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Mr. Maclennan : Does the hon. Gentleman think it possible that the Lord Chancellor, who spends more time north of the border than south of it, relies on Shakespeare's account of the magistrates of Warwickshire, and has in mind Justice Shallow ?
Dr. Wright : I am sure that that is an excellent intervention, if only I could understand it. I move quickly on.
One of the curses of this wretched Bill is that of centralism and patronage. I should like to pass on to the House a sentence that I came across only the other day. It comes from what I think is the only detailed book to be written about ministerial patronage in Britain. It was written 30 years ago, by someone called Richards, and contains the following sentence :
"At present the abuses are not grave due to adequate ethical standards in the conduct of public business . . . Perhaps the greatest danger for the future is the possibility that one party will exercise uninterrupted power for too long a period."
That is a very prescient remark from a rather grey academic, who thought that, on the whole, the way in which patronage worked was acceptable, but that the danger would occur when Ministers thought that they were the state and began to appoint their own people in a partisan way to every public body they controlled. That is precisely what has happened ; it is precisely what underpins the Bill ; and it is precisely why people are so antagonistic towards it.
Mr. Fabricant : I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, who is my near neighbour, for giving way. Will he concede that patronage is sometimes confused with public service ? He will know that, in Cannock as well as in Lichfield, it is the Conservative--not Labour--members of local associations who play an active role in the Royal National Lifeboat Institution and in the Women's Royal Volunteer Service. They do so not because of patronage but for reasons of public service.
Dr. Wright : I am grateful for that neighbourly intervention, but I fear that the hon. Gentleman makes my point rather than his. The tradition of disinterested public service, which was often not about political parties, has been corrupted by the partisan abuse of patronage. I hope that all hon. Members will recognise that danger, because
Column 155it is a House of Commons matter ; and it will still be a House of Commons matter when shadow Ministers become Ministers.
The second curse underpinning the Bill is the translation of a managerial business philosophy to a service for which it is entirely inappropriate. It is a microcosm of a tendency towards public service "reform" ; it is the move to a contract culture, the setting aside of traditions of professionalism, of trust and of local and political accountability and their replacement with short-term contracts, performance-related pay, performance indicators, audits, targets and chief executives. In a sense, all that is contained in the Bill, which is why it is a microcosm of the trend towards public service changes.
I ask hon. Members to reflect on a statement that is all the more remarkable because it comes from an accountant. In The Independent last week, the Coopers and Lybrand fellow at the London School of Economics, who has just written an interesting pamphlet for the think tank Demos, wrote :
"According to opinion poll evidence, politicians and accountants are distrusted far more than professionals. In practice, much of the audit explosion has involved a very distrusted
group--politicians--using an only slightly less distrusted group-- accountants--to tighten control over groups which still enjoy relatively high public esteem, such as doctors and police." I ask hon. Members to reflect on that wise remark, especially as it came from an accountant, and to reflect on whether the introduction of such measures enhances the standing and the legitimacy of public services or erodes them.
One has only to ask whether the fact that the chief executive of the Child Support Agency earns performance-related pay enhances the legitimacy of the agency or erodes it. The answer is perfectly clear. In so far as we extend the same principles across the public services as a whole, the same results will follow. Those principles are wholly inappropriate for police and magistrates.
I recently spent a Friday night on patrol with the Cannock sub-division of Staffordshire police, going from incident to incident. We went to a domestic violence dispute, which was intelligently sorted out, and then to a fracas at a public house, which was magnificently sorted out. We went to a car that had been broken into, and then dealt with the people who had suffered that fate. Possibly none of those incidents would have figured in any kind of performance tables or targeting that one could have devised for the police force, but they were all examples of intelligent, prudent and humane policing of the kind that sustains local people and local communities.
My closing theme is the translation of a business ethic into public services, whose reductio ad absurdum is to be found in clause 23, headed :
"Acceptance of gifts and loans",
which says :
"The terms on which gifts or loans are accepted . . . may include terms providing for the commercial sponsorship of any activity of the police authority or of the police force maintained by it." What an extraordinary statement. We have only to think what it might mean. Will there be police cars sponsored by Group 4, all the better to get away in ?
Mr. Fabricant : The hon. Gentleman will be aware of
SPACE--Staffordshire Activity and Community Enterprise--which is designed to keep young people busy in the summer. I have been to Alton Towers with the young
Column 156people on the scheme, as doubtless he has, too. The Staffordshire police would certainly welcome sponsorship for that admirable scheme, which other police forces should also operate.
Dr. Wright : Excellent community schemes such as the SPACE scheme are exactly the sort of activity that will suffer if we go down a certain route on reward and performance in the police service. That is not my view alone ; the police themselves say that. Having spent a good deal of time with the Staffordshire police, and having discussed the Bill with them, I should be happy to relay in private some of the more robust sentiments that police officers expressed about it. We could have cars sponsored by Group 4, and uniforms by Kwik-Fit. After all, Kwik-Fit fitters are the quickest, and that would be consistent with performance-related pay and target hitting. And at the moment of arrest, there could be a new way of putting things : "This arrest comes with the sponsorship of Bloggs and Bloggs, your friendly local solicitors, who will be glad to do you a service any time you like."
There we see the future--the translation of that philosophy to a core public service. Perhaps the best final comment comes from Sir John Smith, the deputy commissioner of the Metropolitan police, who is also president of the Association of Chief Police Officers. He may also be the man who arrested me about 20 years ago, but I am not entirely sure about that. Writing for the Fabian Society, Sir John Smith recently said :
"We must never lose sight of the fact that the police service is a public service, indeed a social service in the widest sense. It operates with the consent of the community it serves and can never be run or evaluated on purely commercial lines. There are qualitative aspects to public policing that can only be assessed subjectively and not by productivity measures alone. Its fate must never be left to be decided solely by market forces".
I hope that the authority of that remark gives it some credence, even with Conservative Members.
As I have said, there are considerable difficulties and dangers associated with the Bill. But there is a different model available--a model that builds on the old tripartite tradition but extends it into local communities ; a model that treats the police as a local public service, and builds on all the considerable changes that the police service has achieved in the past 10 years or so.
That model builds on the principles enunciated by Lord Scarman in his 1981 report--the
"two well known principles of policing a free society", one of which he called "consent and balance" and the other "independence and accountability". The sad thing is that we--or rather the Government, in the Bill's approach to the organisation of policing--have lost sight of those principles.
The community will be strong if the police are strong, but equally the police will be strong if the community is strong. If we are serious about dealing with the factors that lead to the erosion of communities and the disintegration of our society, we must be serious about doing all we can to re-establish some living, real, authentic meaning to that notion of community.
It is interesting that, when the House passes legislation, at the end of each Bill we have to say how much it will cost, both in financial terms and in manpower terms. I suggest that we should have a third category. We should have to say how much each Bill will cost in community terms. Ultimately, it is our ability to renew our
Column 157communities that constitutes our ability to renew our society. The Bill forgets that. At best it is an irrelevance, and at worst a dangerous irrelevance.
Several hon. Members rose
Madam Deputy Speaker : Order. Before I call the next hon. Member to speak, may I point out that a number of hon. Members wish to speak, and that speeches will have to be a little shorter if many of them are not to be disappointed.
Mr. Michael Shersby (Uxbridge) : As the House knows, I am a parliamentary adviser to the Police Federation of England and Wales and I wish to declare that interest.
The Bill is the most significant police Bill since Parliament passed the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, 10 years ago. I had always hoped that such a Bill would be the result of the deliberations of a royal commission. For some years, I have pressed Home Secretaries of the day to set up another royal commission. I think that the last one was the Willink Royal Commission of more than 30 years ago. Royal commissions have not been in vogue very much in the past few years, although we have had a splendid Royal Commission on Criminal Justice, which reflects great credit on those who served on it. However, the Bill is the result of the thinking of my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary and his colleagues in the Home Office and we must consider it as it stands.
I am especially glad that the Bill was introduced in another place, because that is a revising Chamber. Those who serve with great distinction in another place have the opportunity to bring their considerable experience of such matters to bear on legislation. The House of Commons may reflect that no fewer than four previous Home Secretaries were able to offer their advice, as well as a number of other senior and distinguished Members of the House of Lords. The Bill contains proposals for far-reaching changes in the organisation of police forces, for the establishment of new, free- standing police authorities and for the composition of those authorities. I welcome the aspect of those free-standing police authorities which confers on chief constables and members of the police authorities much more local decision making on how public money is spent on the policing of the country. It will be for those chief constables, in consultation and co- operation with their police authorities, to decide how public money is spent, to determine priorities, to decide whether money is to be spent on computers or vehicles and where the priorities lie in manpower. All those powers are being delegated.
I welcome that change, as do a large number of senior and junior police officers, because they feel--as I feel--that those decisions should be taken locally and not in the Home Office. Whatever the controversy surrounding that decision, it is basically right to delegate to the police authorities and to the chief constables the decisions for determining priorities. I want us to get away from the endless wrangling about police establishments. It should be decided locally. Having said that, we all know that
Column 158police authority budgets will not be open ended. They will be capped, but within that capping there will be considerable opportunities for flexibility in determining priorities.
The new police authorities will not be elected police authorities of the kind which were talked of a few years ago and which, as we have heard today from the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair), are no longer the policy of Her Majesty's Opposition.
We are considering a new kind of free-standing police authority, which, it has been determined after much debate in another place, shall have a membership of 17. Nine of the members will be local councillors who will reflect the balance of the parties, for the time being, on the council or councils that appoint those councillors to the police authority. That means that the councillors appointed will not only be from one political party, but will reflect the membership of the council or councils concerned. So, even in local authority areas where one party or another dominates--as we all know, there are a number--there will be opportunities for local councillors representing minority parties to serve on their local police authority. That is absolutely right. There will be three magistrates and, as we also heard, five members who will be co-opted by the councillors and the magistrates from a list to be supplied by the Home Secretary.
The hon. Member for Sedgefield had a good deal of fun in his speech while describing the rather convoluted manner in which those individuals are to be co-opted. Of course, that formula emerged from debates in another place. Although I must say that I agree that it is a little convoluted, I still do not think that it is too complex or that it will prevent local councillors and magistrates from having a good deal of choice about whom they co-opt. Above all, they will have the right to elect their own chairman, which is very important. What sort of people will the Home Secretary be looking for when he prepares his list ? It would be interesting to hear a little about that from my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary in his winding-up speech, if he has a moment or two, because there are many people in the community who would come forward to serve on police authorities. As I thought I heard one of my hon. Friends say a few moments ago, there will be a lot more admirals about in months to come. That may well be so. I have a close connection in my constituency with the Royal Air Force and I can think of one or two suitable senior RAF officers. They have valuable experience and would be able to contribute meaningfully towards the operation of the police authorities. However, I am not for a moment suggesting that membership should be confined to ex-service men or women. One aspect of the Bill which is of special interest to me as an hon. Member who represents a London constituency--as I look around the Chamber, I do not think that there are any other hon. Members here who represent London
Sir Anthony Durant : One has just left.
Mr. Shersby : One of my hon. Friends has just left.
May I say a word or two about the proposed Metropolitan Police Advisory Committee, which is not referred to in the Bill, but which, as has been made clear by the Home Secretary, will be set up ? As I understand the position, it will not be a police authority of the kind referred to in the Bill, but it will be simply an advisory
Column 159committee of about 10 or 12 individuals who will advise the Home Secretary in his capacity as the police authority for the Metropolitan police area. They will, to a large extent, replace the advice that the Home Secretary receives from the civil servants in the Home Office.
Bearing in mind the fact that the police advisory committee will be set up by administrative means rather than by legislation, it would be appropriate if the House knew something about it, about the kind of people to be appointed, about the extent to which it will be required, if at all, to set any local objectives and the extent to which it will be subject to any directives, performance targets or other directions of any kind by the Home Secretary.
Londoners do not want a police authority of the kind proposed for other parts of the country, for several powerful reasons. The Metropolitan police are uniquely responsible for the area covering the seat of government ; they are responsible for diplomatic and royalty protection and other unique aspects of policing that do not apply elsewhere in the country. Nevertheless, I think that the setting up of the committee is of interest to the House and is certainly of interest to every hon. Member representing a London constituency. I should like to know more about it.
The Bill gives the police authorities the powers to set local policing objectives after consulting the chief constable. There has been a certain amount of misunderstanding about that proposal among officers in various parts of the country. In his speech this afternoon, the Home Secretary went some way towards trying to clear that up.
I want to refer again to one or two aspects of this matter, as it is vital that they be crystal clear. Police authorities, in setting local policing objectives, must have regard to any objectives set by the Home Secretary of the day and to any code of practice that he may issue or any direction that he may make. My right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary said that this would not change the operational responsibilities of the chief police officers concerned. I was very glad to hear that. It is vital that chief officers should be operationally responsible for what their members do. We saw this during the miners' strike, and, as the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) pointed out, it occurred again during the poll tax disturbances in London not very long ago. The operational independence of chief constables must be maintained, and the relationship between a chief constable, his local police authority and the Home Secretary must be clear beyond any shadow of doubt.
Mr. Charles Wardle : I have been listening carefully to my hon. Friend. No doubt he welcomes the fact that clause 5 reproduces a provision of the Police Act, which states :
"The police force . . . shall be under the direction and control of the chief constable".
Mr. Shersby : I am most grateful to my hon. Friend. I welcome that very much indeed. In a sense, there is a slight contradiction between that provision and the current Bill, which requires the chief constable to take account of targets set by local police authorities. I hope very much that my hon. Friend will make it clear beyond peradventure that local police officers will have a powerful input to the published police plan. That plan will be the basis for policing of the area, and it must be clear that both the members of the police authority and the chief constable have agreed to it--that it is not being imposed.
Mr. Mike O'Brien : The hon. Gentleman is quite right. Immediately after the words to which the Minister has referred there is the following provision :
"In discharging his functions, every chief constable shall have regard to the local policing plan issued by the police authority".
Mr. Shersby : I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman, who, like myself, is a parliamentary adviser to the Police Federation. That is the point that I am drawing to my hon. Friend's attention. I hope that it can be cleared up during the Committee stage.
There is an aspect of this matter about which I was not going to speak, but which ought to be mentioned. I refer to the fact that, in future, chief police officers will be on short-term agreements. One can envisage a chief police officer on a short-term agreement--a person with perhaps quite a number of years to go before he or she might expect to retire--feeling under pressure from the local police authority to accept and adopt certain targets. As human beings, such people must be concerned about their careers. I hope very much that nothing in the Bill will put a chief police officer under pressure to accept or be party to local targets about which he or she might otherwise feel unenthusiastic.
I turn now to a totally different subject--the proposal to change the arrangements for the amalgamation of police forces. These arrangements, which are contained in clause 12, will enable my right hon. and learned Friend to carry through a major reorganisation of the police service-- something that would be of very considerable interest to the population of the area concerned. We have heard today that my right hon. and learned Friend has no immediate plans to carry forward any such major reorganisation. However, legislators know that once a law is on the statute book it can be used at any time. Clause 12 will enable the Home Secretary of the day to alter police areas by order and to inform the police authorities and the local authorities of his intentions. I am sure that he will want to take account of their views, but that is all he will have to do. This proposal replaces the present arrangements under which a local public inquiry is held. As the change that my right hon. and learned Friend seeks is so substantial, it would be helpful to the House if he were to make clear his medium and long-term intentions with regard to any question concerning reorganisation of the police service. The next matter with which I want to deal is a happier one for me. I compliment my right hon. and learned Friend for demonstrating once again that he is a listening Home Secretary. In recent weeks, he has been subjected to a certain amount of unjustifiable media criticism for being prepared to change legislative proposals as they proceed through the House and through another place. I do not share that criticism. The mark of a good man or a good woman is that he or she is prepared to listen to expert advice and, if convinced by the arguments, to make changes. I welcome very much my right hon. and learned Friend's announcement that police officers involved in discipline cases will continue to have the benefit of legal advice at hearings.
There is a history to this proposition. In 1984, the House advised the then Home Secretary, Sir Leon Brittan, that this benefit should be accorded to police officers. When its removal was proposed in the Bill, I took a few modest steps and asked my right hon. and learned Friend to reconsider the matter, as did the Police Federation and the other staff
Column 161associations. My right hon. and learned Friend has demonstrated his understanding of the unique nature of police disciplinary procedure by his announcement today that police officers will continue to have the benefit of a barrister at hearings.
My right hon. and learned Friend has accepted that police officers are exposed to a unique degree of hazard by way of allegations, many of them false, from the criminal fraternity. At such a hearing, the officer's whole livelihood is on the line. If he is found guilty he loses his job and will be unable to get another in virtually any occupation. In my judgment, it is absolutely right that he should have proper legal representation. Therefore, my right hon. and learned Friend deserves a large bouquet not just from the police but from the House for his wise, sensible and humane decision. I should like to mention one or two other matters of police discipline. The Police Federation accepts that it would be unreasonable for a tribunal to be convened for just any appeal. However, where a punishment as severe as, say, a fine amounting to a week's wages or more is involved, an aggrieved officer should be able to appeal outside the service. At present, fines are limited to 13 days' pay for each offence, but, even in the case of a constable, that can amount to approximately £700 in respect of each offence. The Bill as it stands does not provide for the appeals tribunal to include a former member of the appropriate police staff association. That is why I was so glad when, this afternoon, the Home Secretary again demonstrated that he has listened to the Police Federation and to the Superintendents' Association, as well as to my right hon. and hon. Friends, by announcing that the tribunal will have a fourth member who is a retired police officer, probably of senior rank. That is important. I suggest that someone who is not a retired police officer might be reluctant to overturn a decision of his serving colleagues. My right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary has been extremely wise and has listened.
It is proposed that a police appellant must pay the whole of his or her costs unless the police tribunal directs otherwise. That is a reversal of the present position. If the proposal is implemented, I believe that it will discourage officers who have been dismissed, or required to resign or reduced in rank, who have suffered a severe financial penalty, from appealing to the police appeals tribunal. I hope that during the passage of the Bill my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary will again be in the excellent listening mode which I have described, and will be persuaded to accept the point of view that I have outlined. Many officers would be unable to afford the cost of an appeal. That could have a serious effect on the confidence of the police in the discipline system.
My right hon. and learned Friend has announced that he intends to retain the rank of chief inspector. The Police Federation will want seriously to consider that. The decision is something of a disappointment to the federation. Its evidence to the Sheehy committee rather supported the abolition of the rank. Knowing the federation as I do, I am sure that it will consider my right hon. and learned Friend's view with its customary fortitude and will have regard to the arguments that he advanced in support of his view. I am sure that my concluding remarks will be of particular interest to the hon. Member for Brent, South
Column 162(Mr. Boateng), who takes such an interest in all my speeches. I have always firmly believed that the police service is a fine public service. I believe also that it should remain a public service. I say that in all sincerity. That does not mean, however, that the service should not have the benefit of good management procedures. It should not be insulated from the developments in management techniques that occur throughout society in general. Some of the proposals of my right hon. and learned Friend will be beneficial to the police service nationally.
I return to my fundamental point : our police provide the best police service in the world. I want to see it stay that way. As the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland said, the Bill contains certain provisions that could lead to important changes being made, notably in the setting up of new free-standing police authorities, which, as they develop over the years, will be of benefit to the police and to the people that they serve-- the men and women of this country.
Mr. David Trimble (Upper Bann) : I welcome the fact that the Bill extends to Northern Ireland and deals with matters that would normally be covered by Orders in Council. My colleagues and I welcome the fact that there is to be proper legislation on an important subject. However, the Bill extends to Northern Ireland only in a couple of clauses which could be described as taking up Sheehy-type matters.
The Bill does not deal in Northern Ireland terms with two important areas of the constitution--police authorities and police discipline. Indeed, those matters are still subject to consultation in Northern Ireland. A paper on police discipline was published last year and we are still awaiting a Government decision. As for police structures relating to police authorities, a consultation paper has been produced and the consultation period will expire at the end of May.
Sir Anthony Durant : Consultation is still continuing on disciplinary matters in England.
Mr. Trimble : Indeed. We in Northern Ireland, however, have not had the benefit of the provisions that are set out in the Bill and the benefit of the Home Secretary's statement today.
I am especially concerned about consultation on police authorities because the period for consultation, as I have said, expires towards the end of May. That holds open the possibility--it is one that concerns me--that new clauses may be introduced towards the end of the Bill's Committee stage that relate to a Northern Ireland police authority.
In principle, we welcome the approach that such matters should be the subject of a Bill and not of an Order in Council, but I must caution the Government against introducing new clauses at the tail end of consideration of the Bill in Committee in circumstances which would not give us the opportunity properly to debate them. It should be remembered that the Bill has already completed its passage through another place.
I hope that the Minister who responds to the debate will make a statement on the Government's approach to matters that are still the subject of consultation in Northern Ireland. Do the Government have any intention of introducing new clauses in Committee, or even on Report, to extend certain provisions to Northern Ireland ?
Column 163It is rather paradoxical that there are provisions in the Bill to change police authorities in England and Wales, which will move them slightly in the direction to which we moved in Northern Ireland. That will be done by introducing appointed members where there is central Government influence bearing on the persons to be appointed. It will move the authorities in England and Wales a little towards the model in Northern Ireland, where the entire police authority is appointed by Government--by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. The move is paradoxical because in Northern Ireland the police--the Northern Ireland Police Federation, the police authority and other persons- -would like to see the Northern Ireland model move towards the old English model. They would like to have a police authority that is representative of local government rather than one which is appointed. It is ironic that we wish to proceed towards the old English model when the English model is moving towards us. We used to have a position rather similar to the one that obtained in London, where there was no police authority. That situation was criticised heavily by the Hunt report in 1969, and changed by the ensuing Northern Ireland legislation.
My colleagues and I support the existence of a tripartite system of the chief constable, the police authority and the Secretary of State. We recognise that accountability, policy and control over the police are complex matters. The police must first discharge their duties under the law. The operational requirements of any particular situation are for them to judge. There is, however, difficulty and uncertainty about where operational matters end and policy matters begin, in so far as the law allows scope for policy. As for policy, there is a national interest and a local interest. It is right that there is both.
I am speaking of matters that come within what has been described as a grey area, one which has related to the pressures and personalities of any particular situation. For the first time, as far as I am aware, the Government are legislating in an area which in the past has not been the subject of legislation. There have been no express provisions. Instead, there has been an interplay of different forces and variations from one situation to another. The Bill reflects an attempt to legislate in that grey area, and that carries dangers with it. There is the danger of inflexibility, apart from anything else.
We do not disagree with the general thrust of the policy that is set out in the Bill. It is right that there should be scope for a national policy input. We do not find it objectionable that some members of a police authority should be other than local councillors. Such persons can represent special areas of expertise or help to round out, as it were, the balance of a police authority. As I have said, we do not find that objectionable in principle. The detail is something that can be discussed. It is important that there is a tripartite system that enables there to be a balance and diffusion of power.
Objectives and targets have been discussed at length, but we must wait and see how they work out in practice. They must be realistic and responsible, and set according to the responsibilities of those concerned. They should not interfere with operational matters, which chief constables or police authorities should decide, but should be contained in a policing plan. It is good that an opportunity exists to set such objectives.
Column 164The Secretary of State recently published a consultation paper entitled "Policing in the Community : Policing Structures in Northern Ireland" on the setting of objectives by the Secretary of State and the police authority. I was unhappy to find, in paragraph 5.10, that
"any differences between . . . the Authority's objectives and those of the Secretary of State, will need to be resolved by the Secretary of State."
The setting of objectives by the police authority is undermined if the Secretary of State can override those objectives. The consultation paper goes on to say :
"If the Secretary of State is unable to accept any objective proposed by the Police Authority, he will be required by law to give the Police Authority reasons for his decisions."
If those current proposals of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland are put into effect, we shall have no police authority in Northern Ireland. Rather, we shall have a body like that to which the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Shersby) referred for the metropolitan area--a metropolitan area advisory committee. It is significant that the Northern Ireland Office consultation paper concludes that the police authority in Northern Ireland should be renamed the Police Commission. The title "Police Advisory Committee" may be more accurate if those proposals are carried out.
A few months ago, the Northern Ireland Office proposed to abolish the police authority entirely. At least it has stepped back a little from that, although it is trying to neuter the police authority in other ways. We disagree with that. A substantial police authority should be assimilated as far as possible to the Great Britain model. We do not want to be left in the same position as another jurisdiction in the British Isles, the Republic of Ireland, where there is no police authority whatever but extensive political control over policing. The Garda has called for years for the creation of a police authority, but that has been denied.
The unfortunate consequences of that are brought to mind strongly by reading the communique issued yesterday by the Anglo-Irish intergovernmental conference. I shall quote a sentence that is interesting given that it comes from a diplomatic document of an intergovernmental conference. Referring to policing, it says : "Particular matters covered"
they are covered by two Governments discussing an internal affair within the United Kingdom
"included the building works at the combined RUC Station and army base at Crossmaglen ; recent reports published by HM Inspector of Constabulary concerning the Royal Ulster Constabulary, and by the Independent Commission for Police Complaints, as well as the consultation paper on Policing in the Community issued by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland ; policy issues regarding use of lethal force, noting the recent judgment by Lord Chief Justice Hutton in the Clegg case ; and forthcoming parades."
It would hardly be considered appropriate for a police authority to consider such detail, yet an intergovernmental conference has discussed such detailed matters of policing. That gets dangerously close to political control. That would be dubious if it were done by a country's own Government, but the fact that a foreign Government is engaged in such an activity is deeply offensive.
The Northern Ireland Office's arguments against a police authority for Northern Ireland being assimilated to the British model are invalid. First, it argues that we cannot operate on the general British model because, in real terms, there is no local government in Northern Ireland. The simple answer is to create some. In the meantime, persons appointed to the police authority could be nominated to a
Column 165more representative body in a more representative manner by outside interested parties. That should happen across the spectrum, including the political spectrum.
Secondly, it argues that, unlike in England and Wales, finance in Northern Ireland is provided exclusively by the Northern Ireland Office rather than by local government. That argument does not hold water either because English local government finances come largely from central Government. Given that clause 15 provides for the Home Secretary to pay grants to police authorities, I see no reason why a similar clause should not provide for the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to pay a grant to a Northern Ireland police authority. It is important that finance be routed through the police authority because power and control often follow finance. I agree entirely with the Home Secretary's announcement about discipline, particularly with regard to legal representation and the double jeopardy rule. Although that is not popular with policemen, there is more to being fit to be a policeman than being acquitted of criminal offences. A person may be acquitted yet still not be fit and proper or of sufficient character to be a member of the police force. Therefore, although I understand the police resentment, I understand the reasons for the provision.
Clauses 59 and 60 relate to Northern Ireland and deal with Sheehy-type matters. We welcome, in clause 59, the deletion of Treasury concurrence in the making of regulations. I hope that that will lead to a more liberal approach to such matters. Clause 59(3) deals with the making of regulations with the consent of various persons. Who are the persons referred to in that clause ? Clause 60 provides for regulations on full-time reservists of the RUC. We hope that that power will be used to rectify an injustice that has lasted for the past 25 years--that of the pension rights of full-time reserve constables in the RUC. It is a scandal that people who, in many cases, were asked 20 years ago to become full-time reservists and gave up other occupations to serve the community at considerable physical risk are now left without a pension. After years of service, they must draw unemployment benefit or income support while waiting for an inadequate state pension, and they have no opportunity to obtain other employment because, once they have left the RUC, they become unemployable.
Two years ago, at the conference of the Northern Ireland Police Federation, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland promised that that injustice would be rectified. Last year, he had to apologise to the conference that he had not yet managed to do so. I advise him to do so before going to the next conference, otherwise strong opinions may be expressed to him.
Mr. Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock) : Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the Bill provides an opportunity to table new clauses that will allow us to debate the Government's repugnant privatisation of the police at the Northern Ireland national airport ? That discriminates against Northern Ireland because its airport will have the only privatised airport police in the United Kingdom. Privatisation of police at Gatwick or Heathrow would be unacceptable. Will the hon. Gentleman and his party explore the question whether we could debate in Committee a new clause that would restore the police at the Northern Ireland airport to public ownership and control ?
Mr. Trimble : I thank the hon. Gentleman for his keen interest in Northern Ireland matters generally and in this particular issue. One of the great advantages of proper legislation, as opposed to Orders in Council, is that it provides opportunities for further debate and for tabling new clauses as a way of exploring issues. I am delighted to have that opportunity on this occasion.
I wish to end by reminding the Government that I want to know whether they have any intention of tabling new clauses to implement any of the provisions described in the consultation papers to which I have referred.
Mr. John Greenway (Ryedale) : It is always a pleasure and a privilege to follow the hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble), especially in debates on law and order. He always poignantly reminds us of the law and order issues in Ulster which should be at the forefront of our minds, given all the tragedies that the people of Ulster have experienced for far too long.
I see that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department has temporarily left the Chamber to speak to his officials-- [Interruption.] --but now that he has returned I should like to tell him what a joy it is to see him on the Front Bench for this debate. I thank him for responding so favourably to all the representations which I and many others have made to him about the magistrates courts parts of the Bill. I want, however, to ask him to keep an open mind on the subject of lords lieutenant. I should like them to remain as ex officio members of magistrates courts--but I shall write to my hon. Friend again about that.
Hon. Members have rightly concentrated on the police aspects of the Bill, which, after all, can seldom have been so much in the news. Sad to say, much of today's press comment on our police is critical, focusing as it does on police involvement in miscarriages of justice, on possibly poor detection rates and on the fact that there may be too few police officers on our streets. There is also a suspicion that some of the retirements on grounds of ill health have taken place to avoid disciplinary action.
As a result of these and other matters, public confidence in our police is not what it was ; I dare say it is not what many right hon. and hon. Members and I would like it to be. The truth is, however, that the public has never had greater cause to be thankful to our police. The demands of policing a modern society are intense, and there is a continual threat of violence. I make no apology for raising the subject of violence again-- indeed, I am rather surprised that no one has mentioned it thus far. It is a serious problem that we must bear in mind when we consider the subject of police resources and the number of officers there should be on our streets. Only yesterday Sergeant Gary Boughen had his face battered in a grave and tragic attack by young thugs outside a fish-and-chip shop in west Yorkshire. He was merely attempting to quieten down some rowdy behaviour. I hope, Madam Deputy Speaker, that it is in order to hold up this photograph- -I am indebted to the Yorkshire Post for it--to show hon. Members the scene. Plenty of other copies are available in the Tea Room and in the Library ; hon. Members may want to look at them just to remind themselves of what can happen to a police officer at any time of day or night in any town, city or village in this country.