HL Deb 25 October 1999 vol 606 cc9-91

3.8 p.m.

Further considered on Report.

Clause 269 [Establishment, membership and duty to maintain police force]:

Lord Dholakia moved Amendment No. 535ZA: Page 154, line 2., at end insert—


5BB. The Metropolitan Police Authority shall be subject to section (Discrimination) of the Greater London Authority Act 1999.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 535ZA I will speak also to Amendment No. 556A.

I welcome the Government's commitment to a strong and effective partnership between the police and local authorities working with local communities to fight and prevent crime. The amendment seeks to provide a framework which will deliver a permanent improvement in eliminating discrimination in the area of policing and in the rest of society. After all, this is precisely what the Home Office reported in the 15th United Kingdom periodic report to the UN Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination.

The amendment is designed to assist the GLA and the police publicly to reaffirm their commitment to investing in good community and race relations as a core function of policing. It will also assist the police and the GLA to undertake the community and race relations audit on a regular basis. The Scarman Report on the Brixton disorders in 1981 and now the Macpherson Report on the Stephen Lawrence inquiry described a wide range of detailed measures to relieve institutional racism within the police service. The purpose of the amendment is not in doubt. It is to ensure that the Metropolitan Police Authority provides an appropriate and professional service to all sections of the community. The amendment will ensure that while those in a position of power and influence have a special duty and responsibility to provide leadership, everyone in an organisation will understand what they are expected to do. The evidence which was submitted to both inquiries painted a picture of lack of confidence in the police among ethnic minority communities.

The Government have pronounced that at some stage the Race Relations Act will be extended to bring police activity within its scope. But hopes for a far-reaching improvement to race equality legislation have been dampened to an extent by a cautious government response to the CRE proposal to reform the race relations legislation. I was delighted when during Questions the Minister said that the Government have something in mind in terms of taking a cautious approach.

I mentioned during the Second Reading of the Bill—and it is worth repeating—that it remains the view of the Commission for Racial Equality that extending the scope of the Race Relations Act is not sufficient. We do not know when this will happen. The CRE can be truly effective when challenging discriminatory practices only if there is a duty on all public bodies to promote racial equality and eliminate racial discrimination and all other forms of discrimination on improper grounds. No organisation can afford to put off tackling discrimination merely because the new legislation is not in place.

The Government have relied so far on Section 71 of the Act, which states: It shall be the duty of every local authority to make appropriate arrangements with a view to securing that their various functions are carried out with due regard to the need—

  1. "(a) to eliminate unlawful racial discrimination; and
  2. "(b) to promote equality of opportunity, and good relations, between persons of different racial groups".
This provision in the 1976 legislation has not had the effect and impact that Parliament intended at that time. The permanent indicators on racial equality in the local authorities annual report to the Audit Commission show that despite Section 71 there are areas of local government employment practice and service delivery which remain wholly outside the equal opportunity programmes. The confirmed high level of complaints of racial discrimination of local authority employees—in 1996 they accounted for approximately 15 per cent of all cases decided by industrial tribunals—shows that, even where there are such programmes, there is a substantial gap between promise and performance.

So what do we see in the GLA Bill? The same old, tired and failed provisions. We shall miss a golden opportunity if we continue to put faith in Clause 71 of the Race Relations Act. It has not worked effectively.

The new clause applies to the GLA, the MPA and the Fire and Emergency Planning Authority. The proposed new clause differs from Section 71 in the following ways. First, the duty is a more direct one; it builds positive duties in regard to anti-discrimination and equality of opportunity for all into the functions of the GLA, the MPA and the Fire and Emergency Planning Authority. The experience of the Commission for Racial Equality is that the wording in Section 71 is sufficiently vague as to have enabled some local authorities to pay lip service to racial equality but to do little or nothing else over the past 20 years.

Secondly, the amendment proposes that the duty to promote equality of opportunity should apply to all of the areas identified in the EU treaty, Article 13, rather than racial equality alone. Thirdly, it refers to all kinds of unlawful discrimination. At the present time discrimination is unlawful on grounds of race, sex and disability. Again, the amendment goes beyond the scope of the Race Relations Act. It is not unreasonable to anticipate that in future, possibly in response to directives, discrimination in other areas will also be subject to statutory provision.

Fourthly, the third duty, to promote good relations, recognises that for London racism is an issue that must be directly addressed within the functions of the new authorities. It also recognises that people in London meet hostility and violence where there are differences of religion or sexual orientation. The recent London bombing campaign bears this out.

If the Government were to give an indication that they are prepared to accept the amendment, take it away and bring it back at Third Reading, I shall be delighted to withdraw it. I hope that serious consideration will be given to the new powers in terms of the GLA, the MPA and the fire authorities. I beg to move.

Lord Harris of Haringey

My Lords, the amendment raises important issues, and perhaps I would say that having raised similar points in Committee. In moving his amendment, the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, has highlighted key areas where the amendment adds to the existing provisions of the Race Relations Act. In particular, I welcome the inclusion in the new Clause 338 proposed in Amendment No. 556A of the need to promote and secure equality of opportunity for all persons irrespective of age and religion. Those are important matters for Londoners.

I am conscious that at times within London there has been an undercurrent of discrimination on grounds of religion. That is not adequately reflected in existing legislation. It is important that the new authority and its subsidiary bodies are seen to take a lead on this issue.

The other powerful provision in the amendment is the responsibility to promote good relations between persons of different racial groups, religious beliefs and sexual orientation. I hope that the new mayor and the new authority will be seen to be very much a force for good in promoting positive and harmonious community relations between all Londoners, whatever their race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. The placing of a positive responsibility on the mayor, the authority and its subsidiary bodies would be a welcome addition to the Bill.

Lord Desai

My Lords, I, too, welcome the amendment. I am not a specialist on these matters—I very seldom speak about race relations—but apart from the obvious necessity to improve race relations in the light of what we have seen in the past two or three years, we have to recognise that in London, being a global city, there will be a much greater variety of religions and races among the people who have recently moved here than is normally the case with other cities. We have to cast a very broad net and define tolerance in a much broader sense than we have so far. We shall need a much more positive attitude from the new GLA.

The situation is much changed from 20 years ago. People of other races and other colours—if I may put it that way—are, on the one hand, very deprived and very poor; on the other hand, there are highly skilled people coming to this country. At both ends of the spectrum they deserve a much more tolerant, fair and positive discriminating attitude than we have seen so far.

The most important issue concerns young people. I speak as the father of children who are now in their 20s but who were teenagers in London. They do not like the police attitude towards them. That is a very simple fact. Unless the police can convey to the young people of London that they will not be suspected a priori because of the difference in their character, personality, colour or whatever else, we will not have good race relations. I very much welcome the noble Lord's amendment which seeks to place a positive duty on the GLA and the MPA to ensure good race relations.

Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare

My Lords, I welcome the new clause tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia. On the last occasion that we discussed an amendment of this kind, we had the privilege of seeing the name of the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, added to the amendment on the Marshalled List. I hope that his speech today will leave the Minister in no doubt that the noble Lord is with us again. On the last occasion that this matter was raised, the Minister rose to the Dispatch Box and stated that, because of the three names attached to the amendment, he felt that he would be able to accept it. I am moved that all three noble Lords wish to see this provision on the face of the Bill. I look forward to seeing the Minister return to the Dispatch Box to deliver the same words.

It is sad that a provision of this kind is needed at all. One hopes that we will all live to see the day when it will not be found necessary to incorporate words of this kind in any legislation. When we look back over the history of this country, there are bound to be equivalent provisions that would be laughed at now, because the nation has moved on in a certain way. However, I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, is right when he says that it is necessary at the moment. There is no more appropriate body than the GLA to take on this duty. This city has a 27 per cent ethnic population. For that reason, there could be no better place for a provision of this kind to be seen to be working.

The noble Lord, Lord Desai, referred to religion, and he was right in what he said. Over the past year I have attended several religious meetings. It is unusual to see 100 people in the congregation of a Church of England church. Two weeks ago I attended a West Indian church. There were 3,000 people in the congregation. I attended a Muslim meeting with 4,000 in the congregation. On another occasion I went to my own church, and I am afraid to say that the choir at the West Indian church was larger than the congregation at my Church of England church. If, as a nation, we are not aware that this is happening, then we are half asleep. I hope that the Minister will give the clause his blessing. As the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, said, it should be given a chance at Third Reading.

The noble Lord, Lord Desai, made a further comment about young people, which, the Minister might agree, moves away somewhat from this clause. However, it is interesting that the noble Lord feels that young people should be included when we consider minority groups. I shall be happy to send on to the noble Lord, Lord Desai, my speech of a year ago to the Metropolitan Police. At the time I said that if I were fortunate enough to be elected mayor, I would place two people under the age of 20 on the committee. In that way, two out of the 25 members would be able to confirm to the commissioner the statement made by the noble Lord, and one that I have heard many times all over London, that the young are treated differently. Those young people would be on the committee and thus able to say to the commissioner, "When I was out on Saturday night at my club, I was treated differently from the way my father claims he was treated when he was there". I would not put young people into a minority group, but I see a clear reason for allowing them to have their say at that level. I ask the Minister to take this new clause very seriously indeed and consider bringing it back at Third Reading, as the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, has asked.

The Lord Bishop of Southwark

My Lords, I should like to follow up the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Archer. In south London in the Church of England we have something in the order of 300 congregations. Perhaps half of those are in the most deprived urban parts of our city. The majority of those congregations will be members of minority ethnic groups. When discussing the Church of England, as when looking at other Christian denominations in London, we have a Church in the urban areas which is predominantly black, certainly m terms of the members of the congregation. For that reason, I wholeheartedly wish to support this clause.

It has been very noticeable to me that the Metropolitan Police, following the sad Lawrence murder, has begun to learn its lessons. Immediately after the nail bomb incident in Brixton the police gathered together community leaders, including the local Church leaders, and from the first hour shared with them sensitive information. As a result, the community was welded together in its effort to oppose that horrific racial attack. If it can be done in Brixton, it can be done throughout London. I hope the Minister will accept this clause wholeheartedly.

Lord Cope of Berkeley

My Lords, I, too, support the aspirations expressed in Amendment No. 556A, spoken to by the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia. We would all support the principle of equality of opportunity as expressed in the first point of the clause. Further, we do, of course, support obeying the law in the elimination of all forms of unlawful discrimination. The promotion of good relations is obviously of extreme importance. Again, no one would disagree with that.

The difficulty lies in trying to translate such aspirations into legal provisions, the actual machinery of the law. That has always been the difficulty in this field. As it stands, the Bill provides that the Greater London Authority and the Metropolitan Police Authority should be subject to the Race Relations Act in the same way as other local authorities. That is proper and is the minimum requirement, as it were. The amendment seeks to substitute more general aspirations for the somewhat precise machinery of the Race Relations Act itself. I should be grateful if the Minister could tell us, if the amendment were passed in its current form, what effect it would have on the duties and activities of the Commission for Racial Equality. So far as I can see, the clause would take the CR E out of the picture, except in a general reference to unlawful discrimination. That would remove the existing machinery without replacing it with other provisions. That may be a technical difficulty. However, that is not surprising since it is often the machinery of setting a matter down in law that is difficult to get right. Bringing forward a court case and ensuring that there is someone to bring the case is often the most difficult area.

Like the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark, I, too, am encouraged by the efforts of the Metropolitan Police in recent months. I have heard several of its representatives describe what the force is doing in this area, and I feel that the way it has responded to the report on the Lawrence case is encouraging. It has obviously been difficult for the force, and there is a long way to go. Not everything is perfect so far as the Metropolitan Police is concerned. However, I believe that the responses of its senior officers and the new machinery that has been put in place will continue to lead to great improvements in race relations, and that is what concerns us here in Part VI of the Bill. I share the aspirations of the amendment, but the difficult part is to get the machinery correct.

Baroness Hamwee

My Lords, from the Liberal Democrat Front Bench perhaps I may thank noble Lords from all quarters of the House who have offered their support. I hope we shall hear shortly from the Government Front Bench that they have taken on board the aspirations and ambitions encapsulated in the amendment, as have been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Cope. I am glad that my noble friend Lord Dholakia was able to be here to move the amendment. Although it is a Front Bench amendment, given the amount of work that the noble Lord has put into promoting good relations and equality of opportunity over such a long period, it is entirely right that he should take the lead on the amendment.

I use the term "ambitions" because I believe that the new government we shall have in London in a few months' time needs to be ambitious and to take the lead in these matters. I am increasingly of the view that in areas such as discrimination we need the structure of law to help to set up the right culture. We need the new members of London government not only to look at mechanisms but to be clear that they have a responsibility to set a new culture and to take a lead, and to do more than what is required by the provisions incorporated in the Bill after Clause 27 when the House agreed an amendment on 12th October. That is a good clause but we feel it does not go far enough. It requires due regard to be paid to the principle of equality of opportunity. I hope that we can agree a clause in these terms, or something very like these terms, because it is a much more far reaching provision. If the Government are minded to accept something along the lines of this clause, I shall be interested to know what they intend to do with Clause 27. I thank my noble friend not just for moving the new clause today but for all the work he has done in making sure that noble Lords on the Liberal Democrat Front Bench and in the rest of the House have their minds concentrated on such an important issue.

3.30 p.m.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, I very much appreciate the contributions made in the debate. It is important that in the Bill and in the operation of the GLA we reflect the concern about discrimination in London—discrimination on racial grounds and discrimination on the other grounds to which the amendment extends. I join the noble Lord, Lord Archer, once again, at least in terms of the ambitions of the amendment. The Government have already indicated—for example, in the equal opportunities clause introduced by my noble friend Lady Farrington on 12th October and to which your Lordships' House agreed—that we are concerned to meet the objectives of the amendment. It is vital that equality of opportunity is seen to run through the Bill. In particular in London, and in particular in respect of the Metropolitan Police, we have the terrible shadow of the Lawrence inquiry in terms of the racial dimension of the matter. It is important that the people of London should enjoy equality of opportunity and should not be discriminated against on any of the counts mentioned in the Bill.

Amendment No. 556A is the substantive amendment. In principle I would be happy to accept the amendment except that there are some concerns which reflect partly what the noble Lord, Lord Cope, said. I do not think that it would rule the commission out of the arena entirely but it would mean that the section of the Race Relations Act which applies to other local authorities up and down the land will be disapplied in relation to the bodies within London. I understand the motives of the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, in trying to extend the scope of Section 71 and therefore have considerable sympathy for them, but there are some operational implications of that in relation to how existing obligations on all local government would then be affected. To that extent, the noble Lord, Lord Cope, has a point.

I therefore wish to indicate to the House that we accept the amendment in principle. We should like to look a little more closely at those implications and either re-table Amendment No. 556A or something very like it at a later stage. I hope that on that basis the noble Lord will agree to withdraw his amendment.

Before I sit down, perhaps I may also indicate that the Government have a commitment to the need for the authority to promote equality of opportunity beyond all doubt. In the light of what was said in the debate on 12th October, when my noble friend Lady Farrington moved her amendment, we intend to bring forward another amendment at Third Reading which will reflect the House's concern that the clause should include a provision similar to that in the Government of Wales Act requiring the mayor each year to publish a report setting out the arrangements which have been put in place and an assessment of how effective those arrangements have been in promoting equality of opportunity. That is another arm to our approach to equal opportunities to which I hope noble Lords will agree at Third Reading. On that basis, I ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Dholakia

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister. He has been generous in his dealings with me all along and I am grateful for what he has said. He is right to say that there are some technical difficulties with the amendment and he is right to say that those should be considered carefully. I am delighted that a provision similar to that in the Government of Wales Act will be incorporated in the Bill. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 535A: Page 154, leave out lines 32 to 37 and insert

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this group of amendments is concerned with the appointment of magistrate members of the Metropolitan Police Authority. Now that the Access to Justice Act has been passed there are a number of changes we need to make to reflect the new arrangements that will apply to the administration of magistrates' courts in London. Amendment No. 536C substitutes new arrangements for how the four magistrate members of the MPA will be appointed. As drafted, paragraph 5 of Schedule 21 provides that the appointments will be made by a joint committee of the selection panels for the magistrates' courts committees within the Metropolitan Police District. There are 21 such selection panels, so it would be quite a task for them to join together to form a single panel to make the appointments.

As your Lordships will be aware, the Access to Justice Act establishes a new London-wide body called the Greater London Magistrates' Courts Authority. This body will replace the existing magistrates' courts committees in London which will in turn mean the disappearance of the MCC selection panels. The GLMCA will not assume its full powers until April 2001, but work is already under way in relation to the appointment of its members. A selection panel is to be set up for this purpose around the turn of the year. This single panel will therefore be in place comfortably before the MPA comes into being next July. We think that this panel would be the ideal body to make the four magistrate appointments to the MPA. That is what Amendment No. 536C achieves.

Amendment No. 535A is consequential. It provides that the body or person who makes appointments to the GLMCA—that is, the selection panel to which I have just referred—may be consulted by the Secretary of State when he is considering reducing the number of MPA members. This replaces the current provision in Clause 269 of the Bill whereby it is the MCC selection panels which must be consulted.

Amendments Nos. 536B, 536H and 536L to 536N make further changes consequent on the passage of the Access to Justice Act. Amendment No. 536N removes an enabling power for the Secretary of State to amend the description of magistrates as used in various places in Schedule 21. This power was included because at the time the Bill was introduced it was possible that the Access to Justice Bill, as it then was, might make changes which would lead to the description of London magistrates as used in Schedule 21 becoming outdated. Now that the Act has passed, the need for the power has been removed. Hence our amendment to delete it.

The other amendments simply remove the word "London" used at four junctures in the same schedule. This reflects a provision in the Access to Justice Act which has amended the 1997 Justices of the Peace Act so that it refers simply to "commission areas" rather than "London commission areas". These amendments are all sensible changes needed to take account of provisions contained in the Access to Justice Act. I beg to move.

Lord Cope of Berkeley

My Lords, what the amendments seek to do is sensible. However, I am slightly confused over two points. First, Amendment No. 535A refers to the Justices of the Peace Act 1997 but the Minister referred to the Access to Justice Act in that context. I am not sure how the two provisions interlink. Secondly, in the next line of Amendment No. 535A there is a reference to paragraph 5(b) of Schedule 2A to this Act. Should that be a reference to paragraph 5(1)(b) of Schedule 21 to this Act? At the moment there is no Schedule 2A. Schedule 21 appears to be what it is intended to refer to. It seems to me that the reference should be paragraph 5(1)(b) rather than paragraph 5(b). Perhaps a manuscript amendment will be needed to correct that. While the Minister is seeking inspiration on that point, I may say that the new selection panel is clearly the right body, just as it is the right body to make the selections for the related Greater London. magistrates' courts authority.

Lord Bassam of Brighton

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for buying me some time. To answer his first question, the Access to Justice Act 1999 amended the relevant part of the Justices of the Peace Act 1997. If that is not clear, we will provide the noble Lord with further elucidation. To answer his second point, there is a reference to Schedule 2A because Schedule 21 to the Bill inserts Schedule 2A into the Police Act 1996. I trust that those two replies satisfy the noble Lord's inquiries and do not prove a further barrier to agreeing these necessary amendments.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 21 [The Metropolitan Police Authority: Schedule 2A to the Police Act 1996]:

Lord Tope moved Amendment No. 536XZA: Page 303, line 42, leave out ("appointed")and insert ("elected").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 536YZA and 536ZZA. An amendment included in this group, Amendment No. 536ZA of the noble Lord, Lord Cope, and his colleague, seeks to achieve the same purpose. The only difference is rather semantic; it is between the use of the word "election" or "appointment". For the purpose of debate, I am happy to accept that were the amendments to be successful, the assembly would appoint but might choose its appointees by election. I think we are at one in that respect.

We made clear at earlier stages of the Bill that this is not an argument about the strategic role of the mayor. We accept that our view will not prevail and that the Government's view will. We agree with the Government that there should be 12 members of the assembly on the Metropolitan Police Authority. There is no argument about that or that those members should reflect the political balance of the assembly and constitute a majority on the MPA. The difference between us is who appoints the assembly members.

The Bill states that the members should be appointed by the mayor. Members of both opposition Benches say that they should be appointed by the assembly. Nearly half the members of the assembly will serve on the Metropolitan Police Authority. They will be held accountable by their colleagues for their actions and behaviour. They will be, for all intents and purposes, representatives of the assembly. It is a fundamental democratic principle that those who represent the assembly should be appointed by the assembly and that the decision should not be foisted upon it.

I can understand the Government taking the view that the mayor must have more direct input to the work of the MPA to fulfil his strategic role. I would have thought the relationship between assembly members and the mayor would be good enough to achieve that through having half the assembly members on the authority. If the Government want a greater say, they could provide—as they do elsewhere in the Bill—that the deputy mayor must be a member. If the assembly were to appoint the 12 members, I would be happy to accept a provision in the Bill for making one of them the deputy mayor.

We return to the basic democratic principle that if the assembly is to be represented on the Metropolitan Police Authority in the way the Bill proposes, the assembly should choose its own representatives and not have the decision foisted upon it by the major—apparently without reference to the assembly. I beg to move.

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham)

My Lords, I should put out that, as the other amendments indicated are also being spoken to, if Amendment No. 536ZZA is agreed, I cannot call Amendment No. 536ZA.

3.45 p.m.

Lord Cope of Berkeley

My Lords, although I hesitate slightly in present company to support any reduction in the powers of the mayor, nevertheless it will be apparent from the amendment in my name that I have some sympathy with the proposal of the noble Lord, Lord Tope. I see no effective difference between the wording of the two amendments. I do not think there is any way that the authority would select its members except by electing them. It seemed to me that "appointed" was the appropriate word to use but I accept that there is no difference between us. We are happy to leave it to whichever word the parliamentary draftsman suggests Ministers should use, if they wish to go along with the proposal.

I do not understand the Government's resistance to the amendment. I thought that I might be seeing the point when I read rumours in the media the other day that Mr. Philips had been induced to withdraw from the struggle to become the mayor by a promise of being on the police authority. Whether or not that rumour is true—I have been too long at this game to take much notice—patronage of that character might be helpful to those who wish to control everything. Perhaps that was the Government's reason for taking the line they did in Committee and perhaps they will continue to take it now. We shall see.

Lord Bassam of Brighton

My Lords, I commend noble Lords on the Liberal Democrat and Conservative Benches for their honesty in agreeing that the amendments are similar and for the way in which they have constructed an agreement between themselves. That seems very laudable.

The Government resisted similar amendments at Committee and Report stages in another place and in Committee in this House. While I applaud the tenacity of noble Lords, the Government will continue to resist the amendments for the same reasons. Amendments Nos. 536ZA and 536ZZA are another attempt to extend the powers of the assembly at the expense of the mayor. We have rehearsed again and again the arguments for striking the balance we have between the mayor and the assembly.

The power of appointment is crucial to the mayor's ability to take a high-level and strategic interest in the MPA's efforts to tackle crime and maintain an efficient and effective policing service in London. Moreover, the role is consistent with the mayor's powers of appointment to the three other functional bodies. On the grounds of consistency and the need to have a high-level strategic interest, we must resist the amendments. We do not want any dilution of the mayor's power in that respect.

The mayor's power of appointment is of course subject to the requirement that he or she shall ensure that, so far as is practicable, his or her appointments reflect the balance of the parties on the assembly. Although, subject to that constraint, decisions on appointment are for the mayor, we would expect him or her to take account of views expressed by the parties represented on the assembly as to which of their number would be most suited to being on the MPA. For those reasons, I suggest that both noble Lords should feel able to withdraw their amendments.

Lord Tope

My Lords, I cannot say that I am surprised at that reply. Although I had no higher expectations, I am slightly disappointed. I can reassure the Minister that it did not take very much collusion between the two Opposition Front Benches. We have been agreed on this point throughout—the only difference between us was a minor one regarding the use of language. This amendment does not relate so much to the strategic role of the mayor, but more to control by the mayor.

I believe that we are making a big mistake. The 12 assembly members appointed by the mayor and answerable to him or her will soon find themselves in great difficulty with their 13 colleagues who will not be members of the Metropolitan Police Authority. However, I shall not press the matter further. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 536YZA to 536ZA not moved.]

The Chairman of Committees

My Lords, in calling Amendment No. 536ZAA, I must point out to the House that, if it is agreed to, I cannot call Amendment No. 536A.

Lord Tope moved Amendment No. 536ZAA: Page 304, line 8, leave out sub-paragraph (2).

The noble Lord said: My Lords, with this amendment we turn specifically to the requirement that the deputy mayor "must" be a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority. I accept that if nearly half the members of the assembly are to be members of the Metropolitan Police Authority, it is entirely possible, indeed probable, that the deputy mayor may well be one of them. Our difficulty relates to the requirement in the Bill that the deputy mayor "must" be a member of the police authority.

I fail to understand, even after our debate in Committee, why the Government have singled out this particular functional body, important though it is—no one questions that—to require the deputy mayor to be a member. He or she may be better suited by qualification, experience or interest to membership of one of the other functional bodies, and some other equally important senior member of the assembly could fulfil that function for the mayor. The deputy mayor will of course be a key member of the mayor's cabinet. But that role can be filled by other members of the mayor's cabinet who are also assembly members.

Our key point is not so much that the deputy mayor should not be a. member of the Metropolitan Police Authority, but the requirement that he or she must be. Why has the MPA been singled out for particular attention in that regard as distinct from any other functional body to which the deputy mayor may be better suited? I beg to move.

Lord Cope of Berkeley

My Lords, here is another oddity. Why should the deputy mayor automatically be a member of the police authority? We have argued the point in Committee. As the noble Lord has suggested, it might be better in the mayor's view to put another member in place of the deputy mayor and to give other responsibilities to the individual in question.

Perhaps the case of Mr Philips throws some light on the matter. Further information has reached me that Mr Philips has "peen promised that he will be deputy mayor, and indeed chairman of the police authority. If he believes that, he should consult paragraph 6 of Schedule 21. As the Bill stands, the paragraph makes it clear that it is for the authority to appoint the chairman. not for anyone else to do so. Not even the new mayor can promise that to any individual.

Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare

My Lords, it may be wise to suggest to my noble friend that it would be even better for the Labour Party to find out who their candidate is before stating who will be deputy mayor.

Lord Cope of Berkeley

My Lords, that would be a very good idea—and we all know a good deal about how they are setting about that effort. It seems a very peculiar way to set about it. However, I shall not go into that at present.

As I said, it is an oddity that the deputy mayor should automatically be a member of the police authority. Those with suspicious minds will wonder how the provision has come about and why it is necessary to include it. I do not have a suspicious mind, but I do wonder.

Lord Bassam of Brighton

My Lords, it is probably wise to avoid speculation about mayoral candidates at this stage.

In responding to this amendment, perhaps I may speak first to the two government amendments which clarify a couple of matters regarding the position of the deputy mayor on the Metropolitan Police Authority.

Amendment No. 536K provides that the deputy mayor will cease to be a member of the MPA if he or she ceases to be deputy mayor. The Bill already makes specific provision as to what should happen when the deputy mayor acts as the mayor. In such cases he or she will sometimes be required to step down temporarily from the MPA.

However, as the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, correctly pointed out in Committee, the Bill as it stands is silent on what should happen if the deputy mayor ceases to be the deputy—for example, following a resignation. I am grateful to the noble Lord for pointing out the omission.

This amendment rectifies that gap—so there is success for the noble Lord there. Since the deputy will have his or her place by virtue of that office, we believe it right that that individual should be required to step down as a member on losing that office. Equally, provided that he or she remains an assembly member, there is no reason why he or she should not remain eligible for reappointment to the MPA in his or her capacity as an assembly member. That will be possible by virtue of paragraph 18 of Schedule 21.

Amendment No. 536A makes clear that the deputy mayor will be subject to the disqualification criteria for MPA membership as set out in paragraph 8 of Schedule 21. These cover standard disqualification issues, such as bankruptcy and criminal convictions. They are very similar to those which Clause 20 of the Bill applies to assembly members—and hence to the deputy mayor.

I turn now to the opposition amendment which would remove the requirement that one of the 12 assembly members of the MPA be the deputy mayor. Various arguments have been advanced as to why it is unnecessary to tie the hands of the mayor and require him or her to appoint the deputy mayor. As my noble and learned friend Lord Williams of Mostyn said in a previous debate, our reasoning on this subject is clear. The deputy mayor will be a key player in the assembly and in the mayor's cabinet. We want the deputy to be on the MPA to provide a link between the mayor and that body. We believe that such an arrangement provides the right balance for the oversight of policing in London. It gives the mayor an appropriate means of influencing the thinking of the MPA in the way it exercises its responsibilities of maintaining an efficient and effective police force in the Metropolitan Police District. We believe policing to be that important.

This argument will, I know, sound familiar to your Lordships' House. But in the many debates that we have had on this subject during the passage of the Bill, we have remained of the view that the argument is sound and that the Bill should be left as it stands.

It may be helpful if I add a further point. In the debate that we have just had on the appointment of assembly members I referred to the party political balance requirement to which the mayor is subject. In case there is any doubt, I should make clear that the appointment of the deputy mayor is included within the overall balancing equation—it is not the case that the balance applies only to the other 11 appointments, with the deputy then added. That could lead to unfairness, and is not the way the Bill operates. I invite the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment and I commend the two government amendments.

Lord Tope

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister. I understand why he does not want to speculate on who the mayoral candidate might be. That is not a problem that Members on either of the Opposition Benches have. I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, that I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare—and more particularly, Councillor Eddie Lister—was also listening to the point about who appoints the chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority.

The Minister has not answered the point that both of us on the Opposition Front Benches have made again—namely, why include this specific reference to the Metropolitan Police Authority? We have accepted, very reluctantly, that the mayor will appoint all 12 assembly members of the Metropolitan Police Authority. Surely it is for the mayor to decide whether that is the key role that he or she wishes the deputy mayor to play. It is not for the Government to tell the mayor, whether or not he or she wishes it, that the mayor must have the deputy mayor on the Metropolitan Police Authority.

Why do the Government seek to control the mayor, whoever it turns out to be, to such an extent as to tell him or her what the deputy mayor must be doing? It must surely be a matter to be decided between the mayor and the deputy mayor. As has been said, it may very well be that the deputy mayor will be better qualified by experience, knowledge and interest to play an equally important key role on one of the other functional bodies.

I still have not heard from the Government any argument that goes anywhere near either convincing me or helping me to understand why they wish so much to control what appointments the mayor must make. Regretfully, this is perhaps not the time to pursue the amendment further, and I beg leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

4 p.m.

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendments Nos. 536A to 536C: Page 304, line 10. at end insert ("or unless the Deputy Mayor is disqualified for being appointed as or being a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority under paragraph 8 below."). Page 305, line 4, leave out ("London"). Page 305, line 6, leave out from ("appointed") to end of line 18 and insert ("by the person or body responsible for the appointment of members of the Greater London Magistrates' Courts Authority under regulations made under section 30B of the Justices of the Peace Act 1997").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 536D: Page 305, line 32, leave out paragraph 7.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No.536D removes from the Bill paragraph 7 of Schedule 21 which disqualifies those aged 70 or over from membership of the Metropolitan Police Authority. On reflection, we see no reason to exclude from police authority membership perfectly able people of advancing years. If this amendment is passed we shall take the earliest opportunity to amend the Police Act 1996 to remove the upper age criterion for police authority membership in the rest of England and Wales. The other amendments in this group are simply consequential on Amendment No. 536D and I commend them to the House.

As the Bill stands, those aged 70 and over are barred from being MPA members. Since magistrates have to retire at 70, magistrate members of police authorities throughout England and Wales have to resign on reaching that age. The reasoning appears to have been that equality of misery should be applied to other police authority members. The GLA Bill currently echoes the position in other police authorities in line with our general approach that the structures and functions of the MPA should, as far as possible, be the same as those of authorities outside London. However, on reconsideration it seems wrong to exclude from police authority membership perfectly able people. Amendment No. 536D removes the upper age limit for MPA members. The Government will bring forward legislation to remove the upper age limit for other police authorities in England and Wales. I beg to move.

Lord Cope of Berkeley

My Lords, nobody in this House will believe that those over 70 have nothing to contribute to debate and decision. It happens all the time. I believe that everyone in your Lordships' House will support this amendment. I understand that in universities in the United States it is now illegal to retire an academic just because he or she has attained the age of 70. It is good that the Government are also moving towards that view.

I have only one small point. The Minister said that the Bill as it stood meant that a person would be disqualified from membership of the Metropolitan Police Authority. I believe that, strictly, he or she is disqualified from being appointed a member of the authority at age 70. If, as the Bill stands, he is appointed under the age of 70 presumably he can continue at least until his term expires. In any case, as that restriction is being removed it no longer matters. Magistrates will still have to retire at 70 but, as the Government are extending this principle to other bodies, perhaps they will get round to that in due course.

Lord Tope

My Lords, I welcome this change of heart by the Government. It was entirely appropriate that earlier this afternoon we debated the duty on the authority to promote and secure equality of opportunity, among other things, on the grounds of age. Therefore, it seems entirely appropriate that we should remove this particular form of discrimination that currently exists in the Bill. We welcome this provision. It is not for me to answer the point related to magistrates just raised by the noble Lord, Lord Cope. However, it seems to me that when people cease to be magistrates by virtue of age, they cease to be qualified as magisterial members of the police authority. That may well be the answer that the Minister is able to provide very shortly. I welcome the amendments.

Lord Harris of Haringey

My Lords, I have no problem at all with the principle that age discrimination at age 70 should be ended as proposed by this amendment. I am sure that that is a positive provision which is intended to apply generally and not just to the occasional individual. However, Tarn unclear as to why in their desire to avoid age discrimination the Government have not sought to make a similar change to paragraph 9(1)(a) of the schedule which, as far as I can see, restricts appointment to people who have, not yet attained the age of twenty-one years". I would have thought that the principle of trying to avoid age discrimination applied at both ends of the spectrum and that there would be considerable benefit to the considerations of the Metropolitan Police Authority if, in certain circumstances, it was possible for people not yet 21 to serve on that authority.

Lord Lucas

My Lords, in this grouping is Amendment No. 538D. I should be very grateful if the noble Lord could explain exactly how that is consequential on the removal of the age limit, since it does not appear to refer to that at all. Having dealt with that, perhaps he can explain exactly what it does and why it is required in this Bill.

Lord Bassam of Brighton

My Lords, I am grateful for the warm words of support that this particular amendment has appeared to attract from all round the Chamber. I am also grateful for the very interesting question raised by my noble friend Lord Harris, on which I shall take advice. In response to the noble Lord, Lord Cope, at the moment the Bill uses the term, has attained the age of seventy years". Effectively, that wording is removed by the amendment. I believe that that answers the point.

Currently, I am taking advice on the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas. He asked how Amendment No. 538D was consequential. If I do not have the answer by the time I have sat down I shall endeavour to provide it later in writing. I can now assist. The answer to the noble Lord's question appears to be that this amendment removes the age limit of 70 for membership of the selection panel for independent members of the MPA. If that is not clear to the noble Lord, I am happy to write to him.

Lord Lucas

My Lords, it is not clear and we may raise the matter when we come to that amendment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendments Nos. 536E to 536G: Page 306. line 28, leave out ("paragraphs 7 and") and insert ("paragraph"). Page 306, line 35, leave out ("paragraphs 7 and") and insert ("paragraph"). Page 306, line 39, leave out ("paragraphs 7 and") and insert ("paragraph").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 536H: Page 306, line 45, leave out ("London").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No.536J: Page 307. line 13, leave out from ("years") to (", or") in line 14.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 536K: Page 307, line 28, at end insert ("( ) The Deputy Mayor appointed to be a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority under paragraph 2 shall cease to be a member of that Authority if he ceases to be Deputy Mayor.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendments No. 536L to 536N: Page 307, line 31, leave out ("London"). Page 308. line 31, leave out ("London"). Page 308. line 34, leave out sub-paragraphs (2) and (3).

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Lord Cope of Berkeley moved Amendment No. 536NA: After Clause 283, insert the following new clause—

  2. cc33-4
  4. cc34-40
  6. cc40-53
  7. The Employment Agencies Act 1973 6,050 words
  8. cc53-75
  10. cc75-88
  12. c88
  14. cc88-9
  16. cc89-91