Clause 39 - Delegation of power to designate

Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 6:45 pm on 11 January 2005.

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Photo of David Heath David Heath Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 6:45, 11 January 2005

I beg to move amendment No. 95, in clause 39, page 21, line 28, leave out from second 'to' to end of line 31 and insert 'his deputy'.

Photo of Mr Bill O'Brien Mr Bill O'Brien Labour, Normanton

With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment No. 96, in clause 40, page 21, line 36, leave out subsections (2) and (3).

Photo of David Heath David Heath Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

We now come to the delegation of the power to designate a person as a constable. The clause allows the director general of SOCA to delegate the power to make designations to any employee of SOCA, albeit qualified by the words ''At the prescribed level''—although we know not what that   might mean at the moment, because that is to be done by an order of the Secretary of State.

My simple solution to that uncertainty is to provide that the only people who are appropriate to make the designation and give the powers of constable, which are significant, be the director general of SOCA or his deputy. Further than that, the capacity to designate should not go. The matter is serious and we expect the director general to show due diligence and ensure that the person who is to be designated has had the proper training, is an appropriate person to carry out the responsibility and office of constable and understands the duties, powers, privileges and responsibilities that go with the post.

My proposal is to specify precisely the individuals who have the appropriate capacity: they are the director general or his deputy. The other amendment, No. 96, would remove the references to the person to whom the power is delegated under the subsequent clause.

Photo of Caroline Flint Caroline Flint Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office)

The amendment is not realistic. SOCA will have 4,500 staff and although not all of them will be designated powers, a sizeable number will be. It is impractical to expect designation to be made only by one or two people, which is why we cannot support the amendment. Given that the task is important, we believe that it should be discharged by someone of sufficient seniority, which is why we included in subsection (2) the power of the Home Secretary to specify the grade of the employee below which the task cannot be delegated. SOCA is still developing its grading structure and human resource function, so I cannot say now what grade we have in mind. However, I assure the hon. Gentleman that it will be high up the management line.

In addition, there is no provision in the Bill for a deputy director general. I mentioned earlier that the next management level down from the director general will consist of four director posts, so the amendments would be even more unworkable. I invite the hon. Gentleman to withdraw them.

Photo of David Heath David Heath Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

I accept—because we only heard it today—that there will be no deputy director general, although I find that slightly odd in such an organisation. There will be the capacity for the organisation to lack leadership in the case of the illness of the director general. Indeed, when we went through the agonies of redesigning the senior management of police forces, it emerged that we could not have two or three assistant chief constables and not identify one of them as the deputy to the chief constable to act in the absence of the chief constable. We have gone through that process, so why on earth are we going through it again with the establishment of the new organisation? There may be several directors but, in effect, one of them will be designated the deputy.

I should be content if the Minister tabled an amendment saying that the director general or the directors would have such capacity. I agree that it is impractical for one person to designate all the constables within the service, but it is also impractical to allow the matter to be dealt with at   too low a level of responsibility. It is a significant and serious business and it is entirely impractical for the responsibility to lie with a single individual—the director general or someone acting in his absence. I am not persuaded by the Minister's argument. I intend to take the matter further when we have more information about the management structure of the body as a whole, which I hope that she will provide. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 39 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 40 ordered to stand part of the Bill.