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(a) vary the policing protocol, or
(b) replace the policing protocol.
(a) such persons as appear to the Secretary of State to represent the views of elected local policing bodies,
(b) such persons as appear to the Secretary of State to represent the views of chief officers of police of police forces maintained by elected local policing bodies,
(c) such persons as appear to the Secretary of State to represent the views of police and crime panels, and
(d) such other persons as the Secretary of State thinks fit.
(a) each police and crime panel established in accordance with Schedule 6 (police areas outside London);
(b) the London Assembly's police and crime panel (see section 33);
"policing protocol" means a document which sets out, or otherwise makes provision about, ways in which relevant persons should (in the Secretary of State's view) exercise, or refrain from exercising, functions so as to-
(a) encourage, maintain or improve working relationships (including co-operative working) between relevant persons, or
(b) limit or prevent the overlapping or conflicting exercise of functions;
(a) the Secretary of State in the exercise of policing functions;
(b) each elected local policing body;
(c) the chief officer of each police force maintained by an elected local policing body;
(d) police and crime panels."
Baroness Browning: My Lords, the Bill ensures that direction and control of the police force remains with the chief constable and that the functions of PCCs in securing the maintenance of an efficient and effective force and holding the chief constable to account are the same as the functions of the police authorities at present. There is nothing in the Bill that would allow a PCC to compromise the operational independence of the chief constable. However, it is clear to all in the House and in another place, and indeed in the wider policing community, that there remains concern as to how the proposed model of reform will work in practice. These concerns have been heard and noble Lords will be aware that we have been working with our policing partners on a draft protocol that sets out the nature of the relationship between chief constables and PCCs and the delineation of their responsibilities.
We have indicated in the past that we are keeping an open mind as to whether the protocol should be put on a statutory footing. We have considered the current draft of the protocol, the comments made by representatives of the existing policing tripartite during the drafting process and the points raised in the useful debates on this subject in your Lordships' House. I am also very grateful to noble Lords who have attending meetings with me outside the Chamber specifically to discuss the protocol. We have tabled an amendment requiring the Home Secretary to issue a protocol by statutory instrument that will be subject to parliamentary scrutiny under the negative resolution procedure.
The Home Secretary will be able to vary or replace the protocol once issued but only after consultation with interested parties and any variation or replacement would be scrutinised by Parliament under the same procedure.
Baroness Browning: We considered that because, as I have outlined, there is a structured consultation in respect of the protocol and any amendments to the
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"( ) The policing protocol must, in particular, provide that if a chief constable, Commissioner of the Metropolis, or Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolis resigns or is required to resign before the expiry of his term of appointment, HMIC must conduct a review of the reasons for that resignation and publish a report on that review.
( ) In conducting that review, HMIC may call upon the assistance of IPCC, if the reason for the resignation is or appears to be one which is related to the ethical conduct of any party to whom the protocol applies.
Baroness Henig: My Lords, Amendment 10 is a very modest amendment, like some of the amendments we have had this morning, but I believe it is a very important amendment in the light of current events. Its purpose is to afford some protection under the proposed protocol to senior officers if they resign prematurely by ensuring that HMIC must conduct a review in these circumstances. The amendment would also ensure that the regulations setting out the protocol would need to follow positive resolution procedures. Given the significant impact regulations could have on the practice and the governance of policing nationally, I believe that this is essential.
I would like to say a few words on why I think this improvement to the Government's amendment is necessary. I, along with many noble friends and colleagues in the House, have consistently raised concerns about the Bill in a number of key areas. We have already heard about these concerns earlier this morning; concerns about whether these reforms will politicise policing and place too much power in the hands of one person; that we need a more corporate approach with more emphasis on good governance and internal regulation; a desperate need to strengthen checks and balances across the whole Bill; inadequate provisions for conduct and complaints, particularly in relation to commissioners, but also in relation to senior officers. Once chief officers become responsible for appointing and disciplining their own senior team, in my view and in the light of the events of recent days, this is a very serious concern. Things have actually been changed by what has been going on.
I acknowledge that the Government have improved some of the checks and balances while the Bill has been in this House-for instance, around lowering the veto majority required by the panel-and we welcome the progress that has been made. In particular, I welcome the government amendment in relation to the protocol which seeks to provide some rigour around protecting the operational responsibility of chief police officers, although my amendment suggests an improvement to these proposals, prompted by recent events. In any event, the devil will be in the detail of the regulations
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I echo the comments of many noble Lords and Members of the other place about the long and dedicated service of both Sir Paul Stephenson and John Yates. I mentioned at earlier stages of the Bill that I did not always agree with Sir Paul, but I have always respected and admired his great abilities and his tremendous commitment to policing. He will be a great loss to London and to the service.
The events of the past week have fuelled my great concern about the future of policing and the impact this could have on reducing public confidence in policing as well as creating instability and uncertainty in the police themselves, particularly among senior ranks. Recent events have dramatically illustrated the vulnerability of senior police officers when subject to the control of a single individual elected on a party political ticket, an individual who is used to operating in a very political environment. The fact is that all senior officers at some time or another need support in difficult situations. The noble Lord, Lord Dear, referred to this earlier this morning and it is absolutely the case. Every now and again they need the opportunity to talk things through on a confidential basis. I know for a fact that that has often happened up and down the country with police authority chairs and deputies and, indeed, with independent members of police authorities. The governance structure has given senior police officers the opportunity to talk to and confide in members and that has helped them in doing their job.
It is quite clear from recent events that individuals elected directly to oversee policing will operate completely differently from police authorities under the present governance arrangements. I am not arguing that that may not have many advantages. The Government have argued that they want a new governance structure and I understand what their reasons are. But I want to point out the huge downsides of this new governance structure, because the individuals so elected, the commissioners, will put their own political career prospects and their own survival ahead of any other factor when problems arise. They will ramp up the pressure on senior police officers rather than work with them supportively behind the scenes. It does not matter what protocol you put in place or whether you say, "This is operational but this is not, and you must not cross this line", ramping up pressure is of a different order entirely. That is what I am so concerned about. It is for that reason that two Metropolitan Police commissioners have gone in the past two and a half years.
My concern is that once this system is extended to the rest of the country without any safeguards, we can predict fairly certainly that the same problems will arise up and down the country. Chief constables will be driven to resign and police and crime commissioners will boast about how tough they are being and play to the media for effect. That will happen; anyone who is a politician knows that.
Another of my worries is that the effect on the public's trust and confidence in the police will be enormous. I think that their trust and confidence in the police will go down but their trust and confidence in politicians will not go up. That will mean a poisonous outcome of these new governance arrangements that a statutory protocol will not alleviate. Hence my amendment to have resignations thoroughly investigated by the inspectorate and, if necessary, the IPCC so that at least the public can get a clear and dispassionate picture of what the issues and problems are, free from the distortions of the media or of the commissioner's account. That is what is motivating me in the amendment.
I remind noble Lords, although I am sure that they need no reminding, that the government Benches have consistently claimed that the London pilot model is a pilot of the proposals for the rest of the country. I do not happen to agree with the Government that it is a very good pilot, but the Government have consistently claimed that the proposals are close enough to act as a test bed and that no other pilots are needed because the London model is such a success. After the previous few days, that rings very hollow and worries me enormously. If London is the model for the rest of the country, then what we are seeing now is what we will see writ large over the next few years.
We are seeing the direct consequence of politicising the police. The senior ranks of the Metropolitan Service have felt the need to employ PR and media advisers, for example, in order to do their job in a political environment and to try to cope with political pressures. Do we really want that sort of scenario to be repeated up to 43 times across the rest of the country as the reforms are rolled out? I am sure the Government will tell me that my fears are misplaced, but I am sorry, that is what I am concerned about.
We live in a complex world. The media play an essential role in enhancing the accountability of the police. The police need to have a balanced relationship with the press, to answer their questions and disseminate information. Obviously, they cannot cut ties with the press and still be seen to be accessible and accountable, but we need to spend time getting the relationship right.
I warmly welcome the recent announcement by the Minister, when she repeated the Home Secretary's Statement to the other place, that a review of this relationship is to be conducted, but surely we must await the outcome of that review before pressing ahead with the reforms in the Bill. Surely it is madness to do otherwise.
I fear that we are heading for a perfect storm of colliding events in the police world. The first of these, as I have just mentioned, will be a combination of the erosion of public confidence in policing as a result of the phone-hacking scandal together with instability and increased uncertainty among senior ranks of the police. This will be combined with unprecedented demand and pressures on the police with the upcoming Olympics; the Jubilee; the implementation of budget cuts that will affect the police directly but also increase demands on them; the changes predicated by the Winsor and Neyroud reviews on leadership; and more
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My noble friend Lord Hunt has warned time and again as the Bill has progressed through the House that the Bill is badly thought through and will require the Government to bring in changes within a year or two to correct its errors if it goes ahead. I agree with him. Recent events have shown the cracks and dangers in the Government's proposed model. Even if some noble Lords do not accept my view that these dangers are pressing, surely we have to take on board the lessons of the reviews and inquiries into the recent scandals-otherwise why have them? Surely we are going to wait to see what they say. Surely we must ensure that these problems that the reviews will bring up are fixed before any new model of policing is considered, because if we do not, the consequences will be severe and disastrous when combined with all the other demands which are coalescing on police resources. Senior police officers deserve a sense of stability and some certainty that they are not going to be asked to fall on their swords to protect their political masters.
I accept that there are some safeguards in the Bill, although in my view they are inadequate if the chief officer is formally required to resign. As the noble Lord, Lord Blair, has pointed out to us many times, there are ways of persuading a chief officer that he should resign voluntarily if a directly elected individual deems that his or her face no longer fits. Chief police officers deserve some certainty about this scenario too. In fact, it is fundamental to a healthy relationship between the commissioner and the chief officer.
My amendment cannot undo all the dangers and inadequacies of the Bill, particularly those around corporate governance and the woefully inadequate standards regime, but it tries to provide some safeguards for chief officers against losing their job on spurious grounds by ensuring that the HMIC must review all premature resignations. A question arises about whether checks and balances are strong enough and whether we need more of them. I urge the Government to consider this again, particularly regarding the powers of the panel and the ability-or lack of it-of the inspectorate to inspect commissioners.
Although I do not for a minute suggest that either Sir Paul Stephenson or John Yates would come into this category, the uncertainty about tenure prompts questions about whether we need again to consider banning disgruntled former police officers from standing as commissioners straightaway, because of course the Bill does not rule that out. In fact, recent events have prompted so many queries about the inadequacies of the Bill that I feel we must make sure that a strong message goes to the other place about this: a very strong warning about all the problems inherent in the Bill that may result in complete disaster.
With all due respect to the Minister, who is innocent of formulating these proposals in the first place, she has done a sterling job in trying to defend them. I know she has tried to bring about changes. She keeps
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Baroness Henig: I say to the noble Lord that what may appear as a private matter may have been caused by months of stress because of wrangles between the commissioner and the chief constable. There are all sorts of things that may not meet the eye. I really believe that we have to think of the public in all this. What is the public going to make of this system, of the new governance structures and of the police? It is important that they see chief constables and their forces as operating above party politics. In a lot of amendments that I have put forward I am trying to help the public to maintain respect for the police and not to feel that party politics will undermine the integrity of the police force. That has been in the back of my mind in all my amendments.
Baroness Harris of Richmond: My Lords, I think that my noble friend the Minister would be disappointed if I did not rise to support the amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Henig. Like her, I acknowledge and welcome many of the government amendments, minor though I believe them to be, including this one on the protocol. However, I am still concerned that the checks and balances on PCCs remain inadequate. While they remain inadequate, chief officers are very vulnerable. I am concerned about the impact this could have on the confidence of senior officers, so I commend this amendment because it would afford at least a minimum level of protection. While this is a start, as the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, pointed out, we need to consider seriously whether in the light of recent developments, this is the right time to be implementing major reforms.
I have consistently expressed my concern that the powers of the panel are not strong enough to act as a proper check on PCCs, but I am also concerned that the wider checks and balances are not strong enough either. This includes checks and balances between
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All this brings us back to the fundamental problem of the Bill: it puts too much power in the hands of one person and places too little emphasis on good governance. My noble friend the Minister has said on several occasions that she will ensure that the principles of good governance are strengthened in the Bill, so the amendment concerning the protocol is helpful in that it defines roles and functions clearly. However, I would ask her to explain exactly which other principles have been addressed and strengthened. I am particularly concerned that a fundamental weakness of the Bill remains the reliance on individuals rather than embracing a more corporate approach.
Corporate bodies have well-established rules of governance and self-regulation which are well understood and thoroughly tested. We have discussed at length both in Committee and on Report why this is not true of corporations sole. Indeed, other amendments at Third Reading are related to this point. It also means that if there is no internal system for regulating a corporation sole properly, because it is comprised of an individual rather than a collective, that regulation must come independently from outside if it is to be credible. The Bill is seriously flawed in this respect, and particularly in relation to senior officer appointments and dismissals, audit and who will check how public money is spent, complaints and the conduct of both PCCs and senior officers. The Bill sets out only very limited external regulation for all these functions.
The Bill's proposals are particularly worrying in respect of complaints about conduct. So far as PCCs are concerned, it is lamentable to suggest that they should be regulated only by reference to a criminal standard of behaviour; everything else will be down to informal resolution between the PCC and the panel. It is not clear what that will mean in practice because it will be subject to regulations which have not been developed. This is not an adequate way of handling matters which so clearly impact on public confidence. The Bill is also inadequate in relation to conduct issues among senior officers. I have argued consistently that giving chief officers powers to deal with disciplinary matters in relation to their immediate senior team is a recipe for corruption. Recent events have demonstrated that public confidence is critical, so this must be changed.
Even under the current, much more robust regime, public confidence is badly dented-and that is without these new provisions which say in effect that the police should investigate themselves. We should ask what the public perception of the recent scandals would have been if the decision to suspend and discipline senior officers other than the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police had been left entirely up to the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. I am in no way impugning the integrity of Sir Paul Stephenson. Like other noble Lords-I follow the noble Baroness, Lady Henig-I believe that he has been an outstanding officer. He will be a very sad loss to policing in this country. However, it is a matter of public perception and what they will make of this arrangement if there are accusations about police corruption.
At present, the Bill manages to combine too much lassitude for individuals with too little regulation. This is a direct consequence of the inadequate corporate and governance structures. I am also inclined to agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, that the events that we have seen in recent days are also a direct consequence of politicising policing and a stark warning about the dangers of the press influencing policing in a political environment. This will make all senior officers-particularly chief officers-vulnerable to the winds of political fortune in the new world of directly elected police governors. For this reason it is essential to improve protection for chief officers to enable them to exercise their operational responsibility without fear or favour as the noble Lord, Lord Dear, told us earlier.
If we must take this Bill forward, it is surely now evident that these flaws must be resolved. I join with the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, in urging the Government to think again. We need to strengthen internal as well as external checks and balances, which means implementing a more corporate approach to guard against the dangers of putting too much power in the hands of one individual. We need a model that is more transparent and effective at self-regulation; this includes a stronger role for the panel. We need to ensure that the principles of good governance are applied to embed this more rigorous approach. We need a proper misconduct regime as a key plank of monitoring effective behaviour and governance.
Arguments to pause and reflect on this Bill are now overwhelming. We need to ensure that chief officers are properly protected from political inference but we also need to learn and apply lessons that will be learnt from the review that HMIC and the IPCC have been asked to undertake before the Bill is finalised. I am also conscious that there will shortly be another police Bill this time dealing with the national landscape.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, we are at Third Reading. We are dealing with a specific amendment. I ask the noble Baroness to be as brief as possible, since we have a Statement to follow on some of the other issues with which she is dealing.
Baroness Harris of Richmond: And finally, I cannot resist asking the Government why they have resisted making the protocol statutory until now. It certainly does not deal with what would have happened in similar circumstances under the proposed new regime where the chief police officer would have been in charge of dealing with allegations against his senior team.
This has been my last main speech in this debate. I have found it profoundly the most debilitating, distressing and appalling police Bill that has ever been my misfortune to have dealt with in the 12 years that I have been in your Lordships' House. I regret deeply that there has been no real concern placed on looking at what my noble friend earlier called, "the very important checks and balances". They are not here.
Lord Ramsbotham: I speak particularly to subsection (6) of the proposed new clause, which presents a very neat way out of the issues of the British Transport Police and the British Transport Policy Authority that I raised on Report. In doing so, I thank the noble
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That seems to be precisely at the heart of the very long delay-10 years' delay-in bringing the jurisdiction and powers of British Transport Police constables and the definition of their chief officer's role together with those of the Home Office police.
At Second Reading, I mentioned that there was a certain urgency in this because the transport police have a key role to play not just in anti terrorism but in the run-up to and progress of the 2012 Olympics. Therefore, as I say, something needs to be done quickly. There is a way out if you accept that the British Transport Police and the British Transport Police authority should be included in the protocol to the extent that the annual police plans, which have to be drawn up by the police and crime commissioners, should include the operations of the British Transport Police. You thus get over all the problems associated with them because they have to be resolved with the measure. For example, the licensing issue, which particularly affects transport hubs and is a matter of concern, and the proper licensing of firearms rather than requiring every constable to get an individual one, would have to be done not as separate issues but as part of a plan in every area. I was disappointed to hear that when the British Transport Police raised this at the meeting with the Secretary of State, officials said that it was inappropriate because the protocol applied only to the Home Office police. That is precisely why it presents the ideal vehicle. I hope very much that the Minister will assure the House that that approach will be followed.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I have an amendment in this group. I thank the noble Baroness for bringing forward her amendment. We have debated establishing a protocol and giving parliamentary endorsement to it, so that is very welcome. I also echo the remarks of the noble Baronesses, Lady Henig and Lady Harris, who expertly identified the flaws in the Bill. I very much support my noble friend's amendment. I also support what the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, said. He made a very good point. I hope that the noble Baroness will respond to him.
I have a very modest amendment in this group-Amendment 12. The noble Baroness's amendment contains an order-making power. Essentially, the order-making power applies to the issuing, varying or replacing of a policing protocol. My reading is that that will be a negative SI. I think that it ought to be an affirmative SI. I refer the noble Baroness to the guidance given by the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee. It states:
I checked last night and I know that her department issued a supplementary memorandum in relation to amendments to Clause 59(2)(c), and that a two-page memorandum has been produced. However, I have not discovered a memorandum issued in relation to this amendment. I hope that the noble Baroness will clarify whether such a supplementary memorandum has been issued.
However, the real point is the following. From all the comments that have been made, right from Second Reading through to today, the importance of this protocol is not in doubt. Given that it is an order-making power, I fail to see why the noble Baroness's amendment does not refer to an affirmative order. It ought to be an affirmative order to stress the importance of this matter. I hope that the noble Baroness will be able to give me some comfort on that.
Lord Soley: My Lords, before the noble Baroness speaks I wish to comment on and support both Amendment 9 in the Government's name, and my noble friend Lady Henig on Amendment 10. I just have a couple of points and I do not need to spend too much time on them. First, though, the Minister who just intervened on his own supporter and asked her not to speak so much should remember that the problem we have in this House is that government legislation on a number of issues has been brought to this House in a mess, and it needs to be put right by Parliament. It is not for Ministers to tell parliamentarians not to give it the attention it deserves to try to get it into some sort of order. It is not just this Bill, and it is not just me on this side of the House who is saying this. A number of Members on the Government's side are saying that legislation is reaching this House in an inadequate form, regardless of whether you like the policy or not.
I have a couple of points on Amendment 10. My noble friend Lady Henig, supported by the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, is right. I was interested in the second unnumbered paragraph within the amendment: the issue of the dismissal of police officers. I do not want to go over the issue again; I simply want to make this point. The concern is that you make it a political issue, and there have been examples of that. I made it very clear in my last intervention on this that I am not saying whether the last two senior officers to resign were right or wrong: I stand back on that until there has been judgment. However, we do not want the discussion of these sorts of things on television and radio to become a regular thing. There have been three such cases with the present Mayor of London, and I am not sure that this will not happen in other situations when we have elected officials in this role. It will be so easy to produce a leaflet-and any of the political parties will do this-which says, "We need tougher policing in this area because crime is rising, and that means we do not want any more of this soft policing". We know what that means: we will end up with the senior officer being persuaded to resign. My noble friend, supported by the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, has been trying to draw the attention of the House to that and to try and get that into the Bill, and they are right.
My noble friend Lady Henig was very generous to the Minister, and that was very fair: he has been trying to improve the Bill. I sometimes get worried that he goes back to the Home Office and they have an item on the agenda for the waterboarding of the noble Baroness, Lady Browning, in order to get her to back off. I simply say to her to beware of extraordinary rendition, and next time you go, take your toothbrush and overnight clothes-you might need them. There is a very clear attempt by the Government to say, "We are not going to give way on these central issues". The noble Baroness, Lady Browning, has dealt with the House with enormous courtesy, and great wisdom as well, but she comes back with an empty purse.
I wish to say one other thing about the noble Baroness's previous contribution on this. She was right to say that there was a loss of confidence in the police before, but I do not think she is right to say it now, and she presented the argument as though it was now. The reality is that there was a loss of confidence in the police in the 1990s. It was not about corruption but about their inadequacies in dealing with public concern: not coming back with telephone calls to victims of crime; not dealing with disorder affairs and so on. As an elected Member at that time, as she was, I am sure we both got the same sort of complaints. In my experience, by the time I left the House of Commons in 2005 those complaints had stopped, and there were very few of them coming forward because the police had got very much better at their public interface and were dealing with it rather well. The police deserve credit for this. When the noble Baroness says the public need to be given confidence in the police, she is fighting a battle that was fought some years ago, and is over. It is not the same now. There is, as my noble friend Lady Henig says, a lot of confidence in the police.
My last point is in relation to the Government's Amendment 9, and proposed new subsections 3 (a) and (b) which deal with varying or replacing the protocol. I simply say, as an individual and not specifically as a member of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, that off the top of my head I find it very hard to see what the argument would be for this not to be under the affirmative resolution procedure. I would be asking myself on that Committee-as I suspect would other Members, though I cannot speak for them, obviously-whether Parliament will be happy with the Government putting forward a protocol on policing which varies or replaces it without them having an affirmative view of it, an affirmative statutory instrument approach.
It is possible that other Members of the Committee will take a different view. When I have been presented with the arguments it is even possible that I might change my view. However, I simply say that varying or replacing a protocol on policing is an important issue that I would see, certainly initially, as being politically important-not just in parliamentary terms but as party members on both sides thinking, "Is this sensible?". The noble Baroness might wish to take this away and run it past her colleagues in the Home Office, if it does not put her at risk again. I am simply saying that one needs to think this through carefully. My immediate judgment is that the SI would require the affirmative procedure.
Baroness Browning: My Lords, I am grateful to noble Lords for their concern about what happens to me when I go back to the Home Office of an evening. I can assure noble Lords that I have been around long enough to take care of myself. In a week when women have discharged their duties in this respect, I can tell noble Lords that I was once trained in Tae Kwon-Do, which may come as a surprise to noble Lords. I know it does not look like it when you look at me now, but I am sure that I can remember a bit of it if I ever need to use it.
I begin with the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, about the British Transport Police. The protocol focuses on Home Office forces and does not apply to the BTP. However, as he has acknowledged, we have opened up consultations that I hope will be more fruitful than those of 10 years ago. We will make sure that the points he has raised are subject to further consultation. As I indicated on Report, although I fully understand the pressing need to address the concerns of the BTP, I am not able to put them into the Bill. However, I hope that the noble Lord is reassured that we are taking his concern very seriously. There would obviously need to be more formal consultation at this stage before amending the Bill in any way to accommodate the needs of the BTP.
Baroness Browning: I am grateful, too. I turn to Amendment 10. I hope that the response of the Government to the very public developments over the past few days with regard to the Metropolitan Police Service indicates that the necessary powers are already in existence to achieve what I believe the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, seeks to place in the Bill.
The Home Secretary has a power, as we have seen this week, to direct HMIC to undertake work such as a review, and for that review to be published. The IPCC is an independent body. Matters for investigation are referred to it, and it is for the IPCC to determine how best to undertake its investigation. HMIC may look to the findings of IPCC investigations to assist in its inspection conclusions, but we must be clear that the IPCC cannot and must not be used as a tool to undertake certain areas of inspection or be placed under the direction and control of another accountable body.
If there is a matter related to the ethical conduct of any party to which the protocol applies, the Metropolitan Police authority has demonstrated how this can and should be dealt with in the future by the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime. It is the accountable authority that shall make a referral to the IPCC, and the IPCC shall be free to determine how that matter is investigated without fear or favour. I therefore suggest that there is no need for this amendment and that we should take a degree of assurance from the existing structures and mechanism that have been put into action this week. On that basis, I ask the noble Baroness to consider withdrawing her amendment.
Amendment 12 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, would make the protocol subject to the affirmative resolution procedure, as opposed to the negative resolution procedure. This
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A consultation that will inevitably focus on the interpretation of the statute provisions for those parties is attached to this requirement, and a draft revision will emerge. Where there is a clear discrepancy, then either House will be able to challenge the proposed protocol. In our view the negative resolution procedure affords the right level of parliamentary scrutiny.
Other Members of your Lordships' House have spoken on wider issues beyond the amendments before us. I ask noble Lords with amendments in the group not to press them and ask the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment.
Baroness Henig: I listened closely to what the Minister said and I have expressed my strong concerns. I was trying to draw attention to the fact that if this Bill goes ahead then, regretfully, we will see far more of what we are currently experiencing. I wanted to concentrate minds on establishing some machinery so that every time something along these lines happens we did not go into a great spin about what should be done. This is going to become a more frequent occurrence and we need to think about how we will deal with it. However, in view of what the noble Baroness has said and the late hour of this debate, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The provisions of this Part-
(a) creating offices as corporations sole, and
(b) applying the Local Government Finance Act 1988 to the chief finance officer of a chief constable or the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, shall not come into force until the Secretary of State has laid before Parliament a report stating why it is necessary to create those offices as corporations sole and apply the Local Government Finance Act 1988 to the chief finance officer of a chief constable or the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis and that report has been considered by both Houses of Parliament."
Lord Harris of Haringey: I will be brief because I know we want to return to Amendment 12 in the previous group. I can assure your Lordships that I do not intend to make a valedictory speech about all the issues we have talked about during the course of this Bill.
However, this Bill is extraordinarily constructed. Where there is a direct route to one of the Government's objectives, they have gone the long way round to do it. It is almost as if someone walking from your Lordships' House to the Supreme Court decided to go up Whitehall, via Trafalgar Square, along the Mall and down Birdcage Walk to get there rather than simply crossing Parliament Square. There are two instances of that: first, the strange decision to use the concept of corporation sole as the mechanism for chief officers of police and for police and crime commissioners; and, secondly, the decision to insist on duplicate financial and audit systems, neither of which are necessary to achieve the Government's objectives. They are simply going the long way round.
As we have discussed repeatedly during the course of this Bill, corporation sole is a medieval construct designed to prevent priests ripping money off the mother church. It has occasionally been used as a construct in terms of public policy in this country, most recently by the Children's Commissioner. However, in the recent review, the Children's Commissioner has made clear that the mechanism is unsatisfactory; it does not allow proper governance and is not particularly robust or transparent. Yet this is the mechanism the Government are using in terms of chief officers of police and police and crime commissioners. Frankly, that is a bizarre way of doing it. That also gets to the heart of the problem of this Bill, which is whether there will be adequate governance around the position of police and crime commissioners and whether there will be the adequate checks and balances that I know Liberal Democrat and many Members of your Lordships' House are so concerned about. It gets to the heart of that principle because it does not facilitate good governance; it is a single individual making decisions alone. That is why it is called a corporation sole.
The second issue concerns having two chief financial officers, both of which will be subject to audit regulations. I have a letter from the Audit Commission which confirms that the Bill requires that both the chief officer of police's chief financial officer and the chief financial officer of the police and crime commissioner will have to have separate auditors. There will have to be a separate audit opinion on separate financial statements, so the single police fund will be audited twice: once as it passes through the hands of the police and crime commissioner, and again as it passes through the chief finance officer of the chief constable. In fact, in London, it will be audited three times, because it has to pass through the hands of the Mayor of London and the Greater London Authority; it then passes to the MOPC, who will have to have a chief financial officer and who will have to be separately audited with a separate audit function; and then it passes to the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis.
What a bizarre waste of public money. That is simply because it has not entered the Government's mind to go the shortest distance from one place to another. That is why we have this bizarre construct of corporations sole and chief financial officers. The amendment would require the Government to come back to Parliament with a proper explanation, which can be debated, as to why those bizarre routes have been taken to deliver what they want. That would give
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Baroness Henig: I very much support my noble friend's amendment. In the past few weeks, I have struggled hard to master the concept and practice of corporations sole and to understand the Government's thinking in this area. I know that we were going to have a meeting about it with the Minister. I would have welcomed that so as to be able to tease out the problems and issues. Unfortunately, that could not take place, and I quite understand that.
My problem is that in this area, the Home Office often has a different view from police authority chief executives, the Audit Commission and other bodies. There is a range of views here: there is the Home Office view of how we should do things, and there are other people who have different views. The reason I have a problem with that is that I have many years of experience at national level of sitting on bodies dealing with the Home Office's suggested way forward. In my experience, the Home Office sometimes gets things wrong-not always, but on occasion. On occasion, the Home Office can be very stubborn in denying that it gets things wrong. Again, I have experience of that. I know that sometimes it can take years for the Home Office to accept that it has made a mistake and put it right. I am not saying that that happens all the time, but it happens.
In that light and in that spirit, I think that we need to pause. This is a very complex area, and I am not clear that the Government have got it right at the moment. My noble friend has put forward a serious argument and I hope that the Government are willing to consider it.
Lord Rosser: We believe that the Government should support the amendment and justify their decision in a report to Parliament as to why it is necessary to concentrate such largely untrammelled power in the hands of police and crime commissioners and chief constables without proper checks and balances. We say that particularly in the light of recent events concerning policing and police actions which, as the Minister will know, are now the subject of inquiries and investigations that may well comment on the issues of governance, checks and balances.
Baroness Browning: Amendment 11 would require the Secretary of State to justify the need for police and crime commissioners, the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime and chief officers of police to be corporations sole, and for the chief finance officers employed by chief officers to be subject to the local government legislation that currently applies to police authority treasurers. The Secretary of State would have to address those matters in a report to be considered by both Houses before the relevant provisions could commence.
I hope that it is clear why the Government believe that it is necessary for PCCs and the MOPC to have corporate status. Police authorities, including the Metropolitan Police Authority, are corporate entities at present. In order to allow them to carry out their functions, the PCCs and the MOPC will have the same
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I turn to the appointment by the chief officer of police of a suitably qualified chief finance officer with responsibility for making reports. Again, I hesitate to repeat what I have said more than once before, but the Bill creates a model for policing finance that is different from the current system. The Government are clear that chief officers should employ their own staff-a vital process in the context of providing greater autonomy over day-to-day management of the force. As an employer, therefore, for the first time the chief police officer will need to hold substantial amounts of money, and it is vital that there are appropriate safeguards around this. Each chief police officer will need his or her own chief finance officer, suitably qualified to manage the chief officer's affairs. In fact, police forces already have finance directors to do this job. The Government believe that the chief finance officer should be under a statutory duty to make reports where he or she fears the chief officer has made or will make an unlawful decision. Such a report would also go to the PCC and to the chief officer's auditor.
I remind the House that, as I said in previous stages of the Bill, there will not be, and in fact cannot be, any duplication between the role of a PCC's chief finance officer and that of the chief police officer's chief finance officer. The former will have responsibility for money within the police fund, and the latter will have responsibility for the money that has been paid over to the chief officer out of that fund. As such, without a properly qualified chief finance officer-with all the necessary powers and requirements-there will be a significant gap in proper financial propriety.
The Government have been very clear both in this House and another place as to why these provisions are necessary. Amendments to remove them were withdrawn with the House's consent on that basis. We believe that these are necessary measures, and I hope that the House will see that there is a very real need to have quite distinct separation in terms of the financial accounting of the PCC and the chief officer. I invite the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, to withdraw his amendment. I would say to him and to other Members of the House that I regret very much that we did not have our meeting, particularly on corporations sole, which was in the diary. Unfortunately it clashed with the day on which we had to take emergency legislation through the House. I apologise to noble Lords for having had to cancel that meeting.
As this may be my last contribution on Third Reading of this Bill, I hope that the House will allow me to say some words of thanks to those who have contributed to its smooth passage. I thank particularly
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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, before my noble friend decides what he wants to do, as the noble Baroness has rather jumped the gun, perhaps I may respond by saying that I am most grateful for her remarks and for the way in which she has conducted the Bill since taking it over at pretty short notice on the first day of Committee. She has earned the admiration of the whole House for the way in which she has conducted herself. She said that she can take care of herself. Indeed, she can, which is why we had a vote on the first debate.
I also thank the noble Lords, Lord Wallace of Saltaire and Lord De Mauley, as well as the Bill team, for the support they have given the noble Baroness. I am also grateful to my noble friends Lord Rosser and Lord Stevenson and to all noble colleagues who have spoken on the Bill.
Before we come to my noble friend, I just say that the Government have an opportunity to pause now. I know that the Prime Minister suggested in his Statement that he is determined to plough on with elected police commissioners, but there is time to reflect. I hope that the Government will take advantage of that time to consider the real concerns about the Bill that have been expressed around the House.
Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, it is slightly strange to respond on the amendment after going through the normal courtesies of Bill do now pass. I think that all Members of the House are grateful to the Minister for the way in which she has conducted herself throughout these proceedings, having been given a very difficult, and at times impossible, brief in terms of selling arguments to us. We are conscious that she was thrust into this at a very late stage. If I have expressed myself on occasions with vehemence or even asperity, that has certainly not had anything to do with the noble Baroness but more to do with the difficulty of the brief with which she has been presented.
However-this is the asperity-the response that she gave on my amendment did not really address the key questions. In fact, it addressed two separate points which I did not make. It said that we needed to have corporate status for the PCCs and the chief officers and so on. No one is arguing about whether they should have corporate status; the question is why it should be a corporation sole. This is a particularly
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Similarly, no one is arguing that there should not be a suitably qualified senior financial officer for each chief constable or for the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis. The question is why that chief financial officer has to be recognised under the Local Government Finance Act and the Audit Commission Act, thereby creating a panoply of two separate audited accounts. That is what is wrong with the Bill; that is why we are asking for Parliament to be given another opportunity to look at the matter; and it is why, I am afraid, even at this late stage I wish to test the opinion of the House.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, the protocol is a vital matter. I fail to see why it should not be subject to an affirmative order. Even at this late stage, will the noble Baroness be prepared to accept this? I can see she will not. I beg to move.
(a) this section (apart from subsection (1)(b)), and
(b) section 121."."
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Strathclyde): My Lords, this might be a convenient moment to repeat a Statement that was made earlier by the Prime Minister in another place on the subject of phone hacking.
"Over the past two weeks, a torrent of revelations and allegations has engulfed some of this country's most important institutions. It has shaken people's trust in the media and the legality of what they do; in the police and their ability to investigate media malpractice; and, yes, in politics and in politicians' ability to get to grips with these issues.
People desperately want us to put a stop to the illegal practices, to ensure the independence and effectiveness of the police and establish a more healthy relationship between politicians and media owners. Above all, they want us to act on behalf of the victims: people who have suffered dreadfully, including through murder and terrorism, and who have had to relive that agony all over again because of phone hacking.
The public want us to work together to sort this problem out, because until we do so it will not be possible to get back to the issues they care about even more-getting our economy moving, creating jobs, helping with the cost of living, protecting them from terrorism and restoring fairness to our immigration and welfare systems.
Let me set out the action we have taken. We now have a well-led police investigation which will examine criminal behaviour by the media and corruption in the police. We have set up a wide-ranging and independent judicial inquiry under Lord Justice Leveson to establish what went wrong, why and what we need to do to ensure it never happens again.
I am the first Prime Minister to publish meetings with media editors, proprietors and senior executives, to bring complete transparency to the relationship between government Ministers and the media stretching right back to the general election. The House of Commons, by speaking so clearly about its revulsion at the phone hacking allegations, helped to cause the end of the News Corp bid for the rest of BSkyB.
Today I would like to update the House on the action that we are taking, first, on the make-up and remit of the public inquiry and, secondly, on issues concerning the police service. Thirdly, I will answer-I am afraid at some length-all of the key questions that have been raised about my role and that of my staff.
First, I will discuss the judicial inquiry and the panel of experts who will assist it. Those experts will be: the civil liberties campaigner and director of Liberty, Shami Chakrabarti; the former chief constable of the West Midlands, Sir Paul Scott-Lee; the former chairman
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I also said last week that the inquiry will proceed in two parts, and I set out a draft terms of reference. We have consulted with Lord Justice Leveson himself, with the Opposition, the chairs of relevant Select Committees and the devolved Administrations. I also talked to the family of Milly Dowler and the Hacked Off campaign. We have made some significant amendments to the remit of the inquiry.
With allegations that the problem of the relationship between the press and the police goes wider than just the Met, we have agreed that other relevant forces will now be within the scope of the inquiry. We have agreed that the inquiry should consider not just the relationship between the press, police and politicians, but their individual conduct too. We have also made clear that the inquiry should look at not just the press, but other media organisations, including broadcasters and social media, if there is any evidence that they have been involved in criminal activities. I am today placing in the Library of the House the final terms of reference. Lord Justice Leveson and the panel will get to work immediately. He will aim to make a report on the first part of the inquiry within 12 months. There should be no doubt: this public inquiry is as robust as possible; it is fully independent; and Lord Justice Leveson will be able to summon witnesses under oath.
Let me now turn to the extraordinary events we have seen over the past few days at Britain's largest police force, the Met. On Sunday, Sir Paul Stephenson resigned as Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. I want to thank him for the work he has carried out in policing over many, many years in London and elsewhere. On Monday, Assistant Commissioner John Yates also resigned and, again, I want to express my gratitude for the work he has done, especially in improving our response to terrorism.
Given the sudden departure of two such senior officers, the first concern must be to ensure that effective policing of our capital, and confidence in that policing, is maintained. I have asked the Home Secretary and the Mayor of London to ensure that the responsibilities of the Met will continue seamlessly. The current deputy commissioner, Tim Godwin, stood in for Paul Stephenson when he was ill and did a good job. He will shortly do so again. The vital counterterrorism job carried out by John Yates will be taken on by the highly experienced Cressida Dick. The responsibilities of the deputy commissioner-which, the House will remember, include general oversight of the vital investigations both into hacking and into the police, Operations Weeting and Elveden-will not be done by someone from inside the Met, but instead by Bernard Hogan-Howe who will join temporarily from Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary. We are also looking to speed up the process for selecting and appointing the next commissioner, but we cannot hope that a change in personnel at the top of the Met is enough.
The simple fact is that this whole affair raises huge issues about the ethics and practices of our police. Let me state plainly that the vast majority of our police officers are beyond reproach and serve the public with distinction, but police corruption must be rooted out. Operation Elveden and Lord Justice Leveson's inquiry are charged with doing just that, but I believe that we can and must do more.
Put simply, there are two problems: first, a perception that when problems arise, it is still "the police investigating the police"; and secondly, a lack of transparency in terms of police contacts with the media. We are acting on both. These were precisely the two points that my right honourable friend the Home Secretary addressed in her Statement to this House on Monday. We believe that this crisis calls for us to stand back and take another, broader look at the whole culture of policing in this country, including the way it is led.
At the moment, the police system is too closed. There is only one point of entry into the force. There are too few-and arguably too similar-candidates for the top jobs. As everyone knows, Tom Winsor is looking into police careers, and I want to see radical proposals for how we can open up our police force and bring in fresh leadership. The Government are introducing elected police and crime commissioners, ensuring that there is an individual holding the local force to account on behalf of local people. We need to see if we can extend that openness to the operational side too. Why should all police officers have to start at the same level? Why should someone with a different skill set not be able to join the police force in a senior role? Why should someone who has been a proven success overseas not be able to help turn around a force at home? I think that these are questions we must ask to get the greater transparency and stronger corporate governance that we need in Britain's policing.
Finally, I turn to the specific questions that I have been asked in recent days. First, it has been suggested that my chief of staff was behaving wrongly when he did not take up then Assistant Commissioner Yates's offer to be briefed on police investigations around phone hacking. I have said repeatedly about the police investigation that they should pursue the evidence wherever it leads and arrest exactly who they wish. That is exactly what they have done.
No. 10 has now published the full e-mail exchange between my chief of staff and John Yates, and it shows that my staff behaved entirely properly. Ed Llewellyn's reply to the police made clear that it would be not be appropriate to give me or my staff any privileged briefing. The reply that he sent was cleared in advance by my permanent secretary, Jeremy Heywood. Just imagine if they had done the opposite and asked for or acquiesced in receiving privileged information, even if there was no intention to use it. There would have been quite justified outrage. To risk any perception that No. 10 was seeking to influence a sensitive police investigation in any way would have been completely wrong. Mr Yates and Sir Paul both backed this judgment in their evidence yesterday. Indeed, as John Yates said:
Next, there is the question as to whether the Ministerial Code was broken in relation to the BSkyB merger and meetings with News International executives. The Cabinet Secretary has ruled very clearly that the code was not broken, not least because I had asked to be entirely excluded from the decision.
Next, I would like to set the record straight on another question that arose yesterday-whether the Conservative Party had also employed Neil Wallis. The Conservative Party chairman has assured me that all the accounts have been gone through and has confirmed to me that neither Neil Wallis nor his company has ever been employed or contracted by the Conservative Party, nor has the Conservative Party made payments to either of them.
It has been drawn to our attention that Neil Wallis may have provided Andy Coulson with some informal advice on a voluntary basis before the election. To the best of my knowledge I did not know anything about this before Sunday night; but, as with revealing this information, we will be entirely transparent about this issue.
Finally, Mr Speaker, there is the question whether everyone-the media, the police, politicians-is taking responsibility in the appropriate manner. I want to address my own responsibilities very directly, and that brings me to my decision to employ Andy Coulson. I have said very clearly that if it turns out that Andy Coulson knew about the hacking at the News of the World he will not only have lied to me but lied to the police, to a Select Committee and to the Press Complaints Commission as well, of course, as perjuring himself in a court of law. More to the point, if that comes to pass, he could also expect to face severe criminal charges.
I have an old-fashioned view about 'innocent until proven guilty', but if it turns out that I have been lied to, that would be the moment for a profound apology. In that event, I can tell you I will not fall short. My responsibilities are for hiring him and for the work that he did in Downing Street. On the work that he did, I will repeat, perhaps not for the last time, that his work at Downing Street has not been the subject of any serious complaint. And, of course, he left months ago.
On the decision to hire him, I believe that I have answered every question about this. It was my decision. I take responsibility. People will, of course, make judgments about it. Of course I regret and am extremely sorry about the furore it has caused. With 20:20 hindsight, and all that has followed, I would not have offered him the job, and I expect that he would not have taken it. But you do not make decisions in hindsight; you make them in the present. You live as you learn and, believe you me, I have learnt.
I look forward to answering any and all questions about these issues and, following the Statement, I will open the debate. But the greatest responsibility I have is to clear up this mess, so let me finish by saying this. There are accusations of criminal behaviour by parts of the press and potentially by the police, where the most rapid and decisive action is required. There are the issues of excessive closeness to media groups and media owners where both Labour and Conservatives
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What the public expect is not petty point-scoring. What they want and deserve is a concerted action to rise to the level of events and pledge to work together to sort this issue once and for all. It is in this spirit that I commend this Statement to the House".
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I thank the Leader of the House for repeating the Statement made in the other place by the Prime Minister. The decision to recall the other place today to debate the issues in the phone hacking scandal was the right one. Rebuilding trust in the press, the police and our politics is essential. The most powerful in the institutions of our land must show the responsibility that we expect from everybody else. That is why the country wants answers from those involved in this crisis, so that those responsible can be held to account and so that we as a country can move forward. That is why we on these Benches welcome Lord Justice Leveson's inquiry and the announcement of the terms of reference and panel members. It is why we welcome the Prime Minister's agreement with this party that the Press Complaints Commission should be abolished and replaced. It is why we welcome the apology from Rupert Murdoch and the withdrawal of News Corporation's bid for BSkyB.
It is also why we respect the decision of Sir Paul Stephenson to stand down so that the leadership of the Met can move forward and focus fully on its vital work. The police in our country provide a vital service. Not only do the vast, overwhelming majority of police officers work hard for the community, but that vast, overwhelming majority will be as appalled as the rest of us-in fact, probably more so-about the flaws in policing among a tiny number of police officers which have been exposed in the last few weeks.
We are beginning to see answers given and responsibility taken in the press and in the police. In politics, the Government must now do the same if the country is to move forward. Regarding BSkyB, last Friday the Prime Minister revealed that since taking office he has met representatives of News International or News Corp, including Rebekah Brooks and James Murdoch, on 26 separate occasions. The Government must recognise that they need to be transparent, not just about the number of meetings but also about what was discussed. Can the noble Lord the Leader of the House assure the House that the BSkyB bid was not raised in any of those meetings or in phone calls with those organisations?
In his response to the Statement given in the other place earlier today by the Prime Minister, my right honourable friend the leader of the Opposition put to him a series of detailed points and questions centring on the Prime Minister's former director of communications, Mr Andy Coulson. I fully agree with and support the forensic focus of the leader of my party on these issues. My right honourable friend the leader of the Opposition in the other place has led the way on these
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The events of the past two weeks have brought forward a wide range of issues. For instance, in relation to takeover bids-stemming from News Corporation's now-abandoned bid for BSkyB-careful consideration of the issues with which we have had to deal over the past period demonstrates clearly that there are significant flaws in the process which was adopted under the Enterprise Act 2002 and the Communications Act 2003 in relation to News Corp's bid for BSkyB.
There is little that we could or should do in relation to the criminal investigations. They must take their course, and we strongly support the investigations going wherever the evidence leads them. But on other issues there are things which we can do to address the ills which have been identified. The Enterprise Act provides for changes to be made, if necessary, to the conditions that apply in merger situations. We on these Benches have a number of proposals on these matters, as my right honourable friend the leader of the Opposition indicated at the weekend. Will the Leader of your Lordships' House join with us in this party in agreeing a process to deal with those flaws? We have available to us a provision in Section 58 of the Enterprise Act which allows this House and the other place to make amendments by way of negative resolution. My noble and learned friend the shadow Attorney-General, Lady Scotland of Asthal, has proposals which I would invite the Leader of the House to consider with us.
At the end of today's business, this House is due to move into Recess. The other place has been recalled from its Recess today to hear the Statement from the Prime Minister and to take a further debate on the phone hacking scandal. But although Parliament will not be sitting after today, unless there is a need to recall it over the Recess, that does not mean that the events surrounding these issues will be equally in recess. First, there has been an extraordinarily fast-moving sequence of events over the past few weeks. In the light of that, few if any would care to predict what will or could now happen. Secondly, the mechanisms which have been set up to examine this affair fully and properly will begin their work. Again, we welcome the appointment of Lord Justice Leveson to head the media inquiry, and we welcome too the appointment of the panel of experts announced in the Statement. The inquiry has a tough job to do and we look forward to it getting on with the job.
While we welcome the details set out by the Prime Minister in his Statement, we believe that, as my right honourable friend the leader of the Opposition made clear in his remarks, there are many more questions for the Prime Minister to answer. These are serious matters which have appalled and revolted the public,
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Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, I begin my response to the noble Baroness by referring to what she said at the end of her remarks. It is true that we are on the verge of starting the Recess, and that the House of Commons, which had already risen, was recalled today to hear the Statement and to hold a short debate on the subject. She is quite right to say that events will continue to unfold. This is a fast-moving story and anyone would have been amazed at how it has developed over the past couple of weeks. I particularly agree with what she said in welcoming all the inquiries that are taking place. We must allow them to get on with the job and to report back as soon as possible. It is also important that Parliament should be kept fully informed and play its continuing role not just in debating these issues, but also in holding the Government to account.
I agree with what the noble Baroness said about the police. Our decent, hardworking police men and women provide an important and vital service, and I agree that the vast majority deserve considerably more. Equally, I think it is right that we have announced the review on leadership. As it unfolds, I shall of course report back to the House.
The Prime Minister has announced the occasions on which he met executives, editors and proprietors from News International, and it is entirely right that he should have done so. The noble Baroness asked whether I could confirm that at no stage was the BSkyB takeover bid discussed. I can confirm that, and indeed not only can I do so, but also the Cabinet Secretary, no less, has said that there has been no breach of the Ministerial Code. Rebekah Wade said in her evidence yesterday that not one single inappropriate conversation had taken place about the bid, and the Prime Minister has set out every meeting since the last general election. I think he also wished that perhaps the Opposition might do the same about any of their meetings with News International since the election-or, indeed, with the previous Government. We all know that the relationships between News International and the last two Prime Ministers were extremely close.
I wholly accept that the leader of the Opposition in the House of Commons, Mr Miliband, had to raise questions about Andy Coulson and his relationship with the Prime Minister. In the Statement, the Prime Minister said that there will be no question about Andy Coulson's conduct in No. 10. I now very much hope that the leader of the Opposition, Mr Miliband, can accept the assurances and very clear answers that the Prime Minister has given in his role, the reason why he was employed, what happens now and the proposition that Mr Coulson should be innocent until proven guilty.
The noble Baroness also asked a very clear question about the workings of the Enterprise Act. I am grateful both to her and to the shadow Attorney-General for her thoughts. The Enterprise Act allows the Secretary of State to issue only one European intervention notice. It is correct that the Enterprise Act does not allow for a European intervention notice to be substantively revised once it has been issued, or for a subsequent notice to be issued. There is increasingly a widely held concern, which I am sure should be looked at, whether in the communications review or in the ongoing competition policy review, about the point being relevant across different uses of the public interest test. We would be very happy to work with the noble Baroness or the shadow Attorney-General in looking further at the issue.
Likewise, the Section 58 orders contain the power to allow Ministers to intervene in mergers on the basis of public interest and to make decisions. There are currently three specified areas in which they can use their discretion: national security, the media-including plurality, broadcasting standards, the accurate presentation of news in newspapers-and the stability of the UK financial system. That there might be a gap within these public interest tests has recently been thrown up. We might also want a review when these are triggered. We slightly feel that we should await the outcome of part one of the Leveson inquiry. However, I can confirm that any changes can be made through secondary legislation and again that the Government would be very happy to work between the parties to see which is the best way forward.
Lord Fowler: I underline the complete honesty and good reputation of the Prime Minister's chief of staff, Ed Llewellyn, who seems to have acted entirely properly. I ask the Leader of the House two questions. First, although there are many extraneous issues now swirling around, do not the essential issues remain the extent of the illegal phone hacking-which is a direct threat to the public in this country-why the police and the Press Complaints Commission were unable to stop it and just how some clear water can be put between politicians and media in this country? Those are the issues. We now need action. Secondly, although I entirely welcome the judicial inquiry, on reflection would it not have been better to have set up this inquiry several months ago rather than repeatedly declining to do so?
Lord Strathclyde: My noble friend Lord Fowler forgot to mention that he is one of those who has been calling for an inquiry for several months. He has, therefore, been proved entirely right-better late than never. We have possibly got a more far-reaching judge-led inquiry than we would have done hitherto. It is perhaps the awfulness of the story that has developed in recent weeks that has allowed the Government and Parliament to agree so wholeheartedly between the parties and across the Houses that it should be done at such a high level.
As far as the other questions that my noble friend raised, I agree that we need to know as soon as possible the extent of the illegal phone hacking and
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Lord Dholakia: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for repeating the Statement. I wish to ask him two questions. First, the Prime Minister has said that the public want us to work together to sort out this problem. In that respect, will he look at the review of the Press Complaints Commission and ensure that before the powers and functions of the new commission are determined there is adequate public consultation so that the public's point of view is taken into account?
The second point about which I am concerned is that, whereas the first part of Lord Justice Leveson's inquiry has to report within 12 months, there is no timescale attached to the investigation to be carried out by the Independent Police Complaints Commission. As someone who has supervised a similar investigation with the former police complaints commission, I know that the timescale involved is considerable. You are talking about at least 12 months to supervise an investigation of this nature, following which criminal charges are likely to be laid. If that is the case, we are talking of a process which may go on for about two or three years. The impact of that is very serious because none of the other inquiries that have been set up can carry out their work adequately unless this investigation has been finalised. Will my noble friend look at this aspect to see whether a particular timescale is appropriate in this investigation?
My noble friend Lord Dholakia is right: the Prime Minister thinks that we should all work together. I think that reflects the public's mood as well. Today we published the terms of reference for the review of the press and press ethics. I am not sure that there was much public consultation but there certainly was consultation with the devolved authorities, Select Committees in another place and, of course, with Lord Justice Leveson.
As regards my noble friend's second point, time limits are not a straightforward issue. We have asked the Leveson inquiry to report back on the first part within 12 months-we hope that it will do that-but as regards the second part, we have to leave it to the members of the inquiry to determine to what extent they can operate without affecting the police inquiry and subsequent court process, if that occurs. However, I can confirm to my noble friend that HMIC should report before the end of the autumn.
Lord Dear: My Lords, I welcome the thrust of the Statement that the Leader has read to the House. It will come as no surprise when I say that I particularly welcome the thrust of the report on police leadership and the whole question of ethics that surrounds that. I have tried to highlight that subject repeatedly over the years. We must get this right and this is the opportunity to do so.
I wish to ask the Leader of the House two questions. First, given that the door of this issue has flown open, as it were, and given the kinetic energy that has grown up behind the events of the past couple of weeks, does he agree with me that there is a danger that we shall go too far too fast and in effect have a knee-jerk reaction and get this wrong? Coupled with that, will he also agree that to prevent that, we now need a review body established with respected and experienced individuals to look at the subjects of police leadership, ethics, morality, attitudes and so on, in depth but as a matter of some urgency? Could such a body be set up this autumn in advance of the Winsor report? The report is of course critical, but that body could quite well start taking its own evidence, coming to some conclusion, and then sweep the Winsor report up before it reaches a final conclusion.
Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, those are two valuable ideas. I agree that there is a tremendous opportunity but that equally there is a danger of having a knee-jerk reaction. We are all too well aware of this in both Houses of Parliament. We have an opportunity to get it right and we should go forward on that basis, particularly dealing with the issue of leadership.
Secondly, on the whole question of leadership, the Government are taking this immensely seriously and we want to move forward on it with the police. The noble Lord's knowledge and understanding of this issue is extremely important, and I know that the Home Office will very much welcome his input.
Lord Prescott: My Lords, as one of the victims referred to, I welcome the Statement by the Leader of the House who has made clear the commitment to get to the bottom of the hacking, the inadequate police inquiry, and indeed the IPCC.
However, is the noble Lord aware that in July 2009 I sent a letter to the Prime Minister-he was the Leader of the Opposition then-warning him of the appointment of Andy Coulson as press adviser? It was clear that Mr Coulson was in the middle of the News of the World phone hacking allegations, and I advised the Prime Minister that he was not fit to enter Government as No. 10's director of communications. Can the Leader confirm that within 12 months of that the Prime Minister was to refuse advice from the police, newspaper editors, the Guardian, the Deputy Prime Minister, and indeed his own chief of staff? All these warnings were ignored, and it is simply not good enough to hide behind the excuse of 20-20 hindsight.
Can the Leader of the House also confirm that in the dozens of social and political meetings that he held with News International, the Prime Minister now appears to have adopted the Murdoch corporate policy, best displayed by the three monkeys: hear no evil, see
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Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, many in the House have a great deal of sympathy for the noble Lord, Lord Prescott, as one of the victims of the hacking scandal. However, he belittles himself by making these rather fetid political points. If he was writing to anybody in the summer of 2009, it should of course have been the then Prime Minister, asking him why he had failed to do anything or to respond to any of the reports from the Select Committees, the Information Commissioner and all those other people who raised these issues.
Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, I have absolutely no idea-in fact I had no idea they were consulting with the Select Committees in another place either. It is a good point though, and I will raise it with No. 10: when consulting chairmen of Select Committees in another place they should similarly consider Peers in your Lordships' House.
Lord Gilbert: My Lords, I have given way three times and I am not going to do it again. I welcome the Statement of the Prime Minister-not only the text but the way in which it was delivered. I watched it and he delivered it to the other place with a good tone. One lacuna worries me. There is no discussion or mention that I have seen in what the Prime Minister is saying about the decision on who is a fit and proper person to take control of parts of the media. I am sure that I carry the House with me when I say it is essential that the people who determine who has or has not a role as a fit and proper person should themselves be beyond reproach. I hope that we can have an assurance from the Leader of the House that that consideration will be in the Prime Minister's mind, and in front of Lord Justice Leveson.
Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, I very much welcome the noble Lord's support for the Prime Minister this afternoon. I, too, thought he did splendidly. The noble Lord says that there is a lacuna on the "fit and proper person" test and he particularly wants to ensure that those who are making the test should themselves be beyond reproach. That must be an ambition for us all and it is the kind of issue that may well come out of the inquiry. I know that the noble Lord will be the first to draw it to our attention as we debate these matters.
Baroness Doocey: My Lords, I declare an interest as a member of the MPA. The allegation that police officers accepted money from News International has been hugely damaging to the Metropolitan Police. It is absolutely essential that any investigation is seen to be thorough and independent. The Government have said that the IPCC will carry out a "supervised" investigation, but this means that the initial investigation will be under the control and direction of the Met. Do the Government not agree that it would be more appropriate for the IPPC to carry out a high-level independent investigation that would be completely independent of the Met?
Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, my noble friend is entirely right that these accusations are highly damaging to the Met and need to be dealt with extremely quickly and transparently. I do not agree with her that an IPCC-led investigation will affect its independence or ability to come up with the right result. There are so many reviews, inquiries and ongoing internal discussions that as the months go by I think we will get increasingly confused as to who is reporting on whom. This is important because, as my noble friend says, public confidence in the Met will be severely damaged unless we can clear this up as soon as possible.
Lord Condon: My Lords, as someone who had the honour and privilege to serve as commissioner for seven years, I particularly welcome the Prime Minister's affirmation that the vast majority of police officers are doing a very good job and that should not be lost sight of. However, does the Leader of the House agree that to avoid a meltdown in police morale over the next few months the Government must find a co-ordinating mechanism to draw together the strands of Lord Justice Leveson's inquiry, the other inquiries that have been mentioned, the police reform Bill, the Winsor review on pay and conditions and all these other matters that are interacting? In previous times a royal commission would have been the vehicle to draw together all these strands in these most difficult circumstances. However, I realise that royal commissions are not in fashion. I hope that the Leader of the House will agree that the Government are now under an obligation to bring together a careful co-ordinating mechanism to sequence the findings, recommendations and interdependence of all the inquiries that are looking at the police service.
Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, the noble Lord, with all his experience as seven years as Met commissioner, will know all about police morale. Clearly, everything that has happened in recent months-particularly in the past few days-will cast a long shadow. I think that the noble Lord is right to say that we need to find a way of bringing these threads together. Whether that is through a royal commission, I am less certain. We need the inquiries to get going, particularly that of Lord Justice Leveson and the police inquiries, to begin to see some of the fruits of their labour, and then take longer-term decisions. Perhaps I may echo what the
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Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I commend what the noble Lord the Leader of the House has said in relation to the willingness to look at the revision to the law that may be necessary in the short term. Does he agree that it is very important for this House and the other place to do what we can immediately to cure the flaws that this bid has now given voice to? If the negative resolution procedure is available to us and we could, over the summer, plug the gap and fill it by September, should we not seize that opportunity? Making provision to prevent anyone taking adventitious advantage of a misrepresentation, bad faith or a mistake is essential; having the public interest at the forefront is also critical and we should move swiftly together to fill that gap without any further delay.
Lord King of Bridgwater: I strongly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, that the tone of the Prime Minister's Statement in the House of Commons was entirely appropriate. I strongly endorse what the noble Lord, Lord Dear, has said about leadership; it is extremely important. There is another implication flowing from these rapidly moving events and it relates to the comment made by the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, about fit and proper persons. This might touch the headlines shortly were Mr Murdoch to decide, for various reasons, that he did not want to continue with his news media in this country. The issue of fit and proper persons wishing to inherit may become a major issue.
Lord Lloyd of Berwick: My Lords, my point is a very short one and it is simply to add to something said by the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia. Surely it would be better simply to leave it to Lord Justice Leveson and his panel to decide in what order they will take the various matters into which they are inquiring and not divide them up into part one or part two. It seems to me a pointless exercise. Why not leave it to Lord Justice Leveson?
Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, I understand. There are so many people inside and outside Parliament who wish to know more as quickly as possible and to take a view on how we should progress, but I very much agree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of
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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into a Committee on the Bill.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: Sorry, I apologise, but it is the last day before the recess. It is Wednesday, although it feels like Thursday. We have 36 groups of amendments on the agenda this afternoon and I think it unlikely that we will get through them. I did a calculation earlier and I thought that worked out at less than 10 minutes per group; it is now even less. I wonder how the Government intend to proceed. We have been very co-operative on this Bill. Both our Front Bench and Back-Benchers have been extraordinarily disciplined in their speaking, as have colleagues around the House. The Bill has attracted a great deal of interest.
We acceded to the House starting at 10 o'clock today, which is unusual. The House sat until well past 11 o'clock last night. We agreed also to have two days in succession on the Bill. I think it unreasonable to expect the House to sit endlessly on the Bill. I suggest to your Lordships that it would be right and proper that we have the rest of the day on this Bill in Committee and that a further day be tabled for it in the autumn. I made a perfectly reasonable offer to the Government to shrink the minimum intervals so that the Committee can go reasonably seamlessly into Report later, because I appreciate that the Government want to make progress with their legislation-as they should, that is a principle that we on this side entirely support.
I hope that the noble Lord the Leader, in the absence of the Government Chief Whip, can furnish me with some answers. I am more than happy to have discussions off the Floor of the House. I gave the Chief Whip notice that I would raise this matter before your Lordships, but the House need some answers. Staff, Members on our Front and Back Bench, Back and Front-Benchers opposite, and those who have been intimately involved need to be given some guidance as to how the House will proceed. It is my very firm view that the House should stop at 7 pm. We usually managed our business so that we stopped mid-afternoon on the last day before a recess. It is not our fault that the Government have got themselves
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Lord Grocott: In fully supporting what my noble friend said, my point may seem trivial, but I hope that the House will not think that. There is a pretty good tradition in this House that when there is a major Statement, a really significant Statement, 40 minutes, not 20 minutes, will be allowed for Back Bench contributions. I understand that a request was made on that basis but refused today.
It would be very difficult to think of a more significant Statement than the one we have had today. I cannot think of one. The Leader of the House has been around a lot longer than I have, and perhaps he can draw on one. It was a Statement by the Prime Minister for which he had specifically come back from his tour of Africa and, in the other place, it is being followed by a debate. They will have about six hours to discuss these major issues. We have had about 40 or 45 minutes.
It is no use saying that we had a debate last Friday. We did. I was not here, but I have read it, and it was an outstanding debate. There is no reason not to think that this House could make a substantial contribution to these hugely important issues. I should like an explanation from the Leader of the House why the tradition of major Statements having 40 minutes for Back Bench contributions has been ignored on this occasion.
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Strathclyde): My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, is right to say that there have been such occasions. I do not know whether it is a tradition, but if it is, it is overwhelmingly on issues where this House has a particular expertise, which is why the past few occasions that I can remember have been on the future of this House. This is an important Statement, but it was no more important than many Statements that we take every week. The purpose of a Statement is to bring to the House at the earliest possible opportunity a change of policy or a statement by the Government, and that is what we have done. I can absolutely promise the noble Lord that this is not the last time that we shall be discussing this issue. Over the next few months-indeed, years-we will have plenty of opportunity to debate it, as we have done recently, not only last Friday but on another Statement only a week ago. It was on that basis that I did not see the need to detain your Lordships any longer.
It might interest the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, to know that we offered the opportunity to the Opposition that we could sit tomorrow-Thursday-to have a debate, but that was rejected. It is a pity, because not only could we have had a debate on the press, but we could have risen earlier this afternoon and finished off the Localism Bill tomorrow.
I have heard these little complaints from noble Lords on the Front Bench opposite that we are working them too hard on the Localism Bill. But this is day 10 in Committee and it is 3.15 pm, so we have plenty of time to continue work on the Bill. It has long been known that the Government's aim is to finish the
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Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for sharing my concern. It is not just the staff of this House who will be affected, it is also our own staff. When the Order of Business has been well advertised and well known for some time, it is unreasonable to expect people to be here well past our normal finishing time. This is not wasting time; it is making a perfectly proper point. The House needs to be treated with the respect it deserves, and this Bill needs to be treated with the respect it deserves. It deserves good scrutiny. Driving us on to late hours at night on the last day I think is quite wrong.
I am sure the Minister has the votes in his pocket. That is why the Government are here and that is how they operate in this House, but it is quite wrong to do this. I urge him to at least encourage some reasonable discussions this afternoon about how we can draw this to a close. We are a co-operative Opposition, but it is our job also to act properly in opposition and do a proper job of scrutiny on Bills in the correct hours. I believe in that very strongly and I am sure the whole House does.
Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, I am very happy to have further discussions off the Floor of the House, and I am very keen that the House should behave and continue in a proper way. However, to me, the noble Lord's protestations sound a little hollow given that we are about to take six weeks off.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: That is just not true. The noble Lord has not answered the point. How does he expect us realistically to deal with 36 groups of amendments, some of them very long, in less than four hours? That just does not seem to me to be the right way to set about business.
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, my noble friend Lord Greaves, who tabled this amendment, is unable to be here this afternoon-sadly for us, maybe not for him. Clause 124 deals with local finance considerations in connection with applications for planning permission. It provides that local finance considerations may be considered in dealing with those applications in so far as they are material to the applications. My noble friend's amendment provides:
We have heard that, in this reference to local finance considerations and their materiality, there is no change to the law and that this is merely a matter of clarification. Indeed, that is what the amendment says. Perhaps it is necessary to make it clear that the materiality of financial matters should be no weightier than other material considerations. However, it is important-indeed, essential-to be clear that planning permissions cannot be bought and sold and that they should not be thought of as being able to be bought and sold.
"Local planning authorities will be well aware that when deciding whether or not to grant planning permission they cannot take into account immaterial considerations. The New Homes Bonus cannot change this, and nor is it intended to. Local planning authorities will continue to be bound by their obligations here".
This bonus is not the first matter on which finance and planning have come together on a list of matters which a local planning authority has to consider. Noble Lords will be familiar with Section 106. The not bought or sold issue was stated unequivocally in Circular 05/05, which deals with Section 106:
"The use of planning obligations must be governed by the fundamental principle that planning permission may not be bought or sold. It is therefore not legitimate for unacceptable development to be permitted because of benefits or inducements offered by a developer which are not necessary to make the development acceptable in planning terms".
That is fine so far and, I should have thought, fine as regards any new source of finance. However, Clause 124 raises a number of issues, of which I shall refer to just two. One is material considerations. That term has been defined in case law, not statute, since the birth of our town and country planning system in 1947. The second raises the issue of how government incentives are to influence planning decisions. The Royal Town Planning Institute commented on this. It stated:
"The RTPI recognises that the use of incentives to stimulate development is at the heart of the Government's approach to growth. However, we firmly believe that the point at which incentives should affect policies and cultures is when local authorities
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If there is no change in how material considerations are to be dealt with, not only, in my view, is it not necessary to provide for this in legislation but it is positively harmful. Clause 124 must mean something and I think that it can mean only the elevation of financial considerations above others. Can this not be dealt with by circular or guidance in the way that these matters are currently dealt with?
I have a question for the Minister, of which I have given him notice. Can he explain the case law or anything else that has led the Government to take the view that the position needs to be stated in primary legislation rather than simply confirmed in guidance? If it has to be referred to in primary legislation, why is there not just an obligation on the Secretary of State to issue guidance to the local planning authority so that it has regard to local financial considerations so far as they are material to the application, as well as regard to the provisions of the development plan so far as they are material and any other material considerations?
I hope that I have been clear about the danger that I believe exists in trying to address a problem that is not there. By doing so, you suggest that there is an issue which you are denying-have the Government stopped beating their wife yet? My strongly preferred solution is to remove the clause entirely, but I am very happy to move my noble friend's amendment because it raises issues on which I hope the Government can reassure the Committee today. I beg to move.
Lord Jenkin of Roding: My Lords, my noble friend Lady Hamwee has put a very convincing case. Like others, when I received a flood of representations from a number of environmental and other bodies that the clause opened the door to buying planning permission, I thought to myself that that cannot be right. I looked into it and, of course, I found that the provision is really intended to be a restatement and clarification of existing provisions. I shall not repeat what my noble friend has said about the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 and her reference to any other material considerations.
In his absence, I say to my noble friend Lord Greaves, who has taken a great deal of time during the passage of the Bill to put his views to the House, that I think this is a brilliant amendment. It exactly meets what we want to say. We need a restatement of the law and it would not surprise me at all if my noble friend indicated that that was the legal advice which the Government have had. However, it is right to say that finance is no more material than any other consideration that a planning authority has to take into account. I would be perfectly happy with the clause if amended in this way.
My noble friend Lady Parminter's opposition to Clause 124 standing part forms part of the first grouping on the list and I thought, "Gosh, this must be important". I think this matter has been blown out of proportion.
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Baroness Parminter: My Lords, I oppose that Clause 124 stand part of the Bill. My noble friend Lord Jenkin was kind enough to reflect on the fact that I gave notice of this matter only because I think it is important, and it remains an important issue. This clause outlines the fact that financial considerations can be material to a planning application and it was added on Report in the Commons. The Minister then said that,
As my noble friend Lady Hamwee has stated, the test for establishing what considerations are material in planning have developed from case law, not statute, since 1947. The classic statement is found in the 1970 case of Stringer v Minister for Housing and Local Government, which makes it clear that any consideration which relates to the development of land is capable of being a planning consideration. Accordingly, there is no legal or policy restriction in place that forbids financial considerations from being taken into account in relation to judicial decisions on planning applications. Indeed, over time, the courts have asserted that a range of particular financial considerations can be taken into account.
However, as this clause stands, it threatens the probity of planning. It sends a message out to developers that under this new planning system, which relies heavily on incentives-not top-down targets-to secure development, such planning permissions can be bought and sold. This concern has a long history. In 1997, the Nolan committee's report on the standards of conduct in local government made it clear that the Government should consider whether the present legislation on planning obligations is sufficiently tightly worded to prevent planning permissions from being bought and sold. A key principle of planning has been that applications are decided on their planning merits, which can already include financial considerations, as my noble friend Lady Hamwee has said. Many of us who are or have been councillors will be only too familiar with Section 106 and other planning obligations where funding is used to make an otherwise unacceptable planning application acceptable in planning terms.
However, this clause elevates financial considerations above all other legitimate planning considerations, which are not mentioned here or anywhere else in statute, and it can be read as meaning that financial inducements that are irrelevant to the merits of a particular development proposal can be material in determining planning applications. As such, it is a fundamental and deeply damaging change to the planning system.
If further clarification is needed on the relationship between financial considerations and considering planning applications, then the way to achieve this is by drawing
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Lord Reay: My Lords, I put my name down to oppose that Clause 124 stand part of the Bill. A report was issued in 2007 by BERR-as noble Lords will remember, it was a department which existed before BIS and DECC came into being-which was entitled Delivering Community Benefits from Wind Energy Development: AToolkit. It included this statement:
"There is a strict principle in the planning systems in all parts of the UK that a decision about a particular planning proposal should be based on planning issues; it should not be influenced by additional payments or contributions offered by a developer which are not linked to making the proposal acceptable in planning terms ... To put it simply, planning permission cannot be 'bought'".
I am grateful to the Minister for circulating the most recent, six-page, briefing from her department on Clause 124. That document states that whereas Section 106 payments, or planning obligation payments as they are called, must relate to the planning merits of the specific development to which they relate, CIL income can be used more widely. However, local planning authorities, it goes on to say, should not have regard to considerations that are not material, and if they do their decisions will be unlawful. Deciding on the scope of what, as a matter of law, could be material to a planning decision remains principally a matter for the courts.
So what has changed? The Government say nothing has changed, except that the current legal position has been clarified by putting it into statute, presumably by removing it from case law. The Government have not stated clearly what happened to make them take the step of suddenly producing this clause at Report stage in another place. I should be grateful to the Minister if he takes the opportunity today of stating why that is so. In doing so, perhaps he could explain why the Government wanted to remove decisions about what count as material considerations in planning matters from case law, and what he thinks the effects of doing that will be.
I should also like my noble friend to state that the Government stand by the BERR statement from 2007 that I quoted-that it is not the Government's intention that planning decisions can be bought. I would also welcome it if the Government were able to support Amendment 166WA, which was moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. Incidentally, I should also like the Minister to say when we can expect the national planning policy framework, as this is the last day before the Recess on which we can receive that information directly.
Lord Best: Perhaps I could speak before the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, who will bring everything together thereafter. I know that opposition to Clause 124 relates to the effects on planning decisions of taking into
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I shall now consider the potential impact of the new homes bonus. I am a supporter of the bonus, and I pay tribute to the Housing Minister, the right honourable Grant Shapps, for bringing forward this way of rewarding those local authorities that take their leadership role seriously, often in the face of considerable and vocal opposition, and seek to increase the number of new homes built in their areas. We know how important it is that acute shortages of decent housing, particularly in the southern half of England, should be urgently addressed. Planning can be the fundamental barrier to new homes getting built; but it can also be a positive force that facilitates badly needed new homes, even though the beneficiaries-the proposed new residents-have no voice in the local decision-making because they have not yet moved in.
The new homes bonus provides a mechanism for local authorities to give something back to the existing communities affected by new development: money to enhance local facilities, improve the local environment and reward those who are bound to be inconvenienced by building works close by and probably by increased traffic. Councillors can stand before the sceptics and protestors and declare that not only will the new housing serve the needs of young families seeking a home, but it will bring benefits directly or indirectly to the local community too. Some district councils in the Home Counties-exactly the places where opponents of new homes are often most vociferous-could gain significantly from the bonus payments by taking a pro-growth line. In these difficult times, these payments could mean that local authority services, which would otherwise have to go, may be retained. Conversely, those councils that succumb to every pressure and oppose new homes being built in their areas will lose out. I wish the new homes bonus every success and would hate to see planners ignoring the benefits it could bring.
My starting point, therefore, has been to look favourably at Clause 124's intention that planners should recognise the positive financial considerations for their localities that a planning decision can achieve. However, the arguments from the noble Baronesses, Lady Hamwee and Lady Parminter, and the noble Lords, Lord Jenkin and Lord Reay, cause me to think again. If there is a danger that this measure could lead to accusations of planners selling planning permissions, to objectors being able to argue that financial incentives have improperly influenced decisions, and to legal challenges and long delays, then I can see that it would be much better not to tackle this through legislation. If reliance on existing legislation-with some extra guidance-is the safer option then, as a firm advocate for the new homes bonus who would not want to put it at risk, I would support the amendment and that the clause stand part.
Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, we have added our name to the clause stand part debate that was spoken to by the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, in particular. Along with the noble Lords, Lord Jenkin and Lord Reay, and, I think, the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, we stand by the long-standing and fundamental principle that planning permission may not be bought or sold-a principle that was reinforced by, I think, the Nolan committee in 1997.
I can see that the amendment was an attempt to be helpful and potentially addresses one area of the concern that primacy has been given to financial considerations. However, it still raises the issue of why it is specifically mentioned and highlighted, even with the qualification, when other material considerations are not. Why does it not stand or fall like any other material consideration, subject to whatever case law produces and to guidance? I would support that proposition as well. I was very struck by the force of the arguments that came to us when this clause was introduced, as it was introduced very late in the day in the other place and there was no opportunity to debate it extensively. My understanding is that the test for planning obligations includes that it must be,
I take the opportunity to refer to some correspondence from the Permanent Secretary at CLG-in this case with Nick Raynsford MP, although I think other MPs had a similar exchange. In relation to what was then new Clause 15, the Permanent Secretary stated:
"The Department's policy position is that local finance considerations should be taken into account in the determination of planning applications, but only where they are material to the decision in hand. That is, where they relate to the use and development of land, and to the planning merits of the application in question. The Minister does not agree that the clause would cut across the fundamental role of planning in protecting the public interest, and it is not our intention to indicate that local finance considerations will always be material, that any specific weight should be given to them, or that they are any more important than other material considerations".
This begs the question: why do we need this clause? What is it doing in relation to the new homes bonus that is so important to the Government, particularly given all the anger and concern that it has raised?
I am not sure that I would share in its entirety the encouragement of the noble Lord, Lord Best, for the new homes bonus. One can see that it is an important part of government policy, but after year 1 it will be funded by scraping off the top of the grants that local authorities get. The redistribution of those moneys is not particularly helpful. It also acts against regeneration because it is done on a net basis. Therefore, if you knock down existing properties to build new ones, nothing will flow from it.
Perhaps the Minister could give us an example of when receipt of a new homes bonus would not be a material consideration. The new homes bonus is always computed by reference to the development; that is how it is generated. Because it is calculated in this way, will the Minister give us some instances, to support the Government's proposition, of when it would not be a material consideration? That would help us. It would
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Earl Attlee: My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate. My first and pleasant duty is to welcome the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy of Southwark, to the opposition Front Bench. We did business the other day on his interesting question about Thameslink. Because it was topical, it required me to work pretty fast.
The Government are committed to increasing housing supply to meet housing needs and to supporting growth to boost recovery. Along with planning system reforms, we need better incentives for communities to support and accept new development. The noble Lord, Lord Best, touched on that in his valuable contribution. However, it is vital that we provide clarity on how such incentives relate to the statutory planning system. This is not a new phenomenon, as my noble friend Lady Hamwee pointed out. Voluntary agreements between landowners and local planning authorities to provide things needed as a result of development have been in use since 1932. Nowadays, Section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 makes provisions for planning obligations. The use of planning obligations is regulated by statutory and policy tests. A developer cannot be made to sign up to a planning obligation, but planning permission can be refused if, without one, a particular development would be unacceptable in planning terms.
Community infrastructure levy powers introduced in 2010 allow local planning authorities to collect and pool mandatory developer contributions, based on charges per square metre of new buildings. While planning obligations must relate to the planning merits of the specific development that they relate to, community infrastructure levy funds can be used to support development across a wider area. The new homes bonus is even more flexible, as local authorities can spend it as they see fit. The Government's hope is that the community infrastructure levy and the new homes bonus will encourage and support more ambitious development planning, by increasing the resources available for local authorities to spend in their areas over and above what they can reasonably seek as planning obligations.
However, they are both new on the scene and questions have been raised over how such measures relate to the statutory planning application system; in particular, can they ever legitimately be taken into account in decisions on planning applications? The Government are therefore keen to clarify the legal position on this. Clause 124 provides this clarity by amending Section 70 of the Town and Country Planning Act to clarify that such considerations should be taken into account in relation to planning applications but only where they are material to the particular application being considered.
In answer to my noble friend Lady Parminter, Clause 124 does not challenge the probity of the planning system. It does not change what can be
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My noble friend Lady Hamwee asked why we are resorting to primary legislation. Clarification of the current legal position could be provided in guidance, as she suggested, or policy. However, the benefits of using the Localism Bill were that the Bill was already proceeding so provided a more immediate opportunity to give the desired clarification, and the high profile of the Bill meant that clarification was likely to come quickly to the attention of concerned parties, and it certainly has.
My noble friend Lady Parminter suggested that the clause will undermine the integrity of public confidence in decisions. I do not agree. Indeed, allowing the current uncertainty to linger is much more likely to undermine the system's integrity and affect public confidence. My noble friend also asked about the pre-eminence of local finance considerations. This clause simply draws out local finance considerations as a potential subset of other material considerations. The development plan has special status as a lead factor in planning decisions not because it is mentioned in Section 70 but because of Section 38(6) of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, which says:
"If regard is to be had to the development plan for the purpose of any determination to be made under the planning Acts the determination must be made in accordance with the plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise".
Earl Attlee: My Lords, when I originally drafted my response to my noble friend, I put down the word "shortly", but the note came from the Box that it should be "imminently". Once I was told that something would happen "shortly" and we got the statutory instrument 10 years later. However, I can assure noble Lords that the NPPF will come much more rapidly.
The noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, asked me for some illustrations and I have a few matters to draw to your Lordships' attention. The first is the test for whether a consideration is material. Case law has established that to be material to the determination of a planning application, any consideration must relate to the development and use of the land, and to the planning merits of that application.
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