Report (2nd Day) (Continued)
35: Clause 6, page 6, line 5, after “constable” insert “and to each of the other persons and bodies that are, for the purposes of section 5 of the Crime Disorder Act 1998, responsible authorities in relation to local government areas that are wholly or partly within the relevant police area”
My Lords, I now move on to the next group of amendments. I am sorry, I think I have the wrong notes here.
My Lords, we are on the group starting with government Amendment 35. It would be helpful if the noble Baroness introduced the government amendments. We could then have a debate and she could then wind up.
The noble Lord is quite right. I apologise. Perhaps noble Lords will allow me a second or two to find the correct notes.
The government amendments in this group—Amendments 35, 41, 43, 48, 49, 50 and 240—relate to Clauses 6, 7 and 11 and Schedule 11 and seek to strengthen the relationship between the police and crime commissioners and community safety partnerships in their force areas. Amendment 241 corrects a minor drafting error where the Bill referred to the incorrect clause of the Crime and Disorder Act 2008. I hope noble Lords will take that as a straightforward correction of a legitimate error.
The proposals originally set out in the Bill were debated quite fully and I acknowledge that the relationship between the police and crime commissioner and the community safety partnerships is crucial. It ensures that the public are getting a service that is joined up, coherent and addresses the needs that have been identified locally. We have already set out in the Bill a reciprocal duty for the police and crime commissioner and the responsible authorities comprising community safety partnerships, which include local authorities, to co-operate in order to reduce crime and disorder, including anti-social behaviour, substance misuse and reoffending. This is still the overarching principle of the relationship, which is one of reciprocity and mutual reinforcement. These amendments follow this same principle but also seek to ensure that the police and crime commissioner and the community safety partnership are working together to address community safety priorities. The proposed amendments will require both the police and crime commissioner and the community safety partnership, including the local authority and any other CSP members, to have regard to each other’s priorities. Practically, for the police and crime commissioner these priorities will be set out in the police and crime plan and for the community safety partnerships they will be set out in the strategic assessments and partnership plans that are required by regulations. The proposed amendments will require a police and crime commissioner to send a copy of his police and crime plan to the community safety partnership in the police area. We intend to impose the same requirement on community safety partnerships in respect of their strategic assessments and partnership plans by means of an amendment to the regulations that already provide for the preparation of these documents. I hope that reciprocal arrangement will help to strengthen the relationship which many noble Lords have expressed concern about and have been fearful would not work in practice. These proposed amendments will drive a more collaborative approach between the police and crime commissioner and community safety partnerships. Community safety partnerships, including local authorities, will be able to further engage and influence the police and crime commissioner’s priorities. Importantly, this will be achieved without significantly increasing proscription but instead ensuring that there remains flexibility in how this might be executed locally.
I will be interested to hear other noble Lords speak to their own amendments which form part of this group and will, of course, respond to those when I have heard them.
My Lords, I have a number of amendments in this group but I will first comment on the Government’s amendments. The Minister described Amendments 35 and 41 as allowing flexibility. Indeed they do, but I asked myself when I saw them whether it was necessary to put the words down on paper. Amendments 35 and 41 merely provide for sending the responsible authorities copies of the plan. That is not a very onerous obligation and, more importantly, it is not one which amounts to a consultation. It is something which hardly needs saying. I am entirely with her on the points she has made which we will come to in later amendments about the supportive and collaborative arrangement which we want to see between the two arms of the new model, but I do not think this amounts to much. I hope that is not too unkind.
Amendments 43 and 50 talk about observing priorities and I could not find where the priorities were. I am grateful to the Bill team for explaining to me by email that the Government intend to amend regulations to impose a requirement on the statutory group to send their strategic assessment and partnership plan to the commissioner so that he or she will know what the priorities are. That is helpful. It is sometimes difficult to anticipate precisely what will go into regulations.
The noble Baroness, Lady Henig, has tabled Amendment 47 about membership of community safety partnerships and crime reduction partnerships. Like her, I still feel that relationships between the panel and local authorities have not yet been bottomed out, if I may put it that way.
My amendments largely repeat amendments to which I spoke in Committee. I have tabled them again because they came up in some of the enormous groups we had, which made it very difficult for Ministers at the Dispatch Box to ensure that they covered everything. There were one or two in the group on which my noble friend Lord Wallace, I think, said that he would write; I have not yet had the letter. I am sure that the Minister will understand that, as this is the last opportunity, essentially, the amendments are here again.
Amendments 40, 45 and 46, 54A, 55 and 56, 56A and 57 are about the contribution to be made by both victims and witnesses. I have tabled some of those amendments after contact with Victim Support. I am grateful for its contribution. It makes the point that in obtaining the views of the community on policing, witnesses—interestingly, Victim Support has been dealing with me on witnesses—should also be included. They, too, fundamentally depend on an effective and responsive police force. They are key participants in the justice system, whether or not they are also victims. It is often owing only to witnesses that the criminal justice becomes aware of an offence in the first place.
Victim Support states—I think, rightly—that our justice system requires witnesses to feel confident in the service they will receive from the police and that they will be the subject of sensitive handling throughout the progress of a case, not only, but including adequate protection if their status as a witness means that their safety or that of their family may be in danger. It made the point to me that particularly relevant is the apparent lack of adequate training given to officers about the reality of the court process. It commented to me about witnesses frequently being the victims of basic police misunderstanding about whether their identity will be protected, whether there will be a screen around the witness box, a video link, and that sort of thing. In fact, that is subject to the discretion of the court, and not something about which the police can give blanket assurances. In order that witnesses should not feel overused and underserved, some of my amendments suggest that they should have a role in the way that I have proposed.
A point I made at the previous stage is that victims have suffered a huge range of crimes, some very distressing, some very damaging, and some unimaginable. They or their representatives should have an opportunity to make an input to the police and crime plan and there should be arrangements to obtain their views on policing as part of the community.
Amendment 42 would alter Clause 8 regarding the means by which a,
“chief officer of police’s performance in providing policing will be measured”.
My amendment would change that to the,
“attainment of the police and crime objectives”.
That concentrates on the outcome rather than on the output and seeks to link this part of the Bill not to what the chief officer does but to whether the police and crime commissioners’ objectives, as set out in the police and crime plan, are attained.
Amendment 53 would enable the police and crime panel to request in advance that certain information should go into the commissioner's annual report. Although this is a small amendment, when I chaired the London Assembly I found that similar provision in the GLA legislation was very useful. It merely enables the panel, and the Assembly in London, to say in good time what subjects it thinks the commissioner should cover in the annual report. In this legislation, the annual report seems to have some status.
Amendment 59 would require the commissioner to have regard not only to the panel's report and its recommendations on the annual report but to any other reports and recommendations that it may make. This is not just an annual exercise. If there is to be this supportive and collaborative relationship then the panel will need to work year round. I am sure that it will have plenty of things it wants to say and that it will want to do so not just on an annual basis. This is a mild amendment as I use the words “have regard to”.
Amendment 58 relates to clauses on obtaining the views of the community on policing, and I suggest that local authorities should be included in the process. There should be consultation not just with people in the area but with those who have been elected in our system of representative democracy, who have views about the priorities for spending and whose own expenditure may cover allied or parallel ground.
I am very interested in the noble Baroness’s comments on local authorities, but would they not apply to crime plans? I follow her arguments and am very supportive of the general thrust; but if that, why not for crime plans?
If the noble Lord is teasing me about a previous amendment, he can probably read my answer in the fact that I have stayed put. I am not averse to being teased.
My Lords, I was merely trying to liven up the debate.
I am sorry if I am boring the noble Lord.
Far from it. I was just trying to follow in the noble Baroness’s footsteps with lively engagement.
Let us go on to the Local Government Association. That seems to follow, as Amendment 239A would add police and crime commissioners as statutory partners on community safety partnerships. Under the Bill, commissioners do not replace police authorities as members of CSPs; they simply have a duty to co-operate. The Local Government Association, making the point that this is an all-party view, says that it is concerned about fracturing current local community safety governance arrangements and that placing commissioners as statutory members on CSPs would help to ensure that all bodies involved in local community safety work together through a collaborative approach in the best interest of local communities and that the commissioner does not undertake contradictory efforts to those of the other CSP members.
I apologise to your Lordships for the length of time it has taken me to introduce all those amendments. It is a medium-sized group in the context of the Bill.
My Lords, pursuing my usual course of local government recidivism, I will comment briefly on Amendment 49A, which will include local authorities in the rather wide category of criminal justice bodies set out in Clause 11(4). On Second Reading, I rather questioned the extent of that list and wondered whether it is appropriate to regard the police commissioner in the same category as, for example, the Crown Prosecution Service or youth offending teams. However, be that as it may, if there are to be bodies such as those listed here—including, for example, youth offending teams, which are regarded as criminal justice bodies—surely it is logical that local government should be included as well, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, seems to acknowledge at least on this occasion. I hope that the Minister will accept that modest amendment. However, I will endorse the noble Baroness’s amendments that refer to the need for local government to be included, particularly, for example, in relation to the annual reports in Clause 13. It would be strange if the elected local policing body—effectively the commissioner—were not to give a local authority a response to a report or recommendations that such an authority might make to the commissioner. Again I hope—possibly vainly—that the Minister will see the logic of that and accept the amendment to that effect which the noble Baroness has moved.
My Lords, I will speak to Amendment 47 in this group. I apologise that I was premature in attempting to speak to this amendment an hour or so ago, having failed to notice that, in between the draft groupings and the final groupings, there had been some slight changes.
I particularly note the Minister’s Amendment 43 on behalf of the Government, which specifies that the local policing body must have regard to the priorities of the other statutory partners in developing policing plans. That is very welcome, and it begins to improve linkages with community safety partners. However, like the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, I still think that there are gaps in the landscape and that the Bill proposals could be further strengthened.
Amendment 47 suggests an active role for police and crime panel members in community safety partnerships, and it specifies that a panel member must sit on each such partnership within their area. The idea of this is to enable the panel to influence the strategic priorities of those partnerships before they are set, and to provide information to the panel and the commissioner to ensure that the policing family plays its part too.
It is all very well to say that the local policing body must have regard to the priorities of other partners; but what if these were at cross-purposes? Having a panel member in the partnership would enable an intelligent dialogue to take place and would enable that panel member to pick up on concerns before they became major problems.
The Minister is right in what he said earlier about this crucial set of relationships between CDRPs on the one hand and the commission, as we have it, on the other hand. However, I do not want this to be a discussion just about generalities, and it would be nice if this happened or that happened. Ultimately, all this is about better engagement. It is about trying to get an improved response on behalf of local communities. We are looking to try to get a system that works well for local people.
I recall that in Committee this House expressed real concern that one person, in the form of a commissioner, could not undertake the kind of in-depth engagement that 17 members formerly did, and that there was a real risk that they would be perceived as remote, not just by electors but by the many other bodies—public, private and voluntary—that work with the police. If the commissioner is going to find it very difficult to get round all the CDRPs, who can do it instead?
I think that the Government broadly agreed in their recently tabled amendments that the role of the panel must be as much about supporting the commissioner as about scrutiny. My amendment is a way of letting the panel develop a supportive role in practice. We keep hearing about the panel being supportive and about stricter checks and balances, but I am trying to get the panel to play a stronger role in practice. We know that membership of community safety partnerships would be one way for panel members to help to make this ambition effective and to get panels to be more supportive and play a more practical role.
We know that the police alone cannot solve all local problems that could arise. That is why community safety partnerships were set up in the first place. If we allow local policing bodies to become disconnected from the wider community safety partners, we will go back 15 years to the kind of silo thinking that saw record levels of crime at the end of the 1990s. I cannot believe that that is what the Government want.
It might be salutary if I remind the Minister that police authorities were not originally among the bodies required to be on CDRPs when they were established. Over time, it was found to be an error and was changed so that police authorities became statutory partners. Indeed, police authority members became among the most dedicated and active members of the partnerships. The reason was that it was a good source of two-way information. It was not just that police authorities, and now police panels, would get information back. Their presence was very much valued at district level both by local councils and divisional police officers. That system is working as we speak and I would be very reluctant to see it disappear.
I understand that the concept was not invented here. The charge has often been levelled at police forces up and down the country that they are very reluctant to introduce things that they have not pioneered or invented. I feel that the Government face the same danger here. They are trying to set up a new policing arrangement. I understand that, but there are lessons to be learnt about what has happened in the past 15 to 20 years, and we need to be prepared to learn them. My amendment attempts to restore a link that will otherwise be lost. I am trying to enable panel members to keep their pulse on the local landscape and ensure that both the panel and the commissioner are aware of developments, are equipped to understand problems and are able to co-ordinate effective joint action. Once again, I am trying to be constructive and to assist. I am absolutely certain that in the years to come, sooner or later the links will be restored. They have to be, because it is common sense. That is the way in which things will work at local level; it is just a question of making the change now rather than later.
My Lords, I do not know why I did not put my name to the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Henig—I ought to have done—but I will say a few words in support of it. First, I welcome some of the government amendments in the group. I will single out Amendments 35 and 43. Amendment 35 deals with ensuring that every responsible authority in the context of community safety gets a copy of the police and crime plan. Amendment 43 ensures—going back the other way, as it were—that local policing bodies must have regard to the priorities of local partners. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, that the Bill could go further. Therefore, I will say a few words in support of her amendment.
The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 is widely regarded as one of the best and most effective pieces of legislation passed by the previous Administration in their early years. It has made a huge difference to the way that local crime and anti-social behaviour is tackled. It is no accident that the general reduction in crime that we have witnessed in the past 15 years began at about the same time as the partnerships were put in place. Therefore, it seems strange that the Government appear less than enthusiastic about maintaining the link between the partnerships and the new police governance mechanisms.
It is particularly strange when one considers that the PCC’s role will include a vastly increased remit in relation to partnership bodies in other areas, such as criminal justice. Community safety partnerships seem to me to be the key fulcrum around which local engagement and local solutions are brought together. Why on earth we are disconnecting local policing bodies from these partnerships when they should be an asset to improving the effectiveness of local policing and partners, I really do not know. The noble Baroness, Lady Henig, is right to suggest that panels should be represented on community safety partnerships to preserve this relationship and I certainly support her amendment.
I also support this amendment, very strongly so. It follows a number of things that I have argued on this Bill on the relatively few occasions that I have spoken. It is the issue on which I feel most strongly. Although it is not the Government’s intention, there is a real danger of breaking the link between the local authority, the local crime partnership and the police. What the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, has just said is absolutely right. Particularly before the 1998 Act, it was difficult to get really good relationships between police, local community groups and the local authorities. It was not because anybody was actively willing against it; it was because we did not have a structure for doing it.
It is a long time since I was involved in this sort of thing, but I remember those years and I fear very much us going back to that. I would have great trepidation because it will result in crime and social disorder being less well dealt with and it will therefore result in an increase in crime and social disorder. If the Government would cast their minds back to the period before 1998 they will recall that various groups, particularly those led by local authorities, and the police were trying to find new ways of working together. Some police forces, local authorities and groups managed to do it; others did not. It took that structure of the 1998 Act to give force to it. A situation emerged where, slowly, everybody accepted that the key to keeping down crime was not just more police officers on the beat—important as that is—but really good crime prevention programmes and a close link between the community and the police, headed up, but not always necessarily led by, the local authority. When you got that you suddenly found that everybody began to co-operate on a single target. They also began to identify crime hot spots or particular difficult crimes and you began to get co-operation.
I know that the Minister will say, “Don’t worry, it will be all right on the night, everything will be there to follow it up”. I have to say that I cannot see it in this Bill. You are talking about very large police areas and a remote detachment. When the Minister says, as she did on the last group of amendments, that a member of the panel will be able to attend or discuss with the council or the various groups which have been implied here, then my memory—again it is perhaps many years ago—of that sort of arrangement with local authorities often did not work well. The reason was that the commitment to that level of involvement was not satisfactory. What we need is a much more structured way and what my noble friend is putting forward offers that.
If the Minister cannot see her way to accepting this amendment, I would like to see the Government spell out much more clearly how they think crime prevention is going to work in the new structure and make sure that crime panels, local authorities and everybody else are working together on this. There is a danger with this Bill, structured as it is, that that will cease to function and if we lose that, we will go back 20 years, frankly, and the Government will live to regret it. So if the Minister can spell out to me why she is so convinced it will work I will be delighted not only to listen to her now but to reread her comments and try to understand it. For the life of me, I cannot at the moment see how this is going to improve the situation and it may well make it worse and take us back—as the noble Baronesses, Lady Henig and Lady Harris, said—to 1998 and possibly further than that.
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Soley has put his finger on it in supporting my noble friends Lady Henig and Lord Beecham. The argument for this Bill is about enhancing local accountability of the police force. Yet, remarkably, in a number of its provisions, it seeks to reduce the direct involvement of local authorities in these important issues. I accept the House has come to a view about police and crime plans, but surely we should be seeking to involve individual local authorities in a partnership with their local police forces and with the police and crime commissioner.
That is why it is right to seek to encourage the Government to ensure that there are references in the Bill to the relationship between police forces and local authorities. That is why this group of amendments is so important. The argument of the noble Baroness is that the police and crime panel, which will have representatives from local authorities, can do the job. I am sure we all hope that police and crime panels will be effective and I certainly think they would be more effective if the Minister could accept the amendment of my noble friend Lady Henig. The argument she put forward is that the panels, while concerned with scrutiny, could also play a valuable role in supporting the police force and the police and crime commissioner.
I certainly hope that, despite all my fears, there will be a mainly co-operative relationship between all three partners. Otherwise, we could end up with a situation in which the police and crime commissioner engages in political argument with the police and crime panel, with the chief constable squeezed in the middle. One thinks of all the energy that these partners in the local policing situation will spend arguing with each other and seeking to get public support when they should be working together to enhance police activity and effectiveness in a community.
I strongly support the amendments, which seek to place clearly in the Bill the role of local authorities and ensure that the police forces and PCCs of the future are required to engage with community safety partnerships. Surely one of the great advances that we have seen over the past few years has been the way that people have worked together to do everything they can to prevent crime and make sure that all the agencies involved co-operate and collaborate. It would be a great pity if as a result of this legislation those bodies were discouraged from so doing. That must be particularly so in the case of crime prevention and community safety partnerships. On those grounds, I hope that the Minister will be able to come back with at least some reassurance to noble Lords.
My Lords, before I deal with these amendments, I would like to clarify the Government’s position on this issue on which we have, as I mentioned earlier, tabled amendments. The Bill already contains provision for police and crime commissioners and the responsible authorities on community safety partnerships to co-operate in the exercise of their functions. The government amendments seek to strengthen that duty at a more strategic level by including provision for both parties to have regard to each other’s priorities. Perhaps I may clarify that. What that new duty adds is that PCCs and CSPs will be required to have regard to each other’s priorities, even in areas where they would not actually be working together—which could be the case—but where there would be benefits in them taking a consistent approach and having a knowledge of, and regard to, what the other’s priorities are. That would at least ensure that they did not take an inconsistent approach, a sort of left hand not knowing what the right hand was doing. We are anxious that they work together. It is a very important relationship, and that is why I have tabled amendments to strengthen it, as I have just outlined.
My noble friends Lady Hamwee and Lord Shipley have tabled Amendment 42. My noble friend reminded us that she is due a reply from my noble friend Lord Wallace, who promised in Committee to write to her. I will ensure that I chase up that letter tonight. Amendment 42 would remove the wording that stipulates that a plan should set out how a chief officer will be judged in his or her provision of policing and replaces it with a provision about how standards of policing will be measured. In my view, this goes to the heart of what these reforms are about, despite it being, on the face of it, a relatively minor amendment.
The Government’s model is that the panel and the public should hold the commissioner to account who, in turn, must hold the chief constable to account for the provision of operational policing. The original wording of the Bill achieves this, and it is right that the operationally independent commanding officer of a force, who exercises unfettered direction and control, is held personally accountable in law for the provision of policing. This amendment, perhaps interestingly, removes this subtle but very significant difference. That is not to say that standards of policing are not something that the PCC should be involved in. We are just clear that in maintaining operational independence and clarity of roles the PCC should hold the chief constable to account for meeting those standards. I am not in any way suggesting to my noble friends that the standards do not matter, but I believe that the line of accountability as set out in the Bill is the right way forward.
My concern with Amendments 44 and 45 is that they would significantly increase the burden on PCCs and members of the community safety partnerships. I understand the effect to be that they would have to co-operate with each other in relation to all the functions exercised by members of the community safety partnership and not just in their function of formulating and implementing community safety strategies. This would be a legal duty enforceable by the courts. However, I am concerned that it would give rise to considerable bureaucracy. Local authorities, fire services and health bodies would have to keep all their functions under review in order to show that they were co-operating with the PCC where possible, even though many of their functions have a limited connection to community safety or, in some circumstances, none at all.
The Government are proposing a more proportionate approach in that the duty to co-operate would extend only to community safety functions and there would be an additional duty on police and crime commissioners and community safety partnerships to have regard to each others' priorities, the latter being a much broader set of issues. At the beginning of my remarks, I outlined how I see that working in practice.
Similar concerns arise in relation to the proposal to extend the duty to co-operate to voluntary and statutory bodies concerned with crime reduction and victim support. There may be a significant number of these bodies, both local and national, to whom the duty would apply. We would not wish to create a bureaucratic requirement for PCCs and other bodies to show how they are carrying out this duty. More fundamentally, we do not think that the amendment is necessary as the appropriate links between police and crime commissioners and the relevant bodies will be created in any event, as we are providing the power for PCCs to issue grants, including to the voluntary sector and statutory bodies. In providing those grants, there would clearly be a great deal of discussion and recognition of the function and priorities of those groups.
With regard to Amendment 47, tabled by my noble friends Lady Hamwee and Lord Shipley, I see it as primarily reverting to current arrangements for police authorities by requiring members of police and crime panels to sit on community safety partnerships. It will be for the PCC to decide how best to manage relationships with CSPs. That is the strategic leadership they will provide. I have listened to the House's concerns on this issue and have introduced amendments that will enhance these provisions and essentially allow the PCC and local CSPs to manage the relationship locally. I have already spoken on these and will not repeat myself here. Suffice it to say that I have listened and, in seeking to amend the Bill in the light of the concerns voiced in this House at previous stages of the Bill, I have tabled those amendments accordingly.
Anyone who has dealings with CSPs will know that they operate very differently across the length and breadth of England and Wales. There is no one-size-fits-all system. These reforms are about reducing bureaucracy and about responsibility being taken locally for delivering quality services. I fear that the provisions tabled by my noble friends could increase the bureaucratic burden and add prescription to the Bill, which I do not believe is needed. The panel is there to scrutinise, not to share the executive functions of the PCC. I know this is a subject on which we disagree, and I see these amendments primarily as consequential to the removal of PCCs from the Bill under the original Clause 1, but I have to reiterate that that is the Government's position.
If a commissioner decided that he or she wanted members of the panel to sit on the panel, could that happen as an alternative way of achieving what we all want to see? Would that be within a commissioner’s remit?
I have not addressed that question before. I will come back to the noble Baroness. I am probably doing what my officials call “going off piste” here—I do it quite frequently—but I believe the PCC has the authority to build these relationships and if they felt it appropriate for someone, not necessarily a member of the panel, to represent them for a particular purpose, perhaps a particular project or for something that had been identified as a priority, I hope they would have the flexibility and the power to do that. I will write to the noble Baroness before I get into too deep water, but on the face of it I see no reason why the PCC should not nominate someone to do that if it were felt necessary for that to happen, not necessarily on a permanent basis but for a particular local situation where it was necessary to work quickly and rapidly.
I would add that police and crime panels are to be made up of representatives from every local authority in the police area, and each CSP in the police area will continue to benefit from a local authority representative. It seems to me that this negates the need for the PCP to be represented on the CSPs in its own right. The local authority is already represented on the CSP and the PCP so, to go back to my reply to the noble Baroness, if there were special circumstances because of a situation that had arisen, I would hope that the PCC would have the authority to ensure that there was representation to deal with specific issues.
Those representing the local authority are of course responsible for linking up that work. I heard what the noble Lord said about that not always working in practice but, quite frankly, one of the difficulties that we often face is that things do not work because individuals do not communicate as expected. If there were problems in that area, and a lack of joined-up communication, I would expect a rather grown-up approach in that someone, presumably the PCC, would step in and say, “We have a problem here, let us sort this out”; or, from the local government end, if it they felt that there was a problem at their end and they were not getting enough report-back from those who represented them, whom they will have chosen themselves, they would say, “We are not getting enough feedback on this, can we do something about it?”. Sometimes breakdowns in communication actually just need a bit of leadership—it is not rocket science. Of course, leadership is what we expect the PCC to give, and there is certainly plenty of leadership in local authorities to make sure that, if there is a problem, they identify it and do something about it—they do not need that to be in the Bill.
The Government are trying to devolve to local areas and to respect the people who serve on these committees, particularly the people at local government level who are elected to carry out those sorts of functions. I am therefore very resistant to going into minutiae of this kind in the Bill. Given that representatives will hold unique and privileged insights into policing and community safety on behalf of the local authority, it is inconceivable that a competent public servant would not ensure that the appropriate links were made and that the local authority would seek to rectify that situation. On that basis, I ask that the amendment not be pressed.
Amendment 49A, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, asks us to define local authorities as criminal justice bodies subject to the duty to co-operate. Again, I have some difficulties with this. First, local authorities are not criminal justice bodies. They are, however, concerned with the promotion of community safety. Secondly, Clause 11(1) already provides for PCCs and the responsible authorities that are members of CSPs to co-operate with each other. Local authorities are responsible authorities, so they are covered by the duty to co-operate in Clause 11(1). There is therefore no need to include them in a separate duty to co-operate in Clause 11(2). As I have already outlined, government Amendment 43 in this group strengthens the duty to co-operate in terms of the PCC and responsible bodies having regard to each other’s priorities in exercising their functions. This will apply to local authorities as responsible authorities. I am grateful to the noble Lord for tabling his amendment, but it does not really contradict what I have tabled.
I have just looked up the clause to which the noble Baroness refers—Clause 11 on co-operative working. She is quite correct to say that Clause 11(1) refers to the “responsible authority”. However, that subsection talks about the co-operation between the elected local policing body and the local authority as a responsible authority; it does not bring the local authority within the family of the other organisations in subsection (4) that are obliged to co-operate, which is why I suggested that they should be included there. In other words, this could be seen as a bilateral relationship instead of a multilateral relationship, which was the defect that my amendment sought to cure. Will the noble Baroness take it away and think about it further?
Yes, I am very happy to do that. I had rather thought that the noble Lord was seeking to strengthen my own amendment in this matter. I take his point about the difference between bilateral and multilateral relationships. I am very happy to take it away and look at it again, just to be absolutely sure that we have got this right. I had regarded the amendment that he tabled today as rather unnecessary, but I will double-check because I agree with what he is trying to achieve here.
Amendments 53 and 59 seek to increase the panel’s influence over the PCC. Amendment 53 provides that the panel may specify information that it requires the PCC to include in his or her annual report. Amendment 59 provides that the PCC, when carrying out his or her functions, must have regard not only to reports and recommendations made by the panel on the annual report for the previous financial year but to any other ad hoc reports or recommendations issued by the panel. I completely agree that a PCC should be listening to and actively considering the panel’s views and recommendations, and I would fully expect it to do so. This is bound to happen without it being put on a statutory footing. The panel will have the opportunity to scrutinise the PCC, and that will include the PCC’s consideration of any of its advice, reports or recommendations. If the panel believes that information is needed in the public domain, it has the powers to request and publish it itself. Ultimately the public will judge the PCC’s decisions. The Government are clear that we have struck the right balance here, so I ask that the amendments not be pressed to a vote.
Amendments 54A and 56A concern victims and witnesses of crime, and would add witnesses of crime to the list of groups whose views the PCC must seek and have regard to when drafting and issuing the police and crime plan. This is in addition to the present provision that allows for the views of the people in that police area and of victims of crime. This is already covered. I would certainly expect the PCC, in having regard to the views of people in that policing area—particularly, as it says, the views of victims of crime—to consider both the victims and the views of witnesses.
Amendments 40, 46, 55, 56 and 57 add bodies working to combat crime and disorder and assisting the victims of crime to the list of organisations that the PCC and MOPC must consult or have regard to when drafting the police and crime plan. Amendment 58 adds local authorities, including parish and town councils, to that list. There is already provision in the Bill for the PCC to consult victims of crime in the area; by extension, we would expect this to include bodies and services that help to support them. There is no need for this further provision. As for bodies reducing crime and disorder, a PCC will be driven to reduce crime and disorder simply by virtue of his or her position and electoral mandate. This is at the heart of what we expect PCCs to achieve: to reduce crime and antisocial behaviour.
The Government do not seek to tell PCCs how to go about their job in detail where that is unnecessary or disproportionate. Crime and policing strategies must be formulated according to the needs of the local area. It would be a short-sighted PCC indeed who did not consult such groups, including witnesses of crime, or pay attention to local councils within the force area. Amendment 239A seeks to list all PCCs as responsible authorities for the purpose of Section 5 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. In effect, it would make a PCC a member of a community safety partnership within each local authority area in his or her force area. To do so would place a requirement on the PCC to agree with each member of a CSP a strategy for the reduction of crime and disorder and a strategy for combating the misuse of drugs.
However, the current provisions in the Bill, as set out in Schedule 11, envisage a different role for PCCs in relation to the CSPs. We are taking a power to make regulations conferring functions on PCCs in relation to CSPs. We intend to make regulations allowing the PCC to bring together community safety partnerships within the force area to address the specifics of crime reduction and drug abuse, as listed in the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. The PCC will not sit on a CSP but will have a commissioning role over its activities, including grant-issuing powers. Therefore, the police service role in delivering those activities will be represented by the chief constable or his or her nominated representative, and ultimately the chief constable will be held to account by the PCC for the force’s role on the CSP. We see the existing provisions as adequate. Therefore, I ask that these particular amendments not be pressed to a vote.
Amendment 35 agreed.
Clause 7 : Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime to issue police and crime plans
Amendments 36 to 38 not moved.
39: Clause 7, page 6, line 40, at end insert—
“( ) if the draft plan or variation is referred back by the panel under section 34(1)(c) and (1A), ensure the plan or variation follows the reasons given in the Assembly’s resolution referring the draft plan back.”
My Lords, I shall speak also to my other amendments in this group. The purpose of Amendments 39, 168, 173, 175, 176, 177 and 178 is to make the provisions of the Bill consistent with those proposed in the Localism Bill. The Localism Bill gives the London Assembly a new power to reject the Mayor’s draft statutory strategies by a two-thirds majority vote. The Bill makes no equivalent provision. As it stands, it would not have the effect of applying the Assembly’s new power to the Mayor’s draft police and crime plan. Once these two Bills become law the London Assembly would have the power to reject any mayoral strategy with the sole exception of the draft police and crime plan. This discrepancy makes no sense. There is no substantive difference between the draft police and crime plan and other mayoral strategies, so there is no justification for the police and crime plan, which is probably the most important of the mayoral strategies, being excluded from the new arrangements. This is perhaps why the Mayor of London and every political party on the London Assembly are in favour and fully support this amendment.
Amendment 171 is designed to clarify whether the London Assembly could appoint independent members of the police and crime panel and whether the Assembly could enable independent members to vote. This has now been clarified by a government amendment, so I will not say any more about this at this stage.
My final amendment in this group, Amendment 180, is designed to give the London Assembly’s police and crime panel the power to require senior Met officers and civilian staff to attend meetings and to provide information. The Government have said that the Assembly’s police and crime panel can request senior police officers to attend. This is completely meaningless since there is no way of enforcing a request. The Government have argued that allowing the Assembly to summon senior police officers would blur the lines of responsibility. I simply cannot accept this. I believe that it is perfectly legitimate for the Assembly to be able to question the Commissioner of Police. The Government have not responded so far to the second half of my request—the part about allowing the Assembly to require senior staff to attend and produce documents. Surely their argument about blurring lines of accountability cannot possibly apply to senior police staff. Requiring either attendance or papers would allow the Assembly to have information on which to inform its assessment of the mayor’s policies, actions and decisions. I beg to move.
My Lords, I have Amendments 166, 167 and 179 in this group. The first two would allow the London Assembly to determine whether to discharge its functions under the Bill either through a committee or through the full Assembly. At the moment the Bill prescribes. In responding to a similar amendment at the previous stage, the Minister said:
“The first question to address here is why there should be a bespoke committee of the London Assembly called the police and crime panel rather than, as proposed by noble Lords, the functions being conferred on the London Assembly as a whole. The reason is one of practicality. Having a dedicated committee, representative of the wider London Assembly, will ensure that sufficient attention and scrutiny can be paid to delivering its policing responsibilities and would also allow for independent members to be brought on to the panel … This smaller group will be able to focus its attentions on the important business of scrutinising, in detail, the actions and decisions of the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime”.—[Official Report, 24/5/11; col. 1800.]
I am not sure whether I can say this of the noble Baroness, but I thought, reading that, it was really rather paternalistic. The London Assembly is a grown-up body, with its current and past members and, I am sure, its future members, and ought to be able to take its own decisions as to the best way of organising itself.
I remember when we were debating the GLA Bill, which became the GLA Act 1999, it originally provided for the Government to deal with, I think, the standing orders of the Assembly. I remember the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington of Ribbleton, saying from the Government Front Bench, “This is ridiculous. It can sort itself out”. She was quite right then and I make the same point now. There seems to have been some confusion, in any event, on the Government side, because earlier the same day the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, said:
“We argue that it is for the London Assembly as a democratically elected body to decide for itself how the membership of the panel should be chosen”.—[Official Report, 24/5/11; col. 1751.]
I accept that this was a slightly different context and a slightly different point, but I argue that the London Assembly as a democratically elected body should be able to decide for itself how it carries out its functions.
Amendment 179 would provide for the Assembly to approve or reject the draft police and crime plan, or a variation, with the veto of a two-thirds majority—unco-ordinated, but the same point as that made by my noble friend. I feel that it is appropriate for the Assembly to be able to treat the plan in the same way as it does mayoral strategies. On this point, the Minister said at the previous stage that it would not be appropriate for the panel to have a power of veto because of the plan being statutory in nature. My short point here is that the strategies to which my noble friend has referred—she managed to say statutory strategies without tripping over the words—are statutory in nature. I do not see that there is any qualitative difference between the two.
Finally, I have two questions about government Amendment 172. I welcome the clarification of the position regarding co-options, but if the Assembly is to be able to fix the number of members of the panel—reverting to my earlier point—can the Assembly create a committee which consists of all 25 members as a result of this amendment?
The third subsection of the amendment states that the,
“panel functions must be exercised with a view to supporting the effective exercise of the functions of the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime”.
That picks up today’s theme of the constructive, collaborative and supportive nature of the relationship. I am not quite sure whether the Government might have gone too far on that because, in exercising the functions, the panel or the Assembly might support the best outcome but oppose the way in which the mayor’s office chooses to exercise them.
My Lords, this is an important group of amendments on which a number of issues are raised. The amendments highlight how serious the Government are, or are not, about these scrutiny bodies—in London it is the London Assembly structure—in terms of what they can and cannot do. The amendments would enable some opportunities for the London Assembly to propose amendments and changes to the policing plan.
At the moment, the London Assembly is charged with consideration of a whole series of statutory plans; for example, the Spatial Development Strategy and the transport strategy. I think that there are about seven or eight of these strategies, but that figure may have increased since I was a member of the London Assembly. In addition, there is the biodiversity action plan, which is specifically referred to in the Greater London Authority Act. The Government, or one arm of them, are busy changing the statute so as to give the London Assembly the power for which I have often argued in the past; namely, the ability to amend those plans by a suitable majority. Why is that not part of the Government’s vision for policing? It is absent and I do not understand why. I could suggest that the Home Office does not talk to the Department for Communities and Local Government, which is unthinkable, or that there is a reason why the policing strategy is seen in a different light from the other plans and strategies that the mayor is required to put before the London Assembly.
I suppose I am pleased to see that the Government have responded to the concerns expressed by many Members of your Lordships’ House about the need to ensure that, in the case of the PCPs, the chief officer of police should be able to appear before them or, in the case of the London Assembly, that the London Assembly should be able to see the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis. But it is a very weak and watery power that the Government have put forward in the amendment. It is simply the power to invite, which does not need to be written into statute because it already exists. The Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis appears several times a year before the full London Assembly on the basis of the current implicit right to invite. Therefore, the Government have made no concession at all.
By the abolition of police authorities, the Government are removing the place where the public know there will be visible answerability by senior police officers. The right to invite is not a significant new right. Under most circumstances, any sensible chief officer of police and any Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis will accept such an invitation. When there are difficult circumstances, it is important to the public that senior police officers are seen to be required to appear before a public body in that way. I have spoken in this Chamber previously—I will not repeat all the points I have made—about the value of visible answerability and the important opportunities that that gives for the public to see that the police are being held accountable.
It is no substitute that under the new arrangements London will have the deputy MOPC who will not, unfortunately, have the benefit of being directly elected but will hold the commissioner of police to account, while outside London the PCC will hold the chief officer of police to account. That process inevitably will happen in private. A one-to-one meeting cannot be held in public. That will not be a system of visible answerability, so there has to be that visible answerability somewhere else—in the case of London, that should be the London Assembly. The right to invite is not sufficient. On limited occasions, there must be the right for the London Assembly to summons. It is very sad that that has not been the case. In passing, the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, asked whether the London Assembly could decide that all 25 members should sit and carry out this scrutiny function. At present, the full London Assembly on occasions meets as a whole to ask questions about policing. Will that now be precluded by the Bill and the way in which it has been structured? That is the implication. You end up with less visible answerability and less visible accountability, and the arrangements that already exist are diminishing. Surely, that is not the Government’s intention, which is why this group of amendments is so important.
My Lords, it seems to me that the noble Baronesses, Lady Doocey and Lady Hamwee, have raised some important points. Like my noble friend, I am puzzled by the inconsistency between government departments when dealing with similar matters in legislation going through your Lordships’ House. We raised this matter previously regarding corporates sole and the absence of effective corporate governance, in contrast to changes that other government departments are making regarding similar governance issues. I specifically referred last week to the Department of Health. As a result of the listening exercise it is changing the proposals on governance to ensure that what were going to be called GP consortia and are now to be clinical commissioning groups, will have effective corporate governance. Another example is the extension of the Assembly’s new power in relation to mayoral strategies not in this Bill to police and crime powers. I cannot see the logic of that. Surely if it is deemed appropriate for the Assembly in certain circumstances to be able to amend plans, why on earth is it not appropriate with the police and crime plan?
I, too, am puzzled about why the panel is not in the last resort able to require the attendance of senior police officers. The Government’s view is that that would blur the line of responsibility. They have also make that argument in relation to police and crime panels outside London. Far from blurring the line of responsibility, it seems to me that two things will happen. When the MOPC goes before the London panel or when—outside London, although I know that it is not part of these amendments—the PCC goes before a police and crime panel, the panel is bound to ask matters on operational issues. That is inevitable. The MOPC will either have to say, “It’s not me guv, that’s down to the commissioner”; or, as I suspect will happen, it will seek to answer on operational issues. Those of us who have been before Select Committees or scrutiny committees know that, in the end, it is difficult not to give an answer.
I suggest to the noble Baroness that the real reason why the Government will not give way on this is that they know we are on a journey towards elected politicians running the police force. That is the inevitable consequence of where we are going. By not allowing the panels to require the attendance of senior police officers, the Government are encouraging that process. Surely on a policing matter that should be the direct responsibility of the commissioner, the panel and not just MOPC should be able to summon the commissioner.
My Lords, I would like to deal with one or two points that have just been raised before I touch in more detail on the amendments that have been spoken to this evening. We want the Assembly to have a role in informing the development of the plan which is in keeping with the rest of the country and the elected mandate of the PCC. We do not believe that there should be a veto, because no other PCP will have the power of veto outside London. It would take away—this is critical—the mandate on which they were elected. I see the noble Lord looking heavenward but this is at the heart of PCCs. They will be elected on a mandate that will spell out to voters how they see themselves managing crime reduction.
Will the Minister give way?
I am halfway through the sentence; perhaps I may finish it. At the heart of the Bill is an ability to be elected on a manifesto and on a mandate which people will have heard. People will either support them on that or give their support to an alternative candidate with a different way of taking these matters forward. The right to veto would completely negate what had been put to the people who had voted in good faith on the contents of the strategy. I give way to the noble Lord.
My Lords, there are two issues here. One is London and what happens there and the other is the impact of a decision in London in relation to police forces in the rest of the country. As far as London is concerned, I do not see the difference between the mayor as the MOPC and the mayor as the Mayor of London. The manifesto will contain proposals that relate to both policing and non-policing issues, and since the Government have decided that it is entirely appropriate for the Assembly in certain circumstances to change those strategies, I cannot see the logic of the argument coming from the Home Office. Is it not supporting the overall government position on this? Secondly, if you agreed to this in London, would that differ from the position in other parts of the country? I see the force of that argument but again I refer the noble Baroness to what Mr Pickles said at the conference last week in Birmingham, when he made it clear that elected mayors outside London will not have any additional powers to those held by local authorities at the moment. Already within local government we have a situation where it is accepted, and the Government support, that there will be differences between London and elsewhere. I know that the Home Office is a very distinguished department of state but just occasionally it would be nice to think that it was actually a part of the Government.
My Lords, I assure the House that there is absolutely no question that the Home Office is not part of the Government. I am shocked to the quick that the noble Lord should suggest such a thing. There is a difference between the Mayor of London and the mayor’s election but, unlike mayoral strategies on which the mayor goes to the electorate, within the Bill there is a lot of detail which is already in statute that relates to policing, structure and the mayor’s function in London policing. This is therefore different from other matters which the mayor may go to the electorate on as part of a broader manifesto. I see the noble Lord, Lord Harris, about to rise.
I am grateful to the Minister. I hope that she is not relying on a brief from the Home Office which suggests that somehow the policing and crime plan is intrinsically different from the other mayoral strategies. There is the most extraordinary volume of legislation about what the Mayor of London can do on development issues in London. There is an extraordinary volume of legislation about what the Mayor of London can do with transport. The legislation specifies very complicated arrangements for consultation with the public of London before the mayor can frame the spatial development strategy and the transport strategy. To suggest that there is anything special here regarding policing compared with those other pieces of legislation is, I am afraid, nonsense.
To save me getting up again, if the Government are concerned that this sets a precedent for the rest of the country then why on earth are they having a different system of governance in London than in the rest of the country? Once you have accepted a different system of governance in London, then what you do in terms of how London operates does not set a precedent.
My Lords, we have been round this circuit quite a few times. The difference is that the mayor, unlike PCCs, covers a distinct police force area. The election of the mayor has already taken place; we are familiar with the structure. I know that the noble Lord is going to jump up and talk about the City of London police, and I accept the point. He has made the point and I think that I have fully understood it.
The structure in London is different from that in the rest of the country. In this uniformity across the country, however, we have tried to identify where there are differences in London—and there are differences—and draft the Bill accordingly. This may come as a surprise to the noble Lord because I have just said that we already have detail in statute on this matter, which we have, but at all levels, whether it is London or elsewhere, we have tried to introduce checks and balances throughout the Bill at the same time as keeping a light touch. We want to give PCCs and the MOPC the opportunity to be flexible and to make their plans according to their local priorities and demands. There is a structure within the Bill that will affect all of the country, including London—and there are differences that affect London because of the precedent of already having an elected mayor—but we want this to be something that is not top-heavy and not prescriptive from the centre, that allows local accountability for local decision-making that is a local priority and not something set down by Whitehall.
I would also like to put this on the record. Some noble Lords were not here on Friday when it was suggested that there is a difference between me and the Home Office. I have heard what has been said about the Home Office. This is not the first time in my career that I have been a Minister. It has never been my practice as a Minister to separate myself either from the department that I represent or from the Government whom I represent. There is hardly a cigarette paper’s width—if that is not being terribly politically incorrect—between us. I take full responsibility for the Home Office in your Lordships’ House. I hope it is meant kindly, but it does not always sound that way. I suggest to noble Lords that if there is criticism of the Home Office in your Lordships’ House, it rests on my desk. I take full responsibility for that. If people have complaints about the Home Office, I would ask that, as with all other complaints, they put it in writing, and I will respond accordingly.
My Lords, I could not resist the cigarette paper. I have been listening very carefully to the noble Baroness. I have a concern about public examination and questioning of the chief police officer’s ability to respond to what the community wants. I come back to two points in this Bill. The needs and expressed views and wishes of different parts of London can be very varied and the Assembly represents the whole of London. I accept that there is not a cigarette paper between the Government and the noble Baroness and the department, although some of us who have had experience with different departments find that occasionally one department can be slightly more flexible on a Bill than other departments can, but that is by the bye.
I have a growing concern about the role of the chief police officer. Underpinning the Bill is the assumption that everyone who voted will get the policies that they wanted, the whole policies and nothing but the policies. I am deeply concerned about one individual being able to do that. To me, public accountability is critical in this amendment, and in other parts of the country, in terms of protection. Some major areas of police work and the accountability of the chief constable will go to the area of police activity that is wider than the area covered by the authority or the chief constable. It may be that the CPC will be saying, “Look, I vowed that we would do A, B and C but we are not able to do as much of C as we would have liked because the Home Secretary is determined that some of the resources must go to something else”. Being able to be questioned and to air their views and policy initiatives in public is critically important to chief constables. I personally would prefer police authorities not to be according to the Government. However, to protect professionalism, the right to be questioned and heard in public is a basic professional right.
I take seriously what the noble Baroness says about chief officers. I appreciate the seriousness of the point that she is making. I hope that the Bill has taken account of that, not least in the protocol that has been discussed with colleagues in this House across all parties. I said on Report last week that we are still considering whether or not to put the protocol or the principle of a protocol in the Bill. That protocol has been developed with ACPO and others to try and get this balance right. It is very much in the interests of chief officers. I am not able to say today what the outcomes are of that decision-making, but I assure the House that we are seriously looking at whether or not to put the principle into the Bill. Did the noble Lord, Lord Harris, want me to give way?
The Minister may have misunderstood what I was saying on a point that I made earlier on. It is not that the ability of the Assembly to vary local plans runs across the thrust of government policy. I understand that the thrust of government policy is to release local energies to determine what the priorities are. If that is the case and you then say that the London Assembly cannot vary what is being determined locally, does that not cut across the sort of localism that the Government say they want? This is not about the problems of the Assembly interfering with national strategies or requirements; it is about the ability of the Assembly to say, “These are the local priorities”. Where there is a clear two-thirds margin—a pretty high target—that is something that the MOPC would have to take on board.
I cannot understand why the Government are saying that policing is different from spatial development strategy—say, the size of strategic tall buildings, the size of the congestion zone area or any of those other issues. These are not laid down nationally; they are determined locally. Of course the Mayor of London has been elected with a manifesto but the London Assembly, representing all parts of London, may well say, by a two-thirds majority, “We think that you should take this back and review it”. That is what the Government are saying could happen in those other areas—why are they not saying that it can happen with regard to policing?
We have a situation in London where, although I said earlier that there is a difference between London and the other areas, there will be an opportunity to scrutinise the plan. I do not want this to sound as if it is an isolated case. We have had these discussions now. We have tried to strengthen in the Bill the fact that there is a need not just to scrutinise and challenge but also to support. Where the plan is being drawn up, it is not just something that happens overnight. I would expect it to be subject to a series of consultations so there would be ample opportunity, if there were reservations, for the plan to be amended to take account of different points of view that had been put forward. It is not just an isolated thing.
Perhaps this is my fault but I have a feeling that in the earlier stages of the Bill, when we were talking about the plan, I did not spell out this aspect in more detail. It is not the case that one day somehow a plan is suddenly produced and presented for consultation and people sitting in committee then make their views known. We want them to have time to look at the plan in some detail; I raised this in an earlier amendment. There will need to be that period of time. The plan will not be put together overnight. There will be plenty of opportunities for views to be brought forward and for real consultation to take place.
I do not want to prolong this, but that is exactly the situation that already exists regarding the transport strategy. There is a requirement, which if I remember correctly seems almost unduly onerous, for any amendment to the transport strategy to require two separate consultation processes. I look across the Chamber at those current Members of the London Assembly. So the transport strategy is not something that happens suddenly; it happens after a great deal of discussion and process. Yet the Government are saying that the transport strategy can be amended by a two-thirds majority of the London Assembly. I put this question again to your Lordships: why is policing different from transport?
I realise that the mayor will have said things about transport, I appreciate that, but the mandate that the mayor will have been elected on will have outlined how he sees the reduction of crime in London. It is important that that is not fettered by a veto, which it could be.
You could say exactly the same about congestion in London. The mayor has stood on a manifesto that says he is going to reduce congestion in London by various methods, yet the Government are giving the power to the London Assembly to amend the strategy by a two-thirds majority after two separate consultation exercises before the strategy is finalised and those decisions are taken.
I am not trying to be difficult here. Well, I am trying to be difficult because I think that these are important issues, but I am afraid that the Government are being totally illogical when they say that policing is different from those other strategies.
My Lords, I have to remain illogical to the noble Lord. I can think of nothing else to say to him now that we have not already taken around this circuit, not just in today’s debate but in Committee.
I wonder whether I might start to address some of the amendments that have been raised in this debate, beginning with the veto in Amendment 179 tabled by my noble friends Lady Hamwee and Lord Shipley. I am sure it will come as no surprise to them when I say that I cannot accept it, probably for the most of the reasons that have been exchanged not with them but across the Floor of the House in the past 10 minutes. I can also not accept Amendment 178, tabled by my noble friend Lady Doocey. The amendment would give the London Assembly the power to reject the MOPC’s draft plan by a two-thirds majority and have the Assembly’s comments reflected in the plan. Amendments 39, 168, 173, 175, 176 and 177 are consequential to my noble friend’s amendment and can be considered with it.
The House will be aware that the Government have made a concession in relation to police and crime panel vetoes. We listened to the concerns of the House and have introduced amendments creating a new power of veto for the London Assembly police and crime panel in relation to the appointment of a non-Assembly member as the deputy mayor for policing and crime. We are also reducing the majority required for all the various panel vetoes from three-quarters to two-thirds. I understand that that is not as low as noble Lords would have liked. Points have been raised again on Report, as they were in Committee. But it is a concession. It was at three-quarters, so we have listened by reducing it to two-thirds. Noble Lords have said that it would be quite hard to get two-thirds of people there if such a vote were to take place. I have to say that such is my experience of democracy that wherever you set the threshold you are often disappointed that people do not feel that it is as important a matter as you do for them to turn out and vote. The right of veto is in the Bill. If such a matter occurred and people on the panel felt it was very important, they would almost certainly try to make the case to ensure that their points of view were known to those who were eligible to use the veto.
However, I am clear that setting the strategy for the force must be an unfettered decision for the PCC or the MOPC. This is precisely where its electoral mandate will come into play and where the public will most visibly see their views and opinions reflected. I realise that that is not the view of all your Lordships in the Chamber tonight, but it would be against the spirit of our reforms to allow that electoral mandate to be overridden by the panel. There is provision in the Bill for the panel to provide recommendations on the plan. It is a robust, transparent mechanism that ensures that views are heard and debated. However, the final decision on the plan must rest with the PCC or, in the case of London, the MOPC, and not the panel. For those reasons, I ask that the amendment be withdrawn.
Amendments 166 and 167, again from my noble friends Lady Hamwee and Lord Shipley, would allow the London Assembly to choose whether its functions in relation to the scrutiny of the MOPC should be discharged by the Assembly as a whole or by a committee—the police and crime panel. We have been clear that having a dedicated police and crime panel perform these functions will ensure that sufficient attention and scrutiny can be given to policing and crime matters. It would also allow for independent members to be brought into the panel to ensure diversity and the right mix of skills. The Government have tabled Amendment 172 to make that clear, having listened very carefully to representations that were made at discussions outside the Chamber and also in the Chamber in Committee. This smaller group will be able to focus its attentions on the important business of scrutinising in detail the actions and decisions of the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime, particularly in respect of the police and crime plan. In addition to the provisions in the Bill, I would highlight that the government amendment in this group provides for the London Assembly to have an important and extensive say on the membership of its police and crime panel committee. I note that it is common for the London Assembly to operate in committees, one example being the transport committee. I hope that the Home Office has got that right.
My noble friend Lady Doocey has also brought forward an amendment to allow the police and crime panel to require the attendance of senior police officers or police staff at the police and crime panel. Others have mentioned that. The House discussed this issue in Committee and I pointed out that panels are not charged with holding the police to account and, as such, there is no need for them to have this power. In London the panel is charged with holding the mayor to account and the only power that it needs or will have is to require the mayor and the staff of the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime to attend. However, the Government agree that there may be occasions when the London Assembly may wish to invite the Metropolitan Police Commissioner to attend with the mayor or deputy mayor for policing and crime, and we have tabled an amendment to achieve this. The London Assembly already asks the commissioner to attend, which he does in the interest of good working relationships, as the noble Lord, Lord Harris, has already pointed out. We have no reason to believe that a compulsory power is required to secure the commissioner’s attendance and, as I have indicated, we do not believe that any such power in relation to other senior Metropolitan Police officers or staff would be appropriate. On that basis, I would ask my noble friend not to press the amendment. The House has been clear that checks and balances are needed and that this model must include non-executive members. I am grateful to my noble friend Lady Doocey and the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, for tabling an amendment in Committee and to my noble friends Lady Doocey and Lady Hamwee for tabling amendments on Report to ensure that the London Assembly’s police and crime panel explicitly has this power.
We wholeheartedly agree and want to ensure that the ability to co-opt independent members to the panel applies equally to London as to the rest of England and Wales. I hope, therefore, that there will be support for this amendment in making it clear that the panel can co-opt independent members—that is, people who are not members of the Assembly itself. As with other police and crime panels, this will help the panel meet its obligation to have balanced geographical and political representation. It will also allow the panel to bring in valuable technical expertise if it is decided that that is needed. I beg to move the amendment and hope that my noble friend will withdraw her amendment and support the government one.
Before my noble friend sits down, I am aware that this is Report stage although it has not always been treated quite that way. My noble friend has been dealt an almost impossible hand but may I tempt her to respond to the question of the noble Lord, Lord Harris, on whether there is to be a change in how the Assembly operates? May it no longer in plenary session ask questions of the mayor in his capacity as MOPC? I cannot believe that either of the mayors, of whom London has so far had experience, would themselves be constrained, nor can I think that any chair of the Assembly would say, “I have to stop you there. This is outside the legislation”. I never succeeded in stopping the first Mayor of London when he strayed, as he did rather widely. This seems unbelievable but there is a serious question. In a plenary session when an individual who holds the two offices is answering questions, can he or she not answer them in a holistic fashion, moving between strict policing matters and non-policing matters?
My Lords, I understand that there is absolutely no change. There is no reason why they cannot ask those questions.
Will they be answered?
I assume that if a question is asked and somebody has the answer they would have the courtesy to give it. There is nothing in the Bill to prevent them answering a question they are asked.
My Lords, I welcome government Amendment 172. I am very happy with that and will withdraw my Amendment 171. Like the noble Lord, Lord Harris, I am at a complete loss to understand the points made by my noble friend the Minister. I have listened very carefully to everything she said. Every single mayor has been elected on a manifesto basically of two things: police and transport. All of the issues to do with transport are exactly the same as those to do with policing. Nothing that has been said by my noble friend has made me understand the thinking behind the Government saying that it is okay for the Assembly to be given a new right to reject the mayor’s strategy by two-thirds in transport but it would be completely wrong for the Assembly to be given the right to reject the police and crime panel report. I simply do not understand where the Government are coming from. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 39 withdrawn.
Amendment 40 not moved.
41: Clause 7, page 7, line 28, at end insert—
“( ) In its application by virtue of subsection (11)(e), section 43(2) of the 1999 Act (duty to send copies of current version of police and crime plan) has effect with the insertion after “to each London borough council” of the words “and to each of the other persons and bodies that are, for the purposes of section 5 of the Crime Disorder Act 1998, responsible authorities in relation to local government areas that are wholly or partly within the metropolitan police district.”
Amendment 41 agreed.
Clause 8 : Police and crime plans
Amendment 42 not moved.
Clause 11 : Co-operative working
43: Clause 11, page 10, line 1, at end insert—
“( ) The elected local policing body for a police area must, in exercising its functions, have regard to the relevant priorities of each responsible authority.”
Amendment 43 agreed.
Amendments 44 to 47 not moved.
Amendments 48 and 49
48: Clause 11, page 10, line 11, leave out “reference in subsection (1)” and insert “references in this section”
49: Clause 11, page 10, line 12, leave out “is a reference” and insert “are references”
Amendments 48 and 49 agreed.
Amendment 49A not moved.
50: Clause 11, page 10, line 37, at end insert—
““relevant priority”, in relation to a responsible authority, means a priority applicable to the exercise of that authority’s functions which is identified by that authority in compliance with a requirement imposed by regulations made under section 6(2) of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998;”
Amendment 50 agreed.
Clause 12 : Information for public etc
51: Clause 12, page 11, line 4, after “necessary” insert “or which are required by the relevant police and crime panel”
In moving Amendment 51, I will also speak to my Amendments 52, 54, 142 and 143, with which it is grouped. I again apologise to the House that my amendments repeat, or are similar to, amendments to which I spoke in Committee. The large groups in Committee meant that we had what I might describe as composite responses from the Dispatch Box.
Amendments 51 and 53 continue the theme of checks and balances in the shape of tools to enable the panel to do its job. Clause 12 is headed “Information for public etc”. Under Clause 12(3), the commissioner must publish information which he or she “considers to be necessary” to enable local people to assess the matters that are set out: that is, information that he—some may be “she”, but I guess they will mostly be “he”—considers necessary. No doubt that consideration has to be done in good faith, but it strikes me that it would be almost impossible to enforce. I do not know who would enforce it. My amendment would insert, as additional matters to be included, those,
“which are required by the relevant police and crime panel”.
As I say, these tools would enable the job to be done and would interpose the strict checks and balances required to check and balance the commissioner.
I have already alluded to the provision that I seek to add to Clause 13. It is not an onerous or difficult obligation but would allow the panel before the beginning of the relevant year to tell the commissioner what it thinks ought to be included in the annual report. This was applied in London under the GLA Act when I chaired the Assembly. After the Assembly had had a preliminary discussion about the items that it thought should be included in the mayor’s annual report, there was a negotiation with the mayor. It was a perfectly civilised but productive process.
Amendment 52 is designed to draw attention to the position of victims of crime and to ensure that “performance” includes,
“the treatment of victims of crime”.
I have brought this up again because I do not think it was answered in the group in which it was contained previously.
Amendments 142 and 143 are a repetition of amendments concerned with the attendance of senior officers and the production of documents and information. I heard what the Minister had to say in our debate on the previous group about allowing the attendance of the most senior officer. You do not need to put into legislation that someone may attend a meeting; the legislation should not set out a narrative of what might happen but provide rules if people are not minded to do the sensible thing. Surely the point of a law of the land is to require attendance—in this case of someone who is not particularly willing to attend. If we think that attendance is a good and productive thing, the role of the legislation is to ensure that it is required.
My noble friend Lord Wallace did not state specifically which amendments he was speaking to—he said that the Government were right about some of them—but he said that the balance was wrong and that he was concerned to protect the commissioner from,
“being inundated with requests for information”.—[Official Report, 24/5/11; col. 1750.]
However, the panel’s role is to advise and scrutinise the police and crime commissioner, especially in respect of the annual police and crime plan. To advise and to scrutinise in the broadest sense, the panel needs information, and not only the information that the commissioner determines that it should have. This applies to every piece of information because everything is relevant to the plan. I fully appreciate where accountability lies—with the chief constable to the police and crime commissioner and with the commissioner to the electorate—but there are dotted lines in there to enable the panel to be brought in. Sometimes it is appropriate and practical for someone a bit less senior than the chief constable to attend, but at other times it is necessary to insist on his attendance and to insist that documents and information are provided.
The Government have tabled amendments in this group. Some of them are about the request to which I have referred; others change the relevant term from “reports” to “information”. They are a minor improvement but still do not seem to my mind adequately to recognise the role of the panel. I beg to move.
My Lords, I have tabled Amendment 141 in this group, which would provide that outside London the panel should be able to call senior police officers to answer questions as well as the commissioner and members of the commissioner’s staff. As I shall spell out, this amendment complements the amendments tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. I very much agree with the sentiments that she expressed with regard to her amendments.
It is very important for panels to be able to call in senior police officers. The panels must be able to triangulate evidence if they are to carry out their role of effectively scrutinising the commissioner. It is true that they will be able to gather information from the commissioner under the provisions in the Bill, but they will also need to analyse and test that information. The most effective way of challenging and testing information is to ask questions about it. Certainly, the panel can ask questions of the commissioner under the provisions already in the Bill, but this may tell it only what the commissioner wants it to hear, particularly if the commissioner has been responsible for providing that information in the first place. All my experience in local government and policing tells me that it is extremely important for the panel to be able to reality check what it hears from the commissioner against the views of senior members of the police force.
I acknowledge and welcome the fact that government Amendment 145 enables the panel to call the chief constable to attend, but the fact that that is only if the commissioner is also in attendance concerns me. First, the chief constable may feel constrained about what he or she can say in front of the commissioner. Secondly, the chief constable may not be the most knowledgeable about the aspect of policing on which he is being questioned and it might be more appropriate for another senior officer to attend. If we accept that the panel has a particularly important role in providing the link between force level and local policing—and I hope that we are shifting in that direction—the most appropriate person to answer questions about a particular local area might be the divisional commander rather than the chief constable.
In my view, as the crime part of the commissioner’s role grows, there is a good argument for saying that the panel should be able to call a range of other people from the local criminal justice and community safety partnerships. Indeed, it is hard to see how a panel could fulfil its scrutiny role without being able to triangulate evidence from these bodies as well. However, for now, I am concentrating in this amendment on getting the policing part right, given all the other uncertainties and concerns about balancing the role of commissioners in this context.
Without wishing to second-guess the Minister—and far be it from me to anticipate what she might say in response—she will probably tell me that my proposal is not possible because it compromises the accountability of senior police officers. However, let me explain why I do not think that it does. In effect, my amendment simply says that senior police officers should appear before the panel to answer questions to assist it in carrying out its functions. Answering questions does not in itself make someone accountable to the person asking the questions. It certainly does not make anyone automatically accountable when it is made clear that the purpose of answering the questions is to help someone else to do their job properly. I therefore do not accept that my amendment compromises the accountability of police officers, particularly when so much else in the Bill is very specific about this. I may not agree with it all, but we are all very clear about how accountability is intended to work in the Bill.
For the reasons that I discussed a few minutes ago, not being able to call senior officers to give information would severely compromise the ability of the panel to triangulate and test evidence about how the commissioner is carrying out his or her responsibilities. This would be asking the panel to do a job with one hand tied behind its back and so, as I say, the purpose of my amendment is to enable the panel to conduct its scrutiny more effectively. It is for that reason that I put forward the amendment.
My Lords, as you will see in the government amendments in the group, which I shall come to in a moment, we agree that it is important that information is available to the public and the panel in assessing the actions of the police and crime commissioner and the force. Amendments 51, 52 and 54, in the name of my noble friends Lady Hamwee and Lord Shipley, concern the provision of published information. We are grateful to my noble friends for these amendments. Amendment 51 would compel the PCC to publish information that the panel deems appropriate, while Amendment 52 stipulates that performance information should include data pertaining to the treatment of victims of crime. Amendment 54 states that the PCC must provide documentation as well as information.
On Amendments 51 and 52, the panel already has the right to request information, and provided that it would not jeopardise national security or personal safety it must be supplied, and nothing prevents the panel from publishing it. There is further access to information through regular, light-touch inspections by HMIC and crime mapping. Therefore the panel already has a means of obtaining information, and, as I say, should it wish to see it published, that is perfectly acceptable.
On Amendment 54, the panel can again request any information that it deems necessary from the PCC, and I am happy that it is on the record that we interpret “information” to include documents. This should be provided except where it might adversely impact the safety of the public. I hope my noble friends agree that the provisions in the Bill allow for the outcomes they seek to be met, and I ask that these amendments are not pressed.
Amendment 141, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, and Amendment 142, in the names of my noble friends Lady Hamwee and Lord Shipley, would allow the panel to require the attendance of senior officers from the police force. As I will discuss in bringing forward Amendments 145 and 181, we agree that there are times when it is right that operational matters must be considered alongside the police and crime commissioner’s role. However, these amendments go much further. We do not accept that the panel should be able to scrutinise other members of the force directly. It is the police and crime commissioner’s role to hold the chief constable to account and the role of the panel to hold the PCC to account. Duplicating the accountability of the chief constable is confusing and would only undermine the effective and clear leadership that policing needs.
My Lords, if the panel cannot require the chief constable to come before it, inevitably the police and crime commissioner will be called upon to answer operational issues. If that happens, the line between the role of the PCC and the chief constable will become very blurred. I know the Government say that they resist the amendment because they do not want to blur the role of the PCC overall as being accountable to the electorate, but their approach will bring its own perverse incentives.
I see the noble Lord’s point. He is right to point out that there is a compromise in that concession. However, the chief constable has to be responsible for his force. He or she is the person invited to attend with the PCC. On the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, if they do not know an answer they should go away and find it, like a Minister does at the Dispatch Box. We are trying to avoid a situation where the force is split by allowing the same question to be addressed to different people. That would risk undercutting the authority of the chief constable.
I understand that perfectly but it is not what I am trying to do. I want to enable the panel, in exercising strict checks and balances—which, after all, is what we are trying to do—to scrutinise the commissioner effectively. To enable that to happen, the panel should be able to ask questions of a chief constable that relate to a commissioner’s performance. This is all about the scrutiny of the commissioner; it is not about holding the chief constable to account. I agree with the noble Lord that that would not be acceptable; it is not what we want to see happen. We are trying to increase the ability of the panel to scrutinise effectively. That is what we are all trying to secure.
My Lords, perhaps I may come back to that point and, for the moment, move on.
Amendment 143 would make the panel’s ability to request information more explicit. As discussed, it is important that panels can carry out their functions. However, panels already have powers appropriate for the scrutiny role they will perform. They can require the attendance of the police and crime commissioner or members of the PCC's staff to answer questions that they deem necessary. They can also require information from the commissioner and their staff, except where this would compromise security, so I hope that I can persuade noble Lords in due course to withdraw these amendments.
We are proposing in this group a number of government amendments which will address many of the issues raised by your Lordships during Committee. Amendments 145 and 181 would allow the police and crime panel to request the attendance of the chief constable in the exercise of their duties. We have noted your Lordships’ comments and we thank my noble friends Lady Hamwee and Lord Shipley in particular for their contribution. It is still one of the fundamental principles of this reform that it is the police and crime commissioner who holds the chief constable to account. As has been said, we believe that such dual accountability would lead to a confusing landscape, with the chief constable being pulled in two different directions and the public unclear as to who they were holding to account for their policing service.
However, it is recognised that in order for the police and crime panel to fulfil its role in holding the police and crime commissioner to account, there might be times when the chief constable’s attendance is desirable, so it is proposed to give the panel the ability to request their attendance. That stops short of it being able to compel him or her to attend and it will be for the chief constable, in consultation with the police and crime commissioner, to decide. As I said, the principle is that the PCP’s function is to scrutinise the PCC rather than the chief constable but we acknowledge that there may be occasions when it is desirable for the PCP to meet the chief constable.
I turn to information provided to PCCs and to government Amendments 182 and 186. Noble Lords will be aware that, as originally drafted, the Bill provided that a chief constable could be required to provide a police and crime commissioner with any report that he or she saw fit. That matched the existing provisions for police authorities and one may well ask what these government amendments add to that. It is arguable that a report is a document containing or consisting of information—we certainly take this view—so that a power to require reports necessarily encompasses a power to require information. While this was not discussed in your Lordships’ House, a number of parties have raised with us concerns about the existing provisions.
Those concerns were, essentially, that by requiring a report rather than information, the PCC might only be able to obtain the chief constable's interpretation of data rather than being able to analyse that data themselves. I am confident that chief constables would not in any way seek to misrepresent data or use them selectively. However, in order for the PCC to be able properly to hold the chief constable to account, they will need to be able to see raw data for themselves so that they can give their own thought and analysis of them. This amendment will ensure that happens and that there can be adequate and appropriate flows of information between the chief constable and the PCC. It will also achieve consistency throughout the Bill, since similar provisions such as Clauses 14 and 94 are couched in terms of information rather than reports. Comment, opinion or analysis are kinds of information, so a PCC will still be able to use this clause to require the chief constable to give an account or explanation of any matter of concern. As such, I hope that noble Lords will support these government amendments.
My Lords, I have learnt one new thing today: the use of the term triangulation. I feel that any response would simply risk going round the circuit again, although I note that the noble Lord has just given some assurances on interpretation of terms, which will be useful, and I must acknowledge them. I beg leave to withdraw Amendment 51.
Amendment 51 withdrawn.
Amendment 52 not moved.
Clause 13 : Annual reports
Amendment 53 not moved.
Clause 14 : Information for police and crime panels
Amendment 54 not moved.
Clause 15 : Arrangements for obtaining the views of the community on policing
Amendments 54A to 58 not moved.
Clause 18 : Duties when carrying out functions
Amendment 59 not moved.
Clause 19 : Delegation of functions by police and crime commissioners
60: Clause 19, page 14, line 16, at end insert—
“(A1) The police and crime commissioner for a police area may—
(a) appoint a person as the deputy police and crime commissioner for that police area, and(b) arrange for the deputy police and crime commissioner to exercise any function of the police and crime commissioner.”
Amendment 60 agreed.
Amendment 61 not moved.
Amendments 62 to 64
62: Clause 19, page 14, line 17, after “person” insert “(who is not the deputy police and crime commissioner)”
63: Clause 19, page 14, line 19, leave out from “not” to end of line 21 and insert “—
(a) appoint a person listed in subsection (3) as the deputy police and crime commissioner;(b) arrange for the deputy police and crime commissioner to exercise a function listed in subsection (4)(a), (e) or (f);(c) arrange, under subsection (1), for a person listed in subsection (3) to exercise any function; or(d) arrange, under subsection (1), for any person to exercise a function listed in subsection (4).(2A) A deputy police and crime 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.
(2B) But the deputy police and crime commissioner may not arrange for a person to exercise a function if—
(a) the person is listed in subsection (3), or(b) the function is listed in subsection (4).”
64: Clause 19, page 14, line 22, leave out “subsection (2)(a)” and insert “subsections (2)(a) and (c) and (2B)”
Amendments 62 to 64 agreed.
Amendment 65 not moved.
Amendments 66 to 68
66: Clause 19, page 14, line 25, at end insert—
“(ca) the Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime appointed by the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime;”
67: Clause 19, page 14, line 28, at end insert—
“(g) a member of the staff of a person falling within any of paragraphs (a) to (f).”
68: Clause 19, page 14, line 29, leave out “(2)(b)” and insert “(2)”
Amendments 66 to 68 agreed.
69: Clause 19, page 14, line 36, leave out paragraph (e) and insert—
“(e) except as provided in sections (Powers of dismissal: role of police and crime panel) and (Powers of suspension: role of police and crime panel), appointing, suspending or calling upon a senior officer to retire or resign;”
My Lords, I shall also speak to Amendments 187, 188, 194 and 195 to 197 in this group. They all relate to the appointment, discipline, suspension and dismissal of ACPO-rank officers—not just chief constables. The House will recall that I addressed this issue in Committee and I return to it now. I listened very carefully to what the Minister said then and mentioned that I might well return to this matter after considering the points that she made. I have fully considered them and, thinking about it, I still fundamentally disagree that the only person who should be responsible for appointing senior officers in a force, other than the chief constable, is the chief constable himself or herself.
Certainly, a chief constable should have a significant say in who is appointed to senior posts. My amendment allows for this. However, the overarching responsibility for the efficiency and effectiveness of the force remains that of the governing body. The Bill specifically confirms that this function will remain with commissioners. They cannot exercise this effectively if they do not have an influence on the shape or make-up of the top team and I therefore return to this topic.
Outlining what these amendments will do, Amendment 69 relates to Clause 19 on delegation and provides that the commissioner can delegate responsibility for appointing and disciplining senior officers in certain limited situations, which I set out later. Amendment 187 effectively deletes Schedule 8, as my amendments in this section return the situation to the status quo, making the new provisions in this schedule redundant. Amendments 188 and 194 give commissioners the overarching role for appointing and disciplining deputy chief constables and assistant chief constables respectively, while enabling a role for panels in these processes. That is set out through the amendments which follow. Amendments 195, 196 and 197 specify a role for the panel in appointing senior officers, in requiring senior officers to resign and in suspending them respectively.
I am still at a loss to understand how the Government think they will achieve the more muscular and high-profile role they envisage for commissioners at the same time as giving them fewer powers than police authorities currently have. Dealing first with the amendments about appointing and disciplining senior officers other than the chief constable, in Committee I heard the Minister point out that Sir Paul Stephenson thought it was a really good idea for the chief officer to do this and, by inference, suggested that the Government should follow this lead. Yet I am afraid I did not hear a great deal about why she thought it was such a good idea.
As I think I also mentioned in Committee, Sir Paul Stephenson and I have known each other for many years. In fact, I was the person who first appointed him as chief constable when I was chair of Lancashire police authority. He is an extremely able man and, as the current Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service, he counts as the most senior serving police officer in the country. Yet I do not agree and never have agreed with him on this issue. I actually find it quite ironic that, in Lancashire, I in fact appointed him to the position of deputy chief constable. It is by no means certain that had the then chief constable held the power to appoint, he would have been appointed. We do not know that but it was certainly the police authority that appointed him to the role of deputy chief constable. I have to say, with no disrespect to Sir Paul Stephenson, that he would say he wants more say over his top team. That goes without saying and I understand the sentiment. But he is the one chief officer in the country, ironically, who will not get this to the same extent as others because the role of deputy commissioner is a Crown appointment and not in his gift.
I noted in Committee that there were a number of equally senior but no longer serving police officers in this House who did not agree with Sir Paul’s position. They have, perhaps, had the benefit of considering this question away from the hothouse and everyday pressures of policing. Their view, if I can paraphrase, was that the chief constable’s position was better protected and less exposed if he or she had a role in the appointment but did not take the ultimate decision. They would have more freedom to manage their own team if they alone were responsible for the appointment of their immediate juniors. If I understand it correctly, that is the Government’s key argument. But it would have a great many downsides for that chief officer, potentially exposing them to unwelcome industrial-tribunal action without any supporting cover, as well as disciplinary action if the commissioner thought they had appointed the wrong person. All of this would detract from other perhaps more pressing matters about managing the police force on a day-to-day basis. I suspect the Government think that if the governing body appoints a senior officer there might be confusion about who manages that officer. This is emphatically not the case under current arrangements. I see no reason to think that restoring the status quo would cause any confusion. There are existing provisions which make it quite clear that this is the role of the chief officer.
I know the Government are keen to achieve a clear separation of functions between the chief officer and the governing body. This is where the principle of the chief officer having the freedom to manage his or her top team comes from. This is not in dispute and would not be compromised by my proposals. The stronger role for commissioners proposed by the Government reinforces the fact that it is ultimately the governing body which should be responsible to the public for the overall shape, style and effectiveness of policing in their area. A commissioner cannot carry out this function properly if he or she does not have the final say on who is appointed to the top team. It is crucial to aligning any strategic vision for policing to the style and skills of the top team. It is not the same thing to say that the commissioner must be consulted about senior appointments, as the Bill currently does. The commissioner’s role must be decisive if he or she is to exercise a proper level of traction over the policing requirements for the area.
I also mentioned in Committee a number of other good reasons why the governing body must appoint the chief officer. The most important reason was the tendency of people in senior positions to appoint people in their own image if they have a free hand. This would give rise to real concerns about improving the diversity of the police at senior levels. The Minister did not really address this matter in her response. I am aware that the whole area of senior promotion and assessment is to be revised, but the problem is that this will be in another Bill and we do not yet know what this will look like. We have had no White Paper or similar on this yet, but it is beginning to look alarmingly as if ACPO will be given full responsibility for overseeing this change and for setting the criteria once the NPIA is abolished. This is the problem with having a rushed and, frankly, rather badly thought-out Bill which covers only half of the policing landscape. We are being asked to take on trust that serious matters of this nature which affect the current Bill will be looked at, without any clear indication of what is going to be proposed. The only amendments the Government seem to have made to this section are ones which effectively specify that the chief constable must be a constable at the time of appointment.
I understand why senior officers are concerned to ensure that a chief constable is an experienced police officer. This relates to issues around operational independence. While I am pleased that the Government are making some concessions, I am not convinced that this is the most important concession to make. There has been one instance already when a non-police officer was appointed to the post of chief officer in a police force, although the police force concerned was a Civil Nuclear Police Authority force and not a Home Office force. None the less, that did take place. This in itself is a comment on the perception of the skills of senior officers among appointing bodies. Although this was a few years ago, there was concern then, which still remains to some extent, that there is not enough focus in senior assessments on business and management skills among senior officers. That is why it is so important to be able to see the whole package of everything that sits behind senior promotion and assessment in this context. This goes back to my point about senior people appointing and promoting others in their own image. It is worrying that chief officers will not only be responsible for appointing individuals; they may also be made responsible for designing the whole package of leadership skills that will be fostered and assessed through the possible new role for APCO that I have mentioned.
It is human nature to undervalue skills which senior managers think they themselves have never needed in deciding who to promote and appoint, and even to over-emphasise some skills which they believe to be important. In my experience in the police service, women officers suffer from this. I have seen over and over again senior officers putting huge emphasis on operational qualities and the ability to oversee certain operations but undervaluing issues of communication, the importance of relationships and the importance of emotional intelligence, which in policing is very important. I am worried that, if we are not careful, we will revert back to some of the things that we used to see happening 20 years ago.
Even if the commissioner is consulted and makes some clear points, there is little the commissioner can do, short of hitting the nuclear button and firing the chief officer. If the Government do not provide some decisive traction for governing bodies over functions in which they have an overriding interest, they are merely encouraging an unstable situation where commissioners take extreme and disproportionate action over disagreements. That is not good enough and if my amendment is not accepted, the Government must at the very least get rid of these clauses until they can be clear about the shape of the whole senior appointments landscape and extend the status quo on a transitional basis until this has been done.
I also made the point in Committee that the governing body should have a role in disciplinary matters, especially suspension and dismissal at senior level. These amendments also provide for this. There was widespread concern in the House at the time that giving responsibility to chief officers alone for senior officer disciplinary issues was a grave mistake and a recipe for corruption. I am disappointed that the Government have not come back with additional proposals about this. I made the point in Committee that there would be few circumstances where, if a senior officer was behaving unethically, the chief officer would not be under some suspicion, even if only of inadequate supervision of the individual concerned. The Bill’s proposals make the chief officer both judge and jury in terms of complaints against senior members of their team, while at the same time providing to chief officers a potential loophole to evade investigation where they could be implicated. This is because it is left to the discretion of chief constables whether to refer the matter to the IPCC, except in some very severe situations where referral is automatic. Clearly, a chief officer might fail to refer matters which reflect badly on him or her to the IPCC. This is entirely inconsistent with the whistle-blowing principles that are the cornerstone of any regime of good governance. While I heard what the Minister said on the first day of Report about ensuring that principles of good governance would be included within the requirements for commissioners and police forces, this is an obvious case where it seems it will not in fact apply. It is clear by any acceptable standards that the governing body must have the decisive role in dealing with complaints against senior officers. This is fundamental to the commissioner’s accountability and to being clear with the public about where they can go if they have a problem. No member of the public is going to have any confidence in a regime where the chief officer deals with complaints against his own senior team. This in no way meets expectations of independence or lack of bias. This is so obvious that I am very surprised that the Minister has not put forward any alternative proposals. I ask her to explain why she thinks the public would have any confidence at all in the arrangements currently set out in the Bill.
Moving on, because I know that time is pressing and I apologise to noble Lords for that, my proposals also give a much stronger role to the panel in relation to appointments, complaints and conduct matters relating to senior officers. This is designed to address some of the concerns expressed in Committee. Again, the concerns were focused on bringing a more collaborative approach to the work between a commissioner and the panel and providing meaningful levers to the panel to address problems about putting too much power into the hands of individuals.
To achieve that, I propose three new clauses, set out in Amendments 195, 196 and 197. The first deals with all senior force appointments, not just chief officer, for the reasons just discussed, although it would include the chief officer. It proposes that those appointments should be made by an appointments panel chaired by the commissioner but comprising a number of other representatives. There should be no more than five people on the appointments panel, at least two of whom should be panel members, and one a co-opted member. Where the person to be appointed is an assistant or deputy chief constable, the chief officer should also be included on the panel. All members of the panel should have a vote and the appointment would be decided by majority vote. That should enable the commissioner to play a decisive role in who is appointed to the senior team and provide a balanced approach to allow other key players to have a meaningful role in the process—in particular, to give the police and crime panel an effective voice.
On dismissing senior officers, the next amendment provides a robust and credible process based on the assumption that that should be the key responsibility of the commissioner, but the panel should provide safeguards against misuse. It stipulates that a commissioner cannot dismiss a senior officer until the matter has been referred to the independent sub-committee of the panel. The sub-committee is the subject of other amendments that I will introduce later, but essentially, its role will be to exercise independent oversight of conduct and audit matters. It is designed to be a largely non-party political body, the majority of whose members would have to be independent of councils and policing. The sub-committee would make a recommendation, and, based on that, the panel and commissioner would have to agree whether to require the relevant chief officer to resign. If they could not agree, the matter could be referred to HMIC or the IPCC for a further opinion, or to the Secretary of State for a decision.
The amendment also makes provision about what should happen if there was a conflict of interest in the commissioner playing a role in the matter. In those circumstances, the commissioner would have to delegate powers to dismiss the chief officer to the panel, which must make a decision after it has received the recommendations of its independent sub-committee.
The final amendment on suspending senior officers provides that, except in urgent or serious cases, the commission must consult the panel before suspending a senior officer. The senior officer could be suspended only if the panel were to agree; if not, the matter should be referred to the independent sub-committee. The independent sub-committee will be asked to make a recommendation, and both the commissioner and the panel should have regard to it.
I believe that the amendments set out a sensible and balanced process. Between them, they provide that the key responsibility for appointing and disciplining senior force officers must remain with the commissioner as the governing body, but balanced by a stronger role for the panels. It provides a more collaborative basis of working between the commissioner and the panel, but injects a significant element of independent judgment into disciplinary matters through the use of the independent sub-committee. That should help to guard the best interests of senior officers, prevent misuse and stop those matters becoming a political football between panels and commissioners.
As I said, I apologise to the House for having gone on for so long, but I believe that these matters are really important. That is why I beg to move.
My Lords, I speak in support of the amendments, to some of which my name is added, which deal with delegation.
The amendments are all about ensuring that all senior police force appointments at and above the rank of assistant chief constable will remain with the governing body, as is currently the case. I envisage that as being the PCC but with a strong role for the police and crime panel from the interview stage onwards. In the case of senior officer appointments other than the chief officer, they specify that the chief officer of the force must be included on the interview panel, and therefore have a role in appointing his or her senior team. I certainly agree that the chief officer alone should not be able to appoint senior members of the team.
Moving on, the amendments state that the responsibility for senior officer conduct and complaints should rest with the governing body, the PCC, with the PCP taking a strong role. It is absolutely unacceptable that police officers decide whether to investigate their close colleagues. That is neither transparent nor proper.
During my time as chair of my police authority, I had to deal with some serious matters touching on the conduct of a chief constable. I could not possibly have dealt with the matter on my own. Even with legal help and support, we needed to work together as a body to come to a reasoned conclusion. As it happened, the legal advice that we were given was wrong, so imagine how I would have felt if I had had to take sole responsibility for making such a decision. Having the panel being supportive—indeed, helping to come to difficult decisions—will be by far the best way to deal with often tricky circumstances. I support the noble Baroness’s amendments.
My Lords, I am conscious of the hour and the fact that our Benches are filled to hear this debate, but this is a very important group of amendments. My noble friend Lady Henig and the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, have raised some important points about that come back, really, to the consequences of having a corporation sole, in which one person has enormous power and responsibility.
My amendments relate to the powers exercised by the police and crime commissioner. Under Clause 39, “Appointment, suspension and removal of chief constables”, huge authority is given to the police and crime commissioner to appoint a chief constable and to require their suspension, resignation or retirement. When it comes to the appointment, there are some safeguards, because the police and crime panel has a veto power on the appointment. We may disagree about the number of the panel voting in favour, but it has a veto power. When it comes to suspension, retirement or requirement to retire, the safeguard is much less. Although the police and crime panel can undertake a scrutiny process, as set out in Schedule 8, in the end, the police and crime commissioner can ignore the panel's recommendation.
My worry is that the police and crime commissioner who is seeking re-election when year two or year three is coming up and who is in some trouble may well consider sacking the chief constable as a visible sign to the public that he or she is doing something. There are circumstances—my noble friends have hinted at them—where that would be a jolly good thing to do, but at other times it will not; it will be a political action by a police and crime commissioner. Where are the safeguards? In the end, there are none because, whatever the panel says, the police and crime commissioner can ignore it.
I have a series of amendments which relate not only to the chief constable but to the circumstances where the same may be required of other chief officers and also to the situation in London. Essentially, this provision should apply only where it can be shown: that there is good reason—in other words, that it is in the interests of the force, for reasons of efficiency or effectiveness; that there has been appropriate consultation with the chair of the police and crime panel; that there has been proper investigation of the circumstances leading up to such an action; and that the approval of the Secretary of State is given. If Ministers consider that that gives the Secretary of State overweening powers, I must say that I have not been persuaded that the essential nature of the tripartite arrangement—the role of the Home Secretary, the police authority and the chief constable—should be so torn up that there are no safeguards to be undertaken by the Home Secretary if the police and crime commissioner decides to take such an action where, as I said, there is virtually no effective scrutiny other than the PCP recommendations.
This is a very important group of amendments. There is unease about the power to be exercised both by the police and crime commissioner in relation to the chief constable and other senior officers and then by the chief constable in relation to those employed by him as a corporation sole. We would look to the Government to recognise those concerns and to give some reassurance.
My Lords, two amendments in this group, Amendments 189A and 192CA, stand in my name. One refers to the appointment of a chief constable and the other to the dismissal of a chief constable.
In Amendment 189A, I suggest that new words are inserted into Schedule 8:
“A police and crime commissioner should take advice from HMCIC before making any decision as to the appointment of a chief constable”.
I shall come back to the word “should” in a moment. This relates to the suggestion that the advice from an outside agency is taken prior to any decision being made by the PCC and prior to the subsequent discussion of that by the panel. We are looking at this in the context—we have talked a lot about context through the various stages of the Bill—of the fear of the untrammelled exercise of power by the PCC. There are a good many examples over the years of police authorities looking only around their own feet rather than at the broader horizon. The risk is somewhat greater when one has a fully elected individual who has very few of the constraints that police authorities have.
Although I am absolutely sure that, in the majority of cases, if PCCs come into being, they will exercise their power sensibly, in your Lordships' House we are often preoccupied with the thought that some of them might not. In this case, the lack of exercise of the sort of expertise that one would look for would lead to the risk of a blinkered mentality or, as has already been mentioned this afternoon, a silo mentality and a failure to take account of the talent that is available in the wider sphere nationally. Quite obviously, that would lead to a very insular approach from that PCC, the appointment of safe bets, perhaps the appointment of candidates who are personally known and favoured by the PCC, and the appointment of people who are locally or regionally accented. In other words, the whole thing would be driven inwards rather than outwards.
At the moment, there is no national pool of talent within the police service, which is managed in much the same way as some multinational corporations, national organisations or the Armed Forces manage their emerging top positions. The report by Mr Neyroud, which was published earlier this year, and the report that we expect to have from Mr Winsor, which is expected at the end of this calendar year, will have an emphasis on leadership within the police service and I dare bet will propose a whole raft of new developments, formalisation, and improvement of the present structure. I hope they do. On various occasions in your Lordships’ House, I have spoken at length about the crying need for better leadership and structured leadership within the police service.
The system at the moment involves a mixture of advice given to police authorities by ACPO, by the Home Office and by the inspectorate. The inspectorate, which I have included in the amendment, offers advice at varying stages prior to the shortlist being constructed by the Home Office and then offered to the police authority. It offers advice on the shortlisting carried out by the police authority itself and then at the interview stage. My experience of seven years as an inspector of constabulary was that I was asked by police authorities to sit on a large number of appointment interviews when chief constables were being considered. Usually, the advice that I gave was followed and sometimes it was not. I did not take it personally when my advice was rejected, but I saw it as an exercise of democratic accountability in the best possible sense.
Earlier I mentioned the word “should” which appears in the amendment. I thought for some time about whether it should be “must” or “may”—that the police commissioner must take advice or may take advice. I left it as “should” and I hope that if the Minister takes this amendment away and refers to parliamentary draftsmen for their view, they will leave it as “should” which is somewhere between “must” and “may”. Whichever way we go on this, I am clearly seeking a very strong steer to the PCC to put it into a position where it takes the best possible advice that is available. Without that advice and without recourse to the inspector of constabulary, there is nowhere else that it can go, given the current structure, that would give it an oversight of the national pool.
Quite clearly, the Home Office will stand back from the elected commissioner. This is an exercise in devolution down to elected, locally appointed individuals on the ground—as I understand it, 44 of them or at least more than 40. Unless the Bill steers them to a repository of expertise that can give an impartial view, there is no mechanism envisaged in the Bill at the moment whereby those individuals, those PCCs, can or should look outside for advice. If we do not have that, I would confidently expect that in some cases we shall revert to what used to happen before, which was a recourse to the grapevine, to gossip, to reports which are partially constructed and an imperfect appreciation of what is on offer nationally. It could even lead to emerging chief constables—those who aspire to that rank—involving themselves in PR campaigns, in lobbying and trying to advertise themselves to people who otherwise would not know that they exist. I commend this amendment to your Lordships' House. I shall be very disappointed if we do not see it on the face of the Bill.
Amendment 192CA moves from the appointment of a chief officer to the dismissal of a chief officer—the alpha and the omega, if I can put it in those terms. The amendment suggests that the panel must make a recommendation—rather than may make a recommendation—to the police and crime commissioner. The wording in the Bill is permissive and, from my standpoint, it should be mandatory. Today the organisation would have the Home Office involved in the discussion. The Bill, as I have already said, seeks to devolve, and will devolve, all the authority down to the PCC and, again, the inspectorate is uniquely positioned to advise in an impartial manner. It would be commenting on actions which are alleged to have been committed by the errant chief constable and on errors and omissions. When so commenting, the inspectorate is positioned in such a way that it can draw on its knowledge of best practice throughout the whole country; it can draw on previous examples from its own experience; and it can look at national trends in policing. Without that advice, the PCC will be flying blind; it will not know what the general picture is within which it can route its concerns about its chief constable.
In my experience, I think that, on the majority of occasions when this admittedly unusual procedure would take place, the inspectorate will agree with the PCC. Nothing in my amendment would prevent the PCC rejecting that advice. That is democracy in action. However, the taking of that advice—and the very fact that that advice is being sought—is an invaluable protection for both the chief constable and the PCC.
I conclude with this observation. I cannot believe that the Bill team which has constructed the Bill so far has not taken advice from within the Home Office about what happened prior to the Police Act 1964, which had as its progenitor the royal commission that reported twice, in 1960 and 1962. The royal commission found that the system that pertained in city and borough police forces, which were overseen in those days by watch committees, vested too much power in politically appointed individuals within the watch committees. What one saw was a picture that had parish pumps all over the place, partisan views, partisan appointment particularly, exercises in special pleading, and blinkers and silos, about which we have talked before. I would not want to see our newly appointed PCCs in a position where they cannot and do not take advice and where the panels advising them do not take advice from outside. You cannot force a PCC or the panel to do that. I suppose the analogy would be taking a horse to water with an invitation for it to drink; you cannot force them to drink this particular water. However, I do believe that the ventilation given in both those amendments by having recourse to the inspector of constabulary is well worthy of consideration. I beg to move.
My Lords, I shall be very brief. This is an extremely important group of amendments. As noble Lords have said, the amendments address the importance of having appropriate checks and balances in place. In this grouping, while welcoming government amendments, I suggest that it should be possible for the Government to go further in line with some of the amendments that have been tabled and spoken to already in this group. The appointment, suspension and dismissal of a senior officer is a very serious matter where checks and balances are essential if proper procedures and natural justice are to be followed.
On the first day of Report, I commented on the lack of checks and balances on both the commissioner and the commissioner’s deputy in making senior appointments to the commissioner’s staff. This group of amendments relates to senior officers, and it is important to ensure that proper procedures are followed and that individuals making appointments are subject to appropriate checks and balances. What I am seeking to do in supporting some of the amendments in this group and in what I said on day one of Report about the commissioner’s own office is to ensure that the public have confidence in the process that is being followed. It is helpful, therefore, to have amendments that clarify the role of commissioners in senior police appointments and it is important that they be consulted as part of any changes to those appointments. I hope that my noble friend the Minister will look at Amendments 186A to 186F, 189A and 193A very carefully because they clarify a lot of detail, not least the circumstances in which suspensions should be considered and who should be involved in those.
At the heart of all this is public confidence in the system—the appointment, the suspension and the dismissal of senior officers. The public know that, at different stages, the chief constable, the chair of the panel, the panel, the Chief Inspector of Constabulary and indeed the Secretary of State all might have roles in considering the position of a senior officer. With these amendments, there would be a significant improvement in public understanding and confidence in the system that is being followed. That is why I hope that my noble friend the Minister will consider very carefully what is said in debating this group of amendments.
My Lords, we have quite a long list of amendments in this grouping, including some government amendments, to which I will come at the end.
I begin with Amendments 69, 188 and 194, tabled by my noble friend Lady Harris of Richmond and the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, and to which the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, spoke, concerning the appointment of senior police officers. These amendments would change the basis on which senior police officers, other than chief constables, would be appointed. They seek to give responsibility for the appointment of these officers to the PCC. The Government believe that responsibility for these appointments should rest with the chief constable. We believe that the chief constable is best placed to identify the mix of skills required for their chief officer team. They have the best understanding of the areas where their force has good skills and the areas where it would benefit from a fresh injection of skills. As a result, the chief constable should be able to determine who should be appointed to their top team.
The Government believe that the PCC has a role to play in this process. That is why the Bill makes provision for the chief constable to consult the PCC prior to appointment. However, if the PCC is to hold the chief constable to account for the decisions that he makes on how to run the police force, the PCC must have some distance from the appointment of individuals in these ranks. It cannot be the case that the PCC is responsible for appointing these officers or involved in the process and then holds the chief constable to account for the way in which the force is run in the light of decisions taken by those officers. This would, I believe, compromise the PCC’s ability to discharge this function.
I move on to HMCIC advice on chief constable appointments and the creation of appointments panels in Amendment 189A, proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Dear, and in Amendment 195, proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, and my noble friend Lady Harris. I believe there would be some blurring of the lines of responsibility in the appointment of chief officers. The Government’s intention is that a police and crime commissioner will be democratically accountable for their decision regarding the appointment, suspension and removal of a chief constable and that the chief constable should be able to determine the appointment of their top team.
I turn first to the appointment of the chief constable. We have put in place a number of checks and balances on the process of the appointment of chief constables, including the possibility of a veto by the PCP. However, while the PCP provides an important scrutiny function during this process, it is not the primary decision-making body. While there is no barrier to the PCC taking into account the views of HMCIC or others as he sees fit, to put this into primary legislation is difficult. I do not mean difficult in terms of the technicality of it; I just feel that it goes a little too far. Therefore I believe that these proposals are unnecessary.
In respect of the appointment of the rest of the chief officer team, it is a fundamental part of the reforms that chief constables have the right to appoint their top team. They will, of course, do this following consultation with the PCC, and I remind the House that they will be required to act reasonably and lawfully. It is not as though they are going to be able to do this outwith the laws that would apply to this and their accountability for it. We believe that chief constables are best placed to make decisions about the make-up of their workforce, in particular, their top team. The involvement of the PCP would, we believe, undermine operational independence of the chief constable.
Both the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, and my noble friend Lady Harris of Richmond have proposed that the role of the PCP be strengthened in the dismissal and suspension of senior police officers. While the PCP provides an important scrutiny function in relation to chief constable dismissals, again, it is not the primary decision-making body. PCCs are accountable to the local communities for their decision-making and they should therefore have the responsibility for determining whether chief constables should be suspended or removed. The decision to suspend or dismiss another senior officer must lie with the chief constable. In both cases, the decisions are subject to the requirement to act reasonably and lawfully under the safeguards set out in Schedule 8. Therefore, the amendments are not necessary or appropriate and I ask noble Lords not to press them.
I turn to other matters relating to the dismissal of chief constables, covered by Amendments 186A to 186F, 193A, 188A to 188D and 194A to 194D. Amendment 193A relates to the dismissal of chief constables. The Government have carefully considered the views of partners and have tabled an amendment to give both the PCC and the chief constable the right to attend the scrutiny hearing. Therefore, I hope that Amendment 193A will not be pressed.
Amendments 186A to 186F were tabled by the noble Lords, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, Lord Rosser and Lord Stevenson of Balmacara. As I have noted, PCCs are required to act lawfully and reasonably in determining whether and on what grounds a chief constable should be suspended or removed. The amendments proposed would place unnecessary restrictions on the exercise of their powers.
Amendment 186F would provide the Secretary of State with the power to veto the decision of the PCC. We have made it clear that for forces other than the Metropolitan Police Service—for which special conditions apply, not least to do with the requirements of national security—the decisions must lie in the hands of local people through the PCC. The Secretary of State's role would undermine the local democracy that is at the heart of the Bill.
Amendments 188A to 188D and 194A to 194D, too, were tabled by the noble Lords, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, Lord Rosser and Lord Stevenson of Balmacara. I come back to the fundamental principle of the reforms introduced in the Bill. Chief constables should be accountable and responsible for their decisions and actions in relation to policing. The ability to suspend or remove a chief officer is an essential part of these reforms, and of these officers’ responsibilities. Any decision to remove or suspend must remain a matter for them, but again it will be subject to the requirement to act reasonably and lawfully. We are also introducing safeguards under Schedule 8 to the Bill, including a key role for the police and crime panel in the appointment, suspension and removal of a chief constable.
Amendments 205ZA and 205ZB would restrict the grounds for the removal of a commissioner or deputy commissioner. The Bill already recognises the unique nature of policing in London and has created additional checks and balances accordingly. Any decision to remove or suspend will be taken subject to the safeguards set out in Clause 49, and to the requirement to act reasonably and lawfully. For that reason, the amendments are not necessary.
On the amendments that address Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary’s role in the removal of chief constables and senior police officers, the Government have considered the views of the Chief Police Officers’ Staff Association, ACPO and the Police Advisory Board for England and Wales on the provisions in the Bill that cover the removal of chief officers. We have considered these representations very carefully. It is a fundamental principle of the reforms that those responsible for taking decisions about the appointment, suspension or removal of a chief officer are accountable. Those decisions are subject to the requirement to act reasonably and lawfully. None the less, we recognise the strongly held views on this matter held by policing stakeholders and are sympathetic to them. I would be happy to meet Members of this House to discuss any changes that should be implemented through changes to the regulations in discussion with policing partners, including the police negotiating machinery. Clearly, if noble Lords are keen to meet and discuss that in more detail, I would be very pleased to do so.
Government Amendments 189 and 190 concern the eligibility of retired constables to serve as chief constables. They amend Clause 43 in and Schedule 8 to the Bill to permit a PCC to appoint a former police officer as chief constable, or Her Majesty to appoint a former police officer as Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. Noble Lords may wish to note that under the Police Act 1996, former police officers are eligible for appointment as chief constables or as the Metropolitan Police Commissioner. These amendments would see the current position on these appointments continue in that respect.
At present the Bill, by specifying the appointment of a constable as chief constable or commissioner, restricts eligibility for appointment to people who hold the office of constable at the time of the appointment process. The amendments have the effect that eligibility is extended to those who have previously held the office of constable, as well as to those who hold it at the material time. If police forces are to continue to provide a high-quality service to their communities by reducing crime at a time when they are dealing with falling budgets, it is crucial that the field of eligible candidates should be as broad as possible. This should mean that PCCs should be permitted to appoint a former chief officer if the appointment is appropriate. Police authorities are currently able to do so, and the Government believe that their successors should retain this ability. There are examples of serving chief constables who have rejoined the service after retirement, including chief constables undertaking challenging positions in large, urban forces. The Government wish to see that, where appropriate, PCCs continue to be able to appoint retired chief officers as chief constables.
Before I move on to the Government’s amendments, I will say a few words about points that have been raised across the House by the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, the noble Lord, Lord Dear, and others, about the pool of suitable candidates for senior officer and chief constable positions, and in particular the outcome of the Neyroud report. No decision has yet been taken on this as it is still out for consultation. We are not changing the current arrangements, but we envisage that as now there will be some sort of assessment role in these senior posts. Again, I am very happy to discuss this with noble Lords who have concerns in this area, and in particular with those who bring first-hand experience to the issue. We realise that it is important that PCCs should have the opportunity to draw from a pool of people who have been identified not only as having reached high standards but as being capable of providing the experience and leadership for the future. I will be very happy to discuss this with Members of the House on a one-to-one basis if they would like to have an input into the process.
The Government’s Amendment 193 concerns the dismissal of chief constables. As I have said, the Government have considered the views of the Chief Police Officers’ Staff Association, ACPO and the Police Advisory Board for England and Wales on the provisions in the Bill that cover the suspension and removal of a chief constable. All meetings and representations have focused on the provision in the Bill that allows a PCC and a chief constable to attend a scrutiny hearing at which the PCP will look into the PCC’s decision to call on the chief constable to retire or resign, but only at the request of the PCP. After carefully considering the views of partners, the Government do not think that this is appropriate. In particular, we are concerned to avoid the possibility that a PCP could hold a scrutiny hearing without inviting the attendance of the PCC and the chief constable. The Government believe that both the PCC and chief constable should have the right to attend the scrutiny hearing. Whether they do so is of course a matter for them. None the less, they should at least be able to exercise their right to attend.
We have also looked at the part that the PCC and the chief constable should play in the hearing if they choose to attend. Currently the Bill refers to them answering the questions of the PCP. We believe that it should be made clear that both the PCC and the chief constable will be able to make their representations to the PCP over and above their responses to the PCP's questions. It is particularly important that the chief constable should have the opportunity to put his or her case to the PCP, and the amendment achieves that.
Before tabling Amendments 198 and 199, the Government again considered the views of the Chief Police Officers’ Staff Association, ACPO and the Police Advisory Board for England and Wales on the provisions of the Bill regarding the suspension and removal of a chief constable. At these meetings, all parties pointed out an anomaly in the Bill that would not permit a PCC to discipline, suspend or dismiss a deputy chief constable or an assistant chief constable acting as a chief constable. The amendments address the omission. It is important that we avoid a situation in which an officer acting as chief constable cannot be held to account by the PCC for action that the officer takes during his, or her, time as acting chief constable. The Government acknowledge that, in extreme circumstances, this may require the officer to be called on to retire or resign. However, the Bill as drafted does not allow for this. The chief constable would need to return to the force to exercise his power to dismiss the assistant or deputy chief constable. Given that there may be a significant delay before an absent chief constable returns or a new one is appointed, it is important that there is a provision that entitles the acting chief constable to be suspended or called on to retire or resign. These amendments allow for this.
I reiterate that there are matters relating to the consultation on the pool of senior police officers that are not in the Bill but which we regard as important. Noble Lords have raised this tonight and there is certainly plenty of time for us to discuss how that pool of expertise will be brought together. I would welcome any responses from noble Lords willing to have an input.
I thank the Minister sincerely for that lengthy response. I tried to follow it fully, but inevitably some points may well have escaped my attention. I will be extremely brief in responding in light of the hour. Again, I do not want to strike a negative note, but not for the first time I despair about what the Government are proposing and what I see as a refusal to listen to sensible advice. I have to say that, because I do not believe that the issues raised by noble Lords were in any way revolutionary or in any way pushing out the boundaries. A lot of the proposals were extremely sensible and based on long experience, and the Government are somehow rejecting them out of hand for reasons that I do not fully understand.
Let me give some examples. The Minister has not addressed the deep concerns about the disciplinary issues and the position the chief constable is going to be in. That has not been addressed, although I may have missed it in the lengthy—
I apologise for interrupting. The noble Baroness is quite right. If I may interpose a few words here, I must say that I appreciate that what the Government have set out is not what the noble Baroness is seeking in her amendments and in the debate around the Chamber tonight. I would point out that all matters other than minor complaints—we defined what we thought these were in Committee—are subject ultimately to appeal to the IPCC. Any serious complaint will have IPCC input and ultimately will go to it as part of the appeal procedure.
I thank the Minister. My emphasis is on public perception. As I said when I moved this amendment, it is important for the public to have absolute confidence in the system. My concern remains that that confidence may not be there because of the perception that the chief constable is judge and jury. That was what was concerning me.
There are perception issues again, particularly in relation to the amendment about the involvement of HMIC. I accept that it may not be absolutely essential to write this into the Bill, but again it gives confidence. It certainly, I think, gave confidence to all members of police authorities that at certain stages you had to call in HMIC. That was extremely important and it is still important. The Bill should say that HMIC should be involved at certain points in appointments and in certain other situations such as dismissals. That gives the public confidence, and you must underwrite this system. A new system is being proposed, and the more confidence that can be given about how it is going to operate, the better. That is why I am concerned.
In addition, briefly, the commissioner is going to make appointments and the panel’s role in appointments is extraordinarily limited. I feel that it is inadequate. I am worried, as I have already said, that chief constable appointments might lack diversity. There was a point not long ago when the system briefly changed and chief constables actually appointed deputies. It was not all that successful, as I recall, and the system was changed, so again we have experience in this area.
That is all I want to say, but I end positively. I very much welcome the Minister’s invitation or offer to discuss with Members the senior officer pool and other issues. I am sure that the offer will be readily taken up. I would certainly be interested in taking part in those discussions, and I am sure other noble Lords would too. I very much welcome that.
Amendment 69 withdrawn.
Amendments 70 and 71 not moved.
Amendment 72 agreed.
Clause 20 : Delegation of functions by Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime
Amendment 73 not moved.
Consideration on Report adjourned until not before 9.15 pm.