House of Lords
Monday, 4 July 2011.
Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Derby.
My Lords, I have to inform the House that the Clerk of the Parliaments has received notification from the court manager at the Maidstone Combined Court Centre informing him that Lord Hanningfield was sentenced on 1 July to a term of 9 months' imprisonment.
NHS: University Health Centres
My Lords, no. Payments to practices are based on an agreed calculation of health need and on equitable funding. The funding formula recognises patient numbers, with adjustments for the characteristics of the patient population and practice circumstances. The disease prevalence formula in the quality and outcomes framework provides fair rewards to all practices, but with stronger incentives for them to identify and treat patients with the greatest health need.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer, but is he aware that, although some practices in university centres receive support from the university, others are linked to GP practices which run services as a separate contract? Many of those have looked into the finances and found that it is so disadvantageous to them that they are not considering renewing or extending their contracts to supply what I consider to be necessary services. What will the Minister do?
My Lords, naturally, before preparing myself for this Question, I looked carefully into the way in which university practices are funded. The advice I received is that there is no reason to be concerned on that front. Many university GP practices are funded quite generously. Where they can lose out is over the quality and outcomes framework, which is targeted mainly at elderly patients with long-term chronic conditions, so it is not surprising that university campus practices do not earn the extra money that they could. Nevertheless, we believe that there is no case for making an exception for university practices in the way that they are funded.
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness on getting her head around the system of weighting for payments to GPs for their patients. It contains such gems as,
“An overall weighted listsize for the PCO is generated as the sum of Practice Weighted Listsizes for all Practices in the PCO, and this PCO Weighted Listsize is used together with the PCO Weighted Population”.
I will not go on, but I congratulate the noble Baroness. Given the mental health problems that students often face, is the Minister confident that the system of weighting takes proper account of that medical issue, which is certainly more prevalent than the chronic conditions that he mentioned in a community general practice?
My Lords, the characteristics of each GP practice will naturally vary according to the patient population. Although a practice situated on a university campus may have higher numbers of patients who require mental health advice and support, there may well be fewer patients in need of other services. I am not aware that there is a particular issue of underfunding of university practices in relation to the mental health burden. As the noble Baroness will know, the QOF was adjusted in 2008 with a two-year time delay, so university practices have had a chance to adjust and prepare for the change.
Are university health centres gearing up to deal with cases of anxiety and depression among students at English universities who wish to go to Scottish universities for a further degree and who find that they will have to pay the full fees, unlike students from other countries in Europe? Is that not a disgraceful, discriminatory proposal by the Scottish Government? Can this Parliament not find a way of outlawing such discrimination?
My Lords, there is no doubt that the QOF had many beneficial effects when it first began, and we recognise those. However, there is a general feeling that it needs to evolve and refocus itself more on those things for which it was originally intended, which were to promote quality and better outcomes in patient care.
My Lords, my noble friend will know that public health campaigns and health improvement efforts are currently being commissioned and directed by primary care trusts. That will continue until such time as local authorities take responsibility locally for the public health endeavour.
My Lords, is the noble Earl aware that very few people in the House understood the Question and, with great respect, even fewer people understood the Answer? Does he not think that his department has an obligation to put out policies that are at least comprehensible to the people whom they are meant to affect?
I can only apologise to the noble Lord, but he is right that it is a very complex topic. The simplest way in which I can explain the issue around the QOF, which is an element of the way in which GP practices are remunerated, is to say that before we had a situation where practices with large lists but little recordings of those conditions which QOF is aiming at, such as university practices, were receiving relatively higher reward than practices with smaller lists but higher levels of chronic disease and, as a result of the changes, the true prevalence is being used to weight the payments for all practices. The overall effect is to redistribute the total resource for the QOF among GP practices in a much fairer way.
My Lords, since the end of the military conflict, the United Kingdom and other members of the international community have consistently called for an independent, thorough and credible investigation into the allegations that war crimes were committed by both sides. We expect to see progress from the Sri Lankan Government by the end of the year. If there is no response, we will support the international community in considering the options available.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for his response. Does he agree that the report of 40,000 civilians killed in the last month of the war and reports of other atrocities indicate that the position of the Sri Lankan Government is just not tenable and that these allegations need to be investigated fully and, if proven, the perpetrators brought to justice?
I certainly agree that hideous atrocities and crimes were committed. The UN panel report is very revealing, as are other reports. It is the view not just of the United Kingdom but, I think, of the whole international community that there is an essential need for the Sri Lankan Government and others to be open and prepared to examine the past in an open and unbiased way in order to find at least a basis on which better unity can be created in the future. The noble Lord is absolutely right that to try and bury these things in the past will lead to more suspicion and difficulty, and that is not the way forward.
My Lords, the previous Government are to be commended on appointing the right honourable Paul Murphy and Mr Chris McCabe, a former Northern Ireland Office official. It is hard to imagine a more diplomatic, courteous or experienced team. Despite that, President Rajapaksa and his Government showed no interest in engaging with them. Can my noble friend tell the House whether there is any improvement in relations between the Government of Sri Lanka and Her Majesty’s Government? If not, is it likely that we will be able to achieve any engagement and understanding, either directly or through Commonwealth colleagues, or will we have to resort to pressure from the international community, including the United Nations? How will we deliver the kind of inquiry that the noble Lord mentioned earlier in his reply?
We all very much hope that it will not go that way and that there will be an improvement in relations, which have not been good thanks to an attitude which seems determined to try to put up a wall, as it were, rather than embrace the opportunity that the UN panel report offers. Clearly we do need a clear inquiry. The so-called Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission is at work and maybe it will be able to contribute to more openness. However, the pattern is not good, and I would be misleading my noble friend if I said that there had been much improvement recently; there has not.
My Lords, I welcome what the Minister said about wanting substantial progress by the end of the year. If substantial progress has not been made, what is Her Majesty’s Government’s position on the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting taking place in Sri Lanka in 2013? Is the Minister in conversation with other Commonwealth members about whether that should then take place?
Of course, this is a matter for discussion among Commonwealth members because it will come up for decision at the Heads of Government Meeting 2011 in Perth at the end of October. It is a concern. Our aim is to see that the Sri Lankan Government in Colombo live up to and reinforce the ideals and shared values of the Commonwealth and therefore prepare themselves for being a suitable host for the CHOGM in 2013. There is a long way to go, but that is what we are going to work for.
My Lords, does my noble friend not agree that the Government have no jurisdiction over Sri Lanka, that there are many awful things that happen all over the world over which we have no jurisdiction, and that it might be more appropriate if Her Majesty’s Government dealt more effectively with the things that are going wrong within their jurisdiction rather than going on endlessly—as do other noble Lords—about matters that are outside the Government’s jurisdiction?
I see the theoretical and perfect logic of what my noble friend is saying, but the facts are the facts, and the facts are that there are large populations in London and elsewhere in this country that are intimately and politically concerned with this issue. If it goes badly wrong, it affects us all in our domestic arrangement as well. To debate whether it is inside or outside the jurisdiction is fine in theory but in practice, if that wonderful country of Sri Lanka continues to be deeply divided and is not able to heal the wounds of the past, that will directly affect us and our interests in a very precise way, regardless of whether we are juridically in charge or not.
Does the Minister agree that the recent decision of the UN Human Rights Council to block the recommendation of its commissioner to press for an international inquiry into Sri Lanka was disappointing if not shameful? Does he agree that we have a problem when so many of the world's most powerful emerging nations—here I am in contradiction to the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit—put protection of the principle of sovereignty above any state's duty to protect its citizens; and that we in the United Kingdom should use whatever influence we have as a nation to persuade these nations that sovereignty is not absolute and that all countries of the world share a common obligation of humanity to uphold human rights?
Those are very splendid sentiments with which I could not possibly disagree. There are a few practical issues to resolve before we can rise to those heights, but I fully appreciate what the noble Lord magnificently aspires to. The decision of the UN human rights commission was disappointing. The commission is not always able to meet the aspirations of those of us throughout the world who are concerned with human rights and the advance of civilisation.
Health: Stroke Care
My Lords, the 2010 audit shows ongoing improvements in stroke care in England. To achieve the high-quality care described in the national stroke strategy and the NICE quality standard, the NHS is continuing to implement the accelerating stroke improvement programme. This aims to go further and faster in delivering improvements in stroke care across England.
I thank the Minister for his response and his recognition of the tremendous progress that has been made in the past three years with the national stroke strategy. I am sure that he agrees that progress has been most marked where strategic health authorities have provided strong leadership to drive forward strategy. With their abolition, how will the new system, through the subnational elements of the NHS commissioning board—the clinical senates—help facilitate the necessary improvements, and where will accountability lie? Also, I am concerned that the future of the stroke strategy team at the Department of Health seems to be uncertain. I have heard that the national clinical director for strokes will shortly stand down. Will the Minister confirm this and explain, if that is so, who will be responsible for providing strong leadership on stroke improvements at national level both in the short term and under the proposed new system?
My Lords, clinical leadership is at the heart of our reform plans for the NHS, both at local and national levels. As regards the national director, our officials are currently considering how best to reflect that leadership at national level as part of the work being done to develop the new NHS commissioning board. I say to the noble Baroness that I see the NHS reforms as presenting an opportunity for much stronger partnership working between primary care commissioners and secondary care specialists. The NHS outcomes framework will enable us to track the overall progress of the NHS in delivering improved outcomes, and commissioners and providers will be supported by advice from the stroke networks under the auspices of the board. Therefore, we will have the opportunity in future to drive consistency and quality throughout stroke care in England.
My Lords, does the Minister accept that, in addition to the availability of facilities in all geographical areas, the other essential ingredient in getting a successful outcome is the level of knowledge that individuals have of the symptoms that might indicate that a stroke is about to happen? What initiatives have the Government in mind to improve public understanding and education in that matter?
The noble Lord is absolutely right. I am sure that he will know of the FAST campaign, which stands for face, arm, speech and time to call 999, as the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, used to tell us. We conducted a renewal of that campaign in March. We believe that it is an extremely important way of raising public awareness of the urgency of the situation. We will keep that programme firmly under our eye and renew it as we feel necessary.
My Lords, it is well reported that the incidence of stroke and TIA in the north-west is higher than the national average. It is sad to note that, in my diocese of Blackburn, none of the hospitals in Lancashire manages to come into the best 25 per cent. I am very satisfied with the noble Earl’s Answer about the improvement that has taken place, but can he ensure that there are suitable specialists in place to provide a comprehensive stroke service throughout the country?
The right reverend Prelate is quite correct to point out that there is variation in the country, as one would expect, not least in the area of rehabilitation after a stroke. The most encouraging progress we have seen throughout the country has been on acute stroke care, but we now have work to do on the rehabilitation side. As it happens, I was in the north-west some weeks ago and saw some encouraging work going on in the area of telecare, whereby stroke physicians can assess and diagnose a patient remotely, sometimes from their own living room. This will make an enormous difference, particularly where there are distances to travel for stroke specialists. I believe we should encourage those initiatives where we can.
My noble friend makes an extremely important point about strokes in young people. It is of course true that, thankfully, fewer young people suffer these strokes, but he is right that sickle cell presents a warning sign. There are clear guidelines for ambulance crews and doctors more generally relating to those who have sickle cell disease. We had a debate a while ago on this topic in which the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, made some extremely important points which we continue to bear in mind.
My Lords, various reports show that the mortality for stroke can be as high as 30 per cent. Sadly, in the United Kingdom mortality is higher than almost anywhere else in Europe, although there is great geographical variation all over the world. One of the issues that Professor Peter Rothwell, of the University of Oxford, has pointed out is that speed is the essence of success. Therefore, it is not merely a question of informing patients, but of making certain that the right availability is present in our hospitals. If we do that we can reduce the risk of a further stroke by 80 per cent and probably, as he says, reduce the cost to the National Health Service in primary care by somewhere between £100 million and £200 million annually. Would the Minister be kind enough to explain how that will work in the future of the health service?
My Lords, the noble Lord is quite right in all that he says. I would just point out that the official statistics are rather historic and it is important that we take stock when the revised figures are before us in some months’ time. As regards how best practice will be driven when the health service reforms are in place, I would repeat my earlier comments about the ability of the NHS commissioning board to drive forward higher quality, informed by the new quality standard produced by NICE. More particularly I think we can do a lot through the tariff. At the moment, best practice tariffs are starting to play a role in encouraging and driving best practice at hospital level.
My Lords, tomorrow is the 63rd birthday of the NHS. Would the Government give the NHS the birthday present of eliminating local differences in stroke services by implementing the recommendations in the stroke strategy? In that way, when we all break into song next year when the NHS is 64 years old, we will actually have achieved something very important.
It is very appropriate that the noble Baroness should remind the House of the NHS’s 63rd birthday. I can think of few better presents than that which the noble Baroness has outlined. I can say only that the efforts within my department, and indeed throughout the NHS, continue unabated to ensure that stroke patients are treated to the highest possible standards and that unacceptable variations are eliminated.
Olympic Games 2012: Tickets
My Lords, 2.2 million Olympic tickets—that is, one quarter of the total—are allocated separately from the UK public application process. Within that, 12 per cent are for purchase by the 205 national Olympic committees, 8 per cent are for purchase by sponsors and stakeholders—global and domestic—and 5 per cent are for purchase by the International Olympic Committee, international federations and other global sports bodies, international broadcast rights holders and prestige ticketing partners. This reflects the host city agreement signed with the IOC in 2005.
My Lords, in this instance, the Minister’s Answer makes the whole thing sound even worse than I thought. She will be aware that there is an enormous sense of unfairness among people in this country about the way the tickets have been allocated. Will she confirm that the DCMS is getting 8,815 tickets? I put it to her that the best way of allocating tickets would have been to give every applicant two tickets before multiple applications were dealt with?
My Lords, the government allocation is 8,815 tickets, which is 0.1 per cent of the tickets available. I will not go into the detail of how that breaks down at the moment. On the allocation of the tickets, no one had ever before attempted to sell 3 million tickets at one go. Trying to weight applications would have added a layer of complexity which would have made the whole thing almost impossible. LOCOG had no way of knowing how many applications would come in, so it followed other rules rather than the weighting one.
My Lords, while all of us associated with the London Games have, I believe, the humility to recognise that public expectation setting regarding tickets was unduly high and that lessons can be learnt, would the Minister nevertheless agree that it is welcome news that the British Olympic Association has secured the right to buy two tickets for every living British Olympian for their own sport and two further tickets for other sports and that many volunteers will benefit from the decision of Olympic governing bodies of sport to use a substantial part of their allocations for athletes, families, friends, supporters and, above, all volunteers?
I entirely agree with my noble friend. It is good that the tickets are being spread as widely as they are and that former Olympians have been included in that. Of course, we recognise the disappointment for those who did not get tickets, but there will be plenty of other activities going on over Olympic week, and the Paralympic tickets have yet to come on stream. We hope that everybody will be able to participate.
My Lords, particular concerns have been expressed about these Games in relation to the immediate families of the participating sports men and women. I have personal experience of the distress that this causes to the mothers and fathers of active Olympians from the UK who, having perhaps sacrificed an incredible amount in their lifetimes to ensure that their son’s or daughter’s ambitions can be realised, cannot then watch them participate. Would the Government consider encouraging public bodies and corporate sponsors, which have so many tickets, to share some of their allocation with those immediate families to ensure that they have the benefit of seeing the result of all those years of sacrifice?
Indeed, I entirely agree with the noble Lord’s idea, which sounds an excellent system for those who have not already managed to get tickets through another method. Having families and friends around is of key importance to people who have done so much hard work to try to get themselves to Olympic standard.
My Lords, I have just read a leading article in the Sunday press which makes it clear that, from the leader writer’s point of view, never have tickets for an Olympic Games been spread and given out so well and never has an Olympic Games had all the tickets sold out a year in advance. Nor could the journalist could remember a more democratic process for delivering tickets to the Olympic Games and all the different sports in any recent Games. I believe that the way that LOCOG has set about this this year is absolutely super. I hope the Minister agrees and will tell me that she has read the article. If she has not, I hope she will.
My Lords, 1 million fans applied for tickets and were disappointed that they failed to get them. At the same time, local authorities have each had 100 tickets for the 100 metres final, the diving finals, the cycling finals, and the opening address. Does the Minister agree that this surely goes against the spirit of Olympic fairness?
My Lords, there have been allocations to local authorities, certainly to those surrounding the Games and those that have been most involved with them. The allocation of the tickets has been done in the fairest way possible given the numbers and the interest in them. With regard to the opening ceremony, the Government actually have 212 tickets, which out of a capacity of 80,000 is probably not too extravagant.
My Lords, the noble Baroness was kind enough to say that she thought my noble friend’s idea about trying to ensure that parents are able to see their children compete was a good one. Can she assure the House that Ministers will now take active steps to do everything they can to ensure that my noble friend’s idea is actually acted upon—not just a good idea but one that Ministers will carry forward?
My Lords, Ministers are not actually involved with the allocation of tickets, which is a matter for LOCOG. All we can do is advise that there are some people who perhaps are more worthy of tickets than others, but beyond that we have to leave it to LOCOG to do the allocations.
Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill
Report (2nd Day)
Clause 4 : Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime
15A: Clause 4, page 3, at beginning insert “Subject to section 159(2A)”
My Lords, before the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, has the opportunity to move his manuscript Amendment 15A, I need to give the House some procedural advice as Leader of the House—it is a very rare occurrence but one that I need to do. I have to inform the House that the Clerk of Public Bills has written to advise me that this amendment is inadmissible and that the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, has tabled it against the advice of the clerks. Paragraph 8.56 of the Companion provides that in such rare circumstances it is for me to ask the House to endorse the opinion of the Public Bill Office, and I readily do so.
I suspect that most Members of the House will not have had an opportunity to consider the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Harris. It reads:
“Page 3, line 14, at beginning insert ‘Subject to section 159(2A)’”.
The Public Bill Office advises me and the House that the amendment is about commencement, not the subject of the clause itself—namely, the Mayor of London’s Office for Policing and Crime. The reason the noble Lord, Lord Harris, may have been tempted to attempt this procedural manoeuvre is clear: he is seeking to advance a vote on the commencement of the London provisions of this Bill. That is a matter of political tactics, but tactics, or the policy, are not why I rise to address the House this afternoon. I wish only to deal with a matter of procedure.
The clerks have advised that this amendment is inadmissible under the Companion and I invite the House not to allow the noble Lord, Lord Harris, to move his manuscript Amendment 15A. The difficulty is of course compounded because the amendment is a manuscript amendment. The Companion also provides that,
“the disadvantages and inconvenience attaching to the moving of manuscript amendments on Report are even greater than at Committee stage”.
I have to agree that this is not how we should go about our business. In short, the PBO has advised the House that this first amendment is inadmissible and I invite the House to agree. However, I reassure the House and the noble Lord that he will have every opportunity to speak to the issue he wishes to raise in the proper place when Clause 159 is debated. I therefore invite the noble Lord, Lord Harris, not to move his amendment. If he chooses to do so, and the Companion does not prevent him doing so, the amendment is in the hands of the House.
My Lords, if it is in order, I would like to respond to what the Leader of the House has said. It is very difficult sometimes to determine why particular amendments are moved in a particular way and at a particular time. There were a number of reasons for my seeking the indulgence of the House to put forward this manuscript amendment at this time. The first is the question of relevance. There is a specific proposal at the moment that the implementation and creation of the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime should proceed in advance of that for the rest of the country and should take place in October 2011, rather than October 2012. Therefore, my manuscript amendment is designed to make clear that preparations, some of which will be costly, should not go forward at this time.
The second reason I felt it necessary to bring forward the amendment in this way was that I had anticipated that there would be an amendment, either from the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, who moved such an amendment in Committee, or from the Government, about the transitional arrangements for the introduction of the Mayor’s Office, and, indeed, of the offices for policing and crime commissioners. A detailed look over the weekend made it clear that such transitional details were not being put before the House and therefore I thought that it was important that we have this opportunity.
The final reason for putting it before the House is that there are, of course, important security issues associated with this. I am slightly bemused about where we are today because I also tabled an amendment on Friday which does not appear either in the list that we received this morning of amendments supplementary to the Second Marshalled List, nor as a manuscript amendment. It seems to have gone into some void in the Public Bill Office, but it, too, was relevant to this point and might have assisted the House had we had it before us. It was also clear from my manuscript amendment that this related to an amendment later on the agenda in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Doocey. That, I know—and, of course, she will speak for herself should we get to the point of debating this amendment—is about security of this country during the Olympics period and whether or not the disruption that will be caused in administrative arrangements is sensible at that time.
Those are my reasons for putting forward this amendment and I hope that the House will agree that they are valid reasons, notwithstanding the inconvenience that I am sure it puts the House to. No doubt the noble Lord will wish to respond and I hope that I will then be able to move my amendment.
My Lords, I do not think that there is any quarrel about whether or not these issues can be debated. The decision of the clerks is about where the debate should take place. Perhaps I may read out the advice about the grounds of inadmissibility, which is very clear and simple. In the view of the Public Bill Office the manuscript amendment is not admissible on the grounds that it is not relevant to the clause to which it is tabled. That is the first rule under paragraph 8.59 on page 132 of the Companion.
The manuscript amendment would make Clause 4,
“Subject to section 159(2A)”,
as set out in Amendment 310 to Clause 159, which would affect the commencement of Chapters 1 to 6 of Part 1. In the view of the clerks, this amendment is not relevant to Clause 4 as it affects commencement, which is the subject of Clause 159. In addition, Amendment 310 covers Clauses 1 to 79, several of which have already been debated.
My purpose is simply to bring to the attention of the House the strongest possible and clearest advice of the clerks, which is that this is inadmissible. In parenthesis, I can also tell the noble Lord that a transitional government amendment will be tabled today relating to Schedule 15. It will be debated in its proper place next week. It is up to the House and the noble Lord to decide what he wishes to do with his amendment but the advice from the clerks, and therefore the advice that I give as Leader of the House, is completely clear.
I am grateful to the noble Lord the Leader of the House for that further clarification. I am grateful also to hear that an amendment on transition is being tabled today. I say, in parenthesis, as was the noble Lord’s point, that this demonstrates the problems we have had with this Bill; that is, the late tabling of government amendments and the problems that we have in terms of determining exactly the intention of the Government in terms of various clauses, which is one of the problems that we all face. No doubt we will hear again an apology from the noble Baroness, Lady Browning, about the problems that the Home Office have faced and we will accept it with the usual good grace.
However, the noble Lord has said that this amendment, in the view of the clerks, is irrelevant to where it is placed. It is placed after the line, which states:
“There is to be a body with the name ‘The Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime’ for the metropolitan police district”.
The amendment would insert,
“Subject to section 159(2A)”.
The amendment is tabled there because currently detailed work is going on about the early implementation and the introduction of the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime in the London area. This is in advance of the Bill receiving Royal Assent, with a view to trying to get the implementation from October or shortly thereafter. That is why it is relevant to the place it is in and why I moved it in respect of this line in Chapter 2. It is not irrelevant to that point, which is why I moved it. The clerks may not see the relevance. Perhaps because of the hurried telephone calls that I had while inspecting security arrangements at Heathrow airport this morning, we did not have an opportunity to discuss it in detail. The amendment is about ensuring that we do not press ahead in advance of legislative authority.
May I move the amendment?
Perhaps the Leader of the House could help me. From the muttering around the House, it would seem that there is a feeling that perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Harris, should not move his amendment in view of the clear indications given by the clerks. However, I am not clear about what the procedure should be now. Should there be a Motion before the House as to whether the amendment should be moved, on which, if necessary, the House can divide? How does it work? I never came across this particular type of issue when I was Leader of the Opposition or Leader of the House, or since. I should be grateful if the noble Lord could enlighten me.
My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Richard, and indeed to the Lord Speaker.
It is true that there is a lacuna in the procedure and when I discovered this about half an hour ago I suggested that the Procedure Committee should look at it. In the normal course of events, there is an underlying assumption in the Companion that the mover of the manuscript amendment would feel so moved as to not move the amendment. However, as I said earlier, under the terms of self-regulation the amendment is ultimately in the hands of the House. There is no Motion before the House. There is the possibility of a closure Motion or indeed the Motion that the noble Lord be no longer heard. Both are quite heavy-handed. I dare say that if the noble Lord insisted on moving his amendment the House would take a pretty dim view of it, and if he tried to convince the House of the merits of his case I suspect he would not succeed.
My Lords, can the Leader of the House advise me? I wish to vote in support of my noble friend’s amendment but I am not clear, on the advice of the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, the Leader of the House, whether any subsequent Division would be about the procedure or the content of the amendment. If it is about the procedure, surely the Lord Speaker has indicated that the Motion before the House is the amendment, and therefore because I support the amendment I want to support it in a Division. However, I take seriously the advice that has been given, so I am sure the Leader of the House can advise me, even though he might not approve of my voting intentions.
My Lords, the proper advice I would give the noble Baroness, who I know is a stickler for such things, is to advise her noble friend not to move the amendment this afternoon, given the very clear advice of the clerks, and to speak to his amendment when it comes up in the proper place later on Report.
My Lords, I hope I have been of service to the House in identifying a lacuna in the Standing Orders. I hope therefore that this will be an opportunity for us to look in detail at some of these difficult procedures. All I was trying to do was to avoid unnecessary duplicate expenditure in advance of legislative authority and to enable the House to debate the security of the nation. However, the Leader of the House has three times at least reiterated the firm advice of the clerks on this point, and I would be foolish to persist beyond that. I assume, however, if I wished to bring forward this self-same amendment at Third Reading there would now be no objection to me so doing.
Amendment 15A not moved.
16: Clause 4, page 3, line 17, leave out subsections (3) and (4) and insert—
“(3) There is to be a Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime for the metropolitan police district.
(4) The Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime is to be elected, and hold office, in accordance with Chapter 6.
(4A) The person who has been given the title of deputy mayor and particular responsibility for policing and crime by the Mayor of London at the time this section is brought into effect is to be the occupant for the time being of the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime.”
My Lords, fractionally earlier than I had anticipated, I move Amendment 16, which is in my name. It is a series of amendments—I apologise to the House for their complexity but I have done my best to try to make them as clear as possible—that would enable the people of London at the same time as they elect—
My Lords, I waited a long time to move the previous amendment rather than this one. I had anticipated an opportunity during the debate to prepare myself more thoroughly for Amendment 16.
The purpose of this amendment is to enable Londoners to vote, on the same day on which they would elect the Mayor of London, to elect the deputy mayor for policing and crime. The Government have told us that the Bill is about the importance of transparency and more effective clarity about who is responsible for policing. They have said, for everywhere outside London, that there is an advantage to there being direct elections for the person who has responsibility for the governance and oversight of policing. For London, though, they have proposed a completely different construction. There would be no direct election; the Mayor of London would choose an individual to become the deputy mayor, who would have responsibility for policing and crime.
The Government have helpfully tabled some amendments that indicate that in the event of that person not being an elected Member of the London Assembly, there would be a confirmation hearing and the Assembly could veto that appointment by a two-thirds majority. In the event of that person being a Member of the Assembly, the Assembly would have the right to hold a confirmatory hearing but would have no power of veto.
A confirmatory hearing is not the same as direct election, and the only circumstances in which there would be a veto by the democratically elected representatives of all London would be where the mayor of London had appointed an individual who did not hold a democratic mandate in the London Assembly. We are therefore talking about the Mayor of London being able to appoint his poodle or his Rottweiler, whichever model you care to take, to have responsibility for the oversight of policing in the London area.
London has the largest police force in the country with some of the heaviest responsibilities, particularly for counterterrorism and security. However, the Government are saying that, despite it being their objective everywhere else in the country that there is proper governance and clarity, and despite the benefits of direct election of the person with that responsibility, that will not apply in London.
My understanding is that the Government are suggesting this because the responsibility will rest with the Mayor of London. However, the current Mayor of London has discovered that it is not possible to combine the role of being mayor with having personal direct responsibility for the oversight of the Metropolitan Police. That is why, having given a manifesto commitment—I know that the current Mayor of London does not cast aside manifesto commitments lightly—he decided after just a few months that in fact he would not continue to chair the Metropolitan Police Authority and have that personal day-to-day oversight role but would ask one of his London Assembly colleagues to do so.
In circumstances in which the present incumbent is saying, “I cannot combine these duties effectively”, why are the Government saying, “That’s the model that we want to see in the London area”? Why are they saying that it is not necessary in London to have the benefits that we are assured that direct election will bring? That is why I have put forward this group of amendments.
I have also sought to resolve some of the other questions that arise. I have proposed how the electoral system would operate and how, in the event of the deputy mayor being incapacitated and unable to continue his functions, the Mayor of London would act. The simple principle that is most important in these circumstances, though, is that there be direct election, and my understanding was that that was what the Government wanted, and that they believed in the principle of direct election. If it is right for the rest of the country—we are told that the Government are going to reinstate this when the Bill returns to another place—why is it not right for London? What have the Government got against the people of London that they do not believe those people should have the right to elect the person who has responsibility to oversee and be responsible for the governance of policing in the London area? I beg to move.
As my noble friend Lord Harris of Haringey has said, this group of amendments provides for a deputy mayor of policing and crime in London to be responsible for the Metropolitan Police in much the same way as the Government intend their police and crime commissioners to have that responsibility outside London. The Mayor of London would no longer be the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime.
The amendments also provide for the deputy mayor of policing and crime to be elected, with an election being held in 2012 and in each subsequent fourth year. The amendments carried in your Lordships’ House at the beginning of Committee on this Bill removed the requirement for the proposed police and crime commissioners outside London to be elected but left the situation in London largely unchanged. We have heard from the Government that they expect the posts of police and crime commissioners to be full time. Indeed a change has recently been made in relation to a deputy being appointed.
Therefore, the police and crime commissioner in, say, Wiltshire will be engaged full time purely on the role and responsibilities of that position, but in London, which has by far the largest police force in the country, the elected mayor, who has the ultimate responsibility for policing at present, does not devote his time and energy full time to his police role for the simple reason that as mayor he has a large number of other roles and responsibilities. One would have thought that in London the case for a full-time police and crime commissioner was stronger than anywhere else.
The mayor gets over the problem in London by appointing a deputy mayor with responsibility for the police but still retaining in theory ultimate control himself. However, it is quite clear where the real power lies—that is, with the deputy mayor because the mayor does not have the time to keep up to date with what is happening in the Metropolitan Police and to undertake the strategic and other responsibilities of the position because of his commitments to London as a whole. The Government have said that their objective is to increase accountability and transparency, but accountability and transparency are not increased if the in effect police and crime commissioner in London is in reality appointed by the mayor, who does not have the time to do the job himself but who in theory has to pretend that he can be like a police and crime commissioner elsewhere in the country and devote his efforts full time to that role.
We need to take steps to ensure that there is no dubiety over who is in reality—as opposed to in theory—the police and crime commissioner in London, and recognise the true situation by having a deputy mayor who has that role, and with it both the time and the authority of police and crime commissioners outside London. These amendments provide for elections for deputy mayor at the same time as for mayor. The current holder of these responsibilities is ultimately the elected mayor, and the amendments propose to move those overall responsibilities for the police from one elected office holder to another who has the time to do the job in full. I hope that the Government will recognise the contradictions between the situation in London and the situation outside London, as my noble friend Lord Harris of Haringey stated, and by accepting this amendment bring the two much closer together.
My Lords, the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, would prevent the mayor from holding the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime and would instead create an elected deputy mayor for policing and crime to hold that office. Consequential amendments would apply to the deputy mayor similar provisions to those for PCCs in respect of elections and suspensions. While I understand the approach taken by the noble Lord, Lord Harris, I set out in Committee the reasons why I do not agree with these amendments.
While it is the Government’s policy to introduce a directly elected police and crime commissioner into every force area in England and Wales outside London, the Government do not intend to introduce a new, elected person to hold the police to account in London for the very simple reason that the whole of London already elects a single person to take responsibility for strategic issues such as policing—the Mayor of London.
While I hear what the noble Lord says, the mayor is in the unique position of having responsibility for a whole force area and, as such, it seems sensible for him to have the overall responsibility for holding the police to account. Under the amendment, both the mayor and the deputy mayor have a direct democratic mandate across a whole force area, although in practice of course they could have different ideas about what should happen. That cannot work and would cause a lot of conflict. It is right and fitting that the mayor takes on the formal responsibility for holding the Metropolitan Police to account, and should in turn be accountable directly to the public for how this is done. However the mayor delegates in this area, the mayor, as with PCCs, is still responsible for the decisions that are taken and, as such, is answerable to the public as an elected representative.
I know that in Committee the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, was concerned about the dilution of the democratic principle, but I stress that this can come only through the mayor himself or herself. The mayor is elected by all Londoners, and he or she alone may hold the mayor’s office under this Bill. As such, the democratic principle is clear in the Bill. On that basis, I hope the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw these amendments, although I know that he believes in them passionately, and support the government amendments that we shall discuss later. I will not go into great detail as we shall come to them later in our deliberations, but I remind the House that the government amendments require confirmation hearings for the position of deputy mayor to be binding where the candidate is not an Assembly Member, in that the Assembly would have the power to veto the appointment by a two-thirds majority.
Any Assembly Member whom the mayor wished to appoint would be subject to a non-binding confirmation, as already set out in the Bill. I hope, therefore, that on reflection the noble Lord will withdraw the amendment.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for the way in which she has responded and for reiterating the Government’s position on these points. As I said in my opening remarks, I am grateful for the amendments that have been put forward on confirmation hearings and the deputy mayor’s role. However, a veto power of a two-thirds majority of the London Assembly is not a very powerful mechanism. My experience in four years on the London Assembly—I believe that it was the case for the subsequent seven years—is that the two-thirds majority threshold has never been achieved in matters to do with the budget. It is difficult to see how that would not be the case in these circumstances, where it is likely that the elected Mayor of London will have a sizeable block of members supporting his or her position on most issues. Therefore, although confirmatory hearings are helpful, they are not the same as direct election.
The noble Baroness also argued that the mayor is elected for the whole force area, but one of the problems is that the Mayor of London’s writ is not the same as that of the Metropolitan Police. The noble Lord, Lord Brooke, confronted me at a previous stage as he was deeply concerned that I might be trying to undermine the position of the City of London Police. The fact is that the Mayor of London has responsibility for two force areas and is elected not just by the electorate who are served by the Metropolitan Police but by the electorate who are served by the City of London Police. Therefore, the noble Baroness’s arguments do not stand up.
That indeed is the case. That is why I was almost incredulous that the Government believed that it was sensible that the City of London should have its own separate police force.
I appreciate that the Corporation of London has enormous antiquity and I know about the noble Baroness’s passion for medieval constructs, as we discussed the other evening, and the question of corporation sole. So, given that the Corporation of London is a construct even older than corporation sole, I shall not press that point.
However, on the issue of boundaries, the Government have to be clear about what the situation will be outside London. If the Localism Bill runs its course and the referenda locally produce it, you will have some very powerful directly elected mayors in major cities outside London. I do not believe that the directly elected mayors of the great cities of Manchester and Birmingham will not feel that they should have significant influence on the arrangements for policing in their areas. Of course they will not cover the entire police area, but I do not think that the Government’s proposal simply to have them sitting on the police and crime panel will be sufficient. The Government cannot get away from the fact that you will have conflicts between directly elected mayors and the people responsible for governance. In those circumstances, if that is going to happen outside London, the Government should have the courage of their convictions about the importance of direct elections and allow that to happen in London.
As I understand it, the Government’s vision is that there should be direct elections for these important positions everywhere in the country, but London is missing out. That is unfortunate and extremely unhelpful. I am disappointed that the Government are not prepared to consider and accept the amendment. However, I shall consider carefully what the noble Baroness has said today. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 16 withdrawn.
17: Clause 4, page 4, line 15, at end insert—
“(h) the exercise of duties in relation to the safeguarding of children and the promotion of child welfare that are imposed on the Commissioner by sections 10 and 11 of the Children Act 2004”.
Amendment 17 agreed.
Amendments 18 to 20 not moved.
Schedule 3 : Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime
Amendments 21 and 22 not moved.
23: Schedule 3, page 111, line 21, leave out sub-paragraph (a)
My Lords, this group of government amendments essentially corrects some drafting oversights and errors to ensure that the Bill is consistent with other legislation. I am happy to touch on each amendment in order to provide clarity for the House.
Amendment 23 removes a duplication prohibiting a PCC from also being deputy mayor for policing and crime. Amendment 82 corrects a drafting error that would mistakenly have granted the deputy mayor greater delegation powers than the holder of the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime. Amendment 170 changes a reference to the Greater London Authority to the London Assembly. This was simply an error as the police and crime panel will be a committee of the Assembly and not of the whole authority.
Amendments 244 and 309 follow the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee's recommendations by requiring that any regulations issued in respect of collaboration, or a failure of local authorities to participate in the formation of police and crime panels, are made by affirmative rather than negative resolution.
Amendment 270 removes an inconsistency in the Bill where one provision amends a paragraph in the Police Act 1996 in relation to the Secretary of State's power to issue orders in relation to transitional arrangements for the alteration of a police force area, and another provision repeals it. The amending provision is the correct one so the repealing provision is being removed from the Bill.
Amendment 273 removes a provision as a consequence of the coming into force of the Equality Act 2010, which repealed the Race Relations Act 1976 in its entirety. There is therefore no longer anything to amend. Amendment 302 corrects provisions amending the Equality Act 2010 which have been affected by an order that adds to the list of bodies that are subject to the general equality duty. Together, these amendments will ensure that PCCs and the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime are covered by the Equality Act.
Amendment 291 corrects an omission by extending the exemption from motor insurance to the staff of a chief officer, as well as the staff of a PCC or the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime. This mirrors current arrangements for the police and police authorities and so we are simply maintaining the status quo. Amendment 292 corrects a drafting error, ensuring that the Bill correctly refers to Metropolitan Police staff being employed by the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, not the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime.
Amendment 296 improves on existing drafting in the Bill in relation to the exemption of police staff from the private security licensing regime. Amendment 298 corrects failures to amend multiple references to “police authority” or “authority” in other legislation. Amendments 298, 299, 300 and 301 correct mistaken uses of “that” instead of “the”, and vice versa.
Bringing these amendments before the House might be an opportune moment to correct the record from our previous Report stage proceedings. In responding to the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, on his favourite subject of the corporation sole I declared to the House that I had discovered only last week that I, as a Minister of State, am a corporation sole. I was very sad to learn this morning that in fact I am not. Unfortunately, the exemptions for Ministers were in another part of the document and I am afraid it was delusions of grandeur. I discover that it is only the Prime Minister who is a corporation sole, not a humble Minister of State such as myself, but am I glad to correct the record.
As the Minister has indicated, these are relatively minor and technical amendments that correct some drafting errors. As she said, they also reflect the recommendations of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee that any regulations dealing with mandatory collaboration or the consequences of a failure by local authorities to participate in the formation of police and crime panels should be made by affirmative rather than negative resolution. We support the change to these regulations being by affirmative rather than negative resolution, thus requiring the specific approval of your Lordships' House.
Amendment 23 agreed.
Clause 5 : Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis
Amendments 24 and 25 not moved.
Schedule 4 : Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis
Amendments 26 to 28 not moved.
29: Schedule 4, page 113, line 40, at end insert—
“(1) The Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis must appoint a qualified person to act as chief finance officer, if and for as long as—
(a) that post is vacant, or(b) the holder of that post is, in the Commissioner’s opinion, unable to carry out the duties of that post.(2) For the purposes of sub-paragraph (1) a person is qualified to be appointed to act as chief finance officer if that person is qualified to be appointed to the post under paragraph 1.
(3) A reference in any enactment to the metropolitan police force’s chief finance officer includes a reference to a person acting as chief finance officer in accordance with sub-paragraph (1).”
Amendment 29 agreed.
Amendments 30 to 32 not moved.
Amendments 33 and 34
33: Schedule 4, page 114, line 21, after “not)” insert “, but only with the consent of the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime”
34: Schedule 4, page 114, line 24, leave out paragraph (c) and insert—
“(2A) But the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis may not borrow money.
(2B) Sub-paragraph (2A) does not require the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis to obtain the consent of the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime in order to enter into a contract or other agreement with a person—
(a) by virtue of which the person becomes, or is, a member of the metropolitan police force’s civilian staff, or(b) which otherwise relates to the person’s membership of that civilian staff (including the terms and conditions of the person’s membership).”
Amendments 33 and 34 agreed.
Clause 6 : Police and crime commissioners to issue police and crime plans
34A: Clause 6, page 5, line 23, at end insert “and to the relevant local authorities in the police force area”
My Lords, this group of amendments seeks simply to ensure that local authorities are consulted by the police and crime commissioner, along with the police and crime panel, in connection with any preparation or variation of a crime plan. Surely it is axiomatic that a close working relationship between the police and other authorities, particularly local authorities, is essential in dealing with matters of community safety and law and order. A wide range of local authority functions clearly impinge on the duties of the police and vice versa, so it is clearly desirable, if not essential, that in the preparation of any police and crime plan, given the commissioner’s responsibility to liaise and work with a wide range of statutory bodies, local authorities should be among the prime consultees.
The Minister has charmed the House over the past few weeks. I hope that her charm will be matched by a willingness to accept that this is a constructive amendment, designed to ensure the closest possible working relationship between the two most important arms in any approach to the issues which this Bill seeks to address and which the relevant authorities have to address on a day-to-day basis. I hope the Minister will accept these modest but important amendments to reinforce that relationship. I beg to move.
As my noble friend inferred, we are debating the Localism Bill through which the Government wish to give more freedom to local authorities. As part of that we are seeing the Government present local authorities with an opportunity to have some of the constraints around their leadership role in a local area taken away from them so that the local authority is seen as having a leadership role which is not necessarily tied into statutory responsibilities. We are also seeing in that Bill a requirement on the 11 largest local authorities in England to hold referenda next year on whether there should be an elected mayor. The Government are therefore acknowledging the importance of local government and its place in the wider community. I support my noble friend’s amendments because they seek to ensure that when draft police and crime plans are prepared or varied, the local authority has a right to consultation. In our first discussion my noble friend referred to the potential of an elected mayor in Birmingham. I find it quite remarkable that we have the prospect of the elected mayor in Birmingham not having an ability to be statutorily consulted by the police and crime commissioner when it comes to a police and crime plan or a variation. This is a symbol of the importance of local government and I hope the noble Baroness will accept my noble friend’s amendment.
This issue is an important one and relates back to what I have said before on crime prevention. It took many years to get a good relationship between the police and local authorities on crime prevention and we should not lose that again. Local authorities and the police work together and when the police listen to what locally elected people and local authorities have to say, there is a much better chance of reducing crime and coming up with good crime prevention schemes. So I strongly support my noble friend’s amendments.
I have Amendment 47 in this group. I will be very brief. This is about partnership arrangements and improving the link between policing bodies and other partners, particularly community safety bodies. I note the Minister’s Amendment 43 on behalf of the Government specifying that the local policing body has to have regard to the priorities of the statutory partners—
The amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, provide for local authorities to have the same degree of involvement as the police and crime panel in the police and crime commissioner’s preparation of the police and crime plan. In Clause 6 the PCC is placed under specific duties to send the plan to the PCP and have regard to any report or recommendations made by the PCP in relation to the draft, to give a formal response to any recommendations from the PCP, to afford as much time as reasonably possible for the PCP to consider and review the plan, and to review the plan in light of any recommendations made to the PCC by the police and crime panel.
That is already quite a lot of involvement with the PCP, which is made up of and structured with a representative of every local authority at whichever level, whether it is a two, three or one-tier local government structure. Through the representatives on the police and crime panel—we have discussed the need for those other than local government representatives, but looking specifically at those members—I would expect the views of the local authority to be taken forward by those representatives so that specific local authorities’ views on the plan or any other matter are reflected on the panel.
For each of those duties, the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, wants the same duty to apply to each local authority within the force area. That would add bureaucracy for the PCC, because the PCC must negotiate to deliver their plan. At the moment, the core of that negotiation is with the police and crime panel. I also think that it would undermine the core responsibility of the PCP in being the check and balance for the PCC in developing the plan. The burden that will be placed by adding the extra tier is particularly disproportionate. I would expect people on the panel to communicate back to their local authority. For example, if the local authority was concerned, that concern would be expressed through their representative on the police and crime panel. That is why we have extended the scope of the panel to include a representative from every authority, compared to the current structure, where not every authority is represented.
My Lords, can we come back to the place of Birmingham, which I know is dear to your Lordships’ heart? Let us assume that the referendum takes place next May and that a year later we have an elected mayor of Birmingham. Is the noble Baroness seriously suggesting that the relationship on the draft police and crime plan is between the panel and the PCC, and that the elected mayor for Birmingham has to go through the panel to make representations? I do not think that that stands up.
I would hope that elected mayors would be represented on the panel. I see no reason why they should not be. Nothing in the Bill says that they should not and I would expect that link to be formed through those elected mayors. They would not be excluded from the panel. I do not know whether that satisfies the noble Lord’s concern. They will clearly have positions of great authority within the locality and therefore would have that input through the police and crime panel. They would clearly be important in holding to account the police and crime commissioner, and I would expect an elected mayor to have that representation. I will wait to see whether the noble Lord believes that to be a solution to the problem he has raised.
I have no doubt that each representative on the panel will consult their local authority colleagues on the plan in advance of the PCP formally submitting its advice and recommendations to the police and crime commissioner. It is for that very reason that we are placing a duty on the police and crime commissioner: the requirement at subsection (7) for the PCP to be given a reasonable amount of time to consult on the draft plan.
For clarification, it would not be a question of the PCP having the plan submitted to it for a day or two and then having to decide on it. We have included the need for adequate and reasonable time in the legislation.
For the PCC to undertake consultation with a large number of authorities outwith the PCP would, I believe, be bureaucratic and time-consuming. Also it recognises the power which we expect the PCP to have in terms of scrutiny. However, if the PCP utilises its membership, it can, on behalf of the PCC, make a constructive and supportive contribution. Through that local authority membership, it will be able to co-ordinate the views of the authorities and provide an agreed set of recommendations which, I remind the House, the PCP must have regard to.
I appreciate the intention and am grateful to the noble Lord for his kind remarks. However, I am going to disappoint him on this occasion—he is probably thinking “yet again”. I hope that the way in which the Government are seeking to enable the PCP to be involved in supporting the police and crime commissioner is a little clearer, and that the noble Lord will consider withdrawing the amendment.
My Lords, tempted as I am, I shall not withdraw the kind remarks that I made about the noble Baroness—I shall resist the provocation. However, the answer is extremely disappointing. It seems to take little account of what is needed to develop a whole-systems approach to the issues of crime, disorder, crime prevention and community safety. This is not a one-way street. These matters cannot be tackled just by police authorities, under whatever form they take; there has to be a collaborative exercise between the police and the other agencies, especially local authorities.
The Minister is effectively saying that a mayor or council leader can be a member of a scrutiny committee because that is all that the PCP is: it is not an executive body and has no power to commit anything at all. Frankly, I would be very doubtful whether a mayor or council leader of any significant authority would have the time or the inclination to serve as a member of such a body. Moreover, we need the full engagement of the area’s local authorities with the police in order to develop joint approaches and possibly joint programmes. That is not something that can be done at one remove. You do not send someone to a scrutiny panel to negotiate on behalf of your authority, particularly if it is a large unitary or county authority.
I say for the sake of clarification that I would not in any way expect the police not to have contact with local authorities. We are not talking here about the chief officer’s role and communications with local authorities; we are talking about the gateway which the PCP provides for all local authorities in that force area to be represented on the panel.
We are indeed. We are also talking about how the commissioner makes those significant strategic decisions, as he would have responsibility for the police’s part of what is not just a policing matter, but a matter which transcends the boundaries between police authorities, however constituted, and local government. This is a two-way street and one way is blocked by the Government’s apparent refusal to recognise that there has to be a partnership arrangement between police authorities and local authorities. I am really at a loss to see why the Minister and particularly her advisers are intent on blocking the way towards a collaborative and potentially fruitful relationship, which cannot be assisted by the way that the Bill is currently drafted. If that is the Government’s position, I am afraid that I must test the opinion of the House.
Amendments 34B to 34E not moved.
Reform of Social Care
My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement made in another place by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health. The Statement is as follows:
“Mr Speaker, with permission, I wish to make a Statement on the reform of social care. This coalition Government have from the outset recognised that reform of the care and support system is needed to provide people with more choice and control, and to reduce the insecurity faced by individuals, carers and their families. By 2026, the number of people over 85 years old is projected to double. Age is the principal determinant of need for health and for care services. It is estimated that in 20 years’ time, 1.7 million more people will have a potential care need than do today.
People often do not think about how they might meet those costs in later life. They assume that social care will be provided free for all at the point of need, but since the establishment of the welfare state this has never been the case. Currently people with more than £23,250 in assets, often including their home, face meeting the whole cost of care themselves. The cost of care can vary considerably and it is hard for people to predict what costs they may face. The average 65 year-old today will face lifetime care costs of £35,000. However, as the Commission on the Funding of Care and Support notes, costs are widely distributed: one in four will have no care costs, but one in four will face care costs over £50,000 and one in 10 over £100,000.
The lack of understanding of how the system works and the uncertainty about costs means that it is difficult for people to prepare to meet potential care costs and there are currently few financial products available to help them. This means that paying for care can come as a shock to many families and can have a severe impact on their financial security.
Change is essential. That is why we took immediate action by establishing the Commission on the Funding of Care and Support last July. It was tasked with making recommendations on how to achieve an affordable and sustainable funding system for care and support for all adults in England. In response to its initial advice, we allocated an additional £2 billion a year by 2014-15 in the spending review to support the delivery of social care as a bridge to reform. This represents a total of £7.2 billion extra support for social care over the next four years, including an unprecedented transfer of funds from the NHS to support social care services that will also benefit health.
Since then we have taken forward wider reform. In November last year, we published our vision for adult social care setting out our commitment to a more responsive and personalised care and support system that empowers individuals and communities, including the objective that all those who wish it should have access to a personal social care budget by 2013, and in May, the Law Commission published its report, after three years of work, on how to deliver a modernised statute for adult social care. Making sense of the current confused tangle of legislation to deliver a social care statute will allow individuals, carers, families and local authorities more clearly to understand when care and support will be provided.
Andrew Dilnot’s report comes at the same time as the final report from the palliative care funding review, which I received last week. Tom Hughes-Hallett and Sir Alan Craft have made an excellent start in looking at this complex and challenging issue. We want to see integrated, responsive, high-quality health and care services for those at the end of life. We will now consider the review team's proposals in detail before consulting stakeholders on the way forward later this summer. We will also consider how best to undertake substantial piloting, as recommended in the report, in order to gather information on how best to deliver palliative services.
We are also responding to events at Southern Cross, which have caused concern to residents in Southern Cross care homes and their relatives and families. We welcome the fact that Southern Cross, the landlords and the lenders are working hard to come up with a plan to stabilise the ownership and operation of the care homes. We have also been clear that we would take action to make sure there was proper oversight of the market in social care. That is why, through the Health and Social Care Bill, we are seeking powers to extend to social care the financial regulatory regime we are putting in place in the NHS, if we decide it is needed, as part of wider reform.
A central component of those reforms will be the long-term funding of care and support. Over the past 12 months, Andrew Dilnot, the chair of the Commission on the Funding of Care and Support, together with the noble Lord, Lord Warner, and Dame Jo Williams have engaged extensively with many different stakeholders. They brought fresh insight and impetus to this most challenging area of public policy. We welcome the excellent work of the commission and its final report. I would like to thank Andrew Dilnot, the noble Lord, Lord Warner, and Dame Jo Williams for the work they have undertaken. It is an immensely valuable contribution to meeting the long-term challenge of an ageing population.
The report argues that people are unable to protect themselves against the risk of high care costs, leaving people fearful and uncertain about the future. The commission’s central proposal is therefore a cap on the care costs that people face over their lifetime of between £25,000 and £50,000; it recommends £35,000. Under the commission’s proposals, people who cannot afford to make their personal contribution would continue to receive means-tested support, but it proposes that the threshold for getting state help with residential care costs would rise from £23,250 to £100,000. People would make some contribution to their general living costs in residential care, but this should be limited to between £7,000 and £10,000.
The commission also proposes: standardised national eligibility for care, increasing consistency across the country; universal access to a deferred payments scheme for means-tested contributions; improvements in information and advice; improved assessments for carers and better alignment between social care and the wider care and support system; and to consider changing the means test in domiciliary care to include housing assets. It makes recommendations about how, as a society, we will organise and fund social care. We will now take forward consideration of the commission’s recommendations as a priority.
The commission recognises that implementing its reforms would have significant costs that the Government will need to consider against other funding priorities and calls on constrained resources. In the current public spending environment, we have to consider carefully the additional costs to the taxpayer of the commission’s proposals against other funding priorities. Within the commission’s recommendations, it presents a range of options, including on the level of a cap and the contribution people make to living costs in residential care, which could help us to manage the system and its costs. That is why we intend to engage with stakeholders on these issues, including on the trade-offs involved.
Reform in this area will need to meet a number of tests, including: whether proposals would promote closer integration of health and social care; whether proposals would promote increased personalisation, choice and quality; whether proposals would support greater prevention and early intervention; whether a viable insurance market and a more diverse and responsive care market would be established as a result of the proposals; the level of consensus that additional resources should be targeted on a capped costs scheme for social care; and what a fair and appropriate method of financing the additional costs would be.
The Government have set out a broad agenda for reform in social care. We want to see care that is personalised, that offers people choice in how their care needs are met, that supports carers, that is supported by a diverse and flourishing market of providers and a skilled workforce who can provide care and support with compassion and imagination, and that offers people the assurances they expect of high-quality care and protection against poor standards and abuse. Andrew Dilnot’s report was never intended to address all these questions, but it forms a vital part of that wider agenda.
To take it forward, we will work with stakeholders in the autumn, using Andrew Dilnot’s report as the basis for engagement as a key part of a broader picture. This engagement will look at the fundamental questions for reform in social care: improving quality, developing and assuring the care market, integration with the NHS and wider services, and personalisation. As part of that we want to hear stakeholders’ views on the priorities for action from the commission’s report and how we should assess these proposals, including in relation to other priorities for improvement in the system. As the right honourable Member the Shadow Health Secretary and I have discussed, we will also engage directly with the Official Opposition in order to seek consensus on the future of long-term care funding.
We will then set out our response to the Law Commission and to the Dilnot Commission in the spring, with full proposals for reform of adult social care in a White Paper and a progress report on funding reform. It remains our intention to legislate to this effect at the earliest opportunity. The care of the elderly and vulnerable adults is a key priority for reform under this Government, and I commend this Statement to the House”.
My Lords, that concludes the Statement.
First, my Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement today. It is difficult to imagine a more important issue for us to consider. Care of the elderly and vulnerable is probably the most difficult and intractable problem facing our society. It is one that we have to resolve; we cannot afford to let it go on and on unresolved. We can all agree about this.
It should be a cause for celebration and pride that one in five of us alive in Britain today will now live to be 100, and that our children can expect to spend one-third of their lives in retirement. Instead, thousands and thousands of us approach old age in fear—fear that we will need care that will not be there or will not be good enough, fear that our savings will be wiped out by an open-ended cost, fear that we cannot protect our families from this cost, and fear of becoming a burden or being left alone. That is why we on these Benches welcome the Dilnot report and the Statement.
These proposals contain many important elements that were in the plans that we set out when we were in government in our care White Paper prior to the general election. I join the Minister in congratulating Mr Andrew Dilnot and his colleagues, my noble friend Lord Warner and Dame Jo Williams on the excellent job that they have done. I know that many of the organisations concerned with this issue—Age UK, the Alzheimer’s Society, Care UK and others—have been very impressed by the way in which the commission has carried out its tasks, but they are now, quite rightly, very keen to ensure that the momentum created by this excellent report is not lost. Many noble Lords will have seen the letter, signed by 32 of these organisations, pleading with us not to pass up this opportunity. I welcome the Minister’s confirmation that detailed and important involvement of stakeholders will continue.
I am very impressed with the way in which all the members of the commission have seen it as their mission to explain to the widest possible audience what lies behind their recommendations and why they have reached the conclusions that they have. I know that my noble friend Lord Warner has been in major media contact since the early hours of this morning; many of us will have been treated to the masterclass from Andrew Dilnot on the “Today” programme.
In response to the report my right honourable friend Ed Miliband, the leader of the Labour Party, has said on behalf of the Labour Party that we would be willing to put aside our party’s pre-election proposals in order to try to find a solution. I invite the Minister to agree with me that it is just as well that politicians sometimes ignore the cynicism and negativity of commentators, such as Mr Nick Robinson of the BBC, who I heard recently, and show an understanding of the importance of reaching a national consensus on these matters. We will all need to show the kind of determination that my right honourable friend the leader of the Labour Party is showing. Will the Minister comment on suggestions in the media, including from members of the Conservative Party, that suggest that the Treasury is already lining up to kill these proposals? I hope that this is not the case and that the tweet today quoting Stephen Dorrell as saying that the Government must show willingness to find the money for Dilnot’s long-term care overhaul is more accurate.
The last thing Britain needs is for Andrew Dilnot’s proposals to be put into the long grass, or even the medium-cut grass. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that we must address. It is what the Government do with it now that counts. My right honourable friend the leader of the Labour Party has made a big offer to the Prime Minister to put politics aside and to work to see a better long-term system of social care put in place for elderly and disabled people in our country. We on this side are willing to talk to and work with the Government and all other parties to do so, because we know that any system of care must give all of us the long-term confidence to know what will be on offer for us and our families. It requires the Prime Minister to give a lead, because agreeing an affordable and sustainable system involves important parts of government beyond the reach of the Health Secretary. It requires the Prime Minister to give a guarantee that the Government will not kick Mr Dilnot’s recommendations into the long grass, because the system needs urgent and lasting reform. Will the Minister give us that guarantee today? If the Government are serious, we in the Labour Party are serious. If the Government are serious, we need to hear what the plan is going to be as we move forward.
Mr Dilnot recommends a White Paper by December this year, but this already seems to have slipped to the spring. Will the Minister say which is it? Will he also tell the House when we can expect a draft Bill—are the Government aiming for this to be in the next Queen’s Speech? In the absence of the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell of Surbiton, will the Minister confirm that the Government welcome and will take forward recommendation 6 on the portability of care assessments? Will the Government be supporting her Private Member’s Bill on this? Does he agree that cross-party talks are required and that the Prime Minister should give this lead? How and when will this start?
Finally, I know the Minister agrees that there is a need for the House to have an opportunity to have a more thoroughgoing debate about this matter, the report and its recommendations. I hope that we can also join forces in trying to secure that opportunity.
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Baroness for her welcome of both the commission’s report and the Statement that I repeated. I believe that the commission has not only provided us with an excellent report but has instilled a sense of impetus in this agenda. We must not lose that momentum now. She referred to the prospect of cross-party talks, and I can only repeat that the engagement that we seek in the coming weeks and months will fully extend to the Official Opposition. We recognise the value of building a broad coalition of support on an issue as important as this. As she rightly said, there has to be security for the longer term so that we can provide citizens with the understanding and predictability that they rightfully expect of the system.
Reforming adult social care remains a top priority for us, but it is complex. As the Statement indicated, a number of related questions need to be addressed. Andrew Dilnot’s report provides recommendations on only one of these questions: how we pay for care as a country. It is our intention to set out our plans for wider social care reform in a White Paper in the spring. The noble Baroness is right that the timetable has slipped from that which we originally indicated, but that is not for sinister reasons. We think it is important to engage as widely as possible on these recommendations. There are many different views and we need to understand them.
Last week, the Alzheimer’s Society called for an open debate on the Dilnot proposals, with which we agree. As I have said, we are committed to a White Paper in the spring of 2012, which will include our response to the Law Commission’s report on the legal framework for social care, and we will publish a progress report on the funding. We remain committed to legislating at the earliest opportunity to take forward the proposals in the White Paper, although naturally I cannot give the noble Baroness a specific indication on the timing of that. That, however, is our ambition.
The noble Baroness referred to portability. In November, in our vision for adult social care, we made clear that we want the greater portability of assessments, which could help people who use social care to move without unnecessary multiple assessments and uncertainty. We also said that we would consider how to pursue this in the light of the work of the Law Commission and the Commission on Funding of Care and Support. We are considering both reports carefully. It is too early for me to say precisely what reaction we will give to the Bill sponsored by the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell, but we look forward to debating it. I am sure that that Bill will enable us to drill down to some of the more difficult aspects of portability, with which I know that the noble Baroness is all too familiar.
As for a more general debate on these important issues, I well understand the noble Baroness’s wish to have such an opportunity. I will of course relay that desire to my noble friend the Leader of the House. It is not in my hands, and as she knows the available time for general debates of that kind is rather limited at this time of year, but we will see what can be done.
My Lords, I was extremely pleased to hear this Statement and to hear it in the form that it has come. It must be well over 20 years since I first started writing to various Prime Ministers about the dreadful case of a constituent who had to sell his house—his life savings went into the house—to go into a care home, who said, “This cannot be fair. People who never bothered to save or to put money aside are getting the same treatment I am being charged for”.
On the other hand, and this illustrates the difficulty of the problem, the view of the taxpayers, also expressed to me, was, “Why should we have to support the inheritance of the sons and daughters of these people?”. There were two completely separate points of view that were very difficult to reconcile. As the problem becomes bigger and more urgent all the time, it is extremely brave of the Government to embark at this stage on a Statement that refers to the priority that will be given to this problem, and I welcome that very greatly.
I thank my noble friend Lady Oppenheim-Barnes for those remarks. The House will know that her experience of these matters goes back many years. She is right; these thorny issues have been with us for a very long time and we have to get a grip on them. There is, as I made clear earlier, a clear imperative to inject certainty and predictability into the system, but there is also a need to strike a balance between the state and the individual. That principle was one that the Dilnot commission articulated—overreliance on the state would be unsustainable and arguably unfair, and overreliance on the individual presents obvious problems of a different sort. It is that balance that we need to identify.
My Lords, as a member of the Royal Commission on the funding of Long-Term Care for the Elderly, which so singularly failed to find any consensus—my fault, no doubt, as I signed the minority report—I welcome the Dilnot report very much as bringing us nearer to the kind of political consensus on this issue that is intrinsic to its final solution.
However, we should not take the proposals in Dilnot as written in stone. There are severe problems of cost and the fact that they do so much more for the very rich members of society and so much less for the middle. Will the Minister—who has rather wisely stretched out the consultation period on this—assure the House now that although Dilnot’s fundamental architecture has a great deal to be said for it, the Government will keep a very open mind on the details throughout the process ahead?
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Lipsey, and broadly my answer to him is yes. They are clearly a set of well considered recommendations which we think are eminently worthy of serious study as a basis for cross-party consensus. However, I will not be tempted to pin my colours to any mast that the Dilnot commission has erected because it is important that we have this consensus as far as we can generate it, and that will mean looking at the detail and at individual recommendations on their own merits, maybe taking forward some but not others, and maybe looking at a staggered timetable. These are all questions that we have to resolve between us.
My Lords, I am in danger of agreeing with the noble Lord, Lord Lipsey, which is something that always worries me, as he knows. I, too, welcome this. After 13 years of the Labour Government trying in various ways to approach this problem we have, with this report, an architecture that is very important, although I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Lipsey, that there a great many technical matters within it that should be open for negotiation.
The report and the extent to which its objectives are achieved rely on two areas: first, a broad political consensus that it is a fair approach to take to the problem; and secondly, as the Minister said, a number of specific technical issues, the main one being that there should be a consistency in the criteria between eligibility for state provision and any insurance-based cover. That is perhaps the biggest single factor in determining whether the entire system will work. What work will be done with stakeholder groups, including carers and older people, and the private insurance business on that specific point? Only by resolving that can we enable individuals to have the security of knowing when the state will pay for their provision and when they as individuals will be expected to contribute.
My noble friend has highlighted a key issue. We know that it is important to people that access to care services is fair and that resources are used wisely. However, the commission is clear that it believes that local authorities should continue to play a key role in the funding and delivery of social care, so we need to consider carefully how to achieve the right balance between national consistency and local flexibility. That is a very difficult question.
During the coming period of engagement in the autumn, we will want to take views on that matter. I remind my noble friend that in the light of recommendations made in CSCI’s review, called Cutting the Cake Fairly, which I am sure she will remember, the department issued guidance to local authorities on eligibility to support fairer and more transparent and consistent implementation of the criteria. We fully appreciate, however, that the concerns on that front continue; the current eligibility framework is subjective and it is difficult for individuals to understand what they might be entitled to in advance of an assessment. We will consider whether to take forward work on a new assessment framework following discussions with stakeholders.
My Lords, the Government deserve credit for establishing the commission and choosing Mr Andrew Dilnot to chair it. I welcome the constructive way in which the Minister has summarised how the Government intend to take this forward.
I have two questions arising from the Statement. I shall ask them in the sequence in which they arose from the Minister’s announcement. First, he observed that financial markets have no answer to this problem. That is quite extraordinary. Our colleague, the noble Lord, Lord Turner, in his capacity as chairman of the Financial Services Authority, told us that much of what goes on in the City is socially useless. Here is an area where the financial community in the City could be socially useful, yet it seems to be turning its back on the opportunities to create long-term annuity products appropriate to meeting people’s expenditure requirements in the later period of their life. Will the Minister raise this with the Treasury and the FSA and consider establishing a working group to investigate particularly whether EU legislation on capital requirements for variable annuities is frustrating a market response?
Secondly, the Minister mentioned Southern Cross. There is much concern in the country about Southern Cross and I am grateful for the Minister’s Statement. Will he confirm that no resident of a Southern Cross home will be required to move against their wishes from the home in which they are currently being cared for?
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Myners. I shall address his questions in the opposite order. We have been clear about the situation at Southern Cross: we hope that a resolution will emerge as a result of the current discussions between Southern Cross, its lenders and its landlords. However, we have been equally clear that the residents of the care homes are our prime concern. It is not possible for me to give an absolute assurance that no resident will be required to move, but I can say that we will ensure that if a resident is required to move, there will, in accordance with best practice, be plenty of time to ensure that suitable alternative accommodation is available. It is a fact of life that care home residents sometimes do have to move, but it is our ambition that no care home resident of Southern Cross should move. I do not intend to sound in the least complacent about this because we have set a clear sense of direction to the parties involved that we hope to see this settlement reached.
The noble Lord, Lord Myners, is right about financial products. I have noted over the past 10 years with some disappointment the dearth of suitable financial products to enable people to save for long-term care. The commission has analysed extremely ably the barriers that currently prevent the establishment of an effective market for financial products and we want to consider how best to promote a more effective market for such products. We will consider the commission’s recommendations carefully, of course. An effective market in this area would be extremely helpful. It may help people to become more aware of the costs that they may face in later life, which in itself would be useful, and to take steps to prepare for these. I will bring the noble Lord’s remarks to the attention of my colleagues in the Treasury in the sense that he indicated.
My Lords, I declare an interest as chairman of the Suffolk Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust and the immediate past chairman of Help the Hospices. I agree with my noble friend Lady Oppenheim-Barnes. Indeed, this has been a running sore throughout my entire political lifetime since I was first elected as an MP in 1974. The right metaphor now might be a ticking time bomb in one of those James Bond films getting quite close to where it actually goes off, or does not quite. This is potentially seriously, socially divisive and difficult, so I hugely welcome both the report and the tone that has been adopted by those on the two Front Benches. It is essential that we should seek political consensus, otherwise there will be big trouble for all of us.
Lastly, and more specifically, I come to my question: does my noble friend accept that there are also health implications in the demographics as well as social care implications? A growing number of people are presenting with mental illness problems—dementia, in particular—at mental health trusts, and indeed in acute trusts in the A&E departments, with a knock-on effect on requests for assistance from mental health trusts and their clinicians. There is a serious need for health resources to be directed towards some aspects of this problem as well as to a solution to social care problems. I hope that my noble friend will take that on board.
I am grateful to my noble friend and agree with all that he said. The early part of the Statement demonstrates very graphically the demographic aspects of this matter. He is of course right that there are clear health implications in all of this, which is precisely why the work that we are doing in the department lays such emphasis on the need to integrate health and social care commissioning and provision and on the need to place a greater emphasis on prevention both in health and social care. That is also why we have channelled substantial additional funds from the health budget to support social care over the next four years. There is a clear interest for the health service in wishing to see a stable and fair system of social care provision, so I identify absolutely with everything that my noble friend has said.
My Lords, the emphasis in the Statement is very much on the care of the elderly, some of whom will be disabled. What I am not clear about is whether the report also covers care of the disabled who are still young, who are currently covered by the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act, which was sponsored by the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Manchester, 40 years ago. Is that also up for grabs, as it were, among the tangle of legislation which is being considered?
My Lords, this area was not overlooked by the commission. Indeed, the commission has made a specific recommendation as regards the cap on costs, which it believes should be, as a generality, somewhere between £25,000 and £50,000, although it has come down in favour of a £35,000 figure. That figure is lower for those who require long-term care at a much earlier age. The noble and learned Lord is right that this area should not be neglected, and I am sure will not be neglected.
My Lords, does the Minister agree that although the sum of £2 billion mentioned by Andrew Dilnot may strike fear into the heart of the Treasury at a time of financial constraints, it is a puny sum when you compare it with the £119 billion contributed by the main providers of care—the family carers? Therefore, I am sure he agrees that the support offered to family carers in the report is extremely welcome. Will he reconfirm the Government’s commitment to continuing to work with the stakeholder groups, as the Dilnot commission has so admirably done, particularly as the advice and information service for families is developed as we go forward?
My Lords, I cannot stand here and claim that an additional £2 billion is a trivial amount of money; it clearly is not. That is why it was made clear in the Statement that we need to make some difficult decisions over priorities in public spending. As regards carers, for whom the noble Baroness has done so much in her career, I am sure she will accept from me that we recognise the value and contribution that carers make. We recently published Recognised, Valued and Supported: Next Steps for the Carers Strategy, which announced an additional £400 million over four years for PCTs to pool with local authorities to provide carers’ breaks. In our carers strategy we indicated that assumptions should not be made about who will provide care and to what extent. There has been a 21 per cent increase in the number of carers receiving information. We want to see greater flexibility and portability of assessments for carers. The agenda in this area is proceeding and we shall not forget it amidst the concerns over funding. It is every bit as important as getting the funding system for paid residential long-term care right.
My Lords, I, too, welcome the political consensus that is bathing us in its glow this afternoon. Several noble Lords have spoken, and so has my noble friend, of the importance of engaging individuals in taking responsibility for their own care. I am sure that he is very aware of this, but does he realise how important it is for there to be a clear financial framework so that individuals and their families can take decisions concerning their own care? That is the important starting point given in the Dilnot report. It is an indicator—I do not know how the Government will treat it—which provides admirable clarity. Wrestling with the complexities of the different organisations involved will come later. However, I remind my noble friend that those complexities are already struggled with by individuals and their families when making these plans. An espousing of the financial certainties of the report would be a great move towards enabling individuals to take charge of their own futures.
I am grateful to my noble friend, who has put her finger on an extremely important aspect of the debate. Much of the thrust of our proposals on the NHS revolves around the personalisation agenda, which applies in equal measure to social care. This is about the call to arms that Derek Wanless sounded a few years ago about the need for people to take ownership of their own healthcare if we are to have an affordable and sustainable system over the longer term. That process can be aided and boosted in a number of ways, not only by the rollout of a greater range of financial products but also through mechanisms such as personal budgets, which empower patients inherently, and through telecare, on which this country leads the world in the advances we have made and in the potential that exists for those in receipt of health and social care in their own homes to take ownership of their condition.
Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.