Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Policing and Crime Bill - Report (2nd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:15 pm on 7th December 2016.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Rosser Lord Rosser Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Transport) 4:15 pm, 7th December 2016

I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate and will just make one or two comments on what the Minister had to say in reply. What is recorded in Hansard is that,

“the former Home Secretary commissioned Bishop James Jones to compile a report on the experiences of the Hillsborough families”.

It does not say there that he has been asked to compile a report on the much wider issue raised in this amendment. As far as the timescale is concerned, I can only repeat what the Government said in Committee not so long ago, on 2 November, which is that Bishop Jones has only reached the stage where:

“He is considering the terms of reference for his review with the families”— presumably the Hillsborough families—

“and intends to publish them shortly”.

He must be some way from that, if it is going to be a detailed report looking at the situation as a whole, rather than just the Hillsborough situation. Certainly, if there is a suggestion that he is going to publish something within a very few months, it would suggest very much that it is going to be concentrated on what happened at Hillsborough and the experience of the Hillsborough families, and not on the much wider issue covered in this amendment of representation for bereaved families at inquests generally where the police are legally represented. The issue of costs has been raised by the Government, which must raise some further doubts. I refer again to what the Government said on 2 November, which is that the Government wish to,

“put on record that these amendments would place a significant financial burden on the Secretary of State … The cost of the legal representation for the 103 families at the fresh inquest into Hillsborough amounted to £63.6 million”.—[Official Report, 2/11/16; cols. 757-59.]

The Government incurred that cost without the terms of this amendment being in operation. But it is quite clear that cost is a major consideration as far as the Government are concerned, rather than the fundamental issue of principle—parity of funding—which is addressed in the amendment. We also of course have not had any commitment from the Government in principle to what is in this amendment, and there is a reference as well to it being considered in due course.

I will come on to the comments that were made. Because there has been no indication that we can bring this back at Third Reading, I believe that we are no longer in a position where we can come back then with an amendment to our amendment. But if the issue is that this should be decided by a coroner or through some sort of judicial decision, rather than by the police and crime commissioner, and if the Government were prepared to give a commitment to bring along an amendment of that nature, I am quite sure that we would support it. The issue for us is not whether it is the police and crime commissioner making the recommendation. The gut issue here is that parity of support for bereaved families at inquests where the police are legally represented. Since I do not think I have had a sufficient response from the Government, I beg leave—