§ 7.25 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Hughes.)
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [The LORD MERTHYR in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1:
§ "(2)(a) Before making a scheme under this section the Secretary of State shall give to the police authorities concerned a notice describing the general nature of the proposed scheme and specifying the period within which objection may be made thereto.
§ (b) If, within the period specified in the notice, a police authority to whom notice has been given gives notice to the Secretary of State of an objection to the proposed scheme or any feature of that scheme, the Secretary of State shall, before making the scheme, cause a local inquiry to be held in respect of that objection by a person appointed by him (who shall not be an officer of police or of any Government department).".
LORD DRUMALBYN moved, in the proposed new subsection 2, in paragraph (a), to leave out all words after "shall" down to and including "specifying", and to insert:
send a copy of the proposed scheme in draft to the police authorities concerned and shall specify".
The noble Lord said: The effect of this Amendment is that for the present provision, which says that the Secretary of State
shall give to the police authorities concerned a notice describing the general nature of the proposed scheme
there shall be substituted these words:
shall send a copy of the proposed scheme in draft to the police authorities concerned".
As I mentioned on the Second Reading of the Bill, Lord Birnam, in the case of The Provost, Magistrates and Councillors of Ayr v. The Lord Advocate, in 1950, said the parties should have the opportunity of putting before the commissioner not only their views as to whether there
should or should not be an amalgamation but also their comments, if any, upon the details of the approved scheme. It seems to follow that the details of the draft scheme should be available to the police authorities.
§ The Bill as drafted does not provide for this, but the noble Lord opposite has been kind enough to send me a note about this and he says that even in the Ayr case a copy of the draft scheme was sent and there is no reason why it should not be sent in this case. However, I should have thought it was better to send a copy of the proposed scheme in draft so that the police authority could consider the whole scheme as it is in draft and also its details. It is true, of course, that as the Bill is drafted it is open to a police authority to object not only to the scheme as a whole but to any feature of that scheme. However, unless they are given the complete draft scheme, of course they will not be in a position to object to any feature of the scheme. Therefore, it seems to me that on balance it is better to provide for the proposed scheme to be sent as a whole in draft, rather than simply a note of the general nature of the scheme, with or without the draft scheme. I beg to move.
Page 1, line 9, leave out from ("shall") to ("the") in line 11 and insert ("send a copy of the proposed scheme in draft to the police authorities concerned and shall specify").—(Lord Drumalbyn.)
§ LORD HUGHES
As the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, has explained, his Amendment would oblige the Secretary of State to send a draft amalgamation scheme rather than a notice describing the general nature of the scheme to the police authorities concerned. The noble Lord has referred to the case of Ayr Burgh v. The Lord Advocate, in 1950, and has quoted Lord Birnam in that connection. In the Ayr case the Secretary of State prepared a draft scheme before the inquiry was held and placed it in the hands both of the police authorities concerned and of the commissioner who conducted the inquiry. Counsel for Ayr Burgh argued that the Secretary of State should not have prepared a draft scheme until after the inquiry had been held and that it was premature and misleading to place a draft scheme in the hands of the Commissioner.
709 Lord Birnam's remarks appear therefore to have been directed to counsel for the pursuers and not to the Secretary of State. His opinion would seem to support the conclusion that the Secretary of State should supply the police authorities not only with a notice of the general nature of the proposed scheme but with a draft scheme of amalgamation as well, and that both should be available to the person conducting the inquiry. If Lord Birnam's opinion is followed—and I should say that any Secretary of State would surely hesitate to disregard it—police authorities would be provided with a draft scheme of amalgamation before the inquiry is held and the draft would also be given to the person holding the inquiry. The noble Lord's Amendment bears precisely on this point and makes specific provision by Statute for this practice.
The Government have no difficulty, therefore, in accepting the principle of the noble Lord's Amendment. However, if the Bill were amended in the form of the Amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, certain consequential Amendments later in the Bill would also be required. For this reason I invite the noble Lord not to press his Amendment, so that I may have an opportunity to consider a slightly different form of words before we return to the matter at the next stage.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
I willingly accede to the noble Lord's invitation and beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
LORD DRUMALBYN moved, in the proposed new subsection (2), to add to paragraph (b):
and may, if after considering the report submitted to him by that person he so determines, make the scheme either in accordance with the aforesaid draft or with such alterations as he may think fit.
§ The noble Lord said: May I preface this Amendment by saying that I apologise to noble Lords opposite for detaining them at this comparatively late hour. This is a matter of considerable importance to Scotland. We are very anxious to get on with these amalgamations of police forces, and the fact is that a Court of Session case brought amalgamations to a rather sharp halt some twenty years 710 ago, and we do want to be quite certain we get the law right on this occasion.
§ This Amendment seeks to make quite certain that after the report of the commissioner has been submitted to the Secretary of State, and the Secretary of State proceeds to make a scheme by order, he may make such alterations in the draft scheme as he thinks fit. In other words, there must not be any question at all of the scheme as submitted to inquiry having to be either accepted in full or rejected in full. The Secretary of State should have the power or right to make modifications in it following upon the report of the commissioner. That is the purpose of this particular Amendment. I am certain that this is a power which the noble Lord opposite is determined that the Secretary of State shall retain, and I am a little doubtful whether, under Section 18 of the Police (Scotland) Act, as drafted at the present time and as amended by this Bill, that power would subsist. There is some doubt about it—I do not go further than that. But we want to make quite certain this power does exist. I beg to move.
§ Amendment moved—
§ Page 1, line 20, at end insert the said words.—(Lord Drumalbyn.)
§ LORD HUGHES
Lord Drumalbyn's second Amendment is designed to make it absolutely clear that the Secretary of State, in laying a draft order before Parliament is not bound to lay the identical draft amalgamation scheme which he sent to the police authorities and which was in the hands of the person holding the inquiry. Instead, he may modify it in the light of the report of the inquiry, upon representations by the police authorities concerned, or in such other manner as he thinks fit. This is, of course, no more than common sense, and I should have no hesitation in going along with the noble Lord were it not for the fact that I am advised that Section 18(1) of the Police (Scotland) Act 1956 already has the effect which this Amendment seeks to achieve.
However, having been given that advice, which was followed by reference to another section of the same Act, it has continued in my own mind the same doubts which arose in the mind of the 711 noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, and without further proof I am not disposed at this stage to accept the advice which I have been given. I wish, therefore, to have the matter further looked into. But I will add this. I share Lord Drumalbyn's taste for making explicit what is implicit, and I should welcome the opportunity to give the point further consideration before Report stage. I should therefore be grateful if the noble Lord would agree to withdraw his Amendment upon this assurance, that he and I are thinking completely alike in this matter.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
Again I am grateful to the noble Lord for what he has said, and I willingly accept the invitation. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ On Question, Whether Clause 1 shall stand part of the Bill?
§ 7.35 p.m.
§ LORD HUGHES
I should like to take this opportunity to correct a point on which I inadvertently misled your Lordships on Second Reading, and to deal more fully with certain points which I was able to answer only perfunctorily at the time. I was asked by Lord Drumalbyn about the role of Parliament in relation to amalgamation orders and whether there was power to annul an order laid by the Secretary of State under the 1956 Act. Under that Act,A draft of any statutory instrument embodying an orderunder Section 18together with a copy of the proposed scheme to which the order applies, shall be laid before Parliament; and where a local inquiry has been held under this section with respect to the proposed scheme a copy of the report of the person by whom the inquiry was field shall also be laid before Parliament with the said draft.The Police (Scotland) Act 1946 went on to say explicitly that…if either House within the period of 40 days beginning with the day on which the draft scheme is laid before it resolves that the scheme be not made, no further proceedings shall be taken thereon.But the 1956 Act, which repealed the 1946 one, does not add this.
However, if the noble Lord will refer to the Explanatory Memorandum which accompanied the Police (Scotland) Bill 712 1955 (Command 9435) he will find in the notes on Clause 18 the following passage:The reference in Section 2(3) of the Act of 1946 to the resolution procedure in Parliament has been omitted because Section 6(1) of the Statutory Instruments Act 1946, automatically applies that procedure.The statement which I made on Second Reading is therefore correct in so far as orders made under Section 18 of the 1956 Act are concerned, and the procedure under the 1956 Act does not differ from that under the 1946 Act. This procedure is not affected by the Bill now before your Lordships and the role of Parliament in relation to the making of these orders is, as I said earlier, unchanged.
To reassure your Lordships in this connection, I cannot do better than quote from Lord Birnam's opinion in the Ayr case, when, in referring to Section 2(3) of the 1946 Act, he said:The provisions of this subsection make it plain that Parliament has not delegated to the Secretary of State but has expressly reserved to itself the final decision as to whether a police authority shall or shall not have its autonomy extinguished and its powers merged with those of an adjoining area".Here I come to the point on which I was led into error, and this relates solely to the procedure for orders implementing voluntary amalgamation schemes submitted under Section 17 of the 1956 Act. In this case, the Parliamentary procedure is governed by Section 36(2) of the 1956 Act which provides that:Any power conferred by this Act (except section one thereof) to make regulations, rules or orders shall be exercisable by statutory instrument, and except where otherwise provided any such statutory instrument shall be laid before Parliament after being made.In this case the orders are not subject to further Parliamentary proceedings, and I must apologise for saying that they were subject to the Negative Resolution procedure. I wrote to the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, as soon as I discovered the error which had been made, but I thought it would be better, the wrong statement having been made at the preceding stage, that the correct information should be stated by me so that the Record becomes correct.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
I am grateful to the noble Lord for that statement, but my reaction to it, I am bound to say, is that if such a statement is needed, 713 then would it not be much better to make explicit in the Bill the fact that a statutory instrument made in the case of a scheme which has been the subject of an inquiry is subject to the Negative Resolution procedure in this House? Would it not be much better to make that fact quite clear in the Bill? Both the noble Lord and I have been misled by the terms of the 1956 Act and, looking back on this, it is difficult to see why the 1956 Act omitted what was explicit in the previous Act and left it to interpretation only by experts. Would it not be much better to have the terms of the Bill made clear on the face of it?
I can see how the noble Lord's mind is working at the present time, and I accept that this was a Conservative Party Bill. But, all the same, we live and learn; and here it is: both he and I have been misled by the absence of specific provi- 714 for Parliamentary procedure, for the annulment Negative Resolution procedure in this House. Would it not be better to have this put in the Bill?
§ 7.42 p.m.
§ LORD HUGHES
I also live and learn, and, having been led into error in the last minutes of the last stage by giving an answer to a query like this from Lord Drumalbyn, on this occasion I should prefer to read it tomorrow and then communicate with him further afterwards.
§ Clause 1 agreed to.
§ Remaining clause agreed to.
§ House resumed: Bill reported to the House without Amendment.
§ House adjourned at sixteen minutes before eight o'clock