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Baroness Harris of Richmond: I will speak briefly to Amendment No. 40 in this group, to which I have
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added my name. As the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, said, the amendment places key principles in primary legislation. We spoke about this matter at Second Reading when my concern was to ensure that only the details that appropriately and genuinely needed to be in secondary legislation should be there.
Lord Harris of Haringey: I wish to speak to Amendments Nos. 40 to 46, 48, and 50 to 52, which are in my name. Since Amendment No. 51 is a companion to Amendment No. 49, it may be helpful if I speak to that now even though it is in a later group. Amendments Nos. 53 to 56 and 58 all relate to the responsibilities of police authorities, so it may also be helpful if I speak to those at the same time. Clearly, we have already had the debate about what should be in primary or secondary legislation. Just as fundamental as issues around membership, chairs and vice-chairs is the question of police authority powers and responsibilities, which is the core of many of the amendments in this group.
Amendment No. 40 clearly set outs in primary legislation the responsibilities of police authorities. Amendments Nos. 46, 48, 50 and 52 try to move away from what seems to be a rather strange process in the Bill whereby the Secretary of State is given rather more power to specify the nature of the police authority plans and strategic plans and how they should be consulted on, which I am not convinced is necessary.
Amendment No. 51 is a companion to Amendment No. 49 and relates to the powers that are, in essence, lost if best value is wholly or partially disapplied. It places an obligation on the chief officer of police to provide to the police authority relevant information to enable it to discharge its general functions. That is the principal part and consequence of accountability.
Amendments Nos. 53 to 56 and 58 relate to the position of the senior officer team immediately under the position of chief constable. It reinstates the position in the Police Act 1996, whereby it is the police authority and not the chief constable that should determine which senior officer should act in the place of the chief constable during his or her absence. It would also place on police authorities the responsibility to ensure that both the structure and skills available within the senior officer team are robust and resilient, something that is currently done with police authorities making those appointments. Similarly, there should be a parallel arrangement in the allocation of portfolios between the senior officer team, and the precise number of senior police staff posts should be determined in the same way. That is consistent with current practice and it would be helpful if it were reflected in the Bill rather than being diluted, which would otherwise be the consequence.
I would have thought that the Minister would want to take back with her the need to look very seriously at the duty imposed on the police under the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000. We have been talking about who should make the appointment, how the appointment should be made, whether there should be geographical or political balances and so forth. However, the crucial need is to have an equality audit so that a diverse range of people are not in any way discouraged or disadvantaged, as is mentioned in paragraph (g). All these factors must be taken into account. They must be on the face of the Bill so that authorities and others will know their obligations under this very important legislation.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: I now have to respond to a rather larger group of amendments than I originally intended, because the noble Lord, Lord Harris, has brought into the debate, quite understandably, Amendment No. 49 and those that follow on from Amendment No. 53. The amendments tabled by the noble Baroness opposite relate to the functions of police authorities. The noble Baronesses, Lady Anelay and Lady Harris, referred to our approach to these issues. In essence, there is a lot of agreement throughout the Committee as to the general direction in which we wish to travel and how we see police authorities working. In the end, we probably differ only about the means of achieving that end.
It is worth reminding the Committee that in the White Paper Building Communities, Beating Crime we clearly set out proposals for strengthening the effectiveness of police authorities, including by conferring on them additional responsibilities. Paragraph 9 of Schedule 2 to the Bill confers a new responsibility on police authorities to hold the chief officer,
or her functions. That is already an implicit function, but is not stated in legislation. The Bill provides for this function to be made explicit. Paragraph 10 of Schedule 2 will enable the Secretary of State to confer other functions on police authorities by order. These include monitoring the performance of their police force in complying with duties imposed by the Police Act, the Human Rights Act and other legislation; securing arrangements for their force to co-operate with other forces whenever necessary or expedient; and promoting diversity within the force and within the authority itself.
I am conscious that concerns have been raised that much of the detail of the functions will be in secondary legislation. I know that ACPO in particular has concerns about moving the provisions relating to policy plans to secondary legislation. However, we want to make it clear that chief constables retain responsibility for drafting the local policing plan. The plan would as now be the authority's plan but the authority would need to consult the chief constable before making any major changes. But we are
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prepared to look at that issue in particular, as the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, raised it, in time for Report. In respect of the provisions on the composition of police authorities, this approach is consistent with the more general move to make primary legislation more flexible. That is the benefit of using the secondary legislation route.
Placing police authority functions in secondary legislation does not affect the balance of the tripartite framework, which we greatly respect and whose effectiveness over the past few decades we acknowledge. The primary functions of maintaining an efficient and effective police force and holding the chief officer to account for the way in which he or she discharges his functions will remain on the face of the Police Act 1996.
As I said before, there is not a great deal between us. My noble friend Lady Henig has accepted in her Amendment No. 43 the principle that additional functions could be conferred on police authorities by secondary legislation. That makes good sense because new situations arise and other issues may well come to light; it is important at all times to retain some flexibility in how the legislation works. Her Amendment No. 40, which seeks to write the proposed new functions on to the face of the 1996 Act, has much the same practical effect as the Government's new Section 6ZA. I offer her an assurance that we will exercise the various new delegated powers so that police authorities will continue to be required to publish policing plans and policing objectives, to ensure that their communities are properly consulted and to exercise the new functions specified in subsection (2) of new Section 6ZA.
It is worth noting that, in its report on the Bill, the Delegated Powers Committee did not pass comment on the order-making power in paragraph 10, in contrast to the power in paragraph 11. We can take it from the committee's silence that it did not view either the order-making power or the level of parliamentary scrutiny as objectionable.
Amendment No. 49, which was proposed by my noble friend Lord Harris, seeks to place a new duty on the Metropolitan Police Commissioner to provide the Metropolitan Police Authority with such information as it considers necessary to enable it to discharge its core functions. I do not disputewho would?that police authorities need access to information held by their chief constable so that they can properly discharge their functions. In most cases, such information will readily be provided without recourse to formal statutory mechanisms. When a police authority needs to resort to such formal legal mechanisms, Section 22 of the Police Act 1996 already gives it a power to require the chief constable to submit a report on those matters connected with the policing of the force area as the authority may specify.
We would need to see a compelling case that the existing informal and formal mechanisms are not working as they should before we would be ready to concede that additional powers for police authorities are needed in this area. I would want to test such a case
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with both the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Association of Police Authorities. I acknowledge that concerns have been expressed about the impact of the Bill on the balance of the tripartite framework. But a number of the amendments that we have debated today, when taken together, would fundamentally alter the balance of the relationship, particularly between chief constables and police authorities. We should not rush into such changes without very careful and detailed examination of the longer-term implications. I therefore ask my noble friend, Lord Harris, to reflect on his amendment and not to move it.
Amendments Nos. 53 and 54 relate to the arrangements for the designation of deputy chief constables and assistant chief constables to exercise the functions of chief constable in his or her absence. We consider such arrangements to be a direction and control matter, and therefore properly the primary responsibility of the chief constable. In providing for the chief constable to make such designations, after consultation with the police authority, we are simply reverting to the position that existed under the Police and Magistrates' Courts Act 1994. Deputising for the chief constable is but one of the duties of a deputy chief constable or assistant chief constable. Given that the chief constable is responsible for allocating portfolios to his or her senior management team, it is logical that he or she should also determine which of his or her senior officers should deputise in his or her absence.
Amendments Nos. 55 and 56 relate to the appointment of chief officers. Police authorities already have the statutory responsibility for the appointment of chief officers. It is already the case that the police authority determines the number of assistant chief constables and the Bill extends this to deputy chief constable posts, subject to the consent of the Home Secretary. In advertising these posts, the police authority will need to consider, in consultation with the chief constable, the expertise required. The current arrangements work well, so again we see no particular need to add to statutory provision in that respect.
Finally, Amendment No. 58 relates to the appointment of senior police staff. While the appointment of senior police staff, such as the directors of finance, human resources and IT, is the responsibility of the chief constable, and the appointment of chief officers is primarily the responsibility of the police authority, we are aware of successful arrangements whereby authorities and chief constables work together on these appointments. This is good practice, we commend it and see no need to entrench it in a legislative change. All the issues raised in these amendments relate to the balance of responsibilities of police authorities and chief constables. I am sure that my noble friend will agree that we should not seek to alter that balance without the dialogue with ACPO and APA that I talked of earlier. I appreciate that my noble friend speaks with a great deal of authority with regard to those two organisations.
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This has been a very helpful and welcome debate on this range of issues. We are all searching to make the legislation relevant to where we are in the development of the police service. We need to get the balance of the legislation right between having things on the face of the Bill, with its necessary inflexibility and precision, and expressing them in secondary legislation, which enables a degree of flexibility as service develops, conditions change and new demands and pressures arise that require a more flexible approach to issues of management structure and organisation. Having heard many of the arguments, I am grateful for the points of view that have been offered on these issues but hope that the amendments will not be pressed.
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