1 The Government's proposals
1. On 26 July 2010, the Home Secretary, Rt Hon Theresa
May MP, introduced a consultation paper that she said set out
"the most radical reforms to policing in at least 50 years".
She stated that police reform was a priority "because for
too long the police have become disconnected from the communities
they serve, been bogged down by bureaucracy and answered to distant
politicians instead of to the people".
The consultation paper, Policing in the 21st Century: Reconnecting
police and the people, included as one of its principal proposals
the introduction of elected Police and Crime Commissioners. This
followed a pledge in the Government's coalition agreement, which
stated: "We will introduce measures to make the police more
accountable through oversight by a directly elected individual,
who will be subject to strict checks and balances by locally elected
2. Both the Conservative and Liberal Democrat manifestos
contained proposals to reform the current system of Police Authorities.
The Conservative manifesto stated: "We will replace the
existing, invisible and unaccountable police authorities and make
the police accountable to a directly-elected individual who will
set policing priorities for local communities".
The Liberal Democrat manifesto stated that they would "give
local people a real say over their police force through the direct
election of police authorities" and "give far more power
to elected police authorities, including the right to sack and
appoint the Chief Constable, set local policing priorities, and
agree and determine budgets".
The previous Government proposed replacing councillor members
of Police Authorities with directly elected members, but decided
otherwise after strong representation from a number of organisations,
including the police and our predecessor Committee. Members of
this Committee hold widely differing views about the desirability
or otherwise of the current proposals, but this inquiry has been
held in a constructive spirit so as to determine how these proposals
can best be delivered.
3. Currently, responsibility for policing is shared
between the Home Secretary, Chief Constables, and Police Authorities,
under the tripartite structure established by the Police Act 1964.
The idea behind this structure is that the Home Secretary is responsible
to Parliament for the overall efficiency and effectiveness of
the police in England and Wales and the maintenance of minimum
standards of service, Chief Constables are responsible for the
operational effectiveness of their forces, and Police Authorities
set the strategic direction of the force and hold Chief Constables
to account. Under the
Government's proposals, directly elected Police and Crime Commissioners
would replace Police Authorities, which would be abolished. The
Government also proposes to introduce new bodiesto be known
as Police and Crime Panelsin each force area to scrutinise
Police and Crime Commissioners.
4. The consultation paper includes several other
proposals for policing reform. We have focused on Police and Crime
Commissioners at this stage because the Government has stated
that the Bill relating to them will be introduced by the end of
November 2010. In due course, we expect to announce further inquiries
into the other proposals set out in the consultation paper, including
the establishment of a National Crime Agency.
The scope of our inquiry
5. The consultation period for Policing in the
21st Century closed on 20 September 2010 and the Government
is expected to publish the 800-plus responses at the same time
as the Bill. The Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice, Rt
Hon Nick Herbert MP, told us that not only had the Home Office
"undergone quite an extensive period of pre-consultation"that
is to say, informal consultation with stakeholders before the
formal consultation process beganit would "welcome
continuing responses and engagement with these proposals after
the end of the formal period and as the Bill is introduced".
This report is intended to inform the discussion and scrutiny
of the Bill as it makes its way through Parliament. Therefore,
and given the time constraints imposed by the likely timetable
for the Bill's publication, the report focuses mainly on the proposals
for Police and Crime Commissioners as set out in the consultation
paper, rather than discussing in detail the other structures that
the Government could have adopted to improve the connection between
the police and the communities they serve. The terms of reference
for the inquiry can be found in the annex.
6. The Government's proposals for Police and Crime
Commissioners relate to England and Wales; policing is a devolved
matter in Northern Ireland and Scotland. Our report also relates
principally to England and Wales, although some of the issues
discussed are also relevant to the rest of the United Kingdom.
7. We heard oral evidence from eight witnesses, and
received 25 written submissions, which are listed at the end of
the report and published on the Committee's website. We are grateful
to everyone who contributed to the inquiry. We also held a general
oral evidence session on 27 July 2010 on policing, which has informed
1 HC Deb, 26 July 2010, col 723 Back
The Coalition: our programme for Government, p 13 Back
Invitation to join the Government of Britain: The Conservative
Manifesto 2010, p 57 Back
Liberal Democrat Manifesto 2010, p 72 Back
For further detail, please see Home Affairs Committee, Seventh
Report of Session 2007-08, Policing in the 21st
Century, HC 384-I, p 68 Back
Oral evidence taken before the Home Affairs Committee on 27 July
2010, Policing HC (2010-11) 362-i, Q 1 Back