Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page



CONTENTS

Addington, L. [Teller]
Avebury, L.
Cotter, L.
Falkner of Margravine, B.
Finlay of Llandaff, B.
Harris of Richmond, B.
Hylton, L.
Judd, L.
Kirkwood of Kirkhope, L.
Lee of Trafford, L.
Linklater of Butterstone, B.
Livsey of Talgarth, L.
Miller of Chilthorne Domer, B.
Roberts of Llandudno, L.
Roper, L.
Rowe-Beddoe, L.
Shutt of Greetland, L. [Teller]
Thomas of Gresford, L.
Wallace of Tankerness, L.
Walmsley, B.
Williams of Crosby, B.

NOT CONTENTS

Adonis, L.
Andrews, B.
Ashton of Upholland, B. [Lord President.]
Bach, L.
Bassam of Brighton, L.
Bernstein of Craigweil, L.
Boyd of Duncansby, L.
Bradley, L.
Brett, L.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.
Brookman, L.
Corbett of Castle Vale, L.
Davidson of Glen Clova, L.
Davies of Coity, L.
Davies of Oldham, L. [Teller]
Desai, L.
Dixon, L.
Dubs, L.
Elder, L.
Evans of Parkside, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Gibson of Market Rasen, B.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Grantchester, L.
Hart of Chilton, L.
Haworth, L.
Henig, B.
Howarth of Newport, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.
McKenzie of Luton, L.
Maxton, L.
Montrose, D.
Moonie, L.
Morgan of Huyton, B.
Morris of Handsworth, L.
Norton of Louth, L.
O'Neill of Clackmannan, L.
Patel of Bradford, L.
Rooker, L.
Royall of Blaisdon, B. [Teller]
Sawyer, L.
Scotland of Asthal, B.
Simon, V.
Snape, L.
Soley, L.
Stone of Blackheath, L.
Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Thornton, B.
Tomlinson, L.
Tunnicliffe, L.
Vadera, B.
Warwick of Undercliffe, B.
West of Spithead, L.
Young of Norwood Green, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

11.04 pm

Schedule 22: [Police misconduct and performance procedures]:

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 114A:



23 Apr 2008 : Column 1614

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I do not have to detain the House for long. These amendments are intended to comply with the spirit of the recommendation of the Committee on Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform that the first exercise of the power under Section 84 should proceed using the affirmative resolution procedure. The amendments are technical and relate to Schedule 22 in the current draft of the Bill. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendments Nos. 114B to 114D:

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 128 [Inspection of police authorities]:

Baroness Henig moved Amendment No. 114E:

(a) in subsection (1), omit paragraph (d); and(b) omit subsection (4).(a) In paragraph (a) the word “economic,” shall be inserted before the word “efficient” and the word “and” shall be deleted at the end of the paragraph;(b) At the end of paragraph (b) there is inserted “, and(c) shall make arrangements to secure continuous improvement in the way in which its functions and those of the police force for its area are exercised”.

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in bringing forward the amendment I again declare an interest as the president of the Association of Police Authorities and former chairman of both that organisation and the Lancashire Police Authority. I am sure that everyone will be pleased that I shall be as brief as I possibly can be at this hour of the night.

I thank the noble Lord for his letter to me and our subsequent meeting, which clarified the Government’s position on this issue. I am sure that we are united in wishing to see an effective inspection regime put in place for police authorities, and I am very pleased that he welcomes the involvement of the Association of Police Authorities in developing inspection protocols. However, I remain unconvinced that the clause represents the right way to go in how police authorities will be inspected for the following reasons.

Nowhere in primary legislation is the phrase “joint inspection” used about the future proposals for inspecting police authorities, although I know that this is what is intended. Joint inspection can merely be inferred by looking at a number of different Acts relating to local authority and police inspections. As I have noted before, interpretation is ambiguous and, despite the noble Lord’s assurance on this point in his letter to me, this remains arguable in the absence of clear wording.

I also have grave and serious doubts about the principle of hanging these inspection provisions on best value legislation, which is otherwise known as the Local Government Act 1999. This is another aspect of the legislation which is ambiguous because it is not clear whether the Audit Commission, HMIC or both have this function under current arrangements. Again the meaning is at least arguable and not beyond doubt. In addition, many provisions of the Act have subsequently been repealed or replaced. Why formulate new proposals around legislation which is being phased out in practice?

My amendment would overcome these objections because, first, it acknowledges the problem with best value legislation by removing police authorities from its scope altogether. It acknowledges that there will be some consequences to this and suggests ways of overcoming these—for instance, by including a

23 Apr 2008 : Column 1616

specific responsibility on police authorities to ensure economy, which will compensate for the parallel provisions in the Local Government Act 1999. Then it sets out clear alternative proposals about joint police authority inspection between HMIC and the Audit Commission and explains, most importantly, that it will involve some police authority input on a peer review basis.

I stated in Committee why I thought this was a crucial provision and, while I am very pleased that the Government agree that all this should happen in practice, I remain puzzled about their reluctance to place this in legislation.

I am a strong supporter of the principle of inspecting police authorities, but they deserve considered legislation which is clear about what is intended and sets this out in one place so that it can be easily understood. I am asking whether it is possible for the Government to agree to that. The most important reason this matters is that it is difficult to see how authorities can be made more accountable to communities if the legislation about how they are inspected is so complex and scattered that it is unreasonable to expect those communities to understand it. Surely it is right that local communities should understand one of the key ways in which the state ensures that authorities are doing their job properly. It is in this spirit of endorsing local accountability and making it as transparent as possible that I beg to move.

Baroness Harris of Richmond: My Lords, I was very happy to put my name to this amendment. I also declare an interest as a vice-president of the Association of Police Authorities, a former deputy chair of that organisation and a former chair of North Yorkshire Police Authority.

The clause looks fairly innocuous, but we have been here before—and on many an occasion I have spoken about the best value legislation, because I have felt that police authorities should not be subject to it. But there we are.

I am not clear why the Government think that this amendment would change the statutory functions of the APA. Most of the provisions in the amendment suggest that it be consulted about inspection proposals—but the APA is already a statutory consultee, so what is new? I do not see that the provision about the APA nominating peer reviewers to contribute to inspections confers functions of a different nature on the APA. It certainly does not confer inspection powers; it merely says that the APA will organise which peer reviewers will contribute to inspections. I also have difficulty imagining what type of inspection might preclude some police authority input, or on what occasion inspectors might understand better the business of police authorities than people drawn from police authorities.

I am also concerned about how these inspections are to be funded. I understand that discussions have taken place in the Home Office about how to pay the Audit Commission for doing the inspections—because, believe me, it will charge. I also wonder how the Government propose that a peer review might be funded. Perhaps the Minister could tell us whether any progress has been made on those discussions.



23 Apr 2008 : Column 1617

I support the inspection of police authorities. It is the question of how they are inspected and by whom on which the public need clarity. There is no clarity at present and the Government’s proposals in no way help that process. I hope that the Minister will carefully consider the amendment, which is eminently sensible and really ought to be accepted.

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, as my noble friend Lady Henig said, I was able to have a very helpful meeting with her following the debate on this clause in Committee. I thought that it was positive and helped to highlight the points which will need to be addressed as part of the inspection protocol or framework which will underpin the new inspection arrangements for police authorities.

A joint approach to police authority inspections will bring together Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary’s professional knowledge and understanding of operational policing and the Audit Commission’s wider cross-sector understanding of local government, local partnerships and the role of police authorities as distinct from that of chief constables and forces. This mix of knowledge is crucial in assessing the effectiveness of policing and community safety delivery by a range of local services.

I fully support my noble friend’s view that we need to articulate the overall vision for the joint inspection of police authority functions as clearly as possible so that the intention of the legislative provisions on which this approach will rely is understood. This will be set out in the inspection protocol and methodology that I have referred to before and which will be developed and agreed jointly by the Inspectorate of Constabulary and the Audit Commission with the Association of Police Authorities and the support of the Home Office.

The inspectorate’s powers relate to police forces and authorities, while those of the Audit Commission apply more widely to all best value authorities. It is therefore inevitable that these powers are in two separate legislative regimes. Seeking to combine them as proposed is neither desirable nor necessary. I would expect the inspection protocol to set out the statutory basis for the inspection of police authorities so they will be able to look to this one document for the necessary clarity.

The inspectorate and the commission have agreed that inspections will be conducted on a joint and fully co-ordinated basis. They will effectively act as one to produce a holistic assessment of police authority performance which is proportionate and does not duplicate other work. They recognise the importance of including a police authority peer officer or member to ensure the right skills mix and that the existing self-assessment framework will play a part in the process. As the gatekeeper for police inspections, the inspectorate will have the ability to prevent any inappropriate inspection activity.

11.15 pm

I cannot prejudge the content of a joint protocol or framework which the inspectorate and the commission will be developing with the help of the Association of

23 Apr 2008 : Column 1618

Police Authorities. I expect it to be based on the responsibilities and standards expected of police authorities in holding the police service to account and delivering outcomes for local people, and to define the high level aims and focus of a joint inspection regime. As I have already indicated, I would also expect the protocol to set out the legislative landscape and describe the roles and responsibilities of those involved, including police authorities. It would support the process for consulting on the priorities for an annual inspection programme and broad timescales and objectives for this work.

The noble Baroness, Lady Harris of Richmond, mentioned the funding aspects and absolutely correctly highlighted an issue. Perhaps I may come back to her separately on that as it has not been finalised.

I know that my noble friend Lady Henig will want to work with us to make this as comprehensive and effective as possible. I ask her to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Henig: My Lords, I am pleased that we all agree on the importance of these provisions. I remain disappointed that we disagree on how they should be set out in legal terms and that the Government will not go as far as I, and I am sure others, would like. I welcome the prospect of at least some clarity in the protocol. I regret that it will not be in the primary legislation itself. None the less, I will at this late hour be willing to withdraw the amendment. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 129 [Designation]:

Lord Avebury moved Amendment No. 114F:

The noble Lord said: My Lords, when these clauses were discussed in Committee, the Minister acknowledged that the special immigration status they create was cooked up primarily to reverse the decisions of the High Court and the Court of Appeal in relation to a few desperate people who escaped from almost certain torture and death in Afghanistan while it was ruled by the Taliban, by hijacking an Ariana Airlines plane and compelling the pilot to fly with all 156 people and crew on board to Stansted. Originally 11 of the people on board were charged with offences connected with that operation, but one was found unfit to plead. After a first trial at which the jury failed to agree, the remaining 10 were retried. One was acquitted. Although he cannot be designated as a foreign criminal, he still has not had a decision on his asylum claim after eight years. I invite the Minister to explain how this delay has occurred.

The remaining nine were convicted at their second trial and given light sentences because of mitigating circumstances. The accused were members of the young intellectual organisation, which had been penetrated by the Taliban. Four of their fellow members had been arrested and tortured and had disclosed the names of 35 people who had met in Kabul to discuss extending their activities to Herat and Kandahar. Those 35 included the people on this plane.



23 Apr 2008 : Column 1619

The nine appealed, and in June 2003 the Court of Appeal quashed the sentences on the grounds that the jury had been misdirected on the defence of duress. By that time the application for asylum that they had lodged had already been refused by the panel of adjudicators, as the noble Lord, Lord West, told me in his letter of 20 March, on the grounds that they had committed a serious non-political crime outside the country of their origin and were therefore excluded from the protection of the refugee convention under Article 1F

The nine then succeeded in their application for judicial review of the refusal in the Administration Court and again in the Court of Appeal. They were granted limited leave to remain in May 2006, which expired in November of that year, but when they applied for extensions, the Secretary of State simply failed to respond from that day to this, keeping them in limbo. What had been decided was to put these clauses together so that these persons, and the very small number in a similar situation, could be deprived of the rights they had successfully asserted in the courts.

In Committee, the Minister said that the issue was what status should be accorded to a person whose actions were such as to warrant his deportation, but who cannot be removed because to do so would be contrary to our ECHR obligations. The simple answer is that his limited leave to remain should be renewed six months at a time until it either becomes safe for him to return, or it is perverse to keep him and his family in limbo. Personally, I think that after eight years there is no good reason of public policy for saying that we ought to keep these particular families in a state of suspended animation, nor was there any attempt by the Minister to make out such a case in our previous debate. But I accept that there might be circumstances in which an even longer period would be needed to decide whether it was safe for a person to return, and that is already covered by the provision that limited leave to remain could be renewed indefinitely, although with a 10-year review.

When it comes to the families of these people, the Minister says that it is normal for family members to be granted leave in line, and that it would be illogical for someone whose application for leave to remain rides on the coat-tails of another—as he put it—to end up in a better position than someone wearing the coat. I accept that, in the normal case where the end result is either refusal or acceptance, but at the point where the principal applicant is consigned to special immigration status, I believe that dependants, who have done none of the acts specified in Article 1F or to warrant this pariah treatment, should be given the normal six months leave to remain. In the case of children, perhaps the Minister can say whether he has considered whether this policy is compatible with the draft code of practice under Section 21 of the UK Borders Act, now coming to the end of the consultation period, to say nothing of our obligations under the CRC.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page