[Mr Clive Betts in the Chair]
4:25 pm

Photo of Nick Herbert

Nick Herbert (The Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice; Arundel and South Downs, Conservative)

I am afraid that I cannot satisfy the right hon. Gentleman on either count. That is the second hypothetical matter he has raised this evening. As I have said, we will consider the recommendations of the Police Arbitration Tribunal very carefully, and it is absolutely right that we should do so.

I join right hon. and hon. Members in paying tribute to police officers and, indeed, staff. The Chair of the Select Committee referred to the reception that was held in No. 10 Downing street yesterday by the Prime Minister to mark the contribution of those who helped to deal with the disorder last summer—not only police officers, but police staff and those who worked in the other emergency services and local government. The Prime Minister spoke fulsomely about the importance of what they and their colleagues had done in the summer.

I myself was reminded of what police officers do for us by the dreadful stabbings of three officers that took place in the Metropolitan police area before Christmas. Those young officers bore serious injuries. We should always remember what an important job the police do for the country. It is also important that the Government restates to the police service that we are having to take difficult decisions in common with those that affect other public services. None of that should allow the police service to believe that we do not value police officers or want to do the best for the police service in the future. I certainly wish to do the best for the service in the future, and for those who work in it.

I will pick up one or two specific points before I conclude. My right hon. Friend Tom Brake mentioned the budget for police and crime panels and questioned how it is derived. It is important to restate that police and crime panels are not ongoing police authorities with the responsibilities of police authorities. Those responsibilities will be taken by police and crime commissioners. Police and crime panels have an important scrutiny role in providing a check and balance that is carefully defined in the legislation that we debated. Their role should not be expanded, and they do not need anything like the kind of resource that police authorities have. The limited funding that has been provided to panels will enable them to do their scrutiny job. My hon. Friend Mark Reckless, who intervened, made that point very effectively.

I agree with the comments made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington about the police professional body and the importance of dealing with diversity issues. That is a very good example of the kind of thing we could expect a police professional body to take up. It is difficult to see where responsibility for those issues lies at the moment. One of the things a professional body could be responsible for is ensuring that we can make greater progress in recruiting a diversity of police officers.

My right hon. Friend spoke about the importance of collaboration with local authorities, to which I referred in my response to the right hon. Member for Cardiff

South and Penarth. I endorse that. As my hon. Friend noted, I visited Sutton, where there is a very good example of police force and local authority co-operation. We would like to see more of that, but we are not going to prescribe it. We seek to enable and encourage such an approach, but we do not want to have a directive or master plan that tells police forces how they should go about it.

The right hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth launched his campaign to be police and crime commissioner for south Wales. I wish him the very best of luck in that regard and genuinely welcome his candidacy. He raised again the issue of the status of Cardiff as the capital of Wales and made a bid for the force receiving some kind of grant in recognition of that in the same way that the Metropolitan police receives a capital city grant. He has raised that issue with me before, and my hon. Friend Alun Cairns has also raised it with me separately. In response to my hon. Friend, I asked the chief constable to supply me with the financial information that would make the case for such a grant. Clearly, resources are tight. It is a difficult request, because it would require removing grant from those who would otherwise be receiving it. These are the decisions that Ministers have to take, but I have undertaken to consider the issue in a sensible manner—I am happy to reassure him about that.

My hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge, whom I welcome to this debate of Privy Counsellors, spoke about the importance of evidence-based policy in policing, as did my right hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington. I strongly agree with both of them on this matter. I welcome the ideas set out by Professor Sherman, whom I would like to meet again shortly to discuss these matters. I do not know whether my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge can organise a convivial dinner in Cambridge, but I would be very happy to attend.

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