HC Deb 26 June 1959 vol 607 cc1619-21

2.24 p.m.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. David Renton)

I beg to move, in page 2, line 23, at the end to add: and subsection (3) of section seventy-seven of the Criminal Justice Act, 1948 (which provides for the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of grant towards expenditure out of the metropolitan police fund under the Fifth Schedule to that Act), shall have effect as if the reference in paragraph (a) thereof to the said Fifth Schedule included a reference to this section ". This Amendment raises a technical point. Its purpose is to authorise the payment of grants at the appropriate rate which, the Committee will remember, is 50 per cent., of any expenditure by the Receiver for the Metropolitan Police District in providing premises for the purposes of the probation system in the Metropolitan stipendiary court area. Strictly speaking, we are not doing anything new in terms of advancing authority for the payment of public funds, because the grant is already paid under Section 77 of the Criminal Justice Act, 1948, but Clause 3 of the Bill gives the Receiver the express power to provide land and buildings.

Although the expenses of providing premises for probation purposes will still be defrayed out of the Metropolitan Police Fund, such expenditure in future will be incurred under the provisions of this Bill and not under those of the Criminal Justice Act. Therefore we must make special provision for the payment of the grant in that way. The Amendment makes provision for doing so by including in Section 77 (3, a) of the 1948 Act a specific reference to Clause 3 of this Bill. It is rather a roundabout process, but I must advise the Committee that it is a necessary process from the technical point of view.

Mr. J. A. Sparks (Acton)

I should like the hon. and learned Gentleman to complete the picture. He said that the Amendment proposes to provide a grant of 50 per cent. towards the expenditure incurred which comes from the Metropolitan Police Fund. I wish to know who will provide the remaining 50 per cent. I think the answer is that it will be the local authorities who will be precepted by the Metropolitan Police Authority.

This raises a very important principle. Assuming that this Amendment had not been moved, would the whole of this expenditure have fallen upon the Metropolitan Police Fund? The acceptance of the Amendment will reduce the amount from that fund by 50 per cent. which will be paid by the ratepayers in the Metropolitan Police District. What consultations, if any, have been held with the local authorities regarding these financial provisions? This Committee is calling on local authorities and the ratepayers to finance the provisions of this Bill particularly regarding the powers now contained in Clause 3. I think that the local authorities should have been consulted. Perhaps there have been consultations—the Minister did not say—but it appears to me that we are placing a charge on the local authorities and the ratepayers, and I think that some consideration should be given to their point of view.

It may be that the hon. and learned Gentleman can explain the matter, but from what he said, I think he should complete the whole picture. If he is asking for power to provide 50 per cent. of the expenditure arising under this Clause someone else must find the other 50 per cent., and I wish to know who that will be.

Mr. Renton

I am glad that the hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks) has raised this point. It enables me to explain the machinery and the background to the Amendment. I must stress that the acceptance of this Amendment makes no change of substance, it merely alters the statutory authority for the payment by the Secretary of State for the Home Department of the 50 per cent. grant towards the total expenses incurred by the Receiver. Because there is no change of substance, but merely a change of statutory authority, which is purely a matter for Parliament, no consultations have taken place with local authorities. I do not think that the hon. Member for Acton would expect such consultations under the circumstances. There are, of course, annual consultations between the Receiver and the finance officers of the local authorities on all expenditure which the Receiver will undertake and of which the local authorities will pay half.

We are now discussing the probation system only, and I must keep within the bounds of order by referring only to probation, but I might mention in passing that the machinery is exactly the same with regard to police expenditure and somewhat similar regarding the powers of the Receiver to expend money for courts.

The Receiver is given power, the present statutory authority for which is found in the Local Government Act, 1948, to make a precept upon local authorities, not for the whole expenditure he has to incur for probation purposes but for half of it. He makes a precept for only half because he knows that he has statutory authority to call upon the Secretary of State for a grant-in-aid in respect of the other half. That is the situation, and I hope that that explanation gives the hon. Gentleman the information he wanted.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.