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Column 241I hope that the Minister will be able to respond positively to my points. Any reassurances from him will take us a long way forward.
Mr. Jonathan Evans (Brecon and Radnor) : The amendment caused some consternation in the Dyfed-Powys area, both on the part of the chief constable and on the part of the clerk to the police authority. I have been greatly reassured by the Minister's remarks today. I note that he has communicated with the hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth. Had the chief constable and clerk of the Dyfed-Powys police authority been notified, a great deal less activity than has taken place in the past three days would have been necessary. The Dyfed-Powys police authority runs a small force, and it has been anxious about the prospect of amalgamation or of changes to its boundaries.
I note what my hon. Friend has said, and on the basis of his assurance that there is no intention to alter the Dyfed-Powys boundaries--apart from what has been outlined in respect of the changes in the north-east corner following on from the Local Government (Wales) Bill--I am content with his proposal.
Mr. Elfyn Llwyd (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy) : I served on the Standing Committee that discussed the Local Government (Wales) Bill, and I, too, am relieved to hear that there are no immediate plans for amalgamations. During the passage of that Bill, five fire brigades and five ambulance services disappeared in Wales--their numbers were cut from eight to three-- so I came here this evening with some trepidation, as did other hon. Members on both sides of the Chamber. I am greatly reassured by the Minister's remarks, and greatly relieved that our four excellent police forces in Wales are to be fully retained.
Mr. Charles Wardle : I hope that this debate will have provided the clarification sought by my hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Evans) and by the hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth. I listened with care to what the latter had to say about amendments (a) and (b). Perhaps it will be convenient for the House if I add a few remarks about them. I hope that I can deal with them quickly and in a way that will provide the hon. Gentleman with the further assurance that he wants. Incidentally, I commend him for the constructive way in which he has participated in these affairs. The second amendment deals with consultation with Members of Parliament. I will always carefully consider any views expressed by hon. Members. In relation to the boundary problems between south Wales and Gwent, local Members, including the hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth, are well aware of the issues.
The second amendment, in respect of north Wales and Dyfed-Powys, is equally unnecessary. Those police areas are in effect settled, as I am sure those concerned will confirm, when we begin to use the powers that the Government amendment will give us.
On the first amendment, I have already made it clear that we will proceed on the basis of agreement if we possibly can. I suggest that adding an undertaking to the Bill would be unnecessary. We cannot guarantee to proceed by agreement or rule out the possibility of amalgamation until we know that agreement has been
Column 242reached between the parties, and that any agreement that they may reach represents a satisfactory solution in policing terms. As a result of what the hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth has had to say, and of what I have learnt recently, I am now more hopeful that these conditions will in due course be satisfied. But the House will acknowledge that they certainly have not been met yet. Until we can be certain that a satisfactory agreement can be reached, it would be wrong not to have powers that just might be needed. Without them, my right hon. and learned Friend risks being put in the impossible position of having no power to resolve an impasse between the authorities, or no alternative but to implement arrangements that he regarded as unsatisfactory in policing terms. That would not be a responsible way to proceed, as I am sure the hon. Gentleman will understand. Given these assurances, I hope he will feel able not to move his amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment made : No. 44, in page 2, line 33, at end insert Reductions in size of police authorities
3B.--(1) This section applies to any order under subsection (2) of section 3A of this Act which varies or revokes an earlier order so as to reduce the number of a police authority's members.
(2) Before making an order to which this section applies, the Secretary of State shall consult
(a) the authority,
(b) the councils which are relevant councils in relation to the authority for the purposes of Schedule 1B to this Act, and (c) any panel (or magistrates' courts committee) which is responsible, or is represented on a joint committee which is responsible, for the appointment of members of the authority. (3) An order to which this section applies may include provision as to the termination of the appointment of the existing members of the authority and the making of new appointments or re-appointments." ' -- [Mr. Charles Wardle.]
Amendments made : No. 48, in page 7, line 40, after county,' insert
( ) a county borough in Wales,'.
No. 57, in page 7, line 47, at end insert
Alteration of Welsh police areas on local government reorganisation
21AA.--(1) The Secretary of State shall by order made before 1st April 1996 make such alterations to police areas in Wales as he considers necessary or expedient in connection with the reorganisation of local government in Wales taking place on that date.
(2) The alterations that may be made by an order under subsection (1) of this section include alterations that result in a reduction or an increase in the number of police areas, but not alterations that result in the division of any county or county borough between two or more police areas.
(3) The Secretary of State shall make an order under subsection (1) of this section only after he has consulted every body within the following paragraphs which is in existence when the order is made (a) the police authorities established under section 3 of this Act for the police areas altered by the order,
Column 243(b) the police authorities which are to be superseded by the police authorities mentioned in paragraph (a) of this subsection ; (c) the county councils which
(i) are the councils of counties wholly or partly within the police areas altered by the order, and
(ii) are to cease to exist on 1st April 1996 by virtue of the Local Government (Wales) Act 1994 ;
(d) the councils of the counties and county boroughs established by virtue of that Act which are wholly or partly within the police areas altered by the order ;
and such other persons as he considers appropriate.'
No. 49, in page 8, line 8, after district' insert , county borough'.
No. 58, in page 8, line 43, after 21' insert or 21AA'. No. 59, in page 9, line 5, after 21' insert or 21AA'. No. 60, in page 9, line 24, after 21' insert or 21AA'.-- [Mr. Charles Wardle.]
, or made subject to a permanent ban on promotion, or is fined a sum exceeding one week's pay'.
The costs of an appellant shall be defrayed out of the police fund of the relevant police authority unless the tribunal directs otherwise'.
No. 69, in schedule 6, page 80, line 8, at end insert
nominated by the appropriate staff association.'.
Mr. O'Brien : Here we seek to challenge the Government's view of how the Police Act 1964 should allow appeals. The Government suggest that appeals to the police appeals tribunal would be allowed only when an officer has been dismissed, required to resign or reduced in rank. An appeal to the tribunal would not be allowed when the officer was fined or subjected to a permanent ban on promotion.
In my submission, this creates an anomaly. Let us consider an allegation of improper conduct made against an inspector and against a constable and based on exactly the same facts. Suppose that the allegation is proved in the first hearing, and the inspector is demoted. Suppose that the constable is fined £700. Both appeal to their chief constable, and are refused.
The situation of the two officers then diverges, because the inspector is entitled to appeal to the police appeals tribunal. He wins. His demotion is reversed ; but the police constable cannot appeal to the police appeals tribunal, so he has to pay the £700 fine. In effect, he remains convicted of that disciplinary offence. Such an unjust result cannot be sustained in all conscience. The matter should not be left like that. The amendment seeks equity and justice in police disciplinary rules. If he refuses to support the amendment, the Minister will have to justify allowing such an anomaly to exist.
On amendment No. 67, the Bill reverses the current position whereby the appellant is liable to pay the costs, including his own, only if the Secretary of State should so direct and he is required to give a reason for doing so. The
Column 244effect of the Government's provision would be to discourage officers who have been dismissed, required to resign or reduced in rank--and who have therefore already suffered a severe penalty-- from appealing to the police appeals tribunal. Many officers will be concerned that they will not be able to afford an appeal, which would undermine police confidence in the disciplinary system.
Surely, my proposal is the best course of action. Where an officer has made a legitimate and arguable appeal, where there is a real case, his costs should be paid by the police authority ; where the case is frivolous, the tribunal may direct that he loses his costs. The amendment would enable the police appeals tribunal to stop frivolous appeals and prevent waste of public money but, at the same time, it would allow officers to exercise their legitimate right to appeal. 9 pm
The Government's proposal creates injustice by deterring an officer from exercising his right of appeal. The clause contains no commitment even to pay an officer's costs when he wins a case. Amendment No. 69 seeks to place in statute the principle that staff associations will be represented on the police appeals tribunal. In principle, the Government do not demur from that suggestion and appear to accept it. If that is the case, let us include it in the Bill and ensure that staff associations have that safeguard. I therefore ask my hon. Friends and Conservative Members to support the amendment, the police and justice in police disciplinary rules.
Mr. Shersby : I had intended that my name should appear on the amendments with that of the hon. Member for Warwickshire, North (Mr. O'Brien), but unfortunately, due to a misunderstanding in the Public Bill Office, that did not happen. I want to make it clear, however, that I associate myself with the hon. Gentleman's remarks on these important amendments.
I want particularly to concentrate my attention on amendment No. 67, the purpose of which is to retain the existing position whereby an appellant's costs are defrayed out of the relevant police authority police fund unless the tribunal decides otherwise. I want that position to continue. The Bill will have the effect of providing that an appellant police officer shall pay the whole of his or her costs unless the police appeals tribunal directs otherwise. As the hon. Member for Warwickshire, North said, that is a reversal of the current position whereby the police fund meets the costs unless the Secretary of State is minded to direct otherwise.
I greatly regret the proposed reversal of the present position and the fact that my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary has felt it necessary to introduce the proposal. The clear effect of the Bill's provision will be to discourage officers who have been dismissed, required to resign or reduced in rank, and who have already suffered a severe financial penalty, from appealing to the police appeals tribunal. Obviously, they will be deterred because they will not know whether they will receive their costs. Many officers will plainly be unable to afford the cost of an appeal, and that could have a serious effect on confidence in the police discipline system, which, as all hon. Members know, is vital to the way in which our police service operates. I must ask why my right hon. and learned Friend has made this proposal. To my knowledge, the
Column 245Government have not produced any evidence to show that the appeal system has been abused. If they had, we might have addressed our minds to the problem. I certainly have not seen any evidence of abuse.
The House knows only too well that police officers face an inordinate number of problems on the street. Individuals are prone to making allegations for malicious purposes. Many villains have nothing to lose by making serious allegations against police officers, and they do so.
By refusing to allow the payment of an appellant's costs, the Bill runs contrary to the spirit that has pervaded the relationship between the Home Office and the police for many years and adds to the pressures facing police officers. I know that my hon. Friend the Minister is a considerate colleague. He is regarded in all parts of the House as a great supporter of the police service. If he is unable to accept amendment No. 65, will he at least assure the House that costs will be awarded to an officer who wins his or her case ? In other such cases, an individual might apply for and receive legal aid. A police officer cannot apply for legal aid and will not know until a case is completed whether his or her costs have been awarded. If an officer wins, it is only fair and reasonable for costs to follow. That would at least offer some assurance to officers who are genuinely worried by this small but significant change by the Bill.
I hope that the Minister will be able to offer the hon. Member for Warwickshire, North and me some assurance that will enable us to tell the Police Federation and other staff associations that the Government are mindful of the changes that the Bill will make if it is enacted.
Mr. Charles Wardle : I listened carefully to my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Shersby) and the hon. Member for Warwickshire, North (Mr. O'Brien), but I was not convinced by their arguments. I shall first address amendment No. 65 before dealing at greater length with amendment No. 67, on which my hon. Friend and the hon. Gentleman dwelt.
It was originally envisaged that the tribunals would provide police officers with access to external review in situations where employees have access to industrial tribunals.
No one can argue that we have not listened to the arguments of the staff associations or Opposition Members. One example of our readiness to meet possible sources of genuine concern is the fact that we have already introduced a Government amendment adding reduction in rank to the matters that may be appealed to the tribunal-- a matter which, in outside employment, might be interpreted by industrial tribunals as constructive dismissal.
Amendment No 65. suggests that the review should cover a number of matters. A permanent ban on promotion is not a matter on which the Home Secretary can make regulations, so there is no need to consider rights of appeal. Fines, at whatever level, are essentially internal matters. If a large fine were to be imposed--I do not comment on whether fines will continue to be part of the pattern of police personnel arrangements--the officer could appeal to his chief constable that the amount concerned was out of all proportion to his offence. If the chief constable did not
Column 246agree, it would be fair to conclude that the officer's actions were regarded gravely by the management of his or her force and that the amount ordered was not unfair.
I do not therefore see a role for the new police appeal tribunals in internal matters ; nor, as a matter of practicality, would I wish to see such an elaborate and expensive system burdened with such relatively trivial issues that would prejudice and could delay the consideration of more substantive cases.
Mr. D.N. Campbell-Savours (Workington) : I did not serve on the Committee that considered the Bill and therefore I am not aware of all the intricate matters that were debated in Committee, but I understand that last year 1,916 complaints were made alleging incivility by police officers, many of which were made in London. I understand also that as the acts of incivility committed by police officers were not criminal offences and were not in breach of codes of practice, they will no longer be referrable to the Police Complaints Authority. Instead, they will be dealt with by the police internally. There will be no civilian oversight. Is that in the public interest ? Is it true that the Bill will have that effect when enacted ?
I move on to amendment No. 67 and the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge and of the hon. Member for Warwickshire, North. An appeal is justified only if there is some substantial injustice to remedy. When appellants challenge the decisions of those who are appointed to take them, it is not unreasonable to require them to have sufficient confidence in the rights of their cases to be prepared to meet their own costs. No one is suggesting that they should bear the costs of the tribunal as a whole or those of the police force.
The outlay for an appeal does not have to be substantial. The stronger the grounds of appeal, the less special skills are required to present them. Whatever the grounds, an appeal tribunal will be willing to listen to appellants if they appear by themselves or with a friend. If they choose to employ professional advice, that must be a matter for them. If an appellant has a substantial or complex legal point to argue, I think that the appeal tribunal--however that were done--would grant him or her costs. It would almost certainly do so if the case were good enough for the appellant to win.
I cannot value highly the importance of any appeal in which even the appellant has so little confidence in the likelihood of winning that he or she is unprepared to fund the costs. If that is the position, I cannot understand why the appeal should be made. There must be a degree of commitment.
The amendment would result in the appellant's costs being paid in every case where the tribunal did not direct otherwise. That means that anyone who had been dismissed, required to resign, or reduced in rank could appeal at virtually no risk of incurring any cost no matter how clear the evidence against him and irrespective of how heinous the offence for which he had been disciplined. It is obvious without me saying more that such an arrangement would have a tendency to encourage appeals. If someone has nothing to lose, why should he not lodge an appeal ? That is what happens now.
Column 247In cases in which the appeal has been considered to be without merit, my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary has generally regarded the expectation that costs will not be given against the appellant as being so strong that it would be unreasonably harsh to make a direction as to costs. That is not to say that that will always be the position. In one recent instance the appeal tribunal advised that the appellant should be required to pay his own costs as the appeal was entirely without merit. As a result, the appellant's costs were not met by the police fund. That case serves to illustrate the point that is made in the present draft of the Bill. Two of the factors to which the tribunals should give their attention are costs and whether there is sufficient merit in the appeal to justify payment of the appellant's costs.
The present draft of the Bill deliberately reverses the current expectation that an appellant's costs will always be met. In future, the appellant will pay his or her costs unless the tribunal directs otherwise. A tribunal would make a direction in any case where the appellant won his appeal, but it might do so in cases in which it considered that the appellant had had a substantial case to argue which it was valid to bring before the tribunal.
The arrangement that we propose is not an unusual one. It is the normal practice at tribunals that appellants bear their own costs. Industrial tribunal cases are fought on the basis of the appellant's own costs, as are teachers' appeals against a barring order made by the Secretary of State for Education. That is the position in most other actions that are brought before tribunals. For these reasons, I cannot accept the amendment.
I recognise that the purpose behind amendment No. 69 is to put it beyond doubt that the fourth member of the police appeals tribunal, whom we added recently to take account of the concern that we did not have the balance completely right, should be selected from a list provided by the staff associations. The argument has already been put to me on the basis of the English provisions and the amendment refers to the Scottish forces. As I have said, while the detailed provisions have not yet been finalised, we intend to work closely with the police authorities and staff associations in drawing up the appropriate procedures and we are confident that this process will suffice to address the concerns which underlie the amendment. In the light of those assurances, I hope that the hon. Member for Warwickshire, North will withdraw the amendment.
Mr. Mike O'Brien : I am sure that the House will recognise that the Minister failed to deal with the anomaly regarding the inspector and the constable that I put to him. In addition, he was not prepared to give the assurance sought that persons who win their appeals will receive their costs.
Amendments made : No. 50, in page 15, line 40, after district' insert , county borough'.
No. 51, in page 15, line 43, after district' insert , county borough'.-- [Mr. Charles Wardle.]
Amendment made : No. 43, in page 17, line 40, after incurred' insert (or to be incurred)'.-- [Mr. Charles Wardle.]
Amendment made : No. 52, in page 21, line 17, leave out from that' to is' in line 20 and insert no county or county borough'.-- [Mr. Charles Wardle.]
Amendment made : No. 70, in page 23, line 43, leave out from force' to end of line 45.-- [Mr. Charles Wardle.]
Amendments made : No. 34, in page 29, line 23, at end insert (3A) In section 24 (effect of amalgamation scheme on constables engaged in service other than with their own force)
(a) in subsection (1) for the words from "either" to "transferred force" there shall be substituted the words "a person is engaged in relevant service within the meaning of section 38A of this Act" ; (b) in subsection (2) for the word "overseas" in each of the three places where it occurs there shall be substituted the word "relevant" ; and
(c) in subsection (3), the words from "and the expression" onwards shall be omitted.'.
No. 35, in page 29, line 35, leave out from (a)' to ; and' in line 38 and insert
in subsection (3A), for the words "subsection (1) above" there shall be substituted the words "section 38A(3) of this Act".'.-- [Mr. Charles Wardle.]
Amendments made : No. 53, in page 56, line 1, after district' insert , county borough'.
No. 45, in page 56, line 18, after paragraphs' insert
(and to the provisions of any order under section 3A(2) of this Act)'.
No. 54, in page 57, line 39, after district' insert , county borough'.-- [Mr. Charles Wardle.]
Amendments made : No. 81, in page 65, line 26, leave out from beginning to end of line 30 and insert
(2) In sub-paragraph (1) of paragraph 6A after the words "joint authority", there shall be inserted the words "or a Police Authority established under section 3 of the Police Act 1964".'.-- [Mr. Michael.]
No. 46, in page 70, line 41, after authority"' insert (a)'. No. 47, in page 70, line 43, at end insert , and
Column 249(b) in paragraph (b) at the end there shall be added the words "or a police authority established under section 3 of the Police Act 1964,".'-- [Mr. Charles Wardle.]
Amendments made : No. 24, in page 73, leave out lines 28 to 30 and insert
(2) In subsection (3A), for the words "subsection (1) above" there shall be substituted the words "section 53C(3) of this Act".' No. 25, in page 75, leave out lines 3 to 17.
No. 26, in page 75, leave out lines 23 to 36 and insert
Pensions (Increase) Act 1971
19A. In Schedule 2 to the Pensions (Increase) Act 1971 (list of official pensions for the purposes of that Act), in paragraph 15, for sub-paragraph (b) there shall be substituted
"(b) was engaged on service pursuant to an appointment under section 10 of the Overseas Development and Co-operation Act 1980, being service in respect of which section 53C of the Police Act 1964 or, as the case may be, section 38A of the Police (Scotland) Act 1967 had effect ; or
(ba) was engaged on temporary service in accordance with section 15A(2) of the Police Act 1964 or section 12A(2) of the Police (Scotland) Act 1967 ; or".
Overseas Pensions Act 1973
19B. In section 2 of the Overseas Pensions Act 1973 (which makes provisions for superannuation schemes as respects certain overseas service), in subsection (2), for paragraph (d) there shall be substituted
"(d) a person who is
(i) a member of a police force engaged on relevant service within the meaning of section 53C(1)(a), (c) or (e) of the Police Act 1964 (service under section 15A of the Police Act 1964, under section 1(1) of the Police (Overseas Service) Act 1945 or pursuant to an appointment under section 10 of the Overseas Development and Co-operation Act 1980), or
(ii) a constable of a police force engaged on relevant service within the meaning of section 38A(1)(a), (c) or (e) of the Police (Scotland) Act 1967 (service under section 12A of that Act, section 1(1) of the Police (Overseas Service) Act 1945 or pursuant to an appointment under section 10 of the Overseas Development and Co-operation Act 1980),
and who is incapacitated or dies as a result of an injury sustained or disease contracted during that service ;".
Police Pensions Act 1976
19C. In section 7 of the Police Pensions Act 1976 (payment of pensions and contributions), in subsection (2), for paragraph (b) there shall be substituted
"(b) an officer engaged on service pursuant to an appointment under section 10 of the Overseas Development and Co-operation Act 1980 ; (ba) a person engaged on temporary service in accordance with arrangements made under section 15A(2) of the Police Act 1964 or section 12A(2) of the Police (Scotland) Act 1967 ;
(bb) a person engaged on service in the Royal Ulster Constabulary, whose service is or was for the time being service in respect of which the provisions of section 53C of the Police Act 1964 or, as the case may be, section 38A of the Police (Scotland) Act 1967 have or had effect ;".
19D.--(1) Section 11 of that Act (interpretation) shall be amended as follows.
(2) In subsection (1), for paragraph (a) there shall be substituted
"(a) service as an officer pursuant to an appointment under section 10 of the Overseas Development and Co-operation Act 1980 ;