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The second piece of research that I looked at was more recent. It was research into crime and punishment, commissioned by my noble friend Lord Ashcroft. As your Lordships will know, he is the founder of Crimestoppers and the chairman of its trustees. I have no idea what he thinks about elected PCCs; I do not at all want to suggest that he shares my view. However, his research, although about public and police opinion on the proposed reforms to the justice system, was striking for the unanimity of the police and the general public in their views on crime and the remoteness of government. In other words, they shared a view on the lack of local accountability. A key point from the findings of this research was:
"The public felt that what they saw as the failure of successive governments to act on their concerns about crime and punishment were due to politicians being unaffected by crime in their own lives; the constraints of human rights law and the fear of being accused of political incorrectness; the criminal justice system being staffed by unrepresentatively liberal individuals; and lack of money. Police officers felt mistakes were made because governments paid more attention to theorists than to victims and practitioners".
As has been clear in the debate so far, some senior police officers and former police chiefs are concerned about elected PCCs, particularly the risks of politicisation arising from ill-defined roles and responsibilities. I understand the need for clarity. I have worked in an environment where the distinction between strategic and operational issues is essential. I understand what can go wrong when that is not the case. Although I have never worked in policing, I have some knowledge of that. The evidence suggests that, once clarity is achieved via the memorandum of understanding or the protocol that has been raised previously, agreement on the strategy in pursuit of a shared goal will not be hard to reach. The public and police will unite in their demand that elected police and crime commissioners demonstrate that they are serious about listening to the public and working with the police to fight crime.
Elected PCCs are radically different from what we have now. Some noble Lords have raised questions about piloting. I absolutely see that much effort will be needed to communicate to the public the effect of PCCs and this change to raise awareness of and interest in elections. However, this is achievable. Indeed, a nationwide campaign will build real momentum. The more I think about it, the more enthusiastic I am. Once support grows for elected PCCs so, too, will public concern about some of the Lord Chancellor's justice reforms, particularly those that might reduce prisoner numbers. Hearing the public's views on that will be no bad thing. I support elected PCCs because they will offer stronger local leadership in the fight against crime. I look forward to the detailed scrutiny and debates in Committee and on Report, which are
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Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, I declare an interest as a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority, as vice-president of the Association of Police Authorities and as chair of the All-Party Group on Policing.
Fundamental to the model of British policing is the notion of policing by consent, particularly in our society, where the police are largely unarmed and must rely on the good will and confidence of the citizens to carry out their duties effectively and sensitively. The lifeblood of policing is information, and the reason this information flows from the public to the police can be summed up in one word, trust-trust in the police to act fairly and with integrity, and trust in the police that the information will be used judiciously and without attracting retribution from anyone.
Without that trust, information stops and policing becomes ineffective. To achieve this trust, you must have accountability. Without accountability the police become a controlling force, an oppressive instrument of powerful and self-interested groups. In parts of the world this will be the military, in others local warlords, and in some, perhaps, the senior officers in the police force itself. If policing is thus distorted or dictated to by unrepresentative groups, the trust of the public is gone. The only possible result is a downward spiral that manifests itself in corruption, organised crime and abuses of human rights. So, getting it right matters. But how confident can we be that the Bill does get it right? The drafting is certainly deficient. Take the centrepiece of the Bill-the creation of directly elected police and crime commissioners. The dictionary tells you that a "commissioner" is "one who commissions", and that "to commission" is,
Of course, in London we are not going to get directly elected commissioners, partly because we already have two commissioners: the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis and the Commissioner of the City of London Police, who is responsible for a resident population of around 10,000, the size of a local government ward elsewhere in the capital. Instead, the corporation will continue in its own unique and, I have to say, rather opaque way, and the rest of the city will have the "Mopsy"-the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime. Because we already have a directly elected mayor, we will not have a directly elected individual in charge of the police service; so instead the mayor will appoint a deputy-to be called the deputy "Mopsy"-to run the "Mopsy". That is what the Bill says.
I have no problem with the principle of direct election. Indeed, when I was the first chair of the police authority in London I would have welcomed the additional authority that direct election would have given me-not, I hasten to add, in dealing with
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Most of the governance mechanisms that police authorities currently provide are swept away by the Bill. What is also lost is the visible answerability of the chief officer of police. At the last meeting of the Metropolitan Police Authority, the Met not only gave and answered questions on its regular operational report and on the policing budget for the year but apologised to the family, present in the audience, of Daniel Morgan, who was murdered in 1987 and whose killers have not been brought to justice because, it is alleged, of police corruption; made a statement about the delays in bringing Delroy Grant to justice for the attacks on elderly people in south London over many years; responded to questions about phone-hacking and the News of the World; and heard from people in the audience about the death of Smiley Culture who allegedly stabbed himself during a police raid.
Where would that happen under this Bill? How would the visible answerability of the police service work under these proposals? The answer is that there is no such mechanism. It may be that the Minister, in response, will talk fondly about the proposed police and crime panels, and say that somehow they will be a substitute. That would be nonsense. If that is the argument she was planning to deploy, I suggest that she does not do so. Those panels will not have authority over the chief officer of police, and they will not even have the power to require his or her attendance at their meetings. Their remit is to scrutinise the elected commissioner, or the MOPC in London. Those forums, by necessity, will be overtly party political, as one group of elected politicians seeks to score points over another elected politician. This is what will happen. It is not clear how the new arrangements will ensure that there is a balanced model of policing everywhere in the country. How will the national policing requirement be enforced to ensure that every force plays its part in delivering effective policing to combat serious organised crime and to counter terrorism? Yes, there will be a national policing requirement, but how is that to be enforced?
There are many other problems. For example, as presently drafted, the Bill makes each chief officer of police a "corporation sole". This is intended to permit them to employ police staff. Leaving aside whether or not this is a desirable objective-it is a function that could perfectly satisfactorily be carried out by police and crime commissioners, and is currently carried out by police authorities-the function of this corporation sole is not effectively limited to this specific function, potentially allowing chief officers to enter into procurement contracts and detracting from the authority of police and crime commissioners.
The Bill also creates two statutory chief finance officers for each force-one for the police and crime commissioner's office and one for the force itself. Having two corporations sole for each force will in practice create two auditable bodies, two sets of accounts and consequential cost and bureaucracy, along with a blurring of lines of accountability-the exact antithesis of what the Bill is supposed to achieve. There will be more additional expense and duplication, with a worsening of accountability.
However sound or otherwise the intentions of this Bill, it fails to do what it says on the tin. The risk is that it will weaken police accountability; that the police will be less answerable, not more; and that we will create a system that is more expensive, less efficient, and will in the end undermine that trust on which policing by consent depends.
Baroness Tonge: My Lords, it gives me great pleasure to support the noble Lord, Lord Carlile. We do not often agree and I do not very often support him, but I agree with his promised amendment to deal with war criminals who shelter in this country. This measure is long overdue, and I support it.
I find it extraordinary, however, that in the same speech the noble Lord said that he wanted to make it easier for war criminals to come to this country by tampering with the long-held right of private individual citizens to apply for arrest warrants on potential war criminals planning to visit the United Kingdom. It follows that I shall be asking this House to look closely at Clause 154, and reject or amend it. I may, as usual, be a voice crying in the wilderness, but I am used to that. I am sure that in the course of my speech, I may touch on some sensitive issues. I apologise for that in advance.
Currently, any citizen who can afford legal help and can muster enough evidence against a person alleged to have committed war crimes covered by universal jurisdiction can apply to a district judge for an arrest warrant to be issued on that person. Thereby the allegations can be properly investigated while the person is being held. Of course, that may not lead to that person being charged.
The Government propose in Clause 154 that the Director of Public Prosecutions should give consent before any arrest warrant is issued. I and many other people think that this will further erode this country's record on upholding human rights. Also, obtaining the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions will cause substantial delay; it will not be done over a weekend. It also puts at risk the independence of our judiciary. The Director of Public Prosecutions may be called independent, but he is under the supervision of the Attorney-General, who is a member of the Government. This is not just my view; it is held by many human rights lawyers. If a Government now or in future wanted to protect a foreign national against whom well founded allegations had been made, they could do so via the Attorney-General and his pressure on, and supervision of, the Director of Public Prosecutions. It was pointed out earlier by no less a person than the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, that the elected police and
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I will look briefly at the reasons that the Government give for changing the law. It is said that politically motivated people wishing to obtain arrest warrants abuse the law. As we have heard, there have been 10 such attempts in the past 10 years. In the two cases where an arrest warrant was obtained from senior district judges, neither was effected because the people concerned changed their plans to come to the UK. This was confirmed by Kenneth Clarke last November in response to a Question from Nick de Bois MP. Interestingly, neither of those people attempted to clear their names by contesting the charges. This is hardly abuse of the law: 10 cases in 10 years.
The other reason the Government give is that the risk of the arrest warrants will deter important international leaders from visiting this country to talk to our Government. What nonsense is that? First, if the important leaders are members of a current Government anywhere in the world, they will be immune from the law anyway. Secondly, what is to stop our leaders going to talk to them? I am afraid that the real reason for Clause 154 is that a foreign Government-in this case the Israeli Government-complained when an arrest warrant was issued on the former Israeli cabinet member Mrs Livni when she wanted to visit the UK. Noble Lords may remember that Mrs Livni was a member of the cabinet in Israel that authorised Operation Cast Lead against Gaza, where, as verified by many human rights groups and Judge Goldstone's UN fact-finding mission, war crimes were probably committed. Mrs Livni is famous for saying that Israel would "go wild" in Gaza.
Discussions with the Israeli Government took place, as was confirmed in an Answer from the noble Baroness, Lady Kinnock, to my noble friend Lady Northover in 2009. The then Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, announced that he would see that the law was amended to prevent UK citizens,
from doing such a thing again. I noticed that, at the beginning of this debate, the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Jones, said that we must ensure that arrest warrants were used in a responsible manner. I remind noble Lords: 10 in 10 years.
What an insult this is to our senior district judges, and to human right groups worldwide. More importantly, what an insult it is to Judge Goldstone and the United Nations. William Hague has endorsed Gordon Brown's promise and, sadly, so has my party, the Liberal Democrats. Before the election, we campaigned hard for the law to remain unchanged and promised to work for the implementation of the Goldstone report. However, like most other promises we made before the election, the Palestinians have been betrayed by the only party-mine-that ever gave them real support.
Of course, a change in the law will apply not just to Israelis. It could affect many current members of Governments worldwide and attempts to investigate what went on in Sri Lanka, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen,
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Baroness Stern: My Lords, I shall concentrate my remarks on Clause 1 and aim to be brief. I begin by welcoming something, at least: I welcome the Government's commitment to a different approach to policing, and the move away from governance through targets that often count things that can be counted but which have no way of measuring what is being counted. That contributes to what the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, called, in her most powerful maiden speech, a safer and happier country.
I came across the limitations of the target approach when I carried out the review of how rape complainants are dealt with by public authorities. In the course of that work I found widespread concern about the targets for the police and the Crown Prosecution Service, which were in conflict. The police were judged on how many suspects they charged and the Crown Prosecution Service on the other hand was measured by getting a person convicted at court. While the police were really keen to charge suspects, the CPS was really interested in charging only those who were most likely to be convicted. The conflict led to a lot of frustration, incomprehension among the complainants and other unintended consequences. I am glad that the Government in their response to the rape review said that they were removing the focus on separate police and CPS measurement. I welcome very much, therefore, the Government's approach towards a different philosophy of measuring what is seen as good performance by police forces.
I find it very hard to welcome what the Government have chosen as their replacement for governance by target-that one directly elected person should hold the police accountable. I have to say that I was almost convinced by the most persuasive maiden speech by the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra-almost. When I was carrying out my work on rape complainants last year I had the privilege of spending quite a bit of time with the police. I was profoundly heartened by what I discovered about how they were responding to this most difficult issue. Obviously there have been widely publicised mistakes that should not have happened but in all parts of the country there are police officers who have been specially trained, for example, to cope in the middle of the night with a very distressed person, and to gently take that person through the very personal and invasive questions they have to ask and the very intimate and embarrassing tests that have to be done. They put a considerable time into investigating
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I heard recently about one such case at a conference in the north-east, where the excellent Northumbria Police had used the most advanced forensic techniques to secure the conviction of a care worker who had raped a middle-aged woman with learning difficulties. That was very expensive and time-consuming, but it was done and the outcome was positive.
Some police forces are working to persuade street prostitutes to report rape and violent assaults so that the perpetrators of such attacks can be brought to court. In some forces, the most painstaking, time-consuming and painful investigations go on to uncover and prosecute those who are exploiting vulnerable young people leaving care. The NSPCC wrote to me with its concerns about how offences against children and young people and protecting them may not be given priority under the new arrangements.
Democracy is a big word and a big idea. It is more than knowing people's names-with enormous respect to the noble Lord, Lord Howard. It is more than looking at a list of names and putting a cross in a box. The noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, in her excellent maiden speech, reminded us about majorities and minorities. Democracy is also about minority rights, about protecting the most vulnerable, about people being able to complain and about people being seen to matter, however inarticulate they are.
Our current arrangements are not perfect, but we have policing here that tries, more than in any country I know, to prioritise the vulnerable, the powerless and the exploitable. It would be a great pity to lose that, and I fear that these proposals risk that outcome.
Lord Stevenson of Balmacara: My Lords, this has been an excellent debate. When I was thinking about how to describe it, it reminded me of a delicious chocolate chip cookie. There have been lots of typical extremely high-level Second Reading debate comments and, every now and again, you come across a chunk of deep, bitter chocolate, represented by the expertise which has been massing over on the Cross Benches and some other Benches of people with real experience of working in the areas which we are discussing. There is more to come, and if noble Lords stay with the debate to the end, they will see what I mean, because we have more contributions of real calibre to come.
The debate has ranged across the whole Bill, which is good because it covers a wide range of issues, and has drawn in a huge amount of expertise, including three widely and rightly praised maiden speeches. Like many other noble Lords, I was very moved by the comments of the noble Baronesses, Lady Berridge and Lady Newlove. The noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, and I entered the House on the same day, so I am glad that she has now made her maiden speech and is joining us as a full Member. I am sure that she will contribute in a wide range of activities.
Mind you, if I were the Minister, I would not be quite so pleased by what I have heard today. Indeed, she is not here; she has gone; perhaps she has had to
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My first point is: why are only some of our police services in England and Wales being legislated for? If you look at the full list of police forces, you find that there are seven additional services which operate in England and Wales: the British Transport Police, the Central Motorway Policing Group, the Civil Nuclear Constabulary, the Ministry of Defence Police, the Port of Dover Police, the Port of Liverpool Police and the Serious Organised Crime Agency. In Scotland, there is also the Scottish Drug Enforcement Agency. They will not be caught by the Bill. As a result, the operational activities which we have been discussing risk being steered away across the whole of the police service. I should declare at this point that I have a past interest as a mentor involved with the British Transport Police, a service which I hold in very high regard.
I am concerned, in the run-up to the Olympics, about a divergence between the police forces under the Bill, if it passes, which will be operating under one set of rules and operations, because the BTP and the others I mentioned will of course be under a different regime. They will all be playing a part together, as has been mentioned, in the Olympics. There are differences already across government because the BTP reports to the Department of Transport and not to the Home Office. But it surely must be in the best interests of all concerned that as much commonality of approach and operation is present in our police services, however they are organised, and I do not think the Bill will help with that.
Like several noble Lords, I am concerned about some of the licensing proposals. I echo some of the concerns expressed by my noble friend Lord Brooke and I listened to what the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, was saying about the concerns he had received from the licensed trade, which are worth serious consideration. I look forward to the Minister's response to that.
My particular concern, which I think was touched on by the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, is the stealth tax that is being applied on the late night levy, which may have a devastating effect on live music. If that is the case and it does come in in that way, it will undermine the Private Member's Bill, which we support on this side of the House and which seems to be running dangerously close to some of the provisions in the Bill. We will have to watch that very carefully.
I have two concerns about aspects of the drugs provisions in Part 4, some of which have been mentioned already. The temporary banning orders for new drugs fly in the face of common sense. About a month ago we had a debate on the Government's drugs policy. We learnt that banning was not always the best way to deal with new drugs. We were told during the debate that some 40 new drugs are produced every year. We
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In her opening remarks the Minister stressed the value of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs. As has already been pointed out, at the same time Clause 153 removes the requirement of the advisory council to have members with certain specified scientific expertise. I can understand the need for flexibility in this area, and of course there are credibility issues. Again, we should probe that in Committee.
I should like to end by agreeing with some of the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Patten. I did not agree with much of what he had to say, but I did agree with his point about the tensions that have come up a number of times in debates between the appropriate democratic accountability of the police force and the operational independence which it must have. We have not seen the protocol. It is a bit like "Hamlet" without the prince: we cannot discuss this because we do not know what is in it, but we all know that it is a serious and big issue that will need to come back and be discussed again.
The noble Lord, Lord Imbert, made an important point. If all police constables and above have to swear loyalty to the Queen, surely a protocol-whatever that might be-is not enough. We really should be thinking in terms of a royal charter-in that sense echoing the movements towards a military covenant and the work that was done on the NHS constitution-to enshrine the high-level objectives and standards that we require across the whole country in a way that cannot be changed on a regular basis and that will give the certainty and the backbone we need as we go forward in our police service.
Lord Wasserman: My Lords, I, too, begin by declaring an interest. I have been involved with policing for almost the whole of my working life. I cannot claim to have been at the sharp end of policing, unlike some noble Lords who spoke earlier. I have never made an arrest, I have never tackled an angry mob and I have never even walked the beat. My policing experience was gained in much safer conditions. For nearly 27 years I was a member of the Home Office, where I had responsibilities for policing policy and for the provision of national policing support services, including information technology and forensic science. After leaving the Home Office in 1995, I continued my involvement with the police in the United States, where I spent 10 years working on the other side of policing as an adviser to chiefs of police in New York, Philadelphia and a number of other American cities.
This experience has left me with the greatest respect for the professional police officer who puts his or her life on the line each day to keep us safe and free. It has
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A number of noble Lords have argued that one of the major flaws of the Bill is that it is an attempt to copy models of policing accountability from the United States. I can assure your Lordships that that is not the case. There is no American model for the governance of local police forces. American policing is as diverse as America itself. The only thing that American police departments have in common is that they are all paid for locally and they are managed locally. The national Government takes almost no interest in local policing. For this reason, the governance arrangements for these forces, and there are some 18,000 of them-some noble Lords have mentioned 17,000 while others have quoted 19,000; no one knows because some of them are one-man bands where a single officer fulfils every role from chief constable to the constable on the beat-are all home-grown; that is, they reflect the governance of the local communities that they serve.
In New York, for example, the police chief is appointed by and reports to the mayor. In other cities, including Miami, the police chief reports to the city manager. In Los Angeles, the mayor appoints the police chief, but the chief reports to a five-person board of police commissioners, who, in turn, are appointed by the mayor. As Americans are fond of saying, "You pays your money, you takes your choice". I cannot swear that there is not a single police force somewhere in America with governance arrangements that resemble what is proposed in this Bill, but if there is I do not know about it. Even if there were, that does not affect the fact that, as my noble friend Lord Howard of Lympne told us what seems like many hours ago, the proposal for directly elected PCCs set out in this Bill was developed to meet a particularly British policing need: the need to re-establish close links between local people and their police force.
I use the word "re-establish" advisedly when referring to these links, because our police forces grew out of our local communities and at one time could not have been closer to them. I have no doubt that many noble Lords will remember the pre-amalgamation days when there were nearly 200 local police forces and when chief constables were familiar local figures. Over the years, forces have grown larger and more dependent on central support services such as the police national computer, the police national network and other information and communications systems. They have had to give more attention to such things as serious and organised crime, illegal immigration, internet crime and terrorism, all of which can be tackled effectively
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All this has led to a steady growth in the influence of central government on local forces. Chief constables have been drawn inexorably to the Home Office for leadership, direction and funding. Inevitably, this has meant that they have had far less time to spend in their local communities. In fact, some of our best chief constables spend several days a week in London at meetings with Home Office officials and others developing new "policies and initiatives". The police authorities set up in the 1960s to be responsible for these forces have proved too weak to overcome these pressures from Whitehall. They have had to accept the demands set centrally and sit by and watch their chief constables tick the boxes, complete the report cards and strive to meet the national targets that often bear no relationship to the crime and anti-social behaviour problems that they see all around them.
This Bill stops that trend dead in its tracks. It returns responsibility for local policing to local people. It gives responsibility for identifying and prioritising local policing needs to a local individual who understands the needs of the community and is very much part of it. Most important of all, it makes this individual directly accountable to the community, through the ballot box, for meeting those needs. Many noble Lords have said that PPCs will not know anything about policing. In my view, that is a very good thing. Their job is to identify the policing needs of their communities, not to deliver the policing services required to meet those needs. That is the job of the professional, the chief constable. In parentheses, I can say from first-hand experience that those Ministers who come into office thinking that they know all about the subject for which they now find themselves responsible are not always the most successful.
This Bill does all this without in any way affecting the complex structure of national support and crime-fighting arrangements which have been put in place over the past 50 years and which are rightly admired around the world. At the same time, the Bill significantly strengthens the management role of chief constables. It gives them the freedom to use their professional skills to manage their forces as they judge best. It treats them like proper chief executives of major organisations, which is exactly what they are. It gives them, for the first time, the power to appoint their own top management teams rather than having to make do with a team imposed by their police authorities. It also provides for them to be corporations sole, which means that the force's civilian staff can be employed by them rather than by the police authority.
Most important, this Bill formalises a process that began when this Government took office a year ago. It frees chief constables from the bureaucratic accountability of the Home Office. It relieves them of the constant flow of guidance, advice, report cards, targets and ring-fenced grants issued by successive Ministers with the encouragement of enthusiastic officials like me, who themselves have had no direct experience of policing and whose knowledge of the local circumstances in which all this guidance and advice have to be applied is at best second-hand. In short, this Bill recognises that local policing needs can be identified only at the
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Lord Shipley: My Lords, we have had a long and very useful debate on the Bill. It has identified a large number of issues which we will need to consider further in Committee. In view of the time, I am going to restrict my comments to the role of the proposed elected police commissioner and to Part 1. Despite the several hours that we have spent in this debate, it still is not clear to me what exactly the problem is that the Government are trying to solve.
The polls show that the public have little interest in changes to police governance and for them, scrutiny and accountability take place at their neighbourhood level. To them, that is local, and in the main it works very well now because of all of the initiatives that have taken place in recent years. As that structure, particularly around partnership working, will continue as now, it would help the Government's case if they produced evidence of the measurable benefits they seek to deliver. Elections can enhance democracy and accountability and, in theory, commissioners backed by the power of a ballot would enhance the accountability of the police. But it is not as simple as that. Today, we have heard a great deal of the dangers in some of the proposals within the Bill. First, policing could become politicised because many candidates would be nominated by political parties, but only one of them can win. There would therefore be a direct party-political connection with the post of commissioner, which does not occur in the same direct way with the role of the chair of a police authority, who operates much more by consensus.
Secondly, there is a danger that one person cannot represent a population averaging perhaps a million people, which will often be very diverse. That will lead in practice, because of the abolition of the police authority, to a democratic deficit, not to an improvement in democratic accountability.
The issue about commissioners seeking to direct resources to gain votes has been raised in the Chamber today. There is a real risk that commissioners might seek to do that. There is also a risk that commissioners might champion visible issues to gain votes at the expense of those that are less visible but nevertheless very important to the general public. It has rightly been identified in today's debate that the cost of the new arrangements will be much greater than for the existing police authorities because commissioners will inevitably create their own support staffing structures. The Bill itself says that they must have a chief executive and a chief finance officer, but the staff will inevitably have their own substructures and before we know it costs will rocket.
The Bill says that the costs of commissioners must be contained within existing budgets, but there will be a minimum of 82 further new posts under commissioners. That is low because there would have to be an office, support staff, policy staff and press staff. There may even be a number of finance staff and, for example, a
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Then there are the problems associated with the powers of the panels proposed. It seems strange that a single commissioner will be responsible for holding the police to account on behalf of perhaps a million people, but a panel of 10 or more people will be set up to hold to account one commissioner. It seems even stranger that the panels, unlike our current police authorities, will not be able to scrutinise the police. That is a major democratic deficit. The panels, if we have them, must be bigger-at least 15 members to cover the diverse needs of their areas. They will need additional powers to enable them to veto the police and crime plan. A two-thirds majority will be needed here to secure a veto, as with the precept. In addition, the panels must have some greater power over the detailed budget as opposed to just the precept because it is in the detail of the budget that the actual plan-for the distribution of police, for example-will occur.
Then there is the issue that we have heard a little about this afternoon of the dismissal of a chief constable. It seems clear from the Bill that the powers of the commissioner are simply too great and the panel will have to have much greater authority. Looking also at the temporary cover that is proposed where a commissioner is absent, surely a panel must be able to elect one of its members to provide temporary cover for the commissioner. It is odd that the Bill proposes that a member of staff of the commissioner's office-presumably appointed by the commissioner, who could be a junior member of staff-is able to take over the commissioner's role for several months not having been elected. That is not right. The proposal for a deputy commissioner who would be a member of the panel and elected by the panel would give greater legitimacy.
I have two brief points about elections. For a number of reasons, I am in favour of a pilot. First, we would see whether it works. However, elections in 2012, as proposed in this Bill, should not apply to those 12 cities having mayoral referendums. That is because we are going to have not just two democratic organisations in local authorities-councillors and commissioners-but, in 12 English cities, we will perhaps have elected mayors. Who would be in charge in that situation-the elected mayor or the elected police commissioner? The elected mayor will be on the panel. I do not think that will work terribly well or that there should be an elected commissioner in any police area where there is going to be possibly an elected mayor. In London, of course, the political boundaries for the London Assembly and those for the Metropolitan Police are coterminous; but in other cities that is not the case. That seems to be a major problem.
Secondly, I have a real concern about an election using the supplementary vote system, because it does not require the support of 50 per cent of the electorate. You could well end up with somebody with significantly under 50 per cent actually securing the post and then being seen to represent just one part of their geographical area.
In conclusion, I hope that in Committee we have some very detailed discussions on much of what we have debated today and also on what we have not. In the event, I believe that it is right that we should now be seeking to pilot this Bill and not simply to impose it from 2012, lock, stock and barrel.
Lord Beecham: My Lords, I concur wholeheartedly with the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, my fellow Newcastle city councillor; and I ask the rhetorical question, which was implicit in what he said, as to what the mischief is that the proposal for elected police commissioners purports to address. It appears to consist of an alleged lack of visibility and accountability on the part of police authorities. The noble Lord, Lord Howard, who enthusiastically espoused police authorities and their chairmen when he was Home Secretary, today of course abandons them with equal enthusiasm and says that most people do not know the name of the chair of their police authority, which is probably true. Interestingly, the Northumbria force surveyed the population in 2005 and found at that point that only 55 per cent of the population were aware of the police authority. It addressed that issue and sought to promote public engagement; and in the last survey, last year, it recorded that 88 per cent of people in the force area were aware of the police authority. People may not know the name of the chairman, but they are certainly aware of the authority.
The question continues to be: what is it that this appointment would address? After all, the statutory framework currently provides for extensive consultation by police authorities. The very useful paper distributed by Liberty points out that:
"When discharging its functions, every Police Authority is under a statutory duty to take into account the views of the people in the Authority's area about policing in their community. Police Authorities are also required by statute to make arrangements for obtaining the views of local people on matters concerning policing of their area and obtaining co-operation in preventing crime. The views obtained must encompass a wide range of people with particular focus on those aged under 21 or over 65 and from people from diverse backgrounds including marginalised groups and those of disadvantaged socio-economic status. The Authority must also ensure that it obtains a sufficient number and range of views so that it does not act on the basis of an unduly limited or unrepresentative sample. The Police Authority must also take into account whether the public in the area has confidence in the police force and whether the public considers that their views are being taken into account".
It seems, with respect to the Minister, that she misinterprets the results of the survey that she quoted, which suggests that the interest of people logging on to the new crime maps is sufficient to drive the model that is now being proposed. However, that of course assumes that people are interested in statistics for the whole area. As the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, has pointed out-it is certainly our experience as councillors in Newcastle, attending public meetings regularly with the police in our areas-the interest is very local indeed. It is not force-wide. It is not even citywide. It is very much area-based. I have been present at countless
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Moreover, there is probably not a real risk of an extremist being elected to a position of police commissioner, as one Member of your Lordships' House suggested, but it is at least likely, in the context of a campaign on a single issue, that fear of crime will certainly be ratcheted up by those seeking election. Fear of the fear of crime, I am afraid, rather dominated the policy-making of the previous Government to an unfortunate and unnecessary extent, and I suspect that elections of this kind will have that same effect again. Of course, the likely outcome is that there will be a further fragmentation of services, when in fact they need to be brought together, with an elected commissioner having a separate, possibly competing, mandate with the local authorities in the area that he or she would seek to serve and to work with, with their separate mandate and their relatively insignificant contribution to the problems of community safety, which of course transcend merely policing the area. It is arguable that, for the first election, there would be an element of accountability. After a commissioner is elected for the second and last time, there is no further degree of public accountability in again looking to the ballot box, so the accountability argument can certainly be overdone.
There is also the question of the substantial powers that accrue to the elected commissioner. The commissioners would be responsible for something like 11.5 per cent of the council tax levied in England and 15.5 per cent in Wales. That is a significant slice of local taxation levied by a separate authority. This is subject only to a three-quarters veto by the police and crime panel. That scrutinising body would have virtually no power. It would have no power to call in decisions or to play any significant part in the appointment of a chief constable or other officials appointed either by the commissioner or by the chief constable. It would not have the power to agree or amend the crime plans. Indeed, even the chief constable would not have the power to agree a commissioner's plan, and what would happen if there is a disagreement is entirely unclear within the legislation. Therefore there are significant issues about the degree of power to be vested, in effect, in a single pair of hands without much real accountability at all.
As the Bill goes forward, there are other issues that we will have to address around appointments-around the role, for example, of Her Majesty's inspectorate, which will no longer have to report to the Secretary of
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Baroness Finlay of Llandaff: My Lords, I want to focus on alcohol-related harms, the worst of which was so eloquently described by the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, in her deeply moving maiden speech.
The Licensing Act 2003 is a spectacular failure in public health terms. This Bill is a missed opportunity. Alcohol misuse abounds, costing £17 billion to £22 billion per annum, around £770 per household. Alcohol costs the NHS £2.7 billion per annum, double the amount of 10 years ago in real terms and rising. Last year, best estimates are that 40 per cent of the 319,000 people injured in violence in England and Wales were intoxicated at the time of injury and 70 per cent of accident and emergency attendances after 10 pm relate to alcohol misuse.
So what are the possible solutions? The first is pricing alcohol to return its relative cost in relation to income to where it was 20 to 30 years ago. Irresponsible off-licence promotions at less than 60 pence per unit of alcohol must end. Alcohol is ludicrously cheap; supermarket cider is commonly less that 50 pence a pint. Indeed, the late night levy that the Bill provides should also cover the NHS costs from the high accident and emergency attendances. The drinks industry profits could underwrite some of the costs that they actually incur.
Secondly, licensed premises' cumulative impact and saturation policies should be statutory rather than simply constituting the current ambiguous guidance. A decision to deny a licence is easily overturned. A clear example comes from my home city of Cardiff, where the council licensing committee's sensible decision not to grant permission to extend an off-sales licence in St Mary Street from 6 pm till 11 pm was easily overturned by well paid lawyers of a large supermarket chain, even though the area has seen the highest incidence of violence according to police and accident and emergency attendances of any street in the city over the past 10 years, and there were already other outlets. The Bill needs amendment to really strengthen the local voice in licensing decisions, and to ensure that cumulative impact and saturation policies include consideration of supermarkets and other off-licence outlets.
Thirdly, we can learn from South Dakota's SCRAM project. Alcohol fuels about half of all violent crime and road deaths, particularly among young new drivers. An alcohol monitoring requirement, estimated to cost about £1 a day and producing an 80 per cent sobriety rate in the programme, is cost-effective and potentially saves many lives. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, like the North report, estimates
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The fiscal reasoning behind the policing changes in the Bill seems illogical. We are asked to endorse changes costing somewhere in the region of £100 million per annum, yet the Government continue to refuse to fund, by their own estimate, £1 million to £2 million for the office of the chief coroner. Just two judicial reviews avoided would fund the chief coroner, whose creation was supported across both Houses to provide leadership and bring justice to the bereaved victims of crime. This is hardly joined-up financial planning.
As for Wales, the amendments in the other place do not respect the spirit of devolution, as they provide the Secretary of State with powers over local authorities in Wales, which needs to be able to defer implementation until the results from England are proven.
As a UK drugs policy commissioner, I will seek to amend the drugs section to improve the proposals, because I fear that they will only be expensive wallpaper as drafted and will fail to reduce the real harms that they are meant to address.
Baroness Henig: My Lords, I declare my interests as president of the Association of Police Authorities and chair of the Security Industry Authority. I promise to try to keep noble Lords awake for the next 10 minutes. That is surely a lesser challenge than keeping the attention of students on a Friday afternoon, which I used to have to do regularly. I have been involved in the governance of policing at both force and national level for more than 20 years. My whole approach to the Bill, particularly its first part, is shaped by that experience and by my absolute conviction that good governance is fundamental to success and that in the public sector it is in the policy area of policing that good governance is most essential.
British policing is justly admired throughout the world, not least in the United States, because of the principles on which it is based. Those principles are fundamental to the success of policing in this country and any proposed change in our policing structures should be judged on the extent to which it upholds or betrays those principles. We have heard reference to those principles throughout the debate. I shall allude to them only briefly, but they are important. Police forces, in particular the chief constable and his senior command team, must be held to account to local communities through a body that represents, and which is seen to represent, local people. This body should not operate in a party-political way but should hold the force to account, working with the chief constable to draw up overarching policing strategies within which the force will operate, while day-to-day operations must be exclusively the preserve of the police, who are accountable to law.
The police authority needs to gain its mandate by consulting local people effectively about policing issues, seeking their views on matters such as the level of the policing precept, divisional and force policing plans
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I have spelt all this out because it is only when we articulate those fundamental principles underlying policing in this country that we can see how flawed many of the proposals in this Bill are. For me, the most worrying aspect of the proposed changes is that no evidence has been put forward to suggest that the reform will enhance the effective delivery of policing or contribute to the reduction of crime. Surely, if we are making such major changes, we need some evidence. We certainly have not heard from those who have spoken on behalf of these measures today how effective delivery of policing will be enhanced or how a reduction of crime will come about. Without that evidence, how should we possibly be asked to support such far-reaching changes?
The proposals are not supported by the public, who we know in a number of recent surveys have overwhelmingly rejected the idea that one individual elected on a party-political basis should exercise lay control over a police force. They will not apply in Northern Ireland or Scotland, while the Welsh Assembly has voted to reject them. That has led to a serious impasse between the devolved Welsh Government and the Government, which we will have to look at seriously in Committee. It is therefore the forces in England and in local communities outside London who will face the most massive change in systems being imposed on them-a change that, despite all the talk about localism by the coalition, they will have no opportunity to influence.
It is interesting that, although there was consultation last year, we have not yet heard how many of the 900 or so responses apparently received by the Home Office were in favour and how many opposed. I find that rather surprising. We can probably conclude from it that the vast majority were opposed. I have not yet heard any compelling arguments for why these changes are necessary. We heard, not so long ago, about the importance of re-establishing links between the police and the public, but 60 per cent of the public already have confidence in the police. That is third only to doctors and nurses and far higher, I might say, than for politicians or journalists. Neighbourhood policing now gives the public a big and a regular say in setting priorities for their local areas. How much more reconnection are we looking for? The public are getting what they want. In fact, the proposals, as we hear, have not been supported by the public.
There are at least five powerful reasons for opposing the proposals. First and foremost-and everyone has talked about this-we will be injecting party politics into policing in a big and dangerous way that will completely change the dynamics of policing. Anybody who says that it will not does not understand how policing works. It is going to give one individual the
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Secondly, there is a complete mismatch between what the public are asking for and what they are being given. What individuals want is information about policing in their neighbourhood and their district-and increasingly they are getting it. What they are being given in this Bill is an individual elected to cover a force area-that will comprise 18 parliamentary constituencies in Devon and Cornwall, three whole counties in Thames Valley, or the whole of the West Midlands. Obviously the definition of "local" used by the noble Lord, Lord Wasserman, is very different from mine.
This one individual, as the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, told us, will decide on the policing precept, which accounts for about 11 per cent of the local authority budget. This individual also has to liaise with and scrutinise the force, all its divisions, all its crime and disorder reduction partnerships, all the local councils and all their scrutiny panels. That is an impossible job for one individual. Partnership is the essence of delivering effective local policing. The election of one single commissioner will weaken and not enhance those essential local partnerships, which have brought crime levels down so dramatically in recent years.
Thirdly, this Bill takes policing away from local government, as the noble Lords, Lords Shipley and Lord Beecham, identified. At present, all police authorities have at least nine elected councillors, who assess police performance at force and divisional level, work with local bodies, question the chief constable in public on any policing issue monthly or bi-monthly, look at force HR and equality issues and consult the public on a range of policing issues. All this is going to disappear. The proposed police and crime panel is a pathetic invention with puny powers. It is confined to scrutinising the commissioner and his policing plans and proposed budgets. It has no political balance and no ethnic or gender balance. It is a huge step backwards from the present situation. Indeed, I believe that this part of the Bill is an insult to local government.
How can it be right that policing is being removed from local government in this way? Is this the beginning of the end for local government? Will we see commissioners for local health, for education, for local transport? What will the relationship be between directly elected mayors and commissioners? Surely the mayors will want some say in policing matters. Among the many amendments that I shall be tabling at Committee stage-this will come as no surprise to your Lordships-will be some to change the role and powers of police and crime panels. They should be working with the commissioner and be operating at divisional and local level, not just scrutinising his or her actions. That at least would make some sort of sense, rather than, as is proposed at present, the commissioner scrutinising the chief constable and the PCP scrutinising the commissioner. Nobody who understands what really makes policing work effectively could ever have proposed this structure.
Fourthly, the election of commissioners is going to be expensive, as we have heard. Should that really be forced on the public at a time when we know that they are facing draconian cuts in their local front-line forces? I confidently predict that, if the public were given a choice between more front-line police and these elections, well over 90 per cent would want the front-line forces.
Fifthly, what if the person elected is no good at the job? At present, chairs of police authorities are elected annually, but we will be stuck with commissioners for four years. They are not to be appraised by Her Majesty's police inspectorate, unlike police authorities, which is rather surprising, given the Minister's emphasis on the appraisal of police authorities. No, the will of the people apparently trumps the ability to do the job effectively as, it is argued, those with no aptitude for the position will be voted out of office. That has to be an extremely naive view and it is not borne out by my experience of politics at either local or national level. Also, if a commissioner falls ill, a non-elected member of his office can stand in for him. That cannot be right. It is something else that needs to be looked at in Committee. I have long argued in favour of fewer, larger, more resilient forces. Alas, the measures in the Bill will prevent, not facilitate, that development, which is increasingly necessary in the modern world.
I cannot deal with any other part of the Bill. It is the first part which will change our system and its structure of governance irreversibly and which has the capacity to do so much damage to the delivery of a service that has operated pretty well for nearly 200 years. My fundamental concern is that we are being asked to take a gigantic leap in the dark towards the politicisation of policing in a situation where the existing system is not broken and few people are calling for change. For me, the supreme irony is that the system that we have was established by a Conservative Home Secretary, Robert Peel, and overhauled in the early 1990s very effectively by another two Conservative Home Secretaries. Why on earth does the Conservative Party now want to destroy one of its most enduring achievements? I hope that the Minister will be able to explain the reason to me and to allay my profound concerns when she concludes the debate.
Lord Stevens of Kirkwhelpington: My Lords, I declare my interests: I was a serving police officer for 43 years, and my various other interests are in the House of Lords register of interests. I have concerns in relation to the Bill. I will be going through them, but your Lordships will be glad to know that I will be as quick as I possibly can.
I pay tribute to the noble Baronesses, Lady Berridge and Lady Newlove. If ever there was a description of why we have to get policing right in this country, the contribution from the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, was it. I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra. The reason why he is so positive about HMIC is that he was an excellent Police Minister and we in HMI at the time used to take him to the local pub and regularly paid for his drinks. One of the greatest things that people do not know about him is that he was offered a
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In my view, the timing of the Bill is extraordinary. We stand at a stage when the police service in this country is facing some of the biggest changes in relation to conditions, wages and pensions that it ever has. We are also standing at a stage when-although hopefully I am wrong-there could be grave public disorder in the streets in the next 12 months to two years, and we have the Olympics around the corner as well. Morale has been quoted as being at its lowest levels; some of us have been downstairs to talk to police officers from Northumbria and other places, and certainly morale is not good. Why are we bringing in the Bill in the way that we are?
I know that in policing people will say that morale is always low. I remember a very good chief constable of mine saying, "John, if they weren't moaning, I'd be very worried indeed", and I suppose there was something in that. However, policing over the past 15 years has been highly successful. This was started by the noble Lord, Lord Howard, who as Home Secretary decided that police could actually affect crime and disorder in this country and created one target all about reducing crime, which he pursued as well. Policing has been a success story over the past 15 years and continues to be so. Anything that gets in the way of that success story has to be considered in other than a positive way.
I have a real problem. I was chief constable of Northumbria for five years and I cannot see one model fitting all the forces that I served in-Northumbria, Cambridgeshire, Hampshire and the Metropolitan Police. I was also an HMI for two years, inspecting some of the major forces in this country. I was also present at the appointment of 17 chief constables, the head of the National Criminal Intelligence Service and the head of the National Crime Squad. What worries me about one model fitting all is a problem that relates to Northumbria in particular. Northumberland, to the north, is a county on its own, with the boroughs that we all know so well-Newcastle and Sunderland. For one person to try to deal with the complexity of that would be extraordinary.
There is another thing with which I have a slight problem. I do not often disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Howard-we usually agree on most things, do we not? The people whom I inspected and for whom I was chief constable were not shrinking violets. I know I was a pussycat, Lord Harris. We have heard some of them today: the noble Baronesses, Lady Harris and Lady Henig, and the noble Lord, Lord Harris, to name a few. There was also George Gill. All those people were and still are known in their areas and respected. That argument is perhaps not as persuasive as it should be from my experience, which may be limited.
I have a problem with the elections as well. The election of the PCCs will be conducted under the supplementary vote system, which could, through the transfer of secondary preference votes, result in a candidate being selected without having secured a clear mandate from the electorate. That in itself is worrying, bearing in mind all the comments from my colleagues and, far more eloquently, from some of the people here this evening.
Here we come to the real crux. There are two issues. One is the impact on the national policing priorities. I was lucky enough to chair the police border review. The noble Lord, Lord Wasserman, was generously part of that for the Conservative Party under David Cameron. All of its recommendations were taken up by the Conservative Party in opposition. What we discovered on border policing was that there was a mismatch between what was being delivered nationally and what was being delivered locally. One of the weaknesses has to be the question of whether the reforms to local delivery, under one person, will have an effect on national policing and its resources. Clause 79 states that PCCs and chief constables must,
which is set out by the Home Secretary. However, this is not binding. As such, it does not go far enough in mitigating the risk of local issues being prioritised at the expense of national policing matters. That means that the local policing commissioner or chief constable will have priority over national issues.
Very quickly, on the role of chief constable, we have not seen the protocols. I am sure that the Minister is working hard on those. We were promised them by Second Reading. Some of those of us who are privileged enough to speak to the Home Secretary and the top teams have a problem with that. How can we decide about the independence of policing, and where the chief constable or the commissioner of the Metropolitan Police sits in this structure, unless we know that we have independence for the police officer who is involved in crime?
If I may, I shall end by talking as a senior investigating officer. Some time ago I looked into and investigated the National Criminal Intelligence Service; I have now been in Northern Ireland for 20 years, investigating some very difficult issues; and more recently I investigated Princess Diana's death in Paris. The real power and confidence that I enjoyed in carrying out those investigations and the dedication of the people around me were related to one thing-that I was answerable to the law and the law alone.
Finally, this Bill is the biggest change to the constitution of policing in 150 years. It is absolutely our responsibility tonight and in the following months to ensure that we get it right even if it is carried through in a certain form, which it probably will be. If we get it wrong, we will never sleep soundly in our beds in the future.
Lord Rosser: My Lords, we have had a lengthy and interesting debate. We have also had the pleasure of hearing three informative, knowledgeable, and at times moving, maiden speeches from the noble Baronesses, Lady Berridge and Lady Newlove, and the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, which have rightly drawn much praise. I both hope and expect that they will all be regular contributors to debates in your Lordships' House.
There are some parts of the Bill which we can support in general terms. These are: the alterations to existing powers for licensing authorities and other responsible bodies with regard to alcohol licensing; the new regulations governing protest in Parliament
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Most of those who have spoken on the issue have either been directly opposed to the principal provision of the Bill-namely, the elected police and crime commissioners-or have expressed strong and powerful reservations about the proposal and its potential implications. One of the concerns is: what exactly will the police and crime commissioners do if they are not, as claimed, going to become involved in operational matters? The Bill sets out the basic duties of the post, which hardly add up to a well paid, full-time job, unless, of course, the appointment, suspension and dismissal of the chief constable is to become a regular event, or police and crime plans and objectives are to be changed every five minutes in order to create a job.
We currently have police authorities which meet at regular intervals but not exactly every day. We have an individual who is the chair of the police authority but it is not normally a full-time position. If the police and crime commissioner is not going to be involved in operational matters, will the Minister set out exactly what duties and responsibilities the commissioner will be taking over from the chief constable, what duties and responsibilities he or she will be taking over from the chair of the police authority and the members of the police authority, and what duties and responsibilities will be entirely new and are not undertaken by anyone at all at the present time? Is the reality that much of the work of the police and crime commissioners will simply be duplicating work which the chief constable and his senior team already do, and will in effect create a further management layer with the need for further papers, reports and attendance at meetings by senior police officers who should be spending as much of their available time as possible leading the fight against crime? Is it the undeclared intention that the role of the police and crime commissioner will be extended at some later stage to other areas of the criminal justice system such as, for example, the probation and prison services, or even the local courts service?
What exactly will be the position in London? The Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime, which sounds a bit like a quango, will have the same powers as a police and crime commissioner, so will the mayor be the commissioner or will the commissioner in reality be a mayoral appointee, in which case what has happened to the Government's much vaunted concept of the need for directly elected commissioners?
To whom will the police and crime commissioners be accountable during their period of office? It does not look as though there will be the equivalent of a Parliament, an Assembly or a local council with the power to accept or reject key proposals or changes that the commissioner wishes to take, or to hold the commissioner to account. Where is the check on inappropriate or overenthusiastic use of power by a single individual? It will certainly not be with the
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Those who may consider that elected national politicians have already politicised the police will be in for a shock when they realise the degree of party politicisation that single elected police commissioners will bring. If the intention is that the operational independence and impartiality of the police will not be put at risk, what is the Government's definition of operational independence? The Government have said that they will produce a memorandum or protocol that will set out the terms of agreement on the relationship between the new elected police and crime commissioners and chief constables to ensure that operational independence is protected. Typically, the Government have failed to produce the document in time for today's Second Reading. That is presumably because the Government, despite claiming that operational independence will be protected, do not yet know what the words they have uttered mean in reality. That is a not dissimilar situation to their lengthy silence when we asked them to define what they meant by the front-line policing that they asserted would be protected from cuts.
Does operational independence include decisions on how many police officers are required to be on duty for particular demonstrations, marches and protests? Does operational independence include the police tactics to be deployed on such occasions? Does operational independence include, within the parameters of an overall budget, the number of officers and civilian staff to be employed on the variety of different activities that a police force undertakes? Will a police and crime commissioner be able to dismiss or remove a chief constable when the issue or issues that have caused difficulty would appear to any reasonable person to relate to a chief constable's unwillingness to carry out instructions from a commissioner on an operational issue?
Will not the reality be that we will find ourselves with police and crime commissioners who have won an election, but have yet to find a role? In trying to create a full-time job for themselves-incidentally, how many staff is it anticipated they will have, and at what cost?-they will seek to usurp the responsibilities of those senior police officers who currently manage and run our police forces and, in so doing, create a lot of frustration and conflict, as well as unnecessary and unjustified duplication and additional bureaucracy. The reality, as has been said on many occasions today, is that a commissioner who has the power to dismiss will always have the whip hand over a chief constable on issues regarding what is or is not deemed to be an operational matter.
For what purpose is all this being done? The level of crime reduced steadily by more than 40 per cent over a number of years under the previous Government, and
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The argument is that policing and crime have a significant impact on people's lives. The current arrangements of police authorities provide a level of accountability that includes a majority of locally elected council representatives, which should not simply be swept aside. People want managerial competence, an efficient and effective service, and an ability to have a say over what happens in their immediate locality-an ability that has been enhanced by community partnership working, and by the introduction of neighbourhood police community support teams, which spend time keeping in direct contact with those who live and work in their neighbourhood to make sure that they are aware of their principal concerns on crime and policing issues.
People do not want the politicisation and fragmentation of the police service because not all policing matters affect only one area or county. Counterterrorism and kidnap activity do not respect police authority boundaries, or at times even national boundaries, any more than do drug trafficking, human trafficking, e-crime and cybercrime. Co-operation between forces is vital, and the Association of Chief Police Officers does much good work in this area.
What will be the attitude of an elected police and crime commissioner who believes that his or her prospects of popularity and re-election will depend on allocating resources and on trying to deliver on promises made, however unlikely, during an election campaign, rather than on directing their resources at major national or international crimes that may not have an obvious immediate impact in their own area? We do not want more than 40 separate police service silos, but that is what we risk getting, and the Government certainly have not explained how the strategic policing objectives will ensure that this cannot happen.
The creation of police and crime commissioners will enable the Government, having made significant cuts in police budgets, to seek-in vain, I suspect-to wash their hands of any responsibility for the incidence of crime and how it should be addressed, on the basis that that is the responsibility of the elected police and crime commissioner. The approach will be similar to that adopted towards local government, where they reduce the amount of money received by local authorities and then seek to blame them when the inevitable happens and important services are cut or reduced.
We have seen the Government decide, following almost universal criticism of their proposals for the National Health Service, to take time to reflect on
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The work of policing will be further politicised if elected police and crime commissioners, elected local authority members or elected mayors have public spats with each other over where responsibility and accountability lie for levels of crime or the incidence of particular types of crime. Reducing and fighting crime requires a crucial partnership approach between the police and local authorities. Having different arms of that partnership under different political leadership, with different priorities and objectives, will jeopardise and not enhance successful partnership working, and with it the continuation of the reduction in the incidence of crime.
My noble friend Lord Hunt of Kings Heath referred to the absence of a Green Paper, pre-legislative scrutiny, an impact assessment on the proposals for commissioners from HMIC, proposals for referenda on the introduction of PCCs and any provision for pilot schemes. The Government should think again. The continuation of effective, impartial and non-politicised policing is more important than delivering, without due regard or consideration of its consequences and implications, what appears to have become a pet project of at least one half of the present Government.
Baroness Neville-Jones: My Lords, I am grateful for the generally thoughtful tone of the debate this afternoon and evening, even if it was not especially supportive of the Government's position. Like other noble Lords, I was struck by the fact that it was graced by three outstanding maiden speeches, from my noble friends Lady Berridge, Lady Newlove and Lord Blencathra. Listening to the speech of my noble friend Lady Newlove, in particular-I agree with those who said how moving it was; indeed, she told a tragic story-I was reminded that this Bill is also a social responsibility Bill. I am sure that the whole House hopes that when enacted it will reduce the likelihood of the sort of incident that she described occurring in the future.
As time is short, I should like to confine the greater part of my closing remarks to Part 1 of the Bill. I hope that the House will understand if I do not tackle all the points made, but I hope to touch on the key themes. Something else that struck me in the debate was the fact that many of the doubts expressed by Members of this House betrayed what I would regard as being a preference for expertise over visible leadership, reliance on robust democracy and indeed the good sense of the electorate-a prejudice that my noble friend Lord Howard warned us against at the beginning of the debate. Reliance on the people is not, as some noble Lords have suggested, naivety. It is actually healthy democracy. As against that, I particularly welcome the offer from those who have considerable experience
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The core of the Bill, however, is about accountability. It is not about operational policing matters. The Bill will support operational matters and will not, as has been suggested, somehow adversely affect them. That is why your Lordships did not hear from me this evening about many operational policing matters, on which Members on the opposition Benches have touched. I agree with those who have said that we have the best police service in the world, but we do not have the best governance of that police service. It is that aspect that the Bill is designed to improve.
There have been many queries as to why the reforms are needed and why they are needed now. Let me touch on this again; I spelt it out in my opening remarks, but it is worth repeating one or two of the points. A number of noble Lords suggested that the reforms are not needed. We disagree. It is clear, as I have indicated, that there are some philosophical differences between us, as well as, I suspect, differences in the assessment of the quality of the situation that we have at the moment. In our view, the case for change is clear. Police authorities are not sufficiently connected to the public. We know this because only 7 per cent of the public understand that they can approach their police authority if they are dissatisfied with policing. I reject the argument that anonymity does not matter. A typical police authority gets only about two letters a week from the public. When the Mayor of London took on the responsibility of policing in our city, the fact that there was a recognisable figure in charge prompted a significant rise in the amount of correspondence received from the public. The public care and, contrary to what has been suggested, they are not satisfied. At the moment, they simply do not know whom to call. We believe that some of the provisions, which have not received great attention in the debate, for greater transparency in all the proceedings that will take place between the police and crime commissioner, the chief constable and the PCPs, which lie at the core of the Bill, will help immensely in generating greater information about and confidence in the police.
The noble Baroness, Lady Harris, argued that no police authorities had failed their inspections. That is the case, but we do not think that not failing is good enough. As I mentioned, only four police authorities are performing well out of the 22 inspected by HMIC. I think that we all agree that HMIC must be respected in its judgments. We believe that we can do better than that and that the public have a right to expect better performance.
We also think that there is a democratic deficit between the authorities and the public whom they are meant to serve. Only 8 per cent of wards in England and Wales are represented on a police authority. We think that the system of governance, even if it is not broken, is not performing well enough and requires improvement, so we are going to make the changes. We also think that the change is needed now. As I indicated, the Government do not believe that piloting would be helpful. I have no doubt that I will have
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The coalition parties support the direct democratic reform of police authorities. It is interesting that the Opposition also favour the democratic reform of police authorities. The only difference between the Opposition and the coalition Government is how, not whether, it should occur. That puts a point on some of the arguments that we have heard tonight. Right at the outset of the debate, the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, suggested that HMIC be asked to approve the Government's reforms before they are instituted or that there should be a series of local referenda before they could take effect. If we think, as a House and as Parliament, that direct democracy in policing could be improved, it seems to me odd that we should suggest that HMIC should make a judgment on what is clearly a political matter. That is not what HMIC is there for. As for local referenda, the PCCs are a national policy, and a single system of governance is needed. Policing crosses force boundaries, just as criminals do, and we must have a degree of commonality in how it operates, so I do not think that we can go for local referenda.
In respect of the arguments made to the effect that these reforms will politicise policing-we have heard a great deal of that this evening-I want to be absolutely clear: that will not be the case. There is no reason why there should not be partnership between the PCC and the chief constable. Many of the Bill's provisions are clearly designed as a failsafe in case there are problems but the whole premise of the Bill is that there should be partnership. We agree with those who say that there should be partnership, and we are confident that partnership will come about. Equally, it is important, as the whole House acknowledges-we certainly support this-that the operational independence of chief officers is not prejudiced. It will not change. Under the 1996 Act chiefs will continue to have direction and control of their staff. Operational independence is already protected, not just by measures in primary legislation but also in common law and the attestation of all constables on appointment, as has been said in debate. It is a cornerstone of British policing and nothing-nothing-in the Bill or any protocol that we produce will alter that, but we shall seek to make the principles of the relationship between the various parties clear in the protocol.
It has been well said that the police are answerable to the law. Indeed, we are all answerable to the law. But the Government see no contradiction between being answerable to the law and being accountable. These two things go hand in hand.
I have no doubt that in debate we will spend some time on the arrangements in London. I am not going to deal with those this evening, but I should like to make a comment on one point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Harris. He seemed to be suggesting-perhaps I have him wrong-that because the precise method of accountability of the chief constable had not been prescribed in the legislation, therefore it could be assumed that there was no such answerability. That is not the case. The PCC has the same statutory responsibility
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Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, my point was not that there is not a clear accountability mechanism, because that is set out in the Bill; my point is-it applies not just in London but to all the PCCs-that the one-to-one relationship between the elected individual and the chief officer of police does not allow for the visible answerability of the chief officer of police, answering questions in public on matters that affect the locality. That is what will disappear in this Bill.
Baroness Neville-Jones: I do not think that that is the case, my Lords, because there is nothing to stop meetings taking place in public. Indeed, the records have to be put into the public domain, so I do not think that somehow this relationship will be conducted behind closed doors. On the contrary, I think that it will be extremely transparent. One other point I would like to make is that the police and crime commissioner can require a chief constable to report on a particular matter if he does not get co-operation from him, although I do not see why he should not. Both accountability and transparent accountability will be present in arrangements.
I should like to deal with some of the points where it was claimed that this new model would be costly and would introduce unnecessary bureaucracy, and to be clear about what the model involves. The PCP will not replace the police authority, so those costs are gone. The PCC replaces the police authority and indeed will need support staff but, unlike now, they will be held directly to account by the public, so we will require them to publish details of their expenditure and the public will expect them to deliver value for money. This creates a very strong incentive to drive costs down, an incentive which does not exist at present.
If the House is concerned about costs, I say that the alternative models that have been suggested-an elected chair of a police authority or indeed an elected police authority-are no less expensive than what we are proposing, and would probably be more expensive. We also think they would be less effective.
Finally, I should like to put these reforms into their proper context. Some noble Lords have asserted that PCCs will be concerned only with the local agenda, neglecting national issues and protective services. I had hoped that I had spelt that out adequately in my opening remarks, but let me repeat that that is not the case. The Bill starts to rebalance the system from the Government telling local areas what their priorities are to focusing on those issues that are of national importance such as organised crime and counterterrorism. To that end, we have included Clause 79, which gives powers to the Home Secretary, as I mentioned, to set out a strategic policing requirement. That is obviously an important document. The strategic policing requirement will describe the collective capabilities that police forces across England and Wales would need to have in place in order to protect the public from serious harm and maintain national security; that is, the contribution that they would be expected to
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I cannot see how a police and crime commissioner who wished to be regarded as effective would see his duties as not encompassing the things that he needs when it is quite obvious to the public that he needs to be charged with doing them effectively. When he is setting out his police and crime plans, they will include the discharge by that police force of its national or international functions, and chief officers will be held to account if in any respect they fail to come up to the operational standards that are required. Furthermore, all this will be underpinned by the new backstop powers which currently apply only to the Metropolitan Police Authority for the Home Secretary to enter into an agreement with any PCC or the Mayor of London on their national and international functions, where it is deemed necessary, to direct them to take action. We hope that that is not the kind of thing that is going to be necessary, but clearly the power will be in place if it has to be exercised. At a later time, as the House is aware, we will be introducing the new national crime agency, which will be a framework for the functions of national scope, and these will cover such things as organised crime.
I turn briefly to the points made on licensing, the first of which is the removal of the vicinity test. I know there is a fear that this proposal could lead to an increase in frivolous or vexatious representations, but I have to say that during our consultation a very large number of respondents welcomed greater community involvement in the licensing process, and they were clear that the activity related to licensed premises can have an effect well beyond the immediate vicinity. The objectors, of course, have to make a case which is related to the full purposes of licensing.
On the issue of health bodies becoming responsible authorities, I can confirm that the Government will ensure that in the future this role is compatible with the changes being made to PCTs, but in the short term the PCTs will be the relevant health bodies. As regards the maximum fine for underage sales of alcohol, by doubling it, the Government are sending to retailers
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As for the levy, it applies across the whole licensing authority area because that is the simplest and fairest way of ensuring that all premises that benefit from selling alcohol late at night contribute towards costs. We have to recognise, as I have just said, that there is a problem of alcohol abuse in this country and it has to be tackled. That is why the emphasis in this Bill is on increasing our ability to do just that.
I hope the House will be willing to forgo responses on the many points raised in relation to Parliament Square and universal jurisdiction. The noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, has promised us a lively debate in Committee on the first and I have no doubt that we shall debate the need for the intervention of the DPP on the second. The DPP has made it clear that he would be willing and would have the capacity to act rapidly in any case and that his intervention would not act as a delay or a bar on issuing a warrant.
The core of the debate has been on the PCCs and I want to make two last points. First, the noble Lord, Lord Boateng, made the point, which I am sure the whole House accepts, that we shall need to come together on this Bill to ensure its passage. Secondly, while I did not accept many of the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Harris, he said something with which I profoundly agree; namely, that trust is crucial to the preservation of our tradition of unarmed, impartial policing. In making the changes, the Government are determined to preserve this long-standing principle and great tradition. I commend the Bill to the House.
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