Report (3rd Day) (Continued)
118: After Clause 29, insert the following new Clause—
“Police and crime panels in Wales
Each police area in Wales may have a police and crime panel established and maintained in accordance with the arrangements specified by the National Assembly for Wales and with the functions specified by the National Assembly for Wales.”
My Lords, this amendment is the parent amendment for the group, the other amendments being consequential thereto, as was Amendment 105, which I did not move.
The amendments highlight the impact on Wales of Part 1. The technical effect of Amendment 118—I certainly shall not divide the House on it—would be that the authority in relation to the functions and membership of police and crime panels would pass from the body of the Bill and the schedules thereto to the Welsh Assembly, which would decide what the panels would be involved with and what their membership should be.
I have been a sufficient time in the courts and in Parliament to know that to say that this is not the first choice that one would adopt in relation to this matter, nor indeed the second, is not the most impactful or safest way to open a case, but that is the proper and honest way of putting it. This amendment can be fully understood only if one appreciates from where it is coming and the direction in which it is leading.
If I was asked what in my view was the ideal situation—I am pompous enough to assume for a moment that somebody would ask that question—my answer would be, most certainly, that there should be a complete devolution of police services from this Parliament to the Assembly in Cardiff. Secondly, I would say that, in addition to that, there is a fallback position which was taken up by the Welsh Assembly and which I regard as being utterly practical and meritorious.
I shall deal with those matters in some little detail. On the question of devolution of authority, I would respectfully argue that it is not for Wales to show that there is some magical path that allows it to be an exception to the general provisions of the Bill. Wales is a land and nation; Scotland is a land and nation. Scotland, with a population of 5 million, has its own police services. Northern Ireland, with its population of 1.75 million, has its own police services. Your Lordships may very well say that there are very distinct historical reasons in each case, but there are distinct and historical reasons in relation to Wales. Therefore, I would say that there is a national case for the transfer and devolution—some day in the not-too-distant future, I hope—of those jurisdictions to Wales.
The second point is what I would call the contiguity or borderline point. Police services do not exist in a vacuum. They link up at each stage with various other functions of a local nature. All those other relative functions in relation to Wales have already been devolved. I could name a good dozen of them, but the ones upon which I would mainly rely are community safety, youth services, youth justice, health, transport, and substance misuse. All those have boundaries where their jurisdictions are intertwined and interlocked with the police service. It is almost impossible to separate one from the other. There is a demand and a need for a total participation—and indeed, co-operation—between police authorities on the one hand and local authorities and local agencies on the other.
The next reason I would rely on in relation to this matter is the attitude of the Welsh Assembly itself in this connection. As we well know, there has never been devolution of police services to Wales. In fact, when this legislation was being considered, in the late 1990s, all manner of undertakings were given with regard to concordats, as to exactly how this meshing or merger of different jurisdictions should take place. Unfortunately, it appears that none of that has ever been carried out.
In the early part of January this year the Welsh Assembly asked the Communities and Culture Committee to report on the impact of this Bill on Wales. The report reflected a general tidal feeling in Wales of total disapprobation of the Bill. Practically all the evidence was in one direction, and I have no doubt that if a referendum were held in Wales it would be carried by a massive majority, very probably in favour of total devolution, but most certainly against Part 1 of the Bill.
I do not in any way castigate the Minister or indeed her colleague who sits by her. I have some sympathy for them. I think that in many respects they, themselves, would probably have put together an infinitely better Bill. But I will not embarrass them on that account. I think of them as very much the same as General Sir Redvers Buller and General Sir George White, who were the two generals given the task of relieving Mafeking. It was not they who had sent the troops there. It was not they who had created the siege. But they were given the unenviable task of fighting battle after battle, ultimately to bring about the raising of that siege. That, it seems to me, is the situation in which the Minister and her colleague find themselves at the moment.
The Welsh Assembly committee came to the conclusion that the Bill was utterly disastrous and irredeemable, both with regard to the idea of centring public scrutiny on a commissioner, and indeed on a police and crime panel to overlook his or her functions. It went on to make a main recommendation:
“We recommend that the Welsh Government has dialogue with the UK Government to persuade it to defer introducing those aspects of the Bill related to the abolition of police authorities, and establishment of police commissioners and police crime panels in Wales, at least until the effectiveness of their impact in England has been assessed.”
That was not a petulant reaction on the part of the Assembly Government. It was a considered, deeply analysed and well thought out reaction, bearing in mind the constitutional realities and the relationships between the two bodies. In March of this year a very substantial metamorphosis took place in the Welsh Assembly. We had a referendum to decide whether Part 4 of the Government of Wales Act 2006 should be adopted. The people of Wales espoused that proposition—as the Minister will know—by a two-to-one majority. It was as clear a verdict as one could have wished for, and its effect is twofold. It inevitably increases the dynamic of devolution in Wales. Secondly, it elevates the status of the Welsh legislature, now that it has been given wide fields—20 in all—of primary legislative responsibility, from being that of an Assembly to that of a Parliament. On that basis, I present the amendment.
The case that is deployed by the Government for police and crime panels is, in the main, that the former police authorities were far removed from the public and were not associated as they might have been with local government and local agencies. I will not comment on whether that is true in England. Various surveys have been carried out. In some, only 7 or 8 per cent of people said that they knew what the police authority was about, who the chairman was or who the members were. The situation in Wales was very different. I am not sure who carried out the survey in Wales. No doubt my noble friend Lord Wigley can tell us whether it was the association of Welsh local authorities or the association of Welsh police forces. It was one or the other, or possibly both. The result in Wales was that more than 80 per cent of people knew exactly what police authorities were about and appreciated the issues that they faced. Therefore, the idea of remoteness and misunderstanding simply does not apply to Wales.
In addition, the record of Welsh police forces in relation to gelling with local authorities and other local agencies is noble and splendid. Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary carried out a broad and deep survey in 2009 and 2010. It surveyed no less than half the police forces of England and Wales—22 in all. It surveyed two out of the four Welsh forces—the two larger ones, in South Wales and Gwent. It gave them a clean bill of health in relation to that phenomenon and said that their capacity to gel in a constructive way with those bodies was unexceptionable. Therefore, where is the case for bringing those Welsh police forces into the ambit of the Bill?
I would be shocked out of my skin if the Government, for all their charity, were to accept the amendment. It would enable the Welsh Assembly to determine the exact functions of that body. My guess—and I am no prophet—is that the functions would not be a million miles away from those exercised by police authorities at the moment. No irrefutable case has been made for change, but it would be something that the Welsh people, through their Assembly and legislature, would decide. On that basis, I end by making this plea to the Minister and to Her Majesty's Government. Wales is facing a new chapter in its constitutional history. The nation, which is 1,500 years old, faces new challenges and new prospects. It would set the seal on a relationship that is wholesome, chivalrous and noble if the Government were now to say, “We have the sensitivity, chivalry and understanding to take on board the case that has been made on behalf of Wales”. I beg to move.
My Lords, I shall speak also to the other amendments in the group. As we have heard, these amendments seek to ensure that Wales has an appropriate framework for a real partnership working, taking into account the reality that many of the public services important to good policing are devolved to the National Assembly for Wales.
First, it is essential that good operational links exist between the police and local government. Local government in Wales is fully devolved for both the legislative and financial overview under the Assembly. The Assembly is also responsible for highways, housing, community safety and social services in Wales, all of which are greatly important to the work of the police force. In particular, the road safety partnership is an essential feature of such co-operation. Furthermore, education comes entirely under the National Assembly, and that is relevant to the work of the police and schools liaison officers. The Assembly is responsible for youth services, youth justice and substance misuse—all vital to police work.
As the noble Lord, Lord Elystan-Morgan, said, the National Assembly’s Communities Committee has considered the impact of the Bill, if it becomes an Act, on community safety in Wales. Its report, which I have here, was published in February of this year. It has the headline recommendation which calls for any establishment of police commissioners and police crime panels to be deferred until their impact had been assessed in England. This was a constructive comment to ensure that, if they do come in, they come in with lessons learnt and fit in with the structures that we have in Wales. The committee also recommended that, if the Government go ahead, there should be an equal balance of power and a consensual approach between the commissioners and the police and crime panels.
The evidence garnered by the committee overwhelmingly praised police forces in Wales for developing over the past decade much stronger engagement with communities. As the former chair of the north Wales Crimebeat organisation, I can certainly vouchsafe that that is true in our area. This is reinforced by evidence from a diverse phalanx of organisations that was given to that committee of the Assembly, ranging from Her Majesty’s Inspectors of Constabulary to Welsh Women’s Aid, from the Welsh Local Government Association to the Welsh Audit Office, and from ACPO to the Campaign Against Political Policing.
The community dimensions are an essential ingredient of Welsh life and Welsh culture. After a period of working at arm’s length from the community, the police have learnt that they were ignoring a vital tool in their fight against crime. Having a community actively on your side makes a huge difference in the work of the police. This is true everywhere, of course, but particularly in Wales where communities are so close knit. The National Assembly, with the support of all parties, has led the way towards getting this approach accepted. There is now a happy and successful working relationship which is making real inroads into reducing crime. So, if it ain’t broke, why mend it?
The amendments do not do either of two things: they do not transfer responsibility for policing from the Home Office to the Assembly, although chief constables in Wales have pressed for that to happen; and they do not provide for Wales to be totally and permanently excluded from the provisions of the Bill with regard to the establishment of police and crime panels. The amendments facilitate this to be developed organically in Wales, building on what has been achieved by the National Assembly in partnership with the police forces, and to harness the huge community resource we have in Wales in a partnership between not only the National Assembly and the police forces but with local government.
I urge the Government to think again on this matter; to accept that authoritarian centralism is not always the best approach; and to harness rather than throttle the diversity that we have in these islands.
My Lords, we are indebted to the noble Lords, Lord Elystan-Morgan and Lord Wigley, for bringing this back to our attention. The noble Lord, Lord Elystan-Morgan, asked the Government for some sensitivity. The problem is that the Government have not shown sensitivity when it comes to the way they have dealt with the Welsh perspective.
As noble Lords will know, the Welsh Government made it clear that they did not agree with a proposal for directly elected commissioners. However, they were quite prepared to discuss with the Government a compromise which would have consisted of police authorities remaining—and the noble Lords, Lord Elystan-Morgan and Lord Wigley, gave very convincing arguments as to why they should remain in Wales—but the elected commissioner in Wales would act as chair of those police authorities. For the life of me, I do not understand why the Government were not prepared to accept that very decent offer from the Welsh Assembly. Instead, we have to look at Part 3 of Schedule 6 which gives the Secretary of State the ability to ensure that police and crime panels are established in each police area in Wales, despite the fact that the Welsh Assembly Government do not want those panels established. The only argument that I could recall from our discussion in Committee stage was that this might have a big impact on cross-border crime.
With the greatest respect, I really do not understand the need for Wales and England to have police and crime panels in order to deal with either cross-border crime or cross-border co-operation. One is not aware of the traumas of the relationship between England and Scotland where there are not the police and crime panels north of the border. Indeed, one can look at other aspects of the devolution settlement, like the health service, where one sees different policies developed in different parts of the UK but none the less we still have one National Health Service.
I am delighted that the noble Lords have brought this to our attention. Even now, at this late hour, one hopes that the Minister will show some sensitivity. If not, I hope that the noble Lords will consider other opportunities to bring this to our attention.
My Lords, I urge the Minister to take account of the issues that have been raised by other noble Lords. The Minister will recall that I raised these issues at Second Reading and that my noble friend Lady Hamwee put forward amendments in Committee that sought to deal with this issue. I am concerned that there is still a problem, but the amendments put forward by noble Lords this evening have the possibility of providing some sort of solution. They could, in principle, offer a practical way out of a currently considerable and undesirable impasse.
The UK Government have recognised that they needed the consent of the Welsh Assembly to legislate for police and crime panels. That is why a legislative consent Motion was put to the Welsh Assembly. It is obviously the case that the issues are intermixed and intertwined, and noble Lords have explained how that occurs. But it is worth dwelling on this issue because it is the devolved policy areas which are so closely interlinked that make it impossible for the police in Wales to operate entirely separately from, for example, the highways department, youth services, or the substance misuse strategy, all of which are under the control of the Assembly—there are very many more I could cite.
Something that has not been mentioned is the fact that only 40 per cent of the money that goes to the police comes from the Home Office. Policing may not be devolved but only 40 per cent of its funding comes from the Home Office. Some 25 per cent comes via the Assembly and a third from the police precept from local taxpayers. The Government have recognised the need for there to be a solution to this. I am sorry that there has been no way out of the impasse so far. The Assembly of course refused legislative consent and the Government have sought to circumvent the problem therefore created by making the Home Secretary responsible for bringing together locally elected representatives. The fact is that the Home Office does not have the infrastructure in Wales to support that. There are considerable practicable problems about how that will actually work in practice.
I make it absolutely clear that I am also critical in particular of the Welsh Assembly Government. There is something rather foolish in the Minister concerned negotiating a solution, putting it to the Welsh Assembly and then abstaining on his own solution—which he had agreed with Ministers in Westminster. There are obviously considerable problems there.
I am also disappointed in the Welsh Assembly Government for their lack of vigour in trying to overcome these problems. I am grateful to the Minister for the information that she has supplied to me and I know that there have been meetings between her officials and those of the Welsh Assembly Government. There have not been meetings at a ministerial level. If I were the Minister in Wales, I would seek to solve this problem with a little bit more vigour. My purpose in speaking tonight is to make clear that we still have a constitutional stand-off. It is a very unfortunate situation. It is clear that negotiations have failed to resolve the issue but it is disappointing that the Welsh Assembly Government have not entered into more positive and effective negotiation. Unfortunately, as the noble Lord, Lord Elystan-Morgan said, the amendments as put forward do not really solve the problem.
My Lords, I am interested in that last comment but it strikes me that retaining police authorities with an elected commissioner as chairman was a pretty good offer to start discussions. I would be interested in the comments of the noble Baroness on that.
The original plan—the legislative consent Motion—that was put to the Assembly was on the basis of the Assembly Government appointing representatives to that panel. That was the offer that the Assembly rejected. The other proposal that the noble Lord mentioned earlier was not put formally. For the purposes of our discussion here this evening, that cannot be regarded as a formal offer. It is a great pity that that offer has not gone further but it was never put to the Assembly.
It is just that I have a briefing here, which the noble Baroness probably has herself, which says,
“in a statement to the Assembly on 12th October, the Welsh Minister for Social Justice and Local Government … offered a compromise: ‘I have told the Home Secretary that we believe a compromise whereby, in Wales, police authorities remain, but with the elected commissioner as chair, would offer the democratic accountability that the Home Office is seeking, while maintaining the important strengths of the current system’”.
That was a statement made to the Assembly, but it was not the legislative consent Motion that the Assembly was asked to vote on. The Minister will, I am sure, correct me if I am wrong, but my recollection is that that the Assembly was asked to vote on the issue of the appointment of representatives appointed by Welsh Ministers to serve on the new bodies.
The noble Baroness is quite right. The matter that was put before the Welsh Assembly under the original provisions of the Bill was a very narrow one: whether the Welsh Assembly—in one way or another; I am not sure whether it was a ministerial or a plenary appointment, but it does not really matter—should select one person from a list, if I remember rightly, of seven different groups which are set out in the Bill. The Welsh Assembly said, “We so fundamentally disapprove of the Bill that we will not do that”. So it was a very narrow issue.
That is my recollection of the procedure: the Minister may have made a statement, but this was not a formal offer made for the Assembly to accept or not. The point that the noble Lord makes is very relevant in that there are a number of different solutions to this. My point in speaking this evening is to urge the Minister to continue to make efforts to reach an agreement with the Welsh Assembly so that we can go forward, maybe not with perfection, but with a practical, workmanlike approach that will seek some kind of centre ground. I regret that it appears that the Minister concerned in Wales does not like the amendments put forward today, because they put the power in the hands of the Welsh Assembly. That is an aspect of the amendments that I heartily approve of, but Ministers, of course, do not approve of that kind of thing, do they? They like power to rest in their own hands, but the fact remains that I believe there is scope for further discussion and for agreement.
My Lords, we have heard today that the Welsh Assembly is not responsible for policing and, unlike some previous noble Lords who have spoken, I believe that it would be premature to devolve all policing matters to Wales, but there are a number of areas where the Welsh Government do have statutory responsibilities—in particular, crime reduction and social justice. Local government, however, is a devolved competence in Wales and, in terms of police governance, police authorities in Wales have to follow rules set out by the Welsh Assembly on a range of matters including advice on the financial settlement for the police in Wales. It should also be noted that council tax in Wales has an influential impact on funding distributed and available for police authorities. These things are crucial; this is not an area where the Home Office can simply dictate what happens in Wales.
We are all aware that the Bill would abolish police authorities and replace them with directly elected police and crime commissioners. The reasons I believe these are unattractive have been well rehearsed in your Lordships’ House. The proposals will sweep away a system that works well in Wales, as the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, has suggested. Police authorities in Wales have made a strong case against the proposals, based not on self-preservation but on a reasoned analysis of the argument for reform and the practical difficulties of the Home Office proposals. I emphasise that the purpose of this amendment is not to tackle the principle of elected police and crime commissioners, but simply to explain how arrangements for a commissioner and for police and crime panels would operate in Wales. It would give powers to the National Assembly of Wales to establish police and crime panels in Wales consistent with current devolved practices. There is a serious constitutional matter here that should be respected, and that is not the case as the Bill stands. I have received a letter from Carl Sargeant, the Minister responsible in the Welsh Government, giving his assurance that he would welcome support for this amendment, albeit with the slight changes that the Minister has indicated.
After the publication of the Bill, while it has recognised that there might be a constitutional issue to resolve here, rather than sit down and try to thrash out a compromise solution with the Assembly, the Home Office has now come up with amendments on Report suggesting that it is possible to circumvent the devolution settlement somehow by making the Home Secretary responsible for bringing together and supporting the locally elected representatives, rather than placing a duty on local authorities to convene them. That is a nice little effort in thwarting devolution and trying to impose a solution, but there are significant practical problems in terms of implementation as the Home Office simply does not have the infrastructure in Wales to deliver that kind of operation. If it cannot do it now, it certainly will not be able to do it after we see all the massive cuts that we are expecting from the Home Office.
The Government’s suggested solution also ignores the immense amount of co-operation that currently takes place between the police and other devolved agencies in Wales, as my noble friend Lord Wigley has pointed out. The introduction of a standalone proposal for policing governance that fails to emphasise the importance of joint working can serve only to undermine these positive working relationships.
By supporting the amendment, we are not trying to undermine the principle that the Government are trying to achieve—we are trying to do that elsewhere, but not here—but are asking simply for the devolution settlement to be respected and for a workable, practical system to be worked through, rather than an imposed one-size-fits-all solution as has been advocated here.
It is right to say that there have been issues regarding the negotiations. One of the issues has been that the Welsh Assembly Minister perhaps did not feel that he could accept something from the Government in the UK that he did not think it was in their gift to offer. It was a principled decision; he felt that he had to oppose the suggestion coming from the Home Office. I hope that he will take account of the discussions today and find some practical solution. If we can find a way through this, dialogue is probably the way forward if possible.
My Lords, in opening this debate, the noble Lord, Lord Elystan-Morgan, made a strong and persuasive case for the devolution of policing to the Government of Wales. As we know, the reality is that policing is a reserved matter under the devolution settlement, but there are related matters that are devolved. I recognise that the Welsh Government remain opposed in principle to the abolition of police authorities in Wales and are against the proposal to replace them with directly elected police and crime commissioners. Although I touched on this in Committee, it might be of help to the House if I outline the history of what has happened and where I see us now.
In the absence of an agreement, with the Bill proceeding through its stages in your Lordships’ House, and with policing being a reserved matter, the UK Government, including the Secretary of State for Wales, remain of the opinion that it is not in the interests of the people of Wales to have a different governance and scrutiny structure for their forces. As I have explained to the House before, we do not believe that there can be two models of governance for a police service whose officers and assets so regularly cross the regional boundary between England and Wales in pursuit of making our communities safer and tackling crime.
When the original Bill entered the other place, there were certain elements that affected the legislative competence of the National Assembly for Wales. This was specifically with regard to the provision for police and crime panels to be formed and maintained by local authorities in the police area. As noble Lords are aware, the Welsh Assembly has legislative competence over oversight and scrutiny committees of local authorities. Therefore, in respecting the devolution settlement, the Government agreed with the view of the Welsh Assembly Government that the consent of the Assembly would be required to legislate on establishing police and crime panels in the form set out in the original Bill.
My ministerial colleagues in the Home Office and the Cabinet sought to address this by offering the Welsh Assembly Government the power to appoint a representative to the police and crime panels in Wales, and to afford that member full voting rights. This was something that my noble friend referred to. It was a significant step in fostering a closer working relationship with the devolved landscape. In addition, due to the unique funding stream that the Welsh Assembly Government afford to community safety partnerships and the legislative competence over social justice and community engagement, the Government offered provision for police and crime panels in Wales to have an additional veto to those in England. This veto would have enabled the panel to require the PCC to come to the panel for its consent if the PCC intended to merge community safety partnerships in Wales, or require them to submit a report. This not only protected the policy and financial interests of the Welsh Assembly Government but fostered a stronger working relationship between the PCC and the Government in Cardiff via the panel.
The Welsh Government proposed a Motion to the Assembly to support the Government’s negotiated solution in respect of the status of police and crime panels but it was defeated. It is regrettable that the then Government in Cardiff abstained from a vote that, if passed, would have strengthened their voice in policing governance. Nevertheless, the Government have respected the Assembly’s decision. Therefore, we have amended the Bill to give the Secretary of State, rather than local authorities, the power to form police and crime panels in Wales. These panels will not fall within local government structures, but the Bill seeks to ensure that the panels are made up of local elected representatives, invited to form such a body at the request of the Secretary of State. We have also amended the Bill to ensure that the provisions on community safety partnerships do not touch on matters in respect of which Welsh Ministers have functions and responsibilities.
The Bill enables the Secretary of State, rather than local authorities, to form police and crime panels in Wales. This power is the same as in England, where there is a backstop power if any local authorities are either unwilling or unable to appoint representatives to their local police and crime panel. The police and crime panel is a vital part of the new landscape. It will play an important role in scrutinising the commissioner. The panel will challenge and support the commissioner in the execution of his or her duties. Its work will be transparent and driven by the need to ensure positive outcomes for the public. The Government have attempted to give the National Assembly and its Government a role in the panels, which they have rejected. There is a potential danger in this specific amendment that the National Assembly for Wales will not appoint a PCP and leave a PCC without the necessary checks and balances.
The Bill seeks to secure effective and efficient policing in the whole of England and Wales. The fact that policing is a reserved matter is something that we all have to respect. In the context of this part of the Bill, I cannot, as I am sure noble Lords will appreciate, move on to what may happen in the future. In taking this Bill through Report stage, I have to deal with reality as it is. However, I say to all noble Lords who have spoken on this that I accept that it is a sensitive matter. Discussions are still going on. We shall not just look at it as an impasse, shrug our shoulders and move on. We will continue those negotiations to try to reach an agreement on this part of the Bill. Although I am obliged to reject these amendments and move the Bill on because we are now on Report, I remain open to continuing discussions with any noble Lords who wish to see me at any time. On that basis, I ask noble Lords to withdraw the amendment.
My Lords, I most warmly and sincerely thank all noble Lords who have contributed to this little cameo of a debate in relation to Welsh policing. I am deeply grateful to the Minister for the most courteous and charming way in which she has dealt with the matters, albeit in a somewhat technical way. However, Wales has not triumphed tonight, but there is an old adage in the Welsh language—“Dyfal donc a dyr y garreg”, which means: it takes many a patient knock to break the rock. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 118 withdrawn.
Schedule 6 : Police and crime panels
Amendment 119 not moved.
120: Schedule 6, page 118, line 40, leave out “two” and insert “the appropriate number of”
Amendment 120 agreed.
Amendment 121 not moved.
122: Schedule 6, page 118, line 41, leave out “(1)” and insert “(1)(a)”
Amendment 122 agreed.
Amendment 123 not moved.
124: Schedule 6, page 119, line 3, at end insert—
“(2A) For the purposes of sub-paragraph (1)(b), the “appropriate number” is—
(a) two, or(b) if a resolution of the panel under sub-paragraph (2B) is in force, the number of co-opted members specified in that resolution. (2B) A police and crime panel may resolve that the panel is to have the number of co-opted members specified in the resolution; but no such resolution may be passed unless—
(a) that number of co-opted members is greater than two;(b) the Secretary of State agrees that the panel should have that number of co-opted members; and(c) the total membership of the panel, including that number of co-opted members, would not exceed 20.”
Amendment 124 agreed.
Amendment 125 not moved.
Amendments 126 to 128
126: Schedule 6, page 123, line 24, leave out “two” and insert “the appropriate number of”
127: Schedule 6, page 123, line 25, leave out “(1)” and insert “(1)(a)”
128: Schedule 6, page 123, line 29, at end insert—
“(2A) For the purposes of sub-paragraph (1)(b), the “appropriate number” is—
(a) two, or(b) if a resolution of the panel under sub-paragraph (2B) is in force, the number of co-opted members specified in that resolution.(2B) A police and crime panel may resolve that the panel is to have the number of co-opted members specified in the resolution; but no such resolution may be passed unless—
(a) that number of co-opted members is greater than two;(b) the Secretary of State agrees that the panel should have that number of co-opted members; and(c) the total membership of the panel, including that number of co-opted members, would not exceed 20.”
Amendments 126 to 128 agreed.
Amendment 129 not moved.
Amendments 130 to 132
130: Schedule 6, page 127, line 11, leave out paragraph (c)
131: Schedule 6, page 127, line 15, at end insert—
“22A(1) If the police and crime panel for a police area has two co-opted members, a member of a local authority which is covered by that police area may not be a co-opted member of that panel.
(2) If the police and crime panel for a police area has three or more co-opted members, a member of a local authority which is covered by that police area may be a co-opted member of that panel only if at least two of the other co-opted members are not members of any such local authority.”
132: Schedule 6, page 127, line 20, leave out “two”
Amendments 130 to 132 agreed.
Amendment 132A not moved.
Amendments 133 to 138
133: Schedule 6, page 128, line 14, at end insert—
“(ba) paragraphs 7C and 7D of Schedule 1;”
134: Schedule 6, page 129, line 3, at end insert—
“( ) A police and crime panel must, in co-opting persons who are members of relevant local authorities, secure that (as far is reasonably practicable) the balanced appointment objective is met.
( ) A police and crime panel—
(a) must, from time to time, decide whether the panel’s exercise of the power conferred by paragraph 4(2B) or 13(2B) (changing the number of co-opted members of the panel) would enable the balanced appointment objective to be, or would contribute to that objective being, met or more effectively met; and(b) if the panel decides that the exercise of the power would do so, must exercise that power accordingly.”
135: Schedule 6, page 129, line 5, leave out “the appointed” and insert “local authority”
136: Schedule 6, page 129, line 12, at end insert—
“( ) For that purpose “local authority members” means—
(a) appointed members of the police and crime panel, and(b) co-opted members of the panel who are members of relevant local authorities.”
137: Schedule 6, page 129, line 13, after “members” insert “who are not members of relevant local authorities”
138: Schedule 6, page 129, line 16, at end insert—
“Duty to nominate elected mayor to be a member of the panel“31A(1) This paragraph applies if—
(a) a local authority has a mayor and cabinet executive, and(b) the elected mayor of that executive is not a member of the relevant police and crime panel.(2) If the relevant local authority has power under paragraph 6(2), 7(2), 8(2) or (3) or 16(2) to nominate one or more of its councillors to be members of that panel, any exercise of that power must be such as to secure that the elected mayor is the councillor, or one of the councillors, so nominated.
(3) If the Secretary of State is required by paragraph 10(2), 16(4)(b) or 18(2) to nominate one or more persons to be members of that panel, the Secretary of State must secure that the elected mayor is the person, or one of the persons, so nominated.
(4) The duty in sub-paragraph (2) or (3) does not apply at a particular time if the person who holds office as the elected mayor at that time (the “current mayor”)—
(a) has, since the start of the current mayoral term, already been nominated to be a member of that panel (whether by the relevant local authority or the Secretary of State), and(b) did not become a member of that panel by virtue of the nomination.(5) But sub-paragraph (4) does not prevent the exercise of a power under this Schedule so as to make a further nomination of the current mayor to be a member of that panel.
31B (1) This paragraph applies if—
(a) a local authority has a mayor and cabinet executive,(b) under paragraph 6(2), 7(2), 8(2) or (3) or 16(2) the local authority nominates the person who holds office as elected mayor of the executive at that time (the “current mayor”) to be a member of the relevant police and crime panel,(c) that is the first such nomination of the current mayor since the start of the current mayoral term, and(d) the current mayor does not become a member of that panel by virtue of the nomination.(2) The Secretary of State may not, by virtue of that failure of the current mayor to become a member of the police and crime panel, nominate a person to be a member of that panel under paragraph 10(2) or 16(4)(b).
31C (1) This paragraph applies for the purposes of paragraphs 31A and 31B and this paragraph.
(2) A reference to the start of the current mayoral term of a person who is the elected mayor of the executive of a local authority is a reference to the time when that person—
(a) took office as elected mayor of that executive (if that person has been so elected on only one occasion), or(b) most recently took office as elected mayor of that executive (if that person has been so elected on two or more occasions).(3) The “relevant police and crime panel”, in relation to a local authority, is the police and crime panel for the police area which covers that authority.
(4) The expressions “elected mayor” and “mayor and cabinet executive” have the same meanings as in Part 2 of the Local Government Act 2000.”
Amendments 133 to 138 agreed.
I have to advise the House that if Amendment 139 is agreed to, I cannot call Amendment 140 for reason of pre-emption.
139: Schedule 6, page 129, leave out lines 19 to 32 and insert—
“(a) amend or otherwise modify any local authority enactment in its application to police and crime panels or members of police and crime panels, and(b) apply any local authority enactment (with or without modifications) to police and crime panels or members of police and crime panels if, or to the extent that, it does not so apply.(2) In this paragraph “local authority enactment” means an enactment which relates to—
(a) local authorities or committees or joint committees of local authorities, or(b) members of such authorities, committees or joint committees.”
Amendment 139 agreed.
Amendment 140 not moved.
Clause 30 : Power to require attendance and information
Amendments 141 to 144 not moved.
145: Clause 30, page 21, line 44, at end insert—
“( ) If a police and crime panel requires the relevant police and crime commissioner to attend before the panel, the panel may (at reasonable notice) request the relevant chief constable to attend before the panel on the same occasion to answer any question which appears to the panel to be necessary in order for it to carry out its functions.”
Amendment 145 agreed.
Amendments 146 and 147 not moved.
Clause 31 : Suspension of police and crime commissioner
Amendments 148 to 150 not moved.
Clause 32 : Conduct of commissioners
Amendments 151 to 153
151: Clause 32, page 22, line 27, leave out “police and crime commissioners” and insert “relevant office holders”
152: Clause 32, page 22, line 30, leave out “police and crime commissioner” and insert “relevant office holder”
153: Clause 32, page 22, line 31, leave out “or engaged in other corrupt behaviour”
Amendments 151 to 153 agreed.
Amendment 154 not moved.
155: Clause 32, page 22, line 35, at end insert—
“( ) In this section and that Schedule “relevant officer holder” means the holder of any of the following offices—
(a) police and crime commissioner;(b) deputy police and crime commissioner;(c) the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime;(d) Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime.
Amendment 155 agreed.
Amendment 156 not moved.
Schedule 7 : Regulations about complaints and conduct matters
Amendments 157 to 165
157: Schedule 7, page 131, line 36, at end insert—
“which relate to any relevant office holder.”
158: Schedule 7, page 132, line 15, leave out “, or other corrupt behaviour”
159: Schedule 7, page 132, line 19, leave out from “offence” to end of line 20
160: Schedule 7, page 132, line 22, after “which” insert “—
(a) relate to a holder of the office of—(i) police and crime commissioner,(ii) deputy police and crime commissioner, or(iii) Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime (unless the holder of that office is a member of the London Assembly), and”
161: Schedule 7, page 132, line 45, at end insert—
“3A (1) This paragraph applies in relation to qualifying complaints which—
(a) relate to a holder of the office of—(i) the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime, or(ii) Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, if the holder of that office is a member of the London Assembly, and(b) are not, or cease to be, investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission or a police force.(2) Regulations must secure that such complaints are dealt with in accordance with Part 3 of the Local Government Act 2000.”
162: Schedule 7, page 133, line 10, leave out “police and crime commissioner” and insert “relevant office holder”
163: Schedule 7, page 133, line 12, at end insert—
“(2) But that does not apply to regulations under, or for the purposes of, paragraph 3A.”
164: Schedule 7, page 133, line 18, after “expedient” insert “—
165: Schedule 7, page 133, line 19, at end insert “, or
(b) for the purposes of paragraph 3A.”
Amendments 157 to 165 agreed.
Clause 33 : London Assembly police and crime panel
Amendments 166 to 169 not moved.
170: Clause 33, page 23, line 13, leave out “Greater London Authority” and insert “London Assembly”
Amendment 170 agreed.
Amendment 171 not moved.
172: Clause 33, page 23, line 30, at end insert—
“( ) The following provisions apply to the police and crime panel—
(a) the number of members of the panel, and their term of office, are to be fixed by the London Assembly;(b) persons who are not members of the London Assembly may be members of the panel.( ) The following provisions apply to any sub-committee by which police and crime panel functions are to be discharged—
(a) the number of members of the sub-committee, and their term of office, are to be fixed by the police and crime panel;(b) persons who are not members of the London Assembly may be members of the sub-committee.( ) The police and crime 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.”
Amendment 172 agreed.
Amendments 173 and 174 not moved.
Clause 34 : Functions to be discharged by police and crime panel
Amendments 175 to 180 not moved.
181: Clause 34, page 24, line 36, at end insert—
“( ) If the London Assembly requires the Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, or the person who is the occupant of the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime, to attend proceedings, the Assembly may (at reasonable notice) request the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis to attend proceedings on the same occasion for the purpose of giving evidence.”
Amendment 181 agreed.
Clause 37 : Reports for elected local policing bodies
Amendments 182 to 186
182: Clause 37, page 25, line 26, leave out “reports” and insert “information”
183: Clause 37, page 25, line 27, leave out “A report” and insert “Such information”
184: Clause 37, page 25, line 30, leave out “a report” and insert “such information”
185: Clause 37, page 25, line 31, leave out “a report” and insert “such information”
186: Clause 37, page 25, line 32, leave out “a report” and insert “information”
Amendments 182 to 186 agreed.
Clause 39 : Appointment, suspension and removal of chief constables
Amendments 186A to 187 not moved.
Clause 40 : Deputy chief constables
Amendments 188 to 188D not moved.
Schedule 8 : Appointment, suspension and removal of senior police officers
189: Schedule 8, page 133, line 28, leave out “constable to be chief constable until” and insert “person to be chief constable unless—
(a) that person is, or has been, a constable in any part of the United Kingdom, and(b) ”
Amendment 189 agreed.
Amendment 189A not moved.
Amendments 190 and 191
190: Schedule 8, page 134, line 16, leave out “constable” and insert “person”
191: Schedule 8, page 134, line 32, leave out from “(2)” to “within” in line 33 and insert “to (4)”
Amendments 190 and 191 agreed.
192: Schedule 8, page 135, line 16, leave out “three-quarters” and insert “two-thirds”
Amendment 192 agreed.
Amendments 192A to 192E not moved.
193: Schedule 8, page 138, line 34, leave out from “private,” to “relating” in line 36 and insert “which the police and crime commissioner and the chief constable are both entitled to attend for the purpose of making representations”
I have to advise the House that if we accept Amendment 193, I cannot call Amendment 193A for reasons of pre-emption.
Amendment 193 agreed.
Amendments 193A to 193F not moved.
Clause 41 : Assistant chief constables
Amendments 194 to 197 not moved.
Clause 42 : Power of deputy to exercise functions of chief constable
198: Clause 42, page 28, line 14, at end insert—
“( ) In a case where a deputy chief constable or assistant chief constable (the “acting chief constable”) is authorised by subsection (1)(a) or (5) to exercise or perform functions of a chief constable—
(a) the powers of the police and crime commissioner under section 39(2) and (3) are exercisable in relation to the acting chief constable as the powers are exercisable in relation to the chief constable (and references to chief constables in those provisions, and in other enactments relating to those provisions, are to be read accordingly); and(b) the powers under section 40(4) and (5) or section 41(4) and (5) are not exercisable in relation to the acting chief constable.”
Amendment 198 agreed.
Clause 43 : Appointment of Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis
199: Clause 43, page 28, line 35, leave out from beginning to second “the” in line 36 and insert “The Secretary of State may not recommend to Her Majesty that She appoint a person as the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis unless that person is, or has been, a constable in any part of the United Kingdom; and, before making such a recommendation,”
Amendment 199 agreed.
200: Clause 43, page 28, line 36, leave out from “must” to end of line 38 and insert “agree that recommendation with the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime”
My Lords, I shall also speak to Amendments 201 to 205. I share with the Government a desire to strengthen and improve police accountability. That is what I understood the Bill to be all about. I have to say that, during your Lordships’ consideration of the Bill, I have slowly realised that the Bill will weaken the accountability of the police to the public. In fact, some changes made in the Bill remove the levers that police authorities currently have to ensure that the police service in their area is accountable. There will be fewer powers and fewer levers for the police and crime commissioners and the MOPC in London as a result of this Bill.
Indeed, the diminution of police accountability in London is even worse than in the rest of the country. First, London will not have the benefit of an individual who is directly elected to be responsible for policing. We will not have the visible answerability of the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis and his senior officers to public forums. The police authority will disappear, as will the expectation that the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis will appear there. There will be a special meeting of members of the Metropolitan Police Authority on Thursday to question the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis about the latest issues and allegations concerning phone hacking and related matters. That public answerability of the police will disappear because all that the Government are substituting for that is the right to invite by the London Assembly, which is of course a current right. All that will disappear as a consequence of the Government’s Bill.
We are also now being told that in practice the Mayor of London and the MOPC will have no say in the selection of the most senior police officers in the London areas, which is why I have tabled this series of amendments. Certainly the Mayor of London and the MOPC will have less influence than they do at present. I find that extraordinary. This Government have told us that they want to strengthen police accountability. Why then have they diminished it, really very substantially as far as London is concerned? No senior officer, in fact no officer at all, of the Metropolitan Police will be appointed on the say-so or otherwise of the Mayor of London or the MOPC. That will simply not exist. The Minister is looking baffled, but that is the reality of the legislation that is being proposed.
The Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis will be appointed by Her Majesty the Queen on the advice of the Home Secretary, and the Home Secretary is required merely to “have regard” to the recommendations of the MOPC. That is not a very strong power, given that the whole basis of this Bill is supposed to be that the directly elected individual should be able to appoint the most senior police officer in their area. At present, because the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis is a royal appointment, there is a joint interview between the Home Secretary and the Mayor of London to determine the nature of the recommendation that is made. Fortunately, when this structure has been tested, the Mayor of London and the Home Secretary have agreed on that recommendation. It is not quite clear what would happen if they did not agree, but the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis must have the confidence of the Home Secretary and the Mayor of London or the MOPC in the future. This Bill does not provide for such a strength in that purpose. There is no expectation of a joint interview. There is no expectation that the Mayor of London and the MOPC will have any right other than to make recommendations to which the Home Secretary will have regard. That is a very weak involvement.
Thus begins a declining scale of involvement of the Mayor of London and the MOPC. For the Deputy Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, the Home Secretary is required only “to consider” representations from the MOPC. That is not even “have regard” to; it is “to consider” representations. For assistant commissioners, deputy assistant commissioners and commanders, all chief officer ranks outside London, the most that is expected is a consultation process. That is why this Bill is so weak on accountability in the London area. That is why this Bill takes away from the Mayor of London even his current responsibilities in relation to senior police officers in the force.
I have therefore tabled a series of amendments that would mean that the Home Secretary’s recommendation had to be agreed with the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime in respect of the commissioner and deputy commissioner and that no person should be appointed as an assistant commissioner, a deputy assistant commissioner or a commander without the consent of the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime. I know that the Government wish to put chief officers of police in the driving seat for this process. This series of amendments would not alter it—it says that the MOPC should have to give consent. That is a pretty minimalist requirement and expectation if you really believe the Government’s own rhetoric that this Bill is about strengthening accountability and empowering the directly elected representative of the people to have responsibility for the police service in their area. I find it bizarre that the Government, having made such a song and dance about how this Bill is all about strengthening police accountability, are going to leave London, and for that matter the rest of the country, with less influence over policing. I beg to move.
My Lords, is it in order to ask the Minister a question? The speakers list for today gives an estimated time of rising of 11 pm and it is now after 10.05 pm. However, it says that the target is to be confirmed. We have not had it confirmed. As Amendment 242 is tabled in my name, and we are now at Amendment 200, can the Minister enlighten me as to whether we intend to take it tonight?
I wonder if I could consult with the usual channels—
With the greatest respect, there is no agreement except to go to 11 pm so I would have thought the noble Lord could go home.
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Harris of Haringey has drawn attention to the clauses in the Bill which are a subject of concern to him and which his amendments seek to rectify. If I have understood him correctly, the first is Clause 43, “Appointment of the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis”, subsection (3) of which says:
“Before recommending to Her Majesty that She appoint a constable as the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, the Secretary of State must have regard to any recommendations made by the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime”.
This presumably means that the Secretary of State could chose to ignore any such recommendation since it does not say “must accept them” or “must reach agreement”
The next is Clause 44, “Deputy Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis”, subsection (4) which says:
“Before recommending to Her Majesty that She appoint a person as the Deputy Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, the Secretary of State must have regard to … any representations made by the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime”.
Once again, presumably it can be inferred that the Secretary of State could totally ignore those representations.
Moving further down, Clause 46, “Assistant Commissioners of Police of the Metropolis”, says:
“The Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis must consult the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime before appointing a person as an Assistant Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis”.
Once again, the requirement is to “consult” so, presumably, the Commissioner of Police, having consulted, could appoint whoever he or she wanted to appoint.
Clause 48, “Commanders”, in subsection (2) of that clause, says:
“The Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis must consult the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime before appointing a person as a Commander”.
Once again, the role is to “consult”, rather than to reach agreement with, the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime.
This group of amendments, tabled by my noble friend Lord Harris of Haringey, provides that before the Secretary of State recommends to Her Majesty that she appoint a councillor as the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis or a person as the deputy commissioner, the Secretary of State must,
“agree that recommendation with the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime”.
Likewise, the amendments provide that no person shall be appointed as assistant commissioner, deputy assistant commissioner or commander by the commissioner of police,
“without the consent of the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime”.
One would have thought that the amendments addressed the issue of the responsibilities of the police and crime commissioner in London—namely, the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime—and whether it is realistic that either a Secretary of State or a Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis should in effect be able to ignore the views of the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime and make appointments for the most senior positions and other senior posts without the support and agreement of the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime.
The Government appear to see the police and crime commissioners as key players in future in increasing public accountability for police, including strategy. The Mayor of London already has overall responsibility for policing in the metropolis, albeit he does not actually have time to carry out this role—so he has, in effect, handed it on to somebody who is not directly elected to carry that responsibility. If the intention is that the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime is ultimately responsible and accountable to the public for policing, as far as the Government are concerned, surely it cannot be right that the mayor’s office can find that the Secretary of State and the commissioner have made a series of senior appointments, including that of the commissioner, with which the accountable mayor’s office does not agree and would not have made.
I share the feelings of my noble friend Lord Harris of Haringey in that I am not clear why these amendments are not fully in line with the stated objectives of the Government’s proposals for the future structure and accountability for policing and should therefore apply in London.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Harris, offered a picture of a golden age of policing accountability in London that is about to disappear. I was under the impression that under current arrangements the Metropolitan Police Authority has no power to compel the commissioner to appear before it but has the right to invite the commissioner to appear before it, as its successor body will have under the Bill.
The Minister is confusing the Metropolitan Police Authority and the London Assembly, which at present has no power to compel; it has the power to invite, and that is all that the Government are offering the London Assembly and its policing panel. That was merely by way of an introduction to my more significant remarks. But I think that the Minister is confused.
I still hold to my view that the noble Lord is exaggerating enormously the difference between where we are now and where we will be.
The Minister is misunderstanding the point. At present, the visible answerability of the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis is to the Metropolitan Police Authority. Those meetings take place once a month. In the case of the current month, there will probably be an additional meeting in which the commissioner will answer questions in public to the body to which he is accountable on issues concerning the controversies of which we are all aware about phone hacking. That will disappear, and all that the Government are offering in its place is the right to invite by the London Assembly panel.
I take the noble Lord’s point, but these amendments are primarily concerned with the question of appointment. The noble Lord’s amendments are concerned to shift the balance of authority in terms of appointments, with senior appointments between the Secretary of State and MOPC and for other appointments to strengthen the power of the MOPC. My understanding is that the mayor will be able to make recommendations to the Secretary of State, but the national and international responsibilities of the Metropolitan Police are such that the Bill proposes that the final decision should be taken by the Secretary of State on the appointment of the commissioner and the deputy commissioner. The mayor will have the right to make recommendations, which will of course be taken fully into account. That is the whole purpose of the phrase “to have regard”; we envisage a dialogue and a process, but not one that can lead to deadlock between the two authorities, because of the particular national and international responsibilities of the Metropolitan Police.
In terms of other appointments below that of deputy commissioner, the Bill as a whole clings to the idea of the operational independence of the police. It will be the right of the chief constable or of the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police in this case to make other appointments. These of course will be made in consultation with the MOPC and there will also be external supervision, but the principle will be one of police independence; a clear line of responsibility from the commissioner and the deputy commissioner will then follow for other appointments within the force.
The noble Lord wishes to have the MOPC in the central position; we are putting the MOPC in the position of scrutiny and accountability and not in one of control. That is not dissimilar to the current position. He is asking for a much stronger position for the MOPC than has been the case in the past—
Can you tell me why it is stronger? What element have you strengthened in this Bill? Give me one example of an element in which you have strengthened the role of the MOPC compared with the existing police authority.
The noble Lord misunderstands me. I said you are asking for a much stronger position for the MOPC than there was even under the previous regime. That is the point I am making.
At present the Metropolitan Police Authority appoints all officers between the ranks of assistant commissioner and commander. That disappears and the MOPC has no role other than to be consulted. The current position for the appointment of the commissioner and the deputy commissioner is that there are joint interviews; there is nothing in this Bill which allows that to continue.
I stand corrected but I hold to the principle which runs through this Bill—that of the independence of the police in terms of command and senior appointment and the international and national role of the Metropolitan Police as an exception in this regard. This is why the Bill is written in this form. On that basis I invite the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, I have to say that I do not think the Minister has addressed the central problem. What he is actually doing for the most prominent directly elected individual in the country is reducing that individual’s responsibility for the police service in that area. The Bill removes from the mayor and the MOPC the powers that currently exist. That means that in future the Mayor of London will have less influence over the Metropolitan Police than he and the MPA currently have. That is an extraordinary reversal of what this Bill seems to be about.
I find it extraordinary that the Minister’s response has not addressed that central question. Of course, the Metropolitan Police has a national and international function, which is why, exceptionally, it should be a joint appointment rather than simply the appointment of the mayor’s office. That is the concession that ought to be made as far as the national and international functions are concerned. I fail to see why assistant commissioners, who rank as chief officers of police everywhere else in the country, are not part of the responsibility of the mayor’s office. The Government are diminishing the authority of the mayor in respect of policing in London, and that runs directly counter to the Government’s own rhetoric as to what this Bill is about.
I urge the Government to consider this in the few remaining days that we have left for the consideration of this Bill. On the basis that I am sure they will wish to do so, and to receive further representations from the Mayor of London on this point, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment 200 withdrawn.
Clause 44 : Deputy Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis
Amendments 201 and 202 not moved.
Clause 46 : Assistant Commissioners of Police of the Metropolis
Amendment 203 not moved.
Clause 47 : Deputy Assistant Commissioners of Police of the Metropolis
Amendment 204 not moved.
Clause 48 : Commanders
Amendment 205 not moved.
Clause 49 : Suspension and removal of Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner
Amendments 205ZA to 206 not moved.
206A: After Clause 50, insert the following new Clause—
(1) The provisions of sections 1 to 50 are subject to this section.
(2) Sections 1 to 50 shall not come into effect until 1st October after the first ordinary elections under section 51 have taken place.
(3) The Secretary of State shall make regulations to ensure that the police authorities established for police areas under section 3 of the Police Act 1996 (establishment of police authorities) and the Metropolitan Police Authority continue to exercise their functions until such time as the provisions of sections 1 to 50 come into effect.”
My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendment 310. The purpose of Amendment 206A is to delay the implementation of Clauses 1 to 50 until October 2012 and to allow for a transitional period. During the period until then, the existing arrangements will continue to operate, so in London the Metropolitan Police Authority will continue to exercise its functions until such time as the provisions of Sections 1 to 50 come into effect. The purpose of Amendment 310 is also to move the implementation of this Bill in London from December this year to October next year.
The Government and the Mayor of London are keen to introduce the new system as soon as the Bill receives Royal Assent. The Bill as it stands would allow this to happen. The Government’s prime duty is to keep London and the country safe. Therefore implementation should be timed optimally to ensure that the transition does not compromise public safety. When we consider issues around public safety, we need to bear in mind that there are some very significant events in 2012. We will have the Olympic Torch Relay from May to July, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in June, the Olympic Games in July and August and the Paralympic Games in September. These major events will require a policing operation on an unprecedented scale, so it is difficult to understand why the Government are hell-bent on implementing the changes before these events take place.
My main concern is the policing of the Olympic Games. The Metropolitan Police has described the Games as one of the,
“biggest security challenges the British police have ever faced in peacetime”.
Presidents, kings and queens, heads of state and athletes from all over the world will come together. Their protection will require a security operation of extraordinary complexity. In order to meet this challenge, the Metropolitan Police and the Home Office have spent years planning for every eventuality. As circumstances develop and situations change, these plans are subject to continual revision. The vast majority of Olympic events will take place in London and police officers will be drafted in from every police force in the country to help with the huge operation. For the Government to force the Metropolitan Police to divert their efforts from the security of the Games to a major reorganisation at this critical time almost beggars belief.
Besides the major events I have listed, there is another important event happening in London next year; namely, the mayoral election in May. This election creates a different but no less significant set of problems. It could result in a change of mayor. The new mayor may have a very different vision for the direction of policing in London. If so, this could confront the Metropolitan Police with yet further disruption before the Games. One wonders whether the Government’s unseemly haste may be designed to create a fait accompli ahead of the mayoral election.
Whenever this Bill is implemented, it will require a major reorganisation of the Metropolitan Police. The changes proposed have been described by Sir Hugh Orde, president of ACPO, as,
“some of the most radical changes to police governance since 1829”.
Reorganisations are very disruptive. We all know the anxieties being expressed around the NHS. This particular reorganisation will require the police to change all their reporting structures and to get to know, brief and get up to speed a completely new set of stakeholders and board members. As anyone who has ever served on a police authority will know, gaining an understanding of policing issues is no easy task; it takes time. Let us not forget that this huge organisational change is to be delivered within a framework and climate of an expected reduction in the Met’s spending of some £600 million by 2014-15. Savings to be delivered this year, of £163 million, have already resulted in a two-year pay freeze for police officers and staff, the withdrawing of special payments for police officers and a review of the terms and conditions of police staff.
The reorganisation will be work-intensive, expensive and time-consuming. It should happen at a time when it does not conflict with the London Olympics, so that the police may concentrate their energies and efforts on the huge security challenges surrounding the Games.
The Government have said on a number of occasions that they want to implement the Bill before the Olympics because the Met is in favour of early implementation. In a previous debate in this House on 16 June, my noble friend the Minister said that,
“not just the Mayor of London but the Commissioner of the Metropolis is also keen for the transition from MPA governance to that of the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime as soon as possible after Royal Assent is achieved for this Bill … we have double-checked that there is no real concern with the mayor or the commissioner”.—[Official Report, 16/6/11; col. 1033.]
Well, of course there is no concern from the mayor: he wants the changes before the mayoral elections next May. But what the commissioner actually said to Nick Herbert in his letter of 22 June is:
“London should move forward with the new model as soon as is practicably possible ... there are some measures that need to be put in place in order that the new structures can work effectively. Clearly if these cannot be implemented in the time available, the arguments for going early become less compelling”.
This is somewhat different from the Government’s claim that the commissioner is “keen” and that there are no real concerns.
In addition, the commissioner has always been entirely consistent in his view that it is for the Government and Parliament to decide the governance and accountability arrangements for policing, so it is not surprising that he will carry out the democratic wishes of Parliament. It is therefore disingenuous for Ministers to claim that the Metropolitan Police wants early implementation so we must do as it says. Governments ignore the advice of the police whenever it suits them. Detention of suspects is just one example.
A delay until October 2012 is not drastic; it is only a few months later than the Government envisage. By October 2012, Londoners will have enjoyed the Diamond Jubilee celebrations and the Olympic and Paralympic Games. They will have a mayor who has been elected for four years setting a direction over how London is to be policed. Let us allow this direction to be set in a period of calm, with time to think. Let us also give senior police officers the time and space to prepare for these new directions. We need only to delay these changes for a few months, and London will be a better place for it.
I have no doubt that if the Government go ahead and implement this Bill before October 2012, it will cause serious disruption to the policing of the London Olympics and other major events taking place next year. This proposed reorganisation will cause immense disruption at the worst possible time and compromise the safety of our citizens. I therefore appeal to the Minister, even at this late stage, to reconsider this seriously flawed decision. I beg to move.
My Lords, I support the amendment for a number of reasons. First, the Bill is amazingly silent on transitional arrangements. In the immediate aftermath of the vote on the first day in Committee, the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, raised with a degree of interruption and noises off—from me, I appreciate—the question of the transitional arrangements that should be in force before a new system is put in place. I would not go as far as those who reorganised London government in the 1960s where there was one year of shadow operation. But I note that there were several months of shadow operation when the new arrangements in London for the Assembly and the mayor took effect. All the Bill provides for in terms of a transition period is seven days—seven calendar days, one week—for transition from one system of governance to another. That seems strikingly short to me, under any set of circumstances. However, that is the smallest and most insignificant of reasons for supporting this amendment.
My admiration for the Home Secretary grows every day, because of the bravery she shows. In Sir Humphrey Appleby terms, the decisions she is taking on policing are extremely brave. Currently, in policing, there is a most extraordinary agenda of change. There are substantial budget reductions, starting with the current year, and moving through next year and the rest of the CSR period. Major changes are proposed for the terms and conditions of police officers, which will at least cause a degree of stress, uncertainty and confusion, if not downright anger from many police officers. Changes are proposed in the pensions of police officers, which are also causing a substantial degree of distress, concern and anger. That is all happening at the same time as other parts of the public sector are withdrawing various functions from their activities so that more will be expected of the police force.
At the same time, we have the challenge of the Olympics, which is probably the largest policing challenge that has ever been faced in this country, comparing a modern Olympiad with the last time that London hosted the Olympics, in 1948. There is the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Wedged in that very short interval between the Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games is the Notting Hill Carnival, Europe’s largest street festival, involving major policing resources. In the midst of all this, our brave Home Secretary is proposing that we change the governance arrangements for policing in London and the rest of the country.
In supporting this amendment I am not trying to frustrate the Government’s intention. I am simply trying to point out that there are major risks in doing this on that timetable, with one week’s transition. That is all that is envisaged for the rest of the country and it is very unclear when the transition in London might take place. All of that will occur, at a time when all of these other things are going on.
I know that our brave Home Secretary has taken the decision to reduce the security alert status, which is always a brave decision for any Home Secretary because that supposes that you know of everything that might be just around the corner. However, the security situation is that there is a very serious terrorist threat against the Olympic Games. There are enormous public order and security challenges. It is not just al-Qaeda and its affiliates that we should be concerned about. Because of the global interest in the Olympic Games—with an estimated several billion people watching the opening ceremony on television around the world—this is an opportunity for any organisation anywhere in the world, pursuing its local objectives, to get publicity on a global scale. The threat is enormous, and in the midst of it our brave Home Secretary plans to change the governance arrangements for policing.
The amendment is very modest. It does not frustrate the Government's objectives. It merely says, “At least get the Olympic and Paralympic Games out of the way before you make this change”. Is there any need for further distraction under the circumstances? Is there any need for that degree of disruption? Is it not better to wait for a few short months, which will have the added benefit of allowing a sensible period of transition to the new governance arrangements? I urge noble Lords to support the amendment.
My Lords, my recollection of the transition/shadow period for the Greater London Authority was that it was very short and clearly not long enough, but that is not the point I will make tonight.
I sometimes think that, faced with a difficult decision, it is wise to ask oneself, “How will I feel, looking back in six months or a year, if I did or did not do something?”. In this situation, if the Government postpone the changes in London, they will be able to look back a year and a half from now and say, “Phew, that went okay. What damage did we do by not making the changes? Well, none really. What damage have we suffered? Maybe a little to our egos, but does that matter?”. How much better to be in that situation if there has been a problem, which may or may not be related to the changes in governance, than to be told by the noble Lord opposite or my noble friend behind me, “Well, we did warn you”, and for the world to say, “You were warned”.
I do not see a problem if the Government make what is hardly even a concession but more a slight shift in thinking. The balance is between very little on the one hand, and possibly nothing but possibly something catastrophic on the other.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness and my noble friend for raising this matter. The Government’s approach to the Bill is on a par with their approach to other pieces of legislation. We have already seen the debacle of the Public Bodies Bill, and the Government are replicating the approach with the Health Bill. I declare an interest as chair of a foundation trust and as a trainer consultant in the NHS. The NHS is facing the biggest challenge that it has ever faced in reducing its spending and in its efficiency programme. At the same time, the Government are drawing up all the structural bodies that are in place and forcing the health service to devote a huge amount of time to structural issues when it should be focusing on how on earth it will cope with the largest reductions in real-terms funding that it has ever faced.
It seems that the same thing is happening to our police forces. The Government have drawn all the wrong conclusions from the first Blair Administration. They feel that they need to speed on, but destruction is inevitable because of the speed with which they are moving. I can only conclude that it is because no senior Minister in the Government has any experience whatever of running anything. If they had, they would not rush in the way the Government are rushing, with no understanding of the impact on essential public services.
When one considers the challenges facing the Metropolitan Police—I shall not go through the list again but they include: the Olympics; the continuing threat of terrorism; the mayoral elections; the budget reductions; staff issues, to which my noble friend referred, including pensions; and the phone hacking issue—it is obvious that over the next months and years there will be intense scrutiny on the force and its senior officers. There are to be two inquiries into the phone hacking issue, one of which is bound to look in close detail at the actions of the Metropolitan Police. The last thing the force needs during the next two to three years is to cope with a structural change in governance. The noble Baroness’s amendment is eminently sensible, and I hope that even at this late stage the Government will give it sympathetic consideration.
My Lords, I reiterate what I have said in previous discussions on this subject to my noble friend Lady Doocey: the commissioner has personally asked the Home Secretary to go as early as possible with London. That is a fact. The commissioner, deputy commissioner, the mayor and deputy mayor are very keen for the London provisions to be commenced as soon as possible.
My noble friend mentioned a letter. That letter outlines issues that the commissioner has flagged up for the Government to look at so that London can go early. The issues in the letter are being looked at and many of them have already been agreed in earlier amendments in the House. We debated earlier today the government amendments to the transitional provisions in the Bill to ensure that the PCCs and the MOPC can operate effectively from the outset and that there is no need for a period of shadow operation. The changes to policing governance do not affect operational control and so will not impact on operational issues.
We are going round this circuit for about the third time. My noble friend may totally disagree with me but I have checked and double checked—as has my right honourable friend the Minister of State in another place—to make sure that our understanding of both the commissioner’s and the mayor’s view on this subject are as we have described them in this House. I can but repeat what I have already said to my noble friend in the House: they are keen to commence as soon as possible and they have in no way sought to delay London.
My Lords, I have listened to the Minister with a very heavy heart because, being an eternal optimist, I had hoped against hope that the Government might take some responsibility upon themselves and say, “We are the Government and we are making the decision. On reflection, we do not think that it is a good idea to put citizens’ lives at risk in order to implement the changes in the Bill immediately”.
I have concluded that I have done everything possible to persuade the Government that this is not only a bad idea but a positively dangerous one. I have also concluded that all my pleas have fallen on deaf ears, and it is with a heavy heart that I feel I have no choice but to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment 206A withdrawn.
Clause 51 : Ordinary elections
Amendments 207 to 209 not moved.
Clause 52 : Election to fill vacancy in office of commissioner
Amendments 210 to 215 not moved.
Clause 53 : Persons entitled to vote
Amendment 216 not moved.
Clause 55 : Returning officers etc
Amendment 217 not moved.
Clause 59 : Power to make provision about elections etc
218: Clause 59, page 36, line 33, at end insert—
“( ) about the regulation of spending with the intention of influencing the outcome of an election by campaigners who are not standing in that election;”
My Lords, I do not have any other amendments in this group but there are also the two government amendments, Amendment 230 and Amendment 234, and Amendment 231 from the noble Baroness, Lady Henig.
My amendment repeats an amendment tabled and spoken to by my noble friend Lord Shipley at the previous stage. This point was drawn to our attention by the Electoral Commission—I am well aware that the Minister was until recently a commissioner—regarding funding by third parties. The Electoral Commission pointed out that it would be helpful, useful or necessary—I do not remember which; I suspect necessary in its view otherwise it would not have contacted us—to add a regulation about spending by those who seek to influence the outcome of an election: that is campaigners who are not themselves standing. It seemed to me that in the Minister’s reply to the debate on 6 June there was not a response to this point and I hope that she will take this opportunity to give an answer.
I also have a point on the Minister’s Amendment 230 which disapplies, as it were, the two-term limit on commissioners. She will recall that I tried to do the opposite by imposing a two-term limit on the MOPC to bring it in line with commissioners outside London, and therefore my sympathy for this amendment is limited, but I do understand the need for consistency. The amendment is being proposed, I believe, because of arguments that, faced with the prospect of an election coming down the track, accountability will be limited in the eyes of commissioners because in the second four years they do not have the prospect of a further election. My short point is that there is always going to be a final four years. I do not see that this is going to avoid that problem entirely and it could of course mean that some commissioners remain in office for a long time. That can do nothing but increase the concerns that have been expressed about the concentration of power in one person’s hands. I beg to move.
My Lords, I wish to speak to Amendment 231 and Amendment 234 in this group. I hope your Lordships will have noted the balanced symmetry of my amendments, one with the Minister for the Government and the other with my noble friend Lord Hunt, leading for the loyal Opposition, so I have one with each person in this group.
Amendment 231, which I have tabled with the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, and my noble friend Lord Hunt, suggests that no serving police officer or a person who has served as a police officer in the past 10 years may stand as a commissioner. Amendment 234, tabled, I am delighted to say, with the support of the Government, will ensure that noble Members of this House may be elected as commissioners and continue to fulfil their duties within the House. It removes Clause 74 which would have barred your Lordships from being both a commissioner and an active Peer, a proposal which, as I recall, caused considerable disquiet in Committee. I am very happy that this amendment provides the Government with a way out of what I am absolutely certain would have been a defeat on this proposal and spares the Benches opposite from any further blushes on this Bill. I look forward to the possibility of noble colleagues—not myself, I hasten to add—who may consider putting themselves forward to be commissioners. If they do that I will look forward to hearing about their experiences on their probably infrequent visits back to this House. That option should be open. Under this amendment it will be open. I am grateful to the Minister for agreeing to that amendment.
On serving police officers—or people who have served as a police officer in the last 10 years—then serving as a commissioner, that proposal is not intended as a slight on the noble profession of police officers in England and Wales. There may well be individual police officers whose skill sets would enable them to be very effective commissioners. The valued contributions in your Lordships’ House of noble Lords who have previously served as chief commissioners are testament to that. Yet here, we are 827 noble Lords. The expert contributions of the noble Lords, Lord Blair, Lord Condon, Lord Dear and Lord Stevens, and others are a valuable addition to debates on policing, alongside the views of a whole host of others—civil libertarians, local government experts and those with other viewpoints from outside the policing profession. Peers with a policing background bring a valuable perspective but they are not the sole arbiter of policing policy. I dare say that they would not wish to be.
The fact is that these commissioners will be a novelty introduction to British politics—a sole, directly elected arbiter of policy in one particular area, effectively unconstrained by his or her peers, or by Cabinet or other collegiate responsibility and elections every four years. It is incumbent on us to ensure that such a single individual can carry as much public trust and confidence as possible. He or she must be seen to be impartial in holding the police to account. Perhaps controversially, I am not convinced that under this system, reliant on a single individual, one person who is associated exclusively with the police service could carry the perception of impartiality from the police force that is necessary if every section of the community is to trust that their police force is being held rigorously to account.
We have an established principle in our public life whereby there are safeguards against what the public could reasonably perceive as potential conflicts of interest, or undue or improper influence, as individuals with relevant experience move between related fields. For instance, the Ministerial Code of May 2010 makes it clear that no former Minister may take up an appointment with a lobbying company for at least two years after leaving office. I am not suggesting that the parallels with policing are exact but the public has an expectation that, if an individual has been on one side of the fence and decides to swap over, there should be an appropriate break between the two to mitigate against the perception of conflicts of interest.
The noble Baroness, my noble friend and I are not wedded to 10 years but believe that there should be some separation between people serving as police officers and then standing as commissioners. Maybe 10 years is not considered appropriate but there should certainly be some period of time. That period would also enable any police officers who would be commissioner candidates to broaden their experience of fields beyond policing, perhaps trying business or community-based endeavours, not to mention developing the contacts and support that they would undoubtedly need in order to be elected.
One or two other matters are worth mentioning briefly. One that bothers me is that, without the safeguards offered by the amendment, it is possible that a disaffected police officer could choose to stand as a commissioner so that he or she might laud it over his or her chief constable or force. I hate to mention that but I have come across individuals who have had those motives. One cannot rule that out completely. It may sound fanciful but it is a real risk and one that we should take the opportunity to remove now.
Given the hour, I am trying to be as brief as possible. I encourage the House to look at this carefully. The amendment in relation to police officers would be a step towards preserving and not diminishing the recent substantial gains that the police and authorities have together made in raising public trust and confidence in the police and the impartiality of those who hold them to account.
My Lords, I welcome the two government amendments, which we are glad to support. On Amendment 218, the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, has done a great service by bringing this issue to your Lordships’ attention.
I am assuming that the noble Baroness will be able to say that the order-making power in the Bill is sufficient, but if not, it would be helpful if she acknowledged that. She will be equally helpful in relation to my own Amendment 231; alas, perhaps I am wildly optimistic on that.
I agree with the worries expressed by my noble friend Lady Henig about whether it is right and appropriate for former police officers to stand for election as police and crime commissioners. There are two areas we might discuss. First is the question raised by my noble friend about disaffected police officers. There are known to be disaffected police officers; they do surface from time to time. I worry about such a person being elected as a police and crime commissioner and the approach that they would then take to the chief constable and the force over which they had such influence. I also worry about any police officer elected as a police and crime commissioner.
Noble Lords will know that one of my major concerns about the legislation is that, in effect, the police and crime commissioner will act as the chief constable. We have still to hear about the Memorandum of Understanding—I assume we will come back to that on Third Reading—but even with a statutory Memorandum of Understanding, in the end all the levers are with the police and crime commissioner. I believe that it is almost inevitable that that person will seek to unduly influence the way in which the chief constable operates. It would be even worse if the police and crime commissioner is a former police officer. The temptation, the itch, to intervene in the details of that force would, I believe, be overwhelming. I know that it is unusual, when it comes to elections, for us to say there is a category of people who ought not to be able to stand, but in the case of police and crime commissioners, who are corporations sole, we have a huge responsibility. I wonder whether it would be appropriate for a former police officer to stand.
My Lords, the House will be aware that, as originally drafted, the Bill provided that a PCC could only serve two terms and would not be able to stand in a third election. I know that many noble Lords were concerned that for a PCC in his or her second term, being unable to stand again would effectively mean not being accountable to the public. The Government listened carefully to these concerns and looked at other elected posts in the UK, none of which has term limits. We have concluded that there is no need for PCCs to have term limits. It should be a decision for the public as to whether they want their PCC to serve a third term, rather than for the Government to dictate centrally that they cannot.
Noble Lords will also be aware that, as originally drafted, the Bill provided that Members would not be able to sit or vote in this House during the period they served as a PCC. Our thinking was that being a PCC was a full-time job and therefore was incompatible with active membership of this House. In Committee many noble Lords expressed concern about this and, indeed, set out to the House the many important and time-consuming roles they fulfil while being active in this House. I was extremely influenced by that and on reflection the Government agree. Membership of this House—like being a councillor, for example—very often goes hand in hand with full-time employment elsewhere and there is no reason why someone could not fulfil both roles. It is for that reason that we have tabled amendments to put that on the statute book and I am grateful for the support of the House.
On Amendment 231, which would prevent police officers from standing as a PCC within 10 years of leaving their force, noble Lords will probably know that the Home Affairs Select Committee suggested a cooling-off period for senior officers of four years and the Government committed to considering that.
As I set out in Committee, the Government feel that senior officers can bring much to the role of a PCC. Their experience of policing and the relationships necessary to make the role of PCC work would be invaluable. The Government are generally of the view that, apart from in extreme circumstances, it should be the public who decide whether or not a person should be a PCC. I cannot agree with the noble Lord’s case or his amendment. We believe that the public should be able to see the potential tensions of a former chief officer taking on this role if it was very shortly after they had left their post, and it is for the public to decide whether or not they want that person to represent them.
My noble friend Lady Hamwee spoke to Amendment 218 to Clause 59, which would allow the Secretary of State by order to make provisions about the regulation of spending by campaigners who were not themselves standing in an election to be a police and crime commissioner but who intended to influence the outcome of the election. I am grateful to her for tabling the amendment; this is an important principle, and the Government must ensure that it is given proper consideration. I will commit to coming back to the House at Third Reading to set out how we will deal with this important issue. For now, I ask my noble friend to withdraw her amendment.
I will move the government amendments standing in my name and invite noble Lords to withdraw theirs.
My Lords, I am extremely grateful for that. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 218 withdrawn.
Clause 60 : Date of vacancy in office of commissioner
Amendments 219 to 222 not moved.
Clause 61 : Declaration of vacancy in certain cases
Amendments 223 to 225 not moved.
Clause 62 : Resignation of commissioner
Amendments 226 and 227 not moved.
Clause 63 : Appointment of acting commissioner
Amendments 228 and 229 not moved.
Consideration on Report adjourned.
House adjourned at 11.02 pm.