Police Reform Bill [HL]

– in the House of Lords at 3:08 pm on 12th March 2002.

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Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Asylum and Immigration), Home Office, Minister (Home Office) (Asylum & Immigration) 3:08 pm, 12th March 2002

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now again resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Rooker.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES in the Chair.]

Clause 44 [Persons acting in an anti-social manner]:

Photo of Viscount Bridgeman Viscount Bridgeman Conservative

moved Amendment No. 270:

Page 38, line 28, after "orders))," insert "based on a complaint from any member of the public affected by the anti-social behaviour in question,"

Photo of Viscount Bridgeman Viscount Bridgeman Conservative

The amendment would restrict the power of a constable, when acting on a complaint about someone behaving in an anti-social manner, so that he could gain access only if a member of the public who was affected by the anti-social behaviour in question had complained. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Asylum and Immigration), Home Office, Minister (Home Office) (Asylum & Immigration)

The amendment looks seductive, but we all know that anti-social behaviour can take many forms, sometimes involving the neighbours, or children of neighbours, of the person who is getting the rough end of the stick. Many people might think that any upstanding citizen would complain about that, but I do not think that that is so, simply because when the perpetrators live close to the victims they can intimidate them and make sure that the complainant knows that they know that the complaint has been made.

If police officers were reliant on a complaint being made before they could exercise the power, that would severely limit its effectiveness. I freely admit that anti-social behaviour orders got off to a slow start but they are certainly moving ahead now. The changes proposed in the Bill, and in the amendments I shall bring forward later, will enable them to have a much wider effect. We must enable police officers to intervene where they believe that anti-social behaviour is causing, or is likely to cause, distress rather than solely when there is a complaint. Seductive as the amendment is, I hope that the noble Viscount will not press it.

Photo of Lord Dholakia Lord Dholakia Party Chair, Liberal Democrats

A large number of neighbourhood watch schemes exist across the country. From time to time many of them liaise closely with police forces. If the amendment is not accepted, I believe that they will be ruled out as regards effectively lodging a complaint of anti-social behaviour.

Photo of Lord Corbett of Castle Vale Lord Corbett of Castle Vale Labour

Circumstances arise, especially late at night but not only then, in which anti-social behaviour takes place within view of a constable. However, no member of the public may be about at the time to make a complaint. It would be totally unacceptable for the police to have in a sense both hands tied behind their back in those circumstances and to be unable to take the action expected of them to nip that anti-social behaviour in the bud.

Photo of Lord Borrie Lord Borrie Labour

It is a great pity that the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, did not expand on his remarks. I was struggling to get into the Chamber and was not in my place. Therefore, I ask the Committee's indulgence for intervening at this somewhat late stage. I had hoped that the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, would explain the amendment as the comments of my noble friend Lord Corbett, the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, and the Minister surely make clear that a victim, although being the most appropriate person to complain, often does not feel up to it or is too nervous. However, a police constable may have seen everything that happened. Why should not the matter be left at that instead of being confined in the way the amendment suggests?

Photo of Lord Renton Lord Renton Conservative

So far as I remember, the offence of behaving in an anti-social manner was introduced for the first time in our law by Section 1 of the 1998 Act. The question whether Clause 44 will operate as the Government hope must depend upon any interpretation that the courts have already given to Section 1 of the 1998 Act. Can the Minister give any indication of what has happened under that head?

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Asylum and Immigration), Home Office, Minister (Home Office) (Asylum & Immigration) 3:15 pm, 12th March 2002

I say to the noble Lord, Lord Renton, that in later amendments—their numbers escape me at the moment—the Government propose to extend anti-social behaviour orders across boundaries and make them travel with the person concerned. At that point I shall make a much more extensive speech about anti-social behaviour per se. So far, fewer than 500 such orders have been issued. They are becoming extremely successful, but I am aware from experience in my former constituency that they got off to a slow start.

Photo of Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate Labour

Does the Minister agree with me that the whole purpose of the anti-social behaviour order was to remove the difficulty of witnesses giving evidence in cases of anti-social behaviour? Anything that neuters that objective—as the amendment does—should not be proceeded with. Clearly, the police are independent witnesses, as it were. My understanding of the purpose of the anti-social behaviour order was that it should become easier to prosecute offenders without necessarily relying totally on the evidence of the people involved, for example, witnesses and the people living next door. The amendment seems to me to require those people to get involved again. In a sense it negates the whole purpose of the original anti-social behaviour order.

Photo of Lord Bradshaw Lord Bradshaw Liberal Democrat

That intervention is unhelpful. The greatest danger the police face is that witnesses will not be willing to come forward to support an anti-social behaviour order because they fear intimidation. If people were willing to give such information to a police officer, they would constitute valuable witnesses. They should be encouraged to come forward.

Photo of Viscount Bridgeman Viscount Bridgeman Conservative

I have been interested to hear the contributions. With the leave of the Committee, I wish to speak of our intention to oppose Clause 44 standing part of the Bill. I shall be interested to hear the Minister's comments on that. I understand that the measure we are discussing is a new departure and that hitherto decisions on behaviour of this kind have been taken by the courts rather than by constables. The measure puts a large onus on constables. I was interested to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, said about the necessity of, and the desirability for, witnesses to come forward wherever possible.

Photo of Lord Elton Lord Elton Conservative

I am slightly confused as to what we are doing. Amendment No. 270 and the Question that Clause 44 stand part of the Bill are not grouped. I imagine that we shall have a separate debate on the Question that Clause 44 stand part of the Bill. If we are rather surprisingly to roll the two matters together, some Members of the Committee may want to repeat or embellish what they have already said. However, I imagine that when the Minister has replied again, my noble friend will withdraw Amendment No. 270 and we shall then discuss the Question that Clause 44 stand part of the Bill. Am I right?

Photo of Viscount Bridgeman Viscount Bridgeman Conservative

That is correct. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Whether Clause 44 shall stand part of the Bill?

Photo of Viscount Bridgeman Viscount Bridgeman Conservative

I have already spoken briefly on this matter. It is our contention that this should be a matter for the courts rather than constables. I note that later the Minister will speak at length on anti-social behaviour. I shall be interested to hear his comments.

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Asylum and Immigration), Home Office, Minister (Home Office) (Asylum & Immigration)

It may be for the convenience of the Committee if I mention some points on Clause 44, but they are not the more substantive points I indicated to the noble Lord, Lord Renton. which will be discussed on Amendments Nos. 298A, B, C, D, E and F.

Clause 44 is included in the Bill as we know that anti-social behaviour blights lives and communities. We have already extended the range of tools to tackle such behaviour. There are new powers to curtail the activities of people who indulge in persistent anti-social behaviour. The courts have a wide range of sentences available.

Clause 44 is one of a number of provisions in the Bill for extending the armoury of powers to combat anti-social behaviour more effectively. The new power for a police officer to require a person acting in an anti-social manner to give his name and address will mirror the similar power to be afforded community support officers and accredited community safety officers. This will enable joint operations to be mounted by a mix of police officers, Specials and a designated or accredited person. The ability to ask for the name and address of a person believed to be acting in an anti-social manner—that is, in a manner that causes distress, harassment or alarm to one or more people—will enable them to identify the persons involved rather than relying on a visual identification. The fear of crime, which has been a thread throughout our debates in Committee, and the effects of anti-social behaviour can prevent witnesses coming forward, particularly if they have to live next door to the "yobs" who intimidate them with their aggressive behaviour. The ability to identify those youths has obvious benefits in addressing anti-social behaviour. The mere fact of a police constable requesting that information may be enough to disperse the group and snuff out the anti-social behaviour in the bud. That has not been done before and we are determined to reduce the incidence. The proposal involves a modest extension of our powers in respect of anti-social behaviour orders. I reiterate that the power will be available to constables and to community support officers, which we have already discussed.

Clause 44 agreed to.

Photo of Lord Marlesford Lord Marlesford Conservative

moved Amendment No. 270A:

After Clause 44, insert the following new clause—

"POWER TO SEARCH FOR FIREARMS

If a police constable has reason to believe that a person or persons in a particular area may be carrying firearms, he may arrange—

(a) for the area to be sealed off; and

(b) for the searching for firearms of any people or vehicles in that area, by whatever means he considers appropriate."

Photo of Lord Marlesford Lord Marlesford Conservative

My amendment has a very simple purpose. It is to assist the police to detect and remove guns before they are used. By "used" I do not mean before someone is shot; that, thank goodness, is still a very small part of gun crime, although the figures are rising in a most alarming manner. By "used" I mean before someone is threatened with a gun in a criminal act.

It is, of course, a probing amendment. I do not expect the Minister to leap up and say, "The amendment is exactly what we want and we shall include it in the Bill right away". Equally, I do not expect the Minister to say that there are already quite sufficient powers to stop and search and that the amendment is unnecessary. It is likely that the Home Office briefing, initially at least, will have been along those lines because the Home Office does not welcome outsiders' ideas on how to deal with crime. To Home Office officials, Members of Parliament are just as much outsiders as any other interfering member of the public. But I hope that the Minister is made of sterner stuff than that. There are of course powers to stop and search if a police officer thinks that someone may be carrying a firearm, but that is not what my amendment is about.

My amendment would do two things. First, it would send a message that the Government are deadly serious about the criminal use of firearms and that they are determined to take any action that will reduce it by making the possession of a gun—real or replica—on the streets a very risky undertaking for the person carrying the gun. Secondly, when and where there is reason to think that someone in a particular area may be carrying a firearm, the amendment would give the police the power to seal off the area and make a rapid scan. The area might be a street, part of a street, a club, a cinema or a platform or some other part of a station; in other words, any public place to which the public are admitted. I recognise that the amendment's wording in that and other respects is probably imperfect. However, I hope that its suggestion receives serious consideration.

In the case of pedestrians, the use of hand-held metal detectors would be an obvious, largely foolproof and uninvasive method of detection. The searching of cars would obviously be harder and might be less effective. I also recognise that when those carrying guns become aware of a police operation, they may seek to dump the guns. That, in many cases, should enable the police to recover the guns, which, after all, is the primary object of the exercise.

The use of the powers would take time to develop. Although my amendment refers to "a police constable", the decision to seal and search would in practice almost certainly be taken at a much more senior level. All of that would be for chief officers to develop in their own areas. In due course, the techniques would be honed towards perfection for particular areas and problems. I am confident that police authorities would use their imagination, initiative and intelligence to develop the effective use of the power that my amendment would give them.

We also have to take into account the recent announcement by the Home Secretary about new police procedures to record stop and search. The only way in which that could be effective in practical terms would be for some people to have some form of machine-readable identity documents. The serious and growing threat to our inner cities from gun crime now requires dramatic action to get the guns and to reassure a very worried public.

There can be no greater testimony to the seriousness of the problem than that given by the Labour Member of Parliament for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington, Ms Diane Abbott. Less than two weeks ago—on 28th February—she secured an Adjournment debate on gun crime. If I may, I should like to quote a little of her speech. She said,

"gun crime is casting a terrible shadow over my constituents. Hackney residents . . . are genuinely frightened . . . One stretch of road in Clapton in my constituency is known as murder mile.

My constituents are frightened of waking up to find a corpse outside their house . . . People pull guns in Hackney because of a dispute over a girl or merely to demonstrate how hard they are . . . Walking the streets of Hackney and elsewhere in London, we have the young man who is steeped in a gun culture. He is routinely armed and will use his gun not just to pursue a specific criminal activity but in domestic disputes, to show how tough he is and because he has lost his temper with someone in a nightclub".—[Official Report, Commons, 28/2/02; cols. 939-940.]

She went on to say:

"The police believe strongly that we need to raise the minimum sentence for possession of a firearm . . . We are talking about young men who swagger about all day long with firearms . . . If people knew that they would do a minimum of five years if they were found with a gun, they would be deterred from holding guns for others".—[Official Report, Commons, 28/2/02; col. 942.]

It is to deal with that chilling description, from someone who knows what she is talking about and who represents a part of an inner city in which this is a real problem, that my amendment seeks to make a contribution.

We also have to learn from the United States, a country in which, sadly—due to a misplaced comma in the original constitution—gun law still rules in many areas. In New York, however, the tough regime of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani has meant that since 1994, 90,000 guns have been seized from the streets and shootings have plummeted by more than 74 per cent. Those of us who visit the Big Apple know that New York has gone from being the murder capital of the world to being the safest large city in America. Those noble Lords who have visited New York will have noticed that cabs no longer routinely have bullet-proof glass between passenger and driver.

Thank God we are not starting from anything like the level of gun crime that Mayor Giuliani inherited. But in New York gun crime is declining; in Britain, we are moving in the wrong direction. It is to changing that trend that my amendment is directed. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Dixon-Smith Lord Dixon-Smith Conservative

I rise to support my noble friend's amendment and to express the hope that the Government will consider the matter seriously. The Bill offers us an opportunity to do something about this problem. Bills of this nature that create such an opportunity do not often come along.

My noble friend said it all—that this is a problem that causes fear, anger and frustration in the community. It is no satisfaction to anyone that hardly a day goes by without one reading of a gun crime being committed somewhere—all too often in London, but London does not have a monopoly on such offences.

This is a serious matter and the amendment would require some additions. For example, one would definitely need to be able to search property in addition to "people or vehicles". The Home Secretary has, in a sense, already moved in that direction when he re-opened the question of stop-and-search powers. It is possible that the administrative burden that he has imposed on it will mean that, in practice, the police are reluctant to use it because of the time that they have to spend filling out the forms that result from using the power.

However, that is a separate matter. We are considering the ends. We certainly support the ends for which everyone is calling. I hope that the Minister will find it practical to consider this issue helpfully before we reach a later stage of the Bill.

Photo of Lord Dholakia Lord Dholakia Party Chair, Liberal Democrats 3:30 pm, 12th March 2002

From these Benches we lend support for the amendment. It relates to a matter of serious concern to anyone who has opened the newspapers, particularly the Evening Standard, and has read the series of articles written about crime in London. The extent of gun crimes, which create so much insecurity among various communities, causes great concern to a large number of people. I believe that the noble Lord was right to draw attention to what Diane Abbott, the Member of Parliament for Hackney, said. Anyone who sees the photographs of the dead people will understand the extent of black-on-black crime in London, which is also a matter of serious concern and, to a great extent, is limited to young people.

I ask the Minister whether we require an amendment to the Bill in order to put in place what the amendment seeks to achieve or whether it is possible, under the regulatory powers of the Home Secretary in relation to stop and search, to extend the provision in a way that would incorporate the noble Lord's suggestion. If that is not possible, then I hope that the Minister will reconsider the matter seriously so that a more suitable amendment can be tabled for the Report stage, which we shall reach soon after Easter.

Photo of Lord Elton Lord Elton Conservative

I support the proposal with some hesitation because I find it difficult to believe that such powers do not already exist. If they do not, they certainly should.

Photo of Earl Attlee Earl Attlee Conservative

I rise briefly to support my noble friend. I have a great fear that the police are losing control on this issue. My noble friend mentioned metal detectors. Can the Minister say what part back-scatter X-ray technology might have to play? I believe that Customs and Excise is using it at ports. Could it be used on the streets, perhaps as a random search facility for vehicles and pedestrians?

Photo of Lord Mayhew of Twysden Lord Mayhew of Twysden Conservative

I believe that my noble friend has done the Committee a service in bringing this concept before us. He frankly acknowledges that the wording is not definitive. But I hope that the Minister will tell us to what extent, if any, these powers exist under present legislation. I should have thought that perhaps the first limb is already open to a police officer, but I am sure that it would be of great assistance to us all if the noble Lord could deal with that point.

The problem in relation to the power to search is, as we all know, that people do not like being searched, even if they are not carrying anything that would get them into trouble. Therefore, a balance must be struck between powers to search and respect for people's freedom in that regard.

My noble friend vividly drew attention to anxiety in London, in particular at the rising incidence of gun crime. I believe—it would be interesting to know whether the Minister supports this—that the public are now prepared to accept a proportionate diminution of their freedom in the light of this extremely worrying and dangerous development. To that extent, I support what is behind my noble friend's thinking, particularly in the second part.

It would be very helpful to know whether New York, whose example is cited so frequently nowadays, has a similar power in its range of legislation. Perhaps the Minister or my noble friend will be able to help us on that point.

In conclusion, as someone who had the privilege of serving in the Home Office, albeit something like 20 years ago, perhaps I may stand up for that department. I disagree with my noble friend in the uncharacteristically harsh observations that he made about the Home Office being against any kind of innovation, particularly if it comes from outside or from a member of the public. I never found that in my time. Although I have cudgelled my brains in the past couple of minutes, I cannot think of an example.

Photo of Lord Carlisle of Bucklow Lord Carlisle of Bucklow Conservative

I support what my noble and learned friend Lord Mayhew said. As a member of the trade union of ex-Ministers in the Home Office, I believe that one must question the views of my noble friend Lord Marlesford on this matter. I do not believe that the officials are quite so obstructive as he said. That apart, I considered that the rest of his speech was admirable in every way. It was unfortunate that he added that remark.

Surely we all accept that crime involving the use of arms is not only the most serious and terrifying offence but, at present, it appears to be the most worrying to people who live in suburban areas. I am sure that the Minister will agree that this is a matter in which it is right that the Government look at existing powers. Perhaps, as my noble and learned friend Lord Mayhew said, we already have those powers. But I hope that the Minister will say that, if we do not have them at present, he will find out whether the existing powers are adequate to stop people carrying guns and threatening and terrifying the lives of others.

Photo of Baroness Sharples Baroness Sharples Conservative

I support the amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Marlesford. I wonder whether the noble Lord will now consider the introduction of a smart identity card. Surely that would be of great assistance to the police in any search that they may have to make.

Photo of Lord Peyton of Yeovil Lord Peyton of Yeovil Conservative

I, too, support my noble friend Lord Marlesford in his modest and sensible amendment. It allows me to reflect for a moment on the habit of modern governments of stopping law-abiding people doing what they want to do and which they could well go on doing without harming anyone. At the same time, governments turn away from the phenomenon whereby criminals are open in their possession of guns but whereby the police, according to what the amendment seeks to achieve, are at present powerless to do anything about it.

Unless the Minister says that the police already possess those powers, I can see no possible reason why the Government should not accept the amendment or something very similar to it; otherwise, it would seem to be another indication of the dotty way in which we continue to raise our hands in horror and alarm at what is happening but do nothing about it and put elaborate fetters on the one set of people—namely, the police force—who might be able to do something if they were given the powers.

Photo of Viscount Slim Viscount Slim Crossbench

Sadly, the Minister was not present when we debated in your Lordships' House the taking away of firearms from those who were licensed to hold them. I shall not weary the noble Lord, but I spoke at considerable length in debate on that subject.

I believe that we have now reached such a state that no one knows how many illegal weapons are in this country. Is it half a million, or is it a million or more? Today, it is very easy to obtain a weapon if one is so inclined. As I see and hear it, the public perception is that the Government, as, indeed, did the previous government, take only a half-hearted view of this matter and that they are not really grappling with the problem. I urge the Minister to accept that the time has come when we must be strong and bold. We must take note and pass laws that make the use of weapons by criminals a matter that they will regret when they are caught or when the weapon is taken. Let us have proper legislation and not the ongoing half-hearted approach.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office, Government Whip, Government Whip

The noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, has sparked an encouraging debate on this issue for which I pay tribute to him. As ever, his prescient approach has anticipated some of my lines of defence. I also congratulate him on that. At one point we were in danger of developing a Home Office fan club. Ex-Ministers of the Home Office may have a vested interested in developing that and those who currently occupy Home Office ministerial posts will be pleased to hear about it too.

The debate has been balanced and proportionate—one of my favourite words. The noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, is right that firearms are one of the scourges of our generation. It is understandable that we should consider ways in which to tackle the problem. Of necessity, it is right that your Lordships' House should consider what extra powers may be required. A battery of measures are available to the police, for which I pay tribute to previous governments, in particular the government who were in place in the 1980s and the 1990s. They put in place powers that deal with the problems by which we are currently confronted.

No representations have been made that our current legislation is wanting or failing in regard to the necessary powers for the police. That is a key point to take into consideration. The noble Viscount, Lord Slim, is right that we need to look at gun control and firearms legislation to view the categories of dangerous weapons and to address the problems of firearms in the streets at source.

Noble Lords were keen that I advise on powers that are currently in place and available to the police. I shall go through some of them. The police already have powers to search people and vehicles for offensive weapons under Section 1(2) of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. Sections 1(2) and (3) of PACE provide constables with the power to search any person or vehicle or anything which is in a vehicle for stolen or prohibited articles where they have reasonable grounds for suspecting that stolen or prohibited articles are to be found. A prohibited article includes an offensive weapon and an offensive weapon is clearly defined in Section 1(9) of PACE as,

"any article—

(a) made or adapted"—

I believe that that covers the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford—

"for use for causing injury to persons; or

(b) intended by the person having it with him for such use by him or by some other person".

Section 60 of the 1994 Act provides the power under which uniformed police officers may be authorised to stop and search pedestrians or vehicles and their occupants for offensive weapons or dangerous instruments.

Under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 there are powers available to the police to stop and search pedestrians and vehicles within a specified area for the purposes of countering terrorism. A person in those circumstances can be stopped and searched without reasonable suspicion. The powers are time-limited, but usually they are authorised by an officer of ACPO rank. Under Section 33 of the Terrorism Act an officer of at least superintendent rank can designate an area as a cordoned area where he considers it expedient for the purposes of terrorist investigation.

Under Section 47(1) of the Firearms Act 1968 a constable can require the handing over of a firearm and any ammunition for examination so that he may ascertain whether a firearm is real or imitation, what type of firearm it is, whether—if it is not apparent—it is loaded, or whether the ammunition is suitable for use in the firearm.

Our particular concern about this amendment is that it would provide far-reaching powers and it would enable the police constable to arrange for an area to be sealed off simply on the basis that he reasonably believed that a person was carrying a firearm, irrespective of whether there was any imminent danger. In that sense it goes too far. I return to the use of the word "proportionate". We need proportionate powers and we believe that previous governments have legislated for that. From our contact with the police we understand that they are happy with the current range of powers that are in place. They do not see any need to extend them further. They believe that they are about right. Like the Government, they appreciate the widespread public concern over such matters.

The noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, is right that we need to send out a powerful, united message about the creeping nature of the gun culture. I am grateful to him for drawing attention to the important debate raised by Diane Abbott in another place. The noble Earl, Lord Attlee, raised the issue of metal detectors. We are aware that powers are in place to ensure that guns are detected, particularly at ports, by the use of metal detectors. I am uncertain how useful those powers may be if extended to the police service in the way that the noble Earl suggested. Logistically I believe that that would be rather difficult. The noble Earl raises a point that is worthy of consideration.

Another issue raised was ID cards. The Government intend to issue a consultation paper on this matter later in the year. No doubt careful consideration will be given to that and to the nature of any form of identification card, smart card or whatever. That may well have a bearing on this issue and assist the police. Of course, we want to ensure that the consultation is carefully managed and that we take on board a broad range of views.

On a comparator being sought between stop-and-search powers here and those available to New York police officers, in the time available I have not been able to undertake the serious research that the matter demands. I am happy to look at that point because it is an important one. In New York there have been considerable successes in countering the gun culture. We can always learn from others.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, for tabling the amendment. It is an important point. We constantly keep such matters under review and he was right to raise it now. However, we believe that adequate powers are in place. Over the years they have been added to and we consider that they are effective for the purpose. To date there is no additional pressure from the police service to widen those powers. They believe that what they have to work with is fit for the purpose.

Photo of Lord Peyton of Yeovil Lord Peyton of Yeovil Conservative 3:45 pm, 12th March 2002

I hope that the noble Lord will forgive me if I say that when he rises to his feet he does not always give rise to strong feelings of hope within me. On this occasion, adjectives like "encouraging", "balanced" and "proportionate" applied to the debate start a burgeoning seed of hope in me. However, in rather a hurry he resorted to his brief, as one might have expected, and it was quite—if I can use a polite word—calming.

His perfectly courteous dismissal of the points made by my noble friend is rather a pity. I am not satisfied with his assertion that the police are not interested. I hope that he will take the matter back to the police and tell them of some of the points raised in this debate, which were designed to be helpful. As the noble Lord said, they are balanced, encouraging and proportionate—a wonderful mixture. Having crowned my noble friend's amendment with those wonderful words, he should move a little way towards accepting something along these lines.

Photo of Lord Renton Lord Renton Conservative

In view of my long experience in criminal courts, I, too, support the amendment. I do so on the broad principle that, where possible, it is better to have prevention rather than cure. The amendment aims at prevention. But we need to be careful about one point. My noble friend used the expression "particular area". It could be a very large or very small particular area. I hope that he has in mind the very small particular area because that is the only way in which the provision would be enforceable. When the Government consider the matter further and put down their own amendment, I hope that they will define the "particular area".

Photo of Lord Elton Lord Elton Conservative

I think that I have been studying the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, for longer than my noble friend Lord Peyton.

Photo of Lord Elton Lord Elton Conservative

I have come to a different and more accurate conclusion. I have observed that he always begins his replies to those who have taken part in the debate with the most courteous compliments on their skill and oratory and the clearness of their thinking. That is always a preparatory to disappointing them. Therefore, I am not hopeful when he utters those terms.

However, on a more serious note, I had thought that his grounds for resistance might be that there was a perfectly simple set of circumstances and powers already in place. We were given a matrix of interlocking and incomplete powers. Secondly, I thought that he might well and with truth say that frisking people for loaded weapons is a dangerous business and one needs to give a little more thought to how it is to be done before one legislates. I should have thought that such consideration could be given between now and the next stage, or in another place. I had thought that there would have been a good deal of enthusiasm for what my noble friend sought.

I was a little worried when the Minister said that at least they had heard nothing from the police to say that they wanted more powers. I was only partially reassured when the Minister said that he understood from the police that they needed nothing more. Have they been presented with the amendment and asked whether it is a provision they could do with? I think that we would be influenced by the answer. If the police have not turned it down and they could do with more powers, let us get those powers to them quickly. My noble friend has suggested a very good way of doing that.

Photo of Earl Attlee Earl Attlee Conservative

The Minister touched on the 1968 Act. He referred to the police attitude to the 1968 Act and other powers. Is the Minister convinced that the 1968 Act meets all our requirements? I believe that the 1968 Act is a complete mess.

Photo of Lord Dholakia Lord Dholakia Party Chair, Liberal Democrats

The Minister generously explained the existing appropriate provisions. Is he able to write a note to that effect to those who participated in the debate? The situation described by the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, exists despite the powers which exist at present. Perhaps the noble Lord could identify whether those existing powers are adequate to deal with the situation described. If they are not appropriate, it is possible for us to come back to the issue on Report.

Photo of Lord Elton Lord Elton Conservative

If the noble Lord will forgive another intervention, I hope that the Minister will not cite the anti-terrorism Act because my noble friend is talking about criminal rather than terrorist activity.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office, Government Whip, Government Whip

Those further interventions have been helpful. They have given me the opportunity to explain further. During my responses, I rehearsed some of those powers. I am happy to set out a full rehearsal of the various powers. I am sorry I was unable to satisfy the noble Lord, Lord Peyton. I have been trying hard to make him happier during my time at the Dispatch Box. I shall continue perfecting my style. Perhaps at some happy time in the future I shall get there. I am happy to rehearse the powers and make the notes available to those noble Lords who have taken part in what I genuinely consider to be an important and useful debate.

With regard to the police attitude towards the amendment, it is not usually our task to go to the police and ask them specifically what they think about an amendment from an opposition Peer, tabled as late as it was. Perhaps the noble Lord might have thought it useful to consult with them as well. We shall happily take another view on it with the representative bodies of the police service but in the past we have not identified it as a specific problem. It has not been identified as a problem by the police service. We understand that the police believe that they have adequate stop and search powers. The amendment relates to areas as well; that is where the noble Lord is coming from. Although we believe that we have got it about right, we are always happy to have another look. One should always keep these matters under review not least because it is a compelling issue and a profound problem. The timing of Diane Abbott's debate in another place was well meant and effective.

Photo of Lord Condon Lord Condon Crossbench

The spirit of the amendment is well put. The debate has illustrated the concerns about gun crime. If it helps noble Lords, I believe it is the view of the police service that there is an adequate menu of powers in relation to gun crime. Powers are not the real concern. The police are concerned that there may not be strong and sufficient partnerships within communities for condemnation of gun crime to lead to a willingness to give evidence against known carriers of guns within communities. That is linked to perhaps an absence of police confidence at present in their abilities to carry out stop and search in certain circumstances in certain areas. That in itself is linked to concerns about resourcing. Perhaps I may risk repeating what I have said previously, with regard to New York comparisons: London, 26,000 police; New York, 42,000 plus. Resourcing is as vital a concern as powers for stop and search. Finally, I refer to the relationship of sentencing being a force for good in preventing further gun crimes.

This well placed amendment has stimulated a timely debate. The question was asked whether the police are content with their menu of powers. The answer is broadly yes, although they are as concerned as noble Lords about the growth of gun crime.

Photo of Lord Ackner Lord Ackner Crossbench

Perhaps I may make a brief intervention. First, with regard to the technique of the Minister in commending everybody's performance and then saying that it was unnecessary, that is a well-known judicial technique in giving judgment. You know immediately that you have been praised that you have lost the case, and it is a nice way of doing it.

Secondly, I commend the Minister on recognising that which his department usually fails to recognise: that the powers that it frequently requests are already provided. That is shown frequently where extra powers of punishment are provided. Articles have been written indicating that the powers which are being sought vigorously have existed for years. I respectfully agree that the Home Office should provide in the Library a full particularised inventory of the sources, the legislation, which provides the powers which are being sought. If it is then apparent that powers exist, the statute book should not be burdened with further unnecessary repetition.

Photo of Lord Marlesford Lord Marlesford Conservative

I am most grateful to the Minister for his reply and to noble Lords from all sides of the Chamber who have taken part in the debate and, in general, supported the thrust of my amendment.

I am perfectly prepared to accept that the powers for stopping and searching individuals and vehicles for guns already exist. That was only the second part of my amendment. The Minister interestingly pointed out that the powers to seal off an area in order to do that exist only under the terrorism legislation and therefore where terrorism is suspected.

I suggest that the people of this country, particularly those in the cities, and all ethnic groups—let there be no doubt about that—are deeply concerned. They would welcome powers to deal with gun crime which are as great as those for dealing with terrorism. It is not terribly comforting merely to be aware that a section of this, that or the other Act is available to fight gun crime, when gun crime does not appear to be being fought and when one reads about guns increasingly being used. Very often nowadays people actually have first-hand, or at least second-hand, experience of such incidents.

Of course I am prepared, ready and expect to withdraw the amendment. However, subject to what transpires from what is put in the Library, I believe that I have identified a lacuna in that the powers to seal off an area are confined to terrorism. I think that they should also be available in dealing with crime. Therefore, I hope possibly to bring back a more appropriate amendment at a later stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 45 [Independent custody visitors for place of detention]:

On Question, Whether Clause 45 shall stand part of the Bill?

Photo of Lord Elton Lord Elton Conservative 4:00 pm, 12th March 2002

I use this opportunity to ask the Government how the new independent custody visitors system relates to the old system which was set up under the Scarman report for lay visitors to police stations. Both systems have one principle aim, which is to either bolster or restore public confidence in the way that the police handle those who are charged with crimes. The lay visitors have now become tokens rather than forces for good. I stand to be corrected on that.

Paragraph 256 of the Explanatory Notes published with the Bill states:

"Custody visiting to police stations provides a means by which volunteers from the community who are independent of the police and the criminal justice system . . .".

Clause 45 states that the visitors will be appointed by the police authority. So where the police authority has a public profile—the Lawrence inquiry exposed that in most metropolitan areas, other than London, the police authority has none—the visitors are likely to be identified with the police. In the metropolitan area the recent birth and rather different composition of the police authority may give it a certain stature. But the experiment of producing these people will fail to achieve a degree of public confidence—if that is the purpose—if more is not done to connect the visitors with the public rather than connect them through the police authority.

In the past the noble Lord and his colleagues must have thought about this matter long and hard. I apologise for not giving prior notice of the matter. Of course I shall understand that any possible defects in the reply will be due to that. I await the noble Lord's reply with interest.

Photo of Lord Dholakia Lord Dholakia Party Chair, Liberal Democrats

I want to take the opportunity to say how much we welcome custody visiting finally being placed on a statutory basis. All police authorities consider that having proper custody visiting arrangements in place is an important aspect of their role in safeguarding the interests of the community. When I worked at the Police Complaints Authority a great concern of a large number of people, particularly the complainants, was that in many cases information was not available as to precisely what was going on in police custody. Having a system of checks and balances, particularly in relation to the statutory arrangement, is indeed a good thing. It certainly has our support.

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Asylum and Immigration), Home Office, Minister (Home Office) (Asylum & Immigration)

The noble Lord, Lord Elton, need not apologise for speaking on Clause 45 stand part. We are in Committee. I welcome the opportunity.

The noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, has, in a way, made my point. The central change would be to put custody visiting on a statutory basis. Effectively it will become a compulsory matter for police authorities. Not all police authorities—anyone who has listened to the debate over the past three or four days would think that they are all little guardian angels—are perfect, never make mistakes and are all fully committed. Life is not like that. It would become compulsory for every authority to provide and organise a scheme for independent custody visiting.

There is a contradiction in what the noble Lord, Lord Elton, said about who appoints the custody visitors. Once the police authority appoint these people they will in no way be connected with the police or the criminal justice system. We believe that we can get good voluntary, independent people usefully to serve the system in that way. My own experience is that the system has been welcomed by the police in my former constituency. Importantly, putting the matter on a statutory basis will raise the status of the visitors. There will be a code of practice to provide for consistent standards across England and Wales.

Inappropriate procedures, such as people visiting on their own, would be dealt with in a code of practice. Therefore, we can get some commonality of rules. That is an important aspect. I make no complaints about visits that have been made or the actions of existing visitors. We can deal with situations where some inappropriate procedures have varied between police forces or police authorities. Above all, the statutory basis will raise the profile and competence of people in the system. It will be governed by independent people from the local community.

Photo of Lord Elton Lord Elton Conservative

I am most grateful to the noble Lord. I wish this move well.

Clause 45 agreed to.

Clauses 46 and 47 agreed to.

Photo of Earl Attlee Earl Attlee Conservative

moved Amendment No. 271:

Before Clause 48, insert the following new clause—

"SALIVA TESTS

(1) The Road Traffic Act 1988 (c. 52) is amended as follows.

(2) After section 6 (breath tests) there shall be inserted—

"6A SALIVA TESTS

(1) Where a constable in uniform has reasonable cause to suspect—

(a) that a person driving or attempting to drive or in charge of a motor vehicle on a road or other public place has a drug in his body or has committed a traffic offence whilst the vehicle was in motion;

(b) that a person has been driving or attempting to drive or been in charge of a motor vehicle on a road or other public place with drugs in his body and that that person still has a drug in his body; or

(c) that a person has been driving or attempting to drive or been in charge of a motor vehicle on a road or other public place and has committed a traffic offence whilst the vehicle was in motion; he may, subject to section 9 of this Act, require him to provide a specimen of saliva for a saliva drugs test.

(2) If an accident occurs owing to the presence of a motor vehicle on a road or other public place, a constable may, subject to section 9 of this Act, require any person who he has reasonable cause to believe was driving or attempting to drive or in charge of the vehicle at the time of the accident to provide a specimen of saliva for a saliva drugs test.

(3) A person may be required under subsection (1) or (2) above to provide a specimen either at or near the place where the requirement is made or, if the requirement is made under subsection (2) above, and the constable making the requirement thinks fit, at a police station specified by the constable.

(4) A person who, without reasonable excuse, fails to provide a specimen of saliva when required to do so in pursuance of this section is guilty of an offence.

(5) A constable may arrest a person without warrant if—

(a) as a result of a saliva test he has reasonable cause to suspect that that person has committed an offence under section 4 of this Act; or

(b) that person has failed to provide a specimen of saliva for a saliva drugs test when required to do so in pursuance of this section and the constable has reasonable cause to suspect that he has a drug in his body; but a person shall not be arrested by virtue of this subsection when he is at a hospital as a patient or the drugs have been prescribed by a medical practitioner.

(6) A constable may, for the purpose of requiring a person to provide a specimen of saliva under subsection (2) above in a case where he has reasonable cause to suspect that the accident involved injury to another person or of arresting him in such a case under subsection (5) above, enter (if need be by force) any place where that person is or where the constable, with reasonable cause, suspects him to be.

(7) Subsection (6) above does not extend to Scotland, and nothing in that subsection shall affect any rule of law in Scotland concerning the right of a constable to enter any premises for any purpose.

(8) In this section "traffic offence" means an offence under—

(a) any provision of Part 2 of the Public Passenger Vehicles Act 1981 (c. 14);

(b) any provision of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 (c. 27);

(c) any provision of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 (c. 53) except Part 3; or

(d) any provision of this Act except Part 5.""

Photo of Earl Attlee Earl Attlee Conservative

I should think that this morning the Minister was wondering how on earth I had managed to get this issue on every broadsheet newspaper and on the front page of the Daily Mail. The truth is that the Minister need not worry. The first that I knew about this development was when I heard it on the news at breakfast time.

I originally drafted and tabled the amendment for our discussions on the Transport Act 2000. If any Member of the Committee is not convinced on that point, he or she should look at the Journal of your Lordships' House, where I had to go to get the drafting for my amendment. I did not move it at the time for reasons that might have come from an episode of "Yes Minister".

Society generally now takes a very dim view of drink-driving. There is no sympathy for a convicted motorist. However, many motorists are unaware of the effects of drugs—illegal or prescribed—on their driving ability. Millions of people take drugs, such as anti-depressants, painkillers, antihistamines and cough mixtures, all of which can have a sedative effect. Yet, most of these people probably think that it is totally safe for them to drive.

Many people lack knowledge with regard to the legal position in relation to drug-driving. In law drug-driving is considered as serious an offence as drink-driving. Section 4 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 states:

"A person who, when driving or attempting to drive a motor vehicle on a road or other public place, is unfit to drive through drink or drugs is guilty of an offence".

The law makes no distinction between illegal and prescribed drugs and does not state a limit for drugs levels as it does for alcohol. That is understandable given that there are numerous drugs but only one type of alcohol. I hope that the Minister does not use that argument to justify doing nothing about drug-driving.

According to my briefing from the BMA, the use of illegal drugs by the younger generation is frequent and increasing. Nearly half of 16 to 24 year-olds in England and Wales are reported as having used cannabis at least once. The Committee will be aware that that age-group experiences the highest fatal accident rate. Furthermore, 39 per cent were reported to have taken hallucinogens. There were fewer taking other drugs. According to a separate survey of club-goers in Scotland, 69 per cent had taken cannabis while 85 per cent had at some time driven after taking illegal drugs.

The impact of some prescribed drugs and treatments, such as sedatives, anti-depressants and even eye-drops is relevant also. Although patients are warned of their side effects, for example, drowsiness and impaired vision, research shows that they tend to ignore the advice of doctors, pharmacists and even information leaflets. Having said that, illegal drugs are a much more serious problem because of the uncertainty of the strength of the doses taken and the fact that the drug dealers do not often provide an information leaflet. The Minister and the police should be careful in how they approach the problem of therapeutic drugs.

The wider implications of drug taking are beginning to emerge. Recent research shows an increasing incidence of road traffic accidents involving people who have tested positive for drugs that may have contributed to the cause of the crash. The Transport Research Laboratory carried out tests to detect alcohol and drugs in people involved in fatal collisions between 1985 and 1987, and again between 1996 and 1999. The results showed that over that decade there was a fourfold increase, from 3 to 12 per cent, in people who tested positive for cannabis, with the detection of illegal drugs overall having increased from 3 to 18 per cent. The only qualification is that the tests are not directly comparable.

The known effects of cannabis are impaired co-ordination, visual perception, tracking and vigilance. Impairment is also shown when subjects are tested under simulated driving conditions. Studies report that in the majority of fatal crashes involving people with detected levels of cannabis, the effects are compounded by alcohol. Alcohol alone or in combination with cannabis increases impairment, the accident rate and accident responsibility.

The amendment is based precisely upon Section 6 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, but, in addition to breath tests for alcohol, I suggest saliva tests for drugs. It is important to understand that the existing Section 6 and my amendment do not provide the necessary evidence for a conviction but are an objective test, allowing a police officer to arrest a suspect in order to further investigate a suspected serious offence. At present, the police breath test for alcohol anyone who has been involved in a road traffic accident. Sometimes it is obvious that the driver is "on something", although he may be able to blow a clean breathalyser bag. Some drugs impair the mind only, adversely affecting judgement and anger control.

The Minister may be tempted to suggest that the necessary equipment has not yet been fully developed. However, if the Minister agrees the principle of my amendment and returns with an even better one, manufacturers will be prepared to expend more effort and money on perfecting that equipment if it does not meet the required standard. In addition, it is significant that the UK is a leader in developing the technology. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Dixon-Smith Lord Dixon-Smith Conservative 4:15 pm, 12th March 2002

I rise to support another noble friend, who has shown remarkable timing in bringing forward the amendment. I hope that the Government will, at the very least, study the amendment. I must admit that I am not quite certain of the technology that is mentioned in the Bill. A saliva test might prove that someone had taken drugs, but I am unsure whether it would necessarily prove that someone had not. It would not therefore be entirely adequate for the purpose my noble friend Lord Attlee intends.

Drugs are a serious problem, particularly in certain sections of the community. The issue should be examined seriously. Even if it is not technically practical to proceed at the moment, a study is merited so that we can act as soon as we are certain that the technology is appropriate. To introduce a new part to the legislation, based on the hope of technology being developed, would not be the right approach. However, the issue is sufficiently grave in society to merit a serious study.

Photo of Lord Faulkner of Worcester Lord Faulkner of Worcester Labour

I hope that the issue can be examined, but, like the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, I agree that it should not be included in this Bill. I declare an interest as president of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents. We are concerned at the increased incidence of drugs use in fatal road accidents. The evidence shows increased use of illegal substances, contributing to a greater proportion of deaths. It is therefore important that the Government take seriously the question raised by the noble Earl, Lord Attlee. I do not know whether a saliva test is the best method. Like Lord Dixon-Smith, I am not sufficiently expert. However, the question of the effect of drugs on driving performance is important and should be further examined.

Photo of Lord Bradshaw Lord Bradshaw Liberal Democrat

I too do not know whether a saliva test is effective. Additional to drug use is the question of impairment through illness. In September I had the misfortune to have a slight stroke, from which I recovered fully. However, the first thing the medical practitioner told me was that I was not to drive for at least four weeks. The practitioner has no statutory backing; he simply told me that. We should have regard to the many drivers whose faculties are probably impaired. I hope that the Minister will respond by saying that the Home Office is behind the idea of education, that a person should not drive with drugs in his body, or while otherwise impaired, and that research is needed to find out which drugs impair people's ability to drive safely.

We are inclined to support the amendment, but, as I said, we cannot say for certain whether the saliva test is practical. However, we shall be most interested to hear the Minister's reply.

Photo of Lord Monson Lord Monson Crossbench

The noble Earl's amendment is an excellent one in principle. I cannot agree with the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, that this is not the right Bill for it. What better occasion can there be? If we have to wait for primary legislation, then we may have to wait for months or years.

As has been said, aspirin and paracetamol are surely drugs yet they do not adversely affect driving ability. In fact, in so far as they reduce somebody's headache they may improve driving ability. Similarly, illegal drugs such as amphetamines, if taken in small doses, would actually improve somebody's reaction time and would not adversely affect their driving ability. Nevertheless, in principle, Amendment No. 271 is an excellent one and I hope that the Government will give it serious consideration.

Photo of Lord Elton Lord Elton Conservative

The papers are full of suggestions that the Government are now going to be more tolerant of certain drugs. That means that there will be many more of them inside drivers and it makes me think that this is a very good time to introduce this legislation.

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Asylum and Immigration), Home Office, Minister (Home Office) (Asylum & Immigration)

In response to a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, it is true that there is a good deal of ignorance as to what people can do in terms of driving. Some people think that, once they have obtained their licence and can drive, they can get on with it. I have experience in the past couple of years of having to go to the Post Office and of seeing a form there—DV100 or something. That form contains a list of medical conditions. Anyone who has suffered from or had treatment for any of those conditions is committing a criminal offence if he continues driving.

I was utterly ignorant of that fact until I saw it in writing. It ought to be more commonly known. It is not just a question of a doctor saying, "I do not think you should drive". In some cases they have to point out, "By the way, it is a criminal offence for you to drive. You need to tell Swansea what has happened and they may want your licence back for a period". So a good deal of ignorance exists in that regard.

We recognise the excellent intentions behind this amendment. The noble Earl rightly identified the need for the police to deal with the problem of drug driving. The Association of Chief Police Officers, the Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions and the Home Office have been working on the best methods of addressing this issue. This is not a situation where I am saying that everything is okay and we are satisfied. We are on the case.

The main objection to this amendment is that simply showing that a driver has drugs in his body is often not sufficient to achieve a conviction for drug driving. To do that it is necessary to show the court that the ability to drive is impaired by the drugs. The presence of a drug, as identified by a saliva test, does not do that.

I am almost reluctant to use this example after what the noble Lord, Lord Elton, said, but I just put it on the record. I am not an expert and therefore must take advice on these matters. The most prevalent drug abused—cannabis, which I am sure the noble Lord is not on at the moment—is traceable in the body for four weeks or more, long after it can cause impairment. So there is a major issue which needs to be addressed in that regard. We agree with the police that, at the present time, the best way of detecting impairment is with the drug recognition techniques and the field impairment testing. The drug recognition techniques allow the officers to assess more easily a driver's impairment by the physical signs—dilated or constricted pupils, facial itching or slurred speech. The field impairment tests are divided attention tests which allow the police to assess a driver's concentration and ability to perform simple tasks, which an unimpaired driver should have no difficulty performing.

I fully accept that these are low-tech tests. But they have been validated in the detection of impairment. At the present time the police can only request a driver to perform a series of impairment tests before deciding whether or not to arrest. We are currently considering giving the police powers to make that a requirement. I cannot say whether that will be at the next stage of this Bill in your Lordships' House. But we are in the early stages of this Bill and I cannot be more precise.

We are also looking at provisions which will allow for the future development of an approved type of roadside drug screening device. So work is continuing in that respect. Amendment No. 271 does not require the device used by the police to carry out the drug test to be prescribed and to be of a type approved by the Secretary of State. That may be a nit-picking point but the noble Earl will understand that it would be necessary to have that on the face of the Bill. The approval process would give an assurance to the courts and the public that the device in question is accurate, robust and reliable.

We are sympathetic to some of the intentions behind the amendment but we cannot accept it. Some practical issues need to be addressed before we can move forward on certain points. I hope I have indicated to the Committee that on those points we are moving forward with the police and the other government departments involved.

Photo of Earl Attlee Earl Attlee Conservative

I am grateful for the Minister's response to this amendment. I was suggesting an objective test for the police officer to be able to decide whether or not he could arrest the motorist and take him to the police station in order to take a blood sample. The blood sample could then be analysed and the police could obtain an expert witness to say whether or not the motorist's driving would be impaired.

The Minister referred to the difficulties with cannabis in that it can stay in the body for quite a long time though the driving of the motorist is not impaired. However, saliva does not easily show cannabis. So if cannabis is detected, it is probably detected from the smoke in the mouth which would indicate that the motorist had recently been taking cannabis. It is a small point. But the other point to remember is that cannabis is not the only problem. I refer to drugs which can affect a motorist's anger control; in other words, his propensity to engage in road rage.

However, I am encouraged by what the Minister said in relation to other approaches to this problem. I hope we can do something before we send the Bill to the other place. If we fail in that, perhaps the other place will see fit to introduce something. However, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 48 agreed to.

Clause 49 [Specimens taken from persons incapable of consenting]:

Photo of Viscount Bridgeman Viscount Bridgeman Conservative

moved Amendment No. 272:

Page 41, leave out lines 17 and 18 and insert—

"(d) the constable has reasonable grounds to believe that the incapacity of the person is attributable to medical reasons."

Photo of Viscount Bridgeman Viscount Bridgeman Conservative

In moving Amendment No. 272 I shall speak also to Amendment No. 278. These amendments refer to one of the conditions under which a constable may make a request to a medical practitioner for him to take a specimen of blood from a person incapable of consenting; that is, if it appears to that constable that that person's incapacity is attributable to medical reasons.

We contend that this clause, as presently drafted, is obscure. The constable would seem to be entitled under the new power to commit what would otherwise be an assault on a suspect on the basis of what might be a wholly unjustified belief in incapacity for medical reasons. The new clause requires the officer to have reasonable grounds for the belief that the incapacity is indeed due to medical reasons and not to some other cause. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Asylum and Immigration), Home Office, Minister (Home Office) (Asylum & Immigration)

The noble Viscount is commendably brief. But this is a serious issue that has exercised many Members of the other place in recent times, particularly following road traffic accidents where the driver may be unconscious but someone else has been killed. The driver is in no condition to give consent for blood samples to be taken and therefore one would not know what the blood contains.

I accept that the proposed amendments reflect the existing wording of the Road Traffic Act, which refer to the constable making a requirement to give a blood specimen having,

"reasonable cause to believe that for medical reasons a specimen of breath cannot be provided".

The exact wording of this provision was chosen carefully after consultation with the British Medical Association. So the provision with regard to breath tests refers to the obvious phenomenon such as a mouth injury. On the other hand, to assess a person's general medical state and its effect on his capacity in the circumstances envisaged under this power—he could be delirious—would be more difficult and would require a degree of medical knowledge. A constable would not have that expertise and so could not base his judgment on reasonable grounds. However, it could appear to him that a person's medical condition rendered him incapable of consent—that is to say, unconscious. That is the provision that we have chosen.

For the avoidance of doubt, I would say that the medical condition and safety of an unconscious person would, at all times, be a paramount consideration. I want to make that absolutely clear. However, after tragic road accidents, in which people are killed, there can be problems with getting the necessary information about whether the driver was under the influence.

Photo of Viscount Bridgeman Viscount Bridgeman Conservative 4:30 pm, 12th March 2002

I thank the Minister for that reply, in the light of which I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Viscount Bridgeman Viscount Bridgeman Conservative

moved Amendment No. 273:

Page 41, leave out line 34 and insert—

"(b) to store the same at the place where the person from whom the sample has been taken is being treated.

( ) The sample shall be kept in a secure storage facility at the place where the person from whom the same has been taken is being treated and no person shall have access to the sample without the consent or the permission of the suspect from whom it was taken."

Photo of Viscount Bridgeman Viscount Bridgeman Conservative

In moving this amendment I shall speak also to Amendment No. 279. This is a question of practicalities. The new provisions are radical, because they entitle the police to take intimate samples without the consent of the subject. For that reason, the power should be carefully drawn and limited, as far as is possible without defeating the aim of the provision. It is likely that the subject will be unconscious when the sample is taken. To avoid the risk of any later challenge to the integrity of the sample, we should provide that, if a specimen is taken, it should not be delivered up to the police, after being split or otherwise, but maintained by the hospital authority until the subject is capable of consenting to its use and making arrangements for tests. The subject should know that the sample has been taken.

There is a further consideration. What is the purpose of handing it over to the police, if the police cannot use it until the subject's consent has been sought? I beg to move.

Photo of Viscount Simon Viscount Simon Deputy Speaker (Lords)

My amendment, Amendment No. 276, mirrors almost exactly part of the amendment to which the noble Viscount has spoken. I cannot add to that.

Photo of Lord Swinfen Lord Swinfen Conservative

I shall raise one point about the amendment. The sample should be kept not only in secure storage but in a place where it will not deteriorate or its chemical properties change, for any reason.

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Asylum and Immigration), Home Office, Minister (Home Office) (Asylum & Immigration)

The amendments rightly seek to prevent tampering with blood samples or analysis of them without the driver's consent, by requiring them to be kept at the hospital where the driver is. We have no evidence that tampering is a problem at present. Tampering by analysing without consent would be pointless, as the results would not be admissible in evidence anyway.

Subsection (4) of the new Section 7A already explicitly ensures that the sample cannot be used without the consent of the driver from whom it was taken. If the sample is to be used in evidence, the driver is party to that. By then, he will not be unconscious—in other words, he will be in a position to give consent. There would be a long evidential chain between the taking of the sample and the presentation of the results, post-analysis; it would not be just a day after the event. If the blood samples are sent to the forensic science laboratory for analysis, every step of that chain can be accounted for, if challenged in court.

It is crucial that the Forensic Science Service runs systems that are fully compatible with the requirements of the court, both for the defence and the prosecution. That is fundamental, so that the courts can rely on what they are told has happened to the samples during their analysis in the forensic science laboratory, including questions about whether they have been moved from room to room and who was responsible for them. All that information is recorded for the safety of the process in court. It would be unnecessarily complicated—and could result in cases being dismissed on a technicality—to require the breaking of that chain, by compelling hospitals to be in charge of the evidence.

The Forensic Science Service has advised against storing drivers' blood samples in hospitals. The practical difficulties for the hospitals would be considerable. I know that they have refrigerators and laboratories, but I assure noble Lords—particularly all the former Home Office Ministers present, who have, no doubt, been to the forensic science laboratories—that hospitals and forensic science laboratories are entirely different operations. We are dealing with a substance that must be locked in. We must be sure that everyone has absolute confidence in the procedure.

The amendments would also change and corrupt the practice of separating the driver's medical care from any possible prosecution. The British Medical Association is absolutely opposed to that. We should think more than once before proceeding down that road. So that we do not repeat ourselves in our discussion of other amendments, I must point out that the specimens taken will be divided into two. One will be made available to the driver and his representatives, if they wish to get a second opinion. It is important to see how that works. I hope that that will satisfy the noble Viscount.

Photo of Viscount Bridgeman Viscount Bridgeman Conservative

The Minister has given a helpful reply and some useful information. In the light of his assurance that the Forensic Science Service is confident of its ability to maintain the integrity of the samples and his assurance that that system has the support of the British Medical Association, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Lord Murton of Lindisfarne Lord Murton of Lindisfarne Conservative

I call Amendment No. 274. If the amendment is agreed to, I shall be unable to call Amendment No. 275, owing to pre-emption.

Photo of Viscount Bridgeman Viscount Bridgeman Conservative

moved Amendment No. 274:

Page 41, leave out line 41.

Photo of Viscount Bridgeman Viscount Bridgeman Conservative

Amendment No. 274 relates to a small point, but we consider that the line is inconsistent with subsection (6) of the same new clause. The offence is committed not by a mere failure to give consent but by a failure to consent "without reasonable excuse". The warning before the request to use should be framed in the same terms. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Asylum and Immigration), Home Office, Minister (Home Office) (Asylum & Immigration)

I hope that I can satisfy the noble Viscount. All the amendments in the group relate, essentially, to the same issue.

I accept that it is an innovative clause. I am also sympathetic to the underlying motive for the amendments as regards removing the suspect's absolute right to refuse consent for a blood sample to be used. The amendments would prevent the possibility that suspects would evade more serious charges by refusing to allow their sample to be analysed. However, when the new procedure for testing unconscious drivers for alcohol was devised, it was designed to match as closely as possible the procedure now in place for dealing with conscious drivers. Accepting the amendments would mean that, although conscious drivers could refuse consent, so that there could be no analysis results, such results would be available for unconscious drivers. That would be a difference in treatment. The unconscious driver would, in effect, have fewer rights than a conscious suspect.

Addressing that inconsistency would require a further amendment depriving conscious drivers of their right of refusal. That would be operationally difficult, especially if force had to be used, and would not be supported by the Association of Chief Police Officers. It would also raise serious human rights issues that we have taken care to avoid by the proportionate proposals in the Bill.

I hope that, seen in the round, the set of procedures for taking samples from drivers or other persons—it will not necessarily be only drivers—who are not capable of consenting in the kind of circumstances that we have discussed ensure that they are fully protected. Their health is a paramount consideration, at all times, when the samples are taken. The health of the unconscious person is absolutely crucial. The be-all and end-all is not taking the sample: it is looking after the medical condition of an unconscious person. That is the number one priority. I want to make that clear. Nevertheless, if the information can be made available, it will solve a lot of distressing problems later on, some of which have already been brought to the attention of noble Lords.

Photo of Viscount Bridgeman Viscount Bridgeman Conservative

I thank the Minister for his reply. We shall read it carefully. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 275 to 277 not moved.]

Clause 49 agreed to.

Clause 50 agreed to.

Clause 51 [Equivalent provision for offences connected with transport systems]:

[Amendments Nos. 278 to 281 not moved.]

Clause 51 agreed to.

Clause 52 [Vehicles used in manner causing alarm, distress or annoyance]:

Photo of Viscount Simon Viscount Simon Deputy Speaker (Lords)

moved Amendment No. 282:

Page 46, line 31, at beginning insert "Subject to subsection (8A) below,"

Photo of Viscount Simon Viscount Simon Deputy Speaker (Lords)

Before the House was formed into a Committee I advised my noble friend the Minister that I did not intend to move this amendment. That is because those who asked me to table it asked me at 1.30 p.m. not to speak to it. However, I shall speak to Amendment No. 290 standing in my name. Clause 52 addresses the problem of the unsocial use of vehicles. We are all aware of the doctored noise exhaust systems and the entertainment systems, if I may use that word, going "boom, boom boom". In these enlightened times there are those who might well regard emergency vehicles as a source of annoyance, especially those living on main routes to or from a fire station, hospital or police station. Amendment No. 290 seeks to exclude emergency vehicles from the clause. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office, Government Whip, Government Whip

Perhaps it would help if I explained the purpose of Clause 52. The clause gives the police the powers they need to tackle the anti-social use of motor vehicles to which the noble Viscount referred. Each decision by the police to exercise those powers will obviously turn on the facts they find when confronted with that situation. We take the view that rather than laying down blanket exemptions on the face of the legislation, we should trust the police to exercise their discretion operationally as to when seizing a vehicle would be appropriate.

As a consequence we do not expect the police to exercise their powers to stop and search in respect of emergency vehicles being used for legitimate purposes or others who may be using their vehicles to deal with a genuine emergency. We believe that we have the matter right as it is and we do not see any particular need for the amendment, although clearly the noble Viscount has moved it in an attempt to be helpful.

Photo of Viscount Simon Viscount Simon Deputy Speaker (Lords)

I thank my noble friend for his reply. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Viscount Bridgeman Viscount Bridgeman Conservative

moved Amendment No. 283:

Page 46, line 33, leave out "or 34" and insert "4, 5, 34 or 103(1)(b)"

Photo of Viscount Bridgeman Viscount Bridgeman Conservative

In moving this amendment I shall also speak to Amendment No. 285. As currently drawn, the new provision gives a power to seize in respect of the acts falling within Section 1, to which the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, has referred, whenever they may have been committed after the Act came into force.

One asks why the question is so wide. If the new provision, which will have a real impact only on the owner of a car that is free from hire purchase obligations, has to be included, what is the possible justification for the provision of no time limit for prior acts grounding the right to seize? It has to be limited in some way and we suggest that four weeks is a reasonable period. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office, Government Whip, Government Whip

We have some sympathy with these amendments. We concede that they would usefully add to the circumstances in which a police officer would be able to stop and to seize a motor vehicle. But Clause 52 is about strengthening police powers to tackle the problem of motor vehicles, particularly cars and motorbikes, being used in a manner which causes nuisance or distress to others. It is for that reason that we intend to limit the powers to situations where a police officer believes that an offence under Section 3 of the Road Traffic Act is being committed, which is where a vehicle is being driven on a public road without due care and attention or proper consideration for others or where it seems that there is an offence under Section 34 of the Act, which is where the vehicle is being driven illegally off-road—for example, on private land— without the landowner's permission.

The sort of mischief that we are aiming to get at is the use of public roads around housing estates as illegal race tracks or the riding of motorbikes across public parks, village greens or the countryside. That is exactly the kind of mischief with which many of us in public life, particularly in local authorities, have been desperate to deal for a long time. It has given me pain and concern in the past as no doubt it has to the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, as a representative of the local government world, in the past.

Drink and drugs driving, driving contrary to a disqualification and uninsured driving are altogether more serious matters and go well beyond the nuisance that we are concerned with here. We believe that the police already have the powers that they need to tackle these offences. It is already the case that where a driver is suspected of being over the drink-drive limit—for example, after failing a roadside breathalyser test—or being suspected of driving while disqualified, then the police will take the necessary steps to ensure that the person does not continue to drive on a public road.

The motor insurers recently established a database, which the Government fully supported. We believe that it will lead to a significant reduction in uninsured driving as the police are now able to query insurance details immediately from the roadside. Police inquiries to the database are currently running at about 22,000 per day. That is a staggering statistic. We believe that Amendments Nos. 283 and 284 confuse these quite separate matters.

I turn to Amendment No. 285. We are not convinced about the wisdom of setting an arbitrary time limit to the application of the police powers provided by subsection (2) of the clause. Subsection (2) allows the police officer to exercise the power to stop and, where appropriate, to seize a vehicle where it is not, at that time, being driven in a manner that subsection (1) is intended to catch. That is because the powers in subsection (1) are what one might describe as being of an immediate nature. The officer must have reasonable grounds for believing that the vehicle is being used in the offending manner.

Inevitably, there will be circumstances where the police officer cannot exercise the powers at the time that the mischief is being done; for example, where the officer is on foot and the vehicle simply roars away from him at high speed. In such circumstances, the officer must be able to exercise the power at a later stage when the person concerned has been apprehended. We believe that that is important in achieving the purpose of the clause and in ensuring that the new powers act as a real and effective deterrent.

What is the purpose of setting a time limit for this? We would of course expect that the powers in subsection (2) should be exercised as soon as possible after the event in question. That is a reasonable assumption to draw. But that may not always be possible. To ensure that we do not add anything here which may subsequently amount to unforeseen or unnecessary barriers to the effective and sensible practical operation of these important new police powers, we consider it right to leave open-ended the question of time limits for the exercise of the powers in subsection (2), rather than to set some arbitrary time limit which would be the effect of this amendment. We want to get at the offence and the time limit could prevent effective police action in achieving that objective. I am sure that the noble Viscount sees the good sense of that argument.

Photo of Viscount Bridgeman Viscount Bridgeman Conservative

I wish that I could agree unconditionally with the noble Lord, Lord Bassam. Noble Lords on all sides of the Committee share his concerns about the nuisance that vehicles can cause. However, we are not convinced about the removal of the time limit. We shall study very carefully the noble Lord's remarks in Hansard. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 284 and 285 not moved.]

Photo of Viscount Bridgeman Viscount Bridgeman Conservative

moved Amendment No. 286:

Page 46, line 44, leave out paragraph (b) and insert—

"( ) power to take possession of the motor vehicle and remove it to a police property centre or car pound;"

Photo of Viscount Bridgeman Viscount Bridgeman Conservative

This amendment seeks to clarify whether the Government are seeking to acquire too much power in respect of the removal of vehicles. Surely that only needs to be confined to removing the vehicle pro tem. On the face of it, the provision seems to suggest that there is something akin to a power to seize and to sell the asset. I presume that that is not the Government's intention. I would welcome the Minister's reassurance. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Borrie Lord Borrie Labour

The noble Viscount has not referred to the other amendments with which this is grouped, so, I, too, shall confine my remarks to Amendment No. 286. The noble Viscount has not explained why he wishes to substitute for the word "seize" the phrase "take possession of"; indeed, they may have the same meaning. If the word is altered, then, consequentially, the words in subsection (4) will also need to be changed. The noble Viscount seeks to confine the removal of a vehicle to,

"a police property centre or car pound".

I suppose that the latter are the most obvious places to take such vehicles, unless they are full. I am not sure whether we can really deal with this amendment on its own when there are others with which it has been grouped.

Photo of Lord Hardy of Wath Lord Hardy of Wath Labour

I wish to refer to the points I made during consideration of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000. Two or three years ago I watched young children being allowed to ride motorcycles—and, sometimes, people old enough to have more sense and doing so in a dangerous manner—on the public highway as well as open country at great risk to themselves and to others as they were not insured.

I took the view then that the law did not provide the authorities with an adequate response to the problem. Several children in Yorkshire have died during the past few years through this activity. It is essential to send out a suitable message, which I believe is in the Bill. I suspect that the noble Viscount's amendment would be seen as weakening the Bill's intention. I am pleased that the Government have put effort into dealing with the problem, and I would not wish to see the effect in any way diminished by such an amendment.

Photo of Viscount Bridgeman Viscount Bridgeman Conservative

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, for pointing out that I did not speak to Amendments Nos. 287 and 288, which refer to the power to enter private property. We consider that these powers should be drawn as narrowly as possible. The new wording would require the constable to hold an objectively reasonable belief as to the whereabouts of the vehicle before entering private property to search for it. That is particularly important where the private property may not be that of the vehicle owner. The aim of Amendment No. 288 is simply to avoid an argument as to whether the part of a property where the vehicle is thought to be situated falls within the statutory power.

Photo of Lord Borrie Lord Borrie Labour

My noble friend Lord Hardy of Wath has made an important point which bears on a controversy in which I have previously been involved with the noble Viscount. When he seeks to insert phrases like "reasonable cause to believe" and "make an objective test", he is hobbling the police officer involved. It is quite unnecessary. This is not some major interference with civil liberties; it is a very sensible power. If the constable believes that the car is in a particular place, why should he not exercise the power either to "seize" it, according to the Bill, or "take possession" of it, which is the preferred wording of the noble Viscount?

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office, Government Whip, Government Whip

The noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, has been helpful in his description of what he seeks to achieve by way of these amendments. I shall try to be equally helpful in my response, especially on Amendment No. 287. We are not convinced that Amendment No. 286 would add anything to the Bill or that it would provide additional clarification. The amendment would replace "seize" with the words "take possession of". It may be mere semantics, but we are not convinced that it would make the point of the clause any sharper. We believe that the clause is perfectly fit as it stands and that it adequately describes the new police powers. I welcome the support from my noble friend Lord Hardy of Wath, whose campaigning on these issues is well known. It is a nuisance that we urgently need to tackle, and I am pleased that we are now able to do so.

We believe that it is right for the clause to say no more than that the police should have the power to remove the vehicle in question. How the police arrange for that removal and where the vehicle is taken are, arguably, matters of detail. We shall set out such detail in supporting regulations, which is where the noble Viscount needs to turn his attention.

The regulations will be made under the provisions of Clause 53. They will cover detailed issues, such as the power of a constable to seize vehicles, the method of removing/seizing vehicles, the provision of secure storage arrangements for vehicles, the time periods before which and within which various actions can and must be taken, the identification of the vehicle owner, the manner of serving notice on the owner/keeper of the vehicle, the conditions (including means of identification) for reclaiming the vehicle, the fees to be charged to reclaim the vehicle, and, at some stage—perhaps when it is right and appropriate—the disposal of unclaimed vehicles. We need to look closely at the regulations. I invite the Committee to do likewise.

Amendment No. 287 relates to the police power to enter premises for the purpose of seizing a vehicle that has been misused in a manner that would be caught by Clause 52. It is right that the police officer would need to have reasonable grounds for believing the motor vehicle to be on the premises in question—the purpose of the amendment—but that is not how the clause is presently drafted. We accept the principle behind the amendment. It must be right that the officer acts, at all times, on a belief that is reasonable.

Parliamentary counsel wishes to draft more precise wording to reflect what I believe the noble Viscount seeks to achieve in his amendment. Therefore, with the assurance that we shall seek to offer a government amendment at a later stage, I hope that the noble Viscount will feel able to withdraw his amendment. I believe that that would be helpful to everyone. We promise to bring forward such an amendment before Report.

Amendment No. 288 would, ostensibly, extend the police powers to enter premises provided by the clause. As presently drafted, the power to enter is related to the premises where the vehicle is known, or believed, to be. The amendment seeks to allow the officer to enter the premises, or, "any part thereof". The term "premises" includes "any part thereof". It follows, therefore, that the amendment is unnecessary. Having explained our intentions, I hope that the noble Viscount will realise that we have already covered what he seeks to achieve.

Photo of Lord Swinfen Lord Swinfen Conservative

It seems to me that the Minister indicated that it is not the intention that the owner of the vehicle should be permanently deprived of it. However, when the noble Lord uses the word "seize", it brings to mind Customs and Excise officers seizing goods they believe to the contraband, with no intention of those goods being returned to the person who brought them into the country. I am not a lawyer, but I wonder whether the word "seize" actually means that the goods—in this case, the vehicle—will be permanently removed from the owner. Will the noble Lord reconsider the use of that word in the Bill?

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office, Government Whip, Government Whip

My noble friend Lord Rooker has provided me with the answer to the noble Lord's query. It is a question of two different uses of the same word. I am sure that the noble Lord followed my response. I said earlier that there will be circumstances in which the vehicle is returned. Regulations will cover that situation, and a fee may well be charged to reclaim the vehicle. Therefore, we envisage that there will be occasions when the vehicle is returned. After all, as the noble Lord said, it is the rightful property of the owner—the person who is the keeper.

Photo of Viscount Bridgeman Viscount Bridgeman Conservative

I am most grateful to the noble Lord for his most helpful reply. I look forward to studying the amendments that will be brought forward. I am also grateful for his clarification that reference to "premises" does include "any part thereof". I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 287 to 290 not moved.]

Clause 52 agreed to.

Clause 53 [Retention etc of vehicles seized under section 52]:

Photo of Viscount Bridgeman Viscount Bridgeman Conservative 5:00 pm, 12th March 2002

moved Amendment No. 291:

Page 47, line 41, at end insert—

"( ) The powers of disposal of vehicles under this Act shall not apply or arise unless and until the owner of the relevant vehicle has been convicted of a criminal offence in respect of the use of the vehicle which led to the seizure."

Photo of Viscount Bridgeman Viscount Bridgeman Conservative

This is a probing amendment. Presumably the new provision has its greatest impact on the person who works, pays taxes and owns a motor car outright. The clause appears to impose a power to forfeit the vehicle without compensation, irrespective of its value and the seriousness of the offence which led to its seizure.

Before such a power can be used, the taxpaying citizen, who is most likely to be affected by it, should at the very least have been convicted of a criminal offence in respect of the use of the vehicle, hence the amendment. Before the Secretary of State can start promulgating regulations to deprive a law-abiding and tax paying citizen of his property, the regulations should establish that the citizen in question has been properly convicted of a criminal offence. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Monson Lord Monson Crossbench

I strongly support the amendment. Although I warmly support the principle of Clauses 52 and 53, I believe that we must be careful not to go so far as to deprive individuals of their human rights—or what most people would consider to be human rights. After all, we are talking about vehicles whose value may range from a couple of hundred pounds up to £10,000-plus. I venture to suggest that to be deprived of such a possession permanently would be disproportionate in almost all cases. The financial loss involved would be well in excess of any fine that might be levied.

Even to be deprived of the vehicle temporarily could cause considerable financial distress if the period in question were too long. However, the noble Viscount spoke of permanent dispossession and I support what he has said.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office, Government Whip, Government Whip

I can understand the spirit and intention behind the amendment, which is to save owners from costs incurred by arbitrary seizure or disposal of a vehicle when nothing of a criminal nature is proved against them.

We argue that the amendment is unnecessary. The removal, retention, release and disposal of vehicles will, as I said in a previous debate, be subject to regulation. We will want to ensure that the regulations take full account of the considerations and circumstances to which the noble Viscount has given some thought. There is proper compliance with the human rights legislation, to which the noble Lord, Lord Monson, drew attention, and provision to avoid embroiling the police in unnecessary civil proceedings.

We will give the regulations careful thought. We argue that it is inappropriate to constrain them by putting such a provision on the face of the Bill. We intend to protect the wholly innocent owners who were not using a vehicle when it was seized, did not know of or consent to its use and could not have stopped it being used. Clause 53(2) provides that the regulations must waive any charges that such owners might otherwise incur.

I hope that that explanation offers reassurance to Members opposite. The regulations will clarify the circumstances in which the police will be able to dispose of a vehicle which is not claimed by its owner. We will make matters plain when we have published the regulations and no doubt there will be an opportunity to view them. There will be consultation on their detailed content, which will cover some of the concerns that have understandably been raised today.

Photo of Viscount Bridgeman Viscount Bridgeman Conservative

I am grateful to the Minister for the reassurance that the regulations will meet our requirements. In those circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Viscount Bridgeman Viscount Bridgeman Conservative

moved Amendment No. 292:

Page 47, line 46, leave out "may" and insert "shall"

Photo of Viscount Bridgeman Viscount Bridgeman Conservative

I rise to speak to Amendments Nos. 292, 294, 295 and 297. Other amendments in the group stand in the name of the noble Viscount, Lord Simon. Amendment No. 297 refers to,

"The burden of proof in any proceedings [lying] on the party who has seized or detained the vehicle, and not on the owner or person with a right to possession of and interest in the same".

That appears to us to be a perfectly reasonable provision. I beg to move.

Photo of Viscount Simon Viscount Simon Deputy Speaker (Lords)

I want to speak to Amendments Nos. 293 and 296 standing in my name. Amendment No. 293 is aimed at those people who have had their vehicle confiscated under an anti-social behaviour order. The amendment is explanatory in that in order for someone to recover their vehicle after it has been confiscated under such an order, it will be necessary for that person to prove that he already has the necessary certificate of insurance for it. In other words, he will not be able to drive away uninsured.

Amendment No. 296, which is almost a continuation of the amendment to which I have just spoken, also concerns vehicles confiscated under anti-social behaviour orders. It seeks to make allowance for a vehicle to be destroyed when it has no value and will never be claimed. It seems incongruous to leave a local council or police pound having to store lots of vehicles for ever when there is no residual value in any of them.

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Asylum and Immigration), Home Office, Minister (Home Office) (Asylum & Immigration)

The clause as drafted allows the Secretary of State to make regulations in respect of various issues. I realise that the points Members of the Committee have raised are important, but they are more appropriate for the regulations. We need flexibility in drafting the regulations and expressing the issues. Amendment No. 292 would curb our freedom of action. Clause 52(8) contains an important safeguard in that the new police powers relating to the seizure will be exercisable only after the regulations have come into force.

As regards Amendment No. 297, the removal and storage of the vehicles would impose a cost on the police. The amendment would make it more difficult for them to recover that cost and therefore it would impose an extra burden on the police. It should not be too difficult for a person to prove that he was not involved in the misuse of his vehicle because normally he would not have been present when it was being misused. It would be more difficult for the police to show that he had some involvement if he denied it.

We do not see a need for Amendment No. 296. The regulations will prescribe the circumstances under which the seized vehicle can be disposed of. That would include, for instance, cases in which the seized vehicle was, in the opinion of a competent authority, in such a condition that it ought to be destroyed.

In respect of Amendments Nos. 293 and 294, the regulations will be able to specify what proof of ownership must be produced before the vehicle can be released. We must be careful about that. We need to examine the documentation that will be acceptable as proof of ownership. We ought to be concerned about the principle of releasing a vehicle to someone other than the owner, which could lead to further arguments. We accept that the owner and the registered keeper are not necessarily the same person, but that is a matter of detail which we shall address in the regulations.

Photo of Viscount Bridgeman Viscount Bridgeman Conservative

Will the Minister assure us of the procedure under which the regulations will be put into effect?

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Asylum and Immigration), Home Office, Minister (Home Office) (Asylum & Immigration)

I was about to say, "As laid down in the clause", but that is not a satisfactory answer. I cannot see whether it is the negative or affirmative procedure. Perhaps I may put it this way: it fully conforms with the recommendations of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Select Committee of this House because we have accepted all its recommendations.

Photo of Viscount Bridgeman Viscount Bridgeman Conservative

I am grateful to the Minister. I am sure that he will write to us on this point. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 293 to 297 not moved.]

Photo of Viscount Bridgeman Viscount Bridgeman Conservative

moved Amendment No. 298:

Page 48, line 34, at end insert—

"( ) A person whose vehicle has been seized under section 52 may apply to a magistrates' court within the relevant jurisdiction within 28 days for an order that the vehicle be released by the relevant authority.

( ) Upon such an application, it shall be for the relevant authority to show on the balance of probabilities that the relevant police constable did have reasonable grounds to seize the vehicle.

( ) Failure to satisfy the court will result in the vehicle being returned immediately to the applicant and the applicant's costs being paid by the relevant authority.

( ) If a court is satisfied that there were good reasons, it may order that the vehicle be returned but also that the relevant authority's reasonable costs be met for the seizure and storage of the vehicle.

( ) If a court is satisfied that it is in the public interest that a vehicle remain seized, it may so order but only for a total period of 6 months."

Photo of Viscount Bridgeman Viscount Bridgeman Conservative

The amendment refers to the powers in Clause 53 in regard to the removal and retention of vehicles which have been seized under Clause 52. As they affect the owner of a vehicle, the proposals are very draconian and we suggest that they should be matters for a tribunal rather than for the Secretary of State. The amendment seeks to design an appellate procedure for those who feel that they have been wronged by a local authority in circumstances where either the Secretary of State or the local authority is unlikely to create such an appellate procedure. This is similar to the provisions in the private security Bill as regards appeals against the grant of private security licences. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Monson Lord Monson Crossbench

Again, I support the amendment of the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman. This is a well thought out and balanced amendment which introduces a much needed element of fairness into the clause. As I said before, I strongly support the principles of Clauses 52 and 53, but certain safeguards, such as this one, need to be incorporated into them.

Photo of Lord Borrie Lord Borrie Labour

I intervene on this occasion only because we did not have amendments dealing with particular aspects of Clause 52 and therefore we never discussed—we never had occasion to discuss—the warnings that have to be given by a police constable before he may seize vehicles. That warning—and a repetition of the offence—is necessary for the seizure to take place and is preparatory to using, in the words of the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, this "draconian power".

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Asylum and Immigration), Home Office, Minister (Home Office) (Asylum & Immigration)

It would be quite unfair—indeed, unjust—for the police to retain indefinitely vehicles that they had seized, but we do not consider that the procedures provided for in this detailed amendment, which would enable an aggrieved owner to have access to a court in the event of a dispute with the police, are necessary.

In such circumstances the vehicle owner could make use of existing civil procedures to gain access to the county court. Indeed, the civil courts have already determined similar disputes arising out of the removal, retention and disposal of vehicles seized by the police under their current powers under the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984. One example is the case of Service Motor Policies v City Recovery Limited 1997, which reached the Court of Appeal. So there is already a satisfactory procedure.

If the owner of the vehicle is subject to a criminal charge arising out of the circumstances in which the vehicle was seized, then an application under the Police Property Act may also be open to him. That procedure is often used by those who are subject to criminal charges to recover their property.

Photo of Viscount Bridgeman Viscount Bridgeman Conservative

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Monson, for his support of the amendment. I note what the Minister said—particularly his assurance in regard to the remedies currently available through the courts—and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 53 agreed to.

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Asylum and Immigration), Home Office, Minister (Home Office) (Asylum & Immigration) 5:15 pm, 12th March 2002

moved Amendment No. 298A:

After Clause 53, insert the following new clause—

"ANTI-SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR ORDERS

(1) Section 1 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 (c.37) (anti-social behaviour orders) shall be amended as follows.

(2) For paragraph (b) of subsection (1) (authority to be satisfied that order is necessary to protect persons), there shall be substituted—

"(b) that such an order is necessary to protect relevant persons from further anti-social acts by him."

(3) The words after that paragraph (which specify the authorities who, as relevant authorities, are entitled to apply for anti-social behaviour orders) shall be omitted.

(4) After subsection (1) there shall be inserted—

"(1A) In this section and sections 1B and 1E "relevant authority" means—

(a) the council for a local government area;

(b) the chief officer of police of any police force maintained for a police area;

(c) the chief constable of the British Transport Police Force; or

(d) any person registered under section 1 of the Housing Act 1996 (c. 52) as a social landlord who provides or manages any houses or hostel in a local government area.

(1B) In this section "relevant persons" means—

(a) in relation to a relevant authority falling within paragraph (a) of subsection (1A), persons within the local government area of that council;

(b) in relation to a relevant authority falling within paragraph (b) of that subsection, persons within the police area;

(c) in relation to a relevant authority falling within paragraph (c) of that subsection— (i) persons who are on or likely to be on policed premises in a local government area; or (ii) persons who are in the vicinity of or likely to be in the vicinity of such premises;

(d) in relation to a relevant authority falling within paragraph (d) of that subsection— (i) persons who are residing in or who are otherwise on or likely to be on premises provided or managed by that authority; or (ii) persons who are in the vicinity of or likely to be in the vicinity of such premises."

(5) Subsection (2) (which is superseded by the provision made by section (Consultation requirements) of this Act) shall cease to have effect.

(6) In subsection (3) (which identifies the court to which an application should be made), for the words from "the place" to the end there shall be substituted "the local government area or police area concerned".

(7) For subsection (6) (nature of prohibitions which may be imposed by order) there shall be substituted—

"(6) The prohibitions that may be imposed by an anti-social behaviour order are those necessary for the purpose of protecting persons (whether relevant persons or persons elsewhere in England and Wales) from further anti-social acts by the defendant."

(8) In subsection (12) of that section (interpretation)—

(a) after "In this section—" there shall be inserted— "'British Transport Police Force' means the force of constables appointed under section 53 of the British Transport Commission Act 1949 (c. xxix);"; and

(b) after the definition of "local government area" there shall be inserted— ""policed premises" has the meaning given by section 53(3) of the British Transport Commission Act 1949."

(9) Nothing in this section applies in relation to any application made under section 1 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 before the coming into force of this section."

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Asylum and Immigration), Home Office, Minister (Home Office) (Asylum & Immigration)

In moving Amendment No. 298A, I shall speak also to the proposed new clauses in Amendments Nos. 298B to 298F. These are government amendments on the central issue that I flagged up at Second Reading. I said that we would be bringing forward these amendments, which I hope will meet with the Committee's approval. I do not want to delay our proceedings, but it is worth putting on the record the reasons why we have brought forward these amendments. I can do so fairly briefly.

The anti-social behaviour orders, known as ASBOs—I try to avoid jargon in this place because if it turns up on the telly people wonder what the hell you are on about, but it takes a long time to say without it—are an important tool in addressing anti-social behaviour. However, ASBO use varies between areas and agencies and, to aid the battle against anti-social behaviour, the Government wish to increase the effectiveness of ASBOs by introducing these six amendments.

The proposed new clauses will amend and add to the provisions of Section 1 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. Amendment No. 298A seeks to enable the British Transport Police and registered social landlords to apply directly for anti-social behaviour orders by giving them "relevant authority" status. Each faces particular problems with anti-social behaviour and this proposed new clause will empower them to deal with such problems in an effective and timely manner. It specifies that the British Transport Police and registered social landlords are able to apply for ASBOs to protect persons who are on their premises or in the vicinity of their premises.

Amendment No. 298A also seeks to extend the area over which an ASBO can be made. It allows for the protection of persons anywhere within England and Wales or a defined area within England and Wales and tackles the problem of an offender simply moving to another area to continue the anti-social behaviour. The applicant will not be required to name or consult each local government area to be covered by the ASBO; paperwork therefore will be kept to a minimum.

Amendment No. 298B seeks to add a new Section 1A to the 1998 Act which enables the Secretary of State to add other non-Home Office police forces to the list of relevant authorities should this be required in the future—for example, the Royal Parks Police—hence avoiding the need for primary legislation.

Amendment No. 298C seeks to add a new Section 1B to the 1998 Act which enables county courts to make anti-social behaviour orders where the person who is to be the subject of the ASBO is party to proceedings that involve anti-social behaviour—for example, in eviction proceedings. Relevant authorities must also be party to those proceedings in order to make the application for the ASBO. If the relevant authority is not party to the proceedings, it may apply to the county court to be joined in the proceedings. Introducing the ASBOs into the county court removes the need for a separate legal process and enables the community to be protected more quickly.

Amendment No. 298D seeks to add a new Section 1C to the 1998 Act which enables a court dealing with criminal proceedings to make an order equivalent to an anti-social behaviour order against a person who has been convicted of a criminal offence in addition to the sentence or conditional discharge. The court must be satisfied that the offender has acted in an anti-social manner that has caused or is likely to cause harassment, alarm and distress, and that the ASBO is necessary to protect persons in England and Wales against further anti-social acts. There is no requirement for a relevant authority to apply for the ASBO on conviction. The court will be able to grant the ASBO by its own motion. This amendment also removes the need for a separate legal process and enables the community to be protected more quickly.

Amendment No. 298E seeks to insert a new Section 1D into the 1998 Act which introduces an interim ASBO that can be made by the courts on application by a relevant authority. It is for a fixed period pending the outcome of a full hearing. The effect of the interim anti-social behaviour order would be similar, as regards the prohibitions it may impose and the sanctions for breach, to a full ASBO. It will provide faster protection to the community and is especially beneficial to witnesses.

Amendment No. 298F seeks to introduce a new Section 1E which amends the consultation requirements for relevant authorities applying for ASBOs. The clause requires the Home Office police force or local authority to consult before applying for an ASBO. It also requires the British Transport Police and registered social landlords to consult both the Home Office police and the local authorities before making an application for an ASBO. It removes the requirement for relevant authorities to consult authorities in adjoining areas which may be covered by the ASBO.

I hope that that brief summary of the proposed new clauses will enable those who are experienced in this matter to realise that the provisions will give more teeth, and practicality, to the anti-social behaviour order. At meetings of one of my local police consultancy committees, which I attended on a regular basis, great hopes were expressed for the ASBOs. Their difficulty in getting off the ground caused a degree of discontent. At present, almost 500 have been brought into being. The proposed changes are highly practical. They will allow ASBOs to "take off". I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Dholakia Lord Dholakia Party Chair, Liberal Democrats

I thank the Minister for his explanation. It will obviously take some time to read his answer tomorrow and to interpret precisely what it means, but I am grateful for the information.

I have no problem with amending Section 1 of the Crime and Disorder Act. However, there are two publications relating to the Bill: one containing comment by the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee; the other from the Joint Committee on Human Rights. My difficulty is that major amendments to the Crime and Disorder Act have not been through some of the machinery that was established to examine the implications. I wonder at what stage the Minister will take that factor into account. That would be helpful. At this stage, I shall make a note of the point and, if we are not satisfied, we hope that on Report a proposal from the committees will be forthcoming.

Photo of Lord Corbett of Castle Vale Lord Corbett of Castle Vale Labour

I thank my noble friend and welcome the provision in paragraph (d) of the proposed new clause to enable registered social landlords to apply to the courts for anti-social behaviour orders.

My noble friend will probably recall that the housing action trust for Castle Vale—which was a testament to civic neglect over many years—set about trying to rebuild that estate and the lives of the 10,000 people living there. It was a sign of the maturity and confidence of the people there that, when the housing action trust decided that anti-social behaviour orders should be applied for, it received the support of that community. One of the most gratifying events was that, when it turned to the community and asked for people to come forward as witnesses, the necessary number of witnesses appeared. If anyone had thought of acting in that way and giving support to the relevant authorities 10 years earlier, they would have had their windows put in at the very least.

My point is that the Castle Vale housing action trust, among other registered social landlords, found the procedure extremely cumbersome, because it was not in charge of it. The trust had to persuade the local authority and the local police force to become involved. It was a bureaucratic nonsense to have to go through the local council when it was no longer the landlord of the homes involved.

One of the last tasks I carried out in my previous job at the other end of this building was to write a letter to the Home Office, on the back of this experience, urging the Government to make this among other changes to the way in which anti-social behaviour orders can be dealt with. On behalf of the Castle Vale housing action trust—I should mention that I am chairman designate of a neighbourhood management board which is being established there—and the people living on the Castle Vale estate, I thank the Government for bringing the amendment forward.

We should not be mesmerised by the number of anti-social behaviour orders that have been granted. There is some evidence that magistrates are sometimes reluctant to use them. But there is also evidence that when those accused of anti-social behaviour—I have seen documents running to 30, 40 or 50 incidents, all denied by the young man concerned, as it usually is, and his family—are confronted with that kind of documentation, it can achieve a change in behaviour. That does not happen in every case—and in my experience not in most cases—but in some cases the very threat of an application to the courts for anti-social behaviour orders and the knowledge of what can follow does indeed improve the behaviour. The real threat in the case of the Castle Vale housing action trust was that alongside the applications for ASBOs it applied for possession of the houses concerned. This is serious stuff; but it is serious action that leads public bodies to take such steps. I thank my noble friend again for bringing forward the amendment.

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Asylum and Immigration), Home Office, Minister (Home Office) (Asylum & Immigration)

I am grateful to my noble friend for his remarks. I know of the incredible efforts carried out by that community over the years. The estate, some 20 or 30 tower blocks, was built on the former Castle Bromwich aerodrome at breakneck speed. It was badly managed by the former managers; namely, Birmingham City Council. The estate was totally reformed. People are queuing up to live in the area now, whereas, in the past, when my own constituents were offered the opportunity to live there, they were horrified. I used to sit there in terror at my surgeries on Friday evenings listening to people saying that they did not want to go to Castle Vale. The exact reverse is now the case. I appreciate what my noble friend has said.

Turning to the matter raised by the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, at Second Reading I flagged up the point that we should bring these amendments forward. They were not ready for the Bill, and we did not want to delay the Bill. I should point out that they are being introduced in Committee, not on Report; so I shall not take too many complaints that we have not introduced them at the first available opportunity after the Bill was printed.

A further memorandum has been submitted to the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee covering Amendment No. 289B. The Joint Committee on Human Rights raised a question on the amendments. Its report is in the form of a long letter to me containing 17 questions, one of which I shall refer to. A reply should be sent to the Joint Committee tomorrow. The Government's view is that the amendments, and also the provisions in the Crime and Disorder Act, are fully compatible with the Human Rights Act.

I have not yet taken advice on the matter or seen the detail of the reply. However, I was astonished to read the final question on Clause 54, relating to the British Transport Police, which is under the heading:

"Removal of truants to designated places".

The question I was asked, in paragraph 16 of the letter, was:

"What would the purpose of the removal of such truants be, and how would it relate to the legitimate grounds for depriving a person of liberty under Article 5(1)?".

I thought: has this committee taken leave of its senses? The only reason the British Transport Police are involved is that someone is on railway property. So how can we be depriving someone of his or her liberty under the Human Rights Act? If that question is what I think it is, it gives the Human Rights Act the exact bad name that we do not want it to have by making preposterous allegations or by raising issues in such a way that the general public would say that members of the committee are not living in the real world.

The British Transport Police are there to look after railway property. That is their role and function. Truants—people on the property—would be removed. That is what the clause is about—removing people. We are not depriving anyone of his or her liberty. Is it depriving someone of his or her human rights if we remove a truant from railway property? That sounds preposterous. I know that I shall get it in the neck from members of the Joint Committee, but that is up to them. I read the report as a reasonable person. I have not discussed it with the civil servants. I read the whole thing from cover to cover. It was, after all, a letter to me.

The members of the Joint Committee from this Chamber have a vested interest in the issue, but I do not know whether they are here at the moment. Looking at the list of members, I think that they are not here, so I shall not invite any comments. We will give a reasoned and substantive answer to all the questions—much more than was contained in my bellicose statements of a few minutes ago. I am sure that the Committee will be satisfied. We are not in the business of breaching human rights legislation. We are in the business of bringing some law and order to areas where we have discovered defects. One of those areas relates to truants on railway property.

The amendments will require some scrutiny because this is the first time that they have been available. It is important that the Committee of this House and the Joint Committee have an opportunity to look at them. We also have Report stage to come if noble Lords wish to tease out further aspects of them. The new clauses are important. I am not in any way suggesting that they are not. It is because of their importance that I was so mystified by the last but one question of the Joint Committee.

Photo of Lord Dholakia Lord Dholakia Party Chair, Liberal Democrats 5:30 pm, 12th March 2002

I had no intention of interfering in the Minister's robust answer to the Joint Committee whenever that is likely to be. My main intention was to point out that whenever such amendments are moved in Committee, an important stage is missed out. I simply want to be satisfied. We have no difficulty with the provision that the Minister is asking for.

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Asylum and Immigration), Home Office, Minister (Home Office) (Asylum & Immigration)

I have moved the first of the amendments. If the Committee approves it, I shall move the others formally.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Asylum and Immigration), Home Office, Minister (Home Office) (Asylum & Immigration)

moved Amendments Nos. 298B to 298F:

After Clause 53, insert the following new clause—

"POWER OF SECRETARY OF STATE TO ADD TO RELEVANT AUTHORITIES

(1) After section 1 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, there shall be inserted—

"1A POWER OF SECRETARY OF STATE TO ADD TO RELEVANT AUTHORITIES

The Secretary of State may by order provide that the chief officer of a body of constables maintained otherwise than by a police authority is, in such cases and circumstances as may be prescribed by the order, to be a relevant authority for the purposes of section 1 above."

(2) In section 114 of that Act (negative resolution procedure for orders) after "section" there shall be inserted "1A,"."

After Clause 53, insert the following new clause—

"ORDERS IN COUNTY COURT PROCEEDINGS

After section 1A of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 (which is inserted by section (Power of Secretary of State to add to relevant authorities)), there shall be inserted—

"1B ORDERS IN COUNTY COURT PROCEEDINGS

(1) This section applies to any proceedings in a county court ("the principal proceedings").

(2) If a relevant authority—

(a) is a party to the principal proceedings, and

(b) considers that a party to those proceedings is a person in relation to whom it would be reasonable for it to make an application under section 1, it may make an application in those proceedings for an order under subsection (4).

(3) If a relevant authority—

(a) is not a party to the principal proceedings, and

(b) considers that a party to those proceedings is a person in relation to whom it would be reasonable for it to make an application under section 1, it may make an application to be joined to those proceedings to enable it to apply for an order under subsection (4) and, if it is so joined, may apply for such an order.

(4) If, on an application for an order under this subsection, it is proved that the conditions mentioned in section 1(1) are fulfilled as respects that other party, the court may make an order which prohibits him from doing anything described in the order.

(5) Subject to subsection (6), the party to the principal proceedings against whom an order under this section has been made and the relevant authority on whose application that order was made may apply to the county court which made an order under this section for it to be varied or discharged by a further order.

(6) Except with the consent of the relevant authority and the person subject to the order, no order under this section shall be discharged before the end of the period of two years beginning with the date of service of the order.

(7) Subsections (5) to (7) and (10) to (12) of section 1 apply for the purposes of the making and effect of orders made under this section as they apply for the purposes of the making and effect of anti-social behaviour orders.""

After Clause 53, insert the following new clause—

"ORDERS ON CONVICTION IN CRIMINAL PROCEEDINGS

After section 1B of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 (which is inserted by section (Orders in county court proceedings)), there shall be inserted—

"1C ORDERS ON CONVICTION IN CRIMINAL PROCEEDINGS

(1) This section applies where a person (the "offender") is convicted of a relevant offence.

(2) If the court considers—

(a) that the offender has acted, at any time since the commencement date, in an anti-social manner, that is to say in a manner that caused or was likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to one or more persons not of the same household as himself, and

(b) that an order under this section is necessary to protect persons in any place in England and Wales from further anti-social acts by him, it may make an order which prohibits the offender from doing anything described in the order.

(3) The court may make an order under this section whether or not an application has been made for such an order.

(4) An order under this section shall not be made except—

(a) in addition to a sentence imposed in respect of the relevant offence; or

(b) in addition to an order discharging him conditionally.

(5) An order under this section takes effect on the day on which it is made, but the court may provide in any such order that such requirements of the order as it may specify shall, during any period when the offender is detained in legal custody, be suspended until his release from that custody.

(6) An offender subject to an order under this section may apply to the court which made it for it to be varied or discharged.

(7) In the case of an order under this section made by a magistrates' court, the reference in subsection (6) to the court by which the order was made includes a reference to any magistrates' court acting for the same petty sessions area as that court.

(8) No application may be made under subsection (6) before the end of the period of two years beginning with the day on which the order takes effect.

(9) Subsections (7), (10) and (11) of section 1 apply for the purposes of the making and effect of orders made by virtue of this section as they apply for the purposes of the making and effect of anti-social behaviour orders.

(10) In this section— "the commencement date" has the same meaning as in section 1 above; "the court" in relation to an offender means—

(a) the court by or before which he is convicted of the relevant offence; or

(b) if he is committed to the Crown Court to be dealt with for that offence, the Crown Court; and "relevant offence" means an offence committed after the coming into force of section (Orders on conviction in criminal proceedings) of the Police Reform Act 2002.""

After Clause 53, insert the following new clause—

"INTERIM ORDERS

(1) After section 1C of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 (which is inserted by section (Orders on conviction in criminal proceedings)), there shall be inserted—

"1D INTERIM ORDERS

(1) The applications to which this section applies are—

(a) an application for an anti-social behaviour order; and

(b) an application for an order under section 1B.

(2) If, before determining an application to which this section applies, the court considers that it is just to make an order under this section pending the determination of that application ("the main application"), it may make such an order.

(3) An order under this section is an order which prohibits the defendant from doing anything described in the order.

(4) An order under this section—

(a) shall be for a fixed period;

(b) may be varied, renewed or discharged;

(c) shall, if it has not previously ceased to have effect, cease to have effect on the determination of the main application.

(5) Subsections (6), (8) and (10) to (12) of section 1 apply for the purposes of the making and effect of orders under this section as they apply for the purposes of the making and effect of anti-social behaviour orders."

(2) In section 4(1) of that Act (appeals), for "order or" there shall be substituted ", an order under section 1D or a"."

After Clause 53, insert the following new clause—

"CONSULTATION REQUIREMENTS

After section 1D of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 (which is inserted by section (Interim orders)), there shall be inserted—

"1E CONSULTATION REQUIREMENTS

Before making an application for an anti-social behaviour order or for an order under section 1B—

(a) the council for a local government area shall consult every chief officer of police of any police force maintained for a police area within which any part of that local government area lies;

(b) any such chief officer shall consult that council and every other such chief officer; and

(c) any other relevant authority shall consult both that council and every such chief officer.""

Photo of Lord Hylton Lord Hylton Crossbench

Before the next stage of the Bill, will the Government consider whether the language of this group could be made briefer?

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Asylum and Immigration), Home Office, Minister (Home Office) (Asylum & Immigration)

Each amendment is a brand new clause to the Bill. Clauses can be one line or 50 lines long. They are as brief as parliamentary counsel, in his or her wisdom, can make them.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clauses 54 and 55 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 299 not moved.]

Clause 28 [Resignation in the interests of efficiency and effectiveness]:

[Amendment No. 300 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

Photo of Lord Dixon-Smith Lord Dixon-Smith Conservative

moved Amendment No. 300A:

Page 27, line 21, at end insert—

"(c) after subsection (5), there shall be inserted—

"( ) Before any action is taken under this section the Secretary of State shall take into account any representations by the appropriate police authority or Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary.""

Photo of Lord Dixon-Smith Lord Dixon-Smith Conservative

Part 3 deals with the power of the Secretary of State to require an authority to cause to retire the commissioner or deputy commissioner, in the case of the Metropolitan Police, or the chief constable in a shire constabulary. It is unlikely that such a situation will arise so precipitately that it will be a complete surprise to anybody. Our aim in tabling Amendments Nos. 300A, 301A and 305 is not to delay the proceedings or to prevent the Home Secretary from exercising his power. We simply want him to take into account the views of the authority—which, after all, is the employer of the man in question—before exercising his power.

In normal circumstances, such situations will develop. They may not develop over a long period, but they will develop. One would have thought that reinstating the triangulation of consultation in this small way was worth doing. We are devoted to the proposition that police authorities have a responsible role to play in the management of their forces. It is a co-operative role. The tripartite arrangement depends entirely on co-operation between all its parts if it is to work. We thought the amendments worth tabling because, so far as we could tell, although the persons affected can make representations that have to be considered by the Secretary of State, the authority seems to be no more than a posting box for a requirement for action. We thought that authorities were entitled to have their views listened to. We do not intend to prevent the Secretary of State taking the action if the situation is at that point. We simply want to be sure that all views are properly considered on the way. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Peyton of Yeovil Lord Peyton of Yeovil Conservative

I agree with my noble friend. I have two very civil amendments in this group, motivated by the same intention. One hopes that the Home Secretary will not reach this point too often, because it is difficult to exaggerate the importance of a chief officer of police and the authority under which they serve.

I hope that the Home Secretary does not get into the habit of ordering people about. That would not generate the trust and mutual respect that are essential in the present very difficult circumstances in which all three parties work.

My amendments are not flippant. Good manners and courtesy can make very awkward situations less uncomfortable and a little easier to handle than under the procedures laid down in Acts of Parliament.

Photo of Lord Bradshaw Lord Bradshaw Liberal Democrat

Amendment No. 304 is also in this group. Clause 30 is one of the most important in the Bill. It goes to the heart of one of the core principles underpinning the constitution of policing in this country, which is the operational independence of the chief constable. The current proposals would undermine that principle. They require very detailed scrutiny.

The Secretary of State already has the power, under Section 42 of the Police Act 1996, to require a police authority to exercise its powers under Section 11 of that Act to call upon the chief constable to retire in the interests of efficiency and effectiveness. They are long-stop powers, or a safety net, for situations in which it is clear that the police authority is not carrying out its responsibilities properly to deal with the unsatisfactory performance of the chief constable and, as a result, policing in the area not being efficient or effective.

The Government propose to extend those powers in the Bill. Of particular concern is the proposal that the Secretary of State should be able to require the police authority to suspend a chief constable. That change is far more substantive than the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, suggested at Second Reading. The existing powers at the point of resignation are entirely different from the proposed new powers of suspension. By its nature, the point at which the Secretary of State would consider whether to call upon the police authority to require a chief constable to resign or retire would come at the end of the process when all the facts had been scrutinised and the issues understood. Yet the ability to suspend a chief constable potentially kicks in right at the outset of the process. Is it right that a Home Secretary should be able to interfere in the management of people at that early stage without any form of consultation, without having been there on the ground and without necessarily having the full background and the full facts?

The Government have stated their intention that this would only be a power of last resort. But such statements can easily be lost in the mists of time. The potential for a future Home Secretary improperly to exert influence through the new power is significant. In today's increasingly media-driven age, where people expect instant responses and actions, the stated purpose of the new power could easily be exceeded or even abused.

This is a serious issue. The principle of the operational independence of a chief constable free from political interference has stood the test of time and we erode it at our peril. The amendment I am discussing seeks to protect that principle by requiring the Secretary of State to consult the relevant police authority and have regard to any representations it may make before exercising the powers. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, will accept the amendment. It does not seek to wreck the Government's intention underpinning the clause, but it provides a proper buffer between the Home Secretary of the day and the potential for direct interference and undue influence on the fate of a chief constable. As I say, it does not frustrate the Government's stated intention. I urge the Minister to think seriously before taking the powers we are discussing.

Photo of Lord Condon Lord Condon Crossbench

I support Amendments Nos. 300A, 301A, 304 and 305. The cumulative effect of Clauses 28 to 32 is probably to make it easier to suspend and remove a chief officer than it is to remove the most inexperienced probationer constable on the grounds of inefficiency or ineffectiveness. That may well be right and in the public interest in the sense that an ineffective and inefficient chief officer can do far more harm than the youngest probationer constable. However, that power to suspend and remove brings with it an obligation at least to adhere to the concepts of natural justice and human rights of the chief officers so affected.

Clauses 28 to 32 seek to update and to some extent extend existing powers. In the recent past those existing powers have been shown to be not effective in taking care of the public interest and the reputation of the service. Therefore, I fully acknowledge the need for reform and the need to extend some of the powers. However, I hope that when the Minister responds to the amendments he will give some assurance that the rights of the chief officers affected will be considered when the regulations under Clause 31 are brought into effect. At the moment an act of faith is required to believe that Clause 31 will bring in procedures to ensure that the rights of the affected chief officers are looked after. The amendments currently under consideration would put on the face of the Bill a requirement to consult police authorities and the inspectorate of constabulary to enable other views to be taken into account.

Clearly, it is in the public interest and that of the service that inefficient and ineffective chief officers should be removed from their positions after due process. My only concern is that at the moment that due process is not clear on the face of the Bill; it will probably be contained in the regulations under Clause 31. As I say, I support the amendments that I have mentioned.

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Asylum and Immigration), Home Office, Minister (Home Office) (Asylum & Immigration) 5:45 pm, 12th March 2002

I assure the noble Lord, Lord Condon, that it is not intended in any way, shape or form to deny individual citizens their rights. It may be a question of denying their right to the job in question, but, as I say, we have no intention of going down the road of denying individual citizens their rights. If I cannot satisfy the noble Lord with regard to Clause 31 today, I hope that I shall be able to do so by Report stage. This is an important part of the Bill and the noble Lords, Lord Dixon-Smith, Lord Peyton of Yeovil and Lord Bradshaw, were right to comment on it. I do not agree with all the points they made, but it is right that we spend a few moments discussing this crucial part.

Amendments Nos. 300A and 301A would introduce a layer of process serving no purpose. Clause 28 simply adds the option of resignation to that of retirement when the police authority exercises its powers under Sections 9E or 11 of the Police Act 1996. The Secretary of State's role under those sections is that he must consent to the exercise of those powers. The amendments are misplaced in that the Secretary of State's obligations in considering whether or not to consent are in Section 42 as amended by Clause 30. But assuming the principle behind them is that the Secretary of State should consult the police authority, they are also unnecessary. Action under Sections 9E and 11 is initiated by the police authority which applies to the Secretary of State for consent. By definition, its views are taken into account as the initiating authority.

I understand that Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary is not in the business of making representations as such. It does, of course, offer advice to Ministers on policing issues, including efficiency and effectiveness. It is almost inconceivable that Ministers would not seek the advice of HMIC before consenting to the exercise of these powers by the police authority, but "representations" by it would not be appropriate. However, that does not mean that it is excluded from the matter.

Amendments Nos. 303B and 303C would remove the power of the Secretary of State to intervene in order to require action and to substitute a request for action by the police authority. The effect of this part of Clause 30(2) is simply to include in the existing intervention powers the route of resignation as inserted by Clause 28.

The existing intervention powers (under Section 42 of the Police Act 1996) are for use as a last resort where other avenues have failed. At that stage, the need for urgent action would be paramount and the power to make a request—as opposed to direct—would not represent an effective course of action.

I freely admit to the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, that I put a sheaf of notes in the Library on the legislation. However, I cannot remember whether they included the clauses we are discussing. I believe that they concerned another part of the Bill. It is not the easiest thing to follow through the process when one is considering dumping sections and subsections in other pieces of legislation that are cross-referenced in our amendments in the Bill, which is amending legislation. I make that absolutely clear.

The existing intervention power already gives the Home Secretary the power to require departure. The only change introduced in Clause 30(2), which runs from line 13 to line 44—it is a substantial subsection—is to allow the departure to be by resignation as well as by retirement. The amendments would change and seriously weaken existing legislative provision rather than the new legislative provision in the Bill. As such, they would not work in the intended way and would in many ways be wrecking amendments.

Amendments Nos. 304 and 305 relate to matters of procedure—that is not to say that they are not important—which should not be set out on the face of the Act but are properly a matter for secondary legislation. Clause 31, to which the noble Lord, Lord Condon, referred, provides a regulation-making power. Where an officer made representations against intervention by the Secretary of State under Section 42, the requirement for an inquiry would be triggered and the views of all parties would be heard, considered and reported to the Secretary of State.

I freely admit—I may dig myself into a pit by saying this—that in this context I am very much reliant on the powers of the scrutiny committees in this House. Clause 31 clearly contains the regulation-making power for the removal of senior officers. That provision will become Section 42A of the 1996 Act, which is the main legislation. Clause 31(3) states:

"A statutory instrument containing regulations under this section shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament".

That involves the negative resolution procedure. However, the point is that there is a procedure for debating the matter. I grant that the affirmative resolution procedure is not involved but the fact that the negative resolution procedure is involved does not mean that the House and the other place cannot debate the matter. There is a well-known procedure for laying a prayer and having a debate. The issue can be brought before the House if the House so chooses.

I end as I began. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Condon, that in no way would the Home Secretary, myself or any other member of the Government operate in such a way as to deny the relevant rights to individuals. I hope that that reassures him. Perhaps I may make a further addition to my earlier comments. The regulations must include the right to know the reasons for the decision, the right to make personal representations to the police authority and, if the Secretary of State initiates removal, an inquiry must be set up by an independent person under Section 42. Those requirements all remain. We should secure the rights of ordinary citizens and ensure that we are not oppressive in relation to an individual. These circumstances clearly involve a traumatic time in a person's life; one has to think about the circumstances in which the powers will be used. They may be a traumatic part of the life of a professional person who is reaching the pinnacle of his or her career. Their rights have to be safeguarded to the extent that we can do so in the regulations. Those matters will be included. I hope that that reassures Members of the Committee that the amendments are not really necessary and that we are certainly minded to take account of the rights of the individuals concerned.

Photo of Lord Condon Lord Condon Crossbench

Before the Minister concludes, I thank him, as ever, for his encouraging and sympathetic response to the points that have been raised. He properly discussed the addition of the word "resign" to the word "retire". To ensure that Members of the Committee do not miss the significance of that, for a relatively young chief officer, resignation rather than retirement could mean forfeiting all pension rights. Over a period of 20 to 30 years, he or she might possibly have to forfeit a six-figure sum in terms of pension rights. As the Minister said, the proposal would have grave implications for a relatively young chief officer if the powers were used in a crude way, which I am sure will not be the case.

Photo of Lord Bradshaw Lord Bradshaw Liberal Democrat

So far as Amendment No. 304 is concerned, we are not really satisfied. We think that before the issue of the removal of the chief constable appeared, the matter would have come to the notice of Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and the police authority. The process is long and happens very rarely. However, we believe that any attempt to cut out the police authority from the tripartite process will in the end—we have not yet reached the regulations—involve an unnecessary further step along the road. We shall not press Amendment No. 304 but I give notice to the Minister that we feel very strongly about the matter and expect improvements on Report.

Photo of Lord Dixon-Smith Lord Dixon-Smith Conservative

I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Peyton of Yeovil for his amendment and in effect for supporting the principle that I advanced. The noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, argued along similar lines to ourselves. The noble Lord, Lord Condon, pointed out that the proposal will extend existing powers. His point about the effect on pension rights raises a fundamental issue that needs careful consideration.

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Asylum and Immigration), Home Office, Minister (Home Office) (Asylum & Immigration)

I am grateful to the noble Lord for allowing me to make the situation absolutely clear. The proposal would have an effect on pension rights but there will be no forfeiture of existing pension rights that were owned by the person. The right to future rights may—I stress that word—be affected. That would be the case in relation to any resignation. There will be no loss of existing vested rights.

Photo of Lord Condon Lord Condon Crossbench

In a sense, what the Minister is saying is accurate but it is also slightly misleading—not intentionally, I am sure. For example, a relatively young chief officer of 41 or 42 years of age will not at that point have accrued pension rights that would automatically kick in if he or she were forced to retire at that point. He or she would have to wait until the age of 60 before any pension provision kicked in. The proposal would have a very serious financial impact on his or her life at that point.

Photo of Lord Dixon-Smith Lord Dixon-Smith Conservative

I am grateful to the Minister and the noble Lord, Lord Condon, for those interventions, which confirm that pension considerations are an important factor.

The Minister said that to the extent that the amendment and those grouped with it changed an existing power in the 1996 Act, they were not really appropriate. We were well aware of that; our approach was quite deliberate. I do not duck that matter. I do not think that the 1996 Act was a perfect piece of legislation; it could be improved by introducing this little gentle and slightly more humane aspect that we have proposed. It would involve a slight saving and it would reinstate arrangements that we happen to believe are appropriate.

The Minister's comments make it clear that we shall have to study his response with great care. The Bill is obviously amending previous legislation—it is not original legislation. As the Minister said, it is therefore somewhat difficult always to interpret what the effect is as one goes back through previous legislation. We may well need to return to this issue. Meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 301 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

[Amendment No. 301A not moved.]

Clause 28 agreed to.

Clause 29 [Suspension of senior officers]:

Photo of Lord Dixon-Smith Lord Dixon-Smith Conservative 6:00 pm, 12th March 2002

moved Amendment No. 302:

Page 28, line 11, at end insert—

"( ) The Metropolitan Police Authority will, in exercising its power, formally advise of the likely duration of the period of suspension prior to the retirement or resignation of the Commissioner of Police, and be required to notify the Secretary of State and Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary accordingly.".

Photo of Lord Dixon-Smith Lord Dixon-Smith Conservative

Amendment No. 302 and Amendment No. 303, which is grouped with it, seek simply to add a slightly different dimension to a situation in which suspension is called for by requiring the authority to put a time limit on the suspension.

It is an unfortunate fact of life that in a number of cases—not, I hasten to say, in this but in other professions—people are suspended on full pay for interminable periods. One hears of suspensions going on and on in the medical profession. Because a suspension is in place, there seems to be no urgency to resolve the matter. Of course, the person suspended continues to draw his salary and, therefore, he is no worse off. But such a situation is slightly ridiculous, and I do not consider this to be an unreasonable request.

I believe that if a suspension proved to have been arranged for too short a period, an option could be put in place for nominating an extension to it. But the point of the amendment is to ensure that the suspension process is moved forward and that it is subject to pressure to be moved forward due to the fact that it will end if a conclusion is not reached. That may seem to be an insignificant or irrelevant point but we believe that it could be important. It could also be useful in the interests of the efficiency and effectiveness of the service. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Condon Lord Condon Crossbench

I support Amendments Nos. 302 and 303, moved by the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, for the reasons which I outlined in debate on the amendments relating to Clause 28. The powers to suspend are proposed new powers. Members of the Committee will be aware that we are not talking about allegations of criminality or even of misconduct; we are talking about allegations of inefficiency and ineffectiveness. I accept that they can be serious, but they are not of the nature of misconduct or criminality.

A suspension could be triggered not on the grounds of a substantive finding of inefficiency or ineffectiveness but simply because it might be in the interests of efficiency and effectiveness and subsequent powers might be used later. Therefore, it is proposed that very strong powers should be used without a substantive finding. I pray in aid the arguments that I put forward in relation to the previous amendments. I hope that, in responding to the amendment, the Minister will again give an assurance that Clause 31, which concerns regulations, will address this type of concern. Therefore, I support the spirit of the amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith.

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Asylum and Immigration), Home Office, Minister (Home Office) (Asylum & Immigration)

I hope that the regulations will make it clear that the period of suspension should not be unreasonable. I believe that, in a way, the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, made the case for me. He fairly put forward the two sides of the coin in relation to the setting of the duration of the suspension. If the period that had been set were too short, it would not be fair to the officer concerned if, following inquiries, the suspension then had to continue for a much longer period. We have no provision for setting a term for suspension under any existing powers in relation to disciplinary proceedings.

The fact that a suspension had been arranged would probably indicate that the position surrounding it was not clear. It would be clear that the suspension should have been put in place but a great deal of work would be involved; hence the reason for arranging a suspension rather than holding inquiries while the person in question was still working.

But there is also a danger in over-pitching the term of a suspension in order to be on the safe side and ensure that an officer is not disappointed when the period is extended. There have been some outrageous examples in terms of the conduct of public administration in this country. As the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, said, that is not necessarily the case in relation to the police, but the NHS is a prime example. It is preposterous to think that anyone would say, "You're suspended and it will last for four years", but that is how it happens in reality and it is totally and utterly unacceptable. No one would defend that. I certainly do not seek to do so; I make that absolutely clear.

There is no practical way of putting a time limit on the duration of a suspension. That is the difficulty that we face. Therefore, I hope that something may be included in the regulations—I am not writing it as I am on my feet—setting out that there is a duty to ensure that the inquiries which follow a suspension are carried out as expeditiously as possible and that there are no long delays between the various stages of the process.

We have taken advice on this matter because it forms a serious part of the Bill. It affects few individuals but they are individuals who find themselves in traumatic circumstances. We have consulted the Inspectorate of Constabulary, which does not believe that this is a viable way of proceeding. On the other hand, I fully accept that we must find a way of proceeding which is compatible with the desire of the Committee not to allow the police service to fall into the NHS trap in which people are suspended for year after year. That is unacceptable.

Photo of Lord Dixon-Smith Lord Dixon-Smith Conservative

I am grateful for the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Condon, on this matter. I am also grateful to the Minister for his explanation. It is an unfortunate fact that practice elsewhere has, on occasion, been wholly unsatisfactory. It was with that in mind that we tabled the amendments. It has provoked a useful discussion. If we are to see it dealt with in some way through regulation, that may well be extremely helpful.

We shall of course be flying blind, if I may express it in that way, until we see those regulations. The Minister is fortunate that we now know him very well. We know that he is a very straight man, and we can take what he says as being what will happen. I do not believe that we have to worry about that. But a situation is always difficult when one is dealing with legislation which is dependent on regulations and sometimes on guidance and other matters. Without having those in front of one to interpret, one has some difficulty. We shall study what the Minister said. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 303 not moved.]

Photo of Lord Peyton of Yeovil Lord Peyton of Yeovil Conservative

moved Amendment No. 303A:

Page 28, line 35, leave out subsection (3).

Photo of Lord Peyton of Yeovil Lord Peyton of Yeovil Conservative

On the last occasion that I drew attention to the consequences of squeezing a new Bill into an old sausage skin in company with its previous occupant—in other words, the 1996 Act—I made a protest against the inelegancies that result. As a consequence, a large load of paper was sent to me but it went missing. The unfortunate person who delivered it obviously found it too heavy and collapsed under the weight of it. I pointed out that only the letter had arrived and I received a second copy, after which the first copy arrived. Courteous as that was, I hope that that will not happen again because I have limited storage space in my modest-sized house in London and I simply cannot go on accommodating a load of paper.

By way of reward, with Amendment No. 303A I am offering the noble Lord an opportunity which he should be keen to seize in order to strike a blow for lucidity and for the English language. I am sure that in this I shall have the energetic support of my noble friend Lord Renton.

In order to make it clear to any Member of the Committee who has not in front of him or her the text of the horror, I am afraid that I must read it out. I apologise for the pain that it will cause to your Lordships. Subsection (3) states:

"In each of sections 9F(3), 9FA(3) and 9G(3) of that Act (application of sections 9E(1) to (3) in the case of Assistant Commissioners, Deputy Assistant Commissioners and commanders), at the end there shall be inserted 'but with the omission in subsection (2A)—

(a) of paragraph (b);

(b) in paragraph (c), of the words from 'or been sent' to 'exercise that power'; and

(c) of the words after paragraph (c)".

The noble Lord would be within his rights if he were to rise to his feet immediately and say that in some way I have misrepresented or misread that horror. The noble Lord kindly agrees that I have done nothing of the kind. Therefore, I cannot help feeling that he must be in an extreme hurry—I shall cut short my remarks—to get rid of such a ghastly piece of language. There must be other ways of achieving the same effect.

Photo of Lord Hylton Lord Hylton Crossbench

Does the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, agree that exactly the same consideration as he has rehearsed applies to subsections (4) and (5)?

Photo of Lord Peyton of Yeovil Lord Peyton of Yeovil Conservative

I had no desire to weary the Committee, or to try its nerves by repeating similar horrors. I chose subsection (3) as an illustration.

Photo of Lord Renton Lord Renton Conservative

Without appearing to be patronising, I say how refreshing it is to find a layman applying his broad mind to matters that some people would consider to be the responsibility of lawyers.

Photo of Lord Peyton of Yeovil Lord Peyton of Yeovil Conservative

I am grateful to my noble friend. In the dim years of the past, I was called to the Bar and I did practise.

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Asylum and Immigration), Home Office, Minister (Home Office) (Asylum & Immigration)

I declare an interest: I am not a lawyer! It is probably unfair to put the matter this way. The noble Lord, Lord Peyton, read out the subsection perfectly. The subsection includes the deputy commissioner with the commissioner. The assistant commissioners, the deputy assistant commissioners and the commanders are there, but the deputy commissioner is missing. The beginning of Clause 29 states:

"In section 9E of the 1996 Act (removal of Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner".

I apologise that the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, did not receive the first tranche of documents. I handled them myself, but I did not deliver them. I am glad that he has now had a chance to read them.

As with the existing intervention powers under Section 42 of the Police Act 1996, the power for the Secretary of State to require a suspension is restricted to officers having the overall direction of the force; in other words, the chief constable. That is the intention. He is the person in overall charge. The suspension power deliberately extends, in the case of the Metropolitan Police, to include the deputy commissioner, but only the deputy commissioner, in view of his significant role in relation to the overall direction of the force. The power of suspension in the Bill is to be exercised primarily by police authorities.

In that respect, I apologise for the way in which the subsection is drafted, but it is necessary because that is the way that the parliamentary draftsman has tried to match the two Bills together, as the noble Lord will have seen from the vast tranche of papers that I sent him—obviously in duplicate.

Photo of Lord Peyton of Yeovil Lord Peyton of Yeovil Conservative 6:15 pm, 12th March 2002

I strongly object to the abominable practice of trying to squeeze into an already over-filled sausage skin—namely, the earlier Act of Parliament—a new Bill. It is a bad habit and all sorts of horrible inelegancies result. I suggest that should the noble Lord ever lose ministerial office—I am sure that will not happen in a hurry—he could apply his talents to the art of draftsmanship and produce wording that will be greatly preferred to what we have in front of us. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 29 agreed to.

Clause 30: [Removal etc. of senior officers at the instance of the Secretary of State]:

[Amendments Nos. 303B to 305 not moved.]

Photo of Lord Peyton of Yeovil Lord Peyton of Yeovil Conservative

moved Amendment No. 305A:

Page 30, leave out lines 25 to 28.

Photo of Lord Peyton of Yeovil Lord Peyton of Yeovil Conservative

Are the words that my amendment seeks to leave out really necessary? I understand that the Secretary of State has already exercised his power under subsection (1) to require the removal of the chief officer concerned. That being the case, is it necessary—or have I misunderstood—for the police authority to seek his consent? He has initiated the whole process. It appears to me that that is superfluous. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Asylum and Immigration), Home Office, Minister (Home Office) (Asylum & Immigration)

This amendment would reintroduce an unnecessary piece of the process. The new subsection (4A)(a), as inserted by Clause 30(5), removes the need for a police authority which has been directed by the Secretary of State to take action under Section 42 of the Police Act 1996 subsequently to seek the approval of the Secretary of State for a course of action which he has required to take place.

Photo of Lord Peyton of Yeovil Lord Peyton of Yeovil Conservative

I sought to excuse the police authority from asking the Secretary of State for his approval to do something which the Secretary of State had instructed the police authority to do. The Secretary of State's agreement could surely be taken for granted.

Photo of Lord Peyton of Yeovil Lord Peyton of Yeovil Conservative

In all the circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 30 agreed to.

Clause 31 [Regulations concerning procedure for removal of senior officers]:

[Amendment No. 305B not moved.]

Clause 31 agreed to.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office, Government Whip, Government Whip

moved Amendment No. 306:

Before Clause 32, insert the following new clause—

"DISCIPLINARY REGULATIONS FOR SPECIAL CONSTABLES

In section 51 of the 1996 Act (regulations for special constables), in subsection (2), after paragraph (b) there shall be inserted—

"(ba) the conduct of special constables and the maintenance of discipline;"."

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office, Government Whip, Government Whip

This is a new clause: disciplinary regulations for special constables. Special constables are included in the provisions of Part 2. However, if an investigation into a complaint against a special constable found evidence of misconduct, there is no formal mechanism for bringing disciplinary charges against that special constable, as there would be for a regular police officer.

The reason for this is that there is neither a code of conduct nor misconduct regulations for special constables. It is left to the discretion of the chief officer as to how disciplinary matters are dealt with. Clearly this is an unsatisfactory situation. When I read the briefing note, I was surprised that that was the case. Perhaps worse still, special constables can be treated in a different way in different forces so there is a lack of equity across the constabulary.

The purpose of the amendment is to enable the Secretary of State to make regulations under Section 51 of the 1996 Act as to the conduct of special constables. This will place special constables on a similar footing to regular officers so far as concerns conduct and discipline.

A code of conduct and misconduct regulations for special constables is being prepared and will be completed in time for the introduction of the new system. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Renton Lord Renton Conservative

I have only one brief comment but I hope the Committee will think it very relevant.

We have too many amendments like this. But it is essential that this branch of the law should be well understood not only by the police but also the public and the legal profession. Such an amendment points to the need for consolidation of this branch of the law. When the Bill reaches the statute book, I hope that the Government will put it early on the list for consolidation with those statutes which the Bill amends; otherwise the law will be in chaos.

Photo of Lord Peyton of Yeovil Lord Peyton of Yeovil Conservative

I am so glad that my noble friend raises the point. I remind him that at an earlier stage in Committee I said that I had inquired of the Public Bill Office what programme existed for further consolidation measures. The answer was that except for one measure which concerned European legislation there was nothing on the stocks. I am sure my noble friend's already justified indignation will be further fired by that.

Photo of Lord Renton Lord Renton Conservative

It is a good thing that my noble friend draws attention to it. I hope that it may cause the Government to change their mind.

Photo of Lord Dixon-Smith Lord Dixon-Smith Conservative

I am grateful to the Government for raising the point. It is interesting that there are no powers to discipline special constables but powers to suspend them. One might have assumed that that was a disciplinary function. However, the principle of what the noble Lord says is right. I agree about the need for consolidating legislation.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office, Government Whip, Government Whip

I can delight the Committee by saying that on Thursday there will be a Motion to set up a Joint Committee on consolidation Bills. No doubt the noble Lord, Lord Renton, will be able to put his two penn'orth into that although I note that he is not listed as playing a part. No doubt that Joint Committee could benefit from his advice. I am grateful for comments made from noble Lords opposite.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 32 agreed to.

Clauses 56 to 59 agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 307 to 309 not moved.]

Clause 60 [Nationality requirements applicable to police officers etc.]:

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Asylum and Immigration), Home Office, Minister (Home Office) (Asylum & Immigration)

moved Amendment No. 310:

Page 54, line 39, after "provision" insert "made by regulations made under section 34A or 79A of the 1997 Act (regulations for members of NCIS and NCS) or"

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Asylum and Immigration), Home Office, Minister (Home Office) (Asylum & Immigration)

Clauses 64 and 65 permit direct recruitment of officers by the National Crime Squad and the National Criminal Intelligence Service. At present, both organisations operate a rank structure only in the sense that officers on secondment take their substantive ranks with them. With the advent of direct recruitment, we need to provide for a formal rank structure and promotion system.

The government amendments do this by importing into the Police Act 1997 a power to make regulations in respect of the government and administration of NCS and NCIS and conditions of service within those bodies. The regulation-making power in each case is similar to that contained in Section 50 of the Police Act 1996 and as such would enable the two organisations to be brought into line with police forces in respect of the framework that applies to the employment of police officers.

The amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, suggests that were regulations to be made in accordance with new Section 34A the Secretary of State should provide for the redundancy of the Director General of NCIS. I believe that the amendment may have been prompted by the mistaken belief that we are seeking to introduce new powers for the Secretary of State to have a direct hand in the management of NCIS. That is not the case. As I have made clear, the proposed regulation-making power mirrors that contained in the Police Act and provides the framework within which police officers can be employed. This is a necessary consequence of the introduction of directly employed police officers. It removes none of the powers currently vested in the Director General or in the service authorities for NCIS and the National Crime Squad. Therefore, we clearly cannot accept Amendment No. 312A

The new Sections 34A and 79A inserted into the 1997 Act also replicate in respect of the National Crime Squad and the National Criminal Intelligence Service the provisions in Clause 32 which relate to the conduct of disciplinary proceedings against members of Home Office forces. This will enable regulations to be made covering the rights of the Independent Police Complaints Commission with regard to disciplinary proceedings, the right of specified persons to participate in or to be present at disciplinary proceedings and to provide for inference to be drawn from a failure to mention a fact when questioned or charged in police disciplinary proceedings.

The supplementary provisions provide for regulations made under the new Sections 34A and 79A of the 1997 Act to be linked to the Police Negotiating Board and the Police Advisory Board in the way that regulations made under Section 50 of the 1996 Act are linked. It is expected that regulations for the National Crime Squad and the National Criminal Intelligence Service will mirror closely those of other forces. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Dixon-Smith Lord Dixon-Smith Conservative 6:30 pm, 12th March 2002

I shall have to work with much greater care and subtlety because the Minister is beginning to read my mind. He precisely divined my thinking in tabling Amendment No. 312A which is grouped with the amendments.

With the assurance that the proposed amendment is not out of line with the regulations relating to employment, I am happy not to move my amendment. My fear was—if one reads the amendment prima facie it is a serious fear—that there would be nothing left for the director to do. If this is in line with other legislation, I shall accept the Minister's assurance.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

On Question, Whether Clause 60, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?

Photo of Lord Dixon-Smith Lord Dixon-Smith Conservative

Clause 60 is an oddity. Its first line states:

"Irrespective of his place of birth, a person of any nationality may be . . . a member of a police force".

We oppose the Question that Clause 60 shall stand part of the Bill in order to probe precisely what the Government mean by putting that clause on the face of the Bill. I accept that the situation is not straightforward. At the present time we already admit Irish citizens and Commonwealth citizens to the police service. But they are both subject to various forms of regulation. It may be that in that regard there is a case for doing something for citizens of the European Community.

However, as worded, the Bill appears to be too open. It appears to make it possible for a Chinaman born at the South Pole—if one can conceive of such a thing—to apply to be a member of the British police service. I am sure that that is not the Government's intention. I am equally sure that the Government probably have the very best of intentions in putting the clause in the Bill. It ensures that there is no disincentive for any British citizen who happens to have been born abroad, but has been living here and so on, who might consider himself to be a part of a non-British ethnic community—if one can put the matter that way—in joining the police force.

If that is the case, the clause should be slightly more felicitously and precisely worded, or we should know what the other requirements will be in respect of people joining the police force. Presumably it is as is mentioned in subsection (4) at the end of the clause:

"Without prejudice to the generality . . . that may be made . . . regulations . . . may include provision imposing any of the following requirements—

(a) requirements with respect to the competence in written and spoken English . . . (b) requirements with respect to the immigration status . . . (c) requirements with respect to nationality in the case of particular ranks offices or positions". To specify particular races for particular ranks might be particularly offensive to some people. That could be immensely difficult. There is a lack of clarity and a lack of precision about Clause 60. I give the Minister and the Government marks for having the best of intentions, but because of the clause's lack of clarity we have opposed the Question that Clause 60 shall stand part of the Bill. We can thus debate the issue and find out precisely what the Government are thinking and what they intend. It may be that at the end of the discussion we shall all be the better for it.

Photo of Lord Dholakia Lord Dholakia Party Chair, Liberal Democrats

I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, is probing into this particular matter. He and I probably come at the issue from different angles but probably for the same reason. I suspect—I may be wrong—that the provision has been incorporated to meet the provisions of the race relations legislation. Discrimination is defined as treating someone less favourably on the grounds of race, colour, national or ethnic origin. The words "national" and "nationality" therefore are a matter of concern. That is why the clause has been incorporated.

I speak strongly in favour of Clause 60 standing part of the Bill. My reasons are simple. Recruitment should be based on competence and skills. A modern police service must be as diverse as possible to reflect the society and community that it serves. That is an aim that the Government have repeatedly endorsed.

With the recruitment market getting ever tighter, all options must be considered to ensure that the recruitment pool is as broad as possible, while retaining quality through robust recruitment standards.

The office of constable brings special powers and responsibilities. It represents an important part of the fabric of this country. But we should not impose a nationality bar that prevents people with the right level of skills and experience from joining the police force simply because of their nationality.

It is also important that the Bill includes many safeguards. In particular, all potential recruits must meet basic standards in relation to written and spoken English; vetting processes must be capable of being carried out; and certain posts and ranks can continue to be retained for British nationals only. But, if it is the intention of the Government, as specified in the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000, to make sure that the police, as other organisations, have a duty to promote equality, then this is the right clause for that.

Photo of Lord Monson Lord Monson Crossbench

I echo the words of the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith. To an even greater extent I find this a most extraordinary clause. It is true that in certain circumstances foreign nationals, in addition to Commonwealth and Irish citizens, can join our Armed Forces. I give just one example. We shall be eternally grateful to the Poles who joined the RAF before the Battle of Britain. But there is one very significant difference. Our Armed Forces do not have authority over British civilians and do not find themselves in confrontation with them, except in quite exceptional circumstances. On the other hand, the police do.

In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, we are not talking about bus conductors, lawyers or anyone else, but people with authority to order others about.

Can the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, say which other major countries, if any, allow foreigners to join their police forces? I cannot imagine the French or the Americans—to take just two examples—allowing such a thing to happen.

Photo of Lord Renton Lord Renton Conservative

I earnestly hope that in the national interest the Government will drop Clause 60. I shall give my reasons for saying that. In my opinion, not only is it the worse clause in the Bill, but it would become a most unfortunate provision in our statutory police law, which goes back many years. Indeed, for the past 50 years I have been involved in it on and off in England and Wales.

To enable foreigners to be police officers of the United Kingdom would be fatal. It would be a big mistake. At present our police do not get the support that they need from masses of people, especially in many of the urban areas. If foreigners also became police officers, our police would get even less support from the public. Crime would therefore increase. In addition, even if foreigners whose English is fluent and who seem to be of good character are chosen to be police officers, many will not understand the local dialects and languages. They are unlikely to have sufficient knowledge of our criminal law, the customs, habits and traditions of our people. Unlike British subjects, they have no obligation of loyalty to the Crown.

Clause 60 is the worst provision of our proposed police legislation. I hope that the Government will drop it.

Photo of Lord Hylton Lord Hylton Crossbench

The noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, mentioned that police officers in this country should be fully proficient in the English language, and we all agree. However, in some circumstances, it would be helpful to have police officers who are proficient also in other languages spoken in this country by people who may not speak English themselves. On those grounds, there is a strong case for recruiting people who come from countries of the Commonwealth and the European Union.

However, the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, is right to query Clause 60. It would be helpful if the Minister, in his reply, could reassure us that, for example, all potential police officers who are not British citizens will be required to undertake the form of declaration given in Clause 61 and that that form of declaration will supersede and annul any commitments they may have given previously to foreign states. That is of primary importance. It would clear the air a great deal if Committee Members could be told that.

Photo of Lord Peyton of Yeovil Lord Peyton of Yeovil Conservative

I agree with the comments of my noble friend Lord Renton. However, the Government's insistence that Clause 60 be included in the Bill conveys a rather sombre message: either that our own citizens lack a sense of duty or service, or that the terms offered to them for performing that service are so inadequate that they cannot afford to do it.

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Asylum and Immigration), Home Office, Minister (Home Office) (Asylum & Immigration) 6:45 pm, 12th March 2002

Taken in isolation, quotations from some of the contributions could be sadly misinterpreted outside the House. That is probably the result of our not having had a debate on the issue beforehand. We have simply come straight to the clause stand part.

Earlier, a Committee Member asked me a question through a note on the board. I responded without referring the matter to the Civil Service. Having read more on the detail of the matter and listened further to Members of the Committee, I now realise that I have probably given the noble Lord misleading information. That was my fault because I did not take advice.

I wish to draw attention to the Explanatory Notes. Interestingly, on page 56 the notes relating to Clause 60, which deals with nationality requirements, state:

"Section 3 of the Act of Settlement 1700 provides 'no person born out of the kingdoms of England, Scotland or Ireland or the dominions thereunto belonging . . . shall . . . enjoy any office or place of trust either civil or military'".

I have to say to the noble Lord, Lord Renton, that we have moved on since the Act of Settlement. Changes and qualifications have been made.

We want police forces to be able to make the best use of the human resources at their disposal. If we want the most suitable police officers, we should not exclude applicants on the basis of irrelevant factors. We do not want irrelevant factors to bar people from applying to become police officers.

If we want the police service to reflect society, we should enable it to improve its diversity and remove hurdles. That would require the removal of unnecessary barriers such as nationality. Clause 60 provides for the removal of the existing nationality bar on the employment of non-British nationals in the police services of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. That includes the National Criminal Intelligence Service, the National Crime Squad, the British Transport Police, the Royal Parks Constabulary, the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Constabulary and the Special Constabulary. In short, the effect is to render eligible the members of other European Economic Area states and foreign nationals, in addition to British, Irish and Commonwealth citizens, who are already eligible. Therein lies part of the error in my private note to the noble Lord.

That provision would not lead to a reduction in the quality of police recruits because all applicants, whether British or not, will have to meet the same criteria to the same standards before they can qualify for appointment. They will have to demonstrate that they have at least the key competencies required for policing, which is a number one priority. An applicant's place of birth or nationality would be irrelevant in determining whether he or she has the competencies that are required for policing. In particular, an applicant must be able to communicate in oral and written English. Foreign nationals will need to have the right to an unrestricted stay in the United Kingdom; in other words, their immigration status must be satisfactory. In addition, they will need to satisfy the rigorous vetting procedures. Selection will be based on skills and ability, and the same basic tenets should apply to everyone.

Posts that are particularly sensitive on grounds of national security may, if necessary, be reserved for UK nationals. The exercise of that power will take account of equal opportunity and human rights issues. I wish to make it clear that nobody in post would lose his or her job as a result of those changes. This measure is not the same as active recruitment from abroad. Rather its aim is to allow those who live in the United Kingdom free of restrictions to join the police service.

The United Kingdom and most countries permit dual nationality, but many do not. On account of the movement of families and other factors, some people who have lived in this country for years will not, or cannot, become British nationals because the price would be to give up their current nationality. Under the law of some countries, the inheritance or property rights of a citizen who wishes to change nationality might be affected. People cope with that, and it is not a problem for us. Those people live and work here, but they cannot become British citizens because of dual nationality restrictions. However, they can be as loyal, active, qualified and skilled as anybody else in this country. If every country permitted its citizens to have dual nationality, we would probably have far fewer difficulties in that respect.

As I say, this is not the same as active recruitment from abroad. Constables in England and Wales will take the oath of allegiance as amended by this Bill. Everybody will take the oath of allegiance as amended by the Bill, which is clearly set out in Clause 61. Extending the eligibility simply widens the pool of potential recruits giving the police service a more diverse and broader base. I have no idea as to what the potential is. We want to ensure that there are no irrelevant barriers to a person becoming a member of the police service. If anyone wants to argue that we should have irrelevant barriers to being a member of the police service, they are free to do so; but they will find that the argument falls on stony ground.

Photo of Lord Fowler Lord Fowler Conservative

Can the Minister answer the important point as to whether there are reciprocal arrangements with other European Union countries? In other words, if a British citizen wanted to join the CRS in France or wanted to join the Dutch police, would he be able to do so?

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Asylum and Immigration), Home Office, Minister (Home Office) (Asylum & Immigration)

I have no idea, but the answer is not relevant to this debate. This is not a quid pro quo. We are not arguing on the basis of, "You do it and we will do it". We are talking about the British Government, the British people and British policing on our land. We do not want any artificial barriers. What the French do is up to them. We are not looking for a quid pro quo. I can answer the noble Lord, but the answer is not relevant to this clause.

Photo of Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville Conservative

I share the Minister's admiration for the Explanatory Notes, which I found extremely helpful. But the noble Lord elided the final sentence of the first paragraph of the Explanatory Notes where it says,

"If an applicant is a citizen of the Irish Republic or a Commonwealth citizen other residential and ancestry conditions must be satisfied".

My question is whether subsection (4) automatically eliminates the significance of that final sentence.

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Asylum and Immigration), Home Office, Minister (Home Office) (Asylum & Immigration)

I cannot answer the noble Lord. I shall have to take advice. As I said originally, the barrier was reviewed many years ago and the service is now open to citizens of the Republic or the Commonwealth. They may not be British nationals, but nationals of another country resident here. It may be that their residence requirement is dependent on their ancestry. It may be an immigration factor. I shall look at that and write to the noble Lord if I do not provide an answer before we leave this part of the Bill.

Photo of Lord Renton Lord Renton Conservative

Perhaps I can raise a further point on the Explanatory Notes on which the noble Lord relies a great deal. I read the Explanatory Notes very carefully before we started this debate, in fact some time ago. Having read them again I find that there is nothing in them which answers the various objections I raise to this clause.

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Asylum and Immigration), Home Office, Minister (Home Office) (Asylum & Immigration)

The objections raised by the noble Lord, Lord Renton, were not valid, and I answered them. His argument that people would speak with the wrong dialect does not hold water. People will be required to communicate in the English language orally and in writing. We are a country of dialects. People do not understand mine. I could have trouble being understood in some parts of the country as a police officer. But I am British; I am white; and therefore it is okay. The implication that because they were not British and not white and therefore would not understand our dialects cannot be a legitimate barrier to their joining the police service.

Recruitment is not only based on communication; it is also based on skills and ability and the demonstration of the key competencies required for policing. People's competencies will be tested and if they do not meet the test they will not get in the door. That is the central issue. It does not matter whether they have a problem with their dialect or anything else. It may be that in some areas they need a dialect. I mean "up north" they might need a dialect. But the noble Lord's comments were not relevant and I answered any that were. If I may I shall write to the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, and give him an answer.

Photo of Lord Monson Lord Monson Crossbench

Can the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, say to what extent the Government have consulted the public at large about this clause? I am certain that the noble Lord, Lord Renton, is right in the sense that the public will not like it once it is brought to their attention, which has not yet happened. Members of the public will probably accept Commonwealth or Irish citizens. I am not sure that they would want—to take a few nationals at random—Greek, Russian or Iraqi citizens to have authority over them. "Authority" is the operative word.

Again, the Minister may not have the answer at his finger tips. Will he write to me and say whether there are other precedents for this move? Do any other EU countries allow foreigners to join their police service?

Photo of Lord Condon Lord Condon Crossbench

While I was commissioner, we found that existing legislation inhibited the recruitment of many fine people who were living in this country and had done so for many years and who, in all other respects, satisfied the fit person requirements to become a police officer. The safeguards in Clause 60, requiring that any candidate would have to satisfy immigration regulations, language prescription, fit person and character conditions and so forth, are amply sufficient.

As the Minister said, this is not a question of seeking to go abroad and recruit actively; it is a question of removing barriers to entry for many candidates who have lived in this country for many years and who would be fine additions to the police service.

Photo of Lord Renton Lord Renton Conservative

I wonder whether the noble Lord will allow me to put a question to him. I listened with great respect—I always had respect for him, as he knows. Bearing in mind that in some parts of the country the police do not receive the public support they need, does he think that that support will be increased or lessened by the recruitment of foreigners?

Photo of Lord Condon Lord Condon Crossbench

With respect to the noble Lord, Lord Renton, to use the term "foreigners" does not take the debate forward. Many able people living in this country, who have lived in this country for many years, would, with advantage and in the public interest, come into the service via this provision.

Photo of Baroness Park of Monmouth Baroness Park of Monmouth Conservative

I hesitate to intervene at such a late stage, but I cannot see why, if such a person should be a loyal, suitable person who has lived for many years in this country, he cannot make the choice and become a British citizen. I know the Minister said that in some cases difficulties arise over property rights. But it is such an important job and one where unquestioned loyalty— perceived as loyal by the ordinary man in the street—is so necessary that the simple answer is for them to become British subjects. Otherwise they will not be eligible.

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Asylum and Immigration), Home Office, Minister (Home Office) (Asylum & Immigration) 7:00 pm, 12th March 2002

Matters are getting worse. I do not accept the arguments. In answer to the question on consultation I can say that I am not aware there was consultation as such, but the issue was raised in the White Paper Policing a New Century: A Blueprint for Reform. In the human resource management section, paragraph 6.16 says:

"The restrictions on foreign nationals serving as police officers will be removed by the Police Bill".

So it has not just been trumped up from anywhere.

Let me put it this way. All the examples have been one-sided, except for that of the noble Lord, Lord Condon. We are talking about the police authority over citizens. But by and large most people's contact with the police is when the police are helping them. Nobody asks the brain surgeon, "Is your nationality okay? I do not know whether I can trust you". They trust the fact that the person is qualified to do the job and has the professional qualifications. They probably would not even question their residency application. It is the quality of the people concerned that is important.

When the police are helping the general public, making inquiries after a crime or conducting a crime prevention survey, nobody will ask, "Are you British, because if you are not, I do not want your help?". That is the implication of what some noble Lords have said; "negative" would be the polite way to describe what I have heard in the past half-hour. Noble Lords have not been able to give a good reason.

I feel that I have answered the noble Baroness, Lady Park of Monmouth. I cannot give details of individual circumstances, although I could give examples from my constituency experience of people being caught up in problems because they could not have dual nationality. There is one nation in the European Union that does not allow dual nationality, so it is not a third world issue. It can be serious. Many people have put down roots here—perhaps, they have raised a family, done business or been educated and received their qualifications and skills here. They are as dedicated to this country as anybody else, but, because of some quirk, some nations have not got their act together to take account of the fact that people move around the planet in a way in which they never did before, which causes difficulties for individuals. However, that should not be a barrier to those people participating fully in the society in which they have chosen to put down roots, as long as they have as they have the necessary competences, skills and abilities.

The implication of what the noble Baroness, Lady Park of Monmouth, said is that nobody of British nationality has ever been a traitor. That is the implication of her question about whether they were fully up to scratch with their allegiance. Most traitors to this country came from the upper class, and they were all British. We should not enter a diversionary debate, in the belief that everything is black and white.

We heard the noble Lord, Lord Condon, say that he had personal front-line experience of people who would have made a good contribution to the police service in this country being prevented doing so because of a quirk of nationality. That problem may not have been of their creation, but they could not get out of it, perhaps because of their children or whatever; I do not know. It could have been because of the effect on the rights of their family in the other country or other family responsibilities. We simply do not know.

I suspect that the clause will get another run-out on Report. I shall probably be able to deploy more and better arguments for those noble Lords whom I have been unable to satisfy now.

Photo of Lord Monson Lord Monson Crossbench

I accept some of what the Minister says, but does he agree that a brain surgeon cannot stop someone in the street and search them or pull them up in their car on a motorway? The question of authority is at the crux of the matter.

Photo of Baroness Park of Monmouth Baroness Park of Monmouth Conservative

I should like to say that the issue of treason did not cross my mind. I was merely concerned about the degree of authority that someone might have in such cases, not about treason.

Photo of Lord Dixon-Smith Lord Dixon-Smith Conservative

I do not apologise for initiating the discussion, even if the Minister would have preferred us to have bit-by-bit discussions and try to amend parts of the clause. I could not see how we could do that. We have had a discussion in the round, and that is what was required.

As I said, I suspected that the Government's motives were good: in fact, they are good. However, whether the Minister's response has satisfied everyone is an entirely different matter. Those who said that it was the worst clause in the Bill had a point. Sadly, the clause is open to misinterpretation because of the way in which it is drafted. That may be unfortunate, and I know that it is not the intention that the effect should be malign. However, the way in which the Bill is drafted means that, in the wrong hands, the clause could be misinterpreted.

The Minister has given a good explanation. The contribution from the noble Lord, Lord Condon, was significant. I was also aware of the problems that had occurred from time to time and how they cause difficulty. I am grateful to my noble friends who have contributed.

Clause 60, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 61 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 311 not moved.]

Photo of Baroness Wilkins Baroness Wilkins Labour

moved Amendment No. 311A:

After Clause 61, insert the following new clause—

"DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION

(1) Section 64 of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (c. 50) is amended as follows.

(2) Subsection (5A) is omitted.

(3) After subsection (8), insert—

"(8A) For the purposes of this Part, the holding of the office of constable shall be treated as employment—

(a) by the chief officer of police as respects any act done by him in relation to a constable or that office;

(b) by the police authority as respects any act done by them in relation to a constable or that office.

(8B) There shall be paid out of the police fund—

(a) any compensation, costs or expenses awarded against a chief officer of police in any proceedings brought against him under this Act, and any costs or expenses incurred by him in any such proceedings so far as not recovered by him in the proceedings; and

(b) any sum required by a chief officer of police for the settlement of any claim made against him under this Act if the settlement is approved by the police authority.

(8C) Any proceedings under this Act which, by virtue of this subsection, would lie against a chief officer of police shall be brought against the chief officer of police for the time being or, in the case of a vacancy in that office, against the person for the time being performing the functions of that office; and references in this section to the chief officer of police shall be construed accordingly.

(8D) This section applies to a police cadet and appointment as a police cadet as it applies to a constable and the office of constable.

(4) In this section— "chief officer of police"—

(a) in relation to a person appointed, or an appointment falling to be made, under a specified Act, has the same meaning as in the Police Act,

(b) in relation to any other person or appointment, means the office who has the direction and control of the body of constables or cadets in question; "the Police Act" means, for England and Wales, the Police Act 1996 (c. 16), or, for Scotland, the Police (Scotland) Act 1967 (c. 77); "police authority"—

(a) in relation to a person appointed or an appointment falling to be made, under a specified Act, has the same meaning as in the Police Act,

(b) in relation to any other person or appointment, means the authority by whom the person in question is or on appointment would be paid; "police cadet" means any person appointed to undergo training with a view to becoming a constable; "police fund" in relation to a chief officer of police within paragraph (a) of the above definition of that term has the same meaning as in the Police Act, and in any other case means money provided by the police authority; "specified Act" means the Metropolitan Police Act 1829 (c. 44), the Metropolitan Police Act 1839 (c. 47) or the Police Act."

Photo of Baroness Wilkins Baroness Wilkins Labour

My noble friend Lord Ashley of Stoke apologises to your Lordships. He is unable to be present because of a long-standing engagement that he could not break.

The amendment would remove irrelevant barriers to joining the police force. It would remove the police from the employer exemptions in the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. In doing so, it mirrors provisions in the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000, which brought the police within the remit of anti-discrimination legislation.

The amendment follows the recommendation made by the Disability Rights Task Force in its report From Exclusion to Inclusion, published over two years ago. In its response, entitled Towards Inclusion—Civil Rights for Disabled People, the Government accepted that recommendation and, following on from the EU directive on equality in employment, which required the UK to remove this and other employment exemptions, the Government have confirmed their intention to do so by October 2004.

We must agree with the Disability Rights Commission that it is a basic question of justice that all employees, wherever they work, should be protected against discrimination. The Disability Discrimination Act enacted by your Lordships in 1995 provides a flexible framework that can recognise the particular requirements of occupations such as the police, containing, as it does, the concept of reasonableness, which has emerged as a supremely workable attribute of the law relating to disability. The duty to make reasonable adjustments need not imply any negative impact on operational effectiveness or safety. The police would not be required to take on anyone who could not do the job.

The amendment might help with recruitment and retention. As the case of a police officer cited in research published by Diabetes UK into the nature and extent of discrimination against people with diabetes shows, discriminating attitudes can impede disabled people from making a contribution to society more than the effect of any impairment. The police officer was removed from driving duties and made subject to a blanket bar on transfer to other forces because of his diabetes. In his experience, however, his impairment had given him strength. He said:

"Being a diabetic has changed my life. I think it has made me a better and more responsible person. If I were treated more fairly I could live quite happily with diabetes. I have never felt it restricts me—officialdom has always managed to more than fill that role".

As the Government have accepted the case for the inclusion of the police in the DDA, I urge them to take the opportunity presented by this Bill to legislate on the exemption now, rather than wait until late in 2004.

In paragraph 2.34 of the White Paper Policing a New Century: A Blueprint for Reform, the Government argued the need for a diverse workforce representative of all sections of the community. Agreement to the amendment would help to make the Government's aim a reality. The White Paper sets a target of increasing police numbers to 130,000 by spring 2003. If the DDA were extended to cover police officers, the pool of people from which the new officers could be recruited in order to meet that target would be increased.

According to the National Institute for the Blind, currently the Metropolitan Police refuse people simply for being colour blind or for being very short-sighted. Disabled people have been employed for a long time as civilians in the police force and allowing some disabled people to serve as police officers would be consistent with the proposals in the White Paper which suggest a blurring of lines between jobs done by civilians and officers.

The Police Reform Bill is proposing a number of major changes to the police force. Given that situation, surely it would make sense to accept this amendment and extend the Disability Discrimination Act to police officers now so that they will not be subject to continual change. I urge Members of the Committee to accept this amendment and to enact all the changes at once rather than wait for another piecemeal reform in the year 2004. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Dholakia Lord Dholakia Party Chair, Liberal Democrats

I am delighted to support this amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Ashley, has a unique record of taking on issues of disability. I am delighted that the noble Baroness, Lady Wilkins, has made out a very sound case about the need to extend the Disability Discrimination Act to cover police officers.

I very much welcome this amendment because it is an important debate in the context of police reform and one on which I hope the Government will reflect very carefully. The Government's decision to bring the police within the remit of anti-discrimination legislation through the Race Relations (Amendment) Act, as pointed out by the noble Baroness, Lady Wilkins, was extremely welcome and positive. It is now quite proper and timely to look very seriously at extending that principle to disability.

Policing must reflect, recognise and respond effectively to the many and varied elements of today's society. It is a credit to this Government that they recognised this early in their term of office and have put in place targets for recruitment to the police from members of minority ethnic communities. But discrimination on grounds of disability has not yet been given the same amount of attention despite the government's commitment in their response to the Disability Rights Task Force to extend the Disability Discrimination Act to police officers when legislative time allows. Surely, this Police Reform Bill provides the right opportunity for us to act.

It is therefore right that we not only support it, but make provisions which are appropriate. I believe that we must also proceed carefully. The noble Baroness, Lady Wilkins, has rightly pointed out some of the difficulties that may exist. Clearly, many aspects of policing can be physically demanding. This House must also bear in mind the wider requirements of the criminal justice system. The police are under mounting pressure to ensure all cases are watertight and capable of withstanding intense scrutiny from defence barristers looking for the slightest issue on which to cast doubt on the credibility of the overall case. What impact might there be on a case if the credibility of the evidence of a police constable was brought into doubt owing to concerns, for example, about eyesight?

I do not have the answer to this particular question, but my point in raising it is simple. The police service operates to some very high standards which are required by the criminal justice system. We cannot ignore them. They are a reality and they place demands on those people who hold the office of constable. Minimum standards are absolutely necessary. Yet the police service must also be an inclusive service if it is to retain the confidence of all sections of society. The police service is doing itself no favours if it fails to take advantage of the wealth of skills and experience which people with disabilities have and which can be of great advantage to the service.

In conclusion, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, will give this amendment very careful consideration. I believe there is a balance between the needs and demands of policing and the equally pressing need to avoid discrimination. We must think very carefully about the detail of the issue to ensure that we strike the right balance. If the noble Lord believes that the Home Office needs more time to consider the issue before coming back with government amendments at Report stage to put into effect the spirit of this amendment, then let it be so. But I very much hope that he will signal a clear commitment tonight that the Government will act on this important issue.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office, Government Whip, Government Whip 7:15 pm, 12th March 2002

I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Wilkins, and, in his absence, the noble Lord, Lord Ashley of Stoke, for the great ingenuity that they have exercised in finding a vehicle to bring forward this very worthwhile proposition and to seek to end various employment exemptions from the Disability Discrimination Act. By tabling this amendment to the Police Reform Bill they are replicating Clause 4 of the Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Ashley, which seeks to amend the Disability Discrimination Act in much wider areas. That was debated in Committee on 6th March.

My noble friend Lady Hollis of Heigham made clear when speaking for the Government at both Second Reading of the noble Lord's Bill on 23rd January and in Committee last week, that they are not yet ready to amend the Disability Discrimination Act. As she pointed out quite properly, we are still developing, through a thorough and widespread consultation, our overall legislative strategy for improving the Act. In that respect the noble Lord's Bill and this amendment before us today are a little premature as the noble Baroness said. We set ourselves a target deadline of October 2004 and it is the Government's intention to stick to it.

We have made it clear that we will be implementing a comprehensive employment and vocational training protection scheme for disabled people, represented currently in the employment directive brought forward under Article 13 of the EC Treaty, when we bring forward proposals in 2004. That would cover most of the important proposals made in our response to the Disability Rights Task Force document Towards Inclusion, including most of those items which would be brought about by this amendment with the exception, which I believe is widely understood, of the Armed Forces. There it is the government's intention to retain the current exemption in the Disability Discrimination Act.

I recognise that my response sounds a little bureaucratic, negative and something of a killjoy. But the Government's case is that we need to have a comprehensive approach and to address matters of detail in that approach. It has been rightly pointed out that we seek to reflect broadly the diversity of our population in the workforce of the police service, which is right. I am grateful to noble Lords who have supported that objective. I believe that we have made great strides in that direction. The noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, was kind enough to pay tribute to the Government for their record on race legislation and, more importantly, on action. I believe that we are all proud to have been associated with it.

However, in this instance, although we recognise the value of this amendment and that it would bring forward matters that we intend to deal with later, it is right that our strategy should be comprehensive and that the issues raised in this amendment are picked up in a broader and more thorough way than it allows. I have not studied its detail, but there may well be matters which are lacking. I do not know. There are broader considerations at work. We welcome the debate and the fact that we have had the opportunity to put on record again our commitment. We look forward to bringing forward a comprehensive package in due course.

With those words of encouragement, which is what they are intended to be, I hope that the noble Baroness will be able to withdraw the amendment.

Photo of Baroness Wilkins Baroness Wilkins Labour

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, for his support for the amendment and to the Minister for his thoughtful reply. I am sure that my noble friend Lord Ashley of Stoke will study it most carefully. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clauses 62 to 65 agreed to.

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Asylum and Immigration), Home Office, Minister (Home Office) (Asylum & Immigration)

moved Amendment No. 312:

After Clause 65, insert the following new clause—

"REGULATIONS FOR NCIS

(1) After section 34 of the 1997 Act there shall be inserted—

"34A REGULATIONS FOR NCIS

(1) Subject to the provisions of this section, the Secretary of State may make regulations as to the government and administration of NCIS and conditions of service with NCIS.

(2) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1), regulations under this section may make provision with respect to—

(a) the ranks to be held by police members of NCIS;

(b) the promotion of police members of NCIS;

(c) voluntary retirement of police members of NCIS;

(d) the efficiency and effectiveness of police members of NCIS;

(e) the suspension of police members of NCIS from membership of NCIS and from their office as constable;

(f) the maintenance of personal records of members of NCIS;

(g) the duties which are or are not to be performed by police members of NCIS;

(h) the treatment as occasions of police duty of attendance at meetings of the Police Federations and of any body recognised by the Secretary of State for the purposes of section 64 of the Police Act 1996 (c. 16);

(i) the hours of duty, leave, pay and allowances of police members of NCIS; and

(j) the issue, use and return of—

(i) personal equipment and accoutrements; and

27

(ii) police clothing.

(3) Regulations under this section for regulating pay and allowances may be made with retrospective effect to any date specified in the regulations, but nothing in this subsection shall be construed as authorising pay or allowances payable to any person to be reduced retrospectively.

(4) Regulations under this section as to conditions of service shall secure that appointments for fixed terms are not made except where the person appointed holds the rank of superintendent or a higher rank.

(5) Regulations under this section may make different provision for different cases and circumstances.

(6) Any statutory instrument containing regulations under this section shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.

(7) Before making any regulations under this section, the Secretary of State shall consult the Scottish Ministers."

(2) In section 37 of the 1997 Act (discipline regulations for NCIS), after subsection (2) there shall be inserted—

"(2A) Without prejudice to the generality of the other powers conferred by this section, regulations under this section may make provision—

(a) for conferring a right to bring and conduct, or otherwise participate or intervene in, any disciplinary proceedings on the Independent Police Complaints Commission;

(b) for conferring a right to participate in, or to be present at, disciplinary proceedings on such persons as may be specified or described in the regulations;

(c) as to the representation of persons subject to disciplinary proceedings; and

(d) for section 34 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 (c. 33) (inferences to be drawn from a failure to mention a fact when questioned or charged) to apply, with such modifications and in such cases as may be provided for in the regulations, to disciplinary proceedings.

(2B) In subsection (2A) 'disciplinary proceedings' means any proceedings under any regulations made under subsection (1) which—

(a) are conducted in England and Wales; and

(b) are identified as disciplinary proceedings by those regulations."

(3) In section 38 of the 1997 Act (appeals against decisions in disciplinary proceedings), in subsection (1), for the words "or required to resign", in both places where they occur, there shall be substituted ", required to resign or reduced in rank"."

[Amendment No. 312A, as an amendment to Amendment No. 312, not moved.]

On Question, Amendment No. 312 agreed to.

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Asylum and Immigration), Home Office, Minister (Home Office) (Asylum & Immigration)

moved Amendment No. 313:

After Clause 65, insert the following new clause—

"REGULATIONS FOR NCS

(1) After section 79 of the 1997 Act there shall be inserted—

"79A REGULATIONS FOR NCS

(1) Subject to the provisions of this section, the Secretary of State may make regulations as to the government and administration of the National Crime Squad and conditions of service with that Squad.

(2) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1), regulations under this section may make provision with respect to—

(a) the ranks to be held by police members of the National Crime Squad;

(b) the promotion of police members of the Squad;

(c) voluntary retirement of police members of the Squad;

(d) the efficiency and effectiveness of police members of the Squad;

(e) the suspension of police members of the Squad from membership of it and from their office as constables;

(f) the maintenance of personal records of members of the Squad;

(g) the duties which are or are not to be performed by police members of the Squad;

(h) the treatment as occasions of police duty of attendance at meetings of the Police Federations and of any body recognised by the Secretary of State for the purposes of section 64 of the Police Act 1996 (c. 16);

(i) the hours of duty, leave, pay and allowances of police members of the Squad; and

(j) the issue, use and return of— (i) personal equipment and accoutrements; and (ii) police clothing.

(3) Regulations under this section for regulating pay and allowances may be made with retrospective effect to any date specified in the regulations, but nothing in this subsection shall be construed as authorising pay or allowances payable to any person to be reduced retrospectively.

(4) Regulations under this section as to conditions of service shall secure that appointments for fixed terms are not made except where the person appointed holds the rank of superintendent or a higher rank.

(5) Regulations under this section may make different provision for different cases and circumstances.

(6) Any statutory instrument containing regulations under this section shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament."

(2) In section 81 of the 1997 Act (discipline regulations for NCS), after subsection (2) there shall be inserted—

"(2A) Without prejudice to the generality of the other powers conferred by this section, regulations under this section may make provision—

(a) for conferring a right to bring and conduct, or otherwise participate or intervene in, any disciplinary proceedings on the Independent Police Complaints Commission;

(b) for conferring a right to participate in, or to be present at, disciplinary proceedings on such persons as may be specified or described in the regulations;

(c) as to the representation of persons subject to any disciplinary proceedings; and

(d) for section 34 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 (c. 33) (inferences to be drawn from a failure to mention a fact when questioned or charged) to apply, with such modifications and in such cases as may be provided for in the regulations, to disciplinary proceedings.

(2B) In subsection (2A) 'disciplinary proceedings' means any proceedings under any regulations made under subsection (1) which are identified as disciplinary proceedings by those regulations."

(3) In section 82 of the 1997 Act (appeals against decisions in disciplinary proceedings), in subsection (1), for the words "or required to resign", in both places where they occur, there shall be substituted ", required to resign or reduced in rank"."

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Asylum and Immigration), Home Office, Minister (Home Office) (Asylum & Immigration)

moved Amendment No. 314:

After Clause 65, insert the following new clause—

"SUPPLEMENTARY PROVISIONS ABOUT POLICE MEMBERSHIP OF NCIS

(1) The reference in section 59(8)(a) of the 1996 Act to persons falling within section 9(2)(a) of the 1997 Act shall include a reference to persons appointed as police members of the National Criminal Intelligence Service ("NCIS") after the date on which section 64 comes into force.

(2) The persons whose interests are to be represented by the membership of the Police Negotiating Board shall include persons appointed as police members of NCIS after the date on which section 64 comes into force.

(3) In section 62(1) of the 1996 Act (duty to consult Police Negotiating Board before making certain regulations), after paragraph (a) there shall be inserted—

"(aa) section 34A of the Police Act 1997;".

(4) The function of the Police Advisory Board for England and Wales of advising on general questions affecting members of NCIS within section 9(1)(b) of the 1997 Act shall include the function of advising on such general questions as respects persons appointed as police members of NCIS after the date on which section 64 comes into force.

(5) In section 63(3) of the 1996 Act (duty to consult Police Advisory Board before making certain regulations), in paragraph (c), after "section" there shall be inserted "34A,".

(6) In section 9A of the 1997 Act (retirement in interests of efficiency or effectiveness), for "member of NCIS" there shall be substituted "police member of NCIS with the rank of assistant chief constable"."

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Asylum and Immigration), Home Office, Minister (Home Office) (Asylum & Immigration)

moved Amendment No. 315:

After Clause 65, insert the following new clause—

"SUPPLEMENTARY PROVISIONS ABOUT POLICE MEMBERSHIP OF NCS

(1) The reference in section 59(8)(b) of the 1996 Act to persons falling within section 55(2)(a) of the 1997 Act shall include a reference to persons appointed as police members of the National Crime Squad ("the Squad") after the date on which section 65 comes into force.

(2) The persons whose interests are to be represented by the membership of the Police Negotiating Board shall include persons appointed as police members of the Squad after the date on which section 65 comes into force.

(3) In section 62(1) of the 1996 Act (duty to consult Police Negotiating Board before making certain regulations), after paragraph (a) there shall be inserted—

"(ab) section 79A of the Police Act 1997;".

(4) The function of the Police Advisory Board for England and Wales of advising on general questions affecting members of the Squad within section 55(1)(b) of the 1997 Act shall include the function of advising on such general questions as respects persons appointed as police members of the Squad after the date on which section 65 comes into force.

(5) In section 63(3) of the 1996 Act (duty to consult Police Advisory Board before making certain regulations), in paragraph (c), after "39," there shall be inserted "79A,".

(6) In section 55A of the 1997 Act (retirement in interests of efficiency or effectiveness), for "member of the National Crime Squad" there shall be substituted "police member of the National Crime Squad with the rank of assistant chief constable"."

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 66 [Police authorities to produce three year strategy plans]:

Photo of Lord Dixon-Smith Lord Dixon-Smith Conservative

moved Amendment No. 316:

Page 59, line 11, leave out "secure that the plan is and remains consistent with" and insert "have regard in preparing that plan to"

Photo of Lord Dixon-Smith Lord Dixon-Smith Conservative

In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 324, 325 and 326. We have already covered this ground during proceedings on the Bill, so I shall not detain the Committee for more than a few moments. Although we welcome the general proposals on three-year police plans, and so on, we believe that it is improper to have quite the amount of detailed control over the content of the plan that the present drafting of the Bill gives the Secretary of State.

The amendments are part of a whole series that we have presented during the course of the Bill's progress. They are designed to relieve that pressure, and to allow a little more flexibility in local plans. As I said, we have already covered this ground sufficiently and, therefore, I need say no more. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Bradshaw Lord Bradshaw Liberal Democrat

I should like to speak to Amendment No. 327, which is included in this grouping. We fully support the statutory provision for three-year policing plans produced by the police authority. Indeed, that is what is happening in the places where good practice is found in the country. However, we have some difficulty with aspects of three-year plans with which we shall deal later. We should have preferred the tried-and-tested formulation in the Police Act 1996 because it recognises the respective roles and responsibilities of the tripartite relationship, which is about partners who work to the same time-scale together rather than working in some sort of management line, one to the other. We support the amendment. If it is not accepted at this stage, we shall return to the matter on Report.

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Asylum and Immigration), Home Office, Minister (Home Office) (Asylum & Immigration)

The national policing plan is seen as a key part of the process of achieving a high standard of policing throughout England and Wales. The preparation of the three-year policing plans that are required to be consistent with the national policing plan will help to ensure that all police forces are working to this common goal. We need to ensure that different levels of the plan are consistent with each other. Hence it is appropriate that the Bill requires the three-year strategy plans to be consistent with the national policing plan, rather than simply asking those who are writing the plans to "have regard to" the national policing plan. We do not accept that this requirement undermines the tripartite relationship or the role of police authorities. Indeed, we believe that it raises their profile and supports their role in ensuring consistent and coherent planning.

Amendment No. 327 would delete the requirement for annual best value performance plans to be consistent with the three-year plans. It seems entirely logical to us that, just as the national policing plan informs the three-year strategy plans, so three-year strategy plans inform the best value performance plans. Hence the clause requires local policing plans to be consistent with the three-year plans; and that the police authority's annual report assesses the extent to which the strategy plan has been implemented.

The central bone of contention here is that many noble Lords believe that we are hell-bent on undermining the tripartite relationship. We are not. I shall keep saying that until I am blue in the face.

Photo of Lord Dixon-Smith Lord Dixon-Smith Conservative

The Minister will keep saying it until he is blue in the face, and we shall continue to make our point. However, we are dealing with what appears on the face of the Bill—the content of the legislation, which makes these things possible. That is the matter of concern that we have been pressing throughout these debates. I suspect that we shall never be able to agree with the Minister on this issue. We entirely accept the Minister's good faith and his good intentions, but we have to deal with the words that appear on the paper in front of us. Those words would permit rather more than I am sure the Minister intends to implement himself. We have some concern for the future. I have heard the explanation. This is a well cultivated field now, and further cultivation this evening will not improve it. For now, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Lord Bradshaw Lord Bradshaw Liberal Democrat

moved Amendment No. 317:

Page 59, line 15, leave out from "In" to end of line and insert "considering the draft plan, the police authority"

Photo of Lord Bradshaw Lord Bradshaw Liberal Democrat

This amendment extends the debate that has just taken place. I shall not, therefore, be very long in my introduction. We seek to emphasise that the police plan—the three-year plan—is a joint effort between the police authority and the chief officer. We believe that that Government are placing too much emphasis in the Bill on the chief officer. In our view, the plan is the authority's plan. We do not want the roles of the chief officer and the police authority blurred. Like the Minister, we want consultation with local communities. Indeed, it is one of the statutory duties of police authorities. But, at present, the Bill confuses the role of the police authority and that of the chief officer.

We shall continue to say—the Minister is aware of this—that we want the provision straightened out by the time we reach the Report stage, so that it is quite clear to any simple, not complicated, person reading the Bill that it is a tripartite relationship, and that certain duties are laid down for the police authority. That must be clearly stated in the legislation. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Harris of Haringey Lord Harris of Haringey Labour

I support the amendment. If we believe, as I am sure is the case with my noble friend the Minister, that the three-year plan is an important document, and if it is setting an overall direction for the police service in the area, it should be owned by the police authority. If it is such an important document, clearly there should be local consultation that is the responsibility of the police authority. For that reason, I believe that the amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, is eminently sensible. When my noble friend the Minister considers it in the cold light of day, I am sure that he will realise how much it supports the objectives that he is seeking to fulfil.

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Asylum and Immigration), Home Office, Minister (Home Office) (Asylum & Immigration)

The Government are determined to support police authorities—full stop. I stress that point. The noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, cannot have it all his own way. A tripartite arrangement means that there has to be something for the other two parties to do. You cannot have a monopoly. All I ever hear from the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, is that the tripartite relationship seems to consist of only one part.

We support the police authorities and the chief police officers in their planning to achieve a consistently high standard. We need to have confidence that the local plans are based on appropriate and timely consultation with local communities. Section 96 of the Police Act 1996 requires the police authority to make arrangements for consultation. Once those arrangements are in place it is equally appropriate for the chief police officer to make use of them, as it is for the police authority.

I am looking for a shaking of the head from the noble Lord, rather than a nodding of the head. However, I am seeing only neutrality. It seems to me that this argument is too one-sided. We believe that chief police officers should be able to make use of those consultations, and that they should do so when preparing the draft three-year plan. It is not enough to expect the police authorities to have regard to these local views when they consider the draft plan submitted to them. By then, it is too late. It is far better for the chief officer to have taken note of local views when drafting the three-year plan. What on earth is wrong with that? It is the Government genuinely supporting police authorities and the chief police officers.

Photo of Lord Bradshaw Lord Bradshaw Liberal Democrat

I hear what the Minister says. I have taken part in many consultation meetings involving the public. They are generally led by the police authority, and a fairly senior policeman is usually in attendance at such meetings. However, it is usually the responsibility of the police authority to produce the plans. It is its plan. If I seem to be somewhat obdurate, I apologise, but I am sticking very firmly to any measures which undermine the place of police authorities and thereby the local communities and elected representatives who form a majority of the authorities. Therefore, I hope that for once I have the Minister's sympathy for sticking up for elected representatives.

I am implacably imposed to direct instructions from the Secretary of State to the chief officer of police which in any way bypass the police authority. Having said that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office, Government Whip, Government Whip

I beg to move that the House be resumed. In moving the Motion, I suggest that the Committee stage begin again not before 8.31 p.m.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.