Clause 3

– in a Public Bill Committee at 5:45 pm on 3rd February 2009.

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Regulations about senior officers

Question proposed, That the Clause stand part of the Bill

Photo of David Ruffley David Ruffley Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) 6:00 pm, 3rd February 2009

I do not wish to detain the Committee too long. I had not planned to speak to clause 3, but I noticed that it makes provision for

“payments to senior officers who cease to hold office before the end of a fixed term appointment.”

That caught my eye because of the debate that we have just had, in which I quoted remarks by the APA and ACPO about the current operation of the FTA regime. I said that I was not strongly against it. Helpfully, the Minister added that he had seen no empirical evidence that there were problems with FTA. He said that there was anecdotal evidence, but that no evidence had come across his desk that would lead him as a Minister to reconsider the whole regime. Fair enough; so far, so good. I wonder, therefore, why clause 3 takes specific steps to make such payments as I just quoted. Is it because more and more senior officers are exiting fixed-term appointments before the end of the due term? Otherwise, why do we need this clause? I would have thought that that would be provided for under existing legislation. I would be very grateful, therefore, if he could explain why the provision in clause 3 is necessary. Is it because there are more breaks in fixed-term appointments than was the case formerly?

Photo of Vernon Coaker Vernon Coaker Minister of State (Home Office) (Policing, Crime & Security)

No. That is not the reason for this clause, as far as I am aware—I make that caveat. I have seen no evidence that more breaks are occurring before the five years of a fixed term contract are up. It is funny: when I looked at clause 3, I thought, “I know what the hon. Gentleman will ask: why are you saying this when you have clause 3?”

Photo of David Ruffley David Ruffley Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

You were one step ahead of me.

Photo of Vernon Coaker Vernon Coaker Minister of State (Home Office) (Policing, Crime & Security)

I only just thought of it, but the hon. Gentleman probably thought of it earlier, which is why he asked the question.

In all seriousness, there is no ulterior motive for the clause. It does not seek to fix any problem. Given the focus on performance, the enhanced role of police authorities and the operation of PDRs for chief constables, which is being looked at by Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary, it seems appropriate to include in the Bill the possibility of building in flexibility. Were more terminations to occur—I do not expect or desire that to happen—the clause would provide the flexibility for police authorities to act appropriately and properly with respect to chief officers. It will give them the opportunity to pay the appropriate compensation to chief officers, should they choose to leave or should it be agreed that they leave before the end of their fixed term contract. I hope that those remarks satisfy the hon. Gentleman.

Photo of David Ruffley David Ruffley Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

I am struggling to understand why there are not arrangements under existing statute or common law in respect of a senior officer who wishes to terminate his service before the expiry of the fixed term. I do not know how the system operated before the Bill was drafted. What problem is the clause seeking to deal with? Did provisions under statute or certain cases cause difficulty so that such a clause was required? I am genuinely puzzled about whether such matters were catered for prior to the Bill.

Photo of Vernon Coaker Vernon Coaker Minister of State (Home Office) (Policing, Crime & Security)

Again, the answer is no. The hon. Gentleman might be surprised to know that such matters were not dealt with under statute but, given some of the proposed changes in the performance framework, the Bill has  provided the opportunity to include a provision so that there is legislative ability to deal with matters should it be necessary in future. First, there was not a statutory ability to take such action. Secondly, a problem has not arisen but if a problem arose in the future, we will have the ability to deal with it if we wish to do so.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 3 ordered to stand part of the Bill.