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Norman Baker: On amendment No. 1, I am always happy for the power of Parliament to be extended at the expense of the Executive. I am therefore content to support the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin). His amendment is a modest affair and, like him, I cannot imagine how the Government could find a reason to reject it. I await to hear the Minister's response.

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Equally, I cannot see how the Minister could possibly reject the very modest amendment in my name, those of my colleagues and of those on the Conservative Front Bench. It relates to the IPCC and the Minister will know that everyone has supported that aspect of the Bill. Everyone recognises that it is an important innovation. There have been problems with the public believing that investigations into the police have not been carried out properly or independently, and the Minister and his colleagues have acted to remedy such problems in a way that we all support. They have recognised the problem and have found the right solution, so it is difficult to understand why they have decided to exclude from the process the very people who are furthest from democratic accountability, namely those who are employed by the private sector. That makes no sense at all.

The Minister is in danger of re-creating the position that applies now. The Bill wishes to get rid of that by introducing an independent element into the process so that people have confidence in those exercising police powers. He is re-creating the problem in a very unfortunate manner.

The answer that the Minister gave in Committee and in response to the previous debate was, "Well, the chief officer of police sets up the complaints procedure or oversees it." He may set it up, but that is about the end of it. The Minister has said that, when there is a complaint against a person from Tesco, that person will be investigated by Tesco—not by anybody else. Is Mr. Tesco going to say to that person, "You've done something terribly wrong. You are a disgrace to the company. Yes, we'll tell the local newspapers that you've brought our name down in the public mind"? Or will Mr. Tesco say, "That was not very wise. We had better hush it up because it is not in our commercial interest to let people know what has happened"? In other words, those policing the complaints system in such circumstances are judge and jury of their employees and have a direct interest in concluding matters in a way that benefits their companies and not necessarily the public interest.

I honestly do not understand why the Minister resists that argument. Of course, the IPCC will not investigate every single complaint; we do not expect it to investigate every single complaint against a police officer. However, it must have the opportunity to call complaints in, examine processes that are not working and consider what needs to be done. It must have that option. If it does not, the message will go to Tesco, Jarvis and other employers that they can do what they like, because there will be nothing to control them or alter what they do when they consider complaints.

I hope that the Government will reconsider the matter either here or in another place. The Minister is simply wrong on this issue.

Mr. George Osborne: I shall briefly respond to the persuasive speech of the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin). I also want to take the opportunity to say how useful members of the Standing Committee found the Select Committee's report. It was an extremely useful guide, and it is a shame that only one member of the Select Committee served on the Standing Committee. Perhaps Parliament should consider that point.

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The Executive's powers of patronage and appointment are among their least-scrutinised powers. Those, such as Lord Norton of Louth and the Hansard Society, who have considered reform of this place have drawn attention to way in which the House should scrutinise appointments. The hon. Gentleman's suggestion is a good one.

I am a member of the Public Accounts Committee and I am aware of the precedents that the hon. Gentleman mentioned. As he conceded, the amendment would create a slightly broader precedent. Indeed, it would be the thin end of a very good wedge.

Lady Hermon: Will the hon. Gentleman briefly explain what would happen if there were a disagreement between the Home Secretary and the Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee? Would not the Chairman, in effect, have a veto over an appointment?

Mr. Osborne: That probably would be the case. The Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee has a veto over the appointment of the Comptroller and Auditor General. Such a veto would be a good thing, but its use would be unusual. It would be a check of last resort.

I hope that the Minister will accept the amendment and will put himself in the great tradition of Cromwell and Simon de Montfort and expand the powers of the House of Commons. No one is paying any attention at the moment, so all he has to do is nod the amendment through and put himself in the annals of history.

Mr. Denham: I have some sympathy with the amendment, although not quite enough.

Leaving aside the constitutional issue, I share the fundamental aim of securing the reputation of the independence of the IPCC, but the case has not been made that an appointment by Her Majesty through Ministers undermines confidence in the independence of the system. By far the greater part of the credibility of the IPCC will come not from the appointment system for the chairman, but from the transparency of the system. Complainants will have many more rights and there will be fewer opportunities for their complaints to disappear out of the system without being addressed. That is the most important proposal in this part of the Bill.

8.30 pm

The issue is whether Parliament wants to embark on a wholesale change of the nature of accountability for a great many appointments. I accept that that argument is the thin end of the wedge. The appointment of the chairman of the IPCC cannot be dealt with as a one-off. I refer the Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee to the conclusions of the Nolan committee in 1995, which no doubt he knows well. It carefully considered whether Select Committees should be given a role and came down firmly against such an alternative concluding:

The Home Secretary will, of course, have overall accountability to Parliament for all matters relating to the IPCC.

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It could be argued that the committee's conclusion was not right or will not last for ever and that a profound change in the relationship between Select Committees and public appointments should take place. I am interested in debating that, but the chairmanship of the IPCC should not be picked out at random and used as the example on which we base that change.

On the complaints system, it is important that the IPCC can concentrate on the vast bulk of its work, which is to deal with complaints against police officers. It is worth remembering that people such as dog wardens, park keepers and environmental health officers have for years been exercising police powers, as described by the hon. Member for Lewes (Norman Baker). I am not aware of anyone arguing that they should be brought within the remit of the Police Complaints Authority or that there have been examples of abuses of those powers that have not been dealt with satisfactorily. The chief constable will have the important responsibility of ensuring that an adequate complaints procedure is in place for anyone who is an accredited organisation. That does not necessarily have to be the internal complaints procedure of the organisation concerned. However, that decision would have to be resolved at local level.

I fear that extending the IPCC's coverage at this stage to a range of new people in accredited organisations who operate low-level disorder and nuisance powers would divert the attention of the IPCC from the business that it has to do for the public to have confidence in the police service. Our measures will ensure that there is adequate public protection and an adequate system for dealing with complaints wherever there is an accredited community safety officer.

Mr. Mullin: I found the Minister's speech unsurprising and not entirely convincing. The Select Committee will take a close interest in the work of the IPCC when it is established and no doubt its chairman will visit us. I hope that Parliament will return from time to time to the general issue of the extent to which it should have a say in some public appointments of regulators. However, I do not intend to press the matter and I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 3

Handling of Complaints and Conduct matters etc.

Amendments made: No. 54, in page 138, line 28, leave out from "duty" to "a", in line 29 and insert—

'to give a person mentioned in sub–paragraph (9) notification of the findings of the report by sending that person'.
No. 55, in page 139, line 46, leave out from "duty" to "a", in line 29 and insert—

'to give a person mentioned in sub–paragraph (7) notification of the findings of the report by sending that person'.—[Mr. Denham.]

Clause 38

Police powers for police authority employees

Amendment made: No. 24, in page 39, line 29, leave out from beginning to second "the", in line 30, and insert—

'Powers and duties may be conferred or imposed on a designated person by means only of the application to him by his designation of provisions of'.—[Mr. Denham.]

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Clause 39

Police powers for contracted-out staff

Amendment made: No. 25, in page 40, line 37, leave out from beginning to second "the", in line 38, and insert—

'Powers and duties may be conferred or imposed on a designated person by means only of the application to him by his designation of provisions of'.—[Mr. Denham.]

Clause 40

Community Safety Accreditation Schemes

Amendment proposed: No. 65, in page 41, line 37, leave out Clause 40.—[Norman Baker.]

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 52, Noes 287.

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