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Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendments No. 536L to 536N:

Page 307, line 31, leave out ("London").
Page 308, line 31, leave out ("London").
Page 308, line 34, leave out sub-paragraphs (2) and (3).

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Lord Cope of Berkeley moved Amendment No. 536NA:

After Clause 283, insert the following new clause--


(". In the absence of agreement between--
(a) 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, or
(b) the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis and the chief officer of a police force about the secondment of staff under section 283,
Her Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary shall act as an arbitrator, and the Secretary of State shall, if necessary, provide for the implementation of the arbitrator's decision by order.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, at Committee stage there was some discussion as to what should happen if there was no agreement between the Metropolitan Police and its authority and the three county forces to which it is ceding areas in the reduction of the area for which the Metropolitan Police is to be responsible. That ceding of areas involves the transfer of a considerable amount of assets. Buildings, cars and so on are likely to have to be transferred. Police officers are likely in some cases to be transferred, but in most cases seconded.

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There may not be absolute agreement between the four authorities about which buildings, assets and police should be transferred or seconded. In that case the legislation should provide some way of resolving any disagreement. The proposed new clause provides that Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary should act as an arbitrator in any dispute. That is one way; there are other potential ways.

At this stage of the process, the Minister may be able to tell us that all is sweetness and agreement between the four authorities; that they have all signed up without difficulty to every proposal as regards the new arrangements. If that is so, no clause such as is proposed is necessary. If the Minister cannot assure us that that is the position, some such clause is necessary.

The Secretary of State may find himself having to arbitrate, and that would be one provision that we might have to put in the Bill. At the same time, the Secretary of State, as the current police authority for the metropolis, is one of the parties involved in the discussion and very close to one of the four parties involved. It seemed to me that someone a little more independent might be called for; clearly he or she must be an expert. I do not know whether the Minister can assure us that there is complete agreement; that would solve the difficulty.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I hope that I can offer the noble Lord some comfort. We are happy with the progress in discussions and negotiations. We believe that the amendment is wrong in seeking to give Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary a role as an arbitrator which, in general terms given the work of the Inspectorate of Constabulary, would be inappropriate. It is unnecessary, as provisions already exist in the Bill for the Secretary of State to decide, in the event of disagreement between forces involved in the boundary change, about what should transfer or about what payment should be made to the Metropolitan Police for officers on secondment; and the amendment is flawed, since it refers to the MPA reaching agreement on a transfer which will take place before it comes into existence. I think that the noble Lord needs to look at the drafting of the amendment.

In speaking to the amendment, I should emphasise at the outset that the Government recognise the importance of ensuring a smooth handover of responsibilities between the Metropolitan Police and the three county forces--Essex, Hertfordshire and Surrey--affected by the boundary change.

The transfer of property, rights and liabilities is part of this exercise, as is the secondment of officers from the Metropolitan Police Authority to the county forces. I therefore agree with the noble Lord, Lord Cope, that it is important for these matters to be addressed. But I part company from him in his suggestion that the amendment that he has tabled is the right approach.

This amendment would give a role to Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary as an arbitrator. It is not clear why the noble Lord believes that the inspectorate

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should take on this role. It is the inspectorate's role to help individual forces, and the service as a whole, improve their effectiveness. Adjudicating between forces is not its primary role and I do not think that issues of property transfer or police officer secondments are obvious candidates for its involvement. This amendment would risk bad feeling towards the inspectorate in the future from any force which felt it had lost out in any arbitration.

During a debate on a similar amendment in Committee the noble Lord made the reasonable point that in the event that arbitration became necessary the Secretary of State was best placed to act as referee. I agree with what the noble Lord said then, and I am not sure why he should be taking a somewhat different view now.

The Bill already includes provisions for suitable arbitration in the event of disagreements between the forces involved in the boundary changes. Transfers of land, buildings etc. will be effected by orders or schemes. Either way the contents of the orders or schemes, whether or not there is disagreement between the forces, will have to be approved by the Secretary of State. The relevant provisions, contained in Clauses 351 and 352 of the Bill, remain unaffected by this proposed new clause. Schedule 26 to the Bill gives power to the Secretary of State to modify transfer schemes should he wish to do so.

Before moving on to the other part of the new clause, I should like to add that I do not envisage the Secretary of State's arbitration role arising often. The four forces involved in the boundary change have been working closely with each other and with the Home Office for over a year on these matters, and I am confident that in the vast majority of cases they will be able to reach agreement between themselves.

Paragraph (b) of the amendment refers to disagreement about the secondment of officers. Clause 283(4) already provides for the Secretary of State to arbitrate in the event of disagreement about the level of payment to the commissioner for officers on secondment.

It might be that the noble Lord is concerned about the Met being unable or unwilling to provide sufficient seconded officers to help the county forces, so leading to the transferred areas being poorly policed. That is an understandable concern, but I hope that I shall be able to reassure him on that point.

The close working relationship between the four forces to which I have already referred extends to the secondment of police officers from the Met to the county forces. They are all fully behind the idea of secondments and I simply do not envisage serious disputes arising over the number of secondments.

When the number of secondees is added to those officers who will be transferring on a voluntary basis as well as to new officers that the three county forces are recruiting, I am confident that there will not be a

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shortfall in the number of officers. In the light of the assurances that I have given, I urge the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, the Minister said that he is happy with the progress of the discussions between the four authorities. I make clear that I am not wedded to the details of the amendment. In the circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

4.15 p.m.

Clause 284 [Abolition of office of Receiver]:

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 536NB:

Leave out Clause 284.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendments Nos. 536NB, 536NC, 536ND, 570YA, 570ZA and 573C in relation to the Probation Service in London are largely of a technical nature.

It is the Government's policy that the criminal justice agencies should share the same boundaries; namely, those of the police force areas in England and Wales. In the case of probation, this means that the present 54 probation services must become 42. In all, 20 probation services will be involved in amalgamations, which we intend shall take effect on 1st April 2001.

In London, the five existing services--Inner London, South-East London, South-West London, Middlesex and North-East London--need to merge to form a new coherent service for Greater London. The Probation Service Act 1993 contains an order-making power to amalgamate probation services. (It is to be found in Section 2 of that Act). However, there is a problem in relation to the creation of a single London Probation Service in that the 1993 Act clearly envisages that there shall be more than one probation service in London.

We have concluded that to make an order amalgamating the London services under the existing provision would go beyond the vires of that provision.

Our amendments to the GLA Bill will allow us to proceed with the London amalgamation; the new clause inserted by Amendment No. 536NC provides an order-making power to that effect. Our amendments also deal with the abolition of the receiver, an issue which arises because of the Inner London Probation Service's links to the receiver.I beg to move.

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