Joint Committee On Human Rights Fifteenth Report

The Objectives of the Police Reform Bill

4. The Minister of State, Home Office, Lord Rooker, made a statement of compatibility in respect of the Bill under section 19(1)(a) of the Human Rights Act 1998. The Explanatory Notes, published with the Bill,[6] include a rather fuller account of the Convention rights which the Government has taken into account in drafting the Bill and making a statement of compatibility than has previously been provided in such notes on other Bills.[7] We welcome this development, which enhances the value of the statement under section 19(1)(a) by showing which rights the Minister has considered. At the same time, we note that the Explanatory Notes do not set out in very much detail the Minister's reasons for concluding that the provisions of the Bill were compatible with those rights. The Explanatory Notes would be of more use to each House if somewhat fuller reasoning were to be provided.

5. The Minister's speeches on Second Reading[8] explained the purposes of the Bill.[9] The Bill contains a wide range of measures calculated—

    (a)  to give the Home Secretary additional powers over the police, extending to operational as well as organizational and disciplinary matters (Part 1 of the Bill);

    (b)  to establish a new body, the Independent Police Complaints Commission, to oversee the investigation of complaints against the police, replacing the Police Complaints Authority, originally established under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (Part 2 of the Bill);

    (c)  to make further provision for removing, suspending and disciplining police officers, including powers for the Home Secretary to remove Chief Constables by requiring them to resign (Part 3);

    (d)  to allow certain police powers to be exercised by civilian employees of police forces and traffic wardens, and to extend police powers in various ways (Part 4);

    (e)  to make provision for improving the systems of accountability and discipline of Ministry of Defence Police (Part 5);

    (f)  to make other provisions relating to policing (Parts 6 and 7).

6. Several Parts of the Bill seem to us to raise no concerns relating to human rights such as to require us to draw them to the attention of either House. In particular—

    (a)  Part 1 of the Bill (clauses 1 to 8) raise important and controversial constitutional and political issues concerning the operational independence of the police from political control. However, these are not directly related to human rights, and so fall outside our remit;

    (b)  Part 5 of the Bill would bring the inspection and disciplinary regimes governing the Ministry of Defence Police (MDP) into line with those of most other police forces. We welcome this move, which seems to us to be a constructive response to concerns which we expressed about the accountability of members of the Ministry of Defence Police when authorized to operate off-site under the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001;[10] and

    (c)  provisions in Part 6 of the Bill would enhance protections for rights by extending the liability of chief officers and equivalent persons for acts of their subordinates from liability for torts to liability for all unlawful conduct,[11] and establishing that the chief officer is responsible in law for unlawful acts of members of international investigation teams, including members who are neither constables nor employees of the relevant police authority.[12] We welcome these provisions.

7. Certain other aspects of the Bill, which caused us some concern when we first examined, are considered further below.

6   HL Bill 48-EN Back

7   ibid., paras. 427-435 Back

8   HL Deb, 5 Feb. 2002, cc. 506-534, 550-604 Back

9   ibid., cc. 506-514, 597-604 Back

10   Second Report, Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Bill, HL Paper 37, HC 372, para. 68; Seventh Report, Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Bill: Further Report, HL Paper 51, HC 420, paras. 27-28 Back

11   Clause 73 of the Bill Back

12   Clause 74 Back

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