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Lord Tope: I support at least the concerns raised by the noble Lord, Lord Cope, although I am not sure what he proposes is the right way to solve them. Supporting the Metropolitan Police pension fund currently takes 13 per cent of its total budget. Within five years, that will be 20 per cent. This is at a time when, rightly or wrongly--and I clearly believe wrongly--government policy is to transfer resources away from the Metropolitan Police to other police forces, thus increasing the problem.

I hope that the Minister will tell us when the consultation document will be issued. There is a major problem with the funding of the Metropolitan Police pension fund. It will be an issue of considerable concern to the MPA. I am sure that it will be of considerable relief to the authority to know that the Government have

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not only recognised the problem but have resolved to grasp it. It is of such a scale that it cannot be resolved until and unless the Government do grasp the nettle.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Cope, for raising the issue. I hope that the Minister has something to say which will alleviate the real concern in the Metropolitan Police, and within London generally, over an increasing problem.

Lord Whitty: I recognise the concern within the police force and elsewhere about pension funding. It is true that we are talking about substantial sums of money. However, I should not wish to see support for the solution put forward in the amendment. It treats the Metropolitan Police differently from police forces elsewhere. There are practical difficulties in that the Metropolitan Police will continue to pay pension contributions into the force's fund. In any case, any national police funding formula already contains an element to enable police authorities to meet their pension costs.

We recognise the widespread concern. Following a thorough review of the police pension scheme, we have agreed among other things to seek Treasury agreement for a study of the costs and benefits of introducing a funded scheme for new entrants. But even that will not be a panacea. The initial cost will be high and there are substantial transitional problems for the funding. The rising cost of police pensions is recognised in the police funding formula. Nationally as well as in London the proportion of resources allocated to police authorities to cover pension costs has increased from 3.2 per cent to 14.5 per cent of the total allocation for this financial year. That allocation is based on the projections of pension costs made by the Actuary's department on figures from the funds themselves.

A review of police pension schemes is nearing completion. After that we intend to publish specific proposals and at least a pension scheme for new entrants. Those proposals are intended to apply to London as well as to other police forces. In the meantime, we do not believe that it would be sensible to leave the funding of the pension schemes with the Home Office. We wish to put the Metropolitan Police Authority on the same basis as other police authorities around the country.

9.15 p.m.

Lord Dholakia: The noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, and my noble friend Lord Tope asked about the consultation process. I understood the Minister to say that the Government will bring forward a proposal rather than enter into a consultation exercise. That does not answer the problem of what is going to happen in terms of the very substantial burden not only on the London local authorities, but across the country and what can be done within the consultative process to which police authorities can contribute.

Lord Whitty: I believe I said that the police funding formula would continue to reflect for other police authorities, and now the Metropolitan Police Authority, the burden of the current police pension scheme.

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The consultation referred to will follow on from the general review of the police pension fund and the proposals that flow from that review. We are not yet at the point where we can make specific proposals and engage in consultation. However, I am assured that that is not too far away. In the meantime the Metropolitan Police Authority will be put on the same funding basis as the other police authorities.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: It is no part of my case that the Metropolitan Police Authority should be treated differently from any other authority. They have the same problems to a severe degree. They are more severe for the Metropolitan Police than for other police authorities. I would not want the Metropolitan Police to be treated separately. I hope I made that clear. I certainly do so now.

We look forward to the consultation document. I know from experience that government Ministers have a number of ways of saying that a document is expected shortly. We have got no nearer than phrases of that kind today. That implies that the document is still a little way off. I hope it will include all the relevant factors, one of which is the possible proposal to take away pensions from officers who have already retired where there are disciplinary proceedings. If that proposal goes ahead, it will have profound effects on the management of the scheme. It will mean that, where they can, the police will be much more inclined to transfer to private pension schemes outside the police scheme. That kind of thing has to be taken into account in the course of considering these matters.

The main issue is the heavy burden which police pensions place on the funding of police forces and authorities generally. From what the Minister has said, I do not believe that there will be much relief in the near future. It is an increasing difficulty. It is sometimes said that chief constables have a responsibility for the size of the burden because of retirements on medical grounds and issues of that kind. That is an extremely small factor in the matter and not one which can dictate the way ahead for police pensions. For the time being we shall have to be content with what the Minister has said. We look forward to the consultation document and no doubt further and more detailed discussions on this matter in the future. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood moved Amendment No. 354YP:

Page 297, leave out lines 36 and 37 and insert--
("(b) the Authority shall appoint a person to investigate the complaint provided that in default of this duty the Secretary of State shall make an appointment."").

The noble Baroness said: Amendment No. 354YP seeks to allow the police authority to appoint a person to investigate complaints against the most senior officers and only in default of that process shall the Secretary of State make that appointment.

This, in effect, is a probing amendment. Our main concern is that a satisfactory independent complaints procedure is instituted in which everybody has

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confidence. At present there are many doubts about the independence of the various complaints procedures relating to the police. I hope that the Minister will address that matter in his reply. I beg to move.

Lord Dholakia: I rise to support my noble friend in this amendment. Earlier we discussed a provision concerning the appointment of the commissioner. We made it clear that when an appointment is made, any recommendation made to the Secretary of State by the Metropolitan Police Authority and any representation made to him by the mayor of London would be taken into account.

If that is the case, is it not right that when talking about the conduct of a senior police officer--in this case, the commissioner or the deputy commissioner--the authority whose views have been taken into account in his appointment should also be the authority that should make recommendations in terms of the investigation of the complaint? When that authority fails to make a particular appointment or to recommend an appointment, it should be the duty of the Home Secretary to make such an appointment. That is the purpose of the amendment.

Lord Whitty: The effect of the amendment would be to place the duty on the Police Complaints Authority rather than the commissioner, as at present, or the Metropolitan Police Authority, as proposed in the Bill.

Lord Dholakia: I am sorry to interrupt. The Police Complaints Authority is involved when the matter is neither criminal nor disciplinary. We are talking about the conduct of a police officer, which is different from a disciplinary matter, for which the Police Complaints Authority is responsible.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: For the sake of clarification, I did not say that the Police Complaints Authority should make the appointment; I said that the Metropolitan Police Authority should make the appointment.

Lord Whitty: As I understand the amendment, the original part of the Bill would provide that the Metropolitan Police Authority, rather than the commissioner, would deal with complaints against senior police officers.

I think I see where the confusion arises. In the amendment the word "authority" would refer to the Police Complaints Authority because it modifies a provision in the Police Act 1996 relating to the Police Complaints Authority. Therefore, as drafted, I think the amendment would do something which I do not believe that the noble Baroness intended. The whole of my argument was about the fact that the Police Complaints Authority should not have that role.

We are providing that, because of the special position of the commissioner and the deputy commissioner, the Home Secretary retains a role. That role would be limited to appointing an investigating officer, who may be subject to the approval of the Police Complaints Authority, and the report would go

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to the Metropolitan Police Authority. So the Home Secretary would have limited involvement. The report would not go to the Home Secretary, but to the MPA. By virtue of paragraph 90 of Schedule 22, the MPA would be responsible for dealing with disciplinary matters of senior officers. In the present context, the commissioner himself is responsible.

The Bill makes specific provision for the appointment of an investigating officer in complaints against the commissioner or deputy commissioner because of their special status. There is no equivalent in any other ACPO grade in other authorities outside London. There might be occasions when it would be better to have a person investigating a complaint against the commissioner or deputy commissioner who was not a police officer. By definition, any police officer would be of lower rank and there may perhaps be some difficulties in that respect. It is another justification for reserving some role for the Home Secretary.

Although there may be some confusion in my mind, I believe that there is also some confusion here as regards the effect of the amendment as drafted in that it refers to the Police Act rather than this Bill.

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