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Clause 1 — Police and crime commissioners

Part of Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill – in the House of Commons at 5:45 pm on 12th September 2011.

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Photo of David Ruffley David Ruffley Conservative, Bury St Edmunds 5:45 pm, 12th September 2011

I support the Government amendments, and would like to favour the House with some recollections from the two and a half years before the last general election when I did the job that Vernon Coaker does. In the course of my shadow duties, I had occasion to speak to a great number of police authorities, crime reduction partnerships and voters and I came to the following conclusion: while police authority members believed for wholly honourable motives that the proposed step was retrograde and potentially dangerous, I could find very little antagonism and opposition to the idea of elected police and crime commissioners—and I challenge the Opposition to produce evidence that that idea is unpopular with the British public.

If we rely on MORI—I do not see why we should not rely on it—we know the following about British public opinion. Over the past five or six years, it has regularly produced findings that demonstrate that police authorities, as vehicles for making the police accountable to the public they serve in any locality, are invisible. That is not a term of abuse. Some of my best friends are members of police authorities, and they take umbrage when it is suggested that they do not do a good job. Many of them do a good job, but the fact remains that they are invisible to the public.

The main thrust behind this proposal is to have a single focal point of accountability, much in the way that the disparate things that used to happen under the Greater London council and all the other bodies associated with the running and governance of London were brought together in the shape of a directly elected Mayor. By and large, that has been a very popular programme of government and a very good idea. Having a single focal point of accountability focuses people’s minds, as the public know that if something is going wrong in policing, there is one man or woman to whom they can go to find out whether it can be fixed and when it will be fixed.