Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

I was a member of a police authority for about 12 years, and I was a member when my noble friend Lord Howard of Lympne introduced the last major reform, that of introducing independent members into police authorities. That improved the quality of the police authorities beyond measure by increasing their independence and bringing in more women and members

27 Apr 2011 : Column 152

of the ethnic minorities. Perhaps I may say that there was then much less politicking. There were no group meetings before police authority meetings.

I have asked myself why people serve in the House of Lords. Are we here for our experience or our wisdom? I make no claims to wisdom, but I have experience of working with a large number of chief constables, and I have never heard any of them discuss party politics. I suggest that this legislation has not been thought through. It will politicise the police, so it needs to be piloted to establish whether it is likely to have the intended effect, whether there are any unintended consequences, and whether the costs have been assessed accurately. Going back to three remarks that have been made by noble Lords, if the Licensing Bill 2003 had been put through a process of piloting, would we now be dealing with problems of alcoholism and disorder in our city centres? We are doing so now because the then Government rammed that Bill through without carefully thinking about the consequences.

I give notice that I shall move an amendment to provide for a pilot scheme to be conducted in a single county area outside London, and that at a later stage of the passage of the Bill I intend to press it to a Division. Sometimes the House of Lords must ask the other place to think again and again. I hope that noble Lords on all sides will support this attempt to construct a much better piece of legislation than we have been presented with.

6.08 pm

Lord Condon: My Lords, I declare my registered interests. As a former police commissioner I am a life member of ACPO, and more recently I am the deputy chairman of a security solutions plc that provides outsourced services to the criminal justice system.

The election of over 40 new and inexperienced police and crime commissioners would be a challenging experiment in the best of times. But these are not the best of times. They are the most difficult times for policing for perhaps over 50 years. Police force budgets have been cut by over 20 per cent for the next four years. These understandable but nevertheless draconian reductions are leading to significant reductions in the number of police officers and civilian support staff. Police officers' pay and conditions are being managed down, again for understandable reasons but with severe collateral damage to police morale. These events are being played out against a background of potential civil unrest and strikes over government spending cuts, while in the international arena we see increasing uncertainty, which could lead to more acts of terrorism in the United Kingdom.

I believe the Government have a very strong duty to set out a compelling case for how their proposals for elected police and crime commissioners will maintain, or hopefully enhance, the accountability and performance of the police service locally, nationally and when necessary internationally. Like other noble Lords, I believe that certain principles should be enshrined in the new arrangements. First, as others have said, nothing should be done to jeopardise the operational independence of the police service or to damage the historic office of constable, both of which have been enshrined in our

27 Apr 2011 : Column 153

policing arrangements since the formation of the Metropolitan Police in 1829. This operational independence is the cornerstone of the legacy of British policing, which has been, and continues to be, admired throughout the free world. I look forward to the promised protocol on how the operational independence will be preserved. It has been promised on several occasions. It is long overdue and I find it bizarre that at this stage of a Bill we are being asked, almost as an act of faith, to believe that a protocol will at some stage resolve this issue.

The second principle I would encourage is that police and crime commissioners are part of a joined-up, integrated policing network and not a patchwork of disjointed local forces. In the modern world a small incident in, say, Bristol, Birmingham or Bradford can quickly lead to issues that have national or international dimensions. We have yet to hear from the Government a persuasive, detailed account of how regional, national and international policing matters will be dealt with. The proposals for a national crime agency are still not sufficiently fleshed out to give complete reassurance that organised crime, terrorism and other major issues will be dealt with properly against the background of over 40 new, inexperienced, elected police and crime commissioners seeking to ensure their re-election on very localised policing issues. Again, I find it bizarre that, as an act of faith, we must believe that at some stage we will be told how these national arrangements will pan out.

The third principle I would argue for is that, against the background of the most difficult set of police budgets in living memory, the new arrangements must not add significant costs and levels of bureaucracy to a system that is already overburdened with form filling, red tape and endless meetings. Take Kent, for example-a county I know well. I had the honour of being chief constable there, and it has always had a good reputation for local government and policing. At the moment there is a county council with a great interest in police and public safety partnerships, the police authority and the chief constable. Under the proposed new arrangements, the county council will still have a real interest and role in the safety of its citizens, the police authority will undergo a form of metamorphosis and will emerge in a different shape as the police and crime panel, and the chief constable will remain in place.

From May 2012, the newly elected police and crime commissioner for Kent will be added to the process. He, or she, will need administrative support to do the job properly. He will need professional financial and personnel support if he is going to discharge his responsibilities for the budget and the policing plan, to hire and if necessary fire the chief constable, and all the other responsibilities that go with the post. Either he will have to be superhuman and omnicompetent or he will need significant support. The boundary management issues as all these key stakeholders learn the new rules of engagement of policing a county like Kent will, I believe, lead to several new senior posts to make it work. Otherwise, the police and crime commissioner will be a superficial role that adds little to the policing landscape. The Government have costed the elections of the PCCs, but I am not aware of costings for accommodation, staffing requirements

27 Apr 2011 : Column 154

and all the other infrastructures to make this proposal work. I just do not believe that these proposals can be cost-neutral. Even three to four new senior posts per county outside London will add significant costs to policing.

The fourth principle is that, against the background of the most dramatic reductions in police budgets that any serving police officer has experienced, the new arrangements for very localised policing must not prevent the savings from economies of scale that sensible procurement demands. Savings in the procurement of equipment, technology and services are best achieved through national, or at the very least regional, arrangements. The private sector, in which I have already declared an interest, will more readily offer up savings to larger-sized buyers of their products and services than deal with over 40 individual police forces. The new arrangements must encourage, if not compel, collaborative endeavours to procure goods and services and provide real value for money.

I am not, in principle, against the proposal for police and crime commissioners. The Government have the right and indeed the duty to test and improve the current arrangements for police governance and accountability. I believe I earned my credentials to say this when I was commissioner of police. I came into office when the Home Secretary of the day was the police authority for the Metropolitan Police. I believe there was a democratic deficit in the policing arrangements for London, and I argued strongly for a police authority for the Met with stronger links to London and Londoners and supported and embraced the creation of the Metropolitan Police Committee, which evolved into the Metropolitan Police Authority. I believe that the Metropolitan Police Authority has added great value to the people of London and the policing of the capital.

If and when we have elected police and crime commissioners, let them respect and build on the legacy of the historic office of constable and the operational independence of the police service. Let them be part of a clearly understood, integrated network of policing locally, nationally and internationally so that local uniformed patrolling complements and does not compete with the needs to deal with organised crime and terrorism, which will always transcend local force boundaries. And let us not allow the new police and crime commissioners to add layers of cost and bureaucracy to a system that already groans under the cumulative red tape and form filling that have blighted policing in recent years.

I hope the Minister and the Government will, during the passage of this Bill, reassure your Lordships that the proposals for the new police and crime commissioners will enhance rather than undermine the performance of the current policing arrangements.

6.17 pm

Baroness Berridge: My Lords, "Rutland is too large a place" was the response to my tentative request to Garter to be connected to the county of my birth. Has England's smallest historic county ever been so flattered? I think not. However, I happily settled on the Vale of Catmose, as it was the name of my comprehensive school, and in the time I have today I hope to live up to Rutland's motto, "Much in Little".

27 Apr 2011 : Column 155

Joining your Lordships' House caused me to reflect on the input of so many teachers, friends and mentors, without whom I am sure I would not be here today. The uninitiated like me needed teachers to speak of a place they called Oxbridge, and after Rutland, Cambridge seemed a huge metropolis. To be closer than 20 miles to a cinema was, to my mind, positively cosmopolitan. To be corrected, however, that it was no coincidence that our law lecturer and the textbook author had the same name opened up a world of learning I never could have dreamt of.

Before law studies lay a gap year in Ghana, a country I have now known for over 20 years, a land of gold, cocoa, stable democracy and world-renowned politicians such as Kofi Annan. But I lived as a lone white face among a million people in the last days of communicating by thin blue airmail paper. The novelty of being so obvious and treated as somehow special soon wore off and I longed for anonymity, privacy and the perceived safety of not being different from everyone else.

Unfortunately, at Cambridge I required the excellent services of Addenbrooke's Hospital, so my final year was deferred. Not to be outdone, I did voluntary work in the beautiful twin island state of Trinidad and Tobago while my contemporaries did their finals. Trinidad is the major Caribbean economy and I was surprised to find that it had a population which was then approximately 40 per cent black and 40 Asian. I had studied GCSE and A-level history, but was only then beginning to learn the tragic and utterly courageous stories behind much black migration around the globe. Trinidad is a peaceful and prosperous society, but not without complexities from its colonial past.

Upon completion of my law degree there were nine wonderful years as a barrister in Kings Chambers, Manchester, after which I moved to the truly cosmopolitan city of London. I came to direct the CCF-not the Combined Cadet Force but the Conservative Christian Fellowship-a great organisation, but at that time lacking in denominational and ethnic diversity. A 2007 Tearfund survey found that 48 per cent of the British black community is regularly in church. Meeting and learning from leaders of the British black community has allowed me to be the recipient of much hospitality and patience, as I struggled to grasp the issues.

Insights from Ghana and Trinidad were valuable but inadequate. I was forced to confront a reality that was not my own experience, and never more so than when the appalling murder of Rhys Jones hit the headlines. The response of the public, media commentators and politicians was utterly appropriate in its emotion, its volume and its outrage. But why when so many young black people died in similar circumstances did it seem that the response was more muted? Was it because the media were not needed to catch the culprits? Was it because the victims were slightly older? Did they die when other items legitimately dominated the news cycle? Taking all that into account, I could not get rid of the lingering suspicion that there were assumptions about these black youngsters and that that lack of outrage would communicate to relatives that young black lives were less valuable in our society. I am not

27 Apr 2011 : Column 156

seeking to label this or give it an "ism", but I believe it to be there and to be wrong.

I am humbled to speak alongside my noble friend Lady Newlove, who, along with others whom I have been privileged to meet-Patsy McKie of Mothers Against Violence, Richard Taylor of the Damilola Taylor Trust, and the Reverend Les Isaacs of Street Pastors, to name but a few-is working to change things for the better. But people have gone beyond community response and are involved in the matter which your Lordships are considering today in this Bill: the governance of our police. Any wisdom I proffer owes much to Pastor Nims Obunge, adviser to both Operation Blunt and Operation Trident, and to the chair of West Midlands Police Authority, Bishop Derek Webley, the first black police authority chairman. It is sad to note that the late Lord Scarman, who reported on the Brixton riots, did not live to witness Bishop Webley's appointment.

Any branch of government, whether the legislature, the judiciary or public institutions such as the police, must have legitimacy. Legitimate government requires the consent of the people and must accordingly be representative of the people whom they seek to govern. It is my sincere desire that directly elected police and crime commissioners and the police and crime panels will reflect the population and, in particular, the ethnic diversity of the people whom they police.

Further, the social responsibility that the Bill is seeking to engender around alcohol consumption is already present in many of Britain's ethnic minority communities. I soon learnt when hosting events with guests from the black-led or Chinese churches that very few people would want alcohol. Legislation alone cannot create a culture, café-style or otherwise. I hope that the values of self-restraint, moderation and abstinence which are also found among the British Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities will come to dominate English and British values around alcohol, rather than those that the police often encounter on our streets in the early mornings.

As the youngest woman in your Lordships' House, joining felt as exciting and daunting as the latest extreme sport. I remain amazed at the expertise and wisdom of this Chamber which I have been privileged to join. Some of your Lordships wrote the text books that I studied from.

Finally, I am extremely grateful to the doorkeepers, the Attendants' Office, to catering staff and to Black Rod's Office for their hospitality, answers to my endless queries and for the welcome given to me and my guests on the day of my introduction. I have particularly appreciated being able to dine with and get to know Peers from all Benches and I look forward to working with your Lordships on issues of mutual concern. Your Lordships' kind generosity to me as a new Member has made my time in the House not quite so daunting.

6.25 pm

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, and to congratulate her on a truly outstanding maiden speech. Of course, we would expect no less from a very talented barrister, but she presented her

27 Apr 2011 : Column 157

maiden speech with a great deal of style and wit and let us see what a valuable asset we have gained in her presence with us.

In Dods, the noble Baroness put down her countries of interest as Ghana, Iraq, Nigeria and Trinidad and Tobago, which indicates the breadth of interest that she brings with her. She explained to us today why she is such an expert on so many different facets of what one might call multiculturalism in Britain. We look forward very much to hearing a lot more from the noble Baroness and we are sure that it will be with the excellent style and wit that she has shown us today.

The Bill is of enormous importance, with potentially far-reaching consequences for our whole system of policing, as the long list of speakers bears witness today. At this stage of Second Reading, with such a long list of speakers, I shall speak as briefly as possible on Part 1 of the Bill and on Clause 154 on arrest warrants, in Part 4.

In Part 1, the Government propose to abolish the existing police authorities and replace them with directly elected police and crime commissioners in each police force area in England and Wales. That would fundamentally change the nature of our policing by politicising police services and interfering with the operational independence of the police, notwithstanding the protestations to the contrary of those who support these proposals and of course we have heard rehearsed again today by the Minister.

I agree with the summing up of the Association of Police Authorities that this is, "the wrong reform at the wrong time". There are great risks in concentrating power of responsibility for oversight of policing in one individual rather than, as now, some 17 or so in a police authority, who are a diverse group of councillors and independent members drawn from various communities across the whole force area.

There is also the question of costs. In the present climate of cuts and reduced police numbers, we are surely entitled to expect that radical changes should be made only when benefits will clearly outweigh costs, but that is not the case here. Analysts have suggested that the cost of the proposed reforms will amount to £100 million more than the cost of running police authorities for the same five-year period, 2011-16-the equivalent cost of some 600 police officers, as the noble Baroness, Lady Harris of Richmond, so expertly explained to us.

I also believe that there are operational risks. There are real concerns that PCCs will focus on issues that are more likely to attract public attention and enhance the chances of their own election rather than lower- profile crime issues that are still of importance in any professional scale of policing priorities.

Then there is the timing of these changes, a point so eloquently put by the noble Lord, Lord Condon. The most significant cuts to the policing budget, of some 14 per cent, are likely to hit in 2012; and huge changes to police pay and conditions are proposed in the Winsor review. To implement radical changes when the police service is trying to implement reform to police pay and conditions, create a new national crime agency and implement other reforms-all shortly before

27 Apr 2011 : Column 158

the Olympics-seems to me to make too great a demand on UK policing. It puts at risk both police resilience and public confidence.

Many sources have expressed concerns about whether the proposed new structure will undermine the political independence of the police. ACPO, while agreeing with the Government's expressed aim of improving democratic oversight-and who could be against that?-stated that the reform,

I do not always find myself in agreement with Liberty, as Members of this House will have noticed from some of the debates I have taken part in before. However, I do on this issue, when it says it considers that the proposals,

The so-called "Peelian" principle-after Sir Robert-of policing by consent by officers operating on principles of non-partisanship and accountability to the rule of law, not to Government, has served this country well. I remain to be convinced that the proposals in this Bill do not put that principle in jeopardy.

Very briefly, I want to welcome the long-overdue reform of our universal jurisdiction legislation in Clause 154, which I am glad the Government are now doing and which I rather wish the previous Government had done earlier, even if they did start to prepare for it toward the end of their term in office. The current legislation dangerously exposes the English and Welsh legal system to politically motivated individuals trying to obtain arrest warrants against foreign politicians for publicity purposes. The amendment would reduce political exploitation, make the system in England and Wales more robust, and bring it into line with practice in Scotland, where magistrates cannot consent to private requests for arrest warrants without a Criminal Letter from the High Court, on which the Lord Advocate would have been consulted.

An unintended consequence of the current legislation is that the DPP is only consulted before the issue of arrest warrants in public prosecutions, not private ones. That really does not make any sense. Amending the law to require the DPP's consent to the issue of arrest warrants against foreigners alleged to have committed war crimes will strengthen our system of applying universal jurisdiction laws. Clause 154 is therefore very welcome.

6.34 pm

Lord Carlile of Berriew: My Lords, I hope that my noble friends on the Front Bench will welcome a brief interlude from the almost unremitting attrition in relation to Part 1, for I, too, want to speak, and mainly about the universal jurisdiction. I was one of a group of colleagues in your Lordships' House, with most of the others coming from the Cross Benches, who were involved in activity in the last Parliament supporting the provisions that were incorporated into Section 70 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009. That provision extended the universal jurisdiction for war crimes,

27 Apr 2011 : Column 159

genocide and crimes against humanity. Unfortunately, since the enactment of that provision, we have seen little evidence that the new provision is working at all. My view is that it is part of good administration-which appears in the Long Title to this Bill-that Ministers should bear the responsibility for the universal jurisdiction and that police forces should bear the responsibility for showing that it is working. By now, prosecutions should be commencing as a result of the enactment of Section 70, but they are not. The criticism that the United Kingdom remains a safe haven for war criminals, I am afraid, still sticks.

With this in mind, I, along with others, will in due course table an amendment aimed to ensure reporting and accountability of the work in relation to the universal jurisdiction. Of course, the universal jurisdiction, as the noble Baroness has just said, is connected to Clause 154. For the reasons she has given, I welcome that clause and cannot understand any logical argument for the view that private prosecutions could be brought at a lower standard than public prosecutions. The Director of Public Prosecutions has shown himself to be reliable in dealing with private prosecutions when he has taken them over and recently the higher courts have supported his view that private prosecutions should be subject to the same dual code test that the CPS applies to public prosecutions. I shall strongly oppose any attempt to remove Clause 154 from the Bill.

Now back to the attrition, I am afraid. I congratulate the Government on their decision to create direct democratic accountability for the supervision of police services. It is long overdue. However, I do not congratulate them on the way they have set about it. It has long been Liberal Democrat policy-and I regret very much that this was not in the coalition agreement-that we should have elected police authorities. I see no problem with elected police authorities-they would be reasonably substantial in size, they could elect and remove their own chair, and it is likely that their own chair would be from diverse sections of the community from time to time. I see this as a much more accountable and reliable process than that set out in the Bill. It would avoid-or at least be more likely to avoid-maverick leadership, eccentricity, crass bad judgment and conflict with the relevant chief officer.

I have worked professionally with police authorities in some pretty critical cases and have seen them to be responsible and careful and to listen to advice but, quite rightly, not always to take it. However, it has been their collective approach that has been the benchmark of their success. I therefore intend-I hope with others-to table an amendment for elected police authorities.

Finally, I want to regret the waste of an opportunity. In the time when I was the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, I watched joint working-which is absolutely inevitable in counterterrorism work-between police authorities. The Wales Extremism and Counter Terrorism Unit, which is a unified body involving the four police forces currently in existence in Wales, is an example. In all difficult areas of policing, 43 territorial police forces can no longer do the really serious work on their own. It is my regret that the Government have not taken the long-overdue opportunity to reform the police service in England and Wales; to reduce the

27 Apr 2011 : Column 160

number of police forces from 43 to something like a quarter or a third of that number; to reduce the number of chief officers and police authorities, whether elected or not; and to reflect, by that means, the essence-the needs-of modern policing.

Wales is one example I have much experience of and I cannot believe that it would not be better policed by one police force, or at the most, two, instead of four. I cannot believe that north-west England would not be better policed by the combination of Cheshire, Greater Manchester and the Merseyside police. I deeply regret that the Government and their predecessor-for their predecessor when Charles Clarke was Home Secretary started to approach this territory-have not taken on this agenda, which is really what we need to produce a police force that will survive the next couple of decades.

6.40 pm

Baroness Newlove: My Lords, I was amazed but apprehensive when the Prime Minister asked me to join you, and I feel truly humbled and honoured to be here today. I want so passionately to do justice for the many campaigners and victims whom I represent. I know that I am hugely privileged to be singled out, and I promise that I will give every ounce of my strength, every breath, so that I do not let them, your Lordships or the Prime Minister down. I wish to thank my sponsors, my noble friends Lord Strathclyde and Lady Warsi, and my wonderful, warm and kind mentor, my noble friend Lady Morris of Bolton. I thank especially all the employees of your Lordships' House: my friends the doorkeepers, the attendants, and the wonderful staff and catering staff. They have shown me great kindness and respect. Their warmth has meant so much to me and they deserve their recognition for keeping the wheels turning smoothly here.

I might speak in simple words and not be as polished as many of your Lordships here today, but every word comes from my heart. There is such a wealth of experience, knowledge and humanity in this place. I look to your Lordships' House to help me, a novice, make this a safer and happier country. I cannot change the past but I will do all I can to improve the future.

I dedicate my speech to my late husband Garry and to my beautiful daughters for their courage and strength. Without their love and support, I would not have wanted to go on living. Together, the girls and I set up Newlove Warrington and we are working on establishing a youth zone based on the brilliant model of Bolton Lads & Girls Club to enrich the lives of young people. I also thank my elderly parents for their love, guidance, discipline and strong core values, which have shaped my life and which I try to pass on.

Last year I became government Champion for Active Safer Communities, and I have met brave and inspiring citizens from all walks of life. These quiet, unsung heroes just get on making their neighbourhoods better places to live. They are good neighbours and they strengthen my belief in the better side of human nature, while exposing the darker element of suffering still out there, to our shame. My report, Our Vision for Safe and Active Communities, is their voice, and together we stand a real chance of rebuilding parts of our damaged society. I am also delighted to work within

27 Apr 2011 : Column 161

the Department for Communities and Local Government, and across Whitehall, to implement my report's recommendations, and I ask you to support them and me.

I am just an ordinary woman from a working-class background propelled into this elevated position by a set of horrifying circumstances, which I wish with all my heart had never happened. Almost four years ago I was a wife, married to Garry for 21 years, and a mother of three children: Zoe, then 18; Danielle, 15; and Amy, only 12. Garry had been struck down with cancer at the age of 32 and had to have his whole stomach and spleen removed. Together, we fought and beat it as a loving, united family. Garry was brave, funny, the life and soul of the party, and he adored us, which makes all the more terrible the senseless way in which we lost him.

Our neighbourhood was bothered by groups of youths hanging around an underpass near to our home, drinking, swearing and being a nuisance. I attended neighbourhood meetings about them but it was treated as low-crime, anti-social behaviour, so not a priority. On the evening of 10 August 2007, Garry had gone out barefooted to investigate breaking glass outside our home. Our next-door neighbour was a young woman alone with a baby, and he was worried about their safety. Like a hunted animal he was brought down by the baying, laughing gang whom he had questioned in front of our horrified daughters. At one stage there were more than 15 around him, boys and girls, aged between 14 and 18 years, high on drugs, alcohol and adrenaline. Within minutes Garry suffered 14 ferocious kicks to the head as well as suffering 40 internal injuries. On 12 August I woke up a wife but went to bed a widow.

Some of these teenagers had been in trouble with the law from only 11 years of age, and I ask: where were their feckless parents? Our girls watched their beloved father being murdered; they were covered in his blood. At the 10-week murder trial, they had to relive that experience minute by minute, to be cross-examined by five QC barristers. My 12-year old daughter was told not to show emotion or fidget when being questioned via video link; but my girls bravely told the truth. They helped bring some of the guilty to justice.

There is so much in the criminal justice system that is so wrong. The victim or their families are given scraps from the table. That is why I am working with Victim Support, the national charity supporting all victims, as well as witnesses. For too long, victims have been second-class passengers, with the offender and their needs in the driving seat. It is time that we were treated with respect and allowed to participate in the criminal justice system-and even allowed to take the driving wheel sometimes. If victims do not have confidence in the justice system, then we all suffer. If frightened witnesses will not give evidence, cases will collapse and offenders will walk away. That surely cannot be allowed to happen.

I also have to ask: why have we let our lovely towns and villages, so charming by day, turn into Dodge City at night, infested with drunken, brawling people vomiting and causing chaos? They cost us billions of pounds, their violence immeasurable in lost innocent lives.

27 Apr 2011 : Column 162

They prevent ordinary people enjoying a night out. We must return to social drinking, get rid of underage and binge drinking, and work closely with the drinks industry to educate and promote safe, sensible alcohol consumption. I will make that one of my top priorities.

Since that terrible night when Garry died, I have campaigned for victims whose lives are blighted by thugs. Minor crime, disorder and anti-social behaviour should be a huge warning bell to us all. Unless this behaviour is nipped in the bud, it grows like a cancer, unseen and undetected until it blooms like a malignant flower, which, as we know, can kill. Stories like the Pilkingtons' or the Askews', where isolated and vulnerable people have been bullied and hounded to death, are a disgrace and must not continue to happen. But I know that the big society is out there. It has been simmering for years on low heat with no name. Good neighbours and good deeds exist and we must learn from them. We must celebrate them and give them the resources and the power to turn up the heat. I believe we need that fuel of people power to make a difference. Cynics may knock it, but I know that it works. I stand before you to show that it can propel anyone to the greatest heights. Personal responsibility is the price we pay for all the good things that we take for granted. We have shelter, food, education, access to free worship and free speech, and many countless blessings. Children and young people have to be taught moral values and standards, and also that community, family and a love of our country are things to honour and cherish, not to mock and deride.

When we enter a period of peace and kindness in this country, when everyone is able to go about their lives safely, day or night, then, and only then, will Garry's legacy, the high price he paid with his life, be deemed by me to be almost worth the cost.

6.49 pm

Baroness Meacher: My Lords, I welcome the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, to this House and shall try to find the appropriate words to congratulate her on her incredibly moving speech. We have heard some very fine speeches today. My speech will be extremely quickly forgotten, but I will never forget that speech-it was amazing. Not only has the noble Baroness made a very important contribution today, but I have absolutely no doubt that she will be a very important contributor to the work of this House, representing very effectively the issues of victims and of the social problems in our communities. I cannot say more than to welcome her and thank her for joining us.

I feel like sitting down right now, but I will limit my comments to Part I of the Bill, with a very brief reference to Clauses 152 and 153 on the drugs issue. I want to support concerns already raised about the replacement of police authorities with newly elected police and crime commissioners. For me this is by far the most worrying proposal in the Bill. Indeed, I might be quite happy with one or two other parts of the Bill, but like so many other noble Lords I cannot accept this one.

There are many noble Lords more qualified than I to speak in this debate, as so brilliantly illustrated by the fine speech from the noble Lord, Lord Blair, supported so eloquently by the noble Baronesses, Lady

27 Apr 2011 : Column 163

Hamwee, Lady Harris and Lady Hilton, and many others. However, I feel bound to make a brief contribution, having spent eight years with the Police Complaints Authority, working very closely with chief constables and other chief officers across the country. I developed a considerable respect-to my surprise, as I was not expecting to respect these people-for the professionalism, impartiality and deep understanding of humanity of those officers. It seemed to me throughout that period that senior officers paid due respect to their police authorities while holding on very clearly to their strict political impartiality.

I agree with Liberty's point that,

For me, this is the massive mistake of the Bill.

With so much else to be concerned about in the country today, is there any justification at all for changing the governance arrangements for the police service? It is worth asking what the serious weaknesses are of the present system of police authorities that have led to the development of these ideas. We have had different views about HMIC inspections from the Minister and from other noble Baronesses, but the long and short of it is that no evidence has been presented today that the police authorities have any weaknesses that could not be remediated. If these weaknesses even exist, do they justify the risks involved in introducing overtly political control over chief police officers? Do they justify the inevitable costs involved in the move to PCCs? The evidence suggests not. I understand that the Government's main motivation for the introduction of PCCs is that UK policing has become too far removed from the needs of local communities. I would accept that, but this problem could be tackled very effectively through an overdue reduction in the number of targets, circulars and guidance from the centre to police services and perhaps also some strengthening of the police authorities. Such changes would reduce costs instead of increasing them, avoid unnecessary upheaval, and reduce rather than increase political interference. It would certainly reduce central political interference, and we would all welcome that. Crime, as we know, and as others have said, continues to fall, and the chances of becoming a victim of crime are lower than at any time since 1981. If the system is working, why change it-or, as they say, if the system ain't broke, why fix it?

The next question is whether the proposals are sensible. Again, the evidence, comments already made in your Lordships' House and common sense suggest not. This matter has been very adequately covered by others, and I shall not repeat their comments. As to the extra costs, the Minister suggests that this matter will be cost-neutral. I have to say that I disagree. Clearly, other noble Lords have made it very clear that there will be costs involved, and the general view seems to be that the PCCs will cost an additional £100 million a year, or about the cost of 600 police officers. I do not have in my head the numbers of police officers to be cut, but I for one would prefer to see a reduction in cuts in front-line policing rather than wasting precious resources on this new governance system.

27 Apr 2011 : Column 164

The Association of Police Authorities points to the pertinent quote from Robert Peel:

"Police seek and preserve public favour not by catering to public opinion but by constantly demonstrating absolute impartial service to the law".

Other speakers have addressed that issue very fully. I simply want to support their remarks.

To introduce a different perspective on the issue, it is perhaps worth noting that the health department has a very different approach to governance from this one. The Minister may find it helpful to consider the approach of her health colleagues. In essence, Health Ministers are seeking to enhance the role of councils of governors with their foundation trusts. These councils are the health equivalent of police authorities, including both elected and nominated individuals representing all sections of the community. Governors are volunteers and the governance system carries a minimal cost. There is no plan in the Health and Social Care Bill to replace these 40 to 50 individuals with a single commissioner.

I want to refer very briefly to the plans for temporary banning orders for legal highs. I welcome the Minister's reference to listening to the advice of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs. This is a very pleasant change from the recent past, if I may put it that way. I was glad to hear the Minister's assurance that there will be no possession offence under the temporary controls. Is the Minister aware that the UK Drug Policy Commission will publish in two weeks or so an interesting report recommending a system of regulatory controls over legal highs? I would welcome an opportunity to have a discussion with the Minister about that report and possibly a constructive way forward.

In conclusion, I hope that the Government will reflect on the profound concerns about the PCC proposals and will also consider alternative approaches to the drug issue.

6.57 pm

Viscount Simon: My Lords, it is necessary for me to declare that I am an honorary member of the Police Federation of England and Wales roads policing central committee, but your Lordships will be delighted to learn that I will not mention anything about roads policing today.

We have heard the Government say that they are a listening Government, but what concerns me with regard to this Bill is that although they may well listen, will they act on concerns raised when they listen-or am just being too cynical? I do not know. The noble Lord, Lord Blair of Boughton, who is not in his place, has stated his experiences of this earlier.

Page 57 of the Conservative manifesto stated that the Bill needed to,

Yet, in the Police and Magistrates' Courts Act 1994, when the other place was considering your Lordships' amendments to the Bill, the Home Secretary, who is now in your Lordships' House, the noble Lord, Lord Howard of Lympne, said that,

Thereby, that Bill set out procedures to reflect a balance between the influence of the Home Secretary and the influence of the other members of the police authorities.

Where does that leave us with this Bill, and why the change? How will the police commissioners provide a stronger alternative to that which is currently in place? The single commissioner will have no significantly greater powers in statute beyond the powers to make grants. When a police and crime commissioner, or PCC, seeks to change personnel, that person will lose the power, now exercised carefully by police authorities, to appoint and have oversight of the conduct of ACPO ranks below the rank of chief constable.

The appointments of Sue Sim in Northumbria and Sara Thornton in Thames Valley are welcome examples in tackling the historically indefensible record of the police in maintaining the truth that "the public are the police and the police are the public". Since the present system of accountability was established, great strides have been made to develop diversity. It is madness to backtrack on this now and to hive off appointments of those very senior officers charged with delivering public services away from the public. With the proposed changes chief constables will become stronger in that they will have the right to act in their own right rather than with the functions delegated by those in the police authority who are accountable to the public. The noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, mentioned the number of police forces. As an aside, I am sure he is aware that a number of police forces are now beneficially working closely together although they still have their own chief constables and officers.

The current system allows between 17 and 23 diverse individuals to examine the crime as a whole-from counterterrorism to car crime. And, with this in mind, it is possible for individuals to specialise in particular areas of policing, which a single PCC could never do. However, if a PCC wishes to monitor a particular area of concern, new staff will need to be employed at additional expense, whereas, currently, colleagues within the authority could assist. Even if replacing 17 skilled people with one individual is considered as a solution to a weak system, how will that single person strengthen accountability? And how can one person become expert in what are increasingly complex challenges for all society? I hope that noble Lords will exercise extreme caution when considering this proposed revolution to the British model of policing.

Perhaps I may briefly say a few words about the operational independence of the police under the proposed changes, and the interesting debates that lawyers might have as a result. In the exercise of their powers the police are answerable to the law and to the law alone-so said Lord Denning in R v Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, ex parte Blackburn, in 1968. Since then life has changed. However, what has not changed is the fact that police officers are free from political influence. All of that might change. In some circumstances lawyers might be asked to advise a commissioner and a chief constable respectively about a certain matter, which could well result in both being

27 Apr 2011 : Column 166

advised differently. As a result, both lawyers would welcome the Bill as it stands, because the financial rewards for them are there for the picking.

7.03 pm

Baroness Doocey: My Lords, I would like to address my remarks to how Part 1 will impact on London. I need to begin by declaring an interest as chair of the London Assembly. I also serve on the Metropolitan Police Authority and the Home Office Olympic security board. I have a number of concerns about this Bill, not least the Government's plans to implement it in London from 1 October this year. There are two reasons for my concerns: the Olympic Games and the London mayoral elections.

The Games are not just a London issue; they will affect every police force in the country. They take place between July and September next year but there are also many preparatory events-notably the torch relay, which will start on 18 May, last for 70 days and impact on every area of the UK. The Olympics present the biggest peacetime challenge the police have ever faced and officers from all over Britain will be involved in providing mutual aid. The logistics of this huge operation are truly mind-blowing. The Met has spent years planning for every eventuality and will continue to refine those plans right up to the Games. To force the police to divert their efforts from the security of the Games to a major reorganisation at this critical time almost beggars belief.

If that was not enough there is also the issue of the mayoral election in London next May, the outcome of which is uncertain. It is quite possible that a new policing system could be put in place this October, designed to reflect a Conservative agenda, only to be dismantled again next May if another party wins the mayoral election. Such an expensive and time-consuming process should happen only once. The Bill does not stipulate when its provisions will be implemented and the Government are free to choose a sensible date. I strongly urge them to do so.

My next concern involves the democratic legitimacy of the office of police and crime commissioner as exercised in London. The Bill provides for the post of elected police commissioner to be carried out by the Mayor of London, in the form of the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime. The mayor may appoint a deputy mayor for policing and crime with most of the same powers and responsibilities. However, there is no requirement for the deputy mayor to be an elected person. The mayor could simply hand this job to a non-elected friend, making a complete nonsense of the argument about democratic legitimacy.

I have a specific concern regarding the proposed system of police complaints in London. The Bill proposes that, where senior officers below the rank of deputy commissioner are subject to complaint, responsibility should be moved from the Metropolitan Police Authority to the commissioner, who will hear not just the complaint but the appeals. This would make the commissioner both judge and jury, and remove all elements of independence and transparency. I believe we should remedy this by making the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime the relevant appeal body. Like other noble

27 Apr 2011 : Column 167

Lords, I believe that the powers of the police and crime panels need to be significantly enhanced. I have three specific proposals for London: that the panel should be able to reject the mayor's draft police and crime plan by a two-thirds majority; that the panel should have the power to require senior officers from the Met to provide information and attend meetings; and that the power to co-opt voting independent members to the panel should be vested in the London Assembly, to ensure that such appointees have a proper statutory basis that is not open to challenge.

One of the greatest weaknesses of the Bill is its provisions for the hiring and firing of chief constables and I share many of the concerns that other noble Lords expressed. We need appropriate procedures to ensure that those appointed have the necessary professional knowledge and experience, that dismissals are for professional or disciplinary failures and not political convenience, and that operational independence cannot be compromised by inappropriate political pressure via the threat of a dismissal.

My final point concerns the duty of the Home Secretary to issue a strategic policing requirement to deal with national threats. Under these proposals, police and crime commissioners would effectively be free to disregard such requirements in favour of political expediency or re-election strategies. They must be obliged to respect them. When we move to Committee, I shall seek to address all these issues.

7.08 pm

Lord Imbert: My Lords, like other noble Lords this afternoon, I must declare an interest. I was attested as a constable in the Metropolitan Police in the year that the current commissioner-the real commissioner-was born and I served in every rank in the police service, from constable to chief constable and commissioner. We all know the expression, "like the curate's egg". It is an appropriate way to describe the Bill. It has some good bits and there is potential for the reform proposals, such as the new strategic policing requirement and national crime agency, to be forces for good. Yet I hope that the new national crime agency will not be just a cheaper, remodelled and less effective SOCA by another name. Like the curate's egg, however, if you swallow a bad bit it is likely to prove fatal to the whole. Your Lordships will not be surprised to know that I, too, consider the fatal bits to be the proposals that there should be elected party-political commissioners for crime and policing.

To call him or her a commissioner is deliberately misleading. We have two commissioners in this country: the Commissioner of the City of London Police and the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis. This newly elected politician is not a commissioner. Despite the Bill being littered with assurances that the operational decisions will remain in the hands of the chief constable-methinks they doth protest too much-let us be realistic. This will not be so in practice. A visiting politician to your Lordships' House recently said to me, "Of course we will become involved in the operational decisions-that's why we're politicians; it's our nature and purpose to be involved". To call him or her a commissioner will imbue him or her with the king's

27 Apr 2011 : Column 168

clothes, as the final arbiter of the chief constable's decisions. The correct definition is not "commissioner", but-as my noble friend Lord Elystan-Morgan said this afternoon, either on purpose or by accident-"commissar". If you look at the dictionary definition of that, you will see that it is an official charged with political education. That is who it will be.

ACPO, with which I have naturally spoken, is determined not to get involved in an unseemly political argument with Government as to the election of PCCs or the disbandment of police authorities. As to the proposed system of PCCs or alternatives, however uncomfortable it might be with the proposal it is clear in acknowledging that it is Parliament's decision who holds the chief constable to account, and how. Despite its widespread doubts-and indeed there are widespread doubts-about the current proposals, it will accept them because they will, of course, work in some areas. That is what police do. If Parliament commands it, they will do their best to continue to give their public the highest level of impartial policing they possibly can.

Noble Lords will be only too well aware that police, like all other public services, will be facing a severe cut in their resources-a 20 per cent reduction. They will of course grumble, but they will get on with it; that is their nature. Many different estimates have been voiced about how many front-line personnel will be withdrawn. Again, despite the cutbacks and their present low morale-because of the danger to their public service pensions for which they have paid and continue to contribute at an incomparably high 11 per cent of their salary-they will get on with it, because that is what they do. We should value that, rather than kicking them again and again.

What are we all worrying about? I am grateful to the Minister for correcting my information in a question that I posed recently; I had understood that the Government would be spending more than £200 million on a system provided for an elected politician to set the police budget and hire, fire and suspend the chief constable as he or she might decide. Are we not fortunate-as the noble Baroness assured me-that it is not £200 million but only £50 million? That is only the beginning, as my noble friend Lord Condon said earlier this afternoon. There is accommodation and other paraphernalia that will go with it. The commissar in every force in the country is likely to receive a salary of something well over £100,000-after all, he would need to be well above the chief constable, would he not? The Bill also makes provision for a well qualified staff for this individual, and the commissar and his staff will want acceptable office accommodation and furniture: carpets, desks, chairs, telephones, headed stationery, computers and printer equipment. That is every force in the country. It is beginning to sound a bit more like £200 million, is it not?

Is it not ironic that we can find all this and much more to ensure that we can introduce this discredited American system, at the same time as we accept that London will lose 700 ambulance drivers to make up a similar amount, a £52 million shortfall? My Lords, do not have a heart attack or a stroke or a sudden illness in the Palace of Westminster after the end of this year,

27 Apr 2011 : Column 169

or you will have to get a bus or a taxi to take you to St Thomas's. And who will be there to attend to you? I am told that there will be a severe shortfall of nurses because we cannot afford them. May I be forgiven for thinking that if only we had that £50 million that is planned to be spent on mending something that is not broken and calling it reform-a new definition for reform-we might have enough nursing and ambulance personnel to continue to provide their vital, life-saving work?

I shall leave the incredible costs of this idea to one side for a moment. The originators of this Bill have undoubtedly missed the most important point: that police are not government or political appointees or agents. The office of constable is a Crown appointment, and all officers take an oath at the beginning of their service which begins:

"I (full name) do solemnly and sincerely declare and affirm that I will well and truly serve the Queen"-

yes, the Queen-

I emphasise that they are not civil servants but Crown servants, who discharge their duties impartially according to law and not according to a political instruction, preference or whim.

Those who are of the same political persuasion as the Bill's originators will, understandably, no doubt vote for this part of the Bill, but how will they feel when we have the first National Front, British National Party or other extremist party-political commissar? Please let us not put our heads in the sand. Let us not ignore that; it could, and no doubt will, happen. How will the chief constable respond if he believes or has information that a planned march or demonstration is likely to result in very serious public disorder, but it is also known that the commissar is of the same political persuasion as the march organisers?

It has already been mentioned this afternoon by noble Lords that a recent YouGov poll showed that 65 per cent of those polled did not want any change from the present system, 15 per cent agreed with it, and 20 per cent did not know. The poll was commissioned by Liberty, which I admit has not been my comfortable bedfellow very often. It is difficult to ignore a poll like this, which shows that a large and representative section of our society is against this proposal, with only a few in favour.

If the Bill is to go through unamended, will we next find a proposal using similar arguments-that we do not know the name of our High Court judges-for the election of High Court judges on a party-political basis? It might sound dramatic, but we would be failing in our duties if we did not remind ourselves that in Germany in the 1930s political direction and action took precedence over real policing of society, as it did in the Soviet Union in the 1950s, 1960s and very early 1970s. I emphasise that I am not saying that that would happen here, but we must beware of the opportunities for an insidious and subtle political creep into ordinary daily even-handed policing decisions.

The Bill as it stands will be the valedictory address for the global reputation of the British police service-the final eulogy for British policing as the world has come

27 Apr 2011 : Column 170

to know, admire and emulate it. No longer will we be asked to travel the globe to help and train foreign police forces in the traditional way laid down by Sir Robert Peel in this country.

As I went through the Bill I made some comments in the margin. Against the election of PCCs I put two comments: one was "dangerous" and the other, if your Lordships will forgive the expression, was "daft". I realise that to use "daft" is discourteous and would upset many of my Conservative friends, and I have many-at least, I did have until today. Instead of using "dangerous and daft", I turned to my thesaurus and decided that it would be better to say "dangerous and ill advised"-in fact, grossly ill advised.

Do we cast Peel's concept of an impartial and entrusted system of policing to the dustbin, and accept that something that has been an example to the rest of the world must now imitate a failed and untrustworthy system from across the Atlantic where another culture prevails? If we want real and well thought-through reform let us do what the Police Federation has, over the past 10 years, been asking for and have a royal commission. Do not let us legislate in haste and repent in future.

7.23 pm

Lord Freeman: My Lords, I pay tribute to the moving maiden speech of my noble friend Lady Newlove. She has already won many friends in the House as well as great respect for her courage and, I am sure, for her speech today.

I strongly support my noble friends Lord Howard of Lympne and Lord Patten. I, too, strongly support the Bill and I want to spend a couple of minutes in defence of the political process and party politics. The assumption of many noble Lords today has been that this may turn out to be a corrupt and corrosive process. I think that the opposite will be the case. I have great respect for the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath-he is an effective debater and an astute politician-but I was slightly depressed by his assertion that somehow we will have a corrupt regime in place if and when the Bill becomes an Act, as I am certain it will.

My argument is this. With the protocols, which the Minister has explained will be tabled shortly before Committee, I hope that we can concentrate on the clear distinction between the chief constable, who has operational responsibilities, and the police and crime commissioner-he or she is not a commissar-who is an individual elected both to ensure that there is a clear division of responsibility and to build a sense of confidence and co-operation.

I take a positive view of these changes because, as my noble friend Lord Howard rightly said, there is a democratic deficit. My experience as a constituency MP was that very few constituents knew who the members were-people will certainly know who the police and crime commissioner is-and the activities of the police authority seemed not to be as central as I believe they should have been. Under the Bill there will be an opportunity for the commissioner to raise issues of responsibility, not the operational discharge of functions, reflecting the concerns of their constituency.

27 Apr 2011 : Column 171

I very much agree with the remarks that were made earlier from the Liberal Democrat Benches. Larger constituencies-mergers of counties, if you like-are certainly in the best interests of making sure that we have a high quality of candidates coming forward, not only to stand as commissioners but to be nominated by the district councils to serve on the panel.

I believe that the protocols are going to be extremely important. I agree that, as several noble Lords who have served with great distinction in the police force have said, it is very important that the distinction of the two roles is made clear and I believe that that will happen.

I support the Bill. I hope that we will have a rational discussion and that the noble tradition of being a party politician, like 50 per cent of noble Lords in this House, will be preserved.

7.26 pm

Lord Kennedy of Southwark: My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baronesses, Lady Berridge and Lady Newlove, on their maiden speeches. The whole House will benefit from their contributions in the years ahead. I look forward to the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra.

The Bill is one of those Bills that need the House to exercise its full powers of detailed line-by-line scrutiny. It will require considerable amendment as it goes through your Lordships' House so that we ensure that it is a much better Bill when it returns to the other place.

At the outset, I should make it clear that I am not at all convinced of the case for police and crime commissioners. Things can always be reformed and renewed but that is not the case in these proposals. The problem is that in one Bill the present arrangements of police authorities and chief constables are being done away with, to be replaced with PCCs. To make such a major change without thought and planning, without testing and reviewing, is very unwise.

The more I hear of these proposals, the dafter I think they are. There is certainly little support from the public for this change. Your Lordships will be aware of the YouGov poll, which other noble Lords have mentioned, that showed that only 15 per cent-yes, only 15 per cent-of the public would trust an elected police and crime commissioner to best protect their family rather than a chief constable reporting to a police authority.

This is of course a Conservative manifesto proposal that has found its way into the agreement between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. It will be interesting to hear from the Liberal Democrat Benches how in the negotiations of the agreement they gave up on their manifesto proposal for directly elected police authorities with the power to co-opt extra members to ensure diversity, experience and expertise, and why they think that this is so much better than their original proposals.

A number of noble Lords on the Liberal Democrat Benches have said how opposed they are to these proposals and that they are going to do everything that they can to stop them. Well, if the Government are not persuaded by the weight of argument, I hope

27 Apr 2011 : Column 172

that we see those noble Lords in the Content Lobby supporting amendments to the Bill that will deal with its weaknesses, as that is the only way in which it is going to be made better.

There are a large number of speakers today, so it will be impossible for the Minister to respond to all the points raised. I hope, though, that she will further address the point about the operational independence of the police and say how the Conservative Government will ensure that that is maintained and not affected by the proposals in the Bill, as I am not convinced by her earlier remarks.

I think that we are heading for all sorts of problems-in particular, where the police and crime commissioner has a police and crime plan that is at odds with what the chief constable or commissioner in London believes are the operational requirements for the policing service to meet the challenges ahead of it. That is why I am disappointed that the Conservative Government have not suggested a pilot of these proposals and a proper review before consideration of a rollout. Maybe we should have the benefit of an inquiry into the proposals, or the option of a local referendum, as other noble Lords have said, before they are implemented in any area. At a time when we have to make public expenditure cuts, is this really something to which we should commit new spending?

If the options are more police officers or a police and crime commissioner, I would rather have more police officers protecting people against criminals. I think that most sensible people would want the same. I live in London, so I keep thinking of the Conservative Mayor of London, Mr Boris Johnson. He may have many admirable qualities but he and his deputy mayor are not the right people to determine such matters. I was alarmed when I read the briefing note from the mayor's office, particularly the part that says that,

That is a recipe for disaster, putting the mayor and the commissioner at loggerheads. Surely we want the commissioner and his staff-the professionals-to deal with crime, using their expertise and professionalism to keep our communities safe from crime and criminals.

Moving on to other parts of the Bill, I have always supported the right to peaceful protest. I have participated in peaceful protests and organised a few in my time. Since I became a councillor, people have protested about things that I have done in that and other roles. I have also seen protests and wondered what was going on. Therefore, I have seen protests from all sides, with the exception of policing them. Changes have to be made to what is acceptable outside Parliament. The permanent encampments are not necessary and sensible plans should be brought into play. The damaging health effects of living on the pavement, for years in some cases, should be of concern to us all. It is very regrettable that Parliament Square had to be fenced off from the public and 24-hour security put in place, costing thousands of pounds and preventing residents, visitors and tourists from coming to the square. This needs to end as soon possible. It can happen only when we have proper measures in place to ensure that there is no return to the problems of the past. I look

27 Apr 2011 : Column 173

forward to the Committee and Report stages of the Bill, when we will explore what reforms can be put in place to give the police the correct powers to police protests on the square and to allow not only protestors to make their point but also those who wish to enjoy Parliament Square to do so.

On licensing, the Bill includes several measures that merit proper discussion in your Lordships' House. We should look at how the late-night levy will operate in practice and at what incentives there are for well managed premises to be recognised as such. Maybe there could be something such as an insurance-type discount scheme. If there is no trouble, your levy goes down; if there is trouble, you risk your levy going up. We should also explore the process by which people are licensed. Is there any way, through the levy system, to ensure that residents who object to licences have access to legal assistance to enable them to present their case better? My experience of local government, although some years ago now, is often that companies, businesses and their owners employ experienced specialist solicitors and counsel as necessary, while local residents-the tenants' or residents' associations, the local playgroup or the community group-do not have the means at their disposal to do likewise. They are at an immediate disadvantage in putting their case forward. We should use the passage of the Bill to explore options for empowering citizens to have their voices heard. It would be useful if the Minister could give her initial reaction to this in her response this evening.

There are many other points in the Bill that other noble Lords have raised, about which I, too, have concerns. I will leave it there at this stage, but I will raise these and other matters at the next stage of the passage of the Bill.

7.34 pm

Lord Ramsbotham: I am very sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Patten, is not in his place. Had he been there I could have assured him that in 1965, when I was operating on the border between Borneo and Kalimantan, I was equipped with a map that had the words "Here be dragons" on it. Before making my main contribution to this debate, I give notice of two issues that I shall raise in Committee. One has already been mentioned by my noble friend Lady Meacher, namely Clause 153, the question of the advisory council and the amendments proposed to it. In introducing the debate the Minister assured us that the Government were willing to listen to expert advice, yet the Bill proposes that the expert advice that is available to that committee should be dispensed with. It is not only an error but a pity that an amendment to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 is being included in a Bill with several other clauses rather than being treated as an issue in itself. Secondly, on behalf of the British Transport Police Authority, I shall table some amendments that will strengthen the Bill by increasing co-operation between the authority and other police forces, particularly in counterterrorism and in the run-up to the Olympics.

I must admit that I was surprised, when I looked at the title of the Bill, to see that it was called the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill. I could find very little in it that was about police reform. Instead, it was about police responsibility reform, which is not

27 Apr 2011 : Column 174

the same thing at all. I was brought up to believe that there is little point in making substantive change to something unless you are absolutely convinced that what you will put in its place is noticeably better, particularly when that process is involved in delivering an operational outcome. The operational outcome is, of course, the policing of this country.

I looked for guidance in the impact assessment that was published on 31 March. I looked first at the two questions that were asked in the first box. The first was:

"What is the problem under consideration?".

I see that the problem is:

"The Government believes policing governance under Police Authorities has become distorted and over-centralised in recent years, leading to a system heavy with bureaucracy, and removed from the public view".

The second question is:

"Why is government intervention necessary?".

The answer is:

"Government intervention is necessary to achieve wholesale change, and to formally provide the public with a participatory role".

That comes from a document signed by the Minister for the Police. I admit that I found those answers slightly thin. You do not have whole Bills merely to achieve wholesale change; you are looking for what this change is all about. What is it doing for us? I looked at the next box, which said:

"What are the policy objectives and the intended effects?".

The answer was:

"To transform the policing landscape in England and Wales by reducing bureaucracy, increasing democratic accountability and getting the public involved in how their streets are policed".

However, the public are already involved in how their streets are policed through the 17 members of the police authorities, nine of whom are elected and eight appointed. That has been so since the 1960s, so what are we talking about?

Then I come to the last box, which asks:

"What policy options have been considered?".

Two have been considered. One is "Do Nothing" and the other is:

"Replace the existing governance framework of Police Authorities".

However, there is a third option, is there not? Surely, if the complaint is that the existing system has become distorted, instead of wholesale change we could look at amending distortion. In particular, as my noble friend Lord Condon has pointed out, we are now in a very difficult situation, not just economically but over the whole question of how the policing structure of this country is constructed and operated. I am extremely concerned that we should be launching ourselves into something as fundamental as is proposed here. It is not that I instinctively object completely to it all, but I ask myself whether it is worth a candle to do this instead of having an option 3. That would be to look at what is currently said to be wrong and see whether there is another way of fixing it without throwing the whole thing away and starting with something completely new and untried, particularly as that new and untried thing includes this extra dimension of increased political oversight of something that, traditionally, has been operationally independent.

27 Apr 2011 : Column 175

Having looked at all that, I then remembered that when I studied for the staff college exam in 1962 one of the set books was the report of the Royal Commission on the Police, published in 1962, which went into the whole question of policing. I remembered it particularly because of a memorandum written by the father of the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, that dissented from the line put forward, which essentially promoted maintaining the status quo of local police forces. However, Goodhart said, "No, it is time to go national". His reason for saying that it was time to go national was based on a very simple statement that criminals recognise no local boundaries and that many of them travel about the country executing their plans on a big scale. In fighting crime of this kind the police are handicapped unless they can enjoy the advantages of central command, without which no army could hope to win a battle, and small forces are greatly handicapped by their lack of modern technical facilities. I say, "Hear, hear to that". However, that was the situation in 1962. We now have increased electronic complexity added to the whole web of what the police have to deal with. Instead of focusing, as the Bill seems to do, on pointing everything down to the local end and on the local accountability of local policing, which of course is important, surely it makes sense when we are looking at policing in general to have national oversight and what the Minister described as the strategic direction that might come from the Secretary of State.

I have thought about this matter for years, and my conclusions have been reinforced by my personal experience on the streets of Northern Ireland and my experience commanding the United Kingdom field army that was responsible for the defence of this country and for counteracting the effects of natural disasters. I have often thought that it was time to recognise the tensions that are inherent in policing. The tensions are there because essentially policing is a compromise between the national and the local. Neither element is superior; both have to be accommodated. The difficult job that faces our chief constables is the balancing act that they have to perform not only in satisfying the demands with which they are confronted at the national level but in honouring and recognising the local element that is in all their work as they live and work among people on the streets, and it is their well-being that sends out the real message about how successful policing is in their eyes. This tension, caused by compromise, must never be forgotten.

I wonder how an unelected, inexperienced, untrained police commissioner is going to become responsible for producing what are called police and crime plans. Where will they get the education, staffing, experience and background to carry out this very difficult balancing act that chief constables currently have to perform? Surely the role of councils, commissars, commissioners, or whatever anyone calls them, is to support the chief constable and to help and enable him or her to carry out their responsibilities in the part of the country to which they are appointed, however large or small. As I said, I hope that this will be done on a larger scale.

Noble Lords might think that I am talking as a soldier. Fortunately, as a soldier one was not subject to party political interference. We did our job and it did

27 Apr 2011 : Column 176

not matter which Government were in charge. I would like to think that the same applies to policing and that party politics should never enter the policing arena. I hope that out of this opportunity that the Government have created to examine what we mean by policing, instead of focusing too much on the reform of responsibility, which has so many red herrings that it will draw people off on all sorts of trails, we get back to the fundamental questions: is our policing system fit for purpose for the 21st century, and have we got the structures and the people in place?

While we are on the subject of people, I am very glad that the noble Baroness, Lady Doocey, mentioned leadership, the training of leaders and the identification of them. That is hugely important. One of the reasons why we should consider a national and a local police force separately and recruit people both locally to carry out local community activities and at a national level is because of the complexity of the things that the police have to deal with. You need to recruit, train and manage the career plans of people who will become the experts in these extra activities, which place so many demands on our police.

Therefore, I hope very much that the Bill will turn into a discussion on the reform of the police and not just the reform of the responsibility. To aid us in that I ask the Minister to ensure that the missing paper from the Minister of Prisons is provided before we start Committee so that at least we have firm details of what the Government are proposing.

7.46 pm

Lord Boateng: My Lords, let me at the very outset, in the presence of the noble Lords, Lord Stevens, Lord Condon and Lord Imbert, put my hands up and say, "It's a fair cop Guv, I've got form as long as your arm on police accountability", because I have. I have had the pleasure of working with all three of those noble Lords in different capacities over the years as a civil liberties lawyer campaigning for the reform of the police, as chair of the GLC's police committee campaigning for the political accountability of the police in London, and as Minister of State for Police in the Home Office. In all those various capacities, I have supported and campaigned for directly elected political oversight-I stress "oversight" as opposed to "control"-of the police. Therefore, I am bound to say that I cannot oppose as a matter of principle the proposal that is put forward in the Bill-and I do not. However, I am also bound to say that I share the very real concerns that have been expressed in the debate about the proposal that the Bill envisages and the way in which it is being introduced.

I cannot but recollect the vehement opposition of the then Home Secretary to the very modest proposals that were put forward by my colleagues in the Labour Party in 1994 when we proposed directly elected police authorities. That modest proposal-modest in comparison with this reform-was met with the following words of the then Home Secretary. He said:

"I reject entirely the view long held by members of the Labour party that there should be directly elected police authorities. That would be a recipe for politicising the police service. It would also mean removing all magistrates from the work of police authorities. I believe that that would be a retrograde step".-[Official Report, Commons, 26/4/94; cols. 112-13.]

27 Apr 2011 : Column 177

The noble Lord is in his place. He knows whose words those were. They were the words of the then Home Secretary.

Lord Howard of Lympne: When circumstances change, I change my mind. What does the noble Lord do?

Lord Boateng: I very much welcome that almost damascene conversion. I would be the last person to oppose the conversion that the noble Lord has evidenced in his remarks today in support of the Bill. However, I should counsel against the sort of zealotry that often comes with conversions of that nature-the zealotry that cannot find any place in its heart for piloting or the modest proposals for safeguards that have come from noble Lords not only on this side of the House but on his own side. I hope that the Minister, in her response and during Committee, does not exhibit quite the same degree of zealotry that has been exhibited in the noble Lord's speech, because this will be an occasion when the House will need to come together to improve the Bill and try to find common ground where we can find it, while accepting the principle of directly elected political oversight of the police.

I return to stressing the word "oversight" because the bottom line for all of us-certainly for me, as someone who has sought to exercise in the best way that I could the role and responsibilities of Police Minister-is that we must safeguard at all costs the operational independence of the police. That is the bottom line. That is absolutely vital if we are to maintain the best traditions of British policing and to uphold the rule of law.

As we do so, we need, of course, to understand that political oversight brings with it some real advantages, because we would not have seen the reforms that there have been in policing in this country over the past 20-odd years if politicians on all sides of the House and of all political parties had not been pushing and working for the sort of reforms that have made our policing now so much better than it was 20 years ago. I pay tribute to the police, and to a number of noble Lords who sit in this House who have exercised responsibility as operational chief officers of police, for the way in which they have taken the police forward in the course of some very difficult times and in the face of some difficult and hard cases that have exposed real failures on the part of the police. It would be a tragedy if we were to go backwards as an inadvertent result of the proposals in the Bill.

I want to make two remarks on matters to which we will need to return in Committee, and I pay tribute to the two maiden speeches that we have heard this afternoon-those of the noble Baronesses, Lady Berridge and Lady Newlove. They have touched on two areas in which policing has been found to have failed: diversity and ethnic minorities, and victims and their families. The two speeches were exemplars, in their different ways, of what maiden speeches should be, and were a timely reminder of the need to ensure, as we debate the Bill, that in the exercise of the functions of police commissioner and the composition of the panels, victims and ethnic minorities have their concerns taken into account. I certainly hope that we will return to that issue in Committee.

27 Apr 2011 : Column 178

The other issue that we will have to explore with real care is operational independence. It is a matter of concern that we have not, to date, seen the protocols. We will want to see them, examine them carefully and see what the interplay will be between the panels, the police commissioner and the chief constable. As to getting that balance right in the budget, policing policies and priorities, we need to make sure that all three constituent parts of that arrangement are properly equipped, able and resourced to carry out their responsibilities. I do not accept the assurances that we have heard from those on the government Benches that the whole exercise is cost-neutral. If it is cost-neutral, it will be unable to deliver what the Government hope for, because you must resource properly the panels and the police commissioner. If you do not do that, this will be a sham exercise or an exercise that is designed purely to pander in some way to the notion that we have a form of direct accountability, when in fact we do not.

What matters above all else is the principle that Sir Robert Peel sought to enshrine in his version of policing-to recognise always that:

"The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, and not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with it".

Those words are worth repeating. Those of us in this Chamber who have been politicians know that for us the test is always visible action. That is, frankly, the great danger of some of what is proposed, unless you properly resource the role of panel and commissioner alike, because all our officers-those noble Lords who have had operational responsibility for the police-will tell us that the real test of efficiency is the test that Robert Peel set out. We need to ensure, as we take this matter forward, that it is the Peelian concept that is supported and upheld rather than any other.

7.57 pm

Lord Blencathra: My Lords, it is with more trepidation than usual that I seek to make my maiden speech on this Bill. Not only am I still in awe of the glorious history of this Chamber and the illustrious noble Lords who have preceded me in this place, and those who are currently serving, but I am deeply conscious of the fact that this House has at present noble Lords with a total of 250 years' service in the office of constable-from a president of the Police Superintendents' Association to chief constables, Metropolitan Police commissioners and senior inspectors of constabulary, some with bravery awards.

I was privileged to work with some of these noble Lords in the four years that I was Police Minister in the Home Office-the most satisfying, difficult, but enjoyable post that I ever held in government. Indeed, I so much enjoyed working with the splendid members of the police service, of all ranks, that I declined to leave my post on promotion, but stayed until the electorate forcefully removed me in 1997.

Before turning to the Bill, I wish to express my appreciation of the extent and depth of welcome that I have received from noble Lords on all sides of the House, and the extraordinary help given to me daily by the doorkeepers. As an ex-Chief Whip in the other

27 Apr 2011 : Column 179

place, I thought that I had seen everything; but nothing can prepare one for the genuine warmth of welcome that a new Member receives in this House.

I support this Bill because it goes a long way towards getting national politics out of policing and lets chief officers concentrate on local priorities. Let us not kid ourselves: politics has been in policing for many years, and some of the ablest politicians I met were chief constables who were even better than the generals. However, this Bill concentrates any politics into the person of the locally elected police commissioner and reduces substantially Home Office political interference. I have been through six general elections and I know that the electorate will not vote capriciously, whimsically or erratically on things that matter to them-and local policing matters. We do the electorate a disservice if we think otherwise. In my opinion, neither of the voting systems proposed in Clause 57 will deliver extremists as police commissioners.

The old-fashioned concept of the balanced three-legged stool-the tripartite relationship of independent chief constables, strong police authorities footing the bill and the Home Office giving a bit of advice and guidance-is as mythological as the storyline of "Midsomer Murders". It has long gone. The Home Office dictates too much local policing from Whitehall, with a plethora of targets and reporting back. The police authority is an anonymous body, not accountable to the electorate, and chief constables are first in the firing line when local politicians are unhappy about any aspect of policing in their neighbourhood.

We are told these days that all politics is local. That is a good thing. The Bill inserts an elected police commissioner between the electorate, with their aspirations and grievances, and chief constables, who have to deliver neutral, local policing. The policing panel of elected local authority councillors, the policing plan and all the consultation involved with police commissioners ensure that local priorities are addressed at that level. Chief constables should not then be dragged into political considerations. How many hours have chief constables spent in agonising over press releases on their funding settlement from the Government, and in trying to balance gentle criticism of the Government for not giving them enough money with trying to appear a champion of local interests? That should be the job of elected police commissioners, not of neutral chief constables. Rather than introduce politics for the first time, in my opinion the Bill takes out national politics and puts in local priorities.

The first clause that I looked at concerns repeals. I was delighted to see that Home Office target-setting powers are removed, with the exception of the power to set a strategic policing requirement on national security grounds. There was no harm in the past in the Home Office setting a few key targets for violent crime, burglary et cetera, but the excessive number of targets set in recent years means that this power should not be left on the statute book to be potentially abused in future.

When I look at the £50 million cost of electing police commissioners, even if it were £100 million, I would compare it to the total police budget of £13.8 billion this year. The cost of elected commissioners at £50 million

27 Apr 2011 : Column 180

is less than 0.5 per cent of local police funding. Of course, that is additional money that we are promised; it will not come out of the police settlement. Elsewhere, money is wasted. We can free up resources for the front line by speeding up the demise of the National Policing Improvement Agency, which spent £37 million on consultancy fees in the past two years alone. It performs essential services such as maintaining the police national computer homes-whatever number we have now-and the national DNA and fingerprint databases, which should be put into a trust company owned by all the police forces. Bramshill should be under Home Office control and the task of promoting best practice should be given back to Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary.

HMIC is one of the finest examples of the police and Home Office family. It has the most highly trained police officers in the United Kingdom, who visit all forces regularly and know what is happening on the ground. Yet the role of the NPIA was expanded to do what HMIC can do a dash sight better. When we consider in Committee Clauses 84 to 90 on the functions of HMIC, I hope that we can make it clear that in addition to inspecting forces and detecting strengths and weaknesses, HMIC will be the key body,

That is a quotation from the NPIA website on one of its main activities. I suggest that considering all the functions that the NPIA performs with regard to improving police efficiency, there is nothing that HMIC cannot do better, and at much lower cost-and from my experience, it would be done by a body that is respected, feared slightly and utterly independent.

I have tried noble Lords' patience for too long already and I shall save my other points for Committee. I simply conclude with this point. If your Lordships think that the opinions I have expressed are right, they should support the Bill. If, on the other hand, noble Lords think that I am utterly wrong, that my judgment is flawed and that I cannot be trusted, it is absolutely vital that your Lordships support the Bill, to prevent politicians like me being in charge of the police in future in the Home Office.

8.06 pm

Lord Dear: My Lords, I warmly endorse the congratulations that have been extended to the noble Baronesses, Lady Berridge and Lady Newlove, on their maiden speeches. I also associate myself with the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Boateng, identifying the two essential elements of their very different but equally powerful speeches.

It is my pleasure and honour, by tradition, to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra. What an appropriate title David Maclean chose when he was ennobled. Those like me who have tramped over the high fells and mountains of the Lake District will already know Blencathra. It is a massive, whaleback fell that stands alongside Skiddaw-or "Skidda", as he prefers to pronounce it-overlooking Keswick and guarding the northern edge of the lakes, close to the Scottish border at which it glowers. He knows the scene well, for it is in the heart of his old parliamentary constituency.

27 Apr 2011 : Column 181

If mountains have characters, and they probably do, Blencathra exudes many of the qualities that the noble Lord brought to high office in the other place: certainty, dependability, a steadfast adherence to high principles-the pun there is deliberate-and a rock-solid determination to do the right thing at all times. I admired him for all that and for other qualities as well. As most noble Lords know, he comes widely experienced in the business of the other place and in the workings of government. He was an assistant government Whip, and later opposition Chief Whip. He was a Parliamentary Secretary in the old Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and Minister of State at the Department of the Environment.

I saw much of the noble Lord in the role that he talked of earlier, when he was a Minister in the Home Office, where his sensitivity to human issues, frank integrity, clarity of thought and determination to cut through the dross to reach the kernel of the problem were refreshing and welcome. I am sure that we shall see more of that in your Lordships' House. If there was a complex issue that David Maclean had in hand, you knew that it would be very well handled. His elevation to the peerage was met with universal acclaim. We all knew that he would contribute at a very high level and we have not been disappointed tonight. Far from it-his maiden speech was a model of its kind. It was succinct, apposite, humorous, forward-looking and wise. In short, it was brilliant. It is a great privilege and pleasure to follow him in this Second Reading debate, to congratulate him on behalf of the House on his speech today, to welcome him formally to his place in your Lordships' House and to wish him well in the future.

I declare an interest: I, too, was a police officer, for around 40 years. A moment of light humour occurs to me in a rather serious debate. There is an old adage that you can never find a police officer when you want one-but here you have seven under one roof. All of them are retired and unable to cause any more damage to society than they did before. I intend to be brief because most of what I wanted to say necessarily has been said already. I intend to take a close interest in the progress of this Bill in your Lordships' House. I am, for example, very interested in the licensing proposals and in tents on Parliament Square, but today I, too-and I do not apologise for this-want to address the proposals in Part 1 concerning commissioners.

When I read the proposals concerning police and crime commissioners in the policy review document Policing for the People, which was published two or three years ago, I was unimpressed and underwhelmed. I believed that it was all too much like the east coast of America, too prescriptive and frankly politically too dangerous. Since then, there has been a good deal of discussion with interested and concerned parties and I am now very much more relaxed about the Bill that has emerged and, quite against the seeming trend in your Lordships' House this afternoon, I am confident enough to give it support-qualified support, but support nevertheless-at this juncture.

It is true that some existing police authorities operate very well, and their members and supporters will understandably feel aggrieved at the proposed changes.

27 Apr 2011 : Column 182

I sympathise with their position, but the fact remains that many others do not perform up to scratch or nearly well enough. Perhaps it is time to revise our current arrangements, which, as we have already heard, have been largely in their present form for almost 50 years, while society has changed immensely in the past half-century. In any case, I have to say that it is difficult to fault a proposal that seeks to create a direct channel between the man in the street on one hand and the chief police officer on the other-something that clearly does not exist at present.

I am much reassured that operational responsibility will continue to vest in the chief officer but, as Liberty has emphasised to me and others in your Lordships' House, the overriding requirement will be to defend a non-partisan, consent-based policing tradition. We should be aware of the overriding tension that will exist in the proposed new system, which is that while chief police officers will always be answerable, as they are now, to the courts, the new commissioners will ultimately be answerable to the ballot box. It is that tension that we should keep in mind throughout the various stages of this Bill. Therein lies the potential for the law of unintended consequences to apply and it is at the root of much of the disquiet that has been evidenced today in your Lordships' House.

Like others, I want considerable reassurance that the Bill will be constructed in such a way that single-issue politics do not encroach into this field. I go no further than that, as the point has been well made already. Like others, I want reassurance that a proper balance will be maintained between local issues and national requirements, and most important, as most speakers have identified, that the police function does not become a political football. The eagerly awaited protocols that the Government have promised will do much to assuage doubts on those scores; I, too, look for their early publication.

What about hire and fire? It is an area for the closest attention. I applaud the move to allow a chief officer to select his own deputy and assistants. That has been necessary for a long time, but when appointing a new chief officer, what advice and supervision will a commissioner receive, and from whom? Even more important, when a commissioner considers the dismissal of a chief officer, what checks will be instituted to prevent a dismissal that is ill judged, unjustified or, at worst, a malicious dismissal sought for political reasons? In July last year I sought reassurance from the Minister that the Home Secretary would retain some residual oversight of the function of dismissing a chief officer, but no such oversight is contained in the Bill at present.

Relationships between the commissioner and the local authorities in the area will be crucial. Some Members have talked about that this afternoon. How will the financial arrangements work in practice and what realistically will be the role of the police advisory panel? Can it be truly effective or will it prove to be merely an appendage? There is much more, but I do not intend to go into it. Time is pressing and we have heard much already.

I approach the subsequent stages of this Bill in your Lordships' House optimistically. I hope that what I see is a bold attempt to begin to modernise the police

27 Apr 2011 : Column 183

service in the way that the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, mentioned. I hope that it will re-establish public confidence and the respect that, sadly, has waned over recent years and that it will put in place a cornerstone on which other initiatives can be based. Those initiatives could and should include, as has been said, the structure of the service, a crucial new approach to establishing high-quality leadership and increased economical collaboration between forces. All those and more cry out for attention. I believe that, if properly handled, this Bill could be that crucial first step towards a thoroughly modernised police service.

8.17 pm

Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe: My Lords, I shall limit my contribution to Part 2 of the Bill, which deals with licensing. Given the way in which alcohol licensing policy impacts on lifestyle, health and safety, I suspect that many members of the public will have stronger feelings about the need for change on that issue than about police commissioners. I was reinforced in that view listening to the most moving maiden speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove. Access to and availability of alcohol under the licensing regime affect all because abuse is often linked directly to violence, anti-social behaviour, community disturbance and disorder. Those trends regrettably have been growing while other criminal statistics, as noble Lords have said, have been in decline. As the Minister said, in 2009-10 nearly half of all violent crime-almost a million incidents-was fuelled by alcohol. She could have gone on to say that more than a million hospital admissions in 2009-10 were again alcohol related. Regrettably, that figure continues to rise. I understand that there are around 78,000 additional cases in hospitals each year. An estimated 40 per cent of all accident and emergency attendances are alcohol related.

Yesterday, the Brighton Argus-the daily paper from the city where I live-published a major article in which the city's principal medical officer, Dr Tom Scanlon, claimed that the impact of alcohol was costing Brighton and Hove £100 million a year. That figure includes the cost of treating people with illnesses caused by drinking excessively and of dealing with alcohol crime. He called for a tougher stance on providing alcohol licences in the city and for the low cost of alcohol to be addressed. The Government have already been turning their attention to the latter, but I am not quite sure whether he will have been pleased with what has emanated from the Government so far.

Dr Scanlon argued that the increased availability of alcohol and the rise in the number of licences now being granted were significant factors affecting Brighton and Hove overall. That applies especially to the growing number of licences being granted for off-licensed premises, in many of which cheap drink is available. In Brighton, 73 per cent of A&E attendances on Friday and Saturday evenings are substance or drink related, yet every week ever more drink licences are being granted.

Licences are going, amazingly, to places such as fish and chip shops and video hire shops. Innumerable grocery stores are now being granted licences for drink. Licences are even going to sandwich shops-

27 Apr 2011 : Column 184

Submarine applied for a licence to sell drink with its sandwiches. I have drawn the attention of the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, who is the Minister responsible, to the fact that, under the transferring of local post offices, they, too, are being granted alcohol licences. I have sent a photograph of a local one where the window is piled high with alcohol, even though the post office shop is immediately next to an off-licence and within 50 yards on either side are two major supermarkets selling alcohol.

I freely knowledge that some of the responsibility for those changes has its origin in the Licensing Acts 2003 and 2005. Some of us on these Benches were unhappy with what was being passed by our Government then. It cannot be denied that the earlier legislation effected a major shift, with the presumption embedded in it that all new licence applications should be approved.

I welcome the Government's decision last autumn to review local licensing arrangements and to seek to rebalance the Licensing Acts so that there is a better balance between applicants and the needs of the local community. I welcome in general many of the changes that the Minister has outlined in Part 2, where I will be prepared to give support, but I have concerns in a number of areas and I wonder whether we may not be embarking on a further policy of nice words and of smoothing the hair but with no action to be seen.

I have two or three questions about what the Minister said in moving Second Reading. She said that there will be a lower evidential threshold; I understood her to say that it will be more difficult to get agreement that a licence should be granted. Am I correct and, if so, what will the threshold be? Will the Government define their objectives and set out how they expect people to try to attain them?

Also, to my surprise, the Minister did not mention the fact that, in the earlier reviews and exchanges, it was suggested that a public health factor could be considered by committees when deciding whether licences should be granted. The original idea was that PCTs would be imported into the process and would be exercising a judgment. In the light of what is happening on the health service front, will PCTs be used for the interim? If not, has the proposal been totally dropped? If it has not been totally dropped, who will take the position of the PCTs? To what extent will they have power to influence decisions taken locally? Will the public health factor be of sufficient weight to ensure that an application is vetoed in an area where there are already a fair number of licensed premises?

Finally, it is generally accepted that cost is an important factor in all alcohol issues. This is being addressed from a variety of standpoints and I know that a strategy is to be drawn up later in the year on the approach to alcohol. A whole range of different strands will have to be brought together, but cost is, in the opinion of many people who know something about the subject, very much at the heart of the solution.

In the Commons, an amendment was introduced only very late in the process to devolve the setting of licence fees from the centre to the local level. I would like to know why it was done so late in the exercise. Is that devolved power limited to a reimbursement of the costs incurred in considering a licence, or will true

27 Apr 2011 : Column 185

localism operate so that local authorities are given permission to set the cost of licences at whatever they consider appropriate in the best interests of the community, although that may exceed the cost of reimbursement for the bureaucratic exercise? I should be grateful if the noble Baroness could answer those questions when she winds up.

8.25 pm

Lord Clement-Jones: My Lords, I add my congratulations to all of today's maiden speakers. We have heard some brilliant and moving speeches today. Most speakers have concentrated their remarks on Part 1. I am in complete agreement with the views of my noble friends on the issue of elected police commissioners, but I focus my remarks on the extensive changes proposed to the Licensing Act 2003 under Part 2, like the noble Lord, Lord Brooke.

The genesis of and authority for the current proposals in Part 2 are contained in the section of the coalition agreement headed "Crime and Policing", and the statements:

"We will overhaul the Licensing Act to give local authorities and the police much stronger powers to remove licences from, or refuse to grant licences to, any premises that are causing problems. ... We will permit local councils to charge more for late-night licences to pay for additional policing".

There is also, however, a statement later in the agreement:

"We will cut red tape to encourage the performance of more live music".

That encouraged me earlier this year to introduce the Live Music Bill as a Private Member's Bill.

I have been in strong agreement with those who want to stamp out alcohol abuse in our town centres. I live in the inner city and share many of the views of the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, but I have strong concerns about some of the provisions in the Bill, some of which relate to the impact on the performance of live music, but others of which are more general in nature concerning the regulatory burden they impose. Although some aspects of Part 2 are very welcome, its provisions seem to go well beyond the bounds of the coalition agreement.

Let me take some of the proposals in turn. First, there is the vicinity test. The current vicinity test for making representations will be removed, and any party will be able to object to a live music event if they are located in the licensing authority area. A person will no longer be required to be an interested person in order to object. Why? What mischief has been detected which must be cured by these provisions? As was clear, the proposed removal received a majority-negative response in the consultation. Respondents of all kinds suggested that that proposal could lead to a rise in vexatious complaints and give disproportionate influence to non-local individuals.

Secondly, in Clause 110, entitled, "Reducing the burden: premises licences", we have the proposed reduction of the evidence required for the attachment of licence conditions, so that they are "appropriate" rather than "necessary". During Committee in the other place, the Government justified the lowering of the evidence test from necessary to appropriate on the grounds that some local authorities feared that a particular condition or step that they sought to take would not be regarded

27 Apr 2011 : Column 186

as necessary. They admitted, however, that support for the measure was based on anecdotal evidence. Surely that is insufficient grounds on which to base a change of this nature, which will fundamentally alter the Licensing Acts.

Why should we reduce the evidence base for conditions so that the need for them becomes a more subjective matter of opinion? That will only lead to conditions being challenged more than currently, resulting in an increased burden on licensing committees, the courts and licensed premises. The licensed trade believes that the current "necessary" test has worked well and has ensured that conditions attached to licences are fair and address specific concerns, as opposed to being unfair and disproportionate. Where is the evidence otherwise?

Then there is the question of objection to temporary event notices. Previously, the police could object only on crime prevention grounds. Now, they and the environmental health authorities will be able to object on the basis of any of the four licensing objectives, and licensing authorities will be able to impose conditions. Temporary event notices are largely used by community groups. Allowing objections to temporary event notices could inadvertently affect a huge range of events, such as community events, village fetes and charity fundraising events. Where is the justification for these changes? Where is the evidence that these additional powers of objection are needed? Are we just creating more bureaucracy for community groups for no purpose? What price the big society and local initiative?

Then we have the early morning restriction orders. The ministerial foreword and the Government's response to the consultation on the Bill recognise and acknowledge that the majority of premises are well run businesses. Then we have the early morning restriction orders that contradict that, in so far as businesses that have applied for and been granted hours beyond midnight-until 1 am or 2 am, for example-will be penalised through no fault of their own if such orders are imposed. They will simply be swept up in a requirement to cease to trade at midnight.

What exemptions will there be from EMROs? It is important that such exemptions also recognise best practice and social responsibility initiatives, rather than being solely based on premises type. This would ensure that well run businesses that would not otherwise qualify for an exemption are not being unduly penalised by the provisions. Such a blanket measure in itself risks large numbers of customers coming out on to the street at the same time, just like the bad old days. Would it not be more practical to tackle those premises which are the source of the problem rather than penalising responsible premises?

I move on to the late night levy. A large number of trade organisations are particularly concerned about the untargeted nature of the proposed levy for late night premises. The power can only be applied across a licensing authority district as a whole, rather than a specific area, and its untargeted nature means that many responsible businesses will be caught.

A late night levy can be imposed irrespective of whether a bar is a source of disturbance. Ultimately, it is unfair that any licensed premises operating in a responsible manner should have to pay such a charge

27 Apr 2011 : Column 187

when the best course of action would be specifically to tackle the irresponsible operators, or indeed individual members of the public who cause problems. Is it not patently unfair, as was pointed out in Committee in the other place, to impose a charge on a business which may be 20 miles away from the source of the problem? As the trade associations point out, it is vital that there are appropriate exemptions and discounts on the levy for recognised best practice and social responsibility schemes.

Finally, businesses in the sector are concerned about the cost implications of late amendments tabled by the Government on fees-a matter referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Brooke-without any adequate explanation for their decision or impact assessment. In the event that fees are to be set locally by licensing authorities, there should be a national cap on the levels that may be charged. A precedent for this is contained in the Gambling Act 2005 with regard to a cap on fees for gaming licences, and it appears to have worked well.

My overriding concern is that all these proposals will add considerably to the regulatory burden of business without a corresponding impact on crime prevention.

The Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers estimates that the average cost per pub will be in the order of £2,000 to £5,000, but this could double when reform of annual fees is taken into account. It complains, justifiably, that this is yet another cost burden imposed on the trade at a time when the Government are seeking to encourage growth and job creation. The measures introduce significant additional costs for those trading responsibly beyond midnight in particular, and introduce uncertainty by increasing the likelihood that licences will be refused or reviewed with no account taken of their previous trading history or their good relationship with the community. Indeed, as the Government's own regulatory impact assessment makes clear, the net effect of these reforms will see licences refused, revoked and additional conditions imposed, with more restrictive outcomes of appeals and hearings.

What evidence is there that all this extra regulation is needed? Are we not meant to be a deregulatory Government? Instead it will significantly add to the burden of business. I took the liberty of looking at the business department's website to see how the "one in, one out" rule applied. I do not see where the "one out" comes in for every regulation imposed by this Bill. I wait to be enlightened by the Minister, but is not this very Bill, in the way it has been put into effect-unless the Home Office is exempted in some shape or form from the need to deregulate-contrary to government policy? I very much look forward to hearing the Minister's response to that.

8.35 pm

Baroness D'Souza: My Lords, it is very good to be able to contribute to a debate that has included three such distinguished maiden speeches. I extend congratulations to the authors of those speeches.

I should like to focus on Clause 154 in Part 4, but with a viewpoint somewhat different from those expressed by the two noble Lords who addressed that clause.

27 Apr 2011 : Column 188

My concern about Clause 154 is that it adds a second layer of legal process to an already stringent procedure to arrest and prosecute those suspected of war crimes. The clause requires any potential case for arrest to be referred not only to the magistrates, as is the case at the moment, but to the DPP before any magistrate can issue a warrant.

For those who are perhaps unfamiliar with the background, very briefly, it is this. The UK Government, under their universal jurisdiction obligations, can and should facilitate the arrest and questioning of any person suspected of grave offences, such as hijacking, hostage taking, torture and/or grave war crimes. The principle of universal jurisdiction extends even to those non-UK nationals suspected of grave offences committed outside the UK. Any prosecution however is dependent on the consent of the DPP, thus the two events, arrest and prosecution, are distinct. Clause 154 now conflates these two procedures by requiring all the evidence previously dealt with by magistrates to come before the DPP before any decision on arrest can take place.

Clearly, there are limitations to these procedures, in particular that of diplomatic immunity. By long-standing agreement those in senior government positions are protected from criminal investigation and/or prosecution. There is also a degree of immunity for former government Ministers.

In addition to this convention of immunity, there are many other obstacles to the successful prosecution of war criminals, which include the reluctance of the police to act upon information more often provided by human rights groups, the slowness of reaction allowing suspects to avoid arrest, and the lack of what is perceived to be incontrovertible evidence of crimes against humanity. The new clause presupposes that the DPP might require an even higher standard of proof, creating an almost impossible task for NGOs.

In the past 10 years, there have been 10 applications for the arrest of suspected perpetrators of serious crimes and only two of those have resulted in the issuing of actual warrants. The human rights organisation Redress, of which I was a director many years ago, makes it clear in its report that senior district judges take great care in determining whether the high threshold of evidence, liability and jurisdiction has been met and that no immunity applies.

The evidence therefore suggests that the current system enables the judiciary to filter out any potential abuse-a threat the Government cite as one of the reasons for introducing the involvement of the DPP at the initial stages of any potential prosecution that we are today discussing. One cannot view this system as it exists today as anything but a responsible one. So the question arises: why it is necessary to add another level of permission? The arguments put forward by the Government focus on the fact that any threat of arrest prevents those with whom the Government wish to engage risking travel to the UK.

One understands that any Government, including that of the UK, wish to avoid embarrassment, and certainly to avoid at all costs the arrest of former government Ministers in the absence of sound evidence. But as I hope I have shown, the current system is

27 Apr 2011 : Column 189

pretty tough and has not resulted in a flood of arrests or prosecutions; in fact, quite the contrary. The clause about which I have concerns in effect introduces a policy that will provide a discretionary extension of current immunities to categories of persons outside the established rules, and in doing so it undermines, to say the least, the principle of universal jurisdiction to which the UK Government are committed and, as a consequence, contributes to a politicisation of the judicial process. The result is that the UK could well come to be seen as a country friendly-even more friendly, perhaps-to those suspected of war crimes.

Instead, one would wish that the Government would bring in measures to enhance and make more effective the current system by providing more resources to the police and the CPS in order to pursue cases and by developing clear and coherent policies to make the UK a no-go area for perpetrators of heinous human rights abuses.

8.40 pm

Lord Marlesford: My Lords, this has been a remarkable occasion in the House of Lords. The depth and experience of the speeches has been terrific, and I am so glad to have been here to listen to three moving maiden speeches. I congratulate the Government on introducing an important Bill that in many ways is very radical. I think it will be a big step forward. I should say straightaway that a lot of work has been put into it, unlike some of the other pieces of legislation that have been put before us in recent months which have been ill digested and caused a great deal of grief all the way round.

I, too, want to focus on Part 1 covering the proposals for elected police and crime commissioners and to say something about Part 3 covering the proposals for Parliament Square. We have all had many representations on the Bill. I found the ACPO submission helpful, and I have had the advantage of a discussion with the chief constable of my own home county force in Suffolk and a discussion with the chair of the Suffolk police authority.

There are four reasons, most of which have been referred to, why elected commissioners for forces outside London would be a huge advance. The precedents in the United States, although totally rubbish at one point, have in general been helpful. Those in the UK certainly have been. Secondly, people do not feel that they have an individual whom they can hold to account, to whom they can make representations on their expectations or occasionally express their unhappiness with the performance of the police. Thirdly, the police should be held accountable, not in terms of their individual operations but for their overall operational efficiency. Fourthly, and it has not been referred to sufficiently, the police often need a local person who has the democratic authority to speak up on their behalf.

Let me also acknowledge some of the concerns that the police have over this change. Will there be interference with operational independence? Will an elected commissioner have a party political agenda, a manifesto commitment or the need to demonstrate personal energy or achievement? Will the police and crime panel advising the commissioner have too many powers

27 Apr 2011 : Column 190

of veto over a chief constable's plans? Will the appointment and removal of chief officers continue to be fair and independent? Will the security clearance of the police and crime commissioners be adequate for them to receive full and frank briefings on sensitive matters of security and criminal intelligence?

I believe that the transfer of responsibility for the Met from the Home Secretary to the mayor have been a real success. I remember a wonderful man called Donald Grant, chief of public relations at the Home Office in the days when Lord Whitelaw was Home Secretary, once saying to me, as a journalist asking why something I was going to write about had not been done, "You know, Mark, when Willie is dealing with the Met, he is treading on eggshells". That is not a healthy relationship. Perhaps one of the worst examples was in July 1982 when a man got into the Queen's bedroom in Buckingham Palace. The commissioner at the time refused to resign, as I personally believe he should have done.

My noble friend Lord Howard has pointed out that the membership of local police authorities, even the chair, is sometimes unknown to 99 per cent or 99.9 per cent of the local population; I cannot remember which figure he used. That is a real democratic deficit. Even MEPs have a better level of recognition than that. The new police and crime panels will be very important. I suspect that they really could be smaller than the 17 members there are on police authorities, and in many ways, although they will be appointed from local authorities, they will often effectively act as deputies for the commissioner him or herself.

The maintenance of operational independence does not mean that a commissioner's involvement with operational efficiency is in any way inappropriate. For example, the police can sometimes be quite clumsy in the way in which they handle traffic incidents, showing little regard for the inconvenience to road users from long road closures and diversions. It is perfectly proper and desirable that commissioners should be able to reflect consequent public irritation on such matters. I believe that neighbourhood watch schemes are important and have a real contribution to make, yet quite often the police regard them as just a nuisance.

Another really important point, which I mentioned earlier in my four reasons, is that the commissioner should be able to represent the views of the police when it is difficult for them to do so themselves. For example, when there is ill-founded criticism of the use of profiling for policing, even though the shortage of resources for the police means they have to use them efficiently, an elected commissioner speaking for the taxpayer should be able to mount an effective and brisk defence of the police. I noticed last week that the Chairman of British Airways, Sir Martin Broughton, talked a lot of sense on that issue in relation to the scrutiny of passengers.

Finally, I want to say a brief word on the proposals for Parliament Square in Part 3. I hope we can all agree that Parliament Square is the most appropriate place for public demonstrations to parliamentarians, the public and the media on any matter which is of public concern. But it should be a vibrant and fluid place, not a squalid camp with faded and tattered banners or a precious space hogged by some for

27 Apr 2011 : Column 191

months or even years. I am afraid the Bill as drafted, with its five pages of legislation, is not the best way forward. In February 2011, I published a Private Member's Bill, the Parliament Square (Management) Bill, which proposes in four clauses and on only two pages a simpler and, I believe, more elegant solution. Under my Bill, there would be a Parliament Square committee made up of all the bodies responsible for the square. It would have the power and the obligation to remove from Parliament Square each night at any time between midnight and 6 am all litter, detritus or other debris, including tents and sleeping equipment. I believe within two or three weeks we would have a transformed square. I propose in Committee to introduce some amendments to the Government's Bill. I have talked to a number of colleagues on all sides of the House and I feel I have some hope of getting some support.

8.49 pm

Lord Desai: My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Lord with whom I came into your Lordships' Chamber 20 years ago. There is an iron law of British politics that the Home Office introduces the maximum number of Bills in every Parliament. Every Home Office Bill is large and very complex, aims to cure the problems caused by previous Home Office Bills, and goes on to create new problems which subsequent Home Office Bills will have to cure. I do not think that we have seen any break in that iron law so far.

I shall speak only to Part 3. As far as policing goes, my experience is of being in Grosvenor Square in March 1968 and being chased by police horses rather than being on a police horse chasing demonstrators. From that point of view, I would have much preferred this Bill to have got us back to the Public Order Act 1986 and done nothing more. It will be 10 years on 2 June 2011 that Mr Brian Haw has been demonstrating in Parliament Square. He has been there since before 9/11 and before the Iraq war. In the mean time Parliament has-if I may use unparliamentary language-disgraced itself in its behaviour towards what is, after all, a non-violent demonstration. It is squalid; it is dirty; it embarrasses us. But that is the nature of freedom.

Freedom is not designed to have people demonstrate in morning suits, except maybe to go to the royal wedding, for which even the Prime Minister has had to agree to wear a morning suit. But the whole point of the freedom to demonstrate is that it will be embarrassing and troublesome. If we do not grant that freedom, what are we here for? What is the parliament of a free country for if it cannot tolerate a little bit of noise? And it is much less noise than the House of Commons makes itself-but that is beside the point. Is a little bit of noise so inconveniencing to Members of Parliament that we have to ban this, persecuting and prosecuting this man for years on end, and for what purpose? He is not breaking any law. He is not smashing glass windows in Great George Street or anything like that. He is just standing there saying, "It is shocking that 10,000 people, or whatever, have died".

I supported the Iraq war. I have no compunction in that. I am a humanitarian warmonger, as I have often called myself. But I still feel that if someone wants to

27 Apr 2011 : Column 192

demonstrate in Parliament Square, if they do it peacefully and non-violently, they have a fundamental right to do that. It is no good having the Human Rights Act or abiding by the European Convention on Human Rights-as every Minister says he will do on the front of a Bill-if all we are going to do is prosecute innocent people. I have been on the prosecuted side. I have been on civil rights marches in America and on student demonstrations here. I marched against the Vietnam War. I will not forget my past, but I still think that the Bill should retain Clause 142 and junk Clauses 143 to 150.

We do not need a management committee or a clean-up operation. None of that is necessary. If noble Lords watched tourists going by as often as I have-I do not have a car, so I often walk round these premises and streets-they would see that tourists are fascinated that the British political system allows someone to abuse it right in front of Parliament. We should be proud of that. It should be a world heritage site more than anything else. I do not know how much it has cost us to chase this poor single man around the courts and so forth. Since the calculus is how many police officers we can employ, I am sure that we could have employed 10 or 15 police officers for the costs that we have incurred.

I urge the Government even now to go back to their libertarian principles. The Liberal Democrat Party has libertarian principles. The Conservatives were supposed to have libertarian principles once upon a time when I knew them. There is no problem and no harm is being caused. We should leave people alone and let them demonstrate. It is the oldest freedom and one that we have fought for over many centuries. We can once again get back to the sanity of the Public Order Act 1986. When it was passed it was perfectly adequate, and it had long been adequate before the previous Government, I am sad to say, panicked and brought in this SOCPA legislation, which is completely over the top.

There is still a chance to withdraw from all this nonsense and keep Clause 142, which allows for the Public Order Act to come back into operation. That is more than enough. It would be a proud tribute to the libertarian traditions of the coalition, while it lasts.

8.57 pm

Lord Palmer of Childs Hill: My Lords, I am part of the coalition, which I hope will last. I want to address my remarks both to universal jurisdiction, in Section 154, and to licensing-to the universal and the local, if I can put it that way. No one is trying to stop universal jurisdiction for the prosecution of suspected war criminals. That case was made very clearly by the noble Baroness, Lady Ramsay, by my noble friend Lord Carlile and by the Minister when she spoke at the beginning of the debate, so I thought that I would just stand up and say that I agreed. Luckily for me, the noble Baroness, Lady D'Souza, added some comments that I can elaborate on.

The noble Baroness pointed out that we do not want a two-tier system. I am sorry that she is not in her place, but we already have a two-tier system. If I talk about private prosecutions, the next stage is the Attorney-General. The two-tier is already there, so she is not correct in that assumption.

27 Apr 2011 : Column 193

The usual course at the moment is that when someone is accused, the police investigate and pass the file to the Crown Prosecution Service. If the Crown Prosecution Service feels that there is a realistic chance of conviction and a prosecution is in the public interest, it will charge the accused with the crime. It has powers of arrest while it investigates. That is the case now and that will be the case after and if the Bill is passed.

In answer to the question raised by the noble Baroness, Lady D'Souza, although she is not here to hear the answer, if she had followed the case in the House of Commons she would know that, in answer to one of my Liberal Democrat colleagues, the Minister gave extra reassurance that the Crown Prosecution Service would be given sufficient resources to give exactly what the noble Baroness is complaining about, which is not happening now.

The difference in a private prosecution is that the test is much lower-a prima facie case-and the magistrate is shown only the alleged evidence for the prosecution and nothing at all from the defence. There has never been a private prosecution for universal jurisdiction ending with a conviction. There has never been a trial. Comments were made that there were only 10 cases, of which only two had arrest warrants, but they never went to trial.

So, at present, an arrest warrant is issued and the person concerned is not informed, nor can he or she defend themselves. The person foolish enough to come to our democracy is arrested, and then, currently, the Attorney-General-the second tier, which the noble Baroness, Lady D'Souza, did not notice-will decide whether there is a realistic case to answer.

The change effected by the Bill would be that someone can still be accused before an arrest warrant is issued but the Director of Public Prosecutions would have to agree that a prosecution should go forward. The change, which is very good for a democracy, is that you are taking out the politician-the Attorney-General-and replacing them with the DPP, who is not a politician and who has given lots of assurances in the other place. When we spoke about this outside this Chamber, people asked me what the difference is and why someone should not be arrested by the magistrates' court. The bottom line is that, under the current system, that person could spend two nights in jail before the Attorney-General said that there was no case and they were released. However, if there was a case-whether it is a Crown Prosecution Service arrest or one that arose out of a private prosecution, supported by the DPP-universal jurisdiction and all the things that follow would be there. The noble Baroness, Lady D'Souza, also said that there should be no politicisation of the process. I assure her that the DPP is not a politician-however, the Attorney-General is, and that aspect of the current system is being changed.

I now turn to the localism of the licensing section. Until the last two or three speakers spoke-the noble Lords, Lord Brooke and Lord Clement-Jones-I thought that this would break new ground and offer a little light relief from police commissioners. Part 2, which covers this issue, is pretty good apart from one point, which I think is wrong-the Minister used the word "vicinity" when she talked about widening the places

27 Apr 2011 : Column 194

from where people can make objections. At first glance, that is correct, because anyone within the local authority area can object now, which is an improvement. However, local authority areas have boundaries. In my own area of London, there is a boundary for instance between the borough of Barnet and the borough of Brent, called the Edgware Road. There is a pub I can think of on the Brent side of the road that causes great trouble, which, indeed, is subject to a licensing appeal and hearings. However, the people on the other side of the road, in Barnet, under the current draft of the Bill, would not be able to object, because although they live in the vicinity, they live in a neighbouring licensing authority area. I hope to bring forward a minor amendment to include that in Committee.

The Bill itself, as far as licensing is concerned, is dealing very much with dotting the "i"s and crossing the "t"s. However, the trouble is that we have moved in this country towards the free availability of alcohol under the licensing legislation, which did not exist before. Licensed establishments tended to close at 11.30 pm, perhaps with a half-hour drinking-up time. We were told that in order to stop the inebriated persons-let us call them drunks-coming out of the pubs at 11.30 pm in one horde, we would lessen the load by spreading it from 11.30 pm to 12.30 am, 1 am, 3 am and so on, and then it would be easier. Our neighbours across the channel sit quietly at the tables and drink their wine in a civilised fashion, or so we are told.

The halcyon days of the pubs closing at 11.30 pm have now moved on to the pubs emptying out over a period of hours. During that period, those inebriated people may be kept under control within the licensed establishment, but once they are outside, it is the responsibility of the police. Local communities are being treated very, very badly by the freeing up of licensing laws. One noble Lord talked about licensed retailers selling alcohol. So many retailers-someone mentioned a fish and chip shop and someone mentioned a post office-are extending their licensing hours and applying to sell alcohol that it is free for drinking not only within the pubs but in our streets. I believe that that aspect of the Bill needs to be looked at again.

9.04 pm

Baroness Coussins: My Lords, I rise to add a few brief thoughts in relation to the provisions in Part 2 concerning the licensing offence of persistently selling alcohol to children. I will first declare some interests. I am a former chief executive of the Portman Group and a former member of the Alcohol Education and Research Council. I currently work as a paid adviser on corporate responsibility to two drinks companies, whose names are listed in the register. I emphasise that I provide them with non-parliamentary advice and that I have had no discussion about this Bill with either company.

The Bill would double the maximum fine imposed for persistently selling alcohol to children from £10,000 to £20,000. I have no problem in principle about a £20,000 fine for this crime. After all, it is perfectly easy to not break the law by always asking for reliable proof of age and refusing to serve any young person who

27 Apr 2011 : Column 195

does not have it. The problem is that, even if the fine were a million pounds, it would still be completely ineffective and meaningless unless the law were properly and rigorously enforced. There is no point in having a tough law if people think their chances of being caught are minimal. Under the Licensing Act 2003, the number of people taken to court for persistently selling alcohol to children has been minuscule. It was eight people in 2008, of whom seven were found guilty. In 2009, the last year for which figures are available, this fell to only four people prosecuted and convicted. There have been no occasions to date in which the full £10,000 fine has been applied, and the average fine is just £1,700, a very long way short of the proposed new maximum.

Could the Minister clarify the Government's objective in proposing this clause? If it is to deter people from the crime of selling alcohol to children, how do they expect to be taken seriously enough when the existing law is so feebly enforced? Would it not be a more effective strategy to ensure that the police, local authorities and trading standards officers have sufficient resources to conduct regular, rigorous and extensive test purchasing operations, accompanied by publicity and public education, so that licensees were in no doubt that selling to children would be extremely high risk, putting their licence, their livelihood and their reputation on the line? I am concerned that test purchasing is just the sort of multi-agency activity that will become vulnerable to budgetary cuts in the current economic climate. If the penalties, even if doubled, were never applied because the law is barely enforced, we could end up with neither the prevention that test purchasing provides nor the cure of the law for those who do offend.

I draw attention to another aspect of the existing licensing law, which is the offence of buying alcohol on behalf of children-often known as proxy purchase-where unscrupulous adults will buy alcohol to pass on to children, very often children who are not even known to them but who have stopped them in the street outside licensed premises. Even though the incidence of prosecution and conviction for this offence is still remarkably low, the numbers are much higher than for illegal sales directly to children. In 2008, 42 people were taken to court and 28 were convicted. In 2009, the figures were 29 prosecutions resulting in 25 convictions. This offence carries only a level 5 fine, which is a maximum of £5,000. Why is the Bill not also proposing to double the fine for this offence or to put it on a par with the offence of persistent direct sales to children? Many local authorities now recognise that the offence of proxy purchase is an increasingly significant source of alcohol for the under-18s and are working hard with retailers and the police in community alcohol partnerships to tackle it.

Also absent from the Bill is any proposal to increase the fine for serving customers who are already drunk. This has been an offence for years but, again, the law seems to be virtually unenforced. In 2008, 17 prosecutions were made, resulting in just seven convictions. In 2009, these figures fell to eight prosecutions and just six convictions. Most people in a town-centre pub on a Friday or Saturday night will probably have witnessed that many breaches of the law in 10 minutes. Perhaps

27 Apr 2011 : Column 196

the Minister could tell the House why the offence of serving children has been singled out for increased penalties but not the offence of serving drunks or of proxy purchase. Incidentally, I place on record my thanks to the Library researchers in your Lordships' House for providing me only yesterday with all the up-to-date figures that I have quoted this evening.

If the Government's intention is to rebalance the Licensing Act, this must mean something in practice, not just in terms of the theory of what the law says, which remains meaningless if unenforced. Considerable rebalancing could be achieved by the effective enforcement of the existing law on selling to children and to drunks. But if more severe penalties are genuinely considered to be justified-and I am not sure yet that we have heard that convincing case-could the Government at least be even-handed and apply the penalty upgrade to all the relevant offences that I have mentioned?

9.12 pm

Lord Morris of Handsworth: My Lords, batting at number 36 in the order for this debate, I can offer very little that is new. The House will have heard the collective experience of retired Metropolitan commissioners and chief constables, and we will hear from past members of police authorities and many others in the field of law enforcement. Many of the contributions have been informed by first-hand experience of policing and in the criminal justice system. I declare an interest in that for a year I chaired a public inquiry into the professional standards and workplace practices of the Metropolitan Police. I pause here to pay tribute to all those members of police authorities up and down the country who gave evidence to my inquiry.

In the light of my experience of chairing the Morris inquiry, and having listened to the wealth of retired chief officers and others, I ask myself whether our police service is broken. My certain answer is no. Can it be improved? Of course, the answer is yes. Is this Bill the vehicle for that improvement? To that question, I conclude that the jury is out. What then is the added value of the policing Bill before us? What is the value of replacing police authorities? We have argued over many years that democratic accountability is important and it was said earlier in this debate that the missing link was the election of the authorities. We must now ask ourselves whether the elected police and crime commissioners will fill that void and that vacuum. How will an elected commissioner change the daily crime experience of the people in many of our communities-those who live in St Pauls in Bristol, Toxteth, Brixton, and Handsworth in my home city? Will the citizens of these communities feel any safer because the commissioner is now elected? I fear not. I ask these questions because these provisions will be measured by the experience of the citizens. That is how the Bill will be tested and measured.

Perhaps the Minister can clarify for us the method of election because, as we read in the impact assessment note from the Home Office, it is not necessarily going to be first past the post, nor AV. Indeed, the note advises that elections will be held using a supplementary vote system and will cost, as we have been told, some £50 million over four years. The striking fact here is that the SV system will cost by itself an additional

27 Apr 2011 : Column 197

£5 million. Perhaps the Minister can also enlighten the House with a gentle tutorial on the SV system because it is not popularly understood, or indeed popularly promoted. I ask myself whether that £5 million might make a tremendous difference to a number of officers-front-line serving officers-who are leaving the service because of the budget cuts.

We look to our police chief officers not only to walk the beat, as they say, but to be trusted builders of social capital in our communities. I doubt that the elected commissioners will deliver the social capital, reassurance on concerns, understanding and sensitivity to our communities that are so vital if we are to maintain cohesion in them. Our police service is not perfect by any means but it is a changing force that is much more responsive to the public whom it serves. The recent TUC demonstration, for example, was typical of the change taking place in our police services. They invited over 100 observers to be present in the control room to observe the demonstration, to give advice and to be consulted. They are getting closer to the people and becoming much more accountable.

I am aware that elected commissioners, even by another name, are common practice in the United States. While I am not saying that everything that happens in America is bad, what is good for American society and its community is not always good for Britain. Politics and policing do not mix. Our police deserve our support; they do not need our politics.

9.18 pm

Viscount Brookeborough: My Lords, please forgive me, someone from Northern Ireland, for joining a Second Reading debate on a Bill that is primarily about English and Welsh policing. I declare an interest as I was a member of the security forces in the Province for many years and worked closely supporting the police, planning and patrolling with them frequently-almost daily, sometimes-on behalf of Her Majesty's Government. I was also a member of the first Northern Ireland Policing Board, formed in response to the Patten report produced by the noble Lord, Lord Patten of Barnes. That Policing Board was in fact an enhanced model of an English police authority. I hope that that experience justifies my giving an opinion in this case.

I come from an area that, sadly, through necessity, had the most politicised policing in Europe. Remember that those opposing the Government shot and blew up the police, the supporting security forces and many others as well. The Patten report and the consequential Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000 set in place mechanisms to depoliticise the police and to make the force more acceptable and responsive to community opinions. We now even have the ex-terrorists in government, encouraging their community to join the police. Sadly, I realise that a small number of their erstwhile colleagues are still killing and maiming, which, of course, we all condemn.

Why on earth is the coalition moving towards greater politicisation, rather than away from it? The Minister said that the Bill would transfer power to communities and professionals. For the life of me, I do not see communities involved, except through local politicians. I cannot even see the professionals whom she talks

27 Apr 2011 : Column 198

about-professionals of what? They all look like politicians to me, except for two token independents appointed to the panels. For all the reasons given more eloquently by others, I am very much against the establishment of this elected police and crime commissioner working in isolation. I cannot see how an individual can do the work of an authority on his or her own. Who will do the committee work-the staff? It is not what they are there for. Will he or she have a deputy? If there is no deputy, how on earth is this going to run, not only if that person is away, but if they fall ill? The Minister said that the PCCs would be cost-neutral. Maybe, but the PCPs can only have teeth, which she insisted they would have, if they are provided with structure and substantial funding-in effect, mirroring the PCC's office. This, of course, is unnecessary.

Although our governance of policing in the Province is by no means perfect, some of what we do is perhaps relevant. We have come from a long way behind, but now we are well ahead of these retrograde steps proposed in the Bill. Northern Ireland is the size of Yorkshire and our Assembly is equivalent to the Yorkshire council, to put it into perspective. Our Policing Board is the equivalent of a combination of the proposed PCC and PCP, with, if you like, the PCC becoming our chairman.

However, although we have Assembly Members equivalent to councillors in England and Wales on our board, we also have independent members who most importantly outnumber the political members. Collectively, they elect the chairman; it does not take much guessing to see that they will not elect a political one. We then also have another body even closer to the communities: district policing partnerships, which consist of councillors in our case, although in England and Wales it might be parish council members-again, critically, with a larger number of independents than elected representatives.

The independents on both these bodies are appointed to provide community balance. The Secretary of State appoints independents to the board, while the committee of the board appoints those on the district policing partnerships. I was on the first panel for appointing independents to DPPs. In carrying out this task, we had to take some of the following criteria, laid down in legislation, into consideration to provide balance: religion, gender, age, geographic location of people's homes, the less able-bodied and the disadvantaged. We also had to include those who were victims. In her most moving maiden speech, the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, brought up this requirement and the option of having victims represented and involved. Whether that will come about, we wait to see. We have already got this in Northern Ireland. Perhaps the lesson is that, rather than going far away to the US, where there is a totally different scale and a totally different society, and where a lot of what goes on is quite questionable-the Policing Board made a lot of visits there-we should try looking closer to home, taking examples that are built on our own culture.

In respect of what I have said, in this Bill the coalition is tackling the issues from the top down when it should be tackling them from the bottom up from the community. The declared aim is to provide accountability and connection with the communities.

27 Apr 2011 : Column 199

Policing is about policing communities, especially the minorities, and protecting them. Where in the Bill is the inclusion of ethnic minorities, equal gender representation, the aged, the less able-bodied, the disadvantaged and the victims, among others? They simply do not appear. I just do not see that the Bill solves the problems; in my view, it will make them worse.

There is a myth that you often hear that more policemen on the street will not solve our problems. In Northern Ireland during the Troubles, we had what amounted to saturation policing, with the support of the military. As opposed to what we have now in my area, where there are 14 policemen, there were up to 650 security force people-it was saturation. What we called ODC-ordinary decent crime-was at a very low level because of the presence on the street. I accept that we cannot afford to do that here, but it is not true that police on the beat do not inhibit crime. They do, and we must find a way of getting them out of the stations and on to the beat.

9.27 pm

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: My Lords, in Committee I plan to participate in debates about a range of issues, including Parliament Square, but today I will concentrate on Part 1 of the Bill and the main issue of elected police and crime commissioners.

I support the idea of elected PCCs because I believe in the power of individual leadership. Yes, we will need strong candidates who are good communicators to come forward with manifestos that are as realistic as they are ambitious, and we will need all the right safeguards to protect the vital principle of police operational independence. If we get the detail of the legislation right, though, I believe that elected PCCs will create an opportunity to renew our fight against crime in a way that unites the police and our citizens.

I am not a policing expert but I am interested in the Bill and the proposal for elected PCCs for two reasons. The first is an interest in the impact of crime, particularly antisocial behaviour and drug-related and drink-related crime, on people's morale and the ambitions that they might have for themselves and their families. The second is a general interest in people's lack of confidence in, and their frustration with, our political system.

In preparing for the Bill and deciding whether or not to participate in it, I did a lot of reading and research. That included all the research that was relevant to the proposals in the Bill about PCCs. For me, other evidence not directly about PCCs was more interesting and useful in forming my views. First, in the context of some work that I have been doing for the Fixed-term Parliaments Bill, I have been reading a report published in 2006 following an extensive study about declining participation and disillusion in the political system by the Power commission, which was chaired by the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws. I do not agree with all its recommendations but the analysis that it offers about why people feel disengaged is very interesting. The report's central point-what it says underlines a wide range of frustrations that people have-is important in the context of our debate today,

27 Apr 2011 : Column 200

and it is this: basically, people feel that they do not have enough influence over the decisions that affect them.

Elected PCCs will offer a real say on how crime will be fought in local areas. I believe that PCCs, standing on a manifesto that people can judge, working with the police chief on a strategic plan to deliver what the people have voted for and setting the right budget so that they have the money to do it, are a powerful response to what people feel they need now in our political system.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page