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Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton moved Amendment No. 109:

( ) such other persons or bodies as the Secretary of State considers appropriate").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 110 not moved.]

On Question, Whether Clause 27, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Archer of Sandwell: I oppose the Question that this clause should stand part of the Bill. My opposition is advanced in the interrogative mood. It is simply a useful way of ascertaining the Government's thinking. As I understand it, Clause 27 would require the Secretary of State to issue codes of practice for the board and the chief constable. Once again, it is a question of balance. Of course the last word in policing policy must lie with the Secretary of State, but a "code of practice" suggests a fairly detailed set of guidelines. Therefore, is there not a danger of undermining the independence of the board and the operational freedom of a chief constable? It is, of course, always a matter of judgment, but I derive some comfort from the debate in another place where it was said that the code would only be "advisory" and would probably relate largely to financial controls. It would be helpful to know what it is envisaged the codes will cover--I note that the reference is to "codes" in the plural--and what their relation is to the "guidance", which the Secretary of State may issue under Clause 51.

It is also worth saying a few words about who the Secretary of State is to consult. The Bill says that he is to consult the board and the Chief Constable. However, there is no requirement for him to consult anyone else. At this stage I have a feeling of deja vu but I do not propose to resurrect all our former arguments. In fact, I believe that my noble friend said something about this a few moments ago.

I notice that my right honourable friend Adam Ingram said in another place that, if a code were to be issued touching on human rights or equality, he could envisage no circumstances in which the commissions--that is, the human rights commission and the equality commission--would not be consulted. However, the Government seem loath to make that a part of the Bill. We have been over this argument before, but sometimes requirements in a statute to consult can serve as a useful reminder. In our experience, we can all think of occasions when, in the course of getting everything else ready, governments simply forgot to consult people who ought to have been consulted, with disastrous results. As I said, I oppose the Question. But if my noble friend can enlighten the Committee about the Government's thinking, I may revise my position.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: The effect of Clause 27 is to allow the Secretary of State to issue codes of practice to the board and to the Chief Constable in relation to planning, efficiency, financial

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and other resources and support staff. The Secretary of State must consult the board and Chief Constable on any code, and must publish it.

The Government believe that it is reasonable that the Secretary of State should, as an integral part of the tripartite structure of governance, be able to issue codes of practice to the board and, in certain limited areas, the Chief Constable. The Patten report certainly does not suggest or support the removal of the Secretary of State's role in police governance.

The power to issue codes is in line with practice in Great Britain and with previous legislation. Patten does not recommend removal of this power as he did in respect of the Secretary of State's existing power to issue guidance to the police. The Government have responded by repealing the provision, Section 39 of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 1998.

Codes cannot impose new statutory obligations on the board. I hope that that answers some of the points raised by my noble and learned friend Lord Archer. Any code will address only detailed matters strictly in accordance with the Bill's provisions where this is necessary. They cannot be used as a back door to undermine the board's role.

I say in answer to my noble and learned friend's other question that we can conceive of no circumstances where the organisations he mentioned would not be consulted to hear their important contributions.

The main areas for any codes will concern detailed matters such as funding. In fact, the only existing code concerns detailed financial arrangements. This is consistent with the Government's 100 per cent funding of policing in Northern Ireland. I hope that I have reassured my noble and learned friend. I draw to his attention my right honourable friend Mr Ingram's comments at col. 250 of Hansard of 27th June of the other place. He said:

    "If a code was issued that touched on equality or human rights issues I cannot envisage circumstances in which they would not be consulted in order to draw on their knowledge".--[Official Report, Commons Standing Committee B, 27/6/00; col. 250.]

With those reassurances I hope that my noble and learned friend will not object to Clause 27 standing part of the Bill.

Lord Archer of Sandwell: I am sorry that my noble friend hesitated before describing me as her noble and learned friend. I am sure that that was a lapse.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: It was a loss of breath, not a loss of friendship.

Lord Archer of Sandwell: I am grateful for that explanation as well as all the other explanations my noble friend has given. She has given us food for thought; I promise to digest it. I shall not press my objection to Clause 27 standing part of the Bill.

Clause 27, as amended, agreed to.

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Clause 28 [Arrangements relating to economy, efficiency and effectiveness]:

Lord Falconer of Thoroton moved Amendment No. 111:

    Page 13, line 9, leave out from ("make") to ("to") in line 10 and insert ("arrangements").

The noble and learned Lord said: We now come to a large and complex set of amendments which I shall try to explain briefly and simply.

The amendments in my name, although I shall have to correct some references, on Part V of the Bill effect a fundamental shift of responsibility from the Secretary of State to the policing board in dealing with efficiency.

The changes deliver commitments made by the Government to give the board the central role in delivering efficiency and effectiveness. They maintain a methodology which is loosely based upon the "best value" provisions of the Local Government Act 1999 in England and Wales and retain a default role for the Secretary of State.

As currently drafted Part V of the Bill provides for the Secretary of State to make an order setting out how the board and the Chief Constable should undertake the delivery of best value. The amendments to Clause 28 place the duty to make arrangements to secure continuous improvement in the exercise of the board's and police functions squarely upon the board. The board and the Chief Constable are required to review their functions as part of these arrangements and the board is required to produce a single performance plan for itself and the police on how best value is to be delivered. It is also required to set targets and benchmarks against which performance can be judged.

In all these arrangements the Government's intention is that the board and the Chief Constable will work together to deliver best value. We would like to see the Chief Constable involving members of the board and its audit department in reviewing police functions and conversely we want the board to work closely with the police in drawing up targets and performance plans.

There are a number of consequential amendments to Clauses 29 and 30 which provide for the best value arrangements to be scrutinised by the National Audit Office and Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary. Clause 31 has been amended to define the Secretary of State's default power. His power to direct the board to take specific action will now only be triggered on adverse reports from the National Audit Office or the inspectors of constabulary. Having made these changes, and noting that other noble Lords have their names to similar amendments, I ask that Amendments Nos. 113, 114 and 116 be withdrawn.

The Committee should note for the record that Amendments Nos. 113 and 116 have my name wrongly attributed to them. I will move Amendments Nos. 111, 112 and 115, which are in my name alone, and no others on Clause 28.

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Turning to the amendment of my noble and learned friend Lord Archer, Amendment No. 114, he raises issues of fairness aand impartiality. They are clearly of the highest importance, but I would point out that they are dealt with elsewhere in the Bill and in Part V we are dealing specifically with efficiency.

The Chairman of Committees: As amendment No. 115 is also being spoken to, I must point out to the Committee that if that amendment is agreed to I cannot call Amendment No. 116.

Baroness Harris of Richmond: I speak to Amendments Nos. 113 and 116, notwithstanding that the name of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, should not be attached to Amendment No. 116.

Although the words are not mentioned on the face of the Bill, Clauses 28 to 31 are about best value, as the noble and learned Lord has reminded us. From 1st April this year police authorities, along with local authorities in England and Wales, came under a duty to secure best value. That is continuous improvement in the provision of local services. I have to tell your Lordships that this has been the most significant and important addition to our role since the report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, in 1984, which initiated community consultation about policing.

I am delighted to see that the Government have listened to the concerns expressed in another place and to those which we voiced when the Bill was before us at Second Reading. My Amendments Nos. 113 and 116 seek to achieve much the same as government Amendment No. 115 and I very much welcome most of the substance of that amendment. We have moved a considerable distance, but the Government still have a little further to go. A key part of best value is the fundamental reviews that must be undertaken into every aspect of the service. These reviews mean that we look at everything we do from first principles.

Should we be doing this? How else can we do it? How can we improve on what we do? What do the public want? How would they like things to be done better? These are simple questions, but in fact they result in rigorous scrutiny.

In Great Britain the responsibility for such reviews rests with the police authority and not the chief constable. That has been both a real eye-opener and a significant lever for ensuring that improvements are made. It also ensures that local people get a real say in this important work. I cannot understand why the Minister has deviated from that approach here. Under Amendment No. 115 responsibility for reviews of the police force will rest with the police constable and in many ways that defeats the whole purpose of the exercise. The police board will only be allowed, so to speak, to gaze at its own navel.

The Minister has done extremely well, but he does need to go that little bit further. He needs to explain and justify, if he can, why he has taken this approach, because I am afraid it still does not make much sense

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to me. The police board is responsible for securing efficient, effective, economic and accountable policing. How can it do that if the gate is barred?

On a separate note, perhaps I may offer the noble and learned Lord any help that I can. As the Bill is drafted, the police board will publish two separate plans each year: a policing plan; and a best value performance plan. That is a recipe for confusion. The best value plan needs to be integrated into the policing plan. We have had some difficulty in managing to do that up and down the country but we are getting there. I am happy to put what expertise I have, and that of the National Association of Police Authorities, at the disposal of the noble and learned Lord in order to identify how that can be simply and sensibly achieved; and to discuss with him before Report stage how we can put in place the best value framework which delivers just that.

10.15 p.m.

Lord Archer of Sandwell: Like the noble Baroness, I congratulate the Minister on the changes he is making to the Bill. I believe that they are improvements and he has earned a beta plus. He could so easily earn himself an alpha.

Perhaps I may speak on Amendment No. 114. Self monitoring by the board is a praiseworthy concept. Perhaps more of our public bodies would be the better if they were required, and not merely encouraged, to conduct an ongoing review into the way in which they were doing their job and how they could do it better.

My amendment would examine what the board will be looking for. Subsection (1) requires it to have regard to economy, efficiency and effectiveness. Those are certainly worthy objectives. But should not it be looking at some other values? The value of efficiency and effectiveness depends on what one seeks to do. I am grateful to the Minister for explaining that there is nothing in principle between us. He simply says that one does not need to put the additional values here because they are found elsewhere in the Bill. But the board will be asking itself questions about how it is doing in these various respects: "Are we being efficient and effective?" Should not it at the same time ask itself, "Are we being fair and impartial?" I believe that it would wish to do that in any event. There is little satisfaction in being part of a project which is not fair and impartial. It might help to concentrate its mind. Even if the amendment is unnecessary and the proposal to consider this matter is taken for granted, would it not reassure those in the population who feel anxieties if those factors are included at this point in the Bill where the board is required to look at what progress it is making?

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