Police Integrity

Oral Answers to Questions — Attorney-General – in the House of Commons at 12:33 pm on 12th February 2013.

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Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Secretary of State for the Home Department 12:33 pm, 12th February 2013

With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement about our work to ensure the highest standards of integrity in the police.

We are fortunate in Britain to have the finest police officers in the world. They put themselves in harm’s way to protect the public, they are cutting crime even as we reduce police spending, and the vast majority of officers do their work with a strong sense of fairness and duty. But the good work of those thousands of officers is undermined when a minority behave inappropriately.

In the last year, we have seen the Leveson inquiry, which cleared the police of widespread corruption but called for greater transparency in policing, and the shocking report of the Hillsborough independent panel. We have seen the sacking of PC Simon Harwood and the investigation of several chief officers for misconduct, and yesterday I told the House about the investigation now being led by Chief Constable Mick Creedon into the work of undercover officers from the Metropolitan police.

I want everyone to understand that I do not believe there is endemic corruption in the police, and I know that the vast majority of police officers conduct themselves with the highest standards of integrity. This was confirmed by Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary in its report last year, but that does not mean that we should ignore the fact that when it does occur, police corruption and misconduct undermines justice, lets down the decent majority of officers and damages the public’s confidence in the police.

We need the police to become much more transparent in their business. We need clearer rules for how officers should conduct themselves. We need to open up the top ranks so policing is less of a closed shop. We need to make sure that officers who do wrong are investigated and punished, and that the organisations we ask to police the police are equipped to do the job.

Many of our existing police reforms address those challenges. The new College of Policing will improve the quality of police leadership and drive up standards. Police and crime commissioners are making the police more accountable to their communities. Direct entry into the senior ranks will open up the police to talented outsiders. HMIC is more independent of the police and for the first time it is led by a non-policing figure.

These reforms will help, but we also need to take further specific measures to root out corruption and misconduct from the police. First, in line with the recommendations made by Lord Justice Leveson, national registers of chief officers’ pay and perks packages, gifts and hospitality, outside interests, including second jobs, and their contact with the media will be published online. Secondly, the college will publish a new code of ethics, which will be distributed to officers of all ranks. In addition, the College of Policing will work with chief officers to create a single set of professional standards on which officers will be trained and tested throughout their careers.

Thirdly, to prevent officers who lose their jobs as a result of misconduct from being recruited by other forces, we will introduce for the first time a national register of officers struck off from the police. The list will be managed and published by the College of Policing. Fourthly, to introduce a sanction for officers who resign or retire to avoid dismissal, hearings will be taken to their conclusion notwithstanding the officer’s departure from the force. Where misconduct is proven, these officers will also be struck off by the College of Policing.

Fifthly, the college will establish a stronger and more consistent system of vetting for police officers, which chief constables and police and crime commissioners will have to consider when making decisions about recruitment and promotions. Every candidate for chief officer ranks will need to be successfully vetted before being accepted by the police national assessment centre.

Sixthly, Lord Justice Leveson’s report made several recommendations in respect of policing, focused on providing greater transparency and openness. The Government accept what has been recommended, and the College of Policing, the Association of Chief Police Officers and others have agreed to take forward the relevant work that falls to them. I will place in the Library of the House details of the Government’s response to each of the Leveson report’s recommendations on policing.

Finally, I want to make sure that the Independent Police Complaints Commission is equipped to do its important work. Over the years, its role has been evolving and the proposals I announce today develop it further. Public concern about the IPCC has been based on its powers and its resources, and I want to address both issues.

Regarding its powers, last year Parliament legislated, with welcome cross-party support, to give the IPCC the ability to investigate historic cases in exceptional circumstances. In the same legislation, we gave the IPCC the power to compel police officers and staff to attend interviews as witnesses. In addition, I have already said that we will legislate as soon as parliamentary time allows to give the IPCC the power to investigate private sector companies working for the police, along with other powers that the IPCC has asked for to improve its effectiveness and increase public confidence. I am prepared to consider any further legislative changes that the commission says it needs.

I believe that the main difficulty for the IPCC is its capacity to investigate complaints itself. Last year, the commission investigated just 130 of the 2,100 serious or sensitive cases that were referred to it independently, while supervising or managing another 200. Individual police forces investigated the remainder, but 31% of appeals against forces’ handling of complaints were successful. That is simply not acceptable. I will therefore transfer to the IPCC responsibility for dealing with all serious and sensitive allegations. I also intend to transfer resources from individual forces’ professional standards departments and other relevant areas to the IPCC in order to ensure that it has the budget and the manpower that will enable it to do its work.

The Government’s police reforms are working well, and crime is falling. Corruption and misconduct are thankfully the rare exception and not the norm among our police. However, that does not mean that we should not act. I believe that this is a comprehensive plan to address public concern about the integrity of the police, and I commend my statement to the House.

Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper Shadow Home Secretary, Shadow Minister (Equalities Office) (Women and Equalities) 12:40 pm, 12th February 2013

I thank the Home Secretary for giving me a copy of her statement. This is an important issue, and many of the measures that she has outlined are sensible in principle. However, I shall press her for more detail on how they will work in practice, and there are a couple of areas where I believe that she has not gone far enough.

The whole House will wish to recognise and show support for the international reputation of British policing, which is respected globally for low levels of corruption, high standards of integrity and our tradition of policing by consent. As the Home Secretary said, the vast majority of police officers join the force to help the public and keep people safe from crime and harm, and they take great risks when they do so. We think of the two police officers who were shot down when answering a routine 999 call in Greater Manchester, but also of officers who go the extra mile every day to help the public—perhaps stepping in to rescue people and save their lives; perhaps sitting with bereaved parents whose teenager has been killed in a traffic accident.

Police officers themselves are deeply concerned about serious cases that undermine confidence in policing: hacking, the Hillsborough tragedy, the problems with undercover officers, and cases in which policing has failed to protect the public or to deliver justice. That is why the vast majority of police officers also want action to be taken against officers who let their force and the public down, as well as action to improve standards.

Many of the Home Secretary’s measures are sensible. We support the implementation of the Leveson recommendations, and also the introduction of greater transparency. We support the establishment of a code of ethics and higher professional standards, and we support stronger action when those are breached. We have also argued for stronger action in relation to retired officers when things go wrong. The Stevens commission on the future of policing has taken evidence on issues involving codes of ethics, national registers, the role of the College of Policing and proposals for striking police officers off, and is likely to make new proposals in that regard.

However, can the Home Secretary clarify what she means? Will there be a national professional register that all police officers must be on, will there be standards that they must meet, and will they be struck off from the register if they do not meet those standards? If so, by whom will they be struck off? Will it be the IPCC or the College of Policing, and will that be underpinned by legislation? Or does the Home Secretary simply propose to put together a list of officers who have already been sacked by their local forces?

I do not believe that the Home Secretary is going far enough on the IPCC. As she will know, I have argued for the last 12 months that it does not have enough powers and resources to deliver for the public. I welcomed the action that she took and the legislation, which we supported, to strengthen powers, but her reforms of the IPCC still seem to be incremental. Increased resources are welcome, but can she tell us how much there will be and where it will come from? Is she top-slicing the budgets of police forces across the country, and if so, by how much? How many extra police officers does she think those forces will lose as a result?

During the passage of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011, Ministers argued that more cases should be dealt with by individual forces rather than by the IPCC. In the Act the Home Secretary downgraded the IPCC’s capacity, halving the minimum number of commissioners. Now she seems to be saying that more cases should be dealt with by the IPCC rather than by individual forces. Has she changed her view since the passage of the Act, and can she clarify her proposals?

I am also not convinced that the Home Secretary is doing enough to strengthen the powers and the culture of the IPCC to restore public confidence and ensure that lessons are learnt. Nothing is being done about the confused and overlapping bodies that are supposed to act when policing goes wrong. Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary, the IPCC, individual police and crime commissioners, police and crime panels and, now, the College of Policing all have a role, but it is still unclear who does what, and as a result, who should act when things go wrong and ensure that lessons are learnt. I therefore think that the Home Secretary has not been sufficiently radical. May I urge her to look again at the possibility of replacing the IPCC altogether with a new police standards authority, along with a new, coherent framework of standards and accountability?

Finally, I hope that the Home Secretary agrees that the best way to ensure rising police standards is to have well-motivated, professional police officers who are keen to do a good job and serve the public. She will know that there is a massive problem with low morale among police officers, who do not feel valued, and I am keen to hear how she intends to address that.

Police officers do a vital job every day on our behalf, and our duty in this House is to make sure that they get the support they need and to have a proper framework of accountability to keep standards high. The Secretary of State’s statement is welcome and responds to many of the concerns that we have raised, but I urge her to look at the proposals again as I remain concerned that they do not go far enough and will not be sufficient to deliver what the police and public need.

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I welcome the shadow Home Secretary’s support on a number of the issues I have addressed today, most significantly the implementation of the Leveson report recommendations, the code of ethics and action on retired officers. She asked two key questions. First, on the national register, the College of Policing will look at how best to address the issue in terms of its general work with police officers and others on standards and development. I expect that there will at least be a list of those officers who have been struck off, and whom one would not expect other police forces, here in the UK or elsewhere, to take on. It is for the College of Policing to decide the form in which to publish that list, and it will consider that matter very shortly.

Secondly, the right hon. Lady said there were a lot of overlapping organisations, and she mentioned the HMIC and the IPCC. HMIC does not investigate individual complaints against individual officers; that is the job of the IPCC. HMIC has a different role. It looks at the efficiency and effectiveness of police forces; it looks across the force, not at individual complaints. Those two bodies do two different jobs.

The right hon. Lady referred to the changes and comments we made during the passage of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011. We have indeed put more low-level complaints to the individual forces, but the point I am making today is that we want to ensure the IPCC can handle all the serious and sensitive allegations made against police officers. Last year, just 330 out of 2,100 such cases were independently investigated or supervised and managed by the IPCC. I think it should be able to look at all the serious and sensitive allegations against police officers, which is why we are looking to transfer resources from police standards departments in police forces to the IPCC. We will look at any manpower or funding implications and ensure that the IPCC has sufficient resources to be able to deal with all the cases we feel it should be dealing with.

The right hon. Lady asked why we do not just scrap the IPCC and set it up again with a different name. Today, I have set out the key issues of substance that will make a difference to the ability of the IPCC to do its work. The question that she has to answer is whether she is interested merely in rebranding something, or whether she is genuinely interested in agreeing with me on what the IPCC needs in order to be able to do its job properly.

Photo of Mark Reckless Mark Reckless Conservative, Rochester and Strood

The Home Secretary has probably done more to reform the police than any Home Secretary since Robert Peel. Many police officers are concerned, however, that their profession has come to be held in less respect. Does she expect the College of Policing to be the basis, through professional standards, on which the police can reclaim their self-respect?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I expect that the College of Policing will make a real difference. I believe setting up a professional standards body for the police that will set standards and take on many of the ACPO business areas in looking at those standards, as well as dealing with the ethics of policing for the area that it covers and with the training and development of officers, will give a boost to officers in terms of their professionalism and the regard in which they are held. I am pleased that Professor Shirley Pearce, former vice-chancellor of Loughborough university, is the chairman. We also have a very energetic chief executive in Chief Constable Alex Marshall, and I am pleased that members of the police force at all ranks are part of the college, including members of police staff. It is important that it covers everybody.

Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw Labour, Blackburn

As the Home Secretary who established the IPCC in the first place, may I welcome the announcements by the Home Secretary today, which seem a sensible development of those powers? I have two questions. First, the chair of the IPCC, Dame Anne Owers, served for seven years as an extremely effective and independent chief inspector of prisons and I have confidence in her work and ability to take forward the IPCC. Since the Home Secretary has not mentioned Dame Anne, would she like to do so?

My second point concerns the relationship between the professional standards units of individual forces and the IPCC. I understand that at a time of limited resources, money has to come from somewhere and that some transfer is sensible. However, will the Home Secretary have a care to ensure that professional standards units in individual forces are not so denuded that they cannot do their crucial initial work of identifying early possible bad police officers, and of investigating complaints that may start at a low level but turn into more serious matters that need to be allocated to the IPCC?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I thank the right hon. Gentleman and, indeed, I see this as a development of the IPCC. Its role over the years has been changing and this is a necessary and important development. Dame Anne Owers has done an excellent job since becoming chairman of the IPCC. The role is changing slightly from the one she first came to, but she is addressing it with great distinction and commitment, as one would expect from her. Indeed, in her time overseeing prisons she built up a reputation for herself and her independence, and it is good that we have somebody with that reputation as chair of the IPCC.

On the transfer of services, the point is that work will be transferring from professional standards departments to the IPCC, so it therefore makes sense to transfer resources. We are not talking about not having professional standards departments at all, and a discussion will be had with forces about the level of that transfer and where the boundary appropriately falls.

Photo of John Whittingdale John Whittingdale Chair, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Vice-Chair, Conservative 1922 Committee

Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the great unanswered questions in the sorry saga of phone hacking is how although the police had evidence taken from Glenn Mulcaire in 2006 that suggested widespread lawbreaking was taking place, not only was nothing done about it, but it was denied that such evidence existed? That matter was intended to be examined by Lord Justice Leveson in part 2 of his inquiry. Will the Home Secretary confirm that an investigation will still take place to answer those questions?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Secretary of State for the Home Department

My understanding is that that will indeed be part of the second part that will take place, but as my hon. Friend knows, there has always been a question about what can be done. A great deal was done by Lord Justice Leveson on issues that he needed to consider at the time of other police investigations. Of course, those police investigations are still continuing.

Photo of Keith Vaz Keith Vaz Chair, Home Affairs Committee

I warmly welcome the excellent statement from the Home Secretary not just because it implements Leveson, but because it accepts many of the recommendations made by the Home Affairs Committee over a number of years. I share her ambitions for the College of Policing, and as she knows, Alex Marshall will be appearing before the Committee this afternoon.

Will the Home Secretary say whether police officers will still need to seek the permission of their individual chief constable before taking up a second job, and therefore before they are put on the register? Will she consider looking at police and crime commissioners? We still have no central register on which they can declare their outside interests, and since she is full of reforming zeal, in that same mode will she please ensure that that issue is also considered?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his remarks about my statement. On his first point, yes, I would still expect individual officers to seek that permission before taking a second job, but a public document would make it clear which officers had second jobs, alongside other things. He and I have a slight disagreement on police and crime commissioners. Each individual PCC is required to publish information on their interests so that the electorate in their area knows where they stand and what their interests are—just as we require others who are elected to register their interests appropriately. It is appropriate for that to be done at local level, rather than maintaining a central register.

Photo of Julian Huppert Julian Huppert Liberal Democrat, Cambridge

I, too, welcome this statement, which implements not only the recent Home Affairs Committee report, but the Liberal Democrat policy motion on empowering the IPCC, which was passed last year. I especially welcome the commitment that the IPCC will cover private providers. As Nick Hardwick, the former chair of the IPCC, said,

“if it looks like a police officer, talks like a police officer, walks like a police officer, the IPCC should investigate it.”

Will the Home Secretary confirm that she has spoken to Dame Anne Owers and the IPCC about resources, and that it be well-resourced enough to deal with serious cases and also look at private contractors?

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Speaker of the House of Commons

I hope the hon. Gentleman feels that in that very full question he has covered all elements of the relevant Liberal Democrat motion and brought it to the full attention of the House, just in case we had not previously noticed.

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Secretary of State for the Home Department

In other circumstances, I might say that I was now worried, Mr Speaker, but we are in coalition, so I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his remarks. It is important that private companies working for the police are included, but that will require changes to legislation for which parliamentary time would have to be made available. I am sorry, but with all the banter I have forgotten the second point.

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Secretary of State for the Home Department

Yes, I have sat down with Dame Anne Owers and talked about this issue. We must do more detailed work on exactly what resources will be required to enable the IPCC to do what we are asking, but we have started those discussions.

Photo of David Winnick David Winnick Labour, Walsall North

These reforms are welcome; they could go further, but let us give praise for what is to be done.

Does the Home Secretary accept that there is a good deal of dissatisfaction with the IPCC? One factor in that is undoubtedly the number of former police officers, some of whom have held senior ranks, investigating the police. That gives the impression that the complaints body is not as genuine as it should be. Should that be looked into?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Secretary of State for the Home Department

It will be for the IPCC, in discussion with the Department, to decide on the sort of people it wishes to employ in increasing its investigative capacity. In a sense, there is a slight Catch-22 situation because the very people in this country who are used to investigation, and have the skills and experience in that regard, are police officers.

Photo of David Nuttall David Nuttall Conservative, Bury North

I welcome the Home Secretary’s statement. Will she clarify how being struck off will affect an individual police officer’s eligibility to claim their pension? There has been concern over officers retiring early when facing disciplinary procedures in order to claim their pension.

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Secretary of State for the Home Department

My statement today does not cover anything related to pensions, but the importance of a police officer being struck off once found guilty of misconduct is that any other police force to which that officer applies will see that they have been struck off and are therefore not suitable for employment. Perhaps my hon. Friend and other hon. Members will recall PC Simon Harwood. Issues were raised about his behaviour during his employment by one force, but he then left that force and was re-employed by another. The register of struck-off officers will exist to stop that sort of issue happening.

Photo of Mark Durkan Mark Durkan Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (International Development), Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (Treasury)

The Home Secretary referred to the quality of police officers, and in that context I want to acknowledge the service of Constable Philippa Reynolds, who was killed in the line of duty in my constituency at the weekend. How will the Home Secretary ensure that the standards and safeguards she has referred to today will also apply to the National Crime Agency with its constabulary powers and special constables? Can she assure the House that the NCA’s engagement with the press will be to the Leveson standard?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Secretary of State for the Home Department

May I join the hon. Gentleman in sending sympathy and condolences to the family of Constable Philippa Reynolds, who sadly died in that traffic incident at the weekend? May I also commend the officers of the Police Service of Northern Ireland for the work they do, day in, day out, to keep people safe in Northern Ireland? On the Leveson requirements, we will be discussing with either ACPO or the College of Policing, where relevant, how each of those can best be implemented. Lord Justice Leveson reflected in his report that the police landscape had changed over the time during which the evidence was taken, so we need to consider how best to ensure that the requirements can be implemented properly in the new policing landscape.

Photo of Angie Bray Angie Bray Conservative, Ealing Central and Acton

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, although we are all aware that there have been some unacceptable relationships between certain police officers and journalists, the press often provides invaluable assistance in helping to solve crime? Post-Leveson, many police forces are seriously restricting contact between police officers and journalists. Is there a danger that that could become too heavy-handed and counter-productive?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Secretary of State for the Home Department

Of course we all accept that there will be occasions when the police wish to talk to the press to enlist its help in a particular investigation that is taking place. We accept that such occasions do occur, but it is right that we say to the police that they have to be more considerate of the implications of their talking to the press in other circumstances. That is why ACPO had, prior to the Leveson report—this is picked up in the report—been looking at what appropriate relations are between the police and the press. Having transparency is a great way of ensuring that people can see that these discussions are being held where they are appropriate. It is the transparency element that Lord Justice Leveson was keen on and that we will be taking forward.

Photo of Steve McCabe Steve McCabe Labour, Birmingham, Selly Oak

There is much to commend in this statement. In other countries where wages and conditions are poor, the result is often that police tax rather than arrest criminals. Is the Home Secretary absolutely certain that her cut in wages for new police constables, meaning that they now earn less than a trainee manager at McDonald’s, will not have an impact on police standards in this country?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I have absolute faith in the standards and integrity of our police officers, and I am tempted to say that the hon. Gentleman’s question almost did not deserve a reply.

Photo of Bob Stewart Bob Stewart Conservative, Beckenham

My right hon. Friend has already declared that she intends to invite talented outsiders to step forward to be considered for senior positions in the police. What sort of person is she considering? May they have no police experience whatsoever?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Secretary of State for the Home Department

We have picked from, and are putting into place, different proposals as a result of the Winsor review recommendations. One is to have direct entry at superintendant level, where it would not be necessary for the individual to have police experience, but it would be necessary for them to go through an appropriate training period before they were able to take on their tasks as superintendant. Another is to open up the opportunities for chief constables to those with relevant policing experience—such experience would be necessary in those cases, but in a common law country. My hon. Friend asked what sort of people we might see coming in on this direct entry, and I say to him that perhaps ex-military people might be interested; I do not know, but he may very well want to forge a path.

Photo of Rob Flello Rob Flello Shadow Minister (Justice)

My right hon. Friend Yvette Cooper yesterday raised the tragic and appalling case of Frances Andrade, and the Home Secretary said she would reflect on it. To give victims and witnesses reassurance about the integrity of the police and the advice they get from the police service, will she reassure the House that she will urgently write to police forces to ensure that, in line with existing guidance, victims and witnesses can have the counselling and care they need and deserve?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Secretary of State for the Home Department

Obviously, this issue was raised yesterday and I addressed it yesterday. It is important, and one thing that the College of Policing will be examining across the board of policing, in due course, is how police officers deal with, and how it is appropriate to deal with, certain types of crime and certain types of victim. A huge amount has been done in recent years to improve the way in which police forces deal with allegations of sexual abuse, sexual exploitation and rape, but of course, as I said yesterday, we will be looking at the lessons that can be learned from that particular case.

Photo of Mark Pawsey Mark Pawsey Conservative, Rugby

May I echo the Home Secretary’s remarks about the quality and standards of our officers? There are organisations, both public and private, that are benefiting from the new ideas brought in by key people with fresh experience and additional areas of expertise. Does she agree that there are no reasons why policing should not benefit in the same way?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I very much agree. There has been the concept over the years that someone had to come in at the bottom and work their way up. We need to change that, both by enabling the fast-tracking of individuals who are obviously talented when they enter the police force and by opening up, as he says, to new ideas, cultures and experiences, which can only benefit policing. I am very much of that view.

Photo of William McCrea William McCrea Shadow Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow DUP Leader of the House of Commons

Constable Reynolds, who was mentioned by Mark Durkan a moment ago, was a constituent of mine, and I extend to her parents and the family circle my sympathy at this time of their bereavement. I am sure that the Home Secretary will agree that police officers are like the community they serve, in that they are not without failure or mistake, and that it is vital that the police work to the highest standard of integrity. However, does she not also agree that we must be careful that we do not tie their hands with regulation so that they are not able to do the duty they are supposed to be doing—protecting the community?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I absolutely agree with the hon. Gentleman that it is important that we ensure that we have the appropriate structures, frameworks and codes for the police to work with, but their job requires them to do extraordinary things and we do not want to tie them up in regulation such that they are not able to do that job in cutting crime and protecting the public.

Photo of Robert Halfon Robert Halfon Conservative, Harlow

When we are looking at police integrity, can we also look at the integrity of those people who suggested that the Government could not make difficult financial decisions and carry out reforms without crime going up? The reforms the Government have made have ensured that the level of crime has fallen.

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Secretary of State for the Home Department

Yes, our police reforms are working. As my hon. Friend says, we were told by the official Opposition that the only thing that would happen when the reforms and the cuts in police budgets took place was that crime would go up, but of course exactly the opposite has happened and we have seen that crime continues to fall.

Photo of Catherine McKinnell Catherine McKinnell Shadow Minister (Education)

Although we all welcome a system that will ensure and uphold the integrity of our police, will the Home Secretary reassure my constituents that the already overstretched local police budgets will not endure any further cost pressures as a result of today’s statement?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Secretary of State for the Home Department

As I have explained in response to another hon. Member who was questioning me on that issue, what I have announced today is that we will be transferring certain pieces of work from police forces to the IPCC, so there will be less work in that area for professional standards departments and others to do in police forces. We will be talking about how resources should appropriately transfer to the IPCC to ensure that it covers the work that it, rather than police forces, will now do.

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland Conservative, South Swindon

I welcome my right hon. Friend’s comments, and I support the move to transfer serious and sensitive cases to the IPCC. Will she ensure that the definition of “serious and sensitive” is as crystal clear as possible, so that the work of the IPCC can be enhanced and we can avoid potential ambiguities in determining what is serious and what is less serious?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Secretary of State for the Home Department

My hon. Friend makes a valid point. There is, of course, currently a working definition of “serious and sensitive”, but we need to ensure that in the new arrangements the definition is as clear as possible, so that there is no confusion between forces and the IPCC.

Photo of Michael McCann Michael McCann Labour, East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow

The Home Secretary’s statement says that, “to introduce a sanction for officers who resign or retire to avoid dismissal, hearings will be taken to their conclusion, notwithstanding the officer’s departure from the force.” Will she confirm that any pension payment or severance payment due will be frozen until those proceedings end? If that does not happen, there is no point in introducing the first sanction.

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Secretary of State for the Home Department

As I said earlier, my statement does not cover any arrangements in relation to pensions. The issue of police officers subject to misconduct proceedings being able to resign or retire from a force and then those proceedings not being taken through because there was no sanction is one of the things that annoys the public considerably. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman makes a gesture; I am not quite sure how Hansard will interpret that, but I think that he is indicating, “Money.” Of course the sanction we propose potentially will have an impact on officers, because misconduct proceedings will be taken through to their conclusion. If they are found guilty of misconduct, they will be placed on the list of officers who have been struck off, and that will impede their ability, for example, to get a job in policing or a similar field abroad or in the United Kingdom.

Photo of Philip Hollobone Philip Hollobone Conservative, Kettering

I declare my interest as a serving special constable with the British Transport police.

Some of the best, most common-sense policing in our country is done by ordinary community beat bobbies at police constable rank, by police sergeants and by police inspectors—people who are not seeking promotion but who love their job and have been doing that job for many years, perhaps decades. Although it is right that scrutiny of the police improves all the time, I do not feel that these individuals get the pat on the back that they should get often enough. What can we do to recognise and reward those long-serving officers for the skills they bring to their job?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Secretary of State for the Home Department

My hon. Friend may not be aware that one of the matters that has been referred back to the Police Negotiating Board and that will be considered by the College of Policing is rewarding individual officers’ skills and development. The first and second parts of the Winsor review proposed an interim arrangement that did indeed suggest that recognition for neighbourhood officers be looked into. The Police Arbitration Tribunal did not feel it was appropriate to take forward those proposals and I accepted the PAT’s recommendation, but further work will be done on ensuring that there is appropriate payment for skills that are developed.

Photo of Andy Sawford Andy Sawford Labour, Corby

One of my local police officers, Inspector Hillary, regularly tweets as he goes about his business in the area. Although the Home Secretary’s statement is at the hard end of accountability and particularly redress, does she agree that that everyday form of engagement and accountability is important to giving the public confidence in their local police officers, and does she welcome that initiative? She has avoided the question three times, but will she say specifically how much these changes will cost local constabularies? She is going to swipe money away—she says it is work, but that is people’s jobs. How much money is she going to swipe from Northamptonshire constabulary to pay for this?

H

Hillery

Submitted by Huw Silk

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Secretary of State for the Home Department

Theuse of social media by police officers is one of the matters that HMIC considered when it was looking at integrity. Social media can be used extremely positively, and a number of forces are making active use of Twitter to get messages across to members of the public and interact with them. If Inspector Hillary is doing it in that way, I commend that officer. HMIC picked up some evidence of inappropriate use of Twitter, so it is important that forces make clear to officers what is and is not acceptable.

I have answered the question about resources several times: we will be discussing with forces and the IPCC what the appropriate level of resources is and what it is therefore right to transfer from individual police forces. I have to say to the Opposition that the concept is a simple one: work is being done in police forces that in future will be done in the IPCC, so it is appropriate to transfer resources.

Photo of Peter Bone Peter Bone Conservative, Wellingborough

As the third north Northamptonshire MP in a row to be called, may I associate myself with the kind comments about our local force made by the previous two Members? I congratulate the Home Secretary on her statement, not least because she made it first to the House and not to the media.

I have found in my constituency surgeries that the thing that annoys people when they have a serious complaint about the police is not actually the investigation, but the fact that it is conducted by the home force—by Northamptonshire police. Will the Home Secretary assure the House that, in future, all serious cases will be investigated by people from outside the local force?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Secretary of State for the Home Department

My hon. Friend has homed in precisely on the crucial change we are making. I too have looked at cases where people within a force investigated serious complaints against that force, and I think that that is not appropriate. The IPCC has not had the resources to do that job, but we will give it the resources it needs so that serious and sensitive allegations will be investigated by people from outside the force concerned.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights)

I thank the Home Secretary for her statement to the House and welcome the announcement that the national register will be made available to police forces in other regions, in particular the PSNI. Will she confirm that the register will be made available in relation to other security positions, in particular civilian policing of Ministry of Defence installations in Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Secretary of State for the Home Department

The hon. Gentleman raises a specific point. I will reflect on that, if I may, but we will certainly discuss with the College of Policing the availability of the register of those who have been struck off and how that is most appropriately dealt with, and I shall take the hon. Gentleman’s point into account during those discussions.