HL Deb 15 February 1994 vol 552 cc181-98

9.11 p.m.

House again in Committee.

Clause 6 [Police Fund]:

Baroness Hylton of Eggardon moved Amendment No.77: Page 6, line 2, at end insert: ("8AA. The Secretary of State shall within three months of the date of Royal Assent lay before Parliament a report setting out— Report on costs of reorganisation.

  1. (a) the anticipated expenditure in the financial year commencing on 1st April 1994 in connection with Police Authorities established in accordance with section 3A of the Police Act 1964;
  2. (b) the likely level of borrowing of such authorities in the three financial years commencing on 1st April 1994,1995 and 1996 respectively; and
  3. (c) his estimate of likely additional expenditure by Chief Constables on financial and personal management in the financial years commencing on 1st April 1994,1995 and 1996 respectively.").

The noble Baroness said: This is a probing amendment, probing the financial costs of this reorganisation. The Government, in the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum to the Bill, estimate that the cost of setting up these new police authorities will be £ 21 million. Divided among the police authorities and forces in England and Wales which are affected by the Bill, this amounts to roughly to £ 500,000 per police area. The cost will be incurred during the second half of the 1994/95 financial year, when both the old and the new authorities will be operating. The memorandum states that: The new authorities may incur some costs … for their own purposes and some costs for the purposes of the police forces for whose maintenance they will assume full responsibility from April 1995. The force may need to recruit and train staff in areas such as personnel and finance in order to be able to fulfil the management tasks which will be given them from April 1995. For the same reason, they may also need new equipment such as computer hardware. We should be grateful if we could have further information about the necessity for training staff in areas of personnel and finance which are not already provided for within the present administrative set-up of forces, and some indication of how the enormous sum of £ 21 million of extra costs will be made up. If the figure amounts to a best estimate based on a careful assessment of need to spend public money, then it should be possible to provide us with a reasonable breakdown of how the estimate is arrived at. That is particularly important at a time when, as we know, the imposition of heavy taxation on the public is imminent and where universally there are criticisms of the waste of public money on a grand scale.

The sum of £21 million would be enough to supply 1,000 extra police officers on the beat. Alternatively, one could make comparisons with the Safer Cities programme. The original programme of 20 projects, which the Government counted a success, was supported by Home Office funding of around £ 17 million. Clearly one could more than double the scope of the programme with an extra £ 21 million and we would need to be satisfied that that is not money which is being wasted on needless reorganisation of police authorities. I should be grateful, therefore, if the Minister could provide us with more information about how that large sum of £21 million is made up.

It is also claimed in the Financial Memorandum that the Bill will provide greater efficiency. Police authorities and forces have, of course, been increasing their efficiency over many years now and there has been considerable streamlining of ranks. For example, something like 360 officers in the ranks of chief inspector, superintendent and chief superintendent— which we have already heard about— have been eliminated. The police service has been very conscious over the past 10 years or so of the need for efficiency and for the careful use of public money.

It is our impression, gained from looking at the Bill, that it will be counter-productive from the point of view of efficiency because the degree of central involvement, if the police authorities as envisaged go forward, will be more bureaucratic than at present. The police authorities will need more in the way of clerical support, administrative support and financial advisers. That will also apply to the central directives that may be issued by the Home Secretary. Of course, because of what has happened today, we have not dealt with those, but, if they are to be implemented, then the police authorities will need more in the way of bureaucracy and clerical administration to monitor the key objectives and to assess whether forces are complying with them.

Generally our overall feeling is that the proposals are counter-productive to efficiency and we should be grateful if we could have some indication as to where this enormous extra sum of £ 21 million is to be employed. I beg to move.

9.15 p.m.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

Perhaps I may raise one further matter concerning the £ 21 million. As the noble Earl will recall from a Written Answer he gave me, the Lords-Lieutenant issue, if I may so describe it, only emerged as a practical proposition on, I think,4th January this year. It did not appear in the White Paper, nor on any other occasion. Suddenly, just before the debate on Second Reading, we were told that the Association of Lords-Lieutenant had been approached to find out whether they would become involved in the strange proceeding whereby they would sit with management selection personnel to choose the members of the Home Office team to be imposed upon police authorities. Obviously, we shall discuss Clause 2 and Schedule 2 on recommitment.

My question is financial. As that policy had not been decided upon at the time the Bill was published, it is quite obvious that it is not included in the figure of £ 21 million. Can we be told what the public expenditure implications are and whether Treasury approval has been given to the expenditure? We should all be immensely grateful to the noble Earl were he able to assist us in the matter. Clearly, it is directly related to the Financial Memorandum to the Bill.

Lord Renton

Having expressed reservations about everything on the Bill this evening until now, I am happy to say that I think that the Government are to be congratulated on replacing Section 8 of the 1964 Act with this much simpler Clause 6. It reads very well and succinctly, it is admirably brief and it does not attempt to go too far.

As to the amendment, however, I cannot find myself in agreement with it. I say that principally because what it requires overlaps with what is in any event bound to happen before the start of every financial year: namely, the submission of the Estimates in another place. Bearing in mind the well-established system, I see no need for what is proposed in paragraph (a) of the amendment.

As for what is proposed with regard to 1995 and 1996 under paragraphs (b) and (c), I should have thought it would be hard to anticipate two years ahead what would be the likely level of borrowing of each of the authorities. Quite frankly, I doubt if that is realistic. However, I shall be interested to hear what my noble friend Lord Ferrers has to say about it. I am not impressed by Amendment No.77.

Earl Ferrers

I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Renton for saying that he is not very impressed with the amendment. I was not impressed either. The noble Baroness, Lady Hilton, then quite fairly said that it was merely a probing amendment. I had not realised that. I was concerned because it obliges the Home Secretary to give in a separate form information that would be put before Parliament in the normal way, as my noble friend Lord Renton said, through the supply estimates, and by appropriation accounts and other means. We did not consider that a very necessary additional procedure.

The only additional expenditure resulting from the Bill will be that to cover the cost of setting up the new police authorities and to cover the period of parallel operation by the old and new authorities in the year 1994– 95. The new authorities can also incur some costs in 1994– 95, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hilton, said, in relation to training, recruitment and equipment needs in the forces for whose maintenance they will assume responsibility from April 1995. That expenditure will be confined to the financial year 1994– 95. My noble friend Lord Renton is right. Parliament will be informed about it through the supply estimates. It is therefore unnecessary to provide a special report.

Provision has already been made to allow the new police authorities to borrow up to an amount agreed by the Secretary of State in 1994– 95, the amount being paid back the following year. Thereafter, most borrowing will be for capital purposes and will be dependent on the provision which the Home Office has made for credit approvals. Credit approvals for protective services, which comprise largely those for the police, are published in the public expenditure statistical supplement to the Financial Statement and the Budget Report.

No provision has been made for additional expenditure by chief constables from April 1995 onwards, as the changes which are instituted by the Bill will be broadly cost neutral. Any additional expenditure on financial and personnel management will be a matter for the chief constable and his police authority and will be accomplished by reallocating existing funds.

The noble Baroness asked why on earth we spend £ 21 million when we can get 1,000 extra police officers for that sum. Of course one can get all sorts of things for that figure. I quite agree. The point is that the Bill will make sure that all the resources available are used more effectively. That is the whole purpose behind the Bill. There are some small costs involved in setting up the new authorities and providing police forces with the proper management information that they need to run themselves more efficiently, as the Audit Commission recommended. That is why we are making available the sum of £ 21 million. About £ 4 million will be spent in setting up the new police authorities, and up to £ 17 million will be spent on recruiting the staff needed by forces to carry out new functions such as strengthening the force finance functions and personnel functions and ensuring adequate information systems.

The noble Lord, Lord Harris, asked about the Lord Lieutenant system, saying that it had been produced only in January, that it had not been predicted, and so forth. Of course it was only produced in January. It was produced in order to try to find a solution to the problem which the noble Lord, Lord Harris, and others, identified at Second Reading; namely, their concern that the independent members would be placemen of my right honourable friend. The noble Lord, Lord Harris, still keeps jogging along with that theme. He regards it as "this strange procedure to choose the Home Office team". That really is a total and gross exaggeration. It does not surprise me that the noble Lord says that. In his whims of fancy, he is sometimes given to exaggeration. He knows perfectly well that it is not a Home Office team; it is the appointment of independent people. Because he, the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, and others complained that the body was not independent, my right honourable friend, in a gesture of magnanimity which I am bound to say is wearing pretty thin at the way we are going on, decided to have an arrangement which showed beyond peradventure that it was independent.

But the noble Lord, Lord Harris, says, "Oh, no, this is a Home Office team. " He asks what it will cost. I do not know what are the charges for Lords Lieutenant at the moment. I cannot tell the noble Lord the cost. As the noble Lord will realise, that particular system has not been fined down. We have approached the Lords Lieutenant but I cannot give him their reply as yet. However, I do not believe that it will be a substantial proportion of £ 21 million.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

I do not wish to cause the noble Earl any further grief on this particular issue tonight. However, perhaps he will bear in mind that when he used the term "independent members" those gentlemen will be many things— assuming that they are ever eventually contained in the language of the Bill — but independent they certainly are not. They will be party placemen, as the noble Earl knows perfectly well.

But the issue that I have raised is a different one. When the Bill was published there was no such provision within it in terms of taking account of the position not only of Lords Lieutenant but the personnel management consultants— presumably public advertising, perhaps for members of the authorities. The question is a simple one. Has Treasury approval been given for expenditure of this sort? Perhaps I may say with respect to the noble Earl that the answer is either yes or no. I ask him: which is it?

Earl Ferrers

So far as I know, the Treasury is aware of what is proposed and is happy with it.

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon

I thank the noble Earl for a rather minuscule increase in my knowledge about where the £ 21 million is to be spent. I am still not at all clear that a detailed estimate has been provided to us and we are not clear how the sums have been arrived at. Nevertheless, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 6 agreed to.

Clause 7 agreed to.

Clause 8 [Civilian employees]:

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No.78: Page 6, line 13, after ("employ") insert ("or appoint").

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment I should like to speak also to Amendment No.79. There are curious anomalies in the history of the appointment and employment of civilian staff within the police service. The present legislation in itself is somewhat anomalous. The chief constable is responsible in all aspects for uniformed staff and has day to day directional responsibility for civilian staff. The civilian staff themselves are not employees of the chief constable. They are employees of the police authority and the police authority retains responsibility for their employment.

The 1964 Police Act states in Section 10(1) that the job of the civilian staff is to assist the police force and to enable the authority to discharge its functions. So we have the curious situation that the staff are not part of the force but are part of the authority, which has wider responsibilities than simply maintenance of the force.

Clearly that is anomalous and clearly it is undesirable that the staff who are very largely used to assist the police force should not be under the control of the chief constable. However, it must be said that there has been very little conflict as a result. Very few chief police officers have reported practical difficulties about the implementation of the 1964 legislation.

But a distinction is and should be made between those civilians who, to use the words of the legislation "assist the force"— in other words are doing things which uniformed or detective police officers should not be doing or which they could do better than the officers — and those who are enabling the authority to discharge its functions.

We ought to be clear that there are functions of police authorities which are different from, if not wider than, the functions of the chief constable and of the police force itself. For example, the police authority ought not to be entirely on its own; in other words, it ought not to be without the benefit of paid staff to advise it on such matters as the long-term costs of capital development, the ways in which the public are consulted about policing in the area, the accuracy of estimates of inflation costs, equal opportunities policies, and the propriety or advisability of any action proposed by the chief constable and recommended to the police authority. Those are proper functions with which the police authority is concerned which are not properly the responsibility of the chief constable. Yet the Bill as drafted says that all civilians shall be under the direction and control of the chief constable unless there is agreement between him and the police authority to the contrary.

The last thing I want to do is to set up any conflict between chief constables and police authorities. The whole thrust of our amendments has been to try to avoid that kind of potential for conflict. But it seems logical and reasonable to recognise that there are functions of police authorities which are not the functions of the police force, which may require a police authority to "appoint" and "employ". The addition of the word "appoint" is technical but in management terms it is what one must do. One cannot employ somebody unless that person is appointed first and it is as well to spell that out. I refer to people who assist the police authority to perform those functions which are not functions of the police force.

First, the amendment would correct the lack of recognition of appointment as well as the employment of persons— Clause 8 of the Bill, line 13 on page 6. Secondly, it would provide that subsection (2) of Clause 8 shall not apply to such persons as the authority consider it necessary to employ or appoint directly in pursuance of its functions. I hope that the Committee will agree that it is not a recipe for discord between chief constables and the police authorities; on the contrary, it is a recognition of the real difference between their functions and the necessity for staff to assist them to carry them out. I beg to move.

Lord Renton

I do not find any question of principle arising in Amendment No.78. They are matters of phraseology but we should try to get them right. The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, is right in regard to the need for the words "or appoint" after the word "employ".

We employ employees but we appoint independent contractors and professional people. We appoint solicitors unless we are going to have them in our employment all the time. We may need both kinds of person to serve a police authority. I am thinking particularly of accountants. A police authority is likely to need at least one accountant as a permanent employee to supervise the expenditure and so forth, but from time to time it may need to engage another accountant to give advice on a specific problem or obtain a second opinion, or to engage a solicitor for that purpose. In that case it would not be employing them; it would be appointing them, engaging them ad hoc for their professional services. The same would apply to an architect brought in to build a new police station, and so forth. Therefore, the words "or appoint" may well be appropriate on Amendment No.78.

Amendment NJ.79 is a purely technical matter. I do not wish to express an opinion upon it, but at first sight it looks as though it simplifies the drafting and makes the point that needs to be made.

Earl Ferrers

My noble friend Lord Renton always comes out with some fairly good observations. He said that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, was right to draw our attention to this part of the Bill. I dare say he was right; but the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, was wrong in the conclusions which he drew. Perhaps I may explain why.

If these amendments were accepted, the nature of the new framework for policing for which the Bill provides would be altered for the worse. It is an important element of the new framework that chief constables should in future have direct responsibility for the management and control of all the civilians working with and in support of the police, without the detailed involvement of the police authority. If police authorities were to be able to appoint additional people, who would not come under the control of the chief constable, those people could become involved in detailed police civilian matters in a way which would undermine the chief constable's new powers. That would be undesirable. One of the most important features of the Bill is to give greater management freedom to chief constables.

Clause 8 allows chief constables and police authorities to agree that certain members of staff should remain under police authority control. On this point the anxieties of my noble friend Lord Renton ought to be satisfied. Clause 3 substitutes a new Section 10 for Section 10 of the 1964 Act. The new Section 10(1) states: A police authority established under section 3 of this Act may employ persons to assist the police force". Subsection (2) states that, any person employed by the authority under this section is under the direction and control of the chief constable of the police force maintained by the authority". That does not satisfy my noble friend's anxiety about the accountant, but then subsection (3) states: Subsection (2) 01 this section shall not apply to such of the persons employed by the authority as may be agreed between the chief constable and the authority". In other words, there would be certain people who are there to service the police authority and not to be part of the civilians over whom the chief constable has authority. It would be up to the chief constable and the police authority to agree that those people, and those people alone, came under the authority of the police authority and not under the authority of the chief constable. For those reasons I would suggest to the Committee that the Bill should remain as it is.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

I hope that what I am about to say will not cause the noble Earl unease, but I find that I rather agree with him on this point. It is a difficult matter as to how this decision should be implemented and what the responsibility of the chief officer on one side should be and what the position of the police authority on the other side should be. It is most desirable to ensure that there should not be arty confusion as to who in fact is in charge. Subsection (3) deals with the point that there can be agreement between the authority and the chief constable that certain persons can be employed by the authority itself and be answerable to the authority rather than to the chief constable. If there is any dispute about the matter there can be a determination by the Secretary of State. Apart from that it is highly desirable that the chief constable should have the powers set out in subsection (2). Therefore, on that point, I agree with the noble Earl.

Lord Monkswell

In following this debate I am rather disturbed. Earlier in the Committee's consideration of the Bill, the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, spoke about the tripartite relationship of the chief constable, the police authority and the Home Secretary. The independence of those three legs to the milking stool, to which the noble Earl referred, is incredibly important. Yet there is written into Clause 8 effectively a limitation on the ability of the police authority, as one of the legs of that tripartite arrangement, to operate independently.

Perhaps I may give an example. If a police authority wants to have independent financial or legal advice which is independent of the chief constable and the Home Secretary, it is almost prevented from getting that independent advice by the clause. Subsection (3) means that the police authority in effect cannot employ people without the agreement of the chief constable and, failing that, of the Home Secretary. If the chief constable and the Home Secretary, as other parts of the tripartite arrangement, do not think that the police authority should have independent legal advice, it cannot get it. That is very disturbing. Can the Minister explain whether I have misunderstood the situation or whether there is genuine cause for anxiety?

Earl Ferrers

The noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, is making a mountain out of a molehill and is getting it wrong in the process. The situation is perfectly clear. A police authority can employ civilians and that is what it will do. Once the civilians are employed they come under the authority of the chief constable. That is made perfectly clear in subsection (2) which states, any person employed by the authority … is under the direction and control of the chief constable". That means that the civilians who may operate typewriters, word processors or telephones will come under the control of the chief constable. I have no idea whether it will come into effect, but the chairman of the police authority may need a personal secretary or an accountant. Those people will be employed by the police authority but, with the agreement of the chief constable, they will not come under his authority. That seems to me perfectly simple. Those who are working in the force, as it were, will come under the authority of the chief constable, but those who are serving the authority alone will, with the agreement of the chief constable, be part of the authority and not part of the chief constable's responsibility.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

The Minister thinks that it is very simple, but the Bill provides the possibility that it may not be. It provides that, in the absence of agreement, the matter may be determined by the Secretary of State. In other words it is anticipated that there may be disputes. The Minister and the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, have misconstrued the amendments. They have ignored the fact that the addition of the word "appoint" is appropriate for those who are not to be employed in the normal sense but who are to be used on a sessional or ad hoc basis.

The Bill provides a quite unnecessary system of appeal to the Secretary of State in the case of a dispute. Is it really the function of a Secretary of State to adjudicate between a chief constable and a police authority about the employment of a secretary? That seems to me a gross misuse of central power and central responsibility, as bad as many of the things that the Bill proposes to remove in the detail of control by the Home Office of police authorities.

We have never said in connection with the amendment that the chief constable should not be able to direct the staff who assist the force. Of course not. That would be going back not just on the 1964 Act, but in particular on the way in which that Act has operated. What we are saying is that a police authority has different functions from those of the police force and it seems entirely proper that the authority should decide who to employ or appoint to advise it and to carry out those functions on its behalf. I do not think that the answers that have been given by the Minister or the comments that we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Harris, have contributed in any way to the understanding of the issue.

This is not a matter of prime importance in the Bill. It is certainly not a matter on which I wish to seek the view of the Committee. However, it is another example of how the Government's mania for controlling organisations and functions around the country has gone too far. I am grateful for the supporting words of the noble Lord, Lord Renton, which encourage me to think that I may return to the matter on Report. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No.79 not moved.]

9.45 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No.80: Page 6, line 29, at end insert: ("(5) Each police authority shall appoint a person to be the clerk to the authority. ").

The noble Lord said: This is a related amendment, but it is so specific that I hope that it will be thought even less controversial than the previous two amendments. The Deputy Chairman seems to think that I am making a joke. I cannot think why.

There are two kinds of police authority. There are police authorities in counties which are special committees of the county council and there are joint police authorities in other areas and in metropolitan areas. Where the police authority is coterminous with the county council, it is possible to have the chief executive or clerk of the county council as clerk of the police authority. Where there is a joint authority, it is possible for arrangements to be made to have a clerk, but a clerk may not be required.

However, it seems to us that a police authority should have a clerk because there are certain functions, such as calling meetings, publishing statutory notices, receiving resignations and co-ordinating the activities of the police authority, which should be performed by a clerk. This probing amendment seeks to discover in what way the Government propose that each police authority should have a clerk, as it should. I beg to move.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

I support the amendment. I shall be interested to hear what the Minister has to say about it.

Lord Knights

I shall add only one point. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, that there needs to be a clerk, but we have to be careful that we do not regard that as a full-time appointment. The clerk to the West Midlands Police Authority at the moment is the clerk to Dudley Borough Council. His work for the police authority is regarded as a very part-time appointment. I hope that the Committee will not think that police authorities will need full-time clerks. We are talking about part-time appointments.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Knights, for that contribution. The amendment does not imply— and I do not intend— that such a clerkship should be full-time.

Earl Ferrers

When discussing the previous amendment I thought that we had got the noble Lord, Lord Harris, on our side. However, I see that he has slipped the painter, gone off again and hitched up with the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh. That is a dangerous alliance and I recommend that the noble Lord should choose his friends more carefully.

I agree with the main thrust of the noble Lord's amendment. Of course it is important that each authority should appoint a person who is clearly responsible for the running of that authority and for the proper management of it, the organisation and the staff who work directly for it. The Bill provides for that. Paragraphs 34 and 37 of Schedule 4 ensure that Section 4 of the Local Government Housing Act 1989 will apply to the police authorities. The noble Lords, Lord Harris and Lord McIntosh, probably had not perceived that. In that, they would have had the sympathy of my noble friend Lord Peyton in his earlier interventions.

That section requires every authority to designate one of its officers as the head of its paid service. It gives that officer the duty to report to the authority when appropriate on the way in which the different functions of the authority are co-ordinated, the number and grades of staff required by the authority, the organisation of those staff and the appointment and proper management of those staff. It covers all the important matters. It does not require the authority to call the person its clerk but it can if it wishes. That hardly appears to be a matter on which we need to legislate.

Earlier the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, accused the Government of wanting always to interfere. Now the noble Lord is trying to interfere. If the authority wants to call the individual a clerk it can do so. If it wants to call him a chief executive it can do so and, so far as I know, it can call him a secretary.

There is no obligation for most of the existing police authorities to appoint a clerk. No such requirement exists for all I hose police authorities which are currently committees of county councils. There is a separate requirement in the Local Government Act 1985 for the police authority it a Metropolitan area to appoint a clerk but that section preceded the introduction of Section 4 of the 1989 Act. That section seems to do the job better and I hope that that will satisfy the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, arid, in temporary alliance with him, the noble Lord, Lord Harris, that the amendment is not necessary.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

Subject to any view which the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, may have, I am prepared to accept that the amendment may not be necessary. I do not know whether the noble Earl made a slip of the tongue in using the term "chief executive". I do not like that term because it would create an undesirable suggestion of a degree of power on a police authority, which would raise questions about the operational independence of the chief officer. I hope that no encouragement will be given to the term "chief executive". In that way we should be proceeding down a dangerous path. Subject to that, if the Minister says that, given the statutory framework that he has outlined, there is no need for the provision, I am content to accept his view.

Earl Ferrers

I did not wish to imply that there would be any encouragement to call anyone a chief executive. I was merely trying to point out that there was no necessity to call him anything at all, provided that he does the job which is required.

Lord Monkswell

I wish to ask for more clarification. The noble Earl referred to a local government Act aid said that the person would be the head of the paid service. That person would be the chief constable because he is the head of the paid service. All the employees of the police authority answer to the chief constable, as we discussed on the previous amendment.

If that is the case, the person who will be the clerk to the authority will be the chief constable. I am sure that that is not the Government's intention and it would be nonsense if it were. Will the Minister clarify the position and explain the distinction between the chief constable as the person responsible for all the employees of the authority and the person who will take the position of clerk to the police authority?

Earl Ferrers

The answer to the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, is extremely simple, although he may find that it is esoteric. It cannot be a chief constable because a chief constable is not a paid employee of the authority. He retains his stewardship as a Queen's Constable and he is not an employee. The section of the Local Government and Housing Act requires every authority to designate one of its officers as head of its paid service. The chief constable is not a paid employee.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

The Minister has given us an extremely interesting reply, because the implication of that is that as a Queen's Constable, all the provisions about performance related pay, short-term contracts and so on sit rather uneasily. However, we shall return to that matter when the Bill is recommitted in due course.

I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, is not in his seat because I am tempted to follow his earlier musical act by reading from Schedule 4, to which the Minister referred. He is quite right to say that it refers to the head of paid service, but paragraph 34 states: In section 4 of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989 (designation and reports of head of paid service), in subsection (6) (a) after the words 'paragraphs (a) to (e)' there shall be inserted the words 'or (g)". Apart from anything else, what has happened to paragraph (f)? Where is paragraph (g)? I look all the way through that part of the schedule and I see no reference to paragraph (g) under Section 4 of the 1989 Act. Does that paragraph explain, as the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, would have wished, to the plebs what the legislation is actually about? Where is paragraph (g), what does it mean and what does it say?

Earl Ferrers

I do not know whether that question is directed at me, though I cannot imagine at whom else it may be directed. I do not have the slightest idea what paragraph (g) refers to because I do not have that legislation to hand.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I suppose that that is a good enough reason for me to seek to withdraw the amendment. I should be grateful if the Minister would write to me and explain what paragraph 34 of Schedule 4 means. It is not clear to me and I imagine it is not clear to anyone else who has the misfortune to read it in the course of duty. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 8 agreed to.

Clause 9 [Questions by local councillors]:

On Question, Whether Clause 9 shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Harris of Greenwich

I do not propose to weary the Committee by going into the detailed provisions of the clause. It is obviously related directly to the discussions that we shall have on re-commitment as regards Clause 2 and Schedule 2 and the composition of police authorities. I merely give notice that we may return to the question once we have got through the problems of Clause 2 and Schedule 2.

Lord Monkswell

I rise to support the Motion. I wish to elaborate further about my anxieties. As the noble Lord, Lord Harris, said, it was hoped that earlier this afternoon we might have had a resolution as regards the composition and size of police authorities. We shall now have to wait for that.

I did not intervene this afternoon. I must admit that we were all having such great fun that I did not think that it was up to me to interfere with that. However, there is a serious point which was not touched upon: that is, what accountability is there for the local authority members on the police authorities? It is very important here to recognise that local authority members do not just exist in isolation. They are not people who exert some magic just because they are members of a local authority; they are accountable to the people whom they represent or to the council upon which they serve.

One of the difficulties with the Government's projected framework for the new police authorities is that, in some areas, there are sub-areas that would effectively be unrepresented. Perhaps I may give Members of the Committee the example of Greater Manchester. I do not believe that there are any plans for the Government to change the boundaries of the Greater Manchester Police, but they do have plans to change the make-up of the police authority. If the Government's original plans were to go through, there would be eight members of the police authority from the local authority. But, in fact, there are 10 metropolitan districts in Greater Manchester. Therefore, two metropolitan districts would automatically be without representation on the police authority. The Government have recognised that fact and that is why Clause 9 is in the Bill.

However, Clause 9 is not adequate in the sense that legally the regulations enable questions to be put down for answer by members of the police authority. In my five years as a member of the Manchester City Council, I cannot recall one occasion when a formal question has been put down for answer by one of the members of the police authority on the council. However, that is not to say that police affairs are not discussed in the city council in Manchester. Indeed, there are occasions when the operations of the Greater Manchester Police are complimented and others when they are criticised. That information is taken back by the members on the police authority from the city council and forms part of the framework for their deliberations, discussions, debates and decision making.

If we think in terms of the only connection between the police authority and the local authority being a formal question, we lose the essential connection between the two. I must admit that I was concerned earlier this afternoon by the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit. He said that police authorities were not criticised for the actions of the police but that it was always the Home Secretary who came in for criticism. Of course, the Home Secretary is criticised for the actions of the police in London because he represents the police authority in London, but I suspect that the noble Lord does not appreciate that in the provinces police authorities are criticised by local people. That criticism is taken on board and acted upon.

It is important that we should have a better mechanism to deal with that difficulty than that contained in Clause 9. I hope that that will finally come through when the Bill is amended and that it will be positively in line with the debate that we had this afternoon in a way that will enable each local authority area to have direct representation on the police authority that covers its area.

Lord Renton

I find the speech of the noble Lord very surprising because under Section 11 of the 1964 Act members of the Manchester City Council, of which he was himself a member, were told that, Arrangements shall be made … for enabling questions on the discharge of the functions of the police authority … to be put, in the course of the proceedings of the council", and for an answer to be given by a member of the council who is a member of the police authority. It is strange that that great opportunity provided by Parliament was not made use of.

The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, introduced this matter in what I may call a low key. I think he was wise to do so because I think, quite frankly, the Government have got it right on this occasion. The arrangements under the Police Act 1964 for this matter have to be altered slightly because of the different composition of police areas and of local authorities, and therefore because of the different representation there will be. The Government in Clause 9, which we are discussing, has replaced Section 11 by arrangements which look as though they are just right in these fresh circumstances. I would have thought that this is a matter on which I am happy to say that my noble friend Lord Ferrers can relax.

Lord Dean of Beswick

I did not particularly wish to become involved in this matter but I was on the Manchester City Council during the period referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Renton. I always carefully consider the views that the noble Lord expresses on legal matters as I greatly respect those views. However, I believe he has forgotten some of the quirks of history that have occurred. In 1964 there was a Manchester City police force, but due to the actions of the then Conservative Government the metropolitan counties were formed, among which was the Greater Manchester metropolitan county. So the Manchester City police force became the Greater Manchester police force. Therefore the remarks of the noble Lord have been overtaken by events. The noble Lord shakes his head but I believe that I should make this point. I believe that when— I am not just referring to the present Government— governments pursue this kind of exercise, they do not often think through the consequences of their actions.

Clause 9(2) states: On being given reasonable notice by a relevant council of a meeting of that council at which questions on the discharge of the police authority's functions are to be put, the police authority shall nominate one or more of its members to attend the meeting to answer those questions". There are now 10 authorities. Some borders may have been altered slightly, but I am not sure about that as I have not gone into that matter. There are at present 10 metropolitan districts, including the City of Manchester, that comprise the area that is controlled by the Greater Manchester police force. There is now no Greater Manchester civil authority; it was disbanded by the Government. Therefore I must ask which council we are talking about. Are we talking about Manchester City, Salford City, Oldham borough, Stockport borough, Rochdale borough or Trafford borough? I believe this whole matter needs to be explained better than has been the case so far. Clause 9(2) states that, the police authority shall nominate one or more of its members to attend the meeting to answer those questions". I know that the discussions on the proportion of local authority representatives on the new police authority are still in the melting pot. However, if the final number is between 16 and 24, will the Government say to the Greater Manchester area, "You will have these delegates on a pro rata basis"? Manchester has one-fifth of the population of that area and therefore, presumably, it will obtain one-fifth of the delegates on the relevant police authority. The other local areas will be allocated delegates on a pro rata basis. By what vehicle will the members of the police authority raise the question of the police at a council meeting?

I am not trying to be funny. These are matters which will have to be looked at. We have to know which council we are talking about. There must be a substantial number of local authority representatives on any police authority. From my experience many of them are far too big and unwieldy, but if I was still leader of Manchester City Council when the Bill became an Act and wanted to oversee the matter in the best possible manner I would have to be advised diligently as to how I was to carry out the function. At present I do not know how that could be done.

Will there be an ad hoc group of councillors serving on the police authorities, with magistrates and other appointees nominated by the Secretary of State who will all get together? It could be that at the end of the sausage machine the member of the police authority reporting to the council is also a member of that particular city council or borough council. The position is extremely complex. It requires a great deal more thought than it has been given so far.

Lord Elton

The noble Lord has explained the matter adequately, but we are talking about a joint authority in which some relevant member councils covered by that joint authority may not have a voice. In that case, it is necessary to appoint somebody from the joint authority to answer questions from the council which is not represented.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

The noble Lord, Lord Elton, has put his finger on the issue precisely. The 1964 Act was perfectly clear because there would always be enough local authority members who were members of each constituent council to answer questions and take part in debates on police matters. The restrictions proposed both on the size of police authorities and in local authority membership mean, as my noble friend Lord Dean made clear, that in Manchester a number of constituent councils will not have a member of their council on the police authority. Therefore, this clause, which makes much less adequate provision for reporting back for consultation than the 1964 Act, is necessary because of the Government's proposals in Clause 2. When we deal with Clause 2 on recommitment I hope that we shall make Clause 9 unnecessary.

Lord Dean of Beswick

Before the Minister replies perhaps I may stress that I am serious in saying that some of the points that I have made need to be addressed. I shall not oppose the clause now but a better explanation is required. The Government may want to alter the clause. At present I see difficulties which may make it unworkable.

Earl Ferrers

I do not like to suggest that Members of the Committee are making another mountain out of a molehill. I shall do my best to try to explain the matter to the noble Lord, Lord Dean, and to the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, who made the remarkable suggestion that he had served for five years on the Manchester City Council and had never asked one question of the police authority. That is remarkable. However, I shall let that pass.

The position is, as the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, said, that the existing Section 11 of the Police Act 1964 enables each council within a police area to call before the council one of its own members, who is also a member of the police authority, to answer questions about the police authority's discharge of its functions. Now, with the proposed changes to the composition of the new police authorities, those arrangements need to be modified. As the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, said, it cannot be certain that each council will have one of its own members on the police authority. As full members of the authority, there is no reason why the independent members or magistrate members should not be called upon to answer questions posed by one of the constituent councils. The council may have a meeting and want to know what is happening on the police authority. It will ask for a member of the police authority to account for what is happening.

The new version of Section 11 provided by Clause 9 enables each council to make arrangements for questions about the functions of the police authority to be posed by members of the council and to be answered by a person who is nominated by the police authority. The decision as to who is to respond to any questions posed by one of the relevant councils will in future rest with the police authority and will not rest with the local authority which is asking the question. Apart from that, the procedural change in other respects— the opportunity for councils by this means to scrutinise the work of the police authority— is essentially unchanged.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

The Minister cannot be allowed to go on calling them "independent members". They are not independent members: they are appointees of the Home Secretary.

Earl Ferrers

I really do think that is a childish intervention. The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, knows perfectly well that they are independent. That is what they have been called. He can call them what names he likes, but that is the name by which they have been known.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

The noble Earl should not get too cross. We are getting a little late tonight. The fact is that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, was of course entirely right. These are Government appointed members: they are not independent. As the noble Earl will have recognised, there were very few Members on his side of the Committee this afternoon who took the view that these members were going to be independent in any way whatever. However, I do not propose to proceed further with this matter. As I indicated earlier, we will come back to this question after we have dealt with Clause 2 and the second schedule.

As this brief debate has indicated, as a result of the character of Clause 2 as it stands at the moment, and also as a result of the second schedule, a situation will arise whereby a number of constituent local authorities are not going to be represented on the police authority. That is offensive in the extreme. It is wholly wrong that democratically elected local representatives on a local authority will find that their own authority does not have a member on the police authority. That is quite wrong, and it is one of the many reasons why we feel as strongly as we do about the provisions of the Bill which have been debated this afternoon. But, I beg the noble Earl, let us have no more of this nonsense about independent members. With that, I shall not press this particular matter further.

Lord Dean of Beswick

I should like to just question the Minister—

Noble Lords


Lord Dean of Beswick

It arises from something that the Minister said, not what I said. The Minister should be aware that there is still another peculiarity in the Manchester situation because the appointees who are placed on the police authority by the Government— am I right?— will be from the magistrates' Bench. I should say that most of them probably will be. From my experience, the magistrates' Bench in Manchester is overwhelmingly peopled by those who do not live in the city of Manchester but in Cheshire. What is the situation when someone who is not even an elector in Manchester is asked to go to Manchester City Council to talk about the Manchester police force, having been appointed by the Secretary of State because he or she happens to be a magistrate who has been appointed by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster but who may live miles away — nowhere near Manchester? These are some of the things that we shall have to look at on a later occasion. That is all I am saying.

Clause 9 agreed to.

Baroness Trumpington

I beg to move that the House do now resume.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.

House adjourned at eighteen minutes past ten o'clock.