“(1) The Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004 is amended as follows.
(2) In section 28 (inspectors), before subsection (1) insert—
‘(A1) Her Majesty may appoint such number of inspectors of fire and rescue authorities in England (the ‘English inspectors’) as the Secretary of State may determine.
(A2) Of the persons appointed under subsection (A1) one is to be appointed as the chief fire and rescue inspector for England.
(A3) The English inspectors must inspect, and report on the efficiency and effectiveness of, fire and rescue authorities in England.
(A4) The English inspectors must carry out such other duties for the purpose of furthering the efficiency and effectiveness of fire and rescue authorities in England as the Secretary of State may from time to time direct.
(A5) The chief fire and rescue inspector for England may appoint assistant inspectors and other officers for the purpose of assisting the English inspectors.
(A6) When carrying out an inspection under subsection (A3) of a fire and rescue authority created by an order under section 4A, an English inspector must not review or scrutinise decisions made, or other action taken, by the fire and rescue authority in connection with the discharge of an excluded function.
(A7) For the purposes of subsection (A6), the following are excluded functions in relation to a fire and rescue authority—
(a) the function of preparing a fire and rescue plan and a fire and rescue statement (within the meaning of Schedule A2);
(b) the functions that the authority has in its capacity as a major precepting authority for the purposes of Part 1 of the Local Government Finance Act 1992;
(c) the function of appointing a chief finance officer under section 4D(4);
(d) where functions of the authority have been delegated to a chief constable under an order under section 4H, the functions conferred on the authority by section 4J(4) and (5);
(e) functions specified, or of a description specified, in relation to that authority in an order made by the Secretary of State.
(A8) The power under subsection (A7)(e) may be exercised in relation to—
(a) all fire and rescue authorities created by an order under section 4A,
(b) a particular fire and rescue authority created by an order under section 4A, or
(c) a particular description of fire and rescue authorities created by an order under section 4A.
(A9) Schedule A3 makes further provision in relation to the English inspectors.’
(3) In section 28, in subsection (1)(a), after “fire and rescue authorities” insert “in Wales”.
(4) After section 28 insert—
“28A Inspection programme and inspection framework etc: England
(1) The chief fire and rescue inspector for England must from time to time prepare—
(a) a document setting out what inspections of fire and rescue authorities in England the English inspectors propose to carry out under section 28(A3) (an ‘inspection programme’);
(b) a document setting out the manner in which the English inspectors propose to carry out the function conferred on them by section 28(A3) (an ‘inspection framework’).
(2) The chief fire and rescue inspector for England must obtain the approval of the Secretary of State to an inspection programme or inspection framework before the English inspectors act in accordance with it.
(3) The Secretary of State may at any time require the chief fire and rescue inspector for England to carry out, or arrange for another English inspector to carry out, an inspection under section 28(A3) of—
(a) a fire and rescue authority in England;
(b) all fire and rescue authorities in England;
(c) all fire and rescue authorities in England of a particular type.
(4) A requirement imposed under subsection (3) may limit the inspection to a particular matter.
(5) The chief fire and rescue inspector for England or, at the request of that inspector, any other English inspector may carry out an inspection under section 28(A3) of a fire and rescue authority in England that has not been set out in an inspection programme (and has not been required under subsection (3)).
(6) Before deciding to carry out, or to request another English inspector to carry out, an inspection of a fire and rescue authority in England that has not been set out in an inspection programme, the chief fire and rescue inspector for England must consult the Secretary of State.
(7) Nothing in an inspection programme or inspection framework is to be read as preventing an English inspector from making a visit without notice.
(8) In this section ‘English inspector’ means an inspector appointed under section 28(A1).”
(5) After section 28A (as inserted by subsection (4)) insert—
“28B Publication of inspection reports etc: England
(1) The chief fire and rescue inspector for England must arrange for a report prepared under section 28(A3) to be published in such manner as appears to him or her to be appropriate.
(2) But the chief fire and rescue inspector for England must exclude from publication under subsection (1) anything that he or she considers—
(a) would be against the interests of national security, or
(b) might jeopardise the safety of any person.
(3) The chief fire and rescue inspector for England must—
(a) send a copy of the published report to the Secretary of State, and
(b) disclose to the Secretary of State anything excluded from publication by virtue of subsection (2).
(4) The chief fire and rescue inspector for England must in each year submit to the Secretary of State a report on the carrying out of inspections under section 28(A3) (during the period since the last report).
(5) A report under subsection (4) must include the chief fire and rescue inspector for England’s assessment of the efficiency and effectiveness of fire and rescue authorities in England for the period in respect of which the report is prepared.
(6) The chief fire and rescue inspector for England must lay before Parliament a copy of a report submitted under subsection (4).
(7) In this section ‘English inspector’ means an inspector appointed under section 28(A1).”
(6) In Schedule A2 (application of legislation relating to police and crime commissioners) (as inserted by Schedule 1 to this Act), in paragraph 8(2) (powers of police and crime panels: modifications of section 28 of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011), after paragraph (c) insert—
“(ca) the references in subsection (6) to the commissioner’s functions were to the functions of the relevant fire and rescue authority that are excluded functions for the purposes of section 28(A6) of this Act (see section 28(A7)),”
(7) After Schedule A2 insert the new Schedule A3 set out in Schedule (Schedule to be inserted as Schedule A3 to the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004) to this Act.
(8) A person appointed, before the coming into force of this section, under section 28 of the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004 for the purpose of obtaining information in relation to the functions of fire and rescue authorities in England (including a person taken to have been so appointed by virtue of subsection (3) of that section) is to be taken—
(a) if an inspector, to have been appointed under subsection (A1) of that section, and
(b) if an assistant inspector or other officer, to have been appointed under subsection (A5) of that section.” —(Mike Penning.)
The new clause amends, in relation to England, the provision in the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004 about inspections. New subsections (A1), (A2) and (A5) change the process for appointing inspectors, assistant inspectors and other officers and provide for one of the inspectors appointed to be the chief fire and rescue inspector for England. That person will have to prepare documents setting out details of proposed inspections (see new section 28A). New section 28B of the 2004 Act will impose new reporting requirements
Brought up, and read the First time.
With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:
Government new clause 30—Public records.
New clause 63—Police and Crime Commissioners: parity of funding between police and families at inquests—
“(1) A police and crime commissioner has the duties set out in this section when the police force they are responsible for is a Properly Interested Person for the purposes of—
(a) an inquest into the death of a member of an individual’s family, or
(b) an inquest into the deaths of members of a group of families, under the Coroners Act 1988.
(2) The police and crime commissioner must make recommendations to the Secretary of State as to whether the individual’s family or the group of families at the inquest require financial support to ensure parity of legal representation between parties to the inquest.
(3) If a police and crime commissioner makes a recommendation under subsection (2) then the Secretary of State must provide financial assistance to the individual’s family or the group of families to ensure parity of funding between families and the police.
(4) The individual’s family or the group of families may use funding authorised under this section solely for the purpose of funding legal representation at the inquest.”
This new clause would put into law the principle of parity of funding between police and families at inquests. It would ensure that funding to a bereaved family, or a group of bereaved families, for purposes of legal representation during an inquest is an amount broadly equal to the level of funding that the police force receives. This new clause seeks to place an obligation on the PCC to recommend to the Home Secretary as to whether a bereaved family, or a group of bereaved families requires funding to support their legal representation at the inquest. The Home Secretary must provide such funding if it is recommended.
New clause 64—Police complaints and the media—
“(1) Subject to subsection (3), the Prime Minister must commission an independent inquiry into the operation of the police complaints system in respect of relationships between the police and media.
(2) The inquiry must include, but is not limited, to—
(a) how adequately police forces investigated complaints about police officers in dealing with people working within, or connected to, media organisations,
(b) the thoroughness of any reviews by police forces into complaints specified in subsection (a),
(c) in the cases where a complaint in subsection (a) led to a criminal investigation, the conduct of prosecuting authorities in investigating the allegation,
(d) the extent to which police officers took illegal payment to suppress investigations of complaints of relationships between police officers and people working within, or connected to, media organisations,
(e) the implications of subsections (a) to (d) for the relationships between media organisations and the police, prosecuting authorities, and relevant regulatory bodies, and recommended actions.
(3) The inquiry can only commence once the Secretary of State is satisfied that it would not prejudice any ongoing relevant legal cases.”
This new clause would compel the Prime Minister to instigate an independent inquiry such as Leveson 2 into the relationships between the press and police and the extent to which that has operated in the public interest.
New clause 65—IPCC functions following complaints about the police’s handling of an event which has led to large scale loss of life—
“(1) The Independent Police Complaints Commission (the ‘Commission’) shall undertake the functions set out in subsection (3) to (5) when—
(a) there has been an event which has led to large scale loss of life, and
(b) the conditions in subsection (2) have been met.
(2) Subsection (1) applies when, for that event—
(a) the Commission has received complaints of a serious nature about the actions of the police either before, during or in response to the event, or as part of a police investigation into the event,
(b) the Commission has been asked to undertake such action by fifty per cent plus one or more of the total of—
(i) representatives of those deceased due to the event, and
(ii) any injured survivors of the event.
(3) The Commission shall report to the individuals identified in section 2(b) during any police investigation into the disaster regarding the progress of the investigation, and how the individuals identified in section 2(b) can assist with it, including, if there are no lawyers representing the individuals identified in section 2(b), the implications of engaging lawyers at that stage.
(4) Following a further request to the Commission by fifty percent plus one or more of the representatives of those deceased due to the event, the Commission shall set up a panel (the “Commission’s Panel“) which shall register as a data controller under the Data Protection Act 1998 and review all documentation relating to the event, the deceased and the representatives and report thereon.
(5) In establishing the Commission’s Panel under subsection (4), the Commission must consult the individuals identified in subsection 2(b).
(6) The Secretary of State must lay a copy of the report in subsection (4) before Parliament.
(7) While a review under subsection (4) is in progress, the Commission’s Panel must report to the individuals identified in section 2(b) every three months on the progress of the review.”
Government amendments 85, 22 to 30, 86, 87 and 31.
Amendment 126, in clause 27, page 42, line 38, leave out from “(a)” to end of subsection, and insert—
“(iii) but the period between the allegation first coming to the attention of a person mentioned in paragraph (a) and any initiation of disciplinary proceedings does not exceed the period specified in the regulations.
(3A) The regulations under this section must specify that there is no maximum period time after which historic allegation of misconduct cannot be investigated for cases which meet the following conditions—
(a) the case involves allegations of gross misconduct,
(b) the case is certified by the Secretary of State to be liable to lead to serious loss of confidence in the police service and the Secretary of State determines that investigating and, if appropriate, hearing the case is necessary and proportionate.
(3AA) The provisions of this section apply where the alleged misconduct, inefficiency or ineffectiveness took place prior to this Act coming into force.
(3AB) Regulations under this section must include sanctions for disciplinary proceedings in respect of a person defined under subsection (3A).”
This amendment would provide for disciplinary proceedings to take place a specified period after the allegation first comes to light, instead of a limit based on when the person concerned left a police force. It would also provide for this time period to be extended in cases of serious misconduct. It would also allow for proceedings to apply to retrospective cases and provides for sanctions for disciplinary proceedings.
Amendment 127, in clause 31, page 48, line 24, after “the”, insert “Independent”.
This amendment would retain the word “Independent” in the Office for Police Conduct (the new title for the current Independent Police Complaints Commission).
Amendment 128, page 48, line 28, after “The”, insert “Independent”.
Please see explanatory statement for Amendment 127.
Amendment 129, page 48, line 33, after “the”, insert “Independent”.
Please see explanatory statement for Amendment 127.
Amendment 131, page 49, line 6, leave out subsection (6) and insert—
“(6) In subsection leave out “chairman of the Commission, or as another member of the Commission” and insert “Director General, or as another member of the Office”.
This amendment would ensure that both the Director General of the Independent Office for Police Conduct, and any member of the Office, must not have held any of the roles set out in Section 9(3) of the Police Reform Act 2002.
Amendment 130, page 49, line 14, after “the”, insert “Independent”.
Please see explanatory statement for Amendment 127.
Government amendments 32 to 61, 88, 63 to 84 and 14 to 17.
Government new clause 50—Retention of fingerprints and DNA profiles: Terrorism Act 2000.
Government new clause 51—Extension of cross-border powers of arrest: urgent cases.
Government new clause 52—Cross-border enforcement: powers of entry to effect arrest.
Government new clause 53—Cross-border enforcement: minor and consequential amendments.
New clause 12—Deaths in custody: mental health—
New clause 22—Surrender of travel documentation—
“(1) This section applies where—
(a) a person is arrested under section 24 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, or under article 26 of the Police and Criminal Evidence (Northern Ireland) Order 1989 (S.I. 1989/1341 (N.I.12) S.I. 1989/1341 (N.I.12), in respect of an offence mentioned in section 41(1) or (2) of the Counter Terrorism Act 2008,
(b) the person is released without charge and on bail under Part 4 of the 1984 Act or (as the case may be) Part 5 of the 1989 Order, and
(c) the release on bail is subject to a travel restriction condition.
(2) If police are satisfied that a person is in possession of travel documents, as a pre-condition of release from custody, the person must surrender their travel documentation.”
This amendment would require terrorist suspects to surrender passports and any other travel documentation as a condition of release from custody.
New clause 23—Powers to require removal of disguises—
“(1) The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 is amended as follows.
(2) Omit section 60AA (Powers to require removal of disguises) and insert—
‘Section 60AA Powers to require removal of disguises.’
(1) Where a constable in uniform reasonably believes that an offence has been, or is being, committed he may—
(a) require any person to remove any item which the constable reasonably believes that person is wearing wholly or mainly for the purpose of concealing his identity;
(b) seize any item which the constable reasonably believes any person intends to wear wholly or mainly for that purpose.
(2) A person who fails to remove an item worn by him or her when required to do so by a constable in the exercise of his power under this section shall be liable, on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one month or to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale, or to both.
(3) The powers conferred by this section are in addition to, and not in derogation of, any power otherwise conferred.
(4) This section does not extend to Scotland.’”
This new clause would remove the requirement for prior authorisation in existing section 60AA so that where a constable reasonably believes that an offence has been, or is being, committed they may require the removal of items where they are used wholly or mainly for the purpose of concealing identity.
New clause 24—Access to Independent Mental Health Advocates—
“(1) A person detained in a place of safety under section 135 or 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983 shall have the right to an independent mental health advocate (see section 130A of the Mental Health Act 1983).”
This new clause would extend the right to an independent mental health advocate to those detained under sections 135 or 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983.
New clause 25—Child sexual exploitation: duty to share information—
“The local policing body that maintains a police force shall have a duty to disclose information about children who are victims of sexual exploitation or other forms of abuse to relevant child mental health service commissioners in England and Wales.”
This new clause would place a duty on local police forces to store information with their local commissioners of child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) to improve local commissioning of mental health support for victims of child sexual exploitation.
New clause 26—Detention under the Mental Health Act 1983: training—
“(1) The chief police officer of every police force must ensure that provision is made for training police officers in the exercise the powers granted to them by sections 136 and 137 of the Mental Health Act 1983.
(2) The training provided under subsection (1) must include material on—
(a) diversity and equality, and
(b) cultural issues that police officers should be aware of when exercising power under the Mental Health Act 1983.
(3) The chief police officer of each police force must make an annual report to the Home Secretary on the provision they have made to comply with the requirements of this section.”
This new clause would require each police force to provide its officers with training on how to exercise power under the Mental Health Act, with particular reference to diversity issues.
New clause 29—Access to legal advice—
“(1) A person detained against their will in a place of safety under section 135 or 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983 shall have the right to ask for and receive independent legal advice.”
This new Clause would ensure the individual detained under section 135 or 136 of the Mental Health Act has access to legal advice.
New clause 40—Disallowing use of tasers on psychiatric wards—
“A police officer may not use a taser or electroshock weapon during a deployment on a psychiatric ward.”
This new clause would prohibit the use of tasers by police officers on psychiatric wards.
New clause 42—Deployment of police officers on psychiatric wards: reporting—
“(1) Any incident of police officers being deployed on a psychiatric ward must be reported to the Home Secretary by the chief police officer of the relevant force within one week of the incident.
(2) The report under subsection (1) must contain the following information—
(a) the nature of the incident,
(b) the number of police officers who were deployed,
(c) the actions taken by the officers during their deployment, and
(d) the outcome of the incident.”
This new clause would require the Home Secretary to be notified whenever police officers are deployed on psychiatric wards.
New clause 43—Use of tasers on psychiatric wards: reporting—
“(1) Any incident of a police officer using a taser during a deployment on a psychiatric ward must be reported to the Home Secretary by the chief police officer of the relevant force within one week of the incident.
(2) The report under subsection (1) must contain the following information—
(a) the reason for the use of the taser,
(b) the action taken following the use of the taser, and
(c) the process that will be followed for reviewing the incident.”
This new clause would require the Home Secretary to be notified whenever a police officer uses a taser on a psychiatric ward.
New clause 45—Child sexual exploitation: assessment of needs for therapeutic support—
“(1) Where the police or a local authority have a reasonable belief that a child has been sexually exploited or subject to other forms of child abuse, the police or local authority must refer the child to a named mental health service.
(2) The named mental health service must conduct an assessment of the child’s needs and where appropriate make necessary arrangements for the child’s treatment or care.
(3) The Secretary of State must by regulations—
(a) define ‘named mental health service’ for the purpose of this section;
(b) specify a minimum level of “necessary arrangements” for the purpose of the section.”
This new clause would place a duty on the police or local authority to ensure that children who are believed to have experienced sexual abuse or exploitation are referred to an appropriate mental health service for assessment and appropriate support.
New clause 58—Prohibition on using a person’s home as a place of safety—
“(1) The Mental Health Act 1983 is amended as follows.
(2) In section 136, leave out subsection (1) and insert—
“(1) If a person appears to a constable to be suffering from mental disorder and to be in immediate need of care or control, the constable may, if he thinks it necessary to do so in the interests of that person or for the protection of other persons—
(a) remove the person to a place of safety within the meaning of section 135, or
(b) if the person is already at a place of safety within the meaning of that section, keep the person at that place or remove the person to another place of safety.
(c) For the purposes of this subsection, a suitable place as defined by section 135(6) shall not include a house, flat or room where a person is living.””
This amendment would prevent a person’s home from being used as places of safety for the purposes of section 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983.
New clause 59—Detention under the Mental Health Act 1983: Access to an appropriate adult—
“(1) A person detained in a place of safety under section 135 or 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983 shall have the right to an appropriate adult.
(2) For the purposes of subsection 1, ‘appropriate adult’ means:
(a) a relative, guardian or other person responsible for the detained person’s care;
(b) someone experienced in dealing with mentally disordered or mentally vulnerable people but who is not a police officer or employed by the police; or
(c) some other responsible adult aged 18 or over who is not a police officer or employed by the police.”
This new clause would extend the right to an appropriate adult to those detained under sections 135 or 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983.
Government new schedule 2—Cross-border enforcement: minor and consequential amendments.
Government amendments 89 to 95.
Amendment 123, in clause 75, page 92, line 1, leave out subsection (2) and insert—
“(2) In section 135 (warrant to search for and remove patients), leave out subsection (6) and insert—
“(6) Subject to section 136A, in this section “place of safety” means residential accommodation provided by a local social services authority under Part III of the National Assistance Act 1948, a hospital as defined by this Act, an independent hospital or care home for mentally disordered persons or any other suitable place.””
This amendment is consequential to amendment 124.
Amendment 124, page 92, line 33, leave out subsection (6) and insert—
“(6) After section 136 insert—
‘136A Prohibition on using police stations as places of safety
(1) A person may not, in the exercise of a power to which this section applies, be removed to, kept at or taken to a police station as a place of safety.
(2) The powers to which this section applies are—
(a) the power to remove a person to a place of safety under a warrant issued under section 135(1);
(b) the power to take a person to a place of safety under section 135(3A);
(c) the power to remove a person to, or to keep a person at, a place of safety under section 136(1);
(d) the power to take a person to a place of safety under section 136(3).
(3) In this section “person” means a person of any age.’”
This amendment would prevent a police station from being used as a place of safety for the purposes of sections 135 and 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983.
Amendment 125, in clause 76, page 93, line 25, leave out sub paragraph (i) and insert—
“(i) In a case where the person is removed to a place of safety, the time when the constable takes that person into custody (within the meaning of section 137 of the Mental Health Act 1983) in order to remove them to that place.”
This amendment would meant that the period of detention started at the point a person was detained rather than the time they arrived at a place of safety.
Government amendments 96 to 106, 109, 110, 117 and 118.
New clause 66—Guidance: unattributable briefings—
“(1) The College of Policing shall issue a code of practice relating to police-media relations.
(2) This code should set out clear guidance to ensure that all police media communications are reportable, quotable and attributable unless in exceptional circumstances.
(3) The code of practice shall be issued in line with requirements of section 39A of the Police Act 1996.”
This new clause would require The College of Policing to issue a code of practice relating to police-media relations. The aim of this clause is to ensure that all police media communications should be reportable, quotable and attributable unless in exceptional circumstances.
May I start by saying, genuinely, that this Bill has progressed with the will, respect and the help of Members on both sides of the House? As there are several new Government amendments in this group, I thought it only right and proper that I address some of them. I will also address some of the amendments tabled by the shadow Secretary of State. We have had numerous meetings, and we have tried to work our way through all of this, so let us see whether we can carry that forward as best we can.
It is our intention to introduce a robust and independent inspection regime for fire and rescue authorities in England. New clause 48 and new schedule 1 will support that objective by strengthening the inspection framework currently provided for in the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004. The amendments provide for the appointment of a chief fire and rescue inspector, who will be required to prepare a programme for the inspection of fire and rescue services. The Secretary of State will have the power to require inspections outside the published programme if necessary.
Fire and rescue inspectors will be required to produce reports on their inspections, and the chief inspector will make an annual report to Parliament—something that does not currently take place. We will enable fire inspectors to carry out joint inspections with Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary. That will be particularly important where police and crime commissioners and metro mayors take on the responsibilities of fire and rescue authorities.
Finally, these provisions will ensure that inspectors have access to the information they need to undertake a rigorous and independent examination of fire and rescue authorities and the persons employed by them. That means that no door will be locked and all information will be available to the inspector.
Although we believe that the vast majority of inspections will be undertaken by consent, we need to be alert to the fact that additional powers might be needed. If inspectors do not feel that they are getting the access that they deserve and need to produce reports, they will have the power to ask for such things. These amendments will help fire and rescue authorities be more transparent and more accountable.
May I say to my right hon. Friend that, as a former holder of this part of his post, I entirely welcome and support these amendments? The inspectorate is a thoroughly good idea, but may I raise one technical issue? There is provision for delegation to another public body. Many of us think that it would be much better if new schedule 1 were phrased so as to permit the use of external contractors to carry out certain elements of the inspection on behalf of inspectors where outside expertise may not be readily available in a public body. At the moment, the wording of new clause 48 and new schedule 1 does not appear to permit delegation to external contractors, who may well have expertise in operational audit, which is precisely what we need to make inspections robust and independent. Will he reflect on that?
Order. No one could accuse the hon. Gentleman of excluding from his intervention anything that he thought might at any time, in any way, to any degree be material, and I have a sense that when he practised law regularly he operated in a similar vein.
I understand exactly where my hon. Friend is coming from, especially on the point about audit. However, at the moment, we do not feel that there is a need to use external specialists in that way; if we find out later that there is, the inspector could ask the Home Secretary for those specific measures. The fire service has enough expertise to ensure that the regime works. It will be completely different from the current regime.
I am grateful to the Minister for giving way to another former Fire Minister. There used to be an honourable traditions that Fire Ministers were West Ham United supporters, but sadly that was broken by the right hon. Gentleman.
We have gone from the fire services inspectorate to the National Audit Office and then to nothing, and we are now going back to the fire services inspectorate. Has the Minister taken into account, for example, the United Kingdom Accreditation Service, which could give external advice to the new inspectorate, very much along the lines suggested by Robert Neill? Will the new chief inspector also be the national adviser for fire? I would be grateful if the Minister explained a little of the background.
I am conscious that I am in the hands of experts who were Ministers long before I was, but as an ex-firefighter, I was really quite surprised to see how the inspections took place when I came into the role. They did not take place as envisaged by my hon. Friend Robert Neill when he introduced the relevant legislation. There was a genuine feeling that we had to address the costs and how the inspections were done. To be perfectly honest, the system has not worked. We cannot continue with the situation where one fire and rescue force inspects another and they tell each other what they can and cannot inspect.
This proposal is separate, which is why we have put the new inspector alongside Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary. They will tell us exactly what expertise they require. As ex-firefighters, Jim Fitzpatrick and I can assume what they will need to look at, but I accept that some fire and rescues services will need to draw on financial expertise from other areas.
I promise to try not to trouble my right hon. Friend anymore, but will he clarify something? I agree with his response to Jim Fitzpatrick, but is he saying that if evidence is presented, Ministers will not rule out making an appropriate arrangement whereby commissioning can take place if the chief inspector thinks it appropriate in relation to any inspection without us being required to make further legislative arrangements in the House? I am sure he will understand that the need for further legislation would defeat our objective.
Absolutely. I can say categorically that we do not want to handcuff the inspector. If an inspector needs to bring in further expertise, whether from UKAS or others, they will be able to bring that to the attention of the Ministers responsible. There will not be a requirement to come to the House.
This is a really positive move for the fire service, and the chiefs have welcomed it. They have been supportive in the meetings that I have had with them. I am not sure whether they all support the proposal, because the ones who do not support it might not have been banging on my door quite as hard as the ones who do. Naturally, I will come back to the issue in responding to the debate if we have time.
I will touch briefly on DNA and fingerprint retention, which is an extremely important and sensitive topic. New clauses 49 and 50 will help the prevention and detection of crime by enabling DNA profiles and fingerprints to be retained on the basis of convictions outside England and Wales, in the same way as the material could be used if the offence had taken place in England and Wales. We are trying to protect the public. The measures, which have been requested, will apply specifically to offences committed outside England and Wales that would be offences in England and Wales. The amendments made by new clauses 40 and 50 to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and the Terrorism Act 2000 will enhance the effectiveness of the national DNA and fingerprint databases and help our police keep us safe, which we all want, especially in the light of the heightened threat.
New clauses 51, 52 and 53 and new schedule 2 will strengthen the existing cross-border powers of arrest provided for in the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 and appear to be supported across the House.
I want to listen to the shadow Home Secretary’s comments, so I will touch only briefly on the new clauses that he has tabled, which we have discussed together with the shadow Policing Minister, Jack Dromey. I know that the Home Secretary, too, has discussed them with the shadow Home Secretary. It may assist the House if I say a few words about them now. As I said earlier, we welcome the constructive approach from the Opposition, and in particular from the Hillsborough families and the campaign group. We would not be discussing these issues now without their bravery, for which I praise them. The work carries on; it will not stop, whatever happens today.
No Minister could stand at the Dispatch Box in any Parliament in the world and give such a categorical assurance. We have moved an enormous way forward, through the perseverance of the Home Secretary and the shadow Home Secretary. Although we are trying as hard as we can, without consequential effects on other legislation, to make sure that a terrible situation such as Hillsborough never happens again, I cannot categorically give the hon. Gentleman the assurance he asks for. I know that that will disappoint him, but he will understand where I am coming from. All through today’s debate and beyond, when the Bill goes to the other House, I will be as helpful as I can.
We recognise the strength of feeling on these issues, and particularly the public concern to ensure that police officers who commit the most serious acts of wrongdoing can be held to account for their actions, no matter when they come to light. We are talking here not about criminal actions, for which criminal proceedings can be brought against individuals, but about disciplinary action against a police officer.
Having looked carefully at the new clauses tabled by the shadow Home Secretary, and following discussions that I have had with the shadow Policing Minister, we will table an amendment in the House of Lords to allow, in exceptional circumstances, an unlimited extension of the 12-month time limit that we propose in the Bill. It is understood that that does not apply to every offence. We will work with the shadow Home Secretary and his team—and, I hope, the Hillsborough families and Bishop James—on the drafting of the relevant regulations so that we can make sure that they do what it says on the tin. We will keep the 12-month rule, but in exceptional circumstances, based on regulations, we will be able to look at historical cases—not criminal cases—and take action against a former police officer. The 12-month time limit will remain, but we will work on the regulations. That is a significant move on our part.
The measure will apply to police officers serving with a police force at the point at which the provisions come into force. In line with established principles, we do not believe that it would be appropriate to apply such a provision retrospectively. However, this is a significant move so that, as Steve Rotheram suggests, families will have further protection in future.
On new clause 66, which is about the police and the media, I assure the House that the consultation that is going on with the College of Policing, which we have discussed with the shadow ministerial team, is actively looking at the guidance on the issue. I am not going to predict exactly what the college will come forward with, but it would not be actively looking at the issue if it was not there, and we will wait for the college to come forward.
New clauses 63 and 65 are about support for bereaved families. That is a really important area, and we are looking at it. The Home Secretary has asked Bishop James to compile a report on not just the financial issue but the whole aspect of how we could improve things so that families do not go through a situation such as Hillsborough ever again. I am not ruling anything out or anything in—we will wait for Bishop James’s report.
Whatever happens in the House this afternoon—I do not know whether Her Majesty’s Opposition will divide the House on the issue, but we will wait and see—the matter will not stop there. We will still work with Bishop James and wait for the report, before going forward depending on the will of the House.
On new clause 64, which is about Leveson part 2, the Government have made it clear on many occasions—not least at the Dispatch Box—that we will wait for the criminal proceedings that are still ongoing to come to a conclusion, and then the Home Secretary will move forward.
I have tried to highlight some of the issues involved in these amendments. There are a lot of other proposals that we can discuss this afternoon, but I wanted to set out the Government’s position on some of the Opposition’s new clauses and on some of the amendments and new clauses that I have tabled.
I would like to begin by agreeing with the Minister that some good progress has been made in the course of our deliberations on the Bill. There have been improvements, which we will discuss later, on tackling child sexual exploitation and on the police bail regime—particularly as it applies to those suspected of being involved in terrorism activity. As he has just indicated, there has also been progress on police misconduct, which I will come to.
However, the Bill presents an opportunity to do much more to improve police accountability, and that is an opportunity that we in the House now need to grab. Today, I want to present a package of proposals that respond to the historic verdict of the Hillsborough inquest, which finally concluded, after 27 years, that, as the families had known from day one, the loss of their loved ones was not an accident and they had been unlawfully killed, but that that fact had been covered up for all those years.
This package seeks to rebalance this country and to make it fairer. It seeks to rebalance it away from the establishment and in favour of ordinary families. It is a package that will stand as a permanent tribute to the dignity and determination of the Hillsborough families. Knowing them as I do, they would want nothing more than that no other family in the future should go through what they have gone through.
Let me take the House briefly through this package of proposals. New clause 63 would give bereaved families equal funding for legal representation at inquests where the police are involved. It seeks to establish the crucial principle that there should be parity between the two sides. The reason that is important is that it says very clearly that the public interest lies in finding the truth. That is how public resources should be directed: they should not be directed towards creating an unbalanced contest at an inquest, with public money used to protect vested interests in the public sector.
I am happy to confirm that the Liberal Democrats will support this proposal. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that, had it been in place at the time of the first inquest, the truth might have emerged at that stage, and the families would not have had to go through such a dire long wait to get to the truth?
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his support. He is absolutely right. I will come on to explain precisely how this would have helped to even the playing field and give the families the chance to get truth at the first time of asking. The original inquest catastrophically failed on that account, and that needs to be very clearly understood as we consider this amendment.
Amendment 126 seeks to close the long-standing loophole of retirement being used by police officers as a route to evade misconduct proceedings. New clause 64 seeks to hold the Government to their promise to the victims of press intrusion to hold a second-stage inquiry looking at the culture of relations between police and the press. New clause 66 seeks to legislate for a code of practice with regard to the media relations policy of each police force, and to spell out that attributable briefing by police forces, which was so damaging in the case of Hillsborough, is not permitted unless it is in the most exceptional circumstances. Amendments 127 and 128 seek to strengthen the Independent Police Complaints Commission. New clause 67, which will be considered later, seeks to strengthen the offence of misconduct in public office.
Let me start with the area where there is greatest consensus—police misconduct. I listened carefully to what the Minister said, and I am grateful for the movement that he indicated to the shadow Policing Minister, my hon. Friend Jack Dromey, in Committee whereby there should not merely be an arbitrary 12-month period after retirement, because, as we know, police wrongdoing may come to light much later. We are glad that the Government have indicated that they are prepared to move on this matter in the other place and table an amendment to that effect. While I will not press my amendment to a vote, I would still like to press the Minister a little further on this point. He is saying that this should be applied only in the most exceptional circumstances, but that potentially rules out many people who might be guilty of gross misconduct but would not be caught by his “exceptional” test. He needs to reassure the House on this point.
That is why I offered to work closely with colleagues across the House on the regulations, which will be very important. We do not include everybody, because then there is no point in having exceptional cases, but it is very important to understand what “exceptional” means.
That is a good offer and I thank the Minister for it. I think we can move forward on that basis. I hope we all know what we are trying to achieve—that is, if serious wrongdoing comes to light about an individual who is beyond 12 months retired, it must be possible for misconduct or disciplinary proceedings to be initiated against them. Our amendment says that there should then also be sanctions that are able to be applied against that individual. I say to the Minister that we will want to insist on that point as well.
If we can agree to move forward on that basis, that is a considerable example of progress that matters greatly to the Hillsborough families, who, as they were continuing their 27-year struggle, felt very aggrieved when they saw individuals who had retired on a full pension and who they felt were beyond reach and could not be held to account. I believe that this should apply retrospectively. Misconduct is misconduct whenever it occurred, and people should be held to account for their actions.
I thank the Minister for coming partly towards the position that we believe should be taken, but can we clarify one point? We are talking about serious wrongdoing—malfeasance and gross misconduct —by police officers. We have mentioned Hillsborough, so many people will spin that with regard to the conduct of officers—ordinary officers—at that disaster in 1989. There are no accusations against many of the ordinary officers, who performed heroically: it was the senior officers who let people down, and then, in some cases, took the opportunity to get away scot free through the cop-out of using ill health—
Order. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to make a speech, he can stand up to indicate when he wishes to do so, but this an intervention, and interventions must be a little shorter.
It was a long intervention, Madam Deputy Speaker, but it was a good one. My hon. Friend Steve Rotheram makes a very important point. I do not think that any attempt is being made to blame ordinary policemen and women. That is not the purpose of the amendment. It is important for me to say very clearly to those police officers who are out there keeping the streets safe that this is not an attack on them. The package is about not allowing the misdeeds of the past to taint the present and those police officers who are working today. That is such a crucial point, because if we do not deal properly with such allegations, we allow the situation to contaminate the present and to corrode trust in today’s police service. None of us in this House wants that, so my hon. Friend is absolutely right to make that point, which cannot be stressed enough.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for being so generous in giving way. Steve Rotheram is absolutely right. If we had not included the point about exceptional circumstances, those sorts of people could have been captured, and that is not what we want. We are not looking at an officer who commits a speeding offence just before he retires; we are looking at those people who should be brought to justice, and that is exactly what we should be doing.
That is right. This is about people who have been guilty of serious misconduct in public office, and it is crucial that they cannot use retirement as a means of evading accountability for that misconduct. The change to which the Minister appears to be agreeing closes a long-standing loophole and frustration for members of the public. It exposes the police to a considerably more challenging regime, but rightly so. Any profession needs to be held accountable to the highest standards. We will work with the Minister to get it right. I believe that we can do so, but I stress that this is about upholding the reputation of the vast majority of police officers, who serve the public with distinction.
The issue of police-press relations is the biggest area of unfinished business, although, in fact, we have not even really started to make any changes with respect to putting right the wrongs of Hillsborough. As we know, the briefing of the press in those first days after the tragedy caused incalculable harm and damage, not just to the families who had lost loved ones, but to the thousands of people, such as my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton, who had returned from the match in a state of trauma, only to read a couple of days later that the police were blaming them for the deaths of their friends and family.
That is why feelings are so strong, not just in Merseyside but across the country. It simply cannot be right that a police force is able, unattributably, to brief malicious and unproven information to a newspaper. We need a stronger and more transparent regime for press relations, so that false impressions cannot be put out there with the intention of setting a narrative about a particular incident. Families who are fighting for justice often find that it is very difficult to overturn the false version of events. That was certainly the case for the Hillsborough families.
I totally agree with the points that my right hon. Friend is making. Does he agree that among the problems with Hillsborough were not only the off-the-record briefings that took place later, but the on-the-record briefings to get the narrative right from the beginning?
I agree on both levels. This was a cover-up perpetrated on the record, off the record and in the Committee rooms of this House. It went to the very top—even to 10 Downing Street, where the head of press at the time briefed that a “tanked-up mob” caused the disaster. This cover-up went to the highest level. What chance did ordinary families have when faced with the might of the establishment seeking to perpetrate a lie on that scale? It has been a 27-year fight, as we now know.
This whole area is a major piece of unfinished business, and it is why we have suggested new clause 66. I think I heard the Minister say that he would work with us, with the College of Policing and with the National Police Chiefs Council on new clause 66 to get this right. I believe my hon. Friend the shadow Policing Minister is having some useful discussions with them. They have responded to Labour’s initiative in this area and have already begun working on a code of conduct for police-press relations. We want to work with the Minister to get this absolutely right, because there has been a common thread in a number of injustices down the years: an unhealthy relationship between police and press can sow the seeds for a cover-up that is difficult to overturn.
“When I set up the inquiry,”— the Leveson inquiry—
“I also said that there would be a second part to investigate wrongdoing in the press and the police…we remain committed to the inquiry as it was first established.”—[Official Report,
He also said:
“It is right that it should go ahead, and that is fully our intention.”—[Official Report,
It has been put to me that that promise was made face to face with some of the victims of hacking and press intrusion—people such as the McCanns and Milly Dowler’s family. It seems to Labour Members as though the Government have subtly shifted their position in the intervening years. As we heard a moment ago from the Minister, it is no longer a question of when the inquiry will go ahead; it is a question of whether it will go ahead. The Government now say that following the conclusion of the outstanding investigations on the matter, they will take a decision on whether the second stage of the inquiry will go ahead.
That promise was made not just to the victims and their families but to the Chairs of three Select Committees in the Prime Minister’s room before the inquiry was announced. My right hon. Friend is absolutely right to say that it is important that we get Leveson 2—perhaps not with Leveson, because he has moved on to do other things, but with somebody else. There is nothing wrong with the Government beginning the process, choosing a chair of the committee and getting the mechanics together. We do not really have to wait until the end of the criminal proceedings.
I wholeheartedly agree with my right hon. Friend. There is a huge amount of unfinished business. These issues are present in so many of the injustices that we have seen, where there has been inappropriate contact between police and press. We await the conclusions of the Daniel Morgan panel, for instance, which might best illustrate some of these issues.
That is true of other events as well. We remember the way in which the media were manipulated in the case of the Shrewsbury 24, for example. There have been many examples of this over time. Indeed, part 1 of the Leveson inquiry found unhealthy links between senior Met officers and newspaper executives, which led to the resignation of the then Met police chief and others. The issue cannot be left there. Public officials and police officers have also been convicted of offences related to these matters.
The Minister really needs to provide an explicit answer on this specific point today. He cannot wriggle out of this commitment. It is not the kind of commitment you can wriggle out of, given everything that those people have been through. A promise should be a promise, when it is made to people who have suffered in the way that many of the victims of press intrusion have suffered. I know that the Hillsborough families feel exactly the same. They were the victims of the biggest example of inappropriate police briefing of newspapers—and it was not just one newspaper. People think it was just one newspaper that reported the lies, but many of them reported the lies that were given to Whites news agency in Sheffield, and those lies went round the world. Only this week, I had an email from someone in the United States saying that they were astonished to find out the truth when they watched the recent BBC2 documentary on Hillsborough, and that for 27 years they had thought that the events were the result of hooliganism. It is impossible to exaggerate the harm that those lies caused.
I say to the Minister tonight that we need a better answer. If he were to stand up now at the Dispatch Box and say clearly to the House that there will be a second-stage inquiry into the culture of relations between the police and the press, I would be the first to say that we would not press our new clause 64 to a vote. However, there is growing suspicion among organisations—Hacked Off, obviously, but others too—and campaigners for justice that they are slowly being let down and that this matter is being slowly slid into the long grass. We have had anonymous briefings from people close to the Culture Secretary and others in Government to suggest that it has already been canned. Well, we on the Labour Benches are not prepared to accept that, so I say clearly to the Minister that unless he can provide a much more direct reassurance, we will push the matter to a vote this evening to force the Prime Minister to honour his own promise—it is not our promise; it is his promise—to the victims of press intrusion and hacking.
In March 2013, the Prime Minister said that Leveson 2 should go ahead without further delay. The Secretary of State told the Select Committee that he was awaiting a further Government statement. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the three years that have passed since the Prime Minister’s promise have been far too long for many of the victims of press intrusion?
I would certainly say so. I cannot understand why there is any doubt about this, given the clarity of the Prime Minister’s statements, which I have read out, and given that the Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, my right hon. Friend Keith Vaz, has just said that the promise was made not only to the victims but to senior parliamentarians. I do not see how this commitment can be negotiable.
The Culture Secretary—he was the Chair of the Culture Select Committee at the time—was in the room, so he was very clear that a promise was made.
Well, there you go. That says it all really. Mr Whittingdale seems to be in a different mode these days. One wonders what deals have been done by the Government if they are preparing to unpick this agreement, and we will watch them very carefully.
The Minister makes a fair point that there are ongoing investigations. I take his point that some of the investigations will have a material impact on issues that we are considering. We are not saying that we want the inquiry to start right now. We accept that there are matters to be concluded in the courts before it can proceed. What we are after is the removal of any doubt that it will proceed at the appropriate moment and that the promise the Prime Minister gave to those victims will be honoured. That is what we are seeking to establish tonight. That is what we are asking the Minister to lay down very clearly.
This goes beyond party politics. The victims and their families have suffered enough, and Members on both sides of the House owe it to them to make good on the promise that was given to them. That is why I look forward to Members from both sides of the House joining us in the Lobby tonight, because it clearly looks as though the Government are not going to give way.
These families have suffered enough—we in this Chamber are united on that—so does my right hon. Friend agree that a statement from the Minister today saying that the second inquiry will go ahead would put an end to their suffering? They have suffered enough. Let this be the end.
My hon. Friend puts it very well. That is what I have seen when working with the Hillsborough families, as have others when they have been fighting for justice. Those people are affected not just by the original trauma they suffered, but by how the system grinds them down afterwards, making them fight for everything, not giving them an inch and slowly draining the life out of them. How cruel is that? It is just wrong—is it not?—that the government machine thinks it can operate in that way. As I will move on to say, I spoke today to a family about going to meetings with 14 lawyers sitting around the table and just a couple of family members. That is just not right. We all know it is not right. Any of us who have been Ministers will have seen that style of meeting, and it is just not right. It is time to change it. We should not make these families fight for everything, but support them, and tip the scales in their favour and away from the powerful. Why not do so?
May I just tell the right hon. Gentleman that I do not know what has happened with other Ministers, but I have never sat in such a meeting and anyone who has had a meeting with me as a Minister will know, as right hon. and hon. Members know, that that is not the way I operate and that I never have operated in that way?
I have a lot of time for the Minister, as he knows, but such people are listening to this debate. My hon. Friend Diana Johnson is not in her place, but if the victims of contaminated blood are listening to this debate, they will immediately recognise what I am saying. If the victims of organophosphates—sheep dip—poisoning are listening today, they will understand what I am saying. If the people waiting for the announcement about the battle of Orgreave investigation are listening, they will understand what I am saying. There are so many people who have not been given justice by the system, and that just is not right. It really is not right, and that is why I keep saying that we must make Hillsborough a moment of change when we can tip the scales in favour of ordinary families and away from the establishment.
In an attempt to act as a peace broker, given that the positions of both sides have been made perfectly clear, may I ask whether the shadow Home Secretary will accept a commitment to proceed with Leveson 2 after the investigations have taken place and whether, if that is acceptable, the Minister could make such a commitment today?
That is a good point. It would be good enough if we got a cast-iron commitment. Ministers have reintroduced a doubt—in media briefings, they have said, “Oh, it probably won’t go ahead now”—and have muddied the waters. If they clarified that tonight, that would be good enough. If they said, “It will go ahead after the proper time has elapsed, given the criminal proceedings that are still outstanding”, that would be fine and everyone would understand it. If they gave that commitment tonight, there would be no need for a vote because we would have done our job, but if they cannot give such a commitment, that would be revealing in itself. If the Minister cannot stand at the Dispatch Box and give such a clear commitment, or rather reaffirm it to the people to whom Ministers have already made it, that would be revealing in itself and we would be right to force a vote in those circumstances. In that case, people will not be strung along and left hoping that there will be a Leveson 2 one day; we will have forced the issue so that Ministers are held to account for their promise. That is what we are doing tonight. Ministers have the chance to do the right thing: to stand at the Dispatch Box and say, “Yes, we will do it. We will honour what we said.” If they do not do so, we will ask Members of decency and integrity on both sides of the House to stand with us and to go through the Lobby with us tonight to hold Ministers to account for the promise they made.
Finally, let me turn to our new clause 63 on parity. The new clause seeks to establish the principle of parity of legal funding for bereaved families at inquests involving the police. In introducing it, I want to say that it is very important that people do not see Hillsborough as a one-off belonging to a bygone era. To be honest, many bereaved families still face a very similar experience when they go to an inquest. They often find themselves pitched into an adversarial and aggressive courtroom when they are still raw with grief. They are unable to match the spending of the police or the public sector in what they spend on their own legal representation. Those families find their lives picked apart. They are made to look like they are perpetrators, not victims. That is a very common experience. Many people who suffer it do not have the huge support that the Hillsborough families had. They are ordinary families battling away on their own, with no one else coming to support them. That is why the principle of parity is so tremendously important.
My right hon. Friend’s remarks will be heard by Rachel Gumbs, the daughter of Philmore Mills, who died in hospital while being restrained by the police. Another constituent has raised an issue relating to his mum. Her children were abducted by their father, and she has spent nearly two decades without being able to contact them. My constituent is in litigation against the police, and feels a similar kind of bereavement, as he has been kept away from his brothers and sisters. He hopes that the approach we are discussing could enable people like him, who are taking cases against the police, to get access to some kind of resources. Would that be possible?
That is exactly what lies behind the new clause. My right hon. Friend has just made my point. We will all have examples from our experience as constituency MPs. We know families who have been at inquests that have been highly unsatisfactory experiences, and where they did not get legal support. I will come to a few examples, to show how unfair it is. The public sector spends taxpayers’ money like water on hiring the best QCs to line up in the courtroom and defend its reputation. Ordinary families are scrabbling around, re-mortgaging their houses and doing whatever they can to try to put up some kind of fight against that. How wrong is that?
Public money should pay to establish the truth. That means that there should be parity between the two sides in that process. It should not be the case that the public sector packs a courtroom with highly paid QCs. That is such an important principle to establish coming out of Hillsborough—to be honest, if there is to be one lasting legacy from Hillsborough, that should be it. I was tempted by Norman Lamb to make this point before. The Hillsborough families were represented by Michael Mansfield at the recent inquest. If that had been the case back in 1990, as well, there is no chance on God’s earth that the cruel and inhumane 3.15 pm cut-off time would have been allowed to stand. Have we ever had a situation in this country before where bereaved families have been told that they cannot have information about what happened to their loved ones in their dying minutes? That was the case here. Have we ever had a situation before where only after 27 years are families finally told who gave their loved ones the kiss of life and carried them over the pitch? What an affront to natural justice that is. Yet it was allowed to stand, because those families did not have someone who could challenge it.
A few weeks ago, Margaret Aspinall, chair of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, came to Parliament to deliver a very personal reflection on what it was like all those years ago. I am very grateful to all right hon. and hon. Members who attended; I am sure they will agree that it was an intensely moving occasion. Margaret described the indescribable pain and hurt she felt when she was sent a cheque of just over £1,000, which was supposedly compensation for the life of her son James. She said she had to put it towards the legal fund that the group was asking members to contribute to. In itself that was not enough because she had the cost of travelling to the inquest in Sheffield every day. She was living on the breadline and having to borrow money from her family and her mum to make it all work. How can it be right that families in such circumstances, who have not done anything wrong, find themselves in that situation? It cannot be right that they should be scratching, saving and doing all those things, when taxpayers’ money is being paid for the other side to do them down.
The right hon. Gentleman is entirely right to highlight the inequality of arms between families and the state, and he will know that INQUEST has campaigned tirelessly on that issue. He should also consider the time that it takes for an inquest to happen, and how those delays are recorded. An inquest may not happen for five or six years, in which time all sorts of untruths can flourish, but it will be recorded in the statistics as having taken only a year.
That is right, and as has been hinted at, that delay is often used to grind people down even further. It really does not work, and Parliament must decide whether we are prepared to let people carry on going through such an entirely unsatisfactory process. I do not think we should.
In people’s experiences today we can see parallels with those of the Hillsborough families. To give a current example, a young boy, Zane Gbangbola, died in 2014 in the floods in his home in Surrey. The family contest that hydrogen cyanide was brought into the house from a former landfill site that had not been properly sealed. It is a high-profile case, yet the family have been turned down three times for legal aid. This ordinary family were just going about their business, and all of a sudden their son is dead and Mr Gbangbola is permanently in a wheelchair. The inquest starts today, and the only reason that the family have quality legal representation is because they were given an anonymous £25,000 donation on Friday. That cannot possibly be right.
The right hon. Gentleman will also know that when being assessed for financial support, it is not just the immediate family who have their finances looked at, but also the extended family, which is extraordinarily unfair.
That is extraordinarily unfair, although this Government have made things even more unfair with their cuts to legal aid. People are not getting through and they are not getting funding when they apply in the way that they would have done in the past. They are unrepresented at these inquests, which cannot be right.
I accept that cases such as Hillsborough required a lot of input from lawyers. Asking as someone who has a knee-jerk reaction that we should not be feeding lawyers, is it possible for the Chief Coroner to lay down rules in some of these cases so that if a public authority comes forward with banks of lawyers, the other side should be given legal representation, or the public authority told that those lawyers are not needed?
The amendment is designed to develop the same effect and to state that there should be parity of legal funding. That is an incentive for the public sector not to spend too much on its own. If it has to fund families as well, that might bring down the legal bill—it might not add any further costs.
We now have the Chief Coroner. In the past a lot was wrong—I sat on the Coroners and Justice Bill Committee, and changes could still be made to coroners service in this country. Some recognition of the parity that my right hon. Friend refers to would be welcome, but as I know from local government and other sectors, the knee-jerk reaction these days is to get a lawyer involved and, in some cases, I am not sure that we necessarily need that.
We need inquisitorial inquests rather than adversarial inquests. In the case of Hillsborough, the Lord Chief Justice made a specific ruling when he quashed the original inquest. He hoped, given that the police had clearly tainted the evidence, that the new inquest would not degenerate into an adversarial battle, but—I am afraid to say—that is exactly what happened. At public expense, one individual in particular, hired to represent the former officers, a Mr John Beggs, went into the courtroom and repeated all kinds of lies and innuendo about supporters of Liverpool football club. My hon. Friend Mr Jones and I were there; we witnessed it—and it was a particularly unpleasant thing to witness. It is even more galling to think that we were paying for that.
It is not just the cost but how people are questioned that is gross and unjust. I will give one final example to illustrate. The House will know that, after a long fight by her family, an inquest was recently held into the death of Cheryl James, who died at the Deepcut barracks in Surrey. The QC acting for Surrey police was the same Mr John Beggs. I know, from speaking to Cheryl’s father, that the family were deeply hurt by an intrusive and aggressive line of questioning that focused on several very personal questions. They were particularly hurt by one untrue allegation levelled at them. According to Mr Beggs, Mr James, in making inquiries to Surrey police, had distracted the latter from the Milly Dowler investigation. Can Members imagine how he felt when he heard that? In trying to get to the truth about what happened to his daughter, he found himself the subject of an outrageous, appalling slur, which the Dowler family, such is their decency, stepped in to correct.
It should not be like this. It must not be like this. It is well known that police forces are instructed to hire this individual if they feel in a tight sport, and they pay huge amounts of public money to do so. It should not be allowed to carry on. We should call time on it today.
My right hon. Friend is making a very good point—that kind of adversarial inquest is wrong—but, to repeat, could not the Chief Coroner lay something down in guidance to coroners to stop such behaviour? Not only is it not good for families; it does not help get to the truth either.
No, it does not. My hon. Friend makes a good point, and I cannot see why that should not happen. Equally, I cannot see why the Government would not accept the Bill, proposed by Lord Wills in another place, to create a national office to support bereaved families so that each family does not have to reinvent the wheel and go through all the learning needed to get ready for an inquest. That is another good proposal.
To finish, we are seeking to establish a simple principle. In the words of Mr James, this is about “parity of arms”—if it has to be like that. If there is to be an adversarial battle in the courtroom, we should at least give bereaved families the same ability as the public sector to defend themselves. That is an unanswerable principle, and I am sorry the Government have decided they cannot support it tonight. I know they are saying they are waiting for the conclusion of Bishop James’ report, but this is bigger than Hillsborough—it is very much evident in Hillsborough, but it is much bigger—and concerns a number of families facing a similar injustice today.
Is it not the case that public money should fund the establishment of the truth and, in particular, help people to get to the truth at the first time of asking, so that the truth can be used by public bodies to learn—to look at where they went wrong and see how they can improve? Instead, they do the opposite. They go into those courtrooms to defend themselves and reputations, spending large amounts of taxpayers’ money in doing so. I hope that the Government would agree with the spirit of what I am saying tonight. If they do, I would hope for a clear commitment this evening that they support the aim of parity of funding for families at inquests. From there, I hope we might be able to move forward. From what I can gather, however, the Government have not done enough, and unless the Minister is able to provide this level of reassurance, we will press the new clause to a vote.
We are determined to make Hillsborough a moment of real change in this country. It must be a watershed, after which power shifts into the hands of ordinary people and away from those in positions of power. That is what people expect this Parliament to do. We cannot face a 27-year injustice and then feel that we do not have to act or that we can carry on as we were. We cannot. Ordinary families are facing injustices today and are being ground down as they battle to get the truth and justice. Let us do the right thing. I call on all Members to support the package that we are putting forward. Let us finally make this a fairer country, in which power is more evenly shared among people from all backgrounds.
Order. We have about an hour and a half before the winding-up speeches start, and there are eight Members wishing to speak. If we can keep to about 10 or so minutes, everyone should be able to contribute.
I would not criticise for a moment the shadow Home Secretary for speaking for 45 minutes. He had a lot to say and spoke with great passion. He knows a lot about the bereaved Hillsborough families and all the associated issues, so I do not want to criticise him. If I may, however, before coming on to talk about new clause 23, I would like to say something gently to the right hon. Gentleman.
I do not know the Silk—I have never met him—to whom he twice referred and accused of unattractive conduct. That Silk was speaking on instructions, and I assume that, in line with the traditions and professional standards of the Bar, he did not set out deliberately to attack people. He was acting for the two relevant public authorities on the two separate occasions. It was his duty to put the cases for those clients. The cases might well have been unattractive and might well have come across as deeply upsetting to the people who were cross-examined, but it was his professional duty to act in that way. Another barrister might have done it differently or another client might have given different instructions, but it is a bit mean, if I may say so, to call out a particular barrister here in the House of Commons.
I do not want to be distracted when we have so little time. I just wanted to defend the method by which members of the profession have to represent their clients. That aside, there is little on which I wish to criticise the shadow Home Secretary.
“Where a constable…reasonably believes that an offence has been, or is being, committed he may…require any person to remove any item” when it is used
“wholly or mainly for the purpose of concealing identity”.
The context in which I tabled the new clause —with about 22 other right hon. and hon. Members—goes back, as I said, to the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. Section 60 states:
“If a police officer of or above the rank of inspector reasonably believes…that incidents involving serious violence may take place in any locality in his police area, and that it is expedient to give an authorisation under this section to prevent their occurrence, or…that persons are carrying dangerous instruments or offensive weapons in any locality in his police area without good reason, he may give an authorisation that the powers conferred by this section are to be exercisable at any place within that locality for a specified period not exceeding 24 hours.”
That section gave the police a geographically limited and time-limited power to do certain things. That was extended in 2001 by the addition of section 60AA, which gave the police a power, in that geographical area and for that limited time, to require the removal of disguises. Provided that there was prior authorisation, provided that that authorisation was written, and provided that it was for 24 hours unless extended by another officer for a further 24 hours, within that limited location, the constable in uniform was enabled to
“require any person to remove any item which the constable reasonably believes that person is wearing wholly or mainly for the purpose of concealing his identity” and to
“seize any item which the constable reasonably believes any person intends to wear wholly or mainly for that purpose.”
So it was not until 2001 that the 1994 Act was amended to allow the police, in certain limited circumstances, to be authorised to deal with disguises.
As the House will recall, in August 2011 there were widespread riots throughout the country, following which the Government issued a consultation paper to consider whether three things needed to be looked at: the use of the word “insulting” in the 1994 Act, new powers to request the removal of face coverings, and new powers to impose curfews. The Government thought it appropriate to consult about new powers relating to such matters as disguises, saying:
“The…consultation aims to progress the commitment made by the Prime Minister following the recent disorder in respect of new powers to request the removal of face coverings. After the ransacking and arson by looters wearing masks to conceal identification, the Government announced that the police would be given extended powers to demand the removal of face coverings under any circumstances, where there was reasonable suspicion of criminal activity.”
Interestingly, the Government did not respond to the consultation other than in relation to “insulting words or behaviour”; the law was amended in that regard. In respect of the power to require the removal of face coverings, the law remains as it was in 2001. As I have said, that power is geographically limited and time-limited, and requires prior authorisation.
I have had the benefit of two meetings with my right hon. Friend the Minister for Policing, Fire, Criminal Justice and Victims, who generously allowed me, and two of my hon. Friends, to try to persuade him that the law needed to be changed. On that occasion there were only eight officials in the room, but he seemed to be unpersuaded, on the basis of the advice that he had been given by officials and police officers, that a change in the law was necessary. Indeed, I think it was suggested to me that our new clause would weaken the powers of the police to remove disguises.
We need to recognise that the people who attend demonstrations wearing balaclavas or other face coverings are not doing that simply to prevent their identities from being discovered. Clearly, if a demonstration involves unlawful activity and the police are able to film it, or it is covered by local authority CCTV cameras, there is no better way for people to avoid detection, or avoid being caught, than disguising their faces. In most, although not all, criminal cases, the identity of the perpetrator is a fairly central part of the prosecution case. I am reasonably sure that in the olden days when robbers used to run into banks with shotguns and hold them up, normally wearing stockings over their faces, they were not wearing silk stockings on their heads because they liked the feeling of silk on their faces; they were wearing those silk stockings—or even tights, in which case it would be nylon on their faces—in order to prevent themselves from being discovered.
The same thing, I suspect, goes for people who are intent on pretty unattractive behaviour in the streets here in London, and in Manchester at last year’s Conservative party conference, where people in masks spat at delegates going into the conference hall, but they also do it to intimidate. There is nothing more intimidating than seeing somebody covered like that coming at you or demonstrating with a view to causing trouble. Yes, of course, there are laws already on the statute book or, no doubt, under common law which make it possible for a police officer to arrest somebody wearing a face mask if they are committing an offence. But in the event that there is a large-scale demonstration and there are not enough police officers to make it safe or practical for the police officer to go in, and therefore the police need to rely upon video evidence or film evidence of the perpetrator, it strikes me as unreal for a police officer to rely upon the existing power, which is geographically limited and time limited, in order to deal with the matter.
I am just conscious that I may not have enough time to cover everything in my winding-up speech. My right hon. and learned Friend indicated earlier that I was not persuaded. I did listen to the police officers, but a review of the PACE Code A is coming through for stop-and-search later this year. We will insert face coverings into that review so we have a better understanding, and if a change is necessary, that will take place. I think that is a significant concession.
That is a change of attitude, and I am grateful for it, but I am not sure that reviews is what we need; what we need is action. My understanding is that the police do not want this change because they think—at least some of them do—that the power they have is adequate for what they need to do, but it is not, because these events are happening. People are being terrified, and people are being inhibited from going about their lawful business in the countryside and in urban areas, and it is not good enough for us to rely on a change in the PACE code or following some review.
The Government did not reply to their own consultation in 2011, and I do need to press them a little harder to ensure that this matter is properly ventilated. One of my jobs as a Member of Parliament is to express the concerns of the public from my constituency, and from other parts of the country as well, who are dissatisfied about the level of policing for this sort of behaviour.
I am sure that my right hon. and learned Friend realises that a review of PACE is nothing to do with what the police want. We did a review of stop-and-search because it was being inappropriately used by the police, and that is why we changed the rules. If we find during the PACE review that the legislation is not being used in the way our constituents would expect, PACE will be changed. That is why we are doing the review. PACE reviews do not come up very often; this is a golden opportunity.
I look forward to seeing the terms of the review, and I trust him when he says it is going to be useful, but right now constituents in rural and urban areas are very distressed at the way in which face masks are used to terrify and to hide the identity of criminals. The sooner this matter is debated—with reasonable time to conclude it—on the Floor of this House or in the other place—
I am one of the co-signatories of my right hon. and learned Friend’s new clause. The problem with the situation at the moment is that the constable on duty may require a face covering to be removed but he does then require post-authorisation from a senior officer on duty. In the Blackpool case and in my own case on the badger culls, where someone was parked in a car late at night for several nights with masks on deliberately to intimidate the residents inside the nearest farmhouse, I am not sure whether the constables on duty knew whether they would or would not get that prior authorisation or post-authorisation, and my right hon. and learned Friend’s new clause will make this crystal clear if it becomes part of the Bill.
I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s support, and I hope our new clause will make it easier for the police to do what the public require them to do, which is arrest frightening people who are intent on doing criminal things.
The problem in respect of sections 60 and 60AA, one that will be removed by our new clause, is that prior authorisation is needed. It may well be that as a matter of practice that is ignored. If it is ignored by the police, that suggests to me that they are probably behaving unlawfully when they give themselves authority afterwards, writing it down in a notebook. That is not what the scheme behind the current legislation requires. We need to bring this debate to a close now and ensure that the police are given the powers that the public believe they should have in order to prevent this disgusting behaviour from continuing.
I rise to speak for the Scottish National party principally in order to place on the record our unending admiration for Andy Burnham and other Members on both sides of the Chamber who have fought this righteous fight for so many years and for so many people who have been lied to and been subject to the most horrendous cover-up. I echo pretty much all the words the right hon. Gentleman said at the Dispatch Box earlier.
Football is very important to people in Scotland, as the right hon. Gentleman will understand; every weekend we send more people to football games per head of population than anywhere else in the UK does. Everybody in Scotland can understand the fear of their loved ones not returning from watching what is just a game of football; we had the Ibrox disaster in 1971 and there is still a scar deep in the Scottish consciousness. We are completely committed in principle to helping the right hon. Gentleman with whatever he needs to try to get justice for those people. Unfortunately, the police system in Scotland is devolved so we are perhaps not able to offer any support this evening, other than in principle, but I would like to place that on the record, and wish him and his colleagues all the best in the fight for justice.
I wish to speak to new clauses 26, 29, 42 and 43, all of which stand in my name. I will try to be brief. First, I thank the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend Karen Bradley, for all the time she has taken over the past few weeks to discuss my concerns with me. I also wish to thank the Minister for Policing, Fire, Criminal Justice and Victims, my right hon. Friend Mike Penning, who has made himself available to me, and the Home Secretary. As hon. Members will know, there is significant concern about the interaction between policing and mental health services, and I wish to turn my attention to that issue.
New clause 26 would place an obligation on chief constables to ensure that their police officers were properly trained in diversity and equality in relation to mental health issues, and specifically issues that relate to ethnic minorities. I have worked closely with Black Mental Health UK over the past five years, and it has raised concerns directly with the Home Office and Members for a number of years. I want to read out a paragraph from its briefing. It states:
“The joint Home Office and Department of Health review of sections 135 and 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983 acknowledged that ‘in particular Black African Caribbean men—are disproportionately over-represented in S136 detentions compared to the general population’ and that ‘Black African Caribbean men in particular reported that the use of force was more likely to be used against them by the police.’”
These are legitimate and real concerns, they have been subject to academic research and they need to be addressed.
Nearly three years ago, the Home Secretary co-hosted a fantastic conference at the QEII Centre with Black Mental Health UK, and my right hon. Friend the Minister for Policing, Fire, Criminal Justice and Victims spoke at it. Great strides are being made, but we need to ensure that further progress happens in the months and years ahead. New clause 26 would therefore require chief police officers to make an annual report to the Home Secretary on what progress has been made in relation to diversity and equality training. I will not push it to a vote tonight, as I have had assurances from Ministers that the matter will be looked at seriously.
This issue goes to the heart of the concept of policing by consent. I do not think that anybody who has had any involvement in policing will be unaware of the friction that exists between policing and many members of the UK’s black communities. Does my hon. Friend agree that an explicit step in the direction he suggests will go a long way towards building bridges between UK policing and a very significant minority group in the UK?
I agree with my hon. Friend, which is why I am delighted that my concerns have received such close attention from Ministers and will continue to receive attention. I look forward to further updates. The Government are working very closely with Black Mental Health UK and its director Matilda MacAttram, and I hope that those conversations will continue.
I said that I would try to speak for only five minutes, but I might have to stray a little bit over that, Madam Deputy Speaker.
New clause 29 relates to access to legal advice before someone is detained under the Mental Health Act 1983. I know that the Opposition have tabled new clause 24, on advocacy, but mine is a probing new clause. The removal of someone’s liberty should never happen lightly. Again, there is great concern among the African-Caribbean community and Black Mental Health UK that a young black male is more likely than other people to have their liberty removed. New clause 29 is a genuine request to address a genuine concern, but I am not sure whether it is deliverable.
At the point of sectioning, the situation is almost always highly stressed. The needs of the individual who is ill should be central to that sectioning. There is very real concern about this situation. I am interested in the Opposition’s new clause 24 in relation to advocacy. Advocacy is often talked about but has not been delivered in the way that it should be. Again, my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench are aware of that issue.
I turn to new clauses 42 and 43, which relate to the deployment of police officers on wards and the use of Tasers. I am well aware that Norman Lamb will be speaking to new clause 40 on Tasers. I cannot be absolutist in my approach. I know that Black Mental Health UK never wants to see police officers used on mental health wards, and I share that view, but there will always be occasions where that possibility remains. When police officers are deployed to mental health wards, there should be an almost immediate notification to the police and crime commissioner and the Independent Police Complaints Commission that that deployment has taken place. I know that Home Office Ministers are working closely with the Department of Health on collating better statistics about the use of force and restraint, but we cannot wait 365 days before receiving that information. When police are deployed on mental health wards, that information needs to be made available immediately. Again I have received assurances from Ministers that work will be done on that matter. I know that time is short, but when the Minister sums up, I hope that he will again reassure me and Matilda MacAttram that that work will be done.
Finally, I turn to the use of Tasers on mental health wards. The right hon. Member for North Norfolk will argue, with great justification and passion, that Tasers should never be used on mental health wards. My heart is with him, but my head says that there may be some highly charged situations where a Taser needs to be used. Right now, we know that Tasers are being used, but we are not collating or collecting the information, and there is no way for the House to know what is going on, or for concerned individuals to find out what is going on. When a Taser is used—I hope that they will never be used—a report needs to be made within a week to the police and crime commissioner and the IPCC. I am not suggesting for a minute that any police officer will use take the action of using a Taser lightly, but we must remember that we are talking about Tasers and force being used in safe hospital environments. Again, I have received assurances from Ministers in relation to the issue, and I hope that the Minister will refer to those assurances in responding to the debate.
Finally, I draw the Minister’s attention to a trial in Los Angeles, where Tasers are linked to body cameras by Bluetooth, so that the camera starts recording immediately when a Taser is drawn. It does not need to be manually started by the police officer. Perhaps the Home Office would like to look at that.
I apologise for having spoken for a little longer than I said I would, Madam Deputy Speaker.
It is a pleasure to follow Mr Walker, who has raised so many important issues. He and the House have insufficient time to discuss all these issues, so I want to confine my remarks to just a couple of aspects of this group of amendments, the first of which relates to the Government’s decision to accept the recommendations of the Home Affairs Committee to place an initial 28-day limit on pre-charge bail.
I am sorry that the Minister for Policing, Fire, Criminal Justice and Victims has left the Chamber, because I wanted to pay tribute to him for being one of the very few Ministers we have encountered who writes back to the Committee and says that the Government will adopt some of our recommendations. He did so in respect of a 28-day limit on pre-charge bail, an issue that we have raised on a number of occasions. Most recently, in our report on police bail, we considered the case of Mr Paul Gambaccini and the need to prevent police bail from going on and on without limit. The limit is very welcome and very important.
I want to concentrate next on new clause 22, which relates to the surrender of travel documentation. I do not know whether my hon. Friend Jack Dromey will speak to that new clause when he makes his winding-up speech, but I support it very strongly. It will go a long way towards addressing in the law our concern about terrorist suspects who can leave the country because they have not given up their passports or even been asked for them.
In the Home Affairs Committee’s review of counter-terrorism, we took interesting evidence from the sister of Siddhartha Dhar. Mr Dhar fled the United Kingdom while on police bail and despite being asked politely by the police to send in his passport. In fact, he never received the polite letter that the Metropolitan police sent to him asking him to hand in his passport, because he left the country when he was released from custody. He was already in Syria when that letter was sent.
What the Government propose in the Bill is welcome, but new clause 22 goes a little further. I very much hope that the Government will change their mind and accept it, because it is in keeping with the evidence given to us by the head of counter-terrorism, Mark Rowley, who said that when someone surrenders a passport immediately, the police and the security services know where that passport is and that, if someone breaches that requirement —in other words, if they do not hand over their passport—they should be in breach of their bail conditions.
I understand that, in my absence, the right hon. Gentleman might have said something nice about me, so it was probably a good job that I was not here.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the police have the power now to go with an individual when granting bail and physically take their passport or travel document before they release them?
They do indeed, but they did not do so in the case that I mentioned, which is the problem. We do not know how many other such cases there have been. We know about that case because it came into the public domain, and Mr Dhar ended up on a YouTube video telling us what he was doing. There might be other cases, but people are not very open about admitting mistakes. I accept that the power the Minister mentions may have been used before, but enshrining it in legislation as proposed in new clause 22 would be helpful.
My final point relates to new clause 64, tabled by the shadow Home Secretary, on the importance of Leveson 2. I was one of the Chairs of Select Committees who met the Prime Minister, along with the then Chair of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, who is now the Secretary of State, and Sir Alan Beith—now Lord Beith —when he chaired the Justice Committee. We were called to see the Prime Minister when he was about to announce the establishment of Leveson 1. He made very good arguments, which we accepted, that we should have two inquiries rather than one, and he promised that we would have a second inquiry once Leveson 1 had been completed.
Before Leveson 1 started, I went to see Lord Justice Leveson, who said that he did not think he would be around in the same role for Leveson 2, so if there is to be a Leveson 2 inquiry, it will be without Leveson, as he is doing other things that will take a number of years. When the Home Secretary gave evidence to our Committee on
That situation could go on forever. There is no reason why we should not have a second Leveson inquiry, or Leveson 2 without Leveson, as I said. We could start the process of appointing a chairman and initiating the mechanics, perhaps with a panel, as was the case with Leveson 1, and when the legal proceedings have concluded, the Home Secretary or the Prime Minister could come to the House and say, “We will now start the second inquiry”. Why wait for all those proceedings to be concluded before starting that process?
That would give comfort not just to those who fought so hard in the Hillsborough case, but to other members of the public, some of whom have had helicopters flying over their houses when they happened to be abroad because of the relationship between the police and the press—we only get to know about the high-profile cases. There is a very good reason why we should have the second inquiry, and I hope very much that that will be done.
In a highly unusual move, with the Scottish National party acting as the honest broker between the Government and the Opposition, Richard Arkless, who has left the Chamber, came up with a form of words that the shadow Home Secretary was prepared to accept. How wonderful! I do not know whether there will be discussions behind the Chair, but there is an opportunity to avert a vote if the Government say, “We are going to have it, but we are not going to have it yet.” That is all they need to say. Judging by what the shadow Home Secretary said, the Government will accept that, and we can proceed with Report and Third Reading without dividing the House on the important changes in policing law that the Government are proposing, many of which we accept—I certainly do—as being part and parcel of modernising our police force.
It is appropriate that I follow the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, as I am conscious of the fact that my predecessor as Chair of the Justice Committee was present when those assurances were given. I do not doubt the good intentions of the Minister and I am prepared to cut the Government slack over the matter, but there is an important point that the right hon. Gentleman has just made: it is not purely the high profile cases that are of concern to many professionals in the criminal justice system.
The shadow Home Secretary spoke movingly and passionately about the impact of Hillsborough and other such scandals, but of equal concern to lawyers such as me—I have had 25 years in the criminal courts—is the long-term day-to-day cosiness of relationships that, I am sorry to say, develop between police officers, not necessarily at the highest level but at an operational level, and reporters. Unless something is done to deal with that, there is a risk of miscarriages of justice. However these things are done, they do not come purely on the back of headline catching; there is a more insidious culture in some ways, which can be dealt with only through very firm management by the leadership of the police service, and if that is lacking it needs to be looked at appropriately.
I accept the concern about outstanding cases, but there is no doubt that this issue is potentially important. Any practitioner at the Bar will know of any number of occasions where the local press—this is not just about the nationals—has been aware, surprisingly, that a particular person was going to be arrested or that a particular search was going to be carried out. I am afraid that that cannot happen accidentally, so there is an issue here of general concern.
Let me turn briefly to new clause 23, to which I am a signatory. Again, I accept that the Minister wants to take the issue forward, but I agree with the sentiments expressed by my right hon. and learned Friend Sir Edward Garnier. There is inevitably a reluctance among officials—I used to find that as a Minister—and senior officers to complicate regulations if they think that what they have got will do. I do not doubt that the advice the Minister has been given was given in good faith, but I say as a London MP who speaks to officers on the beat—on the front line—in my constituency that their concerns about the inadequacy of the current provisions are genuine, and their experience perhaps does not mirror the advice the Minister may be getting from some of the top brass in the service. That advice may also not always mirror the concerns of my constituents, who go up to London to work and who are sometimes caught in these particularly unpleasant and intimidating demonstrations. My right hon. and learned Friend therefore makes an important point in his new clause.
Let me turn now to the main issue I wanted to raise, which I hinted at in my two interventions on the Minister: new clause 48 and the fire inspection regime. As I said to the Minister, who was generous in his responses to me, I welcome the change. In some ways, I wish I had been able to bring it in when I was the Minister responsible for the fire services, but the political and administrative climate was not there for it to be done, so I genuinely congratulate him on introducing it. He has more front-line experience of the fire services than I do, having actually done the job of putting fires out. My involvement with the fire services goes back to my involvement with Jim Fitzpatrick some—I hate to say it—30 years ago, when I was the leader of the London Fire and Civil Defence Authority, immediately after the abolition of the Greater London Council. I would like to say that I lied about my age to join up, but that was not quite the case. However, I have been involved with the fire services in one way or another ever since.
At the time, we had the old-school inspectorate. Then we moved to an arrangement with a chief adviser. I think we all hoped that peer review and the work of bodies such as the Chief Fire Officers Association and others would achieve improvement from within. However, the Minister is right to have concluded that that arrangement is not delivering all that we want, and the recent evidence in the Public Accounts Committee report sets that out very clearly. It is therefore right to move to the inspectorate, and I warmly support it.
The reason I have raised what seems an arcane and technical point is this. I have taken on board what the Minister has said, but I want to amplify why I think it is right. One problem with the old inspectorate was that it tended to be a bit of an old boys’ club for retired senior officers. Almost invariably, the inspectors and the assistant and acting inspectors came from a very narrow group of retired senior officers, and there was a bit of a revolving door. There were therefore real questions about the inspectorate being up to the minute in its knowledge and about the degree of independence that it would bring. An inspector can have to say pretty hard things to a chief officer and his management team, and that is not too easy if someone has come fairly recently from within the ranks of a fairly close-knit service.
That is why there should, where appropriate, be greater flexibility to bring in a contractor with expertise in the appropriate fields. That may not be for the whole of an inspection, but it could be for a specific part. The obvious example is in relation to financial matters, but this would also work in relation to things such as the assurance of operational resilience, because there is now expertise in the private sector, as well as in the public sector, that can appropriately be brought to bear.
In the new environment where we are encouraging greater collaboration between the blue-light services, might the fire inspectorate not also want to lean on senior members of the other uniformed blue-light services to add their expertise and to support the inspectorate as part of this multi-agency working?
My hon. Friend is also the former chair of a London fire and emergency planning authority, and he makes an important point. All of us who have taken an interest in fire services over the years favour greater collaboration between the blue-light services, and I know that that is where the Minister wants to go. We all want a formula that will achieve that, but my concern is that the current wording of the Bill might make that harder, although I have absolutely no doubt that that is not the intention of Ministers. The reason I raise this concern is that, as it reads, proposed new subsection (A5), which will be placed in section 28 of the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004, does not seem to cover the use of contractors.
I am immensely grateful to the Minister for that. That shortens greatly what I have to say. To fortify my right hon. Friend in what he says, let me say that the Public Accounts Committee found evidence that the Chief Fire Officers Association and the Local Government Association did not regard the peer review process as an adequate self-improvement tool. If he is happy to continue to talk to those with an interest in the sector and to deal with what might be an unintended lacuna, I and many others who wish him well in this endeavour, and who wish the fire and rescue services well, will be very happy to work with him to achieve that objective.
New clause 12, which stands in my name, would amend section 1 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009. It would scrap the distressing rules that provide that dementia sufferers who die in care homes while subject to a deprivation of liberty safeguard are classed as being in state detention.
I first took this issue up after being contacted by families who told me of their distress at having to wait to bury their loved ones because inquests are required into the deaths of dementia sufferers who are subject to a DoLS, irrespective of the circumstances of their death.
Councils were inundated with DoLS applications from care homes after a Supreme Court ruling in 2014, which effectively lowered the threshold for what constitutes deprivation of liberty in care. Guidance issued by the Chief Coroner to local coroners following the Supreme Court judgment said that all persons who died subject to a DoLS order must be the subject of a coroner’s investigation, whether or not their death was from natural causes, because such persons are deemed for the purposes of the 2009 Act to be in state detention.
The new clause was suggested by the Chief Coroner himself in response to, and in recognition of, the distress caused to relatives. The Chief Coroner indicated to the Law Commission and the Government that a simple amendment to the 2009 Act might solve the problem of unnecessary cases being reported to the coroner, at least in the short term. The amendment proposed by the Chief Coroner said:
“For the purposes of this Act, a person who dies while subject to an authorisation granted under Schedule A1 to the Mental Capacity Act 2005 depriving that person of his or her liberty and detaining him or her in a hospital or care home does not die while in custody or otherwise in state detention.”
Constituents have contacted me, including one woman who wrote after her mother died in a nursing home. She told me:
“My mum suffered from dementia and other health problems and we sat with her for four days and nights before she passed away. Within one hour of her death, uniformed police arrived and we were asked to leave the room.”
I have had a very similar case of a constituent whose mother was in a nursing home and died. Almost immediately, the police came, and for 10 days had hold of her body. Does that not cause great distress to people at a time of mourning, and is it not why we really need to tighten up the rules regarding deprivation of liberty?
My hon. Friend is right. Many people across the country have experienced that kind of unnecessary distress and trauma.
Since the tabling of this amendment, on
“The current law—which requires an inquest where a person dies while under a DoLS even if the cause of their death was entirely natural—was seen to be causing unnecessary work for corners and upset to families. We received reports, for example, of police arriving at the deceased’s deathbed;
one consultee reported their impression of a ‘crime scene’;
another referred to issues over whether the deceased’s body should be taken to the official mortuary rather than by the family’s preferred funeral director.”
The Law Commission has therefore recommended that the Coroners and Justice Act be amended when the new system is introduced. I am proposing that we take the opportunity to amend it now, through this Bill. The Law Commission’s report is an interim one, so we will have to wait for the final report, and then for legislation to be drafted and enacted. That could take up to two years, during which many more families will continue to suffer distress.
We talk a lot about supporting carers. I know from my own personal experience how distressing it can be to watch a loved relative struggle to cope with dementia and their families struggle to support them. It is heartless then to put relatives who have cared to the limits of their emotional capacity through this further trauma at the time of the death of their loved one.
That is exactly what we are doing. We are looking at this across Government, not only in the light of the Law Commission’s partial report. Work has already taken place. I thank the hon. Lady for saying that she will not press the amendment. It is a probing amendment, and she is probing in exactly in the right direction.
I rise to speak to the new clauses tabled by my hon. Friend Mr Walker and by Norman Lamb. As chair of the all-party parliamentary group on mental health, I start my remarks with the caveat that the changes the Bill makes to sections 135 and 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983 are very substantial and significant. Over the past few years, there has been considerable improvement in the way in which police forces and police officers deal with people in mental health crisis.
New clauses 42 and 43, tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Broxbourne, relate to police officers being deployed in psychiatric wards. New clause 42 raises some important questions about occasions when police officers are requested to take action within health-based settings, particularly acute psychiatric settings. That speaks to an important developing relationship between the police and the health service. Sometimes, because of the particular nature of an individual’s condition, or other circumstances, it may be appropriate for police to be deployed in psychiatric settings, but that should happen only in very exceptional circumstances. We might need to look at how acute psychiatric units go about risk-profiling patients who are currently in acute psychiatric settings in order to ensure that it is very rare and exceptional for police officers to be called on to take action within those settings. I broadly support the intentions of the new clause tabled by my hon. Friend, who has done a lot of very important work in this area, of which he is a champion.
I also have a lot of sympathy for my hon. Friend’s new clause 43, which is about Tasers. I agree that only in the most exceptional circumstances should Tasers be used within acute psychiatric settings and that we should have very clear guidance and guidelines as to the appropriate time for the deployment of that kind of force.
New clause 58, tabled by the right hon. Member for North Norfolk, who has not yet had an opportunity to speak to it, raises important issues in relation to implementing the changes to sections 135 and 136 of the Mental Health Act. It refers to the controversial idea of a person’s private dwelling being characterised as a place of safety. This speaks to the relationship between policing and the health service in terms of the operation of places of safety. We need to think about how we can provide a broader range of alternative places of safety, some of which might be based not in the national health service but in the voluntary sector or in crisis houses, and about the capacity of the system to provide appropriate places of safety.
This is a really important point. To be brutally honest, unless we say “No, we will be the port of last resort”, we will continue to be the first place that people come to, and that then pushes other Departments into getting their act together to do something. The police are now having to say, as we are saying in the Bill, that they will not hold people in police cells inappropriately, as they have been doing for too many years. That will force other Departments to do exactly what my hon. Friend is talking about.
I thank the Minister for that intervention. There may be a role for police and crime commissioners to explore the need to work more closely with the health service and others to provide the capacity for appropriate places of safety such that police officers do not have to make the sorts of decisions implied by new clause 58.
The overall changes to sections 135 and 136 of the Mental Health Act are essential and quite transformative. We have to be very clear about what we mean by the exceptional circumstances in which people are detained, perhaps moving to a system where it becomes inappropriate in all circumstances even for adults to be detained in police cells. I recognise that there may be a need to define the exceptional circumstances in which that might happen. The proposed changes are positive. The new clauses I have discussed raise important questions that the Minister should consider in summing up.
I have tabled a number of new clauses and amendments. The first issue I want to deal with is whether we should disallow the use of Tasers on psychiatric wards. Before I get into the detail, I, like other speakers, want to acknowledge the inspiring leadership of many police leaders who, through force of strong moral leadership, have managed to change practice in many parts of the country. We owe them an enormous debt of gratitude.
On the issue of Tasers on psychiatric wards, the hon. Gentleman referred to Black Mental Health UK, an important campaigning organisation. As he said, it has drawn attention to the fact that
“in particular Black African Caribbean men” are
“disproportionately over-represented in S136 detentions compared to the general population.”
That, incidentally, is a conclusion from the joint Home Office and Department of Health review of sections 135 and 136. It has also been reported that the police are more likely to use force against black African-Caribbean men.
I want to challenge the assumption that force is necessary at the level with which it is used at the moment. Black Mental Health UK refers in its briefing for this debate to the United Nations committee against torture, which has stated that Taser X26 weapons provoke extreme pain and constitute a form of torture and that in certain cases they can also cause death. Although they are termed non-lethal, almost 10 known deaths have been associated with the use of Tasers in the past 10 years.
I want to get a debate going on the subject. I am delighted that the Home Secretary herself has said:
“I have been hearing stories, for example, of Tasers having been used in mental health wards and you think, ‘Hang on a minute, what is happening here?’”
That is what we should all be doing: we should be questioning whether that is appropriate, and that is why I tabled new clause 40.
My amendment 124 would, in effect, prohibit the use of police cells as a place of safety for adults. I welcome the fact that the Government are implementing, through this Bill, the joint review’s recommendation to end the use of police cells for children and young people. However, the inspiring leadership of many police officers, working closely with mental health services, means that, in all but the most extreme cases, the use of police cells for such purposes has ended in some parts of the country. In London, for example, hardly any adults go into police cells as a result of section 136, and the same is true about the west midlands over the past two years. If those areas of the country with impressive leadership can do it, we should challenge every part of the country to do so, and the Bill should lead the way.
“Unless we actually put a stop to that”— the use of police cells—
“and say, ‘Enough is enough,’ we will not get the provision we need from other agencies.”—[Official Report,
That is absolutely right. We cannot use the fact that the NHS is under pressure as an excuse not to do this. If it is wrong, it is wrong, and it needs to be challenged.
My new clause 45 would ensure that, in every case where there has been evidence of child sexual exploitation, the victims are referred for a mental health assessment. “Future in mind”, the report that I published in March 2015 following a taskforce that we set up to consider children’s mental health services, set out the need for trauma-focused care and for sexually abused and exploited children to receive
“a comprehensive specialist initial assessment, and referral to appropriate services providing evidence-based interventions according to their need.”
The new clause seeks to implement that recommendation.
In its briefing for this debate, the Local Government Association supports the intention, but again raises concern about investment. Are we really saying that the lack of availability of mental health services is a reason not to ensure that every child who has suffered sexual exploitation gets the chance to receive a proper assessment? Surely we have to set what is right in legislation and then ensure that we provide the facilities to make it happen. Anything short of that is not acceptable.
There are many individuals who, after suffering abuse and exploitation as a child, go on to be very ill in adult life. They suffer from things such as dissociative disorder, which I had a briefing on recently. It completely takes over a person’s life: it means that they cannot work and that they have difficult relationships throughout their life. The cost to society is enormous, so let us make sure that we get those children the assessment of their needs that they deserve.
New clause 58 would prohibit the use of a person’s home as a place of safety under section 136. Under section 135, when a police officer goes to someone’s home, it may be appropriate for them to stay with that person, but the organisation Mind has raised serious concerns about taking someone by force to their home as a place of safety under section 136.
Does the right hon. Gentleman share my concern about detention at home, which I raised in Committee? Although it is welcome that this Bill will try to reduce the number of people going into police cells, the de facto position may be to take people home because of the lack of beds elsewhere, even though that might not be the best place for the individual concerned.
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. The fear is that that will become the default position in some localities because of the lack of resources available. That would be a big mistake. In circumstances where section 136 is used, surely the person should be taken to a health-based place of safety. A real effort is under way around the country—it is showing signs of success—through the use of approaches such as the street triage service, to reduce substantially the use of section 136 at all and to deal with issues in a more informal way. However, where it has to be used, we must make sure that the person is taken to the right place.
Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that perhaps we need to think about the definition of “health-based place of safety”? The definition is in the control of the national health service, but perhaps it needs to be broader so that it can mean a voluntary organisation or elsewhere. That would be one way of improving our capacity.
I noted the hon. Gentleman’s remarks in his speech a few moments ago and he is absolutely right. A crisis house or a place of safety provided by a particular community for one of its people may well be the best place for them to go. We should be willing to open up the definition in an appropriate way.
New clause 59 centres on the right of those detained under sections 135 and 136 to an appropriate adult. Anyone detained under the Mental Health Act 1983 has a right to an independent mental health advocate, except when the detention is under sections 135 or 136. In such circumstances, the person may be very vulnerable, so surely the Bill should embrace the idea, as Mind has argued, that they should have a right to an appropriate adult.
Finally, I want to address the issue of when the clock should start. I welcome the fact that the Bill reduces to 24 hours the maximum length of time for which someone should be held under section 136 while the assessment takes place. There is a critical question, however, about when the clock starts. If there is pressure on resources and facilities, someone could be kept in a police van and driven around a city—that does happen sometimes. That time, under the Government’s proposed definition, would not count. Some hours could pass before the person arrived at the place of safety. Mind’s argument, which is contained in amendment 125, is that the clock should start when a person is detained rather than when they arrive at a place of safety.
One of my concerns about that is that we set a target of taking the individual who needs that help somewhere quickly, rather than taking them to the right place for their needs.
I am grateful to the Minister for that intervention, and I understand that we have to balance all these things. I am trying to ensure that legislation puts pressure on agencies to provide sufficient resource to meet a clear need. That is not the case at the moment.
I conclude by saying that the amendments and new clauses in this group are all designed to improve the rights of people with mental ill health, who are too often let down by the system at the moment.
I wish to address new clause 23 and take the Minister on a very short metaphorical journey with me, although perhaps nowhere near as far as new clause 23 seeks to go. I am sorry if I am trying the patience of the Minister and the House, because the Minister has been exceptionally courteous today, as he has been to me on previous aspects of the Bill.
Let me explain the mischief of face coverings, with which the House is well acquainted. In my intervention on my right hon. and learned Friend Sir Edward Garnier, I mentioned two events: the Conservative party conference in Manchester, and an incident in my constituency in which, during the badger cull, two people in masks parked outside a farmhouse several evenings in a row as it was getting dark, deliberately intending to intimidate. A similar thing happened at the Blackpool conference. I was there when people, women in particular, were intimidated by people in masks. If only the police had been able to ask those people to take off the masks, I think the intimidation would have stopped almost on the spot. I suspect that in those two incidents, the mere act of the constable on duty asking those people to take off the masks would have stopped the mischief there and then.
That is the journey on which I want to take my right hon. Friend the Minister. It is perhaps not the entirety of new clause 23, but let us simply look at section 60AA of the Public Order Act 1994, which requires a constable on duty to obtain prior written consent before a mask is taken off—[Interruption.] The Minister is going to intervene. May I just explain where I am coming from on this? Very often, a constable will get on the radio and obtain verbal consent, and the written consent is given afterwards. Technically, a crime is being committed because they have not got prior written consent.
Let us do away with the whole issue of written consent. We train our constables to a very high level, and we put a great deal of trust in them. Let us trust them in individual situations. If they think that face masks are a problem, we should give them the power to demand that the face masks be removed immediately. It may even be possible to do this by secondary legislation. Section 60AA—[Interruption.] Does my right hon. Friend the Minister want me to give way? If he does as I suggest, I think we will achieve what we want to achieve.
The hon. Member for Broxbourne raised the fact that the state’s power to deprive someone of their liberty is one of the most draconian acts at its disposal. As the right hon. Member for North Norfolk said, someone who is detained under the Mental Health Act 1983, other than under sections 135 or 136, is entitled to a mental health advocate. If they are detained under sections 135 or 136 of that Act, they are not. The only way in which they could access legal advice, as I think the hon. Member for Broxbourne said, is if they are detained at a police station.
Quite rightly, the Government want to prevent people from being taken to police stations in the first place—I give them credit for this—because a police cell is clearly not the correct place for someone who is in mental health crisis. The important thing is that such individuals need some advocacy. At the moment, if an individual is not taken to a police cell or a police station, they will not have access to independent legal advice or any type of advocacy. New clause 24 is designed to get some parity with the rest of the 1983 Act, in which people do have advocacy. I am pleased that the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Karen Bradley, who responded to a similar amendment in Committee, has just taken her seat. She has promised to look at this issue.
I do not intend to press the new clause to a vote, but it is important that we put in place a system under which people who are detained under sections 135 and 136 of the 1983 Act can, at least, access some advice. I agree with the point made by the right hon. Member for North Norfolk in new clause 59, which is designed to do a similar thing by ensuring that individuals have access to an adult who could speak or advocate on their behalf. I have had discussions with the Minister, and she has given undertakings to look at how that could be done.
I agree with James Morris that many of the things in the Bill are not necessarily the responsibility of the police. They have stepped up to the mark, in many cases, to fill a gap created by a lack of funding or support. In some cases, because of the disjunction between mental health services, local authorities and others, the police are seen as the last resort. He is right to highlight that.
That brings me on to new clause 26, which has been tabled by the hon. Member for Broxbourne, and which I welcome. There is good practice already in many police forces, which undergo mental health training—in Durham, the chief constable has instigated a whole force review to make sure that people have access to mental health training—but it is important that we have consistency. Police forces will be empowered and given greater expertise if they know how to use not just sections 136 and 137 of the 1983 Act, but other sections. I pay tribute to police forces up and down the country, because there is some good practice.
In Committee, we referred to the concordat, which is a good move forward in ensuring that there is a joined-up approach at local level between police forces, local authorities and the health service. I tabled an amendment in Committee to try put that concordat into some sort of statutory framework. I know that the Minister is exploring with colleagues at the Department of Health how we can get some agreement, or some sort of reporting, on what is happening at a local level.
The right hon. Member for North Norfolk has the done the House a great service by tabling new clause 40 because it concerns a subject that is not being talked about. I totally agree with him; I can envisage no circumstances in which it would be necessary to use a Taser on a mental health ward. The right hon. Gentleman praised Black Mental Health UK, which has done a lot of work on the issue. When I met Black Mental Health UK, I was struck by the stark fact that something has to be done. I know that the Home Secretary and the Minister have looked at the figures, and the only mathematical conclusion we can reach is that people from black and Afro-Caribbean communities are being detained under the 1983 Act disproportionately compared with any other section of the community. Those figures cannot just be the result of chance. I urge the Government to look seriously at the matter and think about how we can put mechanisms in place to ensure that that is not the case.
On new clause 43, I agree with the hon. Member for Broxbourne that if the use of Tasers is not going to be prohibited, we should at least have statistics to show when and where they are being used. New clause 58 is similar to an amendment that I tabled in Committee. I give credit to the Government for their efforts to ensure that people in mental health crisis do not end up in a police cell, but unless we have very close monitoring and reporting, we might end up in the de facto position that the right hon. Member for North Norfolk has just mentioned in relation to sections 135 and 136 of the Mental Health Act.
The hon. Gentleman is making a fantastic speech. Is it not remarkable just how far this House has come in the past four years? In this debate, we are putting the interests of mental health patients at the centre of what we are discussing, and he should take great credit for that personally.
I should not be the only one taking credit for that. The hon. Gentleman should do so as well, as should many other people in the House. To give credit to the Government, they have taken this issue seriously and both the Ministers who served on the Committee are committed to ensuring that we get the best outcomes for people in mental health crisis in the criminal justice system.
We should soon have a situation in which police cells will not be the first resort, as they have been in the past. I am not criticising the police for taking people to the cells; they were often the only places available. However, we need to monitor closely what happens to people when they are detained under sections 135 and 136 of the Act. I would not want keeping people at home to become the de facto position. That might be helpful for the statistics on keeping people out of police cells, but people’s homes might not be the best possible place for individuals in crisis. The hon. Member for Halesowen and Rowley Regis made the point that they do not necessarily have to be placed in a health facility. The hon. Member for Broxbourne has said on numerous occasions that this country needs a network of places of safety for individuals in mental health crisis. Those places could be run by health authorities, by charities or by others, but we need such a network because neither a police cell nor, in some cases, a hospital is the best place for certain people in crisis.
I am glad that the proposed changes to the Bill are being taken seriously by the Government. I pay tribute to the way in which both Ministers have addressed these matters in Committee. Even though some of the proposals are not going to be put in the Bill, I believe that the Ministers, working with colleagues in the Department of Health, will be able to achieve a situation in which people in mental health crisis do not end up in the criminal justice system. That should be our aim.
It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend Mr Jones. I shall not be referring to the mental health provisions in the Bill, but I commend colleagues who have already spoken about that and who have been personally responsible for taking this issue so far and for encouraging the Government to listen to the arguments that they have been putting forward for years. I also commend the Government for their response to the debates that took place in Committee and, more generally, for their attitude towards mental health. I also want to commend the shadow Home Secretary, my right hon. Friend Andy Burnham, for the way in which he spoke to his new clauses almost as part of the campaign on Hillsborough. He spoke passionately and powerfully and I hope that the Government will respond positively to his requests for the new clauses to be accepted, if only in principle. I look forward to the Minister’s response to the debate.
I want to speak briefly to new clause 48 and new schedule 1, which propose the recreation of a national fire service inspectorate in England. My friend the Minister is, like me, a former firefighter. When I ask him to do things in our exchanges on fire brigade matters, he sometimes throws back at me the fact that I did not do them when I was Fire Minister and asks why should he do them now. I want to ask him why he is recreating the fire service inspectorate when we did away with it and put other arrangements in place. I will be interested to hear his explanation. I welcome the fact, as Robert Neill and others have done, that the Government recognise there is a vacuum and that something has to be created to fill the gap. Whether that is an inspectorate as set out in the new clause or whether that wording changes when the Bill goes to the House of Lords, the fact that the Government are moving in this direction is welcome.
In Westminster Hall last week, we discussed with the Minister the increasing number of calls related to flooding that the fire service now deals with, the transition towards dealing with more medical emergency calls and the arrangements with the national health service for the fire service to do more social care visits alongside fire safety visits. These changes all demonstrate the fact that the fire service is moving into different territory, and that different skills are being developed which require different resources as well as the staff to carry them out.
As I mentioned in Westminster Hall, criticisms are being levelled at the fire service, parts of which are being blamed for the reductions in the service. The fire and rescue service has been a victim of its own success in recent decades, having cut the number of calls and fires and reduced the number of deaths and serious injuries. That has resulted in the loss of fire stations, fire appliances and firefighters. The Minister will remember that I stated in that debate that there are nearly 7,000 fewer firefighters in the UK now than there were in 2010. That fact has raised a number of eyebrows, and questions are being asked about attendance times being met and resources being available. People are now asking whether the service is still equipped to do the job that it needs to do.
The hon. Gentleman has great experience in the fire and rescue service in a number of capacities. The operational issues that he is rightly raising are important, but will he acknowledge the Public Accounts Committee’s finding that in the wake of the abolition of the Audit Commission, the governance, scrutiny and oversight of many fire and rescue services and the cosy relationship between the authorities and those services were unsatisfactory in terms of providing value for the taxpayer’s pound?
Absolutely. I agree with the hon. Gentleman. That point was also raised by the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst, and I am sure that the Minister will also put forward an argument for putting in place a means of making those measurements.
Having said all that, I am curious about the lateness of the arrival of the new clauses. The Minister referred positively to the consensus in Committee and to the ability of both sides to help each other out to make progress on the Bill. I commend the shadow Fire Minister, my hon. Friend Lyn Brown, for arguing for a provision to assess the ability of the fire service to carry out its functions. To the Minister’s credit, he has now tabled the new clause and the new schedule to address that issue.
I mentioned in an intervention my curiosity about whether the Government had considered the United Kingdom Accreditation Service as a potential vehicle to carry out the function that is being proposed here. The Minister knows that I had 23 years in the fire service, 13 of which were spent as an operational firefighter, and I participated in drills in the fire station as set out by Her Majesty’s inspectorate. I have to question the value of those drills, because we would train for weeks to get them right but they still did not always go entirely right. I question the value of putting in that amount of rehearsal. I wonder whether all that practice actually made the whole exercise worthless.
We decided to abolish Her Majesty’s inspectorate because of the scepticism and cynicism surrounding it—the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst referred to an old boys’ network earlier—and I would have hoped that the Government would now be proposing something new. However, they seem to be proposing a recreation of what went before. Having moved it to the Department for Communities and Local Government and then back to the Home Office, there seems to be replication so that, along with Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary and Her Majesty’s inspectorate of prisons, we will now have Her Majesty’s inspectorate of fire services.
I look forward to hearing more from the Minister and to listening to the debates in the other place, where I suspect the Bill will get more scrutiny than it has in this place. Public confidence in the fire service is high and has always been high, but the fire service needs professional underpinning and validation not only for public confidence and value for money, but for the safety of firefighters who put themselves on the frontline to protect the public. I look forward to a more extensive debate when the Bill goes to the other place, and to some comments from the Minister when he sums up. This is a positive step forward, but we need to make sure that the fire service can demonstrate to its own satisfaction, to our satisfaction and to that of the public that it is equipped, resourced and able to do the job we all admire it for doing and want it to carry on doing in the future.
May I first apologise, Mr Deputy Speaker? Although I was in the Chamber for the Minister’s opening speech, I had to chair a Delegated Legislation Committee—you were kind enough to put me on the Panel of Chairs—so I am sorry that I have not been present for the whole of this debate.
I want to speak to new clause 23, which was so ably introduced by my right hon. and learned Friend Sir Edward Garnier. I understand that it will not be pushed to a vote, that there will be a review in relation to PACE and that the Minister has listened carefully to all the arguments that have been made. If we are to have a review, there is an opportunity—I will use my brief remarks to talk about it—to have a debate in this country about face coverings generally. Many people in our country feel that it is quite un-British, and is not necessary for any reason, except in exceptional circumstances.
I do not want to suggest that we should take heavy-handed, universal action to prevent people from covering their face in this country, because that is also in a sense un-British. Fundamentally, as a nation, we actually believe in the freedom of people to live their lives in the way that, for whatever reason, they want, so long as they do not alarm or intimidate others. I know that other countries—for example, France and I believe Belgium, which are perfectly moderate, sensible, freedom-loving countries—have decided to ban face coverings in public, but we probably do not want to proceed in that way in this country.
If we are to have a review, I believe that this is an opportunity to have a debate. I certainly join my hon. Friends who have expressed concern about certain situations in which people feel intimidated, such as in the environs of a hunt, an animal research laboratory, or a demonstration outside Parliament. People are of course entitled to demonstrate—nobody is denying that—but it is very intimidating for the police and the public to see people engaged in demonstrations with any kind of face covering.
I understand that it is perfectly possible under present arrangements for the authorities to issue written instructions so that a police constable can require people to remove their face coverings and all the rest of it, but I would like us to go further. I suggest that the way to deal with this problem is to say—in a particular situation that might be threatening, intimidatory, violent or confrontational on both sides—there should certainly be a right for a police constable to require somebody to remove a face covering. It should be possible for a chief constable to have such a right, as well as to lay down general prohibitions against face coverings.
It should also be possible—there should be a public debate about this, because I know that there are different points of view—for the Home Secretary to issue a ban against face coverings in certain situations or in particularly sensitive geographical places, such as the central areas of the cities of London and Westminster, the central part of our capital city, which is sensitive for all sorts of reasons, or in hospitals, schools, law courts and doctors’ surgeries. I know not everybody in the House will agree, but many members of the public are concerned about this.
Nobody is more pro religious people than myself and nobody would want to do more than me to defend the right of religious people or any other group of people to dress in any way they want, but there are certain situations and certain parts of the country—certain public places—where the public as a whole, although they are very tolerant of other people’s attitudes and way of life, do not like the idea of face coverings.
That is all I wanted to say. I hope that, as the Minister has promised a review, he will be open-minded about this. He may wish to comment on what I have suggested when he sums up.
It is real privilege to sum up the debate on this group of amendments. I thank the shadow Policing Minister, Jack Dromey, for giving me more time—he could easily have risen to speak to the amendments. I am pleased that I have a bit of time to talk through some of the points that have been raised, and I have already given some indication of what I will say in interventions on right hon. and hon. Members. I have been told off by the Chair, Mr Deputy Speaker, but that is understandable. It was not the first time, and it will not be the last time.
I want to say a little about the comments made by my hon. Friend Robert Neill and Jim Fitzpatrick on the new inspectorate. At the outset, may I say that my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst was brutally honest when he said he would have liked to have made this change, but was prevented by circumstances when he was the Minister? Perhaps the hon. Member for Poplar and Limehouse—my predecessor in many different capacities, including as a firefighter—was also prevented from doing so by different circumstances when he was Minister.
We must learn from our mistakes—to be brutally honest, we all make mistakes in life—so the first thing to say is that it is absolutely correct that the inspectorate will not be an old boys’ network. It will be based on Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary, and on police effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy reviews. Firefighters will not have weeks to practise their escape drills, which I remember so vividly from when I was in the job. For people of a certain age, such escapes were done on the old ladders, which were on big wheels that could get firefighters to places some of the modern ladders will not reach.
Importantly, the inspector will have the power to bring in the experts he or she thinks fit to do inspections. The inspector should not be an ex-chief fire officer from somewhere, which is similar to the arrangements in Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary. I know that will ruffle a few feathers within the network, with people saying, “We’re experts, we know best”, but it is important for the inspector to come in and ask, “Why? Why do you do it that way?” and then to bring in other expertise. I think that is the way to do it.
I think the former Fire Minister, the hon. Member for Poplar and Limehouse, will find that when we started to talk about this issue—it was raised in Committee by the shadow Fire Minister, Lyn Brown—I had only been in the job for two weeks, because the role of Police and Fire Minister was very new. However, I knew what I wanted to do, as did the Home Secretary, and I freely admit that a little bit of encouragement from the shadow Minister has helped us on our way. There are areas in which we will be able to work much more along the lines of how Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary does its inspections, so that people are not prepared for the day having known about the inspection for weeks in advance, as happened in my time.
I want to speak to some of the Government amendments that I did not have the opportunity to talk about earlier, and I will turn to some of the excellent contributions made during this debate. One of the most important areas of agreement that I have reached, with the Home Secretary’s permission, is in relation to the 12-month rule for officers who have retired or left the force. Since long before I held my current position, it has always struck me as strange that, criminal proceedings apart, an officer of no matter what rank could step down and start their pension almost the day before they became subject to investigations within the police force. In some cases that does not happen. I have the duty of signing documents that revoke police officers’ pensions when they have broken the rules so badly that they lose their pension. I do that quite regularly. It is difficult to sign something that will dramatically change someone’s future, and I do not in any way do so lightly. I often quiz my officials about whether it is the right way to go, not least because a good proportion of the contributions to the pension were that person’s own contributions, not the state’s contributions. However, the rules are quite specific in those cases.
Although we did not want to leave things completely open—I know the shadow Home Secretary will understand that—we thought there was a real opportunity to leave a great legacy on behalf of the Hillsborough victims. The change to the 12-month rule will be for exceptional circumstances. It is difficult to put them into primary legislation, so we will do it by regulations. I hope that the shadow Front-Bench team will work with us on those regulations, along with other parties in the House. They will be one of the biggest legacies of what we are doing.
I am sorry that we do not quite agree with Her Majesty’s Opposition on two issues. On Leveson 2, the Home Secretary has set her position out in front of the Home Affairs Committee, and I have set it out too. I am categorically not saying that it is not going to happen, but no decision will be made until after the criminal investigations. That is the position that the Home Secretary has set out—it is way above my pay grade—and that is how it will stay.
The point has been made on numerous occasions. The Home Secretary has said, and I have said, that we will wait for the inquiries and proceedings to finish and then announce our position on Leveson 2.
The Minister has made the position clear, but in doing so he will not have pleased many people who are campaigning for justice for people who have suffered press intrusion. Will he be explicit that what he has just outlined is in fact a weakening of the Government’s position? A couple of years ago, the Prime Minister promised that there would be a stage 2, but tonight we are being told that that is now up in the air and up for grabs.
I have been absolutely explicit, as has the Home Secretary. There is no weakening and no change. We will wait for the conclusion of the proceedings. If the shadow Secretary of State wants to push the issue to a Division I will have to accept that, but he has to accept that all the way through the process I have been clear, as has the Home Secretary—as I said earlier, no Home Secretary has gone further for the victims of Hillsborough than this one—that we are not ruling anything out but will wait until after the conclusion of the criminal cases that are taking place.
We also disagree on another area—it is a shame, but I respect the view of others in the House, and if we have to go through the Lobby we will. Bishop James Jones is carrying out his review as requested, and we are not going to pre-empt what he will say in that review. There are assumptions about what will be in it, and some will be right and some will be wrong.
Whatever happens in any Division, things will not stop there. If the Opposition win, so be it. If we win the Divisions tonight, we will still wait for the conclusions of the investigations, the court cases and Bishop Jones’s review. Our position will stay exactly the same.
The issue of parity of legal funding at inquests at which the the police are represented goes beyond Hillsborough. It affects many families fighting many injustices. It goes beyond the work of Bishop James Jones. Could we at least have a commitment that the Government will work with us to seek that parity and equality of legal funding at inquests? That commitment would mean something.
All the way through, we have worked with Her Majesty’s Opposition and done everything we can. I know this might be playing at semantics, but I slightly disagree with the right hon. Gentleman. Bishop Jones’s work will make a huge difference for future cases, because of the experiences of what people have so sadly gone through for 27 years. His review is not just about Hillsborough; it will give guidance to Governments of whatever colour in the future. That is why we have decided to wait for all of his review’s recommendations. It will affect people now and in the future. I understand the points being made, though, and perhaps we can come to an agreement on this issue. We will continue to work together on it beyond this debate, no matter what the results of the votes, because it is the most important thing to be done.
I will address some of the contributions that have been made about mental health. Mr Jones talked about the issue extensively in Committee. When I was Minister with responsibility for disabilities I had long and fruitful meetings with Norman Lamb, the Minister in the coalition Government with responsibility for mental health, and we agree on 90% on this issue—we speak from the same platform in many ways. Many changes to how the police deal with and look after—I stress look after—people with mental health issues came about because of his work as a Minister. He pushed the Department of Health to places that I am sure, at times, it did not want to go to. Perhaps I have done the same in my new role with the police, with the Home Secretary’s support, by saying that some things are still fundamentally wrong in the 21st century.
As my hon. Friend Mr Walker said earlier, my heart tells me that the use of a Taser within a secure mental health facility must be wrong, but my brain and my experience tell me that in exceptional circumstances—it must not be the norm—it could happen. I have met several of the lobbyists who have been referred to, who have campaigned very hard on the issue. The Under-Secretary of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire Moorlands, is going to take work forward on it, as promised in meetings with colleagues from across the House.
We are in a really exciting position. This is not just about mental health issues but about social services more broadly, particularly with regard to children. I have been with police on a Friday evening, long before I got this role, getting something to eat before going out on patrol. The constables would be given notes, particularly from the sergeant and sometimes from the community inspector, asking us to go and visit Mary, or John, because social services had said that they had not seen them for a couple of days, and as they were vulnerable people we had a duty. Well, sorry, but social services had that duty first. We—I use the word “we” because I am very passionate about this—must be the last resort. The police cannot be the first port of call.
Work on the issue has been going on for the past couple of years. It is being done in different ways around the country, but street triage has transformed the use of powers under sections 135 and 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983. This next point is not simply one of semantics: the use of section 135 or 136 is an arrest. People are not being sectioned; they are being arrested. There is sometimes confusion about that. The power an officer is using at that point is a power to protect and arrest. We need to make that clear. We have seen different uses of sections 135 and 136 in different parts of the country. It has dropped dramatically—the use of section 136 in particular—because of the work taking place. I completely agree that more needs to be done, but we are in a position where we can drive that work forward only because, frankly, we have said that enough is enough.
I understand the reasons behind many of the amendments that have been tabled, particularly on the use of Tasers. I understand the risks that the right hon. Member for North Norfolk alluded to, but Tasers have saved lives. I talked earlier about what my heart tells me and what my brain tells me. I used to volunteer in a mental health hospital before and during my time in the Army, because my mother worked as a mental health nurse. I asked mum—she is retired now—“Is there a case in which you would have to use this sort of force?”, and she said, “Sadly, in exceptional circumstances there is.” However, she also emphasised the quality of training in mental health facilities and how someone can be restrained safely.
I am sure I heard my right hon. Friend correctly, but to confirm, is he saying that Ministers will work with interested parties—for example, with me or Norman Lamb—to ensure that the recording and reporting of such incidents is much better, and that we will report progress back to the House periodically, perhaps through letters to the Library?
I was trying to get to exactly that point. That is a role for police and crime commissioners. If we devolve the powers in question, it will give more powers to PCCs, and rightly so. If we believe in and are aiming for localism, PCCs should know what is going on in their part of the world, and that information should be made available to the public and not left opaque. That will take work—I am delegating more work to my colleagues on the Treasury Bench, and to others across the Government, because this is not just a Home Office matter. Someone said earlier that this measure should not be in the Bill, but it is there because it needs to be.
In monitoring the use of Tasers, will the Minister ensure that we consider the ethnic dimension of who they are used on, and that that information is made publicly available and there is transparency?
That is vital. When I was the Minister responsible for disabilities, one issue under discussion was the disproportionate number of black men who are tasered in mental health facilities. Indeed, there is a disproportionately high proportion of black men in mental health facilities, as we know there is in prisons and throughout the criminal justice system. We cannot just say, “Let’s get on with it”; we must do something about that, including by raising people’s educational standards, aspirations and so on.
The other important issue that the right hon. Gentleman raised concerns people who have been abused, whether it is sexual abuse or other types of abuse. We must ensure that they get the right care early on, and we must not assume that that abuse will show up in someone’s first medical analysis. I know that from friends who suffer from post-traumatic stress—I have friends who served in the Falklands who are only now showing the signs.
I accept that problems might show up only later on, but if the Minister does not accept that my new clause would provide for an automatic referral, will he accept that the Government should make clear that it should be standard process that a child is referred for an assessment of their mental health needs, as the Children’s Society suggests?
This is probably way beyond my portfolio, but as a father I would ask, if someone is assessing a child who has been abused, how can they not assess them for mental health damage that may have occurred? That is the natural thing to do—I will probably get shot for saying that, but at the end of the day that is probably the moral position. How that is done is for the right hon. Gentleman’s former Department and social services to address.
I turn to facial coverings and new clause 23, which was tabled by my right hon. and learned Friend Sir Edward Garnier and other colleagues. I think we have reached a consensus. I arranged for Assistant Chief Constable Paul Netherton to lead on the issue for the whole country within the police. Very unusually for a senior police officer, or indeed for any police officer, he said, “Don’t give me any more powers. I am happy with the powers we have”. In our meetings, however—I am happy to share this with the House—it was conceded that the way the current legislation is being interpreted through guidance is an issue. There is also some confusion about the powers under section 60AA of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, which concerns the need for a written authority. In reality, the police get on their radios and say, “This is the situation. I want to remove it. I think that an offence is going to take place.” The request is instantly given, and it is signed later on. That is not breaking any law; that is how the procedure works on a daily basis.
The Home Secretary and I both understand that there are real concerns about whether the measure is being implemented in a way that ensures public confidence as well as that of the police. Rather than change the law against the advice that I am getting from the police, we have proposed a review into the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 code A. That does not happen often, but this autumn a review will take place into stop and search. The powers in the Bill are similar to those stop-and-search powers, and we will ask for them to be included in that code. That significant change will alleviate some of the concerns, but we must ensure that we provide those powers.
I would not want the Minister to think that I am ungrateful for what he is suggesting—I would never be that. However, it would be helpful if he would write to me setting out precisely what he is proposing and stating the likely amendments to PACE. He mentioned a review of PACE, but he did not necessarily mention an amendment to that Act. If he would be clear on paper, that would be useful.
Not only will I write to my right hon. and learned Friend, but I will put a copy of the letter in the Library of the House. There are cross-party concerns about some of these issues. I listened carefully to his point, but that issue is not part of the Bill and is, as he said in his speech, for later. He may think that I am trying to kick the issue into the long grass, and that is exactly what I am doing for the purposes of this Bill.
I hope that the way in which I and the Under-Secretary of State, my hon. Friend Karen Bradley, dealt with the debate in Committee has helped the Bill to progress positively. It is a long time since I received such encouragement for a Bill—other than for the Mesothelioma Act 2014, which I took through the House with a little bit of disagreement. I am adamant that this Bill, and the measures it contains, will be a legacy for the Hillsborough families and the campaign that they have taken forward for 27 years. I am sorry that we cannot agree on everything, but as I have indicated, even if we disagree tonight, we will probably agree tomorrow.
Question put and agreed to.
New clause 48 accordingly read a Second time, and added to the Bill.
New Schedule 1