§ 4.5 p.m.
§ Mr. J. S. C. Reid (Glasgow, Hillhead)
I beg to move, in page 1, line 22, at the end, to insert:(c) the period of office of members of the joint police committee and the filling of casual vacancies therein.Clause 1 (2), as it stands, provides for an amalgamation scheme, making provisions of various kinds, but with regard to the actual joint police committee which is to administer the police in the joint area; all that is provided for in the Bill is the constitution of the committee. We are moving this Amendment in order to obtain an explanation from the Government of the position as they see it. Do they regard the word "constitution" as sufficiently wide to provide for the matters which are set out in the Amendment—The period of office of members of the joint police committee and the filling of casual vacancies …—or do they think these are matters which should be left to the free discretion of the constituent bodies so that a particular county council may, for example, appoint delegates for three years or five years or only at pleasure, and that a county council could fill up a vacancy as and when it chose? Or is there some other explanation? I do not take any strong view as to which is the right way to do it, but it 1074 would be better that somewhere there should be some regulatory provision and that the matter should not be left completely to the discretion of each of the constituent bodies as to how they appoint their representatives If it is the Government's view that that should be done, I will not press the matter, but we ought to have the Government's view as to how this piece of administration is in fact to be conducted.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Thomas Fraser)
I am obliged to the right hon. and learned Gentleman. We take the view that the word "constitution" in Clause 1 (2, b) is adequate. It covers the point. I believe that we have other statutes in Scotland that have a somewhat similar loose provision. I think Section 11 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act, 1929, leaves the position just as we propose to leave it in this Bill. I, personally, can see no objection to putting in the provision, other than the one I am about to give the right hon. and learned Gentleman. If we put in this provision, I fear that it might be considered that, in the absence of similar provisions in other statutes where exactly the same intention obtains, by inference the provision would be excluded. We believe that the word "constitution" covers the point made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman. If some should fear that it might not be wide enough, they should refer to Clause 1 (3, f):any other matters incidental to or consequential on the provisions contained in this scheme.One would assume from that that permission is given to the authorities concerned to decide the period of office of members and the filling of casual vacancies and so on. With that brief explanation, I hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will withdraw his Amendment.
§ Mr. Reid
In view of what the Joint Under-Secretary has said, I think it certainly would be a pity to do anything in this small Bill which would disturb the general understanding and meaning of words in larger Bills. Therefore I do not press this Amendment. I hope, however, that when an appropriate occasion occurs, some further clarification may be introduced. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.1075
§ Mr. T. Fraser
I beg to move, in page 2, line 2, at the end, to insert:(d) the payment by the constituent authorities in such proportions as may be specified in the scheme of the expenditure incurred in the administration and maintenance of the combined force;I do not know whether I should, at this stage, call the attention of the Committee to the words at the very top of page 1 of the Bill:NOTE.—The words enclosed in brackets and underlined were left out by the Lords to avoid questions of privilege.This is a privileged Amendment.
§ Mr. Maclay (Montrose Burghs)
May I ask, Major Milner, whether this is the right time to discuss this Amendment as it is a privileged Amendment, or should it be discussed on the Question "That the Clause stand part of the Bill"?
§ Mr. Maclay
May I ask the Parliamentary Secretary some questions about this Clause, because it is on this Clause that determination can be made of the proposed expenditure and how it is to be distributed between the new constituent authorities? I can well understand that in the case of voluntary amalgamation it will, presumably, be worked out by the authorities concerned and will not be a matter for the Secretary of State But when it comes to compulsory amalgamation, which is possible under the next Clause, it would be very helpful if the Joint Under-Secretary could give some indication of the distribution of costs of the new force between the constituent authorities. Will it be done on the basis of the relative rateable valuation of the constituent areas, or will it be the number of police employed in the areas? Is there any idea in his mind of protecting an existing authority which has an efficiently run police force? This might act very unfairly indeed in an area with an admirably behaved population if it is amalgamated with another area, which requires a large number of police. I confess I tried to draft an Amendment on those lines but found it extraordinarily difficult to do so. However, there is an Amendment on the Order Paper which may be discussed later and which, if accepted, may go part of the way to meet the point. Perhaps the Joint Under-Secretary can give us some indication 1076 how, if the Secretary of State is involved in a compulsory amalgamation, he will endeavour to distribute the cost?
§ Mr. Scollan (Renfrew, Western)
I am struck by the fact that the Secretary of State for Scotland has brought forward six Amendments to his own Bill. I think there is something wrong there. There is one in Clause 1 on page 2, line 27—
§ The Chairman
The hon. Member is not entitled to go through all the Amendments at once. We are at present dealing with a particular Amendment in page 2, line 2. There may be an opportunity for him to raise other questions later, but the answer is presumably that the Secretary of State is moving the privileged Amendments omitted in another place.
§ Mr. Scollan
My point is that we shall have to devote some time to this and the subsequent Amendments, and I want to ask the Under-Secretary whether it would not be wiser if the Secretary of State for Scotland had withdrawn this Bill, and brought forward one which included these Amendments. It would save the time of the Committee.
§ Mr. Fraser
I thought the few remarks I made at the outset explained the position. We are not bringing forward any new provisions at all. These Amendments will be found in the Bill as printed but, when the Bill was dealt with in another place, the question of Privilege arose and brackets were put round certain words.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Fraser
The position is that any words in the Bill will only be there, providing the House of Commons permits them to be there. If this Bill had started on its journey in the House of Commons, we would not have been moving these Amendments at all; we would have put these words into the Bill and they would have been there when the Bill had its Second Reading. However, since the Bill started on its journey in another place with these words in it, the question of Privilege arose and, for the convenience of the Members of another place, brackets were put round certain words. Therefore, they were technically taken out of the Bill, and today we are trying to put them back in the Bill. That is all.
1077 The hon. Member for Montrose Burghs (Mr. Maclay) asked me a question about the effect of this Amendment and how the expenses would be shared by the constituent members of a joint police committee. I hesitate to say anything that would be binding on the authorities who might be parties to an amalgamation scheme. Quite clearly these matters must be dealt with in the scheme. In the case of a scheme proposed by the Secretary of State, again this particular matter would have to be settled in the light of local circumstances. The Committee is aware, I am sure, that it is our intention, before imposing any scheme on any two or more authorities, to hold a local public inquiry, to cause a report to be published by the independent person holding the inquiry, to allow that report to be put in the hands of hon. Members, and to have the scheme brought before the House of Commons for approval. These matters will have to be dealt with in that scheme, so I think there are adequate safeguards, and it would be most indiscreet of me to say anything at this stage as to how the expenses would be apportioned.
§ Mr. J. S. C. Reid
I welcome what the hon. Gentleman has just said, but if he will look at Clause 2 (2), to which he referred a moment ago in connection with the public inquiry, he will see that before the inquiry, all that is obligatory on the Secretary of State is to give notice of the general nature of the proposed scheme. May we take it then that at that stage, in spite of the vague words "general nature," there will always be notice of the precise financial arrangements which the scheme is to inaugurate? If so, then his assurance is of value, but unless you get the precise financial arrangements published at that stage, then the inquiry loses a good deal of its value.
§ Mr. Fraser
I understand that the ability of the constituent authorities to contribute to the expenses of the joint authority is a matter that would fall to be considered. I think I can proceed to Clause 2 (2) by reference, and deal with the point made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman about the general nature of the inquiry. It has to be fairly general. I do not think it would be the wish of this Committee to require that any such public inquiry should have its scope widened to enable every little detail to be gone into. In the nature of things 1078 the inquiry must be into the general nature of the proposed scheme, but I believe that this question of finance would fall to be dealt with by the local public inquiry. In any case the full details of the schemes have to be published and laid before the House of Commons for approval before the schemes can be operated.
§ Mr. Maclay
I am not certain that the Joint Under-Secretary has answered the question of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. I appreciate that it may be difficult to give any hard and fast ruling at the moment on how the inquiry should be arranged, but surely when the Minister puts the scheme under Clause 2 (2) to the police authorities concerned, there will be an indication of how the finances would be apportioned? It might not necessarily be an arithmetical business based on the rateable value of the number of police, but surely consideration would be given in the general consideration of the financial arrangements to the previous cost to the authority of its own police force, and also to the previous cost in the other areas with which it is being amalgamated?
§ Mr. Fraser
Yes, I do give an assurance readily. I thought I had covered that point in using the somewhat vague and ambiguous phrase that these matters would be decided "in the light of all the circumstances." I do not want to be too specific.
§ Mr. Scollan
I am anxious to know how this is to operate, and what the effect of not having it in the Bill is likely to be. Does it mean that in the event of amalgamation the expense will be borne, 50 per cent. by the Exchequer, and 50 per cent. by the local people, and that the 50 per cent. borne by the local people will be divided on the basis of services received, or on the rateable value? It will be very ambiguous if left outside the Bill, unless some provision is made for the Minister to take special circumstances into consideration, as they operate in different ways in different localities. If that is what is meant, it is understandable. I would like the Joint Under-Secretary to tell us if that is so.
§ Mr. Fraser
This whole Clause deals with voluntary schemes for amalgamation of police forces. I do not think we wish to provide that in any voluntary scheme a hard and fast rule should be laid down 1079 on how the costs are to be allocated. We are dealing only with the responsibility of constituent authorities to contribute to the local authorities' expenses incurred in running a police force. We think it desirable to allow the greatest latitude to the local authorities to frame schemes to suit local circumstances.
§ Mr. Scollan
That means that by negotiations between the bodies affected, the allocation of expenses will be arranged?
§ Mr. Fraser indicated assent.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Sir Basil Neven-Spence (Orkney and Shetland)
I beg to move, in page 2, line 11, at the end, to insert:(f) the submission on the first day of April annually to the constituent authorities by the joint police committee of an estimate of all its proposed expenditure for the financial year beginning in the following May and the submission of supplementary estimates as and when necessary, and in the event of any of the constituent authorities refusing to give its sanction to the said proposed expenditure, the reference of the matter to the Secretary of State for his decision, which would be final and binding on all parties.Clause 1 of this Bill makes provision for the amalgamation of police forces voluntarily, and I have nothing against that. It makes provision for a number of things which will have to be done when such an amalgamation is carried out. But I think it is a defect of the Bill that there is no provision, so far as I can see, for the joint police committees which will be set up to submit estimates of their proposed expenditure to the constituent authorities. Everyone who has served on local authorities knows how worrying is the question of financial responsibility. When an amalgamation of this kind is carried out, and a joint body is set up, it is not unreasonable to ask that the estimates should be submitted to the constituent authorities in order that they may see what is proposed and, if necessary, ask for explanations. Possibly the matter could then be settled quite comfortably. Clause 1 is the velvet glove, but Clause 2 is the mailed fist. If my arguments are apt in relation to Clause 1, they are very much stronger in regard to Clause 2, where the Secretary of State takes power to compel amalgamations. It is most important that the constituent authorities should have an opportunity of examining 1080 the estimates, because where a compulsory amalgamation takes place, the stage is set for friction. This Amendment would be a great improvement of the Bill, and would promote the aims of the Secretary of State.
§ Mr. Maclay
I support very strongly the argument put forward by my hon. Friend, particularly in relation to the circumstances envisaged by Clause 2. There must be some safeguard under this Bill for an authority whose police force is being amalgamated, possibly not entirely with their own free will. The Secretary of State stressed his hope that the amalgamations would go forward with the utmost good will of the authorities concerned, and we all share that hope. It is most important that that should happen. I am not talking about any particular area in Scotland, but there is often the danger of feeling between burghs and counties. Nothing is more likely to arouse feeling of that kind, than if a burgh feels that it is saddled too much with the cost of running county affairs. This Amendment would go a considerable distance towards removing that fear as it would mean that every year the constituent authorities would be able to consider the matter in detail.
§ Mr. T. Fraser
I hope very much that hon. Members will not press this Amendment. After all, we are dealing in this Clause particularly with voluntary schemes for amalgamation.
§ The Temporary Chairman (Mr. McLean Watson)
The hon. Member cannot discuss Clause 2 on this Amendment.
§ Mr. Maclay
I wonder if there is a way of discussing this Amendment under Clause 2? Under Clause 1 the Parliamentary Secretary states, correctly, that we are dealing with voluntary schemes, but Clause 2 does not include this subsection.
§ Mr. J. S. C. Reid
I do not know, Mr. Watson, whether your attention has been directed to lines 24 and 25 of Clause 2 of the Bill which state:… provisions of Section one of this Act shall apply in relation to any such scheme …1081 that is to say any compulsory scheme. Therefore. I suggest that it is in Order, in discussing provisions in Clause 1, to show how they will apply to the Clause 2 type of amalgamation. This is the only opportunity we have for linking the two together. If Clause 2 says that Clause 1 procedure is to apply to the Clause 2 type of amalgamation then when we are discussing Clause 1 procedure, we must have in mind that it is going to apply to Clause 2 type of amalgamation.
§ The Temporary Chairman
It seems to me that reference cannot be made to this on the Clause. The only question is whether reference can be made to Clause 2 when discussing this Amendment or whether when we get to Clause 2 an Amendment cannot be moved.
§ Major Guy Lloyd (Renfrew, Eastern)
Would it not meet your view point if instead of reference to Clause 2 reference were made to a possible compulsory amalgamation?
§ The Temporary Chairman
No, it would not. I have no objection to a reference to Clause 2, but we must not have an elaborate discussion of it at this stage.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Fraser
I was saying that Clause 1 provides for voluntary schemes of amalgamation of police forces. If we were to accept this Amendment, we should be accepting the position that the police forces which have voluntarily agreed to an amalgamation scheme must refer the matter in dispute to the Secretary of State for decision. [An HON. MEMBER: "No."] As I read the Amendment it says:… the reference of the matter to the Secretary of State for his decision, which would be final and binding on all parties.I think it is clear enough that the mover and supporters of the Amendment wish the Secretary of State to be the arbiter to whom any aggrieved constituent authority might appeal, and that his decision should be final and binding on all parties. In the case of any voluntary scheme of amalgamation, I am sure that it would be the wish of Members on all sides of the Committee to allow the constituent authorities, the participating authorities, to agree among themselves how the money should be raised, and how any future disputes that might arise should be settled.
In the case of compulsory schemes, clearly a different situation arises, and the Secretary 1082 of State would have to provide machinery for the settlement of disputes. But it will be seen that in Clause 1 we have divided that matter into two parts. One part, Subsection (2) provides that certain matters "shall" be provided for in any scheme, while in Subsection (3) other matters "may" be provided for in the scheme, and Subsection (3, c) provides that the settlement of differences between the constituent authorities is one of the matters that may be provided for in the scheme. We think that is the right thing to do, and that it would be improper to prophesy, as we should do by accepting this Amendment, that there would be differences and disputes which could only properly be settled by the Secretary of State. I, therefore, give the assurance that this matter of apportionment of expenses and the submission of estimates to the constituent authorities is a matter that would have to be given consideration by the Secretary of State in any scheme that he proposes.
I call the attention of the Committee to the fact that we have many precedents for allowing this matter to be dealt with in a commonplace way; that is, we have our existing joint committees for mental hospitals, etc., and the statutes under which these committees are set up certainly do not provide that all the constituent authorities should have put before them for their consideration the estimates of the joint committee. How far the constituent authorities are dissatisfied with the present position as it affects these other joint committees, I do not know. I can only say that, to my knowledge, no representation has been made to us by the smaller authorities as to the desirability of bringing such a provision as this into the Bill. I should have thought that, in the circumstances, the Committee would wish to defer to the wishes of those who are most likely to be affected by this Bill, and would not wish the Secretary of State to assume any powers which the local authorities themselves might not wish to have conferred upon the Secretary of State.
§ Commander Galbraith (Glasgow, Pollok)
It may be, as the Joint Undersecretary of State has said, that this matter should be left to the scheme, or to the precedents which are already in being in regard to joint authorities. But I do not think that the hon. Gentleman 1083 has really dealt with the point at issue. It is not a question of how the money shall be raised and in what proportion it shall be raised. The point at issue is whether, when the joint committee has framed its budget, the constituent authorities will have an opportunity of stating whether or not they are in agreement with it. There may be something in that budget to which one of the constituent authorities strongly objects, and in regard to which it does not feel inclined to pay the price. The Amendment really asks that where such a thing happens, where the constituent bodies cannot agree, that matter shall be remitted to the Secretary of State for decision. It is not a question of how the money shall be divided, but how, in the annual budget, where there is a difference of opinion between the constituent authorities, that difference of opinion is to be got over. It may be that it will be done in accordance with precedents, but if the Joint Under-Secretary of State could give us some further indication of what the Secretary of State has in mind, we should be grateful.
§ Mr. Fraser
I do not think I misconceived the intention of the Amendment. I said I was sure that hon. Members would wish the local authorities who voluntarily participated in an amalgamation, to decide among themselves—
§ Commander Galbraith
We are agreed on that point. What we have in mind is a position in winch the constituent authorities having decided among themselves, the scheme is in operation, and then there is a budget in which there is something to which one of the constituent bodies objects.
§ Mr. Fraser
Might I be allowed to finish my sentence? I am sure that hon. Members would wish the voluntary participants in an amalgamation scheme to be free to decide for themselves how any issue which might be in dispute should be settled, including the question of disagreement on estimates. If, in a voluntary scheme, the participating authorities wished to provide that any disagreement on the estimates should be referred to an arbiter appointed by themselves, hon. Members would wish to allow the participants freedom to adopt that course. If we were to accept the Amendment, we should be robbing the 1084 constituent authorities of that freedom, and I do not think we could justifiably interfere in the case of a voluntary scheme.
In the case of a compulsory scheme, this is a matter to which the Secretary of State would have to give his attention if he is going to compel authorities to amalgamate to form a combined force against their will. He will have to provide in his scheme for a means of referring to the constituent bodies the estimates of the joint police committee. I cannot say what he will propose in any scheme that he might bring forward, though I cannot foresee him bringing forward very many schemes. In any case, any scheme would come before the House, and hon. Members would then be able to represent the interests of their constituents, and any sense of grievance felt by any small authority in regard to their right of scrutinising estimates for which they would be partly responsible, might be considered. I do not think there is much in dispute. I am sure that hon. Members would not wish to have in the Bill the Amendment as it stands upon the Order Paper, and that they wish for no more than an assurance that the rights of the smaller authorities will be safeguarded. I give that assurance. We wish to safeguard the rights of the smaller authorities and where agreement is not reached between the authorities who are parties to a scheme, voluntarily or otherwise, care should be taken to see that the representations of a small authority are not ridden over rough shod.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart (Fife, East)
I think the point which has been raised is an important one and that this little discussion has been valuable in that it has elicited from the Joint Under-Secretary the opinion of the Scottish Office in this matter. I think I understood him to say that the Secretary of State for Scotland would take into consideration, in approving any scheme under Clause 1, any suggestion of an arrangement by which, if they so desired, authorities would require submission of budgets to constituent bodies in a voluntary scheme. The Secretary of State, I understand, would be ready favouraby to consider the incorporation of such a suggestion in a scheme. If that be so, I am satisfied.
§ Sir B. Neven-Spence
In view of what has been said by the Minister, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment made: In page 2, line 27, at end, insert:
(4) The expenses incurred by a constituent authority for the purpose of the payment of the expenditure incurred in the administration and maintenance of the combined force shall be defrayed in like manner as expenses of that authority for the purposes of their functions relating to police would have required to be defrayed if the amalgamation scheme had not been made."—[Mr. T. Fraser.]
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
§ Mr. Maclay
There are one or two small points which I would like to raise on this Clause. The first may possibly be regarded as rather absurd and perhaps I ought to know the answer to it. Subsection (3) appears to be another of these pieces of permissive legislation. I am not clear whether all or any of these headings (a) to (f) are the only matters in regard to which an amalgamation scheme may make provision. Is the scheme restricted to these provisions, or can others be introduced? Another point is in regard to Subsection (8). I raised this matter on the Second Reading, and the Joint Undersecretary said a few words about it, but I would like to ask him again, Is it clear that no employee of any police force is likely to suffer in regard to his superannuation as a result of an amalgamation? Are the superannuation funds in Scotland roughly or exactly upon the same basis, or is there any risk of anyone suffering? If not, I assume that this Subsection is necessary only in connection with the details of the superannuation scheme.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Mr. T. Fraser
In reply to the second point, I do not think that all the superannuation schemes in Scotland are exactly the same. I am advised, however, that there is no substantial difference between them. We do not anticipate that any employee will suffer in his superannuation entitlement as a result of any amalgamation scheme being put into operation. On the question of Subsection (3), there we are merely indicating to the authorities matters for which they may make provision. We say:all or any of the following matters.I do not think they are conclusive. They are put in so that the authorities may be 1086 advised of matters which we think might be provided for in a scheme. I have no doubt that there may be other matters which are not covered in this Subsection.
§ Commander Galbraith
When the hon. Gentleman was replying just now, he did not seem to be definite on the question of superannuation for officials. I ask him to give a definite assurance that no officer will surfer in that respect. It is a matter of great importance. Really, I think he intended to give the assurance but he was not definite on the point. I ask him to give a direct assurance that, so far as superannuation funds are concerned, none of these officers will suffer in the event of a scheme being proposed.
§ Mr. Fraser
If I was not very definite, it was because I wanted rather to leave this matter, among others, to be dealt with in the scheme; but I feel that, since I have been asked so to do, I am entitled to give a very definite assurance that no employee will suffer.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.