HL Deb 25 October 1999 vol 606 cc34-40

(".—(1) When the Secretary of State is satisfied that —

  1. (a) provision has been made such that no statutory functions remain, or are to remain, exercisable by the Receiver (whether as a consequence of provision made by or under this Act, the Access to Justice Act 1999 or any other enactment whenever passed), and
  2. (b) provision has been made for the transfer of all property, rights and liabilities of the Receiver (whether under Part XII below or by or under the Access to Justice Act 1999 or any other enactment whenever passed),
the Secretary of State may by order provide for the abolition of the office of the Receiver.

(2) In subsection (1) above references to the Receiver are references to the Receiver for the Metropolitan Police District.").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Schedule 22 [Further amendments relating to metropolitan police etc.]:

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 536P: Page 310, line 2, at end insert—

("The Metropolitan Police Act 1887

The Metropolitan Police Act 1887 shall cease to have effect.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this large group of amendments makes various consequential amendments to legislation dating back to the last century. Schedule 22 to the Bill already makes numerous such changes which are required to reflect the creation of the Metropolitan Police Authority and the eventual abolition of the office of receiver. These amendments simply complete the set. I beg to move.

Lord Lucas

My Lords, I am entirely "uncontent" to let the noble Lord get away with that. These are complicated amendments making many changes to existing legislation. If they had been connected with other amendments being discussed, they could have been grouped with them, but they have not been. They are presented in isolation as though they have something in common just because they amend existing Acts.

I should like an explanation from the noble Lord of the principal amendment in the group because from what is in front of me I fail to understand. I shall ask him the same question individually on each amendment in the group until we have reached the point where the House and I understand what is going on.

Lord Bassam of Brighton

My Lords, I can rely only on what I am advised. It is that the amendments are consequential. Looking at the schedule, they would appear to be exactly that. I am confident enough to say that they will not necessarily trouble your Lordships; they seem simply to follow on and to tidy up legislation.

I am happy to write to the noble Lord setting out in full what the amendments achieve. I can assure the House that they are all consequential to the establishment of the MPA, which we all agree is a highly desirable policy objective.

Lord Lucas

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, taking the first amendment, how can it be evident to anyone in this House that the abolition of the Metropolitan Police Act 1887 is entirely necessary for the purpose of the Bill? One might suggest it, but perhaps the noble Lord will tell me what that Act does. If it is obvious that what is proposed is required by the Bill, why was it not in the Bill at an earlier stage?

Nothing has changed. The Metropolitan Police Authority was always going to be created by the Bill. Why has it suddenly occurred to the draftsman that that Act now needs to be removed? That question applies to many similar amendments in the group. It is not sufficient for the Government to seek to move amendments which they do not understand, merely on the assurance of the Box, apparently not questioned by the Minister, that the changes are consequential. If the Minister does not understand amendments, he should not move them.

Lord Bassam of Brighton

My Lords, I believe that the noble Lord is overegging his argument and his point. It is the case that a number of amendments have to be consequential. I am happy to provide the noble Lord with a more detailed explanation of the cause and effect of all of these amendments in the fullness of time and in due course. I had hoped that he would be satisfied with that.

The legislation is complex. It cannot always be immediately obvious to those drafting it as to which other pieces of legislation need to be amended. I am sure that the noble Lord will accept that as a reasonable point.

The amendments repeal the Metropolitan Police Acts 1887 and 1897. They deal only with the sections which relate to the receiver's functions in relation to the police. They will no longer be relevant once the MPA is in place. The case is that the functions of the receiver will no longer be relevant once the MPA is set up and established. I should have thought that it was glaringly obvious, therefore, that one would seek to amend and negate the other pieces of legislation which no longer have relevance to the way in which the MPA will operate.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendments Nos. 536Q and 536R: Page 310, line 6, leave out paragraph 8 and insert— ("8. The Metropolitan Police Courts Act 1897 shall cease to have effect."). Page 311, line 5, leave out paragraph 15 and insert— ("15.—(1) The Metropolitan Magistrates' Courts Act 1959 shall be amended as follows. (2) In section 4(2) (borrowing powers of Receiver), the words ", or of the metropolitan police force," shall cease to have effect.").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 536RA: Page 311, line 29, leave out sub-paragraphs (2) to (4) and insert— ("( ) In subsection (1)(a) (definition of "member of the metropolitan civil staffs")— (a) before sub-paragraph (i) there shall be inserted— (ia) who is employed by the Metropolitan Police Authority; or"; and. (b) for that sub-paragraph there shall be substituted— (i) who was employed under the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis or the Receiver for the Metropolitan Police District and was not a constable and whose salary was paid out of the Metropolitan Police Fund;". ( ) In subsection (2) (power of Secretary of State to grant certain pensions payable by the Receiver out of the Metropolitan Police Fund) for the words from the beginning to "in respect of members of the metropolitan civil staffs" in paragraph (b) there shall be substituted— (2) As from the day on which section 269 of the Greater London Authority Act 1999 comes into force, the Metropolitan Police Authority shall have power to grant pensions or other benefits to or in respect of persons who on that day are, or thereafter become, members of the metropolitan civil staffs. (2A) The Metropolitan Police Authority may, to such extent and subject to such conditions as it thinks fit, authorise the exercise of the function of administering the grant of pensions and other benefits under this section by, or by employees of, any person. (2B) Where a person is authorised under subsection (2A) above to exercise the function of administering the grant of pensions and other benefits under this section, anything done or omitted to be done by or in relation to him (or an employee of his) in, or in connection with, the exercise or purported exercise of the function shall be treated for all purposes as done or omitted to be done by the person who authorised him. (2C) Subsection (2B) above does not apply for the purposes of—

  1. (a) any criminal proceedings against the authorised person (or any employee of his); or
  2. (b) any contract between him and the person who authorised him, so far as relating to the function.
(2D) Unless the powers conferred by section 7 of the Superannuation Act 1972. paragraph 36 of Schedule 14 to the Access to Justice Act 1999 or Part XII of the Greater London Authority Act 1999 are exercised for the purpose of making provision with respect to the provision of pensions for or in respect of members of the metropolitan civil staffs, the civil service provisions shall have effect (subject to any regulations for the time being in force under subsection (3) of this section) for the purposes of the grant of pensions and other benefits under this section to or in respect of such a member". ( ) In subsectior (3)(b) (power by regulations to adapt civil service provisions) for "(2)(b)" there shall be substituted "(2D)". ( ) In subsectior. (6) (requirement to consult before making regulations) after "staffs" there shall be inserted "and with the Metropolitan Police Authority". ( ) In subsection (7) (continuation of payment of pre-existing pension entitlement; by Receiver), for the words from "continue" to the end there shall he substituted "be paid by the Metropolitan Police Authority".").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this small group of amendments is concerned with pensions. As your Lordships know, we wish to ensure that the organisational changes we are bringing to London do not adversely affect the terms and conditions of the staff involved. This extends to their pension rights. Amendment No 536RA makes changes to Section 15 of the Superannuation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1967, which governs the pensions of civil staff of the Metropolitan Police. These staff are members of the Metropolitan Police Civil Staff Superannuation Scheme, which is by analogy to the Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme. This means that they receive the same benefits as do civil servants.

It may be helpful if I make it clear that pension arrangements for civil staff in the Metropolitan Police are quite separate from those of police officers. Police officers are part of a national pension scheme and their pension rights are not affected by this Bill. Amendment No. 536RA is intended to meet a number of policy objectives. It supersedes the minor amendments to Section 15 which Schedule 22 to the Bill already provides.

First, the amendment makes various changes which simply reflect the fact that the MPA will take on the employer and pension-payer roles currently undertaken by the commissioner and the receiver. Secondly, it is intended to provide that anyone who has any benefits under the MCSSS scheme as at 2nd July 2000 will not be disadvantaged when the MPA is established. At the same time, the intention is that staff who join the MPA after 2nd July 2000 will benefit also from the MCSSS scheme.

Thirdly, the amendment provides for three circumstances in which staff currently on the MCSSS scheme might move on to another pension scheme. Those are: first, if the MPA were to set up a local government pension scheme, which, in common with other police authorities, it will have power to do by virtue of the 1972 Superannuation Act. If it did that, new employees would be placed on that scheme and existing staff would be offered the option of transferring to it.

The second circumstance will be if an order is made under powers in Part XII of the GLA Bill to transfer MPA staff, as well as pensioners and deferred pensioners, from the MCSSS scheme to the PCSPS scheme. As your Lordships will be aware, Clause 337 already provides that employment with the MPA is to be included among the kinds of employment to which a scheme under Section 1 of the 1972 Superannuation Act can apply. Finally, powers in the 1999 Access to Justice Act might be used to move justices' clerks in inner London off the MCSSS scheme and on to a scheme operated by the Greater London Magistrates' Courts Authority, which is due to take up its full powers on 1st April 2001. Until separate arrangements are made for those staff, their pensions will be handled by the MPA.

The aims of the amendment are entirely proper and, I hope, uncontroversial. Pensions are of course a very important matter. They can also be very complex. The technicalities of this amendment therefore require a bit of unravelling even though the policy intention which I have just described is clear. It is possible that the amendment could be refined to ensure that our policy objectives are fully met. If, on further inspection, we conclude that improvements could be made, I should beg the indulgence of the House by saying that there is a possibility of our seeking to make some refinements at Third Reading.

Amendment No. 566A is more straightforward, so I will be brief. It inserts an extra provision into Clause 354 which requires that the Secretary of State must consult with the MPA and obtain the consent of the Minister responsible for the Civil Service before making an order under that section relating to pension transfers of MPA employees. The purpose of any such order would be to place those employees on to the PCSPS scheme. As I mentioned, Clause 337 includes the MPA among the list of bodies covered by Section 1 of the 1972 Superannuation Act. I beg to move.

Lord Tope

My Lords, I listened carefully to the Minister. I am grateful to him for pointing out that the matter is rather technical and not too easy to follow. I shall read carefully what he said. However, I wonder whether, for clarification and for simplicity's sake, he can confirm two points on the Government's intentions, irrespective of whether this version is the final one.

Can he confirm that there will be no alterations to the pensions actually being paid—in other words, that pension provisions will not change so far as relates to the pensioners covered under this provision? Can he further confirm that the changes being made here will not affect the budget for the Metropolitan Police service?

Lord Cope of Berkeley

My Lords, I also am grateful to the Minister for pointing out that this issue is rather technical and complicated. It is extremely important, particularly for those employed or to be employed and for those who have already retired or left the service. Nevertheless, it is extremely complex, as pensions provisions often are.

Several different groups of civilians are involved in the provisions. First, the civilian staff of the Metropolitan Police; secondly, the court staff who have been under receiver; and, thirdly, the probation staff, who have also been paid through the receiver of the Metropolitan Police for historical reasons.

Within each of those three groups there are existing staff who have built up pension rights for their length of service. There will be retired staff already on pensions, and there will no doubt be some staff who have left employment, who have deferred their pensions and who are waiting until they reach pensionable age. For each group within each staff bracket, we should like an assurance that those concerned will not be worse off but will continue to have the same entitlements, or receive the same amount of pension, as they have done until now.

I cannot quite understand the timing. Some of these provisions seem to be due to begin when the Metropolitan Police Authority itself starts to function. That is, after all, the point at which an individual member of the civilian staff stops being employed by the Metropolitan Police through the receiver and becomes employed through the new police authority. However, somehow or other, the Metropolitan Police Authority is required to be consulted about the order before it is made. If the police authority has not entered into its responsibilities, it is difficult to see how it can be consulted under the terms of Amendment No. 566A.

I may be getting the timing wrong, but it is clearly necessary that there should be a time-lag between the setting up of the Metropolitan Police Authority and the actual transfer of the employment if employees are to be properly consulted.

4.45 p.m.

Lord Bassam of Brighton

My Lords, I take first the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Tope. I am happy, willing and able to confirm that pensions paid prior and post to the time of transfer will be paid at the same rate. The noble Lord asked whether or not budgets would be affected. I can assure him that they will be unaffected.

The noble Lord, Lord Cope, also raised questions. Consultation for an order to make things effective will take place after 3rd July 2000; in other words, after the MPA has come into effect. I trust that that helps the noble Lord.

I can also assure the House that no one will be worse off as a result of the amendments. In addition, no probation staff will be on the MCSSS scheme. Only police civil staff and inner London justices' clerks will be on that scheme. I trust that that reassures the noble Lord, but I am happy to provide further elucidation if necessary.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 536S: Page 311, line 45, at end insert—

("The Firearms Act 1968

. In section 57(4) of the Firearms Act 1968 (interpretation) in the definition of "civilian officer", paragraph (b) and the word "or" immediately preceding it shall cease to have effect.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move.

Lord Lucas

My Lords, I did not object to the grouping but I want to speak to Amendment No. 536S. I should be grateful if the noble Lord could explain what is the effect of this amendment so that I and the House can understand why it does what the Minister claims it does; that is, nothing.

Lord Bassam of Brighton

My Lords, the noble Lord has me at a disadvantage. I confess that I am struggling to find the right reference so that I may provide him with an answer that is of some value.

As I understand it, the amendment affects the definition of a civilian officer which was inserted into Section 57(4) of the 1968 Act by Section 43 of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997. That definition is amended by deleting "or" and paragraph (b).

Lord Lucas

My Lords, I did get that far, but the noble Lord claimed that the amendment merely tidied up the wording in order to recognise the existence of the Metropolitan Police Authority. It is not at all clear to me how this amendment comes under that rubric. I should be grateful for an explanation as to how it does.

Lord Bassam of Brighton

My Lords, I believe that it will fall within that rubric because the Police Act ceases to have effect. I am conscious that the noble Lord is keen on these matters. The definition of a civilian officer was inserted into the 1997 Act. It was no longer needed because people are no longer employed under the receiver. That provision relates to Amendment No. 536S. Those two matters should satisfy the noble Lord. I appreciate his keenness in those matters.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendments Nos. 536T to 536XB: Page 313, line 40, at end insert—