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On court administration and court services, tremendous benefits in terms of cost savings could be achieved by removing some of the extraordinary anomalies whereby police officers hang around indefinitely almost for the convenience of courts, magistrates or judges. If all those services were under the control of a single individual-the police and crime commissioner, the police and crime commission or the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime-efficiencies could be introduced in the way those systems worked. That would no doubt be good news for the public purse; it might be good news in terms of people awaiting trial and disposal by the courts, because things would happen speedily and when people expected them to happen; it would certainly be in the interests of witnesses; and it might well be in the interests of police officers who could spend their time otherwise. However, fundamental constitutional questions are raised about the relationship between the courts and the police. I am quite happy for us to have that debate but I would not want it to happen by default on the basis of a comparatively obscure clause in this Bill, as opposed to us looking at
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I shall make my final point briefly because I appreciate that I have spoken for quite a long time. It relates to Amendments 230A, 230B and 230C, which are on crime and disorder strategies and propose essentially to link into them the police and crime commissioner, the police and crime commission or the MOPC. The amendment ties in with the amendments that we debated last week about the relationship with local authorities. It is important to make sure that the accountability mechanism created under the Bill, whatever its final picture looks like, is seen to have a read-across at divisional level and at very local level. If a single individual ends up being in charge of all these things, the mechanism risks becoming centralised into a county-wide and force-wide process of debate and discussion, and you will lose the local dialogue which is essential to crime and disorder strategies at a local-authority level. It would also be more difficult to bring about the neighbourhood dimension. Making the strategy an explicit responsibility of the police and crime commissioner, the police and crime commission or the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime makes enormous sense.
Lord Bradshaw: The noble Lord said that stop-and-search powers had been clumsily or excessively used by the British Transport Police. Will he give the Committee the benefit of knowing when that took place and acknowledge that a great deal has changed since then?
Lord Harris of Haringey: Well, both your Lordships are strong protagonists of the British Transport Police. My point was about the potential confusion. I am sure that all of us in this Committee know instantly whether a police officer whom we see is from the Metropolitan Police, the British Transport Police or the Ministry of Defence Police. We recognise the hat badges and the different detail around the cap, but most people do not. I was simply demonstrating that this was an area of considerable confusion.
There was equally severe concern and criticism of the way that the Metropolitan Police had used Section 44 of the Terrorism Act in terms of stop and search and there was also enormous confusion about whether it was Section 44 of the Terrorism Act or stop and search under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act or whatever else. The point is that people do not understand these processes. Before we go down the road of saying that the remit of British Transport Police officers should automatically be extended, we need to think through how that will be managed and dealt with.
Baroness Browning: My Lords, I am grateful to noble Lords for raising the potential implications of the protocol or memorandum of understanding for
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There are also questions about how the protocol, as it is currently conceived, would apply to these bodies, which differ from the geographical police forces significantly in terms of their functions. The Committee has touched on some of these this evening. The governance arrangements and relationship with the public, although overlapping, are often quite different. However, I appreciate that at least some of those forces may benefit from such a protocol being in place. I genuinely welcome further discussion on the merits of widening the protocol's scope.
However, this has not been the immediate focus of the protocol as drafted and we would be keen to discuss that further, including of course detailed discussions with the bodies concerned. I reiterate that Members of the Committee who have expressed an interest in the protocol as currently drafted will receive an invitation to discuss it in more detail with me. Those letters should go out in the next 24 hours. I hope that after the recess we can have a more detailed discussion about that protocol.
The Government expect police and crime commissioners, community safety partnerships and other criminal justice bodies to co-operate in order to deliver the best service to local communities across the force area. Their priority should be tackling crime and disorder for the benefit of the local people. Therefore, they should work together to overcome any particular issues. Clause 10 sets out in legislation a reciprocal duty to co-operate for police and crime commissioners and authorities comprising community safety partnerships. It also requires police and crime commissioners and other criminal justice agencies within their force area such as the probation, prison and court services to make local arrangements to work effectively together.
We want to establish a framework that enables commissioners to develop strong relationships with these key local partners. Those relationships will be critical to commissioners in order to make the most sustainable impact on crime and community safety. The clause sets the foundations for that framework and we expect commissioners and local partners to build on that through strategic engagement and dialogue. They will work together to provide the most effective and efficient response to the needs of their local communities. It is important to see Clause 10 in the context of other measures to advance joint working in the Bill, such as grant-making powers, provisions to elevate crime and disorder strategies to a force-wide level and to commission reports to examine any element of those strategies.
I do not think it necessary to further labour the duty with a memorandum of understanding which has the potential to become burdensome on the professional and experienced services that certain amendments within this group are seeking to bind in law. We have agreed a way forward with the protocol and I hope that noble Lords will avail themselves of making their views on specific issues known to me. However, I want to keep that light touch because there is a danger if too much detail is set into the protocol it will become a burden. That is not what we want it to do.
The noble Lord, Lord Beecham, was concerned that an individual would carry the power and responsibility. But I gently remind the noble Lord that if they are elected by the public, that person, whatever badge they had when they stood for election, would have had to present themselves to the public and convince them that they were able to do the job. They would have to carry out those important functions not just in an honourable way but in a competent way. Therefore, they would have to gain the trust of the public.
This is often the cause of debate. We say that we trust the public, but do we really? I do and I believe that our democratic process is such that if we give the public an opportunity to elect somebody to an important and responsible role such as this-as we do in other areas of our democratic process-we should trust them. The police and crime commissioners will of course have the scrutiny of the panel behind them which will hold them to account and who will be an important check and balance on the way in which they carry out their duties.
Lord Beecham: Does the Minister not see that, in all the partnerships that arise, there will be only one person-the elected police commissioner-who stands alone? In no other case will he be engaged with a single individual. He will be dealing with a properly constituted body, whether that is the Lord Chancellor's Department-he will not have a direct relationship with the Lord Chancellor-the Prison Service, the National Offender Management Service or the youth offending teams.
We will have a situation where an individual, elected as the noble Baroness said, deals effectively with a number of corporate bodies. Does that relationship not look odd constitutionally? My noble friend Lord Harris pointed that out. Is there not a danger that, with their having been invested with that elected authority, there may be a temptation, which may be difficult to resist, for an unprecedented-in our system-degree of pressure on other parts of the criminal justice system?
Baroness Browning: The Mayor of London might well be described as having similar power as constituted already and already elected. I was not aware at the time that that was an argument brought forward to oppose the powers of the Mayor of London. I do not
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Baroness Browning: I hear what noble Lords are saying. I am not persuaded of the argument because I believe that there are sufficient checks and balances as far as the police and crime commissioners are concerned to ensure that they carry out their duties, not only in a robust way but in the way that we would all expect them to carry them out in their relationship with all bodies, whether at a local or national level. I remain unconvinced, I am afraid, by the noble Lord's arguments in that area.
Baroness Henig: I also trust the public, but in the only cases that I can see that might be compatible-elected mayors-there have been one or two examples of extremely problematic situations in the past few years. If they were repeated in the policing sphere it would have the most serious consequences.
Baroness Browning: I understand why the noble Baroness says that, which is why, of course, the checks and balances need to be in place. We are all frail as human beings, even the highest. That is why the Bill needs to ensure-and I believe it does-that there are checks and balances for police and crime commissioners. That is one of the things we might discuss in our negotiations across the Committee before this Bill leaves it. However, I do not want noble Lords to think that I am persuaded that the principle of a democratically elected police and crime commissioner is something that we are going to depart from. It is the core of the Bill.
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: The Minister has, with a very welcome style, promised meetings before the Bill leaves the House. In my experience, those meetings would be most helpful prior to Report stage, because it is then much easier for Members with a detailed interest in this legislation to consider what their position will be on Report.
Baroness Browning: My Lords, I quite accept that and it would be my intention to do exactly that. There is a gap between Committee and Report and I hope that we can usefully fill the hours in between discussing these matters.
The public, through a police and crime commissioner, will receive a stronger voice within the wider criminal justice system; moreover, the commissioner would act as an advocate for the system's independence. I do not believe there is a need to restate in this Bill the legal consequences were any individual, irrespective of their public position, to seek to undermine or frustrate the well established legal processes within England and Wales. As with the operational independence of a chief constable, no clauses in this Bill seek to undermine or influence the independence of the judiciary, the Crown Prosecution Service or the legal responsibilities and foundation of other criminal justice bodies.
To that end, it is right and proper that we simply list in Clause 10 those bodies and authorities which the Government expect a PCC to develop a co-operative working relationship with rather than leave it to chance or allow for uncertainty and doubt or, at worst, preach to the converted and issue guidance on how the separate bodies should go about each other's business.
Lord Harris of Haringey: Now that the noble Baroness is leaving the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, perhaps she could tell us whether she is saying that the sole purpose of Clause 10(4) is to remind these paragons who are going to fulfil these roles in future that these are people they ought to talk to and collaborate with. In that case, it seems unnecessary to include the list in the Bill unless the Government have some further intention in mind going beyond simply saying, "Well, these are people you ought to talk to".
Baroness Browning: My Lords, the Government have no intention or expectation that they will go further in the way that the noble Lord has outlined. We just felt that it was important to put it in the Bill but not to the point of being prescriptive in any further detail than that. I can assure the noble Lord-if this is what is in the back of his mind-that there is no hidden agenda of mission creep here in terms of the powers. I do not know if I have interpreted what he has said correctly but if that is what he was suspicious of, I hope I can reassure him on that point.
Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, that is an extremely helpful comment. Let me put it round the other way. Does Clause 10 contain within it an expectation that those bodies listed will themselves collaborate? We have heard examples of where some of the individuals and bodies have stuck very carefully to what they regard as their independence and have not seen it as their responsibility to collaborate with other partners.
Baroness Browning: My Lords, we hope that with the election of police and crime commissioners there will be a real culture change in the way in which these bodies work together. We hope that we will break down Chinese walls where bodies do not co-operate and that they will work together where it would definitely be to the public's advantage that they do. One of the police and crime commissioner's duties will be to build these relationships and ensure that they advance the fight against crime. That is their objective. We do not want to be too prescriptive in the Bill but, on the other hand, we also want to make the intention behind the role very clear. I reassure the noble Lord that if there are problems at a local level-and there are bound to be, because we are talking about human frailties and people taking positions; we are all familiar with that-a police and crime commissioner will make it his or her priority to rebuild bridges and co-operate right across the piece to ensure that they fulfil the main objective
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I turn to the British Transport Police. As I hope noble Lords will recall from exchanges during passage of the Policing and Crime Act 2009, some of the matters that have been raised tonight were to have been considered within the context of the quinquennial review of the British Transport Police Authority, which was to have been carried out under the previous Administration but was not progressed. Nevertheless, this is an opportunity for the Government to re-examine these proposals and to consider them within the wider context of the Government's plan to reform the governance of the 43 Home Office forces within England and Wales. I therefore undertake to consult my ministerial colleagues in the Department for Transport on the various issues raised by these amendments and to consider how they might best be progressed. Once I have done so I will write to noble Lords. I say particularly to the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester, that I have just had my ministerial duties defined this week, and alcohol and drug use are included in my responsibilities. I was very interested to hear what he said about the lack of British Transport Police involvement. I promise to take the matter away and consider it as I thought that he made a very strong point.
Lord Harris of Haringey: The noble Baroness has very helpfully addressed a number of the points. However, I am still not clear whether she has addressed the central point of some of these amendments-the call for a statement somewhere of the relationship between the new structures and the non-territorial forces. It is not part of the protocol about operational independence, about which we will no doubt have plenty of interesting discussions; it is about the relationship between police and crime commissioners, or whatever we end up with, and those other forces. For example, I raised some points about the Civil Nuclear Constabulary. I am not sure that the Minister addressed the point about the value of some sort of codification of how these relationships are managed.
Baroness Browning: My Lords, I am sorry if I did not make that clear in my remarks, in which I focused very much on the British Transport Police. The same would apply to other forces. We will look at it, and I promise to write to the noble Lord.
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I am not sure that the noble Baroness responded to my amendments on the role of victims and victim organisations and the contribution they can make in the two areas that I mentioned, or indeed to the amendment on community safety partnerships. I think that the word cornucopia was used about this grouping. If these amendments have somehow slipped out of her notes, I hope that
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Lord Stevenson of Balmacara: I thank the Minister for her helpful comments and responses to what has been a wide-ranging and very full debate-a cornucopia indeed, as has already been mentioned. I think that essentially four issues have been raised, although not necessarily by everybody, as we have gone through the debate.
The first issue concerns the duties of collaboration. As with the last point that has just been raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, I think that there would be room for the Minister to make the offer to write on that in a bit more detail. As my noble friend Lady Henig and the last speaker have pointed out, some of the details might skip out and not be caught properly, so I think that correspondence on those issues might help. The general concern is to flesh out some of the frameworks that are in the Bill so that we have a better understanding, when we go forward to Report stage, about how these things will work.
In that context, there was an exchange between my noble friend Lord Beecham and the Minister on the rather subtle point-it may not have been given enough air to grow and flourish in the debate-about the difference between an individual dealing with a range of corporate bodies and a body corporate, should there be such, that was to have the same responsibilities. That is quite an important issue. Again, we would benefit from having a bit more flesh on why the Minister thinks that a single individual should have that capacity and would not get carried away as was suggested in the discussion. The point was made that, if elected persons such as mayors have a particular remit and take an aggressive stance on some issue, they tend to stray into areas that perhaps were not thought of when a democratic mandate was first given to them. We think here perhaps of the experience in Doncaster.
The second point was about the direction of travel, on which there were also a number of exchanges. I think that we ended up at what is the right place to be, which is that the fact that the "criminal justice system" is explicitly mentioned in the Bill as an area with which the new structure will engage is not meant to mean anything other than is appropriate. On our side, we would like further clarification on that. The idea that there is some sort of creeping organism embedded in the Bill that will somehow express the Home Office's territorial interests has been rightly rejected by the Minister, but I think that the sense on our side is that we would like a little bit more on that, either in correspondence or perhaps in Hansard, to explain why
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The third point was on the British Transport Police. I am very grateful for the support that my amendment received from the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, and from my noble friend Lord Faulkner. As I said at the beginning of my remarks opening the debate, the British Transport Police has a long history in policing. This may not be well known to your Lordships, but the phrase "the booking office" comes from the British Transport Police because, in the early days of rail travel, you had to go and book in your travel with the British Transport Police-equivalent at the time before you were permitted to travel. It became known as "the booking office" because the journey was written down in a book-
Lord Stevenson of Balmacara: If noble Lords like my erudition, I will continue. My second point, from my lecture this evening, is that we owe the very term "police station", and all that those words imply, to the British Transport Police because, in the days when the railways were being built, there were so many undisciplined chaps around causing trouble in the localities that stations had to be built-believe it or not-every mile along the track. Those became the British Transport Police stations, and the term became loosely associated with the police. So we owe a lot to BTP: it is in the DNA of our modern police.
I am very grateful to the noble Lord for the points that were made about the need to discuss in more detail how we might, while respecting the differences, also seek to have a comparability of approach across the country. I think that that matters to ordinary people.
I opened the debate by talking about the importance of having a memorandum of understanding. I thank the Minister for her willingness to engage with that proposal. There is a balance to be struck between having the detail, on the one hand, and safeguarding the essential verities that we want to see in our police force. We are not asking for enormous amounts of bureaucracy-we on this side of the House are not in favour of that-but we want the checks and balances that we think will be reflected by such a memorandum to be brought out a bit more securely. I look forward to our discussions and, if the Minister cares to write on that as well, we would be very grateful.
I think that this has been a very satisfactory debate, which has raised a lot of points. I am sure that we will want to study the record to make sure that we have got everything right, but in the interim I seek to withdraw the amendment.
(a) a police and crime commissioner, and
(b) a police and crime panel.
Baroness Harris of Richmond: My Lords, in moving Amendment 31, for the avoidance of any doubt let me say that it was agreed by the Government that this amendment is consequential on my first amendment, which was agreed to on the first day of Committee, and I am most grateful for that.
(3) The deputy commissioner shall be appointed by the police and crime commissioner for the area from among those members of the police and crime panel for the police area who are properly appointed as members of the panel.
(a) such functions that are performed by the police and crime commissioner for that police area, where the police and crime commissioner is unable or unavailable to perform them in accordance with this Act;
(b) such other functions that are conferred by this Act or any other enactment.
(a) that person ceases to be a police and crime panel member;
(b) that person, at any time, gives notice of resignation as the deputy commissioner to the police and crime commissioner's chief executive; or
(c) the police and crime commissioner at any time gives notice terminating his or her appointment as deputy commissioner.
Lord Beecham: My Lords, the amendments in my name in this group relate to the situation in which a vacancy arises in the position of police and crime
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Such a vacancy could arise in a number of ways. It could arise because of incapacity or because of the resignation or death of a police and crime commissioner; it could also arise if the police and crime panel suspended the commissioner under Clause 30 of the Bill. Incidentally, the police and crime panel does not have to suspend the commissioner if he is charged with an offence carrying a maximum prison sentence of more than two years-that is an issue to which your Lordships might wish to revert later, as it seems rather odd that there is such discretion-but, be that as it may, the situation could arise under which a commissioner is suspended, and the period of the vacancy could be quite considerable. In the event of death or resignation, there would have to be an election of a successor within 35 days, which is a tolerably short period of time, unless the vacancy arises within six months before the due date for an election, in which case the vacancy would last for six months. However, I assume that, if there is a suspension, the vacancy could last for a considerably longer period, because the suspension would lapse if the charge was withdrawn or if the commissioner was acquitted, but that process could take many months.
The extraordinary position arises under this Bill that the vacancy would be filled by a member of staff appointed by the police and crime panel. That is the procedure under Clause 62. It is quite remarkable that, presumably, any member of staff would be eligible to be appointed by the police and crime panel for that purpose. That is the opposite of the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government's desire to combine the position of elected mayors with that of the chief executive; this is the other way round, as an officer would in effect become the police and crime commissioner. It is as if Caligula, in appointing a horse as his consul, had to appoint a police horse. It is quite a remarkable concept and is, really, entirely unsatisfactory.
My amendments, therefore, seek to create the position of a deputy commissioner, who would be chosen from the police and crime panel-it could not be the chairman but it could be another member. Under these amendments, the deputy commissioner would in effect have the powers of the police and crime commissioner whose position had been vacated permanently or temporarily. Otherwise, under the Bill as it stands, the position would be exercised by a paid officer. Curiously, the Bill provides that in the event of incapacity, the incapacitated police commissioner's views should be sought about which member of his staff, appointed by him in the first instance, would be appointed. That is again a rather curious concept-that somebody incapacitated for one reason or another should designate a successor in that way. Given the nature of the duties that would fall on an acting commissioner, which is the Bill's phrase, it seems inappropriate for that position to be held by someone appointed in the manner currently prescribed by the Bill. It would be much better if it were a member of the police authority; the amendment provides for it to be a councillor member of the police authority-that is to say, somebody with a democratic
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This is not in any way a destructive amendment, but one which I hope the Government will consider carefully, because the proposal before the House is in my recollection quite unprecedented to be made in the way that the Bill prescribes. It certainly does not engender confidence that accountability would be served. So I hope that the Minister will look sympathetically at a way of improving the provision in order to cover those occasions when a vacancy might arise.
Lord Shipley: My Lords, I shall speak to Amendment 212, which I hope has the status of a drafting amendment since its aim is simply to make sure that any enactment in relation to an acting commissioner includes this Act. It would have the additional benefit of bringing the wording in line with that of Amendment 31B, moved by the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, which I find extremely helpful because it imposes a very important check and balance on the police commissioner. It would mean, put simply, that the deputy cannot be a member of the police commissioner's own staff, appointed to their substantive job by that police commissioner. Rather, it must be a member of the panel who can be appointed as a deputy by the police and crime commissioner. That seems a much better approach to providing a deputy role and cover for incapacity. It is much clearer to the general public; it would occur at an early stage and it would mean that an elected not an unelected person would have the mandate of being a deputy.
Baroness Henig: I rise to support the amendment. Given that thus far with the amendments that have been moved there has not been that much sense of give in the Government's responses, I would like to know what the thinking was on this provision. I find this whole area of the Bill quite extraordinary and quite out of line with anything else that I have experienced in policing or local government. Given that it is seen by many of us as an extraordinary suggestion, would someone explain where the idea has come from? It is so unprecedented, in my experience. If the response follows the same pattern as on previous amendments and the Minister stands up and tells us why the arguments that we are putting forward are not going to work and why what is being proposed is absolutely perfect and that therefore we should not be challenging it, in this particular case I would like to probe why this provision is in the Bill. It seems bizarre to a lot of people.
Baroness Harris of Richmond: I support the amendments from the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, and my noble friend Lord Shipley. My first question is whether we need a deputy for the PCC. My contention is that it is absolutely essential and that that person must be chosen from within the police and crime panel, who will in the main have been elected by the local community. How utterly bizarre it would be for
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Lord Condon: I support the amendment as well. I fear that the thinking behind this provision was like something that I explored at Second Reading. It is almost as if the police and crime commissioner will be contaminated, or his office will be contaminated, if he is in any sort of collaborative arrangement or anyone else is drawn into the ambit of the police and crime commissioner in any way. I, too, think it would be totally inappropriate for the police and crime commissioner to nominate his deputy. Therefore, I support the notion of a deputy, if there needs to be one, being drawn from a police and crime panel, or some other body with more legitimacy than just the touching of the shoulder-figuratively speaking-by the crime commissioner of someone who happens to be working within his office.
Lord Stevens of Kirkwhelpington: I also support the amendment, because if the argument is that police commissioners are elected, surely the deputy must also be elected if he acts in their place. There is nothing more bizarre than if someone was appointed to the power, bearing in mind that a commissioner might be ill for six or nine months. That surely would be a recipe for disaster.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, the Minister spoke earlier about recognising the need for checks and balances, and I regard this as a very important issue. I do not think that we can let the Bill stand as it now rests on the appointment of an acting commissioner. Clearly, the reason for it must be the architecture. Of course, the architecture is of the concept of an individual, a corporate sole, having huge powers. One can see the difficulty: if you do not place it within a proper corporate governance structure, what do you do? The Government clearly have no answer so have come up with the extraordinary idea that if a commissioner becomes incapacitated or no longer holds office a staff member can take over that responsibility.
Will vacancies arise in the circumstances of Clause 62(1)(a) to (c)? I rather think they will. As the noble Baroness said earlier, people are frail, and I am pretty certain that out of the 41 or 42 potential elected police and crime commissioners, one or two bad eggs will be elected. I am also pretty certain that the media will be very intrusive in looking into the backgrounds of people so elected. Given the position that they hold, they and their families will come under intense scrutiny, and it is likely in those circumstances that some elected commissioners will find themselves in a position to no longer hold office. Yet one of their staff members is to be appointed to take their place in those circumstances.
What sort of staff are these elected police commissioners likely to have? I would have thought that they would be likely to be media people and people who will help the commissioner be re-elected. Who is it going to be? Will it be the chief media person or chief pal of the elected police commissioner? Will it be the chief of staff? Who knows? What is likely is that this person is woefully unqualified to be an acting police commissioner. When we come back on Report, I think the Government will find that the House will require them to be willing to amend the Bill in this regard. This is a very important part of the checks and balances that are required.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, we recognise that the whole question of checks and balances is a matter of much concern throughout the House and that a number of amendments which we will be discussing deal with the checks and balances built into these new arrangements, and with the relationship between the police and crime commissioner and the police and crime panel. We will be discussing those throughout several more groups from now on. The architecture of the Bill is in principle that one identifiable individual, elected and accountable, should be clearly responsible for oversight of the police. I think that noble Lords would all recognise the difference between an assistant commissioner appointed when there is a vacancy or due to incapacity, and a deputy commissioner who is appointed from the outset. That builds a very different relationship into the structure which we are designing.
I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, on the amount of care that he has put into these amendments but I am sure he also recognises that having a deputy-particularly one who comes from the PCP-also builds a potential basic tension into a structure which has been designed to do something rather different. The checks and balances should come between a separate police and crime panel and a directly elected police and crime commissioner, rather than blurring the relationship between the two. The panel is appointed by local authorities and, under our model, is clearly distinct in its origin and role from the police and crime commissioner.
The provision which we have put into Clause 62 is intended to provide a reasonable one for a temporary expedient when the elected police and crime commissioner is unable to act. We have conceded that, in such circumstances, as set out-
Lord Condon: If the Minister will forgive me for interrupting, he talks about a temporary expedient. Does he accept that it could be, in certain circumstances, many months or perhaps even more than a year?
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: Yes, we accept that and it is something which we will have to consider further and discuss with noble Lords who wish to pursue the issue. Nevertheless, we are concerned about blurring the relationship between the panel and the commissioner. We have conceded that the panel should make the temporary appointment, as the most suitable single body for an event that might arise from a multitude of different causes, but the principle of the Bill is that
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Lord Beecham: Surely that would not be the case, would it, in the event of a suspension? The suspension could clearly last for more than six months in the circumstances to which I referred-for example, a trial on a charge carrying a sentence of more than two years' imprisonment.
Baroness Berridge: My Lords, perhaps I might add to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, in that this is not just blurring the distinction between the police and crime panel and the police commissioner. What the amendment proposes is that a power of patronage be given to the police commissioner over the panel whose purpose is to be a check and balance and to call him to account. Surely that does not extend the logic which I have heard so often in your Lordships' House: that power is being concentrated in one person. This amendment would in fact give even more power to that person and confuse the relationship even further between the commissioner and the panel.
I submit to the Committee that it would only make sense to have some kind of election within the panel which would keep the roles distinct. In the circumstances mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Beecham-of suspension on the grounds that the commissioner has been charged with a criminal offence-surely the patronage that was previously exercised to appoint someone from the panel to deputise could, in the eyes of the public, be polluted by the fact that the commissioner is now standing charged with a criminal offence. Therefore, the function of deputy could again be polluted. To have the panel itself perform some kind of election is a matter of regret, having heard so many representations about the need for independence in policing. It seems from the Committee's discussion of this amendment that co-opted, independent members would not be eligible to be the deputy commissioner, so I query the logic behind this amendment. It could pollute and give even more power to the commissioner in those circumstances.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, perhaps it would help if I came in because that was an interesting point about the issue of pollution and people being tainted if the police commissioner had to stand down, or was suspended or incapacitated in any way. Take the example of a police commissioner where the charge was corruption: the idea that a member of that person's staff could then be appointed the police commissioner is just not going to run. Would the Minister be prepared to take this away? I accept that my noble friend Lord Beecham has put a suggestion forward as to how you emerge with a credible acting commissioner. There will be other suggestions; I do not think he is suggesting that he has all the answers and I do not think that anyone does. What we are pretty convinced of is that the approach in the Bill will just not do.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: I thank the noble Lord for that intervention. We may agree that appointing or electing the deputy commissioner at the outset may well not be necessary or desirable, but we will look at what happens if there is a long-term suspension. There are precedents with directly elected mayors and others that we will want to look at. We will reflect on this and discuss it off the Floor and, on that basis, I ask if the noble Lord would care to withdraw his amendment.
Baroness Henig: I shall speak also to Amendment 32B to 32F in this group. I will try to be brief as I hope that these amendments are relatively straightforward. The substantive amendment is Amendment 31E; the others are largely consequential upon it. These amendments are designed to align the provisions in Schedule 1 about the payment of salaries to police and crime commissioners, along with allowances and pensions, to the new structure now incorporated in the Bill of a police commission with two component parts-the commissioner and the panel. My main amendment suggests that the panel, not the Secretary of State as provided in the Bill, should set the salary of the commissioner. The consequential amendments, however, allow the Secretary of State to make regulations about commissioners' salaries. The remaining amendments provide that the police commission will pay the commissioner's salary and be responsible for paying the pensions of ex-commissioners.
I am uncomfortable about the Home Secretary being directly involved in setting the pay, allowances and pensions of individual commissioners. That looks to me like micromanagement, not the greater devolution and localism to which this Government say they are committed. These amendments therefore propose that the Secretary of State can still set the general parameters and exert influence over salaries through making regulations but would put her at arm's length from the immediate decision. This is a more appropriate arrangement, which allows local accountability to be more meaningful and more flexible.
I am aware that the Senior Salaries Review Body is looking at an appropriate level of remuneration for commissioners. That does not prevent its findings being included in the arrangements that I have suggested through this amendment. These findings could be included in a national framework set by the Home Secretary, which would allow local flexibility in determining what salary is appropriate to a particular area or
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Similarly, the commission, not the commissioner, would pay the allowances and expenses of the commissioner. This seems a much more satisfactory arrangement than that currently proposed, which is effectively that a commissioner should pay himself or herself. This might be appropriate for a person who is self-employed but it is completely inappropriate for a public servant. It raises the possibility that governance of public finances-in this case police finances-will be perceived as suspect. At best, it may have a whiff of the gravy train about it, at worst the taint of corruption. At present the British policing model is widely regarded as one of the cleanest and least corrupt in the world. It must be of concern that provisions such as this could leave it vulnerable to a different perception. That worries me. It is an important issue. I beg to move.
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I have several amendments in this group: Amendments 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 47, 48, 63, 64, 94 and 135. Amendment 32 would restrict the salary of the police and crime commissioner to no more than one-third of that of the chief constable. I expect a bolt from the blue for suggesting such a meagre amount but this is a probing amendment. We know that the SSRB is to advise but I understand that it will advise only. As the noble Baroness has just said, it is proposed that the decision will be that of the Secretary of State. However, the SSRB and we will need to understand several factors that are relevant to the recommendation. There is not only the responsibility carried, as one reads in the Bill, but the workload. What workload do the Government expect of the new commissioners? I am sure it will be different for different police areas. Perhaps the Government can assist the House with some sort of general advice or ballpark figure. It will not necessarily be a good thing for the commissioners to be full-time. Will that not bring them into a position of challenging the role and authority of the chief constable? There are some sensitive and complex issues buried within this. As I say, this is only a probing amendment but it is not a frivolous one.
My next three pairs of amendments are also probing, but they probe only the drafting and are very much third-order matters. Amendments 33 and 34 deal with incidental powers, including entering into agreements. I want merely to understand why it is necessary to word it in this way. Does "legally binding" mean enforceable through legal mechanisms? Is it necessary to cover all the bases by giving these examples of incidental powers? Amendments 47 and 48 to Schedule 2 are rather similar. They relate to the chief constable. The distinction is that the chief constable is an existing post. Do chief constables not already have these powers? Are these provisions necessary because of some new functions in this schedule?
I have two further pairs of amendments: Amendment 35 and 36 to Schedule 1, and Amendments 63 and 64 to Schedule 2. These paragraphs deal with protection from personal liability. I have no problem
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Amendment 94 would delete Clause 15(3), which provides that commissioners may not enter into agreements with each other about matters that could be the subject of a collaboration agreement. My question is: why not? Why not give the local bodies discretion? Is it not up to the local body to find the most efficient way?
Amendment 135 would transpose paragraphs 19 and 20 from Part 3 to Part 4 of Schedule 6. This is very esoteric stuff, for which I apologise. It is so that we might understand whether paragraphs 19 and 20 are not of general application-the general provisions are contained in Part 4-or relate only to the panels established by the Secretary of State, which are the subject of Part 3.
Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, has not raised esoteric points; she has raised two fundamental issues. In one case I agree with her very strongly. In the other I disagree with her almost more strongly. As I understand them-I appreciate that they are probing-Amendments 33 and 34 effectively remove the power of the police and crime commissioner or commission, or whatever else we might have, to enter into contracts. That is an extremely dangerous amendment. It takes away one of the very powerful mechanisms or levers that whatever we end up with-the elected police and crime commissioner or the police and crime commission-will have in terms of its accountability responsibility. If the commissioner does not enter into these contracts, it must presumably be the chief officer of police who does so. This amendment further shifts the balance of responsibility away from the elected or indirectly elected body that holds the police to account to the chief constable. That is an extremely worrying principle. There is already too much in the Bill that places additional powers and responsibilities on the chief officer of the police and takes them away from the body that is supposed to hold the police to account. Given that the police have tremendous powers and responsibilities, some countervailing mechanisms are needed. That is what I thought the Bill was supposed to be about. I disagree; it has sold a pass in one or two instances and given excessive powers to the chief officer of police. However, this amendment would make it worse.
Baroness Hamwee: It might be helpful if I respond to that to save the Committee going down an avenue which I am certainly not suggesting that it should go down. My amendment would leave the right to enter
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Lord Harris of Haringey: I accept that the noble Baroness is merely trying to elucidate what it means. It seems to me that in this case the Government are entirely sensibly trying to cover all the various types of agreement and contract that might exist. That seems to me what that part is about, and in my view that is why it should remain.
I turn to easier ground and to that part of the noble Baroness's remarks with which I strongly agree. I find it bizarre that the Bill prohibits an elected policing body entering into a collaboration agreement with another. Surely, this is precisely what we hope would happen. I hope to see all sorts of networks of agreements between policing bodies around the country, perhaps to share back-office facilities or an agreement that one police area will develop an area of policing expertise and other police areas will agree that that body will take the lead in that matter. That seems to me eminently sensible. I find it strange that the Bill appears to prohibit that. I do not understand why the Government have gone down that road. If this is a probing amendment perhaps the Minister will tell us that we have completely misunderstood what the schedule is about. However, it seems to me that it cannot be interpreted in any other way. I thought that it was government policy to encourage this collaboration.
The Conservative Party, and probably the Liberal Democrats although I cannot remember their precise position on this issue, were deeply opposed to the idea of mergers of police forces when it was raised by previous Home Secretaries. They felt that this was a terrible diminution and that people would be affronted by changes in the hat badge if police forces in different parts of the country were merged. Their response was that they would want to see this sort of collaboration. Indeed, I recall the Minister for Police Nick Herbert pointing out at a conference that the proposals and discussions that were then-as I understand it-going on extremely slowly between police forces about how they might share helicopter services were a test case to establish whether police services and police authorities could collaborate under any circumstances. The message that I took from his comments was that if there was a failure to share helicopters in that instance, where there seemed to be an overriding case for doing so-however, the chief constables who wanted their own helicopters might argue differently-the Government would try to make that mandatory. I hope the Minister has received the advice that she needs on this point and that we will be told that that is not the Government's intention. However, if it is the Government's intention, perhaps they can explain why that is the case.
Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: My Lords, I rise to make a short comment on Amendment 31E, moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, and to add a gloss
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On Amendment 31E, the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, spoke out for localism in deciding what these salaries should be. I find myself frequently reading in both the national and local press about the extreme distress caused by the salaries that are paid to the chief executives of local authorities, which seem to be totally out of order when compared with the salaries paid in a neighbouring county. Here we are talking about an office which is not elected, but where the decision is taken by the local authority itself. I understand the noble Baroness's argument about localism but I recall doing these exercises from the centre for four years between 1985 and 1989, when the then Chancellor, my noble friend Lord Lawson of Blaby, delegated to me responsibility for the pay and conditions of the Civil Service. I negotiated with a number of people who now sit on the Benches opposite in connection with those matters. I recall that some jobs in public bodies went beyond purely the Civil Service and that in those cases the Treasury reserved the right to decide what the salaries would be. It was a difficult task and one which I think we discharged with reasonable consistency, accuracy and honour. I would be happier with something of that order rather than the provision which the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, suggested.
In the context of Amendment 32, I heard my noble friend Lady Hamwee say she did not believe that the police and crime commissioners would have a full-time job. I recall that on the previous occasion we debated these matters my noble friend Lord Eccles pulled up the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, and asked him where the Bill stated that it would be a full-time job. The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, had made the perfectly reasonable assumption that it was likely to be full time. However, here we are on Amendment 32 going back to the situation where it is not likely to be a full-time job at all. The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked my noble friend Lord Wallace of Saltaire whether the Government expected the job to be full time and received an immediate answer. I go back to a mild comment that I made on the previous occasion when I said that there was some danger of entering an Alice in Wonderland scenario if we did not keep track of the matters that we were discussing, particularly given the way in which we are dealing with the Bill.
Lord Rosser: My Lords, my noble friend Lady Henig and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, have explained the purpose of their amendments, which we are discussing. I want to refer only to one or two aspects.
This group of amendments seeks to address the considerable powers that are given virtually unchecked and unchallenged under the Bill to police and crime commissioners, while very little meaningful power or responsibility is given to the new police and crime panels. As my noble friend Lady Henig has said, the Bill provides for the Secretary of State to determine a commissioner's salary. We know very little about how the Secretary of State might do this. At one stage, certainly in the media, there were suggestions of six- figure salaries, though it now appears that the Senior Salaries Review Body may be called in.
However, that raises the issue of why the Secretary of State wants to determine directly the salary of a police and crime commissioner. As has been said, the approach seems at odds with the Government's declared stance of devolving responsibility as far down the line as they can. Is the view that Whitehall knows best on this issue? Is the Secretary of State of the view that each commissioner should be paid the same irrespective of the geographical size and diversity of the area covered, the population of the area, the size of the budget and of the force and the levels of crime? Or is the Secretary of State of the view that commissioners' salaries should differ? If so, what factors does she consider should be taken into account? How will she take into account any specific local or area factors? Does she intend to take into account the views of the police and crime panels or, indeed, the views of anybody else other than those of the Senior Salaries Review Body, if that is to be used?
I acknowledge the concerns that the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, and probably others, have about some of the salaries that are paid to chief executives of local authorities. But if you devolve responsibility and you believe that that is right, you have to accept the consequences and not simply say that because you are concerned about what might happen you will automatically keep everything at the centre. Of course, the salary of a local authority chief executive is, in that sense, determined by the local authority members, as are the salaries, if any, to be paid to council members and the council leader. One of the amendments spoken to by my noble friend Lady Henig provides for the salary of a police and crime commissioner to be determined by the police and crime panel. The panel should be in a better position than the Secretary of State to know what salary will be appropriate to the responsibilities and complexities of the position, and what salary is likely to be needed to attract appropriate candidates for the position. It could be argued that that would also enhance the position of the panel and provide a check by the panel to the largely untrammelled authority and power given to a commissioner under the terms of the Bill.
We have discussed other amendments relating to the ability to enter into contracts. As was said by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, the amendments were intended, at least in part, to probe what powers the Bill seeks to give or to remove. We have heard concerns expressed by my noble friend Lord Harris of Haringey about some of the amendments spoken to by the noble Baroness.
I hope that because most of my comments related to the determination of the salary the Minister will recognise the concerns behind the amendments on salaries, reflect that in her response, respond to the concerns expressed by my noble friend Lord Harris about the provision that appears to prohibit an elected policing body from entering into a collaboration agreement with another elected local policing body, and explain the Government's thinking behind that.
Baroness Browning: My Lords, the Bill provides for the Home Secretary to determine the salary of Police and Crime Commissioners. These are unique positions,
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Specifically, the Home Secretary has asked the SSRB to recommend pay arrangements that are adequate to encourage, retain and motivate candidates of sufficient quality; recognise the extremely challenging fiscal climate and wider constraints of public funding; meet the demands and expectations of the public in terms of getting value for money; reflect the essence of the role as an elected public figurehead and ambassador; provide transparency and robustness in determining PCC pay levels; recommend an approach to establishing PCC pay levels that is simple to administer and is based on a range of single salary points pay structures; and take account of, where applicable, the salary levels and responsibilities of other similar roles in the wider public sector, including elected executive mayors, MPs and MEPs. We believe that these requirements will ensure a fair pay level for PCCs, which I believe is the concern expressed by noble Lords.
The salary payable to a chief constable is one benchmark, but only one. There are other criteria that must be considered, such as demographics. In any event, the job of a chief constable is very different to that of a PCC. The SSRB provides independent advice to the Prime Minister, the Lord Chancellor and the Secretary of State for Defence on the remuneration of holders of judicial office, senior civil servants, senior officers of the armed forces, and other such public appointments as may from time to time be specified. We believe that the SSRB is the right body to provide independent advice on the levels of PCCs' salaries. Noble Lords have said that these are probing amendments, and I therefore ask for them to be withdrawn or not moved.
is designed to make it clear that the mayor's office and the PCC can enter into contracts-in other words, agreements creating legal rights and liabilities, and agreements with no legal force, such as memoranda of understanding, protocols or service-level agreements. If the proposed amendments were made, the Bill would merely refer to "agreements". Because a legally binding contract is a kind of agreement, we would say that the PCC would still be able to enter into a contract and there would not actually be any effect on the scope of the PCC's powers.
I turn now to the amendments in relation to protection from personal liability. I understand that the intention is to reduce the protection available to the office of the PCC and its staff by reversing the burden of proof in relation to whether a questioned act or omission was done in good faith. Under the Bill as it stands, a
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I should also stress that these provisions are concerned only with the personal liability of the person holding the office of commissioner for policing and crime and their employees. The provisions do not restrict the liability of the office itself, and a claimant harmed by an act or omission of the PCC or their staff in the exercise of their functions would still have legal redress against the office.
Bearing in mind the high-profile nature of the role of the PCC and the difficult issues that it will have to deal with, it may be a tempting target for legal challenge. We would not want the office or its staff to carry out their duties in a defensive fashion, out of fear of attracting personal legal liability for their actions. Rather, the Bill as drafted strikes the right balance in allowing the legitimate claimant legal redress, while giving the PCC a sensible level of legal protection.
Much has been said about the supply of goods and services. I should stress that Clause 15(3) merely replicates Section 18(3) of the Police Act 1996, which applies to police authorities at present. The provision is not new. Noble Lords asked particularly about this, and perhaps I may examine what the amendments would do. We do not believe that there is a particular advantage in using the Local Authorities (Goods and Services) Act 1970 with policing partners instead of the Police Act collaboration agreement provisions. The 1970 Act simply allows for agreements to be made about the provision of goods and services. However, when both parties concerned are policing bodies, making an agreement under the 1970 Act would circumvent the safeguards in the police collaboration provisions of the Police Act 1996, which would take priority. For example, there would be no requirement to have regard to any guidance issued by the Home Secretary to provide advice on best practice in drawing up agreements, and there would be no requirement for consultation with the relevant chief constables before making the agreement.
Other noble Lords have raised the matter of panels in this group of amendments. Although I recognise the intention to ensure that all panels, regardless of how they are established, are treated equally in the provision of financial resources, that is already the case. It is for that reason that I resist the amendments. Funding for all panels will be borne by the Secretary of State, regardless of whether they are established by local authorities or by the Secretary of State. For panels established by local authorities, paragraph 11 of Schedule 6 makes clear that it is for local authorities themselves to decide how that money is paid to or distributed between themselves. The Secretary of State will provide funds amounting to those required for a scrutiny officer and to cover running costs of meetings,
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For panels established by the Secretary of State, in the case of Wales, or where no panel was formed under other circumstances, it cannot be left to local authorities to make those arrangements. In those cases, the Secretary of State will work directly with the panel to provide financial resources. That is what paragraph 20 of Schedule 6 provides. The liabilities of police and crime panels established by local authorities will be borne by the relevant local authorities, as they are with other local authority committees. The liabilities relating to panels established by the Secretary of State will be borne by the Secretary of State.
If I have not answered any specific questions, some of which were quite technical, I apologise and I will ensure that they are responded to by letter. I hope that, under the circumstances, the noble Baroness will withdraw her amendment.
Lord Harris of Haringey: I seek a little more clarification about Amendment 94 and the response given about elected policing bodies not entering into collaboration agreements. I understand that that takes forward a heavily amended bit of the Police Act 1996. I think that I am right to say that there is no consolidated Police Act available for us to refer to, so it is difficult to track through the changes. The previous Government had a policing Act at least once a year, so there were always changes to confuse one.
Is it being said that the prohibition is here because other arrangements permit the same thing to happen between elected policing bodies? Is the wording of police authorities changed in the Police Act 1996 to permit that?
Baroness Browning: I do not want to venture into territory where I may in any way mislead the noble Lord, but my understanding is that Clause 15 provides support for more effective collaboration arrangements between forces by securing that where an arrangement can be properly made by a collaboration agreement with another force rather than contracted out, the collaboration agreement should take priority. That is already established in statute.
Lord Harris of Haringey: I am grateful to the noble Baroness. If it is the case that collaboration agreements are entered into between what under this terminology would be the elected policing bodies, that is helpful. I was slightly surprised that one reason given why that was the preferable arrangement was that it removed a requirement to take account of guidance issued by the Home Office on how such arrangements might operate, given that I understood that the intention of government policy was that there would be far less guidance from the centre in future and that it would all be left to local action by the elected policing bodies.
Baroness Browning: I hope that I can assist the noble Lord by telling him that a police authority may not enter into an agreement with another police authority under Section 1 of the 1970 Act in respect of a matter
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Baroness Henig: I thank the noble Baroness for her response on the financial issues. She was so kind as to say in our previous setting that she was a listening Minister; we all appreciate that. I reiterate that I have no problem with the national framework but what I wanted was some local variation within it. I have no problem with the Senior Salaries Review Board undertaking its work; that is absolutely appropriate. I have no difficulty with the points made by the noble Lord. I want a national framework, but I am asking that within it, there should be the possibility of local variation.
The reason for that is straightforward. The whole purpose, as I understood it, of the introduction of commissioners is to empower the public in local policing. One area that the public will be interested in is the salaries of those individuals. If there was some way in which there could be a local dimension in setting the salaries within a national structure, that would be helpful in enabling local people to feel involved in the whole exercise. I was trying to bring an element of localism into this, while of course not ruling out that there should be a national framework in which it will operate. I listened carefully to the Minister and will happily withdraw my amendment.
Baroness Browning: I am very grateful to the noble Baroness, but a thought has just occurred to me. There is always the danger with salaries, particularly with someone who is elected, that a Dutch auction ensues of who will do it for least. We want to get value for money in setting the salaries, but we want the salary to be fair. With elected positions, there is a danger in how the candidate might canvass the electorate in trying to bid themselves down. That will give an advantage to people with a lot of personal wealth or a lot of money behind their campaign. I think that the Home Secretary, with SSRB recommendations, is a much more stand-apart arrangement and would mean that we would not go down that route.
Baroness Browning:The noble Lord is quite right to chide me. In fact, as I was saying it, I remembered my words to him earlier; they were ringing in the back of my mind. This is not about the electorate; this is about the motivations of the candidate who is not as worthy as we would like to apply for these positions. If the salary has been set by a body such as the SSRB, through the Home Secretary, it is complete and divorced from anything that a candidate might say in seeking to put themselves forward or any questions a candidate may be asked during their selection.
Lord Rosser: I hope that the noble Baroness would accept that even if the Secretary of State was determining the salary, someone could fight an election knowing what the salary was and running their campaign on the basis that they would send half of it back.
Baroness Browning: No, my Lords, because in another place, where I served for nearly 20 years, it was not an uncommon practice-not when one appeared before the electorate but in the selection process-for people to be asked about their financial position with a view to that influencing the selection process. I think it is much healthier to have that professionally assessed and divorced from anything to do with either the selection or the election of the police and crime commissioners.
Lord Beecham: My Lords, we are now moving into the territory of checks and balances, which, as some noble Lords have indicated, lies very much at the heart of the concerns expressed around the House at Second Reading.
and "borrowing money". The amendment would require the police and crime commissioner, in exercising those powers, to consult the police and crime panel, which would have the right on a two-thirds majority vote to reject or amend the proposed exercise of those powers.
It was generally the view of your Lordships' House that the checks and balances claimed for the Bill were more apparent than real. I believe that we must flesh out the functions of the police and crime panel to give it a real say-although not one which would be likely to be exercised because, as I have indicated, the amendment proposes a two-thirds majority as being requisite-in
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A second amendment in this group, Amendment 85A, concerns information. The Minister and others before her as the Bill has been debated have referred to the huge interest shown by people in consulting the crime statistics for their area and in doing so online. Very many people, including, as we have already heard, Members of your Lordships' House, have done that. Of course, I do not think-although I stand to be corrected-that information about what they have been looking at is available. I suspect that most people will have looked at the statistics for their immediate locality. Based on my experience as a local councillor, to which I have referred more than once in this House, it is unlikely that people would look very much beyond their immediate locality. They would be very unlikely to look at the statistics for a whole area, and they would be least likely of all to look at the information at force level, although of course some people will do that. Therefore, it seems all the more necessary to consider the provision of information-and, indeed, to require the provision of information-at the appropriate levels.
For most people, the appropriate level will be the very local, or neighbourhood, level. The amendment suggests that such information should be provided at that level and that, in effect, the neighbourhood should be determined in conjunction with the local authority, which is in a very good position to ascertain reasonable measures of area and population. Above that, although I suspect that, again, fewer people will be interested in it, you need to have information at a divisional or basic command unit level-in London it will be the borough level. I think that we have two divisions in my city of Newcastle, although obviously in large county areas there may well be more. However, it seems appropriate to provide the information at that level for people who are interested in it and, finally, at force level.
It is fair to say that many police authorities now provide information online, in annual reports, at public meetings and at a very local level. Certainly in my experience-and the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, will confirm it from his perspective-Northumbria Police is very good at providing accessible, readable information at very local level, and that is to be commended. The amendment seeks to ensure that that takes place across the whole force.
My final amendment in this group, Amendment 123C, talks about the need for transparency and accountability in relation to the police commissioner-a matter to which many of your Lordships have referred. That goes to the heart of many of the concerns about the Bill. However, it is equally necessary for the police and crime panel to be transparent in its operations and to be accountable, and that is why the amendment proposes that meetings of the police and crime panel should be in public. That would accord with practice and we might hear more about it if and when we receive the Bill on NHS reform-for example, with regard to GP consortia, if they survive the current consultation. I think that there will be moves to ensure that they meet in public as well, which seems appropriate.
In addition, there is provision in Amendment 123C for a call-in procedure, which would effectively give police and crime panels the same rights as non-executive members in local authorities to call in decisions of the executive. I cannot see any reason why the same principle should not apply to both. It would not mean that that procedure would allow a decision to be overturned; it would require the person making the decision-in this case, the police and crime commissioner-to consider it and explain it, and to answer questions about it. It seems highly desirable that the mechanism provided for local government-whether it is a mayoral model or a leader and executive model-should also apply in the context of police authorities.
These three amendments by no means cover the entire ground of checks and balances-there will be many more; there are some on the Marshalled List today and there will no doubt be others as the Bill goes forward-but they represent the beginning of an attempt to strengthen the checks and balances applicable, whatever system we have. However, they will be particularly necessary if we revert to the concept of the elected police commission. I beg to move.
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I have a number of amendments in this group and I shall give the numbers as I come to them. The noble Lord has, for the first time in our proceedings, raised the subject of the level of veto that should apply, reducing it from three-quarters to two-thirds. Depending on the size of the panel, that would make a difference of only one or two members-none the less, a significant difference. The normal world-perhaps I should not suggest that we are not operating with a degree of normality-would consider a decision taken by 50 per cent plus one to be adequate. I was a member of the London Assembly, which had the power, if two-thirds of us agreed, to block the mayor's budget. I remember when the previous mayor, sitting in the public gallery, listened to the Assembly debate his budget. It was rejected by the Assembly but not quite by two-thirds and, from the public gallery, he shouted out "Agreed". I think that at least one other Member of your Lordships' House was there and there is another Member who may not be surprised at what happened on that occasion. It is very counterintuitive to have a veto applied by such a high proportion of the membership.
My Amendment 84 deals with information to be provided to the public under Clause 11 and suggests that not only should that be specified by the Secretary of State but that it is thought "necessary" by the police and crime panel. I do not know how one challenges the "necessary" or what is more generalised. I am suggesting widening it to,
Amendment 86 is about the contents of the annual report, and I have based this on the arrangements within the Greater London Authority applying to the
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I have a number of amendments to Clause 29 about requiring both the attendance of individuals at meetings of the panel and information. For the panel to do its job it is essential that it has the tools, and many of the tools are information. Some of that is best obtained by asking questions but sometimes one needs to have people at meetings to question them and to follow a line of questioning in public. I can anticipate that the Government might say that panel meetings should not be turned into some sort of circus, but occasionally that might happen because of the subject matter. Sometimes you find that a meeting has an item on the agenda that has become extremely topical, and people pour in and the press and media crowd round. I am not suggesting putting officers on trial in proposing that they could be required to attend meetings, but they may have information that is essential to the panel doing the job.
Holding the commissioner to account, most of all, means getting information into the public domain, and to do that, requiring the attendance of relevant chief constables, senior officers and anyone to whom the police and crime commissioner has delegated functions. These are Amendments 140 to 141, and 142 to 145, which also refer to the production of relevant documents. You cannot hold the commissioner to account without getting information on some occasions from others who are part of the wider story. I do not want to equate the operation of the panel to a court of law, but I do not think any court or a Select Committee of Parliament would say that the only evidence necessary will be what is produced from one side. My amendments would require senior officers to attend, as in the London context, in Amendment 166; and Amendment 165, tabled by my noble friend Lady Doocey, is in the same vein.
Amendment 168 would require the panel to be consulted on the commissioner's arrangements for local engagement. This is a rather different flavour, but it is important that those who are elected locally across the force area and who know their own patches are consulted on these arrangements. It would be nonsense for them not to be, but then sometimes nonsense happens. Amendment 169, to Clause 36, deals with reports from the chief officer, and the panel should have a copy of these. Amendment 232 deals again with collaboration agreements under Schedule 12 and decisions about efficiency and effectiveness. Again, surely the views of the panel should count for something. Indeed, they should be sought. If we are to have panels, we need strong ones and should use them to the best effect.
On Amendment 123C, I offer congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Beecham. I was struggling with how to deal with a call-in right and could not see where it could be called in to. I am glad to support his amendment because it deals with it very neatly.
Baroness Doocey: My Lords, I have two amendments in this group and I would like to speak briefly to both of them. As this is the first time that I have spoken in this stage of the Bill's passage. I need to declare an interest as a member of the London Assembly, a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority and a member of the Home Office Olympic Security Board. I am pleased that I do not have to say all that every time I stand up to speak.
I shall deal first with Amendment 156 and then go on briefly to Amendment 165. The purpose of this amendment is to clarify the powers of the London Assembly to co-opt independent members to the police and crime panel, which might otherwise be subject to legal challenge. The Bill establishes police and crime panels throughout the country but there are different arrangements for London. Outside London each police and crime panel will consist of 10 or more members of the local authority plus two independent members who are co-opted. Within London the police and crime panel will be one of the Assembly committees, formed as a panel, and it may co-opt independent members. To make this possible the Bill removes the restriction in the Greater London Authority Act which provides that only Assembly members may serve on ordinary committees of the Assembly. However, I believe that the Bill is very unclear on certain aspects. It does not make it explicit that the London Assembly could appoint independent members. It also does not make it explicit that if the London Assembly did appoint independent members, it could allow them to vote. There is no provision in any of the other legislation that gives the Assembly such powers, so if the Assembly were to appoint independent members to the police and crime panel it could be open to legal challenge.
This amendment would remedy that deficiency by giving the London Assembly the specific power to appoint independent members to the panel, thereby removing the possibility of legal challenge. The amendment is important regardless of whether the current London Assembly wishes to appoint independent members because it would make the Bill sustainable in the long term. I should add that the amendment would not give special treatment to London; it would merely try to treat London in the same way as the rest of the country.
My noble friend Lady Hamwee has covered many of the points on Amendment 165 and I do not intend to repeat what she has said. I would just agree wholeheartedly with her assessment that it is essential that the panel has the right to summon the Metropolitan Police in London and senior members of the police staff to give evidence. For example, if the Mayor of London identifies neighbourhood policing as a priority, the panel will need information about the allocation of resources within the Metropolitan Police, and about its performance, in order to inform its deliberations. As the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, said so
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Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, I put my name to Amendments 156 and 165, which deal with the panel arrangements in London. It is worth reflecting on the way in which the London arrangements will be substantially different from those in the rest of the country. The Bill replaces the panel responsibility on the London Assembly. Therefore, one will not be able to make-in the way that one will elsewhere in the country-the automatic assumption that every relevant local authority will be represented on that forum. There will be representatives from various parts of London, but it is possible that some parts of London will not be represented on the London Assembly panel. Therefore, it is worth remembering that the London arrangements for the panel are significantly different.
This highlights also the importance of Amendment 156 in dealing with co-opted members. It is designed not to frustrate the Government's intention but to tidy it up. If there are such co-opted members, they should be appointed by a resolution of the whole London Assembly, which would avoid some of the complexities that the noble Baroness, Lady Doocey, highlighted. I support the points made by her and by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, about who could be summoned to a panel. This is a particularly important issue, not just in London but around the country.
In the past, I talked about two particular difficulties with some of the arrangements in the Bill. First, where is the visible answerability of the police service in any particular area to those who are holding it to account? I understand the Government's argument, which is that in London the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime will hold the police service to account, and that outside London it will be the police and crime commissioner-or the police and crime commission, if the House's preferred option goes forward. However, the scrutiny process will be very strange if the only scrutiny that is possible will be of the actions of the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime-or the deputy MOPC, because the mayor will almost certainly appoint a deputy-and, in areas outside London, of the police and crime commissioner.
There are a number of problems with that. It will mean that the entire focus of discussion will be about political debate. One elected politician will appear before a group of other elected politicians, possibly with one or two independents. Discussion will focus on the political decisions that the policing and crime commissioner, or the mayor's office, have taken. That is all well and good: people may say that that is as it should be. However, I suspect that one will lose a lot of the granularity around what has happened in the police service in that area in the intervening period with which the panel is concerned.
We are told that the chief officer of police-the commissioner of police in the metropolis-may attend meetings of the panel. However, they will not be obliged to attend, but may attend by their own grace and favour. The importance of Amendment 165 and parallel amendments is that they would ensure an expectation that certain senior police officers could be required to attend. That will be critical to ensure that the discussion moves away from the political knockabout that all of us in Committee enjoy and have participated in at various times in our life, and towards scrutiny of important policing issues. The panel will have the power to call before it senior police officers who are responsible for the area of policing that is being debated. This will be critical to remove some of the political knockabout that will otherwise happen and to provide at least some, though not all, of the visible political answerability that is so necessary to policing.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I am very sympathetic to many of the amendments, particularly concerning the need for recall and, as my noble friend Lord Harris said, clarity on the ability of panels to summon people to appear before them, particularly chief officers of police, in order to ensure that serious discussions take place. If the conversation is only between elected councillors who are members of the panel and the elected police commissioner, two things will happen. First, as my noble friend said, the discussion will become almost entirely political. Secondly, if it is only the elected police commissioner who stands or sits before the panel, they will be drawn into discussing detailed operational matters of policing. That is why we are so fearful of the Bill. It will be essential as a matter of course for the chief constable and other chief officers in their own right to appear regularly before the panel. I hope that the Government will be sympathetic to that.
The amendments concerning the openness both of the panel and the elected commissioners are important. An important point was raised about co-opted members on the London panel. I will focus in particular on Amendment 34A, tabled by my noble friend Lord Beecham. The incidental powers given to the commissioner in paragraph 9 of Schedule 1 are considerable. It is right that there should be scrutiny, and that the panel should be able to question the commissioner and, if necessary, amend or reject decisions. Those are the kinds of checks and balances that we wish to see.
We will come later to other amendments that deal with the panel's responsibilities in relation to the appointment of chief constables and to precepts, where it will have veto powers. The problem is that the exercise of that veto will become almost impossible if the threshold is put at 75 per cent. It is not even 75 per cent of those present and voting but 75 per cent of panel members. Therefore, I was very glad to see my noble friend's suggestion that, particularly in relation to the incidental powers contained in paragraph 9 on page 107, the threshold should be reduced to a two-thirds majority. That takes us some way towards a more realistic relationship where there would be at least some possibility of the panel being able to act as a check and balance on the elected police commissioner.
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I hope that we can have further discussions on this matter. What I am clear about is that, in relation to the incidental powers, the panel should have a role in scrutiny and, in some circumstances, be able to exercise a veto. However, although the Bill provides for a veto, the figure of 75 per cent needs to be reduced to make it a realistic veto.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, this has been a very useful debate on a lengthy collection of amendments. Having complimented the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, on his skill in drafting amendments, I should add my compliments to the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, on her deeply conscientious and detailed scrutiny of all aspects of the Bill.
We are discussing with considerable care the right balance between the PCC and the PCP and the distinction between accountability and scrutiny. I know that is a concern across the whole House. We need to strike the right balance between the need for the police and crime panel to scrutinise effectively and the police and crime commissioner being inundated with requests for information to the point that his, or her, ability to discharge his duties effectively is limited. In the design of this Bill, it is the role of the police and crime commissioner to scrutinise the chief constable and the role of the police and crime panel to scrutinise the police and crime commissioner. The intention of the Government and the elected House is that policing is for the chief officer of police to deliver and it is for the locally elected body-the PCC or the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime-to ensure that public priorities are met and that performance is appropriately high. That is the dynamic of a single individual responsible for this to the electorate. It is not intended that he or she will share this role with the police and crime panel. Its role is to advise and scrutinise the police and crime commissioner, especially in respect of the annual policing and crime plan.
The details of how one works out that relationship and exactly what reporting is required are what these amendments investigate further. The public already have access to street-level police performance information thanks to the introduction of a police website. It is, and will continue to be, the role of Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary to provide the public with information on force performance, including an annual report on the state of policing nationally.
Amendment 87 is scarcely necessary because of course the principle should be that everything should be made public except matters that relate to national security, personal safety or the prevention or detection of crime, which are the only caveats in the Bill. Otherwise, the exemption does not apply.
The majority of the work the panel will undertake will be done in public and will remain accessible to the public. The Bill states that the panel must hold a public meeting to review the annual report it receives from the police and crime commissioner, must publish all reports and recommendations it makes to the police
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We will need to write about some of the further amendments. There is nothing in the Bill that prevents the panel requiring the police and crime commissioner to explain and justify any decision that he or she has made. That is a natural part of the relationship between the two, but-
Baroness Hamwee: I am sorry to interrupt my noble friend, but surely the problem is on the other side. There is nothing to stop the panel requiring. It is the obligation on the recipient of that request or requirement to respond. Will the Minister take that away and think about it?
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, might you not have a situation where the elected commissioner has made it clear that he does not expect police officers to go to the panel? That would permeate through, and even though police officers received a summons, they would know that they would incur the wrath of the commissioner in going. Some people who were elected might very well take the view that because they were pursuing what we might regard as perverse or bizarre policies they would not want senior police officers to appear before the panel because the police officers would disabuse the panel about the policies being pursued by the commissioner. I worry if the only relationship is going to be between the commissioner and the panel. Surely we must have senior police officers at those meetings.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: I appreciate that concern. It was evident in the debate and is clearly something that we need to take away and consider further. The exact relationship in this triangle, the extent to which we maintain the operational independence of the police and the relevant accountability and scrutiny are at the heart of what we are all concerned about with this Bill. It is a fundamental principle of this Bill that the buck stops with the police and crime commissioner. The police and crime commissioner can delegate functions to others but cannot delegate responsibility.
There are some very useful amendments here on the London Assembly, which I think I should probably not delay the Committee with, but we will consider further whether the police and crime panel should be a particular committee of the London Assembly or whether the London Assembly as a whole should take a range of decisions. We argue that it is for the London Assembly as a democratically elected body to decide for itself how the membership of the panel should be chosen and that the existing arrangements are sufficiently robust for the scrutiny of the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime.
We will have further discussions on some of these issues off the Floor. I thank noble Lords for the careful and often detailed and technical contributions to this debate. I ask the noble Baroness not to move her amendment.
Attack helicopters are one tool for doing that. The use of attack helicopters is one of a range of capability options under consideration. However, we have made no decision yet on whether to use our attack helicopters in Libya".
Lord Rosser: My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating as a Statement an Urgent Question that was allowed in the other place. We have always been clear that we support the enforcement of UN Security Council Resolution 1973 in order to protect Libyan civilians and implement a no-fly zone. We have also said that we support the Government's actions and that we scrutinise their actions. I note that the Minister has referred in the Statement to the Foreign Secretary's comment that it is now,
However, the Minister went on to say that, while the use of attack helicopters was one of a range of capability options under consideration, no decision has been made yet on whether to use our attack helicopters in Libya. The Minister in the other place also said that once they have, Ministers will come back to inform the House.
Certainly, an inference might be drawn from the phrase "once we have" that the decision is more about when rather than if. But if the words simply refer to once we have made a decision, is the Minister saying
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I should like to refer to the reports in the newspapers this morning. The Guardian, which may not be the Government's favourite newspaper, said, without any ifs or buts that Britain and France are to deploy attack helicopters against Libya and said that the French Foreign Minister had confirmed that his country had dispatched a dozen helicopters. Indeed, the dispatch of 12 French helicopters to Libya on 17 May was reported in yesterday's Le Figaro newspaper.
The Sun, which certainly is one of the Government's favourite papers, said that the Government would announce the deployment of Apache attack helicopters today. The Daily Telegraph, which sometimes seems to be better briefed on the Government's thinking and intentions than some Cabinet Ministers, said that British attack helicopters would be in action in Libya within days and would fly in from a Royal Navy warship. It said that the operation will take the allies closer to a full ground operation. The report went on:
Those newspaper reports bear the hallmark of concerted briefing since they all say much the same thing. Will the Minister tell the House who was responsible for those briefings? I hope that he will not tell us that such briefings have not taken place. Will the Minister also say why briefings of this kind, which are not far removed from a running commentary on our imminent military intentions, are given to newspapers before anything is said in Parliament? Is that not another example of the way in which the Government are seeking to marginalise Parliament's role of being able to question, to challenge and to call the Executive to account?
Will the Minister say whether a meeting of the National Security Council has recently taken place and if decisions on the use or otherwise of helicopters were made, as confidently asserted on the front page of the Daily Telegraph today? The French Defence Minister was quoted yesterday as saying:
In view of the statement by the French that they have dispatched a dozen helicopters, and in the light of the Government's Statement that we have made no decision yet on whether to use our attack helicopters in Libya, how well is the close military co-operation between ourselves and the French in relation to Libya and in other areas of activity going?
On the face of it, an announcement by the French that they have made a decision to dispatch helicopters at a time when we are still considering a range of capability options and have made no decision yet on whether to use our attack helicopters, does not suggest that the co-operation is quite as close as it might be. It could be inferred that there is not always unanimity
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Does the Minister accept the view that the deployment of helicopters by the French, and possibly by ourselves, represents an escalation of the conflict? While helicopters will add to firepower and give precision targeting, they are more vulnerable to ground fire than high-altitude fighter jets and thus, if we deploy them, will potentially put British personnel in greater danger. If we do deploy the helicopters, would it be the Government's intention that the British personnel involved will also receive the operational allowance that their colleagues in Afghanistan do?
The Minister referred to the Foreign Secretary's comment on the necessity for intensifying military pressure on the Gaddafi regime. If the Government are still considering a range of capability options, what are the objectives that are not being achieved now in pursuit of UNSCR 1973 that the Government seek to achieve through the use of one or more options now under consideration, including possibly the deployment of attack helicopters?
The Government need to be clear about how their ultimate objectives in Libya will be realised without the conflict becoming something other than that which was stated at the outset. When the Government do the right thing, we will always support them. So far they have, and so they continue to have the support of these Benches. But the events of the past 24 hours have raised a number of concerns about how matters are being handled rather than the decisions being made or considered. I hope that the Minister will now be able to address those concerns.
Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his reconfirmation of the Opposition's support for the Government's position on the United Nations mandate. We cannot keep up a running commentary on every tactical change that we make. Our operational timetable is to support UNSCR 1973 and it is not driven by the parliamentary timetable. We have debated this important issue many times in your Lordships' House and the Ministry of Defence has provided background briefings to many noble Lords. My intention is to continue to keep noble Lords aware of developments through both briefings and formal statements. I stress that no decision to use Apaches has yet been taken but I can confirm that three Apaches are on HMS "Ocean" in the Mediterranean, taking part in exercise Cougar and would be available should we decide that we need their formidable capability.
The noble Lord mentioned various articles in the newspaper. All I can say is that he should not believe everything he reads in the papers. I am not aware of any briefings to the newspapers that have taken place. We are not ready to make this decision. I can confirm that a meeting of the National Security Council has taken place, but no decision on the operational use of the Apaches has been taken. The noble Lord asked about relations with France. I can confirm that they
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The noble Lord asked if this was a significant escalation of the conflict. While I stress again that we have made no decision on the use of the Apaches, we do regularly update and review our military options and tactics to ensure that we can continue to enforce UNSCR 1973. The deployment of the Apaches does not translate to an escalation of the campaign.
The noble Lord asked about the possible risks to the Apaches. These are flown by very well trained pilots; in Afghanistan they face daily threats from hand-held grenades and machine gun fire, so I have complete confidence in their ability to deal with similar threats in Libya. Looking around the House, I see some noble Lords who have seen the work of the Apaches out in Afghanistan. They can of course take advantage of the terrain-the lie of the land-that fast jets cannot, and they can lurk while remaining hidden and then engage their target with their missiles.
The noble Lord asked what the Government's objectives were. NATO air strikes have been successful in reducing Gaddafi's ability to attack his people, but he continues to target civilians in clear contravention of UN Security Council resolutions and international law. We have moved on significantly in the last two weeks: the regime has had to pull back from Misrata, Gaddafi is in hiding, and there were further defections and desertions. The coalition is resolute and time is not on Gaddafi's side. We must keep up the pressure on him, and Apache is one of the very highly capable weapons that we have to do this.
Finally, the noble Lord asked me whether we would extend the operational alliance. This is a matter we are looking at very seriously; as I say again, we have not made any decision on Apaches, but if we did, that would obviously be a matter we would look at carefully.
Lord Gilbert: My Lords, no one would criticise this Minister for failing to keep colleagues informed of what is going on in Libya. The decision about the Apaches is clearly taken above his pay grade; no criticisms attaches to him for our not being told about that. However, I do have some other questions to which we need some answers.
First, it seems sad that, once again, we are being led by the French. I do not think that is doing our standing in the world any good at all. In addition to the list of questions that my noble friend put so succinctly to the Minister, I would like to know when we are going to have an explanation of that brazen breach of the no-fly zone by some of Gaddafi's helicopters a few days ago. On whose watch did that happen? Who is responsible for it and why have we not had an explanation? Finally, will the Minister tell us how many working helicopters are available to Mr Gaddafi at this time?
Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, taking the noble Lord's last question first, I do not think Gaddafi is in a position to use any helicopters at the moment. The no-fly zone would ensure that no helicopters were able to be operational. The noble Lord asked me the other day about the helicopter that was supposed to have taken off. I am not aware that this categorically took place, but I will look into the matter, report back to him and put a copy of my letter in the Library. It is a very important question and I am not able to answer it at the moment, but I will get back to him as soon as possible.
Finally, we are not being led by the French: no decision has yet been taken. We want to put the pressure on Gaddafi, and if a decision were taken to use Apaches, it would be for that reason-not because we were being led by the French.
Lord King of Bridgwater: My Lords, I certainly echo the tribute paid to the Minister for the efforts he has made to keep this House briefed on the situation in Libya. However, does he recognise that it is extremely difficult-in spite of the excellent briefing-to get an accurate picture of what is really happening on the ground and the way this event is moving? Against that background, I found that the noble Lord who spoke for the Opposition made an interesting point. Presumably, the decision to send Apaches did not originate with a decision of the National Security Council; it must have originated in a request from the NATO commander on the ground. I imagine that is where it originally came from, and not the other way around. Will my noble friend comment on that?
Also, are we to have a situation in which, if one French Apache or attack helicopter gets involved, then there has to be a British one as well, and then we have to have a parallel approach in this? My understanding was that individual nations would contribute to this effort the resources they thought most appropriate and had most available. If there is to be a limited attack helicopter effort, it is probably much more sensible if it is done by one country than by trying to do a bit from one and a bit from the other.
Lord Astor of Hever: As far as the last point is concerned, my noble friend makes a very good point. I thank him for his kind words about trying to keep the House involved: I do my best to keep all noble Lords involved and I am open to any suggestions about how I can continue to do that. If anyone feels that I should be doing more, I would be grateful to hear about that. As for my noble friend's question about who requested the Apaches, I am afraid that I am not in a position to answer that.
Lord Palmer of Childs Hill: My Lords, military intervention in Libya was mentioned as being led by the French, but in fact, military intervention in Libya began on 19 March, with actions by the French air force. British submarines then fired over 100 Tomahawk cruise missiles. Two months further on, the use of Apache helicopters is being considered. Will the Minister say whether this is a move from desert warfare to
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Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, as I keep on saying, we have not made any decision on Apaches; however, if we were to authorise use of Apaches in Libya, it would have no effect on our operation in Afghanistan. I can reassure my noble friend on that point. As for his question on the French, I make no apology for working very closely with the French. They are our closest allies in Europe and they bring a lot to bear. Having said that, we also-for the benefit of noble Lords sitting opposite-work very closely with our American allies.
Lord Lea of Crondall: My Lords, is it not the case that, as the Minister has just said-and here is a point of emphasis with my noble friend Lord Gilbert-ever since Somalia we have been going down the line of closer and closer co-operation with the French at every level? As for the idea that there is a proposal that it must be one of ours and one of theirs, I would like to hear whether that was conceived or not. However, we must not get paranoid about operations of a slightly asymmetrical nature one way or another with the French. It is to be welcomed.
Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, once again, I say that no decision has been made on the use of Apaches-I cannot go on repeating that. That, I think, answers the question on "one of ours and one of theirs". We are working very closely with the French and will continue to do so.
Lord Craig of Radley: My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement. He mentioned that the Foreign Secretary was anxious that further military, economic and other pressure should be kept on Gaddafi. Does that mean that there are other members of the NATO group working with us who also want to add to the military pressure? If so, what contribution are they likely to make? As far as the helicopters are concerned, I presume that some form of risk assessment will be, or has been, made. Perhaps the Minister would like to talk about what risk is envisaged if the helicopters are to be used in Libya.
Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and gallant Lord for his questions. We do not comment on the military contributions of other nations to the campaign. However, we are grateful for them. He asked me about risk assessments. Before we take any operational decision, we make a full risk assessment to understand the environment in which we require our personnel and equipment to operate. We will look particularly at the regime's capability, not least its surface-to-air missiles.
Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, I declare an interest as a board member of UNICEF UK. If we are to have helicopters and ships in greater number in the area, have any further instructions been
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Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, as I understand it, there is an international stabilisation response team in Benghazi looking at this issue. Of course, the United Kingdom will continue to provide medical and emergency food supplies.
Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for repeating the Statement. It is clearly quite right that we should review options all the time. It is also worth bearing in mind that we need to get rid of Gaddafi, which needs to be factored into everything that is done. We also need to be very wary. Three helicopters are not enough, if we ever use them. I am afraid that we are misleading people if we lead them to believe that they are not at greater risk than if the fast jets were there. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, is absolutely right that a proper risk assessment needs to be made. The Minister said that no decision had been made, but it is a slightly strange circumstance that we are in.
My question relates to something about which, as the Minister knows, I feel very strongly. The best aircraft that we had for close air support, having been designed for that purpose, was the GR9. Many of them are sitting in a hangar and the pilots are still current up to the end of June. This is the last-chance saloon for being able to use those aircraft. It is not good enough to say that there is no money, as it is all from contingency funds. A huge amount of contingency money is being spent by the Treasury on getting the GR4 "fleet within a fleet" up to the right level and getting the Typhoon available to deliver a bomb, yet here we have an aircraft designed for the purpose and better than the Apache at it because it is less vulnerable. Will the Government take this opportunity to look again at this matter and perhaps change their decision? If the conflict becomes long and drawn-out, we will need them there to be able to put the right pressure on.
Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for acknowledging that we are right to review the options and reaffirming the need to get rid of Gaddafi. There is always a risk in using attack helicopters-although, as I have said, we have not made any decision on them. I am afraid that I must disappoint the noble Lord by saying that we have no plans to look again at the use of the Harriers.
Lord Soley: The Minister keeps many of us informed, for which I am grateful. He will know from discussions on Afghanistan that there is a difference between using the Apache there and using it in some of the urban areas in Libya. Are reports correct that one of the reasons that the French and British are looking at the possibility of deploying it is that Gaddafi's army has discarded uniforms and is using civilian trucks and clothes? Is that the reason for the close attack?
Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, I well remember my visit last year to Afghanistan with the noble Lord. We managed to see quite a lot of our different weapons out there. The noble Lord asked me about Gaddafi's forces shedding their uniforms. They are doing that. They are also using civilian vehicles and hiding armour in buildings, including hospitals and schools. If we were ever to use the Apaches, they might target mortar batteries, light military vehicles and individuals including snipers and commanders.
Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, I cannot really answer that question. Gaddafi's mercenaries from different parts of Africa are obviously a threat to our allied forces. We deal with them as we do the regime's soldiers.
Lord Judd: Will the Minister restate for the House the very firm political undertaking given by his ministerial colleagues at the beginning of this intervention that the ultimate solution must be genuinely Libyan and is for the Libyan people to reach? Will he also confirm that our role is limited to protecting people who are in danger and under attack? Will he therefore assure us that, while it may be necessary to do everything possible, including, if need be, using helicopters, to achieve that objective of protection, there is no danger not only of military creep but of political creep? Are we absolutely certain that the aims of this mission are the same on the part of the French and the UK Governments?
Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, the answer to the noble Lord's last question is yes: they are exactly the same. We want a genuinely Libyan solution. This is about upholding UNSCR 1973 and its remit to take all necessary measures to protect civilians and civilian-populated areas. That is what the French want and that is what we want.
Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: My Lords, in the context of the press comment alluded to, and referring back to a previous Anglo-French alliance, does my noble friend recall the episode in The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman leading up to taxis of the Marne, where the French chief of staff was having dinner in the Champs-Elysées with a friend and they heard the couple at the next table say one to another, "The situation is so serious that the chief of staff is leaving for the front tomorrow"? As the chief of staff's friend smiled and raised an eyebrow, the chief of staff said, "That, my friend, is how history is written".
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the Minister has been very clear that the action that we are taking is in pursuit of UNSCR 1973. That resolution
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Does the Minister accept that what my noble friend Lord Rosser said about the briefings on the Apaches sounding very authoritative? I am prepared to accept what the Minister has said to us here in Parliament-that no decision has been taken. The French, too, have been giving very authoritative briefings, which sound as if they are very well rooted. Again, I believe the Minister because he has given us excellent briefings and he commands the confidence of all sides of the House in what he is saying.
We are about to have a short break. Will the Minister assure us that, if the situation changes, there will be an authoritative Ministerial Statement making clear what is happening to British forces and to the deployment of our assets and that it will not be done through press briefings, which are unattributed?
Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, taking the last question first, as far as the Statement is concerned, that is a little above my pay grade. I would very much welcome a Statement and I would imagine that that would be the policy of my department. I cannot see why not.
I can confirm that we are not targeting Gaddafi, but if he happens to be in a command post at a bad time, he may get killed. That is a risk he takes. I accept the noble Baroness's point about the briefings appearing authoritative, but I say to the House again that we will not take any decision on the deployment of Apaches until we are ready. The noble and gallant Lord asked about risk assessments. They must be done and done properly. I am sure that the House would support the Government on that.
Baroness Henig: My Lords, I am going to speak to 24 amendments in this group that stand in my name and one to which I have added my name. First, I want to address Amendments 41 and 64A but I am also going to put forward some alternative proposals that are set out in Amendments 42, 46 and 64C and need to be taken together. These broadly relate to my concerns about using the construct of a corporation sole within which to encompass the functions of a chief officer of police and the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. I am then going to talk about Amendments 66A, 67, 67A, 67B and 234A to 234Q, and also say a little about Amendment 44 in this group, which I support although I did not put my name to it. These all relate to concerns I have regarding the creation of two chief finance officers and auditable bodies for one police fund. I apologise to the House as I will go into some detail and also for trying to put my own construction on this idea of corporation sole. I cannot claim to be an expert but looking around the Chamber there may be noble Lords who are more expert than me in this area, who might perhaps allay some of my concerns-or possibly add to them, I do not know.
I start off with my concerns regarding corporation sole. I am extremely uncomfortable with this idea. Chief officers, to me, are meant to be police officers, not corporations or commercial enterprises. Amendments 41 and 64A remove the status of corporation sole from chief officers and the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, while Amendments 42, 46 and 64C limit the scope of the status of a chief officer and the Metropolitan Police Commissioner as a corporation sole for the purpose of employment of staff only. I start by probing what this construct of a corporation sole means in practice and what the implications are for corporate governance of policing and the accountability of chief police officers.
As I have already said, I am not a lawyer and I do not know a great deal about corporation sole, but even the name seems to be a contradiction in terms: a corporation suggests a collective body but sole most certainly does not. Putting aside for a moment what is said in the Bill about the accountability of chief officers of police, the very name corporation sole suggests that the incumbent is accountable to him or herself. What laws set rules about corporate governance within corporations sole? What general powers and duties do these laws give the incumbent and what do they say about the accountability of the incumbent for those powers and duties? Do any of those laws or any other common practice within corporations sole conflict with what is being proposed in this Bill, whether in relation to the powers and duties of chief officers, the corporate governance regime of policing, or the accountability and operational responsibility of chief officers?
I am concerned that this construct creates technical difficulties in other areas of the Bill, for instance by creating two auditable bodies for one police fund-which are the subject of other amendments-or additional bureaucracy and expense in relation to transfer schemes. It might also create other unintended consequences. I am having a very hard time seeing what the benefits of this extra difficulty and expense will be.
I shall briefly explain how things work at the moment. The governing body is the police authority, which holds all the assets, funding and land for the police force. It is also the employer of all police staff. The chief officer has operational independence and also has direction and control of all police staff and officers. As an aside, I think it worthy of note that police officers are not employed by either the authority or the force but hold warrants from the Crown, and this will not change under the proposed new arrangements. The police authority then delegates functions to the chief officer so that he or she can manage the force and police funding on a daily basis. The delegation framework is a flexible document that can contain freedoms or restrictions on the functions delegated according to what is appropriate to the context. Typically, a scheme of delegation would contain limits, for instance, on the value of contracts that a chief police officer could sign before he must refer it to the authority for approval. This enables the authority to give chief officers freedom to exercise their professionalism, unless they give cause for concern, but also enables the authority to have the final say, as the governing body, about how public money is spent.
It seems to me that this current practice is both more flexible in practice and more robust in terms of corporate governance and accountability than the artificial construct of corporations sole. I am completely unclear, for instance, how this new arrangement will enable funding to be passed from the elected policing body to the chief constable or Metropolitan Police Commissioner to manage the police force yet still give enough traction to the elected policing body to determine how that money should be spent. How can a corporation have any influence over how its money is spent once it has been given to another corporation? Surely the money passes out of its jurisdiction and control.
I ask the Government to explain how this arrangement fulfils the policy intent and why the existing arrangement, whereby the chief officer has operational independence, command and control of police staff and delegated functions, is inadequate. Frankly, I have to say that I think that the Government have tied themselves in several knots in an effort first to create powerful individuals, in the form of police and crime commissioners, and then to set about limiting the powers of the police and crime commissioners for fear that they will have created a monster. One way in which the Government have done that is by creating equally powerful chief police officers; another way has been to deprive the police and crime commissioners of the powers and duties that police authorities currently have as employers of all police staff.
This brings me on to my alternative amendments, Amendments 42 and 64C. It is clear that the Bill intends that employment responsibilities for police staff should be passed to chief officers, but it is less clear whether that also includes powers for chief officers to enter into contracts, borrow money and so forth, and the extent to which chief officers will need the permission of the police and crime commissioner, or the equivalent in London, if they wish to do so. I
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"We recognise the operational independence of chief constables, as we have discussed, and we believe that they should have the professional freedom to employ their force staff directly ... we have made it clear that it is the police and crime commissioner who owns the assets and passes them to the chief constable to manage on a day-to-day basis. After all, it is the police and crime commissioner who has the democratic mandate to decide on the advice of the chief constable and on behalf of the people in the force area how their money is to be spent. ... the question is whether the provision is too widely drawn. It is intended only to apply to the employment of staff; it is not intended to give a wider power to chief constables on assets ... I would, therefore, like to look again at whether we should provide further clarification of the measure. I agree with the general view of the Committee that it is important that we provide clarification where we can. I immediately make it clear that it is absolutely not our intention to cut across the decision that assets will be held by the police and crime commissioner".-[Official Report, Commons, Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill Committee, 27/1/11; col. 252.]
I am very apprehensive about giving a corporate status to chief officers, but if we must do so because the Government have tied themselves in knots over police and crime commissioners, I am keen to see that such a status is strictly limited and is only for the purposes of employment. There are a number of reasons for doing so. Currently, paragraph 7 of Schedule 2 and paragraph 3 of Schedule 4 enable chief officers, and the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, to own all assets except land. That would include intellectual property, contractual assets, fleet and IT. Those paragraphs also enable chief officers, and the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, to enter into contracts without recourse to the elected policing body-with no limitation at all. That would include multimillion-pound contracts for the provision of services such as IT and the supply of goods, where the chief officer does not acquire ownership of those assets. I am particularly uncomfortable with the current wording in these paragraphs, which provide that a chief officer of police,
The effect of Amendments 46 and 67B would be to vary and to tighten considerably those incidental powers. If we accept that an elected policing body should have a mandate on behalf of local people to determine how police money is spent-and my earlier quotation suggests that the Government accept that-that is entirely inconsistent with the current wording of the Bill. The corporate status for employment only still leaves significant questions about accountability for how public money is spent as approximately 80 per cent of police budgets are currently spent on people. But it would at least greatly simplify the transfer arrangements envisaged later in the Bill that will pass assets and contracts from police authorities to police and crime commissioners.
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The next amendments are concerned with the duplicate chief finance officer roles created by the current drafting of the Bill. Having a chief finance officer for both the force and the police and crime commissioner is a recipe for confusion. Different titles and different status are needed. Amendment 66A proposes a different title of finance director for the Metropolitan Police Service, while Amendments 44 and 67 deal with the key issue of having two statutory finance officers. It is debatable whether the force chief finance officer really needs statutory powers, but phrasing these under the Local Government Finance Act 1988 as currently proposed is unworkable and could be disastrous.
The Act requires the chief finance officer to act in the event that a body is about to enter into unlawful expenditure or exceed its available resources. It gives powers to the chief finance officer to stop expenditure in such circumstances. Clearly, this is a power that should rest ultimately with the elected local policing body, or someone who is directly accountable to him or her as the individual responsible to communities for safeguarding how public money is spent. I do not believe that it is a power that should rest with the chief officer or someone who is accountable only to a chief officer. The creation of two statutory chief finance officers would also have the consequence, whether intended or not, of creating two separate auditable bodies. This cannot surely be correct for what is a single police fund. It also raises real concerns about the access that a police and crime commissioner would have to financial information or the ability that they would have to check how money is being spent if it is held in separate corporations sole and subject to a separate audit regime. For this reason, Amendments 234A to 234P remove references to a separate statutory chief finance officer for the force.
Lastly, and very importantly, Amendment 234Q removes the current proposed amendment to the Audit Commission Act 1998, which would set up chief constables and the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police as auditable bodies. The Bill would have the consequence of creating two statutory finance officers and duplicate audit arrangements again for one police fund. That would be a complete waste of resources and blur the lines of accountability. This amendment will, I hope, make it clear that the local elected policing body is the auditable body. I beg to move.
These are important amendments to test the implications of chief officers being corporations sole. Like the noble Baroness, I am uncomfortable with chief officers being given a legal status as corporations sole, and I look forward to an explanation from the
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The alternative amendments here deal with limiting the status of corporations sole to powers of employment only. As I understand it, that would prevent chief officers from owning assets or entering into contracts not directly related to employment. I have to say that I also have some significant concerns about giving chief officers unfettered responsibilities for employment of police staff without any role for the governing body. At the very least the latter should have an oversight role in grievance and professional standards, or the chief officer will become both judge and jury in these matters. But I am sure we will return to this later in the Bill. However, I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, that the most objectionable aspect of the current wording is the role that chief officers could play in determining how huge sums of public money should be spent, for instance through entering into multimillion-pound contracts or borrowing money in their own right. I hope that my noble friend the Minister can reassure me on this matter.
Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, I shall speak to my Amendment 64B, which differs only in a minor fashion from one or two of the others, and in support of Amendments 66A, 67, 67B and 234A to 234Q, to which I have added my name. I want to say why all this stuff matters. It no doubt seems like a terribly arcane set of arguments, but I rather suspect that some of our discussions on this group of amendments will determine whether what the Government are trying to do on police accountability actually happens. The way that the Government have framed all this is a recipe to undermine police accountability rather than strengthen it. I am sure that that is not the intention, but I suspect we have ended up here almost by accident.
Let me explain what I mean: it relates to the amendments dealing with corporations sole. The Government have decided that it would be appropriate for chief officers of police and the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis to have responsibility for the employment of police staff-a function currently carried out by police authorities. I think that is the wrong decision because it places too much power in the hands of a single individual. It is the argument that we have about policing and crime commissioners, and everything else. However, it is particularly difficult in a policing context.
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