New Clause 10 - NCA and the Independent Police Complaints Commission

Crime and Courts Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:00 pm on 12th February 2013.

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‘(1) The Secretary of State and the Director General of the NCA must ensure that NCA officers co-operate with the Independent Police Complaints Commission in relation to the fulfilment by the Independent Police Complaints Commission of its statutory duties.

(2) The actions of NCA officers and any operations by the NCA come within the purview of the IPCC in exercising its statutory duty.

(3) The Secretary of State must publish on an annual basis the budget for the IPCC as it relates to investigations to the NCA and its activities.

(4) The Director General must arrange for the publication of a report not more than 12 months after any IPCC investigation into the NCA.

(5) Any report published under section (4) must provide details of the initial IPCC investigation and its findings, what subsequent was taken in response by the NCA and recommendations for future action.’.—(Mr Hanson.)

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of David Hanson David Hanson Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

New clause 10 is designed to examine a little further the issues to do with the relationship of the director general of the National Crime Agency and the Secretary of State with the Independent Police Complaints Commission. I recognise that clause 10, particularly new section 26C, deals with the relationship between the IPCC and the National Crime Agency, but we tabled the new clause because we want assurance that clause 10 has sufficient strength to ensure that the relationship between the IPCC and the NCA is such  that the actions of NCA officers and operations come within the purview of the IPCC in exercising its statutory duty.

The new clause also calls for the Secretary of State to publish annually the budget for the IPCC as it relates to the activities of the National Crime Agency. That is not to disaggregate the NCA from any other aspect of the IPCC, but hon. Members will recall that in previous Committee sittings we discussed the IPCC’s budget. I wanted to get a sense from the Minister of how much resource he anticipated in a normal year of operations. The NCA’s activities will impose a duty on the IPCC.

We have also called for IPCC reports on any NCA matter to be published in the public domain not more than 12 months after any investigation. Again, that would give some accountability so that complaints may be considered and followed up. Twelve months is the maximum, but obviously that does not preclude something being published within one month, one week, three months, four months or beyond.

There was discussion in another place on the matters raised in subsection (5), and there was cross-party support for ensuring that the NCA is subject to both inspections and scrutiny by the IPCC. Among others, Baroness Doocey, who is a Liberal Democrat peer, raised questions on the IPCC’s role. My noble Friend Lord Rosser also raised such questions, and, obviously, changes were made.

The new clause gives the Minister of State another opportunity to reflect on those five points and to ensure that they are strengthened so that the IPCC’s role and remit does include, in all aspects, the NCA.

Photo of Jeremy Browne Jeremy Browne The Minister of State, Home Department

As the right hon. Gentleman has alluded to, integrity is at the heart of public trust and confidence in the police, without which the police cannot do their job effectively and legitimately. Once the public lose trust and confidence in the police, it takes many years to recover.

Corruption and misconduct are certainly not endemic, and the vast majority of officers serve and protect the public with honour and bravery, but there is no denying that there have recently been several high-profile and shocking cases that have made people question the levels of corruption in the police and the robustness of the systems for detecting and addressing corruption.

Improving police professionalism and integrity are the cornerstone of our sweeping police reforms, and the IPCC has a key role to play. We are already working to ensure the organisation has the powers and resources to manage the challenges it currently faces.

Many members of the Committee, between this morning’s sitting and this afternoon’s sitting, will have been in the main Chamber listening to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary announce a package of new measures designed to improve the public’s trust in the police. We have carefully considered the wide-ranging recommendations that have emerged of late. In her statement, my right hon. Friend committed to expanding the IPCC’s capacity to ensure all investigations of serious allegations against the police can be carried out independently. She announced that alongside a package of measures that will open up the closed shop of policing to public scrutiny, particularly on chief constable pay and conditions, on registering interests and on hospitality  and gifts. There will also be a role for the College of Policing in working with the Association of Chief Police Officers to embed a single code of ethics throughout the police.

We are here to address the IPCC’s role in relation to the NCA, so I will respond narrowly to that issue. I am in complete agreement with the spirit of the new clause tabled by the right hon. Member for Delyn. Like Opposition Members, the Government want to ensure that the IPCC will have rigorous oversight of the NCA’s activities, which is precisely why we have already provided for much of the new clause’s substance.

Subsection (1) would impose a duty on the NCA to co-operate with the IPCC in the discharge of its functions. The Government have already seen to that through consequential amendments to the Police Reform Act 2002, which the right hon. Gentleman can find in paragraph 11 of schedule 6.

Similarly, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman can be satisfied that by requiring the Home Secretary to make regulations conferring the oversight functions of the IPCC on the NCA, as we do in subsection (6) of clause 11, we have already achieved what subsection (2) of his new clause seeks to impose: that the IPCC has oversight of complaints and serious conduct matters alleged against NCA officers acting in England and Wales.

The right hon. Gentleman also raises the issue of funding for the IPCC. There has of course been much debate about the role and effectiveness of the IPCC of late, so let me take this opportunity to be clear: the Government are committed to ensuring that the IPCC has the powers and resources that it needs to manage the challenges that it is currently facing. Let us also be clear that the inspection of the NCA does not create a new financial burden on the IPCC. The IPPC, within its current budget, already oversees complaints and conduct matters relating to SOCA and the National Policing Improvement Agency. The creation of the NCA does not increase the overall number of officers who might be investigated by the IPCC should a complaint be made about them.

Furthermore, the right hon. Member for Delyn will understand that due to the reactive nature of the IPCC’s business, it would not be appropriate to break down its budget allocation according to the individual bodies that it oversees. This would reduce the flexibility of the IPCC to focus resources efficiently. But, like other public bodies, the IPCC is already under a duty to produce an annual report and financial accounts under schedule 2 to the Police Reform Act, which contains details of its overall spend and the number of referrals and investigations that it handles for each body.

Finally, subsections (4) and (5) of the right hon. Gentleman’s proposed new clause seek to place a requirement on the director general of the NCA to publish reports of any IPCC investigations, along with their findings and the NCA’s response. Once again, I can agree with the right hon. Gentleman’s intention, namely, to ensure that the IPCC’s oversight is conducted in an open and transparent way. However, it is very  much the responsibility of the IPCC, as the independent body doing the investigation, to publish its report, findings and recommendations when it is in the public interest for it to do so.

The IPCC of course may exercise its discretion to withhold some or all of the information in any report, should it be likely to cause harm to any person. We expect that this transparent approach will apply to the oversight of the NCA as it does to the police, without the need for a statutory duty.

Learning lessons from past events is a crucial part in driving improvements. So I am sympathetic to the recommendations made by the Home Affairs Committee about giving the IPCC the statutory power to require a response and follow-up action from the body being investigated. We are considering the need for further IPCC powers very carefully and will respond to the recommendations in due course. In the meantime, we should not, however. be drawn into making piecemeal changes in respect of the NCA alone.

In conclusion, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman can agree that the Government have in fact already provided a robust foundation for the oversight of the NCA by the IPCC. I know from the statement by the Home Secretary in the Chamber earlier today that there is wide cross-party consensus about the need to ensure that there are rigorous systems to ensure the highest level of integrity and public service ethos in the police and in all the different parts of the policing function here in the United Kingdom. On that basis, I ask the right hon. Gentleman to withdraw his proposed new clause.

Photo of David Hanson David Hanson Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) 3:15 pm, 12th February 2013

I try to end on a positive note in Committee, Mr Caton. There was a little frisson of agreement with some of our contentions. On that basis, I am happy to beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.