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Lord Whitty: I refer to the point I made earlier; namely, that the noble Lord has missed the word "and". Clause 26(7) refers to preventing the authority from doing anything which may be done by a London borough council etc. and,

Lord Dixon-Smith: I return once more to the fray. If the Minister is giving me an absolute assurance that Clause 26 (7)(b) is relevant only to Clause 26 (7)(a) I shall be happy, but my fear has been that that is not the case.

Lord Whitty: In my reading of the Bill the word "and" makes the position clear. If there is any further complication, I shall let the noble Lord know.

Baroness Hamwee: I am sure there is plenty for us to read there. Given that the Chamber has filled up with people who I suspect are more concerned to discuss the police service than the Greater London authority, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: I beg to move that the House do now resume. In moving this Motion, I suggest that the Committee stage begins again not before 8.40 p.m.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.

Police Service

7.41 p.m.

Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate rose to ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to ensure the continuance of a professional, impartial and accountable police service, with high morale.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, a couple of years ago I was at an FBI conference in Norway when during a presentation a Dutch police officer said,

    "In Heaven the cooks are French, the lovers are Italian, the police are British, and the Germans organise everything".

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    He continued,

    "In Hell the cooks are German, the lovers are British, the police are French, and the Italians organise everything". I have to say that I remembered that and it made me feel proud to be British, at least as regards my policing background. I also think that although we should not stereotype or generalise there is more than a grain of truth in the quotation.

Noble Lords will note that the Question I pose assumes that we have a police service that is professional, impartial and accountable, with high morale. I believe that to be the case. We need a police service which is professional. The work society asks it to do is becoming more and more demanding. I am sure that there is common agreement on that.

Professionalism of course requires high standards of training. I believe that we can be proud of the training in the police service in this country, but that is not to be complacent! I remember talking to a friend of mine who had taken over as chief of police in a medium-size town in New Mexico in the USA. I had advised him to get out and about with his staff in the first instance to get the feel of the department. He went out in a patrol car with an officer who had two years' service. A shotgun was strapped to the passenger side of the dashboard. My friend Jim tried once or twice to release the firearm to examine it but he was unable to do so. He then asked his driver, who was embarrassed at having to confess that he could not help my friend as no one had ever shown him how to release the firearm. That is commonplace in the United States. There are some good, well trained police forces and there are some badly trained departments. Unfortunately, unlike Britain, there are no national standards.

In the last few years of my service as a police officer I was a governor of the police staff college at Bramshill. I well remember attending meetings of the Police Training Council. I came to the conclusion that it is all well and good having national standards together with standard training packages, but with autonomous chief constables it is sometimes difficult to persuade some forces to accept those nationally agreed training packages. I therefore ask the Minister whether he is satisfied that there is sufficient power to impose national training standards where necessary? I also believe that the public of this country wish to retain the single high standard of policing that they are used to, and are not prepared to accept substitute, second tier public or private patrols, which certain chief constables are flirting with. In the long term, experience abroad shows us that differing levels of policing lead to lower standards, rivalry and in some cases corruption. If your Lordships doubt this, they should look at what happened recently in Belgium.

An impartial police service is an essential ingredient of any liberal democracy. By impartial I mean answerable under the law and free of any political control. Again I believe that the record in this country is good. Unlike the United States, we do not have, nor in my submission do we want, elected police officials, or indeed judges for that matter. We saw in the Pinochet extradition case the consequences of allegations of partiality against those involved in the judicial process.

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I ask my noble friend the Minister to confirm that with all the constitutional changes taking place with this reforming Government there is no intention of politicising our police or our judges.

Impartiality also requires that particular favours are not given to particular groups. A couple of years ago I gave evidence to the Home Affairs Committee in another place on the question of Freemasonry in the police service. I have seen only one case of abuse which comprised a man indicted for murder who managed to influence a fellow masonic member on the jury to get the verdict reduced from murder to manslaughter. He got six years. When he came out after three he quite naturally bought the juror a drink, saying, "How you got that verdict reduced I'll never know". "It was damn difficult", said the juror, "They wanted to acquit you!" Justice will always out. To be serious though, will the Minister confirm that any policy developments which would create a compulsory register of masonic membership would apply equally to all other components of the criminal justice system such as Crown prosecutors, magistrates and, most importantly, judges?

The Question also refers to an accountable police service. In a sense the police are accountable in three ways. First and foremost they are accountable to the law. In this democracy no one is above the law because we do not live in a police state, and long may that endure. Thankfully we rarely read of police officers transgressing the law and being dealt with, regardless of rank, by the courts. Secondly, the police are accountable to their elected and appointed police authorities, although sometimes I wish that police authorities exercised their responsibilities far more firmly on occasions. Finally, they are accountable through Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary to the Home Secretary, who in turn is accountable to Parliament. In the case of the Metropolitan Police, for the moment the Home Secretary is the police authority.

I suppose that for the average citizen the most obvious method of calling the police to account is through the police complaints system. I have to say that in my experience, in spite of the widespread scepticism, the system is thorough, fair and impartial, if not a little long-winded on occasions. It seems to me that it is the Police Complaints Authority itself which is not accountable in many respects. I think of an inquiry in Humberside recently which lasted six years and cost £4 million but at the end of it not one officer had been charged or disciplined. A murder inquiry would have been focused, subject to financial constraints and reviewed independently on a regular basis.

With PCA supervised inquiries, the on-going costs are not borne by the Police Complaints Authority but by the police force being investigated. Bearing in mind the blight on police careers and health which such long-running inquiries cause, will the Minister consider reviewing the procedures in Police Complaints Authority controlled and supervised complaints with a view to speeding up such inquiries and thereby reducing both costs and anguish to police officers and complainants alike? A mechanism for an independent review of investigations would also be helpful. It can be

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in nobody's interests for police officers to be suspended and investigated for six years with no subsequent proceedings.

Sir William Macpherson's report into the Lawrence murder recommended that disciplinary action be available for at least five years after retirement. Where an officer is in prison for a serious offence, the Home Secretary already has power to reduce his or her pension. Can my noble friend say how many times this power has been used over the past 10 years? I believe that it would be wrong to attack an officer's pension in discipline matters; it would simply encourage the police to opt for private pension schemes and therefore be discriminatory. Police officers contribute 11 per cent of their salary to pension provision. Such a measure would be devastating for morale.

Perhaps I may suggest another way of satisfying the clear public disquiet about officers escaping discipline by retirement. Recently I read of a military case where the officer concerned was recalled to service and dealt with as a serving officer. That perhaps is a solution in this case.

Earlier this month the Inspectorate of Constabulary published a report into integrity and corruption in the police service. Among other things, it recommended that police chiefs practise what they preach. That is good advice for all of us. I remember well a few years ago a deputy chief constable in Durham who used to enforce rigid discipline for minor matters against junior officers while accepting lavish gifts and perks himself. Justice was eventually done and he had to resign.

I have pointed to the disquiet--not least by chief constables--about officers retiring and thereby avoiding discipline. Yet we saw recently a chief constable under suspension doing the very same thing and retiring with his pension. Similarly, we saw the former Deputy Chief Constable of Cleveland, Robert Turnbull, retire under a cloud two years into a five-year contract, mislead his police authority and then take a lucrative post as Deputy Commissioner in the Turks and Cacos Islands. When questioned by the local media in the north-east, he told the people of Cleveland--who, incidentally, are paying his pension--that it was none of their business. We will never achieve integrity in any organisation if we apply dual standards. Are not these examples of exactly what Her Majesty's Inspector is talking about? They should indeed practise what they preach.

I have touched on police professionalism, accountability and morale. We all have a responsibility to see that the model of excellence we have in this country endures.

7.53 p.m.

Lord Imbert: My Lords, it is particularly opportune that the noble Lord, Lord Mackenzie, should ask this Question today, although even he could not have had any idea of the extra demands that were to be placed on police officers on Friday last in the City of London Police area. We have also today woken up to the news of the disturbances which took place in the early hours at Stonehenge, where many people planning peacefully

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to celebrate the summer solstice were prevented from doing so by many hundreds of unruly and aggressive individuals. Such is the description of some of those who took part that I wonder whether we had common practice in both of those demonstrations.

The Question asks what steps the Government are taking,

    "to ensure the continuance of a professional, impartial and accountable police service, with high morale". I believe that one of the immediate actions that could be taken on the first of these points is a promise that a close look will be taken at the Riot Damages Act 1886. It may not be generally realised but the cost of the wide-scale damage caused by that mob on Friday afternoon is likely, under the provisions of that Act, to fall upon the City Police. That, added to the cost of having every available City police officer on duty on Friday, together with the cost of several hundred Metropolitan police officers, will ensure that, without the grant of extra finance, police coverage of the City area must subsequently suffer in manpower terms.

It is the duty of chief officers, in consultation with their police authorities, to decide how to distribute their budget between manpower, equipment and other requirements. The budget settlement is particularly tough on all chief officers. We are aware that, of necessity, because of the budget restriction, police numbers in both the Metropolitan and City areas--and indeed in other areas of the country--have fallen over the past two years. Unless something is done, police cannot, in such cases in particular--and, indeed, generally-- continue to give more for less on an annually recurring basis.

As to the matter of an impartial and accountable police service, I can do no better in the few minutes available than touch again on the problems of Friday afternoon. The police strategy was to facilitate a peaceful demonstration; where but in a democracy such as ours could you find that being done so impartially and fairly? Sadly, all police attempts to negotiate a route or site for the demonstration were rejected; and the use of the Internet to advertise the demonstrators' intention to reclaim the streets, brought people from across the country--and, indeed, Europe--to take part in the disruption. I was in the City late on Friday afternoon and I was surprised by the number of foreign languages coming from many of the demonstrators.

There will of course be an investigation into the whole affair and police, accountable as they are, and the Police Complaints Authority will ensure that all complaints made will be properly investigated, and do so with thoroughness and integrity.

One of the difficulties of getting to grips with police morale issues--indeed, with any morale issues--is perhaps the difficulty of defining what we mean by it. Often it is simply the feeling that no one cares; that everyone criticises; and that however much you try, no one seems to appreciate you; the awful feeling that no one is on your side. Morale to me is like integrity; it is difficult to define exactly but you know when someone has not got it. My dictionary defines morale as,

    "the degree of mental or moral confidence of a person or group".

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    I think the key word is "confidence".

Recent events, particularly the findings of the inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence, have marked a watershed for the UK police service. We have witnessed criticism on an unprecedented scale. Not only were junior officers battered and bruised by the inquiry but also, arguably for the first time, were our most senior officers. Your Lordships have already debated the report on the Stephen Lawrence murder inquiry and I will not go into its recommendations. But is it any wonder that such a report and its conclusions about the murder inquiry and institutional racism--within the Met in particular, in the police service as a whole, and in society generally, when we might previously, and honestly, have believed that we did not have even a smidgen of racism in our bodies--were an enormous blow to self-esteem, to morale and to confidence?

Yes, things are sometimes depressing; yes, the police service has been taking a battering; yes, it does seem on the face of it that people do not understand what an enormously difficult and not infrequently dangerous job policing is. But, dare I say it, the police service has been subjected to such criticism before. Now we must go on the offensive. The police service must continue to earn and deservedly take the high moral ground. This is not the time to hide lights under bushels. I hope that the Government's pledge to strengthen police ability to tackle our crime and disorder problems will be translated into action and will not be mere rhetoric.

7.58 p.m.

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon: My Lords, my theme in this short speech is that the Government should take as few steps as possible in relation to the police service. Over the past 20 years, government interference with the police service has undermined police professionalism, morale and self-confidence. In the early 1980s, the disgraceful use by the then government of the police service for political ends--to deal with the miners' strike--was disastrous for the image and the self-image of the police service, both as an impartial enforcer of the law and in terms of providing support for the weak against the strong and for victims against oppressors.

In succeeding years the treatment of the police service as a business entity and the failure to comprehend the public service ethos meant that we were subjected to a succession of trials by business consultants, culminating in the disaster of the Sheehy report, which is largely responsible now for the poor pay and conditions of young constables and the inevitable difficulties of recruitment. As a result of constant nagging by the then Government, requiring the police service to behave like a business, management consultancy firms advised us, at enormous profit to themselves, on our corporate image and culture. Endless hours were spent concocting mission statements and codes of conduct and further endless hours promulgating them to the force.

In the wake of the Lawrence inquiry, the police are hiring management consultants to examine the culture and ethos of the Metropolitan Police. However, the defects in police culture and the current state of demoralisation are all too plain to see. There is no doubt

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about the professional standards required. They can best be met by leadership and example from within the police service by all ranks--from constable to commissioner.

A perfectly adequate mission statement for the Metropolitan Police was written in 1829 and remains relevant today. Robert Peel said that the police constable,

    "will be civil and obliging to all people of every rank and class". These days we would of course add the words "race" and "gender". Robert Peel added:

    "Particular care is to be taken that the constables of the police do not form false notions of their duties and powers". That is also something we would echo.

The Government's role should be to encourage and support the police force as it struggles to re-establish its morale and self-confidence. It is only through recognition by the police service of where it has strayed from its proudest traditions and the principles laid down by Robert Peel that change and resolution of current problems will be achieved.

8.1 p.m.

Lord Warner: My Lords, we congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Mackenzie, on the opportunity to debate this issue. We have much to be proud of in our police service. The operational independence of the police is an important bulwark of our democracy but the police are also a public service that is publicly accountable. Many thousands of dedicated and brave police officers uphold the rule of law and provide public protection, but that does not mean that we have to suspend all our critical faculties in relation to the police service.

We are living through one of the few periods this century when crime is falling. Recorded crime has fallen in each of the past five years and by 8 per cent in the past year. This is a good time to tackle some systemic issues affecting the police.

Although everyone gets a warm glow from suggesting more bobbies on the beat, that does not necessarily reduce crime. The Audit Commission demonstrated that unfocused patrolling is a waste of public money. It has been shown also that there is not a great deal of correlation between police expenditure and police effectiveness, which is why police leaders and the Government are right to move towards more intelligence-based and targeted policing. Concentrating on prolific criminals and crime hot spots is a major way to drive down crime. I personally welcome the £50 million anti-burglary initiative announced by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary in April, which will target police efforts in areas that suffer the highest levels of burglary and benefit more than 2 million households.

The police cannot be expected to fight crime on their own. The Government are right to pursue local crime partnerships. The provision for them in the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 has been greatly welcomed by the police. Those partnerships have made major contributions to more than 400 local anti-crime strategies and plans, which will help the police to work with their local communities.

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There are, however, some darker corners that have to be tackled. Police officers at all levels recognise that and the Government are to be congratulated on their willingness to face up to some of the corruption, racism and shortcomings in police disciplinary arrangements that have been identified. The small number of corrupt police officers do enormous damage to the public standing of the police. The Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, Sir Paul Condon, deserves great credit for his uncompromising approach to rooting out corrupt officers. The new police disciplinary procedures, which came into force in April, make it more difficult for corrupt or incompetent officers to shelter behind antiquated procedures.

The report of the Stephen Lawrence inquiry set the police service and the rest of society a great challenge. There are currently only about 2,000 black and Asian officers at constable level, out of nearly 100,000 officers. There are only six black or Asian superintendents out of more than 1,200 nationwide. That has to change. In April, the Home Secretary set challenging new targets to recruit and retain more black and Asian officers. I am sure that he was right to do so and we should all support the Government and the police in achieving those targets. They are crucial to convincing members of the ethnic minorities that we want a tolerant and fair multicultural society.

We have to recognise that we are living through a period of change for the police. Many officers are responding positively to the need for change. They require our encouragement and support. This Government have got the essential balance right--a strong supporter of the police but at the same time a constructive friend who can help the police to adapt to today's world. I hope that my noble friend agrees.

8.5 p.m.

Viscount Runciman of Doxford: My Lords, I put my name down to speak on this timely Question tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Mackenzie, to make only one point--one that is already familiar to Home Office officials and Ministers and to senior police officers, and which has been made by implication by the noble Lord, Lord Warner.

There is an enormous range across the country between different police forces and different regions, not only in the nature of the problems they face but precisely in professionalism, integrity and morale. In a good force, it is difficult for malpractice to take hold. When it does take hold in a force or in what is sometimes known as a firm within a force, it can be extraordinarily difficult to eradicate.

It is difficult to praise the police too highly for that which they do for us all as members of the public, when they do it well. It is equally difficult to be too critical when they let us down. It would be naive to pretend that there are not individual serving officers in whom or parts of certain forces where malpractice and corruption are to some degree entrenched.

A figure that was submitted to the Royal Commission that sat between 1991 and 1993, which I imagine has not changed, showed that more than 70 per cent of

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arrests depend on information from members of the public. That figure stuck in my mind because it is an effective reminder of the extent to which the police, if they are to carry out their duties, depend on the confidence they command among the public in the localities they serve. Could the Government do more in public relations terms--I am sure that no members of the House would be backward in estimating the quality of public relations that the present Government are able to deploy when they choose--to combat the stereotyping of the police to which the media and public are all too prone?

It is far too easy, when individual and sometimes senior police officers fall far below the standards that we expect, for the whole police service, the whole Met or a particular regional force to be tarred by that brush.

When I hear criticism of the police from individuals or acquaintances, or when I read it in the media, sometimes it reminds me all too well of things that I learnt when the Royal Commission was sitting, about what can happen when things go wrong within the police. Much more often, I wish that those critics could have my experience of spending between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m. in a city police custody suite on a Sunday morning. Anyone who does that would be a little less ready to generalise from the misbehaviour of some police officers to the police force as a whole.

The overwhelming majority of serving police officers go out day and night, seven days and nights a week, to do an extremely difficult and demanding job. I can well remember how cross I got with Sir Patrick Sheehy, when he and I had informal discussions in 1992, about his extraordinary view that police officers were merely engaged in a slightly special kind of civilian employment. It is nonsense, and the point has been effectively made.

Will the Minister give the House an assurance that the Government are doing, and will do, everything that they can to prevent the stereotyping of the police force across the board simply because of some episodes which we all deplore and which we all hope to see stamped out?

8.10 p.m.

Viscount Simon: My Lords, I have spoken with a large number of police officers. The overwhelming message that I received was: "We could do better, but increasingly we are being used as a political football by one or other minority group, and the highest level of the service is caving in and not responding in a robust way". In every case the viewpoint was that the law-abiding citizen was losing out. Increasingly, crime and particularly crimes that individuals fear most--burglary, street robbery and mugging, theft of and from motor vehicles, vandalism and unsociable behaviour--will occur, because police officers are disengaging. If that is true, and I have no reason to disbelieve it, I am worried.

Recently, the Metropolitan Police issued every officer with a glossy brochure entitled, Leading Principles. That is all well and good. But for various reasons, many copies of it went straight into the waste paper basket. There were those who tried to establish why so much

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money had been wasted on that and other unnecessary internal publicity. The service would rather see action by example than receive politically correct leaflets.

Inexperience of day-to-day policing by some who serve in senior positions has clearly badly affected decision-making at the highest level, with an adverse affect on morale. Advisers to those officers are said to bring the necessary information, experience and wisdom to enable informed debate. But very often, the advisers are themselves inexperienced high-flyers, who might, in order to bolster their personal ambition, suppress that which they know their principal will not favour.

Morale has not only been affected by operational matters and political correctness being applied; it has been further eroded by the service-wide policy in respect of sickness and injury. Perhaps I may give your Lordships a theoretical example. A police horse rider is considered to be exactly the same as a civilian horse rider. If the horse throws the rider due to a lorry passing too close and the rider is injured, that is not--I repeat not--an injury on duty. If the injury has not healed after six months, the officer is at risk of being placed on half pay. That leads to officers not having the incentive to apply for some of the riskier areas of their job--why volunteer when there might be a potential financial penalty? Interestingly, as a complete non-sequitur, there is a belief that ethnic minorities will not join the present service.

It is a shame that time forbids my even touching on other aspects, let alone being able to expand upon the few that I have mentioned. I shall conclude by mentioning some remarks attributed to Sir Joseph Simpson, when he was Commissioner of the Metropolis. He is said to have remarked that the Met was lucky in comparison with other forces, in that it has no local paper to take it to task and to be taken into account when determining day-to-day policy and activity. After all, national newspaper headlines are largely forgotten the next day. That has all changed in the intervening years, and the media or media driven pressure groups have a great deal to answer for. They concentrate on bad policing and conveniently forget that bad policing occurs very rarely.

8.13 p.m.

Lord Montague of Oxford: My Lords, I join others in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Mackenzie, on introducing this debate. It is not unnatural that the police force runs the risk of developing an inferiority complex. That is not because it is inferior--indeed all the evidence indicates that our police force equals the best in the world. But when, day after day, television programmes imply that there are deficiencies in the police force, when, every day, newspapers exaggerate slight matters to draw attention in a sensational way to the police force, it is not surprising that emotions run high.

But that is where leadership comes in. It is for those who lead the police force to be conscious of that all the time and to be doing something about it. It is for the police to be proud of their great successes, to make those successes widely known and to concentrate on them. For

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instance, there were the recent arrests as a result of the painstaking detective work at Omagh. What a fine tribute that is to the police. Although we talk of what happened in London and at Stonehenge in a way that seems slightly critical of the police, I do not think that in either case that is justified.

However, I am slightly worried about whether we are doing enough to protect the police, whether sometimes we are putting the police in invidious positions. If we knew, as we did, that the situation in London on Friday evening would be difficult, did we do enough to protect the police? I ask noble Lords to cast their minds to the city of Brussels. Over and over again, because of its general European responsibilities, Brussels suffers almost continual violence and riots over one matter or another. The city seems better prepared for them. Water cannon are used extensively to disperse violent and angry crowds. Whether we have sufficient resources to do that kind of thing in parts of this country at present, one cannot be certain. But if, as we heard forecast earlier today, there is likely to be an increase in this kind of activity, it is essential that the police are given the proper resources to respond to it.

I want to turn briefly to police morale in a different sense. Members of the police force retire at a relatively young age. It must go through the minds of policemen, "What am I going to do when I reach retiring age? Am I just going to take my pension? Am I just going to grow roses? Or am I going to get a further post? Am I going to be able to get a skilled and rewarding post--not just financially but also intellectually?". One of the difficulties for policemen who retire is that, to put it colloquially, they do not have a piece of paper. They would do better if they had some qualification that they could provide to employers to give them confidence that these were skilled policemen who had taken further education seriously. In the area where I live in Oxfordshire I am a governor at the local Oxford Brookes University, and mindful of that, I have held discussions with the Thames Valley Police about what might be done to "provide a bit of paper" for policemen who work within that force. It seems to be going well. I commend that possibility to other forces throughout the country and hope that that kind of activity will have Home Office support.

8.17 p.m.

Lord McNally: My Lords, earlier this afternoon, two juxtaposed Statements reminded us of the two kinds of police forces that are possible in a society. We had a Statement on Kosovo, where the police force has undoubtedly become an instrument of state repression; and we had a Statement on the disturbances in the City of London, where yet again our police force demonstrated its capacity to be the guardian of public safety and of law and order.

In this debate, those who have spoken about the police have demonstrated an understandable defensiveness. I still think that in Britain the sight of a policeman coming round the corner is reassuring for citizens; and that should be reassuring for the police

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themselves. I do not believe that there is the crisis of public confidence in our police forces that some speakers seem to imply.

However, there are issues that should be addressed by both police and politicians. There is a need to root out the so-called "canteen culture" which tolerates both racism and sexism. Neither can be tolerated. Such bigotry destroys morale within a force and destroys the trust between the police and the public they wish to serve.

I was interested in the statements by the noble Lord, Lord Mackenzie, on freemasonry. I tend to agree with him that the police service should not be singled out, but I do not believe that freemasonry has a role in our police force.

I also agree with the noble Lord, Lord Warner, about ethnic minority recruitment. It is 17 years since in another place I questioned the appalling level of recruitment. Nor can high morale or public respect be retained if there is corruption. Corruption must be rooted out at all levels: any policy of zero tolerance should start there.

I turn to the heart of the debate, whether there is a crisis of confidence and whether it is justified. If it is, then poor management and under-resourcing are almost always at the root of low morale. That is why we have supported drives both to improve efficiency and for a bold approach to funding. We believe that the Government must face the fact that, according to research by the House of Commons Library, the total amount spent on police funding from central government during this parliament will not increase. As the noble Lord, Lord Imbert, indicated, that has resulted in cuts in the number of policemen. Nearly 800 have gone since the general election.

A debate on the future of police patrolling and ideas for increasing the use of private security fly in the face of public opinion. Despite what the noble Lord, Lord Warner, said, if the Government believe either will appeal to the public, I suspect we will see how sadly mistaken they are if they pursue either of those routes. The public want their police force well trained, well paid and using the latest technology. A point which came out in a number of speeches is that they want the police to communicate. Whether or not they call it "public relations" is a matter of taste, but the public want a transparent partnership with the communities which the police serve. That is not political correctness; it is common sense.

Crime and fear of crime continue to be high on the agenda of public concerns. The public rightly expect the Home Secretary of the day to take responsibility. The buck stops there. The present Home Secretary, whom I have known for over 30 years, has always had something of a Robespierre about him. Sea green incorruptibility is not a bad virtue in a Home Secretary. But it must go hand in hand with vision and leadership if we are to achieve those desirable dual objectives of a police force with high morale in which the public have confidence. As for the police, they must communicate. They still have a great deal of public confidence. The

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noble Lord, Lord Warner, was right to say that we should not be afraid of a debate about how we preserve the best and root out the worst in a police service in which we can all take pride.

8.23 p.m.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, we are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate, for asking the Question this evening. He rightly started by saying that police work is becoming more and more difficult, as we all recognise. The police are, of course, vital to our society in the fight not only against criminals and crime but also against anti-democratic forces such as have been apparent in the events of the past few days in the City of London and at Stonehenge which we discussed earlier this afternoon.

Given its importance to our society, we should be concerned by current trends. Cuts in police numbers were referred to by the noble Lords, Lord Imbert and Lord McNally, and the related problems of resources. The problem of resources is bedevilled by the problem of paying for pensions. That needs to be sorted out as soon as the Government can do so.

The Question refers also to impartiality, which is an extremely important element in the British police force and indeed in any acceptable police force. That is particularly so now that the concentration is on racial matters. We have debated that at some length and I have spoken on the Lawrence Report and other matters and I do not wish to pursue it this evening.

The Question also refers to accountability. It is true that the police are first accountable to the law, but they are also accountable to the police authorities which control the individual forces. They are accountable to the Chief Inspector of Constabulary and hence, through the Home Secretary, to Parliament. But there is also the police complaints system. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Mackenzie, about the problems of delay. There is also the Audit Commission, which was criticised, by implication, by the noble Baroness, Lady Hilton, in some of the points that she made about the management consultancy approach. Nevertheless, the commission has brought out valuable reports on the police service.

Further, the police are responsible, as is every other employer, to the range of bodies which lean on employers these days, including health and safety and all the other regulations which apply to any employer. On top of that official accountability to numerous bodies, there is the huge pressure of the media. It is difficult, and quite rightly it worried several speakers this evening. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord McNally, that the arrival of a policeman on the scene is reassuring to the vast majority of citizens of this country. It should be a reassurance to the citizen. It is not something which people in other countries can take for granted. On the contrary, in many other countries we hear far more complaints about the police and far more dissatisfaction with police forces. We have a police force, a police service of which we can be proud in this country, although I do not wish to be complacent about it.

The noble Viscount, Lord Runciman, spoke of stereotyping of the police. Much of that comes from television drama series about the police which have

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succeeded each other over the years, all the way back to "Dixon of Dock Green". They form most people's ideas of what the police do and are about. I do not suggest that any of the bodies to whom the police are accountable should be stood down. But I suggest we should recognise that the police are highly accountable to a large number of bodies.

I conclude with a sentence or two on one force about which I feel strongly. I am concerned about their morale at the moment. The Royal Ulster Constabulary is an important element in our police force for whom I came to have the highest respect in the two years when I was security Minister in the Northern Ireland Office. I saw a great deal of their work and visited all their divisions. I believe that their morale deserves to be given every encouragement and assistance. They have done a fantastic job over past decades in the interests of democracy and of decisions being made in a proper democratic way and not taken in response to the bullet and the bomb. My point tonight is simple: government and parliamentary democracy in Northern Ireland need the RUC and they need them to have good morale. There may come a stage when the threat has been reduced and changes can be brought about in the RUC. But we have not reached that time yet. Meanwhile, the RUC deserve every support from all of us.

8.29 p.m.

Lord Burlison: My Lords, I am delighted that the Unstarred Question of my noble friend Lord Mackenzie refers to:

    "the continuance of a professional, impartial and accountable police service, with high morale". I have no hesitation in agreeing with him that we are lucky enough to have such a police service in this country. The overwhelming majority of police officers perform their duties in a professional and dedicated way. I know that my noble friend supports our efforts to put the right procedures in place to deal with the tiny minority of officers who fall below those high standards.

As my noble friend will be aware, the Home Affairs Committee in another place is currently considering police training and recruitment. We want to await its report before we decide what changes to make to police training structures. However, it is right that all those who have given evidence to the committee support the need for better defined national standards. My noble friend mentioned his concerns about the possibility of two-tier policing and private patrols. There are some jobs that only the police can do, but we believe that the community patrols and neighbourhood warden schemes can be good examples of how partnerships can work.

Many people have understandable concerns about the schemes, but we genuinely do not see them as a threat to the police. They can be of benefit to the community, and the work of neighbourhood warden teams is evidence of this. The schemes must be properly run and the wardens themselves appropriately trained and supervised. There is a demand for these schemes which are springing up around the country as we speak. We should recognise that fact and have a constructive debate about how we can make them work.

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I am happy to confirm to my noble friend that the Government have no intention of politicising the police or the judiciary. A point was raised relating to freemasonry. Our concern is that members of the public who are worried that freemasonry may influence the outcome of cases in which they are involved should be able to find out whether those handling the cases are freemasons. That policy applies to the Police Service, the judiciary and the Crown Prosecution Service. Other parts of the public sector, such as the Probation and Prison Services, intend to apply the same policy in due course.

My noble friend is right that very long inquiries in complaints cases are damaging and counter-productive. The Home Affairs Committee made a number of recommendations in its report on complaints and discipline. We are implementing most of those recommendations, although some require legislation. But, however good our procedures, some of these cases will be complex and often have an intractable mix of criminal and disciplinary matters. My noble friend asked in how many cases in the past 10 years police pensions had been forfeited following criminal conviction. The answer is 18, and there are four cases currently under consideration.

We all share the horror of the noble Lord, Lord Imbert, at the events of Friday afternoon. As he said, we need to await the outcome of the investigation into those events before we comment further. I shall ensure that his concerns about the implications for the budget of the City Police are passed on to the Home Secretary.

My noble friend Lady Hilton referred to constables' pay. I agree that constables must be rewarded for the difficult job that they do, but we are not satisfied that their pay has fallen unreasonably behind other sectors. We are aware that sometimes local authorities have difficulty in recruitment, but currently there is no evidence of a shortage of applicants or a fall in the quality of recruits.

I am grateful for the comments of my noble friend Lord Warner about the need to draw the attention of the Home Secretary to targets for ethnic minority recruitment, retention and progression in the Police Service. These targets have been widely welcomed by senior police managers who are as anxious as we are to tackle this issue. I am also grateful for the comment of the noble Viscount, Lord Runciman, on the negative stereotyping of the police. I agree with his comments and the initiatives proposed by senior police officers, supported by the Home Secretary, to improve at national level the image of the police and, in particular, with regard to ethnic minority communities.

The noble Viscount, Lord Simon, said that the police, in common with all organisations, had limits on the payment of sick pay. The ability of a chief constable to reduce pay after six months' absence is an essential management tool, but it is not mandatory. Chief constables can, and do, decide not to reduce pay if the circumstances dictate that this is appropriate.

The noble Lord, Lord Cope, referred to police funding. We are providing an extra £1.24 billion over the next three years. This will provide extra resources for frontline

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policing, especially when taken together with the 2 per cent efficiency targets. After four years' cuts in capital funding, there are no planned cuts over the next three years. We intend to publish soon specific proposals on the future of police pensions. We recognise that that is a major part of police spending. Many police forces are already managing their human resources efficiently, linking that with better sickness management.

I hope that I have been able to cover most of the points that have been raised by noble Lords. I shall read Hansard thoroughly and, wherever possible, try to deal with some of the other more important points raised by noble Lords during the course of the debate. I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Mackenzie for giving us an opportunity to debate this important issue. As he said, the Inspectorate of Constabulary published its thematic report on integrity on 10th June. That report shows that, while there are areas of concern, there is also much good practice. An important theme running through that report is the need for effective leadership at all levels in the Police Service. That is why the Home Secretary has established a working party to examine selection, training and development of future police leaders.

I end by putting British policing in an international context, as did my noble friend. Our police officers have made a vital contribution to internal policing in Bosnia in the past two years. It is telling that our professional policing skills have already been called on for Kosovo. We can justly be proud of being world leaders in policing.

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