Clause 86 - Establishment of the Authority

Criminal Justice and Police Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 5:30 pm on 8th March 2001.

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Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 5:30 pm, 8th March 2001

I beg to move amendment No. 279, in page 72, line 45, leave out `Authority' and insert `Agency'.

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Conservative, North Thanet

With this it will be convenient to take the following amendments: No. 280, in page 73, line 1, leave out `Authority' and insert `Agency'.

No. 281, in clause 87, page 73, line 8, leave out `Authority' and insert `Agency'.

No. 282, in clause 87, page 73, line 10, leave out `Authority' and insert `Agency'.

No. 283, in clause 87, page 73, line 15, leave out `Authority' and insert `Agency'.

No. 284, in clause 87, page 73, line 26, leave out `Authority' and insert `Agency'.

No. 285, in clause 87, page 73, line 34, leave out `Authority' and insert `Agency'.

No. 286, in clause 87, page 73, line 40, leave out `Authority' and insert `Agency'.

No. 287, in clause 87, page 74, line 5, leave out `Authority' and insert `Agency'.

No. 288, in clause 87, page 74, line 8, leave out `Authority' and insert `Agency'.

No. 289, in clause 87, page 74, line 17, leave out `Authority' and insert `Agency'.

No. 290, in clause 87, page 74, line 21, leave out `Authority' and insert `Agency'.

No. 291, in clause 87, page 74, line 23, leave out `Authority' and insert `Agency'.

No. 292, in clause 88, page 75, line 11, leave out `Authority' and insert `Agency'.

No. 293, in clause 88, page 75, line 12, leave out `Authority' and insert `Agency'.

No. 294, in clause 88, page 75, line 15, leave out `Authority' and insert `Agency'.

Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

Clause 86 creates the new non-departmental public body called the central police training and development authority. Its functions are to provide and promote police training, to give advice and assistance about training and to provide advice and consultancy services to the police on best practice and other matters.

The amendment would change the name of the new body so that it was an agency rather than an authority. As the clause is the first on police training, I shall give some background. Following a thematic inspection of training by Her Majesty's inspectorate of constabulary, a House of Commons report by the Select Committee on Home Affairs, a report by Sir William Stubbs and two Police Federation reports, the Government issued a consultation paper in November 1999. It set out some detailed proposals to reform police training. However, as far as I can ascertain, it did not contain a proposal to set up the authority. It proposed various changes to the existing situation, which I shall explain. Police training was divided between national police training and that provided locally by the forces. All forces have their own training centres, some providing specific types of training.

Photo of Mrs Jackie Ballard Mrs Jackie Ballard Liberal Democrat, Taunton

Would it help the hon. Gentleman if members of the Committee were to tell him that they had read the explanatory notes that accompany the Bill, so he does not need to waste his time in reading them to us?

Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

The hon. Lady should know that I am not doing that. I am briefly summarising the overview of current arrangements for police training that appeared in the consultation document in November 1999. I do not intend to go on at great length, but it is worth summarising two or three of its points, as that will put the debate in context.

It is estimated that 87 per cent. of police training is delivered locally and only 13 per cent. nationally. National police training is spread over 10 sites and is responsible for the delivery of probationer constable training for all forces in England and Wales. It is funded directly as part of the Home Office, with an annual budget of £45 million.

Five main proposals formed the centrepiece of the consultation document, although there were 12 points in all. The Police Training Council was to become a smaller, reorganised and more strategic body. There was to be a new, employer-led national training organisation, a core curriculum for police training and an agreement in principle to establish cluster colleges. There was going to be a central police college, a centre of excellence to carry out leadership training and a dedicated training inspectorate within HMIC. I welcome the appointment of an inspector to lead that organisation. I have had a useful meeting with him.

Those were the proposals. Following the consultation, the Government made a statement in the House and also produced the paper ``Police Training: The Way Forward''. I will not read all of it, and I hope that the hon. Lady will admit that I have not been long-winded in setting the matter in context. As far as I can see, proposals following consultation did not include a new authority. The explanatory notes seem to suggest that the new body in some way came out of the consultation process. However, as far as I can see, it did not.

I want to ask the Minister about the nature of the body. Apparently, it will provide services to the police on behalf of the Home Office. Its budget will come from the Home Office. It may not actually provide the services itself—it may buy them in, and I have some further questions about that for later in the debate.

We need to know why the organisation is to be described as an authority. Normally, one would think of a police authority or a local authority as different from the sort of body under discussion. The agencies around Whitehall include the Passports Agency, which issues passports for the Home Office and is funded by that Department. The Benefits Agency delivers benefits. The central police training and development authority seems to be providing services on behalf of a Government Department, and I should be grateful if the Minister would explain to the Committee why it is not an agency but an authority.

When we debate schedule 4, I shall have some more detailed questions about the way in which the body is to be set up. Clearly, the Home Secretary retains the power to direct in clause 87(4). The body's objectives are in part set by the Home Secretary—he lays down performance indicators for it and takes action with respect to it when an inspection has occurred. Why, then, is the body not described as an agency—a concept that we all understand in Whitehall?

Photo of Mrs Jackie Ballard Mrs Jackie Ballard Liberal Democrat, Taunton

There seems to be some logic in the hon. Gentleman's remarks. The authority created by the provision could be confused with a police authority.

The new authority is also wholly appointed by the Secretary of State, and would seem to be similar to other quangos. In passing, I note that it is not many years since the Labour party pledged to remove quangos. So far, the Government have created many more of them. It would be interesting to hear the Minister's response on the matter, but I do not think that it is a substantial point about which we should have a lengthy debate.

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Minister of State, Home Office

I will not repeat the points that have been made. This part of the Bill contains an important development, about which I am delighted. It represents the development of an entirely new approach to training, which brings us to the key point of the remarks by the hon. Member for Taunton. The authority has a range of different functions, which clause 87 sets out. It will provide police training, promote the value of the provision, give advice about it, provide persons serving or employed for policing purposes with assistance in relation to the provision of training and provide such persons with advice and consultancy services.

The Home Secretary, in nominating the board, will nominate from the service as a whole, because we want the authority to be owned by the service as a whole. That is critical. That is the important distinction between an agency and an authority. An agency, in the classic structure of government, is excluded from the definition of a non-departmental public body, as it is deemed to be part of a Government Department. It is particularly important that the new authority is not seen as part of a Government Department, like the Benefits Agency, which has a direct relationship with the Department of Social Security.

The authority is so called because we want to reflect the important aspiration for training to be the property of the police service and not the Home Secretary alone. In addition to that fundamental reason, it is an authority because of the results of widespread consultation on the matter. I always enjoy debating names—although I confess that it is not always the first item on my agenda—whether the debate concerns phrases such as ``the British Islands'' or names of bodies such as this. Considerable consultation took place, and we decided that we did not want the connotations associated with being part of a Government Department, which is why the term ``agency'' was not high on our list.

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Minister of State, Home Office 5:45 pm, 8th March 2001

In a moment. We consulted key stakeholders such as National Police Training, ACPO, the APA, the Police Federation, the Police Superintendents Association, Unison and Her Majesty's inspectorate of constabulary. Those organisations expressed considerable opposition to use of the term ``agency''. They felt that it did not offer an accurate description, and wanted to ensure that the authority would not be simply a part of the Home Secretary's empire. They were also unhappy with terms such as ``university'', ``college'' or ``academy'', which were seen as too academic.

Eventually, we came up with the loose description ``authority'', and there is consensus throughout the service that that is the right way to proceed. It can be used to describe a number of differently managed organisations and implies nothing about status, unlike the term ``agency''. That is why we took this view and I will defend it, but I confess that the matter is not at the top of my agenda.

Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

I am merely trying to tease out the nature of the organisation, and I have similar questions in respect of schedule 4.

The term appears not to be included in the November 1999 consultation document on police training, although the document is quite substantial and I might have missed it. What was HMIC's view on using the term ``authority'' rather than ``agency''?

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Minister of State, Home Office

The consultation proposed setting up and retaining a central police college that will replace National Police Training. It is an arm's length organisation, and will be governed by the tripartite partners and managed by a separate board. However, as the hon. Gentleman said, the fundamental issues were how to get matters right and how to bring police training into the 21st century. Those are the issues that Bill Stubbs' report and the consultation paper focused on, so the criticism can perhaps be made that the name itself is not the core issue. However, I understand why the hon. Gentleman, whose points are perfectly reasonable, wanted to explore the reasons why we reached our conclusion. I merely say that, for me, this is not a grade 1 issue in the scheme of things.

Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

Obviously, I was probing, and I have further questions about the detailed structure, which I will ask in relation to schedule 4. However, on the basis of what the Minister has said, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 86 ordered to stand part of the Bill.