Committee (4th Day) (Continued)
Clause 28 : Police and crime panels outside London
Amendments 123B to 123D not moved.
Clause 28 agreed.
Schedule 6 : Police and crime panels
Amendments 124 to 139 not moved.
Schedule 6 agreed.
Amendment 139A not moved.
Clause 29 : Power to require attendance and information
Amendments 140 to 145 not moved.
Clause 29 agreed.
Amendments 146 and 147 not moved.
Clause 30 : Suspension of police and crime commissioner
Amendments 147A to 148D not moved.
Clause 30 agreed.
Amendment 149 not moved.
Clause 31 : Conduct of commissioners
Amendments 149A to 149C not moved.
Clause 31 agreed.
Schedule 7 : Regulations about complaints and conduct matters
Amendments 149D and 150 not moved.
Schedule 7 agreed.
Clause 32 : London Assembly police and crime panel
Amendments 151 to 159 not moved.
Clause 32 agreed.
Clause 33 : Functions to be discharged by police and crime panel
Amendments 160 to 166B not moved.
Clause 33 agreed.
Amendment 167 not moved.
Clause 34 : Engagement with local people
Amendments 167ZA to 168 not moved.
Clause 34 agreed.
Clause 35 agreed.
Clause 36 : Reports for elected local policing bodies
Amendment 169 not moved.
Clause 36 agreed.
Clause 37 agreed.
Clause 38 : Appointment, suspension and removal of chief constables
Amendments 169A to 171C not moved.
Clause 38 agreed.
Schedule 8 : Appointment, suspension and removal of senior police officers
Amendments 172 to 177 not moved.
Schedule 8 agreed.
Clause 39 : Deputy chief constables
Amendments 177ZA to 178B not moved.
Clause 39 agreed.
Clause 40 : Assistant chief constables
Amendments 178BA to 178E not moved.
Clause 40 agreed.
Amendments 178EA to 178EC not moved.
Clause 41 agreed.
Clause 42 : Appointment of Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis
Amendment 178F not moved.
Clause 42 agreed.
Clause 43 : Deputy Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis
Amendment 178G not moved.
Clause 43 agreed.
Amendment 179 not moved.
Clause 44 agreed.
Clause 45 : Assistant Commissioners of Police of the Metropolis
Amendment 179A not moved.
Clause 45 agreed.
Clause 46 : Deputy Assistant Commissioners of Police of the Metropolis
Amendment 179B not moved.
Clause 46 agreed.
Clause 47 : Commanders
Amendment 179C not moved.
Clause 47 agreed.
Amendment 180 not moved.
Clause 48 : Suspension and removal of Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner
Amendments 181 to 184 not moved.
Clause 48 agreed.
Clauses 49 and 50 agreed.
Amendment 185 not moved.
Clause 51 : Election to fill vacancy in office of commissioner
Amendments 186 to 190 not moved.
Clause 51 agreed.
Clause 52 : Persons entitled to vote
190A: Clause 52, page 33, line 9, at end insert “, and
( ) the person is not serving a prison sentence or is not on remand.”
I congratulate the Deputy Chairman on guiding us through that tour de force. I feel like something of an intruder in standing here to speak to some of the amendments in this group. My amendments are Amendments 190A, 194A, 199A and 201A.
I wondered whether to move the amendment as my amendments in the group relate to elected police and crime commissioners, which are no longer in the Bill. On reflection, I decided to continue to move it, at least to find out a little more about what the Government had in mind for the election arrangements. That is in view of concerns expressed by the Electoral Commission last September that work on a potential spate of elections and new arrangements for elections, including for police and crime commissioners, did not appear to be well co-ordinated by the Government. Of course, we are talking about elections which, prior to the deletion of the relevant part from the Bill, the Government were envisaging should go countrywide in May next year.
In moving the amendment, and speaking to the others in the group, which I have indicated are probing amendments, I would like to ask one or two questions about what the Government had in mind as far as those election arrangements were concerned. I ask them in part in the light of some of the concerns expressed by the Electoral Commission.
First, is the Minister able to say something about what the Government had intended about how those elections would be organised and by whom? Returning officers work on a local authority basis, but in nearly all cases the police authorities overlap more than one local authority area. So although it would not be the first time that elections had been held in respect of an organisation, body or Parliament that went over more than one authority area, it would be helpful if the Minister could say something about what was intended about organising these elections, in view of this issue of returning officers working on a local authority basis, as the elections would take place for many of the police and crime commissioners over a number of local authority areas.
One of the amendments that I have tabled refers to the issue of those in prison and those on remand, and seeks to say that those serving a prison sentence or on remand should not be included among those eligible to vote. It will be interesting to hear the Minister’s comments on whether it was their intention that prisoners should be able to vote in the election for a police and crime commissioner or not. I am sure that some people would think that it was rather odd that prisoners should be able to take part in an election of that kind, just as others would think that it was entirely reasonable. Obviously, it is an issue on which there would be different views, but it would be of interest to hear the Government’s thinking on that score.
I appreciate that things came to grief, from the Government’s point of view, a few weeks ago. But as Governments usually prepare on the basis that the guts of the Bill will go through, it would also be helpful if the Minister could indicate what discussions were held with local authorities, registration officers and electoral administrators and, indeed, with the Electoral Commission, particularly in the light of the concerns that it expressed last September. Indeed, another of the amendments that I have tabled provides that for making orders under relevant provisions the Secretary of State must consult the Electoral Commission and publish its advice. It would be interesting to know if that had been part and parcel of the Government’s plans and intentions as well.
In the concerns that the Electoral Commission raised, it said that it asked the Government to create a cross-department working group to co-ordinate all these initiatives—bearing in mind the number of different elections that the Government seem to be envisaging—so the obvious questions are: had a cross-departmental working group in fact been established, had it started to address the issue of electing police and crime commissioners, and how many times had it met or how active was it? I also ask about the resources, since elections cannot be run for nothing and these could have been fairly complicated ones. What had the Government been intending to do where the provision of extra resources was concerned to cover the cost of these elections? It has been their intention to run them, as I understand it, in May of next year—presumably alongside the local elections that would be being run then.
Another amendment that I have tabled relates to the turnout for these elections and provides that there have to be 40 per cent or more of eligible voters voting if the result is to be deemed binding. When we were discussing the referendum on the alternative vote, we had similar debates and amendments were moved which I think provided for the same figure. Those amendments were defeated but, as it turned out, if memory serves me right—and it may have failed me—we got above 40 per cent on the AV referendum. However, were the Government intending on these elections to provide for any minimum threshold where turnout was concerned?
Some serious concerns had been expressed—they have been expressed in debates that we have had in this Committee—that, let us just say, some rather interesting individuals might choose to put themselves up for election and that some might regard it as unfortunate if they were the ones elected, particularly if it turned out that they were elected on a very low turnout. Did the Government have any views or intentions, concerning the running of these elections, of seeking to set some sort of threshold which had to be reached or achieved for the elections to be regarded as valid? That would perhaps have as one of its objectives keeping certain people out who might not necessarily be considered entirely appropriate for a position of police and crime commissioner. The point of the amendment is to seek to ask the Government whether they had any views on that score.
A further amendment that I have tabled takes out a significant chunk of Clause 58. That is for the purpose of asking some of the questions that I have been asking about how the Government saw these elections being run and organised, what steps they had in train and what kind of progress had been made when we reached the stage where the amendment which deleted the reference to elected police and crime commissioners was successfully moved. There are other issues as well. There does not appear to be much reference in the Bill, for example, to election expenses or donation caps and such things. Indeed, the only real reference in the Bill to those kinds of issues is an order-making power for the Secretary of State, so that the Secretary of State can come forward with some of those ideas later. However, subject to what the Minister may say, the Bill does not give us any feel for what the Government intend on how they will run and organise these elections while we are actually discussing it.
Presumably, there are also questions where it would be helpful if we could have some response on issues such as donations and spending on these elections by political parties or, indeed, by anybody else. Do the Government have any views on that? Were they moving in any particular direction on that score that they can share with us? Or—I conclude on this point, because I have asked a number of questions which I hope that the Minister will be able to respond to—are we still in the position that the Electoral Commission referred to last September? With a number of potential elections coming up, some of them new elections for new bodies and including those for police and crime commissioners, the commission was moved to say that this work does not appear well co-ordinated at present. Is that in fact still the reality?
My Lords, I will speak to Amendments 193, 195 to 199, 200, 201 and 216. All are pretty brief. Amendments 193 and 194 would replace the word “necessarily” with “reasonably”. This is about returning officers incurring costs for services and how those services are charged for. We are concerned that “necessarily” is complicated to define. A better and safer definition would be to use the word “reasonably”. That would benefit returning officers, who would, in most cases, get the benefit of the doubt as to what was reasonable expenditure. One person’s definition of what is reasonable is very much like another person’s. One person’s definition of the word “necessarily” might be more problematic.
Amendments 195 to 199 relate to the voting system. Thankfully, the first past the post system is not proposed in the Bill. We will have quite a large number of candidates for the post of police commissioner. The great danger in an electoral system that does not work well, such as first past the post—and I guess that this is why it is not the preferred option—is that you could end up with someone being elected on a very low percentage of votes cast. The difference between the supplementary vote as proposed and the alternative vote system that we would prefer is that, on a supplementary vote system, electors can vote twice whereas on the alternative vote system they can vote in a sequence, as far down the list as they wish to go. I appreciate that your Lordships’ House has had a lot of discussion of voting systems in recent months, but the point remains extremely important. The benefit of the alternative vote is that you are likely to get a better outcome—that is, one with greater public support.
There is a danger under the supplementary vote that candidates will end up very closely bunched. If they are, it would be in the interests of a good, strong outcome if more of the choices of those whose candidates came lower down the list were counted. My wish here is simply that someone models the impact of a vote using the supplementary vote as against the alternative vote. Maybe, prior to Report, we could have some further discussion about what that modelling shows.
Amendment 200 relates to a concern from the Electoral Commission. It would add a regulation about spending by those who seek to influence the outcome of an election—that is, campaigners who are not themselves standing in that election. In the briefing that was supplied to Members of your Lordships’ House, the Electoral Commission asked that there should be some regulation of spending by campaigners who are not standing for election. I hope that that can easily be agreed.
Amendment 201 would limit the powers of the Secretary of State to make only such modifications and exceptions to normal processes for elections as are required to apply the relevant provisions to the election of these police and crime commissioners. In other words, it would simply prevent the Secretary of State from adding things that may not be essential in the conduct of these specific elections.
Amendment 216 seeks to make it absolutely clear that all staff and suppliers are within the restriction presented. It is an attempt to clarify the wording so that there is no doubt about how restrictions apply to those who have close working or supplier relationships.
Those are the amendments that I wish to speak to. These issues all cause me a lot of concern, but most of them are easily put right. However, the issue of the voting system may come back to haunt us if the wrong one is applied to these elections next year. I very much hope that the modelling that I have asked for might demonstrate what could happen in these elections and what might be the lowest threshold that a candidate would have to secure to get elected.
I intervene briefly on this issue of voting systems to register a counter-case with the Government, in case they are minded to carry out the work suggested by the noble Lord. Under the AV system that the noble Lord proposes, outsider and fringe candidates can win. That is why the supplementary vote has been selected. It concentrates the mind of the elector on voting for mainstream front-running candidates. The danger under AV is that outsider and fringe candidates will end up winning, which means the BNP. The AV system for the election of these commissioners would be extremely dangerous. I counsel very strongly against it.
My Lords, I speak to Amendment 234ZZF in this group, which relates to the provisions about transfer schemes in Schedule 15. The Bill currently enables the Secretary of State to direct only a police authority to make a transfer scheme. My amendment would change this so that the Secretary of State could also direct a PCC or MOPC to make a transfer scheme. Effectively, therefore, this amendment would allow the creation of secondary transfer schemes after PCCs and MOPC are put in place. Let me explain why this is necessary.
This schedule currently expects a police authority to make a transfer scheme before it ceases to exist. In making that scheme, the police authority has to decide whether to transfer the assets and staff concerned to the PCC or the chief constable, or—in the case of London—to MOPC or the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. There is no second bite at this cherry in the Bill. If the authority does not get it right, the arrangements cannot be changed at a later date. The transfer of land should not be a problem. The Bill envisages that only the PCC may own land. The transfer of contracts may be slightly more complex, but generally the Bill envisages that these will be transferred to the PCC. Following the Minister’s assurances in the previous Committee session, it is likely that chief officers will be able to enter into contracts in their own right only in relation to employment.
The real nub of the problem is people. Given that the police authority currently employs all staff, whether they work for the authority or the force, to whom will the authority transfer these staff? The Bill clearly intends that the chief officer should be able to employ staff within the force. Whatever concerns we may have about the police reform proposals, or the proposals to give chief officers a status as corporations sole, it is in everyone’s interests that we get the transition arrangements right. This is especially important in our current climate of great upheaval and the various pressures on the whole of the police service. Which staff should chief officers be given? Perhaps they should be given those currently employed in the force, but, of course, it is not that simple; it never is. The reason for this is that many staff within the force are from time to time asked to prepare work to assist the police authority. This might be in relation to preparing reports on police performance or assisting the authority with an engagement exercise or a communications campaign. It might relate to providing information about force professional standards or risk assessment that sits behind the development of police plans.
Technically, under Section 15 of the Police Act, only police staff employed to support solely the force and not the police authority are under the direction and control of the chief officer. Perhaps we should transfer only those people under the direction and control of the chief officer, but again it is not that simple. Those employed to support the police authority, even if it is only a small part of their job, are technically under the control of the authority. Many of these people might be more appropriately transferred to the force, but in any event I suspect that few authorities have undertaken the complex exercise involved in working out which police staff are under their control and not the control of the chief officer. There has been little need to do so in the past and it is not likely to seem like a good use of time and resources to do so. Most authorities, therefore, will not have a readily available list of people to include in a transfer order to the PCC.
To demand that authorities undertake this exercise now and become involved in potentially long, intricate and fraught negotiations between the existing authorities and their forces over who gets what will place an unnecessary bureaucratic burden on authorities and forces. This is particularly so at a time when they must deal with other challenges brought about by reform, the financial situation and additional calls on police resources such as preparing for the Olympics. Nevertheless, a PCC will expect to have access to the sort of expertise among his own staff that until now authorities have borrowed from their forces. This puts police authorities in the invidious position of having to second-guess what staff a PCC would want to support him. Will he want to put a particular stress on media and communications, say? We have heard a lot about what high-profile and powerful people these PCCs will be, so that is quite likely. If so, how many staff in the force communications department should be transferred to the PCC’s office? Might he want to keep an eye on police performance in case this affects communities’ perception of how effective he is?
A pragmatic solution would be to enable secondary transfer orders to be put in place. This is what my amendment seeks to achieve. This would allow the police authority to transfer either all staff or those staff who have dual roles to the PCC or MOPC initially and then to let the commissioner make the decision about which of those staff they want to continue to employ directly and which should be transferred to the chief officer’s employment. It would also allow any mistakes in the initial transfer schemes to be corrected at a later date. I realise that this is a technical area but it is very important. I look forward to hearing the Minister’s response.
My Lords, I fear that in the course of this Committee I have not always been entirely helpful to the Government, so on this group of amendments I will do my very best to be as supportive as possible. I echo the words of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, about the choice between the supplementary vote and the alternative vote. I will not get into the merits of different voting systems as this House has already spent many happy hours doing that and the country has spent rather fewer happy hours doing the same. However, I should say that if the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, were to be passed, a further anomaly would be created for London, because the Mayor of London is elected on the supplementary vote system, while the person fulfilling police accountability in London would be elected on a different system, the alternative vote, from that in the rest of the country. I offer that in the spirit of trying to assist government Ministers in refuting arguments about amendments.
My main reason for speaking on this group is to support the noble Baroness, Lady Harris of Richmond, in her Amendment 234ZZF. I suspect that this relates to something about which not a great deal of thought has been given in the drafting of the Bill, which ties the hands of an incoming MOPC in London, or an incoming policing and crime commissioner, commission or anything else outside the country. That is because the Government are saying that there is only one bite of the cherry and that the transfer of staff must take place before police authorities are abolished. That would be fine if we were talking about an extraordinarily long lead-in. It would perhaps allow time for much discussion and consultation. However, we are not talking about that.
If the Government get their way, the elections of policing and crime commissioners in the 41 areas outside London will take place next May. That presupposes that in all those areas the detailed work that the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, has described will have been concluded on time and that the Minister’s officials within the Home Office will have done it in sufficient time to provide the guidance that is spelt out in the Bill. I have, of course, enormous faith in civil servants in the Home Office, but I am conscious of the workload involved in saying exactly how this is to be done. If, as is the intention or aspiration, the arrangements change in London earlier than May 2012, it would mean doing all this work on an even shorter timescale in the largest police force in England and Wales. I am sure that everyone would do their very best to achieve it, but I am not convinced that the work would necessarily be completed in time for an order to be passed by the outgoing Metropolitan Police Authority by 30 September or any later date, if it is to go earlier than May 2012.
Even if it were possible to do this in practice, I have to ask the Government whether this is really their intention in the legislation. My understanding is that these new individuals are being created—the MOPC in London and the police and crime commissioners, or whatever we end up with, outside London in the rest of England and Wales—and you are then going to say to them, “Actually, it’s tough because all the staff you might want have been transferred already to the control of the chief officer of police”. I suspect that there will be some robust discussions about all this. There is the question of what sort of offices will be put around the MOPC and the PCCs outside London. There will be discussions as to which functions are properly the responsibilities of the MOPC or the PCC, and which functions are the responsibilities of the chief officer of police. Here is an arrangement whereby all those decisions will have been made by the time the MOPC comes into force or the elections for policing and crime commissioners—if there are any elections—have taken place in the rest of the country. I suspect that that is not what the Government want, and that any person elected as a police and crime commissioner outside London would want to make an assessment of the most appropriate balance to be struck and how that is to be done. At the moment, there is no provision to allow that to happen.
This simple amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, allows there to be, if necessary, a two-stage process. If in fact it is all terribly easy—if the difficulties I have identified do not exist, which I doubt, and it is obvious that all the differing candidates for police and crime commissioners in any locality are of the same mind as to exactly what office they want around them and it goes without saying that the Conservative Party candidate, the Labour Party candidate, and the Liberal Democrat candidate will have exactly the same vision of the shape of the office that they want to have around them in the PCC—it will be fine. In reality, I suspect that the Government are tying the hands of those in the new structures that they want to be so effective before they are even created.
That is why this simple amendment, which allows, if necessary, for a two-stage process or a staged process is extremely sensible.
I shall speak to Amendment 200A in this group, concerned with the Bill's proposal to grant the Secretary of State power to create criminal offences to regulate the conduct of elections for police and crime commissioners and any related irregularities. I have to observe that this is a diverse group. There seem to be a number of distinct issues contained in it. My amendment would, by removing the unfettered power of the Secretary of State to create new criminal offences, ensure that the power is exercised appropriately. By that, I mean by your Lordships' House and the other place. Although there may well be a need to create new criminal offences as a result of the Government’s proposed creation of a whole new set of elections and the novel introduction of direct rather than representative democracy as part of a reform package costing more than £100 million, such important steps should not be the preserve of statutes but should come before Parliament.
In this Session, we are following the lengthy debate on the Public Bodies Bill, perhaps in danger of exhausting the utility of the term “Henry VIII clause”, denoting the granting of open-ended powers to a Secretary of State in statute. With appropriate respect to His Majesty's memory, I fear that I must raise the not insubstantial spectre of that monarch before your Lordships yet again. Any proposal to grant the Secretary of State unfettered powers to create new criminal offences at whim in any area will strike many of your Lordships as, at the very least, inappropriate. However, when the power to create new offences is applied to procedures governing the people's exercise of their democratic mandate, such a new power might strike some of democracy’s most ardent defenders as a little chilling.
If new offences are to be created to regulate the brave new world of directly elected police and crime commissioners, surely those offences should be appropriately scrutinised and considered by Parliament.
My Lords, Clause 55 allows a police area returning officer and local returning officers for elections of police and crime commissioners to recover charges for services rendered or expenses incurred for the efficient and effective conduct of elections. The provisions on expenditure are modelled closely on those for the European parliamentary elections, where there are returning elections for the overall region and local returning officers. Regulation 15 of the European Parliamentary Elections Regulations 2004 sets out similar provisions to those in the Bill. Expense accounts may always be independently assessed by a court on an application made under Clause 56. Therefore, I suggest that Amendments 193 and 194 are unnecessary and ask that they not be pressed.
Amendment 194A, tabled by the noble Lords, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, Lord, Lord Rosser, and Lord Stevenson of Balmacara, would set a minimum turnout for PCC elections. We have had several discussions on this in other legislation. We do not impose minimum turnouts for other elections. I reject the proposal to single out the election of police and crime commissioners.
My noble friend Lord Shipley asked about the voting system and made the case for AV. I am grateful to my former colleague, the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, for his point about the dangers of AV. I will not go through that all again tonight. We have recently had a referendum on AV. We have probably almost exhausted the subject. In the context of the Bill, the supplementary vote system is tried and tested in the United Kingdom. It is simpler and easier for electors to understand than the alternative vote system and it is easier to count the votes. The supplementary vote system is being used as it is most consistent with the position of elected mayors and is deemed appropriate for election to a single executive position that is not part of a body such as a committee or a Parliament.
Amendments 201 and 199A would amend Clause 58. They seek to ensure that any provisions made by order are necessary and relevant only to the election of police and crime commissioners. As this clause enables the Home Secretary by affirmative resolution procedure to make provision about the conduct of police and crime commissioner elections, all provisions will require approval from both Houses of Parliament. In any event, Clause 58(1) expressly provides that such an order may make provision only as to the conduct of elections or the questioning of such elections, so the order-making power is necessarily already limited.
Amendment 201A in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, Lord Rosser and Lord Stevenson of Balmacara, would place a duty on the Home Secretary to consult the Electoral Commission. However, this is already a requirement under Schedule 10. Noble Lords have mentioned comments from the Electoral Commission. I should perhaps mention that until I took on this post as a Minister I was a member of the Electoral Commission. I am bound by confidentiality clauses not to disclose matters that I learnt while I was a member of the commission, but I can tell noble Lords that the Government have worked, and continue to work, closely with the Electoral Commission, the Association of Electoral Administrators, the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and Senior Managers and other bodies on the organisation of elections. We were particularly asked about the intergovernmental group which is addressing what effect the plethora of elections might have on the practicalities and their impact on the people who are required to hold elections. The group met last week and is currently considering the plans for co-ordinating returning officers and local returning officers, and they are being consulted on the options. The group intends to meet once a month. Therefore, I assure noble Lords that this work is in hand and under way.
Amendment 200A would prevent any of the existing electoral criminal offences being made in secondary legislation applying to PCC elections. I assure your Lordships that these provisions are vital to ensure propriety in elections and we take them very seriously.
The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, mentioned donations and expenses. The Government intend to bring forward amendments to put much of this regulation into the Bill before it completes its passage through the two Houses. We have worked in consultation with the Electoral Commission in drafting the provisions, and I assure the noble Lord that we shall look to draw on the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 to ensure that there is propriety in the way that such elections are conducted.
Amendment 190A to Clause 52 would prevent a person serving a prison sentence on remand voting in PCC elections. I assure your Lordships that, as the Bill is currently drafted, convicted persons serving a prison sentence are unable to vote, as with local government elections.
Clause 66 prevents a serving police officer and other people who work in the policing field standing as a police and crime commissioner. Amendment 216 would include within the definition of “member of staff” in this context any person who provided services for another person under their direction and control. The provision covers employees, independent contractors and those seconded to work for the policing body by their usual employer where these people work under the direction and control of the relevant policing body. We consider that these are the types of workers who will be involved in the running of the policing body and who will need to be covered by the disqualification.
My noble friend Lady Harris raised the very important matter of transfers. I assure her that we are working closely with the Association of Police Authorities and the Association of Police Authority Chief Executives. The APA has already put the secondary transfer schemes to us, and I assure my noble friend that we are now considering them very carefully to try to seek a resolution to this matter. I confirm that we will commit to considering this matter further and therefore I ask her not to press her amendment.
On that basis, I ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.
I thank the Minister for that response and for the information she was able to give the Committee on the Government’s intentions. I am not sure that anything was said about extra resources being provided to cover the cost of elections for police and crime commissioners, if they ever take place. Perhaps no conclusions have yet been reached on that point.
The Minister responded on the issue of prisoners being able to vote, or not vote, which was her response. Presumably, if there were any change as a result of the European Court decision—I am aware of the vote in the other place—that would apply to these elections for the police and crime commissioners as well. I assume that would be the case. In the light of the responses given by the Minister and the information she has provided, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment 190A withdrawn.
Amendment 191 not moved.
Clause 52 agreed.
Clause 53 agreed.
Clause 54 : Returning officers etc
Amendment 192 not moved.
Clause 54 agreed.
Clause 55 : Returning officers: expenditure
Amendments 193 and 194 not moved.
Clause 55 agreed.
Clause 56 agreed.
Clause 57 : Voting at elections of police and crime commissioners
Amendments 194A to 198 not moved.
Clause 57 agreed.
Schedule 9 : Supplementary vote system
Amendment 199 not moved.
Schedule 9 agreed.
Clause 58 : Power to make provision about elections etc
Amendments 199A to 201A not moved.
Clause 58 agreed.
Clause 59 : Date of vacancy in office of commissioner
Amendments 202 to 207 not moved.
Clause 59 agreed.
Clause 60 : Declaration of vacancy in certain cases
Amendments 208 to 210 not moved.
Clause 60 agreed.
Clause 61 : Resignation of commissioner
Amendment 211 not moved.
Clause 61 agreed.
Clause 62 : Appointment of acting commissioner
Amendments 211ZA to 212A not moved.
Clause 62 agreed.
Amendment 213 not moved.
Clauses 63 to 65 agreed.
Amendment 214 not moved.
Clause 66 : Disqualification from election or holding office as police and crime commissioner: police grounds
Amendments 214ZA to 216ZA not moved.
Clause 66 agreed.
Clause 67 : Disqualification from election or holding office as police and crime commissioner: other grounds
Amendment 216A not moved.
Clause 67 agreed.
Clause 68 : Disqualification of person holding office as police and crime commissioner
Amendment 216B not moved.
Clause 68 agreed.
Clauses 69 to 72 agreed.
Clause 73 : Police and crime commissioners not to sit or vote in House of Lords
Debate on whether Clause 73 should stand part of the Bill.
My Lords, I give notice of my intention to oppose the Question that the clause stand part of the Bill. I will probe the Government on why the clause is in the Bill. I hasten to add that I have no personal interest in this matter; I do not intend to stand as police and crime commissioner for the West Midlands.
The clause states that an elected police and crime commissioner will be disqualified while holding office from sitting or voting in the House of Lords, and that no Writ of Summons may be issued to a Member of the House of Lords while they are disqualified under this section. My reading of this is that, unlike in the case of police authorities, current Members of your Lordships' House will be eligible to stand for election, but if elected they will take leave of absence under the changes in the rules that have allowed this to happen in the past few years. I merely ask the noble Baroness why it is deemed appropriate to exclude elected police and crime commissioners from sitting as Members of your Lordships' House.
It is a puzzle, because traditionally the House of Lords has welcomed Members who are on public bodies and boards. I remind the noble Baroness of the Companion to the Standing Orders. On pages 75 and 76, guidance is set out to Members of the Lords who are employed by executive agencies or other public bodies. After a page of guidance, the Companion states that:
“Experience acquired as a member of a public board will often be relevant to general debates in which the same considerations do not arise, and the contribution of board members who are members of the House may be all the more valuable because of that experience”.
It has been clear ever since I have been a Member that service on public bodies is to be welcomed among Members of your Lordships' House, and that in debates, while a member of a public board certainly is not there to speak on behalf of that body in the Chamber, the general experience from service on that body is immeasurably helpful. Indeed, in the previous debate we heard a very good example of that from the Minister. She served on the Electoral Commission and rightly said that there were matters discussed that she could not disclose to your Lordships' House. However, she was able to make a few apposite points from her experience. If we are to have elected police commissioners, they would be extremely valuable to your Lordships' House in terms of the contributions that they may make.
Perhaps it is considered that elected police and crime commissioners will be doing full-time jobs. Indeed, on our first day in Committee we had a debate about that; and on the second day the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, confirmed that the Government's view was that these would be full-time posts. Although I can see the point, I have to say that I do not know what the elected police and crime commissioner will do when working a full-time job if it is not to interfere in the operational responsibilities of the chief constable. However, we will leave that point.
All I will say is that 26 Members of your Lordships’ House already carry out full-time responsibilities—the most reverend Primates and the right reverend Prelates. I remind the Minister that in the draft Bill on Lords reform—on the assumption that the option of an 80 per cent elected House is chosen, which would mean that 20 per cent of the Members are appointed—the right reverend Prelates are to continue. We therefore have a clear precedent that members of public bodies ought to be encouraged to be Members of your Lordships’ House. We also have an example of full-time Members in other jobs who are also Members of your Lordships' House. I really do not understand this proposal and I think that the Government should take it away.
My Lords, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to set out our thinking on this matter. However, I would have thought that the noble Lord would make an excellent police and crime commissioner. I am disappointed that he is not looking in that direction.
As the noble Lord rightly said, in our discussion of Clause 68 my noble friend set out the Government's position that the role of the police and crime commissioner is a full-time job and is therefore incompatible with the holding of other full-time positions. As such, should a Member of the House of Commons wish to serve as a PCC they would have to stand down as a Member of Parliament. It is right, therefore, that similar provisions apply to this House.
My understanding is that membership of this House, as opposed to the House of Commons, is part-time and therefore fully compatible with any other part-time employment.
While I am on my feet, it might help the Minister if I add some other questions. When I became a Member of this House I was also chairing a committee for the Committee of the Regions of the European Union and for the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. I was also a member of Lancashire County Council and leader of the Association of County Councils for England and Wales—but we will not go back to the Welsh issue for the moment. All that was deemed compatible.
I therefore do not understand why the Government are ruling out this particular area. A suspicious person—which of course I am not—would think that perhaps the Secretary of State does not want in the future, were the Government's proposals to go through, Members of your Lordships' House who know some of the problems that are happening in these new police arrangements coming back here and talking to the Minister about them. I beg the Government to think twice.
My recollection when I came into your Lordships' House was that Viscount Thurso wanted to renounce his title and become a Member of the House of Commons, which he did. Your Lordships then got a trifle snippy about people who had been Members of the House of Lords going into the Bishops' Bar, and some of us changed that rule. I am quite worried about this. I think that the Government are seeking to keep an arm's length from people. After all, I presume that as a Member of the House of Lords I will still be able to vote for the person who represents me. I have no intention of standing, but were someone else from Lancashire to stand, I would want to hear their views in here because, from my experience of Lancashire, I am sure that they would inform your Lordships in great detail with great knowledge and great assistance.
Before the Minister resumes her flow, I would like to follow on from the point that my noble friend Lady Farrington of Ribbleton has made. I was a member of your Lordships’ House while fulfilling the office of chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority. At the same time, I was also a member of the London Assembly, which is often regarded as a full-time post in its own right. Indeed, I chaired one of the political groups on the London Assembly during that period, and for two of those years I was a member of a London borough council in addition. I have to say that the amount of time I devoted to my London borough council duties was perhaps less than it had been hitherto, but I devoted it during the evenings, and I was still able to make a significant contribution to your Lordships’ House. If I recall correctly, during that period my voting record was at least 50 per cent, and I was able to participate on most days in the discussions in your Lordships’ House, so it is possible to make these contributions and to combine them. While I would not want to say how your Lordships regarded my contributions, when noble Lords were making comments in relation to policing, the immediate experience available from somebody who was chairing a police authority at that time was clearly valued and listened to accordingly.
It therefore seems anomalous that we are now in a position where we are saying that membership of this House is becoming incompatible with holding this sort of elected office. Why is this particular office being singled out in this way? Where is the parallel set of proposals that would preclude people holding other elected offices from sitting in your Lordships’ House? I think that the Government have got themselves into a little bit of a tangle, completely unnecessarily, on what is, after all, a fairly small point.
Would my noble friend allow me to point out to him that the contributions he made were always valuable, as were those of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, who was a member of the London Assembly at the time, and the noble Lord, Lord Tope, who was on the Committee of the Regions? I think that the Government should welcome this plethora of experience. The noble Baroness, Lady Harris of Richmond, also learnt a great deal and informed the House a great deal. I am sure that the Minister will want to take this away in order to ensure that your Lordships' House has up-to-date information about what is happening in other bodies, particularly those that the Government seem so determined to establish in their own model.
My Lords, before my noble friend replies, will she allow me 30 seconds of her valuable time? I am now in my 51st year in your Lordships’ House. I believe that the Lords spiritual provide a very effective, quiet and discreet view to me and, I believe, to your Lordships on various aspects of the matters that pass through this House in a quiet and civilised way. I hope that she may tolerate, at least, the Lords spiritual, and that they may remain, or that she will take this on board. As one of those who in Northern Ireland we call the minority community, who in Scotland are called left-footers, perhaps I should desist from that. I believe that the Lords spiritual, with all their traditions, have given service to your Lordships’ House and this Parliament for over 400 years and more. Can she possibly feed that in to the wonderful arguments that she is putting forward tonight?
My Lords, I am in awe of the multitasking skills of your Lordships’ House. I do not know when your Lordships manage to sleep. I must reiterate that the job is full time and not part time. However the role of a Member of your Lordships’ House is perceived by individuals inside or outside the House and whether it is regarded as a part-time or full-time requirement, the role of the police and crime commissioner is definitely full time in every sense of the word. In our debates on the amendments so far, we have discussed what a large role it is. We have had long discussions about whether the commissioners will get around their patch or have enough time for meetings with other bodies with which they will need to build cohesive relationships. Yes, they will, because it is a full-time job.
Perhaps I may explain the situation as far as your Lordships’ House is concerned. As I have said, if a Member of Parliament wishes to serve as a PCC, they would have to stand down as an MP. Given the role and the demands of the PCC, and the demanding job of an MP, there would be no way in which they could carry out both functions. It is right therefore that similar provisions apply to this House.
Certainly, they would have to stand down at the point at which they put themselves forward for selection or they would have to give notice at that point. Once the period of the election for the police and crime commissioner begins, they could not have an interest in being a Member of Parliament. The point is that there simply is not time to do both demanding jobs. This is not about what other people do, how other people take on public appointments or how they perceive the time factors. The fact is that the role of the PCC is full time.
I should correct something that I have just said. Apparently, an MP would not have to resign and trigger the by-election until elected. If they were an unsuccessful candidate, they would not have to trigger a by-election. I apologise to your Lordships’ House. In a way, that is almost digressing from the point that I hope I will be able to make between now and 3 o’clock in the morning.
Some of us are anxious that matters should not proceed for very much longer but for just a little longer. Perhaps the Minister, who is obviously adept at multitasking, could consider the implications of the Localism Bill, on which we are to embark tomorrow, and particularly the position of elected mayors. Is it the Government’s view—perhaps the Minister will need to take advice on this—that elected mayors should be full time? Surely it would be her view, and that of the Government, that the position of elected mayors in the 12 authorities that might confirm the mayoral system in a referendum next year and will thereafter have to combine the position of elected mayor with head of paid services would be a full-time job. Will she also confirm that there is nothing in this Bill to prevent such an elected mayor, even one combining the position with that of head of paid services in an authority, from serving as a Member of this House? In that event, what is the difference when it comes to the elected police commissioners?
Furthermore, it is not so long ago that eminent judges sat in your Lordships’ House as Law Lords. As I understand it, there was some controversy over whether they should continue to do so. They no longer do so but it can hardly be argued that theirs was not a full-time responsibility of the highest order. That did not appear on that basis to cause any problems. The problem of the position of the Law Lords was that they were both making laws and then interpreting and adjudicating on those laws. That is not a comparable situation with that of police commissioners. Is there not an inconsistency in the approach that suggests that, even if the job were deemed to be full time, about which some of us would have reservations, that should disqualify anyone from sitting in this place and being a commissioner?
My Lords, will the Minister also confirm that in the register of interests for your Lordships’ House, none of us is required to signify whether we are in full-time or part-time employment outside this House? I would consider that, in choosing and voting for someone to be a commissioner, were this Bill to become an Act, they could not serve in Lancashire and be a Member of your Lordships’ House, although Surrey may be possible as a combination. It would be no more difficult than being in charge of running a bank or a huge business and being a Member of this House. The Government are not being logical, and that surprises and shocks me.
My Lords, I will try to take some of the shock out of the noble Baroness’s reaction to this and explain the thinking behind it. So far as this House is concerned, life Peers do not have the option of standing down, and therefore disqualifying Members of this House from standing as a police and crime commissioner would in effect be a life ban. In this area, we are following the model set out in the European Parliament (House of Lords Disqualification) Regulations 2008. There is a precedent for a similar situation already on the statute book. Further, as hereditary Peers are elected but without terms of office, a hereditary Peer who stood down to serve as a PCC would not easily be able to return once their term of office as a PCC ended. Therefore, rather than disqualifying a Member of this House from standing as a PCC, this clause prevents a serving PCC from sitting or voting in this House. This enables Members of the House to stand as a PCC if they so wish and to return to full membership following their term of office as a PCC. It does, however, allow them to devote all their energy to representing the public that elected them as a PCC.
I would suspect that, as in many other elected offices that the public are involved in, there is quite a mood these days about how much time an elected representative devotes to the task in hand, whatever it is. The public scrutinise, often at very close quarters, the time spent by those elected to that type of office. I must therefore reiterate that whatever people regard as the time commitment made to serving in your Lordships’ House, a police and crime commissioner’s job would be a full-time job in every sense.
I am grateful to the noble Baroness for her response. I do not wish to detain the Committee. Three points have been raised in this debate. The first is that the issue of the European Parliament is a red herring. We changed the law because there was a problem with a Liberal Democrat MEP who, because of European law, would have been disbarred from standing for and accepting a seat in Europe because she was also a Member of your Lordships’ House. That was why we made provision for a special leave of absence.
The second issue is that many Members of your Lordships’ House also have full-time responsibilities. We have many lawyers. Indeed, I see the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, in his place. He always strikes me as being not only a hardworking lawyer, but also an assiduous Member of the House. The noble Lord, Lord Lyell, mentioned the Lords Spiritual, and we heard from my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Tope. What is of concern is that the Home Office seems to be enunciating a new rule which states that the Home Office is now deciding whether it is appropriate or not for your Lordships to take on another responsibility. It is not for the Home Office to so decide. I should tell the noble Baroness that I am certain of one thing: if this is put to the vote at the Report stage, she would lose it.
Before we conclude this interesting debate, I thought I might add a few words. The first thing that occurs to me is that we are introducing an entirely new principle which will deprive an existing Member of your Lordships’ House of the right that he or she has acquired by Writ of Summons and under the Royal Prerogative to attend this House of Parliament. That seems to me to be a very serious departure within our own jurisdiction. I agree with the noble Lord opposite that the position of Members of the European Parliament is quite different for European constitutional reasons.
Secondly, it might be useful if I draw for a moment on my own experience as independent reviewer of terrorism legislation. I was appointed to that post when already a Member of your Lordships' House and carried on doing that job for nine-and-a-half years while a Member of your Lordships' House. I issued a self-denying ordinance that although I occasionally spoke on counterterrorism matters I never voted on them, because that seemed to me the right approach to take. But I can tell the Committee that it was of great benefit to me to be here in order to be able, sometimes rather painfully, to learn from your Lordships what they thought of my performance of my duties and of the nature of the role that I undertook—some of whom, I hasten to add, have changed their views as a result of the last general election.
I have been accused of being a busy lawyer and I am happy to plead guilty to that. There are many of us in this House who come here knowing that it is not a full-time job. I have been a Member of both Houses of Parliament. There is a huge difference between the two Houses. One of the great advantages of this House is that there are people who come here perhaps not very often but make contributions of the most inestimable value to this House’s understanding of issues under discussion. It has never been a full-time job—Heaven forfend that it should ever be. There are those who may wish to treat it as a full-time job, but that is a matter of their choice.
Clause 73 agreed.
House adjourned at 10.47 pm.