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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I think the point has been well put that the powers of the acting PCC could be considerable. I apologise to my noble friend Lord Beecham for underestimating the size of the precept. It seems to me that it has grown between Committee and Report stages. But it involves the precept, the budget, the appointment of the chief constable and the dismissal of the chief constable. I am still concerned that the problem here is the construct of the Bill. As my noble friend Lord Harris has said, once you decide to place on a political individual so much power and responsibility, you clearly have a big problem in deciding what to do if that person is no longer able to carry out the job.
It seems to me that this is a very important issue, which has been debated in the other place as well. The Government clearly still do not have a clue about how to deal with it. The noble Baroness said that she is concerned about appointing the acting PCC from the police and crime panel, which is an inherently political body. But what is the PCC but politicisation? In terms of the idea that the staff will be wonderfully neutral, what on earth will the staff be doing? I am horrified at the thought that the PCC will employ an army of people. It will have one point, which will be to ensure the re-election of the police and crime commissioner. What else are they there for but to support that person?
The noble Baroness has said that she will take this away. I am very grateful to her, but can she confirm that that means that she accepts that I can bring an amendment back at Third Reading or that she will? It cannot be dealt with in the Commons on ping-pong. It is impossible to deal with this issue in that way. It has to be dealt with by this House. We have only a few days left. Will the noble Baroness confirm that she is saying that this is a matter that requires further clarification and can be brought back at Third Reading?
"( ) A report is to be prepared annually by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary assessing the extent to which the strategic policing requirement has been met in each police area and nationally.
Baroness Henig: My Lords, I would like to speak to Amendments 235, 235A and 239. Can I just point out that I think there is a misprint on the groupings list? To clarify, this group should comprise Amendments 235, 235A and 239.
Amendment 235 is a response to the widespread fears of your Lordships expressed in earlier debates. It is also a response to the concerns of policing professionals, charities and businesses that an elected commissioner might, for obvious reasons, want to focus on a local mandate, and the fact that a lot of important, strategic national issues are somewhat hidden from public view. There is concern that all this might lead to cross-border national or strategic policing issues being relatively neglected under the Government's proposed new model.
I dare say that we are as one in recognising and wishing to respond in the most effective manner possible to the ever present and, indeed, growing threats to many of the so-called protective services or national and strategic threats, which cross police force borders or require specialist attention. The sort of crimes I refer to are such things as cyber crime, threats from terrorism, extremism, serious and organised crime, people trafficking and the more sporadic-potentially devastating-impact of civil contingencies. There is a whole number of national incidents.
I do not wish to raise an apocalyptic spectre of crimes and emergencies, but it is exactly because these important issues are not the currency of local, political, policing debate that I am concerned that it might not be at the forefront of a commissioner's attention. There is a risk that commissioners may-for understandable reasons-not give full weight to national issues. Anybody who has attended local, public policing
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I have experience of consulting local people on their policing priorities. I used to always give people a list of issues on which we wanted to consult them. It would always include anti-terrorism and other matters but the public always said "We do not want anti-terrorist activity to be at the top of the list because that is a national responsibility". When asked how this should be paid for they said that the Government should pay. They always put national issues at the bottom of the list. As I went round the county, this happened every time.
Even at a time in Lancashire when the Irish situation was quite difficult-and Heysham was quite an important area for activity which meant that the Lancashire police were engaged in considerable anti-terrorist activity -none the less people in Lancashire did not want their precept to be spent on that kind of activity. That worried me then and it worries me even more now because I think that tendency will be even more emphasised in this new regime.
What I propose as part of the solution to act as a substantial check and balance on commissioners and force actions is to have an annual report to Parliament by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary. I am sure I do not need to remind the House that it has a long and distinguished track record in both identifying and trying to identify the best ways of closing the gap in protective services. It is perfectly placed to provide an annual guarantee that the gap does not widen in the years to come, or, if it does widen, that it can alert Parliament that this is happening.
My idea of an annual report to Parliament draws on similar recent and successful provisions that have enabled Parliament's concerns about the potential impact of certain Acts to be monitored and to some degree ameliorated. I am thinking here of the distinguished work of the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, as the independent reviewer of counterterrorism legislation. That is just one example of a way in which activity could be monitored, so that Parliament could get some sense of how things are working out. I understand that the amendment would impose a new duty on the inspectorate's already, no doubt, hard pressed resources, but the national issues are so important and the consequences of us failing to ensure adequate provision for national strategic policing requirements are so great that an annual assessment would be one way of monitoring the situation and measuring what forces are doing. It would help commissioners in their debate with local people to emphasise how important these national strategic requirements are. It is in that spirit that I beg to move the amendment.
Baroness Hamwee: I have Amendment 235A in this group. The noble Baroness spoke about matters which I raised at the previous stage, mentioning a number of criminal areas which do not respect boundaries. This amendment is arguably a little more local, but I have been asked to raise it by Justice, whose concern is exactly what I articulated at the previous stage and what the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, has articulated now. It is concerned that the creation of commissioners could result in what it calls-it is rather a good phrase-a competitive "race to the bottom" on populist law and order policies. It mentions what one might call the "invisible" crimes, such as domestic violence and crimes against vulnerable individuals and members of minority groups, which do not dominate public concern in the way that street crime and anti-social behaviour do.
The Bill deals with offences such as terrorism and organised crime, which require a national policing response. Child neglect has been acknowledged in another part of the Bill, but aggravated crimes against minorities and a whole list of other matters, with which I shall not detain the House, may not be a priority-indeed, it is extremely unlikely-for any commissioner seeking an electoral mandate.
I made the point to Justice that we had already covered some of this ground, to which it responded rather honestly that it was important to make the rhetorical point. Although it is almost half-past nine on perhaps our last day on Report, I shall make the point not very rhetorically, not very eloquently, but in quite a heartfelt manner.
Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, I do not think that some of the issues that we are discussing in these amendments are rhetorical matters. My Amendment 239 approaches the issues which my noble friend Lady Henig raised in Amendment 235 from a slightly different perspective.
Some 35 hours ago, I sat listening to the Home Secretary introduce the new CONTEST strategy for the United Kingdom. That document, which pulls together the efforts being made to counter terrorism, is fundamental to the issues that we are talking about here in relation to the national strategic policing requirement.
Of course, this document describes the importance of having a national network feeding in to the counterterrorist effort-if we do not have such a national network, we cannot deliver effective counterterrorist policing. That is why it is so important that the Government have put the strategic policing requirement into the Bill. What makes it difficult for us in your Lordships' House to consider these matters tonight is that, of course, no one, as far as I am aware-certainly none of your Lordships-has yet seen the strategic policing requirement, or a draft thereof.
When I have listened to senior police officers, they say that there are a number of building blocks for anyone to understand how this legislation will work. One of those building blocks is the memorandum that we have seen-the Minister has promised us that she will come back to us on whether that will be part of
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Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: My noble friend served with me on the Joint Committee on the national security strategy. Will he help the House and contemplate how the strategic policing requirement might fit in to the national security strategy? Would it be part of it or relate to it in any way? It has certainly not been mentioned, as I am sure my noble friend would agree, in our meetings on the national security Joint Committee.
Lord Harris of Haringey: The Government are trying to square the circle of putting a very high priority on national security-the national security strategy, the creation of the National Security Council-and their policies on police and crime commissioners. Clearly, the potential danger with police and crime commissioners elected with a local mandate to articulate the concerns of local people is that some national priorities will not be given the same priority at local level. Now, I am sure that no sensible police and crime commissioner would say, "I am not interested in anything being done on counterterrorism", just as no sensible police and crime commissioner would say that they did not want to see anything done on serious crime. However, when there are 41 directly elected individuals, some of whom will fight very fiercely contested local elections, or be facing fiercely contested re-election, the question of whether the same priority is given to national security matters as is given to other matters becomes a real issue.
Because of our particularly slow progress as a House on other matters before we arrived at the Bill tonight-we are making rapid progress compared to the progress earlier-I had the opportunity of listening to a presentation downstairs from Professor Dave Sloggett, a nationally known expert on counterterrorism issues. In a rather chilling 15-minute tour d'horizon, he simply spelt out the sorts of threats that we face, which are contained in the CONTEST strategy, and the context in which that is taking place at the moment. Yes, Osama bin Laden has been killed, but that does not mean that al-Qaeda goes away. We are actually seeing a fragmentation and each of the different affiliates going their own way, each presenting slightly different threats.
We have Gaddafi in Libya, who has made an explicit threat of suicide bombers in European cities; and there is the changing situation in Northern Ireland, where we have just seen two nights of sustained rioting and serious disorder. Again, the fact that that has not impinged significantly on the rest of the country makes it all the more likely that there will be an aspiration for it do so. We have the challenges of the Olympics. In moving her amendment, my noble friend Lady Henig referred to issues around cybercrime, and it is interesting
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Let us consider the way in which Roshonara Choudhry self-radicalised herself, dropped out of her university course and, having listened to speeches and read material on the internet, decided that an appropriate thing for her to do to take forward the cause would be to assassinate a British Member of Parliament. She then researched Members of Parliament on TheyWorkForYou.com and purchased two kitchen knives. Fortunately for Stephen Timms, a Member of Parliament in the other place, she decided on the day that it was easier to conceal in her clothing the shorter of the knives. That is an example of the kind of threat we face.
Not so long ago an individual in the south-west of the country seriously injured himself in an attempt to blow up a restaurant in which families with young children were having meals. Again, he was an individual who, as far as we know, was not significantly connected to any of the networks.
It will be the responsibility of local policing, local special branches and local intelligence to pick up on these issues. If you get to a stage where this is seen as not the responsibility of a local police force, your ability to combat these threats will be severely weakened. That is why the strategic policing requirement is so important.
It is also important in the context of serious and organised crime because we all know that if you do not maintain consistent and strong pressure on the issues around serious and organised crime, gradually the quality of community life in all kinds of areas will begin to deteriorate-and yet this will not be an immediate priority for many police and crime commissioners.
The Government have, properly, written into the Bill a strategic policing requirement. However, they have not specified how it will be enforced and how they will make sure that it is met in every force area. My noble friend Lady Henig has tabled an amendment which would require Her Majesty's Inspectorate to produce a report on an annual basis and lay it before Parliament to assess how the strategic policing requirement is working. My amendment has a different focus; it seeks to consider what happens in each individual force area. It does not specify that the report should be laid before Parliament because sometimes the content of that report in relation to the strength, willingness and effectiveness of local forces in combating terrorism and serious and organised crime would best not be publicly shared.
I know that the Home Office does not want to be top-down on all kinds of issues, but on these issues it needs to be top-down, which is why it has postulated a strategic policing requirement. This will give the Home Secretary a snapshot for each police force area and a
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These amendments are put forward in a genuine attempt not just to assist the Government to achieve their objectives, which as you know are constantly at the forefront of our thoughts on this side of the House, but because it is critically and crucially important for the national security of this country and indeed for our ability to deal with serious and organised crime.
Lord Carlile of Berriew: My Lords, I hope I will be forgiven for making a short intervention in support of the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, and indeed in support of the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, as to its principle. This Bill is to a great extent about the accountability of the police. The whole purpose of the Government's policy, which I applaud, is to make the police more accountable to the public. The noble Baroness, Lady Henig, is attempting to do precisely that-to give visible evidence of that accountability to enable the public to judge from a document how accountable the police are in terms of the strategic policing requirement.
The noble Baroness referred to the work of the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, which I used to be. The independent reviewer is required to produce at least two reports every year which enable Members of both Houses, who use the reports extensively, and others to judge the performance of the authorities in relation to counterterrorism law. We have an independent reviewer of the relatively new Northern Ireland provisions for what is now public order law in Northern Ireland. This role has been carried out since it was introduced by Mr Robert Whalley. He has been very successful in ensuring that those important parts of the law he reviews in Northern Ireland, which can prove, as we have seen in the past couple of days, very controversial in the context of everyday life, are accounted for in the legislative assembly of Northern Ireland and in this Parliament.
Following the legislation in relation to the UN money-laundering provisions for named terrorist suspects, we introduced recently an independent review which is going to be carried out, as I understand it, by David Anderson QC, who succeeded me as independent reviewer of terrorism legislation. There again, we will have a report which will deal with issues relating to a
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Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary has a distinguished and respected record of impartiality. It has been able to secure changes in policing practice around the country by the kindly method of report, constructive criticism and engaging, sometimes, the support of those in both Houses of Parliament. It seems to me that there is nothing to be lost and potentially much to be gained from the transparency of a report by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary, particularly given the importance of the strategic policing requirement, which has been amply described during this short debate, particularly by the noble Lord, Lord Harris.
I take issue with the noble Lord on only one detail. He suggested that it might be difficult to write a report that would be published that engaged with matters of national security that are best left unsaid. I can tell the noble Lord that there are ways of doing this; it can be done. With the co-operation, which is always available, of the security services in particular, there are ways of writing reports that do not damage national security but deal fully with all the principles that need to be discussed.
I therefore believe that this is a constructive proposal and I hope to hear that the Minister will also allow this matter further consideration with a view to something being brought forward at Third Reading.
Lord Dear: My Lords, I wonder if I might put a different gloss on the matters that we are debating in this group of amendments. We know that there is a strong likelihood that there will be a national crime agency some time in the next calendar year. We already have a discussion document about that. It refers to tasking, which I am confidently assured means direction from the centre. That means that there is bound to be tension between local and national issues, which is a good thing. It is democracy in action. It is inevitable that the inspectorate will become involved, at the behest of local or national figures. That is what it is there for and that is my experience, having served in it for more than five years, albeit some time ago.
I am concerned that the Bill is in grave danger of becoming overprescriptive. We are covering detail, which is good as far as it goes. However, to put it in the Bill rather than take it as a matter of good sense or encompass it in regulation stretches too far the issue of what should be in the Bill.
I shall refer to Amendment 235A. Having followed an all-encompassing definition of national crime, we are then invited to put in something about children, vulnerable adults, members of minority groups and so on. I do not at all underestimate the threat to those groups; terrible things are done to and with them. However, if we are to pick out those groups, why do we not put in something about drugs, counterterrorism, and the theft of high-value motor vehicles and plant, all of which happen on a European-if not a more
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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, this has been a very interesting debate. I understand what the noble Lord, Lord Dear, is saying about the risks of overprescription. However, we are talking about strategic policing requirements. This is a matter of national importance. My noble friends have argued very well for their respective amendments.
No election will be won by a police and crime commissioner on issues to do with national policing. They will be won on local manifestos. Almost every candidate will promise more police on the beat. The question will be an auction over just how many police will be on the beat at any one time. That is fair enough and clearly responds to a general view held by many members of the public, who like the police to be visible. I do not argue with that. However, it will have some consequences. It will put the squeeze on the specialist units that the police forces have developed. It will also put the squeeze on each force's responsibility to the national policing requirement. In some way or other, without being wholly prescriptive, we need to find a way in which to reassure Parliament that the national strategic policing requirement will be carried out as effectively as possible. It is not just terrorism; it is also about serious organised crime. My noble friends Lord Harris and Lord Foulkes were absolutely right to develop the argument about the threats that we face. We are in no position today to be complacent about those threats.
In their approach to the Bill the Government have really rather pooh-poohed the current tripartite relationship. They have criticised police authorities for a lack of visibility-although I have yet to hear any conclusive evidence put forward on why they ought to be visible. Furthermore, they believe that the tripartite arrangement is at fault because Home Secretaries have indulged in too much target-making. There will be a debate about targets and their place but there should be no doubt that in the end the Home Secretary is accountable to Parliament and ought to be accountable to Parliament for national policing strategy and the effectiveness of police forces in making a contribution to that strategy.
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Dear, about the implications of the national crime agency. I also agree with him that some tension will be constructive-but tension could also be destructive. In the Bill we see that the requirement in relation to the strategic policing requirement is placed on chief officers of police. In exercising the functions, they must have regard to the strategic policing requirement. In other words, they can ignore it, because "have regard to" is a very weak use of parliamentary language. They have to have regard to it, alongside other matters that are placed in the Bill.
All we have in statute is a requirement on the police and crime commissioner to hold the chief constable to account. Then we find that the actual requirement is simply to have regard to. What if the police and commissioner does not effectively hold the chief constable to account? What if the chief constable has regard to but does not take the necessary action? Where are the safeguards and sanctions? There are none. That is really our concern.
The amendments seem to be helpful and constructive. My noble friend Lady Henig asks for a report to be prepared assessing the extent to which the strategic policing requirement has been met in each police area. That does not seem overprescriptive; it is simply giving an assurance to Parliament that there will be a process by which Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary has a means of looking at each police force area and reporting on how they are doing in their contribution to the strategic policing requirement.
My noble friend Lord Harris has another constructive amendment around the inspection programme. In our first debate the Minister was very helpful, although I did not really follow her arguments. She was very constructive in being willing to engage in the area of the acting police and crime commissioner. Nothing is more important than the national strategic policing requirement. I hope that the noble Lord, who, I suspect, is going to respond to the amendment, will be able to be as constructive as his noble friend.
Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: My Lords, before the Minister replies to the debate, he will recall that nearly an hour and a half ago the government Chief Whip indicated that she would return speedily with a new timetable for this Bill to propose to the House. We are now approaching the normal time of rising of this House. I hope that the Minister will give an indication as to when the government Chief Whip will do us the courtesy of returning to indicate what the new timetable for this Bill will be.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: As always, the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, is immensely helpful in his contribution to debates. I well recall his many constructive contributions to the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill in an earlier period.
Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: I am grateful to the Minister, but this is a serious point. A number of Members of this House have an interest in subsequent amendments and are genuinely concerned that there should be a proper debate on the Bill because some very serious and important amendments are coming up. They do not know what is going to happen. They do not know whether these amendments are going to be considered at three o'clock, four o'clock or five o'clock in the morning or, more sensibly, on another day when
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As I said, it is part of the intention of this Bill to build in some constructive tensions between the local and the national. We all understand that policing is a constant dialogue between local, regional and national, although I suggest to the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, that things have changed a great deal in the last 20 or 30 years. Certainly when I was a candidate in Manchester many years ago, there was a small Special Branch that dealt with the IRA, but there were not the cross-cutting collaborative units that we now see across the north of England-drugs units, organised crime units and counterterrorism units, which are now part of the network in which our police forces co-operate with each other. My perspective on policing is a West Yorkshire one, but the Yorkshire Post, the Bradford Telegraph & Argus and the local radio stations do not simply focus on local crime, partly because local and national issues, such as parades by the English Defence League and drugs heists in which the drugs have just been imported from some other country, are very much part of the local scene. Therefore I think that the widespread fears suggested by the noble Baroness may be exaggerated.
Clause 80 sets out the strategic policing requirement, which is an update of the Police Act 1996, as noble Lords have said. That strategic policing requirement is now being extensively consulted on by the Secretary of State, ACPO, the Association of Police Authorities, the Metropolitan Police service and others. Clearly that is going to be a major part-
Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, while I am fascinated to hear that this consultation is taking place, on the last occasion on which I saw representatives of the Association of Chief Police Officers-I believe it was last week-they had not yet seen a draft of this document, so I am slightly bemused by that. Parliament has to see it. We cannot understand what the balance is going to be between the local and the national unless we can see that document, even in draft state, and understand it.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, Clause 80 sets out in some detail the principles of the strategic policing requirement. It is there in the Bill. There is a question of how much detail we want to write in to the Bill, but Clause 80 sets out the fundamentals of that requirement. Clause 96 adds to that the backstop power for the Secretary of State to intervene if, in her opinion, local police forces are not paying sufficient attention to the strategic policing requirement.
I add that "have regard to" is not, as has been suggested, a weak statement. It is a commonly used phrase for a strong and appropriate duty, which places an obligation on the chief officer and the PCC to comply with the strategic policing requirement. In policing terms, the duty to have regard has previously applied, for example, to codes of practice that have been used to implement a national intelligence model across all 43 police forces in England and Wales, to codify the use of police firearms and to ensure compliance with the IPCC statutory guidance on handling police complaints, which suggests that this is a widely used and strong duty.
What I am trying to clarify is: how can we see what the impact of that strong requirement is unless we know what the Government's intentions are for the document's contents? That is not asking to have the wording of the strategic policing requirement written into the Bill. The Bill already says that there will be such a document, but none of us have seen one. The Minister has talked about consultations but as far as I am aware-I wait to be corrected-last week no full-touch document had been circulated for comments, despite the expectations set out in here.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: I promise to get back to the noble Lord as soon as possible with an update of where we now are on that. I stress that it is normal practice to pass legislation without all the details of the regulations being tied up before that Act is passed, because ongoing negotiations about how the regulations will be carried through are often under way. I am assured that negotiations and consultations on the strategic policing requirement are well under way.
Lord Harris of Haringey: The Minister talks about regulations but I did not actually think that the strategic policing requirement was going to be put in regulations. I thought it was simply going to be a document. There have been plenty of occasions when the document has been so pivotal that Parliament has been advised of what the content of regulations will be. Draft regulations have been circulated so that people can understand what their scope is. As I understand it, this is regarded as one of the central planks in determining what is local and what is national. I believe that Parliament should therefore see this document in draft form before we can move forward.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: I promise to get back to the noble Lord with a situation report, certainly by the time we come to Third Reading. On Clause 96, I am also informed that the backstop power available to the Secretary of State to intervene where forces are not having sufficient regard to national priorities has never been used. It is there as a backstop power but police forces, chief constables and police authorities have necessarily recognised that there is a thread between neighbourhood policing and local, regional and national priorities. The neighbourhood police groups which I have been out with in Leeds and Bradford are also
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The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, stressed the importance of criminal activities which, in some cases, do not respect boundaries. She also talked about the invisible crimes of domestic violence, vulnerable adults, child neglect and aggravated crimes against minorities. Again, I have sat in on MAPPA groups-multi-agency areas-where police are working with other local social services and non-governmental organisations, precisely to look at those invisible crimes. Part of the way in which attention is drawn to these crimes is by local voluntary organisations working with police and other agencies at the local level. In the nature of these cases, much domestic violence and child neglect is essentially local. Those elements which are not local-child trafficking, sexual abuse, online sexual exploitation-are dealt with now increasingly by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre and other forms of collaboration between local police forces and national agencies, which indeed will feed into the national crime agency when that is developed. Again, in this case there is not a tension but a thread between local violence, local disorder, local abuse, and those more limited elements in which children are trafficked or abused and the internet is used for these purposes. I can assure the noble Baroness that this does not need to be written again into the Bill. Having said that, I hope that I have given sufficient assurance to those who tabled these amendments to enable them not to press them.
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down and with the leave of the House, I say that the thrust of the arguments is one which I made at the last stage. The amendments themselves are about mechanisms. Can my noble friend on the Front Bench help the House as to whether it is necessary to spell out these mechanisms? It seems that noble Lords opposite are seeking mechanisms to assist the Secretary of State-but does the Secretary of State actually need to have the legislative powers? As I read these, I would have thought that it was possible for her to take steps, certainly in one of these amendments, and to have considerable influence to ensure that the inspectorate undertakes the others. To that extent, these amendments are not necessary. However, the noble Lord has addressed the arguments rather than the amendments, and if I may say so, so have the noble Lords pressing the amendments. I hope my noble friend may be able to help the House on that.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: There was a tension also about how much detail one writes into the Bill. We spent some time on these amendments with people wanting reassurance that there should be much more detail in the Bill than is required of them.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: With the greatest respect to noble Lords, a requirement for HMIC to publish a report annually is not a target; it is simply information
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Lord Wallace of Saltaire: In the next group of amendments we will move on to HMIC, and it is part of the requirement for HMIC that it will publish reports for the public, so HMIC will be publishing regular reports. The question of whether it should have to publish reports on a regular basis for Parliament is an additional thing of which I am not persuaded. I will certainly consult further but I am not currently persuaded that that is a necessary addition. Many years ago I took part in a debate which required the Government to report to Parliament twice a year on developments in the European Union so that there could be a six-monthly debate. Those reports have continued to be published and somewhere in my attic I have a number of them. I am a little doubtful about additional reports.
Lord Harris of Haringey: Before Minister comes back on this, I say that this is not just about whether or not this is a document published for Parliament; it is about ensuring that there is a focus on the strategic policing requirement. That is something which the Government have not yet conceded. While I am on my feet, and to prevent me getting up again, can he tell us what he actually means by a situation report? Does that mean that when we get to Third Reading which, as far as I am aware, is still only a few days away, we will have in front of us some idea as to what this document will look like?
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I had not promised to give the detail of the strategic policing requirement, which is currently under negotiation. I am happy to give noble Lords a situation report on where negotiations stand regarding the definition of the strategic policing requirement. That is the most that I can do.
Baroness Henig: My Lords, I have listened closely to everything that has been said. I thank noble Lords who have participated in this debate. I have listened very carefully to the Minister. I agree that under the present system there is a recognised way of reconciling local and national police authorities; I do not think that is in doubt. The problem is that we are embarking on a completely new structure of police governance. Everything that we are used to is being changed, and not incrementally but quite radically. I think that we all accept that. My amendment seeks to reassure the public, given that we are faced with this completely new and untried system. We owe it to the public to reassure them that under the new system cross-border crime, serious criminal issues and national crime will be tackled by local forces.
We have heard a lot about commissioners. I am sure that good commissioners will act as the Minister thinks they will; it is the not-so-good commissioners and the areas where local people may be let down which are the problem. I do not see that this measure is such a lot to ask for when reports are prepared in many areas of our national life. Why cannot they be prepared by the inspectorate in this area? I do not understand why this is such a novel suggestion. I keep being pushed to press amendments to a Division, but I really would like to test the opinion of the House on this matter.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I nearly transgressed by being on my feet when the Deputy Speaker was on his feet, which would have been an heinous crime at any time, but particularly at 10.23 pm.
As promised earlier this evening, there have been discussions in the usual channels, which reached mutual agreement with regard to the progress of business.
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Baroness Anelay of St Johns: Well, there you are-that is what I really want to do. One minute's break between today and tomorrow would give us enough time for Prayers. My Lords, in fact it will be 11 pm. We would like to make further progress on an amendment or two and conclude as close to 11 pm as possible. The agreement is that tomorrow morning after Questions we will start on the Report stage of the police Bill. We will continue until we have concluded Report and then go back to consideration of the published business, which is the Committee stage of the Localism Bill.
This has an implication for consideration of matters at Third Reading. The Minister has already made it clear that she is prepared to consider matters at Third Reading and I know that the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, has already signalled that he has at least one serious matter that he wishes to consider. It is therefore important that we maintain our normal tradition of having the usual intervals between stages. That can be achieved by the Government rearranging their business next week so that the Third Reading of this Bill will be taken on Wednesday instead of Tuesday-so we have the usual intervals-then after the Third Reading of this Bill on Wednesday we would continue in Committee on the Localism Bill.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: Briefly, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, for the way that she has approached this and for her gracious manner in putting something before the House which I am sure the whole House will feel able to support.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: With the greatest respect, it was pointed out earlier that there is a misprint in the grouping list. My noble friend made it clear that there is a group starting Amendments 236, 237 and 238.
"(2A) The inspectors of constabulary may carry out an inspection of, and report to the Secretary of State on, the performance by a police and crime commissioner or a police and crime panel of its functions or of any particular function or functions."
Baroness Henig: I rise to speak to three amendments, which, taken together, seek to preserve the checks and balances and independent assessment of performance within the current system that the Government have drawn on so heavily in creating their case for change; namely, the excellent work of Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary.
Right at the beginning of our work on the Bill, the Government told us that HMIC unearthed the evidence for the failings of the present system, which necessitated the abolition of police authorities as quickly as possible. Indeed, in the absence of an analysis of the results of the Home Office's public consultation on their reform proposals and the rather limited utility of a Cabinet Office report now five or six years old, the findings of HMIC's inspections of 22 police authorities could be charitably described as the nearest thing the Government have for an evidence base on which they can build the case for change-at least as far as the suggested evidence for the weaknesses of the old system goes.
When it comes to this clause of the Bill, it very much surprised me-and may well surprise many of your Lordships-that, far from the excellent work of Her Majesty's inspectorate being valued and taken forward into the new era of elected accountability, it has been relegated to the sidelines. In fact, the inspectorate is no longer going to be called upon to inspect the whole range of policing accountability but is going to be focused on forces.
I find this a little odd. We are told that commissioners and their panels are the necessary drivers of change, the fulcrums on which the hopes of reforms are going to be founded. They are going to have the role in driving efficiency at local level, not the Home Office from the centre any more. Yet these crucial new transformative individuals and bodies are not to be subject to the same level of inspection in the public interest as police authorities. I find this quite strange. Surely it cannot be right to limit the scope of inspectors who could provide valuable, impartial and expert information to the public on complex areas of policing and police finance, including the efficiency of those overseeing that finance. Budgets are going to be tight in the next few years and the new system is going to be very costly. I find it hard to believe in the new system, which many of us think will increase costs. These costs will add up and may very well eat into the policing budget. It is therefore not unreasonable that inspections should be able to oversee how those costs are running and whether things are operating reasonably.
I know, because we have already had this argument, that the Government will be quick to remind me that the ballot box will be the judge of how commissioners
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I shall briefly say something about the idea that the panel should have to pay the cost of the inspections. That is a tremendous disincentive to having inspections. I could not help thinking that if existing police authorities had to pay for inspections they would have definitely seized on that as a reason not to be inspected, particularly when it is those inspections that justify the present abolition of police authorities. Slightly at a tangent, I mention that in those last inspections of police authorities-there have been 22 in the past few months-not one authority failed an Audit Commission or HMIC inspection and more than 97 per cent of HMIC's 110 individual assessment scores for police authorities' performance were excellent, good or adequate, which I think is very reasonable. It is certainly a record of achievement that compares favourably with local government. In fact, police authorities consistently and significantly outperform local authorities in Audit Commission inspections of their use of resources. I do not feel that inspections should have to be paid for in this way by those who are being inspected-hence my Amendment 238 to delete this provision.
"Over the last ten years, forces and authorities have delivered efficiency improvements to meet Government targets. Between 2004 and 2008, forces and authorities declared just over £1.5 billion of efficiency improvements against a target of just over £1 billion".
I am sure we would want such efficiency improvements to continue into the new regime. Indeed, the public would expect commissioners on £120,000 or more a year to be driving and delivering even greater efficiencies than their predecessor police authorities. I therefore feel that the public would want the inspectorate to give them the relevant comparative information rather than leave it to the media to report, or not, as they see fit. For all these reasons, it seems to me that there should be regular inspections of commissioners and of panels. I see no reason why there should not be. I beg to move.
Baroness Harris of Richmond: My Lords, I have put my name to Amendments 236, 237 and 238 which were tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Henig. We are being asked to support nothing less than a revolution in policing governance in the absence of any evidence base on which the benefits of such drastic changes are set and in the absence of any public clamour for costly reform-indeed, the opposite. We are being told that these changes will not be piloted or introduced in stages since reform is urgent and cannot possibly wait. I beg to differ on all those counts.
However, if we are to press ahead with such an untried system, I am absolutely determined that we should do our duty to ensure that all means possible are employed to insert safeguards into the Bill. HMIC inspections seem to me to be a bedrock of any such safeguards against potential pitfalls and I share the high regard in which Sir Denis O'Connor, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary, is held, together with his extremely able team.
In short, HMIC inspections are at times a difficult and challenging process for those undergoing them and they have repeatedly yielded the improvement across policing, which is at the heart of HMIC's mission. So I am left, frankly, bemused when the Government propose not to expand but to constrict the use of this valuable tool for improvement. It makes no sense at all effectively to exclude these completely new systems of oversight from an inspection regime when that regime has already helped the current system to improve.
Next, I shall draw out the intention of Amendment 238, which removes the proposed new obligation on the local policing body to reimburse HMIC for the costs of its inspection. We have heard what the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, thinks of that. We have sought to replace this with a statement that the panel may request that HMIC conducts an inspection if its concerns warrant such an intervention. I am unaware of any other inspection regime in which those delivering a public service, or who invite in or are made the subject of an inspection in the interests of public trust and confidence in their work, are expected directly to cover the costs of their inspection. Surely, in some cases an inspection will be called amidst quite serious financial issues or challenges. This idea that those opening themselves up to scrutiny in the public interest must pay for the cost of such transparency seems decidedly odd to me, even bearing in mind the parlous state of Home Office finances at the present time.
It also seems to me to be the most bizarre disincentive to those on the panel or on the commissioner's staff who are considering whistleblowing on what might be significant issues of public interest or concern. A whistleblower or concerned panel member or local policing body member would have to gain pre-emptive approval for the costs of a possible investigation from someone who might be implicated in the very dubious activity that necessitates the inspection.
This parcelling of costs on to the petitioner for an inspection feels wrong to me on a very instinctive, but also on a very practical, level. Surely the Home Office should be seeing fit that the costs of HMIC's absolutely essential work should be met by a Home Office grant.
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No one will be more aware of the PCC's action or inaction in some areas than the police and crime panel since it is designed as her or his safeguard and strict check and balance. However, while the panel will be equipped to oversee the PCC in most areas, it may feel that there are issues on which it lacks a professional operational judgment on a matter of controversy. In such circumstances, it may not be appropriate to pull the chief constable into what could amount to a difference of opinion with the PCC. Who then can the panel turn to for that necessary professional advice and impartial opinion?
Finally, there should be a direct and clear ability, and a responsibility on the panel, to be able to involve HMIC appropriately. HMIC could, of course, take a view that it was being asked to get involved in a petty or irrelevant matter and could decline the invitation. However, we anticipate that this referral mechanism to HMIC will provide a helpful bridge to practical improvement for many forces facing difficulty in the future, as it so often has in the past.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, all I would like to say on the amendment is that we have discussed in previous debates the inconsistency between different parts of government in relation to inspection. I must declare my interest again as chair of an NHS foundation trust and as a consultant trainer in the NHS. NHS foundation trusts, which the Government support, were meant to be given much more freedom than other NHS bodies but they are still subject to the tender mercies of a regulator called Monitor. For the life of me, I cannot see why the Government have taken such a light-rein approach to the construct in the Bill when we have such an excellent inspectorate in the form of HMIC. These amendments seem wholly constructive. By the grace of the usual channels, we have been given a little extra time-a day-to consider these matters. Is this not a matter which the Government might take back and consider?
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, with regard to fees, I do not know whether my noble friend is in a position to give any comparables, but I think that local authorities have to pay-or have had to pay-for Audit Commission inspections and that it is the Audit Commission that has set the rates. There must be comparables. Maybe there are comparables which go either way; I do not know.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, we recognise we are proposing a different model for policing accountability from the previous model. I feel with a number of the arguments which the noble Baronesses, Lady Henig and Lady Harris, have made that they feel the current system is superb and any different system will be untested, untried, difficult and probably worse.
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The intention behind Clause 85-and the role of HMIC-is that HMIC should be there to inspect the professional forces. That is its job. That is what it does extremely well. In terms of funding, regular inspections will be paid for, as now, by the Home Office. The subsection which relates to police and crime panels being able to request additional inspections of part of the functions of those forces is precisely to give them added flexibility to request such inspections when needed. Therefore, it does not seem unreasonable to say, as this clause says, that,
In terms of who inspects the PCC, the whole relationship between the police and crime panel and the police and crime commissioner is intended to be that the checks and balances are provided by the police and crime panel. The regular check on the police and crime commissioner is provided by the police and crime panel. That is the process which we are trying to build into the new model. To muddy the role of HMIC by inspecting police and crime commissioners and police and crime panels does not seem appropriate to the model we propose. The model we are introducing through the Bill is that HMIC should continue to focus on the professional police forces and to report to the public as well as the Secretary of State on that. Police and crime commissioners will be held to account, under scrutiny, on a regular basis by police and crime panels. Police and crime panels are part of the structure of local government and local authorities and, I am sure, will continue to be held to account by their fellow councillors, particularly if they vote through precepts which rise rapidly year by year. On that basis, I hope that I have provided some reassurance to the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, although I am sure that she is completely unpersuaded that any new system can possibly be as good as that which we currently have. Nevertheless, I hope that I have persuaded her to withdraw her amendment.
Baroness Henig: I thank the Minister for that response. However, I do not think that he fully understood what I was arguing. I was not arguing that everything is wonderful in the present system; in fact, until recently, police authorities were not inspected. It is only quite recently that they became inspected, which had a tremendously focusing impact. Police authorities operated much more effectively once they were inspected, which has taken place only in the past two or three years if my memory serves me correctly. If elected councillors sitting on a police authority can be inspected, I do not understand why commissioners who have been directly elected cannot be. I do not understand the difference: they are both elected, albeit perhaps in different ways.
One reason why I have perhaps less confidence in the panels than the Minister is that I have yet to believe-and we are now on Report-that they will
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My standpoint, funnily enough, has nothing to do with police authorities working well or not; my standpoint is the public. The whole point of the system is to serve the public. One of the strengths of policing in this country is local accountability to local people. It is local people that I am thinking of. They should have the reassurance on some sort of regular basis that commissioners are operating effectively-I do not see that there is anything wrong with that. I find it difficult to accept the repeated suggestion that I am asking for all sorts of radical and extreme things, when it seems that very sensible and basic issues are being raised. All I am suggesting is that it would be sensible for commissioners to be inspected, because it would give the public reassurance.
I am sorry that the Minister finds that so difficult to understand, because it seems to me to be very straightforward. However, in view of the lateness of the hour and because I do not want to test the patience of the House any further, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
"(1A) In exercising functions under subsection (1), apart from devolved Welsh functions (as defined by section 5(8)), each of the responsible authorities for a local government area must have regard to the police and crime objectives set out in the police and crime plan for the police area which comprises or includes that local government area."."
"(d) the area over which the British Transport Police Force has jurisdiction."
"(d) in relation to the British Transport Police Force, the Chief Constable of that Force;".
"(d) the British Transport Police Authority."
Lord Ramsbotham: My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendments 243, 271, 272, 304, 305 and 306. Since all the amendments are to do with the British Transport Police and the British Transport Police Authority, they have been deliberately grouped together rather than with specific clauses. They aim, as I said at Second Reading, to,
I shall first outline the context in which the amendments have been tabled and apologise to the House for being unable to be here when they were debated in Committee. Again, as I said at Second Reading, I am an unashamed proponent of two-tier policing in this country, with a national police service complemented by a number of local and specialist forces. Bearing in mind that the last royal commission on policing was in 1962 and much has happened since then which suggests the need for reform of the policing as extant at that time, I was very disappointed to find that although called the police reform Bill, there is very little in it about reform, except about the governance of policing, which is not the same thing.
However, these amendments are about long-needed reform; they are an attempt to complete business that was begun as long ago as October 2001, when the then Government issued a consultation document entitled Modernising the British Transport Police, which included detailed proposals to bring it in line with Home Office police forces in terms of accountability, status and powers. It proposed, first, placing the jurisdiction of British Transport Police constables over the railways on a statutory basis; that was partly addressed in the Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003, which gave them the powers and privileges of a Home Office constable, not only over all railway property, but throughout Great Britain in relation to railway matters. It secondly proposed giving British Transport Police constables jurisdiction outside the railways in certain circumstances. This, again, was partly addressed in the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001, emergency legislation that followed 9/11 and other terrorist attacks.
However, although welcoming these changes, the Transport Police and its authority regarded them as only partial introduction of what had been proposed. Therefore, they tried to use the opportunity presented by the August 2008 consultation that preceded the Policing and Crime Act 2009 to address the identified anomalies once and for all. They submitted a formal
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"Where a member of the British Transport Police Force is for the time being under the direction and control of the chief officer of another police force by virtue of a police force collaboration agreement ... the member shall have all the powers and privileges of a member of that other force".
Furthermore, no attempt was made to address an added complication to co-operation that they had raised, namely that the powers of jurisdiction of police officers from Home Office forces were not extended to match those of a British Transport Police officer, which include the ability to police in England, Wales and across the border in Scotland.
Charitably, the British Transport Police assumed that these continued inequities were not intended, but resulted from a lack of knowledge about the anomalies that resulted from gaps in existing legislation. Therefore, they continued to look for opportunities to obtain parity of police-officer powers regardless of employing force, the next opportunity coming in September 2010 with the coalition Government's consultation before the Bill, entitled Policing in the 21st Century; Reconnecting Police and the People.
The Bill envisages annual police plans, covering areas of the country yet to be determined, drawn up by elected police and crime commissioners. Assuming that, in logic, this must include all police forces, the Transport Police, in its response to the consultation, pointed out that, as the specialist national force for the railways, cross-border working was part of its day-to-day business. It welcomed the fact that, in drawing up their plans, PCCs would have to look beyond their own force borders,
The British Transport Police also said that it was keen to ensure that the different governance structures between it and its authority and their Home Office colleagues and their authorities did not create difficulties in the excellent communications and partnership working that currently existed between them. There must be, for example, adequate provision for communications between the authorities and committees of the Transport Police, the Civil and Nuclear Constabulary, the MoD Police and police and crime commissioners, if they subsume the role currently filled by the Association of Police Authorities.
I mention this not to criticise the Bill so much as to suggest that these amendments to do with the British Transport Police ought to be government amendments. Identified anomalies that inhibit national and local policing have existed for far too long and have been drawn to the attention of both the Home Office and the Department for Transport over a number of years. Amendments 242, 271 and 272 are designed to rectify the status anomaly; Amendment 243 is designed to provide the opportunity for the Transport Police to protect the travelling public by taking preventive action against possible sex offenders.
I appeal to the Minister to accept the opportunity created by the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill to complete this unfinished business. I know that both she and the Transport Police and its authority have been in contact with the Department for Transport and I look forward to hearing what may have been agreed between them. I accept that she will be unable to promise more than that the issues I have raised will now be tackled positively and not allowed to drag on as they have over the past 10 years. In that anticipation, I beg to move.
Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, I speak in favour of the seven amendments. I start by expressing my appreciation to the Minister for the constructive approach she has adopted in conversations with both the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, and me about the role, powers and jurisdictions of the BTP. I know that she has written to the Transport Minister about these amendments and I hope that when she answers the debate she will be able to say that the Government at least accept the spirit of them, if not accept them tonight.
I know from what the Minister said in Committee that she is particularly concerned about licensing issues and the difficulties that the BTP and the travelling public face with anti-social behaviour on the railway fuelled by excessive drinking. I shall come to the amendments which deal with that issue in a moment.
I would like to add a word to what the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, said about jurisdiction. This is covered in Amendment 242. The British Transport Police Authority has sent me a copy of a letter which was sent on 7 July from the chief constable of the force, Andrew Trotter, to the Minister of State for Transport, Theresa Villiers. In a paragraph headed "Jurisdiction", he says:
"The current legislative anomalies mean that there are a number of caveats applied to the powers of BTP officers, these are provided not through our own Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003, but the Anti-terrorism Crime and Security Act 2001 (section 100(2) and (3)) which pre-dated it. The amendment laid before the House of Lords seeks to remove the ambiguity the current legislation creates through these caveats. If the amendment is approved, in the eyes of the public and the rail industry, it will have no obvious impact on day-to-day policing of the railways and I can assure you it will have no impact on costs or other resource implications. It will however put BTP officers on the same footing as their Home Office colleagues when not physically on rail property or carrying out duties related to the railways, i.e. they will be warranted officers not civilians".
Amendments 271 and 272 deal with the Firearms Act. I read in the latest issue of Railnews, which is the monthly newspaper for rail industry staff, that the Government have approved the creation of an armed response unit for the BTP. That paper states:
"Transport secretary Philip Hammond said the Home Office go-ahead was not in response to any specific threat but would reduce the burden on other police forces which provide armed support to the BTP".
That is all well and good and it is what the BTP chief constable asked for, but it appears that BTP officers, once selected and through the selection process, will
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I turn finally to Amendments 304, 305 and 306. Amendments 304 and 305 seek to name the BTP as a responsible authority under the Licensing Act so it can object to a licence application, revoke a licence for premises located within the jurisdiction of the railway or object to a temporary licence. Amendment 306 explicitly provides for the BTP to receive the late-night levy from the licensing authority. Bearing in mind that so much BTP officer time is spent policing alcohol-related crime, disorder and anti-social behaviour, it seems most unfair that the BTP is not able to get some payment from the levy.
I have a number of statistics relating to offences on railway stations. The one that apparently has the greatest difficulty is Leeds station which has 18 venues, including a nightclub and a hotel. Alcohol-related offences at Leeds have increased by 122 per cent in the past five years. I will not go into any more detail at this late hour, but I am sure the Minister will agree with me that this is an unacceptable situation. There are few things more unpleasant or potentially terrifying for rail passengers to face, particularly women travelling on their own late at night, than a bunch of drunken yobbos terrorising a train or a station platform. We cannot claim that our amendments will solve this problem but the BTP and we certainly believe it will help them tackle it.
I hope very much that the Minister can accept the spirit of these amendments. The previous Government attempted to do that and were not able to produce exactly the right solution. She has the opportunity to produce a lasting solution for the future of the BTP's powers and jurisdictions. If she does that, the travelling public, railway staff and the officers of the British Transport Police will be greatly in her debt.
Lord Berkeley: I support all these amendments, too. I will not repeat what the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, and my noble friend Lord Faulkner have said because I fully support all their contributions, but it is worth pointing out that the BTP is pretty unique as a very specialist police force. I think the statistics are that half of its officers tend to operate in London, both on the Underground and on the main line, and the rest are split between the main line elsewhere in the country and Network Rail.
When it comes to dealing with incidents-whether it is some of the bad behaviour that my noble friend Lord Faulkner was mentioning or cable theft on the
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It is absolutely essential that the ideas behind these amendments-that the BTP is put on the same footing as Home Office forces-are accepted. I hope the noble Baroness will accept the principle, but I wonder whether there is a problem because the BTP is the responsibility of the Department for Transport and other forces are the responsibility of the Home Office. I sometimes detect a kind of tension between the two, which the two previous noble Lords have also alluded to. I hope that these amendments will help to improve relationships and-something I see as being thoroughly important-enable BTP officers to move around, not just on the railways but in adjacent areas where they need to do their work without the constraint of having to apply to go into another force's territory.
Lord Stevenson of Balmacara: My Lords, I shall make only three brief points. Like the others who have spoken, I should like to hear what the Minister will say in response to the case that has been put forward. When I spoke to these amendments in Committee, I am afraid I got into the history of the BTP but I will not repeat that. Noble Lords will know that my concern for and interest in the branch is real.
The noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, gave us an interesting history and pointed out some of the difficulties that the BTP has faced in trying to make its case to the Government. Those are very powerful and persuasive points. The additional comments from my noble friends Lord Faulkner and Lord Berkeley have made a pretty irresistible case. It is time to look at how the geographic forces interrelate with the BTP and vice versa. The safety of the travelling public and the interests of all concerned would benefit from that. I am concerned that it is perhaps more complex than has been said in the past few minutes. Therefore, we shall need to look at that sometime. However, I hope the Minister will reassure us that she will not leave it to ordinary processes and that, on this occasion, she will tackle what is required positively to give us some hope that the situation will not be allowed to drag on, and so that we get some resolution to these points.
Baroness Browning: My Lords, I am very grateful to all noble Lords who have contributed to the debate. I shall start by speaking to Amendments 242, 243, 271 and 272. In Committee I was grateful for noble Lords' comments about the importance of integrated policing between the British Transport Police and the geographic police forces. This is why my honourable friend the Minister of State for Transport and I fully
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The proposed amendments cover a range of detailed and technical changes. These would significantly affect the status, jurisdiction and powers of the British Transport Police. It is therefore essential that the intentions of the amendments proposed are fully understood and that the consequences of the changes, for both the British Transport Police and wider policing, are closely examined. In particular, we need to ensure that the seemingly simple and straightforward legislative changes sought do not bring with them any unintended consequences. For example, Amendment 242 would change Section 1 of the Police Act 1996 to make,
into a police area for the purposes of the Act. The effect of this would be that references to police areas in any other legislation would apply to the police area of the British Transport Police, as defined in the amendment. A quick search has shown that there are 370 occurrences of the phrase "police area" in primary legislation. The impact of extending them all to the British Transport Police would be wide-ranging.
I have some detailed illustrations of what that would mean, including matters to do with the Children Act 2004, local safeguarding children boards and the Police (Property) Act. However, given the lateness of the hour, I hope noble Lords will understand that very careful and detailed consideration is needed before putting this into primary legislation. However, I am in touch with colleagues in the Department for Transport, with a view to exploring solutions to this to provide the necessary powers and jurisdiction that the British Transport Police seeks and which will enable it to deliver policing of the railways as efficiently and effectively as possible and without unintended consequences. I have discussed this with colleagues in the Department for Transport, and this examination and seeking to find the right way in which to put this into primary legislation will be an ongoing exercise for us. I assure noble Lords that, when appropriate changes are identified, my department will be prepared to consider making the necessary changes within suitable primary legislation. Although I cannot commit to putting the provision at this very late stage into the tail-end of this legislation, we will, as these proposals come forward and are validated, look to put them into primary legislation in future Bills. I understand that there is quite a bit of Home Office legislation coming up the track, if noble Lords will forgive the pun, and I would hope that there would be opportunities.
I thank the noble Lords, Lord Ramsbotham and Lord Faulkner of Worcester, for their amendments and I thank noble Lords for the support that has been given to them around the House. However, on the basis of what I have said, I ask them not to press their amendments.
I turn to Amendments 304 to 306, which address licensing. These amendments seek to put the British Transport Police on a par with the 43 territorial police forces in England and Wales for the purposes of alcohol licensing. I can see why that might seem a reasonable proposition at first glance. However, I am not able to accept the amendments, as I explained in some detail in Committee last month. However, I shall briefly reiterate the reasons.
Amendment 304 would make the British Transport Police a responsible authority under the Licensing Act 2003, which requires licensing authorities automatically to notify responsible authorities about licence reviews. Licence applicants, who will be local businesses or individuals, must also send copies to their local responsible authorities. In this Bill, we are increasing the list of responsible authorities to include health bodies and licensing authorities in their own right. We do not think it would be helpful to extend the list further to include the British Transport Police. Licensing is administered by local authorities, which make licensing decisions that reflect the needs of the local area. For this reason, the chief officer of police for the geographic area is a responsible authority under the Act. Likewise, other responsible authorities have as their focus the geographic area in which the premises are situated.
The British Transport Police is a broadly non-geographic force, with a specific, non-regional jurisdiction. It covers the transport network as a whole and so will not be relevant to some licensing authority areas. We do not think it would always be obvious in a given local area to which part of the British Transport Police licensing applicants should send their licensing forms. On top of that, the Government are unwilling to add to the burden on businesses by adding responsible authorities unnecessarily.
Of course, the British Transport Police has expert knowledge on alcohol-related late-night crime and disorder around transport hubs and on the transport network. We expect the British Transport Police to have effective lines of communication with the geographic constabularies and that it will continue to use them in future to raise any issues it has relating to alcohol licensing. In addition, I point out that because under this Bill we are removing the test of vicinity from the Licensing Act 2003, it will in future be open for anyone, including members of the British Transport Police, to make representations to the licensing authority in their own right. Applications for new licences do get advertised, and we are taking steps to require licensing authorities to publicise these online. I hope that would be of help to the British Transport Police. Making the British Transport Police a responsible authority would cause unnecessary bureaucracy for licensing applicants.
Amendment 305 seeks to make the British Transport Police a relevant person for the purposes of allowing it to object to temporary events notices. Residents' organisations told us that, after crime, noise was their greatest concern in relation to temporary events. We are extending the right to object to the environmental health authority and allowing them and the police to object on the grounds of all four licensing objectives. We think that provides adequate protection for residents
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Finally, Amendment 306 would make the British Transport Police a recipient of the late-night levy funds alongside the geographic police forces. The levy is a means of raising revenue from licensed premises that sell alcohol late at night so as to ensure that such premises contribute to the costs of policing the late-night economy. I mentioned in Committee that, while I recognised that the British Transport Police must deal with late-night crime and disorder, its role is more limited. Its night-time role is restricted to areas where there is little or no public use of late-night railway transport. This applies to many licensing authority areas.
In any event, the geographic constabularies bear the overwhelming burden of late-night policing costs. The levy clauses will allow licensing authorities to retain up to 30 per cent of the net revenue to fund services in the late night, such as taxi marshals. Licensing authorities could decide, at their discretion, to give some of their retained funds to the British Transport Police in those areas where the BTP may incur specific costs of policing alcohol-related crime and disorder in the night-time economy. In addition, the Government have retained the power to amend the beneficiaries of the levy in regulations, should it transpire that it is desirable specifically to pass some of the levy funds to bodies such as the British Transport Police.
We have the greatest respect for the BTP, which carries out the difficult task of tackling crime on our transport network. However, for the reasons that I have given, I ask your Lordships to withdraw the amendments.
Lord Ramsbotham: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that very encouraging and positive response. I also thank her personally for the care that she has taken to meet with us and take on board the points that we have made and transfer them to the Department for Transport as well.
I think we are all encouraged, but I hope that the Minister will forgive me if I sound a note of caution, because promises have been made to the British Transport Police since 2001. I ask the Minister if we could now have from the Department for Transport and indeed the Home Office an action plan showing who is to do what and by when, which will be reported back to this House so that we can keep in touch with what is actually happening. We have been here before over the last 10 years and people have been frightened, I suspect, by the figures that she might have quoted to us and put the matter in the "too difficult" file. It is not a "too difficult" file; it is a file that must be actioned. Therefore, if I say that I am prepared to withdraw the amendments tonight but perhaps return to the subject on Third Reading briefly, I hope that at that stage the Minister might be able to assure this House that the action plan that I am calling for will be implemented so that these things really will happen rather than be allowed to wither on the vine.
Baroness Browning: I am very grateful to the noble Lord. I am sure that he is aware that Third Reading is next week-Tuesday or Wednesday, I believe. It was not my intention to have met with the Minister of State in the Department for Transport by then. However, I can assure him that I am planning to meet with her before the House returns in September. I think that she and I need to have an across-the-table discussion about the sort of thing that the noble Lord has mentioned. I am in favour of action plans and timelines. I quite like the concept of project management in this area. However, I do not want to talk it up too much, given that the noble Lord has told us that this has been on the table since 2001.
All I can say is that both my right honourable friend in the Department for Transport and I are minded to move this along as fast as we can. We will of course engage the British Transport Police itself in this negotiation. I am quite sure that it will relay to the noble Lord whether it feels we are making progress or not. However, as we make progress I will endeavour, on a very informal basis, to ensure that noble Lords who have expressed an interest in this are kept informed of the progress being made. I am quite sure that if we do not make that progress, the noble Lord will call me back to this Dispatch Box pretty rapidly.
Lord Ramsbotham: My Lords, I am very grateful for that. I do not know whether I have the right to say that but we of course have the opportunity, when the Bill goes back to the other place and comes back here, for progress to be made. It is terribly important, as the Minister has clearly realised, that we maintain the momentum rather than let this matter die. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
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