|Police Reform Bill [Lords]
Mr. Hawkins: As the hon. Member for Lewes says, the matter was raised in another place. Given that such duties were included under the 1996 Act, it would be helpful to have the words in the amendment in the Bill, or at least something along those lines. The hon. Gentleman has reasonably said that there might be other ways of dealing with the matter, and he and I will be equally interested to hear what the Under-Secretary has to say on whether there is any good reason why we the Bill should not have something equivalent to what was in the 1996 Act.
Mr. Ainsworth: I cannot believe that the hon. Member for Lewes is seriously trying to persuade me to go along with his argument, otherwise he would have said that it was a probing amendment and his intentions would have been clear. That joke was not worth making, was it?
The amendment would place an obligation on the police authorities and inspectors of constabulary to keep themselves informed about the working of the clause. In relation to the operation of the complaints system, police authorities, inspectors of constabulary and, indeed, chief officers are already placed under such an obligation by clause 14(1) and (2). I understand that the concern is to enable police authorities to get information about complaints-related matters. That would help police authorities with their wider functions, one of which is the function to maintain an efficient and effective police force under section 6 of the Police Act 1996.
However, the wider duties imposed on police authorities already necessarily imply incidental powers to see relevant documents and materials. It is for police authorities and chief officers to agree arrangements for the provision of such information to police authorities under the powers. It is important that police authorities hold their chief officers to account for the direction and control of the force, and information on complaints might be an important tool in doing that.
However, I see no reason to single out information about complaints, and I am not persuaded that there is a gap in the police authority's ability to call for information that must be plugged. We have not been presented with evidence of the problem raised by the
Column Number: 174hon. Gentleman, and an amendment that referred to a police authority's duties on the maintenance of an efficient and effective police force would limit the obligation on police authorities. Police authorities have other duties—those on best value, for example. The amendment would impose no obligation on a police authority to keep itself informed about the workings of clause 13 when carrying out such other duties. That is why clause 14 refers simply to a police authority maintaining a police force.
The amendment is unnecessary and would not add anything to the Bill. Although I agree with what I perceive to be its spirit, I hope that the hon. Gentleman can see that the point is already provided for and that the amendment could narrow the remit. I ask him to withdraw the amendment.
Norman Baker: The Under-Secretary is illogical. First he says that police authorities have incidental powers and the amendment is therefore not required. Then he says that because the amendment refers to only the maintenance of an efficient and effective police force, police authorities cannot deal with best value. He cannot have it both ways—either they have the general powers or not. The amendment is an attempt to ensure that the requirement on police authorities is not weakened from the standard in the Police Act 1996, which is my fear. The Under-Secretary failed to deal with that point, but it is almost 5 o'clock and no doubt their Lordships will wish to reflect on the matter at a later stage. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 13, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clauses 14 and 15 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
|©Parliamentary copyright 2002||Prepared 13 June 2002|