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Schedule 21

The Metropolitan Police Authority: Schedule 2A to the Police Act 1996

Mr. Simon Hughes: I beg to move amendment No. 29, in page 256, line 32, leave out 'appointed' and insert 'elected'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: With this, it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 30, in page 256, line 39, leave out 'appointed' and insert 'elected'.

No. 31, in page 256, line 45, leave out

'appointed by the Mayor of London'

and insert

'elected by the London Assembly'.

No. 32, in page 257, line 4, leave out 'Mayor' and insert 'London Assembly'.

No. 33, in page 257, line 6, leave out 'appointment he' and insert 'election it'.

Mr. Hughes: The self-contained issue that we shall now consider is not new. The group of amendments before us relates to what is currently schedule 21 to the Bill--the schedule inserting into the Police Act 1996 a schedule setting up the Metropolitan police authority.

The Bill says that the Metropolitan police authority shall consist of 23 members, 12 of whom shall be

by a process set up under paragraph 2. Then seven more people shall be appointed by a different process, and four magistrates. Paragraph 1(2) is a provision regarding other number permutations.

The provision for appointment, which follows in paragraph 2, is that

those 12 people--

    "shall be appointed by the Mayor of London in accordance with this paragraph."

The last provision relates to paragraph 2(3), which states that the mayor shall make sure that, as far as practicable, the members for whose appointment he is responsible reflect the balance of parties for the time being prevailing among the members of the assembly. The Government are proposing an appointment process that is meant to reflect the balance of the assembly. The second part is welcome, but we are still unhappy about the first.

As the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey) and her colleagues know, we greatly welcome the setting up of the Metropolitan police authority, not just because her party in opposition and our party in the previous Parliament argued for it, as the record of the annual police debates in the House shows, but because the Metropolitan police have argued for it under both the present commissioner and his predecessor. They wanted someone other than the Home Secretary to be the Metropolitan police authority.

Under the present nonsensical arrangement, the Home Secretary, in Gilbert and Sullivan style, is both the Home Secretary of Britain and the police authority for London. He must therefore ask himself for permission to take certain measures, and give himself permission in reply.

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The Government could quite reasonably have provided for the assembly to choose the members of the police authority, but instead they have insisted that the mayor choose them. That was reflected in the previous debate, in which my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Mr. Davey) intervened. There is no reason for the assembly not to choose its own representatives. It would still be possible for them to reflect the political balance of the assembly.

If there is to be a Metropolitan police authority, as one of the functional bodies under the Bill, there is no reason why it should not be for the assembly to elect the members, rather than for the mayor to appoint them. This is another example of too much power to the mayor and too little to the assembly.

We have rehearsed the arguments. The Government say that the mayor is the executive and effectively the assembly has only a consultative, deliberative or scrutinising role. We do not believe that that is the right balance. Londoners would be far happier if the 12 members of the Metropolitan police authority were chosen by the assembly from among its number, rather than being appointed by the mayor.

Mr. Ottaway: As the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) said, we debated the matter ad nauseam in Committee. The Minister will know what I mean. I can tell the Liberals that we have got the message. We know that they want the assembly to have more powers. They may think that they are making fresh points, but we have heard it all before. We realise what they want, but the assembly is not such a structure.

I cannot say that we agree wholeheartedly with the Government on the Bill, but we agree that the mayor, if there is to be one, should be strong, or strongish, and the assembly should not have a veto over the appointment of a body such as the police authority. The reason for that, and I imagine the reason why the Government have chosen such a structure, is to avoid recreating the old Greater London council.

I am wary of going into what went on at the GLC while the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) is in the Chamber, as I know that he will pull me up and say that that is not how it was. In those days, as an ordinary member of the public, living and working in London and travelling on his underground system and so forth, I was aware of shenanigans going on in police committees. Committees were set up--I do not know what their status was, but the GLC was used as a vehicle to express views on police matters.

Mr. Livingstone rose--

Mr. Ottaway: I thought I might be inviting trouble. Here we go.

Mr. Livingstone: While the incoming Labour GLC established a police committee that met in public, that merely brought into the public domain the secret meetings--from which the public and the opposition were

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excluded--that took place between the Metropolitan police and the former Tory leader Sir Horace Cutler and his policy committee.

Mr. Ottaway: Yes, but as far as I was aware, the committee was not a formal part of the structure, or rather, there was no statutory requirement to have it.

Mr. Livingstone: That is exactly the point. The Labour GLC did things in public; the previous Tory GLC had private meetings with the police from which the opposition and the public were excluded.

Mr. Ottaway: Yes, but the point is that neither administration needed to have any meetings--they were ad hoc. The fundamental complaint against the GLC was that it was becoming a regional power base and it was being used for all sorts of things that were well beyond its statutory remit. I would have no difficulty with the hon. Member for Brent, East setting up committees to talk about this and that if he were mayor of London. That is the stuff of politics. The point is that that is the sort of thing that brought the GLC into disrepute. My concern is that if appointments to the new Metropolitan police authority become a political issue, we will run into all the old problems and the committee will become a political football.

Mr. McDonnell: It is important to get the record straight. The GLC was the collector of the Metropolitan police precept. At that point in time, the setting up of a police committee allowed Londoners the opportunity to debate how the precept could be spent and to inform the Metropolitan police of their views. Many of the views expressed then have been taken on board as key policies in the development of the Metropolitan police, including representation, consultation with local communities and ensuring that ethnic minorities are involved. The committee ensured a discussion about equal opportunities. Many of the discussions in the police committee, which was chaired by a current Home Office Minister, elaborated on what would be the consequences, in particular for London's multicultural society, if we did not take it on board that Londoners should have adequate representation on bodies such as the GLC's police committee.

Mr. Ottaway: I have no trouble with that. I said at the outset that I had no problem with what was going on. The point was that, as an ordinary member of the public in those days, I had the vision that the police were being made into a political football under the old GLC. That is my point and I am sure that the House will appreciate the clarification that ex-members of the GLC are bringing to this debate. They must recognise that, in the eyes of most people, that is why it was seen as becoming a political football.

Under the old GLC and the first-past-the-post electoral system, one party or the other won and the result was clear. It is highly likely that we will not have a clear winner in the GLA elections next year. The Labour party may get 40 per cent. and the Conservatives 35 per cent., or perhaps vice versa, and the balance of the votes will be for the Liberal Democrats. We just do not know. No doubt the Labour party and the Liberal Democrats will get together, knowing the sort of coalition that they go in

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for now, and do some sort of deal. I do not think that that is desirable. If there were a clear, overall winner, there would be something in the system, but the form of proportional representation that we are to have for London and which we will have in Scotland is fairly ridiculous--it is probable that by next Friday the Liberal Democrat party will be in coalition with the Labour party in Scotland.

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