Select Committee on Unopposed Bill Committee Minutes of Evidence

Sections 660-679

London Local Authorities Bill [HL]

Wednesday 19 February 2003

660. These concerns at the heart of the Secretary of State's report, partly draw on the fears of Deputy Commissioner Ian Blair of the Metropolitan Police Service made to the Home Affairs Committee on 5 February 2002. This in turn points to another concern of the Home Office, namely the lack of thorough consultation and engagement with key policing agencies across London and police associations. Given that the drafting of Clause 32 effectively entails an extension to the jurisdiction of borough park constables through the phrase "vicinity of the local parks" in subsection 2(2), such Balkanisation fears are further exacerbated. It is not explicit on the face of the Bill what "in the vicinity" comprises which could lead to confusion and increases the risk of borough park constables intervening in incidents which they may not be adequately trained or equipped to deal with.

661. Again, I would emphasise that this is not a case of the Home Office being obstructive in order to assert its primacy in policing matters. Partnership policing is central to the Government's crime strategy and the Police Reform Act reinforces the importance of partnership policing by supporting an extended police family to assist local forces to make our streets and neighbourhoods safer - particularly through the provision of Community Support Officers and Community Safety Accreditation Schemes. CSOs and Accreditation schemes support the local police force, and free officers' time in providing a patrolling, reassuring presence in local communities, with a particular focus on tackling low-level anti-social behaviour. The Police Reform Act thereby envisages a layered structure of policing with different bodies taking on different policing responsibilities with powers commensurate to their role.

662. If we look at borough park constabularies, their role in providing a reassuring presence in local open spaces and enforcing local bylaws is very similar to the role of CSOs and Neighbourhood Wardens. Neither CSOs nor wardens have full constabulary powers. Rather they have limited powers that befit their role and level of training. Borough Park constabularies already have comparable powers and the Secretary of State does not consider that a sufficiently strong case has been made for them to have greater powers. Can I make a couple of points regarding some issues raised in the evidence given?

663. CHAIRMAN: Of course.

664. MR PAPALEONTIOU: Firstly, I think there is some confusion. Even if borough park constabularies were to have full constabulary powers, what police powers would they have? With regard to our experience of dealing with the British Transport Police, they certainly would not have powers to deal with truants. Although they would have the powers of a constable, much of the legislation refers to terminology that goes back to the Police Act 1996. Subsequent legislation like the Truancy Act only gives a Home Office force the powers to deal with truants, for example, not non-Home Office forces.

665. LORD TORDOFF: Could I just interrupt on that and seek clarification, because I got the impression from what we have heard earlier that, in fact, they do police truancy at the moment. Am I wrong?

(Mr Stratton) We used to police truancy in the park until the powers issued came up. When children were found in the park the headmaster of the school was 'phoned and if he was not available the parent was 'phoned and the child was then taken to one or the other place. Today that does not happen.

666. MR PAPALEONTIOU: Certainly British Transport Police may be a useful example to look at. As an example, the Anti-Terrorism and Crime Security Act and the Police Reform Act had to go through a range of police legislation to have access to police powers that they did not previously have. Stop and search powers under Section 16 of the 1994 Act they did not have, so even if this provision went through park constabularies would not have powers under those Acts.

667. The other point I would like to clarify is which boroughs have park constabularies? Our understanding is that there are a couple more we were made aware of by the Community and Open Spaces Policing Association, namely Newham, which I am not sure was mentioned, and Richmond.

668. LORD ELTON: Could you tell us in what respect, other than antiquity, the Royal Parks police differ from what the Promoters are seeking for their parks?

669. MR PAPALEONTIOU: With regards to the Royal Parks police they do have full constabulary powers within the Royal Parks, again just within their jurisdiction. However, we would emphasise that following the Speed report in 2001, which identified significant shortcomings in the Royal Parks Constabulary with regard to its management and set up, the Home Office and DCMS, as the lead department for the Royal Parks Constabulary, are working towards a merger of the Royal Parks Constabulary with the Metropolitan Police Service by 1 April 2004, which again shows the direction of Home Office policy in trying to get greater co-ordination and simplify police structures.

670. LORD ELTON: The report to which you refer, which related to various deficiencies, those were structural or administrative?

671. MR PAPALEONTIOU: There were 21 recommendations. Most of the criticisms or problems were to do with management and set up of that actual force. Again, the absence of policing plans and perhaps officers being aware of what they are supposed to be doing, along with accountability and no police authority. Those were the major issues.

672. LORD ELTON: With the exception of the absence of a police authority, those were all complaints about how it was being used rather than how it was constructed. What we are being asked to do is to authorise a construction on the assumption that it would be properly used.

673. MR PAPALEONTIOU: I think that the absence of a police authority is, as you say, a significant structural fault. The actual Speed report recommended significant additional moneys being given to the Royal Parks police for a merger of the Royal Parks police with the Metropolitan Police Service. DCMS, in its capacity as lead department for the Royal Parks Constabulary say it will be far more effective in terms of follow-through after a merger with the Metropolitan Police Service, and will be involved in the setting up of policy authority for a force of 150 officers, which clearly was not very viable. (?)

674. CHAIRMAN: Recently, of course, the responsibility for the Metropolitan Police has gone from the Home Secretary to the GLA. Is the authority for a police authority within the GLA? Is that not right?

675. MR HEPPLE: The Metropolitan Police Authority is the police authority for London and the members of that are members of the GLA.

676. CHAIRMAN: It is part of the GLA as such.

677. MR HEPPLE: I am not sure if it is entirely. I think some of its members come from the GLA but I do not know if all of its members are GLA members. I would have to clarify that.

678. CHAIRMAN: There is a lot of shaking of heads.

679. MR LEWIS: I am instructed it is part of the GLA family. Mr Khan will be able to help.

previous page contents next page

House of Lords home page Parliament home page House of Commons home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2003