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Earl Attlee: My Lords, before the Minister sits down, I asked one of my penetrating questions about the ability to switch off the Galileo GPS system.

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, I thought that I had answered the question. The controlled access will stop people having access and therefore being able to tamper with the system in a way that would cause difficulties of a defence kind.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now adjourn during pleasure until 8.55 p.m.

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

[The Sitting was suspended from 8.53 to 8.55 p.m.]

Greater London Authority Bill

House again in Committee.

[Amendment No. 354MD not moved.]

On Question, Whether Clause 256 shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Cope of Berkeley: Clause 256 is a short clause of just over one line. Nevertheless, it is of some importance because it abolishes the office of the Receiver for the Metropolitan Police District. This is another part of the Victorian structure of the Metropolitan Police which is not replicated anywhere else in other forces. There is no equivalent at present, and there will be no equivalent in the Metropolitan Police set-up. That is an inevitable consequence of the new outline arrangements. The functions of a receiver outside London at present fall to the police authority for the area, its clerk and treasurer; and in part to the chief constable. I assume that that will be the case in the metropolitan district so far as concerns the police.

However, that is not the end of the receiver's powers and duties at present. He also has statutory powers with regard to the Inner London Magistrates' Courts Service and the Inner London Probation Service. Neither of

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those are compatible with the new arrangement which is being set up for the Metropolitan Police. New arrangements are required for an alternative set up for the Magistrates' Courts Service and the Probation Service. I suppose that the part relating to the magistrates' courts goes back to the old police court days. But it is statutory; it is not just a matter of convenience. I understand that the Justices of the Peace Act 1997 began the process of unravelling the statutory provisions in that respect.

The necessary legislation must be put into practice. There are some complications involving the capital expenditure, pensions and so on of the magistrates' courts service. It would be helpful if the Minister could tell us when the receiver will eventually be able to relinquish responsibility for that service or whether he is in a position to do so now. The same question applies to the Probation Service.

There is also a statutory responsibility to meet the cost of school-crossing patrols, for example, under the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984. Outside London, this sort of expenditure is commonly provided by local authorities, and I expect that that is where it will finish up as far as Greater London is concerned. However, I am not sure that this legislation--or, for that matter, any other that we have seen so far--will achieve that aim. Westminster City Council sponsored a private Bill, but it apparently did not cover the whole of the Metropolitan Police District. Therefore, it will not wholly achieve the objective.

The principal reason for opposing the Question that Clause 256 stand part of the Bill is not to try to keep the Receiver for the Metropolitan Police District in the same statutory position that he has occupied for the past century--or nearly two centuries. We seek to draw out of the Government the way in which the different responsibilities of the receiver will fall in future and when the Government expect the receiver to complete all his duties and wind up all the loose ends in respect of the different aspects of his responsibilities. I have no doubt that the Minister will be shortly in a position to fill in all of those details and assist the Committee in that respect.

9 p.m.

Lord Whitty: The noble Lord is correct about both the history and the current functions of the receiver. As has occurred in other parts of the country, the central role of the receiver will be moved to the Metropolitan Police Authority. I think that my noble friend Lord Williams wrote to the noble Lord and other Front-Benchers indicating that we were unable to bring forward amendments to clarify the position in Committee. However, we intend to table such amendments in good time for Report stage.

Apart from those duties that will pass to the Metropolitan Police Authority on a basis similar to outside London, the office of receiver has also taken on the various financial and other responsibilities in respect of magistrates' courts and probation services in Inner London, to which the noble Lord referred. It is the

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Government's intention--our amendments at Report stage will state this--that the receiver's responsibilities in respect of magistrates' courts will be taken over by the Greater London magistrates' courts authority when, subject to the passage of the Access to Justice Bill, it comes into being on 1st April 2001. That deals with the court side, including the complications alluded to by the noble Lord.

As for the probation responsibilities, the long-term repository for these will depend on the arrangements put in place in London following our nation-wide review of the Probation Service. In the short term, we intend that a residuary receiver will continue to carry out the magistrates' courts and probation functions of the post. As I have said, amendments to give effect to this policy will be brought forward at Report. Subject to the short-term retention of certain functions that I have outlined and which are unrelated to police matters, the office of receiver will become unnecessary when the Metropolitan Police Authority comes into being.

The other area to which the noble Lord referred was school crossings. As is common elsewhere, that function will be transferred to the London boroughs and to the counties in those parts of the Metropolitan Police area that are outside the GLA area. Funding adjustments will be made accordingly. In light of those comments, I hope that noble Lords will agree that the clause should stand.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: That was an interim reply, looking forward mainly to Report stage. However, it appears to be the best that the Minister can do at present. As he said, it reflects the contents of the letter that the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, wrote to me on 15th June. The noble Lord also wrote in similar terms to others who are concerned about these matters. Having opened up the question and received a promise that we shall return to it later, I withdraw my opposition to the Question that the clause stand part of the Bill.

Clause 256 agreed to.

Clause 257 agreed to.

Schedule 22 [Further amendments relating to Metropolitan Police etc]:

Lord Cope of Berkeley moved Amendment No. 354N:

Page 292, line 30, at end insert--

("Pensions liabilities

. After section 14 of the Police Act 1996 there shall be inserted--
("Pensions liabilities of Metropolitan Police Authority.
14A. The liabilities of the Metropolitan Police Authority in relation to pensions being paid subject to regulations made under the Police Pensions Act 1976 to or in respect of persons who, having served as members of police forces, have ceased so to serve, shall be met out of moneys provided by Parliament.".").

The noble Lord said: This is another, admittedly slightly crude, device for raising an extremely important matter concerning the finances of the Metropolitan Police. The effect of the amendment as drafted would be to transfer entirely the responsibility for the payment of police pensions to the Home Office and to central government rather than, as occurs at present, leaving the moneys to be paid from police funds.

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As Members of the Committee will be aware, the police pension arrangements--like many others in the public sector--are a pay-as-you-go scheme, and the pensions of retired police officers come out of the existing annual budget of each police force. They constitute a considerable proportion of police expenditure, particularly because police officers, given the nature of their job, tend to retire earlier than most of us do--even from conventional jobs, never mind from this House. That places an additional burden on police budgets. It is a growing burden and, inevitably, it is quite a heavy one. It is a difficult burden for police constables to manage.

That fact has been recognised because the Government propose to issue a consultative document on police pensions. It has been promised for some time, but so far as I am aware no one outside government has yet seen a copy. It would be helpful to know when it will be circulated.

It is no part of my purpose to mount a major debate on police funding in general, but in transferring responsibility for the Metropolitan Police from the Home Secretary to the new authority we need to understand the seriousness of the situation. The settlement for 1999-2000 allows for an increase of 2.7 per cent. I understand that, according to current plans, over the lifetime of a Parliament the real increase in spending on the police will be 0.7 per cent.

The Association of Chief Police Officers and the Police Federation have stated that a 6 per cent increase is necessary to allow the police to "stand still." The Metropolitan Police force has lost some 680 officers since the general election and press speculation is that another 1,000 officer posts will be lost as a result of the present settlement. That is a serious responsibility. It means that the new MPA will not start from a strong base either in terms of manpower or funding. We are transferring to the MPA enormous responsibilities, but the resources and manpower which it will take over in order to fulfil them are less than satisfactory.

The issue of pensions, at which the amendment is directed, is an important piece of the larger jigsaw. No doubt the consultation document will make everything much clearer, but we do not know when that will be issued. I beg to move.

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