§ 3.4 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Rooker)
My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill be now further considered on Report.
Moved, That the Bill be further considered on Report.—(Lord Rooker.)
On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ Clause 34 [Police powers for police authority employees]:
§ Lord Dixon-Smith
moved Amendment No. 132:Page 32, line 9, at beginning insert "Subject to subsection (11),The noble Lord said: My Lords, Clause 34 provides that:The chief officer of any police force may designate any person who…is employed by the police authority",under one of four categories: as a community support officer, as an investigating officer, as a detention officer or as an escort officer. Amendments Nos. 132 and 129 provide, first, that this should be, "subject to subsection (11)". At the end of the clause we seek to introduce a new subsection designed to ensure that the chief officer may make such designations only if he has already received the approval of his authority in an approved annual policing plan. This seems an entirely proper procedure which I am not sure is covered adequately anywhere else in the Bill; namely, that it has to happen.
In previous debates the Minister commented that it would be "inconceivable" that this would not happen but, as I have pointed out before, we must concern ourselves with what is set out on the face of the Bill rather than what we think will happen. It is important that the approval procedure is subject to the proper 825 planning process and to the approval of the police authority before the chief officer makes any designations, if he is so minded to do. I beg to move.
§ Lord Rooker
My Lords, I can be extremely brief in my response. I agree with the spirit of the noble Lord's amendments. As proof of that, if the noble Lord will look at Clause 35, subsection (4), he will see that we require annual policing plans to give details of the existence or otherwise of designated support staff under Schedule 4 to the Bill, as well as any plans for the establishment of a community safety accreditation scheme. Obviously it will be for the chief officer to draft the plan, which will need to be approved by the police authority before it is issued. However, I believe that what is already contained in that part of the Bill meets the noble Lord's genuine point, with which of course I agree.
§ Lord Dixon-Smith
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for that explanation. I think that I can take his assurance that the point is covered sufficiently. For that reason, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Lord Harris of Haringey
moved Amendment No. 133:Page 32, line 9, at beginning insert "Subject to subsections (2A) to (2E) below,The noble Lord said: My Lords, I rise to move Amendment No. 133 and to speak also to Amendments Nos. 135, 172, 175 and 177. Perhaps I may deal first with Amendments Nos. 133 and 135 which address the arrangements for accreditation. No one would dispute that the proposals in Part 4 of the Bill represent a potentially significant step change in policing in this country.
It is no secret that both the Metropolitan Police Authority, which I chair, and the Metropolitan Police force are keen to take advantage of the proposals for community support officers set out in Clause 34. But, as has frequently been mentioned in the House, we are aware that that enthusiasm is not shared by all of our colleagues in other police authorities and forces.
The most welcome of the Government's proposals is that the question of whether to have community support officers will be a matter of local choice. For a moment I shall put to one side the scepticism expressed by some noble Lords that the Government might use money or other incentives to force local police authorities and chief officers down that route. Assuming that the decision will be a purely local one, the question is who should make that decision and how should it be made. As the Bill stands, it would be entirely a matter for the chief constable or, in the Metropolitan Police area, the commissioner.
It is presented as a purely operational decision about the deployment of resources. I suggest that it is much more than that. The introduction on our streets of community support officers exercising police powers has significant and far reaching implications for the 826 nature and style of local policing. Like the regular force, if I may call it that, community support officers will need to have both the consent and confidence of local communities if they are to provide reassurance and operate effectively.
At the heart of these amendments is the view that any local decision to have community support officers must be supported by local people. It is the job of police authorities to represent the views of those local people and to oversee the force on their behalf. Decisions about the principle of whether to have such officers should therefore be a matter for the police authority. Decisions about whether or not to designate this or that individual as a community support officer are rightly for the chief constable.
The amendment seeks to address that key element, which is missing from the Government's proposals. It would ensure that decisions about whether to introduce, or indeed continue with, community support officers in an area are made by the police authority. To help in that decision, the chief officer would prepare a draft scheme, which would address fundamental issues such as how the use of community support officers will help to meet the national and local policing priorities and local policing plan; the standards or criteria individuals will need to satisfy to become community support officers; how such officers will be trained and equipped; and the costs and benefits of using such community support officers.
I do not see this as a bureaucratic or burdensome exercise. On the contrary, as a matter of good management practice, before taking such a step the chief officer would need to think through all of these issues. However, by drawing the issues into a draft scheme, the police authority could then engage in a full and open debate about the issues with their communities and with partners such as local authorities.
I am aware that the Minister may choose to direct me to the provision in Clause 35(4), but I wonder whether those who drafted that provision had any first-hand experience of developing and agreeing a policing plan. The policing plan is not a vehicle for the kind of decision-making process and considerations of principle which my amendments are designed to provide. I welcome Clause 35(4), but let us be clear about what it does. It simply requires the chief officer to say in the draft policing plan whether any powers in Schedule 4 will be applied to designated persons. As the clause is drafted, the chief officer could simply report that this has been done after the event.
There must be agreement and approval by the police authorities, as the representatives of local people, before such steps are taken if we are to increase and strengthen community confidence in policing. The whole purpose of the introduction of community support officers is to provide local public reassurance. That is why the arrangements are there.
I am quite prepared to accept that the detailed drafting of my amendment may not be to the Government's taste—I am sure that we can come to suitable arrangements before Third Reading if that is a problem—but the principle is clear.
827 I turn now, briefly, to Amendments Nos. 172, 175 and 177. Under Clause 35, chief officers will have to produce a community safety accreditation scheme setting out the arrangements for giving police powers to persons outside the police service, such as local authority wardens. It seems rather like the scheme that I have asked for in relation to designated persons. I wonder why there is no proposal for a similar scheme for the introduction of community support officers. I welcome the fact that in Clause 35, at least, the Government think it appropriate for the police authority to he consulted by the chief officer about any such scheme. I suggest that we need to take that one small step further and provide for the police authority to approve the scheme.
As with community support officers, the introduction of the safety accreditation schemes must have the support and consent of local people. Local police authorities will wish to seek the views of their communities on whether such a step is right for their areas before making a decision. The introduction of community support officers, wardens and others patrolling the streets with police powers is likely to have a significant impact on local policing. It is important that we monitor that impact and the effect of these schemes on local community confidence and reassurance. That is what Amendment No. 177 seeks to do.
Taken together, these amendments propose a number of minor safeguards as we venture into this brave new world. If the Minister feels unable to accept them, I hope that he will at least be prepared to take them away for consideration, and, if necessary, discuss ways of how these concerns may be accommodated before we come to Third Reading. The principle is a simple one. These are important additions to the portfolio of arrangements that can exist in a local area for the policing of that community. That is why the involvement, participation in discussions and approval of the police authority must be an essential part of the process of implementation. I beg to move.
§ 3.15 p.m.
§ Lord Rooker
My Lords, I thought that the police authority squad would have come out before I responded to my noble friend. Perhaps it will do so later.
I am grateful to my noble friend but I cannot accept his amendments. Basically, I do not accept the premise on which they are founded. We had an interesting debate yesterday about accusations that the Home Secretary is trying to micro-manage police forces. I do not think it is the function of police authorities to try to micro-manage chief constables. That is not their function. Their function is oversight. They should not have the role set out by my noble friend in his amendments. I hope that in due course noble Lords will agree to the Bill as drafted.
These amendments are similar to the ones discussed in Committee when we were debating the processes provided for in Clauses 34 and 35. We have no difficulty whatever with the proposition that a chief 828 police officer should make the police authority aware of his plans to extend any powers to civilian police authority employees. This is provided for in the Bill. But there is a danger—my noble friend pre-empted me—that some of these amendments would create an additional burden and duplicate what we have tried to provide in the clauses.
I accept that police authority members have a role as a voice on behalf of the general public—that is their function—but no one is going to kid me or anyone else that they actually represent anyone. I see signs of dissent from the representatives of police authorities. I know that I am in a minority on this because, quite clearly, there is a large caucus of representatives of police authorities. I wish there were more policemen than police authority members in the Chamber to balance matters up a little.
Let us not beat about the bush. The fact is that if one person in three knows the name of his Member of Parliament, I doubt whether more than one person in a thousand knows the name of any member of the police authority in his area. Let us not elevate this issue way beyond what it is. I accept that the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, will he known, by name, by all the people in the area of which he is a member of the police authority.
I say that as a caveat because police authorities have the crucial role of oversight as part of the tripartite arrangements. They should look at what is happening and what the chief officer is doing—that is absolutely crucial—but giving them the powers proposed in these amendments would be going much too far.
Amendment No. 133 would require a chief officer to consult his police authority before designating the community support staff. Amendment No. 135 is wide-ranging and comprehensive. It is very similar to an amendment tabled in Committee but has a new subsection in regard to equipment following our debates about this issue in Committee. As well as being comprehensive, it is potentially time consuming in its effect.
The amendment proposes a system of consultation with the police authority which is based cm establishing a designation scheme for the extension of powers to support staff employed under Clause 3.4. The proposal would be drafted by the chief officer and submitted to the relevant police authority in the same way as the annual policing plan. As I said in Committee, in many ways this would duplicate the police plan process which is now established.
Amendments Nos. 172, 175 and 177 are concerned with the community safety accreditation schemes and, again, are a factor in a role for the police authority for which we have already tried to cater. Amendments Nos. 172 and 175 require the chief officer to "obtain the approval of" the police authority rather than to "consult" it.
Amendment No. 177 instructs the police authority to keep itself informed about the workings of any accreditation scheme. I am not sure that such prescription is necessary. I should have thought that, if an accreditation scheme was up and running, part of 829 the oversight role of the police authority would be to keep itself up to date and aware of the schemes that were operating, and to monitor the chief officer's aspirations in setting up and designating the scheme in the first place.
I say to my noble friend with all due respect that we have not overlooked the role of the police authority—far from it. It would be foolish if we attempted to do so. But we believe that the day-to-day operation of designation and accreditation properly falls to the chief officer. We shall have a more detailed debate shortly about the functions and decisions of the chief officer, the role that is given to him or her in the Bill and the degree of freedom that a chief officer has to make decisions regarding community support for the police in a wide range of matters. I do not want to preempt such debate by going into the matter in detail now.
As I said in Committee, in Clause 35 we have already made it a requirement that plans to designate support staff or to establish a community safety accreditation scheme are set out in the annual policing plan. The Police Act 1996 ensures that drafts of that document are submitted by the chief officer to the police authority. Therefore, the annual policing plan is the right vehicle for the consultation. I accept that it is a question of striking a balance between the operational role of the chief officer and the oversight role of the police authority.
I emphasise that a balance must be struck between the oversight role of the police authority and the operational role of the chief officer. I firmly believe that the issue is one of oversight for the police authority in terms of what the chief officer has decided to do, after consultation, regarding the powers in the Bill, and not itself taking that decision—which, frankly, is the implication of this group of amendments. I hope that, on reflection, my noble friend will not press his amendment.
§ Lord Harris of Haringey
My Lords, I have always understood—perhaps it is a mistaken assumption—that when you are addressed by a colleague who prefaces virtually every paragraph with the phrase, "with all due respect", it often means, "I have complete contempt for the arguments that you have expressed". I have to say—with all due respect to my noble friend—that to talk about the issue being one of micro-management rather than oversight misses the point.
The amendment does not require the agreement of police authorities as to which members of staff are designated as community support officers. The requirement is that, on one occasion in advance of the introduction and use of these powers, a report should be brought forward by the chief officer concerned to the police authority setting out all the matters contained in the amendment. There is no requirement for an annual presentation and annual approval. The proposal relates to the initial occasion, and to subsequent occasions as and when required.
830 The key point is that, prior to the introduction of community support officers, a report examining the thinking processes as to why their introduction is a good thing, how it would work in practice, what the relationship would be with mainstream officers and so on, would be brought to the police authority for approval. I do not call that micro-management. I call it proper oversight and proper accountability.
I do not believe that the amendment involves any additional burden. It merely says that chief officers will be required to codify in a report the detailed considerations that I hope will take place before any decision is made. It implies an additional burden only if those thinking processes have not been gone through beforehand. If my noble friend is suggesting that community support officers will be introduced without proper thought in advance, fair enough; this imposes an additional burden. But I should have thought that your Lordships would want to make sure that those thinking processes would go forward before things happened.
I am tempted not to rise to the argument about police authorities not representing anyone and not being recognised. I nearly missed introducing this amendment because I was stopped in the street by a gentleman from Hounslow—whom I had not previously met, as I rarely visit Hounslow—who wanted to discuss the affairs of the police authority. I suspect that other police authority chairs will find that that is not an uncommon situation.
This proposal is not about duplication of the policing plan: it is about bringing forward proposals for major changes. The Government have presented the idea of community support officers and the accreditation of warden schemes as a major new plank in the policing and safety of local communities. If it is such an important and significant new plan in the policing arrangements for those areas, then it is appropriate that there should be proper consideration by the police authority before such a scheme is implemented.
I put this proposal forward from the point of view of someone who believes that such schemes are important and that they should go ahead. I do so from the point of view of a police authority which, by and large, thinks that such schemes are important and should go ahead. But we also recognise the importance of there being proper discussion about how this scheme would work, and about its implications and impact. I know from recent discussions with the Police Federation that it has strong feelings on these issues. For that reason they should be properly aired and discussed and approved by the police authority.
Therefore, I am very disappointed with my noble friend's respectful response to the amendments that I have proposed. I hope that he will consider the matter further in the light of the points made. In the expectation of such further consideration, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Lord Dixon-Smith
moved Amendment No. 134:Page 32, line 14. leave out paragraph (a).The noble Lord said: My Lords, we come to the point in the Bill where our disagreements with the Government as to the nature of policing in this country become slightly sharper.
Clause 34 provides that a chief officer may designate civilian staff in certain capacities. The categories set out in the clause are: community support officer; investigating officer; detention officer; and escort officer. Three of those categories of civilian operators would not be mightily exposed to the public. An investigating officer may well meet members of the public during the course of an investigation, but he or she is not concerned with the maintenance of law and order on the streets. A detention officer will work within police stations and an escort officer will work between police stations. Under Schedule 4 they all have varying and appropriate police powers.
But a community support officer will be a policeman on the street. He or she will be the public face of the police force. That causes us very real concern. This is the place where the reputation of the police is made or damaged. We believe that it is wrong to put people on the streets who do not have full police powers, if they are to have police powers at all.
It is already possible for local authorities to have street wardens, community wardens and all kinds of people of that nature if they wish. They do not need the provisions in the Bill in order to do that. Many authorities already have people operating in this way. It is not at all unusual to see a major shopping centre being "policed" by one of the various well-known major security firms. Such people operate without police powers and they fulfil a very useful role.
However, the Government are suggesting something different: that people can go on the streets with a limited and not determined basket of police powers. We shall deal later with the schedule setting out the powers of community support officers. It is a basket of powers from which the chief officer may pick those that he wishes to apply. That is a recipe for public confusion over and above the devaluation of the police presence that we think that the public have a right to expect on the streets.
We think that it would be appropriate to delete the category of community support officer from this clause. Amendment No. 137 follows the same principle. This is a fundamental difference between us and the Government. We think that the Bill's proposals will diminish the stature and status of policing on the streets. There is a demand for increased support, but we do not think that this is the best way of providing it. We think that it could be done better.
There is plenty of work of a policing nature to which police civilians can reasonably be applied through the other three categories of support, if that is considered desirable to relieve the problems of policing, without exposing them to full contact with the public on the streets. In this limited way, we think that it is appropriate to delete the category of community 832 support officer from this part of the Bill and leave the other designations there for the chief officer to call on in aid of his police. We shall come to accreditation schemes later. There is an issue of principle that we wish to pursue in this limited category. I beg to move.
§ 3.30 p.m.
§ Lord Waddington
My Lords, I hate making the same point time and again, but the Minister has done nothing so far to meet the frequently expressed concerns that financial pressure might be brought on the police to designate people as community support officers when, all things being considered, they would not have taken that step. The Treasury is in a position to say that any increase in police budgets ought to be conditional on the police using the funds available to them in the most economical way and recruiting community support officers, who are cheaper than fully trained police officers.
So far, the Minister has merely asserted that that will never happen. Assertions are not good enough. The time has come when an argument must be put forward. We all know perfectly well that these are just the sort of arguments that are advanced by the Chief Secretary in a public expenditure round. When he looks at the money that the Home Office has asked for on behalf of the police, he will say that there are better ways of spending that money and making it go further. The most obvious way of making money go further is to use community support officers much more often.
Assertions will not do any longer. The noble Lord owes it to us to explain why it is not possible for the Government to table an amendment at Third Reading to make it plain that no pressure can be brought on the police in the way that we fear and that in no circumstances would funds be withheld because of a failure by a police authority or a police force to employ a given number of community support officers. If he is not prepared to do that, there is an argument for deleting from the Bill the power to designate community support officers.
§ Lord Peyton of Yeovil
My Lords, I strongly support every word that my noble friend has just said. This provision is at the root of a great deal of worry among members of police forces throughout the country, because they fear that the Government are trying to get police services on the cheap. That is a real worry. It would be a disaster if the provision were used to make do with lower standards.
§ Lord Fowler
My Lords, in many ways this is the most crucial part of the Bill. I remain very concerned about the Government's proposals. The obvious response to the rise in crime and lawlessness and the increase in muggings in some of our big cities is to increase the strength of the police service by having more police on the streets and on the beat. Every opinion poll seems to show that that is exactly what the public want. I know of no opinion poll that has indicated mass support for community support officers. People want policemen to be there.
833 As the noble Lord, Lord Condon, pointed out at Second Reading, London is under-policed compared with New York. There is no conceivable doubt or serious debate about that. The police service in London is under strength compared with overseas cities such as New York. New York was not the only city that increased the strength of its police force. Other cities in the United States have done the same and a similar comparison can be made with other cities in this country.
We are urging a stronger police service against the background of the Government having made virtually no addition to the police service in their first four years in office. They now talk about record numbers, but that simply means that they have just managed to edge ahead of the position that they inherited in 1997. It is worth remembering that zero tolerance was not introduced in New York until the city authorities had recruited 8,000 more policemen. As far as I know, civilian support officers were not promoted as the fulcrum of that drive.
I am not saying that everything that the New York police or other American police forces do is right. I had a wonderful example the other week when I was writing an article on zero tolerance. I rang up the New York police and asked for confirmation of the name of their chief officer. I was ringing on a Sunday and I was told that the office was closed and there was a public holiday on Monday, but by Tuesday someone might be able to tell me the name of the chief officer of the New York police. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Condon, never had such problems in the Metropolitan Police.
New York is not the only example. First and foremost, I am an enormous supporter of the British police service. The characteristic of the British police service is not that it has been equipped much better than others or that it has much more scientific support; it is the relationship between the public and the police. One of the reasons for that is that the public have seen the police as approachable people and as friends to whom they can go for help on the street. I fear that the Government's proposals will damage that. I want the police to carry out what I regard as one of the most basic functions of any police service.
As my noble friend Lord Waddington has just said, the only reason that the Government are seeking to introduce new people is that it will cost less than recruiting trained police officers. Those of us who have experienced a public spending round with the Treasury know perfectly well that that is precisely the type of argument that the Treasury would put forward.
One does not have to think too deeply about that. I am sure that the Treasury thinks that the provision is a vastly good idea and that it will put more people on the streets for the money being spent. However, that is not the question. The question is what kind of people the Government will get and whether they will get better people. I very much doubt that that will be the case.
834 Yesterday, I raised with the Minister the issue of the Police Federation and its total opposition, as he knows, to giving police powers to community support officers. I am sure that noble Lords will have seen the federation's very long and detailed submission on the issue. One of the federation's basic and, I think, very important points is that community support officers would be deployed in some of the potentially most difficult if not dangerous situations facing police officers generally. Providing public order support is one example.
In Committee, community support officers were compared to traffic wardens. That is a totally false comparison. We are not talking about traffic wardens or people dealing with parked vehicles. We are talking about community support officers who will have to deal with the typically difficult situations that occur daily. What powers will they have? They will be able to use reasonable force to detain a person for up to 30 minutes pending the arrival of a constable. That seems, again, to beg almost every imaginable question.
I realise the pressure that the Treasury must have applied to the Government on this issue. Indeed, it is not even a new proposal within this Government; the previous Home Secretary, Mr Jack Straw, proposed it in the previous Parliament. However, I do not believe that community support officers will bring to the country a better service than we have now. I tell the Minister that the public would overwhelmingly prefer to see more trained policemen on the streets fighting crime. The public recognise crime for what it is—a very major issue—and I do not think that they want community support officers. I think that they want trained policemen. They are the ones whom the public trust, and the public would like to place their trust in them.
§ Lord Condon
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, for reminding me of my request for more police officers in London. I shall continue to champion the cause of more police officers across the country. However, I believe that some important principles are at stake in this proposal. Clause 34, as drafted, is an enabling clause. I have made it absolutely clear that I would not support it if I felt that it in any way diluted or undermined the office of constable. I believe that, with proper explanation and reassurance, it will not undermine the office of constable. I therefore find it difficult to support the amendment.
In recent days, I have checked again with former colleagues. The current position, after the earlier debates in your Lordships' House, is that about one quarter of the police services in the country would like actively to explore the provision. That number will grow. They have no intention of rushing into it or of regarding it as a cheap substitute for regular officers. However, about a dozen police services are now fairly keen to explore the notion of community support officers.
I therefore hope that the Minister will be able to provide sufficient reassurances that this will not be policing on the cheap, a substitute for regular officers or to the detriment of specials. I hope that he can 835 reassure us that this is an enabling provision to allow chief officers and local communities to explore other innovative ways of providing policing and police-related services in their areas.
§ 3.45 p.m.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, in this debate I stand somewhat humbly before the noble Lord, Lord Condon, in view of the length of his experience and the closeness of his contacts. Nevertheless, I was a little surprised to hear him describe the support of about a quarter of police forces for the provision as almost enthusiastic. I understand from those among the Metropolitan Police who support the Bill that almost every expression of support has been accompanied by a caveat. One example is that the provision would be acceptable only if more fully trained policemen were not available. Another is that they would support the provision only if the funds to implement it were ring-fenced.
In support of the earlier comments of my noble friend Lord Waddington, I should like to quote from the chief constables, police authority chairmen and clerks of Cheshire, Cumbria, Greater Manchester, Merseyside and North Wales. Among other things, they said that they were concerned that the local choice proposed in the legislation might be,eroded by the application of centrally held, ring-fenced funding specifically for one or other of the several options available".They also called for local discretion to be allowed. In Committee, my noble friend Lord Waddington and I tabled an amendment to Clause 5 to that effect. As the life of that clause seemed pretty tenuous, I did not move the amendment, and Clause 5 did indeed disappear. However, should the Minister persist on this course, it would seem proper to guard against the use of the Treasury's big guns in forcing chief officers of police to adjust their employment lists to reflect the cheapest option rather than the best option for policing their areas.
§ Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville
My Lords, the Minister will recall that, in Committee, when winding up the debate on the principle which we are now discussing, he expressed pleasure that the final five speeches—all made by Peers with some London experience—had been rather more in favour of the Government's position than had those preceding them. I rise now because I am conscious that, of the five who spoke on that occasion, the others—except for my noble friend Lady Gardner of Parkes—are absent today. I also did not want the Minister to take my silence as an indication that I have been wholly convinced by the arguments of all my colleagues.
I am not, however, resiling from the position that I adopted in Committee. I have taken that view particularly because the legislation is permissive, discretionary and optional, and because it will be for individual forces in different parts of the country to decide whether they wish to make use of this power. I also support the general thrust of the Government's position because I am in favour of decentralisation.
836 On the other hand, a real point has been made by my noble friends Lord Waddington, Lord Peyton of Yeovil and Lord Fowler on the potential hazards in relation to Treasury interference. The Minister and I have taken, in other fields and in other worlds, a separate interest in higher education. Those who followed that particular narrative cannot help but recall that, once the Treasury had adopted the view that the unit of resource in polytechnics should be cut whereas the unit of resource in universities should not be cut, all was well until the polytechnics were turned into universities—not a decision of which I personally approved, but that is what happened. At that point, the Treasury moved against the unit of resource in universities, where the move was rather more formulaic as the principle had been established at the polytechnic level.
I therefore believe that it is in the Government's own interest to say, as my noble friends have urged the Minister to do, how they will handle this particular issue and particular fear. It is in the Government's interest to provide reassurance on the issue which arises out of this innovation. If my noble friend Lord Elton is right about the caution expressed by supporters of the concept in the Met—I am not surprised by that caution—and if the concept is to be carried forward and made a success, it is even more important that there are no misgivings about that concept.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, I seek to correct the record. As far as I understand the position, the Met is warmly enthusiastic about the measure; I quoted its account of its colleagues.
§ Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville
My Lords, I do not think that that affects the basic point I seek to make. If the measure is to be carried forward, those forces that do so must be confident that it will not result in a diminution of police resources for the rest of the service throughout the country.
§ Baroness Gardner of Parkes
My Lords, as the noble Lord has just mentioned, we were two of the five who expressed a certain point of view on the matter in a previous debate. I listened carefully as the noble Lord. Lord Dixon-Smith, moved the amendment. I absolutely agree that we do not want the police force to be shortchanged. I seek an assurance from the Minister on that.
I support the views of the noble Lord, Lord Condon, as I did in Committee. I could not vote against retaining the measure in the Bill as I believe that many areas would benefit from it. In Committee I said that people wanted borough constables. Since then, my husband's ward, which used to be considered the safest ward of any borough council in the whole of London, has been hit by a spate of muggings. Some people pay £1,000 per household to be able to 837 telephone a private security guard at night to tell him that they are on their way home. The private security guard meets them outside their house with a big dog and enables them to walk safely in the door. That is all very well if one has a spare £1,000 with which to pay for that. However, many people are not in that fortunate position. Unless we have some additional facility of the kind we are discussing there will be clear discrimination between those who can afford personal protection on a private basis and those who cannot. I refer to providing borough constables in conjunction with the Metropolitan Police.
The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea considers that the people we are discussing will be recruited mainly from former police or former military personnel wherever possible; their training will be provided in collaboration with the Metropolitan Police and will be virtually police standard; they will be issued with protective clothing and will follow operational protocols. A number of precautions are envisaged. Obviously, the matter has been carefully thought through. For that reason, although I would not vote against the measure of the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, I do not agree with him and I certainly reserve my position on the matter. I hope that the Minister will be able to reassure us that there will be no reduction in the standard police force, or the funding thereof, in order to provide this facility as an additional service for the public.
§ Lord Rooker
My Lords, in the words of the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, there is a fundamental disagreement between the two Front Benches as regards the two amendments we are discussing. However, that does not necessarily apply throughout the House. My remarks will be general as we shall discuss the specifics of the matter later. I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes, for reasserting her views. I hope that I shall be able to reassure noble Lords that the provision we are discussing does not constitute an attempt to shortchange the police service, to cut police numbers, to have policing "on the cheap" or to diminish the quality of personnel on the streets. I hope that I shall succeed in reassuring noble Lords on that point.
I say to the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, that in my experience as a Minister—that may be cut short due to the remarks I am about to make—the Treasury has virtually wrecked every good idea I have come across in the past five years due to the narrow, short-term view it takes. Sometimes it takes a Mr Gradgrind approach and does not seek value for the community simply because one cannot always say at the outset what sum of money will be involved in a measure although one knows that ultimately it will result in a saving and a better quality of life for people. I assure the noble Lord that the Home Secretary will not allow penny-pinching approaches to wreck the concept of community support officers as that government policy is accepted throughout the Government following the publication of the White Paper. There will be no acquiescence in any attempt to short-change the police service. That is not the policy of the Government.
838 I refer to what I thought were the rather grudging comments of the noble Lord, Lord Fowler. However, I accept that this Government's record in this regard is not so brilliant in that police numbers dropped after 1997. However, at the end of March this year the figure is projected to be 128,000—we do not have the final figure—and by March next year 130,000. It is interesting to note that these days the Home Secretary does not fix police numbers. I refer to the point made by the noble Lords, Lord Waddington and Lord Peyton. The Home Secretary does not fix police numbers as was the case in the past. Chief constables do that from within their budget. The idea, therefore, that we might impose a financial squeeze on police numbers—that was the impression noble Lords gave although it is obviously not my view—and try to force chief constables to act in a way they do not wish is nonsense because the Government do not set police numbers.
§ Lord Rooker
My Lords, I shall give way in a moment. We provide the funding and we want more police but we do not set police numbers for each police force as in the old days, if I may put it that way. As a point of principle, therefore, a financial squeeze—I shall mention this matter in more detail later—is not a "runner".
§ Lord Bradshaw
My Lords, on a point of clarification, the police authority approves the relevant budget and the number of policemen. Although we had a 2.3 per cent rise in money from the Government, the police authority set a budget which was 14.3 per cent above—miles above—that set by the Government. Council tax payers pay for that extra policing. There is no doubt that a big rise in policing is paid for locally.
§ Lord Rooker
My Lords, nothing I said gainsays that. In a slip of the tongue I may have said that chief constables fix the budget. The police authority fixes the relevant budget. But it is at those two parts of the tripartite arrangement where that is fixed, not from the centre, as used to be the case. The noble Lord, Lord Waddington, mentioned financial pressure on numbers but that is not the case as regards what were described as "regular constables".
The noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, referred to a fundamental disagreement. I assume that the argument about finance is irrelevant to the fundamental disagreement he mentioned. I shall try to deal with some of the points that have been made about finance and the views of other police forces on the matter. Those views vary enormously. Our discussion on the matter has been shorter than in Committee when we had a wide-ranging debate. I now "home in" on the fairly fundamental approach of the amendments we are discussing.
Noble Lords should be aware from our earlier discussions why the Government want to allow chief officers to appoint properly trained and accountable 839 community support officers and give chief officers the option to extend to such individuals limited powers. The introduction of community support officers is a key element of the White Paper proposals and, indeed, figured as such when the White Paper was published in December last year. I accept that the introduction is a major innovation in the policing of this country. We are not trying to hide that fact; far from it; rather we celebrate the fact that it is a major innovation in policing in this country.
Community support officers will boost the police presence on the ground, not replace it. They will help us provide higher visibility of authority figures. They will tackle challenging problems of anti-social behaviour in our communities, increase public reassurance and provide better intelligence gathering. Community support officers are in no way a replacement for regular police officers. They will not be allowed by the Home Secretary, the Treasury or anyone else to be a replacement for regular police officers; that is not their function. When we have reached the figure of 130,000, with the support of police authorities, the Home Secretary will, as I said in Committee, set a new overall target for the country. That is not a question of saying, "We have got to the plateau of 130,000. Bring in the community support officers and fix police numbers nationally". That is not our intention. We shall review the matter and fix a new overall target when we have reached the figure of 130,000.
Community support officers will complement rather than replace the police and they will be in addition to the Specials. We have debated the Specials and, regretfully, a decision has been taken, although we are taking action in respect of that. They will perform those functions that do not require the full powers and expertise of a police officer.
Community support officers will have a clearly focused role. They will specifically target low-level crime, anti-social behaviour and what might generally be called environmental problems. They will have a role to play in community regeneration and will free up police officers' time for those functions that require all of their training and skills. I shall soon give a couple of examples.
Anti-social behaviour is a serious problem that blights many communities. It ranges from graffiti and environmental problems to vandalism, bullying and harassment. All of those problems can make people's lives an absolute misery. However, in the grand scheme of things they are not the most important matters for the police—although that is not to suggest that they are ignored. Noble Lords will understand what I mean. Such low-level criminal activity alters people's standard of living—more so, in some ways, than bank robbery does. Bank robbery is a major crime but what are classed as low-level crimes can have a greater effect on people's lives.
Anti-social behaviour takes up a significant amount of police time but it is difficult for police forces always to provide an effective and targeted response. Community support officers who are based in 840 communities, on estates or in parts of boroughs will have a key role to play in deterring and tackling such anti-social behaviour.
As the noble Lord, Lord Condon, said, the Metropolitan Police has been arguing strongly for the introduction of community support officers, particularly in view of the difficulties of providing high levels of security policing while fulfilling the public wish to see a widespread police presence tackling low level crimes and anti-social behaviour, which is in addition to other work.
The proposal to extend limited police powers to police authority employees—I stress that that is what they are—who are designated as community support officers is intended to enable chief officers to address those low-level crimes without taking skilled officers away from other duties. We remain of the view that the potential effectiveness of community support officers would be significantly and unnecessarily undermined if there was no possibility of their being granted certain limited and appropriate powers. The potential menu of powers in Schedule 4—I believe that it contains 13 separate powers, although I speak from memory and we shall discuss it later—is a proportionate and realistic response to the problem of anti-social behaviour.
The concept of community support officers is an enabling concept; it does not involve prescriptive legislation. It involves the flexibility necessary to respond to local needs and expectations. Issues are not the same all over the country or, indeed, within London. It allows, but does not require, chief officers to appoint support staff to provide a visible presence in the community, with powers that are sufficient to deal with minor disorder, if they —that is, chief officers— so choose.
It is important to remember that there are safeguards throughout this part of the Bill regarding both the designation of support staff and the exercise by them of limited police powers to ensure that powers are used appropriately. For example, it provides that chief officers must be satisfied that the person is suitable to carry out the relevant functions. They must he capable of carrying them out and they must be adequately trained. Community support officers will not be vigilantes or "have a go" characters in uniform; they will be properly trained and equipped professionals. They will be quality people. I regret some of the language that has been used in this regard. Reference has been made to diminishing the state of the police and diluting the quality of the people on the street. The fact is that professional people are involved.
The chief officer may modify or remove designation, including the powers conferred on community support officers at any time. Support staff, including community support officers, will be employed by a police authority and will he under the direction and control of the relevant chief officer. They will come within the remit of the independent police complaints commission, which we discussed in relation to Part 2 841 of the Bill, and they will be required to have regard to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act codes of practice.
Community support officers are an essential part of reassurance policing. They will have a vital role to play in support of the police not only by tackling anti-social behaviour, as I said, but also by increasing public safety and contributing to community safety. They will enhance the relationship between the police and communities; they will not diminish it. They are an important part of the police family. They will boost the police presence on the ground and certainly improve police intelligence by providing more "eyes and ears" on the streets. The amendment would prevent our being able to complement the work of police officers.
Community support officers will have a much narrower role than that of regular police officers, which means that they are less likely to be redeployed when something serious happens. There is nothing more irritating for communities in some of our big cities, and even in rural areas, than when the local community police—the bobby and the "bobbess", if I can use politically correct language—are called away to another area because something has happened down the road. The expertise that they have built up would be absent for a week or a month. The local community bobby goes missing because he has been redeployed by the chief constable to another locality where a bigger police presence is required. It is less likely that community support officers will be redeployed in those circumstances, which is very important.
The amendments would condemn communities to the risk of the continual redeployment of "their" PC, and it would condemn central London police officers—the regular police officers—to having to maintain their anti-terrorism watch. Early this year, possibly when we were discussing the White Paper or perhaps during Second Reading, one of my noble friends said that some of the regular uniformed police officers were getting pretty bored with parts of their anti-terrorism role, which involved marching the streets of central London and being the eyes and ears of the police. Moreover, they were being taken away from areas in which they would have been much more effectively used deploying their full police powers. It is very important to point out that the police officer gets fantastic training and that we want to be able to use all of that training in the circumstances in which police officers are required. Community support officers will be much more narrowly focused. They will be trained but will not be sent into areas or asked to perform roles for which they are not trained.
The proposal to remove the relevant provisions from the Bill implies that the Opposition Front Bench is saying that it cannot trust chief officers to make the right decisions for their areas. We think that chief officers are the best people to make those decisions, in consultation with their police authorities. We are trusting and enabling chief officers to make those local decisions. We are not saying that chief officers have to 842 have community support officers. We are saying that they can have community support officers if they believe that that is in the interests of their area.
This is not policing on the cheap. Community support officers will not replace police officers. As I said, the Government are committed to an overall target for police numbers. When we reach that, we shall set a new target.
It is worth reminding noble Lords of Diary of a Police Officer, which was published last year and which I and other noble Lords quoted in, I believe, Committee. The research on which it was based showed that the average bobby spent 43 per cent of his or her day in the police station. Only 17 per cent of a patrol officer's time was spent out on the street. There must be a better way to organise matters so that quality police officers are used in a full policing role and, in areas where the full role is not required and where eyes and ears are required for low-level activities, other quality trained people are used.
The noble Lord, Lord Elton, and, indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Condon, referred to other police forces. I agree that mixed views are held. Assuming that Parliament places the powers into the Bill and that they are available to chief officers, I suspect—I do not know because I have not held any individual discussions—that if the Met is first out of the starting gate on this issue, it will almost form a pilot project. Obviously London does not represent England; that is true. Nevertheless, it will almost form a pilot.
It is not true that only the Met is keen on this proposal. However, from the caveats that have been given—I am happy to place some of them on the record—I also accept that some chief officers and, indeed, police authorities, say on the one hand, "We'll have them if we cannot have more police officers", while, on the other hand, in some areas a chief officer wants them but the police authority does not. For example, the chief constable in Northamptonshire is discussing with his police authority the possibility of piloting a rural version of community support officers in the force area. Such a pilot in an urban situation would provide a nice contrast to that of the Met. I agree that the chief constable of Nottinghamshire has indicated that he will be keen to pursue the option in his force. That is interesting.
The noble Lord, Lord Elton, who is not in his place, mentioned that the chief constables, police authority chairmen and clerks of Cheshire, Cumbria, Greater Manchester, Lancashire, Merseyside and North Wales said that they believe the issue would be eroded by the application of centrally held, ring-fenced funding. They wanted local discretion, whereas the chief constable of Nottinghamshire indicated that he wanted to pursue the option provided that the Government made available ring-fenced funding for community support officers.
Therefore, on the one hand, some chief constables and police authorities are saying, "This is great if the funding is ring-fenced"; on the other hand, others are saying, "This is great. If it is not ring-fenced, then we have local discretion". Therefore, the idea that a 843 uniform pattern is to be laid down by central government is absolute nonsense. I believe that we must get the thrust of the overall enabling policy correct on the face of the Bill. We must then allow local decision-making within the context of making it absolutely clear that these will not be replacement, alternative police officers; they will be complementary and additional to police officers. If that is set as the parameter, I believe that that is where the fundamentals can be agreed.
The chief constable of Warwickshire said that he would support the introduction of community support officers as proposed in the Bill. He went on to say in an analogous way that we have seen the benefit of classroom assistants, and the National Health Service benefited from auxiliary nurses. He also made a point in relation to funding. I accept the caveats about funding, which forms a key element. In Lincolnshire, I understand that the chief constable has indicated that he personally supports the proposal, but his police authority has indicated that it is not in favour. Therefore, there will be a mixed bag of views.
The whole point is that this clause and this concept of the legislation—I am trying to stick to the central point—is enabling. No one will be forced to implement the proposal. Those concerned will be professional people of quality who are properly trained. They will not be alternative police officers. Their powers will be extremely limited but nevertheless extremely valuable at local level.
I shall run through a few of the provisions; I shall not list them all: the issue of fixed-penalty notices in respect of offences of disorder; fixed-penalty notices for dog fouling, littering and riding on the pavement; the power to use reasonable force to detain a person to prevent him from making off—a fair point has been made in relation to that because the other accredited people will not have that power; the power to confiscate alcohol from young people; the power to confiscate cigarettes; the power of entry to save life or limb or to prevent serious damage to property; the power to stop vehicles for the purposes of a road check; and the power, established under the Terrorism Act 2000, to maintain and enforce a cordoned area.
Quite clearly in those circumstances the police would he on the case. However, in respect of maintaining the enforcement of a cordoned area, one could ask, "Is that what we really want or do we want the officers to investigate a terrorist offence?" It would be ideal to use properly trained uniformed officers, as they would be, who were part of the police family and employed by the chief constable, to maintain a cordoned area. It would be ideal for such officers to have the power, under the Terrorism Act, to stop and search vehicles and items carried by drivers and passengers and items carried by pedestrians, but not to search them, in the company of, and supervised by, a constable. Therefore, one constable together with several community support officers would be able to do the job with the power to stop and search vehicles.
No one can argue that this does not appear to be a good idea. It may be said, "Well, no, we do not want any staff". I appreciate that the noble Lord, Lord 844 Dixon-Smith, was not arguing about detention officers and escort officers. But, fundamentally, the same arguments could be made because of the powers that they will have, designated by the chief officer. Therefore, I believe that one can take a broad sweep approach to this issue and say, "Let's trust the chief constables".
It is for the Home Office and the Home Secretary to get the mechanism right in respect of our spending review and the allocation of resources. We want this proposal to work. It is a flagship policy—I make lo apology to noble Lords for that—both in the White Paper and in the Bill. It is our job to ensure that resources are available in order to get the policy on the road so that it can be seen to work by other police forces.
It is clear that not all 43 police farces will have community support officers. Certainly they will not all have them straightaway. However, we want to provide the opportunity for chief officers who see the proposal as a good use of quality professional time to expend effort on training and recruiting such staff in order to augment and complement their existing police forces. Although I see that a fundamental difference of opinion exists, I hope that if the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, presses the matter to a vote it will be seen that the proposal has a great deal of force. The Home Office is not being at all prescriptive because this is enabling legislation.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Lord Dixon-Smith
My Lords, the Minister has argued long and forcefully in favour of the Government's proposals. I am bound to say that we must take into consideration what he has said. I commence by saying how pleasing it is that we have achieved a far more focused debate than we did in Committee at this stage when we confused community support officers with accredited support officers. As a result, the debate became quite difficult to follow. We have trespassed into that area once or twice with noble Lords mentioning the possibility of accredited, situations in "borough police forces". I believe that we should keep off that issue and deal with it in later discussions on the Bill when appropriate. But, frankly, I find the phraseology used rather frightening.
Perhaps I may deal with the canard of trusting chief officers of police. We do not question their integrity or anything else when we argue against these proposals. I have absolute confidence that, if this power is brought into law, chief officers of police will exercise it with the utmost responsibility. I have no hesitation in saying that. Let us put that to one side. However, there is an issue of principle.
Another point raised by the Minister which caused me a certain amount of concern but which is, in a sense, a diversion, is the boredom of professional policemen with their anti-terrorism responsibilities in London. I was not sure whether, implicit in those remarks, was the suggestion that community support officers might be deemed to be appropriate to do that work. I am even less certain of the reaction of the 845 diplomatic community if that were to take place. Perhaps we could hear about that matter at a later stage.
§ Lord Rooker
My Lords, I must mention that community support officers will not replace the Diplomatic Protection Squad—far from it. That is not the issue. I did not mention it, but the fact that police officers were brought into London from outside after 11th September was mentioned in the House. We saw them every 50 yards, walking around in pairs, keeping eyes and ears open. That work had to be done, but it took fully trained police officers from other areas when the work could have been carried out by trained community support officers. That point was made at the time.
§ Lord Dixon-Smith
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that clarification. I listened with care to what he said and it was open to another interpretation. I am immensely relieved to hear what he has said. We should be clear that the funding of the police will not change in any way as a result of the introduction of this policy. Whether a chief officer can make additional resources available for such people is a moot point indeed. We should be clear that although this proposal is in the Bill and was in the Government's White Paper last autumn, it was not in their election manifesto last year so we cannot be absolutely certain that the public completely support the proposal.
The fact is that we have an issue of principle. I completely understand the reaction of chief officers of police, who see this option coming, saying that they will want to consider it. If that is a condemnation of anything, it is a condemnation of the funding that is provided by the Home Office for the police service and nothing else. Local police forces, through their local communities, are calling on local taxpayers to pay for the police service over and above the normal funding and normal standards that the Government expect to be provided. That may be all well and good and it may be the Government's intention.
As a man who has always believed in local responsibility I cannot and do not object to the principle, but we must be quite clear about what will happen. Some areas that are prosperous and well off will feel that they can do that but some areas that are not so fortunate will not feel that they can. The idea of approved standards of policing and quality of policing in a relatively uniform manner across the country will fly out of the window.
I believe that we are justified in treating this point as an issue of principle. I am grateful to my noble friends Lord Waddington, Lord Peyton of Yeovil and Lord Fowler for their support. My noble friend Lord Elton raised the important issue of caveats to ensure that Treasury pressure cannot be exerted to bring in such people. I accept that my noble friends Lady Gardner of Parkes and Lord Brooke have some hesitations about that view, although I am sure that they will accept that there is an issue of principle. But we have the problem of trying to meet local demands.
846 I do not believe that this is the time to decide this issue. We shall consider carefully all that has been said. In our view, these proposals devalue and will diminish the quality of policing on the street. We are not concerned with what takes place in the stations or once an investigation is under way; we are concerned with that most open and public aspect of policing, the bobby on the beat. While what is being proposed may have some beneficial side-effects, on balance it is regrettable. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendment No. 135 not moved.]
§ Lord Dixon-Smith
moved Amendment No. 136:Page 32, line 32, leave out from "duties" to "that" in line 34.The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a fairly simple amendment. I can see the Minister's ears pricking up for this one and at my lack of faith in local discretion. The Bill provides a basket of police powers from which the chief officer of police may choose. He can choose to give different individuals different ranges of powers from within that basket. I believe that that is a recipe for public confusion. A chief officer may decide within his policing area that all the staff will have the full basket of powers or a particular section of the basket of powers.
There is then the problem that a neighbouring police force may pick a different section of the basket of powers so that a police force on one side of a boundary may operate with one set of powers and a force on the other side may operate with another set. Not only do criminals not know or acknowledge police force boundaries, but the general public lives in precisely the same way. Someone living on one side of a boundary may work on the other side and he would have to learn two lessons instead of one.
We believe that if the basket of powers is relevant it should be used. We shall return to the argument about those powers later on. Either the basket is appropriate or it is not. We believe that that is a perfectly proper matter to be determined at this time. These amendments are designed to narrow the scope for confusion by removing discretion and to ensure that the basket remains complete so that only one basket of powers is applied around the country. We believe that that is a reasonable thing to do. I beg to move.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Lord Bassam of Brighton
My Lords, we have come full circle. I recognise the amendment as similar to one that was moved in Committee. As the noble Lord said, it would have the effect of removing flexibility and flexibility would be taken away from chief officers. Yesterday we had a debate about how this Government wanted to centralise matters and to determine everything from the centre. Here we are providing for local flexibility and a degree of local autonomy.
The other ironic aspect of the amendment is that it would also have the effect of requiring designated staff to have powers that in all probability they would never be required to use.
847 We want to make the introduction of designated officers, including community support officers, a local decision. We want to give chief officers the flexibility to mould their introduction to meet the precise needs of the community rather than prescribing this from the centre.
The noble Lord appears to be fearful that this part of the clause, as it is drafted, could mean that all support staff have different powers and that that would confuse the public. In practice there may be two or three groups of powers for each category of support staff in each force area, developed for and identifiable by the communities in those areas.
In Committee we used the example of the Metropolitan Police who have indicated that they will establish just three categories of community support officers, each performing different functions, hence having different powers. Different forces could have different functions for their community support officers and hence different combinations of powers. Indeed, some variation is to be expected when a new concept such as this is being introduced, and that can be beneficial.
Similar arguments could apply to other categories of support staff. In order to suit local policing arrangements, chief officers may well choose to confer on support staff only some but not all of the powers available under Schedule 4. The clause enables chief officers to tailor precisely the designation of support staff to suit those local needs. We believe that local flexibility is worth having. The amendment would remove that.
By insisting that chief officers extend the full range of powers to each category of support staff, we argue that that would prejudge the roles that they are to fulfil. Throughout these clauses we have aimed to allow local flexibility, hence the clauses are enabling rather than being prescriptive.
The amendment would require, for example, that a detention officer who would only be dealing with handling people in custody would also have to be trained in interviewing suspects; that a community support officer working on community regeneration would have the same anti-terrorism powers as a colleague performing a security function. I question the need for that. If a designated officer had powers that he was not using, he would still be required to be fully trained and competent in the exercise of those powers. That is totally unnecessary and puts an additional financial burden on forces.
If a community support officer performing a security role will only be using three or so powers, what is to be gained by training him or her in the exercise of all the powers in Part 1 of Schedule 4? By the time they come to use those powers they may have become so rusty in understanding them that they have forgotten how to exercise them.
We are not saying that chief officers must select variations of powers from each menu; we are simply saying that that option should be available to them. That is not the same as automatically giving each designated person different powers. I do not believe 848 that chief officers would want to do that. Leaving aside the observations of the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, on potential confusion for the public, it would be an unnecessarily complex situation and create extra bureaucratic and training burdens for the police. However, there may be some circumstances in which the flexibility provided by this clause will prove to be useful to chief officers.
That said, I suspect that over time we will see some convergence in the approach adopted by forces in the light of experience. That is to be expected. Through best practice forces will no doubt learn from each other to secure the best use of the flexibility given. The code of practice to be issued under Clause 40 will play an important part in encouraging that. If, over time, experience suggests that only limited variations in powers are appropriate, we can promote that good practice through the medium of the code of practice.
This is an area for local discussion. It is an area where local flexibility is to be welcomed. It will enable experimentation to take place and that will be a valuable role for community support officers and others to fulfil. It will be left to the discretion of the chief officer to determine how that is best done, though guidance will be issued through the code so that the roles are better understood. Having said that, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw the amendment.
§ Lord Brightman
My Lords, is it possible that there is a defect in the drafting of the amendment? If the amendment is accepted, as I understand it subsection (6) will read:A designation under this section shall confer powers and impose duties…that are to apply to the designated person: and for this purpose the applicable Part of that Schedule is…".What schedule? Schedule 4, referred to in the previous line, comes out. So perhaps the noble Lord can explain what "that schedule" means.
§ Lord Dixon-Smith
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord for drawing my attention to that point. It highlights the problem of being an amateur when drafting amendments. The noble and learned Lord is quite right; without the schedule I have removed the purpose of the amendment and therefore the amendment is at fault. That can be corrected.
I was interested in the Minister's response. He was talking about having to train community support officers in all four of the possible disciplines mentioned. In fact they would only need to be trained in each basket. A community support officer would need to know about the police powers relating to community support officers in Schedule 4. An investigating officer would need the powers of an investigating officer. The two do not need to mix.
The criticism made was that we were prejudging the roles that such people would play. But what is extraordinary about that? We prejudge the roles that the police themselves play. Their powers are defined by law. That is not an optional basket. If it is deemed that 849 those powers should be changed, it is a matter for Parliament and not for chief officers. That is not an inappropriate decision to take.
We shall need to think seriously about this matter. For now, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendments Nos. 137 to 139 not moved.]
§ Schedule 4 [Powers exercisable by police civilians]:
§ Lord Dixon-Smith
moved Amendment No. 140:Page 121, line 6, leave out paragraph 1.The noble Lord said: My Lords, Schedule 4 provides a menu of police powers for community support officers. This point parallels our earlier debate. Police powers should not be exercised by non-police and this group of amendments is to give effect to that. The House will remember that we have already put forward an amendment to remove the category of community support officer. If that is done we do not need the powers in Schedule 4.
Amendment No. 40 simply applies consistency with the earlier amendment. The Minister may not even need to reply to it. But in the event that finally there is a decision that community support officers should come into being—we will no doubt reach that at Third Reading—we may well need to look at this basket of powers in detail. However, as far as I am concerned, Amendment No. 140 was tabled to make that point. We could not have had the earlier debate without including these amendments on the Marshalled List. But there may come a time later in the consideration of the Bill when this becomes a serious issue. I beg to move.
§ The Deputy Speaker (Viscount Allenby of Megiddo)
My Lords. I have to say to the House before calling Amendment No. 140, that if it is agreed to I cannot call Amendment No. 141.
§ Lord Dholakia
My Lords, Amendment No. 140 is grouped with Amendments Nos. 141, 142 and 144, some of which are our amendments and one is tabled jointly with the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith. A number of amendments in this group and in following groups deal with the exercise of police powers by civilians. We could debate each of them at length but that would be time consuming.
The schedule provides for specified police support staff and for civilians to be given particular powers in identifiable circumstances. There is no dispute that better use ought to be made of police resources through more effective deployment of support staff but there is a need to exercise great care in granting powers that, while making policing easier, might increase anxiety in the community.
One problem is the Bill's terminology. There is confusion because of the widespread use of different terminology and varying public perceptions of the new powers. The provisions need to be rationalised. In particular, I recommend that consideration be given to a title that is common to all the functions in 850 question—perhaps something in the nature of "community safety wardens", to ensure that everyone understands the meaning of a second-tier police service.
Under the amendments, community service wardens would be accredited by the police but be under local authority control. We make a distinction in the case of the Metropolitan Police but propose greatly reducing the powers proposed by the Government.
The Police Federation strongly opposes the Government's proposals. They and we know already of the confusion surrounding various strands of policing support. There are community safety officers, community wardens, neighbourhood wardens—one could go on. Even the Prime Minister managed to use four different titles when referring to the CSOs that the Bill proposes. There is a need for a rational approach to avoid confusion.
We must make sure also that the public are able to distinguish between the powers of police officers and those proposed for second-tier support. The solution is clearly to indicate the nature of the new powers and to use a title such as "community safety wardens". We propose also that wardens wear the same visible uniforms and display identifying badges, to indicate the local authority by which they are controlled. All wardens will have been accredited by the police, after assuring themselves of an individual's suitability for the role. Wardens will also be required to complete some training to the satisfaction of both the police and the local authority.
The police and local authorities already work closely together. Our proposal would put community safety wardens at the heart of local community working. They would have fewer powers than those proposed in the Bill and everyone would understand what those powers are.
The Police Federation helpfully drew attention to the possible implications, in exercising the power of detention by CSOs, of Articles 5 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. I should like the Minister to comment. I draw to his attention also the federation's concern that CSOs could potentially find themselves in dangerous and volatile situations, in providing public order support and operating at times of terrorist threat. I accept the Minister's comments, but does he not agree that sudden escalations of violence are not unknown and require the highest standard of training and professionalism among those who confront them? What kind of expert training does the Minister intend for officers likely to find themselves in such circumstances and whose lives might be put at risk?
The Bill should keep it simple by identifying police officers and then others in a supporting role, so that the public will be neither confused nor uncertain.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Lord Peyton of Yeovil
My Lords, I confess that I am in danger of being swept along and losing my balance by the sheer enthusiasm of the Minister who is in loco 851 parentis to the Bill. He seems such a zealous convert in its cause that he can see no objections. I believe that he has misunderstood one point that we have tried to make. It is not so much that we suspect the Home Secretary of some devilish scheme to compel chief constables to make use of designated officers. Rather, we fear that they will feel under pressure, because of their limited budgets and lack of resources, to make use of cheaper manpower. I wish that the Minister would get that clear in his mind.
The noble Lord, in his enthusiastic advocacy, referred to this part of the Bill as a major innovation. Some aspects of it puzzle me. I am particularly interested in Amendment No. 142, which seeks to leave out paragraph 2 of Schedule 4. That schedule refers to a designated person with a limited function, who will not receive the full training given to a police officer. The Minister said that such an officer would have the advantage of not being so likely to be called away because of the pressures on a chief constable.
The schedule allows a designated person to stop someone whom he suspects of having committed an offence and to demand the individual's name and address. If the individual declines or the designated person suspects that he is being fobbed off with a false name and address, he has the power to request the suspect to wait with him for 30 minutes while a police constable is sent for and turns up.
I cannot help feeling that it is unrealistic to expect a person who has not received full police training to wait with his suspect for 30 minutes on the roadside, perhaps in the rain, while a police constable is sent for to do the job that he—and only he—is fully trained to do. That scenario verges on the unreal to such an extent that it would be as well if the Minister would agree to leaving that provision out of the Bill. It asks an awful lot of a designated officer, who is not as well trained as a policeman. That officer would for up to half an hour be the acting policeman and that is a little too much. I hope that the Minister will bear in mind the worry that the schedule represents a rather devious means of obtaining a larger force on the cheap.
§ Lord Rooker
My Lords, I respond to the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, by saying that there is nothing devious about this matter. We have been totally upfront. We want a greater uniformed presence on the streets. We are not being devious about it. I have always said that it is a flagship part of the White Paper and of the Bill. We are not hiding that light under a bushel.
I am sorry if I have come across as being zealous. I am more jealous than zealous. If these powers had been available during some periods of the 27 years when I served my constituency in the other place, my constituents' lives would have been vastly improved. So I fully support them.
With regard to our not listening, as a result of discussion in Committee I have returned—yesterday and today—with a sack load of amendments to the Bill. Half of today's amendments will be government ones. So we have gone away and thought about the 852 matters. We also went away to think about this aspect. But we are still of the view that the powers are worth keeping.
The noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, did me a favour. He accepted that this group of amendments was really part and parcel of Amendment No. 134. I have 30 pages of notes which explain each and every one of the powers. But I do not think that that is the issue at stake.
The central point made by the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, is that it is important that people clearly understand the powers of their community support officers. It is incumbent on the police authority and the chief officer when they designate and choose from the menu that there is clarity and not confusion about the powers of the support officers.
What they are called colloquially does not matter. There is nothing in the law that talks about a "hobby on the beat". But people will go to police consultative meetings and other public meetings and will talk about bobbies on the beat because people understand what is meant by that. I accept that "community support officers" is a piece of legalise in the Bill. I do not know whether in future they will be known as that. The London authority has already said that it will designate three types of community support officer and probably give a name to each of them, but the name is connected to the police because they will be police authority employees. However, the public needs clarity.
Perhaps I may address the view of the noble Lord, Lord Peyton. He asked me especially about paragraph 2 of Schedule 4. He jested about detaining a person for 30 minutes without a power of arrest. He asked when the clock would start ticking and so on. Given the support officer's existing powers—whether it is in order to remove alcohol or because of anti-social behaviour—basically we need him to be able to get a person's name and address. In most cases he will be limited to asking for a name and address. He may get details that he does not think are true and which he wants to check. He should be reasonable and not oppressive. In order to check he could say, "Will you wait until a police constable comes?" If the person makes off, the support officers will not have the power to go after him, as it were, "to search and rescue". I make clear that the officers do not have a power of arrest.
In a way we must strike a balance in the powers between having support officers dealing with some of the low-level crime matters that I have discussed earlier and the matters dealt with by the fully trained police constable. I cannot say how this will work out in practice. It will be for the community support officer to judge whether to detain, say, a gang of youths and ask for their names and addresses; as indeed it would be for a police constable on his own to make a judgment whether to apprehend a person or to make an arrest. The community support officer would call for extra support. The support officers will be in contact with the police. They will not be isolated out there. They will be the eyes and ears of the police. 853 They will have the ability to contact the station and to contact patrolling officers when they need that kind of support.
§ Lord Peyton of Yeovil
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for giving way. I failed to ask him the right question. Given that the suspect may not be an entirely reasonable, patient and well-behaved character, is it not verging on the unreasonable to expect a not fully-trained designated officer to handle him for 30 minutes while he waits for a policeman to arrive? That seems to me to be a little unrealistic.
§ Lord Rooker
My Lords, I do not think that that is unrealistic or unreasonable. As I have said, it depends on the circumstances. Whether it is a gang of marauding, strapping youths as opposed to strapping "kidlets"—although they can be equally dangerous these days—it is a matter of judgment. The support officers will be trained. They will not be sent out untrained with these powers. They will go through the processes and the scenarios of what happens—as indeed police officers are trained—and then make judgments. They will use their common sense in the ultimate circumstances. But it is not unreasonable for them to have these modest powers to detain for 30 minutes if they need a name and address.
After the 30 minutes the officers will not have a power to detain. That is a matter of local contact with the police. It will be a matter of custom and practice and what actually happens in the locality. It will be up to the chief constable and other police officers to make the best use of their community support officers. Time will tell what happens. But the training will be provided to meet those circumstances. I have no doubt that in due course—I suspect although I cannot make these offers—the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, could be appraised of the kind of training that goes on. Other noble Lords could be, because this is not being done furtively. It is not being done deviously, as the noble Lord claims. We are quite open about this matter. We shall be quite boastful of its success in due course.
§ Lord Dixon-Smith
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Peyton of Yeovil for his supportive remarks on the principles that we have been following. I am grateful too to the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, for explaining his amendments and indeed his concerns about the basket of powers and the flexibility within it. It was right that he raised that at this stage. I dealt with this group of amendments as a simple follow-on from the case that we had been arguing that in fact we should not be putting people exercising police powers on the streets who are not in fact full policemen with full police powers.
We have had a long and fascinating debate across various groups of amendments in this field. One point appears to be strongly made. I return to the point raised by the Minister in the diary of a policeman who has to spend 42 per cent of his time on administration. If by legislation we could reduce the administrative burden on that man by one half, so that he only had to 854 spend 22 per cent of his time—nearly one-quarter of his time—on administrative duties in the police station, we would do far more good for the police service than anything that has been proposed here. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendments Nos. 141 to 151 not moved.]
§ Lord Dholakia
moved Amendment No. 152:Page 124, line 39, at end insert—(2) A person to whom this paragraph applies shall not exercise any powers conferred by this paragraph except in the company, and under the supervision, of a constable.The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No 152 I should like to speak also to Amendments Nos. 154, 156 to 158 and Amendments Nos. 159 to 169. There are a large number of amendments in this group. They all deal with the exercising of powers. We believe that persons who undertake powers of search, of entry and of seizure should be under the direction of a police officer. Similarly, Amendments Nos. 159 to 169 would ensure that a constable directed a community safety warden. I beg to move.
§ The Deputy Speaker
My Lords, I must inform the House that if Amendment No. 152 is agreed to, I cannot call Amendment No. 153 under the preemption rule.
§ 5 p.m.
§ Lord Bassam of Brighton
My Lords, the noble Lord has made his intention commendably plain. To a degree, I can understand his caution about the provision. But ultimately I am drawn to conclude that it would be an unnecessary fetter on the police service's ability to make full use of what we are enabling. That is especially true of the first set of amendments. The second set of amendments have a comparable feature in that they would require any powers used by a detention officer to be pursuant to an instruction from a constable. I will say more about detention officers before I conclude my remarks, because there are some particular points worth making about them, but I shall first set out some general concerns about how the amendments would seriously undermine what we are trying to achieve by the Bill.
The purpose of the designation process is to create a flexible and proportionate response to tackling antisocial behaviour and freeing up police officers' time from doing certain tasks. The noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, has emphasised several times how important that is, and it is a shared belief across the House. We want to ensure that we have designated officers who do not require the full skills and training of police constables so that there can be some flexibility of use.
Community support officers, or whatever they are called in the end, will allow police officers to focus on serious crime and public disorder, which is highly desirable and at the top of most people's agenda—street crime in particular—while community service 855 officers will be able to provide a visible, public and authoritative presence on the streets to deal with minor but nevertheless corrosive misconduct. That may help us to advance the notion of there being zero tolerance of certain behaviour. The other types of designated individual will have specialist and specific roles that can tie up police officers' time and mean that they are unable to spend more time in public carrying out the duties and functions for which they are uniquely trained and equipped.
We fear that the amendments would prevent us from doing that to the full because they would remove the flexibility that we have frequently discussed this afternoon and which is a key feature of the Bill. They would require police constables to accompany community support officers or investigating officers when carrying out some of their functions, rather than allowing the designated officers, who will be thoroughly trained and accountable, to carry out the task themselves.
Although I understand the noble Lord's concerns, the amendments would lead to duplication, inflexibility and added bureaucracy. That is undesirable. We want designated people to work closely with the police in what could be accurately described as a virtuous partnership. Like most noble Lords, I am sure, I should prefer to leave decisions about deployment and making the best use of valuable human resources to the chief officer, rather than prescribing in the Bill a requirement that will constrain the chief officer's operational discretion, which is key to making good use of staff in any situation.
I said that I would also comment on the amendments relating to detention officers, which work in a similar way and to which the same arguments apply. We must ensure that police officers do not have to spend unnecessary time in the station and that we do not constrain how the chief officer and his senior management deploy their staff. We want properly trained and accountable detention officers to be able to carry out their range of functions without constant supervision and being second-guessed by a busy police officer in attendance.
§ Lord Dholakia
My Lords, the Police Federation drew attention to the possible implications of the exercise of power of detention by community support officers that the Minister mentioned under Articles 5 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Is the Minister satisfied that there are no difficulties in that regard?
§ Lord Bassam of Brighton
My Lords, that point has been fully checked out and we are satisfied that the provision is fully compliant. The issue has been raised, rehearsed and considered and we are confident that that is the case.
The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 provides significant safeguards in relation to what happens in the police station. For that reason, the amendments are unnecessary. For example, as we discussed in Committee, in future an inspector must authorise an intimate search of a detained person and 856 in practice a custody officer will instruct a detention officer to take fingerprints without consent or undertake a non-intimate search of someone who was detained.
We think that we have the checks and balances right. We have taken a flexible but accountable approach that allows chief officers to exercise the necessary local discretion in deploying their staff resource—whether police officers or designated support staff. The amendments would fetter, damage and undermine that important point of principle. With that explanation, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment. We fully understand his cautious approach to the introduction of the provisions, although they have been broadly welcomed.
§ Lord Dholakia
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his explanation. I must study carefully what he has said. As the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, said earlier, the powers vested in community support officers is a matter of serious concern to us. We may return to it at Third Reading. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendments Nos. 153 to 162 not moved.]
§ Lord Dholakia
moved Amendment No. 163:Page 130, line 15, leave out paragraph 24.The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment concerns the provision for the intimate search of detained persons. We raised the matter in Committee and raise it again on Report. We must carefully consider what is appropriate and what is excessive. I have studied carefully and at length the explanation offered by the Minister in Committee, but I am still concerned.
The Minister said:Code of practice C which contains guidance on the conduct of intimate searches is currently under review as part of the general review that we are undertaking of all codes of practice. We are including clearer guidance for inspectors on exercising discretion in cases where a doctor or nurse is not available to conduct an intimate search".—[Official Report, 7/4/02; col. 483.]We certainly hope that that code of practice—or at least some of the trends that may be reflected in it— will be available to your Lordships' House before Third Reading, so that we can decide whether to table an appropriate amendment. Intimate searches are likely to create serious problems, especially in relation to community support officers, whether or not they take place in the presence of police officers. I beg to move.
§ Lord Rooker
My Lords, on the last point made by the noble Lord, I shall certainly ensure that whatever is available on PACE code of practice C is made available in the Library, if it is not already. What I can provide, I will. However, although I have a long note about it, I am not sure whether the information is fully public.
857 It is a serious issue; I am not gainsaying that. Intimate searches are not made on that many occasions, but they are the most intrusive procedure that can be carried out under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. It is right that the House should address the issue. I said in Committee that there was no point in having civilian detention officers if we gave them only limited powers, preventing their performing the full range of necessary duties.
Intimate searches are comparatively rare, and there is no obvious reason why a suitably trained detention officer should not carry one out in appropriate circumstances. Indeed, it would be better to have the search carried out by a trained detention officer—someone who does it all the time—than by an untrained police officer. Most importantly, the significant safeguards set out in Section 55 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and the PACE code of practice will continue to apply.
Under PACE, codes of practice are subject to extensive statutory consultation and the affirmative resolution procedure. I regret to say that the relevant code will not be available for Third Reading; I shall find out why. However, I shall provide the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, with whatever is available.
There are safeguards in Section 55 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act. I described them at some length in Committee, as the noble Lord has seen in Hansard. The circumstances in which—at present—a police constable and—in future—a designated detention officer can conduct an intimate search for potentially dangerous articles are very limited. Such a search may be carried out only on the authority of a senior officer and must be conducted by a registered doctor or nurse, unless such an officer considers that that is not possible—for example, if the senior officer reasonably suspected that a person had concealed a harmful article, such as razor blades, on his person and no doctor or nurse was readily available to conduct the search.
The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and the codes contain significant safeguards, which Schedule 4 does not alter. The Bill does not affect the existing safeguards. Any intimate searches done by those designated under the schedule will be done only with the authorisation of a senior officer and will be in limited and controlled circumstances. I shall take further advice on what I can provide to the noble Lord before Third Reading.
§ Lord Dholakia
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendments Nos. 164 to 171 not moved.]
§ Clause 35 [Community safety accreditation schemes]:
§ [Amendment No. 172 not moved.]
§ Lord Dixon-Smith
moved Amendment No. 173:Page 33, line 33, after "him" insert "as community safety special constables858 The noble Lord said: My Lords, here we come to the point at which our difference of opinion with the Government follows on from the argument we had earlier. The argument is not whether such officers should exist but how they should exist.
We argued earlier that we should not put people with police powers on the streets unless they were fully empowered policemen. The community safety accreditation schemes set out in the Bill provide a golden opportunity to restart completely the special constable scheme. We have already heard that the number of special constables has gone down from 19,000 to 12,000. Short of some radical change in the approach to the Special Constabulary, that diminution cannot be arrested.
We propose that the people to be accredited should be enrolled as special constables. That is a radical new approach, and it would, of course, involve a heavier training cost for the police and heavier commitment. We must also consider the down side: some communities may feel that they would not have the absolute control over such people, if they enrolled as special constables, that they would have if they were simply accredited community safety officers. The accredited community safety officer will operate within tight geographical limits, whereas the special constable is under the control of the chief police officer. It might be argued by some communities that the chief officer could remove such special constables from the place of service where they receive their bread and rations. I do not see that as a problem.
I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, is not in his place; he could correct me if I am wrong. I think that he has come to an arrangement with the Metropolitan Police under which the Greater London Authority will provide 100 police officers to police London's transport system. The mayor had a real concern that, if there were some form of emergency, the policing of the transport system provided by the Greater London Authority would cease, and his 100 policemen would be taken away. I understand, however, that there is a contractual arrangement with the Metropolitan Police. They are fully trained policemen, who are there to police London's transport, and there are financial penalties payable by the Metropolitan Police if those officers are removed from the transport system to deal with some financial emergency. That is a perfectly reasonable way to arrange things. I hope that my understanding is correct.
We are still wholly convinced that people on the streets acting as policemen should have full police powers. That is the merit of the status of special constable. A special constable may, at present, be a volunteer. We suggest accreditation as a different route to that status. He may be part-time, but, when the special constable is in action, he has full police powers. That is preferable to the diminished status of accredited community safety officer.
If such a change were made, it would completely transform the Special Constabulary. Consequential amendments might be required to make it work. I 859 accept that. However, it is an important matter, and we feel that we ought to press it at some stage. I accept the concerns of local authorities who might feel less secure about keeping the accredited community safety officers in their community. However, I have already suggested one way in which that concern could be answered. The other point is that some local authorities are beginning to discuss having their own police officers on the streets, outwith the normal police service. I am not sure that I would find that principle particularly tolerable.
I am aware that there is an increasing volume of support for the Government's proposals. However, that arises out of desperation because people feel that they are not receiving the policing they want or ought to have. That is not a proud motivation on which to introduce changes in the Bill but our amendment would at least improve that situation. On that basis, I beg to move.
§ Baroness Harris of Richmond
My Lords, I rise to address Amendments Nos. 173 and 174 and the amendment tabled jointly by the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, and the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, which states that if the local authority is the employer, it must be deemed to be a fit and proper person. I believe that that is right. However, I want to address my most important points to Amendments Nos. 173 and 174.
I understand the Opposition's reasons for bringing forward the amendments. They are attempting, as are we on these Benches, to remove the worst parts of the clause. I respectfully suggest that we are both trying to achieve the same ends but are approaching them from different angles.
Our concerns about making CSOs special constables is that people who apply to be Specials are not necessarily the same people as those who apply to be security officers, neighbourhood wardens and suchlike.
A Home Office circular, HOC 12/2000, sets out guidance on eligibility for recruitment, including ineligible occupations and activity. At present, traffic wardens, school crossing patrols and parking attendants are ineligible to be special constables. Indeed, at paragraph 23 the circular recognises the difficulties of distinction. It states:However, since most members of the public do not appreciate the distinction between police authority and local authority wardens, the Working Group concluded that any uniformed persons enforcing parking or controlling traffic in public places should be ineligible for recruitment to the Special Constabulary".The same applies to what are referred to as "non-Home Office constabularies" or "private police forces". Again, I quote from the Home Office circular. Paragraph 24 states:(for instance, parks police, police forces maintained by government departments, and other bodies with constabulary powers not maintained under the Police Act 1996). The powers of such individuals are prescribed by law and relate to the particular duties they are to perform on behalf of their employers. Special Constabulary status would enable them to go beyond the confines 860 of existing legislation in respect of their normal employment and there might be problems in ascertaining accountability if they were involved in a policing incident during their normal employment".The circular goes on to state at paragraph 32:Holders of these occupations might be tempted to use police uniform or the police organisation to advance their personal business interests—presumably, either because they would have constabulary powers and police training, or because they would have access to information as police officers that would be denied them as civilians. This potential enhancement to an employed function is both unfair and unmanageable, and it is recommended that bailiffs, warrant officers, private detectives, and inquiry agents should not be appointed as special constables".Security personnel, guards and doormen are also ineligible; neighbourhood wardens are ineligible; civilian detentionofficers are ineligible; and civilian staff employed by police authorities, who deal with the public and whose employed function would be enhanced or a business advantage to the police service gained by having constabulary powers are ineligible.
For all those reasons, we believe that the proposals are perhaps not the best way of dealing with these matters. I greatly regret that we on these Benches cannot wholeheartedly support the amendments from the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, and the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman. I reiterate that we want the same, or similar, ends and I hope that we can move forward in that spirit.
§ Lord Bassam of Brighton
My Lords, this is an interesting area of debate and discussion. We are trying to focus on having members of the public acting as volunteers within the Special Constabulary while at the same time creating a "broader family" of uniform presence to achieve and secure public order and have people doing appropriate jobs. I can see where there is a debate between the two Opposition Front Benches as to how that is best achieved, but we are trying to get the balance right.
On a number of occasions, the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, and Members on the Liberal Democrat Front Benchhave made the point that there has been a falling away in the number of special constables. The noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, sees the potential for accredited community safety officers as a way of pumping up those numbers. I can see the attraction of that, but the problem is that we are talking about two different things.
The problem with the noble Lord's amendments is that there is a confusion in his mind about what an accredited community support officer would be doing and the roles, duties and functions of special constables. My speaking notes contain the following good example. Let us take an accredited neighbourhood warden appropriately attired in his usual neighbourhood warden outfit—i:n my area they wear rather nice orange jumpers and ride orange push-bikes and they feel comfortable with that—which is a casual livery. Let us say that the neighbourhood warden, who has the powers of a Special, is confronted with a situation in which he might want to use them as a Special. What does he, or she, do? Does he take off for the local telephone box, have a quick spin, change 861 and become a uniformed presence? Where does it begin and where does it end? That is the great difficulty.
The noble Lord said that it was a radical measure and it certainly is that. It could also lead to considerable confusion. In our view, the amendments would not achieve the result that the noble Lord intends. When we debated the matter yesterday, I thought that we offered a high degree of reassurance as to our intention with regard to Specials, ensuring that their volunteering role was fully recognised, looking at ways in which we can strengthen and improve that and at providing them with extra support. We will also ensure that through an extensive publicity campaign run by the Home Office that we bring more back into play.
We all accept that there are difficulties in the specialist nature of their volunteering role and we must unlock the key which ensures that those numbers are increased and greatly enhanced and that those people provide an additional element of street presence for maintaining public order and so forth. The amendments have a potential to create another regular police force. I am not sure whether that is the noble Lord's intention but such a force would inevitably be less well paid, employed by an outside organisation not under the direction and control of the chief officer. In that sense, there is no difference between accrediting a special and a police constable. Ironically, the latter—the police employee—would be easier. Moreover, as volunteers, Specials embody active citizenship. By removing their volunteer status, they will no longer be members of the community working selflessly for that community. The combined result then is that Specials will no longer be "special"—in all senses of the word.
The other significant effect of the amendments will be to give accredited employees who are not supervised by the police the same range of powers as a police constable, including those of arrest and stop and search. We are having an extensive national debate about the powers of stop and search and how they should be used. Again, this would create difficulties in that context.
This proposal is also in stark contrast to the noble Lord's stance on community support officers. Even though these support staff would be employed by the police authority and deployed by the chief officer, the noble Lord appears to believe that they should not have any powers at all.
The role of Specials is also very different from that envisaged for the accredited individuals. Specials do not deal specifically with anti-social behaviour or issues which do not necessarily require the full powers and training of a police officer in the first instance. These clauses are intended to provide a proportionate response to community safety. They enable the extension of only those powers which are appropriate for tackling community safety and reassurance and, where extended, these powers would be exercised by accredited persons as part of their paid work by virtue of Clauses 35 and 36.
862 Perhaps I may turn to Amendments Nos. 191 to 195. I should remind noble Lords that Clause 36 is aimed at ensuring that if we are to extend police powers in the accreditation of civilians, even in a limited form, and that such powers would be available only to appropriate employees of appropriate employers, it is vital that checks are carried out before accrediting a person under this clause.
For example, we must specify the grounds on which the chief officers must be satisfied before the accreditation is awarded. This part of the Bill ensures that the employer is a fit and proper person to supervise the carrying out of functions by the employee, and that the person is suitable to carry out the relevant functions, capable of carrying them out and adequately trained. To remove those requirements from the face of the Bill, as the amendments suggest, would be to remove certain necessary safeguards that guard against the inappropriate use of police powers.
In the debate in Committee the noble Lord expressed concern over the appropriateness of a non-police employer supervising police functions. He stated that this amendment was aimed at ensuring that the supervision of police functions remained in the hands of the police. Once again, this is in stark contrast to his earlier amendment, which sought to accredit non-police employees as Specials and thus have the full powers of a constable. In any case, as I have already pointed out, Clause 36 is not aimed at the supervisory function of the employer; that is covered in Clause 35.
We believe that subsection (4) must remain in the Bill as it stands. The public will expect that inquiries have been made into the suitability and training of anyone in their community providing an official presence and exercising even limited official powers. The provisions in this part of the Bill are enabling rather than prescriptive. Neither employers nor employees have to become a part of the accreditation schemes. It is their choice to do so if they so wish. However, we must ensure that adequate safeguards are in place so that appropriate individuals are able to provide co-ordinated and efficient support to the police.
I shall turn to Amendments Nos. 196 and 197. Here I suspect that the noble Lord seeks to make it possible for chief officers to charge for training. That may be driven by an appreciation of the far greater costs involved in training an accredited person as a Special. Perhaps the noble Lord can assist us with that.
Ironically, the amendments will also mean that organisations which promote active citizenship in their staff—again a matter which has achieved common support in your Lordships' House—may well be required to pay all the costs of any member of staff wishing to become a Special in an accredited scheme, including the costs involved in accreditation and training. The argument here is easy; that is not much of an incentive for joining up to the Specials when other forms of volunteering are of minimal cost to the employer.
I agree that Amendment No. 202 is a logical extension of the noble Lord's position. It would be silly to have an accredited Special lose his status as a Special 863 if his employment in a given accredited scheme was to end. However, I am sure that, on reflection, the noble Lord will agree that this amendment is dependent on whether his earlier amendments for an accredited special constable scheme are accepted.
Perhaps I may remind noble Lords once again that the accreditation of organisations such as neighbourhood wardens, street wardens and shopping centre security staff is a key aspect of the co-ordinated approach in the reassurance agenda, and thus is a key part of the Bill. On the one hand, volunteer Specials, although an essential and valuable part of the police service, are not the only solution to anti-social behaviour. Most have a normal job and, as such, are available only outside normal working hours such as evenings and weekends. By contrast, these organisations are staffed by those who have community safety and regeneration pretty much as their full-time job. They can provide a full-time community presence, in particular during school hours and school holidays. That is enhanced and complemented by the presence of Specials when they are available.
Of course, these accreditation schemes are not intended to replace Specials. It is important that that is widely appreciated and understood. The Government want to reverse the decline in Specials. Research suggests that improvements in the management, deployment, welfare and support given to Specials are essential to achieve that end. We are considering, with the relevant stakeholders, a number of options for achieving improvements in conditions of service and the management of special constables. We aim to ensure that Specials are used effectively so that they provide an increasingly visible presence in our communities.
I apologise for the length of my response, but I think that it was essential to go over very carefully the issues and to try to get at the core of the argument put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith. I hope that he will take careful cognisance of these points and then reflect on them. Ultimately I do not think that there is a great difference between what we are trying to achieve in ensuring a better and more effective uniformed presence on the streets, in the most appropriate form. I suggest to the noble Lord that he withdraw his amendment.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Lord Dixon-Smith
My Lords, the Minister would say that, wouldn't he?
I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Harris of Richmond, for drawing the attention of the House to the Home Office circular on special constables, in particular that part which relates to people such as traffic wardens, community wardens, parks police and so forth. The reason why those groups are not eligible to be chosen as Specials is very simple: apparently they might feel tempted to use their office as a special constable for their personal gain. The temptation for people to use an office for personal gain is universal and does not apply to these categories any more than 864 it applies to anyone else, anywhere else, doing any other job. If we think that that is a reason why people should not become special constables then, by golly, that is a good argument for why we should not have an accredited scheme at all.
The Minister is right, to the extent that the amendments we have put forward form a package. They do not stand individually; they stand together. That is important because if these accredited people become accredited special constables, they will become a part of the police service. Then they would no longer be directly responsible to their employer for the part of their duties which involved police matters: they would be responsible to the chief officer of police.
To return to a point made by the Minister, the issue of whether one needs to approve their employer or not ceases to be relevant because once they are appointed as a result of the organisation having been approved, they are responsible to the chief constable or the chief officer of police rather than to their employer. We have tabled other amendments to ensure that the accredited community service officers should be responsible to the chief officer of police and not to their employers for that part of their duties related to the police function. We do not believe that it is right to make the third party employer responsible for people exercising police powers.
The noble Lord, Lord Bassam, adduced a number of other arguments. He made something of our amendments in regard to the cost of staff training, but the Bill provides that the cost of training staff under the accreditation scheme falls on the employer. Our amendment simply picks that up. Given that situation, I find it remarkable that the Minister had almost the effrontery to make an issue of it. We have talked a great deal about a chief officer's discretion—this is a matter of discretion, as it should be—and the chief officer would be most unlikely to demand that he should get back from the employer the cost of training.
We believe that it was worth while tabling the amendment. I am grateful to the Minister for assuring me that I was wrong in doing so. I shall be very happy to see the cost of training these people wholly borne by the police, as it properly should be. If we are training and expecting people to exercise police powers— whether they are Specials or accredited community safety officers is neither here nor there—it should be at police cost.
We heard many traditional arguments from the Minister which reveal that his mindset is stuck in the ruts that used to go down roads in the olden days and ensured that the traffic kept going along one line and one line only. He is not thinking with any flexibility about how we could use the proposals in the Bill to bring about much stronger and more lasting changes for the benefit of policing and to revivify the Special Constabulary.
There have been many interesting arguments, but they are specious, inconsistent and thin. I have not heard anything to convince me that the suggestion we are making, even if it is not fleshed out in full detail in 865 the amendments, is the wrong one. But this is not the occasion to press the amendment. I beg leave to withdraw it.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendments Nos. 174 to 177 not moved.]
§ Lord Dholakia
moved Amendment No. 178:Page 34, line 13, leave out from "with" to end of line 16 and insert "any local authority (or parish or community council) falling within the police authority areaThe noble Lord said: My Lords, there are a number of amendments in this group. I apologise for overlooking Amendment No. 176 but I shall refer to it in moving Amendment No. 178 and speaking to other amendments related to Clause 35. There are more than 20 amendments in this group in regard to community safety accreditation schemes.
Amendment No. 176 was tabled because we believe that local authorities need to be included as major partners in consultation. Amendment No. 178 seeks to include other relevant partners who make up the consultation process in areas and communities—a kind of "subsidiarity" argument. As to Amendments Nos. 180, 181 and 182, we would prefer to use "local authorities (or parish or community council)" instead of "employers". That applies also to Amendments Nos. 183 to 189. Amendment No. 184 and other amendments in the group seek to ensure that subcontractors will be sub-contractors of the local authority as the local authority will be the employer. Amendments Nos. 186 and 187 are simply tidying amendments.
I have spoken already to Amendment No. 191. If the local authority is the employer, then it must be deemed to be a fit and proper "person".
Amendment No. 198 is similar to Amendment No. 180, as is Amendment No. 200, which seeks to change "person" to "local authority". Amendment No. 201, again, is a tidying amendment. Amendment No. 203 explains what we mean by "local authority". Amendment Nos. 212 to 218, as I have indicated, seek to introduce the new name we have suggested—"Community Safety Warden"—and there are various similar amendments to which I have spoken previously. All these amendments relate to Clause 35. I beg to move.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Lord Bassam of Brighton
My Lords, the purpose of the amendments, essentially, is to limit membership of community safety accreditation schemes to employees of local authorities. I suspect that this is driven by a concern that accreditation—and hence the limited range of powers available—may not be suitable for employers of what the noble Lord might describe as irresponsible private sector organisations. I can understand that, but we take a different view. We believe that it is sensible to have greater flexibility.
Amendments Nos. 184, 188 and 215 seek to ensure that when the accredited employer is a sub-contractor of a local authority, the sub-contractor is also 866 accountable under the Bill. However, as the subcontractor is the immediate employer of the accredited employee, the argument is not necessary as his responsibilities are already covered by the Bill.
Amendment No. 212 seeks to make it compulsory for an accredited employee to be known as a "community safety warden". Again, the amendment is not necessary because a scheme can choose its own name for its members. The amendment would simply restrict a local discretion to choose other, existing or perhaps more relevant names. We are puzzled as to why the noble Lord would wish to constrain a scheme in that way.
Amendment No. 213 seeks to make it compulsory for a accredited local authority, parish or community council to be consulted before the removal of an accreditation by a chief officer. The net effect of all of this would be to exclude from the accreditation scheme a wide range of organisations which are already involved in community safety, regeneration and community-enhancing public safety. I am puzzled as to why the noble Lord would wish to do that, particularly as he champions enthusiastically a whole range of voluntary organisations in the public sector and may well, in some guise or other, be involved in community safety and regeneration schemes through community safety accreditation programmes. It would also slow down, and perhaps dangerously undermine, any withdrawals of accreditation which a chief officer may wish to make.
In appealing to the noble Lord's liberal inclinations and his broader view of how community accreditation might work, I ask him to think long and hard on how illiberal, constraining and authoritarian are these proposals and measures. I tease, I know, but we do require a broader view if we are to make good use of these powers in the flexible way that I understood, from earlier discussions, the noble Lord endorsed and supported.
I invite the noble Lord to go back to his basic philosophy, examine the thinking behind these amendments and ultimately reject them.
§ Lord Dholakia
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his explanation and his flattery. However, these amendments are brought forward to probe how far the Government are prepared to accept some of the proposals I mentioned earlier in regard to streamlining, rather than widening, the variation of people involved in this exercise.
I should give advance warning to the Minister that we intend to come back at Third Reading with an appropriate proposal to advance the arguments I made earlier about why they should be community safety wardens and the limited powers they should have, not the excessive powers contained in the Bill.
At this stage, I am grateful for what the Minister has said in appealing to my liberalism. I hope that I shall appeal to his socialism when we come to the Third Reading. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendments Nos. 179 to 182 not moved.]867
§ Clause 36 [Accreditation under community safety accreditation schemes]:
§ [Amendments No. 183 to 189 not moved.]
§ Lord Dixon-Smith
had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 190:Page 34, line 34, leave out subsection (3).The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment and Amendment No. 211, which is grouped with it, flow from the previous group of amendments which we have not discussed. For now, therefore, I shall not move the amendment.
§ [Amendment No. 190 not moved.]
§ [Amendments Nos. 191 to 203 not moved.]
§ Schedule 5 [Powers exercisable by accredited persons]:
§ Lord Dholakia
moved Amendment No. 204:Page 134, line 30, leave out paragraph 2.The noble Lord said: My Lords, the amendment relates to powers exercisable by accredited persons which we want to limit. The grouping also includes Amendments Nos. 206 to 210, which add some of the powers from Schedule 4, so that accredited officers can have powers to deal with the minor offences specified in the amendment. I beg to move.
§ Lord Rooker
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, for explaining his amendments. We believe that it is important for accredited persons to have powers to enforce, which is why we have included in Schedule 5 a power to detain, and why, I regret to say, we cannot accept the amendment.
The power to detain is a necessary part of the powers of an accredited person if that person is to be effective in combating the examples of low-level disorder to which I referred earlier. An accredited person will be able to detain a person only where he believes that the person has committed a relevant offence; namely, one of the fixed penalty offences or an offence causing injury, alarm or distress to another person or causing the loss of or damage to another person's property; or has been acting in an anti-social manner and has then failed to provide a name and address. Without the power to detain, an accredited person will have no means of enforcing the requirement to provide a name and address.
As I said earlier, there is a need to strike a balance. It is important constantly to place on record the fact that the schedule does not confer on accredited persons the power of arrest. Accredited persons will not be able to use "reasonable force" to prevent a detained person from making off. Accredited persons who are given the power of detention will be fully trained in the issues surrounding this, including conflict resolution, as I indicated earlier.
We do not agree with Amendments Nos. 207 to 210. We believe that they are in danger of giving inappropriate powers to members of community safety accreditation schemes.
868 I shall not repeat the arguments that I advanced in Committee where I set out my view that we need to be clear about issues of accountability. But it is worth saying that community support officers and others designated under Clause 34 are clearly accountable in the same way as police officers.
Members of community safety accreditation schemes will be different. They will be accountable to their employers for their actions. Bearing in mind the relatively few powers that they would he able to exercise, it would require disproportionate levels of training if they were to be able to use all these powers effectively. I suggest that if noble Lords want their local chief officers to employ people who are not poi ice officers to exercise such powers they should convince their local chief officer to employ some community support officers.
One of our intentions behind the accreditation scheme is to extend very limited powers to individuals who are already active in their communities, particularly in terms of community safety and regeneration in many neighbourhoods in our large cities. That is important.
Requiring a constable to be present might act as a check or a balance to the exercise of these powers, but I am not convinced that this would necessarily be the best use of a police officer's time. I am sure that in some neighbourhoods and on some estates it would undermine the role of the neighbourhood or street warden, for example.
Of course, there is nothing to stop a constable from accompanying an accredited employee. The constable has full powers at all times. No work by an accredited employee will in any way diminish that.
This has been a limited response. Before closing my remarks, however, I should refer specifically to Amendment No. 206. Paragraph 4 of Schedule 5 allows an accredited person to require an individual not to consume alcohol in places designated by local authorities. That has been a hot topic of debate up and down the country for many years. I recall from my own local experience in the West Midlands that Coventry was very much to the fore in attempting to bring back some order to the streets as regards the consumption of alcohol.
Amendment No. 206 limits the power so that it can be exercised in relation to people under 18. Limiting the power in this way would undermine the purpose of the power. Our intention is to enable the accredited employee to pre-empt disorderly behaviour before it arises and, in so doing, support police officers in their efforts to reduce the incidence of such behaviour—not just among minors, but in relation to drinking by adults in parks and in other open places, shopping centres, and so on. Paragraph 5 of Schedule 5 deals with the confiscation of alcohol from minors. In the light of this brief response, I hope that noble Lords will not pursue their amendments.
§ Lord Dholakia
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Earl Attlee
moved Amendment No. 205:Page 135, line 27, at end insert—"Power to use reasonable force to detain person(1) This paragraph applies to an accredited person if—
- (a) he is an employee of a local authority;
- (b) the Secretary of State, on the joint application of the local authority and the chief officer of police, has decided that this paragraph shall apply to accredited persons who are employees of the local authority; and
- (c) the accreditation of the accredited person—
- (i) specifies that this paragraph applies to him;
- (ii) specifies that any or all of paragraphs 1 and 2 are also applied to him; and
- (iii) sets out the matters in respect of which he has the power conferred by this paragraph.(2) The matters that may be set out in an accreditation as the matters in respect of which a person has the power conferred by this paragraph shall be confined to—
- (a) offences that are relevant fixed penalty offences for the purposes of the application of paragraph 1 to the accredited person;
- (b) offences that are relevant offences for the purposes of the application of paragraph 2 to the accredited person; and
- (c) behaviour that constitutes acting in an anti-social manner (within the meaning of section 1 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 (c. 37) (anti-social behaviour orders)).(3) In any case in which a person to whom this paragraph applies has imposed a requirement on any other person under paragraph 2(1) or 3(1) in respect of anything appearing to him to be a matter set out in the accreditation, he may use reasonable force to prevent that other person from making off while he is either—
- (a) subject to a requirement imposed in that case by the accredited person under sub-paragraph 2(2); or
- (b) accompanying the accredited person to a police station in accordance with an election made in that case under subparagraph 2(3).(4) In this paragraph—local authority" means—The noble Earl said: My Lords, my noble friend Lady Gardner of Parkes originally tabled this amendment. Unfortunately, she is unavailable and I agreed to move it on her behalf.
- (a) in relation to England, a county council, a district council or a London borough council; and
- (b) in relation to Wales, a county council or a county borough council."
We return to the need for accredited persons to be able to use "reasonable force" to enforce 30 minutes of detention. I believe that without this amendment Clause 36 is unworkable.
Let us take the example of an 11 year-old boy—the "little darling". He has been detected by an accredited person vandalising a car. The offence would come under the provision in paragraph 2(5)(b) of Schedule 5:to have caused … the loss of, or any damage to, any other person's property".870 Like all youngsters, the little darling knows his rights. The accredited person can use no force to detain him. How will the accredited person enforce the detention? Will not the accredited person be bound by a fairly detailed rulebook? Will he not be in a weaker position than the motorist who, in practice, could and would detain the little darling who had been damaging his car until the police arrived? Of course, if a motorist chose to give a lesson to the little darling, he would be committing an assault and would be liable to prosecution.
My noble friend Lady Gardner of Parkes has modified her original Committee stage amendment. The amendment now provides that an accredited person must be employed by a local authority, and that the local authority and the chief officer must jointly apply to the Secretary of State to have such powers.
In Committee, the Minister had a fundamental objection that the accredited person is not under the direct and specific control of the chief constable. What happens if an accredited person detains me in error? He can do so for 30 minutes, which could cause me to miss a vital business meeting. I would comply, because it would be an offence not to do so and I do not want to have a criminal conviction on my record. That is not a consideration for the little darling, who would just run away. The little darling would not be apprehended, but my business could be seriously damaged by a person who is not under the direct control of the chief constable. I beg to move.
§ 6 p.m.
§ Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville
My Lords, it is reasonably known that the line of inquiry that underlies the amendment derives from the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. I hold no brief to speak for the Royal Borough, but it is desirable that the concept should be aired again, as my noble friend Lady Gardner aired it in Committee and as my noble friend Lord Attlee has done now.
The logic of my position on community support officers in London is that a London borough, especially under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, has to take an interest in the quality of life within its boundaries. I shall not go over the ground that my noble friend has gone over, but, as he rightly said, the amendment that was moved in Committee has been tightened up.
In response to amendments spoken to by my noble friend Lord Peyton in the group starting with Amendment No. 140, the Minister argued that the power should not be increased for such officers. I am moving, mutatis mutandis, to the ones dealt with under this amendment. The Minister's responses to our debates are highly persuasive and convincing, but I thought that in this case his response to my noble friend Lord Peyton was a little less convincing than he habitually is. That is why I support my noble friend Lord Attlee.
I understand that the Metropolitan Police is willing to work in collaboration with a London local authority in planning such a scheme, which suggests 871 sympathy on the part of the Met, perhaps under the Crime and Disorder Act, for the provisions. The problem is that if such a body set up by a local authority does not work and the Minister's faith that all will be well under the 30-minute rule does not stand up, the whole concept of the borough constabulary will be damaged in the process. There is a considerable amount to play for.
Of course, the proposal is directed at low-level crime. The borough constabulary will not be seeking to be confrontational. The Minister has shown considerable sympathy with the desire to suppress such low-level crime and the irritation that it provides to people in central London, just as in his former constituency. In the circumstances, I hope that it will be possible for him to be sympathetic to the general proposition that underlies the amendment.
§ Lord Rooker
My Lords, I appreciate the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, about where the amendment derives from. The noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, made the position clear in Committee. I do not want to repeat the points that I have already made about the differences between community support officers and accredited people, because I shall constantly be repeating myself otherwise, and I shall seek to be persuasive—although I obviously did not do very well yesterday—and constructive. Under the Police Act 1996 it is already open to local authorities, such as the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, to give a grant to the police authority and attach conditions to it—if the chief officer agrees; the issue cannot he forced. No extra powers are required for that. If the commissioner agrees, there is nothing to stop the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea giving the Metropolitan Police a grant to ring-fence a number of community support officers who, it could be agreed, would be deployed predominantly within that borough.
It is a two-way process. On the one hand we know that the Metropolitan Police wants to use the powers for reasons that vary across London, as we have heard. It is also open to local authorities to seek to purchase on behalf of their residents. That relates to the point made by the noble Baroness that it should not be just rich individuals who can make a phone call to be escorted to their front door; it should be open to all citizens. The process could be highly targeted. The power already exists under the Police Act 1996 for the local authority to give a grant. I realise that grants have to be paid for and the money has to be found. There is nothing for nothing. I also accept that the amendment has been refined somewhat since Committee stage. However, if local authorities want people who are not police officers to be employed to exercise substantially more powers than the accredited officers, it is up to them to convince the chief officers to employ community support officers. In that respect, it is also possible for the local authority to meet the cost of that and to put conditions on it if the chief officer agrees.
§ Earl Attlee
My Lords, before the Minister sits down, can he explain what is to stop the little darling 872 from totally ignoring an accredited person? The accredited person will have no physical way of stopping the little darling running away.
§ Lord Rooker
My Lords, in a way, the answer is "nothing". It comes down to the training and common sense of the accredited officer, just as it comes down to the training and common sense of the community support officer. We are not saying that the proposal is a panacea. I appreciate the way in which the noble Earl has put the case. On an individual basis it might work, but a tribe of the noble Earl's little darlings might be a different bag of chips altogether and it might not be possible to take action. However, the community support officers and accredited safety officers will provide more eyes and ears on the street and better intelligence, so a plan can be made to do something about persistent problems. There is no easy answer for isolated cases, but if the problem is persistent, the extra eyes and ears and the uniformed presence on the street make it possible to plan to do something about it.
§ Earl Attlee
My Lords, my concern remains that the little darlings will understand the law very well and will fully understand the limitations of the accredited person. However, I thank the Minister for his considered response and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendments Nos. 206 to 211 not moved.]
§ Clause 37 [Supplementary provisions relating to designations and accreditation]:
§ [Amendments Nos. 212 to 218 not moved.]
§ Earl Attlee
moved Amendment No. 219:Leave out Clause 38.The noble Earl said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 219, I shall also speak to Amendments Nos. 222, 223, 224 and 225. I also remind the House that I have an interest as I am the president of the Heavy Transport Association.
Clause 38 allows traffic wardens to stop individual vehicles as opposed to merely directing traffic as at present. The two main trade associations—the Road Haulage Association and the Freight Transport Association—have expressed concerns about the provision which centre on the scope for unnecessary interference in the transport industry. My view is that enforcement of road traffic law is vital for road safety. Moreover, by and large, the authorities know who the rogues are. I believe that those elements should be kept out of the industry and not givenmany chances. I am therefore extremely grateful for the progress being made on the impounding of illegally operated goods vehicles.
The Minister would say that it is desirable to use traffic wardens so that more checks can be conducted. However, I believe that it is desirable to restrict the number of checks by ensuring the availability of police officers.
873 There is another worry. The objective of stopping vehicles is to facilitate enforcement checks. Inevitably, however, such checks will—or should—focus on very unsavoury characters. As we all know, the police are very well trained and are robust characters. Conversely, I have some anxiety—but only some—that traffic wardens may avoid stopping the most difficult customers.
There is yet another concern. One of the customers at a multi-agency check could become difficult, perhaps because his vehicle is being impounded. I believe that the presence of a uniformed police officer would calm down such situations.
Finally, if we must have Clause 38—I shall not oppose it very strongly—it will have to be made an offence to impersonate a traffic warden. The 1996 Act makes it an offence to impersonate a police officer, and the Bill will make it an offence to impersonate a community support officer. However, what legislation makes it an offence to impersonate a traffic warden? I beg to move.
§ Lord Bassam of Brighton
My Lords, this is an interesting grouplet of amendments. The noble Earl seems to have placed an each-way bet by the way in which he has approached them.
Currently, traffic wardens can stop traffic only if they are assisting a constable, believe that a traffic offence has been committed, or if they are engaged in directing traffic. Clause 38 is designed to remove that restriction and thus to extend the range of duties that traffic wardens can perform. The clause will ensure that it is no longer necessary to call on police officers to stop vehicles when that is the only police power required. We believe that that will help to reduce unnecessary burdens on the police, an objective to which the noble Earl and Conservative Front-Benchers have previously signed up.
The clause will, among other things, enable traffic wardens to escort abnormal loads. To do that—in addition to the power to direct, which they already have—they will require a power to stop other vehicles. The noble Earl is, I know, keen to facilitate arrangements for escorting abnormal loads; he has long harried me on that issue. He is also keen to ensure that such arrangements do not unnecessarily involve the police. We believe that Clause 38 is very helpful in that respect. The noble Earl himself has previously very much welcomed the clause for the same reason.
The clause is not the whole answer to the issue of abnormal loads, and we are continuing to examine that issue. Nevertheless, the clause will be helpful both for that purpose and for other purposes, such as traffic censuses. For that reason, and for others, we think that it is very important that it should remain in the Bill.
The noble Earl has raised another interesting little issue in this group of amendments: the whole business of impersonating traffic wardens. We have some sympathy with the intention behind the amendments, which seek essentially to put traffic wardens in the same position as designated and accredited persons. I 874 see the train of logic behind the proposal. However, impersonation of a traffic warden has not previously been thought to merit a specific offence. Moreover, we have received no representations from either the traffic wardens' representatives or the Association of Chief Police Officers that it should become one.
The Bill does not greatly extend traffic wardens' powers as they can already stop vehicles in some circumstances. Extending that power is the only change being introduced. Moreover, if impersonation facilitates the commission of an offence, it would be the substantive offence that is most significant. I think that that is probably the most important point.
Amendment No. 225 also contains an illogicality. Although it would not protect all traffic wardens from assaults, resistance or obstruction, it would protect those who had been designated community support officers even if the duty they were performing at the time was identical. Where a traffic warden is acting as a community support officer and using community support officer powers as opposed to traffic warden powers, he is already protected by the Bill as currently drafted. I think that that should offer the noble Earl some assurance.
Traffic wardens have their own legislation, and if new provisions are required we think that they should be introduced by reference to that. Before deciding that any change is desirable, we would like to consider the current position and consult as necessary particularly with interested parties such as traffic wardens' representatives. Immediate action now by means of the noble Earl's amendments would not be the best way forward. We should like to consider his proposals in the context of other proposals which would emerge from consultation.
Therefore, as public spirited and well-intentioned as some of these amendments are, we think that it would be best to address the issue as part of an overall package rather than in a fragmented way, as the amendments propose. In view of those remarks, I hope that the noble Earl will feel able to withdraw Amendment No. 219.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Earl Attlee
My Lords, perhaps I should apologise for the drafting of my amendment. However, I am a little surprised that the Government are making it an offence to impersonate an accredited person whose powers are very limited while not dealing with the apparent lack—which the Minister has recognised is a problem—of an offence of impersonating a traffic warden. A traffic warden will be able to go into the middle of a main road and raise his hand to stop a vehicle and the driver of that vehicle will have to stop. The industry is concerned that that could be the prelude to a hijacking. A goods vehicle driver could be carrying a high-value load when someone appearing to be a traffic warden steps out and says to stop. He would have to stop because the law says that he must, 875 but it could place him in a hijack situation. That is the industry's concern, and I suspect that the various trade associations will get quite excited about it.
§ Lord Bassam of Brighton
My Lords, I thought that I had indicated sufficiently clearly to the noble Earl that I believe he has a point. Obviously we shall consider the issue. I was trying to make the point that the idiosyncrasy he has highlighted is apparent and that we shall have to examine it.
§ Earl Attlee
My Lords, the Minister should not get me wrong; I am extremely grateful for his response. I am just a little surprised that the Government are significantly increasing traffic wardens' powers while not making it an offence to impersonate them. In view of his response, I shall certainly not press the issue today. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 39 [Power to amend chapter 1]:
§ Lord Dixon-Smith
moved Amendment No. 220:Leave out Clause 39.The noble Lord said: My Lords, Clause 39 is a very good Henry VIII clause. It states:The Secretary of State may by order modify the provisions of Schedule 4 by … amending or repealing any provision of that Schedule … adding powers or duties … specified in that Schedule as applicable … to a designated person".Clause 39(2) states:The Secretary of State may by order modify the provisions of Schedule 5 so as to authorise the conferring or imposition, on an accredited person, of powers and duties in addition to those contained in Schedule 5".There is an interesting class distinction there between community support officers, who may have their powers added to or deleted, and accredited persons, who can only have them added to. I find that a little bit fascinating. One goes on through the clause. There are some restrictions in subsection (5) with which I shall not bother the House. One finally finds a gracious concession at the end of this Henry VIII clause; namely, that,The Secretary of State shall not make an order containing … any provision authorised by this section unless a draft of that order has been laid before Parliament and approved by a resolution of each House".I read that with a sigh of relief.
I had to try to work out in my mind whether Schedules 4 and 5 were drafted so that the Government could draft Clause 39. I cannot think of any other reason for drafting Schedules 4 and 5. Whether we approve Schedules 4 or 5 does not matter so long as Clause 39 is in the Bill because Clause 39 gives the Minister the power in effect to alter the decision of Parliament. That is an interesting situation in which to find ourselves, but it is not appropriate. If we are to pass the Bill, we should be clear as to its contents and accept that Parliament will have to supervise any orders that are made. However, the degree of supervision of an order is much less than we apply to a Bill. Orders of this nature would probably be made without a great deal of supervision as they would be described as non-controversial. I do not think that this 876 is an appropriate clause to find in the Bill. I am disappointed that it is there and I am amazed at the lack of confidence of Ministers as regards their ability to draft appropriately in the first place the two schedules that I am discussing. I beg to move.
§ Lord Dholakia
My Lords, I endorse everything that the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, said. We on these Benches support the amendment. The Henry VIII measure that we are discussing is more or less a case of the Home Secretary saying, "I can do anything that I like". He is more or less seeking absolute power. That is pernicious and something that we find difficult to accept. The legislation could have been framed in various ways which would have resulted in such a power not being required.
We have already discussed at some length the conferring of police powers on non-police officers and the concerns and various views about that. Clause 39 would enable the Home Secretary to extend the range of powers which could be conferred on designated or accredited persons simply by order. In our view that is absolutely unacceptable. The conferring of police powers, whether on the police or anyone else should be subject to the proper rigours of scrutiny and debate which is given to Bills and should not simply be something which can be changed by order, even if it is subject to the affirmative resolution procedure. For that reason we strongly oppose Clause 39 being part of the Bill.
§ Lord Rooker
My Lords, I do not want to add a note of dissent at this stage in our proceedings, but it is extravagant to say that the clause allows the Home Secretary to do anything he likes. That is simply not the case; it is overstating the situation. There are significant safeguards in the clause; any change is subject to the affirmative resolution procedure. I shall return to that matter.
The Secretary of State cannot use the clause to confer powers of arrest or detention on civilians which are additional to those already provided for in Schedules 4 and 5. A civilian cannot be given additional powers to enter premises without the occupier's consent when unaccompanied by a constable. The Secretary of State cannot create new powers which are not already given to a constable or some other person, for example, a local authority employee such as a dog warden or an environmental health officer. Therefore, there are safeguards over and above the affirmative resolution procedure.
One of the first things I was told when I came to this House was that certain committees in the Palace of Westminster are listened to less than others. The committee that counts above all others is your Lordships' Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform. I am told that the norm is that any and every recommendation of that committee 877 is accepted by government. The committee's report (HL Paper 73) refers to what was previously Clause 38 and is now Clause 39. It states at paragraph 7:This clause confers a Henry VIII power to modify Schedules 4 and 5 and to modify any other enactment to facilitate the exercise of powers or duties created by an order under the clause. Affirmative procedure is provided for this power, and we consider that this is appropriate".The committee has considered the matter. If it thought that the clause allowed the Home Secretary to do anything he liked, it would have said so and would have suggested making some amendments to the clause. However, it did not because it did not overreact in the extreme way that the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, did. We have checks and balances in the clause which restrain the Home Secretary but give him reasonable powers that may be needed if it became apparent in the future that some police activities might be better carried out by civilians, which would allow highly trained police officers to return to street duties.
§ Lord Dixon-Smith
My Lords, the Minister needs to remember that, although the Select Committee on Delegated Powers is powerful and influential and we must all take its comments extremely seriously, in the end it is the House that decides these matters. The power of the House is greater than the power of any of its committees. That is as it should be. That said, the fact of the matter is that this is an open Henry VIII clause. The Select Committee may well have decided that it is satisfied, but that does not necessarily mean that I am satisfied. Clearly, the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, who supports the amendment, is not satisfied with the clause either. This is not perhaps the occasion to pursue the matter as we shall need to consider the Minister's response. This is an important issue as there is an element of uncertainty as regards the whole question of the use of designated or accredited persons. It is that lack of certainty that causes us concern. However, for the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 40 [Code of practice relating to chief officers' powers under Chapter 1]:
§ Lord Rooker
moved Amendment No. 221:Page 37, line 24, at end insert—( ) Before issuing or revising a code of practice under this section, the Secretary of State shall consult with—
- (a) the Service Authority for the National Criminal Intelligence Service;
- (b) the Service Authority for the National Crime Squad;
- (c) persons whom he considers to represent the interests of police authorities;
- (d) the Director General of the National Criminal Intelligence Service;
- (e) the Director General of the National Crime Squad;
- (f) persons whom he considers to represent the interests of chief officers of police; and
- (g) such other persons as he thinks fit.( ) The Secretary of State shall lay any code of practice issued by him under this section, and any revisions of any such code, before Parliament.878 The noble Lord said: My Lords, we have reached government amendments which show what an open, listening and transparent government we are in our response to the Committee stage. I shall be brief as I have a sackload of concessions for your Lordships offered at the behest of the Home Secretary who is delighted to oblige!
Government Amendments Nos. 221 and 226 return to the issue of consultation which has been a theme throughout many of our debates on the Bill. The amendments are concerned with codes of practice issued under Clauses 40 and 46.
The House will recall that Clause 40 obliged the Home Secretary to issue a code of practice relating to the discharge by chief officers of their powers under Chapter 1 of Part 4. Clause 46 imposes a similar requirement on the Home Secretary to issue a code of practice in respect of the carrying out by police authorities and independent custody visitors of their functions in relation to independent custody visiting. It is important that before any such codes are issued or amended, there is an opportunity for the police, police authorities and others with a legitimate interest to give their views. We have always made it clear that we would consult when drawing up such codes. These amendments enshrine that commitment. I beg to move.
§ 6.30 p.m.
My Lords, I have a suggestion that I hope the Government will find helpful. The codes of practice must obviously take into account the provisions of our criminal law. Paragraph (g) of the amendment refers to the Secretary of State consulting,such other persons as he thinks fit".In that regard, the Government should consult the Attorney-General, the Lord Chief Justice, the senior judge at the Old Bailey or someone with eminent experience of the criminal law. However, they need not necessarily write that into the Bill.
§ Lord Dixon-Smith
My Lords, the Minister will be happy to hear that I welcome him when he is in listening mode and is responding to points that were earlier made about the Bill. This is another welcome addition to the Bill and we are grateful to him.
§ Lord Rooker
My Lords, I should respond to the point that the noble Lord, Lord Renton, made about the Attorney-General, as a law officer of the Crown. It would be most unusual if the Home Office were turning out documentation that was not cleared around Whitehall. The noble Lord did not ask for anything to be added to the Bill; he was simply highlighting the fact that the phrase,such other persons as he thinks fit",should include the sort of people who he mentioned. I am sure that that will be taken on board.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 41 [Offences against designated and accredited persons etc.]:
§ [Amendments Nos. 222 to 225 not moved.]
§ Clause 46 [Independent custody visitors for places of detention]:
§ Lord Rooker
moved Amendment No. 226:Page 40, line 29, at end insert—( ) Before issuing or revising a code of practice under this section, the Secretary of State shall consult with—
- (a) persons whom he considers to represent the interests of police authorities;
- (b) persons whom he considers to represent the interests of chief officers of police; and
- (c) such other persons as he thinks fit.( ) The Secretary of State shall lay any code of practice issued by him under this section, and any revisions of any such code, before Parliament.On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 47 [Detention reviews for detained persons who are asleep]:
§ Lord Bassam of Brighton
moved Amendment No. 227:Page 41, line 3, at end insert—( ) In subsection (10) of that section—
- (a) for "(6)" there shall be substituted "(6B)"; and
- (b) for the words from "the substitution" to the end there shall be substituted "the modifications specified in subsection (10A)".( ) After that subsection there shall be inserted—(10A) The modifications are—
- (a) the substitution of a reference to the person whose detention is under review for any reference to the person arrested or to the person charged; and
- (b) in subsection (51, the insertion of the following paragraph after paragraph (a)—'(aa) asleep;'".The noble Lord said: My Lords, I shall speak with the spirit of brevity that will now engulf us as we trundle through endless government amendments, which were introduced in a fantastic spirit of generosity that was described by my noble friend Lord Rooker. This amendment is a technical amendment to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, to resolve an anomaly between Section 38 of PACE, which covers the duties of custody officer after charge, and Section 40 of PACE, which covers reviews of detention. It mirrors the amendments already made by Clause 47 in respect of the duties of the custody officer before charge.
I have with me a long and worthy explanation of the matter, which I could read out and try to encourage noble Lords to take careful note of, but I am afraid that I have given the long and the short of the matter. I hope that that explanation, and the fact that this is a highly technical amendment that seeks to benefit all, will please noble Lords. I beg to move.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 53 [Vehicles used in manner causing alarm, distress or annoyance]:
§ Lord Rooker
moved Amendment No. 228:Page 48, line 2, leave out "the motor vehicle is or is believed" and insert "he has reasonable grounds for believing the motor vehicleThe noble Lord said: My Lords, the amendment deals with a point that was raised in an opposition amendment that was considered in Committee. We gave an undertaking to accept the point. The amendment's subject matter has been redrafted by parliamentary counsel. The amendment relates to police powers to enter premises for the purpose of seizing a vehicle that has been misused in a manner that will be caught by Clause 53. I beg to move.
§ Lord Dixon-Smith
My Lords, once again, I express my gratitude to the Minister.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 56 [Power of Secretary of State to add to relevant authorities]:
§ Lord Rooker
moved Amendment No. 229:Page 51, line 12, after "In" insert "subsection (2) of".The noble Lord said: My Lords, the amendment and Amendment No. 230 make minor drafting changes to the clause. I beg to move.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 59 [Interim Orders]:
§ Lord Rooker
moved Amendment No. 230:Page 53, line 39, leave out "order".On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Lord Bassam of Brighton
moved Amendment No. 231:Page 54, line 36, at end insert—( ) Part 3 of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 (c. 53) (fixed penalties) shall be amended as follows.The noble Lord said: My Lords, the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 allows for certain motoring offences to be dealt with by the issue of a "fixed penalty notice". That includes offences such as failure to comply with traffic signs, driving without a licence and not wearing a seatbelt. Where such an offence has been committed and witnessed by a police constable, a fixed penalty notice may be issued that allows the offender to discharge his liability for the offence provided that he pays the financial penalty that is stated on the notice.
"Conditional offers" can be issued under the fixed penalty regime where a constable has not witnessed a motoring offence but an enforcement camera has detected it. The British Transport Police at present cannot issue "conditional offers" under current legislation as they are not included within the phrase "chief officer of police", which is used in the relevant provisions of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988.
881 The amendments will bring the British Transport Police within those provisions. That will allow them to deal more effectively with routine motoring offences, especially those committed at a railway level crossing. The BTP, together with the railway industry, are increasingly deploying enforcement cameras at railway level crossings to deter motorists from committing offences at those locations. Such offences can be extremely dangerous.
It is worth placing some statistics on the record. In 2000–01, the report from Her Majesty's Railways Inspectorate recorded 27 incidents of train accidents at level crossings and three fatalities where trains struck road vehicles. There were also 141 incidents of road vehicles damaging level crossing equipment. There are currently some 8,100 level crossings on the national rail network. Recent accidents have highlighted the potential dangers of trains colliding with road vehicles and it is important that we seek to reduce the number of traffic offences at level crossings.
The amendments will cover only England and Wales. We are, apparently, currently discussing with the Scottish Parliament the need for any similar changes to the legislation regarding conditional offers for motoring offences in Scotland and the inclusion of the British Transport Police. If changes are necessary, they will be brought forward in appropriate legislation when a suitable opportunity arises.
This helpful group of amendments deals with public safety. It is designed to ensure that we do not have horrible accidents at railway crossings; that when offences take place they are properly and appropriately punished; and that the BTP have the same range of powers as will be available to other Home Office police services. I beg to move.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Lord Bassam of Brighton
moved Amendments Nos. 232 and 233:Page 54, line 37, leave out "of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 (c. 53)Page 54, line 40, at end insert—( ) In section 75(1) (conditional offers in England and Wales), at the end there shall be inserted "or, if the constable is a member of the British Transport Police, by or on behalf of the chief constable of the British Transport Police".( ) In section 76(2) (limitation on proceedings), in paragraph (a), for "the chief officer" there shall be substituted "the person by or on whose behalf the conditional offer was sent".( ) In section 87 (guidance from the Secretary of State), after "areas" there shall be inserted "and to the chief constable of the British Transport Police".( ) In section 89 (interpretation of Part 3), after the definition of "authorised person" there shall be inserted—'British Transport Police' means the force of constables appointed under the British Transport Commission Act 1949 (c. xxix);".On Question, amendments agreed to.
My Lords, in the absence of the noble Lord, Lord Monson—I notice that he has just arrived. 882 If I wait for him to rise to his feet, he will move the amendment that stands in his name, and which I was about to move. Off you go!
§ Clause 67 [Nationality requirements applicable to police officers etc.]:
§ Lord Monson
moved Amendment No. 234:Page 59, line 34, at beginning insert "Subject to subsection (2A) below,The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Renton. I must admit that I did not expect us to get through everything at such a pace today.
With this group of amendments we come to the controversial clause that would allow foreign nationals to join our police forces—a concession which, it appears, is granted by few if any other western industrial nations. No doubt the Minister will confirm that, or otherwise.
The noble Lord, Lord Renton, finds Clause 67 so objectionable that he would rather it was removed in its entirety. I have some sympathy with that view but I felt that it might be better to seek a compromise.
The noble Lord, Lord Rooker, asked in Committee whether anyone would mind if their heart surgeon were of foreign nationality. Of course they would not, provided that he or she was a good surgeon and could communicate fluently with the rest of the operating theatre team. Hardly anyone would worry about the nationality of their greengrocer, television repair man, bank teller, doctor or university professor. Indeed, in certain disciplines it might be preferable if a university professor were of a different nationality. But the police are different. The police, uniquely, have authority over you, and you can be arrested and charged if you disobey them.
The noble Lord, Lord Rooker, claimed in Committee that the function of the police was to help people. Theoretically that is true. In an ideal world, the police would spend most of their time helping old ladies across the street and explaining patiently to bemused tourists the precise way to Trafalgar Square. But unhappily we do not live in an ideal world and, accordingly, the police are obliged to spend much of their time being tough rather than tender.
I suppose that my experiences are fairly typical of someone of my age and background. Most of my encounters with the police have been favourable; some have been exceptionally so, involving the recovery of stolen goods of great sentimental value in one instance and, in another, where the police displayed enormous efficiency and kindness following a traumatic high-speed motor accident 13 months ago caused by a Hungarian HGV driver dozing off at the wheel.
However, over the past 55 years there have been a few less pleasant encounters, some of them my fault, some of them definitely not. Human nature being what it is, one unfortunately tends to remember the few disagreeable encounters much more vividly than the far more numerous happy ones. If that is the case for what might be described as a "university-educated" 883 person, how much more must it be so for a young male on an inner-city housing estate? Therefore, we must tread carefully here.
My amendments are divided into two pairs. The first would demand a residence qualification a little more rigorous than that sought in the amendment proposed by the Conservative Front Bench—at any rate, in its effect. An exception would be made for those born, and in most cases brought up, here so as to cover the example of those who may have emigrated to, say, Toronto or Melbourne in their early 20s and taken up Canadian or Australian citizenship but who now wish to return to this country. Another example would be police who had been recruited to serve in Zimbabwe and who had adopted the citizenship of that country but who were now being made unwelcome by Mr Mugabe.
The essential reasoning behind the amendments is that any non-British subject recruited to the police should, so far as possible, be steeped in our Anglo-Saxon common law tradition where everything is permitted unless it is specifically forbidden rather than the continental tradition where everything is forbidden unless it is specifically permitted.
My second pair of amendments would make it mandatory rather than optional for certain conditions—for example, fluency in the English language—to be imposed upon candidates. They would also stipulate that candidates should have arrived in this country legally and that, where they sought promotion, they should, by that time, have adopted British citizenship. As the noble Baroness, Lady Park of Monmouth, asked in Committee, why do not foreign candidates for the police become naturalised? How much more force that argument has when they have been in this country long enough to become eligible for promotion. I beg to move.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Lord Dixon-Smith
My Lords, my Amendment No. 235 is grouped with that of the noble Lord, Lord Monson, and properly so. One must assume that the reason that we have a clause in the Bill prescribing the nationality requirements applicable to police officers is that the Government feel that the existing law is no longer satisfactory. I can think of no other reason why it should be included. My concern is that this clause may well be equally unsatisfactory. Therefore, the first question that I want to ask the Minister is: what is specifically unsatisfactory about the present situation? Only when we know that shall we be in a position to judge whether this new clause is any more or, indeed, less satisfactory.
Without wishing to stoke any awkward emotions, we should think carefully about the wording in the clause before us. It states:Irrespective of his place of birth, a person of any nationality may be … a member of a police force"—let us say in the United Kingdom in order to abbreviate everything before us. Those are the opening words of 884 the clause. There are some subsequent qualifications which finish, in subsection (4), with the words:Without prejudice to the generality of any power conferred apart from this section, the provision falling within subsection (3) that may be made by any such regulations, terms and conditions or arrangements as are mentioned in that subsection"—put that into plain English if you can!—may include provision imposing any of the following requirements".The following requirements are,requirements with respect to the competence in written and spoken English of candidates for appointment … requirements with respect to the immigration status of such candidates"—that is entirely understandable—and,requirements with respect to nationality in the case of particular ranks, offices or positions".Once one goes down that road, of course, one calls into question the opening phrase of the clause.
On the face of it, the wording of the clause does not appear to me to be satisfactory. I believe that it is too wide open and that some form of qualification is necessary. If one is on the electoral roll in this country, that indicates a real commitment to life in this country without implying anything as to place of birth or, indeed, in certain circumstances, nationality. That perhaps would imply a commitment to the democratic processes of this country and, therefore, a commitment to this country. That is the reasoning behind my amendment.
My Lords, although I shall oppose the Question whether Clause 67 stand part of the Bill, as a precaution I want to support these amendments. I believe that, in particular, Amendments Nos. 237 and 238 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Monson, are of great importance. Subsection (4) of Clause 67 puts forward provisions which state the requirements that could be imposed—it does not say "shall"; it states "may" be imposed—for deciding whether a foreigner shall become a police officer.
For those very important conditions to be left optional seems to me utterly wrong. Perhaps I may place them on record. I turn, first, to the requirement,with respect to the competence in written and spoken English of candidates for appointment".It is vital that a police officer should have a good command of written and spoken English. Secondly, a person's immigration status needs to be carefully considered. If it were found that some years ago he was a bogus asylum seeker he would not be a suitable person to become a police officer. The third point states:requirements with respect to nationality in the case of particular ranks offices or positions".We must be careful about that. The noble Lord, Lord Monson, was absolutely right in saying that the word "may" should be replaced by the word "shall". It is in the Government's interests that that should happen. In relation to the words "any or, I hope that all three of the conditions will be imposed and not 885 treated as optional. Therefore, I warmly support the amendments, but especially the two that I have mentioned.
§ The Earl of Erroll
My Lords, I presumed that the purpose was to allow freer movement between European police forces. If a European policeman wished to move to this country he could easily join our police force without having to change his nationality. In that case I believe that the language requirement is extremely important or some terrible misunderstandings and even further anti-European feeling will arise. I am not sure that we should leap that far. At the moment, the legal systems in Europe are extremely different.
§ Lord Rooker
My Lords, in responding to this group of anti-foreigner amendments it is worth putting on the record that in some ways an apology is required. This provision is no surprise. It did not come about by accident. Paragraph 6.16 of the White Paper, in just one sentence, made the position abundantly clear. To the best of my knowledge not a single representation has arrived at the Home Office, even since Committee stage, opposing what was in the White Paper on which we consulted.
I want to put on record the final paragraph of an extensive speaking note that I shall need because of the complete misunderstanding of the present situation:The police service supports the removal of the nationality restriction. In saying police service, I mean the police services of England and Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, the National Crime Squad, the National Criminal Intelligence Service, British Transport Police, Royal Parks Constabulary, the UK Atomic Energy Authority Constabulary and the Special Constabulary—all want to remove this unnecessary restriction".Let me make the position clear. The professionals are not so ignorant that they do not know the good sense behind this—I mean that in no pejorative sense. It is clear from what has been said that noble Lords are not aware of the current situation regarding foreigners. I shall be brief as I realise that the House wants to make progress. It is important that we do not set a hare running. So far the BBC has misreported this Bill and we do not want a story about the employment of police officers who cannot speak English, do not swear allegiance to the Queen, know nothing about the United Kingdom and arrived on a boat yesterday. If I leave the matter unanswered we shall have that kind of reporting.
Police forces want to employ the best people as police officers—the most suitable people—based on competency and skill. Forces have found that the existing nationality rules hinder the recruitment of good people who have been living in the UK for many years but who do not qualify on account of their nationality. The current rules allow Irish citizens to become police officers, but exclude people from other member states of the European Union. The current rules allow people from the Commonwealth who are resident here to be police officers, but exclude other foreign nationals such as Norwegians, whose native language is not English, and Americans whose native 886 language is English and who are resident here. Removal of the nationality bar will widen the pool of potential recruits, helping the police service to improve its diversity and to reflect better our society. It will make the police service more inclusive.
The effect of Amendment No. 235 proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, would be to make nationals of EU member states who registered as electors eligible for police service, but it would continue to disbar other foreign nationals. It also has some other consequences. The amendment would disbar a proportion of those who are currently eligible. Irish and Commonwealth citizens would be barred from police service unless they had registered to vote; and British citizens who had not registered to vote would be disbarred, including currently serving police officers. Many young people, who regrettably are not registered to vote, would be disbarred.
That would cause serious recruitment difficulties for the police service, which I cannot believe is the intention of the noble Lord. There is no other occupation—the experience of noble Lords may come up with one—where one would be disbarred on account of the fact that one had not registered to vote. I am unaware of any other bar, but there may be one. In any case, the amendment, intended to allow nationals of other EU member states to join the police service without opening up the police service further, goes against the idea of a modern and diverse police service and is, frankly, objectionable on principle.
It cannot be right that we continue to allow citizens from one foreign country—Ireland—to join the police service, but bar all others. If Irish citizens can and do serve the British public well, as they have for generations and decades and will continue to do so, so can others if they have the right skills and abilities. Nor is it relevant that other countries restrict serving in their police service to their own nationals. What they do is not of concern to us; what we do is our concern. I cannot remember the funny word in the European Union which signifies that everything is devolved and that decisions are taken as locally as possible. We are not interested in the restrictions that other countries impose in relation to their services. We are interested in the United Kingdom.
The amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Monson, would require those not born in the UK to be resident here for seven out of the last 10 years. That is quite arbitrary. It would disbar many EU citizens from joining the police service. Irish and Commonwealth citizens who are currently eligible would become ineligible unless they too had resided here for seven out of the past 10 years. Some may already be serving British police officers. British citizens born outside the United Kingdom could also be disbarred if they had not lived here for seven out of the last 10 years. Many foreign nationals living here would also be disbarred.
Instead of increasing the recruitment pool these amendments would reduce it. Instead of being more inclusive the police service would become more exclusive. On setting a residency test, I understand that one has to pick a figure if one wants to make a 887 principled case, but the figure appears to be fairly arbitrary. What matters is that the applicant is competent rather than how long he or she has lived here.
Setting a qualifying time limit in terms of residency is also difficult to monitor. It is difficult enough with those cases of people who are on the margin of acquiring UK nationality that come across my desk. Some of those may be spouses of British citizens who work abroad for, say, international construction companies. Such people want to be with their spouses, but because they are not in this country and they want British citizenship, it is difficult to accumulate the right number of days in the right number of years. Should people have to break up their families? It is a difficult dilemma that will be made more difficult by such an amendment.
A point that has to be made clear is that of unrestricted residence in the UK, which is normally attracted after a number of years of conditional residence here. It may be one year, two years, four years or more before one can qualify for an indefinite stay. The length of time is not material.
In addition, foreign nationals and European Union nationals—indeed all candidates—will need to satisfy our rigorous vetting requirements. Someone who has lived here for a short time, for example, may be unlikely to be able to be vetted and would not, therefore, qualify for appointment. That combination of safeguards will be put in place and will need to be satisfied by a candidate of any nationality to qualify for appointment.
The noble Lord, Lord Monson, proposed further amendments to make it mandatory that we set requirements as to immigration status and competence in English and to require certain ranks and positions to be reserved. There is no need to make it mandatory. It is our clear intention to provide requirements in respect of competence in English and immigration status. By the way, we have no intention of changing the Immigration Rules to allow that to happen; it is the current situation.
Serving policemen and policewomen will not be recruited from abroad. I emphasise again that there is no intention to change the Immigration Rules to allow people who have no right to work and live here to be recruited from abroad. That means no change. That is not to say that there are not procedures like work permits which would allow that, though I am not aware of any police service wanting to use that process.
Foreign nationals will need to be resident in the UK with no restrictions attached to their stay in order to qualify. Essentially the intention is to allow those who are already living in the UK, or who have the right to work here such as European Union nationals, to join the police service if they have the right qualities and the right skills. All applicants, whether British or not, will have to meet certain criteria and standards before they can qualify for appointment. They will need to demonstrate the key competencies required for policing. In particular they will need to demonstrate that they can communicate effectively with the public.
888 As I emphasised in addressing the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Monson, candidates' skills in oral and written English will be tested. If they do not demonstrate a satisfactory standard they will be rejected, even if they demonstrate all the other skills. That is exactly the current situation. It will apply equally to foreigners.
Foreign nationals will need to have an unrestricted stay in the UK and will need to satisfy the rigorous vetting procedures which apply to all applicants. If they cannot be properly vetted, they cannot he appointed. It is as simple as that. There will also need to be a provision to reserve posts which are particularly sensitive to national security. That is the current situation for people allowed into the UK for many other purposes.
§ 7 p.m.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for giving way. I am trying to be helpful. It sounds to me from what he says that the Government intend that the requirements in subsection (4) listed as (a), (b) and (c), will be applied. Therefore the word "may" is not appropriate and "shall" should be inserted.
§ Lord Rooker
My Lords, I shall take advice on that and respect the point the noble Lord raises. I shall come back to it because I know that the noble Lord would like to debate it further.
The noble Lord, Lord Monson, said that police officers exercise authority over others. I accept that. Those special powers and responsibilities are set out by Parliament; they are not unfettered. The underlying question is whether it is right that non-British nationals should exercise authority and power over British nationals. But they already do. That is the point. Irish and Commonwealth citizens who are police officers exercise such authority on a daily basis. We are not inventing the wheel.
We are no worse off for those of our fellow citizens being in the police service. So the exercise of these powers and authorities will be a matter of training and judgment and it does not matter where a person was born or what his or her nationality is. Public support will not depend on the nationality of the officers. If they have got through the process of becoming an attested police officer—in Clause 68 the form of declaration is being substituted—they will offer full protection to the public and full loyalty to serve the Crown and the country. It is not second rate.
The people we are discussing will be living in this country. No process is being set up to facilitate entry to being a police officer. They will have put their roots down here. They may not be British. As I pointed out in an earlier debate, there are good reasons why some people in this country cannot take British nationality; for example, their own nationality may not allow dual nationality. It may be that because of family circumstances, property rights and inheritances hack home, they cannot take British citizenship. For instance, India is a non-dual nationality country and Pakistan is dual nationality. Many Indian citizens in 889 this country would like to be British but for many reasons they cannot give up their Indian nationality. They have generations of families in this country with loyalty to the British state and to the Crown. We should not hold it against them that they are not able to give up their first nationality in order to take British citizenship. They are as loyal as anybody else.
For the reasons I have given we are wholly opposed to dropping the clause. I end as I started. All the police services—in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and the National Crime Squad, the National Criminal Intelligence Service, the British Transport Police, the parks constabulary, the UK Atomic Energy Authority and the Special Constabulary—all want to remove that unnecessary restriction. I hope therefore that noble Lords will allow the clause to remain in the Bill.
§ Lord Monson
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, for reinforcing my general arguments so tellingly, and grateful also to the noble Lord, Lord Renton, for giving such vigorous support to Amendments Nos. 237 and 238 in particular.
Curiously, the Minister described these as "anti-foreigner" amendments. They are nothing of the sort. If they are anti-foreigner, then almost every other country in the world is being anti-foreigner. From what he said, I deduce that we are almost unique in proposing the course of action the Government appear to be set on.
Take the question of guns. Most police in this country never carry guns-94 per cent or more. Suppose someone were to be shot by someone who joined the police from Chicago or Marseilles. They may be justified in the shooting and may have had no option. But I doubt that that is the way the press and the public would see it. I wonder too, reverting to the question of precedent, how many Englishmen, Welshmen and Scotsmen are serving in the Irish Garda. I imagine very few.
My noble friend Lord Erroll referred to the necessity of recruits speaking English well, and the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, gave some assurance on that point. But it goes beyond that. It reverts to an appreciation of our common law traditions. It is a bad idea in principle that the police should not be steeped in the traditions of the country which they are policing. The Minister may be aware that when Franco came to power in Spain in 1939 he instituted a policy of sending Andalucian police to Galicia, Galician police to Catalunia, Castillian police to the Basque country and so forth. The idea was that the fewer roots the police had in the part of the country they were policing, the more ready they would be to club citizens over the head if they stepped out of line. That is the last thing the Government have in mind, I am sure. But I have read two excellent novels, one from a Left-wing and one from a Right-wing perspective, which envisage a state of affairs in 15 or 20 years' time in which European not police will be clubbing people over the 890 head in this country. The Minister may feel that that is fantasy but who can tell? Stranger things have happened.
We have time to reflect upon the Minister's response and put our heads together before the next stage to produce something which is even more of a compromise. For that reason I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendments Nos. 235 to 238 not moved.]
moved Amendment No. 239:Leave out Clause 67.The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have at least five reasons for tabling this amendment. First, it would be bad for our reputation as a nation if other countries could say that the British cannot find enough of their own people to maintain law and order. That would be most unfortunate.
Secondly, in various parts of the United Kingdom our native police find it hard enough to get co-operation and support from all the public. If some of the police were foreigners, support would be even less forthcoming—so crime would increase still further. Thirdly, even if foreign officers had enough knowledge of written and spoken English, most would still have foreign accents—which would reduce public support for them. It would be clear to the public that such officers were not native.
Fourthly, although foreign officers may have a considerable knowledge of written and spoken English—I hope that would be a requirement—they might not understand the local dialects and accents that arise in various parts of the United Kingdom, in the way that local, native British constables do and always have done.
My fifth and last reason is best explained by quoting my noble friend Lord Peyton in Committee. He said that,the Government's insistence that Clause 60 be included in the Bill conveys a rather sombre message: either that our own citizens lack a sense of duty or service, or that the terms offered to them for performing that service are so inadequate that they cannot afford it".—[Official Report, 12/3/02; col. 747.]I know that flattery will get me nowhere but I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, for the clarity with which he puts the Government case and the understanding that he has shown always of our arguments for or against the Government's case. However, I implore the Minister to realise that his comments about support for the clause are not accepted everywhere. Since Committee stage, noble Lords on both sides of the House have told me that they were glad that I and others raised doubts. Several police officers to whom I have spoken and others outside also have doubts about the Government's intention. I earnestly hope that the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, along with his government colleagues, will undertake to leave out Clause 67 altogether or modify and improve it. I beg to move.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Lord Bradshaw
My Lords, I will have no truck with the noble Lord's proposal, which has no support on these Benches. The reputation of the force is very much made up of the quality of the service that is given. I know of one police inspector in Oxfordshire who is French. I do not know how he came to be in the British police force—presumably he is naturalised. He is very efficient and well liked. I have never heard anybody criticise that officer for speaking English with a slightly broken accent—but better than many native-born Englishmen.
In places like Slough which have large populations from other countries the absence of native-born officers who can speak languages such as Urdu is a severe impediment to effective policing. I am sure that the public would co-operate. For example, many of the staff in the Tea Room are Italian and speak with a broken accent but that does not detract from the assistance that we receive from them or the esteem in which we hold them.
§ Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville
My Lords, I understood the Minister's argument in Committee and today, together with the Explanatory Notes, except for one point, on which the Minister was kind enough to write to me. I understand also paragraph 6.16 of the White Paper and the support for it from the police service of these islands. To be fair, that single sentence in the White Paper expresses a principle rather than explains the detail. The view of the police service presumably relates to the principle, not to the detail and procedure.
The Minister rejected Amendments Nos. 237 and 238 on the ground that it was not desirable for Clause 67(4) to be mandatory. I am not a lawyer but my understanding is that the regulations for entry are cited in subsection (3) and that subsection (4) is intended to reinforce it—perhaps for reassurance. The Minister cited the views of the BBC and the tabloids, their prejudices and, occasionally, their ignorance. It would be helpful if the Minister could spell out why it is not desirable for subsection (4) to be mandatory. Were it to be so, that would to some extent spike the guns of the Government's critics.
I end on a more cheerful note. I remind your Lordships of the episode in one of Sir Peter Ustinov's set pieces. On being pulled over by the police on a highway in the United States for some apparent traffic offence, lie falls into an admirable act of being a visiting Italian. He speaks fluent Italian to the police officers—and receives a reply in fluent Italian. That is the kind of benefit that we are likely to get from Clause 67. I have no difficulty with it, except for subsection (4) not being made mandatory.
§ Lord Monson
My Lords, in his excellent speech the noble Lord, Lord Renton, raised a consideration that had not occurred to me. How will it look to other nations if this country, almost uniquely, has to recruit its police officers from abroad? I say "almost uniquely" because I suppose that the Home Office has done its homework to try and identify other countries 892 that the Minister could pray in aid. I presume that there is none—or at any rate, no major countries. If the Minister could demonstrate that the recruitment of foreign police officers in other European and North American forces is the rule rather than the exception, that might make us think again. I hope that the noble Lord will reflect and bring forward a minor amendment at the next stage.
§ Lord Rooker
My Lords, I obviously was not clear when I replied to the previous debate. This is not about recruiting police officers from abroad. The clause has nothing to do with recruiting police officers from abroad; it is about people with a clear immigration status who are resident in this country with a right to work. It has nothing to do with recruiting police officers from abroad. I have made that point again and again. Apparently, I did not make it clearly enough. This is not about going out to recruit people from abroad as police officers.
I have enormous respect for the noble Lord, Lord Renton. I will not take the matter away in order to think about removing the clause. I do not accept any of his five reasons. None is a reason of substance. It is not good enough to use arguments about accents, native police or to say that forces cannot find enough of "their own people". We are talking about recruiting people who live and work in this country not from abroad. The argument, "They don't understand local dialects" just does not carry water. As to the argument about sense of duty and service, I do not accept that the people concerned who are already resident in this country with the status of being free to work will not have a sense of duty because they are not British.
I have said that we are not changing the Immigration Rules to facilitate recruiting police from abroad. The normal rules remain. We are talking about quality people resident in this country who, by reason of their nationality—not all of them, because Commonwealth and Irish citizens are currently all right—are denied the opportunity to serve or train as police officers.
I accept, as the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, says, that perhaps the White Paper could have contained more background information. I discovered that in Committee. I thought it a little thin. I gave some reasons then. In the previous debate I stuck fairly closely to the notes because I thought that a few explanations needed to be put on the record in order to take account of the complete absence of the matter in the White Paper.
I do not have good enough reasons to say why subsection (4) of Clause 67 should not be mandatory. There probably will be other qualifications for appointments which will be dealt with in regulations. It is clear that we shall need some regulations. It would probably be unhelpful to make the mandatory regulations include some items and not others. We must consult about this issue. We cannot just issue regulations from thin air. We certainly do not want to reserve posts by rank alone. We need some flexibility.
893 The matter will come back to this House. I have no doubt that it will be debated in the other place. There is always Third Reading. I do not invite amendments and I am not promising to bring forward any. I will probably seek—and I think that it would be legitimate so to do—to have a short paper prepared which takes account of the absence of the explanation in the White Paper and which puts together the notes that I have used as a basis today. By way of a background, that would facilitate the matter. If it knocks on the head the canard that we are sending out the bosses and the telegrams to recruit from abroad, it would be quite useful. That is not the purpose nor the intention of the clause. I apologise because obviously the White Paper was not up to scratch. I shall have a note prepared to take account of that gap.
§ Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville
My Lords, before the Minister sits down, will the answer to the question that I asked about subsection (4) be included in the note that he is going to publish?
§ Lord Rooker
My Lords, I must give a better answer than the one I have given to the noble Lord, which was that I do not have one. We do not want a mandatory requirement to make the regulations because some forces covered by this provision—for example, the Royal Parks Police—may not need to reserve any posts for UK nationals. So there is an issue. In the way that the clause is drafted, simply changing "may" to "shall" would cause problems for a variety of police forces. But I shall make sure—the noble Lord having asked a very reasonable question—that I have a note prepared which covers the point, even if it is not directed specifically to the line and paragraph in the Bill. Certainly, the issue of regulations must be covered in any such note.
My Lords, perhaps I may say that over 40 years ago when I became Under-Secretary at the Home Office I had to deal several times with police legislation. As a Back-Bencher in both Houses I have spoken on police legislation before. I have always thought that it would be splendid if, so far as possible, all the parties in both Houses could try to agree on police legislation. Therefore, the public would have greater confidence in the police.
It is for that reason that I still implore the noble Lord, Lord Rooker—and I admire his zest—to bear in mind what has been said in this debate. Obviously, I shall not call for a Division. But I am grateful to those noble Lords who have taken part in the debate. We still have the Third Reading debate. The Bill will then go to another place where detailed consideration will be given to it. I hope that before the Bill receives Royal Assent the Government will try to achieve greater accord between all concerned in both Houses. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Lord Bassam of Brighton
My Lords, I beg to move that further consideration on Report be now 894 adjourned. In moving this Motion perhaps I may suggest that the Report stage begin again not before 8.30 p.m.
Moved accordingly, and, on Question. Motion agreed to.