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The senior appointments panel ensured that balance in the face of continuing, strong Home Office pressure to gain control of the process and to move a cadre of senior officers around the country to serve a national and not a local agenda. At the moment, as it is constituted, the senior appointments panel ensures that the appropriate balance between national needs and local accountability is maintained. I want to ensure that no changes proposed in the Bill will upset this vital but delicate equilibrium between national and local that gives British policing so much of its strength and credibility.
Lastly, we are told that the purpose of the collaboration clauses is to improve the co-operation of forces and authorities at regional and national level, which, of course, we must try to do. However, these clauses are trying to make the best of an unsatisfactory situation. I remind your Lordships that I was a strong supporter of the concept of larger strategic police forces two to three years ago and I still think that this is the right way to go. Everything that is happening in the world today reinforces the reality that we have too many police forces and that they lack resilience. Somehow we must make them work together and put in place coherent operational and support arrangements to deal with serious and organised crime threats, but how do you make this collaboration effective? I observe that the proposals in the Bill are framed as directions. My experience of the world is that individuals and organisations work best when they respond to incentives and the opportunity to operate flexibly, rather than to instructions delivered from the centre. In general terms I am worried that the way in which these proposals are framed will prove to be both objectionable and potentially unworkable, as the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, argued.
As the Bill goes through the House, we will need to look closely at the Home Secretarys proposed powers in relation to collaboration arrangements and to limit them more tightly so that they are capable of being exercised only by reference to efficiency and effectiveness and only following advice from HMIC. That would follow the precedent of recent police legislation, which I think should be followed in this Bill. The Secretary of State should also be able to direct chief officers in relation to collaboration arrangements through police authorities only on the advice of the inspectorate. Again, I think that this is a very important provision.
These proposals on collaboration will, I think, prove to be unworkable becauseas has been saidof the fundamental error of assuming that all collaboration agreements will be capable of being neatly pigeonholed into either police force or authority collaboration agreements. We know already from what is happening in this area that effective collaboration needs forces and authorities to work together. Too much rigidity and too much separating out will undermine effectiveness and make successful collaboration much more difficult to achieve. I sense that these proposals do not recognise
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I end by welcoming the proposals to reduce alcohol-related harm and to tighten controls on the sale and availability of alcohol to young people. Much has been eloquently said on this topic and I agree with the concerns that have been expressed. Again, however, we need to balance directives with incentives if we really want to achieve our objective of getting young people to drink responsibly. I am the patron of a wonderful charity, Rock Challenge UK, under whose auspices up to 40,000 teenagers every year perform dance and drama on a professional stage, having agreed in advance not to drink alcohol or to take drugs. Such young people themselves are the most effective advocates of the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. I hope that in our efforts to combat excess drinking we will work with them and with all the sensible and sober teenagers like themthere are a lot of themand involve them as our ambassadors in developing our policies and our campaigns to reduce alcohol abuse and the disorder and medical problems that it provokes, because these young people will do as much if not more than we will to persuade their fellows to change their ways.
Lord Bradshaw: My Lords, like my noble friend Lady Harris, I have been a Member of this House for 10 years. When I first came here, I learnt that you should never talk about anything you do not know something about. I feel moved to speak in the debate because I was a member of the Thames Valley Police Authority from 1993 to 1995 and from 1997 to 200813 years. During that time the authority had three chief constables and three out of six women holding ACPO officer rank. Yet I can remember the days when Michael Howard, who I have not heard mentioned, was Home Secretary. He came to Thames Valley and told us that we had to lose 200 officersthat is 7 per cent of our constables. I should like the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, when he sums up, to tell us that that is not on the agenda of the Conservative Party, and that we shall not very quickly see a return to form and a reduction in police availability.
I have also witnessed many initiatives attempting to increase efficiency. I must say that most of these have led to more bureaucracy and centralisation. I am fairly independent on who I criticise. I remember Jack Straw and David Blunkett. I remember the despair in the authority surrounding each measure that they proposed to introduce, the huge amount of work it meant and the huge amount of police resources that were taken from actually doing a policing job to responding to new legislative proposals.
I am also very much in the court of the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, in thinking that an elected commissioner would be absolutely awful. I cannot see who will vote in an election for that position other than various extremists, the sort of people who would probably elect people dressed in monkey suits and so on.
It is fashionable to think of the police as thugs, social workers as soft, and politicians as crooks. That seems to be the mood of the moment. Of course, we are also asked to believe that all journalists are saints. However, most policemen are honest and are keen to do a good job. Most of them join the force to spend their time catching villains, not filling out forms and responding to various consultation documents. They dislike paperwork and, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, said, the police should be visible on the streets, so that the public, who are paying for them, know what they are actually doing.
I have witnessed increased centralisation, direction and interference from the Home Office; an increased tendency to load the police with greater responsibilities; and, particularly latterlynoble Lords have referred to the alcohol problema total distortion in the deployment of resources that is necessary to police alcohol problems experienced in our city and town centres at weekends. I am sorry that I am giving noble Lords a lecture on what I can remember, but I remember the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, introducing the Licensing Bill and telling us that we would move to a café culture, as on the continent. I ask the Minister if he has been walking around the streets of our inner cities late on Friday and Saturday nights to see whether what goes on therewhich I can assure him is squalid, violent and degradedhas anything to do with the café culture. How proud is the Labour Party that it has left us with this legacy? It may not be proud of other things, of course.
I have recently observed that the police force increasingly feels that it is the fourth emergency service. In fact, many people, including county council workers, go home on a Friday night, but the police happen to be on duty all the time. Anyone who has ever been to a police control centre and listened to the calls that come in will know that most are not about someone being attacked, for example, but are from people seeking access to various social services which only the police are there to answer for.
On the composition of police authorities, I have also seen a large number of women join; and in Thames Valley Police Authority, as it was when I left it last year, three out of 19 members were from ethnic minorities, including the chairman. I have also seenthe noble Baroness, Lady Henig, referred to thismuch more independence from the political process among members of the authorities. I believe that more responsibility needs to be invested in police authorities. They know about local priorities. Despite what the noble Lord, Lord Patten, said, they are involved in a huge amount of consultation with all sorts of people right down to the neighbourhood action groups, as well as with business and local councils. The chief constable spent a huge amount of time visiting people and even taking the maps, to which the noble Lord, Lord Patten, referred, showing the violence ward by ward. I just say to the Minister that the police authorities know what they are doing, as do the chief constables, the ACPO rank officers and the chief superintendents.
I share the reservations expressed by my noble friend Lady Harris about value for money. Huge amounts of consultants time was taken up in value-for-money
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I believe that the changes in Part 1 are unnecessary, as it is possible to increase efficiency and facilitate co-operation without this Bill. For example, we appointed a joint IT team for the Thames Valley and Hampshire, and we had an arrangement with Bedfordshire whereby we looked after the vehicles. It is possible to do these things and directions do not need to be given.
I believe that independence is needed in the selection of chief constables and ACPO ranks. We get good advice from HMIC and the Association of Police Authorities. I have taken part in a lot of interviews, and we choose the people who are best for the job. They may not always be right at the top of the list because to some extent it has to be a case of horses for courses: policing is different in different areas, and the police authorities are well aware of that.
I wonder why the Government always reach for bureaucratic tools, vast computer systems and monitoring bodies, rather than facilitating getting on with the job, which I think most people want. I said that we will resist any further centralisation in the Bill. We will facilitate rather than prescribe collaboration, and obviously we are open to listening to any sensible proposals about alcohol misuse.
The proceeds of crime section of the Bill has many welcome intentions. However, I remind Members of the House that we passed the Proceeds of Crime Act in 2002 and there are now 45 pages in this Bill amending the Act that we passed only a few years ago. That does not say very much for the drafting of the original Bill. Furthermore, of course, the Government resisted a huge number of the amendments that were put forward during the consideration of that legislation.
Airport security is an area to which I will turn in Committee. There is a very bad arrangement whereby the chief constable decides what is necessary at an airport and the airport pays. There appears to be very little discussion and the arrangements for resolving disputes are unsatisfactory. Of course, airports are under huge financial pressure at the moment. Their revenue is falling, they are going to pay passenger tax and their policing costs are going up. Serious consideration needs to be given to an arrangement such as exists
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I shall mention just one or two other things. I wish that the Government would address the question of police service. The luxury of retiring after 30 years service may have been appropriate when policemen were expected to chase criminals down the street. However, I have seen people leaving the police force with a very good pension at the age of 51 or 52 and then marching into another job with a big salary. The Government have to consider extending the time spent in the police force. People are living longer and I think that they should contribute more.
Lord Ramsbotham: My Lords, if, like me, you are interested in penal affairs, and in particular in the protection of the public by the successful rehabilitation of offenders, you are inevitably drawn into membership of a very wide number of adjacent hunts. First, and in line with the famous, but sadly disregarded, statement of the former Prime Minister, you must take account not just of crime but of the causes of crime, which, as we all know, are all around us in society: poverty, unemployment, homelessness, ill health, social neglect, and so on. Then you are interested in all those things that prevent people leading law-abiding and useful lives in the communitylack of education, lack of job skills, lack of social skills, mental and physical ill health and substance abuseand how they might be overcome. Then, of course, you are interested in the treatment of and conditions for people serving sentences, both in prison and in the community, and the provision that is made for rectifying the deficiencies that have prevented them living responsible lives thus far. That leads on to their transition back into the community. Among all that, you are interested in the treatment of and conditions for individual vulnerable groups and their particular routes into, passage through and exit from the criminal justice systemwomen, children and young people, the elderly, the mentally disordered, the disabled, foreign nationals, and so on.
Looked at like that, I hope that your Lordships will understand why I make such frequent reference to the need for an overall strategy covering how all these aspects and problems should be tackled, not forgetting the leadership and professional development of those whom the state employs to deliver the many and varied services that the management of penal affairs requires.
In that connection, I was once challenged by a senior official in the Home Office who said that she wished that I would stop banging on about strategy. She said, We dont need strategy; all we need is strategic direction. When I asked what she meant, she
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I suspect that, like mine, your Lordships desks are cluttered with Explanatory Notes, legislative scrutinies and countless briefs, let alone Bills such as the Coroners and Justice Bill, the Welfare Reform Bill, the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Bill and now the Policing and Crime Bill, not to mention the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Bill, whose return from the other place we await, and the vast Equality Bill, which has yet to arrive. That is all on top of a vast amount of previous legislation on the same subjects in the context of a Government and Parliament with a finite life, quite apart from the local difficulties which both are currently facing.
As a young officer, I was brought up to ask myself and others, the question So what? when considering any proposed course of action. Because that process is now ingrained in me, one of the first things I do is to consider the impact assessment of a Bill in the hope that Ministers will have demanded that their officials conduct a detailed so what? of each clause and schedule. I have to admit, however, that more often than not, I am acutely disappointed because what I findgoing back to my conversation with the Home Office civil servantis not so much a so what? of the implications on those on the receiving end of legislation, including those responsible for actually doing the work required, but rather a statement by Ministers that what is proposed is the only way of doing something.
In the case of the mountain of legislation currently on noble Lords desks, and in the context of strategy, I have to question whether anyone in any of the ministries concerned has done a so what? on the implications of its Bills or any others being put forward by other ministries. This is, of course, what should happen if overarching strategies were in place, because everyone involved would be aware of their role and their required contribution. But, as is so apparent in what we now have before us, that cannot happen in an environment of disconnected individual top-down directions.
Let me give two examples of what I mean. For some months now, the Government have encouraged us to await the excellent report of the noble Lord, Lord Bradley, on the diversion of those suffering from mental health problems or learning disabilities from prison to other services. Because the process of diversion starts in police stations, I would have expected something to be included in the Policing and Crime Bill. But no, mental health is a Department of Health not a Home Office responsibility, although nothing was said about diversion in the recent health and social care legislation. Because courts are the other point of diversion, I would then have expected something in the catch-all
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Secondly, the Welfare Reform Bill also includes conditions on benefits for drug addicts attending for treatment, but there are simply not enough treatment centres or workers available to treat all those affected. Again, no provision to increase the number was made in the recent health and social care legislation. As for the Ministry of Justice, 80 per cent of those under probation supervision are substance misusers and the probation service warns that, if denied benefits, they will turn to crime to survive. Those awarded community sentences are unlikely to receive the required supervision because of cuts in the probation service, and many will therefore end up in prison. The Government have introduced 1,036 new imprisonable offences, resulting in inevitable overcrowding in the prison system. They are reducing the availability of courses, including drug treatment, and the Treasury is now imposing severe cuts on both the probation and Prison Service.
Meanwhile, with regard to the apprehension of defaulters, and therefore the Home Office, we learn that the chief constable of Surrey has been forced to cut 50 key operational posts, on top of the 144 he was required to cut last year, following direction from the Local Government Minister that the Surrey Police Authority would have to set a lower council tax. So Surreys ability to deal with the impact of a direction from the Department for Work and Pensions is undermined by the Treasury, the Department of Health and the Ministry of Justice. Surely all this should have been thought through before being included in legislation. All this frenetic legislative activity would not be so bad if noble Lords could be assured that new legislation came to this House properly scrutinised in the other place. But that simply is not happening. My noble friend Lord Neill pointed out on Second Reading of the Coroners and Justice Bill that, as a revising and not a legislating Chamber, we were being asked to act unconstitutionally.
Bearing in mind the 17 days that the Marine and Coastal Access Bill will have occupied before its passage through the House is complete, and the number of days work that will be required by the size and complexity of the Bills currently before us, I wonder whether there ever was the slightest possibility that they would receive the essential scrutiny and revision in the time available in either House. In an ideal world I wonder whether the Government might not consider withdrawing them all for strategic scrutiny, putting what could be implemented without impacting on others into separate Bills, and reserving the rest until their mutual impact had been properly assessed. In that way, they could avoid dropping parts, such as the prostitution clauses, which are back with us, albeit with clauses dropped from what we were denied considering previously.
Considering all that, I reflected on the life cycle of the bamboo. Noble Lords will know that it flowers only once in its life, just before it dies, when it explodes its seeds as far as its energy allows in the hope that
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Other noble Lords have already spoken far more eloquently than me on parts of this Bill in which I have an interest. I shall want to join in the challenge to some of the clauses on prostitution, quoting the experiences of a remarkable young woman, Laura Seebohm, who is running a drop-in centre as part of a support service for women involved in prostitution in Newcastle upon Tyne. This has evolved into a wider support service for vulnerable women, including those in prison, in partnership with other organisations and part-funded by the Ministry of Justice.
I wonder whether the Home Office has taken that kind of initiative into account when introducing its impractical supervision plans. I shall also want to focus on the extradition of foreign national prisoners from this country and British nationals serving sentences abroad. I shall be drawing on the marvellous work of the charity, Prisoners Abroad, the only organisation in the country working in this field, which helps 1,600 UK national prisoners per year, meeting the 300 who arrive on deportation, and catering for their basic needs, such as food, clothing and housing, as well as arranging for social security benefits. It also maintains contact with 700 families of those serving sentences abroad, and yet the Ministry of Justice has warned that, in the interests of contestability, the funding of this unique operation is at riskbecause a required competition exercise must be conducted. Competition with whom? I submit that that is yet another example of a failure to think through legislation before enactment.
I look forward to contributing in any way that I can to the passage of this vast Billalthough not of course all its parts. I realise that it is unlikely that the words of a humble Cross-Bencher will resonate in the corridors of power, but I ask the Minister to try to impress on his colleagues in government that a little bit of military or naval discipline on the introduction of legislation would not come amiss. In particular, I suspect that it would be welcomed by those on whom it impacts most: those who have to enact and act on all that the Policing and Crime Bill entails.
Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, I first apologise to my noble friend and the House for my unavoidable late arrival, which meant that I missed some of what my noble friend had to say, although I had the benefit of discussing the Bill with him on an earlier occasion. For the record, I also state that I am a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority, vice-president of the Association of Police Authorities and chair of the All-Party Group on Policing.
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