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Police: Surrey


2.57 pm

Asked By Lord Trefgarne

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): My Lords,the Government have contributed £99.3 million in general grant towards funding the budget of the Surrey Police Authority in 2008-09. Government funding to Surrey Police Authority represents 51.8 per cent of its budget, which was set at £191.5 million. In addition to general grant, Surrey will receive approximately £16.5 million from a range of other government funding in 2008-09.

Lord Trefgarne: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for that reply. Is it not the case that Surrey is not really the leafy, law-abiding county that many people imagine? There are some very important security considerations in that county, some of which I took the liberty of drawing to the noble Lord’s attention a while ago. Is it not therefore inappropriate that there should be pressures on the Surrey police budget, notably

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from the claw-back currently being exercised by the Home Office on what was paid to them last year?

Lord West of Spithead: Generally, my Lords, most people in Surrey are law-abiding, though the noble Lord has raised with me the issue of people doing “away days” from London in order to redistribute wealth. Overall, Surrey has done quite well. It has received £3.8 million in grant for 2009-10, more than it would have done by a strict application of the rules. We have heeded some of these issues. It also receives extra money from the CT grant, which is analysed and worked in conjunction with ACPO, looking at all the forces in the country. Overall, it has not done badly at all in the outcome.

Baroness Harris of Richmond: My Lords, will the Government assure the public of their commitment to increasing police expenditure by at least 2.7 per cent next year as part of the 2010-11 funding plan?

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, the current plans are that it will be increasing by 2.5 per cent year on year. That is still the plan and I have seen nothing to show any change to it. We are still mindful that we do not want council taxes to climb, so we are setting limits on the maximum that any police authority can claim, as it will impact on council tax payers. We are going to be very strict on that in 2009-10. We expect the increase to be substantially below 5 per cent in England and Wales, and we will not hesitate to use the capping powers if they are needed to stop that.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: My Lords, when my noble friend talks about the peaceable nature of the people of Surrey, does he not recall the civil unrest and protests that took place against the hated poll tax?

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, my Permanent Secretary in the Home Office lives in a very quiet, nice little village in Surrey where there was a big debate about getting a PCSO, and a feeling that it did not need one. But the other day my Permanent Secretary was very excited because the PCSO had arrested a burglar. So, things occasionally do happen there.

The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that the last riots in Guildford were, I think, in 1865, when a Liberal called Onslow represented Guildford in the House of Commons?

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, nothing would surprise me about the name Onslow—although the thought that one was a Liberal is a little surprising. The only warfare that I have been involved in in Guildford was when I played rugby there many years ago.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, have other authorities suffered clawback, and if so, how many? What is the maximum amount that has been clawed back?

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Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, seven police authorities were subject to capping action in 2008-09. Of those, three—Surrey, Bedfordshire and Norfolk—were allowed to keep their budgetary increases but have been set lower nominal budgets for future increases; three were allowed to keep their budget precept increases but have been restricted to a 3 per cent annual increase over the next two years; and one, Lincolnshire, was capped.

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, the Flanagan review of policing stressed that the existing police grant formula does not suit current circumstances, and that it needs significant work in order to do so. What action is being taken to implement changes to the current formula?

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, the noble Baroness is, as usual, up to speed, and she is absolutely right. The funding formula is currently being reviewed, with the involvement of a number of interested parties. The review will be in the early part of this year and is likely to entail changes for the next CSR.

Baroness Tonge: My Lords, is the Minister aware of the disturbances that will occur in Surrey and need police to control them should the Government decide to go ahead with the third runway at Heathrow?

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, that is going a little beyond the Question, but I feel absolutely certain that Surrey police will be able to do whatever is required in that county. It is a very impressive force. It is one of the forces involved in the workforce modernisation programme and has done some very good work in looking at ways to optimise its workforce balance. I am sure that it will meet any challenges it has to face.

Lord St John of Fawsley: My Lords, does the Minister recall that the principal riots against the poll tax in Surrey took place in the 14th century?

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, although I found out over Christmas that my family thought I was rather old, that is a bit beyond even my memory. I am afraid that I cannot really comment on the point.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, I had the honour of being the Member of Parliament for Guildford for 31 years. I know that I do not need to teach the noble Lord any geography, but Surrey is not an island surrounded by sea; it is bang up against London, from which a large number of the criminal element of southern London descend into Surrey. That presents the policing of Surrey with a special problem, which I hope is taken into account in assessing proper funding to enable law and order to be maintained in that very pleasant county.

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, I can absolutely reassure the House that these issues are taken into account. For the doughnut police authorities, as they are called because they surround the metropolitan area, a number of factors are taken into account, not least some of the motorways shooting out through them. The noble Lord talked to me about “away days” from London for various reasons. I say again that I

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think that the majority of people in London also are very law-abiding, but there are special circumstances which are taken into account when we make allocations.

Lord Tomlinson: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the appeals from Members opposite for more resources for policing are in themselves an adequate answer to the rather nonsensical earlier Question from the noble Lord, Lord James of Blackheath, who asked for a freeze on public spending?

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, I have to agree that imposing a blanket freeze on public spending would not be a clever thing to do.

Lord Trefgarne: My Lords, can the noble Lord confirm that the high cost of policing the M25 motorway, a large part of which goes through Surrey, is taken into account when assessing the budget of the Surrey police force?

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, a large number of issues have to be taken into account when working out the budget and, as I mentioned, one of them is the motorways running through the county. Specific issues have to be addressed but, overall, Surrey’s allowance has been very fair. It has done rather well, receiving £3.8 million more than expected. There is no doubt that its work in a number of areas, such as financial management and workforce modernisation, has been positive and progressive, and that is also taken into account. HMIC has commented on some of the balancing difficulties in a number of police forces, particularly the seven that I mentioned. We wanted to look at the issue carefully to assess whether we were right in what we had done in capping and restricting the amount of money available.

Arrangement of Business


3.06 pm

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, my noble friend Lord Malloch-Brown will repeat the Statement on the situation in Gaza at a convenient point after 3.30 pm, interrupting the Committee stage of the Marine and Coastal Access Bill. Assuming that the first debate runs on for a while, I would suggest that the Statement take place after the first group of amendments.

Marine and Coastal Access Bill [HL]

Information about this Bill
Copy of the Bill as Debated
Explanatory Notes
Today's Amendments
Delegated Powers Committee 1st Report

Committee (1st Day)

3.07 pm

Clause 1: The Marine Management Organisation

Amendment 1

Moved by Lord Greaves

1: Clause 1, page 1, line 6, leave out “Management Organisation (“the MMO”)” and insert “Agency (“the Agency”)”

Lord Greaves: I shall speak also to the other 22 amendments in the group; most are identical in wording and all are identical in purpose. This is the

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beginning of the Committee stage, which no doubt will detain us for a few days. Therefore, I need to declare my interests, which mainly relate to Part 9. I am a member of the British Mountaineering Council, its access, conservation and environment group, the Open Spaces Society and the National Trust. That is about it. I had the privilege to be a member of the Joint Committee of the two Houses that carried out the pre-legislative scrutiny on the draft Bill. No doubt some of the things that I say will be informed by what happened in that committee.

This is a simple amendment to change the name of the organisation that will be in charge of the planning and regulation set out in the Bill from the Marine Management Organisation to the “Marine Agency”. I have tabled the amendment for two reasons. The first is on the ground of simplicity. Shorter names are better, within reason, if they are not silly. If the body is called the “Marine Agency”, it is likely that people will call it that. If it is called the Marine Management Organisation, everyone will call it the MMO—or at least everyone who understands what MMO means will call it that, as indeed everyone is doing already. Acronyms generally are bad, partly because they are meaningless to many people, who therefore tend to be excluded from the club of people who know what is being talked about. Jargon is bad. Acronyms are usually a kind of jargon and should therefore be avoided.

Perhaps the more substantive reason for the change is that the name of an organisation is not irrelevant; it reflects what it does. In a sense, the name brands the organisation. The word that I consider to be unfortunate and which gives the wrong impression of what this organisation should be doing is “Management”. Perhaps it gives the right impression of what the Government think that it should be doing, but we will have that debate in relation to a number of amendments.

I am not arguing for a sexy name. Sexy names seem to be going out of fashion, which I hope they are because they are silly as well. People have suggested that the organisation might be called “Seas UK”, which would be totally silly. Someone said that it is the body that will rule the waves, so let us call it “Britannia”. My noble friend Lady Hamwee said that if I want to call it Britannia I had better transfer to the Tories. I replied that I had better not call it Britannia because the Tories would not have me. At least, I hope that they would not have me if they understood a lot of my views. Therefore, I am not calling for a silly name and I hope that it will never be given one. I am calling for the simplest, most basic name, and “Marine Agency” seems to be the best that anyone can think of.

There has been a lot of debate about what the marine agency, or Marine Management Organisation, will be, and we will probably discuss that in some detail in a later series of amendments. How strategic an organisation is it to be? Will it just carry out government policy and co-ordinate that policy to the best of its ability? Is that what “strategic” means? We will be debating that. Is it in some ways a policy-setting or lobbying organisation? Perhaps that is going a little too far, but to what extent will it be the champion of the seas? That is certainly what the Joint Committee recommended it should be. Will it help to set the

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policy agenda and be the body that speaks for the sea? We will shortly come to the amendment in the name of my noble friend Lady Miller that questions whether it should be the body that represents public interest in the sea. Those are all important and interesting concepts but none of them particularly relates to management.

Of course, many of the organisation’s functions will be about management. It will be in charge of carrying out the new planning system and new planning regime for our coastal waters, and rightly so. It will be the body that carries out the licensing and regulation; a great deal that is currently carried out by diverse agencies will rightly be brought together. However, will it have a function over and above that? Will it play a leading role in the debate and in discussions on proposals for what should happen in its sphere of interest, as, for example, the Environment Agency clearly does and as Natural England and its predecessors clearly have done? Will it be that sort of body or will it be a functional, managerial, mechanistic body that only carries out government policy, doing a useful job in bringing things together but nevertheless being no more than that?

There are other big issues relating to its functions, such as the emphasis on development as opposed to conservation, and how those can be synthesised, but they are for later debates. The name change that I am proposing raises the question of the organisation’s culture. There is a concern that its culture will be derived from the Marine and Fisheries Agency, its predecessor, which does good work but is basically a delivery body—a regulatory body. It is not an organisation such as the Environment Agency and Natural England.

On Second Reading I complimented the Minister on his speech and said that he had been visionary, but when I read what he had said I thought that I had been a little over the top. I complimented him a little too much; Iwas taken in by his usual enthusiastic style and delivery rather than his actual words. We have had a useful Explanatory Memorandum about the organisation and how it will run, in which we read the details of an organisation that is functional, carries out services and delivers policies on behalf of the Government but does not have a real life, spirit and vision of its own. Will the body provide leadership and vision? As well as doing all its work, will it argue its case and promote its cause, which is the cause of the British seas? The Government’s document refers to its being a regulator of most activities in the marine environment. It will be a licensing body that will take a strategic view across all its responsibilities but not a strategic view of the way in which policy is going. We argue that it should be a body that promotes, champions and leads. If it does not, who else will do that on behalf of the marine environment? I beg to move.

3.15 pm

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I should declare an interest. We are a long way from coastal access but I am a farmer and involved in the ownership of land, so my interest should be on the record as we start the Committee stage.

My notes on this amendment consisted of one word—why? I was rather hoping that the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, would answer that question so that I

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did not have to say any more than that I thoroughly agreed with what he said. However, I am rather disappointed. If I were to be mean-minded and uncharitable I would say that the amendment was tabled largely so that he could kick off this Committee by picking on the first possible thing that could be open to argument, although I am sure that that was far from his mind.

I have learnt that the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, does not want to be a Conservative. I am not really surprised to hear that; he has spent much of his political life trying to fight the Conservatives in the various parts of the country in which he has been politically active.

I am confused by the noble Lord’s denigration of acronyms. After all, they identify bodies that are really worth their salt. They do not need to be explained. We do not need to explain the BBC or NATO, although we might occasionally have to explain what the Lib Dems are, but that is different, I suppose.

Management is what the Marine Management Organisation should be about and we on these Benches have no objection to “Management” being included in the name of the organisation.

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change & Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): We have made a splendid, non-consensual start to our debates in Committee. I am aware that we are enjoined by the Chief Whip to try to make this group last until just after 3.31 pm and I am sure that, when he replies, the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, will enable us to do so. It is a great pleasure to respond to this first group.

Behind his comments, the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, posed a fair question about the essential nature of the Marine Management Organisation. I accept that he is also arguing for a title that is as simple as possible and avoids jargon, but his question was essentially about the status of the proposed MMO and, more important, about what it is to do. I hope that I can reassure him that we think it right that the word “Management” should be in the title because, as I will explain in a moment, the Marine Management Organisation will have to manage some difficult issues and tensions that are inherent in the sea and many of the activities that take place there. Although it is right that the work of the MMO should take place within the strategic direction given by the Secretary of State, who is accountable to Parliament, it will have sufficient independence and confidence to make a major impact in relation to marine policy and to wider debates about the development of the sea and all the issues that we are going to debate over the next few weeks.

We are setting up the MMO as an independent non-departmental public body—not a step taken lightly—because we want the independence that the status of an NDPB brings. That status has been accorded to the Environment Agency, which has already been referred to, the Trinity House lighthouse service, the Health Protection Agency and the Natural Environment Research Council. We think that that gives the organisation the independence and status that it needs to deliver on behalf of government as a whole. It is notable that all

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those bodies have different names, yet they have the same legal status as the Marine Management Organisation.

I ought to say a word or two about the policy matters that the MMO will be concerned with, which are of direct interest to nearly every central government department: defence, shipping, courts, renewable energy, fisheries, aggregates, environment, recreation and more. While the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will be the sponsor Minister, the organisation will deliver on behalf of all departments. We think that this status ensures that it will have their confidence to do so.

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