HL Deb 17 February 1994 vol 552 cc292-346

3.32 p.m.

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.


[Amendment No.81 not moved.]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No.82: Before Clause 10, insert the following new clause: ("Greater London Police Authority Metropolitan Police Authority

  1. .—(1) There shall be a police authority for the metropolitan police district.
  2. (2) The police authority established under this section shall be a body corporate to be known as the Metropolitan Police Authority.
  3. 293
  4. (3) The police authority established under this section shall secure the maintenance of an efficient and effective police force for its area.
  5. (4) The police authority established under subsection (1) above shall consist of sixteen members, of whom—
    1. (a) eight shall be members of a relevant council appointed in accordance with Schedule 1B to the Police Act 1964;
    2. (b) three shall be magistrates appointed in accordance with that Schedule; and
    3. (c) five shall be persons appointed by the Secretary of State.
  6. (5) For the purposes of this section, a council is a relevant council in relation to a police authority if it is the council for a London borough.
  7. (6) Schedule 1B to the 1964 Act shall apply with respect to appointments to the police authority established under this section. ").

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, I would like to speak also to Amendment No.213, which is consequential upon it. I do not need to urge a democratically elected police authority for London purely on the arguments of democracy or those of elected local representatives in London. It is enough for me to rely on the words of the Government and of the police force in London to urge the case for a democratically elected police force in London. Indeed, as recently as 26th May last year, the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, argued very cogently for a democratically elected police force in London.

Without going into past history—that is to say, not going back more than a year—perhaps I may refer to the record of the Government's statements on this matter. The then Home Secretary, Mr. Kenneth Clarke, answered a Parliamentary Question on 14th April 1993 in these words: I think that London needs a Police Authority and the arrangement whereby the Home Secretary is in theory the police authority for London is not adequate if we are to hold the Metropolitan Police to account, as happens with other police authorities, and if we are to assist them by giving clearer guidelines on priorities and so on".

I could hardly have put it better myself.

I shall not quote any of the other intermediate statements. The noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, said in this House on 26th May 1993: London will benefit from the reforms which we are proposing as in a similar way will the remainder of the country … my right honourable friend intends in future that there should be a police authority for London outside of the Home Office and that he will delegate to that authority many of his existing responsibilities".—[Official Report, 26/5/93; col.351.]

Again, I yield to no one in my admiration of the noble Earl in this instance for his lucidity, clear thinking and correctness of political judgment.

What has gone wrong? What has gone wrong is that there was a panic campaign by a number of London Conservative MPs, who drew up all the old smears about the loony left-wing Lambeth councillors. It should be noted that this panic campaign took place last summer. I do not believe that we hear very much about loony left-wing Lambeth councillors at the moment because of the response which is always made, and which is bound to be made, as regards what is happening in Wandsworth and Westminster. I believe that the electors of Lambeth, Wandsworth and Westminster will be expressing their views on 5th May in such a way as to make it clear that the arguments which were used by Mr. Cyril Townsend and others last summer do not wash very well with the electorate and they should not have any particular weight in this House. The Government have backed down on their very clearly and correctly expressed intentions as recent as May last year in response to irresponsible and ill thought-out Back-Bench pressure about the possibility of any democratic control for the police force in London.

I do not need to rely on Left or Right-wing councils or anybody else for the rest of the argument in favour of this amendment. The argument has been put very clearly by the police force itself. Sir John Smith, the chairman of the Association of Chief Police Officers, said publicly at the time that ACPO would like to see London governed by the same arrangements which will emerge for the rest of the country. He went on to stress that his association wanted to ensure that elected councillors would remain a "significant component" of any new authorities.

The newly appointed Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Paul Condon, in an article in the June edition of the Association of London Authorities Bulletin, also expressed his support for a police authority for the capital. In his article the Commissioner says: There is the challenge to be faced of working towards a new Police Authority for London. This is a concept which has my full support".

In the face of those arguments, what is there for me to add? Perhaps I may say a word or two about the wording of the amendment. In this amendment we have very deliberately not sought to raise the issue of the balance between the local authority councillors, appointed members and magistrates for London. We take it that the Committee will be expressing a view when it is reconvened to consider Clauses 2,3 and 4 on 1st March. At that time, whatever decision the Committee makes, it should be reflected in the wording of a new clause on the Greater London Police Authority. Under those circumstances it seems most straightfor-ward not to raise the whole issue of the composition of police authorities but simply to accept, for the purposes of this amendment, the government formula. That is what we have done.

London is different in some ways from other police forces. London, through the Metropolitan Police, has a number of national obligations. There are diplomatic surveillance and national security obligations besides a number of other matters which are primarily national and which devolve mainly on the Metropolitan Police, although of course major regional police forces also have comparable national responsibilities on a smaller scale.

If it is suggested that, because of the national responsibilities of the Metropolitan Police, the whole of its activities should be taken out of local authority control, that would be done against the considered advice of those in the police force who know most about it; who believe that national responsibilities can be carried out effectively, and who do not see (as I do not see) why it is that local councillors of any political persuasion should seek, for example, to put the Royal Family at risk. There is no difference, other than of scale, between the national and local responsibilities of the Metropolitan Police and those of the police in any other area of the country. On those grounds also, having the Metropolitan Police under democratic local control is very much to be desired.

Above all, all of the arguments that are put forward by both Government and Opposition and by all of those who are concerned about the necessity to police by consent and to have local policing apply just as strongly in London as anywhere else—perhaps even more strongly.

In fact, even with the Metropolitan Police being responsible directly to the Home Secretary, there have been a number of very effective local policing initiatives between the Metropolitan Police and both Labour and Conservative London boroughs. They include Lambeth, where the Stockwell Park local scheme has been an effective collaboration between the Metropolitan Police and the Lambeth housing department. All over London, both police and local authorities are showing by their actions that they are willing and anxious to see local co-operation between the police and democratically elected councillors.

Why is it that the Government, having expressed their views clearly in favour of such a link and such a police authority, should have turned away from that very wise judgment? I very much regret the change of heart that the Government have undergone. I believe that it will be regretted not only by councillors in London but by the, police in London and by ordinary people in London, also. I beg to move.

Lord Callaghan of Cardiff

I should like briefly to support what my noble friend Lord McIntosh of Haringey has said. I have felt for a long time that there is a genuine case for having a police committee for London. Indeed, I thought that when I was Home Secretary 30 years ago, although there was no Police Bill at the time and I did nothing about it.

I have always recognised the particular responsibilities of government in relation to a number of issues that do not affect provisional police authorities. My noble friend referred to this. I see that those responsibilities are provided for in this amendment by the provision of five persons who should be appointed by the Secretary of State. The five, persons whom the Government propose to appoint with respect to the provisional forces are those who would be representative of local opinion other than those who are elected.

In relation to London, I do not think that the five persons whom the Home Secretary shall appoint, if this amendment is earned, ought to be the same type of person. I think that they ought to be representative more of the special responsibilities of Her Majesty's Government for a number of functions which do not fall to the provisional authorities. I hope that "the five persons" would be interpreted in that sense, but I am not sure whether my noble friend agrees. However, it seems to me that the Government have a distinct responsibility which must be exercised.

The case for a police authority for London is quite clear. At the moment, we have taxation without representation, and one has to be hard put to it to defend such a position. The local authorities which have to call in the charge are responsible for policing but have no say in it at all. I believe that that is wrong. I see no reason why it should not be possible to devise a police authority that would represent both local opinion and national responsibilities.

There is such a thing as local opinion. I am sure that the councillors in the London Borough of Southwark where I happen to live in London have a different sense of priorities from those who live in Hampstead—at least I guess that they may have. However, there is no prospect and no chance of those views being represented. I think that that should happen. The noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, will have to put forward a jolly good argument if he is to convince us that there is not a case for local representation.

I know that the police have built up very good relations with local authorities in some areas, and that is desirable, but the elected representatives, through the local authorities, ought to be able to form a police authority here in London, subject to the reservation of the Government's responsibilities, which could be included in this amendment. Subject to that, they ought to be able to form a police authority. Let us get rid of taxation without representation, which I thought had been rejected a long time ago. Unless the noble Earl can convince us—and I have never been able to find a convincing argument for that case—I hope that we shall test the opinion of the Committee on this.

3.45 p.m.

Viscount Whitelaw

I understand clearly what the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan of Cardiff, says. At certain times when I was Home Secretary, I held something of the same view, but having had many of the problems that come from that national position, about which he spoke rightly and fairly, I came to the opposite conclusion. It was a difficult decision, but I think that I can claim that I had to deal with many—perhaps more than most—of those national problems when I was Home Secretary.

Those problems included somebody getting into the Palace and the Queen's bedroom. Problems such as that have to be dealt with by the Home Secretary—and have to be dealt with very firmly. Nobody else can take responsibility for it. I felt strongly on that occasion that I had to take a very strong view and in many different ways. I had to make some things perfectly clear to the Royal Household about what I believed had to be done. Naturally, they did not particularly like some of them. People imagine that the Royal Family is secure in the Palace and it is difficult when somebody finds that some things have to be changed. Somebody like a Home Secretary has to say that that will happen.

That is what changed my view. Although I recognise that there are strong arguments in favour of what the amendment suggests, on balance I believe that it is the Home Secretary who has the duty to deal with the national position. The Home Secretary also has a duty, which I regarded as very important when I held that position, to deal with local problems in conjunction with local councillors. We had meetings constantly with local councillors so that we could fulfil that charge.

I have come down on the opposite side of the argument to the noble Lords who have spoken so far, but I agree that they have a strong case. Perhaps, however, when one has experienced the national problem—acutely on one or two occasions—it is not surprising if one takes this point of view.

Lord Callaghan of Cardiff

Perhaps the noble Viscount will forgive me for intervening, but surely nothing about setting up a police authority of this kind, with its very limited responsibilities, would interfere with the duty of the Home Secretary (which would be exercised in all circumstances whether or not there was a police authority) to advise Her Majesty and others associated with the Royal Family about the proper level of protection. Surely nothing can remove that duty from the Home Secretary whether or not a police authority is set up.

Viscount Whitelaw

The answer to that must be that, if one sets up this police authority on the same basis as other police authorities throughout the country, the charge then comes that the Home Secretary must not interfere with this, that or another matter. That is a very good case and many people, including myself, have argued about the need for the police authorities to be independent. That is what I believe, but I do not believe that one can have that and then turn round from the national position and tell the chairman of the London police authority that you are going to have your will and that he is not. That is a very dangerous and difficult point.

This is a difficult matter. It is not a matter of principle to me because I think that it rests simply on the facts of London's national position as a large capital. In the end, I think that that national position has to be dealt with in detail and as a straight responsibility of the Home Secretary of the day.

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon

Perhaps I may begin by addressing the point that was raised by the noble Viscount, Lord Whitelaw. The Royal Family has residences throughout the country. In fact, the Queen is well known to prefer Windsor Castle to Buckingham Palace as a residence. If there was an intruder at Windsor Castle, presumably the Home Secretary would have no difficulty in directing the chairman of the police authority for the Thames Valley to present the same sort of report that he would ask the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police to present in relation to Buckingham Palace. I do not believe that the argument about an intruder in Buckingham Palace is sufficient for saying that we should not have a police authority for London. If that were the case we should not have a police authority for any part of the country in which there is a royal residence.

I support the amendment as a former Metropolitan officer of many years' service. I also support what was said by my noble friend Lord McIntosh about the police service being keen to see a police authority in London. When I joined the Metropolitan police force in the late 1950s there was a different attitude. The police service was inward looking and it had a simplistic, if not an arrogant, assumption that it knew best about how to police an area. There was little discussion of public accountability or of the democratic deficit in London. Since then society has changed; it has become more complex. The police service is more sophisticated. There is greater media interest in it and a greater awareness of the rights of individuals. In some ways, that has forced the police service to be more accountable but there is a recognition in London that it is still not sufficient.

Some catalytic events have forced the police service to be more responsive to the London public. The 1981 Brixton riots and the report made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, and the consultative committees which were set up initially with some difficulty in boroughs such as Lambeth and Brent, have matured and there is a good relationship between London boroughs, the probation service, social services and police. There are many pro-active and successful partnership schemes working closely together. Suspicion of politicians no longer exists within the police service, and there is a much more mature understanding by politicians of the police service.

One of the successful partnership schemes was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord McAlpine. There has been the recent initiative in King's Cross between the local police and the boroughs of Islington and Camden, which previously were not necessarily thought to be pro-police boroughs. That scheme has successfully made a considerable impact on the problems in that area with drugs and prostitutes. On the Stonebridge Estate in Brent, which I policed for a time, there has been a considerable reduction in drug dealing and associated crime due to the efforts of police in collaboration with the local authority and the probation service.

Those are worthwhile schemes and they demonstrate the importance of police and community working together, and not in response to directives from the Home Secretary. But they are voluntary localised schemes and not part of a London-wide strategy. Londoners have no formal voice in the policing of London. That is undemocratic and unsafe. Disaffection with police actions, as we saw in the Brixton riots, can lead to serious public disorder. More recently, the devastation created in Los Angeles was due in part to the breakdown between the police and the public.

Policing can work only if there is public confidence and support. Crime can be solved only by complex community action at the local level. Communities are effectively self-policing and they need to be policed by community police officers.

The point that I emphasise in particular is that there is no voice for the Metropolitan police force. It is not just that Londoners have no formal voice; the Metropolitan police force has no representative for itself vis-à-vis the Home Office. The commissioner cannot openly criticise or oppose the Home Secretary or the Home Office, whatever he may think of their ideas. He cannot, for example, say publicly that the Met. has the worst personal radio system in the country. He cannot make public statements to that effect. A London police authority could say that the personal radio system of Metropolitan police officers has been underfunded, under-resourced and poorly served for many years. It could ask for more resources and make a statement which could hit the media. In no way could the Commissioner make such a statement in his close and over-symbiotic relationship with the Home Office.

Perhaps I may take as a more recent example the tragic death of Stephen Milligan, in respect of which accusations were made of police leaks to the media. There was no way in which the Metropolitan police force could suggest that it was those in other places (possibly Conservative Central Office) who leaked the information to the media. A police authority chairman could have been an advocate for the Metropolitan police force in those circumstances and suggested that politicians were the source of many of the stories that appeared in the press. An extremely important point for the Metropolitan police force is that it has no way of making its voice heard in public.

Finally, I should be grateful if in reply the Minister would say whether the new, more flexible financial arrangements which will be accorded to chief constables outside London will apply also to the Metropolitan police force? Or will it continue to be shackled by Treasury rules, which have made the proper funding of police buildings, the personal radio system and other equipment in London so hard to achieve over the years?

There are irrefutable arguments for having a police authority for London. The major anxiety that is usually expressed is the national responsibility of the Metropolitan police, which has been addressed by the noble Viscount, Lord Whitelaw. Many of those problems apply to other parts of the country and, in relation to the arrangements for a police authority for London, will be met by the five appointed members. I support the amendment.

Lord Renton

In her speech, which covered a lot of ground, the noble Baroness pleaded for the proposed change on the ground of democracy. I suggest that from the point of view of democracy it is much more effective to have the Home Secretary questioned, and for him to debate and defend his policies in either House of Parliament—of course, mainly in the House of Commons—than it would be to have a police authority of the kind envisaged in the proposed new clause. In the case of an authority, there would be much less publicity, much less account would be taken of criticism and it would be much less effective as a method of control.

Whatever else may be said on the matter, surely we can agree on both sides of the Committee that the Metropolitan police force has problems which are not only often different from those of other forces but are greater. There is no other comparable force with a city of anything like the size of London. Yes, Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, and so forth, are large but they are not comparable with London. The Metropolitan police force not only has the problems involved in protecting the Royal Family, which have been mentioned and which to a lesser extent apply to some other forces, but it also has the problems of protecting the seat of government. It also has—dare I say?—the job of protecting Cabinet Ministers (of which I have never been one) and the greater problems of terrorism than elsewhere. I am sorry to say that we now have in London a considerable racial problem, although the way in which the police have dealt with that in recent years has shown a great improvement. There is no doubt about that. I go back to the old Conservative principle that if change is not necessary it is necessary not to change.

Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone

If it ain't bust, don't fix it!

4 p.m.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Earl Ferrers)

The noble Lord's amendment proposes the setting up of a democratically-controlled police authority—a matter which has exercised people for a long time. It exercised the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, as he said, when he was Home Secretary. I can understand people believing that that would be a good idea. The Metropolitan police force is covered by most of the Bill's police provisions but the Bill is drafted, as was the Police Act 1964, to exclude the Metropolitan police force from certain of its clauses. Notably, they relate to the constitution and the function of police authorities.

Under the Government's proposals, the Metropolitan police force would in those respects continue to be catered for by the Metropolitan Police Acts. We gave a considerable amount of thought as to whether it was advisable to change that. The noble Lord. Lord Callaghan, said that he was in favour of a change. My noble friend Lord Whitelaw said that he had been of the same view for quite a while but gradually arrived at the feeling that the current position was best. My noble friend used an impressive argument about national interest and told us of his own experience in that regard.

It is fair to say that we have all thought about those matters. My right honourable friend considered them too. He eventually decided that the existing arrange-ments were correct. I was slightly amused because we have been castigated for making changes and, as some Members of the Committee may regard them, upheavals in the police force. But on the one occasion on which we decide not to change something which has been in place since 1829 everyone tells us that we should do so. I hope that Members of the Committee will realise that we have considered this matter and have decided not to make those substantial changes.

Lord Callaghan of Cardiff

It is not that we object to the Government making changes. The trouble is that they always make the wrong changes.

Earl Ferrers

If the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, would be kind enough to sit on this side of the Committee, he would consider that we had made the right changes. We were always clear that the provincial arrangements would require considerable modification if they were to be adapted to fit the unique circumstances of the Metropolitan Police. However, we hoped—and we made no secret of our hopes—that it might have proved possible to make suitable police authority arrangements which were legally separate from the Home Office.

In the event, we concluded, after further consideration, that it would go against the national interest to remove from the Secretary of State the legal authority over the force which is given to him by the Metropolitan Police Acts 1829 to 1963. We concluded also that the Metropolitan Police Acts were sufficiently flexible to allow us to apply our police reform programme administratively to the Metropolitan Police.

The noble Lord asked in effect in his amendment why it is so essential to preserve the Secretary of State's position as police authority for the Metropolitan Police and whether a way could not be found to share his legal powers with some local or independent authority. The basic answer that I must give to those questions is the same as the one which has been given by successive inquiries and governments since 1829. The Metropolitan Police is, and always has been, much more than just a local police force. This is not just a matter of size, although we should not forget that we are talking about a force which is some 13 times the size of the provincial average. It is a matter of function.

Bound up with its intrinsically important tasks of policing the capital, the Metropolitan Police has permanent and unavoidable duties of policing the seat of government, and, as my noble friend Lord Whitelaw said, it carries the associated national tasks of guarding the Royal Palaces, Westminster, government departments and embassies. And it leads the police fight against terrorism. The Metropolitan Police also undertakes vital national functions on behalf of the whole police service; for example, specialist anti-fraud work and international and government investigations at the request of the Home Office and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

The Government felt that they could not leave it to a local or independent authority, however important, to carry the ultimate responsibility for what are vital national tasks. The Government must have a direct authority over the force which is responsible for law and order in the metropolis.

Because the Home Secretary is a Minister of the Crown, he is directly responsible and answerable to Parliament. Matters arising from the administration and operations of the Metropolitan Police can be, and are, raised and debated in Parliament. Parliament has a closer relationship with ale Metropolitan Police because the police authority is answerable directly to Parliament. It is important that Parliament should not relinquish its responsibility for and its influence over such a large force.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hilton, referred to the report by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman. But the noble and learned Lord recommended that the Home Secretary should remain as the police authority, as, indeed, for some time has every inquiry which has looked into the matter in detail. The noble Baroness was concerned also as to whether there would be flexibility in the police force under the new arrangements. The short answer to that is that there will be, subject only to the constraints of existing legislation. It is intended to give the management of the Metropolitan Police the maximum freedom.

The Government believe—and here I agree with the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, and the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan—that the present arrangement whereby the police authority is the Secretary of State, advised exclusively by civil servants in the Home Office, is not ideal and could be improved. That is why we are establishing a new body, outside the Home Office, to help the Home Secretary and Londoners to benefit from the reforms, while ensuring that the Home Secretary and Parliament retain ultimate authority for safeguarding the national interest in the work of the force.

The new body, which we propose to call the Metropolitan Police Committee, will be created administratively to advise the Home Secretary on the exercise of functions which will outside London be the responsibility of local police authorities. We set out these responsibilities in the White Paper. The Metropolitan Police Committee is to advise the Home Secretary on: determining the details of the budget; approving and publishing a costed plan for policing which reflects both key and local objectives; probing and monitoring the performance of the force; holding the Commissioner to account for the delivery of agreed objectives; and drawing up a strategy for partnerships between the police and local people. Those are matters on which the committee will advise the Home Secretary, and he will retain ultimate authority.

The Metropolitan Police Committee will be expected to keep in close touch with police-community consultative groups; for example, about defining local objectives. It will also be required to publish performance results in a way which allows them to be compared with forces elsewhere.

The members of the Metropolitan Police Committee will not function as representatives. They will exist to advise the Secretary of State, who will remain directly answerable to Parliament for his police authority responsibilities. The Secretary of State will appoint all the members but individuals or local authorities or other bodies are welcome to suggest candidates at any time. No specific groups have been ruled in or out and there will be no quota. All members will be selected for their ability as individuals and not as representatives of a particular group. Its different constitution and functions mean that it will need fewer members than provincial authorities; for example,12 rather than 16.

Within its sphere of influence the Metropolitan Police Committee will undertake advisory work which is currently performed by civil servants in the Home Office. It will also be required to liaise closely with London's police and community consultative groups. It will enhance, but it will not replace, the present special arrangements for consultation between the Home Secretary and London MPs and local authority interests. With those changes, I suggest that it would be better to leave the responsibility as it is, as it should be and as it has been since 1829, with whoever holds the position of Home Secretary, although he will be advised by a committee which will help him in his tasks.

Lord Renton

Before my noble friend sits down, in answer to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, about no taxation without representation, does he agree that there are Members of Parliament in another place representing all the London boroughs? Not only that, the Metropolitan Police receives a higher proportion of its financing from the Treasury, the taxpayer, than does any other police force.

Earl Ferrers

My noble friend is absolutely right and that is one of the most important reasons why it is necessary to keep the Home Secretary responsible for the Metropolitan Police. He is answerable to the elected representatives in another place. They may ask him questions, and they do. They have meetings with him; and he is subject to all the parliamentary rigour which goes with being a Home Secretary and a police authority.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

The noble Earl is entirely right when he says that every inquiry has recommended the maintenance of the existing situation so far as concerns Metropolitan police. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, certainly said so, as indeed, did others. However, having made that point, the noble Earl went on to stress to the Committee the national responsibilities of the Metropolitan police in terms of policing the seat of government, and looking after embassies, the position of the Monarch, Westminster and so on. All that is entirely right. Unhappily, the question that the noble Earl did not answer is: what has changed since 23rd March of last year? Perhaps I may remind him once again of what the then Home Secretary, Mr Clarke, said. He announced the creation of a new police authority for the Metropolitan police, in line with the new national pattern, thereby strengthening local accountability in the capital".—[Official Report, Commons; 23/3/93, col.765.] As the noble Earl will no doubt recall, it was on 26th May of last year that we on these Benches initiated a debate on the Government's proposals for the police. On that day, we were greeted by a headline in the Evening Standard announcing that the Government had gone into reverse on the question. There was a major announcement of policy that the whole policing structure of London was to change. Eight weeks later, exactly the opposite was said by Ministers. The noble Earl has given no coherent explanation of that change in policy. However, we know, because it has been reported in the press, that Sir John Wheeler and a number of others (a small group of Conservative Members in the other place) indicated that they did not like the arrangements.

When the announcement was made in Parliament there was almost universal approval for what the Government had done. The noble Earl said a few moments ago that the Government are always most unfairly treated. If they come forward with recommendations for change, as they have done with the Bill, they are attacked, but if they make recommendations for no change—which is the position, by and large, so far as concerns the Metropolitan police—they are also attacked. As we know, the reality is that the major structure of policing in the Bill is opposed by virtually everyone. However, if we put that to one side and look at the Metropolitan police, we see that, in comparison, there was almost total agreement with what Mr. Clarke announced in the other place in March last year.

It is a great pity. Londoners had every right to believe that they were, for the first time, to have a democratically accountable local police authority. As the noble Baroness, Lady Hilton, indicated, there has been widespread support both in the police service generally and in the Metropolitan police for a democratically accountable local police authority in London. When it is suggested that it is preferable to have Members of the other place discussing the problems of policing in London, I must point out to the noble Earl that that is done precisely one day a year. It is not in any sense a serious alternative to a police authority meeting in public, as other police authorities do, and discussing frankly the problems of policing in London.

The Government have made a serious error. They have gone into reverse simply because a small handful of their supporters in the other place went to see the Home Secretary and complained about it. I believe that Londoners had every reason to expect better from the Government than they have received.

4.15 p.m.

Viscount Mountgarret

I have the greatest difficulty understanding and following the arguments postulated in favour of not accepting the amendment or at least going a long way towards meeting it. I do not profess to know a great deal about the administration of the police. However, the Metropolitan force is widely respected throughout the country and, indeed, in places throughout the world. Foreign visitors, ambassadors and so on, who come here, feel much safer when visiting London in times of trouble or terrorism than, perhaps, we sometimes do when visiting more volatile areas elsewhere.

It takes a brave man to cross swords with my noble friend Lord Whitelaw, but I honestly and genuinely cannot follow his line of argument. On the one hand, he said that there was much merit in the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh: yet, on the other hand, he found reasons—based, I am sure, on his vast experience—as to why it was undesirable or not possible to continue with that which we have; namely, the Metropolitan police force. That comes across to me as a contradiction in terms.

There may be an argument that it is more costly to keep the force in being, or that it is more cumbersome and so on. However, perhaps my noble friend can examine whether the reasons that appear to him and my right honourable friend the Home Secretary to make it necessary to effectively abolish the Metropolitan police might be turned to advantage and the force retained. I hope that that will be possible. I have a good deal of sympathy with the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh.

Lord Merlyn-Rees

I have been searching through the Bill to see what it says about the proposed Metropolitan police committee which was mentioned in the White Paper and which will be made up of appointed people to advise the Home Secretary. Where will we be able to find in statutory form the functions of that committee? Will it meet in public? What is it really going to do? Further, how will it conflict—if that is the right word—at the moment, let alone if the amendment is passed today, with the report of the Home Secretary to Parliament and the fact that something like 90 London Members of Parliament in another place are only able to debate local policing in London once a year? I do not know the answer. I should have checked whether we operate in the same manner in this Chamber. I can see no reason why not. However, I cannot recall noticing when I was Home Secretary. I repeat: will there be a statutory instrument laying down the functions of the proposed Metropolitan police committee? I do not quite understand the position. The Minister made a play of it this afternoon; I can find nothing in the Bill about it.

Earl Ferrers

Perhaps I may first answer the concerns expressed by my noble friend Lord Mountgarret. I believe that he has got the wrong end of the stick. I believe he thinks that we are abolishing the Metropolitan police force. If so, I can only tell him that that is not the intention. With regard to the questions posed by the noble Lord, Lord Merlyn-Rees, I should point out that the Metropolitan police committee can be established administratively under existing Metropolitan police legislation. Therefore, it is not necessary to have separate legislation in that respect. It would restrict unnecessarily the ability of the Home Secretary to adapt the arrangements to secure the best for London. That is why there is no particular mention of it in the Bill. It will, in fact, operate outside the Home Office and will consist of people whose responsibility will be to advise my right honourable friend. I should add that such people will be there to advise him, but it will be my right honourable friend who takes the final responsibility.

The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, could not help it. He made a big meal of what the previous Home Secretary said and went on about how there had been a change of heart. He enjoys pursuing something like that and making a mountain where not much of a mountain exists. My right honourable friend did say that that was his intention. The Statement was made and people knew about it. We listened to what people said and thought more about how it would work. We concluded that it was better for the position to remain as it is as regards responsibility but that, nevertheless, my right honour-able friend should be advised by outside people. That is the position.

I do not think that the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, can make much of an issue of this by saying one moment that we are listening to what people say and we should not do this, whereas two days ago he claims that we said we would not listen to people when in his opinion we should have done. The noble Lord cannot have it all ways. We have listened. My right honourable friend considered that the present position would be best and he decided that the position should remain as it has been for the past 150 years.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

The noble Earl was asked a question by the noble Lord, Lord Merlyn-Rees, which I am sure he will realise he did not answer. The question was: is this advisory committee, or this Metropolitan police committee, going to meet in public or not, or will it meet in a confidential situation and therefore people will have no idea what issues it is discussing? The question I asked was a different one, as I am sure the noble Earl will have realised. The Government of course would have considered very carefully all the implications of creating a democratically accountable police authority before Mr. Clarke made his announcement. The idea that they started to consider the wider issues only after they had made the announcement is of course quite unrealistic in terms of the way in which ministerial decisions are arrived at.

We make no complaint over the Government listening to people on this issue. All one would point out to them is that there was overwhelming public support for the provision of a democratically accountable police authority for London. The Government gave in to a small minority of their own Back-Benchers, notwith-standing the public support that had been registered. I think that that is a great pity. They did it—as the noble Earl is well aware—in the face of the situation that this withdrawal of Mr. Clarke's announcement, which had been made only in March of last year, did on that occasion obtain the overwhelming support of people in the police service both in London and outside it. It is a matter of regret that the Government have gone into reverse.

Lord Renton

I hope that the noble Lord will allow me to intervene. How can anyone be more democratically accountable than the Home Secretary is when he is accountable to the House of Commons?

Lord Harris of Greenwich

Of course the Home Secretary is accountable to the House of Commons. However, the issue we are discussing—as I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Renton, will appreciate—is why, when Mr. Clarke announced that it was highly advantageous to have a democratically accountable police authority for London only in March of last year, eight weeks later he said exactly the opposite.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

In the past few minutes we have come to the nub of the matter. The noble Lord, Lord Renton, asked the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, whether the Home Secretary was accountable to Parliament for the actions of the Metropolitan police. Strictly speaking, of course he is accountable for those actions to Parliament. However, we must ask ourselves, when we are considering these issues, to whom and for what a body is accountable. The Home Secretary is accountable to Parliament for national policing issues all over the country, not merely for those affecting the Metropolitan police. That situation arose because under the 1964 Act a tripartite system was established which gives responsibilities severally to local police authorities, to chief constables and to the Home Secretary. Where local policing matters are concerned—I do not think the noble Lord, Lord Renton, is suggesting that there are no local policing matters in London; indeed, if he did so he would be going against the opinion of the Metropolitan police themselves—accountability is the domain of chief constables and local police authorities.

As regards accountability on national matters—it does not matter whether we are talking about the position in London, Warrington, Windsor, Sandringham or Balmoral and whether we are discussing accountability as regards the diplomatic protection group, the protection of the Royal Family, national drug smuggling issues or terrorist issues—the Home Secretary is accountable, and will be accountable if this amendment is carried, as regards national policing matters all over the country. The idea that London is so special that the Home Secretary has to be accountable for local policing matters as well as national policing matters seems to me to be totally unconvincing.

The Minister is renowned in the Chamber for his persuasive powers. Unfortunately, he has a real difficulty on this occasion because he is trying to persuade the Committee today of the validity of an argument which is the exact opposite of an argument he put before the Chamber on 26th May last year. With his usual courtesy and ability he put forward exactly the opposite view on the basis of the opinion of the then Home Secretary. I must say that I found the Minister more persuasive on 26th May than I find him today. I think it is right that we should take the opinion of the Committee on this matter. The view that we should take on this matter is the view shared not only by London local authorities but also by the Government last year, by the Metropolitan police themselves and by all who are concerned with the democratic control of policing in this country. I wish to test the opinion of the Committee.

4.26 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No.82) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents,112; Not-Contents,151.

Division No. 1
Airedale, L. Fisher of Rednal, B.
Alport, L. Gallacher, L.
Annan, L. Gladwyn, L.
Archer of Sandwell, L. Gould of Potternewton, B.
Ardwick, L. Graham of Edmonton, L.
Ashley of Stoke, L. [Teller.]
Avebury, L. Hamwee, B.
Aylestone, L. Hanworth, V.
Bath, M. Harris of Greenwich, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. Haskel, L.
Boston of Faversham, L. Hayter, L.
Bottomley, L. Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Broadbridge, L. Holme of Cheltenham, L.
Bruce of Donington, L. Hooson, L.
Callaghan of Cardiff, L. Houghton of Sowerby, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. Howell, L.
Carter, L. Hughes, L.
Chapple, L. Hunt, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Hylton, L.
Clinton-Davis, L. Irvine of Lairg, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L. Jenkins of Hillhead, L.
Dahrendorf, L. Jenkins of Putney, L.
David, B. Judd, L.
Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B. Kagan, L.
Diamond, L. Kennet, L.
Donaldson of Kingsbridgc, L. Kilbracken, L.
Dormand of Easington, L. Kirkwood, L.
Eatwell, L. Knights, L.
Ennals, L. Lester of Herne Hill, L.
Ezra, L. Listowel, E.
Falkender, B. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B
Falkland, V. Longford, E.
Lovell-Davis, L. Russell of Liverpool, L.
Mackie of Benshie, L. Russell, E.
Mallalieu, B. Sainsbury, L.
Mclntosh of Haringey, L. Seear, B.
McNair, L. Sefton of Garston, L.
Merlyn-Rees, L. Serota, B.
Meston, L. Shaughnessy, L.
Milner of Leeds, L. Stallard, L.
Molloy, L. Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Monkswell, L. Strabolgi, L.
Morris of Castle Morris, L. Strafford, E.
Morris of Kenwood, L. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Morton of Shuna, L. Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Murray of Epping Forest, L. Thurlow, L.
Nelson, E. Tordoff, L. [Teller.]
Nicol, B. Turner of Camden, B.
Ogmore, L. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Peston, L. Wharton, B.
Pitt of Hampstead, L. White, B.
Plant of Highfield, L. Wigoder, L.
Prys-Davies, L. Williams of Elvel, L.
Rea, L. Williams of Mostyn, L.
Richard, L. Wilson of Rievaulx, L.
Robson of Kiddington, B. Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.
Rochester, L.
Abercorn, D. Elton, L.
Aberdare, L. Faithfull, B.
Addison, V. Ferrers, E.
Aldington, L. Flather, B.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Fraser of Carmyllie, L.
Allen of Abbeydale, L. Fraser of Kilmorack, L.
Allenby of Megiddo, V. Gainford, L.
Annaly, L. Gardner of Parkes, B.
Archer of Weston-Super-Mare, L. Gilmour of Craigmillar, L.
Arran, E. Gisborough, L.
Ashbourne, L. Glenarthur, L.
Astor of Hever, L. Goschen, V.
Astor, V. Greenway, L.
Bathurst, E. Gridley, L.
Beloff, L. Hacking, L.
Blatch, B. Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L
Boyd-Carpenter, L. Halsbury, E.
Braine of Wheatley, L. Harding of Petherton, L.
Braybrooke, L. Harmar-Nicholls, L.
Bridges, L. Harvington, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Hayhoe, L.
Bruntisfield, L. Henley, L.
Butterworth, L. Hooper, B.
Cadman, L. Howe, E.
Caithness, E. Huntly, M.
Caldecote, V. Hylton-Foster, B.
Campbell of Alloway, L. Jenkin of Roding, L.
Camegy of Lour, B. Johnston of Rockport, L.
Carnock, L. Killearn, L.
Chalker of Wallasey, B. Knollys, V.
Chelmsford, V. Lauderdale, E.
Chesham, L. Liverpool, E.
Clark of Kempston, L. Long, V.
Cockfield, L. Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Colnbrook, L. Lyell, L.
Cornwallis, L. Mackay of Clashfern, L. [Lord Chancellor.]
Courtown, E.
Cranborn]e, V. Macleod of Borve, B.
Crathorne, L. Malmesbury, E.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Mancroft, L.
Cumberlege, B. McColl of Dulwich, L.
Dacre of Glanton, L. Merrivale, L.
Daventry, V. Miller of Hendon, B.
Davidson, V. Milverton, L.
De Freyne, L. Montgomery of Alamein, V.
Dean of Harptree, L. Morris, L.
Denham, L. Mottistone, L.
Dixon-Smith, L. Mountevans, L.
Dundonald, E. Mountgarret, V.
Elibank, L. Mowbray and Stourtorn, L.
Ellenborough, L. Moyne, L.
Elles, B. Munster, E.
Elliott of Morpeth, L. Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Norfolk, D. Sharples, B.
Norrie, L. Simon of Glaisdale, L.
O'Cathain, B. Skelmersdale, L.
Orkney, E. Slim, V.
Oxfuird, V. St. Davids, V.
Park of Monmouth, B. Strange, B.
Peel, E. Strathcarron, L.
Pender, L. Strathclyde, L.
Perry of Southwark, B. Strathmore and Kinghome, E.
Peyton of Yeovil, L. [Teller.]
Pike, B. Sudeley, L.
Plumb, L. Swansea, L.
Plummer of St. Marylebone, L. Swinfen, L.
Rankeillour, L. Teviot, L.
Reay, L. Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Rennell, L. Trumpington, B.
Renton, L. Ullswater, V. [Teller]
Renwick, L. Vivian, L.
Rippon of Hexham, L. Wakeham, L [Lord Privy Seal.]
Rodger of Earlsferry, L. Weatherili, L. "
Romney, E. Whitelaw, V.
Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly. Wise, L.
Sandford, L. Worcester, Bp.
Seccombe, B.

Resolved in the negative to accordingly.

4.34 p.m.

Clause 10 [Alteration of police areas]:

[Amendment No.82A not moved.]

Lord Peyton of Yeovil moved Amendment No.83: Page 7, line 20, leave out ("appears to him to be") and insert ("is").

The noble Lord said: Amendment No.83 is grouped with Amendment No.86. On this occasion I have no objection to the grouping. Both have the merit of being simple amendments and easily understood.

I draw the attention of the Committee to Section 21 of the 1964 Act, which gives the Secretary of State powers to alter police areas. Subsection (3) states that the Secretary of State shall not exercise his power to make alterations unless either he has been requested to do so by a police authority or, alternatively: it appears to him to be expedient to make the alterations in the interests of efficiency". That limitation is meaningless and frivolous. It would not place any burden on the Secretary of State at all. If, as my amendment suggests, the words, appears to him to be" are taken out and replaced with the single word "is", the subsection would then read: it is expedient to make the alterations in the interests of efficiency or effectiveness".

The burden placed on the Home Secretary by such a change would be slight, but I believe that it is wholly appropriate.

This may not of itself appear to be an amendment of earth shaking importance and I do not suggest to the Committee that it is crucial. On the other hand, the Government's failure to accept it, or even to think about it, would indicate a very rigid state of mind and might influence the otherwise flexible approach which I always take to the arguments which they put forward.

Since the amendment is grouped with Amendment No.86 it may be convenient if I deal briefly with that amendment because it addresses a similar point. Section 21B deals with orders for altering police areas and such supplementary provisions as may be necessary. I am not certain how important those supplementary or transitional provisions might be, but let us assume for the moment that they are not trivial. I suggest here that the words, as the Secretary of State thinks necessary or expedient" should be amended by the deletion of the words, the Secretary of State thinks" to read, "as may be necessary or expedient".

That does not seem a great burden to place upon the Secretary of State. As we have so often argued in this Chamber, it is not a question of casting doubt upon the wisdom of the present holder of that office; it is a question of being absolutely certain that not only he but all his successors are infallible in the exercise of their judgment.

These two amendments represent a slight alteration, but an important one. They change what the Government propose in the Bill in the first instance by using the words "it is expedient" instead of, it appears to him to be expedient and, secondly, "as may be expedient" in place of the words "as he thinks expedient". I hope that I have made the position clear. I beg to move.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

The noble Lord has spoken to his amendments to Clause 10 with his characteristic modesty and moderation. I should remind the Committee that Clause 10 is the clause which has caused the greatest concern to the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee. One of the strictures of that committee refers very much to the issues to which the noble Lord has spoken. Amendment No.86 seeks to limit the flexibility of the Secretary of State in making powers under new Section 21B. It is worth reading on from the change that the noble Lord proposes. The powers which are sought to make supplementary and transitional provision as the Secretary of State thinks necessary include, provision as to the membership of a police authority". We can understand that. When an area changes, that provision may be necessary when one has to have some change-over period. The powers also include, provision for the transfer of property, rights and liabilities". Again one can understand that. They include, provision for the transfer of members of police forces and other persons; provision as to pending legal proceedings". I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Renton, is not in his place. Does that provision mean that legal proceedings might be dropped because of the change in boundaries? However, we then come to the crux of the matter. Paragraph (e) includes, provision amending Schedule IA to this Act, that is, the schedule which refers to police authority areas— any other enactment and any instrument made under any enactment". The provision is bound by the phrase "supplementary and transitional provision". That is a widespread power. It is very much a Henry VIII provision that regulations made in that way can change, any other enactment and any instrument made under any enactment". While I support the noble Lord's excellent amendment, does he realise the true horror of the powers which are proposed to be given to the Secretary of State by the new provision?

4.45 p.m.

Viscount Mountgarret

Perhaps I may put another point of view and perhaps assist my noble friend before he replies. While agreeing wholeheartedly with my noble friend that it is desirable to seek to have Acts of Parliament drafted in such a way that they contain less verbiage, and thus make lawyers' tasks less difficult in understanding them, I am not sure that in this case the amendment will achieve the objective that my noble friend desires. The reason is this. Amendment No.83 provides that "it is expedient" to make the alterations. Who will decide whether or not it is expedient? If it appears to the Secretary of State that it is expedient, at least he can argue his point. However, the generality of the phrase, "it is expedient" must open up doubts about who is responsible and how the provision would be interpreted.

The same argument applies to Amendment No.86. The term "may be" is loose. As drafted, the Bill would cause fewer problems in the future if certain actions were taken than might be created if the amendment were agreed to. I say that only to be helpful to my noble friend. I know his deep interest in the matter, and he is extremely persuasive. It is a point to be borne in mind.

Lord Gisborough

I believe that the provision is for minor adjustments. Without the amendment, the Home Secretary will be able to merge forces. That was not the intention. There seems a possibility that forces could be merged for accountancy arid book-keeping reasons which would be quite logical from the point of view of economy but totally wrong from the point of view of policing. The example of Los Angeles has been cited of what went wrong when book-keeping policing took over from local policing. There is the possibility of merging being undertaken at the whim of the Home Secretary or civil servants. If the amendment prevents that possibility, it should have serious consideration.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

The Home Office was the first office in which I served. I was very happy there and immensely proud of serving in that office. I have remained so ever since. I very much dislike opposing anything proposed by the Home Office. However, it seems to me that speakers have been overwhelmingly in favour of the amendment. I do not desire to add to the generality of what has been so admirably said. I merely draw attention to one word as indicative of the aggrandisement of the Executive these days at the expense of the legislative power of Parliament, and in particular of your Lordships' House when it comes, as a later amendment indicates, to intruding upon the Standing Orders of your Lordships' House.

I desire to add only this. It is the danger of the word "transitional". The point arises because use of that word was made quite extraordinarily—and I use that term advisedly—in the amendments to correct some of the grosser injustices of the Child Support Act. Regulations were brought in recently to modify the provisions of the Act. That Act provided for the formulae to be applied by officials in place of the discretion of the court which had previously obtained. The formulae were to assess the maintenance that was liable to be paid by absent fathers. The provision fell into two categories. If the assessments had been made under the Act, as many had, they were immediately payable by the absent father. The absent fathers were immediately liable.

The other class of case was where the assessment had not yet been made. The word "transitional" would have covered the latter case. As the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments pointed out, the word did not immediately, and by accepted usage, cover the former case. In a sense, under "transitional" the department was bringing in regulations to permit the Secretary of State to alter the effect of a provision of an Act of Parliament. The joint Select Committee, with its immense experience, and headed by a chairman who is universally respected and is a Member of the other place, drew attention to that. It signified clearly that, as was the case, the use of the word "transitional" was quite extraordinary.

It seemed to us that that aroused immediate protests in your Lordships' House. We were in the difficulty that in the first place there is a convention—perhaps a weak convention and one that should be reviewed—whereby your Lordships do not vote against a statutory instrument. The second more powerful reason was that the regulations were designed, in so far as they went, to mitigate the harshness of the Child Support Act. So, subject to protests, the regulation was passed.

It was then indicated that the matter would be taken up before the Procedure Committee of your Lordships' House. The point was then also raised in connection with the word "transitional" in a similar provision to this one in the Local Government (Wales) Bill. That, however, was not reached on the last occasion. It is notable that that is an additional reason in support of the amendment. To use the word "transitional" to give the Secretary of State power to rectify mistakes that have been made in an Act of Parliament is going far further than has yet been gone, although the Executive has been encroaching increasingly on the legislative power of Parliament and your Lordships' House.

Earl Ferrers

First, I can tell my noble friend Lord Gisborough that the amendment will not stop civil servants from amalgamating forces. I believe that that was his anxiety. Nowhere does the Bill allow for civil servants to amalgamate police forces, and therefore he need not be too worried about it.

The point at issue is quite simple in the case of my noble friend's amendment. Clause 10 of the Bill provides that Section 21(3) of the 1964 Act should state: The Secretary of State shall not exercise his power under subsection (1)"— in other words altering police areas— to make alterations … unless … it appears to him to be expedient to make the alterations in the interests of efficiency or effectiveness". The Bill leaves to the Secretary of State the question of whether it is expedient to make the alterations in the interests of efficiency and effectiveness. Before he makes an order, he has to notify the interested parties and he must consider their objections. When he has considered them, he then has to be satisfied that the proposed changes are in the interests of efficiency or effectiveness. An order to implement such an alteration or amalgamation must then be laid before, and approved by, both Houses of Parliament. My noble friend's amendment would remove that subjective discretion on the part of the Secretary of State and both the first and the second amendments would impose an objective test of what is actually expedient in the interests of efficiency and effectiveness.

I suggest that those questions are not something which can be proved. They cannot be determined objectively; they necessarily involve a degree of subjective judgment. I believe that my noble friend Lord Mountgarret was right. No one can definitely say, "If you do that, it is expedient". But what one can do and can justify is to make alterations if the Secretary of State considers that, in his impression, it is expedient.

The words which my noble friend's Amendment No.83 would remove from the Bill have a direct parallel in the Police Act 1964. In Section 21(2) of the Act, the test for making amalgamation schemes is whether, it appears to the Secretary of State that it is expedient in the interests of efficiency", that such a change should be made. The words used in the Bill are the same as those in the 1964 Act, which is itself concerned with amalgamations.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

The Minister is quite right to say that the words also appear in the 1964 Act. What he does not say is that the procedures which the Secretary of State has to adopt include provision for local public inquiries. Those are the provisions which are missing from this clause.

In cases of minor adjustments of boundaries, one can quite see that such powers are appropriate. But the problem is that the powers which are used here would be appropriate for minor changes of boundaries, for example those which would arise from local government reorganisation. We all recognise that, whatever comes out of the Local Government Commission and parliamentary consideration of the reports, there are likely to be changes of local government boundaries. That is fine; the provisions are all right. However, what is behind the Government's thinking here, and has been made explicit by Ministers over the past 12 months or so, is not just a matter of adjusting boundaries but of wholesale amalgamations of police forces.

It has been the view of Ministers that some police forces are too small for efficiency. We, for our part, very much contest that; in fact we consider that the smaller police forces have shown exemplary control over their expenditure, concern for community matters, efficiency in clear-up rates and generally high performance in terms of the recognised objectives of policing. The achievements of smaller police forces have been recognised by inspectors of constabulary.

The problem with Clause 10 is that what might be acceptable for minor changes is not acceptable for wholesale amalgamations. Anything which can be done to restrict the free licence for the Secretary of State to do what he wants—and that is what I understand the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, is trying to do, to restrict that free licence—is very welcome indeed.

Lord Allen of Abbeydale

I have not always risen to support the Government in our discussions on the Bill, but it seems to me that the discussion we have been having goes extremely wide of the one narrow point raised in the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Peyton. I go along with the Minister in his conclusion that the whole process is started by a subjective judgment of the Home Secretary. It is bound to be subjective. We can discuss the procedures in due course, but the Minister's conclusion is that the procedures are designed to work out whether that subjective judgment turns out to be justified. That seems to me the simple pattern of the clause and I am afraid that I do not go along with the amendment. I agree with the Minister.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil

It is with a great deal of unease that I find myself differing from the opinion of the noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, with his great experience of these matters. However, there are one or two points that I wish to make.

First, the fact that words have been used before in a comparatively modern statute confers upon them no status of respectability of any kind. It is still possible that they were, after all, wrong in the first place, in which case it would be desirable not to repeat the offence and use them again. So my noble friend's argument on that point is interesting only in that it reveals that he had not too much else to say.

The point with which I am concerned is this. The Government must accept that the Bill has aroused a great deal of hostility and suspicion among many people who are knowledgeable about police affairs. These two simple amendments seek to remove some of the suspicion that the Home Secretary simply wants to add to his powers and make life easy for himself. If he wants to alter a police area all he has to say is that it seems to him to be expedient to do so. No one can argue with that. If he says that it seems to him to be expedient, that is the end of the argument. On the other hand, if he has to give an indication or evidence that it is expedient to make a change, admittedly it will remain subjective, as the noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, said, but it will not be quite so intensely so. There is a burden on the Home Secretary to satisfy himself and others that it is expedient to make the change asked for.

I do not wish to exaggerate the importance of the matter, but I have the nasty feeling at the back of my mind that the Minister is in the awkward position that he comes here with a load of advice and the instruction of his right honourable friend, "Do not give these people an inch. " I would like to believe that he will take these matters away to see whether there is the possibility that somebody else may be right and he may have got it wrong.

5 p.m.

Earl Ferrers

My noble friend says that I come here with loads of advice and instructions from my right honourable friend "not to give them an inch", to use his words. That has nothing to do with it. When I suggested that the precedent of the 1964 Act should be used my noble friend said that it was just possible that that Act had got it wrong and we should put it right. I say to my noble friend that it is also possible that the Act got it right. If so why should we now differ? It is not a question of my right honourable friend gathering powers to himself; it is a matter of judgment. It is impossible to say that something will be done because it will be efficient and effective. All you can say is that you will do it because in your view it will be efficient and effective. It is simply a question of making the powers work, not giving additional powers to my right honourable friend so that he can bypass Parliament and do all these other things.

If and when under the new proposals there are any amalgamations there will be plenty of safeguards, one of which, apart from anything else, is that any proposal will have to be laid before Parliament so it can be discussed there. I assure my noble friend that this is not some diktat that my right honourable friend has given me.

Viscount Mountgarret

I should like to help my noble friend. Perhaps I may draw the attention of my noble friend Lord Peyton to Section 21A of the Act where it is provided that before making an order under Section 21, by virtue of paragraph (b) of subsection (3)—which says "it appears to him to be expedient"—the Secretary of State shall give notice of his proposal to various people. I understand the concern of my noble friend that on occasions there is too much power concentrated in too small an area, but on this occasion it is provided that the Secretary of State shall consult various people. Therefore, the scenario conjured up by my noble friend of the Secretary of State having the right to say that something looks a good idea and he can get on with it is simply not possible under the Bill as drafted.

Lord Monkswell

I am interested in the Government's argument that the wording of the 1964 Act was satisfactory and therefore it should be satisfactory now. I am not saying that the wording of the Act is unsatisfactory. One of the matters that concern me is whether the Government recognise that the circumstances today are rather different from those of 1964. If we cast our minds back to that period, the general consensus was that there was need for a reorganisation not only of local government but also of the police forces. There was no consensus about how it should be done. It was logical at that point in history to say that something had to be done and that the ultimate arbiter of what needed to be done was the Home Secretary. That was how the wording of the Act was framed.

We are now in a different situation. There is no consensus that something needs to be done about reorganisation of the police. If anything, the consensus is the other way round. It seems to me that it is only the Home Secretary who says that there needs to be amalgamation of police forces. There is a general consensus that most police forces up and down the land do not need to be amalgamated or split apart. There is recognition, however, of the need for minor changes because of the changes in local government which will arise from boundary commission decisions. It seems to me that the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, is eminently sensible and should be supported. The circumstances today are different from those which obtained in 1964.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

There is another difference between 1964 and the present time. Today we have a scrutiny committee, established in pursuance of the recommendations of the Jellicoe Committee, notwithstanding executive reservations. It has reported on the matter; that is a crucial difference.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil

I do not wish to make too heavy weather about these amendments. Neither of them is very vital. I simply thought it would not be unreasonable to impose a slight burden on the Home Secretary to dilute a totally subjective judgment. That is unacceptable. I know that my noble friend Lord Mountgarret was anxious to help. I do not think he did so, although it was nice of him to try. Before I seek leave to withdraw the amendment, perhaps I may say to my noble friend that, had he said that there might be something in the matter and he would take it away to look at it, I do not believe that I would have attached an enormous amount of weight to the undertaking but I would have regarded it as a gesture of conciliation. Instead, he has literally spat it back at me and said, "This is absolute rubbish, and I will not even look at it". So be it. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Allen of Abbeydale moved Amendment No.84: Page 8, line 13, leave out ("two") and insert ("four").

The noble Lord said: I hope to deal with this matter fairly shortly. The Minister explained that the clause provides that where the Secretary of State is contemplating making a compulsory order altering police districts he must give notice to the police and local authorities concerned and such other persons as he considers appropriate. That notice has to describe the general nature of the proposed alteration and the reasons for it.

The 1964 Act left it to the notice itself to give a date by which objections must be received. This time the clause itself sets a period of two months with no power of extension. It seems to me that this is not realistic. Two months is not all that long. My experience may be unique, but I have known it take that time to get a reply from a Minister on what seemed to me quite a simple matter. That is the authorities' only chance. They will need to consult constituents and other bodies and they themselves do not meet every week. The notice might reach them in the middle of the holiday season—who knows? It is a little offhand. Given the importance of the issue to those concerned, it seems not unreasonable to extend the period for objecting at any rate to four months, if indeed it is necessary to provide any period in the statute itself. I beg to move.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

In introducing the amendment, with which I thoroughly agree, the noble Lord did not refer to Amendment No.85, which has been grouped with it.

Lord Allen of Abbeydale

With respect, no, the amendments have not been grouped together. They are distinct amendments.

Earl Ferrers

That seems to have closed up the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I made the point that I wanted to make; namely, that I agree with the amendment.

Earl Ferrers

But the noble Lord did not know that we were not talking about another amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Allen, suggested that the period should be longer than two months and proposed that it should be four months. I thought it was hitting a little below the belt to say that it took two months to get an answer from a Minister at the Home Office.

Lord Allen of Abbeydale

I did not say from the Home Office; I said from a Minister.

Earl Ferrers

I thought that the noble Lord knew the habits of the Home Office so well that he might have been aiming in that direction. I am delighted to know that his loyalty to his old department remains strong and that he did not mean anything of the sort.

I suppose it is perfectly true that such letters might be written during summer holidays or whenever. But a two-month period in which the local authority has to reply in giving any objections to a proposed amalgamation seems to me to be quite a long while. I should have thought that that period was quite reasonable. There are arguments that the period of two months could be extended in some cases and the Bill allows for that. Two months is a minimum period and is not necessarily the period that will apply in all cases. So it would be possible to allow an extension of the period in certain cases.

I do not know that the noble Lord, Lord Allen, made a very effective case. Of course I wish to help whenever I can and I should be quite happy to accept the noble Lord's amendment, despite what I said earlier. It seems to me that four months would be a perfectly acceptable length of time. If that would help the Committee, I should be entirely happy to accept the amendment.

Lord Allen of Abbeydale

I am very much obliged. It would help greatly.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

5.15 p.m.

Lord Allen of Abbeydale moved Amendment No.85: Page 8, leave out line 19 and insert:

  1. ("(a) cause a local inquiry to be held in respect of that objection by a person appointed by him (who shall not be an officer of police or of any Government Department);
  2. (aa) consider the report of the person holding an inquiry before determining whether the scheme should be made and if so subject to what modifications, if any; and").

The noble Lord said: I may have to speak for just a little longer about this amendment, which is rather more important than the previous one. Its purpose is to retain the local inquiry procedure where the Secretary of State is contemplating a compulsory alteration in police areas.

I recall that when the Police Act 1946 abolished most non-county borough forces, such as Reigate and Penzance, it also made provision for compulsory amalgamations, subject to some protection for the bigger counties and county boroughs. Those provisions were repeated with some extensions in the 1964 Act, as the Committee were reminded in earlier discussions. Tonight, happily, we can ignore the changes in amalgamation procedure made in the Local Government Act 1972—the statute which is so much admired by the noble Lord, Lord Peyton—and also the Local Government Act 1992, dealing with the consequences for police areas of the findings of the Boundary Commission. That was a point touched on earlier by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey.

The compulsory powers provided for in the 1946 and 1964 Acts were both put into use. A number of inquiries were held and a number of compulsory amalgamation schemes were carried through. But the procedure that is now contemplated is different. If the Secretary of State decides to go for a compulsory alteration in the interests of effectiveness or efficiency he is required to issue to the police authorities, the local authorities concerned and such other persons as he considers appropriate, as we have already discussed, a notice describing the general nature of the proposed alterations—that broadly follows the earlier Acts—together with his reasons.

There is then a period, which happily we have discussed, for making objections. The Secretary of State has to consider those objections and tell the objector whether he accepts them; and if not, why not. That is the end for the local and police authorities. At no stage is there any requirement for them to be told the details of the scheme; for example, under the paragraphs read out earlier by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey. They only have to be told the general nature of it. So far as I can make out, those details would appear for the first time in an order laid before both Chambers and requiring affirmative resolutions.

Under the old procedure, all the details—some of them can matter—would have been discussed at the local inquiry. Sometimes alterations would have been recommended by the inspector—but not now. Under the old procedure the orders had to be laid.

The Minister hinted that this time the additional requirement for affirmative resolution might prove to be an adequate safeguard. I am afraid that I do not believe that it is. For one thing, as we were reminded, it is rather unusual for this Chamber ever to turn down an affirmative resolution. My experience is limited but I can remember only one occasion. But as a safeguard, to my mind, in practice the affirmative resolution does not carry quite the weight that is sometimes attached to it. Also, the order cannot be amended. I do not quite know what either Chamber would make of an unamendable instrument with a mass of detail about such things as rank structure, the composition of the authority, the disposal of property, the detailed financial controls and all the rest of it.

What is a little more surprising is that there is no intention of using those powers, at any rate for the time being. The Government said in their White Paper, Police Reform (Cm.2281), that, it may be desirable in the long term to reduce the number of police forces," but that they all had enough to do in the meantime not to be diverted by any such proposals now. However, the Government want to take power to be able to implement a programme of amalgamation—a word which the Bill itself avoids—when, in a familiar phrase, the time is right. The White Paper goes on to say that it would be unworkable to rely on the current statutory provisions.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines "unworkable" as, "not capable of being worked".

But the White Paper immediately goes on to make it clear that the Government do not mean that at all. If I had been at the Home Office, I might not have been too happy about the drafting of that passage or indeed some other parts of the White Paper.

As the White Paper makes plain, what the Government object to is that if a local inquiry has to be held there may be delay and uncertainty over a long period. It is almost saying that the procedure would work but that it would be clumsy and a nuisance.

I have enough dim memories of being a bureaucrat to realise that it must be exceedingly frustrating, sitting high up in the Bail Spence Building at Queen Anne's Gate, when one is convinced that it would make sense to merge forces X and Y. The authorities have already had their say on the general issues but nevertheless one has to wait until the long inquiry procedures have been gone through and those concerned have been given their chance of arguing at length about the details. But we live in a democracy and those are issues of great local concern.

I shall listen, as I always do, with great care to what the noble Earl says when he replies. But on what I have heard so far I am nowhere near being convinced that the local inquiry should be dispensed with. I beg to move.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

At the time of the publication of the Willink Report there were 155 police forces in Britain, ranging from one of 18 officers in the Shetlands to one of over 3,000 in Lancashire. Now, of course, there are 43 forces in England and Wales and eight in Scotland.

Most of those amalgamations in England and Wales—some were affected subsequently by government reform in 1974—were carried through in the period 1966–67 as a result of the procedures laid down in the third schedule of the 1964 Police Act. That requires the Secretary of State to publish a scheme and, if the police authority or local authority object to it, there must be a local inquiry. As it happens, I was at the Home Office in the period 1966–67.

I am bound to say that I find it more than mildly surprising to have it suggested that the procedure laid down in that Act was unworkable; because it worked. Those amalgamations were carried through between 1966–67. Local authorities or local police authorities were enabled to put their case to an impartial and independent inspector, who then submitted a report to the Secretary of State. What is wrong with that? Why do we see the use of the word "unworkable"? It is an astonishing word to use given the fact that, as I indicated, the bulk of the amalgamations that took place did so on the basis of this procedure.

I wish to make only two other points. The first was made by the noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale. Like him I am mildly sceptical about the argument as between affirmative and negative resolutions. Oppositions are always in favour of the affirmative resolution procedure and governments, by and large, are in favour of the negative resolution procedure because of the amount of parliamentary time that can be devoted to it. On this occasion, for understandable reasons, the Government are suggesting the affirmative resolution procedure because they are wiping out the obligation on the Secretary of State to hold a local inquiry.

I do not regard that provision in the Bill as protecting the rights of local communities. As we know, debates in the House of Commons—that is where most of these debates will take place—on affirmative resolution procedures take place with possibly six, seven, perhaps a dozen MPs in the House, rarely more. The Division Bells ring and, as a result of the work of the Government Whips, the Government get their way. I do not regard that procedure as a satisfactory alternative to the right of local communities to put their case to an inspector at a local inquiry.

My second point is that I find it even odder that the Government are suggesting this major change in the amalgamation procedure when they say that they have no intention, in the short term, to amalgamate police forces. If that is indeed their position, why are they putting forward the proposal? It is an extremely strange idea.

One other argument was used in relation to delay and uncertainty over a long period. As I indicated, that did not operate in 1966–67. Having had some involvement in the matter at the time I cannot recall any of the Home Office officials who were involved taking that specific view; nor can I remember that view being expressed on behalf of any of the police forces involved. Accordingly, I am firmly opposed to once again stripping away the rights of local communities to put their case to a local inquiry.

It is wrong that police forces with a long and honourable tradition, a long record of service to their local communities, after four months can be wiped out of existence—in reality, by the stroke of a ministerial pen. The only problem then for the Home Secretary of the day—not the current Home Secretary because he tells us that he has no such ideas in mind—would be a thinly attended debate in the House of Commons taking place for an hour or so late in the evening as a result of which, when the Division Bells rang, a police force would be wiped out of existence. The local community would have no opportunity of putting its case to a local inquiry. That seems to me to be wholly wrong and I look forward to hearing what the noble Earl says to justify what, in my view, is an extremely oppressive proposal.

Lord Callaghan of Cardiff

I support the amendment because I feel that the provision is a protection for the Home Secretary. I found in the cases I had to consider that new elements and arguments were brought to light; matters that were not known to officials in the Home Office even to someone as luminous as the noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, who always guided my footsteps from falling. But even he, on occasions, did not realise what those in the backwoods were thinking.

With respect, I think the Home Secretary is depriving himself of a form of protection in removing the possibility of a local inquiry. It helps him to know, after the inquiry, what arguments have been brought out. Although he hears the case from Home Office officials for amalgamation, he has not heard the case against. I suggest to the Minister, therefore, that it would be good to keep that form of inquiry.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I shall not trip myself up again by confusing the amendments. However, I want to say again that we strongly support the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, for the reasons already indicated. Minor changes to boundaries caused by local government reorganisation may well be acceptable in the form proposed. But larger changes may be proposed by future Home Secretaries with a different view from the present Home Secretary; after all, in the case of London, as we have seen, changes of one Home Secretary to another in the same party led to 180 degree reversals of policy. That could happen again. It may be that the arguments which always seem to persist—that larger authorities are more efficient than smaller ones—could result in proposals for large-scale amalgamations. Under those circumstances, proposals which are presented only in general terms to the authorities and to the councils in the area concerned, without a public inquiry, would be an outrage.

5.30 p.m.

Earl Ferrers

I know that anything to do with amalgamations is always a sensitive area, and that people are quite rightly jealous of their territorial forces. They take pride in them, and often they do not like to see amalgamations. That applies in matters of the police service, and very often in matters of business or even government administration. People like what they have become used to, and they take pride in their areas. I understand that. I do not think that there is anything sinister in what the Government are proposing.

There are serious disadvantages in the public inquiry procedures which apply under Section 21 of the Police Act 1964 in its present form. Inquiries are very long, very protracted and very expensive. Under present arrangements, if the Home Secretary is inclined to initiate compulsory amalgamation of police areas, he is required to publish details of the proposed scheme and to invite objections. Then if any of the interested police authorities or councils object, he is obliged to set up a local inquiry very much on the lines proposed by the present amendment. Once the inquiry has been held, the Secretary of State must consider the report and then determine whether the amalgamation should proceed. If he determines that it should proceed, he has to decide whether it should proceed with the modifications to the original scheme which are suggested by the report or without them. He has to listen to the views of the inquiry, but he can then reject them. He need not accept its views. He need not incorporate its views into his decision.

The report of the inquiry and the draft of the order giving effect to the amalgamation is laid before Parliament but it is not subject to any parliamentary procedure. In other words, Parliament would have no right, and has no right, of approval or rejection of the order. These procedures are long. They can sometimes take up to 18 months. They can be very expensive. There is also the serious disadvantage of subjecting the police forces concerned to a prolonged period of uncertainty. We believe that this can have an adverse effect on policing in the area.

The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, said that the rights of local authorities can be wiped out at the stroke of a ministerial pen. I do not think that that is so. If I may modestly suggest it, the noble Lord is wrong. The proposals set out in the Bill are in some ways even more generous to objectors. Under the proposals, the Secretary of State is required to serve notice on the relevant councils and police authorities which would be affected and to such other persons as he considers appropriate. He must give a minimum period of time for them to respond with any objections. It was to be two months. That, I admit, has now been extended to four months at the stroke of the Committee's pen. The Home Secretary is then required to consider those objections, respond and state what his views are. In addition—and the Committee might think this a valuable safeguard—if the Secretary of State is minded to proceed with a compulsory alteration of police areas having considered the objections, he must obtain the approval of both Houses of Parliament before the relevant alteration order can come into effect.

The noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, said that it is very unusual for affirmative resolutions to be voted against. It is unusual but I remember the occasion about 30 years ago when a Stansted order was brought before your Lordships. There was a proposal to have an airport at Stansted long, long before the present Stansted airport was built. There was such a row about it that, admittedly, the order was not voted on. The Government withdrew the order because it would have been so unpopular. The order never went through Parliament, so there is a protection there.

This is a less protracted and unsettling arrangement. It gives those who want to object the ability to object and allows for Parliament also to have the right of decision about the resultant decision.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

The noble Earl has suggested to us that there are formidable hurdles for the Secretary of State to have to clamber over in order to get his way on an amalgamation scheme. I took a note of what the noble Earl said. The Secretary of State must first serve a notice on those concerned. That does not seem an immensely difficult procedure. Then he has to give them time to respond. That is true. It is to take four months. Then he has to consider their objections. That also is not an enormous hurdle to have to clamber over. Then he has to respond to the objections, which means a letter.

I ask the Committee to contrast that with the present statutory position. There is a local inquiry. In most cases an inspector of constabulary has to go into the witness box to justify the character of the Secretary of State's scheme. He is crass-examined. At the end of the period of inquiry the inspector submits a report to the Secretary of State. That is a substantial procedure, and rightly so, because what we are talking about is a significant number of police forces of considerable quality with a long record of service to the local community and often an intimate relationship with a local community. It seems to me that the procedures outlined by the noble Earl amount to very little indeed.

I have indicated already that I do not believe that the affirmative resolution procedure has a great deal of strength behind it because, as we know, many affirmative resolutions trundle through a thinly attended House of Commons, with people responding when they hear Division Belts ring. The local inquiry is the best guarantee local communities have that their forces will not be wiped out of existence by a Home Secretary without reasonable cause arid without a serious case being put to a local inquiry.

For instance, why should the police forces of Wiltshire and Dorset be amalgamated without some form of local inquiry? Why should the forces of Hampshire and Sussex be wiped out of existence without some form of local inquiry? What seems so puzzling is that the. Government have made it clear that they have no intension of proceeding with a programme of amalgamations. So one is left wondering why this provision has been introduced at all. With great respect to the noble Earl, he has not advanced an argument in favour of it except that he said that the present system can lead to protracted delay. To the extent that a local inquiry has to take place, it will take longer than simply an exchange of correspondence, which is what is outlined in the present Bill.

I must say to the noble Earl that in the period between 1966 and 1967, when, this major programme of amalgamations was carried through, there was no view in the police service that the delays caused by the local inquiry system were unreasonable or affected the efficiency of the police forces concerned.

We have here yet another example of the government of the day acting ether on their own behalf or possibly their successor's behalf, giving Ministers the power to act without being required to justify their position before a local inquiry. That is unreasonable. In the light of the arguments which have been represented, I hope that the Government are prepared to think again on the matter.

Earl Ferrers

I find the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Harris, difficult to follow. He seems to argue that the Government are removing rights from people. He appears to look underneath every stone to see if there is a slug there. He says that we are producing arrangements for amalgamations, but we have no intention of doing any. I have no hesitation in telling the Committee what the position is. My right honourable friend has no intention at present of amalgamating anything, but it is perfectly possible in the course of the next 10,20 or 30 years that amalgamations will have to take place.

The present procedure is a very protracted one, an aspect to which the noble Lord, Lord Harris, did not address himself. If this matter continues for 18 months and nobody knows whether they are going to be amalgamated or not, there is frustration and lack of motivation. Under the system which we have at the moment the public inquiry is long and expensive. At the end of it the Home Secretary does not have to take any notice of what the inquiry says. He makes an order under the administrative procedure and Parliament does not vote on it or even debate it.

The proposed scheme will be quicker. People will have the opportunity to write in to complain and see my right honourable friend. He has to answer those complaints and the matter then goes before Parliament. That is a more appropriate procedure.

Lord Allen of Abbeydale

Earlier, the noble Earl sat down before I expected him to do so. I thought that he was developing a case against this amendment; but he does not appear to have got very far. We have talked about an alteration to police areas; but the White Paper is quite honest because it refers to amalgamations and that is what we are talking about. The Minister has not answered the point that, as drafted, the amendment allows for the authorities concerned to be told about the general nature of the proposals, but it gives them no opportunity to be told about the details which in some cases can be very important.

I do not think I need say any more about the weakness of the safeguard of an affirmative resolution. We have Stansted and Rhodesia, but not very much else. The Minister has not commented on the valid points made by the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan of Cardiff, and in particular, that when these inquiries are made they bring out points of which the officials were unaware. That means amendments being made to the original scheme. The proposal now envisaged allows no opportunity for that to happen.

It is said that these inquiries can take a long time. was involved in some of them, but I cannot remember that they took as long as all that. As the Minister said, there may be one which went on for 18 months. But once made, the orders last for a very long time and a period of uncertainty of even 18 months is a price well worth paying to be sure one gets the answer right.

I am not going to ask the Committee for an opinion this evening because, looking at the amendment, its drafting could be improved. For example, it does not specify what type of local inquiry one has in mind. But I reserve the right to return to this at a later stage. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No.86 not moved.]

5.45 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No.87: Page 8, leave out lines 40 to 44.

The noble Lord said: I am delighted to see that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, is back in his place. I know that he had urgent business outside this Chamber earlier this afternoon. I am very much hoping for his support on this amendment. It seeks to do what the Government decided to do in the Local Government (Wales) Bill: to take out a provision which would intrude on the procedures of this House by declaring that what would otherwise be a hybrid instrument shall be considered not to be so.

Even though it may be somewhat boring, it is necessary to remind the Committee of what the effect of the hybrid instrument procedure is in your Lordships' House. I quote from Erskine May at page 550: A petition to the House not to affirm a hybrid instrument must be deposited in the Office of the Clerk of the Parliaments within fourteen days following the day on which the Chairman's report is laid before the House. If no petition is received, or any petition so received is withdrawn during this period, the Chairman reports accordingly to the House. Any petition received during the period and not withdrawn, together with the instrument petitioned against, stands referred to the Hybrid Instruments Committee. This Committee is appointed each session (as it has been this Session) with the Chairman of Committees in the Chair. The Hybrid Instruments Committee, after considering any representations in writing by the parties to the proceedings and after hearing, if it thinks fit, the parties in person or by counsel or agents, decides whether the petition has a locus standi. If it so decides, the Committee reports to the House, in accordance with the criteria specified in Standing Order [216) whether there ought to be a further inquiry by a Select Committee into all or any of the matters complained of. Where the Hybrid Instruments Committee has reported that there ought to be a further inquiry, the House may refer all or any of the matters on which the Committee has reported to a select committee consisting of five Lords, named by the House on the proposal of the Committee of Selection, with orders of reference specified under the House".

That provision would be completely removed if lines 40 to 44 of Clause 10 were to remain in the Bill. The Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee, which, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, reminded us, is the difference between now and 1964, expressed very great anxiety over this provision. I shall not read the full report on hybrid instruments but simply the second and shorter paragraph: The Committee notes that Clause 10 excludes the hybrid procedure of this House and that the Home Office has defended this in comparison with existing powers. We drew the attention of the House to similar recent provisions in the Railways Bill and the Local Government (Wales) Bill. In this case the bill gives the Secretary of State new and extensive powers in many areas and the House may wish to look very carefully at any further delegation of powers such as is proposed in Clause 10. Bearing in mind that the bill will remove a provision of Schedule 3 of the 1964 Act for a public enquiry"—

this matter may be returned to on Report by the noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale— in case of objection by a police authority or a council to an order to amalgamate police areas, the Committee believes that the House will wish to consider carefully the exclusion of the hybrid instrument procedure in this case". Before the last election I believe that this was called a "double whammy". One takes away the provision for a public inquiry and, having done so, one then takes away the provision for issues which mix general and particular matters—in other words, hybrid issues—to be considered properly by the procedures of this House or another place. Many noble Lords in all parts of the Committee will consider this an affront to the procedures of this Chamber as well as to the democratic consideration of proposals by government on amalgamations. I beg to move.

Lord Renton

I would not expect my noble friend the Minister to accept the amendment. I do not think that it will very often arise that there could be hybridity. That will occur only rarely, but when there is hybridity, it means an elaborate parliamentary procedure, with the taking of evidence and the hearing of arguments. It could cause considerable delay, especially if the matter arose in July and consideration was delayed until the full hybridity procedure could be conducted in the autumn. I would have thought that this is a matter on which we should be trying to avoid delay. If it is necessary to make the changes envisaged in what will be the new Section 21B of the 1964 Act, it were well It were done quickly". The Government are right to avoid hybridity. I hope that they will do so.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

This is a more important constitutional point than might appear at first instance because it crystallises an increasing invasion by the Executive of legislative functions. That is an age-old constitutional tension. It is not to be worried about, it is not to be grieved about but it is to be noted and to be resisted.

From time to time the tension is relaxed. It was relaxed as a result of the Glorious Revolution which established the supremacy of Parliament over the pretensions of the Executive to exercise legislative power. For nearly two centuries after that, there was no attempt by the Executive to exercise such legislative powers. It was relaxed again after the report of the Donoughmore Committee in 1932 which considered ministerial powers. Again, for decades there was no attempt by the Executive to revive its pretensions in the legislative sphere.

Your Lordships are now faced with a renewed attempt. As the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, pointed out, this is in effect an affront to your Lordships' House because it is a pretension to suspend the standing orders of your Lordships' House without any prior approach to the Procedure Committee of your Lordships' House. That is an extraordinary pretension.

It is important to recollect why the procedure of your Lordships' House in relation to hybrid instruments was established. As is well known, there are three sorts of Bills. There are public Bills, which deal with matters general and are introduced by a Member of either House. There are private Bills, dealing with particular interests and introduced on petition from outside Parliament. However, some public Bills affect private interests in particular and are certified by the Examiners of Bills as hybrid Bills. They then go to be considered by the Hybrid Bill Committees which weigh the intrusion of private rights against the public purpose of the measure and give each such weight as they think fit. That was a nuisance to the administrators of the Executive when trying to get a measure through Parliament—and to get it through quickly without paying too great a regard to individual rights which may be overridden. So the brilliant device was established: instead of having a hybrid Bill, the hybrid provisions were put into a statutory instrument under the Bill.

Your Lordships' House alone countered that by establishing a Select Committee on Hybrid Instruments so that the private interests which were intruded upon by a hybrid instrument could be given proper consideration—not necessarily vindicated against the general purpose, but given proper consideration. That was embodied in the standing orders of your Lordships' House; those standing orders which are now sought to be suspended.

The matter was considered by the Joint Select Committee on Delegated Legislation of 1972–73. It was a very strong committee, presided over by a very experienced parliamentarian and Minister, the late Lord Brooke of Cumnor. It reported that the procedure of your Lordships' House—the procedure which is now sought to be aborted—should be maintained; that it was a safeguard and hat it had proved for 50 years to be a safeguard for individual rights and interests. That was 20 years ago. We have now had 70 years of the use of that procedure. There have been a number of attempts to obviate it in the way that is proposed in this statute.

As the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, pointed out, such precedents as existed before the establishment of your Lordships' Scrutiny Committee can be discounted. The Scrutiny Committee has on this occasion, and previously, signalled very strongly its objection to such a provision. It came to a head in the last Session in relation to the Railways Bill. The department fought with great tenacity to preserve its power of intrusion; to preserve its power to abort the standing orders of your Lordships' House. The matter finally went to a Division, in which the Government had a majority of one. They were supported by what is opprobriously called the "payroll vote" of 23 Ministers who had been kept around in order to support the Government in such a situation.

As the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, reminded the Committee, the matter came up again in relation to the Local Government (Wales) Bill. On that occasion, the Government silently agreed with the objection and the Lord Advocate, who was in charge of the Bill, put his name at the head of the four Members of your Lordships' House who tabled an amendment.

So the fight goes on, as any fight for liberty goes on. The price of liberty is eternal vigilance. One must expect this sort of provision to be revived wherever an Executive can get away with it. Your Lordships will not, I hope, allow the Government to get away with it on this occasion, any more than on the Local Government (Wales) Bill—and as they just got away with it on the Railways Bill. I support the amendment as strongly as I can.

6 p.m.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil

I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, and to the Committee because I was not in my place when he began to speak to the amendment. I gravely overestimated the time that it would take to dispose of the preceding amendment.

The amendment appears under my name. In fact, I tabled the amendment separately from the other two noble Lords whose names appear on it because it represented my strong views. I do not wish to repeat what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale. Suffice it to say, the concept of hybridity exists in our proceedings in order to protect the individual on occasions when the whole might of the state is deployed. Without a provision of that kind, the small rights of small people might go wholly unnoticed, unobserved and unheeded.

I was surprised when I saw the extremely laconic way in which the right had been dispensed with. New Section 21B(3) in Clause 10 provides that: An order to which subsection (2) of this section applies, and which would apart from this subsection be treated for the purposes of the standing orders of either House of Parliament as a hybrid instrument, shall proceed in that House as if it were not such an instrument". That is the stuff of Alice in Wonderland and Humpty Dummy—"Words will not mean what they normally mean when I don't want them to". I find that a strange proposition to come from a Conservative Administration. I wonder what the reaction of some of my noble friends would have been had the provision been contained in a Labour Government's Bill.

I feel acutely uncomfortable with the provision. If it is going to be said that it will occur only very seldom, why bother about it at all? If it is going to be frequently used we should be very careful before we accept such a measure. I say in conclusion that I have no regret whatever that my name is on the amendment.

Earl Russell

Like the noble Lord, Lord Peyton of Yeovil, I owe an apology to the Committee because I was not in my place when the amendment was called.

As usual, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, is entirely right. The hybridity procedure is an important part of our liberty. The force of an Act of Parliament which may do what it likes is one of the most formidable instruments of power known to man. When the whole weight of that instrument is brought to bear against a single individual or corporation in a different way from any other individual or corporation, that individual or corporation has rightly been regarded as entitled to the protection of our procedure.

That sense has existed in Parliament for a long time. I recently read a case of 1607 where Parliament brought in a private Bill that affected the inheritance of someone imprisoned for Roman Catholic recusancy. They were not the favourite characters of another place in the 17th century. Nevertheless, it stopped proceedings on the Bill, sent notification to him in prison and delayed proceedings to allow him time to instruct counsel to get a hearing. That is the way that parliamentary procedure ought to be conducted and that is why we, in our hybrid instruments procedure, have something which is particularly valuable to the liberty of the subject.

There is another instance which the noble and learned Lord did not mention. In the Local Government Finance Bill 1988 a provision was introduced to vary the power to have the hybrid procedure. The noble Lord, Lord Hesketh, from the Dispatch Box defended that—and so did the noble Lord, Lord Renton, who spoke on that occasion—I thought with a good deal of force. It dealt with the application of the community charge to railway signal boxes where cases were so individual that the risk of hybridity was extreme. On that occasion I decided to give the noble Lord the benefit of the doubt, but in return I asked him to give a pledge not to make a habit of it. The noble Lord, Lord Hesketh, willingly gave me that pledge. Now we have in the Railways Bill, the Local Government (Wales) Bill and this Bill—three instances in quick succession. I am inclined to agree with Goldfinger: once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, the third time is enemy action. I hope that the noble Earl's response will be sufficiently conciliatory to persuade me that on this occasion Goldfinger is mistaken.

We live in a time when respect for Parliament appears to be declining. I am inclined to think that the diminution of column inches in the papers is an objective sign of a real decline of respect. I regret that very deeply. The purpose of Parliament is to make the law and on occasion to be capable of checking the Executive. We have here a case where the power of Parliament to control what goes in to regulations, which are themselves hard enough to control and which will have the force of law, is severely diminished. I hold the view that, if respect for Parliament diminishes, this kind of Executive action may have something to do with it. It is what was known in the 17th century as, "how to blow up a Parliament without gunpowder".

Lord Renton

Does the noble Earl agree that the alteration of the boundaries of a police area will scarcely ever affect private interests in the way they could be affected, for example, under the Railways Bill or under various other forms of legislation with which we are familiar? Surely we must be realistic about this.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

If the noble Lord, Lord Renton, is right—

Earl Russell

I believe that the question was addressed to me. If the noble Lords, Lord McIntosh and Lord Mottistone, wish to come back, I believe that that will be in order.

If the noble Lord, Lord Renton, is right, the existence of the procedure would not use up a lot of parliamentary time because there would not be the wish to invoke it. But if there is the wish to invoke the procedure, that would indicate that the noble Lord is wrong and that it has adversely affected a private interest. After all, a police station is a community and one cannot tear it apart without causing a good deal of screaming as the mandrake is pulled up by the roots.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

The noble Lord made the point that I wished to make much better than I could have done.

Earl Ferrers

Members of the Committee have discussed the subject of hybridity, and it is clear that the requirement for an affirmative resolution procedure raises the possibility that under the standing orders of this House an order implementing the change in police areas might be a hybrid instrument. Of course, new Section 21B(3) would exclude that possibility. It seems unnecessary to treat an instrument such as we are considering as a hybrid instrument. I believe that my noble friend Lord Renton was right in saying that the police areas as such are not of a specific national importance which normally goes with hybridity.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

If there is no question of treating the regulation as a hybrid instrument, then there is no point in excluding the Standing Orders of your Lordships' House.

Earl Ferrers

I understand the view of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, and I am glad to receive his advice. I was merely saying that I do not believe that police areas would come under the hybrid instrument provisions. Erskine May describes a hybrid Bill as a public Bill which affects a particular private interest in a manner different from the private interests of other persons or bodies of the same category or class. On the whole, hybridity tends to refer to parliamentary proceedings which implement public policy but which affect private interests in such a way that not all private interests are treated the same.

I know that Members of the Committee are sensitive about these matters. I remember the Bill to nationalise aircraft and shipbuilding. Problems of hybridity arose and there were a great many difficulties. I am glad to have the advice of the Committee on those matters. Precedents have been quoted. There is a precedent in the Local Government Act 1992. But parliamentary procedures are important, as is the advice of Members of the Committee about them.

My noble friend Lord Peyton said earlier that he felt uncomfortable. I am not surprised about that. He has done nothing but criticise the Bill from start to finish and I am glad that he feels uncomfortable. Earlier he accused me of coming to the Committee with strict instructions from my right honourable friend the Secretary of State to say no to everything; that is not so. I wish to consider what Members of the Committee have said. At present I believe that what is in the Bill is correct, but I should like to take away the views of the Committee and consider them further before Report stage.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

That is an offer it would be churlish to refuse. Clearly, anxiety has been expressed on all sides of the Committee about the provision. The defence for it is rather like the housemaid's baby; it is only a little one. I do not find that argument very convincing.

It has been said that the subsection is an affront to the procedures of your Lordships' House. I am sure that that is true. We could live with that. However, I find that it is an affront to the English language. The Bill has five lines which say that that which is shall be treated as though it were not. That is most offensive. The Minister has properly and courteously said that he will take away the matter and think again about it.

Lord Tordoff

Before the noble Lord decides what to do with the amendment, I should like to raise one further point. If a Bill comes to us from another place with such a clause, it may be thought that the other place has made a decision and, therefore, we should be particularly cautious about rejecting such a clause. However, this Bill started in this Chamber and we are inflicting on ourselves a diminution of our powers. That should be taken into account in conjunction with what the scrutiny committee recommended.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

That is an extremely useful and valid additional argument for the amendment. It is proper that I should accept the Minister's offer. If he wishes, I shall make myself available to discuss the matter with him, but he may feel that that is not necessary. He will realise that if I beg leave to withdraw the amendment, as I do, I reserve the right to return to the matter at a later stage if we do not receive satisfaction. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 10, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 11 [Functions of Secretary of State]:

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Serota)

If Amendment No.88 is agreed to, I cannot call Amendments Nos.89 or 90.

6.15 p.m.

Lord Harris of Greenwich moved Amendment No.88: Page 9, leave out lines 4 to 23.

The noble Lord said: This amendment deals with the extremely important issue of the national objectives of the police service for which the Government are seeking powers. There are substantial implications with regard to this procedure. First, there is no precedent for a government of this country requiring every police force to accept the same objectives. I have still heard no persuasive argument as to why that should be done. In fact, we are moving towards a procedure whereby we are asked to undermine the judgment given by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, in the case of Blackburn. That established clearly and unequivocally—I should be grateful if the noble Earl will deal specifically with this point—the operational independence of the chief officer. This provision is designed deliberately to undermine the force of that judgment and thus has the most profound implications for the police service.

As the noble Earl is aware, once again, so far as I am aware, the provision is opposed by every chief officer of police in this country. The constitutional implications are profound. Apart from anything else, there are a number of remarkable absurdities. I find it difficult to understand why the chief constables of Cumbria, North Wales and Dyfed-Powys, all police areas in which there is a settled and primarily rural population, should be expected to have precisely the same objective as the Commissioner of the Metropolitan police, who is responsible for policing many of our most difficult inner city areas, and the chief constables of the West Midlands and Greater Manchester who are responsible for policing areas like Handsworth and Moss Side. What is the purpose of that?

We have been told frankly by the Home Secretary that among the central objectives which chief officers will be required to accept—I take two of the first examples given—are that the investigation and clear-up rate of cases of violence and burglary should be national objectives. I wonder how sensible that is. As I endeavoured to point out at Second Reading, crimes of violence include a wide range of offences from murder and manslaughter to minor assaults—an assault, say, committed by one neighbour on another.

I wonder why it is regarded as sensible to create a situation whereby, as a result of the requirement to be imposed on chief officers of the forces concerned to answer precise statistical questions based on the success or otherwise of their operations in those areas, the media will, perfectly understandably—and, in my view, perfectly properly—be able to construct league tables based on those statistics.

I understand—though I know that many regret it—the case for a league table, for example, so far as concerns schools. I know that many people are passionately opposed to the idea. Nevertheless, I can at least understand the logic behind it. People can move so that their children are entitled to go to school in an area where the schools have better academic records than others. That is perfectly understandable. Many parents do in fact choose to do so, though I am not quite certain whether they are wise to do so on the basis of such league tables. However, how can that apply to a police force? Is it really being suggested that someone should move from, say, the area of Greater Manchester Police to Dyfed-Powys on the grounds that the clear-up rates in the latter are better and because it is at the top of the league table.

As I have already said, two of the central objectives which the Government have indicated they intend to impose on the police service are those of violence and burglary. To repeat, cases of violence cover a very wide range of criminal offences. When it comes to murder, the police do not have to be told to give priority in terms of their resources to such an investigation or, indeed, to the investigation of a rape. But how is it sensible for the success of the police in clearing up a murder to be counted in precisely the same way as a dispute between two neighbours who come to blows?

As I have pointed out, a policeman who has the good fortune to arrest both neighbours will score twice as heavily for his chief constable compared with the case investigated by a large team of police officers which eventually brings one murderer to the courts, The first of those cases may require the investigative skills of one uniformed officer for a period of perhaps an hour or so but, in the case of a murder investigation, it may require scores of detectives working together over a period of three to six months.

The noble Earl must be aware of the situation because he has direct ministerial responsibility for the police. The police themselves see no point in such a statistical exercise; indeed, they see it as deeply damaging. They are aware of all the issues which will not form part of the league tables and which will not be among the national objectives which will be laid down by the Home Secretary.

What about the hours of police time spent in sorting out people's domestic disputes (not a national policing objective as laid down by the Home Secretary) in dealing with missing persons, lost or runaway children; or in trying to help the elderly and infirm who call on the police for such assistance? Further, what about the heavy claims on police time of sending officers to sporting meetings—football matches, and so on—and major events? What about the hundreds of officers who sometimes have to be deployed in the streets at a time when it is believed likely that there may be a major terrorist attack? One has seen over the past few months the number of officers who have been deployed in the streets of the City of London following terrorist attacks in the area. All those activities will not score at all in terms of getting a good place in the league table.

Perhaps I may give Members of the Committee another example—one which is of fundamental importance. Again, I have already drawn this to the attention of the Government. Given the fact that the Government want to have those national policing objectives, it is astonishing that drugs are to be excluded. Since I spoke on Second Reading, we have seen the figures produced by Customs and Excise for drugs seizures in the calendar year of 1993. As I indicated then, in the first six months of 1980 Customs seizures of heroin and cocaine had a street value of £2 million. However, by 1993 in exactly the same period the value of hard drugs seized was not £2 million but £34 million; in other words,17 times as much. Now we have had the full figures for 1993. According to Customs and Excise figures published in the middle of January, cocaine seizures were 748 kilograms with a street value of £110 million and heroin seizures amounted to 562 kilograms with a street value of £98 million. That is a total of somewhere around £200 million.

As I also indicated on Second Reading, United States Customs assumes that it is successful in seizing somewhere around 10 per cent. of the drugs destined for the US market. It is generally accepted by law enforcement agencies in other parts of the developed world that they are probably equally successful. Very rarely do they assume that they are more successful. Therefore, if we apply the multiplier of 10, it means that heroin and cocaine were circulating in the United Kingdom last year with a street value of around £2,000 million. That is a huge law enforcement problem, not just in our inner-city areas but also in some of our cathedral cities and settled rural areas.

As I am sure the noble Earl will rightly say, the Government have devoted a great deal of time to trying to deal with that escalating problem. Perhaps I may give Members of the Committee just two examples. At present, unlike the situation in 1980, we have Customs and police officers posted to many embassies in Europe and elsewhere in order to collaborate with other law enforcement organisations—that is, both the police and Customs. That is extremely valuable work. I applaud the fact that it is being done.

In addition, we have had the creation of the National Criminal Intelligence Service which has its headquarters on the south side of the Thames. It has scores of officers working together to target major criminals. Moreover, the service has established five regional offices and 70 per cent. of its work is drug related. Yet, astonishingly, when it comes to the national policing objectives, the attack on drugs is not mentioned at all. I shall give the Committee an example of the kind of problem that will arise in the future in that respect. The National Criminal Intelligence Service obtains a great deal of intelligence relating to alleged money launderers as a result of information passed on by financial institutions. As Members of the Committee will recall, such institutions are obliged to pass on that information due to the passage of the drug trafficking offences Acts.

In a large number of cases the National Criminal Intelligence Service asks individual police forces to follow up with inquiries in the cases of people who are suspected of money laundering. These inquiries can result in major investigations which require the support of scores of detectives. Yet the bigger the resources made available by a police force for critically important work of this kind in dealing with the threat posed by narcotics, if this part of the Bill remains intact the greater will be the likelihood that that force will find itself lower in the league table than a force which does not make resources available to the National Criminal Intelligence Service for the work it carries out.

This is a most extraordinary situation. I find it difficult to begin to understand how the Government have made a serious misjudgment in the definition of the national objectives. If they are to have national objectives, which I think is a thoroughly bad idea, why have drugs been left out of account? Many chief officers are deeply concerned about this proposal from the Government. Once again their views have been ignored. They consider that it is for them and not for a Minister of the Crown to determine their operational priorities, after taking account, of course, of the interests of the community they serve and the concerns of its inhabitants.

I believe that the provisions in the Bill on these national objectives are wholly inconsistent with the present law as laid down in the judgment of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, in the Blackburn case. I believe that this matter strikes at the heart of the operational independence of the individual chief officer of police. I believe the provision in the Bill is wholly undesirable, and I very much hope that the Government will drop this idea as soon as possible. I beg to move.

6.30 p.m.

Lord Knights

I rise to speak to this amendment. I have added my name to it. As has already been said on several occasions in this debate, one of the fundamental principles of policing in this country has been the independence of the chief constable in operational matters. It is one of the checks on an ambitious Executive, arid as a former Commissioner of Police with the Metropolitan Police once said, it enables them to be completely impartial as between the governed and those who govern them. It is a principle which was commended by the Royal Commission in 1962 and expressed in Sect on 5 of the Police Act 1964. It is now repeated in Clause 4 of this Bill which states: A police force … shall be under the direction and control of the chief constable". As the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, has said, that principle was set out in much greater detail in the Blackburn judgment. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, set out his view in a long judgment, some of which I read out to the Chamber on Second Reading. I wish to read out some of that judgment again. The noble and learned Lord stated: I hold it to be the duty … of every Chief Constable to enforce the law of the land. He must take steps so to post his men that crimes may be detected; and that honest citizens may go about their affairs in peace; he must decide whether or no suspected persons are to be prosecuted; and, if need be, bring the prosecution or see that it is brought. But in all these things he is not the servant of anyone, save of the law itself. No Minister of the Crown can tell him that he must, or must not, keep observations on this place or that; or that he must, or must not, prosecute this man or that one. Nor can any police authority tell him so. The responsibility for law enforcement lies on him. He is answerable to the lam and to the law alone. At the same time there are many fields in which they have a discretion with which the law will not interfere, For instance, it is for the … Chief Constable … to decide in any particular case whether enquiries should be pursued, or whether an arrest should be made, or a prosecution brought"— subject now of course to the Crown Prosecution Service— It must be for him to decide on the disposition of his force and the concentration of his resources on any particular crime or area. No court can or should give him directions on such a matter". One is bound to ask how that concept of an independent chief constable can lie alongside the concept of centrally produced objectives.

A memorandum dated 12th January 1994, addressed by the Home Office to the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee of your Lordships' House, stated: although police authorities and police forces are to be required to have regard to such objectives, they represent a framework for the exercise by those authorities of their statutory responsibilities, and are not a tightly drawn regulatory structure". Nevertheless, under this Bill they are to be linked to the setting by the police authority of performance targets. If the police authority is to be held accountable to the Secretary of State in respect of the extent to which it does or does not achieve his objectives, surely it must follow that the authority will in turn seek to direct the chief constable as to how it expects him to deploy his resources to achieve its targets. The effect that that might have on the possible fixed-term appointment and the performance-related pay of the chief constable we shall debate later on.

While I am sure that the Minister will seek to reassure the Committee that there is no intention whatever to alter the present position, nevertheless I notice that a leading article in The Times today, in referring to your Lordships' debate last Tuesday, states: Above all, police authorities will be given new operational powers". Therefore, it is not only chief constables 'who believe that the Bill will affect the current arrangements. Of course chief constables should, and I believe do, consult with their police authorities in setting out to the force and to the communities they serve their objectives for particular years. But they cannot abrogate their responsibility for operational matters and must not be subject to operational directions by a police authority which is acting itself on the basis of directions it has received from the Home Secretary.

I believe that the Home Secretary's views on the direction in which policing should go could be quite adequately communicated to police authorities and to chief constables without the necessity of statutory directions, and the extent to which his objectives are being achieved could be equally adequately monitored through the Home Secretary's police inspectorate. Statutory requirements do not seem to be necessary.

I believe that there is another danger inherent in this clause. While I am sure that the Minister again will seek to assure the Committee that there is no question of a league table of results—as was suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich—achieved by individual forces, nevertheless I am sure the press will seek to create one for him using the complementary performance indicators to which I have already referred. Those details will be obtainable from force reports without any difficulty, but the comments which will be made on the way in which they are used will have nothing to say about the differences between, for example, the inner cities and the Fens of Lincolnshire, or indeed as regards the other demands which are made on the police.

At the moment the public expect the police to spend some 60 per cent. of their time on matters not related to crime. The "dry run" of the objectives for this coming year which was circulated a few months ago concentrates almost entirely on crime and crime alone, which represents only 40 per cent. of total police effort.

Would it not be wise to consult the Association of Chief Police Officers before any guidance is given to the police via the Home Secretary as to the direction in which he believes policing should go? Where does Whitehall get its information as to what the public expect of their police? It has to come from the ground rather than from the Civil Service. That is not provided for in the clause as I read it.

I oppose the clause, first, because I believe that it is unnecessary, and, secondly, and more importantly, because I believe that it could be extremely dangerous.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil

Without, I hope, doing any harm in the eyes of my noble friend to the arguments of the noble Lord, Lord Knights, I should like to say that I agree with every word the noble Lord said. Therefore, it is quite unnecessary for me to attempt to repeat the arguments at any length.

I have put down two amendments. Before I refer to them briefly I should like to remark that in giving his views on an earlier amendment my noble friend gave me the impression that he thought that I was somehow misguided in not being an enthusiastic supporter of the Bill, and the fact that I sat behind him made matters worse. I hope that I misunderstood my noble friend and that he did not mean anything of the kind.

In Amendment No.89 I suggest the omission of the words "by order determine" from Section 28A at the beginning of Clause 11 and their replacement by the single word "propose". That may not be ideal drafting but to me it reflects better the spirit of partnership among the Home Secretary, the police authority and the chief constable which I had always understood was the cornerstone of our policing arrangements and to which I have heard my noble friend Lord Whitelaw refer with eloquence on a number of occasions. I hope that my noble friend will not dismiss this as an irrelevant notion which has emerged from a disordered mind. I hope that he will take the amendment seriously and treat it sympathetically.

My second amendment is not as far-reaching as that proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Harris. Its purpose is simply to omit lines 9 to 13 which mention the establishment of specific levels of performance and performance targets. I wonder what they will mean in practice. I imagine that we shall be told that they will be dealt with more fully in the codes of practice. I notice that there is no provision in the Bill at present for those codes of practice to be made the subject of consultation. Whether or not that is the intention of the Home Secretary, I very much fear that the provision which I seek to leave out is indicative of the drift towards central control of the police.

I cannot for the life of me understand how specific levels of performance or performance targets will be defined. I do not understand how sense can be made of that when it comes to applying such standards to a single police force, to a unit in a police force or to an individual. I can imagine some very unpleasant and dangerous criteria being allowed to creep in.

I hope that I do not do the noble Lord, Lord Knights, any harm by agreeing with him, but I believe that he has done the Committee a signal service in the way in which he put his case. Perhaps I may say without embarrassing him that I have long wondered why the only policemen in this place were those on the door. I am very glad that the noble Lord is present on this occasion to give us the benefit of his wisdom and experience. I hope very much that my noble friend will listen to it.

I apologise to the noble Baroness, Lady Hilton, if I omitted to mention her, but she has not yet contributed a speech to this debate. I was referring specifically to the admirable contribution from the noble Lord, Lord Knights.

6.45 p.m.

Lord Hylton

I speak as a mere layman in these matters, but it seems to me that different measures will make different people feel secure and well policed. The difference between town and country has already been pointed out. I shall go further and point out the marked differences between rural areas.

I would much rather trust to the perceptions of chief constables, magistrates and elected councillors than the perceptions of Home Secretaries. Some distinguished former Home Secretaries are Members of this Chamber, but Home Secretaries are not omniscient. That is why I hope that the Committee will accept the amendment, or at least the amendments proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Peyton.

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, that the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Knights, was fully deserving of the encomium which the noble Lord gave it. As he said, I had not spoken. I shall not do so with either the weight or eloquence of the noble Lord, Lord Knights.

I support the principle underlying all three amendments. They address another example of the trend of centralising power with the Home Secretary. I join with the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, in feeling that Home Secretaries are not necessarily a reservoir of all wisdom and knowledge about what is required in the way of policing in this country. I believe that the present Home Secretary is operating on the basis of a very simplistic model of crime and how it may be combatted. He seems to think that he can wave a magic wand and issue an order and crime will vanish from the land.

As I said on Second Reading, I am particularly anxious that the apparent performance targets will consist of clear-up rates. I have known detective inspectors who can create 60 per cent. clear-up rates using theoretically legitimate means. There are ways of fiddling performance targets, and not only in the field of crime. Once one starts setting league tables and trying to assess complex jobs by counting, people will find ingenious ways of reaching targets and fiddling the figures. Therefore, at that basic level I am very anxious about performance targets and clear-up rates.

I am much more concerned by the proposal that the Home Secretary will be able to direct police authorities and chief constables as to what they should see as their major objectives in the coming year. We live in a society in which, although it is democratic, there is a tendency to see the powers and diktats of central government as more important than those of local authorities or, in this case, what the chief constable himself may consider important. The effect may be a total distortion of police effort.

Some of the objectives set this year have been generalised and are fairly anodyne but they include crimes of violence. In response to them, one may set up, for example, domestic violence units or rape units. Very often such units produce an increase in reported crime. Once police turn their attention to a specific crime—drugs is an example; the noble Lord, Lord Harris, spoke about them at some length—there is almost inevitably an increase in reported crime. In consequence, one receives more media attention, more crime is reported, and one has an upwards spiral of that crime. That argument is certainly true with regard to rape. When the Metropolitan Police began to be more sensitive to the problems of victims of rape, there was a considerable increase in reported rapes. Such an increase would run counter to the intention to improve clear-up rates and the crime figures.

The effect of setting specific targets is often to have exactly the opposite effect. Although the quality of the service to the public may be much enhanced, one has an apparent diminution in performance. I am sceptical about the idea of performance targets and clear-up rates, especially when set at national level when one cannot observe what is happening on the ground.

The major objection in principle is to the assumption of power by the Home Secretary over chief constables and police authorities. The tripartite balance of power may be uncomfortable. Democracies are uncomfortable; they are difficult to work. But it is simplistic of the Home Secretary to assume that, by issuing diktats about what should be the major objectives of police forces in the coming year he can clear up crime, reduce the crime rate, and somehow no longer be blamed for the rising level of crime in this country.

Lord Elton

When one is faced with such a degree of professional experience in the police service, one naturally pays very close attention. One pays close attention also to any proposal abrogated by my noble friend Lord Peyton. However, I wonder whether the Committee may be going a little far in objecting to this part of the Bill.

As I understand the arguments against the provision, the first is that the Secretary of State is casting a blanket over England and Wales which will determine the whole policy of police forces to the exclusion of local influence. The Committee will not have forgotten, although we must revisit them, the provisions of Clause 11. New Section 28A applies that blanket requiring the police authority to have regard to the objectives set by the Secretary of State. However, immediately afterwards the authority is required to have regard to any objectives determined by the authority itself. There is therefore an equality of duty. I do not believe that it can be said that the Secretary of State has an overriding power in the Bill under Clause 11.

The Committee then expressed understandable reserves about the inevitability of every Secretary of State being the reservoir of wisdom and restraint that one would wish. However, in his remarks, the noble Lord, Lord Knights, referred to the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee. That committee made no recommendation other than that your Lordships should consider—I ask the Committee to accept that recommendation—whether the order that the Secretary of State at present is empowered to make under line 4 on page 9 at new Section 28A(1) should not be subject to some form of parliamentary supervision. The Committee can then satisfy itself case by case as to whether the Secretary of State has gone over the top. The anxiety expressed would not then stand in the way of the provisions of the clause which I believe have merit.

Lord Plant of Highfield

Perhaps I may say a brief word in favour of the amendment. In doing so, I am very much a sinner who has come to repentance. About five years ago I wrote a pamphlet for the Institute of Economic Affairs in which I argued in favour of performance indicators in the public sector, including the police, and limited term contracts for chief constables. However, in the intervening period I have come to reflect on my arguments and realise that they are fundamentally mistaken with regard to the police. I regard what I wrote then as fundamentally misguided. Perhaps I may briefly outline the reasons.

Performance indicators work, for example, in universities, (from where I come) in which one has a relatively homogeneous service to be delivered and a relatively homogeneous population of consumers of the service. The students are there primarily for one purpose; the staff are there primarily for one purpose. Neither of those conditions apply to police. The police have a diverse range of services to deliver. One has a diverse population, all of whom have different demands. Their interests have to be considered in a reasonably equitable way. There is a big asymmetry between the services and consumers where performance indicators work reasonably well and with regard to the police, a service in which they do not work well.

Secondly, having been involved in universities and performance indicators, both as an assessor of performance indicators from other universities and as a form filler in my own, it is clear that it is an enormously bureaucratic enterprise. In universities the exercise consumes hundredweights of paper. While the Home Secretary's desire is to cut down the amount of bureaucracy in the police and to put more people on the beat, I am worried that the performance indicator approach will create another bureaucratic monster.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hilton, has already made my third point; namely, that people are ingenious. They can guide their behaviour to boost performance indicators. They can hit targets but at the cost of many other services that they should be providing. That is a major loss in a service with as broad a range as the police have. Therefore targets distort behaviour.

For those reasons, I believe that my view five years ago about the police was misguided. I would not now support what the Home Secretary proposes to do in the Bill. It is dangerous to link an illusory measure of effectiveness with proposals to judge a chief constable's performance in terms of the efficiency and effectiveness as detected by those distorting performance targets. If the chief constable is to lose his job as a result of a failure to meet those artificially defined targets, that is a dangerous concept. I now hold the view expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich: that is, the chief constable should be able to exercise discretion in consultation with, and having taken into account, the democratically expressed desires of local communities through the police authority and should be prepared at the end of the year to justify his exercise of that discretion to the police authority. He should not be bound by what I regard as distorting performance indicators.

Lord Renton

Clause 11 of the Bill breaks new ground. There was nothing like it in the Police Act 1964. In the light of the discussion that we have had, the provision deserves further consideration on the part of Government. The Government can be fortified to the extent pointed out by my noble friend Lord Elton. Our scrutiny committee has stated that it would be in order for the provision in the clause to be provided by secondary legislation. However, the proposed method of secondary legislation needs improvement, in my opinion, in the light of what has been said.

The starting point is the question of performance targets. We find them referred to in lines 11 and 12 on page 9, but without any real definition. The Bill states: the Secretary of State may direct police authorities to establish specific levels of performance ('performance targets')". But that is the only definition we have of performance targets which could relate to a wide range of things: crime prevention, crime detection, arrest, custody, prosecution of suspected offenders, traffic control, further training of police officers on the job, public relations, protection of the Royal Family and the Cabinet and of vulnerable places, as well as many others. I do not say that all those matters should be spelt out, but it would be helpful if my noble friend Lord Ferrers could give us some idea of what is envisaged by the broad phrase "performance targets".

It has been suggested to me by one of my noble friends who is present that Amendment No.92A proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, has much to commend it. He tabled it with regard to codes of practice, to apply before codes of practice are approved and issued by the Home Secretary. However, on performance targets, it would also be helpful if the organisations representing chief constables and police authorities were to be consulted. That is another reason for further thought on the terms of the clause. I hope that we may hear from my noble friend that he has taken on board what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Knights, as well as others.

7 p.m.

Earl Ferrers

My noble friend Lord Renton is correct when he says that we are breaking new ground in some parts of the Bill, particularly this one. There is nothing wrong with that. The whole police Bill deals with restructuring and bringing structures up to date so that they are more suitable for existing circumstances and those for the next 20 or 30 years.

I admired the noble Lord, Lord Plant, for admitting a total volte-face in his views. It is not often that a person, even a noble Lord, says that what he wrote five years ago was—as he said—fundamentally misguided. I admire him for saying it and respect it and, of course, he is entitled to change his view. I was grateful to him for having said that so generously.

The Bill will allow priorities to be set for the police and for police performance to be measured. That is a crucial element, clarifying the lines of accountability. After all, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary is responsible for law and order. When things go wrong in law and order, people turn to the Home Secretary and say: "What are you going to do? The Government must do something". The Government spend £6,000 million on the police; 90 per cent. of that comes in one way or another from central government resources. Therefore, it is perfectly right for my right honourable friend, who is accountable to Parliament, to be able to say to Parliament, "This is the way we are spending the money", and that he would like to see efforts made in certain directions.

If one suggests that the Home Secretary should not say that, one is suggesting that we must give the police authorities or the chief constables the money and let them get on and hope that they will do their work well. Of course, the majority do, but there should be some form of accountability. People ought to be able to say, "This is what I have spent my money on and this is the effect that I have had". If the public are worried about law and order, it is right for the Home Secretary to say, "Are we getting the best value for money? Are our police forces efficient?" That is totally different from interfering with the operational independence of chief constables, which is preserved, as the noble Lord, Lord Knights, said, in Clause 4.

I believe that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, was right. No Minister can tell a chief constable what to do, but he can specify priorities. That is a totally different matter. The setting of key objectives will not undermine a chief constable's operational independence. A chief constable will be free not to meet the key objectives or any related performance targets if, in his view, other operational considerations are of overriding importance. The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, referred to the remarks of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, in the Blackburn case. There is an established operational independence of the chief constable and nothing in the Bill undermines that. The Home Secretary has always influenced operational policy, of course, and he has always been able to do so when he provides guidelines and so forth. It is essential for his statutory duty and accountability that he should.

The key objectives do not remove the operational independence, they just identify major public anxieties which the police should tackle. In future, it will be much clearer to chief constables, to police authorities and to the public what is expected of the police. Police authorities will have clear standards upon which they can judge police performance. Police authorities, in turn, can be held accountable for the performance of the force for which they are responsible and those changes will improve the effective use of police resources.

The noble Lords, Lord Harris and Lord Knights, were concerned about a number of matters and I only say to them that there need to be clear objectives for a service which costs £6,000 million. The police quite rightly complain that we make many and increasing demands upon them and the police themselves need a clear public indication of the major public concerns to which they should give priority.

The key objectives will set the priorities for policing. They will identify major public concerns which the police should tackle. My noble friend Lord Renton said that he hoped that there would be discussion about them. There will be. They will be selected after discussion with the Association of Chief Police Officers, Her Majesty's inspectors of constabulary and the local authority associations. The current non-statutory objectives which have been issued for 1994 and 1995 have been the subject of discussion.

What are those objectives which people find so worrying? They are simply these. The first is to maintain and, if possible, increase the number of detections for violent crimes. It is hard to find that objectionable. The second is to increase the number of detections of burglaries in people's homes. The third is to target and prevent crimes which are a particular local problem, in partnership with the public and other local agencies. The fourth is to provide high visibility policing so as to reassure the public. The fifth is to respond promptly to emergency calls from the public.

The noble Lord, Lord Harris, was concerned that drugs were not specified in that. They were not specified in the key objectives because they were not considered to be of equal and overriding concern to all police forces. One of the objectives allows scope for targeting and preventing crimes of local concern, which can be drugs. The key objectives were discussed with representatives of ACPO and the local authorities who did not at any point advocate that work related to drugs should be a key objective. That does not mean that it cannot be a local objective.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

Perhaps I may ask the noble Earl a question. I am sure he would not wish—wholly unintentionally—to mislead the Committee. Will he agree with me that the Association of Chief Police Officers made it absolutely clear to him and his colleagues that it was opposed in principle to what the Government propose here in terms of the national objectives? The Committee should not be misled into assuming that the association went along with this, because it did not. The Association of Chief Police Officers believes that it is wrong in principle for Ministers of the Crown to make those decisions.

Earl Ferrers

The noble Lord, Lord Harris, has already made that point. I was answering the point raised by my noble friend that if we set objectives, that should be after discussion. Those objectives were set after discussion.

The success of police authorities and their forces in meeting the key objectives will be judged by performance indicators. Those indicators provide information about the number of burglaries detected or the percentage of 999 calls answered within locally specified times. They allow performance to be measured. The indicators for the 1994–95 key objectives were selected in consultation with the police, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and local authorities. Performance targets will tell the police what level of improvement in performance is expected.

The Bill requires police authorities, not the Home Secretary, to set targets, both for the national key objectives and for any local objectives. The role of the Home Secretary simply be to indicate the range of improvement that he expects to see. For example, he may ask police authorities and metropolitan forces to set a 4 to 6 per cent. target for increasing the number of detections for burglaries. He may set a target of 2 to 4 per cent. for smaller rural forces. Within the bands set by the Home Secretary police authorities will be free to make their own judgment as to how high or low a target should be. All of that can be supplemented by local discretion. Police authorities may want to set local objectives to be measured by their own selected performance indicators. They may want to set targets, or higher targets than those required by the Home Secretary, for those key objectives. All of that will be possible. The structure proposed in the Bill simply sets out a means for establishing priorities and measuring performance. None of this is set in concrete. The year 1994–95 is being treated as a trial run to enable the Home Office and police forces to learn from the exercise. Future years' objectives, indicators and any conditions attached to targets will be discussed fully with the police and representatives of police authorities before they are set.

A number of noble Lords have said that they consider these matters to be wrong and that comparisons should not be made. The purpose of the provision is to provide a consistent basis of measurement so that forces can see how well they are doing. I do not believe that there is anything new about this. Every time I visit a police force I am festooned with statistics and facts on thefts, detection rates, clear-up rates and response times, and how effective the force has become at civilianisation and how it compares with the national civilianisation average. The noble Baroness, Lady Hilton, said that figures could be altered by looking at a particular set of achievements. That possibility always exists. But in the end what is being said is that the Home Secretary is setting objectives to be covered and aimed at nationally. The police authority sets local objectives and says to the chief constable, "This is what we are worried about in our area. Will you deal with it?" How and when he deals with it are entirely operational matters which fall within the independence of the chief constable.

On the one hand, there are people who are worried about law and order and who ask what they are getting for the money spent. On the other hand, there are people who say that we must not interfere with the chief constable—we are not—and set these priorities. Of course the chief constable will be concerned with his local police authority. It is right that there should be strong police authorities. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Knights, recalls that in the days when he was a chief constable he worked much better with a strong police authority rather than with a weak authority which vacillated. We need strong police authorities. They are to determine what the policing is in their areas and the pressure points they want to see relieved. How that is done is entirely a matter for the chief constable.

I believe it not unreasonable to say to police authorities and chief constables that we are all in the business of dealing with crime. The Home Secretary, the police authorities and chief constables have responsibilities, but there should be some measurement of how they are doing; otherwise, we may as well let Parliament provide the money and hope for the best. I do not believe that that is the right way to proceed.

7.15 p.m.

Lord Chapple

The noble Earl said that when he visited police authorities he was inundated with statistics. If that is so, is it not an own goal to suggest that that can be married to a system of payment by results? All they need to do is put those statistics down on paper and we will be paying more money for what we are already getting. Anyone who is familiar with payment by results systems in industry knows that they cannot be a substitute for good management. If you have poor management, payment by results systems will only make it worse.

Earl Ferrers

There is no question of a payment by results system based on the number of clear-ups. It is perfectly true that in industry in order to achieve competitiveness and effectiveness targets are very often set. If targets are not set there is nothing for people to aim at. I see nothing wrong in setting a target. At the end of the year the chief constable can say that the reason the targets have not been met is that there has been an outbreak of murders or burglaries and accordingly resources have had to be diverted. That is perfectly all right. Why should that not be allowed?

Lord Harris of Greenwich

As always, I am fascinated by the response of the noble Earl, but, as always, I have unhappily found myself listening to a speech which does not answer some of the specific questions put to him. I now put a specific question and will gladly give way to him. Does he agree with me that the Association of Chief Police Officers is wholly opposed to this proposal? The answer to that is either yes or no. Will the noble Earl now tell the Committee what the truth of this matter is?

Earl Ferrers

The noble Lord, Lord Harris, has a lovely habit of getting up and asking a question, saying that the answer is yes or no and inviting someone to answer in a monosyllable. The noble Lord knows perfectly well that these questions cannot be answered as simply as that. He knows perfectly well also that the Association of Chief Police Officers has welcomed many parts of the Bill but is opposed in principle to key objectives. But it has been co-operative over the key objectives set for 1994–95 with which it is in agreement.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

I welcome that reply, which arrived in the nick of time. The fact is that the noble Earl has been good enough to confirm what the Committee should know, namely, that the Association of Chief Police Officers regards this as yet another example of the dangerous centralising tendency that runs through nearly all of the principal clauses of the Bill.

Earl Ferrers

The noble Lord was kind enough to interrupt me. Perhaps I may ask him whether he thinks that there should be any form of objectives or indicators—yes or no?

Lord Harris of Greenwich

I am glad to answer the noble Earl with a very simple reply. I believe that it is the duty of every chief officer of police to discuss the problems of his local community with the local police authority. It is for them to decide the matter, not for a politician in Whitehall. The difference between us is as simple as that.

Earl Ferrers

I do not wish to interrupt but I cannot help myself. The noble Lord is so engaging a personality. Does he say that it is quite wrong for the Home Secretary, who is responsible throughout the country for law and order and for the disposal of £6,000 million, to have any say in how that money is spent?

Lord Harris of Greenwich

That is quite an absurd question from the noble Earl, and I am rather surprised. I was hoping for a slightly more sophisticated question from him. Of course the Home Secretary—like the present one and like his predecessors, and like the noble Viscount, Lord Whitelaw, when he was Home Secretary—has first of all a duty to provide adequate resources for the police service in this country and to indicate what he believes are the principal problems facing the police service of this country. That is the responsibility of the Home Secretary.

But the idea of imposing that framework on a police service which is wholly opposed to what the Government are proposing, as the noble Earl knows perfectly well, is offensive to the traditions of policing in this country. The difference between us is a fundamental one. It is whether we are going to move remorselessly—as I believe we shall over the next few years, if this process continues—towards more and more national control of the police service. We have seen that in country after country of western Europe. I remind the noble Earl that the traditions, the record and the reputation of the police service in this country are incomparably greater than in countries where there is exactly the form of national control that is advocated by the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers.

In such a thinly attended Chamber, I do not propose to continue the debate this evening. Clearly, we shall have to come back to the matter because I am afraid that it is one of the three or four central issues in the Bill which are deeply offensive to the traditions of policing in this country and, I repeat, a police force which has won for itself such a high reputation in other countries of the world. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resume. It may be for the convenience of the House if the Committee recommences at 20 minutes past eight o'clock.

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

House resumed.