Powers of police civilian staff and police volunteers

Policing and Crime Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:00 pm on 24th March 2016.

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Photo of Jack Dromey Jack Dromey Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) 12:00 pm, 24th March 2016

I beg to move amendment 190, in clause 28, page 40, line 14, at end insert—

‘(1A) A relevant employee, in their capacity as a member of police civilian staff, must not be a member of a private sector company.”

This amendment would ensure that employees of the staff of private sector companies who are police contractors cannot be designated with additional powers under the proposals in the Bill.

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 191, in clause 28, page 40, line 18, leave out subsection (3) to subsection (11) and insert—

‘(3) An individual designated as a community support volunteer or a policing support volunteer may not be given any powers exercisable by—

(a) a police constable, or

(b) a police community support officer.”

This amendment would allow chief constables to use volunteers in their forces for appropriate tasks, but removes the ability for chief constables to give them powers of a Constable or Police and Community Support Officer.

Amendment 192, in clause 28, page 40, line 18, after subsection (2) insert—

“The chief officer of any police force may not bring under their direction and control the following volunteers—

(a) a community support volunteer,

(b) a policing support volunteer

where such volunteers would either—

(a) replace a police officer or member of staff, or

(b) fill a vacant police officer or member of staff role.”

This amendment would prevent volunteers being placed in roles which would normally be paid jobs.

Amendment 193, in clause 28, page 40, line 18, after subsection (2) insert—

“The chief officer of any police force may not place a volunteer in an operational role in the following areas—

(a) child sexual exploitation,

(b) serious crime,

(c) counter-terrorism,

(d) custody and detention.”

This amendment would prevent volunteers being placed into some of the most sensitive and demanding police staff roles.

Amendment 194, in clause 28, page 40, line 18, after subsection (2) insert—

“The chief officer of any police force may not place a volunteer in any role which may require the use of force or restraint.”

This amendment would prevent volunteers being placed in roles which may require the use of force or restraint and which should only be performed by officers and members of police staff.

Amendment 195, in clause 28, page 41, line 18, leave out from (6) to end of subsection

This amendment removes the provision for volunteer PCSOs to be issued with CS spray and PAVA spray.

Amendment 196, in clause 29, page 42, line 11, leave out “may” and insert “must”

This amendment would make it mandatory for the College of Policing to issue guidance to chief officers of police on training of volunteers.

New clause 15—Scrutiny of volunteer use—

‘Police and crime plans produced under Chapter 3 of Part 1 of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act (2011), must include an annual assessment of the use of volunteers, including the following—

(a) number of volunteers used,

(b) roles of volunteers

(c) protected characteristics.’

This new clause would make it mandatory for Police and Crime Commissioners to produce an annual assessment of the use of volunteers in police forces to allow for proper scrutiny of volunteer use.

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

I want to start by making a wider point. Our approach is not to say “public good, private bad”—far from it—but to draw the distinction between what should properly be done by police officers and what can be done by the private sector in one capacity or another, in support of the police service.

I will take as an example the West Midlands police service, which covers the area where I am proud to be a Member of Parliament. Four years ago, the Home Office ran a pilot, together with Surrey and the West Midlands police service, in which the radical transfer of a number of police functions to the private sector was proposed. It was strongly objected to, and was eventually dropped by Government and, indeed, the West Midlands police service which, however, then entered into an intelligent arrangement with Accenture on the 2020 modelling of the police service. That is an example of saying, “Let’s look at how we meet demand in 2020.” Accenture, with its excellent professional expertise, has been invaluable in working with the West Midlands police. That has been widely welcomed in the west midlands.

The Bill enables chief officers to designate a wider range of police powers for police staff. The amendment would prevent those provisions from allowing additional policing powers to go to employees of private sector companies, such as the G4Ss of this world. We will not support any further moves to allow private companies to carry out police activities that require warranted powers. The amendment is a probing one, designed to ensure that employees of private sector companies cannot be designated as community support officers or policing support officers. We want to get on record the Government’s assurance that the additional powers of a constable cannot be designated to be carried out by private sector staff.

The former Police Minister, Nick Herbert, said in 2012:

“No front-line police officers will be contracted out to the private sector.”

He went on to say:

“The Government are clear that the private sector can help the police service achieve cost savings and better services for the public.”

I agree. That is what Accenture did in the west midlands. The right hon. Gentleman continued:

“Every pound saved means more money for front-line services. Only police officers have the power of arrest and they will continue to patrol the streets, respond to 999 calls and lead investigations. There is no intention to allow private companies to carry out police activities which require warranted powers”.—[Official Report, 27 March 2012; Vol. 542, c. 1129W.]

That was clear and succinct, and we hope that the Government stand by what he said in 2012.

I do not think it is necessary to catalogue the failings of the private sector. G4S and the Olympics is the classic example, but only today on a separate but related matter comes news that four in 10 planned deportations are being cancelled as a consequence of the failure of the private sector. I stress again that it is not that the private sector should never have a role, but that it should never be allowed to discharge the functions of a police officer. Only warranted police officers should be able so to do. Will the Police Minister stand by the assurances that his predecessor gave?

I will move on to amendment 191. Winston Roddick, the impressive police and crime commissioner for North Wales, has served his community well and is standing down—we wish him all the best for the future—but he waxed lyrical in front of the Committee about the role of volunteers, and I do the same. As we said on that occasion, in the immortal words of Robert Peel,

“the police are the people and the people are the police”.

There is a long and honourable tradition of volunteering. The specials go back more than 150 years, but I have seen the tradition at first hand in my constituency. In Castle Vale, for example, there is the tasking force, the tackling of antisocial behaviour and the excellent relationship between local people, local volunteers and the police service, which are all making Castle Vale a safe place to live. In Witton Lodge, the admirable Linda Hines, like her counterpart in Castle Vale, Lynda Clinton, is the backbone of volunteering with the police and the police community watch. She sits on the police and crime panel. I remember doing a presentation recently to Maureen Meehan. She has been responsible for 29 years for the taskforce in the Stockland Green area, the community watch and the neighbourhood watch. They have been highly successful in working with the police and tackling a range of crimes and antisocial behaviour.

I stress in the strongest possible terms that the police could do not do their job without a voluntary army, but a voluntary army should not do the job of the police. The amendment would allow chief constables to use volunteers in their forces for appropriate tasks, but remove chief constables’ ability to give them the powers of a constable or a police and community support officer. The Bill enables chief officers to designate a wider range of police powers to police volunteers. The amendment leaves the option open for chief constables to use volunteers in their forces as they must, but would remove the option of giving them powers and jobs that should be those of warranted officers.

Forgive me for saying it one more time, but there is common ground across the Committee in support of that long and honourable tradition of volunteering, which goes back 150 years and more. That volunteering includes the special constables and the excellent work done by neighbourhood watches and police and crime panels. That is all true, but the public demand that police functions be discharged by police officers. We are extremely concerned that this measure may be an attempt by the Home Secretary to provide policing on the cheap. Instead of completely removing the clause, our view is that volunteer roles should be formalised in legislation to allow for proper scrutiny of volunteer use and accountability of volunteers. However, we fundamentally oppose giving policing powers to volunteers to fill the gaps left by the drastic reduction in officer and staff numbers over the past five years. If the Government do not agree, we intend to press the amendment to a vote.

Amendment 192 would prevent volunteers from being placed in roles that are normally paid jobs. We fully recognise the important role of police specials, neighbourhood watch teams and other volunteers working hard to support their police forces. I offered examples from my experience in my constituency of Erdington.

However, we completely oppose any attempt by the Government to plug the gaping holes in the police workforce with volunteers. The amendment tests the Government’s motivations for the changes. More than 40,000 policing jobs were lost between 2010 and 2015 as a result of Government cuts to the police service: approximately a 30% cut in police community support officers, 20% fewer police staff jobs and 13% fewer police officers. It is not right that those people should be replaced by volunteers, particularly in roles that are clearly operational in nature. I constantly draw that distinction between the legitimate role of volunteers and where it is simply not appropriate for them to be used.

According to an authoritative recent report published by Unison in 2014:

“A number of forces have pushed the concept of volunteering into roles that look remarkably like established police staff posts.”

Forces are struggling under the sheer scale of the budget reductions to maintain front-line posts, to keep back offices running behind the scenes, and to carry out crucial preventive roles. I understand why chief constables, in good faith, are trying to find ways of delivering for the public, including the use of volunteers.

There is a current agreement between the Home Office, the National Police Chiefs Council, the College of Policing and the police staff unions that police support volunteers should bring additionality to the police workforce, but the agreement goes on to say that they should under no circumstances replace or substitute for paid police staff.

If plugging gaps in our hollowed-out police workforce is not the Government’s aim in these ill-thought-out proposals, I cannot see why they would not support our amendment. In the event that they do not support it, we will press it to a vote.

Amendment 193 relates to sensitive and demanding areas of crime. We have tabled it more to probe at this stage in respect of volunteers in the most sensitive and demanding of police staff roles, particularly areas such as child sexual exploitation, serious crime, counter-terrorism, custody and detention.

Strained police forces are struggling to tackle the great challenges of the 21st century. Rates of the most serious and violent crimes are soaring, and so too are the threats of terrorist attacks and cases of child sexual exploitation. The chilling report from the admirable Chief Constable Simon Bailey reveals the sheer scale of demand from the great national will that we rise to the challenge of tackling child sexual exploitation and abuse, both historical and current. He makes the point that that is already costing the police service £1 billion a year, and that is likely to rise to £3 billion a year in the next stages.

Much of the demand on the police now is associated with vulnerable groups—people with multiple and complex needs—and occurs outside working hours, when the police too often become the service of last resort. I remember doing a seminar last year with the admirable Sara Thornton, the ex-chief constable of Thames Valley and now the chair of the National Police Chiefs Council, who talked about the two great modern challenges for the police service being vulnerability and information.

We are concerned not only about the prospect of volunteers being used to plug gaps in these serious, high-demand crime areas, but issues of confidentiality. By definition, as Sara said, when talking about tackling vulnerability and data sharing, it is crucial that that should happen, but it is also crucial to preserve the confidentiality of those data. We therefore urge the Government conclusively to rule out the use of volunteers in some of the most sensitive areas, as listed in the amendment.

Many of the most serious incidents handled by police involve people with multiple and complex needs, as I have described, and incidents frequently occur outside normal working hours, when the police too often become the service of last resort. Policing is an emergency service and often police and staff have to be on stand-by to turn out for work at very short notice. In other words, if someone rings for help they have to be there to give that help.

It is just not credible, therefore, to expect unpaid volunteers to submit to those restrictions, thereby making them of limited value when delivering support for operational policing, in particular at short notice, or in emergencies.

Amendment 194 covers the use of force by volunteers. Our police service rightly has the power to use appropriate, proportionate force in appropriate circumstances. The amendment would prevent volunteers from being placed in roles that may require the use of force or restraint, and which should be used only by officers and members of police staff.

Our police service has and needs the power to use force where necessary when carrying out its duty to protect the public. However, under the UK’s tradition of policing by consent, the public also expect that there will be accountability, proper training and high professional standards on the part of those using force in appropriate circumstances. It is our very strong view, therefore, that those expectations can be met only by warranted police officers and, where appropriate, members of staff. We hope that the Government think again on this. If they decline, we will press the matter to a vote.

Amendment 195 would remove the provision for volunteer police community support officers to be issued with CS and PAVA spray. We have particular concerns with the proposal for volunteers to be issued with CS and PAVA spray. Those should be available, without hesitation, and used in appropriate circumstances, but the question is: who uses them? It is our very strong view that the use of CS gas and PAVA spray should be undertaken only by full-time officers, who are regularly trained on their usage and, importantly, in the law surrounding their use.

We are also concerned by the suggestion that there may be circumstances where volunteers will be placed in risky situations. As I have argued throughout, volunteers have a very important role to play in supporting policing, but not to place themselves in potentially dangerous situations.

This proposal was not in Government consultations and does not appear to have a firm basis in evidence. We are clear that the Government need to have a proper conversation with the police and public about what they see as acceptable use of force by volunteers, in a context where there are already serious issues around the use of force by warranted officers. Just a few weeks ago, the IPCC published a report into police use of force and it raised some troubling issues. Half of the 18 people on whom restraint equipment was used subsequently died, as did half of the 10 people who experienced force in a hospital setting. It was reported that 20% of all use of force incidents involve someone known or suspected to have a mental disorder.

Our police service has, and needs, the power to use force where necessary when carrying out its duty to protect the public, sometimes in very difficult circumstances. It is clear that the public understand and indeed expect and rely on that. However, under the UK’s tradition of policing by consent, they also expect that those who use force will be properly trained and qualified, and that they will be accountable for the use of force, particularly if it leads to death or serious injury.

I very much welcome the review that Chief Constable David Shaw is leading to implement and pilot an effective system for collecting data on all police use of force. However, that prompts the question—before we even understand how fully warranted officers use force, including arising out of that review—of how the Government can guarantee that the use of such force by their brand new police volunteers is right in itself, and whether it will be accompanied by appropriate training, scrutiny and accountability.

The Government simply have not made the case that allowing the use of CS and PAVA spray is in the public interest or in the interests of the police. As our brilliant police and crime commissioner for Northumbria, Vera Baird, said,

“Volunteers have a very important role to play in supporting policing, but not to place themselves in potentially dangerous situations.”

She continued:

“Many volunteers want to support the work of police officers—not to do their jobs for them. The use of CS gas and PAVA spray is something that should only be undertaken by full time officers, who are regularly trained on their usage and, importantly, in the law surrounding their use.”

She concluded:

“Rather than extending the role of volunteers, the Government needs to start funding police forces properly, to allow Chief Constables and Police & Crime Commissioners to recruit more police officers, who can go on the beat and serve local communities.”

Vera is not the only one to speak in those terms. Winston Roddick, chair of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners to whom I referred earlier, said in evidence:

“Many members of the public feel that they want to contribute and have something worthwhile to contribute, and the police should not stand in the way of them volunteering to do so. I have empirical experience of meeting the people of north Wales on an almost daily basis with regard to their interests in policing, and many of them have expertise that they can share with the police.”––[Official Report, Policing and Crime Public Bill Committee, 15 March 2016; c. 50, Q66.]

I completely agree that the point was well made, that the people are the police, and the police are the people, and that the role of the citizen is key.

However, when I asked Winston Roddick about the use of CS and PAVA, he said:

“I have serious reservations about it.”––[Official Report, Policing and Crime Public Bill Committee, 15 March 2016; c. 51, Q67.]

Photo of Mike Penning Mike Penning The Minister of State, Home Department, The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice 12:15 pm, 24th March 2016

It would be appropriate for the shadow Minister to indicate that Winston Roddick said that in a personal capacity, not as chair of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners. He said that quite specifically when giving evidence.

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

I would not for one moment downgrade his role or the significance of what he said. He is a police and crime commissioner who is highly respected throughout the police service. That is why he has been elected as chair of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners.

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

I was not in any way deriding the fact that he has been elected. He specifically said in evidence to the Committee that he was speaking in a private capacity, giving his personal views, and not as the chair. That is what he said.

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

The power of what he said speaks for itself. He is highly respected throughout the police service. I know that view is shared by other PCCs, Conservative and Labour. Winston Roddick went on to say, and it could not have been clearer:

“I think that the proposal raises points of principle about arming members of the public to do something by the use of arms, which goes further than the common law principle of acting in reasonable self-defence. You have to be very careful before you extend the right of one person to attack another by the use of any means.”––[Official Report, Policing and Crime Public Bill Committee, 15 March 2016; c. 51, Q67.]

That is powerful and clear, and he is right. Does the Policing Minister agree with Winston Roddick’s assessment? If the Government push forward with the measures, we will push the amendment to a vote.

Amendment 196 would make it mandatory for the College of Policing to issue guidance to chief officers of police on the training of volunteers. The Government are allowing police volunteers to hold a wider range of police powers, including the use of CS and PAVA spray. In the light of that, it is our view, as described earlier, that the Government and relevant institutions have a responsibility to ensure that forces have clear guidance on training and professional standards for volunteers. The purpose of this amendment is therefore to put a mandatory duty on the College of Policing to issue guidance to chief officers on the training of volunteers. The Government have rightly made the point that special constables have guidance. We think that that should be appropriately extended to anyone who plays a voluntary role in support of the police service.

Finally, new clause 15 would make it mandatory for police and crime commissioners to produce an annual assessment of the use of volunteers in police forces, to allow for proper scrutiny of volunteer use. There is an enormous variety among police support volunteer roles across difference forces around the country. An existing problem is that there is little clarity regarding the current use of volunteers in police forces. The Government hold almost no data centrally on the extent to which volunteers are used, and there is little standardised guidance, training or regulation for chief constables. In the light of the radical proposals in the Bill to extend the police powers available to volunteers, we invite the Government to set out how they will allow for proper scrutiny of whether volunteer use is in line with the public interest.

In conclusion, I return to two fundamental principles. First, we warmly welcome the role of volunteers in policing. We see it in our own constituencies. As I said earlier, the police could not do their job without an army of volunteers, but equally, as I stressed, that voluntary army should not be asked to do the job of the police. It is simply about the appropriate relationship and what the public expect from us.

Secondly, there is absolutely an intelligent relationship between the public and private sector. The example I gave involved Accenture and the West Midlands police service and remodelling to meet demand by 2020. There is an intelligent relationship, but again, the private sector cannot take over the work that only police officers should do. I very much hope that the Government will listen to what we think is a powerful case. It is not just from us as the Opposition; the concerns about these matters have been widely expressed.

Photo of Mike Penning Mike Penning The Minister of State, Home Department, The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice 12:30 pm, 24th March 2016

I will try to cover as many of the shadow Minister’s concerns as I can, but I feel that we will probably have a few Divisions in the next half-hour or so. I will touch quickly on some of the less controversial points—controversial to the shadow Minister, although not necessarily to Her Majesty’s Government.

Amendment 190 seeks to prevent employees of private sector companies who are police contractors from being designated additional powers in the Bill. The Bill says specifically that it cannot do that.

Incidentally, the powers for private contractors were brought in in section 39 of the Police Reform Act 2002—I do not think we were in Government in 2002—and parts 3 and 4 of schedule 4 to that Act relate to prisoner custody and escort functions, which are carried out today by private contractors in many forces. I have seen them in operation and in many cases they are exceptionally professional. There is no extension of powers whatever in the Bill, so amendment 190 is not necessary.

I think amendment 191 is about whether the powers given volunteers would go beyond a constable’s existing powers and extend them. The designated powers of a warranted officer are set by Parliament. If they were to change—they are not changing in the Bill—we would have to come back to Parliament, and there are no plans to do so. I agree with my predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs, that we are 100% behind the warranted powers of a police officer and that includes specials, who I believe are volunteers.

Just to correct the shadow Minister who made what I am sure was a slip of the tongue, specials have been around for 180 years, not 150, and they have done exceptionally fantastic work.

Amendment 192 would make it very difficult for chief constables and police and crime commissioners, but particularly chief constables, to allow volunteers to do the work that we will ask them to do. Volunteers have been around for 180 years in the police force and the Government believe it is important to address some of the concerns—the shadow Minister alluded to this—in the core of the Bill. The core powers will remain, but we will need to use the skills of members of the public who want to help us but—this arises in my constituency—do not want to be a special in a uniform. They want to bring their other skills to policing, with appropriate training and scrutiny, which are vital.

This is not about taking police officers off the street and replacing them with volunteers or of saying, “You’re not good enough at your job, so we are bringing someone else in.” We are saying that we need to use all the skills we have in this great country of ours to help us with policing, particularly in respect of new technology. I am sure that there were concerns when specials were introduced 180 years ago. Perhaps they were similar to the concerns of the Opposition today. I think that they are unfounded. Having powers that help us to catch criminals and make people safer in their homes and workplaces is surely what this is all about.

Amendment 195 is interesting. Lincolnshire has already lined up and trained soon-to-be volunteer PCSOs and is just waiting for the legislation to be on the statute book. PCSOs have told me that the Herberts out there who may cause problems or attack PCSOs, particularly if they are under the influence of something, often know that PCSOs have no way of protecting themselves. They have asked me face to face, “Why won’t you let us have a pepper spray or a CS spray so we can protect ourselves?”.

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

Yes, and now we will have volunteer PCSOs. The powers already exist for chief constables to give those weapons to PCSOs, but if we are going to have volunteer PCSOs, why would we not allow them to have the same protection? Why would we not let someone, after training, protect themselves and other members of the public in the exceptional circumstances when CS and PAVA are used? It is astonishing that we would not want to give the public and our volunteers as much protection as possible.

We may divide on this. I want to protect the public and our volunteers as much as possible, and to have the correct training that tells people what they are able to use in the circumstances.

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

I cannot say that this was a scientific study, but over the past three weeks, I have asked five PCSOs for their views on this matter. One said, to quote the immortal words of John McEnroe, “You cannot be serious.” I know that the Minister tours the country all the time talking to police officers and PCSOs, but has he had PCSOs and police officers on the ground saying to him, “We want volunteers and for them to be armed in this way”? I find it hard to believe he has.

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

In which case, the shadow Minister does not believe me, and I will take that in good faith. If, when I stand up as a Minister and say something, people do not believe me, so be it. I am slightly disappointed, however, that he thinks I would say such a thing if it had not actually happened.

The principle is whether we enable—“armed” is such an emotive word, is it not? This is about giving people the protection that they might need after suitable training. It is already on the statute book for PCSOs, but we would not then give it to volunteer PCSOs—how could we in this Committee and in this House do that?

I fully understand exactly where the shadow Minister is coming from on the issue relating to the College. However, Her Majesty’s Government, who drafted the clause, have not instructed the College on anything. We have asked it, as an independent body, to issue guidance. The Bill would insert new section 53F into the Police Act 1996, which will for the first time enable the College to issue guidance on the experience and qualifications that are necessary for a person who is being designated with certain powers.

Not every chief constable in the country is going to take up these powers. For instance, powers of detention for PCSOs are on the statute book now and some chiefs decide they do not want their PCSOs to use them. Some have gone way beyond that, as we have heard. The hon. Member for North Durham is not in his place, but in North Durham, we have seen PCSOs go way beyond that in areas that we would probably not have expected—and very successfully. I am not going to instruct the College, but it will have heard what is said today and it will issue guidance, of course.

I do not think new clause 15 is required. The data will be collected through the annual data requirement process, under the responsibilities of the PCC. There is no point asking us to collect more and more data. They will be collected and they will be evaluated. It is, of course, absolutely crucial that we know what is going on and how many volunteers are being used. As the Minister introducing this legislation, I will be absolutely fascinated to make sure that enough volunteers come forward, and I will ask questions in areas if they are not coming forward. We know that we have a substantial amount of volunteers ready and waiting for this legislation. In Lincolnshire, for example, we have volunteer PCSOs trained and ready to go. They are just waiting for the Bill to receive Royal Assent.

I understand where the shadow Police Minister and the Opposition are coming from, but particularly on allowing us to protect our volunteers with the correct training and on other points that were made, I think we will beg to differ. We may have to divide the Committee, which is sad, because we agree on 99.9% of the Bill, but on this particular point, we probably will not. I hope I might have convinced the shadow Police Minister, but probably not.

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

The Minister is right. Actually, some of the things he has said are helpful. First, I note what he said about the College guidance. Secondly, it is welcome that a repeat of the assurances that were given by the then Police Minister, the right hon. Member for Arundel and South Downs, is now on the record. Thirdly, I note the point that was rightly made about the normal process of data collection in respect of what new clause 15 proposes.

I have to disappoint the Minister by saying that we will divide the Committee on these issues. Given the time, may I make two simple points? First, the Minister referred, quite understandably, to the 2002 Act, but a lot of water has flowed under the bridge since 2002. The problem now is that the police service has lost 18,000 police officers, including 1,300 in the last six months alone, as well as 5,000 PCSOs and thousands of members of staff at a time of mounting demand, on the one hand—I spoke earlier about child sexual exploitation and abuse, and the sheer scale and cost of it—and diminishing resources, on the other. I do not say this as a criticism, but chief constables at the sharp end are finding it increasingly difficult, and our concern is that we might end up with gaps being plugged by volunteers as more and more police officers and PCSOs go.

The second point is in relation to CS and PAVA spray. The Minister said that it is emotive to talk about the police being armed. Well, it is. Actually, in inappropriate circumstances, the use of CS and PAVA spray can have very serious consequences. We spoke on Tuesday about Joe and Josephine Soap in the Dog and Duck in Erdington. Were we to go out and ask the first 100 people out there, “What is your view on volunteer PCSOs being able to use CS gas and PAVA spray?” I think they would say, as a PCSO said to me in Birmingham, “You cannot be serious.”

Photo of Mike Penning Mike Penning The Minister of State, Home Department, The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice 12:45 pm, 24th March 2016

But if we were to tell 100 people in the Dog and Duck, “By the way, a full-time, paid PCSO can have it, but a volunteer PCSO can’t. An operational, full-time police officer has it, and so does a volunteer special,” they will scratch their head and say, “Why aren’t you protecting the volunteer PCSO?”

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

I think they would say that volunteers should never be put into a front-line policing role where such a risk might be encountered. That is simply not appropriate. Ultimately, there are also issues about the accountability of volunteers because, by definition, there is a clear line of accountability for warranted officers or PCSOs, but there is not in quite the same way for volunteers.

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment proposed: 191, in clause 28, page 40, line 18,  leave out subsection (3) to subsection (11) and insert—

‘(3) An individual designated as a community support volunteer or a policing support volunteer may not be given any powers exercisable by—

(a) a police constable, or

(b) a police community support officer.”.—

This amendment would allow chief constables to use volunteers in their forces for appropriate tasks, but removes the ability for chief constables to give them powers of a Constable or Police and Community Support Officer.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

The Committee divided:

Ayes 5, Noes 9.

Division number 4 Christmas Tree Industry — Clause 28 - Powers of police civilian staff and police volunteers

Aye: 5 MPs

No: 9 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Nos: A-Z by last name

Question accordingly negatived.

Amendment proposed: 192, in clause 28, page 40, line 18,  after subsection (2) insert—

“The chief officer of any police force may not bring under their direction and control the following volunteers—

(a) a community support volunteer,

(b) a policing support volunteer

where such volunteers would either—

(a) replace a police officer or member of staff, or

(b) fill a vacant police officer or member of staff role.”.—

This amendment would prevent volunteers being placed in roles which would normally be paid jobs.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

The Committee divided:

Ayes 5, Noes 9.

Division number 5 Christmas Tree Industry — Clause 28 - Powers of police civilian staff and police volunteers

Aye: 5 MPs

No: 9 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Nos: A-Z by last name

Question accordingly negatived.

Amendment proposed: 194, in clause 28, page 40, line 18,  after subsection (2) insert—

“The chief officer of any police force may not place a volunteer in any role which may require the use of force or restraint.”.—(Jack Dromey.)

This amendment would prevent volunteers being placed in roles which may require the use of force or restraint and which should only be performed by officers and members of police staff.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

The Committee divided:

Ayes 5, Noes 9.

Division number 6 Christmas Tree Industry — Clause 28 - Powers of police civilian staff and police volunteers

Aye: 5 MPs

No: 9 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Nos: A-Z by last name

Question accordingly negatived.

Amendment proposed: 195, in clause 28, page 41, line 18, leave out from (6) to end of subsection.—(Jack Dromey.)

This amendment removes the provision for volunteer PCSOs to be issued with CS spray and PAVA spray.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

The Committee divided:

Ayes 5, Noes 9.

Division number 7 Christmas Tree Industry — Clause 28 - Powers of police civilian staff and police volunteers

Aye: 5 MPs

No: 9 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Nos: A-Z by last name

Question accordingly negatived.

Clause 28 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedules 7 and 8 agreed to.

Clauses 29 to 33 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 9 agreed to.

Clause 34 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 10 agreed to.

Clauses 35 to 39 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 11 agreed to.

Ordered,

That the Order of the Committee of 15 March be amended as follows: in paragraph (1)(c), leave out the words “and 2.00 pm”.—(Charlie Elphicke.)

Ordered, That further consideration be now adjourned. —(Charlie Elphicke.)

Adjourned till Tuesday 12 April at twenty-five minutes past Nine o’clock.