Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Lord Molyneaux of Killead: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for those explanations. She has provided considerable help as to the giving of guidance to people involved at different levels. I believe that we should experiment and see how it works. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw Amendment No. 30.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 30A not moved.]

Clause 24 [The Secretary of State's long term policing objectives]:

Lord Glentoran moved Amendment No. 31:


The noble Lord said: My Lords, I thank the Minister for informing me earlier today that the Government intended to concede the points raised in Amendments Nos. 31 and 32. Because I should like to speak later to Amendment No. 60, for the moment I beg to move Amendment No. 31.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I do not know whether your Lordships will be assisted if I speak to government Amendment No. 60, which is grouped with the amendments moved and spoken to by the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran. Government Amendment No. 60 is the same as an amendment which the Government did not move in Committee. It would add the ombudsman to the list of those to be consulted under Clause 53(2) on guidance on the use by police officers of public order equipment. The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, asked the Government in Committee on 25th October (at col. 347) to take more time to consider their amendment. He was concerned about the ombudsman having been involved in the creation of the guidance.

For the record, we have since discussed the matter and looked extremely carefully at the noble Lord's points. In the light of those, the Government have considered their amendment further, taken legal advice and consulted the police ombudsman. Our conclusion is that, although we appreciate the noble Lord's view, the Secretary of State would be bound to consult the ombudsman, because inevitably she would clearly have a great deal of experience (from the investigation of complaints into public order-type incidents) which would help to inform--I stress that word--the guidance. I emphasise that the ombudsman is only consulted. Ultimately, the guidance is a matter for the Secretary of State; it is his guidance, not the board's or the ombudsman's.

It is quite clear that the annual and special reports produced by the ombudsman are in the public arena. Therefore, it is inevitable that the Secretary of State will have regard to the views of the ombudsman and take into account all factors in drawing up guidance,

8 Nov 2000 : Column 1629

which is ultimately a matter for him. I hope that, in the light of us being convinced by his Amendments Nos. 31 and 32, the noble Lord in turn will be convinced by government Amendment No. 60.

Lord Glentoran: My Lords, I take this opportunity to thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, and the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington, for the time that they gave me and my noble friend yesterday. A good deal of time was spent discussing these amendments, for which I am most grateful. I am not convinced by Amendment No. 60. However, I shall consider it further. I doubt that I shall return to this matter at Third Reading, but I do not commit myself to that.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 25 [The Board's policing objectives]:

Lord Glentoran moved Amendment No. 32:


    Clause 25, page 12, line 13, leave out (", The Ombudsman").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Harris of Richmond moved Amendment No. 33:


    Clause 25, page 12, line 18, at end insert--


("( ) The Board shall establish levels of performance (performance targets and indicators) to be aimed at in seeking to achieve--
(a) any objectives established by the Secretary of State under section 24; and
(b) the objectives determined by the Board for a financial year under this section.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I rise to move Amendment No. 33 and to speak to Amendment No. 34 in my name and those of other noble Lords. The annual policing plan will, as now, be a key document. It should set out for the community what policing service it can expect. Broadly speaking, it should be a contract between the board and the Chief Constable about the policing service that is to be delivered.

Patten wanted to get rid of labyrinthine provisions, and we all support that. The aim of these amendments is to say clearly and simply on the face of the Bill what must be included in the plan. I am sure we all agree that there is no point in setting objectives as required by Clause 25 if we do not measure whether they have been achieved. Setting indicators and targets is crucial so that both the community and board can judge whether the police achieve them; they are an integral and important part of the planning process.

Equally, there are some fundamentals that any annual plan, whether for the police or any other organisation, should contain. What, for example, is one to do? How does one know whether one has achieved it? What resources can one devote to it? That is all that Amendment No. 34 in my name seeks to establish. Clause 3 sets out the role of the board, while Clause 57 sets out in detail the issues on which the board must report to the community each year. Clearly, any board must address such issues in its annual plan. Recommendation 22 of the Patten report

8 Nov 2000 : Column 1630

indicated that there was no justification for government to second-guess the board in these matters.

Any government control over the content of the plan through regulations can lead only to the Government second-guessing the board. It reduces community ownership of the plan, diminishes the role and damages the credibility of the new policing board. I believe that the amendment has the support of all the Northern Ireland parties and could be conceded to the Government's advantage. I beg to move.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, Amendments Nos. 33 and 34 have been debated at length. The Government have said that they will include these areas in regulations to achieve Patten's requirement. As the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, said, we should simplify the legislation, which Patten rightly described as labyrinthine.

In Committee we said that these regulations are available and show that there is little separating the Government in terms of policy from noble Lords who support amendments in the group. The question is one of form. The regulation sets out the detail of what matters should as a minimum be covered in the policing plan--not, I should emphasise, and I hope this reassures the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, the actual contents of the plan--or in primary legislation. The Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation looked at precisely this issue and concluded in its recommendation,


    "that the great majority of powers in the Bill are appropriately delegated."

The committee went on to suggest some changes which the Government have adopted.

The noble Baroness appears to be confusing the regulations with the policing plan itself. It may be the way in which her points were responded to when the matter was dealt with in Committee. Responsibility for the plan remains in the hands of the board. The regulations prescribe the contents of the policing plan in exactly the same way as Clauses 14 to 17 of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 1998. The regulations prescribe only the areas which the plan should cover. The actual contents of the plan will continue to be determined by the board after consultation with the community.

I could go through in great detail different aspects of the appropriate primary legislation should the Government accept the principle that primary legislation is the best means of setting out the detail. I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, who has rightly and helpfully pointed out the importance of tying the best value performance plan under Clause 28 into the overall police planning process. The Government's draft regulations do that.

We believe that the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee has considered this matter carefully. I hope the noble Baroness feels reassured by my reply. I apologise if earlier answers misled her as to the circumstances in which the government were making these proposals.

8 Nov 2000 : Column 1631

8.45 p.m.

Baroness Harris of Richmond: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington, for her explanation. I am not entirely convinced by it because the Explanatory Notes suggest that the regulations set out only the minimum requirements for the plan. They appear still to give the Secretary of State more control over the police planning process than was envisaged by Patten. I shall read carefully what the noble Baroness says and see whether we need to discuss the matter further before Third Reading and in case there are points that, as she suggests, I have not quite understood or muddled up.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I stress that what I was saying was not that the noble Baroness had not understood points. It may be that they were not expressed clearly enough. I shall write to her if she would find that helpful.

Baroness Harris of Richmond: My Lords, that would be enormously helpful. I am most grateful to the noble Baroness for giving me that assurance. I look forward to the dialogue we may have on this. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 26 [The Board's policing plan]:

[Amendment No. 34 not moved.]

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


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page