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Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, first, as the noble Lord will no doubt be aware, the proposals have been developed over a considerable period. My right honourable friend Hazel Blears, the Minister who has led on the matter, has consulted widely up and down the country to try to ensure that we properly understand people's needs. The review is predicated on the HMIC report, which gave trenchant advice to my right honourable friend the Home Secretary on the changes needed to police communities properly.

Lord Taylor of Blackburn: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for the announcement made last week that the Lancashire and Cumbria police forces have joined together voluntarily. May we express our appreciation to the Home Secretary for the financial assistance that he has given us to allow us to do that voluntarily?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I very much endorse what my noble friend said and commend Cumbria and Lancashire for putting the needs of their people first.

Baroness Harris of Richmond: My Lords, how does the Minister believe that accountability and the tripartite structure can be improved by the proposed amalgamations of police forces?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, of course we must ensure that accountability is clear. We have set out the role, which is focusing on critical strategic issues; appointing the chief officer and other ACPO ranks and holding him or her to account; setting the budget; and determining the level of precepts. All that is essential. We must consider the size of police authorities. They must be manageable and fit for purpose. Pulling that together is of the utmost importance.

Viscount Bridgeman: My Lords, does the Minister recognise how much damage to morale the current climate of speculation and rumour—some rumours being initiated by official government papers—is engendering in police forces?
 
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Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, performance is very high in the police service, and morale therefore, especially bearing in mind the investment that we have made, is equally high. There are problems. Any change will cause anxiety, and change is not easy; but we have taken seriously the recommendations made by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary, which has given my right honourable friend the Home Secretary the most trenchant advice on what should be done to meet the needs of the people we serve.

Baroness Henig: My Lords, does not my noble friend agree that the main objective of the present proposals to amalgamate forces is in fact to enhance protective capacity and enable the police to prosecute level 2 crime more effectively? In agreeing to merge last Friday, Lancashire and Cumbria had precisely that objective in view: they want to offer the people of Lancashire and Cumbria a better protective service. Will my noble friend assure me that the Home Office will work closely with those forces and others that agree to amalgamate to enable them to offer the public a better service, which is surely what we are all about?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I absolutely agree with my noble friend, and I give her that clear undertaking and assurance.

Lord Waddington: My Lords, will the Minister tell us how much the Government are minded to contribute to the cost of reorganisation and how much of that will be new money?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, the noble Lord will know that we have already indicated a contribution of £125 million for the first phase. Of course we are considering figures; I gave a figure that has been given by others. We continue to consider those issues, and we will be able to say more once we have done so.

Lord Rotherwick: My Lords, will the Minister answer the second part of the question asked by my noble friend Lord Elton on the consultation that was widely held up and down the country?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, my right honourable friend Hazel Blears undertook a series of consultations with stakeholders and others. I am happy to write to the noble Lord, setting out the consultations that were held and how they were held. Noble Lords will appreciate that the primary focus of the amalgamation will be on the services themselves.

Lord Tebbit: My Lords, will the proposed boundaries of the new forces be coterminous with the British regions as set out by the European Commission?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I cannot give the noble Lord the answer that he seeks. They probably will be, but I am happy to write to him. To be absolutely frank, I have no idea.

Lord Swinfen: My Lords, there have been rumours of a trans-Manche force from Kent and East Sussex
 
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and a French force. Will the Minister say whether there are any plans for cross-national border amalgamations of police forces?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: No, my Lords.

EU: UK Legislation

2.52 pm

Lord Pearson of Rannoch asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Triesman): My Lords, as I explained to the noble Lord in a Written Answer to an almost identical Question in November, on the basis of the analysis of regulatory impact assessments carried out on EU and domestic legislation, we estimate that around half of all UK legislation that has an impact on business, charities and the voluntary sector emanates from the EU. House of Commons analysis of UK statutory instruments implemented annually under the European Communities Act suggests that on average around 9 per cent of all statutory instruments originate from the EU.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that reply, but as the German federal justice department has reported that 80 per cent of German national legislation now comes from Brussels, I fear that his estimate appears to be rather low, which is unsurprising.

Does the Minister agree that we are talking about a system whereby much of our law is hatched in secret by the unelected Commission, is negotiated in secret by COREPER, the committee of permanent national bureaucrats, after which it is decided in secret by the Council of Ministers, ratified by the otherwise pointless EU Parliament and then adjudicated, if necessary, by that engine of European integration, the Luxembourg court, against whose edicts there is no appeal? Since the House of Commons and your Lordships' House are bound to enact whatever emerges from that system, does not all that make us somewhat redundant?

Lord Triesman: My Lords, I am always eager to go the extra kilometre to respond to the noble Lord. The German Government, incidentally, do not believe that estimate to be accurate. The Dutch Government believe that the figure is about 14 per cent. I guess that there are different estimates, probably based on different methods, but I cannot accept the point about the degree of secrecy and complicity. I read about the
 
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range of decisions, which the noble Lord has described, every day in the newspapers in great detail, sometimes with a little tedium.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, does not the difference between the German figures and the UK figures cited by the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, simply mean that we are legislative junkies?

Lord Triesman: My Lords, I never thought that I would get into a drug abuse answer on this Question. That may be the case, but it is possible to produce extraordinary estimates that do not bear much relation to the reality. I do not see either of the Houses of Parliament becoming redundant in the process.

Lord Waddington: My Lords, does the Minister agree that, so long as the Commission alone has the power to propose new laws and, therefore, to propose the repeal of existing laws, there is no hope of the blizzard of regulations abating, let alone of any meaningful deregulation? Is it not pathetic that at the deregulation conference in September there was no promise to repeal any existing regulation? The only promise was to cut some pending proposals. Is it not time that Her Majesty's Government got to work on their colleagues in Europe to persuade them of the need for institutional change and for the removal of the monopoly on the proposal of legislation from the Commission?


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