HC Deb 05 July 1994 vol 246 cc203-15

59. No scheme for the introduction of compulsory or voluntary severance on structural grounds shall be introduced in any police area without prior consultation with the staff associations representing the interests of these officers affected.".'.

New clause 9—Amendment of Police Negotiating Board Act 1980'Section 1(1) of the Police Negotiating Board Act 1980 shall be amended by inserting after the words "pay and allowances," the words "structural severance terms and criteria,".'.

Amendment No. 21, in clause 6, page 5, line 14, at end insert— '(3A) A chief constable shall, after consulting his police authority, designate a person holding the rank of assistant chief constable to have responsibility for complaints and for discipline within the force'.

Amendment No. 23, in page 5, line 28, at end insert— '(5A) A chief constable may, after consulting his police authority and the Secretary of State, designate a person holding the rank of assistant chief constable to deputise for him in the exercise of any of the powers and duties of the chief constable.'.

Amendment No. 14, in clause 7, page 5, line 38, leave out from beginning to end of line 39 and insert— '(c) for the words "ranks of superintendent," there shall be substituted the words "the rank of superintendent (and an officer with the rank and salary of superintendent may, subject to the approval of the police authority and the Secretary of State, be designated as a chief superintendent by the chief constable or chief officer of police where special circumstances of command or organisation make such designation desirable), the ranks of chief inspector,".'.

Amendment No. 13, in page 5, line 38, after first 'the', insert 'words "ranks of" the words "chief superintendent," shall be inserted, and after the'.

Amendment No. 18, in clause 17, page 13, line 22, at end add— '(6) In subsection (6), after the word "section", there shall be inserted the words "(except regulations falling within the provisions of subsection (7) below)".'.

Amendment No. 19, in page 13, line 22, at end add— '(7) After subsection (6) there shall be inserted— (7) No regulations shall be made under this section which contain references to performance related pay for assistant chief constables or chief constables unless a draft of the regulations has been laid before and approved by resolution of each House of Parliament. (8) Draft regulations laid under subsection (7) shall relate only to one police authority. (9) Before laying any regulations before Parliament under subsection (7) the Secretary of State shall consult the police authority concerned and the chief officer of the police force concerned and lay copies of their representations before Parliament.".'.

Amendment No. 66, in clause 44, page 22, line 26, leave out from 'ranks)' to 'subsection' in line 34.

Sir Anthony Durant

This discussion is principally about voluntary and compulsory severance from the police service. I speak as parliamentary adviser to the Police Superintendents' Association of England and Wales.

On 28 October 1993, the Secretary of State for the Home Department announced that severance schemes were to be introduced into the police service. Those schemes will involve both voluntary and compulsory severance. He gave an assurance that such schemes would be used only as a last resort and only with his authority. However, as more and more forces reorganise to cut their management layers to the absolute minimum, there is every likelihood that such schemes will need to be used. The ad hoc voluntary scheme currently available in the Metropolitan police is a clear example.

There is currently no national mechanism for the determination of appropriate severance arrangements for police officers, or any coherent national policy on the criteria to be adopted by forces. Police officers are "officers of the Crown". Their peculiar legal status means that they are not covered by normal employment legislation that applies to most people. Instead, their conditions of service are set out in Acts of Parliament and regulations made thereunder.

Severance is an entirely new concept that will be introduced into the police service for the first time and there is currently no legal framework governing the negotiation and determination of severance schemes. That could leave the way open for individual police forces to design their own packages, with only the Secretary of State having to approve them. That is likely to result in unfairness to police officers, and long and costly legal arguments over such schemes. A clear example of the diversity that is likely to occur can be found by comparing the current Metropolitan police scheme with that offered by the British Transport police.

A 53-year-old superintendent, with 30 years' service, in the Metropolitan police scheme would receive £10,119. A similar officer in the British Transport police scheme would receive £40,479. The scheme proposed in the much-lamented Sheehy report, which hon. Members keep coming back to, would have given the officer £101,197.

Currently, both the Metropolitan police and the British Transport police schemes are voluntary. Officers can elect to apply for them as they individually choose. The Secretary of State intends, however, to include compulsory severance in his schemes, which adds a new dimension. Police officers have almost common conditions of service throughout the United Kingdom and they are able to negotiate matters affecting their pay and conditions of service through the police negotiating board.

Two clear issues are at stake. First, local negotiations should take place in any force that is contemplating the introduction of severance, whether voluntary or compulsory. Those negotiations should involve staff representatives of those officers likely to be affected. Secondly, national negotiations should agree the criteria and terms of any severance schemes so that all are aware exactly what is involved when making an application to the Secretary of State for such schemes.

My amendments to the Police Act 1964 and the Police (Scotland) Act 1967 are intended to cover the point about local negotiation and will ensure that staff representatives are consulted before any application is made for a severance scheme. They are worded in exactly the same way, but two amendments are necessary because of the differing legislation governing policing in different parts of the country.

My other amendment seeks to clarify the Police Negotiating Board Act 1980. At present, the Police Pensions Act 1976 enables the Secretary of State to make regulations as to the times at which and the circumstances in which members of police forces are, or may be, required to retire other than on grounds of misconduct. The Act requires that such decisions should follow consultation with the police negotiating board.

The Police Negotiating Board Act 1980, however, clearly sets out in its first section those matters covered by the Act and severance is not included. That causes a lack of clarity and my amendment intends to rectify matters by clearly including structural severance terms and criteria in matters falling within the scope of that Act.

I should like to discuss amendment No. 13, which deals with the question of the rank of chief superintendent. Through the Bill, the Government have sought to reduce the number of ranks in the British police service. The service generally has nine ranks, with some exceptions in the Metropolitan and City of London forces. The Government argue that reducing the number of ranks will streamline the management of the service—simplify the structure—improve communication and enable officers of high ability to move quickly though the ranks. The Sheehy report suggested doing away with two ranks, but the Home Secretary has decided to reinstate chief inspectors into the service.

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I shall deal with each point in turn: first, streamlining the management of the police service. The most effective way to streamline management, while maintaining quality and effectiveness, is to consider carefully all management posts, keeping only those that are necessary and ensuring that the grade of the post is appropriate to the task. There is no need to have a full hierarchical structure under each post. Only those posts necessary to do the job at the right grade should be in place.

That process is already under way in the police service, with the full and active co-operation of police officers of all ranks. Forces are reorganising using the basic command unit model. As part of the process, the number of posts and the rank that officers should have are critically examined. Police forces no longer have a full hierarchical structure under every rank-they consider carefully what is required and put in place the right number of officers at the right rank.

The large reductions in the number of chief superintendents and superintendents in post in England and Wales is evidence of what has already been achieved. By December 1990, the total number of chief superintendents plus superintendents in post was 2,055. By May of this year, the number had been reduced to 1,612—a reduction of 443, or 21.5 per cent.

When considering simplifying the structure, it should be borne in mind that the current structure has developed over a long period. That is well understood, both inside and outside the police service. It provides a clear distinction of ranks, a good operational command structure and the ability to reward at clear levels. Any reductions in existing command levels will result in unnecessary operational management difficulties and the likelihood of the creation of artificial grades to fill in the gaps. In the professional view of the police service, through associations of chief police officers and superintendents associations, the number of ranks available at present is right.

The improving communication argument presupposes that a problem exists with current lines of communication. Although I accept that communications can always be improved, there is a point beyond which too few levels can cause a breakdown rather than an improvement in communications. We should remember that removing bridges can leave gaps. That was clearly shown in the ill-fated reorganisation of the London ambulance service, when an overly drastic reduction in management grades caused a lack of communication of such proportions that the subsequent failure of the ambulance command and control system resulted in a breakdown.

Enabling officers of high ability to move quickly through the ranks is already something that has been notably achieved by the police service over the years. There is great scope for officers with such ability to progress quickly. The police graduate entry scheme and the special course ensure that officers of high potential are recognised and that their careers are carefully planned. Current conditions of service allow for rank skipping and fast progression—removal of some ranks would do nothing to improve the position. One has to consider only the top echelons of the police service today to recognise that those officers with ability are already able to progress effectively to the top positions.

Ranks exist primarily for operational purposes. We currently have only nine ranks from constable to chief constable, far fewer than any of the armed services and far fewer than the number of grades in the civil service. The Government's proposals will leave only seven ranks operationally to deploy and command a police service in the United Kingdom that approaches 150,000 officers in total—bigger than any of the armed services on their own.

Recent experience of similar measures taken in New Zealand, where a similar police service exists, showed that removal of ranks resulted in the creation of "grades within grades" to replace the removed ranks—an outcome that has proved far less beneficial in terms of operational and career structure. That police service has recently reduced the number of grades to only two. It has gone back to what was there before, but it has not gone back to the post of chief superintendent.

When large-scale public order events have to be commanded, or major criminal investigations have to be carried out, the chief superintendent has a clearly defined role to command and control such operations. The 'blanket' abolition of chief superintendents is likely seriously to reduce that operational command flexibility, with no consequent benefit to the organisation. Retaining chief superintendents will assist in devolving responsibility from chief officer level while at the same time providing management and command resilience in supporting assistant chief constables and chief superintendents, particularly in their absence.

The advent of single-line budgets and national criteria for posts, coupled with police authority involvement and the overview of Her Majesty's inspectorate of constabulary, will result in posts being available only where there is a clear need for them, thus giving better value for money and commonality of structure throughout the force.

The Government are committed to providing the best quality of policing to the public, with the right balance between national standards and local delivery to meet local needs. By supporting amendment No. 13, the House will ensure that forces have the flexibility to structure themselves to meet those commitments. The retention of the rank of chief superintendent will enhance that flexibility; the loss of it will reduce that flexibility. I urge the Government to look at this matter yet again.

Mr. Michael

Despite the ominous sound of the title of new clause 6, I shall speak to a number of simpler issues, some of which were dealt with by the hon. Member for Reading, West (Sir A. Durant).

It is fair to say that, again, I am proposing simple, common-sense amendments. I accept that my saying so is likely to result in a rebuff from the Minister and probably a savaging from the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan). The Opposition have attempted to table reasonable and acceptable proposals. We acknowledge that our debates in Committee showed that the Government have made up their mind on certain issues. Our amendments seek merely to make reasonable changes to the Bill.

In recent years, I have followed with interest what has happened to ranks of the police force. In south Wales, the loss of a number of occupiers of the rank of chief superintendent has slimmed the upper structure, and the passing of responsibility to the local superintendent has resulted in a good deal of local targeting of activity. Our experience has been mirrored in a number of police forces, and I do not understand why the Home Secretary has found it necessary to delete ranks rather than relying on common sense and the natural constraints on chief constables and police authorities to slim ranks and flatten the structures of responsibility. When something is already being achieved, why give it a push in statute, especially when that push takes things slightly too far?

I should like to refer specifically to the ranks of deputy chief constable and chief superintendent. Our amendment seeks not to reinstitute the rank of deputy chief constable but to deal with the consequences of its removal, which the Government have not yet faced up to. It seeks to allow for the possibility that the Home Secretary will, in certain circumstances, be persuaded that the rank of chief superintendent is necessary. It leaves the final decision to the Home Secretary. He and the police authority must be persuaded that a chief constable is right to want a post of chief constable. The Home Secretary would give up very little by accepting the amendment.

The hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland might accuse me of selling the pass, so I should I make it clear that we are not doing so. We say simply that it is sensible to have provision in legislation, rather than legislation absolutely ruling out the possibility of someone being designated as a chief superintendent.

The Bill does not deal with a number of elements of the rank of chief constable. Amendment No. 21 says: A chief constable shall, after consulting his police authority, designate a person holding the rank of assistant chief constable to have responsibility for complaints and for discipline within the force'". Such matters are normally dealt with by a deputy chief constable, but without someone of that rank, who will fulfil those functions? It is clear that the chief constable, who has ultimate responsibility for appeals within his force, should not do so. This amendment would simply deal with the problem by providing a sensible way of ensuring justice for complaints and disciplinary matters.

Amendment No. 23 provides: A chief constable may, after consulting his police authority and the Secretary of State, designate a person holding the rank of assistant chief constable to deputise for him in the exercise of any of the powers and duties of the chief constable. Many chief constables and other senior members of the police force have said that deputising is occasionally necessary, and a large force must have a second person to exercise functions to prevent the chief constable from being overwhelmed by the burdens of his important and onerous office.

The amendment does not reintroduce a deputy but proposes a mechanism under which deputising can take place. The requirement that the Home Secretary should agree to it surely should commend the amendment even to Ministers who wish to set their faces against allowing such delegation under the Bill.

The Association of Chief Police Officers says that an ACC appointed to the office of deputy chief constable will have had experience in a chief-headquarters rank, which will be all the more important following police reform because there will be fewer holders of the rank of chief superintendent. Indeed, there will not be any if the Bill is passed as it stands, and that flattening of the rank structure surely requires that functions be identified.

I agree with the Association of Chief Police Officers that the case for abolishing this important post of more than 30 years' standing has not been made, which is why it does not wish to dispense with it. I suggest, more modestly, that we should simply deal in a sensible and reasonable way with the functions carried out by the deputy.

I have suggested—it requires no change to negotiating patterns or national agreements—that an officer with the rank and salary of superintendent might be designated as a chief superintendent by the chief constable or chief officer of police where special circumstances of command or organisation require it. A chief constable would have to say to the police authority, which would then have to say to the Home Secretary, "Because of the size of our force," or, "Because our town must be policed in a certain way, we believe that it would be best to have a senior officer designated as chief superintendent. He might have a superintendent working with him, but for reasons of command and organisation we would prefer that designation." Such a request would be perfectly reasonable, and I commend the amendment to the Minister.

We suggest that the introduction of performance-related pay for assistant chief constables or chief constables should not be made until draft regulations have been laid before and approved by a resolution of each House. That would deal with the problem of accountability. Performance-related pay should be targeted and should relate to only one police authority. The Home Secretary should first consult the authority and chief officer concerned and lay copies of their representations before Parliament.

The jury is still out on performance-related pay. The Minister has been as trappist as he can be in his responses to requests for evidence about the effectiveness of performance-related pay. In a written answer on 27 June, requesting a list of the possible incentives that he is considering as rewards, he referred me to a previous reply in which he had not answered the question. On 27 June, I asked him to list the police functions that he intends to be subject to measurement to provide a basis for performance-related pay for chief constables. He replied: This matter is under discussion with the relevant interests." —[Official Report, 27 June 1994; Vol.245, c. 423.] He cannot have assured himself that the system will work, because he does not have a system that he can tell the House about.

In answer to a request for the studies and research findings on which he based his decision to introduce a system of performance-related pay for senior police officers", he said: My right hon. and learned Friend"— he is passing the buck already— took account of the argument in support of relating pay to overall performance contained in the report of the inquiry into police responsibilities and rewards. That was the Sheehy report, and we know what happened to that. That is not an effective basis on which to decide the future rewards of the police. The Minister continued: But the most influential factor in the Government's decision to introduce-performance related pay for all ranks in the police service was the benefit it will bring to the police service itself. The Government were asked for evidence and their response was a statement of dogma. They have produced no evidence.

The Minister then said: Distinguishing especially good performance from the average performance provides an incentive to people to improve the effectiveness of their contribution, bringing added benefit to both the organisation and the individual, and is a perfectly reasonable thing to do."—[Official Report, 28 June 1994; Vol. 245, c. 458.] The Government have not produced a shred of evidence to show that PRP would benefit the performance of the police or be to the benefit of the public.

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I can produce evidence from a report of the Institute of Manpower Studies. It is one of many reports from which I could quote. It is entitled "Pay and Performance: The Employer Experience" and it was produced in June 1992. Having referred to previous research, it states: few, if any, studies have demonstrated a causal link between individual performance related pay and increases in productivity. That is the finding for industry and commerce as a whole; it is not confined to the police. Even in terms of the production of widgets, there is little evidence of the benefit of IPRP.

The report then questions whether performance-related pay delivers. It found that rarely was there an effective monitoring and evaluation process built into an IPRP scheme. The report states: This was because most employers did not have clearly articulated objectives for introducing such schemes against which they could measure subsequent success or failure. Furthermore, little thought appeared to be given to the indicators that could be used to measure the effectiveness of the scheme and the type of information that should be collected. There is a direct parallel between that management experience and the fact that the Minister could not answer my question about what he intended to measure to determine the nature of PRP within the police force.

The institute's report refers also to costs and benefits. It suggests that many additional costs are incurred in adopting PRP (such as, preparation of supporting documentation, training, communication strategy etc) but not the level of these costs. When pushed, 'guesstimates' in the region of one to two per cent…were typical. The institute concluded that the lack of monitoring and evaluation and the lack of evidence of the benefits of PRP meant that such schemes should be examined extremely carefully.

When it came to Government policy, the institute reported: Performance related pay has become an important building block in overall Government policy and is perceived"— I stress "perceived"— to be a means of raising public sector efficiency through linking pay to performance levels. Our research would cast doubt on this argument. There is little support, in practice, for the claims that PRP motivates, changes organisational culture for the better or serves to retain high performers. In short, many of the objectives of introducing PRP do not appear to have been realised. As I have said, I have produced one piece of evidence in response to the Government's failure to produce any figures. The Minister should accept the amendment, which would force him at least to make the preparation that is recommended by the institute. He should produce arguments and evidence before he brings forward an untried system for an important public sector service—the police.

Mr. Maclennan

I nearly always agree with the hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael). That being so, I feel some pain when I disagree with him. It is plain from the hon. Gentleman's response to an earlier debate that that feeling is reciprocated; the same can be said of his opening remarks in this debate. I am happy that the hon. Gentleman deployed his arguments so forcefully and effectively, because there is now no need for me to speak at great length in support of the amendments that he has tabled.

Exceptionally, I have appended my name to the amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Reading, West (Sir A. Durant), which is a response to the Government's proposal to abolish the rank of chief superintendent. If the Government did that, they would be making a serious error of judgment based on a hangover from an earlier phase of consideration of the rank structure. That consideration should have been swept aside when it was evidently not necessary to achieve the objective of streamlining or thinning the top ranks of police forces. That process was effectively already under way in another guise, and there was a danger that the Government would seriously interfere with the flexibility of police forces throughout the country and their ability to deploy their manpower in the most effective way that chief constables, in particular, had identified.

The position of chief superintendent is a special one. It is not required in every police force but it is useful in larger city forces. There is a 24-hour responsibility or duty to give effect operationally to the policing objectives or duties that have been set by chief constables. It is recognised that that position or role, where it has been established and exercised, is an important one.

The Government appear to be trying to foist upon the 43 police forces a pattern that is not apt in each police force area. I do not take a dogmatic view. I am not arguing that an exactly similar structure is required throughout the country. I do not say dogmatically that the rank of chief superintendent should be used in all 43 forces. I merely say that the usefulness or otherwise of the rank should not have been determined in the way that the Government deemed appropriate.

The nine police ranks are rather few when a comparison is made with numbers of ranks in the armed services. Evidence has been drawn most effectively from the New Zealand experience to suggest that a contraction of the numbers of ranks leads to serious problems of inflexibility, resulting in a need to create ranks within ranks. That is to be avoided.

The arguments that have been deployed by the Association of Chief Superintendents are manifold, careful and serious, and they deserve consideration. I shall not repeat them all, because I deployed some of them at an earlier stage in our consideration of the Bill. I know that they have been put directly to Ministers and I think that Ministers should respond to them. They have been deployed without rancour. They have been advanced fairly and considerately. Recognition would not amount to a significant backdown by the Government. No one would claim it to be a backdown. That view would not be taken if the Minister conducted a review, recognised the force of the argument and said to the chief superintendents, and the chief constables for that matter, "Yes, you are talking sense."

I hope that the Minister will not argue that when given the choice between chief inspectors or chief superintendents, the Association of Chief Police Officers said, "Well, if we had to choose, we would call for the retention of the rank of chief inspector." It would be unfortunate if he adopted that argument, because the association was given an unacceptable choice. The reality is that ACPO wanted both ranks, and the Minister knows that. I hope that he will not regard a change of mind as a loss of face.

Ministers gain a reputation for strength when they listen to good arguments and respond positively to them. That is what the debate is all about. If the Minister is able to accept that, he will have made the entire exercise worth while.

The arguments advanced by the hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth about performance-related pay were sound, and were adduced in Committee. The Government have produced no evidence in support of the importation of their proposals into policing. I do not propose to rehearse the arguments. I simply use this opportunity to say that my party and I entirely endorse the comments made from the Opposition Front Bench on that issue and will support whatever steps the Labour party may take to press the matter.

Mr. Charles Wardle

I want first to consider the new clauses tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Reading, West (Sir A. Durant). As he has explained, the effect of the new clauses would be to require consultation at both national and local level on any severance provisions that might be introduced for the police service and to make such provisions subject to arbitration.

I have some sympathy with the thinking behind the new clauses. Although I cannot accept them as they stand, I should like to explain the way in which the Government propose to involve the police service before making regulations relating to severance schemes for police officers.

When my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary announced last October the Government's decisions on the recommendations made by the inquiry into police responsibilities and rewards, he said that we intended to make provision for voluntary and compulsory severance schemes for police officers. He made it clear that the use of those provisions by individual forces would, none the less, require the approval of the Secretary of State, which would be given for a limited period only.

The regulations providing for severance schemes will be made under legislation that does not attract the statutory requirements for consultation with the Police Negotiating Board that apply to regulations governing other aspects of police pay and conditions of service. However, the Government do not intend to lay any such regulations before Parliament without giving the police staff associations and police authority representatives the opportunity to comment on them in draft. We therefore propose to operate, on a non-statutory basis, precisely the same consultation arrangements that are required by statute to be applied in respect of regulations dealing with police pensions.

Those arrangements, which were in place before the PNB was established in 1980, have worked well in respect of police pensions regulations. They seem to provide the correct balance between consulting the police service interests about pensions arrangements and having regard to the important wider public sector implications. What we propose will provide a structured means of consulting police service interests about draft regulations dealing with severance on precisely the same basis as applies to pension arrangements, with Parliament's having the final say about the form of regulations.

In view of that assurance, I do not think that there is any need to provide for consultation at local as well as national level on severance provisions. Police regulations are made on a national basis and consultation on them takes place properly at the national level. Our undertaking to consult the relevant interests through the PNB machinery provides all the safeguards that are needed. On that basis, I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Reading, West will feel able to withdraw his new clauses.

The arguments in amendment No. 21 are based on the mistaken premise that, in all forces, it is the deputy chief constable who is in effective charge of complaints and discipline issues. That is not the case. In some forces, those matters are not even nominally the responsibility of the deputy chief constable. In others, while the deputy chief constable may have the nominal responsibility, all decision making takes place at a lower level. It is, and should remain, a matter for the chief constable to decide how to organise his force.

Amendment No. 21 would impose a rigidity on police management structures by requiring the chief constable to nominate one of his assistant chief constables to have responsibility for complaints and disciplinary matters and to consult the police authority as to his choice before implementing it. Such an arrangement would damage flexibility and impinge on the chief constable's operational control.

No doubt the amendment is related to the proposed abolition of the role of deputy chief constable. In many forces, the deputy chief constable handles complaints and disciplinary matters prior to a hearing because, under the present system, the chief constable must remain separate and aloof from them in order to be unbiased when he hears disciplinary cases. However, there is no statutory provision requiring those matters to be under the oversight of a deputy chief constable and, as I have already said, in many forces that is not what happens.

What of amendment No. 23? The essential quality of a deputy is that he or she carries out the full range of duties in the absence of the chief constable. The Bill currently provides for all the powers and duties of a chief constable to be exercised by a designated assistant chief constable in the absence of the chief constable or while the chief constable post is vacant. While the chief constable is available, there is no need for anyone else to exercise his powers or duties. That point was made time and again in Committee. The chief constable is able to delegate to his assistant chief constable whatever tasks he thinks appropriate, and that is thoroughly sensible. Amendment No. 23 adds nothing to the provision already contained in clause 6.

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With regard to amendments Nos. 13, 14 and 66, my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary explained on Second Reading the reasons for the Government's decision to reduce the number of police ranks. There are obviously benefits to the police service in having a less top-heavy management structure. There would be clearer and more direct communication, more officers available for front-line duties and swifter progression for officers through the management hierarchy. All those points must be important. That is why the ranks of chief superintendent and deputy chief constable are to be abolished.

Her Majesty's chief inspector of constabulary, the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Police Federation accept the need for reform of the police rank structure. The issue has already been discussed at great length and the overwhelming opinion is that all the responsibilities currently discharged by superintendents and chief superintendents can be managed more efficiently and effectively within a restructured single superintendent rank.

Amendments Nos. 18 and 19 relate to performance related pay. Bearing in mind the time and the fullness of debate in Committee, if the hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael) is short of interesting breakfast reading tomorrow, he can revisit columns 194 to 199 of our Committee proceedings. I suspect that he would find that reading stimulating—at least the part when I was expanding on the very subject on which he now claims that I was somewhat Trappist.

Amendments Nos. 18 and 19 would introduce unnecessary bureaucracy. They would require approval of regulations by each House of Parliament rather than their being subject to the negative resolution procedure, as at present. They would mean that only one police authority could be covered by one set of regulations. Imagine the weight and pressure on parliamentary business! They would require the Secretary of State to lay police authority and chief constable representations before Parliament.

Although I know it will disappoint the hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth, and in spite of the alluring nature of the entreaties made by the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan)—

Sir Anthony Durant

With regard to the severance matter, the Metropolitan police have introduced some severance arrangements. Where will those arrangements stand when the statutory instrument is produced?

Mr. Wardle

As I have explained, the undertaking that I have given is that there will be consultation, but there will not be a statutory provision for that consultation. I hope that my hon. Friend will accept the undertaking that I have provided.

In spite of the entreaties of Opposition Members, I urge the House to reject the new clauses and the amendments.

Mr. John McFall (Dumbarton)

I will be brief, and concentrate on the issue as it affects Scotland. I lament the fact that, again, the Government have not rethought this matter. Two ranks have been abolished simply because of the revolt in the other place. There has been no consultation in Scotland with the Association of Chief Police Officers (Scotland) or other police ranks. The decision was dogmatic and has meant the flattening of the police structure for its own sake.

When we consider that the police have nine ranks compared with 12 in the civil service and 11 in the Army, it is clear that efficiency in terms of police ranks exists in Scotland. In addition, the Scottish Office has already admitted to the police that no money will be saved through this flattening of the ranks. The police will still be required to do the job. What will happen is that a superintendent will be appointed; he will be labelled a senior superintendent, and the extra money will go to him.

If no money is saved, what are the advantages that the Government seek? Sadly, there will be no advantages, but there will be many disadvantages. Taken together with performance-related pay and fixed-term contracts, what will happen is that ambitious young officers will be content to stay below the rank of chief superintendent and not proceed to those levels where they will be subject to four or five renewals of fixed-term contracts.

Every police force in Scotland is below the median for the United Kingdom in terms of promoted ranks. If the Government think that too many officers are being promoted, they can introduce the on-cost formula and prohibit all police forces from having more than a certain percentage in promoted posts, in terms of either cost or the number of individuals. That would stop forces promoting more individuals than the formula allowed and it would give chief constables the flexibility which they so desperately require and which the Government say they wish to provide. By abolishing those ranks, the Government will interfere with the command structure and introduce a rigidity into operational duties.

For example, the Strathclyde and Grampian regions in Scotland are different by nature. The Strathclyde region has 15 divisional command structures, and each division is larger than the entire size of Dumfries and Galloway. The Grampian region is very much rural-based. I have spoken to the chief constables of both areas. The chief constable in Strathclyde told me that he would like the post of chief superintendent retained, whereas the chief constable in Grampian would like the post of chief inspector retained for operational flexibility. The Government are precluding that by abolishing the two ranks. They should consider that we have had two emergencies in Scotland in the past few years. The first was the Lockerbie disaster—

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

We are keeping the role of chief inspector.

Mr. McFall

I am talking about flexibility for the Strathclyde region, which wants the rank of chief superintendent retained, and the Grampian region, which wants its chief inspectors retained. My point is that the chief constables want that operational flexibility, but the Government are denying them that. The emergencies which occurred, sadly, a few years ago with Lockerbie and only about a month ago with the Chinook helicopter in the Mull of Kintyre, have shown that flexibility is necessary. The Government's proposals will not give that flexibility or operational command structure.

In terms of flexibility, efficiency and decentralised management, I ask the Government to consider what the chief constables have said and allow them the flexibility which these forces of disparate nature require.

Sir Anthony Durant

As I have received reassurances from the Minister, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion. I do not know what Labour will do with regard to the rank of superintendent, but I wish to withdraw the new clause relating to severance provisions.

Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.

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