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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for explaining his amendments, Amendments Nos. 20, 21 and 22. If I go into Woolworth's and see all the pick-and-mix sweeties, I never know quite where to start--and I did not know quite where to start with these amendments because, as the noble Lord rightly explained, they are alternatives rather than an expression of a coherent point of view. Therefore, I must ask the noble Lord what he would prefer. He is giving me all these alternatives, but what would he like me to do? But perhaps I should not ask the noble Lord that because I am not going to accept any of the amendments and I do not want to delay the House.
However, it is an interesting approach to the tabling of amendments. It may prove helpful in terms of debate. The difficulty is that there is no right answer to terms of appointment for renewal; it is a matter of judgment. As we made clear in Committee, a balance must be struck between a term that is long enough for members to gain experience and learn on the job while making it relatively easy not to renew the contracts of those who are not pulling their weight. I do not know whether there will ever be a perfect answer. Our solution is that the initial term of appointment should be relatively short in order to ensure that those who do not work out and who do not contribute can be removed by rather less violent means than those proposed by the noble Lord in Committee; namely, that their salaries should be docked. However, there should be a recognition that those who contribute to sensible debate, in terms of the monetary policy committee's own estimate of sensible debate, can have their appointments renewed. I have no fixed idea in my mind that 14 years or 10 years is too long or that three years is too short. I believe that it varies from one individual to another. We believe that the combination of three years and reappointment is the most flexible of the alternatives open to us.
Amendment No. 23 is slightly different. It does not deny the appointment of an ex-senior employee of the Bank or Treasury but relates to the possibility of his removal; in other words, it is specifically an anti-Budd and anti-Goodhart amendment. It enables the Chancellor of the Exchequer to remove professors Budd and Goodhart simply on the grounds that they have been senior employees of the Bank or the Treasury. I cannot imagine that they would view it in any other way. I make no textual point about the phrase "senior employee of the Bank or Treasury". I simply believe that it is a mistake to insert a proposal for the removal of two highly respected people who are presently serving on the monetary policy committee by means of an amendment of this kind. I invite the noble Lord to withdraw the amendments.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I was reasonably satisfied with the noble Lord's reply until he came to the last amendment. To deal with the first amendment, I take the noble Lord's point. There is no right answer to the question of how long an individual should serve on the monetary policy committee. Certainly, I believe that three years is too short. I believe that even three years with reappointment is too short, for the reasons I gave in Committee; namely, for too much of that period perhaps the person concerned is looking to his or her reappointment. I do not believe that that would be wise. There is much merit in having one appointment for a reasonable length of time and no reappointment. But I knew that the noble Lord was keen on three years--I was aware of the arguments that he put forward--hence my suggestion that someone with three years should be reappointed only once, making six years. However, I see that I shall not make much progress.
I do not believe that it is a very good argument to allege that this is an anti-Goodhart and anti-Budd amendment. It is not. It so happens that they bring to my attention the fact that they are both ex-senior members of the Treasury and the Bank. I wondered whether we really wanted that situation to be replicated all the way down the line. I was making no attack on those two gentlemen.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I would not dream of accusing the noble Lord of making a personal attack on those two gentlemen. However, if he wanted to ensure that it did not happen again surely he should have drawn the amendment so as to disqualify those gentlemen rather than add this as a ground for removal.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, if it is a ground for removal that is not my intention. I apologise. I meant that when the Chancellor came to appoint people he should not appoint a senior employee of the Bank or the Treasury. I shall look at this matter carefully. I may have to revisit it if it does not mean what I intended it to mean.
The noble Lord has not answered my point about the possible appointment of a former governor or deputy governor. Would the noble Lord care to respond to that point before I decide what to do with this amendment?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, with the leave of the House, there is no formal exclusion for a former governor or deputy governor. I insist that the noble Lord's amendment as drafted refers to removal rather than disqualification.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I shall check to ensure that it means what I intended it to mean. I believe that all noble Lords in the House are aware of my meaning. The noble Lord's last response gives me greater concern which perhaps is shared by other noble Lords. My noble friend Lord Henley has said that the description could easily be not so much "home and away" as "the school versus the old boys". I believe that that is a fairly accurate description. I suggest that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, asks his Treasury colleagues whether they want a position in which the four members of the away team can be a former governor, a former deputy governor and the two who are already there. Does he really believe that that will give the outside world a great deal of confidence in the monetary policy committee and its spread of membership? I know that with only four members it is difficult to get a spread of membership. However, I do not believe that any of the four members should have been in their time members of the home team, certainly not an ex-governor and ex-deputy governor.
I shall take to heart the noble Lord's strictures about what the amendment means and check the matter. I may return to it next week when I hope that he will be able to table an amendment to ensure that a future Chancellor of the Exchequer cannot make the four away appointments from four people who were once involved in the home team in the Bank. A seamless move from being a member of the home team to being a member of the away team is a lot worse than I envisaged in my original amendment. I hope that the Government will give that consideration. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
"I should like to start by praising the honesty and integrity of the vast majority of police officers in this country. Their job is a difficult and dangerous one. As a society, we make huge demands of them. We have a police service which is one of the finest in the world.
"The reputation of the service is put at risk, however, by a very small minority of officers whose behaviour falls below the standards which the public expect. Their actions undermine the work of honest officers, and shake public confidence in the service as a whole.
"I am therefore determined to give the police service the powers which they need to deal effectively with this corrosive minority of bad officers. The Home Affairs Committee's report made a compelling case for change. I am announcing today the steps which I am taking to implement most of its recommendations.
"A debate on reform of those procedures has been going on for five years, since the previous government launched a consultation paper in 1993. At the heart of that debate has been the issue of whether arrangements in the service should be brought more in line with normal employment practice in other fields. The basis of the Home Affairs Committee's report is that it should.
"The time has now come for the Government to take decisions and act upon them. I have been helped in this by the constructive and professional approach adopted by the Police Federation, the Superintendents' Association and the Association of Chief Police Officers.
"One illustration of that approach is the widespread agreement already achieved with the staff associations that the police need new procedures for tackling poor performance by individual officers and ones which are separate and different from those needed to deal with disciplinary matters. I accept the committee's recommendation that the new procedures should be introduced without delay.
"Let me now turn to procedures for discipline. I have decided that the standard of proof in disciplinary cases should be changed from the criminal to the civil standard. I am alive to the argument that some officers might be less likely to tackle criminal behaviour through anxiety that that change could leave them vulnerable to unfounded and malicious complaints. However, the civil standard of proof has operated fairly in the police service in Scotland, and there is no evidence that that has undermined officers' effectiveness. Moreover, I have every confidence that with this change police officers as a group will continue to act in the public interest. Nevertheless, I am discussing with the police associations the possibility of conducting attitudinal research to monitor the effect of the change among officers.
"There are circumstances in which conduct may constitute a breach of discipline, although it has not been proved to be a criminal offence. At present, an officer acquitted of a criminal offence may not be charged with an equivalent disciplinary offence, principally because the standard of proof is the same in criminal and in disciplinary proceedings. In future it will be possible for officers to face both disciplinary and criminal action on the same facts. That brings the police into line with the position of most others in the public and private sectors.
"I am also accepting the committee's recom- mendation to end the 'right of silence' of officers in disciplinary hearings and to apply the same modified caution as laid down in the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.
"At present officers who face the loss of their job or rank as a result of disciplinary proceedings are entitled to legal representation at all stages of formal disciplinary action. The committee recommended that their right should be maintained only for those officers who are at risk of losing their jobs. However, I have decided to retain the status quo so that officers facing reduction in rank also retain their right to legal representation. I am also rejecting the committee's recommendation that discipline hearings should be held in public. While the public has a right to know the outcome of proceedings, it would in my view be manifestly unfair to officers facing discipline to have to present their cases at a public hearing.
"The committee recommended that chief officers should have available to them a system of 'fast track' dismissal for the most serious cases. I have decided to accept that recommendation. That system will need careful and detailed work before it can be ready for implementation. There will be discussions with the police staff associations about the appropriate procedure. The fast track procedure will be within the framework of a fixed timetable of no more than six weeks from beginning to end. The procedure would include the right to legal representation and there would be a right of appeal. Officers will be able to be suspended from duty immediately, as is the case now.
"There is one serious defect in the present practice which causes great public concern. That is where a police officer's retirement on ill-health grounds is agreed before disciplinary proceedings can be completed, thus ending all prospect of disciplinary action against an officer. As the House knows, the inability to complete disciplinary hearings after the Hillsborough disaster was quite rightly a cause of anger and frustration to the families of victims.
"The procedures will therefore be strengthened so that where accused officers claim that they are unable, through ill-health, to appear at disciplinary hearings, matters can be decided in their absence, with appropriate safeguards. I will also secure a rigorous application of the existing regulations so that any outstanding disciplinary matters have to be completed before any application for early retirement can be considered.
"I also intend to take firm action against officers convicted of criminal offences connected with their work. At present police authorities can apply to me for a certificate to forfeit the pension of such an officer. In future police authorities will be asked to refer all such cases to me automatically. It is abhorrent that public money should be paid out to those very few officers who are convicted of criminal offences and who abuse their position of trust.
"It is my aim to introduce all those changes in England and Wales with effect from 1st April 1999. I have consulted my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland on my response, as the Northern Ireland discipline regime mirrors the one for England and Wales. My right honourable friend agrees with my proposals and will be implementing them in Northern Ireland.
"I turn now to the committee's recommendations on complaints which must be considered separately. Independence and openness are the key to greater public confidence in the police complaints system. The committee's proposals point the way forward. However, some of its proposals require legislation and many have significant resource implications. Against that background, I intend to make progress on those changes which do not require primary legislation.
"I accept the committee's recommendation that the Home Office should conduct a detailed feasibility study of different arrangements for an independent complaints investigation process. I also accept the committee's view that, in the absence of a totally new investigative body, fundamental changes to the complaints process would be premature, but that in the meantime the Police Complaints Authority should make robust use of its powers.
"I accept in principle the committee's recommendation that the PCA be given the powers and the funds to commission independent investigations in cases where there is reason to believe that the existing process is inadequate. However, that has significant extra costs which make early change here unlikely.
"The committee also recommends that either the PCA or any independent review body should be able to undertake investigations whether or not the matter has been the subject of a complaint. In the light of that, I am minded to propose that, as Home Secretary, I should be given a power to request or require the PCA to initiate and oversee such investigations.
"Many people make a complaint about the police which for one reason or another is not recorded. The committee proposes a relatively straightforward change to the recording of complaints which will make the current system more responsive to public concerns. It suggests that all representations which could constitute a complaint should be registered by the police, with a right of appeal to an independent body for the complainant where there is a disagreement; and that it should be possible for a complaint to be registered directly with the PCA in certain circumstances. I accept these recommendations.
"I have considerable sympathy with the criticism that existing arrangements are not sufficiently open to public scrutiny. The committee has recommended that investigating officers' reports should be subject to disclosure on the same basis as other documents relating to a complaint and that investigation files relating to deaths in custody should generally be made available to the deceased's family before inquests. These recommendations raise difficult issues.
"The reports of investigating officers form a class which the courts have ruled are entitled to public interest immunity, although the police can be directed to disclose a report where a court is satisfied that the public interest of disclosure outweighs the public interest of preserving confidentiality. On inquests, the High Court has held that a person is not entitled in advance of the inquest to see copies of statements provided by the police to coroners. The release of such documents is at the discretion of the police. I am giving further consideration to the scope for change in this area.
"My detailed response to the committee deals with the other confidence-building changes which it has recommended. Some of the recommendations on the complaints system which I have accepted will require primary legislation. The Government will look for suitable opportunities to introduce the changes. Much detailed work and consultation is required with ACPO, the police staff associations, the Association of Police Authorities and other interested parties. This further work and consultation will begin straightaway.
"In considering the committee's recommendations, I have paid full regard to the implications for all police officers who every day fight crime and disorder and protect the public. I have no intention of making them more vulnerable to malicious complaints about the way they do their jobs.
"Equally we must deal robustly with wrong doing by a very small minority of police officers if public trust is to be preserved. Uppermost in my mind has been protecting the deservedly high reputation and standing of the police service as a whole. In this country, we police by public consent and that consent depends on public confidence and trust. The measures I have announced today will strengthen the people's trust and confidence in their police service".
Lord Henley: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Hoyle, for repeating the Statement made earlier today by the Home Secretary on the police discipline and complaints procedure. I also thank the noble Lord and the usual channels for agreeing to deal with the Statement at an hour later than is usual. It was extremely convenient to me, particularly bearing in mind the reliability of the West Coast Railway, of which the noble Lord will be aware.
Like the noble Lord and the Home Secretary, I pay tribute to the police. Their work is difficult and is often undertaken in almost impossible circumstances. As was recently made clear by the Metropolitan Police
In ensuring that we have an adequate system, can the Minister assure us that whatever emerges will deal with three classes? I refer to those officers who are out-and-out criminals; those officers who on occasions bend the rules in order to achieve convictions; and those officers who are inadequate and incompetent. In any organisation there are always those who are inadequate and incompetent, and procedures dealing with discipline and the removal of police officers should be designed to deal with them, too.
The Home Secretary has given a detailed response to the report of the Home Affairs Select Committee. I confess that, perhaps like others, I have not yet had time to read it. However, I imagine that the response will be debated and will merit detailed consideration. Some parts will indicate that primary or secondary legislation will be required. When that comes before this House we will have an opportunity to debate the issues in detail. However, I hope that the usual channels will consider finding time to debate the generality of the Home Secretary's response so that everyone who has an interest can offer their thoughts on that and on the Select Committee's suggestions. Can the Minister indicate in greater detail which of the proposed changes require primary legislation, which can be dealt with by secondary legislation, and which matters will require no legislation?
Tonight is not the right time to make off-the-cuff suggestions, or to shoot from the hip, about the Home Secretary's response to the Select Committee. However, the Statement raises a number of issues which we ought to address. The first issue relates to how much primary legislation will be required and how much can be brought into effect by 1st April 1999, barely a year away, as mentioned in the Statement. If primary legislation is required, will consideration be given to publishing a draft Bill before the beginning of the next Session? We would then have slightly more time for consideration than the November to April period usually allowed in the timetable.
Paragraph 21 of the Statement refers to consultations with colleagues in the Northern Ireland Office. As the English and Welsh systems are broadly similar to that in Northern Ireland, will the Minister elaborate on Scotland? Are issues there much the same? I appreciate that some are different and that Scotland already has a lower standard of proof, as referred to in the Statement, and seems to work happily with that. Will such matters need to be addressed in Scotland or will they be left to the devolved Scottish parliament?
The rights of individual officers are being weakened and the Police Federation has expressed considerable anxieties, particularly as police officers need extra protection against unfounded complaints from principals. I expect that most noble Lords will understand those fears, which may or may not be groundless. Can the Minister say what consultations have already been held with the Police Federation? I appreciate that the Statement refers to consultations which will take place in the future, but it would be useful to know whether the Home Secretary has already had meetings with members of the federation and others. I am sure that more consultation will be offered in the future.
I turn now to a couple of specific questions. One is slightly detailed and it may be that the noble Lord would wish to write to me in response to it. Paragraph 19 refers quite rightly to the abhorrence that public money in the form of pensions should be paid out to those very few officers who have committed crimes and who abused their position of trust. My understanding of most pensions is that part is contributed by the employer and part by the individual concerned. Is the noble Lord saying that the part of the pension which has been contributed personally will also be confiscated or is it only that part of the pension which has been contributed from public funds?
Secondly, in paragraph 15, the Home Secretary makes it clear that he accepts the status quo with regard to legal representations and does not agree with the recommendations of the committee on that subject. Will the noble Lord confirm that it was the Conservative minority view on the committee that the status quo should be retained and that the Home Secretary, quite sensibly, has followed the recommendations of that Conservative minority on the committee?
I move on now to the second half of this Statement, which deals with complaints procedures. I have relatively little to say on that. I believe that that section might be described as fairly tepid. It adds very little to the current procedures. Might there be something to be said for requiring the police for example, to issue a receipt when a member of the public makes a complaint? The noble Lord will find reference to that in paragraph 28. That receipt would detail where, when and to whom the complaint was made and would give information as to how the complainant could find out what had happened to his complaint.
Further, might it not be possible to require police officers to make themselves available for interview with legal representatives of relatives of the deceased before any inquests have taken place? Indeed, the police should be encouraged to provide as much information as possible if they know what is to come out at an inquest or during civil proceedings. To keep all of that information secret increases suspicion of a cover-up and discourages full co-operation between the public and the police.
Lord McNally: My Lords, the Minister will be aware that my noble friend Lord Harris of Greenwich raised many of the issues covered in this Statement in a debate in this House on 12th November. Many of the actions which the Minister outlined today were suggested directly during that debate by my noble friend. Therefore, from these Benches, it would be churlish not to give a very warm welcome to the initiatives taken by the Home Secretary and, indeed, a warm welcome to the work of the Select Committee in another place on those issues.
We should record also, as did the noble Lord, Lord Henley, that as long ago as last October, Sir Paul Condon raised those matters as issues for urgent response. It is fair to say that a Statement in March matches that criterion. The Government have shown a real sense of urgency about this.
There were and are three genuine concerns among the public. There is the concern expressed by many senior police officers that they lack the necessary powers to be able to manage their forces efficiently and I hope that some of these changes will help them in that respect. There is a lack of faith among the general public in the current system and, of course, there is genuine public abhorrence of criminality and corruption in the police force. The measures announced should be welcomed and the Home Secretary should be applauded for introducing them.
The closure of the retirement/health loophole will be welcomed generally. Will that apply right to the very top because, quite often, it is when the very senior police officers get into trouble that health is used as a convenient back door?
Also, in the case of corruption, there are a number of measures which can be taken but I believe that the general public would like to be reassured that criminal prosecution is among those options; that if policemen behave criminally, they come within the criminal law and not just under police discipline.
Apart from that, the only other small point that I make to the Minister that leaves me a little bit twitchy is that the term "resource implications" is used rather too often in the Statement for my peace of mind. I hope that that is not a get-out for the Government as regards not implementing very welcome intentions because I am sure the Minister would agree that there are resource implications in not doing things. Expensive civil litigation has resource implications. Therefore, in both complaints procedures and disciplinary procedures we need a proper machinery to be in place as quickly as possible. I hope that there will not be too much delay because of resource implications.
Together with that, we need a commitment to transparency, as far as that is possible, in the carrying out of these matters because nothing can give greater confidence in the police than public transparency in relation to how complaints are dealt with and how
But balanced against that, I ask the Minister to consider one matter. As I prepared for the Statement and as I listened to it, a story my father used to tell me ran through my mind. My father was brought up in one of the toughest parts of Liverpool. He always used to tell stories of the local policeman who was known universally as "Clear off". That was because if ever he saw young people gathering or doing anything he did not like, he would simply say, "Clear off", and they did. Modern policemen and women have to operate against a society which is much less tolerant of discipline and among people who are much more likely to complain than those whom "Clear off" encountered. The modern policeman comes under pressures, with the drug regimes and other pressures in our society, which are far more difficult than any which his predecessors had to face.
It worries me that, in response to this Statement, the Police Federation said that there could be implications for morale. I am not sure that that impact on morale will necessarily be met simply by attitudinal research. There is a need for Ministers, in bringing forward these very welcome reforms, to couple them with real reassurances to policemen and women of our confidence in them and the respect that we have for the difficult job that they do.
Lord Hoyle: My Lords, perhaps I may, first, express my sympathy for the noble Lord, Lord Henley, who has to use the West Coast line; indeed, I know the frailties of it. All I can say is that I am pleased to see him here this evening.
I should like to join with both noble Lords in paying tribute to the vast majority of the police who undertake the very difficult job of protecting all of us. What we are concerned with is a very tiny minority. In dealing with that tiny minority, we must not undermine the confidence of the vast majority in the new procedures which are being put in place. I believe that the vast majority do not like to be associated with the small minority involved in such matters. I believe that the present measures could well strengthen that relationship.
The noble Lord, Lord Henley, raised several matters. He asked, first, about the three classes of police officer--namely, those who are criminal, those who sometimes bend the rules and those who are inadequate officers. I should tell the noble Lord that the new procedures will cover all of them. The first two categories, the criminals and those who bend the rules, will be dealt with by disciplinary procedures. The case of inadequate officers is being looked at by management and new procedures will be put in place to deal with them. It is only right that they also should be considered.
As regards primary legislation, that will cover any significant change in the complaints system, in the independent investigators' power to call an investigation and in the supervision of the PCA, even where there is no formal complaint required. The noble Lord also asked whether a consultation paper would be published on complaints matters. I can tell the noble Lord that no decision has yet been taken in that respect. At present, the Home Secretary will consult with the PCA, the police staff associations and the Association of Police Authorities. Indeed, he will consult with all of them before he decides the way forward.
The noble Lord, Lord Henley, also asked what other consultations had taken place prior to these changes being introduced. I can confirm that the Home Secretary has had extensive consultation with all the police associations and with all those connected; indeed, that has been taking place alongside this process. I should tell the noble Lord, Lord McNally, that I appreciated what he said about the Statement and about the speed with which the Government have acted in relation to it. We are intent on getting matters right because we must carry the public with us. However, as I said when repeating the Statement, we can only proceed by agreement with the public. In order to do so, the public must have confidence and trust in the police.
The noble Lord, Lord McNally, also mentioned "resource implications". While we cannot give any date as to when other matters which require resources will be carried forward, I am sure that the noble Lord will agree with me that we have acted fairly speedily up until now. Indeed, the Home Secretary has said that he will look into matters that have resource implications.
Finally, I welcome the comments of both noble Lords who have spoken, especially as regards their praise for the police. I repeat: in bringing in the new regulations, we shall not do anything to undermine honest policemen.
Lord Randall of St Budeaux: My Lords, perhaps I may, first, make a few brief comments on the Statement. I should like to congratulate the Select Committee on producing what I believe to be a very focused and practical report. Indeed, great credit should be given to the committee in that respect. I should also like to endorse the comments by my noble friend the Minister about the way in which the Government have taken forward the recommendations in the report so expeditiously. There is a need for such action and I believe that that shows good and firm decision-making by the Home Secretary, on which I compliment him.
On the question of complaints, I should tell the House that I have for some time believed in the idea of an independent complaints organisation. The reason for that is twofold. First, I feel that this would ensure that we always had the confidence of the public in our police service. It is a good service; but, from experience over the years, I believe that there have been times when the public have not been as confident in them as I would have liked. Secondly, many of the very senior police officers to whom I have spoken over the years have actually agreed that an independent complaints organisation would be laudable.
I hope that I got this right, but I believe that the Statement referred to the fact that the Government have rejected--if that is the right way to put it--the idea of an independent complaints organisation, which I presume was recommended by the Select Committee, on the grounds that it would be too expensive. For me, therefore, that creates some sort of dilemma. Yes, of course, we must always be careful about expenditure, but how much are we prepared to avoid paying? The saving of money in that respect might possibly damage the confidence of the public. Can my noble friend the Minister tell us exactly how much such a process would cost? Further, does he agree with me that such a rejection would in fact prevent us ensuring that we do maintain in the maximum possible way the confidence of the public in our police service?
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