HC Deb 08 November 1999 vol 337 cc777-80

Lords amendment: No. 427, after clause 253, to insert the following new clause—Continuation in post of current Commissioners and Commanders

(".—(1) Any appointment of a person as the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis under section 1 of the Metropolitan Police Act 1829 which is in force immediately before the coming into force of section 248 above shall have effect as from the coming into force of that section as the appointment of that person as the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis under and in accordance with section 9B of the Police Act 1996. (2) If, immediately before the coming into force of section 250 above, there is in force in respect of a person who is one of the Assistant Commissioners of Police of the Metropolis an authorisation under section 8 of the Metropolitan Police Act 1856 (authorisation of one of the Assistant Commissioners to act as Commissioner in case of vacancy, illness or absence) that person shall be taken, as from the coming into force of section 250 above, to have been appointed as the Deputy Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis under and in accordance with section 9D of the Police Act 1996. (3) Any appointment of a person (other than a person in relation to whom subsection (2) above has effect) as an Assistant Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis under section 2 of the Metropolitan Police Act 1856 which is in force immediately before the coming into force of section 252 above shall have effect as from the coming into force of that section as the appointment of that person as an Assistant Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis under and in accordance with section 9F of the Police Act 1996. (4) Any appointment of a person as a Commander in the metropolitan police force which is in force immediately before the coming into force of section 253 above shall have effect as from the coming into force of that section as the appointment of that person as a Commander under and in accordance with section 9G of the Police Act 1996.")

Mr. Raynsford

I beg to move, That this House agrees with the Lords in the said amendment.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this it will be convenient to take Lords amendments Nos. 428, 429, 535, 584, 585, 759 to 776, 782 to 785, 796 to 798 and 808 to 819.

Mr. Raynsford

As the House will be aware, this group of amendments covers four separate areas. I beg the House's indulgence to take a little time to explain their significance.

The four areas covered are: senior ranks of the Metropolitan police; the secondment of Met officers to county forces affected by changes to the boundary of the Metropolitan police district; pensions of civilian staff of the Met; and consequential amendments to various statutes. I shall take each set of amendments in turn.

Amendments Nos. 427 and 428 are concerned with the ranks of the Metropolitan police force. Amendment No. 427 inserts a new clause which makes transitional provision in respect of those individuals in one of the four senior ranks of the Metropolitan police—commissioner, deputy commissioner, assistant commissioner or commander—on the date when the new provisions applying to the appointment of those ranks come into force. That date will be the 3 July 2000. The new clause provides that those individuals will be deemed to have been appointed under the new arrangements inserted into the Police Act 1996 by the Bill, rather than under the various Acts covering the Metropolitan police, under which they would originally have been appointed.

Amendment No. 428 clarifies the wording in new section 9H of the 1996 Act, which sets out the ranks that may be held in the Metropolitan police. These are the four senior ranks to which I have already referred, and the ranks of superintendent, chief inspector, inspector, sergeant and constable.

The wording of the Bill as introduced into another place might have been regarded as being ambiguous about whether the four senior ranks are indeed to be regarded as ranks of the Metropolitan police force. It is the intention that they should be treated as ranks and accordingly subject to regulations made under section 50 of the 1996 Act. The amended wording puts the matter beyond doubt.

The next amendment, No. 429, deals with the secondment of Met officers. The new clause inserted by the amendment gives power to the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis to provide police officers to the county police forces of Essex, Hertfordshire and Surrey. Those three forces will have the area that they police enlarged on 1 April 2000, when the boundaries of the Metropolitan police district are reduced to bring them into line with the outer boundary of Greater London. Changes to these boundaries are provided for by clause 255 of the Bill.

In order to police their enlarged areas, Essex, Hertfordshire and Surrey will need additional officers. It is of paramount importance that there is a seamless transfer of responsibilities between the Met and the county forces on 1 April 2000, so that the public do not suffer any loss of service during the handover period.

The new clause will enable Met officers to be loaned to the county forces for a period of time which we would expect to be between six months and two years. During that period, they will retain the pay and allowances of a Metropolitan police officer, but will be under the direction and control of the chief constable of the force to which they have been seconded. At the conclusion of the secondment period, the officers would return to the Met.

The third set of amendments is concerned with pensions. As the House will know, we wish to ensure that the organisational changes that we are introducing to London do not adversely affect the terms and conditions of the staff involved. That extends to their pension rights.

Amendment No. 763, which is introduced by amendment No. 762, makes changes to section 15 of the Superannuation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1967, which governs the payment of pensions to the civil staff of the Metropolitan police. These staff are on the Metropolitan civil staff superannuation scheme, which is analogous to the principal civil service pension scheme. This means that such staff receive the same benefits as civil servants.

Amendment No. 763 supersedes the minor amendments to section 15 of the 1967 Act, which schedule 22 to the Bill already provides. It has a number of features. First, it amends the definition of who is a member of the Metropolitan civil staffs—that is, the definition of those staff who are members of the MCSSS. At present, there are two categories within this definition. One group is staff employed under the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, or the receiver. The other category is made up of justices clerks in inner London. The latter category is not changed by the amendment, but the first is changed to staff who are employed by the Metropolitan police authority. This reflects the fact that the MPA will become the employer of Met staff on 3 July 2000.

Secondly, the amendment preserves entitlements to benefits accrued under the MCSSS scheme by staff who are not current employees on 3 July 2000, and who are not therefore within this definition.

Thirdly, the amendment provides for circumstances in which staff currently on the MCSSS—or who have built up entitlements under that scheme—might move on to another pension scheme. These are set out in sub-paragraph (2D) for post-July 2000 members of the MCSSS and in sub-paragraph (9) for former members of the MCSSS who have benefit entitlements.

Amendment No. 535 inserts an extra provision into clause 322, which requires that the Secretary of State must consult with the MPA and obtain the consent of the Minister with responsibility for the civil service before making an order under that section relating to pension transfers of MPA employees. The likely purpose of any such order would be to place those employees on to the PCSPS. As I have already mentioned, clause 309 includes the MPA among the list of bodies covered by section 1 of the Superannuation Act 1972.

Hon. Members will be extremely relieved to know that I come now to the final set of amendments, which make various consequential changes to legislation dating back to the last century. Schedule 22 already makes numerous such changes, which are required to reflect the creation of the Metropolitan police authority and the eventual abolition of the office of receiver. The amendments add a few more to that list and to the repeal schedule—schedule 27. They apply various provisions to the MPA to bring it into line with other police authorities and delete a few more references to the receiver. Such references will be repealed as and when the powers are no longer exercised by the receiver. The amendments remove some references to Commissioner and Assistant Commissioner, which will no longer be needed once those two posts are made police ranks, and tidy up a couple of references affected by the Access to Justice Act 1999.

Mr. Simon Hughes

We should like to place on record our thanks to the receiver—as we did in Committee—whose post will disappear in the transition. The receiver is a real person, despite having a title that most people would not understand. Intriguingly, he has played a constitutionally significant role in the history of the Met, and has been important in terms of its expenditure. In my experience, he has always done the job courteously and helpfully, and has assisted colleagues in trying to get to the bottom of matters that concern us and our constituents. We thank him for his work.

Secondly, we support the Government's proposal to rationalise the boundaries of the Met with those of Greater London. That was not in the original Green Paper, but was agreed as a result of representations, and the new arrangements will give a logical boundary to the Met. It is therefore sensible, as the Minister said, for a transitional arrangement to allow people who are serving in Metropolitan police district areas which are in the counties surrounding Greater London to be temporarily seconded. We are relieved to note that they will return to the Met, which, on this occasion, will not be the subject of salami-slicing. The numbers are well below establishment and we should like to see them return to establishment levels.

Thirdly—and I merely flag this up, as I know the Home Office is responsible for policing in the broader context—the police pensions bill in England and Wales rises every year, as more police officers retire, but the pensions must be funded out of the allocated money to police forces under the normal budgetary allocations. My right hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) and others have referred to the possibility of the pensions of fire, civil defence and ambulance personnel being taken out of the normal revenue budget context, sooner rather than later, and put somewhere else. In that way, a huge increase in pensions payments would not have to be paid for out of any increase in revenue provided by the Government in a particular year, which would be a welcome development.

I appreciate that the Minister cannot simply announce a new policy now, but a request to colleagues in the Treasury and the Home Office as well as those in his Department to look positively at such proposals would be widely welcomed.

Mr. Raynsford

I wish to associate the Government with the hon. Gentleman's remarks about the excellent work done by the receiver over 170-odd years.

Mr. Hughes

Not the same one.

Mr. Raynsford

Of course not, but the post goes back a long time. I have to disappoint the hon. Gentleman, however, because although the Bill presages the disappearance of the post of receiver, it can be seen from the next group of amendments that that does not happen quite yet. The receiver will have a role to play for a bit longer.

I welcome the hon. Gentleman's support for the boundary changes and the transition arrangements. I shall not rise to the bait in respect of his comments about police numbers.

The hon. Gentleman's third point about pension costs goes far wider than the Bill's remit, as he recognised. His comments are on the record and will be seen by my right hon. Friends the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Home Secretary, but it would be wrong for me to make a commitment on something that goes far wider than the debate before us.

Lords amendment agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 428 and 429 agreed to.

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