HL Deb 07 March 2002 vol 632 cc411-62

4.23 p.m.

Lord Rooker

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now again resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Rooker.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The DEPUTY CHAIR MAN OF COMMITTEES (Viscount Allenby of Megiddo) in the Chair.]

Clause 33 [Police powers for police authority employees]:

Lord Dixon-Smith

moved Amendment No. 184: Page 31, line 34, at beginning insert "After consultation with his Police Authority, The noble Lord said: This is a simple little amendment which I hope will catch the Minister in the same helpful frame of mind as we found him in when we began our consideration of the Bill and he agreed that the principle of consultation was inconceivable in the context of the Secretary of State preparing a national policing plan. It seems to me that it is similarly inconceivable that a chief constable would introduce suggested changes in the form of policing in his constabulary without consulting his police authority.

This is a very simple amendment which I hope will tempt the Minister once again to say a very simple, "Yes". If he does not accept our rather basic wording in the amendment but agrees with us in principle, he might consider the issue and return with his own proposals. I beg to move.

Lord Rooker

I am pleased to kick off by saying that I agree with the spirit of this group of amendments—so we are starting off on the right foot. We believe that a chief officer of police should consult fully with his police authority before he extends any powers to civilian police authority employees or establishes an accredited community safety scheme within the force area. However, we believe that there is a danger that these amendments will create an additional and unnecessary bureaucratic burden by requiring consultation that, in many ways, duplicates what this legislation already requires.

Amendment No. 184 requires a chief officer to consult his police authority before designating support staff. Amendments Nos. 185 and 188 propose a system of consultation that is based on establishing a designation scheme for the extension of powers. The proposal would be drafted by the chief officer and submitted to the relevant police authority in the same way as the annual policing plan—in many ways duplicating an already established consultation mechanism which works well.

Currently, chief officers who decide to make use of support staff—albeit without police powers— in roles such as case managers and custody support staff are not required to consult police authorities. That is seen exclusively as a matter for the chief officer. Therefore, the lack of an explicit requirement to consult is consistent with existing practice. However, I accept that there is a difference in that those people would have a small amount of police power. Nevertheless, we believe that the best way forward, creating the least additional bureaucracy, would be to require annual consultation with the police authority on any proposals to begin or continue the extension of powers to support staff or the establishment of an accredited community safety scheme.

In Clause 34, we have already required that plans to designate support staff under Schedule 4 or to establish a community safety accreditation scheme—and how the two proposals overlap—be set out in the annual policing plan and that drafts of that document be submitted by the chief officer to the police authority. I think that the annual policing plan is probably the right vehicle for this consultation. As we discussed in our initial consideration in Committee, it is a local plan, prepared by the police authority before the beginning of each financial year. The plan sets out the arrangements for policing the force area during the coming year.

The process for producing the plan was established under the Police Act 1996. The mechanism set out in these amendments is very similar to the proposed one in that the chief officer drafts the plan and submits it to the police authority. Moreover, when the police authority disagrees with the draft plan, it is required to consult with the chief officer before publishing a plan that differs from the draft. We believe that this sets out clearly what the consultation process should be. It also ensures that decisions are agreed before the start of the financial year to ensure that adequate resources are available.

In the light of those comments and our belief that there should be consultation, albeit in the form of the annual policing plan, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, will agree that we have met the spirit of his amendment.

Lord Dixon-Smith

I am grateful to the Minister for that helpful reply. The answer to his question is essentially, "Yes". Nevertheless, I still ask him to consider the need to include such provision in the Bill. While the annual policing plan is an entirely appropriate vehicle for consultation, there is nothing that says that it must be done that way or that a chief constable could not start the process without consultation. We are again dealing with this wretched business of possibilities. If the Minister will think about what I have said, I shall happily think about what he has said. Meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 185 not moved.]

4.30 p.m.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester

moved Amendment No. 185A: Page 31, line 34, after force insert ", including the British Transport Police, The noble Lord said: I have tabled this amendment as it appears that the Bill as drafted does not give the British Transport Police the power to accredit community support officers. A wide range of functions is proposed for CSOs and there is scarcely one which does not apply to the railway environment. Tasks such as helping to combat graffiti and vandalism, providing a visible authority presence at particular "hot-spot" stations in times of increased alert and general reassurance to reduce fear of crime at stations are all obvious areas for co-operation between CSOs and the British Transport Police.

Currently, BTP are working on safety issues of exactly that kind with rail staff in two distinct ways. The first is at Railtrack's 15 major stations. These account for approximately 15 per cent of all crime reported to BTP. Security guards are employed on those station concourses. However, until recently, those guards did nothing more than call for BTP help whenever they were faced with a problem. Therefore, they did not provide a great deal of assistance in tackling the problems they were hired to resolve. Happily, however, Railtrack realised this and talked to BTP about providing training for those security guards. As a result Railtrack now has people who are better equipped to deal appropriately with difficult situations. The next stage will be the development of a briefing process to encourage security staff to be deployed in ways that are most likely to reduce crime.

There is no doubt that the public would benefit from there being better trained, more accountable security guards at stations. Yet, as things stand in the Bill, staff at major stations in London would have to be accredited by the Metropolitan Police under the control and direction of the commissioner, wear uniforms identical to other Met CSOs, but operate in areas which are under BTP jurisdiction, whereas the CSOs themselves would not be under that jurisdiction. I suggest to my noble friend that that would not work. It would be impossible if BTP officers were unable to direct security guards on stations. If chief constables are not to be allowed to accredit staff in another chief constable's area, as the Bill states, they should be unable to do so in the area of the BTP chief constable.

The same applies to an even greater extent with on-board train staff. BTP was recently asked by a train operating company, South West Trains, to work with its people on its services and to train them. The company plans to invest up to £1.8 million on the initiative. If BTP were not allowed to accredit the staff they have trained, train operating companies would have to approach a Home Office force for accreditation of their staff. But as a chief police officer can accredit only in his own police area, the particular train operator I have mentioned would need to seek accreditation from the Met and from Surrey, Hampshire, Sussex, Devon and Cornwall forces. That situation is clearly unworkable. I respectfully suggest to my noble friend that there is a strong case for amending the Bill in the modest way that I have suggested to ensure that BTP are given the authority to accredit CSOs. I beg to move.

Lord Bradshaw

I support the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester. BTP are a special case. I believe all of us consider that railway premises are underpoliced. Graffiti is in evidence everywhere. There are all kinds of opportunities to cause damage on the railways, which go largely unchecked. However, I ask the Minister to ensure that anything that is done for Specials in this regard—which I hope will be done—should apply also to the British Transport Police as they need to employ Specials. The amendment would allow BTP to take responsibility for certain railway staff, from whom I hope they will be able to recruit personnel, as well as employing Specials.

Lord Hylton

There are two forms of highly anti-social behaviour which in my experience frequently cause delay to trains. The first is the dropping of sometimes heavy objects off bridges either on to the rail track or on to passing trains. The second is trespassing on the line. Can the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester, or the Minister tell the Committee that those forms of activity, which are much to be deplored, are already covered by the existing powers of British Transport Police? If they are, can they be dealt with more effectively? If they are not, what should he done?

Lord Renton

I am not opposed to the amendment; I rather tend to favour it. However, an earlier clause refers to various other police bodies. It seems to me that to single out the transport police is unfortunate. Clause 3 refers to the National Criminal Intelligence Service and the National Crime Squad. New Section (3A) on page 3 refers to the Northern Ireland Police Service and the National Criminal Intelligence Service. One wonders why they should not be treated in the same way as the transport police.

Lord Elton

While we are on the point, and to give the Minister time to think, will he tell us where the Royal Parks Police figure in all this?

Lord Bassam of Brighton

I shall deal with the final point first. That police force does not figure here. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Renton, that the issue he raised will de dealt with in later amendments.

I have some sympathy with the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester, and with his argument that the changes set out in Clause 33 would also be appropriate for the British Transport Police. I know that that view is shared by the force, which sees great potential in community support officers patrolling railway stations, for example, in support of the police. However, having made those nice comments, the Government do not think that this Bill is the right vehicle for such a change. The British Transport Police do not have a police authority and so, at the moment, could not be brought within the scope of Clause 33. Also, as many of the powers in Schedule 4 are not available to BTP constables it would not therefore be appropriate to confer them on BTP civilian staff.

However, I can tell the noble Lord that the Government want to include the British Transport Police, where appropriate, within the scope of the police reform package as a whole. I shall undertake to take up this issue with colleagues in the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions, who are actively considering bringing forward their own legislation dealing with the British Transport Police more generally. Waiting for another Bill also has the advantage of seeing how this new policy operates across the 43 Home Office forces before extending it more widely.

We need to spend more time thinking through some of the issues which the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, raised concerning the territoriality of the police service. Discussions with colleagues in the DTLR will be important in that regard. The noble Lord made some good, helpful points. Some issues will need to be resolved. We consider that they can be usefully resolved in further discussion with our colleagues. Some of the issues could be teased out. It would be more appropriate to deal with this important matter in separate legislation dealing more exclusively with the British Transport Police.

I should try to respond to the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, if I can. We confirm that the offences of trespassing on railway property and throwing stones, rocks, boulders or whatever to impede the progress of trains are enforceable by the BTP—they involve, after all, criminal offences——and through issuing fixed penalty notices by the police under Section 1 of the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001. Those powers are proposed to be conferred on community support officers under Part 1 of Schedule 4 of the Bill.

I have given as comprehensive a response as I can. I hope that I have given sufficient encouragement to my noble friend Lord Faulkner to enable him to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Elton

Before the noble Lord does so, I want to pursue the issue of the Royal Parks Police a yard or two further—or a metre or two further, as I believe we should now say. Although I am not one of the foremost supporters of the idea of auxiliary policemen, some of the powers that will be given to them in Schedule 4 appear to be extremely appropriate to people patrolling parks. I refer to the powers under the Dogs (Fouling of Land) Act, the powers of an authorised officer of a litter authority, and the powers relating to anti-social behaviour and the consumption of alcohol in a public place. Those matters are somewhat akin to what a park-keeper used to do and should not be done by fully trained policemen. I might agree that the Royal Parks Police would be a good addition in this context but they do not appear to figure in the provisions.

Lord Bassam of Brighton

As I understand it, the problem with the Royal Parks Police is similar to that of the BTP. They do not have their own police authority.

Lord Elton

I hesitate to correct the noble Lord—I am almost certainly wrong because I have a bad memory—but I rather thought that the Home Secretary had the relevant responsibility. If so, I should have thought that it was still with him or that it has gone where some of his other powers have gone.

Lord Bassam of Brighton

I, too, may be wrong but my understanding is that the Home Secretary was only ever the police authority for the Met, although he no longer does that. I believe that that is right but perhaps we need to clarify the situation. The noble Lord makes a good point generally. The matter could be picked up later—perhaps when we consider the BTP. He is right to say that it is appropriate for support staff to deal with such matters. That would be entirely right for such a service.

Lord Monson

Did I understand the Minister to say that those who are caught throwing stones at trains—on at least one occasion I have seen them smash windows and injure passengers on the train—can be arrested only by the British Transport Police?.

Lord Bassam of Brighton

Yes—by Home Office police; by the local territorial force, whether Sussex, Surrey or the Met.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

On Second Reading, I said that Kensington and Chelsea employs the Royal Parks Police in its parks. I was told that most of those police are employees of the local borough. I do not know whether that situation will change.

Lord Bassam of Brighton

That, too, is a different issue, which we shall air when we come to later amendments. It relates more to the issue of accreditation.

Lord Dholakia

In relation to the amendment, is it possible for a police authority employee to be seconded to the British Transport Police in emergencies?.

Lord Bassam of Brighton

I want to reflect on that. It is probably the case that the powers are interchangeable but I want to be more certain before giving a definite response. Perhaps we can get back to the noble Lord on that matter.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville

I want to shed a little light on the exchange between my noble friend Lord Elton and the Minister. There was a review of the Royal Parks Police, the outcome of which was that they should be transferred into the Met on the same terms. Prior to that, they came under the Department for Culture, Media and Sport through the Royal Parks Agency, and the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport had the relevant responsibility. I do not know whether the Home Office has now accepted that recommendation and implemented the transfer into the Met.

4.45 p.m.

Lord Bassam of Brighton

That is a broader issue than that raised by my noble friend Lord Faulkner. I do not seek to be defensive in any way. Clearly, things are as they are—the status quo prevails.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester

I am most grateful to the Minister for the friendly tone of his response and to the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, for supporting the original purpose of my amendment. I shall read very carefully what my noble friend said. I am a little disappointed that he thinks that this is not the correct Bill in which to make the change.

Lord Elton

I believe that the convention is that if one wants to come back to a matter on Report, one says so at this point. I say so now. I want to return to the issue of the Royal Parks Police. Whatever the current position is, such powers should be available to them.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester

My amendment does not deal with the Royal Parks Police. Presumably, if the noble Lord wishes to table an amendment on the Royal Parks Police, he is perfectly entitled to do so. Meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Dixon-Smith

moved Amendment No. 186: Page 31, line 39, leave out paragraph (a). The noble Lord said: I suspect that we now move into slightly more contentious territory. The Bill seeks to increase the level of policing through the use of civilians. It does so in two ways. The amendment is directed towards the first of those ways, which involves the use of police authority employees.

There are a number of problems with that approach. I make it clear from the start that in many ways we regard having police on the beat as the most important aspect of policing. That is where the police meet the public with—I hope that this phrase will not be misinterpreted—a vengeance. That is where the police's reputation is made. A sad comment on the way in which policing has developed is that we see police on the streets much less than used to be the case. That is one reason for the increase in street crime in all its awful forms. As a matter of principle, we should prefer the police to be on the streets, not supplementary civilians who may have variable powers. I shall come to that later.

The clause states that police powers should be given in four forms to police-employed civilians. That has a degree of preference to accreditation schemes in that those people are at least employees of the chief constable and there is at least a clear line of responsibility back to the police. In so far as the intention is to put policemen on the streets by using community support officers, we believe that that is wrong. We think that if the police are to go out on the streets, they should at least be special constables. We do not see why those people should not be established in that way.

We completely accept paragraphs (b), (c) and (d) of subsection (2), which, of course, have nothing to do with the amendment. We believe that what they propose is wholly laudable. If better use is made of police civilians in carrying out work which presently involves constables within police premises, then we consider that to be completely appropriate. However, when it comes to putting people on the street, we are convinced that, for the sake of clarity, such people should have the status of special constable.

If that is the case, two things are ensured. The first is a proper and full level of training, which the accreditation scheme certainly will not produce, although we shall come to that matter later. It might conceivably happen with a community support officer.

Secondly, it ensures that such people are on the street with full police powers. Part 1 of Schedule 4 produces a list of possible powers. The way in which the Bill is drafted means that a community support officer who has a limited basket of powers, because that is the way that the chief constable has designated him, may work with another community support officer who has a different basket of powers because he may have come from a slightly different area or he may be held to have a different level of competence. The opportunity for public confusion as to what these people are and how they are functioning is huge.

Therefore, the purpose of the amendment is simple. In order not to repeat myself too many times this afternoon, I shall avoid going into the matter further but I shall mention some of the basket of functions. The whole fixed penalty area is included, together with disorder, cycling on a footway, dog fouling, litter, powers to detain and, indeed, powers to use reasonable force to detain, requiring a name and address to be provided, and so on. All those powers are included, but a community support officer does not need to have them all; he need have only some of them.

Therefore, the chief constable has a great deal of discretion. I do not mind him having that discretion but, in this case, which concerns the interface between the police and the public, the situation requires absolute clarity. The public will not understand if there are any differences.

The question has been raised of a precedent having been set in relation to traffic wardens. So far as I am aware, everyone knows what a traffic warden's functions are, wherever one meets him almost anywhere in the country. Traffic wardens carry out a one-function operation and work extremely well at it, although I dare say that they may have caused many of us a great deal of aggravation over the years. That position is clearly understood. But the position in the Bill is not clear.

Therefore, we have decided that the solution is to remove the community support officer from this part of the Bill. That does not prevent the chief constable using his civilians in aid of his constables in carrying out the work that they do at present, but it does prevent him sending them out on to the street. In our view, that is not appropriate and we believe that it would lead to confusion.

We have tabled later amendments which seek to turn these officers into community support special constables. We believe that that would be an acceptable way in which to proceed. There is, of course, a separate issue behind this matter which presumes that any police force has many spare civilians and much spare capacity waiting to carry out such work. But that is a separate issue. I beg to move.

Lord Bradshaw

I rise to address the issue of community support officers that is raised in the amendment. I was present at a meeting of the Association of Chief Police Officers which was attended by a large number of police authority representatives. Views were sought around the room and, except for London—my noble friend Lord Tope may express his opinions about London—only one authority in South Wales expressed the idea that community support officers should enjoy police powers.

A presentation was given by Knowsley Council, which has several such officers. That council expressed adamantly the opinion that they should not have police powers. The council employed some people who, I imagine, the police would not recruit, but those people carried out a great deal of work with regard to graffiti, vandalism, quarrels between neighbours, abandoned cars and all kinds of things which give rise to nuisance value in the community.

In Abingdon in Thames Valley, we have two retired police officers who act as community wardens. They have been very successful both in reducing crime and, with the help of volunteers who work with the youth in the town, in turning people away from anti-social behaviour and congregating outside shops. They mentor the youths and, in many cases, give them the time and the parenting which they do not otherwise receive. They steer them in the right direction. Generally speaking, we are not in favour of such people exercising police powers.

We may not agree with the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, on subsequent amendments. We may not agree that all such people could be special constables—they may pass neither the fitness nor the age tests. But there is no doubt that many civilian people could assist in maintaining law and order in many ways. We would certainly be very much against the Home Secretary directing that those people should be employed; it should be a matter for local discretion. I certainly am not saying that, because they are needed m London, they may be needed throughout the rest of the country. But, in general, I support the thrust of the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith.

Lord Condon

I rise to express concern about the amendment. On Second Reading, I encouraged your Lordships not to dismiss the proposal for community support officers out of hand. I readily acknowledge that the use of community support officers will not be the first or best choice of chief officers. Their first, and best, choice will be to have an increase in regular police officers.

Therefore, what has driven a small number of them to support this proposal outside this House? The Minister has spoken about the record number of police officers. That may well mean that we have, or are about to have, one more than we had several years ago. In fact, if one takes out the reduction in the number of special constables, which has dropped from 20,000 to 13,000 over the past two years, the policing endeavour in the round has reduced dramatically, despite the best efforts of many people.

If one then turns to the specifics of London, one finds that it becomes an even more challenging environment. My former police service, which peaked at nearly 29,000 police officers in the early 1990s, has reduced in number to about 26,500. It has seen a dramatic reduction in civilian staff and special constables. I shall illustrate that. today I drove from Sutton through Croydon, Streatham, Lambeth and Vauxhall and I did not see a single police officer until I approached Westminster. I believe that London has become a challenging environment. That is why London and perhaps one or two other police services would like at least to be able to consider the provisions within the Bill.

Specifically in the London context, I know that my former colleagues would like to consider using community support officers in three ways. First, they would use them to work alongside regular police officers on estates and describe them as community support. They would be briefed with regular officers; would accompany them and would be used with them in conjunction with community work. Secondly, they would also be used to support the traffic endeavour. I refer to the congestion in London and to the reduction of average speeds. There are specific proposals to use them in that way. Thirdly, and probably most importantly at present, they would be used to enhance the security endeavour. I know that my former colleagues are anxious to use several hundred community support officers in protection duties to release regular officers and to provide an additional security resource post September 11th.

There is a set of challenging circumstances, particularly in London, which would encourage the use of community support officers. However, I am the first to admit that they would not be my first choice. My first choice would be an enhancement of resources to enable the provision of more regular officers. I believe that the amendment would give the police service additional short to medium-term choices around extending the policing family.

If support officers, however designated, are also Specials, they will require commensurate training to ensure that they are properly trained and accountable to enable them to use the powers of Specials. In one way that would defeat part of the rationale for the provision; that is, to enable the police family to include support staff who are not trained to the level of either Specials or regulars. I am sympathetic to the spirit of the amendment. I believe I know where the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, is coming from. By all means the provision should be hedged in with prescriptions and controls so that anxieties are expressed in other ways. However, I would encourage an enabling provision at the end of the Bill to enable the police family to be extended, even if we have not got it right so far.

5 p.m.

Lord Elton

I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Condon, comes from a different direction from those who speak for police authorities further north and west, whose concerns must be kept in mind. I cannot help feeling that the noble Lord has a different picture in his mind from the one that I have in mine of the people we are talking about, the community support officers. It may be that he knows something which I do not about what the chief officers of police and the commissioner will regard as the meaning of the words "adequate training" in subsection 3(c). There has been a certain amount of bar talk of a few weeks training for such people.

Those people will be the representatives of the police force, so far as the public are concerned. They will be on the street and if they lose their name, then the Met, or another police force, will lose its name with them. If my noble friend Lord Dixon-Smith is to be persuaded of the point—I do not think that will be easy—the one thing which might persuade him would be some sort of undertaking by the Government as to what the level of training will be rather than leaving that to that general and subjective phrase.

I found another part of the noble Lord's intervention a little puzzling. He said that he drove what was, I think, something like 12 miles through London—not far from my front door on the way—and, like me, saw not a single policeman. However, the business of community support officers is to accompany the policemen that he did not see, so presumably he would not see them either. There must be an answer to that. Presumably that means that other people will be deployed in police stations and panda cars to get the policemen out on to the street.

My next point is an enthusiastic endorsement of the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, about the efficacy of getting to young people by means of mentoring before they get into trouble. That is a wider subject than the amendment. However, we should all have a motto in our minds, which is, "Even better than more policemen is fewer criminals". The way to achieve that is to get to children before they become criminals. However, I go too wide.

Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate

I bring a different perspective to the issue. Like the noble Lord, Lord Condon, I speak as a former police officer. I should like to bring us back to the real world. We are talking about community support officers who would support the police in the difficult job of policing. The reality is that the police service cannot attract sufficient recruits. In an ideal world we would have more police officers. The reality also is that we already have different forms of community support officers. I hear Members of the Committee say that the provision has no support north of Watford. That is simply not true. In my county, Sedgefield, for some time we have had a community support patrol employed by Sedgefield Council. It is not under the control of the police but works closely and well with the police and is supported by them. It acts as the eyes and the ears of the police dealing with minor vandalism. That is the very thing for which members of the public ask.

Members of the public are crying out for a uniformed presence and, as the noble Lord, Lord Condon, rightly said, the police are not providing it. I have experienced the same problem. We do not see officers walking about on the streets. That is not the fault of the police. It is a fact of life that for various reasons police officers are tied up on specialist duties. We used to have park-keepers and bus conductors who provided a uniformed presence in the community. That gave people a sense of security. We do not have that now. We now have security guards in shopping centres and community patrols such as those in Sedgefield, which I have mentioned. There are similar schemes throughout the country. The reality is that we now have private bodies patrolling in uniform—without police powers; I accept—giving the community that for which they ask; that is, a sense of reassurance which, for whatever reason, the police cannot supply.

It may well be that, like New York, we shall be able to recruit sufficient police officers. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Condon, that New York has turned things round completely, not least because it has increased the number of uniformed police officers over the years. It has also applied a zero-tolerance approach to policing, which I favour. The police should get back to policing and forget about being social workers. Policing is about enforcing the law. So long as police officers do that, I believe they will make a difference. Unfortunately, some chief officers do not believe in that and think that the police have a different role. However, that is by the way. The reality is that we have many different types of uniformed bodies patrolling the streets.

This provision means that for the first time uniformed patrols will be under the control of the police. In my judgment, the advantage of that is clear: the police service can set the standards; provide the training and look at the complaints procedure against the security patrols; that is, the community support officers. In other words, there is a mechanism in the Bill which leads to the independent police complaints commission. There will be accountability for the first time.

I declare an interest as president of the Joint Security Industry Council. I am involved with security companies and organisations. It is important to mention that the security industry can benefit from the Bill's provisions. Clearly there is some business here for the security industry—but at least under the Bill, it will come under the control of those who participate in such schemes, whether accredited or working directly for the chief constable, and be subject to all the standards those authorities set. That is a real advantage. To remove the clause would be a great mistake.

Lord Fowler

I bow to the noble Lord's expertise but do not agree that the public want community support officers. We should approach the matter by considering what the public do want. In that respect, I support my noble friend Lord Dixon-Smith and believe that this is one of the most fundamental proposals in the Bill. It comes not from the Home Secretary but from his predecessor. Much of the originating work was done by Ian Blair, then Chief Constable of Surrey, now Deputy Commissioner of Police for the metropolis.

No one would claim that the proposal has the overwhelming support of the police service the length and breadth of the country. When Mr. Blair set out his vision at an Association of Chief Police Officers conference in 1998, he saw two local authority patrols in bright red uniforms marked Surrey Police Compliant move around the high street drawn from the welfare-to-work programme, funded by central government in concert with the local authority. They have radios connected to the police officer with direct responsibility for this area. That police officer is liasing with education and social services representatives, whose cars are also marked police compliant". That was the beginning of public debate on a proposal that the police service has not overwhelmingly accepted. It is at odds with the tradition of police work in this country. The reason for establishing an organised professional police service was that private patrols broke down. That is how the Metropolitan Police were formed. I am in no way prejudiced against private security. Between 1990 and 1993 I was a director of Group 4, which is one of the leading security companies in this country, and remain an admirer of its standards. I believe in the role of private security and support licensing.

I believe also that there is a natural limit to the role of professional private security and perhaps even more to that of local authority staff, however they are recruited and dressed. Private security has a valuable role in guarding premises and protecting cash. Local authorities have an established role in respect of parks and so on.

5.15 p.m.

Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate

The noble Lord suggested that the debate started with Ian Blair but that simply is not true. Patrols in Sedgefield happened well before Ian Blair. The reality is that there are uniformed patrols on the streets and enforcing the law, dealing with minor vandalism. The clause will bring those services within the ambit of the police service for the first time. At present, there is no legislation to stop anybody setting up a private patrol that can be hired by a wealthy estate or a local authority. The clause will bring such services within the police family and make them subject to the standards that the police service represents. The noble Lord has not addressed that point.

Lord Fowler

I have only just started. If the noble Lord will be patient, I will address that particular point. I cannot comment on any debates that the police service has in private but what I said about the public debate is absolutely correct. The Home Secretary's response was that Ian Blair's plans and the ones we have today were a real possibility.

The proposal goes way beyond anything we have had before. As far as I know, we do not have private patrols on the streets with the power to arrest and detain people for 30 minutes before the police turn up. Does the noble Lord want to correct me and claim that hundreds of people are undertaking such patrols?

Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate

I am reluctant to intervene again and to interrupt the noble Lord's flow but this is about completely removing community support officers. The question of powers will be debated later.

Lord Fowler

With respect, we are debating the concept of community support officers. That is the whole point of the amendment. It is difficult to debate the concept without examining the powers. Unless the noble Lord and the public understand that we are discussing something new, the debate will get off to a bad and confused start.

We should remember recent history—and here I praise the police service. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, I was engaged in writing a book about the police in Europe. In 1968, there were riots and demonstrators fought against police in Amsterdam and, notably, Paris. In London, things went very differently. The point was made to me time and time again in Europe that the mistake made by the European police was adopting the view that "My uniform is my authority". The British police had won trust. I fear that we risk saying, "Your uniform is your authority". I am not sure that the public would understand or accept that concept.

Under the Bill, community support officers would have powers never seen before. There will be disputes about abuse of power. This is ABC stuff as far as the police service is concerned. It realises that policing must be sensitive. The importance of trained police on the beat goes beyond reassurance. The generally good relationship between the police and public in Britain depends on day-by-day meetings between them.

The Government and the country have a strategic choice. The Government are saying, "Don't worry. These things are taking place but there is a record number of police". The Minister used that phrase himself. I am a qualified admirer of the Minister—qualified only because I do not agree with many of his political views. However, I have known and worked alongside the Minister in Birmingham a long time. When he was a member of the Opposition, he would have choked with indignation if a Conservative government had used that phrase to describe police recruitment. We all know that no priority was given to police recruitment in the first four years of the Labour Government.

Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate

Will the noble Lord give way?

Lord Fowler

No. If the noble Lord does not mind, I must make progress.

A rather important point was, again, made by the noble Lord. I do not believe that he is right when he says that new police cannot be recruited. I simply do not think that that is the case. Indeed, there is a lesson to be learnt from New York and its zero tolerance policy. We have all been over there to see it; at least anyone who has had anything to do with home affairs over the past five or six years has done so. Its introduction has been remarkably effective. It has targeted resources upon so-called "hot spots" in crime, and has cleared up crime in a remarkable way. But what was the first course of action that they took before the policy was introduced? They recruited something like 7,000 to 8,000 new policemen. They did not recruit community support officers, they recruited policemen. That was also true throughout the cities of the United States.

The noble Lord, Lord Condon, put it gently, but I should put it much more bluntly. The fact is that we are under-policed in this country. We are under-policed in London; we are under-policed in our big cities; and we are under-policed in many other towns throughout the country. In my view, that is the problem and the issue that we should be addressing. If we have resources, it seems to me that they should be directed to that area. The Government say that where such additional community officers have been introduced they have had an effect. Of course they have had an effect. But the question to consider is this: if police had been introduced in those areas, would there have been an even greater impact on the situation?

Frankly, I fear that the proposal is Treasury driven. It is the cheapest way that the Government can find to reassure the public. I believe that to be the long and short of it. It will be a grave mistake for this country to accept such a proposal. Fundamentally, this is the wrong course for the Government to take. Of course we want a bigger anti-crime presence on our streets, but I suggest that the public—they are the acid test— would infinitely prefer trained police officers to these proposed substitutes. We should recognise that, by any standards, we have a fine police service in this country with a fine reputation. Indeed, I pay tribute to them. That is where the Government should place their priority, not on the kind of substitutes that are now proposed.

Lord Tope

On the first Committee day I declared that I am a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority and of the Association of Police Authorities. Therefore, I am very well aware that very different views are held by those who come from the MPA from those who come from other police authorities. I do not find that in the least surprising, or, indeed, in the least remarkable. It arises because we have very different circumstances and experiences. The metropolis—London—is probably unlike any other city; it is certainly unlike most other cities for well-known reasons.

If the Bill were proposing that every police authority or police service in the country must have community support officers, I should be loudest in my opposition to that proposal. That would be completely wrong. It would be inappropriate for the circumstances of most areas. However, as I understand it—I am sure that the Minister will confirm this—the proposal is that they "may" do so. I shall not enter into an argument about who first thought of the idea, but it is well known that the proposal has been driven by the Metropolitan Police service and, now, by the Metropolitan Police Authority; and, in particular, by our Deputy Commissioner. I have had the benefit of Deputy Commissioner Blair's briefings on many occasions, and I am almost word perfect now. Nevertheless, the noble Lord, Lord Condon, explained the proposals as regards the Metropolitan Police with greater authority, and much better, than I can. So I shall not repeat those points.

However, if I thought for one moment that what was being proposed was simply a cheap alternative to policing, I, too, would oppose it. In the Metropolitan Police Service, of which I can speak with knowledge—I cannot for other areas—we are now recruiting at maximum. The Metropolitan Police Training College in Hendon has been full on every intake for most of the past year, and it looks as though that will continue for next year because the budget provision is available. So at last, long overdue, the Met is recruiting as fast and as fully as it can. It is in that context that I view the current proposals for community support officers. It is not a question of them being recruited instead of uniformed police officers. Like all noble Lords and members of the public, I certainly want to see as many uniformed police officers on our streets, and elsewhere, as possible. CSOs will not be introduced instead of uniformed police officers; they will be there as a supplement to the latter. That is an important difference. It is the condition upon which I support them.

As I said, we are recruiting at maximum. Physically, we cannot train any more officers at present. Retention is a different issue and one upon which I shall not dwell today, but recruitment is at maximum so as to get an increased uniformed presence onto our streets and into our estates. The noble Lord, Lord Condon, explained that there are three different proposals, if you like, in the Met for the use of CSOs.

There are those to be used in connection with security needs—the standing-on-the-street-corner position, which has been carried out by police constables since 11th September and police constables are extremely bored with having to do it.

There is also the transport proposal. Within the Greater London Authority there is now an agreement between the Metropolitan Police Authority and Transport for London for a transport policing initiative, which, when fully developed during the course of the coming year, will cover 26 of the bus routes most subject to criminal activity. Those duties will be conducted by uniformed police officers, supplemented by what I suppose will be called "community support officers". I do not mind what name is used. That proposal will go ahead; the agreement is there.

However, the key question is the issue that we should be debating; namely, what powers will these officers have? But that is not the subject of the amendment now before the Committee. The amendment proposes that we should delete CSOs from the Bill. That is why I am uncomfortable with it.

There is an important debate still to be addressed about the nature of the powers that such officers will have. That is the key question; it is not about whether they should exist. Then, in due course, the greatest number—.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

I am much obliged to the noble Lord. I shall be brief. How can we conceivably debate this amendment without looking at Schedule 4 and considering the width of the powers equated in effect to those of a police officer? The debate is about whether there should be a supplement. I am totally in favour of supplement. Indeed, the noble Lord, who is a very experienced police officer, explained the need for it. That is fine. But that is not the essence of this debate. We cannot deal with this amendment without considering Schedule 4. That is the issue as I would put it.

Lord Tope

During the course of a most interesting speech from the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, it crossed my mind that we were going through a Second Reading debate rather than a Committee stage discussion. The two amendments that we are considering specifically call for the deletion of community support officers from the Bill. There are many noble Lords who have far more experience than I have of the procedure of this Chamber. However, I thought that we were supposed to be discussing two amendments, both of which seek to delete the reference to "community support officers" from the Bill. I was explaining why I am unhappy with that suggestion.

Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate

Perhaps I may simply make the point that it is possible to have CSOs without any powers, other than those of civilians. That is what happens in Sedgfield. Therefore, we do not need to discuss the powers at this stage. I entirely agree with the noble Lord.

Lord Tope

This discussion is beginning to get a little like debates in the other place. I am grateful to the noble Lord. That was exactly the point that I was trying to make and was in the process of developing. Let us call these officers "community support officers", though they were originally called auxiliaries. They will be working on London buses; indeed, that will happen, whatever powers they may have. That is my point.

Many noble Lords have referred to the work in the community. Like other authorities elsewhere that have been mentioned, I know that many London boroughs employ neighbourhood wardens, or whatever. Similarly, those people have no policing powers as such, but they carry out an extremely important and useful job on estates and on the streets. It is a visible, and usually uniformed, presence that provides reassurance. Those employed by my local authority work very closely with the local police. They provide intelligence to the local police, and, indeed, receive briefing from them. It is known in the community that they do so, but one of the reasons for their strength is the fact that they are not seen to be part of the police. They perform a useful function.

I take issue with the noble Lord. It is possible—whether or not it is desirable—to have community support officers of whatever name who have no powers at all. When we move further on in the Bill we shall debate what powers they should have. Then there will be some important differences. But I am unhappy with these amendments.

5.30 p.m.

Lord Dixon-Smith

Perhaps I can try to bring the debate back to the point. It has strayed very much into the area of the community safety accreditation scheme. That is not what we are talking about. We are talking about civilians already in full-time employment doing a full-time job for the police. The suggestion is that they might be "put out on the streets"—and I do not mean that in any derogatory sense—with very limited police powers in aid of the police.

The difference between us is not whether or not they should go out onto the streets. We do not dispute that. We think that in this instance their three other suggested functions will relieve the constables who should be doing the work. Therefore, there is that aspect to the matter. We also feel that people on the streets acting as bobbies should have full police powers. Therefore, they should be special constables. We shall go over the ground again, but I want to try to draw the debate back to the slightly narrower focus.

Lord Waddington

The noble Lord, Lord Tope, was entirely right to remind us that there is nothing in the Bill which requires chief officers of police to recruit community support officers. But we have gone over this ground many times before. I do not think that the noble Lord would seriously deny that pressure could be brought to bear on chief officers of police to recruit them purely for budgetary reasons.

I thought that when we debated the issue the other day the Minister was inclined to come half way to meet us and to agree that perhaps something should be written into the Bill in order to prevent that kind of pressure being brought on chief officers of police. But there is nothing in the Bill at the present time to prevent that pressure being brought. Therefore, we must proceed on the assumption that the Bill should not go forward with this power unless we are absolutely satisfied that it would be right for a chief officer of police to exercise that power.

Lord Rooker

I do not want to pre-empt anyone's debate, but, to be honest, I think that that is a bit unfair. I gave a firm commitment about the use of the powers under Part 1 in respect of Part 4. I am hardly in a position to do anything about that today. We are still in Committee. I gave a firm commitment that we would go away and come back on Report. So I say to the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, that to start using that argument is wholly counter-productive. It is a circular argument that gets us nowhere because I have nothing else to say in response to it, other than what I have already said.

Lord Waddington

I thought that I was helping the noble Lord, not harming his case. I am perfectly prepared therefore to withdraw what I said about the Minister, which I thought was very kind to him. But it still is the fact that at the present time there is nothing in the Bill which would prevent pressure being brought on chief officers of police to recruit community support officers. That is the way we should approach this provision so that we are satisfied, before we let this power go forward, that it is a proper power and one which should in appropriate circumstances be used by chief officers of police.

No one denies that there are plenty of areas in which the burden on the police can be reduced as a result of the use of civilians. During my time in the Home Office, great progress was made in that direction. I am by no means sure that greater progress can still not be made. But we need to look at the duties which would be performed by these community support officers. Those who advocate the recruitment of community support officers are advocating that they should carry out some of the most difficult and dangerous of all police tasks.

We are not talking about these people just being ornaments on the streets. We are suggesting that they should be recruited to control city centres and housing estates and deal with louts and troublemakers. Their suggested duties are ones which police officers—it has been suggested—are sometimes reluctant to perform. Indeed, I seem to remember that one of the proposals put forward by the Home Secretary was that special financial bonuses might be available to police officers in order to encourage them to carry out these very duties.

One has only to look at the diary of a police officer in order to see how little patrolling is done. Why? Is it purely a question of chief officers of police concluding that patrolling is a useless exercise? Or is it a question of there being so many other difficult duties to perform and so many pressures on the police that they cannot spare the police to do it, although they are essentially duties which should be carried out by fully trained police officers?

I am extremely worried about the possibility of these half-trained people being put into difficult situations at a time in our history when there is a great deal of lawlessness, violence and hooliganism on our streets. At Second Reading I read a letter which had been written to The Times by a former senior officer in the Metropolitan Police. He queried how the system would work? He asked what on earth would happen if a community support officer was checking someone—a lout for dropping litter—and moments later that same lout was to draw a knife on someone standing next door to him? Is he supposed to beat a hasty retreat? In what dignified way would he get out of that kind of situation, because of course he will not be given the powers to deal with it. What would happen if he was dealing with someone who had parked a car improperly and at that moment someone came up and tried to hijack the car? No one has really answered these questions.

The lack of full police powers could lead to ridiculous situations. Yet no one so far has suggested that these half-trained people should have full police powers. It is no good the noble Lord, Lord Tope, saying that that is in another amendment. We must decide the principle of the thing now. There are difficulties in both directions. If they are given insufficient powers they cannot deal with difficult situations. If they are given too great powers then the public will question why one should give such great powers to someone who is not fully trained as a police officer.

Where will these people come from? No one has answered that question yet. Sometimes people say, "Well, there are not enough people queuing up to be police officers. Therefore somehow or other we must tap other sources for recruits". I wonder where these other sources are. I should he extremely anxious if the kind of people attracted to become community support officers were people whom we would not consider for one moment as potential police officers. They might be very good traffic wardens, but really they are not potential police officers.

Sometimes we have heard the opposite. We have heard that there are plenty of people queuing up to be police officers. If that is so, the answer is the one put forward by my noble friend. We should be recruiting sufficient police officers in order to carry out all these other duties which the Government say will have to be performed by community support officers.

Surely, we should be looking at other ways to get people who can carry out these difficult jobs. The most obvious people are the Specials. They have the right powers and the right commitment, they are well established in the community, well known and accepted by people. We should now be bending all our efforts to devising new incentives to get more people to join the specials and encouraging every police force to expand its specials.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

I am sure that everyone—I speak in particular for the women in the community—wants more police. As the noble Lord, Lord Condon, said, our absolute first choice is to have a much stronger and better police service. I speak of the Metropolitan area, which I know better than other areas. But I should be reluctant to throw out community support officers, because although I would put police first and specials second, I would rather have community support officers than no one. That is the situation at the moment: no one on the streets. The noble Lord, Lord Mackenzie, made an interesting point when he said that private bodies are giving the community what it is asking for. Anyone can put on any sort of uniform and go around. That is true.

I should like to correct an error I made at Second Reading when I said that we did not want a Miami-type situation and that the police had told me that 90 per cent of properties were not open to the police in Miami. Afterwards, the police told me that it was 19 per cent. I said that their officers had better be a little clearer next time because Hansard had correctly recorded me as saying 90 per cent. That is what I thought the officer had said, but 19 per cent of premises in Miami are unavailable to the ordinary police force there because they are totally controlled by private forces. I do not want to see such a great structure of private forces developed here. If the only alternative is community support officers, I would rather see them than lots of private security firms growing willy-nilly.

My noble friend Lord Dixon-Smith made some valid points, but my concern as an ordinary member of the public is, first, to see more police and, secondly, ino re specials, especially if we can give them more of an official role. I understand that at present many specials are unpaid. If we are to turn them into professionals we must pay them. As a third choice, I would go for community support officers.

Lord Mayhew of Twysden

I agree with my noble friend. In the last resort, the public would rather have entirely civilian and private community support officers than no one at all. I was interested to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Mackenzie, had to say about Sedgefield. Of course, he speaks with tremendous authority as a professional police officer. I am sure that it is desirable to have some form of support rather than none. I assume that those people have no powers of arrest, but it would be interesting to know how they deal with minor vandalism. Perhaps the noble Lord will explain that later.

My noble friend Lord Fowler said that he was a qualified admirer of the noble Lord, Lord Rooker. I am rapidly becoming an unqualified admirer of his—qualified only because it is based on my experience of how he has dealt with this difficult Committee debate. I hope that he will continue to deal with it in the same way—I expect he will.

Perhaps I may provide an analysis of the problem and ask the Minister's views on three or four questions. First, does he think that, rightly or wrongly, there is a lack of public confidence in the level of policing that they experience? If so, does he think that that derives from the public's belief that there is an insufficient rate of crime prevention and detection? I think the answer to both questions is yes, but it would be helpful to know if he agrees. If so, does he agree that it is elementary that that lack of confidence ought to be diminished? If his answer to that is yes, is there a more obvious way to diminish it than to have more Police officers, if that were practical? Lastly, does he therefore think that there are too few police officers?

The public want to see people on the streets with the powers of police officers. If confidence is to be restored, those who are put on the streets to do something to remedy the lack of confidence must have police powers.

At Second Reading, I tried to draw attention to the extraordinary rigmarole that must be gone through by a civilian if his authority to ask for a name, address and so forth and to require someone to stick around for half an hour until a policeman turns up were to be questioned, as inevitably it will. I drew attention to the curious provision that he must say, the accreditation…may provide that an offence is not to he treated as a relevant offence…unless it satisfies such other conditions as may be specified in the accreditation". He must go through the whole business of his own individual accreditation, which may be different from that of someone else. My noble friend Lord Waddington touched on this point. If the public see someone putting two fingers up to someone who is incapable of detaining him no matter what he is doing, confidence will not be established or enhanced—in fact it will worsen.

The Government must recognise that there are not enough police. Why 'are we not doing a New York? Presumably, because the money does not run to it. That is what the public fear. That is why people must be recruited who do not have the full powers of police—because if they did they would want to be paid what the police are paid. That is the problem that the Government face: they cannot attract the necessary increase in public confidence by those means. The public will think that they are doing it on the cheap.

I hope that I am wrong about that and the Minister will say, "We are pressing ahead with increased police numbers and the more we get, the more we shall encourage chief constables to put them on the street". But I think that my analysis is correct. I should be grateful if, when he comes to reply, the Minister would tell me whether I am right or wrong.

5.45 p.m.

Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate

Before the noble and learned Lord sits down, perhaps I can answer his question about Sedgefield, which is relevant. The community force in Sedgefield, which is employed by the local authority, has no additional powers to those of members of the public. The Committee must understand that there is not a great deal of difference between the powers of the police and the powers of members of the public under common law. Officers of the community force enforce the law as best they can. They deal with the very things that cause problems in communities. That is not bank robberies, stabbings and murders but graffiti and youths causing annoyance, swearing and urinating in public places— the quality of life issues, as I call them. The community force provides a presence and confronts such behaviour.

If the situation becomes confrontational to the extent that additional powers are required—it may well do and often does—community officers call the police to the scene of the incident and the police respond. They are in radio contact with the police and work closely with them. The noble and learned Lord asked what happens if people put two fingers up. After 35 years of policing, I can tell him that I have often had two figures put up to me. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Condon, has had the same experience.

The answer is that one acts on one's wits. Of course, that does not always succeed and one often ends up being assaulted. No doubt that would happen to community support officers, but that is no reason for not having the provisions of the Bill. Under the Bill, it is an offence to assault or run away from a community support officer who is trying to enforce the law. There is no excuse for not applying the Bill's provisions. I hope that that answers the noble and learned Lord's question.

Baroness Hanham

My Lords, I have not had a chance to intervene in the debate before now. Although I shall move an amendment later, I must justify my existence by speaking briefly now. I shall not speak specifically about community support officers, but about the powers that will be available to people such as community support officers or those from accredited organisations.

I represent the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, which is about to launch a borough constable unit. My amendment will propose that the powers available to them be slightly increased. At this point, however, I want to support what has been said about the desirability of having additional or supplementary people on the streets. It has become increasingly apparent that the sort of minor offences that have been referred to are beginning to cause enormous grief to residents and to the public and that the police have neither the time nor the presence to deal with them. Such offences must be dealt with, if we are all to have a reasonable quality of life. We must ensure that our estates and streets are properly managed.

I may intervene once or twice again, but I had thought that there might be a long distance between now and when we discuss my amendment, when I might be able to say more on the subject.

Lord Baker of Dorking

As a resident of South Kensington, in the Royal Borough, I am pleased to know that we will have borough constables, even with slightly enhanced powers. I appreciate the concerns that have been expressed by my noble friends, but I do not share them entirely. The proposal has quite a lot to be said for it, and I hope that the House will listen to the views of the noble Lord, Lord Condon, who has had responsibility for dealing with the country's greatest policing problems.

It is a little too facile to say, "If only we could have many more police officers". I increased the size of the police force, as did my noble friend Lord Waddington and my successor. I think I heard the previous Home Secretary say that he was increasing the size of the police force, and I dare say that the present Home Secretary says that he will increase it. It is a pity that we have not been a bit more successful in achieving that. If it were possible to increase the size of the police force significantly, all parts of the House would support that. However, there are difficulties, and we must accept that.

The other difficulty is that today's police officer must be trained in a range of skills that is unbelievable compared to the training given to a police officer 50 years ago. He must be trained not only in the ordinary duties of policing our streets but in the difficult business of dealing with marital conflict, dealing with a rape scene and dealing with drunken louts turned out of clubs at 3 o'clock in the morning, which is a more intense problem than it was when the pubs closed at 10 o'clock or whenever it was. He must be trained in the complicated area of interview techniques, which, of course, have changed as a result of PACE and developments of PACE. He is a much more professional person than the bobby on the beat of 50 years ago. It seems sensible to try to find people who can do some of the lesser policing jobs with slightly less training. That is what this is about.

Successive Home Secretaries have civilianised wherever they can. There has been much civilianisation in the big depots that control motorway surveillance. However, the question is whether we can do that on the beat, where officers will come into contact with the public. That is the issue about which my noble friend Lord Fowler spoke. Will it carry conviction? It will carry conviction in my borough, so I am pleased and relaxed about it, but we should address that problem.

Thirty years ago, the Metropolitan Police were responsible for all stationary vehicle offences in London. If a car was parked illegally, the police had to deal with it. They had to arrange for it to be towed away and for the owner to be summoned and taken to court. That responsibility was given over to a group of people called traffic wardens. When traffic wardens were first appointed, we had exactly the same debate. We asked ourselves, "How can we give to traffic wardens the right to take away a vehicle that is owned by somebody? They are not as well trained; they are lightly trained". Now, we do it; we accept it automatically. Indeed, following the crisis on 11 th September, when there was great pressure on security in London, the Metropolitan Police said that traffic wardens would take over all traffic responsibilities in London—the whole lot, the whole caboodle. That would be exercising police powers, but they were asked to do it in a crisis. I do not think that the liberties of London, as it were, were suddenly restricted by that. Therefore, I rather welcome the provision in the clause, and I hope that not many bars will be put in its way.

The noble Lord, Lord Condon, also mentioned the security responsibilities of the Metropolitan Police. Some of those require very specialist training. However, many embassies have a police officer standing outside for 365 days and nights a year—and nothing happens. There are embassies at which a lot can happen, and that requires particular training. However, there are many embassies at which absolutely nothing happens. Is that a sensible use of a police officer? I do not think that it is. As Home Secretary, I had protection, as did the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, and I have been happy with someone who was not a fully trained police officer standing outside my house. We should accept the fact that there are various activities that could suitably be carried out by other people. I hope that this is a gateway to that.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville

I apologise to the Minister and to some of my noble friends if, like my noble friend Lord Baker of Dorking, I am a tiny piece of grit in the collective shoe on this issue. I recall that, at Second Reading, I expressed greater support for and receptivity to the concept that we are discussing than some of my noble friends.

I appreciate that my principal exposure to policing, apart from Northern Ireland, has been in London, with the Met and the City of London Police. I acknowledge, of course, that I have never been a Home Office Minister and have not had that experience, but, during the previous Parliament, I could not go to a community meeting in Westminster—whether it be to do with an amenity society, residents' association or any of the three admirable police community consultative groups—without the issue of police numbers in Westminster and the police presence on the streets being raised. My noble friends Lady Hanham and Lady Gardner of Parkes alluded to similar experiences.

In part, that was against a background of complaints from the suburbs that they were being drained of police so that demonstrations in central London could be policed. However, it was also against a background of the loss of manpower from well policed areas of London—I use the phrase "'well policed" in all its senses—to other areas of the city that had a faster deteriorating crime rate. In an ideal world, as other noble Lords have said, we would prefer full-time, regular police officers. However, it is true, in harness with this, that some duties that must he fulfilled are a less than good use of full-time officers, with a consequential dilution of their morale.

Given the difficulties with ethnic recruitment to the Met, I am conscious of the remarkable success of the Territorial Army in recruiting ethnic minorities. In the Green Jackets' TA unit in Mayfair, about half the recruits are from ethnic minorities and about half are from single-parent families. Incidentally, there is much to be said for a uniform and discipline in giving structure to the lives of the young people who come from such backgrounds. I am attracted by the use of this vehicle to draw ethnic minorities into the police in that preliminary way, in exactly the same way as the RUC Reserve was used in Northern Ireland, giving people the chance to experience policing, before deciding whether to become full-time officers.

There is a genuine irony in our attacking the Government for greater centralisation if we are not prepared to contemplate the possibility of decentralised experiment. Of course, as I also said at Second Reading, there are real problems in determining the powers of the new categories of officer and securing public recognition of those powers. However, we cannot discuss them, as we IA ill do later, without assenting, at least, to the idea that there are parts of the country where such officers might be valuable.

I close with a reflection from the mid-1980s when I was the Minister responsible for Customs and Excise, which is obviously another law enforcement agency. I made 16 full day visits to Customs and Excise in different parts of the country. My experience was that, anywhere south of Watford, the only subject which Customs officers wanted to discuss was pay. North of Watford, that issue never arose.

It is a mistake to see the country as unremittingly homogeneous. There are different needs in different places. We should not forget that policing started in London because that was where the problems were.

6 p.m.

Lord Elton

Perhaps I may try to put the matter into perspective. The amendment only seeks to delete subsection (I)(a) of Clause 33 and we have three other subsections all aimed at recruiting civilians into policemen's uniforms doing policemen's work. Therefore, will the Minister tell us what proportion of personnel he hopes will be recruited under each of the four provisions?

It seems that people have been reacting to the amendment as though it were going to scrub out all civilian recruits of the new kind to the police service. That is very far from what will actually occur. The ones who are recruited as investigating, detention and escort officers, can all replace fully trained officers to become visible, as the noble Lord, Lord Condon, wants, and perhaps be available to be accompanied by the people under subsection (1)(a) which we are seeking to delete.

Lord Rooker

In reply to the noble Lord, Lord Elton, the answer is most certainly not. That is because this is an enabling power. It would be ludicrous for a Minister to stand up and give targets for community support, investigative, detention and escort officers. Amendments have been tabled relating to each type of officer. They propose either to scrub them out or to look at their powers and functions. At the appropriate time I will be happy to do that. However, bearing in mind all the previous debates, as well as the fact that this is an enabling power, it would be inappropriate for Ministers to give targets. It is a matter for the chief constables.

I welcome the debate and all the points raised, although I wish the last five speeches had been the first five speeches. From the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, onwards, the debate seemed to me utterly realistic and the noble Lord, Lord Baker, made my winding up speech for me in a much shorter time than I am afraid I am going to take. I am extremely grateful for what was said by the noble Lords, Lord Brooke and Lord Baker.

The noble Lord, Lord Baker, is right in saying that incredibly complex training is required of today's police. The noble Lords, Lord Waddington and Lord Elton, referred to half-trained people being used to police the streets. That is wrong and I shall turn to that matter later.

I have lived in London for many years but I do not count myself as a Londoner. I learn as I go along. There are issues relating to London in respect of which some boroughs are setting up their own policing function. There will be a combination of the community support officers and the accreditation schemes, to which we will turn later. They have the stamp of approval of the commissioner in London. It is better to use such people and schemes rather than having freelance people working for boroughs or private companies on private estates. Such a framework reassures the public. If efforts are led by the boroughs, in conjunction with the Metropolitan Police, so much the better for the accreditation schemes. There is a lot of merit in them.

The answer to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew, is yes, yes and yes. It also leads to the conclusion that the fear of crime is much too high. It is a major problem. However much we talk about crime statistics going down in one area, or up in another, the fact is that the public's fear of crime far outweighs the reality of what is happening in their local communities. We must recognise that fact.

There are too few police officers. I said during the course of our earlier debate that there is a target to achieve 130,000 officers by spring of next year. I also said that the Home Secretary would set a new target because that gave the lie to the suggestion that once we had achieved the target the number would remain stable and alteration would be only by means of community support officers and others. That is not our intention, by any means.

I am not going to argue about the numbers. One of the statistics that I always remember from 1979—probably the trickiest of the seven general elections I fought—was that there were then 15,000 more police officers in the country than there were in 1974. I do not believe that the then Labour government received any credit for it, but it is a figure that I have always remembered. I accept the number of police and special officers has gone down in the past few years and that civilian support has gone up.

The noble Lord, Lord Fowler, and I were constituency neighbours for many years. In response to his remarks, let us suppose that in opposition someone had come to me from the then government when he was a member of the Cabinet and said, "You've got real problems on an estate in a ward in your constituency. There are real problems with what would be relatively minor offences but to the people concerned the crimes are the most serious matters in their lives. Balls are knocked up against gable walls hour after hour after hour; bikes are everywhere; dogs are fouling the pavements; and youths are messing around with alcohol. There are not enough police to do the job but we have a few uniformed blokes organised and controlled by the police. Do you want them?" Does the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, really think that I would have attacked a government who would have come along and said, "This is probably a good idea. It may help your constituents"? No, of course I would not and he knows that.

The issues raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, are important. The priority is right. I agree and I believe that the public will agree that we would rather have police. The specials are not always available when one needs them and the community support officers are a uniformed presence with certain very limited powers. I agree with the noble Baroness's analysis.

The noble Lord, Lord Waddington, made the point about the diary of the police officer. We debated that matter at Second Reading. I do not have the figure in front of me but I believe that either 43 per cent or 47 per cent of a police officer's time is spent at the station. Why is that? It is because of the paperwork. The average amount of time spent on the paperwork required of a police officer in respect of an arrest of any kind is three and a half hours in the station. Whatever the crime, the police officer spends three and a half hours off the street and in the station.

What is proposed in the clause—the detention, investigation and escort officers—is intended to cut the amount of time that a police constable is in the station when he could be back out on the beat, as set out in the White Paper. There is nothing new there. The argument is not that the police do not want to go out and are hiding in the station, as implied by the noble Lord, Lord Waddington. Far from it, they are tied down in the station because of the paperwork and everything else. I suspect that we have all seen what happens. As I say, the average time is three and a half hours off the beat.

I do not want to separate the noble Lord, Lord Tope, from the last five speakers, but the problem is that the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, came in the middle. The noble Lord, Lord Tope, spoke from his knowledge of Hendon college. I have none and I must make a point of visiting the college. He said that it was full. We can say with some certainty that we will have 130,000 police officers by spring of next year because we know the retirement rates, the wastage rates, the ill health rates and the recruitment and training rates. We can be confident that we can hit that target. I believe that is a valuable point and I am grateful that he was able to make it.

Returning to the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, I do not believe that the community support officers are at odds with tradition because traditions have changed. We shall come to that later in the debate.

My noble friend Lord Mackenzie mentioned park keepers and conductors on buses. In some ways it is true that community support officers will fit more neatly into the accreditation schemes. However, it is a fact that we used to have more of a uniformed presence about. I can remember that even over my short years. It used to he said of the park keeper, "The parky's coming after you. You'd better scamper". I recall that at the time I was scrumping apples in someone's back garden. Traditions have changed, and no longer do we have a uniformed presence in our public spaces.

In that sense, I do not believe that the proposal to introduce community support officers, to be taken up at the wish of chief police officers, goes against tradition. Such officers will fit in better with modern society and will meet the changes that have taken place.

Again, my noble friend Lord Mackenzie made the point that the problems are not found only in London. I accept that, although I freely admit that much of the pressure to embrace community support officers has come from the Met. It may well be that other chief constables will sit back in thinking mode to watch and discuss what happens in London. However, they will have to be careful because London is in no way a mirror image of the rest of the country. Far from it. The rest of the country can be a great deal nicer. But it could be said that London will act as a virtual pilot for the rest of the country.

Mr Blair has told me that he sees no problem whatever in the recruitment of community support officers. That brings me to a point made by the noble Lord. Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, who pointed out in our brief discussion that community support officers may well be able to strike a better balance with the ethnic minorities—as is also the case with the specials—than is possible in the regular force. Perhaps it will be a better route for recruitment. I believe that there is a good deal of support for and agreement with that view among professional police officers.

he noble Lord, Lord Elton, was far too harsh on the issue of training. He criticised subparagraph (c) of Clause 22(3). However, subsection (3) states: A chief officer of police shall not designate a person under this section unless he is satisfied that that person— (c) has received adequate training in the carrying out—of the powers", which the officer will allow that person. It is true that there is to be a "pick and mix" menu. The idea that, say, the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis would permit half-baked training to meet the criteria that he—not Ministers—will have chosen for community support officers is a bit of an attack on the professionalism and the seriousness of the police with regard to training. There is not a shred of evidence that the commissioner or any other chief officer would send people out who were not trained. They will be trained to do a different job from that of a regular constable. I accept that. But it is a question of horses for courses in that respect.

I take the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Condon, that the first priority must be more police on the beat, which was repeated by the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner. It is a fair point. The noble Lord went on to list three areas within the Met where community support officers could prove to be extremely useful, on occasion working alongside regular officers but not necessarily all the time. For example, if a roadblock has to be set up and searches carried out, surely the job of patrolling the cordon of the roadblock while regular officers carry out the work of stopping cars and conducting searches is an ideal role for a community support officer. It would free up regular officers for their work. Indeed, in London community support officers could prove extremely useful in the traffic endeavour.

The noble Lord also reiterated a point he made on Second Reading—that community support officers could well enhance the security effort following the events of September 11 th, a point that many noble Lords brought up. Many police officers were drafted in, but then we were told that they were bored out of their minds because nothing happened. We were lucky that nothing happened, but that was because there was a uniformed presence on the streets. The point is that we will never know. It was a precautionary move, wholly justified in the circumstances; indeed, it remains so. We are therefore wholly justified in looking at other ways of ensuring that all the tasks set for the police are carried out.

Although the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, was not totally supportive, by and large he appeared to want to see how this would work—I am paraphrasing from my notes, which are not that good. We are holding here very much a Second Reading debate on whether we should have community support officers. I accept that, because we are not debating their powers. We shall come to that in Schedule 4. where Members of the other place sought to limit the options for chief constables.

The noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, expressed a fundamental point and put forward a fairly extreme view: no community support officers, whatever their powers. That takes the extreme view reflected in the purpose of the amendment which I hope that the Committee will not support because it would certainly negate the remainder of our debate looking at the powers, and it is too extreme.

I turn now to my speaking notes, because I must put one or two points on the record that may not be in direct response to the remarks of noble Lords. There are no powers of arrest for community support officers. However, as one noble Lord pointed out, the introduction of such officers marks one of the key proposals in the White Paper and we consider it to be one of the major elements of this piece of legislation. We make no bones about that. This is enabling legislation, it is not prescriptive and it will be up to the chief officer to decide whether to go this way. I shall make the point again that the Metropolitan Police have argued strongly for such a proposal, given the scale of the demand for officers to provide a counterterrorism presence. However, the role of the community support officer will have a wider application.

The British Crime Survey shows that, while the incidence of crime is generally falling, the fear of crime is not. It is important to take that fact on board. There is an unfulfilled public expectation to see a police presence on every street tackling low level crime and anti-social behaviour. After all, most people expressing a fear of crime because they have come up against it do not do so because they have been involved in a bank robbery or a terrorist offence. They have not become entangled in major, serious crimes. Rather it is youths misusing alcohol and behaving in an anti-social manner. While that might be classed as low level crime in the hierarchy of crimes, for the individual suffering from it, it is the thing that sends them out of their mind.

People can become absolutely obsessed with what happens once local youths and miscreants start to misbehave. Those petty crimes can take over their lives and make them physically ill. That was certainly my experience when representing areas of Birmingham where there were such difficulties. I could not go to the chief constable and say, "Put your top man, or your top lady, on to this". I knew that there were other problems. I could not claim that those petty crimes were the most important policing issue in the City of Birmingham, but for my constituents it was the thing that was ruining their lives.

At that level we can make a difference. Giving a lever to chief constables in the form of community support officers is what it is all about: it will help them to make a difference. Initial audits and consultations carried out by the crime and disorder reduction partnerships have shown a strong public concern about these relatively minor aspects, sometimes no more than noisy youths. Many people suffer from the problems of anti-social, sub-criminal behaviour which can blight entire communities as well as individuals.

Community support officers will not replace police officers. As I have said, we are committed to increasing police numbers to the figure of 130,000 and we shall set a new target when we reach it. Community support officers are not intended to have the full range of powers of a regular constable or a special. I remind the Committee that specials are not civilians playing policeman; they are fully attested constables but, by definition, they are not always around when they are needed. They are not available at 3.30 in the afternoon when someone might be playing up near the entrance and exit of a school. Someone must be sent along to sort it out and to show a presence. That is the kind of problem which can be dealt with by community support officers.

Community support officers will free up regular officers to carry out the duties which require their full powers. The role of the community support officer will be limited and will be clearly focused. Unlike regular beat officers, whom they may support, community support officers are unlikely routinely to be called away to deal with more serious crimes. Unlike special constables, who are generally only available at weekends—by definition they have full-time jobs elsewhere—the community support officers will be available at the times of the day when the chief officer requires them; for example, for transport routes in the middle of the day and for estates and communities in the school holidays. There are people who dread the onset of school holidays because of minor crime. If the chief constable has the resource of community support officers working with other organisations in known areas, he can nip it in the bud.

There are a number of safeguards throughout this part of the Bill—which I shall not debate in detail now—in regard to the designation of support staff and the exercise by them of these limited police powers. The Bill provides that the chief officer must be satisfied that a person is suitable to carry out the relevant functions, is capable of carrying them out and is adequately trained. The chief officer may modify or remove the designation, including the powers conferred on community support officers, at any time he chooses.

Such support staff, employed by a police authority and under the direction and control of the relevant officer, will come within the remit of the independent police commission, as we discussed earlier in Committee, and will come under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act codes of practice. So, to that extent, people can be reassured that there will be a uniformed presence, with extremely limited powers, in areas where people's lives are made a misery.

It is worth the effort to allow the Met, or any chief constable who wishes to do so, to pilot this operation—it is not something that we are imposing—and we could then see how it works and if it is up to the job, which we believe it will be. I hope that the noble Lord will not pursue his amendment to a Division.

6.15 p.m.

Lord Dixon-Smith

We have had an amazing debate in which we have inevitably gone across the length and breadth of this subject, including the community safety accreditation schemes. I hope the Committee will forgive me if I express the hope that we do not have to go over it all in duplicate when we come to those schemes; that would be superfluous.

I am grateful to all noble Lords who have contributed to the debate—even to those behind me who disagree with the amendment. I do not detract from what we have suggested and I will explain why. Among other matters, we are talking about the quality of policing and we should first get the proposal into perspective. The amendment refers only to community support officers who, if we accept the designation, will be civilians already employed by and doing a full-time job for the police.

If we accept the designation, one of the qualifications on the use of these people is that it will apply only during their normal employment hours. So very often they will not be available on the street at those times when there will be, perhaps, most pressure. We need to face that.

Lord Condon

I thank the noble Lord for giving way. Am I to understand that he believes that it is only civilians currently working for the police who will be redesignated as community support officers? If that is his belief, he is mistaken. The idea is that hundreds of new people will be recruited, who will become employees and therefore able to be community support officers and used for whatever hours it is necessary for them to be used.

Lord Dixon-Smith

It may be that I have misunderstood the Bill, but if the police are to be given the resources to employ many additional civilians over and above those they already employ, they will also have resources to employ many more policemen. I believe my qualification is appropriate, but perhaps the Minister will tell me if I am incorrect. It is an important point. I certainly was not aware that the police were going to be resourced to employ many extra civilians—buckshee, so to speak—to fulfil this specific role. I thought that we were dealing with existing police civilians.

Let us get the civilians in perspective. New York has often been referred to, but it has more than 40,000 policemen as opposed to what we hope will be more than 30,000 in London very shortly, which will be very welcome. But, rather differently from London, New York has around 40,000 civilians as well, whereas in London the figure is somewhere around '7,000 civilians. I question whether many civilians will be available to become community support officers and fulfil this function—particularly bearing in mind that they will also be asked to become investigating officers, detention officers and escort officers.

I am sure that the Minister will intervene and tell me if I am wrong. Are we talking about new civilians additionally employed to fulfil this role, or are we talking about existing civilians?.

Lord Rooker

That has never been the issue. It has not been raised in the debate. They will be new people, over and above those who are there now, subject to the decision of chief constables. Of course there are resource implications, but the powers conferred on people under paragraphs (a), (b), (c) and (d)—if I can put it that way rather than read them all out again—are quite different and quite new.

Lord Dixon-Smith

I have no difficulty with the powers, but I do have difficulty with the function. If we are to employ additional people, so be it. There is plenty of what I call "constable substituting" work on which these people can be used. That will release more constables to go out onto the streets--and it is on the streets that constables should be used, the police cannot do that, then we should use special constables first and foremost. To do anything else would be to admit that we can no longer police the streets in the conventional way and to admit that we will have to devalue the whole service that we provide to the public.

I do not find that a satisfactory proposition. That is why we suggest removing the community support officer from the Bill and, when we get to the community safety accreditation schemes, accrecliting these people as special constables.

In his response, the Minister gave the impression that he was thinking about special constables in their existing context. He said that special constables are available only at particular hours; that they are not available when they are wanted and so on. Of course they are part-timers and volunteers. That is the basis on which special constables are used at the present time—I accept that—hut we envisage a complete change in the approach to special constables.

As I have said, the legislation which governs the appointment of special constables its very simple. It goes back to the 1996 Act, which states: The chief officer of police of the police force maintained for a police area may, in accordance with regulations—appoint special constables". It continues: The Secretary of State may make regulations as to the government, administration and conditions of service of special constables". If the existing regulatory structure does not give the flexibility required to put these people into the category of special constables and to train them accordingly, we would be happy to help the Government to alter the regulatory basis on which special constables work. But the flexibility is certainly there in the legislation and it could be done.

We are not arguing about ends: we are arguing about means. We all want the same ends, and we should remember that throughout our discussions. Our disagreement is over the means. We believe that there is an issue of quality here. We do not want to devalue the quality of the service to the public on the street.

It is worth picking up some of the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate, about accreditation schemes. Schemes such as that in Sedgefield exist under the present law. We do not need to change the law to keep them going. Such schemes will unquestionably continue.

Although, as the Minister says, we are not giving community safety officers powers of arrest, we are certainly giving them powers to detain, and powers to use "reasonable force" to detain. One can split hairs and debate the meaning of words; but if a person has power to detain and power to use reasonable force to detain in particular circumstances, they may not be powers of arrest, but the distinction is difficult to make. It would make for an interesting debate in a court of law.

6.30 p.m.

Lord Rooker

It seems quite simple. If there is a power of arrest, all the rigmarole of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act comes into force. There is a big distinction between power of detention and power of arrest.

Lord Dixon-Smith

Yes, I accept that. But what is the reality? If someone out on the street detains someone, where do we go from there? He waits for a constable to arrive, who then has to go through all the rest of the procedure. But the effect is the same. It will be the support officer who starts the process.

We ought to recognise that this is a very serious change. We shall be putting civilians in a very difficult situation. Yes, I accept that the chief constable concerned, or the commissioner, has to be satisfied that such people are adequately trained to do the job.I suspect that that will be quite difficult.

Our amendment relates to an argument about means, not about ends. It is not illogical. If we go down this route, we shall be devaluing the service that we give to the public. I have listened to the various comments and shall consider them carefully between now and Report. We may well need to return to the matter. For the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 186A not moved.]

Lord Rooker

moved Amendment No. 187: Page 32, line 2, at end insert— (2A) A Director General may designate any person who—

  1. (a) is an employee of his Service Authority, and
  2. (b) is under the direction and control of that Director General,
as an investigating officer. The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak briefly to the other government amendments grouped with it.

These amendments are intended to bring the National Crime Squad and the National Criminal Intelligence Service into line with the Bill's provisions for allowing support staff to be designated as investigating officers.

I must make it clear that the National Crime Squad and the National Criminal Intelligence Service are not police forces. Non-police members are employed by the respective service authorities and are under the control of their respective directors-general. In the same way as for police forces, there can be much value in having civilian investigating officers in specialist areas such as financial and information technology crime. That is particularly relevant for the National Crime Squad, which houses the Hi-Tech Crime Unit, and for NCIS, some of whose personnel work in the unit as part a close-knit team. In addition, both organisations have experience and expertise in investigating financial crime, as well as other specialist work.

Under the amendments, the provisions of Chapter 1 of Part 4 will be applied to NCS and NCIS in the same manner as they currently apply to forces. I should stress that the amendments are concerned only with the designation of support staff as investigating officers. Given the different role of the National Crime Squad and the National Criminal Intelligence Service as compared with the 43 forces, there is no requirement—and these amendments do not provide—for the directors-general to designate persons as community support officers, detention officers or escort officers. I beg to move

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bradshaw

moved Amendment No. 188: Page 32, line 2, at end insert— (2A) Before exercising his powers under this section, a chief officer of police of any police force must submit to the police authority maintaining that force a draft scheme (a "designation scheme") setting out—

  1. (a) the purpose of the proposed designation scheme relating to the designation of persons under this section and the expected benefits for the policing of the area;
  2. (b) how the designation scheme contributes to the three year strategy issued by the authority under section 6A of the Police Act 1996 (c. 16) and the local policing plan issued by that authority under section 8 of that Act;
  3. (c) the extent and nature of the powers he proposes to confer on designated persons;
  4. (d) how the suitability and capability of persons to be designated under the scheme will be assessed;
  5. (e) the arrangements for the provision of training to such designated persons;
  6. (f) the arrangements for the provision of equipment to such designated persons and any health and safety implications of the proposals; and
  7. (g) an estimate of the direct and ancillary costs of the scheme to the police fund kept by the police authority.
(2B) The chief officer shall not exercise his powers under this section until the police authority has approved a designation scheme for this purpose. (2C) Before approving any scheme, or any modified or revised scheme, which differs from the draft scheme submitted by the chief officer, the police authority shall consult the chief officer. (2D) Before approving any such scheme, the police authority may consider any views obtained by the authority in accordance with arrangements made under section 96 of the Police Act 1996. (2E) The chief officer may from time to time submit to the police authority a revised or modified draft scheme for its consideration. (2F) It shall be the responsibility of any police authority which has approved any scheme under subsection (2A) above to keep itself informed of the workings of the scheme, including, in particular to monitor the impact of the scheme on public confidence in the force maintained by that authority. The noble Lord said: I let this matter go by, and I do not want to delay the Committee. The answer given by the Minister at the beginning of our debates today about the police authority being included in consultation was sufficient for me. I beg to move.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Serota)

The amendment is proposed: page 32, line 2, at end insert the words as printed on the Marshalled List.

Lord Rooker

Does the noble Lord wish to withdraw the amendment'?.

Lord Bradshaw

In the light of the Minister's earlier assurances, and having given Members of the Committee the opportunity to intervene, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Rooker

moved Amendment No. 189: Page 32, line 3, after "police" insert "or a Director General The noble Lord said: I have already spoken to this amendment. I beg to move

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Dixon-Smith

moved Amendment No. 190: Page 32, line ID, at end insert "; and (d) is properly equipped to carry out those functions The noble Lord said: This amendment is grouped with Amendment No. 192. Both deal with a simple issue--namely, equipment and training—which we have to a considerable degree crawled all over already, so I need not detain the Committee for more than a few moments. We thought it worth tabling the amendments in order to ensure that community safety officers out on the street are properly equipped, and that they will have received proper training. We have covered most of this ground, but the Minister may feel the need to reinforce what he has already said. I beg to move.

Lord Rooker

I am obliged to reply to any amendment moved from the Front Bench, but I need use only about a quarter of my briefing.

These amendments deal with two issues about designated persons—the provision of equipment and the provision of training. We share the concerns expressed that the civilians designated under the provisions of this clause should, and indeed must, be properly equipped and trained while undertaking their duties. However, we do not necessarily believe that we need to provide for that on the face of the Bill, as Amendments No. 190 and 192 seek to do.

It will be for the chief officer—the chief constable, and the commissioner in the Met—to ensure, as is presently the case, that his employees are given the proper equipment to undertake their duties safely. Like any employer, he will be responsible for their safety and welfare. It is appropriate to allow for maximum flexibility and to let the chief officers decide how their staff, whether police officers or civilians, are equipped. We do not believe that this is a matter for the Bill, serious and important though it is.

Lord Renton

I rarely express doubt about what the noble Lord has said, but I feel that my noble friend's proposal is not an unwise precaution. Yes, nearly always one will be able to take it for granted that these extra people with extra powers will be properly equipped. But just occasionally there may be someone who is not properly equipped. If he cannot point to any statutory requirement that he should be, then the matter will not be fulfilled. This is a wise amendment. I ask the Minister to give it further consideration.

Lord Rooker

We have given thought to the important issue raised in the amendment. The civilians charged with the limited powers provided by the Bill will necessarily have to be supplied with t he relevant training and equipment to exercise those powers. In some respects, they are different from regular police constables--their powers are different and their training and equipment will be different. Nevertheless, it is the duty and responsibility of the chief constable, as the employer, to make sure that they have adequate training and equipment to carry out satisfactorily the duties that he has designated they should have. He might not give them all the full powers, so they might not need all the necessary equipment or training of the regular constable. The training must be specific to the powers they will exercise. We should trust the judgment of the chief constables, who will not knowingly send their police officers- -whether regulars, specials or community support officers---out on a job without proper equipment.

Lord Carlisle of Bucklow

I apologise for not having been here for the debate on Amendment No. 186. Did the Minister deal with the important issue of training in his reply to that debate? Did he indicate the likely length of any training'? The community support officers must have appropriate training before they can do the job.

Lord Renton

And equipment.

Lord Rooker

I do not claim that I gave a comprehensive reply, but I pointed out that the Bill says that the chief officer, the chief constable or the commissioner, in the case of the Met, shall not designate a person to be a community support officer or one of the other officers— unless he is satisfied that"— among other things— that person… has received adequate training in the carrying out of those functions and in the exercise and performance of the powers and duties to be conferred on him by virtue of the designation". There is a pick and mix menu of powers that the chief police officer can designate to the community support officer. They are all minor in the grand scale of things, but they do not all have to be awarded. The officers must be properly trained. That is a legal commitment on the face of the Bill.

Lord Dixon-Smith

I am grateful to my noble friends Lord Renton and Lord Carlisle, because this is an important issue, particularly for those who will be involved in the future. I take some comfort from the Minister's comments about the responsibilities of the chief constable, as the employer. I shall study those words. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

moved Amendment No. 191: Page 32, line 10, at end insert "; and (d) has access to appropriate means of personal protection The noble Baroness said: This amendment differs from the one we have just discussed, tabled by my noble friend Lord Dixon-Smith, in that my concern is the personal security of the community support officers. We were told at our briefing with the police that they would not be allowed to carry a baton, a spray or any means of self-defence. When I asked why that was so and how they would manage in a dangerous situation, I was told that they would not be put in a dangerous situation. If there was a dangerous situation, full-time policemen would be used.

How can anyone predict where a dangerous situation w0ill arise? The current spate of muggings in London have all happened in unexpected situations. Nobody who has suffered from the present habit of following people home from events and attacking them on their doorstep, as happened recently to the noble Baroness, Lady Dean, was anticipating it. If they had been anticipating it, it might well not have happened. It is much more serious if the attacker is armed with a knife.

It is wrong for the officers concerned not to have some form of self-protection. The noble Lord, Lord Mackenzie, on Amendment No. 186, said that you quite often end up being assaulted. I am sure that that is true.

We were also told that community support officers would have differently marked uniforms from the ordinary police. That means that it will be obvious that they are the ones who have no personal protection. They are allowed to use reasonable force—presumably that applies to self-defence—but hand-to-hand combat is rather different from having at least a truncheon. I seek some reassurance on that. I beg to move.

6.45 p.m.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville

I shall be very brief in support of my noble friend. I cannot put a date on it, but some time in the 1980s I read an account of a situation within the Metropolitan Police district when a single constable, perhaps only 21 years old, is standing in the street and has to take a decision on whether to stop a car that has four people in it who look both disagreeable and suspect. At that moment, the rule of law in that part of London rests on the shoulders of that young man. Against that background, the questions that my noble friend has raised require a serious response from the Government, which I am confident they will get.

Lord Monson

The noble Baroness has made a very good case for the amendment. Unfortunately, neither the noble Lord, Lord Condon, nor the noble Lord, Lord Mackenzie, is in his place at the moment, but I am sure that they would be able to confirm that an extremely high proportion of police officers are injured, particularly in the Metropolitan Police area. One man in his 30s, whose father works for me, spent many years in the Army doing a dangerous job to do with explosives and was never injured in any way, but since he left the Army and joined the Metropolitan Police he has been seriously injured by a suspected drug dealer, to the extent that he almost had to be invalided out.

As the noble Baroness says, nobody can foretell the situations in which such officers might find themselves. We cannot be certain that it will be possible to keep them away from trouble. If we want recruitment to go at all well, we have to accept an amendment such as this; otherwise nobody will volunteer for the job.

Lord Dixon-Smith

In principle we support the amendment, which is a more detailed reprise of the previous amendment.

Lord Rooker

I hope to give a serious reply, as the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, requested. Community support officers are not second class police officers. They will play a complementary role. That is very important.

Nobody can forecast all the circumstances in which they will find themselves, but it is not the intention that the role and powers of community support officers will require them to become involved in unarmed combat, as one noble Lord said. We all share the concerns of the noble Baroness that civilians designated under the clause should be properly and appropriately protected while undertaking their duties, but we do not think that we need to put that on the face of the Bill.

There have been some scare stories in the newspapers, but we do not envisage community support officers carrying CS spray and batons or getting into situations in which they might need to use such equipment. On the other hand, we have made it clear that, while we do not think that we need to specify appropriate means of personal protection in the Bill, a code of practice will be issued under this chapter that will include guidance on levels of protection for designated officers. In some ways, that will have the same practical effect as the amendment. The intention is the same, but we approach the issue from another route.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

I thank the Minister for his reply. However, I am still concerned. We were told categorically that community support officers would not be able to carry any form of protection. If that is true, we must have some reference in the Bill to protection for them. It would be very wrong not to do so.

I emphasise again that no one can tell where they will have to confront a difficult situation. All the current attacks in London are happening unexpectedly, often in areas formerly considered safe. The police officer who spoke to us said that officers sent to one particular station which he mentioned were sent with full riot gear. That is fine. However, ordinary civilians who have been stabbed and killed were walking along streets in areas that they thought were safe.

I believe that we need this provision. Although I shall leave the Minister to think about it, I shall be considering whether to return to it myself. I feel strongly about the issue. Meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 192 not moved.]

Lord Dixon-Smith

moved Amendment No. 193: Page 32, line 13, leave out from "duties" to "that" in line 15. The noble Lord said: Clause 33(5) states: A designation under this section shall confer powers and impose duties on the designated person by means only of provisions specifying the provisions of the applicable Part of Schedule 4 that are to apply to the designated person". That implies, at the very least, that every individual might have a different designation; I do not see how it could imply anything else. That simply would not be satisfactory and could cause absolute confusion in the minds of the public. Although they are in a different uniform from that of the police, people in uniform could have variable powers taken from a basket containing a slightly larger number of powers. I do not think that that would be sensible. We do not like the devaluation aspects of the proposal, but if we have to put this type of sub-police into operation, we should ensure that there is absolute, crystal clarity about their function and how they are to work. I think that there would be great difficulty if we did anything else.

I suppose—just placing a saving bet; we have not tabled an amendment to this effect, but I offer it to the Minister to consider—that if a chief constable wished to pick from the basket of powers, at least in his force area, everyone should have the same powers. I think that that might reduce the potential for confusion. If different powers were held by each individual, and one of those individuals stopped or attempted to check someone, the first words that he would hear would be, "Show me your accreditation. I want to know if you have the power to stop me". I beg to move.

Lord Renton

I hope that my noble friend does not mind, but a very small drafting amendment would have to be made if Amendment No. 193 is made. It is that, in line 16, "of that Schedule" would have to be changed to "of Schedule 4".

Lord Mayhew of Twysden

I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Dixon-Smith for moving this group of amendments. I share his view that this part of the Bill gives the chief constable discretion to vary the powers that his designation shall confer upon the officer concerned. On page 110, one finds the related provision of Schedule 4. The issue becomes clear in paragraph 4(1), which states: This paragraph"— which is the paragraph conferring the power to use reasonable force to detain persons— applies where…a designation under section 33 applies this paragraph to a person to whom any or all of paragraphs Ito 3 are also applied". Although it is a short point, A is one that is replicated in the case of accredited community support officers—to whose situation I perhaps rashly strayed in our previous debate. It is the same point. If the public are to be confident in this innovation, they will have to know what powers these people shall have. If these people are to convey and carry credibility, they should be able to explain quite simply to the person to whom they are addressing their powers, whether those powers are designated under Clause 33 or accredited under Clause 35.

I hope that I am not wrong—in the sense that this discretion is not granted—but if I am, I have to say that the drafting is very obscure. I do not believe that it makes that clear.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville

I have no emotional capital tied up in the example that I gave on Second Reading, but I shall remind the House of it. There was a time in London theatreland when Camden Borough Council suddenly decided that it would put its parking regulations on a different basis from that of the London Borough of Westminster. Those who were parking their cars to attend the theatre were careless about the location of the borough boundaries, and they were extremely offended when they discovered that they were being penalised for parking their car one street away from where they would have been in perfectly good shape.

It is a genuine dilemma. It is wrong to put these officers—if the experiment goes forward, we would wish them extremely well—in a position in which, in the early stages, they could be penalised by the possibility of a misunderstanding. As I have acknowledged, there is some irony in these remarks in that we generally urge decentralisation on the Government and seek to avoid centralisation.

Lord Rooker

This group of amendments raises a useful point. It would, however, have a perverse consequence which I shall outline later. Although I cannot prejudge what will happen, I can well foresee different chief constables making different use of the "menu". If they make different use of the powers so that their community support officers have different powers, the public might well wonder why that has happened. The point, however, would arise when they went into a different police force area, and powers currently vary between different police force areas. I should add that police authority boundaries usually coincide with main roads or railway lines, a bit like constituency boundaries do.

I do not know whether, in designating the community support officers within his force, a chief constable would ever think it wise to give individual officers different levels of power. Although it is true that he is designating "persons", and assigning different powers would be technically possible, I do not think that such an arrangement would be a practical runner. I should develop the argument, however, as the matter is not that clear cut.

As I have said, subsection (5) of Clause 33 currently enables the chief officer to use appropriate parts of the schedule as a menu from which he can select the powers appropriate for the deployment. In theory, that could mean that all staff have different powers. However, we believe that, in practice, there may be only two or three groups of powers for each category of support staff. Therefore, across a police force, each designated category should have the same powers. However, there will be four levels of officer, which are outlined in paragraphs (a) to (d) of Clause 33(5).

As I understand it, the Metropolitan Police have indicated that they will establish just three categories of community support officer—dealt with in Clause 33(5)(a)—whom they have called auxiliaries. They include security auxiliaries, Transport for London auxiliaries and community auxiliaries, and they will perform the functions described by the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith.

The powers extended to each category of community support officer would be appropriate to their function. For example, the Metropolitan Police's security auxiliaries would clearly need the powers in paragraphs 12 and 13 of Schedule 4 to enforce cordoned areas established under the Terrorism Act 2000 and to stop and search vehicles under Sections 44 and 45 of that Act. This may also be the case in other parts of the country. Different forces will have different functions for their CSOs and hence different combinations of powers. That is a slightly different matter to the parking restrictions in boroughs that were mentioned.

Similar arguments could apply to other categories of support staff. Chief officers might prefer support staff to have only some, not all, of the detention office powers in order to suit local policing arrangements. The clause enables chief officers to "mould" the designation of support staff to suit local needs. We want to retain that flexibility. The amendment removes that local flexibility.

By extending the full range of powers to support staff from the outset we would prejudge the roles that they are to fulfil. We have aimed throughout these clauses to enable rather than prescribe. The amendment would require that, for example, a detention officer who would be dealing only with handling people in custody would also have to be trained in interviewing suspects. As the designated officer may not be using all his powers his training would become "rusty" for those powers he did not use. But there would still be the chance that he would be asked to use these powers in the future. He would have received training but would be out of practice. We need to trust that chief constables will exercise their discretion in specifying powers from the "menus". The code of practice under Clause 39 will help them achieve that.

The noble Lord argued that the public will be confused if CSOs have different powers in different parts of the country. I do not accept that. That may be the case as regards different parts of the force. That is the real bones of the argument. I hope that the code of practice will resolve that matter. This is an important point. I am glad that it has been raised as it has enabled some of the issues we are discussing to be put on record.

7 p.m.

Lord Mayhew of Twysden

Before the noble Lord sits down, does he think it right that there should be an 00ED; la carte menu, as it were, for chief constables within their force, or within particular districts of their force, or should there be a set menu? The noble Lord said that he did not think that that difficulty would arise in practice. However, if it were made clear that everyone within an area should have the same powers, that would overcome the difficulty that some of us on this side of the Chamber detect. It is one which I mentioned in relation to safety officers under Clause 35. It is terribly important that these people should be able to state clearly, "I have the same powers as my colleague over there and my colleague over there" when asked for the authority by which they presume to interfere with someone's liberty in the street. That is the short point. I dare say that the noble Lord will not be able to reply to that point now, but I ask again whether it should be an 00ED; la carte or a set menu?

Lord Rooker

I cannot prejudge the position. One would imagine that all the officers within an area performing the same function would have the same powers. If their functions differ, the position may be slightly different. I refer to the position in London. That is rather a bad example as I shall dig myself into a hole if I am not careful. The Metropolitan Police have stated that they will establish three categories of community support officers. The Transport for London auxiliaries would police the transport routes in London. I presume they would be clearly identified as transport auxiliaries and would all have the same powers. Therefore, there would be no argument about that. I presume that the security auxiliaries would be designated in a similar way. We shall give further thought to this issue to ensure that the code of practice overcomes the problems that the Committee has identified. The public must not be confused. That is an important point. We do not want the public to be confused. We do not want some barrack room troublemaker to play off one community support officer against another if he finds out that one has powers which another does not. That point must be taken on board.

Lord Dixon-Smith

This has been a useful discussion. I am grateful for my noble friends' contributions. We should remember that subsection (5) of Clause 33 already specifies different menus for different designations. Subsection (5) refers to Schedule 4 and states that, the applicable Part of that Schedule is—

  1. "(a) in the case of a person designated as a community support officer, Part
  2. (b) in the case of a person designated as an investigating officer, Part 2".
But the fact of the matter is that within each part you can still cherry pick. I recognise what the Minister said with regard to the specific problems of London, but I suspect that the commissioner for the Met would deprive himself of a certain amount of operational flexibility if he said that certain people could operate only on the Underground and others could operate only somewhere else and so on. We need to think seriously about this issue before we return to it on Report. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 194 and 195 not moved.]

Lord Rooker

moved Amendment No. 196: Page 32, line 22, leave out "A person" and insert "An employee of a police authority or of a Service Authority

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Dixon-Smith

moved Amendment No. 197: Page 32, lane 24, leave out paragraph (a). The noble Lord said: Paragraph (a) of subsection (6) of Clause 33, which this amendment seeks to delete, restricts the power of a person to operate as a community support officer. Under the Bill a community support officer is authorised to work only during his hours of employment. Policemen go off duty but that does not seem to cause any problems with regard to performing their functions. Occasionally, they perform entirely appropriate functions when they are off duty. That does not appear to cause any problems. The Bill seems to impose an unreasonable restriction. Subsection (6) of Clause 33 states: A person authorised or required to do anything by virtue of a designation under this section— (a) shall not be authorised or required by virtue of that designation to engage in any conduct otherwise than in the course of his employment". I believe that that constitutes an unreasonable restriction which could perfectly well be removed. I beg to move.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Brougham and Vaux)

I advise the Committee that if this amendment is agreed to, I cannot call Amendment No. 198.

Lord Rooker

Amendments Nos. 197 and 199 would remove local flexibility in relation to how powers are designated to support staff. They would also allow support staff to exercise the powers that have been given to them outside the course of their hours of duty. That could be a problem.

The clause is designed to give maximum local flexibility to chief officers to enable them to deliver the most effective policing. The restrictions are also meant to underline the difference between a community support officer, who works in support of the police, and a sworn constable who is always expected to exercise his or her powers anywhere. I was brought up to believe that a policeman is never off duty. He or she may have "clocked off—, but they are still a police officer. The ability to place restrictions on a designation is a key part of the flexibility given to chief constables. For example, locally based community support officers may only operate over a limited geographical area—that may be done for a purpose and may involve, for example, a single estate—enabling them better to gain the support and respect of the local community and to build up intelligence networks. By restricting the powers of CSOs to that area, the chief officer would, in effect, be ring-fencing low-level policing in that area, making it clear to the community that the CSO would not he automatically removed to respond to pressures elsewhere in their force area.

The ability to confine even CSOs to a community will provide those communities with reassurance. That is part of the contract between the police and the community. That would be entirely up to the chief officer. It might be useful to a community that had much trouble if an arrangement was made with the local police that CSOs would be designated to it. That is rather like saying to the chief officer, "CSOs will be in this area and they will not be taken away when there are other demands in the force. I shall designate them for your area to crack the problems on that estate". If the community knew that people could not cause diversionary efforts elsewhere, that might be an extra factor in reducing a community's fear of crime.

For an investigating officer who is newly trained but inexperienced in the exercise of his powers outside a training room, the designation may require that he works under the supervision of a more experienced officer for a period to build up his experience in "live" situations. That may be for only a very short period, after which the condition could be removed from the designation. The necessary flexibility for chief officers in that respect is important.

The amendment would in theory enable an off-duty escort officer to escort a prisoner to or between police stations or an off-duty investigating officer to exercise the powers of entry and search after arrest. Moreover, we do not want CSOs to be able to operate their powers except in the course of their employment when they are under the direction and control of a chief officer, fully accountable and clearly identifiable. Those are some of the necessary consequences of having such extra "civilianisation" for the police. Those people will make that system work and should not be regarded as second-class police constables.

Lord Elton

The noble Lord has rather lost me. We are, I believe, discussing subsection (6)(a). My noble friend said that he was concerned that such people would be empowered to act when they were not on duty, which involves a restriction on time. The Minister said that the virtue of the provision was that it meant that such people would not be empowered to act when they were in a different place and he discussed the matter in relation to a particular estate. Which effect will the provision have?

Lord Rooker

I hope that my explanation was clear. I think it was. I fully accept the noble Lord's point. My notes on Amendments Nos. 197 and 199 include a section entitled, "Purpose and effect"—former Ministers will be aware of that. I sometimes use the section as a speaking note, although I was told off about that this morning. The first few words of that section state: Purpose of the amendments is not entirely clear". Forecasting what is in noble Lords' minds is always part of the problem. The examples that I gave show that we want maximum flexibility but that we want the chief officer to be able to designate where necessary—to ring-fence, either in hours or in relation to a locality, such as an estate—and to use the CSOs in the best way possible. In my example, the investigating officer might well be designated for a period of time and all the functions could not be carried out unless they were under the direct supervision of someone else. Keeping such flexibility goes to the heart of the amendments. I have probably gone somewhat wider and responded to an amendment that was not tabled. That is because we were not clear what was in the noble Lord's mind.

7.15 p.m.

Lord Condon

The amendment would remove a time limitation—it would be a sensible time limitation. It seeks to make a clear distinction between the roles of police officers, specials and people designated under the new provisions. Police officers and, to some extent, special constabulary officers have a moral duty to intervene when off duty and on occasion a legal duty to intervene when off duty. That makes it clear that designated people would have no powers and no requirement to act. A sensible delineation is involved. We should make it clear from the start that such people are different, have limited training powers and responsibilities and are not expected or allowed to use those powers when off duty.

Lord Dixon-Smith

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Condon, and the Minister for their responses. I am afraid that we are turning the devaluation screw on those people, and I am sad about that.

I did not speak to Amendment No. 199. It involves another aspect of what I refer to as the confusion caused by drawing functions from baskets. The amendment would reduce that effect. I do not intend to say any more about it. I am grateful for the Minister's explanation although I am not wholly satisfied by it. However, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Rooker

moved Amendment No. 198: Page 32, line 25, leave out "his employment by a police authority" and insert "that employment

On Question, amendment'agreed to.

[Amendment No. 199 not moved.]

Lord Bradshaw

moved Amendment No. 200: Page 32, line 29, leave out subsection (7). The noble Lord said: The amendment stands in my name and those of the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, and my noble friend Lord Dholakia. We are concerned about the exercise of reasonable force. That might provoke as much as contain attacks on CSOs. I seek from the Minister the assurance that it is for the chief police officer in consultation with his police authority to decide whether the clause should be invoked. Are all CSOs going to have to have the power to use reasonable force, other than in cases involving self-defence, or can the power be invoked if they wish to invoke it? I beg to move.

Lord Rooker

I can understand the concerns expressed by the noble Lord. We need to be clear about why we are extending the power to use reasonable force to civilians employed by the police authority and we need to be satisfied that we have sufficient safeguards in place.

I suppose that there will always be fears about the use of reasonable force by designated persons but I do not think that they are justified. In some ways, the amendment strikes at the heart of the whole of Clause 33. If we are serious about designating police employees who are not police constables to carry out their roles—of community support, investigating and detention and of being escort officers—it is important that we give them the necessary powers to perform their full role.

All of those types of police civilian have a need to use reasonable force in certain circumstances: to detain someone while awaiting the arrival of a constable, to prevent escapes or to search premises. To expect those civilian officers to carry out the important functions set out for them in the Bill without the sanction of using reasonable force would significantly undermine their credibility and effectiveness. It would also mean that they would need to be shadowed by a police officer who would be able to use reasonable force if necessary so that the civilian could carry out his duties. That would somewhat undermine the whole purpose of the clause, which will enable civilians to carry out discrete areas of policing business so that police officers are freed up to get back on the beat. That is the purpose of the exercise.

As I said in debates on other amendments, there will be significant safeguards in place to ensure that designated persons use any powers granted to them appropriately. To begin with, they must be police authority employees. They will be under the direction and control of a chief officer and will be accountable to him. As I said, the chief officer is under a duty to ensure that such people are suitable to carry out the functions, that they are capable of doing so and that they are adequately trained. The chief officer can modify or withdraw the designation at any time, if necessary, They will also be subject to the independent police complaints commission, whose role will form part of their training. In addition, they will have regard to the relevant Police and Criminal Evidence Act codes of practice, which will also form a necessary part of their training. Their powers are extremely limited but, without the possibility of using reasonable force, those limited powers would be made a mockery of.

I hope that I have satisfied the noble Lord. This is an extremely sensitive area. However, I do not believe that it is a question of our enabling the police to employ people who will misuse force. As I said, those people will be subject to the new complaints commission; they will be adequately trained; and they will be familiar with the powers that they have and will know how not to go beyond them.

Lord Mayhew of Twysden

Before the noble Lord sits down, surely there is a problem here. In our previous debate we agreed that the power to detain depends upon the terms of an individual officer's designation. Nevertheless, it is surely beyond argument that a police officer who is empowered to detain is empowered to use reasonable force. What is the position of a community support officer who has not, by the terms of his designation, been authorised to detain someone but who none the less, let us suppose, reads this clause or is instructed in it and recognises that a police constable is entitled to use reasonable force to detain? Where does he stand in those circumstances? Although his designation denies him the power to detain, the clause seems to confer it upon him. That is a muddle. I may be muddled myself but it is a muddle which the drafting gives rise to, and I believe that I am correct in that analysis. If that is the case, surely it cannot be right.

Lord Rooker

As ever, I am happy to have the drafting checked following what Members of the Committee have said. However, I have before me a comparison of community support officers and what I call the "extended police family"—the accredited people. A community support officer will have the power to detain a person for up to 30 minutes, pending the arrival of a constable, or to accompany a person to a police station with that person's agreement. He will have the power to use reasonable force to detain a person or to prevent him from making off.

That power will have to be used very carefully in conformity with what I have already said, that is, the officer will be subject to not "over-doing it", according to the requirements of the police complaints commission and those of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act. However, if the noble and learned Lord has detected what he considers to be a drafting error in subsection (7), I shall certainly have it looked at.

Lord Carlisle of Bucklow

I wonder whether the Minister will look at this matter again. As I understand it, he said just now, in terms, that a community support officer will have the power to detain a person for up to 30 minutes until the police arrive. My reading of Schedule 4 is that he has no such power. Surely one cannot have a power to detain without having a power to arrest. The Minister has made clear that there is no intention of there being a power to arrest. But Schedule 4 does not say that he has a power to detain until a police officer arrives; it says that he can request a person to stay and, if he chooses not to do so, that choice is in itself an offence. With great respect, that is totally different from a power to detain.

I know that Part 2 of Schedule 4 is headed "Power to detain" but, unless I have completely misunderstood the purpose of the schedule, if the community officer sees someone whom he believes to have committed an offence, he has the right to ask for that person's name and address. If the person refuses, the community officer has the right to ask him to remain for up to 30 minutes until a police officer arrives or he may accompany him to the police station. The person in question is free to refuse to do either of those things but, in doing so, he will commit the offence of failing to comply with the request of the community support officer. With great respect, I believe that that is totally different from a power to detain, which must, of necessity, surely imply a power to arrest. One cannot detain a person unless one has already legally arrested him.

Lord Rooker

Until he reached his last few sentences, I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Carlisle, explained the matter correctly. But I believe that he is wrong in saying that the power to detain and the power to arrest are separate. I imagine that there will be arguments about this in future, although I hope that there will not necessarily be so. When does the 30-minute period start, for example? It will probably be at the point when a person decides not to co-operate with the community support officer, who will have asked the person either to supply a name and address or to wait until a police officer arrives.

Obviously the community support officer will be in touch with the police station by radio; it will not be done by semaphore. Therefore, if a person decides not to comply and looks as though he will make off, then, subject to the circumstances, the community support officer will have the power to use reasonable force to stop him making off and to make him await the constable, who will have the power to arrest. The power to arrest does not lie with the community support officer.

Lord Bradshaw

I thank the noble Lord for his reply. I come from a police authority which has never, for example, fired a firearm in anger; and it is a big police authority. I believe that some authorities may not want their community support officers to have such a power. I ask the Minister to consider making this not a mandatory power but a power with which the police authorities can accredit their officers if they wish.

Lord Elton

In furtherance of the point raised by my noble friend Lord Carlisle, subsection (7) gives the power to use force where it would be used by a police constable. But surely the police constable could not use it unless he had first arrested the person who was about to make off. I do not believe that that point has been answered.

Lord Rooker

According to my reading of the situation, I believe that that is wrong. The police constable will probably have the power to detain prior to making an arrest. I am sure that it is that way round. I shall take advice from my learned friends during the break, but I am fairly certain that I am right on that point.

Lord Mayhew of Twysden

Before the noble Lord sits down, perhaps I may make a suggestion which is generally intended to help. Is not the way out of this matter to confer always upon community support officers the power to detain? That is, in any case, what the public would expect. We have already established that they may not always have it because the designation may not specify that it shall apply. If everyone has it then we do not have the confusion to which I have drawn attention of a person not having a power to detain but, none the less, having the power to use reasonable force to stop a man running away. That is nonsense.

Lord Rooker

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew, has been extremely helpful, and I shall certainly consider that suggestion.

Lord Bradshaw

I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Rooker

moved Amendment No. 201: Page 32, line 39, at end insert— ( ) In this Chapter— Director General" means —

  1. (a) the Director General of the National Criminal Intelligence Service; or
  2. 462
  3. (b) the Director General of the National Crime Squad; and
Service Authority" means —
  1. (a) in relation to employment with the National Criminal Intelligence Service and to its Director General, the Service Authority for the National Criminal Intelligence Service; and
  2. (b) in relation to employment with the National Crime Squad and to its Director General, the Service Authority for the National Crime Squad.".

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 33, as amended, agreed to.

Lord Bassam of Brighton

I beg to move that the House do now resume. In moving the Motion, I suggest that the Committee stage resume not before 8.30 p.m.

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

House resumed.