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Clause 1 — Police and crime commissioners

Part of Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill – in the House of Commons at 6:15 pm on 12th September 2011.

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Photo of Keith Vaz Keith Vaz Chair, Home Affairs Committee 6:15 pm, 12th September 2011

It is a pleasure to follow Mr Ruffley, who is very knowledgeable about these matters. I shall speak only briefly and I begin by apologising because I have to be away before the end of the debate because the chairman of the committee on homeland security from the United States Congress is coming to meet members of the Select Committee to discuss counter-terrorism.

I want to speak very briefly on these matters and I do not want to repeat the debate we have had before about the principle of police commissioners. However, I accept what my hon. Friend Vernon Coaker said about this being an attempt by the Government to reposition police and crime commissioners at the heart of the Bill. I know that all Members have heard the arguments before and, as we have just heard, opinions are deeply held on both sides of the House.

I shall concentrate on three issues. First, I was disappointed that the announcement of the new Metropolitan Police Commissioner was not made to the House. It has become a feature to announce resignations to the House and I think that such important appointments ought to be announced here first rather than to the BBC and Sky News. However, I am glad that the Home Secretary heard the mood of the House and rushed in here to make her announcement by intervening on my hon. Friend the Member for Gedling. I join the Home Secretary and my hon. Friend in congratulating Bernard Hogan-Howe on his appointment; I know that he comes with enormous experience. He was the only candidate for the position of chief executive of the new National Crime Agency, but he was plucked from that job and made the acting deputy commissioner, and now hehas the top job. It is a very demanding job and I wish him well.

Let me make two quick points about the Bill. As I said in my intervention, I welcome the Minister back, and I think he has done excellent work on the protocol, which is an example of what can happen when a Select Committee makes a recommendation. We called it a memorandum of understanding—we started with the Magna Carta, but felt that was too grand and downgraded it—and it has become a protocol. The Minister and others have been in discussions about the protocol and we look forward to seeing the latest draft—he sent me a draft in July—because it is important that the Select Committee is involved in these processes. That is especially true of Mark Reckless, who is not in his place at the moment but is very keen on these matters and wants to be involved in the discussions. We have to remember that although ACPO and the Home Office may agree the protocol, the third part of the triangle has not even been elected yet. We do not have any police and crime commissioners, but if we are to have a protocol, they will have to be consulted on it in some way.