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Lord Cope of Berkeley: I understand the difficulty in which the noble Baroness finds herself. By definition, "the Authority" in the Police Act 1996 is the Police Complaints Authority, whereas the authority that she wishes to refer to falls within the definition of this legislation. However, be that as it may, it seems to me that it would help us to decide the proper course of action if we knew what the position is as far as concerns other chief officers of police. I did not quite gather that from what the Minister said.

If a complaint is made about the conduct of another chief constable or someone of ACPO rank, so it speak, in another authority, who appoints the person to investigate that complaint? I appreciate that the commissioner is senior to any other chief officer of police in that he is regarded as being one rank above an ordinary chief constable of another force, but there are also Her Majesty's inspectors of constabulary who, in a sense, are over all police officers--be they chief officers or more junior officers--as well as the commissioner. Presumably, if it is a policing matter as opposed to a complaint of a different character, it is likely to be one of Her Majesty's inspectors of constabulary who looks into the matter.

The right person to set an inspector of constabulary in motion in such a case seems to me to be the Secretary of State, rather than the Police Complaints Authority. It would indeed help us to know how other chief constables are treated in this respect. I hope that the Minister will be able to give us such details. Members of the Committee will much appreciate it if he is able to do so.

Lord Whitty: I very much appreciate the efforts of the noble Lord in spelling out exactly what he required in a time-scale within which I could respond. For chief constables in such situations it would be the police authority which would appoint the investigating officer who would, as I understand it, sometimes come from a

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different authority. The Metropolitan Police Authority would be in that position for assistant commissioners and commanders because they are the equivalent of chief constables in other forces. So, grade for grade, the MPA would be in the same position. It is just the unique position of the commissioner and deputy commissioner which makes this a special case.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, for explaining this to the Committee. He clearly outlined where the error or misunderstanding had occurred. Indeed, I found his remarks enlightening; I am sure that they are correct. This is an important matter. It is probably something about which we will need to think again and we might even wish to communicate with the Minister about it between now and the next stage of the Bill. However, for the time being, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 354ZP not moved.]

9.30 p.m.

Lord Cope of Berkeley moved Amendment No. 354P:

Page 298, line 36, leave out paragraph 98.

The noble Lord said: This amendment brings us back to the question of consultation. I believe that as it stands the Bill will remove the duty on the commissioner of police to consult the boroughs. Earlier we discussed the position of the boroughs as regards this matter. As I said, the boroughs will still have a duty to produce strategies for the reduction of crime and disorder under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. Until now Section 96 of the Police Act has imposed a duty on the commissioner to consult the boroughs on appropriate policing arrangements.

Borough policing within London has had a high profile recently. Changes have been made in borough policing to bring the police closer to local authorities and to communities and to make the structure of the police clearer to ordinary citizens. If the boundaries of Metropolitan Police areas are different from those of boroughs, that can be confusing. People know which borough they live in because they know to whom they pay their council tax. I believe that in moving towards borough policing, the Metropolitan Police have moved in the right direction. I believe that without this amendment boroughs would prepare plans without a corresponding duty on the Metropolitan Police to consult on them.

That presupposes that in terms of policing, the assembly is the only legitimate representative of the people of London. I do not take that view. If that position were adopted, it would create a situation unique to London. That is not the position in other parts of the country. It is illogical to remove the duty I am discussing and it would undermine the philosophy of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 which recognises the

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paramount importance of tailoring anti-crime and disorder strategies to take account of the circumstances of individual boroughs. I beg to move.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Elton): If this amendment were agreed to I should be unable to call Amendments Nos. 354Q to 354SB inclusive.

Lord Clement-Jones: In many ways the amendment anticipates the next group of amendments. We on these Benches support the amendment. The existing borough consultative process is borough based and equates with local government boundaries in London. We wish to see that preserved. The police consultative groups in London, their co-ordinators and the voluntary organisations involved with them feel strongly that they wish to see the existing structures continue. Our motto is, "If it ain't broke, why fix it?"

When we reach the next group of amendments I shall want to describe in more detail how these structures work. Experience has shown that in situations such as bombings in Brixton or Brick Lane the local consultative processes must be in place to reassure local people. They have worked on a borough basis since 1984. They were set up in the aftermath of the traumatic Brixton disorders. I speak as one who lives in the borough of Lambeth. I do not believe that we should be tampering with these processes at this time. In view of the fact that we have erected another pillar in the form of the Crime and Disorder Act--which we very much welcomed on these Benches in terms of statutory partnership and crime and disorder strategy--like the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, I cannot understand why we should be trying to knock the other pillar away when it is an equally important part of the whole consultative process.

We have fears that in these circumstances the police may well be tempted not to maintain the consultative processes if they are not statutorily obliged so to do. That may sound rather suspicious but, if those processes are not statutorily based, there will always be a temptation not to engage in such processes but simply to engage in the statutory partnership process with local authorities and with the Probation Service. We feel very strongly about the subject and shall return to it in later amendments.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: I hesitate to intervene. I shall have no objection if the Committee wants to discuss Amendment No. 354Q and the amendments grouped with it at the same time as this amendment. Although we are proposing slightly different arrangements, the amendments cover much the same ground. I have no objection if the Committee prefers to discuss those amendments as well.

Lord Clement-Jones: I am tempted to add to my comments. It would probably save time if we grouped these amendments.

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As a long-standing Lambeth resident, I clearly remember the aftermath of the Brixton disorders. I remember the huge optimism as a result of the Scarman report which recommended the consultative arrangements. I remember also the way those arrangements came into effect and the success that they have had. I can testify personally to the success of the arrangements. I do not want to go on at great length, but we can point to the lay visitors' scheme that was set up in the 1980s, to the Lambeth knives amnesty and to an investigative report into the recruitment and initial training of ethnic minority police officers in Lambeth which well pre-dated the Macpherson report. Later projects involved investigations into deaths in police custody, the management of police informants, and the founding of a Black Issues Forum. More recently, in the past year we have had huge support from the community police consultative groups for the police's efforts to combat street robbery through the "Respect Not Robbery" campaign. They have spearheaded the debate about provision for young people in the borough. That has resulted in Lambeth Council reconsidering its whole youth initiative programme in this area.

The consultative groups have been extremely active. They have been very active in their responses to the Macpherson report; they have been members of DAC John Grieves's race and violent crime advisory group and they have been providing lay advisers for murder investigations and for that into the Brixton bombing on 17th April. They are highly effective police consultative groups and I know that others can testify to their effectiveness. My noble friend Lord Tope will be speaking from his own experience about his own borough.

In summary, we are convinced that the borough-based consultation structure, which ties in with local government structures, is the right way to go. As I said earlier, the Brixton bombing, the Brick Lane bombing and the Soho bombing demonstrate the need for the police to be very close to the community. We do not believe that it is right to abolish the statutory basis of the consultation. We believe that without that statutory structure there will be a temptation for the police simply to move forward with the statutory structure of partnership under the Crime and Disorder Act.

The arrangements now enshrined in the Police Act, which were formerly in the PACE Act 1984, have worked extremely well for 15 years. They should not simply be done away with as part of this Bill. That would be a retrograde step. We ask the Government to reconsider.

There are other linked amendments, but in the circumstances I do not believe that we should wish to press Amendment No. 354SA if we received a positive response to the earlier amendments. There is, of course, the possibility, and desirability, of the MPA being able to issue guidance to local consultative schemes if it believes that they need to achieve greater consistency. That is what Amendment No. 354SB seeks to achieve. But it in no way cuts across the amendments that we are seeking to press.

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I ask the Government to reconsider. This is a very important issue for all the consultative groups. I hope that we shall receive a favourable reply from the Minister.

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