Select Committee on Home Affairs Second Report


1.We share the general concern that central interference in running individual forces is not desirable. We believe that the tripartite structure and operational independence of police forces are essential safeguards against politicisation and centralisation of the police. We welcome the safeguards proposed by the Government and hope it is clearly understood that these powers should only be used as a last resort. As originally proposed, this clause (directions to chief officers) was unacceptable. If it is eventually restored to the Bill with the additional safeguards on consultation, we will watch carefully to see how these powers are exercised (paragraph 17).
2.We do not think the Home Office has made out a convincing case for a Police Standards Unit separate in the long term from HM Inspectorate of Constabulary. We believe it is inevitable, and desirable, that the Inspectorate and the Standards Unit should eventually merge (paragraph 23).
3.We welcome the changes to clause 6 (regulation of procedures and practices) made by the Government in the Lords and believe that as currently drafted it is satisfactory (paragraph 28).
4.We welcome the provisions of the Bill for a new complaints system—which is in line with our proposals in 1997-98—and are not persuaded that they need substantial amendment (paragraph 31).
5.We believe that the planned budget of £14-18 million a year, the provisions of the Bill and the pilot schemes already being conducted by the Police Complaints Authority have the potential to achieve an effective and independent system dealing with complaints of a serious nature (paragraph 32).
6.We recommend that the appointment of the chairman of the Independent Police Complaints Commission should be with the 'advice and consent' of the House of Commons (paragraph 36).
7.We support the proposed changes to the police disciplinary procedures in the Bill, but we share the view of the Metropolitan Police Service that they do not go far enough. We believe that, so far as possible, police disciplinary procedures ought to reflect those in other walks of life. The current procedures were devised long before employment law gave protection against unfair dismissal. Taking modern employment law into account, police regulations could be simplified. We regret that the Government has not gone further in this Bill to reform police disciplinary procedures (paragraph 40).
8.We believe that, if the Home Office has concluded that strengthened powers are needed for the suspension and removal of chief constables, it should be able to give a fuller explanation of how they might be used. We would expect these powers to be used only in exceptional circumstances (paragraph 48).
9.We recommend that the partial police powers to be vested in community support officers and accredited community safety organisations be reflected in different uniforms, so members of the public can distinguish clearly between those with full police powers and others on duty on the streets (paragraph 65).
10.We accept the Government's argument that in London and possibly other areas an adequate policing presence is unlikely to be achieved by the planned increase in regular and special constables and that community support officers may be the solution in certain cases (paragraph 66).
11.We recognise the genuine concerns about the powers to be given to community support officers, but believe that the only way of finding out whether this proposal will work is to try it. It may be that it will only ever be used by a few police forces and that the powers will need to be amended in the light of experience. Since the Metropolitan Police Service wish to try this new system, we conclude that the proposed powers for community support officers should be approved (paragraph 67).
12.We note that part 4 of the Bill would not compel any police force to employ community support officers. We would like to be assured that neither clause 6 (regulation of procedures and practices) nor the ring-fencing of expenditure on policing will be used to compel any police force to go down that road (paragraph 68).
13.We invite the Government to clarify its intentions about clause 35 (police powers for police authority employees) in respect of the detention officer role being carried out by civilian staff working under contract as well as those directly employed by police authorities. In particular, we are concerned that a drift to a 'contracting out' culture will lead to civilians with insufficient training working in poor conditions for less money while doing jobs which until recently were undertaken by police officers (paragraph 70).
14.Moreover, we are opposed to civilians, whether employed by the police or private companies, being given powers to assist in or undertake intimate body searches (paragraph 71).
15.We recommend that the Bill be amended to bring police officers within the Public Disclosure at Work Act 1998 (paragraph 79).
16.The Riot Damages Act 1886 seems arcane and a good case has been made for repealing it. Without prejudice to any existing cases, the Government should seek to repeal the Riot Damages Act 1886 (paragraph 81).
17.We recommend that the Government either bring forward amendments to the Bill to improve the arrangements for medical retirements or publish draft delegated legislation on this subject before the Bill receives Royal Assent (paragraph 86).

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