§ 3.32 p.m.
The Minister of State, Home Office (Earl Ferrers)
My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to make provision about police areas, police forces and police authorities.; to make provision for England and Wales about magistrates' courts committees, justices' clerks and administrative and financial arrangements for magistrates' courts; and for connected purposes. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a first time.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read a first time.—(Earl Ferrers.)
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
My Lords, the House will have been grateful to the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal for reminding the House on 2nd December that the Companion to the Standing Orders states:The First Reading is almost always accorded without dissent or debate … but it is not unknown for the First Reading to be discussed, opposed or refused'".It is not my intention to seek to oppose or refuse the First Reading of the Bill, but I do intervene at this stage in order to seek answers to questions which may improve informed debate at Second Reading. Before I do so, I wish to thank the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, for his kindness in writing to me today offering to send a copy of the Bill to me if it were inconvenient for me to pick it up tomorrow. I understand that he has written in similar terms to other noble Lords. That was a real courtesy.
In order to improve the quality of debate at Second Reading it would be helpful if the Government were 1461 able to improve the quality of information which is available to noble Lords who will take part in that debate. First, it would be enormously helpful if the Government would publish an analysis of the responses which were made to the White Paper on the reorganisation of the police force. I understand that a list of respondents was made in answer to a Written Question in another place but that it was omitted from Hansard and will not now be available until the Bound Volume has been produced. Nevertheless, it is not just a list of respondents that we need. We need an analysis of the responses if we are to debate this matter properly.
Secondly, it would be very helpful if the Government were able to give more than is normally given in the Financial Memorandum about the cost of the reorganisation of police forces. It was indicated at meetings with the local authority associations in November that the cost might be approximately £12.7 million. Can the Government undertake to circulate to noble Lords or place in the Library a more detailed statement of what appear to be horrendous costs for this unnecessary reorganisation?
Thirdly, as this was not a manifesto commitment, can the Government explain the lack of independent investigation before a decision of this kind was taken? The tripartite relationship, which is after all to be replaced, was decided upon after the establishment of a Royal Commission. Why is this being done without any such independent investigation?
§ The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Wakeham)
My Lords, it might be for the convenience of the House if I were to read again what the Companion says:The First Reading is almost always accorded without dissent or debate, both as a matter of courtesy and because the House has normally no knowledge of the Bill until it is printed; but it is not unknown"—as the noble Lord said—for the First Reading to be discussed, opposed or refused".My noble friend listened carefully to the points that the noble Lord raised, but I do not believe that it would be appropriate for him to give answers to matters relating to a Bill until the Bill has been published.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I wonder whether he would be good enough to recall that his statement in the House two weeks ago was made because his noble friend Lady Blatch accused the Opposition of inadequate attention to the Education Bill as we did not intervene at First Reading on that occasion.
§ Lord Wakeham
My Lords, I am not sure where this exchange will get us. I gave advice to the House because it was in the Companion which sets out the rules of the House. The rules of the House have been around for some time and have been tried and trusted. I believe that it is right that it is not normal for there to be a debate on First Reading, both as a matter of courtesy and because until the Bill has been published noble Lords will not have seen what is in it. I should have thought that that was the best way to proceed. But of course my noble friend has listened carefully to what the noble Lord has said.
§ Lord Stoddart of Swindon
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down—and I hope I am in order—noble Lords really must take note of what was said by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, and indeed by the Leader of the House. I have listened to what the Bill is about and the point I want to make—I think that this is the place to raise it—is that it seems to be a conglomerate Bill. It is about the reorganisation of the police and it is about the reorganisation of the magistrates' courts. Those are two separate matters and therefore those two matters should not be contained in one Bill. It would be for the convenience of the House if we had two Bills as we are dealing with separate issues. That is my point. And, depending on the reply, I may decide to divide the House on the matter.
§ Lord Wakeham
My Lords, it is up to the noble Lord as to whether or not he thinks his comments are more informed if he knows what the Bill says. However, I think your Lordships would probably consider it better for the Bill to be published so that informed discussion can take place upon it.
§ The Lord Chancellor (Lord Mackay of Clashfern)
My Lords, the Question is that that this Bill be now read a first time. As many as are of that opinion will say, "Content".
§ The Lord Chancellor
My Lords, I think the "Contents" have it.
Bill read a first time, and to be printed.