procedures dictated by central government. I do not know whether the Government's view is that it will be desirable for a committee of the London Assembly to develop expertise in this area. I am sure that the Assembly has not changed very much in the past three years: in fact, it will have developed in this regard. It covers a lot of ground and does not have difficulty with individual members covering a lot of ground. It is of benefit that the Assembly works in this way, because it is able to join up the issues: what it does is integrated. I know that my noble friend has tabled amendments in this area. I feel strongly that the Assembly should work out for itself its own best procedures. It knows how best it operates.
Amendment 72 is about the police and crime plan: the how as well as the what. The aim is to expand the process. Because of the hour, I am going very quickly; I know that the Minister will cover some of the explanation in her reply. The underlying reason for the amendment is to ensure that the process in London should be similar to that outside London in order to achieve a better product at the end of the day.
Amendment 97 is on delegation—we seem to have strayed outside London here—and restricts it to a member of the police and crime panel. This is an important principle that has been alluded to in other contexts today. Amendment 103 also deals with delegation. Like my noble friend, I believe that it should be to an elected individual, a Member of the London Assembly. Amendments 99, 100, 101 and 107 are consequential.
Amendments 98, 104 and 106 ask the Government what delegation means. Is it a transfer of function or of responsibility? I am concerned about this because as I read Clauses 18 and 19, I think that they may be going a good deal further than is appropriate or perhaps even proper. I have used as a device an amendment which refers to the commissioner or MOPC retaining responsibility, but this concern underlies my amendments.
Amendment 109 addresses what can be delegated. Will the Minister justify the provisions that the amendment deals with by taking them out? Amendment 111 concerns the deputy mayor’s functions. The trickle-down arrangements in this clause are just too much. What is envisaged? The provisions that the amendment would delete must be about more than handing over jobs to staff. If that is so, it all becomes far too remote. Amendment 114 is consequential, but if noble Lords look at Clause 19(8), which it addresses, I hope they will understand why I am concerned. It states:
“If a function of the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime is exercisable by”,
“any property or rights vested in the Office may be dealt with by the other person”.
This moves quite a long way from the accountability through democratic election that is at the heart of the Government’s proposals.
Amendment 164 takes us back to vetoes, numbers and so on and would give the Assembly the right to approve or reject the police and crime plan, which I think it should have. The Assembly has rights and, more importantly, responsibilities to consider mayoral strategies, and I am doing nothing more here, I think, than bringing the police and crime plan into line with those other strategies. We have talked before about the linkage with local authorities and consideration of the other parts of the crime and disorder landscape—that is probably the current jargon. I am not sidelining the role of the boroughs in all this but we have a London-wide government which deals with a number of related issues. I think that it would be entirely proper for the Assembly to have this power.
Amendments 179 and 180 are about appointments. I do not have direct experience of shortlisting and interviewing, to which I have referred here, for either the commissioner in the metropolis or for any other senior posts. But I have been aware of colleagues being involved through the MPA, and quite rightly so. An Assembly Member should be involved and regard to that person’s views should be had. This is an important role. I do not think that it is at all inconsistent with the separation between the commissioner and the panel, to which the Government have referred.
Finally, under Amendments 183 and 184, which deal with the suspension and removal of the commissioner and deputy commissioner, I suggest that there should be a degree of consultation. I accept that these amendments could be criticised on the basis that these matters will be sensitive. There are HR—I guess that that will include human rights and HR in its more traditional sense—considerations. I am not suggesting some sort of public trial but again it is part of the role of the Assembly as the police and crime panel. It is in a good and proper place to contribute to these matters.
In cantering through these amendments, I have still taken 12 minutes, which indicates that there are a lot of issues here. I am sorry to have had to ask the House to listen to that canter at this time of night. If noble Lords have followed it, they have probably done better than I have in listening to myself. But they are important issues and we have to get this right in London as well as in the rest of the country. I beg to move.
My Lords, I should like to address Amendments 103, 105, 112 and 116, the four amendments in my name in this group. The purpose of the amendments is to ensure democratic legitimacy to the function of police and crime commissioner as exercised in London. I have no objection to the concept of the Mayor of London, acting as the PCC, appointing a deputy mayor for policing and crime. The issue that arises is the fact that the deputy mayor for policing and crime will not be an elected person. The mayor has the right to appoint anyone to this position.
Mayors are not infallible. London has so far had two elected mayors. Both have appointed a range of unelected people to a wide variety of important posts, some of which have resulted in controversy, resignations and sackings. I recognise that no such mistake has been made in the appointment of the chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority or, in fact, any of the appointments, but the fact is that that very important principle still stands.
However, I believe that there is a much more fundamental objection. Were the mayor to appoint an unelected person to the post of deputy mayor for policing and crime, it would negate the whole purpose of the Bill. How on earth can an unelected police and crime commissioner be accountable to local communities? Does not this proposal to hand the powers of the PCC to any unelected individual make a nonsense of the Government’s argument about democratic legitimacy?
Previously in Committee, my noble friend the Minister said:
“Cabinet Office research in 2008 showed that more than two-thirds of the public wanted an elected person to hold the police to account … It means an elected individual charged with being the voice of some of the most vulnerable people … I believe that police and crime commissioners will be both visible and democratically accountable”.—[Official Report, 11/5/11; col. 940.]
My noble friend made the same comment earlier this evening.
Therefore, I echo what the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, said earlier. Why on earth should every area outside London have a democratically elected individual carrying out the job of PCC, but not London? What rationale is there for treating London differently from any other part of the country? Whatever misgivings one might have about certain sections of this Bill, it is essential that the new legislation works in practice and does what it is supposed to do. But it must also be logically consistent and ensure the same degree of democratic accountability throughout the country. These amendments would achieve these objectives by obliging the Mayor of London, in delegating his functions as PCC, to choose a deputy mayor for policing and crime only from elected Members of the London Assembly.
My Lords, I will speak to an amendment that is in my name, to four other amendments to which I have added my name and to an amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. The amendment in my name is Amendment 110. I have to confess that this is possibly a refugee from what should have been another group. However, it could stand on its own here. It essentially deletes Clause 19(4), which is about the power of the deputy mayor for policing and crime to,
“arrange for any other person to exercise any function of the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime which is, in accordance with subsection (2), exercisable by the Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime”.
This comes back to the issue that we keep raising in relation to policing and crime commissioners: their ability to delegate functions to people who are not accountable in the same way. The proposal is that, even though this is an activity which is specifically the responsibility of the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime, and specifically should be carried out by the deputy mayor, it should not be possible to delegate this to any other person in such a cavalier way.
I also wanted to speak to Amendments 103 and 116, which essentially say that the deputy mayor for policing and crime shall be a Member of the London Assembly. If your Lordships and the Government are not minded to accept the principle of direct election, then the second best must be that the person delegated by the Mayor of London must themselves be an elected person, a Member of the London Assembly. It really is extraordinary that the Bill gives such latitude to the Mayor of London to appoint someone whom they have not met and may have no personal direct mandate. One could create a justification as to why it would be inappropriate to have a direct mandate, but it seems to me that the main thrust of this ought to be that that the person who is acting on behalf of the Mayor of London in this very important role should themselves have at least been subject to the electorate for at least part of London, if not the whole of London. It is important that the deputy mayor of London for policing and crime should be an elected Member of the London Assembly, and Amendments 103 and 116 deal with this.
I have also put my name to Amendment 105, which enables the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime to delegate to any person the functions that would otherwise be carried out by the deputy mayor for policing and crime. The issue is the same: whether it should be possible for these functions so easily to be delegated to people who are not elected. Amendment 105 would at least require the mayor to delegate them to somebody who was part of the structure of the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime rather than to someone completely different. What would be the point of having a Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime if the mayor could say, “Well, one of these functions I am not having done by somebody who works for the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime; I’ll have it delegated somewhere else”? I suspect that this was an unintended consequence of something else when the drafting was done, but it seems to be a very strange arrangement.
Amendment 180 would involve Members of the Assembly in the appointment of police officers of ACPO rank other than simply the commissioner and deputy commissioner. I spoke earlier today about the importance of that responsibility being shared. It is an important issue of governance. It is also important that senior officers of the Metropolitan Police not only see the line of accountability to the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis but recognise the importance of democratic accountability. The involvement of Members in the appointments process would help facilitate that.
My Lords, there is a great number of amendments in this grouping. I shall try to do justice to as many of them as I can.
Amendments 61, 62, 107 and 116 would prevent the mayor appointing as deputy mayor for crime and policing anyone who was not already a Member of the London Assembly. I understand the concerns that lie behind the amendments. It is argued that if PCCs elsewhere are directly elected to their position, the deputy mayor should have some democratic legitimacy. We touched on this in previous amendments. However, it is important to remember that the deputy mayor does not occupy the Mayor's Office for Crime and Policing; the mayor alone may hold that office. The mayor may appoint a person to whom to delegate the day-to-day responsibilities of the office, but I emphasise—particularly to my noble friend Lady Hamwee because she raised this matter—that the liability and accountability to the public rest squarely on the shoulders of the mayor, whatever the nature of the delegation. For that reason, I suggest that it is not necessary for the deputy mayor to be elected, although there is no reason why they could not be.
To require the deputy mayor to be an Assembly Member would also limit the mayor's discretion to 25 people, many of whom already have important responsibilities. Until the Greater London Authority Act 2007, Assembly Members were not able to serve on the Transport for London board. While they are now able to do so, there is no requirement for any of the members or the chair to be an Assembly Member. In fact, none of the current members of the Transport for London board is also an Assembly Member; the accountability comes through the mayor. I therefore ask that this cluster of amendments not be pressed.
Delegation is very important in any organisation. No one person, be that the mayor or the deputy mayor, can carry out all the functions of an organisation from making strategic decisions to replying to letters. The Bill sets out that the mayor may delegate to the deputy mayor, who in turn may also delegate functions.
Amendment 109 would seriously restrict the mayor's ability to delegate to the deputy mayor, meaning that the mayor would have to carry out all the day-to-day functions of the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime. With a role as large and strategic as the mayor’s, it must be right that day-to-day functions are able to be delegated. As such, I ask that that amendment not be pressed.
Amendment 105 would restrict the mayor's ability to delegate functions so only the deputy mayor or an employee of the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime may have functions delegated to them. I would be very concerned that this would prevent the useful shared services that already exist in the GLA, as it would require that all of the mayor's functions in respect of policing and crime are performed by the staff of that office. In order to ensure that the mayor can make sensible decisions about the most efficient and effective way of working, I ask that this amendment not be pressed.
Amendments 106 and 109 make it clear that the mayor retains overall legal responsibility for any function he or she should choose to delegate. This is a fundamental principle of the law on delegation. The mayor could not choose to delegate overall responsibility of his or her functions even if he or she should wish to. As such, these amendments would have no practical effect and I ask that they not be pressed.
Amendment 114 would forbid any person but the mayor from exercising any rights of his or her office or using any property. That would effectively be a bar on the mayor from delegating any functions, as nearly all functions would require that person to exercise some rights of the mayor.
Amendments 110 and 111 would prevent the deputy mayor from delegating any functions that he or she has been delegated by the mayor. This would mean only the mayor or the deputy mayor could carry out any function of the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime. Were this the case then the mayor's office could have no effective staff, as every function from appointing a junior member of staff, to replying to a letter on behalf of the mayor's office would need to be carried out by either the mayor or the deputy mayor. Similarly, Amendments 103 and 112 would prevent the mayor and deputy mayor from delegating functions to any person but a London Assembly Member. I do not think it is right that only the mayor, deputy mayor or a London Assembly Member are able to perform the basic administrative functions of that office. Any organisation needs to allow for effective delegation to be efficient, but the amendments would prevent that and so make the office bureaucratic, if not actually impossible. For that reason, I would ask noble Lords not to press those amendments.
Finally, Amendments 97 to 101 make similar changes to restrict the ability of a police and crime commissioner in delegating functions. Your Lordships may care to consider what effect if any the amendments will have following the vote on the first day of this Committee. Had that vote not taken place, I would be arguing that PCCs also need to delegate, and it would be as inappropriate to expect police and crime panel members to handle a PCC's correspondence or to interview the staff.
I would have made similar arguments in respect of a PCC as I have in respect of the mayor; that it is right that conflict of interest considerations prevent them from delegating functions to a police officer, and the law is already clear that they cannot delegate overall responsibility for any function. I do not think that Clause 18 has any practical effect any longer, and as such, neither do the amendments sought.
To pick up on some of the other points raised, my noble friend Lady Hamwee mentioned the question of term limits on MOPC. As drafted, the amendment would mean that the current mayor would not be able to take on MOPC if successful in the 2012 election, as only the mayor can hold MOPC. That would leave the office vacant. This is probably not the place to open up the debate on how that problem might be resolved, but no one other than the mayor would be able to fill the role of MOPC and how that would be decided and how that situation would be dealt with is not clear in the proposals that have been brought forward.
The Greater London Authority Act provides for circumstances in which the office of mayor is vacant. It provides for arrangements in which the statutory deputy mayor under the Greater London Authority Act—not to be confused with the deputy mayor for policing and crime—assumes the functions of mayor. Surely those arrangements are covered under the Greater London Authority Act.
I am not up to speed with the Greater London Authority Act, but I would have hoped that in bringing forward amendments that created the circumstance, there would have been provisions to decide how to deal with the situation that I described and could well happen in respect of the sitting mayor and the elections due next year. So if the noble Lord does not mind I will not engage in the detail of that. Those proposals are simply not in front of the House today and I am going to move on to the role of the London Assembly.
These amendments would establish the London Assembly as the police and crime panel for London. I appreciate the position that noble Lords have taken with this. Like them, I am keen to ensure that the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime in London is properly challenged and that its decisions are tested on behalf of the public on a regular basis. However, I see that the police and crime panel must comprise members of the London Assembly so as to ensure proper accountability.
The first question to address here is why there should be a bespoke committee of the London Assembly called the police and crime panel rather than, as proposed by noble Lords, the functions being conferred on the London Assembly as a whole. The reason is one of practicality. Having a dedicated committee, representative of the wider London Assembly, will ensure that sufficient attention and scrutiny can be paid to delivering its policing responsibilities and would also allow for independent members to be brought on to the panel to ensure diversity and the right mix of skills. Independents would be appointed subject to the existing rules of the Assembly.
This smaller group will be able to focus its attentions on the important business of scrutinising, in detail, the actions and decisions of the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime—particularly in respect of the police and crime plan. The requirement for the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime to produce a police and crime plan is a statutory requirement. It is right and proper that the London authority, through its police and crime panel, should have the appropriate opportunity to review and report on the draft police and crime plan. This is a very important element of its scrutiny role. However, given the statutory nature of the police and crime plan, and the accompanying requirements made of it by this legislation, it would not be appropriate for the police and crime panel to have the power to veto the plan itself.
Finally, these amendments would introduce a role for the London Assembly in the appointment of the commissioner and the deputy commissioner, and their senior team. I will address these in turn. The Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police remain royal appointments, subject to the advice of the Secretary of State, due to the number of important national and international functions that they undertake. In making this recommendation, the Secretary of State must have regard to any recommendations made by the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime.
It has been proposed that the London Assembly should also be a part of these considerations. Requiring the London Assembly to do so, be that directly through the police and crime panel, would add an additional layer of bureaucracy to the process, which would delay the decision further. The proposed amendments would also establish a role for the London Assembly in the appointment of the assistant commissioners, deputy assistant commissioners and commanders of the Metropolitan Police. Such appointments under this legislation will now be made by the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, in consultation with the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime. They will no longer require the approval of the Secretary of State, which reflects the Government’s commitment to reduce interference from the centre and reduce bureaucracy.
The Government feel that the commissioner is best placed to make decisions about the make-up of his top team. The role of the police and crime panel for London is to scrutinise the decisions taken by the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime in London. It is not its role to scrutinise the decisions of the commissioner and neither it, nor the GLA more widely, as these amendments propose, should therefore have a role in the appointment of the commissioner’s senior team.
Furthermore, allowing the assembly to call in the Metropolitan Police Commissioner to give evidence will mean the commissioner having to answer to two masters. The commissioner is held to account by the mayor and the mayor by the assembly. These clear lines of accountability are needed.
I have not been able to go into a lot of detail—we had a long list of amendments before us—but I hope that your Lordships who have tabled amendments will feel able not to press them.
My Lords, there is a long list of amendments because there are a lot of issues. I would have been considerably happier if we had been able to unpack this package somewhat. From listening to the Minister’s reply—she has been saddled with this, I accept—it seems to me that some of the provisions are straining to apply to London the model provided for the rest of England and Wales. That feels very awkward and very inappropriate. I cannot see that we will finish the debate about London tonight, so I think that we will have to come back to aspects of it.
On delegation, at one point I referred to that as “trickle-down”, but I think that the Minister’s reply vindicates that description. I have realised, a bit late in the day, that “Delegatus non potest delegare”, as we all say—
That is an important principle. I am really troubled that so much of this debate is described as being about delegation, whereas actually it is about getting other people to do a job in a way that, in other businesses, would be quite natural. That is not the same as delegation.
On the term limit, had the Public Bill Office allowed my amendment, it would have addressed all the points that the Minister made. However, the Minister did not address the problem—or, perhaps it would be fairer to say, the question that I asked—which is, “Why is London different in this respect?”.
Let me mention two final issues. The first is about the arrangements that the London Assembly makes and the Government’s insistence on requiring a bespoke committee. The Minister said that this is a matter of practicality. Well, there are practical considerations, but if central government is going to keep out of these things, central government should let the London Assembly work out for itself what the best practical arrangements would be. Frankly, I think that it is a bit paternalistic for central government to say, “You 25 people won’t be able to cope, so let us tell you how best to do it”. It seems to me that certain matters could and would be best handled by a committee, whereas some issues—the budget is obviously one of them—would be matters for the whole Assembly. The Government’s proposal seems an unnecessary intervention.
Finally, on the issue of appointments, although bureaucracy has been blamed, sometimes bureaucracy is a good thing. Actually, the point made is the one raised by the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, about the lines of connection—I had better avoid words like “accountability”—which I think is the right approach. I do not think that one should be saying that, in the name of avoiding bureaucracy, we will make the process, frankly, rather dodgy.
I am sorry that it must have been quite difficult for those Members of the House who are not directly involved in these matters to have tried to follow the debate, but certain themes have come out. I think that I look forward to—I anticipate with some sort of emotion—discussing these issues further with the Minister, because there are a number of points on which we have now teased out some of the Government’s thinking, which I have found helpful to hear, that we will need to address further. For the moment, I beg leave to withdraw Amendment 51.
Amendment 51 withdrawn.
Amendments 52 to 59 not moved.
Clause 3 agreed.
Schedule 3 : Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime
Amendments 60 to 64 not moved.
Schedule 3 agreed.
Clause 4 : Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis
Amendments 64A to 65 not moved.
Clause 4 agreed.
Schedule 4 : Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis
Amendments 66 to 67B not moved.
Schedule 4 agreed.
Amendment 68 not moved.
Clause 5 : Police and crime commissioners to issue police and crime plans
68ZA: Clause 5, page 5, line 9, at end insert—
“( ) A police and crime commissioner must issue a crime prevention plan within the financial year in which each ordinary election is held.”
This is an important group of amendments dealing mainly with crime prevention, which is an important matter. It deals also with the way to vary the crime plan and the various people who could be involved in that. To synopsise, it could be people like those in Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary, the Home Secretary and others, to change or vary the plan or their powers to submit information on it.
This is an important group of amendments, and it is a pity that we are taking it at this time of night. The Minister might be worried to know that I can wax lyrical for many a long hour on the importance and complexity of crime prevention, and if I chose to do so we could all end up by having breakfast on the Terrace, which would be a wonderful way to start Wednesday. So maybe I will do that.
This is the crime prevention part of this Bill, and to me it is very important. In an act of great modesty, I say that Amendment 68ZA in my name is the most important. Some of the other amendments are probing, but they are all important because they deal with how the plan is structured, and so on.
I have a couple of key questions, which I shall put in context for the Minister. First, are we to assume that the crime plan really does mean crime prevention? I would prefer if we actually gave a duty in Clause 5 to draw up a crime prevention plan. A crime plan could mean almost anything.
The second issue that this covers is that if the assumption is that the crime plan includes crime prevention, it raises the funding of crime prevention. A number of references to funding are in this Bill. In Clause 9, a body can fund measures to combat crime and disorder. But if it is to be assumed that crime prevention is included in the plan—this is the other question to the Minister—are we really going to assume that all the other agencies that deal with crime prevention are also going to lose those functions into this? If they are, that is going to have profound financial consequences. If, for example, the Home Office gave up many of its crime prevention projects and plans, are they to go over to these localised—although they are not really that localised—police areas? Are the various organisations that operate under either funding from, or the direct organisation by, other government departments to be transferred, too? This is why I say that if the Government put in the Bill that there is to be a crime prevention plan, they can at least define what is in the plan, which powers are to be transferred and what funding is available to it.
I want to put this in the context of the battle to reduce crime, if I can. I suppose that is always an ongoing battle, but over the past 10 years or so we have been remarkably successful in reducing crime. One factor is policing; the police are obviously important as a deterrent and in detecting crime. If you can increase the conviction rate, crime tends to reduce because one of the greatest deterrents is the certainty of being caught. However, the police alone cannot deliver and that has long been the history of this crime prevention strategy. Crime prevention is more than better locks on windows and doors. It is everything from parenting through to some of the special projects that go on.
I notice that in some parts of the Bill—I paraphrase slightly because of the lateness of the hour—the Government refer to certain things that the panel can do. For example, it can fund measures to reduce disorder. That is fine but if you are to do that, how do you define what it takes on and fund that? There is an assumption in the Bill that the crime plan, as it is referred to, really means crime prevention, but without mentioning it. Yet it does not then deal with the funding issue. If the Government go down this road and are not clear about crime prevention, crime will go up again. It already is; burglary, the one that worries people an awful lot, is going up. Street crime will begin to go up again for other unrelated reasons, which I will not go into at this late hour, but the old crime of mugging—as it was called, although it is strictly robbery—will go up because as unemployment and other issues go up, it rises, too.
One way we have been successful in reducing crime is by having all forms of intervention earlier. That of course involves some social aspects, such as children's centres and things of that nature. Yet the Government have produced a Bill which, leaving aside my other concerns about it, does not properly address crime prevention. We really will have a situation where crime goes up again unless we are clear about whose duty it is. There are two ways of doing this. One is to keep things much as they are now and be clear about what we devolve to these police commissioners. The other way is to say, “Right—we will shift as much as possible down”. From what the Government say, they want to devolve but if they want to devolve much crime prevention, they really have to come clean on the funding. That is not being identified here through a proper crime plan.
If in an area you get, for example, a number of hostels which are for people who are recovering from a mental illness, or who have been discharged from prison, or who have been through the court system, you will have a different type of problem there than in other areas. I think the noble Baroness, Lady Harris of Richmond, and one or two other Members pointed out that one danger of this structure is that because you have quite large police areas, the loudest voices will be heard most. Those will be from the leafy suburbs—the richer areas—while the voices of those in the poorer areas, where the crime rate tends to be much higher, will not be heard, although those areas are in most need of a crime plan, or crime prevention plan as I prefer to call it.
I want to be clear about this. If we are to have these large police areas and an elected commissioner for each area, that person will have to relate to the high crime hotspots which will not necessarily have the loudest voices in the election. That point has been made several times in a number of debates on this over time. That is why my Amendment 68ZA would include in the Bill a duty to issue a crime prevention plan. That would then relate over the whole area, people would not have to speak up about it and it could be checked. There could be a situation, for example, where the individual MPs or councillors throughout the area say, “What is the plan for reducing crime on this estate or in that street?”. At the moment there seems to be no thinking about that at all. It is just a police and crime issue without any definition of whether crime means a crime plan. I cannot overstate the importance of this. This is where the Bill is not well thought through. We have to be clear about crime prevention.
Think of the blood, sweat, tears and toil that were spent by the police, various government agencies, the previous Government, and politicians at all levels and of all parties to get crime prevention right up front. It really was a struggle and we are in danger of losing it. That is why I want the requirement to produce a crime prevention plan included in the Bill. I would then want to see individual MPs, councillors and others saying, “What’s the crime prevention plan for this area?”. At the moment that is not there. All we are doing is saying that someone can vary the plan, that there are restrictions on who can vary it, or that HMIC or the Home Secretary can have an input. We have to be clear about this. At the moment we still have a pretty good crime prevention policy in this country. It has been working well but I am not at all sure that that will continue under this structure. I strongly urge the Minister to see if she can work out the dividing line between these bodies and the existing groups that organise crime prevention programmes. If she does that and does it well, I might be able to let her have breakfast at home. I beg to move.
I was hoping to intervene before the noble Lord sat down, but I will now put my question after the amendment has been moved. Although I am a bear of very little brain, there is the faintest possible ambiguity in the noble Lord’s amendment. I think I know what he will say but, to put it beyond peradventure, does his amendment mean that the crime prevention plan should be moved before or after the ordinary election to which it refers?
My Lords, this has been a short but interesting debate. I am very grateful to my noble friend. This series of amendments concerns police and crime plans. These are clearly very important because they set the strategic direction for how the police force is to be run. Clause 7(1) sets out the requirements for matters to be put in the plan, including,
“the elected local policing body’s police and crime objectives”.
As my noble friend Lord Soley has said, there is no mention in Clause 7(1) of anything to do with crime prevention. The points that he raised are very pertinent and we look forward to a positive response to them. My noble friend is also right to point out that there has been a very encouraging reduction in crime over the past decade or so. However, those trends are being reversed. A report to the West Midlands Police Authority last week showed the first rise in crime for many years, which is an extremely worrying trend. I agree that crime prevention needs to be an important part of the focus of any police and crime plan.
I have a series of amendments in this group, which are partly probing. I specifically ask the Minister about the rationale for Clause 5(4), the provision that says:
“A police and crime commissioner may vary a police and crime plan”.
Of course, I understand the need to have flexibility. However, my concern is that the ability of the police and crime commissioner to vary the plan at will may be used to exert undue pressure on the operational decisions of the chief constable.
In our first debate this afternoon when we debated pilot schemes—that seems a little time ago now—we heard from former chief officers of police in your Lordships' House that police chiefs were concerned about uncertainty and being left in limbo. Consequently, there were reservations about pilots. I wonder whether the same problem would not arise if the elected police commissioner were continually to vary the plan, as is allowed for in the Bill. I would like to understand why the Government feel that it is necessary to allow the commissioner to vary the plan during the year, and what safeguards might be in place to prevent the elected police commissioner having an “initiative of the month”, varying the plan and leaving chief constables in an untenable position.
None of my amendments would replace the requirement in Clause 7(1)(e) for the plan to set out,
“the means by which the chief officer of police’s performance in providing policing will be measured”.
However, I would like to change that to the performance of the force in general. Going back to our previous discussion about corporation sole, perhaps the Government feel that there is no difference between the chief officer of police’s performance and that of the police force. We have heard that the police force is to be embodied in one person—the chief constable, who is a corporation sole. However, I think that the public want the performance of the force to be judged. Surely that is what the focus should be on rather than the cult of leadership, which the Government seem very keen on at the moment. I should be interested to hear the Minister explain why the police chief is mentioned in the Bill rather than the police force.
My Lords, I have amendments in this group. I will deal first with Amendments 76ZA and 76C as they are similar to the amendments to which the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, spoke at the end of his speech. What is to be measured? Clause 7(1)(b) refers to,
“the policing of the police area which the chief officer of police is to provide”.
However, we should be looking rather at whether the police and crime objectives are being attained. Surely that is what should be assessed. I am uncertain as to what “policing” means in this context. It could be interpreted in a number of ways. For instance, policing is dependent on the budget, so how do you measure performance in the provision of policing? My amendments seek to direct attention to outcomes rather than outputs.
My Amendment 69 seeks to require a variation of the police and crime plan to require the approval of the police and crime panel. Clause 5(6)(d) requires regard to be had to views and to a public response. I would like to see something stronger. The panel has expertise and experience with which to tackle the job of holding the PCC to account. The plan must be one of the most important pieces in the jigsaw. The term “have regard to” can sometimes be influential, but the noble Lord, Lord Harris, while not using this terminology, said earlier that it is obviously best if you do not pull the trigger, but you need ammunition and a gun—perhaps held behind your back, but known to be there—on certain occasions.
My Amendment 123 would amend Clause 28 by giving the panel the right to approve or reject the plan, and the panel would be deemed to have approved the plan unless it is rejected by a majority of two-thirds. That goes against my instincts in terms of proportion, but the right of approval is important.
Amendments 75 and 76 are London issues again. They would extend Section 32, whereby consultation on the plan includes the voluntary organisations to which I referred today and last week.
Finally, on the provisions for the Secretary of State’s guidance on the content of the plan, Amendments 78, 79, 78A and 80ZA provide that the Secretary of State should consult representatives of police and crime panels and local authorities, and have regard to their views. Guidance to those who have a duty to comply with the plans should state that representatives of local authorities should be consulted. I hope that at this hour I do not need to spell out why the input of local authorities is important in this context.
That takes us back fairly neatly to some of the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Soley, when he introduced this group of amendments.
My Lords, I should like to speak briefly to the amendments in my name in this group—Amendments 73, 152, 159, and 160 to 163. Their purpose is to make the provisions of the Bill consistent with those proposed in the Localism Bill. That Bill will change the relationship between the London Assembly and the Mayor of London, as set out in the Greater London Authority Act 1999, because it will give the London Assembly a new power to reject by a two-thirds majority the Mayor’s statutory strategies.
However, this Bill makes no equivalent provision. As it stands, it would not allow the Assembly to reject the Mayor’s draft policing and crime plan. Consequently, once both Bills have become law, the London Assembly would have the power to reject every one of the Mayor’s strategies, with the sole exception of the police and crime plan. This discrepancy makes no sense. There are no substantive differences between the police and crime plan and other mayoral strategies that would justify it being excluded. These amendments, which are supported by the Mayor of London and all political parties on the London Assembly, would remedy this discrepancy.
The amendments also propose that the power to reject a draft police and crime plan would be exercisable by the whole Assembly. I am very aware that the Bill’s provisions suggest that none of the functions of the police and crime panel should be carried out by the full Assembly. However the whole point of vesting this specific power in the full Assembly, as opposed to in a committee of the Assembly, is to provide consistency with the provisions of the Localism Bill in relation to mayoral strategies.
These amendments would ensure that accountability arrangements within the Greater London Authority are coherent and internally consistent.
My Lords, I have put my name to the amendments to which the noble Baroness, Lady Doocey, referred. It is extraordinarily anomalous that two Bills that we will be considering at the same time in your Lordships’ House have such very different provisions for the role of the London Assembly and the strategies of the mayor. It seems sensible that they are made consistent. The proposal that the London Assembly has the power to reject—or, when it comes to the Localism Bill, perhaps even amend—the plan is extremely important and it would be sensible if the power was consistent across the two pieces of legislation.
We have another complex and technical set of amendments here. I listened with great interest to the noble Lord, Lord Soley, although I was not quite sure when he came to his conclusion whether he was referring to organising crime prevention or organised crime prevention.
We are all clear, and it is clearly the intent of the Bill, that the police and crime plan will be one of the core documents which will govern the relationship between the police and crime commissioner and the chief constable and will provide the basis for scrutiny by the police and crime panel. It is a core document. However, we insist that it should not be governed by an absolutely fixed calendar that, on 1 April every year, there must be a new annual crime plan, which is what is suggested in the amendment.
The intention behind the Bill is that, on being elected to office, a new police and crime commissioner should prepare and publish, in consultation with a range of others—including the chief constable and the police and crime panel, of course, but not exclusively them—a police and crime plan which may last for the full term of office but which may be varied. That is to allow a degree of flexibility. It is not intended that he should vary it every week; indeed, it states clearly in Clause 5 that, in variation, a number of people have to be consulted, including the chief constable. If you wish to vary the plan, you naturally again consult the appropriate people, including those whom you expect to carry it out.
It is clear throughout the Bill that the reduction of crime, which involves the prevention of crime, is core to everything. Clause 7(1)(a) states that the plan must include the PCC's police and crime objectives. Later, Clause 7 defines police and crime objectives as including objectives for crime and disorder reduction. In Clause 102, crime and disorder reduction is defined as,
“reduction of crime and disorder (including antisocial and other behaviour and adversely affecting the local environment) … combating the misuse of drugs, alcohol and other substances, and … reduction of reoffending”.
I recognise that part of what the noble Lord, Lord Soley, wants to get at is the range of other agencies involved in crime prevention beyond the police. We all recognise that crime prevention in the broadest sense, as well as the reduction of reoffending, is not a matter for the police alone and involves much of the work of community safety partnerships working with a range of other agencies, some public and others in the voluntary sector. That is a problem we have in all aspects of government: however you draw the line for the number of the tasks that you wish to perform, you must always co-operate with others.
We had not anticipated that the question of funding would come into the debate on the amendment but, as the noble Lord is well aware, crime prevention is funded partly through the police, partly through local authorities and partly through the Ministry of Justice and Home Office budgets through a range of channels, in which community and safety partnerships play a large role. In recent months, I visited a number in Yorkshire. They are examples of different agencies, including the police, working together to reduce inner-city crime, burglary, drugs-related crime and alcohol-related crime and so on. That is very much part of what has been practised over the past 15 or 20 years, and much of what happened under the previous Government contributed to that. As we all know, alcohol and drug-related crime is a very serious problem, and we will touch on some aspects of that during later stages of the Bill.
A police and crime plan is of course a plan about reduction and prevention in the broadest sense. It requires intervention as far as possible in the early stages of anti-social behaviour and so on, and it is also very much concerned with reducing reoffending and preventing the development of persistent and prolific offenders, with whom I am afraid we are all too familiar.
The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, referred to local authorities, and I think that one or two noble Lords raised the question of how this Bill relates to the Localism Bill and other aspects of legislation currently under way—something with which we must all be very concerned. We will look at the references to local authorities across the Bill to see whether that needs to be re-examined, and we will certainly look at the Localism Bill to see how far the two are meant to be compatible. That also applies to what the noble Baroness, Lady Doocey, said about the discrepancy in the powers to reject London strategies.
I end by saying simply that the core business of policing is to reduce crime. The Bill encourages police and crime commissioners to consult widely with others. They will clearly include not only police and crime panels but local authorities and other voluntary and public agencies, as one would expect as the plan is developed and varied. I hope that noble Lords will accept that the plans may well need to be varied when circumstances change. I encourage the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, before the noble Lord, Lord Soley, replies, I wonder whether the Minister is in a position to respond to my question about the assessment of policing. I do not want to go through the arguments again but they relate to my Amendments 76ZA and 76C. If he is not able to respond, perhaps he would write to me about it. My question covers very similar ground to that covered by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, so, with safety in numbers, I think I can claim that this is a genuine concern.
That was a disappointing reply. I really do think that the Government need to go away and put crime prevention in the Bill. We all want to reduce crime but simply saying that we want to do so is apple pie and motherhood. This is an important matter because, if you simply have a crime plan under an elected system, the loudest voices will decide what is done. The crime prevention plan needs to be drawn up on the basis of the crime statistics throughout the police area. If that does not happen, the loudest voices in any electoral system will make the decision and they will not address the type of crime that is most prevalent in the poorest areas.
We will, to some extent, come to the other matter that is not addressed when we reach Clause 9. We can see what is going to happen—indeed, the notes on the Bill give it away in a sense. They say, as does the Bill, that the money can be paid into a scheme to reduce crime. We know what will happen. The Home Office will currently be funding one plan, or this or that organisation will be funding it, and will then say, “It is over to the police and crime plan now”. Where will the money come from? You have to have a crime prevention plan that actually addresses those issues and allows MPs to look at it as well and say, “If the Home Office is going to stop funding this, will the crime plan fund it instead?”.
I am grateful to my noble friend for giving way and am sorry that it is so late but is not the point that the Government are doing that to get them out of responsibility for crime issues? It is clear that crime will go up over the next few years and that the Government will wash their hands and say that it is the responsibility of elected police commissioners. That is what it is about.
My noble friend anticipates me because I was going to finish on this. It is a relevant point. Leaving aside some of the wider issues of accountability, election and so on, my fear is that we will lose what has been gained over many years by many groups, including local authorities under different party control. We will lose that if we do not have a clear requirement for a crime prevention plan. This is when amendments from Back-Benchers are not as good as government amendments. We must address the issue of crime statistics in the area, not simply rely on the electorate to tell the chief officer what they want done. Does the Minister not see the problem that the loudest voices will determine the priority, instead of the statistics of the crime perhaps determining the policies towards reducing those crime patterns? Do I make sense?
I can half see the problem but I am not fully persuaded that crime is quite so pocketed in one area. I am conscious that in West Yorkshire every weekend, very well off young people pour into the middle of Leeds, Wakefield and elsewhere and there is quite a lot of alcohol-related crime, which is focused in one area. It is not where they live, so things spill out from one area to another. The reduction of crime in some of the rougher areas of the region has benefited areas elsewhere. People do not always carry out burglaries in the places in which they live. They move to other areas as well. The noble Lord may be exaggerating the problem that the level of co-operation that we have among different agencies and between local authorities and the police is likely to be severely damaged by this development. The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, adds, as a sort of conspiracy theory, that the Government are trying to shovel off responsibility. I suggest that neither of those things is correct.
I ask the Minister to sit down and talk with his own noble friend Lady Harris of Richmond, who does understand this. I agree that patterns of crime are widely varied and that is why you should work on the basis of statistics. If your main aim is to please an electorate you deal with the loudest voices. That is the reality of elections. It is not just in inner-city areas. You get a pattern where people are worried and set up Neighbourhood Watch—a good thing which nobody is against—and do all these other things, such as coming to meetings with the police to ask them about a particular burglary, or whatever. In the poorer crime hotspots, where burglaries are more common, there is little addressed on that unless you have a very good local authority which then does a range of things, such as putting in caretakers, and all the other things that go with that. What we are doing here is saying that there is a crime plan and that we will fund some of the things, as indicated in Clause 9, but giving no indication of what will happen when other organisations, most notably the Home Office—or a local authority, for that matter—withdraw the funding and say that it is over to the crime plan to replace that.
As my noble friend on the Front Bench said, I would almost predict that crime goes up again and continues to go up if we do not give a clear direction to those organisations to take on crime prevention in a very clear way, based on statistics of crime. An MP in an area can then look at the different aspects, not just in relation to the election of the police commissioner but focusing on those statistics and reducing them in each area. If you do not do that, it will be the electorate who are most interested in the issue, in middle-class areas where crime is lower. In working-class areas with high rates of crime they may rattle the bars of councillors but they will not necessarily get the same crime prevention plan. That is what has happened in the past—we do not need to look in a crystal ball—and that is what we must avoid. I ask the Minister to look at this again. If he wants crime prevention to be done by another body, or to keep it as it is, we need to be clear about that. The alternative is to give it to these bodies but recognise the financial implications.
My Lords, as it happens, next week I will be taken round one of the poorer areas of Leeds by the head of the neighbourhood police. The police there are extremely proud of what they have achieved through the neighbourhood police forum and through neighbourhood policing. It is absolutely what we need to continue. I will reflect on what the noble Lord has said, both before and after my visit. We are all aware that neighbourhood policing, and working with local communities—poor as well as better off—are very much part of the future of policing and what we all want to do. I do not see the problem at which the noble Lord is gnawing, so to speak.
I will wait to see what happens. I simply say to the Minister that crime prevention policy should be based primarily on the statistics of crime and should not depend on who votes for whom and when. I urge the Minister to be aware of the danger in the Bill of not having a clear policy on crime prevention. It is extraordinary that the Bill does not mention crime prevention as a core issue. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 68ZA withdrawn.
Amendments 68ZB to 69B not moved.
Clause 5 agreed.
Clause 6 : Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime to issue police and crime plans
Amendments 69C to 76 not moved.
Clause 6 agreed.
Clause 7 : Police and crime plans
Amendments 76ZA to 79 not moved.
Clause 7 agreed.
Clause 8 : Duty to have regard to police and crime plan
Amendments 79A to 80ZA not moved.
Clause 8 agreed.
Clause 9 : Crime and disorder reduction grants
Amendment 80A not moved.
House adjourned at 12.14 am.