Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill
Clive Efford (Eltham, Labour)
I have one or two points for the Minister to clarify about the relationship between the Mayor and the commissioner. The schedule raises similar issues to the ones we discussed the other day, on the use of similar staff to advise the Mayor in holding the chief officer to account. For instance, if the chief officer wants to dispose of a piece of property, and he is reporting to the Mayor, where does the Mayor obtain information on whether that is desirable? That comes back to independent scrutiny. I know the Minister addressed the issue the other day, but it is raised in this schedule as well.
There is also the issue of the Mayor’s office being responsible for liabilities involving staff who are employed by, and are answerable to, the chief officer. That opens up the Mayor’s office to open-ended liabilities for the actions of staff who are appointed and employed by the chief officer. Clause 4(3) states that those staff are
“under the direction and control of the Commissioner”,
but the liabilities come to the Mayor’s office. There may be an explanation for that—that that is normal and expected procedure—but as the commissioner is gaining more operational independence in control of assets and staff than is the case currently, will the Minister explain the intentions behind the clauses that refer to staff liabilities becoming the responsibility of the Mayor’s office?
Nick Herbert (Minister of State, Justice; Arundel and South Downs, Conservative)
This schedule, as the hon. Gentleman is aware, sets out the detail and gives legal effect to the practical position of making the commissioner employed in law. On his later question on liabilities, the schedule provides for the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime to assume the responsibility for using the police fund to cover damages and costs incurred by or against the commissioner in legal proceedings arising from the acts of a member of police civilian staff. That is consistent with existing provisions on legal costs arising from the acts of police officers in the Police Act 1996.
On his question on the police and crime commissioner in London, first, the PCC has the power to ask the chief constable for a report. That is under clause 36, which we will come to. Secondly, the PCC can employ staff to help him make the decisions concerned. I hope that that answers both of the key questions that he asked on the schedule, which otherwise just gives effect to the technical changes in clause 4.