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Lord Dholakia: Will the Minister elaborate further on the role of the Home Secretary in the appointment of the chief executive? I well understand the appointment of the chairman and members of the board, including the representatives of the professional bodies, but does that fall comfortably within the recommendations of the Nolan committee on making such appointments? The Home Secretary is not going to be a member of the board and the chairman and members of the board will be running the organisation, so will it not be a recipe for disaster to impose a chief executive without the adequate involvement of other people?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: I do not share the pessimistic view of these matters held by the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia. This is a national agency, and the Home Secretary is ultimately accountable for its development, work, strength and success. It is clearly right that he makes his view about the overall strategic direction clear. The chief executive post is an important part of ensuring that the agency works in a way that is consistent with the Home Secretary's view, for which he is held to account. I explained earlier that the chief executive will be a member of the board and that that is consistent with the guidance offered by the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments. These arrangements are workable and right. They take us in the right direction. They are not uncommon in organisations that have been set up by statute where the strategic direction is set by Secretaries of State. I am content with the arrangements that we have established. It is also worth saying that Peter Neyroud was appointed on the advice of a selection panel that included APA and ACPO members. Both organisations were involved in the process. While the Secretary of State ultimately carries the can and takes responsibility, the process was not conducted without wider involvement and participation.
Lord Borrie: I want to pursue the point about the chief executive raised by the noble Lord,
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Lord Dholakia. The Minister seems to present a much stronger case for the body at its outset, when it is entirely new. However, as the years go by and a new chief executive is requiredfor example, because his term has come to an end or because of an unfortunate deathsurely it is a prime responsibility of the chairman and the other members of the agency to appoint someone who they are absolutely satisfied will work with them and towards the objectives of the agency. Does my noble friend accept that? Surely, as long as there is consultation with the Minister, for which the amendment provides, it seems more usual that the appointment should be made by the agency itself. I am not sure that I have heard any argument against that once the years have gone by and the agency is up and running.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: I understand my noble friend's point. He is very experienced in the public service and will know from that experience how such appointments are best organised and managed. It may well be that, over time, this matter is reviewed further but, at this stage, it is right that we have the process that we have set in train. As ever, we are committed to ensuring that we have proper and effective consultation in place. As I explained earlier, that is exactly how we have approached this appointment. In the longer term, his point is one on which the Government may want to reflect.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, for his response to a large group of amendments tabled with one main objective, which was to explore whether there would be good governance of the new agency. The last intervention by the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, took us to the heart of the issue. It is important to get things right from the beginning. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, that when you start an agency, it is not living and breathing, it has not established its credentials, so it seems understandable that the Home Secretary would be the driving force for appointments. Indeed, as we know, there is now a chief executive-designate. We do not complain about that. Far from it, we want to ensure that the future development of the agency is effective. I should certainly like to consider that matter further at a later stage.
We will also need to consider what the Minister said about the size of the board, which he thinks will be about 12, and whether the two members each from ACPO and the police authorities is the right proportion. It may well be that it is.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: Before the noble Baroness concludes on that point, I should like to make a further point to drive the business of chief executive appointments home. This is the first occasion; in future appointments we would expect the NPIA chairman to be on the selection panel and tasked with
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recruiting any future chief executive. I made clear that we do not see this as set in stone. As I said earlier, as the organisation develops, relationships will change.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: That intervention from the Minister was very helpful. We are all trying to get the same result. It is just that, as the Bill is drafted, it will not necessarily get us there. It may not need very much improvement. That is something that we can discuss during the rather long Summer Recessat least I hope that it will be a nice, long Summer Recess; we all do, especially after this barrage of Home Office Bills.
The Minister also responded on the method of consultation and who would be consulted. As ever, the Government want flexibility. I understand the difficulty of naming in the Bill statutory consulteesnot least for the practical reason that the Minister gives that if they change their name or go out of business, how do we amend the Bill other than by new legislation? I am grateful to him for saying that the Government will consider further the point made by Ken Jones of ACPO about naming the association as a statutory consultee in a limited case within the Bill. It will be interesting to see whether discussion with ACPO bears fruit.
Disappointingly, the Minister repeated the Government's response about the 15 per cent contribution idea. They seem to think that if one gives 15 per cent of the budget, one only ever has 15 per cent control over what is going on. That, however, was not the indication; the indication was to try to adopt the Government's preferred use of having stakeholders here, there and everywhere. I can see that I will get nowhere with this, and I shall chew on it for another day. It may never return.
There are issues here. We will need to think about good governance to ensure that the tripartite relationship is strengthened and not unbalanced or weakened. At this stage, however, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Lord said: This is a technical amendment. It is already a criminal offence to stir up disaffection among members of police forces and constables of the British Transport Police and the Civil Nuclear Constabulary. The Bill extends this liability to include constables of the NPIA. However, as some constables on the staff of the agency may be employees, there is also the possibility of civil action where they are induced to withhold their services. Paragraph 71(3) of Schedule 1 therefore inserts new Section 91(3) to make it clear that, for agency constables, criminal liability under Section 91 is in addition to any civil liability. The
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amendment simply extends that to include the Civil Nuclear Constabulary and the British Transport Police. I beg to move.
"REVISED POWER TO ALTER POLICE AREAS BY ORDER
In section 32(3) of the Police Act 1996 (c. 16) (power to alter police areas by order)
(a) leave out "either";
(b) in paragraph (a) for "or" substitute "and"."
The noble Baroness said: Amendment No. 14 focuses on the Government's plans to compel police forces to merge. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, and the noble Viscount, Lord Tenby, for their support for the amendment.
The Government say that they are in favour of neighbourhood policing and local accountability. We support them in that. They say they want a police service that is fit for purpose in the 21st century. We support them in that. Those are both laudable objectives. But then the Government career off on the wrong course, which cannot achieve those objectives. They insist that police forces should be merged even where local opinion is firmly against that, even where the results could be damaging for effective policing and even when they have not given the federal alternative the opportunity to prove itself. We cannot support the Government in that.
My amendment focuses on the importance of the Secretary of State going ahead with the merger of police forces only when he has the consent of the relevant police authorities. The report of Denis O'Connor, of Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary, on which the Government are relying to press ahead with their forced merger, said:
In the 1960s, when police force amalgamations were last considered, a royal commission was established that took two years to report. Legislation was introduced a year later. It was recognised that the structure of police forces is a fundamental issue on which the public, the forces themselves and their police authorities need to be properly consulted. We believe that the way in which the Government are proceeding could not be more different. The previous Home Secretary's proposals to amalgamate forces were announced last September, when he gave them just four months to respond. He attempted, in the words of the Labour chairman of the Association of Police Authorities, to "bully and bribe" authorities to agree
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to his proposals and to meet the deadlinea tactic that backfired spectacularly when not one authority submitted to it. In February, the Home Secretary again gave police authorities an ultimatumthis time to submit proposals for voluntary mergers within just three weeks. Again, almost all the authorities concerned refused. But the Home Secretary announced that he would proceed with compulsory amalgamations regardless.
The basis of the general restructuring is founded on the report Closing the Gap. It has been shown that the methodology of that report is in some respects fundamentally flawed. Several academic analyses have questioned the methodology and conclusions, one of the most recent being Barry Loveday's Policy Exchange report, Size Isn't Everything. The Police Act 1996 already provides that the Secretary of State can require police forces to collaborate in the interests of efficiency and effectiveness. That renders amalgamations unnecessary, yet the Home Secretary has not used those powers. It would surely be appropriate to use them now as a more cost-effective alternative to amalgamations. Yet the Government have rejected the alternative proposals for a federated model, which were put forward by police and police authorities.
If the Government are truly more interested in addressing an alleged inadequacy in the protective services and are less interested in moving towards a national police force, I hope that they will give alternative options the opportunity to prove their worth. The Government claim that they have rejected the idea of a national police force, but their reorganisations are moving us steadily towards that model. There would be 12 police chiefs, rather than 43, who would effectively answer to the Home Secretary and not their local communities.
There has been no accurate costing of any of these amalgamations. But police authorities are convinced that the impact will be the loss of a significant number of police officers. I am aware that yesterday the Home Secretary in another place made it clear that the 25,000 figure quoted in the press as a potential loss of numbers was the worst-case scenario, but he did not deny that there would be losses, which was interesting.
The financial basis of the exercise is deeply flawed. Like most reorganisations, this is likely to cost more and save less than the proponents of the plan would have us believe. The federal approach would allow greater collaboration between forces on protective services. Services such as air support, firearms training and clothing and vehicle procurement, to name but a few, could be done effectively through collaboration on a formal footing. That would have the advantage of enabling individual forces to maintain their independence and local accountability to their communities.
I am very grateful to Surrey County Council for sending me today a copy of a speech made there on behalf of a police authority, which clearly states the
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commitment that Surrey has to making a federal model work. It feels that it has the resources and the ability to make it work well.
On 15 May, the Home Secretary stated that he had been told that the federal option had been tried in several areas and had not worked particularly well. That is not what I understand from the experience of police authorities. Can the Minister say where a formal federated system has been implemented and has failed? The advantage of the federal approach, as one of the available solutions, was set out in the Association of Police Authorities' paper Joining Forces, which was submitted to the Home Office earlier this year. I understand that, so far, there has been no response from the Home Office.
Yesterday, in another place, the Home Secretary said that he would not lay an order for enforced police mergers before the Summer Recess. He said that he would go ahead only with those where there had been a voluntary agreement. He also stressed time and again that he believes that the destination of mergers across the country should remain the same. He said:
"The destination that has been outlined . . . is the correct one . . . I repeat that the strategic direction and the ultimate destination . . . are correct . . . the destination that we want to end up at, which was identified by my predecessor as Secretary of State, is the right one . . . I do not seek another destination".[Official Report, Commons, 19/6/06; cols. 1058-60.]
It is vital today to try to persuade the Government to think again. Amendment No. 14 would amend Section 32 of the Police Act 1996, so that mergers can still go ahead, but only in circumstances where the police authorities make a request to the Secretary of State for a merger and the Secretary of State believes that such a merger would be right and in the interests of the efficiency or effectiveness of policing in those areas. It has the benefit of allowing mergers to proceed where it is right that they should do so, while protecting policing from enforced mergers at the will of the Secretary of State where local opinion is firmly against his direction and local requirements would not benefit from those mergers. That must be the right way forward. I beg to move.
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