Clause 21 - Investigations by the IPCC: whistle-blowing

Policing and Crime Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:30 am on 24th March 2016.

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Photo of Mike Penning Mike Penning The Minister of State, Home Department, The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice 11:30 am, 24th March 2016

I beg to move amendment 131, in clause 21, page 26, line 23, at end insert—

‘29HA Duty to keep whistle-blowers informed

(1) Where the Commission carries out an investigation under section 29E(2), it must keep the whistle-blower properly informed about the progress of the investigation and its outcome.

(2) The Secretary of State may by regulations provide for exceptions to the duty under subsection (1).

(3) The power conferred by subsection (2) may be exercised only to the extent that the Secretary of State considers necessary for any of the permitted non-disclosure purposes.

(4) “The permitted non-disclosure purposes” are—

(a) preventing the premature or inappropriate disclosure of information that is relevant to, or may be used in, any actual or prospective criminal proceedings;

(b) preventing the disclosure of information in any circumstances in which it has been determined in accordance with the regulations that its non-disclosure—

(i) is in the interests of national security,

(ii) is for the purposes of the prevention or detection of crime or the apprehension or prosecution of offenders,

(iii) is for the purposes of the investigation of an allegation of misconduct against the whistle-blower or the taking of disciplinary proceedings or other appropriate action in relation to such an allegation,

(iv) is for the purposes of an investigation under Part 2 that relates to the whistle-blower,

(v) is required on proportionality grounds, or

(vi) is otherwise necessary in the public interest.

(5) The non-disclosure of information is required on proportionality grounds if its disclosure would cause, directly or indirectly, an adverse effect which would be disproportionate to the benefits arising from its disclosure.’

This amendment inserts a new section in the new Part 2B of the Police Reform Act 2002, inserted by clause 21. The new section requires the IPCC to keep a whistle-blower informed about an investigation under section 29E(2) of his or her concern and the outcome, subject to exceptions specified in regulations. It also sets out the purposes for which the regulation-making power may be exercised.

Photo of David Nuttall David Nuttall Conservative, Bury North

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Government amendments 132 to 134.

Amendment 162, in clause 21, page 27, line 29, at end insert—

“(ba) representatives of relevant workforces,”

This amendment would add representatives of workforces concerned to those who must be consulted by the Secretary of State before making regulations relating to the disclosure of information to whistle-blowers or other persons specified.

Government amendment 137.

Photo of Mike Penning Mike Penning The Minister of State, Home Department, The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

I will not delay the Committee too long on this group of amendments, but I will bring joy to the shadow Police Minister in a second—something that I did not manage to do for the shadow Fire Minister on Tuesday. Clause 21 strengthens the protections for police whistleblowers by conferring powers on the Independent Police Complaints Commission to investigate concerns raised by whistleblowers without referral from a police force, to keep whistleblowers updated on the progress of the investigation’s outcomes, and to protect the identity of whistleblowers, as we would all wish.

I have looked closely at amendment 162, and there is an anomaly in it. Although I wish the shadow Minister not to press the amendment, I commit to coming back to the issue on Report, because there is a case for consulting the Police Advisory Board, on which the representative bodies—including the Police Federation, the Police Superintendents Association, police officer and staff associations and the Police Staff Council—are represented, to bring it in line with proposed new part 2B of the Police Reform Act 2002.

Photo of Kevan Jones Kevan Jones Labour, North Durham

Will the Minister outline what he has in mind by “specific exceptional circumstances” in the regulations? What will be exceptional?

Photo of Mike Penning Mike Penning The Minister of State, Home Department, The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

It would have to be absolutely exceptional, such as for national security. With that in mind, I thank the shadow Minister for tabling amendment 162, and I will basically do what he is asking for on Report. So that I can formulate it correct, I ask him not to press amendment 162 but to accept the Government amendments.

Photo of Jack Dromey Jack Dromey Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

The Minister has been helpful, so I will be brief. For clarity, we are not yet talking about amendment 155—we will get to that later.

I will not repeat what the Minister said, and I welcome his undertaking. I say for clarity that of course this is about the unions that represent 55% of the workforce, but it is also about the Police Superintendents Association and the Police Federation. In the more testing areas—such as forensics on the one hand and the interface with the criminal justice system on the other—it is about organisations such as the British Medical Association and the Law Society, for which there are sometimes tricky issues relating to client confidentiality. What he has said is welcome, but I stress that, however important it is that representatives of the workforce are included, there is a wider potential ambit for this clause.

Photo of Mike Penning Mike Penning The Minister of State, Home Department, The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

I thank the shadow Minister for that. Just to clarify, amendment 155 is in the next group. There are already specific amendments in the Bill to the legislation on the Police Advisory Board, but we will look carefully at the board’s membership, and if people need to be added to it, so be it.

Amendment 131 agreed to.

Photo of Mike Penning Mike Penning The Minister of State, Home Department, The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

On a point of order, Mr Nuttall. I am sorry if I missed it, but can we clarify whether Opposition amendment 162 has been withdrawn?

Photo of David Nuttall David Nuttall Conservative, Bury North

The amendment has not been moved formally ; we will come to it after these amendments.

Amendments made: 132, in clause 21, page 26, line 34, at end insert—

‘( ) The power conferred by subsection (1) may be exercised only to the extent that the Secretary of State considers necessary for any of the permitted disclosure purposes.

( ) “The permitted disclosure purposes” are—

(a) the protection of the interests of national security;

(b) the prevention or detection of crime or the apprehension of offenders;

(c) the institution or conduct of criminal proceedings;

(d) the investigation of allegations of misconduct against whistle-blowers and the taking of disciplinary proceedings or other appropriate action in relation to such allegations;

(e) investigations under Part 2 that relate to whistle-blowers;

(f) investigations under this Part;

(g) any other purpose that is for the protection of the public interest.’

The new section 29I of the Police Reform Act 2002, inserted by clause 21, allows the Secretary of State to make regulations authorising the IPCC to disclose the identity of a whistle-blower and the nature of his or her concern (without the whistle-blower’s consent). The amendment provides that the regulation-making power is exercisable only for the permitted disclosure purposes set out in the amendment.

Amendment 133, in clause 21, page 26, line 43, leave out “whistle-blowers or to other”.

This amendment is consequential on Amendment 131.

Amendment 134, in clause 21, page 26, line 47, at end insert—

‘( ) The power conferred by subsection (1) may be exercised only to the extent that the Secretary of State considers necessary for any of the permitted disclosure purposes.

( ) In this section, “the permitted disclosure purposes” has the same meaning as in section 29I.’.

The new section 29J of the Police Reform Act 2002, inserted by clause 21, allows the Secretary of State to make regulations authorising the IPCC to disclose information relating to an investigation under section 29E(2) of a whistle-blowers’ concern or its outcome. The amendment provides that the regulation-making power is exercisable only for the permitted disclosure purposes (which are those set out in amendment 132).

Amendment 135, in clause 21, page 27, line 15, at end insert—

‘“( ) section 21A (restriction on disclosure of sensitive information);

( ) section 21B (provision of sensitive information to the Commission);”’—(Mike Penning.)

This amendment is consequential on NC2.

Clause 21, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.