HC Deb 25 October 1960 vol 627 cc2245-7

Lords Amendment: In page 5, line 11, leave out from beginning to end of line 14.

Mrs. Thatcher

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.

I trust that it will be in order, Mr. Speaker, if I refer at the same time to the Amendments in page 5, line 33, at end insert "(other than police authorities)", and in line 36, at end insert "(other than joint police committees constituted under the Police (Scotland) Act, 1956)". All three of the group of Amendments are designed to secure that neither the public nor the Press is admitted to the proceedings of any bodies which are acting as police authorities. I believe this to be in accordance with the consensus of opinion expressed in this House on Report and Third Reading, although the Amendments then before the House were not adequate to give effect to the views then expressed.

The first of these three Amendments cuts out from the Bill police authorities in England and Wales. The second Amendment is necessary because those authorities, having been cut out, might then be inadvertently brought in on the ground that they have power to levy a rate. The third Amendment excludes police authorities in Scotland from the ambit of the Bill. The total effect, therefore, of the three Amendments together is to exclude all police authorities from the operation of the Bill.

Mr. Ede (South Shields)

I support the proposition made by the hon. Lady the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher). It may be recalled that, on Report, we had great difficulty in dealing with this matter because a Member who had undertaken to move an Amendment did not do so when he first had the chance. Many local authorities would, I think, have been compelled to oppose the Bill had the Bill as it left this House not been amended in another place.

7.45 p.m.

While I generally approve of the admission of the Press to meetings of local authorities—in fact, I introduced a Bill myself in 1930 to do that—I never contemplated that police matters were suitable subjects for public discussion. I imagine that the Home Secretary, whom I see favouring us temporarily with his presence, would have been considerably embarrassed had this Amendment not been introduced.

Mr. M. Stewart

The hon. Lady the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) said that the effect of the Amendment would be to exclude the Press and public from meetings of police authorities. I think I am right in saying that that is not quite correct. It would still be open for a police authority to let the Press and public in if it wished. What the Amendment does is to avoid putting that authority under any obligation.

Mrs. Thatcher indicated assent.

Mr. Stewart

As such, for the reasons mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), I consider it a worthy Amendment. It is a little ironical that some of the agitation which led to the Bill began with criticisms of the watch committee of a certain authority and some harsh things were said about it. It is entertaining to notice that the Bill ends with their Lordships ensuring that watch committees and other police authorities shall be outside the purview of the Bill. That seems to me on the whole to be a happy as well as an ironical result, and I trust that the House will agree to the Amendment.

Question put and agreed to.

Remaining Lords Amendments agreed to: In page 5, line 33, at end insert "(other than police authorities)".

In line 36, at end insert: (other than joint police committees constituted under the Police (Scotland) Act, 1956)