National Assembly for Wales: devolution of responsibility for policing

Part of Policing and Crime Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:45 pm on 12 April 2016.

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Photo of Jack Dromey Jack Dromey Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) 2:45, 12 April 2016

Wales is a proud nation, well served on the one hand by some excellent Labour Members of Parliament on this Committee, including my hon. Friends the Members for Swansea East and for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney, and on the other hand by a first-class police service. Like the Policing Minister, I have seen that first hand in Wales—more recently in north Wales with David Taylor, looking at the good work being done to tackle rural crime.

In south Wales, only last weekend, together with my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea East, I was looking at how the police safeguard public order at major public events, in that case a football match. I was deeply impressed by the police officers that we met—Jason, Steve and Joe—who were all doing a first-class job together with their police and crime commissioner Alun Michael. They are rooted in the community and talk about the community. That is a style of policing that has evolved over the past 20 years and is popular with the people of Britain as a whole, and Wales in particular.

So Wales is a proud nation, well served. It is right, nevertheless, that the people of Wales have a greater say over the policing of Wales. It is also right that the Welsh Assembly has the right to draw up in partnership a policing plan for Wales. That would be in partnership, on the one hand, with the four forces and their police and crime commissioners and, on the other hand, a range of statutory agencies.

Historically, Labour is the party of devolution. We do support the devolution of greater powers over policing to Wales but time and thought are necessary to get it right. I was speaking only last night with Carwyn Jones, and he has talked about a 10-year process of evolution of the arrangements in Wales and those between Wales and the rest of the UK.

Time and thought are necessary due to the sometimes complex interface with other areas in the criminal justice system and Government, but they are also necessary because I do not believe that anyone is proposing that all powers be devolved to Wales. The hon. Member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd made the point that the work of the National Crime Agency on serious and organised crime would clearly not be devolved. Likewise, counter-terrorism strategy would clearly not be devolved. As an example at the extreme end, when I was in Swansea with my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea East, we talked at length about the policing of the NATO summit and how to keep safe Heads of State from all over the world. Clearly, that would not be devolved either.

It is therefore a question of working through those crucial principles at the next stages. How can the people of Wales have a greater say in their policing? How best can the Welsh Assembly have the right to draw up a policing plan for Wales, in consultation with others? Then comes a process of evolution of the existing arrangements to achieve those objectives. I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her comments, including that she would not push the amendment to a vote. She has raised important and complex issues, but the amendment is not the appropriate vehicle to resolve them; they will require resolving in the next stages.

Finally, I could not let an opportunity like this go by without reminding the Committee that in Labour Wales, a Labour Administration has made a difference to policing, with 500 extra PCSOs, 200 of them in south Wales. It was a privilege to meet some of them at the weekend. They are good men and women on the ground keeping our communities safe, thanks to what a Labour Administration did.