Criminal Justice and Police Bill

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Mr. Hawkins: I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate will speak in a moment, and I hope that I do not steal his thunder by talking about Surrey issues. However, there is no doubt that I speak with the complete authority of the chairman of Surrey police authority, Alan Peirce, who is a county councillor for a ward in my constituency.

Mr. Clarke: Does the hon. Gentleman know why the hon. Member for North-East Hertfordshire walked out of the Committee as he began speaking?

Mr. Hawkins: I do not know precisely. My hon. Friend did a courtesy to the Minister and me by indicating that he had to pop out of the Room as I began to speak. The Minister knows that the Parliamentary Secretary has only recently returned to the Committee, as he was replying to a debate in Westminster Hall. We all have other duties to perform in the House.

I shall continue with what I was saying before I was interrupted by the Minister's peculiar and unusual point. Alan Peirce is the county councillor for Windlesham, Bagshot and Lightwater in my constituency. He has always taken the view that Surrey police have been consistently underfunded by the Government. The Minister knows that, as he met him in a delegation with me recently. The Government appear to believe that shire counties such as Surrey have no need of proper funding. Alan Peirce recently said that it was appalling that the Government appeared to take the view that Surrey would have to get down to a position of almost third world policing before they would fund it properly.

At the same time as the Government are underfunding police authorities, they are also loading on more bureaucracy.

Jackie Ballard: On a point of order, Mr. Gale. Would it be in order for me to mention that the hon. Gentleman does not seem to have mentioned clause 90 in the past three minutes?

The Chairman: It is up to the Chair to decide what is in order and what is not. I am getting perilously close to deciding that the hon. Gentleman is out of order.

Mr. Hawkins: I do not want to go on at length—[Laughter.]—but it is important that the Minister responds in full detail to the points about best value and bureaucracy raised by my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Hertfordshire. I imagine that my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate will have similarly strong views.

Mr. Blunt: I do not want to detain the Committee for long. On considering this part of the Bill, my heart began to sink at the extent of the powers of detailed prescription over the authority that it gives to the Secretary of State. Do such powers add anything to the likely effectiveness of the authority? The question applies to clauses 90 and 91. If the Secretary of State appoints the right people to the authority, those clauses should not be necessary, and I am surprised to see them in the Bill. If one comes from a military background, one knows that it is better to allow people as much freedom, flexibility and authority as possible to conduct the operations with which they are charged. That principle holds good in the case of the new authority.

I return to clause 87, where there is a reference to clause 90. If the functions of the authority are laid out in subsections (1) and (2), with a limit on the Secretary of State that he needs legal authority to establish the authority, that is the maximum amount of guidance required. If the Secretary of State does not like his appointees and they are not conducting the authority as he deems fit, he has powers under schedule 4 to remove them.

Mr. Heald: At the outset of the debates on police training, I made the point that ``agency'' might be a better name for the organisation than ``authority''. I did so because, under the Bill, there is so much direction and interference in the organisation by the Secretary of State that the body is not really separate and independent like a normal quango.

Mr. Blunt: I agree. Will the Secretary of State really want to get involved in giving detailed direction to the authority to the extent to which the Bill empowers him to do so? I am concerned that that would be indifferent management practice. If things go wrong with the authority and it does not achieve his desired objectives, he may want to become more involved in the detail of its running. However, in those circumstances, I would have thought that he would consider changing the personnel who are running the authority.

It is a poor principle to have all the additional powers contained in clause 90, and in clause 91, which we will discuss later. I want the Minister to consider whether it would be better not to include the powers in the Bill. I am concerned that once they have been included, the whole bureaucratic machine will crank into action, and the civil service and the Home Office will feel that they must send out all the instructions, because the Bill requires it. The directions will have to be given and the authority will then have to reply to them and produce a huge, bureaucratic plan about how it will put in place the training that is its remit.

Perhaps, when the Bill comes back after a general election, the Minister will consider whether it is necessary to include so much direction for the authority. I hope that he will.

Mr. Clarke: I am happy to express my appreciation for the hon. Gentleman's hope that I will return as a Minister after the general election and be able to deal with that point.

On the first point made by the hon. Member for Surrey Heath, it is extraordinary that he described the Surrey constabulary as providing third world levels of policing to his constituency. Those remarks are extraordinary.

Mr. Hawkins: On a point of order, Mr. Gale. Is it in order for the Minister deliberately to misrepresent the remarks of another Member? I was quoting the chairman of Surrey police authority, who said that only if Surrey police were reduced to offering third levels of policing did he anticipate that—

The Chairman: Order. That is not a point of order for the Chair. The Minister is responsible for his own remarks. Hon. Members do not mislead the Committee. What was said and what has been said will be a matter of record and there for all to read.

Mr. Clarke: I would like to place it on the record that the past half an hour has been an extraordinary example of the official Opposition's determination to take up time rather than to debate issues. I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Taunton for her commitment to trying to deal with our business effectively, rapidly and with proper scrutiny of the Bill.

No significant points of substance were raised on the Bill by any members of the official Opposition. All that can be said is that I am glad that the hon. Member for North-East Hertfordshire committed himself to the idea of a targeting regime to raise standards. We share that view, as well as the view that he expressed that the judgment on the number of targets and their nature is important, and that it is important to have fewer rather than more. That is why the Government have recently reduced the number of targets for the police. However, targets are necessary in training both for specific policy goals--a good example is the Macpherson inquiry--and the fundamental importance that informs the whole of the Bill--[Interruption.]

6.45 pm

The Chairman: Order. Right hon. and hon. Members who are not members of the Committee are not allowed in the Committee while it is sitting.

Mr. Heald: On a point of order, Mr. Gale. The Bill consists of 132 clauses, eight schedules and 150 pages. On Second Reading, the Minister offered us 16 sittings. I made it clear at the time that that was inadequate. If—

The Chairman: Order. Before we go any further, the right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe) and the hon. Members for Beverley and Holderness (Mr. Cran), for West Derbyshire (Mr. McLoughlin) and for Cotswold (Mr. Clifton-Brown) must leave the body of the Committee. I hope that they will not force me to have them evicted. If they refuse to leave, I shall have no course but to suspend the Committee and report the matter to the House.

6.46 pm

Sitting suspended.

6.55 pm

On resuming--

The Chairman: I have to advise the Committee that unless the right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald and the hon. Members for Beverley and Holderness, for West Derbyshire and for Cotswold, who are not allowed in the Room while the Committee is sitting, are prepared to leave, I must invite a member of the Committee to move a motion that they be reported to the House. If that happens, I shall name them and put the motion forthwith without debate. If they then refuse to move, I shall have no alternative but to adjourn the Committee for gross disorder without further Questions being put.

Mr. Heald rose—

Mr. Charles Clarke rose—

The Chairman: I am not taking any points of order on the subject before asking the right hon. Lady and the hon. Gentlemen, for the final time, to leave the Room.

Mr. Clarke: On a point of order, Mr. Gale. Is it in order for me to move a motion that the right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald and the hon. Members for Beverley and Holderness, for West Derbyshire and for Cotswold, who are not members of the Committee, be asked by the Committee to leave?

The Chairman: It is in order, but I have already done that and the right hon. Lady and the hon. Gentlemen have made it clear that they do not intend to leave.

Mr. Heald: On a point of order, Mr. Gale. I understand from ``Erskine May'' that there have been occasions, when issues of importance were concerned, when hon. Members have entered a Committee and stayed there until the House has had the matter reported to it. The Committee has no power to require Members to leave. My understanding of the procedure set out on pages 703 and 704 of ``Erskine May'' is that after the requests have been made, the position is reported to the House in a motion and that the House can then move to give you powers to require them to leave. As far as I can see, it does not refer to naming the Members in question and I ask for your ruling on that.

During the First Scottish Standing Committee proceedings on 19 January 1988, there was no question of naming the Members concerned. It was a question of reporting the matter to the House and then requiring the position to be dealt with to give the Chairman the necessary power.

A disgraceful situation has occurred in this Committee. We made it clear from the outset that insufficient time had been allowed for scrutiny of this important criminal justice Bill. On previous occasions, between 20 and 25 sittings have been allowed for such Bills. I made that clear at the outset and in the Programming Sub-Committee time and again. I have pressed the Minister and told him that it was vital for us that the situation should not be allowed to continue. He admits--

 
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