Draft Police (Conduct) Regulations 2008

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Bob Russell: I want to take this opportunity to repeat the point that I have made before elsewhere and here today. In his response to my earlier comments, the Minister acknowledged that disciplinary procedures for a police community support officer and a full-time police officer or a special could follow two different lines. Does he think that a good practice, and does he not agree that the Home Office needs to look seriously at this? The public perceive a single police family, but the police operate as if they are permanently divorced. There is a need for PCSOs to be regarded as part of the family in all respects, and that includes on disciplinary matters. Although we cannot do anything today, will the Minister urge his colleagues at the Home Office to consider how the whole police family can operate as one and not be divided?
5.28 pm
We are looking to the NPIA to pursue training, and all of this will be included in the various courses run by the police. We will take every opportunity to ensure that these new regulations are explained and that all officers are fully aware of them. I have no doubt that the police’s own staff associations will do that. As I am sure hon. Members have seen, there have been some very good articles in the various police professional journals. I am sure that there will be further such articles, which will also help.
As hon. Members will have noticed, subject to being their passed this third set of regulations is due to come into force on 1 December. Although we will not review something that we have just put in place, we always watch what is happening, as do police forces and individual staff associations. We learn from that. I cannot say categorically that every single part of every single regulation that we have just passed will work exactly as everyone would want. I dare say, knowing the professionalism and expertise available within the police, that the odd bit of tweaking may be done. Generally speaking, these provisions have been arrived at after considerable discussion; we are pleased to have them.
Records of the sanctions will not be held centrally by the Home Office; they will be collected and collated at force level. However, we will obviously want to evaluate the information held at force level to identify trends and get an overview. I take the point that the hon. Member for Colchester made about the importance of police community support officers. I know that he fully supports PCSOs and is proud of the work they do in his constituency and elsewhere. I echo that—we are all pleased with the work that they do. At present, they are separate in terms of these regulations. Where this takes us to in future, who knows?
In commending the regulations to the Committee, I stress again that although we are talking about police misconduct, police performance and the associated appeals process, the vast majority of police officers, police staff and other members of the police family do a superb job on our behalf, often in very difficult and dangerous circumstances. As the Minister with responsibility for policing, it is important for me to say that underperformance is an issue for some, but not the vast majority. Misconduct is an issue for some, but not the vast majority. I am as proud as anybody of the police service and the police forces of this country.
Question put and agreed to.
Committee rose at twenty-eight minutes to Six o’clock.
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Prepared 28 October 2008