The Minister of State, Home Office (Earl Ferrers)
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.— (Earl Ferrers.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [The CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1 agreed to.
§ Schedule 1 [Schedule to be inserted in Police Act 1964: police areas]:
§ [Amendments Nos.1 and 2 not moved.]
Lord Harris of Greenwich moved Amendment No.3:
Page 50, line 24, at end insert:
("British Transport Police
The British Transport Police").
§ The noble Lord said: I am raising this issue today in order to give the Government the opportunity to tell the Committee what action they propose to take in respect of a serious error which has been made in the rail privatisation legislation. It is an error which will lead to the powers of arrest of the British Transport Police being drastically curtailed.
§ As from 1st April this year the British Transport Police will only be able to arrest offenders on British Rail property. But most of the property of British Rail will, as from April, be owned by Railtrack. From that date the British Transport Police will not be able to follow alleged offenders to their homes, interview them and, when appropriate, arrest them, for the Department of Transport has inadvertently removed their powers as constables. This will create a truly remarkable situation. A police force of 2,200 officers will at a stroke have its powers removed.
§ Let me illustrate the seriousness of the forthcoming situation. There are 23 police forces in this country which are smaller than the British Transport Police. The transport police investigate more crimes than 24 other 102 police forces. In 1992–93 they were called upon to investigate 1,237 crimes of violence. I exclude for various reasons those committed on the London Underground. In addition, they had to investigate 388 sexual offences,928 robberies,3,097 burglaries,2,862 cases of fraud and 37,582 cases of theft. Yet as from April, as a result of the Government's own legislation, they will in the overwhelming majority of these cases no longer possess the powers of constable and thus be able to follow through their investigations.
§ A number of questions arise from this unhappy situation. First, how did this extraordinary mistake come to be made in the first instance by the Department of Transport? I hope that the noble Earl will be able to explain this matter to us. Secondly, what action do the Government propose to take to rectify this situation? I hope that we will be assured in unequivocal terms that government amendments will be introduced to the Bill at the Report stage. Thirdly, assuming that amendments are introduced to rectify these errors, what will happen in the period between April and the day when the Bill receives Royal Assent? Presumably the rest of the police service, overburdened as it is with the investigation of crime, will have to carry the burden caused by the Department of Transport's errors. I should be grateful if the noble Earl was able to answer these questions.
§ Next, has the Association of Chief Police Officers yet been told that as from April the police will have to take on this burden of work which has been removed from the British Transport Police as the result of an error in a government Bill? If it has been so informed, I should be very grateful if I could be told on what date it was informed. I am sure that the Government will appreciate the indignation that the police will feel, overburdened as they are with work, that they will now have to use their scarce resources to deal with criminal conduct arising on the railways
§ Lastly, who will pay for this work? The Department of Transport has made a serious error. Can we be assured that police authorities will receive financial compensation for the work that their forces will have to carry out?
§ There is a further matter which I have drawn to the attention of the Secretary of State for Transport in correspondence. I refer to the need to establish a new and representative police authority for the British Transport Police. Given the creation of Railtrack, the constitutional position in respect of the accountability of and support for the British Transport Police is clearly most unsatisfactory. I hope that the noble Earl will be able to assure us that on this issue too there will be government amendments on Report to deal with this important matter.
§ The British Transport Police carry out work of high national importance, not least in the area of terrorism. It is essential that the problems I have identified this afternoon are resolved before the Bill leaves the House. I beg to move.103
§ 3.15 p.m.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
I rise to support briefly but wholeheartedly the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich. It is an extraordinary catalogue of errors. One can well understand how errors could have occurred during the somewhat chaotic passage of the Railways Bill, but what cannot be understood and what is quite inexcusable is the fact that no adequate steps have been taken to correct those errors and to ensure the continued existence of the transport police, who have the sole responsibility for policing large public spaces in this country and, as the noble Lord made clear, do it on a considerable scale very effectively. I hope that the Minister will find it possible to make a favourable reply to the arguments raised.
The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, posed a number of questions. His amendment highlights a difficulty into which we have run. The noble Lord will know that the amendment as it stands will not work because it appears to treat the British Transport Police as an area of England and Wales, which of course would be unsuitable.
No doubt the noble Lord's main purpose in moving the amendment is to explore questions about the powers and jurisdiction of members of the British Transport Police. There appears to be some doubt as to the British Transport Police's position in respect of Railtrack from 1st April. The British Transport Police will continue as a single police force responsible for policing Britain's rail network after 1st April. British Rail is to remain the employer of the British Transport Police for the immediate future. In order to ensure that the British Transport Police will continue to police the whole of the restructured railway, an order amending the British Transport Police Force Scheme 1963 will be laid before Parliament shortly.
The inference behind the noble Lord's amendment is that the British Transport Police will not have full jurisdiction on Railtrack property. I can assure the Committee that that is not the case. The intention of the Railways Act 1993 was that jurisdiction of the British Transport Police should be unaffected. However, we are aware that there may be some doubt now as to the precise extent of the powers which the British Transport Police may have beyond Railtrack property. The British Transport Police may act as constables on and in the vicinity of Railtrack's property. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport is urgently considering, in conjunction with British Rail and the British Transport Police, whether the wording represents a problem and, if it does, how best to address it.
The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, asked whether the Government would bring forward an amendment at Report stage. There is a problem here which my right honourable friend is addressing. The action we take will depend on the outcome of those consultations and discussions. The problem has only recently been identified, arid it is one to which a solution is being sought.
§ Lord Merlyn-Rees
I should like to ask a practical question arising out of this matter. Until an hour or two ago I did not know that this problem had arisen. The date of 1st April has been on the lips of the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, and of the noble Earl the Minister. I used to represent part of the city of Leeds. Noble Lords will have heard recently of behaviour at Elland Road football ground on the death of Sir Matt Busby. One can only wonder what kind of people we are dealing with. Many of them arrive at the main city station on the day of the match. They come early and they then have to make their way to Elland Road. There are often real problems.
Out in the street I have seen mounted police charging down rather like a scene from the battle of Balaclava Inside the station problems arise and it is nasty to be involved. In those days I often travelled on a Saturday afternoon. As regards this date in April, I can understand that the Minister of Transport is concerned, but unless something is done pretty quickly there will be a lot of people in Leeds worrying about what is going to happen around the station. There is this small group of people, not always from the town or city concerned, who behave in this abysmal way. The British Transport Police have a very good record at stations and on the trains as they move from one part of the country to another. Will that be all right? Will they be able to do that after April or is this problem going to carry on?
I hope that I can allay the disquiet of the noble Lord, Lord Merlyn-Rees. The fact is that the British Transport Police at the moment have control and jurisdiction over all the railway system in, on and in the vicinity of the railway organisation. In other words, they are responsible for what happens on the trains, on the railways and in the stations. They can actually chase after a person outside the station if that is their wish. At the moment that will continue to be the case. The only difficulty is the interpretation of the words and whether or not "in the vicinity of" is more constricting than we anticipate. It is that point which needs to be addressed. I can assure the noble Lord that the British Transport Police will have full jurisdiction on and in the vicinity of the stations, which is the point that the noble Lord is anxious about. That will continue just the same after 1st April as before.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
I do not propose to develop this argument further this afternoon. The noble Earl has said two things. As I understand it, there is some doubt about the situation. According to the British Transport Police there is no doubt about the matter at all. Their powers as constables have been inadvertently removed by the Department of Transport and that is the reality. The second statement made by the noble Earl was that London Transport is urgently examining the situation and, I trust, with the Home Office at the same time. Perhaps I may make this suggestion to the noble Earl — that is, that we discuss this matter between now and Report stage so that it can be clarified. I am sure he will understand that we shall not feel able to ignore this issue in the period between the beginning of the Committee stage today and 'Third Reading. We expect government amendments to be introduced.
105 At the same time I have asked a number of questions which have not been answered. I asked whether members of the Association of Chief Police Officers have been told that they are likely to have to take over many of the responsibilities of the British Transport Police as from 1st April. That question has not been answered. I hope that the noble Earl will be able to give me an answer, perhaps in correspondence following this discussion, and also the date on which ACPO was informed.
I am sure that the noble Earl will realise the implications for the rest of the British police service; namely, that as from April this year they have to take on a heavy burden of work which is now being carried out by the British Transport Police. We cannot allow this situation of doubt to continue any longer. I shall certainly ask the leave of the Committee to withdraw this amendment but, as I am sure the noble Earl will recognise, we shall be coming back to this matter on Report. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Schedule 1 agreed to.
§ Clause 2 [Police forces and police authorities]:
Lord Peyton of Yeovil moved Amendment No.4:
Page 2, line 7, leave out ("2A and 3") and insert ("and 3 (as amended)").
§ The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment I have to apologise to the Committee if its meaning is not immediately clear even to the keen minds which are present in the Chamber. My justification for the amendment is of course the particular clause in the Bill which my amendment seeks to change. I admit that, on the face of it, both are entirely incomprehensible. Wishing to understand what exactly is the law which we now seek to amend does not seem to me to be an elaborate precaution. I sought the help of the Public Bill Office. I was referred to Statutes in Force, the 1979 edition, which is the latest existing in this House. I found that that edition revealed what has happened since to Sections 2 and 3. However, it made no reference to Section 2A. The Notes on Clauses were equally silent on this important matter. I was then zealous to understand. I resorted to Halsbury's Statutes, volume 33; 1993 edition. I studied most carefully pages 675 to 677. There I found an account of what has happened to Sections 2 and 3 and, for the first time, light was shed on Section 2A.
From time to time I have ventured to express some doubt as to whether our legislative procedures were as excellent as I am sure that this House would wish them to be. When I recently suggested in the most mild terms to Her Majesty's Government that they might consider some form of inquiry into our legislative procedures to see whether they were as high class as they should be, I was given a very negative reply, the clear inference of which was that they could not possibly be improved. That is a proposition which is open to doubt.
I do not wish to take up too much of the Committee's time, but without driving Members of the Committee into a very deep sleep perhaps I may quote one passage from page 675. It is a small section of a footnote which gives an account of the history of the section in the 106 Police Act 1964 with which we are dealing. The Committee will be well aware that we have moved on from the sections of the Police Act and that we are dealing with what has happened to those sections since then. I thought that the Committee might be interested in the sort of guidance which is made available so fortunately to us so that we can have our minds very clearly focused on the issues.
The footnote to which I refer on page 675 reads as follows:
The words omitted from sub-ss (1), (4), (5), and the whole of sub-s (3), were repealed, and sub-s (6) was substituted, by the Local Government Act 1972, ss 196(1), (2),272(1), Sch 30. The words in square brackets in sub-s (1) and in the first pair of square brackets in sub-s (2) were substituted, and the words omitted from para 2(b) and the whole of para 2(c) (both of which had been inserted by the Local Government Act 1972, s 217, Sch 27, Pt II, para 18) were repealed, by the Local Government Act 1985, ss 37,102, Sch 11, para 1, Sch 17. The words in the second pair of square brackets in sub-s (2) (b) were substituted by the Courts Act 1971, s 53(5)".
It may be a total inadequacy of my dwindling intellectual powers, but I find that extremely difficult to follow. It will be comforting to me at any rate to know that even so eminent an ornament of the present Administration as my noble friend also finds that material a matter for stumbling and that he is not perhaps inclined to give it the crown of lucidity. I do not wish to prolong my remarks too much, but I seriously believe that that is not the way in which our legislative procedures should be carried out.
I have always had very limited sympathy with what is, in my view, rather misdescribed as "industrial action". But there is one instance of industrial action in history with which I feel increasing sympathy. It took place quite a long time ago and is known as the "Secession of the Plebs". There were two occasions on which the workers of Ancient Rome said that they had had enough and withdrew from the city. As far as I recollect, the terms of their return were that somebody should write down the law in comprehensible terms and that a special officer, a Tribune, should be appointed who could, if necessary, explain the law to them. I believe that such an officer is very badly needed in this Committee. I am certainly not that man and would not dream of offering myself for such a ghastly post.
Not for the last time during the passage of this Bill, I feel constrained to offer my very deep sympathy to my noble friend Lord Ferrers. He has the very unpleasant duty of explaining and justifying the drafting of this measure. I hope— it would be an unexpected realisation of an ambition but nevertheless "hope springs eternal"— that my noble friend might get up to say that, as a result of these few remarks that I have been tempted to make, some kind of effort will be made to tidy up the processes whereby such stuff is allowed to appear on the pages of the statute book. I recall that when the Charities Bill was in Committee my noble friend who was dealing with that Bill on behalf of the Government was exceedingly helpful. I hope that he will show the same degree of good will today and devote his very considerable energies to persuading those professional obfuscators responsible for this kind of garbage to do better in future. I beg to move.107
§ 3.30 p.m.
§ Lord Renton
My noble friend Lord Peyton of Yeovil, with his usual wonderful combination of modesty and vehemence, has drawn our attention to the very confused situation that arose after the Police Act 1964 had been in force for some years when the government of the day, of whom we were both supporters, in the 1970s and later tried to modify it in order to make it dovetail with the local government reforms which we supported. I agree with my noble friend that an unsatisfactory situation was created in our legislation. In passing, I should like to say how much I am sure that we all welcome the efforts of my noble friend to get legislation simplified.
I should like to try to comfort my noble friend on the matter that he has raised, if that is possible. By getting rid of Sections 2,2. A and 3 of the Police Act 1964, as they have been amended, and substituting Clause 2 of this Bill, simplification will be achieved so far as the form is concerned. I do not speak of the substance of the matter because so many of us have some doubts about the substance, to which we shall come later. However, it seems to me that we have to get rid of Sections 2,2A and 3 of the Police Act 1964, as amended, and we are clearly doing so in this provision. I think that, as a result, this is an improvement on the law as it at present appears on the statute book.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
I do not want to intervene in family quarrels, but surely the point that the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, was making is that there is no Section 2A in force at present. If the noble Lord, Lord Renton, can find it, we shall be grateful to him.
I am bound to say that the modesty of my noble friend Lord Peyton is overwhelming. He said that he found enormous difficulty in understanding the provisions and referred to how difficult that is when one has "dwindling intellectual powers". My noble friend has the advantage of me there: I have never had any dwindling intellectual powers simply because I never had any intellectual powers in the first place.
I agree with my noble friend that in all cases I find dealing with matters of legislation enormously complex. When my noble friend was kind enough to say that he looked to me for help as being "an ornament" on the Front Bench, I was not quite certain whether that was supposed to be a compliment. I thought that an ornament was something that sat upon a shelf and looked pretty but did not actually do anything. I only hope that I shall be able to do something for my noble friend in trying to persuade him that this is not all that bad.
My noble friend will not be surprised to learn that I believe his amendment to be unnecessary. It is not always easy to get to the bottom of every detail of a Bill which refers to earlier legislation. I am sure that my noble friend will sympathise with me because I do not have the advantage of legal qualifications, which he manages to make up for most adequately.
Legislation is complex. We should do what we can to keep it clear and simple. I agree that one needs a fully up-to-date text of the Police Act 1964 in order to 108 decipher every last dot and comma. I am glad to know that a text is readily available. I agree also that if my noble friend took the simple course of comparing the Bill with the 1964 Act as printed he would have run into trouble. He needs to compare it with the 1964 Act as amended by various statutes. My information is that Halsbury's Statutes contains that information. The volume has recently been fully updated to contain the legislation relating to the police. I was concerned when my noble friend said that when he looked at Halsbury he found that it did not contain the right words. I wonder whether he looked at the "right" version, so to speak — the last version. My information is that that is the correct authority—
§ Lord Peyton of Yeovil
said that the 1979 edition, which is the latest edition of statutes in force, failed to make clear what Section 2A was about. Indeed, there was no mention of it. On the other hard, Halsbury's Statutes does refer to it.
I should have thought that that would satisfy my noble friend. I agree that the position is easier when Bills are consolidated and contained in one consolidated Act. Obviously, I cannot give my noble friend an assurance that that will be done; I hope that in due course it will. My noble friend will then be able to refer to the Act with total simplicity and will be able to find his way through it. The original Acts will be amended as they have been and will be after this Bill has been passed.
§ Lord Peyton of Yeovil
I realise that I must be satisfied with that explanation. I shall do my best. The simple proposition that I sought to put forward was that when law has been amended it should be possible for those who wish to understand the Government's intentions to find out relatively easily what the law is. I suggest that that is far from easy and that even if one can find a reference it is not easy to understand.
§ Lord Peyton of Yeovil
I do not have even a vague hope of gaining further progress on this difficult subject and therefore I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 3.45 p.m.
§ The Chairman of Committees (Lord Ampthill)
Perhaps I may remind the Committee that if Amendment No.5 is agreed to I shall be unable to call Amendment No.6.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No.5:
Page 2, line 12, leave out from beginning to ("a") and insert ("The Secretary of State shall by order establish").
§ The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No.5, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos.6 to 8,10 to 22,27,124 and 125. I apologise for the size of the grouping but it was agreed among all concerned that it would be: better for the Committee to have a single debate on the size and composition of police authorities rather than a series of debates on closely related issues. Although the 109 amendments have been grouped together by agreement, they are not all expressing the same point of view. I shall expand the argument in a moment.
§ Briefly, my Amendments Nos.5,8 and 11 provide that the size of a police authority should not be restricted to 16 members but should, by order, be between 16 and 24 members. They also provide that two-thirds of those members should be appointed by local authorities in the area concerned.
§ Amendments 6,7,12 to 14,16,19 and 21 stand in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Peyton of Yeovil. The most significant is Amendment No.21. They too provide for flexibility in the size of police authorities and for their composition to be such as to secure a majority of not less than three local authority members.
§ Amendments Nos.10,15 and 20 are government amendments. They provide for greater flexibility in the size of police authorities— that is, between 16 and 24 members to be determined by the Secretary of State — and for the Bill's existing proposition that only 50 per cent. of members should be from local authorities. Of the remainder some should be magistrates and some should be appointed by the Secretary of State.
§ Amendments Nos.17,18 and 22 stand in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone. They too provide for flexibility in the size of police authorities and propose that half the members should be from local authorities and the other half should be magistrates.
§ I hope that that makes the issue clear. When I seek the opinion of the Committee on Amendment No.5 I shall be seeking agreement only to that amendment and its related amendments, Amendments Nos.8 and 11. If the Committee disagrees with my amendment, or if it is withdrawn, and the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, is put, a decision by the Committee will relate only to the amendments standing in his name. There are before us four alternatives, which we are debating together. The next group of amendments, Amendments Nos.23 to 25 and 28 to 30, are consequential on some of the amendments in this group. If some of the amendments are carried the Committee must consider whether to agree also to amendments in that following group.
§ So much for the procedures and the outline of the subject for debate. The issues now before the Committee are at least as important as any in the Bill. The Government have made welcome propositions on a number of matters in relation both to the police part and to the magistrates' courts part of the Bill. As regards the police part, the Government, under considerable pressure from their Members and Members on these Benches, have made the welcome concession that the chairmen of police authorities shall no longer be appointed by the Home Secretary but shall be elected from among the members of the police authority. In response to criticisms made on Second Reading, they have also provided that the size of a police authority shall not be limited to 16 members but can, by order of the Secretary of State, be extended to 24 members. We recognise all those concessions, and we are grateful for them.110
§ The trouble is that having agreed to a more flexible approach to the size of the police authorities, and despite many effective speeches from the Conservative Benches on Second Reading, the Government have not taken the opportunity to return to the tripartite system of policing in this country, which was the essential element of the 1964 Act that is, in effect, being replaced. I refer to only one passage from the Second Reading debate. The noble Lord, Lord Carr of Hadley, said that the people in question should be genuinely locally appointed.
What is now proposed is that whatever the size of the police authority, there will still be a body of appointees appointed by the Secretary of State. In Amendment No.27, the Government propose a slightly different or more explicit procedure as to how those appointments shall be made. The Government are proposing that they shall be made,
from a list of persons compiled in accordance with an order made by the Secretary of State".
It appears to be claimed, at least in the press, that that somehow provides for appointments to be made at arm's length from the Home Secretary. With that wording I cannot see how that can be the case. If the list of persons is compiled in accordance with an order made by the Secretary of State and the Secretary of State then makes the appointment, it is the Secretary of State who is responsible for all stages of the process. We still have a centrally appointed part of the local authority.
§ I give an example of how that may work in terms of numbers. Let us suppose that there is, as there is in Greater Manchester at present, a political composition of the councils where of the eight local authority members, five are Labour, two are Conservative and one is a Liberal Democrat. Let us also assume that on politically sensitive issues, as is normally the case, the magistrates would not vote. Let us assume further that the Secretary of State's appointees would, as would seem entirely plausible, vote in accordance with the wishes of the Secretary of State and that he is a Conservative. In an area with a substantive Labour majority that would give a Conservative majority on the police authority. There would be the possibility of conflict between the police authority and the local authorities in the area which are jointly responsible with the police authority for many aspects of policing by consent.
§ I chose an example with a Conservative Secretary of State and a Labour majority. However, I ask Members on all sides of the Committee to consider that that could work the other way round because a Labour Secretary of State could exercise exactly those powers in an area which has a Conservative majority on the local council or councils. I ask the Committee to think of this matter not as a party issue between Labour, Conservative or Liberal Democrat but rather to consider whether it is right for a Secretary of State of any political persuasion to secure, by appointment to a police authority, political control from the centre of that police authority. That is what the Government's present proposals would still achieve.
§ It is our view, and the view which finds expression in Amendments Nos.5,8 and 11, that we should return to the tripartite system of policing, which is a partnership 111 between the chief constable, the local authority in the area and the Home Secretary. That tripartite arrangement has worked extremely well for 30 years. There have been minor conflicts in some parts of the country, but nothing to justify the proposed wholesale removal of the partnership
§ We welcome the Government's proposals as far as they go but we must point out that they leave police authorities in an unstable situation. The police authorities would not be robust to changes of government and would not be responsive to the needs of local people as expressed through their elected members. The Government's proposals are inadequate as a final solution to the issues raised on Second Reading.
§ I remind the Committee that on Second Reading,35 out of 37 speakers spoke largely against the tenor of the Bill, with various reservations of all kinds. I remind the Committee also that one of the principal anxieties about the police part of the Bill was the removal of the tripartite system and the concentration of power in the hands of the Home Secretary. Our amendments would restore democratic accountability for police authorities and they would remove the proposed concentration of power in the Home Secretary. I commend them to the Committee. I beg to move.
§ Viscount Whitelaw
Any discussion of this group of amendments must surely be conducted against the background of the vital Amendment No.31 concerning the chairmen of the police authorities, which has been tabled by my noble friend Lord Ferrers. I wish to record my gratitude to my right honourable friend the Home Secretary for his immediate understanding and recognition of the very strong feelings expressed in all parts of the House during the Second Reading debate.
Amendment No.31 confirms that a chairman of a police authority will be elected by the authority itself instead of being appointed by the Home Secretary, as the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, has already said. That major change ensures the independence of the authorities and also, crucially, the operational independence of the chief constables. I know that that change will be most welcome, as the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, said, in this Committee and also widely throughout the country.
I welcome also two further amendments tabled by my noble friend Lord Ferrers which are to be discussed this evening. Amendment No.20 gives the Secretary of State power to increase the number of police authority members above 16 As I said on Second Reading, I believe that some areas will need to have larger authorities because of their size or, indeed, their particular problems, geographical and otherwise.
I welcome too Amendment No.27 which sets out plans for the appointment of members of authorities by the Secretary of State. Those will have the sanction of having to come before Parliament before acceptance. Again, that is extremely important.
Against the background of the proposed Government changes, we must consider the membership of the authority and the appointment of some members. I must make it clear at once that I personally do not regard 112 those decisions as a constitutional question, as most certainly was the appointment of the chairmen. Therefore, I am glad that the idea of appointed or co-opted members as well as magistrates seems now to be fairly widely accepted, if I understand the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh.
I have reached the same conclusion that as a method of appointment co-opting is right and makes sense. By saying that, I have no criticism of the existing police authorities. My experience as Home Secretary— I must admit, now some 10 years ago— was that, on the whole, they did a very good job. But I accept that the importance of law and order today demands a broad approach and possibly some new ideas.
There are certainly people in our community who feel that they have a special contribution to make in that field and would like to take part, although they are not able to go forward for election to local councils. I know that that is the very strong view of my right honourable friend the Home Secretary and is also the view of a good many Members in another place and in this Chamber. Therefore, I come down firmly in favour of the principle of appointed members. However, at this stage I must part from Amendment No.11 on the method of their selection for two reasons. First, if we are to seek a broader approach to the problems of law and order, I feel that we need a broader electorate than the existing members of a police authority.
Secondly, I believe that the method of selection that my right honourable friend the Home Secretary has proposed in Amendment No.27 is a broader method of selection than that proposed elsewhere. I also believe that it is not so subject to all the other particular points suggested by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh. I believe that it can be made to work. With the background of proposed amendments and what can be done by Parliament as a result, it is a sensible way of proceeding. I, therefore, conclude that on that point the Bill should stand as it is.
In general, I strongly support my right honourable friend the Home Secretary on the plans that he now puts forward for the organisation of police authorities: in tackling the serious problems of law and order which we all face in this country today.
§ 4 p.m.
§ Lord Peyton of Yeovil
I should like to take the opportunity to refer very briefly to one of my amendments to Clause 2 which reads:Page 2, line 18, after the second ('of') insert ('not less than')".I should like to put those words on the record. They were printed on an earlier sheet but, somehow or other, they have disappeared from the current Marshalled List.
In referring to the amendments tabled in my name, I am sure that it is unnecessary for me to recount in full the arguments with which Members of the Committee are already familiar. Like other noble Lords, I was greatly influenced as regards my opinion of the Bill by the remarks made by no fewer than three former Home Secretaries; namely, my noble friends Lord Whitelaw and Lord Can and the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan of Cardiff.
113 I believe that it would have been absurd to have imposed upon police authorities a uniform number of 16 without regard either to the size of the area with which they were concerned or the numbers of the population. It is very easy to find examples to show just how absurd that would be. For example, the result for a large area like Devon and Cornwall with 4,000 square miles, now having 30 elected members, but reduced under the Bill to eight, would be absurd. Likewise with Greater Manchester. It has a dense population of 2.6 million. It now has 30 elected members with 35,000 people per member, but it would end up with 324,000 people per member. I also think that that would be absurd.
As regards those who have objected to a body of large numbers and stressed the need to reduce the number to 16, my noble friends on the Front Bench would do very well to give their attention to the possibility of reducing the number of the Cabinet to 16. I shall forbear from making detailed suggestions as to which of those distinguished people should be dispensed with; nevertheless, it might be to everyone's advantage if the Cabinet was reduced to 16. I have personally thought so for a very long time.
The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, referred to my amendments, and especially to Amendment No.21. I share his view that that is probably the most important of all the amendments with which I am concerned and to which I have put my name. It is unnecessary at this stage to add to my remarks. However, I believe that the overwhelming need here is to strengthen the representation of elected members on police authorities and to turn away from the trend, as I see it, which my right honourable friend the Home Secretary has written into the Bill, of increasing the power of central government.
I am certainly not an unqualified admirer of all our procedures in local government. However, before central government goes further down the road of usurping functions which are now those of local government, it will have to persuade a large number of people that its own performance justifies such a course. For myself, I do not believe that it does.
§ Lord Allen of Abbeydale
I believe that a contribution from the Cross-Benches might not be out of place at this stage as the issue that we are discussing (by way of a rather complicated group of amendments) is, as the debate has already shown, one not to be settled just on party lines. Like previous speakers, I greatly welcome the concessions proposed by the Government on the police aspect of the Bill. Nevertheless, given what had already been said in this Chamber and by every body that they consulted, I cannot refrain from commenting that I simply cannot understand why they were surprised at the reaction to their original proposal.
However, welcome though the concessions are, I find them falling short of the ideal in three respects. First, I do not want to repeat what has been so eloquently said about the need for putting the elected local government representatives in a clear majority, but it certainly seems to me that, unless that is done, the whole concept of the triple partnership and all the fine words about local 114 accountability are seriously at risk. To my mind, the case has not been made out— or, indeed, anything like it — for so fundamental a change.
The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, gave one illustration of how things might work out in practice. Perhaps I may take a shot at another. Under the Government's proposals, if the other two non-elected elements on the authority combined and then elected one of their number as chairman (perhaps at a meeting when a couple of the local authority representatives could not be present), the local authority members would, in effect, be in a minority. After all, those bodies are precepting authorities. I think it crucial that those who have been elected by their local communities should be in a clear majority. I sympathise with the proposition in that regard set out in Amendment No.21 tabled in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Peyton.
Secondly, as regards size, the government amendments still seem to contemplate that 16 should be the norm; but, in practice, I would expect a great many exceptions to be made — for example, where there are a number of constituent authorities as in Greater Manchester, which has a combination of urban areas and large rural areas, or where the authority tends to function through many sub-committees each of which has to be manned, as in Merseyside. I am bound to say that my own view is still that the size, within the limits laid down by statute with a minimum of 16 or 18 and a maximum of 24, would best be determined locally. If we are not going in for a national police force, I still cannot see what it has to do with the Secretary of State, and why the Home Office should be settling the size of 43 or so police authorities. At all events I believe that the views of the local authorities should ordinarily prevail.
It follows from this that I believe the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, with his well-known moderation and desire to compromise, has gone rather too far in meeting government intentions. But at all events I go along with his proposal that, if this measure is to be done by order, it would be right that the order should be laid before Parliament to make quite sure that justice has been done.
Thirdly, there is the question of how the minority of non-elected members should be composed. I accept that there is a good case for including magistrates, who have trailed clouds of glory, as it were, from Tudor times when the justice of the peace was local government, and then historically through their membership of the standing joint committees. But I still find it hard to accept— here, with great regret, I differ both from the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, and from the noble Viscount, Lord Whitelaw— the power of the central government to make at least five appointments to each authority (that is somewhere between 200 or 300 appointments) direct. We have heard various explanations of who these people might be. The noble Viscount, Lord Whitelaw, takes some comfort from Amendment No.27, but, looking at that amendment, I am afraid it does not take us far.
The Government say that one of their main aims in all this is to go for greater local accountability. However, these people can hardly claim to know more about the community than the elected representatives, or more, for example, about education and social services 115 activities, which can be relevant to police concerns. There are many local government members, as inquiries have shown, who can claim outside management and financial expertise. I am sorry to say this but my fear is that the reality is that they would be a substantial minority with weighty voting powers who would look to their appointing authority for a lead. In the event of a dispute with the inspector of constabulary, or with the Home Office, where would their loyalties lie, and how independent would the authority remain?
I can put a point rather more crudely than the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, put it. I realise that the present Government find it inconceivable that one day they will be in opposition, but I wonder whether they would have shown quite the same enthusiasm for this solution if it had been forthcoming from a Labour government. I accept the argument which the noble Viscount put so clearly; namely, that there may be a case for bringing in some outside people, but if this is to be done it seems to me that the police authority itself is the authority best able to judge what particular gaps need to be filled. One of the amendments to which I am speaking contemplates giving power to the authority to co-opt members with experience which might not otherwise be available, for example from among the ethnic minorities. That works for education authorities and it could work here but the needs vary a great deal from locality to locality and are not really suitable for decision in Whitehall, or to be more accurate, Queen Anne's Gate.
I am left in a slight dilemma in that none of the amendments we are discussing is absolutely ideal from my point of view in meeting the three difficulties which I have touched on. The amendment to which I have put my name, Amendment No.11, would be better if it mentioned a minimum number of 18 rather than 16 so as to simplify the arithmetical processes of contemplating a two-thirds majority. Of the amendments which we are discussing I would, if the opinion of the Committee were sought, go along with Amendment No.5 and the two other associated amendments which the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, has submitted for the consideration of the Committee.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
Like the noble Viscount, Lord Whitelaw, and the noble Lords, Lord Allen of Abbeydale and Lord McIntosh of Haringey, I begin by welcoming the decision of the Government to drop the provision in the Bill which gave the Secretary of State the power to appoint the chairman of the police authority. It was a wholly objectionable idea and it was rightly opposed by nearly everyone who spoke in the debate. The Government have withdrawn from that position and I welcome that unreservedly. However, a great deal that is objectionable remains in Clause 2 of this Bill.
The noble Viscount, Lord Whitelaw, put it extremely well and extremely persuasively when he spoke on Second Reading on the question not of the chairman but of the five Home Office nominees. He said:Is it really wise to replace local authority members with the Home Secretary's nominees? Will the nominees really know 116 more about local policing and more about their areas than the people from local authorities already do? It is extremely doubtful"— [Official Report, 18/1/94; cols.480 and 481.1The objections to this provision, quite apart from the point identified, rightly, by the noble Viscount on Second Reading, raise, in my view, far wider matters. They raise major constitutional issues. Are we prepared to destroy the tripartite system that has been developed in this country since the passing of the Municipal Corporations Act 1835 and the Local Government Act: 1888? For, make no mistake about it, Clause 2 of this Bill effectively destroys the careful balance that has been developed over more than a century between chief officers, local police authorities and the Home Secretary. Why is this being done? We have still had no serious explanation from the Government as to why they have brought these proposals forward. Indeed the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, has paid a warm tribute to the existing system. I remind the Committee of what he said in our debate on the Government's proposals last year. He said:In the 30 years that have passed since the previous police Act became law the old tripartite structure, which consisted of police authorities, chief constables and the Home Secretary, has provided an effective police service which can still truthfully be described as being not only the best in the world but also the envy of the world"— [Official Report, 26/5/93; col.345.]I believe that view expressed by the noble Earl is widely shared in this country and indeed— this is even more significant— outside this country. As I have indicated in the past, not only is our police service admired but so is our policing structure. Senior police officers from the United States and from our partners in Europe believe that we have succeeded in creating a police service that is politically independent, unlike those in their own countries, where all-powerful politicians, be, they ministers of the interior or mayors, have imposed their will upon the police, often with the most damaging consequences.
That being so, I find it extraordinary that the Government have brought forward this proposal. As has already been pointed out, there has been no independent inquiry, no Royal Commission, no report from a Select Committee of the House of Commons and no pressure from outside Parliament. Indeed, on 19th January the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, told me that of the 360 letters which had been received from a wide variety of organisations, representing people of totally different political opinions, following the publication of the White Paper not one supported the Government's proposals in relation to the membership of police authorities. Not one organisation wrote to the Home Secretary indicating support for what the Government have now put before the Committee.
As the Committee is aware, the proposals are opposed by the entire police service of this country. They are opposed by the Police Federation, by the Police Superintendents' Association arid by the Association of Chief Police Officers. They have taken that position not because they are resistant to change but because they believe that the proposals will politicise the British police service. In my opinion they are entirely right to take that view.
Instead of the present arrangements which have served us so well, a politician in London who is for the 117 time being Home Secretary will appoint five members to the police authority — or roughly a third when the membership of the authority is more than 16. He will be able to do that with the police authorities in Norwich, Chelmsford, Newcastle, Penrith, and all the other force areas in England and Wales. What has that to do with the quality of policing in this country? Those political nominees will be accountable not to the local community but to the politician in London, of whatever political persuasion he may be.
During the previous debate the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, professed to be wounded by the suggestion that Mr. Howard has the intention of putting political friends into those jobs. Let us assume for a moment that he has no such intention and that no such idea has ever crossed his mind. I fear that that does not even begin to address our anxiety. The assurances that were given on the previous occasion by the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, in relation to the Home Secretary's attitude, which will no doubt be repeated later this afternoon, will hold good only for as long as Mr. Howard is Home Secretary. His successors, of whatever party, will not be bound by anything the noble Earl may say this afternoon. It is inconceivable that in five or 10 years time a Home Secretary will say, "What did Lord Ferrers say in February 1994? I really musn't do what I thought of doing given the fact that the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, gave certain assurances". He will do whatever he considers on that occasion to be right. The Committee must recognise that.
As we all know perfectly well, future governments, whatever their political persuasion, will be tempted to fill these posts on police authorities with political allies. On every police authority of 16 members there will be five nominees of the politician in London, three Justices of the Peace and eight councillors from different political parties, as required by the legislation. In my view it is right that that should be required by the legislation. The five Home Secretary nominees, with the support of even a minority of, say, three of the councillors, will almost certainly be able to elect the chairman of the authority, who will then have a casting vote in addition to his deliberative vote. The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, has said on many occasions that Justices of the Peace do not become involved in matters of this sort. The Home Secretary of the day— of whatever party — will then have his majority on nearly every police authority in England and Wales.
Do we really want to give a politician in Whitehall such power on the overwhelming majority of police authorities in England and Wales? We should remember the other provisions of the Bill: the national policing objectives, which will be laid down by the Home Secretary of the day; performance related pay for chief officers, to be determined by the police authority; and, most significant of all, fixed-term contracts for chief officers.
Consider the position in relation to the chief officer's operational independence. That independence is the immense strength of our system and our guarantee that all-powerful politicians in Whitehall, and, for that matter, members of police authorities, cannot apply 118 improper pressures on the police. If this clause is allowed to go through unamended there is a serious danger that a future Home Secretary's friends on a police authority could indicate that if a chief officer did not see things as they did, and as the Government of the day saw them, his contract might not be renewed. There is no point in the Government denying that there is such a danger. Pressure of precisely that character has been applied to chief officers of police outside our own shores. That is why so many of them admire our system of carefully designed checks and balances, which has served this nation so well.
In a few minutes the Committee will have to vote on this issue. It is probably one of the most momentous in the history of the British police service. There is a real danger that the passage of this clause unamended will do the most grievous damage to the British police service. That is not simply my view, it is the opinion of every chief officer of police with whom I have discussed the matter.
If this Bill had been introduced by a government of a different political persuasion from the present Government I would have spoken in precisely the same terms as I do today. I believe that in such circumstances the overwhelming majority of this Chamber would have taken precisely the same view. Members of the Committee should have no doubt of the gravity of the decision they will make this evening. As I said at Second Reading, this Chamber is the ultimate guardian of the constitutional liberties of the British people. I hope that the Committee will strike these repugnant provisions from the Bill.
§ Lord Rippon of Hexham
I did not speak at the Second Reading of the Bill because I spoke extremely critically in the debate on the White Paper on 26th May last year. Because I was so critical I should like to commence by joining with my right honourable friend Lord Whitelaw in welcoming the changes which the Home Secretary has now proposed. He inherited the Bill, and it is not always easy to make changes of the radical nature which he has proposed. Ministers often find themselves in grave difficulty these days. If they do not listen they are accused of being autocratic. If they do listen they are accused of making U-turns. Even the Gadarene swine did not have to make a U-turn: a change of direction would have been quite sufficient. I welcome the change of direction which the Home Secretary has made.
The objectives of this Bill are to be commended, but it has been perfectly clear from the outset that we cannot combat crime by antagonising everyone concerned with the enforcement of law and order: the police authorities, the police and the magistrates. I think that the Home Secretary has gone a long way to meet many anxieties, but I hope that he will be willing to go a few steps further. As other speakers have said, it is important that there should be a majority of elected members serving on the police authority, preferably by retaining the two-thirds requirement or at least ensuring, as my noble friend Lord Peyton has suggested, that there is a clear majority. I will go on reiterating the principles 119 enunciated by Professor F. A. Hayek in The Road to Serfdom. He is an author much commended by some elements in the Conservative Party. He said:You cannot have real, effective democracy without real, effective local self-government".He made that comment in the light of his experiences in pre-War Germany. Perhaps I may repeat what I suggested in the debate on the White Paper. There is a comparison— perhaps pushed a little far— with the national socialists in Germany who said that a locally-elected mayor like Adenauer does not represent the wishes and interests of the people of Cologne as well as perhaps an appointed businessman by the name of Krupp.
That may be pushing it too far, but there are real dangers in giving a Home Secretary of any party the powers suggested in this Bill. We ought to look at legislation on the basis not that we give powers to a good Minister but that we may be putting powers into the hands of a bad Minister in future years. The point has been made about the importance of having local businessmen. I think it has been established that 38 per cent. of those who now serve on police authorities have business experience. Like the noble Lord, Lord Harris, I do not really appreciate the need for the changes that are suggested in this Bill. I ask the Government to think again and, to use a phrase coined by Sir Winston Churchill, "trust the people".
The police authorities, the local authorities and the magistrates may be thought to be indulging in special pleading, but I assure your Lordships that they are not alone in expressing their anxieties about this Bill and its proposals. As an example, I should like to refer to a letter I have received from Justice, which is chaired by my noble friend Lord Alexander of Weedon and which has as its vice-chairman the noble Lord, Lord Archer. It says:As an all-party human rights organisation, Justice considers that the composition of police authorities is an important constitutional issue affecting the independence of policing. Although we accept that the Government's recent concessions go some way to meeting the concerns expressed at Second Reading, we believe an additional amendment is crucial. This amendment should ensure that there is a majority of elected members serving on the police authority: either by retaining the present two-thirds requirement or by providing for a simple majority".It gives two main reasons for that. The first is:A majority of elected members simply provides a better form of local democratic accountability".Secondly, it says:It is a necessary counter-balance to other proposals in the Bill and helps to preserve the checks and balances of the tripartite relationship".I believe that those checks and balances, built up over many years, are essential to the maintenance of true democracy in this country and for those reasons I commend Amendments Nos.5,8 and 11 to your Lordships.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Lord Callaghan of Cardiff
I can be quite short about this. The real trouble with these provisions is that they gather more power into the hands of the Home Secretary. Whatever may be said and whatever the intentions are, this is a centralising Bill which strengthens Whitehall and weakens local authorities and 120 local representation. That is the fundamental objection to what is proposed in the Bill. That it is a centralising measure was shown quite clearly by the desire of the Home Secretary to increase his own powers when he announced the intention of appointing the chairman. It was absolute impudence, in my view, to suggest that he should have the power to appoint the chairman. Although congratulations have now been poured upon him for withdrawing from what was an untenable position, I would sooner congratulate your Lordships, all of whom spoke in such a manner that it would have been impossible for the Home Secretary to have carried the measure through.
So this was, and is, gathering still more powers into the hands of the Home Secretary. If I may take the appointment of the independent members, he has certainly separated himself directly from their appointment by having this regional instrument. He said in a Written Answer:All applications received will be considered it the first instance by one of six regional short-listing panels. Each regional panel will consist of a professional recruitment consultant and two people independent of government.I shall select those I wish to appoint as members of police authorities from the short list"— [Official Report, Commons,17/1/94; col.377.]So he has at least separated himself from that; he has put up at least one barrier. Presumably he will still appoint the regional panels, the professional. recruitment consultant and the two people who themselves will be independent of the Government. He will do that, so he will be directly responsible for selecting the panel which will select the independent members on the short list and recommend them to him. I suppose that that is a barrier of some sort, but it does not strike me as being a very strong one. I would say to noble Lords in all parts of the Committee: all this is part of the continuing destruction of local authorities. It is all part of gathering more power, whatever may be said by the Government about their intentions, into the hands of Whitehall and of Ministers who at the moment will be Conservative but who very shortly, I think, are likely to be Labour. That is an argument that ought to appeal to noble Lords opposite, if nothing else does.
I feel very strongly about this. We all know that democracy does not just consist of electing a national parliament once every five years. We all know that the strength of democracy comprises a web and complex of local institutions and local bodies made up of people serving in different ways, not necessarily elected. That is what comprises democracy and it is that which is being undermined by the measures in this Bill. For the reasons given by my noble friend Lord McIntosh and the noble Lord, Lord Harris, I would say to your Lordships that there has been no demand for this locally. So far as I know, there is no requirement that it should happen, except the desire of the Home Secretary to strengthen his influence in these bodies. I am against that and I am therefore against, I regret to say, what the noble Viscount, Lord Whitelaw, said. Indeed, I am extremely sorry to see that he has moved in this particular matter, because no case has really been made out for this.
121 Of course some very good people may be added; I do not know, and maybe none of us knows. They will get their expenses and allowances. I do not know what those allowances will be. I would not assume that their independence will necessarily be lessened because of receiving allowances, but it is weakening the powers of local institutions which are an essential part of our democratic society. For that reason I am totally opposed to this. I believe that the House should insist on a majority of local authority members and I believe that these so-called independent members are quite superfluous to requirement. We would be creating another semi-quango. More power is being concentrated in the hands of the Home Secretary and for that reason, although I do not wholly agree with the amendments that have been put down, I shall certainly vote for them all.
§ Lord Mottistone
Amendments Nos.17,18,22 and 125 are in my name. I do not propose to speak to Amendments Nos.22 and 125 since they are closely related to Government amendments which I wish to discuss separately. Amendments Nos.17 and 18 relate to the theme mentioned by many Members of the Committee, including the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan — the importance of local people being on the new police authorities. I seek to remove the five people— or any people— appointed by the Secretary of State to the authorities. For reasons already explained to the Committee, which I shall not pursue, it seems that everyone is agreed that it is important that local authority representatives should be in the majority. I have to admit that my amendments do not go that far. I am concentrating on putting the magistrates back where they should be.
An interesting point was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich. At cols.480 and 481 of Hansard of 18th January 1994 my noble friend Lord Whitelaw questioned whether it was appropriate that the Home Secretary should make those appointments. I believe that it is extremely difficult to persuade the right people to do such jobs. Most of the people who wish to give voluntary public service are either local councillors or local magistrates. Not all, it is true, but most of them. Many of the people who would be suitable by anyone's standards, whether locally or centrally, do not volunteer because they may find working with councillors and local officials uncongenial, particularly when, in recent years, local authorities have become much more party political. That is a pity. Alternatively, suitable people do not volunteer because they are too busy running their own businesses.
There are exceptions; those who are neither councillors nor magistrates and who are prepared to do the job. But there are not many in relation to the numbers required for the task. There are many other activities for which they are required. They may be serving as school governors or helping on various health bodies. They do not have the time, and if they had they are probably not suitable. I have experience of people who volunteer for such tasks. Many are not people whom one would like to have sitting on various local 122 bodies. We have to discourage them in one way or another. Therefore, although at this moment I am close to the problem in the smallest county in England, I have had experience also in three other major counties in mainland England and have encountered the same difficulty of finding people who will be councillors or magistrates, let alone take on the other jobs for which the Home Secretary seeks people.
In any case, if we are to have extra people, the best arrangement would be that some of those appointed should have been encouraged to offer their services by the police authority itself. If the police authority were invited to co-opt people to add to its numbers, making sure that the majority remained with the councillors, I do not believe that there would be too much objection. But if it is to be done by way of central allocation in the form mentioned on 17th January in the Written Answer from the Minister to my noble friend Lord Lyell at col. WA 37, to which the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, referred then I am staggered. I have to stop and say that the insolence of the Home Office in writing down job descriptions and personal profiles for people who will function locally staggers me. Anyone wishing to know whether people are right to perform a local duty does not want an official or a management consultant who is eager for a job and the extra money paid by a dumb government department. If such people are to tell us the kind of member who is to serve on police authorities, it will be total insolence. I trust that whatever happens to the Bill, the Written Answer given on 17th January is removed and replaced by something else, if it has to be replaced at all.
As the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, said, the Written Answer mentions six regional short-listing panels. With six panels to cover the vast area of England, Wales and the Isle of Wight— because we are separate from the rest — how can the people appointed know what it is like in Cornwall if the region is run from Bristol? How can two people and a management consultant know what is going on and who are the right people to supplement the police authority? It is absurd.
When I had occasion to talk to the Home Secretary, I asked him about that. He said: "We want it to be local. " I said: "You mean local, not regional?" He said: "Yes, local. " I hope that my noble friend who was there will remember that when he decides whether the proposal for regions ever gets a running. I trust that if there is to be any question of names coming forward to be approved locally— I hope not selected— they will come from the local level at which the police authority functions and not from other counties without the area.
I suggest that the best bet to go for is Amendment No.5 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, and his supplementary amendments. I suggest that Amendment No.20 be resisted by the Committee because it states,one half of the members shall be members of a relevant council".I suggest above all that Amendment No.27 be cast into outer darkness.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Lord Merlyn-Rees
In the 18 months I have been privileged to be a Member of your Lordships' House, I have often asked myself what are our functions. With the debates we have had on the police Bill, I have learnt what the functions of the House are all about. The speech which has just been made sums up entirely my views on the matter.
My experience as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is that one is Home Secretary for the Province. Many people in your Lordships' House have had the job, including the noble Viscount, Lord Whitelaw, who, I accept, set the tone for the way we all proceeded. On the basis of that experience, I know that one thing we had to do there was to bring democracy back to policing. Everything that I learnt as Home Secretary was that there should be a stop to the growing centralisation and the weakening of police authorities and police forces proposed by the Bill.
One of the questions I ask myself is: whatever their numbers, what are the appointees for? We have had an exposé (if that is the right word) of the method of appointing them, but I ask from my own experience in my own area: where will they come from? What functions will they carry out?
I have been clearing my mind on the role of the chief constable and the police committee. What is certain is that on the basis of a judgment made in 1968, when my noble friend Lord Callaghan of Cardiff was Home Secretary, which made it quite clear, no Minister of the Crown can tell a chief constable that he must or must not keep observation on this place or that. I wonder whether that has been carried out to the letter on one or two occasions in the past 10 years. He cannot be told that he must or must not prosecute this man or that; nor can any police authority tell him so. The responsibility is on him. He is answerable to the law alone.
Whatever else these appointees may think that they will do, they will not be telling the chief constable what to do. Their knowledge of the area may be slight. It may he greater than perhaps we think. But they will not be able to tell the chief constable what to do; and that is the glory of our system. It is against the system in continental Europe; it is against the system that I saw in the occupied West Bank when I went out with the police there last year; and against what I saw in South Africa when a fortnight ago I went out with police there into the shanty towns and other areas. In our experience, the chief constable is independent and subject to the law.
What are these appointees supposed to do? I had a look at the powers of the police authority. They are restricted to financial and administrative responsibilities. One could take that argument further and say that of course the chief constable has to take that into account. It is the financial and administrative side about which I suspect the Home Office is concerned. I believe that it has gone the wrong way about it. I learnt as Home Secretary that as Home Secretary with a police department, with the inspectorate, one has backing. The local police authorities do not. It is time that they had that backing. If we need people with financial and managerial experience, then appoint them to the police 124 committee. Give them a job to do. They are the ones who should advise the chief constable and the police committee as to whether they are spending the right amount of money on computers and using that money properly, not whether they are using them operationally correctly. So let us sweep aside this idea of appointees because the Home Secretary of the day, his predecessor, the Home Office and the inspectorate feel that the police authorities are not doing a proper job. Let us give them the tools to do a proper job.
The other day I was talking to someone in the Police Federation and trying to tease out this idea. That person suggested a sort of Permanent Under-Secretary. That is getting nearer to what is needed. But that role should not be members of the police authority, who should have the role of non-executive directors. I appeal to the Government to think again. This proposal goes clown the wrong road. We do not need appointees appointed by the Home Office. I know how things are done. I understand this new method. There is a list of the great and the good. There will of course be bias one way or the other arising out of the very method by which appointments are made. We do not want that. The appointed members system will be wrong. It will be against the whole trend of policing from 1835, as the noble Lord, Lord Harris, spelt out. I appeal to this Committee to reject the method that the Government are putting forward, which is wrong. That is the function of this Chamber.
§ Lord Renton
In my opinion this is the most important debate that we shall have at this Committee stage. It is for that reason, and also because for four and a half years (which I believe is regarded as a very long time) I was answerable for police affairs with the Home Secretary in another place, as the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, will remember— my experience goes back many years to January 1958, when I became Under-Secretary and he was political adviser to the Police Federation; and I am happy to say that we very rarely disagreed— that I agree with what my noble friend Lord Mottistone said about this matter, and broadly agree with what my noble friend Lord Rippon said. It is of vital importance to the successful operation of the police that they should have the co-operation of the public. They are much more likely to get it if democratically elected representatives of the public are well represented, indeed are in a majority at least on the police authority. Without that, in my opinion, public confidence is not as good as it should be. I also consider that, in view of their experience in the courts, magistrates on the police authorities have a vital part to play.
We have a plethora of amendments on this subject. There is great scope for confusion. I am going to make a suggestion to my noble friend Lord Ferrers. He has heard all the views which are critical of the Government's approach. Quite frankly, I would not have thought that he had much hope in the Division Lobby this evening. Therefore I suggest to him that he should give an undertaking on two points: first, that he will consider this matter very fully and in consultation with the Home Secretary between now and Report 125 stage; secondly, that his consultation will extend across this Chamber. In the light of the discussion which we have already had, there is a consensus emerging among Members of the Committee which it would be well worth my noble friend following up.
Having said that by way of what I hope is a generally helpful suggestion, perhaps I may make one or two comments about matters in the government amendments which trouble me. I agree with my noble friend Lord Mottistone about Amendment No.27. It is phrased in a most unusual way. Subsection (1) states that,The members of a police authority referred to in section 3A(1) (b) or (1A) (b) of this Act shall be persons appointed by the Secretary of State from a list of persons compiled in accordance with an order made by the Secretary of State".I have never seen a provision like that put forward for legislation before. If noble Lords know the good precedent, let us hear about it, but I have never seen one. Perhaps I am being unfair and there has not been the opportunity, but so far we have had no explanation from the Government as to how it is proposed that that list shall be compiled. However it is compiled it would run contrary to the principles which my noble friends Lord Mottistone and Lord Rippon have already stated, and which have been stated in all parts of the Committee. The Government have a very great difficulty in this matter. As Members of the Committee know, I am a keen and sympathetic supporter of the Government, but on this occasion I think that we are entitled to ask them to think again.
§ 5 p.m.
§ Lord Knights
I rise to support the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, which I believe is fundamental to the future policing of this country. I am sorry that local authorities and police authorities are being separated in the way that Clause 2 proposes. I was brought up in the days of the old police Acts. As an assistant chief constable I served a city watch committee in Birmingham. I was subsequently chief constable of the combined Sheffield and Rotherham police force, which, while it was a joint body, still regarded itself very much as serving the two separate authorities. Finally, I was chief constable in a metropolitan county with a county council and in turn a police committee.
I am quite sure that the police were much more sensitive to the needs and wishes of their local communities after sitting at a meeting— not necessarily a police committee meeting but a county council meeting when the minutes of the police authority were discussed. You certainly knew what they thought about how you were going about your job as chief constable.
But I accept and understand that there are some feelings today that the old system, which dates from the Victorian days, is in need of reform and should be brought up to date. Indeed, the first moves in that direction occurred in 1986 when, as the Committee will recall, the metropolitan counties, or at least their county councils, were abolished and police authorities were 126 created for the same areas as freestanding corporate bodies. They precept on the constituent district councils and receive direct grant from the Government.
The problems encountered in Derbyshire, where the county council reduced the budget approved by the police authority, have been quite eliminated. That is the only reason that I have been able to trace so far for amending the law, as the Bill proposes. Nothing else need to have been done to overcome the current problems which the Home Secretary has faced in the last year or two.
The metropolitan county authorities are composed entirely of councillors representing districts and magistrates. I believe that they have proved to be responsible bodies which have worked well with their chief constables and the local authorities that their members represent and they are proud of the forces that they provide. They differ from the authorities that are now proposed in that the local authority representatives are currently clearly in the majority. I have no doubt that in consequence the authorities see their loyalties lying toward the district councils and the communities that they represent.
In turn, the district councils regard the police forces that they provide as their police. That is an extremely important factor when considering the reduction of crime. There is considerable evidence to show that partnerships between the various departments of local authorities, voluntary agencies and the police, working together, are most likely to curb crime and improve the quality of life in local communities. However, if that is to happen I believe that it is essential for local authorities to feel that they have a real contribution to make in the policing of their areas. Equally, I believe that local communities too must feel that the police are accountable to them if they are to give the positive help that the police need successfully to detect and prosecute the criminals who prey on those communities.
However, I suggest that that is not likely to happen if the police authorities come to be regarded as accountable to Whitehall rather than the town hall. I suggest also that it is a very valuable discipline for the police when deciding policy matters to have to say to themselves, "I wonder what they will think about this at the council house?" Whitehall is much too remote to create that same sensitivity.
I am not persuaded either that the inclusion of nominated members with special skills will add very much to a police authority's decision-making, bearing in mind the experience that is already there, which has been referred to earlier in the debate. Indeed, I wonder whether it will have the time to perform the many tasks that are taken on by police authority members, including lay visiting of police cells and attending national committees, on a number of subjects, or local consultative bodies. There is a whole list of duties and responsibilities which members of police authorities undertake. Certainly, the minimum of one-and-a-half days a month envisaged by the Home Office as all that will be required seems to me to be very wide of the mark.
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, that it is vital for the elected representatives 127 on the police authority to be clearly seen to be in the driving seat of the committee. I believe that it is a view held by everyone connected with policing at local level. Additionally, the continuation of the tripartite system, with its essential checks and balances on the activities of the three parties involved— that is the real importance arid value of the tripartite system— depends on the local authority being seen to be in the driving seat. Therefore, I support Amendments Nos.5,8 and 11 moved by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey.
§ Lord Elton
I very much hope that my noble friend Lord Ferrers, the Minister, will feel able to take the advice of my noble friend Lord Renton. I do so for a particular reason, which is not quite his reason.
I do not see the answer that we want within this plethora of amendments. I see two or three narrow misses. The Committee is in danger of getting into the mood of treating the debate as a cavalry charge with a single issue to be decided on a single vote. In fact, we are addressing four questions and three subordinate questions. Only one of them has been resolved so far; namely, whether the chairman of the police authority should be appointed by the Home Secretary or by the authority. I think that we are all happily agreed that it should be by the latter.
The next question is whether the membership of the authority should be as it has traditionally been, or whether it should contain some members recruited from a wider constituency. The noble Lord, Lord Merlyn-Rees, and one or two other Members have argued against it, but I believe that on trial the Committee would feel that there should be a wider constituency. That being so, should those recruits be secured by co-option, by appointment or in some other way?
The principle of co-option has been espoused by a number of your Lordships as an extension of the principle of democracy. I call on my experience— not the experience of a year as Minister responsible for the police under my noble friend Lord Whitelaw but my three years' experience as Minister for the Prison Service. In that service in each prison there was a board of prison visitors. I observed that the membership of the prison population was becoming increasingly black but that the membership of the boards of prison visitors was remaining stubbornly white. I made it known that I thought that there should be some way to redress the balance.
The system is, as it were, a supervised co-option. The local board makes a proposal and the Minister does or does not approve it. I had to refuse five successive proposed co-options of white members to an all-white prison board for a prison which was predominantly black in population because it was alleged that there were no suitable black people available. In effect, I had a power of appointment and it was very badly needed. Therefore, I believe that there should be a process by which the Secretary of State can be involved in getting people on to a police authority.
But should those people be in a position at any time to be in a majority or the predominant voice on the authority? Amendment No.11, to which the noble Lord, Lord Harris, has his name, suggests something of that 128 nature but does it by co-option. I do not feel that co-option is satisfactory under these circumstances. The noble Lord has a good number but a bad route; and my noble friend is in a position to propose a good route if he will get the right number. I do not see that in any combination of the amendments. I hope that my noble friend will come back at Report stage with grateful thanks for having found a process which will produce a body of appointed members on the police authorities in a position to influence but not to determine its policy. I agree with my noble friend Lord Mottistone that that should be a position subordinate to that of the magistrate.
§ Lord Tebbit
First, I apologise that I was not able to hear some of the earlier speeches in the debate,. However, it seems to me to be a most interesting discussion. I must confess that I always become slightly uneasy when the great and the good— I suppose that we should collectively cast ourselves in the role of being the great and the good of the establishment— are all of one view. I wonder whether it is necessarily right. I therefore begin to question whether the Committee's enthusiasm for many of the amendments and the attack upon the Government's proposals is necessarily as soundly based as we might think if we listened casually to it all.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
Perhaps the noble Lord will allow me to say that he has only been here for half of the debate. In those circumstances, as he cannot possibly have heard all the arguments, it is a bit rich for him to call us "casual".
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Lord Tebbit
I mean no offence. But we should be a little careful in accepting this "cavalry charge", as it has been described, too easily. Let me put it this way, and this may please the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh. There are moments when this Chamber is in danger of being too conservative. We should accept that the island on which we live is becoming smaller day by day, as it is becoming more urbanised. We should accept that its population is becoming, perhaps with the assistance of a little advice from myself from time to time, rather more mobile than it used to be. And we should all accept, as I am sure we do, that criminals do not have any particular respect for local authority boundaries. Indeed, the existence of the motorway system— despite the M.25— to a great extent encourages mobility of crime and criminals.
We should also reflect upon who it is receives the blame when policing falls below the standards which we all think appropriate. We seldom read in the tabloid press, "Local police force fails". We may frequently read that the Home Secretary failed. We seem to be saying that all the responsibility should be local yet all the blame when things go wrong should go to the Home Secretary.
I have some sympathy for the Home Secretary in these matters. He is not an officer of state for whom I normally have a great deal of sympathy, whoever 129 occupies the position. But on this occasion I do. We tend to forget that we are willing to trust the Lord Chancellor and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster who, in recent years, has usually doubled as the Chairman of the Conservative Party— a dubious appointment no doubt in the minds of many Members of your Lordships' Chamber— to appoint the magistrates upon whom we place such responsibility and on whom we shower such great praise. If the post is doubled in the way that it has been in recent years, and as it was in my case, we trust the Chancellor of the Duchy (also the Chairman of the Conservative Party) to maintain the dignitary of the magistracy; to make sure that there is a firm balance among magistrates who are appointed in terms of political views or even those who have no political views, ethnic make-up and things of that kind. Yet now, at a time when our police forces need to move into the present day and prepare themselves for the challenges of the crime and the criminals at the end of this century and into the next century, we have some misgivings about giving the Home Secretary the powers placed in the Bill.
I do not believe that those powers would be abused. I take the view that they would not have been abused by past Home Secretaries such as the late Chuter Ede, or the noble Lords, Lord Jenkins and Lord Callaghan. They would not be abused today by my right honourable friend Mr. Howard. I doubt that they would be abused by Mr. Blair should he become Home Secretary. We are becoming attached to a slightly artificial argument that somehow or other there is great respect for local authorities which is not extended to the national institutions of government, the Home Office and the Home Secretary. I doubt that that is so. To some extent, in what we are saying and doing we may be feeding the current frenzy which says that nobody in national politics can conceivably be honest, decent or competent in any way whatever; that to be a Member of the House of Commons or a Member of the Government is somehow to carry the mark of Cain. We would be wise to reflect a little longer and to think that the Government are not so far wrong in what they are saying.
Finally, I must say that neither in my public nor private life did I meet anybody who said to me that their attitude towards their local police force had been in any way influenced by the fact that the members of the police authority were or were not democratically elected. That is an absolute fantasy. It is going too far in our denigration of members of local authorities to think that their attitude towards their police force would be in any way changed were some of the members to be appointed from a list which had been drawn up by the Home Secretary. If I may say so, we are becoming slightly over-excited.
§ Lord Mottistone
Before the noble Lord sits down, he was saying how splendidly the Lord Chancellor and the Chancellor of the Duchy appointed magistrates. I entirely agree. But they appoint them not from a list they construct themselves; they appoint them because the Keepers of the Rolls of the respective counties propose names to them which have been carefully selected by a special and complicated process of examination of 130 people whose names come forward. In my case I find that I ultimately propose only one-third of the people whom I interview for that purpose in my committee. That is quite different from Amendment No.27.
§ Lord Tebbit
I take my noble friend's point. Nonetheless, there is a degree of understanding of how the process works rather more informally than the manner in which my noble friend put it.
§ Viscount Tenby
I support Amendments Nos.5,8 and 11 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey. As a magistrate, I advise the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, that most crime is indeed locally based despite the prevalence of bicycles in this upwardly mobile society of ours. As a member of a police authority I welcome the fact that the Government have withdrawn their earlier ill-judged proposal that authority chairmen should be appointed by the Home Secretary and that the size of such authorities should be standardised. But the other main thrust of the Government's proposal remains; namely, the balance and composition of authorities. Those points are of the gravest constitutional importance.
How can it be right that in future authorities should be evenly balanced between elected and non-elected members? As my noble friend Lord Allen pointed out, let us suppose that two elected members are ill, or on holiday, a natural enough assumption taken over the years. Are important decisions to be taken by that authority in such a situation? It seems hard to reconcile that with any concept of local democracy. And what exactly is wrong with the present composition of authorities? I sit on an authority. It is very tiresome at times. It makes mistakes at times— rather like governments. But, at the end of the day, that surely is what democracy is all about, is it not?
I am not against the concept of co-opted members. I believe that they could add a useful dimension to any authority's work. I accept the powerful reference of the noble Viscount, Lord Whitelaw, to "a broad approach" and "new ideas" in the fight against crime. But, apart from the obligatory brace of businessmen, they should surely come from representative sections of those communities which the authorities serve. For example, I can see a good case for a local headmaster being a member of the authority to represent educational concerns, or for some representation from, say, significant ethnic groups within the area. Such people can be identified and appointed by the authorities themselves. Their local knowledge will lead to far more suitable selections than those of Whitehall or Whitehall-inspired sources.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Government remain coy about, first, who really is going to pick the appointees for consideration by the Home Secretary. Is it to be the Lord Lieutenant of the county? Is it to be the chairman of the local chamber of commerce? Is it to be a local representative of the CBI? Secondly, and very much wrapped up with the same point, the Government are also coy about the sort of people they are looking for. It really will not do to talk airily about "businessmen and businesswomen" as if emergency pools of super 131 executives exist all over the country ready to plug the numerous gaps left by the incompetence of Noddy, know-nothing councillors and magistrates.
I must confess to doubting whether such a pool of talent exists. I share the views of the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, who, in a powerful and commonsense speech, made that point and a number of other ones. I have to say that what I do think exists is the temptation to create posts for friends of the Government, a process which has been going on for far too long. Like my noble friend Lord Allen, I wonder whether Members on the other side would defend the position quite so fiercely if, say, another party were in power. If or when such a time arrives, it will be of little avail for them to run around complaining. They will have sown the seeds of their own dissatisfaction.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
There is no doubt that throughout the past hour and 40 minutes all of your Lordships have felt a great deal of sympathy for my noble friend Lord Ferrers. My noble friend came to the House with some very welcome concessions and has had to sit ever since listening, with one exception, to speeches deeply and seriously critical of the Bill's proposals from Members of your Lordships' House, mostly with vast experience of the subject matter— former Home Secretaries, a former chief constable and many others.
I rise only to put one point. If my noble friend desires to resist these amendments it seems to me overwhelmingly clear — I may be wrong— that they will be carried against him and will be put into the Bill. The Bill will be very considerably altered and amended— some of your Lordships may think improved. Certainly, it will be drastically altered. I wonder whether my noble friend thinks that that would be helpful from the point of view either of the future progress of the Bill or of the position of the Government. I hope very much therefore that my noble friend will recognise what seems to be the prevailing view in all parts of the House, in all parties and in none, and will indicate that on most of the points of controversy— not necessarily all of them but most of them— the Government are prepared to think again. He may even feel it prudent to defer further consideration of the Committee stage after today's sitting to allow time for discussions between those who hold differing views when his own very considerable powers of conciliation might be used.
My noble friend has a definite choice. He can seek to resist most of the amendments. I have not the slightest doubt that they will be put into the Bill, that the Bill will be drastically altered thereby and that when it goes back to another place no one quite knows what will happen to it. Or he can use his very considerable powers of conciliation by taking a little time for further consideration at any rate of some of the points. I speak as one who, as your Lordships know, is on the whole a fairly loyal supporter of the Government—
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
I am very much obliged. I see that I carry your Lordships with me. For that very reason I do not like to see the Government going in for 132 a whole series of embarrassing defeats and getting into very grave difficulties with an important Bill. I therefore ask my noble friend, at the last minute if one likes, to consider seriously a conciliatory reply in which he would either accept the amendments, or some of them, with a view to their reconsideration, or ask those who propose them to defer them until another sitting— there are still further sittings ahead— and give him a chance to reflect, without incurring serious Government defeats, on whether further amendments should be made. My own humble advice to him— I tender it with due humility because he is a very experienced Minister — is that he would be very wise, and, I think, serve the interests of the Government of which he is a member, if he adopted the latter course.
§ 5.30 p.m.
It may be helpful if I make an intervention at this moment. It does not stop my noble friends intervening later. I am deeply appreciative of my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter in so far as he said that he felt sympathy for me. I think he is the first person who has said that, and I was not aware that anyone else actually felt it. The fact that my noble friend was kind enough to express it was nectar to my soul.
This is a very controversial matter and it is right that it should be. At Second Reading your Lordships explained in no uncertain terms the various matters about which there was anxiety. My right honourable friend took account of them. He agreed that hereafter the appointment of the chairman should not be made by the Home Secretary but by the full authority. I am glad to say that that has met with approval.
There was also great anxiety as regards the appointment of independent members. Apparently that was seen as a way in which my right honourable friend, or of anyone who held the office of Home Secretary, would put in his own placemen. That was a very real anxiety. My right honourable friend has tried to allay that anxiety by saying "All right, we shall have an independent body of people who will undertake the selection. They will offer a short list of candidates to the Home Secretary to appoint".
The noble Lord, Lord Callaghan of Cardiff, said that this was increasing enormously the powers of the Home Secretary. If someone is to be appointed as an independent member, someone has to do the appointing. It does not matter whether it is the person who prepares the short list, whether it is the Home Secretary himself or the other members of the authority as the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, would prefer in the light of his amendment. Someone has to do the appointing if there are to be independent members. It is not unreasonable for my right honourable friend to say that the Home Secretary should do that provided he is not seen to be taking an overtly political view. Quite frankly, if there are 41 constabularies throughout the country, excluding the Metropolitan Police and the City of London Police, and if, for instance,50 people applied in each case — they may well apply because plenty of people have already done so— one would be talking about a list of about 2,000 people. It would be quite impossible to think that my right honourable friend would know all of 133 them and would carefully select party hacks who might themselves not have applied in any event. He has tried to meet the anxieties expressed at Second Reading.
I admire the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, enormously not only for his views— the extent of my admiration depends on what those views are— but also for the way in which he puts them. He did use some pretty hot language. He said that this measure would destroy the tripartite system. He quoted me as saying that the system was the envy of the world. That is perfectly true. My only complaint about the noble Lord's views is that I do not believe my right honourable friend's proposals will result in the destruction of that system. The noble Lord said that the measure would politicise police forces and that the vote would provide a momentous decision; that the Bill would do grievous damage to policing in this country; and that we should remove the repugnant decisions from the Bill. I thought that that was fairly extravagant language.
What are we actually talking about? We are talking about the tripartite system— the Home Secretary, the police authority and the chief constable. That is a milkmaid's stool, as it were, with three legs, each of which has a certain amount of power. It is a question of adjustment of that power. It is not the usurping of power to my right honourable friend the Home Secretary. Yet, when things go wrong (and they do) in police forces and in local police authorities, people turn to the Home Secretary and say, "What are you going to do about it?" That occurred to me recently when I had to go on television. The reporter asked, "What is the Home Secretary going to do about it?"
This is a matter for the police authorities. Despite the fact that the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, said that this was a centralising measure, and the fact that a number of other Members of the Committee have said similar things, my right honourable friend is trying to give to local authorities more power and responsibility and not to keep that responsibility to himself. I realise that some Members of the Committee say that that will not happen.
I now come to another point where I believe there is fairly universal agreement; namely, that, on the whole, smaller organisations work better. A police authority of, for instance,30 or 40 people is not a very handy body of people to work with. If it is smaller it is better. Quite obviously, in curtailing such a body some members would find that they are no longer on the police authority. That causes understandable anxiety and therefore rumpus. On top of that, if it is suggested that there should be some independent people, too, then other elected councillors will find that they are not on the police authority. That also causes problems.
The idea that independent members is a new provision is nonsense. For the past 30 years or so we have had independent people on police authorities by virtue of the magistrates. There is nothing new in that. My right honourable friend and I believe that there is a place for people to contribute to the problems of policing in their locality who, for one reason or another, as my noble friend Lord Whitelaw, said, have decided 134 not to be on the police authority. It may be that they did not have time or it may not have been their particular bent. Nevertheless, they know and care about their locality and they have a contribution to make. That would improve the police authorities provided that they are not in an overwhelming position, which is the reason why we have suggested that of a police authority of 16 members, eight should be councillors and in the majority; five should be independent and three should be magistrates.
The complaint was made that some people may not be properly represented and that the number should be larger. My right honourable friend has taken that point and said that he agrees that there will be circumstances when the police authority ought to be larger. He said that he would agree to that. If the Committee accepts the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, he would set an upper and a lower limit on the size of the police authority. The chances are then that the number will gradually inflate so that it is always the highest number which is obtained.
The point about this is a fairly simple one. I believe that we are agreed in general that police authorities are better if they are smaller. The real point concerning the Committee is whether my right honourable friend is taking too much power— to use an unpleasant word and I believe a wrong one— in the appointment of those who have been selected by a different and independent system. The noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, said, slightly mischievously, that, after all, the Home Secretary is going to appoint the appointers and they will make the shortlists for my right honourable friend to make the appointments. Somebody has to appoint the appointers. That will be done by my right honourable friend. However, that does not mean to say that they are in his pocket.
I am in a difficulty over this— Members of the Committee need not really laugh or smile too much. I wish to be helpful. My right honourable friend has made a number of concessions. We have tabled in my name a number of amendments to the Bill in order to try to make those concessions and meet the anxieties which have been expressed. Equally, I do not want to sail into something which is undesirable. I may be completely wrong, but I have enormous faith in my right honourable friend and in my noble friend the Chief Whip. I have even more faith in all my noble friends behind me, whom I know will go in the right direction because they believe that the argument is superb. I would like to see whether there is any way in which we can bridge this divide. I do not know whether that is possible and it may well be that it is not.
My right honourable friend has certain views. As my noble friend Lord Rippon said, it is very difficult to make radical alterations without causing some anxiety somewhere. My right honourable friend is keen to see the alterations which he has proposed take effect because he thinks that they are right and because a great deal of effort has gone into getting them right. Equally, it is important that we should try to see whether there are ways in which we can meet the anxieties of noble Lords. It seems to me that in some respects the gulf is pretty wide. One can meet those anxieties only if noble Lords 135 are good enough to try to meet the divide. I am happy to see whether we can do that. However, I cannot give a guarantee because my right honourable friend may take a different view.
Nevertheless, I am content to see what we can do on Report if your Lordships think that that is suitable. However, if we were to do that, it would mean that the amendments that are now grouped together could not be put to the vote. That provision would have to apply to all noble Lords who have tabled amendments in these groups because it would not be fair if I said that I would not move my amendment only for the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, then to move his next amendment, mine having gone down the drainpipe. That would not be fair, but I am sure that the noble Lord would not do such a dastardly thing as that— I hope.
I am prepared to see whether we can try to meet at least some of the anxieties. I cannot give any guarantee that we can, but at least we can try. If that were to meet with your Lordships' approval, I would be content to withdraw my amendments on that basis.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
That is clearly a serious contribution to the debate and must be taken seriously. Before responding directly to the invitation from the Minister, I should like to summarise briefly what I think has been the outcome of this debate. Apart from the Minister, we have heard 14 speakers, of whom only the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, who was present for only half of the debate, supported the idea that there should not be a local authority majority on the police authority. The noble Viscount, Lord Whitelaw, was silent on that issue. On the question of whether there should be co-option or appointment of additional members, again only the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, the noble Viscount, Lord Whitelaw, and the noble Lord, Lord Peyton (tacitly because of his amendment) supported appointment rather than co-option.
There were then three noble Lords— the noble Lords, Lord Renton, Lord Elton and Lord Boyd-Carpenter— who urged discretion on the Government. The noble Lord, Lord Elton, specifically preferred appointment to co-option, but he also preferred a local authority majority on the police authority.
Perhaps I may expand briefly. The noble Viscount, Lord Whitelaw, was silent on the question of the local authority majority but was in favour of appointment. The noble Lord, Lord Peyton, was in favour of a local authority majority but moved amendments in favour of appointment. The noble Lord, Lord Allen, was in favour of co-option and a local authority majority. The noble Lord, Lord Harris, was in favour of a local authority majority and co-option. The noble Lord, Lord Rippon, was in favour of a local authority majority and co-option. My noble friend Lord Callaghan was in favour of a local authority majority and co-option. The noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, was in favour of a local authority majority and co-option. My noble friend Lord Merlyn-Rees was in favour of a local authority majority and co-option. The noble Lord, Lord Knights, was in favour of a local authority majority and co-option. The noble Lord, Lord Elton, was in favour of a local 136 authority majority and the noble Viscount, Lord Tenby, was in favour of a local authority majority and co-option.
In those circumstances, it is clear that the thinking that the Minister has offered us must cover those issues. It must be explicit that the questions of the local authority majority and of co-option rather than appointment must be on the agenda for discussion between now and Report stage. I invite the Minister to confirm that that is the position and that the Government will not enter any discussions on those issues with a closed mind.
§ 5.45 p.m.
If I may say so, I think that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, is being slightly unfair and slightly hard. I said that I would consider what your Lordships have said to see whether there is any way in which we can meet the problem. If the noble Lord is going to say, "You have got to do this, that or the other", I must advise him that we cannot start like that. I am prepared to consider the matters which have been suggested by your Lordships this afternoon to see whether there is a way in which we can meet those points.
I have heard all the arguments about co-opting but I must ask the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, this: Who is going to do the co-opting? It will be those who are already on the police authorities, so they will do the appointing. The noble Lord objects to my right honourable friend doing the appointing, but under this system members of the local authority can do the appointing and can choose their friends if they like.
I have heard what your Lordships have said and I am prepared to consider it, but I do not want to be put into a corner— nor is it fair of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, to try to do that and to say, "In this case, we have to think of this, that or the other point". I have said that I will consider everything.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
Perhaps may say a few words at this stage. I hope that we shall be able to resolve this matter. On the previous occasion on which we debated this issue, some very wise words were directed to us by the noble Viscount, Lord Whitelaw, about the overwhelming desirability of forming a political consensus on the question of reorganising the police service. That seems to me to be overwhelmingly desirable. The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, has rightly drawn the attention of the Committee to the clear preponderance of feeling on the issues that we have been debating this afternoon. The noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, said that he will consider the matter carefully, taking account of what his noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter said; namely, that he very much hoped that the Government would take this course of action because he thought that otherwise there was a high likelihood that they would be defeated.
All that I am saying to the noble Earl and, through him, to the noble Viscount, Lord Ullswater, is that if this issue is not going to be proceeded with, on the basis of what the noble Earl is now saying, and as, I am sure that they will both realise, many of the other clauses and 137 amendments which follow relate directly to this issue, we shall have to discuss how we proceed. I suggest that there might be discussions between the usual channels because it will be very difficult to debate some of the other amendments until this matter has been cleared out of the way.
I know the noble Lord's views about consensus. When one says that one shall try to take account of the views that have been expressed, that does not mean that any Government will necessarily go down the track of consensus or, in other words, of asking where, between everyone, is the lowest common denominator. I do not think that that would be the right thing to do. I am glad to see that the noble Lord, Lord Harris, did not intend that.
I can only repeat what I have said: we shall consider this matter and how best to take advice, whether from your Lordships or anyone else. Ultimately, the Government may find that it is necessary to come back to Parliament and to say: "These are our views", and to test the water then. If your Lordships say "no", that is a matter that we shall have to take into account. I simply want to see whether there is some way in which we can avoid that.
It has been drawn to my attention that Amendments Nos.23 to 25 and 28 to 30 are not affected by my offer because they relate to making the appointments procedures work for authorities which have more than 16 members. I hope that your Lordships will recognise that what I have suggested is at least an effort to meet the problem.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
The Minister accused me of being unfair. I do not think that I was. I was not in any way setting preconditions for the discussions or for what should come out of those discussions. I could not do that. It would be quite wrong to expect the Government to agree to anything of that sort. What I did was to ask the Minister two questions. The first was whether he accepted that the possibility of a local authority majority on the police authority was on the agenda for discussion and whether he accepted that the replacement of appointment by co-option on the police authority was on the agenda for discussion. If he agrees to those two items being on the agenda for discussion, I think that we can make progress.
My other question to him was about the beginning of any process. I asked whether he could confirm that the Government are not inflexibly against change on either of those issues— in other words, is there any point in having discussions? Have the Government made up their minds inflexibly on either of those issues? If the Minister can confirm both of those points, there will be no difficulty in us (or noble Lords from all parties in the Committee) joining the discussions that have been offered.
§ Lord Callaghan of Cardiff
In a difficult position the Minister is trying to make an offer that should be seriously considered. However, I wonder how the discussions will be conducted. It is not enough for the Opposition in this Chamber and the Government to have 138 discussions, because other important Members of the Committee have a genuine contribution to make. I refer to the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, whose contributions on Second Reading and today have been notable.
We need a little time to discuss the matter and to see how the body can be composed. The noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, has unique experience in this field, as does the noble Lord, Lord Knights. We must not rush into a decision until we know exactly how the Government intend to continue the discussion. I do not know whether the Minister is in a position to comment further tonight, which places us all in a difficulty.
Today's discussions and those which took place on Second Reading have revealed that the people who know most about this subject— and I exclude myself because my experience was 30 years ago— ought to be included in any discussions. I have in mind one overwhelming principle: that it will be bad indeed if the Bill goes through this Chamber with a distinct division on these important matters. They should not be the subject of party divisions. Indeed, today they have not been the subject of party divisions but there has been all-party agreement on many issues. Will the Minister say how he believes that matters can be carried further?
That shows the trouble that one gets into when one tries to be helpful. The noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, said that I had put him in a difficulty. For goodness sake, I was trying to be helpful ! He then said that he does not want to be rushed into taking great decisions. Within four minutes of my saying that I will think about the matter the noble Lord asked, "What are you going to do? Are you going to speak to members of the Labour Party or the Opposition? Are you going to talk to people outside the House? Who are you going to talk to?"—
If Members of the Committee are worried about buying a pig in a poke, I suppose that they will have to vote. Then they will know whether they have got a pig in a poke. I am prepared to see whether we can meet any of the objections. That does not mean to say— and I mean this most seriously — that we are going to try to find the common denominator and achieve a consensus. That is not the intention. Governments cannot always do that; they have to make up their minds, bring issues to Parliament, then Parliament must decide. This Chamber may decide one way but the other place may decide another way.
There is, however, an issue with which Members of the Committee are concerned and I wish to see whether we can find a way of dealing with it. If the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, will be kind enough to give me a little longer than four minutes in which to work out how it is to be done I shall greatly appreciate that. He said that the noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, has some important points to make, as has my noble friend Lord Mottistone. Yes, and so have all Members of the Committee— that is why we have a Committee stage. 139 One cannot have everyone who participates in a Committee stage, plus a lot of people from outside, coming to discuss the matter.
I offer to see whether I can try to help some Members of the Committee. However, if they think that I am offering a pig in a poke that is up to them.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
I understand what was said by my noble friend Lord Callaghan and he was right to pursue the matter. I was asking for something quite different and for something which I believe the Government can agree to without difficulty. I was asking for confirmation that the possibility of a local authority majority on a police authority will be part of the discussions that are to take place. I was asking for confirmation that the choice between co-option and appointment to the police authority will be on the agenda for discussion. I seek that confirmation because without it the discussions will have no point. That is what the debate has been about.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
I am trying to be helpful to the Minister because I recognise the difficult position in which he finds himself. I hope that he is able to give an affirmative answer to the questions fairly put to him by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh. It will be difficult to make progress without discussing the issues and trying to resolve them.
We are asking the Minister merely to confirm that issues identified by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, can be put on the agenda and, it is hoped, be resolved before the Bill proceeds further.
I am not sure who will receive the great agenda on to which issues will be put. In so far as these matters have been discussed today, I am prepared to consider them. That does not mean to say that at the end of the discussion there will be agreement. I do not want the noble Lords, Lord Harris and Lord McIntosh, to say, "You said that you would consider it but now you have not budged an inch". The noble Lord, Lord Harris, has confirmed that he is not saying that. The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, has not yet confirmed that but I am sure he means to do so.
I am prepared to consider the matters. If at the end I say, "I am sorry but the Government remain of this view", that is fine. I do not want anyone to come to me and say that I have been disloyal, disingenuous or anything like that. I am saying, let us discuss these issues and at the end on Report the Government will have to come forward with their views.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
I am grateful. I take it that that is a confirmation that these two issues are the subjects for discussion between now and Report. On that basis, and on the basis that all the amendments in this group, including the government amendments, will not be moved, I am prepared not to move—
Although I made a certain intervention, it would be simpler if all amendments were not moved and those necessary were brought back on Report.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
As the Government amendments introduce the flexible size, that also means that Amendments Nos.23 to 25 and 26 to 28 should not be moved.
That is so. As the whole lot have been grouped together it would be clearer in everyone's mind if the whole lot were not moved.
§ Lord Peyton of Yeovill
Before a final decision is reached between the two Front Benches, wish to venture the following observations. First, although this massive group of amendments may have covered the same wide issue of how to make up the police authorities it has made it difficult to discuss important details. Secondly, my noble friend has had the unpleasant experience on Second Reading and today of learning something of the dislike of and deep hostility towards the Bill that exists behind him. I see his difficulty and believe that he has been exceedingly honourable in his remarks. He has made no attempt whatever to mislead the Committee. But I am asking myself where we shall get to. Let us suppose that we have the discussions and go straight back to square one. My noble friend will have no evidence to put to his right honourable friend showing the strength of feeling.
I attach no particular magic to any of the amendments tabled in my name. However, I ask my noble friend to accept that I should not have tabled them unless I believed, first, that they were of importance and, secondly, that the whole issue was of fundamental importance to many of us. I do not know what I should do if an uneasy peace were patched up between the two Front Benches. I do not see my noble friend having given any commitment of value; I do not see that he can. I do not want to ask for the impossible but it would be of assistance to the Government to have a yardstick by which to judge the strength of opinion against them.
§ 6 p.m.
I find the idea of an uneasy peace growing between the two Front Benches fascinating and it stimulates my imagination. However, I do not see it becoming a reality. I understand my noble friend's complaints about the grouping of the amendments, but the purpose of grouping them is to make life easier for the Committee. However, it has disadvantages in that it makes it difficult to home in on one set of amendments I understand my noble friend's anxiety, but it has taken two-and-a-quarter hours to have one debate. I cannot: think how long it would have taken had we had six debates.
My noble friend asks how I shall communicate to my right honourable friend what he described as the degree of hostility. My right honourable friend is not deaf; he has a television. He is not blind; he has Hansard. Moreover, he has a Minister of State who is sometimes lost for words, but I believe that he will be able to explain some of the problems to the Secretary of State. I cannot go further than that.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
Nobody expects the Minister to make a commitment to the outcome of any talks which are to take place between now and Report 141 stage. Indeed, that is obvious from the fact that the offer of those talks has not been made because the Minister is convinced by the argument but because he is convinced by the numbers. He has been convinced by the arguments of his noble friends Lord Renton, Lord Elton and Lord Boyd-Carpenter, who have advised him that he would lose if he persisted in opposing our amendments. That is the basis on which we shall enter the discussions. The Minister must enter them on the basis that, if he continues to oppose those who have expressed those almost universal views— and I make no apology for the way in which the debate has taken place because it has been entirely satisfactory— he will be defeated on Report, as he would have been defeated today. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Lord Tordoff
Before we move to the next amendment, it seems to me that we may wish to consider where that decision leaves the Committee.
§ [Amendments Nos.6 to 8 not moved.]
Lord Elis-Thomas moved Amendment No.9:
Page 2, leave out lines 14 to 16 and insert: ("(2) A police authority established under this section for any area shall be a body corporate to be known—
§ The noble Lord said: Following the long and difficult debate on the issue of membership of police authorities, I move a very simple amendment which brings the Bill into line with the Welsh Language Act 1993. That was ably piloted through this Chamber by the Minister and, therefore, I am sure that the amendment will be entirely acceptable to the Government. If it is not, I expect to be invited to hold discussions with the Government about the content of the amendment. I beg to move.
I understand what the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, has in mind. However, I remind the noble Lord that it is consistent with the noble Lord's wish to promote the Welsh language that we should resist the amendment. Only last year Parliament passed the Welsh Language Act 1993. The noble Lord will remember that well. I should say as a non-Welshman that so do I. It provides that where a name is conferred by Act of Parliament on any body, office or place, the appropriate Minister may by order confer on the body, office or place an alternative name in Welsh. The noble Lord is chairman of the Welsh Language Board which is charged with promoting the implementation of the Act and I have no doubt that in that auspicious and magnificent capacity, the no ble Lord will chivy the appropriate Minister.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.142
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
Before the next amendment is put, it may be helpful to consider our procedures. We have agreed formally between the two Front Benches that certain amendments, including government amendments will not be moved. There are a number of other amendments in Clauses 2 and 3 and Schedule 2 which are deeply affected by the decisions that have just been taken. The Minister may find it helpful to agree to adjourn our Committee stage for 30 minutes in order that we may consider which subsequent amendments should also be not moved so that we avoid moving other amendments in a spirit of unreality. I make that suggestion to be helpful; otherwise, we may find ourselves putting forward amendments which have no substance because the premise on which they are based— a firm agreement about the composition of a police authority— has not been agreed. I am not fixed on the idea of 30 minutes. It may be better to adjourn during pleasure so that our subsequent debates are on a more sensible footing.
§ Lord Renton
I should have thought that we could resolve the doubt of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh. I believe that the noble Lord has been extremely helpful and co-operative in assisting us to get through the business.
The amendments that we have been discussing, and about which my noble friend Lord Ferrers is to have further consultation, are grouped together, starting with Amendment No.5. I should have thought that in any event those amendments should not be moved. Some of them are government amendments. When we reach other amendments, it will be quite easy to see, as we come to them, whether or not they are affected by the earlier undertaking. Some are and most are not.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
The problem is rather more complicated than that. The Bill as drafted does not express the Government's position. The Government have expressed a desire to move to police authorities of a more flexible size. Because the Government are going to withdraw their amendments, that will not be reflected on the face of the Bill. I am not as able in such matters as the noble Lord, Lord Renton, but I am not certain that we shall be able to resolve each issue as it arises and properly debate the subsequent amendments. I respect the noble Lord's intervention but I disagree with it.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
I believe that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, makes an extremely sensible suggestion. We should have a short adjournment to sort out these matters and make sure we get them right.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter. The heading of Clause 3 is "Functions of police authorities". It will clearly be extremely difficult to resolve those issues without knowing the composition of those police authorities. I do not wish to waste time, but these issues are of such major importance that it seems to me that the proposal made by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, is correct. We should perhaps adjourn during pleasure so that we can resolve the matter.
I too wish to be helpful but I wonder whether it is necessary to adjourn. We have decided not to move those amendments which are grouped together. There are amendments tabled to the remainder of the Bill. When we reach amendments which are affected by the fact that we have not moved certain amendments, we need not move them. I do not believe that it is necessary to adjourn our proceedings for half an hour or so. I should have thought that it would become fairly evident as we go along if there are any difficulties attaching to later amendments, although I do not believe that that will happen.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
With great respect, the centrepiece of the Bill is Clause 2. The simple issue which has been identified is the Government's desire to nominate a particular number of members to police authorities. Section 4(1) of Clause 3 states:It shall be the duty of every police authority … to secure the maintenance of an efficient and effective police force",and then follows a number of statutory requirements.
The point that I am trying to make is that we will not know the character of the police authority until the issue identified in the previous debate has been taken into account. A very moderate proposal has been put to the noble Earl. We are asking for a temporary adjournment. Surely he must agree to such a reasonable proposition?
§ Lord Elton
If my noble friend agrees to that request, I hope that he will take a very limited brief. Members of the Committee would not, I think, wish to remit the matter to unofficial sub-committee, thereby sweeping a whole slice of the Bill away for major consideration. My noble friend Lord Renton is right. In most cases, the proper place to say, "This is so uncertain, we should not be discussing it", is when we reach such a point on the Marshalled List with all Members of the Committee present to agree to and concur in such action.
If my noble friend decides to take a short time to decide the matter— as I expect he will— I hope that he will deal only with the most obvious points in order to save time, rather than getting himself drawn into a debate in which we would all like to take part.
§ Lord Tordoff
I sought to speak earlier but was firmly and properly put in my place by the noble Earl. I was simply seeking to suggest what the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, eventually suggested; namely, that we should take a little time out to consider quietly the position that we have reached. Otherwise, we may continue discussing the matter on the Floor of the Committee for the next half hour. In my view, it would be better to take the matter off the Floor for half an hour and return with a more considered view. I see that the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, is nodding his head in agreement. Either we spend the next half hour arguing backwards and forwards across the Floor with great misunderstandings creeping in, or we go away and try to resolve the matter through the usual channels.
I must say that today's experience is giving me great apprehensions about ever trying to be helpful to anyone about anything. I thought that I was being helpful, but now Members of the Committee say, 144Let's adjourn the Committee to see where we are going". All I suggested was that we should not move certain amendments.I do not actually share the apprehensions of the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich. It seems to me that Clause 4, to which he referred, imposes a duty on every police authority to undertake various functions. I cannot see that that has anything much to do with the amendments that we decided not to move. However, I see that I am not convincing other Members of the Committee.
I take the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff. If we go on like this, we shall spend half an hour on the Floor of the Committee getting nowhere. Therefore, we might as well settle the matter outside the Chamber. I hope that we shall at least get somewhere. Incidentally, it might be a good self-denying ordinance to say that the amount of time used ought to be taken off our dinner hour. Then, perhaps, we would only take five minutes. However, as Members of the Committee seem to think that the proposed adjournment is the appropriate way to set about the matter, I beg to move that the House do now adjourn during pleasure until 6.30 p.m.
§ Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
§ [The Sitting was suspended from 6.13 to 6.30 p.m.]
§ The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Alport)
I now call Amendment No.10 in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers.
§ Baroness Trumpington
It may he for the convenience of the Committee to adjourn again. I beg to move that the Committee do now adjourn during pleasure until 6.50 p.m.
§ Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
§ [The Sitting was suspended from 6.31 to 6.50 p.m.]
It may be helpful to acquaint the Committee with the position following discussions with the usual channels about the progress of the Bill in view of what happened before we adjourned during pleasure. It has been agreed that we shall not take further amendments to Clauses 2 to 4 and Schedule 2 today but that, when those clauses are considered, the issue will be debated on the basis of whether the clauses should stand part of the Bill. We shall undertake to recommit those clauses and Schedule 2 at the end of the Committee stage proceedings. I hope that that meets with the approval of the Committee and that we shall be able to make progress, starting with Clause 5.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
I am grateful to the Minister. I confirm that that is our understanding. We are grateful to him for the flexibility that he has shown. We believe that it will improve the quality of our debate on those clauses.
§ [Amendments Nos.10 to 22 not moved.]
§ Clause 2 agreed to.
§ Schedule 2 [Schedule to be inserted in Police Act 1964: police authorities]:
§ [Amendments Nos.23 to 54 not moved.]
§ Schedule 2 agreed to.145
§ Clause 3 [Functions of police authorities]:
§ [Amendments Nos.55 to 71 not moved.]
§ Clause 3 agreed to.
§ Clause 4 [Chief constables]:
§ [Amendments Nos.72 to 74 not moved.]
§ Clause 4 agreed to.
§ Clause 5 [Deputy and assistant chief constables]:
Lord Peyton of Yeovil moved Amendment No.75:
Page 5, line 14, leave out ("after consultation with") and insert ("with the agreement of").
§ The noble Lord said: I would not be human if I were able to resist the temptation to comment on what has occurred over the past hour or so. It has surely afforded ample proof that our legislative procedures fall somewhat short of perfection. That is as mildly as I can put it
This is a brief amendment, with which I need not detain the Committee for any length of time. It deals with appointments and promotions to the rank of assistant chief constable. As it stands the Bill states that such appointments:
shall be made, in accordance with regulations under Part II of this Act, by the police authority after consultation with the chief constable and subject to the approval of the Secretary of State". The amendment proposes that the words "after consultation with" be taken out and replaced by "with the agreement of".
It is very important that this Bill should not undermine the office of chief constable. It would be wrong to ask him to accept a nomination with which he does not agree and with which he is uncomfortable. I very much hope that in their wisdom the Government will accept this very modest amendment. I beg to move.
§ Lord Mottistone
I should very much like to support the amendment in principle. For the reasons given by my noble friend, it seems to be not only reasonable but essential in order to preserve the status, reputation and standing of chief constables.
§ Lord Renton
I too should like to support the amendment. I should like to add that the assistant chief constable— although he has been renamed— will remain a deputy, especially when there is only one. For a chief constable to have to put up with an assistant chief constable with whose appointment he does not agree would create an impossible position. Therefore, I hope that my noble friend will accept the amendment.
My Lords, although my noble friend says that the amendment is simple and obvious, it would alter the arrangement which is contained in the Police Act 1964. Under that Act a police authority consults its chief constable before making an assistant chief constable appointment. The Act requires a police authority to obtain the agreement of a chief constable to such an appointment.
There are important issues here. The first is that the consultative arrangements which are contained in this Bill are taken straight from the Police Act 1964. They are the same. Those arrangements have worked well and in practice have not caused any difficulties. Secondly, the constitutional position places a duty on police authorities to secure the maintenance of an efficient and 146 effective police force in their areas. An essential aspect of discharging that particular duty is the responsibility for choosing the management team. That is the duty of the police authority. The management team consists of the chief and assistant chief constables of the force.
Thirdly, a change from a requirement for a police authority to consult with a chief constable to one requiring it to secure the agreement of the chief constable has the potential to produce a situation in which, if agreement were not reached, it would not be possible to fill the assistant chief constable post. The requirement for agreement runs contrary to what has applied to date, which has operated successfully for the past 30 years. Of course any chief constable will be consulted as to the appointment of an assistant chief constable, and almost certainly will be in agreement. However, the duty to make the appointment lies with the police authority.
§ Lord Renton
I must confess that I had forgotten the provision in the 1964 Act. My noble friend is right that it reads:after consultation with the chief constable",in the case of the appointment of a deputy. Can my noble friend confirm whether, in practice, if the chief constable says, "No, I will not have that man as my deputy", the Secretary of State does not give his approval? Or have there been cases in which there has been a conflict and somebody with whose appointment he does not agree has been foisted on a chief constable as a deputy?
My noble friend asked whether anything of that nature had occurred over the course of the past 30 years. I cannot give him the answer to that question. However, clearly, if a chief constable says adamantly, "I will not have that man working for me", there is a direct conflict between the police authority and the chief constable. Either the police authority says that it will appoint the man, or perhaps it may find the chief constable too difficult. Alternatively, it may be said that, if the chief constable does not want a particular person, one obviously cannot appoint somebody with whom he cannot work.
The principle is that the appointment is the duty of the police authority. In practice, of course, there will be discussion with the chief constable. That is fundamental good management.
§ 7 p.m.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
I am mildly hesitant in expressing a view in the presence of the noble Lord, Lord Knights, who I suspect knows the answer to this particular question. The impression I have as regards officers of ranks such as these is that normally the Secretary of State— or in reality the Home Office— is consulted about the short list: at least that was so in my day. The police authority then makes a decision and the Home Secretary, having had the composition of the short list agreed on his behalf, accepts the final appointment, the decision of the police authority. The police authority can undoubtedly appoint somebody whom the chief officer does not particularly want: that is its right. But the only guarantee in the situation we are 147 describing is that everybody on the panel of applicants would have had his or her name considered by the Home Office before the names were presented to the police authority. The noble Lord, Lord Knights, will perhaps correct me if I am wrong on that particular point.
§ Lord Knights
Perhaps I may add just one or two points. Prior to 1964 the position varied as between borough police forces and county police forces. In the boroughs the assistant chief constables were appointed by the watch committee and the chief constable was consulted but his approval was not always necessary. In the counties it was the chief constable's authority to promote up to and including the rank of assistant chief constable, and he then went to the police authority and said, "Will you please appoint this man as my deputy?" As in most cases there was often only one assistant chief constable, they had no alternative but to appoint him as the deputy.
However, from 1964 onwards the position has been the same in all police forces. It was recommended by the Royal Commission of 1962 that all police forces should be the same: that is, that the police authority should appoint a candidate after discussions with the chief constable. I have sat on many occasions listening to a police authority appointing one of my assistants, and the first question it would usually ask after everybody had been seen was, "Who do you want, chief?" You say whom you would find acceptable— it might be one, it might be two— and then it makes its choice as between those particular ones.
As your Lordships will perhaps know, I was in the police service for many years, and I can recall only one occasion when an assistant chief constable was appointed to a borough police force whom the chief constable did not particularly want. That occasion was many years ago.
§ Lord Peyton of Yeovil
I feel slightly unhappy about this amendment, but what I find the most compelling argument is that which has just been put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Knights, whose experience is so considerable. I was much impressed by what he said, and I accept his argument. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ On Question, Whether Clause 5 shall stand part of the Bill?
§ Baroness Hilton of Eggardon
I rise rather earlier than I anticipated to oppose the Question that Clause 5 stand part of the Bill. I am in agreement with the sentiments expressed by the noble Lords, Lord Peyton and Lord Knights, about the need for the chief constable to be consulted about the appointment of his assistant chief constable. However, the particular point I am addressing in relation to this Question and to Amendment No.76 is the removal of ranks from the police service. Perhaps I may address Clause 5 in particular, which removes the rank of deputy chief constable.
Those of us 'who have had experience of operational policing — and I would pray in aid the noble Lord, Lord Knights, as a witness to this— know that some of the 148 more serious things that happen within a police force area such as major disasters, aeroplanes crashing, riots and occasions of that kind, require somebody who can act as the point of the pinnacle of policing. These are very complex occasions to the police, requiring a large deployment of officers. Very often disparate parts of the organisation are involved so that one needs to combine detectives, uniformed police and mounted police, dog handlers and so on. This requires a single focusing and co-ordinating point. ACCs are very often ambitious men who like to run their own empires, and many of us will be familiar with the friction that sometimes occurs between detectives and uniformed officers.
It is very important that at all times a force has a clear head. Without a deputy to the chief constable we shall be left with there being no clear focus for command on serious occasions when the chief constable is absent. That would particularly be the position in the case of this circulating ACC, suggested by this clause, who, if he has to act as a deputy for more than three months at a time, requires the blessing of the Secretary of State. believe that that is a serious defect in this amendment to the 1964 Act.
At present the deputy chief constable is also the disciplinary officer for the force. As the chief constable is the ultimate appeal authority, it is necessary that serious matters of discipline are dealt with below his level. Currently the deputy chief constable fulfils that function. It is also important in relationships with the police authority, whatever shape that will take, that there is a clear focus for relationships with the chairman of the police authority and for liaising with the authority over serious disciplinary matters regarding complaints, major disasters and major incidents which may occur within a force area. Unless we have a clear focus of that kind, it will be very difficult for the police authority to relate correctly to a police force.
It is also important that it is clear to the ACCs who the senior ACC or the deputy to the chief constable is: otherwise inevitably there will be uneasy relationships within what is frequently a hierarchical organisation. It is for those reasons that I oppose these amendments to the 1964 Act and the elimination of the rank of deputy chief constable.
I should also like to speak to Amendment No.76, which suggests the removal of the ranks of chief superintendent and chief inspector. There are arguments in favour of having fewer levels within the police service, but presently so many things are tied to particular ranks; for instance, public order occasions and operations on the ground. In fact police regulations actually nominate particular ranks, and so to abolish these ranks without considering the functions is really putting the cart before the horse.
At present within the current rank structure there are clear formal differentiations caused by distinctive badges of rank, which are recognised between one force and another. If one arbitrarily were to remove ranks from forces, on joint operations it would be very difficult to tell who was carrying out particular functions. That is one of the ways in which the police service in this country can lend mutual aid and work together on major occasions. If the chief superintendent 149 or chief inspector ranks were arbitrarily removed, it could lead to the creation of an informal rank structure, with the rise of "elder statesmen" within particular ranks and juniors, due perhaps to service within the rank which would not necessarily reflect ability. This loss of clarity could seriously compromise efficiency in situations of operational command.
It is not just a question of wishing to retain the status quo. If there were a proper examination of functions within ranks, and a clear differentiation was made within the police hierarchy, as has been suggested by many in the police service over a period of years, it is possible that ranks could be removed. Chief constables have already acknowledged the need to streamline their forces by reducing the numbers within ranks. Quite drastic cuts have been made in the number of chief superintendents within many forces; but actually to eliminate levels of ranks would, I believe, lead to confusion and difficulties on operational occasions.
§ Lord Renton
It would be very interesting to know why the Government are dropping the expressions "chief superintendent" and "chief inspector" for the police forces which are to be covered by this Bill. As I understand it, in Northern Ireland and in the Metropolitan Police, those ranks are to be retained. That is for a good reason. When you have a very large police force, whether it covers a large area or a large population, or both, there has to be decentralisation. There are even divisions of the metropolitan force. Chief superintendents are placed at the head of each division and are generally referred to as divisional chief superintendents.
Some of the forces that will be created under the Bill will be large, as we can tell by turning to Schedule 1 to the Bill. I take the counties that I know best: Kent, where I was born; and Cambridgeshire, where I have lived for many years. They are both large counties and a degree of decentralisation is necessary in them. I should have thought that it would be a great advantage to have some superintendents to whom responsibility for a particular part of the area of the police force had been delegated. I would therefore quite like to call him chief superintendent.
I do not feel so strongly about chief inspectors, but the rank of chief inspector has existed in the police force as part of the pyramid of promotion, which is quite important in attracting good men and women into the force. That has been well established for years and I think it would be helpful if my noble friend Lord Ferrers could give us reasons— if they are not purely financial — as to why it is proposed that the rank of chief superintendent and the rank of chief inspector should be dropped.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Lord Knights
I wish to speak first on the Motion that Clause 5 should not stand part of the Bill. The clause deals with the removal of the rank of deputy chief constable. Paragraph 3.52 of the Sheehy Report— the document which led to this move, I believe— states:In considering the question of whether two or three ranks are needed above that of superintendent we took particular account of 150 the disciplinary responsibilities of deputy chief constables. In most forces throughout the United Kingdom this rank plays a significant role in discipline matters. We understand that in England and Wales the rank was created, relatively recently, mainly to deal with disciplinary matters in the wake of [the Police and Criminal Evidence Act]. Prior to that, the practice had been to nominate a deputy from amongst the complement of [assistant chief constables] on either a permanent or ad hoc basis for the purposes of delegating particular functions".I am sorry to have to say that I think that Sheehy was singularly ill-advised, if that is the opinion which the committee came to.
The appointment of deputy chief constable has existed since at least the County Police Act 1839, giving authority to the chief constable to appoint him with the agreement of the police authority. In those days, he was one of the superintendents rather than an assistant chief constable but he was to deputise for the chief constable in his absence. The three-months limit which is referred to in Clause 5 dates from 1839.
The Royal Commission of 1962 recommended that police authorities should appoint the deputy chief constable. But the rank did not come until the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. It was not necessarily another layer of management, which is what the Sheehy Committee was concerned about. In fact— and I say this again with a certain amount of sadness— the appointment was much more to satisfy the ego of deputy chief constables than ever it was to handle discipline. Discipline had been handled by the officer appointed as deputy chief constable since 1964, when the Royal Commission again recommended that the chief constable should play no part generally in the early stages of discipline matters in order to leave him unbiased when sitting as a disciplinary authority.
The Sheehy Committee went on to say that there was no reason why assistant chief constables could not handle the disciplinary responsibilities of the deputy chief constable. Indeed, they do so now in order to free the deputy to act as the disciplinary authority in lieu of the chief constable in minor matters. If there is to be no deputy chief constable but all assistant chief constables, some regard would have to be paid to that matter because in the large forces, the chief constable cannot handle all the discipline hearings. That is why the position was altered in 1984. In paragraph 3.53 the Sheehy Committee also commented that:the designation of … a deputy on an ad hoc basis is a matter to be decided by the chief constable … in the light of local circumstances".It was on that basis that the committee recommended abolition of the rank of deputy chief constable.
I do not believe that that is a sensible way to proceed. The force needs to know, on a permanent basis, who is in charge when the chief constable is away. What does a chief constable do, if his appointed deputy retires and he has no ACC sufficiently qualified to be appointed by him in his place? The appointment of the replacement assistant chief constable will be a matter for the police authority and the appointee will probably not have the experience and service necessary to be appointed the deputy.
Finally, perhaps the Minister will tell us whether it is proposed to continue the present practice where an assistant chief constable cannot become a deputy in the 151 force in which he has grown up. That could mean that none is qualified to be appointed the deputy. Who would take over if, under the ad hoc arrangements, no one was in the post of deputy at the time and the chief constable collapsed and died? The police authority could not appoint a deputy, it is a matter for the chief constable and he is not there to do it.
I would not argue personally for the retention of the rank of deputy chief constable, but I believe that the office should Continue with the assistant chief constable holding it, appointed by the police authority, as was the position in 1984. I therefore support the motion that Clause 5 should not stand part of the Bill.
Turning to the rinks of chief superintendent and chief inspector, I share to a large extent the views expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Hilton of Eggardon. I believe that there is a need in large forces for a rank between superintendent and assistant chief constable. In the force which I know best, the West Midlands, there are some 80 superintendents in post. It may be that that number can be reduced. It may be that, if the chief superintendent's rink is abolished, the number of superintendents may have to be increased. But, whatever may be the case, I believe that 80 is too large a number of people to be accountable directly to six assistant chief constables, particularly as those assistant chief constables are not in line of command positions to the superintendents. Very often, as the name implies, they are assisting the chief constable and probably only one or two at most— one in operations and one in the CID— are in line of command positions.
If we take a big city like Coventry, there will be four groupings of officers commanded by superintendents. I am quite sure that the city authorities in Coventry will not wish to consult with four superintendents, they will wish to consult with one. That is the rank of chief superintendent. I believe that Sheehy recommended the abolition of the rank of chief superintendent because the duties, as he saw them, overlapped very much with the duties of superintendent. That may well be so, but it is more a question of ironing out the responsibilities than of abolishing a rank.
I feel less strongly about the rank of chief inspector. In most cases that could well be handled by using the top points of the inspector's rate of pay (if that is where we finish up) to recognise additional responsibilities that might be held by someone who does some duties which an inspector does not normally carry out. So, while I would certainly support an amendment to retain the rank of chief superintendent, I have some doubts about the rank of chief inspector.
§ The Earl of Winchilsea and Nottingham
I too support Amendment No.76. The police being a uniformed, disciplined service, easily recognisable ranks are vitally important. That has been proved over and over again, especially in public order situations. Increasingly we face situations like that. The removal of ranks will have a disastrous effect on operational affairs. Surely it would make more sense if a slimming down operation in some of those ranks were concentrated upon. Indeed, such a process has been in operation for a number of years and has been quite successful. There 152 is perhaps more room for development in that direction than in eliminating the rank altogether. I therefore add my support to the amendment.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
There are a number of issues involved here. Speaking for myself, I agree very largely with what was said by the noble Baroness, Lady Hilton, and the noble Lord, Lord Knights. These recommendations basically come from the report of the Sheehy Committee. One of the great disadvantages of the Sheehy Committee is that Mr. Clarke, the then Home Secretary, decided as a matter of policy to have nobody on the committee who had any experience of the police service. That is one of the reasons why so many of the recommendations have been dropped. If there had been people with experience of the police service I would have been rather surprised if some of those recommendations had been made.
Perhaps I may deal with one point of considerable importance which has already been put to the noble Earl. It has been long established Home Office policy that no officer could proceed through the ranks from assistant chief constable to deputy chief constable and to chief constable in the same force. The reason for that was a series of rather unfortunate episodes in the history of the police service. It was thought that one of the principal problems was that people had been spending too much time within a single force and a single community. It was therefore decided that as a matter of policy no officer would be allowed to proceed through those three ranks within the same force. Officers could go out of the force— for instance as an assistant chief constable— then to another force as deputy, and subsequently they might be appointed chief constable of that force. But they could not go through those three ranks. There was a very powerful case for initiating that policy.
The situation will now be different because the rank of deputy chief constable is to be abolished. As the noble Lord, Lord Knights, asked the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, what precisely will now happen? All those among us who have spent some time considering this matter in the past will be extremely anxious to find out what the Government would propose to do were they to get parliamentary authority to abolish the rank of deputy. Quite apart from anything else, it seems to me to be a profound mistake. Here is another case of unreasonable interventionism on the part of the Government.
The noble Earl, Mr. Howard and, before him, Mr. Clarke spent a great deal of time telling us— I am sure they did so with sincerity— that they wanted to give chief officers more authority to run their own organisations. That is a praiseworthy objective. But, having said that, the next thing that they do is to say that the chief constable cannot have a deputy clearly defined, be it the office or the rank. I do not have a strong feeling on the matter, but I believe that it is at least desirable to maintain the position of the 1964 Act, which said that there should be an office of deputy chief constable. As the noble Lord, Lord Knights, rightly said, in the majority of forces the deputy chief constable has been entrusted with responsibility for the discipline of that 153 force. It is a clearly defined responsibility. The great advantage is that the chief constable knows who his deputy is, as do the assistant chief constables. But the idea of not being quite clear who the deputy is in the absence of a chief constable seems to me to be wholly unsatisfactory in a disciplined force. I very much hope that the Government will consider this matter again. Once again, unhappily, they have not accepted the view of the Association of Chief Police Officers on this point. I hope that the noble Earl will agree to look at it again.
It is particularly important to look at this issue again because of the other decisions on rank structure. There is, for instance, to be only one rank between inspector and assistant chief constable. That is an extraordinary jump. I have no passionate feeling about whether the rank of chief inspector should be maintained or the rank of chief superintendent. My own inclination is to believe that the rank of chief superintendent should be maintained.
I shall put to the Committee the sort of problem that will arise if there is a major public order situation in an area where mutual aid between forces is in operation. As the Committee will be aware, there is an arrangement whereby, if there is likely to be a major public disorder, forces from other areas can be brought in to support the force in whose area the demonstration is likely to take place. That is the current situation. Sometimes many hundreds of police officers may be involved. There may be substantial public disorder. With the rank of chief superintendent abolished, as is the purpose of the Government, one may have a very confused situation in which three or four officers of superintendent rank are all there. Who is supposed to be in charge? Who is in command? These are important issues when one is discussing the position of a disciplined force. I find it very unsatisfactory that we are being asked to abolish the rank of chief superintendent without those issues being adequately addressed.
I have expressed my concerns as clearly as I can. I hope that the noble Earl will be able to indicate that the Government are prepared to look at the matter again. As I have said, the critical appointment is without doubt that of deputy chief constable. Secondly, if one of the other two ranks is to be maintained, I believe that the rank of chief superintendent should be maintained. But as I have indicated, I believe that the retention of only one rank between inspector and assistant chief constable, with a proviso that that assistant chief constable might find himself the acting chief constable of a force, is profoundly unsatisfactory. I hope that the Government will agree to look at this issue again.
Clause 5, which is the matter upon which the noble Baroness began this debate on clause stand part, replaces Section 6 of the 1964 Act. It does away with the rank of deputy chief constable. But it requires a chief constable to designate one of the assistant chief constables to exercise all the powers and duties of the chief constable in his absence or incapacity.
As the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, quite rightly said, one wants to know where one is in a 154 disciplined force. In fact, the officers will do so. A person will have been designated to act as chief constable in the absence of the chief.
My noble friend Lord Renton referred to Northern Ireland and said that there the rank of deputy will be maintained, as it will in the Metropolitan Police, where there will be a deputy commissioner. I think the noble Lord will agree that those are both extraneous cases and different ones. The position of the Metropolitan Police is totally different from the rest of the country.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Lord Renton
Perhaps my noble friend will allow me to intervene. I am afraid that he has misunderstood me. It was in relation to the abolition of the rank of chief constable that I referred to Northern Ireland and to the Metropolitan district. It is in relation to that— because of the need for decentralisation when there is a large authority— that it would be helpful to know from my noble friend why the appointment of chief constable — I mean chief superintendent— is being abolished.
I am grateful to my noble friend for having corrected himself. I was not certain what he meant about the position of chief constable of Northern Ireland being abolished. Perhaps I can come shortly to the matter of chief superintendent.
The purpose of abolishing the rank of deputy chief constable is to streamline the top management ranks of the service. Clause 5 enables that objective to be achieved while retaining the essential function of any deputy, which after all is to act as the next person in the management chain in place of the person who is not available to discharge his or her responsibilities.
The noble Lord, Lord Knights, said that it was very important that people should know who was the deputy chief constable. In fact, they will. Clause 5 makes it perfectly clear that provision has to be made for one of the assistant chief constables to act for the chief constable in his absence. That safeguards the essential function of a deputy. But there is no requirement for deputising when the chief constable is present. Therefore, in our view, there is not a requirement for a separate rank of deputy chief constable.
Perhaps I can give the probably totally inappropriate analogy of the fact that I happen to be Minister of State at the Home Office, which is an office, and that I also happen to be deputy Leader of the House. I do not operate as Leader of the House unless the Leader is not present. In that respect it is a not dissimilar situation. There will be assistant chief constables, and the chief constable will say, "You are to be the deputy when I am not here."
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
I do not feel that the analogy is a very happy one. When the noble Earl is deputy Leader of the House, he operates in the absence of the Leader of the House. Of course he does. His rank is not about to be abolished. But that is what is proposed with regard to the rank of deputy chief constable.
The noble Earl said that there was no particular anxiety because the chief constable would be able to say, "I want you, Mr. X, during my absence to act for me. " But presumably Mr. Y or Mr. Z may be acting for 155 him on subsequent occasions. In a disciplined force a clearly defined chain of command is needed. Unhappily, one of the problems is that that chain of command is being cut down— I think, unreasonably.
That is a point of view. The noble Lord, Lord Harris, says that my analogy is not a happy one because I am not being abolished and some deputy chief constables are. It is the rank that is being abolished: the people will remain. So will their responsibilities in acting for the chief constable. If it is said that some people who at the moment are deputy chief constables will no longer be so and that this is bad luck on them and therefore the situation cannot possibly be altered, one is arguing that one can never make an amendment to the Position as it is. I accept that some Members may think differently, but we believe that there is a perfectly reasonable argument for streamlining the force and saying that there is a position for a person to act as a deputy chief constable in the full knowledge that he will act in the capacity of the chief constable when the chief constable is not there, but when he is there he will have the responsibility of an assistant chief constable.
The noble Lord, Lord Knights and Lord Harris, drew attention to the fact that, quite rightly, at present there cannot be an assistant chief constable, a deputy chief constable and a chief constable all in the same force. If you do away with one of them, it is asked, does that mean that an assistant chief constable cannot be a chief constable? That is a situation that we shall have to examine. Obviously, the removal of one of those ranks makes the position different. I was also asked what would happen if a chief constable died. As I explained, under Clause 5 the amended Section 6(4) of the Police Act states that when he is not there,a chief constable shall designate a person holding the rank of assistant chief constable to exercise all the powers and duties of the chief constable".So, in the unhappy event of a chief constable dying while in post, his deputy should be known.
Amendment No.76 allows police forces to retain the ranks of deputy chief constable, chief superintendent and chief inspector. We felt that the ranks of chief superintendent and chief inspector should be abolished. The purpose of removing those is to enable further streamlining of the management hierarchy by simplifying the structure. That will provide clearer and more direct communications. It will enable those police officers with the greatest ability — which is important— to move more quickly through the ranks. It will also provide chief constables with the opportunity to exchange middle management posts for more police officers on the beat.
The need for streamlining the force's management structures has been accepted for a long time. Indeed, many forces have gone a long way towards reducing the number of middle management posts. But the existing rank structure, which has six separate ranks, from sergeant to assistant chief constable, hinders forces achieving the optimum management restructuring.
My noble friend Lord Renton was concerned. He asked why the proposal was necessary and what were he reasons for it Traditionally, although I accept that it 156 is not so in every case, a person may be a sergeant and become an inspector, then a chief inspector and move up to superintendent. Then he becomes a chief superintendent and moves up through that grade. Under the new proposal there will be only two hurdles to overcome. Once a person has finished being a sergeant he becomes an inspector. Thereafter he will be able to move right up the chain. The most able people will move up to the top the most quickly. There will then be a hurdle to jump to reach the office of superintendent. The most efficient will be able to move quickly up the structure until they come to the position of assistant chief constable.
There have been occasions when forces have identified a chief superintendent's post, a superintendent's post or a chief inspector's post. We feel that if the two middle ranking structures are done away with, it will enable the movement of people through those ranks to be quicker and that the best people will get to the top earlier than they would otherwise have done.
The noble Lord, Lord Knights, referred to public order situations. The police have a separate mechanism for designating authority to people in those circumstances. They have gold, silver and bronze insignia. As the noble Lord will know only too well, those are imposed on the rank structure specifically for the purpose of providing for clarity of command in public order situations. Changing the rank structure does not affect that.
I accept that it is difficult for people who are in those posts. When one has risen in a disciplined service to the rank of, say, chief superintendent, one feels an understandable pride at having done so. If that rank does not exist in the future, that person will inevitably feel a degree of regret. However, if one is trying to look at the structure for the future, it is better to have the command simpler and quicker so that there will he a more streamlined structure in the future than there has been in the past. For those reasons we consider the change important.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
First, perhaps I can ask the Minister a question on a point about which I am not clear. Assuming the Bill goes on the statute hook in its present form and the appropriate regulations are made, will the existing chief superintendent have to remove the symbol of rank from his uniform? Will the post of chief superintendent be abolished after he leaves it? It will be helpful if the Minister can tell us that.
Secondly, the noble Lord, Lord Knights, and myself, asked a specific question about the current Home Office prohibition — for prohibition it is— which means that nobody can move from the rank of assistant, to deputy, to chief constable. I was concerned to hear the noble Earl reply that the reason for that (let me be quite blunt) related to the integrity of the police service. In answer to the points we made the noble Earl said that the Government were considering the matter; but that is not a very persuasive answer. The Government brought forward the legislation. Given the importance of the issue we are entitled to ask when the Government believe they will be in a position to answer that specific question. Will it be before Report stage, before Third Reading or will this Chamber have to pass the Bill 157 without knowing the answer to that critical question relating to progression through those three ranks? I shall be grateful if the noble Earl will tell me the answer.
§ Lord Renton
I wish to raise a point following on from what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Harris. On the question of chief superintendents— indeed, it will apply to chief inspectors as well— are they at present paid more because they are chief superintendents and chief inspectors? I understand that they are. It is unthinkable that the Bill can be made retrospective in relation to that. I hope that we shall be given an assurance that that will not happen.
§ Lord Knights
Perhaps I can pose another question for the Minister. First, I accept that the new Section 6(4) states:A chief constable shall after consulting his police authority designate a person holding the rank of assistant chief constable to exercise all the powers and duties of the chief constable … during any absence, incapacity or suspension".That is quite clear and it would cover the case I mentioned provided that that is regarded as being a permanent full-length appointment and not an ad hoc appointment as the Sheehy committee recommended. But does that mean that a person will be appointed to deputy on a long continuing basis?
Secondly, can the Minister deal with the question of a force such as Warwickshire, which has two assistant chief constables or, using today's parlance, one deputy chief constable and one assistant chief constable? It used to be two, one of them holding the office of deputy. One can easily foresee a situation where the one who is appointed as deputy retires and the one who is the assistant is himself coming up to the point of retirement. They would be in the position of having to appoint two quite new, inexperienced assistant chief constables and the chief constable would be expected to make one of them his deputy straight away, before he had had time to move into his rank or obtain the necessary experience. Today that situation is dealt with by advertising for and appointing to the office of deputy chief constable at a slightly higher rate of pay than the assistant chief constable. That is a much simpler way of dealing with the matter. I welcome the Minister's views on that problem.
§ 7.45 p.m.
I shall deal with the problems outlined by the noble Lord, Lord Knights, first. He asked whether there would be a requirement for a chief constable to appoint an assistant chief constable as his deputy for a long period. The position will be open to the chief constable. He may say, "I am going to be away next week or next month and I want you to be the deputy chief constable". On the other hand, he may wish a person to be a deputy chief constable for a year. It will be up to the chief constable. The important point is that he will have to designate a person at any one time to be the deputy chief constable to act in his position when he, as the chief constable, is not there.
The noble Lord said in regard to Warwickshire that if two assistant chief constables were nearing retirement 158 under the present circumstances they would be able to advertise for a deputy chief constable; whereas under the Bill there would have to be an assistant and someone relatively new appointed as deputy. If two assistant chief constables are approaching retirement it will be up to the chief constable to make provision for that— perhaps by appointing an additional assistant chief constable, or whatever, in order to make allowance for the fact that when the chief constable has to appoint a deputy there is somebody of authority who can take that over. That is the position which will apply now.
My noble friend Lord Renton said that the chief superintendents or chief inspectors were paid more than superintendents or inspectors. That is quite right. It is also right to say that it would be unthinkable for them to be paid less. They will not be paid less. It will merely be their rank which will no longer be a "chief", but will be a "super"; or will no longer be a "chief inspector", but an "inspector".
The noble Lord, Lord Harris, asked what would be the position with regard to rank insignia and whether those concerned would retain that of the present chief superintendent or superintendent. That will be a matter for the chief constable to decide. The noble Lord said also that the position of an officer not being able to hold the rank of an assistant chief constable, deputy chief constable and chief constable was extremely important because it referred to the propriety of forces. That is true. If one removes one of those linchpins that alters the picture. We are addressing our minds to that. I hope to know the answer by Report stage, but at the moment I can only say that it is being addressed.
§ Baroness Hilton of Eggardon
The noble Earl said it was up to the chief constable to appoint his deputy and he could appoint him for 12 months or whatever. But on the face of the Bill it says that if the period is for more than three months the appointment can only be made with the consent of the Secretary of State. That is one of the most objectionable points about that section. It implies that we shall have rotating deputy chief constables. To use his analogy that he is Deputy Leader, it is as though the noble Earl was Deputy Leader for three months and then the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, was Deputy Leader for three months, and so forth. That is the objectionable part of that section of the Act; that is, it does not provide continuity or a clear position for a deputy of which the other ACCs and members of the force are aware. That is why we object to that section.
In relation to the abolition of the ranks of chief superintendents and chief inspectors, the noble Earl said that that would enable people to rise more quickly to the top. That applies anyhow to the gilded youths who rise rapidly to the top through the special corps and so forth. For most of the force it will mean much greater stagnation. The vast majority of officers will have no prospects and will not have the spear of ambition to lead them to look for further promotion. Therefore, though it may benefit the minority of the brilliant who will eventually become assistant chief constables or chief 159 constables, for the majority of the force it will be demoralising or disheartening, because there will not be those positions open to them further up the tree.
Perhaps I can intervene to say that the noble Baroness will recognise that they will be able to progress up the pay scales of what are at present the two different ranks. They will be able to progress up those pay scales right to the top and that is quite an incentive.
§ Baroness Hilton of Eggardon
But that is a further disagreeable aspect of the suggested amendments because it provides the confusion of people who are paid better than others not in fact having a formal position. One therefore gets a seniority by pay as opposed to a seniority by position.
We are not entirely satisfied by the answers we have had on this occasion and we shall be returning to both these issues at the Report stage of the Bill.
§ Clause 5 agreed to.
§ [Amendment No.76 not moved.]
§ Baroness Trumpington
I beg to move that the House do now resume. In moving this Motion, perhaps I may suggest that the Committee stage begins again at 8.50 p.m.
§ Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House resumed.