It would be helpful if the Minister could describe what procedures he envisages a Home Office Minister directing in accordance with the clause. In last weeks evidence session, I gave a specific, practical example and asked about a direction that a national suite of crime recording forms be imposed on chief constables. As the Committee will be aware, the police have to fill in a large number of forms in respect of any crime that takes place.
In his interim report of September 2007, although not so much in his final report of February 2008, Sir Ronnie Flanagan drew attention to the concept of the nationalisation of crime forms, something on which Her Majestys Opposition have mused. Can a Minister, under the power vested in him or her under the clause, direct that chief constables adopt a standard set of forms across the range of offences? The various forms associated with the manual of guidance are customised. For example, MG forms have a slightly different format for Cheshire constabulary from those used in Suffolk or Hampshire. Not only am I a veteran with experience of reading written briefs, but I recently spent a day at Basingstoke police station and a day at Ipswich police station. I read case files of common assault and domestic violence, and noted that the set of forms in Hampshire was radically different from the set of forms in Suffolk for the same crime. We are about to reach the end of part 1 and will soon be coming to the meat of part 2, but before we do so, will the Minister give us some examples of the directions in which a Minister might wish to participate? Would they include the imposition of a national suite of forms?
My direct answer to the hon. Gentleman about whether the clause could be used to change or standardise forms is yes, we could do that if we chose to do so. To repeat our discussion this morning, what we try to do all the time is to move towards a position in which people did that voluntarily. We would only wish to intervene as a last resort, and examples would include a whole range of procedures and processespolice IT systems, service procurement and other back-office processes. At present, regulations can only be made for all forces, and they can be made in support of joint operations. The proposed change allows regulations to be made for smaller numbers of forces, which will give provide greater flexibility to what we may or may not require forces to do. I hope that answers the hon. Gentlemans question.