Police Reform Bill [HL]

– in the House of Lords at 3:32 pm on 25th April 2002.

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Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Asylum and Immigration), Home Office, Minister (Home Office) (Asylum & Immigration) 3:32 pm, 25th April 2002

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a third time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a third time.—(Lord Rooker.)

Photo of Baroness Williams of Crosby Baroness Williams of Crosby Liberal Democrat Leader in the House of Lords

My Lords, I wish to raise a matter before we proceed with our debate. It concerns the issue that was raised by a newspaper this morning about the impression that information that was available to the Minister was not made available to the House on an indication of an instruction from a civil servant that the information should not be made available. It involves the issue of the privatisation of detention officers, which was debated in relation to Amendment No. 163 at great length on 16th April, on the second day of our debate on Report.

In view of the fact that the code of conduct that governs the behaviour of detention officers and their right to conduct intimate searches is not available to the House (more precisely, it was made available to my noble friend only 10 minutes ago, when a letter was given to him in which the information was not enclosed although the letter said that it was) and in view of the fact that the Minister may have been aware of policy suggestions to extend much more widely the privatisation of detention officers and of his assurance to the House that no such intimate searches would be conducted except under the supervision of, to quote his words, "a senior officer" (which the House assumed to mean a senior officer of the police), will the Minister now give an assurance—I ask this with respect for the Minister—that no information that is relevant to matters that are being debated in the House will be held back from the House? That will enable it to conduct its discussions with the fullest possible information and there will be no question of any information being withheld from it that might be relevant to our debate at Third Reading.

Photo of Lord Strathclyde Lord Strathclyde Conservative

My Lords, I rise briefly to support the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, who raises an important issue and makes a significant charge. It strikes me that the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, has increasingly been a magnet for trouble recently. However, since he came to this House—I believe that I speak for my party in this regard—he has built up a reputation for being forthright, frank, open, candid and, on some occasions, for being very robust in the defence of government policy. We admire those qualities and therefore hope—I hope that he will comment on this—that there is no truth in the rumour that the noble Lord has so offended the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has demanded the removal of the noble Lord, Lord Rooker. We would be very sorry if he were to go. However, that shows that at least somebody in government is reading copies of Hansard from this House!

On the point that the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, raised, is it true that the noble Lord has been asked to keep planned government policy secret from Members of this House? If so, how does that square with the spirit of openness that was laid down in the Nolan code a few years ago?

What is at issue is not just the reputation and integrity of the Government and of the Minister but also the reputation of this House for being a House that can hold the Government to account and scrutinise effectively. I hope that the Minister can offer a full explanation of what has been going on in relation to a matter that increasingly has a very bad smell about it.

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

My Lords, I am grateful for the way in which the noble Baroness raised this issue and to the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, for his words about me personally. On the policy point, I shall deal with the issues that have been raised.

First, no civil servant has instructed me to do anything. It does not work that way round; I instruct civil servants. One of the instructions—this will be confirmed by the DSS and MAFF—that civil servants who brief me regularly received, so far as parliamentary activity is concerned, involves the fact that I cannot stand at the Dispatch Box and read out paragraph after paragraph of narrative without putting in my own bit; I therefore prefer bullet points. They usually get the instruction that if there is something that I should say precisely—that is, because of the legal consequences—that should be spelt out, and if there is something in the background that I should not say, they should make sure that that is there as well. From that point of view, the instruction flows in exactly the opposite way to that which people might have suspected. That is that matter out of the way.

I turn to the other point that the noble Baroness raised, before turning to the issue of substance. Yes, we did debate Amendment No. 163, but we should not run away with the idea that we debated it extensively. The debate fills less than one column in Hansard. I do not call that an extensive debate. The whole debate runs from half way down column 856 and concludes before the end of column 857. That was the substance of the debate on that amendment.

Leaving aside the article in the Guardian for a moment, I defy anyone who reads the briefing that the Guardian used—that is, the notes that were there for me on the amendment's purpose and effect; the speaking notes, some of which I used; and the PACE information, which I used extensively—and what is in Hansard to substantiate any claim that I misled, deliberately or otherwise, the House or the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia. I refute that absolutely and without any qualification whatever.

The fact is that on the issue that we were discussing about detention officers, we have no secret plans to privatise any part of the police service. I do not think that the briefing would lead anyone to that conclusion. There is no question of misleading Parliament. The position is that the Home Office has received representations from a number of police forces—the figure is somewhere round about 10—which were and are considering contracting out custody functions to private providers on efficiency grounds. The Government have therefore been considering whether the Bill should allow forces the same opportunity to give appropriate police powers to private-sector providers if functions are contracted out—that is the choice of the police authority, not the Home Office—as police authorities have in relation to civilians. It is already the case that they can contract out.

It is not even true to say that no final decisions have yet been made. The suggestion has been dealt with by Home Office police Ministers and others but it has not been approved within the government decision-making machinery—the LP committee. There is no clearance for it. There is no plan. There is no secret plan. But discussions take place in government all the while. And in the context of the debate, I held nothing back. When the Bill reaches another place, it is possible that a government amendment may be put forward to that effect. I do not know. There is no government policy on the issue as I speak, and, therefore, there is no certainty whatever about this matter. It would not be to anyone's benefit if we had to go through what might or might not happen.

However, the fact is that if any proposals came forward, they would first have to be approved by the Commons and placed in the Bill. Then, as I repeatedly inform my colleagues in the Home Office regarding this Bill, anything that we want must receive consent in the House of Lords. "Consent" is a word that my noble friend the Chief Whip has impressed upon me since my arrival in this House. This place works by consent. It is fairly obvious that it must, given the arithmetic of the representation here. Therefore, proposals would have to be approved by this House and nothing would be done in secret.

The type of functions being considered are analogous to those already carried out by private sector employees working in privately run prisons. But it would be for the police forces to choose how they use the support staff. I repeat the central point that I made in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia—anyone can cross-check the notes that I had. I made it absolutely clear that, under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act codes, the people who carry out such searches are in the main doctors and nurses. They are medical practitioners and they do so only under the authority of a senior police officer. Only in a few extreme circumstances, where a doctor or nurse is not available, will the detention or custody officers carry out that function with the safeguards in Section 55 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act and under the aegis of a senior police officer. Therefore, the idea that in future any Tom, Dick or Harry would be asked to carry out that work is absolute nonsense. It would not happen. All the safeguards would apply in all the circumstances.

I turn to my final point. The noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, asked a reasonable question regarding the consultation on the new or reviewed codes of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act. I said that, first, I would ensure that whatever was available would either be placed in the Library or would be sent to the noble Lord. At the time, I was not sure whether all the codes were fully public because they are large volumes. Secondly, because the codes are under review, I did not know whether they had been put out for consultation. I indicated that they would not be put out before today's Third Reading but, at present, I still do not know whether that is the case. However, I have every expectation that it is. I believe that it would be sensible for the Government to ensure that the codes are put out for consultation at, before or by the time this issue is dealt with at the Bill's Committee stage in the House of Commons. MPs are bound to demand sight of the consultation on the PACE codes. I said that I would provide them if I could and that, if I could not, I would explain why.

That is the position. The Nolan code of practice does not come into it. Not only did I not tell any lies; I did not mislead any Member of this House either deliberately or by accident. I am not using this as an excuse, but I have not been asked any questions about this matter either today or during the previous stages of the Bill, and the issue was not relevant.

However, there is no government policy for me to announce or defend in that respect because there is no decision. There is not even a policy decision in the Home Office. The request was put to us initially by the police themselves when they saw the White Paper and the Bill. Some police forces are already considering contracting out some of those services, as is their right. That is the situation. Although no one has said it here, I deeply resent the idea, as set out in the first sentence of the article in the Guardian, that the Government have—that is, I have—deliberately misled Parliament. I refute that absolutely.

Photo of Baroness Williams of Crosby Baroness Williams of Crosby Liberal Democrat Leader in the House of Lords

My Lords, in no way would I wish to cast any doubt on the good faith of an extremely honest and direct Minister. But, in conclusion, I must read to him one sentence from the instructions that were given to him on the amendment to which I referred. I quote:

"We are resisting this amendment on the grounds that we want designated persons to take on those very duties which are keeping police constables from policing on the streets".

The relevant phrase is, "we want designated persons". I believe that indicates a little more than that no decisions of any kind have yet been taken. There appears to be an intention on the part of the Civil Service, if not on the part of the noble Lord.

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Asylum and Immigration), Home Office, Minister (Home Office) (Asylum & Immigration) 3:45 pm, 25th April 2002

My Lords, I do not accept that. The whole debate about community support officers, whether they be detention officers, escort officers, investigation officers or scenes of crime officers, has been predicated on that basis. It was deployed at length in the White Paper which was put to this House in December regarding the civilianisation of the police. But the noble Baroness did not read the next sentence in her quotation:

"Section 55 of PACE contains numerous safeguards for the conduct of intimate searches which designated . . . officers will have to follow".

There is already provision in the Bill for designated persons to have regard to PACE codes of practice, and that makes them accountable for their dealings with suspects. The codes require a doctor or a nurse to carry out the search, and it can be carried out only if a senior officer decides that it is necessary. A detention officer would carry out the search only if a doctor or nurse were not available and if there were reasonable grounds for believing that someone had hidden something on his person, such as a razor blade, that could cause harm. That is the fact of the matter.

Photo of Lord Hughes of Woodside Lord Hughes of Woodside Labour

My Lords, I have no wish to prolong this matter, but the Leader of the Opposition, the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, in a very robust and charming way, spoke about a smell being attached to my noble friend Lord Rooker and the Government. In view of what has been said, will he perhaps now be gracious enough to withdraw those remarks?

On Question, Bill read a third time.

Photo of Lord Elton Lord Elton Conservative

moved Amendment No. 1:

After Clause 1, insert the following new clause—

"PERFORMANCE TARGETS

In section 38(1) of the 1996 Act (setting of performance targets) after "may" there shall be inserted "and to section (Limitation of powers of the Secretary of State) of the Police Reform Act 2002"."

Photo of Lord Elton Lord Elton Conservative

My Lords, somewhat to my surprise, I do not have to focus noble Lords' attention on detention officers because it is clearly focused there already. They are the subject of the group of amendments to which I wish to speak. In moving Amendment No. 1, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 2 and 3.

Your Lordships will be aware of the proposal for persons employed by the police forces but not equipped with powers of policemen to be instituted in the Bill. It is, in fact, in Clause 35(2). Noble Lords will also be aware—I regret that I did not embrace it in this group of amendments—of the proposal to introduce community safety accreditation schemes with persons similarly equipped with minimal powers under that clause and of the reservations which many of us have about those proposals.

The disquiet which we felt—I told your Lordships of this when I spoke during the previous stage of the Bill—was shared by those who responded to an inquiry by the Metropolitan Police as to their reaction to the proposals. At that stage I quoted from a summary of the reply in which it was said of five distinct police forces that, although they welcomed them as a possible improvement, they raised concerns that,

"the local choice proposed in the legislation might be 'eroded by the application of centrally held, ring-fenced funding specifically for one or other of the several options available'", and they called for local discretion to be allowed.

Having read those words, I looked at the ways in which the Home Secretary might exert such a ring-fencing move and found that in the Police Act 1996 there are two powers which could be used for this purpose. They are the subject of my two paving amendments. The first is in Section 38(1), which gives the Home Secretary power to establish levels of performance, to be called "performance targets". The second is in Section 46(4), which states that,

"the Secretary of State may exercise his discretion by applying such formulae or other rules as he considers appropriate".

What he would apply it to is the payment of grant to police forces.

Those are two clear instruments which the Home Secretary would be able to use. I was encouraged by the words used by the Minister a moment ago in his vigorous and convincing rebuttal. He said, of detention officers—I start in the middle of a sentence—"if contracted out; that is the choice of the police authorities, not of the Government". I find that reassuring.

All I want from the Minister is an assurance that these routes will not be used by a Home Secretary of this Government for the purpose of forcing upon a chief officer of police the necessity to employ a particular proportion of any of these categories of person within his police force. I hope that is sufficient and clear. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Bradshaw Lord Bradshaw Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I rise briefly to say that we support generally the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Elton.

Photo of Lord Dixon-Smith Lord Dixon-Smith Conservative

My Lords, lengthy remarks by me are superfluous. This is a matter which has been debated on two previous occasions. The concern is a real one. It would be enormously helpful both to the House and, indeed, to people at large in the country if the Minister were able to give an assurance that these indirect routes will never be used in this way. I have long and sad experience of the powers of persuasion of government and of the tools that they will use if they are genuinely available. It is not unreasonable to ask that these tools should never be used.

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

My Lords, I hope I can satisfy the noble Lord, Lord Elton. I understand entirely the noble Lord's anxiety, and the anxiety which prompted the amendments. However, I can assure him that there is no intention to impose anything on police authorities or chief officers so far as the employment of civilian staff is concerned; that is, no quotas, no levels and no thresholds. I hope that reassures the noble Lord. I do not believe in any event that the amendments would achieve what the noble Lord hopes they would achieve.

Amendment No. 1 on performance targets would amend Section 38(1) of the Police Act 1996, but that section as amended would begin:

"Where an objective has been determined under Section 37, the Secretary of State may and to . . . section . . . of the Police Reform Act 2002 direct police authorities to establish levels of performance".

The amendments are misplaced. Police authorities do not have the power to insist that chief officers employ a particular number or proportion of designated or accredited staff or special constables. In any event, the Secretary of State could not, even if he or she wanted to, direct them to do something that they have no power to do. He could not issue that direction. We could not, for instance, direct a police authority to recruit a certain number, a quota, of different types of officers because that is a function of the chief officer, not the police authority. That distinction is clear. I see members of police authorities nodding. They understand the distinction.

The fact is that we do not intend to set quotas for forces relating to a proportion of their force which must be made up of community support offices and Specials. Nor is it our intention to set such figures for forces as to how many community safety organisations they accredit. It is, as set out in Clause 35, at the discretion of chief officers as to whether or not they recruit and designate those people.

Let me finally nail this other canard that has arisen. This is not about policing on the cheap, nor about replacing police officers with community support officers. I would argue that our commitment to delivering record numbers of police officers belies any such suggestion. It is the intention of the Government to provide by March next year the resources for 130,000 police officers UK-wide. This March we have achieved record levels. Those two points have been acknowledged in an earlier debate. Then it is a matter for us to see where we need to go in terms of policing numbers.

We are trying to establish measures which work. It is not a question of cost or of trying to get policing on the cheap. We are trying to establish something which is of value to police forces up and down the country if they want to enter into it. It will be their choice and their discretion. That will be true of custody escort officers or any other category of support staff.

My final point is one with which I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Elton, will agree. He has been in this position and understands what this is about. When either of our two parties have been in government we have tried to use civilianisation to free-up fully trained, qualified expertise from police officers for front line duties. I have always thought that there was a consensus on that issue. we have debated it long and hard in this House. For example, the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, has encouraged us in the past to divest police officers of the responsibility for escorting abnormal loads. We have had that from Members of our own Benches.

Through a process of sensible civilianisation where right and appropriate, and where the chief officer wants to do it, we are trying to ensure a freeing-up of core police time for front line duties. We are not trying to have policing done more cheaply. That is not the intention of this legislation. It is about making good use of the resource that we can deploy. Having heard that reassurance, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to—

Photo of Lord Elton Lord Elton Conservative

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, he has been convincing on Amendment No. 1 and has obviously taken on board Amendment No. 3, but there was no mention of the effects of Section 46(4) of the 1996 Act, which concerns the serious issue of grant being withheld unless it is applied in a specific way. I shall continue on that point for a moment longer because I think that the Minister is searching for some information he may have which will make it easier for him to reply to the point which I have made eloquently, at length and persuasively. It will be difficult to continue this address to your Lordships on such a slender basis for much longer. Therefore, I hope that the noble Lord is now possessed of the facts.

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

My Lords, I take note of what the noble Lord said. I have re-read the amendment and can see the issue of concern. However, this has to be viewed as a package. It is not the intention of the Government to use the section in the way in which the noble Lord suggests. This comes as a package. I am grateful to the noble Lord for acknowledging that I have been convincing on Amendments Nos. 1 and 3. However, this has to be seen in that context. It is not the desire of the Government to direct in the way in which he suggests. I suspect that one could read it in that way if one had a particularly conspiratorial frame of mind, but that is not our intention.

Photo of Lord Elton Lord Elton Conservative

My Lords, as the Minister has been extremely patient, perhaps I may ask his indulgence to give him the opportunity not to say that it is not the intention of the Government but that the Government will not use this device, in which case I should be happy to withdraw my amendment.

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

My Lords, there are no plans to use the provision in the way the noble Lord suggests.

Photo of Lord Elton Lord Elton Conservative

My Lords, the noble Lord places me in a difficulty, which can be resolved only by another place or by taking your Lordships through the Lobbies, which I am anxious not to do, as we have much more work to do. Therefore, with some regret and in the expectation of receiving a letter, perhaps, to be placed in the Library, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 not moved.]

Clause 36 [Community safety accreditation schemes]:

Photo of Lord Dholakia Lord Dholakia Party Chair, Liberal Democrats

moved Amendment No. 4:

Page 35, line 38, at end insert "and the principal local authority for that area"

Photo of Lord Dholakia Lord Dholakia Party Chair, Liberal Democrats

My Lords, Amendment No. 4 is grouped with a large number of other amendments. Amendments Nos. 4 to 20 and Amendments Nos. 22 to 27 are tabled in my name and those of my noble friend Lady Harris, the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, and the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman. Amendment No. 21 stands in my name and that of my noble friend, Lady Harris.

I speak first to Amendment No. 4. It is about community safety accreditation schemes. It is important to recognise that we do not object to the establishment of such schemes. However, we believe that such schemes should be restricted to local authorities. The Bill allows chief constables to accredit local authorities or other employers, such as security firms, to run schemes involving accredited wardens with certain police powers. These are specified in Schedule 5 to the Bill.

Our amendments seek to provide safeguards by limiting accreditation to local authority-led schemes. To avoid any confusion about the status of those not employed or engaged by local authorities, we would expect employers to be sub-contractors of the local authorities when these schemes are running.

We do not dispute the need to establish and maintain a community safety accreditation scheme. We accept that that will contribute to community safety and security; assist in combating crime and disorder; and it will also help towards diminishing public nuisance and other forms of anti-social behaviour.

We believe that a chief constable has a duty not only to consult the police authority but also the principal local authority in his area. Local authorities play an important role in crime prevention. That is ably demonstrated by many of the CCTV schemes which are run in co-operation with them.

We cannot and should not exclude local authorities from this important function. For the purpose of clarity, in Amendments Nos. 8 and 20, we have defined the local authorities both in England and in Wales.

Policing is about partnership. One cannot exclude one of the key players in a crime prevention strategy. The amendment is designed to make that possible.

There are a number of issues with regard to other amendments. They all relate to local authority functions. Amendments Nos. 4 to 8 are designed to ensure that local authorities are involved in this process. Amendments Nos. 9 to 20 deal with accreditation under the community safety accreditation schemes. All the amendments seek to ensure that local authorities are involved. Amendments Nos. 22 to 27 make similar provision in Clause 38 of the Bill. That leaves Amendment No. 21. It specifies that any,

"person who exercises or performs any power or duty . . . [under the accreditation scheme] shall be known as a community safety warden".

On Report the Minister assured me that he does not genuinely object to what they are called, provided that their functions are properly defined.

In conclusion, we believe that a clear distinction has to be drawn between police officers and those who are designated under the community accreditation schemes. That would avoid confusion in the minds of the public. More importantly, our amendments would also ensure that local authorities become part of the process of supplementary provision relating to designations and accreditations. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Dixon-Smith Lord Dixon-Smith Conservative

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Bridgeman and I both have our names to this group of amendments with the exception of Amendment No. 21. The reason for that exception is very simple: we did not consider that the name for these people was important. Therefore, we did not add our names to that amendment—a rose by any other name, and so on—although there is some virtue in having one single name for them.

So far as concerns the other amendments, it is absolutely essential that local authorities are deeply involved in accreditation schemes. That is all the more important because we do not operate in a country where police authority boundaries are congruent with local authority boundaries. They are not. There are some relatively convenient police authorities, such as my own in Essex. It represents the existing geographic county of Essex. Within that county there are unitary authorities which do not acknowledge the remit of the county council. If the Chief Constable of Essex wanted to set up an accreditation scheme in any part of the county he would need to go to the relevant authority in order to do so. Indeed, if he failed to do so, however much he wanted in principle to set up such a scheme, he would be endangering a project that one would hope would be successful.

We tabled amendments at an earlier stage in the Bill to try to get full police powers for these people. I have given up that argument; but I am sure that it was the correct one. The Bill contains—if it contains anything—an admission of failure by the Government properly to resource the police. We are establishing these groups of people with limited police powers because governments of long time have not been prepared to do the job properly; therefore, we cannot have people on the streets with full police powers. That is the only way in which one should reasonably interpret what lies behind the Bill.

Furthermore, the Government, the police authorities and/or the system have failed to reduce the administrative burden on constables in particular. We know about the diary of a policeman. It states that a constable must spend 40 per cent of his time in the station. That is necessary for administrative and legal reasons. Indeed, if we are to achieve greater conviction rates for criminals, that time must be sacrificed for the needs of the law. It is a desperate situation because if that time could be reduced then more policemen would be available on the streets. It is not a straight arithmetical calculation. If that 40 per cent could be halved to 20 per cent, the number of police available on the streets would not increase by 20 per cent, it would increase by 33.3 per cent. If anyone sat down and did the sums, which I shall not bother to do now because trying to explain arithmetical formulae would take an unnecessary few moments, he would see that that is so.

I return to the acceptability of these schemes. They must be put into effect in local authority areas and not in police authority areas, which are much too big. In any event, I strongly suspect that they will largely be used to try to resolve specific problems relating to particular localities. Therefore, these amendments are important. They have our wholehearted support.

Photo of Lord Harris of Haringey Lord Harris of Haringey Labour

My Lords, the 24 amendments which are cobbled together are a strange mixture. Some of them are clearly sensible. For example, in introducing such a scheme one should like to see consultation with the local authorities as part of the exercise carried out by the police authority in deciding whether or not this is a sensible action by the chief officer concerned.

What I find surprising is the proposal, as I understand it—the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, did not say much about this—to limit the power to propose schemes to be approved for accreditation to local authorities. I wonder about the wisdom of such a restriction. In London, for example, a scheme is run and administered by the Central London Partnership, an organisation of businesses working with local government in central London, that uses wardens to carry out the community safety tasks that we are discussing. Presumably, if the amendments were passed, it would not be open to the Central London Partnership, a business-led organisation, to make proposals for accreditation.

Similarly, it would not be possible for a local chamber of commerce or local businesses to combine to provide a community safety scheme in their area. Equally, it would not be possible for a major tenants' organisation or housing association to make such proposals.

There may be good reasons for such exclusions, but I am not convinced of them and I did not hear them articulated by the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia. There may well be circumstances in which it would be appropriate to propose for accreditation schemes run by a housing association, a business organisation or some other consortium. As I understand it, the amendments would forbid that.

There is a simple solution. I know that my noble friend the Minister has abiding love and support for police authorities and I am aware that he recognises their significance and power. If it were required that, before an accreditation scheme was approved, it had to be approved by the police authority, it would be for the police authority in its area to say whether or not it was appropriate for accreditation to be extended beyond local authorities to business organisations or others. That would be a better way to resolve the issue. It would provide an opportunity for flexibility; it would provide an opportunity to meet local circumstances; and it would ensure local accountability for decisions.

The proposals for accreditation are an important and valuable part of the Bill. They recognise what is already taking place in many local areas. For those reasons, I should be sorry to see them restricted in the way that some of the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, provide.

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Asylum and Immigration), Home Office, Minister (Home Office) (Asylum & Immigration) 4:15 pm, 25th April 2002

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Harris mentioned—obviously genuinely—that I have come to have an abiding regard for police authorities during the passage of the Bill. I spent an hour and a half this morning meeting the Association of Police Authorities. I met five different groups briefly and then met them collectively for a while. So I had my ears bent, as it were.

The noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, said that we would be unable to implement this by police areas; it would have to be done by local authority areas. I submit that that is up to the chief constable, not us, under the Bill. That is the whole point of the exercise; the Bill is enabling legislation.

As far as I know, police forces in this country are basically constructed from county council areas—either a single county council, or two in Devon and Cornwall, three, I think, in West Mercia, and I do not know how many in Thames Valley. However, none crosses or divides a county council boundary and local authorities are contained within those boundaries. So the police know with which county councils and local authorities they are dealing. They may want to do so on a local authority or smaller area basis, but I submit that that is up to the chief constable.

I appreciate that, as is their right, noble Lords have returned to the issue on Third Reading; and I have no doubt that it will be debated at length in the other place. The group of amendments is large. In summary, they would exclude from accreditation schemes a wide range of organisations already involved in community safety and regeneration and increasing public safety. Their effect would be to slow down any withdrawal of accreditation that a chief officer might wish to make. I now turn to the detail.

It is ironic that the Conservative Party is signed up to the idea of "public sector good; private sector bad". There will be a few wry smiles in the other Chamber if such an amendment is tabled down there. We have this incredible operation of the Tories in the Lords—if I may put it that way—ruling out the private sector from accreditation schemes in any way, shape or form and restricting them to local authorities. My, how things have changed in the past few years! Perhaps that suspicion is unfair.

I am uneasy about accepting the amendments. I do not really have any new arguments; but I have a few more examples to add to those that I have given previously. The amendments would fail to harness what is already taking place and the goodwill that exists in both the voluntary and private sectors—along with local authorities, of course. Town centre, shopping centre and shopping mall security staff would be ruled out because invariably they are not run by the local authority.

Policy Action Team 6 is a group asked by the Social Exclusion Unit of the Cabinet Office to consider the concept of neighbourhood wardens as part of the national strategy for neighbourhood renewal. It gave examples of 50 neighbourhood warden schemes around the country serving their communities and reducing the fear of crime. Many were not being run by local authorities and so could not be accredited under the amendments. That would be a great pity.

Other organisations that would be excluded from accreditation under the amendment would be all of the non-local authority-led neighbourhood and street warden schemes, church housing associations and registered social landlords. For example, a local authority could employ accredited persons using money from the rent account, but if the housing were transferred from the local authority to a registered social landlord, it could not use the safety officers and tenants would be denied those services.

I mentioned shopping centre security staff. Hospital security staff employed for the protection of hospital staff and patients do vital work. It is terrible that these days we have to employ security staff in and around hospitals, but they are a necessary fact of life. Invariably, they are employed by or contracted to the hospital, so they could not be accredited under the amendments. Neither could warrant enforcement officers employed by magistrates' courts committees, sports stewards, concert hall stewards or mosque and synagogue security staff.

So we would rule out great tranches of existing staff—I am not inventing those examples. Such work already takes place. It would be good as a comfort blanket for the public to know that such uniformed people were OK'd by the police or the chief constable. That would give them some comfort. At present, 208 street and neighbourhood warden schemes have been set up using funding from the neighbourhood and street wardens programme. Just over a third or them—72—are not led by the local authority. Communities in those 72 areas would not be able to take comfort from the provision.

I turn to Amendment No. 21—which, of course, the Conservatives do not support—under which all such staff should be known as community safety wardens. I repeat what I said in Committee and on Report: I have no hang-up about that; nor do the Government. I think that that is a matter for local communities and the police to discuss locally; we should not prescribe that in the Bill.

I turn to Amendment No. 22—an idea we have already discussed, which would require the chief officer to consult the local authority before modifying or withdrawing accreditation. That would hinder the chief officer. If he needs to take quick action because a scheme has fallen apart or the employer has for some reason caused the police difficulty, he should be able to do so. At the end of the day, under this enabling legislation, the chief constable is responsible for the concept and accreditation of wardens.

While I understand that this issue will be revisited, I think that it would be wholly demoralising for all those bodies—the voluntary organisations, private sector companies and housing association staff, as well as others that I listed earlier—if we were to agree to this form of amendment. I understand the reasons why it has been brought forward, but I sincerely hope that noble Lords will not seek to press it.

Photo of Lord Bradshaw Lord Bradshaw Liberal Democrat

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I should say that I have some sympathy for the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Harris. Provided that all the organisations to which the Minister referred are accredited by the police authority as well as the chief constable, I think that I would, as I said, have some sympathy with the noble Lord's view.

I believe that most of the organisations will be local authority-accredited forces or local authority-employed wardens. But in the circumstances, for example, of a local hospital or possibly of a large shopping centre, if the security guards are accredited by the chief constable and that fact is placed before the police authority for approval as a matter of course, then I think that we could go as far as that in accepting the remarks of the Minister.

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

My Lords, I cannot offer an amendment to that effect, but—purely off the top of my head, so I may be on dangerous ground again; please do not hold it against me—it is a fact that many of these bodies, in particular concert hall, sports ground and hospital staff, are public or publicly funded authorities which have relationships with local authorities through funding arrangements, management or corporate governance. One can see a route for the funding or public body to ensure that matters are dealt with properly and that the relevant bodies are employing bona fide staff without necessarily specifying that on the face of the Bill. That may provide a route for some of these bodies, although I accept that it would not work for shopping centres.

Planning consents might also offer a route. By and large, if something goes wrong in a shopping centre, most people would blame the local authority for any policing issues. People may think that they are public properties with public highways, but they are not; they are private properties. One has to take account of that fact when granting planning permission.

Photo of Lord Dholakia Lord Dholakia Party Chair, Liberal Democrats

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his explanation. For the benefit of the noble Lord, Lord Harris, perhaps I may clarify the position in relation to other organisations for accreditation purposes. I did say that the amendments are designed primarily for local authority-led schemes. However, in case there is any confusion, I shall repeat what I said earlier about the status of those not directly employed. As the Minister pointed out, it would be perfectly feasible and possible to come to a form of contractual arrangement.

The Minister spoke of a large number of other bodies currently operating such schemes. Many local authorities and other bodies employing such officers do so without any police powers specified at the present time. They are perfectly able to carry out their work. All it requires is an application to the local authority to enter into the process whereby accreditation could form part of the basis of their operation.

I am not necessarily satisfied with the Minister's response. If he wishes to explore ways of bringing other bodies within the jurisdiction of local authorities, that could take the matter further when it is discussed in another place. In the meantime, however, this is a matter on which I certainly wish to seek the opinion of the House.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 4) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 151; Not-Contents, 127.

Division number 1 Private Parking: Ports and Trading Estates — Police Reform Bill [HL]

Aye: 149 Members of the House of Lords

No: 125 Members of the House of Lords

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Nos: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.

[Amendments Nos. 5 to 8 not moved.]

Clause 37 [Accreditation under community safety accreditation schemes]:

[Amendments Nos. 9 to 20 not moved.]

Clause 38 [Supplementary provisions relating to designations and accreditations]:

[Amendments Nos. 21 to 27 not moved.]

Clause 40 [Power to amend Chapter 1]:

Photo of Lord Dixon-Smith Lord Dixon-Smith Conservative

My Lords, Amendments Nos. 28 and 29 are grouped together, although the second amendment is not consequential on the first. In fact, they will be taken separately.

Amendment No. 28 is deceptively simple: "Leave out Clause 40". Clause 40, of course, is another matter altogether. It provides the Secretary of State with the power to extend the police powers set out in Schedules 4 and 5 to police civilians working at the order of the chief constable or to accredited persons working under a scheme created by the chief constable. It provides a power for the Secretary of State to amend the contents of the schedules to increase or diminish those powers.

It is, of course, true that the power is subject to affirmative resolution by both Houses, and, to that extent, Parliament will be involved in any subsequent decision to amend the schedules. However, despite what the Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform has said about the matter, such clauses call into question the validity of the legislation that we pass. We have seen that from time to time with other Bills. I do not apologise for saying that. Parliament gives much less consideration to statutory instruments than we give to fundamental legislation, such as this Bill.

Clause 40 goes too far. There are other problems with Schedules 4 and 5, to which we shall come later, although we need not concern ourselves with those now. However, we argue strongly that Parliament should decide such matters and that should be the end of it. We do not see the necessity for having Clause 40 in the first place. If such matters have been properly debated and determined by both Houses by the time that the Bill is passed, that ought to be the end of it.

Amendment No. 29 is in the same group. We felt that it was worth pursuing. It could be argued—this is where I find myself with a slight intellectual difficulty—that Amendment No. 29 is in conflict with a wish to leave out Clause 40. However, given the realities of political power, as Parliament goes to work, one cannot be certain what the final outcome on the Bill might be. In any event, there will have to be a great deal more discussion in another place about the Bill.

The clause that Amendment No. 29 would insert would be appropriate. There may be occasions when wider powers than those which are finally included in Schedules 4 and 5 will be appropriate, particularly for accredited people, but we on this side of the House have argued consistently that the people on the streets exercising police powers should be policemen.

We have tried very hard to persuade the Government that the accreditation schemes could be used to revivify the Special Constabulary. The Government was having none of either argument. They had bitten on a hook, the barb was set—I congratulate the person who set it, whoever he may be—and they were not prepared to consider other, perhaps more effective, schemes which would have provided a better long-term solution. I refer to my remarks on the previous amendment. This whole issue has come about as a result of a failure over time to properly fund the police force so that there can be sufficient real policemen on the streets.

Amendment No. 29 seeks to allow the Secretary of State to approve pilot schemes in the first instance. If people wish to try schemes of accreditation with powers additional to those permitted by the Bill, then, subject to the Secretary of State deciding that they are appropriate, they will be able to do so. If such schemes are successful, as some people believe that they will be, although I am immensely sceptical that any success will be on the scale that they hope for, the amendment would permit the Secretary of State to expand the number of schemes and even to introduce them nationally. It is a valid amendment and one well worth pursuing.

Amendment No. 28 is the significant amendment of the two. Amendment No. 29 needs further debate, but that will have to take place in another place. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Borrie Lord Borrie Labour

My Lords, I wish to speak to Amendment No. 28 only. The amendment seeks to remove Clause 40, which enables the Secretary of State to amend by order the detailed powers in Schedules 4 and 5 of police civilians and accredited persons.

The noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, has said that he seeks to delete Clause 40, despite the fact that it has the maximum kind of safeguard that one expects for delegated legislation—that is, that any use of the power in Clause 40 would require a draft order to be approved by both Houses of Parliament. The fact that the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, is moving the amendment—we may hear from the Liberal Democrats in support of it, as the names of the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, and the noble Baroness, Lady Harris of Richmond, appear on the amendment—is somewhat surprising in view of the many debates that there have been on the powers to be given to civilians, particularly the community support officers. We may hear further arguments today.

In so far as there is perfectly legitimate anxiety about the powers of community support officers and others, this is not exactly an innovation on the ground. But it is an innovation in so far as it concerns detailed powers in police legislation and, given that it is fairly novel, it strikes me as contrary to much of what the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, said in Committee and earlier. He said that this is new and worrying and that he is anxious about how it will work out. But if the powers of civilian and community support officers at Schedules 4 and 5 are to be included in the Bill—and it is still an "if" at the present time—then, because this is novel, surely the noble Lord should see it as highly desirable that, if the Secretary of State should find that in this particular or that particular we have included a power that should not be there, or that we have omitted a power that should be there, the schedules should be amended by order of the Secretary of State, subject to the parliamentary control to which I have referred. That would seem a wholly appropriate and desirable power.

I could surely use some of the arguments used by the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, in previous debates to indicate that I, too, am anxious about these powers and would like to see that in certain circumstances they could be amended. We all know that there is to be a police Bill this year. The previous Bill was not long ago, but often there is a gap of many years between a substantive Act dealing with a subject such as this and another substantive Act. To wait until there is time for primary legislation may be wholly undesirable.

Photo of Earl Russell Earl Russell Liberal Democrat 4:45 pm, 25th April 2002

My Lords, powers of arrest and powers of entry are about as fundamental powers in English law as one can well take. I am afraid that the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, was mistaken to say that they are an innovation. They have been tried before and caused a vast amount of controversy. Inevitably, they led to conflicts of interest. They led to the revival of impeachment in the Parliament of 1621. I am afraid that the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, is illustrating the proposition that those who do not know history are compelled to repeat it.

In the face of these powers we have only the power of the statutory instrument. In the previous Parliament, 0.5 per cent of negative instruments were debated in another place. The percentage for affirmative instruments was not much higher. None was defeated. One single statutory instrument was defeated in this place. If this is the only power we have to control powers of arrest and entry, we relegate ourselves to being a part of the dignified part of the constitution: we are preserved to show off to the tourists while the effective government goes on elsewhere. If this House allows this clause to remain on the statute book, Parliament will have made itself redundant.

Photo of Baroness Hanham Baroness Hanham Conservative

My Lords, I shall address my remarks to Amendment No. 29. I have spoken previously about the ambition of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, of which I am a council member—I hope to remain a member after 2nd May—to introduce a scheme of borough constables. Whatever happens to this clause, we shall wish to be part of a pilot scheme. One of the advantages and attractions of limiting the provision initially to pilot schemes is that it will enable us to see how the system works.

In Committee, I moved amendments to encourage the Minister to consider giving community constables the power of detention and the ability to use force in order to detain; and, secondly—although perhaps not so importantly—that community officers should be able to seize bicycles. That is an important aspect when one has been nearly mown down—as I have—by someone hurtling along the pavement. So there are additional areas where people consider those powers should be given.

I see, however, that it might be difficult to operate such provision on a general basis without having tested it out. Therefore, I support the concept of agreement to a number of pilot schemes in order to work out what the powers should be and how they could be applied—perhaps also to see what limitations should be imposed as a result of the concerns raised regarding the Secretary of State's powers. It would need to be determined whether they were too wide or not wide enough.

Therefore, Amendment No. 29 has a great deal of merit. It provides an opportunity to see how the system will work; then it gives the Home Secretary the right to extend the pilot schemes after observing how they operate. I support Amendment No. 29, but it is probably a matter of "tail over top" or "top over tail"—I am not quite sure which.

Photo of Lord Dholakia Lord Dholakia Party Chair, Liberal Democrats

My Lords, we set out our arguments on Report as to why we oppose Clause 40. The clause contains draconian powers by which the Secretary may, by order, amend the provisions of Schedules 4 and 5—as was rightly pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Borrie.

On Report, we were told by the Minister that this is a long long-stop, and that the Home Secretary cannot make an order unless the draft has been laid before Parliament and approved by a resolution of both Houses.

The question we must ask is: why does the Secretary of State require such wide-ranging powers? On Report, this House was not prepared to give powers to the Secretary of State in Clause 5. I know that the amendment does not relate directly to that provision, but the power in that clause would give the Home Secretary the ultimate authority, bypassing the duties and obligations of police authorities across the country, thus enabling him to control police functions centrally. A strong impression is given of the degree to which the Home Secretary wishes to exercise these powers, bypassing many of the functions of the local police authority.

The police authorities have local accountability. They are the ones who should be exercising powers, without interference from the Secretary of State. But we know the Minister's view of police authorities. I am delighted that he met members of some of them today. Perhaps he will have a change of heart.

There is ample Home Office involvement in the composition of police authorities. The 1994 Act introduced by the then Conservative administration ensures that, out of 17 members—nine of whom are councillors and three of whom are magistrates—five independent members are appointed from a shortlist referred by the Home Secretary. Again, he has considerable leeway within which to convince those at local level about what is required and what is appropriate.

Even at present, the Home Secretary has wide powers. He can make regulations and issue codes of practice and good practice guidelines which police authorities follow. To empower the Secretary of State further, as envisaged in Clause 40, bypasses one of the fundamental principles of local policing. Section 96 of the Police Act 1996 requires police authorities, not the Home Secretary, to make arrangements for local consultation. The purpose is to obtain people's consent as regards policing in their area and to obtain the co-operation of local people in preventing crime.

The Secretary of State does not require the additional powers laid down in Clause 40. This is another measure which shows how far the Government are prepared to go to control some police functions centrally.

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

My Lords, I am in a quandary. I do not know what the precedent is for this House effectively overturning a settled recommendation of the Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform. Obviously, the House is master, not the committee. However, it will not wash the next time a Minister has to tell his or her department that the committee's recommendations on a Bill should be observed. Why on earth should anyone listen? The implication will be that the committee is not particularly powerful, because we cannot guarantee that the House will agree to implement its recommendations.

In the past, the Government have accepted the Select Committee's recommendations and have amended and changed legislation at its request. They have acceded to the views of the committee. To the best of my knowledge, they have accepted its recommendations without qualification where it has believed that powers being exercised by negative resolution should be exercised by affirmative resolution; or where powers were being operated in such a way that in the view of the committee the House ought to have more control. So it simply will not wash in future if the House decides to overturn the recommendation in paragraph 7 of the committee's report relating to this clause—which was Clause 38 in the Bill as originally drafted.

It is true that this is a Henry VIII clause. The Secretary of State may modify Schedule 4 and other enactments to facilitate the exercise of powers. It makes it clear that we consider that the affirmative power is appropriate. So, for the future, we must make our minds up. There is no reason why Ministers in other departments should acquiesce in future to the recommendations of the Delegated Powers Committee if they are minded not to. It simply will not work for Ministers in this House to explain to Ministers in the other place, who may not fully understand the position here, that this is how this House works. To the best of my knowledge, to remove Clause 40 would be to tear up the rulebook.

Furthermore, any recognition whatever that this is enabling legislation has been absent from the debate. The clause is not prescriptive. There is reference to pilot schemes. Of course there will be pilots. There are 43 police authorities—and they will not all choose to operate the legislation. It is for the chief constables to decide whether to include such provision in their policing plans. It is not up to the Home Secretary. This is purely enabling legislation for chief constables. There is nothing prescriptive about it. So I cannot understand some of the arguments that have been made repeatedly at different stages.

It is not as though Clause 40 contains no safeguards, or checks and balances, to prevent the provision from being used inappropriately. Any changes under the terms of the clause are subject to affirmative resolution—a fact dismissed by the noble Earl. I do not dismiss it, and I do not accept his dismissal.

Noble Lords will appreciate that the clause contains a significant safeguard. A future Home Secretary will not be able to extend the range of powers available under this part of the Bill at the drop of a hat. That is important. Secondly, while the clause would allow the Secretary of State to give chief officers a greater range of powers to make available to designated and accredited persons—

Photo of Earl Russell Earl Russell Liberal Democrat

My Lords, will the Minister tell the House when an affirmative resolution was last rejected by another place?

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Asylum and Immigration), Home Office, Minister (Home Office) (Asylum & Immigration) 5:00 pm, 25th April 2002

I cannot, my Lords, but that is not the point. If the other place chose to accept a resolution, that would be its business. The point is that, in whatever case it might be, the other place would be given that opportunity. It is not as though the power being operated would be agreed by negative resolution. There is a well tried procedure. It is no good arguing that, just because the other place accepts affirmative resolutions, that is to be dismissed and parliamentary accountability is to be dismissed. One might as well argue that there is no difference between negative and affirmative resolutions if we take the noble Earl's point to the illogical conclusion that he seems to be advancing. I simply do not accept his argument.

The checks and balances in the clause are important. Anyone might run away with the idea that the clause gives the Home Secretary the power to do anything he wants, and ram that through under the affirmative procedure—which I do not accept is a case of ramming through. The clause explicitly prohibits the Secretary of State from conferring powers of arrest or detention on civilians which are additional to those already provided for in Schedules 4 and 5. So he cannot by stealth create an army of community support officers with full constabulary powers. He cannot confer on such officers additional powers to enter premises without the occupier's consent when unaccompanied by a constable; and he is prevented from creating new powers which are not already available to a constable or some other person—for example, a local authority employee such as a dog warden or an environmental health officer. He cannot do any of those things under the clause, by negative or affirmative resolution, with or without the approval of the House. He simply cannot do it. None of us claims to have a crystal ball. Schedules 4 and 5 provide a comprehensive list of powers—a menu from which chief constables can choose—which would enable those who are designated as community support officers to tackle the various types of behaviour that blight people's lives at the moment, in 2002. In the future the position might change. It may change or it might change, but we do not say that it "will" change.

The ability to use secondary legislation is important. Chief police officers would not have to wait, potentially for a number of years, for appropriate primary legislation. There are always excuses for why Bills cannot be put in the programme.

I also argue that the clause would allow the Secretary of State to add additional categories to the types of support staff who can be given police powers, if it becomes apparent in the future that that will be a sensible thing to do in order to free up highly trained police officers to spend more time on the street, where the public want them. We have to reduce the 43 per cent of a police officer's time spent in the station. That is, after all, one of the main purposes for Chapter 1 of Part 4 of the Bill. Empowering support staff in this way maximises the use of the skills and the time of police officers. It is an important part of the battle against unnecessary bureaucracy that ties constables into police stations for too long dealing with red tape and issues that do not require all their skills. It is about putting a greater uniformed presence on the streets.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, raised the issue of the local elections that are to take place next week. I would loathe to be a Tory candidate in a marginal seat who has been told, "The Government are on the rocks, you are going to get in this time", only to discover that the Conservatives in the House of Lords are voting against a greater uniformed-police presence on the streets. That is the reality of the package of amendments tabled today. I can say the same for the Liberal Democrat candidates.

We are trying to get bobbies out of the stations and on to the streets. In order to do that they need greater support in certain areas, as deployed through the Bill in terms of accreditation and community support officers. I repeat that this is enabling legislation. This is not the Home Secretary saying to chief constables, "You will appoint community support officers"; and no one should give the impression that it is. The chief constables may employ community support officers and other designated individuals, but they do not have to. Chief constables may accredit organisations that first have to request accreditation; it is not for the chief constable to do that. So we are not talking about the Secretary of State being able to force the schemes on to chief constables. At all stages of the Bill we have made that abundantly clear.

If noble Lords are not satisfied in respect of the arguments for Clause 40, which we were told on Report and again today is a matter of principle—there is no question about that—we then come to Amendment No. 29: the quaint little new clause giving power to approve pilot schemes. What is in that new clause? There is a power for the Home Secretary, by order, to increase the powers available to accredited persons in up to 12 pilot areas. There are few safeguards in Amendment No. 29. Do not forget that Clause 40 is out and all the safeguards that I have talked about are out. There are no safeguards in the new clause or very few. Yes, it is subject to the affirmative procedure, but there are no limitations on the order-making power in the new clause as there are in Clause 40 which is already in the Bill.

We are legislating seriously and maturely. I make it clear that under these amendments Clause 40 goes out and that new clause goes in. We are not comparing like with like. There is no restriction that prevents the powers of arrest being conferred on accredited persons. There is nothing to prevent accredited persons being given powers of entry without being in the company of a constable. Furthermore, it would be possible to confer on accredited persons the power to use reasonable force. That is the new clause. Surely nobles Lords will not seriously attempt to put such a measure on the statute book.

Photo of Earl Russell Earl Russell Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I thought that the noble Lord knew his Punch well enough to know that pilots can be dropped.

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

My Lords, the whole thing is a pilot. There can be a national pilot at the request or at the choice of any one of the 43 chief constables in this country—not at the request of the Home Secretary and not ordered by this House. That is the reality. That is how the pilots will originate. We all know that the first pilot will take place in London. The Metropolitan Police want to employ such people this summer. The first pilot will be in London and there is no beating about the bush in relation to that. We know that other chief constables are interested in considering the powers, and all the other 42 chief constables will watch what happens in London.

The reality will be a greater uniformed presence on the streets at the choice of the chief constable; not at the order or the behest of the Home Secretary. I call that a pilot worth having; one that chief constables choose and are not forced into by the Home Secretary.

I genuinely believe that we cannot seriously talk about taking out Clause 40, with all its checks and balances, and putting in this wishy-washy new clause with five little subsections. We must be taken seriously by the other place. The Members of another place will laugh at this House if we take out Clause 40 and send the Bill back with this new clause. I ask noble Lords to show some self-respect and not to press these amendments to a vote.

Photo of Lord Dixon-Smith Lord Dixon-Smith Conservative

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, for his advice as to what to do if we are anxious about the content of legislation, but the anxiety increases as the degree of flexibility increases. The problem is that, in our view, Clause 40 gives too much flexibility. I believe that the noble Earl, Lord Russell, made that point with great force. We have perennial problems with the possibility of what may happen. The brutal reality of government is that no government can commit their successor.

I have already said that the two amendments are separate. I shall deal with the Minister's remarks in that regard first. We do not know what view the other House may take. In this House, we have to consider our decision. It will save time, and may save the Minister some anxiety, if I say that I do not intend to press Amendment No. 29. It is not consequential on Amendment No. 28, although in many ways it would provide a useful supplement to it if Clause 40 were re-inserted in another place.

In proposing these amendments we are considering the full parliamentary procedure and trying to anticipate the outcome. We are trying to consider the kinds of points that may be discussed in the other place, although we cannot dictate them. That is the reason behind this pair of amendments.

The noble Lord, Lord Rooker, said that he hoped that in the future the situation would change and that this is all about achieving more uniformed people on the streets. I absolutely support those remarks. If we are serious about getting uniformed people on the street, in five years we may not need accredited schemes because there will be the proper number of policemen doing the job that ought to be done in the first place. We have argued from Second Reading that the proposals are a poor substitute for proper policemen.

I return to the removal of the Henry VIII clause and the Select Committee for Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform. I would be the first to acknowledge that the affirmative procedure is provided for and that is appropriate. The Minister asks why the Government should take any further notice of the committee's recommendation if the House does not accept it. There is no obligation on the House to accept the committee's recommendation. Still less is there any obligation on another place. In fact, it was not a recommendation but a statement that the committee considers that the powers are appropriate—a valid statement by people with a particular function in that regard.

Decisions on the Bill are not before that committee but are before your Lordships' House at this moment. This House has to make up its mind.

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

My Lords, I feel a bit of a new boy here but if the committee is so powerful, has the noble Lord discussed his proposal with any of its members?

Photo of Lord Dixon-Smith Lord Dixon-Smith Conservative

My Lords, the answer is no—I have not. I completely acknowledge the committee's expertise but the fact remains that all the committees of this House are subject to the decisions of this House. That has always been the case and always must be the case, so I do not withdraw my comments.

If the Minister wishes to chance his arm one day and find out whether or not regard is paid to the committee's recommendations—and if he wants to go against its recommendations—he may quickly find the House lining up behind them. There is no obligation on the House to line up behind every recommendation or statement that the committee makes because the House must be the master in this place.

We have had a good debate. I am grateful for the contributions of those whom I have not named. We have had enough discussion.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 28) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 165; Not-Contents, 127.

Division number 2 Private Parking: Ports and Trading Estates — Police Reform Bill [HL]

Aye: 163 Members of the House of Lords

No: 125 Members of the House of Lords

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Nos: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.

[Amendment No. 29 not moved.]

Photo of Earl Attlee Earl Attlee Conservative 5:23 pm, 25th April 2002

moved Amendment No. 30:

After Clause 42, insert the following new clause—

"IMPERSONATION OF A TRAFFIC WARDEN

(1) Section 90 of the Police Act 1996 (c. 16) (impersonation, etc.) is amended as follows.

(2) In subsection (1)—

(a) for "or special constable" there is substituted ", special constable, or traffic warden"; and

(b) for "or constable" there is substituted ", constable or traffic warden".

(3) In subsection (2)—

(a) after "constable" there is inserted "or traffic warden";

(b) after "police uniform" there is inserted "or traffic warden uniform"; and

(c) after "police force" there is inserted "or of a traffic warden".

(4) In subsection (3)—

(a) for "or special constable" there is substituted ", special constable, or traffic warden"; and

(b) after "police uniform" there is inserted "or traffic warden uniform".

(5) In subsection (4)—

(a) in paragraph (a), after "article of police uniform" there is inserted "or traffic warden uniform"; and for "or special constables" there is substituted ", special constables or traffic wardens"; and

(b) after paragraph (b) there is inserted—

"(c) "traffic warden" means a traffic warden appointed by a police authority.""

Photo of Earl Attlee Earl Attlee Conservative

My Lords, as is well known, it is an offence to impersonate a police officer. The Bill makes it an offence to impersonate an accredited person or a designated person. It also increases the power of a traffic warden to stop individual vehicles, but it will not be an offence to impersonate a traffic warden. My amendment seeks to correct that anomaly.

In his rather weak reply on Report, the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, said that the provisions were not previously thought necessary and that he had received no representations from ACPO. I am sure that that is correct, but the provisions were unnecessary until the powers of traffic wardens were increased. The noble Lord also said:

"Moreover, if impersonation facilitates the commission of an offence, it would be the substantive offence that is most significant".—[Official Report, 16/4/02; col. 874.]

Of course, the noble Lord is absolutely right. However, if the police detect a known criminal lying in wait to ambush a commercial vehicle carrying a valuable load, and he is wearing a traffic warden's uniform in order to carry out the crime, no offence will have been committed—apart from a conspiracy, which would be very hard to prove. I believe that the lack of an offence in this respect will severely limit the ability of the police to investigate a possible serious offence.

The noble Lord also claimed on Report that it was necessary to consult "interested parties". I agree. When the Government decided to increase the powers of traffic wardens, it is a little unfortunate that they did not find it necessary to consult the relevant trade associations whose members will be affected. In any case, my suggested new offence is consequential on the increased powers of traffic wardens.

The noble Lord identified drafting errors in the amendment that I put forward on Report. I have, therefore, redrafted it. My proposed new clause seeks to add reference to "traffic wardens" to Section 90 of the 1996 Act—the section that makes it an offence to impersonate a police officer. I hope that the noble Lord has reconsidered the position since the Report stage. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Monson Lord Monson Crossbench

My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, has made a very convincing case for his amendment. Clearly, there is an unforeseen gap in the law, and one that could be dangerously exploited by those with criminal inclinations. I hope, therefore, that the Government will accept the amendment on which the noble Earl has taken much expert, first-class advice. Indeed, he has obviously taken a great deal of care in an effort to get the amendment into an acceptable form.

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

My Lords, I was trying to be helpful to the noble Earl on Report. I thought that I was quite kind in my comments. I am not sure that I gave a weak response; indeed, I thought it fairly robust under the circumstances. I am unable directly to support the noble Earl's amendment today. However, I can put on the record the fact that I have some sympathy with the intention behind it. I do not envisage a great number of people queuing up to impersonate traffic wardens, but I recognise that the position could cause problems in certain circumstances.

Essentially, the amendment would put traffic wardens in exactly the same position as police officers, special constables and "designated or accredited persons". There is undoubtedly some logic in that proposal. It would also address one of the arguments advanced in the past against extending to traffic wardens the unrestricted power to stop vehicles, as the Bill does; namely, the risk of facilitating robbery and hijacking if vehicles have to stop for a wider range of people.

How far the latter is a valid concern is not entirely clear. The impersonation of a traffic warden has not previously been thought to merit a specific offence. So far, there has been no pressure for it to be made one, either formally from ACPO or from traffic warden representatives. There is no great clamouring out there for such a change to be made. On the face of it, traffic wardens are not being given that much more power by the Bill—the power only to stop vehicles in more circumstances, though, I accept, with some additional responsibilities.

Against that background, we believe that the noble Earl's proposal merits some further thought and consultation, which we have not had time to accomplish between the Report stage and Third Reading. Given the number of noble Lords in the Chamber today, I suspect that the noble Earl might press the amendment successfully if he were really building up a head of steam behind it. However, I give the noble Earl the following undertaking. If he declines to press his amendment at this stage, we will agree to take forward his proposition, make a decision on whether a new provision is necessary, and decide if and how it should be introduced.

I hope that the noble Earl understands that I cannot at this time offer him any undertaking that the Government will table an amendment in another place. The consultations and discussions that we would need to have with the many interests concerned would not enable us to do that in the time frame permitted. To one extent, the Bill is perhaps somewhat distant from creating a specific criminal offence of impersonating a traffic warden.

We shall certainly undertake to consult with the Association of Chief Police Officers and, I suspect, the representatives of traffic wardens. No doubt their union will want to say something about the idea as well. We shall do that as quickly as possible. We do not necessarily see this Bill as a vehicle for an amendment, but we think that the noble Earl's proposition merits further serious consideration.

Photo of Lord Bradshaw Lord Bradshaw Liberal Democrat

My Lords, before the noble Earl replies, I assure him that from these Benches we generally support what he said. Carjacking is increasingly prevalent. The Government will not have received any representations from ACPO or from the traffic wardens' trade unions on the power to stop vehicles because it is not a power that traffic wardens have enjoyed so far. On the assumption that they are going to have the power, it would be as well if the two organisations and the trade associations were consulted.

Photo of Earl Attlee Earl Attlee Conservative

My Lords, I am grateful to the two noble Lords who have supported my amendment. On the one hand I am grateful for the Minister's comments; on the other hand I am slightly disappointed that he has not snapped the amendment up. I am still a little unclear as to why it was necessary for the Bill to make it an offence to impersonate an accredited or designated person but not a traffic warden. However, if I pursued the amendment any further today, I should make myself extremely unpopular with my noble friends on the Front Bench. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 68 [Nationality requirements applicable to police officers etc]:

Photo of Lord Dixon-Smith Lord Dixon-Smith Conservative

moved Amendment No. 31:

Page 62, line 34, after "birth" insert "but subject to the requirements for naturalisation under Schedule 1 to the British Nationality Act 1981 (c. 61) (requirements for naturalisation)"

Photo of Lord Dixon-Smith Lord Dixon-Smith Conservative

My Lords, the amendment is grouped with two amendments in the names of my noble friend Lord Renton and the noble Lord, Lord Monson, who have both expressed concern about the apparently unqualified nature of the clause. We have pressed the Minister on the issue on a number of occasions. He has done his best to explain the present situation and what the clause means. However, although I have listened with great care and read his remarks, I am still not certain what the clause means.

In casting around for an answer to that problem, I came fortuitously across the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill, which is before the other place. It is a Bill and not yet an Act of Parliament, so its contents are not certain. Clause 1 of that Bill contains some interesting references. For the ease of all concerned, I shall read from the interpretation—if I can use that word—in the Explanatory Notes to that Bill. This is a way of lifting us out of our difficulty. The Explanatory Notes on Clause 1 say:

"Subsection (1) adds to Schedule 1 of the BNA 1981"— the British Nationality Act, to which my amendment refers—

"a requirement for the applicant to demonstrate sufficient knowledge about life in the United Kingdom.

Subsection (2) enables provision to be made by regulations for determining whether a person has sufficient knowledge of a language and whether a person has sufficient knowledge about life in the United Kingdom for the purpose of an application for naturalisation".

The reason for the reference to "a language" is that Gaelic and Welsh are included as appropriate languages. The Explanatory Notes go on:

"By subsection (3) the regulations may make provision about how those requirements of sufficient knowledge of language and about life in the United Kingdom are met (for example, by reference to a specified qualification or attendance on a specified course)".

In view of the open nature of Clause 68, it would be prudent to insert the provisions of Clause 1 of that Bill into this Bill. Unfortunately, as that Bill is not yet an Act, its provisions cannot be inserted into this Bill. However, I had very good advice from the Public Bill Office, who said that I could insert a reference to the appropriate provisions of the 1981 Act, because if the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill is passed, the amendments that it makes to those provisions will become the substantive provisions of the schedule to that Act and will therefore apply. That seems to meet the requirement for qualification for naturalisation to this country. It would not be tolerable to have a qualification for a person to apply to be a member of the police force that was less rigorous than the qualification that would apply to a person seeking naturalisation. It would be appropriate for the qualifications to be in parallel. My amendment would give that effect to Clause 68. It seems to me to be wholly worthwhile and I should be immensely pleased if the Minister was able to say at least that he was sympathetic to the argument and would deal with it in the other House. I should be even more gratified if he was able to say that this was a satisfactory solution to an otherwise rather difficult dilemma. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Monson Lord Monson Crossbench

My Lords, when I withdrew my amendments on the equivalent clause nine days ago on Report, I intimated that I would come back on Third Reading with amendments that represented even more of a compromise, shifting further towards the Government's position in the hope and expectation that they would be acceptable to the Minister.

I feel confident that my Amendment No. 32 should be acceptable to the Government for the simple reason that it is based entirely on the Minister's assurances. On 16th April, the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, said categorically:

"Serving policemen and policewomen will not be recruited from abroad".

A few lines later he said:

"Foreign nationals will need to be resident in the UK with no restrictions attached to their stay in order to qualify".—[Official Report, 16/4/02; col. 887.]

Amendment No. 32 merely enshrines those verbal assurances in statute, just in case a subsequent government, less scrupulous than this one, were to toy with the idea of reneging on them. I therefore trust that the Government will accept either Amendment No. 31, moved by the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, or Amendment No. 32, as well as Amendment No. 33, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Renton, which is also broadly based on the Government's assurances.

Photo of Lord Renton Lord Renton Conservative

My Lords, I, too, support all three of the amendments. As the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, will remember, I wished to oppose what is now Clause 68 in Committee and on Report. However, in view of the full and candid discussions that we had then, I shall not oppose it any further. These three amendments would add clarity to the clause and remove doubts without changing the substance to any extent that the Government may worry about.

I shall briefly comment on each of the three amendments, the first of which is Amendment No. 31, moved by my noble friend Lord Dixon-Smith. If a person would not qualify for naturalisation as a British subject, surely it would be absurd to say that he would be suitable to be a police officer. That is why I support my noble friend's amendment.

Amendment No. 32 does not make a big change, but it does add clarity. The noble Lord, Lord Monson, simply suggests adding the words,

"who is resident in the United Kingdom", after "nationality" in Clause 68(1), beautifully clarifying the effect of the whole clause.

As for my own amendment, the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, was very candid and fair-minded when he replied to us on this rather difficult matter. I did not think that the clause was well drafted. When I said that the word "may" went too far in relation to the qualifications mentioned in subsection (4), he pointed out that some of the people mentioned in subsection (1)—for example, a member of the Royal Parks Constabulary—are in a different position from those who are going to be appointed police officers. So my amendment clarifies the position and says that those who are going to have the responsibility of being police officers should meet the requirements set out in subsection (4), which I shall quickly mention. They are:

"competence in written and spoken English", and to meet,

"requirements with respect to . . . immigration status", and,

"requirements with respect to nationality in the case of particular ranks, offices or positions".

Surely my amendment has the advantage of specifying which of the ranks should be regarded in that way. It is a very simple amendment which merely brings into relationship the provisions of subsection (1) and the provisions of subsection (4). I do hope that that will appeal to the Minister.

Photo of Lord Dholakia Lord Dholakia Party Chair, Liberal Democrats

My Lords, I was rather hesitant about this provision on Report because we do not yet know what the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill will provide, and that legislation may have a considerable impact on the operation of this provision. However, I believe that Amendment No. 31 is worthy of consideration. The noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, rightly points out various difficulties—such as that the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill has yet to be considered in your Lordships' House. We shall have to examine in detail those provisions on citizenship, in Schedule 1. Consequently, we are discussing a provision that has not yet received parliamentary consent. If we are later to approve a provision on citizenship, how will it affect the provisions in this Bill on the employment of police officers?

Amendment No. 31 requires detailed scrutiny. What we must not do is put ourselves in the type of situation that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor encountered in relation to magistrates affected by earlier nationality legislation. That created quite a lot of conflict. Some of the magistrates have been asked not to continue in that role. We do not want people already employed as police officers to be similarly retrospectively affected by earlier legislation. The provision therefore requires very careful scrutiny.

I hope that the Minister will take Amendment No. 31 away and examine its full implications and, if appropriate, propose a suitable provision in the other place. We must, however, exercise a little caution. The provision should also be examined within the context of anti-discrimination legislation to ensure that none of those provisions are breached. Overall, however, the amendment addresses a substantial issue which requires very careful consideration.

Photo of Lord Avebury Lord Avebury Liberal Democrat 5:45 pm, 25th April 2002

My Lords, as my noble friend Lord Dholakia has mentioned the difficulties that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor has encountered with regard to magistrates and the letter he has had to send to 150 serving magistrates asking them to resign their post because they are not British citizens but citizens of other European countries or, in one case, the United States, will the Minister give us an assurance that no one affected by Clause 68 will be subject to review of his position under Section 2 of the Act of Settlement 1701? After all, it took the Lord Chancellor 300 years to discover that that legislation affected magistrates. Who is to say that, in future, it may not affect many other people in our system of law and order? I should therefore be grateful if the Minister could give me an assurance that the Act of Settlement will not be discovered to affect anyone mentioned in this Bill, including those who are dealt with under Clause 68.

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

My Lords, I think that I had better reply first to the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, which were a very clever attempt to get me to make a commitment now on a related subject. I simply say that I heard his comments and will study them very carefully. We shall give very careful consideration to his words, which I have no doubt were carefully chosen.

The noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, makes a very good point by raising the issue of the relationship between the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill and this Bill. The remarks provide a further context for this debate. We shall have to think very carefully indeed about those implications.

No one is in any doubt that if the police service is to be opened up to non-British nationals, we must ensure that no one is appointed who cannot meet one of the fundamental requirements of a police officer—to be able to speak to members of the public and to be able to write effectively in English. I think that that is simply common sense—which is, I think, where the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, is coming from. I hope that my comments will reassure him and other noble Lords who raised the issue.

Our intentions on this have, I think, been clear from the beginning. We intend to include, among other qualifications for appointment, a requirement as to competence in oral and written English. That will be an absolute requirement, and our intention is to put it into regulations along with all the other qualifications that will have to be met before an officer can be appointed. I do not think that we can be any plainer or clearer than that; that is what we want to achieve. I think that everyone will agree on that requirement.

Similarly, there is no disagreement that police recruits should be resident in the UK and should have some knowledge of and ties with the UK. They should have a right to live in the UK either as EEA nationals or, if not, they should be free of all immigration restrictions. The point at issue is how best to achieve those requirements. The noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, proposes that we should tie qualification for appointment as a police officer to the requirements for naturalisation. The requirements for naturalisation include a sufficient knowledge of English, Welsh or Scottish Gaelic. In addition, the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill—which has sensibly been mentioned in this debate—will extend the requirements to include a sufficient knowledge of the UK.

However, the naturalisation requirements also include requirements as to residence in the UK. People applying for naturalisation are required to have lived in the UK for five years prior to application with no more than 450 days' absence during that time and no more than 90 days' absence in the 12 months prior to application or, alternatively, for three years prior to application with no more than 270 days' absence during that three years and with no more than 70 days' absence in the previous 12 months.

The naturalisation requirements also specify that applicants must have been completely free of restrictions in the 12 months preceding the application and must not have been in breach of immigration laws during any of the past five years. Putting such requirements on to police recruits would be an administrative nightmare for the police service. It would require police forces not only to ensure that an applicant is living here free of conditions, as we propose, but to go back through five years of immigration records to check how long the applicant had been in the United Kingdom, to check the status of the applicant during each stage of that five years, to check long and short absences abroad and so on. At a time when we have argued against imposing administrative burdens on the police, we surely cannot impose such an administrative burden on them.

Nor should we forget the purpose of this clause, which is to open up the police service and to widen the recruitment pool. That is something that we are constantly urged to do; certainly the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, has fervently made that case and has congratulated us from time to time on the way in which we have set about that task. And many others have urged us to remove unnecessary barriers to recruitment. I believe that we have been successful in that endeavour. We would not want to replace one barrier with an even greater hurdle.

By setting a requirement that applicants must be able to communicate effectively with the public and in writing and by requiring applicants to be lawfully resident and free of restrictions we can ensure that applicants have a sufficient knowledge of English and have ties with the United Kingdom. Unrestricted residence in the United Kingdom is normally attracted after a number of years of conditional residence here. It may be one year, two years, four years or more before one can qualify for an indefinite stay. The length of time is not material. What is material is that those with an unrestricted stay will have lived here for some time and will have knowledge of our way of life.

In addition, foreign nationals and EU nationals—indeed, all candidates—will need to satisfy our rigorous vetting requirements. Someone who has lived here for a short time, for instance, may be unlikely to be able to be vetted and would not therefore qualify for appointment. This combination of safeguards will be put in place and will need to be satisfied for a candidate of whatever nationality to qualify for appointment.

The noble Lords, Lord Monson and Lord Renton, propose that we set out the residence requirement on the face of the Bill. With respect, I do not see that that adds anything to what we have proposed. The regulations will ensure that no one is appointed to the police service who is not resident in the United Kingdom or, in the case of members of other EEA states, has the right to live and work here.

The noble Lord, Lord Renton, proposes that we make the language requirement, the immigration status requirement and the power to reserve posts mandatory for the police forces of England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and otherwise leave this to the discretion of the other police forces covered by this clause.

It is our clear intention to provide requirements in respect of competence in English and immigration status for forces in England and Wales. We shall consult with colleagues in the devolved administrations to determine their intentions and will consider introducing an amendment in the other place. While we also need to be able to reserve certain posts, this may not be the case in every force covered by the clause; for example, the Royal Parks Police. There may well be others. Therefore, it would not be appropriate to impose a mandatory requirement to make provision for reserving posts. That element at least should remain discretionary. Given the clear commitment I have given to reflect further on Amendment No. 33, to pick up some of the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Renton, and having heard all that I have said about the other requirements and the way in which we intend to manage those issues, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his important, well argued amendment which has regard to the operation of this legislation in the context of other legislation that is going through Parliament.

Photo of Lord Monson Lord Monson Crossbench

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down I hope that he will clarify a comment he made towards the end of his speech which I found rather alarming. He said on three occasions that recruits should be lawfully resident in the United Kingdom. However, towards the end of his speech he said that they should be resident in the United Kingdom or be members of other EEA states. Does that mean that Norwegians, Spaniards, Belgians or whatever could join the police force without having been resident in the United Kingdom at all?

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

My Lords, that is not our intention. I thought that I had made that plain. If I did not, I apologise to the noble Lord. We expect recruits to be normally resident in the United Kingdom. I thought that the explanation I gave made that clear.

Photo of Lord Renton Lord Renton Conservative

My Lords, the noble Lord kindly said that the Government would table an amendment in another place. Is that intended to clarify subsection (4)? If so, it would be welcome as well as necessary, I suggest.

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

My Lords, one hopes that it would be based on the noble Lord's amendment which we shall take away and reflect on further. If the noble Lord is satisfied with that reply, it probably answers his question.

Photo of Lord Dixon-Smith Lord Dixon-Smith Conservative

My Lords, it is interesting, to say the least, to note that the Government are reluctant to include within one Bill phraseology which would apply to another. In this instance it seems to me that the question of citizenship is less significant than the qualification to become a policeman who has power over citizens. I am a little disappointed that the Government apparently are not prepared to consider the possible translocation of the nationality naturalisation requirements into qualifications for joining the police force. We are in that perennial difficulty which we have on these occasions in that the Bill before us is dependent on regulations which we do not have before us. The Minister has gone a long way to relieve us of the concerns that have been expressed. However, I cannot say that his response was wholly satisfactory. But, for now, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 32 and 33 not moved.]

[Amendment No. 34 not moved.]

Schedule 1 [Powers of the Secretary of State in relation to NCIS and NCS]:

Photo of Lord Dixon-Smith Lord Dixon-Smith Conservative

moved Amendment No. 35:

Page 92, line 42, leave out paragraph 4.

Photo of Lord Dixon-Smith Lord Dixon-Smith Conservative

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for this amendment. On Report the House voted to accept our amendment to remove Clause 5 which conferred power to give directions to chief officers. Grouped with that amendment was an amendment to leave out paragraph 4 of Schedule 1 which concerns the power to give directions to the directors general of the National Criminal Intelligence Service and the National Crime Squad respectively. Due to an oversight, that amendment was not moved at that stage. As a result there is an inconsistency in the Bill. The Minister kindly wrote to suggest that we might like to correct that oversight. I am immensely grateful to him for pointing that out. I do not think that any further discussion is necessary. I beg to move.

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

My Lords, I am at liberty to disclose the contents of my brief which states "Accept".

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 4 [Powers exercisable by police civilians]:

[Amendment No. 36 not moved.]

Photo of Lord Dholakia Lord Dholakia Party Chair, Liberal Democrats

moved Amendment No. 37:

Page 128, line 17, leave out paragraph 2.

Photo of Lord Dholakia Lord Dholakia Party Chair, Liberal Democrats

My Lords, Amendments Nos. 37 to 58—with the exception of Amendment No. 52, which is separately grouped—are in my name and that of the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw. They relate to Schedule 4. I shall be brief.

The amendments deal with powers that are exercised by police civilians—the so-called community support officers. We do not believe that CSOs should have powers to detain. When the liberty of an individual is concerned, we should ensure that the power of detention is exercised by a constable. However, paragraph 2 of Schedule 4 goes much further. It involves the powers of police civilians to detain. Where that person has reason to believe that another person has committed a relevant offence in the relevant police area, he may require the other person to give him his name and address. We believe that such powers should be vested in a constable, not in a civilian who is exercising police powers. Nor should they use reasonable force to detain, as specified in paragraph 4. We stress that the exercise of any such powers that are conferred should be done in the company of and under the supervision of a police constable.

I do not intend to speak to each of the amendments in the group. Almost all of the amendments relate to the exercise of powers that are under the direction or supervision of a constable. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Carlisle of Bucklow Lord Carlisle of Bucklow Conservative 6:00 pm, 25th April 2002

My Lords, I ask the Minister to deal with the question that I raised in Committee about whether paragraph 2 contains a power to arrest and detain. Or is that power merely to be found in paragraph 4?

As I understand it, paragraph 2 states that if the community support officer sees a relevant offence being committed, he has the right to request the man to give his name and address. If the man fails to do so or fails to comply with his request that he should remain with the officer or go with him to a police station, in so doing he is committing an offence. So far as I can see, that is different from having the power to detain or arrest that person. To find the power to arrest that person, one surely has to look to paragraph 4 of Schedule 4, which gives him the power to use reasonable force to detain a person during a period of 30 minutes. I may be wrong, but do the powers in paragraph 4 cover a wider area than those in paragraph 2? If so, is it deliberate that paragraph 2 does not appear to have a right to detain and arrest and merely makes it an offence if one refuses to respond to the individual's request? Is the power to arrest meant to operate in a more limited area?

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

My Lords, I shall answer the question of the noble Lord, Lord Carlisle. I accept that Schedules 4 and 5 are pretty weighty and lengthy, although they essentially list a menu of powers. Before I respond in detail, I place on the record the fact that we believe that we have enough safeguards to ensure that the powers that we are discussing are used appropriately.

The thrust of the legislation is that chief constables must be satisfied that the person is suitable to carry out the relevant functions, capable of carrying them out and—I could say, "above all else"—is trained to carry out those functions. The Bill also provides that a designation cannot authorise or require conduct beyond the specified function. That ensures that the people concerned only exercise powers and perform functions for which they have been assessed as suitable and capable and have been fully trained. That is why I said, in Committee or on Report, that the Metropolitan Police will have three categories and train specifically for those categories.

The chief constable can place restrictions and conditions on a designation. That will ensure that chief officers can mould the extension of powers to fit the policing of an area. It is important to point out that that is a matter for the chief constable, not for the Government. For example, a community support officer may be restricted geographically to ensure that a particular area is focused on. As I said earlier, communities that have a community support officer will know that that officer cannot be moved to other areas at a later date. It will be up to chief officers to decide what restrictions, if any, should be placed on the designation. That arrangement will provide flexibility.

The clause explicitly covers legal responsibility for misconduct by designated persons. We have made it abundantly clear that the people designated, who are employed by the police authority and are under the direction and control of the chief constable, will come within the remit of the independent police complaints commission and will be obliged to have regard to the relevant PACE codes of conduct.

The menu of powers in Schedule 4 is strictly limited. Paragraph 2(3) contains the power to impose a requirement to wait with the community support officer for 30 minutes. Paragraph 4 contains the power to use reasonable force in making that person stay. That is where the connection is. However, the powers are strictly limited.

Police officers have a wide range of powers and duties which enable them to tackle all kinds of criminal behaviour and public safety functions. Community support officers, on the other hand, will have a much narrower role. We envisage their role to be increasing visibility, to be a uniformed presence on the streets and to address anti-social behaviour, public nuisance and disorder. That will free up the time of police officers. However, their precise range of functions will be decided locally from the menu of powers.

In order to have the maximum impact in communities, we believe that chief officers should have the option of giving appropriate and limited enforcement powers to community support officers. The community support officer will have a very important role in the community. If we prevent them from exercising the full extent of those powers, or make it clear that they can exercise them only in the presence of a constable, their effectiveness, frankly, will probably not be worth a candle. Moreover, no chief constable would seek to use the powers.

I do not believe that any of the powers in the Bill would let any chief officer give community support officers powers that were inappropriate. There are a massive number of checks and balances in the menu in Schedule 4.

If a chief officer has any concerns about a community support officer's ability to exercise the powers for which he has been trained, he will not issue a designation to that officer. If something goes wrong, he can withdraw or restrict the existing designation. The power is an operational one for the chief constable.

Amendments Nos. 45 to 47 would require investigating officers to be supervised and in the company of a constable when exercising a number of their powers of search and seizure. The amendments would undermine the whole purpose of having designated persons to free up police officers from doing certain tasks. What we are aiming for are properly trained investigating officers who can perform their functions without having to be constantly supervised or shadowed by a police constable.

Similarly, Amendments Nos. 48 to 58 are unnecessary. As noble Lords are aware, the Police and Criminal Evidence Act provides strong safeguards in relation to how people are treated in the police station. Many of the duties that we want properly trained officers to carry out can be performed only on the authorisation of a police officer. In many cases, that authorisation will come from an officer of at least the rank of inspector. For example, a custody officer will instruct a detention officer to undertake a non-intimate search of someone who is detained. An officer of at least inspector rank will have to authorise the search and examination to ascertain a person's identity. Where intimate samples and fingerprints are taken from a detained person without his consent, a senior officer must authorise their taking where he has reasonable grounds to believe that the sample or the fingerprint will tend to confirm or disprove, as the case may be, the person's involvement in a recordable offence.

I believe that satisfactory measures are contained in the paragraph, and I do not wish to go through each of them in turn. On the other hand, I shall be happy to do so because, if Amendment No. 37, which is the lead amendment in this group with Amendment No. 36 not having been moved, is carried—the others are not consequential amendments—I have no authority whatever from the Home Secretary to cave in. Therefore, noble Lords will be required to vote on each amendment. I make that absolutely clear. It is not a threat; I am simply explaining the situation. I do not want noble Lords to say later, "You didn't tell us". That is the situation.

Noble Lords should bear in mind the safeguards that we have given here and the authority of the chief constable to use this enabling power. I repeat: it will be the chief constable and not the Home Secretary who decides whether to use the power. Some chief constables will do so; others will not bother. In effect, as I said earlier—obviously to no great effect—we shall have a pilot organised by the chief constables of this country. I believe that that is a suitable and adequate way to show that we have confidence in chief constables in terms of operational issues to operate these powers in a reasonable fashion. After all, it is all about getting a greater uniformed presence on the street.

In response to the noble Lord, Lord Carlisle, I hope that I answered his question in my comments about paragraph 2(3) containing the power to impose a requirement to wait with the community support officer for 30 minutes. Subparagraph (4) contains the power to use reasonable force in making the person stay.

Photo of Lord Carlisle of Bucklow Lord Carlisle of Bucklow Conservative

My Lords, is the noble Lord confirming that in order to find a power to arrest and detain one must look at paragraph 4 of the schedule and not paragraph 2? As he said, paragraph 2 sets out the ability to require an individual to give a name and to ask him to stay. Paragraph 4 gives the power to use reasonable force to detain the man against his will. That is obviously arrest and detention. Therefore, I am asking whether paragraphs 2 and 4 apply to the same type of offence or whether one is wider than the other. Is there a power to detain in some cases but not in others?

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

My Lords, there is a power to request the name and address of a person acting in an anti-social manner. Community support officers will have that power. There is a power to detain a person for up to 30 minutes pending the arrival of a constable or, indeed, to accompany that person to a police station with the person's agreement. There is a power to use reasonable force to detain a person or to prevent him from making off. Community support officers have those powers. There is no power of arrest there. The power of arrest lies with the constable. We must make that clear. We are dealing with the waiting period until the constable arrives because the constable will have the power of arrest.

In Committee, we deployed some of the practicalities in terms of the situations in which people might find themselves. However, as I made clear then, people would not be expected to be put into situations of danger above their training. That is important and it is a matter of common sense. Therefore, one person would not be asked to detain, for example, a gang of youths.

I do not know whether one power is wider than another in the way that the noble Lord suggested. Part 1 of Schedule 4 relates to community support officers. I must be careful as I do not want to confuse the extended police family with the accredited officers. Therefore, I shall not go into that matter because paragraph 4 is exclusive to community support officers. It gives them the power to detain a person who acts in an anti-social manner and who, having been asked for his name and address, refuses to give them. Such a power must be given, otherwise the whole process would fall apart.

The power enables the use of reasonable force to detain a person for 30 minutes and to prevent him from making off until a constable arrives. We hope that the constable would arrive within 30 minutes. I do not know whether one power is wider than another, but it is clear that the power to detain in paragraph 2 and, indeed, paragraph 4, which concerns the power to use reasonable force to detain a person, are both covered by several hundred words.

In terms of the noble Lord's question, I do not know which power would be wider. But the fact is that one gives the power to detain and the other gives the power to use reasonable force in order to stop a person making off while awaiting a constable. If I do not have that right, it is a little late to say at Third Reading that I shall write to the noble Lord—I must be realistic about this. But I shall certainly ensure that the matter is put right in the other place.

I am at risk of repeating myself but, if noble Lords wish me to do so, I can give an exposition of each detail of all the separate powers covered by the amendments. I repeat that if Amendment No. 37 is carried, I shall have to ask for the will of the House on all the other amendments.

Photo of Lord Avebury Lord Avebury Liberal Democrat 6:15 pm, 25th April 2002

My Lords, the noble Lord is doing his best to explain but I am still confused. In relation to paragraph 2, where someone is alleged to have committed an offence, then the CSO, or whoever, can ask him to remain for a period not exceeding 30 minutes to await the arrival of a constable. Under paragraph 3, where a person is said to have been acting in an anti-social manner, he can be asked to give his name and address, but the paragraph does not contain a power equivalent to that in paragraph 2 to ask him to remain for 30 minutes pending the arrival of a constable. Nor does the power to detain in paragraph 4(3) contain any reference back to the failure of the person in the spotlight to have given a name and address or to remain for a period of 30 minutes while a police constable is fetched. It refers back only to paragraph 2.

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

My Lords, noble Lords must remember that this is a menu of powers for community support officers. They may have some powers and not others. Only chief constables can decide that; not the Home Secretary. The menu of powers is used according to local circumstances and according to the area—perhaps the geographical area—where the chief constable has decided that community support officers are needed. Some powers are used and not others.

It is not for me to speak for chief constables—far from it. But it is extremely unlikely that community support officers will be given every one of these powers. That will probably not be the case. With regard to London, it has already been made clear that the Metropolitan Police want three classifications of community support officers who will be specialists in the areas in which they operate. They will have the powers, taken from the menu, to deal with a certain area, but they will not have other powers. It is not a package; it is a menu.

Photo of Lord Avebury Lord Avebury Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I am sorry but the noble Lord has not dealt with the point that I made. Under paragraph 2, if a person fails to comply with the requirement, he can be asked to remain with the CSO for a period not exceeding 30 minutes while awaiting the arrival of a constable. However, under paragraph 3, if that person refuses to give his name and address after having acted in an anti-social manner, then there is no equivalent power for the CSO to ask him to remain on the spot for 30 minutes pending the arrival of a constable.

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

My Lords, I shall try to get this right. So far as concerns the issue of anti-social behaviour, there is a power to ask a person to remain if the person does not give his name and address. Essentially, the first thing that the officer will do is to ask for an address in order to identify the person concerned. That is the effect of paragraph 3(2). In either case, paragraph 4 gives the power to use reasonable force to detain while awaiting a constable. I almost said "chief constable" but I do not believe we have yet reached the point where a chief constable is sent out on these matters.

So, there is the power to ask to remain if the person does not give his name and address. That is the effect of paragraph 3(2), but in either case, paragraph 4 gives the power to use reasonable force to detain until the constable arrives. It will be the constable who makes the arrest, not the community support officer.

Photo of Lord Dholakia Lord Dholakia Party Chair, Liberal Democrats

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister. We have argued about these particular matters at Second Reading, in Committee and on Report, and we agree to disagree in terms of the powers vested in some of the support officers. I could never accept that they will have the same standard of professionalism as police officers. There is a need for great caution to be exercised here. I do not know whether the Minister has ever worked out the implication of letting loose some of those people in the streets of some of our inner city areas. What started off as being the eyes and ears of the police we are now making into little police officers. I believe that that is unacceptable. The best way to resolve the argument is to test the opinion of the House.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 37) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 168; Not-Contents, 121.

Division number 3 Private Parking: Ports and Trading Estates — Police Reform Bill [HL]

Aye: 166 Members of the House of Lords

No: 119 Members of the House of Lords

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Nos: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.

[Amendments Nos. 38 to 51 not moved.]

Photo of Lord Dholakia Lord Dholakia Party Chair, Liberal Democrats

moved Amendment No. 52:

Page 137, line 3, leave out paragraph 24.

Photo of Lord Dholakia Lord Dholakia Party Chair, Liberal Democrats

My Lords, Amendment No. 52 stands in the name of my noble friend Lady Harris and myself. It is grouped with Amendments Nos. 59 and 60. The amendment is about intimate searches of detained persons.

I shall not deal at any length with what today appeared in the Guardian. We have already had an interesting discussion on that matter. I want to record my considerable respect for the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, who has brought a breath of fresh air into your Lordships' House. He has often put aside his written papers and has not hesitated to criticise government departments about their handling of some past issues. I never believed that any civil servants would have the courage to tell the noble Lord what he should or should not say. But I am sure that someone will pay a very heavy price for such advice.

I raised this matter on Report. The information obviously was not available, particularly in relation to the code of practice. I have rather belatedly now received that information. I intend to study it very carefully. I shall then advise my colleagues in the other place accordingly.

I want to make one or two points. The noble Lord, Lord Bassam of Brighton, mentioned on Report that Code of Practice C, which contains guidance on the conduct of intimate searches, is currently under review. I should like to know when that review is likely to be completed—the consultation process and so on. The Minister indicated that the consultation will be completed before the matter goes to the House of Commons.

We should not confuse intimate searches of police detainees with those done in privatised prisons. People who are detained in police custody are innocent until proved guilty. I used to receive most complaints about that concern when I was at the Police Complaints Authority. Of course there will be instances where such examinations are necessary, but, I suspect, only in isolated cases. That is why safeguards, including the authority of a senior officer, are required when carrying out such searches.

We accept that doctors and nurses in those few and isolated cases are best equipped to carry out this process. Occasionally, due to unavailability of doctors and nurses, custody officers with police powers may have to perform such searches. Again, there are considerable safeguards in relation to that particular power.

A complaint that I often receive is that not only does one feel physically abused but that often this is accompanied by verbal abuse. It is a degrading practice, both for the victim and for the officers. No one disputes that sometimes it may be necessary. But in this present day and age, with all the available electronic gadgets and systems, is it necessary to resort to this particular level of intimate search? I beg to move.

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

My Lords, I am grateful for the kind words spoken by the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, at the start of his remarks. So far as I am concerned, the matter is closed. I am also grateful for his brevity in moving the amendment which has been before us three times.

In some ways I presume that the Guardian published not just the background notes but the speaking notes. I might as well say, "It is on the table". It is exactly the same as what I said on 16th April. I have nothing new to add. The noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, has kindly set out, in moving the amendment, the circumstances in which currently a police constable and in future a designated detention officer can conduct an intimate search for potentially dangerous articles. They are extremely limited.

As I said before, under Section 55 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act such a search may be carried out only with the authority of a senior officer. Authority can only be given if there are reasonable grounds to believe that the person has concealed on his person an item which may cause physical injury to himself or to others. The senior officer must also have reasonable grounds to believe that the item cannot be found in any other way.

The noble Lord made the point about the modern use of technology. An intimate search is only made if there are reasonable grounds to believe that an item is there and that it cannot be discovered in any other way. Any search must be conducted by a registered doctor or a nurse, unless that senior officer authorising the search considers it is not practicable, for example, where he reasonably suspects that the person has concealed a harmful article on himself, such as a razor blade and no doctor or nurse is available to conduct the search. Of course the person carrying out the search must be of the same sex as the detainee. I do not think that I have mentioned that specifically. That is part of the existing rules. That is not changing.

Although all these things come later than one would wish, following our exchange on 16th April I wrote to the noble Lord about the intention to revise the codes of practice. The draft codes of practice will be issued shortly—I understand that it will be very shortly. I do not have a specific date, but I have reason to believe that it will be during next month. I have said that it would be for the convenience of Members of the other House that that consultation is open and in public—certainly by the time that they come to consider the matter in Committee; otherwise, I freely admit that the Minister or Ministers in that Committee will get a pretty rough ride from Members of Parliament. That is the plain fact of the matter. I cannot give a specific date—I have not myself seen the drafts—but they will be available shortly. Of course, as soon as they are, they will be made available to your Lordships' House.

In addition to the consultation, the House itself will in due course have the opportunity to scrutinise the codes through the affirmative resolution procedure. So there is no question of our publishing the codes, consulting, and then ramming them through the other place—to use that or any other pejorative term.

Photo of Baroness Whitaker Baroness Whitaker Labour

My Lords, I apologise for interrupting my noble friend. When he says that the relevant codes of practice will be laid before the House, does he also have in mind paragraph 39 of the report of the Joint Committee on Human Rights on the Bill? It states:

"We recommend that the Government should place before each House whatever information is available about the nature and content of the training which such officers would be required to undergo"— when they exercise their functions under the codes of practice.

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

My Lords, without having been given notice of that question, I cannot be certain. All that I can say is that previously—certainly in Committee—we discussed the new organisation for police training. Everything that can be placed in the public domain will be. We do not intend to keep anything back from Members of the House at any point.

We are discussing with the police training providers and the Metropolitan Police what areas and competences will need to be covered in training for community support officers and accredited community safety officers. Those will include training on understanding the extent of their powers, as well as on communication, first aid, understanding diversity and conflict resolution. It is crucial that training is conducted professionally, and I have every reason to believe that the police themselves are at the forefront in that. That is why the new organisation—whose acronym I can never remember; it has about five letters; but I think that it goes under the working title of Centrex—will deal with that. Without warning, I cannot tell my noble friend what will be available for publication.

The noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, did not refer specifically to Amendments Nos. 59 and 60, but I am happy to speak to them because they are relevant. They would restrict escort officers' powers to conduct a search by restricting the grounds to search to situations in which the escort officers reasonably suspect a person to be in possession of an object likely to cause harm or injury. If those amendments are not to be moved, I shall not waste the House's time.

Photo of Lord Dholakia Lord Dholakia Party Chair, Liberal Democrats

My Lords, they will not be moved.

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

My Lords, then I shall not waste the House's time. I have a good case, but I am not being allowed to make it. I do not want to speak for the sake of speaking.

On Amendment No. 52, we have the matter covered in the narrow and specific group of circumstances that I have again put on record. No doubt the matter will also be discussed in the other place, but I genuinely hope that I have given the noble Lord a reasonable explanation of the matter that he has legitimately raised for the third time.

Photo of Lord Dholakia Lord Dholakia Party Chair, Liberal Democrats

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his explanation. There are some deeply held principles to which we all hold, and it is for that reason that we ought to have on record our concern about the clause. I therefore beg leave to test the opinion of the House.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 52) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 54; Not-Contents, 106.

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Aye: 52 Members of the House of Lords

No: 104 Members of the House of Lords

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Tellers

Nos: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

[Amendments Nos. 53 to 60 not moved.]

Schedule 5 [Powers exercisable by accredited persons]:

Photo of Lord Dixon-Smith Lord Dixon-Smith Conservative 6:54 pm, 25th April 2002

moved Amendment No. 61:

Page 141, line 11, leave out paragraph 2.

Photo of Lord Dixon-Smith Lord Dixon-Smith Conservative

My Lords, Amendment No. 61 returns to the theme that we adopted in relation to community support officers. In this instance, we are concerned with accredited persons.

We still think that it is inappropriate to give the power to detain to people who are not proper police officers. One can envisage considerable problems over time, as accredited people detain people here, there and everywhere. That act of detention will be completely ineffective without the fairly rapid attendance—within 30 minutes—of a police constable. We have argued all along that we ought to use any resources available to the police to bring more constables onto the streets.

This measure is, at best, a stopgap. The noble Earl, Lord Russell, made the important point that the power to detain and arrest is immensely significant. Such action should be undertaken only by a constable. In any event, the power of arrest can be exercised only by a constable, which negates the rather feeble power to detain given to the accredited persons.

There is no point in detaining the House any longer over Amendment No. 61. Amendments Nos. 62 to 67 pick up some of the powers of the community support officers and would make them applicable under the supervision of a constable. There might be circumstances in which that was helpful. However, those are, in a sense, secondary issues, compared with the first issue, which we regard as a matter of principle.

I hope that enough has been said on the subject at previous stages and already today to remove the need for me to say more. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Dholakia Lord Dholakia Party Chair, Liberal Democrats

My Lords, I support the amendment. As has been said, accredited persons will have powers to stop someone whom they suspect of having committed an offence and hold him for 30 minutes, while they call for a constable.

Only real policemen should have the power to detain. In any case, I do not believe that one could get a constable to attend a low-level crime within 30 minutes: ask anyone who has had his car radio stolen or his fence broken. The warden will hold the person for 30 minutes, looking at his watch every second. If the constable does not arrive in time, the warden will have to let that person go. That is plain daft.

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

My Lords, this last group is a somewhat strange group of amendments, bearing in mind some of the debates that we have had.

There is a recognition in some of the amendments of the enhanced role that the accredited persons can play. In fact, some of the amendments add to the powers that the Government wish to make available to chief constables; that might be a way of telling us that we have got our approach right, notwithstanding the speeches made by noble Lords. Some of the amendments would add to Schedule 5 and, therefore, they go against the thrust of amendments proposed by noble Lords that sought to remove powers from community support officers. It is an astonishing group of amendments, if taken literally.

Although there are just a few amendments in the group, there are some that add to the powers in Schedule 5, some that remove the powers and some that limit the powers. In preparing the schedule, we worked hard to ensure that we extended to those people not employed or deployed by the chief constable only strictly limited powers. Thus I do not think that any of the amendments in this group which seek to add to the powers for this group of people, who are not part of the police service, are at all appropriate.

There is a massive contradiction here. The noble Lord seeks to confer powers that we have defined as those which should be given only to people employed by the chief constable—community support officers—on people who are not part of the police. It does not matter how closely employers might work with the police, they retain responsibility for their employees. I do not think that even local authorities would be willing to accredit their own staff undertaking, say, community regeneration work, powers such as, for example, the ability to enforce cordons under the Terrorism Acts. It is weird.

Although these provisions are enabling, I do not think that chief officers would want someone outside their direction and control, even if supervised by a police officer, to perform such essential functions. The strength of warden schemes, shopping centre security guards and others outside the criminal justice system who contribute to community safety is that they are committed to their communities. They tackle issues and concerns which are important to them. We believe that Schedule 5 is tightly limited to people in those roles.

As the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, pointed out in his brief contribution, it is true that the power to use reasonable force to detain a person in order to prevent him or her from making off is there for a community support officer, an employee of the chief constable, but is not there for an accredited person. However, it is true that the power to ask a person who has refused to give his name and address to wait for 30 minutes is available to both. The noble Lord cited an example of where that might not be practicable. Ultimately, it will come down to training and the choice of chief constables as to which powers they will seek to deploy.

I shall keep my remarks brief, as did the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith. However, I have to say to the House that, as was the case with an earlier grouping, Amendments Nos. 62 to 67 are not consequential amendments. If Amendment No. 61 is carried, I shall have to ask the view of the House on the other amendments. Because the amendments are not consequential, I have no authority whatever from the Home Secretary simply to cave in on them. It would not be appropriate.

Because I have not been in this House for very long and because the procedures at Third Reading are not quite the same here as they are in the other place, I appreciate that this may be the last time today when I shall be on my feet to address the House. Although later I shall move a technical privilege amendment on the final part of the Bill, I should like to take this opportunity to thank noble Lords for all their contributions to our many debates. To put it at its mildest, I have found this to be quite an interesting Bill.

I thank also the Bill team. The excellent staff have given me first-class notes, some of which I have used and some of which I have not. In particular I should like to thank my colleagues on the Front Bench, my noble friends Lord Bassam and Lord Davies for their contributions. I should like also to thank all those who actually voted with the Government. It goes without saying that that has been very helpful, although at the moment we have a bad track record of votes.

To that end, I must give notice that in the other place the Home Secretary will seek to restore, whether in the same or in an amended form, most of the provisions that have been removed from the Bill. At some point in the summer, probably when we should all be elsewhere, I look forward to coming back to the House to debate with noble Lords some of these issues.

In the meantime, I ask the House not to accept Amendment No. 61. If it is carried, then we shall have to seek further opinions on the remainder of the amendments in the group.

Photo of Lord Dixon-Smith Lord Dixon-Smith Conservative 7:00 pm, 25th April 2002

My Lords, the Minister has made a powerful case in relation to the amendments following Amendment 61 in this group. He will be relieved to hear, therefore, that we intend to withdraw them, thus eliminating one of his concerns. I can see that relief reflected on the face of the Government Chief Whip on the Front Bench.

Photo of Lord Carter Lord Carter Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Lords Chief Whip (HM Household)

My Lords, I think that the noble Lord would have to move the remaining amendments in the grouping before he would be able to withdraw them.

Photo of Lord Dixon-Smith Lord Dixon-Smith Conservative

My Lords, as regards Amendment No. 61, we have devoted a great deal of time to the question of the power to detain. Again, I see no point in repeating those arguments. However, before I come to the crux of the matter, because the Minister has offered his thanks and rather than speak on Bill do now pass, I should like to place on the record the fact that it has been a great pleasure to deal with this Bill.

In all seriousness, I would like to thank the Minister for the many concessions he has made throughout the Bill on consultation and so forth. He has proved to be a listening Minister and he has paid attention to what has been said. Although we have not always agreed, our disagreements have been amicable. As it leaves the House, the Bill is different and much-improved.

I now return to Amendment No. 61. I am indebted to my noble friend Lord Elton for a little piece of doggerel which provides a happy means of closing my remarks. It runs as follows:

"'The power to arrest's not invested

In you,' my young suspect protested; So I thought it best To sit on his chest— 'Tweren't 'im but 'is 'eart was arrested".

I wish to test the opinion of the House.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 61) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 158; Not-Contents, 101.

Division number 5 Private Parking: Ports and Trading Estates — Police Reform Bill [HL]

Aye: 156 Members of the House of Lords

No: 99 Members of the House of Lords

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Tellers

Nos: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.

[Amendments Nos. 62 to 67 not moved.]

An amendment (privilege) made.

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Asylum and Immigration), Home Office, Minister (Home Office) (Asylum & Immigration) 7:16 pm, 25th April 2002

My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill do now pass.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(Lord Rooker.)

On Question, Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.