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Lord Harris of Greenwich: There is a powerful case to be made for the amendment. I suspect the noble Baroness will say that it is unnecessary on the grounds that the police know perfectly well what their duties are when carrying out investigations of this character. However, a further reason why, in my view, it is desirable is to inform the public of the responsibilities of the police

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in matters of this sort. After all, why do we have this Bill? We have the Bill and we will have the commission because of a series of major miscarriages of justice. It seems to me highly desirable that the commission should be in a position to publish some form of code of practice not only for the benefit of the police and for police training, and for other reasons which are special to the police service, but so as to indicate to the general public what sort of service they expect the police to carry out on their behalf. The case for the amendment is, I think, a strong one. Although the noble Baroness no doubt has on her briefing papers at the top left hand corner the word "Reject", I believe that there is a good case to be made for incorporating the proposal in the Bill.

Baroness Blatch: I see the virtue in openness and transparency in the commission's operating procedures, which the noble Lord advanced. The question is whether a statutory requirement in the amendment is either necessary or even helpful. Like other non-departmental public bodies, the commission will be subject to the code of practice on open government and there will therefore be an expectation that it will make available information about its procedures and policies, including those relating to inquiries and investigations.

The amendment seems to me to raise a number of difficulties. It seems curiously circumscribed. By applying only to inquiries under Clause 19, does it imply that clear, transparent policies and procedures are somehow less important in other areas of the commission's work? That seems a very worrying implication.

It is apparent that the code envisaged by the amendment would deal not only with matters of conduct and propriety but also with policy and possibly with efficiency as well. It may not necessarily be most helpful for these very different things to be covered in the same way or in the same document. We must allow the commission a reasonable scope to determine how best, and in what form, to make available information about the way it will carry out tasks which are complex and which will develop over time.

As I said, the commission will be bound by the same principles of openness that apply today in other areas of public administration. Furthermore, the Bill provides for the commission to report annually to the Secretary of State. Its report will no doubt describe the manner in which cases have been investigated over the reporting year. The report will be laid before Parliament and the Chamber will have an opportunity to debate the issues it raises if it so wishes. The commission can be examined by Select Committees of Parliament. The Bill also provides for the commission to keep proper accounts and for these to be audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General and laid before Parliament. Again it will be open to the Chamber and to the Public Accounts Committee to consider the commission's report and accounts. It is hard to see therefore what more is needed to ensure that the commission's methods are open to scrutiny.

I hope that this reassures noble Lords that the commission will be both open about its procedures and properly accountable. I appreciate the spirit in which the amendment was moved but the proposal in it seems to risk

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producing a requirement on the commission which is curiously narrow, inflexible and obscure. Despite the fact that I am inviting the Committee to reject the amendment, I believe the answer I have given has intellectual validity.

Lord Harris of Greenwich: I must say with great respect to the noble Baroness that that is a deeply unpersuasive contribution. It seems to me that she read out a speech which she had prepared in advance assuming that the arguments would have a different character to those that were deployed. It is deeply disappointing. I hope that she will think about the matter between now and the next stage of the Bill.

We are talking not about the annual report of the commission which, as she rightly said, may be discussed, considered and debated in Parliament, or the position of the Comptroller and Auditor-General. We are talking about a code of conduct which, in my view, will be of benefit to the police service and to the general public, who would know what the commission expects of the police service when carrying out its responsibilities. That seems to me to be highly desirable. I would find it remarkable were the commission to take the view that that would be in any way damaging to its general responsibilities laid down in this statute.

I hope that the noble Baroness will look at this matter again because she has adopted a position of inflexibility on the amendment, which deserves more consideration than it has so far been given.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I, too, found that a very strange answer. My first reaction was that you cannot win. We are accused of being too broad in the powers that we seek for investigation in Amendment No. 40, and then accused of being too narrow in the terms of the code of practice. The Minister appeared to suggest that there were other clauses than Clause 19 which required a code of practice and it was peculiar for this code of practice to apply only to that clause. I do not understand that.

Clause 19 is the clause which describes the inquiries by the investigating officer. Clause 18 deals with the issue of who the investigating officer shall be. Clause 19 lays down all of the complex new issues of supervision of the investigating officer and the investigating force by the commission. Everybody, not least my noble friend Lord Merlyn-Rees but also the Minister herself, has recognised that there is a great deal of new practice to be discovered in the early period of the commission's existence. Therefore, we have set out here relatively simple, but not particularly inflexible, provisions covering, first, the duties of the investigating officer; secondly, and perhaps most important, the nature and extent of the supervision of inquiries to be exercised by the commission; and, thirdly, the general conduct of inquiries. That fits in very well with the content of Clause 19, which is the most important area in relation to which the commission will have to find its feet and learn to operate effectively.

Secondly, as the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, rightly said, it is important that the code of practice should be in the public domain and that the commission should have accountability beyond that which is available from other government regulations and other open government provisions in this new area of government activity.

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I do not doubt the sincerity of the Minister in saying that there are other ways of achieving accountability to the public. However, a code of practice specifically designed for this purpose, relating to the most difficult areas in the Bill, and put on the face of the Bill is of considerable importance and virtue. Those virtues, and the provisions suggested in the amendment, have a validity which I do not believe has been overturned in any way by the Minister's arguments.

If it were not for the lateness of the hour I would be inclined to seek the opinion of the Committee. As it is, I shall consider what further action is needed on this point. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 19, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 20 [Other powers]:

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 43:

Page 16, line 2, leave out from ("steps") to ("which") in line 4.

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 43 I shall also speak to Amendment No. 44.

The Bill gives the commission a range of powers to assist in its task, including the important powers in Clauses 18 and 19, to harness the expertise and knowledge of detective officers in the police under its independent direction and supervision. Clause 20 makes it clear that none of the powers specifically conferred on the commission by the Bill are to be read as limiting its ability to take other steps to investigate cases.

The question has been raised in earlier debates in this Chamber and in another place as to whether the commission is invariably bound to undertake inquiries through a police force or other public body. The purpose of the present amendments is to make it clear that the commission is not constrained in this way. The commission will no doubt want to consider very carefully which kinds of inquiry it is best placed to make itself and which are best undertaken by police officers or others on its behalf. There are good reasons why the questioning of witnesses, for example, is normally carried out by trained police officers, but the commission would not want to be precluded from undertaking that task itself in an exceptional case, nor from undertaking other forms of inquiry.

I hope that the amendments are acceptable. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 44:

Page 16, line 5, at end insert ("including, in particular—
(a) undertaking, or arranging for others to undertake, inquiries, and
(b) obtaining, or arranging for others to obtain, statements, opinions and reports.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 20, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 21 agreed to.

8.30 p.m.

Baroness Mallalieu moved Amendment No. 45:

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