|Police Reform Bill [Lords]
Mr. Kevan Jones (North Durham): Handcuffed.
Patrick Mercer: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman.
I shall explain what most worries people in forces that do not wholeheartedly embrace the idea of CSOs and ACSOs. I take the point of the hon. Member for Lewes that some forces are not keen on the idea. One of those forces is Nottinghamshire. I am surprised by the grasp that the average bobby and the average sergeant have of the exact extent to which CSOs would change their lives. That is not something that has just flashed across their consciousness. They have sat down and talked about it at length. The opinions that I have heard are essentially this: they understand that in semi-rural areas such as Newark and Retford there will be a need, perhaps more than in many other areas, for CSOs. They are, therefore, reasonably broad-minded about it. They understand that they can be relieved of many duties by CSOs. They pointed particularly to the detention officer who was in the nick with them that night, and said how much weight he had taken from their shoulders.
None the less, being essentially conservative, perhaps reactionary, they are worried about what the CSOs will do and what powers they will have. They are prepared to accept the imposition of CSOs so long as their chief constable has powers over them that they fully understand. The one thing that they do not agree with and cannot contemplate is the idea of those powers being inconsistent. Giving the idea to Joe Bobby that a Home Secretary could change the powers, apparently at the drop of a hatI understand that that is deliberate hyperboleand that what he sees as an up-gunned traffic warden could at short notice be turned into a constable of almost equal power to himself does not help the cause of CSOs.
Therefore, while I understand the need for powers and I think that police officers in rural constituencies understand the need for CSOs, any alteration to those powers should be a matter for primary legislation. The affirmative resolution procedure, followed by a statutory instrument, is all but rubber-stamping. It wouldI think that I speak for the police officers in Newarkbe a power too far and a clause too far. I hope that the Committee will have the sense to reject the clause.
Mr. Hawkins: I want, briefly, to support what my hon. Friends the Members for South-East Cambridgeshire, for Tatton (Mr. Osborne) and for
Column Number: 355Newark (Patrick Mercer) have said. Specifically, I would say that officers in Surrey have expressed the same views as those reported by my hon. Friend the Member for Newarkthey are not restricted to Nottinghamshire. My hon. Friend was right to draw attention to the fact that officers in many forces have looked at the matter extremely carefully. It is not something that flashed across their consciousness. One of the reasons why it has been thought about so carefully is because of the enormously helpful analysis of all the Government's proposals in the Police Federation's Police magazine. That publication is always interesting because of the thoroughness with which the federation's correspondents analyse the issues. Naturally, they will often express views that are at odds not only with this Government, but with any Government who are proposing changes. It is right, however, to pay tribute to the fact that the debates in police canteens between officers during pauses in their duties are much informed by the Police magazine.
As my hon. Friend the Member for South-East Cambridgeshire saidwith the support of my other hon. FriendsHenry VIII clauses are dangerous. I am sure that the Minister and the present Home Secretary would not misuse their powers in the ways that some of us may be worried about, but such powers will be on the statute book and a future Home Secretary may be tempted to misuse them. In principle, the Conservative Opposition should always be unhappy when a Government are proposing a Henry VIII clause because it leaves the way open for a future Home Secretary to extend the powers dramatically at the drop of a hat, as my hon. Friend the Member for Tatton said. I do not want to repeat the arguments that have already been advanced, but for the sake of fairness, it is important that the views put to me by officers in Surrey and elsewhere are on the record.
Mr. Denham: We have had a useful debate. I suppose at the heart of it was whether Parliament trusts Parliament to do the job that Parliament has been set up to do. Another place rejected two orders that were introduced under the Greater London Authority Act 1999 on mayoral elections. It is not the case that the affirmative resolution procedure is a purely rubber-stamping exercise. It is an important part of the new clause that the extension of powers is brought within the affirmative resolution procedure. I accept that the problem is whether a Home Secretary in the future brings forward proposals for change, but after consultation and given the limits set out under the new clause, we trust Parliament to do its job and say yea or nay to the extension of powers. Given the constraints and safeguards in the Bill, I believe that we should be willing to do that, but it may be something on which the Committee may wish to divide. No doubt, we shall return to it at a later stage.
As for the specific point made by the hon. Member for South-East Cambridgeshire, the reason for the change in wording is that, on reflection, the first draft
Column Number: 356was ambiguous about whether measures could be subtracted from the powers under schedules 4 and 5 by virtue of the new clause as well as be added to them. Clearly, for reasons that I set out earlier, it would to enable such activity to take place. That is why there has been a change in the drafting. Why it is so extensive, I do not know, but I am sure that that is the reason for the change. I shall not prolong the discussion. The arguments on all sides have been advanced clearly and fairly.
Motion made, and Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:
The Committee divided: Ayes 12, Noes 7.
Division No. 13]
Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.
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