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As the Minister said, amendment No. 148 is technical. Like the hon. Member for Ryedale, I had not spotted that we had not covered commanders in considering the senior officers and ensuring that there was a provision comparable to that pertaining to other police forces for their appointment and removal. I accept that the rank of commander is appropriate for inclusion in the provision. I was intrigued to learn--my homework had not gone so far--that new clause 48 amends in its wake an Act of about 1825, which was not long after the creation of the Metropolitan police. No doubt we will reach that repeal in the consequential amendments. It is in any case a logical amendment.

Given the Government's position on who should be charged with the appointment of the commissioner and deputy commissioner, and their decision that the system should be different from that elsewhere, the amendment improves things by involving more people, and the Metropolitan police authority, in the process: it tidies what was left untidy. To that extent, this group of amendments is welcome.

Mr. Brooke: The House understood why we did not have a statement this afternoon on the recent bombs and the charges laid by the Metropolitan police. Apart from anything else, that has given us more time to make progress on the Bill. However, it meant that there was no opportunity to pay tribute to the Metropolitan police for the remarkable speed of the detection that led to the charges. As the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) said, if they are confirmed by the courts, it will have been a triumph. The third bombing occurred in my constituency, but it was the events in Brixton and Brick lane before the Soho bomb that led to the case. I apologise if I err in terms of sub judice, but I wanted to put my commendation on record.

Kate Hoey: I thank hon. Members for their support for the police and the amendments. In the past few weeks, we have seen the Metropolitan police at their best. We are very grateful for their work. We all hope that recent events will not be repeated. Where those terrible events have happened, our communities have made a united and determined attempt to pull together to fight against racism. It has brought communities together, certainly in my area.

This is an important moment for policing in London. We are moving forward with all-party support to the setting up of the Metropolitan police authority. I think that we have got the balance right. This was difficult, but important to achieve. As the hon. Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway) said, the people of London need to have confidence in the police, in the leadership of the police, and in the balance between their capital, national functions and their ordinary policing functions. I welcome hon. Members' support.

Amendment agreed to.

4 May 1999 : Column 825

Clause 236

Appointment of Deputy Commissioner

Amendment made: No. 147, in page 128, leave out lines 10 to 14 and insert--
'(5) Before recommending to Her Majesty that She appoint a person as the Deputy Commissioner, the Secretary of State shall have regard to--
(a) any recommendations made to him by the Metropolitan Police Authority; and
(b) any representations made to him by the Commissioner.'.--[Kate Hoey.]

Schedule 22

Further amendments relating to metropolitan police etc

Amendments made: No. 148, in page 271, line 1, at end insert--

'Police areas

63A. In section 1 of the Police Act 1996 (police areas) in subsection (3) (references to local government areas) the words "but excluding any part of it within the metropolitan police district" shall cease to have effect.'.
No. 149, in page 274, line 34, leave out from 'upon' to 'retire' in line 35 and insert--
'(a) the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis,
(b) the Deputy Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis,
(c) an Assistant Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, or
(d) a Commander in the Metropolitan Police Force,
to'.--[Kate Hoey.]

New Clause 47

Appointment and removal of commanders

'. After section 9F of the Police Act 1996 there shall be inserted--
9G.--(1) The ranks that may be held in the metropolitan police force shall include that of Commander.
(2) Any appointment of a Commander in the metropolitan police force shall be made by the Metropolitan Police Authority, but subject to the approval of the Secretary of State and to regulations under section 50.
(3) Subsections (1) to (3) of section 9E shall apply in relation to a Commander in the metropolitan police force as they apply to the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis.
(4) Subsection (3) is without prejudice to--
(a) any regulations under section 50, or
(b) any regulations under the Police Pensions Act 1976.".'.--[Kate Hoey.]
Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 48

Other members of the Metropolitan Police Force

'. After section 9G of the Police Act 1996 there shall be inserted--
"Other members of the metropolitan police force
9H.--(1) In addition to--
(a) Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis,
(b) Deputy Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis,

4 May 1999 : Column 826

(c) Assistant Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, and
(d) Commander,
the ranks that may be held in the metropolitan police force shall be such as may be prescribed by regulations under section 50.
(2) In the case of the metropolitan police force, the ranks so prescribed shall include those of superintendent, chief inspector, inspector, sergeant and constable.
(3) In the metropolitan police force, appointments and promotions to any rank below that of Commander shall be made in accordance with regulations under section 50 by the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis.'.--[Kate Hoey.]
Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

Clause 251


Amendment made: No. 125, in page 135, leave out lines 11 to 15.--[Kate Hoey.]

Clause 259

Amendments of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990

Mr. Ottaway: I beg to move amendment No. 135, in page 139, leave out lines 8 to 24.

In Standing Committee, there was a considerable amount of debate over the mayor's planning powers and the scope of the spatial development strategy in its interaction with the London boroughs. There is no doubt that if ever there was a point of clash and conflict between the new authority and the London boroughs, it would be that of planning. While the Bill was in Standing Committee, the Minister announced in response to a parliamentary question that he had--I wanted to say "climbed down", but perhaps that is unfair--relaxed or softened the threshold at which the mayor could or could not intervene. Perhaps it would be better to say that he had raised the threshold. There are now fewer areas in which the mayor can intervene with his spatial development strategy.

In Standing Committee, I quoted extensively from Estates Gazette, because a number of learned people in the property world were most concerned. The Minister will be comforted to learn that Estates Gazette has now praised--slightly unfairly--his policy U-turn. I would call it a relaxation. Estates Gazette stated:

The Minister could say that his parliamentary reply received one, or perhaps two, cheers from the property sector. Nevertheless, the fundamental concerns that existed in the Standing Committee still exist. We are justified in tabling the amendment and in asking the Government to spell out exactly how they intend to proceed.

The Government propose to add an unnecessary third tier to planning control in London, by allowing the mayor to direct local authorities to refuse planning permissions. That is a fairly odd state of affairs for the following reasons. The proposals have caused considerable concern

4 May 1999 : Column 827

in planning and development circles. In the view of Conservative Members and of those in the development world, the proposals are unnecessary; they will cause delay, uncertainty and confusion. They add bureaucracy and harm competitiveness--in all honesty, the City of London's greatest concern is that its ability to compete with, for example, Frankfurt will be damaged. Following the Standing Committee, we must add to that indictment of the Government's proposals the charge of total incoherence.

Ministers say that, like the spatial development strategy, the mayor's power of direction is confined to matters of strategic importance; however, unlike their action in respect of the spatial development strategy, they refuse to write that into the Bill. The result is that local authorities and the Secretary of State have to apply a presumption in favour of the development plan when determining planning applications and appeals, but the mayor does not have to do so--he can ignore that cornerstone of planning law. That is a confusing state of affairs, to say the least.

To add a third tier of confusion, in Committee, Ministers tabled an amendment to allow the Secretary of State to prohibit the London boroughs from acting on the mayor's direction. The Minister said that that would apply while the Secretary of State decided whether to call in an application. However, the application would go tothe Secretary of State anyway, on appeal. I tabled a parliamentary question asking the Secretary of State how many planning applications the Labour Government had called in after the relevant local authority had decided to refuse permission; the answer was not only unusually short, but unusually informative: none. Therefore, it is inconceivable that the power of call-in will be exercised in the manner suggested by Ministers.

Either Ministers do not understand the ministerial call-in, or the real purpose of the provision is to allow the Secretary of State to overrule the mayor. Throughout, we have argued that the mayor's power to direct refusal is unnecessary because it damages the competitiveness of London and is a bureaucratic muddle, but it now appears to be a ministerial muddle that could best be cleared up by deleting the provision from the Bill.

The Minister must realise that serious sums of money are involved, and that development is instrumental in and relevant to the prosperity of London's economy. The plain truth is that, if the planning system is such that it undermines confidence or causes concern in the development world, there will be no development. The Government should think hard about the mismatch in the powers of call-in in the Bill.

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