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Lord Cope of Berkeley: I have no objection in principle to the new clause in Amendment No. 354MZC; secondments may be necessary. Although I would not want necessarily to press on the Committee the details of how the proposed new clause in my Amendment No. 354MD would work, it seeks to draw attention to the fact the Metropolitan Police are already under considerable strain, both financially and in terms of numbers. The latest information I have is that since March 1997 the size of the Metropolitan Police has fallen by a further 680; that the police settlement for 1999-2000 has been criticised by the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Police Federation; and that it has been suggested that that settlement could result in 1,000 more posts being cut in the Metropolitan police area. That is a part of the background to officers being seconded from the Metropolitan Police to the Essex, Surrey and Hertfordshire police forces.

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However, in another sense, it is clearly necessary that, at least in the early stages, some police officers should be seconded. The Minister said that the secondments were expected to last for between six months and two years. We doubt that it will necessarily be the case that over such a period the three county forces affected will be able to recruit enough officers of their own to ensure that no more secondments are required.

I understand that the original intention was to ask for volunteers to transfer from the affected divisions of the Metropolitan Police into the Essex, Surrey or Hertfordshire forces respectively but that it might be necessary to second volunteers from further afield or, indeed, to compulsorily transfer some officers. It would be helpful if the Minister could indicate whether compulsory transfers are expected at this stage.

As the Minister said, officers who are transferred will continue to receive the additional weighting of the Metropolitan Police. That in itself will put a strain on the budgets of the Essex, Surrey and Hertfordshire police and give the chief constables concerned an incentive to try and recruit as much as possible locally.

The monetary considerations which will follow from such transfers are, to me at least, extremely obscure. Is the Minister in a position to say, as regards the number of individuals concerned, how many will be compulsorily transferred and what the financial effects will be? It would be not only interesting for us to know but important. We need to understand the implications before deciding whether or not to endorse the decisions taken by the Bill. The consequences are not small--they are very large--and will have implications for the police budgets of the counties and of the Metropolitan Police.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The noble Lord has asked particular questions to which I should respond. We expect that there will be sufficient numbers of officers who will be happy to volunteer for secondment, for obvious reasons. The noble Lord is quite right. There is a power in the new clause to second officers on a compulsory basis. However, I stress that we expect a sufficient number of volunteers.

The noble Lord raised a question about funding. The enlarged size of the county forces and any traditional costs, including the higher pay and allowances of seconded Met officers compared with officers in the county forces, will be considered by the Government as part of the police force settlement for 2000-2001.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: We welcome both the establishment of a satisfactory boundary for the Met area and the very subtle method that has been chosen to reassure Met officers that they will continue to have the same pay and conditions of employment as when they were working in what was previously a Met area. We urge all Members of the Committee not to disturb this satisfactory arrangement with which, so far as I am aware, all parties are in agreement.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I commend the amendment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

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Lord Cope of Berkeley moved Amendment No. 354MC:

After Clause 255, insert the following new clause--


(" .--(1) In the absence of agreement between the Police Authorities for Essex, Hertfordshire and Surrey and the Metropolitan Police Authority about the transfer of land, buildings, capital and other assets from the Metropolitan Police to the other authorities, the Secretary of State shall make an order to determine what transfers shall take place.
(2) No order under this section shall be made unless a statutory instrument containing a draft of the order has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament.").

The noble Lord said: This amendment brings the Committee on to the question of the transfer of other assets from the Metropolitan Police to the police forces of the three counties of Surrey, Essex and Hertfordshire. Clearly, assets such as land, buildings, police stations and so on will need to be transferred during the change from one authority to another. Other assets such as cars, radios and all the other equipment which the police use these days so effectively on our behalf will also need to be transferred.

Strenuous efforts are being made at the moment by the four police forces involved to reach an agreement as to what should be transferred and what should be the financial arrangements for covering the transfers. It seems to me and to others that there may not be ultimate agreement about the very elaborate transfers that will be needed. If that were to happen, the Secretary of State should, as it were, referee the matter. He will of course be a party to the negotiations in the sense that some of them will take place while he still has responsibility for the Metropolitan Police Authority. In addition to that, no doubt arguments about money will revolve to a considerable degree around what grants will be available in the future for the four police authorities involved.

As the Secretary of State is, in any case, involved in the matter, it would seem better to make it clear that, if agreement is not reached--and we all hope that it will be--the Secretary of State should be the one to decide. However, given that the Secretary of State has an interest, both from a financial point of view and also as the existing policy authority for London, it also seems right that he should report the result of his labours in that respect to each House of Parliament and obtain their agreement.

On that basis, if agreement was not reached, at least there would be some public discussion as to whether this complicated transfer of assets was being done in a way that was fair. The representatives of all four areas would have an opportunity to express their opinions. The fact that matters would come out in public might assist the process of agreement in the first place. Even it did not, a mechanism for doing so would be provided. I beg to move.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: We do not believe that this amendment is required. The Bill already gives the Secretary of State power to make an order or to require

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the forces concerned to make a scheme to transfer property rights and liabilities involved in any of the transfers of responsibility under the Bill, including the police boundary change. We have not decided whether transfers following boundary changes will be carried out by scheme or order. However, the clause proposed would simply give effect to what is already agreed government policy.

There have been fruitful discussions between officials in the Home Office and representatives of the four forces. They have been urged to agree between themselves the detail of the transfers. If there is a failure to agree, the Home Office will decide. The four forces are content with that approach. They are working together constructively to ensure that the transfer runs smoothly. All parties hope it will be possible to avoid the use of the Home Office as the arbiter in areas of disagreement, but we already have that power.

Subsection (2) would require the approval of both Houses for any order. We do not believe that it is necessary to have that kind of parliamentary procedure for what are essentially matters of detail in a transfer between police forces. Any other transfer orders effected under Clause 319 of the Bill would be subject to negative resolution only. That seems the appropriate procedure for such matters. I remind the Committee that the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee did not raise any objections to that procedure. I cannot see why the police force area boundary change should be singled out in this way.

There is a point of detail--there always is. The MPA comes into existence only on 3rd July. The boundary change takes place on 1st April. Therefore, this amendment could not work anyway. That is not really the point of my remarks. I merely felt obliged to mention it as the last refuge of the useless Minister!

Lord Cope of Berkeley: I am always delighted to receive free legal advice, even on the drafting of a deficient amendment. I am also glad that government policy and activity are following the line suggested in my new clause, and that I therefore need not press it. 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 begin again not before 8.55 p.m.

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

House resumed.

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