House of Lords
Wednesday, 20 July 2011.
Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Derby.
Arts: Regional Theatres
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to encourage and support theatre within the regions.
My Lords, Her Majesty’s Government invest money via Arts Council England. In the financial year 2012-13, the Arts Council will provide over £50 million of grant-in-aid support to regional theatres. Money has also been designated for greater touring opportunities and the refurbishment of some major theatrical buildings.
I thank the Minister for that reply, but is she aware of the current extent to which not only companies but venues whose job it is to serve local communities, such as the Northcott Theatre in Exeter and the Derby Theatre, are at risk of closure? Is she also aware that Tom Morris, co-director of “War Horse”, has said that the great international critical and commercial success of “War Horse” and “Jerusalem”—the product to a large extent of seeds sown in the regions—would not have been possible without public subsidies, and that those productions have been regarded with envy by Americans whose own far more conservative funding model Jeremy Hunt wishes to emulate?
My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, has been consistent and is extremely knowledgeable on this issue. I am aware of the theatres and that “War Horse” has been a fantastic success; we are thrilled about that. However, I suggest that bald statements on funding do not tell the whole story. Thirty-seven per cent of London’s regularly funded organisations were identified as touring in 2010, and “War Horse” has been touring everywhere with great success. Their influence spreads well beyond the M25. We must acknowledge, too, that the Arts Council is investing in capital projects across the regions through National Lottery funds.
My Lords, first I declare an interest as a member of the board of the Royal Shakespeare Company and a former executive director of the Royal National Theatre. I echo the point that the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, made about the interdependence of the major companies, the National and the RSC, both of which are currently enjoying huge success in America. They are hugely dependent on the health of the regional theatre sector, as has already been pointed out. The Minister will be aware that the Arts Council has already implemented cuts of nearly 30 per cent in its awards across the country this year and for the next three years. She will be aware also that it is faced with the necessity to cut 50 per cent of its own costs in the next few years. Does she think that it is likely that the Arts Council, faced with those difficulties, will be able properly to fulfil its remit as a strong, arm’s-length body supporting the arts?
My Lords, the noble Baroness made some very valid points. More than 100 organisations that identified touring as a core part of their work are recipients of regular Arts Council funding. In the near future, there will be an additional £80 million a year of lottery income invested in national portfolio organisations for touring.
My Lords, I declare an interest as a trustee of the Lowry. Is the Minister aware of the excellent programme, Schools Without Walls, run by the egg theatre in Bath? Children from primary schools in Bath are taught their lessons at the theatre for a few weeks during the summer term, and creativity and drama are introduced across the curriculum. The programme has no public funding. What do the DCMS and the DfE intend to do to help theatres to engage in such good outreach programmes?
My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lady Bonham-Carter for that question regarding children in primary schools and the theatre. It is a very important issue, and the Government and DCMS have brought forward a project with match funding. Arts Council England recently launched its £40 million Catalyst Arts scheme, which will provide £30 million of match funding to arts organisations exactly as the noble Baroness mentions, and will help smaller bodies to build their fundraising capacity.
Does the noble Baroness understand that the success of the West End is built on the bedrock of the professionalism of regional theatres and the professionals whom they offer to the West End? Secondly, does she realise that regional theatres build up the new generation of theatregoers that we must encourage to make sure that the theatre has its right and proper place in our cultural life?
My Lords, I agree totally with the noble Lord, Lord Harrison. Towards that goal, in his Budget of 23 March, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced a significant package of new measures to support a drive towards greater charitable giving exactly in this area. It was worth around £600 million.
My Lords, I declare a modest interest as a friend of Salisbury Playhouse. Perhaps through my noble friend the Minister I may congratulate the Arts Council on the manner in which it dispensed what I acknowledge were reduced funds and say that, because of the quality of the Salisbury Playhouse, it was not cut in any way.
My Lords, my noble friend brings up a valid point. I congratulate the Arts Council and the Salisbury Playhouse.
Does the Minister agree that, with notable exceptions such as those in Chichester, Sheffield and Leicester, the combination of local authority cuts of up to 60 per cent and the declining income from audiences in areas of high unemployment is posing real threats to this sector? Is there nothing that the Government can do to assist the Arts Council, which has been forced to impose a 10.9 per cent cut in real terms on regional theatres in the period to 2015?
My Lords, the Government have negotiated a substantial settlement for the arts in these times of economic constraint. We have limited the cut to the Arts Council’s overall budget, grant in aid and lottery, to just 11 per cent. While grant in aid—just one part of the Arts Council’s overall income—is being reduced, we are reforming the lottery so that more money will go to the arts. An additional £80 million will go into the arts from the National Lottery each year from 2013.
My Lords, I declare an interest as president of the Arts Alliance, which consists of all the organisations delivering arts to offenders. Does the Minister include in the funding of regional arts, the arts being delivered in prisons and to other offenders in the regions?
My Lords, I do not have the details of that here, but I very much hope so. I will write to the noble Lord with the answer.
Does the noble Baroness accept that while we can all share in the pride that the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, feels in the theatre of which he is patron, quality has not been the major determinant of the cuts inflicted on the Arts Council and by the Arts Council? There are many companies up and down the country, in London and in the regions, that are recognised to have world-quality status but have had their funding savagely reduced.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Kinnock, is not quite right. The overall budget for the Arts Council will be reduced by just 11 per cent over four years. This is hardly going from feast to famine.
House of Lords: Reform
To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many representations have been received from the public in response to the House of Lords reform draft Bill and accompanying White Paper.
My Lords, the Government have received, and continue to receive, many representations on all aspects of House of Lords reform.
My Lords, I did not really expect an answer to the Question so I am not disappointed. Have the Government still not learnt the lesson of the AV referendum? Unlike the Deputy Prime Minister, the British public do not think that our constitution is broken and they think that Government should spend their time on other, more important matters. Can I suggest that before the Government embark on any future constitutional experiments they apply two tests? First, do the public want it? Secondly, is there a political consensus to deliver it?
My Lords, it is true that the Government have not been overwhelmed with responses from the public after the publication of the White Paper. However, at least one interpretation of that is that the public are reasonably satisfied with the proposals that the Government have put forward. Of course, the public are understandably concerned with a whole range of important things, such as jobs, education and health, but because the reform of the House of Lords does not have an immediate resonance, that does not mean that it is important.
I have reminded the House of this before: at the last election all three main parties had in their manifestos a pledge to reform the House and people were very happy to vote for that. As for political consensus, we will see to the work of the Joint Committee when it reports next year.
My Lords, I think that seniority gives it to my noble friend Lord Tyler.
My Lords, among the representations he has been examining, has my noble friend seen the report published on Monday entitled The End of the Peer Show?, in which Mr Hilary Benn has committed the Labour Party to a continuing campaign based on its manifesto commitment for a wholly elected House of Lords? Is my noble friend aware of any successful parliamentary candidate who arrived in the other place committed to voting against his party’s manifesto?
My Lords, no, I am not. I have not read Mr Benn’s no doubt splendid article, but given that the Recess starts later on today, perhaps it should be required reading for all noble Lords.
My Lords, why is the Leader of the House so reticent about telling us how many representations he has actually had? He said many—is that 10, 20, 100, 500, 1,000? Will he take this opportunity to correct his Freudian slip when he said that House of Lords reform was not important?
My Lords, that was well spotted by the noble Lord. Of course the issue is extremely important and something that this Government are very committed to dealing with. Since the general election, we have received over 180 letters from members of the public. Since the publication of the White Paper, we have received over 30 pieces of correspondence. The key point is that the vast majority of these letters call for a change in the way that this House is run.
My Lords, has my noble friend, having had such an overwhelming response, had the chance to memorise all these letters? Can he tell the House how many people have written to him or made representations on the National Health Service, on the Education Bill or on the Localism Bill? Does this not indicate that the general public are fairly well satisfied with what they have and very much more worried about many other things? Perhaps we could take the Recess to readjust the priorities of Her Majesty’s Government.
My Lords, we have just set up a first-class Joint Committee of both Houses which is going to look at the draft Bill. Most of the letters we have received come up with their own new and improved schemes for the future of the House of Lords, or are interested in the Bishops remaining in the House of Lords and the representation of other faiths.
My Lords, public engagement with the Bill might be enhanced by describing its consequences in terms of the interaction of our citizens with this Parliament. How would the noble Lord the Leader advise a constituent in 2016 with two elected representatives to this Parliament, an MP from the opposition party and a senator for the governing party, who wished to raise an urgent issue with the Home Office? Should the constituent speak to MP or senator?
My Lords, I hope that that is exactly one of the questions that the noble Lord, Lord Richard, will tackle in his Joint Committee. We do not anticipate senators, if that is what they are to be called, taking over the role of Members of Parliament. Of course, it will be entirely free for members of the public to write both to their Members of Parliament and to their senators.
My Lords, I was fascinated by the figures that the noble Lord the Leader of the House produced. The House may like to know that a call for evidence has gone out from the Joint Committee. I sincerely hope that we will do much better than the Government on this.
My Lords, I fully expect that the noble Lord will do so.
Media: News International
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what progress has been made in taking forward the inquiries into the practices and ethics of News International and other media organisations.
My Lords, the Prime Minister has appointed Lord Justice Leveson to lead a wide-ranging inquiry. For part one of that inquiry Lord Leveson will be assisted by a panel of experts. The Prime Minister will make a Statement later this morning and we hope that he will be able to announce then the final terms of reference and the names of those on the panel.
I thank the Minister for that response. What steps will Her Majesty’s Government take to make certain that in future not only the Murdoch empire but other media groups behave in a responsible and sensitive manner? Does the Minister agree that the present Press Complaints Commission is not fit for purpose and that, in order to regain public confidence, a new body should be established immediately, not composed entirely of newspaper personnel, but with authority to deal with traditional and new, online media in a very fresh way?
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Roberts goes right to the heart of the matter and he is right to look into the future. His most important point is on the need to regain the confidence of the public. Clearly, the current regime of the Press Complaints Commission has not been effective. That is why the draft terms of reference for Lord Justice Leveson’s inquiry require recommendation for a new, more effective policy and regulatory regime which supports the integrity and freedom of the press, the plurality of the media and their independence from government, while encouraging the highest ethical and professional standards. The PCC is a self-regulatory, self-appointed, independent body and it is not for the Government to say what will or will not happen to it. That will be a matter for the press and media.
My Lords, does the Minister agree that the purpose of having a free press is for the sake of citizens, not for self-expression by the media? If it is to be for the sake of citizens, the press has to communicate. If it is to communicate, there must be standards and these have to be genuinely independently overseen, not independent in the sense in which the Press Complaints Commission is independent.
My Lords, the noble Baroness makes a very valid point, to which the Prime Minister will be speaking this morning.
My Lords, can the Minister confirm that the Cabinet Secretary carried out all the necessary checks on Andy Coulson before he was appointed to a very senior post at the heart of government? Can she clarify how and when the Cabinet Secretary’s advice to the Prime Minister on this appointment will be published?
My Lords, the Cabinet Secretary had given him a vetting for his grade.
My Lords, I declare an interest as a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority. Last February, I expressed concern that senior Metropolitan Police officers were dining with executives from the News of the World at a time when the Metropolitan Police was investigating the newspaper. My concerns were brushed aside by the Met, which said: “It does not naturally follow that you cannot talk to a hierarchy if someone within the organisation has committed an offence”. Do the Government agree with this? How will they ensure that the Met’s new system of recording meetings and hospitality with the press will be open and completely transparent?
My Lords, the Metropolitan Police has promised a robust investigation, and the DPP said on 24 January that his principal legal adviser, Alison Levitt QC, would rigorously examine any evidence resulting from the recent or new substantive allegations made to the MPS. As for what the noble Baroness asked about, that will be referred to in part two of the inquiry and it is not a matter for Her Majesty’s Government until the results of Lord Justice Leveson’s report. It is absolutely right that she asks the questions, and that is exactly why we are having this inquiry.
My Lords, in the run-up to the Welfare Reform Bill there has been much misinformation in the press about benefit claimants. Does the Minister agree that the inquiry must find more effective ways to get the press to live up to its duty of accuracy?
The Prime Minister announced that there will be an inquiry in two parts, which is very important, and we hope that it will look into all those details and report back, I think, within a year.
My Lords, the noble Baroness has indicated that cross-media ownership is going to be looked at by the inquiry, but does she agree that it is of vital importance, now that we have identified material flaws in the Enterprise Act and the Communications Act, that we should now move swiftly to cure those flaws by taking advantage of the negative resolution procedure under Section 58 and amending the grounds upon which a notice can now be issued?
My Lords, this will be covered exactly by part one of the inquiry in due course.
My Lords, I declare an interest as the former chairman of a commercial radio company. Can my noble friend please explain how and why the daily regulation of a 24-hour commercial music station varies from the oversight given to a newspaper by the Press Complaints Commission?
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Ryder asks a very interesting question regarding daily regulation. Commercial radio is covered by Ofcom, but newspapers have been protected by the Bill of Rights since 1689. That does not mean that we cannot revisit it in today’s climate. While we strongly believe in a free press as a cornerstone of our democracy, we probably need to look again at how it is all regulated in the circumstances. The inquiry, as I said before, will do just that and make the necessary recommendations.
My Lords, will the Minister answer the question from my noble friend Baroness Jones, which I think she misunderstood? The question was: when was Andy Coulson interviewed by the Cabinet Secretary and did the Cabinet Secretary pass that information on to the Prime Minister?
My Lords, Andy Coulson was given the appropriate vetting required for his grade.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government how they intend to distribute United Kingdom aid in Malawi following their suspension of general budget support for Malawi on 14 July.
My Lords, the UK has indefinitely suspended general budget support to Malawi. We are determined to continue funding other programmes in Malawi that protect the poor. We will continue to work through specific government ministries like health and education and with trusted NGOs.
My Lords, I declare an interest: I am engaged in a number of charities supporting development in Malawi. I thank the Minister for her Answer.
Over the past six years UK budget support to Malawi has contributed to a number of the most successful development programmes anywhere in Africa. The Malawi growth and development strategy has delivered growth rates among the highest in the world. The farm input subsidy programme has supported 1.6 million households and turned famine into food surplus in Malawi. Malawi has one of the best records in Africa for reversing the increase in HIV/AIDS.
I ask the Minister, first, for an assurance that overall aid to Malawi will not be reduced as a result of this decision on budget support; secondly, for an assurance that there will be speedy discussions with those government departments in Malawi to ensure the continuation of those programmes so that money is not underspent by the end of this financial year and these programmes can continue; and, thirdly, whether she would be prepared to meet the Scotland Malawi Partnership to discuss its interest in this very important subject.
My Lords, UK aid to Malawi has not been reduced; it has just been redirected through sector support now. We will look at ways of ensuring that the budget support that we are giving and our aid programmes do not fail the poor, which I think is what the noble Lord wishes to hear. I assure him that we will continue to work with those sectors and with NGOs to ensure that, whatever difficulties we are having with the Malawian Government, we work collectively to ensure that aid goes out to the poor. On his point about meeting the Scottish Malawi Partnership, I spoke to my officials yesterday and they would be happy to arrange a meeting.
What element of general budget support was allocated to supporting good governance in Malawi? In DfID’s good governance fund for Malawi, what element will now be allocated to democracy and parliamentary strengthening, particularly scrutiny, monitoring and oversight of aid effectiveness by the Malawian Parliament?
My noble friend raises a number of key issues here. The support that we were giving was in order to have oversight of good governance and to ensure that economically the country was following the right paths for the delivery of budget aid. However, I bring the noble Lord back to the original Question, the answer to which is that we are continuing to work with the Malawian Government but we will need to direct general budget aid through programmes that we can have oversight of.
My Lords, does the Minister agree that while it is vital that our Government continue to support Malawi through the aid programme, it is just as important in the medium and long term for our Government to assist the African Union as well as SADC to promote trading blocs to promote more trade and inter-African trade for sustainable economic growth?
The noble Lord is right. I know that he shares a great interest in that region with the Government. We wish to see greater economic development there, which is why we are encouraging private sector investment but also working with Governments to ensure that they are able to move much more strongly in revisiting their systems and ensuring that good governance overreaches all areas of their government as well as where the budget aid is going.
My Lords, is the Minister aware that in the DfID press release announcing the suspension of general budget support to Malawi there was an unexpected announcement? It says:
“This comes as the Government reduces general budget support across the world by 43 per cent”.
Will the Minister give us more detail on this announcement in the press release and say which countries are affected, by how much and over what timescale?
The noble Baroness will know that I am not able to answer on each individual country at this moment in time, but I will get someone to write to her. The reductions are a result of our bilateral and multilateral reviews, where we saw that we needed to ensure that whatever moneys we were giving through aid via DfID were being well spent. The noble Baroness shakes her head, but she will know that during her time she faced the same sort of difficulties in ensuring that such programmes were both fully funded and fully scrutinised by the programmes we had in place. Governments needed to build up on good governance, which some were failing to do.
I am sure that the Minister is well aware that Malawi has one of the highest maternal mortality ratios and one of the highest incidences of obstetric fistula. What impact assessment have the Government made of how programmes to deal with these will be affected by the redirection of aid?
I come back to my original Answer. I reassure the noble Lord that we have not cut back on aid but are redirecting the aid that was going through budget support to the health and education sectors, so we will be providing even more support by directing the aid to those sectors and having better oversight of where that money is being spent.
My Lords, I appreciate the real difficulty that the Government have with the increasingly autocratic President of Malawi, but can the Minister give us any indication of whether relations are on the mend following the expulsion of our high commissioner?
My noble friend knows that while we have difficulties, we are continuously working on improving relationships. It is key that our relationship with Malawi is maintained and strengthened. The negotiations will continue but we will not stop our programmes from being delivered, because at the heart of everything that we are doing is the delivery of aid to poor people.
Standing Orders (Public Business)
Motion to Agree
That the standing orders relating to public business be amended as follows:
Standing Order 40 (Arrangement of the Order Paper)
In paragraph (8), after “Affirmative Instruments”, insert “, Negative Instruments”.
My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.
My Lords, before the House agrees this Motion, perhaps I may ask why we are not now hearing the outcome of the hereditary Peers’ by-elections? That would have been normal at this time and indeed was widely expected. While I acknowledge that we are sitting an hour earlier than was originally intended, was it really not possible to complete the count by now?
My Lords, my noble friend has the answer to the question in one. There is no solution because the counters are counting at the moment and have not completed their business. However, I am able to announce to the House that the announcement will be made at the end of the Third Reading of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill.
Draft Financial Services Bill
That the Commons message of 19 July be considered and that a Committee of six Lords be appointed to join with the Committee appointed by the Commons to consider and report on the draft Financial Services Bill presented to both Houses on 16 June (Cm 8083) and that the Committee should report on the draft Bill by 1 December 2011;
That, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following members be appointed to the Committee:
B Drake, L McFall of Alcluith, L Maples, L Newby, L Skidelsky, B Wheatcroft;
That the Committee have power to agree with the Committee appointed by the Commons in the appointment of a Chairman;
That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers and records;
That the Committee have power to appoint specialist advisers;
That the Committee have leave to report from time to time;
That the Committee have power to adjourn from place to place within the United Kingdom;
That the reports of the Committee from time to time shall be printed, regardless of any adjournment of the House; and
That the evidence taken by the Committee shall, if the Committee so wishes, be published.
Motion agreed, and a message was sent to the Commons.
Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions) (Amendment) (England and Wales) Order 2011
Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 (Commencement No. 3) Order 2011
Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 (Amendment) Order 2011
Land Registration (Network Access) (Amendment) Rules 2011
Motions to Approve
That the draft Orders and Rules laid before the House on 16 May and 7 June be approved.
Relevant Documents: 23rd Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, considered in Grand Committee on 5 July.
My Lords, with the leave of the House, I beg to move the four Motions standing in my name on the Order Paper en bloc.
My Lords, in relation to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act order, the Minister will recall that when we discussed the matter in Grand Committee we raised very considerable difficulties about owners and managers not having clearance with regard to convictions. Can my noble friend assist with the worries raised at that time?
My Lords, my noble friend is referring to the new alternative business structures for legal firms. It is true that both he and my noble friend Lord Hunt raised these points in Committee, and I agreed to take the matter back to ministerial colleagues if they would allow this order to proceed. I have done so, and Ministers have agreed that consideration and a decision in respect of the business case for the inclusion in the exceptions order of owners and managers of alternative business structures should be made as soon as possible. In the event that the Ministers agree that any addition should be made to the exceptions orders, I assure Members that this work will be expedited and an amendment will be prepared as a matter of urgency. On that basis, I hope that the House will allow the order to go through.
Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill
Clause 7 : Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime to issue police and crime plans
1: Clause 7, page 7, line 2, at end insert—
“(e) give the panel a response to any such report or recommendations, and(f) publish any such response.”
I would like to speak to the government amendments in this group. The intention of Amendment 1 is to bring the provisions of the London Assembly police and crime panel’s scrutiny of the police and crime plan into line with the provision for panels outside the capital. For forces in England and Wales outside London, the PCC must respond to any reports or recommendations made by the panel on the draft plan and publish the response. This amendment will put those provisions into the Bill for London.
Amendment 2 was tabled by the Government at Report and was debated on 4 July. Unfortunately, due to an error this amendment was not moved formally. The Government have sought to resolve this by tabling the amendment again. I hope noble Lords will agree that the substantive issues behind it were fully debated on the previous occasion, and that there is no need to delay the proceedings of the House by going through them again. Noble Lords will recall that the corresponding provision for London was moved and agreed by the House.
Amendments 16 and 17 are minor and technical amendments to ensure that PCCs and the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime have the same powers as police authorities. Amendment 16 will give PCCs and the Mayor’s Office the ability, subject to ministerial approval, to compulsorily purchase land, a power police authorities currently have. It was simply an error that this power was not included in the Bill at the outset.
Amendment 17 will exempt the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime from some of the provisions of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1987 which require landlords to offer residential premises to their tenants before disposing of them. Police authorities outside London have this exemption at present, and the Bill replaces the reference to police authorities in the 1987 Act with a reference to PCCs. However, when the Metropolitan Police Authority was created by the Greater London Authority Act 1999, it was not given this power. It seems that this was an oversight in the legislation. This amendment will correct that anomaly and apply the exemption to both PCCs and the Mayor’s Office. I beg to move.
My Lords, first, I welcome the amendments that the noble Baroness has tabled. I have an amendment in this group, Amendment 3, to which I would like to speak in particular. I am sure that in the weeks, months, and indeed years ahead the events of the last few days will be analysed and researched, and many conclusions will be drawn from them. These events have shown the risk of the potential politicisation of our police arrangements through the close involvement of politicians in policing matters. That is why I worry about some of the impact of this Bill, and why I think that my amendment is important in seeking to strengthen the amendment of the noble Baroness. Let me say at once that I very much welcome that amendment; I just want to make it a little bit more effective.
I want to go back to something I said in response to the Statement the noble Baroness made two days ago—it seems like years. We have seen some of the potential implications of importing American-style elected police and crime commissioners to the UK. The nearest we have to that is the London mayor, and it does not seem to have prevented a lot of the problems that one can see arising. It is well to remember that the mayor, Boris Johnson, when originally asked about phone-hacking allegations, described them as codswallop. It is worth reflecting on what support the Met would have received from the mayor if they had actually decided to undertake a vigorous operation when questions were asked about reopening these issues a couple of years ago.
My concern is that having an elected mayor or an elected police and crime commissioner inevitably draws those people into making comments about operational policing matters and seeking to influence the chief constable. I do not see how it can be avoided. When a person is elected as police and crime commissioner for the West Midlands, for example, they will be asked questions about running issues which will inevitably go into not only the operational efficiency of the force, but specific operations. My concern is that those elected police and crime commissioners will be drawn into commenting.
In London, the mayor is now going to be on his third commissioner. My concern is that this will be replicated throughout the country. Let us take an elected police and crime commissioner, representing a party that is perhaps not very popular in the public opinion polls and which faces elections in a year’s time. What better way to boost one’s prospects than by picking a fight with the chief constable and essentially requiring them to retire or resign? It is one thing for chief constables to be properly accountable—that is absolutely right—but my concern is that they are going to be very insecure people, and will therefore be more deferential to the elected police and crime commissioner than is healthy for the system.
Noble Lords know that I have a health service background. There was a time when the average length of stay of a chief executive in the NHS was about 2.8 years. The instability that that causes does great harm to public services. I believe we are building in huge instability and real threats of politicisation. I accept that this is the way the Government want to go, but I think it is important that we build in safeguards.
I welcome the amendment of the noble Baroness. I think the name of the noble Lord, Lord Dear, may have been on the amendment that was not moved on Report, but I would like to go further. It is important that police and crime panels are given support in exercising their functions of scrutiny on behalf of the public. Specifying in the amendment that the functions of the police and crime panel for a police area should be exercised with a view to,
“upholding the integrity, impartiality and effectiveness of the police force for that police”,
would be an important safeguard and provide reassurance. Being in primary legislation, these words would give a very clear message to police and crime commissioners, chief constables and panels that we want a police force that is impartial, has integrity and does right by the public.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, has made some valid and important points. I remind the House that the Bill to which we recently gave a formal Third Reading is in fact very different from the one that came from the other place. It is the expectation of most of us that the other place will indicate its dissatisfaction with the major amendment made in Committee by this House. Obviously we must wait and see, but I say this to my noble friend the Minister. The Government will have to look at this Bill again because of that amendment, but because of what has happened over the past three weeks, to which the noble Lord alluded in his speech, surely it is necessary to enact a Bill that truly deals with all the problems, ones that were not foreseen—I blame no one for that—when the Bill was first placed before Parliament. This is a golden opportunity for the Government to come back to us with amendments that recognise that there are areas of policing which are not adequately dealt with in the current Bill. Certain problems have been highlighted in recent days which it is incumbent on Parliament to recognise and adequately to legislate for.
My plea to my noble friend the Minister, who has shown herself to be painstaking, thorough and responsive to the feelings of the House, is that she should talk to the Home Secretary and her other ministerial colleagues with a view to ensuring that when the other place comes back to this House, one would assume either in September or October, we will have before us amendments which deal fully with many of the issues that initially provoked the noble Baroness, Lady Harris of Richmond, to move her amendment, and that subsequently have built upon that feeling of unease. I do not seek lengthy Divisions this morning, but an assurance that the final shape of the Bill proves to be up to the circumstances that we are now aware of.
My Lords, I hesitate to interrupt someone with such long parliamentary experience, but I would be grateful if he could give the House his guidance. I share with him the objective that, even at this very late stage, the Government should look again at how the proposals they would like to see enacted will work and how they could be improved in the light of the events of the past week or so. But is not the real dilemma for the Government that what will go back to the Commons for consideration are simply those narrow areas of the Bill which have been changed by the decisions of your Lordships’ House? The safeguards that I am sure we all want to see—perhaps with one or two exceptions—will be very difficult for the Government to introduce during the course of ping-pong.
Like the famous Irishman, I would not have started from here. The truth of the matter is that on the very first day in Committee, a major amendment was passed in this House. It is therefore likely that the Government, unless they are going to see their Bill completely torpedoed, will wish to reject that amendment and come back to the House. As we saw earlier this week and last week, when ping-pong is played, there is an opportunity for the Government to insert further amendments. It is not a desirable situation, but the Government are going to want to put back all the provisions for police and crime commissioners that were taken out by the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Harris. When they do that they will have an opportunity, as I see it, to further refine the Bill in a way that reflects not only the general concerns expressed in this House, but the need to deal with the sort of situations which have disturbed us all so much in recent days.
My Lords, I am delighted to hear that advice. My understanding of the problem is that essentially all that will be sent back to the Commons, apart from the government amendments which will be nodded through, are the three lines from the beginning of the Bill which the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, deleted, and the sole and fairly short clause which was then added. Someone incredibly ingenious needs to insert into those first three lines all the safeguards that Members of your Lordships’ House are seeking. I am delighted that the noble Lord, with all his parliamentary experience, thinks it is possible, but I have to say that I have deep reservations over whether a way can be found of doing it.
In turn, I am delighted to hear that. I am merely making a few remarks in the hope that my noble friend the Minister will discuss this matter to try to make it possible because it is clear that we have an unsatisfactory situation. I believe that it is possible, when the Government decide to disagree with us in that fundamental amendment, for them to make some additional comments, as it were. I hope that that is what will happen.
This is not a situation that I or the noble Lord would have wished to see. The dilemma is that the problems have been compounded by the events of recent days and weeks. The Government have time during the Recess in which to look at this, and I hope that they will be able to do so. Then, when a police and social responsibility Bill goes on to the statute book, it is legislation that is truly adequate for policing in the next quarter of the 21st century. That is because we do not want to be, as the Americans say, continually revisiting this situation over the coming years.
My Lords, as the instigator of that infamous amendment right at the beginning of the Committee stage, I welcome what my noble friend Lord Cormack has said. I want only to make the briefest of interventions on Amendment 3, to which I have added my name. My noble friend is absolutely right to say that more work needs to be done on this Bill in the light of what has happened recently. I urge my noble friend the Minister, having given us some comfort in her amendments today, to take a further step.
I will have a little more to say about recent events and their relevance to this Bill when speaking to a later amendment, but I want to support this amendment for the reasons set out by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath. What we seek is to draw out the strength of the panels so that they are able to send a strong message to the public. That is what we want.
My Lords, does my noble friend agree that her amendment, which I certainly would not describe as infamous, was the result of concern in the House that the model being proposed did not contain the strict checks and balances that most of us wish to see? Therefore, picking up the concern of the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, it would be entirely proper for the Government to come back on ping-pong with proposals reflecting, beyond Clause 1, the strict checks and balances which led to the original amendment.
I support my noble friend in her comments. The whole point of tabling the amendment was to try to persuade the Government to bring on the strength of the checks and balances. That has not been done, and I cannot imagine what they could come up with at the ping-pong stage. But I hope they do come up with something because it is the strength of those checks and balances that this House, which voted so strongly in favour of my amendment, supported. I therefore urge my noble friend the Minister to see what she can do.
I rise to speak in support of Amendment 3, and I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, because I can now abbreviate what was already going to be a small number of comments. I agree with what he said, and believe that the only danger the noble Lord faces is that he is likely to win the award for parliamentary understatement of the year when he says that he thinks the Government will be minded to reverse the amendment in the other place. I think we all know that they will.
The position is exactly as he has said: recent events have emphasised the importance of the checks and balances. The particular word that I picked out of my noble friend’s Amendment 3 is “impartiality”. The problem, as we have seen recently, is how a senior police officer can be impartial not only when dealing with the Government, but also when dealing with large organisations. In the recent case, of course, the organisation is News International. That is a profoundly important point.
Is the Minister absolutely confident that there will not be a politicisation of the police that results in senior police officers being removed by an elected mayor? I am not entirely opposed to what Boris Johnson has done in some cases—I was opposed in the case of Ian Blair, who went because of pressure from Boris Johnson—but we have now lost another commissioner and deputy commissioner, both of whom the mayor said ought to go. The mayor might be right—I am not in a position to know—but this is a politicisation, which many of us on both sides of the House are worried about. Is the Minister confident that there are enough checks and balances to make sure that such things do not happen inappropriately? There will be times when what has happened may be appropriate, but we need to ensure that it does not happen inappropriately. For example, what happens if a chief officer attempts to be very impartial and gets into difficulties or—this is the one that has always worried me—if crime is rising for reasons that are not under the control of the police?
As I have said before when I have talked about crime prevention, the assumption that the police can stop crime rising is wrong. There are many other factors involved, although the police clearly play a very important part. If we have a situation where crime is rising—maybe because of economic factors, unemployment or the lack of crime prevention policies and so on—it could be very easy for an elected mayor to point the finger at the chief police officer and say, “The chief police officer is failing and has to go”. That is the profound danger that we are all worried about.
My noble friend made a comment—which I do not quite recall—asking what support the chief constable would receive in some of the situations that have come to light in recent days. That is key, and that is why his Amendment 3 is so important. Underlying all of this is my concern that at a time of rising crime—crime will rise, under all Governments, from time to time for reasons that are not always under the control of the police—it would be very easy for a mayor to point the finger at a senior police officer and say, “It’s their fault, and they have got to go”, when that may not in fact be the case.
I, too, speak in support of Amendment 3. In earlier stages of the Bill I spoke about the dangers of police and politicians becoming too close. These dangers are exemplified by the current crisis in the relationships among the police, press and politicians. At one time in my police service, when David McNee was commissioner, we were quite explicitly forbidden from speaking to the media. This changed when Ken Newman became commissioner, and we were encouraged to be more open and democratic and to explain police actions to the public. Unfortunately, when a channel of communication is opened, it becomes a two-way street. The wrong information may flow from the police and inappropriate influence may be exercised by the media on the police service. Relationships develop and become too close or antagonistic, as they have in this current nexus of police, press and politicians.
This is a model of what will happen once these elected police commissioners are in post. In the past, politicians were treated by the police service with respect but not deference. Now, politicians, who necessarily represent factions in society and whose concern is a short-term desire to be re-elected, will have excessive influence and we will be back to the bad old days of the excessively politicised watch committees that we used to have in some of our major cities. By emphasising the importance of impartiality, this amendment would offset these political pressures to some extent and go some small way towards establishing an explicit code of conduct for the police and crime commissioner. I therefore hope that the Minister accepts it.
My Lords, I put my name to this amendment out of consistency with what I have been saying at various stages throughout the Bill’s passage: namely, that, despite the fact that it is called a police reform Bill, there is precious little in the Bill about police reform and it is all about the reform of police governance. Therefore, anything that would support and help the police must be welcomed. I notice that today we are to have a Statement on public confidence in the police. It is the police on which we should concentrate. I hope that noble Lords have read the excellent, thought-provoking and very timely article in today’s Times by my noble friend Lord Dear about leadership in the police.
Therefore, it seems to me that this amendment, which talks about the need for the police and the crime panel to support the police and help them in what they do, is entirely in line with what we should be trying to achieve in the Bill. The governance that we have spent so long talking about is actually miles away. Mindful of what Lord Acton, I think, said about hindsight being the privilege of the historian, I suspect that, in view of what we have had disclosed in the past two weeks, if the Government were introducing this Bill today, it might be a very different Bill, which I hope would concentrate more on the police than on governance.
I thank my noble friend for introducing this amendment. There never has been a time when it is more apposite to talk about the integrity, impartiality and effectiveness of the police force. I very much regret what has happened in the past few days. I pay tremendous tribute to my noble friend Lady Hilton of Eggardon who has just spoken. However, I recall times in the early 1960s when some of the police were not always politically impartial. I refer to the Challoner case. Throughout West End Central, there was a philosophy that the police could do anything that they liked. This was absolutely wrong. I believe that my involvement in the Challoner case was an expression of the public’s disquiet at what was happening, and I think I had every reason to feel that.
I hope that the events of the last few weeks will herald a change in the way that the police are looked at by the public because I think that it is imperative that the public should have confidence in the police.
As far as elections are concerned, I believe that we are taking a step backwards. It is inevitable that the police will be drawn into political controversy, which is not desirable. Senior police officers should represent the qualities that my noble friend’s amendment emphasises. It is very important, from the point of view of the public, that these issues should be aired. I have no hesitation in supporting what my noble friend has said. We have plenty of time for the noble Baroness to be able to prevail upon some of her colleagues in Government to change their minds, too.
My Lords, I think that one should reflect on the fact that policing can be a very lonely business. It is undoubtedly lonely for a police constable who is alone outside a club as it is turning out at 2 o’clock in the morning and everything seems to be going out of control—some of us have been there. It is equally lonely to be in the office at midday as a chief officer of police when the world is clamouring for a press conference and you are not too sure how to handle it. In the past I have found useful Polonius’s advice to his fast-departing son in Hamlet—a long list of things that one should or should not do—which concludes:
“to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man”.
Of course, that begs the question, which Shakespeare did not address, of what yardsticks you are going to use when you are being true to yourself.
To address the loneliness of policing on some occasions one should turn to the oath of office that one takes as a constable, and which binds you all the way through to the most senior of ranks. You swear or affirm that you will exercise your duties as a constable at all levels without favour, affection, malice or ill will. That is a binding principle and is a useful one to remember. I am sure that the majority of police officers remember it whenever the going is tough. The answer to the question of how you should react is that you react without favour, affection, malice or ill will. That really means impartiality.
I do not quarrel at all with the wording of the amendment. Upholding the integrity and impartiality of the office is, of course, critical. It is critical today because it is in the public focus; it is always critical at 2 am and 12 pm, as I have just said. I support the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Browning, which refers to,
“the effective exercise of the functions of the police”.
From my point of view, the effective exercise of functions embodies, among other things, the fact that you will act impartially and according to the oath of office which binds you when you are in the police.
I suppose what I am saying, in an effort to be helpful, is that I do not quarrel at all with the wording of Amendment 3, but I have spoken on several occasions in your Lordships' House in Committee and on Report about the risk of being overprescriptive. I do not think this is overprescriptive; it spells out in greater detail what the words “effective exercise of functions” mean. For my money, I am happy to stick with the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Browning, because, as I have said—I will not repeat myself at length—it encompasses not only the words of Polonius to his son, but, much more importantly, the wording of the oath of office. As I say, I do not quarrel with the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, the wording of which is admirable, but I think that it is encompassed by the wording of the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Browning.
My Lords, the problem with the proposition advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Dear, is that the government amendment is strictly related to the person and role of a single individual—the police commissioner. It seems to imply that it is necessary to direct the panel to support the police commissioner in the exercise of his functions as if that was an overriding consideration whereas, of course, the overriding consideration is the functioning of the police service. That is what is encompassed in the amendment of my noble friend Lord Hunt. I am surprised that the Government felt it necessary to produce the amendment in the terms that they have. It seems to see the role of the police and crime panel as the police and crime commissioner’s little helpers who are there to support him in the exercise of his functions.
Given that this is a political role, the implications around supporting the commissioner in the exercise of those functions—for example, in the run-up to an election for a police commissioner—are rather disturbing. Are we to see the police and crime panel accompanying a future Mayor of London on another occasion when the police make an early-morning arrest? Are we to have a latter-day repetition of the siege of Sidney Street, not just with an individual—the Home Secretary was involved in the Sidney Street affair—but with a police commissioner, accompanied by the police and crime panel effectively supporting him in the exercise of his functions? It is rather concerning.
My noble friend referred to the position of the chief constable in these circumstances. Surely he is also entitled, and the police force is entitled, to the support of the police and crime panel in the exercise of its functions, not simply those of the commissioner. Given that it is possible to envisage circumstances in which, in an election for a police and crime commissioner, one of the platforms of a candidate might be a wholesale criticism of the existing chief constable and an implicit threat that he might be replaced, what is the position then of the police and crime panel as regards that person being elected? The Government need to reconsider this provision very carefully. My noble friend’s amendment pitches the support where it is needed—for the police force as a whole, not for an individual, be it either the chief constable or the police and crime commissioner. That seems much the preferable course. There is an implicit danger in the Government’s amendment. I hope that on reflection they will accept that my noble friend’s amendment achieves what is probably the Government’s intention, but which might be frustrated in practice given the politicisation of the role which is being created.
My Lords, my noble friends on the Front Bench will be relieved to hear that I do not rise to support Amendment 3, particularly in the light of the wise words of the noble Lord, Lord Dear. Even as the person in this House who probably has more experience of business management than any other noble Lord, I do not have an answer to the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey. However, I know that if there is sufficient consensus about the need to do something different, a way to do it can usually be found. I hope that that will be borne in mind.
My main purpose in rising is to support my three noble friends from this side who have made three basic points. Can this Bill possibly have taken into account what has happened in the past two weeks? The answer is clearly no. Do these amendments, or anything in the Bill, take account of those developments? The answer, presumably, is no. Do I think that we should make a lot of trouble today as a result? My noble friends will be relieved to hear that my answer is no. However, the Government now have at least seven weeks to think further in the light of what the Commons thinks about our amendments. They should use that time to consider whether what is now in the Bill is entirely appropriate given the recent experience which has not yet been fully digested or taken into account. I hope that my noble friend will at least be able to give me an assurance that that is not ruled out.
My Lords, I support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt. We have to revert to what is happening to policing at present. We cannot make decisions without focusing on those issues. As I have said previously, the reality is that the police are fighting many battles on many fronts, particularly in the context of terrorism and organised crime. We have very serious problems internationally, but more than that the police are operating in a context of serious economic instability across the world. We all know that the almost inevitable effect of economic instability is a rise in the levels of crime. Opportunities are presented by this situation, which exists not just in the United Kingdom but in other countries. The questions around the model of a police and crime commissioner on which the Government are clearly set, which is based on the United States model but does not have the protections afforded by that model, are not answered by the amendments which the Government have tabled. Such a model will inevitably cause problems such as have been experienced in the United States where chiefs are sacked by mayors at regular intervals. This is accepted as a political reality. They then move from major city to major city to run other forces, which leads to huge instability.
The reality for the people, too, will be that if a Tory, Labour or Lib Dem police and crime commissioner is elected, there will inevitably be a perception among the public that the policing will be delivered in accordance with that party’s policy. No matter what you try to tell them, that will be the perception. That perception will inevitably lead to distrust in some areas of the country. There is a very clear need to focus on the issues raised in the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, and in particular to place a statutory obligation on police and crime panels to focus on integrity and impartiality.
My Lords, I will speak in a moment on Amendments 2 and 3, but I would like to speak briefly to Amendment 13, which stands in the names of my noble friend Lady Hamwee and myself. This relates to the checks and balances which are, in theory, to be strict; it also relates to the substitution of or deputising for any member who is unable to attend a meeting of the panel, and to the quorum and the need to define the quorum required for a meeting of the panel actually to be held. There are important reasons why this matters.
At Report, my noble friend the Minister said that substitutes would be permitted at meetings of the panel. I seek further clarification as to exactly how this is going to be done, because it matters. In terms of the two-thirds of the membership of the panel having the power to veto appointment of a chief constable or the precept, then who attends the meeting and what the quorum is matter: these points become material. One has to maximise the number of people who can attend, and if a member of the panel cannot attend then the Bill should state who would be permitted to attend that meeting of the panel on behalf of that same local authority. Also, as there will be decisions to be made which do not require a two-thirds majority but nevertheless will be decided after debate on a simple majority basis, how many people are required to attend the meeting to make it valid seems to be highly material. I am looking for further clarification about this matter from my noble friend the Minister because we see it as being very much part of the checks and balances on the police and crime commissioner, without which it is not clear that those checks and balances would function correctly.
I turn to Amendments 2 and 3 briefly, because there has been a very good and helpful debate on this matter. As someone who has listened to that debate, it seems to me that the two amendments are not incompatible, but there are differences between them. It would be very helpful if my noble friend the Minister could take those two amendments away and see if they could be redrafted in a way which would meet the requirements and wishes of all sides of your Lordships’ House. It seems now that there is an opportunity for this to be done.
My Lords, I will speak extremely briefly—I realise that we have had a good debate on this. I wish to respond to the noble Lord, Lord Dear. It seems that the difference between these two amendments goes to the heart of the issue of corporate governance.
The first amendment, tabled by the Government, is very much in line with the Government’s model that the panel scrutinises the commissioner and the commissioner scrutinises the police. That is the Government’s model, and I have understood that right the way through. What my noble friend’s amendment tries to do is to develop a more corporate approach to try and give the panel more input, and therefore to have a more corporate approach as between the panel and the commissioner in scrutinising the police. That is the intent of the amendment, and that is a big, fundamental difference. While I accept all the points about the need in the future particularly for chief officers to have more support—and this will come out in later amendments—good governance structures need to be in place: that is fundamental. If we are going to make changes in policing, good governance structures have to underpin those changes. At the moment, those structures are not there. That is one of the problems that we have.
I support all noble Lords who have said, let the Government take the summer to look at this. That is absolutely right, but my point is that it is going to take a fundamental re-look at things. As long as the Government’s model gives one politician on a party political ticket such huge influence over policing—one person, without good governance structures in place—grave concerns are going to remain. That is the fundamental issue. While I therefore support all attempts to try and get the Government to look at this again, unless the model is changed fundamentally those central concerns will remain. That needs to be put on the record, because it is the big difference between these two amendments.
My Lords, the Government are clearly reflecting on the events of the past few days—that is what the Statement which will follow Third Reading will seek to address, as of course did the Home Secretary’s Statement which was read in this House on Monday. We have had a detailed analysis of the Bill, but I am not at this stage going to pre-empt what the other place will make of the changes that this House has made.
The noble Baroness, Lady Henig, has just outlined a very potted version of the Government’s plan. It might be helpful at this stage if I reiterate what was said at the beginning of Committee stage; although it was refuted around the House when I said it, I believe that there is greater clarity in this matter now. While we have police forces up and down the country who we all would want to pay tribute to in the work that they do, there has for some time, as our research which I shared with the House in Committee has shown, been a belief among the general public that local police forces should be held to account. We believe that in order for them to be held to account, the public—who have not been mentioned very much so far—should be given the right to elect the person on their behalf who will hold the local police chief constable to account. I give way.
I am sorry to interrupt the Minister so early on, but will she not acknowledge that when the public were polled on whether they wanted that accountability to be exercised through a party politically elected individual, they overwhelmingly said they did not? Over 70 per cent said they did not want a party political person having that sort of power. They wanted somebody who was accountable, but not somebody elected on a party political ticket. More than one poll came out with that finding. Will the Minister acknowledge that?
The noble Baroness and I have, in the course of our debates and deliberations, exchanged stats on various polls. Certainly, the Bill has sought at all stages to strengthen that accountability of the PCC, and I am very grateful to Members on all sides of the House in this. In particular, we have brought forward amendments at Report stage which strengthen the panel, so that the PCC can be held to account, but in turn the public hold the PCC to account.
I believe that the events of recent weeks go to show how ineffective the present governance system is in robustly holding the police to account. If anything, I believe that it goes to show how important these reforms are—something that I realise from the body language opposite me is not agreed—but none the less I believe that is the case. Of course, the serious events that have been before both Houses in the last week or two were not known at the time that the Bill was drafted, but the Bill itself will seek to restore that public confidence in the police, a confidence that has been rocked to its foundations. Only a police service that is reactive to public concerns and held to account democratically will address the deficit.
I come to some points that have been raised here, and particularly in respect of the Metropolitan Police. Noble Lords will know that I am a Home Office Minister. I cannot, and it would not be appropriate for me to feel I had to, answer for the Mayor of London; I am quite sure that he is robust enough to answer any criticisms for himself. However, it would reflect very badly on the police and crime commissioner—
I apologise for interrupting the Minister, but will she explain, if she can, the inadequacies of the present system? My understanding is that under the present system in London there is an elected mayor.
The noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan, is quite right, there is an elected mayor; but we are making some changes. PCCs will be elected around the country, and the mayor is elected, but the MPA is still in place, as it always has been, in its current form. The Bill makes some changes to that structure.
I knew that I was going to provoke the noble Lord.
I am grateful to the noble Baroness for giving way. However, the changes that she is introducing will provide less oversight by the mayor and the MOPC than currently exists through the structure with the mayor and the Metropolitan Police Authority.
My Lords, I am sure that I do not need to remind the noble Lord and the House that he is a Home Secretary-appointment to the MPA and, as I understand it, at the moment he is in charge. I am not being personal—I am saying this in general terms—but clearly the current system is not working. We have seen that in the seriousness of what happened in the Met and what is continuing to be investigated there.
Having served 20 years as a Member of Parliament, I raised concerns which I knew were shared by many people. I did so not as a reflection on the individual police force that covered the constituency that I represented; the force worked very hard and there were some very good people in it. Over the years, however, there has been what I can only describe as a public perception of creep, whereby law-abiding people who bring up their children to respect the police and the law have increasingly had an underlying feeling that, at times, the police are not on their side. There are lots of reasons for that and we could have a lot of debate about it. I see the noble Lord nodding. It is something that I have raised with chief officers as a Member of Parliament.
It is a very dangerous thing if what I might call middle England, for want of a better expression, start to believe that the police are not on their side, or that when something happens to them, often for the first time in their lives, as far as law and order is concerned, they do not feel that it is even worth picking up the phone to report it because they have a preconceived idea of what the response will be. That sort of creep—and I can only describe it as creep—is something that concerned me for many years as a Member of Parliament. I know from discussions with others that that is not an isolated case. It is very dangerous if, having had policing by consent for generations, we suddenly have an emerging generation—although it goes across the age spectrum—who do not have that confidence in the police. It is not about individual officers or chief officers but is about the way in which structures have been introduced and developed and about governance. That governance needs to change, and this is the Bill that will change it . I give way again to the noble Baroness.
I have listened with great care to what the Minister has been saying. However, given that more than 60 per cent of the public still have confidence in the police, as against 18 per cent who have confidence in politicians, is the right answer to have directly elected party politicians bearing down on chief constables?
My Lords, there is absolutely no guarantee that PCCs will necessarily be party politicians—although they can be, of course. I think that it would be welcome on all sides of the House to get the best person for the job regardless of party. That is what people have usually looked for in jobs such as this across the public sector. Many people in this House will have had very responsible jobs in public office and I hope that no one in this House would suggest that the only reason why they held those jobs was their party political allegiances. I have to say that this also applies to Members of Parliament—yes, there is a lot of party political cut and thrust, but I hope that all colleagues in this House who have formerly been Members of Parliament would agree with me that once you are elected you represent everyone in your constituency. As a Member of Parliament—apart from when you are actually at the other end of the corridor, and I see a few noble Lords nodding—once the election is over, you put party politics to one side in order to take on your responsibilities for a whole constituency. That applies across the public sector when people are elected or appointed to a post. I would hope that, regardless of party politics, people will step up to the plate to take on a public office of this level of importance.
I turn now to the opposition amendments. Amendment 3, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, seeks to alter the government amendment providing for the panel to exercise its functions in support of the commissioner. Instead, it would give the panel a more direct role in the performance of the force. The Government listened to the concerns of noble Lords across the House in Committee and in meetings which I held outside the Chamber about the panel not doing battle with the commissioner and about the panel having a supportive role in addition to the role set out in the Bill. At Report we tabled an amendment to that effect. I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Dear, for speaking to this group of amendments and reminding the House of the oath that constables take, which is at the forefront of their minds. That was so well explained—far better than I could have done—and I am grateful to him.
The Government’s amendment sends out a clear message that we expect the relationship between the PCP and the commissioner to be one in which both parties work towards the mutual aim of providing the best service to the public. The amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, and the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham—who also spoke to it—would substitute the Government’s provision with one where the panel is responsible directly for the performance of the police force. As already discussed during our debates, the Government’s model provides for direct accountability from the chief constable to the police and crime commissioner for the performance of the force. The commissioner is then, in turn, directly accountable to the public. To give the panel the role that noble Lords suggest would confuse these clear lines of accountability.
My Lords, perhaps I may ask the Minister a question on that before she moves on. It may be another way of putting the point that the noble Lord, Lord Dear, has made. I absolutely take the point about the deletion of the words,
“supporting the … exercise of the functions of the police and crime commissioner”.
That is something that I was concerned about myself. Can the Minister tell the House how we can read into the Bill the points about integrity, impartiality and so on which are clearly exercising the House? If they are not expressed in the Bill they may well be implied, either through the implied reference to the oath or through some other mechanism. Perhaps at the end of her speech she will be able to assist us on how we can understand that.
I am grateful to my noble friend because I was about to turn to the amendment that she and my noble friend Lord Shipley tabled.
The intention of Amendment 13 is for panels to include specific provision in their arrangements for substitutes or deputies where a panel member cannot attend proceedings, and provision for the quorum for a meeting of the panel. This was an issue discussed during Report stage. Your Lordships will recall that during that debate I stated that provision for substitutes or deputies for the panel's vote on the precept and the appointment of the chief constable could be included in the regulations dealing with those specific procedures. We will consider using these powers with partners should we feel that they are necessary, but we start from the position—and I hope that noble Lords will agree—that the authorities around the PCP table are responsible bodies that will take their statutory duties seriously and ensure that their rules and procedures more broadly cover this ground.
As to the veto, we have the power to intervene and regulate on this should we feel it necessary. There is also general provision in the Bill for panels to make their own rules of procedure, including rules on the method of making decisions. That is the mechanism for panels to make their own rules on matters such as a quorum. We start from that point but, none the less, I am happy to say to noble Lords that we will look at this in regulations if it is felt that changes are needed.
Is it the intention that regulations may be made to enable substitutes to attend meetings that are discussing matters other than the veto on the appointment of a chief constable and on the precept?
I understand that point and it is certainly something that we will look at in terms of regulations. At the moment, I cannot say how that will be described.
Perhaps I may come back to my noble friend Lady Hamwee’s point and concerns. I have to say to my noble friend that we feel that the Bill as drafted and amended provides the checks and balances that she is asking for.
I am extremely puzzled. In my reading of the Bill as amended on Report, these words already appear. If I turn to page 20—
Did the noble Lord say 20 or 22?
I think that it has been cleared up. As printed, the Bill contains an error, because the wording of her amendment appears in the Bill. The people who dealt with it anticipated that the noble Baroness would move the amendment on Report. I gather that there is a correcting sheet, which none of us seems to have, pointing that out. I have cleared it up to my own satisfaction, if no one else’s.
My Lords, between us the noble Lord and I make a great team. I was concluding my remarks to my noble friend Lady Hamwee. I know that she will find this a disappointing answer, but we believe that her concerns are addressed in the Bill.
Amendment 1 agreed.
Clause 29 : Police and crime panels outside London
2: Clause 29, page 22, line 16, at end insert—
“( ) The functions of the police and crime panel for a police area must be exercised with a view to supporting the effective exercise of the functions of the police and crime commissioner for that area.”
I beg to move.
Amendment 3 (to Amendment 2)
3: Clause 29, line 3, leave out “supporting the effective exercise of the functions of the police and crime commissioner for that” and insert “upholding the integrity, impartiality and effectiveness of the police force for that police”
My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate. I will briefly respond to the noble Baroness. She said that the system is not currently working in London, but what I take from the current debacle is the dangerous cocktail of politics and policing being mixed together. She has not answered the specific concern of the current mayor, who is shortly to work with the third commissioner so far in his single term of office. My concern is that in order to deal with an issue of accountability, the architecture of the Bill brings with it many perverse incentives.
I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way; I did not pick up on this point. I would point out that, despite perceptions, the current mayor has not fired anyone and does not currently have the power to do so. It is the Metropolitan Police Authority that has the power to dismiss the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. It was suggested that the mayor was responsible for the resignation of Sir Paul Stephenson, but that is definitely not the case, as was said both in his evidence yesterday to the Home Affairs Committee and in other statements.
My Lords, I did not say that he was responsible. I indicated that he apparently supported the suggestion that Sir Paul Stephenson should resign. From what I understand, the mayor said that he did not oppose the offer to resign by those two people. In the case of Ian Blair it was different.
The House would not want us to go into the details of the resignations of commissioners. What is clear is that the mayor has had an influence. It shows quite clearly the risks of having party politicians so directly involved. The noble Baroness says that there may not be party politicians elected to these posts, and of course that may be true. I suspect, however, that in the 42 police areas that we are concerned about in my amendment, the great majority will have political labels. We would expect them to carry out their duties without fear or favour but many of those people will be seeking re-election. The point is that their activities will be coloured by wishing to seek re-election.
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Dear, that to be a chief officer of police is a lonely business at any time. While I certainly believe chief constables need to be held to account, they also need support. My concern is that elected police commissioners will not be in a position to give the kind of support that is necessary to officers who have to bear those heady responsibilities.
The noble Lords, Lord Cormack and Lord Newton, made very important points and asked the Government to reflect. It may be that in the Statement to come we will hear a little more about how the Government will reflect. I hope that they do. Ping-pong can be flexible but there are limits. The best way to ensure that the other place and the Government properly consider the issues surrounding the responsibilities of police and crime panels is to send my amendment back to the Commons; it will then put the issue in play.
I do not agree with the noble Baroness that my amendment takes the PCP beyond its current responsibilities into direct intervention. No, it gives strong signals to the police and crime panel about the impartiality and integrity of the police force. They are there to scrutinise through the police and crime commissioner. That would be a very important signal for this House to give. I beg to move.
Amendment 2 agreed.
4: After Clause 48, insert the following new Clause—
“Role of Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime in appointments
The Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis shall ensure that the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime shall have the opportunity to interview all candidates being considered for appointment under sections 46, 47 and 48 and to make recommendations to him about such candidates before he consults the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime in accordance with sections 46(2), 47(2) and 48(2).”
My Lords, a few minutes ago, the noble Baroness talked about the current system in London not working. By implication, she was suggesting that if the Bill were to pass, the arrangements for the accountability and governance of the police would be stronger in London than they are at the moment. However, in practice, the Government are weakening the arrangements in London. They are providing the Mayor and the MOPC with fewer powers in terms of control and governance over the police service in London, which I assume is not the Government's intention. The purpose of my modest amendment is to require that the MOPC is given the opportunity to interview candidates for appointment as a commander, deputy assistant commissioner or assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. It does not take the final decision away from the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis; it leaves it there.
On Report, I made my view clear that in an ideal world there should be a joint recommendation on the appointment of the Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis from the mayor and from the Home Secretary. It would continue to be a royal appointment, a fact that the Government and those former Commissioners of the Metropolitan Police to whom I have spoken feel is important. However, this amendment does not change that. What it does do is to give a significant, though not a decisive, role on appointments slightly below that level, down to the level of commander of the Metropolitan Police, to the MOPC. It would give an opportunity to advise on the basis of having seen the candidates concerned and for that advice then to be considered by the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis before a final appointment is made and before the final consultation processes take place.
I am aware that the mayor’s office in London has made very strong representations to the Government. Indeed, as recently as earlier this week—I believe on Monday—the chair of the MPA and London’s deputy mayor for policing wrote to Theresa May, the Home Secretary, with a copy to the Prime Minister in which he reiterated the concerns of the mayor’s office in London:
“The Mayor and I have deep concerns regarding the proposed future lack of MOPC involvement in MPS officer appointments, and conduct matters in addition, according to the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act. The Bill will remove the role of the governing body in appointment of all ACPO officers”.
That is as clear a statement as you can find that the new arrangements being proposed by the Government will reduce the mechanisms by which the mayor’s office in London holds the police service accountable. The statement continues:
“As I have communicated to you previously, the Mayor and I feel strongly”.
The Government are saying that in London there will be fewer levers, fewer controls and fewer powers for the system that governs the Metropolitan Police. This is at a time when the Government tell us that they want to strengthen those accountability mechanisms. This is at a time when the Government tell us that the current arrangements are not working in London and by implication they ought to be strengthened. This is a time, incidentally, when there is a Conservative Mayor of London. You would have thought that the Government would have the utmost confidence in that person’s ability to take on those functions in an appropriate way; but no. What the Government are doing is taking away even those very limited powers that currently exist and giving them to the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis.
I find the approach that is being taken here quite extraordinary. In quieter times, before the events of the last few weeks, the arrangements in London, where there is a directly elected mayor for the whole city, were being held up to us as being the beacon that was guiding this entire piece of legislation; yet now we are being told that those arrangements are inadequate. However, instead of the arrangements and the responsibilities of the mayor’s office being strengthened, they are being weakened by this Bill.
On Report, I challenged the Minister to give me one instance in this Bill where the new structures will have more responsibility than the current structures have over the Metropolitan Police; I received no answer. The reason I received no answer is because there are no such instances. This Bill weakens the governance arrangements in London.
I think we understand, given the national responsibilities currently held by the Metropolitan Police, why the Home Office has to be involved in the appointment of the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis. I think we understand the historic reasons why it is important that that appointment be a royal one, but in circumstances where every other elected police and crime commissioner will have at least the power of appointment of the chief officer of police—assuming that the Government restore that measure to the Bill, as the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, hinted that they might consider doing. However, in London, even though an assistant commissioner has the equivalent rank to a chief constable outside London, the mayor’s office will have no involvement other than the right to be consulted. I suggest that this is a diminution of the powers which is extremely unfortunate.
I know that one reason the Government have taken this stance is the desire of the outgoing Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis that he should have control over all appointments of his senior team. No one is suggesting that the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis should not be able to decide how he wants deploy his senior team, but I question whether it is sensible that those appointments are made simply by that one individual in these circumstances.
During my time on the Metropolitan Police Authority, for four years I chaired every appointments panel for officers above the rank of chief superintendent. In the subsequent seven years, I sat on virtually all the appointments panels for deputy assistant commissioners and above. There have been one or two instances of disagreements between the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis and the appointments panel of the Metropolitan Police Authority. Usually the Metropolitan Police Authority panel has deferred to the preferences expressed, if they have been expressed clearly, by the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis or his representatives. In a number of instances—it is probably inappropriate for me to give any details—that decision has been against the better judgment of the panel of the Metropolitan Police Authority. In those instances, that better judgment has proved to be right and the strongly held view expressed by the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis was in fact wrong. Therefore, I do not think it is sensible to have an arrangement whereby you are preventing or not requiring the MOPC to have a direct involvement and to have at least the opportunity to interview the candidates so that there can be a dialogue or a consultation with the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis on the basis of detailed information about the strengths and weaknesses of various candidates. I do not think it is sensible even in the terms of what the Government are doing in trying to have a transparent system where the elected representative of the people is seen to be having a decisive role in the governance of policing. I think the way in which the Bill is drafted is a mistake. Unless it is rectified at this stage, I suspect that we will rue the consequences in the future. I beg to move.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, described his amendment as modest. I have often heard him describe his amendments as modest, although I have not necessarily agreed with him. However, this amendment is about no more than making recommendations. If the Minister is minded to resist, can she explain to the House how that squares with the amendment that we have just made to the Bill about supporting the effective exercise of the functions?
My Lords, as my noble friend Lord Harris of Haringey stated, his amendment provides that no person shall be appointed as an assistant commissioner, deputy assistant commissioner or commander by the commissioner of police without the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime having the opportunity to interview all candidates being considered for appointment and without the mayor’s office having the opportunity to make recommendations to the commissioner before the commissioner consults the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime.
The amendment addresses 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 a Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis should only have to consult the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime before making appointments to senior posts without the mayor’s office having a proper opportunity to assess all candidates for such positions and make recommendations to the commissioner of police.
The Government see police and crime commissioners as being key players in the future in increasing public accountability for policing, including strategy, and making it clear where responsibility lies. The Mayor of London already has overall responsibility for policing in the metropolis—albeit he does not have time to carry out this role, so he has in effect handed it on to someone not directly elected to carry that responsibility. However, if the intention is that the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime is to be responsible and accountable to the public for policing, then surely it cannot be right that the mayor’s office can find that the commissioner of police has made a series of senior appointments without the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime even seeing the candidates and being in a position to express a view to the commissioner of police.
We have expressed our views on corporation sole in relation to a chief constable, including the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, and the consequent extensive power that it gives the occupants of these posts. The amendment seeks to address one issue of concern—namely, the process for making senior appointments—which arises from the lack of proper checks and balances within the Bill. The amendment is intended to provide a check on the use of the power of Commissioners of Police of the Metropolis in this area of appointments, and it gives a better balance in the appointments process between the commissioner and the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime, while, as my noble friend Lord Harris of Haringey emphasised, still leaving the decision with the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis. We await the Minister’s response with interest.
My Lords, first, I apologise for not being present at the start of the discussion. I was delayed on a train.
I support the amendment. Throughout our discussions on the Bill I have expressed concerns about chief officers being able to appoint their senior team. I realise that the Government have a theoretical model in which a chief officer appoints his team and the chief officer is then responsible to the elected commissioner. There is a purity and simplicity in that approach, but recent events and past history suggest that there is great strength in bringing others into the consideration of and recommendations for chief officer posts. That adds legitimacy and the possibility of national concerns about leadership being incorporated into local decisions. I realise that it challenges some of the purity of the Government’s modelling on this issue but I urge them to think through the notion that no one other than the chief constable or the commissioner should be responsible for these senior appointments other than in an informing role. I think that in the public interest something more than informing is desirable.
My Lords, a key principle underlying the reforms outlined in the Bill is to hand over responsibility for all decisions relating to the running of a police force to the chief constable or, in this case, the commissioner. This includes the selection and appointment of officers for senior posts. The Government believe that these appointments are key to the effective running of the police force and that sole responsibility for decision-making should rest with the commissioner. The commissioner is best placed to identify the mix of skills required by his chief officer team and the areas where he or she feels that the force would benefit from a fresh injection of skills.
In considering the amendment, we also need to bear in mind accountability. The commissioner will be accountable to the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime for the decisions that he takes in running the force. Giving the MOPC the power to make recommendations about which candidates should be appointed as assistant commissioners, deputy assistant commissioners and commanders would, we believe, blur that line of accountability.
I appreciate that the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Harris, does not compromise the ultimate decision sitting with the commissioner but we need to appreciate that the closer the MOPC is to these appointments, the harder it becomes for the MOPC to hold the commissioner to account for his or her senior team, otherwise we run the risk of the MOPC not being able to hold the commissioner to account because he is too closely involved in the appointment of individuals to these ranks and because the commissioner regards the MOPC as being jointly responsible for their appointment. We want accountability to be clear and therefore robust. Although I appreciate the intention behind the amendment, I fear that it may tie the hands of the MOPC unintentionally in the future rather than increase its powers of accountability.
The Bill makes provision for the commissioner to consult the MOPC prior to appointment. Clauses 46, 47 and 48 make that clear. The commissioner must consult the MOPC prior to the appointment of an assistant commissioner, a deputy assistant commissioner and a commander. I therefore ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, suggested that I sometimes describe amendments as modest when they are rather less than that. The reason I described this amendment as modest is that it falls a long way short of what I think is necessary. However, perhaps unlike the Government, I am prepared to compromise on some issues in the Bill, which is why I put forward this amendment. It simply enables the MOPC to interview the candidates and then to make a recommendation to the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis before the final decision is taken and the final consultations take place.
The Minister’s response suggested that being jointly involved in appointments would tie the hands of the MOPC in the future and minimise accountability. However, I suggest that she looks again at the terms of the amendment. It does not create a system of joint appointment; it leaves that appointment in the hands of the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis. It simply enables the MOPC to have an informed dialogue with the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis about the candidates who are being considered. This is about enabling the MOPC to do the office’s job properly and effectively.
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Condon, for his support. We never worked together in terms of the Metropolitan Police Authority because he had retired as commissioner before I became involved at that level. However, his points about why this is an important safeguard for the integrity and position of chief officers of police are extremely important, and, again, I would have hoped the Government would have listened to them.
I can only conclude that what we are being told now is that a Conservative-led Government do not trust a Conservative Mayor of London with these powers. I am aware that the popular press—in so far as one can refer to them in that way in these strange days—suggest that there is an air of rivalry between the Prime Minister and the Mayor of London, or perhaps rivalry between the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Mayor of London, over the succession to the Prime Minister. I hope that that is not the motivating factor here. I suspect that the reality is that the Government have not thought this through. They claim that the model in London is the model that they want to create elsewhere in the country, but they will weaken the powers of governance of the mayor and the MOPC even below the level that currently exists with the Metropolitan Police Authority and the mayor, a model which the Minister said only a few minutes ago was not working.
As I think that the Government have got this so wrong, I wish to test the opinion of the House.
Clause 59 : Power to make provision about elections etc
5: Clause 59, page 39, line 13, leave out “of political parties in connection with” and insert “or other recognition of political parties and other persons incurring expenditure in relation to”
My Lords, Amendments 5, 6 and 7 change the powers of the Secretary of State to make secondary legislation in relation to elections. The Bill, as currently drafted, allows provision to be made about the registration of political parties, candidates’ spending limits and spending limits for political parties. Amendments 5 and 6 amend those powers to ensure that the Secretary of State can make provision about all these matters, but can also make provision, as in the case of other elections, in relation to other or third parties who may incur expenditure campaigning for or against a specific candidate or more widely.
Your Lordships will recall that my noble friend Lady Hamwee brought forward amendments in this area on Report, which I committed to consider. I am grateful to my noble friend for raising these important points. Secondary legislation to be made under Clause 59 would have already restricted what candidates and political parties could spend in those elections. Noble Lords will appreciate that the spending of organisations that campaign during elections, but that are not themselves fielding candidates, can greatly affect the result of a poll, even if they are not explicitly supporting a specific candidate. It is important that we are clear that the Bill will allow for that. It is usual in elections for such spend to be regulated and PCP elections should not be an exception. The amendments are necessary to ensure that the powers of the Secretary of State are sufficient to achieve that regulation. I hope that my noble friend Lady Hamwee will agree that they achieve the same end as her amendments on Report. I beg to move.
I am grateful to my noble friend, and I think we should all be grateful to the Electoral Commission, for taking such an eagle-eyed interest in and concern for the Bill. I am perfectly happy to accept that parliamentary counsel’s drafting achieves ends that I could only describe in a narrative kind of way.
Amendment 5 agreed.
Amendments 6 and 7
6: Clause 59, page 39, line 15, leave out paragraphs (d) and (e) and insert—
“(d) about funding and expenditure, in relation to elections of police and crime commissioners, of candidates, political parties and other persons incurring such expenditure;”
7: Clause 59, page 39, line 29, at end insert—
“( ) Provision within paragraph (d) of subsection (2) includes, in particular—
(a) provision prohibiting, or imposing limitations on, funding or expenditure of any kind mentioned in that paragraph, and(b) provision for treating funding or expenditure of any such kind which does not relate exclusively to an election of police and crime commissioners as being (or not being), wholly or partly, funding or expenditure in relation to which—(i) any provision within paragraph (a) applies, or(ii) any relevant provision applies.”
Amendments 6 and 7 agreed.
Clause 63 : Appointment of acting commissioner
8: Clause 63, page 41, line 29, leave out subsection (2) and insert—
“( ) The panel may only appoint a person under subsection (1) if that person is—
(a) a member of that police and crime panel; and(b) a member of the relevant local authority.( ) In appointing an acting police and crime commissioner under subsection (1), the relevant police and crime panel must stipulate the maximum length of time that the person may hold that position.”
My Lords, we come to a matter which has been discussed both in Committee and on Report. This relates to the proposal in the Bill that, if for whatever reason the police and crime commissioner has to give up office or is indisposed, the police and crime panel can appoint an acting police and crime commissioner who shall be a member of the staff of the police and crime commissioner. Noble Lords will know that I have been very concerned about the possibility of a staff member of the police and crime commissioner assuming such great responsibility. The noble Baroness said that she was still considering this matter, and that we could bring it back at Third Reading. I am hopeful that she will be able to accept my amendment, which ensures that the acting police and crime commissioner has to be a member of the panel and an elected politician. This follows on from the amendment that the noble Baroness moved at Report, which allows for independents to be appointed to police and crime panels. I do not think it appropriate for those people to become acting police and crime commissioners, which is why I have drafted the amendment in this way.
If I may say so, this is meant as a helpful amendment, to find a way through. I have detected some considerable support around the House for my view that it is not right for a staff member to assume such great responsibilities, including issues around the hire and fire of chief constables, in my understanding, and the precept. Surely it is better that an elected politician member of a police and crime panel fulfils that role. I beg to move.
My Lords, I want to say a few words in support of this amendment. I find it completely incomprehensible that anyone would think that it was acceptable to put a politically restricted person in charge of making political decisions, which is the effect of the current proposals relating to deputy and acting PCCs in this Bill. Quite apart from the fact that this would give such a person an impossible technical conundrum to resolve—because a politically restricted person must be politically neutral, and therefore cannot by definition make political decisions—it completely undermines the Government’s own arguments about greater public accountability. It is particularly important that an acting PCC must be able to make decisions as if he or she were the PCC. This includes the key decision about what precept to set if the PCC is absent at that particular time of the year. The PCC’s office cannot not make a decision about this, whether or not the PCC is present, because the police service would be missing up to half its funding the following year if this was so. Not for the first time, I have thought that we were creating an Alice in Wonderland world in this Bill—it is all somehow upside-down.
It is clear to me that an acting PCC cannot be politically restricted. That means that an acting PCC cannot be drawn from the members of the PCC’s staff—which bizarrely now include the deputy PCC, although that is another issue. The obvious place to look is therefore among the members of the police and crime panel, and particularly among the elected members of the panel, if we are serious about a commitment to democracy and accountability. This is exactly what the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, stipulates, and I am very happy to support it.
My Lords, at the last stage, both the noble Lord, Lord Boswell of Aynho, and I made rather impromptu suggestions about other possibilities which the Government might look at. Mine was that the commissioner should make the choice, because it seemed to me that there would be a logic in that. I hope that the noble Baroness, who sounded very open to the different possibilities, might be able to respond to the menu that was suggested last time. However, I retain my concern about it being proper that the person who acts up is a person who has been elected. I do not think that the fact that the appointment is made by the panel meets the concerns; it is the object of the appointment that I am concerned about. Indeed, there is almost an irony in suggesting that the appointment is made by the panel—the elected people—as the logic of the Government’s model is that the commissioner is an elected person. I hope that the Minister can help find a way through this.
My Lords, this amendment, as with similar amendments at Report stage, seeks to secure the appointment of an acting PCC from the police and crime panel rather than the PCC staff. I want to make it clear that the Government accept that this is a important area and one that we must get right. I am aware that the Opposition disagree with the Government’s proposals, but I continue to believe that the alternative put forward is not the answer. Our objective is simple—we agree that the acting PCC must be underpinned by a mandate from the people to act. The point is that, true to democratic principles, this mandate must be what the people have voted for in that force area. The opposition amendment would replace one elected mandate—the legitimate one that brought the PCC into power—with another that may be completely different and at odds with that of the PCC.
I accept that a member of the PCC staff does not have a direct mandate. They are there to help deliver the PCC’s police and crime plan. We have ensured that they cannot amend this while doing their caretaker role—this will ensure that the mandate of the PCC and the public’s will is maintained. Maintaining the PCC mandate intact is important—delivering on an elected mandate is what democracy is all about, and there are also practical implications. As I have pointed out at previous stages in the Bill, we do not want another local politician, with possibly a different agenda, to take the reins and take the police force in a different direction. We believe that this is not a good proposal. There is a fundamental difference in our approach to this—we see the acting PCC role as a caretaker role and nothing else; it seems that the Opposition see the acting PCC as more than this. Given the direct mandate of the PCC and the fact that the acting PCC should be a temporary measure, I cannot agree. We cannot hand the office of PCC to somebody who will likely seek to take the force in a different direction without a mandate.
This was debated on Report, when the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, in particular made the point that there are no other examples of an unelected person setting a precept. It is important to note here that the acting PCC is hardly acting completely unchecked. First, the PCP has a veto in this area; and, ultimately, should the precept remain excessive, it will be subject to a referendum.
I will finish on how this is all likely to work in practice—after all, this is what matters. As noble Lords know, the Government introduced an amendment to allow PCCs to establish deputies. In reality, we envisage that the PCP will appoint the deputy as the acting PCC. Given the debate thus far on the need to ensure the PCC has sufficient powers, noble Lords will see that we have left it to the PCP to decide which members of the PCC staff should be appointed in the circumstances and at that time. I believe that this satisfies the democratic need in this area and I ask that the amendment is withdrawn.
Before the Minister sits down, I ask her to clarify whether the post of deputy will be a politically restricted post. There was some discussion on this and I did ask a question about it at the last stage, but I do not think it has been clarified.
The answer is no. I have also been informed that the relevant provision is paragraph 199 of Schedule 16, if the noble Baroness wishes to look at it.
My Lords, I do not claim my amendment is ideal but I am trying to put some safeguards into a Bill that I know to be considerably flawed. The noble Baroness says that it would be wrong to replace one mandate by another, on the basis that if the House accepted my amendment and an acting police and crime commissioner had to be appointed, it would be a local authority member on the police and crime panel, and that person therefore would have a different mandate. However, I have always sought to explore how the circumstance would arise in which an acting police and crime commissioner had to be appointed. I do this because you can then see the absurdity of the Government’s position—and it is an absurd position.
Assume that a police and crime commissioner had to step down because that person was unduly and inappropriately interfering in the operational activities of the police and the chief constable. Are we seriously saying that, in those circumstances, that mandate continues—that a member of that person’s staff should be the acting commissioner, able to set a precept? The credibility of such a person would be shot to pieces. The naivety coming from the Government on this just amazes me. Do they not understand that they are creating a situation where it is almost inevitable that some of these elected police and crime commissioners will act wholly inappropriately in interfering in police activities? If only the Government would just pause to reflect on this. In those circumstances, a member of the police and crime commissioner’s staff would, up to a point, undermine confidence in the police. I am very sorry that the noble Baroness is not going to accept my amendment and I wish to test the opinion of the House.
9: After Clause 79, insert the following new Clause—
(1) The Secretary of State must issue a policing protocol.
(2) Each relevant person must have regard to the policing protocol in exercising the person’s functions.
(3) The Secretary of State may at any time—
(a) vary the policing protocol, or(b) replace the policing protocol.(4) Before varying or replacing the policing protocol, the Secretary of State must consult—
(a) such persons as appear to the Secretary of State to represent the views of elected local policing bodies,(b) such persons as appear to the Secretary of State to represent the views of chief officers of police of police forces maintained by elected local policing bodies,(c) such persons as appear to the Secretary of State to represent the views of police and crime panels, and(d) such other persons as the Secretary of State thinks fit.(5) The functions of the Secretary of State under subsections (1) and (3) are exercisable by order.
(6) In this section—
“police and crime panel” means—
(a) each police and crime panel established in accordance with Schedule 6 (police areas outside London);(b) the London Assembly’s police and crime panel (see section 33);“policing protocol” means a document which sets out, or otherwise makes provision about, ways in which relevant persons should (in the Secretary of State’s view) exercise, or refrain from exercising, functions so as to—
(a) encourage, maintain or improve working relationships (including co-operative working) between relevant persons, or(b) limit or prevent the overlapping or conflicting exercise of functions;“relevant persons” means—
(a) the Secretary of State in the exercise of policing functions;(b) each elected local policing body;(c) the chief officer of each police force maintained by an elected local policing body;(d) police and crime panels.”
My Lords, the Bill ensures that direction and control of the police force remains with the chief constable and that the functions of PCCs in securing the maintenance of an efficient and effective force and holding the chief constable to account are the same as the functions of the police authorities at present. There is nothing in the Bill that would allow a PCC to compromise the operational independence of the chief constable. However, it is clear to all in the House and in another place, and indeed in the wider policing community, that there remains concern as to how the proposed model of reform will work in practice. These concerns have been heard and noble Lords will be aware that we have been working with our policing partners on a draft protocol that sets out the nature of the relationship between chief constables and PCCs and the delineation of their responsibilities.
We have indicated in the past that we are keeping an open mind as to whether the protocol should be put on a statutory footing. We have considered the current draft of the protocol, the comments made by representatives of the existing policing tripartite during the drafting process and the points raised in the useful debates on this subject in your Lordships’ House. I am also very grateful to noble Lords who have attending meetings with me outside the Chamber specifically to discuss the protocol. We have tabled an amendment requiring the Home Secretary to issue a protocol by statutory instrument that will be subject to parliamentary scrutiny under the negative resolution procedure.
The Home Secretary will be able to vary or replace the protocol once issued but only after consultation with interested parties and any variation or replacement would be scrutinised by Parliament under the same procedure.
Will the noble Baroness reconsider it being under the negative procedure rather than the affirmative procedure?
We considered that because, as I have outlined, there is a structured consultation in respect of the protocol and any amendments to the protocol that may come forward later, but the purpose of this is to put it in the statute for the Secretary of State. We believe that we have got the balance right in terms of parliamentary consideration of it. I beg to move.
Amendment 10 (to Amendment 9)
10: After Clause 79, line 37, at end insert—
“( ) The policing protocol must, in particular, provide that if a chief constable, Commissioner of the Metropolis, or Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolis resigns or is required to resign before the expiry of his term of appointment, HMIC must conduct a review of the reasons for that resignation and publish a report on that review.
( ) In conducting that review, HMIC may call upon the assistance of IPCC, if the reason for the resignation is or appears to be one which is related to the ethical conduct of any party to whom the protocol applies.
( ) A statutory instrument containing an order under this section may not be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament.”
My Lords, Amendment 10 is a very modest amendment, like some of the amendments we have had this morning, but I believe it is a very important amendment in the light of current events. Its purpose is to afford some protection under the proposed protocol to senior officers if they resign prematurely by ensuring that HMIC must conduct a review in these circumstances. The amendment would also ensure that the regulations setting out the protocol would need to follow positive resolution procedures. Given the significant impact regulations could have on the practice and the governance of policing nationally, I believe that this is essential.
I would like to say a few words on why I think this improvement to the Government’s amendment is necessary. I, along with many noble friends and colleagues in the House, have consistently raised concerns about the Bill in a number of key areas. We have already heard about these concerns earlier this morning; concerns about whether these reforms will politicise policing and place too much power in the hands of one person; that we need a more corporate approach with more emphasis on good governance and internal regulation; a desperate need to strengthen checks and balances across the whole Bill; inadequate provisions for conduct and complaints, particularly in relation to commissioners, but also in relation to senior officers. Once chief officers become responsible for appointing and disciplining their own senior team, in my view and in the light of the events of recent days, this is a very serious concern. Things have actually been changed by what has been going on.
I acknowledge that the Government have improved some of the checks and balances while the Bill has been in this House—for instance, around lowering the veto majority required by the panel—and we welcome the progress that has been made. In particular, I welcome the government amendment in relation to the protocol which seeks to provide some rigour around protecting the operational responsibility of chief police officers, although my amendment suggests an improvement to these proposals, prompted by recent events. In any event, the devil will be in the detail of the regulations at the end of the day, but my amendment will ensure that they must at least address situations where the chief officer resigns prematurely. Because the devil will be in the detail, I suggest that the regulations need to be subject to positive resolution procedures in both Houses because this is fundamental to ensuring that operational responsibility is adequately protected.
I echo the comments of many noble Lords and Members of the other place about the long and dedicated service of both Sir Paul Stephenson and John Yates. I mentioned at earlier stages of the Bill that I did not always agree with Sir Paul, but I have always respected and admired his great abilities and his tremendous commitment to policing. He will be a great loss to London and to the service.
The events of the past week have fuelled my great concern about the future of policing and the impact this could have on reducing public confidence in policing as well as creating instability and uncertainty in the police themselves, particularly among senior ranks. Recent events have dramatically illustrated the vulnerability of senior police officers when subject to the control of a single individual elected on a party political ticket, an individual who is used to operating in a very political environment. The fact is that all senior officers at some time or another need support in difficult situations. The noble Lord, Lord Dear, referred to this earlier this morning and it is absolutely the case. Every now and again they need the opportunity to talk things through on a confidential basis. I know for a fact that that has often happened up and down the country with police authority chairs and deputies and, indeed, with independent members of police authorities. The governance structure has given senior police officers the opportunity to talk to and confide in members and that has helped them in doing their job.
It is quite clear from recent events that individuals elected directly to oversee policing will operate completely differently from police authorities under the present governance arrangements. I am not arguing that that may not have many advantages. The Government have argued that they want a new governance structure and I understand what their reasons are. But I want to point out the huge downsides of this new governance structure, because the individuals so elected, the commissioners, will put their own political career prospects and their own survival ahead of any other factor when problems arise. They will ramp up the pressure on senior police officers rather than work with them supportively behind the scenes. It does not matter what protocol you put in place or whether you say, “This is operational but this is not, and you must not cross this line”, ramping up pressure is of a different order entirely. That is what I am so concerned about. It is for that reason that two Metropolitan Police commissioners have gone in the past two and a half years.
My concern is that once this system is extended to the rest of the country without any safeguards, we can predict fairly certainly that the same problems will arise up and down the country. Chief constables will be driven to resign and police and crime commissioners will boast about how tough they are being and play to the media for effect. That will happen; anyone who is a politician knows that.
Another of my worries is that the effect on the public’s trust and confidence in the police will be enormous. I think that their trust and confidence in the police will go down but their trust and confidence in politicians will not go up. That will mean a poisonous outcome of these new governance arrangements that a statutory protocol will not alleviate. Hence my amendment to have resignations thoroughly investigated by the inspectorate and, if necessary, the IPCC so that at least the public can get a clear and dispassionate picture of what the issues and problems are, free from the distortions of the media or of the commissioner’s account. That is what is motivating me in the amendment.
I remind noble Lords, although I am sure that they need no reminding, that the government Benches have consistently claimed that the London pilot model is a pilot of the proposals for the rest of the country. I do not happen to agree with the Government that it is a very good pilot, but the Government have consistently claimed that the proposals are close enough to act as a test bed and that no other pilots are needed because the London model is such a success. After the previous few days, that rings very hollow and worries me enormously. If London is the model for the rest of the country, then what we are seeing now is what we will see writ large over the next few years.
We are seeing the direct consequence of politicising the police. The senior ranks of the Metropolitan Service have felt the need to employ PR and media advisers, for example, in order to do their job in a political environment and to try to cope with political pressures. Do we really want that sort of scenario to be repeated up to 43 times across the rest of the country as the reforms are rolled out? I am sure the Government will tell me that my fears are misplaced, but I am sorry, that is what I am concerned about.
We live in a complex world. The media play an essential role in enhancing the accountability of the police. The police need to have a balanced relationship with the press, to answer their questions and disseminate information. Obviously, they cannot cut ties with the press and still be seen to be accessible and accountable, but we need to spend time getting the relationship right.
I warmly welcome the recent announcement by the Minister, when she repeated the Home Secretary’s Statement to the other place, that a review of this relationship is to be conducted, but surely we must await the outcome of that review before pressing ahead with the reforms in the Bill. Surely it is madness to do otherwise.
I fear that we are heading for a perfect storm of colliding events in the police world. The first of these, as I have just mentioned, will be a combination of the erosion of public confidence in policing as a result of the phone-hacking scandal together with instability and increased uncertainty among senior ranks of the police. This will be combined with unprecedented demand and pressures on the police with the upcoming Olympics; the Jubilee; the implementation of budget cuts that will affect the police directly but also increase demands on them; the changes predicated by the Winsor and Neyroud reviews on leadership; and more changes thorough the demise of the NPIA and the creation of the national crime agency. Is this really the time to be going ahead with all this along with the new governance structure, which, as we all acknowledge, has serious concerns attached to it?
My noble friend Lord Hunt has warned time and again as the Bill has progressed through the House that the Bill is badly thought through and will require the Government to bring in changes within a year or two to correct its errors if it goes ahead. I agree with him. Recent events have shown the cracks and dangers in the Government’s proposed model. Even if some noble Lords do not accept my view that these dangers are pressing, surely we have to take on board the lessons of the reviews and inquiries into the recent scandals—otherwise why have them? Surely we are going to wait to see what they say. Surely we must ensure that these problems that the reviews will bring up are fixed before any new model of policing is considered, because if we do not, the consequences will be severe and disastrous when combined with all the other demands which are coalescing on police resources. Senior police officers deserve a sense of stability and some certainty that they are not going to be asked to fall on their swords to protect their political masters.
I accept that there are some safeguards in the Bill, although in my view they are inadequate if the chief officer is formally required to resign. As the noble Lord, Lord Blair, has pointed out to us many times, there are ways of persuading a chief officer that he should resign voluntarily if a directly elected individual deems that his or her face no longer fits. Chief police officers deserve some certainty about this scenario too. In fact, it is fundamental to a healthy relationship between the commissioner and the chief officer.
My amendment cannot undo all the dangers and inadequacies of the Bill, particularly those around corporate governance and the woefully inadequate standards regime, but it tries to provide some safeguards for chief officers against losing their job on spurious grounds by ensuring that the HMIC must review all premature resignations. A question arises about whether checks and balances are strong enough and whether we need more of them. I urge the Government to consider this again, particularly regarding the powers of the panel and the ability—or lack of it—of the inspectorate to inspect commissioners.
Although I do not for a minute suggest that either Sir Paul Stephenson or John Yates would come into this category, the uncertainty about tenure prompts questions about whether we need again to consider banning disgruntled former police officers from standing as commissioners straightaway, because of course the Bill does not rule that out. In fact, recent events have prompted so many queries about the inadequacies of the Bill that I feel we must make sure that a strong message goes to the other place about this: a very strong warning about all the problems inherent in the Bill that may result in complete disaster.
With all due respect to the Minister, who is innocent of formulating these proposals in the first place, she has done a sterling job in trying to defend them. I know she has tried to bring about changes. She keeps telling the House that she will go away and seek changes and then she comes back and says that she is terribly sorry but the changes are not possible. We can only speculate about what goes on behind the scenes, but I know that she has battled hard. Surely there is now only one course of action: to pause and think again. We need time to reflect on the impact of recent events and to consider how the reviews being undertaken by the inspectorate and the IPCC need to be reflected in any reform proposals. At the very least, people will surely accept that this is the wrong time for reform. While I hope that over the summer the Government will pause to reflect again, in the mean time I seek to put forward this minimum safeguard to mitigate some of the more extreme possible outcomes. My amendment is really directed to safeguard chief officers’ operational responsibility and to protect their positions from the capricious, media-seeking, and politicised antics of some—not necessary all—directly elected commissioners. I beg to move.
Does the noble Baroness really mean that if a chief officer resigns for domestic, private or health reasons, there has to be a published report from the HMIC?
I say to the noble Lord that what may appear as a private matter may have been caused by months of stress because of wrangles between the commissioner and the chief constable. There are all sorts of things that may not meet the eye. I really believe that we have to think of the public in all this. What is the public going to make of this system, of the new governance structures and of the police? It is important that they see chief constables and their forces as operating above party politics. In a lot of amendments that I have put forward I am trying to help the public to maintain respect for the police and not to feel that party politics will undermine the integrity of the police force. That has been in the back of my mind in all my amendments.
My Lords, I think that my noble friend the Minister would be disappointed if I did not rise to support the amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Henig. Like her, I acknowledge and welcome many of the government amendments, minor though I believe them to be, including this one on the protocol. However, I am still concerned that the checks and balances on PCCs remain inadequate. While they remain inadequate, chief officers are very vulnerable. I am concerned about the impact this could have on the confidence of senior officers, so I commend this amendment because it would afford at least a minimum level of protection. While this is a start, as the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, pointed out, we need to consider seriously whether in the light of recent developments, this is the right time to be implementing major reforms.
I have consistently expressed my concern that the powers of the panel are not strong enough to act as a proper check on PCCs, but I am also concerned that the wider checks and balances are not strong enough either. This includes checks and balances between PCCs and chief officers, and regulating their relationship effectively. So the amendments dealing with this aspect are welcome because they are helpful up to a point.
All this brings us back to the fundamental problem of the Bill: it puts too much power in the hands of one person and places too little emphasis on good governance. My noble friend the Minister has said on several occasions that she will ensure that the principles of good governance are strengthened in the Bill, so the amendment concerning the protocol is helpful in that it defines roles and functions clearly. However, I would ask her to explain exactly which other principles have been addressed and strengthened. I am particularly concerned that a fundamental weakness of the Bill remains the reliance on individuals rather than embracing a more corporate approach.
Corporate bodies have well-established rules of governance and self-regulation which are well understood and thoroughly tested. We have discussed at length both in Committee and on Report why this is not true of corporations sole. Indeed, other amendments at Third Reading are related to this point. It also means that if there is no internal system for regulating a corporation sole properly, because it is comprised of an individual rather than a collective, that regulation must come independently from outside if it is to be credible. The Bill is seriously flawed in this respect, and particularly in relation to senior officer appointments and dismissals, audit and who will check how public money is spent, complaints and the conduct of both PCCs and senior officers. The Bill sets out only very limited external regulation for all these functions.
The Bill’s proposals are particularly worrying in respect of complaints about conduct. So far as PCCs are concerned, it is lamentable to suggest that they should be regulated only by reference to a criminal standard of behaviour; everything else will be down to informal resolution between the PCC and the panel. It is not clear what that will mean in practice because it will be subject to regulations which have not been developed. This is not an adequate way of handling matters which so clearly impact on public confidence. The Bill is also inadequate in relation to conduct issues among senior officers. I have argued consistently that giving chief officers powers to deal with disciplinary matters in relation to their immediate senior team is a recipe for corruption. Recent events have demonstrated that public confidence is critical, so this must be changed.
Even under the current, much more robust regime, public confidence is badly dented—and that is without these new provisions which say in effect that the police should investigate themselves. We should ask what the public perception of the recent scandals would have been if the decision to suspend and discipline senior officers other than the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police had been left entirely up to the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. I am in no way impugning the integrity of Sir Paul Stephenson. Like other noble Lords—I follow the noble Baroness, Lady Henig—I believe that he has been an outstanding officer. He will be a very sad loss to policing in this country. However, it is a matter of public perception and what they will make of this arrangement if there are accusations about police corruption.
At present, the Bill manages to combine too much lassitude for individuals with too little regulation. This is a direct consequence of the inadequate corporate and governance structures. I am also inclined to agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, that the events that we have seen in recent days are also a direct consequence of politicising policing and a stark warning about the dangers of the press influencing policing in a political environment. This will make all senior officers—particularly chief officers—vulnerable to the winds of political fortune in the new world of directly elected police governors. For this reason it is essential to improve protection for chief officers to enable them to exercise their operational responsibility without fear or favour as the noble Lord, Lord Dear, told us earlier.
If we must take this Bill forward, it is surely now evident that these flaws must be resolved. I join with the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, in urging the Government to think again. We need to strengthen internal as well as external checks and balances, which means implementing a more corporate approach to guard against the dangers of putting too much power in the hands of one individual. We need a model that is more transparent and effective at self-regulation; this includes a stronger role for the panel. We need to ensure that the principles of good governance are applied to embed this more rigorous approach. We need a proper misconduct regime as a key plank of monitoring effective behaviour and governance.
Arguments to pause and reflect on this Bill are now overwhelming. We need to ensure that chief officers are properly protected from political inference but we also need to learn and apply lessons that will be learnt from the review that HMIC and the IPCC have been asked to undertake before the Bill is finalised. I am also conscious that there will shortly be another police Bill this time dealing with the national landscape.
My Lords, we are at Third Reading. We are dealing with a specific amendment. I ask the noble Baroness to be as brief as possible, since we have a Statement to follow on some of the other issues with which she is dealing.
And finally, I cannot resist asking the Government why they have resisted making the protocol statutory until now. It certainly does not deal with what would have happened in similar circumstances under the proposed new regime where the chief police officer would have been in charge of dealing with allegations against his senior team.
This has been my last main speech in this debate. I have found it profoundly the most debilitating, distressing and appalling police Bill that has ever been my misfortune to have dealt with in the 12 years that I have been in your Lordships’ House. I regret deeply that there has been no real concern placed on looking at what my noble friend earlier called, “the very important checks and balances”. They are not here.
I speak particularly to subsection (6) of the proposed new clause, which presents a very neat way out of the issues of the British Transport Police and the British Transport Policy Authority that I raised on Report. In doing so, I thank the noble Baroness, not just for the way that she has conducted this Bill through the House, but also with the speed with which she, the Secretary of State for Transport and the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, responded to the points that I made and had a meeting to discuss them. In subsection (6), it describes the police protocol as,
“a document which sets out, or otherwise makes provision about, ways in which relevant persons should … exercise, or refrain from exercising, functions so as to … encourage, maintain or improve working relationships (including co-operative working) between relevant persons, or … limit or prevent the overlapping or conflicting exercise of functions”.
That seems to be precisely at the heart of the very long delay—10 years’ delay—in bringing the jurisdiction and powers of British Transport Police constables and the definition of their chief officer’s role together with those of the Home Office police.
At Second Reading, I mentioned that there was a certain urgency in this because the transport police have a key role to play not just in anti terrorism but in the run-up to and progress of the 2012 Olympics. Therefore, as I say, something needs to be done quickly. There is a way out if you accept that the British Transport Police and the British Transport Police authority should be included in the protocol to the extent that the annual police plans, which have to be drawn up by the police and crime commissioners, should include the operations of the British Transport Police. You thus get over all the problems associated with them because they have to be resolved with the measure. For example, the licensing issue, which particularly affects transport hubs and is a matter of concern, and the proper licensing of firearms rather than requiring every constable to get an individual one, would have to be done not as separate issues but as part of a plan in every area. I was disappointed to hear that when the British Transport Police raised this at the meeting with the Secretary of State, officials said that it was inappropriate because the protocol applied only to the Home Office police. That is precisely why it presents the ideal vehicle. I hope very much that the Minister will assure the House that that approach will be followed.
My Lords, I have an amendment in this group. I thank the noble Baroness for bringing forward her amendment. We have debated establishing a protocol and giving parliamentary endorsement to it, so that is very welcome. I also echo the remarks of the noble Baronesses, Lady Henig and Lady Harris, who expertly identified the flaws in the Bill. I very much support my noble friend’s amendment. I also support what the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, said. He made a very good point. I hope that the noble Baroness will respond to him.
I have a very modest amendment in this group—Amendment 12. The noble Baroness’s amendment contains an order-making power. Essentially, the order-making power applies to the issuing, varying or replacing of a policing protocol. My reading is that that will be a negative SI. I think that it ought to be an affirmative SI. I refer the noble Baroness to the guidance given by the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee. It states:
“A supplementary memorandum must be submitted when any Government amendment is tabled which introduces a significant new delegated power”.
I checked last night and I know that her department issued a supplementary memorandum in relation to amendments to Clause 59(2)(c), and that a two-page memorandum has been produced. However, I have not discovered a memorandum issued in relation to this amendment. I hope that the noble Baroness will clarify whether such a supplementary memorandum has been issued.
However, the real point is the following. From all the comments that have been made, right from Second Reading through to today, the importance of this protocol is not in doubt. Given that it is an order-making power, I fail to see why the noble Baroness’s amendment does not refer to an affirmative order. It ought to be an affirmative order to stress the importance of this matter. I hope that the noble Baroness will be able to give me some comfort on that.
My Lords, before the noble Baroness speaks I wish to comment on and support both Amendment 9 in the Government’s name, and my noble friend Lady Henig on Amendment 10. I just have a couple of points and I do not need to spend too much time on them. First, though, the Minister who just intervened on his own supporter and asked her not to speak so much should remember that the problem we have in this House is that government legislation on a number of issues has been brought to this House in a mess, and it needs to be put right by Parliament. It is not for Ministers to tell parliamentarians not to give it the attention it deserves to try to get it into some sort of order. It is not just this Bill, and it is not just me on this side of the House who is saying this. A number of Members on the Government’s side are saying that legislation is reaching this House in an inadequate form, regardless of whether you like the policy or not.
I have a couple of points on Amendment 10. My noble friend Lady Henig, supported by the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, is right. I was interested in the second unnumbered paragraph within the amendment: the issue of the dismissal of police officers. I do not want to go over the issue again; I simply want to make this point. The concern is that you make it a political issue, and there have been examples of that. I made it very clear in my last intervention on this that I am not saying whether the last two senior officers to resign were right or wrong: I stand back on that until there has been judgment. However, we do not want the discussion of these sorts of things on television and radio to become a regular thing. There have been three such cases with the present Mayor of London, and I am not sure that this will not happen in other situations when we have elected officials in this role. It will be so easy to produce a leaflet—and any of the political parties will do this—which says, “We need tougher policing in this area because crime is rising, and that means we do not want any more of this soft policing”. We know what that means: we will end up with the senior officer being persuaded to resign. My noble friend, supported by the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, has been trying to draw the attention of the House to that and to try and get that into the Bill, and they are right.
My noble friend Lady Henig was very generous to the Minister, and that was very fair: he has been trying to improve the Bill. I sometimes get worried that he goes back to the Home Office and they have an item on the agenda for the waterboarding of the noble Baroness, Lady Browning, in order to get her to back off. I simply say to her to beware of extraordinary rendition, and next time you go, take your toothbrush and overnight clothes—you might need them. There is a very clear attempt by the Government to say, “We are not going to give way on these central issues”. The noble Baroness, Lady Browning, has dealt with the House with enormous courtesy, and great wisdom as well, but she comes back with an empty purse.
I wish to say one other thing about the noble Baroness’s previous contribution on this. She was right to say that there was a loss of confidence in the police before, but I do not think she is right to say it now, and she presented the argument as though it was now. The reality is that there was a loss of confidence in the police in the 1990s. It was not about corruption but about their inadequacies in dealing with public concern: not coming back with telephone calls to victims of crime; not dealing with disorder affairs and so on. As an elected Member at that time, as she was, I am sure we both got the same sort of complaints. In my experience, by the time I left the House of Commons in 2005 those complaints had stopped, and there were very few of them coming forward because the police had got very much better at their public interface and were dealing with it rather well. The police deserve credit for this. When the noble Baroness says the public need to be given confidence in the police, she is fighting a battle that was fought some years ago, and is over. It is not the same now. There is, as my noble friend Lady Henig says, a lot of confidence in the police.
My last point is in relation to the Government’s Amendment 9, and proposed new subsections 3 (a) and (b) which deal with varying or replacing the protocol. I simply say, as an individual and not specifically as a member of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, that off the top of my head I find it very hard to see what the argument would be for this not to be under the affirmative resolution procedure. I would be asking myself on that Committee—as I suspect would other Members, though I cannot speak for them, obviously—whether Parliament will be happy with the Government putting forward a protocol on policing which varies or replaces it without them having an affirmative view of it, an affirmative statutory instrument approach.
It is possible that other Members of the Committee will take a different view. When I have been presented with the arguments it is even possible that I might change my view. However, I simply say that varying or replacing a protocol on policing is an important issue that I would see, certainly initially, as being politically important—not just in parliamentary terms but as party members on both sides thinking, “Is this sensible?”. The noble Baroness might wish to take this away and run it past her colleagues in the Home Office, if it does not put her at risk again. I am simply saying that one needs to think this through carefully. My immediate judgment is that the SI would require the affirmative procedure.
My Lords, I am grateful to noble Lords for their concern about what happens to me when I go back to the Home Office of an evening. I can assure noble Lords that I have been around long enough to take care of myself. In a week when women have discharged their duties in this respect, I can tell noble Lords that I was once trained in Tae Kwon-Do, which may come as a surprise to noble Lords. I know it does not look like it when you look at me now, but I am sure that I can remember a bit of it if I ever need to use it.
I begin with the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, about the British Transport Police. The protocol focuses on Home Office forces and does not apply to the BTP. However, as he has acknowledged, we have opened up consultations that I hope will be more fruitful than those of 10 years ago. We will make sure that the points he has raised are subject to further consultation. As I indicated on Report, although I fully understand the pressing need to address the concerns of the BTP, I am not able to put them into the Bill. However, I hope that the noble Lord is reassured that we are taking his concern very seriously. There would obviously need to be more formal consultation at this stage before amending the Bill in any way to accommodate the needs of the BTP.
I am very grateful to the noble Baroness.
I am grateful, too. I turn to Amendment 10. I hope that the response of the Government to the very public developments over the past few days with regard to the Metropolitan Police Service indicates that the necessary powers are already in existence to achieve what I believe the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, seeks to place in the Bill.
The Home Secretary has a power, as we have seen this week, to direct HMIC to undertake work such as a review, and for that review to be published. The IPCC is an independent body. Matters for investigation are referred to it, and it is for the IPCC to determine how best to undertake its investigation. HMIC may look to the findings of IPCC investigations to assist in its inspection conclusions, but we must be clear that the IPCC cannot and must not be used as a tool to undertake certain areas of inspection or be placed under the direction and control of another accountable body.
If there is a matter related to the ethical conduct of any party to which the protocol applies, the Metropolitan Police authority has demonstrated how this can and should be dealt with in the future by the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime. It is the accountable authority that shall make a referral to the IPCC, and the IPCC shall be free to determine how that matter is investigated without fear or favour. I therefore suggest that there is no need for this amendment and that we should take a degree of assurance from the existing structures and mechanism that have been put into action this week. On that basis, I ask the noble Baroness to consider withdrawing her amendment.
Amendment 12 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, would make the protocol subject to the affirmative resolution procedure, as opposed to the negative resolution procedure. This amendment was spoken to by the noble Lord, Lord Soley, and others. It is not necessary because the government amendment put before this House for the protocol to be given a statutory footing would also require the Secretary of State to consult with all interested parties before varying or replacing the protocol. It is also the case that whether the SI is affirmative or not, the detail of the protocol cannot be amended by Parliament.
A consultation that will inevitably focus on the interpretation of the statute provisions for those parties is attached to this requirement, and a draft revision will emerge. Where there is a clear discrepancy, then either House will be able to challenge the proposed protocol. In our view the negative resolution procedure affords the right level of parliamentary scrutiny.
Other Members of your Lordships’ House have spoken on wider issues beyond the amendments before us. I ask noble Lords with amendments in the group not to press them and ask the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment.
I listened closely to what the Minister said and I have expressed my strong concerns. I was trying to draw attention to the fact that if this Bill goes ahead then, regretfully, we will see far more of what we are currently experiencing. I wanted to concentrate minds on establishing some machinery so that every time something along these lines happens we did not go into a great spin about what should be done. This is going to become a more frequent occurrence and we need to think about how we will deal with it. However, in view of what the noble Baroness has said and the late hour of this debate, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 10 withdrawn.
Amendment 9 agreed.
11: After Clause 101, insert the following new Clause—
“Report on necessity of creating offices as corporations sole and separating finance functions
The provisions of this Part—(a) creating offices as corporations sole, and(b) applying the Local Government Finance Act 1988 to the chief finance officer of a chief constable or the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, shall not come into force until the Secretary of State has laid before Parliament a report stating why it is necessary to create those offices as corporations sole and apply the Local Government Finance Act 1988 to the chief finance officer of a chief constable or the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis and that report has been considered by both Houses of Parliament.”
I will be brief because I know we want to return to Amendment 12 in the previous group. I can assure your Lordships that I do not intend to make a valedictory speech about all the issues we have talked about during the course of this Bill.
However, this Bill is extraordinarily constructed. Where there is a direct route to one of the Government’s objectives, they have gone the long way round to do it. It is almost as if someone walking from your Lordships’ House to the Supreme Court decided to go up Whitehall, via Trafalgar Square, along the Mall and down Birdcage Walk to get there rather than simply crossing Parliament Square. There are two instances of that: first, the strange decision to use the concept of corporation sole as the mechanism for chief officers of police and for police and crime commissioners; and, secondly, the decision to insist on duplicate financial and audit systems, neither of which are necessary to achieve the Government’s objectives. They are simply going the long way round.
As we have discussed repeatedly during the course of this Bill, corporation sole is a medieval construct designed to prevent priests ripping money off the mother church. It has occasionally been used as a construct in terms of public policy in this country, most recently by the Children’s Commissioner. However, in the recent review, the Children’s Commissioner has made clear that the mechanism is unsatisfactory; it does not allow proper governance and is not particularly robust or transparent. Yet this is the mechanism the Government are using in terms of chief officers of police and police and crime commissioners. Frankly, that is a bizarre way of doing it. That also gets to the heart of the problem of this Bill, which is whether there will be adequate governance around the position of police and crime commissioners and whether there will be the adequate checks and balances that I know Liberal Democrat and many Members of your Lordships’ House are so concerned about. It gets to the heart of that principle because it does not facilitate good governance; it is a single individual making decisions alone. That is why it is called a corporation sole.
The second issue concerns having two chief financial officers, both of which will be subject to audit regulations. I have a letter from the Audit Commission which confirms that the Bill requires that both the chief officer of police’s chief financial officer and the chief financial officer of the police and crime commissioner will have to have separate auditors. There will have to be a separate audit opinion on separate financial statements, so the single police fund will be audited twice: once as it passes through the hands of the police and crime commissioner, and again as it passes through the chief finance officer of the chief constable. In fact, in London, it will be audited three times, because it has to pass through the hands of the Mayor of London and the Greater London Authority; it then passes to the MOPC, who will have to have a chief financial officer and who will have to be separately audited with a separate audit function; and then it passes to the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis.
What a bizarre waste of public money. That is simply because it has not entered the Government's mind to go the shortest distance from one place to another. That is why we have this bizarre construct of corporations sole and chief financial officers. The amendment would require the Government to come back to Parliament with a proper explanation, which can be debated, as to why those bizarre routes have been taken to deliver what they want. That would give Parliament an opportunity to make the Government think again and put more sensible, transparent and accountable systems in place. I beg to move.
I very much support my noble friend's amendment. In the past few weeks, I have struggled hard to master the concept and practice of corporations sole and to understand the Government’s thinking in this area. I know that we were going to have a meeting about it with the Minister. I would have welcomed that so as to be able to tease out the problems and issues. Unfortunately, that could not take place, and I quite understand that.
My problem is that in this area, the Home Office often has a different view from police authority chief executives, the Audit Commission and other bodies. There is a range of views here: there is the Home Office view of how we should do things, and there are other people who have different views. The reason I have a problem with that is that I have many years of experience at national level of sitting on bodies dealing with the Home Office’s suggested way forward. In my experience, the Home Office sometimes gets things wrong—not always, but on occasion. On occasion, the Home Office can be very stubborn in denying that it gets things wrong. Again, I have experience of that. I know that sometimes it can take years for the Home Office to accept that it has made a mistake and put it right. I am not saying that that happens all the time, but it happens.
In that light and in that spirit, I think that we need to pause. This is a very complex area, and I am not clear that the Government have got it right at the moment. My noble friend has put forward a serious argument and I hope that the Government are willing to consider it.
We believe that the Government should support the amendment and justify their decision in a report to Parliament as to why it is necessary to concentrate such largely untrammelled power in the hands of police and crime commissioners and chief constables without proper checks and balances. We say that particularly in the light of recent events concerning policing and police actions which, as the Minister will know, are now the subject of inquiries and investigations that may well comment on the issues of governance, checks and balances.
Amendment 11 would require the Secretary of State to justify the need for police and crime commissioners, the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime and chief officers of police to be corporations sole, and for the chief finance officers employed by chief officers to be subject to the local government legislation that currently applies to police authority treasurers. The Secretary of State would have to address those matters in a report to be considered by both Houses before the relevant provisions could commence.
I hope that it is clear why the Government believe that it is necessary for PCCs and the MOPC to have corporate status. Police authorities, including the Metropolitan Police Authority, are corporate entities at present. In order to allow them to carry out their functions, the PCCs and the MOPC will have the same functions as police authorities do at present. Turning to chief officers of police, the Government set out the reasons very clearly in Committee and on Report why there is a need for them to have corporate status too. It is simply so that they can employ staff and hold funds in their official rather than their personal capacity. PCCs, the holder of the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime and chief officers of police will be individuals. That is the essence of the Government’s model for policing governance. It follows that, if they are to have corporate status, they will be corporations sole. This simply follows as a matter of inescapable logic.
I turn to the appointment by the chief officer of police of a suitably qualified chief finance officer with responsibility for making reports. Again, I hesitate to repeat what I have said more than once before, but the Bill creates a model for policing finance that is different from the current system. The Government are clear that chief officers should employ their own staff—a vital process in the context of providing greater autonomy over day-to-day management of the force. As an employer, therefore, for the first time the chief police officer will need to hold substantial amounts of money, and it is vital that there are appropriate safeguards around this. Each chief police officer will need his or her own chief finance officer, suitably qualified to manage the chief officer's affairs. In fact, police forces already have finance directors to do this job. The Government believe that the chief finance officer should be under a statutory duty to make reports where he or she fears the chief officer has made or will make an unlawful decision. Such a report would also go to the PCC and to the chief officer's auditor.
I remind the House that, as I said in previous stages of the Bill, there will not be, and in fact cannot be, any duplication between the role of a PCC's chief finance officer and that of the chief police officer's chief finance officer. The former will have responsibility for money within the police fund, and the latter will have responsibility for the money that has been paid over to the chief officer out of that fund. As such, without a properly qualified chief finance officer—with all the necessary powers and requirements—there will be a significant gap in proper financial propriety.
The Government have been very clear both in this House and another place as to why these provisions are necessary. Amendments to remove them were withdrawn with the House's consent on that basis. We believe that these are necessary measures, and I hope that the House will see that there is a very real need to have quite distinct separation in terms of the financial accounting of the PCC and the chief officer. I invite the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, to withdraw his amendment. I would say to him and to other Members of the House that I regret very much that we did not have our meeting, particularly on corporations sole, which was in the diary. Unfortunately it clashed with the day on which we had to take emergency legislation through the House. I apologise to noble Lords for having had to cancel that meeting.
As this may be my last contribution on Third Reading of this Bill, I hope that the House will allow me to say some words of thanks to those who have contributed to its smooth passage. I thank particularly the Lord Speaker and Deputy Speakers who have presided, and the clerks and doorkeepers, for whose assistance I am very grateful. I thank my colleagues on the Front Bench; I do not know what I would have done without them. I am also very grateful to the Bill team, who have worked very long hours, not just when they have been in attendance in this House but behind the scenes—and I can assure the House that they certainly were not attempting to waterboard me. I thank all Members of the House who have contributed to this Bill, both in the Chamber and outside. We have not been able to agree on everything; none the less, I have brought forward a package of amendments on Report and Third Reading based very much on what has been said by noble Lords on all sides of the House and outside. I would ask the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, to withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, before my noble friend decides what he wants to do, as the noble Baroness has rather jumped the gun, perhaps I may respond by saying that I am most grateful for her remarks and for the way in which she has conducted the Bill since taking it over at pretty short notice on the first day of Committee. She has earned the admiration of the whole House for the way in which she has conducted herself. She said that she can take care of herself. Indeed, she can, which is why we had a vote on the first debate.
I also thank the noble Lords, Lord Wallace of Saltaire and Lord De Mauley, as well as the Bill team, for the support they have given the noble Baroness. I am also grateful to my noble friends Lord Rosser and Lord Stevenson and to all noble colleagues who have spoken on the Bill.
Before we come to my noble friend, I just say that the Government have an opportunity to pause now. I know that the Prime Minister suggested in his Statement that he is determined to plough on with elected police commissioners, but there is time to reflect. I hope that the Government will take advantage of that time to consider the real concerns about the Bill that have been expressed around the House.
My Lords, it is slightly strange to respond on the amendment after going through the normal courtesies of Bill do now pass. I think that all Members of the House are grateful to the Minister for the way in which she has conducted herself throughout these proceedings, having been given a very difficult, and at times impossible, brief in terms of selling arguments to us. We are conscious that she was thrust into this at a very late stage. If I have expressed myself on occasions with vehemence or even asperity, that has certainly not had anything to do with the noble Baroness but more to do with the difficulty of the brief with which she has been presented.
However—this is the asperity—the response that she gave on my amendment did not really address the key questions. In fact, it addressed two separate points which I did not make. It said that we needed to have corporate status for the PCCs and the chief officers and so on. No one is arguing about whether they should have corporate status; the question is why it should be a corporation sole. This is a particularly strange concept and no one who has had to deal with it seems to think it is terribly satisfactory. It does not lead to transparency or good governance. That is why it seems such a strange way of proceeding.
Similarly, no one is arguing that there should not be a suitably qualified senior financial officer for each chief constable or for the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis. The question is why that chief financial officer has to be recognised under the Local Government Finance Act and the Audit Commission Act, thereby creating a panoply of two separate audited accounts. That is what is wrong with the Bill; that is why we are asking for Parliament to be given another opportunity to look at the matter; and it is why, I am afraid, even at this late stage I wish to test the opinion of the House.
12: Clause 154, page 105, line 28, at end insert—
“( ) an order under section (Policing protocol);”
My Lords, the protocol is a vital matter. I fail to see why it should not be subject to an affirmative order. Even at this late stage, will the noble Baroness be prepared to accept this? I can see she will not. I beg to move.
Schedule 6 : Police and crime panels
Amendment 13 not moved.
Schedule 10 : Elections of police and crime commissioners: consequential amendments
Amendments 14 and 15
14: Schedule 10, page 149, line 6, leave out “limitation of expenses” and insert “funding and expenditure of candidates, political parties and other persons”
15: Schedule 10, page 149, line 14, leave out paragraph 14
Amendments 14 and 15 agreed.
Schedule 16 : Police reform: minor and consequential amendments
Amendments 16 and 17
16: Schedule 16, page 199, line 35, at end insert—
“106A In section 120 (acquisition of land compulsorily by principal councils), after subsection (3) insert—
“(3A) Police and crime commissioners and the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime are to be treated as principal councils for the purposes of—
(a) this section (apart from subsection (1)(b)), and(b) section 121.”.”
17: Schedule 16, page 208, line 31, after “commissioner” insert “, the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime”
Amendments 16 and 17 agreed.
Bill passed and returned to the Commons with amendments.
Hereditary Peers By-election
The Clerk of the Parliaments announced the result of the by-elections to elect two hereditary Peers, which were held in accordance with Standing Order 10.
In the whole-House election to elect a hereditary Peer in place of Lord Ampthill, 313 Lords completed valid ballot papers. The successful candidate was Viscount Colville of Culross.
In the election of a Conservative hereditary Peer in place of the Earl of Onslow, 45 Lords completed valid ballot papers. The successful candidate was Lord Ashton of Hyde.
Public Confidence in the Media and the Police
My Lords, this might be a convenient moment to repeat a Statement that was made earlier by the Prime Minister in another place on the subject of phone hacking.
“Over the past two weeks, a torrent of revelations and allegations has engulfed some of this country’s most important institutions. It has shaken people’s trust in the media and the legality of what they do; in the police and their ability to investigate media malpractice; and, yes, in politics and in politicians’ ability to get to grips with these issues.
People desperately want us to put a stop to the illegal practices, to ensure the independence and effectiveness of the police and establish a more healthy relationship between politicians and media owners. Above all, they want us to act on behalf of the victims: people who have suffered dreadfully, including through murder and terrorism, and who have had to relive that agony all over again because of phone hacking.
The public want us to work together to sort this problem out, because until we do so it will not be possible to get back to the issues they care about even more—getting our economy moving, creating jobs, helping with the cost of living, protecting them from terrorism and restoring fairness to our immigration and welfare systems.
Let me set out the action we have taken. We now have a well-led police investigation which will examine criminal behaviour by the media and corruption in the police. We have set up a wide-ranging and independent judicial inquiry under Lord Justice Leveson to establish what went wrong, why and what we need to do to ensure it never happens again.
I am the first Prime Minister to publish meetings with media editors, proprietors and senior executives, to bring complete transparency to the relationship between government Ministers and the media stretching right back to the general election. The House of Commons, by speaking so clearly about its revulsion at the phone hacking allegations, helped to cause the end of the News Corp bid for the rest of BSkyB.
Today I would like to update the House on the action that we are taking, first, on the make-up and remit of the public inquiry and, secondly, on issues concerning the police service. Thirdly, I will answer—I am afraid at some length—all of the key questions that have been raised about my role and that of my staff.
First, I will discuss the judicial inquiry and the panel of experts who will assist it. Those experts will be: the civil liberties campaigner and director of Liberty, Shami Chakrabarti; the former chief constable of the West Midlands, Sir Paul Scott-Lee; the former chairman of Ofcom, Lord Currie; the long-serving former political editor of “Channel 4 News”, Elinor Goodman; the former political editor of the Daily Telegraph, George Jones; and the former chairman of the Financial Times, Sir David Bell. These people have been chosen not only for their expertise in the media, broadcasting, regulation and policing, but for their complete independence from the interested parties.
I also said last week that the inquiry will proceed in two parts, and I set out a draft terms of reference. We have consulted with Lord Justice Leveson himself, with the Opposition, the chairs of relevant Select Committees and the devolved Administrations. I also talked to the family of Milly Dowler and the Hacked Off campaign. We have made some significant amendments to the remit of the inquiry.
With allegations that the problem of the relationship between the press and the police goes wider than just the Met, we have agreed that other relevant forces will now be within the scope of the inquiry. We have agreed that the inquiry should consider not just the relationship between the press, police and politicians, but their individual conduct too. We have also made clear that the inquiry should look at not just the press, but other media organisations, including broadcasters and social media, if there is any evidence that they have been involved in criminal activities. I am today placing in the Library of the House the final terms of reference. Lord Justice Leveson and the panel will get to work immediately. He will aim to make a report on the first part of the inquiry within 12 months. There should be no doubt: this public inquiry is as robust as possible; it is fully independent; and Lord Justice Leveson will be able to summon witnesses under oath.
Let me now turn to the extraordinary events we have seen over the past few days at Britain’s largest police force, the Met. On Sunday, Sir Paul Stephenson resigned as Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. I want to thank him for the work he has carried out in policing over many, many years in London and elsewhere. On Monday, Assistant Commissioner John Yates also resigned and, again, I want to express my gratitude for the work he has done, especially in improving our response to terrorism.
Given the sudden departure of two such senior officers, the first concern must be to ensure that effective policing of our capital, and confidence in that policing, is maintained. I have asked the Home Secretary and the Mayor of London to ensure that the responsibilities of the Met will continue seamlessly. The current deputy commissioner, Tim Godwin, stood in for Paul Stephenson when he was ill and did a good job. He will shortly do so again. The vital counterterrorism job carried out by John Yates will be taken on by the highly experienced Cressida Dick. The responsibilities of the deputy commissioner—which, the House will remember, include general oversight of the vital investigations both into hacking and into the police, Operations Weeting and Elveden—will not be done by someone from inside the Met, but instead by Bernard Hogan-Howe who will join temporarily from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary. We are also looking to speed up the process for selecting and appointing the next commissioner, but we cannot hope that a change in personnel at the top of the Met is enough.
The simple fact is that this whole affair raises huge issues about the ethics and practices of our police. Let me state plainly that the vast majority of our police officers are beyond reproach and serve the public with distinction, but police corruption must be rooted out. Operation Elveden and Lord Justice Leveson’s inquiry are charged with doing just that, but I believe that we can and must do more.
Put simply, there are two problems: first, a perception that when problems arise, it is still “the police investigating the police”; and secondly, a lack of transparency in terms of police contacts with the media. We are acting on both. These were precisely the two points that my right honourable friend the Home Secretary addressed in her Statement to this House on Monday. We believe that this crisis calls for us to stand back and take another, broader look at the whole culture of policing in this country, including the way it is led.
At the moment, the police system is too closed. There is only one point of entry into the force. There are too few—and arguably too similar—candidates for the top jobs. As everyone knows, Tom Winsor is looking into police careers, and I want to see radical proposals for how we can open up our police force and bring in fresh leadership. The Government are introducing elected police and crime commissioners, ensuring that there is an individual holding the local force to account on behalf of local people. We need to see if we can extend that openness to the operational side too. Why should all police officers have to start at the same level? Why should someone with a different skill set not be able to join the police force in a senior role? Why should someone who has been a proven success overseas not be able to help turn around a force at home? I think that these are questions we must ask to get the greater transparency and stronger corporate governance that we need in Britain’s policing.
Finally, I turn to the specific questions that I have been asked in recent days. First, it has been suggested that my chief of staff was behaving wrongly when he did not take up then Assistant Commissioner Yates’s offer to be briefed on police investigations around phone hacking. I have said repeatedly about the police investigation that they should pursue the evidence wherever it leads and arrest exactly who they wish. That is exactly what they have done.
No. 10 has now published the full e-mail exchange between my chief of staff and John Yates, and it shows that my staff behaved entirely properly. Ed Llewellyn’s reply to the police made clear that it would be not be appropriate to give me or my staff any privileged briefing. The reply that he sent was cleared in advance by my permanent secretary, Jeremy Heywood. Just imagine if they had done the opposite and asked for or acquiesced in receiving privileged information, even if there was no intention to use it. There would have been quite justified outrage. To risk any perception that No. 10 was seeking to influence a sensitive police investigation in any way would have been completely wrong. Mr Yates and Sir Paul both backed this judgment in their evidence yesterday. Indeed, as John Yates said:
‘The offer was properly and understandably rejected’.
The Cabinet Secretary and the chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee have both now backed that judgment too.
Next, there is the question as to whether the Ministerial Code was broken in relation to the BSkyB merger and meetings with News International executives. The Cabinet Secretary has ruled very clearly that the code was not broken, not least because I had asked to be entirely excluded from the decision.
Next, I would like to set the record straight on another question that arose yesterday—whether the Conservative Party had also employed Neil Wallis. The Conservative Party chairman has assured me that all the accounts have been gone through and has confirmed to me that neither Neil Wallis nor his company has ever been employed or contracted by the Conservative Party, nor has the Conservative Party made payments to either of them.
It has been drawn to our attention that Neil Wallis may have provided Andy Coulson with some informal advice on a voluntary basis before the election. To the best of my knowledge I did not know anything about this before Sunday night; but, as with revealing this information, we will be entirely transparent about this issue.
Finally, Mr Speaker, there is the question whether everyone—the media, the police, politicians—is taking responsibility in the appropriate manner. I want to address my own responsibilities very directly, and that brings me to my decision to employ Andy Coulson. I have said very clearly that if it turns out that Andy Coulson knew about the hacking at the News of the World he will not only have lied to me but lied to the police, to a Select Committee and to the Press Complaints Commission as well, of course, as perjuring himself in a court of law. More to the point, if that comes to pass, he could also expect to face severe criminal charges.
I have an old-fashioned view about ‘innocent until proven guilty’, but if it turns out that I have been lied to, that would be the moment for a profound apology. In that event, I can tell you I will not fall short. My responsibilities are for hiring him and for the work that he did in Downing Street. On the work that he did, I will repeat, perhaps not for the last time, that his work at Downing Street has not been the subject of any serious complaint. And, of course, he left months ago.
On the decision to hire him, I believe that I have answered every question about this. It was my decision. I take responsibility. People will, of course, make judgments about it. Of course I regret and am extremely sorry about the furore it has caused. With 20:20 hindsight, and all that has followed, I would not have offered him the job, and I expect that he would not have taken it. But you do not make decisions in hindsight; you make them in the present. You live as you learn and, believe you me, I have learnt.
I look forward to answering any and all questions about these issues and, following the Statement, I will open the debate. But the greatest responsibility I have is to clear up this mess, so let me finish by saying this. There are accusations of criminal behaviour by parts of the press and potentially by the police, where the most rapid and decisive action is required. There are the issues of excessive closeness to media groups and media owners where both Labour and Conservatives have to make a fresh start. There is the history of missed warnings—Select Committee reports and Information Commissioner reports missed by the last Government, but, yes, missed by the Official Opposition too.
What the public expect is not petty point-scoring. What they want and deserve is a concerted action to rise to the level of events and pledge to work together to sort this issue once and for all. It is in this spirit that I commend this Statement to the House”.
My Lords, I thank the Leader of the House for repeating the Statement made in the other place by the Prime Minister. The decision to recall the other place today to debate the issues in the phone hacking scandal was the right one. Rebuilding trust in the press, the police and our politics is essential. The most powerful in the institutions of our land must show the responsibility that we expect from everybody else. That is why the country wants answers from those involved in this crisis, so that those responsible can be held to account and so that we as a country can move forward. That is why we on these Benches welcome Lord Justice Leveson’s inquiry and the announcement of the terms of reference and panel members. It is why we welcome the Prime Minister’s agreement with this party that the Press Complaints Commission should be abolished and replaced. It is why we welcome the apology from Rupert Murdoch and the withdrawal of News Corporation’s bid for BSkyB.
It is also why we respect the decision of Sir Paul Stephenson to stand down so that the leadership of the Met can move forward and focus fully on its vital work. The police in our country provide a vital service. Not only do the vast, overwhelming majority of police officers work hard for the community, but that vast, overwhelming majority will be as appalled as the rest of us—in fact, probably more so—about the flaws in policing among a tiny number of police officers which have been exposed in the last few weeks.
We are beginning to see answers given and responsibility taken in the press and in the police. In politics, the Government must now do the same if the country is to move forward. Regarding BSkyB, last Friday the Prime Minister revealed that since taking office he has met representatives of News International or News Corp, including Rebekah Brooks and James Murdoch, on 26 separate occasions. The Government must recognise that they need to be transparent, not just about the number of meetings but also about what was discussed. Can the noble Lord the Leader of the House assure the House that the BSkyB bid was not raised in any of those meetings or in phone calls with those organisations?
In his response to the Statement given in the other place earlier today by the Prime Minister, my right honourable friend the leader of the Opposition put to him a series of detailed points and questions centring on the Prime Minister's former director of communications, Mr Andy Coulson. I fully agree with and support the forensic focus of the leader of my party on these issues. My right honourable friend the leader of the Opposition in the other place has led the way on these matters—led for my party, led for Parliament, and led for the country. He is right to concentrate on the issues—serious issues—around the judgment of the Prime Minister. My right honourable friend the leader of the Opposition, in what he said to the Prime Minister in the other place earlier today, was putting those issues—about the Prime Minister's own conduct, and about his own staff—directly to the Prime Minister in person. We strongly support the clear focus of by my right honourable friend in the other place.
The events of the past two weeks have brought forward a wide range of issues. For instance, in relation to takeover bids—stemming from News Corporation's now-abandoned bid for BSkyB—careful consideration of the issues with which we have had to deal over the past period demonstrates clearly that there are significant flaws in the process which was adopted under the Enterprise Act 2002 and the Communications Act 2003 in relation to News Corp's bid for BSkyB.
There is little that we could or should do in relation to the criminal investigations. They must take their course, and we strongly support the investigations going wherever the evidence leads them. But on other issues there are things which we can do to address the ills which have been identified. The Enterprise Act provides for changes to be made, if necessary, to the conditions that apply in merger situations. We on these Benches have a number of proposals on these matters, as my right honourable friend the leader of the Opposition indicated at the weekend. Will the Leader of your Lordships’ House join with us in this party in agreeing a process to deal with those flaws? We have available to us a provision in Section 58 of the Enterprise Act which allows this House and the other place to make amendments by way of negative resolution. My noble and learned friend the shadow Attorney-General, Lady Scotland of Asthal, has proposals which I would invite the Leader of the House to consider with us.
At the end of today’s business, this House is due to move into Recess. The other place has been recalled from its Recess today to hear the Statement from the Prime Minister and to take a further debate on the phone hacking scandal. But although Parliament will not be sitting after today, unless there is a need to recall it over the Recess, that does not mean that the events surrounding these issues will be equally in recess. First, there has been an extraordinarily fast-moving sequence of events over the past few weeks. In the light of that, few if any would care to predict what will or could now happen. Secondly, the mechanisms which have been set up to examine this affair fully and properly will begin their work. Again, we welcome the appointment of Lord Justice Leveson to head the media inquiry, and we welcome too the appointment of the panel of experts announced in the Statement. The inquiry has a tough job to do and we look forward to it getting on with the job.
While we welcome the details set out by the Prime Minister in his Statement, we believe that, as my right honourable friend the leader of the Opposition made clear in his remarks, there are many more questions for the Prime Minister to answer. These are serious matters which have appalled and revolted the public, matters which have made things even worse for those who were already victims; among others, victims of crime, terrorism and armed conflict. We look to the Leveson inquiry as the right way to address all these issues. We will maintain our own scrutiny of the Government and others on these matters, and we look forward, as and when appropriate, to Parliament continuing to keep these issues properly in focus, including in your Lordships’ House.
My Lords, I begin my response to the noble Baroness by referring to what she said at the end of her remarks. It is true that we are on the verge of starting the Recess, and that the House of Commons, which had already risen, was recalled today to hear the Statement and to hold a short debate on the subject. She is quite right to say that events will continue to unfold. This is a fast-moving story and anyone would have been amazed at how it has developed over the past couple of weeks. I particularly agree with what she said in welcoming all the inquiries that are taking place. We must allow them to get on with the job and to report back as soon as possible. It is also important that Parliament should be kept fully informed and play its continuing role not just in debating these issues, but also in holding the Government to account.
I agree with what the noble Baroness said about the police. Our decent, hardworking police men and women provide an important and vital service, and I agree that the vast majority deserve considerably more. Equally, I think it is right that we have announced the review on leadership. As it unfolds, I shall of course report back to the House.
The Prime Minister has announced the occasions on which he met executives, editors and proprietors from News International, and it is entirely right that he should have done so. The noble Baroness asked whether I could confirm that at no stage was the BSkyB takeover bid discussed. I can confirm that, and indeed not only can I do so, but also the Cabinet Secretary, no less, has said that there has been no breach of the Ministerial Code. Rebekah Wade said in her evidence yesterday that not one single inappropriate conversation had taken place about the bid, and the Prime Minister has set out every meeting since the last general election. I think he also wished that perhaps the Opposition might do the same about any of their meetings with News International since the election—or, indeed, with the previous Government. We all know that the relationships between News International and the last two Prime Ministers were extremely close.
I wholly accept that the leader of the Opposition in the House of Commons, Mr Miliband, had to raise questions about Andy Coulson and his relationship with the Prime Minister. In the Statement, the Prime Minister said that there will be no question about Andy Coulson’s conduct in No. 10. I now very much hope that the leader of the Opposition, Mr Miliband, can accept the assurances and very clear answers that the Prime Minister has given in his role, the reason why he was employed, what happens now and the proposition that Mr Coulson should be innocent until proven guilty.
The noble Baroness also asked a very clear question about the workings of the Enterprise Act. I am grateful both to her and to the shadow Attorney-General for her thoughts. The Enterprise Act allows the Secretary of State to issue only one European intervention notice. It is correct that the Enterprise Act does not allow for a European intervention notice to be substantively revised once it has been issued, or for a subsequent notice to be issued. There is increasingly a widely held concern, which I am sure should be looked at, whether in the communications review or in the ongoing competition policy review, about the point being relevant across different uses of the public interest test. We would be very happy to work with the noble Baroness or the shadow Attorney-General in looking further at the issue.
Likewise, the Section 58 orders contain the power to allow Ministers to intervene in mergers on the basis of public interest and to make decisions. There are currently three specified areas in which they can use their discretion: national security, the media—including plurality, broadcasting standards, the accurate presentation of news in newspapers—and the stability of the UK financial system. That there might be a gap within these public interest tests has recently been thrown up. We might also want a review when these are triggered. We slightly feel that we should await the outcome of part one of the Leveson inquiry. However, I can confirm that any changes can be made through secondary legislation and again that the Government would be very happy to work between the parties to see which is the best way forward.
I underline the complete honesty and good reputation of the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, Ed Llewellyn, who seems to have acted entirely properly. I ask the Leader of the House two questions. First, although there are many extraneous issues now swirling around, do not the essential issues remain the extent of the illegal phone hacking—which is a direct threat to the public in this country—why the police and the Press Complaints Commission were unable to stop it and just how some clear water can be put between politicians and media in this country? Those are the issues. We now need action. Secondly, although I entirely welcome the judicial inquiry, on reflection would it not have been better to have set up this inquiry several months ago rather than repeatedly declining to do so?
My noble friend Lord Fowler forgot to mention that he is one of those who has been calling for an inquiry for several months. He has, therefore, been proved entirely right—better late than never. We have possibly got a more far-reaching judge-led inquiry than we would have done hitherto. It is perhaps the awfulness of the story that has developed in recent weeks that has allowed the Government and Parliament to agree so wholeheartedly between the parties and across the Houses that it should be done at such a high level.
As far as the other questions that my noble friend raised, I agree that we need to know as soon as possible the extent of the illegal phone hacking and why the police and the PCC were unable to deal with it. This is precisely what I hope the inquiry will provide for us as soon as possible. As part of that, my noble friend asked that there should be more clear water between politics and the press. I think that that position is already set fair, and not just because of the increased transparency. Ministers will now declare all their contacts with the press at a senior level. That will be to the benefit of the press and politicians alike. I very much welcome that.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend for repeating the Statement. I wish to ask him two questions. First, the Prime Minister has said that the public want us to work together to sort out this problem. In that respect, will he look at the review of the Press Complaints Commission and ensure that before the powers and functions of the new commission are determined there is adequate public consultation so that the public’s point of view is taken into account?
The second point about which I am concerned is that, whereas the first part of Lord Justice Leveson’s inquiry has to report within 12 months, there is no timescale attached to the investigation to be carried out by the Independent Police Complaints Commission. As someone who has supervised a similar investigation with the former police complaints commission, I know that the timescale involved is considerable. You are talking about at least 12 months to supervise an investigation of this nature, following which criminal charges are likely to be laid. If that is the case, we are talking of a process which may go on for about two or three years. The impact of that is very serious because none of the other inquiries that have been set up can carry out their work adequately unless this investigation has been finalised. Will my noble friend look at this aspect to see whether a particular timescale is appropriate in this investigation?
My Lords, will the noble Lord the Leader of the House please remind Members to make very brief questions or comments?
The whole House will have heard what the noble Baroness has just said.
My noble friend Lord Dholakia is right: the Prime Minister thinks that we should all work together. I think that reflects the public’s mood as well. Today we published the terms of reference for the review of the press and press ethics. I am not sure that there was much public consultation but there certainly was consultation with the devolved authorities, Select Committees in another place and, of course, with Lord Justice Leveson.
As regards my noble friend’s second point, time limits are not a straightforward issue. We have asked the Leveson inquiry to report back on the first part within 12 months—we hope that it will do that—but as regards the second part, we have to leave it to the members of the inquiry to determine to what extent they can operate without affecting the police inquiry and subsequent court process, if that occurs. However, I can confirm to my noble friend that HMIC should report before the end of the autumn.
My Lords, I welcome the thrust of the Statement that the Leader has read to the House. It will come as no surprise when I say that I particularly welcome the thrust of the report on police leadership and the whole question of ethics that surrounds that. I have tried to highlight that subject repeatedly over the years. We must get this right and this is the opportunity to do so.
I wish to ask the Leader of the House two questions. First, given that the door of this issue has flown open, as it were, and given the kinetic energy that has grown up behind the events of the past couple of weeks, does he agree with me that there is a danger that we shall go too far too fast and in effect have a knee-jerk reaction and get this wrong? Coupled with that, will he also agree that to prevent that, we now need a review body established with respected and experienced individuals to look at the subjects of police leadership, ethics, morality, attitudes and so on, in depth but as a matter of some urgency? Could such a body be set up this autumn in advance of the Winsor report? The report is of course critical, but that body could quite well start taking its own evidence, coming to some conclusion, and then sweep the Winsor report up before it reaches a final conclusion.
My Lords, those are two valuable ideas. I agree that there is a tremendous opportunity but that equally there is a danger of having a knee-jerk reaction. We are all too well aware of this in both Houses of Parliament. We have an opportunity to get it right and we should go forward on that basis, particularly dealing with the issue of leadership.
Secondly, on the whole question of leadership, the Government are taking this immensely seriously and we want to move forward on it with the police. The noble Lord’s knowledge and understanding of this issue is extremely important, and I know that the Home Office will very much welcome his input.
My Lords, as one of the victims referred to, I welcome the Statement by the Leader of the House who has made clear the commitment to get to the bottom of the hacking, the inadequate police inquiry, and indeed the IPCC.
However, is the noble Lord aware that in July 2009 I sent a letter to the Prime Minister—he was the Leader of the Opposition then—warning him of the appointment of Andy Coulson as press adviser? It was clear that Mr Coulson was in the middle of the News of the World phone hacking allegations, and I advised the Prime Minister that he was not fit to enter Government as No. 10’s director of communications. Can the Leader confirm that within 12 months of that the Prime Minister was to refuse advice from the police, newspaper editors, the Guardian, the Deputy Prime Minister, and indeed his own chief of staff? All these warnings were ignored, and it is simply not good enough to hide behind the excuse of 20-20 hindsight.
Can the Leader of the House also confirm that in the dozens of social and political meetings that he held with News International, the Prime Minister now appears to have adopted the Murdoch corporate policy, best displayed by the three monkeys: hear no evil, see no evil, and speak no evil? Will the Leader agree that this is a definition of the lack of judgment which the Prime Minister is now rightly accused of?
My Lords, many in the House have a great deal of sympathy for the noble Lord, Lord Prescott, as one of the victims of the hacking scandal. However, he belittles himself by making these rather fetid political points. If he was writing to anybody in the summer of 2009, it should of course have been the then Prime Minister, asking him why he had failed to do anything or to respond to any of the reports from the Select Committees, the Information Commissioner and all those other people who raised these issues.
My Lords, I support the Prime Minister’s Statement which my noble friend the Leader of the House repeated, but in it he pointed out that the Prime Minister had said:
“We have consulted with Lord Justice Leveson himself, the Opposition, the Chairs of the relevant Select Committees and the devolved administrations”,
about the terms of reference of the inquiry. I am privileged to speak as the Chairman of the Communications Committee in this House. We were not consulted—does my noble friend know why?
My Lords, I have absolutely no idea—in fact I had no idea they were consulting with the Select Committees in another place either. It is a good point though, and I will raise it with No. 10: when consulting chairmen of Select Committees in another place they should similarly consider Peers in your Lordships’ House.