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Mr. Bailey: Whether they should be paid is part of a bigger debate, but the payment issue would not substantially alter the need for community support officers, the thrust of the Bill and our reasons for opposing the new clause.

8 pm

Simon Hughes: I want to make a brief point to support the case that my hon. Friends have put in Committee and in the Chamber. One of the reasons why I am disappointed that the Government do not understand the merit of our argument that such people should be accountable is that there will be no common standards and practices if different organisations and private companies employ security officers to do the police's support job in any local authority in the land.

In reality, there will be different codes of conduct and those involved will work in different ways. No one can possibly manage to get them all to work in a similar way. As my hon. Friend the Member for Mid–Dorset and North Poole (Mrs. Brooke) said, various organisations will have different powers, and those organisations will sometimes have to check which powers they have.

However, there is another civics and citizenship point. If we are trying to get youngsters—secondary school children and teenagers—to pay respect to authority, it is far better that they understand that authority resides in people who are publicly accountable and have status in society. I do not know what the experience of colleagues has been, but security guards in shopping centres and car parks are not shown that respect. They are seen not as the

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representatives of law and order in society, but as looking after the private interests of those with cars in the car parks or shops in the shopping centres.

If we want young people to respect authority, we will mitigate the chances of that by having all sorts of people sharing all sorts of self-defining authority. That will significantly reduce youngsters' respect for the law. I am sad that the Government do not believe that it would be better for the police to police and for them to be accountable only to police authorities or local authorities so that complaints can be raised with properly accountable citizens.

Mr. Denham: I shall try to reply briefly because many of the issues were aired in Committee. The hon. Member for Lewes (Norman Baker) asks for a philosophical argument. I think that a Victorian, Edward Whimper, when asked why he climbed mountains, was the first to answer, "Because they are there." That is part of the answer to this question. Neighbourhood wardens, street wardens, security guards and those responsible for co-ordinating security in major shopping centres are playing the role today.

The accreditation scheme is intended to enable those various people to be effectively co-ordinated by and with the police, but Liberal Democrat Members wish to pass up that opportunity. Indeed, they would go further than simply passing it up; they wish to exclude, as the hon. Member for South-East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Paice) said, a third of all the neighbourhood and street warden schemes because they are run by registered social landlords or other similar bodies. They would be taken out of accreditation. Ironically, the police would undoubtedly still wish to work with those organisations because they exist, but they would be outside any standards and accreditation framework. It is very difficult to understand how that is an advantage over the system that we propose.

The lines of accountability are clear. For example, chief officers will have responsibilities with regard to the accreditation scheme, including the responsibility to ensure that there are clear lines of accountability, complaint systems and so on. There clearly is flexibility about the powers that can be deployed. We discussed that issue last night, but I merely point out that we are discussing the power to make people give their names and addresses, to issue a fixed-penalty notice for riding on the pavement, or to do the same things as local authority dog wardens. In a sense, it is right to say that those are police powers. They certainly conjure up an image of normal policing powers, although they are pretty low-level, but important, public disorder issues.

The amendments would have a serious consequence: they would exclude a large number of very good schemes and make it quite impossible to co-ordinate effectively and properly with private sector providers. They would have the effect of ensuring that anyone from a local authority had to exercise the full powers of a community support officer. We have taken the view that the higher powers should be exercised only by those who work for the police service and are directly employed and accountable to the chief constable.

The hon. Member for Lewes wishes to give local authority employees—they may well be dog wardens or litter wardens—the full powers of CSOs. Even though

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they work for a local authority, there would not be the accountability to the chief officer that exists under our proposals. Finally, the hon. Gentleman wants the local authority to approve every single named individual appointed as a CSO by a chief officer. What a recipe for bureaucratic nonsense and disaster that would represent.

I refute the idea that we are not interested in the specials, but the point was well made by my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich, West (Mr. Bailey) that we cannot expect those in what is essentially a volunteer force working in their own time to fulfil the patrolling and reassurance duties carried out by full-time employees during their working week. It would be a mistake to do that.

In Committee, I clearly set out—I shall not do so again now—our commitment to reverse the decline in the number of specials and the measures that we are taking to encourage the further recruitment of specials. Those hon. Members who have sought to say that, somehow, the promotion of CSOs or accredited community safety officers represents an alternative in the Government's view to the promotion of specials are, frankly, wrong, and I say that quite genuinely. The advantage of specials has been undersold for many years and to some degree I regret the perhaps inevitable fact that all the focus on the new issue—CSOs and ACSOs—has overshadowed the importance that the Government give to specials as part of the police reform process.

I briefly want to say a couple of other things. This has not been the subject of debate, but I should point out that the Government amendments will involve the Mayor of London in a limited consultation role in relation to ACSOs. That is in line with the type of consultation powers with other local authority bodies that were introduced in another place. It is limited to ACSOs because that parallels other legislation.

Finally, I want make an important point, which has been only touched on, about police authorities and the appointment of CSOs. Police authorities have been concerned about their right to consultation on the appointment of CSOs. In common with other support staff, the right to engage and dismiss civilians lies with chief officers and has been considered as an operational matter. However, I want to make it clear that the Government will expect chief officers fully to consult police authorities before embarking on the employment and designation of CSOs. I cannot imagine that any chief officer would not wish to do so, but I would certainly cover that issue in the code of practice under clause 46 when it is issued if such problems become apparent.

Norman Baker: I certainly welcome the last point that the Minister makes, as the issue was raised in Committee. I also agree with him on consulting the Mayor of London, although I am not sure whether I agree on very much else in his contribution. I shall try to respond very briefly, given the time pressures that we are under.

First, there is nothing wrong with having street wardens. I continually said in Committee that they are a jolly good thing and that they do a very useful job. There is nothing wrong with treating them as we treat bouncers. They should have a code of practice to ensure that they behave in a certain way and that they meet common standards. There is nothing wrong with trying to pull them into the crime and disorder partnership. However, I disagree with the Government because they want to give police powers to such wardens. The essential difference is that we think that they should not have police powers.

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The Government view those people as a cheap to produce alternative arm of policing from the private sector. We do not accept that; it is a philosophical difference. Why should I be given a ticket for riding a bike on a pavement by an employee of Jarvis? That is what the Bill will specifically allow. I cited that example in Committee, and the Minister accepted that that will be the case. In fact, he said that it was a good idea that organisations such as Jarvis and those in the railway industry would have the power to issue tickets for cycling on pavements. That is what we face—the Government's proposals do not make sense. The Minister says that he did not say anything of the sort, but the Hansard report of the Committee will show that he did. Liberal Democrats tabled an amendment to try to remove those powers from railway accredited persons.

Mr. Boris Johnson (Henley): If ACSOs are not going to stop the hon. Gentleman from riding on a pavement, who is?

Norman Baker: Perhaps a community support officer with those powers who is an employee of the police or the local authority—someone who is democratically accountable and properly trained; not an employee of Jarvis or Tesco. That is the answer to that point.

The Minister is right that we want to give all CSOs full powers. We want them to be properly trained, and we want to ensure that a traffic warden, for instance—or someone else who has been properly trained—can deal with an incident on the street. They should not have to ring up someone else because they do not have that power. They should be able to deal with it there and then. We do not want a situation in which people have different powers in their pockets according to which side of the street or which borough they happen to be on or in. That is a recipe for confusion, and the Minister has not addressed that point.

As I am conscious of time, I shall not pursue this matter further. I am not satisfied with the Minister's response, however, and I shall want to divide the House on amendment No. 65 at the appropriate juncture. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 9

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