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"(1A) Sub-paragraph (1) applies whether or not any payment has been made."

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"Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002 Section 102".

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I beg to move that the House to agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 72 to 85.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 72 to 85.—(Lord Falconer of Thoroton.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Police Reform Bill [HL]

4.54 p.m.

Report received.

Clause 1 [National Policing Plan]:

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 1:

    Page 1, line 6, at beginning insert "After consultation with relevant persons,"

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment, it is necessary to refer to the Bill "as drafted". We tabled these amendments not knowing what amendments the Government would bring forward. The Bill, as drafted, permitted the Secretary of State to put forward proposals for a plan without consulting anyone. We felt that that was wrong and that consultation should take place. Our amendments were designed to give effect to that aim. I am delighted to welcome the fact that the Government have seen the light on consultation and are introducing their own amendments, which are included in this grouping.

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There is a further question wrapped up in this proposal as regards the timing with which these plans should be brought forward. The House will recall that, in Committee, we proposed the end of October. The Government have now tabled an amendment that would make the due date for the normal provision of these plans the end of November. That is a great move in the right direction—and, again, it is most welcome.

However, I am bound to point out that the six months' period was not suggested without regard to practicality: it was a valid point. It has just occurred to me that we shall now have a much greater degree of consultation on the preparation of such plans. Perhaps the consultations will take care of the extra months, so to speak, because everyone will know what is coming. I look forward to hearing the Minister's introductory remarks when he speaks to his amendments in this group. I beg to move.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Rooker): My Lords, I am grateful for the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith. Given the amendments that we now bring forward on Report, I believe that I shall be able to show during this evening's proceedings that we have been the most open and the most listening government ever in respect of this Bill in that we took note of what was said in your Lordships' House in Committee. I mean that genuinely. Many issues were raised in Committee that required some thought. Indeed, because of the configuration of recesses, I also accept the fact that, when tabling amendments, it was necessary for the Opposition to set out their stall somewhat earlier without advance knowledge of what the Government proposed. I hope that I shall be able to satisfy noble Lords.

The Government have brought forward Amendments Nos. 3, 5, 8 and 10 in the light of the debates in Committee. Genuine questions about timing were raised as regards laying the plan before Parliament. In order to be able to take the national policing plan into account when developing local plans, we recognise that police authorities and chief officers need to have sight of it in good time. We believe that 30th November is sufficiently far in advance. I repeat the point I made in Committee. The drafting of the plan will have been discussed over a number of months. As such, police authorities will have plenty of warning in advance of the formal publication date of its likely content—not every dot and comma, but "its likely content".

In the amendments we have allowed for delayed publication in exceptional circumstances. This country has lost the habit of having October elections, which used to be the traditional time of the year for general elections. At least, that was so in my younger days. If a new administration is faced with different priorities for the police service, or, indeed, with a major incident like 11th September of last year, this may lead to a reassessment of policing priorities.

In developing the national policing plan, we made clear in the White Paper that we would consult widely with our tripartite partners, and other interested

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bodies, via the national policing forum. Certain individual elements of the plan are also the subject of extensive consultation in their own right, as was made clear in Committee. For example, Section 37 of the Police Act 1996 requires the Home Secretary to consult on the national objectives for police authorities.

The national policing forum will be a non-statutory body to advise the Home Secretary on policing matters in general and, in particular, on the national policing plan. Its membership will include representatives of the Association of Police Authorities, the Association of Chief Police Officers and other police staff associations as well as victims' and ethnic minority groups.

To allow—so that there is no misunderstanding about the drafting—for the future flexibility in the membership and the role of the national policing forum, we do not propose to establish it by statute. But we are more than happy to confirm on the face of the Bill that in drawing up the annual plan there should be consultation with the tripartite partners, namely the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Association of Police Authorities.

Government Amendments Nos. 5 and 10 pick up on points made in Committee about the strategic nature of the national policing plan. In its briefing paper to Peers the Association of Police Authorities pointed out that the list of matters to be included in the plan made no mention of best value performance indicators set out in the Local Government Act 1999. We are happy to correct that omission and also to include any general performance targets set under Section 38 of the Police Act 1996. These additions reinforce the strategic nature of the national policing plan. We are emphatically not concerned here—unlike what the BBC alleged this morning—with the micro-management and the day-to-day management of police operations. We have said that repeatedly. I hope that, for the avoidance of doubt, the amendments make that abundantly clear.

I turn to Amendment No. 7. On the contents of the plan, the words that the noble Lords, Lord Dholakia and Lord Bradshaw, and the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, seek to delete allow flexibility for the contents of the plan to include matters not specifically mentioned elsewhere. The words should be retained.

The focus of the plan is on the 43 forces in England and Wales. New Section 36A(2) refers to the strategic policing priorities generally for the police forces maintained for police areas. The National Criminal Intelligence Service and the National Crime Squad are not police forces. They are governed by separate legislation and have different lines of accountability. They are national organisations and their priorities are, in effect, already national priorities. That means that it would be inappropriate to include the objectives set for NCIS and NCS in the national policing plan, as proposed by Amendment No. 6.

The noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, mentioned the timing of the consultation. I hope that noble Lords will agree that the government amendments address what

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were, I accept, genuine concerns raised by the Opposition Benches in Committee. Therefore, I hope that they will not press their amendments but will allow the government amendments to be inserted in the Bill.

5.3 p.m.

Baroness Harris of Richmond: My Lords, the Minister has anticipated our amendments. I should like to speak to Amendments Nos. 4, 6 and 7. I apologise to the House for attaching myself so late to the Bill. I assure your Lordships that I have followed very closely its progress and the proceedings quite minutely. I have read every word that has been uttered. I am happy to join, although belatedly.

The Minister has addressed Amendment No. 4. We welcome the Government's recognition that the Bill should specify the date for the Home Secretary to publish the national policing plan. We wanted to make sure that the Government took a close look at its timing. In my experience—which is not little—by the end of November police authorities' local policing plans are well advanced in their preparation. They will not be able to use the national plan as a strategic framework. So, as the Minister said, it is important and extremely welcome that there is consultation on the national plan with the APA and the ACPO.

The Minister suggested that the consultation will mean that police authorities have a good idea of what might be in the national plan, long before it is published. I am sure that that will be the case. But until it is actually finalised, authorities will not be able to proceed with any certainty. It is not unknown for the ministerial priorities to change between conception, consultation and finalisation. In fact they did this year. The amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, asks for the national plan to be published by 30th September. The Government have gone for 30th November. Our amendment offers the House a sensible compromise—perhaps the third way. It is 31st October. What difference does a month make? At that stage in the planning it makes quite a lot.

Police authorities desperately want to work with the Government to ensure that local plans reflect both national and local needs.

I turn to Amendment No. 6. The Minister talked about the National Crime Squad and the NCIS. I hear what he says, but our amendment seeks to bring the two together. There must be a coherency between national and local efforts. The Home Secretary is responsible for setting the national policing priorities both for local police authorities and for NCIS and NCS. But there are two separate parallel exercises needed to do that. Indeed, this year the proposed priorities for them were not received for consultation until March. They were finalised only at the beginning of April. In order for the national plan to be effective, it should seek to draw those separate exercises together. The plan should set the strategic policing picture. I hope that the Minister will take that point away and rethink it.

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Finally, I turn to Amendment No. 7. It seeks to leave out the words "plans and advice". They effectively would give the Government scope to include anything it wanted in the national plan. It is important that the Government think through more fully what that national plan needs to cover and to set that out precisely in legislation.

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