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I assume—because it would be very surprising if a White Paper on the future of local government did not consider such matters—that we will be looking at the function and role of the local elected representative. Implicit in these clauses is the new community call for action. I think this could be a useful step forward, in terms of giving a new explicit role to local councillors as advocates for their local communities, working with communities to move along public services.

If that is to be the case, however, and if the stories that are emanating about what may or may not be in the White Paper are true and similar community calls for action are to apply to other aspects of public services, we need to see whether the arrangements proposed in this Bill for the way crime and disorder matters will be treated can be read across effectively into the other areas of public services that might be affected by similar powers. Perhaps the Government are being premature. It may be that in a week’s time the Minister will be able to stand up and tell us what will be in the local government White Paper, but my understanding is that it is unlikely that will happen in the next few days.

Given that the purpose of the White Paper, we are told, is that there may be substantial legislation on the future of local government and its precise internal arrangements in the next parliamentary Session—although obviously we cannot prejudge what might be in the Queen’s Speech—it would surely be sensible to round up all these provisions as part of that at the same time. For example, there are some provisions in these clauses for co-options, and apparently there will be regulations to specify what those might be. At various times noises have emerged from the Home Office suggesting that police authorities should have a co-opted place on overview and scrutiny committees dealing with crime and disorder matters in the various local authorities in their area. Passing over for a moment the workload implications of that for police authority members, you then have to consider the

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relative status of a co-opted member of a police authority—or, for that matter, a co-opted county councillor sitting on a district council overview and scrutiny committee. What will be the relative status of those individuals compared with the sitting members of that principal council’s role in terms of overview and scrutiny? Are you not diluting the representative, community advocacy role that we understand the Government want to create as part of the local government White Paper?

Those matters have to be thought through very carefully. No doubt there are officials in government departments who have had towels around their heads and considered all these matters, and are coming forward with proposals of an intellectual clarity and brilliance that we will all wonder at when we hear them. In advance of seeing those proposals, however, it seems strange to set up a process that involves unspecified co-options with unspecified status. It is unclear where they will fit in.

We have here some convoluted, rather obtuse wording that does not work well. It is trying to fit square pegs into round holes, and they do not really fit. It is hard to see how the clauses will operate. There will clearly have to be reams of regulations afterwards to try and turn them into something that will work at an operational level. In the interests of trying to help the Government out and avoid a situation where we legislate in the next Session to unpick bits of this Bill because the prevailing thinking on local government has moved on in that time, would it not be better for the Government to wrap all this up together, to think again and not to press these clauses at this time? I beg to move.

Baroness Harris of Richmond: My Lords, the proposals coming out of the CDA review, as encapsulated by this Bill, are looking, as the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, has so eloquently put it, more unworkable and more and more resource intensive. The wording on how CDRPs will function is just plain confusing. It tries to articulate a split between the levels of the CDRP that will set strategy and the levels that will deliver on this strategy. But because of the reluctance of the Government to commit anything to primary legislation, in the name of flexibility, this has been left so vague it is obtuse.

The community call for action is intended to be a mechanism of last resort, but how can we be sure that it will not be a mechanism of first resort unless safeguards against this are placed in primary legislation? And if not there, then how are safeguards to be managed and guaranteed? How do we know that overview and scrutiny committees will not be overwhelmed by matters referred to them, whether genuine or motivated by political skulduggery, extremist agendas, single issue obsessions or just plain nuisance value? How will these committees be trained, resourced and supported if there are to be many hundreds of them at district level as is proposed? Who pays—and does this represent value for money?

Police authorities will also have a particular problem, as the noble Lord, Lord Harris, has pointed out. Most

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consist of only 17 members, but they must find members to sit on all the strategic level CDRPs in their area and different members to sit on all the overview and scrutiny committees that will link to the CDRPs in their area. A case study that the Association of Police Authorities has supplied to me illustrates what would happen in Surrey. It states:

Police authorities must have a seat on these committees if police accountability in delivering the community safety strategy is to be meaningful. It would seem to leave room for a lead role for local authorities in setting community safety strategies. On the surface, that seems like a noble and democratic aim, but it is likely to erode the accountability of the police to police authorities, and that would not be helpful. Local councils and local councillors have a vitally important role to play as advocates and voices for their communities, but that leaves room for confused accountabilities, with BCU commanders pulled in many directions by many different interests. On top of all this confusion, as the noble Lord, Lord Harris, has reminded us, a White Paper is shortly to come out dealing with reforming local authorities; yet the provisions of this part of the Bill are substantially about local authorities. We really do need to wait and see what the White Paper has to say on this, or we will be back amending this Bill by the time the ink is barely dry on its cover.

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4.45 pm

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: My Lords, my speech on this occasion will be much shorter than my last, but it provides me with an opportunity to thank the Minister for the nature of his response to my earlier amendments. The noble Lord, Lord Harris, made a sympathetic reference to the dilemmas of the Corporation of London. I, too, feel profoundly sympathetic to the points that he powerfully argued at this juncture. Your Lordships’ House is in his debt for having done so.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I have listened with some care to the comments that have been made in your Lordships’ House this afternoon, and I shall attempt to reflect on those as the Bill proceeds. I was amused to be described by extension as a vanguardista by the noble Lord, Lord Harris. It is well past my student years since that description was bandied around in a rather heated debate about something that seemed terribly important at the time. I appreciate the spirit in which the noble Lord approached his amendment. Some important points have emerged in the debate, but in the end I return to the position that we as a Government would find the amendment pretty much impossible to accept, although some of the issues raised are clearly very important.

It is worth saying that the partnership landscape, which noble Lords have discussed at several points during debates on this Bill, has moved on and changed substantially since the crime and disorder reduction partnerships, which are also known as community safety partnerships in some parts of the country, were officially created in 1998 by the Crime and Disorder Act. There is common agreement that they have played an important part in helping to achieve significant reductions in crime across England and Wales. We need to build on that success story by ensuring that the partnerships are as effective as they can be in reducing crime—there is a commonality of view that that is right—and in particular in dealing with crime and disorder, misuse of drugs, alcohol and other substances and anti-social behaviour. We have moved on, and there is much more of a consensus around those issues.

It is common knowledge too that the Home Office undertook a review of the partnership provisions of the 1998 Act in collaboration with key stakeholders, including ACPO, the Association of Police Authorities, and the Local Government Association. The findings of that review informed the provisions in the Bill which these amendments now seek to remove. The provisions in the Bill will ensure that key tools and good practice examples, such as effective information-sharing and intelligence-led interventions, are used to optimum effect by all partners. The provisions in the Bill allow for the Secretary of State to issue regulations to define how these proposals will be implemented by the crime and disorder reduction partnerships. The provisions are there to provide the flexibility to which the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, referred.

I understand some of the concerns raised by my noble friend about the implementation of some of these measures and I heard his ironic comments about

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the apparent seamlessness of Whitehall and, in particular, the role of the Home Office. I know that he would like to have seen some of the proposals as set out in the Crime and Disorder Act review made in primary legislation. For good reasons, we think that the detail should be left to regulation and guidance, and that will provide us with an opportunity to reflect further and to have more discussions and debate.

We do not underestimate the importance of ensuring that any such secondary legislation is fully informed by practitioner expertise and the involvement of partners. For that reason, we have gone out of our way to conduct extensive consultations on the detail, with more than 1,000 practitioners across England and Wales, and we will continue to work with stakeholders as we develop the proposals for implementation.

The amendment seeks to remove wholesale the provisions aimed at improving accountability arrangements for local community safety bodies by extending the remit of overview and scrutiny committees, requiring them to review and scrutinise the functions of crime and disorder reduction partnerships. These provisions also provide for the introduction of the community call for action. This will enable local communities to seek answers from the police, local authorities and their partners where they have failed to deal effectively with a community safety problem in their area. The provisions also give ward councillors new powers and duties to act on behalf of their communities to seek a resolution to those problems. This package of measures gives communities an opportunity to have both a voice and a role in community safety.

A number of councils have already undertaken reviews of crime and disorder which have changed the way that services are delivered, with tangible benefits for local people. Overview and scrutiny committees are in a strong position to tackle complex and cross-cutting issues and support partnership working as well as to assist in driving up performance. We want this approach to become standard practice for community safety.

Together these provisions form a package of measures that will enable crime and disorder reduction partnerships to continue to deliver positive community safety outcomes as well as become more visible and answerable to local communities and local politicians, who are well placed to ensure that they are well served. We reject the noble Lord’s amendments for those reasons.

These measures have not been put together in isolation. We are fully cognisant of developments in other parts of Government. We have been working closely with the Department for Communities and Local Government in implementing Crime and Disorder Act review measures, and the White Paper will complement that work. Rather than stall an important process that needs momentum and development, it is important to put in place, at least in outline, measures that will strengthen crime and disorder reduction partnerships and take forward work which has been widely acknowledged successful. I understand the concerns raised by the

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noble Baroness and the noble Lord. Discussions can continue on those issues, but I urge the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, I am enormously grateful to my noble friend for his thoughtful response and I am pleased to hear that I have reminded him of his lost youth—that was entirely coincidental. I am also grateful for the support that my amendment has received from various corners of this House.

My noble friend said that the process of making regulations provided an opportunity for further reflection. I take that as an acceptance of my point that considerable further reflection is required. Although I understand the Government’s desire to move forward by putting this framework into legislation so that the regulations can follow, it might be better to reflect earlier rather than later on precisely how this might work.

I am absolutely committed to the idea of crime and disorder reduction partnerships, with local government, the police service and all the other relevant agencies combining on these matters. But we know that the White Paper on local government will take a fundamental look at how partnership working operates in all matters of interest to the future of particular localities. I am also committed, as I think my noble friend is, to the important role of individual elected councillors as community advocates. But, again, the White Paper will, we understand, extend and look at that in all sorts of other areas.

I am attracted to the idea of the community call for action and interested in how that might operate but, given how it will interact with overview and scrutiny committees, we would benefit from knowing precisely what the overall package will be. I digress for a second by saying that we understand that there are also to be major changes in the network of patients’ forums, to create what I think will be called local involvement networks, which will work to local authority overview and scrutiny committees. There will be changes as a consequence of that. These changes will graft all sorts of material on to the work of overview and scrutiny committees, so we are trying to legislate on something that is moving rapidly.

My noble friend said that he planned that reflection should take place between the enactment of the Bill and the introduction of regulations, but I hope that that can be brought forward. I hope that the Government will consider over the next few days whether it would perhaps be better to revise these clauses dramatically, or even withdraw them, given the forthcoming White Paper. In the next few days, the Government may internally be clearer about their direction that they are following for local government. If that view diverges from what is being presented to us today, it is important that we are not faced with having these clauses on the statute book. However, given my noble friend’s offer to reflect further on these matters, albeit at the wrong stage—I hope that he will take my encouragement to reflect further now as opposed to after the Bill has been enacted—I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara): My Lords, I have to inform the House that the number of noble Lords voting “Not-Content” in the first Division this afternoon was 146, not 145 as announced.

Schedule 6 [Further provision about crime and disorder committees of certain local authorities]:

[Amendment No. 70 not moved.]

Clause 19 [Guidance and regulations regarding crime and disorder matters]:

[Amendment No. 71 not moved.]

Clause 20 [Joint crime and disorder committees]:

[Amendments Nos. 72and 73 not moved.]

Clause 21 [Amendments to the Crime and Disorder Act 1998]:

[Amendment No. 74 not moved.]

Iraq and Afghanistan: Operational Update

4.58 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Drayson): My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement made in another place by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence. The Statement is as follows:

“With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a Statement about our operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. “I should like to start by expressing my deepest condolences to the families and friends of the brave servicemen who have lost their lives since I last spoke to the House on 24 July. Five soldiers have died on operations in Iraq, all killed in action. Twenty-seven personnel from all three services have died in Afghanistan, 11 of them killed in action, and 16 have been lost in other incidents, including those killed in the RAF Nimrod crash on 2 September. Others have been wounded, and our thoughts should be with them also.“Let me turn first to Iraq. The House will be aware of the escalation of sectarian violence in recent months, particularly in and around Baghdad. The combined Iraqi and American Baghdad security plan, which I was briefed on in Baghdad in August, just before it began, is a major initiative aimed at improving security for all the communities in the city. The security element is closely followed by co-ordinated projects to improve basic services, backed by $400 million of funding. In those areas that have so far been cleared of terrorists and sectarian gangs, with 1,700 weapons seized, citizens are reporting better security and are starting to see improvements in their daily lives.“That said, however, the overall level of violence across the city, including sectarian killings, remains unacceptable. There was further evidence of this today. But the plan is still in its early stages and there is impressive commitment from American, coalition and Iraqi forces.
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