My Lords, I remind your Lordships of my policing interests, all of which are in the register. There are a number of parts of the Bill with which I agree, some which will need examining thoroughly as we go through Committee and others on which I seek much further assurance.
Policing has gone through some enormous changes in the past six years. During the previous Government, Parliament passed the Bill introducing police and crime commissioners. I profoundly disagree with it and must tell the noble and learned Lord that up and down the country, people are still asking me why it was agreed. They feel that PCCs generally have not made the significant difference we were told they would and, in some cases, as Members of your Lordships’ House will recall that we anticipated, they have been very poor indeed. I of course do not believe that the noble Lord, Lord Bach, whom I congratulate on his appointment, will ever fall into that category. Were he in his place, I am sure he would appreciate those words. Not enough scrutiny of their role or the ability to get rid of poorly performing PCCs was written into the Bill, and the new one does nothing to improve that situation. That is a seriously missed opportunity and I very much regret it.
The Bill invokes collaboration as a new concept. Collaboration is a word that has been used around policing for a very long time. Even when I was chairing one of those awful bodies called a police authority for many years, we worked in collaboration with a number of other agencies. Most forces now operate very effectively with those other agencies and good practice can be seen everywhere.
I was recently invited to Durham Constabulary, where good practice in policing is recognised as being the best in the country. I was deeply impressed by a number of the programmes dealing with serious and organised crime groups through offender management, where working with Public Health England is producing amazing results in reducing reoffending and enhancing life chances. I will talk more of those initiatives as we go through the Bill. The constabulary also told me about its safeguarding unit, which has used drama to illustrate the graphic problems of domestic abuse. I commend Durham Constabulary on the exciting, innovative work it is doing in collaboration with others.
When I spoke with the superintendents’ association, it highlighted its concerns about deferred prosecutions. Its view, which I share, is that it may be possible to collaborate in back-office functions with the fire service, as proposed in the Bill, but it would prefer to do that more meaningfully with social services, local authorities and health bodies, which share general responsibilities with the police for care of the individual. It is felt that the fire service has a rather different remit. Of course, if it sees that it would be of benefit to the public, it would certainly integrate services, but there must be clear joint outcomes from that collaboration. What are the exact proposals for collaboration with the fire service, other than the possible leadership role as explained in the Bill?
Multi-agency working is preferable to writing into legislation collaboration with just one agency. They come from different cultures, and the difficulties of handling that must not be overlooked. Reforming the police complaints and disciplinary systems is essential. I remember years ago asking for something to be written into one of the first police Bills I dealt with on behalf of these Benches, to little avail. It has been done piecemeal over many previous Bills, so I am pleased that at last it seems to be taking traction.
Protection for police whistleblowers is long overdue and is to be warmly welcomed, but perhaps the definition needs clarifying. Will the Minister look to amend this as we move through the Bill—perhaps to apply to police officers and police staff who wish to raise a new concern and not one that is an ongoing investigation? Good officers’ lives have been ruined by the way they have been dealt with, having complained about internal workings of their organisation. The length of time taken to conduct an inquiry has brought untold harm to both the officers and their families, and we must do all that we can to minimise their suffering. I can only hope that the Independent Police Complaints Commission, the IPCC, will be able to complete its investigations much more speedily, even as it takes on the new system of super-complaints.
While I am on the IPCC, can the Minister tell me why the word “independent” has been missed out of the proposed new name for it—that of “Office for Police Conduct”? It looks very much to me, and I guess it will look the same to a disinterested member of the public, as though it could well be yet another branch of the police deciding how to police itself. Certainly, let us have the new name, but we must underline its independence by calling it the Independent Office for Police Conduct.
I am less sanguine about the intention of allowing chief constables to confer further and greater powers on police civilian staff and especially volunteers. I will have much more to say on this in Committee. I was always very sceptical of what PCSOs were being used for, and anticipated that it was rather the thin end of the wedge, and that their duties would escalate, as of course they have. But to use volunteers in the same breath as PCSOs, who have at least a modicum of training and accountability, is going three steps too far, in my opinion.
I am easy about freedom of information being applied to the Police Federation of England and Wales—although, of course, it is not. I shall have more to say in Committee about the Police Federation. I also ask, as did the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark, who is not in his place, why the rank of superintendent should not be prescribed in legislation. After all, superintendents perform difficult and serious management roles and need to be recognised.
I turn to the section that deals with mental health, a huge and sensitive problem for all police forces, which will require places of safety to be found in order to detain someone without their consent. This part of the Bill raised a very important debate in the other place, and I expect that it will do so here. Police custody is simply not a suitable place to keep someone who is suffering from mental ill-health.
My noble friend Lady Walmsley is not able to take part in this Second Reading but has asked me to put on record that she feels that although the Bill is moving in the right direction, there are still concerns about mental health provision and she will be tabling some amendments in Committee about the provisions for people with mental health needs. We have had a number of other briefings on this most important subject, notably from the Royal College of Psychiatrists, which also hopes the Government will ensure that there are appropriate services in place to make the changes in law a reality on the ground.
Part 4, which looks at bail conditions, will also be raised in Committee. Does the Minister believe that forensic examinations can always be completed within the 28-day timescale envisaged in the Bill? The investigation of high-tech crime and communications-gathering can take an enormous amount of time and cannot be solved quickly. I ask simply because I believe the IPCC can have up to 56 days to deal with these many serious issues. If it can have that much extra time, why can provision not be made for an extension for the police if it is necessary and requested?
The Bill will need a lot of scrutiny—and, I hope, amendments—before we pass it into law. The other place did a good job in raising some major issues but it is now up to us to sharpen and hone its work. That is our role. That is our duty.
My Lords, I declare such interests as I have outside the work of this House only in respect of the fact that I hold a firearms licence, although your Lordships will be glad to know that it is not on firearms that I intend to speak today. I welcome the chance to debate the Bill, despite the number of trees that appear to have been felled in order to print it and its associated documentation. It is the next, if not the final, stage in a process set in place by our new Prime Minister when she was Home Secretary, which she undertook with great courage, if I may say so, but it remains unfinished business.
I echo what others have said: our police forces are a vital resource. I pay tribute to the courage of those who serve in them and their willingness to put themselves in danger for the protection of the public, as the noble Lord, Lord Wasserman, said. Their record of interrupting criminal activities is a fine one and I do not believe that the majority of officers are anything other than thoroughly decent, diligent and honest.
The Minister outlined the Government’s intentions, to which I add my broad support. The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, identified a number of undeniably good bits in the Bill. But the fact remains—and this is why I may appear relentlessly critical of a service that I consider so very important—that there are still far too many shortcomings and I do not believe that their causes or frequency have reduced materially. Indeed, I believe it is a cultural matter.
On crime figures, the Office for National Statistics has downgraded police crime records to what I can describe only as near-junk status. On what government Ministers will now base claims in relation to crime trends I know not, when it is clear that whole areas of activity are imperfectly recorded, if at all. I do not regard the misrecording of crime as a trivial matter; rather, as the police themselves might say, I tend to the view that apparently small infractions could be indicators of more serious activity. It certainly has terrible consequences, as illustrated in the Rotherham and Jacqueline Oakes cases. Criminologist Dr Rodger Patrick, to whom I spoke recently, has labelled the latter as a “Nelson’s eye” approach to known issues.
I have been tracking since 2012 the case of a one-time senior parliamentary researcher to a now-deceased member of your Lordships’ House. It involves the South Wales Police area. I have identified a number of elements that I regard as questionable. First, there appears to have been the inclusion without proof of names on a database of persons whom the police—on their own whim—thought might be troublesome, and unregulated sharing of those data with other agencies. The standard force wording, which appears without evidence or caution, reads:
“You should be aware that these details will be placed on an anti-social behaviour database which holds information relating to those involved in such behaviour. This information will be held in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998 and may be shared with partner agencies if this is necessary to prevent crime and disorder, as permitted by the Crime and Disorder Act 1998”.
This seems to bypass the oversight of the data commissioner and is outside the subject data access system.
Secondly, there appear to have been attempts to coerce a neighbour into a deal that was intended to be prejudicial to another claimant party. I quote from an August 2007 neighbour witness statement in connection with a child constantly kicking balls into the adjoining garden. It says:
“At the time of my meeting with the Police in November 2006 we were advised by the Police that the Claimant was well known to them and that they had had many dealings with him. The Police also advised us that should the Claimant’s accusations continue, his next step would be to contact the local Police’s regional superiors and inform them that he had made several complaints regarding balls going into his garden, and that nothing had been done about it. As a consequence, The Police attempted to pre-empt the Claimant’s next step by offering us a kind of ‘deal’ whereby our eldest son”—
I will not give the name—
“(fourteen years old at the time) would accept a Level 1 ASBO for playing football in our back garden in order that the Police could issue the Claimant with a Level 2 or 3 ASBO. I and my wife were very apprehensive about this ‘deal’ at the time and the whole affair”.
Well they might be. I shared those comments with Dr Patrick and he said:
“This may appear to be a minor incident but I suspect it represents the tip of a very large iceberg; it involves the clearest abuse of non-judicial disposals which is blighting the prospects of citizens and risks the criminalisation of childhood”.
It is also an example of what might be termed in the trade “stitching”.
Next, there was conflation of what was and should have been treated as a civil property boundary matter into a criminal harassment case. There was the unjustified alteration of a charge sheet without the accused’s knowledge, apparently to beef up the case. Here the amendment was to introduce a false reference to violence—highly significant when one realises that the accused was a keen target shooter and that the amended wording would be fatal to his continued holding of a firearms licence. Then there was interference with witness statements and the use of redacted witness evidence. A piece of information that came to me—indeed, I identified it as false—was a bit of photographic evidence used in the criminal proceedings, which had been doctored. There was the manipulation of process, including defying the order of a judge in relation to disclosure, to the material detriment of a defendant’s case. In addition to all this, important documents mysteriously went missing from the court files so that they could not be brought before the judge.
By all these means there was the procurement of a conviction and the imposition of a restraint order of such severity that it prevented the accused defending himself against subsequent opportunistic incursions by the neighbour with whom the original dispute had started. There was a deliberate failure by the police to investigate or prevent such actions; a refusal to investigate instances of potential sabotage of a motor vehicle; and apparent collusion involving bodies such as the City of Cardiff Council and Welsh Water in a manner prejudicial to proper public administration and, in my view, obstructive of investigations by independent professionals and the reasonable interests of a private householder.
I can only speculate on why things were taken to such spectacularly questionable lengths but I suppose it might be connected with the accused’s knowledge of firearms and his detailed research into police corruption, coupled with his publicly challenging some influential local interests through the local police and communities together—PACT—committee. There was certainly motive and opportunity for certain vested interests to want him silenced, and from a police point of view, in the light of the Lynette White, “Newsagent Three” and Sean Wall cases, there was every reason for an interested parliamentarian and his researcher to seek to expose the truth about police actions.
Sadly, this case is not isolated; nor does it affect only small fry or little local neighbourhood spats. I will not reel off my list of previous failings up and down the country, but will point to the further information we now have in respect of Hillsborough and Rotherham; the deliberate attempt by the Metropolitan Police Service to prevent scrutiny which involved shedding documents, as noted in the Ellison inquiry; and the multiagency failings which had fatal outcomes in the Kayleigh-Anne Palmer case. Jacqueline Oakes might still be alive had proper attention been paid to known circumstances and instances of violent abuse. Therefore, ongoing gaming activities in the West Midlands force, which Dr Patrick refers to, cannot be regarded as entirely innocent. Then there was the aptly named “Nick”, the supposedly reliable informant whose allegations—inadequately checked, it appears, by the police—caused several notable people with outstanding records of public service to be implicated in some very serious offences. Indeed, one Member of your Lordships’ House went to his grave with the finger of suspicion still pointing at him, when the police already knew some time prior that there was no credible evidence against him. Therefore, a revised pre-charge bail provision would perhaps make some difference to such matters.
Your Lordships will recall the police raid on a celebrity’s home in which the media had been tipped off previously so that their helicopter was overhead as the police arrived, and that subsequently the chief constable in question appeared before the Home Affairs Select Committee but dodged the question of how the press had known about it before the police arrived, claiming that it was an “operational matter”. This was just one of several celebrities to be poorly treated. As serious as child sexual exploitation and similar crimes may be, they do not justify the methods of a witch-hunt.
This is all totally unacceptable. I note the Committee on Standards in Public Life report by my noble friend Lord Bew, who I think may be lurking behind me somewhere, entitled Tone from the Top, in which it was mentioned that around a third of police forces are under some sort of investigation. That is far too many. It boils down to this: the police have been given non-recourse powers to decide on their own initiative who is the party at fault. In the context of anti-social behaviour and harassment, their powers are near absolute. However, the police are currently ill-suited for such a task. When challenged, there is often cover-up, and obfuscation and blocking measures are put in place; when cornered, their get-out-of-jail card is to claim it is an “operational matter”; and if it involves one of their own or an associate, they quite literally close ranks. These things are not in any way unique to the police, but cultural matters in all sorts of organisations. However, in the police this happens to be of particular importance.
I would therefore welcome the strengthening of police regulation and oversight through the Bill, were I convinced that it was not just rearranging the deckchairs or rebranding. I have long considered that both HMIC and the IPCC are too close to policing themselves, too imbued with police culture and too narrow in their focus. I hope the Bill will put that right and I am glad to see that police-on-police investigation may be set to reduce, because procedurally this fails the standards of independence, objectivity and necessary vigour on behalf of the public. However, I am doubtful whether the proposed complaints handling by police and crime commissioners is the answer, and some PCCs seem to be far too close to their chief constables. Scrutiny across multiagency working seems to be addressed in the Bill, but only by creating multiple scrutineers who must work together. This should long since have been the case but it is precisely what has not been working, so I hope noble Lords will forgive my doubts about that. I therefore advocate tighter measures.
The question of what constitutes “operations” needs to be clarified and updated. While I accept that there should be no political interference in front-line and especially necessarily covert activities, there should none the less be accountability and proper independent scrutiny, even if some of it is behind closed doors. There is also a need to address political influence over police activity through the target culture, which was identified as long ago as 1999, in an HMIC report. Political convenience cannot come before performance of public duty.
This is no time for half measures or tinkering at the edges. So long as public policy does not force effective performance and integrity across the piece, each player will operate to the rules and agendas it makes up for itself. That has to stop. If there is political will, we can fix many of these things in the Bill, and I hope there will be some consensus in seeking to amend it.
My Lords, I will draw the attention of the House to the criminalisation of doping in sport. The subject was tabled in another place as proposed new Clause 39 to this wide-ranging Bill by Christina Rees, the Labour MP for Neath, to whom I am grateful.
The most compelling criminal activity in competitive sport is defrauding fellow athletes. For the worst excesses of sports fraud, where professional athletes have obtained money, property, services, a benefit or an advantage dishonestly or by deceit, they can and should be prosecuted for fraud and attract a term of imprisonment. Too often the sports-specific nature of doping in sport makes the use of existing laws ineffective and warrants the introduction of long-overdue sports-specific laws that cover not only the criminalisation of doping but match-fixing and illegal gaming as well.
As I have consistently argued in your Lordships’ House, winning at any cost in competitive sport, keenly contested though it is, is not acceptable. Cheating is inimical to the very essence of sport. Cheating by whatever means, from match-fixing to intentional doping, has no place in sport. Nor should there be any tolerance of cheating through the use of performance-enhancing drugs because of the significant dangers to athletes’ health that it poses.
When I had the privilege to be chairman of the British Olympic Association for the Beijing and London Olympic Games a poll, participated in by well over 90% of the members of Team GB, resulted in a firm and uncompromising stance by our sports men and women that those guilty of cheating should be banned from selection for Team GB for life. Olympic victory takes years of hard work and hours of gruelling training, day after day, week after week. The sacrifices required to win are huge, and only the best will succeed. Those elite athletes, pushing themselves to the limits of the physically possible, have a responsibility to do that fairly and honestly, without resort to a performance-enhancing bullet found in a pill or syringe. When an athlete chooses to cross the doping line, they not only defraud their competitors but cheat themselves.
Every week we read about yet more cases of doping where the athlete feels that the chances of being found out are minimal and the sanctions weak. I believe the time has come to create effective deterrents and criminalise the worst cases of doping in sport, which should include criminal sanctions against the coaches, the doctors, the administrators and the athlete’s entourage as well. It is argued that Olympic values should include the indulgence of human frailty, forgiveness and redemption and that the mark of a true justice system is the prospect of reform and redemption that it offers. These are important values, and society as a whole is defined by our recognition and adoption of them. However, we need to ask, where in this case is the redemption for the clean athlete, denied selection by a competitor who has knowingly cheated and potentially taken the whole “enchilada” of drugs? There is no national team kit for Rio for that clean athlete, no redemption for him or her. What is worse is that the cheat, possibly with a lifelong benefit of a course of performance-enhancing drugs, is back again, potentially strengthened by years on those drugs, while throughout that time they shredded the dreams of clean athletes with every needle they injected.
We should first look to the World Anti-Doping Agency to protect the world’s clean athletes. It was set up to police, educate and lead the crusade against the long-standing threat to clean sport. Sadly, it has consistently failed. It has been not WADA but the law enforcement agencies and the press that have led the fight against doping. It was not WADA but the law enforcement agencies that broke BALCO and exposed Marion Jones. It was not WADA but the Sunday Times and the police, backed by countries where doping in sport has been criminalised, that exposed the former era of pervasive drugs in cycling. It was not WADA but the Sunday Times and the German broadcaster ARD that exposed this year’s endemic cases of doping in Russia and Kenya.
WADA has failed to root out the training camps and countries where doping in sport is endemic. Only the dopey dopers get caught during the Games themselves. Regrettably, the intelligent cheats take drugs out of season away from the testers in countries such as Kenya, where access to drugs is so easy that the Sunday Times could recently easily pose as managers of athletes and gain access to EPO, a notoriously difficult drug to detect at altitude camps. Why has UK Athletics not banned British athletes from training in Kenya? It defies understanding. Why has the IAAF not done the same for international athletes?
At the heart of this failed policy of policing the world for drug abuse in sport, I regret to say that WADA is riddled with inadequate governance, a lack of accountability and rampant conflicts of interest. The president of WADA has shown that he is attached at the hip to his friends in Russia. Russia’s electoral power in the corridors of world sports administration wields significant influence. So it was no surprise recently when the president of WADA wrote to his friend Natalia Zhelanova, the Russian anti-doping commissar, after the Sunday Times broke the story of endemic doping in Russian athletics, saying:
“I wish to make it clear to you and to the Minister that there is no action being taken by WADA that is critical of the efforts which I know have been made, and are being made, to improve anti-doping efforts in Russia”.
He went further, saying,
“I value the relationship I have with Minister Mutko and I shall be grateful if you”—
“will inform him that there is no intention in WADA to do anything to affect that relationship”.
Unexpected and untimely deaths have followed the revelations of endemic doping in Russia, not least that of Nikita Kamaev, the former director of the Russian anti-doping agency, who was found dead in February, apparently from a heart attack, following the announcement that he was working to co-author a book with,
“information and facts that have never been published”.
WADA’s mandate is,
“to promote and coordinate the fight against doping”,
yet that is currently undertaken by proactive Governments—with legislative powers to criminalise doping—and the press, without which we would have yet more cheating athletes heading to Rio this year. The innocent athlete feels guilty with an intrusive regime that is potentially illegal anyway under the European working time directive and is built on a fundamentally misguided principle that a clean athlete is guilty till proven innocent. If you know that dozens of Kenyan athletes have tested positive since London 2012, what more intelligence does WADA need to initiate a proactive investigation into endemic doping last year?
Now, WADA looks increasingly isolated in its opposition to the criminalisation of doping. Nicole Sapstead, chief executive of UK Anti-Doping, had this to say on BBC Radio 5 Live a week ago when asked how UKAD was getting on in the investigation into allegations exposed by the Sunday Times. She replied, “What plays to our advantage is the fact that in Kenya since May it is a criminal offence to actually assist in doping—so to dope or to assist somebody to dope. So if these doctors have indeed done what they are alleged to have been doing, they are facing criminal prosecution. So it might help them or it might help us when trying to uncover the truth”. That comes at a time when the problems surrounding our own anti-doping agency continue to worsen.
When a British doctor claimed to have doped 150 sports stars this year, the organisation did not only make “ghastly mistakes”, in the words of its chairman, David Kenworthy, but it failed in its core mission. It has been shown to be toothless in this context because the law as it stands stops it taking action if the doctor concerned was not affiliated to a British governing body of sport. In other words, it is impotent to act in the face of the actions of over 99% of British doctors. Through this Bill, we now have the opportunity to rectify this inadequacy.
Clean athletes around the world need an international body—a world anti-doping agency—and a domestic national anti-doping agency backed by criminal legislation. Those organisations must be impeccably free of conflicts of interest and professional in their leadership competence, and have the finest independent lawyers and medical experts available to lead them, while remaining accountable to clean athletes. And so it is to national Governments that clean athletes increasingly turn if they are to compete against each other fairly, openly and honestly. This country used to lead in the world of sports administration; now, we lag behind Austria, Italy, France and Spain, all of which have criminalised the use of WADA-prohibited substances and methods. Cyprus, Denmark, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Luxembourg, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Serbia and Sweden have all enacted sports-specific legislation that criminalises the trafficking of WADA-prohibited substances and methods. Europe is not alone in introducing laws that criminalise doping in sport: China, Mexico and New Zealand have all enacted laws of various breadth and scope that deal with the trafficking of prohibited substances and methods.
In Committee, I hope that we will have the opportunity to consider legislation which, in the context of our athletes, addresses those who knowingly take performance-enhancing drugs with the clear and proven intention of cheating fellow athletes out of selection and their livelihood. We can learn from all the countries that I have mentioned. Now, we have the opportunity to act.
“a declaration of war on cheaters”.
Under the legislation, athletes found guilty of doping can face fines or prison terms of up to three years. Those involved in supplying athletes with performance-enhancing drugs could face jail terms of up to 10 years. Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière said that the law was meant,
“to deter and to help uncover criminal doping structures”.
I believe equally that our law should be drafted first and foremost as a deterrent. I understand that the Government are still looking into this area. I hope that I will be forgiven for pointing out that they have been looking into this area since I signed the Reykjavik convention as Minister for Sport in 1987. We owe it to clean athletes to act now.
The outgoing director-general of WADA, David Howman, recently stated:
“I want to pose the question: should doping be a criminal matter? It is in Italy and WE think—some of US—that the real deterrent that cheating athletes fear is the fear of going to prison not the fear of being stood down from their sport for a year, two years, four years but a fear of going to prison”.
Howman went further as long ago as 2014, when he stated:
“I think, now, organised crime controls at least 25 per cent of world sport in one way or another. Those guys who are distributing drugs, steroids, and HGH [human growth hormone] and EPO and so on, are the same guys who are corrupting people, the same guys who are paying money to people to fix games. They’re the same bad guys”.
Meanwhile new Dutch analysis has estimated that the prevalence of doping in elite sport is “likely” to be between 14% and 39%. The situation is worsening month by month and year by year, and we need to protect the clean athletes.
Sadly, the current model is broken. The likes of Thomas Bach, the president of the IOC, and John Coates, vice-president of the IOC and president of CAS, the arbitration service, are well positioned to take stock of the current doping crisis afflicting world sport. A new, overdue and totally independent external review is necessary after Rio. It is needed now more than ever. A proactive international Olympic review could lead to a much-needed change at the top of WADA and address a crisis which, if not tackled soon, will bring other sports down with athletics. Otherwise, weak governance of sport and the lack of transparency, accountability and professionalism governing doping in sport will lead to a world in which competition between athletes becomes little more than competition between chemists’ laboratories, as gene doping overtakes substance abuse as the challenge of the 21st century.
For decades, sports administrators have talked of taking a no compromise approach towards the drug chiefs, but their words are hollow. Their actions read like a catalogue of compromise, mixed with personal ambition and conflicted interests. It is time for far-reaching change. WADA, and the lex sportiva set up by the international sports organisations, has failed in its mission. What we need to do now to actively fight against doping in sport is to introduce criminal legislation, here in the UK, in this Bill.
My Lords, I seek to intervene in this debate with particular regard to Part 2 of the Policing and Crime Bill, which concerns itself with police complaints systems. I note that the IPCC largely takes a lot of the activities in this area, but I want to relate this to the whole process of making complaints against the police, particularly with regard to corruption or matters such as phone hacking.
I declare an interest and experience; I discovered that my phone had been hacked 46 times. I went to all the various complaints bodies—to the press consultative people, to the Metropolitan Police and to the public prosecutor, all of whom have a role and responsibility to deal with these matters—but I am afraid that none of them accepted my argument that my phone had been hacked and that the police were involved in corruption with the press. All of them denied it. I then took the matter to the courts, to ask them to adjudicate on the matter—at great risk of expense, which is the point I want to make. If you want to pursue justice in a case like this, you have to pay the costs in court now that legal aid has been removed. The courts found that my complaint was correct and I was compensated for the matter. However, that is not of any satisfaction to me.
In the Bill, we are dealing with the agencies to which complaints against the police are made—possibly relating to corruption, but, more importantly, to do with their relationship with the press. Corruption is not just limited to what the Leveson inquiry showed us. We know that this was a common happening in other police authorities. Therefore, we need to challenge it. I want to use this opportunity to look at the Bill and what it offers.
I will not go into the full details of the complaints procedures—they are spelled out in the Bill—but I will say that they are unsatisfactory, if my experience is anything to go by. In these circumstances, I want to relate this to Leveson. The Leveson inquiry into the relationship between the press and the police very clearly showed that it was wrong: criminal acts were committed, money was paid and there was corruption. Except Leveson, in wanting to investigate the possible corrupt relationship between the police and the press, was told that he could not investigate these matters because there were cases before the courts in which journalists were being prosecuted. Therefore, understandably, he could not do it. That is why a recommendation was made for Leveson part 2—to look precisely at the matter of corruption between the police and the press.
The Government made a promise, but the answer that they still give this House is that we cannot do anything until those court cases are finished. It was many years ago that all this happened. I wonder whether the Government can give us any indication as to whether their position has changed and that they will begin to look at Leveson part 2. Or is this just another way by which they can delay the implementation of the Leveson recommendations and, indeed, the investigation of the charges of corruption between the police and the press? Perhaps this Bill, as it goes through the House, into Committee and back to the Floor, will give the Government an opportunity to give us a clear answer as to exactly what the position is. There is no doubt that the Prime Minister, the Home Secretary and many others have said that that is the reason for the delay.
I am concerned, however, by other circumstances that seem to involve delay, all of which are about fair financial assistance so that money will be provided to those who seek to take a case to the court but cannot afford it. Social justice could be achieved by providing the resources for the complainant. Yet again, that was agreed by the Government, which meant that the money would be found. A person could take a case against the press—for libel, for example—and would be assured that they would not face the heavy financial cost from the involvement of lawyers in proceeding with the case. Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013, which deals with this matter, implements one of the recommendations of Leveson. The Government not only accepted the recommendation but put it in the 2013 Act.
But, as we know here, once an Act is passed and the Queen’s consent given, there still has to be some time before it is implemented—people need to get ready for it and procedures put in place. But 2013 was three years ago, and that recommendation still has not been implemented. Why has it not been implemented? It deals exactly with the matter of money for people to take a case, which Leveson recommended. The Government agreed the provision and included it in the 2013 Act, but it has not been implemented.
I am concerned that this Bill is yet another delay and a failure to implement what Leveson said. If the Section 40 implications are already in this Bill, perhaps we could get an amendment at an early stage to include its implementation in this Bill—which involves the issue of complaints against the police—and so make clear that that principle will be applied, as was agreed by the Prime Minister and both Houses of Parliament and as embodied in the royal charter. Here is our chance to do that. The Government can do it. They have brought in the legislation already, and this is a development of Leveson: why the three-year delay? They could do it now.
We have a new Government, and the former Home Secretary, now the Prime Minister, also made promises in this case. The previous Culture Secretary, Mr Whittingdale, made it clear that he would accept it, also. But he recently made a statement that, despite the previous Prime Minister’s promise to see it implemented, he is not minded to implement this section. Mr Whittingdale went to a meeting of all the press barons and made a statement not that he was going to implement it one way or another but that he was “not minded” to. The implication to the press, of course, was that the Government will not do it. That is another example of the Government saying, on the one hand, that they agree something at the highest level—Parliament has embodied it in the royal charter—and yet still, on the other hand, not implementing it. Forgive me if I think that they just do not want to implement it and are just delaying. It is the many poor people who would sue following abuse by the press or some form of corruption who are being denied the opportunity that Parliament agreed and which the Government are not implementing.
My question therefore is this: please can the Government give us an indication of when this recommendation will be implemented? I understand that that might not be easily done from the Dispatch Box. However, perhaps as the Bill goes through the processes of the House, we can ask those questions and find out exactly what the Government’s position is. There should be no more delay: let us implement Section 40 of the 2013 Act.
As I said, what causes me concern is the Government’s attitude towards the implementation of Leveson. Implementation was promised, and we were told, as Leveson said, that an independent body would decide whether the new press body to be set up was independent. A regulator is to report in September as to whether the new body, the IPSO, is in fact independent. Frankly, it is no different from the old body. It is controlled by the industry, financed by the industry and follows its own rules.
I thought that I would put forward my complaint to see how independent the IPSO is. I got the reply last week. My complaint was that Ann Treneman, a journalist at the Times, had written in about article that, on arriving by plane in this country, I had said, “I’m pleased to arrive back on terracotta”. I never said it; it had been denied in other papers, so I put in the complaint, because under Article 1 of the code, the press is supposed to publish accurate information. Journalists are required to ask you to find out whether something is true. If you remember, they did not do that with the Queen and have since apologised—but let us leave the Queen aside; this is me. So I complained that the words attributed to me were not true. The code is quite clear that the press must do all it can find out that information.
I went to this new IPSO and asked whether it could deal with my complaint, because it was clear that the journalist had not contacted me. We were in the same building; she could have picked up the phone and asked me, “Is this true?” and I would have said no. I thought that it would be an open-and-shut case. The newspaper admits that it did not contact me. What was the answer of the independent committee looking at the complaint? It was that, well, it had been said about me so many times it must be true. What a way to think, and that is an independent committee: that it must be true because it had been said so many times—Ann Treneman had read other journalists saying it, so it must be true. By God, she must have more faith in journalism than I have—or indeed what the evidence showed at Leveson. The committee therefore ruled out my complaint because it had been said so many times by other journalists that it must have been true—cor blimey. I then worry about how the committee can make a judgment and whether it is independent. I look forward to the assessment of whether it is independent.
Having lost my case in the appeal, I was a bit worried about whether I had got a fair judgment, so I went along to look at who sits on these committees. It is headed by Paul Dacre—there is an independent man; certainly not from my point of view, but there we are. Then the industry pays a judge—Judge Moses, apparently—to be independent. I will not go into “the piper calls the tune”, but nevertheless I am not very convinced about it. Then I look at who makes up the committees and I find that more than 50% of the membership are journalists. Well, fine, journalists probably think more of other journalists than me. They take that view as journalists on the complaints committee. The board is made up of all the press. You name any major newspaper and a few local ones, and you find that they dominate the board dealing with complaints. And then of those who judged my complaint, more than 50% were from journalism. Forgive me if I think that I am not getting a fair crack of the whip—and when I read the judgments I know that I am not.
I do not expect an answer from the Minister today. This Bill is about complaints and corruption et cetera and sets out a procedure to deal with it, but it could be an act of corruption that we know has happened before and the complainant might have to go to court. What they would do to avoid going to court is go to an independent complaints body. IPSO is not independent; it has bought just about everybody out, frankly—I hope they report this, but the press are not happy about reporting anything to do with Leveson and that is a fact. Nevertheless, I give notice to the Government that they should raise this matter when the Bill goes into Committee.
Leveson should be back in September; there will be a report on whether this IPSO is independent. If it is not, we have to find something more. We could start by implementing Section 40 of the 2013 Act. The Prime Minister agreed it; the royal charter agreed it; both Houses of Parliament have agreed it, as have the Secretaries of State. Is it not about time we carried out what we promised and indicated to those people who were shown by the Leveson inquiry to have been abused that the finance will be provided to enable them to pursue their case of justice against the police, particularly in regard to libel and police corruption?
My Lords, I should begin by declaring my interest as a vice-president of the LGA. I am delighted to be taking part in this debate today and following the noble Lord, Lord Prescott, but fear that my contribution is much more mundane. The Policing and Crime Bill is large and complex; my interest is very specific and contained within the first 21 pages—that is, Part 1, which deals with emergency services collaboration.
In my previous life, I served on both a police authority and a fire and rescue authority, and it is the latter which concerns me today. The new Prime Minister made it clear, in her previous role as Home Secretary, that her vision to bring fire and rescue services under the auspices of police and crime commissioners. Greater collaboration between the emergency services is to be welcomed and is already taking place in many areas. In terms of efficiency, the duty to collaborate—if supported by additional Home Office funding—might enable cross-organisational working to flourish, as often there is a cost in identifying and piloting approaches before such initiatives are rolled out more widely. Joint innovation funding bids will reinforce the benefits of working together.
However, some important factors need to be taken into account before fire and rescue services are bundled under the control of police and crime commissioners. First, the boundaries of fire and rescue authorities are not coterminous with police commissioner areas. The answer has been given that the fire and rescue boundaries will be altered to fit those of the crime commissioner. This sounds a simple solution but is not easy to achieve without significant cost for some fire and rescue authorities, especially when merged fire services have to be demerged to fit existing police boundaries.
I was leader of Somerset County Council when the two FRAs of Devon and Somerset were merged after very detailed and often painful negotiations. This was a triumph for all those involved—both chief fire officers, leading elected members and other officers of both county councils. To try now to demerge the boundaries because they do not fit with PCC boundaries would be an extremely retrograde step and take no account of loyalty or good will. This is a service where trust in your fellow officers is paramount, and firefighters are fiercely loyal to their colleagues. They feel ownership of their service and identify strongly with the area to which they belong. This good will should be factored into the equation in much the same way as “good will” appears in any set of business accounts. I believe that fire and rescue authorities would be disaggregated and split up at our peril.
Secondly, a police and crime commissioner has a very specific role and remit, whereas the ethos of a fire and rescue service is very different. The role of the firefighter has changed dramatically over the past 50 years. When I was a child, their role was almost exclusively one of responding to and putting out fires. Now they fulfil a range of functions. With ever-increasing levels of traffic on our roads, they are called to innumerable road traffic accidents where they extract drivers and passengers from tangled metal crashes, saving lives in the process. They respond to severe and minor flooding incidents, travelling to all parts of the country to rescue and provide relief to those stranded by rising water and danger. Some have sniffer dogs which can detect not drugs, as in the case of many police dogs, but a human body. They have been sent to earthquake-hit regions, where their dogs are able to point rescuers to where a person may lie trapped and undetected beneath a pile of rubble. As well as their role in responding to emergencies and tragedies, fire and rescue services provide important fire awareness training to local communities and in elderly persons homes, homes for young people with learning difficulties, schools, colleges, businesses and a whole host of organisations within our communities.
Some FRAs are exploring how they might undertake wider activities which have historically been undertaken by the police, such as searching for missing persons, area-wide searches, concerns to welfare et cetera. While this will increase demand on an FRS, it probably sits better with it than perhaps with the police. It will free up police time, but there may be a cost to the FRS for taking on such work and this comes at a time when fire budgets are already stretched. There needs to be some recognition of the benefits to communities through organisations working differently together, and this may be best achieved through the public facing inspection reports such as the PEEL inspection reports undertaken by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and any new fire service inspectorate that will emerge in the near future.
While the Bill is focused on police and fire, the modern FRS saves a significant number of lives through its emergency medical work. It is perhaps surprising that Devon and Somerset FRS now attends more medical emergencies than it does fires, and that trend is continuing. Therefore, recognition and central government support for continuation of this work is important in shaping local integrated risk management plans. This area could be strengthened in the Bill.
While I do not doubt that police and crime commissioners have a working knowledge of the areas they represent, I would like to put the case for the elected councillors who sit on fire and rescue authorities. They represent specific areas of the community covered by the FRS and they know their communities really well—otherwise they would not have got themselves elected, often on good turnouts. They know and care about their communities and are passionate about the fire and rescue service. Their passion for this blue-light service is shared by their communities, who all believe that firefighters do an amazing job and would wish to ensure that the service is delivered to the same high standard in their area.
I cannot finish without referring to the particular problem that exists in London with regard to the three blue-light services. On
“Our average earnings for our workforce have gone up by 3% or 4%. The average cost of travel with a zone 1-4 ticket has gone up by 25%. The cost of housing has gone up by in excess of a third”.
We all know in this Chamber that the salary for a first-time buyer in London needs to be in excess of £80,000. Our frontline emergency services can afford neither to buy nor to rent properties in London.
There are many redundant fire stations in and around London. Some were sold off by the previous Mayor of London for business investment, but not all have gone under the hammer. These fire stations occupy large areas of land and are in key areas. With very little imagination, they could be converted into thriving businesses or retail opportunities and at the same time a section of the site could provide much needed key-worker housing for frontline blue-light personnel. That is common sense.
Finally, in the south-west we have established an emergency services forum where the most senior professional and political leaders of all three emergency services come together and explore what is working as well as driving forward collaboration improvements. This is already paying dividends and real progress is being made even before the new legislation is enacted, which further supports the strong collaboration approach that is already under way. If the Government are serious about collaboration between the emergency services, and I believe they rightly are, some of the issues I have raised will need to be addressed to ensure that the services are fit for the challenges of the next 10 years. I look forward to the Minister’s response.
My Lords, like other noble Lords, the very size of the Bill and its accompanying documents made me realise the huge range of issues that it covers, many of which we have heard mentioned today. At least by the autumn, when we reach Committee stage, there will have been a little more time to think through a wider range of the issues that may need further probing. For today’s Second Reading debate, I shall concentrate on those areas of the Bill dealing with mental health issues. I shall, however, end on a different aspect.
The Bill makes important changes to the Mental Health Act 1983. This is one of the few pieces of legislation that allows people to be deprived of their liberty when they have not committed or are not suspected of having committed a crime. The Bill makes much reference to the relationship between the police and mental health crisis care. While this is a policing Bill and makes many changes to policing practices and conduct, I will focus on the mental health elements, as supporting people with mental health problems is part of a police officer’s role. In a mental health crisis, as the charity Mind tells us, one’s mind is at melting point. One may experience extreme anxiety, have suicidal thoughts or even a psychotic episode. In a crisis we need compassion, understanding and health-based support.
The Mental Health Act provides a legal framework for the detention of individuals with mental health problems. It is important to remember that being detained under the Mental Health Act, which is used to assess and treat a person’s mental health problems without their consent if it is deemed to be in the interests of their health and safety or for the protection of others, is often traumatic for the person concerned. We must do all that we can to improve the support we provide to people at this critical time. I am sure other noble Lords will welcome the Bill’s measures to reduce the maximum length of time for which the person may be detained to 24 hours, down from as many as 72, and certainly the banning of police cells for children. I would like to see us further improve the mental health support that we provide and the Bill gives us the opportunity to raise some important points.
I will focus my speech on the places of safety to which people are taken to wait for a mental health assessment and the support they receive at that critical time. People experiencing a mental health crisis who are detained under the Mental Health Act need to be taken to a supportive and holistic health-based place of safety. However, we know that, all too often, police cells continue to be used. A health-based place of safety has clear and specific qualities that make it safe for people experiencing a mental health crisis, such as being staffed by health professionals and being physically more appropriate. The mental health charity Mind has said that there is no scenario where a health-based place of safety would ever not be the best place to take someone who has been detained under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act. To ensure that we are able to do this, health-based places of safety need to be available and able to manage a person’s health and behaviour. I do not believe that a police cell or even a person’s home is ever appropriate for someone experiencing a mental health crisis. It sounds almost ridiculous that we are still discussing the use of police cells when using one would be absolutely unthinkable for someone experiencing a physical health crisis. We need to question some of the assumptions and truly think about what is best for people with mental health problems.
I would like to raise two further points which are essential if we are to change the way we support people in mental health crisis. The first is to provide independent advice when a person is detained under an emergency section. This is vital because people are often very confused. They might think that they are being arrested for committing a crime and are often in a state of considerable distress. It is astonishing that people detained under Sections 135 and 136 of the Mental Health Act do not receive independent advice about what is happening to them at a time of real need. Along with other noble Lords, I will be calling for better support in the form of an appropriate adult scheme for people during those 24 hours when they are detained.
My final point concerns making sure that people are detained only for up to 24 hours, which the Government have certainly shown their commitment to achieving through the Bill. However, we know that people are often kept waiting for what can be hours to travel to a place of safety, or are held outside until a place becomes available. That time does not count towards the maximum length of time. To make sure that people do not have their liberty taken away for longer than the maximum time, it is crucial that the clock should start when the decision is made to detain someone, not at the point when someone arrives at the place of safety.
Many of the changes I have spoken about will require the health service to step up and provide appropriate support for those experiencing a mental health crisis. However, these are crucial changes to improve how we treat people with mental health problems and bring us closer to achieving parity of esteem.
I turn now to my second issue. Given my work on online safety, it would be remiss of me not to warmly welcome Clause 144, which amends Section 51 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 to make it clear that the definition of sexual exploitation includes situations where indecent images of children are streamed via the internet or transmitted by other technological means. It is only right that this House should make it plain that there is no place in our society for any form of child sexual exploitation. To that end, I will be looking to the Government to provide reassurance that this law can be applied to all situations where an offender views streamed images and video of child abuse, including where the abuse is streamed in real time.
Staying with broader issues of child protection but in the offline world, I was concerned to see that child abduction warning notices—CAWNs—are currently defined in such a way that they can be applied to only around 5% of 16 and 17 year-olds. An amendment was moved in the other place to apply CAWNs to all 16 and 17 year-olds. The Minister there opposed the amendment but said that she would look at the issue. I hope the Government have now looked closely at the scope for the application of CAWNs. I would be interested to know whether they are now ready to extend the scope of CAWNs, and if not, why not? I look forward to hearing the Minister’s response on this matter.
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble and learned friend the Minister for his explanation of the Bill. There appear to be many desirable components in it, some of which may help to address my concerns. The first one is that I am extremely unhappy with how the police exercise their powers, especially in some of the very high profile cases that have arisen in recent years. The noble Earl, Lord Lytton, went into greater detail on those. I understand the need for the operational independence of the police, and in particular that there should be no political interference, but it is not clear how the police are held to account for operations, especially in cases of misjudgment rather than criminality or serious misconduct. Further, I am not clear on what useful role the courts or the judiciary have in issuing warrants. In some of the high profile cases that were referred to by the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, a warrant would have been issued. I would like to explore in Committee exactly what the role of the judiciary is.
Closely linked to the issue of the conduct of the police in investigations is leadership in the police. My noble friend Lord Wasserman touched on integrity in the police, which is a closely related issue. So far as I am aware, the police do not objectively measure leadership. They might measure integrity, management and the ability to command a situation, but they do not objectively measure leadership, by which I mean the art of getting people to do things they do not really want to do: unlike in the Armed Forces, where no matter how clever or charismatic you are—although I accept that charisma is slightly linked to leadership—if you do not have innate leadership qualities, you are not going to get a commission.
I intend to raise these two matters in Committee in great detail. However, I may be pleasantly surprised by some of the provisions in the Bill when we look at it closely. There is certainly plenty of scope for amendments to address my issues.
What I want to spend most of my time addressing is Clause 114 dealing with deactivated firearms. I declare an interest as I inherited my grandfather’s Webley .455 First World War revolver. I took the decision to have it deactivated in order to be absolutely certain that it could not cause a tragedy and so that it could not fall into the wrong hands and create a problem. Originally I had a firearms certificate which said that the weapon was not to be fired, but there was always the possibility of a child acquiring just one round and that one round causing a complete disaster. However, it did cost me money to have the pistol deactivated and I must have significantly lowered its value, because collectors with the right type of firearms certificate will pay a lot more money for a serviceable firearm than a deactivated one, but it was worth it for the reassurance.
The Prime Minister has always said that Brexit means Brexit, but she said it after this Bill had been drafted. I have not got fully to the root of this issue, but it appears that Clause 114 seeks to include any EU regulation or directive in the UK regime for firearm deactivation. Clause 114 is to be found on page 131. It introduces the concept of a defectively deactivated firearm. My grandfather’s Webley 455 would fall into that category. Thus I can keep it, I do not need a firearms certificate or any record of its deactivation, although the proof house would have a record of its deactivation inspection. However, I cannot sell or transfer it.
In Committee I will suggest redrafting Clause 114(4) so that either a UK-spec or an EU-spec deactivation is okay, but I suspect that the Minister will violently resist that suggestion because he cannot possibly accept such an amendment, the reason being that an EU-spec deactivation is far below the standard of a UK-spec deactivation. I would suggest that the standard to be achieved needs to make it more difficult to reactivate a deactivated firearm than to make a new one. That is what the UK spec achieves. Of course, I am making the assumption that an engineering workshop is available with the necessary machines.
I am a little unclear why the EU deactivation spec is so poor. I understand that it involves changing the material in the steel plug in the barrel. In other words, it is necessary to temporarily reactivate the UK deactivated firearm and then put in the plug to EU specifications. However, we should remember that the EU specification for deactivation is not good enough for UK standards. That perhaps accounts for the rather odd drafting of Clause 114.
Does this matter? The UK has many collectors of deactivated firearms. They cause no problem, and that is why the Bill does not restrict ownership of deactivated firearms. If they are used to cause distress to other citizens, there are very serious offences already in the Firearms Act. There will be plenty of collectors who have collections worth tens of thousands of pounds. Such collections could be made worthless. My grandfather’s Webley 455 is considerably reduced in value. It may be worthless, because it would not be worth the cost of having it deactivated to EU specifications. It would not particularly be a problem for me if my grandfather’s Webley had no value. But for collectors, and there are lots of them, this is a very big problem.
If Brexit does mean Brexit, surely we can just delete Clause 114. Failing that, I hope I can have a meeting with the relevant Home Office experts and the appropriate Lords Minister—I understand that the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, will be taking the Bill through. Obviously, any such meeting would need to be before we reach Committee stage. In conclusion, I look forward to the subsequent stages of the Bill and to supporting the Minister, while not neglecting my concerns, particularly about police leadership and Clause 114.
My Lords, I want to speak to Part 7 of the Bill, relating to alcohol and the Licensing Act 2003. It is not a major part of the Bill but the misuse of alcohol carries a huge cost to the country in a whole variety of different ways, particularly in the context of policing, crime and alcohol-related poor health.
The Minister mentioned it in his opening address, and I have been interested for some time in the way in which alcohol is being presented and now sold in a different way from the traditional liquid form—as powdered and vaporised alcohol. I have been asking the Government how they will deal with this development. Powdered alcohol is being manufactured in the USA and the best-known product there, Palcohol, has been legal since March 2015.
It has not been welcomed everywhere there because it can be taken easily to places where alcohol should not be consumed. It can be added to existing liquid alcohol drinks, thereby substantially increasing their strength. The biggest risk is that it can be, and in practice is being, added to the wide variety of soft drinks that minors and children consume. There is great concern about that. These are some of the reasons why to date, while it has been legalised in the States, 25 individual states have now banned the sale of the product. For all intents and purposes it is a psychoactive substance. It is mind altering and, as the Government document recognised, it can be vaped, as can other psychoactive substances. Ethyl alcohol is, of course, a drug. We talk about drink and drugs, but it is actually drugs and drugs if we look at it technically. I should like to know from the Minister why the Government are differentiating this from the other drugs that were recently banned under the psychoactive substances legislation. Why is this different from what has been banned under other legislation? Is it not really a legal high that is little different from the others?
Can the Minister also say what the Government think about the concerns and objections that have been raised in the States? If they intend to press ahead with the proposals to extend the definition of what constitutes alcohol to the Licensing Act 2003, does this in effect formally legalise the sale of powdered and vaporised alcohol in the UK from the time that this Bill becomes law? It is a little unclear at the moment. I have noticed that some websites are already preparing to sell powdered alcohol for vaping in the UK but they are waiting, as they put it, for the Government to legalise it. I presume that the Government are taking a step to legalise it, whereas it has hitherto not been seen as legal. Yet there is evidence in the States that where it has been legalised there are problems with it.
I should also like to know—I introduce the health element here—what consultations there have been with the health authorities on this change. The noble and learned Lord, in his introduction, also referred to your Lordships’ Select Committee which is currently reviewing the operation of the Licensing Act 2003. I declare an interest as a Member of it. Part of this review, which has just got under way, is that a department of the Home Office has recently presented what is in effect post-legislative scrutiny to the Committee. It runs to 80 pages and, for anyone interested in reading it, it is Command Paper 9278 and was published in June. Generally speaking, it gives a rather glowing report of what has developed over the years since the Act came into force in 2005. It points to the reduction in the amount of alcohol now consumed, which is true, particularly among young people, where there has been a decline in recent years. It points to the fall in crime and disorder in alcohol-related incidents, but there are some negatives that some of us see arising from the Act. For example, late-night opening has shifted alcohol-induced problems to later in the night, with some consequences for public order and certainly consequences for the police and their resourcing. It has also had quite a major impact on A&E and emergency services.
There has also been a growth in off-licence sales, where the number of licences and sales have gone up, while in on-sale premises, such as pubs and clubs, sales have gone into decline. We now see that more than 70% of alcohol sales are coming from the off-sale trade which is changing very significantly indeed, with very major players such as Amazon now selling alcohol online 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
That sort of change has probably increased preloading, where people buy cheaply in supermarkets, drink it at home and then go out later in the evening. That in turn has led in the opinion of some of us to a really major problem that has not been recognised so far by the Home Office—in particular, in the paper that it presented to the Select Committee, which I have just mentioned—about the ever-increasing number of NHS hospital patients with alcohol poisoning or other alcohol-related illnesses. There is conclusive evidence of more than 64 of these so-recognised alcohol-linked problems, including liver disease and cancer—breast cancer in particular. Strong evidence has now come through about the effect of excessive drinking by women and the risk of breast cancer. Notwithstanding the statistics available about hospital admissions, I suspect that if some more research is done on what is happening at GP level and the extent to which GPs are looking at alcohol-induced illnesses being dealt with there, on which relatively little research has been done, we will see that there has been a growth in that area, compared with what life was like in 2003 when the Act first came into place.
Among the 80-odd pages of the post-regulatory review the Home Office submitted to us, I found a couple of lines about health problems generally. When I checked up on it I discovered a two-line reference, which I researched, that there is now evidence from the Health & Social Care Information Centre that in 2014-15 there were more than 1 million alcohol-related patient admissions to hospital—to be precise, 1,059,000. That was a 5% increase over 2012-13. But going back to 2005, when the 2003 Act was first put into place, the figure was as low as 493,760 admitted to hospital. While there has been a decline in alcohol consumption and fewer incidents of violence reported to the police, the other side of the coin is a massive change, with a 115% increase in alcohol-related admissions to hospital. This is a significant factor and change in the ethos that we have to take into account when looking at the 2003 Act.
I would not want to repeat all these arguments in Committee. The health authorities have long been arguing that a major omission from the 2003 Act was the requirement to take into account the health implications arising from alcohol consumption. It has already been taken into account in Scotland, where a change has been adopted. I will seek in Committee to move an amendment. Even though this is a relatively small item in the context of the size of the Bill we have before us, it is an important element with very substantial costs attached to it for the country as a whole. Given we have a change in the Home Office, with a new Minister in charge, I hope we might perhaps look for a more positive response from it to the idea that the health objective should be imported into the criteria required before licences are granted for people to sell alcohol. I tried to do this previously with a Private Member’s Bill without any success, but I hope, given the weight of evidence now accumulating, that there will be a positive response from the Home Office to this and we will see a way forward that will certainly delight many people in the health authorities too.
My Lords, first I refer to my interests in policing and other matters as set out in the register. Secondly, we are all delighted that the noble and learned Lord has been taking us through today, because we understand this may be his swansong on the Bill. It may be that he is delighted because, having listened to the range of issues raised during the last few hours, he realises that he will not be the one to deal with their detail.
This is certainly a substantial Bill—some 300 pages, as has been noted. When I realised that there are 1,100 paragraphs in the Explanatory Notes, I knew that we were embarking on what is clearly a major legislative exercise. It is 16 times the length of the Indian Independence Act 1947, which created the new independent nations of India and Pakistan and ended the British Raj. We are all in awe of the creativity of the Home Office officials who drafted such a big and complicated Bill in the light of such precedents.
I think it was Winston Churchill—probably about the same time as the Indian Independence Act—who, when presented at the end of a meal with a pudding, said, “Take away the pudding, it has no theme”. This is a Bill without a theme. Despite its title, which, let us remind ourselves, is the Policing and Crime Bill, its first part deals almost throughout with the fire service. The Bill then meanders through complaints against police, police powers for volunteers, police bail, the detention of people under the Mental Health Act, deputy police and crime commissioners, changes to the Firearms Act, changes to the Licencing Act and UN-mandated sanctions, before reaching a rousing conclusion: restoring powers to Scottish local authorities to issue litter abatement notices. It is a comprehensive, detailed and complicated Bill.
We have to note that we face a Conservative Government rejuvenated—indeed, created—by a general election victory. The Bill is the major product from the Home Office following the election of a majority Conservative Government. This is the best we can expect from the Home Office during the Government’s duration. It is certainly some sort of pudding; it may no longer be Eton mess, but it certainly has no theme.
The question for me is: do I want it taken away? Some of it is certainly worth having. Much of it is probably worthy and probably does no harm. For example, the proposal to declassify police cells as a place of safety under the Mental Health Act is long overdue. Anyone who has looked at a police custody suite will realise it is not an appropriate setting for someone in the middle of a mental health crisis. But a provision simply saying that police cells are no longer a place of safety is, on its own, potentially meaningless. Will the Government guarantee enough locally based places of asylum with appropriate mental health care? Will they guarantee appropriate support for that place of safety—perhaps more appropriately, to be the person’s own home?
Often, those with a presenting mental health problem whom the police are happy to deal with, and who might be placed in a police cell because of their mental health state, are also inebriated or under the influence of drugs. Will the Government guarantee that mental healthcare settings in practice, assuming they exist—while there has been a lot of progress in the last few years, this is still not universally the case—will accept people who are inebriated or under the influence of drugs, or if they are being violent? Let us remember that police are often called to mental health establishments because staff cannot cope with the behaviour of the residents. If the laudable intention is for police cells not to be used as places of safety under the Mental Health Act, what arrangements are the Government making to ensure that mental health services are fit for purpose in managing that situation?
While we are about it, since the Government are expressing in the Bill an interest in custody facilities, what medical facilities will routinely be available in police custody suites? What is being done to train and support police in dealing with those they encounter who have mental health problems? The facilities that ought to be available in custody suites should be not just for people with mental health problems, but for those with physical problems. Brain injuries sometimes appear like intoxication. That requires a proper medical assessment in the custody suite: is someone sleeping, or dying? The opportunity is here to address some of these issues. Legislating that police cells cannot be used as a place of safety is simply not enough.
Another major part of the Bill deals with police complaints. It sensibly gives more of a role to PCCs and streamlines the governance of the IPCC. However, rebranding the IPCC as the Office for Police Conduct does not do anything to address the problems the IPCC faces: timeliness—how long it takes to conduct its investigations; sometimes, the quality of those investigations; and how independent it is perceived to be. Before the noble and learned Lord hands the Bill back to his noble friend to take through, I am sure he will explain to us how dropping the word “independent” from the title will help in giving the sense that the new version of the IPCC is independent. Why does it help to remove regional commissioners, who by statute shall never have held the office of constable? The only person required under this legislation not to have held the office of constable is the head of the organisation. Again, it is moving in the opposite direction from the present position.
Then, we have the proposals for the fire service. Who could argue against anything that improves collaboration and joint working between the three emergency services and fosters the more efficient use of their resources? Yet where is the evidence that this is not happening? The tri-service review of Joint Emergency Services Interoperability Principles, published in April, found that there was,
“a nationally consistent commitment towards interoperable … culture”,
“a nationally consistent approach to joint training”.
Admittedly, there was a recognition that interoperability,
“has yet to be fully embedded across the services”.
However, it is not clear why the patchwork reorganisations implied by this Bill would do anything to improve that interoperability and working together. Indeed, why will a patchwork organisational structure facilitate anything very much, with some fire services under the control of a PCC, some under an executive mayor—who may or may not have policing responsibilities—and the rest under an old-style fire authority? What will that patchwork quilt do to improve the fire service?
If the intention of the noble and learned Lord is to let a thousand flowers—or at least 40-odd of them—bloom in some sort of sub-Maoist approach to the emergency services, why has the discretion of the Mayor of London and London Assembly been so fettered, unlike the rest of the country? London must have a deputy mayor for fire, and this person—I assume, but maybe the noble and learned Lord could clarify—cannot be the Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime. The London Assembly must have a stand-alone fire and emergency committee, and this function cannot be carried out by the Policing and Crime Committee or any other existing committee of the Assembly. I appreciate no one is currently arguing that these roles should be combined but it seems extraordinary, when you are creating all this flexibility everywhere else in the country, that the Minister goes so far in this Bill as to specify the detail of the committee structure of the London Assembly and the nature of dual appointments that can be made by the Mayor of London. Why fetter the discretion of this and future mayors and Assemblies, and limit them in this way?
The Bill tidies up some anomalies regarding deputy PCCs—a bit late, given that we have had one sad death in service of a PCC and one resignation. Incidentally, these anomalies were highlighted in this House when the original Bill to create PCCs first came through. So this Bill is not only a pudding without a theme but a missed opportunity—a sort of collapsed soufflé, or Eton mess whose creators have forgotten the strawberries. Everybody apparently now accepts that PCCs were the most wonderful innovation ever, so why no attempt to make them more effective? There is an opportunity to strengthen their role in respect of the rest of the criminal justice system—something long overdue, despite the efforts of a number of PCCs to streamline relationships with, for example, the CPS and the courts, or to engage much more in probation, rehabilitation and services designed to reduce the risk of reoffending. The Bill is a wasted opportunity.
Nor is there any move to strengthen the accountability mechanisms for PCCs, to address the weakness of police and crime panels, to improve the transparency of PCCs’ actions, or to introduce a recall mechanism. These are more wasted opportunities. You have 300 pages of legislation and you do not use the opportunity to make some of these changes. The chance is not taken to strengthen the support structures around PCCs and the Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime. Many of those office-holders in the first cycle experimented with additional appointments—apart from the deputy PCC—but these should be put on a statutory basis with a statutory framework, so that there is proper transparency. It is another wasted opportunity.
There is, in these 300 pages, an opportunity to tackle the eligibility question. Who is allowed to serve as a PCC, or for that matter as Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime in London? It is wrong in principle that any should be former police officers, in that force or any another. As we have already been told, prospective PCCs must resign as MPs before they can stand, although that is not the case for the Mayor of London, who acts as a PCC, as he does not have to resign; or, when he does resign, he can then stand again, as the previous mayor demonstrated. PCCs cannot put themselves forward as parliamentary candidates. Yet in London, the Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime is politically restricted unless they happen to be an Assembly member. Yet they are the person—a political person—designated by the Mayor of London to act. The same applies to deputy PCCs: they are political people designated by a politically elected PCC to act, so why make them politically restricted? What good is served by that process? It is another wasted opportunity.
The Bill was an opportunity to get all this right. Personally, I was never averse to the concept of a directly elected person being responsible for holding the police service to account in their area—though I appreciate that that might not always have been obvious to the noble Baroness, Lady Browning, when she took the Bill through the House. Police accountability matters. It is a pity that, five years on, the Home Office could not be bothered to put right the details it did not get right first time. Then, there was of course the imperative of a manifesto commitment for the larger part of the then coalition. Not to get it right now is simply negligent. Even if it is not to be with the benefit of the wonderful insights and charming turns of phrase of the noble and learned Lord, I looked forward to the opportunity to probe these and many other areas as this Bill goes forward.
My Lords, in their election manifesto, the Government promised to finish the job of police reform and I support that ambition. I support much that is in the Bill. In particular, I support introducing a duty to collaborate on all three emergency services to improve efficiency. That will give impetus to innovative collaboration which, if I am honest, is already taking place up and down the country—but this will help. I also strongly support strengthening public confidence in the police by enhancing the role of the Independent Police Complaints Commission. Honest police officers have nothing to fear from such a strengthened Office for Police Conduct. I also welcome the introduction of an amendment for exceptional circumstances to allow retired police officers to be disciplined in certain circumstances.
Like others, I particularly welcome the provisions to ensure that those experiencing a mental health crisis receive the help they need and that police cells are used as places of safety only in exceptional circumstances. However, like other noble Lords, I fear that unless more resources are put into this area the reality will be that police cells may still be used for the mentally ill. Other clauses in the Bill cause me some concern. Also, some big issues are not addressed in the Bill. Their absence will jeopardise the Government’s ambition to deliver police reform. Yet before identifying these concerns, it might be helpful to your Lordships to briefly recount the changing nature of police and crime commissioners, and how this might impact on their ability to deliver the reforms proposed in the Bill.
In 2012, the then Government suggested police and crime commissioners would be very different from the old police authorities they were replacing. They would not be anonymous figures anchored in local party-political bodies. It was hoped and, indeed, expected that they would attract high-calibre independent candidates from backgrounds such as business, the military and the professions. Despite voter apathy and a turnout of only 15%, 16 independent candidates were elected. Compare and contrast that with the 2016 elections where, despite the elections coinciding with local elections, there was a turnout of only 26% and voters appeared to vote predominantly on party-political lines, replicating the party-political results in the local elections. So we now have 20 Conservative, 15 Labour and two Plaid Cymru police and crime commissioners. Independents were almost wiped out with the exception of three in Avon and Somerset, Dorset and Gloucestershire. So in just one electoral cycle the new police and crime commissioners are again firmly anchored in local party politics, with all the strengths and some of the challenges that brings.
Against this new landscape of PCCs, I raise concerns about what is in the Bill and what is missing. First, I have reservations about the clauses that enable PCCs to take on the functions and duties of fire and rescue authorities, where a local case is made. Other noble Lords have raised those concerns, including the noble Lords, Lord Rosser, Lord Bach, Lord Paddick and Lord Harris. I predict that the new police and crime commissioners, who, as I say, are now once again embedded in local party politics, will probably be unlikely to embrace these enabling clauses with any enthusiasm. The drive for efficiency is well established in local politics already and many fire and rescue authorities are collaborating with agencies other than the police, as well as with the police. For example, some are working with social services to enhance the safety of the elderly, with alarms and monitoring way beyond just fire safety. The spectre of a relatively unwelcome takeover of a fire and rescue authority by a PCC, however unlikely, will damage morale and create uncertainty, and could well jeopardise and set back many of the innovative, collaborative endeavours between fire and rescue and other local services not involved in policing. The Bill creates an expectation of mergers between police and fire services which are probably not welcome locally or, indeed, necessary, as the benefits can be gained by the duty to collaborate without a more formal process involving police and crime commissioners.
When the legislation creating the police and crime commissioners passed through your Lordships’ House, I raised concerns that in a world faced with global terrorism and the migration of a lot of financial and serious crime to the internet, we would need to be vigilant that a disconnected patchwork of 40 local police and crime commissioners might not be best placed to respond to some of these national and international challenges. My concerns about this disjointed local approach remain and have been strongly reinforced by Brexit, and my early thoughts on what that means for day-to-day policing up and down the country. I believe that if the Government are to deliver their manifesto promise to finish the job of police reform, the big issues for the police service are about not just parochial issues of better co-ordination within each force area; rather they are about better co-operation in policing regionally, nationally and internationally. Some of these big issues include, for example, the response to terrorism, which we spoke about earlier this afternoon. We need the Government to come to a conclusion—soon, I hope—about the lead role in combating terrorism. Will it continue to be the responsibility of the Metropolitan Police or will this role be transferred to the National Crime Agency? Is the Minister in a position to give us any guidance on when this important decision will be taken?
The migration of financial crime and fraud from the physical world to the digital world needs a joined-up response beyond local police and crime commissioners. Serious planning should be taking place now for more structured co-operation between the National Crime Agency, the Serious Fraud Office and the City of London financial crime unit.
Another big issue that needs to be dealt with nationally is the development of police leaders. The noble Earl, Lord Attlee, mentioned what was happening in police leadership. Since police and crime commissioners have been given the task of selecting their chief constables, an unintended, but perhaps predictable, consequence has been a quite dramatic reduction in police candidates applying to be chief constables, primarily because experience shows that police and crime commissioners invariably select their local in-force candidate, regardless of the merits of candidates from outside the force. This may well lead to a stagnation of senior police experience. Prior to police and crime commissioners, a strong cadre of able men and women were mentored and encouraged to move between forces at senior level to encourage the spread of experience and best practice. Perhaps the Minister could tell your Lordships whether the police inspectorate and the College of Policing are aware of this challenge and how they are responding to the need to develop police leadership in the national—not just local—interest.
The final challenge which concerns me is the implications of Brexit for police and crime commissioners and their police forces. We should be under no illusions: the implications of Brexit will affect not just the National Crime Agency. Every day in every police force area checks are made involving European databases on people, vehicles, DNA samples and suspects. All these thousands—indeed, tens of thousands—of routine checks are now thrown into question. Our involvement with Europol, European arrest warrants and access to all the European databases will need to be renegotiated as part of the Brexit negotiations.
The Bill has many welcome and important provisions, which I hope your Lordships will support as it passes through this House. However, the clauses to enable police and crime commissioners to take on the duties of fire and rescue authorities are an unnecessary and unwelcome distraction and are unlikely to be embraced with any real enthusiasm by police and crime commissioners, who are now once again firmly embedded in local party politics. The Bill is silent on some of the really important issues that will enable police reform to take place, particularly in the light of the enormous range of challenges facing the police as a result of Brexit. I hope these important issues will be addressed as soon as possible but, in the meantime, I support most of the important provisions in the Bill.
My Lords, another day, another 323 pages of Home Office legislation. I realise that for the noble and learned Lord, who has had to immerse himself in it, this must be a bit like having his client settling at the door of the court, as he will not be able to continue with it. We have a Long Title which is long enough for the antennae of many noble Lords to twitch with the prospect of introducing their specialist subject—the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, demonstrated that amply.
As it always does, the House has demonstrated much expertise in, and practical experience of, aspects of policing. This is called the Policing and Crime Bill but, from the preponderance of briefings that I have received—other noble Lords will, no doubt, have as well—I wonder whether a significant part of it should have been led by the Department of Health. The noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe, made a similar point, though perhaps coming from a different perspective. There are four clauses, out of more than 150, on powers under the Mental Health Act. While the organisations from which I received briefings gave some welcome to these, the concern to do more and better comes through loud and clear. As Mind pointed out—and the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, reminded us—the Mental Health Act 1983,
“allows people to be deprived of their liberty when they haven’t committed, or are not suspected of having committed, a crime”.
Concerns about the places of safety provisions have been expressed in the Chamber and from outside including, most recently, from Black Mental Health, some of which came through on my iPad after we had started the debate.
Inevitably, there has been a focus on resources. I hope we might hear something positive from the Government—a Government who acknowledge that mental health services are a Cinderella. My right honourable friend Norman Lamb had seven amendments in the Commons. Reference has been made to some of his concerns, but not to disallowing the use of tasers by police officers on psychiatric wards. They have no place in mental health care—I stress care—nor, really, do the police. We will pursue his concerns and, I suspect, more, as we have more scope in this House.
According to the Long Title, the Bill will,
“make provision to combat the sexual exploitation of children and to protect children and vulnerable adults from harm”,
but not as extensively as the children’s organisations which work so effectively together point out. We have heard concerns about extending child abduction warning notices, online offences, disrupting grooming and therapeutic support for victims of abuse, which is something I feel strongly about.
As the noble Lord, Lord Blair, said—and I think the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, did too—the Bill was introduced as “finishing” the job of police reform. Will it ever be finished? Some 42 police forces provided information to a Liberal Democrat FOI request about 101 calls. This is nothing to do with Nineteen Eighty-four—I have not got my Bills mixed up. From 2012 to date, 3.5 million calls were unanswered. These 101 calls may not be about emergencies, but that does not mean they are not about serious matters. To the citizen, any call to the police which is unanswered is serious.
I share doubts about whether the administrative arrangements will lead to increased confidence. Much has been said this afternoon about local collaboration between the blue-light services. Along with my noble friend Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville, I feel that local authorities should have a leading position in decisions around this. Allowing police and crime commissioners voting rights at local authority meetings is, at the least, questionable. My noble friend referred to the term “good will”, which is an immensely important point, and I remember the chambers of commerce report to which she referred.
I turn to governance issues. Maybe the summer holidays will re-energise us all and enable us to come up with an enormous raft of amendments to debate the points to which our attention was drawn by the noble Lord, Lord Harris, and by the noble Lord, Lord Bach, in his compelling speech. We are told all this is based on efficiency and effectiveness, but whether that is fulfilled rather depends on the criteria you set.
On the subject of confidence, I take the point made by the IPCC—as it still is—that a change of name to Office for Police Conduct is likely to be read by the public as meaning a police body, not an independent one, as my noble friend Lady Harris of Richmond said. There is far more to be addressed on conduct and complaint matters, but I will indulge myself by saying that “super-complaint” seems to me to be a very unfortunate term.
There is also appropriate concern about what has been called the constitutional novelty of directly elected politicians taking on a quasi-judicial function.
How the police use civilian staff seems to have swung to and fro over quite a short period. When I was first concerned with the Metropolitan Police’s budget, through my membership of the London Assembly, we often questioned what seemed to be a widespread view that you could not, for instance, handle human resources if you did not wear a uniform. The pendulum has swung a lot. Whether expanding the role of civilian staff and volunteers—no doubt driven by cost-cutting—jeopardises the service, is something which we must discuss. I recognise a lot of what the noble Lord, Lord Blair, was talking about. I do not know whether I should be concerned, but I am, about the impact of all this on neighbourhood policing. Its status, and the investment in it, seems to have been reduced—I might even say downgraded—over not a very long period.
The provisions about the detention of 17-year olds show the value of the European Convention on Human Rights. We have a 35-page human rights memorandum and there are, of course, enhancements of human rights in the Bill. Like others, I suspect this is because of the scrutiny role of this House. I do tend to go straight for the problem areas and forget to acknowledge the good bits. There is also an 85-page delegated powers memorandum, so that might turn out to be material for scrutiny.
The requirement to confirm nationality will take us to human rights issues and, for the second time in a matter of months, to the confusion of the roles of police and immigration officers. This was raised by the Joint Committee on Human Rights, of which I am now a member. In a letter to the then Home Secretary, the chair of the committee wrote:
“Although the Government has accepted that Article 14 of the Convention may be engaged in respect of foreign nationals, the ECHR memorandum does not consider any potentially differential impact on BAME UK citizens”.
She referred to the,
“discretion to the individual officer as to whether or not to ask the arrested person to state their nationality. This raises the prospect of UK nationals who are members of ethnic minorities being more likely to be asked to state and then prove their nationality than other UK nationals”,
with a risk of discrimination contrary to Article 14 in conjunction with Article 8. On behalf of the committee, she asked the Government to,
“address this issue of possible differential impact and explain how this differential impact can be avoided or justified”.
The answer was that:
“it is considered that such interference”— requesting proof of nationality—
“is proportionate and justified to the pursuit of a legitimate aim—namely being able to properly exercise an effective immigration control”.
There is either a circularity or an assumption about what the problem is there. It does not answer the question but answers another point entirely. The Minister replying pointed out that,
“both immigration officers and the police must comply with public law principles”,
“the requirement to act reasonably in all circumstances”,
and that their actions or decisions,
“may be challenged in the courts by means of judicial review”.
I have to say that I do not find that convincing.
Maritime enforcement also raises human rights issues and issues around the refugee convention. We do not seem to have a Minister with particular responsibility for refugees now, which is a pity because their plight must not go out of the headlines and I know that this House will not relegate the matter.
The noble Lord, Lord Condon, referred to a long list of problems that will have to be addressed because of our exit from the EU. Would that we could sort them out in the Bill.
I have said enough for today except for my last note, which says, “Whinge about the timing of Committee”. I am not sure whether this Policing and Crime Bill will be light relief from the Investigatory Powers Bill, as jam in the sandwich during our two weeks in December—
I meant September; that was wishful thinking. I do not suppose that that sandwich arrangement would be particularly welcome to Ministers either, but it will not deter us from raising issues on either Bill which we feel must be raised. On the same basis as it takes longer to write a piece for the Sun than for the Guardian, there may be rather a lot of amendments.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for his masterly presentation of this legislation.
Part 1 of the Bill relates to the fire and rescue service, among other things, but undoubtedly that is the most controversial area. The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, my noble friend Lord Bach, the noble Baronesses, Lady Harris and Lady Bakewell, and the noble Lord, Lord Condon, all raised question marks over the concept of the PPC being responsible also for the fire service.
The fire and rescue service had to reduce its spending power by 17% in real terms between 2010 and 2015 and will have to reduce spending by a further £135 million between now and 2020. The National Audit Office revealed that the number of audits or inspections and fire safety checks by fire service and campaigns has fallen significantly. After decades of the numbers of fires, casualties and fatalities falling there was an increase in all those categories in the latest fire statistics, comparing those for April to September 2015 to the same quarter in 2014. For instance, there were 139 fire fatalities in 2015 compared with 108 in 2014. We are concerned that the Government’s proposals to allow PCCs to take over from fire and rescue authorities puts the independence and operational capacity of our fire services at risk. We are further concerned that, under the single employer model, it may be more difficult for the fire service to maintain independence, damaging its ability to carry out preventive work.
In this House, I have something of a unique relationship with the fire service. For 12 years, I was the London Fire Brigade’s biggest customer—such a big customer that it used to invite me to its Christmas parties. The reason for this was very sad, of course: in 1987 my organisation, London Underground, had a fire that killed 31 people. I joined as managing director after that and we then changed our protocols. We used to invite the London Fire Brigade to our premises 200 times a week on average. In that period, we came to realise just what a very unsafe environment we were managing and so did the fire brigade. Together with it and other specialists, we put an enormous effort into making the environment safe. At the same time, London changed its very fire brigade shape and created more and more unsafe environments, particularly tall buildings. The fire brigade adapted over that time into entirely new and extremely professional areas of concern because the essence of being a successful fire brigade is not to put out fires but to create the environment where fires do not occur in the first place. That is a wholly different area of emphasis.
As a number of noble Lords have suggested, under a single PCC which is unlikely to have had any intimate experience of the fire environment, there is a real possibility that the fire service could become second-class citizens—poor relations, as I think my noble friend Lord Bach put it. Before we go into that experiment, we will have to look at those provisions with great care and pore over that part of the Bill. I will take a great deal of convincing that that concept is sound, particularly the possibility of it being forced upon a successful fire authority. It is very probable that we will oppose it.
Part 2 of the Bill is about complaints and it was very useful that the noble Earls, Lord Lytton and Lord Attlee, as well as my noble friends Lord Prescott and Lord Harris, brought out the variety of problems that we still have with our police. We love our police but at the end of the day there has to be some way of knowing that they are sound: that there is not corruption and there are the right checks and balances. Listening to those contributions in the debate, one is left with the idea that there must be underlying problems which are still not being sufficiently addressed. We will look at the proposed new clauses relating to the IPCC with great care to see whether they will improve the environment or go far enough.
I was particularly seized by the comment—I wish I could remember which noble Lord made it—that taking “independent” out of the title to somehow make the body more independent does not seem self-evident. In fact, we will oppose “independent” being removed from the title. The Office for Police Conduct does not sound like anything that will hold anybody to account. I think it was my noble friend Lord Harris who made the point that the only person in this organisation who cannot previously have been a constable will be its executive head. We need to look at the composition of the board and the people working in the new organisation to make sure that they are not overly close to the police.
Part 3 touches on the issue of police volunteers. The loss of personnel in the police service is frightening. Funding from central government went down in the previous Parliament by 25%. The recent assurance that police budgets would be maintained has been drawn into question by the chair of the UK Statistics Authority, which ruled that in fact budgets will be cut in real terms between 2015-16 and 2016-17. Since the previous Prime Minister came into office, 18,000 officers have been lost, 12,000 of them from the front line. In this context, we will oppose any attempt by the Government to plug through the Bill the gaping hole in the police workforce with volunteers. We recognise the excellent work done by special constables, neighbourhood watches and police and crime panels, but there is a difference between volunteers bringing additionality to the police workforce and volunteers acting as their replacements.
It is very difficult to see why we need something different from special constables, who I believe have been around for over 100 years. They have constabulary powers and have been properly trained in how to use them. We have also developed the role of the PCSO, and debated and refined it over time. Should we not have properly trained PCSOs helping to secure an adequate police presence rather than looking to volunteers to fill the gap? For volunteers, there is already the special constable path. We will be looking extraordinarily carefully at the powers that are being requested for these volunteers, and the Government will have great trouble convincing us that they are anything other than a dangerous set of powers.
Part 4 reforms police bail and is to be generally welcomed. Indeed, some of the excesses of police bail in recent years have been truly appalling. There is no question but that if you are placed under police bail for weeks, months and in some cases years, it is a de facto punishment inflicted on you as an individual without a proper judicial process. We wholly welcome that reform. But it has to have the right checks and balances, and the enforcement of bail conditions must be fully adequate. It is particularly important that we have the right controls over issues such as confiscation of passports in the context of, for example, terrorism.
Part 4 does a number of other things. A key thing is that it recognises that 17 year-olds are children. The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, pointed out that this was partly a product of the European Convention on Human Rights. It is also of course laid down in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. How we came to ignore that convention and the human rights commission, I cannot understand. I commend the Government for putting this right but am sorry it has taken them so long to do it.
The other area covered by Part 4 that I will mention is mental health and holding people facing a mental health crisis in police cells. There has been total consensus in the Chamber that that reform is right. The noble Baroness, Lady Howe, hit the nail on the head when she touched upon parity of esteem—my noble friend Lord Harris and the noble Lord, Lord Condon, also raised it, I think. The provision of mental health services in this country is a disgrace, not in the sense that someone has done it evilly, but we all know we have been looking the other way for too long. Parity of esteem has to mean having the right resources. Holding people against their will in unsuitable accommodation is a central example of where many more resources will have to go in. To make sure that we are not holding people in police cells, they will have to go to proper secure accommodation, managed by the National Health Service. We must rethink, right through our legislation, how we work with mental health issues and must provide the right resources.
Finally, I will comment on Part 6, which relates to firearms. We await with some interest the amendments that the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, will table, including whether they will be specific to a .455 calibre or not—I am teasing him. One area where we will intervene is full cost recovery. The individual gun-holder’s licence must be the only one where a dangerous or powerful weapon is put in the hands of an individual and the state does not make full recovery of the cost of the licence it provides. I used to have a dangerous pastime, flying aeroplanes for fun. The state took enough money to pay for the cost of issuing that licence at every level—for example, if you are professional pilot, they charge you the appropriate amount to make sure that that licence is maintained. I understand the difference is that the real cost is about £198, but we charge £88.
We look forward to examining the Bill in detail. It will give us an opportunity to discuss other issues: the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, will no doubt bring forward some interesting amendments relating to sport and drugs, as will my noble friend Lord Brooke on alcohol. I welcome the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford, to her new role—perhaps we might get a hint before the end of the evening about who on the Front Bench will do what. Given the sheer length and complexity of the Bill, I commend to her the willingness of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Keen, in working with me or my noble friend Lord Rosser on previous Home Office Bills, to take as much stuff as possible off the Floor of the House and work face to face in informal committees. I do not think the Floor of the House is a good learning environment. Probing amendments are learning aids—we have to table them, but we can get some of those learning bits, where it is a matter of understanding things, out of the way. In addition, the Floor is not all that good an environment to try to negotiate compromises, and there will have to be a lot of compromises in the Bill. I hope that Ministers will be willing to put the effort in—we certainly will—to spend time off the Floor of the House to that end. With that, I hand over to the noble and learned Lord to reply and thank him for his efforts so far.
My Lords, I do not think this is quite my swansong, but I assure noble Lords—perhaps to their relief—that my noble friend Lady Williams of Trafford will be taking up the baton on this Bill after this evening. I am sure she is looking forward to it.
I am grateful to all noble Lords who have participated in the debate and thank them for their contributions. It has been a wide-ranging debate, enhanced by the level of expertise and experience which noble Lords have in various areas touched on. It has been evident from the debate that there is a good measure of support on all sides of the House for many of the Bill’s provisions. Among those provisions which have been widely welcomed are the strengthening of the inspection framework for fire and rescue authorities, the reforms to the police complaints and discipline systems, the limitations on the use of pre-charge bail, the changes to police powers under the Mental Health Act, and the measures to protect children and vulnerable adults.
Other provisions in the Bill have had what might be described as a mixed response. I include in this category the provisions enabling police and crime commissioners to take on the responsibilities of fire and rescue authorities and those enabling chief officers to designate volunteers with a bespoke set of police powers. I will respond to some of the observations made by noble Lords and, if I do not cover every point raised, I apologise in advance. It is not because I do not consider them material, but in view of the time available I will be able to address only some of them.
I go straight to a point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Harris, who began by disclosing his knowledge of puddings and then went on to develop the point that the Bill is simply enormous—more than 300 pages, larger than the Bill that gave rise to the independence of India and Pakistan. Then, to my astonishment, he executed the most neat backward flip I have seen in this Chamber, and went on to add that there were many wasted opportunities for putting further material into the Bill. We got one after the other. This is only an estimate, but I rather think that we would have a Bill slightly longer than the Chilcot report if we had incorporated everything that he noble wanted us to include. Perhaps there is no harm—he complimented the industry of the Home Office and he was right to do so—but we have to try to keep the Bill within certain bounds.
I will address points mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, and others. On Part 1, he asked whether PCCs should proceed to take over fire authorities. PCCs have been a success. One noble Lord is a PCC and another, the noble Lord, Lord Prescott, endeavoured to become one, so they have embraced the idea.
I cannot account for the voters of Humberside, my Lords, but there we are.
We are developing proposals to implement the governance of single-employer models. If there is no agreement, a PCC can submit a business case to the Home Secretary. I may have misunderstood the noble Lord, Lord Bach, but there is no question of a PCC being forced to proceed with a merger. I make that absolutely clear: it is only where the PCC and local authorities cannot reach consensus that the PCC will present his case to the Home Secretary and she or he will then be required to seek an independent assessment to inform their view whether the governance change would be in the interests of economy, efficiency and effectiveness. It requires independent consideration.
The question of volunteers was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, and several other noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Paddick. Just to be clear, these reforms will place the matter of decision-making about volunteers firmly in the hands of officers who will be able to determine on the basis of their professional expertise and local knowledge what powers are needed in their area and can properly be given to volunteers in their area. They will then designate staff for that purpose. Of course the staff will be trained; there is no question of untrained volunteers being brought in in that context.
The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, also raised the question of mental health provision, as did several other noble Lords, including the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark, the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, and the noble Lord, Lord Harris. To put this into context, of course a police cell is not considered a suitable place of safety. That is the impetus behind the Bill. It is only in exceptional cases with respect to adults that it would ever be contemplated. The noble Lord, Lord Harris, talked about guarantees. You cannot have guarantees at this stage. You can have provision. The Government have announced additional funding for the NHS of up to £15 million to invest in additional health-based places of safety; that provision will be available. In addition, the Bill increases the flexibility for local areas and clinical commissioning groups to explore innovative options to create additional places of safety to try to ensure that police cells are resorted to in only the most exceptional cases.
The noble Lords, Lord Rosser and Lord Prescott, raised the question of what is sometimes termed Leveson 2. As we have already made clear, there are still ongoing criminal cases relating to part 1 of the Leveson inquiry and we have always been clear that these cases, including any appeals, must conclude before we consider part 2 of that inquiry process.
The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, asked about requiring passports or other identification and suggested that this was an instance of confusion between immigration enforcement and policing. With great respect, that is not the case. These powers will only ever be employed where the police have already made an arrest on the basis that an individual is suspected of committing a criminal offence, so there is no confusion there at all. This power is given to the police post-arrest in circumstances where a crime or offence is suspected. It is appropriate and proportionate that the appropriate request may be made. The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, cited not only the question posed by the committee but the answer given; I do not seek to repeat that; she referred to it at length.
The noble Lord, Lord Blair, asked about firearms under Clause 37, and I undertake to write to him on that point, but he also raised a point about a lacuna with regard to specified ranks in the service. We do not accept that there is a lacuna. There may well be circumstances where the senior officer ranks could properly be filled by someone who transferred from another organisation, such as the Security Service, with the requisite experience in terrorism, for example. It would be a matter of deciding whether they had the requisite qualities and qualifications for the job. That will always be the final determining factor. It is not considered that this is simply a lacuna in the Bill.
The noble Lord, Lord Bach—in fact, I have perhaps addressed this—raised the question of whether PCCs would be forced into employing the governance and employment model. As I mentioned, that is not the case.
The noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, asked what would occur where the boundaries of a police authority and the fire authorities did not coincide. Should that be the case, it would be for the local areas to consider how the boundaries could be changed if a PCC wished to pursue taking over responsibility for the fire and rescue service. There is provision for that. It would not be part of the business case that the PCC presented that he should amalgamate fire and rescue areas for that purpose. If it was not appropriate and if there were real issues there, clearly that would be raised in the context of the business case and it might well not be made out in those circumstances.
The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, asked about doping. The Government are committed to tackling doping in sport and will continue to work with the UK Anti-Doping in sport stakeholders to ensure that athletes can compete in a clean sport environment. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport is currently reviewing existing anti-doping legislation and assessing whether stronger criminal sanctions are required.
The noble Baroness, Lady Howe, raised issues with regard to mental health. I hope I have touched on those with regard to places of safety. She also noted that we had reduced the time for detention from 72 to 24 hours. It is considered appropriate that that period should be determined from the time at which it is possible to place someone in a place of safety, not from the point at which they are detained. That remains the Government’s position in that context. She also asked about Clause 144 with regard to the streaming of child pornography and whether its provisions would apply to all situations, including real-time streaming. The answer is that it will apply to that situation as well.
The noble Earl, Lord Attlee, asked about his father’s Webley .455 gun.
My Lords, I had to declare an interest—if I did not, I would be in serious difficulty—but I was actually speaking on behalf of all people who own a deactivated firearm; they are extremely concerned about it.
I appreciate that, and I do not seek to belittle the noble Earl’s point. Clause 114 deals with defectively deactivated firearms—that is, firearms that have not been deactivated up to the standard of EU regulations—and deals with the prohibition on the sale of such firearms. No doubt, the question of involving EU regulations in that context is a matter that will have to be addressed in due course as we negotiate the various provisions with regard to Brexit.
The noble Lord, Lord Brooke, raised questions about powdered alcohol. First, he posed the question as to why it is treated differently to psychoactive substances. Essentially, it is because there is a distinct licensing regime with respect to alcohol. The potential difficulty is over whether alcohol licensing pursuant to the 2003 Act extends to powdered alcohol, because it refers in this context to liquor. So there is a doubt as to whether you are required to be licensed to sell powdered alcohol. It is to dispel that doubt and ensure that there is a licensing regime in place that those provisions are there. I hope that assists to some extent in explaining that matter.
The noble Lord, Lord Condon, referred among other things to the question of leadership skills. Indeed, it was a point raised by the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, as well. There was a question of whether enough was being done to ensure that we had these leadership skills in place, particularly for the senior ranks of the police force. In the Leadership Review published in June 2015, the College of Policing pointed to the need to create more flexibility in police careers, and we are supporting the college in examining options to encourage greater movement in this context. We would agree with the noble Lord that it is vital that all opportunities in policing should be open to the widest pool of capable candidates, and that PCCs in particular should be encouraged to look beyond their own police authority in that context. No doubt, that point will be brought home in due course.
The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, referred to the question of confusion between the role of police and immigration officials. Again, I hope that I addressed that in my earlier comments.
The noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, in taking us through each area of the Bill, raised a number of issues that have been touched on already by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser. He finished by referring to the question of full-cost recovery and firearms, and I am not clear as to what the position is on that but I shall write to him on it if he is pleased to receive a letter. When I say that I shall write, I mean that the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, will be pleased to write to him on that matter in due course—thereby committing my noble friend to that which she had not intended when she first entered the Chamber this evening.
I appreciate that a number of additional points were raised—
Could the noble and learned Lord clarify one point? When he was talking about volunteers, he said that it would be a matter for the chief officer as to how they would be used or deployed. Does that mean that a police and crime commissioner has no say over the extent to which volunteers will be used in his or her police force, or the kind of duties that they will undertake? If that is the case, and if a police and crime commissioner has been elected on a platform of saying in their electoral address that volunteers are being used too extensively or not extensively enough, that is meaningless because the PCC has no say—it is entirely a matter for the chief officer.
No, it would not be a binary or a black-and-white issue. If it was an operational matter—that is, deployment—it would be for the chief officer of police. But in the wider issues that arise with regard to whether you deploy volunteers within a force the PCC would, of course, take an interest. When it comes down to operational matters such as deployment, and a particular deployment, clearly it would be a matter for the chief officer of police. I hope that that assists the noble Lord.
I am conscious that I have not been able to respond to all the points raised in the debate, and we will seek to write to noble Lords who have raised other issues. The Bill will enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the police and fire and rescue services. It will strengthen democratic accountability. We believe that it will build public confidence and ensure that the right balance is struck between police powers and the rights of individuals. While we will undoubtedly continue to debate the detailed proposals in the Bill, I am sure that the whole House will support those outcomes. On that basis, I commend the Bill to the House.
Bill read a second time and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.