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I listened with interest to the noble Lord, Lord Dear. With respect, I think that he proved the point that I am about to make rather more than the one that he made. Had there been the direct election of an individual, I fear that at that time and in those circumstances the person to whom he referred, David Bookbinder, would have been elected because the political climate then was even less fettered. However, the most important point is that, as a result of some difficult experiences, modifications and improvements were made to the composition and role of police authorities, but they were incremental. One noble Lord after another has spoken about the need for incremental change in a service that we all hold dear.
My second point is equally important. The noble Lord, Lord Hamilton, referred to our police service-to me, it is a service, not a force-roughing up the middle classes and failing to look to the interests of deprived communities. I am sorry: I live in the police authority area where I served as a member of the authority for 20 years and I do not recognise that description. What I do recognise, however, is that the middle classes are more vocal. They want a police officer in a car to appear at their door if they have a burglary and they also want police officers walking the streets, but I am afraid that, however populist the campaign, the concerns of that community will not be met by anyone. To my mind, my noble friend Lady Henig was, as leader of the County Councils Association, one of the best chairs of a police authority in the country. However, she could not provide what those vocal people wanted, because they wanted it and they wanted it now, and they were not prepared to talk through how much money it would cost.
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: That is not my experience of Lancashire or of the other authorities that I know well. I know that there are areas where the police service is stretched to breaking point by the circumstances that they face on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, but my experience in Lancashire is that the service is provided without fear or favour to all the communities there.
Lord Dear: I am grateful to the noble Baroness for giving way so quickly for a second time. For the avoidance of doubt, when I referred to Derbyshire and Councillor Bookbinder, I was making the obvious point that things go wrong under the present system, or something approximating very closely to the present system. The main thrust of what I said, as I am sure she will agree, was that, if we are to have police and crime commissioners, we must work very hard indeed to make sure that the checks and balances are sufficient so that we get an exact balance between the chief officer and the PCC.
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: I think that we can agree to a degree that the conclusion the noble Lord reaches is not the same as the one that I reach. My main point is the importance of incremental change, taking the police service and the communities with us.
My other point is a very strong one and concerns the importance of the relationship between the police service and other services in local authority areas. In my experience, we had one difficulty during my first period on Lancashire County Council when the chief constable left, not totally willingly. However, beyond that, our chief constables wanted to talk to and be part of the community that was discussing social services problems and education problems, in which they had an interest. To argue for separately elected police authorities and police panels ignores the importance of that relevant link.
Noble Lords have asked why this should be party political. Has anyone sat down and thought about the cost of an election covering a huge police authority area? Has anyone thought about the fact that, if someone is well known in one town or city in Lancashire or in one part of one police authority-I refer to Sir Peter Soulsby, who was elected very recently as mayor of Leicester-they will not be known across the whole area? Therefore, one will need total back-up to run an election campaign in those circumstances.
My final point is that I fear, even more than political bias or political clash, community disaffection as a result of one person from a small area of a police authority being in charge. Communities want to feel that they have a representative. Noble Lords have said that some people do not know the names of members
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Baroness Hamwee: Perhaps I will be not quite the last noble Lord to give a very warm welcome to the noble Baroness. I am not sure whether she expected a rerun of Second Reading. I hope that she has found it helpful, because there have been some very perceptive, interesting and thoughtful speeches. I cannot resist saying that she will have noticed that we are right behind her.
In view of the time, I will edit my remarks as I go, and I hope that they are not too disjointed. The longer the debate goes on, the more I wonder whether it will be possible to have sufficiently strict checks and balances on an individual, and the more we expose the nature of the position of an individual with so much power, with all the characteristics that are often intrinsic to an individual in a powerful position, some of which-but not all-need to be guarded against. I am in no position to comment on whether bishops may sometimes operate as commissars. However, I can see that the commissioner would be in a very distinct position from that of a chief constable, who has the eyes and ears of a police force on the ground.
Chief among my fears is that of moving towards the politicisation of the police. I fear that this will be difficult to avoid, not just because of the likelihood of candidates having a campaigning infrastructure of political parties behind them-as elected mayors have, with whom they may well be confused. That is perhaps an issue for another debate. The very nature of a democratic mandate involves policy, and one cannot separate policy from a budget because the money facilitates the implementation of the policy. Like other noble Lords, I fear that what is populist may sometimes be dangerous, and may not reflect the needs of those who can shout less loudly.
However careful and detailed the protocol-it seems to be a useful summary of the Bill which I wish I had had when I started reading the Bill-it is not a great deal more than that, and cannot change the statutory structural framework. Nor can it apply the governance. I was chair of the London Assembly budget committee when the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, was chairing the Metropolitan Police Authority. Who was the check and balance on whom, history may tell.
I wonder whether, ironically, this is a move against localism. I have a question for my noble friend. I very much welcome the fact that she has enabled the House to have a debate at this stage of the Bill. Democracy has rightly been mentioned often. Her proposed structure involves panels. Perhaps she can tell us how she envisages democracy being used in connection with the panels.
Lastly, I will be wary throughout the Bill of appearing to be either promoting or opposing the interests of a number of sectors, but particularly the police. I, too,
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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, first, I welcome the noble Baroness, Lady Browning, to her position. She will already have got the message from the House that we very much welcome her appointment. She comes from the other place with an excellent reputation and we very much look forward to working with her. Four years ago, I was appointed Minister for Health, and three or four days later I found myself on the first day of Committee in your Lordships' House, so I know a little of the challenge that she faces. I am grateful also to the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, for allowing us to have this very important debate.
I do not stand here pretending that our police forces are without blemish, or that there are no areas of performance that could be improved. I agree with the final point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. I, too, have read the report of HMIC assessing police authorities' performance that was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Dear. However, in the past 15 years we in this country have seen both a dramatic fall in crime and an improved relationship with the public and local communities. My noble friend Lady Henig gave many examples of this. More than that, there is in our police, with their political impartiality, tolerance and philosophy of policing by consent, something precious that we undermine at our peril.
Why is this being put in peril? The Government argue that police reform is needed because the current governance arrangements are not working, and because police forces look too much upwards to the Home Office. However, as far as concerns policing and crime, I do not think that the public really worry about police authorities or the name of the chairman. They are concerned about the performance of the chief constable and of the force. Surely it is right that that is where their focus is concentrated. I see no appetite among the public for this change, and certainly not for the perverse consequences that could come about. My noble friend Lord Harris described some of them. Perversely, accountability may be reduced and police forces in future may come with a political label. The noble Lord, Lord Hurd, said that there was a possibility of non-political people being elected police commissioners. Of course, that is entirely possible. However, the electoral areas are so large that it is almost inevitable that only those on party tickets, with the support of a party machine, will be successful. One should consider the cost of the elections. I suspect that it is only political parties which will be able to support candidates.
On the question of the Home Office and targets, I confess that I was once Minister for targets in the Department of Health. I once asked officials to add up how many targets we had set. By the time we got to 435, we thought we had better stop. However, some targets are important. We have drastically reduced waiting times because of targets, and I have no doubt that Home Office targets in relation to reducing crime have had a dramatic effect for the better on our communities.
Surely the role of the Home Secretary is balanced against the work of the police authority and that of the chief constable. We call it the tripartite relationship between operational independence, local accountability and national strategic direction. I have not yet heard any convincing argument that suggests that we should upset that relationship. The problem is that the Bill risks the politicisation of our police forces; conflict and confusion between the role of the police commissioner and that of the chief constable; the marginalisation of local government, and a loss of public confidence. I really regret that these proposals have not been subject to a Green Paper, a White Paper, pre-legislative scrutiny or even an assessment by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary.
I have with me a seminal document: the report of the royal commission on the police of 1962. It is a comprehensive piece of work, and a view of policing and its governance. I am not an unmitigated fan of royal commissions-as Harold Wilson said, they take minutes and waste years-but when you are contemplating such radical change, surely there has to be some process of careful consideration and public examination. Putting policing power into the hands of a single party politician elected only once every four years, with a power to fire chief constables but without proper checks and balances on his power, is very risky indeed.
The noble Lord, Lord Dear, referred to checks and balances. They are very important. It is quite clear that there are insufficient checks and balances at the moment. The police and crime panel has a veto in only two cases, one in relation to the precept and the other in relation to the appointment of chief constables. However, 75 per cent of the members of those panels have to vote to use that veto. I would have thought it very unlikely, except in the most extreme circumstances, that those vetoes would ever be exercised. Even in the US, to which we are told to look for examples, there are more checks and balances. There are independent district attorneys with a power to investigate if the police force will not do so. There is also the possibility of a special prosecutor, if there are serious problems, as well as the FBI. We have no such checks. We received the draft protocol yesterday. It does not contain proper safeguards for the operational independence of the police. It has no statutory force, and, as Liberty said today, it provides no guarantee that the party-political police commissioner can be prevented from misusing his or her power.
The Opposition have tabled many amendments to the Bill, including amendments on pilot schemes to enhance the scrutiny power of the police and crime panel and statutory protections for the operational independence of the chief constable. But amendments such as these go only so far. There is a fatal flaw at the heart of the Bill-the chilling prospect of party-political police commissioners undermining the impartiality and good name of our police service.
Should we put this to the vote today? The noble Lord, Lord Cormack, raised that point right at the beginning. I would refer him to my experience with the Mental Health Bill back in January 2007. A week after my appointment, I found myself on the Floor of the
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The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Browning): My Lords, I thank your Lordships for such a warm welcome from across the Committee. I would appreciate it in any circumstances, but I have been in this post for only 48 hours, and the very last thing I was told was, "Oh, by the way, there is a Committee stage to take on Wednesday", so I have particularly appreciated your kindness and generosity this afternoon.
I am very grateful to my noble friend Lady Harris of Richmond and to the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, for tabling this amendment as they have given us an opportunity to discuss other models of accountability. Indeed, our debate today has been wide ranging, so wide ranging that I believe it would be a great pity if we were denied through a vote any chance of discussing what are clearly matters that many noble Lords consider to be very important that will follow from the first group of amendments.
In winding up this debate, I will not be able to cover every point that has been made. Not only have they been wide ranging, but there is clearly common cause in many areas of policy. I cannot go out on a limb as a new Minister and say, "Okay, I'll go along with that", but I will take away from this debate and subsequent debates where I feel we might improve the Bill with the contributions of noble Lords. I stand in great awe of the vast experience in this House, whether noble Lords are in favour of the Bill or not. This is your Lordships' House at its best. This is what this House is about. It is where that experience and expertise come together. I may not always appreciate it, but I am sure I am going to be very grateful for the opportunity to hear first-hand.
I am new to the role, and I have had to ask myself some searching questions in taking on these new responsibilities, but I hope to set that out. I shall begin by dealing with one or two areas that your Lordships have raised that perhaps have common cause and where it might be helpful if I respond specifically to points raised.
The first was raised by my noble friend Lady Harris who was very concerned that commissioners will have fewer powers than police authorities. Police and crime commissioners will not have fewer powers than the authority. However, they will be subject to checks and balances. I hope we can go into more detail on that because it is clearly a matter that we have to get right. They have got to be there. The police and crime panels have been mentioned, and we will come on to them later in the Bill. They will have the power of veto over the proposed precept, and there will be other measures that we will perhaps want to discuss in more detail.
The noble Baroness, Lady Henig, who has put her name to this amendment, spoke about how PCCs will work with local partnerships, which is very important. They will be able to bring community partnerships at force level better to tackle areas of concern. They will
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Many noble Lords referred to the protocol which was published yesterday and which I hope your Lordships have been able to access in the Printed Paper Office. I clarify that it has "final draft" printed on it. In other words, the draft is final, but it is still a work in progress. Some noble Lords have expressed concern about the protocol and others were perhaps not aware that a lot of work has gone into it. The work in it has been contributed to by many bodies, including the Association of Police Authorities, the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Association of Local Authority Chief Executives.
When we see the final version of the protocol, which people will now have an opportunity to contribute to, it is important that it gets right the balance between the commissioner and the chief constable. We all recognise the sensitivity of this, and I was very encouraged, for example, that on publication today the Metropolitan Police put out a statement which welcomed the publication of the protocol. It said that it provides clear direction on the roles of chief constables, PCCs and the Home Secretary, ensuring the balance between operational independence and appropriate public accountability. I emphasise that this is not the final version of the protocol but the final draft, so there will be an opportunity for a lot more input on this. The MPS specifically welcomes the inclusion of the fact that the PCC must set the strategic direction and objectives of the force and decide the budget of the force while the chief constable will remain operationally independent. That is something that has been focused on by all sides of the Committee during today's debate.
Many people have raised issues that come up in later amendments. If your Lordships will forgive me, I shall not go into them in too much detail, although I have copious notes. I hope that you will instead indulge me while I share with the Committee my personal view on the amendments in this group. I am pleased to say to the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, that I quite take the point that she raised about Wales, but there will be a meeting on Friday between Home Office officials and the Assembly. We recognise that that matter needs to be addressed rapidly.
The noble Lord, Lord Dear, who made a compelling contribution today, wrote in the Times last week that he has seen this reform evolve into the Bill and that he firmly believed that the introduction of police and crime commissioners will lead to better policing in our country and a better, more responsive public service, something that any public service reform should aim to achieve. I am very grateful to the noble Lord for that, and for his contribution today. Many people have spoken in support of the principle, and it is to the principle of the amendments that I want to address my remarks rather than drill down to the detail, which I hope we will do in later amendments.
I have no doubt that your Lordships will want to continue in the true spirit of this House and seek to review, revise and improve the Bill in the days ahead. However, I am clear that, once the case for reform is
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Perhaps I may share with your Lordships the reason why I agree with the principle of the Bill. This was touched on by the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss and my noble friend Lord Hamilton-my noble friend used the term the "middle classes"; I think that I know what he means by that. I was a Member of Parliament for nearly 20 years in rural Devonshire. As my noble friend said, I had a lot of dealings with police authorities and the excellent Devon and Cornwall force. I think that any of us who have observed, worked and had ongoing communication at close quarters with both police authorities and police forces, including chief constables, recognise that they are excellent people who achieve a lot and work very hard.
However, I have in recent years expressed to police authorities and chief constables my worry that a serious disconnect has grown up between them and the public. I shall not call them the middle classes, but what I will call them is that great body of the British people who live their lives by the law, who seek to keep the law, who respect the law and who bring up their children to respect the law. When that group of people-label them however you will-starts to believe that the police are not on their side nor are there for them, we should regard it as a dangerous slippery slope.
That was my experience as a Member of Parliament. It is no reflection on the Devon and Cornwall force, which I regard very highly; my concern came about because of the way policing changed, because of directives that came from on high, and because we did not look at how we might keep that connection with the public.
Policing by consent is at the heart of our policing in this country and has been for generations. We are policed by people who live and work among us. Therefore, it is extremely important that the people regard the police as being there to protect them and to respond to them. I know that there can be vexatious complainants -we have all had them-and they can be a real pain, but the main body of the public expect something to happen when they are victims of crime, whatever its level. When they feel let down, which I believe many people have begun to feel, we must address it by doing something more than maintain the status quo and reconnect the police with the people in their communities. That is why, although I come to this subject matter from a very low base as I am sure many of your Lordships will tweak out from me in the days and week to come, I believe in the principle of the Bill. I believe in the reconnection that it brings about. That is why I have no hesitation in saying that I shall be very happy to take it through your Lordships' House, although I hope that we can improve the detail on the way.
If the intent of the amendment is to question the need for reform, I ask your Lordships to consider the evidence when assessing the effectiveness of the current system, over and above my own personal experience as a former Member of Parliament. Cabinet Office research
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As has already been mentioned, independent inspection by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and the Audit Commission showed that fewer than one in three police authorities, which are charged with providing the vital link between police and public, was engaging well with its communities. Only one, Lancashire, was performing excellently in community engagement. This is not about the individuals who sit on police authorities, who I am quite sure have worked extremely hard and diligently and given great public service, but more the corporate view. However, there is a need now for change.
The inspection also showed that only four out of 22 authorities inspected-less than 20 per cent-were performing well both in setting strategic direction and ensuring value for money, the most fundamental of their functions. Fewer than one in three police authorities inspected was performing well in scrutinising its force, and one was performing poorly.
The current model, with police forces accountable to police authorities, simply does not provide the public with the mechanism for holding their police service to account. To those who say that it does not matter, I have to say that I disagree, because repeated research has shown that the public are interested and want a say in their policing. The success of the crime-mapping website, launched in February this year, is evidence of the public interest, having had 410 million hits. Perhaps we need to look at the route by which the public can make contact with those responsible for policing.
Cabinet Office research in 2008 showed that more than two-thirds of the public wanted an elected person to hold the police to account. The evidence as to the process that we would need to undertake to make changes that meet what the public expect forms the basis of this legislation.
I ask your Lordships to consider what a singly elected representative means in the light of all this evidence. It means a voice responsive to local people's needs, both visible and accountable. It means an elected individual charged with being the voice of some of the most vulnerable people, particularly those who are victims of crime and for whom the Bill would be particularly important. It means somebody to hear those voices and act upon them at both the local and the national level. Quite simply, after careful consideration I believe that police and crime commissioners will be both visible and democratically accountable.
When I read the briefing notes for the Bill, of which I have had a great many, I asked myself why that mattered. What did it mean in terms of real results and outcomes? We hear a lot about outcomes, but they are important. Looking at the reform in detail, it is not
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is as important in today's society as it was in the 19th century. That means a public who feel that the police's fight against criminals is their own fight and a police service that feels that the public's concerns and issues are also their own. That creates a society of capable guardians willing to step up and take a stand to support their police service and their communities. It does not benefit the organisation: it benefits the public whom the organisation is there to serve.
The Government are clear that there is a need to replace police authorities. While there are examples around the country of individuals who work hard, it is clear that the system is not working in order to achieve the outcome that we are seeking in making that important and now very timely reconnection between the people and the police.
We are not alone as a Government in believing that. There is a consensus across the main parties that some form of direct accountability is needed. The coalition agreement brings together the Conservative model of a directly elected individual with the Liberal Democrat model of a directly elected police authority. As we have heard, Labour also acknowledged that, in former legislation that it considered but did not bring forward. Police authorities are not as responsive as they could be to the needs of local communities. That is something that we need to address. The Government's proposed reforms are intended to address that gap.
I now come to the issue that I believe is where the debate is to be had-on checks and balances. They have already been mentioned a lot today. We believe that the checks and balances should rest outside the office of the police and crime commissioner and I welcome the opportunity for us to discuss that in much more detail in amendments that will follow. The checks and balances should be strong but, in keeping them separate from the PCC, we will ensure that policing can benefit from a clear mandate and accountability that is lacking at the moment. Putting the functions together in any form of committee or commission does not fit the key weakness that we are trying to deal with. Crucially, it removes any direct accountability and returns to accountability by committee, which we know has not worked.
Therefore, I must say to my noble friend that I recognise the feeling with which she brings the amendments to the House today, not least because she has dedicated her life to something that the coalition Government are now proposing to abolish and replace with something else. But I hope that she will understand that I believe the way forward is for us to review and improve the legislation before your Lordships' House. There is a lot of detail to be discussed in the course of this Committee. I ask my noble friend seriously to consider withdrawing her amendment.
I will not go into the history of whether it is appropriate or not because I have not been in your Lordships' House long enough to know whether a
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Baroness Harris of Richmond: My Lords, the time is late. We have had nearly three and a quarter hours of debate on one amendment. First, I thank my noble friend the Minister for her thoughtful and sensitive summing up of what has been a very important debate and the way that she has responded to the concerns that your Lordships have eloquently and strongly put this afternoon.
It has never been my practice in the 12 years that I have been a Member of your Lordships' House to vote against my Government-I am proud to say that this is my Government-so today I find this very difficult. This Bill has brought forward something that I consider a true principle. It is an appalling Bill. I simply cannot believe that having directly elected police commissioners will improve the policing of this country, which is what we want. That is what we all want. I have heard all the arguments about how different police authorities have not been very good: I know that. But they have been a jolly sight better than they ever were before and we can improve on them. We should improve on them. My biggest concern, therefore, remains about putting so much power into the hands of one person in the form of police and crime commissioners.
I do not want to waste your Lordships' time any more. The debate has gone backwards and forwards and I have to say that I simply do not believe that these proposals will be beneficial in any way to improving policing in this country. I wish to test the opinion of the House.
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: My Lords, if I may indulge the House, for the convenience of the House I would like just to remind noble Lords about speaking times in what is a very tight debate of only one hour. Other than for the opening speaker and the closing speaker, speaking time is limited to two minutes each-when the clock shows two minutes, you are over your time. If noble Lords could bear that in mind, we will not have to interrupt anyone's speech or prevent a later speaker from making a contribution.
Lord Greaves: My Lords, in view of what I may find time to say later on, I should remind the House that I am a member of Pendle Borough Council. I originally put down this Question for Short Debate what seems quite a long time ago in order to probe the Government and to ask them about community organisers and how those would work, and I will do that in the later part of my speech.
What is the big society and what does it mean? A lot of people ask that question, but not many people seem to know. Is the big society about residents looking after a little park at the end of their street or taking over a swimming pool, or is it about transferring the running of a Jobcentre to a private company? What is it?
I turned to what I thought was perhaps the definitive book on the matter, The Big Society, written by Jesse Norman MP, in the hope that it would be a manual that would tell me what the big society is. The book is an interesting, discursive popular survey of philosophy, economics and sociology that ranges over Plato, Socrates, Adam Smith, Keynes, Edmund Burke, Amartya Sen and, it seems, hundreds of others-a huge kaleidoscope of ideas picked from here, there and everywhere. At one stage, the book asks, "What exactly is the big society?", but it does not seem to me to answer that question, although I enjoyed reading it. The book is certainly not about the big society as people think about it, which involves local volunteering, perhaps replacing state provision with community provision, competition in public services and so on. Rather, in setting out to deconstruct conventional market economics and centralised systems of state provision, the book arrives at a new sort of postmodern conservatism. At that stage, I realised that, although an interesting book, The Big Society would not be terribly helpful for me as someone who is not particularly interested in redefining conservatism-although, thinking about the Members of the Conservative Party in your Lordships' House, I wondered just how many of them would give time of day to Jesse Norman's book. He talks about institutions, competition and enterprise as being at the heart of the big society; I believe that the book is rather confused, but it is an interesting read.
Then I thought that I had better read the other standard tome, which is Phillip Blond's book Red Tory. His book makes no mention of the phrase "big society", I think because it was written early last year before the big society became an important term. Again, he has deep insights into the dehumanising consequences both of traditional capitalist structures and of centralised bureaucratic state provision. He comes up with the solution of co-ownership of quite small-scale public sector organisations so as to include both employees and citizens in the control of them. However, again, it is really about trying to redefine the Tory party and what it stands for, which is not really what I am about. I am looking for the big society as put forward by this coalition Government.
I come back to what most people think the big society means: community and neighbourhood empowerment, involving changes in the system to devolve power from the centre to communities and to local government; involving people in what happens in their area, which very often can be done through informal changes to the way in which things work-I certainly have a lot of experience, over my life, of trying to help to achieve that; and opening up public services to competition, charities, social enterprises and the private sector, which gives some of us very serious concerns that the result may be major disruptive changes to the way in which services are provided. What I really want to do is to come back to how the
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That really comes down to the community organisers, which the Government said would be employed, or provided, in different communities in the country. David Cameron talked about a "neighbourhood army" of 500 full-time community organisers-which, at one per constituency, is not a lot; as those of us who have been involved in community work and development and politics over the years will know, that is very thin indeed-who would be backed up by 4,500 part-time volunteers.
Having done some research for this Question for Short Debate, I find that this work has now been put in the hands of an organisation called Locality-which I now know rather more about than I did-which is a sort of third sector quango-type body that does various work and is a federation of about 600 different organisations. In addition, an "Institute of Community Organising"-the ICO-is being set up to oversee the work after 2015. Indeed, there is quite a lot of stuff explaining what that is all about.
"According to the Coalition Government community organisers will play an important role in delivering the Big Society by building community spirit, encouraging local community action, increasing the effectiveness of existing community groups, creating new groups and social enterprises and generally empowering communities to tackle the issues that matter to them. The Office of Civil Society has stated that the policy is based on the principles of Saul Alinsky and Paulo Friere".
Looking further on the Locality website to find out what was happening, I found that I had to go to something called "Jess Steele's blog". There is a lot on her blog. Indeed, the Locality website says:
It seems to me a bit odd that most of the information about what is going on is on someone's blog. I have a huge printout of the blog, with which I will not detain your Lordships. It is quite entertaining, and a lot of it is arguing with other people in the community development and community organisation sphere about exactly how things should work.
A number of projects that have already been decided include 11 so-called kick-starters, which are based on existing respected community organisations. The interesting thing is how far it will be possible to extend that through existing respected organisations and how far in some areas there might be trouble because there are not suitable organisations to take on the work.
The Government are setting up a new system. Clearly, they are keen on generating new community involvement in the areas concerned, yet I find it strange that the same Government have just closed down, or are in the process of closing down, a system of generating community involvement that was set up and funded
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One Government came in and set up schemes to try to involve residents in their communities and did a lot of good work; another Government have come along and have withdrawn the funding from that. I speak from the experience in my own area of east Lancashire, where most of the neighbourhood management schemes have been completely closed down, although in Pendle we are trying to keep some of them going on a skeleton basis. Nevertheless, systems that exist and which have involved and enthused residents have been closed down. Perhaps in a year's time one of these community organisers will come along and try to set it all up again. Yet if you have been involved with something and it has closed down, and somebody else comes along and says that they have a different sort of scheme, that is not how to generate enthusiasm and permanent support from residents.
I shall finish with some questions that I want to ask the Minister about community organisers. If she cannot answer them all today, that is fine. I am sure that she will write to me. Are all the areas that will have community organisers what Alinsky in America called poor communities, or will they be spread about everywhere? Can we have the terms of reference of the appointment of the community organisers, particularly the ones who have been appointed already? What do their terms of reference say that they will do and how will they do it? There is a real fear that they are top-down people telling other people what to do. To what extent will they build on existing initiatives and practices where they exist, like the ones that I have been talking about? How are they to be chosen and how are they being chosen? Are the posts being advertised and are people being appointed in a proper manner? What is the relationship between elected councillors going to be? What is the funding going to be? What monitoring evaluation and spread of good practice will there be? If the Minister cannot answer all those questions, that is fine, but I am sure she will write and answer them in due course.
Lord Wei: I thank my noble friend Lord Greaves for tabling today's excellent debate. There are in my view many measures that government can undertake to encourage participation in the big society, so that people can feel more in control over their lives and solve problems they care about closer to home.
First, government can create and signal opportunities for citizens to act. There are many ways to do this, from opening up public services to more flexible and citizen-centric providers, providing rights for citizens to take control over services locally, and making it easier to publicise opportunities to give time, money, and other resources. There is in fact a huge amount of
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Secondly, government can remove barriers that get in the way. Sometimes the barriers are simply ones of inertia and a lack of incentives. More can be done, I am sure, to honour and reward citizens, particularly the young and those who are getting involved for the first time, to encourage enduring participation. I also welcome the imminent report from the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, on the bureaucratic barriers that prevent citizens and the voluntary sector from getting involved, many of which need paring back to more reasonable levels.
Thirdly, government can also build the underutilised capacity of individuals and organisations to get involved, which it will do through, for example, the big society bank, the growing social investment sector, community organisers, and the Community First endowment scheme. But we cannot assume people will get involved just because government encourages them to do so. Indeed, there is evidence that the more politicised a topic like this becomes, the less people may want to engage with it. With this, I must urge the Opposition in particular to be more responsible. Just as Labour's love of spin-doctoring has eroded at times public trust in politics, the danger of bashing the big society may be that people end up wanting to get involved less, and focus on themselves and not on helping others around them just at the time when as a country we need to pull together. Does the Minister agree that the Opposition at times risk undermining their own ideals for participation in society, whether good or big or blue, and are in reality advocating a selfish society to protect special interests rather than those of the country at large for the longer term?
Baroness Pitkeathley: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Greaves. In my brief time, I want to make two points. First, the big society has not just been invented. While I understand the thrust of the argument that we must get as many new people to participate as possible, let us not forget that it is just as important to recognise and value those who have been participating in what we now call the big society for many years. I always think, for example, of the 6 million family carers who it seems to me are the absolute epitome of the big society, providing care willingly and with love to their relatives and friends, care which is valued at £87 billion a year-and I understand that figure is about to be reviewed and will come out massively more. Their contribution to the big society is immense and vital and we neglect support for them at our peril. It is good to see that the Law Society report today calls for more recognition of their rights.
We must also continue to recognise the contribution of volunteers. Again, I remind your Lordships that volunteering is a long established fact in the UK. It is worth in excess of £20 billion to the economy every year, has a huge breadth of activity and builds social capital, binding people together in a two-way relationship which benefits the individual and society. But we must beware of thinking of volunteers as cheap labour or
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Lord Roberts of Llandudno: I am delighted to join in this short debate initiated by my noble friend Lord Greaves. I like to think of the big society as an open society, a generous society and a liberal society-a society in which all people have an opportunity to be involved. Often I wonder, especially perhaps in Wales, but also in England, whether we politicise some of our small community and parish councils. Do we need party politics at that first level of government? Could not we encourage people from various local community organisations such as the Scouts, the churches, the young farmers, the Women's Institute and so on to themselves seek election to community and parish councils? They are the people who know the needs of their own particular localities. "The Vicar of Dibley" may be an ideal situation; we should let Owen, Letitia and Geraldine be round the table at every local parish council.
Secondly, I was sad that the referendum last week decided that people who voted would still be able-just 30 per cent of them-to elect a Member of Parliament, without having that larger involvement that the alternative vote would have given us, when most of the time they would have needed at least 50 per cent of the vote. But I am not worried too much-no, no, no-because people are saying that the reason they are against AV is because they want a more proportional method of election. They want STV. So I look forward to the time when the single transferable vote is presented to this House and the masses of people who said that AV did not give proportionality will join me in the Lobby for a fairer and more representative electoral system.
Finally, we have always been a country that welcomes people to our shores-the most vulnerable and needy, wherever they are from. I hope that the big society will be big not only within the United Kingdom but big, welcoming and compassionate for all who are in need.
The Lord Bishop of Norwich: My Lords, you cannot make people more altruistic by telling them to be so, and you cannot make them more neighbourly by instructing them to be better neighbours. We tend to learn these things by participation in intermediate institutions, larger than the family, of which churches are a good example but far from the only example. Not long ago, I commissioned 24 street pastors in the city of Norwich, who joined an already large body of volunteers. They are on the streets late at night, well into the early hours, particularly at weekends when many young people are often at risk and some are in danger. They simply offer friendship. They have been appreciated by the police, who value the assistance that they give to the distraught and the disorientated, the lost and the scared.
I use the street pastors to illustrate two important things about participation in the big society. The first is that they already have experience of being part of a body of people seeking both to care for each other and to serve the common good-in their case, of course, within a church. Secondly, they work in teams and with others; they do not operate as atomised individuals.
We learn to value ourselves and others in our families, of course, but we know too many families are broken and unloving. You cannot love your neighbour, as we were told a very long time ago, if you do not love yourself. So we need broadening communities where we learn to value ourselves and others-not only churches, but voluntary groups and societies, uniformed organisations and, indeed, any group not focused simply on itself. Do we do enough to nurture these intermediate institutions? Have we sought to liberate them from unnecessary bureaucracy? Do we truly invest in them? I guess that most of us in this House are inspired to service within such institutions-churches, trade unions, local political parties-and that is where participation in the big society is fed.
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Greaves for initiating this debate. I believe the coalition Government have made it quite clear that they see a transition away from a bureaucratic interfering state to involving, engaging and encouraging the active participation of all communities in all spheres of public life-a move away, if you will, from big government to big society. This involves active volunteering -or AV, perhaps, as it should now be known so that it lives on for the noble Lord, Lord Roberts. It is about recognising the crucial role of social enterprise-the voluntary sector, charities and community groups among others-to actively take charge of delivering services, creating opportunities and stimulating economic activity, not by sitting on the periphery but as active participants and, indeed, as leaders of initiatives and projects.
I ask my noble friend the Minister whether she recognises that it is not only about paying lip service to the big society but about empowering individuals, groups and communities through both logistical support and financial empowerment. We are often asked the question: what is the big society? As has been said before, it is not a new concept. It is about recognising
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Ultimately when we are asked the question "What is the big society?", the answer is simply put: it is about you, me and all of us playing our part in active volunteering-AV-be it at a local, regional, national or global level, to demonstrate that we are part of a global community.
Lord Jones: My Lords, the Prime Minister's declaration could lead to an enhancement of British civic society but I hope that his inspiration is neither cavalier nor formulaic; a hopeful declaration is insufficient.
Our society today is shot through with an almost universal materialism and with a veneration of celebrity-for example, with television studio high priests and priestesses such as Messrs Norton and Ross and the ubiquitous Cheryl Cole. However, the positive is that the big society is already in part on the way. Britain has a great army of volunteers who serve others willingly; they seek to give, to help, to serve, to lead, to encourage, to teach, to reassure and to inspire.
We speak as we find. I pay my own tribute as a Flintshire president of our hospital's League of Friends, of the branch Alzheimer's Society, of the Neighbourhood Watch, of our arthritis care group and of the history group. It is humbling to see these brilliant volunteers at work. They are wonderful people who are selfless, loyal, able and courteous; they are exemplary, unselfish citizens who put others first. I hope that the Prime Minister's big society already acknowledges and praises them. This army of voluntarism keeps our complicated civic society show on the road.
Perhaps the Prime Minister's big society might acknowledge the excellence of the well led voluntary service councils; might engage the undoubted experience of town and community councils; might consult the Salvation Army as well as chapel and church; might interest sixth forms and FE colleges; and might involve Rotary, Lions, golf and cricket clubs, for example. The expertise and idealism are there and ready to be enhanced.
Baroness Tyler of Enfield: My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Greaves. In the limited time available I shall focus my remarks, first, on why the reaction to the big society by some in the voluntary sector has been rather lukewarm; and, secondly, to call on the Government to show a more sophisticated understanding about the realities of running a charity, big or small, in modern day Britain, particularly the costs associated with volunteering, as has already been mentioned.
In common with many others in the sector, reaction from some of my own colleagues in Relate, where I have a declared interest as chief executive, has often been to say, "Well, we have been part of the big society since 1938, so what is really new here?". Like so many other charities, volunteering, be it as a fully trained counsellor, a volunteer receptionist or a local trustee, has underpinned much of what we do.
When I knew that I would be speaking in this debate I conducted a quick straw poll of some charity chief executive colleagues in the children and families sector to get their views on what both encourages and hinders volunteering. Many of these charities employ co-ordinators to recruit and train volunteers to ensure that they are properly equipped to work with vulnerable families and children. A number of key points emerged but I shall mention only one today. It costs money to use volunteers effectively; the more volunteers there are, the more supervision and training is required to ensure good and safe outcomes for beneficiaries. A ratio of one paid worker to 10 or 15 volunteers would be quite typical. Other costs include insurance, producing materials, computers and meeting health and safety regulations.
Expenses need to be reimbursed if volunteering is to be socially inclusive. If this is not recognised, we are in danger of turning the clock back to the 1950s when virtually all volunteers were middle-aged, middle-class women not participating in paid employment. That is not in any way to denigrate their enormous contribution; it is simply to say that in this year we need people who are prepared to volunteer from all walks of life if the services provided by charities are to look and feel representative of the communities they serve.
Lord Sheikh: My Lords, I am an enthusiastic supporter of the big society concept. I would like, in the limited time available to me, to talk about the role of the charitable sector, which is dear to my heart. In my contribution to the Second Reading of the Charities Bill last week, I was keen to stress how charities are a useful barometer of the degree of social cohesion. The Bill will make a contribution to the big society by making charity law simpler to understand and navigate, which will reduce the existing complexities that serve to discourage participation. I await with eager anticipation the publication tomorrow of the Giving White Paper, which promises to focus on supporting the giving of time and money.
We should all work towards providing adequate recognition of the contribution of many civil society organisations. They do not exist to seek awards, but we should all be pleased that the big society awards are highlighting the achievements of those undertaking important work and, by raising the profile, encouraging wider participation.
Most charities appeal to people's good nature and generosity by asking for donations of money and time. There needs to be an alternative to government provision in addressing problems in our society. The Government are correct in prioritising the big society as a means of providing that alternative. The British people are famous for their generosity and our record on charitable giving is impressive when compared internationally. People need to be enabled to use the vehicle of the charitable sector to volunteer their time, energy and resources for the good of all. We should all think about taking responsibility for everyone else's welfare interests: that is the big society. The success of this initiative will not rest entirely on the activities of the Government but requires participation from everyone. We must enable
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Lord Haskel: The noble Lord, Lord Wei, may be surprised that some of us in this Opposition have, over the years, tried to welcome ideas that bring a little hope-wherever they come from-and the big society has the potential to do this. Yet hope for better things needs reason while exaggerated expectations bring only disappointment. Encouraging the big society should reflect this balance.
Is it just a matter of competition in delivering good public services, as the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, and other noble Lords have suggested? No: we are beginning to see competition between two or three large providers squeezing out the small charity or the local provider, which acts as a discouragement to the big society idea. In practice, measures will have to be devised on a sector-by-sector basis. The altruism that was mentioned by the right reverend Prelate has worked in health, where the NHS, the charities and the research organisations have all worked together because health does not differentiate between people. It has not worked in education because so much depends on the background of the individual student; all the longitudinal studies indicate that. On drug treatment, competition between the public and the private sector has shown that both do well, so each sector has to be considered separately.
I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Tyler, that to encourage people to participate a range of financial instruments is needed that meets the needs and ideals of the big society. Perhaps some of the ingenuity of the City could be directed towards harnessing this. The idea of the big society may end up like the third way or stakeholder engagement or it may just end up with volunteers running public libraries, but it is worth a try.
Baroness Benjamin: My Lords, I, too, thank my noble friend for securing this debate. There is no better feeling than going to sleep at night knowing that you have done something unconditionally to make life better for your fellow human beings. While volunteering is lacking in many communities the concept of the big society, implemented inclusively, is a way to encourage those who perhaps had never thought about social action.
I believe it is young people who will play a vital role in building a better society because of their energy, instinctive optimism and compassion. I visit schools to speak to children and young people about caring for each other and about the philosophy of contentment and real happiness. It never ceases to amaze me how, through their schools and clubs, they do tremendous fundraising and charitable work. It is clear to see that they get a huge amount of pride and satisfaction out of it. Once given the opportunity to do something constructive, they instinctively embrace the concept of the big society. This therefore needs to be encouraged so that society does not lose out on this rich resource.
Many adults who want to play their part by volunteering their time and expertise to inspire and motivate children and young people are often hampered by the cumbersome and expensive system of CRB checking. However, there are those who fear that if the CRB checks are relaxed it will endanger vulnerable children. Abusers are within the school gates as well as outside. How is the Minister proposing to improve the CRB checking system while making it more robust, effective and less costly? I am an advocate of extended learning, teaching youngsters basic life skills as well as how society works. What measures are being put in place in the national curriculum to ensure that young people are fully aware of their responsibility to society?
Also, what is being done for the many young people from minority communities who feel alienated and excluded from society, and do not feel the incentive or desire to participate in the national citizen services? Meanwhile, those from disadvantaged backgrounds, where the benefit culture is generational and the concept of contributing to society is difficult for them to grasp, need positive role models to give them inspiration and aspiration. Once again, what is being done to encourage more social action in deprived areas among those who have taken to a life reliant on the state and a drug and gang culture?
The Viscount Younger of Leckie: My Lords, making the big society happen is all about effecting a behavioural and cultural shift for individuals within communities. It is about extending the concept and values of volunteering and self-help from societies and geographical areas where they are working to those where they are not. It is a movement or bandwagon-a shift in societal thinking based not on being dictated to by government, local or national, but on being persuaded that an ethos to help in our neighbourhood, naturally ingrained in most of us, should come alive where it is dormant. Communication is the answer. A recent survey highlighted the fact that half the adult population currently volunteer but as many as 11 million people would do so if only they were asked. How best to knock on the door of the Englishman's castle?
The efforts of 5,000 selected local community organisers or champions over the next four years will build and galvanise teams and ignite a sense of belonging in the community. It is encouraging that, last year, 76 per cent of people felt that they belonged to a society, compared to 70 per cent in 2003. Individuals can be persuaded by example. The nature and number of successfully burgeoning projects must be broadcast regularly and nationally to create interest, develop momentum, increase the energy and encourage copycat activities. Is there such a plan?
Finally, healthy competition within and between communities can be a powerfully persuasive tool for volunteering. The Government's awards, notably for new and creative local projects, increase teamwork and pride resulting from local activity. The recent royal wedding street parties are a prime example of how people have lowered their drawbridges and come out to meet, talk and engage in their communities-in
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Baroness Sherlock: My Lords, I am pleased to reassure the noble Lord, Lord Wei, that I and many others on this side are passionate believers in civil society. Whatever the big society is, at the very least it must depend upon people giving voluntarily of their own time. We can agree on that much. I believe in civil society because I believe that the ties that bind our country and our people together are not in fact big threads woven by the state but are made up of lots of tiny, overlapping threads. Those are woven out of the individual encounters we have with people around us, especially people unlike us.
I spent a number of years in the voluntary sector, most recently running the British Refugee Council. When I arrived there, we had 400 paid staff but even more volunteers. Yet people do not volunteer by accident. As the noble Baroness, Lady Tyler of Enfield, pointed out so eloquently, the support required to get volunteers in more than pays itself back. I watched people arriving in this country who had been welcomed in, having been traumatised and in many cases tortured by their own states. They were moved almost to tears by the fact that individual British people would give of their time to come in to teach them English, to mentor them, to help them take up a career and to integrate. So moved were they that they would almost always go on to volunteer in turn, passing that down the generations. What we are doing there is not only reaching out to each other but creating and reinforcing a set of values which make our country what it is. We also create the next generation of volunteers.
I am delighted to hear that the Government want to invest in community organisers. Four thousand sounds a wonderfully impressive number. Yet what is the point in investing solely in new ones if we are, in practice, taking funding away from the hundreds of thousands of people out there who are involved in charities and who got there through the support of the Government? I am trying really hard not to make a cheap political point out of this but I have spoken to so many people in charities, as I know other noble Lords have, who are seeing the programmes that they have built up over years falling apart. It took so long to develop those volunteers and pull them together that it would take them years, if not generations, to rebuild them.
I urge the Minister to think carefully and to reassure people on all sides of this House, who I think share those worries in one way or another. How can we make sure that the values of the big society and of civil society are embraced not only by new people coming in? We should show how grateful we are, and how much we care and are thankful, to all those who have been doing this for generations.
My great fear about this big society idea is that the support will not be there in sufficient scale or purpose to alleviate problems or to help people to participate. That is why the previous Labour Administration made supporting the voluntary sector a key priority, including doubling funding to the sector over 13 years. We did not have some Victorian notion of philanthropy or think that village fetes would resolve the challenging problems faced by communities today.
We have only to look at the stark differences between our regions to see how the big society idea is already unravelling as the unfair distribution of government cuts hits those areas where the needs are greater, such as in the north-east of England, where 62 per cent of voluntary organisations have already seen a decrease in their funding. In my own region of Yorkshire, 26,000 voluntary sector jobs are threatened. Does the Minister agree with me that public sector investment is vital to the health of voluntary organisations, and that without it there cannot be meaningful participation in the big society?
People in the voluntary sector are trying to deal with budget cuts, of course they are, but organisations in the north cannot turn to big corporate or high-value donors to make up the gap as London-based organisations can. For example, over £40 million-worth of donations were made in London in 2009-10 compared with only £6 million in the north-east.
Participating in the big society is clearly not for the many but for those few who are fortunate enough to live in affluent areas. I argue that it is not so much a big society as the "less society"-fewer voluntary organisations to carry out vital work, less government interest in supporting local communities, less funding for community activists and, yes, less participation.
The Government have stated that fairness is at the heart of their policy. However, they are creating a policy that is not only unfair but runs the risk of deepening social inequalities, particularly in the north of the country. Therefore, while I agree that the big society objectives are positive, I believe that an overreliance on philanthropy to provide resources for social action will result in unfairness in the long term. I look forward to hearing how the Minister will address these and the other many important issues, particularly regarding volunteering, that have been raised in this important debate.
Baroness Warsi: My Lords, I thank noble Lords for contributing to this debate. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, for initiating the debate and providing an opportunity for an interesting, wide-ranging and at times challenging discussion.
The big society is about a volunteering, social action, philanthropic approach to life, but it is also about the opening up of public services to local control and the devolution of power from Whitehall to local communities. Listening to the contributions today, I have found that it is clear that the principles and ideas behind the big society have been alive and kicking in the House for many years. Almost everyone in this Chamber has been involved in some form of charitable and voluntary work, and in many cases noble Lords have been driving the social action debate.
The noble Baroness, Lady Pitkeathley, makes an important point, and I acknowledge the work already being done. My noble friend Lord Wei stressed earlier that the big society should go beyond party lines, and I support that. I welcome the comments made by my noble friend Lord Roberts of Llandudno in support of that. I hope that he forgives me for not engaging with him again on all the debates around AV.
I visited an excellent example of the big society in action in east London: the Bromley by Bow Centre, created by the noble Lord, Lord Mawson, back in 1984. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich is right to highlight the work of street pastors, whom I have had the privilege of hearing first-hand in three separate cities.
The noble Lord, Lord Jones, paid tribute to the volunteers at the League of Friends at Deeside Community Hospital, to Flintshire Neighbourhood Watch, to Flintshire Alzheimer's Society and to the Flintshire arthritis care group. He paid tribute to those volunteers, and I pay tribute to him as president of all those organisations and a trustee of many others.
Today many noble Lords have raised the issue of funding. My noble friend Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon is right to say that financial support must be alongside empowerment. As I have said before in this House, it is undoubtedly unfortunate that we have to deliver the big society against the backdrop of the financial circumstances that we find ourselves in.
I do not treat the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Sherlock, as a cheap political point. I accept what she says, but I hope she accepts that my comment that the coalition Government inherited the worst peacetime deficit ever is also not a political statement but a fact.
I assure noble Lords that the big society is not a cover for cuts. Rather, it is a positive agenda, developed long before the financial crisis. It was, as David Cameron said in his Hugo Young lecture in 2009, an answer to why the growth of public spending had failed to bring about the kind of social progress that we all wanted to see. I do not accept the idea that the big society depends only on more and more public spending. It is simply a way of making things better where state intervention and increased public spending have failed.
The big society can be realised only when people, organisations and community groups get involved. Without participation, there is no big society. It is therefore essential that the Government work to both encourage and enable participation. We are doing this by encouraging social action, providing the right funds to support community work, making it easier to volunteer and shifting powers from Whitehall to local people. I shall take each of those in turn.
First, we are encouraging people to take part in social action by putting in place a number of key programmes. Some 11,000 16 and 17 year-old school leavers will participate this summer in the national citizen service. I am sure that my noble friend Lady Benjamin will welcome that. They will gain a unique experience, learning about community action in a supportive and engaging environment. Some 5,000 community organisers will also catalyse and support community action in local neighbourhoods.
My noble friend Lord Greaves has asked a number of questions. I hope that I can answer some of them. He asked about remuneration for community organisers. The 500 senior organisers that he referred to will receive a bursary of £20,000 for the first year. He raised a number of other questions regarding terms of reference, how they will build on work done before and what relationship they will have with councillors. I hope that he will bear with me; I will try to answer some of those questions in correspondence to him.
The Giving Green Paper that was published in December, which has been referred to again in this debate, sought feedback on new and innovative ideas to further encourage social action. It resulted in some highly positive feedback. For example, the National Association for Voluntary and Community Action, the national charity that provides a voice for over 160,000 small charities and community groups, said:
"We find much to commend in the Green Paper, in particular in its emphasis on creating an environment for social action, giving and volunteering. We recognise that the government's role in social action is limited, but believe that there is a vitally significant role for government in helping to create this environment".
Secondly, the Government are introducing new funds to encourage participation. The community first fund will encourage more social action in neighbourhoods with significant deprivation and low social capital. The fund will include a £30 million neighbourhood match fund and a £50 million endowment match challenge to create sustainable sources of funding for neighbourhood projects. The big society bank will help to grow a market in social investment, bringing new funding into the sector and help people access capital to fund their projects. The noble Lord, Lord Haskel, is right to say that the ingenuity of the City should also be harnessed, and I am optimistic that the big society bank could be a vehicle to do just that.
Thirdly, the Government are encouraging people to take part in their local communities by making it easier to volunteer, and I welcome the perceptive points made by my noble friend Lady Tyler of Enfield. My noble friend Lord Hodgson has been leading a red tape task force, looking at how to remove barriers to those wishing to become actively involved in their communities. He will publish his report next week.
We have also reviewed the criminal records, vetting and barring regimes. The Protection of Freedoms Bill proposes changes that will reduce unnecessary bureaucratic burden for organisations working with volunteers. My noble friend Lady Benjamin raises an important issue on protection. I will make sure that I write to her with more details on the specific points that have been raised.
In preparation for the royal wedding, the Government reduced bureaucracy to enable people across Britain to celebrate together. It was a moment when the nation came together. We scrapped central guidance on road closures and replaced the complicated bureaucracy of forms and risk assessments with a simple checklist. We estimate that well over 5,000 street parties took
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The Government are leading by example and encouraging civil servants to volunteer more. We are turning the Civil Service into the civic service by giving special leave for volunteering. One civil servant who took up this opportunity at a local cemetery said, "These days are all about giving back to the community. I am over the moon to chip in where I am needed".
It is also essential that inspirational examples of good practice are highlighted. My noble friend Lord Younger made the very important point that we should encourage copycat behavioural change. I refer to one statistic that was given in evidence at one of the big society seminars by J Mohan, who said that a civic core exists in Britain, which is currently responsible for the majority of giving and volunteering. Thirty-one per cent of the adult population provides 90 per cent of volunteer hours, 80 per cent of charitable giving and 70 per cent of civic participation. We must increase that percentage from 31 per cent.
We have also created the big society awards. Later this week I will attend a reception hosted by the Prime Minister in Downing Street to celebrate the winners, and to encourage and highlight those who are doing good work. We also continue to support the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service. It is essential that we empower communities so that those inspired to do more have the ability to make a real difference. New powers contained in the Localism Bill will give local communities the tools to grow the big society. These include the introduction of powers to allow communities to take over the running of local facilities and give them the right to bid to take over local state-run services.
In conclusion, I say that this debate was just not long enough. So much more could have been added by all noble Lords around the House. I hope I have highlighted in response some of the key measures that the Government are putting in place to encourage people to participate in the big society. Through this we can create a country in which people are able to take an active part in their communities, play their part in solving the social issues that their communities face and improve the quality of life for all. I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, being, like me, from Yorkshire, will accept this phrase; in Yorkshire we define it simply as doing your bit or mucking in. I thank all noble Lords again for their contributions to this extremely important debate, and the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, for initiating it this evening.
The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Colwyn): My Lords, as Amendment 1 has been agreed to, I cannot call Amendments 2 to 8A inclusive because of pre-emption. I now call Amendment 9 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Harris.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, this may be an appropriate moment for me to raise an important point. The Committee has just voted against the principle of elected police and crime commissioners, which is a key pillar of the Bill. From our perspective, everything that flows from that is part of that important principle. It makes a mockery of the discussion and debate on this part of the Bill if we continue as though this has not happened. It is our view on this side of the Committee that it would be prudent to adjourn so that the Government and Members of the Committee can reflect on what has happened to the Bill so that we can proceed in a sensible and orderly way. Having ripped the guts out of a piece of legislation, I cannot see how we can intelligently proceed as though nothing has happened.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, the process is clear. The House of Lords tonight made a decision to remove elected commissioners. That does not prevent the House of Lords doing its normal duty of properly scrutinising this legislation. The Opposition Chief Whip seeks to prevent the House of Lords scrutinising other parts of the Bill tonight. In asking the Committee to suspend proceedings, he is asking it to do just that.
The decision that was taken by the Committee a short while ago means that consequential amendments have not yet been agreed to, Amendment 9 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, being one. The noble Baroness is not in her seat but others are present who may move it. The Committee has decided that it does not wish to discuss piloting schemes because it has removed the elected commissioners from the Bill, but it has left in place police authorities with a different system of operating, so it is in order for the Committee to proceed in the normal way-that is, to consider accepting the consequential amendments to Amendment 1 and then to consider the other amendments beginning with Amendment 10. The noble Lord who is on the Woolsack will guide the Committee on which amendments may be further pre-empted.
I know that every Member of this Committee who voted to defeat the Government in the Division will have considered very carefully all the consequences of what they were doing before they took that action. Therefore, I am sure that they would not wish to suspend the Committee and deny it any further opportunity to consider amendments. I think it is appropriate that we should proceed. If the Committee has decided that it does not wish to do its job of scrutiny, that would, of course, be a different matter.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, having heard what the Chief Whip has said, I accept, of course, that we should proceed to consider the important parts of the Bill. I will not move that the Committee should adjourn, but the Government need to come back to the Dispatch Box, if not today then certainly when the Bill goes into the second day in Committee, to explain exactly how they intend to deal with this issue because the Committee has made its voice very clear on this matter. I would have thought that a period of mature reflection on the implications of the previous amendment being passed would greatly benefit our further consideration of the Bill.
The noble Baroness is right to say that we should deal with consequential amendments. My advice to the Committee would be rather different from her own, but we are the Opposition and the noble Baroness represents the Government.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, perhaps I can help the noble Lord further. This Government, like any other, would wish to engage in discussions with all those who are interested in the Bill between Committee and further stages. That is the normal way of doing things. However, the difficulty is that the Committee has taken a decision that it does not wish to consider all these matters again until another place has had the opportunity to consider them. That does not, of course, stop discussions with those who moved the initial amendment and those who supported it. That is the normal way we proceed; it is just that the Committee has prevented us doing it on the Floor of this Chamber. Although the fact that Amendment 1 was carried must necessarily still the voices of those who would have liked to speak to Amendments 2, 3, 4 and so on, there is much else of importance in the Bill.
I am grateful to the noble Lord for agreeing that it is right for this House to do its job-a job it does with some distinction. The results of that do not always bring the Government Chief Whip joy but we will all work together, now and in the future, to work our way through this legislation. The Deputy Chairman has called Amendment 9. It might be for the benefit of those who were keen that Amendment 1 should be carried that Amendment 9 should be put to the Committee so that it can be agreed as a consequential amendment.
Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, I ask for clarification on what the Chief Whip told us, because I feel that I am again a novice in this House, after a mere 12 years, or whatever, as a Member. I am completely confused as to where we are. I am sure that the Committee would welcome further clarity from the noble Baroness the Chief Whip. Am I to understand that because we have effectively deleted the first line of the Bill, which states that there shall be in each area outside London an elected policing and crime commissioner, we have pre-empted not just the amendments that the Lord Speaker told us at the beginning were pre-empted, but all amendments to all bits of the Bill that relate to policing and crime commissioners? In that case, we might, I suppose, debate Clause 2 that deals with chief constables; and we might deal with those bits of the Bill that deal with London, licensing, universal jurisdiction and Parliament Square. Are we being told essentially that those clauses-which are, of course, interspersed with other clauses dealing with policing and crime commissioners-are effectively pre-emptive? I simply want to know and understand, because people will spend time preparing for debates that might otherwise not take place?
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I reassure the noble Lord, Lord Harris, who is an experienced performer, both in this Chamber and in another Assembly, and therefore knows how to obfuscate to his advantage
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Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I am sorry to intervene, but I do so also for the purpose of clarity. The debate that resulted in the vote was on the basis, of course, of the deletion of the provision for police commissioners and for the insertion of a police commission, consisting of two parts. That provides a similar basis for debating many of the amendments that we will come to, because it will allow a number of points to be raised similar to those relating to a sole commissioner. I was assuming, for instance, that although we will not, I suspect, consider a group of amendments on piloting the new arrangements, nevertheless there will be new arrangements which, in due course I will seek to argue should be piloted.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend. I was trying to say, but less succinctly, that debate continues. Of course the Committee has decided to silence debate on those issues that were within Amendments 1 to 8. I suggest that we continue the debate and allow the Chairman of Committees to call Amendment 9, so that we can agree to something.
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendments 23, 28, 149 and 237. This group of amendments proposes the shadow operation of the new arrangement. It is as well that for the purposes of this argument I do not need to spell out which arrangement that might be. However, it seems that there will be some sort of new arrangement-whether it be a single commissioner or a commission, as my noble friend has proposed.
I tabled these amendments thinking of recent experience at local government level. When new authorities were formed-most recently some new unitary authorities -it was the normal arrangement that there should be a transitional period involving shadow working of the new authorities. The most recent involvement related to the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007 that provided for implementation arrangements by way of orders dealing with transition. I accept that local government is more complicated-or I did, at any rate, until about 7 pm-but it seems sensible to allow for a transition from the current police authorities to the new structure on an authority-by-authority basis. This is not an argument for staging the transfer at different times.
Baroness Hamwee: The police and crime commissioner has not been removed from the Bill, in that Amendment 31, which was in the first group, provides for a commission consisting of, first, a police and crime commissioner. I am sorry if the noble Lord feels that we should disrupt debate about something which I think it is appropriate for us to discuss in principle. As the Government have decided tonight that we should go on, it seems a pity to forfeit the opportunity to talk about how any new arrangement might come into being. I would like to continue. Clearly, several noble Lords would not like me to continue.
At local government level, there was a format. For each new authority's structural change order, there was an implementation executive which was adapted to local circumstances and literally shadowed the executive. There was preparation of an implementation plan, which included,
the functions, in that case, and such budgets and plans as it considers necessary or desirable to facilitate the economic, effective, efficient and timely discharge of the functions after the relevant date. As I said, this is not the same as a local authority, but the noble Lord will recall, as I do, that when the Greater London Authority was formed, there was a period of shadow working-probably insufficient; it was a month or so.
Whatever arrangement we end up with-after the debate this evening, we are not without a proposed new structure-I am concerned that it should work as well as possible. Schedule 15 provides for transitional provisions. I am sure that the Government believe that everything has been covered in the schedule. Experience might suggest to many of your Lordships that it is hard to anticipate precisely everything that needs to be covered and that there is a risk in such a big bang approach. It is better, in my view, to allow time to consider the detail, because things always seem different once you are in the thick of things, when issues may be thrown up, than when you are anticipating them.
However much thought has been given to both the schedule and the transition board, which I understand the Home Office has formed-chaired, I think, by the police Minister-it would be wise to provide some arrangement which will allow for what may not have been anticipated in the legislation. I do not think that my drafting is of the finest order, but there is an issue here. I beg to move.
Lord Carlile of Berriew: I am puzzled, even in the context of this place, by the procedure being followed at present. Were we debating the amendment in the normal circumstances that many of us, at least, anticipated on the government side, I would oppose it because, as I said earlier, I support the view that we should have democratic accountability for police forces, although my preference is for elected police authorities. I am very disappointed that we cannot debate that issue as a result of pre-emption. That might have been an intelligent debate on a subject with some empirical evidence on which the House could have offered some wisdom to the Government. Indeed, I was beginning to feel a little like Baldrick, because I thought that I had come up with a cunning plan and, rather like Baldrick, had not anticipated that it might be effective on the odd occasion.
This debate reminds me of the childhood poem that starts, "I met a man upon the stair". The man is the elected police commissioner but he is not there because, in reality, he has just been removed from the Bill by the vote. To put it another way, it is like the Mad Hatter's tea party without either the Mad Hatter or the tea. I urge my noble friend Lady Hamwee to draw stumps in some way on this group of amendments so that we can in due course have a proper debate on the proper predicate. The predicate for the whole series of amendments that follows is that Clause 1(1) has been agreed.
Lord Carlile of Berriew: Touché! I, too, wish that the man would go away-and I am grateful for the reminder-albeit to be recreated in the form that I wanted to discuss on my amendment. I take the opportunity to repeat that that amendment may well command quite a lot of support after what happened earlier this evening and it may provide some kind of solution.
As I have just said, this is all predicated on something that has been defeated. I very respectfully say to my noble friends on the government Front Bench, who know that I broadly support them in this context, that it is not acceptable for your Lordships' House to have this kind of artificial debate in what seems like fairyland. I simply ask for the position to be reconsidered. Many substantive issues in the Bill can be debated. For example, I know that my noble friend Lady Doocey has some very important matters to raise in relation to London, and I hope that we can have a really good debate on those. There are substantial matters relating to licensing, and we can have real debates on those issues, too. I am proposing a new clause about war crimes and the universal jurisdiction, which I shall debate with anyone at any time. I shall do that off the top of my head right now if that is desired. However, those are examples and I do not wish to catch the Minister unawares, but I think that we could proceed with a number of serious issues without indulging in this artificial exercise.
Therefore, in the spirit of a government supporter, like my noble friend Lord Blencathra, I ask the Government to think again and to bring us back to some form of order. I know that we cannot raise points of order as such in your Lordships' House but there is a question of order of great substance here which I invite the Chair to consider.
Viscount Eccles: Is not the matter in the hands of the mover of the amendment? If that person simply says "Not moved", we proceed to the next amendment. Therefore, the decision as to whether any particular amendment is debated is in the hands of the mover.
Lord Carlile of Berriew: That may well be technically right but it may require an expression from the government Front Bench that, if my noble friend decides not to press these amendments, the Government will be willing to return to them in a proper sequence in the correct context in due course and not use any procedural matters to prevent her continuing with this debate on the proper predicate.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, it is my understanding that we are now operating on the assumption that Amendment 31 has been consequential on what happened with Amendment 1. I draw the Committee's attention to Amendment 31, which says:
That provides the basis for discussing a number of amendments that concern the role of people who will now not be directly elected police and crime commissioners, but who will continue to have a number of functions to which the amendments, which include some tabled by noble Lords whom I see on the opposition Benches, apply. It seems entirely appropriate that we should continue to do that. A number of amendments in Part 1 also apply to the mayor's office for crime and policing, so there is useful, detailed business to discuss.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, this is ridiculous. Noble Lords know that the Government should have made a business statement at 8.30 pm to adjourn the House and allow the consequences of this to be fully considered by the Government and Opposition, and through the usual channels. It would have been helpful to have known earlier from the Chief Whip that Amendment 31 had been accepted as consequential. Clearly that is an important factor.
This is nonsensical. I am tempted to move the adjournment of the House. I plead with the Government at least to let us adjourn for 10 minutes to allow the usual channels to have a further discussion. I can see that I would win a vote on a show of hands. Surely the Government have the good sense to see this. Why are we going to waste an hour debating a theoretical amendment? It is ludicrous.
Lord Carlile of Berriew: My Lords, there are a number of problems with Amendment 31. The first is that we have not debated it yet. We have not agreed it. Logically, if we are to have a structured debate, it should start with Amendment 31. The problem is that we would be debating Amendment 1 all over again.
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Strathclyde): Before my noble friend Lady Hamwee continues speaking to her amendment, perhaps I may explain that there has been a short Adjournment of the Committee's proceedings so that discussion could take place as to whether we should continue. The Government's position is utterly straightforward. Earlier today, a defeat took place. It is not the first time that a defeat has taken place on a government Bill. There is no reason why we should not continue; in fact, it is the Government's wish that we should. I understand that
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Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: I accept what the Leader has said. However, the advice given to us earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, to perhaps take time to reflect on where we are on the Bill and the implications of today's vote for the remaining amendments, was cogent and very sensible. When the House was adjourned a brief 12 minutes ago, it was agreed that it would be adjourned in order for discussions to take place. I point out to the Chief Whip that that is what was said. No discussions have taken place with the Opposition. I do not complain; I merely point that out as a matter for the record. I am perfectly happy to continue as the noble Lord desires, but I do not think that it is a sensible way forward. It would be far more appropriate for us to take time to reflect. However, the noble Lord is the Leader of the House and it is for him to decide.
Lord Soley: I am not very confident of my knowledge of the procedures when we get into a situation like this. I simply say to the Government-and I recognise that I probably would not be their first choice as a political adviser-that there are aspects of the Bill which we could deal with very effectively and get through; for example, on drugs and alcohol. I am at a loss to understand why the Government do not proceed with that, leaving aside the policing bit for the moment while they decide a policy. The provisions on drugs and alcohol will get a lot of support. The Government could be well advised, politically, to split off the policing aspect so that they can take their time on it, and they would get a very good Bill on drugs and alcohol which I think we would all welcome.
Lord Carlile of Berriew: My Lords, having heard the Leader of the House speaking earlier, I can see no reason why we should not start to debate Clause 2 of the Bill and everything that follows. It is merely Clause 1 that causes the difficulties. I urge the Government Front Bench, whom, I repeat, I broadly support on this Bill, to consider whether we might move to Clause 2 and invite those who wish to move amendments to Clause 1 not to move them at this stage.
Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, is trying to be helpful to the Committee. His analysis that it is difficult for us to debate anything in the Bill that relates to police and crime commissioners until a way forward has been determined is helpful. Clearly, Clause 2 does not contain anything at the moment about police and crime commissioners and there are a number of other clauses in the first part of the Bill, including Clauses 3 and 4, that do not relate to police and crime commissioners. So we could with due determination proceed with the Bill with those bits that are not affected by the decision that the Committee took earlier on.
However, there is one further difficulty and I would be grateful for the Leader of the House's guidance on this point. We were told that the target for tonight was the group beginning Amendment 15. I suspect that a number of noble Lords worked on the basis that government targets on such matters are rarely achieved let alone surpassed. They might have wished to speak about amendments or issues subsequent to Amendment 15 but have left and would not be particularly happy if we were to proceed beyond that point without notice. Speaking for myself, I am always happy to talk on those matters that I have put down. However, it is unfair on those Members of the Committee who may have left on the assumption that the Government's target-they are, as I said, rarely exceeded-was to reach the group beginning Amendment 15.
This process is enormously unhelpful, although I am sure that she can speak for herself, to the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. She has an amendment about transitional arrangements. There is a useful debate to be had about transitional arrangements-whether it should be for a year, which I think is the substance of her argument, or whether it should be for a shorter period and how it operates. But it is difficult to understand how we can debate a transitional arrangement when we do not know what transition we are making and from what state to what state. If, for example, a very simple matter were being proposed, a transitional arrangement of a year might seem excessive. However, if a more complicated change were proposed, a transitional arrangement of a year might seem appropriate.
We are in a difficult position and the Government Front Bench has put the noble Baroness in a very difficult position by encouraging her to move her amendment when we do not know what that transition will be. If, for example, the Committee were to decide that this is all getting silly and that we should stop, I would be sorry that the substance of debating transitional arrangements should then be lost. But I do not see how the Committee can debate transitional arrangements when we are not even in a position to judge what state we are in transition from and to what future state we are aiming.
The government Front Bench must help the House and find a way out of this terribly difficult impasse. I appreciate that they might have one or two slightly bigger consequences of today's vote on their minds, but we are in a difficult situation tonight. It would be better for us to have some proper time for reflection and for the Government to have time for reflection so that they can let us know how to proceed.
Baroness O'Loan: My Lords, I endorse what the noble Lord, Lord Harris, just said. With my limited experience of the House, I think that we are debating a police and crime panel which is defined in the legislation, which has now become part of the police and crime commission, with much greater powers than it had originally. The police and crime panel will also be the police commission. It will have powers to hire and fire police chiefs and all sorts of other powers as a consequence of this change. But we do not know what we are talking about. We do not know whether it is an elephant, a tiger or what it is. We should think again.
Lord Elystan-Morgan: My Lords, I support that idea. The noble Lord, Lord Harris, for whom I have immense regard-I respect his very great experience in these matters-was not quite right when he said that Clause 2 has no reference to a police commissioner. Clause 2(5) reads:
"A chief constable must exercise the power of direction and control conferred by subsection (3) in such a way as is reasonable to assist the relevant police and crime commissioner to exercise the commissioner's functions".
Lord Elton: As I understand it, under our Standing Orders, we can only speak to a Motion. The Motion before the Committee is Amendment 13. My noble friend the Leader of the House has proposed the way that we should go forward and the Leader of the Opposition has said she agrees that we should go forward. If we go forward now, we have decent time to do at least one amendment and we might get on with this Bill.
Lord Elystan-Morgan: I am speaking to the amendment to this extent-that I believe that the amendment is an utter unreality and that every other amendment in relation to Part 1 is similarly tainted and coloured. My argument in favour of that, and I speak from the neutrality of the Cross Benches-
Lord Elystan-Morgan: I do not wish any evil whatever upon this House, for which I have immense respect. The situation, surely, is that there are these categories of provision-first, as regards any provision dealing directly with the police commissioner, it would be utterly impossible and absurd to debate it; secondly, as regards any reference to a police commissioner, again, it would be impossible to debate it; thirdly, as regards any implied relevance of a police commissioner, again, it would be wrong to debate it. It seems that no real, genuine and substantial debate can properly occur in relation to Part 1. I do not say that with any sense of pleasure whatever.
Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, as a veteran of many amendments and many losses, I am slightly baffled by this debate. The Government have presented a Bill to this House and it is the property of this House. The House has decided, in its wisdom, to vote on an amendment that has removed an important aspect of the Bill. Noble Lords have spoken and have agonised over the implications of that decision. The time to think about the implications of that decision is before you vote, not after.
Lord Strathclyde: I am going to finish my point. Noble Lords have said it is difficult to continue. Moving amendments in this House is not compulsory. If noble Lords do not wish to move their amendments at this Committee stage, they do not have to. They can reconsider them in the light of the debate. We will of course be returning to this Bill on Report. We have spent a great deal of time discussing the implications of a vote that took place some hours ago. I assert that we should have discussed the implications of that in that very long debate and not now. If noble Lords wish to down tools and go home early, that is their decision. I think we should continue with the Bill.
Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, the noble Lord the Leader of the House is being slightly unfair on the House. Noble Lords were very clear what they were voting for. They realised that if the amendment was passed, they were kicking a very large hole in this Bill. That was the decision of the House. What people are querying is the strange "band played on" mentality of the government Front Bench. You have hit the iceberg but the band carries on playing. No doubt, the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, wishes to remain at the wheel until such time as the "Titanic" sinks below the waves-you can see where the metaphor is going. My point is that I do not think it is fair of the noble Lord the Leader of the House to suggest that people were not aware of what they were doing. What we cannot understand is what the Government think they are doing.
Baroness O'Loan: My Lords, if I may speak again, perhaps the Leader of the House could help me by telling me exactly what it is that I am now discussing. I think that I am discussing a police commission comprising a police and crime panel that will elect one of its number to be a police commissioner that has no powers in the Bill, as all the powers in the Bill belong to other organisations. I am mystified as to what I am supposed to be thinking about.
Lord Strathclyde: The noble Baroness is generous in giving me powers, which I do not have, of knowing what it is that she is talking about. I dare say that what the noble Baroness is supposed to be talking about is the amendment moved by my noble friend Lady Hamwee. If my noble friend Lady Hamwee wishes to proceed with her amendment, she may and she can explain what noble Lords are supposed to be discussing. If she does not wish to carry on with her amendment and subsequent noble Lords do not wish to carry on with their amendments, the rules of the House are utterly clear: you say, "Not moved" when your name is called. We would then carry on to the stage that the noble Lords, Lord Soley, Lord Harris and others, wish to get to. This really is not complicated.
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, could I seek one point of information? Given that, as was suggested by one of my noble friends earlier, we had a target of reaching the group starting with Amendment 15, if noble Lords did not wish to move their amendments in the groups preceding that group, would the Leader agree that we should finish at Amendment 15 for the
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Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, the target is a sort of rough target in order to help the House. From other discussions that have taken place, I understand that the Opposition are fully briefed up to Amendment 18, but I do not know whether that is true. I would rather dispose of Amendment 13, which is the amendment that we are on, and see where we get to. It is nearly 20 minutes to 10.
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, will the noble Lord the Leader give an assurance that he will give the Government's position in relation to the earlier decision of your Lordships' House on anything that we discuss from now? We need to know what the Government are arguing in the light of the earlier decision. The noble Baroness, Lady O'Loan, was asking that question. As the Government have suffered a defeat and the Bill has now changed, an amendment that we discuss ought to be discussed in the light of the Government's position now. Therefore, we need the Government's position to be spelled out even before we debate amendments.
Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, the Government's Minister will respond to the questions posed by those who propose amendments. That is what happens when we deal with Bills at Committee stage. Nothing has changed. Let us get on with it.
Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, can we just have some clarity from the noble Lord the Leader? I am sorry to prolong this-I promise not to do so, or I give an assurance in the same sense that targets for amendments are given to the House-but can the noble Lord the Leader explain to the House why the government Front Bench has permitted us to debate an amendment that potentially no one in this House understands? We are talking about transitional arrangements, which are a perfectly valid area of debate, but we do not know what we are transitioning from or to. Under those circumstances, why has the government Front Bench allowed the debate? We are a self-regulating House. If the powers were invested in the Lord Speaker, no doubt we would have a ruling, which we would all of course at once obey. Under these circumstances, the noble Lord has to tell the House how he has reached his decision, and we have to understand it.
Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, first of all, this will not be the first time that the House has debated an issue that it does not know anything about. Secondly, it is up to the noble Baroness-this is not a government amendment-who owns the amendment to explain what it is for. Again, I say to the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, that this is really simple. If the noble Baroness does not explain it sufficiently well, the amendment will either be withdrawn, or voted on, or whatever. That is what happens. The Government will respond to questions that are put to them. I cannot be clearer to the noble Lord. I invite the noble Baroness to carry on from where she left off.
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I hesitate to say it but the House did hear from me some time ago, and I had actually got to the point when I had moved the amendment. However, as it is Committee stage, perhaps I can say another word about it, although it will be by way of repetition and the House is rather fuller than when I was last speaking.
I am not embarrassed at moving the amendment. I understand that there are difficulties relating to many other amendments, but clearly we know what we would be transitioning from-if "transitioning" is a word. What we are transitioning to appears at the moment to be a model that was not the model in our minds at the start of this afternoon as the likely outcome-
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: Would the noble Baroness care to pose the question that the Leader of the House said could only be asked by her? What do the Government now believe we are transitioning to?
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, if I was not interrupted in the middle of the sentence, I would have tried to get to the end. As I said to the House about an hour ago, Amendment 31, which was in the group of amendments with Amendment 1 agreed by the House earlier, provides for a model of a police commission consisting of a commissioner and a panel. Amendment 31 is not my amendment, but I am reading what it says. Whatever model there is a transition to, it is perfectly proper and indeed required that there should be robust arrangements to ensure that the new model comes into being in a way that works. The point that I was making was that Schedule 15 provides for transition arrangements, but I suspect that although many of the implications of the transition will have been anticipated, it is unlikely that every single one will have been anticipated. That is not intended to be pejorative about the Government or the Home Office, as I would say it of any organisation dealing with a change of this kind. I take it from what the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, is saying that he agrees that some sort of transition period is not a bad idea.
That is all that I am suggesting that the House should consider. I have now said it twice, so I beg the House's indulgence on that. The brief point is that we know the point and that, whatever the end game, it is not going to be that straightforward, so let us put in arrangements that we have learnt are needed from local authority experience, and use that experience to make that transition more smoothly than I believe the Bill provides for.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I would like to speak to the generality of the noble Baroness's amendment. I will not comment on exactly where we are; a period of reflection would be very helpful. She has raised a very important point. Assuming that the outcome of the Bill is that we move to a new system-we are not entirely sure what system it will be-the substantive question in the noble Baroness's amendment is that there ought to be a shadow period of operation. I agree with that.
On the question of whether it should last for a year I am not at all sure. One has had experience of reorganisations and when new appointments are made when people think it is a good idea to have two people or organisations working in tandem. Often it leads to conflict because no one is entirely sure about who is in charge or not. From the Opposition's side, I hope we will be able to pursue this, although I think that the Government's Bill is rather dead in the water as regards elected police commissioners. On the general principle, I am sure that a certain shadow period is right, but I suspect a year is too long. We can have further discussions on this very helpful matter.
The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Browning): My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lady Hamwee because this has been a fragmented debate and she has held it together well. If I have followed the various sections of her case, it is not unreasonable to say that there is a need for transition and, despite what happened to the structure of the Bill earlier tonight, when you move from one system to another-I am speaking in the generality-it is always good to have a plan that outlines the handover.
Where I have a little concern with the amendment is that I am not quite sure that the cost involved would not be prohibitive. My noble friend mentioned a year but we have not heard many details of what that would amount to in financial terms. It would have been helpful to the House-and perhaps to my noble friend-if we had had something more detailed for the House to consider and look at. However, Clause 99 and Schedule 15 cover transition and therefore there will be a further opportunity at later stages of the Committee for the House to consider this issue in more detail.
I hope my noble friend will feel able to withdraw the amendment. Clearly this is a matter of concern to her but she will be able to enlarge upon her views when we get to Clause 99 and Schedule 15 later in the proceedings of the Committee.
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I take the point about the year and the reality of such arrangements to which the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, alluded. It is a very fair point. It is also fair to say that I have not costed these arrangements.
My underlying concern is that as Clause 99 and Schedule 15 stand at the moment-although they may be open to amendment-they do not allow for any handover period at all. As I read them, they provide for a cut-off point and life changes at midnight, as it were. That is my real concern.
I was obviously not expecting to debate the amendment in quite the way that we have and it may be that, because of the circumstances, the Minister is not able to give more detail than she has. However, she is right. We will come back to the topic on Schedule 15. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
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