|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: I am delighted with the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Laird, and that of the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran. Perhaps I may make certain that the Committee understands that we accept the amendment in principle but want to check the precise wording with counsel. I believe that that is important. I say to my noble and learned friend Lord Archer that it is a refreshing change for the Government to be told that placing certain items on the face of the Bill sometimes causes difficulty because, by definition, others may be deemed to be less important or excluded in some way. I am sure that I shall recall his wise words when we come to deal with other Bills. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, for her contribution.
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: The Government have accepted the amendment in principle but would prefer the noble Lord not to press the matter to a Division tonight while we receive the advice of counsel.
Amendment No. 80 is largely a probing amendment. Clause 19 empowers the board to issue or revise a code of practice for district policing partnerships. That is sensible. However, the clause then provides that they may do so only with the consent of the Secretary of State. I wonder why. The
First, there is the district policing partnership itself. Should it not be consulted about the code of practice which is to be imposed on it? I cannot believe that it is intended that the code should be sprung on it as a fait accompli. However, if the argument is that it is unnecessary, we return to the question of whether that is not also true of the many provisions in the Bill where an authority is enjoined to consult.
In Clause 5(5), before making regulations for the transfer of staff the Secretary of State is required to consult the board, the chief constable and organisations representing the interests of those affected. Does that imply that in the absence of a statutory requirement he might not consult them? A requirement to consult serves as a reminder. Perhaps that resolves the issue between my noble friend and myself. It is a reminder to officials to consult when working on a project and, perhaps only in the last resort, it is a trigger for a challenge to an unco-operative Secretary of State.
The amendment would also require consultation with the Police Ombudsman. He or she should provide a mine of information. The ombudsman has been learning where the shoe pinches. Then there is reference to the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and the Equality Commission, which over the years have developed substantial expertise. To make a case for consulting them is superfluous and I shall not take up the Committee's time. It would be an insult or an act of madness to produce a code without inviting their comments.
At the risk of being tiresome, perhaps I may speak also to Amendment No. 84. This amendment serves as another reminder. Subsection (3) relates to some of the matters with which the code of practice may deal. Surely the DPPwill wish to have ongoing consultations
The code of practice is to set out various arrangements. Would it not be wise to set out how the consultation process will operate: how those concerns will be notified as to what is to happen or what is proposed and how they will be invited to submit their concerns; at which point should those views be fed into the machine; and most particularly, how far the process should have proceeded before various people are consulted and in what order they should be consulted? Very often, such matters can touch off an explosion. As we all know, sometimes an unnecessary crisis is sparked off because A was told about something before B. Would it not be wise to have a structure in place to ensure that no crisis occurs before someone's attention is distracted at the wrong moment? I beg to move.
Baroness O'Cathain: I seek clarification on this point. I can see the reason for the comment by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, about consulting. Am I correct in thinking that he suggests that, in spite of his amendment listing those bodies--the ombudsman, the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and so on--he would be happy with Clause 5(5)(c) in place which refers to,
Lord Glentoran: We are moving onto the area of the ombudsman. I do not believe that it is necessary but I should feel more comfortable to declare an interest in this regard in as much as the present ombudsman, Mrs O'Loan, is somebody with whom I worked on a government committee for some time. I know her quite well and have a great deal of respect for her. Therefore, I hope that the Committee will accept that any comment I may make about the ombudsman's role or position in relation to this Bill is objective and not in any way subjective. It reflects in no way whatever on Mrs O'Loan, for whom I have an enormous amount of time.
I do not wish to support the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, and nor do I wish to support Amendment No. 82. We wish to increase the role of the Secretary of State as much as possible. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, was clear on his thoughts in relation to that matter.
On Amendment No. 83, I should be worried and concerned if that field of consultation were made too ridiculously wide. That was the sense of feeling which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, was coming across with too. I understand where he is coming from. He wants reminders. I like reminders too but not lists.
Baroness Park of Monmouth: I support my noble friend. We need the Secretary of State involved, at least until we can see, in the next year or two, how things are going.
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page