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Column 250(aa) 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 ;
(ab) service in the Royal Ulster Constabulary 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 effect ;".
(3) In subsection (2)(b) after the words "subsection (1)" there shall be inserted "(aa), (ab),".
(4) In subsection (3)
(a) in paragraph (b) after the words after the words "subsection (1)(a)," there shall be inserted "(aa), (ab),', and
(b) after the words "body in" there shall be inserted the words "or with".' -- [Mr. Charles Wardle.]
--(1) Schedule [ Continuing functions of Receiver for the Metropolitan Police District in relation to pensions etc. of court staff ] (which re -enacts certain provisions relating to the functions of the Receiver for the Metropolitan Police District with respect to pensions etc. of court staff) shall have effect.
(2) The Lord Chancellor may by order make provision with respect to pensions, allowances or gratuities payable to or in respect of inner London court staff, or any class of inner London court staff. (3) An order under subsection (2) above may
(a) itself make provision with respect to the pensions, allowances or gratuities which, subject to the fulfilment of such requirements and conditions as may be prescribed by the order, are to be or may be paid to or in respect of inner London court staff, or any class of inner London court staff, or
(b) provide that the civil service provisions are to have effect, with such modifications as may be prescribed by the order, in relation to the payment by such persons as may be so prescribed, out of such funds as may be so prescribed, of pensions, allowances and gratuities to or in respect of inner London court staff, or any class of inner London court staff.
(4) Without prejudice to the generality of subsections (2) and (3) above, an order under subsection (2)
(a) may include all or any of the provisions referred to in paragraphs 1 to 11 of Schedule 3 to the Superannuation Act 1972, and
(b) may make different provision as respects different classes of persons and different circumstances.
(5) Paragraphs 1 to 11 of Schedule 3 to the Superannuation Act 1972 shall have effect, in their application for the purposes of this section, as if references to regulations were references to an order under this section and references to the Secretary of State were references to the Lord Chancellor.
(6) Subsections (3) and (4) of section 7 of the Superannuation Act 1972 (which relate to increases under the Pensions (Increase) Act 1971) shall have effect in relation to an order under subsection (2) above as they have effect in relation to regulations under that section.
(7) The Lord Chancellor may by order repeal or amend any of the relevant enactments, whether or not he makes provision under subsection (2) above.
(8) An order under subsection (2) or (7) above may make such consequential, transitional, incidental or supplemental provision (including provision amending or repealing any provision of this Act, the 1979 Act or any other enactment) as the Lord Chancellor thinks necessary or expedient.
(9) Before making an order under subsection (2) or (7) above the Lord Chancellor shall consult
(a) the inner London magistrates' courts committee,
(b) such local authorities as appear to him to be concerned, (c) the Receiver for the Metropolitan Police District, and (d) such representatives of other persons likely to be affected by the proposed order as appear to him to be appropriate.
Column 251(10) An order under subsection (2) or (7) above shall be made by statutory instrument which shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.
(11) In this section
"the civil service provisions" has the meaning given by section 15(1) of the Superannuation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1967, "inner London court staff" means the justices' chief executive employed by the inner London magistrates' courts committee, any justices' clerk for the inner London area and staff of the inner London magistrates' courts committee,
"the inner London magistrates' courts committee" means the magistrates' courts committee for an area consisting of or including the inner London area or, if there is no such committee, every magistrates' courts committee for any area which consists of or includes any part of the inner London area, and
"the relevant enactments" means
(a) Schedule [ Continuing functions of Receiver for the Metropolitan Police District in relation to pensions etc. of court staff ] to this Act, and
(b) section 15 of the Superannuation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1967 (superannuation of metropolitan civil staffs) so far as it relates to the persons mentioned in subsection (1)(a)(ii) of that section.'-- [Mr. John M. Taylor.]
Brought up, and read the First time.
Mr. Taylor : The inner London service of the magistrates is to be disengaged from the receiver of the Metropolitan police from April 1996. That move has the full support of the inner London service. These provisions are consequential upon that.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.
After section 43 of the 1979 Act there shall be inserted "Part IV Outer London area
Strategic management of outer London area
43A.--(1) There shall be established for the purposes of this section a strategic management board consisting of the following members
(a) one member chosen from amongst themselves by the elected members from the magistrates' courts committees for the outer London Boroughs,
(b) one representative chosen by itself of the London Boroughs Association, and
(c) one representative chosen by itself of the Association of London Authorities.
(2) The chairman of the board shall be chosen from amongst themselves by its members.
(3) The board may discharge its duties through such agents and sub- committees as it may see fit to appoint, whether or not those agents or the members of those sub-committees are members of the board.
(4) It shall be the duty of the board
(a) to keep under consideration the strategic management of the outer London area as a whole by overseeing the management of the magistrates' courts by the magistrates' courts committees within the outer London area,
(b) to give advice and submit recommendations to any magistrates' courts committee within the outer London area concerning its use of resources and funds,
Column 252(c) to give advice and submit regular reports to the Lord Chancellor concerning the use of resources and funds by each of the magistrates' courts committees within the outer London area, (d) to give advice and submit regular reports to the Lord Chancellor concerning the allocation of grants by him to the magistrates' courts committees within the outer London area, and (e) to submit reports to the Lord Chancellor concerning the discharge of his duty under section 63(4) of the Police and Magistrates' Courts Act 1994 in so far as the discharge of that duty is relevant to the outer London area.".'. -- [Mr. Boateng.] Brought up, and read the First time.
Mr. Deputy Speaker : With this it will be convenient to discuss also amendment No. 6, in clause 63, page 32, line 30, at end insert about the making of an order under subsection (3) above and for the purposes of receiving from such magistrates, magistrates' courts committees and interested authorities proposals for the establishment of a strategic management board for the area to which the order relates comprising one representative from each existing magistrates' courts committee within the area to which the order relates. (5A) Where the Lord Chancellor receives proposals under subsection (5) above an order shall not be made under subsection (3) above for the area for which proposals have been received until three years has elapsed since the establishment of such a board and the Lord Chancellor is satisfied that
(a) the criterion specified in subsection (4) above has been fulfilled, and
(b) that the making of such an order would be more likely to fulfil the criterion specified in subsection (4) above than the continued operation of the strategic management board for the area to which the order relates.
(5B) For the purposes of subsection (5A) above it shall be the duty of a strategic management board
(a) to keep under consideration the strategic management of the area to which the proposals relate by overseeing the management of the magistrates' courts by the magistrates' courts committees within that area ;
(b) to give advice and to submit recommendations to any magistrates' courts committee within that area concerning its use of resources and funds ;
(c) to give advice and to submit regular reports to the Lord Chancellor concerning the use of resources and funds by the magistrates' courts committees within that area ;
(d) to give advice and submit regular reports to the Lord Chancellor concerning the allocation of grants by him to the magistrates' courts committees within that area ; and
(e) to submit reports to the Lord Chancellor concerning the discharge of his duty under subsection (4) above.
(5C) A strategic management board may discharge its duties through such agents and sub-committees as it may see fit to appoint, whether or not those agents or the members of those sub-committees are members of that strategic management board.'.
Mr. Boateng : In Committee, the Minister chose to describe the magistrates and their courts, in a phrase which was as disingenuous from his lips as it was hackneyed, as the jewel in the crown of our criminal justice system. If that is the case--and we would not demur from that assessment--why do the Minister and the Government seek to replace the context of that jewel with a base metal ? Why do they want, where they do not seek to cast away the jewel altogether, to replace it with a paste imitation ?
When one examines the context in which we tabled the amendments and the new clause, one sees that it is designed to give the Lord Chancellor the power to ride roughshod over the needs and concerns of local justices and local communities affected by his decisions--
Column 253decisions made in Whitehall, not on the ground where justice matters and where there is a wide cross-section of society which is the consumer of legal services. People care desperately about the independence of their local magistrates courts and their clerks, and the need to present local and accountable services to local communities.
Why do the Government persist in refusing to accept the obvious fact that they have not satisfied the House and the wider community which is concerned about our deliberations that there is a need for clause 63, which our amendments and new clause would address and improve ? In Committee, we asked the Minister time and time again about the rationale for the amalgamations that he and his Government propose with regard to magistrates courts committees : how had they arrived at the figure of between 50 and 60, and on what basis had it been determined that it was necessary to amalgamate the magistrates courts committees ? The answer that we received was none. We were not told where the waste was ; there was no quantification of the waste. We were not given any indication at all--let alone specific examples--of where the magistrates courts committees and their justices and clerks, and the administration of them, were falling down on the job. No explanation was forthcoming as to why clause 63 was necessary, save that--this is what was said--to date, no magistrates courts had come forward of their own volition with any proposals for the amalgamation of magistrates courts committees, and that that must mean that there is a need for reform and a change in the law. That does not follow.
The Minister has not satisfied the Committee, the House, the profession and local communities about the rationale for Government policy in this area, save one matter that is clear to all : the propelling influence behind all that the Minister does which subordinates the interests of justice and the interests of local communities. The one propelling concern is not that of the Lord Chancellor's Department, the Lord Chief Justice, the justices themselves, their clerks and the local communities but that of the Treasury.
The Minister can search among his notes for an example, as he will tonight. We wait to see whether any missive is passed down to someone who might do the Minister a service in order to establish an example--all we want is one example--of some waste, some inefficiency, or something which needs to be addressed by this draconian power. I cannot say that we will be satisfied, but at least we will have a response.
Mr. Michael Stephen (Shoreham) : The hon. Gentleman will recall that a contrast was drawn in Committee between the small number of police authorities, through which efficient and effective police service is delivered, and the relatively extremely large number of magistrates courts areas. The implied question was why we needed so many magistrates courts areas. Would the hon. Gentleman care to explain why we need so many ?
Mr. Boateng : It should not have escaped the attention of the hon. Member for Shoreham (Mr. Stephen) that there is a distinction to be made between police officers and justices of the peace. They have complementary but different roles. The onus is not on the Opposition to
Column 254explain why there should be the same number of magistrates courts committees now as has been the case : it is on the Government to justify the measure that they have introduced. The hon. Gentleman should be more diligent in asking the Minister to explain the basis on which the decision to bring about the amalgamations has been made. The Minister has been asked time and time again. Apart from saying, "Well, they have not brought forward any proposals themselves," he has given us no response.
We had the argument in Committee and there is no point in rehearsing it here. By force of numbers, we lost. So we went away and reflected and we have come up with another proposal on Report. It is a modest proposal. It is far too modest for the taste of many of us, but we hope that if we make modest proposals there will be more chance of their being accepted by an all-too-modest Minister. That was our hope. We shall see what his response is.
We propose in new clause 10 and amendment No. 6 that the Lord Chancellor should be required, before he imposes an amalgamation, to allow the magistrates courts committees and the justices of the peace to make their own proposals. I cannot believe that there are many supporters among Conservative Members for imposed amalgamations of magistrates courts committees, because Conservative Members recognise--the hon. Member for Shoreham may be an exception--that there is strong local feeling about the committees. People feel that justices of the peace do rather a good job and have strong local ties. We are saying that the Government should give those justices of the peace, magistrates courts committees and the justices' clerks for whom they are responsible a chance to make their own proposals. The Government should provide an opportunity to see whether the strategic management boards that we propose in the new clause and amendment, work and deliver the goods. Give them a chance. Give them three years. If they do not bring about the necessary changes where changes are necessary in terms of practice or economies of scale that might be possible through amalgamation of specific magistrates courts committees, other proposals could be considered. It is possible to see how the sharing of computer and other facilities might bring positive advantages to the consumer, and we are all for that. If the strategic management boards are capable of delivering the goods, there will be no need to enforce the amalgamation.
Mr. Stephen : May I renew the challenge that I made to the hon. Gentleman in Committee ? Will he commit any future Labour Lord Chancellor, in the unlikely event that he and his hon. Friends ever again formed the Government and if the clause had been accepted without amendment, to repeal the clause and leave a Labour Lord Chancellor powerless to order any amalgamations if no voluntary proposals had been made by magistrates ?
Mr. Boateng : My response to that challenge is that no one should be under any illusion about the fact that an incoming Labour Government will carry out a root-and-branch reform of the Lord Chancellor's Department with a view to replacing it with a Minister of Justice and altering fundamentally the role of the Lord Chancellor. Let me make that absolutely clear. That is my response to the hon. Member for Shoreham and I do not intend to give way to him again. Let our policy be understood once and for all. He must understand
Mr. Boateng : The rabbit was let out of the hat in Committee. In fact, it was not even confined to a hat. The rabbit has been running amok for many years. That reform is part and parcel of our policy and, make no bones about it, we intend to implement it. When we do, we will have debates in the House in which the person responsible for legislation will answer questions from the few Conservative Members who will be left on the Opposition Benches. We will be only too happy to do something that the Lord Chancellor currently does not do--answer to this House, under your chairmanship, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Although we do not have the Lord Chancellor, we have got his valet and I will deal with him tonight.
We want to know from the Minister the basis upon which these propositions are brought forward. We want to know the basis upon which he opposes our modest proposal, which does no more than provide a statutory basis for what already exists in outer London. It proposes that the draconian powers that the Lord Chancellor seeks to draw unto himself in relation to the amalgamation of magistrates courts committees should be frozen until such time as it has been established that that which works in outer London, is seen to work and is seen to have the support of the Lord Chancellor's Department, is given an equal opportunity to work elsewhere in the jurisdiction. Why should those magistrates courts committees in the constituencies of Conservative Members and of my hon. Friends face forced amalgamation without the opportunity to come forward with the same proposals as their outer London colleagues enjoy ?
The Government have done that for outer London, so they can do it for the rest of the country and put it on a statutory basis. It is on that basis that we press our modest proposals. We wait, if not with bated breath, for a response from the Minister.
First, I must sound a salutary note to the House, one which we cannot escape or deny. When the now famous Le Vay scrutiny of the magistrates service reported in 1989, I am afraid that it said this of the service :
"There is no coherent management structure for the service. It is impossible to locate clear management responsibility or accountability anywhere in the structure."
I am talking about the administrative side of the service, not about the judicial side--the extremely valuable role that magistrates play in our judicial system.
That lack of management, accountability and control is not a matter of no consequence ; it is a matter of £350 million of taxpayers' money per annum. If anything goes wrong with that expenditure, or if it is thought not to be used wisely, there is no point in my getting up in this House or the Lord Chancellor getting up in another place to say, "I am sorry, but we have got no powers over this money. All we do is write out a cheque. We cannot cope with it if anything goes wrong." That is patently entirely unsatisfactory.
Mr. Taylor : I am very careful of the sub judice rules, and I have duties of care when matters are not concluded. I had better write to the hon. Gentleman, when I will tell him the jurisdiction and what we think.
Mr. Taylor : No, I shall not put it on the record now. There are times when it is imprudent to do so. I am describing the example, but I will not specify it. I give my word as a Member of this honourable House that I am aware of such a case, and I ask the House to take my word for it.
Sir Roger Moate (Faversham) : My hon. Friend is suggesting that, because £350 million of taxpayers' money is at stake, we must have something called a coherent management structure. Some of us might be a bit sceptical about the benefits of introducing coherent management structures. Is it not the case that, through the cash limits exercised through his Department, my hon. Friend has absolute control over that expenditure ? He does not need to amalgamate committees or have major reforms to impose strict financial discipline over the whole structure at present.
Mr. Taylor : My hon. Friend rightly refers to the formula--which, incidentally, is under review. But we are talking about accountability in the service for the administrative functions, as distinct from the judicial functions. At the moment, there is none. We need line management from the magistrates courts committees, which are the ultimate authority in the matter, through the justices' chief executive to the rest of staff on administrative matters. I shall not yield on that. It is clearly necessary, and my noble and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor and I are impotent to answer to the House on any criticisms of those areas.
Mr. Maclennan : The difficulty which some of us have had in accepting what the hon. Gentleman and the Lord Chancellor say is that they are drawing a distinction between the administrative function of the Lord Chancellor and the judicial function as though that were quite simply and easily done, and saying that by making changes in the administrative structure, one does not impinge upon the judicial function. That is plainly not true, and it is not a defensible distinction in those terms.
Mr. Taylor : I invite the hon. Gentleman to revisit clause 72, where the areas which are legally protected as independent are clearly set out. We shall come to those on a later amendment. The £350 million will not go away, and there is an accountability to Parliament and to the Public Accounts Committee. [Interruption.] The silent ones have asked me to move on, and it may be for the convenience of House if I do. [Laughter.] I know who is in charge around here.
Column 257In the context of outer London, I want to tell the House about a letter which was received from Mr. Graham Chamberlain, the chairman of the outer London magistrates courts action group. A consultation was set up between the Department and the outer London group to achieve an outer London solution. The letter, sent in the middle of May, said :
"Dear Lord Chancellor, I am delighted to confirm to you personally that the Outer London Magistrates Courts Service has been unanimous in our acceptance of the proposals you sent to us at the beginning of May. Not only did the 20 MCCs accept, but also the 20 Justices' Clerks, the Greater London Association of Magisterial Officers, supported by AMO, nationally"--
and he might have included the local authority associations as well. The letter continued :
"Finally, may I thank you my Lord Chancellor for your patience and understanding during the past eight months. Your faith, which we shared, that we could achieve a mutual agreed solution, has been rewarded."
That is the position in outer London. The system is non-statutory, and that is its virtue. It is flexible and capable of review, and all sides wish to look at it in the context of review.
To try to transmit the system to the provinces beyond outer London is frankly barmy. If there was to be a strategic management body, there would have to be one representative from each magistrates courts committee on it. If two provincial magistrates courts committee areas wished to come together, the amendment would force them to have a strategic management board with two members--one from each area. It is mad, and I do not know who drew the plan up.
Mr. Maclennan : The House is impatient to conclude the debate, but I am conscious that when amalgamations start to roll individual hon. Members will be the first to cry out--and as many Members on the Government Benches as on the Opposition Benches will be raising objections about the use of the powers that the Lord Chancellor is taking.
The Minister places great reliance on what happened in outer London. That is how he should proceed if he wishes to bring about change--using existing powers. If changes are self-evidently needed, the Minister does not need draconian powers to force them through against the wishes of magistrates' authorities. He said that there had been no amalgamations during the present Lord Chancellor's tenure or even some time before that.
Mr. Maclennan : I am not aware either that there has been any great pressure from the present Lord Chancellor or his Conservative predecessors to bring about amalgamations. That certainly has not been ventilated in this Chamber as a matter of high importance in the past. Had there been such a debate, we might have listened with much greater sympathy to arguments in favour of the draconian and unaccountable powers that the Lord Chancellor seeks to take upon himself.
The truth is that the noble and learned Lord and his office are a singular anomaly. He presides over a judicial system as the senior judge of the realm, and sits in the Cabinet as a political figure whose shots are called in many cases by the Treasury. We all know that the driving force