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Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill
|©Parliamentary copyright||Prepared 28th January 2011|
Publications on the internet
Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill
Police Reform and Social
The Committee consisted of the following Members:
James Rhys, Committee Clerk
† attended the Committee
Mike Crockart (Edinburgh West) (LD): I was saying this morning that amendment 36 and subsequent amendments 37 and 47 are probing amendments that seek clarification of the corporate sole office for chief constables. As I previously stated, there is broad agreement about the fact that the nature of the relationship between police and crime commissioners and chief constables will be fairly different from the current arrangement. The change in the dynamics of that relationship is necessary. If the chief constable is to be scrutinised—quite rightly—then it is correct and proper that he or she should be in a position to build their team to deliver what is expected of them. Indeed, when we heard from the chair of the Association of Police Authorities and the president of the Association of Chief Police Officers in the evidence sessions, there was general agreement around that fact. Sir Hugh Orde said:
“If we are being held to account by an individual who can hire and, indeed, fire, we must have the right to select the right people, who we think will complement the decision.”––[Official Report, Police Reform and Social Responsibility Public Bill Committee, 18 January 2011; c. 40, Q53.]
Amendments 36, 37 and 47 are designed to limit the chief constable’s use of corporate sole powers to employment purposes, and they should not to be able to enter into other contracts. The proposed transfer of power to the chief constable is significant, and it is entirely unclear to what use the powers would be put. Can the Minister give us an idea of what is envisaged by the Bill’s much broader interpretation of entering into contracts and other agreements? Can he assure us that sufficient thought has been put into the powers or whether further consideration is needed?
The Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice (Nick Herbert): I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh West for moving the amendment. I fully appreciate what he is trying to achieve in seeking to clarify further the chief constable’s status as a corporation sole. I want to make it clear that our intention is to rectify one of the key weaknesses standing in the way of
We recognise the operational independence of chief constables, as we have discussed, and we believe that they should have the professional freedom to employ their force staff directly. As a corporate sole, the rights and liabilities of a chief constable as an employer will pass to his or her successor when he or she leaves the post. A number of amendments on the respective roles of the chief constable and of the police and crime commissioner—for example, proposals on police staff—show how we got to such a muddled model, and our legislation seeks to correct that simply by enabling the police and crime commissioner and the chief constable to employ their own staff.
On assets, however, as I confirmed this morning, we have made it clear that it is the police and crime commissioner who owns the assets and passes them to the chief constable to manage on a day-to-day basis. After all, it is the police and crime commissioner who has the democratic mandate to decide on the advice of the chief constable and on behalf of the people in the force area how their money is to be spent.
Police authorities perform that function at present, and with a direct public mandate I expect the police and crime commissioner to excel at getting the best return on investment. That is why we propose that there should be no change in relation to the police and crime commissioner owning the assets. That does not mean that the chief constable remains unchecked in his capacity as a corporation sole. When it comes to acquiring or disposing of property or borrowing money, the chief constable can act only with the consent of the police and crime commissioner. That is why it is necessary to give chief constables the ability and freedom to employ their own staff, and therefore create them as corporation soles.
My hon. Friends the Member for Edinburgh West and for Cambridge will agree with that rationale, but the question is whether the provision is too widely drawn. It is intended only to apply to the employment of staff; it is not intended to give a wider power to chief constables on assets because, as I have explained, that power will rest with the police and crime commissioners.
I understand the force and purpose of the amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh West. I would, therefore, like to look again at whether we should provide further clarification of the measure. I agree with the general view of the Committee that it is important that we provide clarification where we can. I immediately make it clear that it is absolutely not our intention to cut across the decision that assets will be held by the police and crime commissioner. I will reflect on my hon. Friend’s amendment, with a view to introducing a clarifying amendment. I am genuinely grateful to him for raising the matter.
Mike Crockart: I thank the Minister for his comments, and I am heartened and reassured. Clearly, the chief constable requires the powers, responsibilities and protections of being a corporation sole for employment purposes, but the division of powers between the chief constable and the PCC requires additional clarification. However, given that the Minister has said that he will take the proposal away for consideration, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Vernon Coaker (Gedling) (Lab): I mentioned to the Minister on Thursday afternoon that I was minded not to move some of the amendments that I had tabled, but in generously making a concession to the hon. Member for Edinburgh West on amendment 36, the Minister demonstrated the difficulty, confusion and lack of clarity over certain aspects of the schedule. It was good of him to say to the hon. Gentleman that he will reflect on whether a further amendment is needed, and that was consistent with the spirit in which the Committee has so far conducted itself.
I am following the example of the hon. Member for Edinburgh West because, unlike the Minister, I agree that it is important to use police authority evidence as a way of showing the flaws, difficulties and problems with the Bill. Schedule 2 deals with a whole range of things that the chief constable is required to do. Cheshire police authority has stated that
“As drafted the Bill makes both the PCC and Chief Constables ‘corporation soles’. For both to hold budgets and have borrowing and contract making powers presents unnecessary risks, is confusing and overly bureaucratic. That chief constables have this capacity without being the owners of the assets does not accord with good governance principles. All other good governance would provide for the owners of assets to be able to delegate their management. As proposed the Commissioner carries the liabilities yet lacks control over any assets”.
Devon and Cornwall police authority is not unknown to you, Mr Streeter. Unlike the Minister, I value its work a great deal: these are diligent people who bring their experience and expertise to bear on such matters, and are not simply expressing their views because they are turkeys voting for Christmas. Devon and Cornwall police have raised concerns about some of the problems and the lack of clarity in the Bill, as well as the fact that there is no central guidance about detailed arrangements. If the Bill goes through, the measures would be 15 months away, and those authorities have drawn attention to the problems of resolving the issues affecting chief constables and PCCs. They are concerned about the lack of clarity and the fact that no guidance has been issued.
My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak has mentioned West Midlands police authority on many occasions. The Bill creates both PCCs and chief constables as corporation soles, but there is lack of clarity on the ownership of police estate and other assets. The Minister sought to address that matter this morning, and I shall return to it in a while because there is still some confusion about it under the Bill.
West Midlands police authority said that that there is a lack of clarity about the ownership of police estates and other assets, contractual capacity and overall responsibility for proper, financial administration. The extent to which those functions are transferred to the
I shall return to the issue of the corporation sole. Schedule 2 gives the chief constable the power to appoint staff and remunerate them, including the chief financial officer. We had an interesting exchange this morning with the Minister, who made the case for necessary duplication between the PCC and the chief constable. He said that both needed chief finance officers, which was the only way to scrutinise and properly hold them to account.
The impact assessment is unclear. When the Minister talks about the costs of administration with respect to the police authority and those costs moving to PCCs, he is keen to emphasise that there will be no additional costs; he says that that they will be the same, if not less. Will he share with us his assessment of the financial arrangements and costs currently incurred by chief constables? What does he expect the round figure to be under schedule 2, and where is that set out in the impact assessment? He wants us to hold the new PCCs to account so we can compare their cost with the amount spent in respect of police authorities, so it would be interesting to know the comparable cost of existing arrangements for chief constables and the new arrangements.
What assessment has the Minister made of the number of people who are employed by the chief constable with respect to those functions, and the number he expects to be employed in future? Schedule 2 states that the chief constable must appoint a chief finance officer, but he may also appoint other staff whom he “thinks appropriate”.
Similarly, will the chief constable be able to pay salaries for such staff or will that be restricted? Are there agreed rates for such positions? The Minister has taken a keen interest in the costs of PCCs; he will also take a keen interest in other staff costs because, no doubt, he will publish them in league tables. What costs are associated with the expected number of other staff who will work for the chief constable?
I think there is a reason for that, and it relates to injured police officers. The same provision applies to PCCs, too. We all understand what “remuneration” and “allowances” mean, but will the Minister explain what is meant by “gratuities”? Is that meaning the same for a PCC as it is for a chief constable?
Bridget Phillipson (Houghton and Sunderland South) (Lab): We have discussed how the PCC’s salary will be determined and how it is determined in other pubic sector bodies. My hon. Friend will be aware that for head and deputy head teachers in schools, clear tables set out the parameters of the salary range, which depends on the size of the establishment. Is that a useful analogy to consider when we are looking at commissioners’ salaries? Might such salaries be related to the size of the force?
Vernon Coaker: That is an interesting point, which the Minister will have heard. My hon. Friend and I want to know what salary framework the chief constable will work within for the staff whom he employs under the arrangements. Will that be set according to a national pay scale? Is there a general agreement or, again, will the chief constable determine that as he sees fit?
The Minister will see a need for that information to be transparent so that people can understand the salary framework under the new arrangements. The chief constable will now act as a corporation sole and have additional responsibilities, which will involve additional costs. However, I think most people would rather see money spent on police officers on the street.
I return to the infamous incidental powers in paragraph 7. To be fair, I think that the Minister will examine such powers in both schedule 1, in relation to PCCs, and schedule 2, in relation to the chief constable. Lancashire police authority points out that the measures in paragraph 7(2)(a)
“could allow the chief constable to go down a well travelled route such as Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) using private finance to deliver capital investment projects. These could be constructed so that they were contracts to buy back services from a private company and not contracts for real property or contracts to borrow money…These could easily fall under para 7(1)(2) and therefore not require the consent of the relevant PCC.”
Some of the earlier amendments proposed that schemes of delegation might deal with such scenarios. Can the Minister explain the position again? We have a famous list problem, about which everyone thinks we are being deliberately awkward. Again, paragraph 7 says:
Can the Minister explain something else under paragraph 7(2)(b) and (c)? Clause 18 deals with the delegation of functions by police and crime commissioners, and does one of those functions allow someone with delegated authority to take the decision to allow the chief constable to acquire and dispose of property, apart from land? As the Minister knows from the Bill, the chief constable can exercise the powers in sub-paragraph (2)(b) and (c)
That is important, because this part of the Bill, which deals with disposals and contracts, is important. The Minister is clearly worried and concerned about it and has therefore included the consent of the PCC, so that we do not have a chief constable just going off to do such things. If the Minister is concerned, surely such a power should not be something that can be delegated, but a matter for the PCC alone? Will the Minister look at the issue and see whether I have got it wrong, and the PCC cannot delegate that function, or whether the Bill needs to be amended, so that the function cannot be delegated and only the PCC can agree under that part of the Bill?
I also seek clarification on something else. This morning, the Minister made a great deal of explaining to the Committee who would control different assets, property and so on. However, let us look at the transitional arrangements in schedule 14, which are relevant to schedule 2. Paragraph 9 of schedule 14 is headed, “Property, rights and liabilities etc”, which I assume includes assets. Sub-paragraph (1) says:
I thought that the Minister was clarifying the position this morning by saying that assets, property and so on would be the responsibility of the police and crime commissioners, but the transition arrangements in the Bill do not seem to say that. I do not expect the Minister necessarily to be able to answer everything, but there seems to be a good deal of confusion and concern. This is extremely messy and technical, but the control of assets and property, as well as the liabilities, and the relationship that they create between the chief constable and the PCC are absolutely fundamental.
Given what the Minister said this morning, I do not understand how a transfer agreement can say that property and liabilities can go either to the PCC or to the chief constable, and how we can, therefore, in the Minister’s brave new world, be certain about who exactly has responsibility for what.
The Minister was very generous in saying to his colleague, the hon. Member for Edinburgh West, that there are aspects of this that have caused him some concern. The operation of corporation sole for the chief constable and the PCC, both of them being legal entities separate from each other as personalities, gives them a legal status to do a whole range of different things. These technical issues and these issues of detail, as the Minister will know from his time in opposition and in government—although they seem to be a case of angels dancing on the head of a pin—are extremely important. If they are not resolved effectively and efficiently in Committee, or as the Bill progresses, they will cause significant problems down the line. I will be interested in the Minister’s comments, and I may wish to comment further after other members of the Committee have spoken.
Nick Herbert: I do not think that there are the problems that the hon. Gentleman suggests. It is worth pointing out that this schedule applies to chief constables and what they have to do, as opposed to what PCCs have to do. We have already discussed that in relation to schedule 1.
On costs, which was the first broad issue that the hon. Gentleman raised, the schedule provides that the chief constable must appoint a qualified person to act as chief finance officer. I have explained why that is so important. It is already the case that every force has a finance director, so there will not be additional administrative costs arising from that requirement in the schedule. At the moment, all staff are employed by police authorities. The chief constables do not employ staff, but they have day-to-day control over the staff. We seek to correct that anomaly through a clearer division of responsibility. The PCC will employ a small number
That will not change the overall number of employees. We are simply talking about a transfer in who employs them. We are also dealing with the problem that there was a bit of a fiction that the authority was the employee, when it was actually the chief constable who was in day-to-day control of the force. The money for the overall pay bill comes originally from the PCC, because they will set the budget and the plan. They will have to approve the overall amount that is given to the chief constable, rather as we, as Parliament, through the Government and the Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice, have to approve an allocation of funding for forces. In doing so, as the hon. Gentleman knows better than I do, I do not approve the number of people the force employs, because that is set at the local level and is for local determination, although there are specific grants that fund specific posts. The general direction of travel has been to try to have less ring-fencing, not more.
As for what individual people can be paid, we have made it clear in relation to PCCs, whom this schedule does not cover, but I am seeking to clarify a point that was made, that that will be subject to advice from the Senior Salaries Review Body and set by the Secretary of State. It could vary between PCCs depending on the size of the force. That is dealt with separately. The bulk of people who work under the chief constable, and to whom the schedule applies, are police officers whose pay, as the hon. Gentleman knows, is set nationally through the police negotiating board. Tom Winsor is conducting the review of pay and conditions, including those of police community support officers. There is more local determination in pay for police staff than there is in other areas, and authorities have more of a say over it. The Bill does not change the big picture of how people are remunerated and at what level.
A specific question was asked about gratuities; I am advised that a gratuity is any payment that is not pay or allowances intended to cover expenses, bonuses and so on, and payable at the chief constable’s discretion. The provision gives chief constables the power to remunerate as they see fit—again, that is an existing provision. I hope that will satisfy the hon. Member for Gedling. It seems perfectly satisfactory to me.
Nick Herbert: I am excellently advised, as was the hon. Gentleman when he was Minister. Our excellent legal advisers have far worse writing than other officials, but that is the way of professionals—lawyers and doctors—although it may also say something about my eyesight.
The hon. Gentleman made an interesting point about the delegation of permission to acquire or dispose of property, and he is right. There is no confusion about this; I am absolutely clear about it and, as I said, we decided that it was right for the PCC to hold the assets and that it was not right for assets to be given to chief constables. I set that out this morning. The only debate
There is no confusion about our intention; the concern of the hon. Member for Gedling was whether the PCC could delegate permission to acquire or dispose of property. He asked why, if this is so important, they should be able to delegate it. PCCs can, of course, delegate those decisions, but they are accountable for them. Somebody on the team can take the decision. PCC can have staff, and has to have a chief officer or a chief finance officer, so they may delegate the decision to senior officials. We might be talking about low-value items, so it would be completely unreasonable to suggest that the PCC must personally take decisions on that and that those decisions cannot be delegated. However, we have made it clear that the PCC is responsible and accountable for every decision.
Steve McCabe (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab): This is just a simple question about gratuities. The Minister’s answer sounds like a catch-all to cover any additional or unforeseen expenditure that members of force staff may incur. Would that include some of the things we have been reading recently about undercover officers, who seem to have run up quite substantial gratuities? How can we ensure that the commissioner is carrying out his proper functions in accounting for such expenditure?
Nick Herbert: It is ingenious of the hon. Gentleman to introduce that. He is a member of the Home Affairs Committee, so he will know what I told the Committee last week: there is an issue about the accountability of units run by the Association of Chief Police Officers, and ACPO has recognised that. There are moves in train for the transfer of such units to a lead force—the Metropolitan police—and HMIC is reviewing the issues. There must be proper accountability and financial control. There must be transparency, within the bounds of operations needing to be kept confidential, and scrutiny has to be conducted on that basis. The hon. Gentleman would accept that. I think that we are all in agreement. The whole thrust of the Government’s reforms are towards greater accountability and transparency. I do not think that there is any disagreement about that.
I have just been passed a note that says, “No, officers are not employees.” That is absolutely the case—they are not. The Police Federation would be very upset if I suggested that they were. Police officers do not have employee status. A police officer is sworn in and is an officer of the Crown. I am sure I will be advised very quickly—in legible form—if that is not the case. They are therefore treated in a different way.
I hope that I have cleared up all the detailed points raised by the hon. Member for Gedling and I hope that he will be satisfied with my answers. I do not think that there is anything unreasonable or unclear in the schedule. It is all about creating greater transparency and clarity in the roles of the chief constable and of the body that holds the chief constable to account. We do not have such clarity at the moment. The Bill introduces greater clarity, so let us not misrepresent it. It provides for a greater separation of roles, and that must be the right thing to do.
Vernon Coaker: Uncharacteristically, the Minister did not answer all the points that I raised. I will specify two or three of them. One was the issue on Lancashire police authority. He said that it laid out a scenario in which the schedule
“could allow the chief constable to go down a well travelled route such as Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) using private finance to deliver capital investment projects. These could be constructed so that they were contracts to buy back services from a private company and not contracts for real property or contracts to borrow money.”
Similarly, I asked the Minister to clarify schedule 14, which deals with the transition arrangements. I am sorry if hon. Members find this technical, but it is quite clear that schedule 14 talks about property rights and liabilities. It states:
On schedule 2, I thought that the Minister was saying who owns what, and yet, under schedule 14, it is not clear, because if those transition arrangements can be made, we could have transition arrangements of one sort in Northumbria and another sort in west Midlands, Staffordshire, Sussex and Nottinghamshire. We could have different people owning different bits of assets and property, and yet the Minister tells us that it is perfectly clear from the powers under schedule 2, and the powers that we discussed this morning under schedule 1, who will own what and where the responsibilities lie between the two. But schedule 14 shows us that, under the transition arrangements, they can be given to either. Is it a mistake or poorly drafted? Does it not mean what it says? On page 146, it clearly states that it can be given to the
People talk about clarity, but why can a chief constable enter into contracts and into other agreements—to which my legal aide tells me “legally binding” refers—without any reference to a police and crime commissioner, but not so in the case of the other powers?
Uncharacteristically, the Minister did not answer a number of points in his response, yet they are fundamental. Is schedule 14 wrong? Is it poorly drafted? What about the Lancashire police authority point? Why is paragraph 7(2)(a)
Nick Herbert: I was rather hoping that the hon. Gentleman had forgotten all the multiple points he made. I will try to pick up on those I inadvertently failed to respond to, although we will come to a debate on schedule 14 later—we seem to have moved on to a debate on schedule 14, if I may say so, Mr Streeter.
First, Lancashire’s concern about whether chief constables can make PFI deals goes to exactly the point made by my hon. Friends the Members for Cambridge and for Edinburgh West in their amendments. The question is whether creating a corporation sole for chief constables—intended to enable them to employ staff without having to employ them personally, which we clearly would not want—would have the unintentional effect of enabling the chief constable to do more things which should be functions of the police and crime commissioner. I have said, therefore, that we will go away and reflect on whether the drafting of the Bill has allowed something that goes wider than the original intention. That is part of the point, a perfectly fair one, that we addressed in the previous discussion.
The hon. Member for Gedling asked why the difference between schedule 14 and the transfer arrangements. First, all transfer schemes under schedule 14 must be approved by the Home Secretary. Secondly, assets will go to the police and crime commissioner, but some police staff currently employed by the police authority will be transferred to the employment of the chief constable, which should account for the difference.
The hon. Gentleman’s third point involved a debate about “includes”. It is clear though, is it not? If we say that a list “includes”, that means it is non-exhaustive. The word draws attention to things included on the list, but other things may also be included. That is the clear meaning of using “includes”—it is a non-exhaustive list.
Vernon Coaker: We are getting there. I am grateful to the Minister for clarifying the fact that Lancashire police authority made a good point, a point additionally made by the amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Edinburgh West. That will enable the right hon. Gentleman to consider the matter, and will be helpful to the Committee.
I am also grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for explaining “exhaustive” and “non-exhaustive”. I am tempted to ask whether “contracts” means other
With respect to schedule 14, the Minister used the classic response that the Home Secretary would have to agree the transitional arrangements. In other words, if there is a problem, they will not be agreed. I accept why he said that, but when he reflects on paragraph 9, he will realise that the transition arrangements have a certain potential, unless the Home Secretary overrules a police authority and that causes a problem. The provisions are poorly drafted, given that they clearly say that property, rights and liabilities can be given to either the policing body or the chief officer. The schedule has been subjected to a useful discussion, but there is a real problem with some issues that the Minister needs to examine.
Nick Herbert: I do not accept that there is a real problem. I have drawn attention to the specific point that needs clarifying, but we have to accept that some property will transfer to the chief constable. Paper files will transfer to the chief constable, for example. We are not just talking about the big-ticket items. We have to make sure that we do not create unintentionally in the Bill some lacuna that would not legally enable that to take place. That is the reason for a separate provision.
I want to correct the hon. Gentleman a little. I am trying to enter into the spirit of his constructive criticism, and I have responded to his particular point. However, I do not accept that there is a general problem with the schedule or the drafting of the Bill. I repeat that we are making an important advance by clarifying the responsibilities because, at the moment, they are confused.
Vernon Coaker: It was interesting that the Minister said that the Bill was so drafted to ensure that paper clips could be transferred in a way that was consistent and legal. I have never heard of legislation being drafted for that reason before. I take the Minister’s point, but there is a problem. He will receive significant representations over the next few weeks, and he may have to come forward with the change on Report, but certainly, when the Bill goes to the House of Lords, there will be a lot of debate by those who have much more legal expertise than I have on those issues. There are problems about liabilities and assets. I do not for a moment expect the Minister to agree that his Bill has a problem, but I am sure that changes will be made to it as it goes through its parliamentary stages, to clarify this detailed but none the less significant area.
We argue that the Bill is predicated on a misunderstanding of the role of the Mayor of London. I remind the Minister that on Tuesday morning, in response to our amendment suggesting that there should be pilots, he said:
“I do not think that the transition argument is one that merits our having pilots, but I want to make this broad point. In a sense, we have already had a pilot, which took place in London. It seems to me that the introduction of the Mayor in London, with responsibility for the governance of policing, was a good policy, and it was one that, I remind Labour Members, they proposed when in government”.––[Official Report, Police Reform and Social Responsibility Public Bill Committee, 25 January 2011; c. 162.]
No, we did not create the role of Mayor of London as something that would mirror a police and crime commissioner; we created a Metropolitan Police Authority. It is possible for the Mayor to be the chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority, and therefore have an executive role on the scrutiny body, but for most of the last almost 11 years during which we have had a Mayor of London, that role has been delegated to an elected member of the London assembly. If the Mayor delegates that role, he is required to do so to an elected member of the assembly.
“It is important for the Mayor to take a public lead, so I will chair the Metropolitan Police Authority. I will take personal responsibility. No offence will be too trivial to demand my attention. No challenge will be so big that I shrug my shoulders and pass the buck.”
He stood on the election platform that he would take control of the Metropolitan Police Authority—doing so by taking over the scrutiny role of the Metropolitan Police Authority, and not by acting as Mayor of London. I have discussed that with one of the former chairs of the Metropolitan Police Authority, and he agrees with my interpretation.
“I think that we were wrong to do so. The policy has been a success. Londoners like it. They like the greater say that they have over policing, and I am sure that they would not want to reverse it. In addition, we have learned lots of lessons from the way in which policing governance has changed in London. I would argue, in response to the concern expressed by the hon. Member for Gedling that we are discussing an untried model, that to an extent it has been tried in London and therefore we can safely roll it out across the country.”––[Official Report, Police Reform and Social Responsibility Public Bill Committee, 25 January 2011; c. 162.]
We cannot safely roll it out, because it does not exist in London, and it has not been tried and tested. In London, a democratically elected body is appointed to be a panel that is similar to panels outside London. That body is more akin to what exists outside London than to what the Government propose to create.
I went on to the Mayor’s website to see what he has to say about policing in London, as the Minister has asserted that the Mayor has a central role in the governance
There is nothing that specifically refers to policing or the Metropolitan police. The “Mayoral team” is another item, as is “Mayoral decisions”. I went on to that item, and there are a heck of a lot of pages, so I flicked through them all, looking for something that referred to policing, safety in London, the Metropolitan police or the Metropolitan Police Authority. I went back an entire year on the Mayor’s website and his decisions, but I could not find one heading that related to the policing of London. There are things about climate change, air quality, the Olympics, the Chinese new year and many other laudable policies that the Mayor is following, but there is no reference to policing, or the fact that he was in charge of policing in London. It is similar to the next item, “Publications”.
I put “policing in London” into the website for the Mayor, to see what came up. There was nothing that had been published beyond 2009 that contained any reference to policing. I argue that the Mayor of London is not the example that the Government should pray in aid.
Bridget Phillipson: My hon. Friend is making a compelling case for the fundamental differences that exist between London and elsewhere in the country. Is the big difference not that when the Mayor is elected in London, his or her mandate is far broader than simply crime and policing? They stand on a mandate that covers a range of issues, not simply crime commissioners, as proposed.
Clive Efford: That is absolutely right. I was just coming to that very point, because that was one of the reasons cited by the Mayor of London when—after standing on a manifesto that said he was going to be front and centre and take control of the Metropolitan police—he decided that, because of his extra duties and roles, he needed
“to concentrate on the delivery and implementation of plans, developed over the last two years, to improve London…In view of the reforms that are under way, it would be a good thing if we changed the chair of the MPA.”
Clive Efford: The Labour Government gave the Mayor that power. The point is that it is a similar structure to the one that exists outside London currently. What it does not prove, which we will come on to, is that the current system is so broken that it needs completely revamping in the way that the Government are proposing. The point is made, and the Mayor of London is not the directly-elected figurehead. He was the chair of the MPA for two years only. It is not the figurehead that the hon. Gentleman has asserted.
What we have is an elected Mayor of London and he selects a majority of elected members from the Assembly to form the Metropolitan Police Authority. They then select people other than members of the authority to join them, but there is a majority of elected members on the MPA. That situation is very similar to the system outside London now, where police authorities are appointed by their respective local authorities and are made up of a majority of elected members.
Do we want a figurehead to be the focus of attention for police authorities? In London, the chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority is such a person. Kit Malthouse is a high-profile politician in London; he is certainly more high-profile than I am, and I have been a Member of Parliament for more than 13 years. I suggest that his high profile is a result of being the chair of the MPA, because he is the democratic voice, who speaks on behalf of the scrutiny body that oversees its activities. Before him, Toby Harris and Len Duvall, who were high-profile politicians, were appointed chairs of the MPA and did a very effective job of being the voice of police across London.
It is not, therefore, necessary for someone to be directly elected to that role and be accountable for a huge area. The chair of the MPA is its figurehead and is given responsibility for holding it to account. If such a role is necessary across the entire country, we should beef that up.
Taking away the chair of the MPA and giving that responsibility to the Mayor of London and the mayor’s office for policing—putting it in the hands of one person from the wider scrutiny body—is a serious backwards step in the Bill.
Steve McCabe: I am following my hon. Friend’s argument with interest. The Government’s position is that the police and crime commissioner is the person whom the public can hold accountable and who will be responsible for the police. In the interests of democracy and accountability, would it not therefore make sense in London for the public to vote for a Mayor and then indicate whether they would be happy for that person also to hold responsibility for the police? That way, there would be proper accountability; otherwise, the PCC is an add-on.
Clive Efford: I shall come on to that point about the role between the assembly that will be set up, the mayor’s office and the chief officer. At present, London has a clear demarcation of responsibilities for scrutiny role, but it is being fudged by the Bill. Clearly, we are seeing a manifesto commitment.
I am sure that the Minister is, as he said, extremely well advised by his officials, but he is ill advised to impose this policy. Shoehorning the measure into the
That has been the success of the MPA—not the fact that there has been a democratic individual at the head of it. For most of the time, the MPA, as it has existed, has been in the hands of an elected member of the assembly—not the Mayor. That person has been a spokesperson on its behalf.
Bridget Phillipson: My hon. Friend may like to comment on whether geography is a factor. I am not a Londoner, but I suspect that there is a greater sense of London identity. I appreciate that the Metropolitan police force covers a wide area, but such an identity is not shared in some force areas, such as mine, which covers communities that regard themselves as separate and distinct from people with a London identity.
Clive Efford: I take the point made by my hon. Friend but, as someone born and bred in London, I can understand that people who do not know London well might think that it is just one homogenous zone. However, it is a very diverse and different community. The fact that areas are so diverse can be applied to police authority areas, and it is nigh impossible for one individual to act as the representative of such large areas. The grounding in local communities through police panels and the Metropolitan Police Authority is a good example of why we need a diverse group of people to carry out the role of scrutinising the local police force.
Michael Ellis (Northampton North) (Con): Does the hon. Gentleman not agree that chief executives of county councils represent large areas and that chief fire officers have similar representation? Does he agree that lord lieutenants of counties have such representation? It is not a rare concept to have such wide areas of representation.
Clive Efford: The hon. Gentleman has demonstrated why the Bill is fundamentally flawed. He has shown that he does not understand the need for local democratic accountability. People coming from different parts of a police authority area such as London will have different views of what policing is about and what policing is required by their local communities. That is why the Metropolitan Police Authority, in the Minister’s own words on Tuesday morning, has been a success and something that Londoners do not want to get rid of. Far from such matters being in the hands of one individual in London, they have been in the hands of a group of democratically elected individuals who can bring a great deal of knowledge of the wider area of London to the role of scrutinising the Metropolitan police. That is why the Bill is fundamentally flawed.
Nick Herbert: I did not say that the Metropolitan Police Authority has been a great success. The hon. Gentleman knows that perfectly well. The Bill seeks to abolish the Metropolitan Police Authority, so I would be unlikely to say that. I was referring to the role of the Mayor, who is elected by millions of Londoners. That was my clear and obvious point.
The Chair: Order. Before the hon. Member for Eltham continues, I must say that it is important that we do not have a Second Reading debate. We are discussing clause 3, so I should be grateful if we focused on it.
Clive Efford: The setting up of the Mayor’s office for policing and crime in London is flawed, which is why I am arguing against it. We intend to vote against the clause, and I am setting out the case for what we think should be in its place. To remind the Minister, he said on Tuesday morning that Londoners like it. But what Londoners like is the current arrangement. We have a Metropolitan Police Authority that performs the scrutiny role. We do not have a Mayor for London—[ Interruption. ] Let me finish my point.
I have demolished the Minister’s argument. It is a fact. On checking the Mayor’s website, I found no reference to a scrutiny role of the Metropolitan police. The right hon. Gentleman used that example to suggest that it is right to have police and crime commissioners outside London. He said that is why he wants to take the scrutiny role away from the Metropolitan Police Authority and put it in the hands of an individual or an individual whom he will appoint. We will come later to the fact that that person does not need to be democratically elected.
The right hon. Gentleman is arguing that the Metropolitan Police Authority has been a success because it has been performing the function of scrutinising the Metropolitan police. If he is saying that the arrangements in London have been a success, he is saying that the Metropolitan Police Authority has been a success, not the role of the Mayor of London.
Mr Aidan Burley (Cannock Chase) (Con): The success in London stems from the fact that Londoners finally have a directly elected, high-profile individual whom they consider they can contact if they have an issue about policing and crime in London. All the Bill does is extend that franchise to the rest of the United Kingdom, so that everyone else will have the same benefit as Londoners.
Clive Efford: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his comments, but I go back to my scrutiny of the Mayor’s website. The last reference I can find under the heading for safety and policing is dated November 2009, “Weapon dogs: the situation in London”; before that, “The Way Forward”, from March 2009, and “Time for action”, from 1 November 2008, six months after the Mayor was elected. Those are the only references to community safety or policing that the Mayor has made on his website in the past year and a bit. He is not, by any means, performing the function of scrutinising the Metropolitan police. The Government’s argument that putting scrutiny in the hands of an individual—in the Mayor’s office for policing and crime in London—is a step forward is fundamentally flawed, and that is proven by the actions of the Mayor.
Mark Tami (Alyn and Deeside) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend agree that the logic of the argument made by the hon. Member for Cannock Chase—not that he is right—is that everywhere should have a directly elected mayor who should be responsible for policing in the area, rather than a commissioner?
Dr Huppert: How carefully has the hon. Gentleman looked at the website? Has he seen, on a front page, a section about safer streets or, under the heading, “Role of the Mayor”, a section entitled “Setting budgets to realise his vision”, which also refers to the Metropolitan police? What is he looking for exactly?
Clive Efford: I really do not want to go back over what I discovered, but I have been on the front page of the Mayor’s website, and looked through sections headed “Boris Johnson”, “Role of the Mayor”, “Mayoral team”, “Mayoral decisions”, “Publications”, “Mayor’s reports to the Assembly”, “Mayoral webcasts” and “Meet the Mayor”. I have been on all those sections of his website, and there is no reference to policing other than the ones I discovered and mentioned, dating back to November 2009. However, I am grateful to the hon. Member for Cambridge for his intervention, because I wish to quote from the Liberal Democrat manifesto. I know it is a dim and distant document in the memories of the members of the coalition, but it says:
in their localities. That is exactly what we have in the Metropolitan Police Authority. [ Interruption. ] I am missing out the bit about 3,000 more police officers on the beat, because I would be ruled out of order. I would not mention it.
The argument that the hon. Member for Cambridge made at the general election in his manifesto is exactly my point about the Metropolitan Police Authority. We have an elected body, with people co-opted from communities to create a diverse and broadly experienced body to carry out scrutiny. That is the manifesto on which the hon. Gentleman stood, and it is far removed from what he is now supporting in the Bill.
I look forward to hearing from the hon. Gentleman, perhaps tomorrow, when he has had a chance to look at the website, that the Mayor’s office clearly highlights the role of the Metropolitan police. If he cannot find it, I am happy to send him a link.
Steve McCabe: On a point of order, Mr Streeter, I can see that it is not within the remit of the Bill, but everyone will be immensely disappointed, and surely it would be fascinating to hear a Lib Dem explain their manifesto.
We have dealt with the fact that the Metropolitan Police Authority scrutinises the Metropolitan police, but the argument that that supports the case for an individual taking over that role is fundamentally flawed.
Bridget Phillipson: Before my hon. Friend moves on, may I return to the issue of the Mayor’s responsibilities in London? Clearly, the Mayor is responsible for far more than just crime, but a difficulty may arise outside London. At the same time as electing police and crime commissioners, we will also elect mayors in a number of cities, so we have two conflicting roles, whereas in London the responsibility is perhaps broader.
In support of my case for the scrutiny function being carried out by the assembly rather than the individual, I will cite a letter dated 16 September. I do not know whether they have changed their position since writing to the Secretary of State, but Boris Johnson, Kit Malthouse and Dee Doocey, the chair of the London assembly wrote:
3. The London Assembly, acting as the London Police and Crime Panel, should have appropriate powers and resources to enable it to fulfil its scrutiny role; that is, the Assembly’s existing and agreed new powers in relation to the Mayor's budget, strategies, staff and information should also apply to the London Police and Crime Commissioner. The Assembly should be empowered to summons information, the London Police and Crime Commissioner and senior officers from the MPS and other relevant bodies in London such as the City of London Police, and should receive papers sent to the London Police and Crime Commissioner.”
They clearly anticipate, expect and want the scrutiny role to go not to the individual, the Mayor, but to the assembly panel, as it does now. Unless the Minister knows of a response to the letter, I suggest that the Mayor of London does not support the powers going to an individual and wants them to stay with the Metropolitan Police Authority.
The Minister suggested that it was time for such a radical change to create the position of the Mayor’s office for policing and crime. When we were discussing the arrangement for setting up police and crime commissioners outside London, so that an individual oversaw policing and performed a scrutiny role, the Minister suggested that we proposed that policy when we were in office. However, when we consulted on it and listened to ACPO and others, we decided that it was not a good policy and we did not pursue it. In fact, it did not appear in our manifesto at the general election. I am sure the Minister will appreciate that we listened to people who were well informed on the issue—police authorities and the police service—and we decided that having individuals at the head was not a good idea. The excellent Library briefing on the Bill refers to that.
Section 55 of the Greater London Authority Act 1999 deals with the setting up of assembly sub-committees. [ Interruption. ] Clause 3 of the Bill abolishes the Metropolitan Police Authority, Mr Streeter, so my referring to the authority is relevant. Section 55 of the 1999 Act stipulates that members of the sub-committee set up by the Metropolitan Police Authority must be members of the assembly, but the Bill sets that aside, so it diminishes democratic accountability in London. I accept that the argument will be that the Assembly is elected, so it should be free to choose who it likes, but why is a democratic majority required when setting police and crime commissioners up with panels outside London, when inside London there is silence on that issue. There is a contrast in approaches. The democratic accountability role is diminished inside London, but that is not mirrored outside London. It is either important, or it is not.
We will come on to the appointment of the deputy Mayor, whom the Mayor of London can appoint to take on the scrutiny role of the Metropolitan police. Again, I would like the Minister to explain why there is not a requirement for that person to be democratically elected. The Greater London authority, the Assembly and the Mayor believe that that person should be democratically elected. The Mayor believes that they should have experience of being democratically elected, but why would they not be someone who is holding an elected office?
In taking away the powers of the Metropolitan Police Authority, the Minister has suggested that the current arrangements are not fit for purpose. I have suggested that he cannot have it both ways—either it has worked in London, or it has not. The scrutiny role is performed by the MPA. If it has worked in London, it is the equivalent of a panel that has worked, not an individual. I have also demonstrated that the chair of the MPA is a high-profile figure, so the position is similar to what he seeks to achieve through the Bill. The panel arrangements and the Metropolitan police arrangements have been shown to be robust.
The surveys to which the Minister referred to support his argument require scrutiny. When he referred to the surveys the other day, he said that nearly half of the respondents were dissatisfied with the police. Then he said it was roughly a third. In the evidence that we took from Sir Hugh Orde, he said that in the British crime survey, some 69% were satisfied with their local policing. That seems to be a similar figure to the one the Minister quoted the other day.
Clive Efford: Well, when you were setting up police and crime commissioners outside London, these were the arguments that you prayed in aid. Presumably, they are the same arguments that you pray in aid in supporting the establishment of the Mayor’s office for policing and crime in London. I am suggesting that to use these surveys to take away—
My hon. Friend the Member for Houghton and Sunderland South referred to a survey of her police authority area, which stated that the satisfaction rating was 88%. The Minister questioned that, but he should check that survey. My point is that police authorities have existed since 1996, having been created under the Police Act 1996. Since that time, crime has come down significantly to the lowest levels for 30 years, and there are unprecedented satisfaction ratings for local policing services. To use such an argument to suggest that we need to put those services in the hands of one individual, and that the Metropolitan Police Authority or other police authorities are not working, is extreme and does not stand up to scrutiny.
Clive Efford: I have only just started. Clause 32 will require the London assembly to set up a committee to perform the scrutiny role of the Mayor—I will finish on this point, which the right hon. Gentleman will be pleased to hear. The problem with what the Government propose is that the committee to be set up by the assembly to hold the Mayor to account for his scrutiny role over the chief officer of police fails to improve on the system that we have. The Metropolitan Police Authority has the power to summon all chief officers, the Mayor and anyone it sees fit, to scrutinise the performance of the police in London. That role will be diminished, as the committee will have to ask the Mayor what he has asked the chief officer of police in London.
Under the arrangements in the Bill—the Minister will correct me if I have got this wrong—the committee will not be able to summon and directly question the chief officers, which is a flaw in the arrangements, because it will be asking the Mayor, or the person he delegates to perform the function of scrutinising the Metropolitan police, for third-hand information about what he has discussed with the chief officer. That will provide an opportunity to blur the lines of scrutiny, because the committee will not be able to ask direct questions of those officers.
Rather than the clear lines of responsibility that currently exist, through the Metropolitan Police Authority performing the functions that the Bill will put into the hands of the Mayor’s office, we will have three different
I return to my opening point. The arrangements in London under clause 3 put one individual at the head of the scrutiny role of the Metropolitan police. Those are not the arrangements that we have in London, where the scrutiny role is performed by the Metropolitan Police Authority. If the Minister is arguing that that example proves that police commissioners are necessary outside London, I suggest he go back and looks again. The London arrangements have been successful because we have the MPA, which the clause abolishes.
The way forward would be to take a similar step to the one that was suggested in the Liberal Democrats manifesto, which beefed up local accountability across panels. People would carry out the scrutiny functions that are rooted in local communities and would apply their expertise and knowledge, which is what happens in London under the MPA. The Bill is fundamentally flawed, and we will vote against clause 3.
Steve McCabe: I want to make a few points about clause 3. I am not a Londoner; I am one of those people who think that civilisation stops south of Watford. [Interruption.] That is my view. As a consequence, I have been reading the Bill in an attempt to be clear about what the Government intend. I guess that the purpose of the Bill and the clause is that anyone reading it in future will know exactly how the Government intended the arrangements to operate.
I do not know whether the Minister has deliberated on this, but I was struck by subsection (7), which refers for the first time to the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis. Most of us will understand that role to be akin to that of chief constable, which is the term used elsewhere in the Bill, which is not to be confused with the term, “police commissioner”, which is also used throughout. I suppose if people were to spend lots of time studying the issue, they would have no trouble making the distinction between those three roles. Anyone coming to it fresh, however, could be forgiven for being instantly confused about who is who in the various situations. Has the Minister given any thought to those titles? Could they be tidied up to avoid confusion?
Is that evidence that the measure is not quite the finished article that the Minister has led us to believe? Is it a work in progress? Will the Mayor, who in this case is the police commissioner—not to be confused with the Commissioner of Police—have only a temporary appointment in his role as police commissioner? Is that why the term used is “for the time being”?
Perhaps the hon. Member for Northampton North, with his legal background, will be more familiar with the usage of such a term—perhaps it is commonly used. If I were a member of the public looking for clarity about the Government’s intention, the idea that they were appointing someone to an office, but with a large area of doubt about their duration, would cause me worry.
The reason why I drew attention to the terminology of police commissioner and Commissioner of Police is that, when I first read clause 3(7), I thought it that the Mayor’s office was to hold the Commissioner of Police to account. In the case of the present incumbent, it is possible that the maximum number of checks and balances would be necessary in case he lost control of himself. We can understand why the Prime Minister would certainly want some additional checks and balances in respect of that particular individual. However, to make it clear that the Mayor is to all intents and purposes the police commissioner and the person holding the Commissioner of Police to account, such a provision could be a framed in a way that would bring greater clarity. The same holds for the police plan because the same potential for confusion exists there.
Does the Minister regard clause 3 as the finished article? Has he done any public testing or sampling of it? He probably has absolute faith in the draftsman of the clause although, strangely enough, members of the public occasionally do not share that faith. Has he examined whether such language is understood by the people of London who expect the provision to be a bible for how the policing arrangements will operate in future?
Nick Herbert: There were moments in the earlier contribution of the hon. Member for Eltham when I felt the will to live departing from me, but I sprang back to life with the enjoyable contribution from the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak, who spoke with the authentic voice of a Cockney accent on behalf of Londoners. I first want to tell him that I am well advised by lawyers. At least three of my hon. Friends in Committee are lawyers, and I receive excellent legal advice from my team. Lawyers to the left of me, lawyers to the right of me into the valley of despair.
I want to dispense with the point made by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak about the phrase “for the time being”. It is classic legalese. I am sure that my hon. Friends will confirm that. I am attempting once again to read my advice, although I am hardly in a position to complain about my officials’ writing. It is saying that the person who is Mayor at a particular time is in the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime. For as long as a person is the Mayor, that person is in the MOPC. I hope that I have clarified the matter. There is no problem with the phrase “for the time being”.
As for the wider issue raised by the hon. Member for Eltham when questioning my use of research, I urge him and all hon. Gentlemen to read the consumer research document that deals with the attitudes of the public when they come into contact with the police. It reveals that there are some worries about how the public react. It is not a general attitude towards the police. I am referring to those members of the public who come into contact with the police and, of them, a full third are dissatisfied. No, they are not just criminals as some have said who
It is not enough to say that 70% of the public are satisfied. I do not think that any organisation would accept such a dissatisfaction level, and I doubt any Member of Parliament would. The hon. Gentleman asked how pleased we would be with a 70% satisfaction rate, but that is not the point. The point is that, if a full third of our constituents whom we came into contact with—in our surgeries, or who wrote to us or e-mailed—were dissatisfied with the service we had provided, rather than just not agreeing with us, there would be cause for concern.
We know from earlier research—a point frequently made by a previous Prime Minister, Tony Blair—that the police service is the only public service with which public dissatisfaction goes down on contact, as opposed to up with other public services.
Mr Burley: I was going to make exactly that point. The same survey shows that, on second contact, public satisfaction goes down. Is my hon. Friend the Minister aware that comparable surveys of satisfaction with other public services, such as doctors, nurses and dentists, are all higher? In fact, the only public service with a lower satisfaction rating is MPs.
I also took care to say in the previous debate that the numbers for confidence in the police are improving, which is a good thing, but they are still too low. We can look at the various surveys, such as the British crime survey, but we cannot be complacent, which is the point I was making.
I have a genuine inquiry of him about the survey—I do not know the answer. Does the survey include those people who have been arrested or involved in a situation in which the police have had to take coercive action? Whether such people are included might be of interest to the Committee and to those who read the debates because, fairly obviously, they would not feel satisfied.
Nick Herbert: The survey is consumer research. I will send the hon. Gentleman a link to it. From memory, it does not include such people, but members of the public. I will check, but I do not think that we can say that the third who were dissatisfied were criminals, although I am afraid that that was an argument seriously advanced by one police representative who commented on the survey.
Clive Efford: I accept that we cannot be satisfied with 30% of people saying that they are not satisfied when they have contact with the police. There is no room for complacency—I fully accept that argument. However, to go on and say that the whole thing—since creating police authorities in 1996—is wrong and that we ought to abolish it, when there is a 70% satisfaction rating and we have seen crime come down significantly over that period, is not a conclusion that can be jumped to. That is the force of my argument.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge dealt well with the completely tendentious point about the Mayor not having any interest in policing because there is nothing on his website. There is plenty on his website, and I urge the hon. Member for Eltham, before he attempts to make the argument again, to have a look at london.gov.uk. The whole website is full of stuff to do with community safety. The Mayor sets, effectively, the strategic direction of policing and the budget, and Londoners know it; the buck stops with the Mayor. The change that allowed the Mayor to chair the Metropolitan Police Authority himself was introduced in October 2008, under the previous Labour Government. The rather tendentious argument made by the hon. Member for Eltham, therefore, that the Mayor had nothing to do with policing in London and it was all to do with the MPA, will simply not stack up.
The second part of the hon. Gentleman’s argument that will not stack up is his suggestion that the reason why they had dropped any changes was opposition from ACPO. He made the concession that the previous Government sought to make changes. I would argue that they encountered political opposition and did not have the courage to see it through.
Never mind. Let us take the suggestion from him that we should pay attention to ACPO’s view on how policing in London is governed. As it turns out, there is agreement between senior police leaders in London and Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London and Kit Malthouse, the Deputy Mayor for policing, that the MPA should go. It is their publicly expressed view that this reform is right. The Commissioner of the Met also thinks that the MPA is an unnecessary tier, and he has supported the reform on that basis. At the moment we have the Mayor/Deputy Mayor, then we have the MPA, and then we have the Greater London authority. The force of the Government’s argument is that that is an unnecessary intermediate bureaucratic tier, and that the scrutiny function can be conducted perfectly well by a committee of the GLA, which will become the police and crime panel. We will come to that when we debate clause 32. The reason for this reform is that it will remove a tier of unnecessary bureaucracy, it will still enable scrutiny, and it is supported by the key people in London.
Of course, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan police will still go before a police and crime panel, which will be a committee of the GLA, if requested. I doubt that he would be wise to refuse such a request. At the moment, the acting Commissioner is before the MPA. The MPA has no power to demand that, but the acting Commissioner has gone to answer some very difficult questions on the Met’s policing operations, and quite rightly too.
I do not accept the hon. Gentleman’s argument that I was wrong to advance how that reform had taken place as an example of democratic reform. It is quite obvious that changing the situation from one in which the Home Secretary effectively acted as the police authority in London to one in which the Mayor has the strategic responsibility for the budget has been a step in the
The Mayor has wider responsibilities; I have always accepted that. There are therefore clear differences. The direction of travel in London towards greater local democratic accountability has undoubtedly been a popular one. It is inconceivable that Londoners would want that to be reversed. The reforms that we seek to introduce in clause 3—to remove the MPA—are consistent with the Government’s agenda to remove unnecessary tiers of bureaucracy and to enhance democratic accountability. I should also say that I was one of the first Ministers to give evidence to the GLA, which I did recently, on policing. Based on the questions on policing that I was asked by members of the GLA, I am in no doubt that they will be able to form a perfectly competent committee to become a police and crime panel. We can debate that when we come to clause 32, although these matters are clearly related.
I am afraid that the hon. Member for Eltham made weak arguments and he misrepresented—inadvertently, I am sure—the point I was making on democratic reform in London. I am convinced, as is the Mayor and those at a senior level who are concerned with this, that this is the right reform.
Clive Efford: My specific question for the Minister is on the democratic accountability for the decision about who will perform that role and the appointment of the deputy Mayor. Will the Minister require the Mayor to appoint a deputy who is democratically elected? On the Minister’s point about the Metropolitan Police Authority, I do not accept that the success of the scrutiny role, as performed by people who bring to that role a broad knowledge of London, has not enhanced scrutiny of the Metropolitan police throughout the capital, or that it is just due to the fact that one individual in the form of the elected Mayor is in charge of it.
The Minister wants to get rid of what he has described as an unnecessary tier of bureaucracy, but members of the Assembly do not agree with the Government’s position. They certainly want to have an enhanced role through the panel—a sub-committee of the Assembly—and to have the right to summon senior officers and the Mayor so that they can scrutinise what they do, which would create something that is very similar to the existing Metropolitan Police Authority. It is simply not correct to say that at the moment a single individual is at the head of the scrutiny of the Metropolitan police, or that that demonstrates that we should adopt such a model throughout the country. That is fundamentally flawed and not accurate, which is why we will vote against clause stand part.
The amendment relates to the appointment of the deputy Mayor. Outside London, the role of the police and crime commissioner will be performed by somebody who is directly elected. In London, that role can be delegated by the directly elected Mayor to an individual, but there does not seem to be any requirement in the Bill for that individual to be directly elected. I understand—I might be corrected; I have researched this subject, but I could not find any specific reference—that the Mayor is required to select an elected member of the Assembly to chair the Metropolitan Police Authority, and that he cannot appoint someone who is unelected, which is what the Bill will allow to happen. The Government’s argument appears to be that because the Mayor and the Assembly are elected, democratic accountability for appointing people is therefore in the hands of the electorate—they are held to account for their actions in nominating the deputy Mayor and the panels.
I want to highlight the fact that outside London there seems to be an adherence to democratic accountability, but within London there seems to be an opportunity to bypass that and appoint somebody who is not elected. In the letter that I read out earlier, the Mayor refers to wanting somebody who has experience of being elected, while the Assembly Members would like somebody who is currently holding an office to which they have been democratically elected. The amendment highlights that, and we would like the Minister to put on record the reasons why it is not a requirement in London for that person to be democratically elected, but police and crime commissioners outside London will.
Steve McCabe: Who does my hon. Friend think is getting the inferior model here? Is it all the other parts of the country, where they do not have the benefit of the wisdom of a Mayor, or is it London, where they do not have a directly elected police commissioner, which is the whole purpose of the Bill?
The current arrangements for scrutiny are such that the Mayor appoints from the Assembly and the Assembly then selects a group of people with a broad base of knowledge, taking into consideration the diversity of the panel, to strengthen the scrutiny role of the Metropolitan Police Authority. We go through a strong process to set up a body capable of performing functions, and it is a step back to allow someone who does not have the constraints of being democratically accountable to fill the post of Deputy Mayor.
The surveys to which the Minister referred are all consistent in one thing. People want somebody who is elected and therefore accountable to them. We feel that that should apply to the people who are appointed to perform the scrutiny role in London. It would be wrong to have directly elected people in the police authorities outside London and somebody appointed by the Mayor who does not have a democratic mandate for the role in London. We want to hear from the Minister the reasons why that is possible, as it appears to be in the Bill.
Nick Herbert: I appreciate the point that the hon. Gentleman is trying to raise in relation to the amendment, but the effect of his amendment would be much wider than he intends. For instance, it would remove some of the important safeguards from the deputy Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime, and allow someone under the age of 18 to be appointed to it. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is aware of the drafting consequences of the amendment, which is why I shall be asking him to withdraw it.
As for the substantive point, it was the previous Government—the force of my earlier question to the hon. Gentleman—who allowed the delegation by the Mayor. He could either be chair of the MPA himself or appoint someone else. The current position is that that person might be elected or might not, so we are not proposing a change that will reverse the position set out under the previous Government. That is my first key point.
My second key point is that the buck will ultimately stop with the Mayor. That is the case in London now, and it will be the case going forward under the reforms. It is how Londoners will regard it. I am absolutely certain that, when it comes to the next mayoral election in London, Londoners will hold Boris Johnson to account in relation to his performance and the pledges that he made on crime, where he has achieved a great deal. They will also look at the proposals of other candidates.
We agree with the previous Government that it makes sense, given the size of the job in London, for the Mayor to delegate the function and allow someone else
I, as the hon. Member for Gedling kindly reminded the Committee, am a localist. I believe in allowing such decisions to be taken locally where possible and when appropriate. There will, of course, still be the fact of the election of the Mayor by a large number of Londoners, and the fact that the GLA will be elected at the same time, and will form the committee that forms the PCP. There will already be a large democratic component, given the potential 5.6 million electors, and I am absolutely confident in the reform that we have proposed. It is not necessary to specify, as the hon. Member for Eltham wishes, that the person to whom the position is delegated must be elected. I disagree with the hon. Gentleman but, in any case, I want him to withdraw the amendment because it is technically deficient.
Mark Tami: If the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to make the exception for London, why not somewhere else? Why not at least have referendums to decide, in the spirit of localism, whether people want it? I know that the Liberal Democrats tabled amendments in that regard, but they then bottled it in their usual fashion. Perhaps the Minister would like to elaborate.
Nick Herbert: Let us be clear about the similarity between London and outside. People are to have a choice over the election of an individual who is to hold the police to account. That is already the case in London, and it will be the case outside London. In both cases, the people will decide who they elect. However, in London, that person is the Mayor, because that is the only area where the force has a boundary that is coterminous with the area for election. That can be done in London—it has effectively already been done—but it is a very large area with 7.5 million people, and the Mayor has much broader responsibilities. Before Labour Members get into high dudgeon, I repeat that the previous Government agreed that the role of chairing the MPA could be delegated to another individual. Unless the Opposition are changing their minds about that or saying why they were wrong, I do not think that they are on very sound ground for attacking the proposal.
Steve McCabe: The previous Government might have got things wrong, or perhaps their arrangements made sense for circumstances that pertained at the time, but we are now discussing a radical departure. In that context, given the scale of the job and the fact that the Minister is having to make provision for someone to do the job in addition to the Mayor, why did he not opt for a directly elected commissioner for London?
Nick Herbert: The hon. Gentleman asks the interesting question of whether we should have a separate election for someone to govern the police in London, therefore taking that responsibility away from the Mayor. I think that there is general agreement that it makes huge sense to combine the functions in London with the Mayor. The mayoral model is attractive, and we should all welcome giving the Mayor responsibility for policing. A separate individual for London would not be a step in the right direction.
Outside London, as the hon. Gentleman knows, the problem is that we do not have police force boundaries that match the areas where directly elected mayors might be introduced. That is a function of the growth of police forces outside London. If a directly elected mayor for Birmingham was introduced and that person was to control of the police, it would mean hollowing out West Midlands police, which I doubt the hon. Gentleman would favour. However, by virtue of London’s larger area and matching police boundary, it is a special case. In my view, it is good that the Mayor has such broader responsibilities.
Bridget Phillipson: When the Labour Government introduced directly elected mayors nationwide, local people had the option to decide whether they wanted them. People in my area decided that we did not want a directly elected mayor—local people had the choice. Would it not be right for local people outside London to have the same choice about commissioners, given the Government’s apparent commitment to localism?
Nick Herbert: The hon. Lady and the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak are ingeniously raising the wider question of referendums, which is wholly outside the terms of the amendment. I note with interest that Opposition Members once again propose mechanisms—referendums—involving cost. Whenever there is to be a democratic reform and an election, the Opposition criticise the cost, but not in this case, I notice.
Clive Efford: Do you intend to allow a stand part debate, Mr Streeter, because I want to ask the Minister about some wider issues relating to schedule 3? I can raise them now, if that would be helpful, or shall I just respond to the debate on the amendment?
We do not intend to press the amendment to a Division. The Minister is absolutely right that we are making the point that we oppose delegating the responsibility to someone who is not elected, because that is not consistent with what happens outside London. I am grateful to him for clarifying the arrangements about appointments under the existing system. However, the Government are introducing a principle of democratic accountability, which is why they propose that people outside London should be directly elected, and it follows that the person nominated by the Mayor should be subject to the same constraints so that the electorate can judge their performance at a later date. However, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Mike Crockart: Amendments 38 and 39 are probing amendments to examine particularly and narrowly the process and extent of the requirements for notification of appointments to the Mayor’s office for policing and crime. I shall try to limit my comments to the amendments.
Amendment 38 relates specifically to the extension of the selection of staff who will fall under the requirement for notification to the London assembly. We have received representations from members of the assembly with concerns about the Bill. They are worried that the Mayor of London and the deputy mayor for policing and crime may choose to create an advisory board to assist the scrutiny of the delivery of policing within the Metropolitan area.
Amendment 39 addresses the strengthening of the scrutiny of such individuals and attempts to introduce consistency with similar appointments. The argument is essentially about consistency in the process of appointment to important offices in the administration of the Metropolitan police. The Bill is silent on that, so the Mayor would be free to pick anyone whom he or she liked without regard to balance of ethnicity, gender or any other relevant factor.
The amendments would ensure that any such appointments were made only within the parameters of section 60A of the Greater London Authority Act 1999. The Act already applies to offices such as the chairman and deputy chairman of Transport for London, the chairman and deputy chairman of the London Development Agency, the present chairman and vice chairman of the Metropolitan Police Authority, and the chair of the cultural strategy group for London.
Amendment 39 would allow the assembly to hold confirmation hearings for the appointments under the Bill. The Mayor would not be able to make any such appointments until the confirmation hearing process had ended. The legislation states that the Mayor’s office must notify the name and details of the proposed appointee to the assembly, which may call that person to appear before it. It must notify the Mayor of whether it recommends the proposed appointee, but the Mayor need not necessarily accept that recommendation.
All the positions that I cited are important, and I am glad that the deputy Mayor will be added to the list under a separate provision of the Bill. Will the Minister consider, however, whether the list should include such roles as that of the chief executive of the Mayor’s office for policing and crime, and of staff appointed by the Mayor to give policing advice? It is clear that their input into the scrutiny process for the Metropolitan police would be significant and might benefit from the confirmation process.
Nick Herbert: The amendments would require every appointment to the staff of MOPC to be subject to a confirmation hearing at the London assembly, and for MOPC to notify the assembly of any person who advises it, even if they are not a paid member of staff. The confirmation hearings would therefore have consequences beyond the intentions of my hon. Friend. His proposal would mean that whenever the Mayor wanted to employ a new file clerk, administrative assistant or secretary, the London assembly would need to consider whether that post was necessary and whether the candidate was suitable. It would mean that the Mayor, or more likely the chief executive or another officer, would have to wait a minimum of three weeks to appoint any member of staff.
It is worth reviewing the list of posts subject to confirmation hearings, as set out in Section 60A of the 1999 Act. As it stands, those subject to such hearings are the chairs—or vice chairs, in cases where the Mayor is chair—of the Metropolitan Police Authority, the London Development Agency, Transport for London, the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, the London Waste and Recycling Board, the cultural strategy group for London, and the London Pensions Fund Authority. In every case, it is the head or the most senior member of that organisation. Any deputy mayor for policing and crime, which, as we have discussed, is obviously a crucial position, would be subject to a confirmation hearing. Although that is correct, I am sure that my hon. Friend agrees that it would be entirely disproportionate for the assembly to cross-examine junior or even mid-level staff in a process established for the appointment of heads of organisations.
There might be a future debate about whether much more senior members of staff should be subject to confirmation hearings, but I believe that we have the balance right. I reassure my hon. Friend that the Bill provides adequate transparency, because the assembly will be notified of all appointments to the Mayor’s office, including their terms and conditions. All salaries and organisational charts will need to be published, and as with all functional bodies, senior staff can be called to give evidence to the assembly.
On notifying the assembly about advisers, no person may be appointed to a paid position in MOPC without the London assembly being informed. Any member of staff appointed and paid for by the Mayor’s office, with the exception of the deputy mayor, will be politically restricted and must be appointed on merit.
Steve McCabe: I am listening with interest, but I do not think the Minister is doing justice to the hon. Member for Edinburgh West. It is all very well for people to know what has happened after the event and to argue that there will be future transparency. However, the hon. Gentleman wants to prevent an error before it occurs by having confirmatory hearings, which is surely an entirely different argument.
Nick Herbert: I do not think we are disagreeing about the principle of confirmatory hearings. We are discussing the level at which they should apply. It is right that very senior people should be subject to such hearings—and the deputy mayor certainly should, as we agree. The
Steve McCabe: I am sorry if I was not particularly clear. If I understood the hon. Member for Edinburgh West correctly, he was asked for confirmatory hearings for the appointments of particular categories of staff. He was clearly alluding to the sensitivity around what might be political appointments, and he was arguing that there should be some confirmatory process. If all we are left with is a transparency process after the appointment, people may know what has happened, but they will not have the power to stop it, which is hardly the best way to have an open, accountable system.
Nick Herbert: I answered that by pointing out that we are making all the posts, other than the deputy mayor, politically restricted. As I have confirmed to the Committee before, we do not want political advisers to be created.
My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh West raises an interesting issue. If there is a proposal to extend confirmation hearings to the more senior staff, it is something that we should consider. I would be reticent to extend it further than the office of deputy mayor, because the procedure should be reserved for the most senior appointments. Beyond that, there should be management flexibility about who may be appointed, as well as transparency. In any case, the amendment goes much wider than that. As drafted, it would require confirmation hearings for the whole range of appointments, and I doubt that that is my hon. Friend’s intention.
Steve McCabe: Perhaps I have entirely misunderstood the hon. Member for Edinburgh West. I am not talking about party political appointments, but why would he use the word “advice” in amendment 38 unless he was concerned about the kind of advice that was given and the kind of person who was appointed to give that advice? I am talking about political with a small p, which is a broad sweep. Surely someone could be appointed with a vested interest in promoting particular sets of values. Surely that is what the hon. Gentleman is concerned about. He is saying that someone who would have a close advisory role should be subject to confirmation, yet the Minister seems to be avoiding that.
Nick Herbert: I am not avoiding it at all. Neither I nor my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh West need the hon. Gentleman’s help in the matter. I have tried to explain with some clarity why the amendment goes too wide and why I do not think that a confirmation hearing is needed. I have indicated open-mindedness about whether that should apply to more senior appointments, but I would require more clarity from members of the Committee about exactly which ones. I am trying, as ever, to take a reasonable approach to the amendment.
Nigel Mills (Amber Valley) (Con): I am loth to continue the debate, but one of the attractions of amendment 38 is that it would provide some notification if the board employed some expensive consultants. They would not fall under the definition of appointing staff, but perhaps the amendment would mean that their employment would trigger a notification. It is a big concern when expensive consultants are put into roles in the public sector in a way that gets around the types of requirements that would exist for employees.
Nick Herbert: The principle is that police and crime panels will scrutinise how the office is being run and how resources are deployed. They should be able to question decisions, and they will see items such as the plan in advance. Is it practical to require advance agreement of every single appointment under the procedures of a confirmation hearing? I do not think that it is.
The amendments are too wide, although my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh West raises an interesting point. He might want to reflect on whether there is potential to narrow it, although I would still be concerned about using a procedure that is appropriate for very senior appointments more widely. The Mayor or deputy mayor should be free to appoint staff, but should be held to account and scrutinised by the panel.
Mike Crockart: As I said, these are probing amendments. I accept that the drafting of amendment 39 might be unnecessarily wide. A balance of gender and ethnicity—let me clarify that that was what I intended, rather than political balance—in appointments is important. I accept, however, that the requirement to notify the London assembly of such appointments provides a level of scrutiny and transparency that I hope will be sufficient. On that basis, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Nick Herbert: Now I have to do the work, and the hon. Member for Gedling is sitting back and looking relaxed. I hope that these amendments will cause no controversy. They are minor Government amendments, which ensure that the Mayor’s office for policing and crime can become operational before May 2012. As we have discussed, London has been operating under an arrangement that goes some way towards mirroring what we are seeking to create elsewhere, and the Mayor is already, of course, directly elected by Londoners. The amendments will correct a provision in the Bill that is inconsistent with our objective that there should be no obstacle to the Mayor’s office for policing and crime becoming operational as soon as is practicable and ahead of the elections in May 2012.
Schedule 3, as drafted, provides, for the purposes of the Bill, that the financial year of the Mayor’s office for policing and crime will commence on the day of the mayoral elections scheduled for May 2012. The amendments allow the first financial year to begin when the provisions for the Mayor’s office for policing and crime come into force, which could be before May 2012. The amendments also ensure that, for practical purposes, the first financial year cannot be shorter than six months. If the provisions for the Mayor’s office for policing and crime are brought into force on or before 1 October 2011, the financial year will end on 31 March 2012. If the provisions commence after 1 October 2011, the financial year will be extended and will end on 31 March 2013. I hope that that is clear to hon. Members.
The relevance of the financial year, in the context of the Bill, is in relation to the PCP annual reports. Clause 6 requires the Mayor’s office for policing and crime to issue a plan within the financial year that each mayoral election is held. Clause 7 provides for the plan to have effect from the day that it was issued until the end of the financial year in which the next mayoral election is expected to take place. Clause 12 requires the Mayor’s office for policing and crime to produce an annual report in respect of each financial year. The benefit of the amendments to the provisions governing the end of the first financial year is that, if the Mayor’s office for policing and crime comes into operation after 1 October 2011, it will not have to produce an annual report for the short period of a few months between commencement and 31 March 2012 and then a further annual report for the year until 31 March 2013. Instead, there will be a single report for the whole period, which will save time and resources for the Mayor and his staff.
I emphasise to the Committee that schedule 3 and the amendments set the dates of the financial year for the Mayor’s office for policing and crime for the purposes of the Bill only. There will be no effect on other legislation that makes reference to financial years, for example, in relation to accounting or auditing obligations. Therefore, I beg to move that the minor amendments stand part of the Bill.
Clive Efford: I have one or two questions on the setting up of the Mayor’s office for policing and crime. I want some clarification from the Minister on where staff might be shared, because there are some powers regarding staffing in schedule 3 that mirror powers for the commissioner in the next schedule on entering into contracts and other agreements. Where would the advice come from on those arrangements? Will they be shared with the Metropolitan Police Authority? Bearing in mind the fact that this individual has the function of holding the Metropolitan Police Commissioner to account, where will the advice on what he is doing come from? Will that blur the edges of accountability, because they will be getting similar advice from the people who have been advising the Metropolitan Police Commissioner?
Similarly, on the acquiring and disposal of property, there is a requirement for any actions around property to be submitted to the Mayor’s office for policing and crime for consideration. For instance, if the chief officer makes any recommendations regarding property, does that information come from the same people who advise
Does that mean that the Mayor is effectively being paid twice: he is being paid for being Mayor and getting allowances for being the person responsible for the Mayor’s office for policing and crime? I ask that because, given the fact that the Minister has talked so much about money and saving money, it seems that someone is doubling up. I do not know why they would need extra money. If I have got that wrong, I would be grateful for clarification.
I do not expect the Minister to go into great detail, but would he give the Committee an idea of the other posts that he envisages in addition to the chief executive officer and chief finance officer? We do not expect it to be a top-heavy structure. Would he bring his excellent analytical skills to bear on paragraph 3 of schedule 3, because I have struggled with it? I want to understand what qualifies a person to be chief executive, and in paragraph 3(2) I have discovered that
Paragraph 4 deals with the deputy Mayor for policing and crime. Is the list of political exclusions intended to be exhaustive? What would be the situation for people who are deputies in the Channel Islands, representatives in the Isle of Man or councillors in authorities outside the London boroughs? Presumably they would not be excluded, given the way in which the Bill is drafted. Is that the intention?
Nick Herbert: I am sure the hon. Gentleman is earning his keep. I will attempt to answer his questions as far as I can, but there may be some on which I will have to get back to him. I did not even understand one of his points, so he may need to clarify his question.
The first question asked by the hon. Member for Eltham was on whether staff may be shared, and, if so, whether that might give rise to confusion about accountability. I agree with him, but the separation of roles is a matter for the force. Staff cannot be shared in
On what kind of staff will be employed, I encourage the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak, who is taking such a close interest in the Metropolitan Police Authority and the governance of policing for London, to look at the MPA’s reports. Unsurprisingly, the MPA is the largest authority, and it already employs staff, including all the support staff who enable the deputy Mayor to scrutinise the Met. They will be involved in all sorts of things, such as helping to provide financial analysis and preparing the strategic plan.
Clive Efford: I am grateful that the Minister shares my concerns about sharing staff and the possibility that that might blur the edges of the respective roles of the chief officer and the Mayor’s office. I am delighted that he is aware of the problem, but what is the answer? Is there a concern that that problem might arise with the Bill, and, if so, should provision be made for it? Are the Government considering amendments that will clarify the roles and ensure that staff cannot in any way blur the edges of responsibility between the Mayor’s office and the chief officer? Is the Minister satisfied with the Bill’s drafting?
Nick Herbert: I was agreeing with the hon. Gentleman that there should be a separation, which is provided, as far as I am aware, in the Bill. I do not think there is any problem with the drafting; the whole point is to achieve the separation I require.
I wish to make the general point about whether the staff currently employed by the MPA and police authorities will be employed by PCCs in future. As the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak said, the legislation is not prescriptive about who the staff should be, other than saying that the posts should be politically restricted. It will be for the PCP to scrutinise the overall performance of the PCC, and transparency will aid it in that. We cannot start to prescribe in legislation the nature of all of those roles. That will be a matter for the PCC.
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