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Lord Boyd of Duncansby: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for allowing me to clarify the point. What I said was that no guidance is given within the terms of the amendment that would give any clue to how it should be judged. There are many ways of judging it. Do you judge it by where the effect of the crime is felt or where the evidence is?
Lord Kingsland: My Lords, I thought I had dealt with that in my speech by quoting from Article 7.1 of the European Convention on Extradition. It is quite clear that the amendment we have tabled is based on that. It is also a provision within the Irish treaty with the United States. The Irish have entered into a treaty with the United States and many aspects of that treaty are similar to our own; but what the Irish have done is to provide the forum defence whereby if a judge, not a prosecutor, thinks it is in the interests of justice for the trial to take place in Ireland rather than the United States, the judge is entitled to take that decision. In my respectful submission, that is the right approach.
I thank all noble Lords who have participated in this debate. I continue to believe that the position we have taken by tabling this amendment is the right one and I wish to test the opinion of the House.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do not insist on its Amendment No. 71 to which the Commons have disagreed and do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 71A to 71K to the words so restored to the Bill.
These amendments concern the Secretary of States powers to intervene where serious and persistent police performance concerns have arisen. We have listened to the concerns raised during previous stages of the Bill and we have worked hard to accommodate them by tabling in the other place a number of government amendments. We believe that these address the concerns of your Lordships House while ensuring that the powers remain fit for purpose.
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In the light of experience gained over the past four years in supporting forces to build up an effective performance regime, we have developed these proposals to update the Secretary of States powers of intervention. The new provisions in the Bill, as first introduced in this House, will modify the reserve powers to intervene in an underperforming force or police authority. As I have previously explained, we are not taking new powers. The powers were originally introduced by the Police and Magistrates Courts Act 1994 and enable the Secretary of State to direct a police authority to take measures to improve performance in a police force where it has been shown to not be efficient or effective or will cease to be efficient or effective. I stress this last point because it is important that the House recognises that the power to intervene when there is a danger that a force or authority will fail is a long-standing one. We are not breaking new ground here.
We firmly believe that the Government should have reserve powers to intervene in those areas where policing has fallen below an acceptable level and other non-statutory resolutions to performance issues have proved insufficient. At present, intervention can be triggered only by an adverse report from Her Majestys Inspector of Constabulary, and experience has shown that there may well be other relevant sources of information. Examples are the findings of a public inquirythe Bichard inquiry being a case in pointthe police performance assessments and objective performance data, as well as HMIC inspection findings. That is why the Bill widens the sources of information which the Home Secretary can consider in deciding whether to exercise his powers.
Secondly, the Bill streamlines the intervention process. In all but the most exceptional cases, statutory intervention will be considered at a point when all other means of collaboration and support have been attempted but performance has failed to improve. Policing is a service delivered and governed locally and it must be performed to a consistent and acceptable standard in all our communities. The responsibility for ensuring that such a service is provided rightly resides with the chief constable and the police authority. None the less, there may be occasions when it becomes clear that an area is receiving an unacceptable standard of policing and the local force and authority have been unable to take the necessary steps to address this.
In that respect, we recognise the strong feeling expressed about the changes which would allow the Secretary of State on some occasions to direct a chief constable on performance matters and not to have to route this direction through the police authority. The amendments agreed by the other place restore the position under the Police Reform Act, which routes the intervention power through the police authority on all occasionssomething which I know will give the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, to name but one, a considerable amount of satisfaction. The amendments recognise that it is the police authority which is primarily charged with holding the chief constable of a force to account.
The second main point of concern has focused on what we feel is misrepresentation of the intent of these powers, namely that the Secretary of State should use them on a whim or for a trivial purpose. We have made it clear throughout that they are intended to be used only when serious and persistent performance concerns have arisen and other attempts to address these have failed. These are powers of last resort and the revisions are intended to be used only in cases in which the force or authority has had an opportunity to make improvements and the decision to intervene is based on sound evidence.
To provide further reassurance on this point, we have introduced an amendment which requires the Secretary of State to consult Her Majestys Inspectorate of Constabulary when he proposes to use these powers in relation to a police force or police authority. Furthermore, the Secretary of State will be under a duty to publish the inspectorates opinion on the evidence leading to that proposed course of action. This will ensure that the inspectorate's professional, independent advice is available to the Secretary of State on whether the use of the powers is, in its opinion, the right course of action. This provides confidence that the inspectorates opinion will be taken into account when deciding whether to invoke the powers.
Our proposals are intended to provide the Government with effective but proportionate intervention powers of last resort. We have listened to some concerns about how they might be interpreted or used and have responded accordingly with some specific safeguards. On Report, the noble Baroness, Lady Harris of Richmond, indicated that while her preference was to remove these provisions entirely from the Bill she recognised that it was sensible to have a plan B. I suggest to her that the amendments made in the other place deliver her plan B and, in particular, address her concern that it wouldin her viewbe unconstitutional for the Home Secretary to be able to give directions to a chief officer. Given the additional safeguards we have introduced, I urge the House not to insist on its Amendment No. 71.
I have taken some time dealing with this matter, because there are many issues on which noble Lords want assurance. I hope that I have given all the assurances that will enable noble Lords to allow this amendment to pass swiftly from your Lordships' House.
Moved, That the House do not insist on its Amendment No. 71 to which the Commons have disagreed and do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 71A to 71K to the words so restored to the Bill.(Baroness Scotland of Asthal.)
Baroness Harris of Richmond: My Lords, I give a cautious welcome to these amendments, which were introduced in the other place. They represent significant progress in addressing the concerns that I raised in previous debates on this matter. I am certainly very pleased that the Government have listened to the arguments about the balance of powers within the tripartite relationship and, equally, the need to balance central and local powers. The issues
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The amendments remove the possibility that the Secretary of State could give directions to a chief constable. Instead, all such directions must be routed through the police authority, which is a very important and welcome step in the right direction. I am also very gratified that HMIC will be given a role in commenting not only on whether a police force is fundamentally flawed before intervention takes place, but on whether a police authority is failing as well. This, too, is an important change, because it ensures that an independent view will be expressed on whether intervention is warranted in both forces and authorities. But I confess that I should have liked the amendments to be a little stronger, as they do not, for instance, oblige the Secretary of State to pay any attention to what the chief inspector says or, if he disagrees with the chief inspector, to explain why.
I understand the Governments reasons for wanting to broaden the sources of information that might inform a judgment about whether a force is failing, but they have probably got more from these provisions than just a wider spread of reference material. Under the old arrangements, no intervention could be triggered unless an adverse report had been received from HMIC. Now the chief inspector can express an opinion, but that is not what determines whether intervention takes place. That is done by the Secretary of State.
The amendments also specify that it is the Secretary of State, not HMIC, who has a responsibility for publishing the opinion of the chief inspector. I find that a little puzzling, as I should have thought it was perfectly proper for the chief inspector to publish his own opinion. In addition, it is clear that it is up to the Secretary of State to decide how he will publish the chief inspectors opinion, which gives the unfortunate impression of leaving room to be less than transparent about how this might be done. I am sure that that is not the intention but that the Government wish to maintain flexibility in case genuinely sensitive material is involved. It reinforces the appearance of minimising the role of HMIC in this process. I simply make that observation. This role is important because the independence and expertise of HMIC are key elements of providing reassurance about the legitimate and effective use of intervention powers.
How do the Government believe these provisions will operate in practice, especially as there might be disagreement between HMIC and the Home Secretary about what failing means? Could the Minister also offer reassurance on the other points that I have raised and explain why the Secretary of State will publish the chief inspectors opinion? If, as I hope, she is able to reassure me, I shall be satisfied with that, but I put on record my continuing interest and assurance that I shall be watching very carefully how these powers are used.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I agree wholeheartedly with the views put forward by the noble Baroness, Lady Harris of Richmond. With the House wanting to move on as swiftly as possible to Motion F, I will abandon the other remarks that I was going to make, save for one technical question of which I gave the Government advance notice. It is a minor matter, but we need an explanation on it.
On Report, government Amendment No. 45 was debated with a group on which we divided, which affected the provision that we are reinstating. We did not object to Amendment No. 45 per se, but it was removed from the Bill simply because its text fell within Amendment No. 44, which removed lines 33 to 44 from the Bill. That sounds like double-Dutchnot meaning to be rude to the Dutch, of course.
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