Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill

Memorandum submitted by the London Assembly (PR 51)

1. The London Assembly welcomes the opportunity to submit written evidence to the Public Bill Committee. This submission focuses on three specific issues relating to how the new arrangements would apply to the London Assembly. Our submission is brief in order to alert the Committee to the issues, but we would of course be happy to provide any further information the Committee might require.

Summary of the Assembly’s proposals

2. The Assembly proposes three changes that should be made to the Bill in order to ensure that the new arrangements in London to achieve the right balance between consistency with procedures outside London and coherence and consistency within the Greater London Authority Group. These changes would help to enable the Assembly effectively to scrutinise the Mayor’s Office for Police and Crime.

3. These three proposals focus on the provisions that relate to the London Assembly, rather than considering the wider issues of principle relating to the Bill.

4. The proposed changes are as follows.

a. The new power, contained in the Localism Bill, for the Assembly to reject draft Mayoral strategies by a two-thirds majority vote should include the Mayor’s draft Police and Crime Plan as well as the Mayor’s other statutory strategies. This is important in order to ensure that the accountability arrangements within the Greater London Authority are coherent and internally consistent.

b. There should be specific provision included in the Bill giving the Assembly the power to appoint voting independent members to the Police and Crime Panel. This is important in order to ensure that if the Assembly appoints independent members they will have a proper statutory basis that is not open to challenge.

c. The London Assembly Police and Crime Panel should have the power to require senior officers from the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) to provide information and attend meetings. This will be essential to enable the Panel to hold the Mayor’s Office for Police and Crime to account and investigate ‘any other matters which the Assembly considers to be of importance to policing and crime reduction’ (Clause 33(3)).


Power to reject the draft Police and Crime Plan

 

5. It is important that the role and remit of the Police and Crime Panel is consistent with the Assembly’s relationship with the Mayor as set out in the GLA Act 1999 (as amended by the GLA Act 2007). This relationship will be changed by the provisions of the Localism Bill, which will give the Assembly a new power to reject Mayoral strategies by a two-thirds majority vote.

6. The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill applies some of the requirements of the GLA Act 1999 relating to Mayoral strategies to the Police and Crime Plan, but it would not have the effect of applying the Assembly’s new power to reject Mayoral strategies by a two-thirds majority vote. The proposal to introduce this new power was supported by the Mayor, the Assembly and London Councils, [1] and there is no substantive difference between the police and crime plan and other Mayoral strategies that would justify it being excluded from these new arrangements.

7. Whilst such provisions would be different to those outside London, this would not be unique in the Bill. For example, the power for Police and Crime Panels outside London to suspend police and crime commissioners, whereas the London Assembly Police and Crime Panel will not have such a power, recognising that the elected Mayor would be the occupant of the office.

8. The Bill provides that none of the functions of the Police and Crime Panel may be carried out by the Assembly or any of its other committees. The Assembly proposes that if a power to reject the draft police and crime plan is introduced, this specific power should be exercisable by the full Assembly. This would provide consistency with the provisions of the Localism Bill in relation to other Mayoral strategies.

Power to appoint independent members to the Police and Crime Panel

 

9. The Bill (Clause 32(7)(b)) removes the restriction in the GLA Act that states that only Assembly Members can serve on ordinary committees (s.55(3) of the GLA Act 1999). However, it is not made explicit that the Assembly could appoint independent members, and could enable independent members to vote, and it is not clear that there is sufficient basis in other legislation that would enable the Assembly to do so. This could leave the Assembly open to challenge in the event that it did decide to appoint voting independent members.

10. The Bill should therefore be amended specifically to give the Assembly the power to appoint voting independent members to the Panel, in order to ensure there is no confusion over this point in the future.

Power to require senior officers from the MPS to provide information and attend meetings of the Police and Crime Panel

11. The Bill provides the Police and Crime Panel with the power to require the Mayor’s Office for Police and Crime to provide information and attend meetings.

12. In order to hold the Mayor’s Office for Police and Crime to account for the implementation of the Mayor’s policies and commitments, the Police and Crime Panel will require information held by the Metropolitan Police Service.

13. For example, if a Mayor had identified neighbourhood policing as a priority, the Police and Crime Panel would require information about the allocation of resources within the MPS and its performance in order to inform its assessment of the Mayor’s policies, actions and decisions. Similarly, the Panel will require input from senior officers from the MPS at its meetings in order to inform its deliberations.

14. A power for the Police and Crime Panel to require the MPS to produce information would also help to ensure that there is no loss of transparency resulting from the abolition of the MPA, which questions senior officers in public and receives and publishes information provided by the MPS.

15. The Assembly therefore proposes that the Bill should be amended to enable the Police and Crime Panel to require senior officers of the Metropolitan Police Service to provide information and attend meetings of the Police and Crime Panel.

January 2011


[1] http://www.london.gov.uk/who-runs-london/the-london-assembly/publications/general/devolution

[1]