“(4) In section 107 of the Local Government Act 1972 (application of sections 101 to 106 of that Act to the Common Council)—
(a) in subsection (2), omit the words from the beginning to “and” in the first place it occurs;
(b) after subsection (2) insert—
“(2A) The Common Council may not, under section 101(1)(a), arrange for any person to exercise a function that the Common Council has under or by virtue of Part 2 of the Police Reform Act 2002 (see instead section 23(2)(pa) of that Act and regulations made under that provision).””.
This amendment makes equivalent provision in relation to the Common Council as that made in relation to police and crime commissioners and the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime by clause 17(2) and (3) of the Bill. It is consequential on the new regulation-making power at section 23(2)(pa) of the Police Reform Act 2002 inserted by clause 17(1).
This is a technical amendment.
With this it will be convenient to discuss new clause 8—Review of the police complaints system—
“(1) Within two months of this Act coming into force, the Secretary of State shall commission an independent evaluation of the police complaints system.
(2) The evaluation must consider the—
(a) efficiency of the complaints system,
(b) clarity of the complaints process, and
(c) fairness of investigations.
(3) The Secretary of State shall lay the report of the evaluation before each House of Parliament by 1 January 2018.”
This new clause would require the Secretary of State to commission a comprehensive review of all aspects of the police complaints system.
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.
The reforms set out in the Bill will overhaul the complaints system to ensure that complaints made against the police are responded to in a way that restores trust and builds public confidence. They are the product of extensive consultation over two or more years and will result in a more simple, flexible and independent complaints system.
Of course, we will want to evaluate the success of the reforms, but there are already a number of ways in which that evaluation will happen. Section 10 of the Police Reform Act 2002 includes a duty on the IPCC to maintain and review the arrangements for the handling of complaints and enables the IPCC to recommend change if necessary. Clause 26 of the Bill will extend HMIC’s remit to include any person involved in the delivery of policing functions, including PCC staff and other organisations. That means that HMIC has the ability to inspect and evaluate all aspects of the police complaints system. In the normal way, there will be a post-legislative review of this legislation three to five years after Royal Assent. The Home Office will submit a memorandum to the Home Affairs Committee, which will then decide whether it wishes to conduct a fuller post-legislative inquiry into the Act.
An early review of the complaints system, commencing within two months of the Act coming into force, would therefore not accurately reflect the impact of the reformed police complaints system. In short, I believe that there are already adequate mechanisms in place to review the effect of legislation without the need for an expensive independent evaluation of the kind envisaged by the new clause.
I am not impressed, with the greatest of respect, at the IPCC looking at the IPCC, but the Minister made the point that there is a mechanism involving HMIC, and that is welcome. She also says that there will be a review. The thrust of what we are arguing for is not that there is a review within two months, but that within two months a timetable and a process are laid out as to how the review will be conducted. We will hold the Government to that at the next stages, because it is important that this time we get it right.