Police Reform

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Office – in the House of Commons at 1:30 pm on 22nd July 2014.

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Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Secretary of State for the Home Department 1:30 pm, 22nd July 2014

With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement about our ongoing work to ensure the highest standards of integrity in the police. I have always been clear that I believe the vast majority of police officers in this country do their job honestly and with integrity. They fight crime in our villages, towns and cities; they deal with dangerous criminals; they strive to protect the vulnerable and keep our streets safe; and they have shown that they can cut crime even as we cut spending. Under this Government, crime is down by more than 10% since the election, proving that it is possible to do more with less. But as I have said before, the good work of the majority threatens to be damaged by a continuing series of events and revelations relating to police conduct.

That is why, over the past 18 months, the Government have been implementing a series of changes to improve standards of police integrity: the college of policing has published a new code of ethics, which makes clear the high standards of behaviour expected from all police officers; a national list of chief officers’ pay and rewards, gifts and hospitality is now published online, and the final list of business interests will be published for the first time later this summer; a national register of officers struck off from the police has been produced and made available to vetting and anti-corruption officers in police forces; the Government will legislate later this year to ensure that officers cannot resign or retire to avoid dismissal in misconduct hearings; and we have beefed up the Independent Police Complaints Commission, so that in future it can take on all serious and sensitive cases involving the police. In addition to those specific measures, many of our other police reforms—the creation of the college of policing; having direct entry into the senior ranks; the election of police and crime commissioners; and the changes to Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary —will make a positive difference when it comes to police integrity.

Since I began the Government’s programme of work to improve public confidence in the police, further events and revelations have reinforced the need for reform: we have had reports on the misuse of stop and search, and the poor police response to domestic violence; we have had the findings of the Ellison review, which examined allegations of corruption during the initial, deeply flawed investigation of the murder of Stephen Lawrence; and we have had Sir David Normington’s review of the Police Federation, which recommended change from “top to bottom”.

The measures we have introduced are vital, but we cannot stop there, and so I want to tell the House about my plans for further change. I want to open up policing to the brightest and best recruits. The Government have already introduced direct entry to open up the senior ranks of the police and bring in people with new perspectives and expertise. In London, the Metropolitan police received 595 applications for between five and 10 direct-entry superintendent posts; 26% of the applicants were from a black or minority ethnic background—this compares with 8.6% of traditional recruits—and 27% were female. In addition, using seed funding that I announced at the Police Federation conference in May, the Metropolitan police is setting up “Police Now”, the policing equivalent of Teach First, which will attract the brightest graduates into policing. But I want to go further. The college of policing will undertake a fundamental review of police leadership, which will look at how we can go further and faster with direct entry; how we can encourage officers to gain experience outside policing before returning later in life; and how we can open up the senior ranks to candidates from different backgrounds. The review will start immediately.

In addition to those reforms, I want to ensure that the systems and processes that deal with misconduct by police officers are robust. That means where there are cases of wrongdoing, they must be dealt with effectively and, where necessary, appropriate disciplinary action must be taken. In March, I announced I would be creating a new offence of police corruption through the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, but that alone is not enough. The police disciplinary system is complex. It has developed organically rather than been structured to fit its purpose. It lacks transparency for the public, it is bureaucratic and it lacks independence, so today I can tell the House that we will be reviewing the whole police disciplinary system from beginning to end. This review will be chaired by Major-General Clive Chapman, an experienced, independent and respected former Army officer, and I want it to draw on best practice from the private and public sectors. I have asked Major-General Chapman to look for ways to ensure that the disciplinary system is clearer, more independent and public-focused. I intend to consult publicly on the policies that emerge from the review later this year. In addition to the review, I want to make some specific changes to the police disciplinary system. In particular, I want to hold disciplinary hearings in public to improve transparency and justice, and I will launch a public consultation on these proposals later this year.

In my statement on the Ellison review on 6 March, I said I would return to the House with proposals to strengthen protections for police whistleblowers. Police officers and staff need to know that they can come forward in complete confidence to report wrongdoing by their colleagues, so the Government will create a single national policy for police forces on whistleblowing to replace the current patchwork approach. This will set out the best principles and practices on whistleblowing, and ensure consistency of approach across all forces. Following the publication of HMIC’s integrity inspection, I am prepared to consider putting the whistleblowers’ code on a statutory basis. We will also require forces to publish more information on the number of conduct issues raised by officers and the action taken as a result. From 2015 onwards, the Home Office will collect and publish data about conduct and complaints brought by police officers and police staff about their colleagues, but I still want to go further. In the autumn, I will launch a public consultation on police whistleblowing. The consultation will look at a range of new proposals to protect police whistleblowers. For example, I want to consider how we can introduce sealed investigations—these prevent both the force and suspects from learning that an investigation is taking place—into serious misconduct and corruption by police officers.

I also want to take an in-depth look at the police complaints system. Last year, I announced reforms to the IPCC to ensure that all serious and sensitive cases are dealt with by the IPCC. That included the transfer of resources from the police to the IPCC and measures to ensure that the IPCC has the right capacity to deal with demand. As I told the college of policing conference in October, this work is on track and the IPCC will begin to take on additional cases this year, but now is the time to build on those reforms. Public satisfaction surveys on the handling of complaints show that satisfaction levels remain consistently low. According to the crime survey for England and Wales, fewer than a quarter of those who complain to the police are satisfied with the outcome of their complaint. The overall number of complaints being handled independently is still far too low. This year, a review undertaken by Deborah Glass, the former deputy chair of the IPCC, found that 94% of cases referred to the IPCC in 2012 were referred back to be dealt with by the police.

Police and crime commissioners are locally developing new and innovative approaches to police complaints. In Thames Valley, Anthony Stansfeld has announced a complaints, integrity and ethics committee to provide scrutiny of how the force handles complaints. In Greater Manchester, Tony Lloyd has appointed an independent complaints ombudsman to resolve complaints before they become part of the complaints system. We need the police complaints system to keep up with the changes we have seen in police structures, to reflect the changes made locally by PCCs and chief constables, and to meet public expectations. So today I will launch a review of the entire police complaints system, including the role, powers and funding of the IPCC and the local role played by PCCs. The review will look at the complaints system from end to end, examining the process every step of the way and for all complaints, from the most minor to the most serious. The review will commence immediately and conclude in the autumn this year. It will include a public consultation on proposals for a system that is more independent of the police, easier for the public to follow and more focused on resolving complaints locally, and that has a simpler system of appeals.

The measures I have announced today will ensure that we are able to examine the entire approach to cases of misconduct, improper behaviour and corruption, but in working to ensure the highest standards of police integrity, I want to leave no stone unturned. This year, I commissioned HMIC to carry out a review of-anti-corruption capability in police forces. HMIC is also carrying out an inspection of police integrity as part of its planned programme of inspections for 2014-15. In addition, I have agreed with the chief inspector that HMIC’s new programme of annual inspections of all police forces, which will begin later this year, will look at not only a force’s effectiveness and efficiency but its legitimacy in the eyes of the public. Every annual inspection will therefore include an examination of whether each force’s officers and staff act with integrity.

Taken together, these measures represent a substantial overhaul of the systems that hold police officers to account. They will build on our radical programme of police reform, and they will help to ensure that police honesty and integrity are protected, and that corruption and misconduct are rooted out. That is what the public and the many thousands of decent, dedicated and hard-working police officers of this country deserve. I commend this statement to the House.

Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper Shadow Home Secretary 1:40 pm, 22nd July 2014

I thank the Home Secretary for sight of her statement. Our long British tradition of policing by consent depends on our maintaining and ensuring the very highest standards of integrity and professionalism in British policing. The international reputation of our police is high. We know about the bravery and integrity of many officers across the country, but we also know that when policing goes wrong, it can cast a deep shadow over all that excellent work and undermine consent and confidence, too. That is why we have called for much stronger action on standards in policing. Lord Stevens is leading a major independent commission on the future of policing, which recommends radical reform. The reforms include: a new stronger police standards authority, replacing the Independent Police Complaints Commission and the Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary, with the power to launch investigations without referral and make sure that lessons are learned; chartered registration for every police officer; the ability to strike officers off the register; high professional and ethical standards against which officers must be measured throughout their career; public misconduct hearings; and a new Police First scheme to bring bright graduates, especially from technology backgrounds, into policing and many further reforms.

Today the Home Secretary has announced not strong reforms but a series of reviews—three reviews and one consultation. Many are welcome as far as they go. We welcome stronger action on whistleblowers, with greater protection for whistleblowers and transparency for the public. We welcome more support for police leadership, although she will be aware that when West Yorkshire tried her existing proposals on direct entry, none of the dozens of people who applied met the right standards. We agree that the complaints procedure and disciplinary system need to be reformed because they are not working, but these reviews just do not go far enough. Why not get on with it and introduce a proper register of chartered police officers? I am glad that she has agreed with our call for public disciplinary hearings, but, again, why not get on with disciplinary reform and hand it over to the College of Policing, giving it the power to hold public hearings and to strike people off? Why waste time on piecemeal reforms of the IPCC and the complaints procedure, when the truth is that they need to be replaced?

We have repeatedly called on the Home Secretary to replace the IPCC. The IPCC is supposed to be able to deal with things that go wrong in policing. It is better than the Police Complaints Authority that it replaced, but it has failed in its remit because it lacks the powers, capacity and credibility it needs. It failed on Ian Tomlinson. It failed on the Stephen Lawrence case and had to apologise to the family as a result. It failed to set out the clear lessons to be learned from a series of death in custody cases, including the Camm case in West Yorkshire. It has failed to deal with the problems from plebgate, and is still failing even to make a decision on whether to investigate what happened at Orgreave more than 12 months after a complaint was raised. How many reviews does she need to tell her that this system is not working? If she answers only one of my questions today, will she explain why she will not just admit that the IPCC is failing and needs to be replaced by a much stronger body?

The one thing that the Home Secretary is not reviewing that she should be is her flagship policing reform of police and crime commissioners. She spent £100 million—enough for several thousand constables—on elections in November, and only 15% of voters turned out. Now she is about to spend nearly £4 million of taxpayers’ money on a by-election in the middle of August. What will the turnout be then? How low will turnouts have to fall before she admits that she got those flagship police reforms wrong?

The Home Secretary also claimed that her other policing reforms were working, but the HMIC has today admitted that neighbourhood policing is now being eroded. Prosecutions and convictions are falling for violent crime, rape, domestic violence and child sex offences—even though all those offences are going up. There were 7,000 more violent crimes last year, but 7,000 fewer people were convicted of violent offences. She is failing to reform the police to deal with new and growing crimes. There has been too little action on online fraud, which is growing exponentially. On online child abuse, the National Crime Agency has details of more than 10,000 suspects, but it has no plans to investigate them all, to arrest them or to bar them from working with children because it admits that it does not have the capacity and systems in place to cope.

In the face of those challenges, what are the Home Secretary’s police reforms? The answer is lots more reviews. I am glad that she is moving in the direction that we called for and we are keen to work with her if she will agree now to go much further, but so far we have standards that are not high enough; enforcement that is not strong enough; police and crime commissioners no one wants to vote for; fewer police on the beat; fewer criminals being caught; and less justice for victims. The Home Secretary’s reviews are too little and too late. We will work with her if she goes further. We need not just reviews but reforms that work.

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

Yet again, the shadow Home Secretary has given us a completely confused response on Labour’s policy on a whole range of issues. Let me touch on some of the specifics that she mentioned. She asked why we do not have a register of police officers, but I have to say to her that the Labour party was in Government for 13 years, and if it thought that that was so important, why did it not do something about it? It did not even do anything about the police officers who were struck off and who, once they had departed one particular police force, were able to join another. We have introduced the register of struck-off police officers, so, unlike Labour, we are taking action.

The shadow Home Secretary talked about Labour’s proposal to merge the inspectorate of constabulary with the IPCC. I have to say that that would be a profound mistake. The inspectorate under this Government has become more independent of the police and of the Government. It has delivered hard-hitting reports on stop and search, the recording of crime statistics and domestic violence. Later this year, it will publish, for the first time, annual inspection reports of every constabulary in the country so the public can understand how their local police force is performing. Only today we have seen one of the most transparent and fair reports ever published by HMIC, so we should not be taking any risks in abolishing the inspectorate. Of course we do need to look at police complaints and the role of the

IPCC, which is why I have just announced a consultation on changing the whole system of police complaints from end to end—from minor complaints to the most serious. It is a sensitive matter, which is why we will consult on it properly and get the policy right rather than jumping to some risky merger of HMIC and the IPCC, as Labour has proposed.

The right hon. Lady also mentioned the matter of the police and crime commissioners and the by-election for the PCC in the west midlands. Labour has been in Opposition for more than four years. There is less than a year to go before the general election, and she cannot even make up her mind about whether or not she supports the idea of police and crime commissioners. On the one hand, she tells us that Labour is happy to have police and crime commissioners, but on the other she says that they were not a very good idea. She really needs to make up her mind as to whether or not Labour supports police and crime commissioners. Somehow, among all this, she seems to be making the point that with the reviews and consultations that I have announced, there is not enough action on police reform. Again, I wish she would make up her mind. Does she or does she not want police reform? I remember the days when she called police cuts and police reform “the perfect storm”. If what she says amounts to a genuine conversion to the ranks of those who believe in police reform, I welcome her belated conversion.

The right hon. Lady also refers to the inspectorate of constabulary’s report. I do not know whether she has read today’s report, but the lesson is perfectly clear: police reform is working and crime is falling. The police are leading the way across the public sector by demonstrating, whatever the Labour party says, that it is possible to do more with less.

Let me quote what the inspector of constabulary says about police cuts:

“Police forces in England and Wales are to be congratulated. The vast majority have risen to and met the considerable challenge of austerity, with plans in place to save over £2.5 billion over the last four years—while protecting the front line as best they can and making sure that the public still receive an effective service.”

Yet again on that issue, as on so many such as police and crime commissioners and police reform, what we hear from the shadow Home Secretary is nothing more than confusion and chaos. She needs to get her story straight about whether she, like me, wants to build on the excellent police that we have in this country and to ensure that we give them the support that they need to carry on doing an effective job of cutting crime day in and day out.

Photo of Damian Green Damian Green Conservative, Ashford

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the underlying key to the many welcome and necessary reforms she has announced today is a culture change, symbolised by the individual assent of every police officer to the new code of ethics so that the high standards that the vast majority of police meet day in, day out will be met by every serving officer?

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

I thank my right hon. Friend for his observation, and may I also take this opportunity to thank and commend him for the work he did in the Home Office as both Immigration Minister and, latterly, as Policing Minister, while also being a criminal justice Minister. He is absolutely right. The code of ethics from the College of Policing is a very important step forward and it is about exactly what he says: ensuring that the high standards of honesty and integrity that we see from the vast majority of officers apply to every officer.

Photo of Keith Vaz Keith Vaz Chair, Home Affairs Committee

I welcome the Home Secretary’s statement, which is very much in keeping with the recommendations made by the Select Committee over a number of years. Through her, may I welcome the new Minister for Policing, Criminal Justice and Victims to his Front-Bench post? The Committee considered the case of Mr Mitchell, a 30-second incident that has so far cost £271,000. If her proposed reforms had been in place, would that have meant that that case, for example, would been dealt with in a different way? Does she accept the basic principle that whether a case is serious or minor the police should never be left to investigate matters themselves without proper oversight?

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

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his question. He refers, of course, to a case that involved not just misconduct hearings inside the police but the Crown Prosecution Service considering the potential for charges and criminal investigation. Of course, the changes I have announced would make no difference to any criminal investigations, but if misconduct hearings were to be heard in public, that would make a difference. As for his last point about the importance of ensuring that people can have confidence that complaints and misconduct issues are being dealt with properly, that absolutely underpins the reforms.

Photo of Julian Huppert Julian Huppert Liberal Democrat, Cambridge

The Home Secretary is absolutely right to praise the work of the vast majority of police forces, but also right to highlight the need for public confidence and to make sure that the few rogue police officers do not do down all the others. May I press her on one particular point? She said that police officers would not be able to retire in order to avoid misconduct hearings. Will that have any application to the wide number of ongoing historic inquiries? Will retired police officers be required to come and say what they know?

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

It is important that we do this because one concern that the public had was that they had seen police officers who were under suspicion or potentially subject to misconduct hearings being able to retire or resign and those misconduct hearings were stopped. We have been very clear that in those circumstances, misconduct hearings should continue and if an officer would have been struck off, they should go on the list so that they will not be employed by another force. The measure I have announced is part of ensuring that that can take place. We have also, of course, taken some action on the IPCC’s powers for people to attend interviews. The question of what is said when someone attends an interview is another issue, but we have already taken some steps as regards these historic cases.

Photo of Thomas Docherty Thomas Docherty Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

Last night, Charles Hendry had a very thoughtful Adjournment debate, responded to by the Minister for Policing, Criminal Justice and Victims, about a case in Sussex. One of the points the hon. Gentleman made was that the family of a road traffic victim had lost confidence in Sussex police, who were trying to investigate one of their own officers. Does the Home Secretary feel that there is merit in reconsidering whether other police forces should be asked to lead on the investigation when off-duty officers are involved?

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

I note the hon. Gentleman’s point and I understand that the case considered in last night’s Adjournment debate went before the courts and the individual concerned was found not guilty by the court—[Interruption.] I understand the point he is making about the question of the police investigating the police. One of the issues when the complaints system is considered will be the question of public concern about the police investigating the police. Obviously, the issue to which he refers involved a criminal investigation that was taken before the courts.

Photo of Tony Baldry Tony Baldry The Second Church Estates Commissioner

It must be a matter of public policy that any public servant should be allowed to raise concerns about criminal or other wrongdoing in public institutions without feeling that they might be sanctioned or subject to disciplinary proceedings, so may I urge my right hon. Friend to consider putting the whistleblower’s code on a statutory footing not just for the police force but across Government? If it is on a statutory footing, the whole House and the whole of Parliament can come to a view about what we believe should be the effective protections for anyone whistleblowing in the public sector.

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

My right hon. Friend makes an important point. As I said in my statement, I shall certainly consider putting it on a statutory footing. I recognise his point about the ability of Parliament to consider the issue, but HMIC is carrying out an integrity inspection and I shall consider again the matter of whether whistleblowing should have a statutory basis after it has published its report.

Photo of Julie Hilling Julie Hilling Opposition Whip (Commons)

The major complaints I get in Bolton West are about the slowness of or lack of response from the police, and police officers tell me that the reduction in the number of back-room staff and officers is affecting their ability to respond. What will the Home Secretary do about that?

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

I suggest that the hon. Lady looks very carefully at the comments that have been made by the inspectorate of constabulary. It is absolutely clear about how police forces up and down the country have been protecting front-line responsibilities and services despite the fact that they have been dealing with cuts.

Photo of Nick Herbert Nick Herbert Conservative, Arundel and South Downs

I strongly welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement and her indication that police reform will continue and is unfinished business. Is it not the case that the series of extremely problematic incidents that have confronted the British police over the past few years reveal that there are issues of culture and leadership that must now be addressed, and that that is an important role both of the College of Policing, which needs a higher profile, and of the direct-entry reforms that she is proposing?

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

My right hon. Friend makes a number of very important points. May I say how important his thoughtful contribution on police reform, which he developed in opposition and then brought into government as Policing Minister, was in ensuring that we set off on this process of police reform and made some of the major changes that have made a difference? There is an issue with culture and leadership and the College of Policing will take up the question of leadership in the work it is now doing. The college is establishing itself and I think it is doing an excellent job. We should all be out there reminding people of the important role this new body is playing.

Photo of Gareth Thomas Gareth Thomas Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Party Chair, Co-operative Party

My right hon. Friend Yvette Cooper rightly drew attention to the chief inspector of constabulary’s comments about seeing evidence of the erosion of neighbourhood policing. How does the Home Secretary think that the reviews and consultation she has announced might reverse the loss of 100-plus officers in Harrow since she entered the Home Office?

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

Yet again, I refer to my quotation from the inspectorate of constabulary’s report. It is very clear about the work that has been done by forces up and down the country to protect front-line services that are being provided to the public. As the hon. Gentleman will know, the Metropolitan police are in the business of recruiting more officers.

Photo of Philip Hollobone Philip Hollobone Conservative, Kettering

I think that the police are doing a fantastic job. Crime is down 10% and 40 of the 43 police forces have been outstanding in how they have managed their budgetary constraints. I declare my interest as a special constable with the British Transport police. All British Transport police officers on the London underground are constantly monitored by CCTV on all platforms, and they know that if they do something wrong it will be recorded. May I encourage the Home Secretary to encourage those forces that are above ground to give every police officer a camera on their police vest? That can minimise the number of complaints that are made and provide perfect evidence to correct any anomalies.

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

My hon. Friend makes an important point and I thank him for his work as a special constable with the BTP. Let me also record the fact that alongside police officers and staff, police community support officers and specials have also contributed to the fall in crime that has taken place across the country.

Body-worn video cameras are very important to ensure that evidence is collected properly. In certain circumstances, such as domestic violence, that can be particularly important. They are also important for the police officer because they can protect them when complaints are made about their behaviour.

Photo of Barry Gardiner Barry Gardiner Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Many of my constituents will welcome the Home Secretary’s recognition of the reports of misuse of the stop-and-search powers. She will know that in London, fewer than one in five stops results in an arrest and many fewer than that go on to a successful prosecution. May I echo the remarks of Mr Hollobone about the importance of cameras worn on uniforms? The pilot in London is proving successful. Will she roll it out across the rest of the country?

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

The pilot in London is proving successful, as have pilots elsewhere. Other forces such as Hampshire have already looked at the option of body-worn video cameras. As a Government, we certainly think that to introduce them would be a good move. It is an operational decision for chief constables to take, but I am pleased to say that a number of bids to the new police innovation fund have been precisely about new technology such as body-worn video cameras.

I commend the Met for looking at how it conducts stops and searches. It has changed its practice to make it more targeted and focused, and results have been better following that. It has signed up to the voluntary code that the Government have introduced, as have other forces.

Photo of Ben Gummer Ben Gummer Conservative, Ipswich

My right hon. Friend has been immensely brave in addressing the culture change that is required to restore public confidence in the police. I wonder whether, as part of her review, she could look at something that politicians heretofore have been rather nervous about touching, which is the relationship between the press and the police. Too often, unauthorised contacts, in transactions for cash or not, have meant that people have been tried by the public before they are brought before the courts, even if they are not brought before the courts. It is an important matter that should be looked at in detail.

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

My hon. Friend raises an important issue. Given some of the instances that we have seen of reporting in the press, I recognise the comment that he makes. We have made a number of moves on this already. Some came out of the Leveson inquiry, but I had already looked at this issue, in particular better accountability within police forces for the relationships that officers have with the media. I am pleased to say that forces have adopted new guidance for their officers on when it is appropriate for them to deal with the media and when it is not.

Photo of Peter Bone Peter Bone Conservative, Wellingborough

Most police officers have the highest integrity, but there are a few crooks within the police force. When someone complains about a police force in which they have completely lost faith, and the complaint is taken up by the IPCC, they are surprised that the complaint is referred back to the same force. I welcome the Home Secretary’s review, but it is an important issue that has to be tackled.

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

I recognise that point. Many members of the public, whether they have made a complaint or not, are concerned about the fact that so much is referred back to the force that the complaint has been made against. We have already started the transfer of serious and sensitive cases from a force to the IPCC and have moved resources to the IPCC for that. The first cases will be heard by the IPCC this year. The review of complaints from end to end will also look at other types of complaints to ensure that at every stage the public can genuinely have confidence that a complaint against the police is taken seriously.

Photo of Nick de Bois Nick de Bois Conservative, Enfield North

The Home Secretary has said that the measures represent a substantial overhaul of systems that hold police officers to account. Does she agree that the processes that will be used to implement the changes must not create a culture in which all police officers feel that they have been in dereliction of their duty, since so many of them work to the highest standards?

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

I agree with my hon. Friend. This is always one of the difficulties in talking about this subject. As I said in my statement, and have repeated, the vast majority of police officers work with honesty and integrity, doing the best job that they can day in, day out, but sadly some do not operate with that same honesty and integrity, and of course their bad name tends to taint the names of other officers. We cannot repeat often enough that the vast majority of officers do their job with honesty and integrity. I hope that the code of ethics that the College of Policing is introducing will ensure that high standards of ethics are observed by every police officer.

Photo of Mark Pritchard Mark Pritchard Conservative, The Wrekin

I am wowed by the Home Secretary’s statement. The potential is huge for real police reform over the coming months and years. It is good news for honest police officers and for the public. Will my right hon. Friend consider allowing complainants and defendants to record interviews or statements given in police stations so that they can take away their own record of their dialogue with the police, not just rely on the police record?

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 think the hon. Gentleman has established a first. The Clerk Assistant tells me he has never seen the word “wowed” appear in Hansardin that context. It is good to know what the hon. Gentleman looks and sounds like when he is wowed.

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

I thank my hon. Friend for his comments on the changes that we are introducing. I will take away the point that he has made about defendants and interviews. He will have noted that the Attorney-General is on the Front Bench as well, and will have noted that issue.

Photo of Bob Stewart Bob Stewart Conservative, Beckenham

Superintendents have huge responsibilities—professional responsibilities, and a requirement to lead. Direct entrants, who are possible future superintendents, will require quite a long period of training. How long might that training period be?

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

My hon. Friend makes an important point about the need for training. We have been clear that direct entrants need to have a period of training. The College of Policing has developed such training, which lasts 18 months. I am pleased to see that one of the side benefits of direct entry is that the training of direct entrants will be looked at in conjunction with that of officers who are promoted to superintendent levels through the police force. This is welcomed by the Police Superintendents Association of England and Wales.

Photo of John Howell John Howell Conservative, Henley

I am glad that the Home Secretary is tackling the issue of complaints, and I welcome the consultation. I do not want her to prejudge the consultation, but how difficult will it be to get the police complaints system to take on board imaginative schemes such as that of Anthony Stansfeld?

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

My hon. Friend raises an interesting aspect. I hope that, by saying that we intend to look at the complaints system from end to end, we will inspire people to think innovatively and creatively. He mentions the work of the police and crime commissioner that he and I share—we both have constituencies in Thames Valley. I also mentioned Tony Lloyd’s work in Greater Manchester. Other PCCs have been looking at what they should do in relation to complaints. This is an opportunity to ensure that we have a system across the country in which people can have confidence, not a piecemeal system.

Photo of Jackie Doyle-Price Jackie Doyle-Price Conservative, Thurrock

May I encourage my right hon. Friend to do as much as she can to inject independence into complaints management much earlier in the process? Professional standards units in police forces have a conflict of interest. They need to protect their own as well as to investigate complaints. Does she agree that PCCs now provide an opportunity to inject that independence much earlier in the process?

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

Yes. I will certainly reflect on the timing issue that my hon. Friend has raised. It is important. It is all part of the process of ensuring that there is a complaints systems that people feel operates properly and effectively and in which they can have confidence. We want people to know that if they have a genuine complaint about the police, it will be dealt with seriously and something will be done about it.

Photo of Bob Blackman Bob Blackman Conservative, Harrow East

Although I recognise and understand the value of opening up the recruitment process for senior ranks to outsiders, does my right hon. Friend agree that this should add value to the police, rather than diminish and denude the ability of officers to rise from the ranks to the most senior positions and use the value of the experience they have gained for the benefit of the whole country?

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

Yes, absolutely, and we want to see a mix of people at those superintending ranks, both people who have come in directly and people who have come through the force and are able to use their experience in the force. I think this reform is important in opening up the police to different experiences, to different skill sets and to different expertise, and I think that greater diversity of expertise in policing will be of benefit to policing.

Photo of Andrew Stephenson Andrew Stephenson Conservative, Pendle

One of the biggest challenges that our police forces face is cybercrime, which will mean that we need some police officers with a skill set totally different from that required in the past. How will the Home Secretary’s reforms, such as direct entry, help our police to meet the challenges posed by these new forms of crime?

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

My hon. Friend makes a good point, because of course, with direct entry, it will be possible for people who have very particular areas of expertise to come into policing. However, we are also doing some other things to tackle cybercrime. The new national cybercrime unit, which has been set up in the National Crime Agency, is an important part of this process, and the National Crime Agency is looking at some innovative thinking of what I might call professional specialists, in the sense of specials who have a very particular area of expertise, such as in forensic accounting or in cyber, who potentially could be attached to the NCA and could be an extra-valuable resource for them.