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Lord Dubs: My understanding--we have now jumped to Clause 7--is that the Bill contains provisions, to which the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, refers, stating that the police authority shall have the responsibility of ascertaining the views of the public about matters concerning policing, and of gaining the co-operation of the public in preventing crime.

The Patten Commission has a wider remit. Clause 7 restates the existing powers of the police authority--it simply repeats the powers which already exist as regards Northern Ireland--but the Patten Commission has a wider remit which will enable it for the next year to investigate all these matters in some detail. So, although at one level it might appear that there is an overlap between the two, for the sake of orderliness the Bill continues the present powers, but the Patten Commission has a wider remit with which the noble Lord is familiar.

I think that deals with all the points raised. The provisions in this Bill are the building blocks on which other sensible improvements can be made if time permits in the future. I hope that the Committee will feel that this is an appropriate clause to stand part of the Bill.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: I am grateful to the Minister for responding to the points that have been made in this

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short debate and I welcome what he said, particularly about the employment of former terrorists in the police force, which was extremely important.

I should like to comment very briefly on a point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, about responsibility for the police transferring to the assembly at some date in the future. The Minister said that that might happen in the fullness of time, which is not a bad phrase to use about this because a prerequisite is that first there should be peace. Terrorism should be fully over--not only from those who supported the Good Friday Agreement, more or less, but also from those who did not support it. We all know that there are terrorist organisations which did not support it. In particular, the transfer of responsibility cannot take place until after there is no further need for the use of troops in support of the civil power. I cannot see that happening very quickly although, obviously, the sooner it happens, the better.

There is another prerequisite, which I hope will also be met in a similar period of time: the assembly and new executive should have the chance to prove themselves to be effective and working bodies which can take clear decisions and give clear instructions to the police. If that does not happen, it would be extremely difficult for responsibility to be transferred because police forces need clear instructions which they can carry out, and which everyone understands that they are carrying out. What the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, said about what happened in former times, such as 1968, makes that clear. When instructions to the police are given by the political representatives responsible, people should be able to see that the police are carrying out the democratic wishes through the mechanisms which have been set up. With those further thoughts, I am entirely content that Clause 1 should stand part of the Bill.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 agreed to.

Clause 3 [Staff of the Police Authority]:

Lord Cope of Berkeley moved Amendment No. 1:

Page 2, line 37, after ("subsection") insert ("(3) or").

The noble Lord said: With Amendment No. 1 it is convenient for us to discuss Amendment No. 2 also.

Clause 3 deals with the staff of the police authority. They are to be partly employed directly by PANI under subsection (3), partly supplied from the Civil Service under subsection (4). In both cases, as far as most of the staff are concerned, the chief constable is to have the direction and control, although he can only engage and dismiss those directly employed under subsection (3). Those Civil Service staff designated under subsection (6) remain civil servants, not under the chief constable and not employed by the police authority. They are not, incidentally, called police service staff; they are presumably the staff of the authority.

I found that subsection very confusingly worded, I must admit, but the wording of subsection (7) means that the civil servants who are not so designated under

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subsection (6) are to be described as "police service staff". It also says that those employed directly by the police authority are police service staff.

If the chief constable alone engages an employee, alone can fire that employee and also exercises all the other powers and duties of an employer, which is what the clause provides, it is difficult to see who is really the employer. The employees are not being employed in any meaningful way by the police authority itself. I suppose we shall be told that although they may not be in any ordinary sense employed by the police authority, they will be in a legal sense; therefore my amendment will be unnecessary because of that legal fiction, as it seems to me.

The underlying question is why do we need this convoluted legal apparatus to enable PANI to do its job? In one way I should like to have rewritten the clause completely to say that there are three types of people involved: policemen, who are members of the RUC or the RUC Reserve; police service staff, who help the policemen directly under the control of the chief constable; and police authority staff, who help the authority to do its job. Unfortunately, at this stage we cannot rewrite the whole clause, and that is to some extent what is achieved by the subsections, as I read them. However, they are not at all clear.

All those who will actually work for the police authority itself in doing its job appear to be civil servants on secondment, apart from the chief executive, and there may be one or two others. I am not sure that that is entirely desirable, but no doubt the Minister will tell us if I am right.

Amendment No. 2 covers a different point. Clause 4 provides a power for a civil servant who works for PANI under the arrangements under Clause 3(4) to be transferred to work directly for PANI or to serve under the chief constable, depending on whether he is designated under Clause 3(6).

As drafted, the transfer seems to be compulsory; the individual has no choice in the matter, and that seems unsatisfactory. I realise that it might be covered in the regulations that are to be introduced to develop these matters further, but as far as I know we have seen no draft regulations so far. In any case, it seems to me that the protection of the voluntary nature of the transfer should perhaps be in the primary legislation. PANI and its Civil Service staff seem to be concerned at the moment about those compulsory transfer provisions. They seek assurances that in the event of any down-sizing of civilian staff such staff should receive the same consideration as police officers, especially if early retirement or other schemes are introduced to reduce the numbers.

They have also noted that the Secretary of State said there will be a two-year period after any regulations are introduced beyond which no current civil servant will be able to get back into the Civil Service proper. The authority's view is that this should be extended to at least five years in the present circumstances, or preferably that the staff should be able to compete for civil service vacancies over an indefinite period.

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They are also concerned that civilian staff who might find themselves dismissed by the chief constable should have a right of appeal to the police authority. This would help to put some fabric on what I described earlier as the fiction that the police authority employs them. However, if they appealed against the chief constable's decision in case of dismissal, that should be considered most carefully. I beg to move.

4.45 p.m.

Lord Blease: I wonder whether we could include consideration of terms and conditions of employment in relation to ancillary workers who may possibly be employed in departments. I know that that goes down the line a fair way; it possibly comes within the ambit of this clause, although I do not see reference to civil staff. Reference to police staff I can well understand. However, there are other civil employments and perhaps the terms and conditions of their employment are drawn up in detail. Under those terms and conditions it may be necessary to embrace some form of commitment to the services in which they have been engaged.

Lord Dubs: Perhaps it would be helpful if I were first to deal with Amendment No. 1.

Clause 3 sets out the administrative arrangements governing the police service staff of the police authority. The main thrust of the clause centres on the delegation of management functions in respect of police service staff to the chief constable. The clause allows the police authority, with the approval of the Secretary of State, to employ staff to assist the police force or the police authority in the discharge of their functions, and provides for the secondment of members of the civil service to the police authority.

The purpose of subsection (7) is to clarify who is to be covered by the term police service staff. In tabling his amendment the noble Lord is seeking to include within subsection (7) those staff who are employed by virtue of the provisions of subsection (3).

Following consultation with the legislative draftsman, I am advised that those staff falling within the provisions of subsection (3) are already covered. The words "are employed by" recorded on line 36 refer to the staff who fall under the terms of subsection (3).

I appreciate the point is somewhat technical, but I believe the position is already covered. In the circumstances I do not believe that the noble Lord's amendment is necessary or would take us any further forward.

Perhaps I may turn now to Amendment No. 2. Clause 4 allows the Secretary of State to make regulations through which civil servants seconded to the police authority may be transferred to the employ of the authority. It also requires the Secretary of State to consult the authority, the chief constable, and any organisations representing staff, before making such regulations.

Giving the chief constable proper authority over police and support staff under his direction and control is a central principle of this legislation. By making those seconded staff employees of the authority, not only will

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they then come under the chief constable's direction and control, but, crucially, he will have full managerial responsibility for them.

This Government recognise the sensitivities in this area. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State has already consulted with trade unions and other interested bodies. We have given an assurance that adequate time will be allowed for extensive consultation before regulations are brought into force. In essence that means that unless agreement is reached, they will not invoked before 2001. The Government are committed to ensuring that the chief constable is given proper managerial responsibility for all his staff and believes that this clause is the correct way to achieve that. The noble Lord's amendment would have the effect of providing that even after the full consultation had taken place, members of staff would individually have to consent to transfer. That would be potentially disastrous, both to the chief constable, the police authority and the staff. What if large numbers of staff refuse to transfer? They could not be retained in the Civil Service group and would consequently have to be made redundant. As that is surely not the noble Lord's intention, I ask him to withdraw his amendment.

I wish to make one other point on the question of civilian staffing. There is a four-way split: civil servants and police authority employees; and working for the RUC or working for the Police Authority for Northern Ireland. Anyone working for the RUC, be it a civil servant or a PANI direct employee, will be a member of the police service staff. Anyone--that is to say a civil servant or a PANI direct employee--working for PANI itself will not be. Only police service staff will be under the control of the chief constable. Civil servants can be sacked only by the Civil Service Commission. But the chief constable will be allowed to carry out all other management functions.

It is convoluted, but gives effect to the desire to give the chief constable the same powers as his colleagues in the rest of the UK. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Cope, will in the circumstances withdraw his amendment.

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