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Lord Cope of Berkeley: I do not find myself in agreement with this set of amendments. Notwithstanding the Macpherson Report, I think that the Bill is to be preferred in this respect. The noble Lord seemed to be making a distinction between whether Her Majesty the Queen would be involved or whether it would be the Secretary of State. The question of whether or not the Queen would be involved seems to me to be the smaller of the two considerations. I do not believe that it is disrespectful to refer to that as a bit of the ornamental part of the constitution, as Bagehot suggested, rather than the practical part. Nevertheless, it is appropriate that Her Majesty the Queen should be involved.

The real question is whether the Secretary of State or the assembly should, essentially, make the appointment. After all, the Bill provides that the Secretary of State shall "have regard to" the recommendations made to him by the authority and any representations made to him by the mayor of London. Those recommendations and representations may point to the same person being appointed as commissioner or, for that matter, they may point to different people being appointed. If the majority of the authority is appointed by the mayor, it may be unlikely that the mayor's judgment would be different from the majority of the people whom he appointed; but it is still entirely possible. In those circumstances, it seems to me that the Secretary of State has a most important role to play. But even in circumstances where the recommendations of the authority and the representations of the mayor point in the same direction, it still seems to me to be a good thing that the Secretary of State should actually be the one to recommend the appointment.

For a while I was security Minister in Northern Ireland. Therefore, when in Great Britain I benefited from the protection of the Special Branch of the Metropolitan Police. I came to know quite a bit about the way in which they are able to operate in different parts of the country in that rather particular regard. It gave me a certain feeling for the national role which the Metropolitan Police have in addition to their more conventional role of policing the metropolis. But, of course, it is more than just the Special Branch protection

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people; indeed, this applies across a wide range of responsibilities. That is the reason for the Secretary of State's involvement.

The noble Lord on the Liberal Democrat Benches did not move earlier the proposal that the Secretary of State should lose the power, suggested under the Bill, to appoint a member of the authority. In not moving that amendment, the noble Lord recognised the national role of the Metropolitan Police. This is another recognition of it. I am not sure whether the difference between the two methods of appointment is actually quite as great as it might seem in prospect. If a person is recommended by the authority and supported by the mayor, it seems to me unlikely that the Secretary of State will appoint anyone else at that stage. So the distinction may not be quite as great a chasm as it may seem. However, in so far as there is a difference--indeed, there is--I support the Bill as it stands.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The present arrangements in the Bill are to be found in Clause 248. Amendments Nos. 354MVA and 354MXA give completely new arrangements. The appointment of the commissioner--this is quite important--becomes the sole gift of the Metropolitan Police Authority, as does the appointment of the deputy. I cannot accept these amendments. They give no role to the Secretary of State in the appointment of either the commissioner or the deputy; indeed, no role at all. That is very strange because the Police Act 1996 requires the Secretary of State to approve the appointment of chief constables and assistant chief constables outside London. The Macpherson recommendations said that the MPA's role in appointing chief officers of the Metropolitan Police should be brought into line with the role of other police authorities in appointing their chief officers. So this amendment is not consistent with that recommendation.

The points made by the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, were well made. This is a police force absorbing over a fifth of all resources devoted to policing in England and Wales. It has national and international functions in respect of counter-terrorism and Royal security. These are functions for which the Home Secretary will continue to have a particular responsibility. That means that his relationship with the commissioner and deputy is a special one.

We believe that these are different appointments because of the reasons outlined by the noble Lord, Lord Cope, and which I mentioned a moment ago. That is why the Bill provides for the Home Secretary to make a recommendation to Her Majesty. We believe that the different status justifies that different basis of appointment.

I turn now to the question of removal. Clause 251 already provides arrangements for the removal of the commissioner and the deputy commissioner. The proposals set out in Amendment No. 354MVA suggest a different removal procedure. It says that the commissioner is to hold office until the assembly decides otherwise by a,

    "two thirds majority on receiving a request from the Metropolitan Police Authority".

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    Amendment No. 354MXA suggests a similar provision in respect of the deputy commissioner but with two differences: it refers to the authority, not just to the assembly; and only a "simple majority" is required to remove the deputy commissioner from office. We cannot see any reason why the assembly should have such a role in removing the commissioner or his deputy. The influence that the assembly has in this matter, as in the appointment process, should be through the presence of 12 members on the MPA. As I indicated, they will have a significant role in appointment and removal. I believe these amendments to be misconceived and possible causes of danger.

Lord Tope: I should like to begin by saying that I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, that whether or not these appointments are Royal is a secondary issue; indeed, I accept that fact. However, I still have not received an answer to my question as to why these should be Royal appointments rather than, as the Minister would argue, appointments of the Secretary of State. I shall no doubt wait in vain for an answer to that, albeit secondary, issue.

I also agree with the noble Lord, Lord Cope, that it is to be hoped that no chasm will open here. Perhaps, through some miraculous process, the authority and the Secretary of State will come to a like view, after consultation, that there is one person uniquely qualified to be the commissioner. In that case, everyone will be happy, not least, I imagine, the person so appointed. But it is not stretching credulity too far to envisage a circumstance where the mayor and the police authority may reach a different view from that of the Home Secretary of the day as to who is the appropriate person. Then a rather serious chasm would open and we would have two authoritative bodies with a different view--on the one hand, we would have the police authority with, presumably, the support of the mayor and, on the other hand, the Home Secretary. That would put the person appointed, and perhaps the person not appointed, into a very difficult position.

While I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Cope, will always be right and there will not be a chasm, I do not think it is fanciful to envisage that such circumstances could arise. The Bill is all about envisaging circumstances which most of us hope will never arise, but, nevertheless, we are providing for them just in case they do. This is another such situation. It is quite an important issue.

I accept the gentle censure of the Minister as regards the imperfect drafting here. Perhaps I may explain that the reference to "the Assembly" in Amendment No. 354MVA is probably a misunderstanding on our part. I do not doubt that that was what was written in the amendment when it was originally tabled, but it should certainly have referred to the authority. I entirely accept and agree with that view. Indeed, the Minister was right to point out the differences, which were unintentional.

A similarly unintentional but more serious error concerns the Minister's point about the provision not being in line with practice in the rest of the country. We

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certainly intend that the Home Secretary should have a role in this matter. I shall certainly withdraw the amendments and shall endeavour--

7.30 p.m.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: Before the noble Lord does so, perhaps I may point something out. If in Amendment No. 354MVA the word "assembly" is supposed to be "authority", that seems to make the provision if not meaningless at least diminished in meaning. Amendment No. 354MVA--with the substitution of the word "authority" for "assembly"--would state that the person,

    "shall hold office until such time as the authority shall decide otherwise by two thirds majority" on the request of the authority. It will have to consult itself and then confirm its decision with a two-thirds majority. That seems to me to be peculiar wording.

Lord Tope: The noble Lord is absolutely right; the wording is extremely peculiar. It is wording to which we shall have to pay greater attention if and when we bring this measure back at Report stage. The principle that we are trying to put forward here is clear. I accept the shortcomings in the drafting but the principle is clear. We believe that the commissioner and deputy commissioner should be appointed and removed by the authority, not by the Home Secretary. I accept the imperfections in the drafting for which I take responsibility and apologise. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 354MWA not moved.]

Clause 248 agreed to.

Clause 249 agreed to.

Clause 250 [Appointment of Deputy Commissioner]:

[Amendment No. 354MXA not moved.]

Clause 250 agreed to.

Clauses 251 to 253 agreed to.

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