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Lady Hermon: The Minister is left with one opportunity—this is it—to be generous to me this evening. I hope that he will respond appropriately.

Amendment (a) specifically requests that the reserved matter should refer not just to "local community safety partnerships" but more broadly to "community safety". In fact, clause 70 refers to "community safety" and subsection (1) says:

Subsections (3) and (4) add:

even when they are not acting jointly. With that in mind, we wished the reserved matters to be extended to include community safety per se and not just the narrow matter of local community safety partnerships.

We are delighted with Lords amendment No. 18. It is a huge improvement on the original provision in the Bill. Clause 70(3) originally left the membership of local community safety partnerships to be specified in an order made by the Secretary of State. We are pleased to see him in the Chamber and are in no way questioning his integrity, but the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000 goes to great lengths—five pages in all—to set out the composition of district policing partnerships. The Bill, however, contains only one and a half lines on the composition of local community safety partnerships.

We wanted the Government to cast some light on what the proposal would mean in practice. We were therefore delighted that the Government listened to the representations made in the strongest terms by my right hon. Friend the Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble)—I am sure that we all recall that meeting—and accepted Lords amendment No. 18. We now know that a local community safety partnership

That will include the new Police Service of Northern Ireland and organisations such as health boards, which we welcome. It closes the door to paramilitary infiltration into local community safety partnerships.

The one outstanding issue relates to the functions of the local community safety partnerships, and we would welcome further meetings and correspondence with the Minister on that. It arises from a concern that stems from the Patten report, which recommended that the district policing partnership boards, as they were then called, should have the power to buy in additional police facilities and services. However, that recommendation was omitted from the 2000 Act. It remains a live concern to party colleagues and the Unionist community that local community safety partnerships may be the vehicle by which the partnerships have that function.

The Secretary of State has the power to make grants to local community safety partnerships. Guidance and clarification has to be given on how the safety partnerships will spend that money. We need to know that

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paramilitary organisations will not organise themselves into local security firms that take advantage of the grants. The issues are still relevant and we would welcome the opportunity to discuss them with the Minister.

Mr. Browne: With the leave of the House, Madam Deputy Speaker, I shall respond to the debate.

A number of important issues have been raised. As I said, I am afraid that I cannot be generous and accept amendment (a). I know that that spoils my reputation for generosity, but the phrase that the hon. Lady wants to insert would put functions that are already devolved into the reserved category. I understand and agree with her arguments, but we cannot put the generic phrase "community safety" into the provision and consequently reserve everything to do with community safety because that would reverse the decision to devolve some functions.

I cited the specific examples of provisions relating to street lighting and traffic calming, which are important for community safety. Those are already the responsibility of the Department for Regional Development. I also explained that the work by social services to divert young people from crime is devolved and cannot be put back into the reserved category. My instincts are to be generous to the hon. Lady because I understand her concern, but what she wants cannot be achieved in the way she suggests.

7.15 pm

However, discussions about the issues in relation to community safety can continue. The hon. Lady will be aware from the meeting to which she referred that the Northern Ireland Office published a consultation document, "Creating a Safer Northern Ireland Through Partnership", that deals with the membership of community safety partnerships, operational matters relating to community safety partnerships and the functions of community safety partnerships.

Strictly speaking, that consultation period has concluded, but the door remains open if the hon. Lady's party wants to respond. In addition, if a party does not want to respond but has issues to raise, I will discuss those with it. Indeed, I would welcome the opportunity to discuss aspects to do with safety with any party.

It is not the Government's intention to create tension between DPPs and community safety partnerships. We want to create a sensible working partnership between DPPs, community safety partnerships and other organisations that exercise statutory functions. One problem in Northern Ireland is that there are 26 local councils to deal with, which is a significant amount for a comparatively small number of people.

Mr. Blunt: Twenty five oppose the Government.

Mr. Browne: I know where the hon. Gentleman got that figure from but, as the person who possesses the responses to the consultation document, I know that it is not correct.

Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst): It is only 24.

Mr. Browne: I had the figure checked today and it is only one, but it is not a question of how many people are

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against or in favour of an argument. What matters is the strength of the argument. The Government do not intend to create an administrative structure for community safety partnerships that works against the grain of other structures. We are aware of the recommendation of the criminal justice review that the hon. Member for Reigate (Mr. Blunt) mentioned, and I have addressed the idea of creating a single body to undertake the role envisaged for DPPs and community safety.

The recommendation was considered carefully. At the time, DPPs had not been established, and they still have not been. The Government thought that it would be inappropriate to give the new body additional functions before it was established. There were also more fundamental reasons for not following the recommendation. It is essential that community safety partnerships are composed of those statutory organisations with responsibility for service delivery. The DPPs, however, will be made up of elected representatives and independent members, as the hon. Gentleman knows. The criminal justice review recognised that it is important not to disturb that balance and did not propose changing the membership. It suggested that the proposed body should work in partnership with statutory bodies.

In consultation with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and other Ministers, I concluded that that arrangement would not be as effective because it excluded the service delivery organisations from the partnership. Experience in England and Wales shows that crime and disorder partnerships are most effective when statutory organisations are engaged in the process. Legislative changes are being made in England and Wales to ensure that that happens, and I am sure that they will have the support of the hon. Gentleman and his party.

This point will not be lost on the hon. Gentleman: it is essential that the police are involved in community safety. They must be actively involved in community safety partnerships, but they are not members of the DPP. Those are the fundamental, logical and sensible reasons for the conclusion that the DPP, as envisaged under the Police (Northern Ireland) Act, is not the appropriate vehicle for the delivery of community safety, although it was considered by the review.

Mr. Blunt: We can change that.

Mr. Browne: Of course we can change it. That is why there is a Parliament—so that we can change the law. It can be changed, but not without consideration of the consequences for policing and the structure of the Policing Board and the DPP. It should not be changed to allow community safety to be the driver when there are many other policing considerations that relate to the structure of the Policing Board and the functioning of the DPPs—in fact, the DPPs have not yet been set up. Both of those organisations have a long way to go. No final decisions about functions have been made.

The Bill, as amended by the other place, contains enabling legislation for community safety partnerships. A structure is in place that allows a significant degree of flexibility, but the Bill, rightly, also includes the safeguards sought by hon. Members. It is not that we want to keep the bodies separate, it is just that the DPP was established for a particular purpose, with a particular membership and has a policing focus. Clearly many of the

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issues that are the responsibility of the DPP and the Policing Board impact on community safety. There are shared functions and responsibilities. To change the function now would require a completely different membership of the DPP.

We may need to return to those issues later. However, the current framework allows us the flexibility to respond, through the consultation, to the concerns that others share about how the process will work. The Government intend to have a process that will work sensibly and with the grain of other organisations, particularly DPPs. All that takes place in the context of the review of public administration undertaken by the Northern Ireland Executive. Many aspects of the structure of Northern Ireland society that are relevant to community safety are currently changing, and those changes must be taken into consideration. The dialogue continues. We now have provisions in the Bill that allow us the framework, but with the necessary safeguards sought by hon. Members. We can continue the dialogue in that context, as the hon. Member for North Down (Lady Hermon) requested.

Lords amendment agreed to.

Lords amendments No. 19 to 21 agreed to.

Clause 89

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