Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

In the context of what is happening in the country, we need to think very seriously about the purpose of this Bill. It is to try to establish arrangements, which I think would meet with total agreement on all sides of this House, for the reduction of crime and anti-social behaviour. I hope that in all this discussion, conversation and exchange about form, we do not lose our sense of purpose.

Lord Bradshaw: The noble Viscount referred to the disorder in Newcastle. In 2003, a Licensing Bill was forced through the House by another Government without proper trial. From that, we derived much greater use of alcohol, much greater disorder in city centres, much greater burdens on the health service and terrible problems for town centre management. Does the noble Viscount agree that trials of any changes are probably worth while?

Viscount Eccles: My Lords, I am not the person for solutions; I presented the problem. I am coming into this debate entirely new and without any experience as a policeman or of being on a police committee. I have met policemen from time to time. Sometimes the exchanges have been friendly and at other times they have been not so friendly. Indeed, on one occasion, I thought I was being treated in rather a highhanded manner, but these things happen to people. My concern is about what is happening to people and about the purpose of the Bill.

Baroness Hamwee: I speak as a devotee of democratic election but as an equally firm opponent of the concentration of power in one pair of hands. I wrote down the term "collaborative" when the noble Lord, Lord Condon, used it in our previous debate because it is absolutely right. Whatever model we end up

18 May 2011 : Column 1424

with-I share the views of those who are perhaps realists in this political process-the panel should be part of a collaborative process and have an active collaborative role. I see scrutiny and the imposition of checks and balances as part of that activity and collaboration. We have a lot of detailed amendments later about the powers, functions and relationships of the panel and about with whom and when it has conversations. They will apply whatever the model. They may, no doubt, involve the role of the media. It is a reality today that the media have an important role. The scrutineer needs to know how to work with the media and not get caught out by them. The checks and balances are immensely important. In a recent e-mail to one of my honourable friends in the Commons, I referred to them as Cs and Bs, and he thought I was referring to the Cross Benches and the Bishops. Maybe he was not wrong.

At the risk of being a bit of a nerd, I shall ask some questions about a couple of specific points in the amendment. I am sorry to come from a different point of view from that of the noble Lord, Lord Laming, but I worry about the references to the Human Rights Act, the Children Act and the Equality Act and about the dangers of singling out particular references. We may discuss all this in the context of the strategic policing requirement and the protocol and I in no way suggest that those Acts are not important. However, is it not the case that the chief constable, who is the object of these parts of the amendment, is held to account under the law and that it does not need a specific reference in this legislation to deal with that?

My other question is perhaps even more nerdish, but I do not want to suggest that it is not important. There must, of course, be an endeavour to secure the reduction of crime, but Amendment 31D states:

"The Police Commission ... must ... secure the reduction of crime".

But what if it cannot? I agree that it should try to, but what are the consequences if it fails? Frankly, one does not want to allow difficult ratepayers looking for audit-based complaints to have a go at a commission by saying that it has not secured the reduction of crime.

Lord Laming: I am sorry to interrupt the noble Baroness. I accept that there is a danger of highlighting some piece of detail in the Bill, but does she accept from me that while there is a huge emphasis on the amount of crime and the reduction of crime, nothing in the legislation talks about the safeguarding of children, the abduction or trafficking of children and the like? Is it not important not to lose that in the great scheme of things?

Baroness Hamwee: I agree with that, and it is one of my concerns about the election of an individual. I would like to think that individuals might stand on a mandate to reduce the things to which the noble Lord has just referred, but I think that that is very unlikely indeed. I have tabled a series of amendments, which we will come to later, with a view to raising the issues of child protection and of human trafficking of adults as well as children. I think that the noble Lord is absolutely right, but I am being a bit of a nerd in

18 May 2011 : Column 1425

questioning the way that that is dealt with. My point about securing the reduction of crime was whether that might have unforeseen consequences, again merely in the way that it is dealt with.

Lord Boswell of Aynho: Has the noble Baroness considered what it is to reduce crime? The number of crimes committed could be reduced but their seriousness increased. Is there a metric for what the reduction would be?

Baroness Hamwee: I am not sure that that question should be directed to me or to the noble Baroness, but the noble Lord is absolutely right that this is a multifaceted issue.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, we have had a very interesting debate. I know well the views of the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, on the licensing legislation and the point he makes about pilots. I hope that we will come to the question of pilots later on. I agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, that there should be no complacency about the level of crime or the effectiveness of the police force. However, it is accepted and a matter of record that the last 10 to 15 years have seen dramatic reductions in the number of crimes committed, including violent crimes. This has been confirmed by independent surveys such as the British Crime Survey. However, I also have to say that we are seeing elements of crime rising again. The latest figures for the West Midlands police force, published last Thursday at a meeting of the West Midlands Police Authority, show that the trend is reversing.

I still do not understand why the party opposite has such a downer on the police; it is a great puzzle. That is clear from the statements made during our discussions. There seems to be a real sense of angst in the party opposite about the police service which I just do not understand, and it is part of the problem we face in debating the Bill. Having said that, let me turn to the issue. Whether you have an elected or appointed police commissioner, I believe that what is needed is strong and effective corporate governance. That point was made by all of my noble friends and the noble Lord, Lord Carlile. The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, talked about checks and balances. It is the absence of proper corporate governance or checks and balances that is so worrying and inexplicable.

The noble Lord, Lord Carlile, said that the Government have some form in this area and tried to invite the noble Baroness to respond on House of Lords reform. On Monday I tried to do that without any success, and I do not think that the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, is going to be any more successful. But let me try another area, that of the National Health Service. Here I declare my interests as set out in the register as a consultant trainer and chair of the Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust. The proposal for GP consortia is shocking in relation to the absence of proper corporate governance. The original proposal was for £80 billion to be given to GPs. That has now been reduced to £60 billion, but it is still an awful lot of money. It is to be given to one profession which would then decide where it should be spent. Again, that was done in the absence of proper and effective corporate governance. Yet the party opposite has a record to be proud of in

18 May 2011 : Column 1426

its work before 1997 on enhancing corporate governance in both the public and the private sectors. I well remember the initiatives sponsored and supported by the party opposite when it was in government. It set up a number of reviews and initiated developments to strengthen corporate governance. It encouraged the IoD and the CBI. I remember well the Cadbury report, which I know that the Conservative Party strongly supported. So it is a puzzle to me why the Government now seem to be moving away from effective corporate governance.

6.15 pm

One of the most shocking parts of the Bill is Clause 62, which is entitled "Appointment of acting commissioner". It is right that the circumstances should be prescribed where a commissioner no longer holds office or is incapacitated in some way. Let me just make this point. An individual elected or appointed as a police commissioner is going to come under intensive media scrutiny about their entire life. Sport will be made of trying to find out anything wrong with them, so it is likely that after such a person has been appointed or elected, issues will emerge which mean that that person will have to resign, or at least be suspended. I do not think there can be any doubt about that whatever. Clause 62(1) states:

"The police and crime panel for a police area must appoint a person to act as a police and crime commissioner",

if a vacancy arises. The panel can only appoint such a person if that person is a member of the police and crime commission staff at the time of the appointment. Who will it be-the PR officer, the chief of staff, the buddy? Enormous powers will be given to that person. They can appoint or dismiss the chief constable. They can set the precept. I find that wholly and absolutely unacceptable. Clause 62(4) states:

"All the functions of a police and crime commissioner are exercisable by an acting commissioner, apart from issuing or varying a police and crime plan under section 5".

A staff member appointed by the police commissioner can suddenly be called on to assume enormous powers without the effective checks and balances and corporate governance that would be appropriate in every walk of life in both the public and the private sector. That is why there is so much concern about this Bill and its construct.

The second part of this amendment-I am indebted to my noble friend for bringing it forward-concerns the relationship between the individual commissioner, either elected or appointed by the panel, and the area he serves. The noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, referred to the Thames Valley. I know it well because I was brought up in Oxford in the great days of the Oxford City police force and the watch committee. Of course, watch committees were abolished because of political corruption. Again, I fail to comprehend why the Government have not understood the lessons of history. When politicians are brought too close to operational policing, there will always be trouble.

The Thames Valley police force is roughly analogous to the diocese of Oxford and to what used to be called the Oxford Regional Health Authority area of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire. The noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, is right: there is no heart; it is a false

18 May 2011 : Column 1427

area; there is nothing really that brings it together. But even in the West Midlands, my own patch now, if you had one person who came from Coventry, what confidence would there be in Wolverhampton? I think that there would be great concern, because you would have lost the balance that you have with our current police authorities. That is why it is so important, if we are to continue with a single commissioner, either elected or appointed, first, to ensure, as my noble friend wishes to do, that there are regular engagements between that individual and the communities; and, secondly, to strengthen the role of the panel. The panel will consist of elected councillors from the different local authorities. They will be able to provide some connect between the work of the police and the local community, but they will be able to do so only if they have sufficient authority and power to exercise proper checks and balances in relation to the police commissioner.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Browning): My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have contributed to the debate. Perhaps I may begin by putting something on the record, because many noble Lords have mentioned the operational independence of the police. In particular, the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, drew attention, I believe, to the case of Madeleine McCann. I can assure your Lordships that there was no question of the Home Secretary directing the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police to carry out this exercise. Due to the international expertise that exists in the Met, there were discussions between the Home Office and the Metropolitan Police. The commissioner took the operational decision to support the investigation on that basis. It was felt appropriate that funding should flow from the Home Office because of the additional costs associated with policing that case. I hope that that reassures people who have been concerned about that aspect of it.

For the benefit of noble Lords who were not here last week when we produced the protocol document, perhaps I should also repeat that the whole area of governance, and the relationship between a police and crime commissioner and the chief constable, is set out in a draft document that is still open to consultation. I hope in due course to have further discussions with Members across the House so that we might see how that document can be improved. Again, the governance and independence of the police are key to that document.

This is an unusual debate by any standards of what has taken place in the House previously, and I shall attempt to address as much of what has been said as I can, given the circumstances. I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, is having difficulties with her voice at the moment, but if she is able formally to move her Amendment 31, which proposes a new model of governance, a police commission, perhaps we might then have a little more clarity in our proceedings, because the amendments in the group which we have been discussing are consequential to that amendment. None the less, I shall try to be as constructive as possible in relation to what has been said today.

I was asked about the role of the PCC in tackling crime; the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, referred to it in her opening remarks. Had the Bill not been amended

18 May 2011 : Column 1428

as it was last Wednesday, the PCC would have been empowered to make grants to community safety partnerships within their force areas. It was envisaged that the PCC would determine local priorities for crime reduction and who was best placed to handle both the symptoms and, crucially, the causes of crime within their force area.

The amendments propose a new model whereby a police and crime commission will be created, consisting of a police and crime panel with the power to elect a police and crime commissioner. If you directly elect an individual, you have to be able to allow that individual to carry out the mandate on which they have been successfully elected. The elected individual needs strong and effective checks and balances-I am in total agreement with that. What is proposed, however, is not an effective check and balance but a slow and bureaucratic decision made by committee.

In the absence of any evidence to the contrary, I assume that the police and crime panel to which the amendments refer is the panel as set out in the Bill. This is fundamentally the same model as we have now with police forces accountable to police authorities-a model which, as was discussed last Wednesday, simply does not provide the public with a mechanism for holding their police service to account. The proposed model would fail to provide the democratic accountability that policing needs and the public demand. If anything, it turns the clock back. The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, mentioned the watch-committee style of policing governance which was abolished in 1964. The model proposed, as I understand it, would place politicians in control, with no direct accountability to the public, which is what the original provision sought to do. The watch-committee style of system, with politicians in control but with no direct accountability to the public, resulted in corruption and politicisation of the police. On the first day in Committee, the noble Baroness, Lady Hilton of Eggardon, and the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, respectively reminded your Lordships of the cases of Chief Constable Athelstan Popkess in Nottingham and of Councillor Bookbinder in Derbyshire. Surely we do not want to return to that.

Amendment 19, to which the noble Lord, Lord Laming, spoke, would add to the list of duties on which the police and crime commissioner should hold the chief constable to account. The noble Lord was concerned that it should mention duties imposed by any enactment, specifically those under the Human Rights Act 1998 and the Children Act 2004. All of us here want our police to comply with all their statutory duties. That is why Clause 1(7) already provides for the PCCs to hold the chief constable to account for the exercise of all their functions, which naturally include those legal obligations with which the chief constable must comply. The Government are happy to take this opportunity to reassure the Committee, because I know that views on this are widely held, that they take very seriously compliance with the Human Rights Act and the Children Act. However, the inclusion of the duties under those Acts, let alone every other enactment, would muddy the list of functions which are particularly important for PCCs. The Government do not consider it necessary to include the provisions of the Human

18 May 2011 : Column 1429

Rights Act or the Children Act in Clause 1(8), much as the provisions of those statutes are of course recognised to be important.

However, given the strength of feeling that has been expressed today, we are willing to revisit this point and to ensure that the correct balance is struck between the general and specific duties of the chief constable. I make the offer of one-to-one discussions as the Bill progresses with noble Lords who have a particular interest in this area to make sure that we get that balance right.

Lord Laming: I thank the Minister most warmly for that. I gladly accept the opportunity to have a discussion.

6.30 pm

Baroness Browning: I will be very pleased and willing to set up such a meeting.

The amendments of the noble Lords, Lord Hunt, Lord Rosser and Lord Stevenson of Balmacara, require the PCC to arrange public forums for a police area. Much has been said today about the need for public forums and interface with the general public. We expect PCCs to engage regularly with the public and with representatives of communities in the police area. However, we also expect PCCs to decide how best to go about that engagement. They would be democratically elected and held accountable to their electorate. We would also expect the police and crime panel to have an overview of how that function is carried out.

PCCs would have been accountable directly to the public. The noble Baroness, Lady Henig, queried this in her opening remarks but there would have been no doubt in the Bill that they would have been directly accountable to the public. That is why the Bill, as introduced, contains provisions in Clause 14 to ensure that the PCC is required to obtain the views of the community. Clause 34 also makes it a statutory requirement for police forces to have regular meetings within their neighbourhoods and to develop other innovative ways of engaging their communities to ensure that they talk to a representative and diverse group. I hope that assures noble Lords who have been concerned that the police would be divorced from the public by the proposed changes in the original drafting of the Bill; that is neither the intention nor the outcome of the original drafting. We believe that this is sufficient assurance to ensure that PCCs' policing arrangements reflect the priorities of the community, which is most important.

Noble Lords have already made their intentions clear in respect of Amendment 31, which I shall refer to as "the new model". We shall not object to that amendment if it is moved later in our proceedings. However, it is not necessary to make these changes as well and I ask the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment and for noble Lords not to move theirs.

Lord Harris of Haringey: The Committee will be grateful to the Minister for the way in which she has addressed the issues raised in the debate and for the extent to which she is clearly prepared to engage with the House on them. However, I would be grateful for an indication of the Government's intentions on this matter. Clearly it will go back to the House of Commons.

18 May 2011 : Column 1430

At the moment we have the amendments approved by the House last week, and when in due course we get to Amendment 31 that will no doubt be approved by the House without further discussion. However, assuming that it does not magically become the desire of the Government to achieve what is contained in the amendments, no doubt they will come back with something not very dissimilar from what we started with.

I take from her tone that the Minister wants to engage with Members of this House in making the detail work. Presumably, therefore, she would wish to see amendments passed to the rest of the fabric of the Bill-the consequential matters contained in my noble friend's amendments-so as to provide hooks on which she on behalf of the Government can respond to the concerns of Members of the House. Clearly if my noble friend withdraws the amendment today and we carry on not making further changes to the Bill, all that will go back to the House of Commons will be those five amendments the noble Baroness, Lady Harris of Richmond, spoke to last week. That will not provide enough space for the Government to respond constructively in the way in which I am sure the Minister would wish.

Baroness Browning: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his remarks because we are in rather uncharted and new territory-not least myself. My approach to this is that before the Bill returns to another place-between now and then-I am willing to engage with noble Lords across the House in areas where we might seek negotiation and concession. In that way, when the Bill is presented before another place, it will reflect the views of noble Lords, even though because of the technical constraints now before us we may not have had the fullest debate that we might have had, had the amendment not been carried last Wednesday. I am genuinely keen to be constructive, as I pointed out last week in the discussion about the protocol. It is a draft document which contains some important points about the relationship between the police and crime commissioner and the chief constable, and the whole question of the governance and independence of the police. It has been consulted on very widely with the relevant authorities but there is still room for Members of the House to have an input into it.

On specific issues-for example, on police and crime panels-I am happy to sit down with noble Lords. I can make no promises off the top of my head about what changes might be made, but I am willing to explore where they may be made. If we can come to agreement, even if it is outside the Chamber, I hope that will be reflected when the Bill comes before another place.

However, I must be quite honest with the House: it has been already stated by the Home Secretary publicly that, following on from our debate last week and the result of the vote, it would be the Government's intention -I am sure this comes as no surprise-to seek in another place to reinstate directly elected police and crime commissioners. However, outwith that, further discussions can take place to take account of genuinely held concerns in areas where many in the House have a great deal of expertise and experience and feel keenly about matters.



18 May 2011 : Column 1431

Lord Harris of Haringey: I am grateful to the noble Baroness-I am sorry to prolong this-for that extremely helpful statement. However, I am slightly confused procedurally. I do not suggest that the noble Baroness will be able to answer this tonight but I hope that within the course of the next few Committee days she will be able to give a definitive view. Presumably, at some stage before the Bill leaves this House, if it is possible to reach agreement on issues outwith the prime question on which I understand the Home Secretary has clearly expressed her views, that will mean amendments being brought forward, either on Report or Third Reading, which will put into place those areas where agreement has been reached.

Baroness Browning: I admit openly that I am probably just as confused as the noble Lord is about the procedural matters that will follow. I have to take advice on an almost hourly basis. A great deal will depend on how Part 1 of the Bill progresses. I will have to take legal advice on into which context we put amendments that have been debated or voted on. At the end of the day, noble Lords may well have to take my word that concessions that we have agreed to will appear not in subsequent stages in this House but in another place. It will depend on the technicalities, which are for those with more expertise than me-on whom I rely-to know. I am genuine in my desire to make progress and to be as constructive as possible, but we are constrained in what we can and cannot do now because of where we are.

Lord Harris of Haringey: I am grateful. I understand we are constrained; I am worried that we should not be even further constrained by the fact that when the Bill emerges from here at Third Reading, in whatever form it is, it is then not possible for the other place to look at those issues about which the Minister has given reassurances simply because there are no extant amendments to those clauses where a concession might be appropriate. I am not suggesting that the Minister should try to address that matter today-I realise that a lot of work will have to be done on it-but it is an important point.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: It would probably be useful if there were further discussions in the usual channels about this. My experience is that, when there is a desire through the ping-pong process to achieve an agreed change, then the ways of this place and the other place seem to find a way to do it.

Baroness Hamwee: I want briefly to add a word. We all seem to be of a mind to find a way to make the procedures work for us and not to be overburdened by them. I hope that, in whatever order we do things, there will be a proper opportunity, whether through a fairly prolonged ping-pong or not, to contribute the experience and expertise all round the House, as the noble Baroness said. Nobody has a monopoly of wisdom on this. We need to collaborate.

Baroness Henig: I thank noble Lords who have participated in a most interesting debate. I particularly thank the Minister for her response. I also apologise-I must have been too close to the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, because my voice is beginning to go. First, in speaking to these amendments I was trying to be

18 May 2011 : Column 1432

constructive and attempting to build on existing good practice-that is very important. I said at Second Reading that I thought good governance was absolutely essential in the policing world. I am trying to ensure here that good governance is an essential element in any new structures that the Government introduce. That is one of my fundamental concerns.

I shall address one or two points raised by the Minister. There was an issue about the public holding directly elected people to account. I was a local councillor on a police authority and can assure the Minister that I was held to account by the electorate, as were fellow members of the police authority throughout Lancashire. There is a debate to be had on representative democracy as against direct democracy. If the Minister would like to have that debate, I am willing to join her. The fact is that in this country we have a system of representative democracy. We elect members of Parliament and they are then appointed to government jobs. We elect local councillors and they are then appointed to bodies. That is, as I understand it, representative democracy. If the coalition Government now suggest that we should have a system of direct elections, I hope that they are not just suggesting that for local government. If you want direct elections, that goes right across the board. We are then dealing with a very different system of government. As far as I am concerned, we have always had representative government in this country. That is why I feel so strongly when people say that local members of police authorities have not been held to account. That is not true.

The second point that I take exception to is that we keep hearing references to Derbyshire and what happened there in the 1980s. Here I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Howard. The fact is that the reforms of the early 1990s created police authorities that were very different from those that existed in the 1980s. Indeed, one of the issues facing police authorities currently is that because they work across party lines, work co-operatively and have a very corporate style, they have not attracted the headlines but have worked much more effectively. I can assure noble Lords that no police authority that I can think of in this country has operated in any sense like that of Derbyshire in the 1980s: that needs to be acknowledged. There was a sea change in the way that police authorities operated. I almost feel I am carrying the flag for the reforms of the noble Lord, Lord Howard. While he has changed his mind and is adopting the Labour policy of the 1980s, I am now advocating the changes that he effectively brought into being.

Lord Howard of Lympne: I seek to relieve the noble Baroness of her burden. Is not the point that the reforms put in place in the 1990s-she has been kind about them and their consequences-were a response to the problems of the 1980s? Some 20 years later, it is time to look at things again and see if we can improve the arrangements that have been in place for 20 years and institute a more effective way of dealing with the difficulties which have arisen.

6.45 pm

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: I am sure that the noble Lord would agree that a lesson from history is not to walk blindly backwards into a situation. I do

18 May 2011 : Column 1433

not think I have discussed Derbyshire so often since I ceased to be a member of the Association of County Councils. As leader of the Labour group on the Association of County Councils, it is my personal experience that at that time in that place, not only would it have been the leader of Derbyshire County Council-supported by other Derbyshire county councillors-who was on the police authority and causing some problems, but also, had it gone to the population of Derbyshire, then that would have been a direct election, unfettered even by other members of the local authority. I am worried about the noble Lord, for whom I have enormous respect. I hope that he will not take us back into the dark ages.

Baroness Henig: I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Howard, on one thing. He said we should evolve and I absolutely agree that we should build on and continue to try to improve the structures that we have. On that, there is no debate. However, I argued last week that change should be incremental. Introducing directly elected individuals is not incremental but highly radical change. That is one reason why many of us feel it is several steps to take in one go. We would like something more evolutionary. That is one of the differences between us.

In drawing to a close, I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. Many of us in this Chamber have extensive experience of the lay governance of policing. Policing is a fundamental but complex service. Different views from around the House on what would work would be quite useful in moving this debate forward. I took exception when the Leader of the House suggested that discussion of Part 1 would be completely pointless in view of what happened last week. I do not share that view and hope that the constructive debate that we have had shows that there are many significant issues that we need to discuss.

One of them, raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, was to do with reducing crime. I did not suggest that the new individuals should be called police and crime commissioners. However, if they are going to be called that, then they have to be seen to engage in the reduction of crime. However you measure crime, the reduction of crime is an important part of their brief. That is why I sought ways in which that could be reflected in the drafting of the Bill.

I do not propose to push this amendment to a Division at this point. The amendments were probing. They have shown the sorts of concern that noble Lords rightly have about aspects of the Bill. I will, by leave, withdraw the amendment but hope that many of us will be able to engage constructively with the Minister in the way that she suggested. That would be extremely helpful. I reserve the right to perhaps return to these amendments at a later stage if I feel that we are not making as much progress as I would like.

Amendment 15A withdrawn.

Amendment 16

Moved by Lord Shipley

16: Clause 1, page 2, line 5, at end insert ", in conjunction with the chief constable"



18 May 2011 : Column 1434

Lord Shipley: I shall also speak to Amendment 52. Amendment 16 is very short. It has only six words and I hope I will be brief in moving it. In our view, it is, despite its brevity, very important as a principle. It lies right at the very start and at the heart of the Bill.

The amendment says that the police and crime commissioner for a police area must,

secure the maintenance of the police force of that area and ensure that the police force is efficient and effective. It makes clear that the principle of the central involvement of the chief constable in securing the maintenance of the police force and ensuring it is efficient and effective is seen as a matter of co-operation and partnership as opposed to being simply the responsibility of the police and crime commissioner. The words "in conjunction with" are important because they are stronger than simply saying that the commissioner must consult or the commissioner must co-operate with the chief constable; "in conjunction" means it has to be much more of an equal partnership between the two. It is as simple as that. It may seem a very small amendment but in principle it is extremely important because it clearly defines the responsibility of the commissioner to work in conjunction with the chief constable. I beg to move.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: We have effectively moved back to the first group of amendments as Amendment 15 was not moved and we moved onto the second group. I have rather a lot of amendments in this group-Amendments 20, 21, 29, 36B, 37ZA, 37ZB, 40A, 55A, 64D and 249. This is a very important group of amendments. They are as relevant to the Government's original proposals as they are to Amendment 31, the consequential amendment proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Harris.

The House will know that there is concern about the relationship between the police commissioner and the chief constable and the possibility that the commissioner will seek, one way or another, to intervene in operational issues which will be the responsibility of the chief constable. Indeed, the noble Baroness rather anticipated some of our discussion in a very helpful response to the previous group of amendments. This is a very genuine and realistic concern. It is held by many responsible organisations and people who have experience, expertise and judgment in areas of police, crime and justice.

Let us think briefly about the role of the commissioners. They will be full time, rather well paid, working entirely on their own with no other responsibilities. What are they going to do? The Home Secretary said yesterday, in her speech to the Police Federation, that the result of introducing police commissioners would be to reduce bureaucracy. I wonder. I suspect that chief constables are going to have PCCs crawling all over them. After all, they are going to have a manifesto if they are elected and even if they are appointed by the panel, as the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, suggests, they are going to be appointed, I should have thought, on the basis of some kind of statement about what they would do.

Commissioners will set their own targets. They will call for all manner of reports and reviews. Indeed, in our previous debate, when we discussed public

18 May 2011 : Column 1435

engagement, it was clear that any commissioner worth their salt is going to have lots of public meetings. When you have public meetings you write notes and you go back and you talk to the chief constable. There is going to be an enormous amount of traffic between the commissioner, who has nothing else to do except be the commissioner, and the chief constable. The commissioner is full time and will spend countless hours worrying about this and talking to the chief constable. The chief constable is going to have a hell of task in trying to run a service and deal with this commissioner.

This is what is so worrying to us about how this is going to operate. I think about my experience as an NHS non-executive chair. I must again declare my interest in that and as a consultant in the health service and as a trainer. One of the reasons I do not try to run the trust is because it is a part-time role. There is a clearly accepted corporate governance understanding of what non-executives do. In essence, we are appointing an executive commissioner on some kind of programme or manifesto and they are bound to want to influence, in a very strong way, what the police will do. I am sure the noble Baroness will respond by saying that that is fine because they are there to set the strategic direction. That is a very good answer but I believe that inevitably commissioners will be drawn into operational matters.

One of the great problems here is that whether elected or appointed they will have political labels. Under the noble Baroness's amendment they will be members of the police and crime panel so they will be local councillors under the current construct of the Bill. Regarding elected commissioners, I am still hopeful that the Government might listen to your Lordships' House-my goodness me they will have to listen if it is elected under PR. Just on the current basis, surely it is going to be very difficult to constrain those commissioners as they will have political banners. I am afraid forces will be known as Labour forces, Conservative forces and Lib Dem forces-they are bound to be. This is our real concern about the proposals. It is not about the Government's efforts to enhance accountability. Indeed, if they had come forward with proposals around police authorities, which could have done many of the things they are seeking to do, that would have been a much more satisfactory debate. These are real concerns about day-to-day politics intervening in the affairs of the police force.

I want at this point to refer to the draft protocol. I acknowledge that this is a draft. I am grateful to the noble Baroness for ensuring that we received it before the first day of Committee. She will know that there have been comments which seem to suggest that it does not ensure operational independence. I have also received comments that the commissioner's control over the budget may be used unduly to influence operational matters. I think of our good friends in the Treasury and their control over departments. Maybe life has changed but I rather doubt it. I found that the Treasury took an unhealthy interest in the affairs of the departments I had a responsibility for. It was able to do so because it had the dosh. Again, there is a concern here that budgetary control, in the end, will ensure that the chief constable has to take account of

18 May 2011 : Column 1436

what the commissioner says and that in turn could lead into areas of operational business. I think, for example, of where the chief constable is well aware of the national priorities in relation to policing but the commissioner really wants to spend more money in another area. Again, one could see a case where the chief constable felt that he was being unduly pressurised.

My amendments do three things. First, they make the protocol into a statutory form in one way or another. Secondly, they reinforce the benefit of the police form of declaration. I do not want to read out the form of declaration, although it is a very impressive declaration indeed. It says that the police officer,

and so on. I understand, of course, that nothing in this Bill would affect that oath, but my amendment just seeks to reinforce its importance. Thirdly, they set out a set of principles to which I think it desirable for the Home Secretary, commissioners and chief constables to have regard. These are probing amendments that seek a response from the Minister about this issue of the line between commissioners and the chief constables. I am very glad to have taken part in this debate.

7 pm

Viscount Eccles: Where does the Bill say that the commissioner has to be full time? I could not find it.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, the Minister may help me on the salary intended to be paid to the commissioner, but my understanding is that we are talking about a six-figure salary.

Baroness Browning: It is a matter that we believe the Senior Salaries Review Board should determine.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: I cannot anticipate what the board will decide, but I would have thought it inconceivable that anyone would be elected who said that they would treat this post as a part-time post. I think we have all been working on the assumption that this will be a full-time responsibility. I would much prefer it to be a non-executive appointment around a strong corporate governance structure. That would be most satisfactory. In the construct that the Government had in the original Bill, before noble Lords sought to improve it last week, it would inevitably have been a full-time job. My great fear is that to justify re-election, if the commissioner is to be elected, or reappointment, if the commissioner is to be appointed, the commissioner will spend day after day interfering in the work of the chief constable.

Viscount Eccles: The noble Lord may be right-I do not know-but I suggest, certainly in the light of how this Bill has gone so far, that we do not jump to too many conclusions. After all, I know that my noble friend on the Front Bench has said that she was willing to discuss anything and everything. We seem to be getting to the end altogether too quickly.



18 May 2011 : Column 1437

Lord Dear: I wonder whether I might help the House with a personal set of experiences gathered over five years as chief constable in the West Midlands. The noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, has said that the new PCC will be all over the chief constable like a rash-and I think he would be. During my experience in the West Midlands in the 1980s, it is true that the police authority was rather different. Nevertheless, the individual as the elected chairman would broadly in this context replicate the PCC. It was in the era of extreme political interest in police forces. Noble Lords will remember how the press hung avidly around the doors of Greater Manchester and Merseyside police at that time, and the quite difficult relationships that those two forces had with their chairman or chairwoman. I found broadly the same thing in place when I took over the West Midlands in 1985. I found that I spent quite a lot of time talking to, being with, or walking around with, the chairman, but I did not find that it was a problem. I made it clear to him that the operational responsibility was mine and reminded him-not that he needed reminding-that all the buildings, the pay and rations, the precept and budget and so on, were his. He had a role to play. My experience of that situation, which required political acumen both sides, from him and from me, was that if we were successful on some operation or other, as we frequently were, he would want to be in the limelight as well. That was perfectly understandable. If things went wrong, as they frequently did, he was nowhere to be seen, and I carried the can, because it was an operational decision.

The only point that I make from that experience-and I do not want to try to prove the general from the particular, because that is always wrong-is that however we manage this in future there will always be the PCC that wants to swarm all over the chief constable. It is how those two individuals relate that is important, and there will be some bad cases when they do not get it right. However, it is quite likely that most of those sets of individuals will get it right and will hammer out a relationship with each other. One has to wait and see.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: As this is Committee and we are allowed to bounce up and down, can I respond to the noble Lord? He was, of course, an outstanding chief constable of the West Midlands and is long remembered for the work he did there. Of course, he is right that there is a normal relationship between the chairman and the chief executive, if I can put it like that, and I recognise that some chairmen like to take the credit but put the blame on their chief operating officer, although not all. The essential difference here is that the election under a manifesto and the appointment under a programme would change the relationship. That is what I am trying to focus attention on.

Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, by giving us the benefit of his experience, the noble Lord, Lord Dear, has highlighted what I think will be the crux of some of the discussions that we have to have on this Bill and highlights why this is the most difficult area of some of the issues that we have to look at. Perhaps I can add my experience as chair of a police authority for four years and then, since 2004, as a member of a police authority. I hope that is helpful.



18 May 2011 : Column 1438

The noble Lord, Lord Dear, made a very interesting point when he talked about the relationship that he had with his chairman of the police authority. He talked about reminding him of his responsibilities in pay and rations, buildings and setting the overall strategic direction. One bit of this Bill that we have to address-and there are amendments on this matter that we might reach today or tomorrow-is where it takes away the responsibility from the commission, the commissioner or the authority for pay and rations and for buildings. We might as a result create a situation in which the commissioner, whom the White Paper certainly envisaged would be full time in his role, would have nothing else to do but intervene in matters that we would otherwise regard as being the responsibility of the chief constable. The balance of responsibility between the commissioner or the commission, or whatever we want to call it-whatever we end up with-and the chief officer of police will be exceptionally important.

I believe that police accountability is important and I take the view that whoever discharges that responsibility, whether it is an individual commissioner or a commission, there must be some levers that can be applied. That is why I think we will want to return to the question of exactly what is transferred to the chief officer of police. My experience says that it is not always terribly helpful to define what is or is not operational, because it will depend on the personal chemistry between the chief officer of police and the person who fulfils this role-the commissioner or the commission.

There was a transition period before the new Metropolitan Police Authority came into being in 2000; it was not quite as long as the one that the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, suggested last week, but it was certainly a matter of months. A few weeks after that came the Notting Hill carnival, which is the largest street festival in Europe, involves policing costs of £3 million to £5 million, and is a major issue for relations between the police and the community. At that stage, the police authority, of which I was the new chair, had an interim secretariat that, despite the fact that many of them had been seconded from the Home Office, was less experienced in these matters, and which advised me that as the chair it was completely improper for me to say anything about the policing of the carnival.

My first response was to say, "Well, it's interesting that you say that, but I've already done three radio interviews this morning on precisely that topic". However, I took the view that because of, first, the sum of money involved and, secondly, the pivotal issues about relations between the police and the community, there were of course matters which the police authority chair-or, in future, the commission or the commissioner -would expect to comment on and have some say over. That is right and proper. It should not be the responsibility of the commissioner, the commission or a police authority chair to say, "At this stage, you should put your NATO helmets on", or, "At this stage, you should block this street rather than that street", because that would be intervening in the operational responsibility of the police. However, to take no role at any stage on one of the biggest policing operations would be wrong.



18 May 2011 : Column 1439

Looking at what has happened more recently in London, where I sit as a member of the police authority, I have watched the new administration since the election of the mayor who came in. A number of things happened for which that new administration could properly claim credit. For example, a much more rigorous, aggressive anti-knife policy, Operation Blunt 2, was introduced after the elected politicians who came in after an election said, "We believe that knife crime is a matter of such public concern in London that you, as the police service, should be ratcheting up what you do". Again, that seems to me to be a legitimate concern and not intervening in operational matters.

More recently there has been the attack dogs issue and whether the police service in London should take it much more seriously. Again, that is sometimes presented as a personal preoccupation of the current police authority chair, Kit Malthouse, when it has actually concerned the police authority for some time. When I walk through the park near where I live, early in the morning, and see young lads hanging their dogs off trees by the jaws to strengthen their jaws and make them more effective as attack dogs, I think it is of concern to Londoners. In both instances-knives and attack dogs-the Metropolitan Police probably recognised what should have a higher priority, but elected politicians came in and said, "Actually, this is what concerns us". The danger in trying to avoid inappropriate intervention in operational matters-such as saying, "Investigate this case rather than that case", "Arrest this person rather than that person", or, "Close that street rather than this street"-is in undermining the principle of accountability that the Government want to achieve.

The protocol has turned out to be a slightly better document than many might have expected, but it was extremely difficult to write. I pay enormous tribute to those who spent many happy hours trying to get that document right, but there is a real danger with it. The more a chief constable or we in this House or the other place say, "We've got to protect against this", and write it into that document, the more enforceable we make it and the more difficult we will make the sensible arrangements of accountability that we are trying to put in place.

The Minister raised the intervention last week on the Madeleine McCann case and properly explained the process that was being engaged in, which was not an instruction. Despite some of the press briefing that might have gone on beforehand, there was simply a conversation. As I understand it, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police simply said, "Yes, of course, that is something that we should and could do". I will not get into any questions of whether that is the right or wrong thing to do.

7.15 pm

I do not know whether any of your Lordships remember Flanders and Swann. One thing that they did-it might have been Michael Flanders on his own-was to talk about the origin of the song "Greensleeves". Michael Flanders describes how they were trying to find the first-act closer of some mid-16th century revel. A tune arrived and Flanders, or whoever it was, says aloud: "Who on earth has written this

18 May 2011 : Column 1440

stuff?". A voice from the back of the auditorium says, "We did". He asks, "I can't see who that is-who are you?", then hears, "We are Henry the Eighth, we are". At which point, says Michael Flanders, they realised that it was precisely the song that they had wanted. I wonder whether the discussions last week-it may have been as much the Prime Minister as the Home Secretary taking this view-were very much, "We are Henry the Eighth, we are, and of course this is exactly what we wanted to do in the first place".

We have to preserve the iterative process by which elected politicians, who should be in touch with their local communities, say to the police, "These are the priorities of the community". We have to make sure that it exists in whatever arrangements we have, whether it is a directly elected commissioner, a commission or anything else. I am worried that if we define this too precisely, we will end up in worse trouble. I have heard chief constables say, "Of course, this will end up in the courts. We'll have this protocol and as soon as our commissioner steps over the line we'll be in court and sort the thing out. The courts will always favour the police so we'll be all right". I have heard that line expressed. However, if in the private dialogues between the commissioner or the commission and the chief police officer the protocol is mentioned more than twice, it will have demonstrated that the relationship between that chief police officer and that commissioner or commission has broken down irredeemably. Have it there as an expression of fine words but do not try and define it precisely, because that will only lead to trouble.

Lord Dear: The noble Lord's last remarks were a bit like the instructions that go with a piece of information technology; when all else fails, turn to the instruction book. I agree entirely with what he said. Any chief officer who tries to push back on politicians who are giving good advice is a fool. The wise chief officer will say at every stage, as in the example of the Notting Hill carnival, "Come and have a look at it and tell us what you think. In the end I, the chief officer, will make an operational decision, but I value your contribution". I would have thought that the majority of chief officers would do that. I have not heard of those who want to test it in the courts. I hope that they are very few in number and I do not wish them well.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: My Lords, I apologise for taking us back by two or three speeches, but the Committee really should be grateful to my noble friend Lord Eccles for making his observation about the assumption that the Official Opposition's spokesman was making, when there is in fact nothing in the Bill to confirm it one way or the other. I am extremely grateful myself for his doing that. Earlier this afternoon the noble Lord, Lord Harris, said that the arguments in our debate at the end of the evening last week were metaphysical, but the speeches which my noble friend Lord Eccles picked up on were being hypothetical in that there was no definitive reference to this in the Bill.

I go back to my own experience on the Greater London Authority Bill, a not dissimilar Bill to the one that we are discussing, when the Minister in charge of that Bill kept saying again and again that it was a

18 May 2011 : Column 1441

breakthrough in local government legislation because, for the first time, the Mayor of London would have advice from advisers that would remain totally confidential and would not be available to anyone else in the authority. It was a novel development in local government affairs, but again and again I asked the Minister-no names, no pack drill-"Where is your legislative cover in the Bill for what you are continuously reiterating to the Committee?". Eventually, he broke down and said, "The right honourable gentleman is quite right. We haven't yet put the amendments down".

Given the particular circumstances in which we are debating this Bill, with which one is familiar because of the action of the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, last week, we will inevitably find ourselves debating a number of hypotheses throughout. It is extremely difficult for some of us to follow exactly what is happening, not least that we are now going backwards in the Bill in an Alice in Wonderland way to a group of amendments that were put down earlier. All I seek to plead is that if people are going to be hypothetical, they should say that they are being hypothetical so that the rest of us know where we are.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: I do not quite know what the noble Lord means about going back. Amendment 15 was not moved. We therefore moved on to the group starting with Amendment 15A. We are now debating the group starting with Amendment 16.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: I totally understand what we are doing, but the fact remains that it can be difficult to follow. There are a lot of people taking part in these debates-that is a tribute to the Bill-and the easier that those taking a lead on it can make this for the rest of us to understand, the more progress we should make.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I am aware that the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, would have difficulty in intervening, but it is a little unfair-although in this case we are discussing how a personalised system would work-to personalise the decision as being "the action of the noble Baroness, Lady Harris". It was the action of your Lordships' House, including support, or lack of it, from some of the noble Lord's noble friends.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: Since the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington, has taken this up with me, she and I know each other very well-we have worked together on matters relating to local government for the best part of 30 years-and I do not in the least mind being rebuked by her. However, I am trying to make the Bill work better by all of us attending to what might otherwise mislead.

Baroness Browning: My Lords, when the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, mentioned Flanders and Swann and a song, I thought that he was going to quote "The Bindweed and the Honeysuckle" because they both strove and ended up in the same place by climbing around each other and working together. I thought that perhaps he was going to draw the example

18 May 2011 : Column 1442

of how closely the chief constable and the police and crime commissioner would work-in other words, there would be contact between them and a strong working relationship.

Before I respond specifically to the amendments, I would like to say that I stood for elected office at general elections on five occasions. Many in this House-most, in fact-will know what it is like to be part of a political party, to campaign and so on. It is all great fun and all very serious stuff, but for most people who aspire to and achieve elected office, once they are elected, the fact that they wear a party badge does not necessarily mean that that influences everything that they do in their working life, representing people who have not necessarily voted for them. So I have a much more open view when noble Lords describe elected police and crime commissioners being badged as Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat or whatever. I think that most people who are serious about elected office-of course many of them will come via a party route, but not all-try, having achieved that office, to do the job to the best of their ability for the good of the community that they serve, regardless of party politics. That has been my experience, having served in another place. I hope that noble Lords will take some encouragement from that; I do not share their concerns that police and crime commissioners will be seen as simply representing any one political party if they have stood on a party ticket or been known to be associated with a party.

My noble friends Lady Hamwee and Lord Shipley's Amendments 16 and 52, allowing for the police and crime commissioner to act in conjunction with the chief constable when carrying out the PCC office core functions, appear to me to be a step too far in seeking to ensure that the PCC is legally bound to act in all respects in partnership with the chief constable. The duty that has been conferred on the police and crime commissioner by Clause 1(6), to which the amendment refers, simply lifts the current legal duty placed on each police authority today and places it firmly on the police and crime commissioner. It would be difficult for the police and crime commissioner of a force area to deliver the duty of the current police authority to maintain an efficient and effective force if they were bound to abide by that duty with the same chief constable that they are required to hold to account. This is not the case now, nor should it be in future.

Further amendments that were laid by the noble Lords, Lord Hunt, Lord Rosser and Lord Stevenson, seek to protect the operational independence of chief police officers-something to which the House returns with these amendments-while at the same time placing a specific prohibition against the police and crime commissioner doing anything that would lead to the chief constable breaching his or her oath of office as a constable. The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, raised that. Nothing in the Bill makes any changes to the office of constable or to those provisions in the Police Act 1996 that already establish the oath in law.

I draw your Lordships' attention again to the draft protocol that has been submitted, which has been mentioned. There are areas about the protocol that we need to discuss collectively in this House. The Government

18 May 2011 : Column 1443

have not yet determined whether the document should be placed on a statutory footing. That is an important aspect of the protocol, on which I would be interested to hear colleagues' views from across the House.

The draft protocol goes beyond the proposed amendments that we are discussing to provide a suitable safeguard on matters related to command and control, and seeks to address the entire relationship between the PCC and the chief constable. I remind the House that, in drafting the protocol, the Government have taken great care to consult ACPO, the APA and the Association of Police Authority Chief Executives. We have committed to working with partners and with Members of this House to develop the draft into an effective tool that will set out the principles and the relationship and interaction between the parties that should follow.

I turn to Amendment 40A. The noble Lords' drafting of the new clause is laudable. I do not believe that anyone in this House would disagree with the fundamental principles that are set out. However, I suggest that it is not necessary or desirable to set out these principles in the Bill. As I said, the Government have been working hard in partnership with others to produce the draft protocol, and within the protocol are enshrined the same principles as are outlined here. I am not going to go through each of them at the moment, because I am aware that we have spent quite lot of time on this amendment. However, they are important principles; all of them have merit in their own right and this is something that we need to come back to in the context of the protocol.

The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, said that he would not read out the oath, but it is worth remembering the attestation at this stage because it is important. A police constable swears:

"I ... do solemnly and sincerely declare and affirm that I will well and truly serve the Queen in the office of constable, with fairness, integrity, diligence and impartiality, upholding fundamental human rights and according equal respect to all people; and that I will, to the best of my power, cause the peace to be kept and preserved and prevent all offences against people and property; and that while I continue to hold the said office I will to the best of my skill and knowledge discharge all the duties thereof faithfully according to law".

When a police constable swears that oath-it applies to all constables, however high up the career ladder they go-we as politicians should respect it in the context in which it will be kept. I am sure that we can trust chief constables particularly to keep that oath, knowing that they have made it and therefore are bound by it, and will not be forced to show partiality or depart from that oath on the basis that they might be leant on by anyone.

7.30 pm

I will not be seduced by the noble Lord to go down the road tonight of the case of Madeleine McCann and the Statement I made to the House. I will just say to him that such conversations take place every day of the week in all police forces. I am sure he knows that. As a Member of Parliament, I frequently had to sit in a chief constable's office-and those of other police officers-to say, "There is a problem. What are you

18 May 2011 : Column 1444

going to do about it?". That is not unreasonable and it is not political pressure. It is how we work within the environment of policing by consent. The noble Lord was being just a tad mischievous with me there. I suggest that the impartial delivery of policing is enshrined in the wording of the police oath, which effectively sets out those duties. I therefore hope that the noble Lords who have tabled these amendments will engage actively with me on the protocol, which is a way forward in addressing the principles that they have raised tonight. I hope they will not feel that they need to press these amendments to a vote.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, before the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, responds to this important debate, I shall make just two comments. First, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for her comments about discussions over whether the draft protocol could become statutory in due course. I also say to my noble friend Lord Harris that I understand the point that he has raised. There is always a dilemma over the wish of Parliament usually to dot the "i"s and cross the "t"s to safeguard a position-in this case the operational independence of the chief constable-without creating such a list of items that it inhibits a good relationship. I am very mindful of the balance to be drawn here. A discussion between noble Lords and others who are interested would be very welcome.

Secondly, there is a difference between making representation to a chief constable as a Member of Parliament and doing so as a police commissioner who is appointed or elected on a programme. That changes the relationship considerably. I say to the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, that it is quite fair to take the Bill and speculate about how it might work in practice. That is why I am pretty confident in saying that a police commissioner will be working full-time and will be on the back of the chief constable.

Lord Shipley: I thank the Minister for her comments. I still have some residual concerns about the nature of the relationship and partnership between the commissioner and the chief constable. However, there is now to be, I hope, a substantial discussion about how the protocol will work. Given this proviso, and the fact that the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, raise some very important issues-which I hope we can develop, maybe to improve the Bill as a whole-I beg leave to withdraw the amendment in my name.

Amendment 16 withdrawn.

Amendment 17 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.

Amendments 18 to 21 not moved.

Amendment 22 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.

Amendment 23 not moved.

House resumed. Committee to begin again not before 8.34 pm.



18 May 2011 : Column 1445

Air Passenger Duty and Developing Economies

Question for Short Debate

7.34 pm

Asked By Baroness Benjamin

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: My Lords, it may be for the convenience of the House if I remind noble Lords that, for the dinner-hour debate, speeches are limited to four minutes. It is a time-limited debate and I hope noble Lords will respect that so that everybody can have a say. When the Clock says that four minutes are up, you are into the fifth minute.

7.34 pm

Baroness Benjamin: My Lords, since I requested this debate some six months ago the Government have announced a consultation on air passenger duty, which is most welcome. I will address some of the key points of the consultation in my speech. I am aware that the question of APD and its impact on the Caribbean has been raised in this House in the past by the noble Baroness, Lady Howells, and the noble Lord, Lord Palmer. Nevertheless, I want to put this debate in context by talking about the present impact of APD on the Caribbean and its community here in the UK, the economic importance of tourism to that region and the environmental concerns of the region.

In 2010, following meetings with the Treasury and other Ministers, the Caribbean Tourism Organisation produced a concise review of the relationship between aviation taxation and the arrival of Caribbean visitors, with a specific focus on the value of tourism to the Caribbean; the projected impact of increases in the cost of flights as a result of taxation; and evidence about the impact of APD on the Caribbean community in the UK. The CTO report showed that Caribbean Governments recognise that it is not easy to separate out figures for declining tourism arrivals in relation to APD, given the global financial climate and other economic factors. However, it is possible to demonstrate in other ways the negative impact that APD is having on the economies of the region.

The report also demonstrated that the UK Treasury had created a banding system that discriminated against the Caribbean and its diaspora here in the UK. It also noted that the APD banding system favoured the USA, a major competitor of the Caribbean, and that it was inconsistent as it divided Russia into two zones but regarded all of the US as one. The banding system also takes no account of the impact that taxes have on Caribbean nations as they change from agriculture to largely tourism-based economies. The report made it clear that the large increases to APD last year would be particularly damaging as hotels and airlines were reaching a point at which they could not continue to absorb the costs through discounting. The result of

18 May 2011 : Column 1446

this would be that, once jobs were lost and hotels closed, it would not be easy to get them back. Tourism is important to the Caribbean. Globally, the tourist industry is the 13th largest. It is the largest in its relative contribution to national economies, and 10th largest in its contribution to long-term national growth. The Caribbean is by far the most tourism-dependent region in the world.

Last year the Prime Minister, David Cameron, confirmed that tourism was the third-largest contributor to the UK's economy and should be integrated into all aspects of government policy. He said that it was fundamental to the rebuilding of Britain's economy, and that it was the best and fastest way to generate jobs. However, ironically, APD is a tax on Caribbean development, as well as on other developing countries around the world, particularly in Africa and the British Overseas Territories.

It is only in recent years that the Caribbean has become so dependent on tourism, as agriculture-in the form of bananas and sugar-previously underwrote many Caribbean economies because of their historical link with the UK and Europe. However, when Europe cut those preferential arrangements the Caribbean turned to tourism to replace lost income, with the encouragement of the UK and Europe. Caribbean Governments now raise income through tourism taxation from hotels, their support services, transport, tourist shops, food suppliers, entertainment and restaurants. It is clear that any negative impact on tourism in the Caribbean will have far-reaching consequences. If jobs are lost and alternative employment is not available, we all know that this will have a cost for Governments in supplying welfare, as well as from the potential increase in crime.

The UK, as a hub, plays a vital role in growing tourism in developing nations. London acts as a transit point for visitors from China, India, central Europe and Russia. Gatwick Airport is the start of the main route to the Caribbean and annually provides 5,600 flights to the region. This supports 23,000 jobs, so APD will have an impact here too. This link is also important to the Caribbean for business and investment because, without sufficient airlift, investors will not put their money into Caribbean projects. Travel agents who specialise in Caribbean travel are reporting a decrease in bookings, and APD has been cited as a reason for this.

The UK is home to around 800,000 members of the Caribbean diaspora, and they view APD with a huge sense of injustice. Many of these citizens were encouraged to come to the UK in the 1950s and 1960s and have spent their lives working in public service. Now in retirement, the money they have saved to pay for visits, often for funerals, weddings or to see sick relatives, suddenly does not go as far, as many of them have been low-income earners. Some are also concerned that their families and friends who work in the tourism industry back home may lose their jobs, and at this time of recession they are less able to send money to help them. It seems that the impact on this section of our society has not been given any consideration. There was no consultation about the introduction of the four-band system, no impact assessment and no

18 May 2011 : Column 1447

sense of partnership. I understand that the Department for Transport has provided the Treasury with its assessment of the impact of APD, so I would be interested to hear from the Minister what its advice is.

It was positive news when the Chancellor announced a consultation on APD in the Budget and proposed two options for reform of it-a two-band and a three-band system. A two-band system was proposed in a report issued last year. The report said that if all short-haul economy flights saw an APD increase of just a few pounds, the rest of the world could be grouped together into what is currently band B, at the current rate of £60 in economy. This would seem a simple solution as it not only addresses the unfairness of the current banding system but, if it allowed APD for long-haul destinations to be fixed at the current band B rate, would address the concerns of developing countries about competition and the damaging impact of the tax, even though the long-haul band would remain high and still have an effect on developing nations' economies. Some feel that the three-band system put forward by the Treasury consultation retains the current distance banding structure and does nothing to address the concerns of the Caribbean about discrimination vis-à-vis the USA-the very issue the Chancellor referred to in his Budget Statement.

I turn to the environmental issues. Some believe that there was an environmental reason behind the introduction of the four-band system. Others believe that it was a means of raising taxes. But surely if we are concerned about the environment, we should consider the fact that 70 per cent of flights from the UK are to short-haul destinations, which, interestingly, are the only flights that can realistically be substituted with other means of transport, unlike those to the Caribbean. From 2012, carbon emissions from aviation will be covered by the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, which is a market-based approach. A recent report produced by Standard & Poor's suggests that passengers could face a rise in fares of up to €40 per ticket once it is introduced. The Government have confirmed that this would be on top of APD, resulting in charges for flights departing from the UK to long-haul destinations exceeding £100, taking into account the current APD rates. That would deliver another blow to the Caribbean tourism industry. Changes in sea levels are of real environmental concern to Caribbean Governments, who have fully supported global climate change initiatives. Yet now they feel that they are likely to have to pay the price for the UK's concern about climate change through an unfair tourism tax.

I shall sum up. Tourism is a highly competitive industry and the consultation, which includes a review of the issue of competition, is welcome. It is hoped that the Treasury will not keep the anti-competitive system in place. If our Government recognise the value of tourism to the UK, surely they should consider the impact of our domestic tax measures on the Caribbean and other developing economies. I believe that APD was not intended to damage Caribbean tourism, but the law of unintended consequences has come into play. We must consider how government policy, and proposed reforms to it, impact on developing countries. It is our duty to do so.



18 May 2011 : Column 1448

7.44 pm

Lord Morris of Handsworth: My Lords, I start by recording my thanks to the noble Baroness for securing this important debate. I too welcome the Chancellor's announcement that the APD will not be increased this year, as was projected. On the face of it, the Chancellor's announcement seems to be good news-no increase must be good news. The APD was introduced as a green tax by the Conservative Government in 1994 but has always had a negative impact on the Caribbean. Here I must declare an interest as a frequent flyer to Jamaica, my country of birth.

While the tax has never been good for those with an interest in the Caribbean, the application of the APD discriminatory banding structure has had an adverse impact on Caribbean countries and their economies, and, as I will show, on British businesses as well. We have heard that the APD banding structure is calculated according to the distance between London and the capital city of the country to which you are flying. Whatever the miles and the destinations involved, the fact of the matter is that the calculation from London to the relevant capital city discriminates significantly against the Caribbean. I give an example. The distance from London to Los Angeles is nearly 2,000 miles more than the distance between London and Washington, so a flight to Los Angeles would be in band B-one of the cheaper bands. At the same time, the flight from London to Kingston, the capital of Jamaica-it is in band C, which is much more expensive-is some 800 miles less than that from London to Los Angeles. Common sense would lead one to assume that the APD will be higher travelling to Los Angeles than to Kingston, Jamaica, but the banding structure determines otherwise.

A week ago, the APD was described on the BBC consumer programme "Watchdog" as "barking mad". The commentator described the policy as something dreamed up during the tea break. As an expert in defending the tea break, I disagree. The way I see it, those responsible for that policy could not run a social event in a brewery. Last September, the Caribbean Tourism Organisation met Ministers and identified some of the negative impacts which the APD has on Caribbean countries and their economies. They pointed out that the Caribbean is more tourism-dependent than any other region of the world. They also said that UK companies in the aviation, tourism and travel industries are being damaged by the APD as bookings to the Caribbean decline. This was confirmed in October last year by Willie Walsh, the then chief executive of BA. He described the duty as having a devastating effect on arrivals to the Caribbean. The chief executive of easyJet informed the "Today" programme this week that 77,000 jobs in the aviation industry are at risk as a result of the APD.

As we consider the impact of the APD on the Caribbean economy, let us not forget the opportunity cost to the UK economy as passengers look for cheaper alternatives. Everyone with an interest must come to the conclusion that the APD is unfair, unclear and economically damaging both to Caribbean economies and to UK interests, and it should go.



18 May 2011 : Column 1449

7.49 pm

Lord Palmer: My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, for securing this slot to air again this grotesquely unfair tax. I must declare an interest as someone who opens their home and gardens to the visiting public and who is dependent on a vibrant incoming tourist industry. I also declare an interest as a residual beneficiary of a landlocked estate on the picturesque island of St Lucia. I care passionately about those who live and work on the estate.

I feel sorry for the noble Lord, Lord De Mauley, who will have to fasten his seatbelt as he endures an hour of strong turbulence. All of us will be singing from the same hymn sheet.

I do not believe in retrospective taxation, but my left-wing tendencies gather momentum every time I learn that private jets are exempt from APD. That is a scandal, and both Administrations should hang their heads in utter shame.

It is a complete myth that this is an environmental tax. Not only are private jets exempt, but so, also, are all cargo shipments. Holland and Belgium, for example, recently had the sense to abandon their equivalent, realising the damage that APD has done to their economies. Meanwhile, in the past six years, APD in this country has risen by a staggering 325 per cent-I repeat, 325 per cent. London is now a far more expensive destination than all our rival European cities, especially for those coming from China, India, Australasia and Russia. Ireland has announced that its levy will be cut from €10 to just €3. When we compare that with the levy of £85 for someone travelling in economy class to Ireland from the United Kingdom, it makes a complete mockery of that tax. Not unnaturally, more and more travellers living in the regions are choosing to fly long-haul via Amsterdam, Paris or Frankfurt rather than Heathrow to avoid that tax.

We all despise taxes in every shape and in every form, but APD is a wholly unfair tax. Her Majesty's Government must take all those points on board and action should be taken as soon as possible, especially before next year's Olympics. We must not forget the horrible effect that this tax has on the Caribbean countries.

7.52 pm

Lord Pendry: My Lords, those taking part in this short debate owe great gratitude to the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, for initiating it. As has already been shown, the air passenger duty is generally accepted within the tourism industry as an unfair tax in its current form. The Caribbean islands certainly have a very good case. I hope that their strong message will be listened to and acted on by the Government. The air passenger duty charge made to the Caribbean is greater than that to the west coast of the USA, but the distance is shorter. I am sure that the Caribbean islands will be making strong representations to the Treasury consultation which closes next month.

If that fact is recognised by the Government, surely the case for Crown dependencies off the coast of Normandy is equally strong. As the House knows, the Crown dependencies have long since pledged their

18 May 2011 : Column 1450

allegiance to the throne and, although they do not form part of the United Kingdom, they are citizens who hold British passports and their laws are dependent on Westminster. Certain dependent territories of EU member states are included in the scope of the lower rate, including the Channel Islands and Gibraltar. However, even at those lower rates, the air passenger duty is not proportionate. For instance, the passenger pays the same tax on a flight from Jersey to Southampton as one who travels from Glasgow to Crete, irrespective of the age of the aircraft or fuel efficiency. Both have a £12 per passenger air passenger duty charge when flying economy class, yet the Crete route is 16 times the length of the Jersey flight. Surely any tax should be based on the emissions of the actual aircraft type, and tax should be banded by distance travelled. The negative economic impact of the air passenger duty has been well documented already in this debate. I just add that, in the case of the Crown dependencies, such as Jersey, the tax does not impact on holidaymakers alone. There is a significant diaspora in the UK who regularly travel to the island and local businesses are dependent on affordable flights to maintain important links with the mainland.

Will the Minister clarify what obstacles there are to making special provision for air passenger duty paid on flights to the Crown dependencies and overseas territories? Are there any constitutional or competition implications for making such special provisions? I look forward to receiving the Minister's response to that point.

7.55 pm

Lord Bradshaw: My Lords, I, too, congratulate my noble friend Lady Benjamin on securing the debate. As something of a newcomer to air passenger duty, it seems to me not only unfair but particularly unfair on the Caribbean. We have seen the industries on which they used to depend-the sugar and bananas, to which my noble friend referred, and other agricultural businesses -undermined by the agreements with the United States and Europe to allow free competition in those markets. Having done that, we have dealt a double blow to them in the form of the air passenger duty.

I say that advisedly, because I believe that we have a particular duty to the people of the Caribbean. I well remember, in the early part of my career, how dependent the public services here-transport and hospitals-were on labour from the Caribbean, the people who came here to work. It is a pretty poor way to pay those people back as they get older to impose this unfair tax on them. When my noble friend Lord De Mauley sums up, he ought to find some way to show some concern for those territories, which have for so long been associated with the British Crown. That is essential.

7.57 pm

Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde: My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, on securing this important debate. It is about the Caribbean that I want to talk this evening, but I must say that sometimes I sit here in astonishment. The air passenger duty was increased as a result of pressure for green taxes from the very party of which the noble

18 May 2011 : Column 1451

Baroness is a member. The Lib Dems, and the green movement in the UK, want to restrict the expansion of aviation. Indeed, they are now joined by the Conservatives, who have placed a ban on any expansion of Heathrow and Gatwick, from which most of the Caribbean flights go. We need to be honest in this debate. Air passenger duty has not arrived from nowhere; it has arisen because the aviation industry has been under a lot of pressure. We have seen this from Questions in this House. There has been an anti-aviation attitude among many Members. Frankly, the aviation industry has not got its act together to put forward a defence of its industry.

The tax on the Caribbean is unfair; there is no doubt about that. It is unfair to say that you can travel to Los Angeles, as I do to visit family, when I see the make-up of the people on the plane-predominantly business travellers; and then go to Barbados, as I do, and see predominantly people who are family members, going on holiday, visiting their family or people who have retired here returning home. For those people to pay more in air passenger duty than those on a flight to LA is crackers. How on earth could the Treasury put in band B travel to the USA at a lower payment than travel to the Caribbean, to which, I suggest, we have a moral responsibility? They are part of our Commonwealth family.

I very much welcome the debate. The closing date for responses to the consultation is 17 June and I hope that the Treasury is inundated with submissions about this dreadful tax. There is no doubt that it does affect tourism. The Caribbean is the biggest tourist snare in the world. It is a place that people visit regularly. It does not have an alternative industry. If it does not have tourism many of the jobs in the Caribbean will go. I hope that the Government will listen to what is said in the debate and put it in the context of the Caribbean. If we are looking at abolishing air passenger duty, I rather fear that what will replace it will perhaps be substantially more damaging to the aviation industry.

There is another factor. We are talking about tourism and traffic to the Caribbean. What about traffic from the Caribbean? We have seen the airports of Paris, Frankfurt and Amsterdam continually take passengers from the UK. That is what people will do. They will fly into those airports, avoid the tax substantially and then come into Britain. That cannot be good for our economy. We are good at aviation in the UK. We are an island and will always need it. We need to consider this important debate introduced by the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin. These wonderful islands are caught up in a tax that frankly is unfair to them. I would suggest that they are also caught up in the bigger machinations in that we have not got our act together properly on aviation in this country. I should declare that I am a member of the NATS board but I see no conflict in taking part in this debate this evening.

8.02 pm

Baroness Howells of St Davids: My Lords, I too am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, for introducing this debate and for giving such a thoughtful and thorough lead into it. The topic has generated much discussion in the British Caribbean community

18 May 2011 : Column 1452

and has led to a certain amount of feeling that it is being put upon. I will try to explain, but before doing so, I draw attention to two Members of this House who have participated in debates on this subject before. First, the noble Lord, Lord Lee of Trafford, drew the then Minister's attention to a report by Deloitte and the tourism industry, which the then Minister confessed to not having seen. Secondly, on 11 January 2011, the noble Lord, Lord Newby, asked:

"Is the Minister aware that the APD is seen as particularly unfair on the Caribbean? Will he ensure that as part of the review which the Government are undertaking, particular attention is given to the ... Caribbean, not just on the tourist industry",

but on the diaspora, which is increasingly important to the economic activity on the Caribbean islands? The Minister replied:

"The Caribbean Tourism Organisation has produced a very helpful report as a contribution to the debate",

on the territories of the Caribbean. He felt that he had sufficient information on the strength of feeling in the Caribbean. He went on to say that,

It is on that objective basis that I would like to address the House by giving a potted history. The people of the Caribbean, despite being the descendants of enslaved Africans, have never faltered in their loyalty to Britain. To date they have never received compensation, but they have given loyal support to Britain in its times of need. I came to the UK in 1951. I realise that some of you were not born then, but you may take my word for it: the country was still reeling from the effects of World War II. Britain had lost the cream of its youth-18 to 35 year-olds had died in the war, in those battles that we sometimes try to forget. The transport system, the catering industry, manufacturing, and the health and social care services were all run by people past retirement age.

The call went out to the Caribbean from Britain, saying, "Support the mother country". I witnessed that pull from the Caribbean. They came willingly and, despite vulgar prejudices, worked hard to keep the machinery of this country going. To placate the populace, the Government changed their language from the mere invitation they had sent, and promised the British that people from the Caribbean would only do the jobs that white people did not want to do. That was not factually correct, but we let it go. There were posters in the Caribbean of Beefeaters standing on the cobble-stones of the Tower of London with the slogan, "The mother country needs you". True, people were glad of regular wages, but their raison d'être was to help Britain.

Today I ask the Minister to give us some hope that the Government will help the people from the Caribbean. Their children and grandchildren, at a time of economic crisis, are being asked to pay an unjust tax to visit relatives in the Caribbean. They mostly go there when there is trouble, such as a hurricane, or when somebody has died. Is it fair and just that we should penalise them? The smallest and poorest islands, where cocoa, sugar and bananas have lost out in the European competitive jungle, are now again being held to ransom. The Caribbean Governments are not refusing to pay

18 May 2011 : Column 1453

the tax; all they insist on is that the Caribbean gets a fair share. We are asking you to use the first port of call in the Caribbean-Bermuda. We will pay the tax for Bermuda but please remember: when you needed us, we were there. We need you now.

8.07 pm

Lord Tomlinson: My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Baroness. She has achieved unanimity from the Liberal Democrat Benches in this House, which I think her party leader must have been hoping for in his more controversial efforts yesterday.

The Caribbean has suffered grievously in recent years, partly because of national disasters that wiped out sugar crops, which had an ongoing effect on the rum industry. Then there was the harsh treatment by the World Trade Organisation in its judgment on Caribbean bananas, which were discriminated against in favour of the Latin American bananas, which had much greater clout with the American Administration. Today, we have the first real glimmer of hope. My experience tells me that Chancellors of the Exchequer do not make the sort of concession that they made in the Budget when, on 23 March, the Chancellor talked about a consultation document and a review of the structures of the existing banding. Certainly, Chancellors of the Exchequer do not normally forgo a tax in a year when they had not given notice of it. Chancellors usually want to take credit several times over, but this came as a surprise to everybody.

With this unanimity we have the circumstance in which there must be a multiplication of the pressure on the Government to deliver on what most people have accepted is three-quarters of the way towards making a promise. That is certainly how I interpret the Chancellor's views. I had the opportunity to speak to Bruce Golding, the Jamaican Prime Minister, about this some time ago, who left me in no doubt of the importance of these decisions, not only to the Jamaican economy but across the Caribbean.

If we look at a couple of the annexes that were provided for us by the Caribbean organisations, we will see the percentage of export revenue raised through tourism. I shall not go through the list but will pick out one or two examples. For Antigua, the figure is 62.7 per cent; for Aruba, 64 per cent; for the Bahamas, 63.4 per cent; and for countries such as Grenada, 66.2 per cent. Every one of them is devastated at the impact of this threat to the major dollar earner in their economies.

There is something almost obscenely counterproductive in this tax. On the one hand, we find various forms of aid to help many of these countries and, on the other hand, we take a decision which appears in domestic terms to be almost insignificant but which has a far more devastating effect on the economies of these countries than can be offset by the aid that they receive.

The statistics have already been cited for Washington, which is 3,667 miles from here. The noble Lord, Lord Morris, cited Kingston in Jamaica, but that is by no means the most badly affected of the Caribbean islands. Antigua, for example, is affected more significantly. Therefore, I am grateful to the noble Baroness. I hope

18 May 2011 : Column 1454

that we commit ourselves to the fact that the fight starts today and recognise that this is not its culmination. She has reinvigorated Parliament to take the fight to the Government.

8.11 pm

Lord Newby: My Lords, I apologise for speaking in the gap. I was incompetent in that I did not get my name on to the speakers list in time.

I am speaking tonight because I used to be an adviser to the Caribbean Banana Exporters Association and I now run an organisation which runs education programmes linked to cricket for eastern Caribbean countries.

Why does what happens in the Caribbean matter so much to us? After all, it comprises extremely small countries, many of them smaller than a London borough. It seems that there are three reasons, which have already been touched on in the debate. The first is the history. In these countries, the institutions, the language, the trade patterns and the law are essentially British. In considerable measure we have made these countries what they are today, and that is why they deserve a larger claim to our interest and concern than many other larger countries with which we have no equivalent links. Secondly, as we heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Howells, and others, the Caribbean diaspora in the UK is directly and adversely affected by the current APD situation. Thirdly, these links have a downside. The collapse of the banana industry has led to greater involvement in the drug trade in some countries in the eastern Caribbean, such as St Lucia and St Vincent, and many of those drugs find their way here.

Just about the only thing that these islands now have from which they can gain an economic advantage is tourism. Therefore, it is in our interests, as well as theirs, that the tourist industry flourishes. In my view, a number of developments are needed if that is to happen. The new international airport in St Vincent is an example, as well as-one hopes-a reliable inter-island airline. However, given the importance of the UK tourist trade to the region, the cost of air travel is clearly a key factor.

In answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Dean, I am a supporter of air passenger duty. It is a highly progressive tax. However, its differential application to the US and the Caribbean is both illogical and damaging. Therefore, rebanding is crucial. The Government's option 1, which would divide the world into short-haul and long-haul regions, is clearly the only one that would deal with this Caribbean problem. It also has the advantage that it would have an equivalent effect in a number of other countries-principally in sub-Saharan Africa, with which we have the same historical relationship as we have with the Caribbean.

8.14 pm

Lord Tunnicliffe: My Lords, I also congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, on bringing forward this debate. I celebrate the unanimity in the House tonight. Every contributor has spoken against the discriminatory nature of this tax and I share that view. I do not resile from APD. It was a tax that we carried

18 May 2011 : Column 1455

throughout our period in government and it is a perfectly reasonable way of raising revenue. The airline industry is lowly taxed-it is zero-rated-and, because of an historical agreement in the 1940s, its international fuel is untaxed. Although APD is a perfectly proper tax, the present banding, on which I have to hang my head in shame and say that my Government were responsible, is discriminatory.

I first went to the Caribbean 45 years ago as an airline pilot. Thirty years ago, I was general manager for the Caribbean for British Airways, and I have taken an interest ever since, visiting it regularly.

The United Kingdom's history in relation to the Caribbean is pretty shameful. We are quite smug in this House about how we got rid of slavery but we forget that we invented it in 1564. Enormous fortunes were made out of the slave trade, principally from the Caribbean and the Americas, and it was not until 1838 that West Indian slaves were emancipated. During that period and subsequently, huge fortunes were made in this country from the sugar industry and its associated products. Throughout most of our history, this traffic has been one way. Even in recent times, as has been pointed out, the Caribbean has made an enormous contribution. Members of the Armed Forces came from the Caribbean to fight in the Second World War, and in the 1950s and 1960s its people contributed to our society by providing labour for the specialist industries, transport and sport and so on. That contribution has been invaluable. Those people triumphed through the hostility that they met, and they and their descendants now form a rich part of our life.

Since then, we have continued to let the Caribbean down. We did not help it to preserve its sugar industry or help its banana industry to survive. We have been very dismissive of its needs. We have recently given up our World Service output there and we are going to remove the Royal Navy presence.

It is time to listen to the Caribbean. It is time to think again about this unreasonably discriminatory tax and change it, and I hope that the Government will listen to what we are saying. These things happen because big organisations make little changes, and you cannot have more of a beast of an organisation than Her Majesty's Treasury. It makes little changes that have a disproportionate effect on little people, and the Caribbean islanders are little people. My favourite island, Antigua, is the size of a typical English constituency and eight out of 10 people there are involved in the tourist industry. A discriminatory tax in those circumstances is wrong and I hope that the Government will listen to what they have heard tonight. I do not ask the Minister to deviate from his Treasury brief. That would produce instant dismissal and the House would be poorer for his absence from the Front Bench. However, I hope that the passion expressed in the debate about the discriminatory nature of this tax will be firmly communicated to his colleagues in the Treasury. I hope that they will take account of this passion and that we will see an end to this discriminatory tax.



18 May 2011 : Column 1456

8.18 pm

Lord De Mauley: My Lords, I join all noble Lords in thanking my noble friend Lady Benjamin for calling this debate on what is a very important issue. She and other noble Lords have made a number of powerful points. I say, first, that the coalition Government more than recognise the importance of the strong ties that exist between the United Kingdom and the Caribbean countries and strongly welcome them. I think we can all agree that the relationship provides real, tangible and important benefits.

More generally, it is worth reflecting on the important role that aviation plays in the economies of developing nations. It enables them to trade more effectively with the rest of the world, attracting foreign investment and stimulating economic development. For many developing nations, too, tourism is a major industry, and it relies on good air links with countries such as ours-a point made by several noble Lords. I take issue with those who claim that air travel is a luxury only to be enjoyed by the better-off. The truth is that for many ordinary people who fly each year to visit family and friends abroad, it is anything but a luxury. Several noble Lords referred to that. As my noble friend said, those who travel home to the Caribbean are among our lowest paid, so we clearly recognise that we need to have regard to the way in which air passenger duty affects them. Furthermore, I agree with my noble friend Lord Bradshaw and the noble Baroness, Lady Howells, that the Government wholeheartedly recognise, and are grateful for, the service that people from the Caribbean have given to this country over very many years.

Before outlining the Government's plans in this area, I would like to give some context. The first and most obvious point to note is that the APD system we are debating today was, as the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, generously acknowledged, bequeathed to us in its current shape by the previous Government. My noble friend Lady Benjamin makes the point that the Caribbean diaspora are agreed that they were not consulted and their views were not taken into account before the decision was taken. The Government recognise the deep frustration felt about the way in which the 2009 changes were implemented, without proper consultation. Perhaps I may return to that issue.

However, the problem with air passenger duty is not the only problem that we inherited. I shall not go over old ground this evening but simply reiterate that, having taken some tough budgetary decisions last year, this country still has to raise through borrowing £120 billion more than it will raise through taxes. The noble Lord, Lord Morris of Handsworth, suggested that when the APD was introduced in 1994, it was presented as a green tax. I respectfully suggest to him that it was the previous Government who allowed it to be characterised as a green tax. When it was first introduced in 1994, it was explicitly introduced on the basis of raising much-needed revenues for the Exchequer. That is the fundamental purpose of APD, and the Government's view is that the debate should be in terms of how to deliver the most fair, simple and efficient APD system possible. Faced with this serious economic challenge we simply cannot afford to reverse

18 May 2011 : Column 1457

some tax rises, such as APD, which were announced by the previous Government. That said, the Government have been and are listening, and they did what they could at the Budget with the announcement of a freeze in APD for the current fiscal year. Fully aware of the wide range of views on this issue, the Chancellor also announced an important consultation on APD at this year's Budget, as several noble Lords mentioned. This provides a real opportunity to take a fresh look at the tax to see whether we can improve on the current structure.

My noble friend Lady Benjamin referred to the report of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation, and I know that the Economic Secretary was grateful to receive its report before Christmas. The consultation offers a chance to submit further evidence of this kind, which can only help to boost the case for reform.

Your Lordships understandably ask: what is the Government's approach? Partly in answer to my noble friend's comments about the importance we place on our own UK tourism industry, and the contradiction she suggests in placing those of other countries at risk, let me first say what the Government's objectives are for any possible reform of air passenger duty. In three short words, it is fairness, simplicity, and efficiency. We want an APD system that is fair to everyone. This means, in particular, that we will look again to see whether we can modify its structure in a way that avoids the current unfairness for countries like the Caribbean nations which-as my right honourable friend the Chancellor noted, and as several noble Lords have said today-although they are not as far from the UK as California, are subject to a higher rate of APD. But fairness also demands that aviation should contribute to the general finances of the nation. That means that there will be a continuing role for APD as a source of general government revenues in the future. The noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, and my noble friend Lord Newby acknowledged that.

My noble friend Lady Benjamin referred with justification to the encouragement given not that many years ago to the Caribbean nations to invest in tourism, and to the economic effect which is now compounding the downturn with a knock-on impact on employment; crime; drugs, as mentioned by my noble friend Lord Newby; and prostitution. We absolutely recognise that these are not wealthy countries; indeed, their dependence on tourism is clearly acknowledged in the Government's consultation document published in the Budget. The Government are looking at the matter very seriously and I am confident that we will find a solution that is more just and equitable for countries like the Caribbean nations.

However, we should seek to raise such revenues in a way that has minimum impact on consumer and business decisions. That is why we also want a tax that is relatively simple, both for those who have to pay it and for those who are charged with administering it. In keeping with the Government's drive for economic growth, it is also right that we look to improve the efficiency of taxes wherever possible.

Let me also touch on another key priority for the Government in this area-the environment. There should be no doubt that the Government are committed to ensuring that aviation bears its responsibilities for reducing harmful emissions, both in terms of global

18 May 2011 : Column 1458

carbon dioxide and local environmental pollutants. However, we need to go about this sensibly. The right approach to tackling CO2 emissions from aviation is through the EU emissions trading system, which promises to deliver emissions savings in a co-ordinated way and at the least cost to the economies of Europe.

Looking ahead, my noble friend Lady Benjamin pointed out that the ETS will be added on top of an already high air passenger duty. I can say that APD and ETS will be considered in the round, but I will ensure that concerns are reported back to the Treasury. The Department for Transport's recently announced scoping exercise for developing a sustainable framework for UK aviation will also address the local impact of aviation. The United Kingdom is working closely with it to build consensus for an effective approach to tackling such emissions. My noble friend also mentioned the fact that Caribbean sea levels are already rising, which is having a further effect on tourism. We recognise this as a serious challenge for those nations and for all of us. These issues are being discussed, for example, within the United Nations, and the United Kingdom Government are committed to helping developing countries meet the challenge of climate change, including through appropriate financial support.

The Government's proposals for APD are set out in considerable detail in the consultation document published at the time of the Budget. This includes more on the Government's views and specific options for possible reform of the structure of the tax. The key proposals in the document offer a way of simplifying APD and dealing with the problems that have afflicted the previous Government's changes. In making the system fairer, the Government propose to go further by incorporating flights that currently escape the APD charge entirely. I refer specifically to the Government's consultation plans to extend APD to private business jet flights, with which the noble Lord, Lord Palmer, among others, takes such issue.

My noble friend Lady Benjamin asked what advice we had taken from the Department for Transport. I am sure that she will be aware that government departments work closely together on these matters, and this issue was discussed in regular meetings and in other discussions between the two departments in the run-up to the Budget. The noble Lord, Lord Pendry, asked about the unfairness specifically on the Crown dependencies. As I have made clear, the Government acknowledge that APD is not that fair. No banded system can be entirely fair to everyone, and the consultation offers an opportunity to look at these important questions again with an open mind.

In conclusion, I again thank my noble friend Lady Benjamin for securing this debate and all noble Lords for their comments. I can assure them that all their contributions will be taken into account in the consultation. Indeed, the Government welcome responses from all those who wish to contribute. The APD consultation runs to Friday 17 June, as the noble Baroness, Lady Dean, pointed out. I trust that noble Lords will study the proposals contained in the Budget document and encourage those with an interest to respond, so that together we can deliver an APD system that is sustainable for the long term.



18 May 2011 : Column 1459

8.30 pm

Sitting suspended.

8.34 pm

Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill

Bill Main Page
13th Report from the Delegated Powers Committee.
14th Report from the Constitution Committee.
11th Report from the Joint Committee on Human Rights.

Committee (2nd Day)(Continued)

Clause 1 : Police and crime commissioners

Amendment 24

Moved by Lord Harris of Haringey

24: Clause 1, page 2, line 32, at end insert-

"( ) Each police and crime commissioner shall appoint a non-executive board of between four and seven members.

( ) Such non-executive boards shall work with the police and crime commissioners to ensure good governance of-

(a) financial,

(b) staff, and

(c) equality,

matters, and to support the police and crime commissioners in respect of their functions.

( ) Police and crime commissioners may make such arrangements as they see necessary to remunerate and reimburse expenses incurred by members of such non-executive boards.

( ) Appointments to and remuneration and expenses arrangements for such non-executive boards shall be subject to approval by the relevant police and crime panel."

Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, I will speak also to Amendment 58. I begin by saying that I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Stevens of Kirkwhelpington, for his support for the amendment. I understand that he is still abroad. The rapid pace with which we have gone through the first two days of Committee has confounded our original expectation that this amendment might not be dealt with until the third or fourth day. That is why he is not here to speak to the amendment.

Amendment 24 deals with police and crime commissioners, police and crime commissions or whatever else we might have. Amendment 58 is a parallel amendment that deals with the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime. The principle behind both amendments is to ensure that arrangements are written into the Bill that will ensure that there is good governance. The amendments follow the principle that we should use the best practice that we know exists in other sectors for the appointment of non-executive directors to support the general direction that is being set.

Amendment 24-and Amendment 58, which is exactly parallel but applies to the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime-requires each police and crime commissioner to appoint a non-executive board of between four and seven members. In the context in which we are operating, in which we are talking about police and crime commissions, a duty would still be placed on the

18 May 2011 : Column 1460

police and crime commissioner, as constituted under Amendment 31, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, to appoint these non-executive board members. The task placed on those board members would be to work with the police and crime commissioners to ensure that there was good governance.

In the amendment, three areas are set out in which it is important that there is a very clear and transparent mechanism to support good governance in respect of the work of the police and crime commissioners or commissions, or of the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime in London. The first area is that of financial decision-making. Again, this will depend on the ultimate balance that is struck in each case between the commission or commissioner, or the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime, and the chief officer of police. I am working on the basis that the police and crime commission or commissioner, or the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime, will be corporation sole and will have responsibility for major decisions such as the placement of contracts, financial allocation and a number of other serious financial matters. They will also be responsible for receiving audit reports and will carry out the functions that in a private sector company and on many public boards would be fulfilled by audit committees. In a series of areas where financial decisions are made, it is important that they are seen to be made not by an individual but in a good governance context in which other people are involved.

The issue of staffing is similar. Again, there will be appointments to the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime or to the commission office where it will be important that the approach taken will be one of best practice and that there will be no question-as my noble friend Lord Hunt described-of someone appointing his or her chum to an office where they could end up setting the precept for a particular area. Again, it is important that there is a transparent and clear process with good governance. I suspect that there are many other staffing and human resources issues where the existence of non-executive board members who can deal with grievances, appeals and so on will be extremely valuable.

The third area that I identified in the amendment relates to the equality responsibilities that would be placed on the police and crime commission or commissioner, or on the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime. I refer to equal opportunities responsibilities and diversity. Again, this responsibility obviously could be exercised by an individual, but would be much better exercised with the opportunity for challenge by others, including non-executive board members. Some equality issues would involve looking inwards within the organisation of the commission or commissioner's office, or within the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime, but some would be external and would involve looking at how the police service operates in that area.

In this respect, there are a number of ethical questions where having non-executive board members would be extremely valuable. The Human Rights Act places obligations on all public bodies to act in a way that is proportionate, appropriate and so on. Again, if this is left solely to an individual, the only outcome if there is a dispute is recourse to the courts. Having an ethical

18 May 2011 : Column 1461

challenge mechanism built into the structure is important and helpful. The amendment also states that non-executive directors would be responsible not only for good governance, but could support the police and crime commission or commissioners, or the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime, in their functions. That is deliberately phrased in a wide way, not in a way that requires things to be done in a particular fashion. It would enable certain functions or responsibilities to be delegated to support the work of the policing and crime commissioner or commission. It would enable individuals to be asked, for example, to investigate particular matters, issues or concerns from local communities, or perhaps to take an overview of particular concerns affecting those communities. An individual might be delegated on behalf of the commission or commissioner to oversee the way that stop and search is being used by the police force; or one or more non-executive board members might be tasked with looking at other specific issues. It is a way of ensuring that the workload of the person charged with this responsibility, whether the commission, commissioners or mayor's office, could be spread and managed effectively. For that reason it is extremely important.

The amendment also makes arrangements that would ensure that these appointments, and the arrangements for remuneration of expenses, are subject to approval by the relevant police and crime panel. That could also apply in the Government's original model of the Bill. It would ensure that the other members of the policing and crime commission in the model envisaged in Amendment 31 would have responsibility for the oversight of the mechanisms by which these non-executive directors were appointed.

The reasoning behind the amendment is a desire to ensure that individuals do not act on their own. Clearly, if we have the model envisaged by Amendment 31, the policing and crime commissioner will act in accordance with a policing and crime panel and together they will form the commission. However, that does not remove the desirability of a requirement to have a non-executive presence in that structure. It would ensure that the elected members who are part of the policing and crime panel are leavened with other individuals who would act in a non-executive capacity. In circumstances in which a single individual fulfils this role-the Government's preferred model-the amendment will ensure that that individual does not act alone and is not in a position where they can act capriciously. It does not undermine the principle that that individual is elected to fulfil a particular role in the Government's model. However, it does address some of the concerns expressed by Members of your Lordships' House in this Committee and at Second Reading about ensuring that there is a structure around that individual which ensures that they cannot act capriciously. If you like, it is a bit like the Roman emperors who had around them someone to remind them that they were mortal. There is the danger that individuals who have this huge responsibility for perhaps very substantial areas of the country may lose sight of what is or is not reasonable. This is part of a structure of ensuring that they act reasonably, appropriately, proportionately and with the widest interests of the public at large.



18 May 2011 : Column 1462

That is not to say that I believe that if there was a directly elected policing and crime commissioner, they would automatically act capriciously; nor am I suggesting that the mere fact of being directly elected prevents it, or that your judgment automatically disappears because you are directly elected. I have been elected too often in the past to various bodies not to have that view. However, if you are a single individual whose checks and balances are remote and in arrears, you need that governance structure around you. If I were in that position, I would want to have it. I know of individuals who may find themselves in this position in future who would want to have that arrangement around them simply to ensure that there can be no question about the nature and quality of the decisions that they take, and that there is a structure around them that good governance follows.

That is the process that is envisaged in this amendment. The purpose is to make this work better and to avoid the concerns about the single individual. Even in the context of Amendment 31 and a police and crime commission, this is designed to ensure that that system works better. We all know of examples of organisations with executive members where the value of the non-executives who sit with them is extremely important in making sure that decisions are taken properly and that the right degree of external challenge takes place before those decisions are finalised. My noble friend Lord Hunt is very experienced in the health service-as am I at a slightly greater distance-and there are plenty of other examples. Even government departments these days have non-executive directors supporting the management board of the department concerned. Indeed, I believe that that was made a priority by the new Government, who perhaps wanted a different style of non-executive director from those which existed before, and who brought in some leading figures from the business community to fulfil the role. It is a concept with which the Government are familiar.

Again, the amendment is put forward to try to assist the Government to make whatever system emerges at the end of the strange sausage-making process that is our legislative system in this country work better. I hope that the Committee will support me in my belief that the presence of non-executive directors in this context will be extremely helpful. I beg to move.

Lord Soley: I rise briefly to support my noble friend who has brought forward a thoughtful amendment. I like this approach which is very much about good governance. He has picked the right numbers of between four and seven, and the right topics, those of finance, staff and equality issues. The only thing I am a little uncertain about, and which we might need to flesh out if the amendment is accepted, is how these non-executives would be appointed. I have some reservations about the commissioner being able to appoint all of them and I am not sure how the process would work.

At this stage I want simply to say that my noble friend, who has a lot of experience, has also thought carefully about the good governance issue. On these topics, non-executive directors can be very good at blowing the whistle and spotting problems as they come up. They are also good at taking some of the pressure off the commissioner, particularly on staff

18 May 2011 : Column 1463

and financing. In that role, non-executive directors can be very productive. I wish to support my noble friend.

Lord Dear: My Lords, since 1997 I have been continuously engaged as a non-executive director or a non-executive chairman, so I understand the environment we are talking about. It is difficult to argue against the principle that has been put forward by the noble Lord in proposing his amendment. However, I have a number of reservations. It seems that four to seven non-executive directors plus a panel is getting a bit cumbersome. I understand the principle of the non-executives arising from the Cadbury report, the Hampel report and others. Businesses quite rightly find themselves almost being pushed into the mode of having to have non-executive advice.

It is the word "shall" in the amendment that bothers me. I assume that it is a paving amendment and I hope that it will be withdrawn, but perhaps it is a proposal for the Minister to take back. In short, I applaud the principle of non-executive advice, but I am not sure whether four, five, six or seven non-executives should be in place at any one time. It could be that the non-executives advise the panel rather than the PCC. In short, the whole principle of the non-executive is one to look at closely. I am not sure that it should be mandatory.

Lord Shipley: I rise to support the thinking behind this amendment because throughout the passage of the Bill through the other place I think that the over -centralisation of power in one person was encouraged. That concern remains. What can be done to ensure that there is due probity, audit, equality of opportunity in appointments and so on given the powers that the Bill currently is going to give to the police commissioner?

The context is extremely important. It is not clear to me where the commissioner is to be based, in what kind of offices and with what level of staffing. A close reading of the Bill indicates that this is perceived to be cost-neutral, that the costs of salaries will be subsumed within existing budgets and that grants provided to the police will supply the additional resources required. But it would help to have a discussion about how big the staffing support structures for the police and crime commissioner are going to be. We note that there will a chief executive and a chief finance officer. The consequence is that underneath those chiefs there must be some other people, and those other people will cost significant amounts of money. There is a real danger that we are going to end up with an alternative structure of bureaucracy being created which actually is not necessary. At the moment, police authorities are housed elsewhere, and get their supplies and support in other people's premises. For me, therefore, this amendment is extremely helpful in that it identifies the fact that we need to be clear what the support structures are going to look like in detail for the police commissioner.

I take absolutely the point about the nature of the appointments. Who are the people who can apply and how will they be appointed? Perhaps I may suggest that the obvious thing to do would be to use Nolan principles. Those are used in so many other places that

18 May 2011 : Column 1464

that is the right approach. There is the question, too, of audit. It is not clear from the Bill exactly what audit requirements will apply in practice to the management of the police and crime commissioner's office.

There are therefore many questions around this matter which make me believe that there has to be a further discussion about the size, powers and nature of the panels and about the nature of any non-executive board, be it of four members or seven members or whatever it turns out to be. The precise roles of those board members need to be made clear, because they will be different from those of the panel members. The non-executive board is to do with probity in finances, equality and the way staff appointments and so on are being made. They are not full-time appointments; I am not even sure that they have to be substantially remunerated, although, clearly, expenses would have to be paid. The boards are different from the panels, which are essentially about the nature of policing and supporting the police and crime commissioner in that aspect of their work.

I give a guarded welcome to the amendment but it is part of a broader discussion about the police and crime commissioner's office.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, did the Committee a service before dinner in drawing our attention to Amendment 62, where there is a specific reference to the staff of the police commissioner. It would be helpful if my noble friend in responding to the debate were to fill in some of the detail of what the Government envisage this staff to consist of, so that the Committee can have a sense of what the structure will be.

Lord Rosser: My Lords, in this amendment we are pursuing the issue of police and crime commissioners. Before I go any further, and in view of the doubts raised by two of the Minister's noble friends earlier, perhaps I may ask the Minister to say whether the Government envisage the proposed police and crime commissioners being full-time or part-time positions.

The Constitution Committee of your Lordships' House in its report published on 6 May said that Part 1 of the Bill is,

The committee also noted,

and said that the,

The amendments that we are discussing would address some of those concerns by seeking to provide a police and crime commissioner, whether elected or not, with the help, advice, wisdom and support of a non-executive board of between four and seven members. One would hope that a police and crime commissioner would use

18 May 2011 : Column 1465

the power to appoint suitable people of independent mind and approach, with differing backgrounds and life experiences, to ensure, working with the commissioner, good governance of financial, staff and equality matters, and to support the commissioner in respect of his or her functions.

The appointment of non-executives is an accepted part of good governance and common practice in both the public and private sectors. Indeed, the Minister has non-executives in her own department. They bring their own expertise to bear and should not be wedded to the ways and practices of a department, of an organisation or of an office. They are there to support but also to challenge, to offer advice, to question-including asking the questions that no one else is prepared to ask-to act as a critical friend and, in extreme, if they think that something is seriously wrong which the commissioner is not addressing, to make their concerns more widely known, or, as my noble friend Lord Soley said, blow the whistle.

The Government's proposals put far too much unchallengeable power in the hands of an individual. They also, as was said earlier by my noble friend Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, put that same power in the hands of a member of the commissioner's staff whom the police and crime panel would have to appoint in the event of the commissioner no longer being able to carry out his or her role. The panel would have to appoint them, apparently, even if it felt that there was nobody suitable from within what would presumably be a relatively small number of commissioner staff. That is an extraordinary state of affairs which the Minister has not so far maintained could not arise and which makes the need for a non-executive board even stronger.

I hope that the Minister will recognise the strength of feeling on this issue-about the lack of checks and balances and the weak governance arrangements-and accept at the very least the spirit and intention of these amendments which have been spoken to so ably by my noble friend Lord Harris of Haringey.

9 pm

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I am replying to the amendments but I wish to assure the House, as my noble friend Lady Browning has just said to me, that we are still in listening mode.

We all understand that whatever institutions are set up, how they will work in practice will depend on personalities, personal relations and the willingness to co-operate. I recognise that there is a great deal of experience and expertise around the House on previous workings of relations between police authorities and chief constables. I was talking to a chief constable some weeks ago and I asked him how often he spoke to the chair of his police authority. He said, "Most mornings". That is a fair indication that it would not be total revolution if he found himself talking to a police and crime commissioner rather than to the chair of his police authority; it would be a degree of evolution. We also recognise that we are all concerned to put checks and balances in place.

Our main concern with the two amendments is with the word "shall", as the noble Lord, Lord Dear, recognised. Our secondary concern, as with a number

18 May 2011 : Column 1466

of probing amendments, is how much detail we need to spell out in the Bill. These amendments would compel the mayor's office to appoint a non-executive board to ensure good governance, to provide support and to make provision for the remuneration and reimbursement of any expenses incurred by board members. We argue that the imposition of a non-executive board is unnecessary. If what is sought is effective checks and balances, that will come from a panel made up of local councillors, as we will be discussing under other amendments, and not necessarily from a board appointed by the mayor's office. There is a risk of some duplication between the two, an issue that we all need to explore further.

The Bill already specifies that the mayor's office must appoint a chief executive and chief finance officer to ensure propriety. They will be subject to established public authority duties, as are their equivalents in police authorities and elsewhere.

If the purpose of these amendments is to ensure adequate support, the Government are working to create a legislative framework that permits discretion for the mayor's office and for police commissioners, however they emerge, in areas where it is right and proper for a person with a direct electoral mandate to make a decision. Our preference is for the mayor's office or the police commissioner to decide how best to manage its support and secretariat functions. This could include a paid or unpaid non-executive board if that is what is thought best for good governance, or it perhaps might find an alternative.

I repeat that we are still in listening mode but request that for the time being the noble Lord withdraws the amendment.

Baroness Hamwee: Is my noble friend able to say how the Government would respond if the word "shall" was "may"? Potentially there is a debate to be had about the functions of an executive board and the police and crime panel and where they might overlap and where they might be different. Would the Government have a different response if the word was "may"?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: The Government are prepared to consider a number of matters. We are about to discuss the relationship between the police commissioners, the mayor's office and the policing and crime panels. How best one organises this and how the staff relate to those who look at the staff and check accountability-and what we mean by accountability in detail-will, I suspect, be discussed over the next night or two.

Lord Rosser: Before my noble friend Lord Harris of Haringey replies, could the Minister answer the question I asked at the beginning? In view of the doubts that have been raised by two of his noble friends earlier this evening, do the Government envisage that the proposed police and crime commissioners will be full-time or part-time positions?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: I apologise-I had that in my notes. We envisage this as a full-time appointment.

Lord Harris of Haringey: I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, for replying on behalf of the Government and telling us that they continue in listening

18 May 2011 : Column 1467

mode. That is always reassuring and I am grateful to the broadly positive response that he has given my amendment. In particular, he talked about making sure that there are adequate checks and balances. That is one of the themes that emerged at Second Reading and in the discussions of the Committee last week.

I acknowledge straightaway that I do not consider this to be a perfect piece of drafting. It is heavily influenced by me, although the Public Bill Office tried to remove some of the roughest edges. I am sure it could be improved. For that reason, it might not assist the Committee if it were agreed in precisely this form, but there are some important principles here. First, on the issue of "shall" versus "may", I suspect that the need for robust governance arrangements would arise in precisely those circumstances in which a single commissioner in particular decided that they did not need some non-executive support. I am sure that a sensible individual in that role would want that support and that "may" would be absolutely adequate, but what of the very unlikely circumstance in which someone was elected or emerged in this office who was perhaps not as sensible as that? That is precisely why "shall" would help good governance.

It is also worth thinking about why this role is different from that of the panels. In the context of the Government's original model, the panels in essence fulfilled a scrutiny role. They would also be party political bodies because they would all be local authority members. My experience of such arrangements, in four years serving as a member of the London Assembly, is that they are very political forums. I suspect that they would be so in respect of the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime, and I cannot believe that they would be different anywhere else in the country. An elected politician would come to meetings to be confronted by other elected politicians, many of whom would be opponents or from the same party. As we all know, your relationships with colleagues from the same party are often as fraught as your relationships with the opposition. In that circumstance, we would get a degree of what I hesitate to call slapstick or knockabout politics. Serious issues would of course be pursued seriously, but there would be a political context and the pursuit of political issues-and by and large it would be in arrears.

That is a different sort of role from the one that is envisaged in this amendment, with non-executives who would approach this not necessarily from a political perspective but from the perspective of achieving good governance. They would take part in that process before decisions are taken, rather than after. That is why there is a distinction between the work of the panels and the work of non-executives. Clearly, if we are in the mode of Amendment 31, as opposed to the Government's original mode, you have a slightly different relationship between the commissioner and the panel because they are all part of the policing and crime commission. I suspect that some of the same principles apply. In any event, good experience exists both in police authorities and in other areas with non-executives. They can bring a non-political or a separate expertise to the fore and can challenge in a way that is not seen as being political. That is potentially extremely important.

18 May 2011 : Column 1468

It is unlikely that the panels are going to fulfil some of these requirements-they would of course question poor governance, but only after the event. This ensures good governance before decisions are taken.

For the last four or five years, I have chaired, in essence, the audit committee for the Metropolitan Police Authority. I am not clear, under the arrangements that we have here, certainly in terms of the Government's original model, where audit matters would be considered, particularly if they are difficult audit matters. I can certainly remember-I will not go into them tonight-a number of difficult audit matters that came before my committee. Where will they be considered, particularly if they challenge a decision taken by a directly elected police and crime commissioner? The context, under the structure envisaged by Amendment 31, would be different, but where would audit issues be considered and received?

In the structure that I am used to we have a separation. People who are part of the finance committee and who take part in those decisions are not part of the audit panel. Again, that is quite common on public boards and private company boards. That distinction is important. One of the questions I would like the Minister to answer-before I perhaps get round to withdrawing my amendment-is where, under the Government's preferred model, or indeed thinking ahead, as I am sure they are doing, under the Amendment 31 model, they envisage audit being considered, and how they envisage it being considered.

The Minister talked about the significant role of the chief financial officer and the chief executive in ensuring good governance. Of course they would be dedicated public servants who would be committed to good governance. If someone or an organisation is not convinced about the need for good governance, where would they report? In local authorities the chief financial officer, the monitoring officer and the head of paid service have specific legal responsibilities that ultimately mean making a public report to a full meeting of the local authority. What is the equivalent in the Government's preferred model for how the chief financial officer and the chief executive supporting a police and crime commissioner would respond to governance issues? The principle also still has to apply in the context of the Amendment 31 mode that the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, will no doubt encourage us to support later on.

The question of how these individuals are appointed has been raised. I would expect these appointments to be made under Nolan principles. That could be specified in the Bill. I look forward to the advice of the Home Office Bill team as to how exactly this might look. That is certainly anticipated. The check and balance that was originally written into this amendment was that those appointments would have to be approved by the police and crime panel. In the case of the London Assembly it would be approved by the London Assembly panel-the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime. With an Amendment 31-type policing and crime commission, again we would have to decide whether the police and crime panel approving the recommendation was an adequate arrangement. Again, that is something that could be looked at when we

18 May 2011 : Column 1469

come back to it, if and when we discover that the police and crime commission has become the Government's preferred model. If it has not, we have to have that clarity written into this.

The point has been made about the dangers of alternative bureaucracy and the size of the offices. We need to pursue those issues and, if there is an issue about a potential alternative bureaucracy, that is precisely the circumstance in which you need a non-executive challenge. Before I decide whether to withdraw this amendment, I would be grateful for the Minister's response particularly on the question of whom the chief financial officer and chief executive report to when there are issues about good governance, as well as on the other matters that I raised.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My clear understanding is that the chief financial officer would be responsible for producing accounts, which would be published each year. I will have to take advice on the exact external audit procedures, and I will come back to the noble Lord with that as soon as I can.

9.15 pm

Lord Harris of Haringey: I am grateful to the noble Lord for his undertaking to come back on that, but it is not simply a question of the audit. It is a question, too, of the powers that exist for the chief financial officer or a monitoring officer in circumstances in which a decision has been taken of which they are questioning the legality, either in financial or other terms, where they report what that process is. As far as I can tell, the Bill is silent on that matter, and in the Government's preferred model that becomes a particularly difficult issue because you are talking about a single individual and, effectively, those officers are questioning the probity of the person who employs them. If it is a single person who employs them, there is no safety belt. Those very important issues must be clarified in any event, whatever happens to the rest of the Bill; if this is going forward, that must be clear. In a local authority context it is clear and there is a process, but it is not clear in this context.

I am grateful for the fact that the noble Lord has indicated that he is still in listening mode and for his assurance that he will come back to me on some of these points. For the time being, therefore, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 24 withdrawn.

Amendment 25

Moved by Lord Harris of Haringey

25: Clause 1, page 2, line 32, at end insert-

"( ) The police and crime commissioner must meet representatives of each local authority in the relevant police area at least twice a year to discuss the policing needs of those authorities."

Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, the purpose of my two amendments in this group, which are Amendments 25 and 59, is to place a requirement-a must requirement-on the police and crime commissioner, or in the model of Amendment 31 the police and

18 May 2011 : Column 1470

crime commission, and in respect of Amendment 59 the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime, to meet representatives of each local authority in their particular police area,

The purpose of the amendment is to add to what is already envisaged on public engagement, while talking about the specific relationship with the local authority. Ever since the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 was passed, and in many instances before, there has been a recognition of the importance of the police service working with local government to deliver more effective policies in the local area against crime and disorder. We are all well aware that partnership on these issues works better than one service simply operating in isolation.

I have fond memories of my time as a local authority leader when I led the London Borough of Haringey, which covered Tottenham and in particular the Broadwater Farm estate. I become leader two years after the riots on that estate. I remember that there was a ritual when every summer the police commander for the local area would come and see me and say, "We are very concerned about what is going on on the Broadwater Farm estate". I would say, "Well, we as the local authority are very concerned about what is going on in the Broadwater Farm estate". Both parties-or both agencies, as this is not a party-political point-covered their backs in the event of something terrible happening in future. The police had raised it with the local authority and we had raised it with the police. What of course was necessary, which was where we got to even before the requirements of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, was to have a proper dialogue. There was collaboration between the local authority and the police to identify what needed to be done to resolve particular issues. Some crime and disorder issues can be very serious, like some of the issues around the Broadwater Farm estate, but sometimes they are much more mundane-they are about the quality of street lighting or about recognising that there is a particular issue on a particular street corner, where the local authority and the police can make a contribution to reducing the risk or fear of crime in that area. It is about partnership and working together. I know that is implicit in what this contains but we are in a slightly different environment, particularly if the Government's preferred mode of operation goes ahead where we have a single individual.

My noble friend Lady Farrington of Ribbleton talked in far more detail than I possibly could about the arrangements in Burnley, Blackburn and Blackpool and the conflicts that might arise, and how one would not necessarily assume that the interests of those communities would coincide. I simply recall, from my time as chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority, instituting a process of what we called borough visits to meet with each local authority's leader and chief executive to talk about the policing needs of those areas. That has been carried on by my successors as police authority chairs. The current incarnations are called JEMs, or joint engagement meetings, but the principle is the same. It is about the importance of meeting the local authorities, not collectively but individually, to address the policing needs of those local areas.



18 May 2011 : Column 1471

I particularly recall the interesting experience when I attempted to do two of those borough visits on the same day. One was in a borough which was very much inner-city and faced all sorts of major inner-London problems. The other was in what I would regard as a quieter, less pressured area of London-very much a suburban area. In the morning, we spent a lot of time dealing with knife crime, gang-related violence and all the issues that were uppermost in the local authority world as well as in the policing world. In the afternoon, I was told that the biggest issue affecting that area was shed crime, with people breaking into garden sheds. I suspect that if you were in the inner-city part of London, you would be considered completely mad if you put anything of value in a shed at the base of a block of flats or even at the end of a garden, if you had such a thing. However, that was not regarded as the situation in a suburban area. You had very different approaches to what was needed from the local police service and what were considered as local priorities.

Setting a single set of priorities across the whole of London-I expect this would apply in Thames Valley, Lancashire, Northumbria or wherever else you might choose to be-needs to be informed by the concerns of local communities, and in particular by the contribution that individual local authorities can make where that series of activities is concerned. One debate we have had in this House, both on Second Reading and last week, has been about how to ensure that a single, elected individual, in the Government's preferred model, pays appropriate attention to all the areas for which they are responsible. In any event, whether it is a commission or an absolute paragon elected for a large area but who none the less recognises the importance of listening to every part of their area, that will be facilitated by a requirement to meet regularly with representatives of the local authorities concerned.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page