HL Deb 23 March 1993 vol 544 cc184-99

4.9 p.m.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, it may be for the convenience of the House if I now repeat a Statement on the police which is being made in another place by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary. The Statement is as follows:

"The present framework for the management of the police service in England and Wales is based on the Police Act 1964. This has enabled us to deliver by and large a first-class police service over the past 30 years—a police service of which we are justly proud. However, 30 years is a long time. Society has changed in its attitudes and in its expectations. Crime has increased in absolute terms and in terms of its sophistication. In order to strengthen the ability of our police forces to respond to today's demands, I have undertaken a review of the existing system. I should like to outline to the House in broad terms how I propose to improve the police service.

"We all want the police to be able to provide the best possible service—no one more so than police officers themselves. We want the police to protect the public, to prevent crime and to tackle it effectively when it occurs. The police must respond to the needs of local communities and of the victims of crime and use to maximum effect the £6 billion which they spend every year. What we need are the conditions in which the men and women of the police service can give of their best. That means: giving police authorities and police forces greater freedom to decide for themselves how best to spend their money; creating more powerful and business-slike police authorities which will give more leadership to the local police service and ensure that money is spent more effectively; and creating a new police authority for the Metropolitan Police in line with the new national pattern, thereby strengthening local accountability in the capital.

"It also means setting key national objectives for police activity, complementing local objectives agreed by the police authority; measuring performance against these objectives and publishing the results so that the public know what their force has delivered and how well their police force is doing compared with others; reforming the funding arrangements to get the best out of the money spent on policing; and simplifying the procedures for forces to be amalgamated when the time is right.

"I am sure that the House will agree that the principle of operational independence must remain. No Home Secretary and no police authority must be able to direct a chief constable in the conduct of any investigation or in the handling of an operation.

"While maintaining this principle, we need to make a fundamental shift in the relationship between the Home Office and local police forces. I have always believed that organisations run better when responsibility is devolved to local managers. The current financial arrangements shackle police Forces. Far too often decisions that could and should be taken locally are referred upwards.

"Chief constables will in future have greater freedom to manage their resources. In consultation with their local police authority they will be able to decide on the right mix of manpower and equipment needed to meet local needs. They may need more constables on the beat or more civilian staff to free police officers from administrative paperwork. They may need police cars or computers. The choice will be theirs. The current Home Office controls on police manpower will cease. So will those on all but the largest capital projects.

"At the same time I propose to strengthen local police authorities and give them greater autonomy. They will have responsibility for the performance of their force, and I will hold them to account for the results. Their job will be to ensure that policing responds to local needs and concerns. I will expect police authorities to build on their existing statutory responsibility to consult local people in setting the local policing agenda.

"Police authorities need to change to fulfil their new responsibilities. Police authorities should have many fewer members and be more businesslike bodies. There should be broader local representation in their membership, including local people with relevant management experience. I propose that half of the membership should he elected local councillors. The remaining half should be partly local magistrates and partly local people nominated by the Home Secretary on the basis of their knowledge and experience. The chairman of the police authority will be nominated by the Home Secretary from among the overall membership.

"I have also re-examined the role of the Home Secretary in relation to the Metropolitan Police. I propose to establish for the first time a police authority for the Metropolitan Police on the new national model separate from the Home Office and with essentially the same tasks as police authorities elsewhere.

"Greater freedom to manage must go hand in hand with clearer means of calling police: authorities and police forces to account. I propose' to take a power to prescribe national objectives for the police service. I will also expect police authorities to set local performance targets. The results will be published so that comparisons can be made between forces. This will build on the current drive within the police service for better quality of service.

"The present funding arrangements for the police are unsatisfactory. They are cumbersome without giving any effective control of overall expenditure. The present system encourages the increase of police rather than civilian manpower, and there are no incentives to ensure that the best use is made of resources.

"I propose to continue with a joint funding arrangement, with central and local government meeting police authority costs broadly in the same proportions as they do now. All police authorities will in future be constituted as free-standing precepting bodies. The central government contribution will be set at the level necessary to secure an effective police service. It will in future be cash limited. The local contribution will be subject to the overall controls on local expenditure.

"One of my principal objectives behind these structural changes is to encourage devolution of responsibility within police forces to local police units which will be directly accountable to their local communities. Half the forces in the country, including the Metropolitan Police, are already cutting out unnecessary headquarters and management tiers and giving more responsibility to local commanders. As the focus of policing is increasingly shifted from headquarters to local units the role of the force headquarters will change. They should become co-ordinators and supporters of local activity rather than the commanders of local policing.

"As a result we may no longer need 43 separate headquarters maintaining 43 parallel organisations. I have no fixed views about what the right number of forces should be and I have no plans to use the powers in the 1964 Act to amalgamate forces. But I propose that the statutory procedures, which are unduly cumbersome, should be simplified to allow for amalgamations when the time is right.

"The House will be aware of the inquiry under the chairmanship of Sir Patrick Sheehy which is examining police rank structure, pay and conditions of service and is expected to report in May. I will also be issuing shortly a separate consultation document on radical changes to the disciplinary system. Shift systems and training are being overhauled throughout the service. These and the other changes I have announced today extend the principles of The Citizen's Charter through the police service and will complement the wider reforms to police structure and organisation. Together they will constitute the most important reform of the police service for 30 years.

"Over the next few months I will be developing my proposals in more detail. During this period we will be happy to continue to listen to all views. I will then publish a White Paper and legislate when parliamentary time allows.

"My aim, above all, will be to help the police service help us to build a safer and securer society. We must ask what difference we intend our reforms to make to the ordinary man in the street. The answer must be to make his street safer. I commend that objective and the means to achieve it to the House."

My Lords, that concludes the text of the Statement.

4.19 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, the House will be grateful to the Minister for repeating the Statement made in another place. I must apologise to those of my noble friends and others who are deeply concerned with the Education Bill, as indeed I am, for the interruption in those proceedings. However, in a sense, oddly and sadly, the Statement just made echoes many of the centralising tendencies which are evident in the Education Bill. I shall come back to that point in a moment.

I start by saying that there are quite a number of elements in the Statement and in the Government's proposals with which we are in agreement. I should like to indicate those in order to make it clear that in our view there need be no party political element in the discussion of the best way to provide policing services in this country. First, we are delighted to hear that the Government have at least agreed to give way to the pressure which there has been from these Benches, from the Labour Party and others for many years for a police authority in London rather than direct control of the Metropolitan Police by the Home Secretary. That is clearly a step forward, although it is not, as will become clear when we consider the new policing arrangements, as great a step forward as it would have been in a time of democratic accountability.

Secondly, we support the view that the Secretary of State should set key national objectives for police activities and that local performance targets should be set for police forces in accordance with those key national objectives. We support the Government's statement that there should be greater operational autonomy for police forces and that Home Office controls on manpower and most capital projects will come to an end.

The Government say in their Statement that the aim is to respond to the needs of the local community and to give greater freedom to police forces to decide for themselves how best to spend their money. Unfortunately, however, in the very next sentence the Statement says, authorities … will give more leadership to the local police service", which appears to contradict the idea that the chief constables—the leaders of the police service—will have the greater autonomy which is expected.

We welcome the affirmation and the strengthening of the responsibility of the police service to consult local people. We welcome, above all I suppose, the fact that no change is proposed in the funding of the police service and that it will continue to receive a mixture of central and local government funding. But —and this is where we come to the problem—although local people will continue to contribute to the funding of the police service (through the local government finance system), they will no longer have any authority over that spending because local authority representation on police authorities is to be reduced to 50 per cent. The remainder will comprise partly magistrates, as now, and partly local people with relevant management experience to produce a businesslike authority.

Surely it has got through to the Government by now that the police alone cannot tackle crime—that the police in the community and with the collaboration of the community are what is necessary if we are to tackle the increase in crime that we have been experiencing. It is not simply or even largely a matter of management experience. The people whom we need to be represented on police authorities are those who are personally and deeply involved in the issues with which the police are concerned: parents, teachers, the youth service, the community and voluntary sector and religious organisations. All of those people should have a voice in the running of our police, yet the Government have chosen only one criterion, "relevant management experience". Admittedly those involved will be local people, but that is not a substitute either for the democratic control which is given by the majority of local authority representation or for the access which that local authority representation gives to all those community groups to which I have referred.

We are not opposed to many of the detailed changes that are suggested, such as the changes in disciplinary procedures, although we shall have to listen carefully to what they are. From what we know of the advanced leaks of Sir Patrick Sheehy's report, any moves to reduce the rigid hierarchical structures in the police will be welcomed. Above all, however, it is the control over local autonomy, the control over the police force and the centralisation of decision-making about police authorities which cause us the greatest concern.

We note that the Government have drawn back from their rumoured proposals to carry out drastic reductions in the number of police forces. That is wise. In the absence of evidence that smaller police forces have a higher crime rate or a lower clear-up rate, it would clearly have been foolhardy to proceed with some of the proposed amalgamations. Indeed, there are strong arguments for saying that smaller police forces might be more efficient and better represent the needs of local communities, understanding the patterns of work needed in local communities, than some of our larger forces, just as in Scotland police authorities, which are composed entirely of local authorities (without even magistrates), have a higher clear-up rate. We wait with interest to see what the Secretary of State ultimately proposes on the size of police forces. We wait with interest and trepidation if he proposes larger police forces but a smaller number of them.

I return to the central point. What is proposed is increased power in the hands of the Home Secretary and the Home Office who will nominate a very high proportion of the members of the local police authorities. We believe that for both financial responsibility and the effective fighting of crime the role of the local authorities in the police service should not be diminished. Any proposals to diminish it as a result of this Statement will be fiercely resisted.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

My Lords, I too thank the noble Earl for repeating the Statement. It is important and we shall want to reflect on its contents over the next few weeks. It would, however, be appropriate to make a few initial observations. First, like the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, I welcome the proposal to establish a police authority for London. That is highly desirable. I do not think that any significant body of criticism will be directed against that. However, I should like to ask the noble Earl what the position will be of the various specialist elements within the Metropolitan Police which undertake responsibilities for the entire police service. He will be aware that Special Branch and the Royalty and Diplomatic Protection Group have certain responsibilities. Will those units be responsible, like the rest of the Metropolitan Police service, to a London police authority or will special arrangements be made for them?

I welcome the idea that police authorities and chief officers will have greater freedom to determine how to spend their own money. I am sure that it is right that the detailed controls that the Home Office currently exercises over police manpower should be withdrawn. It is absurd for the Home Office to have to decide how many chief superintendents or superintendents there should be in any particular police force. Again, I welcome that.

Secondly, I fear that I must express considerable anxiety about the Home Secretary's suggestion that when he decides to amalgamate forces, the procedures for carrying that through should be "simplified"—that was the Home Secretary's word. I fear that he is being a little economical with the facts. The Statement does not explain the significance of that change. At present, the procedure is as laid down in the Police Act 1964 and was set out in that Act as a result of the recommendations of the Willink Royal Commission. The facts at the moment are that, if it is proposed to amalgamate forces, there must be an opportunity of a local public inquiry under an inspector. The "simplification" is that the right of the local community to protest at an amalgamation of forces will be withdrawn. In reality, that is what the Statement means and I think that it is most regrettable.

When my noble friend Lord Jenkins of Hillhead introduced a proposal for amalgamation in 1966–67 which led to the reduction in the number of forces from over 120 to the present 43, local authorities had the right to protest and to have their views heard by a local inquiry. I should be grateful to hear from the noble Earl why that right is to be withdrawn. I assume that that is what "simplification" means. If I am wrong, I should be delighted to be corrected by the noble Earl, but I suspect that in reality that is what "simplification" means.

Thirdly, the Home Secretary is suggesting that the proportion of locally elected representatives on the new police authorities should be reduced from the present two-thirds to one-half. Why? What is the justification for that? At the moment, as the noble Earl will be aware, one-third of the representatives on a police authority have to be magistrates. What will that proportion be in the future?

Now we hear of this new group referred to by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey. This is a group of people including what are described as "local people with relevant management experience". These local people, including business people of course, will apparently be chosen by the Home Secretary. I believe that we have come to a very sad state when we are giving still more patronage to a Minister of the Crown, particularly when it comes to the highly sensitive area of local policing. This is a profound mistake, and I deeply regret that it is contained within this Statement.

Fourthly, we are told about performance measurement. Most sensible people think that there is nothing wrong about performance measurement and its publication. But we have also been told through many of our newspapers that there will be some sort of league table as between the forces which have—just taking one test—high arrest rates and those which have low arrest rates. I put it to the noble Earl that that is a perilous course indeed. The risk is that, if forces are to be compared on that basis, there will be a tremendous effort made, for wholly understandable reasons, to ensure that your force does not come out at the bottom of the league table. The way in which you ensure that is to take police officers away from all the duties which do not give you points on the league table.

If I may take one example, local crime prevention initiatives will not score so far as the league table is concerned. Are we really contemplating a situation where officers doing extremely valuable work in schools and elsewhere are at risk of being taken away from those duties so that forces will not find themselves exposed to substantial local and sometimes ill-informed criticism as a result of the fact that they appear to be doing less well than other forces?

Lastly, I believe that it is quite wrong for the chairman of every police authority to be appointed by a Minister of the Crown. He will be seen as a representative not of the local community but of a politician in London. How can it be right to have a situation where, when there may be criticism of the local police authority and the chairman appears before the press or on television, he is seen not as a representative of the local community but as a representative of the person who happens to be Home Secretary at that particular time? Whenever there is a change of government we shall have a change in the chairmanship of every police authority in the country. How can that possibly be sensible?

As Mr. Clarke rightly said, this is the most important change in the police service for 30 years. Speaking for myself, I welcome some of the changes, but in my view this represents yet another major movement away from local democratic accountability towards power exercised by ministerial representatives.

4.33 p.m.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lords, Lord McIntosh and Lord Harris of Greenwich, for those parts of their contribution which favoured the Statement. Of course I realise that not all of them did. I was enormously surprised—and it was a trap that I expected the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, to fall into but not the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich—that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, said that the proposed changes gave the Home Secretary increased power to nominate a high proportion of people on police authorities.

The whole point of the Statement and the emphasis behind it is to do precisely the reverse. It is to devolve the power which at the moment resides so largely in the Home Office down to police authorities. The whole principle behind my noble friend's Statement is to give the localities local policing and to give the responsibility of looking after the money to the police authorities.

At present the Home Office determines what amount of manpower a police authority should have, and much of its expenditure. Now, the money will be cash limited to police authorities and they will be able to decide whether to spend it on policemen, on motor cars or on capital goods. So I do not understand the reaction of the noble Lords, who said that this is in fact the Home Secretary drawing more power to the centre.

The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, referred to the Metropolitan Police and he said that he was glad that we were coming round to the Labour Party's view. The existing arrangements for the Metropolitan Police have been in place since 1829 and I think that they have suited Londoners very well. It would not have been sensible to have applied the old police authority arrangements to London but the new police authority arrangements are wholly desirable to be put into a new set of arrangements for a new police authority to look after the Metropolitan Police.

Both noble Lords referred to amalgamations, and the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, said that smaller was sometimes better. The proposals as to the amalgamations will be set out in the White Paper. We need procedures for compulsory amalgamations which provide an adequate opportunity for local views to be expressed and considered without necessarily requiring the expense, delay and prolonged uncertainty of a public inquiry.

The noble Lord, Lord Harris, asked why we were taking away the rights which people held at present. I think that he is being slightly premature. Perhaps I may suggest that he waits until the new proposals are announced. There may well be rights which may be expedited, but the fact is that any amalgamation that takes place now is open to a public inquiry, as the noble Lord quite rightly pointed out, but this can carry on for 18 months before any decision is taken. That creates a tremendous amount of uncertainty. It is that process which we wish to see simplified.

The noble Lord, Lord Harris, also referred to the special responsibilities which the Metropolitan Police have. I accept that there are special national and capital responsibilities which devolve upon the Metropolitan Police, and exactly how those will be fitted into the new system has yet to be considered in detail. The noble Lord is quite right that it is a very important part.

The noble Lord, Lord Harris, also referred to the local authority representatives on police authorities being cut down from two-thirds to one half, and he asked why. If the police authorities are to be responsible now in a way in which they have not been in the past for the control of large sums of money, my right honourable friend feels that it is absolutely right that there should be local authority representation. He also thinks that it is right that there should be magistrates' representation and business experience as well. He also believes that the authorities themselves should be smaller in nature. Therefore, the system which my right honourable friend proposes is that the number of local authority representatives should be reduced from two-thirds to half, with the remaining half being made up of magistrates and people with more business experience.

The noble Lord also referred to targets and performance indicators, and he said that it would be a pity if officers were taken away from schools. The point about this is that my right honourable friend thinks it is right that the people who have a tremendous interest in what their police are doing should have some measure of whether they are being successful or not. If there are national performance targets showing what police authorities ought to be able to try to do, and you have indicators to show how they have done, then people in the locality can compare and see whether their police forces are doing what they should be doing as well as possible. If for one reason a police authority is not doing as well as another, it is up to that authority to explain to the people in its locality why it is not doing so well, and there may be very good reasons for it. Again that provides for accountability.

As I explained in the Statement, my right honourable friend's proposals are now subject to comment and so forth. A White Paper will he published before any legislation is brought forward. There will be an opportunity to comment upon the White Paper as there is on my right honourable friend's Statement.

4.40 p.m.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, will my noble friend say a little more about what is to happen to the specialist services, such as the anti-terrorism and various other highly expert branches, at present managed by the Metropolitan Police. Will they all be automatically transferred to the new London Police Authority? If not, what will happen to them? Will my noble friend clarify that point? The services are of the greatest importance, especially in present circumstances with terrorism and so on.

Secondly, will my noble friend give some idea about the Government's thinking as to the number of police authorities which will remain? I am aware that he said that the Government have no firm ideas at the moment—if he will allow me to say so, that is right —but they must have given some thought to the approximate number of authorities which it is hoped will emerge from the present discussions. Contrary to what the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, said, many of us had doubts about having the large number of police authorities that we now have, and some of us therefore hope that the number will be reduced somewhat. It would be helpful to have the Government's thinking on that point.

Finally, in view of the enormous importance of the matter—this is one of the most important Statements I have heard in the House for some time—and the variety of experience on these subjects that exists in the House, will my noble friend, now perhaps in his capacity as Deputy Leader of the House, give some indication that your Lordships' House will be given a chance to debate the whole issue in a full day's debate?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, the first of my noble friend's three questions referred to special services. My noble friend is correct; the services are important. There is every intention that they will be continued. As I explained, I think in reply to the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, certain elements of the Metropolitan Police have national as well as capital responsibilities. How those responsibilities will be carried out will be subject to detailed consultation. I can assure my noble friend that they will be afforded the importance that they now have and will continue to be carried out with the expertise with which they are now carried out. I cannot tell him at the moment how that will be done with respect to the Metropolitan Police.

In his second question my noble friend asked how many police authorities the Government think we should have. My right honourable friend has no fixed view on that matter. He is anxious to get local policing right. The whole emphasis of the Statement is designed to give responsibility to the local police authorities for local policing in their areas. When that is done it may turn out that we do not need 43 police headquarters and 43 chief constables. That is stage two. The important thing is to get the local policing correct. So I cannot give my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter a figure that the Government believe to be right because at the moment the Government have an open mind.

The one thing I do know is that., whatever the Government come up with, there will be a most unholy row. If they come up with nothing and say that we should keep on as we are, people will say that they should amalgamate forces. If we amalgamate forces, everyone will become fussed because there are territorial loyalties, and rightly so, as we have discovered this afternoon, between local police forces and local communities. Local accountability must be balanced with the structure needed to run a large police force efficiently.

In my noble friend's last question he asked whether, as Deputy Leader of the House, I would be able to initiate a debate. The Deputy Leader has very few responsibilities in the House, and that one belongs to the usual channels. I shall see that that thought goes through to them.

Lord Merlyn-Rees

My Lords, I notice that the Statement praises the Police Act 1964. That leads me to say what a pity it is that the Statement, leading to a White Paper, was not based, as was that Act, upon a Royal Commission which could look into the problems in greater detail. If that were done, when the noble Lords, Lord Harris of Greenwich and Lord Boyd-Carpenter, asked proper questions about what is to happen to the anti-terrorist squad and the Special Branch—the Metropolitan Police Special Branch has responsibilities outside London—they would not receive the reply that that matter is one for future discussions. Those are matters for detailed investigation now. A Royal Commission would have helped greatly in our deliberations and would do so in the future.

I wish to ask a question on one flatter only. The noble Lord, Lord Harris, who served at the Home Office when I was there, asked a proper question about nominations and centralisation. Surely, if police authority chairmen are to be nominated by the Home Office that, ipso facto, leads to greater centralisation. They will do as they are told. From where will the list come? I raise this issue merely to point out one matter. The great success of the West Yorkshire Police in dealing with problems that arose in mining areas during the miners' strike was due to the fact that the chairman of the police authority knew his area. He knew the mining villages. He was able to talk to the people in that area. A person appointed from outside will not be able to do that. Management on the police authority matters, but management should come from the police themselves and from the civil servants—if that is the correct description—who work with them. The glory of our police force is its local roots. The centralisation smell of the Statement leaves me greatly concerned about the future.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Merlyn-Rees, asks why we did not have a Royal Commission. That was of course one option, but there is a limit to how many Royal Commissions we can have. They tend to take a long time. We thought it correct for my right honourable friend to come forward with proposals and for us then to have them subjected to consideration and discussion. The noble Lord, Lord Merlyn-Rees, chivvied me for not giving a complete answer to my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter and the noble Lord, Lord Harris. I told them that the services about which they were asking were essential and important and would continue. What I said was open to detailed analysis was the Home Secretary's role as the total arbiter, which he is now because he is the police authority, and the role of the new police authority.

There have been a great many discussions recently in the newspapers about police reform. My right honourable friend has been castigated for not consulting. If I were to come to your Lordships' House and tell your Lordships what was going to happen., and that your Lordships could like it or not, you would then have said that we had not consulted. When I give your Lordships a view about what my right honourable friend proposes and tell your Lordships that his proposals are open to consultation, you then sometimes say that my right honourable friend has no fixed view.

The proposals are as I have described them. They are open to consultation. Of course we want to get the matter right. We do not want to have party political involvement over something as essential as running the police service. I understand what the noble Lord, Lord Merlyn-Rees, says about the patronage—he did not use that word; it was used by the noble Lord, Lord Harris—exercised by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary. I would only say to the noble Lord that I agree that local chairmanship is important, but the person who will be chosen will not be, as he said, from outside; he will be from within the authority.

Lord Gibson-Watt

My Lords, I should like to ask my noble friend two questions. First, a great deal of anxiety has been expressed in some areas, especially in Wales, that we may have too many police amalgamations. Will the Home Secretary look carefully, and consult locally, before reaching firm decisions on that issue? My second question—and my noble friend pretty well satisfied me with his last answer—relates to the appointment of the chairmen of the local police authorities. There was a great deal in what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Merlyn-Rees. I am satisfied by my noble friend's comment that a local person will normally take the chair.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I cannot conceive of a situation in which my right honourable friend will suggest that two police authorities should merge without any form of local consultation. The idea is almost unthinkable. My right honourable friend's only concern is that the present system is too protracted and he wishes to see it shortened. Therefore, if amalgamations need to take place the process can be dealt with quickly.

My noble friend Lord Gibson-Watt referred to the chairman of the local police authority. Some of the local police authorities are large and two-thirds of their members are local councillors. In future there will be fewer members—some 16—half of whom will be representatives from local authorities. Of the other half, some will be magistrates and some will be local people with business experience. All members of the police authority will therefore be drawn from the locality and the chairman will be appointed from that number.

Lord Ross of Newport

My Lords, does the Minister accept that many local councillors have business and management experience? The Government always appear to assume that that is not the case. I spent 11 years on a local council and I was manager of a company. Therefore, I had some business experience. Surely any amalgamation should await the outcome of the local government reorganisation because some of us believe that some of the city forces could be reinstated.

Furthermore, I suggest that the people of this country want to see the return of the village bobby and the overnight manning of their local police station. That suggests that representation from parish and town councils will be valuable to the future police authority.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Ross, that many people have business experience. In no way does my right honourable friend's Statement suggest that that is not the case. My right honourable friend is anxious to draw in a wide field of experience. The authorities may already be made up of many local councillors with business experience and in future it will be possible to tap other fields.

There will be a great deal to be said about amalgamations following the local boundary commission's report. That is why my right honourable friend has no preconceived ideas about what amalgamations there should be or, indeed, whether there should be any. I return to the point that I made to my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter that the whole emphasis of the Statement is to get local policing right. When that is done it may be possible to determine whether we need 43 police forces. The noble Lord, Lord Ross, was right in saying that local policing requires local men on the beat. That requires an interaction between the police and the community, which we hope to achieve by the decentralisation of effort and responsibility from the Home Office to the local police authorities and thereafter to local authorities.

Lord Elton

My Lords, community confidence in the police is desirable for two reasons. The first is that living in a community which does not have confidence in the police is a frightening and unpleasant experience. The second reason is that confidence in the police generates efficiency in the police, as noble Lords opposite have said. I believe that the devolution of power down to what I take to be commander level will tend to create local control and confidence. However, one wishes to be sure of the effectiveness of that control. My noble friend referred to an inquiry into the disciplinary system in the police force. Noble Lords will want to know more about that as the means by which local commanders ensure that their police conduct themselves as they should.

As regards police forces in general, I should be glad if my noble friend would comment about the future role of Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary. I understand that there are to be changes in its composition. A boost to the public's confidence in the police, which is not always as great as is your Lordships', would be the existence of an effective complaints system. Will my right honourable friend consider the effectiveness of the complaints system together with the question of reorganisation?

Finally, in dealing with the question of size, I hope that my noble friend will not forget to look at Coventry and Warwickshire where there is an anomaly.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I am sure that Coventry and Warwickshire will be considered before any amalgamations are proposed. I agree with my noble friend that confidence in the police generates efficiency, which is what we want to see. I have said in shorthand terms that we shall now have police authorities running as plcs, such as Kent Constabulary plc, where they have their own money which will be cash limited. They will be told, "Now run your authority and run it well, but you will be responsible to the Home Secretary for standards".

My right honourable friend is considering an inquiry into disciplinary procedures. He will announce the conclusion when that is reached. Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary will still have an important role to play not only in ensuring that constabularies keep up to the mark in efficiency and competence but in guiding them into new ways. There will be a certain amount of change within the inspectorate in so far as some people who have not been professional police officers will be appointed to it.

My right honourable friend is concerned in particular about the adequacy of the complaints procedure. He wishes to ensure that it is fair to the complainant and to the police officer and that it is expeditious, which at present it is not.

Lord Callaghan of Cardiff

My Lords, I echo the remark that this is one of the most important Statements to be made in this House. For that reason I very much regret the procedure that has been followed. The noble Earl has such an elegant manner of expression that it is bad luck he should have been saddled with such an inadequate Statement as that which he has made today. The Statement is inadequate in content and the noble Earl is inadequate in his capacity to answer questions about it. That is because the Home Secretary is rushing ahead instead of following the procedure which was wisely followed by the Conservative Government in 1960. Mr. Henry Brooke then set up, in the form of a Royal Commission, the Henry Willink Inquiry to take a detailed view of the service. Proposals came not only from the Home Office but from each body. It considered the matter for two years and came forward with detailed proposals on which the Home Secretary could adjudicate.

The present Home Secretary is proposing to conduct the inquiry himself. Mr. Clarke is an able politician, although I am not sure that I should give him the same marks for objectivity that I should give a Royal Commission under the chairmanship of Sir Henry Willink, with Professor Goodhart and others of that calibre as members. I sincerely ask Mr. Clarke to think again about the manner in which he is proposing to go ahead. The issues raised in the Statement are most important and a number have been touched on already. We need a proper basis for settling the future of the police force for the next 20 or 30 years, if the reforms are to last as long as the Willink reforms. All that is being done at present is to create maximum uncertainty in the police service without doing anything to improve the clear-up rate of crime, which is what the public are interested in.

I raise only one additional issue because we are reaching the 20 minute point. The Home Secretary must think carefully about the independent people whom he is to nominate. It will be an extremely sad day if it is thought in this country that a government's nominees on a matter of this importance are of a party character, as might easily be alleged and, indeed, might even be true on occasions. It seems to me important that such nominations should be safeguarded in every way.

I can see that there is a clear case for elected councillors who have responsibilities and a very clear case for magistrates who are selected in a particular way and who come from the local community. However, I urge the Government to think again about their proposal to add this third element of people who will be completely under the patronage of the Home Secretary.

Finally, I heard the noble Earl say that the chairman of the authority would be drawn from the local community. I ask the noble Earl to go one step further and to say that the chairman will be drawn from the members of the local authority that is, from the magistrates and councillors of the local police authority. That would at least ensure that they would not necessarily be under the patronage of the Home Secretary of the day.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, in answering the noble Lord's questions rather briefly, I mean no disrespect to him. However, a time limit is imposed upon us. He said that my right honourable friend is rushing ahead. He has tried not to do that. There has been speculation about reorganisation in the press, in the public mind and in the police service for a long time. That is why the Home Secretary made the Statement today saying what are, in his view, the lines which should be followed and on which there will be opportunity for consultation.

The noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, is anxious about the clear-up rate of crime; so is my right honourable friend. That is why he wishes to push the responsibility down to the local authorities.

As regards the chairmanship of the authority, the chairman will be drawn from the whole authority. That will include those people who are nominated as well as those from the local authority. I cannot give the specific answer requested by the noble Lord.