Clause 1 — Police and crime commissioners
Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill
Vernon Coaker (Gedling, Labour)
My hon. Friend's point speaks for itself. It illustrates some of the problems that can arise in connection with police and crime commissioners.
I will not rehearse all of what has been said before, but the Minister has asked us to disagree with the Lords in their amendment, and to reinsert the original proposals on police and crime commissioners in the Bill. The “one person” argument, the “operational independence” argument and the politicisation argument are all still there, as is the lack of power for the police and crime panel—the fact that it is a toothless watchdog—yet the Minister is telling us that he is right, and that everyone else is wrong. In their amendment 6 on the police commission model, the Lords attempt to overcome some of the existing problems—such as having one omnipotent person, as the Government would like—by ensuring that the police and crime panel is established as set out in the Bill and that the police and crime commissioner is appointed from among that group of people.
This group of amendments also addresses the delayed election issue. I know some of my hon. Friends want to say a little more about the Welsh aspect of that, and I fully understand and support their argument.
We oppose in principle both the elections and police and crime commissioners. We also believe that if the Government are going to press ahead, May 2012 is a ridiculous date given issues such as the speed with which things would be required to be put in place and the Olympics. The Government apparently now agree with that, but have come up with the equally stupid idea of holding the elections in November. That would be costly, and there would also be further problems that have been pointed out not by the Opposition—my right hon. Friend the shadow Home Secretary has not pointed this out—but by the Electoral Commission, including the problems of daylight hours and of the electoral canvass going on at the same time. The Electoral Commission is a body that is independent of this House, and it has pointed out to the Minister that it is silly to
delay things until November. Moreover, members of that commission have said that the cost of such a delay would be significant.
I therefore ask the Minister to tell us how on earth the Government have arrived at that date. Why are they delaying the elections? Is there any truth in the newspaper reports that it was in order to ensure that the Liberals voted for the Bill in totality? Is this another example of the tail wagging the dog?