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Lord Tope: I am grateful to the noble Lord, whose name so resembles mine that I occasionally receive his post, for explaining why he has moved separately from the other grouped amendments an amendment which he described rightly, if I may say so, as a rather crude amendment. In fact, if the amendment were passed it would leave us with a Metropolitan Police district and some form of unspecified Metropolitan Police Authority. We shall debate those details later on and so I shall leave any comments I have on those details until the proper time when we deal with those amendments.

The noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, said that it was for the Minister to give the Government's reasons for why there is to be this historic change and why we are to revert to the situation that applied more than 170 years ago. I suspect that London has changed a little in 170 years. I happy to let the Minister do that. However, I want to place on record the strong support of the Liberal Democrats for the setting up of a Metropolitan Police Authority and for the authority no longer to be the Home Secretary. We shall come to the details in a few moments.

Why should it not be the Home Secretary? Why do this? It should be done not only because we have supported it for years and the Labour Party--now the Government--have supported it for years, but the most important reason of all in many ways is that for many years and publicly the Metropolitan Police, and particularly its commissioner, have been advocating such a change. With such powerful forces in support of it, it must be a good idea.

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Why is it a good idea? First, the Home Secretary has a huge range of duties and powers. The amount of attention that that one Minister, however able, can give to the affairs of the largest police force in the country must be very limited. Whatever good advice he or she may receive, it is still very limited. The degree of accountability, therefore, for the Metropolitan Police service is perhaps limited to the annual debate in the other place, annual or twice yearly meetings with the representatives of the London boroughs and, more recently, the meetings of the Metropolitan Police Committee. All of us are agreed that that is inadequate. For that reason alone, it is important that we are to have a body of people--a police authority--that is able to give more time, detailed knowledge and attention to the strategic work of the Metropolitan Police.

However, I think it goes beyond that in that it also brings about certainly the possibility--and I very much hope the reality--of a greater degree of community accountability within London for the Metropolitan Police, its strategic priorities and so on. That in itself must be desirable. How the members of the authority will work and how they will relate to London's communities is perhaps a debate for later today.

The other aspect of the matter that is less often mentioned is the whole financial regime of the Metropolitan Police with which I have occasionally had some dealings in my role as a London borough council leader. The Met has made strenuous efforts in recent years to try to bring its financial regime a little more up to date than it was. However, had it been similar to a London borough council in financial accounting and accountability terms, these moves would have happened a long time ago. The Met has a huge budget. Were it to be receiving rather greater public scrutiny than is now the case, I am sure that greater and less damaging savings would have been found than has had to be the case in order to meet the other restrictions that have been placed upon it.

We on these Benches very much welcome the historic change that is taking place. I acknowledge that it is a historic change. It is long overdue. It is time that the metropolis, like everywhere else in the country, had its own police authority which is not the Home Secretary but is more directly related to and accountable to Londoners.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: This amendment would remove the police authority's status as a body corporate; it would remove any enabling provision for it to have any members; and it would remove any provision for it to have any name. But apart from that, the short reasons are these: first, it is inappropriate for a single political Minister, however distinguished, to be in charge of such a large authority; secondly, it will improve accountability; thirdly, it will improve openness; and, fourthly--I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Tope--it will enable local involvement in a way which is exactly parallel, for instance, with the thinking behind the Crime and Disorder Act and is long overdue.

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Furthermore, it is Liberal Democrat policy; it is also Conservative policy; and--the clincher--it is government policy.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: I am grateful for that legal advice on the drafting of the amendment. It is much appreciated. The debate has enabled us to hear at least some of the reasons that lie behind this historic change. In view of the legal consequences of the amendment, I beg leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 243 agreed to.

Schedule 21 [The Metropolitan Police Authority: Schedule 2A to the Police Act 1996]:

Lord Cope of Berkeley moved Amendment No. 354A:

Page 277, line 31, leave out ("twelve") and insert ("six").

The noble Lord said: I sometimes find the numbering system for the amendments slightly confusing, but that is a question for another day.

We are now dealing with the composition of the new authority. The first suggestion--it was made in A Mayor and Assembly for London--is that the Metropolitan Police Authority should reflect the model of other non-metropolitan police authorities throughout the country. That is what we were expecting, not necessarily in every detail but in principle. In normal circumstances, each non-metropolitan police authority has 17 members. Nine are appointed by the county council or, in areas of the country such as where I live where there are unitary authorities, the district council; five independent members are appointed by the authority from a shortlist drawn up by the Secretary of State; and there are three magistrates.

This amendment addresses the question of the council representatives. In the case of other authorities, they are the councils principally responsible for the major services to the citizen. However, the Bill proposes 23 members for the Metropolitan Police Authority: 12 members of the new assembly, to be appointed by the mayor; seven are to be independent members in the same way as the other authorities; and four magistrates. Therefore, the proportions are roughly the same but the amendment concerns the 12. Our contention is that those 12 should not be wholly drawn from the new assembly but that six of them should come from the assembly and six from the London boroughs.

The important point is the representation of the boroughs. We shall come later to the question of whether the members picked from the assembly should be chosen by the mayor or whether they should be appointed or elected by the assembly. In some of the amendments proposed by myself and by the Liberal Democrats there is a distinction over whether to use the word "appointed" or "elected". I do not think that it makes any difference. The only way an assembly can appoint anyone is by a vote. It is a verbal difference without a distinction. The real distinction is whether the mayor or the assembly picks the assembly members. On this amendment, the issue is whether the boroughs

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should be represented as well as the assembly. At present the boroughs are not to be represented; all representatives are to come from the assembly.

The Minister referred to the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 and the importance of local links with the police and local consultation. Section 5 of that Act imposes a duty on London borough councils, as well as others elsewhere in the country, together with the commissioner, to formulate strategies for the reduction of crime and disorder in their areas. The underlying philosophy of the Crime and Disorder Act is to develop and enhance partnerships between, in this case, the Metropolitan Police and other agencies involved in the criminal justice system, but, above all, with local government. In London, those agencies are, and I believe will remain, the boroughs. The boroughs will still have most of the powers to do the things which the citizens want from local government. They will still have the responsibility under the Crime and Disorder Act for formulating strategies and liaising with the police; but they will not be represented on the authority.

That does not seem to be a sensible arrangement through which to implement the Crime and Disorder Act. With a large number of boroughs, it is difficult not to get into a situation where one makes the new police authority too large and unwieldy. With 23 members, it is a little larger than similar bodies in the rest of the country. I do not think that it would matter if the size were increased a little. The proportion should remain the same, but it would not matter if the number of members were larger. That would permit a few more representatives from the assembly than the six we propose, and a few more from the boroughs. I am not hung up on specific numbers. The important principle is that the boroughs should be represented.

The arrangements we have suggested for electing those borough representatives mirror those in the schedule to the Police Act 1996 for local councils or, in some cases where necessary, joint committees of local councils to appoint members to other police authorities. We envisage that similar joint committees would operate within London so as to arrive at the representatives of the boroughs. However, we are concerned about the principle that boroughs should be represented on the authority. I beg to move.

6.30 p.m.

Lord Tope: Perhaps I may preface my remarks by saying for the benefit of anyone in the Chamber who may not be aware of the fact that I am, and have been for the past 13 years, a London borough council leader and may therefore be thought to have some natural sympathy for this group of amendments. I do not. I understand that the amendments arise from the Conservative approach, which is that the assembly should comprise entirely London borough council representatives. That is a view we have debated previously. It is one that I do not share. For that reason, I cannot share this view.

The Greater London Authority and the Metropolitan Police Authority are supposed to be strategic in their roles. Therefore, it is right and appropriate that the

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democratic representatives should come from the strategic authority and the assembly rather than the London boroughs. I fear that were six, or some such small number, to come from the London boroughs, inevitably that would detract from the strategic role and transfer some of the emphasis to a more local role. That is the wrong emphasis.

The noble Lord, Lord Cope, makes an important point in relation to the crime and disorder strategies. It is important that those are fed clearly through to the deliberations of the Metropolitan Police Authority. But the implementation and development of each London borough's strategies are primarily matters for that borough, and the partnerships and consultation within that borough. Where and how that should feed into the police authority is another matter. It will be for the authority to develop effective consultation arrangements with the boroughs collectively--dare I say perhaps through the Association of London Government?--to consider matters of wider concern and interest on the implementation of the crime and disorder strategies.

These proposals will not stop that happening. It is for those involved to ensure that it takes place. To have only six London borough representatives on the authority may be useful for the six London boroughs or the City of London (if there happens to be a representative). But, speaking for the London borough of Sutton, although we have good relationships with the next-door borough of Croydon, having a councillor from Croydon on the Metropolitan Police Authority would be of little greater use to us than having our constituency Member on the authority. It is of limited value. As a London borough council leader, I have some sympathy with the amendment, but essentially it is misguided. Subject to the amendments we shall propose later, the authority is about the right structure. It is for the authority to ensure that it establishes good and effective liaison arrangements with the boroughs, in particular in relation to their crime and disorder strategies.

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