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Lord Rooker: My Lords, I fully accept the reason why the noble Viscount has returned with this amendment. I have no doubt that this is not the last time when this particular issue will be raised during the passage of the Bill.

We have tried to embrace in Part 2 of the Bill the principle of much greater accessibility to the police complaints system. We have more explicitly defined than in existing legislation who can make a complaint. This will, therefore, replace any scope for the use of discretion over the recording of complaints with much more consistency and clarity.

We have also provided the would-be complainant with a right to appeal to the commission against the non-recording of a complaint. This right of appeal is predicated on the fact that while the definition of a complaint is a wide one, it also sensibly limits complaints to those made by people who are likely to have a relevant connection with the police conduct under question.

We want a system under which the conduct of anyone serving with the police, which has an adverse effect on a member of the public, is dealt with efficiently and effectively. That is why it is not just "victims" who will be able to make a complaint. People who can make a complaint will also include "witnesses". I gave one example during Committee stage, as I recall. That is people who have full control of a CCTV system, for example. Also, people acting on behalf of "victims" or "witnesses" will have the right to make a complaint. It is also why people who may be apprehensive about approaching the police, which I fully understand, will also be able to make complaints through "gateways", that is to say, through certain community organisations and individuals who have regular contact with members of the public.

While I do not want to open up a new debate, it may be that this will cover the area of the informed whistle-blower referred to by the noble Viscount. However, these amendments would enable any member of the public to complain about the conduct of anyone serving with the police whether or not they had any connection with the incident or would be able to contribute in any way towards an investigation.

These amendments, coupled with the right of appeal, would radically change the nature of the system by creating a significant amount of additional administrative work for the police and the commission. It would mean that any and all allegations might wend their way through the system, taking up time and resources disproportionate to the importance of the complaint.

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The intention is to open up the system so that conduct by anyone serving with the police which has an adverse effect on a member of the public is dealt with, while ensuring that that is done properly. Members of the public who, for various reasons, do not want to make direct complaints to the police can do so through others. They will have a connection with the complaint. The change proposed would jeopardise that, which I do not believe would be in anyone's interest.

9.15 p.m.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: My Lords, I recollect that at such an hour in Committee the Government introduced a measure that gave the commission authority to initiate an inquiry of its own on which my noble friend Lord Renton animadverted at the time. Was the Minister thinking of that in relation to what he has just said, or was that quite a separate matter?

Lord Rooker: My Lords, that is a separate matter. I see noble Lords nodding. If a category of people has a connection with an incident in which the public have been treated badly by someone serving in the police or working for the police authority and that category is not covered by what I have said, I would be pleased to hear about it. We do not want to rule that out.

We do not want to give carte blanche so that anyone who reads something in the media can make a complaint and have the right of appeal and all the other rights that go with the new process. We do not seek to stop anyone who has a complaint relating to themselves or to a friend dealing with it through a go-between or through a third party, but there has to be a connection with someone who has been badly treated by the police. If the matter is left wide open, it will not take long for someone who wants to create a mountain of paperwork to work out how to clog up the system as an act of policy. The point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, relates to the fact that the commission itself—it is a powerful commission—can initiate inquiries about complaints, but that has nothing to do with the substance of this amendment.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: My Lords, I have one question arising out of that. I have no difficulty in accepting why the Government are anxious to prevent people who have no connection with a case starting hares running. In terms of the points raised by my noble friend in moving the amendment in relation to whistle-blowers, it is presumably conceivably the case that the commission might act on a whistle-blower's contribution.

Lord Rooker: My Lords, if the commission knew who the whistle-blower was, and the complaint was made to the commission by the whistle-blower but he did not want to do it publicly, it may be up to the commission to take that on board. Alternatively, I think that the whistle-blower would be able to complain to the commission through another party—a friend or an organisation. We are not closing off the

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opportunity for the complaint to be made if the person concerned is operating as a whistle-blower, by which I am assuming that he is someone inside the organisation or the police. It is not unknown for that to happen. We do not want to exclude that in any way, shape or form, but the complaint has to be about someone who was badly treated by the police. It is difficult to conceive of the circumstances. If noble Lords can come up with better examples, I shall try to come up with a better answer.

Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, I am sure that we are all working for the same purpose, which is to make the new commission work as well and as efficiently as possible. We appear to be discussing whether, in drafting legislation, we can make a judgment about the validity of a complaint, or whether it is better to leave the commission to make such a judgment when it receives the complaint. I believe that that is what my noble friend Lord Bridgeman is proposing.

Viscount Bridgeman: My Lords, in mentioning a whistle-blower, I meant someone who is totally independent. I did not mean an inside person. I have carefully noted what the Minister has said. If there is a possibility of expanding the category slightly, perhaps we can return to the point at Third Reading. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 112 not moved.]

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 113:

    Page 12, line 15, at end insert "; or

(d) he is an accredited person for the purposes of section 35"

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Clause 12 defines who can be the subject of a complaint to the complaints commission. We believe that the clause is inadequate. Unless we manage later to implement some other changes, we shall have people exercising police powers on the streets who are not subject to normal police discipline nor to the complaints commission.

We think that that is an omission which should be corrected. I accept that we debated the issue in Committee but we believe that we should return to the matter. We are clear that the ultimate supervision of people who act with police powers has to be, first, by the police and, ultimately, if it comes to a question of complaint, through the police complaints commission.

A difference of principle exists between ourselves and the Government. However, we do not apologise for again raising the matter. I beg to move.

Lord Rooker: My Lords, no noble Lord needs to apologise for bringing matters back on Report. I make no complaint about that. I am switching back to emollient mode at the moment. I mean that because we could look at issues three or four times. We may think that we have got it right but we can always have a second look. The noble Lord is right: there is a matter of principle. These people are not employed by the chief constable. They are not employed by the police

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authority. By definition they are well outside the police family. They are part of the extended police family. They have an employer because they are part of the accredited system. The individual or the employer would not be accredited unless the employer had a good complaints system. If things go wrong, the ultimate sanction is for the chief constable to remove the accreditation of that person or organisation.

My right honourable friend and I have discussed the matters raised. I give an example to the House. There are organisations with powers over people. Examples include neighbourhood street wardens and dog wardens. In some parts of the country there are still park keepers. Environmental health officers have fairly substantial powers. Those are not police powers but they are similar to the powers used by the accredited person. No one has suggested that they should be brought within the remit of a police complaints authority. The employer should have a satisfactory system for complaints about such persons. At the end of the day, the issue can go to the independent ombudsman as well as to elected councillors.

A strong case cannot be argued. As the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, said, it is a point of principle. If it is inappropriate to use the new independent police complaints commission for existing local authority employees, it is equally inappropriate to bring accredited community safety officers within the commission's jurisdiction. We have a problem. The accreditation process is meant to help the police by providing a co-ordinated response from other sections of the community, whether shopping centre wardens, local authority guards or private sector security people. Theirs is a more hands-on role. They will have to keep their house in order or they will lose their accreditation. Without accreditation some of those people will go out of business. The shopping centre will not use an unaccredited person under this system. It will become the norm that people not approved by the local chief of police will be told, "Sorry, we don't want you or your staff". That will be important for the public perception. Where people are guarding premises, looking after shopping centres and so on, it will be a comfort to the public to know that the chief of police has had a role in who is doing the "policing".

If an accredited person is alleged to have committed a crime, the police will investigate that matter as with any other. The allegation of misconduct breaches the employer's disciplinary code. If the employer does nothing about it, that is unsatisfactory. The ultimate sanction is that the employer loses the accreditation of the people; that is, he will go out of business. That is quite a sanction.

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