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Lord Dholakia: I support the amendment, as my noble friend Lady Harris, said, but I do not necessarily subscribe to the examples given by the noble Lord, Lord Waddington. I am aware of the extent to which police have taken a very high profile on hate crimes. There are bound to be occasions from time to time when things will not necessarily work out, but it is to the credit of the police and other agencies that this has now been highlighted as a successful example in which there have been more and more prosecutions.
My main concern, in which I support the noble Viscount and the noble Baroness, is whether we need so many organisations to monitor, inspect and audit. It would be helpful if the Minister could indicate whether there is co-ordination between different agencies and whether regulatory impact statements are available to see how successful they have been. Overall, any Government and any Minister would welcome abolition of a particular body, as it would save them the resources that they are always complaining about. So I certainly support the amendment.
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Lord Monson: The noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, said he disagreed with the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, and thought there was some merit in continuing to work against hate crimes. No doubt, but none of the examples the noble Lord cited was actually a crime. They may have been offensive to someone, but none of them would have had the slightest chance of being taken to court. The police were intimidating people in the knowledge, I am sure, that they could not prosecute them successfully.
Lord Dholakia: I do not dispute what the noble Lord has said. The point I was trying to make is that you can take examples of the police taking action that do not necessarily fit within the overall ambit of racial crime, but they have undertaken to give race hate crimes a very high profile, which is reflected in the large number of such cases now being prosecuted.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I shall deal first with the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Waddington. It is a wonderful privilege to give advice. Whether that advice is taken and used judiciously with skill and judgment is something else. If we had a recipe for imparting and applying judgment with consistency, I can promise the noble Lord that I would be first in the queue to acquire it so it could be shared among all.
The noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, is right when he says that the high profile that has been given to hate crimeI know that is not directly involved with this question, but it is right that I address ithas been very important. Although the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, highlights issues that may need correction, I am confident that he accepts that there have been the most distressing and quite disgusting cases where individuals have been pilloried, abused or threatened as a result of hate, and I know that those are things that the noble Lord, as a former Home Secretary, cannot but abhor. I would not like anyone to misunderstand the way these matters are proceeded with.
I say to the noble Baronesses, Lady Anelay and Lady Harris, and the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, that I am grateful that there is an understanding. The noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, clearly said that this was an exploratory amendment. As she says, the Police Standards Unit is not a statutory body in the way that Centrex or PITO are, and therefore cannot be abolished in the same way; nor do we think there is any justification for doing so.
The NPIA is about creating a police-owned and police-led organisation that strongly supports self-improvement in front-line policing. As such, the NPIA will not take direct control of the mechanisms for monitoring police performance, nor will the agency be responsible for police performance management at the national level. Those functions should remain firmly with the Police Standards Unit at the Home Office, though there will of course need to be a very close working relationship between the two bodies. The distinction between monitoring and improving standards is an important one for us to acknowledge, because while we would expect the unit to work closely
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with the NPIA in its work to drive improvement in service delivery, the Police Standards Unit continues to have a key role to play in providing my right honourable friend the Home Secretary and his successors in title with the means to identify performance variations across the service, as well as the capacity to respond to help reduce those variations and work towards parity of police service provision across England and Wales.
Since its creation in 2002 the Police Standards Unit has demonstrably proven the value that it has added both to public access to information on policing performance and identification of performance issues and in improving performance through targeted engagement. The PSU has led on the creation of the policing performance assessment framework, which for the first time provides a more balanced view of policing performance and allows comparative assessment of forces. This has meant that we are now able to publish annual assessments of policing performance. The PSU has also driven through the Government's commitment to provide local policing performance summaries to every household in England and Wales, which started in April.
The PSU's work on assessment underpins the ability of the Home Office to spot performance variations in areas of priority, and the unit has a unique capacity to respond in a targeted way to help drive performance improvement where necessary. For example, in 200405, the eight forces that the PSU worked with reduced crime twice as much as the average of other forces11.4 per cent versus 4.6 per centand five of the nine largest reductions in crime over the past 12 months have taken place in forces which have been engaged with the PSU. Latterly, the unit has also worked intensively with around a quarter of forces to help them improve their performance on sanction detection rates, and again the average performance improvement in these forces has been around double that of the average of other forces4.4 percentage points versus 2.3 percentage pointsbetween September 2004 and November 2005. The Police Standards Unit also played a key role in the recent highly effective alcohol misuse enforcement campaigns and co-ordinated work across all forces which has helped address alcohol-related violent crime.
There are elements of the Police Standards Unit's current work that may sit better with the NPIA in the future, in particular some of its remit to identify and disseminate good practice; for example, the work it is doing around development of automatic number plate recognitionANPRand video identification. As the Police Standards Unit already works with some of the NPIA precursor bodies on good practice issues, it will continue to work with the NPIA proper to ensure the appropriate home for the relevant functions.
However, the obvious benefits to policing in this country of addressing crime appropriately and having the Police Standards Unit as a central resource able to respond rapidly to performance priorities clearly outweigh any case for its removal. We hope that the NPIA will start in April next year.
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I understand the concern that Members of the Committee have raised about duplication. I reassure them that we are conscious of that and can address it. So we have the synergy. I say gently that we have learnt that working in partnership in a unified way in a common structure and framework has greatly assisted performance. We shall continue to work in a collaborative way for that purpose. We have indicated in the other place that it might be helpful to provide a note to Members of the differences between the two, where the overlaps are perceived to be and how that would be managed. If the Committee thinks that it would assist, I should be very happy to make a note available so that there is a greater degree of clarity on the issue.
Lord Waddington: Does the noble Baroness agree with Jonathan Freedland that it is of great importance that the police should recognise the difference between a hate crime, a conventional crime of, say, violence motivated by bigotry, and an incident in which language is used which somebody or other thinks is racist or homophobic? If the police do not recognise that distinction, we are in a mess. Does the booklet containing advice from the Home Office point out to the police that there is a world of difference between those two situations? I fear it cannot do so, or we would not have had the very many incidents to which I have referred.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: It is my beliefI do not have the document in front of me, so I am subject to correctionthat the document provides practitioners with an accurate review of dealing with hate crime. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, remembers all too well from his time in office the real challenge of ensuring that every police constable and every practitioner has a clear understanding of their duty. I assure the noble Lord that we are doing all in our power to make sure that the correct level of advice and information exists so that appropriate prosecutions are taken up. I remind him that the changes we have made which make the Crown Prosecution Service responsible for charging serious offences should help us to better sift. I cannot comment on each and every one of the cases raised by the noble Lord and it would be invidious for me to do so. Not least, I have found from my experience that the recitation of facts in the newspapers does not always bear direct correlation to the truth.
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