My Lords, this Government are committed to radical police reform, to ensure that the police are first and foremost accountable to the public. This is, of course, not new: there is a consensus among the parties in favour of the democratic reform of police authorities, albeit differences of view about the best model. In Committee in the other place, the Opposition, too, proposed directly elected policing governance, albeit only chairs of police authorities. This Bill seeks to establish clear and democratically accountable leadership for police governance, but amendments in this Chamber removed those provisions.
I am proud to be a Member of a House that is known for revising and improving Bills. However, the amendments that removed the Government's provisions did not try to increase local accountability of the police. They said that the status quo should be preserved and that the chair of a police authority should be called a "police and crime commissioner".
However, apart from this instance, this House once again demonstrated during our proceedings how much value it adds as a revising Chamber in a truly meaningful way. I thank Peers across the House for their very constructive and conscientious contribution to those debates. There has been some very thoughtful and considered debate both in this Chamber and in meetings outside. The Government have listened carefully, with well over 100 amendments made to this Bill as a result.
The numerous amendments tabled by Peers emerged from the recognition that there is indeed consensus that the status quo will not suffice; that the public do not know that they have somewhere to go to make their views on policing known; and that the public want the police to be subject to greater accountability. Let me be clear: these amendments were also born out of an appreciation that the model that the Government proposed initially could be improved. Peers rose to that challenge and for that we are grateful.
I will touch on just a few of the many improvements that this House has helped make to the Bill. We have strengthened checks and balances and the powers of the police and crime panel, most obviously by lowering the veto threshold from three-quarters to two-thirds.
We listened carefully to the debate on operational independence and, as a consequence, placed the vital policing protocol on a statutory footing. We reacted to points of detail on important issues which we agreed could have been clearer and so introduced a requirement on PCCs or the MOPC in London to hold chief constables to account with regard to their duties under the Children Act 2004 in particular. We have inserted a statutory obligation for the police and crime panel to support the PCC when performing its functions. We have inserted a right for a chief constable to appear before the panel and make representations prior to a proposed dismissal. We have amended the Bill to allow deputy PCCs to be appointed, and the Bill introduces a requirement that such appointment should be subject to a confirmation hearing by the police and crime panel.
There is now also a requirement on the police and crime panel to hold confirmation hearings for the appointment of the chief executive and the chief finance officer. We have inserted a power for the London Assembly to veto a non-Assembly candidate for deputy mayor for policing and crime. We have strengthened transparency arrangements by obliging forces to release information, not just reports.
We have placed a duty on PCCs and community safety partners to have regard to one another's priorities, and we have altered the composition of police and crime panels so that the necessary flexibility to achieve political and geographical balance is achieved. We have returned to the democratic principles that have guided this reform and removed the two-term limit on PCCs. Finally, after quite a bit of lobbying, we are allowing noble Lords to stand as PCCs, should any choose to do so.
The collective will of this House has been made known to Members in the other place. They have listened to us and in all but one respect have agreed with us. However, in one key area they have disagreed with us.
I come now to the most pertinent argument I must put to noble Lords today. The other place-the democratically elected Chamber-has now put the model of a single elected individual to us, not once, but twice. The first time, this House saw fit to reject that model. But our elected colleagues have disagreed with us and have put that model to us again for approval. I do not believe that it is for this Chamber to override the will of the people's elected representatives when it has been put forward so clearly.
I turn now to my noble friend Lady Harris. I am sad to see that my noble friend feels that the amendments that Peers have successfully pressed for and that the other place has agreed are not sufficient for her to agree to the elected Chamber's will-296 to 220 votes is not an insignificant amount of democratic will, particularly when one considers that the origin of the proposal is a coalition agreement on the back of a general election.
By voting for these amendments, we will be respecting the will of the elected representatives of the people, and respecting our precious democratic tradition as a revising Chamber that has significantly done its job and improved a key government reform with more than 100 amendments. I therefore hope that the House will vote for the government amendments to stand part of the Bill.
In reflecting on the debate in this House the Government also tabled a further set of amendments that were considered and agreed by the other place, and these are before us now to consider. The other place moved a government amendment to change the date of police and crime commissioner elections from May 2012 to November 2012, thus allowing enough time to ensure that all necessary preparations are in place. These reforms cannot wait, but they must be effective. The elections must be properly administered. A November election will ensure that this is the case, without having to wait a further year for these urgent reforms.
As many noble Lords will be aware-and many in this House are involved in policing-November is a key time in the business planning process for the forthcoming financial year. It is vitally important that the PCC is involved as early as possible in planning and setting the budget for policing in their area. November is the ideal time for them to identify and be part of that planning for the following financial year.
A November election is also important in this first round of elections for police and crime commissioners. It would remove much of the party politics to which noble Lords have referred during the course of our debate. When other elections take place, party politics start to consume not just the representations made to the electorate but the media, both local and national, and it is difficult for people to have a full understanding of what the first elections are about and of the candidates standing for them.
A November election would allow both local and national media to focus any coverage on the reason for the elections-what they intend to do, what the role of a police and crime commissioner would be-and, most importantly, the candidates. This would be very important for those candidates who do not have the support and the organisation of an organised political party behind them. We genuinely want to see good candidates-I have made this point before in the course of our deliberations. Political parties will of course field candidates, but among the pool of good candidates I believe there will be many independent candidates, who will be encouraged to put themselves forward because of their experience and ability to do the job, not just because they carry a party political tag. Elections held in November, unconstrained by local government or other elections taking place at the same time, will give independent candidates much more opportunity to be seen and heard, both at local and national level, so that they stand a chance of being able to get their message across.
I will move on to the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Condon. I would like to thank the noble Lord for his constructive contribution to the debates we have had on this Bill, and more specifically to the improvements to the reform that have been generated as a consequence. I appreciate that he has not agreed with every measure that we have brought forward, but he has agreed with some, and he has played a constructive role in helping us to shape amendments that have been passed. In particular, I appreciate the noble Lord's views on the protocol. Our amendments to give the protocol statutory cover were heavily influenced by those discussions.
In the true tradition of this House, I very much welcomed the noble Lord's revisionist intentions from the outset, and the fact that he did not want to undermine the ambition of the Government in the Bill, because, as the noble Lord put it,
"there is ample scope for improving the democratic accountability and performance of local policing".-[Hansard, 11/5/11; col. 911.]
To that end the noble Lord set about seeking change, including a desire that PCCs be located within a more supportive and collaborative framework locally. I hope the noble Lord sees some of his hard work in our amendment that creates a statutory obligation for the police and crime panel to support the PCC when performing its functions and minimises the risk that policing may suffer as a result of political infighting.
I will now turn to the noble Lord's amendment seeking further revisions, this time to something which the noble Lord had not raised previously, namely the date of the election. This is of course a debate that we have had during the course of our deliberations on Report and in Committee, with regard to an amendment that sought to move the election to October 2012. It is important to note that moving the elections to later than November 2012 as is suggested by the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Condon, would deny PCCs the opportunity to be fully involved in the 2013-14 planning process: they would not be able to develop their own plan and set the budget or direction for the force-one of their responsibilities-until 2014.
Holding the election in November 2012 will in fact cost £25 million more than holding it in May 2012. Over the PCC term this equates to 0.05 per cent of the annual policing budget. I can assure the House that the funding for the election, including this additional sum, is not coming out of the money that goes directly to paying for the cost of policing. We believe that these additional costs are worth paying to ensure that PCCs are in place to be fully involved in the planning for 2013-14 and, of course, in planning how that £12 billion police funding budget is best spent. I know that many of your Lordships, including those who have previous experience in policing, such as the noble Lord, Lord Condon, will want to be reassured that this money does not come from the police budget. Let me be absolutely clear: this is an additional one-off cost and would not come from what would otherwise have been spent on policing.
I want to take this opportunity to put the costs of elections into context. I know from one or two comments which have been made to me already outwith this House that people have some views on this issue. For example, the cost of the referendum on the introduction of the Greater London Authority, and the subsequent set-up costs, was around £30 million in today's money. The most recent London elections, in 2010, cost a total of £18 million. So, if the GLA were established today, the combined cost would be a little short of £50 million-and that is for the capital alone. When we view the cost of democracy in those terms, I would suggest that £75 million is a reasonable and justifiable cost for the whole of England and Wales. We must not forget police and crime commissioners will make savings for taxpayers by driving value for money more strongly. Their running costs will be no more than police authorities at present, because we will no longer be paying allowances to councillors. The only additional costs will be those of holding elections once every four years.
Some have expressed concerns about extremist parties. The argument is that holding the election in November 2012 risks making it easier for extremists to be voted in. I do not believe this is the case. If we look at other elections we will see that some of the parties that stand for election but would perhaps be regarded as extremist, poll in the region of some 2 per cent of the national vote in a general election. The electoral system and size of constituencies mean that their candidates will not succeed. Many police force areas represent almost the equivalent of about 20 parliamentary constituencies.
The point has also been made that November is not a good time of year to hold an election. Of course all Governments exercise their discretion on calling elections for one reason or another. I did some homework on this and just remind the House that in 2008 a by-election was called in November in the constituency of Glenrothes. As I hope those who are familiar with seats north of the border will understand, one might have fought shy of holding an election in November in Glenrothes-but there was a 56 per cent turnout in that by-election.
My Lords, the noble Baroness quoted that example but could have looked at Glasgow North East in November 2009, which saw a 33 per cent turn out, or West Bromwich West in November 2000, which had 27 per cent. She picked out the highest turnout, but November by-elections generally tend to be very low indeed. That is why, decades ago, local government elections were moved from the autumn to May, because there was concern about the effect of the inclement weather on the people who were campaigning.
I picked out Glenrothes because it was the most northerly of all the examples. I could have chosen others, but I was trying to make the point to the House that a 56 per cent turnout in Glenrothes in November is not an insubstantial result. I hope I have made my point-I am sure people in the House understand the point I am trying to make.
Coming back to the more salient point, the additional time gained by holding the elections in November will help to ensure that they benefit from the time that will be given to allow good-quality, independent candidates to come forward and establish themselves. They will have time to properly plan and campaign for the elections. The Government have been clear from the outset that they are keen for as many independents as possible to contest these elections. The November date allows for this. The fact that the first elections for PCCs will not be held at the same time as other local elections sets the tone from the beginning-it allows PCC elections to be established and for the electorate to understand the opportunity they will have to elect somebody who will represent them in being involved in local policing and holding the police to account.
I turn now to the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, who proposes a royal commission. I have a slight sense of déjà vu because I think he and I have discussed this before. I believe that a royal commission would use time and money that we do not have and that could be better spent elsewhere. Reform cannot wait. All parties agree that reform is needed and, more specifically, that it should be in the form of direct democracy. This is not the context for a lengthy and exploratory royal commission.
Ultimately, we all know and accept that police authorities are not the optimal model for police accountability. This has been stated by the Opposition, although I know there are different views about it within the House. But we do know that only four out of 22 inspected police authorities have been assessed by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and the Audit Commission as performing well in their most critical functions.
Local accountability must be both visible and accessible, yet only 8 per cent of wards in England and Wales are represented on a police authority, so it is no surprise that only 7 per cent of the public understand that they can approach their police authority if they have issues with policing.
I have heard this example-7 per cent-several times, but what percentage of population does that reflect? The reality is that police authority members represent a far higher percentage of the population than in terms of ward, which is actually a rather meaningless context since a lot of wards have very few people in them.
The point is that this is still a very clear minority and in fact the Government's changes will allow every single council-including district councils, which at the moment do not have the opportunity to put forward people to sit on police authorities, county councils and of course unitary councils-to send a representative to sit on the police and crime panel. So in terms of the broader representation of the public, this is a very much enhanced way of making sure that people will associate with those who sit on that panel and know who they are.
I believe that the Government have set out a clear and comprehensive vision for policing. Direct local accountability and decentralisation are part of this coherent reform agenda to cut crime. We will refocus the Government away from micromanaging local policing. We will ensure the police and PCCs are properly supported on national policing issues. That is why we are also creating a powerful new national crime agency, to improve the fight against serious and organised crime and help protect our borders, and why we are introducing a new strategic policing requirement.
We are dealing with an overcluttered national policing landscape, phasing out the National Policing Improvement Agency and reviewing police leadership, training and skills, as well as examining pay and conditions to ensure we provide the police with the conditions in which they can thrive and continue to be the finest police service in the world.
I move now to the government amendment to re-establish the Secretary of State's power to issue a financial management code of practice for PCCs. A code of practice is currently issued to police authorities, which are required to have regard to it in the discharge of their financial functions. This enables the Home Office Accounting Officer to assure Parliament that funds given to the department are used appropriately. The Bill as currently drafted repeals the general power to issue codes of practice to police authorities under which the existing financial management code was issued. To ensure that we adhere to the principles of financial regularity, propriety and value for money, we propose that the Bill should be amended to retain the power to issue codes of practice, but restricted to codes relating to financial matters.
I now turn to the amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, who seeks to ensure that the financial code of practice includes a requirement for the PCC to appoint four non-executives members to his or her team. The noble Lord will know that we have discussed this on several occasions. I commend his resilience and perseverance on this. I know the arguments put forward by the noble Lord and others were that the PCC must benefit from external expertise and challenge. I also recall that my reply when we last discussed this was that the police and crime panel had as its primary purpose the need to challenge constructively and in that way also support the PCC in meeting its statutory duties. This was debated at some length and it was felt that there was a risk that the PCP and the PCC relationship would be solely adversarial. The Government considered this carefully and brought forward an amendment that means the PCP has a responsibility to challenge but also to support the police and crime commissioner in delivering his or her statutory responsibilities.
We have listened to the noble Lord and amended the Bill to ensure that the PCC is able to benefit from constructive external challenge from the police and crime panel. I believe that our amendment does this, but the noble Lord clearly feels we have not achieved his aim. I return to the point that I made on Report: there is nothing in the Bill that prevents the PCC from appointing non-executives if he or she decides that that is what they want to do. We have provided a framework that allows the PCC to establish his support team, for those decisions to be made public and transparent and for the PCC to be challenged by both the PCP and the public on those decisions. With regard to financial governance and management, the auditors and the chief finance officer under law will be there to advice and raise any concerns publically if there is any sign of mismanagement.
I cannot therefore agree to the prescription that the noble Lord wishes to insert into the financial code, as it is unnecessary and has been dealt with by the Bill and the amendment passed by this House and agreed by the other place. I beg to move.
Motion A1 (as an amendment to Motion A)
Moved by Baroness Harris of Richmond
Leave out from "House" to end and insert "do insist on its Amendments 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6 and do disagree with the Commons in their Amendments 6A to 6D in lieu ."
My Lords, first, I send from these Benches the warmest congratulations to Bernard Hogan-Howe, who has just taken up his appointment as Commissioner of the Metropolis. We wish him the best of luck in that very challenging post.
The Motion insists on the amendment, previously tabled in Committee in this House, which would incorporate the police and crime commissioner and the police and crime panel within a single body corporate, a police commission. Your Lordships will recall that the House voted on, and approved, this amendment in Committee. However, during the debate in the other place on Monday night it was removed. Because this House clearly attached great importance to that amendment when it was approved, and because I believe it summarises some key matters of principle about the future of police governance, I have tabled this amendment insisting on its inclusion. The right honourable shadow Minister for Policing was quite right when he said in the other place that this House had not included this provision as the result of some inadvertent tinkering with the detail; if I recall correctly, it was preceded by a lengthy and considered debate, covering a large number of significant issues, that took up much of the first day of Committee. I will be much quicker today but shall outline briefly why I think my Motion is so important.
I want to be clear that this amendment is not about retaining the status quo, as suggested by the Police Minister in the other place. It is about ensuring a mechanism for strong corporate governance and balanced accountability, which is sadly lacking in the Bill at present. In short, it is about strengthening checks and balances in a meaningful way. While I acknowledge that some moderate improvements were made to the powers of panels on Report in this House, these were modest improvements and not robust enough. The panels have only two powers: to veto the appointment of a chief officer and to veto the police precept. Both of these are nuclear options-nuclear powers, so to speak. They are likely to be little used except in extreme situations. We had debates about that. They are not much use for providing meaningful safeguards in such key areas as standards and audit-topics that have also been the subject of much debate in your Lordships' House because the Bill provisions are defective.
A corporate body is a well understood vehicle in which to hold such important safeguards in a proportionate and meaningful fashion. It would also be a structure through which the clear weakness of the corporation sole model could be addressed. I do not believe that my noble friend the Minister has yet provided a satisfactory answer to how good governance can be achieved within this rather unusual-to say the least- model. I expect she will remind me that it is not that unusual a structure and that the Secretary of State is a corporation sole. However, I would then mention that the Home Office also has a non-executive board through which to manage its governance. No such structure exists for PCCs but my amendment would give something similar. It would bring PCCs within a more self-regulating corporate governance framework with which we are all familiar. Most importantly, we know that the structures work. It is less clear whether the experimental model in the Bill would do so. This is designed to improve transparency and public accountability, not to frustrate it. It would also provide a real safeguard against one individual having too much power.
Much play was made in the other place of fears of extremist PCCs having been wildly exaggerated. This misses the point. A PCC does not need to be extremist to be a problem; he needs only to be populist. To illustrate this I have thought of a brief manifesto, as follows: "As elected PCC I would make sure that the police deal only with real offences that matter to real people, such as gangs of youths hanging around and violent crime; that courts give real punishments to real offenders; that the police will always respond to you within, say, three minutes; and that the police are put back on the street, not in their cars. I would not allow the police to be abstracted to deal with problems in other parts of the country; the police to waste time on minor offences such as speeding; the police to sit behind desks; and any police stations to close". It sounds good, does it not? None of it is extreme, but it is populist. It is also completely unrealistic and unachievable, with the exception of a couple of points. Half of it cuts across the operational independence of the chief officer. Some of it effectively frustrates the strategic policing requirement. One section cuts across court jurisdiction. Another makes something that is not currently an offence tantamount to an offence. Other sections probably fall foul of the new code of financial practice, and so on.
The point is that a corporate body provides a framework within which to moderate the capricious use of significant powers; to bring meaningful checks and balances to bear; and, in this instance, to prevent a PCC trying to implement a manifesto of this nature. I shall probably be told that this is a retrograde step because it reinstates bureaucratic accountability, instead of the brave new world of democratic accountability. This is a nonsense argument. In the first place, police authorities are not accountable to the Home Office or the Home Secretary, as the Police Minister implied in the other place. The majority of their members are already democratically elected councillors, who are accountable to local people. This is about improving checks and balances and safeguards, and instilling a collective approach and direction to police governance between the PCC and the panel. It is not a combative approach.
Despite the rather optimistic views expressed by Members in the other place on Monday about the relationship between the panel and the PCC, I am afraid I do not believe that it will always be balanced and professional. I still think that this will turn out in one of two ways. If the PCC and the panel are of different political persuasions, there could be a state of constant warfare between the two, with accusations of complaints being traded and countertraded. If the panel is of a largely similar political make-up to the PCC, it risks becoming little more than, say, a cheerleader to the PCC and may be tempted to exercise scrutiny that is at best superficial.
However, if the two were brought within the same body corporate, that would provide a much more cohesive and robust framework covering the totality of local police governance. It would give them the same sense of common direction in effectively holding the force to account. They would have access to the same information, allowing the panel to hold the PCC properly to account. Holding the force to account is a very big job, and I still have grave concerns that that cannot be done properly by one person, however talented and committed.
I have tried to set out as briefly as possible, given time considerations, an overview of the main reasons why this amendment is important and why I believe that the other place should be asked to consider it again. I must express, in the strongest possible terms, my concerns that this is a defective and dangerous Bill. It is full of problematic structures and issues that remain unresolved. Far from giving meaning and vibrancy to devolution and local democracy, it contains more central regulation-making powers. These include areas such as the protocol, the new code of financial practice and the composition of panels, particularly in Wales. These are all areas where the primary legislation is defective. The Government are trying to address the problem through secondary legislation that is yet to be developed. In constitutional terms this is extremely questionable, and I am sure that your Lordships will keep a very close eye on developments. Fundamentally, this betrays the myth that we are swapping so-called bureaucratic accountability for democratic accountability. We are not. Let us be clear; this Bill will mean greater central powers.
I hasten to add that I do not blame my noble friend the Minister. She has listened and tried to work with this House constructively. She has, however, had very poor material to work with, and has genuinely done her best in difficult circumstances, for which I thank her. However, I fear that this Bill will do lasting damage to the good reputation of British policing and that this amendment is essential to guard against this. I beg to move.
My Lords, I again declare my interest as a life member of the Association of Chief Police Officers. I am also deputy chairman of a major private security company. I thank the Minister for her generous comments and the courtesy she and her colleagues have shown me throughout the consultative process for this Bill.
The Government originally proposed that the first elections for police and crime commissioners should take place in May 2012. However, by amendment in the other place on Monday, it is now proposed that the first elections should take place in November 2012, to allow more time to prepare.
In August we had the most serious riots and looting that we have experienced in this country for 30 years. In London, we had the most serious looting in living memory. Those events and the concerns about their causes and remedies have weighed heavily on my thinking over the past few weeks and have been instrumental in my proposals referred to in Motion A2.
There are very strong operational reasons, sensible policy reasons and significant cost reductions for moving the elections from November 2012 to May 2013. That is why I have put forward this Motion. If my proposed Amendments 6E to 6H are agreed they will simply move the elections from November to May 2013.
The changes to police governance and accountability set out in the Bill are the most profound since the Metropolitan Police Act 1829. They are not the product of widespread public pressure for change or the product of a royal commission or judicial inquiry. They did not benefit from a pre-legislative scrutiny process. The proposals are an experiment and a political act of faith. Many in your Lordships' House have expressed serious concern during the passage of the Bill, and, to be honest, I do not think that those concerns have been fully assuaged at all. However, I am not seeking to re-challenge today the principle of the election of police and crime commissioners, which is clearly at the heart of the Bill. I have no wish to challenge that principle.
However, it is in the public interest to put back the elections by a further six months to May 2013. Change of the magnitude proposed by the Government, if it must go ahead, should be given the best chance to succeed by proper preparation and planning. The Government have already accepted the principle for more time by moving the elections from May to November, but the whole of 2012 should be free of the politics of campaigns and elections for police and crime commissioners. Senior police officers, their police forces and all those connected to them should not, in the face of the riots, now face this major diversion of their time and focus in 2012, which will be one of the most challenging operational years for policing in recent history.
The riots and looting in August were the most serious for 30 years. We need to understand what happened and why. The police service needs to review its strategy and tactics. It needs to train more riot-efficient officers. The summer and autumn of 2012 could again be testing times for potential street disorder, and the preparation and briefing of candidates for PCCs in late summer and autumn will be a major diversion of senior police time and focus. I also fear that extremist candidates could benefit from November elections if we have a troubled summer and autumn of street disorder.
The year 2012 is also the Olympic year, and all our forces, not just the Metropolitan Police Service, will be drawn into policing the Games and the associated terrorist threats. The Olympic Games and the Paralympics will extend well into September 2012, and the police service and others will benefit from a further six-month breathing space and preparation time before the PCC elections and all the consequential changes. We all hope for a wonderful trouble-free Olympics, but we must be prepared for and focused on the threats and challenges that will face us right the way through until September next year.
Other serious changes to policing in the next year need to be harmonised with the new structure of elected police and crime commissioners. The Government should embrace the opportunity for some more time to prepare a clear and developed plan for national and international policing issues. The proposed national crime agency remains a disturbingly vague concept and the extent and limit of its remit are not yet settled. Will the national crime agency or the Metropolitan Police be the lead agency to counter terrorism? Just how will cross-border serious crime be combated and by whom? The police service and the candidates for elected police and crime commissioner deserve much more clarity about national structures before they make their local plans and proposals. Motion A2, if agreed, will create a further six months of important planning time for these important events.
Another reason to embrace more planning time is the important review being carried out into policing by Tom Winsor, to which the noble Baroness has already referred. The Government have commissioned him, in part 2 of his review, to make recommendations which could fundamentally change how police officers are recruited and developed. He may well choose to make recommendations which challenge the status quo of a single point of entry; he may well recommend an officer class; he might suggest that the need for all chief constables to start on the beat is no longer relevant; he might suggest a different route to becoming a leader in the police service. I have no inside knowledge as to his proposals, but I know that he and his team are working hard on them and will report in the foreseeable future. Again, an additional six months of thinking time would put the Government in a much stronger position to harmonise and sensibly sequence all these hugely significant changes to policing nationally and locally.
Elections in November 2012 have two further significant drawbacks. The Electoral Commission has already expressed concern about a low turnout in November and I fear that this will favour extreme candidates. It will be a huge blow to the credibility of the new system if a very low turnout in even one police force area allows a far right-wing candidate to succeed, or, indeed, a single-issue zealot from whatever background. The second worrying consequence of a November election is the additional cost of £25 million. I know that the Government have said that this will be found from budgets other than policing, but what an unnecessary waste of money-money I would rather see put back into public services, particularly policing. This money could provide up to 1,000 police or support staff for nearly a year.
No doubt the Minister will argue that the Government have delayed enough and that successful candidates in May 2013 elections would have to wait a further year before they were able to impose their own budget plans-that is what she has said. However, the Government were originally happy to have May elections and they have also stated that the second round of elections for police and crime commissioners, four years from the first, will revert to a May date. Also, police budgets for the next four years are pretty well set in concrete and established as a result of the very understandable, but nevertheless dramatic and unprecedented, cuts to police funding.
In conclusion, I am well aware of the primacy of the other place, but today is the first opportunity your Lordships' House has had to consider the merits of elections for police and crime commissioners in November 2012. For all the reasons I have put before you, I believe that it is in the public interest-indeed, I believe that it is in the national interest-to build in a little more thinking time, a little more planning time, before the first set of police and crime commissioners is elected. The Government have already accepted the need for more time to prepare; what is now in dispute is whether November 2012 or May 2013 is the more appropriate date.
At earlier stages of the Bill's passage through this House I was against open-ended or long delay, as it would leave policing in an unacceptable limbo of uncertainty, but my Motion today, if agreed, brings certainty and, I argue, no undue delay. The riots and looting have seriously influenced my thinking over the past few weeks. If we must have these historic changes to policing, let us take a little more time to give the implementation the best chance to succeed. That is what Motion A2 will achieve.
My Lords, Motion A3 is an amendment to Motion A.
I do not pretend that our police forces are without blemish, nor that we should not always wish to enhance their accountability to the people whom they are there to serve, but we should acknowledge the dramatic fall in crime rates and improved relationships with the public and local communities in recent years. Even more important, the essential characteristic over 150 years of our police forces of political impartiality, fair play and policing by consent is a huge strength and much admired the world over. That strength is now at considerable risk through the potential politicisation of our police forces with elected police commissioners.
The Bill places unprecedented concentration of policing power in the hands of one elected person with hire-and-fire powers in relation to chief constables that will almost inevitably put chief constables under pressure in operational decisions. There is also a risk that elected police chiefs will comment on sensitive operations while they are still under way. I was not enamoured of ministerial comments during the recent disturbances. I think that they have shown the problem that we will see in future. In the Bill, we have a lack of proper checks and balances which will make the problem worse. No one at local or national level can provide serious scrutiny or veto dangerous decisions. The police and crime panels will be toothless. They cannot even veto the firing of a chief constable.
This model comes from the US, but in the US, powerful city halls and district attorneys provide a counterbalance. Even Bill Bratton, much admired by some members of the Government, has criticised the Government's proposals. The nearest we have in this country to an elected police chief is the London mayor, but even he faces checks and balances from the cross-party Metropolitan Police Authority and the Home Secretary, and has many other responsibilities which distract him from second-guessing police operations. Even the Mayor of London in this term of office is now on to his third commissioner. My fear is that that pattern will be repeated up and down the country.
The US experience of an average tenure of police chiefs working to elected police commissioners is a little more than two years. It is easy to see why. The temptation to sack a police chief constable in the run-up to a re-election of the commissioner would become almost irresistible. Think of the instability that that would cause-a length of stay of little more than two years. I suggest that many senior officers will be reluctant to apply to be chief constables in future and that those who do so will be for ever looking over their shoulder for fear of the police commissioner's shadow.
I have no doubt that the police must be accountable to the public. They have made great strides in recent years. Unlike the Home Secretary, who has chosen to denigrate police authorities, I pay tribute to their work-none more so than mine in the West Midlands. During the recent disturbances, the chairman did not hawk himself from studio to studio or second-guess the chief constable. Instead, he played a pivotal role working with the local community, defusing tension and helping to restore order to the streets of Birmingham.
Like the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, I think that this is one of the most disastrous pieces of legislation that this House has ever seen. This country will rue the day when we destroyed-destroyed, my Lords-the essential balance, fairness and impartiality that we have enjoyed from our police forces for so long.
Like the Motion tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Condon, my Motion deals with the date of the elections for police commissioners. Once again I put to the House a proposal for a royal commission. I do not do that lightly because I am not always enamoured of the performance of royal commissions. However, I put it to the noble Baroness that currently there are two reviews or inquiries being undertaken in relation to the riots; in relation to the phone-hacking incident there are at least three inquiries. Each of those reviews or inquiries will, I am sure, have some implications for the way our police forces operate. All I am suggesting to the noble Baroness is that there is surely a case for waiting for those reviews and then establishing a royal commission. Like the 1962 Royal Commission on the Police, that would establish a basis for going forward with much greater consensus than we see at the moment.
I believe the Government took all the wrong conclusions from the experience of my Government in those first two years. In fact, the legislation that they are proposing today would be so much better if they had gone through a process of proper debate, consultation and pre-legislative scrutiny. They would have been much more likely to have got the kind of consensus that I think is necessary. I hope the House will be sympathetic to my amendment, and in particular that it will support the noble Lord, Lord Condon.
It is quite remarkable that the other place has dismissed the substantive concerns of this House and instead has offered as a concession the wonderful prospect of the first election taking place on
As for the argument that if the elections take place in May party politics will intrude and the media will be much more concerned about politics than the quality of the candidates, if the noble Baroness is concerned about politicisation, as she knows I am, why on earth go down this path in the first place? If the Government really wish to encourage independent candidates, the idea that independent candidates with this huge electorate are going to traipse round the streets in October and November is unrealistic.
Why did we change local elections from the autumn to May many decades ago? It is because the view was taken that the lack of daylight hours and the weather discouraged effective campaigning. The same argument now arises. I echo the remark made by the noble Lord, Lord Condon. If November is such a very good month to hold those elections and to give time for the elected commissioner to go into the issues of planning and budgets, why do we not have them every November? Why are we reverting back to May elections after the first round of elections?
I think that a November election will essentially lead to extra expense. Earlier today during the first Oral Question, the noble Baroness was most concerned about expense. Here, she is flinging away millions of pounds on the extra cost of the election in November because it is a stand-alone election. However, the real risk is that there will be a low turnout. I have no doubt that if the election were held at the same time as local elections, it would slip-stream a higher turnout than will be the case when we are simply asked to vote for elected police commissioners.
The noble Lord, Lord Condon, has put forward a very effective Motion and I, for one, will certainly be supporting him.
My Lords, I rise to speak to Motion A4 in my name but, before doing so, I repeat my declaration of interests. I am a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority-indeed, on that authority I am the noble Baroness's representative, whose every word I clearly follow in every aspect of these matters-and I am a vice-president of the Association of Police Authorities.
I listened very carefully to the arguments that the Minister put forward on the legislation and the proposals. The Government's proposals are about clear and democratic governance. The noble Baroness made the point that your Lordships' House is a revising Chamber. However, the question that I have to ask is: where are the revisions that respond to one of the most profound concerns expressed in the debates throughout the lengthy period over which your Lordships considered this Bill-that is, where is the sound framework of governance around this single individual who is going to exercise these substantial powers?
I understand the Government's desire for clarity in the direct election of this single individual. However, although I understand the argument, that does not mean that I agree with it. Around that individual must be a proper framework of governance. What is more, there must be a proper standards regime around the way in which that single individual operates. This is not a member of a committee or a council who can perhaps be hauled into line by the other members; it is a single individual exercising those powers, and therefore it is paramount that there should be a standards regime around them.
The major change brought forward from the other place by the Government is the date of the elections. I do not intend to go into detail on that, although I will say a word about it. That change does not deal with the fundamental question about governance and standards; it simply alters the date. I say in parenthesis that, as a member of a police authority who has sat through 11 budget-making exercises and is well into the 12th as we speak, electing someone on
Another consequence of changing the dates is that the Home Office will have to look at whether independent members of police authorities whose terms of office expire in the summer of next year should have their terms of office extended or whether instead there will be a process of advertising in order to fill those posts. I am sure that the Home Office has all this in hand, but I suspect that, again, we will find that this is going to be an additional expense or something cobbled together at the last moment. The key point is that changing the date does not provide a robust governance structure. It does not provide protections against an individual who, while not being an extremist but perhaps exuberant with their power, exercises their responsibilities in what is perhaps a maverick fashion. That governance is necessary.
The Government's response both today and on previous occasions has been fourfold. The first argument is that the electorate in its wisdom will make sure that such people are not elected. I believe in elections because they are the best available system for managing something-except, perhaps, your Lordships' House. But the point remains that elections take place at a certain point in time. If the noble Baroness has her way, they will take place on
The second argument deployed by the Government is that the police and crime panel will be able to exercise these functions, but the reality is that although there has been a change that will require it to collaborate with and support the police and crime commissioner, nothing here enables it to get involved while a decision is being taken. That is the point at which intervention is so important.
The third argument made again by the noble Baroness today is that nothing in the legislation would preclude a police and crime commissioner from perhaps having non-executives and obeying the strictest guidelines on governance. Yes, nothing in the legislation prevents it, and I am sure that most sensible police and crime commissioners will do all that, but it is the ones who do not do it who are precisely the ones about whom we should be concerned. For that reason, there should be a provision that requires them to have proper systems of governance.
The other argument the Government have deployed is that there will be an audit process. That is fine, and so there should be. But, again, an audit process takes place after the event. The Government will say that they are proposing a financial code of practice. That is excellent, but what they are actually doing, of course, is remedying an error in the Bill. A financial code of practice already exists, but they forgot about it so far as police and crime commissioners are concerned, so they have remedied the error. It is quite proper that it should be corrected, but in itself that will not solve all the problems. My amendment, which is modest and does not undermine the principle the Government are trying to adopt or stop in its tracks the election of police and crime commissioners, whenever that may be, says only that the vehicle of the financial code of conduct should require there to be a non-executive presence around police and crime commissioners when they take key financial and other decisions, and that they should be obliged to follow a proper process of good governance and appropriate standards of behaviour-something that is otherwise missing from the Bill.
I believe that this Bill is not necessarily the best solution to the problems of governance of the police service. That is an understatement which is meant to be ironic and not taken too seriously. But the point is that, as the Bill stands at the moment, it will not even do what the Government want it to do. It will store up problems for the future, and the reality is that it is more likely that there will be problems with a police and crime commissioner who behaves inappropriately or does not operate the best systems of governance. This proposal is a safeguard, not only for the public and the police service, but also for the Government. It will make sure that what they are proposing today does not blow up in their faces.
My Lords, in speaking briefly in support of the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Condon, and doing so after returning from a discussion this morning between the bishops of the Church of England-particularly the relevant bishops of the urban areas-about the disturbances, I recognise that there has been ministerial assurance in some of the areas that have been spoken about in earlier parts of the debate. However, a number of us on this Bench still hear of a continued anxiety, within the police forces and outside, about the potential for politicisation of policing. I note, for example, that serious comment has been made in at least two serious papers in relation to the appointment of a Metropolitan Commissioner. I do not say that I believe that or accept it, but those are concerns that are around, and that is dispiriting for senior police officers and their professional future.
There are three particular areas that have been touched on earlier in the debates. These have not yet been fully assured on, which is why I am supporting this amendment: to give more time for that discussion to take place. These areas relate to commissioners and chief constables. The first is finance. If a commissioner has absolute control of the purse strings, then where will the essential operational discretion of the chief constable be? Secondly, a local politician may well be too focused on the local, and under some circumstances impede the wider strategic vision of a chief constable in relation to both national and interforce strategies. Finally, while it is right that a chief constable can be sacked, if the safeguards which are already being discussed on hiring and firing are not properly worked out, then again, the proper autonomy of a chief constable will be prejudiced. We may then be in the kind of situation that the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, referred to.
There is a need for more time to have these difficult areas sorted out, so that there will be more confidence from chief constables, and downwards, in our police forces as they go into a new era.
My Lords, I, too, rise to support my noble friend Lord Condon. I find this a very sad day, because again we are taking part in legislation which I believe can now be seen to be-and will prove to have been-untimely and indeed irrelevant. I say that because, like my noble friend Lord Condon, I was very struck by the events of August and what they portend. Several times during the Bill's passage so far, mention has been made that its title is inappropriate, because it talks about police reform. There is precious little in the Bill about reform of the police, but a great deal about reform of the governance of the police, which is not the same thing at all.
A country can be at peace with itself only if it has such elements in it as law and order, based on consent. What August sadly showed us is that much of this country is not at peace with itself. What is needed, among other things, is improvement of policing in relationship to people and particularly to young people, a lesson which came out very clearly from 1981 as well. If we did not have this Bill in front of us at the moment, I venture to suggest that-following the Winsor reports, which have already been mentioned, and the reports of the task force that the Government have appointed to report on the events of August-the Government would be seriously considering what legislation ought to be brought in to bring about the reforms of policing that are necessary as a result of what has been disclosed. It might well be that, as part of that process, and as the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, suggested, there should be a royal commission on policing or something like it, because the last one was 49 years ago. Things have moved on since then. The situation that we now face is very different from the situation as seen in 1962. Whatever comes out of this, I hope that it does not include policing by fear and firearms American style. Therefore, I have to say with regret that I disagree with the Minister that the reforms before us now cannot wait. The one thing about them is that they can, and should, wait, because they are very likely to prove an impediment to what the Government will have to introduce when they examine the recommendations made to them as a result of the examinations of August. In normal terms, one will match governance to policing and not the other way round. What comes out will have to have governance attached.
Therefore, I believe that what the noble Lord, Lord Condon, has done by suggesting extra time, and it is very little time, is to give the Government the opportunity to examine these things and, one hopes, to do something sensible such as withdraw the Bill and not saddle themselves with its encumbrances. That would enable them to take advantage of what comes out of the studies and reports that they have initiated, which will provide this country with the policing that it needs so that, once again, it can be at peace with itself.
My Lords, begging the pardon of the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, for the term that I am about to use, I do not think that the choice today is "reform or no reform". I use that term in the current context; I understand the point that the noble Lord makes. Nor even is it a choice between alternative models of reform, to which I shall come back in a moment.
Given both a free hand and the benefit of the expertise on this subject around this House, which has impressed me increasingly day by day, I do not pretend that I would have designed the model that we have in the Bill, but I have always said that the proposal for directly elected police and crime commissioners is in the coalition's programme for government, subject to strict checks and balances. Although the Whips may not agree, the scrutiny which this House gave to the checks and balances is what the House is here for. The outcomes of those debates were not always as I would have wished-I argued for several tougher checks and balances, although I acknowledge now, which I did not at the time, that some would have undermined the direct accountability of the police and crime commissioners. But now we know what the elected House wishes, and we know what is before us.
My noble and, if I may say so, good friend Lady Harris of Richmond has pursued her amendment with terrier-like energy. I am sadder than I can say that I cannot support her today, and that is not because I disagree with so many of her arguments. It is an inevitable outcome of our procedures and the way in which we undertake our business that her model is insufficiently developed. That is not her fault. After the surprise vote, she and other noble Lords put enormous effort and ingenuity into consequential amendments-if I may use that term in the widest sense. They were not successful and therefore my noble friend's model is left without the infrastructure within the Bill that would make it work. That is what I mean by not having a choice of models today.
With regard to the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Condon, as has been said, at the root of many of the concerns that have been expressed is the possible politicisation of policing. We do not know whether independent candidates will be tempted to stand for the position. It is hardly possible that under my noble friend Lady Harris's model independents could stand, because almost the whole of the panel from which she is proposing that a commissioner should come would have been elected on a party-political basis as local councillors would make up that panel.
We do know that the more different sets of elections are aligned, the more the focus on each is distorted, often to the basis of the lowest common denominator. There may be mayoral elections in November 2013, but they would be fairly limited geographically, so that date at least reduces that risk, if I can put it that way. I am thinking now not just of the elections for police and crime commissioners but about the local elections that will take place in May-pretty much every May.
My Lords, the noble Baroness is making an interesting speech, but if the case is so persuasive for having separate elections-separate from any other elections-why do we not have a proposal to always have these in November?
I will come to that if the noble Lord can contain his patience.
Local elections should be about local issues and very often they are not. What I wrote down without having to be prompted by the noble Lord is that the first elections for anything tend to set the tone. There could be a debate about having elections every four or six months for different things throughout the year, although that might be going a little far.
This debate has referred quite a lot to the convenience of campaigners. I am sure that many noble Lords have gritted their teeth and hung their canvass sheets on radiators to dry throughout the year. The convenience of campaigners is the least of the factors in this. But decoupling the elections should help avoid the diversion.
I thought that I had actually explained about decoupling them and I do not want to try the patience of the House by going over the whole thing again. Separate issues have been raised. We would have the same problem with May 2013 because there are county elections then. Other arguments have been made about November and I am not necessarily following them. This is a very particular argument.
I remain intensely concerned that candidates may stand on a simplistic platform of an officer on every street corner. I do not know whether that was in my noble friend's manifesto. It was a very telling manifesto. She left out of her critique of it that probably every crime has a victim: there is no victimless crime.
The issue of additional cost has been raised. To put it at its bluntest, we could probably wipe out the national deficit if we wiped out democracy.
It is a great pity that the opportunity has not been taken to defer the rearrangement in London to beyond the Olympics, because that will be a diversion.
With regard to the proposal for postponement until after a royal commission, there is of course a need for a continuing debate; but however straight the noble Lord's face is-and he is very good at keeping a straight face-we all know how disingenuous this is. I have been among those who have used an argument for a review when it is really a euphemism for delay, which amounts to opposition. I agree with him of course on pre-legislative scrutiny, but we are rather beyond that on this Bill sadly.
Finally, with regard to amendments from the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, he knows that I have agreed with an enormous amount of what he has said about propriety and governance throughout the debates on this Bill. I am not sure whether four non-executive members is the right number or not; I am sure that I agree with him that it is those individuals who need that support who may be the least likely to want it. He talks in this amendment of a code of practice requiring something more than can be contained in his amendment. I trust-and I hope the Minister can respond to this-that the Government will consult on the code, and not just lay it before Parliament in its finished form. I think that the noble Lord has raised important points, but they have not quite worked in this form. We are at a point when we have to take a decision on what is before us, not something as we would like it to be.
I have to say to the House that I really did not expect to find myself in this position today. I have resisted so many blandishments for so long; but, as I said to my own party group about three hours ago, I persuaded myself overnight, given what we have before us to determine today. The basis of the decision, and the underlying proposals, may not be ones that I am hugely enthusiastic about, but we have to take a decision on what is before us today, and I can now see what my decision needs to be.
Before the noble Baroness sits down, I wonder if she can help me. I am somewhat confused by what she has said. I had understood from many of her remarks that she was very sympathetic to the points made by her noble friend Lady Harris of Richmond and that she found force in them, but ultimately was not happy because, in the end, not enough people supported other amendments proposed by the noble Baroness to make her proposal workable. We all know and respect the noble Baroness, Lady Harris of Richmond, very much indeed, and she has huge experience. She has described this Bill as defective and dangerous, and something which will cause lasting damage to our policing. Does the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, agree with that assessment, and if so, what does she propose that we do about it?
My Lords, I hoped that I had made clear that it would not be to the benefit of our communities to seek to pass legislation today which does not have what I described as the "supporting infrastructure". The debate will not finish today. Of course, hugely important points have arisen in minds which might not have addressed them at all until the August disturbances. Those debates have got to continue. I wish I thought that legislation was the answer to everything. I am afraid that I do not. It is the way it is done, and the way that we all conduct ourselves, that matters-the way in which this legislation is implemented, not just the words on paper. I have criticised every Government who I have had anything to do with since I have been in this House for thinking and saying that the latest Bill was going to be the panacea.
My Lords, I rise to support the amendment of my noble friend Lord Condon to delay the introduction of the elected police and crime commissioners until after the year of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, to be held in London and other parts of the country during the next 12 months. Like my noble friend Lord Condon, I declare an interest. I, too, am a life member of the Association of Chief Police Officers and also have 40 years' experience as a police officer, from being a bobby on the beat here in London-before many people in the other place were born-to my retirement as commissioner some years ago.
I join the noble Baroness, Lady Harris of Richmond, in sending good wishes to Bernard Hogan-Howe for the formidable task ahead of him after becoming Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. I know Bernard Hogan-Howe. He is a physically fit man-as he must be for that job. Indeed, until very recently, he played football for my son's team, which is appropriately called Mid-Life Crisis. I am sure that all Members of the House would wish Bernard H-H well in his task.
I make no secret of the fact that I believe that to have elected party political devotees given the awesome power to appoint, dismiss and suspend their chief constables, to set the budget, and, in fact, by definition, therefore to decide what police do or do not do and how they do it, is a dangerous move towards politicising the British police service. To disrupt the government of policing, and thereby the policing task as a whole, at a time when the pressures on the service will be unprecedented, is not simply unwise to the point where ordinary, daily policing would cease to exist at all but is a madness that would put at risk the safety and security of the Games themselves and the well-being of the athletes and many thousands of spectators and officials. To insist that the proposals in this unnecessary Bill should go ahead during 2012, when police numbers will have been reduced to a minimum, is, frankly, dangerous. However, even with greatly reduced strengths, we will still expect police to carry out their regular policing duties, whether policing riots, dealing with thefts, or child or physical abuse; not only in Greater London but in towns and cities across the country. I plead with the Government to see sense and have the courage to change this unwise and enormously expensive plan for these elections.
To return to the Bill before us, I find it interesting, but frightening, that we have been consistently and firmly assured by the Government that we have no need to worry about the provisions for the election of police and crime commissioners; and that our fears that a holder of extremist views would be able to interfere with the proper administration of policing, or hinder the impartial service the police have been required to give since Sir Robert Peel-a Tory Home Secretary-laid down his strict principles for efficient, effective and impartial policing in 1829, are groundless. The Government have insisted that those fears are imaginary, but, after those verbal guarantees, we see them experiencing a distinct shiver of apprehension and doubt-I could describe it as a touch of the trembles. They are quickly shoring up the defences by publishing a draft protocol governing the respective responsibilities of, and the relationships between, the chief constable and the elected commissar. They have also discussed-as we have heard this afternoon from the Minister-making that protocol statutory. If those proposals in the Bill were, as we were assured, impregnable, why do we need a protocol at all; let alone to consider making it statutory? This can surely only be an admission that they have now realised that the boat was not so watertight after all and could have been in danger of capsizing. However, it seems that government Ministers have been prepared to take that risk. Will they be prepared to stand up and take responsibility if it all goes badly pear-shaped? Or will they find it more convenient to blame-dare I say it-the police?
Peel's principles have successfully guided policing in this country for 180 years. The style, accountability and governance arrangements here have been envied, admired, and emulated throughout the Commonwealth and, indeed, the world, for nearly two centuries. I am not a politician and owe no allegiance to any political party, so I hope I can say what I wish this afternoon. Is it not ironic that in order to save the police service and policing as a whole from the dangers of party political influence and likely interference, it seems one has to enter into the political argument? ACPO has commendably refused to be drawn into turbulent political waters, but those of us who have left the service need have no such inhibitions. So let me very briefly, taking no more than two minutes, enter the fray.
Prior to the last general election, I formed the view that a change of Government was urgently required. My Conservative friends-and they include some members of my own family-persuaded me that we needed a Conservative administration. So convincing were they that this would provide what they called intelligent and common-sense government, that I breathed a great sigh of relief when the votes were counted. I thought that we would now have our own John F Kennedy as our leader. I was wrong, of course. A few weeks ago, I received a phone call from an old friend, a former clerk to a police authority, now 80 years of age, who I knew to have been an unwavering Conservative all his adult life. He was clearly unsettled by the latest government reform proposals and we queried whether the new definition of "reform" can be found, in any dictionary, under the verb "to ruin". No doubt thinking I would share his views, he said to me: "What on earth are they doing to us? They have tried to sell our forests and woodlands; started demoralising the National Health Service and its loyal and highly qualified staff; and now they are trying to politicise the police. What will they do next?".
I am not going to ring him following the Government's proposals over the relaxation of building restrictions on the green belt, because he is a country-lover. However, taking all these measures and so-called reforms together, one must ask, "Are this government deliberately trying to alienate their traditional supporters?". I would go further and say that I am coming to the conclusion drawn by some of my friends that somewhere in a back office in Whitehall, or nearby, is a small group of politically aspiring kamikaze suicide pilots, who, on a weekly basis, are loading Aircraft UK with self-destruct material. Is the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill the latest self-destruct consignment to be taken on board? It certainly will be if the Government are unbending and insist on going ahead with these proposals in the face of opposition and widespread wise and professional advice not to do so, particularly at a time of public unrest and unease with the government proposals for various so-called reforms and austerity measures-as evidenced by the recent student and trade union demonstrations.
This is not the time for political involvement in, or political direction of, policing. Police must not only be politically neutral; they must be seen and trusted to be so, and not seen as an arm of any particular political party or, indeed, government. We must take time to give greater thought to these proposals. For these many reasons, I support and would encourage noble Lords of all parties, and of none, to support the amendment put forward by my noble friend Lord Condon.
My Lords, I will try to be extremely brief because I know the Minister is anxious to move matters forward. But Members of this House will be aware of my deep opposition to this Bill because it fatally undermines the principles on which policing has been delivered in this country for nearly 200 years. So the Minister will not be surprised to learn that I will be supporting the amendments that have been moved.
First and foremost, as we have heard-although the Minister did not acknowledge this-we are politicising policing. It is pointless government Ministers trying to deny this and pointing to the embryonic protocol that will supposedly regulate relations between commissioners and chief constables because the reality is that commissioners will be elected on party-political platforms and chief constables will, of necessity, have to acknowledge this and temper their actions accordingly. If they do not, we know from London experience what will happen; the elected commissioner will cite loss of confidence and, as a result, yet another chief constable will bite the dust.
The Minister argued that it would be key for independent candidates to contest these elections. But independents would have to be extremely wealthy to contest these elections. We are talking about very large, disparate police force areas. For an independent to make an impact across such an area, they would need to spend a lot of money. Inevitably, the reality is that there will be no more than a handful of independents contesting seats. Nor will there be many ethnic minority or female commissioner candidates because all the evidence from across the European Union on direct elections for mayors and similar positions is that the more power these positions carry, the more likely it is that white males between the ages of 35 and 65 will be chosen by their parties to contest winnable seats.
So I must say to this House that this is not a reform that will promote diversity. Quite the contrary because it is a big step back in terms of the fact that in the past few years there have been many female and ethnic minority police authority chairs, who have spent their time not sniffing out cameras at 100 paces or speaking to every available journalist, but establishing close links with their local communities. I want to place on record at this point my thanks to all police authority members who have worked so hard in the past few years because I think they have been unfairly vilified in the course of this Bill. I actually think they have done a very good job and I would like to acknowledge that.
We are taking a giant step towards an American model of policing, where-let us remind ourselves-police chiefs last on average two and a half years in office, where powers are wielded by "machine" party politicians, and where there are far higher levels of local corruption than we have so far experienced in this country. Bill Bratton, much admired by the Prime Minister, was sacked by Mayor Giuliani after two and a half years, not because his policing was a failure, but because it was so successful that it challenged the mayor, whom he was overshadowing in popularity. He had to go and he was sacked. I fear we are seeing the start of that in this country.
The stated aims of reform are to drive down crime and secure value for money, but how can a stand-alone commissioner forge the essential local partnerships that would deliver that? At the moment, partnerships exist and have helped to bring crime down to historically low levels. But the examples of elected mayors we have seen so far in this country indicate the commissioner will want to run his own show, on his own terms, sometimes capriciously, occasionally irresponsibly, but always with an eye to the media and to journalists, and always weighing up what needs to be done to secure re-election.
What of checks and balances? They barely exist. If I could say to the noble Baroness opposite, she had a very easy way out of her dilemma because the coalition agreement, as I recall, talked about strict checks and balances. But we have not got strict checks and balances in this Bill as it comes back to us from the Commons. The panel has no real power to rein in the commissioner and no ability to prevent the dismissal of a chief constable. There is, more crucially, little it can do to bring action against a commissioner who acts inappropriately, offensively or recklessly. There is neither any concept of a code of conduct to guide behaviour nor involvement of independent people in the area of standards to ensure the integrity of the system and a lack of political bias. The panel will have no sanctions against a misbehaving commissioner, so its role here, as elsewhere, is one with no teeth.
It seems to me totally anomalous that local councillors on the panels will now, it is hoped, be covered by a standards regime under the Localism Bill, but police commissioners will not. This area of standards and ethics, crucial for public confidence, is one I have raised before. I know the Government keep telling us that they are intent on replacing bureaucratic accountability with democratic accountability, but the inadequate standards provision risks giving the impression that commissioners will not be accountable at all in relation to their conduct. I believe that some way still needs to be found to bring commissioners under a clear and explicit standards regime.
We have already heard, particularly from the noble Lord, Lord Harris, that there are no proper governance arrangements in place in this Bill as it comes back to us. I find it deeply depressing that noble Lords in this House who would not for one moment tolerate such an absence of good governance in their private sector or charitable involvements, and many of whom I know have serious misgivings about the radical proposals in this Bill, will nevertheless support it out of party and coalition loyalty.
I believe that upholding the principles on which policing has operated so successfully in this country for nearly two centuries is more important even than party loyalties, and I believe Sir Robert Peel would have felt the same way. Experts on policing practice and governance told the Committee members of the Bill in the other place that the provisions of this Bill constituted "a unique constitutional experiment" never before tried out in this country.
To push this Bill through at this point in time, when police numbers and budgets are being cut, and when the public are already deeply cynical about politicians and their motivations, will be a grave mistake and one we will live to regret-just as MPs in the other place are belatedly discovering the dangers in one of the Bills we tried in vain to change six months or so ago. The consequences of this legislation will assuredly come back to bite us, and if we pass it in its unamended form, as it has come back to us, it will come back to bite us sooner rather than later.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow my noble friend Lady Henig who, along with my noble friend Lord Harris, is an astounding example of the work, service and commitment of a non-directly elected former chair of a police authority. They are not the only such members in this House, of course; the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, also held such a position. They illustrate very vividly the capacity of elected councillors to serve in that role.
In his thoughtful and reasoned speech, the noble Lord, Lord Condon, referred-as others have done-to recent events, effectively confirming the wisdom of avoiding the intrusion of politics into policing. We saw some of those dangers when the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary claimed to have instructed the police to increase the number of police on the streets. In fairness, those claims were subsequently withdrawn, but they illustrate starkly the risk of political interference. The Prime Minister and the Home Secretary did not cross the boundary but who is to say that less experienced, less statesmanlike figures would not succumb to the temptation? It is a very real risk.
In the debate in the other place two days ago, the Police Minister, Nick Herbert, said:
"The coalition agreement pledged the introduction of directly elected individuals, subject to strict checks and balances, by locally elected representatives".
In opening, the Minister made exactly the same comment. However, the reality is that those checks and balances are insufficient. What is surprising is that the Minister in the other place went on to claim:
"The Lords amendments do not try to increase the local accountability of the police. They do not even try to ensure that there are adequate checks and balances".-[Hansard, Commons, 12/9/11; col. 780.]
Only the word "effrontery" can describe that statement. If the checks and balances are not sufficiently strict, it is because the Government ensured in your Lordships' House that they were not put in place. They were moved from various parts of the House and they were rejected.
The proposals for police commissioners owe much to the partial-although no doubt not the only-begetter of the Bill, the noble Lord, Lord Wasserman, who in these matters is a sort of ermine-clad Mephistopheles to the Prime Minister's Faustus. He is an enthusiast for American-style policing, of which he has experience. I defer to his knowledge of it. He is also an enthusiast for Bill Bratton. Indeed, if the noble Lord had his way, I hazard that we would have congratulated Mr Bratton on his appointment as Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police today, instead of the gentleman whose appointment we have commented on and to whom we all send our congratulations. However, as has been pointed out by my noble friend Lord Hunt, Mr Bratton is vehemently opposed to the concept of directly elected police commissioners. The Prime Minister's chosen adviser on policing, brought from across the Atlantic at no doubt considerable expense, is to be listened to in all respects save this rather crucial one-the direct election of police commissioners.
I support the Motion tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Condon. I bear in mind the observations of the Electoral Commission, which have not yet been mentioned. It has reported that it has concerns about the date of
However, if those appointments were to take place in May, of any year, both the commissioner and the panel would have an opportunity to be fully involved from an early stage in the process. It should be borne in mind that commissioners will come into an entirely new field, unless they have been involved as members of a police authority. Who is to say whether that will happen? They will have only a matter of weeks to absorb all that complexity and difficulty before passing a budget. They will surely not be capable of producing a police and crime plan, which you would have thought would shape and provide context for such a budget, in that time. It seems quite impossible.
Noting the reactions of the colleagues of the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, in another place, I am irresistibly reminded of the Grand Old Duke of York, who marched his army to the top of the hill, only for them to be led down-in this case on the basis of an offer of only six months' deferment of the election. The noble Baroness is of course a resident of the great county of Yorkshire. I hope she will not find herself in the position of-forgive me-a grand old duchess of York, leading her troops to the top of a hill, only to find herself abandoned by the self-same troops as they slide silently downhill. I fear from the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, that that may indeed be her fate, which would be unfortunate.
The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, also referred to independent members. The Bill provides for very little in the way of independent members of the police and crime panels-many fewer than currently serve on police committees. Therefore, the independence argument hardly persuades one.
The amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Condon, are sensible and practical. They ought not to be voted down on the basis of a rather cheap deal whereby Liberal Democrats are bought off with, as I say, a temporary deferment of elections as part of an arrangement in another place. My noble friend Lord Hunt's proposal for a commission clearly makes sense. The very powerful arguments advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Imbert, should certainly carry weight in this House. I hope that the noble Baroness will, even at this late stage, see the logic of these positions and acknowledge that your Lordships have made substantial arguments, which should remain as the Bill goes back to another place.
My Lords, I understood the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, to say that our duty was to amend legislation where practicable. I did not hear her say that our other duty is to consider the need for that legislation, although I understood that she was not convinced of the need for this legislation. It is my view that our first job in any piece of legislation is to see whether the case for it has been made.
There has been much attack on members of existing police authorities. They are not high-profile; people do not know who or where they are. I have spent time looking at all the issues that were raised with me and would be considered by a single populist candidate. I raised none of them in public. I raised them with my noble friend who was chair of the police authority, the chief constable, divisional officers and community police officers over a long period. To say that police authorities are ineffective because they are not in the press every week and the newspapers do not know who they are is, frankly, not borne out by my experience. The issues included car crime and many other things. The real issue facing policing by consent and our police service is that of those for whom the system is broken. They do not give consent; they are not part of the consent. Those are the issues, referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Condon, that need to be looked at by a royal commission and the groups that are studying this. That is where the system is breaking down-not with the chief constable, police officers or members of the existing police authorities.
I suggest that the Minister should be awfully careful in using the argument that we ultimately have no right to intervene because the other place is democratically accountable. That does not appear to sit with her Government's policy that, were we to be democratically accountable, we would still have to be quiet on issues that we did not agree with.
I am deeply worried about this. As someone who has worked in local and county government, I believe an individual will not be able to stand unless they have a lot of money to fight a campaign across a whole police authority area. These areas will be bigger than the bishops' areas and they have an army of people in their church to take their message out. It is a very worrying position. New registers will come in in November, when elderly people will not go out in the dark and people will not answer their door when candidates' volunteers go around to campaign. I am worried that there will be a very small turnout and a limited populist campaign, resulting in the fracturing of a service of which I am proud.
The noble Lord, Lord Wasserman, has been mentioned. I admire much in America, but I do not advise your Lordships' to support our emulating the politicisation of its police service at the local level.
That form of politicisation will not occur, as the panel-which the noble Baroness supports-will be made up of elected local councillors with party-political labels, who will themselves elect the person who becomes the commissioner. In that sense, because there will be virtually no independent members of that panel, the person who is appointed will have a party-political background and role.
The noble Lord was not present when I was congratulating the fine record of the noble Lord, Lord Howard. When he was Home Secretary, he had a better system than that now proposed. In Lancashire, my noble friend Lady Henig was re-elected by the police authority regardless of whether or not people shared her party political allegiance. They voted according to ability. It is much better to have a balance from a group of people than a single populist politician.
My Lords, it has been suggested that police and crime commissioners will be focused on local issues to the exclusion of those which require a strategic response-in other words, that they will be too parochial and populist. Issues such as terrorism, riots, drug dealing and people trafficking all affect local communities. They are local issues that local police and crime commissioners will want to ensure are tackled effectively. However, it is important to acknowledge that these issues also have national dimensions, either because they require police forces to work together to identify and tackle a threat that is not constrained by force boundaries, or because the threat may be so significant as to require resources to be mobilised from several forces. We have seen an example of that this summer.
Police and crime commissioners will be responsible and accountable to the public for the totality of policing. To help them deliver this remit, the Home Secretary will issue a strategic policing requirement which will guide them on their responsibilities for serious and cross-boundary policing challenges, such as terrorism, organised crime, public order, cybercrime and responding to major incidents and emergencies. Police and crime commissioners and chief constables will be under strong duties to have regard to this requirement.
These issues already stretch and challenge the police service. The strategic policing requirement is about addressing these existing challenges, often referred to as level 2 gap, rather than responding to a new problem created by the introduction of police and crime commissioners. It is for this reason that, even though it will not have statutory effect until next year, the Government intend to publish a shadow strategic policing requirement later this year. It will support forces and authorities in their planning and allow time for further testing and consultation.
It could not be further from the truth that police and crime commissioners will be the sort of people who will just be on the periphery of serious issues that affect local and national policing and crime issues. They will be of a different calibre. Working with the chief constable or the commissioner, they will address these issues and ensure that they are contained within their local plan. I refute the idea that this is about populist politics, with candidates appealing to people just by saying how many police officers they are going to march up and down the high street each week. These are serious issues and they will require serious people of substance to address them.
We have had a lot of debate, during the Report and Committee stages, about the independence of chief officers. Much has been made of this. The protocol that has been negotiated has been put together and agreed with ACPO, the Association of Police Authorities and the Association of Police Authority Chief Executives. All parties have agreed on the text in general, and there are few amendments to be made following this consultation.
We put this on a statutory basis not for the sake of the fine detail, but so that the requirement for the protocol will have a statutory basis. This is to ensure that the important relationship between the police and crime commissioner and the chief constable will not overreach in such a way as to affect the operational independence and decision-making of chief officers. This was a matter of great concern in this House and we worked very hard with all parties to get the balance right. I welcome the contribution made by noble Lords in this matter.
The Government believe that a single accountable individual should hold the police to account, and that person should be democratically elected by the public in their police force area. The strength of this model is that local councillors will still be involved in the governance of policing while an elected individual takes executive decisions supported by a highly qualified team. The principle of one accountable individual being directly responsible for the totality of force activity is crucial to our vision. I pay tribute to those who have given up much of their time to police authorities, but policing governance by committee has meant that an unelected body has the power over the level of the precept. It has meant that no one is properly held to account for decisions or poor performance and no one is truly in charge. Even police authority chairs are first among equals, they are not decision-making leaders. That situation would continue and probably worsen under the proposals before the House tonight.
I turn to the noble Lord, Lord Condon, who spoke to his amendment. I do not believe that the lesson of the riots is as he described-that everything in policing is fine. The noble Lord persuasively argued in earlier stages of the Bill against the uncertainties of further delay. He admitted that in his remarks. He was right then, and it makes sense to bring this new form of accountability in good time.
The noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, mentioned the fact that he believed that the country was not at peace with itself. I was struck by that remark, if I have interpreted it correctly.
I stand corrected-much of it was not at peace with itself. However, it has occurred to me that, despite our lengthy debate on these amendments, very little was said about the public and accountability, and the way in which the public can hold to account the policing in their force areas and local communities-something that is at the heart and core of this legislation. It is about the public. It is about accountability.
Last week I attended the meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Retail and Business Crime. One of the biggest issues that its members wanted to raise with me was that 40 per cent of business crime goes unreported. Although it was an all-party group, representatives from the business community were there, including the Federation of Small Businesses and many others representing that community. When we started to drill down as to why 40 per cent of business crime goes unreported, the general consensus seemed to be that there was not much point. That cannot be right. It cannot be right that crime on that level is regarded in this country today as being not worth reporting. One has to ask the question why, and the answer is self-evident. It is not the case all around the country-the figure varies from one place to another. Others take more interest. However, it is very important that the police are not only held accountable but that in their local force areas they have a clear understanding of what the policing needs and requirements of their communities are. That would apply as much to business as it does to the individual householder. At the moment that does not happen.
The noble Baroness says that it is not true. If that were the case the level of unreported business crime would not be 40 per cent. People would think that it was worth reporting and would be pleased with the outcome. Something different has to happen. People have to feel that they are represented. People feel that they have to be represented by someone whom they have chosen. I hear what has been said by noble Lords from across the House in this debate, but I have to say that democracy is actually about trusting the people to vote for the right person, and trusting the people to understand, which of course they do, that they then have a voice. I have to say that I am disappointed that no one-not once-in this debate has mentioned the need for the people to have a voice, which is what this legislation gives them. I give way to the noble Lord.
I am all in favour of the public having a voice, but what the noble Baroness has so passionately spoken about is the business community. Unless she is advocating a business franchise for the election of police and crime commissioners, that problem will not be solved by this. The reality is that the police service should be consulting the business community and listening to it, but this legislation does not require that because it places no such obligation on them. The only way that you would get that in terms of the noble Baroness's arguments would be by the creation of a business franchise. I am pleased to see that that is not part of the Government's proposals.
I have to say to the noble Lord that I observed with horror what happened to small businesses in the riots. I would not in any way dismiss the needs of small businesses. They are individuals; they are husband-and-wife teams running small shops and other small businesses up and down the country. One of the other messages that I received quite clearly at the all-party group last week was that these businesses and business organisations are already making plans to talk to people who want to stand as candidates to be police and crime commissioners, because those businesses want them to have a much clearer understanding of what their needs are in terms of law and order. It is not just about their businesses-whether they have had a shop theft or something such as that-but about the whole community in which they operate. They care about what happens on the pavements outside their businesses. They care about the wider community. These are people. These are voters. They need a voice and this legislation will give them that voice.
These reforms are essential to address that democratic deficit in policing, to end the era of central government's bureaucratic control, to reduce crime and antisocial behaviour and to drive value for money. Chief constables will be liberated to be crime fighters rather than government managers-free to run their own workforces for the first time ever.
The noble Baroness says that police chief constables will be liberated. How on earth can that be the case when they will come under the direct control of a party politician? Based on US experience, the average length of stay is no more than two years. How can she defend the situation that we already see in London, where in a single term the Mayor of London is now on his third police commissioner? That is not liberation. It is the political control of police chiefs that will be a disaster to our policing.
With the greatest of respect to the noble Baroness, I used the word accountability. I said in my opening speech that I favour enhanced accountability.
Enhanced accountability, but not through the public, for the public and by the public. That is the difference between us. Let us make no bones about it, it is now very clear that it is accountability but on certain terms. The terms of the Bill are that the accountability is such that the public will elect the person who on their behalf will hold the police to account in their police area. That is the difference, and I am grateful to the noble Lord for having established the fundamental difference between his interpretation of accountability in this matter and what is in the Bill.
Police officers will benefit from a less bureaucratic system where discretion is restored and where the chief constable has a strong interest in driving out waste and prioritising the front line. Local authorities will benefit from a continuing say in the governance of policing, and district councils will have a role for the very first time. The taxpayer will see better value for money as commissioners, who will have responsibility for the precept, focus relentlessly on efficiency in their forces. Local policing will benefit from a strong democratic input, focusing attention on issues of public concern. The Home Office will be focused on its proper role, especially to address national threats and to co-ordinate strategic action and collaboration between forces. Above all, the public will have a voice in how they are policed.
Police and crime commissioners have the mandate to reflect public concern on crime. Democratic accountability in policing is needed and we agree on this. If so, there can be no question as to whether these amendments from the other place should be agreed. I ask that the House not to agree to Motions A1, A2, A3 and A4. I agree with Motion A.
My Lords, I have listened to my noble friend the Minister but with a very heavy heart. I have tried throughout this Bill to rehearse all the arguments around the construction of a police and crime commission. It is clear that I have not been able to convince the coalition Government or my colleagues-or most of them-or the other place, which makes the final decisions on our amendments, to agree with me. However, I would not be at all surprised if this legislation were to be amended again before it is ever implemented. I predict that elements of it will have to be looked at again in the police Bill that is due to be published next year on national police landscape proposals. If it is not dealt with there then another Bill will have to be brought before Parliament within the next three years. I will not relish saying "I told you so" at that point. It would be far better to provide a sensible corporate governance framework now. I will support the amendments of other noble Lords to delay the legislation-especially the Motion proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Condon. I hope that this will provide adequate time for the Government to reconsider and see some sense. In that somewhat forlorn hope, and with great weariness and reluctance, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
Motion A1 withdrawn.
Moved by Lord Condon
Leave out "to 6D in lieu" and insert ", 6C and 6D in lieu, do disagree with Amendment 6B in lieu, do propose Amendment 6E in lieu thereof, do propose Amendments 6F and 6G to Amendment 6C, and do propose Amendment 6H as a consequential amendment to the Bill."
My Lords, I beg to move Motion A2 as an amendment to Motion A. I am very grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken in favour of my Motion. I have also listened very carefully to the Minister, for whom I have enormous respect, but she has not convinced me that it is not in the national interest to delay this Bill by a fixed period of six months for the reasons that I set out in my arguments. I therefore wish to test the opinion of the House.
My Lords, there has been an equality of votes. In accordance with
I declare that the amendment has been disagreed to .
Motion A3 (as an amendment to Motion A)
Moved by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath
As an amendment to Motion A, leave out "to 6D in lieu" and insert ", 6C and 6D in lieu, do disagree with Amendment 6B in lieu, do propose Amendment 6J in lieu thereof, and do propose Amendment 6K as a consequential amendment to the Bill."
My Lords, this Bill leaves a situation in which there are no proper governance arrangements around directly elected individuals with the most amazing and strong powers in respect of policing, one of the most vital services in our country. I am sorely tempted to divide the House again but I recognise that there are only so many times that a dead horse can be flogged.
Motion A4 not moved.
Motion A agreed.
Moved by Baroness Browning
That this House do not insist on its Amendment 43, to which the Commons have disagreed, and do agree with the Commons in their Amendments 43A and 43B in lieu.