Previous Section Index Home Page

The IPCC undertakes independent investigations into the most serious matters and may also choose to manage or supervise investigations undertaken by a police force. In those cases, once the investigation has been concluded, the IPCC will also have a role in respect of whether disciplinary proceedings should be taken against any of those involved. In many cases, there will be agreement between the IPCC and the chief officer or police authority about what action should be
9 Jan 2008 : Column 496
taken. However, when there is no agreement, the commission can ultimately direct that disciplinary proceedings be taken.

Inevitably, there will be occasions when a complainant or members of the police service concerned do not agree with the action being taken. The IPCC, in common with many other organisations, has an appeals procedure through which its decisions can be challenged and reviewed. It can also make recommendations to chief officers as a result of an investigation. Depending on the nature of the recommendations, it is a matter for the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Association of Police Authorities, the Home Office, the National Policing Improvement Agency or Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary to consider them. The IPCC also chairs a “learning the lessons” committee, on which key stakeholders are represented. We hope to ensure that that makes a difference.

Importantly, the IPCC is a statutory independent body and is therefore independent of Ministers and Government Departments, which rightly have no role in influencing the commission’s decisions. There is, however, a final right of challenge available through judicial review in the administrative court.

I turn now to some of the issues that the hon. Gentleman discussed when he met the chair of the IPCC yesterday. I know of the hon. Gentleman’s interest in the complaints statistics for 2006-07 in England and Wales which were published by the IPCC on 14 November 2007, and in the increase in allegations involving neglect of duty, incivility and the quality of service that police officers provide to crime victims or others asking for their assistance.

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that there was an increase of 10 per cent. in complaints compared with the previous year. Although that is not an insignificant increase, it appears that the rate of increase has been steadying since the IPCC was established in 2004. Taken together, the categories to which I have referred account for about half the allegations made in 2006-07. Although that is clearly a matter of concern, it may also indicate that the public have a greater awareness of, and willingness to use, the police complaints system, which can only be an encouraging sign. Almost half of all complaints were dealt with through local resolution by the police. Just under a third—30 per cent.—of the complaints were investigated and, of them, 11 per cent. of allegations were upheld.

As I mentioned at the beginning, the IPCC is currently undertaking a stocktake of the complaints system to consider how it is operating and to make recommendations for further improvements. The hon. Gentleman will be pleased to know it is anticipated that the IPCC will conclude its stocktake in March and will submit its views to the Home Office—together with any recommendations, which we will consider. I will ensure that the hon. Gentleman is given a copy of those recommendations; he may well then wish to comment on them so that he can feel involved in the process.

The hon. Gentleman will know that police authorities have a direct role in police complaints and disciplinary matters in respect of the most senior officers within the force for which they have responsibility. Police authorities are independent bodies that hold the local police force to account on behalf of the people who live and work in that area. Their job is to ensure that there is an efficient
9 Jan 2008 : Column 497
and effective local police force that gives best value to local people. They set the strategic direction for their force and hold the chief officer to account, on behalf of the local community, for the policing service delivered. However, it is the responsibility of the chief officer to deliver those policing services.

Police authorities have a statutory duty under the Police Reform Act 2002 to ensure that it is kept informed of all matters concerning complaints against the police and a role in deciding whether disciplinary proceedings should be taken against senior officers, including chief officers. They also have the power to refer certain cases to the IPCC where they consider that it would be appropriate to do so by reason of the gravity of the matter or any exceptional circumstances. A police authority cannot, however, act as an avenue of appeal for decisions made by the IPPC.

I disagree with the hon. Gentleman’s seeking to castigate Sir Ian Blair. I am happy to endorse and repeat the Home Secretary’s continuing support for the commissioner and the Metropolitan police, who remain in the forefront of the fight against crime and
9 Jan 2008 : Column 498
terrorism. Sir Ian Blair did not decide that the IPPC should not investigate—he asked whether the investigation should go ahead during an ongoing counter-terrorism investigation, and he received advice from the Home Office that the law could not be set aside and that the investigation should go ahead, as it did. Sir Ian Blair and the Metropolitan police have our full confidence and our thanks and support in the difficult job that they do.

We have had an important debate. I believe that the system does allow for independent scrutiny. There is clearly a need for us to consider the recommendations that come from the IPCC, and I would like to involve the hon. Gentleman in that. I will write to him about the individual cases that he mentioned, and if he would like to come and meet us to consider how we take this whole agenda forward, I will be only too happy to arrange that.

Question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at seventeen minutes past Nine o’clock.

    Index Home Page