Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill — Third Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 11:00 am on 20th July 2011.

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Photo of Baroness Hilton of Eggardon Baroness Hilton of Eggardon Labour 11:00 am, 20th July 2011

I, too, speak in support of Amendment 3. In earlier stages of the Bill I spoke about the dangers of police and politicians becoming too close. These dangers are exemplified by the current crisis in the relationships among the police, press and politicians. At one time in my police service, when David McNee was commissioner, we were quite explicitly forbidden from speaking to the media. This changed when Ken Newman became commissioner, and we were encouraged to be more open and democratic and to explain police actions to the public. Unfortunately, when a channel of communication is opened, it becomes a two-way street. The wrong information may flow from the police and inappropriate influence may be exercised by the media on the police service. Relationships develop and become too close or antagonistic, as they have in this current nexus of police, press and politicians.

This is a model of what will happen once these elected police commissioners are in post. In the past, politicians were treated by the police service with respect but not deference. Now, politicians, who necessarily represent factions in society and whose concern is a short term desire to be re-elected, will have excessive influence and we will be back to the bad old days of the excessively politicised watch committees that we used to have in some of our major cities. By emphasising the importance of impartiality, this amendment would offset these political pressures to some extent and go some small way towards establishing an explicit code of conduct for the police and crime commissioner. I therefore hope that the Minister accepts it.