Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, Her Majesty's Government invest money via Arts Council England. In the financial year 2012-13, the Arts Council will provide over £50 million of grant-in-aid support to regional theatres. Money has also been designated for greater touring opportunities and the refurbishment of some major theatrical buildings.
The Earl of Clancarty: I thank the Minister for that reply, but is she aware of the current extent to which not only companies but venues whose job it is to serve local communities, such as the Northcott Theatre in Exeter and the Derby Theatre, are at risk of closure? Is she also aware that Tom Morris, co-director of "War Horse", has said that the great international critical and commercial success of "War Horse" and "Jerusalem"-the product to a large extent of seeds sown in the regions-would not have been possible without public subsidies, and that those productions have been regarded with envy by Americans whose own far more conservative funding model Jeremy Hunt wishes to emulate?
Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, has been consistent and is extremely knowledgeable on this issue. I am aware of the theatres and that "War Horse" has been a fantastic success; we are thrilled about that. However, I suggest that bald statements on funding do not tell the whole story. Thirty-seven per cent of London's regularly funded organisations were identified as touring in 2010, and "War Horse" has been touring everywhere with great success. Their influence spreads well beyond the M25. We must acknowledge, too, that the Arts Council is investing in capital projects across the regions through National Lottery funds.
Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall: My Lords, first I declare an interest as a member of the board of the Royal Shakespeare Company and a former executive director of the Royal National Theatre. I echo the point that the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, made about the interdependence of the major companies, the National and the RSC, both of which are currently enjoying huge success in America. They are hugely dependent
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Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, the noble Baroness made some very valid points. More than 100 organisations that identified touring as a core part of their work are recipients of regular Arts Council funding. In the near future, there will be an additional £80 million a year of lottery income invested in national portfolio organisations for touring.
Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury: My Lords, I declare an interest as a trustee of the Lowry. Is the Minister aware of the excellent programme, Schools Without Walls, run by the egg theatre in Bath? Children from primary schools in Bath are taught their lessons at the theatre for a few weeks during the summer term, and creativity and drama are introduced across the curriculum. The programme has no public funding. What do the DCMS and the DfE intend to do to help theatres to engage in such good outreach programmes?
Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lady Bonham-Carter for that question regarding children in primary schools and the theatre. It is a very important issue, and the Government and DCMS have brought forward a project with match funding. Arts Council England recently launched its £40 million Catalyst Arts scheme, which will provide £30 million of match funding to arts organisations exactly as the noble Baroness mentions, and will help smaller bodies to build their fundraising capacity.
Lord Harrison: Does the noble Baroness understand that the success of the West End is built on the bedrock of the professionalism of regional theatres and the professionals whom they offer to the West End? Secondly, does she realise that regional theatres build up the new generation of theatregoers that we must encourage to make sure that the theatre has its right and proper place in our cultural life?
Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, I agree totally with the noble Lord, Lord Harrison. Towards that goal, in his Budget of 23 March, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced a significant package of new measures to support a drive towards greater charitable giving exactly in this area. It was worth around £600 million.
Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: My Lords, I declare a modest interest as a friend of Salisbury Playhouse. Perhaps through my noble friend the Minister I may congratulate the Arts Council on the manner in which it dispensed what I acknowledge were reduced funds and say that, because of the quality of the Salisbury Playhouse, it was not cut in any way.
Lord Stevenson of Balmacara: Does the Minister agree that, with notable exceptions such as those in Chichester, Sheffield and Leicester, the combination of local authority cuts of up to 60 per cent and the declining income from audiences in areas of high unemployment is posing real threats to this sector? Is there nothing that the Government can do to assist the Arts Council, which has been forced to impose a 10.9 per cent cut in real terms on regional theatres in the period to 2015?
Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, the Government have negotiated a substantial settlement for the arts in these times of economic constraint. We have limited the cut to the Arts Council's overall budget, grant in aid and lottery, to just 11 per cent. While grant in aid-just one part of the Arts Council's overall income-is being reduced, we are reforming the lottery so that more money will go to the arts. An additional £80 million will go into the arts from the National Lottery each year from 2013.
Lord Ramsbotham: My Lords, I declare an interest as president of the Arts Alliance, which consists of all the organisations delivering arts to offenders. Does the Minister include in the funding of regional arts, the arts being delivered in prisons and to other offenders in the regions?
Lord Kinnock: Does the noble Baroness accept that while we can all share in the pride that the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, feels in the theatre of which he is patron, quality has not been the major determinant of the cuts inflicted on the Arts Council and by the Arts Council? There are many companies up and down the country, in London and in the regions, that are recognised to have world-quality status but have had their funding savagely reduced.
Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Kinnock, is not quite right. The overall budget for the Arts Council will be reduced by just 11 per cent over four years. This is hardly going from feast to famine.
Lord Grocott: My Lords, I did not really expect an answer to the Question so I am not disappointed. Have the Government still not learnt the lesson of the AV referendum? Unlike the Deputy Prime Minister, the British public do not think that our constitution is broken and they think that Government should spend their time on other, more important matters. Can I suggest that before the Government embark on any future constitutional experiments they apply two tests? First, do the public want it? Secondly, is there a political consensus to deliver it?
Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, it is true that the Government have not been overwhelmed with responses from the public after the publication of the White Paper. However, at least one interpretation of that is that the public are reasonably satisfied with the proposals that the Government have put forward. Of course, the public are understandably concerned with a whole range of important things, such as jobs, education and health, but because the reform of the House of Lords does not have an immediate resonance, that does not mean that it is important.
Lord Strathclyde: I have reminded the House of this before: at the last election all three main parties had in their manifestos a pledge to reform the House and people were very happy to vote for that. As for political consensus, we will see to the work of the Joint Committee when it reports next year.
Lord Tyler: My Lords, among the representations he has been examining, has my noble friend seen the report published on Monday entitled The End of the Peer Show?, in which Mr Hilary Benn has committed the Labour Party to a continuing campaign based on its manifesto commitment for a wholly elected House of Lords? Is my noble friend aware of any successful parliamentary candidate who arrived in the other place committed to voting against his party's manifesto?
Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, no, I am not. I have not read Mr Benn's no doubt splendid article, but given that the Recess starts later on today, perhaps it should be required reading for all noble Lords.
Lord Hughes of Woodside: My Lords, why is the Leader of the House so reticent about telling us how many representations he has actually had? He said many-is that 10, 20, 100, 500, 1,000? Will he take this opportunity to correct his Freudian slip when he said that House of Lords reform was not important?
Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, that was well spotted by the noble Lord. Of course the issue is extremely important and something that this Government are very committed to dealing with. Since the general election, we have received over 180 letters from members
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Lord Cormack: My Lords, has my noble friend, having had such an overwhelming response, had the chance to memorise all these letters? Can he tell the House how many people have written to him or made representations on the National Health Service, on the Education Bill or on the Localism Bill? Does this not indicate that the general public are fairly well satisfied with what they have and very much more worried about many other things? Perhaps we could take the Recess to readjust the priorities of Her Majesty's Government.
Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, we have just set up a first-class Joint Committee of both Houses which is going to look at the draft Bill. Most of the letters we have received come up with their own new and improved schemes for the future of the House of Lords, or are interested in the Bishops remaining in the House of Lords and the representation of other faiths.
Lord Kakkar: My Lords, public engagement with the Bill might be enhanced by describing its consequences in terms of the interaction of our citizens with this Parliament. How would the noble Lord the Leader advise a constituent in 2016 with two elected representatives to this Parliament, an MP from the opposition party and a senator for the governing party, who wished to raise an urgent issue with the Home Office? Should the constituent speak to MP or senator?
Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, I hope that that is exactly one of the questions that the noble Lord, Lord Richard, will tackle in his Joint Committee. We do not anticipate senators, if that is what they are to be called, taking over the role of Members of Parliament. Of course, it will be entirely free for members of the public to write both to their Members of Parliament and to their senators.
Lord Richard: My Lords, I was fascinated by the figures that the noble Lord the Leader of the House produced. The House may like to know that a call for evidence has gone out from the Joint Committee. I sincerely hope that we will do much better than the Government on this.
Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, the Prime Minister has appointed Lord Justice Leveson to lead a wide-ranging inquiry. For part one of that inquiry Lord Leveson will be assisted by a panel of experts. The Prime Minister will make a Statement later this morning and we hope that he will be able to announce then the final terms of reference and the names of those on the panel.
Lord Roberts of Llandudno: I thank the Minister for that response. What steps will Her Majesty's Government take to make certain that in future not only the Murdoch empire but other media groups behave in a responsible and sensitive manner? Does the Minister agree that the present Press Complaints Commission is not fit for purpose and that, in order to regain public confidence, a new body should be established immediately, not composed entirely of newspaper personnel, but with authority to deal with traditional and new, online media in a very fresh way?
Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, my noble friend Lord Roberts goes right to the heart of the matter and he is right to look into the future. His most important point is on the need to regain the confidence of the public. Clearly, the current regime of the Press Complaints Commission has not been effective. That is why the draft terms of reference for Lord Justice Leveson's inquiry require recommendation for a new, more effective policy and regulatory regime which supports the integrity and freedom of the press, the plurality of the media and their independence from government, while encouraging the highest ethical and professional standards. The PCC is a self-regulatory, self-appointed, independent body and it is not for the Government to say what will or will not happen to it. That will be a matter for the press and media.
Baroness O'Neill of Bengarve: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the purpose of having a free press is for the sake of citizens, not for self-expression by the media? If it is to be for the sake of citizens, the press has to communicate. If it is to communicate, there must be standards and these have to be genuinely independently overseen, not independent in the sense in which the Press Complaints Commission is independent.
Baroness Jones of Whitchurch: My Lords, can the Minister confirm that the Cabinet Secretary carried out all the necessary checks on Andy Coulson before he was appointed to a very senior post at the heart of government? Can she clarify how and when the Cabinet Secretary's advice to the Prime Minister on this appointment will be published?
Baroness Doocey: My Lords, I declare an interest as a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority. Last February, I expressed concern that senior Metropolitan Police officers were dining with executives from the
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Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, the Metropolitan Police has promised a robust investigation, and the DPP said on 24 January that his principal legal adviser, Alison Levitt QC, would rigorously examine any evidence resulting from the recent or new substantive allegations made to the MPS. As for what the noble Baroness asked about, that will be referred to in part two of the inquiry and it is not a matter for Her Majesty's Government until the results of Lord Justice Leveson's report. It is absolutely right that she asks the questions, and that is exactly why we are having this inquiry.
Lord Low of Dalston: My Lords, in the run-up to the Welfare Reform Bill there has been much misinformation in the press about benefit claimants. Does the Minister agree that the inquiry must find more effective ways to get the press to live up to its duty of accuracy?
Baroness Rawlings: The Prime Minister announced that there will be an inquiry in two parts, which is very important, and we hope that it will look into all those details and report back, I think, within a year.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, the noble Baroness has indicated that cross-media ownership is going to be looked at by the inquiry, but does she agree that it is of vital importance, now that we have identified material flaws in the Enterprise Act and the Communications Act, that we should now move swiftly to cure those flaws by taking advantage of the negative resolution procedure under Section 58 and amending the grounds upon which a notice can now be issued?
Lord Ryder of Wensum: My Lords, I declare an interest as the former chairman of a commercial radio company. Can my noble friend please explain how and why the daily regulation of a 24-hour commercial music station varies from the oversight given to a newspaper by the Press Complaints Commission?
Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, my noble friend Lord Ryder asks a very interesting question regarding daily regulation. Commercial radio is covered by Ofcom, but newspapers have been protected by the Bill of Rights since 1689. That does not mean that we cannot revisit it in today's climate. While we strongly believe in a free press as a cornerstone of our democracy, we probably need to look again at how it is all regulated in the circumstances. The inquiry, as I said before, will do just that and make the necessary recommendations.
Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: My Lords, will the Minister answer the question from my noble friend Baroness Jones, which I think she misunderstood? The question was: when was Andy Coulson interviewed by the Cabinet Secretary and did the Cabinet Secretary pass that information on to the Prime Minister?
Baroness Verma: My Lords, the UK has indefinitely suspended general budget support to Malawi. We are determined to continue funding other programmes in Malawi that protect the poor. We will continue to work through specific government ministries like health and education and with trusted NGOs.
Over the past six years UK budget support to Malawi has contributed to a number of the most successful development programmes anywhere in Africa. The Malawi growth and development strategy has delivered growth rates among the highest in the world. The farm input subsidy programme has supported 1.6 million households and turned famine into food surplus in Malawi. Malawi has one of the best records in Africa for reversing the increase in HIV/AIDS.
I ask the Minister, first, for an assurance that overall aid to Malawi will not be reduced as a result of this decision on budget support; secondly, for an assurance that there will be speedy discussions with those government departments in Malawi to ensure the continuation of those programmes so that money is not underspent by the end of this financial year and these programmes can continue; and, thirdly, whether she would be prepared to meet the Scotland Malawi Partnership to discuss its interest in this very important subject.
Baroness Verma: My Lords, UK aid to Malawi has not been reduced; it has just been redirected through sector support now. We will look at ways of ensuring that the budget support that we are giving and our aid programmes do not fail the poor, which I think is what the noble Lord wishes to hear. I assure him that we will continue to work with those sectors and with NGOs to ensure that, whatever difficulties we are having with the Malawian Government, we work collectively to ensure that aid goes out to the poor. On his point about meeting the Scottish Malawi Partnership, I spoke to my officials yesterday and they would be happy to arrange a meeting.
Lord Chidgey: What element of general budget support was allocated to supporting good governance in Malawi? In DfID's good governance fund for Malawi, what element will now be allocated to democracy and parliamentary strengthening, particularly scrutiny, monitoring and oversight of aid effectiveness by the Malawian Parliament?
Baroness Verma: My noble friend raises a number of key issues here. The support that we were giving was in order to have oversight of good governance and to ensure that economically the country was following the right paths for the delivery of budget aid. However, I bring the noble Lord back to the original Question, the answer to which is that we are continuing to work with the Malawian Government but we will need to direct general budget aid through programmes that we can have oversight of.
Lord St John of Bletso: My Lords, does the Minister agree that while it is vital that our Government continue to support Malawi through the aid programme, it is just as important in the medium and long term for our Government to assist the African Union as well as SADC to promote trading blocs to promote more trade and inter-African trade for sustainable economic growth?
Baroness Verma: The noble Lord is right. I know that he shares a great interest in that region with the Government. We wish to see greater economic development there, which is why we are encouraging private sector investment but also working with Governments to ensure that they are able to move much more strongly in revisiting their systems and ensuring that good governance overreaches all areas of their government as well as where the budget aid is going.
Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead: My Lords, is the Minister aware that in the DfID press release announcing the suspension of general budget support to Malawi there was an unexpected announcement? It says:
Baroness Verma: The noble Baroness will know that I am not able to answer on each individual country at this moment in time, but I will get someone to write to her. The reductions are a result of our bilateral and multilateral reviews, where we saw that we needed to ensure that whatever moneys we were giving through aid via DfID were being well spent. The noble Baroness shakes her head, but she will know that during her time she faced the same sort of difficulties in ensuring that such programmes were both fully funded and fully scrutinised by the programmes we had in place. Governments needed to build up on good governance, which some were failing to do.
Lord Patel: I am sure that the Minister is well aware that Malawi has one of the highest maternal mortality ratios and one of the highest incidences of obstetric
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Baroness Verma: I come back to my original Answer. I reassure the noble Lord that we have not cut back on aid but are redirecting the aid that was going through budget support to the health and education sectors, so we will be providing even more support by directing the aid to those sectors and having better oversight of where that money is being spent.
Lord Steel of Aikwood: My Lords, I appreciate the real difficulty that the Government have with the increasingly autocratic President of Malawi, but can the Minister give us any indication of whether relations are on the mend following the expulsion of our high commissioner?
Baroness Verma: My noble friend knows that while we have difficulties, we are continuously working on improving relationships. It is key that our relationship with Malawi is maintained and strengthened. The negotiations will continue but we will not stop our programmes from being delivered, because at the heart of everything that we are doing is the delivery of aid to poor people.
Lord Trefgarne: My Lords, before the House agrees this Motion, perhaps I may ask why we are not now hearing the outcome of the hereditary Peers' by-elections? That would have been normal at this time and indeed was widely expected. While I acknowledge that we are sitting an hour earlier than was originally intended, was it really not possible to complete the count by now?
Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, my noble friend has the answer to the question in one. There is no solution because the counters are counting at the moment and have not completed their business. However, I am able to announce to the House that the announcement will be made at the end of the Third Reading of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill.
That the Commons message of 19 July be considered and that a Committee of six Lords be appointed to join with the Committee appointed by the Commons to consider and report on the draft Financial Services Bill presented to both Houses on 16 June (Cm 8083) and that the Committee should report on the draft Bill by 1 December 2011;
Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, in relation to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act order, the Minister will recall that when we discussed the matter in Grand Committee we raised very considerable difficulties about owners and managers not having clearance with regard to convictions. Can my noble friend assist with the worries raised at that time?
Lord McNally: My Lords, my noble friend is referring to the new alternative business structures for legal firms. It is true that both he and my noble friend Lord Hunt raised these points in Committee, and I agreed to take the matter back to ministerial colleagues if they would allow this order to proceed. I have done so, and Ministers have agreed that consideration and a decision in respect of the business case for the inclusion in the exceptions order of owners and managers of alternative business structures should be made as soon as possible. In the event that the Ministers agree that any addition should be made to the exceptions orders, I assure Members that this work will be expedited and an amendment will be prepared as a matter of urgency. On that basis, I hope that the House will allow the order to go through.
"(e) give the panel a response to any such report or recommendations, and
(f) publish any such response."
The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Browning): I would like to speak to the government amendments in this group. The intention of Amendment 1 is to bring the provisions of the London Assembly police and crime panel's scrutiny of the police and crime plan into line with the provision for panels outside the capital. For forces in England and Wales outside London, the PCC must respond to any reports or recommendations made by the panel on the draft plan and publish the response. This amendment will put those provisions into the Bill for London.
Amendment 2 was tabled by the Government at Report and was debated on 4 July. Unfortunately, due to an error this amendment was not moved formally. The Government have sought to resolve this by tabling the amendment again. I hope noble Lords will agree
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Amendments 16 and 17 are minor and technical amendments to ensure that PCCs and the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime have the same powers as police authorities. Amendment 16 will give PCCs and the Mayor's Office the ability, subject to ministerial approval, to compulsorily purchase land, a power police authorities currently have. It was simply an error that this power was not included in the Bill at the outset.
Amendment 17 will exempt the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime from some of the provisions of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1987 which require landlords to offer residential premises to their tenants before disposing of them. Police authorities outside London have this exemption at present, and the Bill replaces the reference to police authorities in the 1987 Act with a reference to PCCs. However, when the Metropolitan Police Authority was created by the Greater London Authority Act 1999, it was not given this power. It seems that this was an oversight in the legislation. This amendment will correct that anomaly and apply the exemption to both PCCs and the Mayor's Office. I beg to move.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, first, I welcome the amendments that the noble Baroness has tabled. I have an amendment in this group, Amendment 3, to which I would like to speak in particular. I am sure that in the weeks, months, and indeed years ahead the events of the last few days will be analysed and researched, and many conclusions will be drawn from them. These events have shown the risk of the potential politicisation of our police arrangements through the close involvement of politicians in policing matters. That is why I worry about some of the impact of this Bill, and why I think that my amendment is important in seeking to strengthen the amendment of the noble Baroness. Let me say at once that I very much welcome that amendment; I just want to make it a little bit more effective.
I want to go back to something I said in response to the Statement the noble Baroness made two days ago-it seems like years. We have seen some of the potential implications of importing American-style elected police and crime commissioners to the UK. The nearest we have to that is the London mayor, and it does not seem to have prevented a lot of the problems that one can see arising. It is well to remember that the mayor, Boris Johnson, when originally asked about phone-hacking allegations, described them as codswallop. It is worth reflecting on what support the Met would have received from the mayor if they had actually decided to undertake a vigorous operation when questions were asked about reopening these issues a couple of years ago.
My concern is that having an elected mayor or an elected police and crime commissioner inevitably draws those people into making comments about operational policing matters and seeking to influence the chief constable. I do not see how it can be avoided. When a person is elected as police and crime commissioner for
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In London, the mayor is now going to be on his third commissioner. My concern is that this will be replicated throughout the country. Let us take an elected police and crime commissioner, representing a party that is perhaps not very popular in the public opinion polls and which faces elections in a year's time. What better way to boost one's prospects than by picking a fight with the chief constable and essentially requiring them to retire or resign? It is one thing for chief constables to be properly accountable-that is absolutely right-but my concern is that they are going to be very insecure people, and will therefore be more deferential to the elected police and crime commissioner than is healthy for the system.
Noble Lords know that I have a health service background. There was a time when the average length of stay of a chief executive in the NHS was about 2.8 years. The instability that that causes does great harm to public services. I believe we are building in huge instability and real threats of politicisation. I accept that this is the way the Government want to go, but I think it is important that we build in safeguards.
I welcome the amendment of the noble Baroness. I think the name of the noble Lord, Lord Dear, may have been on the amendment that was not moved on Report, but I would like to go further. It is important that police and crime panels are given support in exercising their functions of scrutiny on behalf of the public. Specifying in the amendment that the functions of the police and crime panel for a police area should be exercised with a view to,
would be an important safeguard and provide reassurance. Being in primary legislation, these words would give a very clear message to police and crime commissioners, chief constables and panels that we want a police force that is impartial, has integrity and does right by the public.
Lord Cormack: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, has made some valid and important points. I remind the House that the Bill to which we recently gave a formal Third Reading is in fact very different from the one that came from the other place. It is the expectation of most of us that the other place will indicate its dissatisfaction with the major amendment made in Committee by this House. Obviously we must wait and see, but I say this to my noble friend the Minister. The Government will have to look at this Bill again because of that amendment, but because of what has happened over the past three weeks, to which the noble Lord alluded in his speech, surely it is necessary to enact a Bill that truly deals with all the problems, ones that were not foreseen-I blame no one for that-when the Bill was first placed before Parliament. This is a golden opportunity for the Government to come back to us with amendments that recognise that there are areas of policing which are not adequately dealt with in the current Bill.
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My plea to my noble friend the Minister, who has shown herself to be painstaking, thorough and responsive to the feelings of the House, is that she should talk to the Home Secretary and her other ministerial colleagues with a view to ensuring that when the other place comes back to this House, one would assume either in September or October, we will have before us amendments which deal fully with many of the issues that initially provoked the noble Baroness, Lady Harris of Richmond, to move her amendment, and that subsequently have built upon that feeling of unease. I do not seek lengthy Divisions this morning, but an assurance that the final shape of the Bill proves to be up to the circumstances that we are now aware of.
Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, I hesitate to interrupt someone with such long parliamentary experience, but I would be grateful if he could give the House his guidance. I share with him the objective that, even at this very late stage, the Government should look again at how the proposals they would like to see enacted will work and how they could be improved in the light of the events of the past week or so. But is not the real dilemma for the Government that what will go back to the Commons for consideration are simply those narrow areas of the Bill which have been changed by the decisions of your Lordships' House? The safeguards that I am sure we all want to see-perhaps with one or two exceptions-will be very difficult for the Government to introduce during the course of ping-pong.
Lord Cormack: Like the famous Irishman, I would not have started from here. The truth of the matter is that on the very first day in Committee, a major amendment was passed in this House. It is therefore likely that the Government, unless they are going to see their Bill completely torpedoed, will wish to reject that amendment and come back to the House. As we saw earlier this week and last week, when ping-pong is played, there is an opportunity for the Government to insert further amendments. It is not a desirable situation, but the Government are going to want to put back all the provisions for police and crime commissioners that were taken out by the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Harris. When they do that they will have an opportunity, as I see it, to further refine the Bill in a way that reflects not only the general concerns expressed in this House, but the need to deal with the sort of situations which have disturbed us all so much in recent days.
Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, I am delighted to hear that advice. My understanding of the problem is that essentially all that will be sent back to the Commons, apart from the government amendments which will be nodded through, are the three lines from the beginning of the Bill which the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, deleted, and the sole and fairly short clause which was then added. Someone incredibly ingenious needs to insert into those first three lines all the safeguards that Members
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Lord Cormack: In turn, I am delighted to hear that. I am merely making a few remarks in the hope that my noble friend the Minister will discuss this matter to try to make it possible because it is clear that we have an unsatisfactory situation. I believe that it is possible, when the Government decide to disagree with us in that fundamental amendment, for them to make some additional comments, as it were. I hope that that is what will happen.
This is not a situation that I or the noble Lord would have wished to see. The dilemma is that the problems have been compounded by the events of recent days and weeks. The Government have time during the Recess in which to look at this, and I hope that they will be able to do so. Then, when a police and social responsibility Bill goes on to the statute book, it is legislation that is truly adequate for policing in the next quarter of the 21st century. That is because we do not want to be, as the Americans say, continually revisiting this situation over the coming years.
Baroness Harris of Richmond: My Lords, as the instigator of that infamous amendment right at the beginning of the Committee stage, I welcome what my noble friend Lord Cormack has said. I want only to make the briefest of interventions on Amendment 3, to which I have added my name. My noble friend is absolutely right to say that more work needs to be done on this Bill in the light of what has happened recently. I urge my noble friend the Minister, having given us some comfort in her amendments today, to take a further step.
I will have a little more to say about recent events and their relevance to this Bill when speaking to a later amendment, but I want to support this amendment for the reasons set out by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath. What we seek is to draw out the strength of the panels so that they are able to send a strong message to the public. That is what we want.
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that her amendment, which I certainly would not describe as infamous, was the result of concern in the House that the model being proposed did not contain the strict checks and balances that most of us wish to see? Therefore, picking up the concern of the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, it would be entirely proper for the Government to come back on ping-pong with proposals reflecting, beyond Clause 1, the strict checks and balances which led to the original amendment.
Baroness Harris of Richmond: I support my noble friend in her comments. The whole point of tabling the amendment was to try to persuade the Government to bring on the strength of the checks and balances. That has not been done, and I cannot imagine what they could come up with at the ping-pong stage. But I hope they do come up with something because it is the
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Lord Soley: I rise to speak in support of Amendment 3, and I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, because I can now abbreviate what was already going to be a small number of comments. I agree with what he said, and believe that the only danger the noble Lord faces is that he is likely to win the award for parliamentary understatement of the year when he says that he thinks the Government will be minded to reverse the amendment in the other place. I think we all know that they will.
The position is exactly as he has said: recent events have emphasised the importance of the checks and balances. The particular word that I picked out of my noble friend's Amendment 3 is "impartiality". The problem, as we have seen recently, is how a senior police officer can be impartial not only when dealing with the Government, but also when dealing with large organisations. In the recent case, of course, the organisation is News International. That is a profoundly important point.
Is the Minister absolutely confident that there will not be a politicisation of the police that results in senior police officers being removed by an elected mayor? I am not entirely opposed to what Boris Johnson has done in some cases-I was opposed in the case of Ian Blair, who went because of pressure from Boris Johnson-but we have now lost another commissioner and deputy commissioner, both of whom the mayor said ought to go. The mayor might be right-I am not in a position to know-but this is a politicisation, which many of us on both sides of the House are worried about. Is the Minister confident that there are enough checks and balances to make sure that such things do not happen inappropriately? There will be times when what has happened may be appropriate, but we need to ensure that it does not happen inappropriately. For example, what happens if a chief officer attempts to be very impartial and gets into difficulties or-this is the one that has always worried me-if crime is rising for reasons that are not under the control of the police?
As I have said before when I have talked about crime prevention, the assumption that the police can stop crime rising is wrong. There are many other factors involved, although the police clearly play a very important part. If we have a situation where crime is rising-maybe because of economic factors, unemployment or the lack of crime prevention policies and so on-it could be very easy for an elected mayor to point the finger at the chief police officer and say, "The chief police officer is failing and has to go". That is the profound danger that we are all worried about.
My noble friend made a comment-which I do not quite recall-asking what support the chief constable would receive in some of the situations that have come to light in recent days. That is key, and that is why his Amendment 3 is so important. Underlying all of this is my concern that at a time of rising crime-crime
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Baroness Hilton of Eggardon: I, too, speak in support of Amendment 3. In earlier stages of the Bill I spoke about the dangers of police and politicians becoming too close. These dangers are exemplified by the current crisis in the relationships among the police, press and politicians. At one time in my police service, when David McNee was commissioner, we were quite explicitly forbidden from speaking to the media. This changed when Ken Newman became commissioner, and we were encouraged to be more open and democratic and to explain police actions to the public. Unfortunately, when a channel of communication is opened, it becomes a two-way street. The wrong information may flow from the police and inappropriate influence may be exercised by the media on the police service. Relationships develop and become too close or antagonistic, as they have in this current nexus of police, press and politicians.
This is a model of what will happen once these elected police commissioners are in post. In the past, politicians were treated by the police service with respect but not deference. Now, politicians, who necessarily represent factions in society and whose concern is a short-term desire to be re-elected, will have excessive influence and we will be back to the bad old days of the excessively politicised watch committees that we used to have in some of our major cities. By emphasising the importance of impartiality, this amendment would offset these political pressures to some extent and go some small way towards establishing an explicit code of conduct for the police and crime commissioner. I therefore hope that the Minister accepts it.
Lord Ramsbotham: My Lords, I put my name to this amendment out of consistency with what I have been saying at various stages throughout the Bill's passage: namely, that, despite the fact that it is called a police reform Bill, there is precious little in the Bill about police reform and it is all about the reform of police governance. Therefore, anything that would support and help the police must be welcomed. I notice that today we are to have a Statement on public confidence in the police. It is the police on which we should concentrate. I hope that noble Lords have read the excellent, thought-provoking and very timely article in today's Times by my noble friend Lord Dear about leadership in the police.
Therefore, it seems to me that this amendment, which talks about the need for the police and the crime panel to support the police and help them in what they do, is entirely in line with what we should be trying to achieve in the Bill. The governance that we have spent so long talking about is actually miles away. Mindful of what Lord Acton, I think, said about hindsight being the privilege of the historian, I suspect that, in view of what we have had disclosed in the past two weeks, if the Government were introducing this Bill today, it might be a very different Bill, which I hope would concentrate more on the police than on governance.
Lord Clinton-Davis: I thank my noble friend for introducing this amendment. There never has been a time when it is more apposite to talk about the integrity, impartiality and effectiveness of the police force. I very much regret what has happened in the past few days. I pay tremendous tribute to my noble friend Lady Hilton of Eggardon who has just spoken. However, I recall times in the early 1960s when some of the police were not always politically impartial. I refer to the Challoner case. Throughout West End Central, there was a philosophy that the police could do anything that they liked. This was absolutely wrong. I believe that my involvement in the Challoner case was an expression of the public's disquiet at what was happening, and I think I had every reason to feel that.
I hope that the events of the last few weeks will herald a change in the way that the police are looked at by the public because I think that it is imperative that the public should have confidence in the police.
As far as elections are concerned, I believe that we are taking a step backwards. It is inevitable that the police will be drawn into political controversy, which is not desirable. Senior police officers should represent the qualities that my noble friend's amendment emphasises. It is very important, from the point of view of the public, that these issues should be aired. I have no hesitation in supporting what my noble friend has said. We have plenty of time for the noble Baroness to be able to prevail upon some of her colleagues in Government to change their minds, too.
Lord Dear: My Lords, I think that one should reflect on the fact that policing can be a very lonely business. It is undoubtedly lonely for a police constable who is alone outside a club as it is turning out at 2 o'clock in the morning and everything seems to be going out of control-some of us have been there. It is equally lonely to be in the office at midday as a chief officer of police when the world is clamouring for a press conference and you are not too sure how to handle it. In the past I have found useful Polonius's advice to his fast-departing son in Hamlet-a long list of things that one should or should not do-which concludes:"to thine own self be true,And it must follow, as the night the day,Thou canst not then be false to any man".
To address the loneliness of policing on some occasions one should turn to the oath of office that one takes as a constable, and which binds you all the way through to the most senior of ranks. You swear or affirm that you will exercise your duties as a constable at all levels without favour, affection, malice or ill will. That is a binding principle and is a useful one to remember. I am sure that the majority of police officers remember it whenever the going is tough. The answer to the question of how you should react is that you react without favour, affection, malice or ill will. That really means impartiality.
I do not quarrel at all with the wording of the amendment. Upholding the integrity and impartiality of the office is, of course, critical. It is critical today
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From my point of view, the effective exercise of functions embodies, among other things, the fact that you will act impartially and according to the oath of office which binds you when you are in the police.
I suppose what I am saying, in an effort to be helpful, is that I do not quarrel at all with the wording of Amendment 3, but I have spoken on several occasions in your Lordships' House in Committee and on Report about the risk of being overprescriptive. I do not think this is overprescriptive; it spells out in greater detail what the words "effective exercise of functions" mean. For my money, I am happy to stick with the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Browning, because, as I have said-I will not repeat myself at length-it encompasses not only the words of Polonius to his son, but, much more importantly, the wording of the oath of office. As I say, I do not quarrel with the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, the wording of which is admirable, but I think that it is encompassed by the wording of the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Browning.
Lord Beecham: My Lords, the problem with the proposition advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Dear, is that the government amendment is strictly related to the person and role of a single individual-the police commissioner. It seems to imply that it is necessary to direct the panel to support the police commissioner in the exercise of his functions as if that was an overriding consideration whereas, of course, the overriding consideration is the functioning of the police service. That is what is encompassed in the amendment of my noble friend Lord Hunt. I am surprised that the Government felt it necessary to produce the amendment in the terms that they have. It seems to see the role of the police and crime panel as the police and crime commissioner's little helpers who are there to support him in the exercise of his functions.
Given that this is a political role, the implications around supporting the commissioner in the exercise of those functions-for example, in the run-up to an election for a police commissioner-are rather disturbing. Are we to see the police and crime panel accompanying a future Mayor of London on another occasion when the police make an early-morning arrest? Are we to have a latter-day repetition of the siege of Sidney Street, not just with an individual-the Home Secretary was involved in the Sidney Street affair-but with a police commissioner, accompanied by the police and crime panel effectively supporting him in the exercise of his functions? It is rather concerning.
My noble friend referred to the position of the chief constable in these circumstances. Surely he is also entitled, and the police force is entitled, to the support of the police and crime panel in the exercise of its functions, not simply those of the commissioner. Given that it is possible to envisage circumstances in which, in an election for a police and crime commissioner, one of the platforms of a candidate might be a wholesale criticism of the existing chief constable and an implicit
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Lord Newton of Braintree: My Lords, my noble friends on the Front Bench will be relieved to hear that I do not rise to support Amendment 3, particularly in the light of the wise words of the noble Lord, Lord Dear. Even as the person in this House who probably has more experience of business management than any other noble Lord, I do not have an answer to the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey. However, I know that if there is sufficient consensus about the need to do something different, a way to do it can usually be found. I hope that that will be borne in mind.
My main purpose in rising is to support my three noble friends from this side who have made three basic points. Can this Bill possibly have taken into account what has happened in the past two weeks? The answer is clearly no. Do these amendments, or anything in the Bill, take account of those developments? The answer, presumably, is no. Do I think that we should make a lot of trouble today as a result? My noble friends will be relieved to hear that my answer is no. However, the Government now have at least seven weeks to think further in the light of what the Commons thinks about our amendments. They should use that time to consider whether what is now in the Bill is entirely appropriate given the recent experience which has not yet been fully digested or taken into account. I hope that my noble friend will at least be able to give me an assurance that that is not ruled out.
Baroness O'Loan: My Lords, I support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt. We have to revert to what is happening to policing at present. We cannot make decisions without focusing on those issues. As I have said previously, the reality is that the police are fighting many battles on many fronts, particularly in the context of terrorism and organised crime. We have very serious problems internationally, but more than that the police are operating in a context of serious economic instability across the world. We all know that the almost inevitable effect of economic instability is a rise in the levels of crime. Opportunities are presented by this situation, which exists not just in the United Kingdom but in other countries. The questions around the model of a police and crime commissioner on which the Government are clearly set, which is based on the United States model but does not have the protections afforded by that model, are not answered by the amendments which the Government have tabled. Such a model will inevitably cause problems such as
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The reality for the people, too, will be that if a Tory, Labour or Lib Dem police and crime commissioner is elected, there will inevitably be a perception among the public that the policing will be delivered in accordance with that party's policy. No matter what you try to tell them, that will be the perception. That perception will inevitably lead to distrust in some areas of the country. There is a very clear need to focus on the issues raised in the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, and in particular to place a statutory obligation on police and crime panels to focus on integrity and impartiality.
Lord Shipley: My Lords, I will speak in a moment on Amendments 2 and 3, but I would like to speak briefly to Amendment 13, which stands in the names of my noble friend Lady Hamwee and myself. This relates to the checks and balances which are, in theory, to be strict; it also relates to the substitution of or deputising for any member who is unable to attend a meeting of the panel, and to the quorum and the need to define the quorum required for a meeting of the panel actually to be held. There are important reasons why this matters.
At Report, my noble friend the Minister said that substitutes would be permitted at meetings of the panel. I seek further clarification as to exactly how this is going to be done, because it matters. In terms of the two-thirds of the membership of the panel having the power to veto appointment of a chief constable or the precept, then who attends the meeting and what the quorum is matter: these points become material. One has to maximise the number of people who can attend, and if a member of the panel cannot attend then the Bill should state who would be permitted to attend that meeting of the panel on behalf of that same local authority. Also, as there will be decisions to be made which do not require a two-thirds majority but nevertheless will be decided after debate on a simple majority basis, how many people are required to attend the meeting to make it valid seems to be highly material. I am looking for further clarification about this matter from my noble friend the Minister because we see it as being very much part of the checks and balances on the police and crime commissioner, without which it is not clear that those checks and balances would function correctly.
I turn to Amendments 2 and 3 briefly, because there has been a very good and helpful debate on this matter. As someone who has listened to that debate, it seems to me that the two amendments are not incompatible, but there are differences between them. It would be very helpful if my noble friend the Minister could take those two amendments away and see if they could be redrafted in a way which would meet the requirements and wishes of all sides of your Lordships' House. It seems now that there is an opportunity for this to be done.
Baroness Henig: My Lords, I will speak extremely briefly-I realise that we have had a good debate on this. I wish to respond to the noble Lord, Lord Dear.
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The first amendment, tabled by the Government, is very much in line with the Government's model that the panel scrutinises the commissioner and the commissioner scrutinises the police. That is the Government's model, and I have understood that right the way through. What my noble friend's amendment tries to do is to develop a more corporate approach to try and give the panel more input, and therefore to have a more corporate approach as between the panel and the commissioner in scrutinising the police. That is the intent of the amendment, and that is a big, fundamental difference. While I accept all the points about the need in the future particularly for chief officers to have more support-and this will come out in later amendments-good governance structures need to be in place: that is fundamental. If we are going to make changes in policing, good governance structures have to underpin those changes. At the moment, those structures are not there. That is one of the problems that we have.
I support all noble Lords who have said, let the Government take the summer to look at this. That is absolutely right, but my point is that it is going to take a fundamental re-look at things. As long as the Government's model gives one politician on a party political ticket such huge influence over policing-one person, without good governance structures in place-grave concerns are going to remain. That is the fundamental issue. While I therefore support all attempts to try and get the Government to look at this again, unless the model is changed fundamentally those central concerns will remain. That needs to be put on the record, because it is the big difference between these two amendments.
Baroness Browning: My Lords, the Government are clearly reflecting on the events of the past few days-that is what the Statement which will follow Third Reading will seek to address, as of course did the Home Secretary's Statement which was read in this House on Monday. We have had a detailed analysis of the Bill, but I am not at this stage going to pre-empt what the other place will make of the changes that this House has made.
The noble Baroness, Lady Henig, has just outlined a very potted version of the Government's plan. It might be helpful at this stage if I reiterate what was said at the beginning of Committee stage; although it was refuted around the House when I said it, I believe that there is greater clarity in this matter now. While we have police forces up and down the country who we all would want to pay tribute to in the work that they do, there has for some time, as our research which I shared with the House in Committee has shown, been a belief among the general public that local police forces should be held to account. We believe that in order for them to be held to account, the public-who have not been mentioned very much so far-should be given the right to elect the person on their behalf who will hold the local police chief constable to account. I give way.
Baroness Henig: I am sorry to interrupt the Minister so early on, but will she not acknowledge that when the public were polled on whether they wanted that accountability to be exercised through a party politically elected individual, they overwhelmingly said they did not? Over 70 per cent said they did not want a party political person having that sort of power. They wanted somebody who was accountable, but not somebody elected on a party political ticket. More than one poll came out with that finding. Will the Minister acknowledge that?
Baroness Browning: The noble Baroness and I have, in the course of our debates and deliberations, exchanged stats on various polls. Certainly, the Bill has sought at all stages to strengthen that accountability of the PCC, and I am very grateful to Members on all sides of the House in this. In particular, we have brought forward amendments at Report stage which strengthen the panel, so that the PCC can be held to account, but in turn the public hold the PCC to account.
I believe that the events of recent weeks go to show how ineffective the present governance system is in robustly holding the police to account. If anything, I believe that it goes to show how important these reforms are-something that I realise from the body language opposite me is not agreed-but none the less I believe that is the case. Of course, the serious events that have been before both Houses in the last week or two were not known at the time that the Bill was drafted, but the Bill itself will seek to restore that public confidence in the police, a confidence that has been rocked to its foundations. Only a police service that is reactive to public concerns and held to account democratically will address the deficit.
I come to some points that have been raised here, and particularly in respect of the Metropolitan Police. Noble Lords will know that I am a Home Office Minister. I cannot, and it would not be appropriate for me to feel I had to, answer for the Mayor of London; I am quite sure that he is robust enough to answer any criticisms for himself. However, it would reflect very badly on the police and crime commissioner-
Baroness O'Loan: I apologise for interrupting the Minister, but will she explain, if she can, the inadequacies of the present system? My understanding is that under the present system in London there is an elected mayor.
Baroness Browning: The noble Baroness, Lady O'Loan, is quite right, there is an elected mayor; but we are making some changes. PCCs will be elected around the country, and the mayor is elected, but the MPA is still in place, as it always has been, in its current form. The Bill makes some changes to that structure.
Lord Harris of Haringey: I am grateful to the noble Baroness for giving way. However, the changes that she is introducing will provide less oversight by the
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Baroness Browning: My Lords, I am sure that I do not need to remind the noble Lord and the House that he is a Home Secretary-appointment to the MPA and, as I understand it, at the moment he is in charge. I am not being personal-I am saying this in general terms-but clearly the current system is not working. We have seen that in the seriousness of what happened in the Met and what is continuing to be investigated there.
Having served 20 years as a Member of Parliament, I raised concerns which I knew were shared by many people. I did so not as a reflection on the individual police force that covered the constituency that I represented; the force worked very hard and there were some very good people in it. Over the years, however, there has been what I can only describe as a public perception of creep, whereby law-abiding people who bring up their children to respect the police and the law have increasingly had an underlying feeling that, at times, the police are not on their side. There are lots of reasons for that and we could have a lot of debate about it. I see the noble Lord nodding. It is something that I have raised with chief officers as a Member of Parliament.
It is a very dangerous thing if what I might call middle England, for want of a better expression, start to believe that the police are not on their side, or that when something happens to them, often for the first time in their lives, as far as law and order is concerned, they do not feel that it is even worth picking up the phone to report it because they have a preconceived idea of what the response will be. That sort of creep-and I can only describe it as creep-is something that concerned me for many years as a Member of Parliament. I know from discussions with others that that is not an isolated case. It is very dangerous if, having had policing by consent for generations, we suddenly have an emerging generation-although it goes across the age spectrum-who do not have that confidence in the police. It is not about individual officers or chief officers but is about the way in which structures have been introduced and developed and about governance. That governance needs to change, and this is the Bill that will change it . I give way again to the noble Baroness.
Baroness Henig: I have listened with great care to what the Minister has been saying. However, given that more than 60 per cent of the public still have confidence in the police, as against 18 per cent who have confidence in politicians, is the right answer to have directly elected party politicians bearing down on chief constables?
Baroness Browning: My Lords, there is absolutely no guarantee that PCCs will necessarily be party politicians-although they can be, of course. I think that it would be welcome on all sides of the House to get the best person for the job regardless of party. That is what people have usually looked for in jobs such as this across the public sector. Many people in this House will have had very responsible jobs in public office and I hope that no one in this House would suggest that the only reason why they held
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I turn now to the opposition amendments. Amendment 3, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, seeks to alter the government amendment providing for the panel to exercise its functions in support of the commissioner. Instead, it would give the panel a more direct role in the performance of the force. The Government listened to the concerns of noble Lords across the House in Committee and in meetings which I held outside the Chamber about the panel not doing battle with the commissioner and about the panel having a supportive role in addition to the role set out in the Bill. At Report we tabled an amendment to that effect. I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Dear, for speaking to this group of amendments and reminding the House of the oath that constables take, which is at the forefront of their minds. That was so well explained-far better than I could have done-and I am grateful to him.
The Government's amendment sends out a clear message that we expect the relationship between the PCP and the commissioner to be one in which both parties work towards the mutual aim of providing the best service to the public. The amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, and the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham-who also spoke to it-would substitute the Government's provision with one where the panel is responsible directly for the performance of the police force. As already discussed during our debates, the Government's model provides for direct accountability from the chief constable to the police and crime commissioner for the performance of the force. The commissioner is then, in turn, directly accountable to the public. To give the panel the role that noble Lords suggest would confuse these clear lines of accountability.
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, perhaps I may ask the Minister a question on that before she moves on. It may be another way of putting the point that the noble Lord, Lord Dear, has made. I absolutely take the point about the deletion of the words,
That is something that I was concerned about myself. Can the Minister tell the House how we can read into the Bill the points about integrity, impartiality and so on which are clearly exercising the House? If they are not expressed in the Bill they may well be implied, either through the implied reference to the oath or
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The intention of Amendment 13 is for panels to include specific provision in their arrangements for substitutes or deputies where a panel member cannot attend proceedings, and provision for the quorum for a meeting of the panel. This was an issue discussed during Report stage. Your Lordships will recall that during that debate I stated that provision for substitutes or deputies for the panel's vote on the precept and the appointment of the chief constable could be included in the regulations dealing with those specific procedures. We will consider using these powers with partners should we feel that they are necessary, but we start from the position-and I hope that noble Lords will agree-that the authorities around the PCP table are responsible bodies that will take their statutory duties seriously and ensure that their rules and procedures more broadly cover this ground.
As to the veto, we have the power to intervene and regulate on this should we feel it necessary. There is also general provision in the Bill for panels to make their own rules of procedure, including rules on the method of making decisions. That is the mechanism for panels to make their own rules on matters such as a quorum. We start from that point but, none the less, I am happy to say to noble Lords that we will look at this in regulations if it is felt that changes are needed.
Lord Shipley: Is it the intention that regulations may be made to enable substitutes to attend meetings that are discussing matters other than the veto on the appointment of a chief constable and on the precept?
Perhaps I may come back to my noble friend Lady Hamwee's point and concerns. I have to say to my noble friend that we feel that the Bill as drafted and amended provides the checks and balances that she is asking for.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: I think that it has been cleared up. As printed, the Bill contains an error, because the wording of her amendment appears in the Bill. The people who dealt with it anticipated that the noble Baroness would move the amendment on Report. I gather that there is a correcting sheet, which none of us seems to have, pointing that out. I have cleared it up to my own satisfaction, if no one else's.
Baroness Browning: My Lords, between us the noble Lord and I make a great team. I was concluding my remarks to my noble friend Lady Hamwee. I know that she will find this a disappointing answer, but we believe that her concerns are addressed in the Bill.
"( ) The functions of the police and crime panel for a police area must be exercised with a view to supporting the effective exercise of the functions of the police and crime commissioner for that area."
3: Clause 29, line 3, leave out "supporting the effective exercise of the functions of the police and crime commissioner for that" and insert "upholding the integrity, impartiality and effectiveness of the police force for that police"
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate. I will briefly respond to the noble Baroness. She said that the system is not currently working in London, but what I take from the current debacle is the dangerous cocktail of politics and policing being mixed together. She has not answered the specific concern of the current mayor, who is shortly to work with the third commissioner so far in his single term of office. My concern is that in order to deal with an issue of accountability, the architecture of the Bill brings with it many perverse incentives.
Baroness Browning: I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way; I did not pick up on this point. I would point out that, despite perceptions, the current mayor has not fired anyone and does not currently have the power to do so. It is the Metropolitan Police Authority that has the power to dismiss the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. It was suggested that the mayor was responsible for the resignation of Sir Paul Stephenson, but that is definitely not the case, as was said both in his evidence yesterday to the Home Affairs Committee and in other statements.
Lord Soley: My Lords, I did not say that he was responsible. I indicated that he apparently supported the suggestion that Sir Paul Stephenson should resign. From what I understand, the mayor said that he did not oppose the offer to resign by those two people. In the case of Ian Blair it was different.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The House would not want us to go into the details of the resignations of commissioners. What is clear is that the mayor has had an influence. It shows quite clearly the risks of having party politicians so directly involved. The noble Baroness says that there may not be party politicians elected to
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I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Dear, that to be a chief officer of police is a lonely business at any time. While I certainly believe chief constables need to be held to account, they also need support. My concern is that elected police commissioners will not be in a position to give the kind of support that is necessary to officers who have to bear those heady responsibilities.
The noble Lords, Lord Cormack and Lord Newton, made very important points and asked the Government to reflect. It may be that in the Statement to come we will hear a little more about how the Government will reflect. I hope that they do. Ping-pong can be flexible but there are limits. The best way to ensure that the other place and the Government properly consider the issues surrounding the responsibilities of police and crime panels is to send my amendment back to the Commons; it will then put the issue in play.
I do not agree with the noble Baroness that my amendment takes the PCP beyond its current responsibilities into direct intervention. No, it gives strong signals to the police and crime panel about the impartiality and integrity of the police force. They are there to scrutinise through the police and crime commissioner. That would be a very important signal for this House to give. I beg to move.
The Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis shall ensure that the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime shall have the opportunity to interview all candidates being considered for appointment under sections 46, 47 and 48 and to make recommendations to him about such candidates before he consults the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime in accordance with sections 46(2), 47(2) and 48(2)."
Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, a few minutes ago, the noble Baroness talked about the current system in London not working. By implication, she was suggesting that if the Bill were to pass, the arrangements for the accountability and governance of the police would be stronger in London than they are at the moment. However, in practice, the Government are weakening the arrangements in London. They are providing the Mayor and the MOPC with fewer powers in terms of control and governance over the police service in London, which I assume is not the Government's intention. The purpose of my modest amendment is to require that the MOPC is given the opportunity to interview candidates for appointment as a commander, deputy assistant commissioner or assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. It does not take the final decision away from the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis; it leaves it there.
On Report, I made my view clear that in an ideal world there should be a joint recommendation on the appointment of the Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis from the mayor and from the Home Secretary. It would continue to be a royal appointment, a fact that the Government and those former Commissioners of the Metropolitan Police to whom I have spoken feel is important. However, this amendment does not change that. What it does do is to give a significant, though not a decisive, role on appointments slightly below that level, down to the level of commander of the Metropolitan Police, to the
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I am aware that the mayor's office in London has made very strong representations to the Government. Indeed, as recently as earlier this week-I believe on Monday-the chair of the MPA and London's deputy mayor for policing wrote to Theresa May, the Home Secretary, with a copy to the Prime Minister in which he reiterated the concerns of the mayor's office in London:
"The Mayor and I have deep concerns regarding the proposed future lack of MOPC involvement in MPS officer appointments, and conduct matters in addition, according to the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act. The Bill will remove the role of the governing body in appointment of all ACPO officers".
That is as clear a statement as you can find that the new arrangements being proposed by the Government will reduce the mechanisms by which the mayor's office in London holds the police service accountable. The statement continues:
The Government are saying that in London there will be fewer levers, fewer controls and fewer powers for the system that governs the Metropolitan Police. This is at a time when the Government tell us that they want to strengthen those accountability mechanisms. This is at a time when the Government tell us that the current arrangements are not working in London and by implication they ought to be strengthened. This is a time, incidentally, when there is a Conservative Mayor of London. You would have thought that the Government would have the utmost confidence in that person's ability to take on those functions in an appropriate way; but no. What the Government are doing is taking away even those very limited powers that currently exist and giving them to the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis.
I find the approach that is being taken here quite extraordinary. In quieter times, before the events of the last few weeks, the arrangements in London, where there is a directly elected mayor for the whole city, were being held up to us as being the beacon that was guiding this entire piece of legislation; yet now we are being told that those arrangements are inadequate. However, instead of the arrangements and the responsibilities of the mayor's office being strengthened, they are being weakened by this Bill.
On Report, I challenged the Minister to give me one instance in this Bill where the new structures will have more responsibility than the current structures have over the Metropolitan Police; I received no answer. The reason I received no answer is because there are no such instances. This Bill weakens the governance arrangements in London.
I think we understand, given the national responsibilities currently held by the Metropolitan Police, why the Home Office has to be involved in the appointment of the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis. I think we understand the historic reasons why it is important that that appointment be a royal
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I know that one reason the Government have taken this stance is the desire of the outgoing Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis that he should have control over all appointments of his senior team. No one is suggesting that the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis should not be able to decide how he wants deploy his senior team, but I question whether it is sensible that those appointments are made simply by that one individual in these circumstances.
During my time on the Metropolitan Police Authority, for four years I chaired every appointments panel for officers above the rank of chief superintendent. In the subsequent seven years, I sat on virtually all the appointments panels for deputy assistant commissioners and above. There have been one or two instances of disagreements between the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis and the appointments panel of the Metropolitan Police Authority. Usually the Metropolitan Police Authority panel has deferred to the preferences expressed, if they have been expressed clearly, by the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis or his representatives. In a number of instances-it is probably inappropriate for me to give any details-that decision has been against the better judgment of the panel of the Metropolitan Police Authority. In those instances, that better judgment has proved to be right and the strongly held view expressed by the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis was in fact wrong. Therefore, I do not think it is sensible to have an arrangement whereby you are preventing or not requiring the MOPC to have a direct involvement and to have at least the opportunity to interview the candidates so that there can be a dialogue or a consultation with the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis on the basis of detailed information about the strengths and weaknesses of various candidates. I do not think it is sensible even in the terms of what the Government are doing in trying to have a transparent system where the elected representative of the people is seen to be having a decisive role in the governance of policing. I think the way in which the Bill is drafted is a mistake. Unless it is rectified at this stage, I suspect that we will rue the consequences in the future. I beg to move.
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, described his amendment as modest. I have often heard him describe his amendments as modest, although I have not necessarily agreed with him. However, this amendment is about no more than making recommendations. If the Minister is minded to resist, can she explain to the House how that squares with the amendment that we have just made to the Bill about supporting the effective exercise of the functions?
Lord Rosser: My Lords, as my noble friend Lord Harris of Haringey stated, his amendment provides that no person shall be appointed as an assistant commissioner, deputy assistant commissioner or commander by the commissioner of police without the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime having the opportunity to interview all candidates being considered for appointment and without the mayor's office having the opportunity to make recommendations to the commissioner before the commissioner consults the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime.
The amendment addresses the responsibilities of the police and crime commissioner in London-namely, the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime-and whether it is realistic that a Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis should only have to consult the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime before making appointments to senior posts without the mayor's office having a proper opportunity to assess all candidates for such positions and make recommendations to the commissioner of police.
The Government see police and crime commissioners as being key players in the future in increasing public accountability for policing, including strategy, and making it clear where responsibility lies. The Mayor of London already has overall responsibility for policing in the metropolis-albeit he does not have time to carry out this role, so he has in effect handed it on to someone not directly elected to carry that responsibility. However, if the intention is that the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime is to be responsible and accountable to the public for policing, then surely it cannot be right that the mayor's office can find that the commissioner of police has made a series of senior appointments without the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime even seeing the candidates and being in a position to express a view to the commissioner of police.
We have expressed our views on corporation sole in relation to a chief constable, including the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, and the consequent extensive power that it gives the occupants of these posts. The amendment seeks to address one issue of concern-namely, the process for making senior appointments-which arises from the lack of proper checks and balances within the Bill. The amendment is intended to provide a check on the use of the power of Commissioners of Police of the Metropolis in this area of appointments, and it gives a better balance in the appointments process between the commissioner and the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime, while, as my noble friend Lord Harris of Haringey emphasised, still leaving the decision with the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis. We await the Minister's response with interest.
I support the amendment. Throughout our discussions on the Bill I have expressed concerns about chief officers being able to appoint their senior team. I realise that the Government have a theoretical model in which a chief officer appoints his team and the chief officer is then responsible to the elected commissioner. There is a purity and simplicity in that approach, but
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Baroness Browning: My Lords, a key principle underlying the reforms outlined in the Bill is to hand over responsibility for all decisions relating to the running of a police force to the chief constable or, in this case, the commissioner. This includes the selection and appointment of officers for senior posts. The Government believe that these appointments are key to the effective running of the police force and that sole responsibility for decision-making should rest with the commissioner. The commissioner is best placed to identify the mix of skills required by his chief officer team and the areas where he or she feels that the force would benefit from a fresh injection of skills.
In considering the amendment, we also need to bear in mind accountability. The commissioner will be accountable to the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime for the decisions that he takes in running the force. Giving the MOPC the power to make recommendations about which candidates should be appointed as assistant commissioners, deputy assistant commissioners and commanders would, we believe, blur that line of accountability.
I appreciate that the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Harris, does not compromise the ultimate decision sitting with the commissioner but we need to appreciate that the closer the MOPC is to these appointments, the harder it becomes for the MOPC to hold the commissioner to account for his or her senior team, otherwise we run the risk of the MOPC not being able to hold the commissioner to account because he is too closely involved in the appointment of individuals to these ranks and because the commissioner regards the MOPC as being jointly responsible for their appointment. We want accountability to be clear and therefore robust. Although I appreciate the intention behind the amendment, I fear that it may tie the hands of the MOPC unintentionally in the future rather than increase its powers of accountability.
The Bill makes provision for the commissioner to consult the MOPC prior to appointment. Clauses 46, 47 and 48 make that clear. The commissioner must consult the MOPC prior to the appointment of an assistant commissioner, a deputy assistant commissioner and a commander. I therefore ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.
Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, suggested that I sometimes describe amendments as modest when they are rather less than that. The reason I described this amendment
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The Minister's response suggested that being jointly involved in appointments would tie the hands of the MOPC in the future and minimise accountability. However, I suggest that she looks again at the terms of the amendment. It does not create a system of joint appointment; it leaves that appointment in the hands of the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis. It simply enables the MOPC to have an informed dialogue with the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis about the candidates who are being considered. This is about enabling the MOPC to do the office's job properly and effectively.
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Condon, for his support. We never worked together in terms of the Metropolitan Police Authority because he had retired as commissioner before I became involved at that level. However, his points about why this is an important safeguard for the integrity and position of chief officers of police are extremely important, and, again, I would have hoped the Government would have listened to them.
I can only conclude that what we are being told now is that a Conservative-led Government do not trust a Conservative Mayor of London with these powers. I am aware that the popular press-in so far as one can refer to them in that way in these strange days-suggest that there is an air of rivalry between the Prime Minister and the Mayor of London, or perhaps rivalry between the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Mayor of London, over the succession to the Prime Minister. I hope that that is not the motivating factor here. I suspect that the reality is that the Government have not thought this through. They claim that the model in London is the model that they want to create elsewhere in the country, but they will weaken the powers of governance of the mayor and the MOPC even below the level that currently exists with the Metropolitan Police Authority and the mayor, a model which the Minister said only a few minutes ago was not working.
Baroness Browning: My Lords, Amendments 5, 6 and 7 change the powers of the Secretary of State to make secondary legislation in relation to elections. The Bill, as currently drafted, allows provision to be made about the registration of political parties, candidates' spending limits and spending limits for political parties. Amendments 5 and 6 amend those powers to ensure that the Secretary of State can make provision about all these matters, but can also make provision, as in the case of other elections, in relation to other or third parties who may incur expenditure campaigning for or against a specific candidate or more widely.
Your Lordships will recall that my noble friend Lady Hamwee brought forward amendments in this area on Report, which I committed to consider. I am grateful to my noble friend for raising these important points. Secondary legislation to be made under Clause 59
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Baroness Hamwee: I am grateful to my noble friend, and I think we should all be grateful to the Electoral Commission, for taking such an eagle-eyed interest in and concern for the Bill. I am perfectly happy to accept that parliamentary counsel's drafting achieves ends that I could only describe in a narrative kind of way.
"(d) about funding and expenditure, in relation to elections of police and crime commissioners, of candidates, political parties and other persons incurring such expenditure;"
(a) provision prohibiting, or imposing limitations on, funding or expenditure of any kind mentioned in that paragraph, and
(b) provision for treating funding or expenditure of any such kind which does not relate exclusively to an election of police and crime commissioners as being (or not being), wholly or partly, funding or expenditure in relation to which-
(i) any provision within paragraph (a) applies, or
(ii) any relevant provision applies."
(a) a member of that police and crime panel; and
(b) a member of the relevant local authority.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, we come to a matter which has been discussed both in Committee and on Report. This relates to the proposal in the Bill that, if for whatever reason the police and crime commissioner has to give up office or is indisposed, the police and crime panel can appoint an acting police and crime commissioner who shall be a member of the staff of the police and crime commissioner. Noble Lords will know that I have been very concerned about the possibility of a staff member of the police and crime commissioner assuming such great responsibility. The noble Baroness said that she was still considering this matter, and that we could bring it back at Third Reading. I am hopeful that she will be able to accept my amendment, which ensures that the acting police and crime commissioner has to be a member of the panel and an elected politician. This follows on from the amendment that the noble Baroness moved at Report, which allows for independents to be appointed to police and crime panels. I do not think it appropriate for those people to become acting police and crime commissioners, which is why I have drafted the amendment in this way.
If I may say so, this is meant as a helpful amendment, to find a way through. I have detected some considerable support around the House for my view that it is not right for a staff member to assume such great responsibilities, including issues around the hire and fire of chief constables, in my understanding, and the precept. Surely it is better that an elected politician member of a police and crime panel fulfils that role. I beg to move.
Baroness Harris of Richmond: My Lords, I want to say a few words in support of this amendment. I find it completely incomprehensible that anyone would think that it was acceptable to put a politically restricted person in charge of making political decisions, which is the effect of the current proposals relating to deputy and acting PCCs in this Bill. Quite apart from the fact that this would give such a person an impossible technical conundrum to resolve-because a politically restricted person must be politically neutral, and therefore cannot by definition make political decisions-it completely undermines the Government's own arguments about greater public accountability. It is particularly important that an acting PCC must be able to make decisions as if he or she were the PCC. This includes the key decision about what precept to set if the PCC is absent at that particular time of the year. The PCC's office cannot not make a decision about this, whether or not the PCC is present, because the police service would be missing up to half its funding the following year if this was so. Not for the first time, I have thought that we were creating an Alice in Wonderland world in this Bill-it is all somehow upside-down.
It is clear to me that an acting PCC cannot be politically restricted. That means that an acting PCC cannot be drawn from the members of the PCC's staff-which bizarrely now include the deputy PCC, although that is another issue. The obvious place to look is therefore among the members of the police and crime panel, and particularly among the elected members of the panel, if we are serious about a commitment to
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Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, at the last stage, both the noble Lord, Lord Boswell of Aynho, and I made rather impromptu suggestions about other possibilities which the Government might look at. Mine was that the commissioner should make the choice, because it seemed to me that there would be a logic in that. I hope that the noble Baroness, who sounded very open to the different possibilities, might be able to respond to the menu that was suggested last time. However, I retain my concern about it being proper that the person who acts up is a person who has been elected. I do not think that the fact that the appointment is made by the panel meets the concerns; it is the object of the appointment that I am concerned about. Indeed, there is almost an irony in suggesting that the appointment is made by the panel-the elected people-as the logic of the Government's model is that the commissioner is an elected person. I hope that the Minister can help find a way through this.
Baroness Browning: My Lords, this amendment, as with similar amendments at Report stage, seeks to secure the appointment of an acting PCC from the police and crime panel rather than the PCC staff. I want to make it clear that the Government accept that this is a important area and one that we must get right. I am aware that the Opposition disagree with the Government's proposals, but I continue to believe that the alternative put forward is not the answer. Our objective is simple-we agree that the acting PCC must be underpinned by a mandate from the people to act. The point is that, true to democratic principles, this mandate must be what the people have voted for in that force area. The opposition amendment would replace one elected mandate-the legitimate one that brought the PCC into power-with another that may be completely different and at odds with that of the PCC.
I accept that a member of the PCC staff does not have a direct mandate. They are there to help deliver the PCC's police and crime plan. We have ensured that they cannot amend this while doing their caretaker role-this will ensure that the mandate of the PCC and the public's will is maintained. Maintaining the PCC mandate intact is important-delivering on an elected mandate is what democracy is all about, and there are also practical implications. As I have pointed out at previous stages in the Bill, we do not want another local politician, with possibly a different agenda, to take the reins and take the police force in a different direction. We believe that this is not a good proposal. There is a fundamental difference in our approach to this-we see the acting PCC role as a caretaker role and nothing else; it seems that the Opposition see the acting PCC as more than this. Given the direct mandate of the PCC and the fact that the acting PCC should be a temporary measure, I cannot agree. We cannot hand the office of PCC to somebody who will likely seek to take the force in a different direction without a mandate.
This was debated on Report, when the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, in particular made the point that there are no other examples of an unelected person setting a precept. It is important to note here that the acting PCC is hardly acting completely unchecked. First, the PCP has a veto in this area; and, ultimately, should the precept remain excessive, it will be subject to a referendum.
I will finish on how this is all likely to work in practice-after all, this is what matters. As noble Lords know, the Government introduced an amendment to allow PCCs to establish deputies. In reality, we envisage that the PCP will appoint the deputy as the acting PCC. Given the debate thus far on the need to ensure the PCC has sufficient powers, noble Lords will see that we have left it to the PCP to decide which members of the PCC staff should be appointed in the circumstances and at that time. I believe that this satisfies the democratic need in this area and I ask that the amendment is withdrawn.
Baroness Henig: Before the Minister sits down, I ask her to clarify whether the post of deputy will be a politically restricted post. There was some discussion on this and I did ask a question about it at the last stage, but I do not think it has been clarified.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I do not claim my amendment is ideal but I am trying to put some safeguards into a Bill that I know to be considerably flawed. The noble Baroness says that it would be wrong to replace one mandate by another, on the basis that if the House accepted my amendment and an acting police and crime commissioner had to be appointed, it would be a local authority member on the police and crime panel, and that person therefore would have a different mandate. However, I have always sought to explore how the circumstance would arise in which an acting police and crime commissioner had to be appointed. I do this because you can then see the absurdity of the Government's position-and it is an absurd position.
Assume that a police and crime commissioner had to step down because that person was unduly and inappropriately interfering in the operational activities of the police and the chief constable. Are we seriously saying that, in those circumstances, that mandate continues-that a member of that person's staff should be the acting commissioner, able to set a precept? The credibility of such a person would be shot to pieces. The naivety coming from the Government on this just amazes me. Do they not understand that they are creating a situation where it is almost inevitable that some of these elected police and crime commissioners will act wholly inappropriately in interfering in police activities? If only the Government would just pause to reflect on this. In those circumstances, a member of the police and crime commissioner's staff would, up to a point, undermine confidence in the police. I am very sorry that the noble Baroness is not going to accept my amendment and I wish to test the opinion of the House.
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