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Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: Amendment No. 81 is consequential on Amendment No. 79, which we dealt with in our last group of amendments. I gave an undertaking to bring forward an amendment. In the light of that assurance, I ask the noble Lord not to press Amendment No. 81.
Amendment No. 82 represents another of those areas where some want to see greater involvement by the Secretary of State while others would want to see less. I listened very carefully to the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, and the noble Baroness, Lady Park of Monmouth. We have already included a requirement in the Bill for the Secretary of State to consent to the board's code. We believe that this is a higher test than the need to have consultation. Therefore, in the light of the response, we hope that the amendment is not felt to be necessary.
I also ask for my noble and learned friend Lord Archer to resist pressing Amendments Nos. 80, 83 and 84. Amendment No. 80 removes the ability of the Secretary of State to approve any code issued by the board and removes a safeguard which the Government included because of the level of concern about the nature of DPPs.
My noble friend asked for the sort of circumstances in which the safeguard could be necessary. Perhaps I may say that it could avoid a situation where the board produces a code which is clearly at odds with the legislation for which the Secretary of State is responsible.
Amendment No. 83 expands the list of those to be consulted on the code. I simply say that the current provision does not preclude the board from consulting the bodies listed. I have no doubt that it will consult those it thinks it is relevant to consult. But we do not
Finally, perhaps I may say to my noble and learned friend Lord Archer that the third of these amendments, Amendment No. 84, is more a matter to address under the Criminal Justice Review than under the Bill. I therefore hope that Amendments Nos. 80, 83 and 84 will not be pressed.
Last in this group is Amendment No. 85, tabled in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran. It seeks, as did Amendment No. 70, to protect the police from being required to answer questions or disclosing information which would breach their general duty in Clause 32.
Lord Glentoran: I thank the Minister for giving way. For the record, Amendment No. 85 is not tabled in my name, although I certainly would have supported it. I did not hear anybody speak to it from the Unionist Benches.
Lord Molyneaux of Killead: If that group had been called, I would gladly have responded, particularly to the Minister's welcome request that we might not press the amendment. If we were to do so, I would have to amend the scribbled notes I had made earlier in the day in the expectation that Amendment No. 79 would be rejected.
I shall read the three lines I would have said and see how that fits in with the provisional approval given earlier. Amendment No. 81 is necessary in the light of Amendment No. 79 in principle. If compulsion to issue were accepted, there would be automatic compulsion to revise, and there should not be compulsion to revise. The use of the word "may" provides an effective solution. I shall not even expect a reply to that, because, as I have said, it is obsolete because of the generosity of the Front Bench over Amendment No. 79.
If I can be regarded as having moved this group of amendments, perhaps I may mention Amendment No. 85. This refers directly to Clause 19(3) regarding the question of officers. It is self-explanatory. An officer shall not be compelled to disclose sensitive information to loyalist or republicans on DPPs. I am not sure whether I beg to move the amendment. To avoid confusion, I shall not.
Lord Archer of Sandwell: This debate has been a salutary experience for me. I now know from personal experience what it feels like to be in a minority. Rule number one of any strategy is: "Do not seek a battle when you are surrounded". I promise to think further about what my noble friend has said. Meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The whole Bill is about balancing. There is a balancing of interests; there is a balance between authority and safeguards; there is also a balancing of powers at various levels in the hierarchy--the Secretary of State, the board, the chief constable and the district councils.
One is therefore driven to ask the question: should the number of districts and their boundaries be entirely a matter for the chief constable? Is that purely an operational question? If the board is to act as a monitor on behalf of the community, ought it to have an input into that process? It is arguable that the arrangements should require the consent of the board. I have not sought to go as far as that. My amendment requires the chief constable to "consult" the board. I believe he would wish to do that in any event. But a requirement in the Bill would serve as a useful reminder.
Before I sit down, perhaps I may say that to some extent we seem to have desegregated this group of amendments and it might be convenient for the Committee if I spoke to Amendment No. 97 now. I am sure that would save time.
Amendment No. 97 requires the district commander to say what representations he received from the district policing partnership and how far he had taken them into account. That has two advantages. First, it is a way of notifying the public of the thinking of the partnership on the one hand and the district commander on the other; secondly, I hope that the district commander would find it helpful.
When we are considering someone's representations, it is a useful discipline to have to paraphrase what they said; it focuses one's mind. Then, if we have to say what our reaction was, it focuses the mind on how to address that. I beg to move.
Baroness Harris of Richmond: I support Amendments Nos. 88 and 97. I fully recognise that the chief constable is best placed to determine on operational grounds how the staff resources should best be organised and deployed. But decisions about force structure and the boundaries for operational commanding are a matter of legitimate public interest about which there are often contentious local views.
It is therefore right that the chief constable should consult with and seek the views of the policing board on such matters, though the ultimate decision would remain his. I am sure--I know that mine would--chief constables would bring such organisational proposals to the police authority for discussion in any event, and that is a matter of good practice. So it is right to include the provision in the Bill and I ask the Committee to support the amendment.
Lord Glentoran: The purpose of my Amendment No. 89 is straightforward. As I mentioned earlier, there are now 26 local authorities in Northern Ireland plus an assembly/government in Stormont. My amendment allows flexibility within the Bill should there be a restructuring of local government--by that I mean the authorities and not Stormont--and it will be possible to adjust the DPPs to fit in with the new arrangements.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: I shall deal first with Amendment No. 88. Under the Bill, the police are required to make each district council a police district, other than Belfast. In Belfast, the boundaries of the police districts must coincide with the district council area but within that the Government have concluded it is right that the Chief Constable should have flexibility to determine the number of police districts up to a maximum of four. He has four at present and I do not believe that he has any plans to change that. It should not be up to the board to guide the Chief Constable on the boundaries to set within Belfast. That should be a matter for his operational judgment. I therefore ask the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, to withdraw his amendment.
As regards Amendments Nos. 93 and 94, under Clause 21 each sub-group of the Belfast policing partnership is to provide views to the police "and the board". It should read "and the Belfast partnership". The amendment fulfils the commitment which the Government made in another place to correct that reference and to clarify that "district", in line 40, means a police district.
I turn to Amendments Nos. 95 and 96. The Committee should know the admiration the Government have for the work of the CPLCs and, indeed, my right honourable friend the Minister of State addressed the annual CPLC conference at the weekend. Under Clause 22, before issuing or revising a local policing plan the police district commander must consult the local DPP and take account of any views expressed. Amendments Nos. 95 and 96, which are virtually identical, seek to oblige the police district commander to consult also with any local consultative groups set up by the board.
While I can understand the motive behind this amendment, I think that it is pushing the Bill into a level of detail that is not appropriate on the one hand and on the other could be undermining the role of the DPPs themselves. The Government's view is that it should be the DPPs who should retain contact with the local bodies established in their areas and they should then sift or filter these views and represent them to the local commanders.
Indeed, if the board is convinced that this is the right way forward, I see no reason that it should not include such an arrangement in the code that it will issue under Clause 19. The code can cover the arrangements for monitoring the performance of the police in carrying out the local policing plan. In those circumstances, I ask the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, not to move her Amendment No. 95 and the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, not to move his Amendment No. 96.
Amendment No. 89 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, would enable the Secretary of State to alter by regulations the number of police districts in the event of changes. Patten was quite clear that police boundaries should be coterminous with council areas (paragraph 12.4), and the Chief Constable agreed with that in his response to the commission. The amendment is at odds with that, and I ask the noble Lord not to move it.
Lord Archer of Sandwell: Amendment No. 80 sought to raise the question whether the arrangement of districts was a matter for the operational judgment of the chief constable. My noble and learned friend's answer was one sentence: it is a matter for his operational judgment. With great respect to my noble and learned friend, that is not an argument but an assertion. However, it may be that even if we pursued the matter it would not be carried much further than the assertion today.
As for Amendment No. 97, my noble and learned friend's argument is that that is not what the Patten commission proposed. I cannot help feeling that the Government look at the recommendations of the Patten commission a little selectively. A number of the Government's proposals are not what the Patten commission proposed. I do not regard that as a conclusive argument on the subject, but since tonight we are not in the business of making a great deal of trouble I beg leave to withdraw Amendment No. 88.