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Police Reform Bill [Lords]

As amended in the Committee, further considered.

New Clause 9

Police powers for local authority employees

( ).—(1) The chief officer of police of any police force may designate any person who is a local authority employee as an community support officer, subject to the agreement of the local authority concerned.
(2) A chief officer of police shall not designate a person under this section unless he is satisfied that that person—
(a) is a suitable person to carry out the functions for the purposes of which he is designated;
(b) is capable of effectively carrying out those functions; and
(c) has received adequate training in the carrying out of those functions and in the exercise and performance of the powers and duties to be conferred on him by virtue of the designation.

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(3) A person designated under this section shall have the powers and duties conferred or imposed on him by the designation.
(4) A designation under this section shall confer powers and impose duties on the designated person by means only of provisions specifying the provisions of Part 1 of Schedule 4.
(5) An employee of a local authority authorised or required to do anything by virtue of a designation under this section—
(a) shall not be authorised or required by virtue of that designation to engage in any conduct otherwise than in the course of that employment; and
(b) shall be so authorised or required subject to such restrictions and conditions (if any) as may be specified in his designation.
(6) Where any power exercisable by any person in reliance on his designation under this section is a power which, in the case of its exercise by a constable, includes or is supplemented by a power in reliance on that designation shall have the same entitlement as a constable to use reasonable force.
(7) Where any power exercisable by any person in reliance on his designation under this section includes power to use force to enter any premises, that power shall not be exercisable by that person except—
(a) in the company, and under the supervision, of a constable; or
(b) for the purpose of saving life or limb or preventing serious damage to property.
(8) In this section local authority means—
(a) in relation to England, a district council, a London borough council, the Common Council of the City of London or the Council of the Isles of Scilly; and
(b) in relation to Wales, a county council or a county borough council.'.—[Norman Baker.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

7.27 pm

Norman Baker: I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Madam Deputy Speaker: With this we may take the following: Amendment No. 67, in clause 9, in page 10, line 34, leave out paragraph (d) and insert—

'(d) he is a person in relation to whom a designation under section (police powers for local authority employees) is in force.'

Amendment No. 64, in clause 38, in page 39, line 6, after "force", insert—

', after consulting the principal local authority for that area,'.

Amendment No. 63, in page 39, line 14, at end insert—

'(2A) At the end of the first year the police authority maintaining that police force shall give its approval for the continued designation of persons under section 38.
(2B) If a police authority maintaining that force does not give its approval, it shall inform—
(a) the Secretary of State; and
(b) the chief officer of police for that area who shall withdraw all designations under section 38 and make no further designations for a period of not less than one year.'.

Amendment No. 65, in page 41, line 37, leave out Clause 40.

Government amendments Nos. 27 to 29

Amendment No. 66, in page 42, leave out Clause 41.

Amendment No. 69, in clause 42, page 43, line 38, after second "or", insert—

'section (police powers for local authority employees).'.

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Amendment No. 68, in page 43, line 38, leave out—

'his accreditation under section 41'.

Amendment No. 70, in page 43, line 39, leave out from "or accreditation".

Amendment No. 72, in page 43, line 42, after second "or", insert—

'section (police powers for local authority employees).'.

Amendment No. 71, in page 43, line 42, leave out—

'his accreditation under section 41'.

Amendment No. 73, in page 43, line 45, leave out "or accreditation".

Amendment No. 74, in page 43, line 46, leave out "or accreditation".

Amendment No. 75, in page 44, leave out lines 1 to 4.

Amendment No. 76, in page 44, line 5, leave out "or accreditation".

Amendment No. 78, in page 44, line 6, after "or", insert—

'section (police powers for local authority employees).'.

Amendment No. 77, in page 44, line 6, leave out "41".

Amendment No. 79, in page 44, line 7, leave out "or accredited person".

Amendment No. 80, in page 44, line 7, leave out "or accreditation".

Amendment No. 81, in page 44, line 15, leave out subsection (6).

Amendment No. 82, in line 37, leave out subsection (10).

Amendment No. 83, in page 44, line 44 leave out Clause 43.

Government amendment No. 33

Amendment No. 84, in clause 45, in page 46, line 17, leave out "or 5".

Amendment No. 85, in page 46, line 18, leave out from "in" to the end of line 19 and insert "that Schedule".

Amendment No. 86, in page 46, line 20, leave out from first "of" to end of line 21 and insert "that Schedule".

Amendment No. 88, in page 46, line 34, after "or", insert—

'section (police powers for local authority employees).'.

Amendment No. 87, in page 46, line 34, leave out "41".

Amendment No. 89, in page 46, line 35, leave out—

'or, as the case may be, 5'.

Government amendments Nos. 36 to 38

Amendment No. 90, in clause 47, in page 47, line 43, leave out paragraph (b).

Amendment No. 91, in page 48, line 1, leave out "or accredited".

Amendment No. 92, in page 48, line 8, leave out paragraph (b).

Amendment No. 93, in page 48, line 15, leave out "or an accredited person".

Amendment No. 94, in page 48, line 17, leave out—

'or that he is an accredited person'.

Amendment No. 95, in page 48, line 19, leave out "or accredited".

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Amendment No. 96, in page 48, line 24, leave out "or accredited person".

Amendment No. 97, in page 48, line 26, leave out "or accreditation".

Amendment No. 98, in clause 48, page 48, leave out lines 29 to 33.

Amendment No. 99, in page 157, line 38, leave out Schedule 5.

Norman Baker: I promise not to address each amendment in this group; otherwise we would be here for some considerable time. Indeed, I shall be reasonably brief, as I am conscious of the hour, and also of the following groups of amendments, which we want to reach tonight. I do not want to repeat last night's debate, except to remind hon. Members that our vision for policing is not—unfortunately, from our point of view—the vision set out in the Bill.

Our vision is based on simplicity, accountability, efficiency and effectiveness, and having in post people who are properly trained. We are not convinced that the configuration proposed by the Government achieves those ends. Our vision is to have both police officers as we have at present, full-time, part-time or specials, and community support officers—an idea that, I might remind the Minister, we suggested in our manifesto and have always supported in principle.

We believe that for the purposes of simplicity and effectiveness, and of ensuring that as many people as possible are used to tackle the issues that we have been discussing under the Bill, the category of community support officers should include traffic wardens, and vice versa, because of their powers. That was the point that we were making when we voted on new clause 8.

That would provide a simplicity and an accountability that I believe are lacking in the Government proposals. Last night the Minister said he thought that we might get there in the long run, but that the question was whether we should try to create that structure from the start. There is a genuine disagreement across the Floor of the House on how we should approach that matter. We are clear that the Government proposals will provide not simplicity, but a plethora of different people with different powers, according to where they are in the country. Indeed, the powers could be different on different sides of the street when people crossed from one borough or district to another.

Accountability will be missing, especially from accredited officers who are not even employed by a public authority. There is also a question mark over whether they will be efficient and effective—two of the Government's key tests—if people do not even know what powers they have, and there is no clear relationship, in the public's mind at least, between the various bodies created and the people who staff them.

With that in mind, we have tried to address some of the issues. New clause 9 is an attempt to ensure that community support officers, as well as being employed by the police, could also be employed by local authorities. That would ensure accountability, because local authorities are democratically elected. It would also build on the Government's welcome initiative of crime and disorder partnerships, which are clearly working.

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7.30 pm

The sorts of powers that we, and the Government, wish to give to CSOs would fit in well with those partnerships, and it is proper that local authorities should play a role in them. I speak as a former council leader, and I see another, the hon. Member for Hove (Mr. Caplin), in his place on the Treasury Bench. Such measures would be simpler and more understandable, not to mention closer to the community—to pick up the point made in the last debate about ensuring accountability and community involvement. We already have a precedent, because traffic warden powers have been exercised locally. That Government initiative is working well in those areas in which it has been deployed. The Government have conceded that principle: we seek to extend it to CSOs. That is the gist of new clause 9.

I hope that the Government will recognise the value of giving local authorities a clearer role in the sorts of powers that they wish to give to CSOs. That appears to me to be an uncontroversial suggestion. The CSOs would, of course, have to be approved by the local chief constable, and they would have to be properly trained. The chief constable would also need an input into what the CSOs were doing. I shall not discuss those caveats at length, but I do recognise the need for some police involvement.

It is impossible to address all these amendments, but I shall turn now to the other main issue of concern, which is the issue of accredited officers. It may not be widely known outside the House, but the Bill presages the suggestion that a whole range of people should be given police powers, without being accountable to the police or to local authorities. That strikes Liberal Democrats as a dangerous precedent. It would mean that companies—including those that are highly regarded, or otherwise—could have employees with police powers. The Government have introduced amendments to include the railway industry, so that could mean that employees of companies such as Jarvis or Tesco could have police powers. That would be dangerous. Without overstating my case, I suggest that it would amount to a part-privatisation of policing, and we would resist that. I am surprised that a Labour Government have made such a suggestion.

The measures would also open the door to policing for profit. Those companies who employ the accredited persons will clearly wish to have them act in the interests of that company rather than of the general public, and those interests are not necessarily the same.

As we discussed in Committee, to make matters worse, those employees of private companies would undertake public police functions without being subject to the Independent Police Complaints Commission, which the Bill will rightly set up and of which everybody approves. That body will deal with police officers and with CSOs, but it will not deal with those private sector accredited persons. Not only will they have dubious powers, but they will not even be accountable in the same way. We have tabled an amendment, which appears in the next group, on that point.

I am sorry if I am being hard on the Minister when I say that in Committee he at no stage gave a philosophical justification for giving private sector employees these powers. He explained why it was necessary to have some people who exercised low-level police powers—nobody

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disagrees with that—but he has not explained why it is acceptable that they will not be democratically accountable in the way that CSOs will be and police officers clearly are at present.

The Minister has also failed to address the point that members of the public may resent being confronted by a private sector employee who wishes to exercise police powers. That will cause further problems for policing at a time when we are trying to make it more acceptable and better rooted in the community. A member of the public who would be prepared to accept a ticket for littering or some other minor offence from a police officer, or even a CSO, may not be prepared to accept it in the same spirit from a Tesco employee. The Government must address the point that they will create problems in understanding the chain of accountability and the possibility that people will resist tickets and other enforcement measures that will form part of the powers that will be given to those accredited officers. The Minister is in danger of undermining respect for the law through allowing private sector employees to exercise those powers.

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