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Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for explaining his amendments and, to a certain extent, for his marginal demolition of ours, which was only to be expected. Again, the Bill has been improved and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 12 and 13 not moved.]

Lord Rooker moved Amendments Nos. 14 and 15 en bloc:

(a) persons whom it considers to represent the interests of police authorities;
(b) persons whom it considers to represent the interests of chief officers of police; and
(c) such other"
Page 2, line 38, at end insert—

"(4A) The Secretary of State shall lay any code of practice issued by him under this section, and any revision of any such code, before Parliament.

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(4B) The Secretary of State shall not be required by subsection (4A) to lay before Parliament, or may exclude from what he does so lay, anything the publication of which, in his opinion—
(a) would be against the interests of national security;
(b) could prejudice the prevention or detection of crime or the apprehension or prosecution of offenders; or
(c) could jeopardise the safety of any person."

On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 16 and 17 not moved.]

Clause 3 [Powers to require inspection and report]:

[Amendment No. 18 not moved.]

Clause 4 [Directions to police authorities]:

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 19:

    Page 3, line 35, leave out "the whole or any part of"

The noble Lord said: My Lords, here we come to the wretched words on the face of the Bill which deal with the "whole or any part of a force" and "whether generally or in particular". It seems to me that these words are unnecessary. If a part of a force is inefficient then the force is inefficient. We believe that in this part of the Bill a great many words are superfluous.

A further problem with this part of the Bill is that, as drafted, it confers too wide a possibility for the Secretary of State to direct police authorities. However, if I have understood it correctly, then I am delighted to note that government Amendment No. 23 confines actions taken under this clause to remedial actions as a result of a report. That being the case, once again I welcome the fact that this improvement—this limitation—is being made in acknowledgement of points that were raised in this House during our debates in Committee. Again, in Clause 24, the Secretary of State will be confined to reports or relevant matters.

Amendments Nos. 30 to 34 apply the same deletions to the wording used in Clause 5. Amendments Nos. 75, 76 and 86 again apply the same deletions both to the National Criminal Intelligence Service and the National Crime Squad. Here I shall follow the good practice of the Minister and set out the names in full, even if it takes a moment longer.

I accept that those bodies have a different status and therefore they act under different legislation, but I wonder whether, even though that is the case, we should not try to keep in place similar principles throughout the Bill. That is the reasoning behind Amendments Nos. 75, 76 and 86. I beg to move.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, has made clear, these amendments seek to remove all reference to under-performance being confined to part of a force or in any particular respect rather than in general. They would cover Clauses 4 and 5.

We take a different view from the noble Lord. As we see it, there is no good reason why the Secretary of State should not be able to require remedial measures—that is what we are referring to here—to be taken in relation to under-performance in a part of a force or in relation to a particular aspect of its work or functions.

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Where under-performance has been identified in a geographical area, such as in a basic command unit or in one particular area of policing—for example, the reduction of burglary—the Home Secretary should be able to stop the rot before it spreads. He should be able to require early and effective remedial action to be taken rather than have to sit back powerless while the performance of the force as a whole begins to suffer.

This is particularly true of the larger forces. I am sure that the noble Lord will appreciate that in the Met the basic command units can be bigger than some of the smaller forces across England and Wales. Certainly there will be problems in basic command units in London which will affect local service provision, but which will never spread to cause the entire force to be inefficient or ineffective.

We have to accept that variations exist in large forces. For example, one of the large metropolitan forces saw an overall reduction in crime of 2.2 per cent in the 12 months to March 2001, as well as very welcome reductions in burglary of 13 per cent and in vehicle crime of 4 per cent. Over that same period of time, one of the basic command units within that force saw burglary rise by 2.8 per cent, theft from vehicles rise by 2.9 per cent and the theft of vehicles rise by 16.3 per cent. Those are not impressive statistics. In that force, robbery rose by 13 per cent over the previous year, but in the particular basic command unit it went up by nearly 20 per cent.

Our argument is simple: the Secretary of State should be able to suggest that that basic command unit be looked at to see what problems exist within it which are particular to its area and not shared across the force. Why should he not be able to insist that remedial action be taken within that area? It compares to using an Armalite where otherwise the Secretary of State would have to use a blunderbuss, which would be entirely inappropriate. Local people in that under-performing area would wish to see—they have a right to see—the very highest standards of policing.

In Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, made the point that the Secretary of State was taking this power unto himself simply for the sake of it. That is not the case. We want to ensure that there is a speedy and effective way of making an early intervention in particular areas without disrupting the activities of a whole force. That is what we seek to achieve. It is appropriate, proportionate, targeted and focused, and it enables close attention to be paid to the particular problems of a small part of a larger force. That is the rationale behind our position.

I accept that it differs from the position of the noble Lord, but if we were to follow the route he suggests we would end up looking at a whole force area where the problem persists only in a small part of it. That would not be a sensible use of time in trying to put matters right. In view of that explanation, I hope that the noble Lord will reconsider the matter and withdraw his amendment.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, as I understand it, if something is going wrong in a police service, the

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Secretary of State can say that it is happening in a particular area and that action should be taken. Is that not the responsibility of the police authority? Why should not the police authority do that as opposed to the Home Secretary? The Government seem to be gathering more power unto themselves.

It is particularly pertinent that I should ask this because I was responsible for taking the Police and Magistrates' Courts Bill through the House in 1994. We then had a problem in regard to making the police authorities bigger and deciding whether their members should consist of elected or appointed people. There was an appalling row about it. People said that the Government had got it wrong and that the Home Secretary was taking powers unto himself and overriding the elected people. One noble Lord said:

    "all this is part of the continuing destruction of local authorities. It is all part of gathering more power, whatever may be said by the Government about their intentions, into the hands of Whitehall and of Ministers who at the moment will be Conservative but who very shortly, I think, are likely to be Labour. That is an argument that ought to appeal to noble Lords opposite, if nothing else does".—[Official Report, 15/2/94; col. 120.]

The person who spoke those words was the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan of Cardiff. I was at the butt end of those remarks, which was, in its way, painful.

The Government are now seeking to do exactly the same. They are gathering unto the Home Secretary the power to tell police services what they should do and why they themselves have not done it. That is a dangerous road down which to go.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I am interested that the noble Earl is now gathering support behind something with which he disagreed some time ago when the argument was put by the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan.

Let me deal with the noble Earl's point. Yes, we are seeking to ensure that the Secretary of State can make an effective remedial intervention. But, rather than trying to create a wide power to enable the Secretary of State to come in and look only at the whole of a force with the overall objective of looking at a small part of it, we are seeking a narrower provision to enable attention to be paid to a specific part of under-performance in a geographical force area or in a particular service so that the whole force is not disrupted when measures to put right something which is clearly not working are sought.

We have to look at this problem through the mind's eye of the public. They want to see something which is patently failing put right. How that is achieved may be of secondary interest, but they will not want to see the whole of a police force area disrupted when changes are required only in a small part of it. That is why we seek this specific provision. If we were to go along the course promoted by the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, we would be undermining an important

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measure to improve the quality of policing in a particular area. I cannot believe that the public or your Lordships would support that proposition.

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