|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
The noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, mentioned designated areas, but the text in the Statement on this is rather vague. There is a crucial issue here. At what level and on whom will the responsibility for designation lie? Our concern is that the designation can apply in anticipation of crime being committed. Anticipation is a matter of fairly fine judgment that needs to be borne in mind in the light of the particular circumstances. We have found with other measures that have been introduced in the past couple of years that the level at which these steps are taken is not immediately transparent, and tracing the flow of where responsibility lies becomes extremely obscure.
7 Feb 2008 : Column 1221
We will examine the report more closely but I should be grateful if in the mean time the noble Lord would address some of those issues.
Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, I thank both noble Baronesses for their generally supportive view of this report, which is thorough and extremely valuable. As a backdrop, I should say that as someone who lives in Hackney and who does not recognise some of the views on Hackney in newspapers, and so on, perceptions are very important. On the introduction to Flanagans review, it is important to put all this in a context. He states:
Over the last decade, policing in England and Wales has seen major increases in both funding and performance,
These additional resources have undoubtedly contributed to a significant improvement in performance, with crime falling by a third since 1997 and public confidence in the police, which had been falling consistently since 1982, rising since 2003-04.
I quote that because the perception of what is said in the media is sometimes very different from reality, and it is worth bearing that in mind. The noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, talked about common sense. She is correct. All my experience of things such as the application of health and safety and the application offor want of a better wordbureaucracy is that if there is good leadership and people are willing to take a certain amount of risk at the top of their organisation, these can be applied with much less impact. Sir Ronnie Flanagans report shows very clearly that a considerable amount can be done straight away, without needing any legislation or anything else at all.
The noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, asked about what work is going on. Certainly, work has gone on since the interim report. I mentioned in the Statement that there are a number of areas where we are already putting things right and moving to correct some of these areas that enhance bureaucracy and have stopped people getting out on the streets. Quite correctly, as we can all identify, the population wishes the police force to be out on the streets to look after us. I go back to the point that there has been, generally, an increase in police numbers and a feeling among the public since 2002-03 that they are doing better. Part of that is to do with the local and community police forces, which have been a huge success and are covered in some depth within this document.
I was asked, specifically, about the date of the Green Paper. All I can say by way of a date is spring. It is our intention to move quickly on this. As my colleague, the Home Secretary, said in the other place, we are taking action straight away on stop and account. There is a classic example of the ridiculously
7 Feb 2008 : Column 1222
The Green Paper will be published this spring but I cannot give a precise date. We want to move quickly on the things that are recommended here. We will consider the full range of recommendations on legislation. We cannot act on some of them straight away; clearly, we need to consider those. We will bring forward any legislation that is appropriate. I am aware, and share the concern of the House, that there is too much legislation in lots of areas. I would like to see that rationalised. We have to look very carefully at it. We clearly have to look at this and review. As regards the designated areas, raised by both noble Baronesses, I will get back to them in writing; I am afraid that I do not know the details of that.
We have accepted straight away what Sir Ronnie says about increased civilianisation, and about technology and management. These things have to be done very carefully. There has been a lot of civilianisation already. As the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, said, this started under the Conservative Party and it makes a lot of sense. There is no doubt that a fully trained policeman is very expensive. I know, from my experience, that it has happened in the armed services, because a fully trained soldier, sailor or airman is very expensive and we have done a lot of civilianisation. It makes sense to do this, but it has to be done very sensitively. To have 2,500 to 3,500 extra officers available to deploy on the streets is quite dramatic and will make a difference, even across the whole country.
The noble Baroness, Lady Falkner of Margravine, mentioned the pay settlement. The Government recognise very clearly the vital and hard work that police officers do. This is highly complex in terms of their overall package and how we are going to stage pay reviews. We are looking at doing so over a period of three years. One can always look at a specific area and say that they deserve more. There are issues to do with overtime, what work is done, and all of these things. It is unfortunate that some of the police feel that the Government do not appreciate the work that they do. We very clearly do; there is no doubt whatever about that. When one is in public service, at times this comes around. I remember in the late 1970s
7 Feb 2008 : Column 1223
I know that there is a great deal of concern about surveillance in a number of quarters. From my experience, there is no doubt that people feel safer when CCTV cameras cover an area. It is unfortunate, but they do. Equally, I am afraid that people are not very nice. You may hear, for example, a group of lads say, Camera to each other, because they know that they are being watched. We have to balance those things carefully. None of us wants masses of surveillance. We would love not to have any of it. But I am afraid that that is not the world we are in. Therefore, we have to do a careful balancing act. The noble Baroness, Lady Falkner, is absolutely rightwe do not like that and we have to look at it very carefully.
She was also correct about reliance on technology. My goodness me, my life has been scarred with relying on technology and one cannot always do that. I prefer to rely on people, but technology can save money and enable you to do things more quickly, and we have to try to get that right. We have got better at it, but it is right to raise the issue and we need to look at it.
Overall, I am grateful for all those points that were raised and we should be very grateful for this report. We have a very good track record, which, when I read this and saw what had been achieved, was much better than I had realised from reading the media. Perhaps I have been reading the wrong papers. It is really rather a good story.
Lord Soley: My Lords, I join the Minister in thanking Sir Ronnie Flanagan for this important report. However, it should be put in the context of the past 10 or more years. On looking at the 1990s and the early year or two of this century, public confidence in the police was declining, mostly because their response to the public was not as good as it should have been, whether in terms of answering conventional telephone calls, dealing with 999 calls or perhaps, above all, in the clear-up rates for crimes.
In recent years, that has changed around, most notably, on clear-up rates, but also in the police response to the public on the telephone generally, which is very important. I no longer get the complaints that were almost endemic in the 1990s. This is an important continuation of that process and I very much welcome what my noble friend said about the message to the media. It is very easy to knock the police, particularly when a dramatic event goes wrong. But, overall, the improvement in the clear-up rate and the amount of crime, and their response to, and their behaviour and interaction with, the public is so much better than it was that we should be congratulating them and moving forward on the basis of this report.
Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Soley who is absolutely right. The advances that the police service has made in the way in which it reacts with the public, particularly ethnic groups, has been dramatic. Within the Metropolitan Police, there has been a complete turnaround, which is quite amazing. All of us are very pleased about that and welcome it. I thank him for raising that point.
Lord Mawhinney: My Lords, twice at the beginning of the Statement, the Minister told us that Sir Ronnies report was independent. By that, I assume he means independent of government. I wonder whether the Minister could help this House to resolve a conundrum. I understand that when Sir Ronnie sent his report in draft to the Home Office, it included a graph which showed that public confidence in the police was declining. When the report was published, after Home Office Ministers indicated that they had not had any involvement in its substance, that graph was missing and was replaced by a graph which showed that public confidence in the police was rising. Can he explain to the House how that happened?
Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, I assume that the noble Lord is talking about a leaked report or a leaked draft. I treat those things with complete disdain. It is extremely damaging that anyone should pay any attention to leaked things, particularly something that is leaked from a report that will come out in public anyway. It is not as if it is whistle-blowing; it is something else. Therefore, I have not read it myself and I have paid no attention to it. I take the report, which has been signed by Sir Ronnie, at face value with the Statement I made earlier.
Lord Adebowale: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord West, for his Statement; I agree with many of the comments that he made about the improvements in the police force and, in particular, confidence. I want to comment on the minority ethnic population, mainly as chair of the advisory panel on the communitys response to stop and search. There is widespread concern about the disproportionality of stop and search within minority ethnic communities. My committee, which was established to advise the Home Secretary on stop and search, has made comments on reducing bureaucracy and on increasing the accountability of the police for disproportionality, some of which have been mentioned in the report by Sir Ronnie Flanagan.
A number of things not mentioned in the report would significantly reduce disproportionality. Perhaps the Minister would comment on the introduction of the practice-orientated package, particularly by the Metropolitan Police, which does not have a good enough record on disproportionality; the improvement of intelligent use of stop and search, and a clear definition of what intelligence isthat is, the involvement of the community in the engagement of stop and search; and an increase in the availability of information, particularly to young people, on their rights when they are stopped and searched. We found through much research and consultation, particularly with BME communities, that these measures, if applied just to the Met would reduce the disproportionality of stop and search tremendously.
Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for those points. These are crucial issues. We arrived at some of the bureaucracy to ensure that we were able to monitor and look at ethnicity and other issues. The proposals around stop and account will still allow that to be done and it is necessary that it is done. Interestingly, the records on stop and account show that a far larger number of white than black or other ethnic people were stopped. The figures on stop and search are rather different, and it is an area of concern. I do not know the detail of the package that the noble Lord, Lord Adebowale, is talking about and I will get back to him in writing. It is a very important issue. The intelligence on stop and search depends a great deal on the local communitythat is why I am so pleased with the way that local community policing has gone, because that is the way to get to the root of these issues. I will write to the noble Lord on the other point.
Lord Marlesford: My Lords, I hope that the Government are still in listening mode on these matters because I have a suggestion that I would like the Minister to take away and consider. The police clearly need help because of the constraints on the costs of employing enough police. We have in this country something like 100,000 postmen. I suggest that each of them be equipped with a radio and that their vehicles be equipped with CCTV and they be used as additional eyes and ears for the police. If they do not want to co-operate, they do not have to but if they volunteer to join the scheme, they would get a little bonus of £100 or £200 for every time they spotted or stopped a crime.
Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, for those thoughts. I will need to sit and think quite hard about the suggestion before I say anything about it. The Postman Pat force may have some attractions but I will need to think about it.
Lord Christopher: My Lords, I congratulate the Government on commissioning a wide-ranging report on the police service, as opposed to simply looking at the populist things that appear in the press and other quarters. I have not had the opportunity of reading the report, so if I am wasting time, I apologise in advance. I will just mention two things; the first is about the community support officers. The village where I live contributed financially to get the first community support officer, in the days when it was a substantially controversial issue. We were well satisfied. I suspect that, if it can be done, some increase in their authority would go down extremely well with the public. There are limitations on it and there is scope for improvement, providing it does not tread too far upon the responsibilities of the police. That brings me to my second point.
If I have experience in anything, it is probably in trying to analyse and define duties, and the devil is always in the detail. The classic example is that there were woodworkers and there were metalworkers. Then somebody had the bright idea that we should bond wood and metal and we had a real problem. I suspect
7 Feb 2008 : Column 1226
Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, my noble friend Lord Christopher raises some interesting points. As regards the police community support officerswe now have about 16,000we have to be careful about increasing authority for them. However, the Home Secretary, with ACPO and the APA, has actually commissioned a review of the PCSOs and whether authority can be increased will be considered. One has to be quite careful, because they are not fully designated police officers.
With regard to civilianisation, I go back to what I said earlier. There is considerable merit in doing this in some areas, because there is no doubt that there are jobs that, just for historical and other reasons, are being done by highly trained police officers which actually do not need police officers who have been trained with all those full powers. I came across a similar thing in the Armed Forces where soldiers, sailors and airmen did things that could be equally well done by civilians. Civilians are much cheaper when it comes to doing these things, so it makes sense for us to get value for money. It will also enable us to get more of the scarce uniformed and fully trained officers on the street. I say scarce, but there are actually 140,000 of themwe have spent £5 billion extra on police numbers.
Lord Ouseley: My Lords, I congratulate the Minister on commenting on the distance that has been travelled between the police and the community, particularly the minority ethnic communities, in the better relationship that now exists. It has been a long journey. We were at a low ebb following William Macphersons inquiry into to the murder of Stephen Lawrence. The work which has been done subsequentlythe investment put into improving community relationshas relied not only on the police and police-community relations but on the increase in the number of black and minority ethnic police officers on the street. That visibility has become quite important. There was also an acknowledgment on the part of the police service about the fact that they were getting it wrong; that they were racist; there was institutional racism; they were picking up black and other minority ethnic young people in particular, because of their colour and ethnicity.
That acknowledgment helped with the process of building confidence between the police and the community, enabling the community to be more confident about sharing information. The danger that we face now, while acknowledging the need to reduce bureaucracy and apply police resources on the front
7 Feb 2008 : Column 1227
The increased black and minority ethnic police presence is an important part of that process. There is no doubt in my mind that opinions have shifted within the minority communities because they are the victims of crime and they want to see more stop and search. However, I also have no doubt that if there were more black and ethnic minority police officers, they would be inclined to be more ruthless in stopping and searching some of the people on the streets like themselves because they would feel less vulnerable to accusations of racism. That is one factor to bear in mind. We must not lose sight of the fact that we should be very careful in how that is reintroduced to ensure that accountability is maintained.
Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord. Those issues are extremely important. I agree wholeheartedly that the relationship between the police and communities is so much better than it was at the time of Stephen Lawrence. Everyone in this House welcomes that, because we all believe that that is correct. The number of ethnic officers has risen dramatically and that is a very good thing as well. The noble Lord is absolutely right that the police do realise that racism was endemic in the police at that stage. That has changed. It is a marvellous change. It is not until one watches a television programme such as Life on Mars that one realises what an incredible change has actually taken place in our police service.
The noble Lord is right to raise the dangers in not doing sufficient recording and in allowing stop and search to spread. As I say, we have put in place for the stop and search and stop and account sufficient measures to ensure that there must be a record of ethnicity on who has been stopped. Therefore, there is a check on these things, which must be handled delicately. We must bear all these points in mind.
Lord McNally: My Lords, perhaps I may follow the noble Lord, Lord Ouseley, on recruitment. The Minister said that ethnic minority recruitment has increased dramatically. That may be so, but it was from a dramatically low base. Like the noble Lord, Lord Christopher, I have not had the opportunity to study the report, but it is extremely important that we continue to encourage young men and women from the ethnic minorities to enter our police force.
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|