Select Committee on Home Affairs Second Report


The Home Affairs Committee has agreed to the following Report:



1.  The Police Reform Bill was introduced into the House of Lords on January 24.[1] It emerged somewhat battered on 25 April. It is now the turn of the Commons to see whether there is scope for improvement. To assist Members in this task the Committee has conducted its own scrutiny of the Bill. We have taken evidence, oral and written, from all the main interested parties. Witnesses who gave oral evidence included organisations representing all ranks of the police, the Association of Police Authorities, Liberty and the Minister, John Denham. We have also taken account of the deliberations in the Lords and the reports of the Joint Committee on Human Rights[2] and the Lords Committee on Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform.[3]

2.  Although there is widespread recognition—not least among police officers themselves—that the quality of service they are able to provide leaves a certain amount to be desired, it would be wrong to say that the welcome for this Bill has been universal. Widespread concern has been expressed about the increased powers to be given to the Home Secretary although these have to some extent been met by amendments introduced and undertakings given by the Government in the Lords. The proposal for community support officers has also attracted much criticism although the Metropolitan Police Service has welcomed the idea. Some measures—the creation of an Independent Police Complaints Commission, for example—are not controversial.

3.  There are of course many aspects of the Government's police reform agenda that do not feature in this Bill, if only because they do not require legislation.[4] The most important of these is the urgent need to reach an agreement on pay and conditions that will enable the police service to concentrate more on front line tasks by reducing paperwork, abandoning outdated working practices and introducing sensible disciplinary and retirement procedures.[5] Important though these are, this report is confined to the measures contained in the Bill and possible omissions. All the oral and most of the written evidence we have received is published with this report. We are grateful to all those who responded quickly to our invitation to give evidence within the relatively short timetable available. A full list of witnesses and those who have provided written evidence appears on pages 30 and 31. In this report we refer to clauses by their number at the time the Bill was introduced in the House of Commons, following changes made in the House of Lords. Inevitably some of our written and oral evidence uses the slightly different numbering for clauses in the original Bill.

4.  Only the Police Foundation, an independent research institution, raises a cautionary note about the overall approach of the Government towards reform.[6] It says of the White Paper, from which many of the measures in this Bill are drawn, "the document accurately mimics the hectoring tone of those campaigns for change about which officers are most cynical". Of the Bill, it says, "there has never been...any example of a Government producing a revolution in management culture and style by legislative dictat".[7] We have borne these and other comments in mind. The main issues we have addressed are:

      A. Powers for the Home Secretary to give directions
      B. New police complaints system
      C. Removal of senior officers
      D. Community support officers
      E. Possible additions to the Bill.

1   Now printed as Bill 127. Back

2   Thirteenth Report, 2001-02, HC 646, and Fifteenth Report, 2001-02, HC 706. Back

3   Twelfth Report, 2001-02, HL 73. Back

4   The Police Reform Bill follows from the Government White Paper Policing a New Century: A Blueprint for Reform, (Cm 5326) published in December 2001.  Back

5   Progress on these issues was announced on 26 April 2002, Home Office press notice 110/2002. Back

6   The Foundation is financially independent of all government agencies and the police service. Financial support comes from a wide variety of corporate, charitable and individual donors, including the Tomkins Foundation, The Zochonis Charitable Trust, the Hobson Charity and the Underwood Trust. Back

7   Ev 138 and 140. Back

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Prepared 7 May 2002