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Lord Cope of Berkeley: Amendment No. 44 attracted my attention because it would be surprising if the board could not acquire, hold and dispose of land for its own purposes as well as for policing purposes. It may be that policing purposes cover the board but it does not seem to me to do so. If not, one wonders how on earth the board will find an office for itself. I hope that it will not require too many offices but it may require some and presumably it will need a provision which allows it to do so.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: In dealing with the range of questions raised by Amendments Nos. 40 to 45, it might help if I made a few general points about police land, buildings and equipment under existing legislation. Clauses 6 and 7, which deal with these matters, by and large reflect the existing provisions of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act.

It may be helpful if I make explicit the fact that the board can hold land for the purpose of its own functions. Clause 7 sets out the responsibilities of the policing board with regard to the acquiring and disposing of land for police purposes. The board's ability to acquire land for its own purposes exists within Schedule 1.

The 1998 Act made important changes to the resource, finance and management of policing support functions. It placed management of service delivery in the hands of the Chief Constable and it placed strategic direction and accountability in the hands of the police authority. That remains our policy. The Patten report supported that policy, stating in paragraph 5.13 that the relationship between the police and the board should be one between a service provider and a regulator. The report also added in paragraph 5.13 that the previous arrangement which conflated those two roles was seriously flawed. That is why we feel unable to accept Amendment No. 43, which confuses those roles by injecting the board into the management of police buildings.

The Bill makes two significant changes to the 1998 Act. Both are designed to implement the Patten recommendations and to further existing government policy. First, the Bill clearly separates out the roles of the board and the police. Clauses 6 to 12 deal only with police buildings, land estimates, funds and accounts. Schedule 1, paragraph 1(1), to the Bill deals with the board in respect of these matters.

I understand that the police authority has concerns about the application of Schedule 1. I believe that that lay behind the concerns expressed by the noble Baroness. The Government, following advice from parliamentary counsel, have made an amendment to Schedule 1--it is Amendment No. 18, which we have already covered--in order to put the matter beyond doubt.

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The amendments concern differentiating between the role of the board and the police. If the noble Baroness accepts my explanation she will find that the Bill is consistent with the majority of the points that are being made and that we largely agree on the intention of the legislation.

I hope that with that explanation the noble Baroness feels able to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Harris of Richmond: I thank the Minister for that explanation. I hear what she says and will consider that at some length. I may return at Report stage because we consider the issue to be important. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

6.15 p.m.

[Amendments Nos. 41 to 43 not moved.]

Clause 6 agreed to.

Clause 7 [Acquisition and disposal of land by Board]:

[Amendments Nos. 44 and 45 not moved.]

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton moved Amendment No. 46:

    Page 4, line 43, leave out ("in the same manner").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 7, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 8 [Provision of advice and assistance to international organisations, etc.]:

Lord Smith of Clifton moved Amendment No. 47:

    Page 5, line 20, leave out ("outside the United Kingdom").

The noble Lord said: Amendments Nos. 47 and 48 are probing amendments. Clause 8 omits the UK receiving advice and assistance unless the assistance is to an international organisation working in the UK. It also appears to preclude the secondment of a civilian to a police force in Great Britain but not to Kosovo, for example, or to the Garda Siochana. The removal of the words will provide flexibility should there ever be a need to second specialist civilian staff to the UK.

As regards Amendment No. 48, Clause 8(2) enables police officers to serve outside Northern Ireland. There is a case that that should be extended to cover specialist civilian support staff--for example, scenes of crime officers--for whom there is much demand abroad. That keeps within the spirit of the Patten report in encouraging training and secondments outside Northern Ireland. I beg to move.

Lord Glentoran: My noble friend and I have also put our names to this amendment. We know that even now the RUC is operating in the Balkans with great success. Perhaps we have not interpreted very well the intention of Clause 8. However, we believe that the main thrust of Amendment No. 47 is that the board should have ultimate flexibility to authorise members of the police force to operate wherever their special skills can best be used, if they can be spared from duty

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in Northern Ireland. If that is in the Republic of Ireland, the Balkans or elsewhere in the United Kingdom, so be it.

Amendment No. 48 seeks to clarify that one is talking not only about uniformed and non-uniformed full members of the police force but also support staff, some of whom would be highly skilled people who could be of great value, if they could be spared for duty elsewhere. I look forward to the response of the noble Baroness.

Lord Molyneaux of Killead: I, too, regard this as a very necessary amendment given that, whether we like it or not, we are the world's number two policeman engaged in firefighting, as I believe it is called nowadays, regardless of the stretch on the Army and security forces. It is important that the line of authority is absolutely clear and I am delighted to support an amendment which does just that.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: I am grateful to Members of the Committee who have spoken, not least because it allows me to pay tribute to the outstanding work of members of the RUC in international situations, particularly the Balkans. As to that, I totally agree with the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran.

Clause 8 enables the policing board, subject to the consent of the Secretary of State, to provide advice and assistance, including facilitating temporary secondments, to international organisations and to those persons or bodies outside the UK who are engaged in similar activities to those of the board and the chief constable. Therefore, we believe that Amendment No. 47 is inappropriate because it deals with UK arrangements. I hope that that clarifies the position for those Members of the Committee who are concerned to ensure that that kind of outstanding quality of work should not be inhibited in any way.

As to Amendment No. 48, it is right to be concerned about the position of police support staff and their ability to take advantage of opportunities outside their immediate functions. But we do not believe that we should alter the law in a way which may constrain those opportunities, which we believe is the effect of these amendments. Details of police service must be spelt out in the legislation because members are not employees but holders of the officer of constable under the Crown. But it would be a mistake to extrapolate from this and to regulate support staff. Under normal employment law and personnel arrangements they can be seconded to outside organisations. We believe that Amendment No. 48 is unnecessary and could be more constraining than noble Lords who support it would want.

Lord Smith of Clifton: I thank the Minister for her elucidation of the point. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 48 not moved.]

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Clause 8 agreed to.

Clause 9 [Grants to, and borrowing by, the Board]:

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton moved Amendment No. 49:

    Page 6, line 7, leave out from ("amount") to ("under") and insert ("owing of money borrowed").

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 49 I speak also to Amendment No. 50. I reserve the right to speak to the other amendment in the group until after the mover has spoken to it. Amendments Nos. 49 and 50 are technical and drafting changes. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton moved Amendment No. 50:

    Page 6, line 12, leave out ("prior").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 9, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 10 and 11 agreed to.

Clause 12 [Accounts and audit]:

Baroness Harris of Richmond moved Amendment No. 51:

    Leave out Clause 12 and insert the following new Clause--


("12.--(1) The Board shall--
(a) keep proper accounts and proper records in relation to the accounts; and
(b) prepare a statement of accounts in respect of each financial year.
(2) The Board may delegate to the Chief Constable, or any other body approved by the Secretary of State, responsibility for the functions under subsection (1).
(3) The statement of accounts shall contain such information and shall be in such form as the Secretary of State shall determine.
(4) The Chief Constable, or any other body to whom power is delegated under subsection (2), shall submit the statement of accounts to the Board within such period after the end of the financial year to which they relate as the Board may determine.
(5) The Board shall send copies of the statement of accounts to the Secretary of State and the Comptroller and Auditor General within such period as the Secretary of State may determine.
(6) The Comptroller and Auditor General shall--
(a) examine, certify and report on each statement of accounts received by him under this section; and
(b) lay copies of the statement of accounts and of his report before each House of Parliament.
(7) The Board shall be responsible for carrying out audits of all aspects of police activity, and in exercising this function the Board may investigate any aspect of police policies, procedures and practices as it deems necessary and will have access to any information which it requires including that which relates to expenditure of the police grant.").

The noble Baroness said: Amendment No. 51 is a major amendment. One does not see how making the Chief Constable of the RUC directly responsible to government for police expenditure will enhance either the effective operation of the police service in Northern Ireland or its accountability to the people. Since its inception the Police Authority for Northern Ireland has borne the responsibility for this matter, and that arrangement has worked very well. I should

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be grateful if the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, could explain why the Government believe that it is necessary to change the arrangement and remove that responsibility from the policing board. We believe that that would deprive the board of the power to audit police expenditure, which is an essential tool for police accountability, and foist the responsibility onto the chief constable, which he has clearly stated he does not want. It is possible that by removing this function of accountability the new board will feel compelled to exercise another of its important powers more frequently: to call for formal reports and initiate inquiries. Surely, that is not a situation which the Committee wants to see. This measure goes further than Patten intended and is contrary to current practice in England and Wales. I should be grateful if the Minister could explain why the Government have insisted on changing the current arrangements and what benefits it will bring.

We ask the Minister to give serious consideration to this amendment which, if accepted, will secure a crucial investigatory and oversight function for the new board. I beg to move.

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