HL Deb 12 May 1982 vol 430 cc213-4
Lord Gridley

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have any comment to make on the press report that the chairman of the GLC seeks the right to make the appointment to the post of Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis.

Lord Sandys

My Lords, the commissioner is appointed by Her Majesty the Queen under Section 1 of the Metropolitan Police Act 1829 and the Government have no intention of altering that arrangement. I must, however, say that I deplore the remarks made by the chairman of the GLC about the recently announced appointment of Sir Kenneth Newman to succeed Sir David McNee as Metropolitan Police Commissioner next October. Sir Kenneth has a long and distinguished record of service with the police and I believe he is entitled to look to leaders of the community for their goodwill and support in the exacting task he will face.

Lord Gridley

My Lords, while thanking my noble friend for that Answer and recognising that it is part of the campaign by Mr. Livingstone to get control of the police, may I ask whether he would assure the House that there is no intention on the part of Her Majesty's Government to change the present arrangement whereby the Home Secretary is responsible for the Metropolitan area? Secondly, would my noble friend not agree that, at all times, and particularly in the present crisis, the police must be seen to be performing their duties under the law without party political interference or manipulation and that these facts should be carefully underlined?

Lord Sandys

Yes, my Lords, I am happy to give the assurance that my noble friend seeks. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has repeatedly made it clear that the Government do not intend to alter the arrangement relating to the Metropolitan Police. Successive Governments of all complexions have consistently taken the view that arrangements for London are justified by the nature of the problem of policing the capital city and seat of government, and also by the fact that the force provides a number of services on a national basis.

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, while agreeing wholeheartedly with my noble friend that it would be disastrous if the chairman of the Greater London Council were to be given the right to nominate the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis, may I ask whether he is not also aware that it seems strange in these days that the Greater London Council is the only local authority at that level which has no statutory standing at all with the policing of its area? Is he not aware that modern thinking should encourage Ministers at the Home Office and others to work out some way whereby all the good in the present situation is kept, while we modify the present arrangements which leave the Greater London Council in an entirely different position from every other comparable authority?

Lord Sandys

My Lords, while recognising that my noble friend has considerable knowledge in this area, I should like to draw his attention to a very recent document; the report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, on the subject of the Brixton riots, in which he made specific reference to the appointment of the Metropolitan Commissioner. I draw my noble friend's attention to page 130 of the report and ask him to note the words of the noble and learned Lord, who says: In London, I do not recommend any change in the law substituting some other body from the Secretary of State as police authority ". Then he goes on: I do, however, recommend that a statutory framework be developed to require local consultations between the Metropolitan Police and the community at borough or police district level".

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, is it not the case that the point made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, in that report is that there should be some element of local authority consultation in relation to the police? Is it not the case that some of his noble friends do not mind local authority domination of the police so long as it is Conservative Party domination?

Lord Sandys

My Lords, I think the noble Lord has got it quite wrong. This question referred to the appointment of the commissioner and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, is making an addenda to his comments.

Baroness Sharples

My Lords, would my noble friend agree that there is as much danger from an ultra Right-wing leader of the Greater London Council as from an ultra Left-wing leader of the Greater London Council?

Lord Sandys

Yes, my Lords, my noble friend has got it right. This is why the independence of the police authority, be it at county or metropolitan level, is the one thing which is sought.

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