Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

However, the wider context also needs to be taken into account. Often these decisions reflect broader concerns including political interests. I would not wish to impose restrictions on the discretion of councillors appointing their own members without first engaging with the Local Government Association and other interested stakeholders. I will ask Home Office officials to engage with the APA and the Local Government Association on this matter, with a view to the issue being considered as part of the regulatory reform of police authorities that is currently under way.

I understand the noble Baronesses’ desire explicitly to allow the delegation of appointments to a police authority committee. It is very sensible that small committees of police authorities carry out the interviewing of candidates rather than the whole authority. However, I think that this amendment needs proper deliberation before it is included in the Bill. For example, I would wish fully to understand how this proposed power would interact with local government legislation. Would it impose any limits or requirements on membership of the committee? Could non-police authority members be co-opted on to that committee?

I hope that the noble Baronesses will agree that further thought should be given to the amendment and will agree to withdraw it on the understanding that Home Office officials include these issues in their review of police authority regulations and guidance.

Baroness Henig: I am grateful for what my noble friend has just said and for the very supportive way in which he has responded to the amendment. In the light of what he has said, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 44A withdrawn.

Amendment 44B

Moved by Baroness Henig

44B: After Clause 12, insert the following new Clause—

“Police authorities: co-operation with responsible authorities

Any responsible authority (as defined by section 5 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 (c. 37) (Authorities responsible for strategies)), other than the police authority and the chief officer of police, shall have a duty to co-operate with the police authority in relation to delivery of the Secretary of State’s strategic priorities for police authorities set out in section 37A of the Police Act 1996 (c. 16).”

22 Jun 2009 : Column 1447

Baroness Henig: Moving speedily on, this amendment was drawn up with the new single confidence target for policing very much in mind. This new confidence target is the one overarching numerical target that will be set for policing in the future by the Home Secretary. It is an important measure, so we must ensure that we get the arrangements surrounding it right.

The police do not deliver safer communities single-handedly; they have to work effectively with partners to achieve success in improving public safety and in driving down crime. The new confidence target recognises that because it is in fact a measure of public confidence in the police and local councils. Herein, of course, lies the catch. Councils are able to sign up to the same target through their local area agreements, but crucially they have an option regarding whether or not to do so. It is merely one of a range of targets that they can adopt and it is not mandatory for them. I understand that out of approximately 350 councils in the country, so far only about 50 have adopted this target. Of course, the police have little power to influence the council-half of the equation by which success will be measured in the future.

Although the single confidence target is very laudable and the reduction in the overall number of targets placed on the police is welcome, it seems inequitable that half of what is measured relates to bodies that the police do not control. The concern must be that what gets measured gets done. Particularly in the parlous financial times that we are facing, there will be significant pressure on local authorities to focus only on targets that they have selected as priorities. Targets that are not a priority are therefore likely to be ignored and little resource or effort will be invested in helping partners to deliver targets that are different. That could clearly have a detrimental effect on policing and on force performance, not necessarily through any fault of individual forces or divisional commanders.

My amendment would provide a solution by placing a duty on partner authorities to co-operate with the police in delivering the single confidence target, which is the key strategic priority set by the Home Secretary for policing. This is similar to the duty that partner authorities to local councils, including both police authorities and police forces, are already under to help councils to deliver their local area agreement targets. This seems a proportionate and balanced reciprocal approach to the problem. I beg to move.

Baroness Harris of Richmond: My name is added to this amendment. The noble Baroness, Lady Henig, has outlined it perfectly adequately and I have nothing further to say, other than that I support it.

Lord West of Spithead: The Home Secretary’s strategic policing priorities are set at a national level and are already integrated into the processes that govern local delivery. The strategic policing priorities are reflected in the Government’s public service agreements, which are adopted at local level through local area agreements. They are also incorporated into the partnership plans of the responsible authorities. The extent to which, and manner in which, the Home Secretary’s strategic policing priorities are adopted are determined by local circumstances. I believe that the amendment is not

22 Jun 2009 : Column 1448

necessary and that it would duplicate the current integration of the strategic policing priorities within public service agreements and existing local priority-setting processes, imposing a rigid process on the current flexible framework of locally determined priorities. I therefore invite my noble friend to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Henig: I thank my noble friend for that response. In view of the lateness of the hour and the fact that we are nearing the end of this evening’s session, I shall not prolong the debate further and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 44B withdrawn.

Amendment 44C

Moved by Baroness Henig

44C: After Clause 12, insert the following new Clause—

“Police authorities: nominations to crime and disorder committees

(1) The Police and Justice Act 2006 (c. 48) is amended as follows.

(2) In section 19 (Local authority scrutiny of crime and disorder matters), after subsection (1) insert—

“(1A) Every crime and disorder committee shall include at least one member nominated by the police authority responsible for maintaining the police force in the area of the local authority, who shall have the same entitlement to vote as any other member of that committee.”

(3) In schedule 8, paragraph 5, for “section 20(6)” substitute “sections 19(1A) and 20(6)”.”

Baroness Henig: This amendment seeks to ensure that there is always a police authority representative on crime and disorder committees to square the circle regarding police accountability.

Crime and disorder committees are effectively council overview and scrutiny committees when they sit to consider crime and disorder issues. They were created through the Police and Justice Act 2006 with the intention that they should scrutinise the work of crime and disorder reduction partnerships. That was nearly three years ago, but the regulations governing the operation of these arrangements were implemented only this year in April.

Noble Lords with memories somewhat better than mine may recall that I spoke about these provisions when the original Police and Justice Bill was in this House. At the time I was concerned, among other things, that the committees would be used to scrutinise individual partners, and not the partnership as a whole, as intended by the then Bill. I was concerned in particular that the committees would be used in practice to try to hold to account individual police commanders—because police commanders are accountable to the chief officer, who in turn is accountable in law to the police authority. It is not for council committees to do the statutory job of other bodies.

To guard against this possibility and square the accountability loop, I suggested that provisions should be included in the Bill, specifying that a police authority member should sit on the crime and disorder committee. At the time, my noble friend Lord Bassam resisted my

22 Jun 2009 : Column 1449

call to put this in primary legislation, but agreed to ensure that it was covered in the regulations that followed. When eventually the regulations were published, in April this year, I was surprised and concerned to see that they did not specify that a police authority member should be co-opted on to these committees. The regulations did contain permissive powers enabling representatives of outside bodies to be co-opted at the discretion of the council. However, if a council chooses not to do this, significant difficulties concerning police accountability may arise.

I appreciate that the Home Office guidance that supported these regulations made strong recommendations that police authority members should be co-opted on to committees where policing matters were being considered. However, I am also aware that several councils will not, as a matter of principle, co-opt outside individuals on to their committees unless legislation compels them to—and guidance is not legislation. So the situation remains unsatisfactory from a policing point of view, and risks creating tension between local authorities and the police, who are not legally accountable to them. This could have a detrimental effect on partnership working at a time when it is important that all parties work well together to make the best use of scarce resources. In moving the amendment, I ask my noble friend if he has any plans to revise the regulations at some point in the future, or any other plans that would allay my concerns. I beg to move.

Baroness Harris of Richmond: My name is attached to the amendment that the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, has outlined admirably. I will say only that I support it and that I hope that the Minister will answer the questions.

Baroness Hanham: I merely observe that the proposals put forward by the noble Baroness might be very difficult to operate in London.

Lord West of Spithead: The amendment relates to the composition of crime and disorder overview and scrutiny committees, which have been established by local authorities in England since 30 April 2009 under the Police and Justice Act 2006. The suggestion is that it should be compulsory to have a member of the local police authority as a member of each of these committees. This is an interesting point. However, regulations made under the Police and Justice Act already enable the co-option of additional members—including police authority members—to crime and disorder committees. Although this is subject to local determination, supporting guidance drafted in partnership with the Association of Police Authorities encourages local authorities to presume that police authorities must play an active part in scrutiny committees, and provides clarity on particular circumstances where police authority members or officers can add value to their work.

I am afraid that I cannot tell my noble friend Lady Henig that we plan to make any great changes. I am confident that existing arrangements will encourage local authorities to ensure that police authorities play an active part in committees when community safety matters are being discussed, and in particular when the police are to be present. The effect of the amendment would be to remove local flexibility in relation to how

22 Jun 2009 : Column 1450

the local police authority is engaged, which is key to the Government’s approach. Therefore I ask my noble friend to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Henig: I thank my noble friend for his response. I am sure that there are problems with the amendment, but there will be problems also if it does not happen. It is interesting that the Minister is all in favour of flexibility in some circumstances, and yet in others—and we have been arguing since 3 pm for flexibility—he is unable to provide it. In this situation, there could be problems if police authority members are not involved in these bodies, or do not know what is happening on them.

None the less, I hear what my noble friend has said and, in view of the lateness of the hour and in the hope that regulations will continue to alleviate at least some of the difficulties, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 44C withdrawn.

9.29 pm

House resumed.

Lord Brett: In the light of events in another place, I move that the House do now adjourn during pleasure until 9.45 pm for the Royal Commission.

9.29 pm

Sitting suspended.

Speaker of the House of Commons


9.45 pm

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Baroness Royall of Blaisdon): My Lords, I beg to acquaint the House that a Commission has been issued under the Great Seal to several Lords therein named authorising the said Lords to declare in the name and on behalf of Her Majesty, Her Majesty’s approbation of the choice of the Commons of Mr John Bercow to be their Speaker.

Then, the Lords Commissioners (Baroness Royall of Blaisdon, Lord Strathclyde, Lord McNally, Baroness D’Souza and the Lord Chancellor) directed Black Rod to let the Commons know that they desired their immediate attendance in this House.

When the Commons arrived, the Speaker-elect said:

My Lords, I have to acquaint your Lordships that Her Majesty’s faithful Commons, in obedience to the Royal Command, have, in the exercise of their undoubted rights and privileges, proceeded to the election of a Speaker, and that their choice has fallen on me. I therefore present myself at your Lordships’ Bar and submit myself with all humility for Her Majesty’s gracious Approbation.

The Lord Chancellor: My Lords and Members of the House of Commons, it not being convenient to Her Majesty to be personally present here at this time,

22 Jun 2009 : Column 1451

a Commission has been issued under the Great Seal, commanding us and several other Lords therein named to notify and declare Her Majesty’s Approbation of the choice of Her faithful Commons of Mr John Bercow to be their Speaker, which Commission you will now hear read.

The Royal Commission was read.

The Lord Chancellor: Mr John Bercow, we have it in command from Her Majesty to declare Her Majesty’s entire confidence in your talents, diligence and sufficiency to fulfil the important duties of the high office of Speaker of the House of Commons to which you have been chosen by that House, and in obedience to the Commission which has been read and by virtue of the

22 Jun 2009 : Column 1452

authority therein contained, we do declare Her Majesty’s royal allowance and confirmation of you, Sir, as Speaker of the House of Commons.

The Speaker of the House of Commons said:

My Lords, I submit myself with all humility and gratitude to Her Majesty’s royal will and pleasure. I pray that if, in the discharge of my duties and in the maintenance of the rights and privileges of the Commons House of Parliament, I should inadvertently fall into error, it may be imputed to me alone and not to Her Majesty’s faithful Commons.

The Speaker and the Commons then returned to their Chamber.

House adjourned at 10.05 pm.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page