Our key concerns about Clause 37 relate to the additional powers that could be given to police volunteers under this clause. I hope that in response the Government will set out in some detail the boundaries or limits of those powers that can be given.
Of course, the police could not do their job without a voluntary army, but a voluntary army should not do the job of the police. The Bill enables chief officers to designate a wider range of police powers to police volunteers. We are concerned that this measure may be a move by the Government to provide cut-price policing and we fundamentally oppose giving policing powers to volunteers to fill the gaps left by the drastic reduction in officer and staff numbers over the past five years. More than 40,000 policing jobs were lost between 2010 and 2015 as a result of government cuts to the police service: approximately a 30% cut in police community support officers; 20% fewer police staff jobs; and 13% fewer police officers. It is not appropriate that those people should be replaced by volunteers through the provisions in the Bill, particularly in roles that are clearly operational in nature.
As I understand it, there is a current agreement between the Home Office, the National Police Chiefs’ Council, the College of Policing and the police staff unions that police support volunteers should bring additionality to the police force, but the agreement goes on to say that they should under no circumstances replace or substitute for paid police staff.
Our police service has the power to use necessary proportionate force in appropriate circumstances. We do not want volunteers to be placed in roles that may require the use of force or restraint and which should be only for officers and members of police staff. Our police service has and needs the power to use force where necessary when carrying out its duty to protect the public. However, under our tradition of policing by consent the public also expect that there will also be accountability, proper training and high professional standards on the part of those who use force in appropriate circumstances. I suggest that those expectations can be met only by warranted police officers and, where appropriate, members of staff.
We are also concerned by the suggestion that there may be circumstances where volunteers will be placed in risky situations. Volunteers have an important role to play in supporting police, but should not place themselves in potentially dangerous situations. A police and crime commissioner for Northumbria has said:
“Rather than extending the role of volunteers, the Government needs to start funding police forces properly, to allow Chief Constables and Police & Crime Commissioners to recruit more police officers, who can go on the beat and serve local communities”.
To reiterate, we believe that the greater use of volunteers in the police service apparently envisaged under the Bill—we are not talking about special constables—is potentially dangerous, particularly in the context of the continuing cuts to police budgets. This year police services in England and Wales are facing real-terms cuts to their budgets which will not be backfilled by the local precept.
We believe it is dangerous to impose those cuts in the context of the provisions of the Bill, with the Government not saying precisely what the boundaries and limits are of what volunteers can and cannot do under the terms of the Bill. I hope that in responding that is what the Government will now seek to remedy and that that response will not reveal—as, going by the previous debate, I fear it will—that volunteers, rather than just bringing additionality to the police workforce, can in reality be used to replace or be substitutes for paid police staff because of the sheer range of operational and other roles they can be given under the terms of the Bill.
My Lords, this clause introduces additional flexibility into the way that the police can deploy their staff by extending the powers of chief officers to designate their staff with powers and by introducing, for the first time, a power to designate volunteers with powers. At this point, I should repeat what I said in the previous debate—that, just as PCSOs are not policing on the cheap, volunteers are not policing on the cheap, either. They all contribute to the force that is the police and all have their different parts to play. This clause, together with the other changes in Chapter 1 of Part 3 of the Bill, will give chief officers the flexibility they need to best shape their workforce to local circumstances.
Volunteers have much to offer policing, including those with specialist skills—for example, in IT or forensic accountancy, which we talked about before, and not just in the use of PAVA spray and CS spray. Special constables are volunteers with all the powers of a constable, but it makes no sense that volunteers who do not want to become specials because they do not want to have powers at all times—this has been previously discussed—or to undertake the physical demands of personal safety training cannot be conferred with a narrower set of powers relating to a particular role. Currently the law also puts unnecessary restrictions on a chief officer who wishes to maximise the operational effectiveness of police staff. These provisions remove those barriers.
Chapter 1 of Part 4 of the Police Reform Act 2002 enables chief police officers to confer some or all listed powers on their civilian staff by designating them to undertake specific functions in one or more of four categories: police community support officers, known as PCSOs; investigating officers; detention officers; and escort officers. Clause 37 amends the 2002 Act to amalgamate the categories of investigating officers, detention officers and escort officers into the single category of “policing support officers”, who would then be designated with the necessary powers to carry out their particular roles. The clause also enables a chief officer to designate a police volunteer as either a community support volunteer or a policing support volunteer.
Subsection (3) repeals the list of standard powers of PCSOs. In future, the powers that PCSOs and community support volunteers have will be a decision for each chief officer. Subsection (4) introduces for the first time a list, set out in Schedule 10, of core powers that can be exercised only by a sworn constable. The list includes powers of arrest, stop and search, and those under terrorism legislation—for example, the power to apply for a search warrant under Schedule 5 to the Terrorism Act 2000 as part of a terrorism investigation. It also includes two powers that were previously available to investigating and detention officers—namely, the power to make a fresh arrest and the power to conduct an intimate search when a medical professional is not available. Following the public consultation last year, we judged these powers to be particularly intrusive and that their use should therefore be restricted to police officers.
Noble Lords may wonder why the list of core powers does not include the power to make entry to premises by force, which was also consulted on as a power that should be restricted to constables only. The 2002 Act currently provides that designated individuals can exercise a power to force entry only in the company and under the supervision of a constable, or for the purpose of saving life or limb or preventing serious damage to property. Therefore, even with the extended designation possible under these provisions, no designated staff member or volunteer would be able to force entry except in the two circumstances described. However, importantly, they would be able to assist or accompany an officer executing a search, or to exercise a power to enter where force was not necessary—for example, as part of an alcohol licensing inspection.
The changes also provide the Secretary of State, in practice the Home Secretary, with a power to make regulations to add to the list of core powers and duties of constables: that is, those powers that may not be designated on staff or volunteers. Any such regulations would be subject to the affirmative procedure, so they will require the scrutiny and approval of both Houses.
The clause provides that, where the person is designated as a PCSO or a community support volunteer, they may be given any of the powers or duties set out in Schedule 8, which are powers currently available to PCSOs in lieu of police officer powers—specifically, the power to make an arrest. These powers include requiring a suspect’s name and address, or detaining a suspect to await the arrival of a police officer, which PCSOs can use in circumstances where a police officer might make an arrest.
Subsection (5) enables a chief officer to limit the extent of, or impose conditions on, use of the powers of his or her designated staff and volunteers. For example, if a volunteer were based in a particular locality, their designation could be restricted to that locality and its surrounding area. Subsection (6) also prevents designated staff and volunteers being authorised to use a firearm or Taser in carrying out their designated role. As we have discussed in relation to Amendment 167 tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, there is one exception to this rule. PCSOs and other designated police staff, and their new volunteer counterparts, can continue to carry and, where necessary, use CS or PAVA spray, which are classified as prohibited firearms. The clause also includes a future-proofing provision to allow the Secretary of State to make regulations, subject to the affirmative procedure, bringing new self-defence devices within the scope of this exemption.
These are important changes that will give significant additional flexibility to chief officers in the way that they deploy their workforce and volunteers. I hope that noble Lords will not press their opposition to Clause 37 standing part of the Bill.
Clause 37 agreed.
Schedule 10: Schedule to be inserted as Schedule 3B to the Police Reform Act 2002
My Lords, Amendments 168, 171 and 173 are minor and technical amendments to update and clarify the arrangements for designated staff and volunteers to use their powers. I do not wish to detain your Lordships unnecessarily, but, if required, I can talk further about each amendment. For now, I beg to move Amendment 168.
Amendment 168 agreed.
Schedule 10, as amended, agreed.
Schedule 11: Schedule to be inserted as Schedule 3C to the Police Reform Act 2002
Moved by Baroness Williams of Trafford
169: Schedule 11, page 300, leave out lines 22 to 24
170: Schedule 11, page 302, line 5, at end insert—“( ) In the case of a relevant offence that is an offence under a listed byelaw (see sub-paragraphs (4)(e) and (6)), the power to impose a requirement under sub-paragraph (1) is exercisable only in a place to which the byelaw relates.”
171: Schedule 11, page 302, line 20, leave out “section 12(2) of the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001” and insert “section 63(2) of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014”
Amendments 169 to 171 agreed.
Schedule 11, as amended, agreed.
Clauses 38 and 39 agreed.
Clause 40: Police volunteers: complaints and disciplinary matters
Moved by Baroness Williams of Trafford
172: Clause 40, page 65, line 26, at end insert—“( ) In Schedule 6 to the Police Act 1996 (appeals to Police Appeals Tribunals), in paragraph 10(aa) (as inserted by section (Appeals to Police Appeals Tribunals)), after paragraph (iii) insert—“(iiia) a person designated as a community support volunteer or a policing support volunteer under section 38 of the Police Reform Act 2002,”.”
Amendment 172 agreed.
Clause 40, as amended, agreed.
Clauses 41 to 44 agreed.
Schedule 12: Powers of civilian staff and volunteers: further amendments
Moved by Baroness Williams of Trafford
173: Schedule 12, page 310, line 32, at end insert— “(g) in that subsection, in the definition of “relevant section 38 designation”—(i) for “designated civilian employee” substitute “designated person”;(ii) for “employee” substitute “person”.”
Amendment 173 agreed.
Schedule 12, as amended, agreed.
Clause 45 agreed.
Schedule 13 agreed.
Clause 46: Power to make regulations about police ranks
My Lords, before I speak to Amendment 174 perhaps I may remind Members of the Committee of my interests around policing in the register. This amendment seeks to insert the rank of superintendent, and indeed to prescribe it, in legislation. The reason for doing so is to track around the leadership review which the College of Policing has been asked to undertake. It has been looking in part at the ranks structure but has come up against the National Police Chiefs’ Council. It cannot agree to the changes in the ranks structure within policing that the college recommends.
I understand that it had been proposed to introduce a new structure. It was to be a sort of mirror of best practice and management within both the private and public sectors, thus operational level, supervisory level, middle management, senior management and executive level. The NPCC does not rule out the possibility of moving to this model in the future but feels that policing is facing more important issues at the moment than looking at changes in the ranks. It also says that there is no compelling evidence to support them. My contention is that there most definitely is, that it is imperative to modernise the ranks structure now, and that this Bill provides the ideal opportunity to do so.
I pray in aid the views of Michael Zander QC, emeritus professor at the London School of Economics and Political Science and an acknowledged export on PACE, who stated in legal advice on
“That certain PACE decisions have to be taken at a senior level was recommended by the Phillips Royal Commission and has been accepted by every government since PACE was implemented thirty two years ago. The difference between superintendents and chief inspectors is not primarily one of training or even experience. A person is promoted to the rank of superintendent because of a capacity for leadership, responsibility and effective and sound decision making. Requiring a small number of decisions to be made at that level was part of the Royal Commission’s fundamental concept of finding the right balance between the needs of the service, the public and the suspect. Neither the passage of time nor changing circumstances have altered the balance on this important issue”.
The rank of superintendent was introduced at the foundation of the Metropolitan Police in 1829. Officers who hold the rank are senior operational leaders of the police service. They provide vital roles, such as gold commanders, public order commanders, strategic firearms commanders, authorising officers and senior investigating officers. Those officers of superintendent rank work, or are immediately available, 24 hours a day in any force area. They take responsibility, as the principal and final decision-makers, of serious, major or critical operational incidents to protect the public.
The rank of superintendent is fully recognised and relied on in law throughout previous Acts of Parliament, providing superintendents with significant additional powers to fulfil their roles for the police and society. One or two examples come to mind, such as PACE, under which they have powers to detain a suspect for an additional 12 hours; to delay access to legal advice; to authorise an urgent interview of vulnerable suspects; and to conduct road checks for indictable offences. Another example is the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, or RIPA. It contains: powers to authorise the use and conduct of covert human intelligence sources; powers to authorise the direct surveillance of an individual; and powers to acquire communications data. Another example is the Terrorism Act 2000, which contains: power relating to application for warrants for terrorist investigations; power to authorise an application to a circuit judge for a financial institutions order; power to delay a person or solicitor being informed of an arrest; and power to authorise the taking of fingerprints and intimate samples. I could go on.
Further, there are numerous policies and procedures embedded in the police service, and widely accepted and understood by partner agencies, that rely on the decision-making and authority being made at the rank of superintendent. This wider understanding and acceptance of the role of superintendents as departmental or functional leads relates directly to other organisational structures in the public and private sectors. This Bill is the ideal opportunity for us to do some of the modernising that is so desperately needed to help the police service restructure to face the very real challenges of a changing policing environment. I beg to move.
In my long police experience, both in Lancashire and nationally, superintendents and chief superintendents have been the indispensable filling in the police sandwich. Powers from the chief constable and his or her team are delegated down to them, and in turn they take command of and lead the ranks below them. They are the ones who head up important basic command units. They sit on council community safety panels and a range of other local bodies. They establish important relationships with borough council clerks and with council leaders. They were during my time as a police authority chair, and I am sure they still are, the most essential of all the ranks—the indefatigable heads of department, the middle managers just below senior rank, the leaders of the future and the officers with years of constructive practical experience. They are the ones who authorise a range of practical policing strategies in districts, who largely deal with the queries of local Members of Parliament and of councillors, and whose experience is essential to the force. Policing could not be delivered effectively without them.
So why should the rank not be prescribed in legislation, given the centrality of their role? A force would struggle without superintendents—they would have to be reinvented. Indeed, I seem to remember that in the early 1990s the Sheehy report recommendations included the abolition of the rank of chief superintendent. That abolition did not last very long—the rank was reinstated a decade or so later, and I was not in the least surprised. In the light of that experience, I support the amendment that the rank of superintendent should be listed alongside that of constable.
My Lords, I have not read the speeches of the two noble Baronesses. I am about to make a speech on an amendment that I am about to move. I can only say that it completely dovetails with what has just been said. I am not entirely certain that the superintendent is the most important rank in the police service, but I probably have a special interest in some of that. However, I absolutely subscribe to the point of view that superintendents are the workhorses of governance and practice and I support this amendment.
My Lords, I support to an extent the amendment in the name of my noble friend Lady Harris of Richmond and the noble Baroness, Lady Henig. Clearly, superintendents, as my noble friend articulated at length, play an essential role, which is recognised extensively in legislation.
Also in this group, I and my noble friend Lady Hamwee intend to oppose the proposition that Clause 46 stand part of the Bill. Clause 46 allows the Secretary of State by regulations to specify the ranks that may be held by members of police forces other than chief officers of police. A great deal of concern has been expressed in the public domain recently about the cost of, and the perks given to, chief officers of police. One would have thought that if the Government were going to legislate, that is an area that they might have turned their attention to. As the noble Lord, Lord Blair of Boughton, mentioned, we have been here before with the Sheehy report the last time that the Conservative Party was alone in government.
From memory, it was a decision of the Sheehy report and the Government to abolish the rank of chief inspector. At some stage before that was fully implemented, the decision was rescinded. The police service paid off a lot of chief inspectors to get them to retire because it had been told that the rank was going to be abolished, but it never was. That led to the mass recruitment of chief inspectors to fill the gap that had been left because the police service had pensioned off early a lot of the chief inspectors that it then needed.
My point, which the Minister has made continually over the issue of volunteers, is that it should be left to individual chief officers to decide. In the case of police volunteers, the flexibility should be available to chief officers to use them however they want and to give them whatever powers they wish. Surely exactly the same argument applies here: it should be left to individual chief constables to promote officers to particular ranks—or not—depending on local need.
While I accept that, especially in legislation, the superintendent has a particular and pivotal role, similar arguments could be made for police sergeants as custody officers and so forth, or for police inspectors who are often operational team leaders. One could go through and make a case—perhaps not as compelling as that put forward on behalf of the superintendent—for each and every particular rank to continue to exist, given different scenarios in different police forces.
I appreciate that the legislation simply gives the power to the Secretary of State through regulations to specify the ranks but I would argue, for the reasons I set out, both that that is unnecessary and that it limits the flexibility of chief officers in designing a police rank structure that suits their local needs.
Amendment 174, in the names of the noble Baroness, Lady Harris of Richmond, and my noble friend Lady Henig, is in the clause dealing with police ranks. It amends Clause 46 to require the rank of superintendent as well as that of constable to be retained. We heard from both the noble Baroness and my noble friend who put their names to the amendment about the important role that the officers holding this rank play. That was confirmed by the noble Lords, Lord Blair and Lord Paddick, in their contributions.
I very much agreed with the noble Baroness, Lady Harris of Richmond, when she spoke about the holders of these ranks being senior officers taking senior operational roles. They are held by people with the ability to undertake those important strategic roles and it is accepted that they have departmental and functional responsibilities.
My noble friend Lady Henig also spoke about the importance of the role these officers play across the piece in all departments. I also recall the Sheehy report, and the abolition of chief superintendents being very controversial at the time. As my noble friend said, they were then quietly brought back a few years later. We have heard from a number of speakers who are former serving officers as well as Members of this House who served as chairs of police organisations, and know much more than I do about police operations. They have all reached the same conclusion, so I suggest that the Minister should reflect on what has been said. I hope that she will give a very warm response.
It is late at night and I am just making sure we are on the same page. The noble Baroness, Lady Henig, called them the “filling in the sandwich”.
In the current policing structure, superintendents play an incredibly important role. They set strategy, they are responsible for day-to-day operational policy and in difficult situations they have to show leadership, manage serious risks and make critical decisions during ongoing operations. These are crucial functions that will continue to be a feature of senior ranks in policing. However, there is a lack of flexibility—a word we have used a lot tonight; the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, just used it—in the way that ranks are effectively stipulated in primary legislation. That is why Clause 46 will allow the College of Policing to recommend a new rank structure to the Home Secretary to be set out in regulations.
In June last year, the College of Policing published the findings of its leadership review, which included a recommendation to review the rank and grading structures in policing. In its report, the college said that flatter structures can enable organisations to be more responsive and communicate more effectively. The police-led review of the rank structure is being developed by the chief constable of Thames Valley Police, Francis Habgood, working with the National Police Chiefs’ Council to ensure that proposals will be effective for all forces. The intention is to support policing based on greater levels of practitioner autonomy and expertise. Francis Habgood has developed a proposal for a five management level-model that will sit on top of the existing rank structure and will be based on competence, contribution and skills.
The Government make no presumption about the rank structure that may be proposed by the College of Policing in future. The provisions in the Bill will allow a new rank structure, which has been recommended by the College of Policing, to be implemented. This includes the ability to make consequential amendments to legislation where named ranks are currently specified. The clause provides that any regulations specifying ranks must include the rank of constable, of whom there are 96,000. They are the bedrock of our policing. The rank of chief constable—and in London, the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis and the Commissioner of the City of London Police—will also continue to be provided for in primary legislation.
I believe we should let the work of Chief Constable Francis Habgood continue and not constrain police leaders in how forces should be organised—which is kind of what noble Lords have been saying. Parliament will have the opportunity to examine the proposals for changes to the rank structure once the College of Policing has made its recommendations, as these will need to be set out in regulations, which will be subject to the affirmative procedure. On that basis, I hope the noble Baroness will be content to withdraw her amendment, and that noble Lords will join me in supporting the proposition that Clause 46 stand part of the Bill.
I thank all noble Lords who spoke on this amendment. I thank the Minister, who gave me time earlier to put my views, and her team. I hope that the Home Office will continue to put pressure on the College of Policing to embed these reforms urgently. It cannot wait much longer just because the NPCC does not like it. Balancing the history, legal powers and organisational role of superintendents, I still feel it is important to enshrine the rank in legislation. I am disappointed by the Minister’s response, although I understand it. I will look again at what she said and may come back on Report. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 174 withdrawn.
Amendment 175 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.
Clause 46 agreed.
Clause 47 agreed.
Moved by Earl Attlee
176: After Clause 47, insert the following new Clause—“Power to make regulations to ensure that senior appointees have international policing experience(1) The Police Act 1996 is amended as follows.(2) After section 50B (inserted by section 46) insert—“50C Regulations for police forces: requirement for senior appointees to have international policing experience(1) The Secretary of State may make regulations by statutory instrument to provide that in each police force only one of the top five most senior officers are promoted or appointed without international policing experience.(2) For the purpose of subsection (1), an officer would be regarded as having “international policing experience” if he or she—(a) had served in a policing operation for more than five months with a UK police rank lower than inspector in a country outside North America, Europe or Australasia;(b) had served in a policing operation under United Nations auspices for more than five months with a UK police rank lower than inspector; or(c) had served in a policing operation under United Nations, NATO or African Union auspices for more than eleven months.(3) Before making any regulations under subsection (1), the Secretary of State must consult the College of Policing.(4) The Secretary of State may by regulations made by statutory instrument make provision that is consequential on, or incidental or supplemental to, regulations under subsection (1).(5) The power conferred by subsection (4) includes power to—(a) repeal, revoke or otherwise amend legislation that (in relation to members of police forces in England and Wales) makes provision with respect to ranks that are not specified in regulations under subsection (1);(b) make other amendments of legislation that are consequential on regulations under subsection (1).(6) Regulations under this section may include transitional, transitory or saving provision. (7) Regulations under this section may make different provision for different cases or circumstances.(8) A statutory instrument containing regulations under this section may not be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.””
My Lords, in moving Amendment 176 I will speak also to our Amendments 177 and 178. These amendments all concern the quality and experience of senior officers.
Amendment 176 seeks to ensure that it would be unusual for a senior police officer not to have some international policing experience. There are two drivers for this. The main one is that the UK has done some great work with international policing missions. I recall visiting policing missions in the Balkans, where UK secondees were doing first-class work, although a lot of them were from the Royal Ulster Constabulary, for reasons that the Committee will understand. The rapid establishment of justice and the rule of law, JROL, in a post-conflict situation is extremely important—initially, I suggest, much more important than democracy and elections. I hope the Minister can show that we are still doing some useful international policing work somewhere in the world.
A difficulty with my amendment is that there are not always vacancies in international policing operations, for a variety of reasons, which is why I have broadened the qualifying roles. However, there are problems. In the past, particularly when we were carrying out policing operations in the Balkans, I detected reluctance on the part of policing authorities to authorise secondments to international policing operations, for parochial reasons. In other words, they saw no direct benefit to their policing operations—the Committee will understand that. In addition, our high-flying police officers know what they need to have on their CVs in order to secure a post at chief officer rank, and I do not believe it includes international policing operations. Although a relatively junior rank-and-file police officer can do a very good job in an international policing operation, we do not necessarily send out our very best people to those operations.
The other driver is that it is desirable that very senior police officers have broad policing experience, and not just in the UK. I am convinced that a senior police officer with some international experience would be a much better one, rather like politicians who have done something other than the standard route to Westminster: school, university, research assistant, local government. I have realistic aspirations for this amendment and the others, and there may be practical difficulties. But if the principle was implemented in some way, I would envisage high-flying police officers gaining their international experience at an early point in their careers. Police authorities and the College of Policing would know that it would have to be offered as part of the offer to recruits. It may be that they take on a big international policing job later on in their career.
My next amendment seeks to put quite tough limits on internal promotion or appointment to very senior positions within a force. I am more than content with the principle of PCCs, but at Second Reading we heard that there might be an unintended consequence of less promotion from outside a particular police force. The inherent risks of this are an unwillingness of the senior officers in a force to grasp unpleasant issues, sycophancy in order to gain promotion and, possibly, corruption. It would also tend to make it much more difficult to get wider experience, because positions in other forces would tend to go to internal candidates. An extremely unfortunate end result could be that the best-quality high-flyers might decide not to pursue a career in the police service at all, because they would realise that they would be unfairly competing with weaker, internal candidates. Can my noble friend say whether she has detected any change in recent years in the number of applications for very senior police posts?
My final amendment, Amendment 178, deals with leadership. First, I make it clear to the Committee that I do not regard myself as an expert on the matter of leadership or even an expert on measuring it. I regard leadership as the capability to get others to do things that they would rather not do or, perhaps sometimes, to desist from doing things that they want to do. It is not to be confused with management. For instance, a superior who relocates his or her centre of operations to an office rather more central for the majority of the team is exercising good management. If this relocation is to the superior’s personal disadvantage, there is an element of good leadership.
However, it is largely an acquired skill—that of being selfless. Leadership is not charisma, although the two often come together. There is innate leadership, and there may well be genetic factors at play, but I have no doubt at all that environmental and economic factors from the moment of birth are very significant. The good news is that there are methods of objectively measuring leadership, both acquired and innate.
Since at least the last war, our Armed Forces have had objective tests of leadership for selection for a commission. Several well-developed tools are used, but the command task is interesting. Candidates are tasked with the practical task of crossing an obstacle course with a range of 45-gallon oil drums, scaffolding planks and ropes. The directing staff know all the possible plans for achieving the objective, but only a few will work. What is being carefully measured is not the ability to select the correct plan but the ability to effectively lead the team even though the directing staff know that the plan selected will not actually work. How long will members of the team follow the task leader with such a plan? Most importantly, how willing are other members of the team to make a helpful suggestion, and how skilful is the task leader at taking up good suggestions while still maintaining command and control?
I am not suggesting that the Armed Forces have perfect selection procedures. They do not; sadly, I have come across several pretty poor officers. As I understand it, though, the UK police do not select for promotion to any rank taking into consideration an objective measurement of leadership. I am also led to believe that the pool of talent is no longer being properly managed, and I hope that other more experienced members of the Committee will cover that point. I am therefore never surprised at the things that go wrong with UK policing. Your Lordships have only to think of the aftermath of Hillsborough or Operation Midland.
All the amendments in this group seek to head off problems that will only get worse if not addressed. I look forward to the noble Lord, Lord Blair, moving his amendment. In the meantime, I beg to move.
My Lords, I shall speak to Amendments 176, 177, 178 and, tangentially, 178A. I am pleased to support the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, in his amendments. I want to underpin much of what he has said and, to use his words again, to identify what I think is a growing law of unintended consequences that has flowed over the last five or six years in policing. To many of our minds, there is a growing shortage of leaders as opposed to managers, which the noble Earl has already alluded to. I might take that a little further and say that in my view there is some sign that the quality is diminishing among the senior ranks, and those who are putting themselves forward for senior ranks, within the British police.
It might be helpful if I go very quickly through the history of selection for the British police service, without taking too much of your Lordships’ time at this hour of the evening. Prior to 1948—there was a Police Act around that time—there was a superabundance of police forces in this country, many of them very small and most of them not talking to each other. The powers that they could exercise in neighbouring forces were severely limited or indeed non-existent. The words “parish pump” come to mind. This did not matter too much in those days because society was largely static; the great mobility of motorways, railways and that sort of thing had not yet come, so it was more or less okay for the time.
However, by the middle of the 1960s, following the royal commission of 1962, things had begun to change. There was a huge wave of amalgamations, which helped to fashion police forces in such a way that the parish pump largely disappeared, forces were largely aware of what was happening alongside them, co-operation began to grow and the whole policing scene changed for the better.
Underpinning all that was the establishment in 1948 of the Police Staff College. It started off originally in temporary accommodation at Ryton-on-Dunsmore in Coventry but moved fairly quickly in 1960 or thereabouts to Bramshill House in Hampshire. I venture to suggest, having been there as a student and on the staff, that it was probably the Bramshill staff college experience that helped to co-ordinate and make a cohesive whole of the police service in a way that nothing had done before. It brought together officers of various ranks on various courses, opened their eyes and broadened their horizons. It broke down, if you like, the old fetter of local training that was still going on in those days.
The college developed two senior courses: the intermediate course, which we need not bother ourselves with, and what was originally the senior staff course and later renamed the senior command course. I want to dwell on that because it is pertinent to what the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, said. The senior command course was geared to produce the top three ranks of the service. To get a place on the course was highly competitive. One had to go through three days of extensive interviews, tests, exercises and so on. Having gone through the selection procedure, one had to go through the course for about six months—it varied a little as time went on. It was highly competitive, the evaluation was strict and it was a testing course. Following the evaluation was the selection process for senior command rank, and you could join the ACPO senior ranks only if you had gone through the senior command course with something like flying colours.
If I may, I shall weary the Committee with the detail, because it is important to what we are discussing tonight. If you were a candidate for senior rank, you had not only to go through the senior command course selection and the course itself but to attract the attention and support of the inspectorate—a very different animal then than it is now—and satisfy Home Office officials that you were worth entering the shortlist for selection to the police authority. The detail may be lost on some Members, but that does not matter. The point was that people could put themselves forward for senior rank in police forces only by going through that detailed process and getting all the right ticks in the boxes, as they say these days. Significant in all that was that you had to break away from your own force and go into another force to serve.
I pause because we now have police and crime commissioners and, with the greatest respect to many of them, the quality is variable. There are some very good ones, but most of them are preoccupied with keeping their position: they are locally driven and locally focused. I venture to suggest that there is a drift back towards the parish pump of the 1950s, which bothers me considerably. I see evidence of senior ranks being selected solely from the force concerned—I am getting nods around the Committee from those who know what I am talking about—with the PCC selecting officers who they know within their force and not looking beyond the force’s boundary for talent outside. We are going back to what one might usefully and easily call the parish pump as shorthand.
Added to that is the fact that Bramshill staff college was sold three or four years ago and has not been replaced. We have no staff college for higher police training in this country, and the Home Office has, as far as I understand it, no plan to replace it. The drift back to parish pump policing and localism is very pronounced indeed. Higher training takes place more in words than in the product. It is a pallid echo of what went on only a few years before, and there is no great rigour.
I do not want to be unduly critical, because I think this is the law of unintended consequences, but all the way through the Home Office has devolved responsibility to PCCs, but they are not picking it up, there is no staff college and no system and therefore the selection of senior officers is going by the board.
I pause briefly on Amendment 176 and overseas experience. I am not sure that I support every detail of the noble Earl’s amendment, but I certainly applaud the drift that goes with it. Overseas attachments were once integral to the senior command force. Everyone went abroad to look at policing experience—not for long, but it was there. One can look at the quality of officers who have gone abroad, which is, as has been alluded to, by and large not as good as it could be.
There are exceptions. One comes to mind straightaway —Mr Richard Monk, who served in the Metropolitan Police, Devon and Cornwall and the inspectorate. On his retirement he helped to replan and then head up the police in both Kosovo and Bosnia, and collected an OBE for one and a CMG for the other. Note the point: he was retired when he did it.
There are quality officers who could contribute massively across the face of the globe in a fast-changing world but we are not making the best use of them—not in the same way as the Armed Forces, which almost insist that good-quality officers will serve abroad for part of their time.
I hope I have said enough to underpin what the noble Earl said in his introduction of those three amendments. A severe problem is beginning to develop that we are not selecting the right people, training them and posting them in the right way. I would advocate—I hate to say this—that we could well go back to where we were a few years ago with some advantage. As we are, we are standing on the brink of what I would call a steady drift towards mediocracy. That bothers me as an ex-police officer. I wish I did not have to say that. The amendments are integral and I support them.
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, and to the noble Lord, Lord Dear. My response to the situation is quite close to that of the noble Lord, Lord Dear—to be honest, I am quite surprised at how close it is. It is complete dismay. My dismay is that these amendments have been tabled by four Back- Benchers when they should be the responsibility of the Home Office. Police leadership is in crisis not because of the men and women who are doing it now but because the structures and processes just outlined by the noble Lord, Lord Dear, have just been let go.
I will deal first with my response to the noble Earl’s amendments. I do not think that the international policing aspect works. It does not work, first, for the reason mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Dear, that officers tend to go when they have already retired. The second reason is that many police officials across the world are effectively judicial officials and Governments absolutely hold tight to themselves that their nationals should perform those jobs. There is no embedding. The third reason, which is about United Nations or other peacekeeping arrangements, is that the UN, or whatever body, insists that officers should be armed. In our time only the RUC—now the PSNI—would release those officers. In the Metropolitan Police only 7% or 8% of its officers are armed. It will not send those away to police somewhere else under any circumstances. With the greatest respect to the noble Earl, I do not support that position.
On Amendment 177, about experience in different police forces, I absolutely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Dear, who was an inspector of constabulary. At the time, I was the staff officer to the Chief Inspector of Constabulary and he, on behalf of the Home Secretary, controlled who was appointed to where in this sense: you had to have passed the strategic command course, you were then recommended on the decisions of the inspectors as to what calibre of officer you were, and sometimes you were specifically told by the Home Office that you were not to apply for a job because it was too small for you.
The best people were being sent to the best jobs. I really have expertise in this particular point because I administered that system for two years, as the noble Lord, Lord Dear will know. It was very brutal but it was very accurate. We have lost the rule that you could not do the top three jobs in any police force. You were not allowed to do that; you could not be an assistant, a deputy and a chief constable in the same force; you could not be the parish pump. You just would not get on to the list. Somehow, somewhere during the coalition, that disappeared.
The noble Earl’s amendment is about leadership. Somehow, we managed to sell the Police Staff College at Bramshill without replacing it. It is not a royal yacht, it is not just a generally good idea to have one; it was the absolute essential of what made the United Kingdom police service the envy of the world in the selection of its chief officers. We have lost it. Nobody knows where it has gone. Bramshill is sold. Why is the Home Office not bringing this matter forward rather than two, three or four Back-Benchers at 10 pm?
I now move to Amendment 178A, which is tabled in my name and that of my noble friend Lord Condon, who will speak in a moment. I had the pleasure of talking to the Minister this afternoon about this amendment, and I am very grateful to her. I really hope that the Official Opposition and the Liberal Democrats will look at this amendment and perhaps by the time we get to Report we will have some coalescence around this position.
I am sorry to bring the Committee back to this, but I need to return to my speech at Second Reading, which went back to a debate during the passage of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill when it was suddenly discovered in this House that there was no longer a requirement for any senior police officer to have policing experience. It had disappeared somewhere in a lacuna in the different legal processes. The four noble Lords who had been commissioners of police were sitting and standing open-mouthed at the discovery that this had happened behind their backs without anybody noticing.
As the noble Lord, Lord Dear, said earlier, we are returning to the pre-Second World War situation. Most of us have seen “The Mousetrap”, where the chap reaches for the telephone and says, “I’ll ring the chief constable. He was in my regiment”. We stopped that after 1945 and said that it would be a good idea if senior police officers had police experience. I accept the ideas of deregulation and devolution, but somehow this Government, and, to be fair, particularly this political party, seem to be of the view that policing is unlike anything else and that it is not important for senior police officers to have had experience of doing middle-ranking work as the superintendents whom the noble Baronesses, Lady Henig and Lady Harris, reported on. I do not understand that. You would not do that in the armed services, law, medicine or accountancy.
This amendment would put back into statute that it would be a good idea—just a simple, good idea—if the beginning point was that it was likely to be useful if somebody had served in a senior police rank before they applied for a higher one. The amendment makes two separate provisions. It allows the exception that the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act put together which allows a foreign officer to do it if he or she has the right experience, and it certainly allows for the kind of transfer, if this is to be the case, in which fire officers become involved via the PCC, but it states that the Secretary of State on the advice of Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary should agree that. The opening position is that you cannot be promoted to the senior ranks of the police service without having been at a middle or more senior rank beforehand unless the Secretary of State says so.
If something like this is not enshrined in law, I have to agree that the rather dismal predictions of the noble Lord, Lord Dear, will come true. This Government and their predecessor have created a thing called Police First, which is about bringing bright young men and women into the police service at the rank of superintendent. What is the point of coming in at the rank of superintendent if you can come in at the rank of chief constable? Why would you bother? What is this about? Why is it not the position of the Government, the Opposition and the Liberal Democrats that it is simply a good idea that policing should be like any other profession and that experience is a useful thing to have? That is the simple part of my amendment, to which I hope the noble Lord, Lord Condon, will speak in a moment.
I want to go back to the moment when the noble Lord, Lord Condon, announced his intention to retire. There was exactly the same debate about whether the commissioner should actually be not a police officer but somebody with different managerial experience. The then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, said, “I am sorry, that is off the agenda. When the bombs go off, I don’t want somebody who is an expert in retail—I want somebody who knows what happens when bombs go off”. They went off in my time. That is the commissioner —but that is not the point. Just remember Nice. The things that happened in Nice could be happening somewhere in Brighton tonight. You would want the senior officer down there to have some experience of policing; you would not want him or her to have just walked in from a completely different environment.
My Lords, in view of the time, I am not going to repeat the points made so far. Suffice it to say that I agree totally with what the noble Lords, Lord Dear and Lord Blair, said on these issues. I might put the emphasis slightly differently—in some parts more strongly and less strongly in others—but in the round I agree with all they said.
I go straight to the amendments. On the first amendment, tabled by the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, I agree that overseas experience is desirable—it is nice, it is to be welcomed. As commissioner, I spent one Christmas visiting my officers in Sarajevo and elsewhere in that region, and I was very proud of the work that they were doing. I had a wonderful detective sergeant who was in command of more than 400 international police officers, many of them of chief officer rank. In the merits of a local situation, she was selected as a British detective sergeant to command those 400 overseas officers, and she did it magnificently. So I do not underestimate the merits, experience and legacy of working overseas—but it is too narrow an issue to be prescriptive as of today in relation to chief officer posts. It is a laudable aspiration, but let us not make it a prescriptive requirement of being a chief officer.
On the second amendment, on the parochial point about not being promoted from within the one force, I raised that point at Second Reading, as a very serious unintended consequence of police and crime commissioners. One of its great strengths and merits is its very parochialism and local focus—but that is an enormous downside with regard to the selection of chief officers. A couple of months ago, I tabled a Written Question that was answered by the Home Office Minister. I asked how many chief constable promotions over the last year came from an outside force and how many were internal promotions. As the noble Lord, Lord Dear, said, those internal promotions only a few years ago would not have been technically possible; they would not have been allowed by the Home Office or the inspectorate. The answer was that the overwhelming majority of all the appointments of chief constable over the last few years have been internal. Very few have been external appointments—and so good, aspiring, young police officers will not seek to apply any more for those posts.
The movement between forces has now virtually stopped. There is an acceptance that police and crime commissioners will appoint only their sitting deputies and will not consider other candidates. The Government, the inspectorate and the Home Office must find some remedial mechanism which interdicts that process, encourages movement and ensures that the best people are promoted. I do not really mind what the mechanism is, but we need to face up to the challenge and the mischief that is currently happening—we are shrinking the gene pool of talent at the very top levels of policing.
On the final amendment from the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, I support broadly what he is aspiring to do, which is to have clearer ideas and objective measurement of leadership. That must only be a good thing.
The motivation for all the amendments in this group—three from the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, supported by the noble Lord, Lord Dear, and one from the noble Lord, Lord Blair, and me—is to ensure the best possible senior police leadership with appropriate skills and experience. We are where we are—we will not be able to unpick what has happened quickly. My support for the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Blair, is about facing up to where we are. There is a growing acceptance that outstanding candidates no longer need to start their police careers as constables or to progress through all the police ranks before serving in the most senior ranks.
The noble Lord, Lord Blair, and I, in our amendment, provide for the possibility of an outstanding external candidate with no police experience being considered for the roles of commissioner, chief constable, or Director of the National Crime Agency, if the Secretary of State is so minded, but after he or she has taken advice from Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary about the candidates who are available and willing to be considered, as well as any external candidates. But being commissioner or chief constable is about more than being an able leader or an able administrator. It is also about very specific command and control within policing. It is about life and death authority over the use of complex legal powers and authorities, which become more and more important as terrorism becomes more of a threat in Europe. It is about setting professional standards of integrity and performance, based on very detailed understanding of police culture, capabilities and weaknesses. While an able General, Admiral or former Permanent Under-Secretary, for example, can bring enormous leadership and administrative skills, they will be at a disadvantage initially in not understanding or knowing some of the cultural, professional and technical issues that face policing.
I acknowledge that we are where we are. The gene pool of police leadership should and must be improved. Ideally, it would be through taking some of the best from history, recognising where we are now, and moving forward in the way that the noble Lord, Lord Dear, indicated. But, in improving it, we should not do so in a way that trivialises relevant police experience or demoralises able men and women who have already embarked on police careers. Some have very recently come in as direct entrants at superintendent level and have aspirations and expectations to rise to the most senior posts in the service. I hope that the Minister will acknowledge that while room and encouragement should be given for exceptional candidates without a policing background to be brought into top police posts, more effort should now be put into developing, as soon as possible, able men and women who see policing as a career that occupies much of their professional life, building on the current schemes for direct entry at various levels up to and including that of superintendent.
I am approaching almost my 50th anniversary of being around policing. I am very proud to have been a police officer. Like the noble Lords, Lord Dear and Lord Blair, I am a product of the system that was described. Some people crassly call for leadership to be helicoptered in from almost anywhere. This is not about education. I am an Oxford graduate, as is the noble Lord, Lord Blair, and the noble Lord, Lord Dear, is a Cambridge graduate. The current commissioner is an Oxford graduate. As I say, this is not about education. If it is about performance, past police leaders have outperformed on courses such as those of the Royal College of Defence Studies and the Cabinet Office Top Management Programme, on which I was sent by Prime Minister Thatcher. So there is a legacy of police leaders competing with, and outperforming, their peers and contemporaries in the military, in public service and the private sector.
However, this issue is not about that. In some cases, I fear that it becomes almost a pernicious class argument. As the noble Lord, Lord Dear, hinted, I worry that we are going back to the good old, bad old days—the pre-war thinking that not enough commissioners or chief constables have spent enough time in some of the best public schools. It is so sad when the argument boils down to that. This is really about trying to get the best leadership in policing, I hope that the Government, the Home Office and the Chief Inspector of Constabulary will put their heads together to help us find a way through this, because the direction in which we are going will not enhance police leadership; it will weaken it.
My Lords, I shall try to be brief. I am getting wind-up signals already. As regards Amendments 176, 177 and 178, the opportunities for international police experience are very limited. Therefore, to mandate it would be to disadvantage many able candidates for promotion. Something desperately needs to be done to stop people being promoted just from within the most senior ranks within the force because the police and crime commissioner knows the candidates and does not know candidates from outside forces. As the noble Lord, Lord Blair, and others have said, it used to be a rule that, if you wanted to be the chief constable, you could not have been the assistant chief constable and the deputy chief constable in that same force. That rule needs to be brought back.
I say to the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, that the difference between leadership and management is that management is about getting people to do what you want them to do and leadership is about getting them to want to do what you want them to do. The latter approach is essential in policing because in most circumstances you are not with the officer when the officer is in contact with the public.
As regards what the noble Lord, Lord Dear, said, the three-day extended interview, the strategic command course and the strategic leadership course were good models and produced good candidates. Something needs to be done to rectify that situation.
I was slightly disappointed that the first I knew of the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Blair of Boughton, was when I saw it in the Marshalled List. If he had sought our help, we would have supported his amendment. I hope that we can work together on it between now and the next stage of the Bill. The noble Lord may recall that when we had discussions about direct entry at superintendent level, I went further than him and the noble Lord, Lord Condon, in terms of the need for police experience.
The Minister can learn from the experience of the noble Lord, Lord Blair, as commissioner. Within weeks of him becoming commissioner, the bombing on the London Underground and on the bus in Russell Square happened. Do the Government want to put somebody who has no experience of policing, or even somebody who has had experience in another country and who does not know the capacity and the powers of the British police service or the laws that apply in this country, in a situation where within weeks they could face that sort of disaster?
I do not know whether I should have been declaring an interest throughout today’s proceedings but it is a bit of a shock to find that throughout them I have been clutching a pen on which is written: “Metropolitan Police Forensics—New Scotland Yard”, so I had better declare it now.
This has been an illuminating debate for me on some of the issues that confront the police over training, appointments and leadership under the present arrangements and organisational structure. If the noble Lord, Lord Blair of Boughton, wishes to discuss his amendment, I will be more than happy to do so. I can say only that I thought that we would find a significant conflict between the two sets of amendments, but now that I have listened to the debate, that does not appear to be the case. Perhaps the ideal would be if the noble Lords, Lord Dear, Lord Blair of Boughton and Lord Condon, produced an amendment with which all three of them could associate themselves if they wish to pursue the matter through to the next stage. Obviously, they will want to hear the Government’s response before seeking to make any decisions on that point. However I will leave it at that, and I certainly await with interest what the Minister has to say on behalf of the Government.
My Lords, I almost hesitate to stand up given that I am surrounded by experts in this field—and I did not go to Oxbridge either. All noble Lords have said in different ways this evening that choosing our police leaders is of the utmost importance for the future of policing, and as the noble Lord, Lord Condon, said, we need to think about it now. We fully support initiatives to ensure that police leaders are drawn from different backgrounds. That is why the Government asked the College of Policing to carry out a leadership review for policing in 2014. We wanted to look at how we could open up policing to fresh perspectives, including by expanding external recruitment to the senior ranks in policing. The review also examined how we could encourage officers to gain experience outside policing before returning later in life and how we could open up senior ranks to candidates from different backgrounds.
The review, which was published in June 2015, was a landmark for policing, setting the agenda for change and for police workforce reform. Its impact is already being felt across policing, from the new qualifications and apprenticeships for those at the start of their careers to opening up police leadership through direct entry and senior secondments, as some noble Lords pointed out.
The review recommended that national standards for recruitment and promotion into all roles, ranks and grades should be established and that all vacancies are advertised nationally. Building on the qualities for professional policing which have been defined in the College of Policing’s new competency and values framework will help to ensure that there are clear and consistent standards for each rank. Advertising roles nationally will open recruitment and make it easier for officers and staff to apply for roles in other force areas—noble Lords mentioned that that does not happen as much as it should. The college has statutory powers to recommend that the Home Secretary makes regulations on a range of issues, including the qualifications for appointment and the promotion of police officers, thus ensuring that these are implemented across England and Wales.
As part of implementing the leadership review, the college is exploring how to improve the diversity of top teams by increasing the pool of candidates for chief officer posts and supporting police and crime commissioners in their selection processes and recruitment campaigns. They are also identifying development packages for those who are appointed from overseas or, as a result of the provisions in Part 1 of the Bill, from the fire service. To support this work, the college has led for policing by undertaking a survey of PCCs, as well as of chief constables and other senior police officers, to understand the issues around senior appointments and developing the talent pool.
It should be the norm that police leaders have a breadth of experience and that they have access to other professions and fields to harness new skills that they can apply in policing. We strongly believe that it is possible to learn from policing overseas, and that is why we have already given the College of Policing the power to approve overseas police forces from which senior police officers are eligible to be appointed as a chief constable in England and Wales or as the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. These are set out in the Appointment of Chief Officers of Police (Overseas Police Forces) Regulations 2014 and include forces from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States.
We support the work of Chief Constable Andy Marsh, the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s lead on international policing, in establishing the Joint International Policing Hub to act as the single, recognised gateway for international policing assistance for domestic and global partners.
The amendments tabled by my noble friend Lord Attlee seek to open up recruitment to the senior ranks in policing. As I have set out, the Government are very supportive of initiatives to achieve this. However, we believe that this should be led by the College of Policing, as the professional body for policing, and that it already has the necessary powers to achieve this.
We deploy police officers overseas to pursue matters of interest to the UK and share our expertise. For example, we sent officers to France to work alongside the French police in dealing with football fans at the Euros.
The noble Lord, Lord Blair, clearly comes at this issue from a different perspective. Amendment 178A in his name seeks to enshrine in statute a presumption that all those who are appointed to chief officer rank must previously have served as a senior officer in a UK police force.
When we introduced police and crime commissioners in 2012, we wanted people to have a say in policing in their local community. We gave PCCs the power to appoint the chief constable because we recognised that this appointment was crucial to implementing the PCC’s policing and crime plan. PCCs understand what the local issues are and are best placed to understand the leadership requirements of their force. It should not be for the Home Secretary to give prior approval as to who is eligible to apply for each and every chief officer post that is advertised. That would not be practical or desirable. However, today I gave the noble Lord, Lord Blair, an undertaking—and I offer it to other noble Lords; I have such a field of expertise around me that I shall open it up—to have further discussions on this area. I would welcome them and would be very happy for them to take place before Report.
The College of Policing has the power to set standards for all police ranks and can introduce new measures as recruitment at senior ranks is opened up further. It has shown how successful it is at this with the introduction of the direct entry programme and the fact that talented people from other sectors are now working in policing. The college is now working to compare the skills, abilities and knowledge needed to be a chief constable with those of chief fire officers to develop a rigorous assessment and development package for those who are interested in the top jobs in policing as a result of the reforms in Part 1 of the Bill.
As I have indicated, the Government want the best people leading policing. We believe the best way to achieve that is to have open recruitment from a wide talent pool, national standards set by the professional body and local decision-making that reflects the needs of the force and the local community. I realise that we have gone past 10 pm, but I hope that the noble Earl will be content to withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, this debate has exceeded all my expectations. There have been few times in your Lordships’ House when I have tabled an amendment that has been as effective. I will read what my noble friend the Minister has said with great care, but I suspect that I will not be surprised.
On one condition, I will not only withdraw my amendment but will not return to the issue—although other noble Lords may want to return to their issues. The condition is this: the Minister has an excellent Bill team manager—I know that because he has worked with me and with the Chief Whip—and I would like him to cut out this debate from Hansard and put it in the Policing Minister’s red box and the Home Secretary’s red box. The speeches from the noble Lords, Lord Dear, Lord Blair, and Lord Condon, were very serious and said that we are going in the wrong direction on this problem—that will come to bite us eventually. I believe that the Home Secretary needs to do something about this, and to listen to the warnings from the noble Lord, Lord Dear. I thank all noble Lords who contributed to this debate and beg leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment 176 withdrawn.
Amendments 177 and 178 not moved.
Moved by Lord Blair of Boughton
178A: After Clause 47, insert the following new Clause—“Eligibility for senior police posts(1) The Police Act 1996 is amended as follows.(2) After section 50B (inserted by section 46) insert—“50C Eligibility for senior police postsSubject to section 140 of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 (appointment of chief officers of police)—(a) an application may not be considered from any individual applying for the post of—(i) Assistant or Deputy Chief Constable in any police service;(ii) Commander or Deputy Assistant Commissioner in the Metropolitan Police Service; or(iii) Commander or Assistant Commissioner in the City of London Police;without previous experience in the police service in the United Kingdom at the rank of Superintendent or above, unless prior approval has been given by the Secretary of State, following advice from Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary;(b) an application may not be considered from any individual applying for the post of—(i) Chief Constable in any police service;(ii) Assistant Commissioner, Deputy Commissioner or Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service;(iii) Commissioner of the City of London Police; or(iv) Director or Deputy Director of the National Crime Agency;without experience in the United Kingdom’s police service in a rank no lower than two ranks below that to which the application is being made unless prior approval has been given by the Secretary of State, following advice from Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary.””
My Lords, I should say to the noble Lords, Lord Paddick and Lord Rosser, that the reason I did not consult either of them was that I never expected that we would reach this clause on this day. It was only on Friday that I discovered, through the excellent Bill team, that we were going to reach this point. I would like the opportunity to talk through with Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Government whether we can move forward.
Peel said something very interesting—that,
“this should not be an occupation for gentlemen”.
It took me 30 years to understand what that remark meant. It meant an extraordinary Victorian experiment, because that was the period in which you bought commissions, you bought livings and you bought places in the Civil Service. Peel was saying that the police service should be a meritocracy.
My Lords, I am very conscious of the lateness of the hour and I will try to be brief. I am particularly grateful for being allowed to move the amendment now because next Wednesday I have some important responsibilities; I am captaining the House of Lords bridge team against the House of Commons, and that is why I cannot be here next week. Again, I am grateful that we are able to take the amendment tonight.
I should say at the outset that I have worked alongside and observed the activities of members of the Police Federation for more than 25 years at both the local and national level. I would say that this experience has given me some expertise in Police Federation matters, but of course expertise currently is not something to boast about or perhaps even to lay claim to.
I am sure that we all know that the chief objective of the federation is to represent the interests of its members, and in my experience the Police Federation does this extremely well at both the local and the national level. Indeed, that support network is very necessary. Police officers do a difficult and often dangerous job. They need and deserve the security of knowing that the Police Federation will always be there to defend them if or when things go wrong, particularly legally, but every now and again in relation to terms of service and powers, and politically as well.
It is of course true that the Police Federation should not operate exclusively on behalf of its members. We the public need to have confidence in police officers, so it is important that members and particularly officers of the federation, in carrying out their functions, maintain high standards of conduct and of transparency. Here I have to observe that their conduct has often left something to be desired. I have myself seen at first hand evidence of bullying and of loutish behaviour. I have seen intimidation and ways of operating that manifestly do not command confidence in the integrity of federation officers. I am not alone. There can be no doubt that in recent years their collective actions and attitudes have on occasion grated on successive Governments, and they have alarmed middle England and the devoted readers of the Daily Mail. In the wake of the fiasco surrounding the clash of who said what and did what in Plebgate, the federation itself resolved to carry through a raft of root-and-branch reforms, It asked Sir David Normington to carry out an examination of the structure of the Police Federation and of its objectives. In his resulting report, Sir David proposed among other changes that in fulfilling its statutory responsibilities for the welfare and efficiency of its members, the Police Federation should,
“act in the public interest”.
The Government are taking on board this recommendation but have modified it somewhat to stipulate that the Police Federation must act to “protect the public interest”. I believe this to be a massive overreaction and a serious mistake.
This is for two principal reasons. The first is that I do not know what “protecting the public interest” means. I have served as a local magistrate for 20 years and I know the importance of having laws that are clearly worded and fully understandable to the general public. Opaque words lead to bad law. I have therefore spent some time asking a number of my legal friends, some of them in this House, what they think is meant by “the public interest”. My learned friends cannot tell me. They do not agree and there is no accepted understanding of the phrase, and indeed there is some disagreement on what it might mean. So what precisely are we asking the Police Federation to do? They and we need clarity, so I would like the Minister to spell out to me, and more importantly to the legal profession, what she believes is meant by “protecting the public interest” as it applies to the Police Federation.
My second concern is that in representing its members, which the Police Federation has a prime duty to do, it could easily be drawn into doing the opposite of protecting the public interest. There may be officers whose cases, once the evidence is heard, could undermine trust and confidence in the police and could suggest that they have behaved in ways that have not protected the public interest, either deliberately or inadvertently. Should the federation not represent such officers? It is not difficult to foresee a conflict between the federation’s duty to look after the interests of its members and the obligation to protect the public interest, however it is defined. My strong view is that the federation is first and foremost a staff association, although I accept that it is a body that needs to act in a way which commands the trust and confidence of the public. So while it certainly should maintain high standards of conduct and high levels of transparency, fear of breaching this clause about protecting the public interest should not be able to inhibit the federation from representing the interests of its members. I believe that that might well be a consequence. It sounds grand to bestow on the federation a public purpose, which some of the more grandiose officers in the federation actually rather like, but to my mind it is a hollow aspiration. It is just words that sound good but have no agreed or clear meaning. I therefore believe that the words in proposed new subsection (1A)(a) in Clause 48 should be removed. I beg to move.
My Lords, in drafting this amendment, the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, and I spent many happy hours trying to determine what exactly the “public interest” is, as she has said. It can mean a whole lot of different things to different people and its interpretation is interesting in the context in which it is presented in the Bill.
As we have heard, the Police Federation has followed the recommendation—I emphasise “recommendation” —of Sir David Normington’s review into how to improve itself. It decided that it would establish an independent reference group. At Second Reading I gave your Lordships a full account of how that independent reference group, which I chaired, had been treated. After we were set up as a fully functioning group in January this year, the Police Federation decided it did not want to use us to help it realise its stated purpose of reforming. This was in spite of the membership of that group having within it people with more than 100 years’ experience of working with the police, a very senior and highly respected retired civil servant and the first woman to run a fire authority—so not all of us were politicians, to whom the present chair of the Police Federation was vehemently opposed anyway. Yet all of us were committed to helping the Police Federation improve its image. We were, effectively, sacked in May this year, having been unable to do anything meaningful to help.
I am quizzical about just where the “public interest” fits into this scenario. It is bandied about, as the noble Baroness suggested, but nobody can actually pin down what it means. Is the Police Federation in denial of its obligations to the public interest by behaving in the way it has? If so, what is the meaning of the phrase now? Will the public be pleased at how the organisation has conducted itself—in their interest—or will they be as puzzled as we were about the behaviour of the management of the Police Federation arbitrarily to interpret that interest in this particular way? The phrase needs removing from the Bill unless the Minister can convince me that it is at all meaningful. I would be grateful if she could give me some examples.
My Lords, I very much welcome the amendment. It deals with an issue I raised in the Second Reading debate on the Bill in your Lordships’ House. As I said at that time, and repeat for the sake of maintaining the highest standards of conduct and transparency, I was, until a few months ago, an unpaid adviser to the Police Federation of England and Wales and had been acting in that capacity for the best part of the previous three years.
I hope that I also made clear in that debate that the line I was about to take in respect of Clause 48 had not been prompted by the Police Federation. Indeed, it was not even supported by the leadership of that organisation. That position has not changed. My views on Clause 48 and, in particular, on the four words which this amendment seeks to omit, remain as they were in July—that is, mine and mine alone. Indeed, it is a cause of some regret that not even my noble friends on the Front Bench are likely to agree with me.
I say that this is a cause of some regret because my views stem directly from my experience as an official in the Home Office—an official doing very much the same job as those who prepared the Bill. The rule in the Home Office at that time was that, when preparing legislation, every effort had to be made to avoid giving hostages to fortune, or making rods for one’s own back—or any number of similar clichés. In practice, this meant that one’s seniors and betters were constantly on the lookout for words which they could strike out of draft legislation because they were not absolutely necessary. Every word in every Bill, we were taught, could be used by clever, rapacious lawyers as a stick with which to beat the Government—or at least a stick to beat other clever and rapacious lawyers. For this reason, every word in a piece of draft legislation, particularly primary legislation, had to be justified as being absolutely necessary and not amenable to misinterpretation or exploitation for purposes other than those directly related to the main purpose of the legislation in question.
I regard the words “protect the public interest” in Clause 48, as the noble Baronesses who spoke before me said, as precisely the kind of words that are amenable to misinterpretation and exploitation. They certainly are not necessary to achieve the purposes of this particular part of the Bill. I therefore regard them as prime candidates for omission.
The same problems do not arise with the words in the other two paragraphs. I believe that it is very sensible to place a duty on the federation to maintain high standards of conduct and transparency. Everyone understands what those words mean. More importantly, I believe that they are quite sufficient by themselves to achieve the Government’s aims for the federation. In fact, they are probably more than enough.
All of us who take an interest in policing know very well why the previous Home Secretary felt moved to introduce these words into the Bill. I for one strongly supported her doing so. But the words “protect the public interest” are quite different. The federation is at bottom a staff association and its job is to represent its members. It is clearly in the public interest that it should do so effectively—that is why it was established. And it is clearly in its own interest that it should act, as Sir David Normington said, to maintain exemplary standards of conduct, integrity and professionalism and to retain public confidence.
To require the federation to act to “protect the public interest” is quite another matter. I fear that these words are tantamount to giving the federation a licence to interfere in policing matters well beyond its expertise. For example, I see the federation deciding that it is in the public interest that it should monitor and make recommendations on the type of equipment and systems which police forces purchase and deploy; on the leadership qualities of candidates for chief constable rank and other operational matters; or on issues of police governance such as the size and composition of police and crime panels.
Of course, individual members of the federation will have views on all these matters and on many more besides. But what we would be doing by including the words “support the public interest” in this Bill is to give the leaders of the federation grounds for spending their money on studying these matters and publicly advocating for changes in them. Indeed, I believe that these words would permit the federation to extend its remit almost indefinitely and to employ clever, rapacious lawyers to justify this on the grounds that it has a statutory duty to protect the public interest.
The federation has more than enough on its plate in carrying out its core mission. Placing on the federation a duty to “support the public interest” may sound good, as the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, said, but it does not pass the test of being essential to the purposes of the Bill. In fact, I believe that it falls squarely into the category of words which could come back to bite the Government in very unpleasant ways.
That is why I strongly support this amendment and urge the Minister to agree with me that omitting these four words would in no way weaken the motivation of the federation to operate in the public interest but would minimise the opportunity for it to make trouble for itself and others in due course.
My Lords, my noble friend Lady Hamwee and I have given notice of our intention to oppose the proposition that Clause 48 stand part. The reason is that all officers of the federation hold public office. They are therefore all subject to the Nolan principles—the seven principles of public life. Can the Minister explain what is to be added by the clause, over and above the Nolan principles?
I will briefly make two points. I have a great deal of sympathy with the amendment that has been moved by my noble friend Lady Henig. I do not necessarily share the interpretation of the words “protect the public interest” that the noble Lord, Lord Wasserman, attached to them. I think that probably, under some of its other responsibilities to its members, the Police Federation would be entitled to pursue at least some of the issues to which he made reference.
Do the Government interpret this wording of “protect the public interest” to mean that the federation must put the interests of the public before the interests of the members of the police forces it is there to represent? Secondly, does this wording mean that legal proceedings or some other action can be taken against the Police Federation by someone who believes that it has not protected the public interest? If so, who can take such legal proceedings or such other action?
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, for her explanation of this amendment to Clause 48, which amends the 1996 Act to require the Police Federation, in fulfilling its core purpose, to protect the public interest and maintain high standards of conduct and of transparency —as the noble Baroness said. There was a discussion the other day about what the public interest is. I understood that, in a different context, it was not what the public were interested in but something quite different.
In the spring of 2013, the Police Federation commissioned a review to consider whether any changes were required to its operation or structure to ensure that it continued to promote the public good as well as the interests and welfare of its members. The panel’s final report, Police Federation Independent Review, known widely as the Normington review, was published in January 2014 and made 36 recommendations to improve trust, accountability, professionalism and member services. Recommendation 1 was the adoption of a revised core purpose that reflects the Police Federation’s commitment to act in the public interest. The Police Federation accepted the review’s recommendations in their entirety and has already publicly adopted a revised core purpose on a non-statutory basis. The Normington review was clear that a reformed federation would act in the interests of both its members and the public.
Clause 48 focuses on how the Police Federation discharges its representative role—namely by considering the public interest in its actions, in the same way that the police uphold the public interest in all their actions, whether that is fighting crime on the front line or representing colleagues as a member of the federation. The clause does not conflict with the Police Federation’s representative purpose and will not, for example, require it to act against the interests of its members. The ambition here is to ensure that the federation does not operate against the public interest. Indeed, the Police Federation itself, acting in line with the recommendations of Sir David Normington and his review, asked the Government to enshrine its revised core purposes in legislation. That is exactly what this clause achieves.
Sadly, as the Normington review highlighted, a culture of “narrow self-interest” has permeated the federation in recent years—one of “distrust and division”, as he described it. The Government wish to support the federation in proving that it can serve its members and respect the public interest in providing a representative voice for police officers, with professionalism and integrity.
The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, made a point about changing the purpose of the Police Federation as set out in the Police Act 1996. Clause 48, as worded, is clear that the federation must protect the public interest and maintain high standards of conduct and transparency in fulfilling that purpose. The Police Act 1996 sets out what the federation should do and Clause 48 sets out how it must deliver that.
The noble Lord also asked what happens when the public interest and the interests of the police diverge. The Normington review was clear that a reformed federation would act in the interests of both its members and the public. Section 59 of the Police Act 1996 provides that the purpose of the Police Federation is to represent members of the police forces in England and Wales in all matters affecting their welfare and efficiency.
Could the federation be challenged in the courts? It could, on the basis that it was not fulfilling its purpose as set out in Section 9(1) of the Police Act 1996 in a way that protected the public interest, but it may already be challenged on the basis that it was not fulfilling its existing purpose.
I hope I have provided some explanation and that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.
The Nolan principles underpin every single aspect of involvement in public life. Obviously, this is specific to the police in a certain context, but I think the two should go hand in hand. Obviously, there are different aspects to the police compared with other public professions, but anyone who is in public office needs to sign up to the Nolan principles. This is an aspect that applies to the police.
I thank all noble Lords who have spoken at this late hour. Although it is late, this is an important debate. I listened very carefully to the Minister but she did not actually answer the question. She did not tell the Committee what the words actually mean. I have to say again that if it is not clear what a phrase means, it is not going to be good law and it is going to lead to an awful lot of disagreement in years to come. If four lawyers in a room cannot agree what “protect the public interest” means, that is a recipe for problems. The Minister did not explain what it meant. There was a lot of vagueness and phraseology but nothing clear or precise.
Obviously, at this point in the evening I will withdraw the amendment but I want to think about this a bit more. Some of us might want to return to this at a later stage because it really is not in the public interest to put something in a Bill the meaning of which people cannot agree on. That cannot be a good thing to do. But at this stage, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 179 withdrawn.
Clause 48 agreed.
Clauses 49 to 50 agreed.
House adjourned at 10.38 pm.