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Lord Lucas: My Lords, I would like to ask a couple of questions on this group of amendments. As the noble Lord said, Amendment No. 536NB reinstates the office of the receiver, and his eventual demise is provided for under Amendment No. 536ND.

The group beginning with Amendment No. 536P contains a whole raft of amendments concerning the deletion of references to the receiver of the Metropolitan Police in other legislation. What

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assurance may we have from the Government that these rather hasty, last minute amendments amount to a coherent whole? If the office of the receiver is to be retained, why are we none the less proceeding with a large number of deletions of references to that office in other Acts? Are we not likely to find ourselves in a state of some confusion as to whether or not those references should be retained until the office of receiver is eventually abolished when Amendment No. 536ND comes into force?

In addition, should not the powers under that clause have included a limited Henry VIII power, as in the immediately preceding amendment, to polish up other bits and pieces of Acts and remove references to the receiver when the office of receiver is actually abolished? Are we not in danger of running into difficulty in that respect?

These amendments have arisen at the very last minute and refer to several pieces of legislation. In those circumstances, it is extremely difficult to know whether those are in fact in place. Should not the Government give themselves time and opportunity to find out if that is the case?

With regard to the powers under subsections (6) and (7) of Amendment No. 536NC, will the Government say that these are limited to what is obvious? Under subsection (6) of Amendment No. 536NC there are extensive powers to amend the Probation Service Act 1993. I believe I understood the Minister to say that that would be limited to amendments necessary to ensure that there could be one single Probation Service authority for London. Is that true, or will other use be made of those powers? I would also very much like to know what use is to be made of the powers under subsection (7) of Amendment No. 536NC.

Turning to the last three amendments in this group, we appear to have a mixture of affirmative and negative resolutions. Some of the resolutions under these new amendments will clearly be affirmative. However, an exception is made to that and they appear to be caught by the negative procedure under Amendment No. 573C. Because I have not been able to establish it from my study of the amendments, I should be very grateful if the noble Lord could clarify which resolutions will be affirmative and which will be negative.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, like my noble friend Lord Lucas, I had difficulty working out the parliamentary procedure to be followed in the laying of orders under this group of amendments. As my noble friend said, Amendment No. 570YA seems to mean that an affirmative procedure has to be followed. However, that is immediately qualified by Amendment No. 570ZA, which refers to the possibility of an instrument

    "making ... amendments or repeals in an enactment contained in a local and personal or private Act".

It seems to me that it is extremely unlikely, though I do not speak with authority, that the organisation of probation in London would be involved in any local, personal or private Act.

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Paragraph (b) suggests that it relates to,

    "amendments or revocations in subordinate legislation which was not subject to affirmative parliamentary procedure".

That is rather difficult. We know what these orders will achieve. They are going to achieve the amalgamation of the Probation Service. That is a considerable matter and a matter which should be dealt with by affirmative order. However, it may be that there are some aspects of the amalgamation which deal with

    "subordinate legislation which was not subject to affirmative parliamentary procedure",

and the whole matter might slip out of the affirmative procedure under that guise.

The difficulty in this respect is that these amendments have been laid relatively late in the passage of the Bill, and much too late to receive the attention of the Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation, which usually looks into these matters, unravels them and sets them out clearly in reports, so that we do not need to trouble ourselves too much in the House with them. However, where these powers are introduced in such a complex way in a late stage amendment, I believe that we require to look into them a little more closely, as my noble friend has suggested.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I shall try to be as helpful as I can, although I am not able to be as helpful as I would like.

The overall purpose of these amendments is to create a coherent Probation Service for London. I believe that that point is well understood by all your Lordships. It is our intention to do this in a way which ensures that there is a coherent working relationship between the Probation Service in London and the Metropolitan Police Service. These amendments give effect to that desirable policy objective, which is shared across the Dispatch Boxes.

With regard to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, about powers under subsection (6) of Amendment No. 536BNC, these are strictly limited to the purpose of amalgamating the London probation services. I trust that that takes care of that particular point.

He made a further point in relation to the Metropolitan Police receiver. It is not proposed that we should commence the revocations in relation to the receiver until all his functions have been transferred elsewhere. I hope that that satisfies the noble Lord's question.

With regard to some of the other detailed points about negative and affirmative processes and order-making, if your Lordships would be gracious enough to accept the suggestion, we would like to write to noble Lords and describe further the interrelationship of these various processes and procedures so that they will be clear. As a consequence, they may also become clearer to me. On that basis I trust that noble Lords will be happy to accept the amendments that we have moved this afternoon.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, he said at the beginning that this

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was a group of technical amendments. It seems to me that a complete reorganisation of the service by order, not by primary legislation, is very far from technical. It is an enormous move and a slightly odd way to treat Parliament. Will he retract the statement that they are technical amendments? I believe that my noble friends accept that the Government are of necessity proceeding in this way because of late consideration of the matter. It seems to me, after a great number of years in this House, a most extraordinary way in which to deal with the matter and even more extraordinary to call it a technical matter. Is the Minister prepared to tell us why he said that it was technical?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, there is technical and there is technical. When I described these amendments as being of a technical nature it was not meant to belittle the import of the policy thinking behind them. While the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy of Lour, has a point, it is not an entirely formed point. The policy was clear. We decided that it would be better to achieve the amalgamation by way of legislation rather than seek to do it otherwise, so that we could achieve a proper amalgamation of the London probation services. We feel that this is more consistent with the powers contained in the 1993 Act. I hope that that satisfies the point. I am quite happy to take further questions on the matters that have been raised. If it is required, we will happily reply in writing at greater length in an attempt to satisfy your Lordships entirely. However, I trust that the question is satisfied.

4.30 p.m.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, he did not answer my question about the intention of subsection (7) of Amendment No. 536NC.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I can now answer the noble Lord's point. It is the Government's policy in the 42 areas to amalgamate. We do not envisage a need to amalgamate London probation any further but consider it wise to have the power which enables us to achieve that. I hope that that answers the point.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, no, I do not believe that it does. If the Government have no intention of using the power, why are they giving themselves the power? This is a reorganisation taking place in short order. If the Government do not know what they want the power for, why is it in the Bill?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I offered to write and I shall happily do so. We believe that this power is necessary to achieve the objective of our stated policy. I shall be happy the elucidate further in writing to the noble Lord.

Lord Shepherd: My Lords, will the Minister look at the provision again? This is not the first occasion in recent weeks when the House has felt that it would have been better to send amendments, prior to their being laid, to the Delegated Powers and Deregulation

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Committee. On an occasion last week, a Minister was able to report to the House that that committee had seen the amendments and had approved them.

The Minister's final point moves on to dangerous ground. I was a member of the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee and it took great exception to Ministers taking powers that they might "wish". There is no end to where such powers might lead. Will the Minister look further at the issue? Although it might be immaterial with regard to this Bill, it could be seen as a dangerous step in terms of other legislation.

I do not want to delay the Bill and I am sure that that is the view of noble Lords opposite. However, I ask the Minister to inquire whether the matter can be referred to the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee--perhaps it can be brought to the attention of the chairman or the committee--to consider whether the Government should be taking powers which they might need but they might not.

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