Police Reform Bill [Lords]

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Mr. Stinchcombe: Do I understand new clause 4 to give police authorities the additional power to ask the Secretary of State to intervene and give directions?

Mr. Denham: There is the aim to enable the Secretary of State to set in motion the process that could lead to the last resort of making directions when in receipt of information from different sources. It might be possible for the Secretary of State to respond to information that was received from a police authority. However, it would have to pass the same tests of credibility and quality as information from another source and would have to be made available. It is a little difficult to imagine circumstances in which a police authority was so seized of a problem that it had failed to make any impact on it or to use other powers. However, I can envisage the legal possibility that my hon. Friend proposed, and it is worthy of reflection.

I hope that I have addressed the main issues. I hope that I addressed the points of the hon. Member for South-East Cambridgeshire, although he made a remark that I have not heard from an Opposition Front-Bench spokesman—perhaps my reading of debates in another place was inadequate—saying that he objected not to the idea that a remedial plan be produced, but to the idea that the Secretary of State has the power to write it—I hope that I wrote his words correctly. That is, at least, a step forward to recognising that there might be a basis in legislation for the Secretary of State to require that an action plan is produced in response to an identifiable problem. Perhaps I am over-optimistic about the possibility of closing the gap, even at this stage of the Bill.

Mr. Osborne: I sense that the Minister is beginning his winding-up speech, but could he deal with the point that I made on behalf of my chief constable? When a chief constable acts under direction from the Home Secretary, where would the legal responsibility lie and the legal buck stop?

Mr. Denham: I apologise to the hon. Gentleman because he raised that issue quite specifically. The chief constable—[Interruption.]

The Chairman: Order. I understand that there has to be some discussion, but perhaps it should take place outside the Room.

Mr. Denham: The chief constable is legally responsible for the direction and control of the force under section 10 of the Police Act 1996. That will remain the case while he is implementing an action plan, even if the terms had been set under new clause 4 by the Secretary of State. I hope that I have dealt with all the points made by Opposition Members.

Column Number: 102

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 14, Noes 9.

Division No. 4]

AYES
Ainsworth, Mr. Bob Baird, Vera Challen, Mr. Colin Denham, Mr. John Follett, Barbara Heppell, Mr. John Irranca-Davies, Huw
Jones, Mr. Kevan Kumar, Dr. Ashok Lucas, Ian Munn, Ms Meg Prentice, Bridget Stinchcombe, Mr. Paul Stoate, Dr. Howard

NOES
Baker, Norman Brooke, Annette Gillan, Mrs. Cheryl Hawkins, Mr. Nick Hermon, Lady
Johnson, Mr. Boris Mercer, Patrick Osborne, Mr. George Paice, Mr. James

Question accordingly agreed to.

Schedule 1, as amended, agreed to.

New clause 4

Directions to chief officers

    'After section 41 of the 1996 Act there shall be inserted—

    ''41A Power to give directions to chief officers

    (1) This section applies where the Secretary of State (whether in consequence of a report under section 54 or otherwise) is satisfied in relation to any police force maintained for any police area—

    (a) that the whole or any part of the force is, whether generally or in particular respects, not efficient or not effective; or

    (b) that the whole or a part of the force will cease to be efficient or effective, whether generally or in particular respects, unless remedial measures are taken.

    (2) The Secretary of State may direct the chief officer of police of the force to prepare and submit to the Secretary of State a plan ('an action plan') for taking remedial measures in relation to anything that the Secretary of State considers relevant to the matters as to which he is satisfied as mentioned in subsection (1).

    (3) An action plan shall not relate to any matters other than those in relation to which functions fall to be discharged by the chief officer of police of the force in question.

    (4) On considering an action plan submitted to him in accordance with a direction under this section, the Secretary of State may direct the chief officer of police of the force in question—

    (a) to revise that plan in accordance with the directions of the Secretary of State; and

    (b) to resubmit the plan to him with the required revisions;

    and this subsection applies to a plan resubmitted to the Secretary of State as it applies to the plan initially submitted to him.

    (5) On giving a direction under this section to the chief officer of any police force, the Secretary of State shall notify the police authority maintaining that force that he has given that direction.

    (6) A direction under this section may impose time limits as to the submission or resubmission of an action plan to the Secretary of State.

    (7) The provision that a direction under this section may require to be included in an action plan to be submitted or resubmitted to the Secretary of State includes—

    (a) provision for the taking of such steps, and for the imposition of such performance targets, as may be specified for the purposes of the plan by the Secretary of State;

    (b) provision for the time limits so specified to be applied to the taking of those steps and to the meeting of those targets;

    (c) provision for the making of progress reports about the implementation of the action plan to the Secretary of State and to the police authority maintaining the force in question;

    (d) provision as to the times at which, and the manner in which, any progress report is to be made; and

Column Number: 103

    (e) provision for the duration of the plan and for it to cease to apply in the circumstances determined by the Secretary of State.

    (8) Nothing in this section shall authorise the Secretary of State to direct the inclusion in an action plan of any requirement to do or not to do anything in a particular case identified for the purposes of the requirement, or in relation to a particular person so identified.

    (9) Before submitting or resubmitting an action plan to the Secretary of State in accordance with a direction under this section, the chief officer of police of a police force shall consult the police authority which maintains that force.

    (10) In this section references, in relation to a case in which there is already an action plan in force, to the submission or resubmission of a plan to the Secretary of State include references to the submission or resubmission of revisions of the existing plan; and the preceding provisions of this section shall have effect accordingly.

    (11) A chief officer of police of any police force shall comply with any direction given to him under this section.

    41B Procedure for directions under section 41A

    (1) The Secretary of State shall not give a direction under section 41A in relation to any police force unless—

    (a) the police authority maintaining that force and the chief officer of that force have each been given such information about the Secretary of State's grounds for proposing to give that direction as he considers appropriate for enabling them to make representations or proposals under the following paragraphs of this subsection;

    (b) that police authority and chief officer have each been given an opportunity of making representations about those grounds;

    (c) that chief officer has had an opportunity of making proposals for the taking of remedial measures that would make the giving of the direction unnecessary; and

    (d) the Secretary of State has considered any such representations and any such proposals.

    (2) The Secretary of State may by regulations make further provision as to the procedure to be followed in cases where a proposal is made for the giving of a direction under section 41A.

    (3) Before making any regulations under this section, the Secretary of State shall consult with—

    (a) persons whom he considers to represent the interests of police authorities;

    (b) persons whom he considers to represent the interests of chief officers of police; and

    (c) such other persons as he thinks fit.

    (4) Regulations under this section may make different provision for different cases and circumstances.

    (5) A statutory instrument containing regulations under this section shall not be made unless a draft of the regulations has been laid before Parliament and approved by a resolution of each House

    (6) If the Secretary of State exercises his power to give a direction under section 41A in relation to a police force—

    (a) he shall prepare a report on his exercise of that power in relation to that force; and

    (b) he shall lay that report before Parliament.

    (7) A report under subsection (6)—

    (a) shall be prepared at such time as the Secretary of State considers appropriate; and

    (b) may relate to more than one exercise of the power mentioned in that subsection.'''.—[Mr. Denham.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Motion made, and Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—

Column Number: 104

The Committee divided: Ayes 14, Noes 9.

Division No. 5]

AYES
Ainsworth, Mr. Bob Baird, Vera Challen, Mr. Colin Denham, Mr. John Follett, Barbara Heppell, Mr. John Irranca-Davies, Huw
Jones, Mr. Kevan Kumar, Dr. Ashok Lucas, Ian Munn, Ms Meg Prentice, Bridget Stinchcombe, Mr. Paul Stoate, Dr. Howard

NOES
Baker, Norman Brooke, Annette Gillan, Mrs. Cheryl Hawkins, Mr. Nick Hermon, Lady
Johnson, Mr. Boris Mercer, Patrick Osborne, Mr. George Paice, Mr. James

Question accordingly agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

 
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