Report (2nd Day)
Clause 4 : Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime
15A: Clause 4, page 3, at beginning insert “Subject to section 159(2A)”
My Lords, before the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, has the opportunity to move his manuscript Amendment 15A, I need to give the House some procedural advice as Leader of the House—it is a very rare occurrence but one that I need to do. I have to inform the House that the Clerk of Public Bills has written to advise me that this amendment is inadmissible and that the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, has tabled it against the advice of the clerks. Paragraph 8.56 of the Companion provides that in such rare circumstances it is for me to ask the House to endorse the opinion of the Public Bill Office, and I readily do so.
I suspect that most Members of the House will not have had an opportunity to consider the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Harris. It reads:
“Page 3, line 14, at beginning insert ‘Subject to section 159(2A)’”.
The Public Bill Office advises me and the House that the amendment is about commencement, not the subject of the clause itself—namely, the Mayor of London’s Office for Policing and Crime. The reason the noble Lord, Lord Harris, may have been tempted to attempt this procedural manoeuvre is clear: he is seeking to advance a vote on the commencement of the London provisions of this Bill. That is a matter of political tactics, but tactics, or the policy, are not why I rise to address the House this afternoon. I wish only to deal with a matter of procedure.
The clerks have advised that this amendment is inadmissible under the Companion and I invite the House not to allow the noble Lord, Lord Harris, to move his manuscript Amendment 15A. The difficulty is of course compounded because the amendment is a manuscript amendment. The Companion also provides that,
“the disadvantages and inconvenience attaching to the moving of manuscript amendments on Report are even greater than at Committee stage”.
I have to agree that this is not how we should go about our business. In short, the PBO has advised the House that this first amendment is inadmissible and I invite the House to agree. However, I reassure the House and the noble Lord that he will have every opportunity to speak to the issue he wishes to raise in the proper place when Clause 159 is debated. I therefore invite the noble Lord, Lord Harris, not to move his amendment. If he chooses to do so, and the Companion does not prevent him doing so, the amendment is in the hands of the House.
My Lords, if it is in order, I would like to respond to what the Leader of the House has said. It is very difficult sometimes to determine why particular amendments are moved in a particular way and at a particular time. There were a number of reasons for my seeking the indulgence of the House to put forward this manuscript amendment at this time. The first is the question of relevance. There is a specific proposal at the moment that the implementation and creation of the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime should proceed in advance of that for the rest of the country and should take place in October 2011, rather than October 2012. Therefore, my manuscript amendment is designed to make clear that preparations, some of which will be costly, should not go forward at this time.
The second reason I felt it necessary to bring forward the amendment in this way was that I had anticipated that there would be an amendment, either from the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, who moved such an amendment in Committee, or from the Government, about the transitional arrangements for the introduction of the Mayor’s Office, and, indeed, of the offices for policing and crime commissioners. A detailed look over the weekend made it clear that such transitional details were not being put before the House and therefore I thought that it was important that we have this opportunity.
The final reason for putting it before the House is that there are, of course, important security issues associated with this. I am slightly bemused about where we are today because I also tabled an amendment on Friday which does not appear either in the list that we received this morning of amendments supplementary to the Second Marshalled List, nor as a manuscript amendment. It seems to have gone into some void in the Public Bill Office, but it, too, was relevant to this point and might have assisted the House had we had it before us. It was also clear from my manuscript amendment that this related to an amendment later on the agenda in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Doocey. That, I know—and, of course, she will speak for herself should we get to the point of debating this amendment—is about security of this country during the Olympics period and whether or not the disruption that will be caused in administrative arrangements is sensible at that time.
Those are my reasons for putting forward this amendment and I hope that the House will agree that they are valid reasons, notwithstanding the inconvenience that I am sure it puts the House to. No doubt the noble Lord will wish to respond and I hope that I will then be able to move my amendment.
My Lords, I do not think that there is any quarrel about whether or not these issues can be debated. The decision of the clerks is about where the debate should take place. Perhaps I may read out the advice about the grounds of inadmissibility, which is very clear and simple. In the view of the Public Bill Office the manuscript amendment is not admissible on the grounds that it is not relevant to the clause to which it is tabled. That is the first rule under paragraph 8.59 on page 132 of the Companion.
The manuscript amendment would make Clause 4,
“Subject to section 159(2A)”,
as set out in Amendment 310 to Clause 159, which would affect the commencement of Chapters 1 to 6 of Part 1. In the view of the clerks, this amendment is not relevant to Clause 4 as it affects commencement, which is the subject of Clause 159. In addition, Amendment 310 covers Clauses 1 to 79, several of which have already been debated.
My purpose is simply to bring to the attention of the House the strongest possible and clearest advice of the clerks, which is that this is inadmissible. In parenthesis, I can also tell the noble Lord that a transitional government amendment will be tabled today relating to Schedule 15. It will be debated in its proper place next week. It is up to the House and the noble Lord to decide what he wishes to do with his amendment but the advice from the clerks, and therefore the advice that I give as Leader of the House, is completely clear.
I am grateful to the noble Lord the Leader of the House for that further clarification. I am grateful also to hear that an amendment on transition is being tabled today. I say, in parenthesis, as was the noble Lord’s point, that this demonstrates the problems we have had with this Bill; that is, the late tabling of government amendments and the problems that we have in terms of determining exactly the intention of the Government in terms of various clauses, which is one of the problems that we all face. No doubt we will hear again an apology from the noble Baroness, Lady Browning, about the problems that the Home Office have faced and we will accept it with the usual good grace.
However, the noble Lord has said that this amendment, in the view of the clerks, is irrelevant to where it is placed. It is placed after the line, which states:
“There is to be a body with the name ‘The Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime’ for the metropolitan police district”.
The amendment would insert,
“Subject to section 159(2A)”.
The amendment is tabled there because currently detailed work is going on about the early implementation and the introduction of the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime in the London area. This is in advance of the Bill receiving Royal Assent, with a view to trying to get the implementation from October or shortly thereafter. That is why it is relevant to the place it is in and why I moved it in respect of this line in Chapter 2. It is not irrelevant to that point, which is why I moved it. The clerks may not see the relevance. Perhaps because of the hurried telephone calls that I had while inspecting security arrangements at Heathrow airport this morning, we did not have an opportunity to discuss it in detail. The amendment is about ensuring that we do not press ahead in advance of legislative authority.
May I move the amendment?
Perhaps the Leader of the House could help me. From the muttering around the House, it would seem that there is a feeling that perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Harris, should not move his amendment in view of the clear indications given by the clerks. However, I am not clear about what the procedure should be now. Should there be a Motion before the House as to whether the amendment should be moved, on which, if necessary, the House can divide? How does it work? I never came across this particular type of issue when I was Leader of the Opposition or Leader of the House, or since. I should be grateful if the noble Lord could enlighten me.
My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Richard, and indeed to the Lord Speaker.
It is true that there is a lacuna in the procedure and when I discovered this about half an hour ago I suggested that the Procedure Committee should look at it. In the normal course of events, there is an underlying assumption in the Companion that the mover of the manuscript amendment would feel so moved as to not move the amendment. However, as I said earlier, under the terms of self-regulation the amendment is ultimately in the hands of the House. There is no Motion before the House. There is the possibility of a closure Motion or indeed the Motion that the noble Lord be no longer heard. Both are quite heavy-handed. I dare say that if the noble Lord insisted on moving his amendment the House would take a pretty dim view of it, and if he tried to convince the House of the merits of his case I suspect he would not succeed.
My Lords, can the Leader of the House advise me? I wish to vote in support of my noble friend’s amendment but I am not clear, on the advice of the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, the Leader of the House, whether any subsequent Division would be about the procedure or the content of the amendment. If it is about the procedure, surely the Lord Speaker has indicated that the Motion before the House is the amendment, and therefore because I support the amendment I want to support it in a Division. However, I take seriously the advice that has been given, so I am sure the Leader of the House can advise me, even though he might not approve of my voting intentions.
My Lords, the proper advice I would give the noble Baroness, who I know is a stickler for such things, is to advise her noble friend not to move the amendment this afternoon, given the very clear advice of the clerks, and to speak to his amendment when it comes up in the proper place later on Report.
My Lords, I hope I have been of service to the House in identifying a lacuna in the Standing Orders. I hope therefore that this will be an opportunity for us to look in detail at some of these difficult procedures. All I was trying to do was to avoid unnecessary duplicate expenditure in advance of legislative authority and to enable the House to debate the security of the nation. However, the Leader of the House has three times at least reiterated the firm advice of the clerks on this point, and I would be foolish to persist beyond that. I assume, however, if I wished to bring forward this self-same amendment at Third Reading there would now be no objection to me so doing.
Amendment 15A not moved.
16: Clause 4, page 3, line 17, leave out subsections (3) and (4) and insert—
“(3) There is to be a Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime for the metropolitan police district.
(4) The Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime is to be elected, and hold office, in accordance with Chapter 6.
(4A) The person who has been given the title of deputy mayor and particular responsibility for policing and crime by the Mayor of London at the time this section is brought into effect is to be the occupant for the time being of the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime.”
My Lords, fractionally earlier than I had anticipated, I move Amendment 16, which is in my name. It is a series of amendments—I apologise to the House for their complexity but I have done my best to try to make them as clear as possible—that would enable the people of London at the same time as they elect—
My Lords, I waited a long time to move the previous amendment rather than this one. I had anticipated an opportunity during the debate to prepare myself more thoroughly for Amendment 16.
The purpose of this amendment is to enable Londoners to vote, on the same day on which they would elect the Mayor of London, to elect the deputy mayor for policing and crime. The Government have told us that the Bill is about the importance of transparency and more effective clarity about who is responsible for policing. They have said, for everywhere outside London, that there is an advantage to there being direct elections for the person who has responsibility for the governance and oversight of policing. For London, though, they have proposed a completely different construction. There would be no direct election; the Mayor of London would choose an individual to become the deputy mayor, who would have responsibility for policing and crime.
The Government have helpfully tabled some amendments that indicate that in the event of that person not being an elected Member of the London Assembly, there would be a confirmation hearing and the Assembly could veto that appointment by a two-thirds majority. In the event of that person being a Member of the Assembly, the Assembly would have the right to hold a confirmatory hearing but would have no power of veto.
A confirmatory hearing is not the same as direct election, and the only circumstances in which there would be a veto by the democratically elected representatives of all London would be where the mayor of London had appointed an individual who did not hold a democratic mandate in the London Assembly. We are therefore talking about the Mayor of London being able to appoint his poodle or his Rottweiler, whichever model you care to take, to have responsibility for the oversight of policing in the London area.
London has the largest police force in the country with some of the heaviest responsibilities, particularly for counterterrorism and security. However, the Government are saying that, despite it being their objective everywhere else in the country that there is proper governance and clarity, and despite the benefits of direct election of the person with that responsibility, that will not apply in London.
My understanding is that the Government are suggesting this because the responsibility will rest with the Mayor of London. However, the current Mayor of London has discovered that it is not possible to combine the role of being mayor with having personal direct responsibility for the oversight of the Metropolitan Police. That is why, having given a manifesto commitment—I know that the current Mayor of London does not cast aside manifesto commitments lightly—he decided after just a few months that in fact he would not continue to chair the Metropolitan Police Authority and have that personal day-to-day oversight role but would ask one of his London Assembly colleagues to do so.
In circumstances in which the present incumbent is saying, “I cannot combine these duties effectively”, why are the Government saying, “That’s the model that we want to see in the London area”? Why are they saying that it is not necessary in London to have the benefits that we are assured that direct election will bring? That is why I have put forward this group of amendments.
I have also sought to resolve some of the other questions that arise. I have proposed how the electoral system would operate and how, in the event of the deputy mayor being incapacitated and unable to continue his functions, the Mayor of London would act. The simple principle that is most important in these circumstances, though, is that there be direct election, and my understanding was that that was what the Government wanted, and that they believed in the principle of direct election. If it is right for the rest of the country—we are told that the Government are going to reinstate this when the Bill returns to another place—why is it not right for London? What have the Government got against the people of London that they do not believe those people should have the right to elect the person who has responsibility to oversee and be responsible for the governance of policing in the London area? I beg to move.
As my noble friend Lord Harris of Haringey has said, this group of amendments provides for a deputy mayor of policing and crime in London to be responsible for the Metropolitan Police in much the same way as the Government intend their police and crime commissioners to have that responsibility outside London. The Mayor of London would no longer be the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime.
The amendments also provide for the deputy mayor of policing and crime to be elected, with an election being held in 2012 and in each subsequent fourth year. The amendments carried in your Lordships’ House at the beginning of Committee on this Bill removed the requirement for the proposed police and crime commissioners outside London to be elected but left the situation in London largely unchanged. We have heard from the Government that they expect the posts of police and crime commissioners to be full time. Indeed a change has recently been made in relation to a deputy being appointed.
Therefore, the police and crime commissioner in, say, Wiltshire will be engaged full time purely on the role and responsibilities of that position, but in London, which has by far the largest police force in the country, the elected mayor, who has the ultimate responsibility for policing at present, does not devote his time and energy full time to his police role for the simple reason that as mayor he has a large number of other roles and responsibilities. One would have thought that in London the case for a full-time police and crime commissioner was stronger than anywhere else.
The mayor gets over the problem in London by appointing a deputy mayor with responsibility for the police but still retaining in theory ultimate control himself. However, it is quite clear where the real power lies—that is, with the deputy mayor because the mayor does not have the time to keep up to date with what is happening in the Metropolitan Police and to undertake the strategic and other responsibilities of the position because of his commitments to London as a whole. The Government have said that their objective is to increase accountability and transparency, but accountability and transparency are not increased if the in effect police and crime commissioner in London is in reality appointed by the mayor, who does not have the time to do the job himself but who in theory has to pretend that he can be like a police and crime commissioner elsewhere in the country and devote his efforts full time to that role.
We need to take steps to ensure that there is no dubiety over who is in reality—as opposed to in theory—the police and crime commissioner in London, and recognise the true situation by having a deputy mayor who has that role, and with it both the time and the authority of police and crime commissioners outside London. These amendments provide for elections for deputy mayor at the same time as for mayor. The current holder of these responsibilities is ultimately the elected mayor, and the amendments propose to move those overall responsibilities for the police from one elected office holder to another who has the time to do the job in full. I hope that the Government will recognise the contradictions between the situation in London and the situation outside London, as my noble friend Lord Harris of Haringey stated, and by accepting this amendment bring the two much closer together.
My Lords, the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, would prevent the mayor from holding the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime and would instead create an elected deputy mayor for policing and crime to hold that office. Consequential amendments would apply to the deputy mayor similar provisions to those for PCCs in respect of elections and suspensions. While I understand the approach taken by the noble Lord, Lord Harris, I set out in Committee the reasons why I do not agree with these amendments.
While it is the Government’s policy to introduce a directly elected police and crime commissioner into every force area in England and Wales outside London, the Government do not intend to introduce a new, elected person to hold the police to account in London for the very simple reason that the whole of London already elects a single person to take responsibility for strategic issues such as policing—the Mayor of London.
While I hear what the noble Lord says, the mayor is in the unique position of having responsibility for a whole force area and, as such, it seems sensible for him to have the overall responsibility for holding the police to account. Under the amendment, both the mayor and the deputy mayor have a direct democratic mandate across a whole force area, although in practice of course they could have different ideas about what should happen. That cannot work and would cause a lot of conflict. It is right and fitting that the mayor takes on the formal responsibility for holding the Metropolitan Police to account, and should in turn be accountable directly to the public for how this is done. However the mayor delegates in this area, the mayor, as with PCCs, is still responsible for the decisions that are taken and, as such, is answerable to the public as an elected representative.
I know that in Committee the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, was concerned about the dilution of the democratic principle, but I stress that this can come only through the mayor himself or herself. The mayor is elected by all Londoners, and he or she alone may hold the mayor’s office under this Bill. As such, the democratic principle is clear in the Bill. On that basis, I hope the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw these amendments, although I know that he believes in them passionately, and support the government amendments that we shall discuss later. I will not go into great detail as we shall come to them later in our deliberations, but I remind the House that the government amendments require confirmation hearings for the position of deputy mayor to be binding where the candidate is not an Assembly Member, in that the Assembly would have the power to veto the appointment by a two-thirds majority.
Any Assembly Member whom the mayor wished to appoint would be subject to a non-binding confirmation, as already set out in the Bill. I hope, therefore, that on reflection the noble Lord will withdraw the amendment.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for the way in which she has responded and for reiterating the Government’s position on these points. As I said in my opening remarks, I am grateful for the amendments that have been put forward on confirmation hearings and the deputy mayor’s role. However, a veto power of a two-thirds majority of the London Assembly is not a very powerful mechanism. My experience in four years on the London Assembly—I believe that it was the case for the subsequent seven years—is that the two-thirds majority threshold has never been achieved in matters to do with the budget. It is difficult to see how that would not be the case in these circumstances, where it is likely that the elected Mayor of London will have a sizeable block of members supporting his or her position on most issues. Therefore, although confirmatory hearings are helpful, they are not the same as direct election.
The noble Baroness also argued that the mayor is elected for the whole force area, but one of the problems is that the Mayor of London’s writ is not the same as that of the Metropolitan Police. The noble Lord, Lord Brooke, confronted me at a previous stage as he was deeply concerned that I might be trying to undermine the position of the City of London Police. The fact is that the Mayor of London has responsibility for two force areas and is elected not just by the electorate who are served by the Metropolitan Police but by the electorate who are served by the City of London Police. Therefore, the noble Baroness’s arguments do not stand up.
That indeed is the case. That is why I was almost incredulous that the Government believed that it was sensible that the City of London should have its own separate police force.
I appreciate that the Corporation of London has enormous antiquity and I know about the noble Baroness’s passion for medieval constructs, as we discussed the other evening, and the question of corporation sole. So, given that the Corporation of London is a construct even older than corporation sole, I shall not press that point.
However, on the issue of boundaries, the Government have to be clear about what the situation will be outside London. If the Localism Bill runs its course and the referenda locally produce it, you will have some very powerful directly elected mayors in major cities outside London. I do not believe that the directly elected mayors of the great cities of Manchester and Birmingham will not feel that they should have significant influence on the arrangements for policing in their areas. Of course they will not cover the entire police area, but I do not think that the Government’s proposal simply to have them sitting on the police and crime panel will be sufficient. The Government cannot get away from the fact that you will have conflicts between directly elected mayors and the people responsible for governance. In those circumstances, if that is going to happen outside London, the Government should have the courage of their convictions about the importance of direct elections and allow that to happen in London.
As I understand it, the Government’s vision is that there should be direct elections for these important positions everywhere in the country, but London is missing out. That is unfortunate and extremely unhelpful. I am disappointed that the Government are not prepared to consider and accept the amendment. However, I shall consider carefully what the noble Baroness has said today. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 16 withdrawn.
17: Clause 4, page 4, line 15, 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 Commissioner by sections 10 and 11 of the Children Act 2004”.
Amendment 17 agreed.
Amendments 18 to 20 not moved.
Schedule 3 : Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime
Amendments 21 and 22 not moved.
23: Schedule 3, page 111, line 21, leave out sub-paragraph (a)
My Lords, this group of government amendments essentially corrects some drafting oversights and errors to ensure that the Bill is consistent with other legislation. I am happy to touch on each amendment in order to provide clarity for the House.
Amendment 23 removes a duplication prohibiting a PCC from also being deputy mayor for policing and crime. Amendment 82 corrects a drafting error that would mistakenly have granted the deputy mayor greater delegation powers than the holder of the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime. Amendment 170 changes a reference to the Greater London Authority to the London Assembly. This was simply an error as the police and crime panel will be a committee of the Assembly and not of the whole authority.
Amendments 244 and 309 follow the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee's recommendations by requiring that any regulations issued in respect of collaboration, or a failure of local authorities to participate in the formation of police and crime panels, are made by affirmative rather than negative resolution.
Amendment 270 removes an inconsistency in the Bill where one provision amends a paragraph in the Police Act 1996 in relation to the Secretary of State's power to issue orders in relation to transitional arrangements for the alteration of a police force area, and another provision repeals it. The amending provision is the correct one so the repealing provision is being removed from the Bill.
Amendment 273 removes a provision as a consequence of the coming into force of the Equality Act 2010, which repealed the Race Relations Act 1976 in its entirety. There is therefore no longer anything to amend. Amendment 302 corrects provisions amending the Equality Act 2010 which have been affected by an order that adds to the list of bodies that are subject to the general equality duty. Together, these amendments will ensure that PCCs and the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime are covered by the Equality Act.
Amendment 291 corrects an omission by extending the exemption from motor insurance to the staff of a chief officer, as well as the staff of a PCC or the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime. This mirrors current arrangements for the police and police authorities and so we are simply maintaining the status quo. Amendment 292 corrects a drafting error, ensuring that the Bill correctly refers to Metropolitan Police staff being employed by the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, not the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime.
Amendment 296 improves on existing drafting in the Bill in relation to the exemption of police staff from the private security licensing regime. Amendment 298 corrects failures to amend multiple references to “police authority” or “authority” in other legislation. Amendments 298, 299, 300 and 301 correct mistaken uses of “that” instead of “the”, and vice versa.
Bringing these amendments before the House might be an opportune moment to correct the record from our previous Report stage proceedings. In responding to the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, on his favourite subject of the corporation sole I declared to the House that I had discovered only last week that I, as a Minister of State, am a corporation sole. I was very sad to learn this morning that in fact I am not. Unfortunately, the exemptions for Ministers were in another part of the document and I am afraid it was delusions of grandeur. I discover that it is only the Prime Minister who is a corporation sole, not a humble Minister of State such as myself, but am I glad to correct the record.
As the Minister has indicated, these are relatively minor and technical amendments that correct some drafting errors. As she said, they also reflect the recommendations of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee that any regulations dealing with mandatory collaboration or the consequences of a failure by local authorities to participate in the formation of police and crime panels should be made by affirmative rather than negative resolution. We support the change to these regulations being by affirmative rather than negative resolution, thus requiring the specific approval of your Lordships' House.
Amendment 23 agreed.
Clause 5 : Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis
Amendments 24 and 25 not moved.
Schedule 4 : Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis
Amendments 26 to 28 not moved.
29: Schedule 4, page 113, line 40, at end insert—
“(1) The Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis must appoint a qualified person to act as chief finance officer, if and for as long as—
(a) that post is vacant, or(b) the holder of that post is, in the Commissioner’s opinion, unable to carry out the duties of that post.(2) For the purposes of sub-paragraph (1) a person is qualified to be appointed to act as chief finance officer if that person is qualified to be appointed to the post under paragraph 1.
(3) A reference in any enactment to the metropolitan police force’s chief finance officer includes a reference to a person acting as chief finance officer in accordance with sub-paragraph (1).”
Amendment 29 agreed.
Amendments 30 to 32 not moved.
Amendments 33 and 34
33: Schedule 4, page 114, line 21, after “not)” insert “, but only with the consent of the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime”
34: Schedule 4, page 114, line 24, leave out paragraph (c) and insert—
“(2A) But the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis may not borrow money.
(2B) Sub-paragraph (2A) does not require the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis to obtain the consent of the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime in order to enter into a contract or other agreement with a person—
(a) by virtue of which the person becomes, or is, a member of the metropolitan police force’s civilian staff, or(b) which otherwise relates to the person’s membership of that civilian staff (including the terms and conditions of the person’s membership).”
Amendments 33 and 34 agreed.
Clause 6 : Police and crime commissioners to issue police and crime plans
34A: Clause 6, page 5, line 23, at end insert “and to the relevant local authorities in the police force area”
My Lords, this group of amendments seeks simply to ensure that local authorities are consulted by the police and crime commissioner, along with the police and crime panel, in connection with any preparation or variation of a crime plan. Surely it is axiomatic that a close working relationship between the police and other authorities, particularly local authorities, is essential in dealing with matters of community safety and law and order. A wide range of local authority functions clearly impinge on the duties of the police and vice versa, so it is clearly desirable, if not essential, that in the preparation of any police and crime plan, given the commissioner’s responsibility to liaise and work with a wide range of statutory bodies, local authorities should be among the prime consultees.
The Minister has charmed the House over the past few weeks. I hope that her charm will be matched by a willingness to accept that this is a constructive amendment, designed to ensure the closest possible working relationship between the two most important arms in any approach to the issues which this Bill seeks to address and which the relevant authorities have to address on a day-to-day basis. I hope the Minister will accept these modest but important amendments to reinforce that relationship. I beg to move.
As my noble friend inferred, we are debating the Localism Bill through which the Government wish to give more freedom to local authorities. As part of that we are seeing the Government present local authorities with an opportunity to have some of the constraints around their leadership role in a local area taken away from them so that the local authority is seen as having a leadership role which is not necessarily tied into statutory responsibilities. We are also seeing in that Bill a requirement on the 11 largest local authorities in England to hold referenda next year on whether there should be an elected mayor. The Government are therefore acknowledging the importance of local government and its place in the wider community. I support my noble friend’s amendments because they seek to ensure that when draft police and crime plans are prepared or varied, the local authority has a right to consultation. In our first discussion my noble friend referred to the potential of an elected mayor in Birmingham. I find it quite remarkable that we have the prospect of the elected mayor in Birmingham not having an ability to be statutorily consulted by the police and crime commissioner when it comes to a police and crime plan or a variation. This is a symbol of the importance of local government and I hope the noble Baroness will accept my noble friend’s amendment.
This issue is an important one and relates back to what I have said before on crime prevention. It took many years to get a good relationship between the police and local authorities on crime prevention and we should not lose that again. Local authorities and the police work together and when the police listen to what locally elected people and local authorities have to say, there is a much better chance of reducing crime and coming up with good crime prevention schemes. So I strongly support my noble friend’s amendments.
I have Amendment 47 in this group. I will be very brief. This is about partnership arrangements and improving the link between policing bodies and other partners, particularly community safety bodies. I note the Minister’s Amendment 43 on behalf of the Government specifying that the local policing body has to have regard to the priorities of the statutory partners—
The amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, provide for local authorities to have the same degree of involvement as the police and crime panel in the police and crime commissioner’s preparation of the police and crime plan. In Clause 6 the PCC is placed under specific duties to send the plan to the PCP and have regard to any report or recommendations made by the PCP in relation to the draft, to give a formal response to any recommendations from the PCP, to afford as much time as reasonably possible for the PCP to consider and review the plan, and to review the plan in light of any recommendations made to the PCC by the police and crime panel.
That is already quite a lot of involvement with the PCP, which is made up of and structured with a representative of every local authority at whichever level, whether it is a two, three or one-tier local government structure. Through the representatives on the police and crime panel—we have discussed the need for those other than local government representatives, but looking specifically at those members—I would expect the views of the local authority to be taken forward by those representatives so that specific local authorities’ views on the plan or any other matter are reflected on the panel.
For each of those duties, the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, wants the same duty to apply to each local authority within the force area. That would add bureaucracy for the PCC, because the PCC must negotiate to deliver their plan. At the moment, the core of that negotiation is with the police and crime panel. I also think that it would undermine the core responsibility of the PCP in being the check and balance for the PCC in developing the plan. The burden that will be placed by adding the extra tier is particularly disproportionate. I would expect people on the panel to communicate back to their local authority. For example, if the local authority was concerned, that concern would be expressed through their representative on the police and crime panel. That is why we have extended the scope of the panel to include a representative from every authority, compared to the current structure, where not every authority is represented.
My Lords, can we come back to the place of Birmingham, which I know is dear to your Lordships’ heart? Let us assume that the referendum takes place next May and that a year later we have an elected mayor of Birmingham. Is the noble Baroness seriously suggesting that the relationship on the draft police and crime plan is between the panel and the PCC, and that the elected mayor for Birmingham has to go through the panel to make representations? I do not think that that stands up.
I would hope that elected mayors would be represented on the panel. I see no reason why they should not be. Nothing in the Bill says that they should not and I would expect that link to be formed through those elected mayors. They would not be excluded from the panel. I do not know whether that satisfies the noble Lord’s concern. They will clearly have positions of great authority within the locality and therefore would have that input through the police and crime panel. They would clearly be important in holding to account the police and crime commissioner, and I would expect an elected mayor to have that representation. I will wait to see whether the noble Lord believes that to be a solution to the problem he has raised.
I have no doubt that each representative on the panel will consult their local authority colleagues on the plan in advance of the PCP formally submitting its advice and recommendations to the police and crime commissioner. It is for that very reason that we are placing a duty on the police and crime commissioner: the requirement at subsection (7) for the PCP to be given a reasonable amount of time to consult on the draft plan.
For clarification, it would not be a question of the PCP having the plan submitted to it for a day or two and then having to decide on it. We have included the need for adequate and reasonable time in the legislation.
For the PCC to undertake consultation with a large number of authorities outwith the PCP would, I believe, be bureaucratic and time-consuming. Also it recognises the power which we expect the PCP to have in terms of scrutiny. However, if the PCP utilises its membership, it can, on behalf of the PCC, make a constructive and supportive contribution. Through that local authority membership, it will be able to co-ordinate the views of the authorities and provide an agreed set of recommendations which, I remind the House, the PCP must have regard to.
I appreciate the intention and am grateful to the noble Lord for his kind remarks. However, I am going to disappoint him on this occasion—he is probably thinking “yet again”. I hope that the way in which the Government are seeking to enable the PCP to be involved in supporting the police and crime commissioner is a little clearer, and that the noble Lord will consider withdrawing the amendment.
My Lords, tempted as I am, I shall not withdraw the kind remarks that I made about the noble Baroness—I shall resist the provocation. However, the answer is extremely disappointing. It seems to take little account of what is needed to develop a whole-systems approach to the issues of crime, disorder, crime prevention and community safety. This is not a one-way street. These matters cannot be tackled just by police authorities, under whatever form they take; there has to be a collaborative exercise between the police and the other agencies, especially local authorities.
The Minister is effectively saying that a mayor or council leader can be a member of a scrutiny committee because that is all that the PCP is: it is not an executive body and has no power to commit anything at all. Frankly, I would be very doubtful whether a mayor or council leader of any significant authority would have the time or the inclination to serve as a member of such a body. Moreover, we need the full engagement of the area’s local authorities with the police in order to develop joint approaches and possibly joint programmes. That is not something that can be done at one remove. You do not send someone to a scrutiny panel to negotiate on behalf of your authority, particularly if it is a large unitary or county authority.
I say for the sake of clarification that I would not in any way expect the police not to have contact with local authorities. We are not talking here about the chief officer’s role and communications with local authorities; we are talking about the gateway which the PCP provides for all local authorities in that force area to be represented on the panel.
We are indeed. We are also talking about how the commissioner makes those significant strategic decisions, as he would have responsibility for the police’s part of what is not just a policing matter, but a matter which transcends the boundaries between police authorities, however constituted, and local government. This is a two-way street and one way is blocked by the Government’s apparent refusal to recognise that there has to be a partnership arrangement between police authorities and local authorities. I am really at a loss to see why the Minister and particularly her advisers are intent on blocking the way towards a collaborative and potentially fruitful relationship, which cannot be assisted by the way that the Bill is currently drafted. If that is the Government’s position, I am afraid that I must test the opinion of the House.
Amendments 34B to 34E not moved.