Schedule 4 - The central police training anddevelopment authority

Criminal Justice and Police Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 5:45 pm on 8th March 2001.

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Question proposed, That this schedule be the Fourth schedule to the Bill.

Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

I have a number of questions about the schedule. Picking up on the Minister's comments towards the end of our discussion on clause 86, I understand that the central police college will be run by the authority that we are discussing. However, do other proposed provisions such as cluster colleges still form part of the overall picture? The explanatory notes refer to a ``re-organised Police Training Council'', a ``national review team'', the ``improved use of information'' and so on, but seem not to mention cluster colleges. How will the balance between the force's training and central training, which I described at the outset, be affected? Will there be a significant change in that regard?

It appears that appointments, including that of the chairman, will be made by the Secretary of State in the light of advice from the APA and ACPO. The membership will consist of two APA representatives, two ACPO representatives and a civil servant. Why are the police organisations not to be included? I have already said that the Police Federation's two reports ``Project Forward'' and ``Police Training: The Way Forward'' not only helped to initiate the debate, but made good points about the way in which direct learning and modern technology can help officers' training without disrupting the shift system in local police stations. Training officers in that way is attractive because we can get the maximum amount of hours on the street by avoiding taking officers away for lengthy periods on courses that are residential or involve travel.

The key components of the Government's training package come from the Police Federation, which shows that it has a contribution to make. I have occasionally heard police constables say that they are dissatisfied with their preparation for the job, the effectiveness of their mentoring and the encouragement and knowledge that they receive. In some cases they are satisfied, but one occasionally meets police constables who make that complaint. The input of those who represent police constables, sergeants and inspectors in the training process would therefore be useful.

I wonder whether it would be possible to find a role for the Police Superintendents Association and those who represent superintendents. They run the command units, so in a management sense their input is closer to the ground than that of ACPO, which is nevertheless an organisation that I hugely respect. Indeed, one could make the same point about the APA, which is another useful organisation with much knowledge.

My second question about schedule 4 concerns why it is impossible to consult and appoint officers' representatives up to inspector level and superintendents to the authority. Surely a board of seven would be no more unwieldy than a board of five.

Have the posts on the new authority been advertised and filled? In the case of the probation body, that had happened by the time that the Committee sat. It would be useful to know who the successful applicants are if that has occurred.

We should make provision for those who judge training needs to be young enough and close enough to active policing to understand the latest thinking, the latest challenges and the most modern techniques. Some bodies rightly have elderly people on them, but—without wishing to be rude to members of ACPO or the APA, who I am sure are young and sprightly—we ought to ensure an element of youth and activity on a body that trains officers for the modern world.

I also note the proposal to set up committees of the authority. Why is that and what does the Minister have in mind? It seemed reasonable when I examined the beginning of schedule 4, but as I read on, the authority began to sound like a council. I have nothing against local authorities, but does the authority need a labyrinthine structure with committees? It would be a pity if paragraph 15 made it into a bureaucratic body. The authority must be a businesslike operation that provides services rather than something akin to a local authority. Does the Minister get the flavour of an unwieldy organisation being set up?

Finally, I shall ask three questions that the Police Federation raised with me. It states:

``You should note that staff of the authority are appointed on terms and conditions of service approved by the Secretary of State. Such terms may not therefore be based on the Police Regulations and/or Codes of Practice and neither is it necessary to consult with respective Staff Associations...This would seem a rather loose scenario when one considers the terms of appointment for a Police Officer.''

How would the Minister respond to that?

On staff remuneration and pensions, the federation seeks

``clarification if ``Staff'' in this instance''— that is, in paragraph 11—

``includes `Police Officers' as temporary service under Police regulations is determinable under different provisions.''

In respect of the term ``seconded constable'', the federation says:

``we believe there to be a consideration under discrimination law to ensure that appropriate protection is in place to allow both for claims to be made by and against such constables.''

It would like to know what provision has been made in that respect.

Photo of Mrs Jackie Ballard Mrs Jackie Ballard Liberal Democrat, Taunton

I have one question. When the hon. Member for North-East Hertfordshire argued in favour of the inclusion on the authority of representatives from the Police Federation, he said that that would make the membership up to seven, which he felt was no more unwieldy than five. In fact, the schedule says that there should at no time be fewer than 11 members. Given that a minimum number has been set, and that there is concern about the balance of representation from the APA and ACPO as opposed to other appointments by the Secretary of State, why is not a maximum number set? Does the Minister have a view on the ideal size of the authority? As the Bill stands, it could be anything from 11 to infinity.

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Minister of State, Home Office

Several points have been raised, and I shall try to deal with them as quickly as I can.

The reason for the authority's basic structure is that it is designed to be a classic tripartite body. The three parts are ACPO, the police authorities and central Government. The Secretary of State will actively consider nominees from outside that tripartite body, such as people from the Police Federation and the Police Superintendents Association.

The hon. Member for North-East Hertfordshire was right to praise the Police Federation for the work that it has been doing, which was one of the first matters that was brought to my attention when I became Minister. I can say on the record that it is very much due to the campaigning of the Police Federation that distance learning has such a substantive role to play in the development of the work of the organisation. The Police Federation deserves credit for that. Its approach has been entirely constructive in style, for the good reason that it knows that its members will best be able to serve the public through an increase in its training capacity. That is why the Secretary of State is actively considering nominating someone from the Police Federation. It is good practice to have trade union involvement in the organisation.

On cluster colleges, the potential for collaboration has been actively investigated by ACPO and the APA. It is not in the Bill because the balance between the central-local force relationship in respect of training will remain as it is. However, the hon. Gentleman is right to say that the evolution and development of the body will change the entire nature of police training over time and will focus regional co-operation between forces on training. Eventually, it may change the central-local balance. At the moment, we have to raise the performance of the whole operation, and we cannot predict exactly how it will develop.

Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

Is that really what the Minister would like to see? Given the way in which the central police college, the cluster colleges and the core curriculum will work, it is almost inevitable that the balance will change and the system will become more centralised.

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Minister of State, Home Office

The system will not necessarily be more centralised. Speaking personally, rather than as the Minister concerned, a move towards stronger regional collaboration and co-operation is a positive way of taking the matter forward. There are serious issues about the identity of individual forces and their own historic training functions, and it is important that any developments are carried out in a co-operative and collaborative way, not imposed from the centre. In my judgment, that is how matters will develop over time, and that is desirable. It is not the same as having a national system.

We have appointed as chief executive Chris Mould, who has substantial experience in national health service training. It is an interesting appointment and the police were involved in the appointment process, which is a positive move. The hon. Gentleman met the inspector dealing with training and I am delighted to hear that. If he would like to meet Mr. Mould and discuss with him the sort of issues that he is raising, I would be happy to facilitate that if it would be helpful.

We foresee an entrepreneurial and driving organisation with the legal power to set up committees on the routine functions of finance, general purposes and so on. However, the hon. Gentleman is right and it would be wrong if the organisation entered a quagmire.

On size, we thought it right to specify the minimum but to provide flexibility. I agree that we could have acted differently and not specified a minimum or maximum, or specified both, but we decided to specify a minimum to ensure a basic solid engagement of people. Setting a maximum might have restricted us in future and required changes to primary legislation.

The hon. Gentleman referred to points raised by the Police Federation on terms and conditions of service, pension arrangements and remuneration for seconded constables. I understand the problems, but it does not follow that a trainer must be a police officer, so it does not follow that the terms and conditions, pension arrangements and so on of a trainer must be those of a police officer. We are discussing the matter actively with the Police Federation and Unison.

With those explanations, I hope that the Committee will agree to schedule 4.

Question put and agreed to.

Schedule 4 agreed to.