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Lord Henley: I hope that I shall be satisfied with that explanation. I wish to make the point that the provision is new and imposes new and bureaucratic duties on local authorities. Although we do not ask for detailed analysis of every scheme proposed by every local authority throughout the country--the noble and learned Lord said that there could be 400 of them--we want to know whether the provision has an effect. We wish to know whether the work which the Bill has imposed on the local authorities is worth while. That research is simpler than the noble and learned Lord implied.

I hope that he will put to his right honourable friend and to officials that it is important to have research in due course on the effect of the crime and disorder strategies and the burden they are imposing on local authorities. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 7 agreed to.

Clause 16 [Duty to consider crime and disorder implications]:

Lord Renton: Amendments Nos. 104 and 105 were discussed with Amendment No. 99 to Clause 5. I must protest about the way in which the clauses have been taken out of order and, to an extent, out of context. I raised the issue the day before the Committee began, but now we are debating the Bill one can see how absurd it is. I hope that the Government will not repeat the exercise, whether or not it has been agreed by the usual channels.

[Amendments Nos. 104 and 105 not moved.]

Clause 16 agreed to.

Lord Thomas of Gresford moved Amendment No. 106:


After Clause 16, insert the following new clause--

Reasonable duty of Ministers of Crown to prevent crime and disorder

(" . Without prejudice to any other obligation imposed on him, it shall be the duty of each Minister of the Crown to exercise his various functions with due regard to the likely effect of the exercise of those functions on, and the need to do all that he reasonably can to prevent, crime and disorder.").

The noble Lord said: Clause 16, at which the Committee looked a moment ago, lays upon the local authority, the police authority and other authorities a duty to consider crime and disorder implications for the various functions which they must carry out.

Precisely what that adds to the 400 or so strategies of which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, spoke a moment ago, which are to be put together under Clauses 5 and 6, I really do not know. If it is intended that in the performance of all its functions, a local authority should have regard to good practice in exercising functions in relation to education, youth, housing, planning, social services and so on, so be it. But if that is what is behind these proposals, why should they not extend to central government agencies and bureaux which also carry out functions over a wide range of areas in local districts?

Therefore, the purpose of this amendment is to insert a new clause which will extend a similar obligation from the local authorities and other authorities to which Clause 16 pertains to the agencies and bodies which are governed by central government. This is by way of a probing amendment in order to find out why such a distinction should be made. I beg to move.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I see a certain superficial attraction to the amendment because, as the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, indicated, it would impose on central government the same general obligation to consider crime and disorder obligations as Clause 16 will impose on local authorities.

We believe that there is a distinction between the nature of central and local government. The whole point of the local crime and disorder strategy is to empower

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the local community to deal with it. The local police service, the local chief constable and the district services are dealing with services which are intimately concerned with the prevention of crime, the incidence of crime and how one deals with criminals across the whole age spectrum and seriousness spectrum.

If one looks at this amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, it would impose a duty on each Minister of the Crown,


    "to exercise his various functions with due regard to the likely effect of the exercise of those functions on, and the need to do all that he reasonably can to prevent, crime and disorder".

I do not believe that that would be workable in practice. There is so much that Ministers do which is wholly unrelated to crime that that would impose an unconscionable burden. It really would not be workable. I take the criticism voiced earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Henley. Such a blanket provision would be impossible to work and would generate a great many unnecessary tasks. There are many aspects of central government work which have no obvious crime and disorder ramifications at all.

I concede that the attraction of the amendment would be, possibly, that it may be of some help in breaking down the tendency of Whitehall to compartmentalise in departments, and I accept that as a point. But it is simply not practicably workable for every Minister to exercise all his functions bearing in mind what he can or cannot do to prevent crime and disorder. I am obliged for the proposition put forward and I hope that I have responded to it in a reasonable way. But it really is not workable.

Lord Henley: I do not support the amendment. However, surely the arguments which the noble Lord has put forward against the amendment apply equally to the arguments which I put forward in relation to the Lake District special planning board, other planning boards and the Broads Authority.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I think not, for the reasons already specified, given by the noble Viscount and the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, which I respectfully adopt. They are different; they are local. Their functions affect local people. The manifold duties of each Minister of the Crown very often do not affect anyone at all, I regret to say, and certainly many of them have nothing at all to do with the prevention, consideration of or dealing with crime and disorder.

Lord Renton: The subsection states:


    "This section applies to a local authority, a joint authority, a police authority".

I hope that I shall be corrected if my recollection is wrong but the Home Secretary used to be, and I believe still is, the police authority for the Metropolitan Police. Within the terms of this amendment, the Home Secretary is a Minister of the Crown. Therefore, to that extent, the amendment merely reflects the present state of the law in relation to the Metropolitan Police.

Within Greater London, there was the exception of the City of London and, if I remember rightly, the Mayor and Corporation of the City of London were the

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police authority for that and the Home Secretary had no jurisdiction over that. However, I see that there are difficulties about making the Home Secretary responsible for crime prevention and disorder all over the country.

To that extent, I believe that the amendment is somewhat unrealistic because all that the Home Secretary could do from the national point of view is to anticipate further trouble or prevent existing trouble by getting Parliament, in some way or another, to increase his powers and responsibilities. But it is at any rate an extremely interesting suggestion which the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, has made with this amendment. Strangely enough, it raises some constitutional problems.

The Lord Bishop of Winchester: I should have thought that the Minister was in great danger of torpedoing not just this amendment but a great deal of the thrust of the Bill by what he has just said. In those parts where a Minister's actions will not refer to anything or anybody, then this will not refer to him. But in those parts where it will--and they are surely substantial--it is very much in the spirit of the Bill that the Minister of the Crown, as in the case of so many other people, should have the prevention of crime and disorder carefully in mind. My mind is running in a number of directions where it would be highly salutary for government Ministers to have to bear that proposition in mind. I suggest that the Minister is endangering a lot more than this amendment by his objection to it and that it should stand.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: As regards the noble Lord, Lord Renton, when I spoke to Amendments Nos. 100 and 156, I dealt with the Home Secretary's position as the police authority for the Metropolitan Police and also the Common Council for the City of London. On that occasion I said that arrangements have been agreed under which the Home Secretary will ask the Metropolitan Police Committee to undertake any liaison necessary on his behalf.

I should say in response to the right reverend Prelate that it is such a broad-based duty, a blanket provision, that it will have no practical effect beyond general injunction. We are looking for practical utility. The chief constable of police has responsibilities to his police authority and his particular area. All his work is focused on the prevention of and dealing with crime. Similarly, the districts are delivering local services. They can have a precise strategy and some way in which to measure what they have put forward by way of strategy and what they have delivered.

I simply cannot believe that it is possible to have such a blanket injunction; namely, that,


    "it shall be the duty of each Minister of the Crown to exercise his various functions"--

and that applies to all Ministers and all functions--


    "with due regard to the likely effect of the exercise of those functions on, and the need to do all that he reasonably can to prevent, crime and disorder".

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It is simply a general injunction which would not be capable of being checked. It does not require a Minister of the Crown to set down a strategy for his own department or his sub-department. I shall not say that it is pie in the sky, but it is very close to it.


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