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Column 267Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 14 (Exempted business),
That, at this day's sitting, the Police and Magistrates' Courts Bill [ Lords ] may be proceeded with, though opposed, until any hour.-- [Mr. Kirkhope.]
Question agreed to.
As amended (in the Standing Committee), again considered.
Amendments made : No. 79, in page 44, line 14, at end insert (bb) a county borough council,'.
No. 80, in page 44, line 17, at end insert
(11) Until 1st April 1996, the definition of "unitary authority" in subsection (10) above shall have effect with the omission of paragraph (bb).'-- [Mr. Howard.]
Amendments made : No. 73, in page 86, line 20, at end insert Superannuation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1967
24A. In section 15 of the Superannuation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1967 (superannuation of metropolitan civil staffs), in subsection (1)(a)(ii), for the words from "or other officer" to "that area" there shall be substituted the words ", as a justices' chief executive for that area or as staff of the magistrates' courts committee for that area".
Pensions (Increase) Act 1971
24B. In Schedule 2 to the Pensions (Increase) Act 1971 (list of official pensions for the purposes of that Act), in paragraph 47, at the end of paragraph (b) there shall be added the words
"or as staff of such a committee ; or
(c) service as a justices' chief executive."
24C. In Schedule 6 to that Act (employments relevant to section 13(2) of that Act), in paragraph (d) after the words "for that area" there shall be inserted the words "or by any magistrates' courts committee whose area includes all or part of that area".'
No. 74, in page 87, line 47, at end insert
Local Government Finance Act 1992
32. In section 46 of the Local Government Finance Act 1992 (special items for purposes of section 45), in subsection (2)(d) for the words from "the magistrates' courts" to "that area" there shall be substituted the words "the probation service in the inner London area or the functions referred to in paragraph 4 of Schedule [ Continuing functions of Receiver for the Metropolitan Police District in relation to pensions etc. of court staff ] to the Police and Magistrates' Courts Act 1994".'-- [Mr. Howard.]
Amendments made : No. 71, in page 49, leave out lines 7 to 11 and insert
(3) The following provisions of this Act
(a) section 3 and Schedule 2, so far as they relate to
(i) the power to make orders under the section inserted by section 3, or
(ii) the power to make regulations under paragraph 11 of the Schedule entitled Schedule 1C set out in Schedule 2,
Column 268(b) sections [ Provision of advice and assistance to international organisations etc. ] and [ Provision of advice and assistance to international organisations etc. (Scotland). ],
(c) sections [ Police officers engaged on service outside their force ] and [ Constables engaged on service outside their force ], subsections (3A) and (6)(a) of section 58, and paragraphs 19A to 19D of Schedule 5, so far as they relate to 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, and
(d) section 41, so far as it relates to paragraphs 19A to 19D of Schedule 5,
shall come into force on the passing of this Act.'
No. 39, in page 49, line 22, after 1964' insert ("the new police authorities")'.
No. 40, in page 49, line 23, after supersede' insert ("the old police authorities")'.
No. 41, in page 49, line 23, after them' insert
, for the performance by the old police authorities, before the new police authorities come into existence, of functions prescribed by the order'.
No. 42, in page 49, line 25, leave out from application' to end of line 26 and insert
in relation to them of provisions of this or any other Act or of any instrument) ;'.
No. 38, in page 49, line 27, leave out of property' and insert and apportionment of property, and for the transfer, apportionment and creation of'.
No. 75, in page 49, leave out line 38 and insert
(a) for the transfer and apportionment of property, and for the transfer, apportionment and creation of rights and liabilities ;'.-- [Mr. Howard.]
Amendments made : No. 27, in page 88, line 20, at end insert 9 & 10 Geo. c. 17. The Police (Overseas Service) Act 1945. Section 2(1), (1A) and (2).
Section 3(1) and (2).'
No. 28, in page 89, line 13, column 3, at end insert
Section 43(1) to (3).
In section 43(5) the words "and "police regulations" " onwards.' No. 29, in page 89, line 25, column 3, at end insert
In Schedule 9, the entry relating to The Police (Overseas Service) Act 1945.'
No. 36, in page 89, line 49, column 3 at end insert
In section 24(3) the words from "and the expression" onwards.'.
No. 37, in page 89, line 56, column 3 at end insert
Section 38(1) to (3).
In section 38(5), the words from " police regulations" onwards.' No. 30, in page 90, line 7, column 3, at end insert
Column 269In Schedule 4, the entry relating to the Police (Overseas Service) Act 1945.'
No. 31, in page 90, column 3, leave out lines 15 to 19 and insert
No. 32, in page 90, line 38, at end insert
1976 c. 35. The Police Pensions Act 1976. In Schedule 2, paragraph 1, in paragraph 5 the words "43(1) and" and in paragraph 6 the words from "1948" to "in both".'
No. 33, in page 90, column 3, leave out line 42 and insert
No. 55, in page 93, line 43, at end insert
1994 c. 00. The Local Government (Wales) Act 1994. Section 24.'
No. 76, in page 94, line 4, column 3, leave out and 4' and insert , 4, 7 and 11'.-- [Mr. Howard.]
Order for Third Reading read .
We are delighted to welcome the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) to the debate. We know that he has been heavily preoccupied. We know that there have been many demands on his time. We know, in particular, that he has been obliged to spend many hours redrafting his policy document on tackling crime because his party's policy makers thought it inadequate. According to the Independent on Sunday , the Labour party's Equality Commission has asked for extra paragraphs to be inserted into the hon. Gentleman's document on crime prevention and racism. It also stressed :
"It is essential to make the point that crime does not only affect the poor but all sections of the community."
There we have it. The Labour party's spokesman on home affairs has to be told by his party's Equality Commission that crime affects all sections of the community. It is little wonder, then, that his party's opposition to the Bill, as to all our reforms, has been so utterly muddled.
The Bill's central objective is to strengthen the police in their fight against crime. It will lay the foundations for a police service that can enter the 21st century confident that it will remain the finest in the world. The Bill will provide for a service with improved organisation and effectiveness and one that is more accountable to the community that it serves. It will ensure that the 16,000 extra police officers and 16,000 extra civilians recruited to the service since the Government took office can be mobilised to the maximum possible effect. Above all, it will ensure that we get the best value for money for the £6 billion that taxpayers spend every year on the police service.
The attitude of the Labour party has been to seek to frustrate those objectives at every turn. Labour has not expressed an ounce of regret for its appalling history. In 1979, the police service was hopelessly undermanned, badly paid and on the verge of a strike. Labour local authorities and some Labour Members queued up to undermine the police at every turn, not least during the
Column 270miners' strike, and have shown bitter hostility to every measure that we have taken since 1979 in the fight against crime. So much for Labour being tough on crime.
The Labour party, we are told, has finally seen the light--another general election, another defeat, another Opposition spokesman and a new policy. Let us take the hon. Member for Sedgefield at his word for a moment. Let us assume that he means what he says. He has been his party's home affairs spokesman for more than two years. Last month, he delivered the annual Police Foundation lecture-- [Interruption.]
The thoughts that the hon. Member for Sedgefield uttered on that occasion are directly relevant to the attitude that the Labour party has taken to the Bill. He informed us :
"self respect can only come through respect for others."
Most of us learned what the hon. Member for Sedgefield said the other day when we were in short trousers. The same applies to other things that he has said. For instance, he told us :
"the police are part of the community and they must work closely with the community to deal with crime."
I have yet to find anybody who disagrees with that. Next, he delved into a bit more detail :
"We need a Police Service that is close to the public, but has at its disposal the latest in modern technology."
I do not suppose that one hon. Member disagrees with any of those remarks.
As the hon. Member for Sedgefield delivers these banalities, he contrives to give the impression not only that he has discovered the ten commandments but that he personally received them from the Almighty. It is as though no one had spoken of community before him, no one had recognised the need for tough action on crime before he pretended to do so, and no one had called for partnership between the police and the public--which this Bill is all about--before he did. The hon. Gentleman has even suggested :
"the right has disregarded the importance of creating a society of opportunity."
Where has he been for the past 15 years ? Can he so totally have forgotten the part that he played in attempting to thwart the opportunities that the right has created ?
During his first general election, the hon. Gentleman supported the abolition of the opportunity for council tenants to buy their own homes-- [Interruption.]
Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. Hon. Members are setting a great example of law and order in the House tonight. The Secretary of State must return to Third Reading. I have already drawn his attention to the need to do so ; I do not want to have to do so again.
Mr. Howard : I have no doubt, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that we shall hear much more about the sensitivity of the Opposition to their history, and especially to the history of the hon. Member for Sedgefield. The truth is that they have nothing to offer, on policing or anything else. It is the Government who are tackling the real problems.
At present, the police service suffers, first, because there are too many detailed Home Office controls on their operations--controls on police numbers, controls on local capital projects and controls on allocations of budgets. The Bill will sweep away those controls. Secondly, local communities do not have enough input into local policing priorities. The Bill will put that right. Local policing plans will be drawn up by the police authority in consultation with the chief constable. There will be a duty to consult local communities before that is done. The new plans will give local police commanders a clear focus for their efforts and the freedom to use their budgets to achieve their objectives.
Thirdly, there is a need to strengthen the accountability of local police forces to their local communities. The Bill will achieve that accountability. It is because I want to see greater accountability that the Bill will create strengthened police authorities, not just committees of the council but strong, free-standing organisations. Independent members-- independent of the council and of the Home Secretary--will greatly add to the range of experience of the new authorities. As they will be local people, they will ensure, together with elected members, that local concerns are at the forefront of the authorities' workings.
If accountability is to operate, local communities will need to have some sense of how well their police authority and service are doing. Local priorities, important though they are, cannot provide a complete picture. Without national objectives, how can one force ever be compared with another ? If that comparison cannot be made, how can local communities have a full sense of how effectively the local fight against crime is going ? In time, national objectives will be an invaluable way of driving up standards throughout the police service to the level of the best.
If we are to reform any great public service--whether it is the police, the national health service or any other service--objectives need to be set for that service and there needs to be proper public accountability for the achievement of those objectives. The so-called Labour modernisers are apparently content, as we have seen during the passage of the Bill, for the producers of public services to monitor themselves, with no right for the public to be informed. The hon. Member for Sedgefield would not
Column 272reform public services to make them better. He would merely say to those responsible for delivering those services, "Set your own targets, measure your own performance and don't bother to publish the results."
That is why the Opposition have no time for the practical reforms that are contained in the Bill. For all its talk of modernisation, the Labour party remains firmly stuck in the past. It attacks our proposals for police authorities but has no clear view of its own. It used to favour directly elected authorities, but now it says that it does not.
Does it favour strengthening the work of police authorities by giving them independent status ? It cannot or will not say. Does it object to our proposals for national objectives for the police service, increasing detection rates for burglaries, maintaining or if possible improving detection rates for violent crimes, targeting crimes that are a particular problem locally, providing high visibility policing and responding promptly to emergency calls from the public ? To which of these objectives do the Opposition object ? Which objective does the Labour party find offensive ? Which objective undermines good policing practice ? The truth is that the Labour party has no answers. It offers only destructive opposition. The Bill will strengthen the links between the public and the police. It will free the hands of police commanders and it will powerfully assist the police in the fight against crime. It is an important measure which needs to be passed, and I commend it to the House.
The Bill was savaged in the other place, it came back to us and it still has absolutely no support anywhere outside the Conservative party. It is not supported by the police, the magistrates or independent commentators.
What is more, not only does the Bill fail to do what the Home Office and the Home Secretary have said, but it takes policing in the opposite direction to that in which we wish it to go. If the Home Secretary wants local community policing : the measures in the Bill do not simply fail to support that local community policing : they actually undermine it.
The Bill undermines local community policing in three ways. First, the composition of police authorities is to be changed so that central Government end up appointing key members of police authorities. That is a centralising measure. It has no support. It does not even have the support of many Conservative councillors--or at least the few who remain in local government.
Secondly, not only does the Bill centralise the authority and the composition of its members, but when the Home Secretary refers to the national objectives that he is going to set, the objection is not to setting objectives, but to him setting them rather than local people. The difference between the two of us is that, while the Home Secretary wants objectives to be set centrally by central Government, the police, the Opposition and virtually everyone else believe that they should be set by local people.