Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill
[The Committee consisted of the following Members:
Steven Mark and Georgina Holmes-Skelton, Committee Clerk
† attended the Committee
‘(c) the scope of use by police forces of civilian and contracted staff.’.
Mr David Hanson (Delyn) (Lab): Welcome back to the Chair, Sir Roger. I was in the middle of a lengthy intervention, which I shall continue in as short a manner as possible. I was asking the Minister about forensics, where staff may well be contractors or civilian staff, but they are not public-facing. Why is there a differentiation in the current draft of clause 107?
The Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice (Damian Green): Welcome back to the Chair, Sir Roger. I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman intervened, because it enables me to remind him of the role of the forensic science regulator, which is responsible for ensuring that the provision of forensic science services right across the criminal justice system is subject to an appropriate regime of scientific quality standards, including identifying the requirements for new or improved standards, leading on the development of new standards and, where necessary, providing advice and guidance so that providers of forensic science services can demonstrate compliance. As I said this morning, the College of Policing should not duplicate the work of other professional bodies. In this instance, I would expect that standards for forensic scientists will continue to be set by the forensic science regulator.
Amendment 59 would also take the college into territory that the Government do not believe it should enter. Not only would the amendment give the college the power to specify which roles should be carried out by police staff, it would also allow the college to say which functions are suitable for outsourcing to the private sector. The Government have made it clear that they have no intention to allow private companies to carry out police activities that require warranted powers, except to the extent that that has already been done for
The power that the amendment would create would limit the scope of local decisions about how and where to use police staff and how and where to use the private sector. These decisions need to be taken by the police and crime commissioner together with his or her chief constable. The power would constrain the ability of chief constables and police and crime commissioners to think imaginatively about the structure of their work force. They will need to account locally for their decisions about the use of police staff or the use of the private sector. There may be a variety of reasons why a police and crime commissioner uses police staff to carry out a particular role or engages the private sector. They might want to save money, to improve service, to bring in new expertise or to increase efficiency, for example. Hon. Members will agree that few, if any, parts of policing should be immune from challenge about whether they could be delivered more cost-effectively, would benefit from new expertise, could be made more efficient or could give an improved service to the public.
Parliament has spent considerable time debating the introduction of police and crime commissioners and their freedoms. Our intention is to give them as much flexibility as possible. We do not want to influence or curtail that flexibility in the way that the amendment proposes. That is important. It is the cornerstone of the accountability that police and crime commissioners have to their electorate. They need the freedom to take the decisions they believe necessary in order to provide an effective service to the public.
For the reasons that I have set out, I do not believe that the college needs the powers that the amendments would bestow and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to withdraw the amendment.
Mr Hanson: The Minister’s response has made me even more worried than I was before I tabled the amendments. The amendment’s whole purpose was not to say that the private sector is bad and the public sector is good. Indeed, when a Minister, I signed contracts and supported discussions with the private sector about the delivery of services. The amendment’s purpose was to ensure that some guidance is issued by the College of Policing on contracts, profit margins, surplus, transparency, scope—a whole range of things. According to clause 105, the Secretary of State has the power to change, amend, veto or do all sorts with the guidance if it was not to their liking.
Based on my understanding of what the Minister has said, it is a laissez-faire situation. It says to police and crime commissioners, “Do what you will anywhere you want to with no guidance from the centre whatsoever.” I do not find that at all acceptable. I am tempted to press the amendment to a Division—I was not going to do so; I was going to let this one lie—because the Minister has just told me that the Government’s laissez-faire approach to police and crime commissioners is essentially to say, “Do what you will, get on with it, and you are accountable to your local electorate.” I think that there should be some guidance and overarching examination from the College of Policing and the Home Office. Given what the Minister has said, I would like potentially to test the will of the Committee on amendment 59.
‘(c) the scope of use by police forces of civilian and contracted staff.’.—(Mr Hanson.)
‘It shall be a duty of the Secretary of State to have approval from both Houses of Parliament before any changes in funding or the introduction of membership are made to the College of Policing.’.
Mr Hanson: I hope that new clause 18 will not take up too much of the Committee’s time. In one sense, it is a device to provoke a debate on the future of the College of Policing post-2015. I fully expect that post-2015, decisions on the future of the College of Policing will be taken by a Labour Government, but we want to be fully aware of the current Government’s plans and preparations.
As I have said before, the College of Policing is a welcome addition. The new clause would require the approval of both Houses before any changes can be made to funding or the introduction of membership. We have tabled it because the College of Policing does not have royal charter status, although it aims to achieve that status over the next few years, and Alex Marshall, the chief constable with responsibility for the College of Policing, told us:
“We cannot move towards royal charter status until we can demonstrate that the majority—51%—of our funding is coming from other than Government grant. At the moment, we generate about 24% of our income from other than Government grant and
That is the nub of new clause 18. I want a sense from the Minister of the Government’s vision for membership of the College of Policing. Funding will self-evidently be tighter. Royal charter status cannot develop until the majority of funding comes from other than Government grant. It will have intellectual property it can sell; it will be able to market courses to the wider policing world.
I want to hear from the Minister whether my sense is correct that the College of Policing will move to be a membership body. By that it will potentially charge members for membership of that body, and therefore change the nature of the relationship of police officers to the training establishment of the College of Policing. In a sense, this is a device to get a debate on that issue.
I want to hear from the Minister how he sees the College of Policing raising its resource over and above that given centrally by the Government. Secondly, does the Minister intend or expect the College of Policing to have a membership scheme, to be financed by payments from members? If so, how will that operate? Both those issues are relevant to the establishment of the College of Policing and the thousands of police officers who currently use the College of Policing but whose relationship with it would change in the event of membership or changes in funding.
Damian Green: New clause 18, as proposed by the right hon. Gentleman, would require the Home Secretary to seek parliamentary approval in the event of either of two changes in respect of the College of Policing: first, for any changes to the funding that she gives the college and second if the college wished to introduce a membership scheme. The right hon. Gentleman made the point that he is using this to create a debate. I make the point that Parliament already has ample opportunity to scrutinise these matters.
I will answer the right hon. Gentleman’s question directly in a second, but in terms of funding Parliament already has an opportunity to vote on the moneys allocated to the Home Office and hold the Home Secretary to account for the way in which she chooses to spend the money. So there is already a parliamentary scrutiny process that would cover the issues that the right hon. Gentleman raised.
The amendment would also place a duty to seek the approval of both Houses should the college wish to introduce a membership scheme for police officers. Again, Parliament already has the powers to debate the introduction of such a scheme. If the college wished to require all police officers to be members in order to carry out their functions, that could be achieved only through a change in police regulations. That is directly germane to the question asked by the right hon. Gentleman. I assumed he was most concerned about the prospect of compulsory membership.
Under clause 105, the college would be able to prepare draft regulations making membership a condition of recruitment or promotion. It would not, however, be
As the right hon. Gentleman fairly said, so the Committee has already heard, there are no plans to introduce a compulsory membership scheme for police officers and police staff. Alex Marshall was clear during the oral evidence he gave to Committee members that that is the case. He said that the college was in the process of looking at its commercial activities.
There is a wide range of opportunities at which it is looking: licensing and accrediting providers of police training, the sale of police training internationally, use of the college’s intellectual property and membership. I think that directly addresses the other question from the right hon. Gentleman about how, if not through membership fees, the college could establish enough funding to proceed down the path to the royal charter. That is the answer. It has a wide range of activities, which have to some extent been commercially exploited in the past but, I suspect—and, indeed, others at the college know—have not been exploited as much as they should have been. The college already covers roughly a quarter of its expenditure from self-generated income and, clearly, expanding those commercial opportunities in both this country and globally, and relying on the good reputation of British policing and British police expertise throughout the world, will be the central way in which the college can increase its income and therefore proceed on its preferred path.
The types of membership that the college is considering are broad. They could be directed at police officers, police staff and police forces but, equally, they could be directed at those outside the United Kingdom who might want to join the college and at academics who work closely with the police or at those in the private sector who provide policing services. I can only repeat that Alex Marshall is clear that the college is not currently looking at a compulsory membership scheme. There are no plans of the college to levy a compulsory membership fee on individual officers or to require individual officers to join the college to carry out the functions of a police officer.
No officers or members of police staff will be forced to pay a membership fee to continue to carry out their job and, in the absence of an element of compulsion, I see no reason why we should restrict the ability of the college to develop its commercial activities. If individuals want to join the College of Policing and are happy to pay a membership fee, that should be a matter for them. It is not something in which Parliament should intervene. I hope that I have answered the worries of the right hon. Gentleman, and that he will not press his new clause.
Mr Hanson: That is helpful. I am still worried about the implications of a potential change, but I am reassured by the way in which the Minister has answered the issues that we, by the new clause, have sought to tease out.
Mr Hanson: I want to make a couple of comments on the clause, which abolishes the Police Negotiating Board for the United Kingdom. It will be replaced under clause 113 by a new police remuneration review body. I do not want the provision simply to go by without discussion. The Minister will know that at our first sitting on 18 June, we received written evidence from the Police Superintendents Association and from the Police Federation of England and Wales, both of which showed that they were not happy with the Government’s approach to police negotiating rights.
In evidence to the Committee, the Police Superintendents Association argued that the board should be retained and reformed. In fact, in the first question of our sitting on 18 June, when I asked him about it, Mr Williams, chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said:
“We are disappointed that the PNB is to go. We felt that it was the right and proper process to allow police officers, through their federation, to air their views and concerns about their pay, terms and conditions.”
“the recommendation being put forward needs the confidence of the men and women who are serving in the police service. If it does not have that confidence, as my colleague in the federation said, police officers do not have the right to remove their labour…The first key point is that the proposal must have the confidence of those whose pay and conditions are going to be negotiated.”––[Official Report, Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Public Bill Committee, 18 June 2013; c. 4-5, Q 1 and 2.]
It would be helpful if the Minister indicated on what basis he thinks he can gain and secure the confidence of those who work in the service, given that both the Police Federation and the Police Superintendents Association have said that they do not support the proposal before the Committee. I do not intend to vote against the clause, because I can see merits in the discussions that we have had, but the Minister should indicate what steps he is taking to talk to and work with the vast majority of people in the police service who are covered by the board, both representative bodies of which have said that they have no confidence in the new proposals. That is a serious point, and the Minister must give some indication of what steps he will take to build confidence in the body established by clause 113.
Damian Green: I will happily explain why we are making these changes. We want to ensure that police officers have pay and work force arrangements that recognise the vital role that they play in fighting crime and enable them to keep the public safe. That is why we commissioned Tom Winsor to conduct an independent review of police remuneration and conditions. His two reports made a range of recommendations, many of which have already been implemented, to modernise pay and conditions, help chief constables manage their resources and improve service to the public. Above all, the changes will help the police fight crime.
The police remuneration review body is an important part of the reform programme. In England and Wales, police officers’ pay and conditions are determined by the Home Secretary following a statutory process of negotiation or consultation. The Police Negotiating Board considers matters relating to pay, allowances, hours of duty, pensions and uniforms and equipment for officers across the UK. It includes representatives of police officers and those responsible for maintaining forces, including police and crime commissioners and chief officers.
The PNB’s function is to seek to make agreed recommendations to the Home Secretary. Where it cannot agree, there is an independent system of arbitration, which can make a recommendation in the PNB’s place. The Winsor review found the existing system to be cumbersome, inefficient and adversarial. Since the end of pay indexation in 2006, the PNB has failed to agree on the most contentious issues. Originally intended to be a last resort, arbitration has become a regular fixture of police pay settlements. The process is time-consuming, costly and does not best serve either police officers or the public.
There is a fundamental lack of strategic foresight in the current system. Although there has been a pay negotiating system since 1919, there has still been a need for periodic independent reviews of police pay and conditions. Tom Winsor therefore recommended that the Police Negotiating Board should be replaced with an alternative system—a pay review body—by late 2014. The approach is similar to that used to set pay for the armed forces, prison officers, school teachers and other public sector workers. He proposed that the most senior officers should be brought within the remit of the Senior Salaries Review Body so that their remuneration could be considered alongside that of other public sector leaders.
This is not the first time that such a move has been proposed. In 2007, Sir Clive Booth was commissioned by the previous Government to undertake a review of police pay, including the way it is determined. His conclusions on the matter were very similar to Tom Winsor’s. The previous Government, to which the right hon. Member for Delyn was an adornment as police Minister, welcomed Booth’s findings, accepted his recommendations and began to consult. Indeed, a Home Office document from September 2008—I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman was police Minister then—
Damian Green: I accept that the right hon. Gentleman was doing a different, equally important job at the time. Anyway, at the time, the Home Office said that the Government accepted Sir Clive’s recommendations and that they would consult on how, not whether, a pay review body would be implemented. However, as so often with the previous Government, what started as an eye-catching initiative ran into the sand.
We accepted Winsor’s proposals for a pay review body as the basis for a public consultation last year. Following that consultation, we have developed the measures outlined in clauses 112 and 113 to replace the existing system with a review body.
Mr Hanson: With due respect, we know that. If the Minister had listened to what I said, he would not have heard a word of criticism from me about the mechanism. My point was about how he is going to get the confidence of the people who feel aggrieved by the changes.
Damian Green: The essential thing is that the body will be independent. It will take objective views, which I am sure police officers will mention. One member of the new body will be a former police officer. The body itself will conduct annual visits to police forces to meet rank and file officers and hear their concerns. All parties—Government, chief officers and the various representative bodies of police officers—will have equal opportunity to present evidence to the body.
Damian Green: It is not for me to say at this point exactly what rank they would be, but I take my hon. Friend’s underlying point. Clearly, that officer will need to have the confidence of the ranks whose pay is being negotiated. As I explained, the “ACPO ranks”, as they perhaps used to be called—the senior ranks of the police service—will have their remuneration decided by the Senior Salaries Review Body, rather than by the new body.
Stephen Phillips (Sleaford and North Hykeham) (Con): I know that we are moving to schedule 5 after this debate, so I do not want to make a bad point, but I am having difficulty in seeing how the Minister can assure the Committee that one member of the review body will be a serving police officer.
Stephen Phillips: The same point stands. My understanding from schedule 5—perhaps we can deal with it when we come to it—is that there is no real guidance as to who the five members of the review body will be. One is appointed by the Prime Minister as chair, and the four others are appointed by the Secretary of State, but I might have that wrong. I have a habit of making bad points against the Minister, as he knows, so I want to give him due notice of the question now, so that his officials can scramble around and find the answer.
The point of having an independent body that can take evidence is that the body itself should not have members who regard themselves as representatives of particular interests; it should have the independence of mind to reach a conclusion at the end of having the evidence produced by the various bodies, and the police representative bodies are obviously a hugely important part of the system.
At the moment, what happens in practice is that, if the negotiation fails, it goes to the police arbitration tribunal and the evidence is then weighed up by the Home Secretary, so I would hope that the bodies, about whose interests the right hon. Member for Delyn is concerned, will recognise that having multiple independent minds addressing themselves to objective evidence produced by the various sides in the negotiation is likely, in the long term, to provide a better system that can give confidence not only to individual officers, but to the public. It is important that the new body has the confidence of all sides. That is why we have listened to the concerns expressed in response to the public consultations on the issue, and we will continue, as always, to work closely with policing partners during and after the passage of legislation to ensure that the design of the body meets this aim. That is why we are establishing a body that will work for the future and deliver police officer pay and conditions suitable to the demands of modern-day policing.
‘and one member appointed by the Department of Justice in Northern Ireland.’.
‘may not be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before both Houses of Parliament and approved by a resolution of each House.’.
‘(c) the quorum for the review body.’.
Mr Hanson: The clause establishes the police remuneration review body. As mentioned by the hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham, the membership consists of a chair appointed by the Prime Minster and, as currently constituted in the Bill, five or more members appointed by the Secretary of State, one of whom should be deputy chair. Crucially, proposed new section 64A (3) of the Police Act 1996 states:
The purpose of my amendments is to ensure that the chair is still appointed by the Prime Minister, four members are appointed by the Secretary of State, but one member is nominated directly by the Department of Justice in Northern Ireland, rather than its simply being consulted by the Secretary of State.
The problems I have tabled the amendments to address might not exist, but I want to test the Minister to see whether it would be valuable for the Committee to consider those issues. The first issue relates to the appointment of the members of the pay review body. The pay review body will have a responsibility for Northern Ireland, but, as the Bill is drafted, the Department of Justice in Northern Ireland will only be consulted on the membership; it will not nominate members.
As the Minister will know, policing in Northern Ireland has a long, chequered history. It is only recently that one community has accepted that policing is legitimate in Northern Ireland. For many years, members of Sinn Fein, and, to a lesser extent, the Social Democratic and Labour party, had real concerns about the operation of policing. Over many years—I do not intend to revisit the history today—there was movement on those issues. Now, the Policing Board in Northern Ireland has responsibility for policing. However, it guards that responsibility so jealously that when we considered the Crime and Courts Bill a few months ago, the Northern Ireland Assembly did not consent for the National Crime Agency to operate in Northern Ireland, because it is a UK-wide body, accountable to the Secretary of State.
My purpose in tabling the amendments is, first, to ask the Minister—this may help us tremendously—whether the Northern Ireland Assembly is content with the clause. As I read it, there is only a requirement to consult the Northern Ireland Department of Justice Minister, and therefore there is no guarantee that those consultations would result in a change if the Northern Ireland Assembly wished to comment on the appointment. It would be helpful to have some clarity from the Minister about what discussions he has had with the Department of Justice in Northern Ireland about these matters, whether the Department of Justice in Northern Ireland has discussed them with the Northern Ireland Assembly and whether there have been representations from any of the political parties in Northern Ireland about the proposals for the Police Negotiating Board.
In my view, these issues could cause difficulty downstream. I hope they do not, but I want assurance from the Minister that it is acceptable to the Northern Ireland Assembly, which has devolved responsibility for policing, that the Department of Justice in Northern Ireland is only consulted on a board appointed by officers of the British Government in the House of Commons. As the clause is drafted, the Department of Justice does not even have a definite place on the board
I raise those points only because of the lamentable failure to reach agreement, when we were considering the Crime and Courts Bill, on the operation of the National Crime Agency in Northern Ireland. As we discussed this morning, we still do not have agreement across the board about the operation of the National Crime Agency in Northern Ireland by the Northern Ireland Assembly. Nor do we have agreement on issues relating to asset recovery in Northern Ireland. I want a cast-iron, rock-solid assurance from the Minister that if this legislation becomes law and the remuneration review body is established, it has the confidence of the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Justice Minister, and that its recommendations will be effectively accepted in Northern Ireland, because of the historical challenges that we face in that country.
Amendment 126 simply tries to establish a quorum. There may be hidden in this mass of green paper, or somewhere in the guidance, provision for a quorum for the police remuneration body but if there is, I have missed it. If we are putting six people in place, we should at the very least have a quorum, which could be two out of six or three out of six. If, for example, there is a meeting and only the chair turns up, is that fair and proper? I do not think so. If provision has been made for a quorum, can the Minister point me to it, and if not, will he accept amendment 126 or reflect upon it for the future?
Stephen Phillips: On a point of order, Sir Roger. May I ask for some guidance? Amendment 126 is actually an amendment to schedule 5 but is grouped in the debate on clause 113. We are going to move on to schedule 5, but I am happy to make now the point I wanted to make in support of the right hon. Member for Delyn, if it is in order for me to do so.
The Chair: The amendment is grouped with this whole group of amendments, so it is completely in order to make the comments now. We shall come to a stand part debate, if there is one, on schedule 5 later. The hon. and learned Gentleman could have a second bite at the cherry then, but he might wish to take the opportunity now.
Moving on, I rise briefly to raise an issue which occurred to me when I read schedule 5, and which the right hon. Member for Delyn has raised, regarding the quorum of the review body. So far as I can see, there is nothing whatsoever that deals with this issue in the clauses being inserted into the Police Act 1996, or in schedule 5 to this Bill, which will form schedule 4B to the 1996 Act—should the Bill in due course complete its remaining stages in this House and the other place. It therefore seems to me that the right hon. Gentleman’s amendment is sensible, subject to one point. Through paragraph 11(1) of schedule 5, the review body can “determine its own procedure”. Perhaps the Government intend to give guidance on this issue, thereby enabling
Damian Green: This is clearly an opportunity to consider some important aspects of the provisions relating to the police remuneration review body. The police pay machinery is a technical but vital matter that has implications for officers across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Its composition and operation will be vital to secure the confidence of officers. I am not persuaded that these amendments are necessary, or that they would improve the body’s ability to carry out its task.
Amendments 60 and 61 would reduce by one the number of members appointed to the police remuneration review body by the Home Secretary, and require the Justice Minister in Northern Ireland to appoint a member instead. As I hope the right hon. Member for Delyn is aware, the Department of Justice in Northern Ireland has been involved throughout the development of policy relating to this body, and the Bill was introduced with the Minister’s support.
I will explain why the amendments are unnecessary. The Committee will have seen that clause 113 provides that, before making an appointment, the Secretary of State—or, in the case of appointing the chair, the Prime Minister—must consult the Department of Justice. That duty to consult is for every member, not just the member with experience of the Northern Ireland context. This provision therefore ensures that the Minister of Justice will already have a statutory involvement in all appointments, not just one.
Mr Hanson: According to my reading of my amendments, the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary are not prevented from consulting the Northern Ireland Department of Justice on the other appointments; the amendments simply allow the Department to make an appointment.
Damian Green: I am not suggesting that they are; I am making the point that the Northern Ireland Department of Justice will be consulted on each member, so it does have a significant input—as it should—into this important body. It is the right approach to ensure a varied selection of members suitable for considering the pay of officers across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. That arrangement is entirely consistent with other bodies that examine the remuneration of workers in two different jurisdictions, such as the Prison Service Pay Review Body, which makes recommendations on pay for prison officers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. I suspect that the right hon. Gentleman may well be familiar with that from one of his previous jobs in government. This body will prove to be just as successful.
I hope I can also reassure the right hon. Gentleman that it is not only our intention that the Northern Ireland Department of Justice be consulted as part of the recruitment process, but that appointments to the body be regulated by the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments, ensuring that they will only be made on merit after a fair, open and transparent process. The key aspect of the membership of the body
In short, the Bill as drafted provides for a fair and consultative appointment process to ensure an independent body that is perfectly able to consider pay and conditions in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, taking into account differences of approach between the jurisdictions where they exist. The amendment is therefore unnecessary.
The right hon. Gentleman asked perfectly reasonable questions about the Northern Ireland Assembly. He will know that the decision on the need for a legislative consent motion in the Assembly is a matter for the Minister of Justice in Northern Ireland to determine, following an approach from the UK Government. UK Ministers approach the Minister of Justice in relation to this matter as required. The response advised that the legislative consent motion is not required in this case, on the grounds that the Police Negotiating Board is a UK-wide body for handling police officers’ pay and conditions and is to be replaced by a new body for the same purpose, of which the Ministry of Justice would like the Police Service of Northern Ireland to remain a part. In those circumstances the Northern Ireland Assembly does not have the delegated power to close the PNB, nor to establish its replacement.
As we would expect, the Home Office has had extensive discussions with the Department of Justice in Northern Ireland on the PRRB and, as I say, the provisions have been introduced with the full consent of the Minister of Justice, who believes that policing in Northern Ireland genuinely would be served by maintaining the link with Great Britain in terms and conditions to allow the free movement of officers. The Minister of Justice is continuing to engage with policing partners on that issue.
I turn now to the issues raised by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham. The Bill does not require the membership of a former officer, but we have already published our criteria for membership in draft in the consultation response, which included a former police officer, preferably of superintendent rank or above. As my hon. and learned Friend will see in paragraph 2 of schedule 5, the Home Secretary has the power to determine the experience needed by members. That is our stated and published intention.
Amendment 62 relates to the Home Secretary’s power to change the name of the police remuneration review body by order, subject to the negative resolution procedure. That power would be used if there was any change to the remit of the body—for example, if regulations were made under section 14 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 giving the body functions in relation to the pay and allowances of officers of the National Crime Agency. The right hon. Member for Delyn proposes that the affirmative resolution procedure should be used instead.
Although this is a power to amend primary legislation, we regard the negative resolution procedure as sufficient, bearing in mind the limited scope of the amendments that could be made and the limited circumstances in which the power is likely to be exercised. When the Bill passes to the other place, the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee will scrutinise all the
Amendment 126 relates to the Home Secretary’s ability to make a direction on the procedures of the police remuneration review body, and specifically concerns the body’s quorum. I agree with the principle that wherever possible all members of the review body should attend meetings of the body, but I am not persuaded that the amendment is appropriate or desirable to achieve that. Nor am I persuaded that it would improve the body’s ability to carry out the task set for it, for two reasons: first, I am not persuaded that issuing a direction on quorum would be desirable and, secondly, the drafting of schedule 5 already allows the Home Secretary to issue that direction if she thinks it appropriate.
Turning to the first, more substantive, point, while it is best practice for all members to be present at review body meetings, none of the other pay review bodies have quorum requirements. If a particular member of a body cannot attend for any reason, the Office of Manpower Economics ensures that they are given the opportunity to contribute to the meeting in writing so that their views are still taken into account. It will work in the same way with the PRRB, and I expect that all meetings will be scheduled with the aim of having all members in attendance wherever possible.
Indeed, the right hon. Member for Delyn will note that paragraph 11(3) of schedule 5 provides that the validity of proceedings will not be affected by a vacancy in membership. That provision was included to ensure that the important work of the review body is not delayed due to vacancies in the membership, and I expect the same principle to apply if a particular member or members are unable to attend a particular meeting.
The amendment is intended to create an expectation that specific members attend all meetings for them to be quorate. Some parties suggested in their response to the consultation that the member with policing experience should always be present at meetings for the meetings to be considered quorate, but the crux of how a review body operates and gains the confidence of its remit group is its independence from Government or any other organisation, so the suggestion flies in the face of that principle. The member with experience of policing is not there to represent the interests of police officers, any more than the member with an economic background is there to represent the interests of economists. If that were the case, the PRRB would not be independent of outside interests. The PRRB is not a representative body like the Police Negotiating Board, which it replaces, and as such all members are expected to contribute equally and disinterestedly on all matters being considered.
I repeat that schedule 5 already provides the Home Secretary with an overarching power to give directions to the PRRB on any aspects of its procedure. Specifically, the schedule outlines that the Home Secretary may give directions on matters relating to the gathering of evidence, where she might have a legitimate wish to ensure that the representatives of specific interested parties are consulted. As drafted, however, the power would also allow the Home Secretary, if she so wished, to direct that specific members or a number of members were present at a meeting, as that is a matter of procedure.
I hope, having heard my assurances, that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham is reassured, and that the right hon. Member for Delyn is both reassured and prepared to withdraw his amendment.
Mr Hanson: I was only trying to get the Minister to put the Secretary of State’s power to set a quorum into the Bill, but it appears that even that is a step too far in establishing the PRRB. It seems reasonable to put that power formally in legislation.
Mr Hanson: The Minister says the Home Secretary has the power; I can tell when I am not going to get very far. On important matters, I will continue to press the points; on less important matters, I will chill and live long and prosper.
The Minister has been very clear about his consultation with relevant parties in Northern Ireland. I welcome that and hope he understands why I was testing him on those issues. There is still concern that even if the Minister has agreed them, Members of the Legislative Assembly may have a view on them in due course. This is a new piece of legislation creating a new body and giving a view on issues to do with Northern Ireland, which, as the Minister is aware, can still cause difficulties. Given the experience with the National Crime Agency, I wanted to test the Minister’s understanding on this matter. He has partially satisfied me; as for the quorum, we can have that fight another day. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Stephen Phillips: It is with a bite of a different cherry that I wish to tackle the Minister now. Paragraph 12 of schedule 5, which will form schedule 4B to the Police Act 1996, gives permission to the Secretary of State to give
I am interested in the Minister’s interpretation of what “when making decisions” might mean in this context. From the debate we have just had, my understanding is that the review body will not, in fact, decide anything; instead, it will make a report, potentially with recommendations, on matters referred to it by the Secretary of State.
I therefore seek assurance from the Minister that the Government will consider whether those words are the most appropriate ones, given that, at least as I understand it, the remuneration review body will not be making
Damian Green: The answer to my hon. and learned Friend’s point is that the body will be making decisions on the recommendations it makes. Clearly, as he knows, the legislation means that the power ultimately to make the award lies with the Home Secretary, but the body itself will decide what recommendations it will make.
As I said earlier, the Home Secretary might wish to ensure that all relevant evidence had been heard and that everyone had had the right to give their point of view. There may well be other, external matters, such as wider public sector pay restraint, that a Home Secretary would legitimately wish to draw to the attention of the body as it was making its recommendations. Those are the kinds of contexts in which paragraph 12 of the schedule will be used.
Stephen Phillips: Will the Minister give an undertaking to look at the legislation establishing the other remuneration review bodies, and at the terms used for similar powers relating to the relevant Secretaries of State who deal with those review bodies, and either make the wording in the Bill conform with the other legislation or, if that power for the Secretary of State is not present in other legislation, look at ways of making the Bill clearer? That way, when reading what will be schedule 4B to the Police Act 1996, we will not be under the misapprehension that the review body is deciding pay and conditions, when that will still remain a matter for the Home Secretary, albeit on the recommendations of the review body.
Damian Green: I happily give that undertaking. As I have already said, many provisions in this part of the Bill mirror those for similar bodies in other parts of the public sector, so that has very much been something that we looked at, with the added proviso that precisely because this part of the legislation deals with England, Wales and Northern Ireland, we also need to consider the sensitivities legitimately brought up by the right hon. Member for Delyn. Again, that is an area where one can imagine a Home Secretary wanting to draw the attention of the PRRB to the specifics.
Damian Green: Clause 116 extends the oversight of the Independent Police Complaints Commission to cover employees of private sector organisations contracted by the police, who are increasingly delivering services for police forces. The power is intended to recognise the
Part 2 of the Police Reform Act 2002 contains a provision that allows the Home Secretary to make secondary legislation in relation to the procedures in investigations carried out or overseen by the commission. We want it to be absolutely clear that the complaints framework, whether set out in primary or secondary legislation, fully covers additional private sector contractors. The amendments, along with the provisions already in the Bill, will contribute towards improving public confidence in both the powers of the IPCC and the police complaints system more generally.
‘In section 29 of the Police Reform Act 2002 (Interpretation of Part 2), at the end of subsection (4)(a) there is inserted “except where that person was a member of the civilian staff of the police force and was off-duty at the time when the conduct is supposed to have taken place.”.’.
‘The Secretary of State may make regulations providing that, for the purposes of this Part, a police support volunteer is to be treated as a person serving with the police.’.
Mr Hanson: The Opposition welcome the provisions in clause 116, because they extend the role and remit of the Independent Police Complaints Commission to treat contractors, subcontractors and employees of a contractor or subcontractor as persons serving with the police. The Opposition have been calling for such a provision for the past couple of years and we welcome the Government’s committing to it. Clause 116 will receive no trouble from the Opposition and has our blessing. However, I tabled new clauses 12 and 13 to examine possible extensions to the role of the IPCC to look at two particular groups.
New clause 13 would close a loophole in the current legislation that prevents the IPCC from investigating complaints against a police support volunteer, which is the police staff equivalent of a special constable. With Home Office encouragement, an increasing number of forces are using volunteers to carry out work previously undertaken by police staff. That is a debate for another place, but the argument being made in Committee, and outside, is that those volunteers should be subject to the same degree of scrutiny by the IPCC as police officers, special constables and, under clause 116, contractors. What does the Minister believe is the current status of police staff volunteers and what should it be in future? In the event of a police staff volunteer doing something of concern, should the IPCC have the power to investigate, in the same way as it would any other person working for the police service in any authority?
The purpose of the new clause is to put in place provisions to allow police staff who are not on duty who have a grievance against their police force—I will give examples in a moment—to raise that grievance with the IPCC. The suggestion was made by, among others, Unison the trade union. It is fair and proper that it has the opportunity to have the points put before the Committee. For the record, I am not a member of Unison, I am not involved in Unison, it has not given me any money, and I am not under the yoke of a trade union in bringing the matter forward. Unison has legitimately raised those points and they should be discussed.
Stephen Phillips: Under the new clause from the unions, why is it limited to civilian staff of the police to refer matters to the IPCC? Why has the right hon. Gentleman not included all police officers who are off-duty, rather than just civilian staff who are off-duty? There seems to be a discrepancy. Is he aware of that? Is it intentional? Or are the unions looking after their own and ignoring police officers?
Mr Hanson: No, it is not. The hon. and learned Gentleman makes a valid point. The measure has been proposed because of police staff. There is a real difference in my view, and in the view of the trade union that has raised the issue independently: police officers are commissioned police officers at all times. When they are off-duty they are still commissioned police officers. Off-duty police officers make arrests and still act as police officers. They are warranted police officers at all times. Civilian staff are employed by the police force, but when they are off-duty they no longer have the powers associated with being police civilian staff.
Stephen Phillips: Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman needs to look at section 29(4). If the argument he has just advanced is correct, off-duty civilian staff of the police are not caught by section 29(4). Those who are caught are serving police officers because they are always under the control of the same chief officer as the person against whom they want to make the complaint. On that basis, the new clause is unnecessary and fails to protect the police at all when a constable is off-duty and wants to make a complaint against another constable who is under the command of the same chief officer.
Mr Hanson: It is always tempting, as someone with no legal training, to argue with a judge and a QC. I am tempted to do so on this occasion. The legal advice given by those who wish to raise the matter is that there is a distinct difference between police warranted officers and the staff of a police service. That is a matter for debate and discussion. I do not intend to press the matter to a vote; I want to test the Minister on the principle.
The key point that the hon. and learned Gentleman may wish to reflect on is that at the moment the rationale for the new clause is that police staff, when off duty, are private citizens and not in the same relationship as an
Perhaps I can give the hon. and learned Gentleman three examples, which were drawn to my attention as part of the preparation for this debate. They illustrate the type of incident that is of concern to people who currently work for the police, and who cannot, as civilians, refer matters to the IPCC. Three examples were given to me—admittedly again by the trade union, because it has an interest in standing up for its members and reflecting these concerns during the passage of the Bill. The three examples it has given, which are live and real examples, are as follows.
An individual who worked for the police force was concerned about the lack of response to a firearm incident by the individual’s own force. They wished to make a complaint to the IPCC, but were advised that they could not complain because they worked for the police force concerned. The case concerned a serious incident. The individual’s young son was sitting in the back garden when air pellets were fired into the garden by people outside. The individual called the police station. There was no response. They called the police again, and still there was no response. Given the police’s failure to respond to the incident, the individual wished to make a complaint about the conduct of the police. They were a civilian member of staff, so they could not do that. Had they been a member of the public, they could have. That is the dichotomy faced in that particular case.
Another example given to me by the trade union concerned two police community support officers. An allegation of theft was made against them by the force, which was not investigated prior to their arrest for theft. The property subsequently turned up in a different building, but the individuals had effectively been falsely arrested with no interrogation beforehand. They wished to make a complaint about their treatment when they were off duty. They could not do so because they worked for the force itself.
The third example concerned a member of staff who was out with her husband for the evening. An altercation was involved, and they were “manhandled by officers” who attended. The husband ended up with a dislocated shoulder, and he complained to the IPCC about his treatment by the police. His wife, who was also injured, could not complain because she was a civilian member of staff of the force in question. Those are three real-life examples given to me by people who represent civilian staff.
I felt it was my duty to reflect on the issues and to table a new clause for the Minister’s consideration. I would welcome his view as to whether we should look at extending the IPCC provisions to civilian police staff. Again, I am not wedded to the wording of the new clause, as it is the principle that I wish to explore with the Minister. I also hope that he will look at the other new clause. It effectively closes an anomaly in new clause 13 about police support volunteers, so that they are treated in the same way as special constables with
Damian Green: As the right hon. Gentleman said, the new clauses raise distinct issues, so I will deal with them individually. The first, new clause 12, seeks to make express provision to allow police staff to make a complaint about the conduct of another person serving in the same force, provided that the complainant was off duty at the time when the conduct occurred.
I should say at the outset that I have some sympathy with the call to treat police staff as ordinary members of the public while they are off duty, for the purpose of making such a complaint. Despite that sympathy, I am not sure that the new clause is either practicable or in the best interests of the police.
Mr Hanson: If the Minister has some support in principle, I am very happy to withdraw the clause right now and for him to take away the issues, so as not to waste the time of the Committee. He could reflect on it and, if he feels it to be appropriate, bring it back at a later date.
The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that the police complaints system, as overseen by the IPCC, is designed to allow members of the public to complain about the conduct of those serving with the police and to hold them to account for any wrongdoing. It was not designed to provide an avenue for individuals serving in the same force to complain about each other because of treatment at work, for example, for which existing internal force processes are in place.
It is vital to ensure the integrity of the police complaints process and its essential role in ensuring public confidence. The current restrictions that prevent it from being used to consider grievances that members of forces raise about their colleagues are part of achieving that. If such restrictions were removed there is a danger that, in some instances, the police complaints system could be misappropriated by a small minority of officers or staff raising what are essentially internal issues about each other’s conduct.
Having the IPCC dealing with these additional complaints could also unnecessarily burden the police complaints system, resulting in its dealing less speedily with complaints made by members of the public against the police.
What if, for example, a police officer or civilian member of staff of a police force goes on a demonstration and is beaten to the ground quite unjustifiably by police officers? We all know that that has happened from time to time, particularly in London. On the basis of what the Minister says, at the moment that person has no route of complaint through the IPCC at all. Does he not agree that that is deeply unsatisfactory? When officers and civilian staff are off duty, they ought to have the same rights of complaint as any other member of society.
Damian Green: I take the point; for similar reasons, I have some sympathy with it. One can envisage the circumstances. Obviously, everyone is protected by the law of the land. In the instance that my hon. and learned Friend has just raised, what happened would be an assault if it was unjustifiable, so normal legal processes could be allowed to go through.
The employers of police staff and the IPCC need certainty about the nature of the complaints they handle, to deal with them appropriately. New clause 12 does not provide that clarity because it blurs the lines between complaints about behaviour which began on duty and ran into off-duty hours. That makes it difficult to distinguish whether the police staff member was in fact acting in their capacity as a member of the public, rather than as an employee of a force.
However, that is not to say that serious conduct matters should not be brought to the attention of chief officers—or even, in the most serious cases, the IPCC. I remind the Committee that the IPCC is there to deal with the most serious and sensitive issues and the vast majority of complaints against the police are dealt with internally by the force.
It is right and proper that particularly the serious matters are addressed robustly and there are already other avenues for doing so. For example, it is open to the appropriate authority to record an issue as a conduct matter if the allegation is sufficiently serious to warrant its being dealt with in that way. Therefore it is primarily the responsibility of forces to ensure that they have adequate systems in place to support and protect those serving with them. Where confidentiality is required for serious cases, the IPCC has a dedicated phone line and e-mail address for those wishing to report behaviour that could constitute criminal offences or would justify misconduct proceedings.
As it stands, there are existing provisions and systems that would allow the sorts of cases that the right hon. Member for Delyn brought up or the example that my hon. and learned Friend produced.
Stephen Phillips: I am extremely grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way and being so generous. Could he confirm to the Committee that if Ian Tomlinson, who was beaten to the ground and suffered his heart attack not too far from here, had been an employee of the Metropolitan or City of London police—I know not whom—the IPCC could not have investigated that case? Is that the position as the law at present stands and is it a position that the Government support?
New clause 13 seeks to add police support volunteers to the existing categories of persons in respect of whom the IPCC has oversight. The Government recognised the inspirational police support volunteers last month at the annual Lord Ferrers awards. The nominations reflected the increasing variety of roles that police support volunteers are undertaking around the country and the significant impact they are having on fighting crime and supporting victims.
The public are right to expect a high standard of conduct and integrity from police support volunteers, who are representatives of the police, particularly where they are undertaking roles that involve interaction with the public. However, I am not persuaded that the new clause is appropriate for a number of reasons.
Police support volunteers are non-attested, non-uniformed citizen volunteers with no policing powers; they give their time freely to perform tasks that complement the duties performed by police officers and staff, which helps free up officers and staff to perform key operational duties. As police support volunteers tend to work in fairly low-risk roles, the likelihood of their being exposed to the kind of serious or sensitive complaints that would result in referral to the IPCC is slim. The types of complaint police support volunteers may be more likely to be subject to in the course of their duties—perhaps rudeness or incivility—are matters that would be dealt with locally, even for a warranted police officer.
Furthermore, those who manage or work with police support volunteers will be covered by the IPCC legislation, so it is possible that the IPCC could investigate them in respect of any alleged misconduct. The new clause would be disproportionate. There is no contract of employment between volunteers and police forces. That means that, unlike special constables or police staff employed by the force, police support volunteers are not subject to the formal procedures set down in the police performance and conduct regulations.
To subject police support volunteers to the IPCC complaints and conduct regime, without recourse to formal disciplinary procedures, would raise serious issues of proportionality. I am not saying that police support volunteers should not be subject to any form of grievance or disciplinary process. We hope that police forces have their own procedures for handling complaints against police support volunteers, which reflect the voluntary nature of the relationship between the force and the volunteers, including the fact that they do not have access to trade union representation.
Finally, I reiterate the fact that police support volunteers provide the police with invaluable support in the fight against crime; we would not want to undermine that role by making legislative changes that may have far-reaching implications, including putting potential volunteers
Mr Hanson: First, I am grateful for the support of the hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham on potential issues relating to off duty civilian police staff. The example he gave of Ian Tomlinson is a very live one.
It would be possible for a police staff member to have a whole weekend off to join a demonstration in London, throw something against something and come into contact with the police in a way that led to their wanting to complain formally about the police. At the moment they could not make a formal complaint about such contact. It might not even be their own force—it might be another force, but they still could not do so. That gap does not redress the balance in respect of an individual’s rights. As the Minister said, the provisions are for serious incidents. The three real-life examples I gave were brought to my attention by those interested in these matters; the hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham has done similarly.
I note that the Minister had some sympathy for the point. I will withdraw new clause 12 in due course, although I accept that, as I have not moved it, I cannot withdraw it—even after 30-odd such Committees, one can still occasionally get shell-shocked in terms of the discussions. At the appropriate moment later on, I will not move new clause 12, but I hope that the Minister will reflect on its substance. That may be something to return to on Report or in another place.
On new clause 13, the Minister said that the chances of serious activity taking place with a police support volunteer were “slim.” That does not mean impossible; “slim” means that it could happen. At the moment, if a special constable—a civilian police support staff member—had an incident that required IPCC investigation, such an investigation could be undertaken. However, if a police support volunteer—as the Minister said, they are increasingly taking on roles once undertaken by people covered by the IPCC—was involved in an incident sufficiently serious to require IPCC involvement, because of their status that could not be brought forward.
There is still a gap. As the Minister said, there is a “slim” chance, but “slim” means that there is a possibility. I will reflect on his words. When the time comes, I suspect that I will not move new clause 13, but I reserve the right to return to the issue it raises at a later stage.
Damian Green: Clause 118 introduces a broad new power that will substantially improve the evidence gathering capability of the Independent Police Complaints Commission in carrying out serious investigations, which include those where a death or serious injury, police corruption or allegations of perverting the course of justice are involved. The clause goes to the heart of ensuring that the Commission is properly equipped to investigate such matters on behalf of the public by providing it with the power to require the disclosure of necessary material following the service of an information notice.
In supporting the Commission to receive the information it requires to discharge its statutory functions, we have a clear obligation to put in place the necessary safeguards to prevent the inadvertent disclosure of material that, if made public, would damage national security, international relations or the United Kingdom’s economic interests. The amendments build on and refine the protections from onward disclosure for information originating from security agencies already included in clause 118 to ensure a wider category of sensitive material is protected.
That category includes a number of types of information. First: information originating from another state or an agency of another state. Amendment 102 provides that that will be disclosable to the Commission only with the originator’s consent. That protection accords with the so-called control principle and is consistent with other recent legislation, including the Justice and Security Act 2013.
Secondly, amendment 112 strengthens the non-disclosure provisions in relation to intelligence service information and intercept information. It will ensure that all of the Commission’s reporting requirements, particularly those relating to sharing information with third parties, will be subject to the consent requirements in respect of sensitive material. That is an important safeguard, which requires the Commission to seek consent expressly from the relevant security and intelligence agency before making onward disclosure of material.
Thirdly, amendments 104 to 108 extend the requirement for the IPCC to obtain consent from the originator before disclosure of an additional category of material. That is material that is not intelligence or intercept material——those are already protected by existing provision—but sensitive material that if disclosed would, in the opinion of the relevant Secretary of State or Minister of the Crown, be damaging to national security, international relations or the economic interests of the United Kingdom.
Finally, amendments 100, 101 and 103 have the effect of amending the exclusion for communications data under chapter 2 of part 1 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 in the list of material that is excluded from the scope of an information notice served by the IPCC. That exclusion preserves the status quo so that the IPCC will continue to use RIPA to secure communications data from any communications service provider, rather than through the broad information notice power. The current exemption is, on reflection, too wide and might prevent a person who is the subject of an information notice from legitimately passing on to the IPCC relevant communications data that that person has acquired from a third party under the terms of RIPA.
In short, the amendments strengthen the safeguards surrounding the application of the IPCC’s new power
Mr Hanson: May I inquire gently why the Minister has spent so long preparing a Bill—it was published only a few weeks ago, on 9 May 2013—and yet within three days of our reaching clause 116 he has tabled a raft of amendments that deal with national security issues, information being shared through the IPCC and a whole range of issues to do with service providers? What has sparked such a massive rethink, given that the Bill is almost as fresh as the morning dew? What has changed in the past few weeks to bring such issues to light? I am particularly concerned to know, for example, in what situation information from an IPCC investigation would not be intelligence service or intercept data but would still be damaging to national security. Either something has happened in the past few weeks to change things, or he and his officials planned the Bill very badly.
Damian Green: In this context, I commend to the right hon. Gentleman the speech I gave yesterday to Reform, in which I made the point, drawing on the analogy of British cycling, that there is nothing so good that it cannot be improved and that 1% improvements across a wide range lead to major improvements across the board. As he well knows from his time in government, improvements can often be made to a Bill during deliberations on it. The arrival of Government amendments during proceedings is not a new phenomenon; indeed, I suspect that that has happened in every Bill that the House has ever considered. His describing the amendments as a massive rethink is slightly over-egging the pudding. We are making some refinements to clause 118 in the light of the sorts of discussions that, as he knows perfectly well, go on inside Government all the time.
Mr Hanson: I fear that there is a story behind this, which will emerge on Report. For the moment, however, we will reflect on it, and we will tease out in due course the basis on which the coalition has introduced the proposals.
( ) to provide information that was provided to the person by, or by an agency of, the Government of a country or territory outside the United Kingdom where that Government does not consent to the disclosure of the information.’.
‘( ) Neither must an information notice require a postal or telecommunications operator (within the meaning of Chapter 2 of Part 1 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000) to provide communications data (within the meaning of that Chapter).’.
‘Sensitive information: restriction on further disclosure
19ZD (1) Where the Commission receives information within sub-paragraph (2) under an information notice, it must not disclose (whether under section 11, 20 or 21 or otherwise) the information, or the fact that it has received it, unless the relevant authority consents to the disclosure.
(2) The information is—
(a) intelligence service information,
(b) intercept information, or
(c) information obtained (directly or indirectly) from a government department which, at the time it is provided to the Commission, is identified by the department as information the disclosure of which may, in the opinion of the relevant authority, cause damage to—
(i) national security or international relations, or
(ii) the economic interests of the United Kingdom or any part of the United Kingdom.
(3) Where the Commission discloses to another person information within sub-paragraph (2), or the fact that it has received it, that person must not disclose that information or that fact unless the relevant authority consents to the disclosure.’.
‘“government department” means a department of Her Majesty’s Government but does not include—
(a) the Security Service,
(b) the Secret Intelligence Service, or
(c) the Government Communications Headquarters (“GCHQ”);’.
‘“Minister of the Crown” includes the Treasury;’.
( ) in the case of information within sub-paragraph (2)(c)—
(i) the Secretary of State, or
(ii) the Minister of the Crown in charge of the government department from which the information was obtained (if that Minister is not a Secretary of State);’.—(Damian Green.)
‘but not by more than 20 days.’.
This is a small matter that I hope will not detain the Committee for very long. The clause legislates for recommendations by the Independent Police Complaints Commission and a requirement by organisations to respond. A period of 56 days is set for a response to the Commission, beginning on the day on
I have picked a random figure of 20 days at the end of that, because I feel that we need to have an end to the period of recommendation and response. At the moment, as is proposed, the Commission may allow for a 56-day period, and then it can extend the period of 56 days following an application received. If the Commission grants an extension, the person must provide a response before the end of the extended period, but there is no indication of a maximum period for that extended period under new paragraph 28B(3).
So my question to the Minister is: why is there no finalised period for the extension, because 56 days is already quite a long time for a response to a Commission recommendation? If I were the subject of a recommendation, and if I went to the Commission on day 55 and said, “I need more time,” the Commission could grant me more time, but that could be indefinite. There is no definitive period. So I have added the period of 20 days, which is a completely random figure, but I want to hear from the Minister whether we should have a final period whereby, ultimately, the Commission says, “We have asked for a response; this is the time limit; you have not given a response, so we can take action accordingly.” At the moment, under clause 120, it seems we have an unending commitment to not receive a response to a recommendation by the Commission.
Damian Green: Indeed. The problem with the amendment is that it would be overly prescriptive and inflexible. I will explain why. The clause reflects the power of the coroner pursuant to rule 43 of the Coroners Rules. We are clear that responses should be provided within 56 days, unless there is a very good reason why the timetable cannot be adhered to. But there will undoubtedly be cases where the recipient of a Commission recommendation does have a well founded reason for seeking an extension of time, and this could take them beyond the 20 additional days provided for in the amendment. It will naturally be dependent on the circumstances of each particular application.
The direct answer to the right hon. Gentleman’s question about not having a time limit is that the Commission is best placed to take a robust view if recipients of recommendations seek extensions when there is no valid reason for the delay. It is therefore right and proper for the Commission, on receipt of an application to extend the time limit, to retain discretion in determining whether any extension of time is merited, and, if it is, the appropriate amount of extra time that should be given.
I hope I can reassure the right hon. Gentleman further by pointing out that an application by a recipient to extend time does not constitute a response, and the recipient who ultimately fails to respond in accordance within the period of any extension agreed by the
Mr Hanson: Does the Minister therefore envisage that if a request came in for an extension beyond 56 days, the amount of time by which the period was extended would become public knowledge for all interested parties? Is there a definitive end time beyond which the Minister would think it was too long for an extension to be undertaken?
Damian Green: In both cases, it is sensible to leave that decision to the commission. It is independent, and the measures obviously relate directly to how it does its job in unusual individual circumstances. Most bodies can and should reply within 56 days, so I am reluctant to give ministerial guidelines because the issue will arise only in special circumstances, and it is important that the commission retains and can visibly display its independence. I hope that reassures the right hon. Gentleman and that he can withdraw the amendment.
Mr Hanson: I tabled the amendment to test the provision, because it currently says that there must be a response within 56 days and an extension may be granted, but no end time to the extension is indicated. Why give 56 days as the starting point? The extension could be 100 days, 20 days or 10 days. I sought from the Minister some idea of what he envisaged as the maximum time for a response to a recommendation from day one through to its completion. Interested parties will be worried about something going into the ether and not emerging for 56 days, an extension being requested and granted, but with no definitive time for that extension—it could go on and on. Individuals with an interest in the matter being referred and discussed will still not have clarity about when the end result should be achieved.
I will withdraw the amendment, but I hope that the Minister gives some thought as to whether there should be either a definitive end time, or at least some sort of public accounting for why the response was not made within 56 days or any future extended period. In all cases, there is more than one interested party. In cases such as those on Hillsborough, there could be interested parties who will want to know, for example in response to a recommendation from the IPPC, why another interested party has not responded within 56 days. If they do not respond within 56 days and an extension is granted, how long will it be before they respond? Those are valid questions. I hope that the Minister will reflect on them, but I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
The clause relates to grants to local policing bodies. Currently, under section 46 of the Police Act 1996, entitled “Police grant,” subsection (1) provides the Secretary of State with the ability to make grants to police authorities.
However, subsection (2) of the clause removes the words “for police purposes” where they are currently in the 1996 Act in relation to capital expenditure and grants by local authorities. I tabled the amendment to test the Minister’s rationale for that removal. Whatever changes are made by the role of police and crime commissioner, which I accept has a crime element, and whatever the role of the Mayor of London’s Office for Policing and Crime—the Mayor’s role also has a crime element—the core function of both is to support policing services and policing purposes.
If the Bill is passed as currently drafted, the deletion of the words “police purposes” by subsection (2) of the clause means that the 1996 Act will allow for police grants to be made yearly to police and crime commissioners, the Mayor of London and the common council for their functions—that is in paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) of subsection (1)—but the crucial words “for police purposes” would be left out. Therefore, there could be greater emphasis on “non-police purposes”, which are important, but the crucial part of the role of a police and crime commissioner or that of the Mayor of London is to make provision for policing purposes for the communities that they represent. Under subsection (2), I am worried that we will be downgrading the policing element in such roles. I hope that the Minister can alleviate my concerns.
Damian Green: As we have just heard from the right hon. Gentleman, the amendment relates to the purposes for which funding can be provided to police and crime commissioners. To some extent, he has answered his own question: they are police and crime commissioners, and have a key role to play in ensuring efficient and effective policing, and holding the police to account on behalf of the public. It is therefore right that central and local government should be able to provide funding to police and crime commissioners for policing, which is one of the things the clause achieves.
Police and crime commissioners have a much broader remit, beyond just policing. To fulfil that broader role, it is essential that they can commission a wider range of local services, including for the support of victims and witnesses of crime and antisocial behaviour. The clause both clarifies and extends the powers of PCCs to provide or commission support services for victims and witnesses of crime and antisocial behaviour, which we shall come to in due course. As the right hon. Gentleman said, the clause amends the statutory basis on which the Government can fund police and crime commissioners, and their equivalents in London, to allow them to commission a wider range of services. That will not in any way detract from what he rightly described as their central role in the oversight of policing. As we all know, cutting crime is not only about policing; it is about a wide range of other services. Police and crime commissioners themselves all recognise that their work, which is not related directly to the overseeing of police, is also extremely important in helping the police to cut crime.
The amendment would limit the Government to providing capital funding to police and crime commissioners for “police purposes” only, and would limit local authorities to providing funding to the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime for “police purposes” only, as is currently the case. That would hinder PCCs in fulfilling their broader remit and would be inconsistent with subsection (1) of the clause, which broadens the purposes for which the bulk of central Government resource funding to the police can be provided.
I hope that I have reassured the right hon. Gentleman that, in no way, does the clause detract from the capacity of central or local government to grant PCCs money to help policing directly. It will just extend the power to enable both central and local government to help PCCs undertake their wider role in crime prevention, victim support and so on.
‘(3A) The Secretary of State shall from time to time publish guidance as to the quality standard of service expected under this section.’.
At the moment, the Government are giving considerable thought on how best to provide victim and witness services to the great British public. Currently, after much cogitation, deliberation and thought, the Government decided to split the current national contract on witnesses and victims in a way that provides for a national witness service to be established in England and Wales, and for
My worry with the Bill as currently drafted is the use of the word “may”. Under the clause, a local policing body “may provide” help to victims or witnesses. Currently, under the national contract in England and Wales, it “will provide”. That service is provided now. If I go to Mold Crown court in my constituency, I will see Victim Support operating at local level, providing victims and witnesses with help and support in difficult circumstances.
On Saturday, I met some people at a local fête, who said, “What’s happening to the victim support service at Mold Crown court?” I said that I did not know, because under this Bill, it will come under the responsibility of the police and crime commissioner for north Wales. He will decide whether he wants to provide a victim service. My worry, and the point I make with the amendment, is that at the moment there is a local victim support service. It is mostly provided by Victim Support on a national contract, and the Government want to break that up and allow local commissioning.
The purpose of my amendment is not to challenge local commissioning or even to say that a certain amount of money should go into it, but to focus on the fact that at the moment a police and crime commissioner may or may not choose to provide a service for victims and witnesses. When Adam Pemberton of Victim Support gave evidence to the Committee, I asked him for his view about the £66 million going to victim support issues, distributed nationally. I said:
“If there is a split, with a portion of the money for the witness services, which is done nationally, and a portion of money is devolved to 43 police and crime commissioners, what guarantees have you got that they will do what is currently being done?”––[Official Report, Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Public Bill Committee, 20 June 2013; c. 85, Q170.]
Tracey Crouch: Is this not, in general, about the principle of police and crime commissioners and the fact that they are democratically accountable for the services they provide? In Kent, our PCC has indeed signed Victim Support’s charter, thereby signing up to the five promises it gives victims. I noticed that the independent PCC for north Wales has not signed the charter. Surely, when it comes to the next election for PCCs, it will be up to the electorate to be aware of such issues and to understand which PCCs prioritise victim support.
Mr Hanson: Let me meet the hon. Lady halfway. There is responsibility under current legislation for police and crime commissioners to account locally for their actions. At the moment there is a national contract and a victim support service in every local police authority area. The Government are breaking up that national contract, keeping the national part of it for witnesses. Under clause 123 a local policing body “may provide” the service locally. Equally, it may not. I accept that might be a decision for the local electorate to take with the police and crime commissioner at a future election.
I would rather give statutory responsibility to police and crime commissioners to provide some level of service. My amendment would not say how much they had to provide or with whom they had to provide it. It would say that as part of their police and crime commissioner responsibility they have to provide some form of victim service. There is a crucial difference between some of the choices that a police and crime and commissioner could make by commissioning the service from body X or body Y, or deciding to put in £5 million, £3 million, £1 million or whatever it might be at a local level. That is a legitimate decision.
At the moment, without “may” turning into “shall”, as provided by my amendment, there is no guarantee that a victim service will be provided locally. I say that because in oral evidence Adam Pemberton said:
“During the election campaign, we asked PCCs to sign a series of pledges, and 33 out of the 41 who were elected last November signed up to those promises.” ––[Official Report, Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Public Bill Committee, 20 June 2013; c. 86, Q7.]
That means, however, that eight did not. At the moment there are eight areas in England and Wales where a victim service is provided nationally by the Ministry of Justice, but if the Bill is enacted there may not be in future, because the police and crime commissioner may choose to spend the resources devolved to them on whatever they want: pot plants in their office, police community support officers, police constables or whatever. There is a real gap that changing “may” to “shall” would fill. It would give the sense that it is the responsibility of police and crime commissioners to provide a victim support service locally.
Under clause 123 if amended, PCCs could choose how to supply the service. They could choose how much money they want to put into it and be held accountable for that. That is why I go halfway to meeting the hon. Lady. However, without the amendment, they do not have to do it at all. We are not adding to the Bill; we are potentially taking something away. I think there is a real issue and I would welcome the Minister’s reflecting on it as my starting bid to replace “may” with “shall”.
The other amendments would allow the Minister to give guidance on the quality standard that anybody who is commissioned to provide a victim service should meet. At the moment there is a national contract with Victim Support, a national charity with national standards and it is accountable through the wonders of Parliament to the Minister who awards the contract and can re-award it to somebody else at a later date. The Minister can set whatever standards he or she wants. The Minister awards the contract through officials to Victim Support.
a service, but there is no guarantee of the quality or structure of that service at local level. In theory, anybody could set themselves up as a victim support service in north Wales; anybody could bid for the commissioned contract. There is no quality standard and no price standard, and nothing set down by the Minister on the basic standards of that victim support service. Even if a police and crime commissioner decides to provide the service, there is no standard for what is expected. All I ask for through the other amendments is that the Minister issues guidance to police and crime commissioners on the standards for any victim support service the Government shall—not, I hope, may—commission.
There are two key issues. First, should we supply a victim support service locally? Should we tell police and crime commissioners in statute, “One of your duties is to supply a victim support service locally. Do it with who you like and spend what you want, but you have a duty to supply it”? Secondly, should we allow the Minister, through his officials, to issue guidance to police and crime commissioners about the quality standard we expect in that service? Those are both reasonable propositions, which the Minister should be able to accept, and I hope he does so.
Damian Green: The amendments bring us to the subject of the provision of services for victims and witnesses. We all agree that it is important to provide proper support to help victims and witnesses recover, in so far as it is possible to recover from the sometimes devastating effect of a crime. That is why we are legislating to provide police and crime commissioners with the power to commission a wide range of support services using the widest possible means. PCCs are ideally placed to understand the support needs of victims and witnesses in their area—more so than a single Minister sitting in Whitehall—and, therefore, to commission services to meet those needs.
Let me try to reassure the right hon. Member for Delyn. It is our intention to provide police and crime commissioners with specific and protected funding for victims’ services by way of a grant issued under section 56 of the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004. The grant will be made for the purpose of funding victims’ services provided or arranged by PCCs and could not be spent on anything other than victims’ services.
Victims and witnesses are a key priority for police and crime commissioners, as shown by the police and crime plans they all published earlier this year. They are already engaging with victims, witnesses and service providers to assess current provision and to develop their understanding of the needs of victims in their community. Indeed, a key benefit of local commissioning is that police and crime commissioners will be able to commission services to meet the specific needs of victims in their community. I have no doubt that PCCs will want to provide victims’ services, and this power allows them to do so in a way that tailors service provision to local needs. Converting it into a duty to commission victims’ services would give rise to a need to specify how the duty should be discharged, which would diminish that crucial element of local determination.
Subsection (3) provides police and crime commissioners with the power to issue grants for the purposes of providing or arranging services. A specific statutory power is required to issue grants, whereas contracts can be entered into without such a power. The intention in the clause is to ensure that police and crime commissioners can commission services using the widest possible means—by grant, by contract or by providing the services themselves—to suit the service and local circumstances. They may choose to provide victims’ services directly or they may wish to enter into a collaboration arrangement with a neighbouring force area, agreeing that the neighbouring PCC contracts for the provision of victims’ services, which will be available across both force areas. It is therefore important that PCCs have sufficient
On amendment 36, I started by highlighting the importance of providing victims and witnesses of crime with the support they need. Although quality standards can be important in specific circumstances, the Government have gone further by stating that services should be assessed on the basis of the difference they make to victims. All support services, whether commissioned by PCCs or central Government, must aim to help victims to cope with, and to recover from, the effects of crime, and success in achieving those outcomes is the measure against which services will be judged. The focus on outcomes clearly tells police and crime commissioners what is required of them as they commission services, but it allows them discretion in how to achieve those outcomes for victims. When they consider bids to provide services, commissioners will clearly want to see evidence of an organisation’s ability to meet those outcomes for victims, and they will want to set clear specifications for monitoring and quality assurance in any grant or contract. In May, we provided commissioners with a commissioning framework to support them in delivering the Government’s aims for victims and witnesses. A quality standard across the breadth of victims’ services is, therefore, neither desirable nor necessary to ensure the commissioning of truly effective services.
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman is reassured that we are committed to providing victims and witnesses with the best quality support, which is commissioned by police and crime commissioners who understand the needs of their communities and delivered by organisations that have the proven ability to meet those needs. With that reassurance, I hope that he will be content to withdraw the amendment.
“If the Committee wanted to endorse that and say that a clear quality standard has to be met, that would be welcome.”––[Official Report, Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Public Bill Committee, 20 June 2013; c. 87, Q177.]
I know that Mr Pemberton has an interest in the provision of services because he works for Victim Support, but we want to have a quality service and a quality threshold. The Government are devolving to police and crime commissioners that they may provide a service to victims, but the Government have not issued any guidance about what that service should consist of and they have not set a quality threshold.
That is not a satisfactory way forward, especially since 33 of the 41 elected commissioners have pledged to provide victim support but eight have not done so. Taking up the point made by the hon. Member for Chatham and Aylesford, if those eight commissioners say that they do not want to provide a victim service locally, will the Government be satisfied with that, given that such a service currently exists? In my area of north Wales, as has been said in an intervention, the police and crime commissioner has been elected—albeit on
A statutory duty on local policing bodies to provide victim services and a duty on Ministers to publish guidance would be helpful. Such duties would not be controversial, especially given that the amendments do not prescribe that commissioners must do something in-house or do something with commissioners elsewhere; they would be able to provide such services with whom they want and for how much they want, but they would have to provide a basic service of some sort and the Minister would have to issue guidance. I am not convinced, so I would like to test the view of the Committee on amendments 34 and 36.
‘(3A) The Secretary of State shall from time to time publish guidance as to the quality standard of service expected under this section.’.—(Mr Hanson.)
‘Power to make and retain copies
3 In Schedule 7 to the Terrorism Act 2000, after paragraph 11 there is inserted—
“Power to make and retain copies
11A (1) This paragraph applies where the examining officer is a constable.
(2) The examining officer may copy anything which—
(a) is given to the examining officer in accordance with paragraph 5,
(b) is searched or found on a search under paragraph 8, or
(c) is examined under paragraph 9.
(3) The copy may be retained—
(a) for so long as is necessary for the purpose of determining whether a person falls within section 40(1)(b),
(b) while the examining officer believes that it may be needed for use as evidence in criminal proceedings, or
(c) while the examining officer believes that it may be needed in connection with a decision by the Secretary of State whether to make a deportation order under the Immigration Act 1971.”’.
The amendment augments the changes we are making in the Bill to the national security port and border powers in schedule 7 to the Terrorism Act 2000 in line with the Government’s commitment to ensuring the right balance between security and individual freedoms. Paragraph 11 of schedule 7 already makes express provision for the retention of property obtained in an examination to determine whether a person or goods being examined is or has been concerned or used in terrorism. Proposed new paragraph 11A of schedule 7 to the 2000 Act makes express provision for the copying and retention of information from examined property, such as the call records from a mobile phone. The power for the police to retain such information to investigate links with terrorism is essential and the amendment will provide clarity around the exercise of this important border security power.
It is important that the law keeps abreast of technological advances. Information is now largely stored in mobile electronic devices rather than on paper as it would have been in the recent past. Without the power to examine the contents of mobile devices, the police would be severely curtailed in their ability to determine whether or not a person appears to be or has been involved in terrorism—whether knowingly or unknowingly—which may not be immediately apparent until information obtained in the examination has been analysed. The circumstances in which such information may be retained is set out in proposed new paragraph 11A, but it will be augmented, as now, by the statutory code of practice on the management of police information.
I trust that the Committee will agree that providing such clarity as to the power to make and retain copies of information taken from seized items is another important safeguard surrounding the exercise of the powers in schedule 7 to the 2000 Act.
Stephen Phillips: I rise briefly to ask the Minister one simple question. At the moment, paragraph 11 of schedule 7 to the Terrorism Act 2000 permits the powers to which he referred during his remarks to be exercised by either
Damian Green: The brief answer to my hon. and learned Friend’s question is that some border officials have the powers of a constable and some do not. The long-term aim is to ensure that the several powers and capacities of customs officers, border officials and police officers are in some instances joined in individuals. The particular powers can only be exercised by a constable and therefore the safeguards in the amendment are relevant only to that particular group of people.
Stephen Phillips: Paragraph 1 of the schedule says that an examining officer is either a constable, an immigration officer or a customs officer who is designated for those purposes. I obviously have not been particularly clear: the amendment applies only when the examining officer is a constable—not when they have the powers of a constable, but when they are a constable. That is what the Government amendment says. I am interested in why the Government wish to limit the scope of the amendment to a situation in which the examining officer
Damian Green: The answer is a practical one: currently, the powers are exercised only by constables. They are not exercised by immigration or customs officers, who, as I have said, have different, overlapping but not identical powers. Where immigration officers or customs officers exercise some of the powers in the schedule, they do not examine property, nor do we envisage them doing so. That skill and operational exercise is not a specialism of either customs officers or of border officers, but is particular to police officers. That is why the schedule and amendment are worded as they are: property is examined only by police officers.
Written evidence reported to the House