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12 Jan 2012 : Column 151WH

Westminster Hall

Thursday 12 January 2012

[Mr Graham Brady in the Chair]


[Relevant documents: Fourteenth Report from the Home Affairs Committee, Session 2010-12, HC 939, and the Government response, Cm 8223.]

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the sitting be now adjourned.—(James Duddridge .)

2.30 pm

Keith Vaz (Leicester East) (Lab): The House will know, Mr Brady, that over the past 10 years, you and I have had the honour of co-chairing the Westminster kids club Christmas party, but this is the first time that I have served under your chairmanship, and it is an enormous privilege to do so.

I welcome this opportunity to discuss the report by the Select Committee on Home Affairs, “New Landscape of Policing”, which we published on 23 September 2011. A new Government always want to put their imprint on an important area of policy, but in my 25 years in the House, I have not seen the kinds of changes to policing and the policing landscape that this Government initiated when they took office. The Government propose abolishing the National Policing Improvement Agency and the Serious Organised Crime Agency; creating a new National Crime Agency, a professional body for policing and a police-led information technology company; centralising non-IT procurement; supporting collaboration; and ending unnecessary bureaucracy.

Our report was a response to those fundamental and far-reaching proposals for policing reform. Given the significance of the changes to this £997.3 million budget, the Committee decided to examine the proposals in great detail. I am pleased to see that three members of the Committee are present—my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Alun Michael), and the hon. Members for Rochester and Strood (Mark Reckless) and for Cambridge (Dr Huppert)—as well as the official spokesmen from various parties.

We have received more than 50 pieces of written evidence and heard from 29 witnesses, including the Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice, the right hon. Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert). We have also held an informal meeting with the Police Federation, attended by its chairman, Paul McKeever, and Derek Barnett, who represented the Police Superintendents Association. At the invitation of the hon. Member for North Norfolk (Norman Lamb) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff South and Penarth, we have also held two public meetings—in Sheringham in Norfolk and in Cardiff in Wales. We put the public at the centre of our deliberations; after all, the police exist to protect the public and uphold the rule of law. To increase that involvement still further, we ran a nationwide polling exercise on our website, asking people what they wanted the police to

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prioritise. In total, 2,000 votes were cast, and the highest public priority for the police was dealing with murder and serious violence.

Despite the Government’s desire to unclutter the landscape, we concluded that it seems likely that the new landscape of policing will contain more bodies than the current landscape’s six. It is possible that the Government’s changes will lead to a more logical and better functioning police landscape and ultimately make the police more successful at achieving their basic mission of reducing crime and disorder, even though we will end up with more bodies. We believe that as the scale of the change is unprecedented, the possibility for mistakes may be large and with us for some time. That is why, at the point of publication, the Committee had particular reservations about the timetable for the changes, including the transfer of functions from the National Policing Improvement Agency by spring 2012 and the setting up of the National Crime Agency by December 2013.

It has taken the Government more than a year to announce where the functions of the NPIA will go. As the NPIA has an annual budget of £447.6 million, it is extremely important that we know those facts. The continuing uncertainty was damaging to the morale of the 2,000 people who work for the agency, and to the efficiency and effectiveness of the police service as a whole. I am therefore glad that the gap or loophole was rectified by the Government’s acceptance of our recommendation that the phasing out of the NPIA be delayed until December 2012, and by the announcement on the future location of some of the agency’s functions. It is not immediately clear whether further functions from the NPIA will transfer to the NCA, and how some of the functions already earmarked for transfer to the NCA will relate directly to operational responses to organised crime.

Dr Julian Huppert (Cambridge) (LD): I thank the right hon. Gentleman, who chairs the Committee, for giving way. Does he agree that, while it has certainly not been perfect, the NPIA has done a very good job, and that there is some concern that an impression has been given that it has not been valued by the House? It has had many disparate functions, many of which have been developed very well. It is important that we put on record our appreciation for the NPIA’s work during its existence.

Keith Vaz: I thank the hon. Gentleman for, and agree with, his intervention. It is important that we put on record the achievements of the NPIA in certain areas. The fact that organisations are being abolished does not mean that we do not recognise the work done. I will come on to some of those organisations later.

The fact that the location of all the NPIA functions has not been announced remains a concern. I hope that, during his winding-up speech, the Minister will finally give us the list of all the outstanding functions and tell us where they will go. Many of the NPIA functions bound for the NCA will have to move to the Serious Organised Crime Agency, which itself is due to be abolished and co-opted into the NCA by December 2013. This shifting of resources between agencies due for closure, before finally shifting them to the NCA, makes heavy weather of the Government’s important principle of uncluttering the landscape.

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SOCA was set up by the previous Government, of which the shadow Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Delyn (Mr Hanson), was an active member—one of his roles was that of Policing Minister—and our Committee has been concerned about it for a number of years. In our most recent report on the agency in 2009, we found that its budget of £476 million was used to hire 3,800 members of staff; that it was spending £15 of public money for every pound it seized from criminal gangs; and that it lacked transparency in the way that it operated. Despite improvement in its performance, it is essential that the Government’s new crime-fighting agency be set the correct targets and can use its resources cost-effectively, so that it does not become another SOCA. It is also not clear whether SOCA will be given extra resources to help it manage the NPIA functions during the short-lived transition. I hope that the Minister will offer clarification on that point.

The lack of detail regarding the creation of the NCA was one of the central concerns of the Committee, and that remains the case. We were concerned about the delay in appointing a head of the agency, and the lack of detail on the objectives and—most importantly—the budget of this new policing agency. We welcome the appointment of Keith Bristow as the head of the NCA since the publication of our report. We felt, however, that someone occupying a position of that importance ought to have appeared before the Committee before taking up his formal appointment. We also remain concerned about the lack of detail on his role and objectives. Will he be a civil servant, or the head of the No. 1 crime-busting agency in the country? Will he be Sir Humphrey or Eliot Ness? Perhaps we will find out when he appears before the Committee on Tuesday to answer some important questions.

The Committee still awaits the figures on the agency’s budget. When the Minister first appeared before the Committee on 28 June, I asked his director of finance whether he knew the budget. He replied that it would be a little higher than SOCA’s, which is £476 million. Luckily, he had the Minister next to him, who told the Committee that although the budget for the NCA had not yet been set, the lion’s share of it would come from SOCA. The Minister came before us again on 20 December 2011, following the announcement that the destination of some of the NPIA functions would be the NCA, and he could still not inform us of the budget. This is not a game of “Play Your Cards Right”—a little higher here, a little lower there. We want the figures. Parliament needs to know exactly what the budget of this new agency will be, particularly as it is the flagship of the Government’s new policy.

There remain many areas where the agenda for the future of policing is unclear. One such area is police IT. Despite costing the public £1.2 billion annually, we concluded that

“IT across the police service as a whole is not fit for purpose,”

and that that affected the

“police’s ability to fulfil their basic mission of preventing crime and disorder.”

The Home Office has made rectifying that, through changes to police IT, a top priority.

It was an error of judgment on the part of the Home Office to prevent Lord Wasserman from giving oral evidence to our inquiry. As the author of the police IT

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review that preceded the Home Secretary’s announcement of the creation of a police-led information and communications technology company, and as chairman of the board setting up that new IT company, he is central to any future plans. He hosts seminars on behalf of Ministers, he speaks on behalf of Ministers, and he advises Ministers. I have received many invitations to seminars that the Minister for Policing was unable to attend, and Lord Wasserman is sent in his place. It appears that Lord Wasserman is, in fact, acting as a Minister, so it is very odd that he has refused to appear before the Committee. I hope that the Minister will have some good news for the Committee, in terms of agreeing to allow him to attend. The Committee unanimously wrote to the Home Secretary again on 20 October 2011 asking Lord Wasserman to come before us and give us answers on the development of the new company. That request was turned down.

One of the areas that the Committee has been focusing on with regard to policing has been the policing protocol.

Mr David Winnick (Walsall North) (Lab): I know that my right hon. Friend is going through a lengthy period of not being controversial—somewhat like me—but is he coming to the point when we deal with morale in the police force?

Keith Vaz: I have a feeling that my hon. Friend has seen a copy of my speech—although I am not suggesting that he popped into my office, which is next door to his—because I will indeed come on to police morale.

Mr Winnick: I can assure my right hon. Friend that I have not seen a copy of his speech.

Keith Vaz: One thing is certain: my hon. Friend did not write it for me. We will be coming on to police morale in a moment.

I pay tribute to the excellent work done by the hon. Member for Rochester and Strood in pursuing the issue of the protocol. In the past, the Minister has been willing to engage with the Committee on a number of issues. I find him a very accessible Minister. He may well be top of the league table, as far as my dealings with Home Office Ministers are concerned.

Mr David Hanson (Delyn) (Lab): Oh!

Keith Vaz: I do not have a list for shadow Ministers yet. However, uncharacteristically, on the issue of protocol the Minister has let himself down. We were very keen to engage with the Government on the protocol, as it is very important. However, there has been no engagement. The Committee nominated the hon. Member for Rochester and Strood to be our representative at any meetings that took place, but unfortunately that offer was not taken up.

As hon. Members know, the protocol sets out the critical relationship between police and crime commissioners, the first of whom are to be elected in November 2012, and the police. I note that a Committee member, my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff South and Penarth, has announced that he will seek the Labour nomination for his local area. I wish him well in pursuit of that. I hope that the fact that he has been

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endorsed by the English Chair of the Home Affairs Committee will not mean that he does not get the nomination.

The Committee was the body that recommended that there ought to be a protocol, in its report on police and crime commissioners. That move was put to the Committee by the hon. Member for Rochester and Strood, and we put it in our report. We were delighted that the Government took that recommendation on board and created a draft protocol that the Committee commented on in detail. Of course, the problem is that although they allowed us to comment on the draft protocol in detail, none of our suggestions have been taken up.

The ability to engage with Parliament on that critical issue was important, especially as there are no police and crime commissioners yet and the number of elected people involved in the process was pretty limited. What happened was a lost opportunity, which is why the Committee wrote to the Leader of the House. I understand that on Monday there will be a debate at 4.30 pm in the Chamber on that very issue. I hope that the Minister will approach that debate in the same way that he approached the Committee’s suggestions. The shadow Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Delyn, is shaking his head; I thought it was he who told me, as I walked into this Chamber, that there was a debate on Monday.

Mr Hanson: I am disagreeing with my right hon. Friend on the point about the debate being in the Chamber; I think he will find that it is to be in Committee, upstairs.

Keith Vaz: There is still a debate; it is still happening, but it will be in Committee. I am most grateful.

Mark Reckless (Rochester and Strood) (Con): Before the Chair of the Select Committee moves on from the protocol, I would like to put on the record my thanks to the Government and the Treasury; I apologise, but I do not know the constituency of whoever makes these decisions. The protocol is an excellent document that will be very powerful, and it is important that there be an opportunity for Members of Parliament, as well as members of the Association of Chief Police Officers and representatives of police authorities, to have their say. I very much look forward to that debate and would like to put on the record my thanks for it happening.

Keith Vaz: The debate is taking place in no small measure because of all the work that the hon. Gentleman has done.

I turn to the issue of police morale, which was raised in an intervention by my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall North (Mr Winnick). For police officers up and down the country, the role and future of the police service have been at the forefront of the national agenda since July 2010. The service will suffer more than 16,000 job losses before the next election, and uncertainty remains over how pay and conditions will be affected by the Winsor review and the ruling this week by the Police Arbitration Tribunal. In addition, there is the two-year public sector pay freeze and the capped 1% increase beyond those two years. We have heard from the Police Federation that the proposals for changes to police pay and conditions will have a detrimental effect on the morale of the police service.

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In a Police Federation survey of 43,000 police officers last year, 98% said that they were demoralised by how these matters were progressing. When the issue of police pay has been settled, and when that is coupled with all the other challenges that they face, there could be a fundamental shift in the standards and motivation of police officers all over the country. We would be grateful to hear from the Minister about the progress on that subject, and about any other discussions that he has had with the Police Federation.

I have to say to the Minister—again, this is uncharacteristic of him—that I was very disappointed with the reply that he gave to my parliamentary question when I asked how many times he had met the Police Federation. He gave me no reply. He said that he could not tell me how many times because that is what the previous Government did. That is very odd. I thought that this Government were committed to transparency. When the Chairman of a Select Committee tables a parliamentary question to the Minister of Policing asking when he met officially—not socially or informally—the chairman of the Police Federation, he deserves a reply. I shall take that up with Mr Speaker.

Mr Winnick: I am sure that my right hon. Friend recalls that when I—and indeed he—pressed the chief constable of the west midlands on the effect of cuts in that region, he said that it was bound to have an effect. Over the period concerned, cuts in the west midlands will be somewhere in the region of 26%. That is not disputed. It will mean 1,100 fewer police officers and around 1,100 fewer police support officers. That is bound to have an adverse effect on dealing with criminality.

Keith Vaz: My hon. Friend is a distinguished Member from the west midlands, and I accept what he says. That is exactly what the chief constable of the west midlands said to us when we met him about these matters, so they have to be taken very seriously. On the question of the reply, I will take that up with Mr Speaker, because it is a reasonable question for hon. Members to ask. If we accept that we will never get an answer to questions about who Ministers meet officially, then, frankly, there is no point in coming here and no point in tabling questions.

Despite those difficulties, we need to accept that officers in police forces all over the country work extremely hard and are very dedicated. The riots across the UK highlighted the length to which officers will go to protect their communities and to have a positive impact on local areas. Yesterday, along with the Minister, other Ministers and hon. Members, I attended a reception at Downing street organised by the Prime Minister to thank police officers who had taken part in trying to quell the riots. The Prime Minister spoke eloquently about the bravery of those officers. It is right that we realise and recognise that, during these difficult times when budgets have to be cut to some extent, police officers face enormous problems.

In the week after the Stephen Lawrence verdicts, when there has been some criticism of how the police operated during the original investigation, may I give the Minister an example of really good practice? On Boxing day, a young student was shot in the head in Manchester when he was out attending the sales. He was an overseas student. I was involved in this matter,

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because an e-mail came from India from his family in Gujarat, and they asked me to ensure that things were in order. I am full of praise for the work that was done by Greater Manchester police. I would like the Minister to look at the letter that I have sent to the Home Secretary today. Within seven days, Assistant Chief Constable Dawn Copley and her team in Greater Manchester arrested someone and charged them with the murder. They sent two police officers to India to inform the family of what was happening. When the family came over here, they looked after them and communicated with them on an hourly basis to tell them what was happening. We now have a date for the hearing of the person who is alleged to have murdered Anuj Bidve. That is an example of good practice, which we should acknowledge when we look at what happened in the Lawrence affair; we can see how far forward we have moved in the past few years.

The Government’s changes are the most far-reaching proposals for the police service since the 1960s, and are among the most significant since Sir Robert Peel laid the foundations for modern policing nearly 200 years ago. Ministers must be commended for thinking outside the box in their desire to improve policing in Britain in a radical way. However, the structures must follow their vision for policing in the 21st century. All the Committee is seeking to do in its report is caution the Government to think carefully before putting their structures in place, so that they are fit for purpose and achieve their laudable aim of reducing crime as much as possible, and provide intervention from the centre to guide long-term policing. It is for that reason that we suggest, in the very last words of our report, that change on this massive scale requires clear and strong leadership from the Home Office, and effective communication with the stakeholders involved in this very important process.

2.54 pm

Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington) (LD): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship once again, Mr Brady. I welcome the opportunity to debate the “New Landscape of Policing” report produced by the Home Affairs Committee and the Government’s response to it. I welcome, too, the fact that many of the Committee’s members are here today.

I begin by saying, very much in the way that the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, the right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz), started his contribution, that there is a very busy picture when it comes to policing matters. As he stated, the NPIA will wind down by the end of this year, and SOCA will take on some of its responsibilities before being wound down. We expect the National Crime Agency to be fully functional by the end of next year. The elected police and crime commissioners should be in post by November, and the police authorities are being wound down at the same time. The protocol has recently been published. There is a shadow strategic policing requirement and an organised crime co-ordination centre.

They are just some of the things that have been established or are in the process of being wound down. At the same time, it is clear that the UK remains under threat, as it has been for many years. We have had other threats or incidents—the riots in August have been

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mentioned—and the diamond jubilee and the Olympics are upcoming. The changes present a complex picture of what the policing landscape will look like in a couple of years’ time, against a backdrop of a high level of threat to the UK.

The Home Affairs Committee has an important responsibility to scrutinise all those activities, and it has shown itself perfectly capable of doing so. The Minister with responsibility for policing will no doubt be personally responsible if any of those bodies fail to act in the way that they should, but it is clearly not possible for him to have a day-to-day handle on the progress that is being made across all those different areas of policing activity. Who, therefore, is actually responsible for having oversight on a day-to-day basis of all those different activities to ensure that one is not having a knock-on effect, or an unintended consequence, somewhere else?

As the Home Affairs Committee report highlights—this is reported in the Government’s response—those changes, even when complete, will not be set in stone. For instance, the point about the protocol in paragraph 38 in the Government’s response, Command Paper 8223, is likely to change once the police and crime commissioners are in post, because they may seek to make sensible changes. There is also the issue of what will happen to counter-terrorism. I certainly support what the Committee has said: it would be wrong to make changes to where counter-terrorism sits at present, but, post-Olympics, there is a strong case for including it in the National Crime Agency, given that it affects all parts of the United Kingdom. It is, therefore, a moving picture in more respects than one. I am sure that the Minister will want to continue to ensure that these matters are reported to Parliament on a regular basis so that, almost month-by-month, we can see the progress that is being made on all these different restructuring activities.

I raised the issue of the scrutiny of police and crime commissioners by the police and crime panels and the Government at Home Office questions on 12 December. I wanted reassurance that the budgets for the police and crime panels would be sufficient to allow them to scrutinise the police and crime commissioners in the way that was intended. The Government have said that £40,000 is set aside for that. In his response, the Minister may be able to set out how that figure was derived. On the face of it, £40,000 for a panel to scrutinise the activities of the police and crime commissioner does not sound like a lot of money, certainly not in comparison with the budgets of the police authorities, although they have other responsibilities that the police and crime commissioner will take on.

Mark Reckless: With the exception of two individuals, the police and crime panels will assist elected councillors who already receive allowances and may lean on other support from their constituent councils. Surely, at least part of the process must be to provide funds to allow appropriate scrutiny, rather than putting in great dollops of additional money.

Tom Brake: Councils may make a contribution in that respect, but at some point a police and crime panel might need to call on expertise that is not available in local authorities. If people are trying to access such expertise, which may be required for the panel effectively to undertake its scrutiny role, it does not take too long

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for a substantial bill to build up. I hope that the Minister will set out precisely how it will work and will reassure hon. Members that resources will be sufficient for the important task that the panels will undertake.

I hope that the Government will quickly review their role in scrutinising the police and crime commissioners, or at least the way in which they have been implemented. Given that activity is already starting in relation to London, it is not unreasonable to hope that by sometime in 2014, say, when the police and crime commissioners have been active for a couple of years, the Government may want to consider whether those bodies are delivering the sorts of things that we expect them to, in terms of increased accountability, greater involvement of the public and ensuring that the police and crime commissioner and the chief constable are engaging effectively with the people who are, at the moment, excluded from that consultation and engagement process.

I am sure that many hon. Members—possibly all hon. Members here—will at some point have attended the ward panel in one of the wards in their constituencies. I have done so occasionally in Wallington, South. It is clear that those panels receive useful input from key individuals in the community. It is true to say that young people are rarely present on those panels, and I suspect that those on lower incomes are underrepresented. The Government will want to consider whether police and crime commissioners and chief constables are beginning to engage more effectively with such groups to see whether their views, concerns and priorities, from a policing perspective, are properly taken on board.

The Home Affairs Committee report and the Government response contain a large body of information about the professional body. I support that and want it rolled out quickly and, as the Committee has suggested, in an all-encompassing way that is not exclusive in terms of its membership. That body should be doing some things at an early stage, including considering national minimum recruitment standards for the police force, considering whether there is scope for learning from the Teach First scheme, to see whether there are ways to get a different group of young, qualified people into the police force, and looking at whether there is any prospect of using some of the expertise that has been built up in respect of teaching schools to see whether there is any role for some of our larger police stations in that respect.

Keith Vaz: I was remiss in not recognising that the right hon. Gentleman appeared as a witness in the Committee during its inquiries.

The Government’s proposal to completely and radically reform the way that police officers are trained and to look at standards is exciting. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree with the Committee that it is important to bring the profession with us when having a discussion of this kind and to have the widest possible consultation, so that we have something that will last beyond this Government—the worst possible thing would be to have too much party politics in this—and that we should be getting people on board and united behind a new method of education and professionalism?

Tom Brake: I welcome this proposal and agree that the profession must be brought along and that that requires consultation and engagement, although, of

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course, it may be difficult to get a single view of the profession from all levels of police officers about what that professional body will look like. However, it is clearly essential to engage with all of them, whether chief constables, superintendents, police constables—the whole range—or staff.

I hope that the professional body will look more carefully at black and minority ethnic recruitment into the police force and how BME officers do or do not make progress within the ranks. It should take that task on at an early stage.

As an aside, the professional body should, rightly, concentrate on training. What training will be available for both police and crime commissioners and police and crime panels? In relation to the former, what training might be available to candidates who are going to be, or want to be, police and crime commissioners? Such training could be beneficial. I am concerned that some candidates for those posts may not have the experience, knowledge or expertise that is required. Although coming to the job with a fresh approach may be welcome, understanding the environment in which people are going to work will also be beneficial.

I shall mention efficiency, touch on one major omission from the new landscape and then conclude. On efficiency, the report clearly and rightly highlights the importance of getting more out of the procurement process and out of IT. However, it is short on detail about ensuring that the police are taking the most effective approach to tackling types of crime.

I want to see more in terms of drawing into the centre the evidence base for what is effective from a policing perspective, so that we can make that information available widely to all the police and crime commissioners and chief constables and can be certain that, when they launch an initiative—whether tackling antisocial behaviour or organised crime, at NCA level—they are using a policy or approach that evidence suggests will be the most effective possible. Doing that may require universities and others to be more heavily involved in the research than may currently be the case.

The Home Affairs Committee did not focus enough, to my liking, on the linkages that should exist between police and local authorities. The Chair of the Committee has visited Sutton, as has the Minister with responsibility for the police, to look at the partnership between the local authority and the police, which has drawn together under one person police and local authority resources to tackle antisocial behaviour and so on. I would like to have seen that agenda pushed more, because there is no doubt that it has been effective in Sutton not only from a policing perspective, but in ensuring that the police, the local authority, the fire service and the voluntary sector work together effectively. I would like it to have been more prominent in the Committee report and in the new landscape of policing more generally. From a policing perspective, these are exciting and challenging times, and there are lots of opportunities, which is why we need to keep the situation under constant review. I hope that the Minister will reassure us there will be an ongoing and heavily engaging process for all Members.

3.10 pm

Alun Michael (Cardiff South and Penarth) (Lab/Co-op): I am grateful to have the opportunity to speak in the debate. I declare two interests: first, my son is the chief

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executive of the North Wales police authority—something that I declare when we discuss policing in the Select Committee on Home Affairs—and, secondly, that I have announced my intention to seek nomination as the Labour and Co-operative candidate to be the police commissioner for South Wales, as the Chairman of the Select Committee, my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz), mentioned.

My decision to stand for office was made not out of admiration for the frenetic pace of change since the general election, but out of enthusiasm for protecting the best features of police work and continuing the drive to cut crime and reduce reoffending. That enthusiasm is for the whole of England and Wales, which is why I particularly enjoy my work on the Home Affairs Committee, but it relates particularly to south Wales, which has experienced considerable success in recent years in reducing crime. I want that process to accelerate, rather than flag—a point that I will return to in a few minutes.

I do not want to repeat what is in the Select Committee report, and I certainly cannot deal with all the issues that it raises, which are reflected in the list of Government initiatives to which the right hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake) referred. I want to reflect primarily on the nature of policing and the Government’s role.

Reorganisation is sometimes inevitable, but it almost always leads to a drop in performance and effectiveness in the short term, so the advice to anyone considering it is to lie down in a dark room and reflect on whether the proposed reorganisation is really necessary. The drop in performance often happens even if the ground is well prepared and the objectives clear. A problem now is that the objectives and the eventual landscape are not altogether clear and the ground has not been properly prepared everywhere.

I give the Minister credit, because he is genuinely committed to his role and wants to make improvements. I think that we would agree on many points of principle about the purpose of policing and the Government’s role. At a time of front-ended cuts to the police coming too fast and too deep, the challenge is compounded by the enormous scope of the reorganisation of central functions in which the end pattern of organisations and responsibilities is not yet clear. That is a serious drawback. The map has not yet been accurately drawn. It looks like one from the middle ages in which certain parts of the landscape are just marked by the words, “Here be dragons”, without giving full details of what is happening in those territories. That is a pity, because some changes might prove to be beneficial in the long term, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester East said. If there is no certainly or clarity, the short-term drop in performance might be significant.

As the right hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington said, we need more transparency and more clarity about the evidence on which the approaches are based. I agree with him on the need to ensure that new systems connect with local authorities. For example, when we took evidence in Wales, we saw the benefits of the Welsh Government making a joint appointment with the Youth Justice Board to ensure proper understanding of national priorities and how they link to the work of local government and

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youth offending teams in Wales. That is important, because the reorganisation of national organisations is not the only challenge facing the police.

The challenges range from international terrorism, organised crime—it seems to get more business-like by the day and sometimes looks as though it benefits from university-level business studies more than perhaps some businesses do—and the significant use of the internet for criminal activity, across to the riots in August 2011 and the ever-present problems of daily and weekly local crime and disorder. I will touch on those logistical challenges for the police and others in a moment.

In evidence to the Select Committee, the Minister stressed the importance of the Peelian principles. Sir Robert Peel underlined two principles particularly when he established the first police force: first, that the first responsibility of the police is to reduce crime and offending, which the Minister quoted in evidence to the Select Committee; and, secondly, the rather delphic utterance:

“The police are the public and the public are the police”.

To unpack that, it means that there must be confidence on both sides of the equation—there must be trust and an understanding of the roles of the community and the police. Of course, Sir Robert Peel laid down other issues on integrity, trust and how policing is done, which is all very important, but we must stress the practical implications of putting the first priority of the police at the forefront of all our discussions and debates.

The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 gave clear focus to the creation of local crime and disorder reduction partnerships. That legislation has been enormously successful, as the Minister has been kind enough to acknowledge. Since then, the partnership work between the police and local authorities has been more integrated into the local and wider scheme of partnership working. In general, that is a good thing, but there is always a danger that the specific focus on crime reduction could be eroded, and we must be careful in future to ensure that that is not the case.

I underline the lessons to be drawn from violence reduction in Cardiff. I apologise to members of the Select Committee who have heard me expand on that topic more than once in the past, but it is a significant demonstration of what can be achieved. With a clear focus on the nature of violent incidents—what provoked them, where they happened and what could be done to prevent them—violence in Cardiff has reduced by roughly 25% ahead of the reductions in equivalent cities in England and elsewhere. Not only is that measurement based on police figures, but it has been tested in a peer-reviewed article in the British Medical Journal based on evidence of the number of people who go to accident and emergency units requiring treatment, and it therefore has real validity.

The figures show a significantly reduced number of victims, and Victim Support has stated on more than one occasion that more than anything else, victims want to know that they will not become a victim again—it is not retribution that they seek, but confidence and security in the community. The reduction in offences is enormously important from that point of view. It reduces the waste of police time. That is significant because police can attend to other things: reassuring the public and investigating crime. It also reduces the burden on the

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NHS. Putting people’s faces together after a serious attack is significant and expensive for the NHS, as has been commented on by Professor Jon Shepherd, who has led the work. We have seen that success.

I feel safe in the centre of Cardiff, because I know the figures show that it is a relatively safe place. However, it is significant that evidence from some programmes undertaken by John Humphrys two years ago demonstrated that a lot of people find that the activity and feeling on the streets—the discourtesies, such as the noise and the ebullience—make them feel less safe. People’s behaviour is not based just on the facts of crime; they also react to their environment. We need to focus on the accurate measurement of crime and its reduction to ensure that people are safer, but we also need a greater focus on enabling the public to know the facts and to feel safe, if they are, and to know that any remaining problems are being addressed.

In a leader column last week, The Guardian expressed worry that the election of police and crime commissioners would turn into a rat-catcher’s election. I am not entirely sure what was in the mind of the writer. I think that they feared that we would go to the lowest common denominator in debating policing and crime and populist sloganising in the approach to the elections. I assume that they did not want to imply that a police commissioner would be unpaid and, therefore, take revenge along the lines of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, by leading all the children of the police force area into the river.

Mark Reckless: The right hon. Gentleman said earlier that Peel’s principle was that the police should be the public and the public should be the police. Is the problem not that the two have become disengaged? What will change under the new landscape is that, through the process of election, a police and crime commissioner will be able to bring them back together.

Alun Michael: One approaches this either with pessimism or optimism. I admire the hon. Gentleman’s optimism, as I do often in our discussions in Committee. I hope that proves to be the case. I was reflecting The Guardian article’s fear of populist sloganising, rather than a base of evidence. That is one reason for my decision to stand, and why all parties interested in the matter need to ensure, given that the legislation has gone through and that we will have police and crime commissioners, that they are people who can add value to the process and address the public’s experience. I hope very much—perhaps we all need to contribute—that the outcome desired by the hon. Gentleman will be the one that we see.

The same leader referred to me as more of a builder of partnerships and consensus than a rat-catcher. I think that I take that as a compliment, because it goes back to Peel’s principles of trying to build consensus, reflect the public will and ensure that crime is reduced.

It is of course important that the police and crime commissioner should hold the chief constable to account. There is the responsibility of appointing the chief constable; there is the responsibility of deciding the budget and the policing plan. All those things are vital and need clear leadership. The commissioner will also need to take a lead in connecting and reconnecting the police and the public, as well as the police and the local authorities and other organisations. One of the biggest lessons that came out of the report of the Select Committee

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on Justice, “Cutting crime: the case for justice reinvestment”, was that most things that affect offending are not only outside the aegis of the police, but outside the criminal justice system. Therefore, connecting that, looking for evidence of the real problems experienced by the public and ensuring they are addressed through a partnership approach, must be an absolute priority for the commissioner, as well as for the chief constable and those who lead policing locally and lead local authorities.

Some of the costs of policing cannot be avoided, even if it is possible to reduce crime locally. I am grateful to the Minister for meeting me and Chief Constable Peter Vaughan of South Wales police. I stress that that meeting took place long before I decided to stand as commissioner. When we met the Minister, we focused on the capital city challenge that the south Wales police force faces, as well as policing the two great cities of Swansea and Cardiff. It also faces the challenges of a top-slice to its finances, to assist other police forces in Wales. The Minister listened carefully and promised to take away the points that we made. I hope that that will be reflected at some point in a reconsideration of the police funding formula.

I was on the streets of Cardiff when we had a visit from the English Defence League, a much larger demonstration and march by Unite Against Fascism and an element of conflict, with some people wanting to turn it into a pitched battle, which good policing prevented. That took place on the same day as South Africa was playing Wales at rugby at the Millennium stadium, the West Indies were playing England—and Wales, if I can put it in those terms—in the SWALEC stadium, and the Stereophonics were in concert in the city. That was an enormous addition to the normal day-to-day work of policing. Both Cardiff and Swansea are doing well at sport and seeking to grow and expand as cities. Given that set of capital-city challenges, a formula that gives Cardiff and therefore the South Wales police rough equivalence to the policing of similar-sized cities that do not have those capital-city responsibilities places an additional burden. I ask the Minister to continue to reflect on that and find out whether he can develop the formula to help meet that challenge.

The police have to plan in the light of the riots that took place in a number of cities, including a number of parts of London, last August. The Select Committee produced a good report, which I hope will inform Government policy and assist the police in planning and responding to such matters, but I still have a concern. Although our approach is evidence-based, we still do not have the sort of in-depth report that Lord Denning produced in response to riots in the 1980s. That report was enormously important and influential. [Hon. Members: “Lord Scarman.”] I apologise. I am sure that I am referring to two equally distinguished Law Lords. It was Lord Scarman’s report, and I am grateful for that correction.

It is important to note a lesson coming out of the riots. There was an initial concern that social networks might have played a part in accelerating the activity and some of the damage. The question was asked whether something should be done to control or even close down the social networks for a period. That was answered by chief constables who appeared before us, including the chief constable of Manchester. They thought about it for about two minutes and then realised that what

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they had to do was engage and not try to control. There was very intelligent use of networks by some forces, again particularly in Manchester. Networks were used to warn that, if there were riots in certain places, the police would be there to deal with them, and to encourage people not to be on the streets where there were clear dangers.

Keith Vaz: My right hon. Friend has been consistent. He has felt all along that there ought to be a much more in-depth study into what happened during the riots. Darra Singh’s report is due out shortly—next week, I think—and does my right hon. Friend not agree that it would be appropriate to look at that first, along with what the Select Committee has done? The police are undertaking their own review. Once all that information is available, we can see whether anything further needs to be done.

Alun Michael: My concern is that the trail will have gone a little cool by the time that we arrive at that position, but my right hon. Friend is right that it would be best to get all that information. I ask the Minister, however, to accept that we should not rule out the need for an in-depth look at the causes by a body that could do more such work than the Select Committee. The report does credit to the Select Committee and to the Select Committee system, which is developing in positive ways.

I am not criticising, but I believe that we are still in danger of many individuals thinking that they know what caused the riots, when we do not. We know a lot about the riots. We know more as a result of the reports and we will know more as a result of further reports, but we will not have a single, comprehensive analysis that can inform us for the long term.

There is now agreement on the enormous importance of the policing protocol. I have some concern that the protocol has been written when the Home Office has every right to say what it expects from the new arrangements and when the Association of Chief Police Officers is in existence and able to play a significant part, but not when the commissioners are in place. When they are, there will be a need to revisit the protocol. I am sure that there will be many interesting discussions between different organisations and with the Minister. In a sense, what we have is a framework, and what will be needed for the longer term is more along the lines of conventions, agreements and building on experience.

In particular, I agree with the comments made about the professional body. It is important that it is not only a successor to ACPO. I note the agreement in the Government response to our report that the body ought to be inclusive from the outset, with a separate chiefs’ council, but what is not clear from the response is whether such a council would have any policy-making function for professional activities. Such a body ought to be separate from the professional body, and the professional body needs to be owned by all police. A new body is needed, starting with a fresh, clean sheet and a focus on the professionalism of the police, rather than its becoming confused with the variety of different functions currently held by ACPO.

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I was one of those who argued for the establishment of the Independent Police Complaints Commission, which continues to need our cross-party support. I urge the Minister to look again at the serious suggestion of extending its role and its flexibility to look at service improvement. Often, when people make a complaint, they do not want someone to be hung out to dry or suspended from work for six months or six years—it is sometimes for very extended periods. What they want to know is that their concerns will be addressed and that they will get a proper response. A lot is about how the police respond to customers and about quality control and quality management. Giving more flexibility to enable the IPCC to address such issues might help to avoid some of the expenses arising from complaints that fall into the sort of category to which I refer.

As a suggestion for the Minister to take elsewhere in the Government, it would be good for the police service if the Ministry of Justice looked again at the composition of the Sentencing Council, which is too focused on judges and legalities and not sufficiently focused on what works. What in sentencing makes a difference to the likelihood of reoffending? I am repeating something that I said as a member of the Justice Committee under a Labour Government, but I commend it because I still believe it to be right and true, now as then.

On collaboration and IT, I urge the Minister not to be overambitious in thinking of IT schemes as a quick solution or providing major savings. I have some experience in Government IT procurement, such as of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’s e-nabling DEFRA programme, which no one hears about because it was a success—that is why I am proud to refer to it—but there are many examples of central Government procurement, in particular by the Home Office, I am sad to say, that do not inspire confidence and were perhaps over-engineered and ended up not delivering as expected but being more expensive and late coming into place. Learning lessons and ensuring proper procurement are enormously important. The IT company might or might not be the right vehicle for delivery, but the Minister would need to take a keen interest in how a project develops—the question is about not so much the vehicle as the processes adopted and the expertise brought to bear to ensure that the right work is done, the right things procured and the objectives actually met.

I have touched on a limited number of aspects of the Select Committee’s work on the landscape of policing, as well as a number of other aspects of policing. An enormous amount of change is going on. I look forward to being a part of that process of change and ensuring that the initiative, which is now in law, results in us improving the quality of policing and the service given to the public, to ensure that we continue to drive down crime and reoffending and, in particular, to drive up public confidence in the police.

I certainly commend to the House the Select Committee’s report, and I very much hope that the Minister will continue to listen to our consensual and cross-party comments and suggestions. In Committee, during our discussions, we challenge each other, sometimes quite vigorously, but our findings—as with the Justice Committee recommendations on justice reinvestment—give food for thought, which Ministers and the Government as a whole would be wise to heed.

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3.36 pm

Dr Julian Huppert (Cambridge) (LD): Thank you for calling me in the debate, Mr Brady, even if only to prove that one does not have to be a member of the Privy Council to be allowed to speak. It is a great pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Alun Michael)—perhaps one should expect a Welshman to look for the dragons in the landscape. I do not intend to describe every single aspect of that landscape, which has already been done well by the right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake), who went through a number of aspects of the report as well as some of the comments and suggestions that we, as a political party, had to make. Instead, I will pick out a valley here or a hill there, say a little more about those and perhaps suggest a few routes to take through the landscape.

The Government seek to undertake the most radical change to policing in 50 years, and there will be significant changes by the end of this Parliament. We will see dramatic structural changes, which will have a significant impact on the ground. What the public will care about is what will directly affect them. We should accept that the merger, abolition and creation of all sorts of agencies that members of the public have generally never heard about will not be what they care about, and that is not what the most interesting headlines will be about. The reforms, however, underpin delivery, so we have to get them right.

One of the key issues is the relationship between the democratic right of citizens to decide policies and how policing should happen—those policies might be developed in this place and by the Government—and the right of the police to use their expertise and knowledge to determine operational matters. Those two rights are distinct, and we need to ensure that we understand the difference between them. The police obviously need to be policed, but if our control over what they do is too strong and our grip is too tight, then they will lose that freedom of movement and expertise, their purpose will be undermined and policing in this country will simply dissolve.

I am concerned about how the system will operate. Currently, operational matters are dealt with by chief constables, but a huge amount is driven centrally by the Association of Chief Police Officers, which issues directives. A former Cambridgeshire chief constable has said, “I have an ACPO directive to do the following”. That may not be how the system should work in theory, but, as has been said, in theory, theory and practice are the same thing, but in practice they are not.

ACPO has a role in co-ordinating strategic responses and policing strategies, and it advises the Government on important operational matters. It uses that expertise, under the direction of Sir Hugh Orde, to direct police forces throughout the country and to provide policy advice. Generally, it does that well, but it has been in existence since 1948 and, like any Government-backed organisation with significant independence and vital responsibilities, it is liable to mission creep.

In 1997, ACPO became a private company limited by guarantee, so the body that sets the direction for policing in this country is a private company. There were technical reasons for that, but the message that it sends is worrying.

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Similarly, ACPO was not subject to freedom of information, although that has now been updated. It received increased responsibilities, such as control over the world’s largest per capita DNA database, which I am pleased is changing, control of undercover policing and control of the policing of political groups in the UK in addition to a growing number of income-generating activities, which stretch the definition of what one might call occupational guidance to breaking point.

There are a number of examples of how occupational guidance can be stretched. I have the great privilege of leading for the Liberal Democrats on transport policy, and when the Secretary of State for Transport announced a review of whether motorway speed limits should be raised from 70 mph to 80 mph, a key question for me was to work out the Government’s policy on how speed limits should be enforced. The current 70 mph speed limit is realistically enforced not at 70 mph but at 80 mph. The speed limit depends on enforcement, and 80 mph meaning 80 mph is a different policy from 80 mph meaning 100 mph. Those are two different policies, but who decides which is implemented? How would the Secretary of State decide? I have been told that the decision on what that policy means—the effective speed limit in this country—was taken not by the House or the Secretary of State for Transport, but by the ACPO lead officer in the area. That is not a case of ACPO deciding what equipment should be used, what the practicalities are or where police officers should be sent. A whole range of matters is for ACPO, and I would not expect the Department for Transport to decide them, but the effective speed limit applying on our motorways should be controlled democratically. Similarly, I found that ACPO guidance advises police forces not to enforce 20 mph speed limits in cities. ACPO should not determine that when the Government have made it clear that they support more 20 mph speed limits in appropriate areas.

Under the Labour Government, ACPO—a largely unaccountable body—was given responsibility for safeguarding some of our basic human freedoms. A private company had the role of deciding how tasers should be used when such weapons, if misused, can be deadly. It had similar control over DNA. ACPO sent me an astonishing letter when questions were being asked about how people could have DNA data deleted from the police national computer. I will happily provide a full copy of the letter to anyone who wants to read it. It is dated 2006, and it advised that the following procedures should be adopted:

“Upon receipt of a request for deletion of a PNC data entry the force”

should check that it can correctly identify the subject. That is absolutely fine. The letter goes on to say that

“an applicant may request the deletion of”


“record/DNA sample and profile/fingerprints”

and so forth when there are special circumstances. When that request is made, a check should be made on whether the data entry is correct. So far so good. It continues:

“In the first instance applicants should be sent a letter informing them that the samples and associated PNC record are lawfully held and their request for deletion/destruction is refused”.

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There is nothing before that in the letter requiring anyone to find out whether the information is lawfully held, and to work out whether to refuse it. That is a glaring omission. The letter then says that the applicant may write back explaining why the data should be deleted, after which the chief constable should look at the matter and decide whether there is a case to answer.

That is not what we should expect, and I hope that it is not what ACPO intended, but the letter certainly went to several police authorities, including mine, as guidance on the rules. The guidance was that applications should be rejected, and if that was questioned, the police should find out whether the data were correctly held. That should be reformed.

To be fair, ACPO is in a difficult position, and I think that Sir Hugh Orde has accepted the need to change how it operates. It has a grip on national policing but, as Sir Hugh has said,

“it is not through any choice; it is because someone has to do it.”

It is partly the Government’s responsibility to ensure that the right people are fulfilling the right tasks, and that we do not say, “These are tasks that the Government will not do,” and force them on ACPO by accident. It is clear that we need to fix ACPO, and that the Government should have that role. I totally endorse the Government’s decision to create a new professional body to provide leadership and to develop the police as a profession. That is an extremely positive step, and I am delighted that the Government are taking it.

I also support the idea of a body where chief constables can meet to discuss important policing matters, to deal with operational issues and to advise the Government with their expertise. That is right and proper. Chief constables should have that role, and I support its facilitation. We can keep the best bits of ACPO, and get rid of the other bits. We must ensure that those organisations, whether councils or bodies, are accountable and transparent. Will the Minister comment on whether they will be private companies and whether they will be subject to freedom of information? They must not decide the law of the land, so how will the Government decide what is an operational matter, and how will the powers be outlined?

There is more we can do. During the Committee’s investigation, it became clear to me that we still do not have a good handle on evidence. This country has a long tradition of not using evidence-based policy, which applies to policing. It would be helpful to have an organisation that could provide reliable, independent and world-leading advice on policing. We need evidence-based policing, as well as more general evidence-based policy. I welcome the recent establishment of the British Society of Evidence Based Policing, and I hope that the Minister has had an opportunity to speak to it, and to hear what it has to say. One could come up with a number of interesting conclusions about policing styles and techniques that are driven by evidence. Britain leads the world. We train police officers in many parts of the country on executive leadership programmes, and the Minister, with the Chair of the Select Committee, kindly spoke at one of those events just before Christmas.

Much of that has been driven by an academic who is now based in Cambridge. Professor Larry Sherman is professor of criminology at that university, and he has

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a lot to say on this matter—I hope that the Government regularly listen to him. He recently gave the 2011 Benjamin Franklin medal lecture at the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce. He said many interesting things, and I commend his speech to anyone who might be interested. He argued for the creation of a British academy of policing, which would be

“a civil society organisation uniting police associations with university faculties of policing in a self-governing professional body”,

and could

“extend the global influence of British policing”,

and provide politicians attempting to navigate a new policing structure with rigorous academic material. I endorse that, because it would be excellent to have the academic knowledge from our universities linked up with policing.

We have one of the best policing traditions in the world, but we must be able to reform it and we must be able to proceed on cogent evidence. There is always inertia with such a force, and some of it is necessary, but it should be changed from an evidence-based position. We need that rigorous change, and I hope that the Government will continue to head down that route.

I want to discuss some other issues. We have discussed the police IT company and organisational matters. I would like the police to deal with that better and to become more innovative by using small-scale ideas. I shall give two examples, using companies that are, not coincidentally of course, in my constituency. I have mentioned them briefly in the House.

Sepura makes radio handsets that are used by the police and other emergency services. It is doing some excellent work with West Midlands police in using those radios to record information about stop and search—I will not discuss the wider aspects of stop and search—and to log the location, time and other details of an incident that has just happened. I understand that that is extremely successful, because it saves time for police officers and provides more accurate and more accessible results. I am sure that the Minister remembers writing a letter to Sepura congratulating it on that work. I hope that we will see it rolled out in other areas, and that there will be other innovations.

Real VNC does similar work, but sadly only with the police in the United States, where there are similar systems. Hand-held devices can be used to access the main police computer in a secure and controlled way, so that the police can be more active, and can record directly at the scene instead of having to wait. It goes without saying that all existing IT systems need to be made to work. My experience with Cambridgeshire constabulary, from an evening that I spent with the police, was that it took about an hour and a half to download a video from a head-mounted camera. We need to fix such problems as well as be more innovative.

My final plea is that we should not focus too much on organisations. What matters in policing concerns what happens on the ground and with individuals, and the ward of East Chesterton in Cambridge, which I used to represent as a county councillor, contained excellent examples of that—I apologise to hon. Members who have heard me make that point previously. I would love to claim credit for all the brilliant innovations in that

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ward, but they were not mine and were largely driven by PC Nick Percival—I still think of him as that, although he has now been promoted. He came along as our community beat manager and carried out a whole range of measures that made a difference in that relatively deprived part of Cambridge.

In his first year on the beat, Nick Percival managed to halve the amount of antisocial behaviour and crime that was reported, which was a huge achievement. If all our officers could manage such things—I realise that it is not that simple—this country would be a different place. He also managed to arrest fewer people than was usual for that area. Some saw that as a cause for criticism, but I saw it as a great triumph. Successful policing involves reducing the level of crime, and a greater number of arrests is not the aim.

I would like to highlight two things done by PC Nick Percival. First, he created a link with young people. That is important, especially when looking at the factors that led indirectly to the riots. We used to have a problem, particularly during school holidays, of young people getting bored, hanging around, causing trouble and smashing up bus shelters or engaging in other forms of small-scale antisocial behaviour. Nick Percival came up with the idea of a voucher scheme. Any young person in the ward who was seen playing well during the holidays by a police officer or a PCSO—we have had a great team of PCSOs over the years—was given a signed voucher by that officer. At the end of the holiday, everybody in the class at school that had the most vouchers received a £15 voucher for the local shopping centre. That was a cheap measure, and it transformed the area. Rather than having groups wandering around feeling bored, people would play and hope that a police officer would walk by. They desperately hoped that the cop would come over and find them, and they would say, “Hi PC Nick, good to see you.” It would be fantastic to see that sort of relationship in more areas.

Tom Brake: My hon. Friend provides me with the opportunity to flag up an exciting proposal that has been put to me by an organisation called Cricket for Change. It is keen to work with those responsible for the training of PCSOs, and embed within that training a unit aimed at providing PCSOs with the skills that they need to engage young people in sport through games such as street cricket and tag rugby.

Dr Huppert: The idea outlined by my right hon. Friend sounds excellent, and I hope that it does well. There is much we need to do to engage with young people because of the risk that some see themselves as somehow detached from existing organisations. When the Committee took part in visits after the riots, people described how distrust of the police already existed and said that from an early stage they and their families had grown up distrusting the police. We have to break that down, and any initiative that leads to normal friendly relationships between the police and the general public must be a good thing.

The other initiative was a system called e-cops that originally started in East Chesterton but is now used across Cambridgeshire. It is a regular newsletter sent by the police to anybody in that area and includes information such as which roads PCs have been walking down. It was transformational in East Chesterton because instead

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of people saying, “Why do I never see a police officer on my street?”—frankly I would be worried if I always saw a police officer on my street—there was a hugely increased level of satisfaction in what the police were doing at minimal extra cost. One of the great things about e-cops was that it was set up in an informal, chatty style; it was clearly written by a PC or PCSO writing as themselves. The initiative was successful and spread across Cambridgeshire. It is now used more as a communications device, and I think that the formality has weakened some of its effect. The idea, however, was for people to know their local police as people, not only as a force to complain or argue about.

Policing is ultimately for and about people, not just national organisations. I hope that if we implement a number of the necessary reforms, albeit with many of the caveats described by the Committee and colleagues who have spoken in the debate, we will remember to think about people and look at what we can do to make things better for them.

3.54 pm

Mr David Hanson (Delyn) (Lab): I, too, welcome your chairmanship this afternoon, Mr Brady. Right hon. and hon. Members have already stated that policing and police organisation is a complex issue. In essence, however, I agree with the hon. Member for Cambridge (Dr Huppert), because the issue boils down to some simple truths, as is reflected in the contributions that have been made. Quite simply, how do we reduce crime and the fear of crime in an efficient and effective way that is accountable to the Peelian principle, already mentioned, that the public are the police and the police are the public? How do we ensure that those who work in that service on our behalf are treated fairly and with respect? I would like to explore those issues as they relate to the helpful report by the Committee and its Chair, my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz).

First, however, I pay tribute to the work that our police officers, and the civilian staff who support them, do daily to tackle crime and keep our communities safe. The public value that work highly and want a continued, visible policing presence. How we ensure that and manage the landscape in which police forces work is an important issue. As the hon. Member for Cambridge said, the public are not concerned about the organisation, the machinations involved or even, on occasion, accountability. They are concerned about outcomes. The Committee’s report is an extremely thoughtful and comprehensive look at the new landscape of policing, and it raises important issues for our consideration.

[Mr Clive Betts in the Chair]

I welcome you to the Chair, Mr Betts. It is a pleasure to have you join us at the end of a fruitful discussion, and I hope that the Minister and I will summarise the debate in a way that gives you a feeling for it.

The Committee, under the able chairmanship of my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester East, hunts in a pack; I know that from personal experience. It makes a great impact, and its ideas and suggestions are well considered and thought through. The report highlights a number of questions, some of which have effectively

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been answered by the passing of time since the report and the Government response were compiled. There are, however, still some important issues for consideration.

My right hon. Friend mentioned the phasing out of the National Policing Improvement Agency, and the impact and timing of that. Together with other members of the Committee, he looked at the position of post-Olympics counter-terrorism and the National Crime Agency, and he urged the Government to appoint the head of the National Crime Agency. The former chief constable of Warwickshire, Keith Bristow, has now taken that post. My right hon. Friend also raised the issue of the professional body for policing proposed by Peter Neyroud in his report, and we must discuss and flesh out some of those issues.

The importance of collaboration was also raised. The previous Government focused on that issue, and tried to allow police forces to obtain clear financial and operational benefits from collaboration. The Committee looked at IT, and I will return to that issue. The IT systems are not fit for purpose, and having 43 forces use different forms of IT is not a productive use of public money. That, too, is an issue that we need to address. The Winsor review of pay and conditions—a live issue even this week—is another subject to which I will return. There is also the work on bureaucracy undertaken by Jan Berry; that work is reflected on in the Committee’s report. There are many issues to consider, and we have already heard useful contributions to the debate.

I say with genuine regret that the pace of change, and the Minister’s drive and vision, which I accept is a genuine vision, still leaves the policing landscape muddled. That has impacted dramatically on the morale of police and police officers, which I believe is at an all-time low—my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall North (Mr Winnick) touched on that issue. Police officers to whom I speak are not opposed to reform and recognise that changes need to be made. They object, however, to the manner in which the Government have gone about the work, and officers seem to have a feeling of conflict, rather than seeking to bring people together with the Government on some of the important changes.

When I was fortunate enough to hold the Minister’s position, some of the issues that I tried to drive through were similar to those that he is trying to drive through. In the Home Office, there were issues around efficiency, procurement and ways to improve pay, conditions and morale, which were—and are—important. However, I think that the handling of those issues has dampened morale and led police officers to feel that the Government are not on their side when it comes to fighting crime, reassuring the public, building confidence and providing a public service. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester East mentioned, that has all been done against a background—I must refer to this—of massive cuts in public spending. Those cuts are well over and above what the previous Government planned, and are being made at a speed that we did not plan. They are front-loaded, which is not what the previous Government would have done. Cuts of 20% are being made. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Alun Michael) said, that is going too far, too fast.

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Before the Minister says so, I will say that when I was in his position, we identified £1 billion in savings, or 12% of the policing budget, in areas such as procurement, overtime, reorganisation, collaboration and sharing, which are important. Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary, under Sir Denis O’Connor, confirmed that savings of 12% were achievable, but any more would affect the front line. I fear that not only the pace of change to the landscape, but the level of funding reduction, will affect the service and add to the morale issues, which are important to the members of the Committee who are here.

Mark Reckless: Is not one of the issues with morale that there is confusion between the 12% cut to total budgets and the 20% cut to the central grant? The front-loading that we hear about reflects, to a significant degree, a pay freeze in the early years. Yes, we must pay our police officers well, but if police officers are on average getting more than what 80% or 90% of people in their area do, as Blair Gibbs of Policy Exchange says in work published this week, we must take that into account and get a balance. We need the sort of reward that gives police pay for the right reasons, and not just because historically the work happens to have attracted an allowance.

Mr Hanson: I appreciate that. I know that the hon. Gentleman took an interest in policing matters as a member of the police authority in Kent before coming to this place. I hope that he recognises that we tried to address some issues, such as pay and reward, overtime and a whole range of allowances, in the policing White Paper produced in 2009; that paper fell, due to the small event of the general election in 2010. I recognise that those issues exist and must be tackled. I simply say to him and the Minister that the pace of the changes, coupled with massive cuts in public spending generally, over and above the 12%, has added to morale difficulties and will affect the front-line policing service.

Last year, a 7.5% cut was made in the policing budget. This year, an 8.7% cut will be made if the police grant settlement is approved when it comes before the House in the next few weeks. I repeat for the benefit of the House that the HMIC figures for the future—they are not our figures—show a loss of 16,000 officers and a potential loss of 16,000 civilian police staff. That makes a difference. Greater Manchester will lose 1,592 officers over the next three years, the Metropolitan police will lose 1,907 over the next few years and the West Midlands police will lose 1,250. Even Sussex will not be protected by the Minister, who represents it; it will lose 500 officers in that period. Those are not my figures; they were produced by the HMIC independently. That must have an impact on the policing landscape. Forces operating the A19 scheme, such as mine in north Wales, could lose some of their most experienced officers, ultimately replace them with less experienced officers, and then spend money on training to improve skills.

We need to consider the Select Committee report in the light of those cuts and concerns. Crime fell year on year for 14 or 15 years, not only under the Labour Government but during the last two or three years of the Major Government, but what is the record for the Minister’s first year in charge? I say this with deep regret: in the first full year for which we have figures,

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crime has risen. Burglary has increased by 10%, household theft by 13%, and theft from persons by 7%. Even during the recession under the last Government, crime fell; normally, crime rises during recessions. In the policing landscape, due to confusion, change and the speed of change, funding and all the other issues that we have discussed, crime is rising. The reduction in resources is being implemented unfairly and too fast, which is causing great difficulties.

The Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice (Nick Herbert): I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. He always reminds me of the importance of measuring crime by the British crime survey. Will he tell me by how much crime has increased, according to the British crime survey, during this Government’s first year in office? He criticised the A19 procedure, under which police officers can be asked to retire after 30 years of service. Will he clarify whether he believes that that procedure should be scrapped?

Mr Hanson: The A19 procedure can be a useful resource; I am not against the general principle. The point that I am trying to make to the Minister, in a measured way, is that it is being used not because the principle is useful, but because forces such as mine in north Wales must save resources due to the budget cuts that he is imposing on them. However, that is background. This debate is about the landscape, not budget cuts, but I cannot divorce the budget cuts from the landscape, as I think the Minister will accept.

In addition, the inaugural election of the first swathe of police and crime commissioners will be held on a cold and possibly wet Thursday in November this year. I am not against elections on Thursdays in November; if they are good enough for the President of the United States, they might be good enough for police and crime commissioners.

Mr Robert Buckland (South Swindon) (Con): Those are on a Tuesday.

Mr Hanson: I bow to the hon. Gentleman’s American knowledge. It may be that it is Thursday by the time I wake up after watching the elections and receive the results. That is an additional pressure. My right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff South and Penarth is participating in the election for police and crime commissioners. For clarity, the Minister knows that although we oppose the principle, we will contest the elections and will see what happens. I hope that whoever is elected, we will have a series of competent, effective individuals who manage big budgets and big chief officers with experience, and who deliver a measure of accountability to the public. I disagree with the approach; I think that we can find accountability in different ways, and we considered the ways of doing so in police authorities. Those are some of the key concerns that we face as regards the policing landscape.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester East discussed the new National Crime Agency. I welcome the appointment of Keith Bristow, former chief constable of Warwickshire, as its head, and I welcome its broad direction. My hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Mr Campbell) and I, when exercising our responsibility

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for the Serious Organised Crime Agency, considered some of the concerns and believed that changes needed to be made.

I welcome the broad direction of travel, but the Minister must answer certain points raised in the Select Committee report and in this debate. The design of the National Crime Agency is still—I will give him the benefit of the doubt—emerging. We need legislation for it, and the detail of how it will operate. When will that be forthcoming? Keith Bristow is now in post, and it will be 12 or 15 months before he will begin to have a real impact. What are the key elements of the design of the National Crime Agency? I understand that e-crime and fraud still sit outside the new agency. Are they likely to be brought in? What will be the clarity of approach? What will be—again, members of the Select Committee touched on this—the governance arrangements? What will be the status of the head of the National Crime Agency? How will the Minister, Ministers or the Home Secretary have an impact on the day-to-day operational issues for the agency? What objectives will they set? What budget will they provide? Those are big vacuums regarding an issue that is of importance to me and my constituents, and of importance to how we effectively fight crime, nationally and internationally, at a time when the terrorist threat is significant.

Keith Vaz: The points that my right hon. Friend raises are similar to those raised by the Select Committee, and I welcome what he says about the Opposition supporting the general thrust of having an NCA and the appointment of Mr Bristow as its head. Our concern—and, it seems, my right hon. Friend’s concern—is that the timetable may be too short; too many gaps in the landscape may not have been filled in before the agency is asked to do its work. The issue is not the principle, but the implementation.

Mr Hanson: I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his intervention. I wish the Minister well on these issues; I know how difficult they are. There are real issues of international crime, ranging from drugs to terrorism to people trafficking. There are real issues of inter-regional crime, which the crime agency can deal with. There are issues of e-fraud, too. There are things that I have not thought of that, in four years’ time, will be major crime issues and will have an impact on my constituents and the Minister’s constituents. I wish Keith Bristow well, in the sense that I hope that the Minister will provide clarity on the objectives and the mission, give an indication of the budget and the areas of responsibility, bring forward the legislative framework and give an indication of the outcomes and the governance of the agency. That would be very helpful.

I say that because at the same time that the Minister established the National Crime Agency, he gave a firm indication of notice to the National Policing Improvement Agency, which did a very good job in some areas, although—as with all of us—in other areas, there was the potential for criticism. It is one thing to have a bonfire of the quangos and to remove the NPIA from the policing landscape, but that announcement was made in July 2010. Fourteen months on, what progress is being made on the definition of the transfer and on the protection of the public as a whole? The NPIA is due to vanish in December 2012. Perhaps it is me, but I

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am still unsure where the home is for police training, leadership development, forensics, the police national computer and the DNA database. As I said, that might be me. I will give the Minister credit. I do not have the information flow that he has. Perhaps that information has been provided, but I would like to know from him what is happening on those points. I say that because the uncertainty means that staff are leaving. Staff will not stay on the ship when they are not sure where the ship is going.

Whatever its difficulties and challenges, the NPIA did bring together, for the first time, national support for change in people, processes and technology. It did deliver some technology and change programmes; it helped with the development of neighbourhood policing, for example. I am not sure where that strategic view is for the future. The NPIA is due to go in December 2012. Police and crime commissioners will be elected by their local communities, but anyone could be elected. We do not know what the individual qualities will be of each person elected. Where is the strategic examination for the future?

I worry about a changed landscape in which new police and crime commissioners are coming in, finding their feet and getting up and running at a time when crime is not just finding its feet, when the NPIA is exiting the stage, when the functions have not necessarily been finalised, and when the crime agency is not yet up and running. I worry that crime and criminals will continue to find ways to seep through the gaps. We need to be ever vigilant; criminals will be. I worry about the speed at which things are happening and the lack of clarity about the journey’s end.

We also have a concern about information and communications technology. Again, I can be helpful: the Home Secretary, on 15 December, confirmed that

“the Government…intend to establish an information and communications technology…company. The company will be responsible for the procurement, implementation and management of complex contracts for information technology”.—[Official Report, 15 December 2011; Vol. 537, c. 126WS.]

Indeed, I saw a tweet—that new modern technology—only two hours ago from the chief of the NPIA, who says that he is in a hot room in London talking about ICT as we speak.

Nick Herbert: Good.

Mr Hanson: I say “good”, too. I would appreciate an update.

Keith Vaz: Is it wise for the head of the NPIA, which deals with organised crime, to tell all those organised criminals outside exactly where he is and what he is doing?

Mr Hanson: I think that the information he gives—“I am developing a computer system to close you down, and to help support policing”—is not necessarily operationally significant. The point that I am making to the Minister is that we are in January 2012, and he has said that the elections for police and crime commissioners will be in November 2012. He wants police authorities to be signed up to the integrated computer technology,

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and he wants the police and crime commissioners to be signed up to it in due course, yet months after the initial announcement, we are still at the stage of the Government saying, “We intend to establish a company.”

Let me ask the Minister this: how many police authorities have signed up to that company? Does he intend to force collaboration with the Government if they do not sign up to it? What does he anticipate the company doing differently in the next 12 months? What will be the two-to-three-year plan for the company? To whom is the company accountable? When the company is formed, what happens if someone stands for election as a police and crime commissioner on a platform of wanting an independent police computer system for a police authority, and is elected? Will the Minister compel them to take part?

We need to explore those issues as part of the ongoing policing landscape. I just wonder about the pace and scale of the changes. I wish the Minister good luck in establishing the computer system, but will he please help us to give him that good luck by giving us answers? Will he give us the when, where, why, and how, and say who has signed up, what will happen and what will be the pace of the change?

With the NPIA going, I wonder who will be the value-for-money arbiter. Who will undertake the role of establishing the overall scheme of policing for the future?

Let me deal with the Winsor proposals, because the police arbitration panel has this week produced its report. Traditionally, police arbitration panels have always been difficult places for Policing Ministers to go. I will not disguise the fact that I, my predecessors and others have had occasion to engage in a hand-to-hand way with police arbitration panels. That is not a national secret. However, I would welcome the Minister’s saying today when he intends to respond to the current police arbitration panel report. Given the letter that the general secretary and the chairman of the Police Federation sent to the Home Secretary on 10 January saying that they are willing to abide by the arbitration panel’s decision, even though it causes them some difficulty, as the Minister knows, I would particularly welcome a response from him.

Without giving us too much information today—although if the Minister is able to give us information, that would be great—is he minded to let us know whether he intends to abide by the police arbitration panel decision? More importantly, if he does not abide by it, will he give the House of Commons, as he promised before the election, an opportunity to debate and, potentially, vote on that decision? I would hate him to break an election promise. That was what the right hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake) did when he promised 3,000 extra police officers and then voted to reduce the number by 16,000 over the next three years. I would love the Minister to stick with his election promise and accept the police arbitration panel decision—or, if he does not, allow a vote in the House of Commons.

I would like further information on how the Minister will monitor the police and crime commissioners in the new landscape. In a written ministerial statement from just before Christmas on the National Policing Improvement Agency, he said that it currently advises on value for money, and that it will continue to do so until November 2012. Is it his view that after that date it will be part of

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the policing landscape for police and crime commissioners to be solely accountable for value-for-money issues relating to policing in their area? They will be accountable for that, but I would like to know who will monitor that. Who will monitor their performance, and will there be targets or guidance from the Home Office? In the written ministerial statement, he said that

“police and crime commissioners will drive value for money in the police service with further support where necessary.”

What does he mean? Is he going to set the ship of state sailing, or will he have some central examination of the issue?

Finally, I have two responses on the issues of policing. The first relates to leadership. I echo what the hon. Member for Cambridge said in his speech about the police constable, whose name I have forgotten at the moment. What struck me about the hon. Gentleman’s case study is that it is about leadership. In April, I will have been a Member of Parliament for my area for 20 years, as will you, Mr Betts. In my 20 years, I have had 14 or 15 inspectors in my area. Most have passed through like ships in the night, on the way to either retirement or promotion. The ones who have been very good are those who have really shown leadership. The performance of the police on the ground—the police constable example makes that explicit—are the people who have the best leadership skills and who show vision, commitment and energy and therefore deliver an energising impact. I welcome the focus on leadership that has been discussed by Peter Neyroud and others in relation to improving the skills and qualifications of police officers, because it is very good to energise the police in that way. I ask the Minister how that will be done at a national level. There are real issues that we should examine, so that we can have a flavour of how that will be done in future.

I had a last point, which I will make when I find the right piece of paper—it appears to have slipped my notice at the moment. To conclude, we cannot consider the changes to the policing landscape without looking at their financial implications. The speed and pace of changes introduced by the Minister is, in my view, damaging to police morale. That is the end-point of this experiment—I use the word advisedly—in changes to policing that the Minister is making. My right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester East and his Select Committee have reflected concerns about the demise of the NPIA, the approach of the new National Crime Agency and the damage-to-morale issues.

Helpfully, I have recalled my final point, just before I finished. It relates to the wind-down of the National Policing Improvement Agency, and to the new policing professional body. In principle, that is a good thing, because it relates to the leadership point that I mentioned. Raising standards, skills and investment in policing, and looking at professional standards and at how the Association of Chief Police Officers interfaces with the rest of the policing world is important. I would welcome clarification from the Minister on whether Police Federation members are signed up to the new professional body, and on how he will bring those important participants with him on his journey to his final nirvana. What consultation has he or the Secretary of State had with them to date on that issue? If we are to achieve an effective police force, we need not only the confidence

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of the public and to ensure that criminals are borne down on, but to take the staff who work in that service with us.

My contention is that although we share some views with the Minister, and our desired outcomes are probably the same—reduced crime, increased confidence, better efficiency and valuing the staff in the service—the Minister and I have a different approach. The Select Committee has raised some concerns that the Opposition share, and I look forward to hearing the Minister answer not only my questions but those asked by the Members gathered here.

4.25 pm

The Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice (Nick Herbert): I welcome the report of the Home Affairs Committee on the “New Landscape of Policing”, to which the Government have responded, as being a very considered and thoughtful contribution to the changing landscape of policing and the Government’s reforms. I also welcome the debate that the Chairman of the Select Committee has introduced today and the opportunity that it has given for the members of the Select Committee, the official Opposition and, indeed, the Government to consider, in a very constructive manner, the challenges that currently face British policing.

Precisely because right hon. and hon. Members have referred to the pace of change of the reforms and because those reforms are significant, as the right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz) said, it is important for me to remind them of the reasons why the Government embarked on such a reform programme. It is not, as the right hon. Gentleman suggested, because the Government wish to make their mark, because they are a new Government or because change for change’s sake is a good thing. None of those is an adequate reason to embark on a reform agenda of such a scale.

The reason for the reforms is that policing faces significant challenges, which have changed—some have changed recently and significantly—and we should ensure that British policing is equipped to change with them. Clearly, crime and the need to fight it are ongoing challenges, but new challenges are emerging in relation to new forms of crime. There is ongoing concern about certain forms of crime, not least serious and organised crime—hon. Members have mentioned cybercrime—and there is considerable public concern about antisocial behaviour, much of which is criminality that we must ensure the police can deal with.

Therefore, there is a challenge of dealing with a high volume of crime locally and ensuring that policing is equipped to deal with national problems and national threats. As that is a twin challenge, we have had to look again at the structure of British policing. The Government are not the only ones who have taken that view. It is also the view of policing professionals that the structure of British policing needs to adapt to deal with those challenges. However, there are differing visions of what those new structures should be, and I will return to that point later.

The second new challenge is an obvious one—it was referred to by the shadow Policing Minister, the right hon. Member for Delyn (Mr Hanson)—and it is the funding situation. It is a fact that funding for policing is being reduced during the four-year period of the spending

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review, because the Government have to deal with the deficit. The right hon. Gentleman admitted that funding would have been reduced by his party if it had remained in power. Therefore, under any Government, the police would have to deal with significant reductions in funding. There is a debate about what the level of those reductions should be, but there is no doubt now that, under any Government, the police would have to deal with a very significant reduction in funding. At the end of a period of considerable expansion, during which policing resources have risen year on year and police numbers have risen accordingly, that reduction in funding is obviously a very significant change that the police have to deal with.

The third challenge, or issue, had been neglected, at least in part, for too long, although it was referred to by some Members during the debate, and it is the role of the public in partnership with the police to help fight crime. Indeed, what exactly is the relationship between the police and the public? That relationship can be tested and has sometimes come into focus when we have experienced or debated certain events in policing, whether they are highly controversial police operations—for instance, public order policing operations—or events in relation to the ongoing discussion about community policing and the importance of a strong connection between the police and the public, which is necessary to ensure that there is community policing that commands public confidence. As the right hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Alun Michael) reminded us, Peel—the founder of modern policing—bequeathed to us the important principle that the police are the public and the public are the police. The legitimacy of British policing is conferred by policing by consent and by public confidence in the great public service that is the police.

The Government did not believe that it would be possible for policing to rise to any of the challenges that I have mentioned—maintaining both public confidence in the police and a strong link between the police and the public, dealing with declining policing budgets, ensuring a continuing fight against crime and dealing with the new challenges in fighting crime—with the existing structures, nor with the means by which the previous Government had sought to drive up standards. I say that in a non-partisan manner, but essentially those means were top-down targeting and direction that sought to lever up standards by central control.

With that approach came a proliferation of bureaucracy and a level of direction that had not been experienced in policing before. The policing pledge is a very good example. It was a highly prescriptive central pledge that told police forces exactly how they should behave—for example, even how they should answer telephone calls. This Government have had a different approach to the delivery of public services, which is to seek to decentralise and reduce—or even eliminate—all that top-down central direction. Instead, we have tried to ensure that there is greater accountability, as a means of holding public services to account and making them responsible for the outcomes that they are required to deliver.

I entirely reject the suggestion made again today by the shadow Policing Minister that there is a lack of coherence—indeed, that there is a muddle—in the agenda that the Government have set out in relation to police

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reform. I would argue strongly that our approach is an entirely coherent one that enables the police to meet today’s challenges. I say that because, as I have argued before, there has been a paradox in policing in the last few years. That paradox is that central Government interfered far too much in local policing matters and were far too directive where they should not have been, while they were not always strong enough on the national policing matters that required central Government to exert a stronger view or influence.

We have sought to turn that paradox on its head and to restore local accountability, professional freedom and professional discretion where it is proper to do so, thus freeing up the police to be the crime fighters that they want to be and ensuring greater local accountability, while refocusing the role of the centre and the Home Office on those matters that they should be focused on, particularly national threats, to ensure that we have a strong policing response not only to the terrorist threat but to other threats—for example, serious and organised crime.

The alternative vision that has been set out by some, but not all, in policing was experimented with by the previous Government, and it is to create regional police forces as a means of addressing the new challenges that we face. That vision did not find favour in the country or in the House, and in the end the last Government decided not to proceed with it. I do not believe that it is a deliverable vision. In the absence of the creation of regional forces, if we say that we want to retain 43 individual forces—43 or thereabouts—we must then answer this question: how do we ensure that we have a structure that enables those 43 forces in England and Wales to be accountable to their local communities, where the chief constable is responsible for the totality of policing and those who are holding the chief constables to account hold them to account for the totality of policing, but that ensures that those 43 forces co-operate and collaborate, so that they can work efficiently, driving out unnecessary cost, and deal with serious and organised crime and those threats that cross force boundaries?

In my view, it is absolutely coherent—indeed, it is entirely the right approach—to say that we should on the one hand enhance local accountability through the election of police and crime commissioners, while on the other hand introducing a new national crime agency to strengthen the fight against serious and organised crime, to strengthen our borders and to deal with the new crime threats. Moreover, that new agency will not only work with police forces but have a significant new role in its relationship with those forces, as expressed through a new strategic policing requirement.

Alun Michael: The Minister is reflecting the tension that exists between ensuring that strategic national and regional issues are dealt with and ensuring that there is proper local accountability. Obviously, the Government have chosen the election of police and crime commissioners as their instrument to ensure local accountability. However, does he accept that part of the last Government’s approach—I suspect that it is something that he might agree with—was to strengthen the element of local partnership by requiring the police, down at local commander level, to work with the local authorities in their area, by putting a responsibility on local authorities and other agencies to engage in that partnership approach

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and by ensuring a connection between police interpretation and the public view of crime that needed to be dealt with? In particular, at that local level, the police should be judged on their success in reducing crime and disorder.

Nick Herbert: I was going to come to that, but I am very happy to respond to the right hon. Gentleman and to repeat what I have said to him, to which he has kindly referred. The development of partnerships between the police and local authorities and, indeed, other partners was an important step forward, and he played a particularly central role in ensuring that that was delivered under the previous Government. I think that it is widely accepted that such partnerships can be effective in reducing crime, and the Government wish to see them strengthened and continued, in spite of diminishing resource.

Up and down the country, I have seen action-oriented partnerships with a purpose that are not bureaucratic and that can deliver the kinds of results that the right hon. Gentleman was discussing. Others are more bureaucratic, and they need to adapt to the new world in which resources are at a premium and to ensure that their focus is very action-oriented, but we wish the partnerships to continue. We also wish to ensure that the police and crime commissioners are part of the arrangements and do not work against them, and we have conferred duties on all sides to ensure that. I am happy to endorse the important principle of partnership.

We need action locally and nationally to ensure that policing is structured such that it can meet the demands both of the volume of crime and of the population, in relation to the day-to-day antisocial behaviour and crime issues affecting it. However, we must also ensure that policing is equipped to deal with more serious issues, which, in the end, also affect people’s everyday lives. Drugs issues, for example, are linked to serious and organised criminality. A new strategic policing requirement will ensure for the first time that police forces and the newly elected police and crime commissioners are equipped to deal with those national threats. The creation of the National Crime Agency, along with the Organised Crime Co-ordination Centre in an intelligence-led approach and the introduction of police and crime commissioners is a strong, coherent and powerful response to the challenges that I have described.

The Chairman of the Select Committee, the right hon. Member for Leicester East, reflected on the Government’s ambition to declutter the policing landscape, and I welcome the fact that he noted that that would not necessarily relate to the number of bodies but could involve a more logical ordering of the existing national policing bodies. I of course believe that the phasing out of the National Policing Improvement Agency was the right decision, and I have said so to the Select Committee. There were accountability issues, in spite of the many good things that the agency did and does—I certainly join others in paying tribute to its functions, and I have noted the comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Dr Huppert). Wishing to change the accountability arrangements for the functions, however, to find a better home for them, is not the same as saying that the Government do not value them. The agency clearly does important things, but it has become a kind of Christmas tree quango, with many policing functions

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loaded on to it and ownership and responsibility for what it was doing neither clearly with the Government nor with the police service.

We think that it is both coherent and right to seek greater accountability for the agency’s two principal functions. Of course, it is responsible for many other things. On the one hand there is IT and the development of improved information and communications technology for policing, which is so important, and has been referred to, and on the other is the training and development function, which is equally important to policing’s human resources. Separating those functions by creating a police-owned and led ICT company, for which the police service will accept responsibility, is the right solution to ensure better IT and a more coherent approach. These issues have bedevilled policing for too many years, and since we are having a sensible debate, we must reflect on why, even after more than a decade of rapidly rising resource for policing, we have still ended up with police IT systems that, frankly, are not good enough. They are disjointed, require multiple keyed entry by police officers and add to the bureaucratic burden.

Mr Hanson: I want to be helpful. Will the Minister address the question I asked: how many police authorities have signed up to or bought into the principle of a national IT company, and what is the scope for police commissioners, when elected, to withdraw from such a company?

Nick Herbert: We made the announcements about the destination of the functions and the establishment of a police-led ICT company in December, and we will make further announcements in due course. The principle, however, is clear: we wish police forces to buy into this—to use the right hon. Gentleman’s words—and we expect them to do so, because it is the means by which they can secure better IT in the future.

Mr Hanson: I do not want to be critical, just clear. If the forces do not buy into it—I accept that that is my phrase—will the Minister undertake to introduce compulsion to ensure that they do so?

Nick Herbert: As I have said before, I might not have been in the House of Commons for as long as the right hon. Gentleman, but I have learned not to answer hypothetical questions, and I do not intend to answer that one. We expect that chief constables and police authorities, and in succession to them police and crime commissioners, will be incentivised and want to be part of this new arrangement for delivering IT, because it will ensure a better service for them. It is the right approach to securing better ICT in the future.

On the other side, we have the training and development function, and I am pleased that the Chair of the Select Committee and, I think, Members on both sides of the House have welcomed the idea of the creation of a professional body for policing. I am immensely encouraged that the approach has captured the enthusiasm of police leaders.

In answer to the question about the involvement of the Police Federation, it is true that the federation expressed concern about the Neyroud report, which we had commissioned and which first proposed a body of some kind, partly because it stated that effectively the

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Association of Chief Police Officers would be the body’s heart and soul—I think that that was the expression used. The federation expressed the concern, among others, that it would not, therefore, be a body for the rank and file.

Mark Reckless: I think the phrase was “both the heart and the head”.

Nick Herbert: I am very grateful to my hon. Friend; that was indeed the expression.

We have made it clear that we wish to reconceive the idea of a professional body for policing and to ensure that it is inclusive. That is one of the important principles that I have set out, and I have a working party looking at how we would set up such a body. I am very pleased that in spite of the continued reservations of the Police Federation, which I acknowledge because I do not wish to mislead Members, the federation’s chairman has been attending the working party meetings. The Police Superintendents Association is also represented, as are the ACPO representatives and UNISON, and we now have representation from the police and crime commissioners’ side as well. I am also seeking some independent advice for the working party.

Alun Michael: Unless I missed it, I do not think that the Minister referred to the Police Superintendents Association, and in my experience its contribution, at that level of senior but local management, can often provide a crucial element in such discussions. Is the association included?

Nick Herbert: I agree with the right hon. Gentleman about the value of the advice of the Police Superintendents Association. I certainly share his view and have mentioned that the association is represented, which is important. I want to make it clear that we envisage that this will be an inclusive body. It is important that we raise our sights and consider the great advantage of the creation of a professional body that will have responsibility for standards, professional development and training. That is something that I think has been absent from the policing world. It is surprising that policing does not have such a body, which will be immensely positive.

I will explain briefly why this is so important. The development of professionalism in policing—the acquisition of the right skills—is an important part of our agenda to ensure that police officers are equipped to deal with modern challenges without the kind of bureaucratic approach that we have seen in the past. If we are to develop in policing an agenda of trusting professionals and the extension of professional discretion, we must ensure alongside that that police officers are trained, equipped and incentivised in a way that reflects the exercise of professional judgment, skills and discretion that commands public confidence and trust.

Mark Reckless: The Minister has said that he has secured representation from the police and crime commissioners, but I am puzzled because they will not be elected until November. In his report, Mr Neyroud suggests that there could be ministerial representation

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on the body in charge of the professional body, but he is not so keen on the elected commissioners, whom he wants to see on a consultative panel on the side. Has that been reviewed? Will the Minister clarify his remarks?

Nick Herbert: I noticed my hon. Friend’s puzzlement, so I should have offered clarification. What I meant is that Kit Malthouse, the deputy Mayor of London who has responsibility for policing in London, now attends the working party that I have set up, as does the chair of the Association of Police Authorities, Mark Burns-Williamson, who is also the chair of West Yorkshire police authority. That side of the tripartite is now represented, as are the policing professionals, which is important. Moreover, on Monday the arrangements will change so that, effectively, the first police and crime commissioner will be created in London. That is what I meant.

Alun Michael: With the greatest respect to the Minister—I do not want to introduce a note of disharmony—to describe the deputy Mayor of London as equivalent to a police and crime commissioner is, frankly, ridiculous. The whole point of the principle of police and crime commissioners, as the Minister has spelled out, is that they should be elected and accountable for policing issues to the electorate of the police force area. My personal view is that the exclusion of the Metropolitan police and the City of London police demonstrates a lack of confidence on the Government’s part in the posts that they are establishing. I do not object to their engagement in what will be such an important function, but they really do not have the authority to be there as precursors of the police and crime commissioners. The engagement of the APA’s representative is sensible in terms of continuity, but there is still a gap.

Nick Herbert: I disagree with the right hon. Gentleman. I know that he is keen to become a police and crime commissioner—I welcome that—but he must not get ahead of himself. It is sensible to ensure, as we did in the negotiations on the protocol, that there is representation from those nominated by existing police authorities and from the deputy mayor, because he has responsibility for holding to account a quarter of policing in England and Wales. As I have said, on Monday the Mayor will become the police and crime commissioner, in law, for London, so it is entirely appropriate to have that representation on the working party. I emphasise that it is a working party.

Alun Michael indicated dissent.

Nick Herbert: I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman is shaking his head. It makes sense to have those two individuals on the working party, given the acceleration of this process in London ahead of the election of police and crime commissioners, the date of which—this November—will, as sure as night follows day, be firmly noted in the right hon. Gentleman’s diary.

Alun Michael: As I have said, it makes sense for representatives of the police authorities to be involved in the discussion, because they have experience, which helps continuity. However, although the situation in London may end up in law via the attachment of the words “police and crime commissioner” to an individual’s

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name, that is not what the Minister is putting in place everywhere else in England and Wales, namely the direct election of somebody to be responsible for policing in a police force area. The situation in London is inevitably muddled, and the Mayor is also involved in decisions on a number of issues that are relevant to police in the rest of England and Wales. That may be reviewed in a couple of years’ time, but at the moment such decisions go well beyond the Metropolitan police area. The situation is not as clear as the Minister suggests.

Nick Herbert: Yes, it is. I am completely bemused by the right hon. Gentleman’s intervention. The Mayor has responsibility in London. That will become an enhanced responsibility on Monday, because the Metropolitan Police Authority will be abolished and the Mayor will take full responsibility for policing and will become the police and crime commissioner for London—in law. The first police and crime commissioner will be created.

Alun Michael: In law, but not reality.

Nick Herbert: In law, on Monday. It is up to the Mayor whether he wishes to delegate that function. That power of delegation was, of course, established by the previous Government, so I am sure that there will be no criticism of it whatsoever. It makes sense for us to ensure that the deputy Mayor of London, as the person responsible, at present, for holding to account the country’s biggest police force and a quarter of all police officers, takes part in such discussions, because he can give voice to those who hold, and who will hold, police forces to account.

Mark Reckless: When I was a member of the Kent police authority, I was appointed by Medway council, which is an elected body. Surely that provides an analogy with Mr Malthouse, who has been appointed by the elected Mayor. The purpose of this reform is to increase democratic accountability. Although I welcome what is happening in London, it is different from elsewhere. I am not sure that Members are convinced by the idea that someone who is merely appointed by someone who is elected, or who is an independent member of a police authority, can somehow represent, in advance, elected commissioners. To the extent that there is to be an elective impact, whether with the protocol or other developments, that should come from hon. Members, who are elected, and we ask the Minister to consider our views, rather than look to people who are appointed by others.

Nick Herbert: I do not consider that to be an alternative. I pay attention to all views expressed on the issues, but I certainly have no intention of placing a Member of Parliament on a working party for the development of the professional body. The working party consists of policing professionals and representatives of policing organisations. I have sought to add, in a way that is entirely sensible, those who hold police forces to account. Of course, we will continue to discuss with the Committee and with hon. Members the development of a policing professional body, which is an entirely sensible thing.

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That brings me on to the second part of my speech. The first phase of the police reform agenda was about structures and that work will continue as we set up the National Crime Agency.

Keith Vaz: I am sorry to take the Minister back to an earlier point in his interesting speech, but a number of us who were involved in the Committee report have raised the issue of where the functions of the NPIA will go, and he has said that he will announce the destination of the rest of those functions shortly. Can he be more specific than that? Some of us have been around for a long time and know that, when Ministers say that something will be announced in spring, summer or winter, the issue tends to go on beyond the season mentioned. Can we have a definitive date—perhaps the end of February or January—or something more specific?

Nick Herbert: I am sorry, but I will not be able to give the right hon. Gentleman a definitive date. I can give him three words in due course, and we will announce the destination of those functions. It is important to consider and consult on these matters carefully, and that is the approach we have sought to take.

An issue relating to the next phase of the police reform agenda that is so important and relevant to the discussion we were having on the professional body is that of people. Of course, people—police officers and staff—are the greatest asset of any police force. It is those people who enable us to fight crime, and it is important that we ensure that they are remunerated appropriately. We also need to ensure that they are motivated and are working in employment conditions and structures that reflect the demands of today’s age, that are up to date and that ensure that resources can be directed to the front line.

It is in that regard that we established a pay and conditions review led by the independent rail regulator, Tom Winsor. He reported in part one of that review and made proposals for changing pay and conditions. The Government accepted the principles that he set out. Those proposals were remitted to the Police Negotiating Board, which failed to reach agreement, so they therefore went for arbitration. As the right hon. Member for Delyn has pointed out, the Police Arbitration Tribunal has this week made recommendations in relation to the Winsor proposals. He will know that I cannot be drawn into giving him any indication of the Government’s response to those proposals, other than to say that the Home Secretary will consider them very carefully in line with her statutory duties.

Police officers do an immensely important job. They often do difficult and dangerous work, they are unable to strike and it is important that the country values them. They are relatively well-paid, and it is important that they should continue to be so and that they continue to be valued. I appreciate that this is a difficult time for those who work in the police service, given that there are budgetary reductions, to which I will come shortly, and given that police officers are being asked to accept a two-year pay freeze and changes to their pension, which is also true for other public services. I therefore appreciate the issues about morale that were raised by hon. Members from all parties. However, it is important that the Government take action to deal with the deficit and ensure police forces are equipped to deal with challenges and that resources are directed appropriately.

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Mr Hanson: I have tried, but I accept the Minister’s response. Will he indicate by what date he expects to be able to respond? If he opposes the arbitration panel’s resource outcome, will he allow a debate in the House as promised previously?

Nick Herbert: I am afraid that I cannot satisfy the right hon. Gentleman on either count. That is the second hypothetical matter he has raised this evening. As I have said, we will consider the recommendations of the Police Arbitration Tribunal very carefully, and it is absolutely right that we should do so.

I join right hon. and hon. Members in paying tribute to police officers and, indeed, staff. The Chair of the Select Committee referred to the reception that was held in No. 10 Downing street yesterday by the Prime Minister to mark the contribution of those who helped to deal with the disorder last summer—not only police officers, but police staff and those who worked in the other emergency services and local government. The Prime Minister spoke fulsomely about the importance of what they and their colleagues had done in the summer.

I myself was reminded of what police officers do for us by the dreadful stabbings of three officers that took place in the Metropolitan police area before Christmas. Those young officers bore serious injuries. We should always remember what an important job the police do for the country. It is also important that the Government restate to the police service that we are having to take difficult decisions in common with those that affect other public services. None of that should allow the police service to believe that we do not value police officers or want to do the best for the police service in the future. I certainly wish to do the best for the service in the future, and for those who work in it.

I will pick up one or two specific points before I conclude. My right hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake) mentioned the budget for police and crime panels and questioned how it is derived. It is important to restate that police and crime panels are not ongoing police authorities with the responsibilities of police authorities. Those responsibilities will be taken by police and crime commissioners. Police and crime panels have an important scrutiny role in providing a check and balance that is carefully defined in the legislation that we debated. Their role should not be expanded, and they do not need anything like the kind of resource that police authorities have. The limited funding that has been provided to panels will enable them to do their scrutiny job. My hon. Friend the Member for Rochester and Strood (Mark Reckless), who intervened, made that point very effectively.

I agree with the comments made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington about the police professional body and the importance of dealing with diversity issues. That is a very good example of the kind of thing we could expect a police professional body to take up. It is difficult to see where responsibility for those issues lies at the moment. One of the things a professional body could be responsible for is ensuring that we can make greater progress in recruiting a diversity of police officers.

My right hon. Friend spoke about the importance of collaboration with local authorities, to which I referred in my response to the right hon. Member for Cardiff

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South and Penarth. I endorse that. As my hon. Friend noted, I visited Sutton, where there is a very good example of police force and local authority co-operation. We would like to see more of that, but we are not going to prescribe it. We seek to enable and encourage such an approach, but we do not want to have a directive or master plan that tells police forces how they should go about it.

The right hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth launched his campaign to be police and crime commissioner for south Wales. I wish him the very best of luck in that regard and genuinely welcome his candidacy. He raised again the issue of the status of Cardiff as the capital of Wales and made a bid for the force receiving some kind of grant in recognition of that in the same way that the Metropolitan police receives a capital city grant. He has raised that issue with me before, and my hon. Friend the Member for Vale of Glamorgan (Alun Cairns) has also raised it with me separately. In response to my hon. Friend, I asked the chief constable to supply me with the financial information that would make the case for such a grant. Clearly, resources are tight. It is a difficult request, because it would require removing grant from those who would otherwise be receiving it. These are the decisions that Ministers have to take, but I have undertaken to consider the issue in a sensible manner—I am happy to reassure him about that.

My hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge, whom I welcome to this debate of Privy Counsellors, spoke about the importance of evidence-based policy in policing, as did my right hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington. I strongly agree with both of them on this matter. I welcome the ideas set out by Professor Sherman, whom I would like to meet again shortly to discuss these matters. I do not know whether my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge can organise a convivial dinner in Cambridge, but I would be very happy to attend.

Dr Huppert: I am not sure that I have ever had a Minister make a request for such a meeting before—not that way around. I would be delighted to host him and Professor Sherman. I am sure that we can arrange that.

Nick Herbert: I am very grateful to my hon. Friend. That is a deal. I would be delighted to come up to the town of my birth and discuss these issues with Professor Sherman, because they are important. The absence of greater academic co-ordination and interest in the evidence for good policing practice is something that we should collectively seek to try and redress.

Tom Brake: Has the Minister gone further than interest on this matter? In the new landscape, where does he think that body of evidence will be held?

Nick Herbert: That is a very good question to which I do not have an immediate or off-the-cuff answer. I am loth to suggest the creation of some kind of Government-sponsored body for obvious reasons—we are seeking to reduce the number of quangos and declutter the policing landscape—but that is not to say that there is not a value in looking at who might be responsible for, or encouraging in academia, this kind of work. I am not necessarily endorsing Professor Sherman’s call for some kind of British institute as an additional policing body,

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but it is worth having the discussion about where this kind of evidence-led approach could be developed. It could be that there are aspects that can be led by the professional body. Professor Sherman thought otherwise—he thought that it would be for others—but these two things might not be mutually exclusive.

May I turn—briefly, because I am aware of the time moving on and I apologise for that—to some of the remarks made by the right hon. Member for Delyn? I have sought to deal with some of them in relation to what I consider to be the coherence of the Government’s policing reforms and the issue of the morale of police officers. I cannot leave unremarked his point about police numbers and the cuts in policing. Of course, the kinds of reduction in police funding that the previous Government have admitted that they were considering —cuts of £1 billion a year in police funding—would inevitably have resulted in fewer people working in policing. It is impossible to see how they could have made savings year-on-year without a smaller work force. Therefore, it is important that those in policing should understand that reductions in manpower were going to happen under any Government. Of course, the issue is the extent to which that has to happen, but I point out to the right hon. Gentleman that Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary’s report on what has happened so far in those reductions in funding shows just a 2% reduction in officers on the front line.

We know that in the back and middle offices of policing, using the definition supplied to us by the inspectorate of constabulary, there are approximately 25,000 police officers. It is therefore simply wrong to suggest that a reduction in manpower necessarily means that the front line will be affected or damaged. The right debate is about how policing should be transformed, restructured and made more efficient so that resource continues to get to the front line. Police forces up and down the country are showing that that is possible, and that the kind of characterisation of the debate we have seen from the Opposition is wrong and will be shown, in the end, to be wrong. I believe that police forces are rising to the challenge of reorganising, driving out cost and ensuring that they can continue to deliver a service to the public.

The right hon. Gentleman raised the issue of who would be responsible for ensuring that police and crime commissioners would deliver value for money. Of course, there is the ongoing responsibility of Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary in that regard, but ultimately police and crime commissioners will answer to the public—that is the force of this reform. We are not appointing police and crime commissioners, because the public are electing them. The commissioners will be strongly incentivised to deliver value for money for the British public. The right hon. Gentleman asked whether

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we are going to set further targets. No, we are not going to set targets for police and crime commissioners. We have abolished policing targets, because we seek a different approach that gives greater freedom.

That concludes the remarks that I want to make in the debate. I apologise for speaking at some length, but I wished seriously to engage with the points made by hon. Members. I welcome the Home Affairs Committee’s interest in these matters. I note that its report is not critical of the changes in the policing landscape, although it has things to say about the pace of change and so on. The Government have taken those comments seriously and have responded. Some of the reforms relating to the establishment of police and crime commissioners have been controversial, despite the cross-party buy-in to the new office. However, other aspects of the reforms command the support of the whole House, such as the creation of the police professional body, the better way of dealing with policing IT, the de-bureaucratisation of policing and the creation of the National Crime Agency. Far from being matters of party division or contention, we can have a good debate about how to make the reforms work while recognising that those are the right changes to ensure that policing can rise to the challenges of the 21st century and continue to ensure that crime is fought effectively and that the public are kept safe.

5.17 pm

Keith Vaz: With the leave of the House, I would like to respond very briefly to the debate. The Minister is absolutely right that we have had a good debate about a number of issues. I want to thank those members of the Select Committee who are here this afternoon: the hon. Members for Cambridge (Dr Huppert) and for Rochester and Strood (Mark Reckless), and my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Alun Michael). I thank the Minister, the shadow Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Delyn (Mr Hanson), and the right hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake), the Liberal Democrat spokesman on Home Affairs—we miss him at our Select Committee deliberations, but we always see him at these debates.

The Government have set an agenda that is, in effect, going where no person has gone before. It is rather like being on the Starship Enterprise, with the Home Secretary as a 21st-century Captain Kirk and the Minister as Mr Spock—only with much nicer ears than Mr Spock could offer us. What I can promise from the Select Committee is that we will continue to keep a watching brief on these developments. We look forward to seeing the Minister on these and other matters in the future.

Question put and agreed to.

5.18 pm

Sitting adjourned.