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Since the Bill was introduced, we have received representations from police forces planning to arrange the provision of detention and escort services by private sector organisations. They want employees of companies involved in that work to have access to relevant powers. Although there is no question of compulsion in that respect, we will be tabling amendments to allow that to take place. As will be the case for designated police authority support staff, powers will be granted to contracted-out staff only where the chief officer is satisfied that the individual concerned is suitable, capable and adequately trained.
Bob Russell: Does the Minister agree with me, and the Home Affairs Committee, that the Government should refrain from including in the Bill measures to allow the employment of civilians to conduct intimate body searches of people who have not even been charged?
The Government's view is that if we are to allow civilian detention staff to carry out the duties of a police officer in the custody suite, it would be sensible to give them the full range of powers, particularly given that it is not a matter, as the hon. Gentleman said, of employing them for the purpose of conducting intimate searches, and such searches occur very rarely. I am sure that we will return to the matter in Committee, but at the moment we are not persuaded by the Select Committee's conclusions.
Mr. Denham: The operational issue, which will need to be considered in Committee, is whether the provision of extra police officers that might be needed to cover the remote possibility would remove the advantage of having civilian detention staff. We must consider that difficulty. The issue is not as straightforward as my hon. Friend suggests, and it would not be worth undermining the potential benefits of having civilian detention officers to cover such a rare circumstance.
Chapter 1 also introduces community support officers, which are another important way of making sure that we use the record and rising number of police officers to best effect. The Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis see the introduction of CSOs as vital to the policing of London. Following the events of 11 September, the Met diverted considerable resources from the boroughs to guard against terrorist attacks in central London, with an inevitable impact on crime away from Westminster and Docklands. The introduction of CSOs will enable the Met to return officers to fighting street crime and other crime across London.
The Met also intends to use CSOs in what we see as their primary role of providing an increased visible policing presence on the high street, in town centres and on housing estates. Fifteen other forces outside London have also expressed varying degrees of interest in CSOs. It will be a matter for chief officers, in consultation with their police authority, to decide whether community support officers are appropriate for their force area.
Mr. David Chaytor (Bury, North): May I tell the Minister how successful and popular the existing community warden scheme has been in my constituency? May I tell him also what reservations police officers in Greater Manchester have expressed to me about the CSO proposals? Does he agree that it is crucial that there is a clear explanation of the distinct legal responsibilities of conventional police officers and CSOs, particularly in respect of powers of detention? Will he be tabling amendments to clarify those powers?
It is worth remembering that many of the objections to CSOs are almost identical to those made against the introduction of traffic wardens in the early 1960s. It was argued that traffic wardens would be confused with police officers and would divert attention from proper policing. No one would seriously argue that today. In the 1960s, it was radical to have people working for the police service as traffic wardens. In many parts of the country, traffic warden responsibilities are now carried out by people working for the local authority. While I would not suggest for one moment that it is the most popular service in the world, everybody recognises it as necessary for the proper implementation of the law.
It is a good thing that we are not using the time of professional police officers for duties that demonstrably can be carried out, properly according to the powers laid down by Parliament, by people who are not police officers. Those who oppose this change, and therefore oppose the leadership of the largest single police force in this country who want to use these powers, should think a little more carefully about the matter because, in a few years, people will look back on this debate and wonder what the argument was about.
Mr. Cameron: The Minister will have noted what the Select Committee said about welcoming CSOs in those areas that want them, such as London, but can he guarantee that he will not use ring-fenced funding to browbeat all police forces into accepting CSOs?
Mr. Denham: It is perfectly clear in the Bill that the chief constable will have a legal duty to be satisfied about the introduction of CSOs, and there is no power in the Bill to force chief constables to make a decision that they do not believe is in the best interests of their force. However, I see nothing wrong with funds being made available for the development of CSOs. This is a new area of policy and we want to kick-start it. We want to free up police officers' time for fighting street crime and other serious crime, and I see nothing wrong with making funds available to develop CSOs.
Mrs. Jackie Lawrence (Preseli Pembrokeshire): Does my right hon. Friend agree that, certainly in my area, the issue is not so much the creation of CSOs but their long-term deployment? Will he confirm that it will be the responsibility of each individual chief constable to decide how and in what circumstances those officers are deployed?
In another place, amendments were made with the intention of wrecking the development of CSOs. We believe, as do the Metropolitan police, that the power to require a person's name and address in certain clearly defined circumstances and the power to detain someone for a limited period of time using reasonable force are important to the work of CSOs. We shall introduce amendments to restore those powers to the Bill, which also provides for chief officers, in partnership with local authorities and others, to establish community safety accreditation schemes. Such schemes will enable the work of neighbourhood and street wardens and the like to be more effectively co-ordinated with the police. Accreditation will be subject to a dual-key procedure. Both the chief officer and the local authority or other employer need to agree before any powers are conferred on wardens or security staff. The Bill specifies a more limited range of powers which may be conferred on them, compared with community support officers.