Clause 17 - Delegation of functions by local policing bodies

Part of Policing and Crime Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 5:00 pm on 22 March 2016.

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Photo of Jack Dromey Jack Dromey Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) 5:00, 22 March 2016

I remember saying in a debate on the Floor of the House that I bow to no one in my admiration for the British police service and for the British model of policing, which is celebrated worldwide. Of course it is right that we constantly seek to raise standards in the police service and that we seek to hold the police to the highest standards. To this end, the work of the IPCC is crucial. It was established originally to ensure both independence and confidence, but it has not fulfilled its historic purpose. To be blunt, there is a widespread  perception that the IPCC has been a failing body. Indeed, reference was made earlier to three quarters of those surveyed expressing dissatisfaction with how their complaint had been processed.

In the last Parliament, the Government took some steps, including throwing additional money at the IPCC by way of top-slicing the police service. It was clear from the evidence that the Committee heard last week that there remains, in the words of one of the police witnesses, a crisis of confidence in the IPCC. Indeed, Dame Anne Owers, an outstanding public servant, was refreshingly candid when she said that a view had been expressed that one might start with a blank sheet of paper.

The Bill does not start with a blank sheet of paper; it seeks to rename and rebadge the IPCC. Let me make it clear that the Government have proposed some welcome measures. We support, in particular, the efforts to make the system easier to understand and the widening of the definition of complaint under clause 11. We support the requirement under clause 13 for all complaints to be recorded. We strongly support the introduction of the super-complaints system under clauses 18 to 20, so that harmful trends, patterns and habits in policing can be identified and groups of people adversely affected can join forces to address such institutional issues.

We also support the duty under clause 12 to keep complainants and other interested persons updated on the progress of the handling of their complaint. That is crucial for public confidence. All of us, as Members of Parliament, will have had cases where people have made complaints but have not heard about the outcome or, indeed, where the investigation has reached.

If, in the previous Parliament, a noble concept did not work in the way in which it should have done, we cannot allow that to continue in another Parliament. It is too important to the public and the police that we have an investigation machinery that works and has confidence. The purpose behind the new clause is to seek an independent evaluation of the efficiency of the complaints system, the clarity of the complaints process and the fairness of investigations for both the public and the police. We therefore hope that the Government, in seeking to improve the current arrangements, will agree that there should be an independent evaluation of the new arrangements as they take root. I stress again that we do not want to have another five years like the last five years, when fundamental problems were not properly addressed.