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Archive for July, 2011

Tuesday
Jul 19,2011

By 251 votes to 219 the House of Lords has sent the Fixed Term Parliaments Bill back to the House of Commons.  This is the Bill that says that the next General Election shall be in May 2015 and every five years after that.  When the House of Lords had earlier considered the Bill in detail it had amended it so that five year Parliaments were not automatic but that immediately after each General Election Parliament should decide whether the fixed term provisions should be applied or not.  The House of Commons had reversed this amendment and that reversal was considered by the House of Lords yesterday afternoon.

By a majority even larger than when the House first passed the amendment, it was agreed to “insist” on the amendment.

The case was put forcefully by the former Cabinet Secretary, Lord Butler of Brockwell:

Lord Butler of Brockwell: My Lords, in the absence of my noble friend Lord Pannick, but with his support, it falls to me to urge your Lordships to cause the Government to think again about these amendments which this House passed to the Bill. My noble friend asks me to express his regret that other unavoidable business prevented him being here today.

The amendment which your Lordships passed would give the next Parliament and subsequent Parliaments the opportunity to decide whether the provisions of this Bill, subjecting them to a fixed term, should apply to them. It does not nullify the Bill. It merely gives future Parliaments the right to disapply it without having to go to the lengths of repealing it.

In essence, the case for your Lordships’ amendment is that a permanent constitutional change to fixed-term Parliaments should not be made without more preparation and consultation than this Bill has had. In the substantial debate in the other place last week, thoughtful individuals in both the main political parties both spoke and voted for your Lordships’ amendment. A Conservative Member described the Bill as a “reckless” constitutional act,

    “on the back of an envelope”.-[Official Report, Commons, 13/7/11; col. 375.]

A Labour Member, perhaps better versed in the vernacular, described it as tinkering with the constitution,

    “on the back of a fag packet”.-[Official Report, Commons, 13/7/11; col. 373.]

As for those who argue, as the Minister did today, that it would be open to a future Government who disagreed with the provisions to repeal the Act, the Minister in the other place gave the game away. He asked, if the Bill became law and fixed-term Parliaments became the norm,

    “would any Minister realistically be able to come to the Dispatch Box and suggest with a straight face that we should change the position and give the power back to the Prime Minister to hold an election at a time of his choosing to suit his political party? Would anyone take that proposition seriously? I suggest that they would not”.-[Official Report, Commons, 13/7/11; col. 361.]

So it is clear that the Government intend that this should be a permanent change to the constitution.

The main case advanced by the Government for the legislation-what the Minister called today the “fundamental justification”-is based on a fallacy. I do not doubt the sincerity of those who argue for it, but it is a fallacy none the less. It is that the power of a Prime Minister to seek a dissolution at a time of his or her choosing gives the governing party an unfair political advantage. The Minister went so far today as to describe it as a “trump card”. In the real world, the Prime Minister’s room for manoeuvre is heavily constrained. In normal times, and with a workable parliamentary majority, it is simply not practical politics for a Prime Minister to call an election in the first, second, third or even fourth year of a parliament. It is true that the fifth year becomes open season for elections and Prime Minister’s often seek a dissolution before the last moment in order not to be at the mercy of events, but the practical advantage this gives is very limited-it is far short of a trump card. Even the proponents of the Bill accept that there should be some flexibility in the fifth year to allow for unforeseen events such as the BSE epidemic.

It follows that it will be only in exceptional circumstances that a Prime Minister will seek a dissolution in the first, second, third or fourth year of a parliament. As the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, pointed out in our earlier debates, history shows that these occasions are never dictated merely by political advantage. In 1966 and 1974, general elections were called in the second and first years of the parliaments respectively in the circumstances of a growing economic crisis when the Government did not have a sufficient majority to deal with it. In 1974, a general election was called in the midst of a miners’ strike when the incumbent Government had exhausted their means of resolving the strike. Can it be denied in these circumstances that it was in the national interest rather than in the Governments’ political interest that the Governments should seek a reinforced mandate to deal with these national crises.

In such circumstances, what would have been the effect of this Bill? The Government would have had to rely on the Opposition’s support to obtain a dissolution. Proponents of the Bill may say that, in practice, general elections would always be available in such circumstances because Oppositions would never deny themselves the opportunity to throw the Government out. In that case, the legislation is pointless. However, let us suppose that they have a point, that there would be circumstances in which a Government would want a reinforced mandate to deal with a national crisis and the Opposition, for whatever reason-shortage of party funds or whatever-denied them the 75 per cent majority necessary for a dissolution. Would that be in the national interest? Can it be right that in such circumstances the Government should be dependent upon their political opponents in seeking a fresh mandate from the people? The purpose of this constitutional change is misconceived.

A further argument used by the Minister in another place, over several columns of Hansard-although I noticed that the Minister made only a glancing reference to it today-was that because a decision to reapply the provisions of the Bill would require a resolution of both Houses, your Lordships could deny an elected House of Commons the right to apply the Bill and thus undermine the supremacy of the elected House. To my mind, it is appropriate that, if a law is to be reapplied, it is constitutionally right that it should be reapplied by both Houses of Parliament. I find it inconceivable that in a future Parliament, if the newly elected House of Commons voted for a fixed-term Parliament, your Lordships would overturn that decision. The fact that the Minister relied so much in this argument on another place illustrates, to my mind, the weakness of the Government’s arguments against the amendment.

Finally, the Minister in another place and the Minister in this House today were critical of the drafting of your Lordships’ amendment. The Minister in another place was particularly critical of Section 7(4), which states that a number of parts of the Bill would only have effect until the first meeting of a new Parliament. His argument was that this would cause confusion by reviving provisions repealed by the Bill, and the Minister in this House said something similar today. This, too, suggests to me that the Government’s arguments are weak. We all know that if the Government were minded to accept the principle of the amendment, it would be open to them-and indeed normal practice-to table a revised set of amendments in order to avoid technical defects in your Lordships’ amendments.

It is clear from the debates in this House and in another place that many Members, on both the government Benches and the opposition Benches, are uneasy about legislating in this way to make a permanent change to our constitutional arrangements without proper consultation, preparation or consideration. It is open to your Lordships, even now, to ask the Government in the other place to think again and provide an opportunity for future Governments and Parliaments to make their own decision whether to subject themselves to this legislation. It would cause the Government no loss to do so, and it is the proper, constitutional way to proceed. I beg to move.”

And finally:

“Our national constitution is too important to be tinkered with as a bargaining chip in the negotiations of a temporary coalition. The British people have decisively prevented that from happening to the voting system for the House of Commons. They are not to be given a chance to express a view on this constitutional change, so it falls to your Lordships to insist that the Government and the House of Commons refrain from making a permanent change and give future Parliaments and Governments the opportunity to make these decisions for themselves. I would like to seek the opinion of the House.”

The House of Commons will now have to reconsider the issue again in September.

Sunday
Jul 17,2011

Last Thursday a reluctant* Sir Paul Stephenson, Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis, was called to appear before a Committee of the Metropolitan Police Authority to answer questions about the relationship between the Metropolitan Police and News International in the wake of all the revelations up to that date on the issue.

He answered questions for thirty minutes at 2pm before leaving.

He chose not to mention that Neil Wallis, a former deputy editor of the News of the World, had been employed by the Metropolitan Police as a media consultant in 2010.  It was subsequently suggested that as Neil Wallis had been arrested that morning, as part of Operation Weeting, it would have been inappropriate for Sir Paul to say anything as this might prejudice any future criminal proceedings and that in any case all that the press people at New Scotland Yard were saying was that “a man aged 60” had been arrested.

It now turns out that the Press Association had named Neil Wallis as the “man aged 60” at 11.07am that morning, so the name was already in the public domain.

Sir Paul’s answers were lengthy and carefully prepared.  I strongly believe that it was a serious error of omission not to say anything to the Metropolitan Police Authority about the Met’s contract with Neil Wallis – he was after all talking about his force’s relationship with the media and News International.

He could have said something like this without mentioning the arrest:

“And while I am talking about our relations with News International I should tell you that we do from time to time employ former journalists and media professionals as consultants and advisors.  Indeed, for a six-month period last year we employed on a part-time, two day a month, basis Neil Wallis, a former Deputy Editor of the News of the World.”

However, given that the name of the person arrested was now known to the media, he should also have said something about it perhaps along these lines:

“I am aware that some media outlets have named Neil Wallis as a person arrested by Operation Weeting earlier today.  I am not prepared either to confirm or deny such a suggestion and I would remind everyone of the importance of not saying anything that might prejudice any later court proceedings.”

Such remarks would have been consistent with openness.

The failure to say anything leaves Sir Paul open to the accusation that he is not prepared to be open with the body to whom he is accountable.  Which leads to the question about what else does he chose not  to tell the MPA.

And at a time when he and his senior colleagues need all the support they can get this was perhaps not very sensible.

*He was reluctant because he was due to preside over a long-service medals ceremony at Hendon and did not want to keep the officers receiving medals and their families waiting.

Saturday
Jul 16,2011

It must be a sign of age but I find myself hugely taken with the editorial in today’s Daily Telegraph.

It is strong stuff:

“The chief executive of a newspaper company resigns after allegations that her colleagues have hacked into the phone accounts of murder victims and their families; a Prime Minister moralises noisily in Parliament, trying to distract attention from the fact that he has been spending family holidays with this disgraced CEO, and that he appointed as his director of communications a man who employed those The chief executive of a newspaper company resigns after allegations that her colleagues have hacked into the phone accounts of murder victims and their families; a Prime Minister moralises noisily in Parliament, trying to distract attention from the fact that he has been spending family holidays with this disgraced CEO, and that he appointed as his director of communications a man who employed those phone hackers; meanwhile, the country’s most senior police officer is forced to admit that he, too, engaged someone implicated in the scandal – a ruthless and abrasive tabloid journalist from the same newspaper company – as his personal adviser.”

And it goes on:

“Our senior policemen, too, were determined not to miss out on the hospitality of Murdoch employees. Between September 2006 and June 2009, Sir Paul Stephenson, now the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, had seven dinners with Neil Wallis, a former deputy editor of the News of the World at the time hacking is alleged to have gone on. They must have been agreeable occasions, for in October 2009 Mr Wallis was engaged as Sir Paul’s personal adviser – an appointment the Commissioner failed to acknowledge publicly until he was forced to this week. Mr Wallis also advised John Yates, the police officer previously in charge of the Met’s investigation into phone hacking. Even in Palermo, this would raise eyebrows.”

Senior figures have now left News International.  Where else?

Tuesday
Jul 12,2011

Late last night the Government was urged both by Liberal Democrat and Labour Peers to avoid disrupting policing during the Olympics.  Did they heed the warnings?  In a word, “no”:

“Amendment 206A

Moved by Baroness Doocey

206A: After Clause 50, insert the following new Clause—

“Transitional arrangements

(1) The provisions of sections 1 to 50 are subject to this section.

(2) Sections 1 to 50 shall not come into effect until 1st October after the first ordinary elections under section 51 have taken place.

(3) The Secretary of State shall make regulations to ensure that the police authorities established for police areas under section 3 of the Police Act 1996 (establishment of police authorities) and the Metropolitan Police Authority continue to exercise their functions until such time as the provisions of sections 1 to 50 come into effect.”

Baroness Doocey: My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendment 310. The purpose of Amendment 206A is to delay the implementation of Clauses 1 to 50 until October 2012 and to allow for a transitional period. During the period until then, the existing arrangements will continue to operate, so in London the Metropolitan Police Authority will continue to exercise its functions until such time as the provisions of Sections 1 to 50 come into effect. The purpose of Amendment 310 is also to move the implementation of this Bill in London from December this year to October next year.

The Government and the Mayor of London are keen to introduce the new system as soon as the Bill receives Royal Assent. The Bill as it stands would allow this to happen. The Government’s prime duty is to keep London and the country safe. Therefore implementation should be timed optimally to ensure that the transition does not compromise public safety. When we consider issues around public safety, we need to bear in mind that there are some very significant events in 2012. We will have the Olympic Torch Relay from May to July, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in June, the Olympic Games in July and August and the Paralympic Games in September. These major events will require a policing operation on an unprecedented scale, so it is difficult to understand why the Government are hell-bent on implementing the changes before these events take place.

My main concern is the policing of the Olympic Games. The Metropolitan Police has described the Games as one of the,

“biggest security challenges the British police have ever faced in peacetime”.

Presidents, kings and queens, heads of state and athletes from all over the world will come together. Their protection will require a security operation of extraordinary complexity. In order to meet this challenge, the Metropolitan Police and the Home Office have spent years planning for every eventuality. As circumstances develop and situations change, these plans are subject to continual revision. The vast majority of Olympic events will take place in London and police officers will be drafted in from every police force in the country to help with the huge operation. For the Government to force the Metropolitan Police to divert their efforts from the security of the Games to a major reorganisation at this critical time almost beggars belief.

Besides the major events I have listed, there is another important event happening in London next year; namely, the mayoral election in May. This election creates a different but no less significant set of problems. It could result in a change of mayor. The new mayor may have a very different vision for the direction of policing in London. If so, this could confront the Metropolitan Police with yet further disruption before the Games. One wonders if the Government’s unseemly haste may be designed to create a fait accompli ahead of the mayoral election.

Whenever this Bill is implemented, it will require a major reorganisation of the Metropolitan Police. The changes proposed have been described by Sir Hugh Orde, president of ACPO, as,

“some of the most radical changes to police governance since 1829”.

Reorganisations are very disruptive. We all know the anxieties being expressed around the NHS. This particular reorganisation will require the police to change all their reporting structures and to get to know, brief, and get up to speed a completely new set of stakeholders and board members. As anyone who has ever served on a police authority will know, gaining an understanding of policing issues is no easy task; it takes time. Let us not forget that this huge organisational change is to be delivered within a framework and climate of an expected reduction in the Met’s spending of some £600 million by 2014-15. Savings to be delivered this year, of £163 million, have already resulted in a two-year pay freeze for police officers and staff, the withdrawing of special payments for police officers and a review of the terms and conditions of police staff.

The reorganisation will be work-intensive, expensive and time-consuming. It should happen at a time when it does not conflict with the London Olympics, so that the police may concentrate their energies and efforts on the huge security challenges surrounding the Games.

The Government have said on a number of occasions that they want to implement the Bill before the Olympics because the Met is in favour of early implementation. In a previous debate in this House on 16 June, my noble friend the Minister said that,

“not just the Mayor of London but the Commissioner of the Metropolis is also keen for the transition from MPA governance to that of the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime as soon as possible after Royal Assent is achieved for this Bill … we have double-checked that there is no real concern with the mayor or the commissioner”.—[Official Report, 16/6/11; col. 1033.]

Well, of course there is no concern from the mayor: he wants the changes before the mayoral elections next May. But what the commissioner actually said to Nick Herbert in his letter of 22 June is:

“London should move forward with the new model as soon as is practicably possible … there are some measures that need to be put in place in order that the new structures can work effectively. Clearly if these cannot be implemented in the time available, the arguments for going early become less compelling”.

This is somewhat different from the Government’s claim that the commissioner is “keen” and that there are no real concerns.

In addition, the commissioner has always been entirely consistent in his view that it is for the Government and Parliament to decide the governance and accountability arrangements for policing, so it is not surprising that he will carry out the democratic wishes of Parliament. It is therefore disingenuous for Ministers to claim that the Metropolitan Police wants early implementation so we must do as it says. Governments ignore the advice of the police whenever it suits them. Detention of suspects is just one example.

A delay until October 2012 is not drastic; it is only a few months later than the Government envisage. By October 2012, Londoners will have enjoyed the Diamond Jubilee celebrations and the Olympic and Paralympic Games. They will have a mayor who has been elected for four years setting a direction over how London is to be policed. Let us allow this direction to be set in a period of calm, with time to think. Let us also give senior police officers the time and space to prepare for these new directions. We need only to delay these changes for a few months, and London will be a better place for it.

I have no doubt that if the Government go ahead and implement this Bill before October 2012, it will cause serious disruption to the policing of the London Olympics and other major events taking place next year. This proposed reorganisation will cause immense disruption at the worst possible time and compromise the safety of our citizens. I therefore appeal to the Minister, even at this late stage, to reconsider this seriously flawed decision. I beg to move.

10.30 pm

Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, I support the amendment for a number of reasons. First, the Bill is amazingly silent on transitional arrangements. In the immediate aftermath of the vote on the first day in Committee, the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, raised with a degree of interruption and noises off—from me, I appreciate—the question of the transitional arrangements that should be in force before a new system is put in place. I would not go as far as those who reorganised London government in the 1960s where there was one year of shadow operation. But I note that there were several months of shadow operation when the new arrangements in London for the Assembly and the mayor took effect. All the Bill provides for in terms of a transition period is seven days—seven calendar days, one week—for transition from one system of governance to another. That seems strikingly short to me, under any set of circumstances. However, that is the smallest and most insignificant of reasons for supporting this amendment.

My admiration for the Home Secretary grows every day, because of the bravery she shows. In Sir Humphrey Appleby terms, the decisions she is taking on policing are extremely brave. Currently, in policing, there is a most extraordinary agenda of change. There are substantial budget reductions, starting with the current year, and moving through next year and the rest of the CSR period. Major changes are proposed for the terms and conditions of police officers, which will at least cause a degree of stress, uncertainty and confusion, if not downright anger from many police officers. Changes are proposed in the pensions of police officers, which are also causing a substantial degree of distress, concern and anger. That is all happening at the same time as other parts of the public sector are withdrawing various functions from their activities so that more will be expected of the police force.

At the same time, we have the challenge of the Olympics, which is probably the largest policing challenge that has ever been faced in this country, comparing a modern Olympiad with the last time that London hosted the Olympics, in 1948. There is the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Wedged in that very short interval between the Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games is the Notting Hill Carnival, Europe’s largest street festival, involving major policing resources. In the midst of all this, our brave Home Secretary is proposing that we change the governance arrangements for policing in London and the rest of the country.

In supporting this amendment I am not trying to frustrate the Government’s intention. I am simply trying to point out that there are major risks in doing this on that timetable, with one week’s transition. That is all that is envisaged for the rest of the country and it is very unclear when the transition in London might take place. All of that will occur, at a time when all of these other things are going on.

I know that our brave Home Secretary has taken the decision to reduce the security alert status, which is always a brave decision for any Home Secretary because that supposes that you know of everything that might be just around the corner. However, the security situation is that there is a very serious terrorist threat against the Olympic Games. There are enormous public order and security challenges. It is not just al-Qaeda and its affiliates that we should be concerned about. Because of the global interest in the Olympic Games—with an estimated several billion people watching the opening ceremony on television around the world—this is an opportunity for any organisation anywhere in the world, pursuing its local objectives, to get publicity on a global scale. The threat is enormous, and in the midst of it our brave Home Secretary plans to change the governance arrangements for policing.

The amendment is very modest. It does not frustrate the Government’s objectives. It merely says, “At least get the Olympic and Paralympic Games out of the way before you make this change”. Is there any need for further distraction under the circumstances? Is there any need for that degree of disruption? Is it not better to wait for a few short months, which will have the added benefit of allowing a sensible period of transition to the new governance arrangements? I urge noble Lords to support the amendment.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, my recollection of the transition/shadow period for the Greater London Authority was that it was very short and clearly not long enough, but that is not the point I will make tonight.

I sometimes think that, faced with a difficult decision, it is wise to ask oneself, “How will I feel, looking back in six months or a year, if I did or did not do something?”. In this situation, if the Government postpone the changes in London, they will be able to look back a year and a half from now and say, “Phew, that went okay. What damage did we do by not making the changes? Well, none really. What damage have we suffered? Maybe a little to our egos, but does that matter?”. How much better to be in that situation if there has been a problem, which may or may not be related to the changes in governance, than to be told by the noble Lord opposite or my noble friend behind me, “Well, we did warn you”, and for the world to say, “You were warned”.

I do not see a problem if the Government make what is hardly even a concession but more a slight shift in thinking. The balance is between very little on the one hand, and possibly nothing but possibly something catastrophic on the other.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness and my noble friend for raising this matter. The Government’s approach to the Bill is on a par with their approach to other pieces of legislation. We have already seen the debacle of the Public Bodies Bill, and the Government are replicating the approach with the Health Bill. I declare an interest as chair of a foundation trust and as a trainer consultant in the NHS. The NHS is facing the biggest challenge that it has ever faced in reducing its spending and in its efficiency programme. At the same time, the Government are drawing up all the structural bodies that are in place and forcing the health service to devote a huge amount of time to structural issues when it should be focusing on how on earth it will cope with the largest reductions in real-terms funding that it has ever faced.

It seems that the same thing is happening to our police forces. The Government have drawn all the wrong conclusions from the first Blair Administration. They feel that they need to speed on, but destruction is inevitable because of the speed with which they are moving. I can only conclude that it is because no senior Minister in the Government has any experience whatever of running anything. If they had, they would not rush in the way the Government are rushing, with no understanding of the impact on essential public services.

When one considers the challenges facing the Metropolitan Police—I shall not go through the list again but they include: the Olympics; the continuing threat of terrorism; the mayoral elections; the budget reductions; staff issues, to which my noble friend referred, including pensions; and the phone hacking issue—it is obvious that over the next months and years there will be intense scrutiny on the force and its senior officers. There are to be two inquiries into the phone hacking issue, one of which is bound to look in close detail at the actions of the Metropolitan Police. The last thing the force needs during the next two to three years is to cope with a structural change in governance. The noble Baroness’s amendment is eminently sensible, and I hope that even at this late stage the Government will give it sympathetic consideration.

Baroness Browning: My Lords, I reiterate what I have said in previous discussions on this subject to my noble friend Lady Doocey: the commissioner has personally asked the Home Secretary to go as early as possible with London. That is a fact. The commissioner, deputy commissioner, the mayor and deputy mayor are very keen for the London provisions to be commenced as soon as possible.

My noble friend mentioned a letter. That letter outlines issues that the commissioner has flagged up for the Government to look at so that London can go early. The issues in the letter are being looked at and many of them have already been agreed in earlier amendments in the House. We debated earlier today the government amendments to the transitional provisions in the Bill to ensure that the PCCs and the MOPC can operate effectively from the outset and that there is no need for a period of shadow operation. The changes to policing governance do not affect operational control and so will not impact on operational issues.

We are going round this circuit for about the third time. My noble friend may totally disagree with me but I have checked and double checked—as has my right honourable friend the Minister of State in another place—to make sure that our understanding of both the commissioner’s and the mayor’s view on this subject are as we have described them in this House. I can but repeat what I have already said to my noble friend in the House: they are keen to commence as soon as possible and they have in no way sought to delay London.

Baroness Doocey: My Lords, I have listened to the Minister with a very heavy heart because, being an eternal optimist, I had hoped against hope that the Government might take some responsibility upon themselves and say, “We are the Government and we are making the decision. On reflection, we do not think that it is a good idea to put citizens’ lives at risk in order to implement the changes in the Bill immediately”.

I have concluded that I have done everything possible to persuade the Government that this is not only a bad idea but a positively dangerous one. I have also concluded that all my pleas have fallen on deaf ears, and it is with a heavy heart that I feel I have no choice but to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment 206A withdrawn.”

Tuesday
Jul 12,2011

The House of Lords started debating the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill again just after 3pm yesterday afternoon.  Seven hours later after a series of refusals by the Government to make any concessions to make the Bill more effective and to strengthen the safeguards for the public, I must admit that I was beginning to get a bit exasperated when it came to moving my amendments that would have given the Mayor of London and the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime a role in appointing London’s most senior police officers (a role that the Mayor and the Metropolitan Police Authority have at present but will be taken away by the Bill):

“I share with the Government a desire to strengthen and improve police accountability. That is what I understood the Bill to be all about. I have to say that, during your Lordships’ consideration of the Bill, I have slowly realised that the Bill will weaken the accountability of the police to the public. In fact, some changes made in the Bill remove the levers that police authorities currently have to ensure that the police service in their area is accountable. There will be fewer powers and fewer levers for the police and crime commissioners and the MOPC in London as a result of this Bill.

Indeed, the diminution of police accountability in London is even worse than in the rest of the country. First, London will not have the benefit of an individual who is directly elected to be responsible for policing. We will not have the visible answerability of the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis and his senior officers to public forums. The police authority will disappear, as will the expectation that the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis will appear there. There will be a special meeting of members of the Metropolitan Police Authority on Thursday to question the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis about the latest issues and allegations concerning phone hacking and related matters. That public answerability of the police will disappear because all that the Government are substituting for that is the right to invite by the London Assembly, which is of course a current right. All that will disappear as a consequence of the Government’s Bill.

We are also now being told that in practice the Mayor of London and the MOPC will have no say in the selection of the most senior police officers in the London areas, which is why I have tabled this series of amendments. Certainly the Mayor of London and the MOPC will have less influence than they do at present. I find that extraordinary. This Government have told us that they want to strengthen police accountability. Why then have they diminished it, really very substantially as far as London is concerned? No senior officer, in fact no officer at all, of the Metropolitan Police will be appointed on the say-so or otherwise of the Mayor of London or the MOPC. That will simply not exist. The Minister is looking baffled, but that is the reality of the legislation that is being proposed.

The Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis will be appointed by Her Majesty the Queen on the advice of the Home Secretary, and the Home Secretary is required merely to “have regard” to the recommendations of the MOPC. That is not a very strong power, given that the whole basis of this Bill is supposed to be that the directly elected individual should be able to appoint the most senior police officer in their area. At present, because the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis is a royal appointment, there is a joint interview between the Home Secretary and the Mayor of London to determine the nature of the recommendation that is made. Fortunately, when this structure has been tested, the Mayor of London and the Home Secretary have agreed on that recommendation. It is not quite clear what would happen if they did not agree, but the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis must have the confidence of the Home Secretary and the Mayor of London or the MOPC in the future. This Bill does not provide for such a strength in that purpose. There is no expectation of a joint interview. There is no expectation that the Mayor of London and the MOPC will have any right other than to make recommendations to which the Home Secretary will have regard. That is a very weak involvement.

Thus begins a declining scale of involvement of the Mayor of London and the MOPC. For the Deputy Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, the Home Secretary is required only “to consider” representations from the MOPC. That is not even “have regard” to; it is “to consider” representations. For assistant commissioners, deputy assistant commissioners and commanders, all chief officer ranks outside London, the most that is expected is a consultation process. That is why this Bill is so weak on accountability in the London area. That is why this Bill takes away from the Mayor of London even his current responsibilities in relation to senior police officers in the force.

I have therefore tabled a series of amendments that would mean that the Home Secretary’s recommendation had to be agreed with the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime in respect of the commissioner and deputy commissioner and that no person should be appointed as an assistant commissioner, a deputy assistant commissioner or a commander without the consent of the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime. I know that the Government wish to put chief officers of police in the driving seat for this process. This series of amendments would not alter it—it says that the MOPC should have to give consent. That is a pretty minimalist requirement and expectation if you really believe the Government’s own rhetoric that this Bill is about strengthening accountability and empowering the directly elected representative of the people to have responsibility for the police service in their area. I find it bizarre that the Government, having made such a song and dance about how this Bill is all about strengthening police accountability, are going to leave London, and for that matter the rest of the country, with less influence over policing. I beg to move.”

And the Minister’s response was hardly compelling:

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Harris, offered a picture of a golden age of policing accountability in London that is about to disappear. I was under the impression that under current arrangements the Metropolitan Police Authority has no power to compel the commissioner to appear before it but has the right to invite the commissioner to appear before it, as its successor body will have under the Bill.

Lord Harris of Haringey: The Minister is confusing the Metropolitan Police Authority and the London Assembly, which at present has no power to compel; it has the power to invite, and that is all that that the Government are offering the London Assembly and its policing panel. That was merely by way of an introduction to my more significant remarks. But I think that the Minister is confused.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: I still hold to my view that the noble Lord is exaggerating enormously the difference between where we are now and where we will be.

Lord Harris of Haringey: The Minister is misunderstanding the point. At present, the visible answerability of the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis is to the Metropolitan Police Authority. Those meetings take place once a month. In the case of the current month, there will probably be an additional meeting in which the commissioner will answer questions in public to the body to which he is accountable on issues concerning the controversies of which we are all aware about phone hacking. That will disappear, and all that the Government are offering in its place is the right to invite by the London Assembly panel.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: I take the noble Lord’s point, but these amendments are primarily concerned with the question of appointment. The noble Lord’s amendments are concerned to shift the balance of authority in terms of appointments, with senior appointments between the Secretary of State and MOPC and for other appointments to strengthen the power of the MOPC. My understanding is that the mayor will be able to make recommendations to the Secretary of State, but the national and international responsibilities of the Metropolitan Police are such that the Bill proposes that the final decision should be taken by the Secretary of State on the appointment of the commissioner and the deputy commissioner. The mayor will have the right to make recommendations, which will of course be taken fully into account. That is the whole purpose of the phrase “to have regard”; we envisage a dialogue and a process, but not one that can lead to deadlock between the two authorities, because of the particular national and international responsibilities of the Metropolitan Police.

In terms of other appointments below that of deputy commissioner, the Bill as a whole clings to the idea of the operational independence of the police. It will be the right of the chief constable or of the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police in this case to make other appointments. These of course will be made in consultation with the MOPC and there will also be external supervision, but the principle will be one of police independence; a clear line of responsibility from the commissioner and the deputy commissioner will then follow for other appointments within the force.

The noble Lord wishes to have the MOPC in the central position; we are putting the MOPC in the position of scrutiny and accountability and not in one of control. That is not dissimilar to the current position. He is asking for a much stronger position for the MOPC than has been the case in the past—

Lord Harris of Haringey: Can you tell me why it is stronger? What element have you strengthened in this Bill? Give me one example of an element in which you have strengthened the role of the MOPC compared with the existing police authority.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: The noble Lord misunderstands me. I said you are asking for a much stronger position for the MOPC than there was even under the previous regime. That is the point I am making.

Lord Harris of Haringey: At present the Metropolitan Police Authority appoints all officers between the ranks of assistant commissioner and commander. That disappears and the MOPC has no role other than to be consulted. The current position for the appointment of the commissioner and the deputy commissioner is that there are joint interviews; there is nothing in this Bill which allows that to continue.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: I stand corrected but I hold to the principle which runs through this Bill—that of the independence of the police in terms of command and senior appointment and the international and national role of the Metropolitan Police as an exception in this regard. This is why the Bill is written in this form. On that basis I invite the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, I have to say that I do not think the Minister has addressed the central problem. What he is actually doing for the most prominent directly elected individual in the country is reducing that individual’s responsibility for the police service in that area. The Bill removes from the mayor and the MOPC the powers that currently exist. That means that in future the Mayor of London will have less influence over the Metropolitan Police than he and the MPA currently have. That is an extraordinary reversal of what this Bill seems to be about.

I find it extraordinary that the Minister’s response has not addressed that central question. Of course, the Metropolitan Police has a national and international function, which is why, exceptionally, it should be a joint appointment rather than simply the appointment of the mayor’s office. That is the concession that ought to be made as far as the national and international functions are concerned. I fail to see why assistant commissioners, who rank as chief officers of police everywhere else in the country, are not part of the responsibility of the mayor’s office. The Government are diminishing the authority of the mayor in respect of policing in London, and that runs directly counter to the Government’s own rhetoric as to what this Bill is about.

I urge the Government to consider this in the few remaining days that we have left for the consideration of this Bill. On the basis that I am sure they will wish to do so, and to receive further representations from the Mayor of London on this point, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.”

Sunday
Jul 10,2011

I have tabled the following questions for the Commissioner for the next meeting of the Metropolitan Police Authority – either at its scheduled meeting on the 28th July or earlier if an emergency meeting of the Authority is called:

(1) Access to police databases.  Does the Directorate of Professional Standards audit access by police officers and staff to the PNC and other police databases to check whether the information accessed is appropriate and relevant to the work of the person accessing the information?  If this is only done in respect of a complaint about an individual officer or staff member, will this now be done more regularly to check all accesses to information from the PNC and other police databases on a sample basis?  If these wider checks are already done, what proportion of accesses to information are checked and will this proportion now be reviewed?

(2) Misuse of police information by police officers and police staff. How many police officers and police staff have been (a) prosecuted, (b) dismissed or asked to resign, or (c) disciplined for misusing police information in each year over the last decade?

(3) Guardian article 6th July.  The Guardian has reported that in November 2002 Rebekah Brooks was confronted at “press social event” in New Scotland Yard by being taken into “a side room” and confronted by Cdr Andre Baker and Dick Fedorcio about News of the World surveillance of DCS Cook.  No futher action was taken about this.  Who was party to the decison to confront Rebekah Brooks in such a fashion and to take no further action?  In particular, was the then Commissioner and the then Deputy Commissioner (a) involved or (b) informed?  What other Assistant Commissioners or DACs were (a) involved or (b) informed? (I can confirm that as the then Chair I was not informed – indeed the first I learned of it was when I read the Guardian’s article.)  Was the team led by Assistant Commissioner John Yates which subsequently reinvestigated the murder of Daniel Morgan aware of this behaviour by the News of the World?

(4) Review of phone hacking case in 2009.  What remit did you give to Assistant CommissionerJohn Yates when you asked him to review the phone hacking case in 2009?  Did you set a timescale on the review?  How soon after you asked him to do the review did AC Yates report back to you?  Were you satisfied when he reported back to you that he had properly fulfilled the remit that you gave him?

Thursday
Jul 7,2011

Earlier today, I reported that Mayor Boris Johnson thought that continuing concerns about the News of the World’s phone-hacking antics were “codswallop”.

Late this afternoon Deputy Mayor Kit Malthouse AM, the Mayor’s surrogate on policing matters issued a statement, saying slightly strangely:

 “This morning I had discussions with the Commissioner about the ongoing investigation into whether officers were paid by the News of the World for information. The Commissioner has assured me that at this time he has not seen any evidence requiring referral to the MPA in respect of any senior officer.”

All this tells us is that there is that there is nothing to suggest so far that any officer of Commander rank or above needs to be considered for disciplinary action because they have received payments from News International – denying something that has not as yet been alleged.

Then this evening comes this statement from the Mayor’s office:

“It is unbelievable that victims of some of the most odious crimes in recent years might have had their suffering prolonged and intensified by such blatant intrusion into their lives. If true, it suggests there was no limit to the callousness of the journalists and private investigators involved. And if some police officers were indeed paid as part of this process, there is only one word for this, corruption. It doesn’t matter that this happened many years ago, under a different commissioner and indeed mayoralty. Even if only a small number of people were implicated, these allegations have to be taken extremely seriously and investigated ruthlessly and openly. I have talked to the commissioner this afternoon and he’s equally determined to clear up any doubts on this issue.  I’ve also made it clear to him that for the sake of public confidence this investigation needs independent oversight and the IPCC should play a full role.”

So suddenly, it is no longer “codswallop”.

As Adam Bienkov puts it so succinctly:

“Boris Johnson is terribly concerned about wrongdoing at News of the World and takes the whole scandal “extremely seriously.”

This evening he described the allegations as “blatant intrusion,” “callousness,” “corruption” and said that:
“Even if only a small number of people were implicated, these allegations have to be taken extremely seriously and investigated ruthlessly and openly.”
Yes Boris takes it all extremely seriously. In fact so seriously that just three months ago he joked that celebrities actually wanted their phones hacked.
And so seriously that last year he told the London Assembly the phone hacking saga was…
  •  
    • “a load of codswallop cooked up by the Labour Party” which was
    • “patently politically motivated” and
    • “a politically motivated put up job” and
    • “completely spurious and political” and
    • “a song and dance about nothing” which had been
    • “whipped up by the Guardian and the Labour Party.”
No doubt he’ll instruct the Metropolitan Police to take their investigations extremely seriously indeed.”

 

Wednesday
Jul 6,2011

Adam Bienkov has via Twitter drawn attention to Mayor Boris Johnson’s considered view on the News of the World phone-hacking scandal.  When asked last September at a meeting of the London Assembly about the continuing concerns over the News of the World’s use of phone-hacking he said that such concerns were  “codswallop” and that it “looks like a politically motivated put-up job by the Labour party”. 

He also seemed rather vague about whether he had been briefed as Mayor of London (and Chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority at the relevant time) and displayed his usual vagueness and lack of grasp of detail:

“Asked by Labour assembly member Joanne McCartney about any conversations he had had with police at the time, Johnson replied that “to the best of memory I was satisfied with the police position, which was that no new information had been substantively revealed and therefore nothing more was going to be done. So I don’t think I actually had any conversations.

He later added that he didn’t recall “any specific briefings on this”.”

Interestingly, Wiktionary tells us – and with Mayor Johnson’s classical knowledge this is no doubt something with which he is familiar – that:

“Cod, as is known from medieval texts, refers to the penis, as is cod piece, peascod (ref Shakespeare et al.) and wallop (see above). Combining the two would result in the reasonable conclusion that codswallop may have come from the combination of penis and rubbish, thus providing either the explanation that it is either semen or urine.”

Not a nice way to dismiss the claims of the hacking of the phones of murder victims ….

But then Mayor Boris Johnson’s approach is to disclaim all responsibility on the basis that he wasn’t briefed or wasn’t listening when he was ….

Tuesday
Jul 5,2011

Early yesterday evening the Home Office Minister in the House of Lords, Baroness Browning, had a difficult (if not, torrid) time resisting amendments to the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill from two LibDem coalition “partners”, Baronesses Doocey and Hamwee, the first of whom is the current Chair of the London Assembly and the second a former Chair, that would have strengthened the powers of the London Assembly with respect to the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime.  The amendments would have given the Assembly the power – by a two-thirds majority – to amend the Mayor’s policing strategy – a power identical to that being conferred on the London Assembly by the Localism Bill (also currently being considered by the House of Lords) in respect of all the other Mayoral strategies.  A simple case of one Department of Government not being aware of what another Department is doing?  You might think so, but not according to the Minister:

“Baroness Browning: My Lords, I would like to deal with one or two points that have just been raised before I touch in more detail on the amendments that have been spoken to this evening. We want the Assembly to have a role in informing the development of the plan which is in keeping with the rest of the country and the elected mandate of the PCC. We do not believe that there should be a veto, because no other PCP will have the power of veto outside London. It would take away-this is critical-the mandate on which they were elected. I see the noble Lord looking heavenward but this is at the heart of PCCs. They will be elected on a mandate that will spell out to voters how they see themselves managing crime reduction.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Will the Minister give way?

Baroness Browning: I am halfway through the sentence; perhaps I may finish it. At the heart of the Bill is an ability to be elected on a manifesto and on a mandate which people will have heard. People will either support them on that or give their support to an alternative candidate with a different way of taking these matters forward. The right to veto would completely negate what had been put to the people who had voted in good faith on the contents of the strategy. I give way to the noble Lord.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, there are two issues here. One is London and what happens there and the other is the impact of a decision in London in relation to police forces in the rest of the country. As far as London is concerned, I do not see the difference between the mayor as the MOPC and the mayor as the Mayor of London. The manifesto will contain proposals that relate to both policing and non-policing issues, and since the Government have decided that it is entirely appropriate for the Assembly in certain circumstances to change those strategies, I cannot see the logic of the argument coming from the Home Office. Is it not supporting the overall government position on this? Secondly, if you agreed to this in London, would that differ from the position in other parts of the country? I see the force of that argument but again I refer the noble Baroness to what Mr Pickles said at the conference last week in Birmingham, when he made it clear that elected mayors outside London will not have any additional powers to those held by local authorities at the moment. Already within local government we have a situation where it is accepted, and the Government support, that there will be differences between London and elsewhere. I know that the Home Office is a very distinguished department of state but just occasionally it would be nice to think that it was actually a part of the Government.

Baroness Browning: My Lords, I assure the House that there is absolutely no question that the Home Office is not part of the Government. I am shocked to the quick that the noble Lord should suggest such a thing. There is a difference between the Mayor of London and the mayor’s election but, unlike mayoral strategies on which the mayor goes to the electorate, within the Bill there is a lot of detail which is already in statute that relates to policing, structure and the mayor’s function in London policing. This is therefore different from other matters which the mayor may go to the electorate on as part of a broader manifesto. I see the noble Lord, Lord Harris, about to rise.

Lord Harris of Haringey: I am grateful to the Minister. I hope that she is not relying on a brief from the Home Office which suggests that somehow the policing and crime plan is intrinsically different from the other mayoral strategies. There is the most extraordinary volume of legislation about what the Mayor of London can do on development issues in London. There is an extraordinary volume of legislation about what the Mayor of London can do with transport. The legislation specifies very complicated arrangements for consultation with the public of London before the mayor can frame the spatial development strategy and the transport strategy. To suggest that there is anything special here regarding policing compared with those other pieces of legislation is, I am afraid, nonsense.

To save me getting up again, if the Government are concerned that this sets a precedent for the rest of the country then why on earth are they having a different system of governance in London than in the rest of the country? Once you have accepted a different system of governance in London, then what you do in terms of how London operates does not set a precedent.

Baroness Browning: My Lords, we have been round this circuit quite a few times. The difference is that the mayor, unlike PCCs, covers a distinct police force area. The election of the mayor has already taken place; we are familiar with the structure. I know that the noble Lord is going to jump up and talk about the City of London police, and I accept the point. He has made the point and I think that I have fully understood it.

The structure in London is different from that in the rest of the country. In this uniformity across the country, however, we have tried to identify where there are differences in London-and there are differences-and draft the Bill accordingly. This may come as a surprise to the noble Lord because I have just said that we already have detail in statute on this matter, which we have, but at all levels, whether it is London or elsewhere, we have tried to introduce checks and balances throughout the Bill at the same time as keeping a light touch. We want to give PCCs and the MOPC the opportunity to be flexible and to make their plans according to their local priorities and demands. There is a structure within the Bill that will affect all of the country, including London-and there are differences that affect London because of the precedent of already having an elected mayor-but we want this to be something that is not top-heavy and not prescriptive from the centre, that allows local accountability for local decision-making that is a local priority and not something set down by Whitehall.

I would also like to put this on the record. Some noble Lords were not here on Friday when it was suggested that there is a difference between me and the Home Office. I have heard what has been said about the Home Office. This is not the first time in my career that I have been a Minister. It has never been my practice as a Minister to separate myself either from the department that I represent or from the Government whom I represent. There is hardly a cigarette paper’s width-if that is not being terribly politically incorrect-between us. I take full responsibility for the Home Office in your Lordships’ House. I hope it is meant kindly, but it does not always sound that way. I suggest to noble Lords that if there is criticism of the Home Office in your Lordships’ House, it rests on my desk. I take full responsibility for that. If people have complaints about the Home Office, I would ask that, as with all other complaints, they put it in writing, and I will respond accordingly.  ….

Lord Harris of Haringey: The Minister may have misunderstood what I was saying on a point that I made earlier on. It is not that the ability of the Assembly to vary local plans runs across the thrust of government policy. I understand that the thrust of government policy is to release local energies to determine what the priorities are. If that is the case and you then say that the London Assembly cannot vary what is being determined locally, does that not cut across the sort of localism that the Government say they want? This is not about the problems of the Assembly interfering with national strategies or requirements; it is about the ability of the Assembly to say, “These are the local priorities”. Where there is a clear two-thirds margin-a pretty high target-that is something that the MOPC would have to take on board.

I cannot understand why the Government are saying that policing is different from spatial development strategy-say, the size of strategic tall buildings, the size of the congestion zone area or any of those other issues. These are not laid down nationally; they are determined locally. Of course the Mayor of London has been elected with a manifesto but the London Assembly, representing all parts of London, may well say, by a two-thirds majority, “We think that you should take this back and review it”. That is what the Government are saying could happen in those other areas-why are they not saying that it can happen with regard to policing?

Baroness Browning: We have a situation in London where, although I said earlier that there is a difference between London and the other areas, there will be an opportunity to scrutinise the plan. I do not want this to sound as if it is an isolated case. We have had these discussions now. We have tried to strengthen in the Bill the fact that there is a need not just to scrutinise and challenge but also to support. Where the plan is being drawn up, it is not just something that happens overnight. I would expect it to be subject to a series of consultations so there would be ample opportunity, if there were reservations, for the plan to be amended to take account of different points of view that had been put forward. It is not just an isolated thing.

Perhaps this is my fault but I have a feeling that in the earlier stages of the Bill, when we were talking about the plan, I did not spell out this aspect in more detail. It is not the case that one day somehow a plan is suddenly produced and presented for consultation and people sitting in committee then make their views known. We want them to have time to look at the plan in some detail; I raised this in an earlier amendment. There will need to be that period of time. The plan will not be put together overnight. There will be plenty of opportunities for views to be brought forward and for real consultation to take place.

Lord Harris of Haringey: I do not want to prolong this, but that is exactly the situation that already exists regarding the transport strategy. There is a requirement, which if I remember correctly seems almost unduly onerous, for any amendment to the transport strategy to require two separate consultation processes. I look across the Chamber at those current Members of the London Assembly. So the transport strategy is not something that happens suddenly; it happens after a great deal of discussion and process. Yet the Government are saying that the transport strategy can be amended by a two-thirds majority of the London Assembly. I put this question again to your Lordships: why is policing different from transport?

Baroness Browning: I realise that the mayor will have said things about transport, I appreciate that, but the mandate that the mayor will have been elected on will have outlined how he sees the reduction of crime in London. It is important that that is not fettered by a veto, which it could be.

Lord Harris of Haringey: You could say exactly the same about congestion in London. The mayor has stood on a manifesto that says he is going to reduce congestion in London by various methods, yet the Government are giving the power to the London Assembly to amend the strategy by a two-thirds majority after two separate consultation exercises before the strategy is finalised and those decisions are taken.

I am not trying to be difficult here. Well, I am trying to be difficult because I think that these are important issues, but I am afraid that the Government are being totally illogical when they say that policing is different from those other strategies.

Baroness Browning: My Lords, I have to remain illogical to the noble Lord. I can think of nothing else
to say to him now that we have not already taken around this circuit, not just in today’s debate but in Committee.

Tuesday
Jul 5,2011

By popular demand (well, to be more exact a number of colleagues apparently enjoyed the procedural wrangle I had yesterday with the Leader of the House, Thomas Galloway Dunlop du Roy de Blicquy Galbraith, 2nd Baron Strathclyde) I reproduce the whole exchange in which I tried (albeit rather cheekily) to bring forward a debate on the timing of the introduction of the new arrangements for policing –  as recorded in Hansard:

Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill

Report (2nd Day)

3.07 pm

Clause 4 : Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime 

Amendment 15A

Tabled by Lord Harris of Haringey

15A: Clause 4, page 3, at beginning insert “Subject to section 159(2A)”

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Strathclyde): My Lords, before the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, has the opportunity to move his manuscript Amendment 15A, I need to give the House some procedural advice as Leader of the House-it is a very rare occurrence but one that I need to do. I have to inform the House that the Clerk of Public Bills has written to advise me that this amendment is inadmissible and that the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, has tabled it against the advice of the clerks. Paragraph 8.56 of the Companion provides that in such rare circumstances it is for me to ask the House to endorse the opinion of the Public Bill Office, and I readily do so.

I suspect that most Members of the House will not have had an opportunity to consider the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Harris. It reads:

“Page 3, line 14, at beginning insert ‘Subject to section 159(2A)'”.

The Public Bill Office advises me and the House that the amendment is about commencement, not the subject of the clause itself-namely, the Mayor of London’s Office for Policing and Crime. The reason the noble Lord, Lord Harris, may have been tempted to attempt this procedural manoeuvre is clear: he is seeking to advance a vote on the commencement of the London provisions of this Bill. That is a matter of political tactics, but tactics, or the policy, are not why I rise to address the House this afternoon. I wish only to deal with a matter of procedure.

4 July 2011 : Column 12

The clerks have advised that this amendment is inadmissible under the Companion and I invite the House not to allow the noble Lord, Lord Harris, to move his manuscript Amendment 15A. The difficulty is of course compounded because the amendment is a manuscript amendment. The Companion also provides that,

    “the disadvantages and inconvenience attaching to the moving of manuscript amendments on Report are even greater than at Committee stage”.

I have to agree that this is not how we should go about our business. In short, the PBO has advised the House that this first amendment is inadmissible and I invite the House to agree. However, I reassure the House and the noble Lord that he will have every opportunity to speak to the issue he wishes to raise in the proper place when Clause 159 is debated. I therefore invite the noble Lord, Lord Harris, not to move his amendment. If he chooses to do so, and the Companion does not prevent him doing so, the amendment is in the hands of the House.

Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, if it is in order, I would like to respond to what the Leader of the House has said. It is very difficult sometimes to determine why particular amendments are moved in a particular way and at a particular time. There were a number of reasons for my seeking the indulgence of the House to put forward this manuscript amendment at this time. The first is the question of relevance. There is a specific proposal at the moment that the implementation and creation of the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime should proceed in advance of that for the rest of the country and should take place in October 2011, rather than October 2012. Therefore, my manuscript amendment is designed to make clear that preparations, some of which will be costly, should not go forward at this time.

The second reason I felt it necessary to bring forward the amendment in this way was that I had anticipated that there would be an amendment, either from the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, who moved such an amendment in Committee, or from the Government, about the transitional arrangements for the introduction of the Mayor’s Office, and, indeed, of the offices for policing and crime commissioners. A detailed look over the weekend made it clear that such transitional details were not being put before the House and therefore I thought that it was important that we have this opportunity.

The final reason for putting it before the House is that there are, of course, important security issues associated with this. I am slightly bemused about where we are today because I also tabled an amendment on Friday which does not appear either in the list that we received this morning of amendments supplementary to the Second Marshalled List, nor as a manuscript amendment. It seems to have gone into some void in the Public Bill Office, but it, too, was relevant to this point and might have assisted the House had we had it before us. It was also clear from my manuscript amendment that this related to an amendment later on the agenda in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Doocey. That, I know-and, of course, she will speak for herself should we get to the point of debating this

4 July 2011 : Column 13

amendment-is about security of this country during the Olympics period and whether or not the disruption that will be caused in administrative arrangements is sensible at that time.

Those are my reasons for putting forward this amendment and I hope that the House will agree that they are valid reasons, notwithstanding the inconvenience that I am sure it puts the House to. No doubt the noble Lord will wish to respond and I hope that I will then be able to move my amendment.

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, I do not think that there is any quarrel about whether or not these issues can be debated. The decision of the clerks is about where the debate should take place. Perhaps I may read out the advice about the grounds of inadmissibility, which is very clear and simple. In the view of the Public Bill Office the manuscript amendment is not admissible on the grounds that it is not relevant to the clause to which it is tabled. That is the first rule under paragraph 8.59 on page 132 of the Companion.

The manuscript amendment would make Clause 4,

“Subject to section 159(2A)”,

as set out in Amendment 310 to Clause 159, which would affect the commencement of Chapters 1 to 6 of Part 1. In the view of the clerks, this amendment is not relevant to Clause 4 as it affects commencement, which is the subject of Clause 159. In addition, Amendment 310 covers Clauses 1 to 79, several of which have already been debated.

My purpose is simply to bring to the attention of the House the strongest possible and clearest advice of the clerks, which is that this is admissible. In parenthesis, I can also tell the noble Lord that a transitional government amendment will be tabled today relating to Schedule 15. It will be debated in its proper place next week. It is up to the House and the noble Lord to decide what he wishes to do with his amendment but the advice from the clerks, and therefore the advice that I give as Leader of the House, is completely clear.

3.15 pm

Lord Harris of Haringey: I am grateful to the noble Lord the Leader of the House for that further clarification. I am grateful also to hear that an amendment on transition is being tabled today. I say, in parenthesis, as was the noble Lord’s point, that this demonstrates the problems we have had with this Bill; that is, the late tabling of government amendments and the problems that we have in terms of determining exactly the intention of the Government in terms of various clauses, which is one of the problems that we all face. No doubt we will hear again an apology from the noble Baroness, Lady Browning, about the problems that the Home Office have faced and we will accept it with the usual good grace.

However, the noble Lord has said that this amendment, in the view of the clerks, is irrelevant to where it is placed. It is placed after the line, which states:

“There is to be a body with the name ‘The Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime’ for the metropolitan police district”.

The amendment would insert,

“Subject to section 159(2A)”.

4 July 2011 : Column 14

The amendment is tabled there because currently detailed work is going on about the early implementation and the introduction of the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime in the London area. This is in advance of the Bill receiving Royal Assent, with a view to trying to get the implementation from October or shortly thereafter. That is why it is relevant to the place it is in and why I moved it in respect of this line in Chapter 2. It is not irrelevant to that point, which is why I moved it. The clerks may not see the relevance. Perhaps because of the hurried telephone calls that I had while inspecting security arrangements at Heathrow airport this morning, we did not have an opportunity to discuss it in detail. The amendment is about ensuring that we do not press ahead in advance of legislative authority.

May I move the amendment?

Noble Lords: No.

Lord Strathclyde: Before the noble Lord continues, there is no point in having this debate on whether the amendment is admissible. The advice from the clerks is clear. Now the House will need to take a view as to whether the noble Lord should continue.

The Lord Speaker (Baroness Hayman): Perhaps I may be of assistance to the House. At the moment, no other Motion is before the House and the noble Lord’s amendment has been called. Normal procedure would be for him to move his amendment.

Lord Richard: Perhaps the Leader of the House could help me. From the muttering around the House, it would seem that there is a feeling that perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Harris, should not move his amendment in view of the clear indications given by the clerks. However, I am not clear about what the procedure should be now. Should there be a Motion before the House as to whether the amendment should be moved, on which, if necessary, the House can divide? How does it work? I never came across this particular type of issue when I was Leader of the Opposition or Leader of the House, or since. I should be grateful if the noble Lord could enlighten me.

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Richard, and indeed to the Lord Speaker.

It is true that there is a lacuna in the procedure and when I discovered this about half an hour ago I suggested that the Procedure Committee should look at it. In the normal course of events, there is an underlying assumption in the Companion that the mover of the manuscript amendment would feel so moved as to not move the amendment. However, as I said earlier, under the terms of self-regulation the amendment is ultimately in the hands of the House. There is no Motion before the House. There is the possibility of a closure Motion or indeed the Motion that the noble Lord be no longer heard. Both are quite heavy-handed. I dare say that if the noble Lord insisted on moving his amendment the House would take a pretty dim view of it, and if he tried to convince the House of the merits of his case I suspect he would not succeed.

4 July 2011 : Column 15

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, can the Leader of the House advise me? I wish to vote in support of my noble friend’s amendment but I am not clear, on the advice of the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, the Leader of the House, whether any subsequent Division would be about the procedure or the content of the amendment. If it is about the procedure, surely the Lord Speaker has indicated that the Motion before the House is the amendment, and therefore because I support the amendment I want to support it in a Division. However, I take seriously the advice that has been given, so I am sure the Leader of the House can advise me, even though he might not approve of my voting intentions.

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, the proper advice I would give the noble Baroness, who I know is a stickler for such things, is to advise her noble friend not to move the amendment this afternoon, given the very clear advice of the clerks, and to speak to his amendment when it comes up in the proper place later on Report.

Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, I hope I have been of service to the House in identifying a lacuna in the Standing Orders. I hope therefore that this will be an opportunity for us to look in detail at some of these difficult procedures. All I was trying to do was to avoid unnecessary duplicate expenditure in advance of legislative authority and to enable the House to debate the security of the nation. However, the Leader of the House has three times at least reiterated the firm advice of the clerks on this point, and I would be foolish to persist beyond that. I assume, however, if I wished to bring forward this self-same amendment at Third Reading there would now be no objection to me so doing.

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, I would have no objection so long as the amendment at Third Reading were written according to the rules.

Lord Harris of Haringey: I will take that advice.

Amendment 15A not moved.