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Baroness Anelay of St Johns: The noble Baroness gave crumb of comfort at the end, but she will understand that a meal of discontent came before it. I was very interested in the way in which she discarded the idea of direct election of people to authorities on the basis that there were elections enough. Has she spoken to her colleague, Mr Jack Straw, to explain that perhaps there should not be elections to this House as well? Perhaps that would be one election too many. One never knows.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: As ever, the noble Baroness has managed to say something that almost makes us all roll over and say, "Well, she is absolutely right on that so she must be right on the rest"but not quite.
We have had a long debate on core issues, but there are some simple principles involved here. I am grateful to the noble Baroness for saying that on some issues she will look again at the detail, but I am still very concerned about some of the matters that remain unresolved. There remains the core matter of how much should be in primary and how much in secondary legislation. The noble Baroness has said that she is prepared to listen but that the Government think that the balance is right. I think that it is important that all of us should be able between now and Report to look in detail at whether there should be any shifting of this information into secondary legislation. I still remain deeply concerned about that happening.
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Certainly there was a great deal of agreement around the Committee that too much was being shifted. That was backed up by the report of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee. The noble Baroness quoted from the first half of paragraph 20; the second halfthe recommendationmakes it clear that the committee's first choice would be for these matters to remain in primary legislation. We have a long way to go before Report if we are to achieve a measure of unanimity.
The noble Baroness rightly referred to the important way in which police authorities have worked on a consensual basis. I certainly recognise that and I congratulate them on the way in which they have done so. The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, was right to point out that there is a genuine dilemma about how you appoint people. Should it be on a geographical basis so that every area feels that it has its person there, or is it a matter of achieving a political balance? The political balance appears to have worked well. There has not been any party political in-fighting and each organisation has worked for the best of its community.
I think that a great many of the difficulties that we are about to face with the size of police authorities and how they function in the future with the new type of membership will be due to the Government's determination to merge police forces. Police authorities will cover much larger areas and therefore, automatically, there will be smaller areas which feel, "Excuse me, we are being left out"divisiveness may arise as a result of a geographical feeling of being omitted. So there is a genuine dilemma about how appointments should be made.
I certainly agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, that, overall, one has to look at how the organisation will function effectively. The amendments that she has brought forward today were especially helpful. Amendments Nos. 23 and 31 were particularly helpful in teasing out the detail of what we need to look at between now and Report.
Of course, the Minister said what I expected with regard to magistrates. I will say what she expects: I have listened to the Magistrates' Association, with which, as a long past magistrate myself, I have great sympathy. I shall not test the opinion of the House todayeven though the match has not yet begun and there is still time, I will not do thatbecause, as ever, when I bring forward amendments that are in response to specific requests from organisations, I refer back to them to seek their advice before I take any further action. But I feel that they have an expertise on which it would be wrong for police authorities to lose out as of right.
I feel that there is an overwhelming need for these matters to remain in primary legislation butpicking up from Dr Reid yesterdayI am prepared to listen. However, I think that my destination will remain the same. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Baroness said: Amendment No. 39 probes further another aspect of the extension of the Secretary of State's power to supervise police authorities. As with the previous group of amendments, we have grouped with our amendment a series of amendments from the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, and the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, which are very useful in teasing out the detail of the principles to which I hope to refer.
As I mentioned a moment ago, I remain extremely concerned about the extent to which the Secretary of State is moving into secondary legislation matters that were previouslyand I think properlygoverned by statute.
Amendment No. 39 would remove paragraphs 9 and 10 from the schedule. Paragraph 9 adds to the general functions of a police authority that are set out in Section 6 of the Police Act 1996. The primary duty under existing legislation is to secure an efficient and effective police force for the police authority's area. The change introduced in paragraph 9 makes it clear that it is the job of police authorities to hold the chief officer of police to account in the exercise of his functions and those of persons under his control and direction. This change has been welcomed by the Association of Police Authorities but ACPO is concerned about it.
What is the Minister's response to the view expressed by ACPO that this new provision, when taken together with other changes that are currently taking place to the way in which the personal performance of the chief officer is assessed, will create a linear relationship between police authorities and chief officers? The Association of Police Authorities, of course, believes that this change could improve local accountability. What arguments have the Government put forward to ACPO to demonstrate that it should bring greater local accountability without harming the chief officer's line of control over his or her force? How can they guarantee that there will be no politicisation of policing functions if this schedule goes through unamended and the membership loses magistrates and, of course, becomes dominated by councillors? The Minister has just said that magistrates will not be there as of right.
The remainder of paragraphs 9 and 10 broadly states that the Secretary of State shall determine the other police authority functions by secondary legislation. We question why these functions should be set out in secondary legislation rather than in primary legislation. If the matters in paragraph 9 were in primary legislation, the role of police authorities in representing the interests of local communities would be firmly established on the face of the legislation, thus guaranteeing that the constitutional balance between local and central interests is maintained.
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Does the Minister agree with the Association of Police Authorities in its briefing that the general list of functions should run as follows: a duty to ensure that communities are consulted in setting policing priorities; powers to set the strategic direction and objectives of the force within a national framework; a duty to promote diversity and good community relations; a duty on chief officers to provide information to police authorities and a power for police authorities to require chief officers to appear before the police authority; a duty to monitor the performance of the force for its area; and a duty to ensure that the force for the area should co-operate with other forces and other partners where appropriate? That is the list that the Association of Police Authorities briefed us would be appropriate. Should any of the matters on that list be excluded? Should any other matters be added? If there is no change, why not simply put that list into primary legislation? I beg to move.
Baroness Henig: I shall speak to the amendments in my nameAmendments Nos. 40 to 46, 48, 50 and 52. Amendment No. 40 is the key amendment that I wish to speak to and I am encouraged by the fact that my noble friend is listening to the argument. I have accepted all along that flexibility is important and that we do not want to enshrine provisions in primary legislation that might make it difficult to make changes in the future. I understand those arguments, but it is important to ensure that the role of the police authorities in representing the interests of local communities is firmly established in the legislation and that the constitutional balance between local and central interests is maintained.
Although I welcome the fact that the Bill gives a new function to police authorities of holding the chief constable to account for the performance of the force, I would like to add some specific functions to that in light of the experience of the past few years, because the police authorities have been carrying out a number of functions that underline their role in terms of local accountability. One very important one is making arrangements to consult and seek the views of people in the area. That should be spelt out.
Setting strategic direction and priorities is again absolutely essential. Like the last speaker, I have listed the sorts of issues that need to be spelt out to give the police authority its clear mandate in terms of local arrangements and its role in terms of local accountability. That is an essential part of the tripartite relationship, which is why I would very much like this to be spelt out in primary legislation. I do want to prolong arguments, because we have already heard plenty about the motives behind some of these amendments.
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