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Clause 1 — Police and crime commissioners

Part of Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill – in the House of Commons at 5:15 pm on 12th September 2011.

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Photo of Vernon Coaker Vernon Coaker Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) 5:15 pm, 12th September 2011

With the indulgence of the House, let me start by endorsing the comments that the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee made in welcoming the Minister back to full health. I know that the Minister has not been too well, and we missed him on the TV over the summer. In all sincerity, I am pleased that he is back and functioning well.

However, I do not intend to let my feelings of good will towards the Minister prevent me from saying that for a moment at the end of his speech it was like being in church—the “Hallelujah Chorus” was all that was needed to illustrate the promised land to which the Minister believes he is taking us. However, let us be clear about this: what we are doing is quite extraordinary. We are not just repairing a bit of damage or tweaking that the Lords have done; what the Minister is having to do—and in a way that is hugely embarrassing for the Government—is reinsert in the Bill the whole concept of police and crime commissioners. In other words, he is having to reinsert the absolutely fundamental principle of the Bill.

However, one would not have known that from what the Minister said, which was that what we are doing today is nothing more than a tidying-up exercise—a bit of tweaking that the Government have found it necessary to do to ensure that the Lords did not inadvertently cause a problem that they had not intended. However, let us be clear: the Lords absolutely wanted to create a problem for the Government on this issue. What they were saying was that, unlike the Government, they recognise that the proposal has absolutely no support in the country. The only people who support the policy are the Minister, a few of his friends, a couple of people at No. 10 Downing street, a few Back Benchers, a couple of think-tanks and the whipped masses, who we will no doubt see later.