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Police and Magistrates' Courts Bill [ Lord s] [ Mone y] Queen's recommendation having been signified

Motion made, and Question proposed,

That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Police and Magistrates' Courts Bill [ Lords ], it is expedient to authorise (1) the payment out of money provided by Parliament of

(a) any expenses incurred by a Minister of the Crown under the Act, and

(b) any increase attributable to the Act in the sums payable out of money so provided under any other enactment ; and

(2) the payment of any sums into the Consolidated Fund.-- [Mr. Chapman.]

10.15 pm

Mr. Alun Michael (Cardiff, South and Penarth) : The money resolution, on which we shall soon vote, is as flawed and inadequate as the Bill. It fails to allow for the full costs of that misguided experiment in centralisation. It fails to allow for the extra bureaucracy that is inevitable, and it does nothing to provide the cash needed to fight or to prevent crime. It does not deserve the support or even the tolerance of the House.

We are told :

"Present expenditure on the police in England and Wales is currently over £6 billion annually. The Bill is not expected to have a direct effect on the level of expenditure"-- [Interruption.]

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South) : On a point of order, Madam Speaker. May I ask you to request the hon. Members who are so loud in conversation to let my hon. Friend address the House in relative silence ?

Madam Speaker : The hon. Gentleman certainly may. I ask hon. Members who are leaving to do so quickly and quietly, and to hold their conversations quietly, so that we can hear the Front-Bench spokesman.

Mr. Michael : Thank you, Madam Speaker.

The explanation of the financial effects of the Bill tells us that the Bill is not expected to have a direct effect on the level of expenditure. Translated, that means that the police will be expected to do more with less cash from this Government of promise breakers. Is that charge unfair ? Not at all.

We must bear in mind the fact that in the 1992 election campaign the Conservatives pledged to provide an extra 1,000 police officers, but afterwards they delivered a cut of 224. Things will get worse. Other police forces should take warning from the crisis on the streets of south Wales this year. The Home Office is holding back £2.5 million, Earl Ferrers, the Home Office Minister, has had to admit that he does not understand local government finance in Wales, and the Secretary of State for Wales has confirmed that his capping criteria apply to police spending, as to everything else. The Government hang on to the cash, and the price will be paid by police officers and by the public in south Wales.

The Conservative record does not inspire confidence. Since 1979 the Government have presided over an increase of 120 per cent. in crime, during which time police numbers have increased by only 7 per cent. The burden of paperwork has increased, as has the time spent waiting for courts. The burden of non-crime duties has increased each year, as has the time taken to meet the demands of the Crown Prosecution Service, which is often followed by the

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disappointment of charges being reduced or dropped. The police, like victims and witnesses, feel let down, neglected and ignored. An inadequate £21 million is to be provided for the implementation of the needless and unproductive upheaval that the Bill will bring about. Used properly, £21 million could make a real contribution. It could pay for 1,000 extra officers. But it will not ; it will be swallowed up in administration and bureaucracy. The £21 million could be used to cut crime. The cost of the 20 original safer cities projects, which have now been cut, was £17 million. Putting the £21 million into safer cities would more than double the funding of the original programme. Instead, the Government have cut the lifeline for the first group of projects, and cut the staff and the cash available for the second of safer cities projects.

Those are the economics of the madhouse. With drug-related crime and retail crime estimated to cost £2 billion a year each, and burglary and car crime now constituting more than 53 per cent. of crime, the Government face a stark choice, which the money resolution totally ignores. The Government must either accept the appalling level of crime and give the police the tools and the cash to cope with it, or they must join Labour in the battle to reduce and to prevent crime in the country.

Why do the Bill and the motion ignore those realities ? The reality is that chief constables and local police superintendents throughout the country are showing commitment and good sense by joining with local authorities and local communities in local partnerships against crime which are at the heart of Labour's approach to being tough on crime and its causes. The Home Secretary now borrows some of our words, but does nothing in the Bill to help to build such local partnership. Indeed, he threatens to undermine it by taking strategic powers away from local police forces.

The motion makes no allowance for the cost of merging police forces into ever larger and more remote units. Has the Home Secretary noticed that Dyfed and Powys police force, the smallest in England and Wales, has the finest record on clear up of crime and of crime reduction ? Its main competition comes from Gwent, which is the second smallest force by numbers and which covers urban and valleys areas with massive problems. I suspect that, if the Bill goes through, some Minister will soon be back before the House with news of using the powers to merge police forces into ones which are ever bigger and ever more remote from the communities which they exist to serve. The cost of inefficiency and bureaucracy will be immense, and it is not costed and not allowed for in the motion.

I offer the Minister the following test of his goodwill and integrity : if he does not intend to merge police forces, if he does not intend to waste cash on centralising control, if he agrees with me that police forces should be locally managed, let him prove so by promising to drop clause 12 from the Bill in Committee.

The Minister must admit that we have not been given a single good reason for merging police forces. The only two reasons of any sort came from the Chancellor of the Exchequer during his brief but disastrous time at the Home Office when he first said :

"big is bound to be better--isn't it ?"

That flies in the face of all available evidence. The Chancellor also offered a bizarre explanation with an anecdote about meeting interior Ministers in Europe. He claimed, on reaching agreement on some police issue, that

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each of them said that they would promise to go home and tell their chief of police to implement it, while our hapless Home Secretary could only promise to consult our 43 chief constables and ask them if they would follow it through.

That is good knock-about stuff, but it is not true. Everyone in our partner countries has laughed out loud at such an inaccurate picture. For instance, in Germany, Bonn has little power over police functions. The La"nder runs the police service. It is a local and regional function, not a national function.

The Bill is based on the management style of "Dad's Army", backed by a money resolution designed in cloud-cuckoo-land. The Home Office cannot answer when asked to estimate the costs of computer hardware. Software is not mentioned in the motion. Neither Ministers nor civil servants can answer when asked from where the savings will come to make the revenue costs broadly neutral. They simply do not know. We all know that the police have been tightening their belts year on year for the past decade, as mounting crime has weighed them down. What about extra costs in the Home Office ? The Home Secretary is assuming the powers of a dictator over objectives and performance in every local area. If his orders conflict with the needs of the public, as they are likely to do, the chief constable will have to choose between obeying orders and protecting the public. As ever, the chief constables and elected representatives will seek to limit the damage, but will have extra burdens imposed on them by having to jump through hoops designed and chosen by the Home Secretary.

The Home Secretary will also have arbitrary powers to decide how Home Office cash is divided between police forces. There is nothing in the Bill to say that he has to do so against clear, published criteria, and that is certainly not spelt out in the money resolution. He does not have to be objective or to give reasons. The Government will have the power to cap on the one hand and the power to set the minimum budget on the other. The Home Secretary will sit at the top of a growing bureaucracy of central intervention and interference--a bureaucracy designed to measure the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

That is precisely what we see happening in the national health service. Doctors and nurses are strangled by red tape, and the number of accountants and managers is out of control. This is what the Bill offers our police service. Already the police department of the Home Office employs 2,232 staff. The Home Secretary should cut staff centrally and increase provision for personnel out on the streets. He should let local police forces get on with the job in partnership with local authorities and communities, including the business community, voluntary organisations and residents.

Is the figure of £21 million required under the money resolution accurate ? Is £6 billion a year enough ? The Conservative Government do not have a track record of getting these things right. In 1986 they estimated the initial running cost of the Crown Prosecution Service at £4 million ; by 1992 the figure had reached £226 million. The Crown Prosecution Service is certainly not a success story. Where in the money resolution is there any reference to provision for the police to receive donations and sponsorship ? How much is estimated in relation to that power ? Sponsorship of local crime prevention or of local work with the young and the old certainly makes sense, especially in the context of partnership. But many commercial organisations, such as Marks and Spencer and

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the Co-operative movement, currently put money into crime prevention and youth projects. Youth Express targets young people on crime issues, thanks to support from Express Newspapers and others. The provision in the Bill is not needed for such issues. Why is it there ? There is no room for complacency under a Government whose neglect has necessitated fund raising for premature baby cots and who neglect the old, the sick and the homeless. On this element there is no costing in the money resolution.

Mr. Tim Devlin (Stockton, South) : If the hon. Gentleman were not reading such rubbish so quickly, and if he had reflected on the subject a little longer before starting, he might realise the stupidity of some of the things that he is saying. For instance, he said, in a gabble a couple of minutes ago, that the Crown Prosecution Service certainly was not a success story. If a service that secures a 97 per cent. conviction rate is not a success story, can the hon. Gentleman tell me what is ?

Mr. Michael : The hon. Gentleman has just wandered in off the streets. He would be better informed if he had listened to the contributions of hon. Members on both sides of the House who have condemned this measure. In fact, the Crown Prosecution Service has disappointed many people--victims, witnesses and the police--by downgrading or dropping so many cases. If that is a success story, and if it satisfies the hon. Gentleman, perhaps the Bill and its money resolution too will satisfy him. They do not satisfy the standards that the Opposition set, nor do they promise the standard of policing that we and the public expect. Those are the criteria against which the money resolution should be judged.

On law and order, the British public now recognise that it is Labour that sets the agenda and that we are determined to tackle the problems of crime. That must involve making the best use of resources, which, in turn, is best achieved by cutting bureaucracy, rewarding efficiency, supporting local partnership and recognising that the closer to the ground decisions are taken the more effective they will be. If the Prime Minister and his colleagues ever get round to studying language, they will realise that that is what the word "subsidiarity" means. It is not what the Bill offers. In fact, the Bill gives the Government power to go in precisely the opposite direction, both in relation to police powers and in relation to magistrates' powers, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, South (Mr. Boateng) referred earlier.

For the Bill as a whole, the message must be, "Hands off our police." The prime responsibility of a chief constable--indeed, of every constable-- should be to the public and not to the Home Secretary, and certainly not to civil servants. The financial arrangements should reflect that reality, encouraging co-operation and good practice, but recognising that financial management, like leadership, must be local and transparent. We cannot afford the inefficiency and the bureaucratic time-wasting that the Bill will foist on our police. The money resolution is inadequate, vague and flawed and is an unsafe basis for legislation. That is why I urge my right hon. and hon. Friends to vote against it.

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10.30 pm

Mr. Andrew Miller (Ellesmere Port and Neston) : I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for calling me. As you know, I was seeking to catch your eye earlier. Owing to Committee commitments, I missed some of the speeches in the Second Reading debate, including that of my hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair), who I am told made an important speech.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael) said, the £21 million that is referred to indirectly in the money resolution is less than adequate and is directed to the wrong targets. If I refer to an issue in Cheshire, the House will understand precisely why the targeting is wrong.

As is well known from published statistics, crime is rising at an alarming rate within Cheshire. I am sure, however, that the House will condemn the irresponsible journalism of the past few days, which sought to denigrate the people of the Blacon area of Chester, which is immediately adjacent to my constituency. It was described as a no-go area. The divisional commander, Mr. Deryck Farmer

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse) : Order. We are debating the money resolution. If the hon. Member returns to it, he will be in order. [Interruption.] I am having great difficulty in hearing what the hon. Member has to say. Many private conversations are taking place. If hon. Members wish to pursue them, there are better places than the Chamber.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield) : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I have been listening to the hon. Member for Ellsmere Port and Neston (Mr. Miller). Is it appropriate for him to raise matters that relate to another Member's constituency without, I presume, giving him notice of his intention to do so ? It is my understanding of this place that it is out of order to make such reference unless notice has been given.

Mr. Deputy Speaker : The hon. Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Mr. Miller) is aware of the courtesies of the House. I do not know whether he informed the hon. Member in question.

Mr. Miller : I am grateful for your intervention, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was about to relate my remarks to the money resolution. My remarks are directed specifically to the costs of policing. I should explain to the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) that the relevant police division is part of my constituency.

It was clear from the reports in the media that the journalists had got things wrong. The published figures show that only 5 per cent. of assaults on the police within Chester occurred within Blacon. That must be compared with the alarmist reporting of the past few days. I am pleased to put on record on behalf of all parties in Chester our criticism of the media in this instance.

If we view more widely the statistics that relate to Cheshire, it is clear that the cost to the electorate is not referred to properly in the money resolution. None of the important statistics that have been published--they show a 188 per cent. increase in robberies in Cheshire since 1989--has been incorporated. None of the huge increase in vehicle crime is reflected in the resolution.

There are enormous costs to society that the Government must take into account. People are paying

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huge insurance premiums in the part of the north-west about which I am talking. They are penalised because of the high level of car crime.

Some responsible borough councils are spending their meagre resources in a positive attempt to reduce crime. My borough of Ellesmere Port and Neston is spending part of its resources on installing cameras to reduce crime. If the Government are serious about issues of technology, some of which were referred to earlier, they should take on those responsibilities and seek to assist borough councils such as mine and others in the Chester area with badly needed money.

Like many hon. Members who have spoken, I have spent time with my local police force, where morale is clearly low because resources are poor. The police are unable to work efficiently because vehicles are inadequate, investment in information technology is poor and management structures leave much to be desired. People are working under enormous strain because the Government are not prepared to put sufficient money into the equation. Hence my opening remarks on the money resolution.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth said, the £21 million referred to would help to recruit 1,000 new police officers. Had the hon. Member for Macclesfield remained in his place--this issue is clearly not relevant to his part of Cheshire--he would have agreed that Cheshire needs an increase in the number of police personnel on the beat. That has been shown clearly by the recently published statistics from a number of sources.

Although many issues will be subject to detailed debate in Committee, it is extraordinary that, given the problems that I have described, the Bill is the best that the Government can do. I suppose that clause 23 falls within the context of the money resolution. The notion of sponsored organisations within the police service is ironic. Policemen wearing the same shirts as Manchester United would be perverse and the wrong approach to policing.

The Committee that discussed the deregulation Bill has just dealt with some aspects of the courts. I foresee some interesting conflicts between the sponsorship relationships expected by this Bill and those expected in relation to the courts by the deregulation Bill. Important money issues are associated with those.

The hon. Member for Lancaster (Dame E. Kellett-Bowman) made an unusually incisive intervention in the speech of the Home Secretary in the Second Reading debate about the cost of cutting the number of rural courts. I know from the bench on which my wife sits that two courts have had to be closed. The Minister made it clear that that was the responsibility of the magistrates courts committee, but how can magistrates courts committees expect to run those courts properly, in the interests of the people whom they seek to serve, if the Government fail to give them the necessary resources ? The money resolution fails to identify those important issues.

It is no good the Minister simply saying that the issues of amalgamation have been dealt with in a paper that was published some two years ago. Some hard issues are being dealt with today in relation to the cuts in court services, which the Government are underfunding through and through.

After 15 years of Conservative rule, the Government who promised to be the Government of law and order should have put enough money into the equation to reflect the needs of society. They have abysmally failed to do that.

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The statistics for Cheshire police clearly show as much. Moreover, they have failed to do so in respect of our courts, particularly magistrates courts. I regret to say that the difficulties we face in Cheshire and across the nation will continue until the Government get their act together and give the right priority to policing and to the administration of magistrates courts. That, not the perverse approach adopted in this Bill, is what is needed.

10.40 pm

Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland) : During the main debate, my hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) dealt with an important constitutional point about the fact that part II of the Bill contains important amendments to the Police (Scotland) Act 1967. It was a Scottish Act, no doubt certified by the Speaker of the time as such, and dealt with in a Scottish Standing Committee. Almost inevitably, the Standing Committee to which this Bill will be sent will comprise few Scottish Members, despite the constitutional issues that it raises.

The financial effects of the Bill for Scotland are important, too. The money resolution says nothing about what it will cost the Secretary of State for Scotland to implement the Bill. Such a lack of information shows how inadequately Scottish legislation is dealt with in the House.

The memorandum on the financial effects of the Bill tells us : "The provisions of the Bill relating to Scotland and Northern Ireland will have no significant financial implications." Yet we know that the Bill provides for grants to be made by the Secretary of State to a police authority in connection with "safeguarding national security", for instance. I accept that the money needed in that connection will vary enormously from year to year, but we must assume that the relevant clause was included for some reason.

Equally, the Bill refers to common services, and to the fact that the Secretary of State may require police forces to use facilities

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Charles Wardle) : If the hon. Gentleman will turn to page x of the explanatory and financial memorandum, he will read the following :

"The provisions of the Bill relating to Scotland and Northern Ireland will have no significant financial implications."

Mr. Wallace : I thank the Minister. Had he been listening, he would have heard me read that out a moment ago.

The Bill also allows for police forces to be charged by the Secretary of State for providing some services--yet we are told that it will have no significant financial implications.

Of equal importance to police forces in Scotland will be clause 43, the first clause relating to Scotland and to the constitution of its police forces, which removes certain ranks from their hierarchy. We have been told that that is designed to promote efficiency. Yet, I repeat, the memorandum claims that there are no significant financial implications. That means that there will be no savings of significance either--so why in all the world are the police forces of Scotland being forced to go through all these changes ?

Sheehy's recommendation of the greater use of management structures failed to take into account the fact that the police make up a body that requires a chain of

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command. My constituency is a good case in point : it is important, in such a remote area, to have a person--in this instance, a chief inspector--who has overall authority. Many of the police officers in Scotland do not want to embark on these massive changes, which, we are told, will ultimately in any event have "no significant financial implications". That is a measure of how irrelevant the provisions are for policing in Scotland. It is yet another example of Scottish legislation being treated in a second-rate way.

I have no doubt that what is being done is constitutionally correct, but it flies in the face of what the Government promised the Scottish people last year in their White Paper, "Scotland in the Union : a Partnership for Good". In that document, the Government said that they would find ways to try to improve the way in which Scottish Members could scrutinise legislation in the Chamber. The Bill shows a total lack of that, both in terms of its detail on important constitutional matters relating to the police and in terms of its financial implications. It is a shabby way to treat Scotland. Last week, in the debate on the Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill, the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton), responded to a 90-minute debate with a three-minute speech, which I am sure embarrassed him. That is the way we are being treated, and the people of Scotland will not put up with that for much longer.

10.45 pm

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South) : In his closing speech on Second Reading, the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor s Department--a title which is a constitutionally unwelcome intrusion in the House--placed great emphasis on local justice. Time after time in relation to magistrates courts, the Minister correctly emphasised that, as did the White Paper, Cmnd.1829, "A new Framework for Local Justice" published by the Lord Chancellor and the then Home Secretary, the right hon. Member for Mole Valley (Mr. Baker). In their introduction they mentioned a locally based service, but, just like Scotland, north-east London will not have a locally based service. The money resolution seeks funds for the administration of justice. The administration of justice by the clerks and their assistants can be distinguished from the dispensing of justice by full-time magistrates or, as is the case in north-east London, by lay magistrates. In relation to London, paragraph 33 of the White Paper to which I have referred states :

"The present structure of a single service covering the inner London boroughs and ring of separate outer London borough services is not conducive to effective management and coordination with other criminal services. The Government intends to consult further about a new structure for London with a view to primary legislation when possible."

This is the primary legislation.

As I have said, the resolution seeks money for the administration of justice. The Government say that they will concentrate on justice services. The courts serve justice, and services should be organised around their needs and the needs of those who attend them : not the other way round.

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The history of magistrates courts in London shows that they are based on two areas--the central area of stipendiary magistrates and the outer London area, of which Newham and north-east London are part, which has lay magistrates. There are currently 20 magistrates committees for the outer London area, of which the borough of Newham has one. I understand that the Government propose to reduce those to four under clause 62.

The London boroughs of Newham, Barking, Havering, Waltham Forest and Redbridge are to be administered using the money voted by the measure, if it is passed, as a single administration.

I emphasise that in my area, party politics and occupational background play no part whatever in the activities of a long-established and well- based magistrates service covering a tightly knit London borough consisting of two former county boroughs. Under the magistrates committee funded by the state, they administer their own services.

I understand that there will be about a dozen people in the magistrates committee. If it covers the five boroughs that are represented by 14 hon. Members, those boroughs will not have control of their own administrative back-up. In their view, and I should think in the view of common sense, the quality of justice, administration and the advice that they are able to give will be diminished.

We all know the importance of local knowledge and of building up a corpus of experience. The fact that the magistrates know the area, the industries, the people--some of whom have been there for many years--and the geography of the area is very important in conducing confidence in those who have to be the subject of justice as well as the administrators.

In voting the money for a change of administrative area by so-called consultation, the Government will be reducing the quality of justice not just in the London borough of Newham, but in the whole of north-east London and, by that token, the confidence of the public in the system of justice.

I suppose it is a constitutional phrase, but we have had errors of administration. The Crown Prosecution Service has been referred to and another great change in administration concerning allowances for children has caused a great deal of worry. If the Government go forward in administering the changes of area in their plans with the money voted in the resolution, they are reducing the standard of justice and, through the Lord Chancellor's Department, crossing the line of separation of powers which alone guarantees the liberty of the subject.

10.51 pm

Mr. John McFall (Dumbarton) : I shall make a few brief remarks about the money resolution, in particular the derisory reference on page 10 of the financial memorandum to the fact that

"The provisions of the Bill relating to Scotland and Northern Ireland will have no significant financial implications." If the Minister of State at the Scottish Office had consulted police officers, chief constables and those involved in police authorities in Scotland, they would certainly tell him that the Bill will have serious financial implications for Scotland.

Scotland has been treated shabbily with regard to criminal justice. Simultaneously, the Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill, the Local Government etc. (Scotland)

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Bill and the Police and Magistrates' Court Bill, all taking a piecemeal approach to the criminal justice system in Scotland, are all going through the House.

Clauses 34 and 35 of the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Bill allow the Secretary of State for Scotland to amalgamate forces without consulting the public. That provision is contained in a local government Bill. It should not be there ; it should have a separate criminal justice Bill of its own. The Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill addressed the issues of prisons and privatisation. Again, that should have had a Bill all on its own.

In Scotland we are doing quite well with our criminal justice system. Our crime rates are down for the past two years in succession because of the distinctive Scottish approach. The message for the Government is, "If the system ain't broke, don't fix it". The reorganisation of local government will almost certainly cost the police and criminal justice service dearly. For example, the Minister at the Scottish Office mentioned joint boards made up from elected members within the constituent authorities and said that costs would be apportioned among the constituent councils according to the costs of policing within the area.

That statement drew alarm from the chief constable of Strathclyde region because it is impossible for the police to detail in advance how much it will cost ; all the facilities are demand led and the considerable central support services such as air support, police dogs, mounted branch and underwater search units cannot be programmed in advance, only afterwards. The Government have a lot to answer for in relation to that.

Scotland has its distinctive system, but what is currently happening in the Home Office is that the demand for centralisation and the buzz words--what is a core function ?--will have serious financial implications.

The Government would do more justice to Scotland if they gave it more than a few misleading lines in this Bill claiming that there are no financial implications. I spoke to two chief constables in Scotland at the weekend. They said that the Government's approach in reorganising local government and the police forces in Scotland means that there will be severe financial implications. That is shameful. Scotland has been treated badly with this piecemeal approach and the Government will get their just rewards at the polls. A system that is working well should not be tampered with and the message that is coming out of Scotland at the moment is that the Government are tampering with the system there at their peril.

10.54 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Charles Wardle) : The contributions in this brief debate have been entirely unsurprising. The contributions made by the hon. Members for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Mr. Miller), for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace), for Dumbarton (Mr. McFall) and for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) seemed to lack something as a result of their not having been present for the Second Reading debate. They seemed to be revisiting a Second Reading debate which they did not attend.

Mr. Michael : Will the hon. Gentleman give way ?

Mr. Wardle : I will give way in a moment.

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I can tell the hon. Member for Newham, South that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department, in his closing comments, explained that the aim of the constructive discussions that the Lord Chancellor's Department is having with outer London courts representatives is to seek arrangements which release the benefits of a larger administrative area without amalgamation of the magistrates courts committees.

Because the hour is late and time is short, I shall not be tempted to discuss crime prevention as the hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael) did, except to say that the Government spend some £200 million across Whitehall on crime prevention. I shall not dwell long, as he has tempted me to do, on the South Wales police authority to which he alluded. If anyone has a track record in getting things wrong it is the South Wales police authority and the three Glamorgan county councils, which comprise that police authority. It is their financial miscalculation and the low priority that they give to policing which have led to the inadequate funding of that force.

The hon. Gentleman talked about the broad principles of the Bill. I want to say a few words about the purpose of the Bill in the context of the money resolution. The Bill is intended to improve the organisation and management of the police so that they are better able to combat crime and to strengthen the administration of magistrates courts.

Changes in the management structure will allow police authorities and forces to make more efficient use--a point that the House will heed--of the more than £6,000 million already spent annually on policing. The Bill is concerned primarily with the way in which existing resources are used.

Establishing new police authorities and equipping forces to cope with their increased management responsibilities will necessarily involve some start- up costs. A one-off provision of £21 million will be made available to support that. To put that in perspective, it may be worth pointing out that that one-off provision is the equivalent of about one third of 1 per cent. of the current annual expenditure on the police. It is an investment in the future of the police service and is in line with the recommendations of the Audit Commission. Its report on financial management in police forces said :

"Only with adequate financial information and alignment of financial and operational management can forces rise to the challenge of increasing effectiveness".

The investment will help the police to rise to precisely that challenge.

We expect the new police authorities to assume responsibility for policing in their areas from April 1995. To prepare for that, the new authorities will need a period of parallel operation with current police authorities, to ensure a smooth transition. Similarly, forces may need to recruit and train staff in order to prepare for the management tasks that they will take on from April 1995. They may also need new equipment such as computer software.

We propose that £4 million will be available for the running of the new police authorities during that period of parallel operation. It will be divided between each of the 41 relevant authorities. The remaining money, up to a maximum of £17 million, has been earmarked for spending by shadow authorities on new staff and equipment for their force. As some forces are in a better position than others to

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