House of Lords
Wednesday, 29 June 2011.
Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Birmingham.
Message from the Queen
My Lords, I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen to deliver to your Lordships a message signed with her own hand.
My Lords, the message is as follows:
“Her Majesty, being desirous that the provision made by Parliament for the financial support of the Royal Household should be considered, asks the Lords Spiritual and Temporal to concur in the adoption of such measures as the House of Commons may propose as suitable”.
Prisons: HM Young Offender Institution Feltham
My Lords, the National Offender Management Service has fully implemented 71 of the 88 recommendations made in the report of the Zahid Mubarek inquiry. Two recommendations were rejected at the time of the publication of the report. The remaining 15 recommendations were either partially implemented or have become obsolete as a result of other developments.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Nineteen year-old Zahid Mubarek was murdered in March 2000 by a known racist psychopath with whom he had been paired in a cell by prison staff. Three and a half years later, your Lordships took the unprecedented step of directing that there should be a public inquiry into the murder, resisted until then by successive Home Secretaries. Its report was published five years ago today, following which, for two years or so, the Home Office convened regular meetings with the Mubarek family to update them on the processing of the 88 recommendations. These meetings have ceased. To demonstrate to the family and to others who are interested that improving the treatment of and conditions for black and ethnic-minority prisoners remains on the agenda, I ask the Minister if he would be kind enough to publish not only the details of how many recommendations have not been implemented but also what action, or inaction, has been taken on each one of them.
My Lords, I shall certainly do that. I have four or five pages of briefing on actions here and I shall put some of them in the Library. It is not a matter of inaction or refusal to implement; as I said in my initial reply, some of the recommendations have been bypassed by the implementation of other policies. It is certainly true that many lessons were learnt from this tragedy. Contact with the family continued, as the noble Lord said. The thrust and direction of policy that the inquiry initiated has gone on apace, in a way which, we hope, will avoid as far as humanly possible such a tragedy happening again.
My Lords, I am not sure that there is overcrowding, unless one is talking about the ability to provide every prisoner with a single cell. That was one of the recommendations that could not be accepted, simply because the provision of single-cell accommodation would put such pressure on capacity that it could not be delivered. Both staff training and assessment before arranging cell sharing are much more thorough than before. As I said, we hope that this will avoid the kind of tragedy that the Mubarek murder revealed.
My Lords, the report revealed the most woeful state of the paper trail, as it is called, of the documents that are supposed to go with prisoners but very often do not—many of the documents did not arrive. The report said that an important contributory factor related to the Learmont recommendation, made in 1995, that a central electronic database for prisoner security information should be established. Has that been fully established and, if so, with what results?
I am not sure whether that has been fully established, but I will write to my noble friend on the specifics of whether the 1995 recommendations have been fully implemented. Sometimes with these reports, there is a gap between full implementation and actual practicality and resources. However, I know that, in terms of assessing prisoners for cell sharing, and indeed in dealing with prisoners during their time in custody, there has been much improved sharing of information among the various agencies. In the host prison, from the governor downwards, there is now as full as possible an assessment of the prisoner’s susceptibilities that would make it better or not for them to be cell sharers.
My Lords, there is constant assessment of suicide risk for anyone who is held in custody. Certainly as far as I understand them, these assessments are very thorough in trying to avoid suicide. On the specific point, which goes slightly wide of the Question, I will look at the issue and write to my noble friend.
Can the Minister confirm that there has been a welcome reduction in the number of convicted prisoners in young offender institutions? Is it the department’s policy, over time, to try to achieve in so far as is possible single-cell occupancy by young offenders?
I do not think that I can make that commitment from the Dispatch Box. In part, that is because part of the advice that we get—this relates back to the suicide issue as well—is that the assessment made of young offenders sometimes shows that cell sharing could be of benefit in the circumstances, rather than leaving them in isolation. I make no bones about the fact that it is partly a matter of the resources that would be required for single-cell accommodation, but we also get strong professional advice that, in some circumstances, cell sharing can be of benefit to the young people concerned.
For example, some of the recommendations in the report related to cell furniture, which had already been changed by the time that the report came out. Part of the difficulty was that some cell furniture could too readily be used for violence. There were changes to the design of cell furniture—for example, bolting cell furniture to the floor so that it could not be so easily used—so that, by the time that the report came out, the recommendation on cell furniture was obsolete.
Social Welfare Law
My Lords, our proposals for the future of social welfare law were contained in our response to the consultation paper, Proposals for the Reform of legal aid in England and Wales, made on 21 June. We announced that we would retain legal aid for the highest priority cases, including cases where a person is homeless or at immediate risk of homelessness or to address housing disrepairs that pose a serious risk to life or health and for community care cases. We have decided that legal aid will no longer be routinely available in other social welfare law matters, except for claims currently funded relating to the contravention of the Equality Act 2010.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his reply. A better name for social welfare law would be poverty law. Often through CABs, law centres and private solicitors, this legal aid goes to giving legal advice to the poor and marginalised on legal problems around housing, debt, employment and welfare benefits. The Government, as we have just heard, intend to decimate this type of cost-effective legal aid. Does the noble Lord agree with the reported remarks of the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Hale, that these changes will have,
“a disproportionate effect upon the poorest and most vulnerable in society”?
Does he also agree that this removal of access to justice—because that is what it is—is precisely what the late noble and learned Lord, Lord Bingham, meant when he wrote that,
“denial of legal protection to the poor litigant who cannot afford to pay is one enemy of the rule of law”?
My Lords, under our proposals, legal aid will be retained in the highest priority housing cases, where a person’s home is at immediate risk, for homelessness, serious disrepair, unlawful eviction, orders for the sale of the home, and asylum support cases relating to accommodation. Legal aid will be available in debt matters where a person’s home is at immediate risk. We will still be spending about £50 million a year on this section of legal aid.
I have read the comments of the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Hale. I have said from this Dispatch Box that if you have a policy that is aimed at the poorest in our society and you cut the budget, of course there will be an inevitable impact. But in trying to develop this policy we have tried to minimise that impact and focus our resources on those most in need.
My Lords, would my noble friend like to take a short journey down to the Lambeth County Court and other comparable courts in London, Manchester, Sheffield and other cities, where he would find if he spent half a day there that the only way in which to get your house repaired is to sue the local council? All other measures to obtain house repairs are not succeeding. He would then perhaps realise that limiting legal aid to quite the extent which the Government are ambitious to limit it is going a step too far.
Well, I hear what my noble friend is saying. The department was faced with some very hard decisions on a £2 billion cut in a department which, as I have said before, has expenditure on only four areas—prisons, probation, legal aid and on the administration of justice. We have tried to focus where we can on areas of need. I was very interested in the editorial in the Guardian on legal aid, which was headed, “Unjust cuts”. In the course of that editorial, it said:
“It is now being examined for the eighth time since the Children Act 1989”.
The noble Lord knows very well that his own Administration were looking hard at legal aid and how to cut it. It went on:
“The need for reform, and for a more cost-effective system, is undisputed … Professionals acknowledge that too many of these cases come to court, and welcome the proposal for greater use of mediation … Change is needed. There are savings to be made”.
That is under the title of “Unjust cuts”. Those are the realities that we are facing.
My Lords, there is considerable disquiet among welfare law agencies about the impact of the withdrawal of legal aid from welfare benefits law at the very time when that law is to be changed significantly. Can the Minister therefore please advise the House as to what steps the Government will take to ensure there is adequate independent advice and assistance for all those affected by the welfare reform legislation?
The hope and the intention is that we can give further assistance to those who are giving advice. One of the analyses we make of this area of law—this goes partly back to the question asked by my noble friend—is that it is not necessarily legal advice that is needed. There may be alternative forms of advice to enable people to manage their way through these difficulties. These problems have been raised with us and we will continue to keep them under review. I take the point that the noble Baroness has made.
Will my noble friend kindly think again about this whole issue because it really is a case of penny wise, pound foolish? The citizens advice bureaux, which deliver help to 2.1 million people a year and are mainly volunteer manned, reckon that for every £1 of government subsidy they save the Exchequer £8 in welfare advice. How can it conceivably make sense, therefore, to go ahead with cutting their subsidy from £27 million this year to £7 million next year?
My Lords, perhaps I can answer both that question and the one that the noble Baroness has just posed by saying that the Government recognise the important role played by not-for-profit organisations and citizens advice bureaux. We are working with the sector, and across Government, to ensure that the implementation of government reforms helps to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of advice services available to the public. My right honourable friend the Lord Chancellor will by now, I hope, have announced in another place that we will be providing additional funds of about £20 million in this financial year to help achieve this. We will continue discussions with CABs and not-for-profit organisations about future funding.
NHS: Health Improvements
My Lords, our commissioning proposals will establish a national NHS commissioning board providing oversight of commissioning in the NHS and directly commissioning some services, including specialised services, where it makes sense to commission for larger populations. The NHS commissioning board will have a sub-national presence and local commissioning will be undertaken by clinical commissioning groups. The NHS commissioning board will have a duty to promote integrated services for patients, both within the NHS and between other local services.
I thank the Minister for that Answer, as far as it goes. The successful reorganisation of stroke services in London, which has saved many lives, was led by clinicians, as it should have been, but the commissioning and its delivery were in fact only brought about by NHS London, the ability of the strategic health authority to manage the PCTs and through great collaboration with the providers. Apart from the providers, all of these bodies are being dismantled and abolished as we speak. In the new system, how precisely would similar improvements be brought about? Who would take the lead and who would ensure their delivery?
My Lords, where it is deemed appropriate to commission a service at scale but below the level of the NHS commissioning board, as I described in my original Answer, it will be open to clinical commissioning groups either to establish a lead group to take control of the commissioning and to agree budgets and pathways or for clinical commissioning groups to collaborate jointly. The advantage of the system that we are proposing is its flexibility. Depending on population size and the needs of an area, commissioning can be done at several levels.
My Lords, the Question was so difficult to understand that I thought it was about telemedicine. Does it cover the issue of reducing the number of accident and emergency services in London so that they are more equivalent to the stroke units, which, as the noble Baroness said, have worked so well? Many people say that fewer but more effective accident and emergency services would be better. On the other hand, is the Minister aware of the concern over the closure of the Royal Brompton’s heart section for children, which is essential to the future of that hospital?
My Lords, my noble friend will know that an independent inquiry into children’s heart services is under way at the moment. It would be inappropriate for me to comment. I have not been involved at all but it would be inappropriate for Ministers to become involved. As regards ambulance and A&E services, we envisage that clinical commissioning groups will commission the great majority of NHS services for their patients, including urgent and emergency care and ambulance services. Prior to that, PCT clusters, which are being formed from the primary care trusts, will be responsible for commissioning ambulance services until 1 April 2013.
My Lords, does the Minister agree that we are facing one of the greatest revolutions in medicine—that is, genomic medicine? It will make medical treatment more effective and efficient and will reduce the national drug bill. Therefore, does he not agree that one of the most urgent needs of a large population is for increased computing power and proper information technology?
I absolutely agree with the noble Lord. The information agenda, which should run in parallel with our plans, is essential for delivering the improvement in outcomes that we all want to see. Part of that will involve new technology. As the noble Lord knows, work is under way on genomic medicine, which is extremely exciting. We have included in the amendments tabled to the Health and Social Care Bill in another place a duty on both the Secretary of State and clinical commissioning groups to promote research in the health service.
My Lords, who will be the final arbiter in a decision if a commissioning board commissions a highly specialised treatment that may require patient testing locally and an infrastructure of local services, but the local commissioning group does not recognise the importance and potential good patient outcomes of this, and therefore does not adequately provide the infrastructure needed for the more highly specialised service?
My Lords, the system ought to respond to the kind of situation that the noble Baroness has posited. If a service is specially commissioned by a board, that board and local commissioners will be required to work in concert. If they do not, there will be mechanisms to ensure that the healthcare needs of an area are aired at the local authority level—that is, through the joint health and well-being boards, whose job it will be to prioritise the commissioning of services in that area.
My Lords, the United Kingdom is playing a key role in counterpiracy operations at sea, and we are leading international work with regional countries to build penal, judicial and law enforcement capacities in support. More than 1,000 pirates are now in custody. The first line of defence remains self-defence measures by ships to minimise the risk of a successful hijack. However, the long-term solution lies on land, with the rule of law and increased stability in the region.
Off Somalia alone, was there not an increase in piracy of some 60 per cent in 2010? The situation has not improved this year. I understand that masters and crew have been subjected to horrendous behaviour. Do the Government agree that this behaviour has been financed largely by al-Qaeda? Is it not self-evident that ships entering such waters should carry armed guards?
On the first point, the noble Lord is not quite correct; the figures that we have show that there were 47 hijacks in 2009 and 41 in 2010. In the first six months of this year the number was down to 18 and the number of unsuccessful attacks has also dropped very dramatically, so the total number of attacks so far this year is way down on last year. There is no room for complacency there at all because it is still a very ugly situation, as the noble Lord indicates, but a number of measures are being taken on land in building the prisons to deal with convicted pirates and on the high seas through unprecedented co-ordination between all the navies of countries such as the United States, Russia, all the NATO countries, Japan and China—a degree of co-ordination never before seen among navies. This is having the effect of reducing, not increasing, the incidence of piracy, but we still have a long way to go.
Is my noble friend aware that the African Union has stated that the United Nations is actively considering an air and sea blockade of Somalia in an attempt to prevent infiltration of insurgents into the Horn of Africa and to meet the crippling piracy challenge? Has such a blockade been agreed? If so, when might it come into play, and what part might the United Kingdom play in it?
My noble friend is perfectly correct that the African Union has proposed an air and sea blockade of Somalia, and its idea is to blockade ports such as Kismayo to put pressure on al-Shabaab logistics and funding. I should have said to the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, that we have very little evidence of connections between al-Qaeda and the piracy operations, although there may be some at an individual level.
As to blockades, an issue that my noble friend Lord Chidgey raises, the difficulty with permanent blockades is that they are hugely demanding on resources and a lot of the pirate operations are from beaches, not ports, so if you blockaded the port you still would not catch the pirates. However, intermittent or occasional blockades make sense, have already been tried against several operating bases and appear to have had a dramatic effect in reducing pirate operations. As a “from time to time” operation, this makes sense, but mounting permanent blockades would be immensely expensive and probably not very effective.
I should have answered that third question from the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis; the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, is absolutely right. The view up to the present is that armed guards on UK-registered vessels would be technically illegal unless they came under military, authorised guard arrangements. However, that matter is being looked at again by my right honourable and honourable friends in the relevant departments. Some changes might be necessary, but hitherto the feeling has been that armed guards—certainly mounted on a private enterprise basis—could lead to more bloodshed and horror, possibly not deter the hijackers, and merely increase the violence. However, the matter is being reconsidered.
The noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, suggested that this piracy was being funded by al-Qaeda, but does the Minister not agree that the reality is that it is being funded by the insurance companies, which are paying out substantial sums and making a number of people in Somalia extremely rich? Those people are now living in Nairobi, among other places. Did he see the evidence given yesterday at his nomination hearing by Admiral McRaven, who is being nominated as the head of the US Special Operations Command and was responsible for overseeing the operation against bin Laden, who said that there is a real need for a facility to deal with the problem of terrorists when they are captured? My noble friend gave some encouraging figures on prosecutions being brought against people, but can he give an assurance that there are no cases of these pirates being captured at sea, merely shipped back to Somalia and allowed to do it all over again?
On my noble friend’s first point, the British Government totally oppose all substantive ransom payments, will continue to do so, and advise everyone else to do so as well. That includes payments by insurance companies. It does not necessarily stop other countries behaving in what we think is a rather unwise way, but that is our position. My noble friend will have to repeat his further question, because I have forgotten it already.
The noble Lord is right. This has been a considerable worry, and that is why I was able to tell your Lordships that considerable progress has now been made in providing prison facilities. One prison has been built in Somaliland, and a further prison is planned in Puntland. These will take the pressure off countries such as Kenya, which have found themselves landed with convicted pirates and with no means of imprisoning them and making them fulfil their penalties. Therefore, there is some improvement. I fully agree that there have been bad examples in the past, but we believe that with these measures and others it will be possible to ensure that those who are caught are properly charged and convicted and pay the full penalty.
Undertakings for Collective Investment in Transferable Securities Regulations 2011
Motion to Approve
My Lords, I wish to bring to the attention of the whole House some aspects of these regulations that are a source of grave concern. During the discussion on the regulations in Grand Committee on Monday, it became evident, to me at least, that the Government have seriously misjudged the regulations’ importance, notably in their potential impact on the savings of British families and on UK consumers of financial services in general.
These regulations are the latest stage in the programme to establish throughout Europe a single market in transferrable financial instruments, where Europe is defined as the EEA—the European economic area. The programme began in 1988. An important component of that process has been to give fund managers in non-member states the ability to passport their services into another member state. Today—29 June—this is done by complying with various requirements of the regulator in the jurisdiction in which the funds are to be marketed. For example, the FSA typically requires fund management companies to establish a legal presence in the UK that can be regulated and supervised by the FSA. As of this Friday—1 July, when these regulations come into force—that will no longer be the case. Instead, the so-called simplified notification procedure established by these regulations removes the rights of national regulators to vet funds before they are marketed. Thereby, British savers will be relying on the regulator in, say, Iceland, Romania or Malta to ensure that their savings are adequately protected.
This is a fundamental change. It is not, as the noble Lord, Lord Sassoon, argued in Grand Committee,
“a sensible piece of tidying-up”.—[Official Report, 27/6/11; col. GC 145]
In fact, the European authorities have recognised some of the potential dangers and, by means of the same regulations, have introduced two measures to attempt to protect consumers. First, there is to be a simplified prospectus—a key investor information document—and, secondly, there is to be improved supervisory co-operation across member states. Of course these are desirable measures, but it has for many years been a fundamental tenet of financial regulation in this country that caveat emptor is not a satisfactory doctrine in the complex world of financial instruments. However well informed the buyer might be, the seller always has the upper hand. Moreover, having sat on the boards of various national financial regulators of the past 20 years—I sit at present on the board of a regulator outwith the European Union—I assure noble Lords that exchange of information between regulators is often imperfect and sometimes downright misleading, particularly where sensitive national interests are involved.
In the Treasury's own assessment of the impact of the regulations, it is conceded that the new management company passport,
“may cause some operational and supervisory difficulties which could reduce consumer protection”.
Having apparently recognised the problem, the Government have decided to do nothing about it, over and above what they are required to do by the European regulations themselves. The safeguards built into the regulations are significantly inferior to those enjoyed by British consumers today; they will lose those safeguards on Friday.
I have just one question for the Minister: what additional measures of consumer protection will the Government introduce on Friday to compensate for the erosion of UK consumer protection by the regulations?
My Lords, I am continually surprised by things that come up in this House that I was not expecting but, on a totally non-contentious piece of European legislation, I am surprised that the noble Lord, Lord Eatwell, pronounces that such horrific things are allegedly to happen.
For the benefit of noble Lords, perhaps I should explain that the statutory instrument implements an EU directive which is concerned with the sale of collective savings products. It is the third amendment to a directive that dates back to the late 1980s. It is a directive which is pro-consumer—it gives greater protection to consumers than exists today. It helps to complete the single market in fund management. It is supportive of UK-based financial services businesses.
At a time when lots of contentious matters come from Brussels which we rightly debate at length in your Lordships' House, it is remarkable that the Opposition seek to find fault with something which has been endorsed by consumer and business interests. I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Eatwell, talked to his noble friend Lord Davies of Oldham who, in a Written Ministerial Statement laid in this House on 4 June 2007, said that the UK supported the commission's proposals for reform of the UCITS framework. Those are the proposals which we consider this afternoon. He may or may not have talked to his colleague, Mr Chris Leslie, who in another place this Monday said, among other things, that the regulations are generally uncontentious. That seems remarkably at odds with the position taken by the noble Lord, Lord Eatwell.
Unless noble Lords would like me to, I do not want to prolong debate on what is, as I said, a very good piece of legislation proposed by the Commission which has had the UK's full support over the past three years. In answer to the noble Lord’s specific question and contentions, he is wrong in what he says about the passporting of funds. It is true that incoming funds can start accessing the UK market as soon as a complete notification is received, but the FSA does not believe that that will significantly change the processes by which it monitors incoming UCITS today. The funds will still be required to comply with UK law, and the FSA will be able to direct its operator to suspend the promotion of the scheme if it contravenes those laws.
I do not believe in the premise from which the noble Lord, Lord Eatwell, starts. Indeed, in answer to his question, we will be bringing in tighter protection for consumers on 1 July, because that is precisely what, among other things, the instrument does. It improves and simplifies investor disclosure, making it easier for investors to understand the risks involved in what they are buying.
I could go on, but I think that I have detained the House long enough.
Gender Recognition (Approved Countries and Territories) Order 2011
Legal Services Act 2007 (Appeals from Licensing Authority Decisions) Order 2011
Legal Services Act 2007 (The Law Society and The Council for Licensed Conveyancers) (Modifications of Functions) Order 2011
Co-operation in Public Protection Arrangements (UK Border Agency) Order 2011
Motions to Approve
Wreck Removal Convention Bill
Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill
Report (1st Day)
My Lords, it may be for the convenience of the House if, at the beginning, I apologise for the fact that the government amendments tabled for Report were not put down within the one-week period usually given by the Government. I particularly apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, for any inconvenience that this has caused Her Majesty’s Opposition.
There were reasons for the delay in tabling these amendments. As I promised in Committee, I met opposition, Cross Bench, Conservative and Liberal Democrat Peers, and we had a series of very helpful and constructive discussions. Noble Lords will also be aware that more than 600 amendments were tabled in Committee. We considered fully what was said at that stage and in the meetings held subsequently before deciding what changes would be acceptable to the Government. As noble Lords will know only too well, before government amendments can be tabled, they must first receive collective clearance, and it was this that caused the delay. However, I am aware that it might have been more helpful if, on tabling the amendments, I could have provided a more fulsome explanation of them and the thinking behind them. I am very willing to do that now if the House wishes me to go into more detail but perhaps I may begin by giving a flavour of them.
Much of our discussion in Committee resulted from concern across the House about checks and balances on police and crime commissioners. We listened to the representations from all sides of the Chamber and have put forward a substantial package of amendments specifically on checks and balances. We have, I believe, increased the powers of police and crime panels, reducing their veto from three-quarters to two-thirds, and we have introduced confirmation hearings to panels for the appointment of chief finance officers and chief executives. Panels will now be allowed to invite chief constables to attend hearings with police and crime commissioners. Furthermore, it became clear from discussions with colleagues across the House that there had been an omission in our deliberations. The panel will hold the PCC to account and scrutinise its activities but perhaps we did not emphasise enough that it will also support the police and crime commissioner. Therefore, we have made amendments to the Bill to make it very clear that, while the panel will have the role of holding to account, it will also have a supportive role. That is just a flavour of what we have attempted to do on checks and balances.
Noble Lords will know that many other amendments have been tabled on which we shall deliberate in some detail in the days ahead. We have also listened on some of the more controversial areas of the Bill. I recall that the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, advised me that, if on Report we were to put to a vote the question of Members of your Lordships’ House not being able to stand as PCCs, we would most certainly lose. I have taken his words to heart and have removed that clause entirely from the Bill. I hope that people who had seen their future going in that direction will now feel encouraged to start making their representations.
I apologise if this introduction to the Report stage is not quite what is normally expected in your Lordships’ House. I promise to write to all those, including the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, in a lot more detail about the proposals before us and, on that basis, I hope that we can proceed to Report.
Clause 1 : Police and crime commissioners
1: Clause 1, page 1, line 10, at end insert—
“( ) Each police area shall have a directly elected police authority.
( ) Each police authority shall number not less than seven and not more than 11 members.
( ) The number of members of each police authority shall be set by order made by statutory instrument following consultation by the Secretary of State with the authority, each local authority part of which is included in the police area, and the chief constable for the time being; and such consultation shall be completed at least three months prior to the first election of such an authority, and by the beginning of the fourth year following each subsequent election.
( ) Police authorities will be elected in accordance with section 51 of this Act.
( ) The police and crime commissioner will be the person elected by its members to chair the police authority for the time being.”
My Lords, I, too, am grateful to the Minister for the announcement that she has just made. The revelation that Members of your Lordships’ House will be able to stand for election as police commissioners is no doubt fully in the spirit of the previous business before the House, which I noticed was the Wreck Removal Convention Bill.
In moving this amendment, I say to the House, and particularly to my noble friend, that I applaud the Government for insisting on a democratic principle behind accountability for policing. I absolutely believe that it is right that there should be police and crime commissioners; and I absolutely believe that it is right that police and crime commissioners should be elected. However, I think that we can do better than the recipe given in the Bill by the Government: we could have better election, better leadership and better accountability. Therefore, in that spirit, I raise the possibility of considering elected police authorities. I would have moved this amendment on the first day in Committee, but events meant that I was not able to, so I do not feel that I have to apologise for doing so now.
Over the past 15 years or so, barristers who have appeared in cases with me as my juniors will know that I am a strong supporter of the great Surrey philosopher, William of Occam, who lived in the 13th and early 14th centuries. He is, of course, most famous for his Occam’s razor, a famous slogan which is often expressed as,
“Do not multiply entities beyond necessity”,
or as one American presidential candidate put it, “Keep it simple, stupid”. No one wants needlessly bloated legislation or a needlessly boated set of organisations. The real question is which entities are needed and which are not. Occam’s razor never allows us to deny the existence of putative entities; it is often good to have a discussion of a wider range of possibilities in order to resolve that simplicity will work. Occam’s razor teaches us that it is best to refrain from creating complex entities, unless there are compelling reasons for doing so and, if simple entities will do the job, then they should exist. As William of Occam said—if I can be allowed one quotation from his extremely distinguished and interesting oeuvre:
“For nothing ought to be posited without a reason given, unless it is self-evident (literally, known through itself) or known by experience or proved by the authority of Sacred Scripture”.
I see a right reverend Prelate on the Bishops’ Bench and I am sure that he will confirm, if asked, that there is no authority in Sacred Scripture for police and crime commissioners. So here we are looking at the dictates of reason, practicality, accountability and good results.
I think it is understood that some police authorities have done very well and some less well. Some have been faced with extreme difficulties and, in my professional life, I have advised two or three in that situation. Those who listened to the advice resolved their problems rather quickly and easily; those who did not were less good at doing so, but that is the way of the world in the lawyer’s life. There are plenty of examples of others who have not had to take complicated and expensive—well, moderately expensive—legal advice who have done their job very well.
However, the fact that they are not directly elected would lead many members of police authorities, and especially their clerks, their chief executives, who have been a very distinguished group of people, to recognise that they lack one essential quality. The essential quality they lack is not competence, experience or knowledge of the law or of the facts that they have to face. Nor do they lack considerable experience of having to co-operate with chief officers of police. Looking around the House at what I will call the usual suspects who, of course, are not obliged to say anything unless they wish to do so, I say with some diffidence that sometimes the relationship between police authorities and their chief officers has been so outstanding that it has been recognisable in the improved policing of the area. Occasionally, excusing all those at whom I am looking now, it has been rather less successful and has led to what one might politely call dynamic tension between the two. I have to say that in most instances when that has happened, it has been the chief officer of police who has gone before the chairman of the police authority. One might find some evidence there for the success of police authorities.
The present proposals in the Bill for directly elected individual police and crime commissioners create an obvious danger. It would be invidious to cite individual examples; I think sufficient is done by referring to the general point, but there is a real risk of irremovable individual hegemony in which an elected police and crime commissioner finds him or herself at odds with the strong minded male or female chief officer of police for the police area in question. I see that as a recipe for really difficult relationships between the police and those who are in some away accountable for them. My belief is that if we were to have directly elected police authorities, a true illustration of democracy, those problems would be avoided. The suggestion I have put forward in my amendment is that the whole police authority, which is not very large, should be directly elected by the public. This is one of those elections in which I believe the public would take a lively interest. If a group of people—for example, a political party—perfectly legitimately put forward a slate for election to the police authority, the public would know who was likely to lead that group were it to form a majority on the police authority.
In any event, it is likely that there would not be one-party rule on a police authority. Whether there was or was not, the person who became the chair of the police authority would become the police and crime commissioner. He or she would have been directly elected by the public, and would be removable if he or she lost the support of the police authority. Change would be straightforward and, I would submit to your Lordships, it would assist the smooth running of the police service itself in the police area and the accountable governance thereof. I also believe that the election of police authorities would be simpler than what is proposed, would not involve the hybrid organisations that are suggested to lie under the police and crime commissioner and would give a form of accountability recognisable to the public.
I am extremely disappointed to discover—for I have very helpfully been told in advance—that the Opposition are not prepared to support this suggestion, and I have read with interest the Labour Party’s proposals for executive boards. Some of my much admired noble colleagues on the other side of the House have never been able to get over their lives as trade unionists and members of the Labour Party before the removal of Clause IV. The creation of executive boards is just another form of typical Labour oligarchy. They love oligarchy—as long as they are oligarchs, of course—as would we all. I say this with great respect because a number of noble Lords on the Labour Benches know that they have my almost unstinting admiration; they are true democrats, yet they have abandoned their principles of democracy for something much more complicated, less transparent and less accountable.
It is in that general spirit that I invite my noble friend to respond in due course to this suggestion. I believe it is constructive and I hope—though I do not expect—that she will accept what is intended to be behind it.
My Lords, the noble Lord advances his argument with his customary eloquence, seductiveness and wit. Given the Government’s propensity to engage in deep cuts, I would not join him in proffering any sort of razor to them, Occam’s or otherwise. However, his argument is quite significantly flawed. First, he suggests the election of a completely separate body to administer part of the public services. That represents a rigidified fragmentation of local governance that takes us back in some respects to the 19th century of elected school boards and boards of that kind. That route does not commend itself to me or to many of us who are concerned to see local government strengthened and responsible for the strategic direction of affairs in a locality.
There are other significant arguments too. A single body constituted only of directly elected members would not include independent members, who have made a very significant contribution to the police service since they were introduced some years ago, as we have heard in earlier debates. There would also be great difficulty in securing a diversity of members, reflecting the ethnic and geographical diversity within police authorities. That would potentially weaken the effectiveness of the bodies that the noble Lord would seek to construct.
Furthermore, I cannot agree with him that it is unlikely that there would always be a degree of political balance. For example, in a region like the north-east, given the very limited number of members—11—that the noble Lord is proposing, in the case of the Northumbria force they would represent some 18 or 19 parliamentary constituencies. It is extremely likely that virtually all would be Labour members—if not all. That might have some appeal on this side of the House but it would not be recommended. Despite seeking to avoid the politicisation of the police force, one would see an authority constituted in such a way as to appear to reflect the views of one political party only. In other parts of the country there might be a similar situation with political parties of a different complexion. That is clearly something to be avoided.
The concern about politicisation of policing has been constantly referred to in your Lordships’ House on all sides and I fear that the noble Lord’s proposals tend—unintentionally—in that direction rather than otherwise. He relies on a democratic principle, and of course elections are important. But there is more than one way of construing the application of a democratic principle in the way in which a service of this kind is to be administered. If the majority of members of a police authority, as now, are elected councillors, they can claim legitimately that they are reflecting a democratic principle. They are not directly elected for that purpose only. That is a good thing because the police authorities have to relate to local government and take on board working relationships across a range of local services, which in their ordinary course of life as elected local councillors they will enjoy in any event. They are bringing that current experience to the position that they would hold. There are different ways of construing democratic principles. The noble Lord’s version, for the reasons that I have advanced, do not seem to fit the circumstances of this case and I hope that he will not press his amendment to the vote.
It might be argued that the noble Lord’s suggestion is preferable to that of a single police commissioner, which is arguably the case, but it is not in my view as good as relying on the proposals that have emanated from this side in the past, and which appear to have attracted a certain measure of support in the House, for an authority constituted, as now, of directly elected councillors serving their areas and of independent members. In my view, that is the best application of the democratic principle and secures also some of the other factors which should be taken into consideration. I do not expect the Minister to accept this amendment for different reasons from those which I have advanced but on this occasion she may find a degree of support, or at least acquiescence, which she might not otherwise gain over much of the rest of this Bill.
My Lords, I am sure that we are all indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, for allowing us to have an almost Second Reading debate on the principles of the Bill. I must say that I feel that his unduly modest fees are almost always worth it. As I say, this takes us back to principles. I remain deeply puzzled about the merits of the legislation and am yet to be convinced that there are so many problems in policing as to warrant such a dramatic and potentially very damaging shake-up in the way that our police service will be run.
I was very interested to receive an email this morning from Liberty in which it says that it believes that the Bill’s premise is fundamentally wrong and that the Bill, if implemented as proposed, will cause irreversible damage to the relationship between the police and their communities. Indeed that is so. The noble Lord, Lord Carlile, did not really address that point. I understand his point about democratic accountability, but surely he will recognise that there are huge risks in the politicisation of our police force. There are very few guarantees that the elected police and crime commissioners will not seek unduly to influence the operational behaviour of chief constables.
I remain concerned that the construct of the Bill still provides too few safeguards against that undue exercise of authority by the elected police commissioner. Although I disagree with the noble Lord’s amendment, it is interesting that he has raised issues of good corporate governance. This is the problem of the concept of corporate soles: individuals—the elected police and crime commissioner on the one hand, and the chief constable on the other—who have enormous powers without being subject to effective corporate governance. I am with the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, to the extent that it would be much better if a group of people were collectively responsible, rather than leaving it to an individual. We will come on to issues of corporate sole later today but I welcome the noble Lord’s attention to the issue now. He is right to do so.
Ultimately the question is whether adding on an elected police authority to an elected police and crime commissioner would risk far too much politicisation of our police force. As the noble Lord will be aware, when we were in government we looked at this issue and originally made proposals for partly elected police authorities. However, we stepped back from that partly because of a lack of support out in the community and partly because of the risk of politicisation. We remain of the view that this is not the right way to go. However, the noble Lord has done us a service by raising some of the issues surrounding the lack of corporate governance in the Government’s approach.
My Lords, I have nothing but respect for the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, and for the certain merit that is involved in this amendment. However, I respectfully disagree with him in so far as it can be regarded as a full and complete solution. For many years England and Wales have been blessed with a system in which there is a generally accepted tripartite balance between the Home Office, on the one hand, and the chief constable and the police authority on the other. So far as I am aware, I do not believe that that tripartite balance, or indeed the system, has ever been spelt out in statute, and in many respects it may well be that that is its strength.
One might find that, over the decades, certain segments of that balance have grown more substantial and influential than others, but the balance remains. That balance imposes a duty to consider something that is central to the role of the chief constable, which is that it is the chief constable who is responsible for direction and control. Direction and control is already a well established statutory principle and will not in any way be materially affected by the Bill. It will remain exactly as it is at this moment, and a former Home Secretary in his place to my left is nodding in agreement. But what does direction and control mean? Too often over the past few weeks we in this House have equated direction and control with operational control, but it means much more than that. It means that a chief constable is entitled, in a professional way, to the independence to run the strategy of a particular police force unaffected by and untrammelled by any unprofessional interference, political or otherwise.
As I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, will remember, the rules are set out clearly in Lord Denning’s judgment in 1968 in R v Blackburn. Those principles have stood the test of time. Therefore, although the amendment proposed by the noble Lord is probably an improvement on what was originally set out in the Bill, I still believe that both are misconceived. I am prepared to accept that the misconception in both cases, by the Government and by the noble Lord, comes from the best of motives, which is to try to strengthen the segment of public control that relates to the tripartite balance. However, I still think that this is the wrong way.
If the Minister wishes to read other documentation prior to the next stage of this legislation I could do little better than to commend some of the policies that were developed by the noble Lord, Lord Howard—who is in his place—during the changes that he made to the legislation, not least, I think he would agree, the changes that he made to cope with too much party political dominance over what was happening to the police service. He finely judged how to ensure independence within the tripartite system. Were the noble Baroness to read the whole proceedings and the issues that the noble Lord took through, she would agree that he made some very fine judgments.
My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who contributed to this debate. I am particularly grateful to my noble friend Lord Carlile of Berriew, in his second attempt to provide for stronger democratic accountability within all police authorities. His amendments would provide for a police authority based on the current model to be directly elected by the public. Once elected to the authority, its members would be required to elect a chair from among themselves. I am grateful that my noble friend continues to advocate the need for stronger democracy and accountability to be inserted into the current governance regime within England and Wales. I also know that he speaks with significant authority; as we heard, he has advised both police authorities and chief constables.
I have reflected on his remarks in Committee and compared them with the Government’s proposal that the public should be represented by a single directly elected individual. Both models would provide for an election involving the public, unlike the current police commission model put forward in Clause 2 of the revised Bill before us today. The Government and my noble friend are united in our desire to empower the public and to provide for strong accountability for each force area chief constable, with constructive and challenging oversight of the police force.
While the Government's model would provide for a single directly elected PCC who would be a strong voice for the concerns of the communities that they and their local police force serve, my noble friend's model would insert an intermediate stage—namely the election of the police authority—which I would argue distances the public from the ultimate decision-maker.
Crucially for the public and the Government, the PCC must be able to turn the concerns of the general public into action by working constructively with their chief constable to ensure that the police service adapts, responds and deals effectively with the unique challenges that face each police force daily. That process would only be obstructed by the cumbersome decision-making that the committee would interpose as a result of the involvement of a police authority. Although my noble friend’s amendments seek to take a step forward, the effect would be that we retained the status quo when it came to making those crucial decisions. Accountability for those decisions would be removed from a single person and vested in an authority yet again.
A PCC selected from among the members of a police authority would be heavily constrained by the demands and interests of their fellow elected committee members. A PCC elected in that way might be swayed to side with those on the committee who have voted him or her into office, rather than having the interests of the whole force area at the forefront of their decision-making. The PCC will certainly not have the strong personal mandate that would come from direct election as an individual under the Government's model.
I referred in Committee to the Home Secretary budgeting for and negotiating the cost of this model with the Treasury. The Government are committed to ensuring that the cost of establishing a full-time, dedicated PCC within each force area does not exceed the current total cost of police authorities plus the additional cost of electing the PCC. However, to increase the cost of elections to accommodate electing not one individual to office but 17 within 41 forces outside London would be untenable.
In addition, to have to pay for a full-time PCC on top of the costs of maintaining current police authority structures and allowances incurred by the current police authority membership would not be justifiable to the general public. To tweak the current system and elect the entire membership would not solve the problem in hand.
The very reason that we are introducing police and crime commissioners is to inject much needed democratic accountability into policing, with the public having a much greater say in how their streets are policed. It is not our intention to bind the hands of the police and crime commissioner by requiring all decisions to be made through a local committee, whether elected at significant public expense or not.
My noble friend indicated in his closing remarks that he did not expect me to agree to his amendments and I am not going to disappoint him this afternoon. I cannot accept his amendment and I therefore respectfully ask him to withdraw it.
My Lords, I am very grateful for the customarily courteous spirit in which this debate has been conducted. It has been a fine illustration of the law of unintended consequences. Sitting behind my noble friend Lord Howard of Lympne, I watched the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington, casting a halo like a frisbee across the Chamber, and I now see it metaphorically sitting above my noble friend’s pate.
I hope my noble friend will excuse me if I say that he has never been a particularly modest man, so he probably saw it as a little bit of sainthood flying across the Chamber. It takes one to know one.
I thank the Minister for the spirit in which she responded to this debate. The noble Lord, Lord Beecham, suggested that I might have shown three qualities—eloquence, wit and seduction. I will not say which one I failed on this afternoon but plainly it is at least one of them although not, I hope, all three.
As a Liberal—I use that term with a capital L and without any suffixes—I regret that the Labour Party still appears wedded to a form of democracy that I find strange; what I call the democratic principle of appointment. I do not believe there is anything in the argument that people who are directly elected will perform less independently than those who have been appointed. One of the things that elected people experience, as all my noble friends who were Members of another place know, is a great deal of pressure from their electorates. That applies to the Minister, too, who was a distinguished Member of the other place. I am dubious about that argument.
As to the likelihood of electing a mere slate of party hacks, I simply ask the noble Lord—this might not be a commendation but just a fact—to look at Middlesbrough, Hartlepool and Doncaster. He will see that elections are not always as predictable as you think if they involve a specific issue.
I simply and kindly remind my much admired friend the noble Lord, Lord Elystan-Morgan, that in the days when he was a Labour MP for a West Wales seat, the appointment of Labour councillors to police authorities had about as much to do with democracy as the popping of a champagne cork and was seen as something of a scandal from time to time throughout Wales. I therefore do not accept that the tripartite principle of which he spoke has always been an illustration of good practice.
However, I recognise when I have lost a case. I can see that it would be unhelpful to the House to press this amendment to a Division. Some valuable issues have been raised and I beg leave, on that basis, to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment 1 withdrawn.
1A: Clause 1, page 2, line 1, at end insert—
“( ) Police and crime commissioners must exercise their functions under this Part in accordance with the memorandum of understanding issued by the Secretary of State under section (Memorandum of understanding: operational independence).”
My Lords, Amendment 1A and the two other amendments in this group come to an important matter that goes to the heart of the Bill: the relationship between the elected police and crime commissioner and the chief constable. Whatever one’s view of the Government’s proposals, no noble Lord will underestimate the importance of this relationship or of ensuring that it is appropriate, proper and constructive.
The noble Lord, Lord Elystan-Morgan, who is now not in his place, spoke eloquently about the meaning of direction and control of a police force under a chief constable. We know that there are inevitable tensions between police authorities and chief constables. That is healthy and entirely proper. The risk is if an unhealthy tension is created. On the one hand, there is the risk that an elected police and crime commissioner—with clearly more authority from being elected—will seek to interfere unduly in the performance of the duties of the chief constable. Equally, I am sure that some chief constables might resist the proper use of the powers of the police and crime commissioner and seek to keep them away from discussion on issues that are perfectly legitimate.
The relationship between the PCC and the chief constable is very important. The Minister has kindly shared with us some of the discussions and draft papers that lie behind the production of a draft protocol or memorandum of understanding between the chief constable and the police and crime commissioner. I am grateful for that. When we discussed this matter in Committee, I asked whether such a memorandum of understanding or protocol should be placed on a statutory footing. The Minister accepted that this was an important matter and agreed to consider it and come back to the House at a later stage. I would be interested in her response.
I fully accept the point made by a number of noble Lords that if chief constables and police and crime commissioners have to have recourse to a document to interpret whether a particular behaviour is in accordance with the memorandum of understanding or protocol, the relationship has already broken down. It is rather like the partnership agreement between general practitioners. Once they get that out of the safe, they have reached a stage where a break-up is only too likely. However, a protocol or memorandum of understanding provides at the very least a backcloth to this important relationship. Even if it does not have to be taken out of the drawer, both the chief constable and the police and crime commissioner will be aware of its existence and the principles that it seeks to underpin. Given the importance of that protocol or memorandum of understanding, I would have thought that it might have benefitted from having a statutory basis. That would give it the important signal of parliamentary legitimacy, and would be helpful in setting up the relationship as constructively as possible. I hope the noble Baroness will be able to come back with a positive response. I beg to move.
My Lords, may I take this early opportunity to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington, in her absence, for immediately withdrawing any suggestion that she sought to confer a halo upon me? I am not sure I can be quite so fulsome in my comments on the remarks of my noble friend Lord Carlile, but there we are.
I have observed with a great deal of amusement the numerous accolades, including those from the lips of the noble Baroness earlier this afternoon, which I gather have been often repeated during the course of proceedings in this Bill—usually, alas, in my unavoidable absence—on my proposals nearly 20 years ago, which form the basis of the current provisions and current constitution of police authorities. I do not think that anyone has yet drawn attention to the fact that when I brought forward those proposals they were bitterly opposed by your Lordships and your Lordships’ predecessors. To listen to the words that have been expressed on them now, anyone would think that they had been welcomed with open arms by your Lordships and seen by those on all sides of the argument as a long-awaited answer to the problem.
I thank the noble Lord for giving way. Is it not the case that while his additional proposals were deeply controversial—I think he had some master plan for lord lieutenants of counties assisting in the process of appointing independent members—it was when they had been improved by your Lordships' House that we reached the eventual outcome that we are all so in favour of?
Convenient though that rewriting of history is for the noble Lord’s arguments, it is very far from the case. He need look no further than the recently published memoirs of my noble friend Lord Ferrers to see that your Lordships remained obdurate, even when I was prepared to amend my original proposals. If my recollection is correct, it was only after a protracted game of ping-pong that I was eventually able to get my proposals on to the statute book in the face of persistent and continued opposition from your Lordships' House. But that is ancient history. I wanted to put the record straight.
The fact is that when those proposals found their way on to the statute book I was very hopeful that they would provide the basis for strong police authorities who would carry out the functions, which I am sure we would all want them to carry out, and who would be recognised in the areas that they served as the voice of the public in relation to policing. Alas, despite the splendid efforts of many of those who have served with distinction on police authorities during the nearly two decades that have passed since those proposals became law, my expectations have been disappointed. The proposals that have been put in place have not led to the kind of police authorities that I hoped they would. It is because of that that I am an enthusiastic supporter of these proposals. Indeed, I do not want to embarrass my noble friend on the Front Bench, but I think that in some ways I can claim to be their author, although it will not do me much good in the eyes of your Lordships, and I remain an enthusiastic supporter of them.
As to this particular amendment and the proposal put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, there is no difference between the term “direction and control” used in the protocol and the term used in existing legislation. That is the answer to the point made a few moments ago by the noble Lord, Lord Elystan-Morgan. The question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, is whether the protocol should become statutory. We know that ACPO has said—I think absolutely rightly—that it would be wrong to seek to define operational independence in the statute. If you gave the protocol statutory force, you would in effect arrive at a statutory definition of operational control. That would be a mistake for the reasons given by ACPO. It is for that reason that I oppose the amendment proposed by the noble Lord.
The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, has served us well by this amendment. The arguments remain finely balanced as to whether or not the protocol or memorandum of understanding should have a statutory footing. Having been privileged to be in some of the earlier discussions about whether there was indeed a need for a protocol at all, the journey has been a very interesting, and very supportive, iterative process. Certainly in the meetings that I have been privileged to attend, there has been an acceptance on the Government’s side that a document of this nature or something like it was necessary to reassure and to confidence-build around operational independence and the legacy of operational independence, which is so important to the model of British policing. We have now reached decision point: should it have statutory footing or not?
My own journey on this route was that I was hopeful that as much as possible that came out of these discussions should be in the Bill. Whether it should be in the Bill in penny packets, at the relevant point, or in one comprehensive document of a protocol or a memorandum of understanding is a finely balanced question. However, I accept that ACPO is concerned that if it has a statutory footing, a once and for ever attempt to define operational independence will be a formidable task. The arguments are very finely balanced and the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, does a service by raising this. If it is pushed to a Division, I am still uncertain which way I will vote and I look forward to further discussion. It is so important but it is very finely balanced, and the arguments on both sides are very strong.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Howard, and the noble Lord who has just spoken both infer that the purpose of the amendment is to put a memorandum of understanding into the Bill. My interpretation of it is not that but that this amendment, if adopted, would require there to be a memorandum of understanding and commissioners would have to exercise their functions under it. However, the memorandum itself would be drawn up and issued separately and would be capable of being amended from time to time in the light of changing circumstances. The actual memorandum would not be in the Bill, merely the effect of one. It would obviously be helpful to discuss the first of such memoranda, but it would not actually be incorporated into the Bill when finally enacted.
My Lords, I do not speak in favour of this amendment. We are probably dancing on the head of a pin. It seems we all agree that a protocol or a memorandum of understanding is vital. It is the form that it will take that is a matter of debate for us today and, perhaps, in further stages of this procedure. It seems that one can hardly discuss the detail of this while it is still in draft. We are promised the draft before the full stage is passed in your Lordships’ House, but I find that a difficulty in itself.
My main concern is that by putting it into the Bill or having it standing part and parcel alongside the Bill with statutory force, it would become too prescriptive. This Bill is already in grave danger of being too prescriptive on a number of issues. One has to leave things such as this to the good nature, good judgment and experience of those who will be handling those issues, and while I support the protocol we should not necessarily go so far as to give it statutory authority.
I would say in passing that although ACPO has quite wisely kept well away from making political statements about this Bill—its fingers were burned two or three years ago by getting too closely involved in politics, and it is wise to keep out of this at the moment—I would be surprised if chief constables and chief officers of police would want to see a protocol bound into such an Act. I would think that they would want to operate against a background of advice that can be amended in the light of experience. That is my view, not theirs; I am not in a position to speak for them but that is how I would expect them to react.
On a small point of detail in Amendment 4B, I noticed that the Central Motorway Police Group is included in a group of police authorities. I ask those who tabled the amendment, if they take it to a vote, to check whether the Central Motorway Police Group now has the same statutory basis as a police force. When it was set up it was subject to a collaboration agreement. To the best of my understanding it is still subject to such an agreement, which is very different from the statutory basis that other forces enjoy. It is a small point of which I ask noble Lords to take note. I do not support the amendment.
My Lords, I shall make two comments on quite a fundamental matter. First, I am clear that there needs to be a memorandum of understanding. I am less clear about whether it needs to have statutory force. However, the public will expect to understand what the powers of a chief constable and a commissioner are when they are being asked to vote for a police and crime commissioner. That seems a basic point; the public must have a clear understanding of the two roles. Unless this is written down in the form of a memorandum of understanding, it will be difficult for them to do so.
Secondly, there is also an operational aspect to this. Amendment 4A asks in particular,
“how the operational independence of chief constables and police forces will be protected”.
This relates to the joining point between the operational independence of the chief constable and the power of the police and crime commissioner over both the budget and the annual plan. In other words, the chief constable is to be required to undertake, with operational independence, the work in a plan that was agreed by the police and crime commissioner. The budget for that plan will be agreed by the commissioner and supplied to the chief constable. There is a clear joining point that must be bridged here. There is a grave danger that there will be operational interference by the police and crime commissioner when that commissioner feels that the budget and plan that he or she created is not being implemented. Unless this is clearly written down in the form of a memorandum of understanding, that operational independence will not be clear to anyone and trouble will ensue.
My Lords, we should not get too carried away over what this memorandum will do. My noble friend Lord Hunt quoted some remarks that I made when I said that if the memorandum is referred to more than twice in any interaction between a commissioner and a chief officer of police, it will look as though the relationship between the two has irredeemably broken down. It will be too late by that stage. The draft of the memorandum that has finally emerged from the Home Office is helpful in setting these things out. Its value lies in striking a balance between the legitimate role—to question, challenge, set an overall strategy and direction and so on—of those who hold the police to account and the operational professional decision-making that chief officers of police must exercise all the time. It is helpful to have that in the background to avoid the mavericks and to put constraints on those who might press a matter far beyond where any of us in your Lordships’ House, or any other sensible people, might see this balance being struck.
However, we should not see this as some magic wand that will solve all the problems and issues that might arise from these new systems of governance. Therefore, it is helpful to have the memorandum. It would be helpful, as my noble friend suggests, for there to be reference to it in the Bill. However, we should not believe that it is a magic wand. It will not prevent circumstances in which chief officers of police find that they have lost the confidence of those who are responsible for their governance. Those individuals, when they have lost that confidence, will in effect be unable to continue. This measure does not prevent that, but it draws some lines in the sand for what are or are not acceptable areas in which those responsible for oversight and governance should get involved.
In Committee, I think I mentioned my experience of being told firmly that the policing of the Notting Hill carnival was entirely an operational matter in which it was inappropriate for the police authority, as it then was, to be involved. I do not accept that advice and did not at the time because this is a major policing decision that impacts fundamentally on the relationship between the police and the community and involves substantial expenditure of resources. However, that was not the same as a chair of a police authority in this case—it could be an elected police and crime commissioner—saying, “I am quite clear that you should close such and such a road”. However, I can see that it is helpful to have set down somewhere something that reminds people that there are lines that you should not cross and that it is not appropriate, when you are responsible for oversight and governance, to say, “In this investigation you should arrest this person or not arrest that person”. We all accept that, but perhaps, just occasionally, some people will need to be reminded of that.
My Lords, like my noble friend Lord Condon, I have wavered over whether this measure should be included on the face of the Bill or should be referred to. Having listened to conversations and today’s debate, I suspect that it is better for the measure not to be on the face of the Bill but to be referred to. There is absolutely no doubt whatever that if anyone gets to the stage of having to refer to the protocols to enforce their operational independence, that chief constable, chief officer or commissioner should not be where he is because he will have already gone through a process and lost the confidence of the police authority or the police and crime commissioner. This has been an interesting journey for me, having said at one stage that the measure should be on the face of the Bill, and then coming to the conclusion that it should not. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, and others have said, there has to be reference to it because there has to be a backstop at some stage and insurance as regards issues that may relate to mavericks, whether they be chief constables or police commissioners. At the end of the day, there have to be those safeguards.
My Lords, I am very grateful for the contributions made to the debate. The amendments tabled by the noble Lords, Lord Hunt, Lord Rosser and Lord Stevenson, reflect those that were laid in Committee and seek to protect the operational independence of chief police officers by placing a specific duty on the face of the Bill for each police and crime commissioner to exercise their functions in accordance with a memorandum of understanding issued by the Secretary of State.
During the Committee I undertook to invite noble Lords from all sides of the House to discuss the Government's draft protocol, which I had placed in your Lordships’ Library prior to commencing our Committee debate. I am very grateful to noble Lords for their attendance at that meeting and for the contribution which they made, which was extremely constructive. The meeting took place on 21 June. I take this opportunity to report back to the House on what was discussed with the sole intention of making clear that the Government remain very much in listening mode as we continue to work with ACPO, the APA and the Association of Police Authority Chief Executives on the draft of that document. As has already been pointed out, this is still a document in draft.
I must make it clear at the outset that until the Government finalise their consultation on the draft document, we are still open to considering the merits of placing the document on a legal footing. I have taken note of the views expressed across the House today. Some noble Lords are not quite decided, some have clearly taken a certain position and others have moved from one position to another. That signifies very clearly the complexity of this matter and, most importantly, the need to get it absolutely right. I hope that the House, particularly the noble Lords who have tabled these amendments, will understand that it is something that we are particularly keen not to rush and that we are still in listening mode on this.
I would also like to make clear that it became rapidly apparent to me during our discussion that we must stop viewing the new PCC policing governance model through the eyes of the existing arrangements, especially when discussing financial matters and budget responsibilities. During the meeting, a wide-ranging discussion was held as to whether the protocol should be placed on a statutory footing in secondary legislation or in the Bill. Those are the two options, and although secondary legislation has not been mentioned during today’s debate, it is clearly an option. I am particularly grateful for the professional insight that the noble Lords, Lord Condon and Lord Stevens, contributed and offered to the group. There is much further consideration to be given as to the level of detail required in the draft document. I have taken away their views and relayed them to my officials, who, I can assure this House, intend to feed back those views to the protocol working group when it meets later this month.
However, to place in the Bill the entire document as currently drafted will be a step too far. I hope that that will reassure particularly my noble friend Lord Howard of Lympne and other noble friends who said that they would be concerned if that were to be the case, and that it may undermine previous case law and common law. Those facts also have to be taken into account.
I know that ACPO has told the Government that it does not want any definition of operational independence to be placed in the Bill, for reasons that I am sure will be obvious to everyone. However, ACPO has said that it would like the protocol to be given some sort of legislative footing, and the Government remain open to this suggestion. I realise that we are at Report stage but work remains to be done on this issue. It is essential that we get the balance exactly right, as noble Lords have indicated. There is still time within the proceedings on the Bill in this House to make that judgment in time.
My understanding is that the noble Baroness is saying that we should return to this at Third Reading, and that that is likely to be less than three weeks away. However, as currently planned, it will not be possible to achieve Royal Assent before the Summer Recess. Under those circumstances—and the Government might wish to take this away—perhaps Third Reading could take place in September. That will not delay the overall timetable more than it is already delayed, but it would allow more time for consideration of this matter and some other matters that probably require a lot more work before the Bill finally receives Royal Assent.
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Harris. I am not one of the business managers in this House. I sometimes wish that I had more say in these matters, as I am sure most Front-Benchers do from time to time, but I shall have to leave with the business managers the timing of the various stages of finalising the Bill. However, I hope that the House will be reassured—particularly noble Lords who tabled these amendments—that this is a working document. We are still considering the most appropriate way in which to involve the protocol in the Bill, but I hope that I have provided assurances to those who think we might make a hasty decision that would undermine the way in which the independence of policing has been seen hitherto. On that basis, I ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for her very constructive response and for her work in making the draft protocol available. I am also grateful for the input that noble Lords have been able to provide. Let me make it clear that I am not seeking to put into the Bill the details of the memorandum. I absolutely agree with the ACPO position, which is that a reference to the memorandum is needed. I had hoped that my amendment, imperfect as it is, pointed in the direction of how that might be done.
As my noble friend Lord Harris said, having some statutory basis for the memorandum would indicate to the police and crime commissioner and the chief constable that there was a framework in which one would expect them to operate. As the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, said, it would be a clear message to the public, in relation to the character of the people that they elected as police and crime commissioners, that they would be expected to operate within a clearly established framework. Some statutory recognition of that would be helpful.
The rules on what one can bring back at Third Reading have become ever tighter. I am happy to withdraw my amendment on the basis and understanding that I will bring it back on Third Reading. That will give the Government a little time to give further reflection to it. If the business managers—the usual channels—were minded to take the advice of my noble friend, I, for one, would not object.
Amendment 1A withdrawn.
2: Clause 1, page 2, line 24, at end insert—
“(h) the exercise of duties in relation to the safeguarding of children and the promotion of child welfare that are imposed on the chief constable by sections 10 and 11 of the Children Act 2004”.
She moves it.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord and I certainly look forward to hearing what he has to say.
Amendments 2 and 17 would add the relevant provisions of the Children Act 2004 to the list of duties in respect of which the police and crime commissioner, or the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime, should hold the chief constable or Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis to account. I am indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Laming, for putting his name to Amendment 2.
Naturally, all of us want the police to comply with all statutory duties that apply to them. Indeed, Clause 1(7) already provides that the PCC is to hold chief constables to account for the exercise of all the functions. Clause 1(8), on the other hand, is a list of matters for which PCCs in particular hold chief constables to account. The purpose is to highlight matters of particular importance which we would say merit special attention. The same provisions apply under Clause 4(7) and (8) respectively for London.
Deciding what should be included in a list such as this is necessarily subjective. What was in the Bill on its introduction represented the Government's best efforts. That said, the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, presented a compelling argument, supported by the noble Lord, Lord Laming, for the inclusion of the Children Act 2004 in the list. The Government have listened on that point and agree that—given the occurrence of some high-profile deaths of children—police officers, PCCs and MOPC should be in no doubt about the statutory duty of the police to safeguard children and promote their welfare. That includes in formulating policing strategy, setting budgets, forming effective partnerships and in a constable’s execution of day-to-day operations. The Government agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, and the noble Lord, Lord Laming, that that is an important addition to the list of duties for which the police and crime commissioner should hold the chief constable to account in particular. I beg to move.
I apologise for my enthusiasm. I did not want to steal the Minister’s thunder. On the contrary, I wanted to explain to the House that I put my name to the amendment, a government amendment—it may be unusual for a Cross-Bencher to do that—because I wanted to thank her for the thought that she has given to these matters. I pay tribute to her for her willingness to meet us and to consider how best the care of children should be seen to be a priority of police and crime commissioners and chief constables in future.
I will not rehearse the points made at earlier stages, because I am sure that Members of this House have a full understanding of the need for the police services to take seriously their wider responsibilities for the safety and well-being of children and young people, be it the local community officer, the specialist detective, the commander or the chief constable or police and crime commissioner. All those people throughout the service have a unique responsibility to fulfil their duties and to co-operate with the other key services in this area of work.
This legislation rightly has the title “Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill”. In my view—and, I am sure, the view of many of your Lordships—it would be a lost opportunity if we did not put into the Bill the responsibilities that police forces up and down the country carry in this area of work. Indeed, the police have carried out a huge amount of development in recent years, and I suspect that the Metropolitan Police child protection teams are among the best in the world. Not only are they a credit to this country but they have much to teach other countries in the field of child abuse, neglect, exploitation and matters such as the abduction and trafficking of children and young people. It seems to me—and, I know, to other Members of your Lordships’ House—that this priority in police services should be clearly recognised. I simply end as I began by saying to the House that the Minister has kindly allowed me to share my thoughts with her, and therefore I know a little of the hard work that she has put in to ensure that this happens. I am delighted about Amendment 2 and, because of my limited vocabulary, positively thrilled about Amendment 17.
My Lords, I am sorry to strike a slightly different note on this matter but I should like to ask the Minister a question or two. The list in the Bill to which she referred as “unamended” is a list of procedural matters relating to how the chief constable is to undertake his or her duties, rather than the subject of those duties. We debated this on a different amendment at the previous stage. I do not for an instant suggest that the matters to which the Minister and the noble Lord have referred are unimportant—they are of huge importance—but my concern is about singling them out. I used the example of trafficking adults as well as children—a matter which I think is appropriate for the strategic policing requirement, dealt with later in the Bill. My concern and my question to the Minister is whether singling out this subject in some way diminishes the responsibility that the chief constable has to exercise every other duty imposed on him or her by legislation. It seems to raise issues when one part of the very wide and varied responsibilities of the chief constable is included in a list which is qualitatively different. As I said, that is not for a moment to suggest that child protection is not important—of course it is —but I merely question how it is dealt with in legislation.
My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree that many, many crime Bills have been taken through this House? Over the years, the Home Office has been remarkably good at producing Bills of this kind. However, Parliament has also produced a range of very important children Acts, and those Acts need to be enshrined in developing legislation.
My Lords, Parliament has indeed produced a lot of Acts and, in my view, one of the problems is repeating bits of legislation time and again. A piece of legislation should be good enough to stand on its own and not require repetition or reference in other legislation.
My Lords, I was very interested in the comments made by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. She will know that lists are often proposed in amendments, not least from her own Benches. If you list certain duties and responsibilities, there is always the problem that you might detract from other important duties and responsibilities. One has to use one's judgment. We certainly support the government amendments and I am sure that the noble Baroness will be able to confirm that, by listing the Children Act matters in the way that the Government propose, that does not exclude many other important matters from the chief constable's responsibilities.
I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Laming, on his success in persuading the Government today to bring forward this amendment. This is a significant day for him as he has been elected Convenor of the Cross Benches. I wish him future success in bringing forward further amendments to which the Government will no doubt respond.
I have one question for the noble Baroness. When we debated this matter in Committee under a number of amendments, at col. 1428, the debate concerned the Children Act and the Human Rights Act. I wondered whether there was a reason why the Government have brought forward an amendment in relation to the Children Act but not in relation to the Human Rights Act. Referring to the question of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, does focusing on the Children Act detract from responsibilities under the Human Rights Act?
My Lords, I am very grateful for all contributions to this debate and particularly to the noble Lord, Lord Laming, and to the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, for having introduced this matter in the first place.
On the last point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, in no way does this detract from the human rights requirement that the chief constable must keep in focus. I have been very cautious because, once one starts a list, one can add to it. I seek to reassure my noble friend Lady Hamwee that we considered the points that she made in Committee about singling out pieces of legislation. That is why we have put the Children Act into the Bill as a particular reference. We felt that was a measured response. As we were putting one piece of legislation in the list of specific functions that the chief constable must consider, we did not want to feel that in some way we were starting a new list. I shall not read it out, but in Clause 1(8) of the original Bill, there is a list of specific functions that the chief constable must take into account. As the issue of children's safety is so important, we felt that it stood out head and shoulders above others and that it should be on the face of the Bill. We agreed to make this amendment for that reason. This has been a reflective part of the Bill to consider, and a very important part. I am grateful for the support given to it across the House.
Amendment 2 agreed.
3: Clause 1, page 2, line 24, at end insert—
“( ) Each police and crime commissioner shall appoint a non-executive board of between four and seven members.
( ) Such non-executive boards shall work with the police and crime commissioners to ensure good governance of—
(a) financial;(b) staff; and(c) equality;matters and to support police and crime commissioners in respect of their functions.( ) Police and crime commissioners may make such arrangements as they see necessary to remunerate and reimburse expenses incurred by members of such non-executive boards.
( ) Appointments to and remuneration and expenses arrangements for such non-executive boards shall be subject to approval by the relevant police and crime panel.”
My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendment 20. There has been considerable concern about the central principle of the Bill, the idea of a single, directly elected individual who is to be responsible for the oversight and control of the police service. That is why I have tabled Amendment 3. Amendment 20 applies similar provisions to the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime.
At Second Reading and in Committee, there were widely held concerns about the concept of a single individual with this very strong responsibility for policing matters. The vote in Committee essentially removed from the Bill the principle of police and crime commissioners. The Committee voted in that way because of the fear of having a single individual with responsibility for such an important area of public life, an area where the police have such powerful responsibilities over the liberty of the citizens of this country and over the way in which the citizens of this country operate. That is the core of the concerns that have been expressed from many corners of your Lordships' House.
You could argue that we have solved the problem. By the amendment proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Harris of Richmond, and agreed in Committee, there will not be a single directly elected individual. However, I am mindful of what the Minister said repeatedly in Committee—that the Government are determined to reinstate that principle. If the Minister wants to stand up and tell me that the Government have changed their mind and have suddenly realised that the House of Lords was right on this point, I might consider withdrawing this amendment, but if, as seems likely, the Government intend to reverse the House of Lords position on this and bring back to this House proposals for a single individual with those extraordinary powers over policing and with the police having such extraordinary powers over the citizen, we need something that looks at these matters. In fact, I submit that even if the Government were to accept the position taken by the House of Lords in Committee, there would still be value in having non-executive members around the police and crime commission to bring to the deliberations of the commission expertise and independent-minded judgment. However, given that the Government intend to reverse that position, this amendment is essential.
Amendment 20 relates to the position in London. There are no changes, so far, to the position in London. We will have a single elected individual—the Mayor of London—who will delegate some of his functions to the deputy mayor for policing and crime.
In the circumstances in which we are to have single individuals with these responsibilities, there has to be a governance structure around them. I think there is consensus among your Lordships about the value of a collegiate approach and robust and strong governance. The amendment is not about going back to police authorities. It is not about creating some new bureaucratic structure. It is not even about going to the appointed boards that the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, coruscated earlier in our discussions today. It is about good governance. It is about making sure that decisions are taken properly and transparently so that these single individuals cannot be subjected to criticism that they have acted in a wilful or inappropriate way. It says that on key financial matters, key personnel matters and on matters perhaps relating to equalities, they must act with the support of a group of non-executives who would be appointed for this purpose.
Non-executives appointed in the way that I have suggested in my amendment would provide the public with an assurance that good governance was being followed. It would provide a mechanism by which you could make sure that those decisions were taken in a sound and proper way. It would also deal with what I suspect will be one of the issues. If you look forward to May 2012, when the Government hope that the first directly elected police commissioners will be elected, you will have elected individuals with an enormous personal mandate. The only person in the country with a larger personal mandate—I do not want to get into double entendres here—will be the Mayor of London. They will be the biggest political beasts in their regions. The elected police and crime commissioner for the West Midlands will be chosen by an electorate of more than 2 million people and will have a bigger mandate than a directly elected mayor of Birmingham, should such a creature come to exist following the passage of the Localism Bill. Those individuals may think that they can walk on water, I do not know. I hesitate to make such a remark in the presence of the Bishops’ Bench. However, we are back to the principle of being reminded that you are human, the way that Roman emperors had to have someone around them just to remind them of their human responsibilities.
When I was the leader of a local authority—I was not directly elected by the people of the borough; it required endless arcane processes within the Labour Party before I ended up as leader—I did have tremendous authority within my local council. Sometimes I came up with ideas that were perhaps not as sensible as they might have been. My problem was that the officers of my authority would say, “Yes, Leader, it will be done tomorrow”. What I actually wanted were officers who would say, “You are out of your tiny mind, Leader, have you not thought about the following? What about the implications of this? You do realise that there are going to be the following unintended consequences”. The danger of having a single elected individual with a personal mandate bigger than that of any local authority person or Member of Parliament is who will say to them, “Hang on, just think about this, think again, consider it”? Or, “Let us just go through a proper, transparent process for making this decision”. That is what creating a small board of non-executives would provide: that safeguard and those circumstances in which that challenge and proper governance can take place. It does not undermine the principle that the Government are trying to achieve. That is not the intention. It is simply trying to provide robust good governance.
Actually, it is a principle that I thought the government parties endorsed in other contexts. The Conservative Party in the past brought forward the Cadbury report and saw the value of non-executive directors in the private sector. The principle is established in the health service. I understand that one of the arguments that is still going on—in so far as anyone can follow the minutiae of the debate on health—is the extent of the involvement of external boards in some new health structures. The report reviewing the position of the Children’s Commissioner—a rare example of a corporation sole—recommended a small non-executive board to support the commissioner’s activities and enable good governance. This is somebody saying, “I am in this position but I would like some effective systems of governance around me”. That is why this is so important.
It also helps mitigate some of the problems with politicisation that are seen as potentially causing difficulty. I have seen circumstances involving the much maligned outgoing police authorities where the independent members have sometimes said to the political members, “Come on, hold on, let us not be political about this—let us just look at this in terms of the interests of the public of this area and good policing in this area”. So it helps deal with that. It provides some of the checks and balances that Members of your Lordships’ House are so keen to see enshrined in this Bill. It provides a mechanism whereby additional expertise can be brought in. A police and crime commissioner or the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime may want, for a specific purpose, someone with extensive external experience of human resources questions or particular types of financial management. Bringing in that expertise is the capacity that would be created. It provides resilience and a support mechanism to enable the enormous task that the Government want to place on these individuals to be carried out. It also provides a mechanism whereby that work can be carried on.
The amendment provides for robust good governance and some collegiate elements to decisions where it would be dangerous and difficult for an individual to act on his or her own. If it is the Minister’s intention to tell us, “Well, actually, there is nothing in this Bill that prevents it happening”, I would say one thing. No, there is nothing in the Bill that prevents it happening, and I am sure that plenty of sensible elected police and crime commissioners would want to do that. But it would be precisely those police and crime commissioners who do not think that they need that sort of external support—those independent non-executives around them—who will be the ones who cause us problems in the future because of potentially wilful or maverick decisions. That is why this is so important. I beg to move.
My Lords, first, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Harris, on the sense of realism which infused his contribution to your Lordships’ debate. He recognised that we are likely to see elected police commissioners in place next year and that the Government are likely to reverse the amendment put forward by my noble friend Lady Harris. I rise with a degree of reluctance to oppose this amendment, not only because it is proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Harris, with whom I had many enjoyable disputes many years ago, even long before I was Home Secretary. It was always a great pleasure to see him across the table when we were negotiating.
There were many other much longer meetings. The noble Lord talked about the characteristics of Roman emperors. When I faced him across the negotiating table, it always seemed to me that he took upon himself many of the attributes of Roman emperors—he still perhaps to some extent does so today—and therefore greatly adorns the contributions which he makes to your Lordships’ House. I am even more reluctant to oppose the amendment because it is also supported by the noble Lord, Lord Stevens of Kirkwhelpington. I did not sit across the table from the noble Lord and negotiate with him. I had the great pleasure of working very closely with him when I had the privilege of holding the office of Home Secretary. I have enormous respect for his views and it is therefore with particular diffidence that I oppose this amendment.
My question is: what would the board of non-executives do which the panel would not do? The police and crime panel is particularly established by the provisions of this Bill to scrutinise and advise the police and crime commissioner. I repeat that it is established to advise the police and crime commissioner. What is the function of non-executives but to advise the police and crime commissioner? Do we really want to provide by statute a cumbersome bureaucratic panoply of organisations to perform the functions set out in the Bill?
We are proposing to have the police and crime commissioner, which I fully support, and the police and crime panel, precisely to provide the strong and robust governance arrangements which the noble Lord, Lord Harris, is so keen to see introduced. I share his view that it is important to have good and strong governance arrangements but that is what the police and crime panel would provide. To have this non-executive board in addition would at best be duplication of functions and, at worst, confusion and a proliferation of bureaucracy, which I suggest is the last thing that your Lordships should be seeking to foist upon the new arrangements provided by the Bill.
Therefore, despite my long and happy memories of my negotiations with the noble Lord, Lord Harris, and my enormous respect for the noble Lord, Lord Stevens of Kirkwhelpington, I would respectfully advise your Lordships to reject this amendment.
My Lords, I support the amendment. Far be it from me to disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Howard of Lympne, who I have said publicly I believe to have been one of the most successful Home Secretaries during my time in policing and beyond, but on this occasion I have to disagree with him. Perhaps I may take noble Lords back to the setting up of the Metropolitan Police Authority, along with the London Assembly and the new appointment of the Mayor of London. A year before that, with the agreement of Paul Condon, the commissioner when I was the deputy commissioner, we set up a committee. It consisted of various people from the Home Office, and indeed the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, was a member. We thrashed through and gradually teased out a new structure for London. It was going to be extremely complicated and difficult to bring in. It had a conflict of interest that involved the national responsibilities of the Metropolitan Police, and specifically the commissioner, and it had to take account of the new London Assembly, the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, and not least the police authority itself, before which the commissioner would appear on a regular basis—at least once a month.
Part of the discussions related to that was the independent elements necessary to ensure proper governance, independence and expert advice. Going back to some of the excellent things introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Howard of Lympne, as Home Secretary, one of those was the independence of the police authority and a widening of its knowledge, expertise, delivery and holding the chief constable to account. I believe it is necessary to have in place a process that can be dealt with by a non-executive director in relation to the new set-up with police commissioners and their panels. Perhaps I may take noble Lords through the three reasons for that process.
Financial decision-making and the creation of a corporation sole will be responsible for major decisions such as the placement of contracts, financial allocation and a number of other serious financial matters, including audit. It is imperative that within the police panel and outside of the official responsibilities of the Chief Constable and Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, there is expert independence in terms of advice and good governance. The second reason is staffing. Again, it is important that the approach taken is that of best practice. Many noble Lords are involved in private business and they know that non-executive directorships constitute best practice in terms of good governance, independent advice, and ensuring that the vision of the company they are involved with is taken forward. If we are going down the line of corporation sole in relation to police commissioners and their panels, surely it is good governance, common sense and best practice to ensure that there is an element of non-executive directorship on the panel.
The third but by no means the least reason is that of equality of opportunity and diversity. The contribution made by a collective as opposed to an individual should always be noted in relation to what is on occasion an extremely difficult matter. The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, will know, as others on the Metropolitan Police Authority and the police assembly of the time will know, that on a number of occasions during the implementation of the Lawrence report—my deputy commissioner, the noble Lord, Lord Blair, was part of this—the implications of driving forward and turning the recommendations into action needed individual expertise from independent members of the Metropolitan Police Authority, members of which would on occasion come to see me or the noble Lord, Lord Blair, individually. To throw away that is to throw away extraordinary expertise which is necessary in the world in which we now live.
This amendment would ensure that, through a non-executive presence in the structure, additional expertise could be tapped into. I understand where the noble Lord, Lord Howard of Lympne, is coming from on this and I of course respect his views—I do not think that anyone could respect his views more than I do, having worked with him quite closely over a period of time. However, the amendment seeks to address some of the concerns expressed by Members of this House. As a result, we must listen. Again, I pay tribute to the Minister, who, without any doubt whatever, is a listening Minister, and it has been a delight to see that approach.
Bearing in mind the rather surprising assertion of the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, who is not now in his place, that this amendment originates from what he would describe as the dark days of old Labour, would the noble Lord who has subscribed to it care to say whether he is now, or has ever been, a card-carrying member of the Labour Party?
Certainly not. The two most successful Home Secretaries that I know of in history is the one who is sitting opposite, the noble Lord, Lord Howard, and the second—you would never get the name out of me if you tricked me—was Jack Straw. He of course would be represented in Labour. How about that for an apolitical comment?
My Lords, I was going to go back to the Roman Empire. With all this talk about Roman emperors, I wondered whether I should claim for myself the role of Caesar’s wife, but I think I ought to leave that for the Minister.
I have two amendments in this group and was very persuaded by arguments made at the previous stage by noble Lords who spoke in support of the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Harris. When the Government objected to the term “shall”, I asked whether “may” would be more acceptable. It was almost before the words were out of my mouth that I knew that I was going to be challenged by the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, who quite rightly made the point that police and crime commissioners who do not understand the need for robust governance arrangements are the ones who most need them.
My Amendments 4 and 18 break my own rules about providing for more regulation-making powers for the Secretary of State, but I have worded them in that way because I am not quite convinced that Amendments 3 and 20 quite capture everything. I have added to my list, in what would be new subsection (4B),
“provision for arrangements to ensure probity”.
Financial matters are within that, but probity covers a wider area.
I spotted what some might regard as a flaw in my amendment by providing for consultation with police and crime commissioners, or their union as it might be, before their coming into being, but I have assumed, for the purposes of this argument at any rate, that the transitional arrangements might give time for this as well as consultation with local authority representatives. That is because of the important role of panels, police authorities and local authorities in this area.
My noble friend Lord Wallace spoke in Committee of the importance of personalities and personal relationships, and a willingness to co-operate. He was quite right, but I would say, “Yes, but”, or maybe, “Yes, therefore”.
There was also concern about how much detail should be in the Bill. Well, there is quite a lot of detail in it, so I would like to see some that I would be comfortable supporting. My noble friend also talked about the roles undertaken by the chief executive and the chief finance officer. He said that they would ensure that propriety and that:
“They will be subject to established public authority duties, as are their equivalents in police authorities and elsewhere”.—[Official Report, 18/5/11; col. 1466.]
They do have those duties, but that is not the same as governance in the round. I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Howard, that the police and crime panels, with their limited checks, are not governance. Most of their duties are to be carried out in arrear. They do not have a contemporary role and that is what governance is about. If it is to be their function, the Bill needs a lot of amendment and I for one would be very happy to see that, but the check, balance and scrutiny role in police and crime panels is a different role from governance.
There have been major developments in governance in public life recently. Many of your Lordships will be involved in charities where hugely different arrangements have had to be put in place over recent years. It is proper that there are such standards in public life. This is another such position. I am not convinced that the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Harris, is spot on and I am sure that he and the Minister will say that mine is not either, but something needs to be provided that surrounds, supports and controls this new office.
My Lords, the amendment put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Harris, and supported by the noble Lord, Lord Stevens, gives us some comfort and takes us in the direction of more reassuring corporate governance than the Government's current proposals. Like the noble Lord, Lord Harris, I accept that the Government will probably be successful in reinstating their provisions for elected police and crime commissioners, but there remains an element of the doctrinaire in their proposals. There is a feeling that the election by the public of a single person who is then unencumbered by advice, support or challenge is the only way forward. I fear that the only people around the elected police commissioner offering expert advice could well be sycophantic staff whose very livelihood relies on the elected police and crime commissioner.
The dilemma is that we are in an either/or situation. Either police and crime panels with an independent element must be given greater strength and authority than is currently proposed—and I was reassured by the Minister that we are moving a little way that direction—or we should have the model offered by the noble Lords, Lord Harris and Lord Stevens, of a board of non-executive directors.
I have spent 10 years in the private sector as a deputy chairman and non-executive director of one of the biggest companies in the world and I know the value of non-executive directors. The Government also know their value, because under their proposals this week for reform of the defence of our country the individual service chiefs will be removed from the Defence Board and replaced by non-executive directors. The Government know in their heart of hearts the value of non-executive directors.
I hope that the Minister will give us some comfort that we are moving away from this doctrinaire notion about the purity of the electorate electing the police and crime commissioner and the commissioner not being encumbered by any advice other than that which they choose to hire themselves. I am not sure that I could wholly support the amendment put forward by the noble Lords, Lord Harris and Lord Stevens, but we need either that or stronger police and crime panels, and words of comfort from the Minister.
I was wondering whether one was allowed to take part in the debate if one was not a former chief constable or Home Secretary, but I have decided to take the risk, having listened rather carefully.
I only want to add a few sentences. I thought that the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Harris, was one of the most persuasive that I have ever heard—that is, until I heard the speech of my noble friend Lord Howard of Lympne about overlapping bodies. That brings me to the same position as the noble Lord, Lord Condon, who has just spoken, with his distinguished and long experience. We certainly do not want two boards or panels with overlapping responsibilities treading on each other’s feet—that was my noble friend’s point. Equally, we do not want a police commissioner who is a lonely figure with massive responsibilities and nobody to turn to.
It seems that the answer to this is not to set up a non-executive board but to look at the panel, as has just been suggested, and make sure that its powers, responsibilities or however they are defined reflect the need for the commissioner to be able to turn to people for advice, support and sometimes comfort—or, indeed, unwelcome advice—in the way that has been reflected in this debate. I hope that may be of some help to my noble friends on the Front Bench, as the view of one modest Back-Bencher who has listened to the debate.
My Lords, I support the amendment, or at least the basis of it. My experience is from the Northern Ireland Policing Board—which is, incidentally, perhaps the last such board, but also the one which has been modernised most recently, and in difficult circumstances. It was required to cover all the aspects that we are talking about in that it had to be workable.
As for having non-executive directors or the equivalent, this is not just about the commissioner’s power or about bringing in the expertise; quite frankly, it is about the impossibility of the commissioner carrying out all the functions that he will have to carry out. The functions of the police panels are laid out quite clearly. The Bill says that they are to monitor and keep up to date with the commissioner. It does not say anything about their powers to call police and other people. In fact, Clause 30(2) says:
“Nothing in subsection (1) requires a member of the police and crime commissioner’s staff to give any evidence, or produce any document, which discloses advice given to the commissioner by that person”.
The commissioner is the one who has the power to call the police to give evidence on what is happening, and to scrutinise everything that goes on in the police force.
Although I hesitate to do so, I do not agree with the noble Lord, Lord Howard. The problem is that the powers do not overlap. It appears that the panel has no right to go into the police to find out the details; that power rests entirely with the commissioner. The problem is that no individual—commissioner or otherwise—can possibly go into all the issues such as finance, staff, equality, property and everything else. To correct that in the Northern Ireland Policing Board, we had somebody in the property market as well as an accountant and somebody in HR. I do not believe that anyone here could give us an example of an individual who could do the work that we had to do to monitor the police. There is no such individual.
So I would ask the Minister: who in the police and crime commissioner’s office will do that? The answer is that it will be done by paid staff. The police and crime commissioner’s staff will produce an opinion to one person without that being questioned by any expertise or any experience on that side at all because, as I understand the provision that I have just read out, the panel will have absolutely no right under the Bill even to hear that advice.
I support the amendment because I believe that, first, no single individual could physically do all those jobs that are required and, secondly, if the PCC does not have non-executives with the experience, the panel will need to provide that but, from my reading of the Bill, the panel does not even begin to have the powers to get to the bottom of the issues so it definitely could not provide a balanced view on what is going on. That simply does not happen. If any noble Lords wish to go and see the Policing Board in Northern Ireland, they can do so because these were exactly the issues and the problems that we had with our police force, which even I accept was not functioning properly—that is why these reforms were made. That is why such a committee, which may be formed of non-executives or, indeed, of panel members, should have the right to call any policeman within the headquarters or any department to account for the decisions that have been made. The committee could then produce a balanced view for the commissioner. Therefore, I support the amendment.
I, too, am a great believer in non-executive directors. Having served as a non-executive director on a public company and on several private companies, I think that non-executive directors have an extremely important role to play, but their role is defined as relating to “fiduciary duty”. They are there to look after the interest of the shareholders, or owners, of the company. They understand their role, management understands their role and, where it all works extremely well, as several noble Lords have already said, we know that they appreciate that role.
However, the amendment is not about fiduciary duty but about expertise, advice and management, which are quite different. This is not about the role of a non-executive director, who is an independent director on the board who ensures that the interests of the shareholders are looked after; this is about having a team that will bring expertise, knowledge and advice to the police and crime commissioner. I think that the amendment confuses a non-executive with, as it were, a consultant or a special adviser; they are not quite the same. We ought not to think of this proposal in terms of a board of non-executives who provide independence but in terms of people who provide expertise. The amendment says that these people will advise on financial matters, staff matters and equality matters. It is important that such expertise should be available to PCCs—there is no question about that—but to suggest that these are non-executives who form a non-executive board is, it seems to me, the wrong way to go about it.
Also, we know that it will be open to any PCC to hire advisers and consultants—no doubt some will, and no doubt there will be some who will not who should—so the amendment seems to be rather a sledge-hammer taken to a nut. The amendment would require all 43 or all 41 forces, no matter how small, to have at least four non-executives. I think that the whole thing is far too prescriptive.
And yet the amendment also leaves lots of questions unanswered. For example, how often should the non-executive board meet? If we put this in the Bill, it will be quite open to a PCC never to bring the non-executives together or to bring them together once a year for a meeting lasting half an hour. The PCC would thereby fulfil the terms of the amendment, yet he would not get the advantages of having non-executives. The next thing, we know, is that we will want to set out regulations to make it clear that the PCC has to meet with them and how often he has to meet with them. What papers could the non-executives see? Could they see all papers or only those that relate to their particular subject? Could they see operational papers and all the papers that the PCC sees? Could they be briefed by the chief constable? Could they deal directly with the chief constable and with the management team, or could they only advise the PCC? Finally, how is their effectiveness to be judged? Can the PCC fire them whenever he wants to, or does he have to go back to the panel to fire them? According to this amendment, he does not. It would be a ridiculous situation if he fired them and then hired a new group, the panel approved a new group and then he disagreed with them.
There are several problems, but the main problem is that it is far too prescriptive while leaving these gaps. It smacks too much of central direction. I was thinking of the day when there will be an association of non-executive members of police authorities. They will meet regularly with ACPO at the annual conference and discuss the problems of non-executives. It will be all far too organised. There will certainly be directives out of the Home Office describing in minute detail when they should meet, how often they should meet, what records should be kept and so on.
Even worse than that, I see this as a sort of consultants’ windfall. What will happen, unless we specify that these non-executives have to be resident in the area of the particular force, is that we will have a group of high-powered, well paid, very able and experienced consultants who act as non-executive directors for five, 10 or 20 forces. They will be specialists in equality, finance or staffing. There would be nothing wrong with that; it would achieve what this amendment wants it to achieve—namely, it would bring expertise to the commissioner. It would hold his feet to the fire if he refused to make decisions or, on the other hand, tell him that he has not got all the power in the world. The noble Lord, Lord Harris, suggested that that was one of the functions. I see this very much as a windfall for consultants, and I doubt that we really want that.
While the Bill gives chief constables more freedom to manage, at the same time this amendment gives the PCC less freedom. We are saying on one hand that the chief constable can appoint his top management team and at the same time that the PCC has to have approval for his non-executive team. That seems wrong.
Finally, I think or hope that people see this Bill as strengthening the link between forces and their local communities. This amendment will in effect weaken it by bringing in experts who are not related to the community but are simply there for their expertise, their knowledge and their experience.
My Lords, I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Newton, for adding to his collection of commissioners and chairmen of police authorities. However, I want to say, having served as a chief officer of police for 15 years, that I served with the police committees that the noble Lord, Lord Howard of Lympne, reformed in order to bring in an independent group of people. The committees were transformed by that process. I know from what I have heard of the speeches of my erstwhile colleagues that all of us feel that the independence of some people around this police and crime commissioner is fundamental. I have not seen a better amendment than the one put forward by the noble Lords, Lord Harris and Lord Stevens, and I support it.
I wish to add a word or two. I heard very much what the noble Lord said, and I very much sympathise with the idea of strengthening the panel. Nobody has tried harder during the Committee stage of this Bill than I have, with the assistance of the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, to strengthen the function of the panel. I have put five amendments to that effect. Thus far, the Government have not been minded to strengthen the panel, for a very clear reason. They feel that the only role of the panel is to scrutinise the commissioner and that the panel should be able to scrutinise the commissioner only on very specific areas. Thus far, I have to say that I do not believe that that constitutes strict checks and balances, which is a different issue. None the less, if I was confident that at Report the Government would change their views and accept some of the amendments that I have down later for strengthening the panels, I would feel differently. But I cannot say to the Minister that I have that confidence at the moment, because of the very strong line that the Minister has taken. The issue is the relationship of the panel to the commissioner. If the Government maintain their attitude on that issue then this is the only other mechanism to accomplish what I was trying to do with the panels.
I wanted to raise one slight point with my noble friend Lord Harris, which I asked him about very early on when he was putting together his ideas. Is it an either/or situation? Is there any way in which some or all of the independents who we have been talking about, and who we all value so highly for their expertise, could also serve on the panel? Perhaps he could say in due course whether it is an either/or situation, because I am not absolutely convinced that it needs to be.
My Lords, this has been an interesting and, I believe, an important debate. My noble friend Lord Harris, in what I thought was a powerful introduction, pointed out the huge power and authority that is being given to an elected police and crime commissioner if the Commons decides to send this back to your Lordships’ House in its original construct. I noted the comments on that of the noble Lord, Lord Howard, but when he referred back to his legislation of 20 years ago, I think he also referred to a number of ping-pongs. That is a salutary reminder to your Lordships’ House that if we do not think that the House of Commons has thought sufficiently, we can send the Bill back to give it a bit more time to reflect—but we will come to that in a few months’ time, no doubt.
The issue of governance is very important. My noble friend was right to point out that we are giving huge responsibility to police and crime commissioners, if that is the final outcome of the Bill. The need for some way in which the individual can be allowed to test out their ideas and have them challenged as my noble friend describes seems an important issue. We know that when individuals are given great power, sometimes they abuse it. We are talking about a considerable number of police forces. It is inconceivable that we will not have one or two persons who are unsuitable but who are elected to those positions. Earlier, we were referred to a number of local authorities where mayors have been elected. I would say that the experience of elected mayors has been mixed. Some have been outstanding, but there have been one or two who ought not to have been elected and great problems have been caused there. I think of them when it comes to the issue of governance around police and crime commissioners.
Other noble Lords have pointed out that the Government do not seem to speak with consistency in these matters. Earlier this week, as the noble Lord, Lord Condon, pointed out, we had the change in governance relating to the MoD. My own area of knowledge is in the National Health Service: I declare an interest as chairman of the Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust and as a trainer consultant in the NHS. The NHS Bill had gone through most of its stages in the Commons when the Government instituted a pause and, only 10 days or so ago, announced the results of it. One of them was to strengthen governance within clinical commissioning groups. Originally, they were going to be GP consortia and a few GPs were going to sit round the table deciding how to spend £80 billion of public money. The result of the listening exercise has been that they are now going to be called clinical commissioning groups, because there has been recognition that you cannot just give that huge power to a few individual GPs.
We are now going to have two lay people appointed to those commissioning groups: a nurse and a consultant from outside the area. Why outside the area? It is because there is recognition that there might be a conflict of interest if a hospital consultant in the catchment area of the commissioning group were to be appointed. As a result of the listening exercise, what has happened is that a much stronger corporate governance structure is being put into place. What I do not understand is why the Home Office seems oblivious to what other departments are doing in relation to legislation or, for instance, to the changes in defence. It is difficult to see where there is any consistency of purpose.
I listened with great interest to the noble Lord, Lord Wasserman, who has not spoken much in these debates, alas. He talked about the fiduciary duty on non-executive directors. However, we are talking about public bodies. I say to him that within the public sector, a duty in relation to the finances of the organisation is part of the role of non-executives. However, in the NHS there is a duty in relation to quality, a duty in relation to safety and risk, and a duty in relation to exercising overall judgment and supporting the executive directors and chief executive in the performance of their duties. That ought also to apply to the police and crime commissioners.
The noble Lord then raised several interesting practical points about the amendments that we are debating. I should have thought that they could have been dealt with either by model Standing Orders or by the Government tabling a tidying-up amendment at Third Reading if one of these amendments is successful. It would be entirely appropriate and proper for the Government to do that. The puzzle is that the party opposite, as I said in Committee, has a very good record in supporting and strengthening corporate governance. My noble friend mentioned the Cadbury report and he was absolutely right to do so.
The noble Lord, Lord Howard, suggested—several noble Lords have commented on this—that we need not worry about the police and crime commissioner exercising so much power because we have the panels. The problem with the panels is that they have no teeth. They have only two vetoes. One is over the appointment of a chief constable; the other is over the setting of the precept. As the Bill stands, 75 per cent of the members of the panel are required to exercise the veto. That will come down to two-thirds. However, that is still a tough threshold to reach and relates to only two aspects of the performance of the PCC.
In the absence of any indication that the Government will accept the amendments that my noble friends, particularly my noble friend Lady Henig, have tabled, we are right to support this amendment. I have no doubt that my noble friend Lord Harris of Haringey will wish to comment on the respective merits of his amendments and those of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. Certainly, if the noble Baroness presses her amendments to a vote, I would have no hesitation in supporting her.
My Lords, we all recognise the importance of quality of governance for any new arrangements to oversee policing. Quality of governance is very much at the heart of all that we are concerned about. Part of what we are discussing is what we mean by the continuing process of scrutiny and the extent to which an overall package provides us with checks and balances that those responsible for holding the police to account are aware of every day. I respectfully suggest that noble Lords opposite underestimate how far the Government have shifted on the role of police and crime panels. That is the direction of travel in which we are increasing responsibility.
We recognise that police and crime panels will work with, as well as check, police and crime commissioners, and that police and crime commissioners will have to work with their panels. That is the model. Nothing in the Bill prevents a police and crime commissioner or MOPC forming a non-executive board. We see the PCC and the Mayor of London appointing a chief executive and a chief finance officer who will, first, have professional qualifications and backgrounds; secondly, be governed by the Nolan principles; and thirdly, themselves be subject to confirmation hearings by the PCP. That is the direction in which we have shifted. It will be open for a police and crime commissioner to consult more widely for professional advice. The question is: how much detail do we want in the Bill about what sort of professional advice he or she should consult?
We have moved away from what the noble Lord, Lord Condon, described as “a doctrinaire position” of individual election and personal accountability and responsibility. The direction in which we have moved is towards stronger PCPs and a relationship between the PCP and the PCC that will have to be a continuing one of mutual confidence. We hesitate to insist on to some extent duplicating that relationship by writing into the Bill the necessity of having, in addition to this, a non-executive board.
We all recognise that we are talking about the risk of mavericks or irresponsible populists being elected. I know and respect the Mayor of Watford, who is an excellent elected mayor. There are several such mayors. However, I travel past Doncaster twice a week and am well aware of the issues that are at the back of people’s minds.
It is the Government’s aspiration that in cases where relations break down, the PCP will step in at that point. It will have the role of reviewing or scrutinising every decision of the police and crime commissioner. In particular, it will have a right of veto over the precept and the appointment of the chief constable. It will have a say in the police and crime commissioner’s appointment of senior staff by holding confirmation hearings. It will play a significant part in the complaints procedure around the police and crime commissioner, and it will hold the police and crime commissioner to account for his or her role in the complaints procedure of the force. Therefore, we have strengthened the position of the PCP.
We look to a model in which the PCC and the PCP will work together and the police and crime commissioner will take the police and crime panel into his or her confidence. The panels have been enlarged and have the ability to appoint independent members in addition to local authority representatives. That answers the question of providing governance in the round. I suggest that the House is now underplaying the concessions that the Government have made and the consequent role of the police and crime panel. We have listened and we share the concerns that have been expressed around the House from a range of positions. However, we are not persuaded that we should put in the Bill any further mandatory requirements from the centre, or seek to constrain the police and crime commissioner, when there is a proportionate degree of advice, guidance and scrutiny that is accountable to the public already built into the system. Having, I hope, provided reassurance on these issues, I respectfully request that the noble Lord withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, I am enormously grateful to those noble Lords who have contributed to this short debate, which has been extremely interesting and powerful. I am particularly grateful to the trio of former Commissioners of Police of the Metropolis who, in varying degrees, lent support to my amendment. I am also grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Howard of Lympne, for reminding me of our many productive—or nearly productive—discussions in the past on all sorts of other matters.
I do not claim that this amendment is perfect. I suspect that the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, accepts that her amendment is not perfect. She said that it talks about consulting PCCs. One of the dangers is that by the time PCCs are in a position to be consulted they may well already have taken a whole series of decisions around good governance. I suspect that if your Lordships were to support any of the amendments in this group we would need to revisit those amendments at Third Reading or when the Bill comes back from the Commons, but the important point is the principles that have been raised.
The key issue that has been highlighted as an argument for not proceeding with this measure concerns the changes that are being made to police and crime panels. I have listened to the noble Baroness, Lady Browning, say that the Government are listening. However, the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, then stands up, says that he has listened but then describes exactly what changes are being made. What changes are being made to PCPs? We have moved from a threshold of three-quarters having to vote on an issue to a threshold of two-thirds. During my four years on the London Assembly, and in the succeeding seven years, I do not think there has been a single occasion when the London Assembly has achieved the two-thirds threshold needed to do anything about the mayor’s budget, so two-thirds is a high threshold. The threshold has been lowered from a monumentally high one to a high one. That is a very big concession for which your Lordships will, of course, be grateful.
The noble Lord, Lord Wallace, talked about the direction of travel, working with people as well as checking them and the introduction of confirmation hearings for a small group of officials. That is all very positive stuff but it does not constitute significant movement in this area. There are two principal problems with PCPs as regards providing a structure of robust governance. First, they will by and large exercise that role after the event. Where there is a need to improve governance it is important to have intervention in advance of those decisions being made, which is where non-executive boards could come in. The second problem, which I do not think has been mentioned so far, is the nature of PCPs. They will still be essentially highly party-political bodies. They will be made up either of the direct political opponents of the PCC or of people from the PCC’s own party, who are often the sternest and most difficult critics, as many elected and former elected politicians will testify. They will constitute a political forum in which these decisions will be batted backwards and forwards, not a forum where robust governance can be implemented.
We had a flight of fancy from the noble Lord, Lord Wasserman, regarding where all this might lead. He referred to conferences and associations and complained that the amendment was too prescriptive because it says that there should be between four and seven members on a non-executive board. However, he then complained that all sorts of things were not included, so in fact he was arguing that it was both too prescriptive and not prescriptive enough. I do not think that that flight of fancy is terribly helpful to us. However, if the noble Lord was prepared to come forward with the precise balance of words which would be prescriptive enough but not too prescriptive, I am sure that we would all be very grateful and very pleased to receive it.
Do we want proper governance around these individuals, who will have very substantial personal mandates with all the authority and perhaps arrogance that that brings? Do we want a proper structure whereby the people who have elected them can see that they are carrying out their functions properly and appropriately? I am not satisfied with the Government’s response. Therefore, I wish to test the opinion of the House.
Amendments 4 to 4B not moved.
Schedule 1 : Police and crime commissioners
5: Schedule 1, page 107, line 5, at end insert—
“( ) A police and crime commissioner must comply with paragraphs 7B to 7E in appointing the commissioner’s chief executive or the commissioner’s chief finance officer.”
My Lords, I shall speak also to government Amendments 6, 60, 62 to 64, 66 to 68, 72, 110, 115, 133, 191, 293 and 303, which seek to set out new provisions on the appointment of chief executives, chief finance officers and deputy police and crime commissioners.
It is right that the panel is able to apply its scrutiny powers to any such appointment. It will be able to review a proposed appointment and hold a confirmation hearing in public. The panel will then have to produce a report that includes a recommendation as to whether the candidate should be appointed. The police and crime commissioner will have to respond to this recommendation.
In Committee, my noble friend Lord Shipley and the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, discussed the importance of the posts of chief executive and chief finance officer, and asked how they will be appointed. I hope that the amendment relating to this makes that clearer, but I shall say a little more. The two posts will be key to assisting the police and crime commissioner in the exercise of his or her functions, and will assure and monitor the propriety of the PCC’s decisions in accordance with local government legislation. We therefore agree that transparency and ensuring that information is available publicly will be crucial in allowing the public to hold their police and crime commissioner to account. These new arrangements will open up the appointment process for these senior members of the police and crime commissioner’s staff and allow full scrutiny throughout the process.
Noble Lords will note that the Government have tabled further amendments in relation to deputy police and crime commissioners. Their appointment will now also be subject to a confirmation hearing. The Bill does not require a PCC to appoint a deputy but, as currently drafted, permits it. I know that a number of Peers were concerned that the lack of provision for appointing a deputy police and crime commissioner meant that a PCC could appoint anyone. The Government have listened to those concerns and brought forward these amendments to meet them. The amendments would still not require a PCC to appoint a deputy but would provide a set process that, should they do so, must be followed. Most importantly, it means that any deputy appointed by a PCC would be subject to a confirmation hearing before the police and crime panel. Therefore, any concerns that the panel has can be made public and be put to that candidate.
Moreover, any deputy may serve only for as long as the PCC who appointed them is in office. Let me clarify what I mean by that. We have discussed and of course need to take account of the circumstances in which a PCC leaves office. That can be at the end of their term of office. Illness or accident might prevent them from concluding their period of office, thus triggering a by-election. The deputy would not be required to step down on the day a PCC was unable to complete or fulfil his or her term of appointment. Clearly, at the point at which a new PCC came to office, either at the end of a term or as a result of a by-election, the deputy's term of office would be aligned with that of the PCC who appointed them, so we would not suddenly be left overnight without a PCC or a deputy in an emergency.
Secondly, specific functions may be delegated only to a deputy, not to any other members of staff, so that clear lines of accountability are preserved. Because of that, specific disqualification criteria are set out to ensure propriety for the post. Thirdly, I know that many noble Lords have been concerned that requirements of political restriction would prevent a councillor from being appointed to the PCC's staff. The changes instead allow a councillor to be appointed as a deputy PCC if a PCC should want to do so. Finally, to ensure further propriety, a deputy PCC shall be subject to the same independent complaints process as the PCC, rather than simply to an internal process run by the PCC.
I hope, with the leave of the House, that I may address the points raised by other noble Lords who have tabled amendments in the group. I beg to move.
My Lords, I have one amendment in the group, Amendment 228. Before I speak to it, I apologise in advance if I do not fully appreciate all the nuances of the amendments that the Government have laid. I was thinking about that in our debate on the previous amendment when the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, took us gently to task for not having appreciated how much the Government had moved on this. If the Government table amendments only the day before the debate, it makes it extremely difficult for those of us who, with the best will in the world, want to follow the changes, to do so in the short time available. As I said, I apologise if I have misunderstood some of the amendments. I have tried very hard to follow them, but it takes time for that knowledge to come across.
The amendment builds on the Government's welcome recognition that if we are to have commissioners covering very large areas—for example, 10,000 square kilometres or 2.3 million people—for 365 days a year, it is necessary for there to be a deputy. It is necessary just in case the individual does not have your Lordships’ stamina, or even if the commissioner might like to have a holiday.
On a less happy note, although a standards regime for commissioners and panels has been noticeable by its absence from the Government's plans, a deputy should be enshrined within the Bill as one step towards ensuring probity and preserving public confidence. That should be one element. For example, what would happen if a commissioner had to make a decision about contracts or appointments but had a personal or prejudicial interest in the companies or individuals concerned? In such circumstances, it would seem essential that they could call on a trusted deputy who could maintain public trust and confidence in the institution of commissioner if the individual had to stand aside for whatever reason. I can see the rationale behind that, and I am pleased that the Government have listened, taken those arguments on board and come back with a firm proposal to insert the provision for a deputy into the Bill.
At the same time, I feel I have to point out that the Government’s concept of the deputy and the job specification for it seem to me antithetical to the entire rationale for commissioners: that of democratic accountability. I listened earlier with great attention as the noble Lord, Lord Howard of Lympne, in his usual inimitable style, laid out the great advance that we are now making towards democratic accountability. I understand the arguments, so I would expect to proceed beyond the commissioner to the deputy commissioner.
It seems odd to me that, despite pushing on with this reform and spending more than more than £100 million on introducing that direct democratic accountability into the oversight of policing, the only thing that we have heard so far is that the deputy commissioner is likely to be unelected—although I just heard that political restrictions will not apply, so that person could be a councillor. I had not appreciated that until the noble Baroness pointed it out. It is now conceivable that the deputy could be elected, but also very possible that they would not. With this direct accountability and great change, it would seem more logical to me if the deputy was elected.
I would find it difficult to find any logic in an elected commissioner handing over, for whatever reason, the bulk of their portfolio powers over policing and precept to someone who was not elected and perhaps not identified with a political party. If there is a theme running through this reform, we need to bolster it.
The main aim of my amendment is to ensure that when a commissioner is unable to act, whether because of illness, legal issues or whatever, their role should be covered by an elected acting person drawn from the panel and not by an unelected officer. That is my main concern. In a way, that is separate from the question of the deputy. There can be a deputy who is unelected. I am mainly concerned that when the commissioner is not acting, that role should be undertaken by someone who is elected.
I have to remind the Minister that there was great strength of feeling on that point in Committee, to which the Government have not entirely responded. They have responded a little by saying that the deputy might be elected but that they do not have to be. It is the “do not have to be” that worries me. The deputy could remain the deputy, but I would not want a non-elected individual dealing with a precept, for example, or a whole range of sensitive political issues and public concerns for what could be a period of many weeks. That would be totally against the central objectives of the Bill. That is what I am trying to get at; when a commissioner, for whatever reason, stands aside, the acting commissioner should be someone who was elected.
Under my amendment, it would be an elected member of the panel. I can see that there being an elected deputy might meet my concerns, but I am very sensitive to arguments that the deputies, given how they will be appointed, might be seen as cronies or pals of the commissioner. We need to look at that a little more closely. I did not altogether understand how the commissioners would choose the deputies. There are clearly issues about that appointments process, with people being seen to merit their appointment and not, in a sense, being appointed through jobs for the boys, cronyism or whatever. Perhaps I am sensitive on this matter because of my gender—I do not know—but it is a point that I feel I need to raise.
That is the purpose of my amendment. As I said, I am very interested to hear what the Government have to say, because their amendments have cut across my thinking to some extent but probably not fully.
My Lords, I shall speak to Amendment 229, but it needs to be placed in the broader context of this group. The amendment relates to our view that a deputy should be a member of the panel and, in the context of that specific amendment, not a member of the commissioner’s staff.
If one looks carefully at Amendment 60 in this group, one will see that it gives a commissioner the power to appoint a person as the deputy for that police area and also for that deputy,
“to exercise any function of the police and crime commissioner”.
There is a very great difference between our view that the person appointed as the deputy should be from the panel and Amendment 60, which gives absolute power to the police and crime commissioner to appoint a deputy to exercise any function of the commissioner.
In Amendment 6 a number of restrictions then apply, most of them welcome. Proposed new paragraph 7A(4) is surprising. It tells us:
“Section 7 of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989 (appointment of staff on merit) does not apply to the deputy police and crime commissioner”.
That is an unfortunate way of putting it because it relates to a statutory provision. However, should we not have deputies who are appointed on merit, as opposed to people who are not appointed on merit? Nevertheless, there is then a proposal in proposed new paragraphs 7B, 7C and onwards for the scrutiny of senior appointments, one of which is the deputy, the others the chief executive and chief finance officer, and there is a process for a hearing in public of the person whom the commissioner wishes to appoint as deputy. However, proposed new paragraph 7E says:
“The police and crime commissioner may accept or reject the panel’s recommendation”,
and sub-paragraph (2) of that paragraph states:
“The police and crime commissioner must notify the panel of the decision whether to accept or reject the recommendation”.
In other words, a proposal is made to the panel and the panel will go through a process. It will comment and report in public, but the commissioner can turn down its view. Therefore, broadly speaking, we are now where we were before with absolute power being given to the commissioner. I have great reservations about that.
Proposed new subsection (2A) in Amendment 63 on page 15 of the Marshalled List says that the deputy police commissioner, having been appointed by the commissioner,
“may arrange for any other person to exercise any function of the police and crime commissioner which is, in accordance with subsection (A1)(b), exercisable by the deputy police and crime commissioner”.
There are restrictions in the amendment largely on the functions that are prescribed. A number of key functions are restricted; nevertheless, a number of functions still exist for the deputy.
I come back to Amendment 229 in my name and that of my noble friend Lady Hamwee, which says that the deputy should be a member of the panel. That has the virtue of the deputy being a person who is elected. At least, I assume that they will be an elected member, as opposed to an independent co-opted member. Although they will not be a member directly from the panel, they will at least be a member elected to the local authority. I have a real concern about what is being proposed here. There may be a deputy whom the police commissioner can appoint. There may be significant objections by the panel to that appointment, but they can be overridden by the commissioner. The deputy, perhaps then in place, can do certain things but may never have been elected. I think that the amendment in my name and that of my noble friend Lady Hamwee is much better in that it makes it clear that the deputy should be a member of the panel.
This is all about checks and balances. I should like to read to your Lordships the coalition agreement on an elected police commissioner:
“We will introduce measures to make the police more accountable through oversight by a directly elected individual, who will be subject to strict checks and balances by locally elected representatives”.
My view is that the first half of that has been dominating the debate around this Bill but the second half, which refers to strict checks and balances, is not currently being delivered as part of the Bill. There are a number of examples of that and one is as follows. There is now to be a power in the Bill, as amended, for a commissioner to appoint a deputy, potentially paying no regard to the views of the panel that will have scrutinised the appointment. That deputy will have a whole set of powers and may not be a member of the panel.
It seems that further work is necessary here before we get to Third Reading. I sincerely hope that the Minister will take on board some of the comments that have just been made by me and by the noble Baroness, Lady Henig. These are very real issues and, unless we address them, something somewhere will, in the course of time, go seriously wrong in one of our police areas.
My Lords, I echo the remarks of my noble friend Lady Henig about how difficult it is to get our heads around some of these extremely complicated amendments in the very short time that we have had to look at them. I have a series of questions, which I am sure Ministers will be able to answer in the detail that I expect. However, I suspect that it will demonstrate that quite a lot of further work still needs to be done on the amendments put forward today and on the other proposals. I repeat what I said earlier, which may have appeared frivolous, about the advantage of Third Reading being in September: there is still an awful lot of work for Home Office officials to do to get some of the details of the Bill right. That is the case whether or not one agrees with the general direction of travel or whether one agrees about where we are going to end up. Some of the mechanics of the Bill are going to fall apart unless this detailed work is done.
My questions relate, first, to the mammoth extension of powers for the PCPs, which enable them to have approval hearings of the chief executive, the PCC’s office, the chief financial officer and any deputy appointed. That, I am sure, is helpful. I have no problems with it as a principle and I think that it is good governance and useful. However, what I am not clear about—it may be here and I have just not found it, or it may not be here and has not been thought about, or it may have been thought about and is being rejected, but it would be useful to know—is what the role of the PCP will be in circumstances in which the PCC removes or dismisses the chief executive or the chief financial officer, or indeed a deputy. There is a more difficult point in this. One of the concerns is that newly elected PCCs may decide to dispense with the services of chief executives and chief financial officers. In those circumstances, what is the role of PCPs? I cannot find it, but it may be here. No doubt the Minister will enlighten us on that point.
I assume that there are more government amendments to come, but we do not know. I had understood that there had been considerable discussions about the transfer schemes of staff from police authorities to police services, to chief officers of police and/or to PCCs. I had understood that there had been an acceptance that it might be necessary to have a two-stage process, simply because of the detailed work that needs to be done and simply because of the importance of enabling the newly elected PCCs, if that is what we end up with, as I suspect we might, to see how that will work, and giving them the opportunity of influencing that decision rather than having the outgoing police authorities determining which staff are transferred under what conditions. Such an amendment may be here and I have just missed it, but I am not clear that there is an amendment yet which specifies how that two-stage process will work.
In any event, I think we are in some difficulties because Amendments 67 and 86 prevent PCCs or the MOPC or deputy PCCs—if that is what we get—and the deputy mayor for policing and crime, arranging for a member of staff from a police force to exercise any of its functions. I understand that the reasoning behind that is that Ministers want to separate completely the functions and staffing of forces and elected local policing bodies. That may be a perfectly good and sensible principle, but disentangling what existing staff, who are currently employed by police authorities and who are under the direction and control of chief officers of police, which is the current situation, provide what function, particularly in the absence of a two-stage transfer process, will be a very large piece of work.
Currently, for example, the Metropolitan Police Authority delegates functions to the commissioner through the scheme of delegation. The commissioner has overall management responsibility for a large number of staff who are under his direction and control, although technically they are MPA employees. Under the first phase of the proposed two-phase transfer scheme, staff who are currently police authority employees, but under the direction and control of the commissioner, will transfer to the PCC or the MOPC, but will no longer be under the direction and control of the commissioner and chief constable. The legislation will allow the PCC and the MOPC to delegate to those staff who had previously been under the direction and control of the commissioner; however, as the MOPC and PCC and their deputies would not now be able to delegate to the commissioner and chief constable, it would appear that the current arrangements, whereby the police authority can delegate these functions, would no longer be lawful. Therefore, current delegations would need to be changed with the consequence that you would have very large numbers of staff, particularly in the areas of finance, property, communications, procurement and legal, for whom you will now have to decide whether they spend all their time working for the new structure under the PCC and the MOPC or working for the chief officer of police. Those are quite complicated decisions because at the moment they often split their time; some bits of work are very much police authority functions and some bits are very much for the chief officer of police.
Under these two amendments you are essentially saying that it is unlawful to delegate those functions to such people, so a hard-and-fast set of decisions will have to be made for each individual about which side of the fence they are on and the Government wish all that to happen by May of next year, or possibly earlier in London. A two-stage system of delegation is needed to allow all those details to be sorted out and to allow the newly elected PCCs to have some influence over what staffing and support structures they will want. At the moment, in the absence of a government amendment on that—unless it is there and I just cannot find it—the Government are making that unlawful. I am sure that that is not their intention and I hope that the Minister will reassure me that I have completely misinterpreted what this means or perhaps give me some assurance that she will come back at Third Reading. I suspect she may need more than three weeks to sort this out.
My Lords, I preface my remarks with an apology to the Minister and to the House if, in the very limited time that has been available to us to try to understand and assimilate the thrust of the amendments tabled yesterday, I have been unable fully to appreciate what the drafting has led us to in terms of the substantive changes that the amendments seek to make. I entirely concur with the concerns raised by the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, in relation to Amendment 63—particularly in new subsection (2A) of that amendment—which allows the deputy police and crime commissioner to arrange for any other person, without any qualification, to exercise any function of the police and crime commissioner which, in turn, the deputy police and crime commissioner could carry out. That seems to be an extraordinarily wide power to delegate to whomever the deputy pleases, bearing in mind that under Amendment 72 the deputy police and crime commissioner is to be a member of the police and crime commissioner's staff. We have an appointed staff member with a capacity to appoint anyone else to exercise functions which he would delegate to or select for that person. That seems to go very wide indeed and much wider than one would normally anticipate in the context of an organisation of this kind.
Furthermore, the effect of paragraph (c) of Amendment 63, which amends Clause 19, seems to me to allow the deputy commissioner to determine police and crime objectives—Clause 19(4)(b)—or to prepare an annual report to a police and crime panel, although admittedly it does not allow him to make decisions relating to issuing a police and crime plan, nor the appointment of a chief constable—hardly surprisingly—nor calculating the budget requirement. That seems to be a very wide power to confer on a deputy. As I understand it, these are not provisions that would apply only in the absence of a police and crime commissioner for any reason—suspension, incapacity or something of that kind—but these are powers at large. I do not understand why such sweeping powers should be conferred on anyone, particularly someone who does not have any kind of electoral mandate, either by virtue of direct election, as in the case of a commissioner, or by virtue of being an elected council member who serves as a member of the panel. It seems to me to be much too broad a power to offer to someone occupying the kind of position that presumably would be encompassed by these amendments.
Like the matters to which my noble friend Lord Harris and others have referred, I wonder whether these should not be re-examined with a good deal more care and perhaps more time so that we can get this right. It seems to me that we are conferring very wide powers without qualification on people whom we have no idea will be able to fulfil the jobs and with a very wide discretion available to them.
My Lords, I am in much the same position as most, if not all, the previous speakers, having had very little time to assimilate the significance of the amendments which the Government have submitted at a very late stage indeed. However, I wish to associate myself with the views that have been expressed by my noble friends Lady Henig, Lord Harris of Haringey and Lord Beecham and with much of what the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, said and the concerns that he, too, raised in relation to the lack of clarity in some of the amendments that are before us.
I do not intend to go over all the points that have already been made, but one thing I am not entirely clear on is whether in the amendments we have it is the Government’s intention to delete Clause 63(2) which states:
“The police and crime panel may appoint a person as acting commissioner only if the person is a member of the police and crime commissioner’s staff at the time of the appointment”.
I am not clear whether the amendments the Government are now putting forward in relation to the deputy are over and above Clause 63(2) or whether in some way or other they, in the Government’s view, overtake the need for Clause 63(2). One of the concerns that were raised in Committee was over the proposal that an acting commissioner would be a member of the commissioner’s staff. It would be very helpful if the Minister could clarify that point when she replies.
Perhaps the Government could also say something about how they see the role of the deputy. That is by no means clear from the amendment. It states:
“A police and crime commissioner must notify the relevant police and crime panel of each proposed appointment by the commissioner of … the commissioner’s chief executive … the commissioner’s chief finance officer, or … a deputy police and crime commissioner”.
Is it the Government’s intention that if the police and crime commissioner intends to make such an appointment, we are talking about a full-time post? If we are, what are the role and responsibilities of that post going to be, other than deputising for the police and crime commissioner? Or is it a scenario where the police and crime commissioner says, “Well, I’m going to appoint a deputy police and crime commissioner, and it will be my chief finance officer”.? Is that allowed under the terms of this amendment or are they three distinct and separate posts? Can all three of those posts be held by one individual? Can one individual hold more than a single position? It would be very helpful if that could be clarified. Clearly, if a deputy police and crime commissioner could also be the commissioner’s chief finance officer, then we are back in the situation that was raised before over the fact that under Clause 63(2) an acting commissioner has to be a member of the police and crime commissioner’s staff, which is why I ask whether Clause 63(2) still stands. As has already been said, although there certainly is a process of confirmation hearings, and they will be in public, at the end of the day, the police and crime commissioner can decide to go his or her own way if they do not like the views expressed to them by the panel.
Our view is that a position as an acting commissioner or deputy commissioner, whatever you wish to call it, should be in circumstances where the police and crime commissioner cannot do their job any longer, for whatever reason. The appointment should be made by the police and crime panel, and it should be an appointment from within the ranks of the police and crime panel for a very clear and fixed period.
I await the Minister’s response to the concerns that have been raised because, subject to what the Minister says in reply, it appears as though the deputy police and crime commissioner, who could simply be the commissioner’s chief finance officer or the chief executive, need not be an elected person and yet will seem to have very considerable powers of delegation.
I conclude on those points. It is largely a series of questions. I have certainly indicated our view on the appointment of an acting commissioner. It is, in fact, covered by an amendment that will be dealt with later on, but it is one of the difficulties of considering what appears to be a quite significant change by the Government in relation to amendments that were effectively put down only yesterday when we were already on Report on the Bill.
I am grateful to the noble Lord. I shall pick up some of the points just raised before giving a fuller explanation. The appointment, suspension or dismissal of a chief constable, which was raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, cannot be carried out by the deputy; nor can setting the precept, which the noble Baroness specifically asked about. There are proscriptions on what the deputy can do and the delegation of powers to a deputy would be subject to paragraph (b) in Amendment 63. Such powers would be restricted. However, I want to make it absolutely clear that the PCC has ultimate responsibility for whatever he or she delegates to the deputy. Whatever decisions are made in the areas where the deputy is able to act, the PCC is the person who will be answerable. There is no question that the PCC’s responsibility and accountability to the police and crime panel, and ultimately to the general public who elected him or her, is in any way reduced by delegating specific functions or authority to the deputy.
Several questions have been asked. I shall pick up the point which the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, raised about whether the deputy can be a member of the PCC’s staff. As a member of staff, when the deputy exercises a power he or she does so in the name of the PCC. As the PCC will, as I said, retain ultimate responsibility for it, wide powers are being conferred on the deputy. The deputy will be regarded as a member of the PCC’s staff for that purpose, so the checks and balances will apply as much to him or her, as a member of the PCC’s staff, as to anyone else carrying out a function within that office.
My Lords, I will have to clarify that and come back to the noble Lord. However, an example was given a short while ago in our debate about chief executives. Certain members of staff within the PCC’s office are politically confined in what they can do and should be politically neutral. The recruitment procedure should ensure not only their political neutrality while holding the post but that their neutrality is considered before their appointment. The Nolan rules would apply to the key appointments in the Bill. I hope that the noble Lord will not mind if I come back to him with a more detailed structure, because there is a lot of detail around it.
The noble Lord, Lord Harris, raised several issues. I have to put it this way: I think he was being rather naughty tonight—engagingly naughty as always but naughty none the less. He asked me a lot of questions, particularly about transition. It is an important issue, but I am quite sure that as a member of the MPA the noble Lord knows what the situation is because there have been formal consultations and discussions about the transition period. He is shaking his head. I apologise if he has not been party to this information but it is generally known—and one or two people in the Chamber are smiling—that as part of these discussions the Government are planning to lay an amendment next week to give effect to the transfer scheme that has been formally discussed and made known to the MPA. That is why I thought he was being a little bit naughty.
I am always happy to be called naughty by the noble Baroness. However, I do not think that there have been any discussions with the MPA, or indeed the APA or APACE, about the details of the amendments tabled today. This is a very real problem that I hope the Minister is able to say something about, because the text of the amendment that the Government intend to lay next week has been shared, and I suspect that the reason it will be laid next week is that the text is not yet finalised—otherwise no doubt the Minister would have laid it with this batch of amendments.
That is quite true but we want to get this right. This is an important issue. I apologise that I am not able to discuss it in detail today but it has been the subject of a great deal of consultation, not least with the MPA, and we want to make absolutely sure that we get it right. I will come on to that later.
As I mentioned earlier, the amendments in this grouping have come about as a result of consultation and, of course, in Committee, where several noble Lords raised some significant issues around this area, not least my noble friends Lord Shipley and Baroness Hamwee. For example, they were concerned that the mayor could appoint a non-Assembly Member to be a deputy mayor, which would have cut across the democratic principles that the Bill seeks to establish. The Bill allows the Mayor of London, operating through the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime, to delegate the day-to-day handling of policing governance to a deputy. However, in accordance with general legal principles, the mayor will not be able to pass on the responsibility for any delegated work. As I have just explained, PCCs will still hold that responsibility, whatever they delegate. I accept that this is a new governance model but it is essential that the mayor is always held responsible for the way that his or her functions are carried out.
Clause 20 establishes that the selection must be made in line with existing provisions for mayoral appointments. Further essential details, such as the eligibility criteria and terms and conditions for the post, are set out in Schedule 3 to the Bill. I should explain that in the initial draft of this Bill some particularly crucial functions could not be delegated to the deputy mayor for policing and crime, or anyone else, such as issuing a police and crime plan, preparing an annual report on policing, attending meetings on the police and crime panel, and representations on appointment of the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. However, the committee in the House of Commons agreed to remove the barriers to the deputy mayor for policing and crime determining policing objectives, preparing an annual report and attending the police and crime panel on the mayor’s behalf. I would urge noble Lords to respect the decision of the other place in this matter, particularly given what I have already said regarding the ultimate legal and democratic responsibility of the mayor in these matters.
The question of the deputy mayor not being a Member of the Assembly was raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, in Committee. The safeguard of a binding confirmation hearing will ensure that the Assembly is content with any non-Member appointee to the position of deputy mayor for policing and crime. That will mean that if the mayor puts forward somebody who is not a Member of the Assembly, the Assembly committee will have the opportunity to make a binding decision confirmation at that hearing. I am content that the right balance has been struck here, and I was particularly struck, not just in Committee but in subsequent meetings, about the very real concern that people had about allowing somebody totally inappropriate within that category to be appointed as deputy mayor. I hope that Members across the House are reassured that we have addressed that particular problem.
I will now discuss those amendments which address the role and appointment of an acting PCC. The amendments tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, and my noble friend Baroness Hamwee to secure the appointment of an acting PCC from the panel rather than the PCC staff are also captured in this debate. The government amendments in this group do not affect our provisions for the appointment of an acting PCC. Therefore, irrespective of the appointment of a deputy PCC, were the incumbent PCC to be incapacitated and unable to undertake their statutory duties and functions, it will remain the case that the acting PCC must be drawn from the PCC’s staff. I hope that we have gone some way in this area to meeting some of the concerns that were raised in Committee. The Government believe that we have got that balance right, and therefore I hope that noble Lords who have tabled amendments in this grouping will feel able to withdraw them.
In the circumstances just outlined by the noble Baroness, there might be a deputy commissioner who would not be eligible to be appointed acting commissioner. However, if the deputy commissioner is a senior member of staff, is it possible that an acting commissioner might be appointed who might be junior in status to that deputy? Would that not create an extremely anomalous position?
I have said that I will write to the noble Lord on this whole question of staff. Clearly there are different categories of staff and I would like to take some advice on those before I give him a definitive reply. I promise to write to him very quickly on that matter. The point was raised particularly about chief finance officers but, as I have mentioned, they are appointed on merit and are politically restricted. I will look at other categories of staff that he has just raised.
No, PCPs will not be part of that but of course the new amendment gives them an opportunity to be part of a confirmation process for those appointments. If for some reason the PCC decided to part with the services of the chief finance officer or the chief executive, that PCC would still be accountable to the panel for the reasons why they had done so. There is still that link of accountability, they are answerable to the panel, and if the panel was concerned about the circumstances around that I would expect it to call a scrutiny hearing to find out what had happened and why. I suspect that it would be pretty alert if there was a really serious problem brewing as a result of that.
Will the noble Baroness confirm that under proposed new paragraph 7B(1) in Amendment 6—it states that the police and crime commissioner must notify the panel of proposed appointments of the three posts of the chief executive, the chief finance officer and the deputy police and crime commissioner—the deputy police and crime commissioner can also be the commissioner’s chief finance officer and that, although they are three positions, they do not have to be held by three separate people?
As regards my amendment, I remain puzzled that the Government have not seen fit to move in this area. When this matter was discussed in Committee, a large number of reasons were put forward by Members on all sides of the House as to why it was a bad idea for an acting commissioner to be an unelected member of staff. I do not think that we heard any convincing reason—I cannot remember one anyway—as to why a member of staff should be asked to act up in this way for what could be a period of months. This is an obvious area where a concession could have been made with little difficulty but I am surprised that it has not been. I reserve the right to come back to my amendment at the relevant point.
Amendment 5 agreed.
Amendment 6 agreed.
7: Schedule 1, page 107, line 24, at end insert—
“7A A police and crime commissioner must abide by regulations made by the Secretary of State in respect of the appointment of persons to paid office or employment and the dismissal of persons holding such office or employment and the taking of other disciplinary action against such persons.”
I will try to squeeze Amendment 7 in before the dinner break; I have on occasion been caught quite badly in this situation but I hope that this is a relatively short amendment. This important amendment relates to a commissioner’s senior staff. All of us have said that commissioners will need to be supported by an effective team of staff to be effective; that is, a chief executive and a chief finance officer. These posts carry statutory responsibilities, which are the same as in local authorities. The chief executive will also have the role and duties of monitoring officer.
Clearly, these duties are very important. In the case of the monitoring officer, it is a duty which applies if any proposal, decision or omission by the commissioner appears by the officeholder to be a contravention of any enactment, rule of law or code of practice made or approved by or under any enactment. Therefore, an officeholder might have to tell the commissioner that there is a problem and seek to persuade him to take a different approach. In extremis, the duty would require the post holder to report in public on a failure to follow that advice.
This does not happen often and I would not want to pretend that it did. Most politicians do not attempt to break the law and certainly do not attempt to pursue a specific course of action when they have been told that it is illegal. However, these things have happened in the past with elected mayors, and elected commissioners in some ways are an extension of elected mayors. It has to be said that the experience of recently elected mayors is not all tremendously positive. I believe that the Minister, who has passed Doncaster several times on his travels, alluded to one area where there have been difficulties. Therefore, it is important that the arrangements put in place through this Bill are sufficiently robust to deal with such a situation because we know that there will be problems. We can anticipate that there will be problems and, therefore, we need to plan for that.
In local government, the duties which apply to the head of paid service, the monitoring officer and the chief finance officer are backed up with a statutory framework to prevent their dismissal on a whim by a politician. The framework in a mayoral authority is that the mayor raises concerns of a disciplinary nature and a politically balanced panel considers whether there is a case for action. If the panel decides that there is a case, an independent person investigates and disciplinary action in line with the recommendations of the independent person takes place.
Therefore, a conversation which starts, “I'm afraid you can't do that, commissioner”, could not end with “You're fired”, because the officeholder could insist, under threat of legal injunction or judicial review, that the correct procedure is followed. Because in a local authority the head of paid service is protected and all other staff are employed by that person, the framework provides a measure of protection for all employees. My amendment mirrors Section 8 of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989, which is the statutory basis for the protection which applies in local government. It does not require that the framework in local government is mirrored precisely but it requires the Home Secretary to publish regulations and requires commissioners to follow them. It is therefore for Ministers to come forward with an approach to set a clear framework that needs to be followed.
I am anticipating that the Minister may say that chief executives and treasurers will be subject to the same protection as other employees; that the commissioner will be bound by the need to act reasonably, as are all public bodies; and that, therefore, the statutory protections to which I have referred do not add a lot more value and are unnecessary. My worry is that that would not fulfil the requirements for which I am looking because it would allow a commissioner to summarily dismiss someone and leave them to argue their case at an employment tribunal. The negative publicity of such a case could damage the commissioner, particularly if they do not intend to seek re-election. Again, that is an example of very limited checks and balances. Limited as they are, they could be undermined even further.
Those of us who have spent a long time in local government know the importance of good and honest advice from senior officers. I ask the question: would an elected commissioner listen to advice? Elected mayors have not always listened to the advice offered to them and, as a result, very serious situations have arisen. I do not believe that senior executives should be put in a position in which they could be summarily dismissed and then have to fight their corner at a subsequent employment tribunal. That is not right.
I am sure that these situations will arise. I am under no illusions. The sorts of people who will be elected as commissioners will be strong-minded and strong-willed individuals. Some of them might, dare I suggest, occasionally be a little pigheaded. I believe that they will always listen with wariness and will not always heed the advice that is given to them. When a senior executive says, “No commissioner, you can’t do that”, I do not have total confidence that the commissioner will accept that. I believe that senior staff will be vulnerable, which is the purpose of my amendment and why we should make sure that they have adequate legal protection.
I have listened carefully to the Minister, who said that the panel would certainly hear if the commissioner was going to dismiss a senior member of staff and might want to find out what was going on. I should like to know a bit more about the arrangements that she has in mind. I would like that arrangement not to be so loose and perhaps to have a bit more backing. For example, I think that, under one of the government amendments, the panel now needs to be consulted if the commissioner is considering dismissing the chief constable. I wonder whether it would be possible for them also to be involved if the chief executive or the treasurer were to be dismissed along the same lines. I am not looking for a very great change from the Government. I am looking for a step forward to recognise that these people could be vulnerable and to accept that they need a little more than the Government are preparing to give them at present. This is a serious issue.
Recent experience with mayors suggests that there will be some difficulties with directly elected commissioners. I believe that we need to think about those difficulties and do something for these senior staff. I do not think that it is fair to leave them to the whims of the commissioner. I beg to move.
My Lords, I hope that the Government will accept these amendments, which as my noble friend Lady Henig has said are designed to ensure that, in respect of appointments, dismissals and the taking of disciplinary action, police and crime commissioners and the Mayor’s Officer for Policing and Crime conform to laid-down standards to ensure openness and fairness in these key areas through abiding by regulations made by the Secretary of State. It would hardly be appropriate for there to be controversy over the practices and procedures adopted in relation to these crucial areas of management, since it would surely only detract from the trust and the confidence which it is vital that police and crime commissioners will need to establish with their forces and the public.
My Lords, I recognise the concern for good governance in the broadest sense that lies behind these new amendments tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, since the Committee stage to ensure that the PCC and the MOPC are bound by regulations set by the Secretary of State for managing the appointment and dismissal of staff, and how they should manage disciplinary action. The question of Doncaster has come up again. I can only add that for five years I was president of my party’s Yorkshire region, so I have a long acquaintance with the problems of Doncaster. However, problems with local politics in Doncaster existed long before the experiment of an elected mayor, and unfortunately that move has not resolved those problems. But let us be clear that no magic answers lie in changing institutions in order to solve some of the underlying problems in local politics we face around Britain.
The noble Baroness is concerned with the worst case analysis of what might happen and would like to supply belt and braces for every possible way through it. What I have to say on behalf of the Government is that of course we recognise that it is necessary for a standard to be set for the conduct of the police and crime commissioner and the staff attached. The Home Secretary shares that view, and that is exactly why she will state in the protocol that she expects all parties to abide by the principles of public life set out by the Nolan committee and the core principles of the Good Governance Standard for Public Services. Furthermore, the protocol she will issue, drafts of which I know that some noble Lords have already seen, will apply to every police and crime commissioner and chief constable in England and Wales. The staff and chief constables of each force are expected to have regard to the principles and spirit of that document. The police and crime commissioner will be held to account for ensuring this by the police and crime panel and by the public.
As to setting out a regulated appointments, dismissal and disciplinary process, these matters are well established in employment law and we argue that it is not necessary to replicate in this Bill what already exists. The PCC will no doubt be held to account for the way in which staff are appointed by the PCP, including the steps it takes to ensure fairness and diversity. Further, the PCP will scrutinise appointments to the crucial statutory posts by means of a confirmation hearing, as we have already set out in another amendment. Accordingly, while these amendments are well grounded in the position they take, as the noble Baroness has already anticipated, to us they seem unnecessary. I therefore ask her to accept the assurances the Government are providing and hope that she will feel able to withdraw the amendment.
I have listened carefully to the Minister’s reply, but I must confess that I have not studied the protocol in great depth. I am reassured that if it covers this area—and since early this afternoon I think we have been given an assurance that there will be a mention of it on the face of the Bill—that will provide a basis for the provision of redress or assistance of some sort for senior executives who might feel that they are facing difficulties; let me put it that way. I also take heart from the reference to the police and crime panel. We are strengthening the panel incrementally and I believe that I can now see the circumstances where the panel would be able to find ways of asking the commissioner about difficulties with senior staff and perhaps being able to refer to difficult situations in order to get to the root of them. While I think there may be some ways around this, I am not totally satisfied. We could have dealt with this better, and I do not think that it would take that much to do so. However, I sense that I am not going to be able to persuade the Government to put more in the Bill. Having voiced my concerns and having been given a partial meeting towards what I am aiming at, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 7 withdrawn.
Consideration on Report adjourned until not before 8.35 pm.
Transport for London (Supplemental Toll Provisions) Bill [HL]
My Lords, I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen to acquaint the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the Transport for London (Supplemental Toll Provisions) Bill, has consented to place her prerogative and interest, so far as they are affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.
My Lords, I declare an interest in that I am a paid board member of Transport for London, which is a public body constituted under the Greater London Authority Act 1999. This is a Private Bill promoted by TfL. No petitions were deposited against the Bill and it was considered by an Unopposed Bill Committee on 11 November 2008, when it was amended and permitted to pass to the next stage.
The purpose of the Bill is to provide Transport for London with additional powers where TfL has made a toll order under the New Roads and Street Works Act 1991 that would supplement the enforcement powers under the toll order. At present, TfL can seek authority to charge tolls by means of a New Roads and Street Works Act toll order, but the powers in the 1991 Act for the collection and enforcement of the tolls would not enable TfL to have recourse to sophisticated modern mechanisms that allow traffic to flow freely and are similar to those used to collect and enforce charges under the central London congestion charging scheme. Those mechanisms include giving motorists options to pay through the internet, by telephone or by text and to use automatic number plate recognition technology, and imposing escalating penalty charges for non-payment instead of criminal penalties.
In cases in which TfL has been authorised to charge tolls under a toll order, the Bill will enable TfL to make a supplemental order that makes provision for the operation and enforcement of the toll order. These powers to make supplemental orders are similar to those already conferred on TfL in respect of road user charging schemes under Schedule 23 to the Greater London Authority Act 1999, of which the best known is the congestion charging scheme. It is intended that the enforcement regime to be provided in a supplemental toll provisions order will be similar to the tried and tested regime currently operating in respect of congestion charging that is, of course, very familiar to all Londoners. Most importantly, that regime will be subject to the same safeguards. The principle is that motorists will be able to pay the tolls in exactly the same way as the congestion charge and will be subject to the same sanctions for non-payment with the same safeguards.
In the Second Reading debate on the Bill, the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, raised a number of points of concern. I am pleased to report to your Lordships’ House that the Bill was amended in Committee in response to his points as well as to meet other points raised by the Minister. In particular, the powers to immobilise and remove vehicles were removed from the Bill and reliance is instead being placed on the existing powers in the London Local Authorities and Transport for London Act 2008, which were subjected to very careful scrutiny during the Bill’s passage through this House. The Bill has also been amended to make it clear that the power to make provision in a supplemental toll order to enter vehicles and seize articles can be exercised only by a constable or a person authorised by TfL in the presence of a constable. These safeguards are the same as those that apply to congestion charging. TfL had always intended that these safeguards would apply, but they are now expressly provided for in the Bill in response to assurances given to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, during the debate on Second Reading.
Transport for London first became aware of the need to modernise the enforcement powers for a toll order made under the New Roads and Street Works Act 1991 in the context of the promotion of the Thames Gateway Bridge project. It was proposed that the new bridge would be financed partly by means of tolls collected under such a toll order, and the Bill was needed for the project. However, it was also recognised that the Thames Gateway Bridge project was just one example and that there would be other cases in which TfL might wish to seek tolling powers in respect of which additional powers of enforcement would be needed. The Bill was therefore deliberately drafted in general terms so that all such cases would be covered.
As was explained to the Unopposed Bills Committee, the new mayor had a few days earlier, on 6 November 2008, released Transport for London’s 10-year business plan. Under that plan, it was determined that Transport for London would not pursue the Thames Gateway Bridge project, given the pressures on funding and concerns over local traffic impacts. Transport for London was tasked with undertaking a wider study, together with other parties, to assess the transport and land use needs of the London Thames Gateway, including undertaking an assessment of options for a new east London river crossing.
Transport for London has in consultation with local boroughs and others therefore undertaken a review of river crossing options in the area east of Tower Bridge up to the existing Dartford Crossing. The review has highlighted that the problems experienced in east London through the lack of river crossings mean that further crossings are warranted, and has identified that it is likely that a package of solutions is required, including the construction of a bridge or tunnel at Silvertown.
The Mayor's Transport Strategy, which was issued on 10 May 2010, states that the mayor, through Transport for London, will take forward a package of solutions in respect of east London river crossings, including a new fixed line at Silvertown. Transport for London is currently considering the development of the package. Consideration is being given to the tolling of new crossings to help to finance their construction. Any toll order made under the 1991 Act would require the enforcement powers contained in the Bill.
The Bill will assist Transport for London in financing the construction and operation of this important new infrastructure in London. I beg to move.
My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Baroness for so eloquently moving the Motion that the Bill do now pass and for any influence that she might have had in securing the amendments that she described. I am quite content with the Bill as it is now, partly because TfL is a much more benign institution under current management than it was. Where it finds levels of misbehaviour, it seems interested not in immediately slapping down fines but in exploring the reasons for it, amending signage and handing out warning notices beforehand. I find it a civilised and easier-to-deal-with institution these days. I am also comforted by the level to which the Secretary of State will be involved in granting TfL any substantial powers under the Bill. I thank the noble Baroness and Transport for London, and wish this Bill good luck.
I shall be brief in my comments on the Bill. I was a member of the board of Transport for London when the congestion charge was brought in and chaired all the public meetings on that issue. I have been an open opponent of the Thames Gateway Bridge, so am very glad that that project has been scuttled.
I should like to ask two questions about the Bill, just by way of seeking confirmation. Do all the usual processes of planning, consultation and approval remain in place, even though this mechanism provides the funding for any new river crossing that might be tolled? Secondly, could this framework apply to other projects carried out by Transport for London? For example—since we have had many discussions on air quality—if there were to be a low-emissions zone and it was decided to toll cars that did not meet the relevant emissions standard as they entered the zone, could this framework again be used for that purpose? It is a framework that London might turn to, particularly at the time of the Olympics. Although I seek confirmation on those matters, I am very supportive of the Bill.
My Lords, on behalf of Her Majesty's Opposition, I give my full support to the Bill. It will be appreciated that all Private Bills take a fair amount of time to pass through the House, and this one certainly has. It is very good that we have reached this point of fruition today. I am very glad that the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, is reassured on the points that he raised. I am not quite sure that I can go quite so far as him in defining Transport for London as a benign institution; I hope he will acknowledge that he was reflecting from a very narrow perspective. He will know that many of us have considerable anxieties about the operations of Transport for London, and consequently “benign” is not the first adjective that comes to mind for some. Nevertheless, we certainly wish the Bill well and warmly congratulate the noble Baroness on taking it through the House at this stage.
My noble friend Lord Tunnicliffe ought really to have been at this Dispatch Box at this moment. In fact, I sought all my powers of persuasion in arguing that it should be him, because he was in at the very origins of the Bill a number of years ago when it was considered in this House. However, he is in the dizzy position these days of shadow Deputy Chief Whip, and I hold such people in such high respect that I do exactly what I am told. That is why I am addressing the House on the Bill.
I am glad that the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, raised one or two points on which reassurance will be given in the wind-up. However, certainly in broad terms, this is an enabling Bill as far as Transport for London is concerned. We are in favour of measures that give enabling powers of this kind, provided that the necessary safeguards are in place. I am pleased to see on various parts of the coalition Benches enthusiasm for the structure of congestion charges, which gives one hope that a rather more constructive approach will be taken towards certain aspects of congestion charging in the future. This Bill gives Transport for London the powers necessary to advance the cause of Londoners in crucial areas, and we are very pleased to welcome it.
My Lords, it has been more than two years since Parliament last considered this Private Bill. This is therefore the first time that the Bill has been considered by the coalition Government and this Parliament.
Our capital city's transport network is large and complex, and it should come as no surprise that the promoters of this Bill occasionally encounter challenges that prompt them to seek specific powers further to those already on the statute book. This Government recognise the critical role that transport has to play in supporting London’s economy and with it the nation’s prosperity. We are continuing to invest in London's infrastructure, with Crossrail, the Tube upgrades and Thameslink all under way.
The Government are content for this Bill to pass to the other place, where it can be further scrutinised. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, for putting forward the Bill and for the clear way in which she explained it.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lords and the noble Baroness who have taken part in this debate. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, for his support and should like to address the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer.
The mayor’s transport strategy had an impact on the passage of the Bill. The Bill was not intended to be applied solely to the Thames Gateway Bridge and it continues to be relevant to other projects. Other projects will be carried through in the usual way in terms of tolling.
The powers in the Bill are very wide, and the supplementary toll provisions order will not take effect unless it is confirmed by the Greater London Authority. Lots of provisions are in place. I am afraid that I cannot answer the noble Baroness’s question on emissions. I hope she will accept Transport for London writing to her on that matter; I am afraid that I am not an expert on that area of the Bill.
Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill
Report (1st Day) (Continued)
7A: After Clause 2, insert the following new Clause—
(1) The Secretary of State must—
(a) establish schemes to test the operation of police and crime commissions, including police and crime commissioners, in no more than four police areas outside London, to operate for at least four years;(b) commission an independent review to assess the impact and effectiveness of the police and crime commissions in place of police authorities in those pilot police areas; and(c) at the end of the pilot schemes, publish a copy of the final review report and lay a copy of that report before Parliament.(2) Before commencing the pilot schemes under subsection (1), the Secretary of State must make regulations to establish—
(a) the police areas that the pilots will operate in, taking into consideration the diverse demography, police resources, policing requirements and geography of those areas;(b) the terms of reference for the review; and(c) the assessment criteria that will be used in the review.(3) One of the police areas prescribed under subsection (2) must have an elected mayor in a local authority within that police area.
(4) The Secretary of State must include—
(a) a description of the consultation undertaken; and(b) a summary of representations received on;the proposals in the draft regulations to be made under subsection (2) in the explanatory notes accompanying those draft regulations.”
My Lords, in moving this amendment, I will also speak to two other amendments in my name in this group. We come to the question of pilots on which we had a good discussion in Committee. The introduction of police commissioners alongside police and crime panels is a new departure. The House will know that we on this side of the House have many worries about the impact of unelected police commissioners in terms of the potential politicisation of the police force. We think that it would be worthwhile testing this out in a number of police force areas to see the benefits and potential pitfalls.
We discussed this in Committee, as I said, and I was struck that a number of our former commissioners of the Metropolitan Police expressed some reservations about pilots. I well understand the kind of reservations that they were expressing. Essentially, they were saying that pilots create uncertainty among the other forces and chief constables. I have seen government proposals in relation to other public services where proposals are made and you have what are sometimes called pathfinders. You then implement changes in some areas over a couple of years. People in other areas are then not sure when they will come on to the tranche that will introduce changes to their particular part of the country, and clearly there are therefore some uncertainties. But this is such a major departure from the current arrangement that some uncertainties are worth it.
Overall, we do very well by our police service. There are issues and problems in some areas and there are no doubt areas where the efficiency of the force could be improved, I do not doubt that. But many advances have been made in the past 10 or 20 years, not least in the effectiveness of the forces and the strong relationships that they have built between themselves and their communities, particularly at neighbourhood level. There are considerable risks in moving away from that. Pilots would be a great chance to try this out, see what some of the problems are and see, too, some of the advantages. We could learn from that and then look to general introduction.
I hope that I will find some sympathy around the House for this suggestion. After all, if one were looking for a way through the potential disagreement between this House and the other place, I would have thought that pilots might be one way in which we could find some agreement. I beg to move.
First, I take the opportunity of associating myself with the remarks just made by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, about the improvements in the effectiveness of the police over, I am very glad he had the grace to say, the past 20 years—otherwise, it might have been a little more difficult for me to agree with his sentiments. He started off by saying 10 years, but he modified that to 20 and he got it right in the end. I am happy to associate myself with that tribute, but of course there is always room for improvement. The purpose of the measures before your Lordships is to improve the accountability of the police.
I am opposed to pilot schemes for two reasons. First, I very much doubt, and I think it is difficult to make the case, that pilots will prove any true test of the effectiveness of the measures contained in the Bill. The Bill proposes to introduce an element of democratic accountability into the way in which the police operate. The essence of democracy is that it does not lead to uniformity. Democracy is the enemy of uniformity. In a democratic system, some elected police and crime commissioners will be more effective than others: that is in the nature of a democracy.
It would be very difficult to draw general lessons, which is presumably the purpose of pilots, from a few pilots, whatever attempts are made. I recognise that attempts have been made in the amendment to make them representative, but there is no such thing. There cannot be any such thing as representative arrangements. Whatever arrangements are made and whatever areas are chosen, it will not be possible to draw general lessons from whatever happens in the particular pilot schemes that would be set up.
Secondly, there is the element of uncertainty. The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, had the grace to refer to this. Amendment 7A proposes that these pilots should last for at least four years and then there should be an independent review of them. I hesitate to suggest that this is simply a delaying tactic or that the noble Lord has in mind, in effect, a wrecking amendment. Far be it from me to make any such suggestion but this is to contemplate a delay of some six years—taking “at least” four years, then adding an independent review and the time to examine and reflect upon the consequences and results. That is six years of uncertainty for the police service. That would not be doing it or the community at large any kind of favour. For both those reasons, I urge your Lordships to reject these amendments.
My Lords, I rise in very much the same vein. I have this flight of fancy when I see the word “pilots”. I think of pilots, then test pilots, wind tunnels, test flights, circuits and bumps, and all the risky business that goes on in the world of aviation. This is a risky business as well, even in an allegorical sense. I am deeply opposed to the concept of pilots. Having the greatest possible respect for the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, I know that this is not a wrecking amendment. It is advanced for the best of reasons but, as has already been alluded to, it would effectively be a wrecking amendment to the Bill. It would certainly not be helpful.
I, too, could come up with a number of reasons why we should not pursue the course that is suggested in the amendment. I will go through four or five quickly. For a start, would the areas that are selected for the pilots welcome or resist the attention? Either reception would skew the result. Those who welcomed it would make sure that it worked; those who did not would probably go in the opposite direction. That skewing of the result is certainly something to which one should pay attention.
Despite the standpoint that they take, would the areas welcome the change and the possibility of then going back to square one if the pilot was unsuccessful? It would be change and more change, all over a period of four or six years. What of the uncertainty in the remainder of the country? I will not labour the point because it has already been clearly made by the previous speaker. What does it say of the parliamentary process as a whole? Is it that we cannot make our minds up here and get the job done correctly in your Lordships’ House the first time?
The most important point has of course been mentioned several times in Second Reading, in Committee and again now. What of the effect of the uncertainty on the police service itself? The service is struggling hard—and well—to come to terms with all the pressures of modern life and the current economic situation that we find ourselves in. ACPO has not declared a position on this, quite correctly. I respect its diffidence but I would put private money on the fact that the police service does not want to see a pilot. It wants certainty, to know where it is going and to know that now. In any case, it has enough uncertainty swirling around its ears.
I will not weary your Lordships any longer on this. I have made my position quite clear. We should strive very hard in your Lordships’ House to get the Bill right first time and implement it in whatever form is eventually, democratically decided upon. A pilot would be a retrograde step.
My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, said, I have some concerns. I apologise for my colleague and noble friend Lord Condon not being here. I speak on his behalf as well as my own. Some of the concerns about how this will affect the police service have already been discussed. They have been described in a way that we would follow.
My noble friend Lord Condon and I worry about the fact that a pilot scheme of certain forces will not show what happens to the rest of the more than 40 forces, which will not get a real feel for it. The other issue that we raise is that the interaction with the national and international strategy must see the whole panoply of this new scheme and strategy there, in terms of the PCCs and PCPs. Unless you have that, our feeling is that there are uncertainties around it. To take a biting issue in terms of taking out certain things, but then not dealing with the whole issue at one time, would be counterproductive.
As has already been said, we have discussed the uncertainty around what is happening with the police service at other stages in your Lordships’ House. In the next six-to-12 months to two years, the police service will go through a massive period of change. There is no doubt, as my colleague and noble friend Lord Dear said, that the police service is best when it knows that it is acting with certainty. This will lead to uncertainty. My noble friend Lord Dear is also absolutely right that if you tell certain police forces that this is a pilot scheme, some will decide that it will work and some may decide that it will not. For that reason, we do not really support this particular amendment. We have reservations about it.
My Lords, I have made it clear throughout that I want to see the model that is in the coalition’s programme for government implemented in full. My noble friend Lord Shipley quoted the relevant section from the agreement earlier, including the reference to the “strict checks and balances”. I fear that that term is losing its potency with repetition, but I say again that checks and balances are essential because of the dangers of the concentration of power in the hands of an individual.
The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, said that he hoped to find some sympathy around the Chamber. He certainly finds that from me, but he also finds a little surprise. I do not know whether this was due to relaxing over supper, but he made a very low-key introduction to the issue. Perhaps this debate has come upon us at an unexpected point.
Now that we have seen the Government’s proposals in response to the very thoughtful and powerful points made in Committee, we have seen that the Government have moved, and I am happy to acknowledge that. It is always gratifying, and sometimes disconcerting, to see one’s own name linked with that of the Minister on an amendment, but there has been a good deal of movement. However, there has not been movement on the range of issues about which concerns have been raised, nor in many cases do the government amendments go far enough.
I am speaking personally for myself and for my noble friend Lord Shipley, rather than for the I know not how many who are ranged behind me at the moment—attendance is not bad, actually, for 8.50 pm —but this is, I stress, very much a personal viewpoint. Many of the checks and balances that are needed centre around the police and crime panel’s scrutiny role, on which our amendments at this stage of the Bill, as at the previous stage, would spell out what we believe that scrutiny should comprise.
As for checks, I think that a body needs the ability not just to say politely, “We don’t agree”, nor to say, “and we require your reasons”, but sometimes to say, “No”, if it is to act as a check. When any model is working well, there is no need to use the whole armoury, but I do not believe that it is possible to legislate for harmony and co-operation. One tries to set up the model to encourage such co-operation, but one cannot require it. Mechanisms are needed to provide that no.
Of course, it would be impertinent to suggest that we have identified all the necessary, or even desirable, checks and balances, but I must say that I would feel more comfortable if more were proposed in the Bill. Therefore, as an alternative, I think that we need to look to experience. The noble Lord, Lord Howard, said that we cannot draw general conclusions because of the diversity across the country, but it seems to me that, unless the framework is robust enough to cater for these matters—
With great respect, my noble friend misunderstands me. It is not because of the diversity around the country but because of the nature of democracy, and the diversity that democracy inherently produces, that I do not believe that general lessons can be learnt. That is an important distinction.
My Lords, I would accept that: democracy is quite untidy. Liberal Democrats have often said that it is not a bad thing to have a patchwork, with different arrangements for the delivery of service in different places and to different communities, which may be geographic or may have other characteristics. For instance, with regard to Wales, we have heard that it is important to have similarity because the provision of the service crosses the border. I think that we need to be reassured that the underlying framework, which may then grow different bits, is robust enough to serve the whole of England and Wales.
I tabled an amendment on pilots at Committee, and I acknowledged that the proposals could be approved. For instance, to have an independent review and report would be a good thing, as the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, rightly suggested. He also made the point—this is a question to him—that, if the experience from the pilots was to be utilised, there would have to be a mechanism whereby the Secretary of State, probably, could tweak the arrangements within the Bill. I am not sure that I have found that in his amendment, but he may be relying on the arrangements around commencement; I do not know.
At the previous stage, I asked the Minister whether there was any other mechanism that the Government might suggest for—to use the words that I used then—assessing and evaluating the model, but she did not answer the question. I am not sure whether she was unable to answer it, but for me that question still remains. I understand that there is a concern about certainty, but I do not understand that there is a concern to achieve certainty about a model over which there still hang so many anxieties. Speaking for my noble friend Lord Shipley and myself, we support the amendment.
I confess to being in two minds, having heard my noble friend’s argument for the case, supported by the noble Baroness, but also the objections to the proposed course from the noble Lords, Lord Howard, Lord Dear and Lord Stevens. I can see the force of the objection to the prospect of a limited number of pilots stretching over a number of years, but it is not so much a question of democratic principle being at risk from such an exercise. The concern is around precisely the issue of checks and balances. If it goes through and we have an elected police commissioner, that is relatively straightforward; it is what happens in that context over time that will tell whether the checks and balances that some of us feel are inadequate are sufficient to meet the case. Actually, a limited number of pilot examples might not demonstrate that. The noble Lord has a point in that respect.
To develop a theme that the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, advanced, I wonder whether the practice of what is a major constitutional change in the way in which the police service in this country is run could be reviewed after a period of three years. I do not mean on the basis of a number of pilots, but we could take a considered view after three years, say, and look at whether the expectations are being fulfilled. I accept that the Government are genuine in their belief that they have got it right or are getting it right on checks and balances. Without a formal sunset clause, perhaps we could have an indication that that situation would be reviewed and adjustments made, if necessary, around the areas of concern that many noble Lords have voiced about the practice of this new structure, with its implications for accountability and effectiveness, both at local level and in connection with the other concerns about national strategies and the like.
It is less of a formal legislative process that I am suggesting might be considered and more one in which it would be possible to revisit these concerns, taking a broad look across however many authorities will be involved in any new structure and with a view to fine tuning, as it may be, or making perhaps more substantial changes in the light of what will by then be a general experience, which might tell us whether the hopes of Ministers in proposing these changes are being fulfilled. Would the Minister care to consider whether such a process might be acceptable to the Government without necessarily changing the terms of the Bill?
My Lords, I do not support this amendment. I said at Second Reading that some noble Lords might want to propose piloting elected police and crime commissioners because it is a radical change from the current system, but I do not believe that that is what is needed. After we have finished properly scrutinising this Bill, we need to get on with it and to do it. We need to implement this change. People want stronger local political leadership in their fight against crime, and they want it now.
I referred at Second Reading to some research that my noble friend Lord Ashcroft, the founder of Crimestoppers, commissioned, which showed unanimity between police officers and the public in their views on crime. One conclusion that that research showed was that they shared a common view on the lack of local accountability.
Recent public attention has been focused more on the justice system rather than on the policing system. In raising the justice system, I am thinking particularly of the Dowler family last weekend. The reason why I raise this is because most of us have never suffered the kind of violent crime of which that family were victims, and we have never had to testify against defendants accused of crime in a court of law, but their experience resonated with people because it illustrated a wider sense of unfairness felt by the law-abiding. It made people ask who is on their side. Tonight we are not talking about the justice system—we are talking about policing—but through this Bill and through implementing elected police and crime commissioners, we have the opportunity to provide an answer. So I do not want us to wait years to address this weakness; I do not want us to wait years to answer people’s questions. I want us to get on with it. For that reason, I do not support piloting and I do not support this amendment.
My Lords, one reason I so enjoyed 16 years of being involved in the governance of policing was that it gave me the opportunity to debate a range of issues with senior police officers and to disagree with them on a number of occasions. Indeed, I disagree with them on this occasion and that holds no terrors for me because that is one of the things I most enjoyed about it. In case noble Lords suspect that I overstep the mark on occasion, I should tell them that the governance arrangements in Lancashire were, according to the inspectorate, the finest in the country. We had an equilibrium of discussion, if I can put it in those terms, and I would want to have the same sort of equilibrium this evening because there are some strong arguments to be put in favour of pilots.
While hearing the arguments that my police friends and others have advanced, there are some counter-arguments. First, the believers who support this reform have been very few in number. On this major area of change, I think I am right that six people on the Benches opposite, at most, have engaged in supporting this change, apart from the Ministers. With honourable exceptions, people have in general not joined in this debate. I except the noble Lord, Lord Howard, who has indeed spoken out in favour of these reforms. He apparently had a great conversion in 2005. I am not sure whether that was before or during the election of 2005 but clearly there was a great epiphany and a conversion took place.
May I assist the noble Baroness? It was the product of long examination of the operation of the police authorities, which were set up pursuant to the legislation for which I was responsible, and the acute sense of disappointment I felt at their failure to live up to my expectations.
I hear what the noble Lord says and I am sure that that is the case. The noble Lord, Lord Wasserman, has spoken up, as did the noble Baroness, but look at the record. As I say, if six Members on the government Benches—certainly, on the Conservative Benches—have spoken up in favour of the legislation, that is all and it is a very small number for a major change in policy.
It is not surprising to me that that is the case. How could the Benches opposite deny, for example, that party politics will play a much greater role in policing? That is so irrefutable that it cannot possibly be denied. How could they deny that chief constables are going to be subject to much greater pressure on policing issues, both operational and non-operational? No, they cannot refute that. People talk about a protocol but just consider some of the forceful Home Secretaries whom we have had in the past 10, 15 or 20 years. Now consider that some of those Home Secretaries might consider that being a commissioner would be a glorious end to a good parliamentary career. Just imagine some of them now as commissioners. I suggest to Members of this House that they are going to put their views to chief constables in a fairly forceful way.
We talk about “operational” and “non-operational” but, frankly, with that kind of expertise and forcefulness coming from those who could be commissioners in the next few years, chief constables will notice a great difference between the new regime and what they have been used to. They will be subject to greater pressures. As the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, has already said, thus far we have seen few checks and balances on the powers of commissioners. I am not expecting to see many more, let alone strict checks and balances, so the case for pilots is very strong.
There are even greater arguments in favour of pilots. First, there was no pre-legislative scrutiny, which, for a change of this magnitude, there should have been. It would have made a big difference and a lot of the arguments which we have been having in the past few weeks would have been resolved at that stage. With a constitutional change of this magnitude, to have no pre-legislative scrutiny was, I believe, a great omission. That is one argument. We also know that there was a consultation by the Home Office and that there were over 900 responses. We have never been told how many of those responses favoured what was being proposed and how many opposed it. We can draw from not being told that the great majority of people who responded to the Home Office consultation were opposed. I assure the House that had they not been we would have heard that a great majority were in favour. That, again, is worrying.
As we have gone through the Bill in detail, some very tricky issues have emerged. We have not yet reached the issue of corporations sole, although we soon shall. I know my noble friend Lord Harris will entertain the House with a riveting account of corporations sole and all the difficulties that they will raise. We do not know how they will work. We know that they will lead to problems and to staff issues. That is one area of uncertainty. We know that relations between the commissioners and the PCPs are embryonic at this point in time. We do not know how these bodies will work together. We do not know how the PCPs will be best equipped to undertake scrutiny, not just of the commissioners but of the policing that is delivered in their locality. There has been a great reluctance to give panels the sort of powers that would enable them to have a much more constructive role than the one they have at the moment.
We also know that in some areas we will go back 20 years. For example, we know that there will be no lay involvement in the appointment of deputy chief constables and assistant chief constables. I am long enough in the tooth to remember that when chief constables made these appointments themselves there were enormous difficulties. I for one am not happy to go back 20 years in that regard—at least, not without seeing how it would play out.
We are also being asked to agree to this legislation when the national policing landscape is not yet complete. We do not know how things will play out nationally. We do not know what will replace the senior appointments panel, so we do not know how future candidates for chief officer appointments will come forward. We know nothing about that; there is a complete lack of information at the moment. The framework around senior police appointments is not yet in place. We are being asked to take it on trust. We have not seen any of this. For all those reasons, pilots would make a lot of sense. They would enable the final legislation to iron out many of these issues and to work much more effectively.
What really bothers me is the inflexibility around this, which is driving this legislation. There is a sense that the Government are saying, “We must get this through. We can’t have any deviations or amendments. We mustn’t listen to this; it is all a plot to derail this great reform”. I am sorry but that is not true. There are many of us in this House who care about policing and want to make this work. The noble Lord, Lord Howard, might be surprised to hear this. If there are to be changes to policing, I want them to work. I can see some merit in what is being proposed. I do not reject it out of hand but it can be improved. That is why I support pilots. What bothers me is that I am prepared to be flexible but there is no reciprocal flexibility on the Government’s side. It worries me that the people who are driving this through want to do so with very little change. There has been some change; I see the Minister looking at me. There were changes yesterday. I welcome them and hope that there will be more. However, at the moment the message that has reached me is that there must be no deviation—that this must go through and there must be elections next year. There is a sense that this is being rushed through.
These changes are the most sweeping changes to policing that we have seen in modern times. I am not saying that they should not happen. However, it will be a recipe for disaster if we do not get them right. Policing is too important and sensitive an area to risk courting disaster. To have a pilot—perhaps lasting not four years but two or three—and at least to trial some of these things would do our duty to those who come after us. I am worried that we will introduce things that will irreversibly change the face of policing. Since I do not believe that policing is broken, I shall take a lot of convincing that these changes will be marvellous without at least testing them first. That is why I support pilots.
My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, conjures up a fascinating prospect of former Home Secretaries and Secretaries of State standing for election as police and crime commissioners. Given what the Minister has told us today with regard to the bar on Members of this House standing for such positions, we can look forward to the possibility of the noble Lord, Lord Howard of Lympne, becoming the elected police and crime commissioner for Kent.
I am sure that if the noble Lord were to move to Lancashire, that could be arranged. Although I think that that would be an interesting and enticing prospect, and no doubt incredibly scary for the chief constable of Kent, I wonder whether the damascene conversion that the noble Lord, Lord Howard, has described to us several times would not have been made easier had his original proposals for police authorities been subjected to a series of pilots. He could then perhaps have discovered at an earlier point that the model he initially favoured was flawed.
My Lords, as a former professional social scientist I welcome the enthusiasm in this House for pilot studies. However, like so much else in life, there is a right place for pilots and a wrong place. I am afraid that the circumstances we are discussing are very much the wrong place for pilots. I hope that your Lordships will allow me to explain why I say this and to do so by reference to the findings of academic experts.
The use of pilots in political or social research is discussed at some length in a book which I commend to your Lordships which can be found in the Library entitled, Research Methods in Politics. The book begins by pointing out that,
“there are times when … a trial run or pilot has considerable advantages. In particular, to test the data collection instruments such as the questionnaire and the sample design”.
Indeed, the Home Secretary herself is a great believer in the use of pilots in the appropriate context. In a speech that she gave about two months ago—I am sure that some noble Lords will have seen it—she announced not one but two new pilots. The first was related to her wish to allow the police to charge more offences themselves. She said:
“We will pilot doubling the number of charges transferred to police officers”.
She added that if the pilot was successful and the scheme was rolled out fully, it could save up to,
“40,000 hours of police officer time”.
In the same speech she announced that the Home Office was working with ACPO to ensure that best practice on domestic abuse processes was effectively shared by all forces. She said that the next step was to pilot these new proposals, and that if the pilots were successful they would be rolled out across the country.
However, the circumstances we are discussing are nothing like those mentioned by the Home Secretary or the academic experts. They are classic examples of circumstances where pilots are not appropriate and lead only to a waste of time and money. According to the experts, the classic example of the inappropriate use of pilots in a political or social context—that is what we are talking about—is to compare jurisdictions over time and/or space, a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Howard. The experts state:
“There are a number of reasons why comparisons can turn out to be meaningless. Most famously, the condition known as ‘too many variables, not enough cases’. This is a reason why experimental control is rarely an option in political science. Additionally, comparative research is affected by two manifestations of the so-called travelling problem: that is, neither theoretical concepts nor empirical measurements are consistent across temporal and/or spatial settings. In other words, they do not ‘travel’. This diminishes the possibility of controlling for the effect of variables other than those of primary interest”.
Translating the jargon, what these experts are trying to say is that it is impossible to make meaningful comparisons between different times and places because there are simply too many factors in play. However, your Lordships do not need academic experts to tell you that the sort of governance arrangements such as those that we are discussing cannot be subject to scientific evaluation.
The introduction of PCCs is based on the belief that giving an individual a clear responsibility for meeting the policing needs of his community and holding him accountable, through the ballot box, for doing so will, by reducing crime and anti-social behaviour, make this country safer. We have not made much of this in your Lordships’ House during these debates but that is what this Bill is all about. This is neither the time nor the place to talk about why I am so convinced that this is the case, but I believe that it is based on empirical evidence.
Perhaps I may remind noble Lords of the dramatic reduction in crime and public disorder in New York that occurred after Rudi Giuliani became mayor in 1994 on a platform of crime reduction.
I have seen that, and I am sure that we will discuss it on another occasion. However, there is plenty of evidence for the changes that individual elected mayors in crime-ridden cities in America have been able to make when they put their mind to it, and when they provided their police chiefs with the political cover and resources to do the job.
How does the noble Lord distinguish the examples that he has given from those that he said would not be appropriate in the varying conditions in this country? He has just told us that there are too many variables to allow pilots to take place, yet he is citing New York and America as exemplars, and therefore effectively as pilots, for the system that he wishes to introduce to this country. Is that not correct?
The core of the noble Lord’s argument against pilots is that he is cautioning us against the spatial differences between different parts of this country and the temporal differences—because this is a different time. Now he is saying that you can draw from experience 3,000-plus miles away, which is quite a big spatial difference, under a different legal system and so on. The temporal difference is that the improvement under Mayor Giuliani happened a number of years ago. I am not quite sure where this argument is taking your Lordships.
This is not taking us in a circle. There are lessons that can be learnt from experience everywhere. We know this. We are talking now about piloting, as a series of limited experiments, a particular bit of legislation that is to be reviewed by an inspector of constabulary under research circumstances. That is quite different from learning lessons on general principles from experience around the world, rather than from particular bits of legislation.
The main point that I want to make about the proposed pilots is that any change—even change 3,000 miles away—takes time to take effect. It very much depends on relationships between individual PCCs—a point that has already been made—and individual chief constables. These changes and these relationships will take time to develop. One of our issues is with the time it will take to put these pilots into effect. Your Lordships will remember that, some time ago, in a debate in this House about fixed-term Parliaments, many noble Lords made the point that four years was far too short a time to judge the success or failure of the Government. Now we are saying that four years will be sufficient to judge the effect of these new governance arrangements on the level of crime and anti-social behaviour in this country. I am sure that at the end of the four years, people will say that there has not been enough time to judge the changes. Also, some people will talk about the Hawthorne effect: the fact that the pilots have been successful simply because others have studied them. That is another example of how pilot studies can reach misleading conclusions.
For all those reasons, I do not think that, at this stage, a pilot is an appropriate way to judge the effectiveness of the changes. I suspect that what some noble Lords really want is not a programme of pilots but a staged roll-out programme. That is quite different. Although I have serious practical concerns about that, it is not the same as pilots, which are bits of political or social science research. We are now talking about pilots which must be evaluated before rollout begins, which might, as my noble friend, Lord Howard, pointed out, be as long as six years. We are discussing pilots. That would lead to a waste of time and money. It will prove nothing but will lead to dangerous uncertainty in an area of our national life—policing and public safety—where there is a well recognised and overdue need for change.
My Lords, as the Bill no longer contains the Government’s model for directly elected police and crime commissioners, the effect of accepting the amendments would be to delay implementation of that policy until after long and unnecessary pilots and the completion of a review by HMIC. As we do not support the new model, and will seek to overturn it when the Bill returns to another place, we cannot support the amendments. I have always been very clear with the House during Committee that the Government intend to overturn the deletion of the publicly elected police and crime commissioner from the Bill.
The noble Baroness, Lady Henig, referred to the number of speakers from the government Benches. I have had many conversations with colleagues on the government Benches. Having now been in the House for nearly a year, I appreciate that on both the Benches behind me and those in front of me there is an independence of spirit, regardless of party affiliation. I am convinced that if Members on the government Benches felt strongly opposed to what the Government are doing, they would certainly be standing up to speak. One cannot judge the number of speakers as a reflection of support or otherwise for the Bill. When a Division has been called to date on the Bill, government Members have turned out through the Lobby, as they did earlier tonight, expressing their support for the Bill.
I shall spend some time explaining why we do not support the amendments on directly elected police and crime commissioners. We have heard many speeches throughout the course of the Bill so far saying that this is a radical change; that we should pilot it before rolling it out; and that we need to ensure that we all understand how it would work in practice before we roll it out nationally. We still are not clear what happens if some forces go ahead as pilots, leaving the remainder behind. Put another way, on what basis will we decide who will be denied democratic control of their policing—in other words, on whom do we experiment? What about issues that arise across forces? Serious crime does not only occur within the force boundary. Interoperability across forces is key to tackling those issues, but with pilots, there would be two different forms of police governance running alongside each other, likely to cause confusion and delay in working across force boundaries. This would be confusing for police officers and for the public. It would also be unnecessarily costly.
For many changes in policy or process a pilot can be a good thing, as we have heard from some of the contributions tonight. However, it is clear that a pilot cannot work effectively when we are talking about policing governance and democratic accountability, as my noble friend Lord Howard of Lympne pointed out. Equally, we know that senior police officers share our concerns about pilots. We heard from the noble Lords, Lord Stevens of Kirkwhelpington and Lord Dear, who described this as a risky business. It is a risky business, and I believe that it would create an unequal situation that could potentially be quite damaging. The noble Lord, Lord Stevens of Kirkwhelpington, also spoke for the noble Lord, Lord Condon, in setting out his concerns to the House. I recall that in Committee the noble Lord, Lord Condon, said that this change needed to be,
“resolved in the quickest and best way possible”.—[Official Report, 24/5/11; col. 1698.]
Also, when evidence was given to the Public Bill Committee in the other place, the Assistant Commissioner, Lynne Owens, said:
“My nervousness about pilots is on how you would choose what those pilots are. One of the concerns of the chief police officers at the moment is how it aggregates to the whole. If you were to choose all large forces or all small forces, you might not fully understand the impact”.—[Official Report, Commons, Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill Committee, 20/1/11; col. 106.]
Questions have been raised about the whole philosophy behind the Bill and about the concept of democratically elected police and crime commissioners. I shall not rehearse the strong evidence base for these reforms, having spoken to them at earlier stages of the Bill. They are based largely on HMIC findings, and I set out in Committee that HMIC has already provided more than enough information to justify them. Therefore, I believe that we should not delay these urgent reforms and distract HMIC from its already difficult and important task of inspecting the police by asking it to use valuable and finite resources to evaluate government policy.
To my noble friends who have spoken on this issue—and I understand that people hold very strong views about it—I point out that it was made perfectly clear in the coalition agreement that we would have PCCs during this Parliament. A pilot goes against both the spirit and the letter of the coalition agreement.
However, it is not just Conservatives and Liberal Democrats who have identified the need for reforms to policing governance; I believe that the Opposition support this concept. Only two years ago, when the shadow policing Minister in the other place was the policing Minister, he said that,
“only direct election, based on geographic constituencies, will deliver the strong connection to the public which is critical”.
He went on to say that,
“under the current system, 93 per cent of the country has no direct, elected representation. This is why we have proposed the Green Paper model; so that people know who to go to and are able to influence their policing through the ballot box”.
I fully accept that the former Labour Government, in presenting this Green Paper, were thinking of a different form of direct accountability from the one that we are considering in this Bill. However, the principle of direct accountability was there. In fact, the previous Government twice proposed a form of direct accountability for policing but they did not proceed with it. They encountered opposition, so I am sure they will understand that we have taken this policy forward with the knowledge that this matter has for a very long time been considered to be necessary by Governments of different political hues. This Government have brought it forward and now intend it to proceed.
The coalition Government share the view that police authority governance needs to be changed and that our democratic form of accountability is important. Change is needed and it is needed now. T