House of Lords
Wednesday 30 November 2016
Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Chester.
Brexit: Immigration Policy
My Lords, the Prime Minister has said that Article 50 will be triggered before the end of March 2017. We are still forming our negotiating position and are not going to offer a running commentary. It would be wrong to set out timelines before entering a negotiation. We want to get the right deal for Britain, not just the quickest one.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for that response, and I declare a non-financial interest as chairman of Migration Watch. I entirely understand the Government’s reluctance to set foot on what is likely to be a fairly slippery slope, but does the noble Baroness agree that it is going to be really difficult for the Government to stick out for three or four months with nothing more to say than, regrettably, she was able to say today? Will she therefore study the 10 key objectives that we published today to see whether they provide a suitable framework for this absolutely key aspect of the forthcoming negotiations?
I thank the noble Lord for that. I have read the report and the recommendations, and I welcome the report. The Government have been clear that as we conduct our negotiations it must be a priority to regain more control of the numbers of people who come here from Europe. It would not be right, therefore, for us to give a running commentary on negotiations.
My Lords, in the context of immigration, may I remind my noble friend of the needs of the agricultural and horticultural industries in constituencies such as my former one? They are dependent on labour from abroad, most notably from eastern Europe, and if they are denied that resource they will face very considerable problems.
My Lords, of course we do not expect a running commentary, but as the Government are assiduously forming their views on this matter, could the Minister perhaps give us a hint as to whether they allow any difference, in their crystallising thoughts, between the free movement of persons, as enshrined in Article 3 of the Treaty of Rome and confirmed at Lisbon and Maastricht, and the free movement of labour? It is, perhaps, an important distinction.
My Lords, further to the debate in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, and the Minister’s letter in response to that debate, can the noble Baroness give any indication of whether Her Majesty’s Government are thinking about the situation for European Union students in the event of our leaving the European Union? At present they have the same rights as home students; in future they would fall within the immigration flows and therefore be capped within the tens of thousands unless there is a mutually beneficial deal for the EU and the United Kingdom. I refer the House to my interests listed in the register.
As I think I have said to the House before, we remain absolutely committed to attracting the brightest and best students to the UK. There is currently no cap on the number of international students who come to this country because they help make our education system one of the best in the world. We have a competitive post-study work offer for graduates seeking to undertake skilled work after their studies.
Does my noble friend agree that the biggest concern among the business community about our leaving the European Union is that Europeans who have come to this country should be able to remain and continue to work here? Would not the right response to Chancellor Merkel and Mr Tusk be that we do not negotiate with people’s lives in this country? Why can we not make it absolutely clear and end the uncertainty that those people will be allowed to remain here?
The Prime Minister has been very clear that she wants to protect the status of EU nationals already living here and that the only circumstance in which that would not be possible is if British citizens’ rights in EU member states were not protected in turn. She said today that it was right to give reassurances to both sets of citizens:
“I think the reaction that we have seen shows why it was absolutely right for us not to do what the Labour party wanted us to do, which was simply to give away the guarantee for rights of EU citizens here in the UK. As we have seen, that would have left UK citizens in Europe high and dry”.
My Lords, will the Minister now reply to the very pertinent question asked by my noble friend Lord Reid, which she did not answer? He invited her to draw a clear distinction of understanding between freedom of movement of persons and freedom of movement of labour. On which of the two principles is the government policy currently based?
Do the Minister and the Government accept that there is cross-party support for the Government to give a unilateral guarantee to EU nationals? We just heard the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, and the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, saying publicly on her Benches that that would give that stability and is the morally right thing to do. By setting an example, it would give us the good will and make it impossible for the 27 countries not to reciprocate for British nationals in their countries. It would cut the Gordian knot and it is the right thing to do.
My Lords, recent reports have criticised the efficacy of the methods used to estimate the emigration from and immigration to the United Kingdom, casting doubt on the accuracy and usefulness of the figures themselves. Can the Minister reassure the House that when we are discussing these issues, we will have data on which we can rely?
Social Security: Claimants
We aim to keep all our policies under constant review to ensure that they continue to function effectively and fairly. The film is one person’s interpretation of the benefit system. I make it clear that our staff, who work incredibly hard day in and day out, are committed to supporting the most vulnerable and helping people who are able to find work to get a job.
My Lords, I fear that Ministers have missed the point of this powerful and well-researched film, summed up in the final words of Daniel Blake’s demand for respectful treatment:
“I am a citizen, nothing more, nothing less”.
What will the Government now do to transform a culture of suspicion and sanctions, the costs of which are highlighted in today’s damning National Audit Office report, to a culture of citizenship for the sake of both claimants and staff?
The staff of the DWP, who I think are effectively being attacked in that Question and by its implications, have really transformed the way that they approach this. With the work coach transformation they are tailoring requirements to the needs of individuals, following a thorough discussion with them on what their needs are in order to get them to play an economic part in this country.
My Lords, despite my years of trying to persuade the Department of Work and Pensions to recognise the severity of CFS/ME, is the Minister aware of how utterly demoralised people who have to undergo assessments feel if they are not believed? Even when the derogatory assessment has been overturned by a tribunal, it takes them months and months to regain their self-esteem. Can the Minister please get this matter in hand once and for all?
My Lords, the film shows people being sanctioned for a number of reasons which are clearly not serious. For example Katie, a single mum, is moved to Newcastle when she is made homeless and because she is a few minutes late in getting to the jobcentre, because she cannot find it in a new city, her benefits are sanctioned. Can the Minister tell the House that that would not happen in real life? He normally comes here and tells us that sanctions are very rare and a last resort but we discovered from today’s NAO report that over the last five years, 24% of all JSA claimants were sanctioned. Is it any wonder that our food banks are filling up with people using them who are sanctioned for trivial or unjust reasons? Is this not a disgrace?
There were a whole load of statements there that are simply not true. In the example which the noble Baroness uses, there would clearly be a good reason for someone not being able to fathom the transport in a new place. There are an enormous number of protections for people in the sanctioning process, which has about seven or eight steps: there is a check by the work coach; it goes to the decision-maker; there is provision of information back to the person, who can challenge it with the decision-maker; it can go to dispute resolution, mandatory consideration and then the tribunal. This is not the easy process that is implied. Sanctions are treated very seriously. They are an integral part of the system and are treated with all due seriousness.
My Lords, given that the National Audit Office has today said that there is limited evidence that benefit sanctions work but rather that they result in “hardship, hunger and depression”, can the Minister update the House as to whether Her Majesty’s Government will now commit to a substantial review of the use and implementation of sanctions?
I congratulate the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Newcastle on her first question. I hope they will not all be as painful in future as this one. I cannot make that commitment. As is said in the report, the reality is that sanctions work. There is a lot of external evidence of sanctions having a substantial impact on employment uptake, whether you are looking at the evidence from Switzerland, the Netherlands, Denmark or Germany. Our own survey shows that people on both JSA and ESA are more likely to accept the rules of the system with the sanction system behind it.
My Lords, does the Minister accept that if the National Audit Office is about anything it is about looking for value for money? Will he confirm that one of the important findings of the NAO is that in the fiscal year 2015 there were, for example, DWP sanction benefits savings, so called, just shy of £100 million net of hardship payments? However, the NAO came to the conclusion that the department had done no overall assessment of any kind of the downstream consequential impacts on other public services, so it is impossible to know whether the prosecution of sanctions as currently carried out by the department is effective value for money.
I am in a difficult position because we are about to make our response to the NAO report, which is a formal process, so I do not have that response. Clearly the NAO concentrates on value for money. It wants more evidence and the department will be looking at providing it with some of that evidence in reply.
My Lords, the Minister must know that the Government’s own review of mandatory workfare shows that a young person is twice as likely to find work if they drop out of the scheme and three times as likely to find work if they do not participate in the first place. Will the Minister accept that the Government’s review has validity and update social security practices accordingly?
If the question is about how the benefit system works for the young, we are now running one of the lowest levels of inactivity we have seen for young people. In the benefits system as a whole, we are looking at the highest-ever employment rate and one of the lowest levels of poverty since the 1980s. Household incomes at an all-time high, we have the lowest levels of children in workless households since records began and the lowest income inequality. If the noble Baroness is saying that the system is not working, how do these figures stand up? We are transforming the system and producing real results.
Disabled People: Employment
My Lords, local authorities are required to have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations under Section 149(1) of the Equality Act 2010. In relation to the transport barriers that can hinder disabled people getting to work, this Government are committed to ensuring that disabled people have the same access to transport and opportunities to travel as everyone else.
My Lords, it is not enough to be committed. The Green Paper sets out complicated inducements and a target for reducing disability unemployment which is for ever receding into the distance. Right now, the Government could require local authorities to, for example, mandate disability training for bus and taxi drivers and have a certain percentage of accessible taxis available for disabled people. They could make sure that local authorities revoke licences where taxi drivers will not take guide dogs. These simple issues will enable people to get to work.
My Lords, the Government are taking action, as those who participated in—for example—the recent Bus Services Bill will have witnessed. Practical actions are being taken on improving accessibility for disabled people, and that Bill, which has left your Lordships’ House, will initiate a very practical programme of changes. The noble Baroness is right to raise the important issue of accessibility in taxis. In the country as a whole, only 56% of taxis are accessible, but the Government are looking at specific schemes, including one in Birmingham which provides the kind of training she alluded to. On the issue of those refusing access to the disabled or to those who require guide dogs, the Government are specifically looking at Sections 165 and 167 of the Equality Act. We will consider this very carefully and consult on the guidance to ensure that anyone who discriminates in this way against disabled people is covered. We will look at sanctions under the law, including making it a criminal offence.
My Lords, declaring my interest as the father of a Down’s syndrome daughter who lives and works in a Camphill community, could I suggest that the Government encourage local authorities to support many more such places, which are care effective and cost effective, and which can provide a complete way of life, including daily work elsewhere? Surely the Government must agree that this sort of life is often just not available under other forms of care in the community, which can be very lonely and unfulfilling, not to mention very expensive.
Of course the Government are concerned about ensuring a joined-up approach. The noble Lord may be aware that there is a specific consultation within the Department for Work and Pensions, for example, and that a Green Paper has been issued looking at the joined-up approach to work health to ensure that all systems across the board are joined up. We are also looking at the Total Transport initiative specifically across 37 rural areas in England, to see how we can ensure that transport is effective and easily accessible to those in hard-to-reach areas in the country.
My Lords, will the Minister also speak to his colleagues in the DWP about the fact that the accessibility of public transport was not mentioned in the Green Paper on halving the disability employment rate? It should be a vital part of the whole infrastructure of getting disabled people into work. The Access to Work scheme is very good, but it cannot do everything.
I am of course happy to do that along with my colleagues from the DWP; the very diligent Minister in this House from the DWP will take note of that. I assure the noble Baroness that the Green Paper is there to be consulted on. If there are practical suggestions as to how this can be improved, the Government are of course listening.
My Lords, what are the Government doing about London transport, where there are far too many Underground stations where less able people have no access to the platforms, either by escalator or elevator? That is really appalling as far as getting to work is concerned.
According to the statistics on passenger accessibility, London is much better than other parts of the country, but my noble friend raises important issues about the accessibility of platforms in certain parts of the London transport network. TfL has a programme to ensure that that can be delivered in accordance with the needs of all the travelling public, including those who need to travel to work and suffer from disabilities.
My Lords, the Independent Living Strategy Group has identified and reported that one in four people has experienced a decrease in paid work or volunteering because of cuts to local authorities’ independent living support in the last 12 months. What are the Government doing to ensure that local authorities have the resources to address this important barrier to work?
The Minister referred to the improvements that, frankly, we secured to the Bus Services Bill to make bus services more accessible to disabled people. Bearing in mind that he has cited that as an example of what he believes the Government are doing, even though they were heavily pushed from this side, why can they not do more in respect of other forms of transport to ensure likewise that they become more accessible to disabled people?
The noble Lord is being less than magnanimous on the Government’s position during the passage of the Bus Services Bill, but I will let others be the judge of that on reading Hansard. With regard to other modes of transport, various consultations are under way and I have alluded to one or two of them. I suggest to the noble Lord that he participates fully in those.
Disabled Children: Tax Credit
My Lords, claimants were able to claim the higher rate of tax credits and many did so at the time. Although it is the claimant’s responsibility to inform HMRC of their eligibility, HMRC’s back-up practice was to take information from DWP to update awards automatically. Last week, we announced that HMRC would issue lump-sum payments to families affected by a breakdown in this back-up to cover what they would have received from 6 April 2016 and ensure that they get their entitlement in future.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply, but I am sure he would agree that we are dealing here with a major injustice: some 28,000 low-income families with disabled children have lost up to £4,400 a year for five years, all because, between 2011 and 2014, the DWP omitted the box from the relevant form for people to indicate whether or not they received tax credits. As the law currently stands, as the Minister has said, the onus is on the claimant to claim what they are entitled to. However, the system of tax credits is extremely complicated for anyone to understand. Does the Minister agree that the law should be changed to place the onus on the Revenue to pay claimants what they are entitled to, so long as they provide the right information about their circumstances? Will he give serious consideration to this?
I am grateful to the noble Lord for that suggestion. HMRC will be contacting the 28,000 families directly, automatically adjusting their award and by the end of January making a lump-sum payment backdated to April 2016. I am sure his suggestion of a future change to the law will be looked at sympathetically in order to try to streamline the system and to avoid the problems that he has identified in his Question.
My Lords, the Government acknowledge the administrative error in the failure to pay the full entitlement for five years. I want to know, as I am sure does the House, on what principle the decision was taken by the Government, knowing that the families have no recourse to law, that the Treasury should shoulder something less than 10% of the total cost and the families should bear 90%.
That is a question that I asked myself earlier this morning. The answer is that HMRC cannot by law backdate beyond the present tax year except in exceptional circumstances, and the circumstances where someone has failed to claim do not qualify. So there would be a risk of legal challenge were HMRC to compensate people in the way that the noble Lord has suggested.
I understand the problems of these 28,000 families, by definition with a disabled child and on low incomes, who have failed to get up to £5,000 a year. All I can say is that, if I were still in another place and one of those 28,000 families came to see me at my advice bureau, and I knew there was a legal problem, my advice to them would be to refer the matter to the Parliamentary Ombudsman.
My Lords, does my noble friend agree that this is precisely the type of case for which the ombudsman was set up? I hope those who, like the Minister and myself, have served in the other place as Back-Bench MPs—although my noble friend has come to high office once again—will take note. This is just the type of case that any Back-Bench MP could present to the ombudsman, and I hope the Treasury—my noble friend has certainly shown himself to be a man of honour—will abide by the ruling of the ombudsman in such a case.
I am grateful to my noble friend. I have probably gone way beyond my negotiating remit already, but if it were to be referred to the Parliamentary Ombudsman, I suspect it would be resisted by the Treasury or DWP on the grounds that they were complying with the law but, were the Parliamentary Commissioner to uphold the complaint then, following precedent, I imagine that the government department would then honour the compensation proposed.
My Lords, it is the turn of the Cross Benches.
My Lords, is the noble Lord, Lord Low, correct to say that a box was omitted from the form? If a box was omitted that should have been there, it seems to me that the department was at fault and therefore a question of law preventing compensation would not arise.
The noble Baroness knows much more about the law than I do. It was indeed the case that, when a parent applied for DLA for a disabled child, they could tick a box indicating whether they were claiming tax credit. If they ticked the box, HMRC was automatically told and the benefit was automatically uprated. That is described as a back-up cover, and the law is quite clear that none the less, notwithstanding the box, it is still the responsibility of the claimant to notify HMRC of the change in circumstances. When you apply for tax credit, it says on the form that if your circumstances change you should advise HMRC. I have looked at this extensively this morning. I have given the reply that I have about the Government’s ability to make compensation for earlier years and the advice that they cannot under the legislation; and I have suggested in good faith a way through that might meet the injustice that many noble Lords feel has occurred.
Arrangement of Business
Announcement of Recess Dates
My Lords, it may be for the convenience of the House if I make a short Statement about recess dates for the next year. As usual, to save Members reaching for their diaries, I should say that dates are listed at the back of this week’s edition of Forthcoming Business and a separate note is available in the Printed Paper Office. In a bid to be helpful to the House, we have gone slightly further ahead this year, in terms of the dates for next year, than we have in recent years. I should therefore particularly stress the usual caveat that the planned recesses are provisional and subject to the usual progress of business.
For Easter, we expect to adjourn at the end of business on Thursday 6 April and return on Monday 24 April. The May Day bank holiday is Monday 1 May, and we will adjourn at the end of business on the previous Thursday, 27 April. For Whitsun, we expect to adjourn at the end of business on Thursday 25 May and return on Tuesday 6 June.
My Lords, I apologise to the Government Chief Whip for not giving him advance notice of this question, and I do not need an immediate reply, but what consultation has there been with the Commons to marry, so far as is possible, the recesses of the two Houses? He will recall that, in the most recent recess, we had what to me, at any rate, seemed a most absurd situation where we sat on the Wednesday when the Commons did not and they came back on the following Monday when we were still in recess. A bigger brain than mine may have worked out that that is the best way of doing things, but it is not immediately apparent, and it is for the convenience of both Houses if, as far as possible, the recess dates of the two Houses marry with one another.
I am grateful to the noble Lord for mentioning that point. He will know that, in fact, the dates have not been announced in the other place up to now, but I anticipate that they will be made available to Members of the House of Commons shortly. I think he will find that they will coincide with our own, because we in this House are the trend-setters, as noble Lords know.
Policing and Crime Bill
Relevant document: 3rd Report from the Joint Committee on Human Rights
Clause 3: Collaboration agreements: specific restrictions
1: Clause 3, page 3, line 15, at end insert—
“( ) Section 2 does not require a police body to enter into a collaboration agreement with a fire and rescue body unless—(a) the relevant emergency services are services for the same area, or(b) the police area is the same as the area of more than one fire and rescue authority taken together.”
My Lords, Amendment 1 is in my name and that of my noble friend Lady Hamwee. Clause 3 covers specific restrictions that apply to collaboration agreements between police, fire and ambulance services—the emergency services—and we welcome government Amendment 2, which adds having an adverse effect on public safety to the existing restriction, if collaboration would result in an adverse effect on efficiency and effectiveness. While I am in a generous mood—it will not last—we also welcome the Government responding to the issues raised in Committee by my noble friend Lady Hamwee and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, around variations in existing agreements and replacement of those agreements with a new agreement, which is government Amendment 3.
We of course support innovative arrangements that are appropriate to the area and develop organically; there are examples across the country where this is happening. However, this is not unqualified support. In Yeovil, Somerset, for example, it has just been announced that the four-storey police station with cells is to be closed and police operations moved to the fire station, which is about a quarter of the size and has very limited parking. Whether the police vehicles or the fire appliances will have to use the nearby public car park is yet to be seen.
Amendment 1 places an additional restriction on collaboration agreements where the emergency service areas are not coterminous or where the boundaries of the police area do not coincide with the area covered by one or more fire and rescue service. The degree of complexity involved, were this not the case, would make such collaboration extremely difficult. On the first day of Committee, the noble Baroness, Lady Scott of Bybrook, gave a good example of the issues:
“In Wiltshire, we would have loved to have joined both fire and police under our PCC. That would be the best use of public resources, not just financial, but people and assets as well. But we cannot do that now, because Wiltshire fire and rescue, earlier this year, joined with Dorset fire and rescue. Dorset police work with Cornwall and Devon. Wiltshire police work in collaboration on major crimes with Avon and Somerset and Gloucester. There are two PCCs—the whole thing is a muddle. The barrier is that there is no coterminosity between different public service authorities and this is, I think, probably getting worse”.—[Official Report, 14/9/16; col. 1469.]
For there to be effective collaboration to the degree envisaged by the Government, there needs to be coterminosity. I beg to move.
My Lords, Amendment 1, moved by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, seeks to limit the duty to collaborate so that police bodies would be required to collaborate with fire and rescue services only where they share coterminous boundaries. I see no reason why collaboration should be limited by geographical borders. The Government require there to be coterminous boundaries where a change of governance for fire is proposed, as the core approach of those provisions is to introduce greater democratic accountability by giving a directly elected individual responsibility for both services, with a clear mandate from the electorate in their area. However, collaboration between two bodies does not invoke such issues. Further, the duty, as currently drafted, would ensure that areas where the services are not coterminous, such as Devon and Cornwall, can still maximise the benefits outside a governance change if there is no appetite to adjust boundaries locally.
As the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, mentioned, existing examples of collaborative working between police forces show the benefits that closer working can provide, regardless of geographical proximity. For instance, Cheshire Police collaborates with Northamptonshire and Nottingham police forces on back-office functions, including payroll, accounting, purchasing and HR, via the Multi-Force Shared Service. West Midlands Police led the largest ever police and emergency service collaborative procurement exercise, which includes 26 territorial forces, two non-territorial forces and five fire and rescue services. Together, the services will buy 3,000 vehicles over the next two years, with forecasted savings of up to £7 million over the period of the contracts.
Government Amendments 2 and 3 respond to points raised in Committee by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, in respect of collaboration agreements. Amendment 2 explicitly provides that no relevant emergency service will be required to enter into a collaboration agreement where it would have an adverse effect on public safety. This has been the Government’s policy intention since conception of the Bill. Indeed, as I set out in Committee, the Government believe that the impact on public safety will be assessed by an emergency service whenever considering the effect of a proposed collaboration on its efficiency or effectiveness. None the less, for the avoidance of any doubt, this amendment makes it explicit in the Bill that no relevant emergency service will be required to enter into a collaboration agreement that would negatively impact public safety.
Amendment 3 clarifies the process for varying a collaboration agreement. We agree that parties to an agreement should also be able to straightforwardly vary terms of an existing agreement, where all parties are in agreement. Parties will also still be able to replace an existing agreement with a new agreement, again with the consent of the parties concerned.
I hope that, having heard my explanation, the noble Lord will be content to support the government amendments in this group and withdraw Amendment 1.
In my opening remarks, I welcomed the government amendments and suggested that we would support them. The examples that the noble Baroness gave of collaboration between police forces were to do with requisition and back-office functions. The real issues arise where there is collaboration on operational issues—for example, the sharing of buildings, and particularly where the Government want to encourage police and crime commissioners to take over the running of fire and rescue authorities, as we will hear later this afternoon. That is where the coterminosity issue is most stark. Therefore, while I accept that for requisition and back-office functions the forces do not need to be geographically co-located, real problems can arise on the operational front in these circumstances, and if the PCC has to take over. However, I will consider carefully what the noble Baroness has said and, at this stage, beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 1 withdrawn.
2: Clause 3, page 3, line 18, after “effect” insert “on public safety or otherwise have an adverse effect”
Amendment 2 agreed.
Clause 4: Collaboration agreements: supplementary
3: Clause 4, page 4, line 38, leave out subsection (8) and insert—
“(8) A collaboration agreement may be—(a) varied with the agreement of all of the parties to the agreement, or(b) replaced by a subsequent collaboration agreement.”
Amendment 3 agreed.
Clause 6: Provision for police and crime commissioner to be fire and rescue authority
4: Clause 6, leave out Clause 6
My Lords, I will speak also to our other amendments in this group: Amendments 12, 14 and 18. First, I acknowledge that the Government have moved, through amendments of their own, to improve the very weak and, frankly, in parts non-existent consultation arrangements provided for in the Bill, where a police and crime commissioner seeks to become the fire and rescue authority. We welcome that there is now a requirement to consult with those representing employees affected by the proposals.
However, the Government have not gone far enough to ensure that consultation is meaningful and that gaps do not exist through which a maverick PCC could seek unjustifiably to restrict or curtail the process—and neither are all the considerations covered that a PCC should be required to address if they wish to become the fire and rescue authority. Accordingly, we have put down Amendments 12, 14 and 18 to government Amendments 11, 13 and 17, and we regard our amendments as being part of a single group.
Government Amendment 11 places a requirement on a police and crime commissioner to,
“publish, in such manner as the commissioner thinks appropriate, the commissioner’s response to the representations made or views expressed in response to those consultations”.
In reality, that means that the commissioner could publish very little about the nature of the representations made and views expressed to him or her under the consultation—perhaps not least by those with strong reservations about the PCC becoming the fire and rescue authority. In being required only to publish a response, the commissioner could be very brief and not actually respond to the specific points and arguments made under the consultation.
Our amendments provide for the commissioner to publish, among other things, copies of each representation made and a summary of views expressed under the consultation on the proposal to become the fire and rescue authority. The amendments also provide for the commissioner to set out why the benefits claimed by becoming the fire and rescue authority cannot be achieved by other forms of collaboration, bearing in mind the emphasis placed in the Bill on improving collaboration between services, which we support.
The government amendments provide that consultation on a proposal from the police and crime commissioner also to be the fire and rescue authority should be carried out in such manner as the relevant police and crime commissioner thinks appropriate. Our amendments seek to be a bit more specific, since there may well be very differing views among police and crime commissioners on what constitutes an appropriate manner in which to consult. Presumably there must be some minimum requirements, and our amendments provide for a period lasting not less than 56 days and a requirement before the start of consultation to produce a draft public proposal, a schedule of public meetings and an invitation to make written submissions.
The government amendments provide for the Secretary of State to publish the independent assessment of a proposal from a PCC to become the fire and rescue authority. Our amendment provides, in addition to what the government amendment says, that it should be published at least one month before an order under Section 4A is made, to make sure that it is published a reasonable period of time before the order is made rather than very close to or even after the order is made.
Of course, I hope that the Government will accept the amendments to which I have referred. However, in the event that that is not their intention, I very much hope that the Government, having heard the points I have made and the concerns that lie behind them, and thus the amendments we have put down, might be prepared to reflect further on this matter and consider whether they could at least come some of the way to addressing some, if not all, of the concerns we have raised by putting down further amendments of their own.
We still have Amendment 4, which seeks to delete the clause that enables a police and crime commissioner to be the fire and rescue authority. I want to make it clear that our opposition to this enabling power in the Bill still stands. I do not wish to detain the House longer than necessary by repeating in detail all the points that we made in Committee and that have led us to our view—but those points still stand. Included among them is the fact that fire and rescue service boundaries are not always in line with PCC areas, and the provision for PCCs to become the fire and rescue authorities assumes that the police organisational structure is, and will be in the future, the most appropriate for the fire and rescue service when already evidence exists that that is not considered to be the case in at least some areas. In our view, the emphasis should be on closer collaboration, which is provided for in the Bill, and not on potentially hostile takeovers.
However, what I want to raise in a bit more detail is the potential impact on fire and rescue service personnel and members of a police force if the PCC becomes the fire and rescue authority and, in particular, the implications if the single-employer model is introduced. I have been told—as opposed to knowing it for a fact myself—that the Staffordshire police and crime commissioner has already prepared a business case, at least in draft, for becoming the fire and rescue authority. As I understand it, that involves adopting the single-employer model and harmonising terms and conditions of service. Apparently, the target date for the takeover of responsibility for the relevant fire and rescue service in this case is April next year—namely, in just over four months’ time. If that is the target date, it immediately raises questions about the consultation process that is likely to be adopted—concerns which I have already sought to express in more generalised terms in what I have said so far.
The terms and conditions of service for firefighters are covered by a national agreement; national bargaining applies. Those terms and conditions are set out in what I believe is referred to as the Grey Book, and they cover not just issues relating to pay and hours but disciplinary arrangements and procedures, as well as pensions. What assurances can the Government give—either now or subsequently in correspondence—that, single-employer model or not, the terms and conditions for firefighters will continue to be determined through the current bargaining procedures and that they will continue to be national terms and conditions, including in a situation where the PCC is also the fire and rescue authority?
When the coalition Government presented their Bill providing for the introduction of police and crime commissioners, the key argument they advanced was that nobody knew who was on the then police authorities, what their responsibilities were or how to contact them. The Government argued that PCCs would be visible, accessible and accountable in a way that did not apply to police authorities. If the intention now is that PCCs who become the fire and rescue authority should be able, if they choose, to move away from national terms and conditions of employment under a single-employer model, that is not a power, role or responsibility which, as I recollect it, the Government cited when making their case for the introduction of PCCs.
I hope that the Minister, as well as giving what I hope will be a helpful response to the three amendments to which I referred earlier, will be able to clarify the position in relation to a PCC who becomes the fire and rescue authority—and, in particular, where they propose to set up a single-employer model, what the position will be in relation to the national conditions of service that currently apply for both firefighters and members of the police force.
My Lords, I support the amendments proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser. The government amendments in this group do not go far enough—for example, in publishing the results of any consultation in full and on the process of the consultation itself, which we believe simply cannot be left in the hands of a police and crime commissioner. We also oppose in principle that police and crime commissioners should be allowed to take over fire and rescue authorities, for many of the reasons that the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, gave this afternoon and in Committee, particularly, as we dealt with in Amendment 1, the issue around coterminosity. We also share the concerns about the employment implications of merging police services and fire and rescue services in a single employer model under a police and crime commissioner.
My noble friend Lady Hamwee and I have Amendment 19 in this group. The amendment would require that the Secretary of State cannot make an order to provide for the police and crime commissioner to be the fire and rescue authority under new Section 4A unless this has been agreed by all relevant local authorities. This amendment is supported by the Local Government Association.
In Committee, the Minister seemed to want to have her cake and eat it—to use a topical phrase. When these issues were discussed, she said at one point that,
“the Government are not mandating the transfer of fire and rescue authorities to police and crime commissioners. These provisions are locally enabling and acknowledge that local leaders are best placed to assess what would work … in their areas”.
But then later she said:
“Where there is clear merit in a transfer taking place that could benefit local communities, it would be wrong to allow vested local interests to stand in the way”.—[Official Report, 14/9/16; col. 1520.]
Local authority councillors are democratically elected to represent local people. One of their responsibilities is the fire and rescue service. Police and crime commissioners have been democratically elected to oversee policing, based on a manifesto that covers only policing. I believe that the Minister was right to say that local leaders are best placed to assess what would work best in their areas, and wrong to describe as “vested local interests” the democratically elected local authority councillors who do not agree with their police and crime commissioner about the PCC taking over local fire and rescue services. Our amendment is in line with the Minister’s initial comment in Committee, rather than her later comment.
My Lords, the Government came into office with a clear manifesto commitment to enable fire and police services to work more closely together and to develop the role of our elected and accountable police and crime commissioners. The provisions in Part 1 of the Bill, including those in Clause 6, give legislative effect to that commitment.
It is clear that better joint working can strengthen our emergency services, deliver significant savings to taxpayers and, most importantly, enable the emergency services to better protect the public. While there are many excellent examples of collaboration between the emergency services across the country—I draw noble Lords’ attention to the excellent overview of such collaboration recently published by the Emergency Services Collaboration Working Group—the picture of collaboration remains patchy and more needs to be done to make collaborative working the norm. The directly accountable leadership of PCCs can play a critical role in this by securing better commissioning and delivery of emergency services at a local level. This is not about a merger or a police takeover; nor is it an erosion of the brand identity of the fire service. By overseeing both services, PCCs can strengthen the services by maximising the opportunities for innovative collaboration between policing and fire, and ensure that best practice is shared.
It has been said many times before, but I should stress again, that the provisions in Clause 6 providing for PCCs to take on responsibility for fire and rescue are totally locally enabling. A one-size-fits-all approach would clearly be inappropriate and it should be up to local communities to have a say in how their services are provided. PCCs will be able to take on responsibility for fire and rescue only where a strong local case is made that it is in the best interests of either efficiency, economy or effectiveness, on the one hand, or public safety, on the other, and where they have consulted the relevant local authorities and the public. Removing the provisions from the Bill that enable PCCs to take on governance of fire and rescue denies PCCs the opportunity to drive forward local reform. In a number of areas—for example, Essex, Northamptonshire and Hertfordshire—we know that PCCs are already working closely with their fire and rescue authorities to consider the local case.
Requiring there to be local agreement before a transfer of governance can take place, as proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, would introduce unnecessary and unjustifiable barriers that serve to inhibit positive collaboration taking place at a local level. If there are valid reasons for a local authority’s opposition to a PCC’s proposal, these will be identified in the independent assessment process and the Home Secretary will approve a transfer only where a case has been made that it is in the interests of local communities. It would not be right to let parochial local interests—to take up what the noble Lord said—get in the way of reform where there is a clear benefit to the public.
In Committee, I was clear that the Government’s intention is for the process by which a PCC brings forward a business case for the transfer of responsibility for fire to be as robust and transparent as possible. It is important that this process commands the confidence of all parties and that local views are properly taken into account. To provide even greater assurances on this point, the Government have put forward a number of amendments which strengthen the consultation and transparency duties on PCCs. These amendments respond to a number of helpful and important points raised by noble Lords during the earlier stages of the Bill.
First, Amendment 9 will replace the existing duty on PCCs to seek the views of people in their police area with a duty that requires them to consult them. This strengthening of the duty makes explicit the Government’s expectation that PCCs will take local views into account when developing their business case and responds to concerns that the existing duty to seek views is not strong enough. In addition, Amendment 10 places an explicit duty on PCCs to consult with persons representing the views of employees and of members of the police force who may be affected by their proposal. I would expect this to include trade unions and staff associations such as the FBU, Unison and the Police Federation.
Amendment 16 will additionally require the PCC to submit a summary of the responses to such consultation to the Home Secretary to inform her decision on the proposal where the PCC does not have local agreement. It remains appropriate that it is for the PCC to determine the manner in which they should consult local authorities, the public and employee representatives, and Amendment 13 makes that clear. In the interests of transparency, Amendments 11, 15 and 17 will also require the PCC to publish the outcomes of their local consultation and the Secretary of State to publish the independent assessment that she secures of a PCC’s business case, where they do not have the agreement of the relevant local councils.
The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, tabled further amendments to these provisions, which seek to further prescribe the process by which a PCC consults on his or her proposal and the requirements on the Home Secretary to publish an independent assessment. As I have already set out, I am very keen, like the noble Lord, to make sure that the process by which a PCC seeks to take on the responsibilities of a fire and rescue authority is as robust and transparent as possible. However, I hope the noble Lord would agree that many of the points that he has raised are properly a matter for guidance rather than for primary legislation. The circumstances of each local consultation will be different, so we should not unduly fetter local flexibility to put in place proportionate arrangements that recognise the nature of each local business case. The amendments, while well intentioned, risk cutting across the local accountability of PCCs and risk Whitehall dictating matters that should rightly be left to local leaders.
In response to the noble Lord’s important concerns, however, I can be very clear about the Government’s expectation that the PCC’s consultation will be undertaken in an appropriate manner and be of an appropriate duration to allow local people to express their views and for the PCC to have them taken into account. Further, we would expect the PCC’s response to the consultation to cover the matters that the noble Lord has listed in Amendment 12. The Home Office will work closely with the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners and the Association of Police and Crime Chief Executives to ensure that their guidance on the development of PCC business cases incorporates these points. However, I should stress again that it is for the PCC to determine locally how to achieve such outcomes based on the nature of the case, its complexity and its understanding of the best ways to engage with local communities.
Furthermore, government Amendment 17 will ensure that the independent assessment is published as soon as is practicable after the Home Secretary has made a determination. In practice, this will ensure that all parties have sufficient time to consider the findings before an order is made. Adding in what amounts to a statutory one-month pause in the process in every case again strikes me as unduly complicating the procedure for making these orders and risks increasing local uncertainty as the process is drawn out. I might add that having received the independent assessment, there is no assumption that the Home Secretary would necessarily approve a PCC’s proposal. She will base her decision on the evidence presented. I hope that noble Lords will agree that the government amendments set out a clear expectation that there should be a comprehensive consultation, that the process will be transparent, and that local views will be properly taken into account.
I also indicated in Committee that I would give further consideration to the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, regarding public safety. As I set out during that debate, public safety is a core function of the emergency services and we consider that any assessment of the impact of a proposed transfer of governance on effectiveness would include an assessment of its impact on public safety. None the less, I am content to make provision on the face of the Bill that puts this matter beyond any doubt. Government Amendments 5, 6 and 35 explicitly provide that the Secretary of State may not make an order transferring responsibility for fire and rescue to a PCC or implementing the single employer model under either a PCC or a combined authority mayor where it would adversely affect public safety.
I shall deal with the other government amendments in this group. As the Bill is currently drafted, when a PCC implements the single employer model and so delegates fire functions to a single chief officer, schemes that may be made by the Secretary of State transferring property, rights and liabilities from an FRA or the PCC-style FRA to that chief officer are one way only. On the terms and conditions for police and fire and rescue personnel, when staff are transferred from an FRA to the PCC, and under the single employer model from the PCC to the chief officer, they would be covered by the principles of the Cabinet Office code of practice entitled Statement of Practice of Staff Transfers in the Public Sector, taking into account the considerations associated with bringing two workforces closer together. For example, we propose that under the single employer model, complaints, conduct and death and serious injury matters for both the police and the fire service are treated on a consistent basis. PCCs will need to consider how to best reflect a more closely aligned workforce locally when preparing their business case, including consultation with the relevant unions where necessary, as I said previously.
On the question whether the proposals will take firefighters, emergency fire control staff and fire support staff out of national pay and conditions, pensions and other arrangements, the terms and conditions of firefighters and control staff are negotiated on a UK-wide basis via the National Joint Council for Local Authority Fire and Rescue Services. The NJC has no statutory basis and it is for PCC FRAs to decide whether to remain members. PCC-style FRAs will also have the same ability as FRAs to negotiate changes to terms and conditions at local level, while remaining members of the NJC, but PCCs would need to approach the NJC if they wished to become members.
Ongoing engagement on implementation with both policing and fire partners, including the Police and Crime Commissioners Treasurers’ Society and the Fire Finance Network, has identified merit in enabling flexibility to transfer property rights and liabilities back from the chief officer to the PCC-style FRA. This is consistent with the nature of delegation envisaged under the single employer model: the PCC remains the FRA and is ultimately responsible for the exercise of its functions. Amendments 7 and 8 provide for such two-way transfers under PCCs and Amendment 36 makes corresponding provision for combined authority mayors.
Finally, Amendments 20 to 22 make it clear that where a PCC is also a fire and rescue authority, he or she is able to prepare a joint plan setting out their priorities for both policing and fire. Within such a joint plan, they would be able to take a holistic view of their priorities across both functions and reflect the nature of collaborative working within their area.
We have listened very carefully to the concerns raised in Committee about the provisions in the Bill enabling a PCC to assume the responsibilities of the fire and rescue authority in their area. The package of amendments the Government have brought forward, which will be further augmented by guidance, significantly strengthens the transparency of the process by which a PCC puts forward a proposal, and ensures that the local community and affected staff are properly consulted. With these changes, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, and indeed the whole House, will accept that these locally enabling provisions should remain part of the Bill. There is nothing to fear from these provisions. Our common objective is to deliver a more efficient, effective and accountable policing and fire and rescue service for the benefit of communities. These measures will do just that. Given my explanation, I hope that the noble Lord feels content to withdraw his amendment.
Before the Minister sits down, could she clarify something? She described the amendments proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, as unnecessary interference in what should be a locally determined matter—the nature of the consultation process. However, when it comes to deciding whether the police and crime commissioner should take over the fire and rescue authority, against the wishes of the democratically elected local councillors, that is not seen as an unnecessary interference in local decisions.
I, likewise, ask the Minister for some clarification of what she has just said. Am I right in saying that under the single employer model and the harmonising of conditions—if there is to be such—we could end up with different rates of pay, different conditions of service and different disciplinary procedures for firefighters and members of police forces in different PCC areas: that there could no longer be national rates and national conditions of service? That is what I have read into the Minister’s response, because it depends on whether a PCC decides to continue to have conditions of employment determined by the national bargaining body, or whether the police and crime commissioner who has become the fire and rescue authority decides he or she wants to bargain with their own employees in the fire and rescue service and, presumably, the police service, if it is harmonising conditions. Is that a fair interpretation of what the Minister said?
Before Third Reading I will write to the noble Lord and to all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate, and distribute that response to the House. What I said was the terms and conditions of firefighters and the control staff are negotiated on a UK-wide basis via the National Joint Council, but the NJC has no statutory basis and it is for the PCC-style FRAs to decide whether to remain members. I will write to the noble Lord before Third Reading to outline more detail on what that might look like.
I take it that the noble Baroness is going to write, and I am very grateful to her for saying that, if necessary, that means we could come back to this issue on Third Reading. I also ask, genuinely for clarification, and I am sorry I did not pick up the Minister’s response on Amendments 12, 14 and 18 first time, but on Amendment 12, which sets out a number of requirements relating to consultation over what documents should be published and why the benefits could not be achieved through other forms of collaboration, did I hear correctly the Minister say that those requirements would be included in guidance? I do not know whether that will be guidance or regulations.
As I understood it, the Minister did not extend that to the items I covered in Amendments 14 and 18. I am seeking to clarify, not to pursue the argument again, that that statement of what would be covered in guidance relates to what I have in Amendment 12. As I understood what the Minister said, that did not extend to Amendments 14 and 18. I am simply trying to clarify what was said.
So there is an issue of a period over which consultation shall last. The other matters will be covered in guidance. Is that guidance that will go through this House in the form of regulations, or is this guidance that we will not see until it is published?
That is a helpful response and I take it in the spirit in which it was said. I hope that the Minister will accept, bearing in mind that she has indicated—I do not want to make things difficult—that it appears to apply to Amendments 12 and 14. To put it bluntly, if that does not prove to be the case we can come back at Third Reading.
Yes, and I hope that it would never be interpreted that I will not follow through on something I say at the Dispatch Box, because I most certainly will meet the noble Lord and discuss the finer detail of the guidance before Third Reading.
Amendment 4 withdrawn.
Schedule 1: Provision for police and crime commissioner to be fire and rescue authority
Amendments 5 to 10
5: Schedule 1, page 189, line 13, at end insert—
“(5A) The Secretary of State may not make an order under this section in a case within subsection (5)(a) if the Secretary of State thinks that the order would have an adverse effect on public safety.”
6: Schedule 1, page 195, line 8, at end insert—
“(5A) The Secretary of State may not make an order under this section in a case within subsection (5)(a) if the Secretary of State thinks that the order would have an adverse effect on public safety.”
7: Schedule 1, page 195, line 27, at end insert “, or
(b) from that chief constable to the fire and rescue authority to which the order applies.”
8: Schedule 1, page 195, line 28, leave out “(1)” and insert “(1)(a)”
9: Schedule 1, page 202, line 10, leave out “make arrangements to seek the views of” and insert “consult”
10: Schedule 1, page 202, line 11, at end insert—
“(c) consult each of the following about the proposal—(i) persons appearing to the commissioner to represent employees who may be affected by the proposal;(ii) persons appearing to the commissioner to represent members of a police force who may be so affected”
Amendments 5 to 10 agreed.
11: Schedule 1, page 202, line 11, at end insert “, and
“(d) publish, in such manner as the commissioner thinks appropriate, the commissioner’s response to the representations made or views expressed in response to those consultations.”
Amendment 12 (to Amendment 11) not moved.
Amendment 11 agreed.
13: Schedule 1, page 202, line 11, at end insert—
“(2) Each consultation under sub-paragraph (1) is to be carried out in such manner as the relevant police and crime commissioner thinks appropriate.”
Amendment 14 (to Amendment 13) not moved.
Amendment 13 agreed.
Amendments 15 and 16
15: Schedule 1, page 202, line 13, leave out “and (3)” and insert “to (4)”
16: Schedule 1, page 202, line 24, after “proposal,” insert—
“(ca) a summary of the views expressed about the proposal by persons consulted under paragraph 3(1)(c),”
Amendments 15 and 16 agreed.
17: Schedule 1, page 202, line 32, at end insert—
“(4) The Secretary of State must publish the independent assessment—(a) as soon as is reasonably practicable after making a determination in response to the proposal, and(b) in such manner as the Secretary of State thinks appropriate.”
Amendment 18 (to Amendment 17) not moved.
Amendment 17 agreed.
Amendment 19 not moved.
Amendments 20 to 22
20: Schedule 1, page 219, line 28, leave out “Subsection (5B) applies” and insert “Subsections (5B) to (5E) apply”
21: Schedule 1, page 219, line 33, at beginning insert “Subject to subsection (5E),”
22: Schedule 1, page 219, line 41, at end insert—
“(5C) A police and crime plan which the police and crime commissioner is required to prepare may be prepared jointly by the commissioner and the fire and rescue authority.(5D) If the police and crime commissioner and the fire and rescue authority prepare a joint police and crime plan, the plan must also set out the fire and rescue authority’s priorities and objectives, for the period of the plan, in connection with the discharge of the authority’s functions.(5E) Subsection (5B)(b) does not apply to a joint police and crime plan.”
Amendments 20 to 22 agreed.
Clause 7: Involvement of police and crime commissioner in fire and rescue authority
23: Clause 7, page 6, leave out lines 20 to 30
My Lords, I shall also speak to the other amendments in this group. These amendments, taken together, are designed to allow police and crime commissioners to attend and speak at committees or sub-committees appointed by local authorities wholly or partly for the purposes of discharging the functions of a fire and rescue authority but not to allow police and crime commissioners to vote at those meetings.
Local authority councillors are democratically elected to represent local people on a range of issues, including fire and rescue services. Police and crime commissioners have been democratically elected to represent local people in overseeing the police force for which they are responsible. They have no democratic mandate to vote on issues relating to fire and rescue services, as the noble Lord, Lord Bach, said so persuasively in Committee, at col. 1489. If the police and crime commissioner has persuasive points, the committee that he is present and speaking at will be persuaded, and if his points are not persuasive, he should not be allowed to use a vote to push those views through. The “real influence” that the Minister referred to in Committee, at col. 1544, should come from the strength of the police and crime commissioner’s arguments, not from having a vote to back them up. I beg to move.
My Lords, Clause 7 enables police and crime commissioners to request to be represented on fire and rescue authorities within their police areas where they do not take responsibility for the governance of the fire and rescue service. This is what we have described as the representation model. Where a fire and rescue authority accepts such a request, we have set out that PCCs will be treated as if they were a member of the authority for the purposes of bringing agenda items, receiving papers and so on, and have full voting rights to ensure that they can take part in the business of the fire and rescue authority in a meaningful and effective way.
The noble Lord’s amendments seek to remove these provisions, which would be a great shame, as we want the PCC’s representation to be meaningful and on an equal footing with existing members of the FRA. To deny PCCs the ability to vote would reduce their scope for influence and I fear that opportunities for fostering greater collaboration would be missed. As my noble friend Lady Williams explained in Committee, in response to a group of similar amendments, we want police and crime commissioners and fire and rescue authorities to consider the representation model as a viable option for promoting greater collaboration between the two services. These amendments would hinder that.
The amendments would also remove the necessity for a fire and rescue authority to publish its decision and reasoning in considering the PCC’s request for membership. I am concerned that to do so would remove transparency and accountability from the process. These provisions enable PCCs to seek representation where they wish to do so, while respecting local fire governance arrangements. The final decision on representation rests with the fire and rescue authority, although we fully expect that in the majority of instances the fire and rescue authority would accept the PCC’s request and, if it did not, its reasons should be made clear to both the PCC and the public. This ensures that the process is fully transparent and open to effective scrutiny.
The provisions in the Bill allow for the representation model to be considered as an opportunity to foster greater collaboration outside of pursuing other governance models. I hope I have been able to persuade the noble Lord of the merits of the approach taken in the Bill and that he will be content to withdraw his amendment.
I am grateful to the Minister. I am still struggling to understand why a police and crime commissioner, who is elected on the basis of a manifesto to do with policing, should have full voting rights on a fire and rescue authority. I am not sure that “It would be a great shame” is a particularly powerful argument against my proposal. The Minister said that the police and crime commissioner should be on an equal footing with other members of the fire and rescue authority but did not actually say why. Yes, the final decision rests with the fire and rescue authority but, given the fact that this is in legislation, it would be difficult, certainly following the Minister’s remarks, for fire and rescue authorities to resist a move by a police and crime commissioner to take those voting rights. Greater collaboration surely does not necessarily depend on the police and crime commissioner having a vote on the fire and rescue authority. None the less, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 23 withdrawn.
Amendments 24 to 30 not moved.
Clause 8: Combined authority mayors: exercise of fire and rescue functions
Amendments 31 to 36
31: Clause 8, page 12, line 22, at end insert—
“(2A) Before making the request the mayor must publish, in such manner as the mayor thinks appropriate, the mayor’s response to the representations made or views expressed in response to any consultations on the proposal.”
32: Clause 8, page 12, line 23, leave out “and (5)” and insert “to (5A)”
33: Clause 8, page 12, line 24, leave out “has made” and insert “makes”
34: Clause 8, page 12, line 41, at end insert—
“(5A) The Secretary of State must publish the independent assessment—(a) as soon as is reasonably practicable after making a determination in response to the proposal, and(b) in such manner as the Secretary of State thinks appropriate.”
35: Clause 8, page 12, line 46, at end insert—
“(6A) The Secretary of State may not make an order under section 107EA(2) in a case within subsection (6)(a) of this section if the Secretary of State thinks that the order would have an adverse effect on public safety.”
36: Clause 8, page 13, line 23, after “constable” insert “, or
“( ) from the chief constable to the combined authority,”
Amendments 31 to 36 agreed.
Schedule 2: The London Fire Commissioner
37: Schedule 2, page 224, line 19, at end insert “or any other local authority within the meaning of sections 1, 2 and 3A of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989.”
My Lords, the government amendments in this group respond to some very well-made points in Committee about the provisions in the Bill establishing the office of the London fire commissioner.
Amendments 37, 156, 195 and 205 will ensure that no locally elected councillor will have to resign their council position if they are appointed as deputy mayor for fire or deputy mayor for policing and crime in London. In Committee the noble Lord, Lord Harris, made a compelling case for this change with reference to two London borough councillors who had had to resign their council positions when appointed to the position of deputy mayor for police and crime because, when appointed, they were treated as an employee of the Greater London Authority and therefore became politically restricted. I have listened to the case made by the noble Lord and agree that no locally elected councillor should be placed in a situation where they would have to give up their seat to become the deputy mayor for fire or the deputy mayor for policing and crime.
Amendments 38 to 40 are drafting amendments which correct erroneous references to the assembly’s fire and emergency “panel” rather than “committee”. I am again grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Harris, for spotting them. Finally, Amendments 41 and 42 respond to one tabled in Committee by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, relating to the functions of the fire and emergency committee. These amendments will ensure that there is appropriate scrutiny of the actions and decisions of the deputy mayor for fire, and allow the committee to investigate and prepare reports about any other matters the assembly considers to be of importance to fire and rescue services in London. I beg to move.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for responding to the points I made in Committee and introducing these amendments. I suspect that this is a refinement and clarification of the law which is of interest to a tiny handful of citizens of the United Kingdom. None the less, the anomaly created was slightly strange.
However, at the risk of prolonging this only a moment, I seek a little clarification. The amendments, as I understand them, would enable a deputy mayor in these circumstances to be an elected councillor. Does that also remove the restriction on those individuals placed by the Local Government Officers (Political Restrictions) Regulations 1990, which among other things do not allow such a person to hold office in a political party or to canvass for one? It might be a boon to anyone in this position if they were allowed to be elected and stand for election but not to canvass on their own behalf.
It is difficult to disentangle what are three interlocking Acts of Parliament, not all of which seem in the public references to have been updated by subsequent legislation. It seems to me that the Local Government Officers (Political Restrictions) Regulations 1990 might still apply to these individuals, even though the specific issue of election to a local authority has been removed. Having said that, I am sure that the Minister will be able to clarify it entirely to my satisfaction and I am very grateful to her and her officials for responding to this allegedly minor issue.
I hope it is not going to be another letter because, from my dim and distant memory of local government officers’ political restrictions, I recall that up to a certain level of officer, you are free to canvass and engage in political activity. You are also free to stand for elected office in an authority other than your own. I think I may have to write, now that the noble Lord is heading for the door, on the matter of elected office for local authority officials because that will be looked at in the regulations.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for listening to the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, and to the issues raised by my noble friend Lady Hamwee. She cannot be in her place today, but she has asked me to pass on her thanks for the amendments that the Government have brought forward in this group.
Amendment 37 agreed.
Amendments 38 to 42
38: Schedule 2, page 229, line 7, leave out “panel” and insert “committee”
39: Schedule 2, page 229, line 8, leave out “panel” and insert “committee”
40: Schedule 2, page 229, line 35, leave out “panel” and insert “committee”
41: Schedule 2, page 230, line 24, at end insert “, or
(e) any other matters which the Assembly considers to be of importance to fire and rescue services in Greater London.”
42: Schedule 2, page 230, line 24, at end insert—
“(3A) The Assembly may investigate, and prepare reports about, the actions and decisions of the Deputy Mayor for Fire.”
Amendments 38 to 42 agreed.
43: After Clause 11, insert the following new Clause—
“Fire Safety inspections
(1) The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (S.I. 2005/1541) is amended as follows.(2) In article 2 (interpretation), in the definition of “fire inspector”—(a) after “inspector”” insert “, in relation to Wales,”;(b) for “section 28” substitute “section 28(1)”.(3) In article 27 (powers of inspectors), after paragraph (4) insert—“(5) This article applies to a person authorised by the Secretary of State under article 25(1)(e) in relation to premises in England as it applies to an inspector; and article 32(2)(d) to (f), with the necessary modifications, applies accordingly.”(4) In article 28 (exercise on behalf of fire inspectors etc of their powers by officers of fire brigades)—(a) in paragraph (1)—(i) omit “, or any other person authorised by the Secretary of State under article 25(e),”;(ii) for “and (3)” substitute “to (4)”;(b) after paragraph (1) insert—“(1A) The powers conferred by article 27 on an authorised person (by virtue of paragraph (5) of that article) are also exercisable by an employee of a fire and rescue authority in England when authorised in writing by such an authorised person for the purpose of reporting to him or her on any matter falling within the authorised person’s functions under this Order; and articles 27(2) to (4) and 32(2)(d) to (f), with the necessary modifications, apply accordingly.”;(c) in paragraph (2), for “, or other person authorised by the Secretary of State,” substitute “or authorised person”;(d) after paragraph (2) insert—“(3) In this article, “authorised person” means a person authorised by the Secretary of State under article 25(1)(e) in relation to premises in England.””
My Lords, Amendments 44, 45 and 105 are essentially technical amendments to ensure that the strengthened powers of an inspector of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and the powers of an inspector of fire and rescue authorities in England, as provided for in the Bill, work as intended.
Both inspectors have powers to obtain information and to access premises of the relevant organisation which they are inspecting and of persons providing services for that organisation. The amendments ensure that any person providing services or carrying out any of the activities of either organisation by virtue of an enactment, including where there is no contractual agreement, come within the inspection framework. This would, for example, cover police or ambulance staff who are undertaking fire functions as part of a local agreement—an approach which is growing across many police forces and fire and rescue authorities. These amendments will ensure that both police and English fire and rescue inspectors have sufficient powers covering all individuals who are fulfilling an activity which needs to be inspected. The powers to access premises and require information are long-standing and widely used, with established safeguards that will apply to these amendments.
Amendment 43 concerns the enforcement of fire safety in Crown-owned or Crown-occupied premises for the purpose of ensuring compliance with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. Presently, the 2005 order defines an enforcement authority with reference to inspectors under Section 28 of the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004. In the light of the fire inspection provisions in the Bill, it is now desirable to break the link between the inspection of fire and rescue authorities by an English inspector appointed under the amended Section 28 of the 2004 Act and enforcement of fire safety in Crown-owned and Crown-occupied premises under the 2005 order.
We do not consider it appropriate for those charged with responsibility for inspecting the efficiency and effectiveness of fire and rescue authorities in England under Section 28 of the 2004 Act, as amended, to have any powers in relation to enforcing fire safety provisions in Crown-owned or Crown-occupied premises for the purpose of ensuring compliance with the 2005 order. The skill set is entirely different, with fire safety enforcement officers requiring a high level of technical competence in building construction and fire safety management.
However, to deliver this objective we need to amend the 2005 order to ensure that any persons authorised, under Article 25(1)(e) of the 2005 order, by the Secretary of State to enforce the provisions of the 2005 order in Crown-owned and Crown-occupied premises are able to access the powers of enforcement that are necessary to enable them to perform their function effectively.
Without this amendment, any persons subsequently authorised to enforce the provisions in Crown-owned or Crown-occupied premises who were not also appointed as English fire inspectors or assistant inspectors would not, in law, be able to perform their function. I beg to move.
Amendment 43 agreed.
Schedule 3: Schedule to be inserted as Schedule A3 to the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004
Amendments 44 and 45
44: Schedule 3, page 247, line 17, at end insert—
“(e) any other person who is, by virtue of any enactment, carrying out any of the activities of a fire and rescue authority in England.”
45: Schedule 3, page 248, line 19, after “England,” insert “or
(iii) any other person who is, by virtue of any enactment, carrying out any of the activities of a fire and rescue authority in England,”
Amendments 44 and 45 agreed.
Clause 25: Bodies who may make super-complaints
46: Clause 25, page 40, line 13, after “subsection” insert “(1), ”
My Lords, in moving Amendment 46 I will speak also to the other amendment in the group, Amendment 47. Both are in my name and that of my noble friend Lady Hamwee. This is a straight rerun of the amendments we had in Committee in relation to police super-complaints, which bodies can make them and the authorised persons who can ask the Secretary of State to add or remove bodies from the list of bodies that can make them. In Committee, we argued that the Secretary of State should be required to consult on the regulations that designate which bodies can make super-complaints. These regulations will contain the criteria that will be applied to decide which bodies can bring police super-complaints. New Section 29B, inserted by Clause 25, requires the Secretary of State to consult when she makes or revokes a designation but does not require her to consult on the criteria that she applies in deciding whether to make or revoke a designation. That is the intended effect of Amendment 46.
Amendment 47 relates to the “authorised persons” who can ask the Secretary of State to make or revoke a designation under new Section 29B(2)(b) of the Police Reform Act 2002. Contrary to what the Minister took as our intention in Committee, Amendment 47 sets out a list of bodies that the Secretary of State should specify as authorised persons who can ask the Secretary of State to make or revoke a designated body under new subsection (2)(a), not a list of designated bodies that can make police super-complaints.
Just to be clear, there will be two lists of bodies in relation to police super-complaints. There are authorised persons, who are bodies who can ask the Secretary of State to designate or remove a body from the list of those able to make police super-complaints, and there are bodies that are designated as being able to bring police super-complaints. We believe that the list of authorised persons should include the Law Society, the National Council for Voluntary Organisations and Citizens Advice, and others that should be listed in the Bill. I beg to move Amendment 46.
My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, said, these matters were discussed in Committee. I am very supportive of Amendments 46 and 47. As we have heard, designated bodies will get the power to make super-complaints to Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary, and these complaints can be made where, in the opinion of the designated body, a feature of policing may be harming the public and needs looking at. It is based on a system that works in the private sector and this is the first time it will be used in the public sector. Only designated bodies will be able to make super-complaints, and the process for designating these bodies will be set out in regulations.
When the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford, responds to this debate, it would be helpful if she said something about the timescale for the consultation processes, and when she expects these regulations to be laid before Parliament and come into force. I should also say that I am happy for the negative procedure to be used in respect of the regulations; perhaps the noble Baroness could bring that fact to the attention of the noble Lord, Lord Hyde of Ashton, who is of the opinion that I would never agree to the negative procedure being used for regulations in this House.
The proposals in this section of the Bill are a welcome move and will be a positive benefit to organisations and individuals that have legitimate concerns to raise. We are supportive of them and of these amendments.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, for the opportunity to address the misunderstanding over Amendment 47, which was previously tabled in Committee. However, I am again going to have to disappoint the noble Lord as the Government cannot support either of these amendments. The Bill provides for the delegation of the ability to authorise those who can be designated bodies for the purposes of the new super-complaints system.
I welcome the noble Lord’s suggestions of who should perform this function but I do not agree that this task can be performed by bodies that might themselves want to raise super-complaints, or by multiple agencies. For the system to have legitimacy, we need to avoid a conflict of interest in this role. That is why the Bill creates this distinct role, as we do not consider it appropriate that HM Inspectorate of Constabulary designates the bodies that can come to it with super-complaints.
All three bodies put forward by the noble Lord could potentially add significant value as designated bodies, should they wish to apply. It would be a shame if, for example, Citizens Advice were precluded from raising issues through the super-complaints system. In the interests of a smooth and speedy process, I suggest that this role should be undertaken by an individual or single body, not by a committee.
The critical point here is that the criteria for designation are clear and unambiguous so that authorisation is a simple and objective process. That is why we will consult widely on the criteria in due course, and I encourage all those who have an interest to feed in their views. The noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, asked about timing: it will be in the coming months.
Having consulted to establish clear criteria, we believe it is unnecessary to subsequently consult on any list of bodies deemed to have met the criteria, as required by the noble Lord’s Amendment 46. This risks slowing the whole system down, delaying designation and further delaying the point at which bodies can submit super-complaints to HMIC.
I reiterate the Government’s commitment to consulting widely on the criteria. As part of that process, we would welcome the input of noble Lords on bodies or organisations that may be suitable for designation or for the role as the authorised person. I hope the noble Lord, having considered the Government’s arguments, will feel free to withdraw his amendment.
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, for his support for these amendments and for the explanation given by the Minister. Obviously I am disappointed that she felt she could not support them. Clearly there would have to be a distinction between the role of authorised persons and the role of designated bodies. The suggestions we made were on the basis that these organisations had vast knowledge of the voluntary bodies and third party organisations that work in their areas. There would have to be a distinction if they were appointed as authorised persons, and they would not be able to be designated bodies themselves, but that is something that the Government could make a decision on.
I am grateful for the reassurance around the consultation that will take place over the criteria that will be used in order to decide which bodies should be designated. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 46 withdrawn.
Amendment 47 not moved.
48: After Clause 26, insert the following new Clause—
“Inquiry into complaints alleging corrupt relationships between police and newspaper organisations
(1) Within one month of the condition in subsection (3) being satisfied, the Prime Minister must commission an independent inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005 into the operation of the police complaints system in respect of allegations of corrupt relationships between the police and newspaper organisations.(2) The inquiry’s terms of reference must include, but are not to be limited to—(a) how adequately police forces have investigated complaints about police officers in dealing with people working within, or connected to, newspaper organisations; (b) the thoroughness of any reviews by police forces into complaints of the type specified in paragraph (a);(c) in those cases where a complaint of the type referred to in paragraph (a) led to a criminal investigation, the conduct of prosecuting authorities in investigating the allegation;(d) whether and to what extent, if any, police officers took illegal payment to suppress investigations of complaints of relationships between police officers and people working within, or connected to, newspaper organisations;(e) the implications of paragraphs (a) to (d) for the relationships between newspaper organisations and the police, prosecuting authorities, and relevant regulatory bodies, and recommended actions in that respect.(3) The condition in this subsection is that the Attorney-General determines that the inquiry, if conducted effectively and fairly, would not be likely to prejudice any ongoing relevant criminal investigations or court proceedings cases.(4) The Attorney-General must consider and reach a decision on the matter specified in subsection (3) within one month of this section coming into force, and if necessary must reconsider the matter each month until the Attorney-General is able to make a determination as set out in subsection (3).”
My Lords, this amendment is also in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton. The second part of the Leveson inquiry was promised by the former Prime Minister in order to investigate allegations of collusion—above all, corrupt collusion—between the press and the police. An undertaking was made to victims of press and police corruption, including those who had lost loved ones at Hillsborough and were then smeared, among many other victims.
The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, when he was Leader of the House, read out the former Prime Minister’s Statement on this matter to this House on 29 November 2012—almost exactly four years ago. He said:
“When I set up this inquiry, I also said there would be a second part, to investigate wrongdoing in the press and the police, including the conduct of the first police investigation. This second stage cannot go ahead until the current criminal proceedings have concluded, but we remain committed to the inquiry as it was first established”.—[Official Report, 29/11/12; col. 338.]
But there has been a shift, and the Government are apparently no longer so committed to Leveson part 2 happening once the criminal proceedings are finished. The noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, answered a Written Question on Leveson 2 on 15 June this year. She wrote:
“Criminal proceedings connected to the subject matter of the Leveson inquiry, including the appeals process, have not yet completed. We have always been clear that these cases must conclude before we consider part 2 of the inquiry”.
So now it is just to be considered, not undertaken.
This is not what was promised to the Hillsborough families or to other victims of press and police collusion or corruption. In the light of the conviction of Mazher Mahmood, the findings of the Hillsborough Independent Panel, the finding that News of the World executives lied to a Select Committee and the apparent continuation of what we might, kindly, call business as usual at some larger newspaper corporations, I do not think we can say that we are sure that the need for Leveson 2 has diminished. The Hillsborough Family Support Group worked with the shadow Home Secretary, Mr Andy Burnham, to table an amendment to the Bill on Report in the Commons which would have recommitted the Government to going through with Leveson 2. It is that amendment that I have agreed to move today.
The Government could have begun proceedings for Leveson 2 weeks ago, when the relevant trials had finished. Doing so would help draw a line under Hillsborough, Orgreave, Daniel Morgan and countless other scandals involving both the police and the press.
I do not think this is a trivial matter. A commitment was made to Leveson 2; the victims want it; the public want it; and, for democracy to function well, we all need it. The Government should get on with what they promised in 2011 and 2012 and begin Leveson 2 now. I beg to move.
My Lords, despite the eminence of the noble Baroness, I hope the Government will be robust in resisting the amendment. I have one general principle about it. Over a long time in Parliament, I have been involved directly and indirectly with a very large number of inquiries; I have participated in some. There is a proportionality rule: is the likely outcome of the inquiry and the chances of its recommendations being implemented sufficient to justify the cost of setting it up and the bureaucracy involved? In the majority of cases in which I have been involved, the answer to that question is no, and I strongly suspect that this time the answer is no again.
All of us who have been in public life know full well that there has always been collusion between the police and journalists—certainly ever since I was first in the House of Commons, nearly 40 years ago. It is lamentable, but it has been the case. I doubt that anything else that will be turned up in this inquiry would justify the initial cost.
I have one further point. It is absolutely right that police officers who take money for supplying confidential information—that is, are bribed—should be the subject of criminal procedure. But that is also, in the generality of cases, true of the journalists. What we are dealing with when a journalist pays a police officer is a criminal conspiracy to do an unlawful thing.
Occasionally, there will be instances where the public interest is genuinely involved. But one thing I have noted in recent months and years is the unwillingness of juries to convict journalists for doing this, because quite specious claims of public interest are always invoked. In general, it is public curiosity, not interest, which justifies the process. I very much doubt that we will get juries to see the rightness of what I have been saying, so there may have to be another way forward.
I very much hope that the press industry—editors in particular—recognises the impropriety in the generality of cases of journalists paying police officers for information. The fact that juries will not convict for these purposes is neither here nor there. I would hope that senior journalists would incorporate into the contracts of employment with their journalists a prohibition on doing what I have just described, and that editors and proprietors would be willing to enforce that prohibition.
Reverting to my first point, I am sorry, but I cannot support the noble Baroness’s very eloquent submission to your Lordships’ House.
My Lords, I rise to support the amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady O’Neill of Bengarve. I should declare three interests. First, I was a police officer for more than 30 years, retiring with an exemplary record in 2007 as a deputy assistant commissioner, the equivalent of a deputy chief constable outside London. Secondly, I was a victim of phone hacking. Thirdly, I was party to a judicial review of the Metropolitan Police Service in 2011. This review concluded that the police had failed in their duty to protect my and others’ Article 8 rights to a private and family life under the Human Rights Act, because they had failed to tell us that we were the targets of phone hacking by the press. I was a senior police officer in the Metropolitan Police at the time of the phone hacking. The noble Lord, Lord Prescott, another party to the judicial review, was the Deputy Prime Minister at the time his phone was hacked.
To take up the point of the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, I accept the question of proportionality but the difference here is that the Government promised the victims of phone hacking that Leveson 2 would take place. The former Prime Minister promised that this inquiry would take place and that, I am afraid, rather trumps the noble Viscount’s arguments around proportionality. The inquiry was set up to explore and resolve a number of areas but, in the interests of brevity, as no doubt these points will be covered by other noble Lords, I will focus on just one element.
I discovered that I had been the subject of interest to the private detective employed by News International to carry out phone hacking, Glen Mulcaire, when I was told through my solicitors by the Guardian in 2011. My solicitors contacted the Metropolitan Police, who said that there was no record of my having been the victim of phone hacking. The Guardian sources insisted that I was and the Metropolitan Police eventually admitted that I had been involved as a target. They subsequently disclosed pages from Mulcaire’s notebook which had my name, details of my then partner, our home address and phone numbers and other personal details and that these documents were in their possession and had been in their possession since before 2006. The police also subsequently disclosed an internal memo which indicated that “Commander Paddick” was a target of phone hacking. I was a commander from 2000 to 2003, when I was promoted.
My point is that the Metropolitan Police knew that there was widespread phone hacking and did nothing to investigate it or to warn the victims that their phones were being hacked, even when one of those victims was the Deputy Prime Minister and another was one of its own senior police officers, who was working in the same building as the detectives who had uncovered the scandal. At around the same time, it appears that members of the press whose phones were being hacked by rival newspapers were warned that their phones were being hacked.
There has been no satisfactory explanation of why the police behaved in this way—we need to know why. Leveson 2 should be initiated to find that out. I say that there has been no satisfactory explanation of the police conduct because it has been suggested that the initial investigation, where the Royal Family had been among the victims and which had been carried out by the Counter Terrorism Command as a result, had other priorities. We can imagine that the counterterrorism branch did have other priorities. If that was the reason for not taking the matter further, there was no reason why the police could not have informed other victims to take precautions against using their mobile phones and that no further action would be taken. Indeed, that was the conclusion reached by the judge who heard the judicial review.
Once the royal connection had been dealt with, the case could, and should, have been transferred to the Specialist Crime Directorate of the Metropolitan Police, the most appropriate department at Scotland Yard to investigate such matters, where a scandal of such proportions could have been given the resources required to investigate matters properly. Instead, it was only after the Guardian discovered the extent of the scandal that the Metropolitan Police acknowledged that an investigation was needed and applied the resources required. We have not got to the bottom of the relationship between the Metropolitan Police and the media at that time. That is why we need the inquiry proposed by this amendment.
If a public inquiry is needed and the Government have promised one, it should take place. The sudden deployment of a wholly unnecessary consultation is, or appears to be, a device to give cover to the Government reneging yet again on a promise made regarding the phone hacking issue. If I am wrong and the Government decide after all to recommit to Leveson 2, I am sure this House will simply agree to the later removal of the amendment. In the meantime, it is our insurance policy against the Government letting us down again, and we on these Benches will support it if the noble Baroness divides the House.
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lords who tabled this amendment. I listened to the explanation of the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, the chronology of which I understand, but which may be difficult for others to understand. I totally accept the passion with which he spoke on that issue. I support the amendment but make it clear that I am one of the few Members of the House who gave evidence to Leveson in person and on oath. I support the amendment precisely because it fulfils the previous government commitment. As I was the commissioner at the time the first phone hacking case appeared to arise, which concerned the royal household and to which the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, referred, it would not be appropriate for me to say in this House that I do not accept any further scrutiny of the Metropolitan Police or other police forces over this matter. Therefore, I very much support the idea that Leveson 2, in whatever form, or whether it is through this amendment, should be introduced.
However, given that I gave evidence to the inquiry, I need to make it clear that I shall be very surprised—at this point, I move towards the position adopted by the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham—if a new inquiry uncovers anything involving major corruption in recent years. To that end, I ask the House’s indulgence to allow me to read one paragraph—paragraph 49—of my statement to Leveson, which I made in 2012, which set out my position on the question. It refers to the Met and only to events post-2000. Therefore, it does not refer to Morgan or Hillsborough as that was the question I was being asked: what had I done since I had been the deputy commissioner and the commissioner? It was submitted in spring 2012 and says:
“Whilst I therefore accept that current enquiries may reveal that a small number of relatively junior officers took bribes from the press, I do not believe that corruption in monetary terms lies at the heart of any major problem in the relationship between the”,
Metropolitan Police Service and the press. We can now say that a number of junior police officers were convicted, and rightly so. I continued:
“I believe that where that problem may have become significant is that a very small number of relatively senior officers … became too close to journalists, not I believe for financial gain but for the enhancement of their reputation and for the sheer enjoyment of being in a position to share and divulge confidences. It is a siren song. I also believe that they based this behaviour on how they saw politicians”,
behaving with the press,
“and that they lost sight of their professional obligations. The MPS did not have adequate defences against this behaviour and in previous decades would probably not have needed it”.
In short, what will be revealed by such an inquiry, which I still say is necessary, is behaviour that was wrong, reprehensible and unprofessional, but largely not criminal.
My Lords, many of us wish that we were not having this debate at all. I will ask three questions of the noble Baroness who will reply. The first is: will she not agree that there is a promise, and that it is a serious thing not to carry that promise through? That is particularly true given the circumstances in which we live, where large numbers of people have ceased to believe in the integrity, the impartiality and, if I may use a non-word, the upstandingness of those in authority. Therefore when a promise has been made, to renege on it is always harmful but particularly harmful at this time, when not only in this country but elsewhere there is clearly a fundamental feeling among large numbers of people that they have not been dealt with properly by those who are in power, have authority and are able to change the lives of others. Therefore, first, there is the promise.
Secondly, there is the need. Will my noble friend explain why it is not necessary to clear the reputation of the police, and particularly the Metropolitan Police, given that so much has been said about them and so much is thought about them? As somebody who lives much of the time in London, I have to say that the Metropolitan Police’s reputation is not good, has not been good for some time, and needs to be improved. Therefore one has to ask why this would not be a valuable way to ensure that that happened. The noble Lord, Lord Blair, said precisely that—there is a need for that.
There is also a need for the press to face up to the fact that it, too, has perhaps the worst reputation in this country that it has had, certainly in my lifetime, which is getting embarrassingly long. This is a very unhappy time, when we think of the purveying of hate that has been on the front pages of so many newspapers, and the attacks on our institutions and their independence, which we have seen latterly. We therefore have to say to ourselves that this is an opportunity for the press, too, to clear that part of its name which is clearable. For my noble friend Lord Hailsham to stand up today and say that he expects the press kindly to arrange in future that it will sign up to not doing bad things suggests that he has not followed the news over the past months. This is not the mood of a press that is largely owned outside this country, by people who have little commitment to this country, and now has standards wholly different from those which perhaps we might have expected.
My third question to my noble friend Lady Williams is as follows. If the noble Baroness’s amendment is not agreed—or, more importantly, if it is not accepted—and if there is no alternative that we see as satisfactorily meeting the very powerful statement that she made, does my noble friend not agree that the public will think that we have not taken these steps due to the power of the press and our closeness to the constabulary, which leads me back to my first point? That is extremely dangerous at any time and particularly dangerous at the moment. The amendment attacks neither the press nor the police; it suggests that perhaps this is the moment to clear both of unfair allegations and to reveal real allegations, which seems to me a not unreasonable position to take. I hope that my noble friend will enable me to support her in the Lobbies by giving me an alternative to this amendment that meets those obligations.
I speak following the very courageous and relevant speech that we have just heard. I do not think that there can be any possible objection to strengthening the law, which is what is proposed. There can be no dispute at all that corrupt relationships between the police and newspapers are highly damaging to both, and they are unacceptable to the public, who must be able to trust both. In a democratic society, which I hope we are, it is absolutely vital that there should be trust in both, and the amendment simply seeks to bolster that position. I can see no objection at all to the purpose of the amendment. I ask anybody here to say what damage it could do to the law. In fact, I think that strengthening the law in this way is absolutely vital, and there should be no question about that.
For many years I practised in the criminal courts. I came across decent police officers who did not bend the truth at all, but I also came across certain police officers who were quite prepared to do exactly that, and in our society that is absolutely unacceptable. I hope that the Minister will appreciate how strongly those of us who have experience in this field feel about this.
I am pretty old now but I still attend this House, although some, including my wife, have some reservations about that. But I was particularly concerned about this issue. Everything which concerns the police is relevant to a democratic society. In my view, it is an absolute necessity as far as this is concerned. There is a gap at the moment, or there may be, that ought to be cured. Many people who have experience in this area recognise that. There should be no question about it.
My Lords, I will not detain the House for too long. As has been said, the amendment would require the Prime Minister to commission an independent inquiry into the operation of the police complaints system in respect of allegations of corrupt relationships between the police and newspaper organisations. It also provides that the inquiry would proceed only once the Attorney-General has determined that the inquiry, if conducted effectively and fairly, would not be likely to prejudice any ongoing relevant criminal investigations or court proceedings cases.
As has already been pointed out, in November 2012 the then Prime Minister reminded the victims of press intrusion that when he set up the Leveson inquiry he had also said that there would be a second stage to investigate wrongdoing in the press and the police, and that the Government remained committed to the inquiry as it was first established. However, real doubts about the Government’s willingness to honour that promise have arisen—hence this amendment. Those doubts have been increased by the Government’s recent decision to consult, including on whether to stick by the promises previously given by the then Prime Minister that there would be a Leveson stage 2.
Police and press relations is a significant area still to be addressed. Briefings by the police in the immediate aftermath of the Hillsborough tragedy had a profound adverse impact on the families who had lost loved ones, and on the thousands who had been at the match and returned home in a state of some trauma, only to read a few days later that the police were blaming them for the deaths of their friends and family. The media were also manipulated in the case of the Shrewsbury 24, and part 1 of the Leveson inquiry found unhealthy links between senior Met police officers and newspaper executives—links which led to resignations. There is also, on occasion, an issue around the nature of relationships between the police and the press at a more local level, where sometimes prior information appears to have been provided about a particular person to be arrested or a particular search carried out.
Honouring a repeated undertaking given by a Government through a Prime Minister, to victims in particular, and with all-party support, is the issue that this amendment seeks to address. If, having heard the Government’s response, the noble Baroness, Lady O’Neill, decides to seek the opinion of the House, we shall be voting in favour of the amendment.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady O’Neill, for explaining the purpose behind her amendment. I also thank the noble Lords, Lord Paddick and Lord Blair, who spoke of their own experiences around this issue. As the noble Baroness explained, Amendment 48 would require the Prime Minister to proceed with what is colloquially referred to as the Leveson 2 inquiry into the relationships between the police and the media.
It is of course vital that the police take seriously their role, both in maintaining their own reputation and integrity and in protecting the community that they are meant to serve. However, given the extent of the criminal investigations related to this issue that have taken place since the Leveson inquiry was established—as the noble Lord, Lord Blair, referred to —and given the implementation of the recommendations following part 1, including reforms within the police and the press, the Government must now consider whether proceeding with part 2 of the inquiry is appropriate, proportionate and in the public interest. The Government are therefore seeking the views of the public and interested parties, including those who have been the victims of press abuse, through the public consultation that commenced on 1 November. The consultation seeks views on whether proceeding with part 2 of the Leveson inquiry is still appropriate, proportionate and in the public interest. As the last of the relevant criminal cases has recently concluded, the Government believe that it is now time to take stock and seek views on the various options. Submissions received from this consultation will consequently help to inform the Government’s thinking. The consultation closes on 10 January. Given the ongoing consultation, I respectfully suggest to the noble Baroness that this is not an appropriate matter for further legislation.
The Government will reach a view on the way forward having regard to the views expressed in response to the consultation. If we conclude that the inquiry should go ahead in its current or a modified form, the Inquiries Act already provides the mechanism for this, so again this amendment is unnecessary.
Noble Lords will also want to take into consideration the fact that part 1 of the Leveson inquiry cost £5.4 million. We can expect part 2 of the inquiry, should it go ahead with its current terms of reference, to cost a similar amount, so this amendment has very real financial implications, as my noble friend Lord Hailsham said.
My noble friend Lord Deben talked about three issues—the promise, the necessity, and the power of the press and its closeness to the constabulary. In terms of the promise, the Government delivered the cross-party agreement by establishing the Press Recognition Panel by royal charter, and legislating for the incentives in the Crime and Courts Act 2013. The time is now right to consult further on these specific areas of part 2 of the inquiry and Section 40, given the time that has elapsed since the Leveson inquiry was set up and the changes that have taken place. It would not be fair to the victims of press intrusion to take a decision based on facts and a situation from five years ago without reflecting on the position today, to make sure that we get the right result and that there are the right protections. We will need to see what comes out of the consultation, as I have said, but ultimately, it is for the Government to take decisions on both matters.
Parliament will clearly need to be involved if the proposed way forward were to repeal Section 40, but we need to wait and see the responses to the consultation. On part 2 of the inquiry, we will of course consult the chair of the inquiry, Sir Brian Leveson, before any decision is made on the future of the process.
I thank the Minister for her reply. She suggests that we have yet to consider whether it is appropriate, proportionate or in the public interest to proceed with this amendment and that we should await the outcome of the consultation. That outcome is nicely timed to be rather too late for this legislation, where the proposed new clause fits very well. It has nothing to do with the commencement of Section 40 of the other legislation, so that one we can set aside. But this one is really a matter of honour for the Government. These were commitments made in public and there were real and identifiable victims, and while of course cost is an issue and the Government would perhaps wish to think about how to contain them, surely it is useful that some of the criminal cases that have been tried have actually done the work of finding out what happened in certain cases. The cost issue is not the same as it might have seemed in advance because some of that has already been sorted. I wish to test the opinion of the House.
Clause 27: Investigations by the IPCC: whistle-blowing
49: Clause 27, page 41, leave out lines 9 to 19
My Lords, the Government are committed to ensuring that those working for the police have the confidence to come forward to report concerns of malpractice and misconduct within the service. Clause 27 inserts new Part 2B and new Schedule 3A into the Police Reform Act 2002. This will provide the Independent Police Complaints Commission with a new power to carry out independent whistleblowing investigations. It gives police officers and staff a new route to raise their concerns directly with the IPCC. As a result, it will give police officers and staff a greater level of assurance around discretion and objectivity by strengthening the protections for whistleblowers, including anonymity.
Amendments 49 and 50 respond to points raised in Committee by the noble Lords, Lord Paddick and Lord Kennedy. The amendments will provide greater clarity about when a whistleblowing investigation can be considered by the IPCC. The amendments modify the definition of a whistleblower in two ways. The first modification is to enable whistleblowers to raise concerns about matters which occurred before they joined the police. The second modification will remove the need for the IPCC to consider whether to start a new whistleblowing investigation where it is already conducting an investigation under Part 2 of the Police Reform Act 2002, or where there is an ongoing whistleblowing investigation.
There will also be no requirement for the IPCC to consider whether to open a new investigation when the concern raised is already being dealt with as a super-complaint. These modifications will provide further clarity on the definition of a whistleblower, ensuring that the new Part 2B provisions will not interfere with the progress of these existing investigations. This will also support the IPCC to effectively implement its duties under the new provisions.
Amendments 51, 55, 63, 64 and 69 are technical amendments to ensure that, as with concerns which involve conduct matters, where the IPCC identifies a concern as relating to a “death or serious injury” matter as defined in Part 2 of the 2002 Act, the matter must be handled under that part. In such circumstances, the whistleblower’s identity will continue to be protected by modifications to Schedule 3 to the 2002 Act specified in regulations. I beg to move.
My Lords, there was a very useful debate in Committee on whistleblowing. The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and I raised a number of issues; we are very grateful that the Government have listened and tabled these amendments and we are very supportive of them.
Amendment 49 agreed.
Amendments 50 to 53
50: Clause 27, page 41, line 26, at end insert—
“(3A) For the purposes of this Part, a person is a “whistle-blower” if—(a) the person is, or was at any time, under the direction and control of a chief officer of police,(b) the person raises a concern that is about a police force or a person serving with the police,(c) the matter to which the concern relates is not—(i) about the conditions of service of persons serving with the police, or(ii) a matter that is, or could be, the subject of a complaint by the person under Part 2, and (d) at the time the Commission first becomes aware of the concern, the matter to which it relates is not—(i) under investigation under the direction of the Commission in accordance with paragraph 18 of Schedule 3,(ii) under investigation by the Commission in accordance with paragraph 19 of that Schedule,(iii) being dealt with as a complaint under section 29A under regulations under section 29C (regulations about super-complaints), or(iv) under investigation under this Part.”
51: Clause 27, page 41, line 28, after “2)” insert “and to section 29FA (which deals with the position where the concern is a DSI matter for the purposes of that Part)”
52: Clause 27, page 41, line 40, after “Part,” insert “except where otherwise provided,”
53: Clause 27, page 42, line 35, at end insert—
“29FA Special provision for “DSI matters”(1) Before deciding whether to carry out an investigation under section 29D(2), the Commission must consider whether the concern is about a death or serious injury matter (“a DSI matter”) for the purposes of Part 2 (see section 12(2A)).(2) If the Commission determines that the concern is about a DSI matter for the purposes of Part 2—(a) it may not carry out an investigation under section 29D(2), and(b) it must notify the appropriate authority in relation to the DSI matter.(3) Where the appropriate authority in relation to the DSI matter is notified under subsection (2), it must record the matter under paragraph 14A of Schedule 3 to this Act as a DSI matter.(4) The Secretary of State may by regulations make provision modifying Schedule 3 in relation to a DSI matter that, in accordance with subsection (3), is recorded under paragraph 14A of that Schedule but only for the purpose of making provision for the protection of the anonymity of whistle-blowers.(5) In this section, references to the appropriate authority in relation to a DSI matter have the same meaning as in Part 2 (see section 29).”
Amendments 50 to 53 agreed.
Schedule 6: Schedule to be inserted as Schedule 3A to the Police Reform Act 2002
Amendments 54 and 55
54: Schedule 6, page 278, line 29, leave out “15(5)” and insert “15(5B)”
55: Schedule 6, page 278, line 40, at end insert—
“Procedure where DSI matter is revealed during investigation
4A_(1) If, during the course of an investigation under section 29D(2), it appears to the person in charge that the matter may be a DSI matter, the person must make a submission to that effect to the Commission._(2) If, after considering the submission, the Commission determines the matter is a DSI matter, it must—(a) notify the appropriate authority in relation to the DSI matter, and(b) send to it a copy of the submission under sub-paragraph (1). _(3) Where the appropriate authority in relation to the DSI matter is notified under sub-paragraph (2), it must record the matter under paragraph 14A of Schedule 3 to this Act as a DSI matter._(4) Where a matter is, in accordance with sub-paragraph (3), recorded under paragraph 14A of Schedule 3 as a DSI matter—(a) the person in charge of the investigation under section 29D(2) must (subject to any determination made by the Commission under paragraph 15(5B) of Schedule 3) continue the investigation as if appointed or designated to investigate the DSI matter, and(b) the other provisions of Schedule 3 apply in relation to that matter accordingly (subject to regulations under sub-paragraph (5))._(5) The Secretary of State may by regulations make provision modifying Schedule 3 in relation to an investigation that, in accordance with sub-paragraph (3), is recorded under paragraph 14A of that Schedule as a DSI matter but only for the purpose of making provision for the protection of the anonymity of whistle-blowers._(6) In this paragraph, references to the appropriate authority in relation to a DSI matter have the same meaning as in Part 2 (see section 29).”
Amendments 54 and 55 agreed.
Clause 32: Office for Police Conduct
56: Clause 32, page 54, line 24, after “the” insert “Independent”
My Lords, I hope that this, too, will be good news for your Lordships. This Government’s policing reforms have strengthened the role of the Independent Police Complaints Commission to ensure that it can fulfil its crucial function as a strong police watchdog. The Bill will further enhance the IPCC’s powers and independence. It is important that the organisation can carry out its enhanced role efficiently and effectively and the Bill therefore also provides for the reform of the IPCC’s corporate structure and for it to be renamed the Office for Police Conduct.
In Committee the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, tabled an amendment to include “Independent” in the new name. A number of noble Lords spoke in support of that amendment, highlighting the value of the word in securing public confidence that the organisation is not part of the police. My noble friend Lady Williams of Trafford agreed to reflect on the points that noble Lords made so well in the debate.
The Government remain of the view that the reformed IPCC needs to command public trust, and demonstrate its impartiality and independence, through the quality of its work. The IPCC is independent, and the reformed organisation will continue to be independent. However, the Government also recognise the argument that although the legislation provides for the organisation’s independence from the police, it is important to signal this in its title as well. These amendments therefore provide for “Independent” to be included in the reformed IPCC’s new name, with the effect that it will be called the Independent Office for Police Conduct. I beg to move.
My Lords, the Government, particularly the Ministers, deserve real congratulation on making this amendment. I think all Members of the House, wherever they sit, will be really pleased that this has happened. It will certainly, in a small way, make my life as a police and crime commissioner easier. Having “Independent” in the name of the new body will make it easier to explain how the complaints system works. I congratulate the Government and I am very happy to support the amendment.
I, too, thank the Government and the Minister for listening. A number of Members, including noble Lords who had been senior police officers, made the point about how important this is to enable police officers to do their job. I am very pleased that the Government have listened.
Amendment 56 agreed.
Amendments 57 and 58
57: Clause 32, page 54, line 28, after “The” insert “Independent”
58: Clause 32, page 54, line 33, after “the” insert “Independent”
Amendments 57 and 58 agreed.
59: Clause 32, page 55, line 8, leave out paragraph (b)
My Lords, Amendment 59 is in my name and that of my noble friend Lady Hamwee. I, too, thank the Government for the change that they have made regarding the word “Independent”. This amendment tries to ensure that that is not simply a cosmetic change and that the new body will be even more independent.
The amendment would change the current position where a member of the Independent Police Complaints Commission cannot be someone who holds or who has held office as a constable in any part of the United Kingdom or someone who has worked under the direction or control of a chief officer or equivalent office in Scotland or Northern Ireland. The current legislation specifically excludes anyone making decisions on casework or investigations, for obvious reasons. The public are not reassured about the independence of the police complaints investigation body if those making such decisions are either former police officers or those who have worked for the police.
The amendment would prevent other members of the new body being serving or former police officers or those who formerly worked for the police. In Committee the Minister said:
“We do not think that there should be statutory restrictions on those who are members of the office—in effect, the board of the reformed organisation. The core functions of the office are set out clearly in the Bill and include ensuring the good governance and financial management of the organisation. These functions are quite distinct from the functions of the director-general. The director-general, as the single executive head, will be solely accountable for all casework and investigation decisions, not the board. It is not right that a suitably qualified individual could not be appointed to a corporate governance role as a member of the board simply because he or she once worked as a police civilian, perhaps for just a short period many years previously”.—[Official Report, 26/10/16; col. 258.]
There is very little trust or confidence in the IPCC among many who bring complaints against the police and many others, including me, because we do not believe it is independent enough. How will having members of the board of the new body—the rebranded body—who are former employees of the police service improve that trust and confidence? It certainly does not do it for me. Although the Minister says that the director-general will be solely accountable for all casework and investigation decisions, in practice he will not be making all those decisions—unless he works 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Even if the board members are there to ensure good governance and financial management, their decisions could be crucial to the effective investigation of serious complaints by deciding the way the rebranded organisation operates, its structure and so forth, and the way resources are apportioned.
The Government keep saying how important it is to bring people with different skills and experience into the police service. If the police service is in such desperate need of new blood, because the Government believe it does not have enough talent of its own, why are the Government so keen for those from the police service to be part of the new body that will be investigating the most serious complaints against the police? Barring those previously employed by the police service from holding crucial positions within the rebranded Office for Police Conduct—with or without “Independent” stuck on the front of it—would be a small price to pay for providing reassurance that it is truly independent. I beg to move.
My Lords, the Independent Office for Police Conduct will have a vital role in securing and maintaining public confidence in the reformed police complaints system. That is why the Bill provides for an absolute bar on the new single executive head of the organisation—the director-general —ever having worked for the police. The Government do not believe it is appropriate for the Bill to impose further statutory restrictions on membership of the office beyond the post of director-general.
The corporate structure of the IOPC is radically different from the existing commission model. The new board—the office—will have a majority of independent non-executive members, and its functions are set out clearly in the Bill. These include ensuring good corporate governance and financial management. Importantly, the board’s functions do not include responsibility for investigations and casework decisions, for which the director-general alone will be accountable. This is in contrast to the current position, where commissioners undertake such investigative functions.
If a highly suitable individual applies for a non-executive role, perhaps as a finance expert, it would be wrong to reject them automatically simply because many years previously they worked for a short period as a police civilian, perhaps in a relatively junior role. To ensure that the organisation can deliver high-quality and timely investigations—the predominant driver of confidence—the director-general will wish to ensure that the organisation has a diverse mix of people. As part of this, the director-general may wish to employ a number of people who have valuable policing experience, as the IPCC does now.
Under the new model, investigations and casework decisions will be undertaken by employees, all of whom will be working in a single line management chain reporting to the director-general. The Government fully expect the director-general to decide that certain employee roles, including some senior operational and public-facing positions, should not be filled by those with a police background, but those decisions should be a matter for the director-general.
We recognise that confidence is also driven by the perception of the organisation as impartial and independent from the police. That is why the Bill provides the director-general with an explicit power to determine the functions and roles that are not open to former police officers. This means that the director- general can go further than the current legislation, which requires only that a minimum of six people cannot have worked for the police—namely, the chair and a minimum of five other members of the commission. The Bill also strengthens existing arrangements in relation to transparency by setting out a requirement on the director-general to publish a statement of policy on the exercise of these particular powers of recruitment.
But ultimately the director-general will be guided, as the IPCC is now, by the overarching principle to secure and maintain confidence in the complaints system. It is this principle driving the organisation’s current recruitment policy, not a statutory bar, which means that around 80% of the IPCC’s staff have never worked for the police. In addition, as I mentioned in Committee, there is as now a backstop power for the Secretary of State to set out restrictions in regulations on which persons may be appointed to carry out investigations, including those with a police background.
In conclusion, the Government believe that the Bill strikes the right balance by: first, placing core elements of the corporate structure of the Independent Office for Police Conduct on the face of the legislation; secondly, providing the DG with operational flexibilities to manage and structure the organisation as he or she sees fit; and, thirdly, requiring greater transparency of recruitment decisions on the designation of restricted posts.
I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, is reassured of the Government’s intention for the reformed corporate structure of the IOPC and that he will be content to withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for her explanation. I of course acknowledge the Government’s intention in drafting the legislation as they have. If we were starting with a completely new body with no previous track record, I would be more willing to agree with the Minister. However, this is all about public confidence and perception, and the fact is that under the previous legislation the Independent Police Complaints Commission had six commissioners, all of whom were barred by law from having been employed by the police or having held the office of constable, and now there will be only one. In theory, the rest of the new body could be formed of previous police officers. Now, I understand that that is not likely, but there is the potential for those critics of the police complaints system to point out that there has been a reduction in the number of people statutorily barred from serving on the new body—it has gone down to one.
I accept that there is an explicit power for the director-general to designate certain posts that should not be open to former police officers, but, as I say, this is all about perception. While we are grateful that “Independent” has been shunted on to the front of the description of the new body, we feel that this change—reducing the number of people who are barred statutorily from holding positions in the body—will undermine public confidence in that independence. However, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 59 withdrawn.
60: Clause 32, page 55, line 14, after “the” insert “Independent”
Amendment 60 agreed.
Schedule 9: Office for Police Conduct
Amendments 61 to 100
61: Schedule 9, page 298, line 39, after “The” insert “Independent”
62: Schedule 9, page 304, line 22, after second “the” insert “Independent”
63: Schedule 9, page 304, line 28, after “General” insert “of the Independent Office for Police Conduct”
64: Schedule 9, page 305, line 3, at end insert—
“44A(1) Section 29FA (special provision for “DSI matters”) (as inserted by this Act) is amended as follows.(2) For “Commission”, in each place, substitute “director-general”.(3) In subsection (2), for “it”, in both places, substitute “the director-general”.”
65: Schedule 9, page 305, line 25, after “the” insert “Independent”
66: Schedule 9, page 305, line 28, after “the” insert “Independent”
67: Schedule 9, page 305, line 31, after “the” insert “Independent”
68: Schedule 9, page 305, line 34, after “The” insert “Independent”
69: Schedule 9, page 311, line 7, at end insert—
“( ) In paragraph 4A(1)—(a) for “it appears to the person in charge” substitute “the director-general determines”;(b) for “the person must make a submission to that effect to the Commission” substitute “the director-general must proceed under sub-paragraph (2)”.( ) For paragraph 4A(2) substitute—“( ) The director-general must—(a) prepare a record of the determination,(b) notify the appropriate authority in relation to the DSI matter, and (c) send to it a copy of the determination prepared under paragraph (a).””
70: Schedule 9, page 311, line 25, after “The” insert “Independent”
71: Schedule 9, page 311, line 39, after “The” insert “Independent”
72: Schedule 9, page 312, line 3, after “The” insert “Independent”
73: Schedule 9, page 312, line 7, at beginning insert “Independent”
74: Schedule 9, page 312, line 12, after “the” insert “Independent”
75: Schedule 9, page 312, line 15, after “substitute “” insert “Independent”
76: Schedule 9, page 312, line 21, after “the” insert “Independent”
77: Schedule 9, page 312, line 25, after “the” insert “Independent”
78: Schedule 9, page 312, line 34, after “substitute “” insert “Independent”
79: Schedule 9, page 313, line 3, after first “the” insert “Independent”
80: Schedule 9, page 313, line 14, after “the” insert “Independent”
81: Schedule 9, page 313, line 15, after “The” insert “Independent”
82: Schedule 9, page 313, line 19, after “the” insert “Independent”
83: Schedule 9, page 313, line 25, after “the” insert “Independent”
84: Schedule 9, page 313, line 29, after first “the” insert “Independent”
85: Schedule 9, page 313, line 41, after “the” insert “Independent”
86: Schedule 9, page 314, line 7, after first “the” insert “Independent”
87: Schedule 9, page 314, line 20, after “the” insert “Independent”
88: Schedule 9, page 314, line 25, after “the” insert “Independent”
89: Schedule 9, page 314, line 31, after “the” insert “Independent”
90: Schedule 9, page 314, line 34, after “the” insert “Independent”
91: Schedule 9, page 314, line 39, after “the” insert “Independent”
92: Schedule 9, page 314, line 40, after “The” insert “Independent”
93: Schedule 9, page 315, line 3, after “substitute “” insert “Independent”
94: Schedule 9, page 315, line 6, after “the” insert “Independent”
95: Schedule 9, page 315, line 12, after second “the” insert “Independent”
96: Schedule 9, page 315, line 18, at beginning insert “Independent”
97: Schedule 9, page 315, line 22, after second “the” insert “Independent”
98: Schedule 9, page 315, line 26, after second “the” insert “Independent”
99: Schedule 9, page 315, line 33, column 1, at beginning insert “Independent”
100: Schedule 9, page 316, line 4, column 1, at beginning insert “Independent”
Amendments 61 to 100 agreed.
101: After Clause 33, insert the following new Clause—
“Forces maintained otherwise than by local policing bodies
After section 26(3)(b) of the Police Reform Act 2002 (forces maintained otherwise than by local policing bodies) insert—“(c) the Royal Military Police;(d) the Royal Air Force Police; and(e) the Royal Navy Police.””
My Lords, the purpose of this amendment is to enable service men and women to make complaints about their service police to the IPCC rather than to the service police—the Royal Military Police, the Royal Air Force Police or the Royal Navy Police. I submitted this amendment after a really interesting and valuable meeting that I had with the Minister and her officials, which helped my thinking and allows me to ask for clarification about the service police and the IPCC. I am grateful to her for her time.
The Minister and I discussed the issues of the competence, culture and trust of or in the service police and the capacity of the IPCC to take over some of its functions. I remind noble Lords that Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary—HMIC—recommended that oversight of the Royal Military Police, the Royal Air Force Police and the Royal Navy Police should be brought within the competence of the IPCC. I understand that, at the moment, the IPCC is undergoing some change and is not able or willing to look at meeting the amendment’s desired outcome in the immediate future. I also understand that the service police are aware of their shortcomings and are working to address them.
Can the Minister give some indication of the Government’s current thinking about the future, and about which milestones might indicate progress? If there are any recent pronouncements from the MoD on this issue, that would also be helpful. Our service men and women deserve a process for complaints against their service police that is modern, run professionally, fit for purpose and future-proofed. I hope that the Minister can help, and I beg to move.
My Lords, I would like to reassure the noble Baroness, Lady Jolly, that the Government and the service police are fully supportive of the need for independent oversight of the service police. There is already statutory independent oversight of the complaints made against the service police, where those complaints are made through the service complaints process. That process is overseen by the independent Service Complaints Ombudsman and is available to all serving personnel. Veterans and other civilians are not able to use that process and rely solely on the service police complaints procedures, which do not currently have independent oversight. However, I should mention that, since the recommendation in Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary’s 2014 report, the service police forces have adopted a tri-service investigations protocol, which supplements their existing complaints procedure and provides for another force to investigate certain complaints where there could be a conflict of interest or allegations of criminal activity.
There is clearly further work to do on a mechanism for introducing independent oversight into complaints made against the service police. There are a number of options for doing this, including oversight by an existing body or setting up a separate new body to provide it, but a number of logistical and jurisdictional issues need to be addressed. For example, incidents requiring investigation might arise in any part of the UK or indeed anywhere in the world, including dangerous operational theatres, and clearly we would want our oversight arrangements to cater for those occasions.
The Government are therefore considering interim arrangements that will introduce independent oversight of complaints against the service police from veterans and non-service personnel, this being the gap which currently exists. We expect to be able to announce further information about this shortly. The Government remain committed to implementing a single mechanism that will provide for the independent oversight of all complaints against the service police. This aspiration is shared by each of the service police provost marshals, and we intend to update the House on progress in the first half of next year.
On a broader note, I should mention that each of the service police forces has done much in recent years to forge a culture within its organisation that aims to promote faith in its integrity and professionalism within the Armed Forces, military community and beyond. They have each implemented codes of conduct that highlight the expectations placed upon service police personnel both on and off duty. These are akin to those produced by the College of Policing and support the single service’s values and standards and leadership codes, which apply to all service personnel. In addition, all members of the service police are now required to swear an oath which declares that they will always act with fairness, integrity, diligence and impartiality. The Government are determined to ensure that, in both the short term and the long term, there can be independent scrutiny of any instances where those values are called into question. On this basis, I ask the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment.
Amendment 101 withdrawn.
Clause 34: Public records
Amendments 102 to 104
102: Clause 34, page 57, line 24, at beginning insert “Independent”
103: Clause 34, page 57, line 26, after second “the” insert “Independent”
104: Clause 34, page 57, line 32, after second “the” insert “Independent”
Amendments 102 to 104 agreed.
Clause 35: Powers of inspectors to obtain information, access to police premises etc
105: Clause 35, page 59, line 37, after “functions,” insert “or
(iv) any other person who is, by virtue of any enactment, carrying out any of the activities of a police force,”
Amendment 105 agreed.
Clause 37: Powers of police civilian staff and police volunteers
106: Clause 37, page 66, leave out lines 1 to 18
My Lords, Amendment 106, which is tabled in my name and that of my noble friend Lord Rosser, would delete the provision that would allow police civilian staff and volunteers to use CS spray or PAVA spray. We had an interesting, if somewhat confusing, debate on this subject in Committee. I think this is a step too far and that the public will be rightly concerned about who is authorised to use these incapacitating sprays.
PCSOs have specific duties and have performed them very well. I pay tribute to them and the work they do. This provision enables civilian staff and volunteers to be designated as PCSOs to use these weapons, which can kill and have unfortunately done so. Equipping volunteers and staff with such weapons, giving them some limited training and authorising them to use those weapons against members of the public is a huge leap and one we need to be very careful about. I do not believe that the Government have made a convincing case about why it is necessary to take this route.
We have heard very little in these debates about special constables, who have the powers of police officers and undertake extensive training. Surely greater recruitment and use of special constables would be a better option if the Government want more officers on the street supporting the full-time police service. I will listen carefully to the debate and, in particular, to the response from the Minister. I beg to move.
I propose to be brief. This amendment, as has been very fairly pointed out by the noble Lord, removes the substance of new subsection (9B) of the Firearms Act. It is therefore relevant to look at the new subsection to see the extent to which it is acceptable. I am content with one bit of it, welcome another bit of it and remain very concerned about a third bit of it, and I shall deal with each rather briefly.
The bit with which I am content is the bit on which the noble Lord focused. Many years ago, I was a special constable—I will come to that briefly on the next group—and I know full well that special constables and, indeed, designated persons can get involved in confrontational situations. This part of the new subsection is about giving them defensive devices. I am not against that; I am actually in favour of that because they do face confrontational situations. I accept that the devices can be injurious. Clearly these people need training and there needs to be a proper disciplinary framework, but whether you should deprive them of these devices is a different question to which I say robustly that the answer is no. They should have them subject to a proper regulatory regime. So I am content with that part of new subsection (9B).
The second part I welcome because—I admit that this falls slightly outside new subsection (9B)—it uses the affirmative resolution procedure. All my life in Parliament, I have been against the negative resolution. It is an abuse. Whenever I have the opportunity, I welcome and endorse the affirmative resolution. Its use here is good news, and I welcome it.
So where do I grumble? I grumble with this bit. If one looks clearly at new subsection (9B), what one actually sees is the ability of the Secretary of State to authorise weapons by, it is true, affirmative resolution. Once those weapons are authorised, they can be used by designated persons at the discretion of the chief officer. My query is: what is the weapon in mind? If you look at the primary legislation, you will see quite plainly that a weapon can be a firearm of the usual kind as defined in the Firearms Act, so what in fact we are saying is that the Secretary of State by affirmative resolution can authorise designated persons to carry and use firearms.
On the face of it, that is a fairly bold proposition, so I went to the Explanatory Notes. They are very useful things to look at. They are normally unintelligible, but they are quite useful on this occasion. They actually refer to self-defence devices. That is what the Explanatory Notes tell us we are talking about, but go to the Bill: do you find any restriction on the nature of the weapon? No. The weapon is defined just as a weapon, not as a self-defence weapon.
Therefore, let us be absolutely clear about what we are being asked to do. It is to allow chief constables to authorise designated persons to carry and use firearms—in the ordinary use of that word—if authorised by affirmative resolution. Speaking for myself, I am extraordinarily cautious about that. I have practised at the Bar on and off for 40 years, I have been a Minister for the police, I was a Member of Parliament for 31 years, and do I trust the police usually—always—to behave well with firearms? I most certainly do not, and I am very cautious about extending the range of people who have the right to carry and use them.
If the Minister will say something to me in her most charming manner—or she can write, if she likes—to the effect that the Government will change the legislation so that we are dealing exclusively with self-defence devices, I will be a great deal happier with what is now being proposed, but so long as we are dealing with an unrestricted class of weapon she will not have my support.
Before the noble Viscount sits down, can he be a bit more specific about what he has in mind as a self-defence device? If you have a weapon which is capable of inflicting injury, it all depends on the mind of the user. I understand the point he is making, but I am not quite sure that one could have such a category.
I think one can. I think a Taser is a self-defence device. I know there is a dispute about that and that many take the view that it is unduly dangerous, but I take the view that it is self-defence. I take the view that pepper spray and things of that kind are self-defence. I take the view that a revolver is not. It is that sort of distinction.
My Lords, I am sorry that I missed the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, opening this discussion, but I was somewhere else and I came here as soon as I could. My concern over this is with the concept of volunteers. As the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, says, there is a range of defensive systems here, including the truncheon itself, but I am concerned about giving volunteers Tasers. If you give a volunteer a Taser, all the volunteer has to do once it has gone off is to say that they do not want to be a volunteer anymore and disappear into the distance. Then you have nothing unless you have a criminal inquiry into what happened. My sense is that this set of clauses needs a lot more specificity.
My view is that the police could bring in some designated persons as firearms officers: they could recruit people from the Army and deploy them only to be firearms officers, which would be a logical and a budget-saving thing to do. The idea that we have to have fully trained constables standing outside embassies has always struck me as odd when we could recruit them much more cheaply. But with all those cases, you have a financial arrangement between the chief constable and that person, and they can therefore be disciplined and so on. Obviously if you shoot somebody, you have a criminal inquiry, but that is not the point here. We need to take this piece of the Bill and look at it again, to make sure we have the different types of defensive and offensive weapons, and the people who can use them, categorised. At the moment it feels that we will be opening a door we might find very difficult to close subsequently.
My Lords, I start by agreeing wholeheartedly with the noble Lord, Lord Blair, that this seems too broad in what it could allow. As the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, says, it could result in volunteers being equipped with revolvers. I also have the same concerns that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, has about a self-defence weapon being used in an aggressive as opposed to a defensive way.
We support the amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy of Southwark. My noble friend Lady Hamwee and I have Amendment 107 in the group, which says that Clause 38 should not stand part of the Bill and seeks to achieve the same end as Amendment 106, which is to prevent police community support officer volunteers from being provided with CS spray or any other firearm that the Secretary of State might authorise by regulation in the future. My understanding, contrary to that of the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, is that special constables can be equipped with CS spray at the moment, and will continue to be, so I do not think that the changes in the Bill will have the effect he suggests.
The only remarks that I would add to those already made by noble Lords are that police volunteers carry out excellent work and are a valuable addition to the police family. However, with reservations already being expressed about whether paid police community support officers should be using force, and in the absence of any paid PCSO having been authorised to use CS spray by any chief constable anywhere in the United Kingdom—if I remember the debate in Committee correctly—changing the law to allow chief constables to give CS spray to volunteer PCSOs seems both unnecessary and unreasonable.
Secondly, as alluded to by the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, if chief constables need additional volunteers who can exercise the use of force, including with CS spray, because they do not have the resources any more to pay full-time police officers, whatever the rights and wrongs of that, there is a route open to them, which is to recruit more special constables, who have all the powers of a regular police officer and who are paid only expenses. We on these Benches will support the Labour amendment on this issue.
My Lords, these amendments return us to an issue that was debated at length in both the other place and in Committee in this House, namely whether it is ever right for designated members of police staff, or the new category of designated volunteers, to carry CS or PAVA sprays for defensive purposes—I stress the point that this is for defensive purposes.
I should point out to the House that, although most of our debates have been about whether it is right for volunteers to carry defensive sprays, Amendment 106 as drafted would also prevent chief officers equipping their existing paid staff, such as PCSOs, with such sprays. I assume this is not intention of the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, but it would be helpful if he could clarify this when winding up.
When we debated this issue in Committee, a number of noble Lords expressed the view that the use of force is somehow incompatible with the PCSO role, and even more so for volunteers. For example, the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, said that the appropriate route for an individual who wishes,
“to volunteer to get involved in the use of force in the exercise of police powers”,
“to become a special constable”.—[Official Report, 26/10/16; col. 267.]
I think he said that again today. However, it is important to put on record that, given the long-standing tradition of policing by consent, I would hope that no one who wishes to help with the policing of their community, as a police officer or a member of staff, whether paid or as a volunteer, does so with a view to using force against their fellow citizens. There are of course myriad roles which police officers, staff and volunteers perform regularly that do not involve the use of force.
Indeed, as we have discussed, the primary role of a PCSO across England and Wales is to engage with members of the public and to carry out low-level interventions such as dealing with anti-social behaviour. However, as was discussed in the House of Commons earlier this month, it is a sad fact of life that both police officers and PCSOs are assaulted and injured on duty. For example, in 2015-16, 270 assaults were reported by PCSOs in England and Wales, and those figures do not include the British Transport Police. It should be noted that this figure includes only assaults that officers report to their health and safety or human resource teams. In some cases, officers will choose not to report cases, as it is usually not compulsory to do so. Therefore, in reality, this figure is likely to be much higher.
We must therefore ensure that chief police officers are able to use their operational experience to make judgments as to the necessary level of defensive equipment and self-defence training that they make available to their officers and PCSOs. The only other option for chief police officers would be to withdraw their PCSOs from areas where there was a threat to their safety, potentially making disorder more likely if members of the community were unable to engage with a familiar face in uniform.
The situation is in essence no different from that of special constables, who are themselves volunteers. They have all the powers of a police officer, and a significant number are trained in the use of defensive sprays. I also point out that a small proportion of specials are trained in the use of public order tactics, so the use of force by appropriately trained police volunteers is not a new idea.
The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, has tabled Amendment 107, which would remove Clause 38 from the Bill. The change to Section 54 of the Firearms Act 1968 made by Clause 38(2) is consequential on the provisions in Clause 37 enabling designated volunteers to be given access to defensive sprays. It therefore follows that if Amendment 106 were agreed to, Clause 38(2) would be unnecessary. However, Clause 38(3) deals with a separate point, making it explicit that special constables are members of a police force for the purposes of the Firearms Act 1968 and therefore do not require a certificate or authorisation under the 1968 Act when equipped with a defensive spray. Accordingly, the amendment goes wider than I believe the noble Lord intends.
A question was asked about the most appropriate route for an individual who wishes to perform front-line policing to join the specials. I think I have already addressed that point but I add that there might be reasons why an individual who wants to volunteer to help to make his or her community safer chooses not to join the specials. These reforms will enable those who wish to help to keep their communities safe to do so even where they are unable to meet the requirements for being a special—the time commitment, for example, or they may be in an occupation where they are prevented from being a special, such as being a Border Force officer, but still have skills or experience that could be of value.
My noble friend Lord Hailsham asked about the order-making power in Clause 37(6) enabling the Home Secretary to make regulations that would allow police staff and volunteers to use a firearm. The power is primarily intended as a form of future-proofing. Should, for example, a new form of defensive spray that uses substances other than CS come on to the market—
I do not want to press my noble friend too hard on this as she may want to indulge in correspondence on the matter. However, the Explanatory Notes state, with reference to sub-paragraphs (b) and (c):
“This enables the issue of appropriate self-defence devices in future, once such a device has been tested and authorised”.
What is there in the Bill that confines the weapon to be authorised to a self-defensive device? It is open-ended, so it includes offensive weapons.
My noble friend is right that it would theoretically be possible to use the power to enable a firearm in that way. However, the power is subject to the affirmative procedure, as he has said, so it would require the unlikely agreement of the Home Secretary, both Houses of Parliament and at least one chief constable to decide that a staff member or volunteer should be given a gun. I leave it to my noble friend, with his vast experience, to judge whether that would be likely to happen. I take the point that he was making but I want to point out the hoops that would have to be jumped through for that to be achieved.
The noble Lord, Lord Blair, talked about the order-making power for defensive weapons. There is no such thing in the Firearms Act as a “defensive weapon”. It is not the nature of the weapon that is important but how it is used; a baton or a truncheon could be used offensively while a pistol could be used defensively. The consultation was clear that only police officers should use pistols or Tasers, and we think the Bill delivers that.
I shall finish with a quote from Chief Constable David Jones, the national policing lead for Citizens in Policing. He says:
“This is a very positive development … The proposals will open up new opportunities for people to use statutory powers who would like to be part of the volunteering police family but who are unable to commit to the rigorous and intensive selection and training requirements associated with the special constabulary. The proposals will empower Chief Constables to have a much more flexible resource platform … Chief Officers are best positioned to decide how to police their local area most effectively through the empowerment of their workforce, through their understanding and knowledge of the needs of their local communities”.
As I have said at previous stages of the Bill, no chief officer has yet made a decision to designate their staff with the power to carry and use a defensive spray. However, we believe that if a chief officer, using their professional judgment and experience, were to reach the view that it was necessary to issue such sprays to their PCSOs, after they have been well-trained in their use, they should be able to do so irrespective of whether those PCSOs are employees of the force or volunteers. On that basis, I invite the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, to withdraw his amendment and perhaps to address the question that I first put to him.
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate. A number of points have been raised. I say to the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, that my concern all along has been the placing of these weapons in the hands of people without sufficient training.
I agree very much with the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Blair. We have to be very careful about the extension of these powers. As we have heard, so far no chief constable has empowered their present PCSOs to have these powers. The power is there already for PCSOs to be designated but no one has decided to do that yet.
The Government have not made a convincing case for the further extension of these powers. As the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, said, this is a broad power that we are now taking on board. I concur with his remarks about the fantastic contribution made by volunteers to the police service.
In response to the Minister, Clause 37 grants the extension of powers to police civilian staff and police volunteers. This extension is to those other staff who are not PCSOs but are volunteers or other designated staff. I do not see why, if they have not yet been tested on designated PCSOs, they should be extended at this stage. On that basis, I wish to test the opinion of the House.
Clause 38: Application of Firearms Act 1968 to the police: special constables and volunteers
Amendment 107 not moved.
Clause 46: Power to make regulations about police ranks
108: Clause 46, leave out Clause 46
My Lords, the amendment in my name and that of my noble friend Lady Hamwee asks that Clause 46 not stand part of the Bill. Clause 46 gives power to the Secretary of State to make regulations that specify the ranks that may be held by police officers other than chief officers of police.
We have been here before—in 1993—with the Sheehy review into police responsibilities and rewards. Among other recommendations of that review was the abolition of the ranks of chief inspector and chief superintendent. After an expensive process of offering chief inspectors early retirement, that decision was reversed, leaving the police service with a deficit of suitably qualified and experienced chief inspectors. One consequence was that overnight—or, perhaps I should say, over the weekend—I went from being a uniformed chief inspector with no experience as a detective to being a detective chief inspector in charge of CID at Notting Hill.
Another recommendation of that report was to abolish the rank of chief superintendent. Instead, in the Metropolitan Police, we had grade 1 and grade 2 superintendents, one in charge and the other a deputy. They were both called “superintendent”, they both wore the same badge of rank, but one was more senior than the other. Such nonsense did not last long, and the rank of chief superintendent was subsequently reinstated. More recently, some police forces have decided significantly to reduce or not appoint officers to particular ranks, as suits the local circumstances of each force.
History has shown us, and present practice continues to demonstrate, that we do not need the Secretary of State to designate which ranks may be held by members of police forces; it is far better to allow chief constables to decide for themselves which ranks they need and which they do not. By all means let the Secretary of State or the College of Policing issue guidance to chief officers as to factors they should take into account when deciding which ranks to have. But, please, let us not make the same, very expensive—in terms of both money and loss of experience—mistake again. I beg to move.
My Lords, policing needs a greater say in how it structures its own organisations. It was the College of Policing’s leadership review that initially recommended a review of rank structure. It recognised that the rank structure as set out in the Police Act 1996 and the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 was not serving the needs of all forces. To support this police-led reform, Clause 46 will give the college the power to recommend regulations setting out what the rank structure should be. Chief Constable Francis Habgood, who is leading the review of the rank structure, is working with the National Police Chiefs’ Council to develop proposals that will work across all forces.
Having some commonality across forces is essential. The public have the right to expect the same high standards of service from every force and there needs to be clarity for the public around the exercise of significant police powers that can impact on civil liberties. Indeed, the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, and other legislation, expressly requires certain decisions to be taken by an officer of a specified minimum rank, very often an inspector or superintendent. I note that the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, on pre-charge anonymity specified that an application to a court to waive anonymity has to be made by an officer of at least the rank of inspector. Such key protections for the citizen cannot operate meaningfully without a national rank structure. Furthermore, the Government are committed to a national pay framework for police officers, where again there must be consistency across forces. A consistent rank structure also makes interforce collaboration easier, which is a critical consideration given the many complex challenges facing modern policing that require forces to work together.
This is not to say that every force must have officers of every rank. The Metropolitan Police has, for example, recently announced that it is to do away with the rank of chief inspector and it is open to other forces to follow suit. As I said in Committee, the Government make no presumption about the rank structure that may be proposed by the College of Policing in future. I believe that we should let the work of Chief Constable Francis Habgood continue and not constrain police leaders in how forces should be organised. Parliament will have the opportunity to examine the proposals for changes to the rank structure once the College of Policing has made its recommendations, as these will need to be set out in regulations which will be subject to the affirmative procedure.
I agree that decisions are best taken locally wherever possible, but there are circumstances where we need a clear national framework. This is one such case, albeit one where the reforms provided for in Clause 46 will afford chief officers a measure of local flexibility. With those words, I hope that the noble Lord feels content to withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for that explanation which, unless I have got completely the wrong end of the stick, seems to me to be completely contradictory. The noble Baroness says that there needs to be commonality across police forces, yet then gives the example of how the Metropolitan police service is not going to appoint anybody to the rank of chief inspector.
The noble Baroness says that it is necessary to have a clear national framework—we have a clear national framework in existing legislation, which specifies the ranks. So I really do not see why we need the Secretary of State to be given the power to make regulations about what ranks there should and should not be. For example, were the Secretary of State, by regulation, to say that there must be officers of the rank of chief inspector, where would that leave the Metropolitan Police if it has decided not to have any chief inspectors, as it apparently has?
The noble Baroness also talked about how it was important for the public for there to be commonality across all forces. If the Commissioner of the Met can decide not to appoint somebody to a rank that the Home Secretary has, in regulations, said that there should be, there will not be commonality across the country. I accept what the noble Baroness says in terms of the need for a national structure—which currently exists. What does not need to be done is for that system to be changed; what is needed is for chief constables to be given guidance as to which ranks they need, which will vary from force to force. The Metropolitan Police, in its chief officer ranks, for example, has a completely different rank structure to other forces. Yet, the Government do not seem to want to change that. Commanders do not exist anywhere other than in the Metropolitan Police and the City of London Police. Deputy assistant commissioners do not exist in any other force. So there is not commonality now and there is no move by the Government to enforce commonality across the country when it comes to chief officer ranks.
I find the Minister’s explanation incomprehensible. However, at this stage, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 108 withdrawn.
108A: Clause 61, page 77, line 34, leave out “of 28 days” and insert “specified by a police officer of the rank of inspector or above (and not exceeding 28 days), ”
My Lords, before I move my amendments, some of which are also in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Blair, I remind your Lordships of my policing interests, which are addressed in the register. Through these amendments —108A, 108B, 109, 112A, 112B, 113, 113A, 113B and 114—which all address the same issue, I seek to encourage the Government to accept the arguments put forward in Committee to extend the time limit for the duration of bail from 28 days to not exceeding 56 days.
The Police Superintendents’ Association of England and Wales, through its vice-president, Chief Super- intendent Paul Griffiths, has persuaded me that its professional opinion and that of the College of Policing and, without doubt, the academic work undertaken by professors Hucklesby and Zander, ought properly to be taken into account in this matter. Notwithstanding the helpful, but discouraging, letter from the Minister, for which I thank her, I believe that their concerns are rather more convincing than those of a senior civil servant in her department, however well intentioned.
The police service is concerned with the period of up to 28 days for the first bail period. The bail pilot conducted by the College of Policing identifies that the average bail length is 53 days. The aforementioned professors, experts in this field, have both suggested a longer first bail period to avoid considerable adverse impact on a number of players within the system such as victims, suspects, legal representatives et cetera. The police service itself is united on this issue—a most unusual event in my opinion—between the employers and the staff associations. So I respectfully suggest that these are important amendments for your Lordships to consider.
The service welcomes the intention of the Bill relating to pre-charge bail to reduce the number of people subject to bail; the presumption of release without charge; and the placement of greater oversight and scrutiny. Its main concern is solely what it believes will be an adverse effect on the people I mentioned previously if the Bill imposes a 28-day review period when the evidence supports a period of up to 56 days. If the time is extended, inspectors can make an informed decision on any bail period based on the additional investigative work that may be required—for instance, service-level agreements with third-party forensic and digital providers—which is outside the control of the police service and which can regularly take more than six weeks to complete.
However, if the amendment is accepted, and the inspector believes that any further investigative work can be completed more quickly than the allotted time, they could reduce the period of time for those not requiring the 56 days. At the moment, this cannot happen and it means that suspects and their legal representatives will be needlessly attending police stations to be rebailed, this time by a superintendent. The Government say that 29% of bail cases can be resolved in 28 days—which is to be commended, and the amendment still allows that—based on the decision of the inspector. However, that still leaves 71% of bail cases which will need further rebailing beyond the 28-day period. All that can be foreseen during the initial arrest and custody case.
I realise that it is now unfashionable to take the merits of a case on experts’ advice, but I urge the Government to look again at this because the pilot run by the College of Policing has indeed found the flaw in the argument as it interprets newer and more accurate information about bail duration. The vast majority of cases could be resolved within the 56 days I recommend. This would improve the efficiency of the system for victims, suspects and legal representatives, criminal justice agencies and, of course, the police themselves.
If the Government’s proposals in the Bill are accepted, what will happen is that, for example, a person is arrested for an offence for which there is insufficient evidence to charge at that stage. An inspector makes a decision that it is necessary and proportionate to place the suspect on bail. The inspector must then bail the suspect for exactly 28 days. On the 28th day, the suspect will return to the police station and can then be further bailed for a maximum of three months from the time of arrest on the authority of a superintendent. The superintendent must be satisfied that this is both necessary and proportionate.
This means that an inspector cannot make a decision to reduce the period of bail if, for example, the investigating officer requires only seven days to make further inquiries. Further, an inspector cannot make a decision to bail an individual for a period exceeding 28 days, despite knowing that forensic or digital analysis will take six weeks until evidence from third parties can be provided. So what I seek from the Government is the flexibility within these amendments.
At this point I must apologise to your Lordships for missing another reference in the Bill to 28 days, which should have been included in my later amendments. It appears on page 78, line 35. It is highly likely that I may have missed other crucial references to the same time period, which comes from not reading the Bill as thoroughly as I ought to have done. I hope that noble Lords will accept my apologies; it is a rather large Bill. I beg to move.
My Lords, I support all the amendments in this group from the noble Baroness, Lady Harris of Richmond—including the one that she did not put forward. My name is attached to some of them but they came in quite a hurry in the last 24 hours and I think I missed some of them as they went through. I am sure that neither the noble Baroness nor I will press an amendment at this stage of the evening. However, I hope that I may be able to persuade the Minister to table an amendment at Third Reading.
I accept that the use of police bail has hitherto been seriously underregulated. I further accept that it has been used far too frequently and without the supervision of more senior officers. I agree with the tenor of this set of proposals. I also accept that in a number of cases police bail has been used in a sloppy, unthinking and unfortunate way. However, it is a well-known dictum that hard cases make bad law—and what is being proposed here is simply bad law. The argument put forward by those supporting this proposal is that the number of police bail cases will reduce. I absolutely agree; they will reduce. But police bail will be used in the most difficult cases because, without it, you cannot impose conditions on the suspect you are releasing. There are times when you need to require that the defendant does not approach the alleged victim—including children. There are times when you will want to impose residential or reporting requirements or the surrender of passports. These are the cases in which police bail will be used.
A drop in the overall number of police bail cases will not reduce this number of serious cases. As the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, suggested, these serious cases are the very cases that require, for example, forensic examination or the interrogation of computer databases. This will be done by third parties outside the police service. When all that has been done, these cases will require detailed consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service, which is also outside the police service. These bodies will handle only these sorts of cases, so they will already have a heavy workload to set against limited resources.
These cases will be investigated specifically by experienced detectives, who will deal only with these kinds of cases and will themselves have a high case load, in which each case will have a police bail clock ticking. We are talking about putting a huge amount of pressure on a system without the resources that would be necessary to complete these cases in 28 days. These cases—79% of the total—just will not be completed in 28 days, which will necessitate a return to the police station for a review by a superintendent, which will be a bureaucratic and unnecessary procedure for a suspect and his or her legal advisers. Furthermore, the 28-day limit will set up false hopes for victims—who will be told about it—that their case will be resolved within 28 days. Those hopes will be dashed.
It is fair to say that the noble Baroness and I have scarcely had time to confer over this matter, although I used the same joke in my speech about the fact that some people do not like experts. However, I know from my own correspondence and from a letter I have seen from the Minister to the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, which has already been discussed, that the Minister herself knows that all the police professional bodies— the National Police Chiefs’ Council, the Police Superintendents’ Association and the Police Federation—have advised in the strongest terms that the provisions may simply be unworkable. So has the College of Policing, which the Minister praised for its work during the debate on the last amendment. If the College of Policing is saying that this is unworkable, why are we proceeding with it? I just suggest that, if possible, the Minister might listen to this and table a government amendment at Third Reading to raise the provision to 56 days. Even if that does not happen—that is the main thing we want to happen—the idea that the inspector’s police bail can only be 28 days, not 27 or seven, is simply absurd. It is simple: what if the 28th day is Christmas Day? The Government should bring forward that amendment: in the inspector’s bail there should be the same phrase of “up to 28 days”, not “28 days”, as that will cause major mayhem.
My first point is: why not listen to the people who really know how the system will work in serious cases? There are many serious cases where it is simply impossible to persuade the forensic companies and the people who understand the nature of digital records to provide this information in time for 28 days, and for it to have been discussed by the Crown Prosecution Service. This is bad legislation, and I urge that it be reconsidered at Third Reading.
My Lords, I support what the noble Lord, Lord Blair, and my noble friend have said on this subject. My noble friend Lady Hamwee and I have Amendment 115 in this group; I will not say that it is a compromise, but it is another option.
As my noble friend Lady Harris of Richmond said today and as I raised in Committee, academics, practitioners and the College of Policing all claim that an initial 28-day limit on police bail is impractical, and a government impact assessment, which allegedly takes into account the academic research, says that a 28-day initial limit is workable. I say “allegedly” because, as the noble Lord, Lord Blair, just said, the academic research and the impact assessment come to different conclusions about the workability of an initial 28-day limit. Our amendment effectively suggests that the Government give the new 28-day limit a trial period of two years and then allow Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary to assess whether the new provision is working effectively or not; that is, whether the academics, the practitioners and the College of Policing are right, or the Home Office civil servants are right. Of course, we support much stricter limits on police bail, but they must not impede police effectiveness.
My Lords, I declare my interest as the police and crime commissioner for Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland and say in passing what a pleasure it was to host the Minister in Leicestershire the other day. I know that this matter was briefly raised with her, but neither I nor the chief constable talked about it for long. It was a great pleasure to have her there, and her visit went down very well.
There is a need to reform the present system of pre-charge bail. We all know of cases—of course, none in Leicestershire that I know of—where individuals, to put it mildly, have been carelessly treated by the present system. I personally know of one recent case where the delay has been truly shocking. However, the more the principle is right, the more vital it is that the practical way of putting it into effect is correct too. It is important that the change should work, without causing serious difficulties—the kind of difficulties that both the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, and the noble Lord, Lord Blair, mentioned—and unnecessary disruption for the police.
Certainly in Leicestershire, and I am sure that this is true around the country, there are far fewer senior officers now—that is, in the role of superintendent and above—than there were a few years ago. Of course, the amount of work they have to do is no less; it may well be more. I respectfully ask whether the Government have thought through how this will work in practice. That is the issue. My fear is that even though there is quite an easy way in which this important reform could be a success and a feather in the cap of the Government, who have brought it forward, in practice it will cause a lot of problems, and we will not have to wait two years to find that out. I cannot guess whether those issues will become public, but the reality is that it would be unnecessary increased pressure on police forces, taking senior officers’ time away from their vital work.
I end by repeating that I support absolutely the amendment that the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, moved so well. I cannot speak for the College of Policing or for other forces, but I can speak for the force for which I have the privilege of being police and crime commissioner and which I work alongside. Its view is exactly as has been described: although reform is necessary, the way it will be put into practice if it stays as it is in the Bill is unfortunate and will cause a lot of extra and unnecessary work. I therefore support the amendment.