Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill
Clive Efford (Eltham, Labour)
In the interests of progress, I have not moved amendment 158 because such a debate would involve similar arguments to those in the exchange we have just had about what we believe is a downgrading of the role of assembly members. They have the power to set up a sub-committee to be the policing panel for London and to ask questions of the Mayor’s office, but unfortunately those seem to be retrospective questions. They certainly do not have any power to influence decisions before they are taken, and they have very little influence afterwards.
We feel that that turns assembly members into mere bystanders and, as we have said, paper tigers with absolutely no teeth. If we had been able to amend clause 48, we would have given assembly members a scrutiny role over the suspension of a commissioner and the oversight of that process. As we have said in an earlier debate about police and crime commissioners outside London, that would have given the panel influence and a scrutiny role over the power to force chief officers to resign or retire, and it would have put in place a process through which a case could be made to the police and crime panel. That would have taken place before any recommendations were made to the Secretary of State.
We believe that that is the proper process for scrutiny in London, as we have said consistently throughout all our debates on the role of the police and crime panel in London and the Mayor’s office. We will return to this area of scrutiny within the metropolis for further discussion as the Bill makes progress. The Government might even end up listening to the representations of the wide body of people who have serious misgivings about the proposed arrangements for scrutiny of the Metropolitan police.
Nick Herbert (Minister of State, Justice; Arundel and South Downs, Conservative)
The Government have tried to engage with all those who have expressed an interest in or concerns about the Bill. We have listened carefully to them, including in Committee, and that will continue to be the case. As for the hon. Gentleman’s wider point, the powers of the police inquiry panel in London will almost exactly mirror the general powers of the London assembly, in that it will exercise a retrospective scrutiny of the Mayor’s decisions. That is how the assembly works at the moment. There is no downgrading in relation to the assembly powers. All we are doing is removing the unnecessary tier of the MPA and ensuring a clearer line of democratic accountability through the Mayor. We have had this discussion before and I do not propose to prolong it.