Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page



9 Oct 2006 : Column 74

(c) any provision of Northern Ireland legislation applying to regulations under section 26(2)(g) of that Act, applied also to the amending regulations. Application of provisions of other Acts (a) section 8A of the 1976 Act (information in connection with police pensions etc), (b) section 9 of that Act (assignment etc of pension to be void), and (c) section 10 of that Act (obtaining pension by self-inflicted injury etc), apply to regulations under this Schedule, so far as relating to persons who are former members of a 1976 Act Scheme, as they apply to regulations under section 1 of the 1976 Act. Transitional provision (a) regulations under section 1 of the 1976 Act, (b) regulations under section 25(2)(k) of the 1998 Act, or (c) regulations under section 26(2)(g) of that Act, is to be read, where the context allows, as including a reference to regulations under this Schedule. Continuity of schemes for tax purposes

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the Finance Act 2004 brought in new rules relating to pension benefits and to formally register pension schemes. At the same time, new police pension schemes were opened and the existing police pension scheme for the police in Great Britain and the almost identical scheme for members of the Police Service of Northern Ireland were closed to new entrants. These changes do not affect officers who are members of the old scheme transferring from one police force to another within Great Britain, but police officers transferring permanently between Northern Ireland and Great Britain in either direction would be obliged to join the new pension scheme on transfer.

The Government are keen for officers to join the new scheme and are giving all serving officers across the United Kingdom the opportunity to do so during a comprehensive options exercise. It was not our intention to compel police officers to do so on transferring between home department forces within the United Kingdom. These amendments would give the Secretary of State the power to merge the old pension schemes, thus removing this unintended consequence of the recent changes in pensions policy. The merging of the schemes will bring no disadvantage to officers and is essentially an administrative measure designed to facilitate the transfer of police officers from the Police Service of Northern Ireland to forces in Great Britain and vice versa. Such transfers are particularly important for

9 Oct 2006 : Column 75

the Police Service of Northern Ireland so that it can draw on the skills and experience of senior officers from Great British forces. This move is widely supported by the police, including the Police Federation, the Police Negotiating Board and the Northern Ireland Policing Board.

I understand that this is a riveting subject for most Members of your Lordships’ House. With that comment and observation, I beg to move.

Baroness Harris of Richmond: My Lords, the amendment relates also to Northern Ireland and the pensions of police officers there. There is nothing we cannot support in it but we must ask the Government specifically to confirm that no police officer in Northern Ireland will be worse off under the new arrangements.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, we support the amendments and are grateful to the Government for taking the care in advance to send to noble Lords taking part in these debates the Statement to be made by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in another place, and placing it in the Library. It alerted outside organisations to this issue and made it possible, I hope, for these amendments to go through very quickly.

6.30 pm

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, for her support. I am pleased that the Statement made by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has been carefully studied and welcomed. I can confirm that no serving police officer will be any worse off as a consequence of the amendments that we have brought before your Lordships' House this evening. I hope that that satisfies the noble Baroness, Lady Harris.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 52:

“CONSULTATION WITH APA AND ACPO Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (c. 60) “(a) the Association of Police Authorities, (b) the Association of Chief Police Officers of England, Wales and Northern Ireland,”. Police Act 1996 (c. 16) “(a) the Association of Police Authorities; (b) the Association of Chief Police Officers; and”. “(a) the Association of Police Authorities; (b) the Association of Chief Police Officers; and”.

9 Oct 2006 : Column 76

“(a) the Association of Police Authorities; (b) the Association of Chief Police Officers; and”. “(a) the Association of Police Authorities; (b) the Association of Chief Police Officers; and”. “(a) the Association of Police Authorities; and (b) the Association of Chief Police Officers.” “(a) the Association of Police Authorities; and (b) the Association of Chief Police Officers; and”. “(a) the Association of Police Authorities; (b) the Association of Chief Police Officers; and”. ““the Association of Chief Police Officers” means the Association of Chief Police Officers of England, Wales and Northern Ireland;”. Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996 (c. 25) (a) before paragraph (a) there is inserted- “(za) the Association of Chief Police Officers of England, Wales and Northern Ireland;”; (b) sub-paragraph (i) of paragraph (a) is omitted. Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001 (c. 16) “(c) the Association of Police Authorities; and (d) the Association of Chief Police Officers of England, Wales and Northern Ireland.” Police Reform Act 2002 (c. 30) “(a) the Association of Police Authorities; (b) the Association of Chief Police Officers; and”. “(b) the Association of Police Authorities; (c) the Association of Chief Police Officers; and”. “(a) the Association of Police Authorities; (b) the Association of Chief Police Officers;”. (a) for paragraph (a) there is substituted- “(a) the Association of Chief Police Officers;”;

9 Oct 2006 : Column 77

(b) for paragraph (c) there is substituted- “(c) the Association of Police Authorities;”. (a) for paragraph (c) there is substituted- “(c) the Association of Police Authorities;”; (b) for paragraph (f) there is substituted- “(f) the Association of Chief Police Officers;”. “(a) the Association of Police Authorities; (b) the Association of Chief Police Officers; and”. “the Association of Chief Police Officers” means the Association of Chief Police Officers of England, Wales and Northern Ireland;”.”

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 5 [Police authorities as best value authorities]:

Baroness Harris of Richmond moved Amendment No. 53:

(a) section 1(1)(d) is omitted; (b) section 1(4) is omitted; (c) section 24 is omitted.”

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, we are back to best value once more. I make no bones about the fact that the amendment would disapply best value legislation to police authorities.

It seems to me that the proposals in the Bill leave police authorities with all the responsibilities to secure best value but none of the powers to make sure that it happens. This is an impossible situation. Subsequent letters between the Government and myself have failed to find a meeting of minds, so I will plod on and expand once again on why I do not like what the Government are proposing.

Best value effectively does two things: it adds the word “economic” to police authorities’ responsibilities to ensure an efficient and an effective police service for their area and it gives them a responsibility for ensuring continuous improvement in their force. But to make sure that these things happen, the legislation says that an authority must commission a best value review to assess what is working and what is not. Where it is not working, an improvement plan must be put in place to remedy the situation.

The Bill proposes to remove this power to commission reviews. If a police authority cannot do reviews, it cannot do best value because it has lost the ability to assess what is working and what is not. It is as simple as that. The Government believe that this can be replaced by the existing power of authorities to

9 Oct 2006 : Column 78

require reports from chief officers. But that is not the same at all. It lacks the crucial element of assessment, particularly the requirement to look at what is now called contestability—in other words, competition.

I think we all accept that best value as applied by what was formerly the ODPM—now the DCLG—became a classic example of red tape and bureaucracy gone mad. Sometimes it tied up far more resources than it ever saved, despite its intentions of greater economy and efficiency. The sensible way to remove this red tape is to remove the legislation, not tinker with it so that some bits apply and some do not, particularly when the bits that have been removed carry a meaningful purpose.

If the overarching aim of best value is still required, it would be easy enough to add “economic” to the requirement on police authorities to be “efficient” and “effective” and to include a duty to secure improvements as a specific function of police authorities. But let us be clear that keeping the duties without the powers is an iniquitous and impossible task. It would be better, I suggest, to disapply best value altogether and be rid of this obsolete requirement. I beg to move.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I return to this issue feeling rather perplexed and not a little confused as to what Liberal Democrat politicians are really about when it comes to best value. I thought that I would feel rather more enlightened after listening to the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, but as she went on I became, if not confused, more concerned about the illogical thread on which the argument was based.

It is right that Clause 5 removes the bureaucracy associated with best value reviews. I thought I heard the noble Baroness agree that the best value regime needed to be less bureaucratic. Having heard that statement, I thought that the noble Baroness would then have agreed with the Government’s position.

It may be worth reminding the House what the overarching duty amounts to. It is a duty on police authorities to make arrangements to secure continuous improvement in the way in which police functions are exercised. Amendment No. 53 would remove that duty from police authorities, at least in the context of the Local Government Act 1999.

In the debate on Amendment No. 26, the noble Baroness sought to re-enact the overarching duty in the Police Act 1996. She argues that it is unreasonable to leave police authorities with the best value duty without the tools to discharge it. That is not an argument I can accept. Police authorities will have the necessary tools at their disposal—they have them now. They will still be able to conduct reviews and call on the chief constable to submit reports. I do not recall hearing the noble Baroness say that police authorities do not have the wherewithal, knowledge or ability to discharge their other statutory functions without having express powers to go with each and every one of them. If that were the case, we would have a very cumbersome statutory process indeed.

It has also been argued that the residual best value duty is redundant as it overlaps with the police

9 Oct 2006 : Column 79

authorities’ duty under the Police Act to maintain an efficient and effective police force. I can accept that there is some overlap, but a duty to secure continuous improvement in the delivery of service goes a step further and, as such, is well worth retaining in its own terms.

I genuinely believe that there is little in practice between what the Government are seeking to do and what the noble Baroness wishes to achieve. I think that we both believe in continuous improvement and that police forces should be run in an effective and efficient manner, but we have tried to lighten the bureaucratic burden. Having listened to Liberal Democrat politicians, I thought for a long time that they adhered to that part of the Government’s philosophy.

Perhaps that is no longer the case. Perhaps over the summer the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, decided that she would rather have more bureaucracy and more precision in the way in which a statutory objective is deemed to work. If that is so, I regret it, because I do not think that that is what police authorities want or that it is necessarily in the best interests of the service.

I hope that having heard what I have had to say and reflected more on some of the illogicality of her argument, the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw the amendment, which would actually change very little.

Baroness Harris of Richmond: My Lords, I have listened again to a rather disappointing response from the Minister. He accuses my party of wanting more bureaucracy. Of course we do not—that is a ludicrous idea. Perhaps the noble Lord will look more carefully at what I have said. We will definitely come back to this at Third Reading.

I simply want to ask whether it is the Home Office that is running this agenda, because it is not entirely within its remit. If it is the case, could it put its foot down and explain to whoever is running it how this is going to affect police authorities? The whole best value area needs to be sorted out. As I said, we will come back to it at Third Reading, but, for the moment, I will withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal moved Amendments Nos. 54 and 55:

“Police pension schemes Schedule (Power to merge police pension schemes) has effect.” “Statutory consultation requirements

9 Oct 2006 : Column 80

(a) the interests of police authorities are represented by a body that is not called the Association of Police Authorities, or (b) the interests of chief officers of police are represented by a body that is not called the Association of Chief Police Officers of England, Wales and Northern Ireland, he may by order make the appropriate consequential amendments to any statutory provision (including this subsection) containing a reference to the association in question.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 6 [Standard powers and duties of community support officers]:

Baroness Harris of Richmond moved Amendment No. 56:

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I have received some excellent briefings on this amendment from the APA, the Metropolitan Police Service and HMIC. The amendment would limit the minimum powers of police community support officers to those which are below detention level. The Government are keen to standardise the powers of police community support officers so that people across the country know what common set of duties will be carried out by them and understand what to expect from them. This is a reasonable aim. The difficulty with the Government’s approach is that they are leaving themselves complete flexibility in what they might centrally prescribe by way of community support duties through secondary legislation. I expect the Minister will tell me that this flexibility is necessary to future-proof the legislation, but this is not standardisation, but centralisation. There are other practical difficulties with this approach.

At present, it is the job of the chief officer of police to decide what range of duties PCSOs within his force will carry out. This means that their duties can be tailored to local policing style and that there is some variation between forces in what tasks they carry out, but that is the whole point of having local forces accountable to local people.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page