Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill report stage: day five

14 July 2011

The House of Lords is continuing to debate the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill, which is expected to complete its report stage this afternoon (Thursday 14 July).

An amendment that would have prevented prosecutions being brought when an offender is harmed or injured in the course of a police constable carrying out his or her duties was defeated by one vote. It was the first of four votes of amendments during debate so far today.

The House of Lords is now discussing amendments to the clauses concerning demonstrations in the vicinity of Parliament.

Amendment 244, Lord Thomas of Gresford moved, which sought to insert a new clause into the Bill, exempting police officers acting in the course of duty 'at the material time' from civil proceedings for trespass brought by offenders.

The amendment was defeated by 136 votes to 135.

The House of Lords also voted against amendments 305ZB, 306ZC and 306A.

Amendment 305ZB, moved by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, would have required costs for social services and trading standards to be included in statements of policy published by licensing authorities. It was defeated by 159 votes to 114.

Amendment 306ZC, moved by Baroness Finlay of Llandaff, sought to insert a new clause about the use of alcohol monitoring requirements in youth rehabilitation orders. The amendment was defeated by 151 votes to 104.

Amendment 306A, moved by Lord Marlesford, sought to replace Clause 147 with a new clause setting out the powers of the Parliament Square committee in relation to demonstrations in Parliament Square. This amendment was defeated by 129 votes to 102.  

Day four

An amendment that would have required the extent to which the strategic policing requirement had been met to be assessed was defeated yesterday, day four of the report stage debate (Wednesday 13 July).

Baroness Henig moved Amendment 235, which would have required the Inspectorate of Constabulary to report annually an assessment of the extent to which the strategic policing requirement has been met in each police area and nationally.

Moving the amendment, Baroness Henig explained, 'Amendment 235 is a response to the widespread fears of your Lordships expressed in earlier debates. It is also a response to the concerns of policing professionals, charities and businesses that an elected commissioner might, for obvious reasons, want to focus on a local mandate, and the fact that a lot of important, strategic national issues are somewhat hidden from public view. There is concern that all this might lead to cross-border national or strategic policing issues being relatively neglected under the Government's proposed new model.' Seeking to test the opinion of the House, Baroness Henig said: 'We owe it to the public to reassure them that under the new system cross-border crime, serious criminal issues and national crime will be tackled by local forces.'

The amendment was defeated by 151 votes to 54. 

Day three

The House of Lords voted against three amendments during debate on the report stage of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill on Monday 11 July.

There were two breaks in the debate. Amendments discussed covered schedules 5-8, and clauses 29-34, 39-44, 46-53, 55 and 59-63 of the Bill.

Amendment 103A, moved by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, sought to amend Government Amendment 103, moved by Baroness Browning, concerning the policing precept – the charge for policing raised through council tax. Baroness Browning’s amendment sought to require a two-thirds majority vote of a police and crime to levy a precept.

Lord Hunt’s amendment sought to introduce the requirement of a majority vote by members of the police and crime present and voting.  Moving the amendment Lord Hunt explained: ‘I was rather disappointed that the Minister did not come back to the point about why the vote should not be of those present and voting. That is a perfectly normal, appropriate action and standing order for public bodies. I see no reason why it should not relate to the precept ... By not attending, one is effectively voting against the veto.’

The House of Lords voted against Lord Hunt’s amendment by 197 votes to 180. Amendment 103 was agreed to.

The House of Lords also defeated Amendments 106 and Amendment 117, moved by Baroness Henig, which concerned the composition of police and crime panels.

Moving Amendment 106 Baroness Henig explained, ‘It is fundamental to getting checks and balances right that the political balance of panels is prioritised and determined according to rigorous principles. Crucially, my amendment would ensure that no single political party can dominate the policing panel and its agenda.’ There was a risk that the panels ‘would be an ineffective check and balance against the commissioner and ineffective at contributing to the better governance of policing,’ Baroness Henig said. ‘I cannot stress how important all the experiences of police authorities have shown this to be. We must get this right, otherwise all the other safeguards that have been built into the Bill will fail.’

The amendment was defeated by 224 votes to 199.

Amendment 117 sought to establish an independent sub-committee within each police and crime panel responsible for complaints, conduct and audit matters. Moving the amendment Baroness Henig explained: ‘In relation to financial governance it would have responsibility for audit matters in relation to both the chief officer's remit and the commissioner's office. It would be able to link the audit requirement for one police fund to the two bodies that will manage it. I am not aware of any other accepted method of carrying out financial responsibilities in the corporate context except through an audit committee. The virtue of my proposal is that this will become a function which is to all intents and purposes carried out by independent people, thus avoiding the dangers of politicisation.’

The amendment was defeated by 204 votes to 139.

Day two

An amendment that would have required police and crime commissioners to consult with local authorities on crime plans was defeated on the second day of report stage on Monday 4 July.

There were two breaks for statements during the debate.

The House of Lords voted against Amendment 34A, moved by Lord Beecham, which sought to ensure that local authorities were consulted by police and crime commissioners on the preparation of and changes to police and crime plan.

Moving the amendment, Lord Beecham said: 'Surely it is axiomatic that a close working relationship between the police and other authorities, particularly local authorities, is essential in dealing with matters of community safety and law and order.' Seeking to test the opinion of the House on the issue, Lord Beecham said: 'We are also talking about how the commissioner makes those significant strategic decisions, as he would have responsibility for the police's part of what is not just a policing matter, but a matter which transcends the boundaries between police authorities, however constituted, and local government.' 

The amendment was defeated by 219 votes to 165. 

Amendments discussed covered clauses 4-21 of the Bill.

Further information

The Bill covers five main policy areas:

  • police accountability and governance 
  • alcohol licensing 
  • regulation of protests around Parliament Square
  • misuse of drugs
  • arrest warrants in respect of private prosecutions for universal jurisdiction offences.

The House of Lords agreed to two amendments during committee stage: Amendment 31, moved by Baroness Harris of Richmond, which would insert a new clause after Clause 1 to establish a Police Commission. The amendment is consequential to Amendment 1, also moved by Baroness Harris, which was agreed to by the House on the first day in committee. Amendment 1 removes proposals for the election of Police and Crime Commissioners from the Bill.

The Bill completed all its stages in the House of Commons on 18 February and had its first reading in the House of Lords on 1 April.

The Bill has been the subject of three select committee reports:

Report stage gives all Members of the Lords further opportunity to consider all amendments – proposals for change – to a Bill.

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