§ Mr. Ede
I beg to move, in page 4, line 13, to leave out from the beginning to "and," in line 15.
I suggest that it would be for the convenience of the House if we were to take together this Amendment and the next Amendment, in page 4, line 37, at the end, to insert:(b) the said powers shall not be exercised except after consultation with the chief officer of police for the area in which the fire alarms are to be placed.Clause 3 (2) was amended in Standing Committee to provide for a county district council to be consulted by the fire authority before fire alarms are maintained in its area. Clause 3 (1, c) contains power to maintain fire alarms, and it includes a requirement that the chief officer of police shall be consulted. The Amendments which I am proposing are merely drafting Amendments to bring together all the consultation provisions in this respect.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Mr. Sparks (Acton)
On a point of Order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Are we 1428 taking all three Amendments together, or will they be put separately?
§ 7.45 P.m.
§ Mr. Sparks
There is one point on this Amendment on which I would like further enlightenment. My right hon. Friend will notice that in the Amendment it is provided that these powers shall not be exercised except after consultation with the chief of police. I am told that it is rather exceptional for a statutory power of this kind to be given to an officer in his official capacity, and I wonder whether the Home Secretary would agree to substitute the words "police authority" for the words "chief of police." If the police authority is willing to delegate its powers to the chief of police that is another matter, but I am told that it is rather unusual to place an official in a statutory 1429 position of responsibility of this kind. If that were accepted, the Amendment would mean that the local fire authority would have to negotiate with him, to the exclusion of the police authority as such. Would not it be better that the fire authority should be under an obligation to consult the police authority rather than an official?
§ Mr. Rees-Williams
I have a good deal of sympathy with what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks). I think it is undesirable to name an official rather than the authority in a matter of this kind, for it may be that the official, if he were at loggerheads with his committee, might take up a curious attitude, because he would be the authority, who would have to deal with the matter. Unfortunately, however, in my area, if the Home Secretary did what my hon. Friend wants him to do, we would be in a worse position than ever, because it so happens that, in the interpretation Clause of this Bill, the "police authority" and the "chief officer of police" are to have the same definition as is given to them in the Police Pensions Act, 1921. Under that Act, in the Metropolitan Police District in which Croydon lies, the "police authority" is my right hon. Friend or one of his colleagues in the Cabinet. The "chief officer of police" is the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis. We are, therefore, in the awkward position under this Amendment that we would have to go to the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis over any triflng thing that has to be done in Croydon. That seems to be going to a high authority over slight matters, and it is a question whether the administrative difficulties really justify that course of action. On the other hand, if the course suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks) is pursued, we should then have to go to my right hon. Friend himself, and burden him with the work. I do not know whether my right hon. Friend can throw any further light on the matter, but I would caution him to beware of accepting my hon. Friend's advice.
§ Mr. Pargiter
I should be glad if my right hon. Friend would further elucidate the point about the chief officer of police for the area, because it is in the Metropolitan Police area where an inspector may virtually be in charge of an area. In 1430 the County of Middlesex, as such, there would be no one chief police officer who would be readily available for consultation. As a matter of fact, there are many people of that rank all over the place who could not be readily contacted, and if this particular reference is left as it is there will be some doubt as to its interpretation.
§ Mr. Ede
There is no doubt that to adopt the suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks), at any rate so far as the Metropolitan Police area is concerned, would make the provision worse than it is under the Bill, because, undoubtedly, the police authority for the Metropolitan Police District is the Secretary of State. The chief officer for the Metropolitan Police District is the Commissioner. What would happen in the administration of this Measure would be that when the application was received by the Commissioner as the chief officer of police, he would refer it to the superintendent in charge of the division in which the proposed alarm was situated, and would get his report, and in most cases I should imagine that would be final. Because of these difficulties, the same form of words was used in the 1938 Act. It is not unusual to refer to officials in Acts of Parliament. Certain certificates have to be given by people like the county surveyor, who generally thinks that he is too big a man to be called by that title and insists on calling himself the county engineer. There are other instances where it is an administrative act involving the technical experience and knowledge of the officer. In those cases—and I think this falls well within that category—this is the usual formula that is applied. I think the House would be well advised to repeat in this Bill the nomenclature used in the 1938 Act.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Mr. Ede
I beg to move, in page 4, line 45, at the end, to insert:unless they have been approved by the Minister in charge of any other Government department.The House will recollect that when we were in Committee earlier this afternoon, I drew attention to the fact that these words helped us out of one of the difficulties that had been brought to our notice by the hon. Member for Westbury (Mr. Grimston).
§ Amendment agreed to.