HC Deb 10 July 2002 vol 388 cc952-69

().—(1) The chief officer of police of any police force may designate any person who is a local authority employee as an community support officer, subject to the agreement of the local authority concerned.

(2) A chief officer of police shall not designate a person under this section unless he is satisfied that that person—

  1. (a) is a suitable person to carry out the functions for the purposes of which he is designated;
  2. (b) is capable of effectively carrying out those functions; and
  3. (c) has received adequate training in the carrying out of those functions and in the exercise and performance of the powers and duties to be conferred on him by virtue of the designation.

(3) A person designated under this section shall have the powers and duties conferred or imposed on him by the designation.

(4) A designation under this section shall confer powers and impose duties on the designated person by means only of provisions specifying the provisions of Part I of Schedule 4.

(5) An employee of a local authority authorised or required to do anything by virtue of a designation under this section—

  1. (a) shall not be authorised or required by virtue of that designation to engage in any conduct otherwise than in the course of that employment; and
  2. (b) shall be so authorised or required subject to such restrictions and conditions (if any) as may be specified in his designation.

(6) Where any power exercisable by any person in reliance on his designation under this section is a power which, in the case of its exercise by a constable, includes or is supplemented by a power in reliance on that designation shall have the same entitlement as a constable to use reasonable force.

(7) Where any power exercisable by any person in reliance on his designation under this section includes power to use force to enter any premises, that power shall not be exercisable by that person except—

  1. (a) in the company, and under the supervision, of a constable; or
  2. (b) for the purpose of saving life or limb or preventing serious damage to property.

(8) In this section local authority means—

  1. (a) in relation to England, a district council, a London borough council, the Common Council of the City of London or the Council of the Isles of Scilly; and
  2. (b) in relation to Wales, a county council or a county borough council.'.—[Norman Baker.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

7.27 pm
Norman Baker

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Madam Deputy Speaker

With this we may take the following: Amendment No. 67, in clause 9, in page 10, line 34, leave out paragraph (d) and insert— '(d) he is a person in relation to whom a designation under section (police powers for local authority employees) is in force.'

Amendment No. 64, in clause 38, in page 39, line 6, after "force", insert— ', after consulting the principal local authority for that area,'.

Amendment No. 63, in page 39, line 14, at end insert— '(2A) At the end of the first year the police authority maintaining that police force shall give its approval for the continued designation of persons under section 38. (2B) If a police authority maintaining that force does not give its approval, it shall inform—

  1. (a) the Secretary of State; and
  2. (b) the chief officer of police for that area who shall withdraw all designations under section 38 and make no further designations for a period of not less than one year.'.

Amendment No. 65, in page 41, line 37, leave out Clause 40.

Government amendments Nos. 27 to 29

Amendment No. 66, in page 42, leave out Clause 41.

Amendment No. 69, in clause 42, page 43, line 38, after second "or", insert— 'section (police powers for local authority employees).'.

Amendment No. 68, in page 43, line 38, leave out— 'his accreditation under section 41'.

Amendment No. 70, in page 43, line 39, leave out from "or accreditation".

Amendment No. 72, in page 43, line 42, after second "or", insert— 'section (police powers for local authority employees).'.

Amendment No. 71, in page 43, line 42, leave out— 'his accreditation under section 41'.

Amendment No. 73, in page 43, line 45, leave out "or accreditation".

Amendment No. 74, in page 43, line 46, leave out "or accreditation".

Amendment No. 75, in page 44, leave out lines 1 to 4.

Amendment No. 76, in page 44, line 5, leave out "or accreditation".

Amendment No. 78, in page 44, line 6, after "or", insert— 'section (police powers for local authority employees).'.

Amendment No. 77, in page 44, line 6, leave out "41".

Amendment No. 79, in page 44, line 7, leave out "or accredited person".

Amendment No. 80, in page 44, line 7, leave out "or accreditation".

Amendment No. 81, in page 44, line 15, leave out subsection (6).

Amendment No. 82, in line 37, leave out subsection (10).

Amendment No. 83, in page 44, line 44 leave out Clause 43.

Government amendment No. 33

Amendment No. 84, in clause 45, in page 46, line 17, leave out "or 5".

Amendment No. 85, in page 46, line 18, leave out from "in" to the end of line 19 and insert "that Schedule".

Amendment No. 86, in page 46, line 20, leave out from first "of to end of line 21 and insert "that Schedule".

Amendment No. 88, in page 46, line 34, after "or", insert— 'section (police powers for local authority employees).'.

Amendment No. 87, in page 46, line 34, leave out "41".

Amendment No. 89, in page 46, line 35, leave out— 'or, as the case may be, 5'.

Government amendments Nos. 36 to 38

Amendment No. 90, in clause 47, in page 47, line 43, leave out paragraph (b).

Amendment No. 91, in page 48, line 1, leave out "or accredited".

Amendment No. 92, in page 48, line 8, leave out paragraph (b).

Amendment No. 93, in page 48, line 15, leave out "or an accredited person".

Amendment No. 94, in page 48, line 17, leave out— 'or that he is an accredited person'.

Amendment No. 95, in page 48, line 19, leave out "or accredited".

Amendment No. 96, in page 48, line 24, leave out "or accredited person".

Amendment No. 97, in page 48, line 26, leave out "or accreditation".

Amendment No. 98, in clause 48, page 48, leave out lines 29 to 33.

Amendment No. 99, in page 157, line 38, leave out Schedule 5.

Norman Baker

I promise not to address each amendment in this group; otherwise we would be here for some considerable time. Indeed, I shall be reasonably brief, as I am conscious of the hour. and also of the following groups of amendments, which we want to reach tonight. I do not want to repeat last night's debate, except to remind hon. Members that our vision for policing is not—unfortunately, from our point of view—the vision set out in the Bill.

Our vision is based on simplicity, accountability, efficiency and effectiveness, and having in post people who are properly trained. We are not convinced that the configuration proposed by the Government achieves those ends. Our vision is to have both police officers as we have at present, full-time, part-time or specials, and community support officers—an idea that, I might remind the Minister, we suggested in our manifesto and have always supported in principle.

We believe that for the purposes of simplicity and effectiveness, and of ensuring that as many people as possible are used to tackle the issues that we have been discussing under the Bill, the category of community support officers should include traffic wardens, and vice versa, because of their powers. That was the point that we were making when we voted on new clause 8.

That would provide a simplicity and an accountability that I believe are lacking in the Government proposals. Last night the Minister said he thought that we might get there in the long run, but that the question was whether we should try to create that structure from the start. There is a genuine disagreement across the Floor of the House on how we should approach that matter. We are clear that the Government proposals will provide not simplicity. but a plethora of different people with different powers, according to where they are in the country. Indeed, the powers could be different on different sides of the street when people crossed from one borough or district to another.

Accountability will be missing, especially from accredited officers who are not even employed by a public authority. There is also a question mark over whether they will be efficient and effective—two of the Government's key tests—if people do not even know what powers they have, and there is no clear relationship, in the public's mind at least, between the various bodies created and the people who staff them.

With that in mind, we have tried to address some of the issues. New clause 9 is an attempt to ensure that community support officers, as well as being employed by the police, could also be employed by local authorities. That would ensure accountability, because local authorities are democratically elected. It would also build on the Government's welcome initiative of crime and disorder partnerships, which are clearly working.

7.30 pm

The sorts of powers that we, and the Government, wish to give to CSOs would fit in well with those partnerships, and it is proper that local authorities should play a role in them. I speak as a former council leader, and I see another, the hon. Member for Hove (Mr. Caplin), in his place on the Treasury Bench. Such measures would be simpler and more understandable, not to mention closer to the community—to pick up the point made in the last debate about ensuring accountability and community involvement. We already have a precedent, because traffic warden powers have been exercised locally. That Government initiative is working well in those areas in which it has been deployed. The Government have conceded that principle: we seek to extend it to CSOs. That is the gist of new clause 9.

I hope that the Government will recognise the value of giving local authorities a clearer role in the sorts of powers that they wish to give to CSOs. That appears to me to be an uncontroversial suggestion. The CSOs would, of course, have to be approved by the local chief constable, and they would have to be properly trained. The chief constable would also need an input into what the CSOs were doing. I shall not discuss those caveats at length, but I do recognise the need for some police involvement.

It is impossible to address all these amendments, but I shall turn now to the other main issue of concern, which is the issue of accredited officers. It may not be widely known outside the House, but the Bill presages the suggestion that a whole range of people should be given police powers, without being accountable to the police or to local authorities. That strikes Liberal Democrats as a dangerous precedent. It would mean that companies—including those that are highly regarded, or otherwise—could have employees with police powers. The Government have introduced amendments to include the railway industry, so that could mean that employees of companies such as Jarvis or Tesco could have police powers. That would be dangerous. Without overstating my case, I suggest that it would amount to a part-privatisation of policing, and we would resist that. I am surprised that a Labour Government have made such a suggestion.

The measures would also open the door to policing for profit. Those companies who employ the accredited persons will clearly wish to have them act in the interests of that company rather than of the general public, and those interests are not necessarily the same.

As we discussed in Committee, to make matters worse, those employees of private companies would undertake public police functions without being subject to the Independent Police Complaints Commission, which the Bill will rightly set up and of which everybody approves. That body will deal with police officers and with CSOs, but it will not deal with those private sector accredited persons. Not only will they have dubious powers, but they will not even be accountable in the same way. We have tabled an amendment, which appears in the next group, on that point.

I am sorry if I am being hard on the Minister when I say that in Committee he at no stage gave a philosophical justification for giving private sector employees these powers. He explained why it was necessary to have some people who exercised low-level police powers—nobody disagrees with that—but he has not explained why it is acceptable that they will not be democratically accountable in the way that CSOs will be and police officers clearly are at present.

The Minister has also failed to address the point that members of the public may resent being confronted by a private sector employee who wishes to exercise police powers. That will cause further problems for policing at a time when we are trying to make it more acceptable and better rooted in the community. A member of the public who would be prepared to accept a ticket for littering or some other minor offence from a police officer, or even a CSO, may not be prepared to accept it in the same spirit from a Tesco employee. The Government must address the point that they will create problems in understanding the chain of accountability and the possibility that people will resist tickets and other enforcement measures that will form part of the powers that will be given to those accredited officers. The Minister is in danger of undermining respect for the law through allowing private sector employees to exercise those powers.

Simon Hughes

Connex, the railway company, has shown that it is possible to train staff to be police officers, because some of its staff have been sworn in as special constables. They have proper authority because they have had proper training. If the private sector wants to make a contribution, that is a much more legitimate, acceptable and effective way to do it. We have not heard much about that alternative, which, I suggest, the public would prefer.

Norman Baker

I am grateful for that intervention. The Connex experiment is an interesting one that perhaps the Government could build on, instead of seeking to create a new tier of accredited persons, who will not have that accountability.

Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath)

The hon. Gentleman will recall that I raised the same point in Committee. I said to the Minister that it was extraordinary that one Minister should suggest that the proposals in this Bill are the right way forward, at the same time as his colleague the Minister for Transport was doing lots of media work about the Connex experiment and claiming that specials were the way forward. I suggested that the Government were all over the shop on that point.

Norman Baker

I fear that that is so. In Committee, it also became clear that scant attention has been paid to the opportunity to increase the number of specials, when we should have concentrated on that approach. The number of specials has dropped dramatically in the past five years, and we now have only some 12,000. I put on record the fact that Ministers rejected attempts to improve conditions and provide a bounty payment for specials that my colleagues and I proposed in Committee. We made constructive suggestions in that area, and it is odd that the Government have rejected those suggestions while choosing to employ private sector employees in a quasi-policing role.

I will not develop my arguments further because of the time factor, but this issue is of key importance, both practically and philosophically. It is wrong for private sector employees to be given police powers. Apart from the principle of the issue, they will act in the interests of the private company, not of the public. The measure will not be conducive to good policing, and the fact that the accredited persons will be outside the complaints procedure only underlines our determination to oppose the proposal. I give notice of our intention to divide the House on amendment No. 65, which relates to that proposal.

Mr. Paice

The hon. Member for Lewes (Norman Baker) places my colleagues and myself in a slightly difficult position. While we agree with much of what he has said, we do not agree with the substantive content of his amendments. We have never made any secret of our concerns about the concept of accredited community support officers. That is not because—as Labour Members have suggested—we oppose the involvement of the voluntary sector. I have seen, as others have, countless examples of street wardens, neighbourhood wardens and ambassadors—there are many different names for them—voluntarily helping the police. Some of them wear uniforms, and some do not. I have spoken to many people who provide that service and, without exception, they are happy to do so, but they do not want the powers envisaged in schedule 5.

We strongly support those schemes, and I want them to be expanded and enlarged. I have no objection to the concept that there should be some form of accreditation to prove that the employees are worthwhile, that they meet certain minimum standards, and that the chief constable of their authority is happy with what they do.

We were very worried about the proposal to give those employees police powers. I shall not repeat the Committee debate, but I have some sympathy with the proposition from the hon. Member for Lewes that schedule 5 should be abolished. I have slightly less sympathy with the proposal that all ACSOs should therefore come under schedule 4, although there is a clear logic in suggesting that only one set of powers should be granted to civilians, regardless of whether they are employed in the police service or outside it.

However, we are concerned that the amendments would allow only local authority employees to become ACSOs. I suspect that, in that respect, I shall find that I am all square with the Minister. As he said in Committee, such a measure would place 35 per cent. of street warden schemes outside the requirements that have to be met by accredited community safety organisations. Ruling out such organisations seems a very short-sighted approach. I have therefore told the hon. Member for Lewes privately that the Opposition cannot support that proposal.

The problem goes deeper, as Conservative Members do not share the Liberal Democrats' philosophical objection to using people who are not employed by local authorities. We would obviously be pleased if social landlords and other charitable organisations were to be involved in the scheme, but we are also happy in principle with the idea that private-sector bodies—car park operators, or the operators of large shopping malls, for instance—should be involved. There is some logic in getting them involved, whether or not their operatives are given powers by the chief constable.

I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Lewes about special constables, however. When the Bill first appeared in the other place, we opposed the proposals on this matter, on the ground that using special constables would avoid all the problems about who had what powers. People know exactly who and what special constables are, and what powers they possess. Although we recognise the reality of the situation—as the Minister did in a different context last night—and accept ACSOs as a concept, I entirely share the concerns expressed by the hon. Gentleman that, as yet, little seems to have been done to revitalise the special constabulary. However, that is a debate for another time, and the Committee did consider the matter.

I am afraid that I must tell the hon. Member for Lewes that the Opposition will not support him if he presses the new clause to a Division. However, we have immense concerns about how ACSOs will settle down, not least because of the problem of accountability. The hon. Gentleman mentioned that in his speech earlier, and the matter arose in Committee.

There are also difficulties with regard to uniforms, and whether the officers will be readily recognisable. Other problems include training, and the way in which organisations that employ street or neighbourhood wardens become accredited. The Minister referred to that matter in Committee, but we are still worried about the transitional process involved before ACSOs can use the powers that their chief constable decides to allocate to them.

Most street wardens get only a day or two of training. They may have some experience, but that is no substitute for training if they are to start using police powers. We expressed our major concerns about ACSOs in Committee: the Minister is well aware of them, and I hope and trust that he will have taken them on board. Our concerns are serious, and they need to be dealt with under the regulatory aspects of this part of the Bill.

We accept that ACSOs will be introduced, and we welcome the concept of accrediting the many existing schemes. We retain reservations about the powers to be given to ACSOs, but we accept the situation in Parliament for what it is.

Therefore, although I have much sympathy with many of the points made by the hon. Member for Lewes in moving the amendments, I am afraid that we will not be able to support him in the Lobby.

7.45 pm
Mr. Llwyd

I am ad idem with the hon. Member for Lewes (Norman Baker) on this matter, and believe that he made some important points in his speech.

I do not know why the Government have not expanded the role of special constables over the past few years, or why they have not tried to recruit properly. The Police Federation, the Association of Chief Police Officers and other bodies fully support extending the recruitment of special constables, but I suspect that the Government have set their face against that idea because they do not want to pay for extra special constables, or accord them proper employment rights.

I am not holding my breath, therefore, that there will be an expansion in the numbers of special constables in the foreseeable future. I am not alone in that belief. I hope that I am wrong, for the sake of good policing in the future, but I suspect that I may be right.

I also agree that CSOs could cause resentment and confusion. Traffic wardens are very often subjected to abuse nowadays, even though they are not a recent innovation. They have been around a good many years, and are readily recognisable, but they are nevertheless abused constantly for carrying out their lawful duties.

Policing is a highly specialised occupation. It is a tall order just to expect someone to understand the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, yet that legislation is a basic tenet of police practice.

I believe that the police service as a whole will be brought into disrepute when the ACSOs fail, as they unfortunately will. Police officers will be tarred with the same brush. The proposal smacks of policing on the cheap.

Police officers ask who will train these people. Who will be with them out on the beat, training them in the proper practice of policing? It is appalling that such people will not be subject to independent scrutiny. For the life of me, I cannot understand why that is so.

We do not ask police officers to treat injuries or diagnose illnesses, any more than we ask doctors to be police officers. Both careers are important, and deserve proper respect.

Finally, the notion of hobby bobbies is an awful one.

Angela Watkinson (Upminster)

Will the hon. Member for Lewes (Norman Baker) clarify new clause 9(1), which states: The chief officer of any police force may designate any person who is a local authority employee as a community support officer"? It does not say that the employee should be designated as an ACSO. Is that intentional, or is it a drafting error? Is it the intention that the person involved should continue to be employed by the local authority? The Bill makes it clear that CSOs will be employed by the police.

Norman Baker

I am happy to clarify that we want CSOs to be employed either by local authorities or by the police. We are not in favour of the accredited scheme for the private sector, which is quite different, but I had to deal with both issues in one new clause.

Angela Watkinson

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that clarification. The reservations that I had before are even greater now.

My local authority is the London borough of Havering. It already employs community wardens, and the scheme is working well. The wardens have good relationships with the local police and with members of the community. Their red jackets make them instantly identifiable, and no one mistakes them for police officers. However, the introduction of another tier of officers employed by local authorities would cause a great deal of confusion.

Simon Hughes

I know, in general terms, the arrangements that exist in Havering, and other London boroughs have similar schemes. We do not want to undermine those arrangements. However, if a firm such as Sainsbury's wishes to have community support officers or neighbourhood wardens, for example, we propose that, instead of employing those officers itself, the firm should pay money to the police or the local authority. In that way, the police or the local authority would have a contract with the firm, but the officers would be police or local authority employees. We want to determine where the accountability lies, but we do not want to prevent bodies other than the local authority from helping with policing.

Angela Watkinson

That is several steps too far for me, and I regret that I will be unable to support the new clause.

Mrs. Brooke

I was rather hoping that more Members would share our vision, particularly as in the previous debate speakers on both sides of the House agreed with our basic premise about giving police authorities more accountability. This proposition is largely about accountability and effectiveness.

There is confusion over all the categories in the Bill. People frequently use the wrong terms—a CSO could mean community support officer in one context, with accreditation in another. Confusion is not the best way to support the police and give the public what they want. The different powers are very confusing. The Government's response to the report from the Select Committee on Home Affairs refers to the various uniforms and badges that might be worn and says: Both designated and accredited people will be expected to carry with them details of any powers they have been given. One is tempted to ask whether that is because they need to remember their powers.

I recall a fictitious example in Committee, which was very amusing at the time. A member of the Committee suggested that how he was treated would depend on which side of the road he stood, which would be confusing. If he were on one side, he might feel reassured that he could simply ask the appropriate officer to empty his or her pockets.

The main thing about deterrence is certainty, but these people will not be easily recognised because different uniforms could be worn. I do not think that the different layers will be immediately understood by the public. The resulting uncertainty will mean that the important deterrent effect is lost. If everybody is clear about the role of the people walking around, that will deter people from committing antisocial behaviour.

My local authority has just taken over the powers of traffic wardens from the police. The council wanted to widen the jobs that they might do. If a traffic warden who sees broken glass on the road picks up the phone and tells someone about it, that is sensible. However, there were difficulties with the transfer of powers. I do not think that it will be as easy as the Minister suggested last night to re-engage with a different title. Our amendments would improve matters, giving genuine support to the police and, fundamentally, giving the public the support that they want.

Mr. Adrian Bailey (West Bromwich, West)

I welcome the Bill and oppose new clause 9. In common with most Members who represent urban constituencies, I have, over the years, seen the balance of complaints and concerns expressed at my advice bureau change from those of housing to those of quality of life, including neighbour nuisance, vandalism committed by young people and harassment. It has become obvious to me that even with the scheduled increase in police numbers, we need a force out there to deal with the low-level nuisance that can have such an effect on people.

Norman Baker

I agree.

Mr. Bailey

I welcome the hon. Gentleman's agreement. It is a question of how we set up the organisations to deal with that, and I will come to that shortly.

It has also been obvious to me that whatever we spend on education and health will count for nothing if we cannot address these specific quality of life issues.

Mr. Llwyd

Would the hon. Gentleman be opposed to expanding the special constabulary? Would that not deal with the problems that he describes?

Mr. Bailey

I welcome that intervention. The short answer is no, but I should like to deal with it in a little more detail later.

All other improvements in public services are meaningless if people are frightened to leave their home in case they are harassed or mugged. That is particularly true of elderly people. The irony is that, statistically, elderly people are far less likely to be involved in a mugging or a burglary than young people, but the fear of crime among them is far greater and has a far greater impact on their quality of life.

I am sure that other Members agree that when we knock on doors and see people at our advice surgeries, the overwhelming demand is for more bobbies on the beat. We have all heard the slogan. However, a highly trained policeman walking around an area is probably the least effective way of combating crime. Professional hardened criminals are hardly likely to carry out their activities within sight of a policeman and they have the means of moving on rather more quickly than a bobby on the beat.

What people really want is a person with authority, in a uniform, to offer reassurance, which is the key. I remember, as a child, playing on a football pitch in the local park when I should not have been. When I saw the park keeper approach in his uniform, I was off, to engage in more licit activities, as it were. That is the sort of reaction that we want from young people who may be engaged in activities that impair quality of life, that are not illegal but need to be countered. The prospect of a person in uniform having a presence in areas where that sort of activity takes place is immensely reassuring and, conversely, acts as a deterrent to antisocial behaviour.

We are recruiting more police, but it is questionable whether in urban areas such as mine, even with a huge increase in police numbers, we would have sufficient numbers to carry out that role or even whether it would be an effective use of officers.

Norman Baker

I do not disagree with anything that the hon. Gentleman has said so far. However, does he believe that the group of people whom we both want could be employed by local authorities as well as the police, as new clause 9 suggests? Secondly, does he believe that it is right for private sector companies to employ people with police powers?

Mr. Bailey

I will deal with those points very quickly. The various agencies involved in curbing the problem must work together. That involves local authorities, and I think that accreditation schemes are very worthy because they take partnership working, which has been built up at local level, another step forward. However, I cannot see why that should be confined to local authority employees. In different circumstances, it may be necessary to involve private sector employees. The example of a shopping mall has already been given. The more organisations that have an interest in social supervision, training people and working together with the police, the better it will be.

I shall briefly deal with the issue about the specials raised by the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Llwyd). Yes, I do believe in the specials—they do a grand job—but the hon. Gentleman missed the essential point that most of them already have a full-time occupation and do the job because of their commitment to the community and the ideals of the force that they wish to serve. They do not necessarily want to do that job full-time. To suggest that such problems could be dealt with simply by expanding the special constabulary is to believe a myth.

Mr. Llwyd

That is exactly why I said that special constables should be paid. There would then be more recruitment and, although part-time, they would be fully trained. They would also accrue employment rights, which is want the Government do not want.

Mr. Bailey

Whether they should be paid is part of a bigger debate, but the payment issue would not substantially alter the need for community support officers, the thrust of the Bill and our reasons for opposing the new clause.

8 pm

Simon Hughes

I want to make a brief point to support the case that my hon. Friends have put in Committee and in the Chamber. One of the reasons why I am disappointed that the Government do not understand the merit of our argument that such people should be accountable is that there will be no common standards and practices if different organisations and private companies employ security officers to do the police's support job in any local authority in the land.

In reality, there will be different codes of conduct and those involved will work in different ways. No one can possibly manage to get them all to work in a similar way. As my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Dorset and North Poole (Mrs. Brooke) said, various organisations will have different powers, and those organisations will sometimes have to check which powers they have.

However, there is another civics and citizenship point If we are trying to get youngsters—secondary school children and teenagers—to pay respect to authority, it is far better that they understand that authority resides in people who are publicly accountable and have status in society. I do not know what the experience of colleagues has been, but security guards in shopping centres and car parks are not shown that respect. They are seen not as the representatives of law and order in society, but as looking after the private interests of those with cars in the car parks or shops in the shopping centres.

If we want young people to respect authority, we will mitigate the chances of that by having all sorts of people sharing all sorts of self-defining authority. That will significantly reduce youngsters' respect for the law. I am sad that the Government do not believe that it would be better for the police to police and for them to be accountable only to police authorities or local authorities so that complaints can be raised with properly accountable citizens.

Mr. Denham

I shall try to reply briefly because many of the issues were aired in Committee. The hon. Member for Lewes (Norman Baker) asks for a philosophical argument. I think that a Victorian, Edward Whimper, when asked why he climbed mountains, was the first to answer, "Because they are there." That is part of the answer to this question. Neighbourhood wardens, street wardens, security guards and those responsible for co-ordinating security in major shopping centres are playing the role today.

The accreditation scheme is intended to enable those various people to be effectively co-ordinated by and with the police, but Liberal Democrat Members wish to pass up that opportunity. Indeed, they would go further than simply passing it up; they wish to exclude, as the hon. Member for South-East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Paice) said, a third of all the neighbourhood and street warden schemes because they are run by registered social landlords or other similar bodies. They would be taken out of accreditation. Ironically, the police would undoubtedly still wish to work with those organisations because they exist, but they would be outside any standards and accreditation framework. It is very difficult to understand how that is an advantage over the system that we propose.

The lines of accountability are clear. For example, chief officers will have responsibilities with regard to the accreditation scheme, including the responsibility to ensure that there are clear lines of accountability, complaint systems and so on. There clearly is flexibility about the powers that can be deployed. We discussed that issue last night, but I merely point out that we are discussing the power to make people give their names and addresses, to issue a fixed-penalty notice for riding on the pavement, or to do the same things as local authority dog wardens. In a sense, it is right to say that those are police powers. They certainly conjure up an image of normal policing powers, although they are pretty low-level, but important, public disorder issues.

The amendments would have a serious consequence: they would exclude a large number of very good schemes and make it quite impossible to co-ordinate effectively and properly with private sector providers. They would have the effect of ensuring that anyone from a local authority had to exercise the full powers of a community support officer. We have taken the view that the higher powers should be exercised only by those who work for the police service and are directly employed and accountable to the chief constable.

The hon. Member for Lewes wishes to give local authority employees—they may well be dog wardens or litter wardens—the full powers of CSOs. Even though they work for a local authority, there would not be the accountability to the chief officer that exists under our proposals. Finally, the hon. Gentleman wants the local authority to approve every single named individual appointed as a CSO by a chief officer. What a recipe for bureaucratic nonsense and disaster that would represent.

I refute the idea that we are not interested in the specials, but the point was well made by my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich, West (Mr. Bailey) that we cannot expect those in what is essentially a volunteer force working in their own time to fulfil the patrolling and reassurance duties carried out by full-time employees during their working week. It would be a mistake to do that.

In Committee, I clearly set out—I shall not do so again now—our commitment to reverse the decline in the number of specials and the measures that we are taking to encourage the further recruitment of specials. Those hon. Members who have sought to say that, somehow, the promotion of CSOs or accredited community safety officers represents an alternative in the Government's view to the promotion of specials are, frankly, wrong, and I say that quite genuinely. The advantage of specials has been undersold for many years and to some degree I regret the perhaps inevitable fact that all the focus on the new issue—CSOs and ACSOs—has overshadowed the importance that the Government give to specials as part of the police reform process.

I briefly want to say a couple of other things. This has not been the subject of debate, but I should point out that the Government amendments will involve the Mayor of London in a limited consultation role in relation to ACSOs. That is in line with the type of consultation powers with other local authority bodies that were introduced in another place. It is limited to ACSOs because that parallels other legislation.

Finally, I want make an important point, which has been only touched on, about police authorities and the appointment of CSOs. Police authorities have been concerned about their right to consultation on the appointment of CSOs. In common with other support staff, the right to engage and dismiss civilians lies with chief officers and has been considered as an operational matter. However, I want to make it clear that the Government will expect chief officers fully to consult police authorities before embarking on the employment and designation of CSOs. I cannot imagine that any chief officer would not wish to do so, but I would certainly cover that issue in the code of practice under clause 46 when it is issued if such problems become apparent.

Norman Baker

I certainly welcome the last point that the Minister makes, as the issue was raised in Committee. I also agree with him on consulting the Mayor of London, although I am not sure whether I agree on very much else in his contribution. I shall try to respond very briefly, given the time pressures that we are under.

First, there is nothing wrong with having street wardens. I continually said in Committee that they are a jolly good thing and that they do a very useful job. There is nothing wrong with treating them as we treat bouncers. They should have a code of practice to ensure that they behave in a certain way and that they meet common standards. There is nothing wrong with trying to pull them into the crime and disorder partnership. However, I disagree with the Government because they want to give police powers to such wardens. The essential difference is that we think that they should not have police powers.

The Government view those people as a cheap to produce alternative arm of policing from the private sector. We do not accept that; it is a philosophical difference. Why should I be given a ticket for riding a bike on a pavement by an employee of Jarvis? That is what the Bill will specifically allow. I cited that example in Committee, and the Minister accepted that that will be the case. In fact, he said that it was a good idea that organisations such as Jarvis and those in the railway industry would have the power to issue tickets for cycling on pavements. That is what we face—the Government's proposals do not make sense. The Minister says that he did not say anything of the sort, but the Hansard report of the Committee will show that he did. Liberal Democrats tabled an amendment to try to remove those powers from railway accredited persons.

Mr. Boris Johnson (Henley)

If ACSOs are not going to stop the hon. Gentleman from riding on a pavement, who is?

Norman Baker

Perhaps a community support officer with those powers who is an employee of the police or the local authority—someone who is democratically accountable and properly trained; not an employee of Jarvis or Tesco. That is the answer to that point.

The Minister is right that we want to give all CSOs full powers. We want them to be properly trained, and we want to ensure that a traffic warden, for instance—or someone else who has been properly trained—can deal with an incident on the street. They should not have to ring up someone else because they do not have that power. They should be able to deal with it there and then. We do not want a situation in which people have different powers in their pockets according to which side of the street or which borough they happen to be on or in. That is a recipe for confusion, and the Minister has not addressed that point.

As I am conscious of time, I shall not pursue this matter further. I am not satisfied with the Minister's response, however, and I shall want to divide the House on amendment No. 65 at the appropriate juncture. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.

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