Greater London Authority Bill

[back to previous text]

Clause 48

Common provision of administrative, professional and technical services
Mr. Andrew Pelling (Croydon, Central) (Con): I beg to move amendment No. 68, in clause 48, page 48, line 16, at end insert—
‘(8) Any constituent body proposing to enter into any arrangements under subsection (2) shall have regard to the needs and requirements of any constituent body with which it proposes to enter into such an agreement.
(9) In making any arrangements under subsection (2) above the Mayor shall ensure that the Authority secures adequate resources from the constituent body proposing to enter into any agreements under subsection (2) to fulfil its functions.
(10) For the purposes of subsections (8) and (9) the Mayor and the Assembly shall be treated as if they were constituent bodies separate and distinct within the Authority.’.
It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship once again, Lady Winterton. The position that the London assembly took on clause 48 was that it was very supportive of the principle behind the provisions and, clearly, there are many efficiencies to be secured by sharing services within the GLA group. I take this opportunity to put on record the credit that is due to the chief finance officer of the GLA, Anne McMeel, for the very good work that she is undertaking in that area to secure the best efficiencies, by the working together of the GLA family constituent bodies.
The assembly is concerned to ensure that it is not denied access to resources that are currently shared by the Mayor and the assembly. That covers a range of important support services, such as financial, legal, procurement and human resources advice, together with information and technology services and, indeed, library services. If some of the services are undertaken for the strategic GLA by a constituent body, such as Transport for London, there is a risk that sufficient safeguards would not exist to ensure that the assembly continues to be provided with adequate support services.
We have discussed putting a cap on the assembly’s budget, but amendments have also considered a floor. I know that the Government did not accept them, but it seems a reasonable idea. The amendment would mitigate the risk to resources expected to be applied to the assembly and ensure that they are safeguarded and guaranteed.
Yvette Cooper: The Government recognise the intentions behind the amendment, but we believe that the changes are unnecessary. The amendment would place additional duties on the GLA and any other constituent functional body in delegating back-office functions to each other and would require those constituent bodies to have regard to the others’ needs and requirements. Proposed subsection (9) would require the Mayor to ensure that the GLA secures adequate resources from a functional body before entering into an arrangement with it.
Subsection (10) defines the Mayor and assembly, rather than the GLA as a whole, as constituent bodies. We do not think that its overall impact is necessary to the Bill. For a start, any arrangement between the constituent bodies concerning back-office functions would be made only with the agreement of those bodies, so they will be able to take into account each others’ needs and ensure that their own requirements are properly safeguarded.
Equally, we find it hard to envisage that the Mayor would agree to take on a functional body’s back-office functions without securing adequate resources to do so from the body concerned. In any event, it is the Mayor and assembly who set those bodies’ functional budgets, and they will be able to take into account any transfer of back-office functions in doing so.
Mr. Pelling: I am grateful to the Minister for accepting many of the points made, although she does not consider it necessary to make the change. The circumstances are particular because of how the budgetary process is agreed in the assembly, as we have discussed during debate on other clauses. Because the assembly must decide by a two-thirds majority, it is possible for the assembly’s budget to be decided by the blocking third minority. It is therefore likely that any Mayor supported by that blocking minority could direct that significant resources should be withdrawn from the assembly while securing efficiencies by working with GLA family bodies.
Yvette Cooper: We have discussed the nature of the assembly’s role and the Mayor’s role in determining the budget. The Government think that there are adequate safeguards to ensure that the assembly has the resources it needs and can exercise its scrutiny function properly.
With reference to the proposals, we should recognise that back-office functions at city hall are already usually shared between the Mayor and the assembly. The clause will require the Mayor to consult the assembly before entering into any arrangement for the GLA to delegate or take on functional bodies’ back-office functions. The assembly will also be free to agree protocols or service level agreements with any functional body that provides a back-office function for the GLA.
We think that the amendment’s intentions are already captured in the Bill. A series of appropriate mechanisms—protocols, existing arrangements, the budget and the Mayor’s requirement to consult—will provide the kind of safeguard that hon. Members require.
Robert Neill (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con): I shall be brief. We have already discussed the assembly’s situation in relation to consultation. Provided that the Mayor meets the requirements of the other clauses that we have agreed will stand part of the Bill, the Mayor can ignore the assembly. So the safeguard is not much of a safeguard. Does the Minister accept that when one is dealing with, for example, the assembly’s ability to access human resources advice and support, or legal advice—which is particularly important—or financial advice, it is important that the assembly have some guarantee of access? There is already discussion—in broad terms I support it—on consolidating the legal arrangements under Transport for London rather than under the core GLA. It would make sense if the assembly had more than the right to be consulted, if it is to guarantee itself access to legal advice on the functions of the organisation of which it is part.
Yvette Cooper: We think that the existing arrangements will be sufficient, although there are additional proposals on protocols and on the budget. What we are discussing is merely the ability to combine back-office functions to deliver services, rather than proposals to reduce, change or amend the services that are provided. The measure is simply a practical one and we do not believe that the additional amendments are required. On that basis I ask the hon. Member for Croydon, Central to consider withdrawing his amendments.
Mr. Pelling: I am grateful for the Minister’s conscientious response. Nevertheless I feel that it would be helpful if the matter went to a Division.
Question put, That the amendment be made:—
The Committee divided: Ayes 4, Noes 10.
Division No. 17 ]
Fabricant, Michael
Gove, Michael
Neill, Robert
Pelling, Mr. Andrew
Brake, Tom
Buck, Ms Karen
Cooper, Yvette
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Linton, Martin
McDonagh, Siobhain
Pound, Stephen
Shaw, Jonathan
Slaughter, Mr. Andrew
Smith, Ms Angela C. (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
Question accordingly negatived.
Clause 48 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clauses 49 to 52 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
2.30 pm

Schedule 2

Robert Neill: I beg to move amendment No. 48, in schedule 2, page 53, line 33, at end insert—
‘Police Act 1996 (c.16)
Schedule 2A (as inserted by the Police and Justice Act 2006).’.
The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:
Amendment No. 47, in schedule 2, page 54, line 3, at end add—
‘Schedule 26.’.
New clause 23—Greater London Authority to be police authority for London—
‘(1) The Police Act 1996 (c.16) is amended as follows.
(2) After section 5A insert—
“5AA Police Authority for London
(1) The Greater London Authority shall be the police authority for the metropolitan police district.
(2) All executive functions in respect of the role of the Greater London Authority as a police authority shall be carried out by the Mayor of London.
(3) The London Assembly shall have power to scrutinise the exercise of the Mayor’s functions under subsection (2) above and to carry out all scrutiny of the work of the police force as was previously carried out by the Metropolitan Police Authority.
(4) All references to the Metropolitan Police Authority in this and any other enactment shall be construed in accordance with this section.
5AB Budget
The Mayor shall set the component part of the GLA budget previously set by the Metropolitan Police Authority—
5AC Assembly Police Committee
(1) The London Assembly shall establish a committee to carry out its functions under section 5AA(3) above.
(2) Four Magistrates, appointed in the same manner as Magistrate members of the Metropolitan Police Authority were, shall be co-operated members of this committee.”
(3) Leave out sections 5B and 5C and Schedule 2A.’.
New clause 24—Appointment of Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis—
‘(1) The Police Act 1996 (c.16) is amended as follows.
(2) For section 9B(5) substitute—
“(5) Before recommending to Her Majesty that she appoint a person as the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis, the Secretary of State shall have regard to—
(a) any recommendations made to him by the Mayor of London, and
(b) any representations made to him by the London Assembly.”.’.
New clause 25—Appointment of Deputy Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis—
‘(1) The Police Act 1996 (c.16) is amended as follows.
(2) For section 9D(5) substitute—
“(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 Mayor of London, and
(b) any representations made to him by the Commissioner.”.’.
New clause 45—Removal of requirement that the Deputy Mayor be a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority—
‘Omit paragraph 2(2) of Schedule 2A to the Police Act 1996(c. 16).’.
Robert Neill: I wish to express my pleasure at seeing you back in the Chair for the remainder of the Bill’s progress, Lady Winterton. I hope that the proceedings will not take too long, but the topic under discussion is particularly important. This package of amendments and new clauses, on which we shall want to vote at the appropriate time, is central to policing.
In many ways, policing is one of the key areas of the GLA group’s responsibility and the way in which it is handled at the moment is needlessly diffuse. Policing is regularly in the top one or two worries of Londoners. Polls regard it as very important. Successful policing in London is vital to the future of the city and our amendments would strengthen the role of the Mayor in it. I hope that our approach gives the lie to earlier suggestions that we are opposed to a strategic authority. We are not. We want to make sure that it and the Mayor as its elected strategic head concentrate on matters that are genuinely strategic and can clearly only be delivered sensibly on a pan-London basis. Policing manifestly fits that bill. That is why we are worried that the present arrangements are something of a hotch-potch.
Everyone expects the Mayor of London to have a keen interest and involvement in policing. The Government have said before during our proceedings that they are wedded to the strong mayor model. Looking at the experience particularly of north America, a strong mayor model suggests to most ordinary Londoners and observers a direct involvement in policing matters. Everyone thinks of Rudolph Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg in New York. What do they know about them? There was a problem with policing in New York. Mayor Giuliani was elected; Mayor Giuliani was the man who was credited with fixing it. Had he got it wrong, he would have paid the penalty by losing office.
It seems that city-dwellers strongly link the idea of a strong, executive Mayor with the idea that that person should be answerable for policing and community safety issues. We should not think in terms of narrow policing, but as a broader point, people expect that direct linkage.
If we ask the average Londoner what the Mayor should do, the answer would be that he should certainly sort out transport and policing, and make sure that the streets are safe. Worry about safety throughout the city is regularly at the top of Londoners’ concerns; although we might disagree about some of the detail, it is something on which there is a consensus. Safety is vital to any civilised city and for London to maintain its pre-eminence as a world city—some would say, “the” world city—getting it safe is crucial. People would expect that the Mayor should have direction of that key policy, but in fact the system does not give him that clear and transparent direction or a clear sense of accountability. That position might have arisen, as is often the way, deep in the mists of the discussions in the Government when the original scheme for the legislation was pulled together.
As I observed earlier in Committee, there is no particular magic to the composition of any of the functional bodies. They evolved perhaps for historic purposes and for functional reasons. Nor is there particular magic in the composition of the policy authority. The fact that we have a police authority for London is, I concede, an improvement on the position when the Home Secretary was the police authority. That is a step in the right direction, which is why I was willing to argue the case for a London-wide city governance when it was not always fashionable to do so in my party. I do not criticise the work of members of the Metropolitan Police Authority. I could hardly do that, since I am one of its members. However, that does not alter the fact that accountability is not straightforward, and not as good as it could be. We are seeking to improve the means by which policing is welded into the mainstream of mayoral functions and city government.
Tony Travers, the academic to whom we referred earlier, said that the structure that came out of the discussions between various Government Departments on how the new Greater London authority should be set up leaves something of a mangle. It is clear to anyone who has read the literature, or who has looked at the history of the matter, that the Home Office fought like a cat in a sack to avoid the handover of significant policing powers to London.
I give credit to the right hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr. Raynsford) for his work on the Greater London Authority Act 1999, because he managed to fight off some of the rearguard action of the Home Office. Now, six years after the event, weare seeking to go further toward the logic that that right hon. Gentleman may have had in mind, namely that people expect the Mayor to have executive responsibility for policing. By executive responsibility, I do not mean operational control. In our system, politicians do not have operational control of the police at any level, and neither should they. Executive responsibility should be executive in the sense that the Mayor should be intimately involved in the appointment of the commissioner and other key staff, give the strategic overview and thrust to policing in London, and be the person who is politically accountable, who carries the can for policing in London. That is what we are seeking to do here. The system, despite its good intentions and its halfway move forward, is difficult.
Mr. Travers, in his useful book, “The Politics of London”, refers to a four-way split of accountability for policing, something that I think no one would dispute. We have the Mayor, who has responsibility for setting the budget, and for appointing some members of the Metropolitan Police Authority. He is also consulted on the appointment of the commissioner. The assembly has an involvement. Assembly members are accountable, in a sense, because they set the budget. Of course, without rehashing our earlier discussions, the assembly can only set the budget on high-level terms, and cannot get into the detail. Some members of the assembly serve on the authority and others do not, meaning that the accountability of assembly members to their constituents on policing matters varies. Because I happen to be a member of the authority, it is much easier for me to take up issues of policing in Bexley and Bromley than it is for, say, my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, Central, who does not have the same ease of access. Is that situation logical?
The Metropolitan Police Authority itself has responsibility. It carries out certain limited, non-operational executive functions, and has a scrutinyrole. In practice, however, the scrutiny role of the authority—its members would concede—is much less developed than the scrutiny role of the assembly. The current chair of the authority, an old and respected friend of myself and the Minister, is conscious of that situation, and has sought to improve it since he took over. The fact is that the scrutiny role of the MPA is much less than one might expect.
The final strand of accountability is the commissioner himself. He is responsible for day-to-day operations and has a line of accountability not only to the Mayor, the authority and the assembly, but to the Home Secretary, who sits somewhere in all of this as well. That is inevitable because of London’s position as the capital city, but we could make things a lot easier with a little rationalisation, which is what we are suggesting.
Against the background of at least four and arguably five lines of accountability for London, it is not easy for Mr., Mrs. or Ms Londoner to know who carries the can if anything goes wrong with policing in London, or who should have the praise when things go well. Who is ultimately accountable? It could, in theory, be any one or any mixture of those. That does not sit well with the Government’s apparent commitment to improving accountability and transparency in service delivery, something that we agree with in principle.
For that reason, it is not surprising that the previous Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir John Stevens, now Lord Stevens, has said himself on a numberof occasions that he found the accountability arrangements difficult to deal with. Once he said to the assembly’s budget committee in some exasperation, “I don’t know who I’m supposed to be accountable for.” I do not think that it was entirely in jest. The situation is needlessly confused. If Lord Stevens felt that, I suspect that the average London resident does as well.
Despite the best of intentions in trying to find a compromise that would satisfy the Home Office and the other conflicting Departments and could be reconciled with the Government’s desire for city-wide governance, perhaps part of the error lay in saying that the Metropolitan Police Authority should try to replicate as far as it could in London the Government system for police authorities elsewhere—a certain number of “local authority” or equivalent assembly members, some magistrates and some independents. That is why it differs from the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, which had an established model involving borough councillors instead. One might think that LFEPA would have been a better model for a separate functional body system in London.
The error was to assume that what works and is appropriate elsewhere in the country should be appropriate in London. We argue that it is not. London is unique in size and complexity. It is not necessary to have the same governance structure here as in the rest of the country for governing the city or delivering services such as policing. The GLA was intended to be a unique solution to a unique situation. London is by far the largest city in western Europe and one of the largest in the western world, and it needs its own tailor-made structures.
Scrutiny, which is vital and could be improved, falls to the assembly, which the Government concede is a scrutiny body meant to deal with such issues. Our proposed system fits very well with the Government’s own rhetoric earlier in the Committee’s proceedings. It would mean that all London assembly members could scrutinise the work of the police. Every constituency member will have the same degree of access, and members elected on a London-wide, non-constituency basis—the argument being that they will be able to represent more broadly with a non-geographic constituency—would have the same access and ability. I submit that that would give much better and more logical scrutiny, as the entire assembly would be involved.
2.45 pm
We accept that the particular role of magistrates should be preserved, so we have provided for an entrenched committee, which I shall come to in a moment. Under the current arrangement, the Mayor negotiates with the MPA, which then makes a budget bid to the Mayor. We say that the Mayor has the executive power—that is explicit in the new clause—and he would set the policing component of the budget. That would be scrutinised by the assembly and the budget process would then take place. Nothing would change in that respect. There would still be a separate policing component within which the Mayor would doubtless negotiate with the commissioner and the assembly’s police committee.
New clause 23 would set up a specific police committee. There are two reasons for doing that: the particular importance of policing, which is the No. 1 or No. 2 concern of Londoners, and the fact that policing is the service that consumes two thirds of the council tax precept, so it is particularly appropriate that there should be a specific safeguard on police scrutiny.
The assembly has, voluntarily, a transport committee to scrutinise the work of Transport for London, but under the proposal it would be obliged to have a police committee, whose members would of course all have democratic mandates. To preserve the particular, valuable insight that can be given by magistrate members, we propose that that committee—uniquely of those in the GLA—should have four co-opted magistrate members who could be involved in the deliberations. That would preserve an analogy with other UK practice, but tailor the situation to the circumstances in London.
That is the thinking, and we submit that it accords well with the Government’s logic. We therefore invite them to accept the amendment, which would enhance delivery of policing and allow Londoners to feel that there was a clear chain of responsibility that they could call upon when necessary.
Mr. Pelling: I am happy to support my hon. Friend. It is interesting to note the comments made by Tony Travers in the book to which my hon. Friend referred; he is very critical of the assembly in not scrutinising the work of the Metropolitan police.
It is important to pass on some recollections of how the assembly kicked off on the issue of policing scrutiny, so that Committee colleagues understand how the establishment of a separate Metropolitan Police Authority made it difficult for assembly members to hold the police service to account in the way that they would have expected a London authority to do. The Metropolitan Police Service was very willing to give an initial briefing to assembly members, but one of the key messages from that briefing in the first week of the London assembly’s existence in 2000 was that the police service did not believe that the Greater London Authority Act 1999 provided the assembly with any role in the scrutiny of police service performance. As far as it was concerned, that was specifically the role of the Metropolitan Police Authority and its board, not assembly members.
That culture was further enforced by the approach that the current Mayor took on police service accountability, which may well have developed because it was important to be able to create the political capital required for his credibility. Bearing in mind his—and perhaps Lee Jasper’s—alleged baggage in their approaches to the police service, his style was that he had nothing to do with the operation of the police service and was not accountable to the assembly forit, because virtually everything that it did was an operational matter on which he was not accountable. If London assembly members want to ask questions about the performance of particular borough commands or specific parts of the police service, the Mayor’s response is that it is not his responsibility, but that of the commissioner.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst also referred to the first experience of the assembly’s budget committee in dealing with the then commissioner, Lord Stevens. He turned up with as much regalia as possible dripping from his uniform so as to intimidate members of the assembly’s budget committee. More importantly, he gave us a strong message that he was sick and tired of being accountable to the Home Secretary, the Mayor, the London assembly, its budget committee and the Metropolitan Police Authority. Such a diffusion of accountability means that there is no worthwhile accountability at all.
Stephen Pound: Far be it from me to correct the hon. Gentleman, but only those in the monarchy wear regalia. He may have been referring to insignia. On the substance of his amendment, does he accept that there was a time, when I was first elected to the House, when the only opportunity to discuss these matters was in the annual debate on policing in London, on a motion tabled by the Home Secretary? That was outrageous. Therefore, there may be problems for people such as Lord Stevens, but does the hon. Gentleman not at least accept that it is vastly better to have a little too much democracy, rather than the previous system, under which there was a massive democratic deficit?
Mr. Pelling: My recollection is that not only royalty wear regalia. I appreciate the royal nature of regalia, due to the very definition of the word, but I understand that masons also would find themselves happily—
Jonathan Shaw (Chatham and Aylesford) (Lab): Where are they?
Mr. Pelling: I am sure, Lady Winterton, that there are none here.
Stephen Pound: Maybe they are royalty!
Mr. Pelling: The hon. Gentleman has been watching too many films. I would accept that there was a significant democratic deficit. Indeed, it led to a great deal of additional inefficiency in the Metropolitan police, which was turning up to the Home Secretary every year and saying, “Terribly sorry, we have overspent, so would you mind making up that financial deficit?” However, it is not a sufficient argument to say that there was a democratic deficit before and that we should not close it entirely by having a more democratic, direct fulfilment of that deficit.
The response given by Lord Stevens on that occasion showed just how ridiculous those demands were in terms of the diffusion of accountability. It meant that none of those groups was in a strong position to call for proper accountability. Those issues are important when there are problems with police service performance and, in particular, crime clear-up rates in London, which unfortunately are spectacularly low. We cannot fulfil the electorate’s desire to put direct pressure on those they elect to increase the police service’s performance.
So much diffusion of accountability results in a feeling among Londoners that they cannot hold their police service to account. An example that is causing a great deal of controversy is the safer neighbourhood panels being established in the context of the much-welcomed safer neighbourhood teams. The police service itself is appointing representatives to the panels that will hold it to account. I have been so uncharitable as to describe the panels as unelected soviets.
One might have expected the Metropolitan Police Authority to be effective in its scrutiny role, but my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst has referred to how the MPA has fallen short in that regard. I am not surprised that that has happened. I have a great deal of sympathy for my colleagues who have served on the MPA. Like Ministers—who, weighed down by red boxes, might be distracted from key issues—their agenda has often been set well in terms of its weight and no end of visits to be made. In many ways, the MPA has been happy to act as a loyal supporters’ club for the commissioner rather than as an effective scrutiny body.
We have taken a radical approach to the Bill, and our amendments are part of that process. Our proposals are democratic and fit in with the Conservative party’s approach in other parts of the UK—we seek direct election of chief commissioners accountable for policing. It is only logical that the Mayor should provide that role in London.
I shall make a brief detour by saying how muchwe value your chairmanship, Lady Winterton, and contrast it with that of the chairman of the assembly, who has recently joined us and who has a direct approach with witnesses before the assembly, as was shown yesterday. Conservatives support that strongly. It shows the robustness of the democratic process in the London assembly.
We have sought to maintain responsibilities for planning and housing at the local government level, the lowest level of government, and to devolve powers from the Government office for London and from the Government in areas such as learning and skills and the national health service. The amendments offer the Committee the opportunity to secure a radical reform of London’s governance that would provide for direct accountability for performance in the police service.
3 pm
Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington) (LD): It isa pleasure to see you here this afternoon, Lady Winterton. Given Mr. O’Hara’s departure, I was worried that the Committee might be left rudderless, but clearly that is not the case.
Some amendments and new clauses in the group are interesting. The worry about the amendments tabled by the hon. Gentlemen who have just spoken is that they are perhaps a step too far in the direction of giving the Mayor executive power. Their argument suggested that the Mayor would simply become the person who was accountable for, rather than having operational responsibility for, the Metropolitan Police Service. There is anxiety that, by their very nature, Mayors might be interested in more power, not less. I can foresee circumstances in which a Mayor who feels the pressure of an underperforming police service might consider that he or she wants to grasp more operational control over the service than people deem to be acceptable.
The new clause tabled by the hon. Member for Surrey Heath about the appointment of seven borough representatives has been withdrawn. The only point that I would make therefore is that, had it been discussed, we would have supported it. The move towards borough-based policing with safer neighbourhood teams with active involvement of the boroughs on the ground suggests that it would be entirely appropriate for borough representatives to be part of the Metropolitan Police Authority, although I recognise the important role that independents have played. There is an issue about the democratic deficit that applies with the role of independents on the police authority.
With the withdrawal of new clause 9, I shall touch briefly on new clause 45. I have not withdrawn it, unless someone else has done so without my knowledge. The hon. Member for Surrey Heath talked earlier about how his mother was watching his progress carefully in this place and said that he wanted to give her a concrete example of his achievements since his election, such as an amendment that was his own. Well, my mother also follows carefully my progress in Parliament. She has done so during the past 10 years and I think that she probably has a more realistic view than the hon. Gentleman’s mother about the success of Opposition Members in identifying amendments that they can claim as their own. However, new clause 45 may give me the opportunity to do so. It has the unanimous support of assembly members and I hope, therefore, the support of the Government.
Mr. Pelling: That is not the case.
Tom Brake: Perhaps the hon. Gentleman who spoke from a sedentary position might like to intervene at some point.
Mr. Pelling: The new clauses are excellent, but they do not have the London assembly blessing.
Tom Brake: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his brief intervention. It did not give me much meat with which to work, but I hear his point.
New clause 45 would make a simple change. I hope that the Government will consider that it is reasonable. It is entirely in keeping with our debate about giving the Mayor greater control over things for which he is rightly responsible. Under the 1999 Act, the deputy Mayor must be a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority. We must question why that is the case. It would be appropriate for the deputy Mayor to be a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority, but I do not understand why it is a requirement.
Michael Gove: The hon. Gentleman is making an excellent speech in pursuit of his analysis of our amendments and new clauses. In the unfortunate absence of the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough, the traditional role of Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Minister of State has now passed to the hon. Member for Ealing, Acton and Shepherd's Bush, who will no doubt construe that as a reward for his loyalty in the debate about a single waste authority for London.
I can tell from the downcast looks on the faces of the hon. Members for Mitcham and Morden, for Ealing, North and for Battersea that their energetic support for the Government has not yet been rewarded as the hon. Member for Ealing, Acton and Shepherd's Bush has shown it can be.
Tom Brake: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention, although it bears no close relation to new clause 45. I shall take it as an endorsement of what I am advocating.
The serious point is that there is no strong argument for the deputy Mayor having to be a member of the MPA. As my colleagues on the GLA have pointed out, in the past six years or thereabouts the deputy Mayor has not been able to play a greater role than she might have on the MPA because she has had other significant interests. The fact that the Police Act 1996 requires her to be a member of the MPA has stopped the Mayor from having a third active member representing the Labour party on that authority. That is one simple reason why I hope that the Government will support the amendment, which would enable the Mayor, their supporter and fan, to have a third active member representing him on the MPA. This straightforward proposal would create an opportunity for someone who has time and commitment to focus on the role and is not distracted by other important matters.
The new clause is about devolving power to the Mayor, and the Government say that they want to take power from central Government and hand it to the Mayor. Allowing the Mayor to determine the responsibilities of his or her deputy would be entirely straightforward. For once, I am absolutely convinced that when the Minister responds and clarifies the Government’s position on new clause 45, it will turn out that I have their full support.
Yvette Cooper: I welcome the debate that we have had; hon. Members have argued their cases well. I should like a clarification before I continue. Am I right in thinking that Opposition Members have withdrawn new clause 9?
Michael Gove indicated assent.
Yvette Cooper: As the hon. Gentleman is nodding, it seems that they have. That is some relief to me, as I was trying to work out how hon. Members could vote on both the new clauses at the same time, given the contradictions between them.
New clause 23, the central one, would subsume the MPA into the Greater London authority, and other amendments are in many ways consequential on it. I shall come back to new clause 45, which the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington raised in the interests of his mum.
Tom Brake: I wonder whether the Minister has noticed, on the subject of magistrates, that proposed new section 5AC(2) of the Police Act 1996, as laid out in proposed new clause 23(2) states:
“Four magistrates...shall be co-operated members of this committee.”
Does the Minister have the same difficulty as I do in understanding what a “co-operated member” is?
Yvette Cooper: I am sure that the official Opposition Members who tabled the new clause will be happy to tell us what “co-operated” means. I congratulate the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington on spotting the term “co-operated”, and suggest that perhaps I did not read the small print of the proposed new clause quite as closely as I should have done to spot it myself.
Robert Neill: I thank the Minister for giving way as it enables me to congratulate the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington on having read the detail of the amendment paper with the tenacity of which Billy Bonds would have been proud. There is a typological error: the proposed new clause should, of course, refer to “co-opted” members, which was the phrase that I used in my speech, but which did not find its way into print. If there is a means of rectifying that, I will be guided as to how it might be done.
Yvette Cooper: I thank both hon. Members for their questions, tenacity and clarifications.
Mr. Pelling: It is always important to look at the detail of such things. By way of clarification, when I referred to a lack of assembly blessing, I was not talking about proposed new clause 45, tabled by the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington, which has assembly blessing. I was referring to the proposed new clause tabled by myself and my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst.
Yvette Cooper: It must be of some disappointmentto the official Opposition Members who are also members of the assembly that the assembly is not prepared to back their new clauses, and is instead prepared enthusiastically to endorse the new clauses tabled by Members on the Liberal Democrat Front Bench.
The composition of police authorities currently reflects an historic balance, between local councillors and magistrates. More recently, there has been an injection of independent members of the community. The model for police authorities is set out in the Police Act 1996. The Metropolitan Police Authority has23 members, including a majority of one from the Greater London assembly.
Independent members of police authorities were introduced as part of the last Conservative Government’s reforms, and were first appointed in 1995. Independent members were introduced to provide a greater skill base to police authorities, and to increase the diversity of authorities. I recognise the important points made by hon. Members on the diversity of GLA members and council members throughout the country. The points were well argued and I have some sympathy with them. Equally, hon. Members will understand that there are other arguments in favour of having independent members of police authorities. Looking across the country, we see that independent members offer greater diversity and a wider range of skills. Of the last appointment of independent members to police authorities in 2003, 21.5 per cent. were from minority ethnic groups, compared with 4.2 per cent. of councillor members and 4.6 per cent. of magistrate members. Women made up 46.3 per cent. of independent members, compared with 23 per cent. of councillor members and 28.5 per cent. of magistrate members. That is an important consideration.
Michael Gove: The Minister made an important point, and we are all committed to greater diversity when it comes to executive and legislative bodies. However, the logic of her point is that it is not for parties and those that compete for elected office to look to their own diversity policies to provide redress, but for legislators’ powers of executive appointment. Would the Minister say that that is an argument for the continued exercise of appointment, rather than election, to the House of Lords? Would she not agree that the real way to resolve the problem is not through the continued use of patronage but through political parties paying closer attention to the need for diversity?
3.15 pm
The Chairman: Order. Before the Minister responds, I remind her that the Committee cannot debate the composition of the Lords.
Yvette Cooper: Thank you, Lady Winterton, but tempting as it might be to have a wider debate about the composition of the House of Lords—
Stephen Pound: Resist.
Yvette Cooper: As my hon. Friend reminds me, I should resist it.
As I said, they are important arguments, and I have some sympathy with what hon. Members have said, because democratic accountability is important. However, I point hon. Members to the fact that greater diversity is being added by independent members. I strongly believe that the obligation on political parties is greatly to increase diversity. That is exactly what the Labour party has done both nationally and locally, with particularly strong action to increase representation of women in elected positions. I would strongly urge Opposition Members, who do not have such a strong record in that area, to follow suit.
The 2006 Act also made a series of other changes, providing for more flexibility in how members of the MPA and other police authorities in England and Wales are appointed. In particular, it provides that the MPA is to consist of the Mayor, if he chooses to be a member, and those members of the London assembly appointed by him, and others, including at least one lay justice. The Mayor and the members of the assembly must constitute the majority of the members of the authority. The Mayor of London is to chair the authority should he choose to be a member ofthe authority; if not, he must appoint a chairman from among the members of the authority.
The provisions of the 2006 Act clearly strengthen the mayoral role; it gives the Mayor the important role of chairman, which strengthens his position. As I said, the non-assembly members will be appointed by the existing members of the MPA from those on a shortlist prepared by a selection panel.
Those measures, made under the 2006 Act, were debated by both Houses and approved relatively recently. That is why we are resisting the amendments. We believe that there has been considerable discussion, although I recognise that there is always the wider issue of the accountability of the police in a democracy. We will need sophisticated arrangements to ensure proper accountability and scrutiny, but also to allow complete operational independence for the police.
I hope that hon. Members will forgive me a slightly sceptical moment. Had the Government proposed the amendments, I suspect that Opposition Members would be leaping up to argue against them, as they have done with parts of the Bill, whether it be on planning, museums or any other area. They might be saying that the interests of the boroughs were not sufficiently protected or that the Mayor had too much scope and might start intervening in all kinds of detail, which they would not want to happen. I congratulate Opposition Members on their dexterity and nimble-footedness in leaping swiftly to the other side of the argument. It is the strength of a good Opposition—what we would normally think of as a good Liberal Democrat approach—although perhaps not on this occasion.
The House has obviously debated the matter before, and I am sure that it will be debated again in order to ensure the accountability of police forces. However, we do not think that it is right to change the arrangements for the MPA and make them separate from those that apply to police authorities across the country. That is why we are resisting the amendments that woulddo that.
Mr. Pelling: Quite clearly, that is going to be a black mark for the parliamentary draftsman working on behalf of the London assembly. Does the Minister think that the assembly may not be aware that that piece of legislation has been introduced, and that that may reflect the problems that occur when this place is such a legislation factory?
Yvette Cooper: I would not wish to cast aspersions on any draftsman working for the GLA. If the GLA wants to make further representations, having looked further at the 2006 Act and at the point, we would be happy to consider them. I considered whether it might be possible to help the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington with his family relationships by accepting the amendment anyway, even though it was unnecessary, but we concluded that that would probably not be the most sensible thing to do. On that basis, I ask that the amendment be withdrawn.
Michael Gove: It is a pleasure to rise to speak on this occasion. Sadly, I have to express my regret at the Minister’s response to the points made by my hon. Friends and by the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington. I am disappointed that she has once again been a cause of disappointment to an hon. Member’s mother. Not since the days of Don Giovanni have so many mothers been disappointed by someone who still manages to maintain their poise and smile even as they are breaking hearts.
Mr. Pelling: Did he play for Newcastle?
Michael Gove: Don Giovanni did not form part of the midfield line-up for Newcastle United FC.
Stephen Pound: He plays for Chelsea.
Michael Gove: He is almost certainly going to be the new manager of Chelsea. He certainly stands comparison with Jose Mourinho when it comes to off-the-field athletics. In the same area, I am disappointed also that the hon. Lady, again with a twinkle in her eye, suggested that our position was too flexible. She seemed to suggest that we were playing in two different positions at once; that we were, in ideological terms, adherents to the Dutch theory of total football—simultaneously taking a forward line on granting powers to the Mayor when it suited us and a defensive position when it did not. For the benefit of the House, I shall repeat the philosophical point that has guided both us and, in almost every case, the Liberal Democrats throughout the debate. Wherever possible, we want to see powers being devolved to the Mayor. We have not wanted the powers of the Mayor to be at the expense of the boroughs. And we have wanted to ensure that the Mayor’s extra powers are balanced by an enhanced role for the scrutiny of the assembly. The amendments conform to every one of those tests. There are three tests, rather than the Treasury’s favoured five, but they apply nevertheless. Are powers to be devolved to the Mayor? Absolutely. Is there to be an enhanced scrutiny role for the assembly? Absolutely, because the GLA acquires extra powers that the MPA currently exercises. Will there be any costs to the boroughs? Not at all. In fact, overall Londoners gain through greater accountability.
However, to be fair, I noted that the Minister betrayed more sympathy with the spirit of the amendment than with many of our others. I hope that that suggests that any change in Government policy on the part of Ministers as a result of any change at the top will be more in tune with the principle of greater police accountability. A consistent theme of my party, both when my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin) was shadow Home Secretary and subsequently, has been that the police in this country suffer from a confused and tangled system of accountability. We need a clear and more transparent link between public wishes, the priorities that they set, the elected representatives of the public and how the police discharge their functions. The hon. Member for Ealing, North pointed out in his intervention that we already have a more democratic system, but I felt that he uncharacteristically misunderstood my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, Central. The Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis at the moment being accountable to a plethora of bodies does not make him more accountable. The confusion of accountability means that the public do not know which levers need to be pulled or which buttons pressed in order to get the commissioner to take account of public opinion.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst pointed out the important example of New York. Mayor Giuliani was conspicuously successful through his appointment of commissioners such as Bill Bratton in bringing down the crime rate. Indeed,the New York experience probably shames the performance of the Metropolitan police by comparison. Clearly, a city that has been Democrat throughout much of its history has now got into the habit of electing Republican mayors, if not Republican Senators or congressional figures, precisely because Republican mayors have been able to deliver policing changes. They have not interfered in the nooks and crannies of policing operations, but they have used their mandate to choose an appropriate commissioner to set an appropriate strategy. Our amendment is the closest that the Government could come effectively to enthusing the policing of London with the Giuliani spirit.
I am sorry that the Minister has not seen fit to accept our amendment today. I hope that there will be an opportunity, perhaps if the Minister rises to become the first female Home Secretary in a future Administration, to ensure that police accountability and the link between public priorities and the effective discharge of police commissioners’ and chief constables’ roles become closer and more transparent.
Tom Brake: Clearly, at this point, my sensible course of action is not to press for a vote.
Yvette Cooper: I must clarify my earlier remarks. I have just remembered that we have not yet implemented the measures removing the requirement for the Deputy Mayor to be on the MPA. The legislation to do so has been passed, but has not yet commenced. We expect commencement to occur alongside the rest of the provisions in 2008. The current deputy Mayor will not be removed inthe meantime. That would probably account for the different understandings of the Government andthe GLA.
Tom Brake: I thank the Minister.
Mr. Pelling: Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the parliamentary draftsmen for the GLA are perhaps more astute than expected?
Tom Brake: That may well be the case. The sensible course of action is not to press for a vote on new clause 45 later in the proceedings, although, presumably, if I did, Government Members would be required to support me, given that the new clause is existing policy. I could therefore present something framed to my mother, which she could hang on her wall. I will not press new clause 45 to a vote.
Robert Neill: Someone has to say something on behalf of my poor mother as well, in all these circumstances—
Stephen Pound: She certainly has our sympathy.
Robert Neill: The feeling is mutual. She has sympathy for me having to endure the good comradeship and amusement of the hon. Gentleman. He is clearly well aware that the first time my mother saw me on television in any political role was when I was leading a delegation looking at reform of the Street Offences Act. Somebody came and told her, “Bob’s on the television talking about prostitutes in Amsterdam.” Against that background, she was pleased to see me take my seat in the House. Next time she comes, I shall point her in the direction of the hon. Member for Ealing, North and she can discuss with him her intimate interest in football, which I am sure will be greatly edifying to both of them.
3.30 pm
Having protected my mother’s position, I must say that I am disappointed by the Minister’s response, grateful though my hon. Friend the Member for Surrey Heath was for the tone of her comments. My hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, Central and I endeavour to be nimble. I accept that we are not yet at a Carlos Tevez and Yossi Benayoun level of nimbleness, but we are working on it. I see that the hon. Member for Ealing, North blanches at the thought of our rising through diligent training to those two players’ degree of skill.
I appreciate the Minister’s point on diversity. It was well met by the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Surrey Heath, but I am concerned. She went into some detail, for which I am grateful, about the attempt to mirror the situation elsewhere in the country, but we pressed the matter to a Division because we argue that the whole point of devolution is that it is not necessary to mirror national templates in a devolved situation. Undue weight has perhaps been given to that desire in the Government’s decision to oppose the amendments. We have sought to tailor make a different situation for London because London’s needs are different.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, Central for referring to the democratic deficit in policing, not just at the strategic level but in how safer neighbourhood panels operate. I hope that the Minister will take those comments on board and speak to her friends in the Home Office. It seems strange that local ward councillors should be prohibited from involvement in safer neighbourhood teams in their areas. All of us in London want neighbourhood policing to work, but it will work better with a closer collaboration between the safer neighbourhood teams and panels and local ward councillors. I hope that that message can be taken back constructively from this discussion.
I note the comments about the boroughs’ involvement, and I hope that that can be developed. One reason why we thought it useful for the assembly to be the scrutiny body is that, although it would not go as far as new clause 9 and put borough representatives on the police authority as in the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority model, every borough would have a directly elected constituency representative in the London assembly, so there would be a direct borough-constituency link. We think that that is a virtue of our system.
When I visited New York with cross-party assembly colleagues and looked at the working of the New York city council police committee, it was interesting that it had the ability to scrutinise in considerable detail without going into operational matters, drilling down to performance at precinct level, which I suppose is the equivalent of our borough operational command unit. The committee did so intensely and effectively. Perhaps that is a lesson for us to take on board. With those comments of disappointment, we will press our amendment.
Question put, That the amendment be made:—
The Committee divided: Ayes 5, Noes 10.
Division No. 18 ]
Fabricant, Michael
Gove, Michael
Hands, Mr. Greg
Neill, Robert
Pelling, Mr. Andrew
Brake, Tom
Buck, Ms Karen
Cooper, Yvette
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Linton, Martin
McDonagh, Siobhain
Pound, Stephen
Shaw, Jonathan
Slaughter, Mr. Andrew
Smith, Ms Angela C. (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
Question accordingly negatived.
Schedule 2 agreed to.
Clause 53 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Previous Contents Continue
House of Commons 
home page Parliament home page House of 
Lords home page search page enquiries ordering index

©Parliamentary copyright 2007
Prepared 19 January 2007