§ 3.7 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 Recommitment) in respect of Clauses 2 to 4 and Schedule 2 to the Bill.
I thought that it might be helpful to the House if I were to take the opportunity of this Motion— which is itself open for debate— to explain to your Lordships what has happened since we last considered these clauses, which refer to matters such as the composition of the police authorities, independent members and policing plans. These issues caused your Lordships some concern early on in the Committee stage of this Bill.
The principles underlying this police Bill— principles which I know some of your Lordships found difficult to accept, but are a fact— are: that policing should be local; that police authorities should be stronger and more effective; that, in order to achieve this, they should be smaller; that they should be enhanced, improved and enriched by having people on them other than just councillors or magistrates; and that there are other people who could have a contribution to make in the fight against crime in the locality who, for 941 one reason or another, have not found the time or the desire to enter wholeheartedly into the realm of local politics.
One of the great virtues of this Bill, I thought, was its overriding objective to move power or responsibility — call it what you will— away from Whitehall and down to the locality, to police authorities and to chief constables. But one of the advantages of your Lordships' House is that however sensible or obvious one's views may be, your Lordships periodically make it clear that not everyone always agrees with them. And when your Lordships do not, noble Lords have an uncanny knack of making their views known with a ferocity and clarity of exposition which is not given to all of us. It is quite a formidable experience and, I dare say, not a bad one either.
It was the way in which we proposed to implement that idea of giving greater local accountability rather than the principle itself which caused your Lordships such anxiety. That anxiety, which was evidenced from all sides of the House and which I do not think was based on any party political considerations, was that the method proposed in the Bill was likely to give too much influence to whoever happened to hold the office of Home Secretary over the appointment of these so-called independents and, through them, too much influence over the police authorities and therefore also over the chief constable.
When this matter was considered in Committee I tried to make it plain that it was not my right honourable friend's intention to politicise these appointments in any way whatever and that he wanted to have genuinely independent people. Your Lordships may have taken a different view.
In view of the anxiety which was expressed by your Lordships I agreed not to move my amendments if other noble Lords would not move theirs. I undertook to see whether it was possible to meet the undoubted anxiety which was clearly expressed by your Lordships and to try and resolve the difficulty. I said, however, that I could give no guarantee that that would happen and that I thought that the gap was "pretty wide".
It has inevitably taken us a little time to consider the matters which were raised, some of which seemed to pull in different directions. It is for that reason that, apart from the amendments relating to the chairmanship of the new police authorities, there are no government amendments on the Marshalled List today.
I should like to indicate to your Lordships the content of the amendments which the Government intend to bring forward at Report stage so that the House may be aware of our intentions over this whole area of the Bill before we move on to consider the amendments which are on the Marshalled List today.
When the Committee stage of this Bill began on 15th February the Government had already announced and tabled amendments which would leave it to the new police authorities to choose their own chairmen. Those amendments were not moved on 15th February, but they are on the Marshalled List today. I suspect that they can be dealt with quite quickly.
942 The Government had also announced and tabled amendments which would enable the Secretary of State, by order, to specify in particular cases that police authorities should have more than 16 members, while retaining broadly the proportions of councillors, magistrates and independent members which had already been proposed. We had also announced the sort of arrangements which we had in mind for the appointment of the independent members to police authorities.
The House recognised that the changes we had announced underlined the Government's determination to maintain the principles of our tripartite policing arrangements. But your Lordships were concerned that some further safeguards were needed in order to ensure that the powers in the Bill could not be used— perhaps at some distant future date by some extreme, obtuse Home Secretary either from the Right or the Left— to subvert the tripartite arrangements or to exert wholly improper pressures on the operational independence of chief officers of police.
The operational independence of chief officers of police is paramount. That was an anxiety which was expressed by your Lordships and I want to make it quite clear that that is a cardinal principle which underlies all the Government's proposals.
It was in relation to that operational independence of chief officers that questions about the composition of the police authority became linked with other features of the Bill, such as the setting of objectives, the monitoring of performance, the terms of appointment of chief officers, and so on. I do not complain that the House felt strongly about these matters. They are vitally important, and it is right that any changes which may have an impact on these matters should be scrutinised through and through.
I must confess, however, that I had mixed feelings about the task which we faced. It seemed that there was no doubt about the strength of feeling of some of your Lordships. There was rather more doubt, however, about the solutions.
The general kerfuffle, if I might so put it, which has surrounded this matter seems to have encapsulated your Lordships' view over the Bill in a way which is not dissimilar to the view which was expressed by a bishop when he was asked to give his views on sin. He replied, "I don't know much about it, but on the whole I don't like it very much".
There were some common strands to the views which were expressed at Committee. There was general support for keeping police authorities reasonably small. There was general support for including some independent members— some new blood— alongside councillors and magistrates. There was, however, a clear concern that Parliament should remove any risk whatsoever that independent members might become the placemen of some future Home Secretary. It was also felt that the special responsibilities of the councillors, who, after all, are representatives of the electorate in the police area, required them to be in a majority on the police authority.
943 Reconciling those pressures has not exactly been easy, but we have made progress. I like to think that we have made substantial progress.
I hope that your Lordships will realise that in the time available it has simply not been possible to find out where any common denominators lie and then to draft appropriate amendments, which may prove to be numerous and quite complex. However, the amendments which we propose to table for the Report stage, and which will relate to the composition of the police authority, would have the following effects.
The standard size of a police authority would increase from 16 to 17. The Home Secretary would have the power, as proposed earlier, to increase its size where local circumstances made the Home Secretary consider that it was desirable to do so. There would be no upper limit on the size of the police authority, although the aim would be to keep authorities as small as possible.
The 17 members of a police authority would consist of nine councillors, three magistrates, and five independent members. That would always leave local councillors in a majority over everyone else.
Where the Secretary of State increased the size of the authority, the local authority members would always be in a majority of one, and the numbers of magistrates and independent members would be increased in proportion to the overall size of the authority.
It would greatly simplify my explanation of the other features of the arrangements, and it might conceivably also ease your Lordships' comprehension of them, if I were to explain the arrangements entirely in terms of the standard sized police authority of 17 members.
The five independent members would be co-opted by the other members of the police authority; that is, by the nine councillors and the three magistrates. It would be they, and only they, who would choose the five independent members. They would do that from a list of 10 names, which would be forwarded to them by the Home Secretary. The Home Secretary would choose the 10 names, which he will forward to the police authority, from a short list of 20 which would be provided to him by a local selection panel. In considering which 10 names to forward to the police authority the Home Secretary would have an opportunity to identify those candidates who seemed to him to be the strongest. I should emphasise one point. The Home Secretary would have no power to Forward to the police authority any name which had not been on the short list which he had received from the selection panel.
The selection panels would be drawn up at local level. There would not be, as we had proposed previously, six regional panels. We now propose that there should be one selection panel for each police area.
A selection panel would consist of three people. One panel member would be chosen by the councillors and magistrates on the police authority. They could choose someone from among themselves, or they could choose some other local person of independent judgment from outside the police authority. The second panel member would be appointed by the Home Secretary. He would also be a local person of independent judgment, almost certainly from outside the police authority. The third panel member, who would also be required to be a local 944 person, would be appointed by the other two panel members. In other words, the third panel member would be chosen by the police authority's choice and the Home Secretary's choice.
These details, which I have described so far, would be on the face of the Bill. So also would some of the basic elements of the selection criteria which the selection panel must follow. These would be likely to cover the exclusion of people who were already qualified for membership as magistrates or as councillors. We intend to consider whether we can identify other enduring criteria, which might be highlighted in the Bill, in order to ensure the fairness of the procedures.
§ Lord Callaghan of Cardiff
My Lords, I am much obliged to the noble Earl for allowing me to intervene. I am trying to follow what seem to be rather complex arrangements. Will the names of 20 members be sent forward to the Home Secretary and then the names of 10 members sent back to the local authorities? What is the reason for that? Will the Home Secretary exercise a negative veto saying that 10 members are unsuitable? On what basis will he judge the issue? Will the names be published? Will there not be a slur on the names of those who are not selected for the short list of 10?
My Lords, no, I do not think so. The police authority will co-opt five people from a short list of 10. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary will have had a list of 20 names submitted to him. He will select from those 20 the 10 who are the most suitable to be appointed. From that list the authority chooses. The noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, shakes his head. But there is a tripartite arrangement. The Home Secretary has responsibilities; the authorities have responsibilities. The choice is that of the authorities. The people selected will be chosen by the selection panel. There is no question of there being interference of a political nature.
But some other features of the criteria to guide the selection panel might need to change from tame to time. Those features, together with details of the administrative procedures which should be followed by the selection panels, could be dealt with in subordinate legislation, so that they were subject to parliamentary oversight and so that they could be changed, if circumstances changed, without primary legislation.
I hope that this explanation provides a sufficiently clear description of the arrangements we propose. I told your Lordships that the arrangements would be more complicated than they might otherwise have been in order to try to accommodate the diverse views which your Lordships expressed. If we try to find a route through a difficult problem, it is, if I may say so, quite understandable but not very helpful if your Lordships think that it is particularly amusing and treat my right honourable friend's proposals with a sense of ribaldry. It has not been easy, but we have tried to accommodate the views. If your Lordships will listen— dare I suggest, with humility?— you will hear that we have taken on board those matters about which noble Lords were 945 concerned. I had hoped that this explanation would have provided your Lordships with a description of the arrangements we propose to make.
We have aimed to achieve both balance and independence in the co-option procedures, and that has perhaps made them rather more complicated than perhaps some of us might have wished. However, they aim to ensure that the police authority has a reasonable range of choice of suitable people when it co-opts the independent members.
I shall not pretend that it has been an easy exercise, but I hope that the arrangements will meet the spirit of the concerns which your Lordships expressed about the composition of the new police authorities. I recognise that not all the points raised in our earlier debates were concerned directly with the composition of the authorities. But in trying to meet the concerns about the composition of police authorities I think that we go a long way towards meeting many of the concerns which were expressed about the relationships between the three parties to the tripartite structure— including that of the chief constable's operational independence.
I would respectfully suggest to your Lordships that our proposals go a long way towards meeting those other problems, but, encouraged, just a little, by what I hope will be on consideration a favourable reaction from your Lordships, I can perhaps go a little further.
Just wait! I am so glad that your Lordships find this so enormously amusing; it is a great relief to me.
Amendments were put down by the noble Baroness, Lady Hilton of Eggardon, and the noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, relating to disqualification for membership of a police authority, and the circumstances in which a person might be removed on the grounds that he was unfit. We shall consider those points in relation to the rather different structure which I have now proposed, and we can explore them at Report stage. If there are any points which the noble Baroness and the noble Lord might care to put to me before then, in the light of our revised proposals, I shall of course be happy to consider them.
There were other amendments which related to concerns over the key objectives to be set by the Government, the local objectives to be set by the police authority, the policing plan, and the performance targets to be set by the police authority. Some noble Lords were pressing me to accept a requirement that there should be agreement on those matters between the police authority and the chief constable. I must say, frankly, that I would find it difficult to go all the way down that road. To do so would, in effect, give the chief constable a veto over all these matters. In relation to the policing plan, which derives directly from the budget and which is necessarily the province of the police authority, that just cannot be right.
Nor can it be right, I would venture to suggest, for us to deny to the Home Secretary the right to have some say, alongside that of local people, in policing priorities. After all, he is responsible for law and order in the 946 country, and he is directly responsible to Parliament for the £ 6,000 million which is spent by the police, of which 90 per cent. comes from central government. I do therefore see some fairly hefty obstacles in legislating for agreement.
However, we all realise that agreement is not only highly desirable, but is, in practice, very likely to be achieved in the overwhelming majority of cases where police authorities and chief constables work effectively and amicably together. I think that we may be able to do more to achieve agreement in all possible cases— even if we cannot legislate for it— by strengthening our assurances that consultation should be carried out between the relevant parties. That is a matter at which we are still looking— and, among others it is a matter about which we would like to talk to representatives of chief constables. I hope that the House will allow me to say more about that at Report stage.
There are several other matters, which are less directly connected with the composition of the police authorities, which were raised by some of your Lordships, but which do not arise today. I do not intend to refer to all of them, but there are just two which, I think, deserve a mention.
There were worries about some features of the arrangements for future amalgamations or alterations of police areas. I believe that some aspects of our proposals have been misunderstood, especially as regards the nature and the extent of local consultation in the absence of a public inquiry. We shall see whether we can make that clearer, and I shall be happy to talk to those noble Lords who had amendments down on this point— or, indeed, to any other noble Lords who might like to do so— if that would be helpful.
There is one point which is even more distantly related to anything to do with the police authority. Considerable concern was expressed— in a particularly powerful speech, even for the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich— about one aspect of police discipline arrangements. We initially proposed that a right of appeal to a police appeal tribunal should be available only where the penalty imposed was that of dismissal or of a requirement to resign. The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, drew attention to the severity of the financial and other consequences which could arise in certain circumstances where an officer was reduced in rank. We therefore propose to make available a right of appeal to the tribunal in those cases too.
I apologise for what is, even for me, an unusually lengthy speech and especially in the unusual circumstances of the Motion. But I thought that that would be the easiest and, I hoped, the most acceptable way of explaining to your Lordships how the Government propose to address the matters about which you have expressed disquiet— an expression which I might say was full of clarity.
It has been helpful to have the many and varied views of your Lordships, even if at times they conflicted with each other and even if they provided a bit of a bumpy ride. I hope that your Lordships will feel that we have genuinely tried to find a way of meeting your views and opinions, all of which have not necessarily been the same. After all, what have we done? My right 947 honourable friend has produced a Bill to Parliament; he has listened to the views expressed; he has taken account of those views and he proposes to amend the Bill in the light of the views which have been expressed. That seems to me to be exactly what democracy is all about and, if I may say so, exactly what your Lordships' House is for. I only hope that your Lordships will agree.
Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee (on Recommitment) in respect of Clauses 2 to 4 and Schedule 2 to the Bill. — (Earl Ferrers.)
§ 3.30 p.m.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
My Lords, I hope that the Minister will hot have been put off by the ironic laughter which punctuated his speech from time to time. It was friendly laughter, in contrast to the friendly fire in the military sense which he received from his own Benches at earlier stages of the Bill. Perhaps I may make it clear immediately that we find this a very welcome statement. As a result, I shall not move the whole of the first two groups of substantial amendments relating to the composition of police authorities which are in my name and those of other noble Lords on the Marshalled List.
I do not wish to detain the House because the impact of what the Minister said, however complex, has already sunk in very effectively. However, there have been four issues about the composition of police authorities in which the views of the House have been made known and have had effect on the Government. The first was the appointment of the chairman by the Home Secretary. There the most powerful speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Whitelaw, made it possible on 2nd February for the Government to withdraw the suggestion.
Secondly, there was the fixed-size membership of police authorities at 16. There again, a most powerful speech from my noble friend Lord Callaghan and the noble Lord, Lord Carr of Hadley, persuaded the Government on 2nd February that it was right for them to withdraw from that position, which, as my noble friend said, would have been a procrustean bed.
The third issue was whether the local authority representatives should be in a majority on police authorities. The arguments which we put on 15th February in amendments were powerfully supported by a number of noble Lords opposite, notably the noble Lords, Lord Rippon, Lord Mottistone and Lord Elton. We are delighted that the result has been a recognition that it is right for local authority members to be in a majority on police committees of whatever size. We would perhaps have wished it to be a larger majority than the simple majority of one which is being agreed to, but nevertheless it is a local authority majority and a recognition of the importance of the tripartite agreement that has been the basis of policing for the past 30 years and indeed before that.
The fourth was the question of what I would still call, if they were still proposed, the Home Secretary's "placemen", the so-called independent members on the police authority. The noble Lord, Lord Elton, again in a powerful speech, referred to his preference for what he called "supervised co-option". I think that that is what we have: a co-option system where there is involvement 948 by the Home Secretary but that involvement is at arm's length— at the length of a very long arm— rather than being direct. We need to see the actual text of the amendments, but I think that we can go ahead on the basis that those co-options to police authorities made by the local authority and magistrate members will not look to the Home Secretary for direction or approval. They will not be turning to him on the basis that he is responsible for them being there. We will therefore have a stronger police authority.
I wish to emphasise that a stronger police authority is what we in the Opposition have argued for all the time. Perhaps I may remind the House of our Amendment No. 11 which is on the Marshalled List again today. We did not argue for a slavish adherence to the existing formula for police authorities; we argued for a police authority made stronger by co-option, by the recognition of the need for businesses, education, the youth service, if necessary, the prison service and many other local interests to be recognised in its membership.
However, that cannot be laid down from Westminster or Whitehall. It has to take into consideration the skills and experience of the local authority and magistrate members, adjusted to make the most powerful police authority overall. In other words, where there are gaps in local authority and magistrates' experience, those gaps, which may be different from area to area, should be covered by the way the co-options are devised. I believe that in the formula which the Minister has put forward to the House and which will be put forward again at Report stage— complex though it may be— we have gone a long way to achieving that.
There will be questions about criteria. The Minister used a curious phrase: "enduring criteria, which might be highlighted in the Bill". I do not know how one highlights something in Bills; Bills are in black and white so far as I am concerned. There may be questions about some of the numbers. We have heard for the first time that the selection panel will have to put forward 20 names and I had not encountered that argument before.
However, those are details, minor matters. Basically what we have is a system— if I may adopt the formula of the noble Lord, Lord Elton— of "supervised co-option" which we find acceptable as a solution to the problems that faced us.
The Minister has been courteous and explicit today. I wish to place on record that he has been exceptionally courteous in the past two weeks in the course of the meetings which have taken place between us and him. I can understand that he may have been exasperated from time to time, but he almost never let that exasperation show. He has always listened carefully to what has been said, disagreed for reasons which he has made clear and agreed whenever it has been possible for him to do so. For that and for all the consideration he has given, we have been grateful.
It might be thought that we have not performed a service to democracy by taking some of the discussions off the Floor of the House. But I hope that your Lordships will not feel that. Our attitude has been that of Teddy Roosevelt; we hope that what we have done is to speak softly but carry a big stick. Treading softly, for 949 us, has been engaging in courteous and civilised discussion with the Minister and officials. The big stick has been your Lordships. We are grateful.
§ Lord Jenkins of Hillhead
My Lords, I think that I am the only former Home Secretary in your Lordships' House who has not so far pronounced upon the Bill. As I happen also to be the only recidivist Home Secretary — in other words, one who went back to the office — for 50 years or more, it gives me a total service of four-and-a-half years. As Home Secretaries do not on the whole live long or secure ministerial lives, I believe that I have the longest tenure since Rab Butler. We could probably all agree that in view of recent events it is rather unlikely that Mr. Michael Howard will break through into that league of longevity. Nevertheless, I believe that in all fairness one should say that the primary generic responsibility for the Bill does not rest with him. We should bear that in mind when considering these matters.
The reason I have not spoken before is that, as I think noble Lords will broadly agree, my noble friend Lord Harris of Greenwich has an exceptional authority and knowledge on police matters. Also, there were certain difficulties about dates.
I suppose that the really interesting thing after this period of silence would be if I were to say that I disagree with all my four colleagues in this House and regard this as an admirable Bill. But even if I were disposed to do so, I would find it rather difficult to know how I should congratulate the Government upon the Bill. Should I congratulate them upon the original version of Clause 2 or upon the version which is now before this House? They bear practically no relationship to each other.
The centrally appointed chairmen, the Home Secretary's "prefects of police", have gone. The centrally appointed five members have partly gone; and their balancing role to provide a possible majority has totally gone. As for the Lords Lieutenant, who made a fleeting appearance on the stage— a reluctant one on their part— in January, they have been released into limbo. One can say that that shows great and admirable flexibility on the part of the Government. One could possibly with more accuracy say that it shows a belated ability to recognise reality when it is met head on.
We all have a great regard for the noble Earl, Lord. Ferrers, and for his command of gifts of temper (and of very good jokes quite often). We appreciate the way in which he has discharged his task this afternoon. But I do not think it can be pretended that the past few weeks have been exactly the noble Earl's most glorious period. Although we on these Benches shall certainly not oppose what is now proposed— to do so would be like firing shots into the back of a routed army— there are three points which remain to be made.
First, the Government had plenty of warning not to get into the unenviable position which they have occupied at least since the Second Reading. On 26th May last year my noble friend Lord Harris of Greenwich initiated a debate before the White Paper was published in which 16 Peers other than the Minister spoke. Of those 16 Peers,13 spoke strongly against the proposals 950 that were enshrined in the Bill. One spoke in favour of them; and on looking at two of the speeches the import was not entirely clear. As a result, the Government took absolutely no notice in the White Paper which followed. The House then proceeded to the Second Reading in January, when I believe 30 Peers spoke against the Bill; and perhaps two, other than Ministers, were in favour. It has been a long time since then; it has been seven weeks. The Government have been slow, although they have reacted.
The second point which must be made is that of the concessions which, under duress, have been made in Clause 2—
§ Lord Harmar-Nicholls
My Lords, is the noble Lord aware of the sourness of his approach compared with that of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, in view of all that has happened and the Government's taking heed of the expression of the House?
§ 3.45 p.m.
§ Lord Jenkins of Hillhead
My Lords, is the noble Lord aware of the fact that his interventions have a special quality which is appreciated more by some than by others?
It is important to appreciate that what has happened has not turned Clause 2 into a desirable or useful clause. The Government have merely turned it from being a highly harmful one into a pointless and almost farcical one. The elaboration of the procedure is totally disproportionate to the value of any result which will be achieved from the existing practice so far as police authorities are concerned. The process by which it was described, in which a longer list would be sent to the Home Secretary, a shorter list would be sent back, and then the choice would be made, dissolved the House into very considerable mirth at that stage. It was the most complicated and elaborate procedure that one could possibly imagine. It is not an aid to police efficiency but an expensive piece of sticking plaster for such bits of the Government face as are still in place.
It is impossible to avoid the view that the whole sad history of this Bill has been a classic example of how not to legislate. You mix dogma and hubris with a reluctance to consult— there was no prior consultation before this Bill was brought in— and a determination to legislate at almost all cost, whether it is necessary or desirable to legislate at all; without consideration of whether the Bill is necessary or not; without consideration of whether the legislation is well thought out or not; without regard to any prior independent inquiry; without regard to whether there is any support for the Bill from those who know about the matter and have expertise in it. You therefore end up with the humiliation by instalment which we have seen.
We greatly appreciate the good faith with which the noble Earl has acted throughout. Nobody wants to encourage lack of responsibility in respect of strong 951 views expressed in this House. But this really ought to be an object lesson in how not to legislate. It ought to be an object lesson in the undesirability of every Minister in a short period of office feeling that he must produce a major Bill whether it improves matters or not and whether or not the re is a problem to be dealt with.
§ Lord Callaghan of Cardiff
My Lords, I am much obliged to the noble Lord— especially as he has contributed so much to this Bill, and perhaps to the changes that have taken place. I promise him that I shall not keep him from the House for more than two or three minutes.
I must say that it has been a day of surprises. When I arrived I asked to see the amendments on the Marshalled List. I saw that changes were proposed in the matter of the election of the chairmen, and nothing else. I thought, "My goodness, this is going to be a great day: no change at all, after all we have heard and all the negotiations that have taken place involving the Opposition and the noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale". I asked myself: "What will the noble Viscount, Lord Whitelaw, do today? He went out on such a limb on these matters and now only an amendment appears on the Marshalled List about the chairmen?". I thought I was in for a great parliamentary day.
§ Lord Callaghan of Cardiff
It depends on from which side of the House you are speaking. On this side, yes, but as regards the other side, I would have thought that this is perhaps not the greatest parliamentary day in their history.
I find in fact that there is a surprise. Although the Marshalled List states meekly and mildly that we are having recommittal proceedings, we have had nothing of the sort. All that we have had is a new Second Reading. The 21-minute speech that we enjoyed (I speak for myself) on this side of the Chamber was of such a character that, had it been made before by the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, we would have regarded it as almost a complete Second Reading speech.
I want to thank the noble Earl most warmly for the revised speech that we have had, which has altered the whole complexion of the four issues on which a number of us were in dispute with the Government. It would be churlish of me to do anything but congratulate the noble Earl. Some doubts were expressed as to whether he had the capacity to influence the Home Secretary. We now know that it is he, and not the Home Secretary, who is in charge of the Bill. He has had his way over this matter. He undertook very clearly to represent all that we had to say. Undoubtedly, he represented it to the Government and he has won. I salute him and congratulate him on his great victory on behalf of us all.
The noble Earl referred to the fact that our opposition was fierce. On the contrary, I thought that the noble Viscount, Lord Whitelaw, roared as gently as any sucking dove. But there was no doubt about the meaning that lay behind what he had to say. The Government have behaved with very great discretion, especially in 952 putting up the noble Earl to give us this revised Second Reading of the Bill. I can think of no one else who could discharge that duty and convince us that a retreat is indeed an advance. The Government's retreat on this particular matter will certainly be recorded in the annals of the Conservative manifesto at the next election as one of the greatest advances ever made in the history of the Tory party in conferring powers upon the people of this country. So we salute and congratulate them.
I shall not follow the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, in rubbing salt in the wound. But it is an extraordinary day when the four major issues we discussed on Second Reading have been reversed by the Government. I congratulate them and salute them for doing so. They have done the right thing. But, as the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, indirectly remarked, it shows that Ministers who are anxious to make a reputation for themselves are certainly wise to leave the department for higher things before what they say comes home to roost or at least to legislation in this House.
I shall not raise any detailed points today. The cumbersome procedures by which the independent members will now be selected seem rather extravagant and rather absurd. No doubt that will be discussed again in Committee. No one will die in the last ditch for this issue. My guess, especially as my noble friend Lord McIntosh says that the Opposition agree (and who am I to disagree?) is that the Government will now get their Committee stage with relevant ease.
At the end of the day all that any of us can say is that, in respect of the procedures, the Government have given up the substance and kept the form. It is an empty procedure that they are now following. They might as well have gone back and allowed the police authorities to elect their own chairmen and to select who they themselves— that is to say, the local councillors plus the magistrates— thought it would be worthwhile adding, if the Government believed that it was necessary to have some additional members. They might as well have done that instead of going through such an elaborate farce, sending 20 names to the Home Office, receiving 10 names back and then selecting five. I suppose that it is a small price to pay for saving the Government's face. I am happy now to help them continue to save their face but I ask them, please, not to produce any more legislation like this.
§ Viscount Whitelaw
My Lords, I do not wish to follow the far more distinguished Home Secretaries than I, the noble Lords, Lord Callaghan and Lord Jenkins. I would not wish to live in their world and I do not seek to do so in what I shall say. I simply have two comments which I believe are important to your Lordships' House.
Ever since I had the privilege of being the Leader of your Lordships' House and even from the earliest days when I first came here, I have always believed that there were times when this House had a function to fulfil in constitutional actions. It had a special role to play.
Obviously, as a former Home Secretary, I was interested in this particular programme. But the problem we faced in the Bill was a very great one. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, because I feel he will understand, that when one's own party and one's own 953 government are in office, there are certain roles that one can play and certain roles that one should not play. I had to try to make up my mind as to the right thing to do. I am very pleased to learn today that your Lordships' House has taken an action— some of us may have made a right decision, some of us a wrong one — and made a change in our legislation that I believe is of enormous importance to our country.
My noble friend Lord Ferrers has conducted the Bill with very great skill. I believed from the start that he would do so. Everything that he has done from the beginning shows what can be done by someone who is fulfilling his role in your Lordships' House. I hope that he will feel that he has done a very considerable job for everyone.
I believe that this House sometimes has to say, "Think again" and sometimes, "No, we do not believe that that will work". Equally, if the constitution is to work properly, there has to be from the other place an understanding by Ministers that we have a full role to play. We do have some wisdom that they do not have or we do not feel that they have or which is different. It is important and only fair that I should say that my right honourable friend the Home Secretary has had the courage to take these decisions. When he saw that your Lordships' House believed that his Bill was wrong, he was prepared to take those decisions. We should not underrate that position. I hope that no one will do so. Some people may do so and say that he is running away from it all. I am not prepared to take that view. I believe that he has been reasonable and sensible in taking his decisions and in paying attention to what has been said in your Lordships' House. It would have been perfectly easy to have gone through with the Bill and not to have done that at all. However, he took that decision. I thank him for it. I believe that it shows the importance of your Lordships' House.
I believe that a Bill, about which I myself was gravely unhappy, based on my experience as Home Secretary, has been dramatically changed. I am very relieved about that. Your Lordships' House has carried through a major task. I wish to thank my noble friend Lord Ferrers for what he has done. I am also grateful to my right honourable friend the Home Secretary for what he has been prepared to undertake in response to what was put forward in your Lordships' House. If the Bill has been made better on that score, it is greatly to the credit of your Lordships' House and no one else.
§ 4 p.m.
§ Lord Allen of Abbeydale
My Lords, I rise with some diffidence after listening to three previous chiefs, but I feel that perhaps a very short contribution from the Cross Benches may be appropriate. I had hoped that this important announcement would be made for the first time in Parliament. Alas, that was not to be, and as usual we read about it in the newspapers this morning. The Times did its best on the back page. In a list of contents, it said that the Home Secretary had given way on local authority representation, and referred to page 11. But there is nothing on page 11.
954 The proposals now envisaged by the Government fall short of what I personally regard as ideal, as I tried to explain at the earlier Committee stage. They do not provide for a two-thirds majority for the elected representatives; the size of the authority is still determined by the Secretary of State; the independent members will form a significant proportion of the membership of the police authority and will carry considerable weight if it ever comes to voting, and the Secretary of State is still involved in their appointment as compared with each authority being left to have an unfettered choice in co-opting additional members on the lines of Amendment No.7, which is now not to be moved.
On the other hand, the local authority members will be in the majority, however slight. It will fall to the authorities to assess how the gaps in their combined knowledge and experience are best to be filled— they are the only people who can really do that— and the selection procedure, cumbersome thought it sounds, will ensure beyond doubt that the independent members are not simply government nominees.
For his part, the Home Secretary has certainly given up some of his original proposals as well. But he retains his central point of independent members acceptable to him being added to the police authority and sharing in the new responsibilities for spending considerable sums of money, most of which comes from the Exchequer. In other words, it is not a victory for one side and not a defeat for the other; it is a compromise, hammered out over some prolonged and, on the whole, good tempered negotiations in which I was privileged to take some part.
There are one or two details about which I am not quite clear. Is it the Government's intention that the Bill be amended to provide that the approval of more than half of the local authority members will be required for a precept? On the selection procedure, what happens if the three individuals cannot agree? Are names to be sent forward on a majority of two to one? What is to be the procedure for filling vacancies? Has this elaborate procedure to be gone through each time there is a casual vacancy? How will it be decided whether or not the appointment of those independent members will be renewed after their initial period runs out?
But those are points of comparative detail. Perhaps more important is that one may be permitted a tinge of doubt whether there will be enough suitably qualified people throughout the country who will feel able to be considered for the appointments which, after all, carry with them the prospect of a good deal of work and responsibility and no great financial reward. When one takes into account that some of the authorities will have more than 17 members— incidentally, membership of any police authority will now always be an odd figure — we are talking of almost 1,000 people being considered. However, we shall see. I must not pursue my doubts any further and affect the harmony of these proceedings.
The noble Earl was good enough to tender an invitation for further discussions before Report stage on such matters as the local police plan and the amalgamation procedure. I think that some of us will be disposed to take up that offer. For the present, I content 955 myself with welcoming the statement of the noble Earl and go along with the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, in saying that the two groups of amendments to which I put my name will not be moved.
§ Lord Mottistone
My Lords, briefly, I note that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, said that he will not be moving his amendments in the first two groups, and nor shall I. I hope to make my comments on them at Report stage without worrying your Lordships about them now.
Along with other noble Lords, I should like to say how extremely generous I believe the Home Secretary and my noble friend Lord Ferrers have been in making the moves which we sought to make, not just once but twice. I totally endorse what my noble friend Lord Whitelaw said; that is, that it can only be to their credit. It is quite remarkable to my mind, in political life, that people who listen, move and take note of what other people say do not receive the credit that they deserve. It is much harder to do that than it is to stand on a platform which is really unsustainable. They both therefore need to be congratulated.
I look forward to the Report stage. I cannot resist saying that I believe my solution to the problem of how to select the five extra people is much better than that of my noble friend and I hope that when he comes to table his own Report stage amendments he will take particular note of what I suggest rather than what he told us he intends to do.
§ Lord Mishcon
My Lords, my contribution will be short. The noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, has been praised, and rightly so. The Home Secretary received some modicum of vicarious praise. He needs it and I do not begrudge it. Others have been praised. But I wish to record in this House the responsible and courageous stand made by Her Majesty's Opposition in this Chamber, without whose work these amendments, this change to the Bill and this new "Second Reading" would not have been as your Lordships received it today. From the Back Bench I pay a tribute which has not been paid so far to my noble friend Lord McIntosh and to all those who assisted him on the Opposition Front Bench throughout the various stages of the Bill.
§ Lord Rippon of Hexham
My Lords, having been a critic of the Bill as originally introduced I warmly welcome the statement given today. It meets virtually all the criticisms that we made. The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, referred to "friendly fire" and I was reminded of the young Disraeli, sitting behind Sir Robert Peel. He said that if you sit behind Ministers and praise them, you are sneered at for seeking an office. If you sit behind Ministers and criticise them, you are sneered at for having been denied an office. Happily, many of us are old enough not to be bothered by those considerations and are content, from time to time, to be described as rebels.
In this instance, as the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, said, there is a case for general congratulations. Ministers have difficulties as well as Back-Benchers, perhaps even greater ones. But it is a mistake for many people outside this Chamber to think that a Minister can stand and say, "I accept the criticism; I will propose the 956 amendment". Of course the Minister must say, "I will bear in mind what has been said, but I must consult with my colleagues and I cannot give any guarantees". Therefore I join with those who expressed great appreciation for the way in which my noble friend Lord Ferrers dealt with the matter.
It is right also to express an appreciation of what the Home Secretary did. In that, I am fully in accord with my noble friend Lord Whitelaw. As I said on the last occasion, it is not easy for a Minister to change a measure that he inherited. And, of course, no sooner had we concluded our proceedings than the media took an interest in what we had done.
Inevitably the question was put to the Home Secretary, "Do you not agree that you have suffered a humiliating setback?" The word "humiliation" has been referred to today. The Home Secretary replied quite properly, "Not at all. This is part of the parliamentary process". We should be proud of it and we should thank him for the way in which he has responded to it. He said, "I will consider all that has been said but I will maintain the objectives of the Bill". I think we all supported the objectives of the Bill from the outset— stronger and more effective police authorities. The changes that the Government propose to bring forward at Report stage will strengthen those objectives. So I join in thanking the Home Secretary and believe, as my noble friend the Minister said, that this is democracy at work. We should not snipe at each other for what has happened; rather I think we could congratulate ourselves.
I took part in the debate on the White Paper proposals last May and I said then that the four matters that have caused such concern were avoidable without destroying the basis of the Bill. The then Home Secretary had said, "I am perfectly prepared to consider any representations as this legislation goes through Parliament". I concluded my speech on that occasion by saying that I hoped that our deliberations would help the Home Secretary to find a satisfactory conclusion to his deliberations of a kind that would command general support. I believe that the Bill as it is now proceeding should command general support.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Rippon has pointed out the difficulties of Back Benchers and their attitude to the Front Bench. However, the Front Bench has difficulties of its own, to which he also alluded. It is a commonplace of government that if you stick to your guns you are obstinate and blinkered and if you change your mind you are committing a U-turn and are weak. If we apply the standards of behaviour of individuals to those of government we will see that those who listen to reason and change their minds in response to it are actually regarded as greater in stature than those who do not.
I hope that we do not make too much of these changes. They have made the Bill greatly more acceptable but I would not wish my noble friend the Minister to feel that he had to face a Secretary of State whom he had forced into a retreat. It seems to me that he serves a Secretary of State whom he has helped to accept the reasoned arguments of your Lordships" 957 House on all sides and improve a Bill to create stronger and more locally responsive police authorities than we now have.
I am most grateful to my noble friend for his untiring and courteous work in the corridors and behind the scenes and for the way in which he has handled the Bill. However, greater voices than mine have been raised in his praise. I merely say thank you, my Lords, for advancing the constitution.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
My Lords, on a preliminary matter, I thank the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, for indicating that the Government have met our point in terms of rights of appeal and legal representation to officers who are reduced in rank. It was a matter of great importance to the police organisations, particularly to the Police Federation and the superintendents' association, and I am glad that the Government have met us on this point.
I turn now to the substance of the matter. Like everyone else who has spoken, I welcome the decision to drop the proposal to give the Home Secretary power to appoint at least five members to every police authority in England and Wales. That, together with the earlier proposal to appoint the chairmen as well, which was subsequently dropped, had created a major threat to our traditions of local, politically impartial policing.
The anxieties of the police were expressed in forceful terms by Sir John Smith, the president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, when he spoke only four weeks ago. He described those and other proposals in the Bill as "ill-conceived and unacceptable". They would, he said, be unlikely to improve the quality of policing in this country and would damage the constitutional basis upon which it had been built. That is precisely the position of my noble friends and many others in the House who have opposed the Home Secretary's proposals.
We opposed them and it should be remembered, as my noble friend Lord Jenkins of Hillhead reminded us, that they were produced by Mr. Clarke after only a few months at the Home Office. They had not been recommendations from a Royal Commission, or from a departmental inquiry, or from a Select Committee of the House of Commons. They were based exclusively upon. the whims of a single politician. I therefore welcome unreservedly the statement made by the noble Earl in withdrawing those proposals. The appointment of more than 200 political appointees to police authorities represented, in our view, the first major step towards national control of the police by central government. We are certainly prepared to accept the alternative proposal outlined by the noble Earl today which, as I think everyone recognises, has been subject to fairly protracted discussions between a number of us and the Government.
I should like to make only two points in conclusion. First, we recognise, as does the House, that the Government have changed their position because it was quite clear when these amendments were considered on the first day of the Committee stage that the 958 Government would have been defeated if they had not announced that they were prepared to consult. However, having said that, it would be right to pay a tribute to the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, who has been consistently helpful and immensely patient through our rather lengthy discussions, and to thank not only those who sit on the Opposition Benches and Cross-Benches but also a substantial number of Conservative Peers. Without their co-operation I do not believe these major changes would have been effected. I think that our country and the police service generally have every reason to be grateful to them.
Secondly, I am glad that the noble Earl has agreed to meet us before the Report stage to discuss some of the outstanding issues. There are some significant issues which are still in dispute. He has certainly agreed to meet us without making any commitment; and very properly so as well. But I think it would be even more helpful— I am not sure whether I detected a hint of this in the noble Earl's statement— if before the Report stage the Home Secretary were himself to meet representatives of the Association of Chief Police Officers. There are a number of issues of fundamental importance to the association on which it is highly desirable that there should be discussions before we come back to this question in the House.
It is overwhelmingly desirable for us to try to resolve these outstanding issues on a sensible basis. It is vital that we should do nothing to undermine the operational independence of chief officers. I noted what the noble Earl said and I was encouraged by it. He said:The operational independence of chief officers of police is paramount".We will hold him to that view in the discussions which we are about to have. The fact that chief officers are operationally independent is one of the principal reasons why our system of policing in this country is so widely admired outside our shores. A former commissioner of the Metropolitan police referred to the police service in this country as "the people's police". That is a wholly appropriate description. They are servants not of the government of the day but of the whole community. Let us do nothing in the Bill to put that reputation in jeopardy.
§ Lord Peyton of Yeovil
My Lords, having voiced once or twice the suspicion that governments are sometimes let down by their powers of hearing, I think it would be churlish if I did not take the opportunity to say today how very welcome my noble friend's statement has been. For me, this basic change colours my whole attitude to this part of the Bill. I echo what has been said on both sides of the House about the amazing patience and skill of my noble friend. I appreciate very much what he has said and done both within the Chamber and outside. His contribution to consensus, essential to the success of the Bill, has earned him our very great gratitude.
§ Lord Renton
My Lords, I wish to add one or two thoughts. I hope to be constructive in doing so. Like other noble Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Ferrers and the Home Secretary on accepting the 959 collective wisdom of your Lordships instead of defying it. That would have led to defeat, as was made clear on 15th February.
I congratulate my noble friend too on using the Motion for Recommitment as an opportunity for taking us into his confidence and for laying the foundations of what will necessarily be a more detailed discussion at Report stage. It is on that matter that I wish to put forward one or two points of detail.
I welcome the local authority majority on the slightly enlarged police authority. But I am still worried about the disparity there will be between the number of magistrates and the co-opted members. Instead of having five co-opted members and three magistrates, as expressed in our earlier debates, especially on this side, I would prefer to see five magistrates and three co-opted members. If we had only three members to co-opt we could have a much more simple procedure than the one described by the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, as a bit cumbersome. I hope that between now and Report stage my noble friend on the Front Bench, the Home Secretary, and perhaps some of your Lordships, will think again about that proportion because it is very important.
There was a time when the county police authorities consisted of 50 per cent. magistrates and 50 per cent. local councillors. Since 1964 we have had one-third magistrates on all police authorities, whether county authorities or city and borough authorities. That has had the very great advantage of bringing to the work of those authorities the experience that magistrates have gained in the courts where they see the problems faced by the police, can evaluate their performance and can think of ways of helping them. Having warmly congratulated my noble friend on those matters I have mentioned, I still hope that we shall have open minds on that point.
§ Lord Bethell
My Lords, I join in the general welcome given to my noble friend's statement and congratulate him on having listened most carefully to the points made by noble Lords at an earlier stage. There can he no doubt that he and his colleagues in the Government have shown great flexibility on the question of police authorities. There can be no doubt either that the police themselves will welcome the proposed changes.
One question was tucked in as an addition to the Minister's remarks on the main question of police authorities. It was mentioned a moment ago by the noble Lord, Lord Harris. I refer to police disciplinary procedures. My noble friend indicated that he would be moving an amendment that would allow the right of appeal to police officers reduced in rank by a disciplinary tribunal. That is extremely welcome. I hope that it is a sign of greater flexibility to come.
I shall be very grateful if my noble friend can say a few words on the general question of police discipline. We had some discussion on the matter on 17th February and on the following Monday. I shall be glad for any indication he is able to give as to whether the Government will seek to reverse Amendment No.128 on the Marshalled List, which was passed by the Committee on the Monday before last, and any 960 observations he is able to give on the other amendments which were put forward and then withdrawn as regards police discipline. I feel sure that such comments would be a very great help.
I welcome most warmly the intervention made by my noble friend and hope that we shall be able to make other representations to improve the Bill which is rapidly becoming one which the House as a whole should be able to accept.
My Lords, I am grateful, I think, for most of what your Lordships have been kind enough to say. The noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, said that he wished that the statement had been announced in Parliament but instead had read about it in the press. I agree. I wish that it had been announced in Parliament. I read about some of it in the press, too. The implication behind the noble Lord's remarks was not quite correct. The suggestion was that it had arrived in the press, possibly due to the department from which I operate. If it was not, that is fine—
I am deeply grateful to the noble Lord. Somehow, I did not believe that that was the implication. I picked up a mild flavour, but we are as distressed as the noble Lord. I am particularly grateful to those noble Lords who have been appreciative of the efforts that we made. It was not an easy task. I said that it would not be. But we tried to make an effort. In the lovely way he has, my noble friend Lord Mottistone said that he was glad about it but really thought that his amendments were better than those which the Government produced and perhaps we could think again. Then my noble friend Lord Renton said that perhaps his amendments were better than both. I ask them respectively and generously to contain themselves: we have been through all this. We have tried to find a route through. If we are going to open up the matter all over again by saying, "This amendment is better than that; we would rather have five magistrates and someone else would prefer three independents" and so on, we would really get ourselves into a most appalling tangle.
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, that others have contributed greatly. The noble Lords, Lord. McIntosh, and Lord Harris of Greenwich, the noble Baroness, Lady Hilton, and the noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, have gone out of their way to recognise that we have tried to find a path through this particular minefield. I am greatly appreciative of what they have done, their attitude, and the help they have given. In the end one can only do these things through goodwill on all sides.
The noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, was concerned that the Bill was amended to change the arrangements in order to ensure that the local authority members cannot be out-voted on the budget. Amendments of detail may be needed to reflect the changed proportions but in principle the arrangements set out in the Bill will continue. Again, he was anxious about what would happen if the panel did not agree. It is not a black and white issue. Those who are best suited 961 will be put forward and if it cannot be agreed that one person is better than another, then the panel will have to recommend that both are suitable for appointment.
I could not help but be fascinated— as one always is — by the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan which followed that of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins. I was a little disappointed with the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins. He was a very distinguished Home Secretary. Unfortunately, we have not had the advantage of his consideration on the earlier parts of the Bill and I believe that we are the losers for that. We tried to find a way through. The noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, then said that he did not want to fire any shots into the back of a routed army, that the procedure we had proposed was pointless and farcical and that it was humiliation by instalments. I found those pretty tough words to accept. However, the noble Lord is a tough operator and I suppose that he is entitled to put forward those views. But we were trying to get over a problem that we had all encountered. This is not a question of humiliation; it is a matter of Parliament saying what it thinks about the Bill and the Government saying that they will try to take note of it. I have to say that it is remarks like those of the noble Lord that make Ministers a little more obdurate than they may naturally want to be, for fear that if they try to give a bit to meet the point they will be castigated by someone with the power of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead. I hope he will feel that, on reflection, that was not perhaps one of the most helpful of the many observations that he has made since he has been in your Lordships' House.
The noble Lord, Lord Callaghan of Cardiff, is always such fun to listen to. He said he felt that this would be a great parliamentary day. He gave me mild stick for making a speech that lasted for 21 minutes. I apologise for it. I agree that I did make it. But the noble Lord made quite a powerful speech in Committee in which he suggested:In a difficult position the Minister is trying to make an offer that should be seriously considered … We must not rush into a decision until we know exactly how the Government intend to continue the discussion".He went on to say:They should not be the subject of party divisions. Indeed, today they have not been the subject of party divisions but there has been all-party agreement on many issues. Will the Minister say how he believes that matters can be carried forward?"— [Official Report,15/2/94; cols.137–138.]We did carry forward those matters. I told your Lordships how we proposed to proceed. Admittedly, I took 20 minutes to do that, but I am sure that every one of those minutes was a valuable one. Having explained to the noble Lord what would happen, he said that the Government regarded a retreat as an advance and made good fun of it. We tried to get over a difficulty which the noble Lord invited us to do. I believe that we have got over that difficulty. His speech was engaging. However, I hope he will not mind my saying that, though I have always had the most enormous respect for and admired the judgment of the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan of Cardiff, I believe that he took leave of his senses when he said that it is I and not the Home Secretary who is in charge of the Bill. In common rugger club parlance I think that the noble Lord has gone off his trolley. If he 962 really believes that to be so he knows nothing about my right honourable friend and very little about me, too. My right honourable friend is wholly in charge of this Bill and the Home Office. I am merely a little minnow in the pool swimming around trying to help where I can. It is not fair for the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan of Cardiff, to say that I am in charge of the Bill. That really is the kiss of death, if he is trying to place a wedge between my right honourable friend and myself. Of course, it is done with a degree of humour and I know that the noble Lord does not really mean it.
§ Lord Callaghan of Cardiff
My Lords, I say to the noble Earl that the last thing I want to do is to give him the kiss of death because then we will be left with the Home Secretary.
My Lords, I can imagine nothing better than that!
The noble Lord, Lord Callaghan of Cardiff, was also concerned about the "20-10-5" point. One must make clear that it is not a matter of the Home Secretary excluding 10 names. That was a matter about which the noble Lord was concerned. Rather, it is a matter of the Home Secretary putting forward the 10 most suitable names that he can.
My noble friend Lord Bethell asked about police discipline. I can tell him that we do not intend to reverse the recent decision of your Lordships. That is now a matter for another place. No doubt the other matters relating to discipline will be raised at Report stage. That is the part of the Bill to which this matter refers specifically.
I am grateful for the understanding that most noble Lords have been kind enough to give to our proposals. I am particularly grateful to the noble Lords who have played a part: the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, the noble Baroness, Lady Hilton, and the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee (on Re-commitment) accordingly.
§ [The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (Baroness Serota) in the Chair.]
§ Clause 2 [Police forces and police authorities]:
§ [Amendments Nos.1 to 8 not moved.]
§ Clause 2 agreed to.
§ Schedule 2 [Schedule to be inserted in Police Act 1964: police authorities]:
§ [Amendments Nos.9 to 16 not moved.]
Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No.17:
Page 51, leave out lines 22 and 23 and insert:
("7. — (1) A police authority shall at each annual meeting appoint a chairman from among its members.
§ The noble Earl said: In moving Amendment No.17 I wish also to speak to Amendments Nos.18 to 21. These amendments address the concerns expressed at 963 Second Reading that the appointment of police authority chairmen by the Secretary of State has the potential to increase the central control of the police and reduce local accountability. That was never the intention of the proposal. However, we are happy to meet the concerns expressed whenever possible. The amendments have the effect that the chairman of a police authority will be appointed by the members of that authority. We propose that, as now, they should be required to elect the chairman annually. New paragraph 7 of Schedule 2 is modelled on existing local authority provisions which require authorities to elect their chairmen as the first business of their annual meetings. The Home Secretary will have no role in the selection of the chairman. I beg to move.
§ Lord Mottistone
I wish to support these amendments. They reflect exactly what I hoped would happen.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
I do not know how the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, got his name on to the amendments. If I had known that spaces were available I would also have put down my name.
These amendments are very welcome. They give effect to the undertaking that was given on 2nd February that the Home Secretary should not have a role in the appointment of the chairman of a police authority. It is common sense and in my view deserves the unanimous support of the Committee.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
I referred to this matter on the Motion on Re-Commitment. This amendment is a critical one. I am glad that the Government have accepted the overwhelming will of the House in this matter.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
Earl Ferrers moved Amendments Nos.18 to 21:
Page 52, line 16, leave out ("or as chairman").
Page 52, line 22, leave out ("the chairman of a police authority, or").
Page 52, line 23, after ("resigns") insert ("his office as a member").
Page 52, leave out lines 44 to 46.
§ On Question, amendments agreed to.
Lord Harris of Greenwich moved Amendment No.22:
Page 53, line 6, leave out paragraph 18.
§ The noble Lord said: The effect of this amendment is to change the proposal outlined in paragraph 18 of Schedule 2 to disqualify from a police authority any person whose term of office expires after he or she has attained the age of 70. Given the fact that there is a four-year term of appointment, the effect of that provision is that if one's birthday is on the wrong date one can be disqualified from membership of a police authority at the age of 66. That seems to me to be a most extraordinary provision and I cannot believe that that is the intention of the Government. All I do at the moment is indicate our concern to the noble Earl and hope that in the discussions that are to be held he will look at that specific point. I beg to move.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
I agree with the thrust of the amendment, although I am not sure that it is the 964 best way of achieving the aim. The normal procedure for appointments to external bodies of local authorities is that the appointments should be made from year to year. I would rather see the more complex amendments which will be necessary to ensure that they are made annually with the possibility of renewal, rather than the imposition of an age limit. Certainly, the fundamental point behind the amendment is right. It would be absurd to exclude people at the age of 66. The noble Lord, Lord Harris, will reach that age fairly soon and I shall reach it soon after and we are not finished yet!
I was going to say, "More' the pity", but that would be ungenerous and untrue. Paragraph 18 might appear to discriminate against those who are of more mature age. There is good reason for that. It. is a requirement that a person who is a magistrate must step down from that office when he or she reaches the age of 70 and it does not seem unreasonable that that should apply to members of the police authority. The noble Lord, Lord Harris, was concerned that they might have to step down at 66, which would be most terrible. I assure the noble Lord that that is unlikely to occur because a 66 year-old can be appointed for a term which is shorter than four years, which will take him or her to the age of 70.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
I intend to withdraw the amendment but on the point of substance I agree with the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, that it is more appropriate to have annual appointments. If that is not the case all kinds of other problems are likely to arise. However, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Schedule 2, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 3 [Functions of police authorities]:
Lord Peyton of Yeovil moved Amendment No.23:
Page 3, leave out lines 7 and 8.
The noble Lord said: I do not wish to say or to do anything which will disturb the harmony of the afternoon. Nor do I wish to convey even the slightest impression of anything but total admiration for my noble friend. However, perhaps I may take this opportunity to comment on the quaintness of the drafting. The position may seem strange to someone who is not skilled at interpreting such papers. My amendment deletes lines 7 and 8, which provide that:
any objectives determined by the Secretary of State under section 28A of this Act".
It is odd that "section 28A of this Act" is to be found at Clause 11 on page 9 of the Bill. Anyone looking at the papers afresh would be puzzled unless they were used to the fact that almost nothing in legislation means what on the surface it appears to mean.
The point is not all that serious but I should like my noble friend to comment on the amendment, which I do not intend to press today. I beg to move.
§ Lord Renton
Perhaps I may try, the Committee may think for once, to be helpful. The dilemma is that we must either repeal and re-enact the Police Act 1964 or amend those parts of it which will dovetail into this Bill. If we take the latter course, which the Government have decided upon because it will save a great deal of 965 parliamentary time, we shall be faced with a tiresome situation which I can understand my noble friend not liking. The alternative is completely to repeal the 1964 Act and take much more time in re-enacting those parts of it with which no-one quarrels and can be allowed to remain.
§ Lord Elton
My noble friends difficulty will disappear as soon as the supplementary insert for Halsbury's Statutes, which deals with this new legislation, is published. He will then be able to read the principal Act as amended by this Act, which will be easy to do.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
We are in danger of moving from a recommittal to Committee straight to speeches on the Bill do now pass. The noble Lord, Lord Renton, has a point in saying that the whole of the Bill, which consists of lengthy and complex amendments to previous legislation, requires us to know the Police Act 1964 and the Justices of the Peace Act 1979. The situation may be remedied when Halsbury's Statutes are republished as the noble Lord, Lord Elton, said. However, it is extraordinarily difficult for those of us who must try to tackle amendments.
I shall not concern myself further with the drafting point but I shall be interested in hearing the Minister comment on national objectives. In the Motion on recommittal the Minister used curious words; he talked about "highlighting enduring criteria". I take it that this is the part of the Bill to which he was referring. I do not understand how one highlights something in a Bill and I shall be interested to hear what the Minister meant in the proposed use of the legislation to specify national objectives.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Lord Renton
Perhaps I may add to what was said by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, and my noble friend Lord Elton. Not only Halsbury's Statutes but The Statutes Revised will enable amendments to be put into a form with which the users of the statutes can easily grapple. Meanwhile, in considering the method that we use we must consider the parliamentary timetable.
I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Peyton for not wishing to disturb the harmony. I am always nervous when he rises in case that might happen, but he has not done so today. He was concerned with the quaintness of the drafting. I agree that it is not all that easy because one is constantly referring to the 1964 Act. The Bill amends that Act and my noble friend Lord Renton is right in saying that we must make amendments this way or redraft a new Act. It was decided to do it this way. The Bill sets out a series of amendments to the 1964 Act and I sympathise with my noble friend in his difficulty in seeing it all the way through.
Clause 3 requires a police authority to have regard to objectives. My noble friend's amendment removes that obligation. The purpose of the objectives is to give a focus to police activity across the country. The amendment will reduce the objectives merely to 966 exhortations. That would be too vague. Amendment No.27 removes any obligation on police authorities to comply with a direction by the Secretary of State either to set a performance target or to take remedial measures following an adverse inspection report. It is reasonable that local people should know how good a service their local force provides from year to year and in comparison with other forces. Removing a requirement for a police authority to set a performance target will allow a poor authority to continue to disguise its own weakness.
The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, was concerned about what I described in my original speech as highlighting the "enduring criteria". We intend to produce amendments to the Bill which will be able to put on the face of it certain criteria which will be what one might describe as everlasting. Other changes will need to be made by subordinate legislation. From time to time it may be necessary to change the criteria, and that can be done without changing primary legislation. It is only those criteria of an enduring nature which will appear on the face of the Bill. I hope that that solves the noble Lord's problem.
§ Lord Peyton of Yeovil
I am grateful to my noble friend. I should not consider for a moment pressing the amendment. I was rather hurt to hear my noble friend say that I am capable of introducing a note of something other than harmony into our proceedings. I should not have expected that from him. I thought that I was a source of harmony, and I am glad to be one this afternoon.
I should like to take the opportunity to thank my noble friends Lord Renton and Lord Elton for their advice. I had limped along to the conclusion which they kindly pointed out to me. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, understood my point about the drafting; that is, that those who attempt to follow the proceedings on these Bills must find it extremely difficult when they do not have all the necessary books before them to cope with this kind of drafting. It is rather confusing to look in Clause 11 of this Bill for Section 28A of the Police Act. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Baroness Hilton of Eggardon moved Amendment No.24:
Page 3, line 9, after ("authority") insert ("after agreement with the Chief Constable").
§ The noble Baroness said: In rising to speak to this amendment I shall not disturb the harmony of the Committee and I hope to contribute to the discussions which the noble Earl says he will have with us and with others in the next fortnight. I hope that the suggestion that the Home Secretary will meet the chief constables in the interim will also be taken up, as was suggested in the noble Earl's earlier statement.
§ In speaking to Amendments Nos.24,25,28,29 and 35, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos.26 and 31 to 34 because the same argument applies to them also. They relate to the setting of objectives and the drawing up of local policing plans by the police authority. In our view, it is essential that those plans carry with them the 967 commitment of the local police force and the chief constable of that force if they are to be carried out and adopted enthusiastically.
§ The amendments refer to "agreement with the Chief Constable". I understand the point that that gives a veto to the chief constable, which may be an unnecessarily antagonistic view of what takes place in police authority discussions. Therefore, it may be that the amendment should not refer specifically to "agreement with the Chief Constable" but should reflect joint plans or plans that have been developed together. A form of words should be found to make it clear that the status of the chief constable is equal to that of the police authority.
§ In his statement the Minister referred on more than one occasion to the importance of the tripartite arrangement. That arrangement between the police authority, the chief constable and the Home Office implies equal status among those partners. It is not an arrangement whereby orders are given by the Home Office to the police authority or by the police authority to the chief constable. The implication that a police authority might draw up plans or set objectives which would then be imposed upon the chief constable and the police force would clearly be counter-productive to the smooth running, efficiency and enthusiastic adoption by a police force and a chief constable of those objectives and plans.
§ I urge the Minister in his discussions in the next fortnight to try to find common ground so that it is accepted that the chief constable is an equal partner with regard to the drawing up of objectives and plans. Otherwise, the police authority can give orders to a chief constable. My experience of situations in which people are given orders which they find unacceptable or with which they do not agree is that there is no whole-hearted commitment and one finds what is called front-line deviancy. I have been guilty of that in my time. If orders come down from above and one does not agree with them and is not committed to them, there are many ways in which they can be subverted and not carried out. That is not a desirable situation for the police forces of this country. It is essential that the police authority plans and objectives are drawn up with the understanding and co-operation of the chief constable and his police force and in partnership with them. I beg to move.
§ Lord Renton
I am glad that the noble Baroness, Lady Hilton of Eggardon, remembered and accepted the proposition that if we write into a statute that there shall be the agreement of somebody, that gives that person a right of veto. Each of the nine amendments would have the effect of establishing a veto to be exercised by the chief constable. That would be a veto not only over the Home Secretary but also over the police authority. I believe that that would be going too far.
I do not see the need for the amendments or anything like them. However, I suspect that the noble Baroness really has in mind that there should be consultation. I doubt whether that needs to be written into the statute because I do not see how those agreements could be reached between the police authority and the chief 968 constable and the Home Office and the police authority without there being a good deal of consultation about extremely important matters.
Section 4(2) (a) refers to:any objectives determined by the authority under section 4A",and that refers to local policing objectives. Amendment No.25 is concerned with,any performance targets established by the authority, whether under section 28B or otherwise".There again, it would be extremely rash to say that the chief constable should have a veto. Moreover, I do not believe that it is necessary to include a provision for consultation.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
What the noble Lord, Lord Renton, advocates is wholly inconsistent with the traditions of policing in this country. I am not sure whether he is aware of that, but I tell him as a fact that what he advocates is not consistent with anything that has happened in the British police service in this century. What he advocates would undermine the operational independence of the chief officer That is the effect of the attitude that he has adopted.
I shall not argue the case for agreement and the question of veto or anything of that kind today. The noble Earl made his position clear about this matter and we are to have discussions. I remind the House that the noble Earl said that the operational independence of chief officers is paramount. It is highly undesirable to have a situation in which a police authority can impose on a chief officer a local policing plan which is wholly inconsistent with his assessment of the operational requirements of his force.
I should adopt the language of the noble Baroness, Lady Hilton of Eggardon. We need some form of partnership. I am not clear how we shall work out a form of words which addresses that issue and it is not sensible to try to work out forms of words on one's feet; but I am alarmed by the prospect of a situation in which a chief officer may be seen as a mere subordinate official of a police authority to be given orders by a group of laymen, however that authority may be constituted, on sensitive operational policing issues which are, in my view, the responsibility of the chief officer. I am glad to say that I am reinforced in that by what the noble Earl said in his statement earlier today about the essential requirement of maintaining the operational independence of chief officers. I repeat, I shall be happy to look at any form of words which satisfactorily addresses that particular problem. However, I am very uneasy about a situation in which a police authority could impose its wishes on a chief officer, despite the fact that he may have the gravest reservations concerning the deployment of his force.
§ 5 p.m.
§ Lord Renton
Perhaps I may reply to the noble Lord, Lord Harris, as he seemed to express such strong disagreement with what I said. I also believe in the operational independence of the police. Indeed, as I have mentioned before, for four-and-a-half years in. the Home Office I was answerable in another place, with the Home Secretary, for police matters. I was not unaware 969 of the desirability of ensuring that the chief constable — and for that matter other police officers, because he has to delegate— should have operational independence.
I do not want to split hairs. However, it seems to me that operational independence refers to the day-to-day and week-to-week conduct of the responsibilities of the police. But when we are talking about objectives that is rather different. It is not interfering with operational matters; it is stating what the broad aims of the police authority and of the police in any police area should be. As I said, I do not wish to split hairs with the noble Lord, and I hope that we are not really in disagreement with one another.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
I, too, do not wish to split hairs. That is why I indicated that I would be most happy to look at alternative forms of wording. However, perhaps I may return to the point put to me by the noble Lord, Lord Renton. If I may say so, the problem involved in the noble Lord's approach to the matter is that one cannot look at local police objectives without realising that they have major resource implications so far as concerns the chief officer of police. If they are clearly defined local police objectives and they are to be taken seriously— as I hope they will be— that necessitates an examination of resource implications; for example, how many officers will be deployed for a certain purpose.
If one does not get the right form of words, the danger is that there could be a most unattractive collision between the police authority and the chief officer on a matter of great operational sensitivity. If I may say so, the view that I am expressing is that of many chief officers of police who are worried about the present formulation. I am anxious to try to work out some form of words which will deal with our anxieties and those of the noble Lord, Lord Renton.
§ Lord Allen of Abbeydale
Just for the record, it is perhaps worth saying that the amendments do not provide for a veto by the police authority; they provide a means of solving the dispute if there is disagreement. The White Paper said that the police authority and the chief constable would need to work closely together to ensure that the chief constable and the police force are providing a service which meets local and national needs. As at present, the direction and control of the force will be the responsibility of the chief constable. The police authority will have no powers to control operational matters.
There is much in the Bill about the powers of the police authority, but there is not that much about the powers and responsibilities of the chief constable, although we heard reassuring statements from the noble Earl earlier today. The painful fact is that the direction and control of the force can involve the disposal of available resources. As the Bill is presently drafted, there is quite a risk of a plan being imposed on a chief constable with which he does not agree and which it is beyond his capacity to deliver.
I am not, any more than other Members of the Committee, attached to the precise words in the amendments. However, there is a real point here. I am 970 encouraged to know that the Government are proposing to have discussions with the representatives of chief constables. I hope that something can be worked out before the next stage of the Bill's proceedings.
§ Lord Campbell of Alloway
It is not quite so easy for the Government to work out anything. I shall be very brief in what I have to say. At the end of the road, the concept of partnership implies a form of veto. The concept of agreement, as the noble Baroness has conceded, also implies a form of veto. That would perhaps not be acceptable. But surely, if one were to make Amendments Nos.24 and 25 say,after consultation with the Chief Constable",that would be a safeguard. If it takes place anyway, what is the harm? However, if it does not take place, at least it gives some safeguard.
§ Baroness Hilton of Eggardon
Perhaps I may reply to the point about consultation. We all know what consultation can sometimes mean. It can mean the most trivial involvement of people in the plans that one is setting out to achieve. Indeed, it is far too weak a word for what is required here.
As regards the point about resources, one does not just set objectives in the abstract. It is very easy to set objectives— and this relates also to the problem about national objectives— but they may not relate to the actual problems that arise during the year. For example, if there is an outbreak of murders, or a drugs problem arises which has not been included in the objectives and resources are diverted to it, will the chief constable be criticised for not carrying out the local authority's plans? If he is part of the actual formation of the objectives and plans, they are much more likely to be related to his ability to carry them out and deal with the sort of problems that are likely to arise in the force area.
I should also like to reply to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, about there being no way of resolution. If one looks at Amendment No.29 it will be seen that it says that, if there is no agreement, then Her Majesty's inspectors of constabulary could in fact impose objectives on the force area. Therefore, there is a way to escape the veto problem, although one would not like to go down that particular route. In my view, it should be an equal partnership and an agreement set out in whatever form of words we seek to achieve on the matter.
One should realise that objectives cannot be set in the abstract. One cannot assume that people will carry them out as they would simple orders— for example, left, right and march! The achievement of police objectives is extremely complex and is dependent on the local community; indeed, all sorts of things may throw them off course. They are also dependent on the resources available, and they can during the year be totally distorted by a major incident.
All the neat plans and orders from the top just do not arrive at the bottom in that shape. Anyone who has run any sort of organisation of human beings will know that that is not the way that it operates. Organisations of human beings only operate where one has the commitment and involvement of the people concerned. 971 Consultation is really not sufficient, and certainly not at the local level where people need to be involved on a day-to-day basis in what is happening.
I do not think that there is a great deal between us on the matter. The noble Lords, Lord Harris of Greenwich and Lord Allen of Abbeydale, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hilton of Eggardon, all drew attention to the difficulties which they believe could arise over such objectives. However, the amendments would have the effect of undermining the police authority's responsibility for deciding on what are the local objectives and performance targets. That is strictly the responsibility of a police authority.
The Bill places a clear responsibility on the police authority to determine those local objectives and to set performance targets. However, it cannot discharge those responsibilities if it is dependent on the chief constable's agreement on what the objectives or targets should be before they are officially set. If we were to accept the amendments, as my noble friends Lord Renton and Lord Campbell of Alloway said, they would in fact give a veto. I know that that is a word that the noble Baroness, Lady Hilton, does not like very much; but it is a fact. They would give a veto over any proposal about objectives or targets which the police authority may make. At the extreme, the chief constable could block the setting of any local objectives by the police authority. He could simply say that he did not agree with them.
He could insist that performance targets were set as low as possible, thereby ensuring that the force could easily achieve its targets without significantly improving its performance. This may seem unlikely but it would be perfectly feasible. In fact we expect both chief constables and police authorities to behave sensibly and that there will be a good relationship between the two.
It is difficult to see how realistically it could be otherwise, but it must be clear on the face of the Bill who is legally responsible and who is legally accountable for determining the objectives and key performance targets. At present it is quite clear. It is the police authority. I think the amendments would confuse the issue.
Of course, in practice we expect police authorities to discuss local objectives and performance targets with the chief constable before they are set and to reach agreement on them. The police authority will want to consult the chief constable so as to ensure that the local objectives are sensible and that they correspond to what the police themselves think are local priorities. They are unlikely, therefore, to take the form of a tablet of stone flung out of the sky. The police are not likely to be told that the objectives are cast in stone and they must get on with them. Of course there will have to be discussion. Similarly, the authority will want to set performance targets which are challenging without being disproportionately either high or low. They can only do this, quite clearly, in consultation with the chief constable.
In order to show that we recognise— and indeed that we wish— that this consultation will take place, I am perfectly happy to look again at Clause 3 to see whether we can introduce a requirement for the police authority 972 to consult the chief constable before setting local objectives and performance targets. I hope that this will go some way towards allaying the concerns of the noble Baroness, Lady Hilton of Eggardon, and the noble Lords, Lord Harris of Greenwich and Lord Allen of Abbeydale.
The noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, said that there was not much in the Bill about the operational independence of the chief constable to police the area as he sees fit. However, the Bill makes it quite plain in Clause 4 that the police force remains under the direction and the control of the chief constable.
I paraphrase the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Hilton of Eggardon, and I may have them 'wrong, but I believe she said that the objectives cannot be treated as orders and that one cannot give orders to the chief constable. However, it is not proposed that the chief constable should be given orders. All he has to do is to have regard to the local policing plan, and through it to local objectives and performance targets. He is not, however, bound rigidly by them at all.
The noble Baroness asked what would happen if a drugs problem suddenly arose in an area. It is, of course, up to the chief constable to deal with the operational problems as he sees fit. All he has to do is to have regard to the objectives. He may not meet the performance targets and he may not achieve the local objectives if there are good operational reasons which prevent him doing so. This is a matter for the chief constable's operational judgment. However, giving the chief constable a veto over all the objectives and performance targets is a different matter.
Amendment No.29 tries to get over the problem by requiring one of Her Majesty's Inspectors of Constabulary to determine local police objectives if the chief constable and his police authority cannot agree them. I hope that the Committee will agree that this would be inappropriate for two reasons. First, this is not a proper role for HM Inspectorate of Constabulary. The main task of the inspectorate is to inspect police forces in order to satisfy the Home Secretary that they are efficient and effective. It is not part of its role to substitute its judgment for that of the police authority. Secondly, the amendment calls again into question the responsibility of the police authorities. It would be quite wrong to transfer responsibility from the police authority to Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary.
I am entirely happy to consider this matter and to discuss it with Members of the Committee or with anyone else. I do not believe that there is a difference in approach here. There is no question that chief constables will be given orders. What we intend to do is to ensure that, whatever the objectives or targets, they should be made in consultation with chief constables. I believe it was the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hilton, who asked whether my right honourable friend had agreed to see the Association of Chief Police Officers. I do not believe that anything has yet been arranged but I am sure that he will be entirely happy to do so. I think that this is a problem which is not unduly difficult of resolution.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
All I would say on the latter point— it was I who raised this question of a meeting with the Association of Chief Police Officers — is that I very much hope this can be arranged. I believe some of these issues have high professional significance, as the noble Earl will recognise. One does not want to pass this legislation without realising some of the possible secondary consequences. If such discussions could take place between now and Report stage with ACPO, I think that would be highly advantageous.
§ Baroness Hilton of Eggardon
I had understood from the Minister's speech that arrangements were in hand to meet the chief officers of police and to discuss specifically these points. I am rather disappointed to hear that that is not a commitment of the Home Secretary.
§ 5.15 p.m.
I hope I may clarify that point. I said originally that my right honourable friend would wish to consult chief police officers. I meant that in a general way. However, I did not say that he has made specific arrangements to do so, but we will take that into account.
§ Baroness Hilton of Eggardon
Overall I am rather disappointed by the Minister's response. I believe that when the chief constables submit a draft plan for approval which is then altered, approved, sent back to them or whatever, they feel that they are being put in a subordinate position to the police authority and are not being treated as equals. I realise that the wording of the amendments we put forward may not be as sophisticated as it might be. Therefore, I shall withdraw the amendments and return with them on Report. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendments Nos.25 to 35 not moved.]
Baroness Hilton of Eggardon moved Amendment No.36:
Page 4, line 17, leave out from ("out") to end of line 20.
§ The noble Baroness said: This amendment relates to the report produced by the police authority. I apologise to the Committee as there should have been another amendment which substituted a separate report from the chief constable. This is again an area in which the chief constable is subordinated to the police authority. It is the police authority which apparently will produce a report on the operational policing of the force area. It is our view that the operational independence of the chief constable and his status as an equal with the police authority should be secured by the presentation by him of a separate report on the operational policing of the area. We will return on Report with an amendment to that effect. In the meantime I shall move this rather truncated amendment. I beg to move.
The noble Baroness has made clear that even though her amendment is truncated it has a purpose, which is to ensure that the chief constable's report is not subordinate to that of the police authority. That is certainly not our intention. I cannot believe that 974 what we have in the Bill will have that effect. The Bill underlines the extent to which the police authority and the chief constable need to co-operate in discharging their respective responsibilities.
We regard the policing plan, to which both will contribute, as a key element in the accountability of both parties to their public. We therefore think it is right that the reports should be linked in the way proposed. I cannot see that this is to the chief constable's disadvantage. It is likely that the police authority's report will want to draw attention to the achievements of the police force in a way possibly that the chief constable might not feel able to do and one which would give more credence and authority to the work of the force. The police authority might even want to congratulate the chief constable.
There is no sense in which the chief constable's report will become a subordinate part of the police authority's report. It will be included within the police authority's report but it is not open to the police authority to amend the chief constable's report in any way. The chief constable will no doubt produce his report as a self-contained document, which will be of interest both within the force and to people in the police area.
Just as the roles of the chief constable and the police authority are complementary, so we also believe that the two reports should be seen together in order to give the best overall impression of the policing of the area. That is why we have set up the statutory obligations in the way proposed. I emphasise that there is nothing to prevent the chief constable sending his report direct to the Home Secretary if he wishes.
At present the chief constable submits his report to the police authority. He is also required to send a copy of the report to the Home Secretary. However, the report is to the police authority. In future the position will be the same. The chief constable will be required to send the report to the police authority. The only difference is that he will not be required to send a copy to the Home Secretary, although in many cases, out of courtesy, he will wish to do so. My right honourable friend would be delighted to receive it.
Therefore, I hope that the noble Baroness will realise that the proposals do not subordinate the chief constable's report. It is essential that the report should be separate. It is his report. It is essential that the police authority should also make its report.
§ Baroness Hilton of Eggardon
I am grateful for that clarification. It appears from the text of the Bill that the chief constable's report forms a subordinate part of the police authority's report. I shall consider what the Minister said before Report stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 3 agreed to.
§ Clause 4 [Chief constables]:
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich had given notice of his intention to move Amendments Nos.37 and 38:
§ Page 4, line 36, at end insert ("which shall not contain reference to fixed term appointments for chief constables unless 975 by agreement between the Secretary of State, persons representative of police authorities and persons representative of chief constables.").
§ Page 4, line 36, at end insert ("which shall not contain reference to performance-related pay for chief constables unless by agreement between the Secretary of State, persons representative of police authorities and persons representative of chief constables.").
§ The noble Lord said: There are a number of problems associated with this issue. Given the fact that talks are to be held in the next couple of weeks, I believe that it 976 would be more appropriate for some of the issues to be ventilated at that time. Therefore, I do not propose to move the amendments.
§ [Amendments Nos.37 and 38 not moved.]
§ Clause 4 agreed to.
§ House resumed: Bill reported with amendments in respect of Clauses 2 to 4 and Schedule 2.
§ House adjourned at twenty-three minutes past five o'clock.