Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Harris of Haringey: I share with the noble Lord, Lord Tope, a feeling that there is a superficial attraction to the amendment. However, I agree that it does not bear much examination.

Members of the London assembly are being elected for strategic purposes. The role of the authority will be focused on strategic issues in relation to policing London. It will not be concerned on a day-to-day basis with operational matters or with issues around the crime and disorder strategy which will be developed at a local level. Indeed, it would be wrong if that were the case. Therefore, the argument that borough representation is required is fallacious.

It is also fallacious in practical terms for the reasons to which the noble Lord alluded. To have six representatives of the boroughs purportedly representing 32 London boroughs makes difficulties for each representative who will be a locally elected borough councillor but will have to represent the interests of, presumably, five or six borough councils. In practice, that will not work. It will do nothing as regards the accountability structures of the police authority. If one wants good accountability and good links with the

7 Jul 1999 : Column 930

boroughs, no doubt an amendment can be tabled suggesting 32 representatives. I do not believe that that would then be a practical police authority. It would not necessarily serve the purposes set out in the amendment. Those purposes will be achieved by much closer collaboration between the police authority, the London boroughs and the local crime and disorder partnerships.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The consequences have already been accurately set out by my noble friend Lord Harris of Haringey and the noble Lord, Lord Tope. I do not retraverse that ground. Essentially, we have sought to draw a clear line between strategic issues for which the GLA should be responsible and other issues which are rightly kept by the boroughs.

As the noble Lord, Lord Tope, said, the policing of London clearly requires a strategic overview. Therefore, the elected membership should be drawn from the assembly and not from individual boroughs. However, I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, has raised an important point and I am happy to reiterate, as firmly as I can, that the needs of local communities in London will not be overlooked. Consultation with the community is a requirement of the Police Act 1996 and of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998.

I am sure that the MPA will work closely with the boroughs, just as the Metropolitan Police Committee does now. It will take account of the views of the boroughs when drawing up its annual policing plan. I stress that the MPA and the boroughs will be involved in the new statutory partnerships under the Crime and Disorder Act. Therefore, although I recognise the concerns that have driven these amendments, I believe that they are best addressed through the mechanisms that I have described.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: I am slightly disappointed, but only mildly, to discover that the two senior representatives of local government--particularly of local London boroughs--present in the Chamber this evening have not leapt to their feet to support the amendment. Nevertheless, I am not entirely put off by that.

The Crime and Disorder Act provides for the involvement of London boroughs, among others, and the Police Act provides for the involvement of what are called "relevant councils". So there is a case to be made for such involvement. The local strategies of which we talk will need to add up to the total, overall strategy--the same word is used in both cases--of the Metropolitan Police Authority and the Metropolitan Police force. It would be no good if that did not happen.

I realise that the London Borough of Sutton or any other individual borough would not have its own councillors on the authority, even if the figure of six that I have suggested were enlarged somewhat--I certainly do not think that it should be enlarged to 32 or anything like that because it would make the authority much less workable. It is proposed that 12 representatives of the assembly should serve on the police authority, so it is likely that some boroughs will not be represented on

7 Jul 1999 : Column 931

that body. The noble Lord, Lord Tope, may find that, if the amendment were carried, the position would be the same.

Lord Tope: I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. I make it clear that I do not wish my borough, or any other, to be represented specifically on the Metropolitan Police Authority. My point is that the MPA should be a strategic authority that deals with strategic issues. Of necessity, the assembly members who serve on that body will live somewhere. However, I would not wish them to be viewed as borough representatives in any sense. Some of them may be constituency members of the assembly--I hope that is the correct term--and others may be London members from the top-up list. The important point is that they should be strategic representatives, not borough representatives.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: I accept that. I understood entirely the thrust of the noble Lord's earlier intervention. At the same time, the point of having elected representatives--whether they are from the assembly or from the boroughs--is that they should represent, to a degree, the people who elected them; otherwise there is no democracy at all.

Judging from what the Minister has said, I am not likely to make much progress with the amendment this evening. Therefore, I beg leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

6.45 p.m.

Lord Tope moved Amendment No. 354ZB:

Page 277, line 32, leave out ("appointed") and insert ("elected").

The noble Lord said: I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 354ZD, 354ZF, 354YJ and 354ZJ. I agree with the point that the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, made when considering the previous group of amendments: I think that probably all Members find the numbering and lettering system quite difficult to follow at times.

The numbering may be difficult, but the purpose of this amendment is very simple and clear. It relates to the 12 members who are to come from the assembly to serve on the police authority. Our batch of amendments proposes that the assembly members should be chosen by the assembly, not appointed by the mayor.

We have returned time and again to this issue during the debate because our view differs from that of the Government. Our view, which has been stated many times, is that the mayor should have less power and the assembly should have more power. The Government do not agree. This amendment is not strictly part of that argument--although perhaps it has its genesis there. We agree with the Government's proposal that 12 members of the assembly should serve on the Metropolitan Police Authority. Our point of difference with the Government is: who chooses those assembly members?

It seems to us to be right--and a fairly fundamental democratic principle--that those assembly members must be seen to represent the assembly. They will

7 Jul 1999 : Column 932

certainly be held to account by the assembly for what they do and say. Therefore, they should be chosen by the assembly and not appointed by the mayor who may at least be tempted to choose people to serve on the police authority whom she or he feels might be most comfortable for the mayor. If the assembly is to be represented on the authority, we believe that the assembly should choose its representatives. The purpose of these amendments is to give the assembly the power to elect its 12 representatives--because perforce that is what they will be--to that body and to do so in accordance with the existing political balance on the assembly.

That is a fairly clear point and I hope that it will not get lost in our previous arguments about the distinction between the executive role of the mayor and the scrutiny role of the assembly--which I understand very well. We are talking about a simple democratic principle: assembly members who represent the assembly should be chosen by the assembly and not appointed by the mayor, without taking account of the assembly's wishes.

I would like to think--although I am not too hopeful--that the Government will recognise this fairly important point. I am quite sure that, if the assembly is able to choose its 12 members, those members will enjoy the assembly's greater confidence than if they are chosen simply by the mayor and appointed to the Metropolitan Police Authority. I beg to move.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: I shall speak primarily to Amendments Nos. 354F, 354H and 354J, the effect of which is broadly the same as that of the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Tope. The noble Lord's amendments use the word "elected" rather than "appointed", but that is not an effective difference.

I believe it is sensible that assembly members who sit on the authority--whether it is six or 12--should be elected by the assembly rather than appointed by the mayor. I cannot say that I followed with proper attention all of the previous debates about the mayor and the assembly--although I have done my best to read the relevant parts of Hansard. As far as the police authority is concerned, I believe that it is important that assembly members who serve on it should represent the assembly not only in the sense that the party balance is reflected--that is provided for in the Bill, and we wish to continue it as far as possible--but in the sense that they feel that they are answerable to the assembly.

The basic purpose of the assembly is to be a democratic check on the mayor. If he is to be given such patronage, that check is weakened. If he is able to say to a member of the assembly who is put on to the police authority that he is not doing what he wants and that he will remove him from the assembly, the mayor will directly control and heavily influence the authority.

We must remember that the 12 members are a majority. The independent members will be appointed by the 12, so whatever they and the magistrates say, they can be overruled. That will influence the way in which the authority works. It is therefore important that

7 Jul 1999 : Column 933

the assembly members have the protection of being elected by their fellows rather than being the beneficiaries of the mayor's patronage.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page