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I do not claim that this amendment is perfect. I suspect that the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, accepts that her amendment is not perfect. She said that it talks about consulting PCCs. One of the dangers is that by the time PCCs are in a position to be consulted they may well already have taken a whole series of decisions around good governance. I suspect that if your Lordships were to support any of the amendments in this group we would need to revisit those amendments at Third Reading or when the Bill comes back from the Commons, but the important point is the principles that have been raised.
The key issue that has been highlighted as an argument for not proceeding with this measure concerns the changes that are being made to police and crime panels. I have listened to the noble Baroness, Lady Browning, say that the Government are listening. However, the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, then stands up, says that he has listened but then describes exactly what changes are being made. What changes are being made to PCPs? We have moved from a threshold of three-quarters having to vote on an issue to a threshold of two-thirds. During my four years on the London Assembly, and in the succeeding seven years, I do not think there has been a single occasion when the London Assembly has achieved the two-thirds threshold needed to do anything about the mayor's budget, so two-thirds is a high threshold. The threshold has been lowered from a monumentally high one to a high one. That is a very big concession for which your Lordships will, of course, be grateful.
The noble Lord, Lord Wallace, talked about the direction of travel, working with people as well as checking them and the introduction of confirmation hearings for a small group of officials. That is all very positive stuff but it does not constitute significant movement in this area. There are two principal problems with PCPs as regards providing a structure of robust governance. First, they will by and large exercise that role after the event. Where there is a need to improve governance it is important to have intervention in
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We had a flight of fancy from the noble Lord, Lord Wasserman, regarding where all this might lead. He referred to conferences and associations and complained that the amendment was too prescriptive because it says that there should be between four and seven members on a non-executive board. However, he then complained that all sorts of things were not included, so in fact he was arguing that it was both too prescriptive and not prescriptive enough. I do not think that that flight of fancy is terribly helpful to us. However, if the noble Lord was prepared to come forward with the precise balance of words which would be prescriptive enough but not too prescriptive, I am sure that we would all be very grateful and very pleased to receive it.
Do we want proper governance around these individuals, who will have very substantial personal mandates with all the authority and perhaps arrogance that that brings? Do we want a proper structure whereby the people who have elected them can see that they are carrying out their functions properly and appropriately? I am not satisfied with the Government's response. Therefore, I wish to test the opinion of the House.
Baroness Browning: My Lords, I shall speak also to government Amendments 6, 60, 62 to 64, 66 to 68, 72, 110, 115, 133, 191, 293 and 303, which seek to set out new provisions on the appointment of chief executives, chief finance officers and deputy police and crime commissioners.
It is right that the panel is able to apply its scrutiny powers to any such appointment. It will be able to review a proposed appointment and hold a confirmation hearing in public. The panel will then have to produce a report that includes a recommendation as to whether the candidate should be appointed. The police and crime commissioner will have to respond to this recommendation.
In Committee, my noble friend Lord Shipley and the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, discussed the importance of the posts of chief executive and chief finance officer, and asked how they will be appointed. I hope that the amendment relating to this makes that clearer, but I shall say a little more. The two posts will be key to assisting the police and crime commissioner in the exercise of his or her functions, and will assure and monitor the propriety of the PCC's decisions in accordance with local government legislation. We therefore agree that transparency and ensuring that information is available publicly will be crucial in allowing the public to hold their police and crime commissioner to account. These new arrangements will open up the appointment process for these senior members of the police and crime commissioner's staff and allow full scrutiny throughout the process.
Noble Lords will note that the Government have tabled further amendments in relation to deputy police and crime commissioners. Their appointment will now also be subject to a confirmation hearing. The Bill does not require a PCC to appoint a deputy but, as currently drafted, permits it. I know that a number of Peers were concerned that the lack of provision for appointing a deputy police and crime commissioner meant that a PCC could appoint anyone. The Government have listened to those concerns and brought forward these amendments to meet them. The amendments would still not require a PCC to appoint a deputy but would provide a set process that, should they do so, must be followed. Most importantly, it means that any deputy appointed by a PCC would be subject to a confirmation hearing before the police and crime panel. Therefore, any concerns that the panel has can be made public and be put to that candidate.
Moreover, any deputy may serve only for as long as the PCC who appointed them is in office. Let me clarify what I mean by that. We have discussed and of course need to take account of the circumstances in which a PCC leaves office. That can be at the end of their term of office. Illness or accident might prevent them from concluding their period of office, thus triggering a by-election. The deputy would not be required to step down on the day a PCC was unable to complete or fulfil his or her term of appointment. Clearly, at the point at which a new PCC came to office, either at the end of a term or as a result of a by-election, the deputy's term of office would be aligned with that of the PCC who appointed them, so we would not suddenly be left overnight without a PCC or a deputy in an emergency.
Secondly, specific functions may be delegated only to a deputy, not to any other members of staff, so that clear lines of accountability are preserved. Because of that, specific disqualification criteria are set out to ensure propriety for the post. Thirdly, I know that many noble Lords have been concerned that requirements of political restriction would prevent a councillor from being appointed to the PCC's staff. The changes instead allow a councillor to be appointed as a deputy PCC if a PCC should want to do so. Finally, to ensure further propriety, a deputy PCC shall be subject to the same independent complaints process as the PCC, rather than simply to an internal process run by the PCC.
Baroness Henig: My Lords, I have one amendment in the group, Amendment 228. Before I speak to it, I apologise in advance if I do not fully appreciate all the nuances of the amendments that the Government have laid. I was thinking about that in our debate on the previous amendment when the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, took us gently to task for not having appreciated how much the Government had moved on this. If the Government table amendments only the day before the debate, it makes it extremely difficult for those of us who, with the best will in the world, want to follow the changes, to do so in the short time available.
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The amendment builds on the Government's welcome recognition that if we are to have commissioners covering very large areas-for example, 10,000 square kilometres or 2.3 million people-for 365 days a year, it is necessary for there to be a deputy. It is necessary just in case the individual does not have your Lordships' stamina, or even if the commissioner might like to have a holiday.
On a less happy note, although a standards regime for commissioners and panels has been noticeable by its absence from the Government's plans, a deputy should be enshrined within the Bill as one step towards ensuring probity and preserving public confidence. That should be one element. For example, what would happen if a commissioner had to make a decision about contracts or appointments but had a personal or prejudicial interest in the companies or individuals concerned? In such circumstances, it would seem essential that they could call on a trusted deputy who could maintain public trust and confidence in the institution of commissioner if the individual had to stand aside for whatever reason. I can see the rationale behind that, and I am pleased that the Government have listened, taken those arguments on board and come back with a firm proposal to insert the provision for a deputy into the Bill.
At the same time, I feel I have to point out that the Government's concept of the deputy and the job specification for it seem to me antithetical to the entire rationale for commissioners: that of democratic accountability. I listened earlier with great attention as the noble Lord, Lord Howard of Lympne, in his usual inimitable style, laid out the great advance that we are now making towards democratic accountability. I understand the arguments, so I would expect to proceed beyond the commissioner to the deputy commissioner.
It seems odd to me that, despite pushing on with this reform and spending more than more than £100 million on introducing that direct democratic accountability into the oversight of policing, the only thing that we have heard so far is that the deputy commissioner is likely to be unelected-although I just heard that political restrictions will not apply, so that person could be a councillor. I had not appreciated that until the noble Baroness pointed it out. It is now conceivable that the deputy could be elected, but also very possible that they would not. With this direct accountability and great change, it would seem more logical to me if the deputy was elected.
I would find it difficult to find any logic in an elected commissioner handing over, for whatever reason, the bulk of their portfolio powers over policing and precept to someone who was not elected and perhaps not identified with a political party. If there is a theme running through this reform, we need to bolster it.
The main aim of my amendment is to ensure that when a commissioner is unable to act, whether because of illness, legal issues or whatever, their role should be covered by an elected acting person drawn from the panel and not by an unelected officer. That is my main concern. In a way, that is separate from the question of the deputy. There can be a deputy who is unelected.
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I have to remind the Minister that there was great strength of feeling on that point in Committee, to which the Government have not entirely responded. They have responded a little by saying that the deputy might be elected but that they do not have to be. It is the "do not have to be" that worries me. The deputy could remain the deputy, but I would not want a non-elected individual dealing with a precept, for example, or a whole range of sensitive political issues and public concerns for what could be a period of many weeks. That would be totally against the central objectives of the Bill. That is what I am trying to get at; when a commissioner, for whatever reason, stands aside, the acting commissioner should be someone who was elected.
Under my amendment, it would be an elected member of the panel. I can see that there being an elected deputy might meet my concerns, but I am very sensitive to arguments that the deputies, given how they will be appointed, might be seen as cronies or pals of the commissioner. We need to look at that a little more closely. I did not altogether understand how the commissioners would choose the deputies. There are clearly issues about that appointments process, with people being seen to merit their appointment and not, in a sense, being appointed through jobs for the boys, cronyism or whatever. Perhaps I am sensitive on this matter because of my gender-I do not know-but it is a point that I feel I need to raise.
That is the purpose of my amendment. As I said, I am very interested to hear what the Government have to say, because their amendments have cut across my thinking to some extent but probably not fully.
Lord Shipley: My Lords, I shall speak to Amendment 229, but it needs to be placed in the broader context of this group. The amendment relates to our view that a deputy should be a member of the panel and, in the context of that specific amendment, not a member of the commissioner's staff.
There is a very great difference between our view that the person appointed as the deputy should be from the panel and Amendment 60, which gives absolute power to the police and crime commissioner to appoint a deputy to exercise any function of the commissioner.
That is an unfortunate way of putting it because it relates to a statutory provision. However, should we not have deputies who are appointed on merit, as opposed to people who are not appointed on merit? Nevertheless, there is then a proposal in proposed new
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In other words, a proposal is made to the panel and the panel will go through a process. It will comment and report in public, but the commissioner can turn down its view. Therefore, broadly speaking, we are now where we were before with absolute power being given to the commissioner. I have great reservations about that.
I come back to Amendment 229 in my name and that of my noble friend Lady Hamwee, which says that the deputy should be a member of the panel. That has the virtue of the deputy being a person who is elected. At least, I assume that they will be an elected member, as opposed to an independent co-opted member. Although they will not be a member directly from the panel, they will at least be a member elected to the local authority. I have a real concern about what is being proposed here. There may be a deputy whom the police commissioner can appoint. There may be significant objections by the panel to that appointment, but they can be overridden by the commissioner. The deputy, perhaps then in place, can do certain things but may never have been elected. I think that the amendment in my name and that of my noble friend Lady Hamwee is much better in that it makes it clear that the deputy should be a member of the panel.
"We will introduce measures to make the police more accountable through oversight by a directly elected individual, who will be subject to strict checks and balances by locally elected representatives".
My view is that the first half of that has been dominating the debate around this Bill but the second half, which refers to strict checks and balances, is not currently being delivered as part of the Bill. There are a number of examples of that and one is as follows. There is now to be a power in the Bill, as amended, for a commissioner to appoint a deputy, potentially paying no regard to the views of the panel that will have scrutinised the appointment. That deputy will have a whole set of powers and may not be a member of the panel.
It seems that further work is necessary here before we get to Third Reading. I sincerely hope that the Minister will take on board some of the comments that have just been made by me and by the noble Baroness, Lady Henig. These are very real issues and, unless we address them, something somewhere will, in the course of time, go seriously wrong in one of our police areas.
Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, I echo the remarks of my noble friend Lady Henig about how difficult it is to get our heads around some of these extremely complicated amendments in the very short time that we have had to look at them. I have a series of questions, which I am sure Ministers will be able to answer in the detail that I expect. However, I suspect that it will demonstrate that quite a lot of further work still needs to be done on the amendments put forward today and on the other proposals. I repeat what I said earlier, which may have appeared frivolous, about the advantage of Third Reading being in September: there is still an awful lot of work for Home Office officials to do to get some of the details of the Bill right. That is the case whether or not one agrees with the general direction of travel or whether one agrees about where we are going to end up. Some of the mechanics of the Bill are going to fall apart unless this detailed work is done.
My questions relate, first, to the mammoth extension of powers for the PCPs, which enable them to have approval hearings of the chief executive, the PCC's office, the chief financial officer and any deputy appointed. That, I am sure, is helpful. I have no problems with it as a principle and I think that it is good governance and useful. However, what I am not clear about-it may be here and I have just not found it, or it may not be here and has not been thought about, or it may have been thought about and is being rejected, but it would be useful to know-is what the role of the PCP will be in circumstances in which the PCC removes or dismisses the chief executive or the chief financial officer, or indeed a deputy. There is a more difficult point in this. One of the concerns is that newly elected PCCs may decide to dispense with the services of chief executives and chief financial officers. In those circumstances, what is the role of PCPs? I cannot find it, but it may be here. No doubt the Minister will enlighten us on that point.
I assume that there are more government amendments to come, but we do not know. I had understood that there had been considerable discussions about the transfer schemes of staff from police authorities to police services, to chief officers of police and/or to PCCs. I had understood that there had been an acceptance that it might be necessary to have a two-stage process, simply because of the detailed work that needs to be done and simply because of the importance of enabling the newly elected PCCs, if that is what we end up with, as I suspect we might, to see how that will work, and giving them the opportunity of influencing that decision rather than having the outgoing police authorities determining which staff are transferred under what conditions. Such an amendment may be here and I have just missed it, but I am not clear that there is an amendment yet which specifies how that two-stage process will work.
In any event, I think we are in some difficulties because Amendments 67 and 86 prevent PCCs or the MOPC or deputy PCCs-if that is what we get-and the deputy mayor for policing and crime, arranging for a member of staff from a police force to exercise any of its functions. I understand that the reasoning behind that is that Ministers want to separate completely the functions and staffing of forces and elected local policing bodies. That may be a perfectly good and sensible principle, but disentangling what existing staff, who are currently employed by police authorities and who are under the direction and control of chief officers of police, which is the current situation, provide what function, particularly in the absence of a two-stage transfer process, will be a very large piece of work.
Currently, for example, the Metropolitan Police Authority delegates functions to the commissioner through the scheme of delegation. The commissioner has overall management responsibility for a large number of staff who are under his direction and control, although technically they are MPA employees. Under the first phase of the proposed two-phase transfer scheme, staff who are currently police authority employees, but under the direction and control of the commissioner, will transfer to the PCC or the MOPC, but will no longer be under the direction and control of the commissioner and chief constable. The legislation will allow the PCC and the MOPC to delegate to those staff who had previously been under the direction and control of the commissioner; however, as the MOPC and PCC and their deputies would not now be able to delegate to the commissioner and chief constable, it would appear that the current arrangements, whereby the police authority can delegate these functions, would no longer be lawful. Therefore, current delegations would need to be changed with the consequence that you would have very large numbers of staff, particularly in the areas of finance, property, communications, procurement and legal, for whom you will now have to decide whether they spend all their time working for the new structure under the PCC and the MOPC or working for the chief officer of police. Those are quite complicated decisions because at the moment they often split their time; some bits of work are very much police authority functions and some bits are very much for the chief officer of police.
Under these two amendments you are essentially saying that it is unlawful to delegate those functions to such people, so a hard-and-fast set of decisions will have to be made for each individual about which side of the fence they are on and the Government wish all that to happen by May of next year, or possibly earlier in London. A two-stage system of delegation is needed to allow all those details to be sorted out and to allow the newly elected PCCs to have some influence over what staffing and support structures they will want. At the moment, in the absence of a government amendment on that-unless it is there and I just cannot find it-the Government are making that unlawful. I am sure that that is not their intention and I hope that the Minister will reassure me that I have completely misinterpreted what this means or perhaps give me some assurance that she will come back at Third Reading. I suspect she may need more than three weeks to sort this out.
Lord Beecham: My Lords, I preface my remarks with an apology to the Minister and to the House if, in the very limited time that has been available to us to try to understand and assimilate the thrust of the amendments tabled yesterday, I have been unable fully to appreciate what the drafting has led us to in terms of the substantive changes that the amendments seek to make. I entirely concur with the concerns raised by the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, in relation to Amendment 63-particularly in new subsection (2A) of that amendment-which allows the deputy police and crime commissioner to arrange for any other person, without any qualification, to exercise any function of the police and crime commissioner which, in turn, the deputy police and crime commissioner could carry out. That seems to be an extraordinarily wide power to delegate to whomever the deputy pleases, bearing in mind that under Amendment 72 the deputy police and crime commissioner is to be a member of the police and crime commissioner's staff. We have an appointed staff member with a capacity to appoint anyone else to exercise functions which he would delegate to or select for that person. That seems to go very wide indeed and much wider than one would normally anticipate in the context of an organisation of this kind.
Furthermore, the effect of paragraph (c) of Amendment 63, which amends Clause 19, seems to me to allow the deputy commissioner to determine police and crime objectives-Clause 19(4)(b)-or to prepare an annual report to a police and crime panel, although admittedly it does not allow him to make decisions relating to issuing a police and crime plan, nor the appointment of a chief constable-hardly surprisingly-nor calculating the budget requirement. That seems to be a very wide power to confer on a deputy. As I understand it, these are not provisions that would apply only in the absence of a police and crime commissioner for any reason-suspension, incapacity or something of that kind-but these are powers at large. I do not understand why such sweeping powers should be conferred on anyone, particularly someone who does not have any kind of electoral mandate, either by virtue of direct election, as in the case of a commissioner, or by virtue of being an elected council member who serves as a member of the panel. It seems to me to be much too broad a power to offer to someone occupying the kind of position that presumably would be encompassed by these amendments.
Like the matters to which my noble friend Lord Harris and others have referred, I wonder whether these should not be re-examined with a good deal more care and perhaps more time so that we can get this right. It seems to me that we are conferring very wide powers without qualification on people whom we have no idea will be able to fulfil the jobs and with a very wide discretion available to them.
Lord Rosser: My Lords, I am in much the same position as most, if not all, the previous speakers, having had very little time to assimilate the significance of the amendments which the Government have submitted at a very late stage indeed. However, I wish to associate myself with the views that have been expressed by my noble friends Lady Henig, Lord Harris of Haringey
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I do not intend to go over all the points that have already been made, but one thing I am not entirely clear on is whether in the amendments we have it is the Government's intention to delete Clause 63(2) which states:
I am not clear whether the amendments the Government are now putting forward in relation to the deputy are over and above Clause 63(2) or whether in some way or other they, in the Government's view, overtake the need for Clause 63(2). One of the concerns that were raised in Committee was over the proposal that an acting commissioner would be a member of the commissioner's staff. It would be very helpful if the Minister could clarify that point when she replies.
"A police and crime commissioner must notify the relevant police and crime panel of each proposed appointment by the commissioner of ... the commissioner's chief executive ... the commissioner's chief finance officer, or ... a deputy police and crime commissioner".
Is it the Government's intention that if the police and crime commissioner intends to make such an appointment, we are talking about a full-time post? If we are, what are the role and responsibilities of that post going to be, other than deputising for the police and crime commissioner? Or is it a scenario where the police and crime commissioner says, "Well, I'm going to appoint a deputy police and crime commissioner, and it will be my chief finance officer".? Is that allowed under the terms of this amendment or are they three distinct and separate posts? Can all three of those posts be held by one individual? Can one individual hold more than a single position? It would be very helpful if that could be clarified. Clearly, if a deputy police and crime commissioner could also be the commissioner's chief finance officer, then we are back in the situation that was raised before over the fact that under Clause 63(2) an acting commissioner has to be a member of the police and crime commissioner's staff, which is why I ask whether Clause 63(2) still stands. As has already been said, although there certainly is a process of confirmation hearings, and they will be in public, at the end of the day, the police and crime commissioner can decide to go his or her own way if they do not like the views expressed to them by the panel.
Our view is that a position as an acting commissioner or deputy commissioner, whatever you wish to call it, should be in circumstances where the police and crime commissioner cannot do their job any longer, for whatever reason. The appointment should be made by the police and crime panel, and it should be an appointment from within the ranks of the police and crime panel for a very clear and fixed period.
I await the Minister's response to the concerns that have been raised because, subject to what the Minister says in reply, it appears as though the deputy police
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I conclude on those points. It is largely a series of questions. I have certainly indicated our view on the appointment of an acting commissioner. It is, in fact, covered by an amendment that will be dealt with later on, but it is one of the difficulties of considering what appears to be a quite significant change by the Government in relation to amendments that were effectively put down only yesterday when we were already on Report on the Bill.
Baroness Browning: My Lords, I apologised to the House earlier, and I appreciate that it has caused inconvenience, not least to the government Front Bench. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, has accepted my apology. It was genuinely meant.
Baroness Browning: I am grateful to the noble Lord. I shall pick up some of the points just raised before giving a fuller explanation. The appointment, suspension or dismissal of a chief constable, which was raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, cannot be carried out by the deputy; nor can setting the precept, which the noble Baroness specifically asked about. There are proscriptions on what the deputy can do and the delegation of powers to a deputy would be subject to paragraph (b) in Amendment 63. Such powers would be restricted. However, I want to make it absolutely clear that the PCC has ultimate responsibility for whatever he or she delegates to the deputy. Whatever decisions are made in the areas where the deputy is able to act, the PCC is the person who will be answerable. There is no question that the PCC's responsibility and accountability to the police and crime panel, and ultimately to the general public who elected him or her, is in any way reduced by delegating specific functions or authority to the deputy.
Several questions have been asked. I shall pick up the point which the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, raised about whether the deputy can be a member of the PCC's staff. As a member of staff, when the deputy exercises a power he or she does so in the name of the PCC. As the PCC will, as I said, retain ultimate responsibility for it, wide powers are being conferred on the deputy. The deputy will be regarded as a member of the PCC's staff for that purpose, so the checks and balances will apply as much to him or her, as a member of the PCC's staff, as to anyone else carrying out a function within that office.
Lord Beecham: Does that mean that the person appointed will already be a member of the PCC's staff; or that if he comes from outside and was not already a member of staff, his appointment will make him one? There are two different positions there.
Baroness Browning: My Lords, I will have to clarify that and come back to the noble Lord. However, an example was given a short while ago in our debate about chief executives. Certain members of staff within the PCC's office are politically confined in what they can do and should be politically neutral. The recruitment procedure should ensure not only their political neutrality while holding the post but that their neutrality is considered before their appointment. The Nolan rules would apply to the key appointments in the Bill. I hope that the noble Lord will not mind if I come back to him with a more detailed structure, because there is a lot of detail around it.
The noble Lord, Lord Harris, raised several issues. I have to put it this way: I think he was being rather naughty tonight-engagingly naughty as always but naughty none the less. He asked me a lot of questions, particularly about transition. It is an important issue, but I am quite sure that as a member of the MPA the noble Lord knows what the situation is because there have been formal consultations and discussions about the transition period. He is shaking his head. I apologise if he has not been party to this information but it is generally known-and one or two people in the Chamber are smiling-that as part of these discussions the Government are planning to lay an amendment next week to give effect to the transfer scheme that has been formally discussed and made known to the MPA. That is why I thought he was being a little bit naughty.
Lord Harris of Haringey: I am always happy to be called naughty by the noble Baroness. However, I do not think that there have been any discussions with the MPA, or indeed the APA or APACE, about the details of the amendments tabled today. This is a very real problem that I hope the Minister is able to say something about, because the text of the amendment that the Government intend to lay next week has been shared, and I suspect that the reason it will be laid next week is that the text is not yet finalised-otherwise no doubt the Minister would have laid it with this batch of amendments.
Baroness Browning: That is quite true but we want to get this right. This is an important issue. I apologise that I am not able to discuss it in detail today but it has been the subject of a great deal of consultation, not least with the MPA, and we want to make absolutely sure that we get it right. I will come on to that later.
As I mentioned earlier, the amendments in this grouping have come about as a result of consultation and, of course, in Committee, where several noble Lords raised some significant issues around this area, not least my noble friends Lord Shipley and Baroness Hamwee. For example, they were concerned that the mayor could appoint a non-Assembly Member to be a deputy mayor, which would have cut across the democratic principles that the Bill seeks to establish. The Bill allows the Mayor of London, operating through the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime, to delegate the day-to-day handling of policing governance to a deputy. However, in accordance with general legal principles, the mayor will not be able to pass on the responsibility for any delegated work. As I have just explained, PCCs will still hold that responsibility, whatever they delegate.
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Clause 20 establishes that the selection must be made in line with existing provisions for mayoral appointments. Further essential details, such as the eligibility criteria and terms and conditions for the post, are set out in Schedule 3 to the Bill. I should explain that in the initial draft of this Bill some particularly crucial functions could not be delegated to the deputy mayor for policing and crime, or anyone else, such as issuing a police and crime plan, preparing an annual report on policing, attending meetings on the police and crime panel, and representations on appointment of the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. However, the committee in the House of Commons agreed to remove the barriers to the deputy mayor for policing and crime determining policing objectives, preparing an annual report and attending the police and crime panel on the mayor's behalf. I would urge noble Lords to respect the decision of the other place in this matter, particularly given what I have already said regarding the ultimate legal and democratic responsibility of the mayor in these matters.
The question of the deputy mayor not being a Member of the Assembly was raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, in Committee. The safeguard of a binding confirmation hearing will ensure that the Assembly is content with any non-Member appointee to the position of deputy mayor for policing and crime. That will mean that if the mayor puts forward somebody who is not a Member of the Assembly, the Assembly committee will have the opportunity to make a binding decision confirmation at that hearing. I am content that the right balance has been struck here, and I was particularly struck, not just in Committee but in subsequent meetings, about the very real concern that people had about allowing somebody totally inappropriate within that category to be appointed as deputy mayor. I hope that Members across the House are reassured that we have addressed that particular problem.
I will now discuss those amendments which address the role and appointment of an acting PCC. The amendments tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, and my noble friend Baroness Hamwee to secure the appointment of an acting PCC from the panel rather than the PCC staff are also captured in this debate. The government amendments in this group do not affect our provisions for the appointment of an acting PCC. Therefore, irrespective of the appointment of a deputy PCC, were the incumbent PCC to be incapacitated and unable to undertake their statutory duties and functions, it will remain the case that the acting PCC must be drawn from the PCC's staff. I hope that we have gone some way in this area to meeting some of the concerns that were raised in Committee. The Government believe that we have got that balance right, and therefore I hope that noble Lords who have tabled amendments in this grouping will feel able to withdraw them.
Lord Beecham: In the circumstances just outlined by the noble Baroness, there might be a deputy commissioner who would not be eligible to be appointed
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Baroness Browning: I have said that I will write to the noble Lord on this whole question of staff. Clearly there are different categories of staff and I would like to take some advice on those before I give him a definitive reply. I promise to write to him very quickly on that matter. The point was raised particularly about chief finance officers but, as I have mentioned, they are appointed on merit and are politically restricted. I will look at other categories of staff that he has just raised.
Lord Harris of Haringey: I do not think that the noble Baroness responded to my points about whether PCPs would have a role in the dismissal or removal of chief executives or chief financial officers.
Baroness Browning: No, PCPs will not be part of that but of course the new amendment gives them an opportunity to be part of a confirmation process for those appointments. If for some reason the PCC decided to part with the services of the chief finance officer or the chief executive, that PCC would still be accountable to the panel for the reasons why they had done so. There is still that link of accountability, they are answerable to the panel, and if the panel was concerned about the circumstances around that I would expect it to call a scrutiny hearing to find out what had happened and why. I suspect that it would be pretty alert if there was a really serious problem brewing as a result of that.
Lord Rosser: Will the noble Baroness confirm that under proposed new paragraph 7B(1) in Amendment 6-it states that the police and crime commissioner must notify the panel of proposed appointments of the three posts of the chief executive, the chief finance officer and the deputy police and crime commissioner-the deputy police and crime commissioner can also be the commissioner's chief finance officer and that, although they are three positions, they do not have to be held by three separate people?
Baroness Browning: I believe that the noble Lord asked me whether the deputy chief and crime commissioner could also be the finance officer. No, he cannot because the finance officer position is politically restricted and a person could not do both jobs.
Baroness Henig: As regards my amendment, I remain puzzled that the Government have not seen fit to move in this area. When this matter was discussed in Committee, a large number of reasons were put forward by Members on all sides of the House as to why it was a bad idea for an acting commissioner to be an unelected member of staff. I do not think that we heard any convincing reason-I cannot remember one anyway-as to why a member of staff should be asked to act up in this way for what could be a period of months. This is an obvious area where a concession could have been made with little difficulty but I am surprised that it has not been. I reserve the right to come back to my amendment at the relevant point.
"7A A police and crime commissioner must abide by regulations made by the Secretary of State in respect of the appointment of persons to paid office or employment and the dismissal of persons holding such office or employment and the taking of other disciplinary action against such persons."
Baroness Henig: I will try to squeeze Amendment 7 in before the dinner break; I have on occasion been caught quite badly in this situation but I hope that this is a relatively short amendment. This important amendment relates to a commissioner's senior staff. All of us have said that commissioners will need to be supported by an effective team of staff to be effective; that is, a chief executive and a chief finance officer. These posts carry statutory responsibilities, which are the same as in local authorities. The chief executive will also have the role and duties of monitoring officer.
Clearly, these duties are very important. In the case of the monitoring officer, it is a duty which applies if any proposal, decision or omission by the commissioner appears by the officeholder to be a contravention of any enactment, rule of law or code of practice made or approved by or under any enactment. Therefore, an officeholder might have to tell the commissioner that there is a problem and seek to persuade him to take a different approach. In extremis, the duty would require the post holder to report in public on a failure to follow that advice.
This does not happen often and I would not want to pretend that it did. Most politicians do not attempt to break the law and certainly do not attempt to pursue a specific course of action when they have been told that it is illegal. However, these things have happened in the past with elected mayors, and elected commissioners in some ways are an extension of elected mayors. It has to be said that the experience of recently elected mayors is not all tremendously positive. I believe that the Minister, who has passed Doncaster several times on his travels, alluded to one area where there have been difficulties. Therefore, it is important that the arrangements put in place through this Bill are sufficiently robust to deal with such a situation because we know
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In local government, the duties which apply to the head of paid service, the monitoring officer and the chief finance officer are backed up with a statutory framework to prevent their dismissal on a whim by a politician. The framework in a mayoral authority is that the mayor raises concerns of a disciplinary nature and a politically balanced panel considers whether there is a case for action. If the panel decides that there is a case, an independent person investigates and disciplinary action in line with the recommendations of the independent person takes place.
Therefore, a conversation which starts, "I'm afraid you can't do that, commissioner", could not end with "You're fired", because the officeholder could insist, under threat of legal injunction or judicial review, that the correct procedure is followed. Because in a local authority the head of paid service is protected and all other staff are employed by that person, the framework provides a measure of protection for all employees. My amendment mirrors Section 8 of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989, which is the statutory basis for the protection which applies in local government. It does not require that the framework in local government is mirrored precisely but it requires the Home Secretary to publish regulations and requires commissioners to follow them. It is therefore for Ministers to come forward with an approach to set a clear framework that needs to be followed.
I am anticipating that the Minister may say that chief executives and treasurers will be subject to the same protection as other employees; that the commissioner will be bound by the need to act reasonably, as are all public bodies; and that, therefore, the statutory protections to which I have referred do not add a lot more value and are unnecessary. My worry is that that would not fulfil the requirements for which I am looking because it would allow a commissioner to summarily dismiss someone and leave them to argue their case at an employment tribunal. The negative publicity of such a case could damage the commissioner, particularly if they do not intend to seek re-election. Again, that is an example of very limited checks and balances. Limited as they are, they could be undermined even further.
Those of us who have spent a long time in local government know the importance of good and honest advice from senior officers. I ask the question: would an elected commissioner listen to advice? Elected mayors have not always listened to the advice offered to them and, as a result, very serious situations have arisen. I do not believe that senior executives should be put in a position in which they could be summarily dismissed and then have to fight their corner at a subsequent employment tribunal. That is not right.
I am sure that these situations will arise. I am under no illusions. The sorts of people who will be elected as commissioners will be strong-minded and strong-willed individuals. Some of them might, dare I suggest, occasionally be a little pigheaded. I believe that they will always listen with wariness and will not always heed the advice that is given to them. When a senior executive says, "No commissioner, you can't do that",
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I have listened carefully to the Minister, who said that the panel would certainly hear if the commissioner was going to dismiss a senior member of staff and might want to find out what was going on. I should like to know a bit more about the arrangements that she has in mind. I would like that arrangement not to be so loose and perhaps to have a bit more backing. For example, I think that, under one of the government amendments, the panel now needs to be consulted if the commissioner is considering dismissing the chief constable. I wonder whether it would be possible for them also to be involved if the chief executive or the treasurer were to be dismissed along the same lines. I am not looking for a very great change from the Government. I am looking for a step forward to recognise that these people could be vulnerable and to accept that they need a little more than the Government are preparing to give them at present. This is a serious issue.
Recent experience with mayors suggests that there will be some difficulties with directly elected commissioners. I believe that we need to think about those difficulties and do something for these senior staff. I do not think that it is fair to leave them to the whims of the commissioner. I beg to move.
Lord Rosser: My Lords, I hope that the Government will accept these amendments, which as my noble friend Lady Henig has said are designed to ensure that, in respect of appointments, dismissals and the taking of disciplinary action, police and crime commissioners and the Mayor's Officer for Policing and Crime conform to laid-down standards to ensure openness and fairness in these key areas through abiding by regulations made by the Secretary of State. It would hardly be appropriate for there to be controversy over the practices and procedures adopted in relation to these crucial areas of management, since it would surely only detract from the trust and the confidence which it is vital that police and crime commissioners will need to establish with their forces and the public.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I recognise the concern for good governance in the broadest sense that lies behind these new amendments tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, since the Committee stage to ensure that the PCC and the MOPC are bound by regulations set by the Secretary of State for managing the appointment and dismissal of staff, and how they should manage disciplinary action. The question of Doncaster has come up again. I can only add that for five years I was president of my party's Yorkshire region, so I have a long acquaintance with the problems of Doncaster. However, problems with local politics in Doncaster existed long before the experiment of an elected mayor, and unfortunately that move has not resolved those problems. But let us be clear that no magic answers lie in changing institutions in order to solve some of the underlying problems in local politics we face around Britain.
The noble Baroness is concerned with the worst case analysis of what might happen and would like to supply belt and braces for every possible way through it. What I have to say on behalf of the Government is that of course we recognise that it is necessary for a standard to be set for the conduct of the police and crime commissioner and the staff attached. The Home Secretary shares that view, and that is exactly why she will state in the protocol that she expects all parties to abide by the principles of public life set out by the Nolan committee and the core principles of the Good Governance Standard for Public Services. Furthermore, the protocol she will issue, drafts of which I know that some noble Lords have already seen, will apply to every police and crime commissioner and chief constable in England and Wales. The staff and chief constables of each force are expected to have regard to the principles and spirit of that document. The police and crime commissioner will be held to account for ensuring this by the police and crime panel and by the public.
As to setting out a regulated appointments, dismissal and disciplinary process, these matters are well established in employment law and we argue that it is not necessary to replicate in this Bill what already exists. The PCC will no doubt be held to account for the way in which staff are appointed by the PCP, including the steps it takes to ensure fairness and diversity. Further, the PCP will scrutinise appointments to the crucial statutory posts by means of a confirmation hearing, as we have already set out in another amendment. Accordingly, while these amendments are well grounded in the position they take, as the noble Baroness has already anticipated, to us they seem unnecessary. I therefore ask her to accept the assurances the Government are providing and hope that she will feel able to withdraw the amendment.
Baroness Henig: I have listened carefully to the Minister's reply, but I must confess that I have not studied the protocol in great depth. I am reassured that if it covers this area-and since early this afternoon I think we have been given an assurance that there will be a mention of it on the face of the Bill-that will provide a basis for the provision of redress or assistance of some sort for senior executives who might feel that they are facing difficulties; let me put it that way. I also take heart from the reference to the police and crime panel. We are strengthening the panel incrementally and I believe that I can now see the circumstances where the panel would be able to find ways of asking the commissioner about difficulties with senior staff and perhaps being able to refer to difficult situations in order to get to the root of them. While I think there may be some ways around this, I am not totally satisfied. We could have dealt with this better, and I do not think that it would take that much to do so. However, I sense that I am not going to be able to persuade the Government to put more in the Bill. Having voiced my concerns and having been given a partial meeting towards what I am aiming at, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen to acquaint the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the Transport for London (Supplemental Toll Provisions) Bill, has consented to place her prerogative and interest, so far as they are affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.
Baroness Grey-Thompson: My Lords, I declare an interest in that I am a paid board member of Transport for London, which is a public body constituted under the Greater London Authority Act 1999. This is a Private Bill promoted by TfL. No petitions were deposited against the Bill and it was considered by an Unopposed Bill Committee on 11 November 2008, when it was amended and permitted to pass to the next stage.
The purpose of the Bill is to provide Transport for London with additional powers where TfL has made a toll order under the New Roads and Street Works Act 1991 that would supplement the enforcement powers under the toll order. At present, TfL can seek authority to charge tolls by means of a New Roads and Street Works Act toll order, but the powers in the 1991 Act for the collection and enforcement of the tolls would not enable TfL to have recourse to sophisticated modern mechanisms that allow traffic to flow freely and are similar to those used to collect and enforce charges under the central London congestion charging scheme. Those mechanisms include giving motorists options to pay through the internet, by telephone or by text and to use automatic number plate recognition technology, and imposing escalating penalty charges for non-payment instead of criminal penalties.
In cases in which TfL has been authorised to charge tolls under a toll order, the Bill will enable TfL to make a supplemental order that makes provision for the operation and enforcement of the toll order. These powers to make supplemental orders are similar to those already conferred on TfL in respect of road user charging schemes under Schedule 23 to the Greater London Authority Act 1999, of which the best known is the congestion charging scheme. It is intended that the enforcement regime to be provided in a supplemental toll provisions order will be similar to the tried and tested regime currently operating in respect of congestion charging that is, of course, very familiar to all Londoners. Most importantly, that regime will be subject to the same safeguards. The principle is that motorists will be able to pay the tolls in exactly the same way as the congestion charge and will be subject to the same sanctions for non-payment with the same safeguards.
In the Second Reading debate on the Bill, the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, raised a number of points of concern. I am pleased to report to your Lordships' House that
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Transport for London first became aware of the need to modernise the enforcement powers for a toll order made under the New Roads and Street Works Act 1991 in the context of the promotion of the Thames Gateway Bridge project. It was proposed that the new bridge would be financed partly by means of tolls collected under such a toll order, and the Bill was needed for the project. However, it was also recognised that the Thames Gateway Bridge project was just one example and that there would be other cases in which TfL might wish to seek tolling powers in respect of which additional powers of enforcement would be needed. The Bill was therefore deliberately drafted in general terms so that all such cases would be covered.
As was explained to the Unopposed Bills Committee, the new mayor had a few days earlier, on 6 November 2008, released Transport for London's 10-year business plan. Under that plan, it was determined that Transport for London would not pursue the Thames Gateway Bridge project, given the pressures on funding and concerns over local traffic impacts. Transport for London was tasked with undertaking a wider study, together with other parties, to assess the transport and land use needs of the London Thames Gateway, including undertaking an assessment of options for a new east London river crossing.
Transport for London has in consultation with local boroughs and others therefore undertaken a review of river crossing options in the area east of Tower Bridge up to the existing Dartford Crossing. The review has highlighted that the problems experienced in east London through the lack of river crossings mean that further crossings are warranted, and has identified that it is likely that a package of solutions is required, including the construction of a bridge or tunnel at Silvertown.
The Mayor's Transport Strategy, which was issued on 10 May 2010, states that the mayor, through Transport for London, will take forward a package of solutions in respect of east London river crossings, including a new fixed line at Silvertown. Transport for London is currently considering the development of the package. Consideration is being given to the tolling of new crossings to help to finance their construction. Any toll order made under the 1991 Act would require the enforcement powers contained in the Bill.
Lord Lucas: My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Baroness for so eloquently moving the Motion that the Bill do now pass and for any influence that she might have had in securing the amendments that she described. I am quite content with the Bill as it is now, partly because TfL is a much more benign institution under current management than it was. Where it finds levels of misbehaviour, it seems interested not in immediately slapping down fines but in exploring the reasons for it, amending signage and handing out warning notices beforehand. I find it a civilised and easier-to-deal-with institution these days. I am also comforted by the level to which the Secretary of State will be involved in granting TfL any substantial powers under the Bill. I thank the noble Baroness and Transport for London, and wish this Bill good luck.
Baroness Kramer: I shall be brief in my comments on the Bill. I was a member of the board of Transport for London when the congestion charge was brought in and chaired all the public meetings on that issue. I have been an open opponent of the Thames Gateway Bridge, so am very glad that that project has been scuttled.
I should like to ask two questions about the Bill, just by way of seeking confirmation. Do all the usual processes of planning, consultation and approval remain in place, even though this mechanism provides the funding for any new river crossing that might be tolled? Secondly, could this framework apply to other projects carried out by Transport for London? For example-since we have had many discussions on air quality-if there were to be a low-emissions zone and it was decided to toll cars that did not meet the relevant emissions standard as they entered the zone, could this framework again be used for that purpose? It is a framework that London might turn to, particularly at the time of the Olympics. Although I seek confirmation on those matters, I am very supportive of the Bill.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, on behalf of Her Majesty's Opposition, I give my full support to the Bill. It will be appreciated that all Private Bills take a fair amount of time to pass through the House, and this one certainly has. It is very good that we have reached this point of fruition today. I am very glad that the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, is reassured on the points that he raised. I am not quite sure that I can go quite so far as him in defining Transport for London as a benign institution; I hope he will acknowledge that he was reflecting from a very narrow perspective. He will know that many of us have considerable anxieties about the operations of Transport for London, and consequently "benign" is not the first adjective that comes to mind for some. Nevertheless, we certainly wish the Bill well and warmly congratulate the noble Baroness on taking it through the House at this stage.
My noble friend Lord Tunnicliffe ought really to have been at this Dispatch Box at this moment. In fact, I sought all my powers of persuasion in arguing that it should be him, because he was in at the very origins of the Bill a number of years ago when it was considered
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I am glad that the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, raised one or two points on which reassurance will be given in the wind-up. However, certainly in broad terms, this is an enabling Bill as far as Transport for London is concerned. We are in favour of measures that give enabling powers of this kind, provided that the necessary safeguards are in place. I am pleased to see on various parts of the coalition Benches enthusiasm for the structure of congestion charges, which gives one hope that a rather more constructive approach will be taken towards certain aspects of congestion charging in the future. This Bill gives Transport for London the powers necessary to advance the cause of Londoners in crucial areas, and we are very pleased to welcome it.
Earl Attlee: My Lords, it has been more than two years since Parliament last considered this Private Bill. This is therefore the first time that the Bill has been considered by the coalition Government and this Parliament.
Our capital city's transport network is large and complex, and it should come as no surprise that the promoters of this Bill occasionally encounter challenges that prompt them to seek specific powers further to those already on the statute book. This Government recognise the critical role that transport has to play in supporting London's economy and with it the nation's prosperity. We are continuing to invest in London's infrastructure, with Crossrail, the Tube upgrades and Thameslink all under way.
The Government are content for this Bill to pass to the other place, where it can be further scrutinised. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, for putting forward the Bill and for the clear way in which she explained it.
Baroness Grey-Thompson: My Lords, I thank the noble Lords and the noble Baroness who have taken part in this debate. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, for his support and should like to address the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer.
The mayor's transport strategy had an impact on the passage of the Bill. The Bill was not intended to be applied solely to the Thames Gateway Bridge and it continues to be relevant to other projects. Other projects will be carried through in the usual way in terms of tolling.
The powers in the Bill are very wide, and the supplementary toll provisions order will not take effect unless it is confirmed by the Greater London Authority. Lots of provisions are in place. I am afraid that I cannot answer the noble Baroness's question on emissions. I hope she will accept Transport for London writing to her on that matter; I am afraid that I am not an expert on that area of the Bill.
(a) establish schemes to test the operation of police and crime commissions, including police and crime commissioners, in no more than four police areas outside London, to operate for at least four years;
(b) commission an independent review to assess the impact and effectiveness of the police and crime commissions in place of police authorities in those pilot police areas; and
(c) at the end of the pilot schemes, publish a copy of the final review report and lay a copy of that report before Parliament.
(a) the police areas that the pilots will operate in, taking into consideration the diverse demography, police resources, policing requirements and geography of those areas;
(b) the terms of reference for the review; and
(c) the assessment criteria that will be used in the review.
(a) a description of the consultation undertaken; and
(b) a summary of representations received on;
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, in moving this amendment, I will also speak to two other amendments in my name in this group. We come to the question of pilots on which we had a good discussion in Committee. The introduction of police commissioners alongside police and crime panels is a new departure. The House will know that we on this side of the House have many worries about the impact of unelected police commissioners in terms of the potential politicisation of the police force. We think that it would be worthwhile testing this out in a number of police force areas to see the benefits and potential pitfalls.
We discussed this in Committee, as I said, and I was struck that a number of our former commissioners of the Metropolitan Police expressed some reservations about pilots. I well understand the kind of reservations that they were expressing. Essentially, they were saying that pilots create uncertainty among the other forces and chief constables. I have seen government proposals
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Overall, we do very well by our police service. There are issues and problems in some areas and there are no doubt areas where the efficiency of the force could be improved, I do not doubt that. But many advances have been made in the past 10 or 20 years, not least in the effectiveness of the forces and the strong relationships that they have built between themselves and their communities, particularly at neighbourhood level. There are considerable risks in moving away from that. Pilots would be a great chance to try this out, see what some of the problems are and see, too, some of the advantages. We could learn from that and then look to general introduction.
I hope that I will find some sympathy around the House for this suggestion. After all, if one were looking for a way through the potential disagreement between this House and the other place, I would have thought that pilots might be one way in which we could find some agreement. I beg to move.
Lord Howard of Lympne: First, I take the opportunity of associating myself with the remarks just made by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, about the improvements in the effectiveness of the police over, I am very glad he had the grace to say, the past 20 years-otherwise, it might have been a little more difficult for me to agree with his sentiments. He started off by saying 10 years, but he modified that to 20 and he got it right in the end. I am happy to associate myself with that tribute, but of course there is always room for improvement. The purpose of the measures before your Lordships is to improve the accountability of the police.
I am opposed to pilot schemes for two reasons. First, I very much doubt, and I think it is difficult to make the case, that pilots will prove any true test of the effectiveness of the measures contained in the Bill. The Bill proposes to introduce an element of democratic accountability into the way in which the police operate. The essence of democracy is that it does not lead to uniformity. Democracy is the enemy of uniformity. In a democratic system, some elected police and crime commissioners will be more effective than others: that is in the nature of a democracy.
It would be very difficult to draw general lessons, which is presumably the purpose of pilots, from a few pilots, whatever attempts are made. I recognise that attempts have been made in the amendment to make them representative, but there is no such thing. There cannot be any such thing as representative arrangements. Whatever arrangements are made and whatever areas are chosen, it will not be possible to draw general lessons from whatever happens in the particular pilot schemes that would be set up.
Secondly, there is the element of uncertainty. The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, had the grace to refer to this. Amendment 7A proposes that these pilots should last
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Lord Dear: My Lords, I rise in very much the same vein. I have this flight of fancy when I see the word "pilots". I think of pilots, then test pilots, wind tunnels, test flights, circuits and bumps, and all the risky business that goes on in the world of aviation. This is a risky business as well, even in an allegorical sense. I am deeply opposed to the concept of pilots. Having the greatest possible respect for the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, I know that this is not a wrecking amendment. It is advanced for the best of reasons but, as has already been alluded to, it would effectively be a wrecking amendment to the Bill. It would certainly not be helpful.
I, too, could come up with a number of reasons why we should not pursue the course that is suggested in the amendment. I will go through four or five quickly. For a start, would the areas that are selected for the pilots welcome or resist the attention? Either reception would skew the result. Those who welcomed it would make sure that it worked; those who did not would probably go in the opposite direction. That skewing of the result is certainly something to which one should pay attention.
Despite the standpoint that they take, would the areas welcome the change and the possibility of then going back to square one if the pilot was unsuccessful? It would be change and more change, all over a period of four or six years. What of the uncertainty in the remainder of the country? I will not labour the point because it has already been clearly made by the previous speaker. What does it say of the parliamentary process as a whole? Is it that we cannot make our minds up here and get the job done correctly in your Lordships' House the first time?
The most important point has of course been mentioned several times in Second Reading, in Committee and again now. What of the effect of the uncertainty on the police service itself? The service is struggling hard-and well-to come to terms with all the pressures of modern life and the current economic situation that we find ourselves in. ACPO has not declared a position on this, quite correctly. I respect its diffidence but I would put private money on the fact that the police service does not want to see a pilot. It wants certainty, to know where it is going and to know that now. In any case, it has enough uncertainty swirling around its ears.
I will not weary your Lordships any longer on this. I have made my position quite clear. We should strive very hard in your Lordships' House to get the Bill right first time and implement it in whatever form is eventually, democratically decided upon. A pilot would be a retrograde step.
Lord Stevens of Kirkwhelpington: My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, said, I have some concerns. I apologise for my colleague and noble friend Lord Condon not being here. I speak on his behalf as well as my own. Some of the concerns about how this will affect the police service have already been discussed. They have been described in a way that we would follow.
My noble friend Lord Condon and I worry about the fact that a pilot scheme of certain forces will not show what happens to the rest of the more than 40 forces, which will not get a real feel for it. The other issue that we raise is that the interaction with the national and international strategy must see the whole panoply of this new scheme and strategy there, in terms of the PCCs and PCPs. Unless you have that, our feeling is that there are uncertainties around it. To take a biting issue in terms of taking out certain things, but then not dealing with the whole issue at one time, would be counterproductive.
As has already been said, we have discussed the uncertainty around what is happening with the police service at other stages in your Lordships' House. In the next six-to-12 months to two years, the police service will go through a massive period of change. There is no doubt, as my colleague and noble friend Lord Dear said, that the police service is best when it knows that it is acting with certainty. This will lead to uncertainty. My noble friend Lord Dear is also absolutely right that if you tell certain police forces that this is a pilot scheme, some will decide that it will work and some may decide that it will not. For that reason, we do not really support this particular amendment. We have reservations about it.
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I have made it clear throughout that I want to see the model that is in the coalition's programme for government implemented in full. My noble friend Lord Shipley quoted the relevant section from the agreement earlier, including the reference to the "strict checks and balances". I fear that that term is losing its potency with repetition, but I say again that checks and balances are essential because of the dangers of the concentration of power in the hands of an individual.
The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, said that he hoped to find some sympathy around the Chamber. He certainly finds that from me, but he also finds a little surprise. I do not know whether this was due to relaxing over supper, but he made a very low-key introduction to the issue. Perhaps this debate has come upon us at an unexpected point.
Now that we have seen the Government's proposals in response to the very thoughtful and powerful points made in Committee, we have seen that the Government have moved, and I am happy to acknowledge that. It is always gratifying, and sometimes disconcerting, to see one's own name linked with that of the Minister on an amendment, but there has been a good deal of movement. However, there has not been movement on the range of issues about which concerns have been raised, nor in many cases do the government amendments go far enough.
I am speaking personally for myself and for my noble friend Lord Shipley, rather than for the I know not how many who are ranged behind me at the moment-attendance is not bad, actually, for 8.50 pm -but this is, I stress, very much a personal viewpoint. Many of the checks and balances that are needed centre around the police and crime panel's scrutiny role, on which our amendments at this stage of the Bill, as at the previous stage, would spell out what we believe that scrutiny should comprise.
As for checks, I think that a body needs the ability not just to say politely, "We don't agree", nor to say, "and we require your reasons", but sometimes to say, "No", if it is to act as a check. When any model is working well, there is no need to use the whole armoury, but I do not believe that it is possible to legislate for harmony and co-operation. One tries to set up the model to encourage such co-operation, but one cannot require it. Mechanisms are needed to provide that no.
Of course, it would be impertinent to suggest that we have identified all the necessary, or even desirable, checks and balances, but I must say that I would feel more comfortable if more were proposed in the Bill. Therefore, as an alternative, I think that we need to look to experience. The noble Lord, Lord Howard, said that we cannot draw general conclusions because of the diversity across the country, but it seems to me that, unless the framework is robust enough to cater for these matters-
Lord Howard of Lympne: With great respect, my noble friend misunderstands me. It is not because of the diversity around the country but because of the nature of democracy, and the diversity that democracy inherently produces, that I do not believe that general lessons can be learnt. That is an important distinction.
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I would accept that: democracy is quite untidy. Liberal Democrats have often said that it is not a bad thing to have a patchwork, with different arrangements for the delivery of service in different places and to different communities, which may be geographic or may have other characteristics. For instance, with regard to Wales, we have heard that it is important to have similarity because the provision of the service crosses the border. I think that we need to be reassured that the underlying framework, which may then grow different bits, is robust enough to serve the whole of England and Wales.
I tabled an amendment on pilots at Committee, and I acknowledged that the proposals could be approved. For instance, to have an independent review and report would be a good thing, as the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, rightly suggested. He also made the point-this is a question to him-that, if the experience from the pilots was to be utilised, there would have to be a mechanism whereby the Secretary of State, probably, could tweak the arrangements within the Bill. I am not sure that I have found that in his amendment, but he may be relying on the arrangements around commencement; I do not know.
At the previous stage, I asked the Minister whether there was any other mechanism that the Government might suggest for-to use the words that I used then-assessing and evaluating the model, but she did not
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Lord Beecham: I confess to being in two minds, having heard my noble friend's argument for the case, supported by the noble Baroness, but also the objections to the proposed course from the noble Lords, Lord Howard, Lord Dear and Lord Stevens. I can see the force of the objection to the prospect of a limited number of pilots stretching over a number of years, but it is not so much a question of democratic principle being at risk from such an exercise. The concern is around precisely the issue of checks and balances. If it goes through and we have an elected police commissioner, that is relatively straightforward; it is what happens in that context over time that will tell whether the checks and balances that some of us feel are inadequate are sufficient to meet the case. Actually, a limited number of pilot examples might not demonstrate that. The noble Lord has a point in that respect.
To develop a theme that the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, advanced, I wonder whether the practice of what is a major constitutional change in the way in which the police service in this country is run could be reviewed after a period of three years. I do not mean on the basis of a number of pilots, but we could take a considered view after three years, say, and look at whether the expectations are being fulfilled. I accept that the Government are genuine in their belief that they have got it right or are getting it right on checks and balances. Without a formal sunset clause, perhaps we could have an indication that that situation would be reviewed and adjustments made, if necessary, around the areas of concern that many noble Lords have voiced about the practice of this new structure, with its implications for accountability and effectiveness, both at local level and in connection with the other concerns about national strategies and the like.
It is less of a formal legislative process that I am suggesting might be considered and more one in which it would be possible to revisit these concerns, taking a broad look across however many authorities will be involved in any new structure and with a view to fine tuning, as it may be, or making perhaps more substantial changes in the light of what will by then be a general experience, which might tell us whether the hopes of Ministers in proposing these changes are being fulfilled. Would the Minister care to consider whether such a process might be acceptable to the Government without necessarily changing the terms of the Bill?
Baroness Stowell of Beeston: My Lords, I do not support this amendment. I said at Second Reading that some noble Lords might want to propose piloting elected police and crime commissioners because it is a radical change from the current system, but I do not believe that that is what is needed. After we have finished properly scrutinising this Bill, we need to get on with it and to do it. We need to implement this change. People want stronger local political leadership in their fight against crime, and they want it now.
I referred at Second Reading to some research that my noble friend Lord Ashcroft, the founder of Crimestoppers, commissioned, which showed unanimity between police officers and the public in their views on crime. One conclusion that that research showed was that they shared a common view on the lack of local accountability.
Recent public attention has been focused more on the justice system rather than on the policing system. In raising the justice system, I am thinking particularly of the Dowler family last weekend. The reason why I raise this is because most of us have never suffered the kind of violent crime of which that family were victims, and we have never had to testify against defendants accused of crime in a court of law, but their experience resonated with people because it illustrated a wider sense of unfairness felt by the law-abiding. It made people ask who is on their side. Tonight we are not talking about the justice system-we are talking about policing-but through this Bill and through implementing elected police and crime commissioners, we have the opportunity to provide an answer. So I do not want us to wait years to address this weakness; I do not want us to wait years to answer people's questions. I want us to get on with it. For that reason, I do not support piloting and I do not support this amendment.
Baroness Henig: My Lords, one reason I so enjoyed 16 years of being involved in the governance of policing was that it gave me the opportunity to debate a range of issues with senior police officers and to disagree with them on a number of occasions. Indeed, I disagree with them on this occasion and that holds no terrors for me because that is one of the things I most enjoyed about it. In case noble Lords suspect that I overstep the mark on occasion, I should tell them that the governance arrangements in Lancashire were, according to the inspectorate, the finest in the country. We had an equilibrium of discussion, if I can put it in those terms, and I would want to have the same sort of equilibrium this evening because there are some strong arguments to be put in favour of pilots.
While hearing the arguments that my police friends and others have advanced, there are some counter-arguments. First, the believers who support this reform have been very few in number. On this major area of change, I think I am right that six people on the Benches opposite, at most, have engaged in supporting this change, apart from the Ministers. With honourable exceptions, people have in general not joined in this debate. I except the noble Lord, Lord Howard, who has indeed spoken out in favour of these reforms. He apparently had a great conversion in 2005. I am not sure whether that was before or during the election of 2005 but clearly there was a great epiphany and a conversion took place.
Lord Howard of Lympne: May I assist the noble Baroness? It was the product of long examination of the operation of the police authorities, which were set up pursuant to the legislation for which I was responsible, and the acute sense of disappointment I felt at their failure to live up to my expectations.
Baroness Henig: I hear what the noble Lord says and I am sure that that is the case. The noble Lord, Lord Wasserman, has spoken up, as did the noble Baroness, but look at the record. As I say, if six Members on the government Benches-certainly, on the Conservative Benches-have spoken up in favour of the legislation, that is all and it is a very small number for a major change in policy.
It is not surprising to me that that is the case. How could the Benches opposite deny, for example, that party politics will play a much greater role in policing? That is so irrefutable that it cannot possibly be denied. How could they deny that chief constables are going to be subject to much greater pressure on policing issues, both operational and non-operational? No, they cannot refute that. People talk about a protocol but just consider some of the forceful Home Secretaries whom we have had in the past 10, 15 or 20 years. Now consider that some of those Home Secretaries might consider that being a commissioner would be a glorious end to a good parliamentary career. Just imagine some of them now as commissioners. I suggest to Members of this House that they are going to put their views to chief constables in a fairly forceful way.
We talk about "operational" and "non-operational" but, frankly, with that kind of expertise and forcefulness coming from those who could be commissioners in the next few years, chief constables will notice a great difference between the new regime and what they have been used to. They will be subject to greater pressures. As the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, has already said, thus far we have seen few checks and balances on the powers of commissioners. I am not expecting to see many more, let alone strict checks and balances, so the case for pilots is very strong.
There are even greater arguments in favour of pilots. First, there was no pre-legislative scrutiny, which, for a change of this magnitude, there should have been. It would have made a big difference and a lot of the arguments which we have been having in the past few weeks would have been resolved at that stage. With a constitutional change of this magnitude, to have no pre-legislative scrutiny was, I believe, a great omission. That is one argument. We also know that there was a consultation by the Home Office and that there were over 900 responses. We have never been told how many of those responses favoured what was being proposed and how many opposed it. We can draw from not being told that the great majority of people who responded to the Home Office consultation were opposed. I assure the House that had they not been we would have heard that a great majority were in favour. That, again, is worrying.
As we have gone through the Bill in detail, some very tricky issues have emerged. We have not yet reached the issue of corporations sole, although we soon shall. I know my noble friend Lord Harris will entertain the House with a riveting account of corporations sole and all the difficulties that they will raise. We do not know how they will work. We know that they will lead to problems and to staff issues. That is one area of uncertainty. We know that relations between the commissioners and the PCPs are embryonic at this point in time. We do not know how these bodies
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We also know that in some areas we will go back 20 years. For example, we know that there will be no lay involvement in the appointment of deputy chief constables and assistant chief constables. I am long enough in the tooth to remember that when chief constables made these appointments themselves there were enormous difficulties. I for one am not happy to go back 20 years in that regard-at least, not without seeing how it would play out.
We are also being asked to agree to this legislation when the national policing landscape is not yet complete. We do not know how things will play out nationally. We do not know what will replace the senior appointments panel, so we do not know how future candidates for chief officer appointments will come forward. We know nothing about that; there is a complete lack of information at the moment. The framework around senior police appointments is not yet in place. We are being asked to take it on trust. We have not seen any of this. For all those reasons, pilots would make a lot of sense. They would enable the final legislation to iron out many of these issues and to work much more effectively.
What really bothers me is the inflexibility around this, which is driving this legislation. There is a sense that the Government are saying, "We must get this through. We can't have any deviations or amendments. We mustn't listen to this; it is all a plot to derail this great reform". I am sorry but that is not true. There are many of us in this House who care about policing and want to make this work. The noble Lord, Lord Howard, might be surprised to hear this. If there are to be changes to policing, I want them to work. I can see some merit in what is being proposed. I do not reject it out of hand but it can be improved. That is why I support pilots. What bothers me is that I am prepared to be flexible but there is no reciprocal flexibility on the Government's side. It worries me that the people who are driving this through want to do so with very little change. There has been some change; I see the Minister looking at me. There were changes yesterday. I welcome them and hope that there will be more. However, at the moment the message that has reached me is that there must be no deviation-that this must go through and there must be elections next year. There is a sense that this is being rushed through.
These changes are the most sweeping changes to policing that we have seen in modern times. I am not saying that they should not happen. However, it will be a recipe for disaster if we do not get them right. Policing is too important and sensitive an area to risk courting disaster. To have a pilot-perhaps lasting not four years but two or three-and at least to trial some of these things would do our duty to those who come after us. I am worried that we will introduce things that will irreversibly change the face of policing. Since I do not believe that policing is broken, I shall take a
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Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, conjures up a fascinating prospect of former Home Secretaries and Secretaries of State standing for election as police and crime commissioners. Given what the Minister has told us today with regard to the bar on Members of this House standing for such positions, we can look forward to the possibility of the noble Lord, Lord Howard of Lympne, becoming the elected police and crime commissioner for Kent.
Lord Harris of Haringey: I am sure that if the noble Lord were to move to Lancashire, that could be arranged. Although I think that that would be an interesting and enticing prospect, and no doubt incredibly scary for the chief constable of Kent, I wonder whether the damascene conversion that the noble Lord, Lord Howard, has described to us several times would not have been made easier had his original proposals for police authorities been subjected to a series of pilots. He could then perhaps have discovered at an earlier point that the model he initially favoured was flawed.
Lord Wasserman: My Lords, as a former professional social scientist I welcome the enthusiasm in this House for pilot studies. However, like so much else in life, there is a right place for pilots and a wrong place. I am afraid that the circumstances we are discussing are very much the wrong place for pilots. I hope that your Lordships will allow me to explain why I say this and to do so by reference to the findings of academic experts.
The use of pilots in political or social research is discussed at some length in a book which I commend to your Lordships which can be found in the Library entitled, Research Methods in Politics. The book begins by pointing out that,
Indeed, the Home Secretary herself is a great believer in the use of pilots in the appropriate context. In a speech that she gave about two months ago-I am sure that some noble Lords will have seen it-she announced not one but two new pilots. The first was related to her wish to allow the police to charge more offences themselves. She said:
In the same speech she announced that the Home Office was working with ACPO to ensure that best practice on domestic abuse processes was effectively shared by all forces. She said that the next step was to pilot these new proposals, and that if the pilots were successful they would be rolled out across the country.
However, the circumstances we are discussing are nothing like those mentioned by the Home Secretary or the academic experts. They are classic examples of circumstances where pilots are not appropriate and lead only to a waste of time and money. According to the experts, the classic example of the inappropriate use of pilots in a political or social context-that is what we are talking about-is to compare jurisdictions over time and/or space, a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Howard. The experts state:
"There are a number of reasons why comparisons can turn out to be meaningless. Most famously, the condition known as 'too many variables, not enough cases'. This is a reason why experimental control is rarely an option in political science. Additionally, comparative research is affected by two manifestations of the so-called travelling problem: that is, neither theoretical concepts nor empirical measurements are consistent across temporal and/or spatial settings. In other words, they do not 'travel'. This diminishes the possibility of controlling for the effect of variables other than those of primary interest".
Translating the jargon, what these experts are trying to say is that it is impossible to make meaningful comparisons between different times and places because there are simply too many factors in play. However, your Lordships do not need academic experts to tell you that the sort of governance arrangements such as those that we are discussing cannot be subject to scientific evaluation.
The introduction of PCCs is based on the belief that giving an individual a clear responsibility for meeting the policing needs of his community and holding him accountable, through the ballot box, for doing so will, by reducing crime and anti-social behaviour, make this country safer. We have not made much of this in your Lordships' House during these debates but that is what this Bill is all about. This is neither the time nor the place to talk about why I am so convinced that this is the case, but I believe that it is based on empirical evidence.
Lord Wasserman: I have seen that, and I am sure that we will discuss it on another occasion. However, there is plenty of evidence for the changes that individual elected mayors in crime-ridden cities in America have been able to make when they put their mind to it, and when they provided their police chiefs with the political cover and resources to do the job.
Lord Beecham: How does the noble Lord distinguish the examples that he has given from those that he said would not be appropriate in the varying conditions in this country? He has just told us that there are too many variables to allow pilots to take place, yet he is citing New York and America as exemplars, and therefore effectively as pilots, for the system that he wishes to introduce to this country. Is that not correct?
Lord Wasserman: This is not about using a particular bit of legislation in particular areas and comparing them in an academic research environment. The examples that I am giving noble Lords are of real change achieved by real chiefs with real mayors in real cities.
Lord Harris of Haringey: The core of the noble Lord's argument against pilots is that he is cautioning us against the spatial differences between different parts of this country and the temporal differences-because this is a different time. Now he is saying that you can draw from experience 3,000-plus miles away, which is quite a big spatial difference, under a different legal system and so on. The temporal difference is that the improvement under Mayor Giuliani happened a number of years ago. I am not quite sure where this argument is taking your Lordships.
Lord Wasserman: This is not taking us in a circle. There are lessons that can be learnt from experience everywhere. We know this. We are talking now about piloting, as a series of limited experiments, a particular bit of legislation that is to be reviewed by an inspector of constabulary under research circumstances. That is quite different from learning lessons on general principles from experience around the world, rather than from particular bits of legislation.
The main point that I want to make about the proposed pilots is that any change-even change 3,000 miles away-takes time to take effect. It very much depends on relationships between individual PCCs-a point that has already been made-and individual chief constables. These changes and these relationships will take time to develop. One of our issues is with the time it will take to put these pilots into effect. Your Lordships will remember that, some time ago, in a debate in this House about fixed-term Parliaments, many noble Lords made the point that four years was far too short a time to judge the success or failure of the Government. Now we are saying that four years will be sufficient to judge the effect of these new governance arrangements on the level of crime and anti-social behaviour in this country. I am sure that at the end of the four years, people will say that there has not been enough time to judge the changes. Also, some people will talk about the Hawthorne effect: the fact that the pilots have been successful simply because others have studied them. That is another example of how pilot studies can reach misleading conclusions.
For all those reasons, I do not think that, at this stage, a pilot is an appropriate way to judge the effectiveness of the changes. I suspect that what some noble Lords really want is not a programme of pilots but a staged roll-out programme. That is quite different.
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The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Browning): My Lords, as the Bill no longer contains the Government's model for directly elected police and crime commissioners, the effect of accepting the amendments would be to delay implementation of that policy until after long and unnecessary pilots and the completion of a review by HMIC. As we do not support the new model, and will seek to overturn it when the Bill returns to another place, we cannot support the amendments. I have always been very clear with the House during Committee that the Government intend to overturn the deletion of the publicly elected police and crime commissioner from the Bill.
The noble Baroness, Lady Henig, referred to the number of speakers from the government Benches. I have had many conversations with colleagues on the government Benches. Having now been in the House for nearly a year, I appreciate that on both the Benches behind me and those in front of me there is an independence of spirit, regardless of party affiliation. I am convinced that if Members on the government Benches felt strongly opposed to what the Government are doing, they would certainly be standing up to speak. One cannot judge the number of speakers as a reflection of support or otherwise for the Bill. When a Division has been called to date on the Bill, government Members have turned out through the Lobby, as they did earlier tonight, expressing their support for the Bill.
I shall spend some time explaining why we do not support the amendments on directly elected police and crime commissioners. We have heard many speeches throughout the course of the Bill so far saying that this is a radical change; that we should pilot it before rolling it out; and that we need to ensure that we all understand how it would work in practice before we roll it out nationally. We still are not clear what happens if some forces go ahead as pilots, leaving the remainder behind. Put another way, on what basis will we decide who will be denied democratic control of their policing-in other words, on whom do we experiment? What about issues that arise across forces? Serious crime does not only occur within the force boundary. Interoperability across forces is key to tackling those issues, but with pilots, there would be two different forms of police governance running alongside each other, likely to cause confusion and delay in working across force boundaries. This would be confusing for police officers and for the public. It would also be unnecessarily costly.
For many changes in policy or process a pilot can be a good thing, as we have heard from some of the contributions tonight. However, it is clear that a pilot
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"My nervousness about pilots is on how you would choose what those pilots are. One of the concerns of the chief police officers at the moment is how it aggregates to the whole. If you were to choose all large forces or all small forces, you might not fully understand the impact".-[Official Report, Commons, Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill Committee, 20/1/11; col. 106.]
Questions have been raised about the whole philosophy behind the Bill and about the concept of democratically elected police and crime commissioners. I shall not rehearse the strong evidence base for these reforms, having spoken to them at earlier stages of the Bill. They are based largely on HMIC findings, and I set out in Committee that HMIC has already provided more than enough information to justify them. Therefore, I believe that we should not delay these urgent reforms and distract HMIC from its already difficult and important task of inspecting the police by asking it to use valuable and finite resources to evaluate government policy.
To my noble friends who have spoken on this issue-and I understand that people hold very strong views about it-I point out that it was made perfectly clear in the coalition agreement that we would have PCCs during this Parliament. A pilot goes against both the spirit and the letter of the coalition agreement.
However, it is not just Conservatives and Liberal Democrats who have identified the need for reforms to policing governance; I believe that the Opposition support this concept. Only two years ago, when the shadow policing Minister in the other place was the policing Minister, he said that,
I fully accept that the former Labour Government, in presenting this Green Paper, were thinking of a different form of direct accountability from the one that we are considering in this Bill. However, the principle of direct accountability was there. In fact, the previous Government twice proposed a form of direct accountability for policing but they did not proceed with it. They encountered opposition, so I am sure
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The coalition Government share the view that police authority governance needs to be changed and that our democratic form of accountability is important. Change is needed and it is needed now. That is why we do not intend to be derailed by the suggestion of a pilot. I have to put it to the House that the real reason for these amendments is opposition to our preferred model.
The bottom line is that pilots would not be a helpful way to road-test the policy. My noble friend Lord Howard of Lympne used the words "wrecking amendments", although he was cautious in suggesting that that was the motivation behind them. I do not suggest that these are wrecking amendments, but the outcome of such amendments if passed would have the same effect. You cannot have two systems of police governance running side by side. You cannot say to one area that they have a voice in democratically electing a PCC but say to another that they do not. It cannot be said that there is no mandate for these changes; it is set out quite clearly in the coalition agreement.
Questions were raised across the House about review. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, that in the PCC impact assessment we state that the Government are committed to reviewing the new policing governance arrangements in 2017. That post-implementation review will identify what works, what could be improved and what lessons have been learnt. We are not just putting this policy out there on a wait-and-see basis; it has specifically identified outcomes that, in order for it to be deemed successful, will be quite easily recognisable. However, in addition to that, there will be a more formal review so that lessons can be learnt after the PCCs have been in place for five years.
Other Members of your Lordships' House, including my noble friend Lady Stowell of Beeston, raised the question that one hears quite often among the public in respect of our criminal justice system-who is on our side? We believe that these changes should result in the public having much more confidence in believing that the criminal justice system in this country is on their side. As my noble friend Lord Wasserman said, reducing crime and anti-social behaviour is at the heart of this policy. Therefore, it will be evident to the public, and to the rest of us, that the reduction in crime and anti-social behaviour will be a hallmark of the success of this policy.
This House is a revising and improving Chamber. I do not believe that it wishes to wreck the Government's plans, but I believe that that is what these changes would do. I suggest to your Lordships that, on serious reflection of the impact of these amendments, they should not be pressed.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I am sure we would all agree that this has been a very good debate, and I am grateful to all noble Lords who have taken
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I listened with great interest to the noble Baroness, Lady Stowell, who talked about public appetite for change. I have seen no appetite whatever for party political police chiefs to come into the UK in the way in which I think this Bill will lead us.
The noble Baroness has given us the good news that noble Lords can stand for election, and we have already speculated on the elections in Kent and Lancashire. Thinking of the West Midlands, if I were fortunate enough to stand, to be selected and to be elected, the idea that I would stay out of operational policing issues when faced with the legitimacy of being elected is naive. An elected police and crime commissioner will become the police chief of a force. Some noble Lords who support this have said openly that that is where they expect the journey to end. That is why we are so concerned about these proposals.
This is rather like Lords reform; I am sorry to refer back to our debate last week. I support reform of your Lordships' House but I disagree with most of the noble Lords who have spoken in its favour, particularly from the Liberal Democrat Benches, because they and Mr Clegg seem to be proposing that an elected House of Lords will carry on in the same way as the appointed House of Lords. That is nonsense. The election of a House of Lords will change the dynamic of this place considerably, and that is what I would expect to happen with elected police and crime commissioners. After all, what is the point of proposing that unless it is to happen? Surely we are not seriously talking about simply taking the police authorities as they are, adding a dose of democracy and thinking things will be great. No. We are on a journey on which elected people will run police forces in the future. I am convinced that that is where we are going to end up, so I think there is merit in testing this out.
The noble Lord, Lord Howard, said that democracy is the enemy of uniformity and that you cannot draw a general lesson. I follow that argument, and I understand that if you are looking at the relationship in, say, four areas between a police and crime commissioner and a chief constable, those are going to be distinctive areas and there are going to be distinct circumstances, but I would have thought that there are still lessons to be learnt that would enable the Government to take note and make adjustments so that if the system were then rolled out it would be in the light of experience. I am not proposing a wrecking amendment. I am not beholden to four years. I think that the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, tabled an amendment in Committee that proposed two years. I would always be open to discussion about this.
The noble Lord, Lord Wasserman, is widely regarded as the architect of all this, and I am not surprised that he does not want pilots. He said that you cannot
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The Minister said that the coalition agreement provides for this. It does not. The coalition agreement is an agreement between two political parties. It does not have the status of a manifesto. It is very important that noble Lords understand that. I echo the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, and the noble Baroness because my understanding was that this reform was to be accompanied by strong checks and balances. So far, those checks and balances are very weak indeed.
The Minister then said in relation to pilots that we would have different forms of police governance. What do we have in local government? Indeed, the Localism Bill gives us even more forms of governance. I am not an expert on it, but my understanding is that if councils want to, they can go back to the good old committee system-a blessed memory to those of us who remember the allotments sub-committee of Oxford City Council, on which I was not qualified to serve but I have always wished that I had been so appointed. We are well used to different forms of governance within the same structure. I do not see why that should differ in relation to police forces.
I have been a serial culprit as a Minister in restructuring public services. I cannot remember how many NHS Bills I took through in restructuring the health service. The one thing I learnt from that is that it might be better to test ideas out before tearing things up by the roots. In the absence of pre-legislative scrutiny, the noble Baroness had to produce all those amendments on Monday night, after discussions with noble Lords, because this Bill has been constructed too hurriedly. It has not gone through pre-legislative scrutiny and I suspect that more amendments will be necessary when we are able to analyse the full effect of her amendment. There is a very convincing case for some trial and evaluation. I am not going to put this to the vote tonight, but as we move on to further stages of the Bill, I think that in order to resolve differences between this place and another place, pilots might have their place in the sun.
Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, first I must apologise to the House. This is an extremely complicated group of amendments and I am sure that the rapid rate at which your Lordships are leaving the Chamber is an indication of how much people are looking forward to this particular discussion. I also want to apologise for the fact that because it is so complicated I have got the groupings slightly wrong. In this group we should be debating Amendment 84, which is in the next group; Amendments 204 and 205 would more comfortably sit with Amendment 203 at some much later stage, because it is a really quite separate debate; and I am not going to speak to Amendment 25 because some of the other amendments more than cover that point.
Therefore, I am speaking to Amendments 8 to 13, 24 to 28, 30 to 32, 65, 84, 268 and 269, 274 to 290, 294 and 295. These all relate to creating corporation sole status for chief constables and the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis and deal with the implications arising from that. They would allow the local policing body to delegate functions to a chief officer, to enable the day-to-day management of police resources without having to create a separate legal identity for chief officers. The amendments also deal with audit implications, in that chief officers do not need to employ a separate statutory financial officer to undertake this function as all audit responsibilities will remain with the local policing body.
The other amendments confirm that chief officers will not be able to enter contracts, acquire or dispose of property and land or borrow money in their own right, but that they could do so under the terms of a delegation agreement from the local policing body. There are also amendments that would deal with the status quo in relation to police staff; they provide that although the employing body is the governing body, chief officers would have direction and control of all staff employed solely to assist the police force. Finally, there are amendments which deal with accounting and audit issues. Again, they reinstate the status quo and provide a simplified system of governance.
This is a brief summary but I want to explain why these are so critically important. We are in real danger here. Without these amendments I fear that we will create, frankly, little understood structures that will prove unworkable in practice. When we come to the review that the noble Baroness has just promised us in 2017-or rather, I fear, several years before that-we will realise that these arrangements are unworkable and we will have to revisit them. What is more, they will produce additional paralysing bureaucracy-something that I thought this Government did not think was a terribly good idea. It will produce unnecessary duplication-again, something I thought this Government did not agree with. What is worse, it will produce confusion about who is responsible and accountable for the £12 billion police budget.
I understand-at least I think I do-that the Government's motivation in these proposals is to separate clearly the functions of the governing body from that of the force. I am not convinced that that will actually be the end result. On the contrary, I believe the proposals will result in a confused landscape rather than a simplified
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At an earlier stage of the Bill, my noble friend Lady Henig raised a number of concerns about this. The Minister responded with a short list of bodies which were existing corporations sole. These included the sovereign, some but not all bishops, the Treasury Solicitor, the Information Commissioner and the Children's Commissioner. But the Minister did not answer the questions that had been asked about the powers and the norms and practices in relation to corporations sole. We remain none the wiser and we do not know the answers to questions such as: what laws set rules about corporate governance within corporations sole? We do not know what general powers and duties these laws give the incumbent or what those laws say about the accountability of the incumbent for those powers and duties; nor do we know if any of those laws or any other common practice within corporations sole conflict with what is being proposed in this Bill. We are in a vacuum.
Since the Minister was unable, or perhaps unwilling, to answer these questions, I have tried to do some research. I have to say that it is not possible to find out a great deal about corporations sole. The fact that the information is so scarce rings serious alarm bells as far as I am concerned. A quick search on Google will verify the identity of a number of corporations sole. It also yields some helpful information about the historical context of that. I am pleased to tell your Lordships that the concept is rooted in the medieval church. It was about a desire to separate bequests to the church from those to its priests personally, which no doubt was a very laudable intention.
However, I have to ask noble Lords whether a medieval construct to avoid priests getting their hands on money which was intended for the mother church is something we want for a modern police service. I just wonder where this strange idea came from and why it was suddenly decided that this was the model that we want in terms of governance for a police service in the 21st century.
This medieval background tells us nothing about the powers or norms of practice of corporations sole. I eventually managed to establish that for the most part where people have been institutionalised as corporations sole, it is to enable them to do a specific thing. It does not often seem to be for the purpose of giving them general corporate powers as individuals. But the Bill does not specify that tightly enough. For instance, I understand that bishops are generally corporations sole only for the purpose of holding land and that some of the other bodies are corporations
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I think that it is the Office of the Children's Commissioner which has most recently been given corporation sole status. When she submitted the review of her own office in September 2010, the Children's Commissioner concluded that,
She then talks about some of the pressures in terms of being a non-departmental public body, but I do not know whether that will apply in these cases. She continued that the Office of the Children's Commissioner,
However, her message is clear; it is an inappropriate model, yet we are going to have it for the police service. Frankly, if we do not deal with this issue now, we shall be saying much the same thing about policing in a very short time indeed. We will have to revisit it, and probably not as far off as 2017.
I am particularly alarmed about the comments of the Children's Commissioner on the perceived lack of accountability of a corporation sole's status. Perhaps above all other services, it is essential that the public have confidence in the accountability arrangements for policing, but I am deeply worried that the Bill will achieve the opposite. For this reason, Amendments 8 and 24 would remove the status of corporation sole from chief officers, while Amendments 12, 13 and 30 to 32 would then remove certain generic corporate powers from chief officers, such as the ability to make contracts and acquire and dispose of property.
Aside from my general concern about transparency and accountability, there are also specific issues about who is accountable for public money under the proposals in the Bill. In theory, and certainly under the current arrangements, this ought to be the governing body. That is surely also fundamental to the Government's rationale in proposing police and crime commissioners in the first place. If we accept that an elected police and crime commissioner should have a mandate on behalf of local people to determine how their taxes are spent, surely we should have transparency of governance, but that is not here under the current arrangements.
This is going to be entirely inconsistent with what will happen in practice under the current wording of the Bill. It envisages that the police fund, both that provided through central government funding and that provided through the police precept of local council tax, would go initially to the governing body. That is straightforward, and so far, so good, but the governing body would then make grants. The vast majority would be a grant for chief officers of police as a separate corporation sole to enable him or her to manage the police force and police operations, although smaller grants might be made to other bodies.
At this point, any funding granted to the police will have passed from one corporation sole to another corporation sole. When that happens, it looks very much as though the funding has passed out of the jurisdiction and influence of the governing body. I do not think that that is what the Government intend, but that is the consequence. The money is passed over and it goes across to a new corporation sole, which is then responsible for it. How will the proposed new governance arrangements safeguard public money? It is not clear that they will because there will be a separate corporation sole.
It is unclear what leverage the governing body is going to have, or even what financial information it can access to influence how the money is being spent. Certainly it will be able to see audit information after it is finalised and published each year because that is a public document, but this is completely useless for exercising any leverage whatever over how the money is used before it is spent. That is a very strange system of accountability. It radically changes the way in which things work at the moment, which enables the governing body to have a clear grip on strategic financial matters. That is achieved through a police authority delegating certain functions to chief officers, particularly those relevant to day-to-day financial management. It retains clear lines of accountability back to the governing body, which remains ultimately responsible and is the auditable body. The mechanism enables a police authority to give the chief officer the freedom to exercise their professionalism in managing force resources, but can restrict or grant this according to local circumstances. More important, it gives the governing body the final say about how public money is spent.
By contrast, the arrangements in the Bill are completely unclear, and it is not at all certain who has the final say. These amendments would resolve the problem by reinstating the ability of the governing body to delegate functions. The other side of creating two separate corporations for one police fund is that it creates two separate auditable bodies and a need to duplicate chief financial officers. That is not sensible, but it is a direct consequence of creating two corporations sole. If it were just a matter of saying that both the force and the governing body needed suitably qualified financial officers, that would be less of a concern, but it does more than that.
The wording in the Bill, by relating the finance post to the Local Government Finance Act 1988, gives both financial officers statutory powers. There will be two financial officers, both with statutory powers, leading to duplication, conflict, confusion and lack of transparency. I am sure that that is what the Government
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The creation of two statutory finance officers also has the consequence of creating two separate auditable bodies in each area for what is in essence one police fund. This is confirmed through some changes to Schedule 16 that reinforce the creation of two separate auditable bodies. Again, I have to ask the Government whether that is what they really want. Do they want two separate auditable bodies? I can think of no other context in which you would audit the same money twice. It has the inevitable consequence of duplicating effort and adding significantly to bureaucracy.
Audit and the other activities that sit alongside it are important tools of financial governance, such as the power of the relevant financial officer to prevent expenditure where it is unlawful and the ability to check how public money is being spent. To ensure that these powers are conducted in a manner consistent with good governance, other public bodies such as local authorities have statutory obligations to establish audit committees. These are usually set up with a degree of independent input to provide a credible check and balance on audit activity. The Bill is completely silent about this requirement for either-not one, but both-of the auditable bodies it establishes. I am tempted to say that this is medieval, but at any rate it has to be seen as a serious flaw in the legislation, which is inconsistent with any modern practice on audit and financial governance.
To resolve these problems, amendments in this group refer to a proper independent audit committee within the police and crime panel; there are amendments that remove references to a statutory financial officer for the force and separate audit arrangements for the chief officer.
I do not want to be accused of being naughty again, but there are also amendments here that deal with police staff and the transfers involved. I know that the Minister will be bursting to come back to this subject when she tables the mysterious amendment that is in the process of being drafted. I shall not burden the House with going through all that in any great detail, but serious complications will be involved in transfers of staff to the new bodies proposed in the Bill.
The Government envisage the majority of assets other than people in any event residing with the PCC, although that is not yet properly reflected in the Bill's wording. They see the majority of staff eventually being transferred to the chief officer as a corporation sole. It is pertinent here that the key driver for creating chief officers as corporations sole was precisely to enable them to employ and manage their own staff. However, resolving the issue of staff with dual roles will be a source of considerable tension between chief officers and the governing body-a point I referred to earlier. Whether that debate happens before or after implementation, it is a real problem that will take some real effort to resolve in any detail.
I accept that two-stage transfer arrangements are the only way in which the Government will have a fighting chance of implementing any of their proposals by next May. However, they create other significant problems. The biggest of these is the additional uncertainty imposed on police staff about their future. This will occur at precisely the time that the Winsor review is being implemented and other efficiencies bite. As further austerity measures are introduced, they are likely to have a disproportionate impact on police staff relative to police officers, who have more statutory protection against redundancy.
Many of us in this House have received or seen communications from UNISON on behalf of police staff. Essentially, they are alarmed about this transfer process and see it as providing an opportunity to rationalise the numbers of police staff and several opportunities to erode their pension rights. This is not a good time to be testing the resilience of policing in this way and diminishing staff morale.
All these difficulties could be resolved in one sweep: by removing the status of corporations sole for chief officers and broadly reinstating the status quo as to who is responsible. It would also strengthen police accountability, which I understood was the intention of the legislation.
The exact method of doing this and putting in place satisfactory alternative arrangements can be examined through changes to the structures and governance mechanisms proposed through other amendments. However, all the other solutions would rely on creating a corporate body in which employment, contractual, financial and accountability rights and responsibilities are vested. It is after all the most tried and tested model in this country and we know that it works. It is not going back to the medieval church to tell us how best to organise it. What on earth are we doing resorting to other models in the form of corporations sole?
We have no idea whether this would ultimately work in a policing context. We have just heard the Minister speak powerfully against the concept of pilots to see whether it would work. I suggest that policing is not a good area in which to experiment with corporate structures that are so little understood. It is particularly the case when even bodies that are existing corporations sole are expressing doubts about their own governance and accountability and concluding that a corporate body is a far more robust structure.
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