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Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, I have tabled two amendments in this grouping, Amendments Nos. 126 and 127. Amendment No. 126 seeks to ensure that the person affected by the decision of the Secretary of State in Clause 30 has an opportunity to make representations in writing or, indeed, via a third party acting on his behalf.

Amendment No. 127 is perhaps the more significant amendment. It quite deliberately seeks to introduce an independent third party into the process. A question is wrapped up in all this; that is, is there any potential conflict with the processes set out in the human rights legislation which one would normally expect to apply? It is a cause for real concern. If the Secretary of State comes to the conclusion—it may be a perfectly valid conclusion—that a chief constable or commissioner has to go, and he then goes to the authority, that authority has to comply and act in response to the request put by the Secretary of State. So we have here a one-way track.

We need to ask how independent are the existing procedures. We may be dealing with, if not a Commissioner of the Met, then a chief constable of around the age of 40. The loss of employment at that age presents real difficulties with regard to the possibility of securing alternative employment. The dispute may have arisen over a difference of opinion, shall we say, rather than over a matter of real substance. Without the intervention of some form of third party, this seems to pose particular problems.

We felt that it was worth tabling Amendment No. 127 simply to open up the issue to debate. At one point the facetious suggestion was made that chief constables do not in fact have any human rights, but of course that is absolute nonsense. I have to say that, on looking again at the matter, we decided that this is compliant with human rights legislation because, as a last resort, the chief constable can go to judicial review, which would impose an independent appeal. However, that also imposes huge costs and risks and thus could be extremely difficult.

We are dealing with the futures of people holding senior office. If they happen to be high-flying staff who arrive in senior posts while they are still young, then we are not dealing only with matters of salary and the security of a family, we are dealing with a person's potential in the pensions arena. This is very much a lifetime matter.

I ask the Minister to consider seriously whether we have struck exactly the right balance in these clauses. Even if Amendment No. 127 does not provide the right way of going about it, perhaps we ought to look again at this issue. I am not absolutely convinced that we have got it right at the present time.

Lord Rooker: My Lords, I shall be brief. Amendment No. 127 is otiose. It appears to assume

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that the requirement to appoint an inquiry in Section 42 cases has been removed, but the Bill retains that requirement. I hope that that answers the noble Lord.

As to the amendment of the noble Baroness, I am happy to consider the points she made. I do not want to repeat what I said about Amendment No. 124, but the best way to prescribe those matters is in the context of the regulations. The points she makes are valid and will not be forgotten. Consultation will be the norm—I hope that is taken as read—but there are cases where urgent action is vital. We shall look at this in the context of the regulations.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 30 [Removal etc. of senior officers at the instance of the Secretary of State]:

[Amendment No. 124 not moved.]

Lord Rooker moved Amendment No. 125:

    Page 30, line 16, leave out from "give" to "and" in line 19 and insert "the officer concerned—

(i) a notice of the Secretary of State's intention to require the exercise of that power; and
(ii) an explanation in writing of the Secretary of State's grounds for requiring the exercise of that power;"

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 126 and 127 not moved.]

Lord Rooker moved Amendments Nos. 128 and 129:

    Page 30, line 31, at end insert—

"( ) After subsection (3) there shall be inserted—
"(3A) At an inquiry held under subsection (3)—
(a) the Commissioner, Deputy Commissioner or, as the case may be, the chief constable in question shall be entitled, in accordance with any regulations under section 42A, to make representations to the inquiry;
(b) the Metropolitan Police Authority or, as the case may be, the police authority concerned shall be entitled, in accordance with any regulations made under section 42A, to make representations to the inquiry.
(3B) The entitlement of the Commissioner, Deputy Commissioner or, as the case may be, the chief constable in question to make representations shall include the entitlement to make them in person."
Page 30, line 45, after "constable" insert "a written explanation of the authority's grounds for calling upon him to retire or to resign, to give him"

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 31 [Regulations concerning procedure for removal of senior officers]:

Lord Rooker moved Amendment No. 130:

    Page 31, line 14, at end insert—

"( ) Before making any regulations under this section, the Secretary of State shall consult with—
(a) persons whom he considers to represent the interests of police authorities;
(b) persons whom he considers to represent the interests of chief officers of police; and
(c) such other persons as he thinks fit."

On Question, amendment agreed to.

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Lord Bradshaw moved Amendment No. 131:

    Before Clause 34, insert the following new clause—

(1) The chief officer of police of a police force maintained for a police area who appoints special constables in accordance with section 27 of the Police Act 1996 (c. 16), shall submit to the police authority for that area a draft scheme relating to the appointment, deployment and progression of such special constables.
(2) A draft scheme submitted under this section shall include the chief officer's proposals for—
(a) the recruitment, appointment, retention and progression of special constables;
(b) the arrangements for the provision of training for special constables;
(c) the arrangements for the provision of equipment for special constables;
(d) the arrangements for the making of payments to such special constables and the circumstances in which special constables shall be eligible for such payments; and
(e) an estimate of the costs to the police fund kept by the police authority of the scheme as a whole and each of paragraphs (a) to (d) above.
(3) Before approving any such scheme, the police authority may, after consulting the chief officer, revise or amend it.
(4) The chief officer may from time to time submit draft proposals for a revised or modified scheme to the police authority for its approval."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, before speaking to the amendment, which stands in the names of myself and my noble friends, I should declare that I am an elected member of a police authority. Regardless of the earlier comments of the noble Lord, Lord Corbett of Castle Vale—who said that he had never made representations to an elected member during 23 years in the other House—I am an elected member. I am surprised that he went through 23 years without meeting one, which probably reflects on him as much as it does on any police authority. I represent 610,000 people in the county of Oxfordshire and I am accountable to every county councillor for the behaviour of the police authority. So there is a democratic line of accountability, of which I am a part. I resent the remarks that were made earlier. They were thoroughly uncalled for.

In Committee, we had a useful debate on special constables—the subject of the amendment—where their commitment and work was rightly praised on all sides of the House. The Minister assured us that his department was actively looking at the issue of making payments to Specials, possibly through amending existing statutory instruments, which would not require primary legislation. He also said that a range of work was under way to tackle issues such as training, recruitment and so on. That was welcome news, which I know is fully supported by the APA and everyone involved in police work. The Minister recognised the principle behind the amendment, and what we are trying to do is very much in line with the Government's aims.

We have returned to this amendment because we believe that it is vital that the issue of the Special Constabulary is addressed. It is important that we are making the best use of the Special Constabulary before

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we turn our attention to the issue of community support officers and accredited persons, which we shall do tomorrow.

The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that all police authorities and forces have in place a coherent strategy for the use and deployment of Specials. It does not, as the Minister mischievously suggested, require the authorities and forces to have special constables if they do not wish to do so—although it would be a rare force which did not wish to have special constables. It will not place any new burden on the service. I am sure that every police force would welcome a coherent strategy.

We know that the number of special constables has declined rapidly, a decline matched by the inactivity of the Home Office in this respect. This is a matter which demands attention because the payment of Specials would be a ready made vehicle for increasing the numbers of the Special Constabulary at once. The amendment would ensure that authorities and forces have in hand a properly resourced strategy for recruiting, promoting, training and equipping Specials. I am sure that it is a way in which we could quickly boost the number of uniformed officers on the streets.

So I hope that the Government will give the amendment serious consideration. What we should like to hear above anything else is a date by which an order will be published, so that we know, even if it is some time in the future, that we can get on with recruiting and paying special constables. I beg to move.

10 p.m.

Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, in principle we support the amendment, albeit we believe that more original thinking is needed on the issue of special constables. The 1996 Act currently contains the section under which special constables are appointed. It is somewhat limited in terms of the breadth of provisions that can be made by regulation. To that extent, this amendment would assist. I hope that the Government will agree to consider it seriously and that they will not reject it out of hand. This is a serious matter.

Good though the amendment is, I am bound to say that it will not provide the kind of radical thinking that is required if we are ever to stimulate and rejuvenate the special constables process. That will be an occasion for a different debate. As I said, in principle we support the amendment.

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