Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill — Report (1st Day)
Baroness Browning (Conservative)
My Lords, it may be for the convenience of the House if, at the beginning, I apologise for the fact that the government amendments tabled for Report were not put down within the one-week period usually given by the Government. I particularly apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, for any inconvenience that this has caused Her Majesty's Opposition.
There were reasons for the delay in tabling these amendments. As I promised in Committee, I met opposition, Cross Bench, Conservative and Liberal Democrat Peers, and we had a series of very helpful and constructive discussions. Noble Lords will also be aware that more than 600 amendments were tabled in Committee. We considered fully what was said at that stage and in the meetings held subsequently before deciding what changes would be acceptable to the Government. As noble Lords will know only too well, before government amendments can be tabled, they must first receive collective clearance, and it was this that caused the delay. However, I am aware that it might have been more helpful if, on tabling the amendments, I could have provided a more fulsome explanation of them and the thinking behind them. I am very willing to do that now if the House wishes me to go into more detail but perhaps I may begin by giving a flavour of them.
Much of our discussion in Committee resulted from concern across the House about checks and balances on police and crime commissioners. We listened to the representations from all sides of the Chamber and have put forward a substantial package of amendments specifically on checks and balances. We have, I believe, increased the powers of police and crime panels, reducing their veto from three-quarters to two-thirds, and we have introduced confirmation hearings to panels for the appointment of chief finance officers and chief executives. Panels will now be allowed to invite chief constables to attend hearings with police and crime commissioners. Furthermore, it became clear from discussions with colleagues across the House that there had been an omission in our deliberations. The panel will hold the PCC to account and scrutinise its activities but perhaps we did not emphasise enough that it will also support the police and crime commissioner. Therefore, we have made amendments to the Bill to make it very clear that, while the panel will have the role of holding to account, it will also have a supportive role. That is just a flavour of what we have attempted to do on checks and balances.
Noble Lords will know that many other amendments have been tabled on which we shall deliberate in some detail in the days ahead. We have also listened on some of the more controversial areas of the Bill. I recall that the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, advised me that, if on Report we were to put to a vote the question of Members of your Lordships' House not being able to stand as PCCs, we would most certainly lose. I have taken his words to heart and have removed that clause entirely from the Bill. I hope that people who had seen their future going in that direction will now feel encouraged to start making their representations.
I apologise if this introduction to the Report stage is not quite what is normally expected in your Lordships' House. I promise to write to all those, including the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, in a lot more detail about the proposals before us and, on that basis, I hope that we can proceed to Report.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath (Labour)
My Lords, there will be joy all over the land at the prospect of Members of your Lordships' House standing for election to these new bodies. I thank the noble Baroness very much for her remarks, which are much appreciated.
Clause 1 : Police and crime commissioners
Moved by Lord Carlile of Berriew
1: Clause 1, page 1, line 10, at end insert-
"( ) Each police area shall have a directly elected police authority.
( ) Each police authority shall number not less than seven and not more than 11 members.
( ) The number of members of each police authority shall be set by order made by statutory instrument following consultation by the Secretary of State with the authority, each local authority part of which is included in the police area, and the chief constable for the time being; and such consultation shall be completed at least three months prior to the first election of such an authority, and by the beginning of the fourth year following each subsequent election.
( ) Police authorities will be elected in accordance with section 51 of this Act.
( ) The police and crime commissioner will be the person elected by its members to chair the police authority for the time being."
Lord Carlile of Berriew (Liberal Democrat)
My Lords, I, too, am grateful to the Minister for the announcement that she has just made. The revelation that Members of your Lordships' House will be able to stand for election as police commissioners is no doubt fully in the spirit of the previous business before the House, which I noticed was the Wreck Removal Convention Bill.
In moving this amendment, I say to the House, and particularly to my noble friend, that I applaud the Government for insisting on a democratic principle behind accountability for policing. I absolutely believe that it is right that there should be police and crime commissioners; and I absolutely believe that it is right that police and crime commissioners should be elected. However, I think that we can do better than the recipe given in the Bill by the Government: we could have better election, better leadership and better accountability. Therefore, in that spirit, I raise the possibility of considering elected police authorities. I would have moved this amendment on the first day in Committee, but events meant that I was not able to, so I do not feel that I have to apologise for doing so now.
Over the past 15 years or so, barristers who have appeared in cases with me as my juniors will know that I am a strong supporter of the great Surrey philosopher, William of Occam, who lived in the 13th and early 14th centuries. He is, of course, most famous for his Occam's razor, a famous slogan which is often expressed as,
"Do not multiply entities beyond necessity",
or as one American presidential candidate put it, "Keep it simple, stupid". No one wants needlessly bloated legislation or a needlessly boated set of organisations. The real question is which entities are needed and which are not. Occam's razor never allows us to deny the existence of putative entities; it is often good to have a discussion of a wider range of possibilities in order to resolve that simplicity will work. Occam's razor teaches us that it is best to refrain from creating complex entities, unless there are compelling reasons for doing so and, if simple entities will do the job, then they should exist. As William of Occam said-if I can be allowed one quotation from his extremely distinguished and interesting oeuvre:
"For nothing ought to be posited without a reason given, unless it is self-evident (literally, known through itself) or known by experience or proved by the authority of Sacred Scripture".
I see a right reverend Prelate on the Bishops' Bench and I am sure that he will confirm, if asked, that there is no authority in Sacred Scripture for police and crime commissioners. So here we are looking at the dictates of reason, practicality, accountability and good results.
I think it is understood that some police authorities have done very well and some less well. Some have been faced with extreme difficulties and, in my professional life, I have advised two or three in that situation. Those who listened to the advice resolved their problems rather quickly and easily; those who did not were less good at doing so, but that is the way of the world in the lawyer's life. There are plenty of examples of others who have not had to take complicated and expensive-well, moderately expensive-legal advice who have done their job very well.
However, the fact that they are not directly elected would lead many members of police authorities, and especially their clerks, their chief executives, who have been a very distinguished group of people, to recognise that they lack one essential quality. The essential quality they lack is not competence, experience or knowledge of the law or of the facts that they have to face. Nor do they lack considerable experience of having to co-operate with chief officers of police. Looking around the House at what I will call the usual suspects who, of course, are not obliged to say anything unless they wish to do so, I say with some diffidence that sometimes the relationship between police authorities and their chief officers has been so outstanding that it has been recognisable in the improved policing of the area. Occasionally, excusing all those at whom I am looking now, it has been rather less successful and has led to what one might politely call dynamic tension between the two. I have to say that in most instances when that has happened, it has been the chief officer of police who has gone before the chairman of the police authority. One might find some evidence there for the success of police authorities.
The present proposals in the Bill for directly elected individual police and crime commissioners create an obvious danger. It would be invidious to cite individual examples; I think sufficient is done by referring to the general point, but there is a real risk of irremovable individual hegemony in which an elected police and crime commissioner finds him or herself at odds with the strong minded male or female chief officer of police for the police area in question. I see that as a recipe for really difficult relationships between the police and those who are in some away accountable for them. My belief is that if we were to have directly elected police authorities, a true illustration of democracy, those problems would be avoided. The suggestion I have put forward in my amendment is that the whole police authority, which is not very large, should be directly elected by the public. This is one of those elections in which I believe the public would take a lively interest. If a group of people-for example, a political party-perfectly legitimately put forward a slate for election to the police authority, the public would know who was likely to lead that group were it to form a majority on the police authority.
In any event, it is likely that there would not be one-party rule on a police authority. Whether there was or was not, the person who became the chair of the police authority would become the police and crime commissioner. He or she would have been directly elected by the public, and would be removable if he or she lost the support of the police authority. Change would be straightforward and, I would submit to your Lordships, it would assist the smooth running of the police service itself in the police area and the accountable governance thereof. I also believe that the election of police authorities would be simpler than what is proposed, would not involve the hybrid organisations that are suggested to lie under the police and crime commissioner and would give a form of accountability recognisable to the public.
I am extremely disappointed to discover-for I have very helpfully been told in advance-that the Opposition are not prepared to support this suggestion, and I have read with interest the Labour Party's proposals for executive boards. Some of my much admired noble colleagues on the other side of the House have never been able to get over their lives as trade unionists and members of the Labour Party before the removal of Clause IV. The creation of executive boards is just another form of typical Labour oligarchy. They love oligarchy-as long as they are oligarchs, of course-as would we all. I say this with great respect because a number of noble Lords on the Labour Benches know that they have my almost unstinting admiration; they are true democrats, yet they have abandoned their principles of democracy for something much more complicated, less transparent and less accountable.
It is in that general spirit that I invite my noble friend to respond in due course to this suggestion. I believe it is constructive and I hope-though I do not expect-that she will accept what is intended to be behind it.
Lord Beecham (Labour)
My Lords, the noble Lord advances his argument with his customary eloquence, seductiveness and wit. Given the Government's propensity to engage in deep cuts, I would not join him in proffering any sort of razor to them, Occam's or otherwise. However, his argument is quite significantly flawed. First, he suggests the election of a completely separate body to administer part of the public services. That represents a rigidified fragmentation of local governance that takes us back in some respects to the 19th century of elected school boards and boards of that kind. That route does not commend itself to me or to many of us who are concerned to see local government strengthened and responsible for the strategic direction of affairs in a locality.
There are other significant arguments too. A single body constituted only of directly elected members would not include independent members, who have made a very significant contribution to the police service since they were introduced some years ago, as we have heard in earlier debates. There would also be great difficulty in securing a diversity of members, reflecting the ethnic and geographical diversity within police authorities. That would potentially weaken the effectiveness of the bodies that the noble Lord would seek to construct.
Furthermore, I cannot agree with him that it is unlikely that there would always be a degree of political balance. For example, in a region like the north-east, given the very limited number of members-11-that the noble Lord is proposing, in the case of the Northumbria force they would represent some 18 or 19 parliamentary constituencies. It is extremely likely that virtually all would be Labour members-if not all. That might have some appeal on this side of the House but it would not be recommended. Despite seeking to avoid the politicisation of the police force, one would see an authority constituted in such a way as to appear to reflect the views of one political party only. In other parts of the country there might be a similar situation with political parties of a different complexion. That is clearly something to be avoided.
The concern about politicisation of policing has been constantly referred to in your Lordships' House on all sides and I fear that the noble Lord's proposals tend-unintentionally-in that direction rather than otherwise. He relies on a democratic principle, and of course elections are important. But there is more than one way of construing the application of a democratic principle in the way in which a service of this kind is to be administered. If the majority of members of a police authority, as now, are elected councillors, they can claim legitimately that they are reflecting a democratic principle. They are not directly elected for that purpose only. That is a good thing because the police authorities have to relate to local government and take on board working relationships across a range of local services, which in their ordinary course of life as elected local councillors they will enjoy in any event. They are bringing that current experience to the position that they would hold. There are different ways of construing democratic principles. The noble Lord's version, for the reasons that I have advanced, do not seem to fit the circumstances of this case and I hope that he will not press his amendment to the vote.
It might be argued that the noble Lord's suggestion is preferable to that of a single police commissioner, which is arguably the case, but it is not in my view as good as relying on the proposals that have emanated from this side in the past, and which appear to have attracted a certain measure of support in the House, for an authority constituted, as now, of directly elected councillors serving their areas and of independent members. In my view, that is the best application of the democratic principle and secures also some of the other factors which should be taken into consideration. I do not expect the Minister to accept this amendment for different reasons from those which I have advanced but on this occasion she may find a degree of support, or at least acquiescence, which she might not otherwise gain over much of the rest of this Bill.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath (Labour)
My Lords, I am sure that we are all indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, for allowing us to have an almost Second Reading debate on the principles of the Bill. I must say that I feel that his unduly modest fees are almost always worth it. As I say, this takes us back to principles. I remain deeply puzzled about the merits of the legislation and am yet to be convinced that there are so many problems in policing as to warrant such a dramatic and potentially very damaging shake-up in the way that our police service will be run.
I was very interested to receive an email this morning from Liberty in which it says that it believes that the Bill's premise is fundamentally wrong and that the Bill, if implemented as proposed, will cause irreversible damage to the relationship between the police and their communities. Indeed that is so. The noble Lord, Lord Carlile, did not really address that point. I understand his point about democratic accountability, but surely he will recognise that there are huge risks in the politicisation of our police force. There are very few guarantees that the elected police and crime commissioners will not seek unduly to influence the operational behaviour of chief constables.
I remain concerned that the construct of the Bill still provides too few safeguards against that undue exercise of authority by the elected police commissioner. Although I disagree with the noble Lord's amendment, it is interesting that he has raised issues of good corporate governance. This is the problem of the concept of corporate soles: individuals-the elected police and crime commissioner on the one hand, and the chief constable on the other-who have enormous powers without being subject effective corporate governance. I am with the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, to the extent that it would be much better if a group of people were collectively responsible, rather than leaving it to an individual. We will come on to issues of corporate sole later today but I welcome the noble Lord's attention to the issue now. He is right to do so.
Ultimately the question is whether adding on an elected police authority to an elected police and crime commissioner would risk far too much politicisation of our police force. As the noble Lord will be aware, when we were in government we looked at this issue and originally made proposals for partly elected police authorities. However, we stepped back from that partly because of a lack of support out in the community and partly because of the risk of politicisation. We remain of the view that this is not the right way to go. However, noble Lord has done us a service by raising some of the issues surrounding the lack of corporate governance in the Government's approach.
Lord Elystan-Morgan (Crossbench)
My Lords, I have nothing but respect for the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, and for the certain merit that is involved in this amendment. However, I respectfully disagree with him in so far as it can be regarded as a full and complete solution. For many years England and Wales have been blessed with a system in which there is a generally accepted tripartite balance between the Home Office, on the one hand, and the chief constable and the police authority on the other. So far as I am aware, I do not believe that that tripartite balance, or indeed the system, has ever been spelt out in statute, and in many respects it may well be that that is its strength.
One might find that, over the decades, certain segments of that balance have grown more substantial and influential than others, but the balance remains. That balance imposes a duty to consider something that is central to the role of the chief constable, which is that it is the chief constable who is responsible for direction and control. Direction and control is already a well established statutory principle and will not in any way be materially affected by the Bill. It will remain exactly as it is at this moment, and a former Home Secretary in his place to my left is nodding in agreement. But what does direction and control mean? Too often over the past few weeks we in this House have equated direction and control with operational control, but it means much more than that. It means that a chief constable is entitled, in a professional way, to the independence to run the strategy of a particular police force unaffected by and untrammelled by any unprofessional interference, political or otherwise.
As I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, will remember, the rules are set out clearly in Lord Denning's judgment in 1968 in R v Blackburn. Those principles have stood the test of time. Therefore, although the amendment proposed by the noble Lord is probably an improvement on what was originally set out in the Bill, I still believe that both are misconceived. I am prepared to accept that the misconception in both cases, by the Government and by the noble Lord, comes from the best of motives, which is to try to strengthen the segment of public control that relates to the tripartite balance. However, I still think that this is the wrong way.
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton (Labour)
If the Minister wishes to read other documentation prior to the next stage of this legislation I could do little better than to commend some of the policies that were developed by the noble Lord, Lord Howard-who is in his place-during the changes that he made to the legislation, not least, I think he would agree, the changes that he made to cope with too much party political dominance over what was happening to the police service. He finely judged how to ensure independence within the tripartite system. Were the noble Baroness to read the whole proceedings and the issues that the noble Lord took through, she would agree that he made some very fine judgments.
Baroness Browning (Conservative)
My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who contributed to this debate. I am particularly grateful to my noble friend Lord Carlile of Berriew, in his second attempt to provide for stronger democratic accountability within all police authorities. His amendments would provide for a police authority based on the current model to be directly elected by the public. Once elected to the authority, its members would be required to elect a chair from among themselves. I am grateful that my noble friend continues to advocate the need for stronger democracy and accountability to be inserted into the current governance regime within England and Wales. I also know that he speaks with significant authority; as we heard, he has advised both police authorities and chief constables.
I have reflected on his remarks in Committee and compared them with the Government's proposal that the public should be represented by a single directly elected individual. Both models would provide for an election involving the public, unlike the current police commission model put forward in Clause 2 of the revised Bill before us today. The Government and my noble friend are united in our desire to empower the public and to provide for strong accountability for each force area chief constable, with constructive and challenging oversight of the police force.
While the Government's model would provide for a single directly elected PCC who would be a strong voice for the concerns of the communities that they and their local police force serve, my noble friend's model would insert an intermediate stage-namely the election of the police authority-which I would argue distances the public from the ultimate decision-maker.
Crucially for the public and the Government, the PCC must be able to turn the concerns of the general public into action by working constructively with their chief constable to ensure that the police service adapts, responds and deals effectively with the unique challenges that face each police force daily. That process would only be obstructed by the cumbersome decision-making that the committee would interpose as a result of the involvement of a police authority. Although my noble friend's amendments seek to take a step forward, the effect would be that we retained the status quo when it came to making those crucial decisions. Accountability for those decisions would be removed from a single person and vested in an authority yet again.
A PCC selected from among the members of a police authority would be heavily constrained by the demands and interests of their fellow elected committee members. A PCC elected in that way might be swayed to side with those on the committee who have voted him or her into office, rather than having the interests of the whole force area at the forefront of their decision-making. The PCC will certainly not have the strong personal mandate that would come from direct election as an individual under the Government's model.
I referred in Committee to the Home Secretary budgeting for and negotiating the cost of this model with the Treasury. The Government are committed to ensuring that the cost of establishing a full-time, dedicated PCC within each force area does not exceed the current total cost of police authorities plus the additional cost of electing the PCC. However, to increase the cost of elections to accommodate electing not one individual to office but 17 within 41 forces outside London would be untenable.
In addition, to have to pay for a full-time PCC on top of the costs of maintaining current police authority structures and allowances incurred by the current police authority membership would not be justifiable to the general public. To tweak the current system and elect the entire membership would not solve the problem in hand.
The very reason that we are introducing police and crime commissioners is to inject much needed democratic accountability into policing, with the public having a much greater say in how their streets are policed. It is not our intention to bind the hands of the police and crime commissioner by requiring all decisions to be made through a local committee, whether elected at significant public expense or not.
My noble friend indicated in his closing remarks that he did not expect me to agree to his amendments and I am not going to disappoint him this afternoon. I cannot accept his amendment and I therefore respectfully ask him to withdraw it.
Lord Carlile of Berriew (Liberal Democrat)
My Lords, I am very grateful for the customarily courteous spirit in which this debate has been conducted. It has been a fine illustration of the law of unintended consequences. Sitting behind my noble friend Lord Howard of Lympne, I watched the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington, casting a halo like a frisbee across the Chamber, and I now see it metaphorically sitting above my noble friend's pate.
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton (Labour)
My Lords, for the record, I think the noble Lord, Lord Howard of Lympne, would agree that I never ever attributed sainthood to him; I just admitted that sometimes he was right.
Lord Carlile of Berriew (Liberal Democrat)
I hope my noble friend will excuse me if I say that he has never been a particularly modest man, so he probably saw it as a little bit of sainthood flying across the Chamber. It takes one to know one.
I thank the Minister for the spirit in which she responded to this debate. The noble Lord, Lord Beecham, suggested that I might have shown three qualities-eloquence, wit and seduction. I will not say which one I failed on this afternoon but plainly it is at least one of them although not, I hope, all three.
As a Liberal-I use that term with a capital L and without any suffixes-I regret that the Labour Party still appears wedded to a form of democracy that I find strange; what I call the democratic principle of appointment. I do not believe there is anything in the argument that people who are directly elected will perform less independently than those who have been appointed. One of the things that elected people experience, as all my noble friends who were Members of another place know, is a great deal of pressure from their electorates. That applies to the Minister, too, who was a distinguished Member of the other place. I am dubious about that argument.
As to the likelihood of electing a mere slate of party hacks, I simply ask the noble Lord-this might not be a commendation but just a fact-to look at Middlesbrough, Hartlepool and Doncaster. He will see that elections are not always as predictable as you think if they involve a specific issue.
I simply and kindly remind my much admired friend the noble Lord, Lord Elystan-Morgan, that in the days when he was a Labour MP for a West Wales seat, the appointment of Labour councillors to police authorities had about as much to do with democracy as the popping of a champagne cork and was seen as something of a scandal from time to time throughout Wales. I therefore do not accept that the tripartite principle of which he spoke has always been an illustration of good practice.
However, I recognise when I have lost a case. I can see that it would be unhelpful to the House to press this amendment to a Division. Some valuable issues have been raised and I beg leave, on that basis, to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment 1 withdrawn.
Moved by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath
1A: Clause 1, page 2, line 1, at end insert-
"( ) Police and crime commissioners must exercise their functions under this Part in accordance with the memorandum of understanding issued by the Secretary of State under section (Memorandum of understanding: operational independence)."
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath (Labour)
My Lords, Amendment 1A and the two other amendments in this group come to an important matter that goes to the heart of the Bill: the relationship between the elected police and crime commissioner and the chief constable. Whatever one's view of the Government's proposals, no noble Lord will underestimate the importance of this relationship or of ensuring that it is appropriate, proper and constructive.
The noble Lord, Lord Elystan-Morgan, who is now not in his place, spoke eloquently about the meaning of direction and control of a police force under a chief constable. We know that there are inevitable tensions between police authorities and chief constables. That is healthy and entirely proper. The risk is if an unhealthy tension is created. On the one hand, there is the risk that an elected police and crime commissioner-with clearly more authority from being elected-will seek to interfere unduly in the performance of the duties of the chief constable. Equally, I am sure that some chief constables might resist the proper use of the powers of the police and crime commissioner and seek to keep them away from discussion on issues that are perfectly legitimate.
The relationship between the PCC and the chief constable is very important. The Minister has kindly shared with us some of the discussions and draft papers that lie behind the production of a draft protocol or memorandum of understanding between the chief constable and the police and crime commissioner. I am grateful for that. When we discussed this matter in Committee, I asked whether such a memorandum of understanding or protocol should be placed on a statutory footing. The Minister accepted that this was an important matter and agreed to consider it and come back to the House at a later stage. I would be interested in her response.
I fully accept the point made by a number of noble Lords that if chief constables and police and crime commissioners have to have recourse to a document to interpret whether a particular behaviour is in accordance with the memorandum of understanding or protocol, the relationship has already broken down. It is rather like the partnership agreement between general practitioners. Once they get that out of the safe, they have reached a stage where a break-up is only too likely. However, a protocol or memorandum of understanding provides at the very least a backcloth to this important relationship. Even if it does not have to be taken out of the drawer, both the chief constable and the police and crime commissioner will be aware of its existence and the principles that it seeks to underpin. Given the importance of that protocol or memorandum of understanding, I would have thought that it might have benefitted from having a statutory basis. That would give it the important signal of parliamentary legitimacy, and would be helpful in setting up the relationship as constructively as possible. I hope the noble Baroness will be able to come back with a positive response. I beg to move.
Lord Howard of Lympne (Conservative)
My Lords, may I take this early opportunity to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington, in her absence, for immediately withdrawing any suggestion that she sought to confer a halo upon me? I am not sure I can be quite so fulsome in my comments on the remarks of my noble friend Lord Carlile, but there we are.
I have observed with a great deal of amusement the numerous accolades, including those from the lips of the noble Baroness earlier this afternoon, which I gather have been often repeated during the course of proceedings in this Bill-usually, alas, in my unavoidable absence-on my proposals nearly 20 years ago, which form the basis of the current provisions and current constitution of police authorities. I do not think that anyone has yet drawn attention to the fact that when I brought forward those proposals they were bitterly opposed by your Lordships and your Lordships' predecessors. To listen to the words that have been expressed on them now, anyone would think that they had been welcomed with open arms by your Lordships and seen by those on all sides of the argument as a long-awaited answer to the problem.
Lord Harris of Haringey (Labour)
I thank the noble Lord for giving way. Is it not the case that while his additional proposals were deeply controversial-I think he had some master plan for lord lieutenants of counties assisting in the process of appointing independent members-it was when they had been improved by your Lordships' House that we reached the eventual outcome that we are all so in favour of?
Lord Howard of Lympne (Conservative)
Convenient though that rewriting of history is for the noble Lord's arguments, it is very far from the case. He need look no further than the recently published memoirs of my noble friend Lord Ferrers to see that your Lordships remained obdurate, even when I was prepared to amend my original proposals. If my recollection is correct, it was only after a protracted game of ping-pong that I was eventually able to get my proposals on to the statute book in the face of persistent and continued opposition from your Lordships' House. But that is ancient history. I wanted to put the record straight.
The fact is that when those proposals found their way on to the statute book I was very hopeful that they would provide the basis for strong police authorities who would carry out the functions, which I am sure we would all want them to carry out, and who would be recognised in the areas that they served as the voice of the public in relation to policing. Alas, despite the splendid efforts of many of those who have served with distinction on police authorities during the nearly two decades that have passed since those proposals became law, my expectations have been disappointed. The proposals that have been put in place have not led to the kind of police authorities that I hoped they would. It is because of that that I am an enthusiastic supporter of these proposals. Indeed, I do not want to embarrass my noble friend on the Front Bench, but I think that in some ways I can claim to be their author, although it will not do me much good in the eyes of your Lordships, and I remain an enthusiastic supporter of them.
As to this particular amendment and the proposal put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, there is no difference between the term "direction and control" used in the protocol and the term used in existing legislation. That is the answer to the point made a few moments ago by the noble Lord, Lord Elystan-Morgan. The question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, is whether the protocol should become statutory. We know that ACPO has said-I think absolutely rightly-that it would be wrong to seek to define operational independence in the statute. If you gave the protocol statutory force, you would in effect arrive at a statutory definition of operational control. That would be a mistake for the reasons given by ACPO. It is for that reason that I oppose the amendment proposed by the noble Lord.
Lord Condon (Crossbench)
The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, has served us well by this amendment. The arguments remain finely balanced as to whether or not the protocol or memorandum of understanding should have a statutory footing. Having been privileged to be in some of the earlier discussions about whether there was indeed a need for a protocol at all, the journey has been a very interesting, and very supportive, iterative process. Certainly in the meetings that I have been privileged to attend, there has been an acceptance on the Government's side that a document of this nature or something like it was necessary to reassure and to confidence-build around operational independence and the legacy of operational independence, which is so important to the model of British policing. We have now reached decision point: should it have statutory footing or not?
My own journey on this route was that I was hopeful that as much as possible that came out of these discussions should be in the Bill. Whether it should be in the Bill in penny packets, at the relevant point, or in one comprehensive document of a protocol or a memorandum of understanding is a finely balanced question. However, I accept that ACPO is concerned that if it has a statutory footing, a once and for ever attempt to define operational independence will be a formidable task. The arguments are very finely balanced and the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, does a service by raising this. If it is pushed to a Division, I am still uncertain which way I will vote and I look forward to further discussion. It is so important but it is very finely balanced, and the arguments on both sides are very strong.
Lord Beecham (Labour)
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Howard, and the noble Lord who has just spoken both infer that the purpose of the amendment is to put a memorandum of understanding into the Bill. My interpretation of it is not that but that this amendment, if adopted, would require there to be a memorandum of understanding and commissioners would have to exercise their functions under it. However, the memorandum itself would be drawn up and issued separately and would be capable of being amended from time to time in the light of changing circumstances. The actual memorandum would not be in the Bill, merely the effect of one. It would obviously be helpful to discuss the first of such memoranda, but it would not actually be incorporated into the Bill when finally enacted.
Lord Dear (Crossbench)
My Lords, I do not speak in favour of this amendment. We are probably dancing on the head of a pin. It seems we all agree that a protocol or a memorandum of understanding is vital. It is the form that it will take that is a matter of debate for us today and, perhaps, in further stages of this procedure. It seems that one can hardly discuss the detail of this while it is still in draft. We are promised the draft before the full stage is passed in your Lordships' House, but I find that a difficulty in itself.
My main concern is that by putting it into the Bill or having it standing part and parcel alongside the Bill with statutory force, it would become too prescriptive. This Bill is already in grave danger of being too prescriptive on a number of issues. One has to leave things such as this to the good nature, good judgment and experience of those who will be handling those issues, and while I support the protocol we should not necessarily go so far as to give it statutory authority.
I would say in passing that although ACPO has quite wisely kept well away from making political statements about this Bill-its fingers were burned two or three years ago by getting too closely involved in politics, and it is wise to keep out of this at the moment-I would be surprised if chief constables and chief officers of police would want to see a protocol bound into such an Act. I would think that they would want to operate against a background of advice that can be amended in the light of experience. That is my view, not theirs; I am not in a position to speak for them but that is how I would expect them to react.
On a small point of detail in Amendment 4B, I noticed that the Central Motorway Police Group is included in a group of police authorities. I ask those who tabled the amendment, if they take it to a vote, to check whether the Central Motorway Police Group now has the same statutory basis as a police force. When it was set up it was subject to a collaboration agreement. To the best of my understanding it is still subject to such an agreement, which is very different from the statutory basis that other forces enjoy. It is a small point of which I ask noble Lords to take note. I do not support the amendment.
Lord Shipley (Liberal Democrat)
My Lords, I shall make two comments on quite a fundamental matter. First, I am clear that there needs to be a memorandum of understanding. I am less clear about whether it needs to have statutory force. However, the public will expect to understand what the powers of a chief constable and a commissioner are when they are being asked to vote for a police and crime commissioner. That seems a basic point; the public must have a clear understanding of the two roles. Unless this is written down in the form of a memorandum of understanding, it will be difficult for them to do so.
Secondly, there is also an operational aspect to this. Amendment 4A asks in particular,
"how the operational independence of chief constables and police forces will be protected".
This relates to the joining point between the operational independence of the chief constable and the power of the police and crime commissioner over both the budget and the annual plan. In other words, the chief constable is to be required to undertake, with operational independence, the work in a plan that was agreed by the police and crime commissioner. The budget for that plan will be agreed by the commissioner and supplied to the chief constable. There is a clear joining point that must be bridged here. There is a grave danger that there will be operational interference by the police and crime commissioner when that commissioner feels that the budget and plan that he or she created is not being implemented. Unless this is clearly written down in the form of a memorandum of understanding, that operational independence will not be clear to anyone and trouble will ensue.
Lord Harris of Haringey (Labour)
My Lords, we should not get too carried away over what this memorandum will do. My noble friend Lord Hunt quoted some remarks that I made when I said that if the memorandum is referred to more than twice in any interaction between a commissioner and a chief officer of police, it will look as though the relationship between the two has irredeemably broken down. It will be too late by that stage. The draft of the memorandum that has finally emerged from the Home Office is helpful in setting these things out. Its value lies in striking a balance between the legitimate role-to question, challenge, set an overall strategy and direction and so on-of those who hold the police to account and the operational professional decision-making that chief officers of police must exercise all the time. It is helpful to have that in the background to avoid the mavericks and to put constraints on those who might press a matter far beyond where any of us in your Lordships' House, or any other sensible people, might see this balance being struck.
However, we should not see this as some magic wand that will solve all the problems and issues that might arise from these new systems of governance. Therefore, it is helpful to have the memorandum. It would be helpful, as my noble friend suggests, for there to be reference to it in the Bill. However, we should not believe that it is a magic wand. It will not prevent circumstances in which chief officers of police find that they have lost the confidence of those who are responsible for their governance. Those individuals, when they have lost that confidence, will in effect be unable to continue. This measure does not prevent that, but it draws some lines in the sand for what are or are not acceptable areas in which those responsible for oversight and governance should get involved.
In Committee, I think I mentioned my experience of being told firmly that the policing of the Notting Hill carnival was entirely an operational matter in which it was inappropriate for the police authority, as it then was, to be involved. I do not accept that advice and did not at the time because this is a major policing decision that impacts fundamentally on the relationship between the police and the community and involves substantial expenditure of resources. However, that was not the same as a chair of a police authority in this case-it could be an elected police and crime commissioner-saying, "I am quite clear that you should close such and such a road". However, I can see that it is helpful to have set down somewhere something that reminds people that there are lines that you should not cross and that it is not appropriate, when you are responsible for oversight and governance, to say, "In this investigation you should arrest this person or not arrest that person". We all accept that, but perhaps, just occasionally, some people will need to be reminded of that.
Lord Stevens of Kirkwhelpington (Crossbench)
My Lords, like my noble friend Lord Condon, I have wavered over whether this measure should be included on the face of the Bill or should be referred to. Having listened to conversations and today's debate, I suspect that it is better for the measure not to be on the face of the Bill but to be referred to. There is absolutely no doubt whatever that if anyone gets to the stage of having to refer to the protocols to enforce their operational independence, that chief constable, chief officer or commissioner should not be where he is because he will have already gone through a process and lost the confidence of the police authority or the police and crime commissioner. This has been an interesting journey for me, having said at one stage that the measure should be on the face of the Bill, and then coming to the conclusion that it should not. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, and others have said, there has to be reference to it because there has to be a backstop at some stage and insurance as regards issues that may relate to mavericks, whether they be chief constables or police commissioners. At the end of the day, there have to be those safeguards.
Baroness Browning (Conservative)
My Lords, I am very grateful for the contributions made to the debate. The amendments tabled by the noble Lords, Lord Hunt, Lord Rosser and Lord Stevenson, reflect those that were laid in Committee and seek to protect the operational independence of chief police officers by placing a specific duty on the face of the Bill for each police and crime commissioner to exercise their functions in accordance with a memorandum of understanding issued by the Secretary of State.
During the Committee I undertook to invite noble Lords from all sides of the House to discuss the Government's draft protocol, which I had placed in your Lordships' Library prior to commencing our Committee debate. I am very grateful to noble Lords for their attendance at that meeting and for the contribution which they made, which was extremely constructive. The meeting took place on
I must make it clear at the outset that until the Government finalise their consultation on the draft document, we are still open to considering the merits of placing the document on a legal footing. I have taken note of the views expressed across the House today. Some noble Lords are not quite decided, some have clearly taken a certain position and others have moved from one position to another. That signifies very clearly the complexity of this matter and, most importantly, the need to get it absolutely right. I hope that the House, particularly the noble Lords who have tabled these amendments, will understand that it is something that we are particularly keen not to rush and that we are still in listening mode on this.
I would also like to make clear that it became rapidly apparent to me during our discussion that we must stop viewing the new PCC policing governance model through the eyes of the existing arrangements, especially when discussing financial matters and budget responsibilities. During the meeting, a wide-ranging discussion was held as to whether the protocol should be placed on a statutory footing in secondary legislation or in the Bill. Those are the two options, and although secondary legislation has not been mentioned during today's debate, it is clearly an option. I am particularly grateful for the professional insight that the noble Lords, Lord Condon and Lord Stevens, contributed and offered to the group. There is much further consideration to be given as to the level of detail required in the draft document. I have taken away their views and relayed them to my officials, who, I can assure this House, intend to feed back those views to the protocol working group when it meets later this month.
However, to place in the Bill the entire document as currently drafted will be a step too far. I hope that that will reassure particularly my noble friend Lord Howard of Lympne and other noble friends who said that they would be concerned if that were to be the case, and that it may undermine previous case law and common law. Those facts also have to be taken into account.
I know that ACPO has told the Government that it does not want any definition of operational independence to be placed in the Bill, for reasons that I am sure will be obvious to everyone. However, ACPO has said that it would like the protocol to be given some sort of legislative footing, and the Government remain open to this suggestion. I realise that we are at Report stage but work remains to be done on this issue. It is essential that we get the balance exactly right, as noble Lords have indicated. There is still time within the proceedings on the Bill in this House to make that judgment in time.
Lord Harris of Haringey (Labour)
My understanding is that the noble Baroness is saying that we should return to this at Third Reading, and that that is likely to be less than three weeks away. However, as currently planned, it will not be possible to achieve Royal Assent before the Summer Recess. Under those circumstances-and the Government might wish to take this away-perhaps Third Reading could take place in September. That will not delay the overall timetable more than it is already delayed, but it would allow more time for consideration of this matter and some other matters that probably require a lot more work before the Bill finally receives Royal Assent.
Baroness Browning (Conservative)
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Harris. I am not one of the business managers in this House. I sometimes wish that I had more say in these matters, as I am sure most Front-Benchers do from time to time, but I shall have to leave with the business managers the timing of the various stages of finalising the Bill. However, I hope that the House will be reassured-particularly noble Lords who tabled these amendments-that this is a working document. We are still considering the most appropriate way in which to involve the protocol in the Bill, but I hope that I have provided assurances to those who think we might make a hasty decision that would undermine the way in which the independence of policing has been seen hitherto. On that basis, I ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath (Labour)
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for her very constructive response and for her work in making the draft protocol available. I am also grateful for the input that noble Lords have been able to provide. Let me make it clear that I am not seeking to put into the Bill the details of the memorandum. I absolutely agree with the ACPO position, which is that a reference to the memorandum is needed. I had hoped that my amendment, imperfect as it is, points in the direction of how that might be done.
As my noble friend Lord Harris said, having some statutory basis for the memorandum would indicate to the police and crime commissioner and the chief constable that there was a framework in which one would expect them to operate. As the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, said, it would be a clear message to the public, in relation to the character of the people that they elected as police and crime commissioners, that they would be expected to operate within a clearly established framework. Some statutory recognition of that would be helpful.
The rules on what one can bring back at Third Reading have become ever tighter. I am happy to withdraw my amendment on the basis and understanding that I will bring it back on Third Reading. That will give the Government a little time to give further reflection to it. If the business managers-the usual channels-were minded to take the advice of my noble friend, I, for one, would not object.
Amendment 1A withdrawn.
Moved by Baroness Browning
2: Clause 1, page 2, line 24, at end insert-
"(h) the exercise of duties in relation to the safeguarding of children and the promotion of child welfare that are imposed on the chief constable by sections 10 and 11 of the Children Act 2004".
Baroness Browning (Conservative)
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord and I certainly look forward to hearing what he has to say.
Amendments 2 and 17 would add the relevant provisions of the Children Act 2004 to the list of duties in respect of which the police and crime commissioner, or the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime, should hold the chief constable or Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis to account. I am indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Laming, for putting his name to Amendment 2.
Naturally, all of us want the police to comply with all statutory duties that apply to them. Indeed, Clause 1(7) already provides that the PCC is to hold chief constables to account for the exercise of all the functions. Clause 1(8), on the other hand, is a list of matters for which PCCs in particular hold chief constables to account. The purpose is to highlight matters of particular importance which we would say merit special attention. The same provisions apply under Clause 4(7) and (8) respectively for London.
Deciding what should be included in a list such as this is necessarily subjective. What was in the Bill on its introduction represented the Government's best efforts. That said, the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, presented a compelling argument, supported by the noble Lord, Lord Laming, for the inclusion of the Children Act 2004 in the list. The Government have listened on that point and agree that-given the occurrence of some high-profile deaths of children-police officers, PCCs and MOPC should be in no doubt about the statutory duty of the police to safeguard children and promote their welfare. That includes in formulating policing strategy, setting budgets, forming effective partnerships and in a constable's execution of day-to-day operations. The Government agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, and the noble Lord, Lord Laming, that that is an important addition to the list of duties for which the police and crime commissioner should hold the chief constable to account in particular. I beg to move.
Lord Laming (Crossbench)
I apologise for my enthusiasm. I did not want to steal the Minister's thunder. On the contrary, I wanted to explain to the House that I put my name to the amendment, a government amendment-it may be unusual for a Cross-Bencher to do that-because I wanted to thank her for the thought that she has given to these matters. I pay tribute to her for her willingness to meet us and to consider how best the care of children should be seen to be a priority of police and crime commissioners and chief constables in future.
I will not rehearse the points made at earlier stages, because I am sure that Members of this House have a full understanding of the need for the police services to take seriously their wider responsibilities for the safety and well-being of children and young people, be it the local community officer, the specialist detective, the commander or the chief constable or police and crime commissioner. All those people throughout the service have a unique responsibility to fulfil their duties and to co-operate with the other key services in this area of work.
This legislation rightly has the title "Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill". In my view-and, I am sure, the view of many of your Lordships-it would be a lost opportunity if we did not put into the Bill the responsibilities that police forces up and down the country carry in this area of work. Indeed, the police have carried out a huge amount of development in recent years, and I suspect that the Metropolitan Police child protection teams are among the best in the world. Not only are they a credit to this country but they have much to teach other countries in the field of child abuse, neglect, exploitation and matters such as the abduction and trafficking of children and young people. It seems to me-and, I know, to other Members of your Lordships' House-that this priority in police services should be clearly recognised. I simply end as I began by saying to the House that the Minister has kindly allowed me to share my thoughts with her, and therefore I know a little of the hard work that she has put in to ensure that this happens. I am delighted about Amendment 2 and, because of my limited vocabulary, positively thrilled about Amendment 17.
Baroness Hamwee (Liberal Democrat)
My Lords, I am sorry to strike a slightly different note on this matter but I should like to ask the Minister a question or two. The list in the Bill to which she referred as "unamended" is a list of procedural matters relating to how the chief constable is to undertake his or her duties, rather than the subject of those duties. We debated this on a different amendment at the previous stage. I do not for an instant suggest that the matters to which the Minister and the noble Lord have referred are unimportant-they are of huge importance-but my concern is about singling them out. I used the example of trafficking adults as well as children-a matter which I think is appropriate for the strategic policing requirement, dealt with later in the Bill. My concern and my question to the Minister is whether singling out this subject in some way diminishes the responsibility that the chief constable has to exercise every other duty imposed on him or her by legislation. It seems to raise issues when one part of the very wide and varied responsibilities of the chief constable is included in a list which is qualitatively different. As I said, that is not for a moment to suggest that child protection is not important-of course it is -but I merely question how it is dealt with in legislation.
Lord Laming (Crossbench)
My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree that many, many crime Bills have been taken through this House? Over the years, the Home Office has been remarkably good at producing Bills of this kind. However, Parliament has also produced a range of very important children Acts, and those Acts need to be enshrined in developing legislation.
Baroness Hamwee (Liberal Democrat)
My Lords, Parliament has indeed produced a lot of Acts and, in my view, one of the problems is repeating bits of legislation time and again. A piece of legislation should be good enough to stand on its own and not require repetition or reference in other legislation.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath (Labour)
My Lords, I was very interested in the comments made by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. She will know that lists are often proposed in amendments, not least from her own Benches. If you list certain duties and responsibilities, there is always the problem that you might detract from other important duties and responsibilities. One has to use one's judgment. We certainly support the government amendments and I am sure that the noble Baroness will be able to confirm that, by listing the Children Act matters in the way that the Government propose, that does not exclude many other important matters from the chief constable's responsibilities.
I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Laming, on his success in persuading the Government today to bring forward this amendment. This is a significant day for him as he has been elected Convenor of the Cross Benches. I wish him future success in bringing forward further amendments to which the Government will no doubt respond.
I have one question for the noble Baroness. When we debated this matter in Committee under a number of amendments, at col. 1428, the debate concerned the Children Act and the Human Rights Act. I wondered whether there was a reason why the Government have brought forward an amendment in relation to the Children Act but not in relation to the Human Rights Act. Referring to the question of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, does focusing on the Children Act detract from responsibilities under the Human Rights Act?
Baroness Browning (Conservative)
My Lords, I am very grateful for all contributions to this debate and particularly to the noble Lord, Lord Laming, and to the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, for having introduced this matter in the first place.
On the last point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, in no way does this detract from the human rights requirement that the chief constable must keep in focus. I have been very cautious because, once one starts a list, one can add to it. I seek to reassure my noble friend Lady Hamwee that we considered the points that she made in Committee about singling out pieces of legislation. That is why we have put the Children Act into the Bill as a particular reference. We felt that was a measured response. As we were putting one piece of legislation in the list of specific functions that the chief constable must consider, we did not want to feel that in some way we were starting a new list. I shall not read it out, but in Clause 1(8) of the original Bill, there is a list of specific functions that the chief constable must take into account. As the issue of children's safety is so important, we felt that it stood out head and shoulders above others and that it should be on the face of the Bill. We agreed to make this amendment for that reason. This has been a reflective part of the Bill to consider, and a very important part. I am grateful for the support given to it across the House.
Amendment 2 agreed.
Moved by Lord Harris of Haringey
3: Clause 1, page 2, line 24, at end insert-
"( ) Each police and crime commissioner shall appoint a non-executive board of between four and seven members.
( ) Such non-executive boards shall work with the police and crime commissioners to ensure good governance of-
(b) staff; and
matters and to support police and crime commissioners in respect of their functions.
( ) Police and crime commissioners may make such arrangements as they see necessary to remunerate and reimburse expenses incurred by members of such non-executive boards.
( ) Appointments to and remuneration and expenses arrangements for such non-executive boards shall be subject to approval by the relevant police and crime panel."
Lord Harris of Haringey (Labour)
My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendment 20. There has been considerable concern about the central principle of the Bill, the idea of a single, directly elected individual who is to be responsible for the oversight and control of the police service. That is why I have tabled Amendment 3. Amendment 20 applies similar provisions to the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime.
At Second Reading and in Committee, there were widely held concerns about the concept of a single individual with this very strong responsibility for policing matters. The vote in Committee essentially removed from the Bill the principle of police and crime commissioners. The Committee voted in that way because of the fear of having a single individual with responsibility for such an important area of public life, an area where the police have such powerful responsibilities over the liberty of the citizens of this country and over the way in which the citizens of this country operate. That is the core of the concerns that have been expressed from many corners of your Lordships' House.
You could argue that we have solved the problem. By the amendment proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Harris of Richmond, and agreed in Committee, there will not be a single directly elected individual. However, I am mindful of what the Minister said repeatedly in Committee-that the Government are determined to reinstate that principle. If the Minister wants to stand up and tell me that the Government have changed their mind and have suddenly realised that the House of Lords was right on this point, I might consider withdrawing this amendment, but if, as seems likely, the Government intend to reverse the House of Lords position on this and bring back to this House proposals for a single individual with those extraordinary powers over policing and with the police having such extraordinary powers over the citizen, we need something that looks at these matters. In fact, I submit that even if the Government were to accept the position taken by the House of Lords in Committee, there would still be value in having non-executive members around the police and crime commission to bring to the deliberations of the commission expertise and independent-minded judgment. However, given that the Government intend to reverse that position, this amendment is essential.
Amendment 20 relates to the position in London. There are no changes, so far, to the position in London. We will have a single elected individual-the Mayor of London-who will delegate some of his functions to the deputy mayor for policing and crime.
In the circumstances in which we are to have single individuals with these responsibilities, there has to be a governance structure around them. I think there is consensus among your Lordships about the value of a collegiate approach and robust and strong governance. The amendment is not about going back to police authorities. It is not about creating some new bureaucratic structure. It is not even about going to the appointed boards that the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, coruscated earlier in our discussions today. It is about good governance. It is about making sure that decisions are taken properly and transparently so that these single individuals cannot be subjected to criticism that they have acted in a wilful or inappropriate way. It says that on key financial matters, key personnel matters and on matters perhaps relating to equalities, they must act with the support of a group of non-executives who would be appointed for this purpose.
Non-executives appointed in the way that I have suggested in my amendment would provide the public with an assurance that good governance was being followed. It would provide a mechanism by which you could make sure that those decisions were taken in a sound and proper way. It would also deal with what I suspect will be one of the issues. If you look forward to May 2012, when the Government hope that the first directly elected police commissioners will be elected, you will have elected individuals with an enormous personal mandate. The only person in the country with a larger personal mandate-I do not want to get into double entendres here-will be the Mayor of London. They will be the biggest political beasts in their regions. The elected police and crime commissioner for the West Midlands will be chosen by an electorate of more than 2 million people and will have a bigger mandate than a directly elected mayor of Birmingham, should such a creature come to exist following the passage of the Localism Bill. Those individuals may think that they can walk on water, I do not know. I hesitate to make such a remark in the presence of the Bishops' Bench. However, we are back to the principle of being reminded that you are human, the way that Roman emperors had to have someone around them just to remind them of their human responsibilities.
When I was the leader of a local authority-I was not directly elected by the people of the borough; it required endless arcane processes within the Labour Party before I ended up as leader-I did have tremendous authority within my local council. Sometimes I came up with ideas that were perhaps not as sensible as they might have been. My problem was that the officers of my authority would say, "Yes, Leader, it will be done tomorrow". What I actually wanted were officers who would say, "You are out of your tiny mind, Leader, have you not thought about the following? What about the implications of this? You do realise that there are going to be the following unintended consequences". The danger of having a single elected individual with a personal mandate bigger than that of any local authority person or Member of Parliament is who will say to them, "Hang on, just think about this, think again, consider it"? Or, "Let us just go through a proper, transparent process for making this decision". That is what creating a small board of non-executives would provide: that safeguard and those circumstances in which that challenge and proper governance can take place. It does not undermine the principle that the Government are trying to achieve. That is not the intention. It is simply trying to provide robust good governance.
Actually, it is a principle that I thought the government parties endorsed in other contexts. The Conservative Party in the past brought forward the Cadbury report and saw the value of non-executive directors in the private sector. The principle is established in the health service. I understand that one of the arguments that is still going on-in so far as anyone can follow the minutiae of the debate on health-is the extent of the involvement of external boards in some new health structures. The report reviewing the position of the Children's Commissioner-a rare example of a corporation sole-recommended a small non-executive board to support the commissioner's activities and enable good governance. This is somebody saying, "I am in this position but I would like some effective systems of governance around me". That is why this is so important.
It also helps mitigate some of the problems with politicisation that are seen as potentially causing difficulty. I have seen circumstances involving the much maligned outgoing police authorities where the independent members have sometimes said to the political members, "Come on, hold on, let us not be political about this-let us just look at this in terms of the interests of the public of this area and good policing in this area". So it helps deal with that. It provides some of the checks and balances that Members of your Lordships' House are so keen to see enshrined in this Bill. It provides a mechanism whereby additional expertise can be brought in. A police and crime commissioner or the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime may want, for a specific purpose, someone with extensive external experience of human resources questions or particular types of financial management. Bringing in that expertise is the capacity that would be created. It provides resilience and a support mechanism to enable the enormous task that the Government want to place on these individuals to be carried out. It also provides a mechanism whereby that work can be carried on.
The amendment provides for robust good governance and some collegiate elements to decisions where it would be dangerous and difficult for an individual to act on his or her own. If it is the Minister's intention to tell us, "Well, actually, there is nothing in this Bill that prevents it happening", I would say one thing. No, there is nothing in the Bill that prevents it happening, and I am sure that plenty of sensible elected police and crime commissioners would want to do that. But it would be precisely those police and crime commissioners who do not think that they need that sort of external support-those independent non-executives around them-who will be the ones who cause us problems in the future because of potentially wilful or maverick decisions. That is why this is so important. I beg to move.
Lord Howard of Lympne (Conservative)
My Lords, first, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Harris, on the sense of realism which infused his contribution to your Lordships' debate. He recognised that we are likely to see elected police commissioners in place next year and that the Government are likely to reverse the amendment put forward by my noble friend Lady Harris. I rise with a degree of reluctance to oppose this amendment, not only because it is proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Harris, with whom I had many enjoyable disputes many years ago, even long before I was Home Secretary. It was always a great pleasure to see him across the table when we were negotiating.
Lord Howard of Lympne (Conservative)
There were many other much longer meetings. The noble Lord talked about the characteristics of Roman emperors. When I faced him across the negotiating table, it always seemed to me that he took upon himself many of the attributes of Roman emperors-he still perhaps to some extent does so today-and therefore greatly adorns the contributions which he makes to your Lordships' House. I am even more reluctant to oppose the amendment because it is also supported by the noble Lord, Lord Stevens of Kirkwhelpington. I did not sit across the table from the noble Lord and negotiate with him. I had the great pleasure of working very closely with him when I had the privilege of holding the office of Home Secretary. I have enormous respect for his views and it is therefore with particular diffidence that I oppose this amendment.
My question is: what would the board of non-executives do which the panel would not do? The police and crime panel is particularly established by the provisions of this Bill to scrutinise and advise the police and crime commissioner. I repeat that it is established to advise the police and crime commissioner. What is the function of non-executives but to advise the police and crime commissioner? Do we really want to provide by statute a cumbersome bureaucratic panoply of organisations to perform the functions set out in the Bill?
We are proposing to have the police and crime commissioner, which I fully support, and the police and crime panel, precisely to provide the strong and robust governance arrangements which the noble Lord, Lord Harris, is so keen to see introduced. I share his view that it is important to have good and strong governance arrangements but that is what the police and crime panel would provide. To have this non-executive board in addition would at best be duplication of functions and, at worst, confusion and a proliferation of bureaucracy, which I suggest is the last thing that your Lordships should be seeking to foist upon the new arrangements provided by the Bill.
Therefore, despite my long and happy memories of my negotiations with the noble Lord, Lord Harris, and my enormous respect for the noble Lord, Lord Stevens of Kirkwhelpington, I would respectfully advise your Lordships to reject this amendment.
Lord Stevens of Kirkwhelpington (Crossbench)
My Lords, I support the amendment. Far be it from me to disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Howard of Lympne, who I have said publicly I believe to have been one of the most successful Home Secretaries during my time in policing and beyond, but on this occasion I have to disagree with him. Perhaps I may take noble Lords back to the setting up of the Metropolitan Police Authority, along with the London Assembly and the new appointment of the Mayor of London. A year before that, with the agreement of Paul Condon, the commissioner when I was the deputy commissioner, we set up a committee. It consisted of various people from the Home Office, and indeed the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, was a member. We thrashed through and gradually teased out a new structure for London. It was going to be extremely complicated and difficult to bring in. It had a conflict of interest that involved the national responsibilities of the Metropolitan Police, and specifically the commissioner, and it had to take account of the new London Assembly, the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, and not least the police authority itself, before which the commissioner would appear on a regular basis-at least once a month.
Part of the discussions related to that was the independent elements necessary to ensure proper governance, independence and expert advice. Going back to some of the excellent things introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Howard of Lympne, as Home Secretary, one of those was the independence of the police authority and a widening of its knowledge, expertise, delivery and holding the chief constable to account. I believe it is necessary to have in place a process that can be dealt with by a non-executive director in relation to the new set-up with police commissioners and their panels. Perhaps I may take noble Lords through the three reasons for that process.
Financial decision-making and the creation of a corporation sole will be responsible for major decisions such as the placement of contracts, financial allocation and a number of other serious financial matters, including audit. It is imperative that within the police panel and outside of the official responsibilities of the Chief Constable and Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, there is expert independence in terms of advice and good governance. The second reason is staffing. Again, it is important that the approach taken is that of best practice. Many noble Lords are involved in private business and they know that non-executive directorships constitute best practice in terms of good governance, independent advice, and ensuring that the vision of the company they are involved with is taken forward. If we are going down the line of corporation sole in relation to police commissioners and their panels, surely it is good governance, common sense and best practice to ensure that there is an element of non-executive directorship on the panel.
The third but by no means the least reason is that of equality of opportunity and diversity. The contribution made by a collective as opposed to an individual should always be noted in relation to what is on occasion an extremely difficult matter. The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, will know, as others on the Metropolitan Police Authority and the police assembly of the time will know, that on a number of occasions during the implementation of the Lawrence report-my deputy commissioner, the noble Lord, Lord Blair, was part of this-the implications of driving forward and turning the recommendations into action needed individual expertise from independent members of the Metropolitan Police Authority, members of which would on occasion come to see me or the noble Lord, Lord Blair, individually. To throw away that is to throw away extraordinary expertise which is necessary in the world in which we now live.
This amendment would ensure that, through a non-executive presence in the structure, additional expertise could be tapped into. I understand where the noble Lord, Lord Howard of Lympne, is coming from on this and I of course respect his views-I do not think that anyone could respect his views more than I do, having worked with him quite closely over a period of time. However, the amendment seeks to address some of the concerns expressed by Members of this House. As a result, we must listen. Again, I pay tribute to the Minister, who, without any doubt whatever, is a listening Minister, and it has been a delight to see that approach.
Lord Beecham (Labour)
Bearing in mind the rather surprising assertion of the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, who is not now in his place, that this amendment originates from what he would describe as the dark days of old Labour, would the noble Lord who has subscribed to it care to say whether he is now, or has ever been, a card-carrying member of the Labour Party?
Lord Stevens of Kirkwhelpington (Crossbench)
Certainly not. The two most successful Home Secretaries that I know of in history is the one who is sitting opposite, the noble Lord, Lord Howard, and the second-you would never get the name out of me if you tricked me-was Jack Straw. He of course would be represented in Labour. How about that for an apolitical comment?
Baroness Hamwee (Liberal Democrat)
My Lords, I was going to go back to the Roman Empire. With all this talk about Roman emperors, I wondered whether I should claim for myself the role of Caesar's wife, but I think I ought to leave that for the Minister.
I have two amendments in this group and was very persuaded by arguments made at the previous stage by noble Lords who spoke in support of the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Harris. When the Government objected to the term "shall", I asked whether "may" would be more acceptable. It was almost before the words were out of my mouth that I knew that I was going to be challenged by the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, who quite rightly made the point that police and crime commissioners who do not understand the need for robust governance arrangements are the ones who most need them.
My Amendments 4 and 18 break my own rules about providing for more regulation-making powers for the Secretary of State, but I have worded them in that way because I am not quite convinced that Amendments 3 and 20 quite capture everything. I have added to my list, in what would be new subsection (4B),
"provision for arrangements to ensure probity".
Financial matters are within that, but probity covers a wider area.
I spotted what some might regard as a flaw in my amendment by providing for consultation with police and crime commissioners, or their union as it might be, before their coming into being, but I have assumed, for the purposes of this argument at any rate, that the transitional arrangements might give time for this as well as consultation with local authority representatives. That is because of the important role of panels, police authorities and local authorities in this area.
My noble friend Lord Wallace spoke in Committee of the importance of personalities and personal relationships, and a willingness to co-operate. He was quite right, but I would say, "Yes, but", or maybe, "Yes, therefore".
There was also concern about how much detail should be in the Bill. Well, there is quite a lot of detail in it, so I would like to see some that I would be comfortable supporting. My noble friend also talked about the roles undertaken by the chief executive and the chief finance officer. He said that they would ensure that propriety and that:
"They will be subject to established public authority duties, as are their equivalents in police authorities and elsewhere".-[Hansard, 18/5/11; col. 1466.]
They do have those duties, but that is not the same as governance in the round. I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Howard, that the police and crime panels, with their limited checks, are not governance. Most of their duties are to be carried out in arrear. They do not have a contemporary role and that is what governance is about. If it is to be their function, the Bill needs a lot of amendment and I for one would be very happy to see that, but the check, balance and scrutiny role in police and crime panels is a different role from governance.
There have been major developments in governance in public life recently. Many of your Lordships will be involved in charities where hugely different arrangements have had to be put in place over recent years. It is proper that there are such standards in public life. This is another such position. I am not convinced that the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Harris, is spot on and I am sure that he and the Minister will say that mine is not either, but something needs to be provided that surrounds, supports and controls this new office.
Lord Condon (Crossbench)
My Lords, the amendment put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Harris, and supported by the noble Lord, Lord Stevens, gives us some comfort and takes us in the direction of more reassuring corporate governance than the Government's current proposals. Like the noble Lord, Lord Harris, I accept that the Government will probably be successful in reinstating their provisions for elected police and crime commissioners, but there remains an element of the doctrinaire in their proposals. There is a feeling that the election by the public of a single person who is then unencumbered by advice, support or challenge is the only way forward. I fear that the only people around the elected police commissioner offering expert advice could well be sycophantic staff whose very livelihood relies on the elected police and crime commissioner.
The dilemma is that we are in an either/or situation. Either police and crime panels with an independent element must be given greater strength and authority than is currently proposed-and I was reassured by the Minister that we are moving a little way that direction-or we should have the model offered by the noble Lords, Lord Harris and Lord Stevens, of a board of non-executive directors.
I have spent 10 years in the private sector as a deputy chairman and non-executive director of one of the biggest companies in the world and I know the value of non-executive directors. The Government also know their value, because under their proposals this week for reform of the defence of our country the individual service chiefs will be removed from the Defence Board and replaced by non-executive directors. The Government know in their heart of hearts the value of non-executive directors.
I hope that the Minister will give us some comfort that we are moving away from this doctrinaire notion about the purity of the electorate electing the police and crime commissioner and the commissioner not being encumbered by any advice other than that which they choose to hire themselves. I am not sure that I could wholly support the amendment put forward by the noble Lords, Lord Harris and Lord Stevens, but we need either that or stronger police and crime panels, and words of comfort from the Minister.
Lord Newton of Braintree (Conservative)
I was wondering whether one was allowed to take part in the debate if one was not a former chief constable or Home Secretary, but I have decided to take the risk, having listened rather carefully.
I only want to add a few sentences. I thought that the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Harris, was one of the most persuasive that I have ever heard-that is, until I heard the speech of my noble friend Lord Howard of Lympne about overlapping bodies. That brings me to the same position as the noble Lord, Lord Condon, who has just spoken, with his distinguished and long experience. We certainly do not want two boards or panels with overlapping responsibilities treading on each other's feet-that was my noble friend's point. Equally, we do not want a police commissioner who is a lonely figure with massive responsibilities and nobody to turn to.
It seems that the answer to this is not to set up a non-executive board but to look at the panel, as has just been suggested, and make sure that its powers, responsibilities or however they are defined reflect the need for the commissioner to be able to turn to people for advice, support and sometimes comfort-or, indeed, unwelcome advice-in the way that has been reflected in this debate. I hope that may be of some help to my noble friends on the Front Bench, as the view of one modest Back-Bencher who has listened to the debate.
Viscount Brookeborough (Crossbench)
My Lords, I support the amendment, or at least the basis of it. My experience is from the Northern Ireland Policing Board-which is, incidentally, perhaps the last such board, but also the one which has been modernised most recently, and in difficult circumstances. It was required to cover all the aspects that we are talking about in that it had to be workable.
As for having non-executive directors or the equivalent, this is not just about the commissioner's power or about bringing in the expertise; quite frankly, it is about the impossibility of the commissioner carrying out all the functions that he will have to carry out. The functions of the police panels are laid out quite clearly. The Bill says that they are to monitor and keep up to date with the commissioner. It does not say anything about their powers to call police and other people. In fact, Clause 30(2) says:
"Nothing in subsection (1) requires a member of the police and crime commissioner's staff to give any evidence, or produce any document, which discloses advice given to the commissioner by that person".
The commissioner is the one who has the power to call the police to give evidence on what is happening, and to scrutinise everything that goes on in the police force.
Although I hesitate to do so, I do not agree with the noble Lord, Lord Howard. The problem is that the powers do not overlap. It appears that the panel has no right to go into the police to find out the details; that power rests entirely with the commissioner. The problem is that no individual-commissioner or otherwise-can possibly go into all the issues such as finance, staff, equality, property and everything else. To correct that in the Northern Ireland Policing Board, we had somebody in the property market as well as an accountant and somebody in HR. I do not believe that anyone here could give us an example of an individual who could do the work that we had to do to monitor the police. There is no such individual.
So I would ask the Minister: who in the police and crime commissioner's office will do that? The answer is that it will be done by paid staff. The police and crime commissioner's staff will produce an opinion to one person without that being questioned by any expertise or any experience on that side at all because, as I understand the provision that I have just read out, the panel will have absolutely no right under the Bill even to hear that advice.
I support the amendment because I believe that, first, no single individual could physically do all those jobs that are required and, secondly, if the PCC does not have non-executives with the experience, the panel will need to provide that but, from my reading of the Bill, the panel does not even begin to have the powers to get to the bottom of the issues so it definitely could not provide a balanced view on what is going on. That simply does not happen. If any noble Lords wish to go and see the Policing Board in Northern Ireland, they can do so because these were exactly the issues and the problems that we had with our police force, which even I accept was not functioning properly-that is why these reforms were made. That is why such a committee, which may be formed of non-executives or, indeed, of panel members, should have the right to call any policeman within the headquarters or any department to account for the decisions that have been made. The committee could then produce a balanced view for the commissioner. Therefore, I support the amendment.
Lord Wasserman (Conservative)
I, too, am a great believer in non-executive directors. Having served as a non-executive director on a public company and on several private companies, I think that non-executive directors have an extremely important role to play, but their role is defined as relating to "fiduciary duty". They are there to look after the interest of the shareholders, or owners, of the company. They understand their role, management understands their role and, where it all works extremely well, as several noble Lords have already said, we know that they appreciate that role.
However, the amendment is not about fiduciary duty but about expertise, advice and management, which are quite different. This is not about the role of a non-executive director, who is an independent director on the board who ensures that the interests of the shareholders are looked after; this is about having a team that will bring expertise, knowledge and advice to the police and crime commissioner. I think that the amendment confuses a non-executive with, as it were, a consultant or a special adviser; they are not quite the same. We ought not to think of this proposal in terms of a board of non-executives who provide independence but in terms of people who provide expertise. The amendment says that these people will advise on financial matters, staff matters and equality matters. It is important that such expertise should be available to PCCs-there is no question about that-but to suggest that these are non-executives who form a non-executive board is, it seems to me, the wrong way to go about it.
Also, we know that it will be open to any PCC to hire advisers and consultants-no doubt some will, and no doubt there will be some who will not who should-so the amendment seems to be rather a sledge-hammer taken to a nut. The amendment would require all 43 or all 41 forces, no matter how small, to have at least four non-executives. I think that the whole thing is far too prescriptive.
And yet the amendment also leaves lots of questions unanswered. For example, how often should the non-executive board meet? If we put this in the Bill, it will be quite open to a PCC never to bring the non-executives together or to bring them together once a year for a meeting lasting half an hour. The PCC would thereby fulfil the terms of the amendment, yet he would not get the advantages of having non-executives. The next thing, we know, is that we will want to set out regulations to make it clear that the PCC has to meet with them and how often he has to meet with them. What papers could the non-executives see? Could they see all papers or only those that relate to their particular subject? Could they see operational papers and all the papers that the PCC sees? Could they be briefed by the chief constable? Could they deal directly with the chief constable and with the management team, or could they only advise the PCC? Finally, how is their effectiveness to be judged? Can the PCC fire them whenever he wants to, or does he have to go back to the panel to fire them? According to this amendment, he does not. It would be a ridiculous situation if he fired them and then hired a new group, the panel approved a new group and then he disagreed with them.
There are several problems, but the main problem is that it is far too prescriptive while leaving these gaps. It smacks too much of central direction. I was thinking of the day when there will be an association of non-executive members of police authorities. They will meet regularly with ACPO at the annual conference and discuss the problems of non-executives. It will be all far too organised. There will certainly be directives out of the Home Office describing in minute detail when they should meet, how often they should meet, what records should be kept and so on.
Even worse than that, I see this as a sort of consultants' windfall. What will happen, unless we specify that these non-executives have to be resident in the area of the particular force, is that we will have a group of high-powered, well paid, very able and experienced consultants who act as non-executive directors for five, 10 or 20 forces. They will be specialists in equality, finance or staffing. There would be nothing wrong with that; it would achieve what this amendment wants it to achieve-namely, it would bring expertise to the commissioner. It would hold his feet to the fire if he refused to make decisions or, on the other hand, tell him that he has not got all the power in the world. The noble Lord, Lord Harris, suggested that that was one of the functions. I see this very much as a windfall for consultants, and I doubt that we really want that.
While the Bill gives chief constables more freedom to manage, at the same time this amendment gives the PCC less freedom. We are saying on one hand that the chief constable can appoint his top management team and at the same time that the PCC has to have approval for his non-executive team. That seems wrong.
Finally, I think or hope that people see this Bill as strengthening the link between forces and their local communities. This amendment will in effect weaken it by bringing in experts who are not related to the community but are simply there for their expertise, their knowledge and their experience.
Lord Blair of Boughton (Crossbench)
My Lords, I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Newton, for adding to his collection of commissioners and chairmen of police authorities. However, I want to say, having served as a chief officer of police for 15 years, that I served with the police committees that the noble Lord, Lord Howard of Lympne, reformed in order to bring in an independent group of people. The committees were transformed by that process. I know from what I have heard of the speeches of my erstwhile colleagues that all of us feel that the independence of some people around this police and crime commissioner is fundamental. I have not seen a better amendment than the one put forward by the noble Lords, Lord Harris and Lord Stevens, and I support it.
Baroness Henig (Labour)
I wish to add a word or two. I heard very much what the noble Lord said, and I very much sympathise with the idea of strengthening the panel. Nobody has tried harder during the Committee stage of this Bill than I have, with the assistance of the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, to strengthen the function of the panel. I have put five amendments to that effect. Thus far, the Government have not been minded to strengthen the panel, for a very clear reason. They feel that the only role of the panel is to scrutinise the commissioner and that the panel should be able to scrutinise the commissioner only on very specific areas. Thus far, I have to say that I do not believe that that constitutes strict checks and balances, which is a different issue. None the less, if I was confident that at Report the Government would change their views and accept some of the amendments that I have down later for strengthening the panels, I would feel differently. But I cannot say to the Minister that I have that confidence at the moment, because of the very strong line that the Minister has taken. The issue is the relationship of the panel to the commissioner. If the Government maintain their attitude on that issue then this is the only other mechanism to accomplish what I was trying to do with the panels.
I wanted to raise one slight point with my noble friend Lord Harris, which I asked him about very early on when he was putting together his ideas. Is it an either/or situation? Is there any way in which some or all of the independents who we have been talking about, and who we all value so highly for their expertise, could also serve on the panel? Perhaps he could say in due course whether it is an either/or situation, because I am not absolutely convinced that it needs to be.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath (Labour)
My Lords, this has been an interesting and, I believe, an important debate. My noble friend Lord Harris, in what I thought was a powerful introduction, pointed out the huge power and authority that is being given to an elected police and crime commissioner if the Commons decides to send this back to your Lordships' House in its original construct. I noted the comments on that of the noble Lord, Lord Howard, but when he referred back to his legislation of 20 years ago, I think he also referred to a number of ping-pongs. That is a salutary reminder to your Lordships' House that if we do not think that the House of Commons has thought sufficiently, we can send the Bill back to give it a bit more time to reflect-but we will come to that in a few months' time, no doubt.
The issue of governance is very important. My noble friend was right to point out that we are giving huge responsibility to police and crime commissioners, if that is the final outcome of the Bill. The need for some way in which the individual can be allowed to test out their ideas and have them challenged as my noble friend describes seems an important issue. We know that when individuals are given great power, sometimes they abuse it. We are talking about a considerable number of police forces. It is inconceivable that we will not have one or two persons who are unsuitable but who are elected to those positions. Earlier, we were referred to a number of local authorities where mayors have been elected. I would say that the experience of elected mayors has been mixed. Some have been outstanding, but there have been one or two who ought not to have been elected and great problems have been caused there. I think of them when it comes to the issue of governance around police and crime commissioners.
Other noble Lords have pointed out that the Government do not seem to speak with consistency in these matters. Earlier this week, as the noble Lord, Lord Condon, pointed out, we had the change in governance relating to the MoD. My own area of knowledge is in the National Health Service: I declare an interest as chairman of the Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust and as a trainer consultant in the NHS. The NHS Bill had gone through most of its stages in the Commons when the Government instituted a pause and, only 10 days or so ago, announced the results of it. One of them was to strengthen governance within clinical commissioning groups. Originally, they were going to be GP consortia and a few GPs were going to sit round the table deciding how to spend £80 billion of public money. The result of the listening exercise has been that they are now going to be called clinical commissioning groups, because there has been recognition that you cannot just give that huge power to a few individual GPs.
We are now going to have two lay people appointed to those commissioning groups: a nurse and a consultant from outside the area. Why outside the area? It is because there is recognition that there might be a conflict of interest if a hospital consultant in the catchment area of the commissioning group were to be appointed. As a result of the listening exercise, what has happened is that a much stronger corporate governance structure is being put into place. What I do not understand is why the Home Office seems oblivious to what other departments are doing in relation to legislation or, for instance, to the changes in defence. It is difficult to see where there is any consistency of purpose.
I listened with great interest to the noble Lord, Lord Wasserman, who has not spoken much in these debates, alas. He talked about the fiduciary duty on non-executive directors. However, we are talking about public bodies. I say to him that within the public sector, a duty in relation to the finances of the organisation is part of the role of non-executives. However, in the NHS there is a duty in relation to quality, a duty in relation to safety and risk, and a duty in relation to exercising overall judgment and supporting the executive directors and chief executive in the performance of their duties. That ought also to apply to the police and crime commissioners.
The noble Lord then raised several interesting practical points about the amendments that we are debating. I should have thought that they could have been dealt with either by model Standing Orders or by the Government tabling a tidying-up amendment at Third Reading if one of these amendments is successful. It would be entirely appropriate and proper for the Government to do that. The puzzle is that the party opposite, as I said in Committee, has a very good record in supporting and strengthening corporate governance. My noble friend mentioned the Cadbury report and he was absolutely right to do so.
The noble Lord, Lord Howard, suggested-several noble Lords have commented on this-that we need not worry about the police and crime commissioner exercising so much power because we have the panels. The problem with the panels is that they have no teeth. They have only two vetoes. One is over the appointment of a chief constable; the other is over the setting of the precept. As the Bill stands, 75 per cent of the members of the panel are required to exercise the veto. That will come down to two-thirds. However, that is still a tough threshold to reach and relates to only two aspects of the performance of the PCC.
In the absence of any indication that the Government will accept the amendments that my noble friends, particularly my noble friend Lady Henig, have tabled, we are right to support this amendment. I have no doubt that my noble friend Lord Harris of Haringey will wish to comment on the respective merits of his amendments and those of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. Certainly, if the noble Baroness presses her amendments to a vote, I would have no hesitation in supporting her.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire (Whip, House of Lords; Liberal Democrat)
My Lords, we all recognise the importance of quality of governance for any new arrangements to oversee policing. Quality of governance is very much at the heart of all that we are concerned about. Part of what we are discussing is what we mean by the continuing process of scrutiny and the extent to which an overall package provides us with checks and balances that those responsible for holding the police to account are aware of every day. I respectfully suggest that noble Lords opposite underestimate how far the Government have shifted on the role of police and crime panels. That is the direction of travel in which we are increasing responsibility.
We recognise that police and crime panels will work with, as well as check, police and crime commissioners, and that police and crime commissioners will have to work with their panels. That is the model. Nothing in the Bill prevents a police and crime commissioner or MOPC forming a non-executive board. We see the PCC and the Mayor of London appointing a chief executive and a chief finance officer who will, first, have professional qualifications and backgrounds; secondly, be governed by the Nolan principles; and thirdly, themselves be subject to confirmation hearings by the PCP. That is the direction in which we have shifted. It will be open for a police and crime commissioner to consult more widely for professional advice. The question is: how much detail do we want in the Bill about what sort of professional advice he or she should consult?
We have moved away from what the noble Lord, Lord Condon, described as "a doctrinaire position" of individual election and personal accountability and responsibility. The direction in which we have moved is towards stronger PCPs and a relationship between the PCP and the PCC that will have to be a continuing one of mutual confidence. We hesitate to insist on to some extent duplicating that relationship by writing into the Bill the necessity of having, in addition to this, a non-executive board.
We all recognise that we are talking about the risk of mavericks or irresponsible populists being elected. I know and respect the Mayor of Watford, who is an excellent elected mayor. There are several such mayors. However, I travel past Doncaster twice a week and am well aware of the issues that are at the back of people's minds.
It is the Government's aspiration that in cases where relations break down, the PCP will step in at that point. It will have the role of reviewing or scrutinising every decision of the police and crime commissioner. In particular, it will have a right of veto over the precept and the appointment of the chief constable. It will have a say in the police and crime commissioner's appointment of senior staff by holding confirmation hearings. It will play a significant part in the complaints procedure around the police and crime commissioner, and it will hold the police and crime commissioner to account for his or her role in the complaints procedure of the force. Therefore, we have strengthened the position of the PCP.
We look to a model in which the PCC and the PCP will work together and the police and crime commissioner will take the police and crime panel into his or her confidence. The panels have been enlarged and have the ability to appoint independent members in addition to local authority representatives. That answers the question of providing governance in the round. I suggest that the House is now underplaying the concessions that the Government have made and the consequent role of the police and crime panel. We have listened and we share the concerns that have been expressed around the House from a range of positions. However, we are not persuaded that we should put in the Bill any further mandatory requirements from the centre, or seek to constrain the police and crime commissioner, when there is a proportionate degree of advice, guidance and scrutiny that is accountable to the public already built into the system. Having, I hope, provided reassurance on these issues, I respectfully request that the noble Lord withdraw his amendment.
Lord Harris of Haringey (Labour)
My Lords, I am enormously grateful to those noble Lords who have contributed to this short debate, which has been extremely interesting and powerful. I am particularly grateful to the trio of former Commissioners of Police of the Metropolis who, in varying degrees, lent support to my amendment. I am also grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Howard of Lympne, for reminding me of our many productive-or nearly productive-discussions in the past on all sorts of other matters.
I do not claim that this amendment is perfect. I suspect that the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, accepts that her amendment is not perfect. She said that it talks about consulting PCCs. One of the dangers is that by the time PCCs are in a position to be consulted they may well already have taken a whole series of decisions around good governance. I suspect that if your Lordships were to support any of the amendments in this group we would need to revisit those amendments at Third Reading or when the Bill comes back from the Commons, but the important point is the principles that have been raised.
The key issue that has been highlighted as an argument for not proceeding with this measure concerns the changes that are being made to police and crime panels. I have listened to the noble Baroness, Lady Browning, say that the Government are listening. However, the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, then stands up, says that he has listened but then describes exactly what changes are being made. What changes are being made to PCPs? We have moved from a threshold of three-quarters having to vote on an issue to a threshold of two-thirds. During my four years on the London Assembly, and in the succeeding seven years, I do not think there has been a single occasion when the London Assembly has achieved the two-thirds threshold needed to do anything about the mayor's budget, so two-thirds is a high threshold. The threshold has been lowered from a monumentally high one to a high one. That is a very big concession for which your Lordships will, of course, be grateful.
The noble Lord, Lord Wallace, talked about the direction of travel, working with people as well as checking them and the introduction of confirmation hearings for a small group of officials. That is all very positive stuff but it does not constitute significant movement in this area. There are two principal problems with PCPs as regards providing a structure of robust governance. First, they will by and large exercise that role after the event. Where there is a need to improve governance it is important to have intervention in advance of those decisions being made, which is where non-executive boards could come in. The second problem, which I do not think has been mentioned so far, is the nature of PCPs. They will still be essentially highly party-political bodies. They will be made up either of the direct political opponents of the PCC or of people from the PCC's own party, who are often the sternest and most difficult critics, as many elected and former elected politicians will testify. They will constitute a political forum in which these decisions will be batted backwards and forwards, not a forum where robust governance can be implemented.
We had a flight of fancy from the noble Lord, Lord Wasserman, regarding where all this might lead. He referred to conferences and associations and complained that the amendment was too prescriptive because it says that there should be between four and seven members on a non-executive board. However, he then complained that all sorts of things were not included, so in fact he was arguing that it was both too prescriptive and not prescriptive enough. I do not think that that flight of fancy is terribly helpful to us. However, if the noble Lord was prepared to come forward with the precise balance of words which would be prescriptive enough but not too prescriptive, I am sure that we would all be very grateful and very pleased to receive it.
Do we want proper governance around these individuals, who will have very substantial personal mandates with all the authority and perhaps arrogance that that brings? Do we want a proper structure whereby the people who have elected them can see that they are carrying out their functions properly and appropriately? I am not satisfied with the Government's response. Therefore, I wish to test the opinion of the House.
Amendments 4 to 4B not moved.
Schedule 1 : Police and crime commissioners
Moved by Baroness Browning
5: Schedule 1, page 107, line 5, at end insert-
"( ) A police and crime commissioner must comply with paragraphs 7B to 7E in appointing the commissioner's chief executive or the commissioner's chief finance officer."
Baroness Browning (Conservative)
My Lords, I shall also speak to government Amendments 6, 60, 62 to 64, 66 to 68, 72, 110, 115, 133, 191, 293 and 303, which seek to set out new provisions on the appointment of chief executives, chief finance officers and deputy police and crime commissioners.
It is right that the panel is able to apply its scrutiny powers to any such appointment. It will be able to review a proposed appointment and hold a confirmation hearing in public. The panel will then have to produce a report that includes a recommendation as to whether or not the candidate should be appointed. The police and crime commissioner will have to respond to this recommendation.
In Committee, my noble friend Lord Shipley and the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, discussed the importance of the posts of chief executive and chief finance officer, and asked how they will be appointed. I hope that the amendment relating to this makes that clearer, but I shall say a little more. The two posts will be key to assisting the police and crime commissioner in the exercise of his or her functions, and will assure and monitor the propriety of the PCC's decisions in accordance with local government legislation. We therefore agree that transparency and ensuring that information is available publicly will be crucial in allowing the public to hold their police and crime commissioner to account. These new arrangements will open up the appointment process for these senior members of the police and crime commissioner's staff and allow full scrutiny throughout the process.
Noble Lords will note that the Government have tabled further amendments in relation to deputy police and crime commissioners. Their appointment will now also be subject to a confirmation hearing. The Bill does not require a PCC to appoint a deputy but, as currently drafted, permits it. I know that a number of Peers were concerned that the lack of provision for appointing a deputy police and crime commissioner meant that a PCC could appoint anyone. The Government have listened to those concerns and brought these amendments to meet them. The amendments would still not require a PCC to appoint a deputy but would provide a set process that, should it do so, must be followed. Most importantly, it means that any deputy appointed by a PCC would be subject to a confirmation hearing before the police and crime panel. Therefore, any concerns that the panel has can be made public and be put to that candidate.
Moreover, any deputy may serve only for as long as the PCC who appointed them is in office. Let me clarify what I mean by that. We have discussed and of course need to take account of the circumstances in which a PCC leaves office. That can be at the end of their term of office. Illness or accident might prevent them from concluding their period of office, thus triggering a by-election. The deputy would not be required to step down on the day a PCC was unable to complete or fulfil his or her term of appointment. Clearly, at the point at which a new PCC came to office, either at the end of a term or as a result of a by-election, the deputy's term of office would be aligned with that of the PCC who appointed them, so we would not suddenly be left overnight without a PCC or a deputy in an emergency.
Secondly, specific functions may be delegated only to a deputy, not to any other members of staff, so that clear lines of accountability are preserved. Because of that, specific disqualification criteria are set out to ensure propriety for the post. Thirdly, I know that many noble Lords have been concerned that requirements of political restriction would prevent a councillor from being appointed to the PCC's staff. The changes instead allow a councillor to be appointed as a deputy PCC if a PCC should want to do so. Finally, to ensure further propriety, a deputy PCC shall be subject to the same independent complaints process as the PCC, rather than simply to an internal process run by the PCC.
I hope, with the leave of the House, that I may address the points raised by other noble Lords who have tabled amendments in the group. I beg to move.
Baroness Henig (Labour)
My Lords, I have one amendment in the group, Amendment 228. Before I speak to it, I apologise in advance if I do not fully appreciate all the nuances of the amendments that the Government have laid. I was thinking about that in our debate on the previous amendment when the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, took us gently to task for not having appreciated how much the Government had moved on this. If the Government table amendments only the day before the debate, it makes it extremely difficult for those of us who, with the best will in the world, want to follow the changes, to do so in the short time available. As I said, I apologise if I have misunderstood some of the amendments. I have tried very hard to follow them, but it takes time for that knowledge to come across.
The amendment builds on the Government's welcome recognition that if we are to have commissioners covering very large areas-for example, 10,000 square kilometres or 2.3 million people-for 365 days a year, it is necessary for there to be a deputy. It is necessary just in case the individual does not have your Lordships' stamina, or even if the commissioner might like to have a holiday.
On a less happy note, although a standards regime for commissioners and panels has been noticeable by its absence from the Government's plans, a deputy should be enshrined within the Bill as one step towards ensuring probity and preserving public confidence. That should be one element. For example, what would happen if a commissioner had to make a decision about contracts or appointments but had a personal or prejudicial interest in the companies or individuals concerned? In such circumstances, it would seem essential that they could call on a trusted deputy who could maintain public trust and confidence in the institution of commissioner if the individual had to stand aside for whatever reason. I can see the rationale behind that, and I am pleased that the Government have listened, taken those arguments on board and come back with a firm proposal to insert the provision for a deputy into the Bill.
At the same time, I feel I have to point out that the Government's concept of the deputy and the job specification for it seem to me antithetical to the entire rationale for commissioners: that of democratic accountability. I listened earlier with great attention as the noble Lord, Lord Howard of Lympne, in his usual inimitable style, laid out the great advance that we are now making towards democratic accountability. I understand the arguments, so I would expect to proceed beyond the commissioner to the deputy commissioner.
It seems odd to me that, despite pushing on with this reform and spending more than more than £100 million on introducing that direct democratic accountability into the oversight of policing, the only thing that we have heard so far is that the deputy commissioner is likely to be unelected-although I just heard that political restrictions will not apply, so that person could be a councillor. I had not appreciated that until the noble Baroness pointed it out. It is now conceivable that the deputy could be elected, but also very possible that they would not. With this direct accountability and great change, it would seem more logical to me if the deputy was elected.
I would find it difficult to find any logic in an elected commissioner handing over, for whatever reason, the bulk of their portfolio powers over policing and precept to someone who was not elected and perhaps not identified with a political party. If there is a theme running through this reform, we need to bolster it.
The main aim of my amendment is to ensure that when a commissioner is unable to act, whether because of illness, legal issues or whatever, their role should be covered by an elected acting person drawn from the panel and not by an unelected officer. That is my main concern. In a way, that is separate from the question of the deputy. There can be a deputy who is unelected. I am mainly concerned that when the commissioner is not acting, that role should be undertaken by someone who is elected.
I have to remind the Minister that there was great strength of feeling on that point in Committee, to which the Government have not entirely responded. They have responded a little by saying that the deputy might be elected but that they do not have to be. It is the "do not have to be" that worries me. The deputy could remain the deputy, but I would not want a non-elected individual dealing with a precept, for example, or a whole range of sensitive political issues and public concerns for what could be a period of many weeks. That would be totally against the central objectives of the Bill. That is what I am trying to get at; when a commissioner, for whatever reason, stands aside, the acting commissioner should be someone who was elected.
Under my amendment, it would be an elected member of the panel. I can see that there being an elected deputy might meet my concerns, but I am very sensitive to arguments that the deputies, given how they will be appointed, might be seen as cronies or pals of the commissioner. We need to look at that a little more closely. I did not altogether understand how the commissioners would choose the deputies. There are clearly issues about that appointments process, with people being seen to merit their appointment and not, in a sense, being appointed through jobs for the boys, cronyism or whatever. Perhaps I am sensitive on this matter because of my gender-I do not know-but it is a point that I feel I need to raise.
That is the purpose of my amendment. As I said, I am very interested to hear what the Government have to say, because their amendments have cut across my thinking to some extent but probably not fully.
Lord Shipley (Liberal Democrat)
My Lords, I shall speak to Amendment 229, but it needs to be placed in the broader context of this group. The amendment relates to our view that a deputy should be a member of the panel and, in the context of that specific amendment, not a member of the commissioner's staff.
If one looks carefully at Amendment 60 in this group, one will see that it gives a commissioner the power to appoint a person as the deputy for that police area and also for that deputy,
"to exercise any function of the police and crime commissioner".
There is a very great difference between our view that the person appointed as the deputy should be from the panel and Amendment 60, which gives absolute power to the police and crime commissioner to appoint a deputy to exercise any function of the commissioner.
In Amendment 6 a number of restrictions then apply, most of them welcome. Proposed new paragraph 7A(4) is surprising. It tells us:
"Section 7 of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989 (appointment of staff on merit) does not apply to the deputy police and crime commissioner".
That is an unfortunate way of putting it because it relates to a statutory provision. However, should we not have deputies who are appointed on merit, as opposed to people who are not appointed on merit? Nevertheless, there is then a proposal in proposed new paragraphs 7B, 7C and onwards for the scrutiny of senior appointments, one of which is the deputy, the others the chief executive and chief finance officer, and there is a process for a hearing in public of the person whom the commissioner wishes to appoint as deputy. However, proposed new paragraph 7E says:
"The police and crime commissioner may accept or reject the panel's recommendation",
and sub-paragraph (2) of that paragraph states:
"The police and crime commissioner must notify the panel of the decision whether to accept or reject the recommendation".
In other words, a proposal is made to the panel and the panel will go through a process. It will comment and report in public, but the commissioner can turn down its view. Therefore, broadly speaking, we are now where we were before with absolute power being given to the commissioner. I have great reservations about that.
Proposed new subsection (2A) in Amendment 63 on page 15 of the Marshalled List says that the deputy police commissioner, having been appointed by the commissioner,
"may arrange for any other person to exercise any function of the police and crime commissioner which is, in accordance with subsection (A1)(b), exercisable by the deputy police and crime commissioner".
There are restrictions in the amendment largely on the functions that are prescribed. A number of key functions are restricted; nevertheless, a number of functions still exist for the deputy.
I come back to Amendment 229 in my name and that of my noble friend Lady Hamwee, which says that the deputy should be a member of the panel. That has the virtue of the deputy being a person who is elected. At least, I assume that they will be an elected member, as opposed to an independent co-opted member. Although they will not be a member directly from the panel, they will at least be a member elected to the local authority. I have a real concern about what is being proposed here. There may be a deputy whom the police commissioner can appoint. There may be significant objections by the panel to that appointment, but they can be overridden by the commissioner. The deputy, perhaps then in place, can do certain things but may never have been elected. I think that the amendment in my name and that of my noble friend Lady Hamwee is much better in that it makes it clear that the deputy should be a member of the panel.
This is all about checks and balances. I should like to read to your Lordships the coalition agreement on an elected police commissioner:
"We will introduce measures to make the police more accountable through oversight by a directly elected individual, who will be subject to strict checks and balances by locally elected representatives".
My view is that the first half of that has been dominating the debate around this Bill but the second half, which refers to strict checks and balances, is not currently being delivered as part of the Bill. There are a number of examples of that and one is as follows. There is now to be a power in the Bill, as amended, for a commissioner to appoint a deputy, potentially paying no regard to the views of the panel that will have scrutinised the appointment. That deputy will have a whole set of powers and may not be a member of the panel.
It seems that further work is necessary here before we get to Third Reading. I sincerely hope that the Minister will take on board some of the comments that have just been made by me and by the noble Baroness, Lady Henig. These are very real issues and, unless we address them, something somewhere will, in the course of time, go seriously wrong in one of our police areas.
Lord Harris of Haringey (Labour)
My Lords, I echo the remarks of my noble friend Lady Henig about how difficult it is to get our heads around some of these extremely complicated amendments in the very short time that we have had to look at them. I have a series of questions, which I am sure Ministers will be able to answer in the detail that I expect. However, I suspect that it will demonstrate that quite a lot of further work still needs to be done on the amendments put forward today and on the other proposals. I repeat what I said earlier, which may have appeared frivolous, about the advantage of Third Reading being in September: there is still an awful lot of work for Home Office officials to do to get some of the details of the Bill right. That is the case whether or not one agrees with the general direction of travel or whether one agrees about where we are going to end up. Some of the mechanics of the Bill are going to fall apart unless this detailed work is done.
My questions relate, first, to the mammoth extension of powers for the PCPs, which enable them to have approval hearings of the chief executive, the PCC's office, the chief financial officer and any deputy appointed. That, I am sure, is helpful. I have no problems with it as a principle and I think that it is good governance and useful. However, what I am not clear about-it may be here and I have just not found it, or it may not be here and has not been thought about, or it may have been thought about and is being rejected, but it would be useful to know-is what the role of the PCP will be in circumstances in which the PCC removes or dismisses the chief executive or the chief financial officer, or indeed a deputy. There is a more difficult point in this. One of the concerns is that newly elected PCCs may decide to dispense with the services of chief executives and chief financial officers. In those circumstances, what is the role of PCPs? I cannot find it, but it may be here. No doubt the Minister will enlighten us on that point.
I assume that there are more government amendments to come, but we do not know. I had understood that there had been considerable discussions about the transfer schemes of staff from police authorities to police services, to chief officers of police and/or to PCCs. I had understood that there had been an acceptance that it might be necessary to have a two-stage process, simply because of the detailed work that needs to be done and simply because of the importance of enabling the newly elected PCCs, if that is what we end up with, as I suspect we might, to see how that will work, and giving them the opportunity of influencing that decision rather than having the outgoing police authorities determining which staff are transferred under what conditions. Such an amendment may be here and I have just missed it, but I am not clear that there is an amendment yet which specifies how that two-stage process will work.
In any event, I think we are in some difficulties because Amendments 67 and 86 prevent PCCs or the MOPC or deputy PCCs-if that is what we get-and the deputy mayor for policing and crime, arranging for a member of staff from a police force to exercise any of its functions. I understand that the reasoning behind that is that Ministers want to separate completely the functions and staffing of forces and elected local policing bodies. That may be a perfectly good and sensible principle, but disentangling what existing staff, who are currently employed by police authorities and who are under the direction and control of chief officers of police, which is the current situation, provide what function, particularly in the absence of a two-stage transfer process, will be a very large piece of work.
Currently, for example, the Metropolitan Police Authority delegates functions to the commissioner through the scheme of delegation. The commissioner has overall management responsibility for a large number of staff who are under his direction and control, although technically they are MPA employees. Under the first phase of the proposed two-phase transfer scheme, staff who are currently police authority employees, but under the direction and control of the commissioner, will transfer to the PCC or the MOPC, but will no longer be under the direction and control of the commissioner and chief constable. The legislation will allow the PCC and the MOPC to delegate to those staff who had previously been under the direction and control of the commissioner; however, as the MOPC and PCC and their deputies would not now be able to delegate to the commissioner and chief constable, it would appear that the current arrangements, whereby the police authority can delegate these functions, would no longer be lawful. Therefore, current delegations would need to be changed with the consequence that you would have very large numbers of staff, particularly in the areas of finance, property, communications, procurement and legal, for whom you will now have to decide whether they spend all their time working for the new structure under the PCC and the MOPC or working for the chief officer of police. Those are quite complicated decisions because at the moment they often split their time; some bits of work are very much police authority functions and some bits are very much for the chief officer of police.
Under these two amendments you are essentially saying that it is unlawful to delegate those functions to such people, so a hard-and-fast set of decisions will have to be made for each individual about which side of the fence they are on and the Government wish all that to happen by May of next year, or possibly earlier in London. A two-stage system of delegation is needed to allow all those details to be sorted out and to allow the newly elected PCCs to have some influence over what staffing and support structures they will want. At the moment, in the absence of a government amendment on that-unless it is there and I just cannot find it-the Government are making that unlawful. I am sure that that is not their intention and I hope that the Minister will reassure me that I have completely misinterpreted what this means or perhaps give me some assurance that she will come back at Third Reading. I suspect she may need more than three weeks to sort this out.
Lord Beecham (Labour)
My Lords, I preface my remarks with an apology to the Minister and to the House if, in the very limited time that has been available to us to try to understand and assimilate the thrust of the amendments tabled yesterday, I have been unable fully to appreciate what the drafting has led us to in terms of the substantive changes that the amendments seek to make. I entirely concur with the concerns raised by the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, in relation to Amendment 63-particularly in new subsection (2A) of that amendment-which allows the deputy police and crime commissioner to arrange for any other person, without any qualification, to exercise any function of the police and crime commissioner which, in turn, the deputy police and crime commissioner could carry out. That seems to be an extraordinarily wide power to delegate to whomever the deputy pleases, bearing in mind that under Amendment 72 the deputy police and crime commissioner is to be a member of the police and crime commissioner's staff. We have an appointed staff member with a capacity to appoint anyone else to exercise functions which he would delegate to or select for that person. That seems to go very wide indeed and much wider than one would normally anticipate in the context of an organisation of this kind.
Furthermore, the effect of paragraph (c) of Amendment 63, which amends Clause 19, seems to me to allow the deputy commissioner to determine police and crime objectives-Clause 19(4)(b)-or to prepare an annual report to a police and crime panel, although admittedly it does not allow him to make decisions relating to issuing a police and crime plan, nor the appointment of a chief constable-hardly surprisingly-nor calculating the budget requirement. That seems to be a very wide power to confer on a deputy. As I understand it, these are not provisions that would apply only in the absence of a police and crime commissioner for any reason-suspension, incapacity or something of that kind-but these are powers at large. I do not understand why such sweeping powers should be conferred on anyone, particularly someone who does not have any kind of electoral mandate, either by virtue of direct election, as in the case of a commissioner, or by virtue of being an elected council member who serves as a member of the panel. It seems to me to be much too broad a power to offer to someone occupying the kind of position that presumably would be encompassed by these amendments.
Like the matters to which my noble friend Lord Harris and others have referred, I wonder whether these should not be re-examined with a good deal more care and perhaps more time so that we can get this right. It seems to me that we are conferring very wide powers without qualification on people whom we have no idea will be able to fulfil the jobs and with a very wide discretion available to them.
Lord Rosser (Labour)
My Lords, I am in much the same position as most, if not all, the previous speakers, having had very little time to assimilate the significance of the amendments which the Government have submitted at a very late stage indeed. However, I wish to associate myself with the views that have been expressed by my noble friends Lady Henig, Lord Harris of Haringey and Lord Beecham and with much of what the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, said and the concerns that he, too, raised in relation to the lack of clarity in some of the amendments that are before us.
I do not intend to go over all the points that have already been made, but one thing I am not entirely clear on is whether in the amendments we have it is the Government's intention to delete Clause 63(2) which states:
"The police and crime panel may appoint a person as acting commissioner only if the person is a member of the police and crime commissioner's staff at the time of the appointment".
I am not clear whether the amendments the Government are now putting forward in relation to the deputy are over and above Clause 63(2) or whether in some way or other they, in the Government's view, overtake the need for Clause 63(2). One of the concerns that were raised in Committee was over the proposal that an acting commissioner would be a member of the commissioner's staff. It would be very helpful if the Minister could clarify that point when she replies.
Perhaps the Government could also say something about how they see the role of the deputy. That is by no means clear from the amendment. It states:
"A police and crime commissioner must notify the relevant police and crime panel of each proposed appointment by the commissioner of ... the commissioner's chief executive ... the commissioner's chief finance officer, or ... a deputy police and crime commissioner".
Is it the Government's intention that if the police and crime commissioner intends to make such an appointment, we are talking about a full-time post? If we are, what are the role and responsibilities of that post going to be, other than deputising for the police and crime commissioner? Or is it a scenario where the police and crime commissioner says, "Well, I'm going to appoint a deputy police and crime commissioner, and it will be my chief finance officer."? Is that allowed under the terms of this amendment or are they three distinct and separate posts? Can all three of those posts be held by one individual? Can one individual hold more than a single position? It would be very helpful if that could be clarified. Clearly, if a deputy police and crime commissioner could also be the commissioner's chief finance officer, then we are back in the situation that was raised before over the fact that under Clause 63(2) an acting commissioner has to be a member of the police and crime commissioner's staff, which is why I ask whether Clause 63(2) still stands. As has already been said, although there certainly is a process of confirmation hearings, and they will be in public, at the end of the day, the police and crime commissioner can decide to go his or her own way if they do not like the views expressed to them by the panel.
Our view is that a position as an acting commissioner or deputy commissioner, whatever you wish to call it, should be in circumstances where the police and crime commissioner cannot do their job any longer, for whatever reason. The appointment should be made by the police and crime panel, and it should be an appointment from within the ranks of the police and crime panel for a very clear and fixed period.
I await the Minister's response to the concerns that have been raised because, subject to what the Minister says in reply, it appears as though the deputy police and crime commissioner, who could simply be the commissioner's chief finance officer or the chief executive, need not be an elected person and yet will seem to have very considerable powers of delegation.
I conclude on those points. It is largely a series of questions. I have certainly indicated our view on the appointment of an acting commissioner. It is, in fact, covered by an amendment that will be dealt with later on, but it is one of the difficulties of considering what appears to be a quite significant change by the Government in relation to amendments that were effectively put down only yesterday when we were already on Report on the Bill.
Baroness Browning (Conservative)
My Lords, I apologised to the House earlier, and I appreciate that it has caused inconvenience, not least to the government Front Bench. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, has accepted my apology. It was genuinely meant.
Lord Rosser (Labour)
I certainly accept the apology. I have no intention of seeking to imply that I do not, but I am just reiterating. I know that the Minister knows the difficulties that have been caused.
Baroness Browning (Conservative)
I am grateful to the noble Lord. I shall pick up some of the points just raised before giving a fuller explanation. The appointment, suspension or dismissal of a chief constable, which was raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, cannot be carried out by the deputy; nor can setting the precept, which the noble Baroness specifically asked about. There are proscriptions on what the deputy can do and the delegation of powers to a deputy would be subject to paragraph (b) in Amendment 63. Such powers would be restricted. However, I want to make it absolutely clear that the PCC has ultimate responsibility for whatever he or she delegates to the deputy. Whatever decisions are made in the areas where the deputy is able to act, the PCC is the person who will be answerable. There is no question that the PCC's responsibility and accountability to the police and crime panel, and ultimately to the general public who elected him or her, is in any way reduced by delegating specific functions or authority to the deputy.
Several questions have been asked. I shall pick up the point which the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, raised about whether the deputy can be a member of the PCC's staff. As a member of staff, when the deputy exercises a power he or she does so in the name of the PCC. As the PCC will, as I said, retain ultimate responsibility for it, wide powers are being conferred on the deputy. The deputy will be regarded as a member of the PCC's staff for that purpose, so the checks and balances will apply as much to him or her, as a member of the PCC's staff, as to anyone else carrying out a function within that office.
Lord Beecham (Labour)
Does that mean that the person appointed will already be a member of the PCC's staff; or that if he comes from outside and was not already a member of staff, his appointment will make him one? There are two different positions there.
Baroness Browning (Conservative)
My Lords, I will have to clarify that and come back to the noble Lord. However, an example was given a short while ago in our debate about chief executives. Certain members of staff within the PCC's office are politically confined in what they can do and should be politically neutral. The recruitment procedure should ensure not only their political neutrality while holding the post but that their neutrality is considered before their appointment. The Nolan rules would apply to the key appointments in the Bill. I hope that the noble Lord will not mind if I come back to him with a more detailed structure, because there is a lot of detail around it.
The noble Lord, Lord Harris, raised several issues. I have to put it this way: I think he was being rather naughty tonight-engagingly naughty as always but naughty none the less. He asked me a lot of questions, particularly about transition. It is an important issue, but I am quite sure that as a member of the MPA the noble Lord knows what the situation is because there have been formal consultations and discussions about the transition period. He is shaking his head. I apologise if he has not been party to this information but it is generally known-and one or two people in the Chamber are smiling-that as part of these discussions the Government are planning to lay an amendment next week to give effect to the transfer scheme that has been formally discussed and made known to the MPA. That is why I thought he was being a little bit naughty.
Lord Harris of Haringey (Labour)
I am always happy to be called naughty by the noble Baroness. However, I do not think that there have been any discussions with the MPA, or indeed the APA or APACE, about the details of the amendments tabled today. This is a very real problem that I hope the Minister is able to say something about, because the text of the amendment that the Government intend to lay next week has been shared, and I suspect that the reason it will be laid next week is that the text is not yet finalised-otherwise no doubt the Minister would have laid it with this batch of amendments.
Baroness Browning (Conservative)
That is quite true but we want to get this right. This is an important issue. I apologise that I am not able to discuss it in detail today but it has been the subject of a great deal of consultation, not least with the MPA, and we want to make absolutely sure that we get it right. I will come on to that later.
As I mentioned earlier, the amendments in this grouping have come about as a result of consultation and, of course, in Committee, where several noble Lords raised some significant issues around this area, not least my noble friends Lord Shipley and Baroness Hamwee. For example, they were concerned that the mayor could appoint a non-Assembly Member to be a deputy mayor, which would have cut across the democratic principles that the Bill seeks to establish. The Bill allows the Mayor of London, operating through the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime, to delegate the day-to-day handling of policing governance to a deputy. However, in accordance with general legal principles, the mayor will not be able to pass on the responsibility for any delegated work. As I have just explained, PCCs will still hold that responsibility, whatever they delegate. I accept that this is a new governance model but it is essential that the mayor is always held responsible for the way that his or her functions are carried out.
Clause 20 establishes that the selection must be made in line with existing provisions for mayoral appointments. Further essential details, such as the eligibility criteria and terms and conditions for the post, are set out in Schedule 3 to the Bill. I should explain that in the initial draft of this Bill some particularly crucial functions could not be delegated to the deputy mayor for policing and crime, or anyone else, such as issuing a police and crime plan, preparing an annual report on policing, attending meetings on the police and crime panel, and representations on appointment of the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. However, the committee in the House of Commons agreed to remove the barriers to the deputy mayor for policing and crime determining policing objectives, preparing an annual report and attending the police and crime panel on the mayor's behalf. I would urge noble Lords to respect the decision of the other place in this matter, particularly given what I have already said regarding the ultimate legal and democratic responsibility of the mayor in these matters.
The question of the deputy mayor not being a Member of the Assembly was raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, in Committee. The safeguard of a binding confirmation hearing will ensure that the Assembly is content with any non-Member appointee to the position of deputy mayor for policing and crime. That will mean that if the mayor puts forward somebody who is not a Member of the Assembly, the Assembly committee will have the opportunity to make a binding decision confirmation at that hearing. I am content that the right balance has been struck here, and I was particularly struck, not just in Committee but in subsequent meetings, about the very real concern that people had about allowing somebody totally inappropriate within that category to be appointed as deputy mayor. I hope that Members across the House are reassured that we have addressed that particular problem.
I will now discuss those amendments which address the role and appointment of an acting PCC. The amendments tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, and my noble friend Baroness Hamwee to secure the appointment of an acting PCC from the panel rather than the PCC staff are also captured in this debate. The government amendments in this group do not affect our provisions for the appointment of an acting PCC. Therefore, irrespective of the appointment of a deputy PCC, were the incumbent PCC to be incapacitated and unable to undertake their statutory duties and functions, it will remain the case that the acting PCC must be drawn from the PCC's staff. I hope that we have gone some way in this area to meeting some of the concerns that were raised in Committee. The Government believe that we have got that balance right, and therefore I hope that noble Lords who have tabled amendments in this grouping will feel able to withdraw them.
Lord Beecham (Labour)
In the circumstances just outlined by the noble Baroness, there might be a deputy commissioner who would not be eligible to be appointed acting commissioner. However, if the deputy commissioner is a senior member of staff, is it possible that an acting commissioner might be appointed who might be junior in status to that deputy? Would that not create an extremely anomalous position?
Baroness Browning (Conservative)
I have said that I will write to the noble Lord on this whole question of staff. Clearly there are different categories of staff and I would like to take some advice on those before I give him a definitive reply. I promise to write to him very quickly on that matter. The point was raised particularly about chief finance officers but, as I have mentioned, they are appointed on merit and are politically restricted. I will look at other categories of staff that he has just raised.
Lord Harris of Haringey (Labour)
I do not think that the noble Baroness responded to my points about whether PCPs would have a role in the dismissal or removal of chief executives or chief financial officers.
Baroness Browning (Conservative)
No, PCPs will not be part of that but of course the new amendment gives them an opportunity to be part of a confirmation process for those appointments. If for some reason the PCC decided to part with the services of the chief finance officer or the chief executive, that PCC would still be accountable to the panel for the reasons why they had done so. There is still that link of accountability, they are answerable to the panel, and if the panel was concerned about the circumstances around that I would expect it to call a scrutiny hearing to find out what had happened and why. I suspect that it would be pretty alert if there was a really serious problem brewing as a result of that.
Lord Rosser (Labour)
Will the noble Baroness confirm that under proposed new paragraph 7B(1) in Amendment 6-it states that the police and crime commissioner must notify the panel of proposed appointments of the three posts of the chief executive, the chief finance officer and the deputy police and crime commissioner-the deputy police and crime commissioner can also be the commissioner's chief finance officer and that, although they are three positions, they do not have to be held by three separate people?
Baroness Browning (Conservative)
I believe that the noble Lord asked me whether the deputy chief and crime commissioner could also be the finance officer. No, he cannot because the finance officer position is politically restricted and a person could not do both jobs.
Baroness Henig (Labour)
As regards my amendment, I remain puzzled that the Government have not seen fit to move in this area. When this matter was discussed in Committee, a large number of reasons were put forward by Members on all sides of the House as to why it was a bad idea for an acting commissioner to be an unelected member of staff. I do not think that we heard any convincing reason-I cannot remember one anyway-as to why a member of staff should be asked to act up in this way for what could be a period of months. This is an obvious area where a concession could have been made with little difficulty but I am surprised that it has not been. I reserve the right to come back to my amendment at the relevant point.
Amendment 5 agreed.
Amendment 6 agreed.
Moved by Baroness Henig
7: Schedule 1, page 107, line 24, at end insert-
"7A A police and crime commissioner must abide by regulations made by the Secretary of State in respect of the appointment of persons to paid office or employment and the dismissal of persons holding such office or employment and the taking of other disciplinary action against such persons."
Baroness Henig (Labour)
I will try to squeeze Amendment 7 in before the dinner break; I have on occasion been caught quite badly in this situation but I hope that this is a relatively short amendment. This important amendment relates to a commissioner's senior staff. All of us have said that commissioners will need to be supported by an effective team of staff to be effective; that is, a chief executive and a chief finance officer. These posts carry statutory responsibilities, which are the same as in local authorities. The chief executive will also have the role and duties of monitoring officer.
Clearly, these duties are very important. In the case of the monitoring officer, it is a duty which applies if any proposal, decision or omission by the commissioner appears by the officeholder to be a contravention of any enactment, rule of law or code of practice made or approved by or under any enactment. Therefore, an officeholder might have to tell the commissioner that there is a problem and seek to persuade him to take a different approach. In extremis, the duty would require the post holder to report in public on a failure to follow that advice.
This does not happen often and I would not want to pretend that it did. Most politicians do not attempt to break the law and certainly do not attempt to pursue a specific course of action when they have been told that it is illegal. However, these things have happened in the past with elected mayors, and elected commissioners in some ways are an extension of elected mayors. It has to be said that the experience of recently elected mayors is not all tremendously positive. I believe that the Minister, who has passed Doncaster several times on his travels, alluded to one area where there have been difficulties. Therefore, it is important that the arrangements put in place through this Bill are sufficiently robust to deal with such a situation because we know that there will be problems. We can anticipate that there will be problems and, therefore, we need to plan for that.
In local government, the duties which apply to the head of paid service, the monitoring officer and the chief finance officer are backed up with a statutory framework to prevent their dismissal on a whim by a politician. The framework in a mayoral authority is that the mayor raises concerns of a disciplinary nature and a politically balanced panel considers whether there is a case for action. If the panel decides that there is a case, an independent person investigates and disciplinary action in line with the recommendations of the independent person takes place.
Therefore, a conversation which starts, "I'm afraid you can't do that, commissioner", could not end with "You're fired", because the officeholder could insist, under threat of legal injunction or judicial review, that the correct procedure is followed. Because in a local authority the head of paid service is protected and all other staff are employed by that person, the framework provides a measure of protection for all employees. My amendment mirrors Section 8 of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989, which is the statutory basis for the protection which applies in local government. It does not require that the framework in local government is mirrored precisely but it requires the Home Secretary to publish regulations and requires commissioners to follow them. It is therefore for Ministers to come forward with an approach to set a clear framework that needs to be followed.
I am anticipating that the Minister may say that chief executives and treasurers will be subject to the same protection as other employees; that the commissioner will be bound by the need to act reasonably, as are all public bodies; and that, therefore, the statutory protections to which I have referred do not add a lot more value and are unnecessary. My worry is that that would not fulfil the requirements for which I am looking because it would allow a commissioner to summarily dismiss someone and leave them to argue their case at an employment tribunal. The negative publicity of such a case could damage the commissioner, particularly if they do not intend to seek re-election. Again, that is an example of very limited checks and balances. Limited as they are, they could be undermined even further.
Those of us who have spent a long time in local government know the importance of good and honest advice from senior officers. I ask the question: would an elected commissioner listen to advice? Elected mayors have not always listened to the advice offered to them and, as a result, very serious situations have arisen. I do not believe that senior executives should be put in a position in which they could be summarily dismissed and then have to fight their corner at a subsequent employment tribunal. That is not right.
I am sure that these situations will arise. I am under no illusions. The sorts of people who will be elected as commissioners will be strong-minded and strong-willed individuals. Some of them might, dare I suggest, occasionally be a little pigheaded. I believe that they will always listen with wariness and will not always heed the advice that is given to them. When a senior executive says, "No commissioner, you can't do that", I do not have total confidence that the commissioner will accept that. I believe that senior staff will be vulnerable, which is the purpose of my amendment and why we should make sure that they have adequate legal protection.
I have listened carefully to the Minister, who said that the panel would certainly hear if the commissioner was going to dismiss a senior member of staff and might want to find out what was going on. I should like to know a bit more about the arrangements that she has in mind. I would like that arrangement not to be so loose and perhaps to have a bit more backing. For example, I think that, under one of the government amendments, the panel now needs to be consulted if the commissioner is considering dismissing the chief constable. I wonder whether it would be possible for them also to be involved if the chief executive or the treasurer were to be dismissed along the same lines. I am not looking for a very great change from the Government. I am looking for a step forward to recognise that these people could be vulnerable and to accept that they need a little more than the Government are preparing to give them at present. This is a serious issue.
Recent experience with mayors suggests that there will be some difficulties with directly elected commissioners. I believe that we need to think about those difficulties and do something for these senior staff. I do not think that it is fair to leave them to the whims of the commissioner. I beg to move.
Lord Rosser (Labour)
My Lords, I hope that the Government will accept these amendments, which as my noble friend Lady Henig has said are designed to ensure that, in respect of appointments, dismissals and the taking of disciplinary action, police and crime commissioners and the Mayor's Officer for Policing and Crime conform to laid-down standards to ensure openness and fairness in these key areas through abiding by regulations made by the Secretary of State. It would hardly be appropriate for there to be controversy over the practices and procedures adopted in relation to these crucial areas of management, since it would surely only detract from the trust and the confidence which it is vital that police and crime commissioners will need to establish with their forces and the public.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire (Whip, House of Lords; Liberal Democrat)
My Lords, I recognise the concern for good governance in the broadest sense that lies behind these new amendments tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, since the Committee stage to ensure that the PCC and the MOPC are bound by regulations set by the Secretary of State for managing the appointment and dismissal of staff, and how they should manage disciplinary action. The question of Doncaster has come up again. I can only add that for five years I was president of my party's Yorkshire region, so I have a long acquaintance with the problems of Doncaster. However, problems with local politics in Doncaster existed long before the experiment of an elected mayor, and unfortunately that move has not resolved those problems. But let us be clear that no magic answers lie in changing institutions in order to solve some of the underlying problems in local politics we face around Britain.
The noble Baroness is concerned with the worst case analysis of what might happen and would like to supply belt and braces for every possible way through it. What I have to say on behalf of the Government is that of course we recognise that it is necessary for a standard to be set for the conduct of the police and crime commissioner and the staff attached. The Home Secretary shares that view, and that is exactly why she will state in the protocol that she expects all parties to abide by the principles of public life set out by the Nolan committee and the core principles of the Good Governance Standard for Public Services. Furthermore, the protocol she will issue, drafts of which I know that some noble Lords have already seen, will apply to every police and crime commissioner and chief constable in England and Wales. The staff and chief constables of each force are expected to have regard to the principles and spirit of that document. The police and crime commissioner will be held to account for ensuring this by the police and crime panel and by the public.
As to setting out a regulated appointments, dismissal and disciplinary process, these matters are well established in employment law and we argue that it is not necessary to replicate in this Bill what already exists. The PCC will no doubt be held to account for the way in which staff are appointed by the PCP, including the steps it takes to ensure fairness and diversity. Further, the PCP will scrutinise appointments to the crucial statutory posts by means of a confirmation hearing, as we have already set out in another amendment. Accordingly, while these amendments are well grounded in the position they take, as the noble Baroness has already anticipated, to us they seem unnecessary. I therefore ask her to accept the assurances the Government are providing and hope that she will feel able to withdraw the amendment.
Baroness Henig (Labour)
I have listened carefully to the Minister's reply, but I must confess that I have not studied the protocol in great depth. I am reassured that if it covers this area-and since early this afternoon I think we have been given an assurance that there will be a mention of it on the face of the Bill-that will provide a basis for the provision of redress or assistance of some sort for senior executives who might feel that they are facing difficulties; let me put it that way. I also take heart from the reference to the police and crime panel. We are strengthening the panel incrementally and I believe that I can now see the circumstances where the panel would be able to find ways of asking the commissioner about difficulties with senior staff and perhaps being able to refer to difficult situations in order to get to the root of them. While I think there may be some ways around this, I am not totally satisfied. We could have dealt with this better, and I do not think that it would take that much to do so. However, I sense that I am not going to be able to persuade the Government to put more in the Bill. Having voiced my concerns and having been given a partial meeting towards what I am aiming at, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 7 withdrawn.
Consideration on Report adjourned until not before 8.35 pm.