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Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I am very sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, feels that the Government are not willing to listen. The Government have indeed just sent out a number of invitations to meetings in between Committee and Report. I understand that he is unable to come to the consultations to which he has been invited.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: It is true that I cannot attend, but I understood that the invitation was to give us the memorandum of understanding between the elected police commissioner and the chief constable. That is very welcome, but if the Government are putting all their eggs into the basket of a memorandum of understanding and reducing the veto on the precept from three-quarters to two-thirds, they are not going far enough.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: We are not putting all our eggs into that basket. Let us continue with some of those discussions. I shall also dig out my dog-eared lecture notes and see whether I can find some further quotes from Professor Stewart so that we can continue those discussions.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Of course, I can see that if you are holding someone to account, clearly you are part of holding a person or body to account as you scrutinise their performance. I fully understand that, but we have been presented with the proposition that we are to have single individual elected politicians, accountable to the public through the ballot box, for the performance of the police, with the panel providing some kind of scrutiny in addition or as some kind of safeguard. The noble Lord took the argument a bit further forward today by emphasising the accountability of the police commissioner to the police and crime panel. I rather welcome that if the panel is to be given proper powers to hold the PCC to account. The problem is that it is very difficult to see how on earth the PCC can hold the commissioner to account because it has only two levers-one on the precept and the other on the appointment of the chief constable-and very little else.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: This is precisely the question of how the process of scrutiny holds people to account. Public meetings are absolutely part of that, but we clearly need to continue that discussion. It is indeed the purpose and design of this Bill that ultimate accountability for the key tenets of this reform agenda remain with the elected individual. That is, after all, the Bill's underlying objective. It is also why the Government resist the proposals that a PCC could delegate to his or her operationally independent chief constable, or to others, the task of justifying the political decisions of the office of police and crime commissioner. We accept that there are instances where a PCC will be required to work with others to achieve their political and strategic intents, but we suggest that this should be through collaboration rather than simple
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On Amendment 211ZB, on which a number of noble Lords have intervened, the Government's original proposition for the case in which an elected PCC was incapacitated was to secure an assurance that their plan and strategy would be impartially delivered while they were not in a position to provide the necessary oversight. Much as the Civil Service provide to the Government of the day, it was this Government's intention to secure a similar degree of impartiality by looking to the head of paid staff to act as a day-to-day caretaker for the police and crime commissioner of their plan, while the police and crime panel would be utilised to provide effective and constructive support and scrutiny of the delivery of that plan.
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: I am trying hard to think of a similar set of circumstances in which someone who is elected and holding an office-for example, as Secretary of State-is temporarily out of action. They may have a team of people who help and advise them. In this case, there are two Ministers in your Lordships' Chamber. I cannot think of a politician or member of the public who would accept the Permanent Secretary stepping into their roles temporarily, although I can think of some Permanent Secretaries who may have wished to do so.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: Perhaps the noble Baroness will be kind enough to name names outside the Chamber afterwards. I accept the criticism; we are indeed debating acceptable models. The noble Lord, Lord Harris, asked whether one should perhaps elect a deputy commissioner, with all the questions that then follow. What does the deputy commissioner do while she or he is waiting around in the hope that the police and crime commissioner will fall ill at some stage, possibly slipping arsenic into their tea at the same time? There are a range of issues that need to be debated there. The model of having someone from the police and crime panel as an alternative also has advantages and disadvantages; it threatens the possibility that there would be a different sort of competition. We recognise that none of these models is ideal. I assure your Lordships that we will look at these amendments and will ensure that they are considered by my colleagues in the Home Office.
The questions in relation to Amendment 234R were about how many chief or senior police officers should be appointed, whether the PCC should be responsible for appointing the chief officer and whether that chief officer should then appoint other senior officers. Our intention here is to ensure that the chief officer holds responsibility and is accountable for all constables and staff under his or her direction and control and that only he or she is accountable to the police and crime commissioner. This is intended to provide a simple basis for lines of accountability and responsibility.
Members of ACPO have their own views on how the lines of responsibility should lie, but this is the view that the Government take on this front. There will be further consultations between Committee and Report on a range of issues about accountability, scrutiny and others. However, having replied to these specific, and in some cases extremely detailed, amendments, I hope that Members are willing to take this as a constructive discussion and response and will be prepared to withdraw the amendment for the time being.
Baroness Henig: It seems that the Government are tying themselves more and more into knots. One reason for that is the uni-dimensional nature of the model. If everything has to go through commissioners, you will get more and more problem areas, as we have already identified, and we are not going to get a very rational model. I was pleased to hear that the Minister was able at least to attend his allotment. I have to tell him that my garden has recently been very neglected. One reason for that is because I find it inconceivable that this present coalition wants to turn the clock back 15 or 20 years where policing is concerned and is not prepared to build on policing best practice, which is actually there, up and down the country, as we speak. The Government are apparently not prepared to learn the lessons of the past two or three decades either, so I have felt it necessary to neglect my garden and to try to do everything that I can to improve this Bill. If that means tabling detailed amendments, so be it. I feel that I have to try and I know that others feel the same about trying to make this model work. It can work only if we all collaborate on tweaking it in different ways to make it work. A lot of really sensible suggestions have been made that would improve this Bill enormously, and I am sad, but not surprised, that the Government have so far shown no real interest in listening to anything that any of us have had to say. I heard the Minister say that he was going to take this away, and I appreciate that. I am sure he will do that, but I would like a little more give in this.
There are people in this Chamber who have spent decades in policing and really understand how policing works, not just at force level but at local level. I get the sense that all that knowledge is actually being treated with contempt. People do not really want to hear about it or to know what works. They say: "There is this model and we are going to stick to it, come what may". Those of us who have experience and want to say, "Look, this or that may not work. Have you considered the alternative?", might as well save our voices. I feel that we cannot do that because we owe it to people out in the country to say, "This has worked; this won't work". We have to continue to do that although, as I say, I have the sense that we are not really getting very far and are not being listened to. While I am therefore willing to withdraw my amendment at this point, I think that many of us will return to a lot of these matters on Report. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
(a) the functions conferred by this section; and
(b) the functions conferred by this Act and other enactments.
(a) co-operate with the police and crime commissioner for that area;
(b) appoint a police and crime commissioner by majority vote of all the members of the police and crime panel from amongst the members of the police and crime panel at an annual general meeting or emergency general meeting of the Police Commission;
(c) appoint co-opted members of the police and crime panel in accordance with Schedule 6;
(d) assist the police and crime commissioner in the discharge of all matters over which the panel has a power of veto;
(e) agree decisions by majority vote in relation to all such matters;
(f) review and scrutinise decisions made or other actions taken by the relevant police and crime commissioner, and make recommendations or reports to that police and crime commissioner about the discharge of his functions.
(a) monitor the delivery of police and crime plans and police performance at local and divisional level;
(b) engage with and consult the public at a neighbourhood and local level to ascertain their views about policing and crime;
(c) nominate one or more of its members to answer questions at meetings of the local authority or local authorities within its police area."
Baroness Henig: My Lords, I shall also speak to Amendments 123D, 124A, 135A, 135B, 137A, 137B and 138A to 138F in this group. Amendment 122AB sets out new proposals in relation to the composition of police and crime panels and sets out overarching functions of the panels. Amendment 123D would remove references to Schedule 6, because this is referred
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In an effort to save time and not go on too long, I will not address every provision in these amendments, but I will make some key points. For me, these amendments go to the heart of making the police and crime panel or the police commission into an effective body. By that I mean a body which does not just confine its activities to scrutinising the police and crime commissioner but which collaborates with him or her and has real powers and responsibilities in terms of local policing. If we are serious in our wish to have strict checks and balances in place, these amendments will help to create them; that is their purpose. They also flesh out the police and crime panel or police commission and make them more businesslike and cohesive, as well as an essential collaborative body with the police and crime commissioner.
What should the key functions of a police and crime panel be? To save time, I will not deal with every change that I propose, but some key points need to be made. A number of the new functions that I have outlined deal with the more collaborative approach between the police and crime commissioner and the panel, which is predicated on the creation of a commission. In particular, there is an obligation on the panel to co-operate with the police and crime commissioner, which mirrors a similar obligation that I have suggested should be placed on the police and crime commissioner. There is also a provision that the panel should assist the police and crime commissioner in discharging his or her functions.
I have also suggested that the panel should have a particular role in monitoring police performance at divisional level and in engaging with communities at a local level. That plays to the strengths of involving local councillors in policing governance. This is absolutely essential if the panel is to provide checks and balances on the work of the police and crime commissioner and to complement their activities. In my opinion, the police and crime panel is best placed to deal with divisional and local policing and to collaborate with local councils. The panel is much better placed than a police and crime commissioner, who is responsible for the whole police area at a strategic level. It is the panel members, rather than the commissioner, who are best placed to get involved in local issues. In my view this should include not just engagement, but also an element of oversight of police performance and delivery at a local level.
That would also be consistent with the more supportive approach to the relationship between the panel and the commissioner. Panel members could bring concerns about local engagement or police performance to the attention of the police and crime commissioner, to escalate if necessary. I do not understand this concept that there has to be a commissioner and that is an end to it-that anything else would dilute this revolutionary new concept. I am sorry, but if we really want effective
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On the make-up of the police and crime panel or the police commission, I am concerned that the current proposals in the Bill are not strict enough in ensuring that the political balance of the whole police area is reflected in the make-up of the panels. To address this, I have borrowed the wording that is currently used to regulate the political balance of police authorities. The effectiveness of this has been well tried and tested. Police authorities have worked effectively for 15 years and their members have operated very well across party lines because of the provision in the 1996 Act. It is important that police bodies should not operate in party-political ways. They can be political, but they should not be party-political.
One reason why many of us in this Chamber can work effectively on policing issues across party lines is that we are used to doing so in police authorities and in some areas of local government as well. We do not find it surprising that we should be able to work with Members from other parties on policing issues. That has been a huge strength of police authorities in the past 15 years. This goes to the heart of the arguments about politicising policing. My amendment is an attempt to ensure that a panel-and, by extension, a police commission-cannot be entirely dominated by one political party.
That is also important because if the end result of this Bill is a directly elected police commissioner, there will be a tendency in different parts of the country for one of two things to happen. The first is that, in some parts of the country, the panel could be packed with political opponents of a commissioner, which could lead to a state of constant warfare between the commissioner and the panel, making any proper governance of the force a daily struggle. The other tendency could of course be the opposite: a panel is packed with people of the same political persuasion as the police and crime commissioner. Here the temptation will be to pick panel members who are little more than cheerleaders for the commissioner, so that they do not exercise robust scrutiny of the way in which the force is governed. It is a fundamental issue that the police and crime panel must be politically balanced.
I was interested to read that, in Committee in the other place, a comment was made about political balance on this issue. The Police Minister said that he agreed with political balance in principle but that it would be extremely difficult to implement it in practice because you could not tell a council that you had to send a Labour or Conservative person. I am sorry, but that has been happening for the past 15 years; the Minister may not realise that. For example, in Lancashire, to have the required political balance because of how the Lancashire electorate are politically represented,
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The other way in which I have sought to moderate the political balance of the panel is by increasing the number of co-opted or independent members. Two co-opted members, as currently proposed, is nothing like adequate to improve the diversity of the membership and cover specialist skills gaps in the rest of the membership. Therefore, my amendment would increase the number of co-opted and independent members. I have also included provisions about geographical balance in relation to both local authority and co-opted members to address some current weaknesses in the system. There has to be geographical balance as well. I have suggested six independent or co-opted members, although I am not altogether convinced that that is enough. However, I am concerned to keep the size of the panel manageable and consistent with the principles of good governance.
This latter point brings me to another issue: two-tier authorities and how the police and crime panel or police and crime commission should be made up. It is being suggested that district councils should be represented on police panels. I agree, having argued for it for a long time. However, there has to be a sensible proportion between the number of district councillors on a panel and the number of higher-tier representatives. I have suggested three district councillors, appointed by a joint committee of all the district councils where appropriate. This is in stark contrast to the Bill's proposals, which would simply go on adding members to the panel until every upper-tier authority and every district council has at least one member. That could lead to large and unmanageable panels that lack focus. It also raises the spectre of the old-style police committees, which used to deal with police governance before the reforms of the noble Lord, Lord Howard, who is not in his place, which introduced police authorities. We have already discussed the weaknesses of those old police committees at some length and I shall not rehearse them. However, very large panels would be a retrograde step.
The approach of one authority/one member has another effect in areas with district councils. Some areas might well have a double whammy: they might have both a district councillor and a county councillor representing quite a small area-let us say Lancaster, for example, where that would be very possible. Other much larger areas might have only one representative. That seems unfair, and doubly so if one of those areas is a large unitary authority-perhaps a city that has only one member representing a huge population. It would then see a much smaller place having not one but two members representing it. That has to be looked at. The present suggestion of having one member from every district council and every upper-tier council, with no attempt at balance by weighing populations or geographic spread, seems not at all workable.
The other key feature of this amendment would remove the powers of the Secretary of State to formulate panels in relation to Wales and other areas. My hope is that, if the Bill is predicated on a commission rather than a commissioner, the Welsh Assembly might feel able to accept those arrangements and different provisions might no longer be needed. The amendment also contains provisions about how members of the panel are to be appointed and removed, and certain changes to Part 4 about how panels should conduct their business to align these to other changes that I have made to Schedule 6. Notably, this includes an amendment that provides that all decisions on issues where the panel has a veto or exercises other key functions should be made by majority vote or, I hasten to add, perhaps 50 per cent plus one. I am persuaded of that.
I have given a lot of thought to this issue. I believe that my model is far more workable than the one that the Government originally put forward, although I would say that, wouldn't I? However, I hope that the Minister, in responding, will explain why she feels that my amendment lacks coherence or is not fit for purpose and why the Government's model is superior. I am sure that she will argue that, but I would like to know why. I beg to move.
Baroness Harris of Richmond: My Lords, I support the proposals of the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, in this group of amendments to strengthen the functions of police and crime panels. These give some helpful detail on how the intent of my amendment to introduce police commissions could be carried forward. I particularly note how her amendments give additional depth to addressing the appointment of a PCC by the panel. I much enjoyed her discourse on how policing in Lancashire proceeded. It brought back some very happy memories of the authorities being non-political. Members were in a strict political balance from all over the area in which I was chair of the police authority. We also appointed the co-opted independent members, who made a significant contribution to the make-up of the police authority. Indeed, they provided the balance of geography, gender and ethnicity that the authority needed. We might not have managed to get that right if police authorities had been constituted by political membership.
I also welcome the obligation placed on the police and crime panel to assist the PCC, particularly in those matters where it has a power of veto. That is in line with the more co-operative arrangement that I had in mind in creating a police commission. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, that the panel should have a role in oversight of issues that are very local in nature, ranging from monitoring police performance at divisional level to a more active responsibility for engaging local communities. I also very much approve of strengthening the role of the panel by reducing the voting majority required, as we talked about earlier, to exercise a power of veto, and of tightening up the way in which the panel manages its business and procedures. The Minister should carefully consider this set of amendments and the way in which the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, has proposed them.
Lord Beecham: I have four amendments in this group. The first, Amendment 123B, is very straightforward. It would simply require the police and crime panel to appoint an audit committee. We have already identified that significant expenditure will be borne by these authorities. Taken together, the aggregate expenditure of a police authority that covers several local authorities probably equates to the total budget of one of those authorities. I think that all authorities now have audit committees. As part of the scrutiny role, it seems necessary to have an audit committee and for that function to contribute to the better governance of the police force in the area.
My other three amendments relate to the composition of the police and crime panel. I confess that Amendment 126A is not terribly clearly drafted. The Bill requires just two members to be co-opted by the panel. The intention of this amendment is that one-third of the total membership of the panel should be co-opted. Taking a base of 10, as in the Bill, one would envisage a panel of 15 with five members-that is, a third of the total-appointed by the two-thirds of members who had been elected by the constituent local authorities. That gives a better balance, is closer to the current model and strengthens the role of independent members, which has been, as many of your Lordships have pointed out, a welcome change to the operation of police authorities. It emanated from the Act that the noble Lord, Lord Howard, introduced 15 or so years ago, as my noble friend Lady Henig reminded us.
I go a little further than that in my amendments by suggesting in Amendment 126B that, in co-opting members, the panel should take into account equality and diversity considerations. One of the strengths of the independent member system is that it has allowed those factors to be reflected in the composition of these bodies. That could be particularly important in areas where there is a mixed ethnic population. That system also ensures a better gender balance. I perhaps should have added that geographical considerations should be taken into account as well given that some of these panels and their forces will cover large areas. As my noble friend Lady Farrington explained eloquently and at length, it is desirable that different communities should be adequately represented. I suspect that that phenomenon is not restricted to Lancashire or the north-west but is common across much of the country. Co-option offers a way of ensuring that these considerations are adequately reflected in the constitution of the panels.
My Amendment 126C seeks to define a little more closely how the political proportionality that the Bill envisages should be derived. It can be defined in a number of ways. I do not know whether the noble Baroness, Lady Browning, or the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, will be replying, but I hope that they will explain the precise concept of proportionality that the Government have in mind. You could say that as there are eight Conservative councils and two Labour councils or vice versa in a given area, certain members should be appointed to reflect that political composition. Alternatively, you could adopt the procedure followed by the Local Government Association-this amendment seeks to do so-of looking at the total political balance of elected members and their electorates across the
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I hope that the Government will consider these constructive amendments, which seek to make the panels more effective and more representative and to avoid the implications that might arise from dominance by one party or one group in the community as opposed to another. I am sure that that is not the Government's intention and I hope that the Minister will take this measure away and discuss ways in which we can achieve what I believe are shared objectives.
Lord Shipley: My Lords, I wish to comment on the amendments in this group standing in the names of my noble friend Lady Hamwee and myself. Amendment 124 is a preliminary amendment relating to the situation in Wales. I will not speak about that situation, and the amendments relating to that, as my noble friend Lady Randerson will do so. I wish to raise a broader issue relating to the discussion we have had so far about the nature of the panels, the number of members on them and their proportionality. Once the Committee stage is completed and before Report a number of issues will need to be discussed in detail.
I am not convinced that every panel needs to be the same size. It is proposed that there should be 15 members on a police and crime panel, but geography, population and other factors need to be taken into account. There may need to be lower and higher numbers of members in certain cases. I have a real difficulty with the proposal in Amendment 122AB that a police and crime commissioner could be appointed by a majority vote of a police and crime panel, which under this amendment would have 15 members, as a majority vote implies that eight people could appoint the police and crime commissioner. This will be a very powerful, highly paid and responsible job. I do not think that we should allow eight people to make an appointment of that kind. I would much prefer a directly elected police commissioner than one who might be appointed on the votes of eight people. A number of issues in Amendment 124A then become clearer. It proposes that each police and crime panel should have 15 members, but six of those will be,
Therefore, the amendment implies that the panel will have only nine members, and that five of the nine can co-opt the six independent members. This concentrates and centralises power too much. At a time when we are trying to disperse power and make those who are elected to posts more accountable, I do not think that that proposal will work. Indeed, I assume that Nolan principles should apply in appointments of this kind. Therefore, there is a discussion to be had about what the powers of the panel members might be, how many there should be, who they represent, and how that will be done.
As regards having a discussion prior to Report about how proportionality will be delivered, broadly speaking proportionality on joint boards and police authorities can work reasonably well. However, it may not work reasonably well. It depends whether people want it to work well. There is a very strong argument for saying that proportionality in this case should depend not on the numbers of councillors by political grouping within the police authority area but rather on votes cast at the previous general election. There are a number of ways of doing this but it is very important that there is public support for the way in which the panels are constructed because if there is no public support it will make life very difficult for the chief constable, the commissioner, the panels themselves, the partnerships and the local authorities. At the heart of all this, the amendments carry a real risk of building single-party political control into the structure. One of the great benefits of the current structure, of which I am a strong supporter, is that it is a plural structure which enables everyone to work together with a common objective in their geographical area.
I believe that is very important. There is a discussion to be had about the nature of district councils, county councils, unitary councils and single-tier councils-whether they have only one or two members, high populations or more members than others. The amendment is a statement of our intent that,
Amendments 136 and 137 concern who can be a co-opted member of the panel. I do not think that a directly elected mayor of a local authority covered by the police area should be able to be co-opted to the panel-they should actually be on it. There is a fundamental issue here. We should add the proviso that a directly elected mayor cannot be co-opted to the panel because it should surely be assumed that they are members of it, otherwise there will be friction and that is one of the things that we are trying to avoid in the Bill.
Lord Beecham: Perhaps the noble Lord will bear in mind that there may be elected mayors in one authority in a metropolitan area, but not in others. Would that not promote friction between the authority with the mayor and those that have an elected leader?
Lord Shipley: I thank the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, for his intervention, because that is absolutely true. Insufficient work has been done on the impact of having an elected mayor in some cities but not in a whole police area. Of course, the boundaries in London are coterminous, but they are not coterminous in the larger urban areas in the rest of England. That is a potential problem. I take the noble Lord's point. How the situation can be properly addressed, should there be a mayor, has to be talked through.
As to Amendment 137, the Bill states that a local authority member is excluded from being co-opted. I think that the opposite will prove to be the case. There may well be a need for a local authority member to be co-opted, perhaps to demonstrate political balance but, more likely, to demonstrate diversity or geographical interest. Preventing a local authority member who has not been directly appointed by the local authority from being a member of the panel is a potential mistake.
Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, I hope that our discussion has highlighted to the Minister why the composition of these panels is a complicated matter to which a great deal of thought should be given. Earlier, the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, waxed eloquently about how wonderful these panels would be, how they would have a member from each relevant local authority in an area, how all this was going to be fine and that this meant that this would be the channel by which all the necessary consultation and discussions could take place. However, the reality is that the panels as envisaged in the Bill will not deliver that in that way. They will end up being cumbersome because of the other things that need to be taken into account as a consequence.
The Government cannot have it both ways. In one part of the Bill there are proposals for panels, but in London there is a proposal for a panel of Members of the London Assembly. Therefore, none of the 32 London boroughs will have an automatic right to be represented on the panel that will scrutinise the actions of the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime. There may be one or two Members of the London Assembly with a dual mandate-something of which many political parties disapprove, but many members have a dual mandate-and, by chance, some people may represent an individual local authority. However, the norm will be that the members of the panel in London will not cover all local authorities in the area. Indeed, there may not be an elected Member of the London Assembly panel who covers a particular part of London, because the constituencies of the London Assembly Members may preclude that. It is also possible that none of the London-wide members may be elected. Therefore, in one part of the Bill there is a proposal for a panel that does not cover every local authority, while in the rest of the Bill panels are proposed for England and Wales that cover every local authority in the area.
The Government must address the question of which is the important principle. If the principle is that every relevant council should be represented, why does that not occur in London? If the principle is not so important in London, why is it more important outside London, where there is the additional complexity of districts, counties and unitary authorities? Also, if the Localism Bill goes through, there will be a whole series of directly elected mayors in addition to those we have at the moment.
These are questions that have to be resolved, as do the questions of proportionality and the balance between different geographical areas, because under the current Bill you could end up with all sorts of inequalities in terms of the balance of power within those panels. I am sure that that is not what the Government intend, which is why I am sure they will want to revisit this in our limited time available before Report.
The other point on which I wanted to pick up related to Amendment 123B, spoken to by my noble friend Lord Beecham, about the importance of having panels with separate panels to review the audit issues relating to the actions of the police and commissions in their areas. I chair the equivalent of the audit panel for the Metropolitan Police, and I have to say that this is not a small responsibility because of the number of audit issues that arise on a regular basis. These are matters that for the purposes of good governance must be addressed properly. There must be a route whereby internal and external audit can report, and it must be seen that those issues have been properly addressed. The danger of the present arrangement is that there is a vacuum regarding how audit issues can be properly dealt with. We discussed this briefly at an earlier stage in Committee, and I know that Ministers are having to think about this again. However, the principle remains that there should be some clear mechanism whereby these audit issues are considered, and if we are looking to strengthen the work of the police and crime panels, a requirement for there to be separate panels to consider audit issues would be a sensible way forward.
Baroness Randerson: My Lords, I should like specifically to address the amendments that refer to Wales, including Amendments 127A, 128A, 132A, 132B and 132C. When we discussed this issue previously, the Minister was good enough to confirm that there was due to be a meeting between Ministers here and Ministers of the Welsh Assembly Government. This is perhaps an opportunity for the Government to bring us up to date on the situation and on whether there is likely to be any agreement with the Welsh Government.
For those noble Lords who were not involved in the previous discussion, the background is that a legislative consent Motion is required from the Welsh Assembly in order for this Parliament to deal with issues that are partially devolved. The way in which this works is that local government issues are devolved to the Welsh Assembly; the Assembly and the Assembly Government have the power to cap the police precept; and there are numerous funding streams in Wales that are partly funded by local authorities and partly funded by the police. The two streams of power are literally intertwined and the Assembly has to give consent for the legislation to be passed.
For the first time ever, the Assembly did not give that consent. There was a negotiation, an agreement apparently was reached, and a proposal was put to the Assembly. Despite the fact that Ministers in Wales put forward that proposal, they abstained in the vote, and the proposal was defeated. Rightly or wrongly, Ministers were not convinced that they had been given sufficient say in how the panels were to be constructed. The proposal then was that Welsh Ministers should have
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The amendments proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, would put the power in the hands of the Assembly rather than Welsh Ministers. That is good democracy at work. It gives the Assembly as a whole, on a cross-party basis, the opportunity to make the nominations. I urge Ministers to consider that, if they have not already reached an agreement with the Welsh Government on the way forward, because it is only right and sensible, in something that involves such close contact between the Government here and the Government in Wales, there should be a voice for the Welsh Assembly and the Ministers in Wales.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: I shall speak to my Amendments 126BA and 127A, but first I shall comment on the debate so far. One thing that has become absolutely clear is the risk of politicisation of our police forces. On the one hand, we will have party-political police and crime commissioners and, as noble Lords have suggested, the risk is that we will have panels dominated by either political supporters or opponents of the police and crime commissioner. It is clear that the morale of police officers will plummet if they see themselves becoming meat in the sandwich in debate and potential conflict between the politicians on the police and crime panel and the politician who is the police and crime commissioner.
The architecture seems designed to politicise the police force and, as my noble friends have suggested, to lead to circumstances in which, because of the lack of any corporate governance surrounding either the chief constable or the police and crime commissioner, there are bound to be real issues about probity and the use of resources. That is why the amendment tabled by my noble friend Lord Beecham on an audit committee, and the support given to it by my noble friend Lord Harris, is so important.
The debate about ensuring political balance is also very important. Whether it is done using the LGA model or, as the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, suggested, using votes cast at the previous general election, is open for discussion. I should have thought that one would want to strive for some kind of political balance.
I also very much support the amendment that suggests that some independent members be appointed. I am very confused about the Government's position. In almost every other department, when public bodies are being discussed and created, the importance of independent members is without question. The fascinating debate about FIFA and the Football Association recalls the comments of the Ministers at DCMS, who are urging the Football Association to appoint independent members. In the health service-I declare my interest as the chair of an NHS trust and as a trainer and consultant in the NHS-the role of non-executives, independent members, is regarded as critical. Yet in a service in which one wishes the public to have confidence and to believe in political impartiality, we have none of that. We are simply piling in party-political politicians. I despair of the Bill. It is so wrong. It will run into so much trouble if it is enacted. I am very tempted to move an amendment giving Henry VIII powers to the Home Secretary to correct the architecture as problems arise, because if not, I am convinced that the noble Baroness will be here in two years' time with a police reform Bill mark 2, seeking to introduce the protections that noble Lords around the House clearly think are necessary.
On my two amendments, I hasten to say that the first one, Amendment 126BA, which would delete the ability of mayors to sit on the panel, is probing. I was very glad that my noble friend Lord Beecham and the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, commented on it. It would be good to have a debate about the role of elected mayors in relation to the panel. First, what is the panel? Is it a rather inoffensive scrutinising panel on which it might not be appropriate to have the executive elected mayor, or is it the all-singing and dancing panel promised by the noble Lord Wallace, which will rigorously hold the police and crime commissioner to account? We are not sure yet, but that would be one aspect in a debate about whether elected mayors should be members of the panel.
Let us take the example of the West Midlands. I do not know when the Bill will be enacted, but the Government hope that panels will be established very soon. We have the bizarre situation in Birmingham where the Government presently propose that Councillor Mike Whitby, who is currently the Conservative leader of the Lib Dem-Conservative council, will be appointed shadow mayor. He will lose control of the council in 11 months' time, but under Mr Pickles's proposals, none the less, he will be shadow mayor, with all its powers. He could be appointed to the panel. We would have Mr Whitby as a member of the panel, but the other boroughs within the West Midlands will not have elected mayors, so they will presumably be represented by rank-and-file councillors. The whole issue of balance within that panel would be very difficult indeed.
I turn to Wales. I support the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, because I very much agree with what she said, which is why my name is appended to Amendment 127A, although she did not comment on that. It is clear from the noble Baroness's very helpful response in Committee on 24 May that, because the Welsh Assembly rejected a Motion from the Welsh Assembly Government to support the Government's
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Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I speak as someone who sat for many hours on the Front Bench that the Minister now occupies acting as a Whip for the legislation that led to the Welsh Assembly. I can see noble Lords such as the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, with whom I spent many happy but rather late hours discussing all this. Given the legal situation, can the Minister say whether there is any possibility of a challenge to the legislation which would overrule the establishment of the Welsh Assembly, the powers devolved to Wales and the joint powers that mingle together? I should be very interested to know whether the Government can simply decide on this one issue to give power to the Secretary of State in Westminster. I think that it will cause fear to run not only through Wales but possibly through Northern Ireland, and even Scotland if the current leader of the majority group in Scotland discovers that the Government can suddenly say that any Secretary of State in Westminster can start taking back powers to him or herself in spite of the devolution settlement. I think that there may be the odd legal challenge. I am not a lawyer but I have sat in your Lordships' Chamber long enough and heard enough lawyers to know that they are very inventive when it comes to legal challenge. In saying that, I intend no offence to the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford.
Baroness Browning: My Lords, it may be appropriate if I begin with Wales, as we have finished with Wales at the end of a very long debate covering a wide range of amendments. At the last meeting of this Committee, I gave quite a detailed explanation of the background to what has happened in Wales. I just say to my noble friend Lady Randerson that the meeting that took place since we last met in this Chamber was not a meeting of Ministers; it was a meeting of officials. At that meeting, attended by officials of the Home Office, the Wales Office and the Welsh Assembly Government to discuss the implementation of the provisions of this Bill, there was no agreement that would in any way override the decision taken by the National Assembly for Wales.
I think that we now have to respect the previous decision of the National Assembly for Wales and therefore the Bill will be amended accordingly. I have heard what noble Lords have said about the Secretary of State taking powers. I assure the Committee that the Secretary of State will not go about this in an
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Baroness Browning: The noble Lord is right to correct me. I was thinking in terms of the different structures and the way in which policing matters across the border are very important, as are other issues. It is a question of trying to make sure that we have harmony across both sides of the border.
Perhaps I may begin by talking about the panels. I am incredibly disappointed this evening for two reasons. First, I am trying to look at areas where there may be some room for manoeuvre within the Bill. I can understand noble Lords' frustration. I fully appreciate that the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, like many others in this Chamber, has put in a lot of work in a genuine attempt to bring forward helpful ideas on changing the Bill. It must be frustrating when I do not stand up and say, "That was a good idea. Yes, we'll do that", but I think all noble Lords have been here long enough to know that I am not in a position to do that.
What I can do is go away and look at the situations that people have raised and discuss them with colleagues, not least because this legislation has already passed through another place. The Bill is not starting out in your Lordships' House; another place has already given its decision on the structure of the Bill that was first presented to this House. I am genuinely looking to see where I might be helpful and I am talking to colleagues about that. However, it is very unlikely that at the Committee stage of a Bill I shall be able to respond to individual amendments by saying, "Okay, I'll go along with that". On the other hand, I do not want to over-egg my response and give people false hope, because there are clearly limitations to what I might be able to achieve. However, I assure your Lordships that I and my colleagues on the Front Bench have listened to the suggestions that have been made, some of which have been incredibly helpful.
Lord Soley: I believe that the noble Baroness is trying on this but one problem is that she is not able to say the issues on which she would be prepared to
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Baroness Browning: I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Soley, for that. Although I am a new Member of your Lordships' House, I am very appreciative of the expertise and experience that people bring to the debates and to the amendments that they table. However, I also have to remind the Committee that a fundamental change has been made to Clause 1 compared with the Bill that came from another place, and that has necessarily affected the way in which I can respond to the amendments that are tabled. As we pursue these individual issues, it is perhaps becoming clearer that there is a difference in philosophy and approach across the Committee. It would be wrong of me to pretend, particularly to noble Lords opposite, that I am going to be able, or would wish, to make significant changes to the overall structure of the Bill. I am trying to look at suggestions that might improve the Bill based on the Government's original intention as to how the Bill should proceed, and I hope that noble Lords will take that at face value.
Lord Soley: Yes, I understand that. The change made at the beginning of the passage of the Bill in this House was very profound. It was made by a Member on the government Benches and supported by others. That is another message which the other place might need to consider. Alongside that, arguments have been made about accountability today that are very important and override the initial change to the Bill.
Baroness Browning: I can assure the noble Lord that overturning Clause 1 has not gone unnoticed by others who have an interest in the Bill. I was tempted to say that we speak of little else, but that would probably be an overexaggeration.
There has been a lot of discussion this evening about the composition of the panels and the need for accountability and balance. I take on board the fact that people are genuinely concerned about that. The panels are intended to provide balanced representation at force level and force-level scrutiny of the police and crime commissioner. It is a little strange that noble Lords have voiced their concern that every local authority within a force area would have representation on the panel. I see that as a good thing. Although, at the moment, there is local government representation on police authorities, it is not necessarily uniform across the force area. Therefore, despite the fact that it might result in a larger panel in some cases, I would have thought that there would be more equality of representation, at least in terms of numbers. I can think of some very large counties, particularly some of the more rural ones, in which the people who live there very often think that the people in the towns and cities have the most influence and that people from the rural district councils do not always have a say. I think it is
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I hope that a lot of people out there will want to serve on these panels, particularly when they know that they will have an opportunity to be on the panel representing the local authority area in which they are involved. They will be able to bring their own views about a locality into the fulcrum of an important part of deciding policing in that force area.
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: I hope that the Minister will feel able to discuss with her noble friend Lord Howard not only the geographical balance but the political balance being negotiated within an area. From the local government end, I did not always totally agree with Michael Howard, as he was then, on local government and policing. As my noble friend Lady Henig said, he produced the system that got the balance that was needed-so it is not only geographical.
Baroness Browning: No, I take that point, but I think it goes even further than that. That is why it is so important that panels have the right to co-opt. I hope that they will see co-option as a useful tool in bringing equality to other issues, such as in discrepancies in the composition of the panel in relation to people from ethnic communities, the gender balance and so on. On the equality aspect of the panels, there is a lot to look at. The starting point of local authorities all having a representative is a good one. I am sure that the panels will not be so big and unwieldy that they will not be able to focus on the business in hand. Numbers are at the heart of being able to get a balance. Indeed, I have already taken that away and will look at it.
Baroness Browning: The panel for the Mayor of London will be subject to an existing mechanism for providing a committee of elected individuals to scrutinise the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime. However, that mechanism does not exist outside London, as I am sure the noble Lord knows only too well, hence the provisions in the Bill to form a PCP of the unitary and district authorities. The policy intention is for elected people to be involved in scrutinising the PCC. The situation is not perfect for London, but London is a very different animal from the rest of the country. With his knowledge of London, the noble Lord will know why that is.
Lord Harris of Haringey:I certainly know why that is. We start from the basis that London is the greatest city in the world and that Birmingham and Manchester pale into insignificance. To be very serious about this, under the current arrangements, the 32 boroughs in London feel that they are not directly involved, which is one reason why we have had amendments in Committee
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Baroness Hamwee: I realise that I have not spoken in this debate yet, but following the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, perhaps the Minister would also consider the position of the current London Assembly. It appears not to be too concerned about most of the functions of the panel; it will be restricted to a number of the members of the London Assembly, but not all of them. On the noble Lord's point, only a selection will do the job, not all 25 members, so the position there is exacerbated.
Baroness Browning: I promise my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Harris, that I will look at that, but I cannot make any promises. Speaking of my disappointments, I say to the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, that I do not accept that there is no corporate governance in the Bill. We are looking at matters that have been raised by this Committee. I refer him to Clause 28, which deals with independent members; to Schedule 1, which deals with the requirement of chief executives; to Schedule 16, which deals with external audits; and to Clause 11, which deals with the duty to provide information. Those might be imperfect and noble Lords might not agree with them, but it is just not right to say that there is no corporate governance in the Bill. I am very happy to look at that in the light of remarks that have been made in previous debates. I think the noble Lord overegged the situation a little this evening.
Perhaps I can turn to the amendments; there have been a lot of them. I shall begin with Amendments 123AB, 139A, 148C, 148D, 149B, 149C and 149D. Those amendments envisage an entirely different approach to handling complaints against the police and crime commissioner. They would mean that a code of conduct for a PCC would be drawn up centrally and that police and crime panels would hold PCCs to account against it. It would even allow a police and crime panel to go as far as removing a directly elected person with a public mandate from their office and to suspend the PCC indefinitely while the allegation was investigated.
I cannot support the amendments because they would enable the police and crime commissioner to be removed from office without recourse to the public who elected him or her. A PCC will be elected by the public in their force area and will be accountable directly to that public for the decisions that it makes. Of course, that is if the Bill returns in a different form from the one that is before your Lordships tonight. I add that caveat. The commissioner cannot be removed by the police and crime panel for a perceived breach of a centrally defined code of conduct. If the PCC makes the wrong decisions, the panel will ensure that the
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Perhaps I may refer to my folder, which I have left on the Bench. I apologise; I put my papers down in the wrong order. They are now on their way. I will set out how the amendments would affect the Bill, and the Government's position. The overarching effect of the majority of the amendments would be to change the relationship between the police and crime commissioners and the police and crime panel, as well as the composition and powers of the panel. This would include provision for the police and crime commission to be drawn from the panel membership. The Government's intention remains that police and crime commissioners will be elected by the public to hold chief constables and their forces to account, subject to-
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I was trying to attract the attention of other Members on the Front Bench. I think that the noble Baroness has gone on to the next group of amendments. I wonder whether I am the only one who is confused; other noble Lords are listening obediently. Of course, it may be very useful to have the answers before we move the amendments.
Baroness Browning: I apologise to the House and hope that noble Lords will forgive a new girl for getting her homework mixed up. Perhaps we might pause-I do not know the procedure-while I make sure that the right notes are in front of me.
Baroness Browning: My Lords, I apologise for the inconvenience caused to the House. I will address the amendments that we have debated. There may be a sense of déjà vu because I have read out a bit of this already. I will begin at the beginning. I will set out how the amendments would affect the Bill, and the Government's position. The overarching effect of the majority of the amendments would be to change the relationship between police and crime commissioners and the police and crime panel, as well as the composition and powers of the panel. This would include provision for the police and crime commissioner to be drawn from the panel membership. The Government's intention remains that police and crime commissioners will be elected by the public to hold chief constables and their forces to account. They will be elected on a mandate that will give the reform the democratic accountability so necessary in policing today. I stress again that this is subject to the Bill returning to your Lordships' House in a different form to that which we are debating tonight.
The arrangements for the panels set out in the amendments would place a much greater level of prescription on their composition and how they arrive
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The panel's main role is to provide a check and balance for the commissioner by ensuring that each local authority is able to nominate a representative to the panel for its force area and ensure that there is a clear, fair and proportionate process in place that reflects local political structures. Although I appreciate the purpose of all these amendments, I believe that we have created arrangements that are sufficiently flexible to meet local needs while ensuring that police and crime panels are the right size to avoid becoming an expensive and bureaucratic burden.
Amendment 123B would require the police and crime panels to appoint an audit committee. Several Members of the Committee were concerned about this. Police and crime panels are free to establish sub-committees that would help to carry out their functions most effectively. It is up to individual panels to decide which areas of business should be covered by such sub-committees, but we would not want to prescribe that in legislation.
On Amendments 125, 125A, 126, 128 and 138F, I also recognise the need to ensure that the Secretary of State's powers to appoint panel members are necessary and effective. The Secretary of State's power to appoint police and crime panels will be applicable in England as a backstop power, should all the local authorities in a police area be unable or unwilling to appoint. These are in extremis situations, but that power is there. This backstop power is considered necessary, as police and crime panels will be a vital part of the new landscape.
Lord Beecham: Perhaps I may draw the Minister's attention to Part 2 of Schedule 6. Paragraph 4(1) talks about the composition of the police and crime panel and prescribes a number of persons "properly appointed" and,
There is not, is there, much flexibility in that? That is one of the issues to which the amendments are addressed-namely to increase the proportion of co-opted members. It does not seem to be allowed for in the Bill as it stands.
Baroness Browning: The noble Lord is right: the co-option is limited to two. However, the intention is to get the balance and to consider the overall numbers on a panel. I shall take away the issue to ensure that we have the formula right in terms not only of geography
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I have mentioned Wales, and at the last Committee sitting I gave quite a full explanation of the background to the issue. It is a difficult situation. I say to noble Lords with a particular interest in the part of the legislation affecting Wales that if they would like to come and have a chat, I am happy to talk to them on a one-to-one basis.
Amendments 135A and 135B would allow the police and crime commissioner to be a member of the police and crime panel. This goes against the fundamental principle of this reform, which is to have a directly elected individual accountable to the public for policing, with scrutiny being carried out by the police and crime panel. The amendment seeks to create a police authority by another name. I see from noble Lords' expressions around the Chamber that they probably know that this is what the amendment would do, and I know that they are trying keep the police authority structure in the Bill if they can. This is where we get the tension between the Bill's philosophical aims and those who perhaps do not share the aim of making the democratically elected police and crime commissioner the accountable person.
The effect of Amendment 136 on the Bill as introduced to the Lords would be to prevent a directly elected mayor being co-opted as a member of the police and crime panel for that force area, as was mentioned earlier. It is intended that directly elected mayors will be required to be an elected member of the panel. This provision was in the Bill as introduced in another place but due to a drafting error it was omitted when the Bill was amended by the substitution of a new Schedule 6. It is intended that the provision will be reinstated by government amendment.
Amendments have been tabled that would block the appointment of a mayor on the panel as either a full panel member or a co-optee. We believe that as a directly elected representative and leader of their community, they should have a role on the panel, and we will be amending the Bill accordingly.
Amendment 137 would allow a police and crime panel to co-opt its two independent members from local authorities. As I mentioned, I am happy to look at the size of the panel. The current minimum panel size is 12, at least 10 of whom are local authority councillors. Two independent members can be co-opted to the panel but they do not have to be members of local authorities. As they would bring additional skills, experience and diversity, I do not want to remove them despite what we have said about the need to look again at this. They would also provide an independent perspective to discussions. I think that there is some consensus across the Committee that the co-option and independence of those on the police and crime panels would be a force for good.
The effect of Amendment 138 on the Bill as introduced would be to ensure that panel arrangements may not include provisions for the approval of any panel member
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The Bill leaves the appointment at the discretion of the nominating authority and this discretion is not fettered in any way. Without express provision to the effect that this power of the nominating authority to make an appointment is subject to the panel arrangements, it will not be possible for the panel arrangements to include provision preventing the authority from freely exercising the discretion given to it in paragraph 9.
Amendments 138A to 138E would increase the level of prescription in how local authorities might set up and run police and crime panels. The whole thrust of this legislation is to free up local areas from prescription and unnecessary bureaucracy. We do not believe that it is for Whitehall to dictate every last detail. Local areas already carry out scrutiny of various functions and they are well placed to decide how best to achieve successful arrangements for panels within the framework that we have set out.
Baroness Henig: I thank the Minister very much for her very lengthy response. I also thank everyone who took part in the debate. The intention of the amendments was very much to start off a debate on these issues. I thought that the many points to which the Minister has just referred needed to be explored in debate. There has been an extremely full and good debate on a whole range of issues. Perhaps I may mention one or two of them.
The first issue is the composition of the panels. I feel the same way about the composition of the police and crime panels as I do about the composition of the House of Lords-I believe that composition should follow function. The composition of the panels should, in a sense, follow the functions of the panels, and I accept that I am trying to change those functions. I am trying to get the panels to have a more collaborative role. I do not want them just to be scrutinising the commissioner because I think that that would be a total waste of the panel members' expertise. I am therefore trying to change the role. I am also suggesting that if the role should be more one of collaboration and getting involved in local policing, the composition will need to follow that. It will need to be somewhat more cohesive and to be balanced in the sorts of ways that I have mentioned. If the commission's only function is to scrutinise the commissioner, which was the original model, then there is a greater case to be made that everybody should be included in this scrutiny exercise. But if that is all that the panels are going to do, it will be a complete waste of local talent.
Lord Harris of Haringey: Given that the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, has been telling us how, as a substitute for involvement in crime and
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Baroness Henig: I was going on to say that I remain absolutely convinced that political balance is essential. The political balance on police authorities at the moment-I lost the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, at one point-is established by the votes cast at the previous general election. That is the basis on which the composition of police authorities exists. It has worked extremely well for the past 15 years, and I see no reason why we should depart from that. In a sense, it is not that we want to keep police authorities in existence. That suspicion was voiced by the Minister, but that is not the issue. The issue is that we want to build on existing good practice. There are things that have worked very well in the past 15 years, and it seems stupid to throw them away. That is what we are trying to argue. The political balance of police authorities over the past 15 years was one of the positive changes that took place. To throw that away and to return to politicisation as we had it in the 1970s and 1980s is something that some of us want to avoid at all costs. That is one of the points about political balance.
The second point is about independent members. In the past 15 years, we have seen how effective independent members have been on police authorities. We know that two will not be sufficient. We know that you need diversity, gender balance and geographic balance. My suggestion of five or six independent members was intended to build on good practice. That is what I was trying to do in some of these amendments. It goes without saying that these independents would be appointed on Nolan principles. That has been established in the past few years, and I think it would continue.
On the other place sending us legislation, I have read all the debates. MPs came up with problems similar to those that we have been wrestling with here, and I have to tell the Minister that on more than one occasion people not just on the opposition side but also on the government side commented that they hoped that the Lords would be able to amend the legislation to meet the point. That was said more than once in the Committee stage in the other place and it is precisely what we are trying to do. We are trying to do what the other place suggested when it came up with problems. We are trying to find solutions, and that is running headlong into what the Minister confessed right at the outset-that there would be no changes to the overall structure of the Bill-and that is where we have problems. There is tension between no changes on the one hand and people in the other place knowing that there are serious flaws in the legislation and hoping somehow that the Lords will find a way to deal with them. We are trying to deal with these issues.
This was a probing amendment. I do not claim to have all the answers, but we have to try to meet some of these points. There are serious problems to be dealt with in this legislation, and that is what I think many of the amendments are trying to address-not in any hostile way, but simply to try to improve the legislation.
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(a) to refer complaints against the police and crime commissioner to the IPCC in accordance with Schedule 7 or, where appropriate, deal with such complaints directly;
(b) to monitor the police and crime commissioner's compliance with the code of conduct;
(c) to arrange for complaints against members of the police and crime panel to be dealt with in accordance with subsection (5A);
(d) to monitor the discharge of the police and crime commissioner's functions to deal with complaints in relation to the police force for its area.
Baroness Henig: I shall speak to a number of amendments. I will try to be as brief as I can be in view of the time, but it will be very difficult because this is an important set of amendments made up of Amendments 123AB, 139A, 147A, 148C, 148D and 149C. I am sorry about this, but this is a very large group of amendments and I hope I will not be testing the patience of the Committee too strongly. These are important amendments and although I do not want to speak at inordinate length, their implications and significance need to be spelled out.
My first six amendments in this group make new provisions about conduct and complaint matters in relation to the police and crime commissioner and the police and crime panel. Amendment 139A inserts a new schedule to the Bill requiring panels to establish arm's-length conduct committees to deal with ethical standards for all members of the police commission. I shall briefly outline the effect of these amendments and say why I think they are necessary. Amendment 123AB proposes specific new functions for panels in relation to conduct and complaint matters. Amendment 147A replaces the criteria about criminal offences in relation to suspending a police and crime commissioner with a more generic standard about reaching required standards, and Amendment 148C reflects parallel wording in the event that a police and crime commissioner ceases to be suspended. Amendment 148D makes new provisions about when and how a commissioner could be removed from office by the panel, and Amendment 149C provides that the Committee for Standards in Public Life will devise a code of conduct for all members of the police
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My next four amendments deal with ensuring that the police and crime commissioner appoints, disciplines, suspends and dismisses all officers of ACPO rank within the relevant force. That is currently done by police authorities, and I am suggesting that it should also be done by police and crime commissioners. Amendments 178EA to 178EC deal with strengthening the role of the panel in the appointment, suspension and dismissal of all ACPO-rank officers within the relevant force. Amendments 214ZA and 216ZA make some changes to the disqualification provisions. The first suggests that it is not appropriate for a serving police officer or someone who has served as a police officer in the previous five years to be a commissioner. The second would allow people who are currently members of police authorities to stand as police and crime commissioners. My final amendment, Amendment 216B, ties a strengthened standards regime for police commission members to the disqualification provisions, and stipulates that any police commission member who does not sign the code of conduct within a month of taking office is disqualified.
I have a problem with the whole way the conduct regime is drawn in the Bill at present because it basically predicates all meaningful action that can be taken against a police and crime commissioner on the yardstick of criminal or corrupt behaviour. In my view, this is a woefully inadequate standard for a person who is charged with overseeing the police. If public confidence in the police is to be maintained, communities need to be reassured that the standards expected of them are beyond reproach, not merely slightly better than criminal. The people who scrutinise the police and crime commissioners should also be expected to observe similar high standards. I remain unconvinced that the IPCC is the best organisation to oversee serious police and crime commissioner complaints because its expertise lies in regulating the professional standards of forces, and I am not sure that it is well equipped to deal with the often more politically motivated complaints that police and crime commissioners will attract. I am most concerned about what happens with lower level complaints and with conduct where behaviour cannot be proved to be criminal or corrupt. At the moment, the Bill suggests that these should be matters for informal resolution between the commissioner and the panel, subject to regulations by the Secretary of State, but I find this hopelessly vague. It gives the panel no obvious sanctions over an errant police and crime commissioner. It also fails to deal with the conduct to be expected of members of the panel. Low-level complaints could be about things such as conflicts of interests, a community's perception of poor engagement or being ignored or inappropriate behaviour. None of these is criminal, but they can all be corrosive and can all impact on and undermine public confidence.
I keep being told that the public can vote out a police and crime commissioner who has become a laughing stock or an object of distrust after four years and that it is all about accountability, but much more
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My amendment suggests that expected standards of behaviour should be set out in a code of conduct drawn up by the Committee on Standards in Public Life and should apply to commissioners and panel members. A later amendment suggests that a commissioner or a panel member must sign this code of conduct and agree to abide by it within a month of taking up office. Failure to do so would mean disqualification. Therefore, the code would have real force.
Amendment 123AB would strengthen the role of panels in complaints but provides that panels must establish a sub-committee to deal with complaints and conduct. The amendment would also revise the role of the panel in dealing with complaints and conduct issues against the commissioner, give it authority to deal with complaints against panel members and include an oversight role of the commissioner's activity in relation to force complaints.
Complaints and conduct matters would be entrusted to a committee within the panel but at arm's-length from it. Again, I cannot see that this should be contentious. The conduct committee should be chaired by a person who is not a member of the police commission and should comprise a number of additional independent people who are not members of the police commission. That seems to me to make very good sense.
Some members of the police and crime panel would be able to sit on the committee to provide a link to the open knowledge and expertise on the panel, but panel members would not be in the majority on the committee. This is designed to overcome concerns about politically motivated complaints and to provide reassurance that complaints are dealt with fairly. It also builds on existing good practice.
The conduct committee should be able to make a range of recommendations to the panel about action that can be taken. That could range from an apology or exposing an interest where there is conflict to dismissing a member, including the commissioner, from their position in more serious cases. I have already of course heard the Minister's reaction to this part but none the less I will continue. The decision about what action to take would be for the panel, but the panel would not be able to apply sanctions without an appropriate recommendation from the conduct committee. The amendment also includes a number of other safeguards, such as the need for a majority vote to agree action against a commissioner. As already noted,
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The House will have gathered that I do not in any way agree with the Government's assertion that police authorities are weak and ineffective. However, having taken note of their determination to create more powerful individuals to play a more muscular role in governing the police, I was astonished to see that they are giving the power to appoint deputy assistant chief constables to chief officers. I find that hard to go along with. Apart from the inconsistency of this position, it gives me serious concerns for other reasons. It is important for the governing body to exercise a decisive role in selecting the entire top team. My amendments would remove the proposals in Schedule 8 and replace them with alternative proposals, giving a stronger role to the commissioner and the panel.
I believe that ultimately it is the lay governors who are responsible to the public for the overall shape and style of policing and for the effectiveness of policing in their area. They cannot do this properly if they do not have the final say over the senior team in the force, although I think that it is appropriate to involve the chief officer in who is selected as a deputy or assistant chief constable. My amendment allows for this.
There will always be a tendency for senior people to promote and select others in their own image. Police authorities fought long and hard to get more diversity into the top jobs in the force. I am speaking now as the person responsible for appointing the first female chief constable in the country, with-I have to say this-the considerable assistance of our HMI at the time, the noble Lord, Lord Dear. I am sure that he would agree that the appointment of the first female chief constable in this country was no automatic appointment. It was very difficult and hotly contested, particularly by the outgoing chief constable.
It is bad for the image of the service, bad for the retention of able officers who do not fit into a particular mould and bad for community confidence if senior appointments become little more than a closed shop. I am not saying that they would, but we have to guard against it. My experience suggests that lay governors should be involved in appointments at the top level and that their involvement is extremely important.
While on the subject of ACPO-rank appointments, I see that the Bill has taken out the role of the senior appointments panel in overseeing potential candidates for ACPO-rank positions. Perhaps the Minister can tell me what would be put in its place. I served on the senior appointments panel for a number of years. I thought that it played a valuable role in assessing the career path of ACPO-rank officers and in monitoring appointments by police authorities. I am not sure how this role will be carried out in the future, how suitable candidates for promotion will be selected or how they will be developed and put forward for particular posts. Nor am I clear how commissioners will know who is available. We do not seem to have much clarity in this area and I would be interested to know what will succeed the senior appointments panel and all the work that it did.
I am very conscious of time, for which again I apologise to the House. The most alarming aspect of this section is the suggestion that chief officers should be responsible for disciplining their immediate juniors. This is a recipe for corruption. I can think of few circumstances where a chief officer would not be to some extent tainted by the inappropriate action of an immediate junior. I do not want to go into them, but there have been situations recently around the country where this could have been an enormous problem. I can think of few circumstances where a chief officer would not be tainted. If nothing else, there would be a suggestion that a chief officer had inadequately supervised that person and had been complicit by omission, if not commission. That is unacceptable and needs to be changed. This outlines a compelling summary of the reasons why responsibility for ACPO-rank appointments and standards should remain with police governors. I will not speak on it further.
Conscious of concerns about putting too much power in the hands of a single commissioner, my amendments also suggest a much stronger role for the panel in ACPO-rank appointments and related matters. I believe that members of the panel should sit on the interview panel for ACPO-rank officers and have a vote on who is appointed. The conduct committee should have a role in overseeing the commissioner's actions in relation to force disciplinary action and complaints. The police and crime panel must approve decisions by the commissioner to suspend or dismiss senior officers after referring the matter to the conduct committee where appropriate. There is also a mechanism to refer the matter to the Secretary of State if there is deadlock between the panel and the commissioner about dismissing a senior officer. That seems to be a much more balanced approach to dealing with senior officer appointments and complaints than currently in the Bill. It overcomes the arguments about giving too much power to one person while making sure that the governing body of the force has meaningful traction over the senior force team on behalf of the public. However, if my suggested amendments about an entirely new approach to ACPO-rank appointments are rejected, there is an additional amendment that stipulates that at the very least the panel's existing powers of veto should be subject to a majority vote and not a vote of three-quarters of the panel.
Two amendments deal with revising the disqualification provisions. The first suggests that a serving police officer or a person who has been a police officer within the past five years cannot be a commissioner. I am astonished that there does not seem to be any general provision in the legislation that a serving police officer cannot be a commissioner. Bizarrely, there is a provision preventing officers of the British Transport Police and the Civil Nuclear Constabulary from being commissioners but nothing preventing a member of another police force from taking up this post. I can only assume that this is an oversight, but perhaps the Minister will confirm this.
I also think that it is inappropriate for a former police officer to be a commissioner at least until there is some space and distance between them and their former role. I suggest that this should be at least five years, otherwise we risk either a very insular mentality
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Finally, the disqualification clauses currently contain provisions that a police authority member cannot stand for commissioner. Again, I am surprised by this. I should have thought that a police authority member would have the relevant expertise needed to be a commissioner. It seems to me unfair that a local councillor can stand as a commissioner but he cannot stand if he is also a member of the police authority. He could of course resign as a member of the police authority, but then we risk a number of police authority members resigning so that they can stand. Who would then serve in the mean time? If that happens, has the Minister considered what can be done to overcome significant disengagement of members from authorities before commissioners are put in place? In short, that seems to be an unnecessary provision, which should be removed.
Baroness Harris of Richmond: My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, has tabled a series of important amendments, so she should not apologise to the Committee for taking some time over them. They are extremely important and I hope that noble Lords will read Hansard carefully tomorrow to make sure that they understand exactly what she has said.
I agree completely that the standards of conduct to be established for the PCCs are utterly inadequate in the Bill as presently drafted. Her amendments to address them make absolute sense. I also agree that the current provisions are inadequate for some of the more politically motivated complaints that are likely to be made. Just because they are political, it does not necessarily mean that they are by definition spurious, although of course many of them may be. A proper and robust mechanism for dealing with them is essential, but the Bill does not currently provide for that. More serious in many ways, though, is the lack of clarity about how complaints from ordinary members of the public are going to be dealt with or how generally poor conduct is going to be handled. I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, on the solution that she has set out. It manages to balance properly the independent oversight of these matters with an appropriate and stronger role for the panel. I therefore support the proposals wholeheartedly.
Moving on to senior officer appointments and dismissals, I agree that the final decision on these matters must rest with the governing body. It is not enough for only the chief officer to be appointed, disciplined or dismissed by that body; this must apply to the other senior ranks as well. I support particularly the concerns outlined by the noble Baroness about the
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I wholeheartedly support the much stronger role that the noble Baroness proposes for police and crime panels in appointments, suspensions and dismissals of the top force team. This obviously guards against too much power being in the hands of one person and reinforces a more collaborative approach between the PCC and the panel, which is absolutely desirable.
I agree that it is not appropriate for the chief officer to be responsible for conduct and discipline matters for the other members of the senior force team. I share the concerns of the noble Baroness that this is asking for trouble and could easily lead to corruption. It seems to me that the provisions in the Bill relating to force corruption complaints and discipline must be changed. I agree completely that it cannot be appropriate for a serving police officer to stand as a PCC. How ridiculous that would be. It is much better for police governance that all former police officers must wait some time before they can become PCCs. The noble Baroness has suggested five years; I would make it life.
I also agree that the current provisions seem to discriminate unfairly by barring current police authority members from standing as PCCs. If councillors can stand without having to resign, police authority members should be able to do so, too. Any arguments about their possibly misusing the resources of the authority to aid their campaigns apply equally to councillors. In any event, as with local authorities, rules are in place for police authorities that prevent resources from being used in this way. I am concerned that this could lead to a number of police authority members resigning at a time when authorities need all the members that they have to deliver business as usual in a challenging financial environment and to deliver the successful transition that we all want to see.
Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, I apologise to those Members of the House who are keen to move on to the other debate, but I have to say that it is quite strange that we moved on at this point to this group of amendments, given their sheer number, complexity and importance. I am afraid that I have four issues to raise and, although I will abbreviate what I would otherwise have said, I think that they are important.
The first is that there must be a clear and robust framework for the conduct of people who are either elected police and crime commissioners or, in the case of London, the mayor or the deputy mayor responsible for policing and crime. The same applies to whatever other structure we may have, whether it be police and crime commissions or anything else. The reason why we must have a robust and clear set of guidelines for conduct is that potentially very serious problems could arise. Although provision is made in the Bill to deal with the most extreme examples, it does not cover the sort of things that are much more likely to happen. If an elected police and crime commissioner, having been briefed by a chief officer of police about a particular investigation, takes it upon himself or herself to telephone the subject of the investigation and talk to them about
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I find it extraordinary that there is no mechanism for dealing with such an event. I also find it extraordinary that there are no mechanisms for dealing with what are perhaps slightly less serious matters, or indeed for providing a framework so that the people who are elected understand what is and is not permissible. Things of this sort could happen, so there is a need for a robust and proper framework to deal with them. I am extremely grateful to my noble friend Lady Henig for tabling this group of amendments and for giving us an opportunity, albeit it at a rather inappropriate moment, to debate these points. There has to be a framework for conduct, whether it is the standard structure as set out in these amendments or something else. However, there must be an explicit code of conduct.
My second point relates to the appointment of senior officers. I know that the purpose of the Bill is to have a pure line of accountability with the elected individual holding the chief constable or chief officer of police to account and with the chief officer of police then having absolute control over the force. Again, however, I wonder how well this is going to work in practice. There have been too many instances, even under the existing arrangements, under which the appointment of senior officers is led by police authority members, where it has been felt that in particular police forces there is a golden group of individuals who are selected, supported, encouraged and promoted by the chief constable-they always get preferment. The consequence of having the kind of appointments process set out in the Bill, which the amendments would unpick, is that that is all the more likely. Even if such preferment does not exist, the perception of it will be there. We will have chief constables constantly being assailed by rumours and stories saying that they promote only people in their own image or those whom they particularly favour. If people think that this would not happen, I can assure them that it would.
The same applies to the third group of issues to which I want to refer, which concern discipline. These are the sorts of things that are always difficult and contentious, so in the circumstances it is going to be extremely hard for the chief officer of police to be responsible for disciplinary matters in respect of close colleagues. If one of those colleagues is not disciplined over a matter, the assumption will be made that it is because of favouritism on the part of the chief officer. That may or may not be the case, but the assumption will be made. That is why the broader mechanism set out in these amendments is needed.
I want to refer briefly to my final point, which concerns the grounds on which a chief constable can be removed. I understand that the Government want to see a situation where, if the elected individual or the commissioners decide that a chief constable is not meeting their requirements, it is possible to dispense with him and appoint someone else. However, the grounds for doing so are not given in the Bill. There is no information on how or when this is to happen or what the circumstances will be. I have put my name to
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I hope that the Minister will recognise that these are important principles and that, without a framework against which it can be seen that an elected individual is acting responsibly in dismissing or suspending a chief officer of police, there will be endless problems.
Baroness Doocey: My Lords, I shall speak to Amendments 170, 171, 181, 182, 227 and 228 and I thank my noble friend Lord Harris for supporting them. My concern is about the hiring and firing of chief constables and, in London, the hiring and firing of Met commissioners and deputy commissioners. I am concerned that the police and crime commissioner, or MOPC in London, has the power simply to decide to sack a chief constable or the Met commissioner. My concern is only magnified by the fact that there are absolutely no checks and balances, as noble Lords have already said. I do not believe that there will ever be a police and crime commissioner, or the equivalent in London, who will not be tempted to interfere in the day-to-day running of police and operational issues. There is no room for interference in operational issues, but, as night follows day, it is exactly what happens. As long as somebody has the ultimate power to fire the commissioner, it is quite easy to see that the commissioner might be persuaded to turn a blind eye to something because somebody feels particularly strongly about it and because, ultimately, they know that if they worry about it too much, they can be fired. That is a major problem and it risks the politicisation of the police.
I have a further concern relating to the hiring of chief constables. The Bill contains no selection criteria, which I find very worrying. There is no requirement for expertise or experience in policing; there is no requirement for political independence, as there ought to be. One of the greatest weaknesses of the Bill is its provisions for the hiring and firing of chief constables. The amendments would restore at least some clarity and probity.
Lord Condon: I support the amendments described by the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, and the noble Lord, Lord Harris, in relation to the appointment of chief officers below the level of chief constable. The problems inherent in the Bill as drafted have been described by the noble Lord and the noble Baroness. For reasons of credibility, legitimacy, transparency and national requirements, it is important that the selection process for chief officers below the level of chief constable include people beyond the chief constable of the force involved. Otherwise, all the problems described by other noble Lords will emerge. It perhaps sounds paradoxical for me as a former chief constable and commissioner to support the amendments, but I really believe that it is in the public interest that appointments below chief constable level, at ACPO level, should involve some influence beyond that of the incumbent chief constable.
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I, too, have amendments in this large group-I am afraid that it is another nine. Like other noble Lords, I apologise to Members of the House who are waiting to speak in the next debate. They are sharing something of the pain that has been experienced during the past few Committee days.
My Amendment 148 deals with the suspension of a PCC who is charged with an offence. The Bill provides that the suspension will kick in if the charge is of an offence which carries a term of two years' or more imprisonment. The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, has pitched that at six months; I have brought it right down to any imprisonable offence.
The commissioner will be a man-almost certainly-to whom the chief constable, and hence the force, is accountable. It is important that the credibility of the person right at the top is not under threat. I recognise that this is harsh, because we are talking about a charge and not a conviction. There may be a balance to be struck by looking at the type of offence and at whether the salary should continue to be payable. In most situations where somebody is suspended, salary, allowances and so on continue to be paid. The penalty in this case is that the salary is not paid for the period of suspension, which could do with some examination.
I have picked up definitions from elsewhere in the Bill-extending beyond a criminal offence to "other corrupt behaviour". Other noble Lords have talked of their experiences of dealing with corruption and have seen the fallout at close quarters. I am not sure that "corrupt behaviour" is the right expression, but I am sure that conduct matters are too central to the model-any model-to be left to regulations. We need provisions in the Bill. Nor is it proper to put matters which may affect the whole attitude of the force and individual careers into secondary legislation.
Notwithstanding that, my Amendment 149B would give a regulation-making power to the Secretary of State on the setting of standards to be observed by the commissioner. It would do so not because I think that that is necessarily the right way to go about it but because I want to draw attention to and probe how the Government intend to deal with the setting of standards.
Amendment 149D would add to Schedule 7 a new paragraph providing for the panel to monitor and review complaints and conduct matters and their handling. It would give the panel a wider role in order for it to be able to consider not just individual problems but the overall picture. I stress "monitor", "review" and "handling".
Amendment 172 takes us to the veto of the appointment of a chief constable, which should be a meaningful power. I shall not repeat the arguments advanced for three-quarters, two-thirds or 50 per cent plus one, but noble Lords know where I have been going on this issue.
Amendments 173, 174 and 175 would remove certain powers of the Secretary of State. Schedule 8 provides that the Secretary of State may make regulations about next steps if there is a veto of the appointment,
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Finally, Amendment 216A is an add on to the disqualification from election for or being in office as a commissioner-that is, being the subject of an investigation by or on behalf of the IPCC resulting in a recommendation for qualification.
I have tabled a clutch of amendments to Clauses 38 to 40 but they have been superseded by the eloquence and persuasiveness of my noble friends Lady Henig and Lord Harris, in particular, and so I will not touch on them. They relate to the questions of appointments and discipline.
I shall instead confine myself to two further amendments. Amendment 214 deals with the question of eligibility, to which other noble Lords have referred. It suggests that it would be wrong for someone who had served in the relevant police area during the eight years prior to the election, or four years prior to the election in any other police area, to be eligible to stand for election as a police commissioner; or for any former chief constable or deputy chief constable who has served in any area to be eligible to stand. That is a reasonable position.
Amendment 226C would allow the Secretary of State to require a police commission or commissioner to suspend from duty the chief constable of the police force in the relevant area. This touches on a fear expressed by a number of your Lordships about the possibility, perhaps not of corruption but of a too close relationship between either a police commission or a police commissioner and a chief constable. There have been examples of this in the past, as we have heard. The Bill removes the capacity of the Home Secretary to intervene. It seems a necessary safeguard in those hopefully very exceptional cases that somebody outside can insist upon the replacement of a chief constable if the police authority, however constituted, declines to do so. I urge the Government to look again at that safeguard which is properly exercised by the Home Secretary.
Lord Soley: My Lords, I am afraid I shall have to speak, if only briefly, because I regard this as one of the most important group of amendments. It is very sad that we are, in effect, rushing through it in the way that we are. I say to the Minister simply that one of the best things he could do is to give a copy of the speech of my noble friend Lady Henig to every member of
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If this House does not give detailed attention to the amendments of the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, and the others grouped with them, we will be in danger of being ourselves accused of what people in this House often accuse the House of Commons of doing-that is, not giving the Bill the detailed scrutiny it deserves. This is one of the most important groups of amendments. I am sad that we cannot spend more time on it-it deserves it-but the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, has given a real lead to the House which has been supported by others, both from the independent and Liberal Democrat Benches. The Government need to take this group of amendments away and come back with serious changes-otherwise they will rue the day that they left to chance the kind of thing we saw in the distant past where we had allegations about corruption, dismissals and appointments and all that goes with it. It is a very serious group.
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I know the Minister will seek to answer all the points. I have been listening intensely, as have other Members of the Committee, and I realise that it may be difficult to cover all the points in an atmosphere of pressure. I hope that the Minister will agree to write in detail to everyone who has taken part in the Committee stage of the Bill covering all these points as soon as possible so that we can consider the Government's response in good time for Report.
Lord Stevenson of Balmacara: My Lords, earlier in the discussion today my noble friend Lord Hunt mentioned that this was a bad Bill and thought that a number of noble Lords around the House felt the same. The advantage is that it has allowed us to look into some of the practices currently surrounding policing and it may be that some good will come out of our previous debates and the current debate, even if we cannot amend the Bill to make it better. For that we have to pay tribute to the considerable work that has been going on, the thinking that has been taking place and the amendments that have been tabled by my noble friends Lady Henig and Lord Harris and the noble Baronesses, Lady Harris, Lady Doocey and Lady Hamwee.
They have all pecked away at the points which underlie this group of amendments, wide though they are. They include the question of how we manage to find within the Bill, or in any rethinking of how we approach policing, the balance between the public confidence that is necessary for us to carry out our policing-because, in the well-worn phrase, we police by consent-and the need for proper accountability and control.
I shall be brief and make four quick points. We think that there must be more to the Bill about conduct generally, particularly in relation in the Bill. The Minister needs to explain why the proposals put down in amendments from across the House are not required.
The point has been well made about the need to make sure that we have a proper process for the appointment of senior staff in the police service and do not leave it simply to the chief constable. Posts at or above ACPO rank need a public confidence check as well as other aspects. We have had support for this concept from the Cross Benches and the Minister needs to explain why there is not more in the Bill on this matter.
We have touched on the question of discipline and the role of the police and crime commissioners in relation to that. Again there seems to be a good case for it to be looked at again within the Bill and I hope the Minister will be able to respond on that. She gave a clue in her opening remark last time round that that was not going to find favour, but the arguments have been heavily weighted against her on this point.
It was clear in all the speeches that we need an approach to bring together two aspects: what are the reasonable standards required for the work of policing in any regime that will come out of the Bill; and how do we balance the public interest in making sure that these matters are being dealt with? It is all very well to say that the election of a police and crime commissioner is sufficient, but that will only get us started; it does not give us the guarantee that, as work goes on and time passes, people will retain confidence. If confidence is gone, there is no service. We have to make sure that we keep politics out of this as the process goes forward.
Baroness Browning: My Lords, I am grateful and I shall be happy to write to noble Lords. This is a large group of amendments and a lot of detail has been discussed across several subjects relating to the amendments. I shall be very happy to write but perhaps I may begin by touching on a couple of matters that might be helpful to noble Lords.
The noble Baroness, Lady Henig, mentioned the fact that members of police authorities are not allowed under this legislation to stand as police and crime commissioners. That is the case. I have just looked at the legislation again. But if they were to resign their position as a member of the police authority they would then be eligible to stand as a candidate. They would not be able to do so while retaining their position. That is not uncommon. For example, many people standing for Parliament are required, because of the nature of the job that they hold, to give up their job in order to stand as a candidate so that there is no conflict of interest there. If they were keen to stand as a candidate, they could resign from the police authority and then stand.
Baroness Browning: I will have to check that out for the noble Baroness, and write to her on that. It looks as though the Bill says that, just because you have been on a police authority, for some reason that is not obvious you cannot stand as a candidate. I agree that that reads in a rather strange way. But that is the position and I shall check out whether the same rule applies to people on local authorities. I shall write to the noble Baroness on that.
A lot of concern has been expressed about the police and crime commissioner and what would happen if they did something outwith the law or acted in a certain way. The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, gave an example-that they might ring somebody with confidential information that had been given by the chief constable. That could be construed as perverting the course of justice, which would be a criminal offence subject to investigation by the IPCC.
Lord Harris of Haringey: I am sorry to hold up noble Lords who wish to speak in the debate that follows, but my example was not posed as a hypothetical incident. It happened in London. The present Mayor of London was briefed about an operation and phoned the person who was the subject of the investigation. I think it would have been disproportionate for the Mayor of London to be prosecuted, as the Minister suggests, for trying to pervert the course of justice. It would have been disproportionate to something that was ill thought out and a spur of the moment action by the Mayor of London to phone somebody that he regarded as a chum. Because there was in existence a robust, standard structure, with clear guidance and a code of conduct as to what was or was not appropriate, it was possible to hold the Mayor of London to account and go through a process whereby, I am sure, he would not do the same thing again. But if the only answer is to arrest the police and crime commissioner for perverting the course of justice, I suspect that we are getting ourselves into a very unfortunate tangle.
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I suggest that the Minister looks at a case in Lancashire, where the father of somebody accused of an offence telephoned a friend who happened to be in the same organisation-I do not need to go into detail-who then telephoned a friend of his who was in the same organisation, who then telephoned the chief constable, who then telephoned the police officers involved with the original charge. The charge was reduced as a result of the call from the chief constable, and the person got off from the lower charge. In the middle of all that could have been one of these commissioners. In the end, people lost their jobs, but there was not actually a crime committed anywhere in that chain of offences.
Baroness Browning: I am very grateful to the noble Baroness. I realise that the House feels under some time pressure at the moment. I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Harris, that the case to which he refers relating to the Mayor of London was one in which the person concerned was aware of the investigation, but I do not want to delay the House too much on that. It is
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I have to say to the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, that I am afraid that since I last said this half an hour ago I have not changed my mind about the code of conduct for police and crime commissioners. The House heard what I said about that at the time. I have concerns around that.
Amendment 178EC and Amendments 178G to 228 would greatly increase the role of the police and crime panel and the Secretary of State in the appointment, suspension and removal of chief officers. I have heard what noble Lords have said about their concerns around this. It was the intention that a police and crime commissioner be democratically accountable for their decisions regarding the appointment, suspension and removal of a chief constable. Following the vote in this House at the beginning of the Committee's proceedings, perhaps noble Lords will want to consider whether that is still the case.
It is a fundamental principle of these reforms that those responsible for taking decisions about the appointment, suspension and removal of a chief officer are accountable for that decision. The election of the police and crime commissioner would, for the first time, mean that those responsible for taking key decisions, such as the appointment and suspension or removal, are directly accountable to the public for those decisions. While the PCP provides an important scrutiny function during this process, it is not the primary decision-making body; that is the role of the PCC, as set out in the original Bill that came from another place to this House.
Amendments 169B and 178F would limit the pool of candidates from which PCCs would be able to choose. By limiting the pool of candidates to those and only those forces covered by Schedule 2 to the Police Act 1996, we would prevent PCCs from appointing individuals that have acted in equivalent posts in other relevant services. At this crucial time of reduced budgets and increased financial challenge, it would be vital that PCCs and chief constables are able to avail themselves of as wide a pool of talent as possible.
Amendments 177ZA and 178BA would transfer the power to appoint, remove and suspend deputy chief constables and assistant chief constables away from chief constables to the PCC, supported by a panel of people. It is a fundamental principle of the Government's programme of police reform that the command team of each force be appointed by the chief constable. I have heard what noble Lords have said about that, and I see one or two still shaking their heads who do not agree, but we believe strongly that this responsibility should rest with chief constables, as they are best placed to decide who they need to make up posts in their chief officer team and what skills they need. Noble Lords may wish to note that we have the support of Sir Paul Stephenson, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, in this regard.
I am sorry that I am probably not going to do as much justice to the detail of these amendments as noble Lords may have wished but I am conscious that we have had quite a time now on this group. I hope
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Baroness Henig: I thank the Minister and I apologise to the House. As someone who did not really want to start at the time we did, I am really sorry to those who have been waiting for the next debate. Again, I am short of time but I have to tell the Minister that I found the response completely inadequate for what I believe was a most serious group of amendments. We really have not had a satisfactory response. Perhaps I could just cite, on the mention of it being the first time that somebody directly elected would be taking these powers and that therefore we would have to have a completely different response, that I was elected and took decisions in relation to chief officers but I was covered by standard legislation. I do not see why commissioners should not be accountable to standards procedures, with proper committees of conduct and so forth. I really cannot follow that argument at all.
I cannot accept the argument about chief officers appointing their own team. I am well aware of what some chief constables think about this. I have been a friend of Sir Paul Stephenson for more years than I could tell the House and this is one of the issues on which we have always disagreed, although we did so behind closed doors and did not necessarily advertise our differences to the public. I think he is wrong on this one, as I happen to believe that lay governance is important in top-team appointments. It works for local government in town halls, where a chief executive does not appoint their whole team. In fact, local councillors take part in appointing people in the team and I do not see why the same should not be true of policing. Why is policing different? I am sorry; I do not see the argument at all. As I say, I find the responses inadequate but, in view of the time, as I am sure that we will return to some of these matters on Report-I would be very surprised if we did not-I will withdraw my amendment.
Baroness Garden of Frognal: My Lords, might I remind your Lordships that this is a timed debate? When the clock says three, you have completed your three minutes and should give way to the next speaker so that all those on the speakers list have the opportunity to contribute.
Baroness Crawley: My Lords, I thank all noble Lords taking part in tonight's debate, especially for their patience. Their knowledge and experience will indeed enhance our proceedings. I am sure we would wish to remember our dear colleague Baroness Park who, were she with us today, would surely have taken part. I open my remarks by congratulating the Government on the recent announcement that the UK is to donate £2 million to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation. As the years pass, ever fewer of those who saw active service in the Second World War are still with us and, today, so much public attention is understandably focused on immediate conflicts. It is precisely for this reason that those of us who have the privilege to be in Parliament in this era should find the time to reflect on the effort mounted by so many, all those years ago, to rid Europe of fascism and especially to liberate France.
In this Question for Short Debate, I am revisiting the history of the women of the Special Operations Executive F Section, while acknowledging the tremendous debt that we owe to all members of the SOE. I am asking out loud whether the Government agree that not enough has been done to commemorate them formally. The women concerned were recruited to serve in occupied France. They acted variously as couriers, wireless operators and saboteurs. They found places for planes to land, bringing more agents and supplies. They established safe houses and worked with resistance movements to disrupt the occupation and clear the path for the allied advance.
Those women did these things, given wartime pressures, after a very brief period of training. Apparently, they had each been told when recruited that there was only a 50 per cent chance of personal survival-yet, to their eternal credit, off they went. Some had been born in France, some in Britain, a couple in Ireland and some still further afield. Some were Jewish, some convent-educated, one Muslim. Some were already mothers, some just out of their teens; some shop assistants, some journalists, some wives; some were rather poor. In France, they often had to travel hundreds of miles by bike and train, protected only by forged papers, and as they went about their frequently exhausting work they were under constant danger of arrest by the Gestapo. Some were even exposed to betrayal by double agents and turncoats.
The story of what happened to some of those women is often unreadable and, in 21st-century Britain, is perhaps too easily under-remembered. A number were captured in France, horribly brutalised and sent to camps in Germany. There, the torment was often sustained over weeks and months on starvation diets, the women crammed in unsanitary and overcrowded huts with disease rampant. Four of them were killed in Natzweiler by being injected-scarcely credible as it is-with disinfectant. A number, once worked and beaten to a standstill, were shot and hanged at Dachau and Ravensbrück.
From the list of those who survive, the House will perhaps recall the case of Eileen Nearne, whose death in lonely poverty in Torquay only last year provoked so much controversy. Over the post-war years, a number
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At this point, I will mention those who, over the years and up to the present day, work to keep alive the memory of these outstandingly brave women. In this respect, I mention Shrabni Basu and the Noor Inayat Khan Memorial Trust, currently raising funds to build a statue to her in Gordon Square in London. I mention the Violette Szabo Museum in Herefordshire, run by Miss Rosemary Rigby, who I had the pleasure of meeting recently. I also mention the efforts mounted by Madame Szabo's daughter Tania, who has commemorated her mother in a wonderful book and website. More generally, we know, of course, of the work done every day by the Royal British Legion and other bodies, such as the Allied Special Forces Association. Plenty of people care very deeply about this.
These days, however, the preponderance of effort from the relevant organisations is directed at preserving existing memorials relating to the Second World War rather than creating new ones. However understandable this might be, we just cannot let the mist of oblivion creep over the memory of these women. It would be wonderful if there could indeed be a special new memorial to them. I ask how the Minister feels about that point and how it might be organised.
However, all memorials need not just be pieces of metal or stone. We need to remind our artists of these achievements and sacrifices. We need to prompt those who name new streets and halls of residence and blocks of flats. We have a tradition of celebratory and memorial stamps that could be revisited. We need to bring this story into schools and into the curriculum. We need to encourage English Heritage and other bodies to allow plaques to appear on the houses where these women once lived.
The women to whom I refer are Cecily Lefort, Diana Rowden, Eliane Plewman, Yvette Cormeau, Yolande Beekman, Pearl Witherington, Elizabeth Reynolds, Anne-Marie Walters, Madeleine Damerment, Denise Bloch, Eileen Nearne, Yvonne Baseden, Patricia O'Sullivan, Yvonne Fontaine, Lilian Rolfe, Violette Szabo, Muriel Byck, Odette Wilen, Nancy Wake, Phyliss Latour, Marguerite Knight, Madeleine Lavigne, Sonya Butt, Ginette Jullian, Christine Granville, Gillian Gerson, Virginia Hall, Yvonne Rudellat, Blanche Charlet, Andrée Borrel, Lise de Baissac, Mary Herbert, Odette Sansom, Marie-Thérèse Le Chene, Sonia Olschanezky, Jacqueline Nearne, Francine Agazarian, Julienne Aisner, Vera Leigh, Noor Inayat Khan and Vera Atkins. Even, and especially, Hansard can be a memorial, too.
Baroness Crawley: Many of the women of whom I speak tonight went on to live lives of ordinary toil, making a living, raising a family, paying their taxes, watching the television. They got on with things as
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To live now for so long in a Europe purged of fascism, where millions have a reasonable chance of living their lives without enduring prejudice and brutality, where minorities can hope to be free, where political ideas compete inside democratic institutions and are not imposed by thuggery, must have seemed like an exotic fantasy in those early days of the 1940s. As the women of whom we speak today knew better than most, none of this comes cheap. My granddaughter's granddaughter should be able to know and see this story-this wonder of sacrifice, determination and achievement-in a century still to come. That is why I put down this Question tonight.
Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, many congratulations to the noble Baroness, Lady Crawley. When I think back a few years and remember the difficulties faced by those who wished to commemorate, through a form of medal such as I am wearing this evening, work done at Bletchley Park, I am not surprised that nothing appears to have happened to honour those incredible women, who in many ways gave their lives for this country. It is absolutely shaming. After all, we at Bletchley Park never risked our lives or were in danger of losing our lives, unlike those who served in the SOE. I am told that some received some recognition -posthumously, quite often-but others nothing.
Three or four years ago the Imperial War Museum staged an exhibition of all the various categories of work done by women from 1939 to 1946. We were split into groups, with a leader in each group. I well remember my noble friend Lady Sharples, who had served in the Royal Air Force, leading a WAAF group that included the tiny figure of Diana Barnato, a leading debutante in 1938 who flew Spitfires and Hurricanes. Her Majesty the Queen opened the exhibition and was delighted to come face to face with a lorry of the same type and vintage as the one on which Princess Elizabeth learnt to change a wheel and everything else that was relevant. Not only that, she was faced with the original group of women who had been her fellow learners.
I had the very great honour to be in charge of the small group of surviving SOE ladies, including one who was known as the White Mouse because she was so good at hiding and escaping. She was more than 90 and in a wheelchair. She carried on a spirited conversation with the Duke of Kent until suddenly, to everyone's surprise, she looked at him and said, "And who are you?". The whole event was a tremendous privilege. My only hope is that this short debate will
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Perhaps the Stafford Hotel, off St James's Street, also deserves a medal. The Stafford, I am told, became the unofficial meeting place for SOE people on leave. I know that one incredibly brave woman stayed on for more than two years after the war had finished. Every night she drank her two gin and tonics and ate her dinner. She never asked for or was given a bill. That was how that small hotel honoured our heroes. It is a pity that those in charge never saw fit to do the same. Is it too late to put right this wrong?
Baroness Randerson: I thank the noble Baroness for giving us this opportunity to pay tribute to these truly extraordinary women. Churchill referred to the SOE as "ungentlemanly warfare". The fact that its work was shrouded in mystery, combined with the fact that General de Gaulle was absolutely determined not to recognise its significance, led the Government at that time almost to ignore the amazing work that it did. The noble Baroness rightly says how important it is that we should recognise these women. Three of them were awarded the George Cross and others were made MBEs or were the subject of memorials, but there has been no consistent approach to remembering them and recognising what they did. That should be done in their memory, for the sake of their families and for our sake as a nation, because we should not forget them.
As has been pointed out, what is so outstanding about those women is that many of them may not necessarily have considered themselves British or felt patriotic towards Britain. Precisely because they were chosen primarily for their language skills, they came from very mixed international backgrounds. For example, Noor Inayat Khan, an Indian Muslim, had an American mother and had lived primarily in Russia and France. Christine Granville was of Polish descent. Vera Atkins, a Romanian Jew, had lived in France. Many of them exhibited great bravery and physical endurance just to get to Britain in the first place to train for the SOE. Denise Bloch walked across the Pyrenees to escape to London to undertake SOE training. Nancy Wake also escaped from France, leaving behind her husband, who was captured and killed. She then parachuted back into France as a special agent. We should remember that the life expectancy of these women was on average six weeks, as when they were captured they were treated as spies, not prisoners of war.
Finally, we should think about their courage. There is a sort of courage that can be forced on you. For example, if you are suddenly taken hostage, you can show great fortitude. You can show great courage when faced with big events. When you go into battle as a soldier, you can gear up your courage for that event, but these women had to live a lie and show that courage day in, day out and for every hour of every day, unaware of whom they could rely on.
Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde: My Lords, I, too, thank my noble friend Lady Crawley for introducing the debate, the content of her speech and the way in
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The debate stimulates fresh awareness of ordinary women who carried out extraordinary deeds. If they had been asked beforehand whether they would make a significant mark on the war or British life, they would probably have said, "Me, I don't think so". However, one reads of a young woman, Yolande Unternahrer, who became a member of the SOE and was imprisoned after having been married for only six months. Men said that these women would break when under torture but they did not, and we know what can happen to women when held in captivity, but not to men. Yolande drew and wrote poetry on toilet paper in her own blood and somehow managed to do embroidery while in prison. These were quite extraordinary women who in the prime of their lives went off knowing that it was highly unlikely that they would come back.
I very much welcome this debate. A number of memorials have been erected around the country but we need a memorial to all the women in the SOE, not just those who have been recognised posthumously. I felt great shame that Eileen Nearne was found alone, with no family, and that the local authority in Torquay had to bury her. What an indictment that is on a nation that owes so much to such a small number.
It is always a pleasure to take part in a debate with the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington. She was absolutely spot on, as usual, in saying that it is late but not too late. This is one of those issues that would receive much support from all across the House, not just to make us feel better, but to pay a debt that has been for too long outstanding.
Lord Patten: It is indeed never too late until it is too late. These women were quintessential volunteers who were not just put on active service. That makes their bravery all the more extraordinary and all the more deserving of such enduring recognition that our nation can give before time passes the last of them by.
I have, via a splendid late member of my family by marriage, knowledge of the self-effacing style of someone who, while not in the SOE ranks, served at Bletchley Park. More accurately, because of that discretion, I have next to no knowledge of what she did. She cited until her dying day that life-saving reason, official secrets-the doctrine to which the wartime of both sexes cleaved so honourably in a pre-Wikileaks age. She may well have sat next to my noble friend Lady Trumpington, but, if so, she went to her grave keeping that secret-and quite right too.
Such discretion was all the more vital for those in the SOE-whether they were skilful controllers such as Vera Atkins CBE, masterful asset that she was, or those who she dispatched, such as the 26 women who came back from France and the 13 women who, alas, were left behind. They operated sometimes with 13-pound radios and dragged trailing antennae behind them as they moved through the countryside at night.
If it is right, as it has so belatedly been judged to be, to recognise the totally male heroism of Bomber Command, then by the exact same token, as the noble Baroness, Lady Crawley, said in her magnificent speech, such recognition should be accorded to these women. It is never too late until it is too late. Do not let us leave it until it really is too late.
Baroness Brinton: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Crawley, for instigating this important debate. I hope that the many forms of remembrance will be recognised. There has been much mention of Noor Inayat Khan, who died aged 30 at Dachau. A memorial is at last being sculpted, which will be put in Gordon Square in London. In today's sometimes tense multi-faith world, I find it incredibly moving that a young Muslim woman gave her life when protecting and saving Jewish refugees from the Holocaust. Her George Cross and Croix de Guerre are testament to her bravery and her ultimate sacrifice.
However, she is one of a few of the 39 women SOE agents, of whom 13 died, to be thus recognised. Many of their male counterparts received honours. Indeed, many of the male SOE agents were treated much better by the German authorities because, allegedly, women were not covered by the Geneva Convention. It is interesting also that there are differences in views on the treatment of women by our own military. I found Sarah Helm's book A Life in Secrets interesting on this matter. She said that the problem was that the statutes of the British Army, Navy and Royal Air Force barred women from armed combat and that there was therefore no legal authority for women to engage in guerrilla warfare. I suspect that that has clouded the memorials to them thereafter. Perhaps that is why some women received CBEs rather than military honours.
Pearl Witherington was a case in point. Initially a courier in the Stationer circuit, running between the Loire and the Pyrenees, she later ran the Wrestler circuit in the Toulouse area, leading thousands of Resistance fighters. She was not just part of them or just a courier, but she led them. She was so hated by the Germans that there was a price of 1 million francs on her head. Last week, I visited the Musée de la Resistance in Cahors. The work of the SOE agents, including Pearl's work, is held up alongside that of the French Resistance fighters. Comparison with the French may be difficult because the war was on their soil. However, they recognised the work of women. The key message was universally reinforced throughout the museum. The service of these women was of the highest order and was undoubtedly military. I have also seen the brief displays in Arisaig and Beaulieu where SOE agents, men and women, were trained. There is barely a mention of women.
It is clear that the outstanding, dangerous and sometimes deadly service of those women needs to be recognised at the highest level. I ask the Minister to consider re-evaluating the medals awarded to those women, both alive and posthumously, to ensure that they reflect the highest military contribution possible.
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An interesting thing about our intelligence services is the way in which they have been more open to the employment of women than other departments of the government machine. It is striking that, during the war, the report by Sir Neville Bland was clearly designed to encourage employment by women in the SIS. Indeed, before the end of the war, the director of production at the SIS said that it was now accepted policy that women should be employed in those appointments for which their qualifications and experience suited them. That was long before such views were widespread in other parts of Whitehall. My colleague at Queen's University, Belfast, Professor Keith Jeffery, author of the recently published, magisterial volume on MI6, tells me that he believes that there is a seepage of those relatively progressive attitudes from SOE. The great historian of SOE, the great wartime practitioner of those arts, Michael Foot, has confirmed to me, for example, that Colonel Gubbins, later Major-General Sir Colin Gubbins, head of SOE, had no problem with the employment of women. You could not say of Gubbins that he necessarily had the concept of being an equal opportunities employer at the heart of his being or considered himself a feminist, but necessity is the mother of invention and, in 1942, the necessity was pressing to find new recruits, hence the foundation of F Section, referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Crawley.
In recent years, there has been growing interest in the women of SOE, partly because of the good book by Sarah Helm on Vera Atkins, which has already been mentioned and, undoubtedly, the public dismay following the sad circumstances surrounding the death in Torquay of Eileen Nearne. We can all recall that embarrassing newspaper headline "Forgotten World War II spy tortured by the Nazis, died penniless after her British pension was halted without explanation". In 1946, Eileen Nearne was declared 100 per cent disabled by a special pensions tribunal as a result of exhaustion and neurosis, but over the next several years, her pension was whittled away and she seems to have received little help with the anguish which was the inevitable legacy of her experience of World War II.
Those are things that make us very uncomfortable. It is clear to me that the issues raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Crawley, tonight are important. I very much hope that the Minister will respond as warmly as possible to the sentiments uttered by the noble Baroness.
Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe: My Lords, I, too, thank my noble friend for initiating this debate. I add my support to the growing band of voices urging greater recognition for the female agents of the Special Operations Executive. That small number of extraordinary young women gave everything at an extraordinary time in our island history. Besides their bravery, their language skills and ability to pass unremarked in enemy-occupied countries, many female SOE agents also had in common their extreme youth. Many were in their early 20s when they volunteered to carry out SOE's work of reconnaissance and sabotage behind enemy lines. Their youth and their bravery have echoes today. I think of my god-daughter, whose ship, HMS "Liverpool", was engaged in a fierce gun battle earlier last month, six miles off the coast of Gadaffi-held territory in Libya. Thankfully, the attack was quashed with no casualties or damage to the ship.
Further afield, of course, Britain has women serving alongside men in Afghanistan and Iraq, risking their lives in the service of their country. We do not take for granted their willingness to do a difficult and dangerous job on our behalf, and we must not forget those who did so during previous conflicts.
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