|Police Reform Bill [Lords]
Mr. Denham: We obviously have an indication of how the hon. Gentleman wishes the Opposition to vote on the amendment. I hope that they seriously reconsider the matter in the remaining stages of the Bill's passage. Having the power to ask for a name and address will be a significant advantage to street and neighbourhood wardens and others who are part of an accredited scheme in carrying out the general public order and nuisance duties that we want them to carry out.
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The hon. Gentleman majored on the issue of the danger that the wrong people would have the use of the powers. It is essential to recognise that, through the responsibilities of the chief constable, there are powerful safeguards precisely to ensure that that does not happen. Equally, there are strong safeguards for dealing with an abuse of powers, just as there are for police officers. The issue should not become locked in by party political voting, as it is critical to the full exercise of those powers locally.
Question put, That the amendment be made:
The Committee divided: Ayes 14, Noes 6.
Division No. 12]
Amendment made: No. 216, in page 136, line 24, leave out sub-paragraph (2).[Mr. Denham.]
Norman Baker: I beg to move amendment No. 31, in page 137, line 23, at end insert
The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to take the following amendments: No. 32, in page 137, line 23, at end insert
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No. 33, in page 137, line 23, at end insert
6C (1) An accredited person whose accreditation specifies that this paragraph applies to him shall, in relation to any cordoned area in the relevant police area, have all the powers of a constable in uniform under section 36 of the Terrorism Act 2000 (c. 11) (enforcement of cordoned area) to give orders, make arrangements or impose prohibitions or restrictions.
(2) A person to whom this paragraph applies shall not exercise any powers conferred by this paragraph except in the company, and under the supervision, of a constable.'.
Norman Baker: Let us see whether the Minister will be more amenable to the amendments under discussion than he has been to some others this morning. He should be, as they increase the powers of accredited persons. He will notice that they have the support not only of my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Dorset and North Poole but of Conservative Members.
I should have preferred to discuss the proposal having established that the officers were subject to a public or local authority, but that is not the case. Nevertheless, I am happy to move the amendment. It is right that, in cases of urgency, the police should use officers who, by the Minister's own account, will have been properly trained and will know the ins and outs of their areas of responsibility. We are talking about emergency powers: the carrying out of road checks, seizure of vehicles used to cause alarm, and cordoned areas.
If there is an incident in one of our townsheaven forbidsurely we would want to call on all those who have responsibility to help in such limited circumstances. It would be odd if a range of people who were properly trained and accredited by the chief constable had to stand by while an emergency occurred. I would have thought that there was role for that group of people to help out.
The balance that I have tried to strike in the amendment is that the group should exercise their powers under the supervision of a constable, which is different from a CSO acting alone and using the powers that the Minister has persuaded his colleagues to give. That strikes the right balance between accountability and the ability to carry out effective tasks during an emergency. It would not mean that there would be one constable for each ACSO, but that a constable would be there or thereabouts in a specific area, such as a cordoned area, giving instructions with knowledge of what people were doing. That would provide an extra body of people to help in an emergency, while retaining the link of accountability that is necessary for individuals who would be employed by the private sector or a public authority.
I hope that the Minister will accept the amendments for the reasons that I have given. After all, we want to ensure that people who work for Tesco occasionally work in the public interest as well as the interest of that company.
Mr. Paice: As the hon. Gentleman said, we have attached our names to the amendments. We want a small extension of the powers of accredited community safety schemes, although the Minister
Column Number: 331probably thinks that that sits oddly with all our other remarks on the issue. I assure him that that is not the case because we have tried to look realistically at the role that ACSOs can play in the community. As the hon. Member for Lewes said, we are discussing what would be an urgent situation.
The three situations to which the amendments refer could arise suddenly, but they would almost invariably require several personnel. That is the key point. Our worry about the powers is whether ACSOs will have the necessary training and discretion to use police powers by themselves. It is difficult to conceive of police powers being used by anyone other than a group of officers when dealing with the three situations to which the amendments relate. Therefore, it is perfectly reasonable that a constable, who would ensure that the powers were properly used, could muster the support of others to carry out road checks, cordons or even seize a vehicle. The extension is limited but it is a sensible way to maximise the use of resources because rather than having to pull a load of regular officers off the streets to set up a road check, only one would be required, and he could be backed up with several ACSOs. That is sensible. The amendments would not provide that that must happen, but they would give the chief constable flexibility, which the Minister has constantly asked for throughout our debates.
Mr. Denham: I profess to being slightly confused because Opposition spokesmen in another place tried to remove those powers from CSOs who work for the police. The Opposition have said that police employees should not enjoy the powers, but they want to give them to ACSOs.
Let us examine the amendments on their merits. There is an issue about how far we extend the powers in the Bill to non-police employees. We have sought to limit the power of ACSOs to matters that are most closely related to low-level disorder in the community. The amendments would make the powers significantly wider, although I appreciate the argument about emergency circumstances. It is slightly bizarre to say that an ACSO should be able to seize a person's motor vehicle, but not ask for their name and addressto use the Opposition's position from two debates.
We intendI hope hon. Members will bear this in mind when we discuss the new clauseto introduce a clause that allows new powers to be given to ACSOs and CSOs with appropriate safeguards, in the light of experience and subject to affirmative resolution. If we deal with the issue through only primary legislation, it is difficult to be absolutely certain about the right split of powers, and I hope that all hon. Members recognise that.
It being One o'clock, The Chairman proceeded, pursuant to Sessional Order D [28 June 2001] and the Orders of the Committee [23 May and 25 June 2002], to put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair.
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The Chairman then proceeded to put forthwith the Questions necessary to dispose of the business to be concluded at that time.
Schedule 5, as amended, agreed to.
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