Police: Public Trust — Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:58 pm on 28th November 2013.

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Photo of Lord Young of Norwood Green Lord Young of Norwood Green Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills) 3:58 pm, 28th November 2013

My Lords, I enter this debate with some trepidation. It is not an area that I normally deal with, but I was fascinated by the first two contributions and I also congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, on giving the House the opportunity to debate this vital issue. I was interested in the contrast between the two contributions that we have just heard on the cause, the analysis and what the cure should be.

I suspect that there will not be any silver bullet. You cannot improve the complaints system without seeking to change the culture. Anybody who has done any examination of organisations will know that the hardest thing to change in any organisation is the culture. You can change structures and processes, but changing the culture is really difficult. However, we have to address the issue and I would be interested to hear the Minister’s response.

Along with all the other concerns that have been expressed about recent and not so recent cases, perhaps the most recent example was when the Public Administration Select Committee heard evidence from both a serving police officer and an ex-chief inspector. There were revelations concerning the reporting of crimes by the public and the disparity between those figures and the figures that were recorded by the police; for example, in rape cases there appeared to be a 70% discrepancy, and in one London borough there was a disparity of 400 in relation to burglaries from dwellings. I would be interested to hear the Government’s response to that.

Having looked through the Library note and the analysis of the role of the IPCC, I ask: do the Government feel that it is genuinely as independent as it should be? Does it really have the necessary powers to inspire confidence in the public that it is independent and that it can genuinely and thoroughly investigate complaints? As the report pointed out, it cannot call evidence from non-serving officers or those who have retired. That seems a yawning gap in its role. Some would suggest that, given its make-up, the commission is not truly independent.

Like the two previous speakers, I do not want to cast aspersions on the police generally. I work with them locally very well and very satisfactorily, and I think that the majority of them do a difficult and sometimes dangerous job very well indeed. But the question of public trust and confidence is of fundamental importance and cannot be ignored. A number of recent cases, which are not just about police constables but go much further up the hierarchy of command, give the public genuine cause for concern. I look forward to hearing what the Government intend to do in relation to recent revelations, and what changes they think are necessary.