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If you believe in the principle that police authorities should be able to set the strategic direction of police forces, part of that should be about being able to hold the chief officer of police to account for the exercise of those functions. If you do not have that provision, essentially you are saying that chief officers of police are not accountable and that there is no transparency in the way in which they choose to exercise their functions. That is very different from saying that the police authority shall instruct or will require a police chief to operate in a particular way. It is saying that chief officers of police will be accountable for the decisions that they have made. Most of the chief officers of police that I have accounted for have usually been more than capable of giving an account of themselves and explaining the reasons for the actions that they took, but it is important that under the legislation they are required to do so and that they do so publicly and transparently. That is why I believe that Amendment No. 24 is not entirely helpful.
Perhaps unlike the amendments that I put forward earlier, Amendment No. 25 is intended to be entirely helpful towards the Government, as ever. Here, I am seeking to place in the Bill a requirementmeaning that it is something that police authorities will have to take very seriouslyfor different police forces and authorities to work together wherever necessary or expedient. It is important that police authorities ensure that their forces co-operate with other forces and their partners; that should be something that police authorities do. But I believe that, by stating it explicitly in the Bill, one gives it particular force and it will ensure that we see authorities working together better than has been the experience in the past.
I note that when my right honourable friend the Home Secretary withdrew from some of the proposals to create strategic police forces and put them into the long grassI am sure that he used a more elegant phrase than thathe said very clearly that there was an expectation that there would be better collaboration and working together between
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Baroness Harris of Richmond: My Lords, I very much regret that these Benches cannot support Amendment No. 24 as it would remove the part of the Bill that refers to a key police authority functionthat of holding the chief officer to account for the exercise of his or her functions, as the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, said. I simply do not know what a police authority does if it does not do that. What is a police authority for? It should therefore be in primary legislation.
I am aware, of course, that ACPO is concerned about this and refers to the creation of the linear relationship, but in some senses it has that already, in that the police authority appoints those of ACPO rank. However, I assume that it is concerned about its operational independence, but we do not believe that the amendment interferes with that at all. Holding a chief officer to account for the delivery of his or her functions is about asking for an account after those functions have been carried out. It is not a mechanism that would allow anyone to direct a chief officer before something happened on how, where, why, or against whom he or she should take action. That is a misunderstanding of the meaning of holding to account.
I regret that we could not support Amendment No. 24. However, we support entirely Amendment No. 25, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Harris. It places a duty on police authorities in primary legislation to ensure that their forces co-operate with other forces and partners. This is very important in the post-merger landscape, where the focus is now going to be on increased collaboration between forces to deal with protective servicesthe area that we are all very concerned about. Section 23 of the 1996 Act allows chief constables to act jointly in more effectively carrying out force functions, but it seems to allow police authorities to act jointly only in terms of back-office functions. In addition, the over-arching function of a police authority is to secure an effective and efficient police service for its area, which seems to place a limitation on considering the wider good to policing to be had from co-operation.
For those reasons it is extremely important to put something in primary legislation that places a duty on police authorities to consider the wider landscape and enables police authorities to ensure that wider
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Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, as ever, I listened with interest to the arguments made by the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, on Amendment No. 24, and with great interest to the noble Lord, Lord Harris, and the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, on Amendment No. 25.
It will not have escaped your Lordships notice that we have tabled amendments to paragraph 11 of Schedule 2, which deals with the policing plans. That set of amendments return some of the detail on the functions of police authorities into primary legislation, which we shall come to in due course. I recognise the importance of preserving key principles in primary legislation, and we have made that plain previously. The primary police authority functions of maintaining an efficient and effective police force and holding the chief officer to account for the way in which he or she discharges his or her functions will remain in the Police Act 1996.
In amendments to come we are also restoring to the 1996 legislation the functions relating to the issuing of policing plans. It is entirely appropriate therefore that, having set out in primary legislation the core functions of police authorities, there should be some flexibility to add other functions by secondary legislation.
Amendment No. 24, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, would remove the new order-making power inserted by paragraph 10 of Schedule 2. It would also remove paragraph 9 of Schedule 2, which includes the new function of holding the chief officer to account. These new functions, as we have heard this afternoon from the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, have been welcomed by the Association of Police Authoritiesrightly and understandably so. Indeed, the association offered them up as propositions. I cannot believe that the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, really wishes to deny police authorities that enhanced role, which would be the effect of her amendment. I have listened carefully to the important rhetoric of new localism from all parts of your Lordships House. If we were to go down the route of the noble Baroness, we would fundamentally undermine that.
The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, described his Amendment No. 25 as helpful, and I see the measure of help therein. I understand his argument to include a duty in the Police Act on police authorities to secure arrangements for their police forces to co-operate with other forces whenever necessary or expedient. We are certainly in the same policy ballpark, and operating with a similar intent. It would be hard for me to disagree with the sentiments behind this amendment, given that he has lifted the wording from new Section 6ZA(2)(b) of the 1996 Act.
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It is essential, in the absence of mergersthe noble Lord said they had been kicked into the long grass; one might say that they have been placed in deep freezethat forces co-operate more effectively to narrow the protective services gap and secure greater efficiencies in the provision of back-office functions. While I wholly endorse what my noble friend seeks to achievewe have a similar viewour intention is to use the new order-making power in new Section 6ZA to confer such functions on police authorities. It is perhaps worth reiterating that the Delegated Powers Committee had no difficulty with that order-making power.
I ask my noble friend not to press his amendment on the basis that we seek the same enda shared policy objectivealbeit that the Bill takes a slightly different path to the one he proposes. I hope that noble Lords will take some encouragement from those comments.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I am interested in the use of that would be the effect. The Minister then said yes, which I hope is an absolute answer to the question of the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey. We might consider that further.
I shall deal first with the Ministers response to my Amendment No. 24. I have always made it clear that it was tabled so that ACPO might have an opportunity for a response. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, and the noble Baroness, Lady Harris of Richmond, that it is vital that we have local accountabilitythe thrust of the Billwhereas we all agree that there should be no interference with operational matters. We will return to that in a later debate.
I am interested in the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey. It was tabled in exactly the right spirit: post the Governments haste in seeking to force mergers, we must look at the new policing landscape which will obtain. It is important to see how to improve collaboration, particularly on protective services and strategic services overall. I should perhaps now declare an interest, or my thanks, to my own police in Surrey. This summer, they asked if I would like to see one of the strategic services in operation, and I went along to Fairoaks where the Surrey police helicopter is based. Of course, one never knows if the helicopter is going to be called into service; whether it was fortunate for the people of Surrey or not, it was fortunate for me that it was. I was therefore able to observe the remarkable service they provide to Surrey at close quarters, and how they co-operate with other police forces. We shall need to consider how that is best delivered in the months and, I hope, years to comeif the Government do not press ahead with forced mergers until the next Prime Minister calls an election.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills (Lord Adonis): My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement made in another place by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education and Skills. The Statement is as follows:With permission, I would like to make a Statement on the children in care Green Paper that I have published today, copies of which have been placed in the House of Commons Library.Mr Speaker, at the heart of this Green Paper is one simple presumption: that the aspirations of the state for children in care should match those which each individual parent has for their own children.Members of this House recognise this moral imperative, and I would like to pay tribute to the associate parliamentary group for children in and leaving care and to my honourable friend the Member for Stafford for highlighting many of the issues which this Green Paper seeks to resolve.They have pointed out vociferously that this area has received too little attention for too long. We know the depressing statistics: children in care are five times less likely to achieve five good GCSEs and nine times more likely to get expelled from school. Indeed, one quarter of people in prison today have spent some time in our care system. The Government have introduced a number of measures to address the complex problems of children in care. Since 1997, we have invested almost a billion pounds into the quality protects initiative to improve outcomes for children in care. We have taken steps to encourage adoption instead of care. And we have put a duty on local authorities to improve educational outcomes for this specific group of children. But this has clearly not been enough.Todays Green Paper builds on these efforts and the implementation of Every Child Matters, which for the first time provides the infrastructure to deal with this issue in a co-ordinated way. The first priority must be to prevent children from slipping into care where there are family alternatives. We must take effective pre-emptive and preventive action so that no child is sucked into the system by default. If there is a chance that a child could be restored to a healing family environment, we must seize it. We will trial a new
Baroness Morris of Bolton: My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement made earlier by the Secretary of State in the other place and for giving us the opportunity to comment on an issue that is much discussed and is such a priority in your Lordships' House.
The care of children in the guardianship of the state has been a shameful side of the welfare system for far too long. As the Minister said, we have the depressing shopping list of familiar statistics. Half of all children in care are failing to achieve a single qualification in school, with only six in 100 making it to university. They are far more likelyindeed, five times more likelyto have a diagnosable mental illness and almost one third will not have received their basic inoculations. The tale of woe of far too many children in care ending up in prison or turning to drugs and prostitution is a depressing indictment of the role of the state as a parent in the worlds fifth largest economy. It has taken 10 years of deteriorating outcomes for these vulnerable children for this Green Paper to be produced, so we very much welcome it.
The Government say that their first priority is preventing children slipping into care, especially where there are family alternatives. We have long been an advocate of the state supporting parents and families to stay together. Intervention at an early stage to support and guide is welcome, but not in the way envisaged by the Prime Minister in his speech on 5 September, which would see more children condemned to a life in care. We are told that the Government will trial a new kind of intensive family treatment. May I suggest that there are already excellent models of such practice right here, right now?
In earlier debates, I mentioned the pioneering work of Kent County Council, which has invested enormously in helping families stay together by placing children with members of their extended family if possible. Only when all that fails does it consider taking the child into care. When it does so, there is a strong presumption towards adoption. As a consequence, it saves money on its care budget and has money to put back into early support and prevention, so creating a virtuous circle. None of this will work, however, unless we support, value and empower social workers and so get away from the view of them as child snatchers and re-energise their profession to work proactively in support of families.
However well early support and intervention works, there will always be children for whom the state is a refuge, and the state must be the very best parent that it can be. When your world falls apart, the last thing you want is to be removed from all that is loved and familiar. Too many children are moved too often, and too many are moved too far away from all they have known. This is potentially damaging, not least to the healthy attachment of babies and very young children. And how can their key or responsible social worker keep a proper watching brief if they are living hundreds of miles away? The role that the responsible social worker plays is vital. They should assume the role of the pushy parent: standing up for the best interests of that child, challenging mediocrity and refusing to accept inappropriate decisions. We welcome the commitment to extend care provision from 16 to 18, and we also welcome the additional financial and educational support for people leaving
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It is good that children in care will no longer simply be dumped in the worst schools, but going to the best schools will not be the answer if children are moved from area to area. What will be done to keep children closer to home? As part of this, will the Government be looking at an enhanced package of support for foster carers? Will the Minister also tell us what is being done to strengthen the social worker workforce, which, as I said earlier, is currently undervalued, demoralised and under-resourced? Will the Government be looking at what happens in other countries, such as the highly trained social worker pedagogue workforce in Finland and Denmark? In all this, there is the voice of the child. But it is not enough simply to listen: the most important part of listening is demonstrating that you have heard. The Secretary of State is right when he says that we should expect no less for children in the care of the state than we would for our own children, and when the Government advance proposals to achieve this, we will support them.
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