Annual Report by Chief Inspector of Constabulary

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

Alert me about debates like this

“In Part 2 of the Police Act 1996, omit section (4A) and insert—

“(4A) A report under subsection (4) must include the chief inspector’s assessment of—

(a) The efficiency and effectiveness of policing, and

(b) The crime and non-crime demand on police in England and Wales for the year in respect of which the report is prepared.”.”—

This new clause would add a duty for HMIC to assess demand on police on a yearly basis in addition to the efficiency and effectiveness of policing.

Brought up, and read the First time.

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

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

We believe it is appropriate to charge the chief inspector of constabulary with producing reports on a regular basis, not just on the efficiency and effectiveness of policing but, crucially, on the crime and non-crime demand on police in England and Wales for the year in respect of which the report is prepared and for two and five years ahead. For example, we may disagree on how to handle cybercrime, but it is common ground across the House that it is a major and growing area of crime and a relatively new development; we must therefore always properly assess the demand on the police service before making decisions about how best to meet that demand.

To be quite frank, the problem is that things are increasingly difficult for the police. Some 18,000 police officers and some 5,000 police community support officers have gone. The thin blue line has been stretched ever thinner; ever fewer are being asked to do ever more, on four fronts in particular.

First, following scandals in recent years, there is now a great national will to do everything necessary to protect children in our society. Only last week, Simon Bailey, the chief constable who heads up the police’s multi-faceted strategy on the protection of children, said that it was already costing the police £1 billion, and that that would rise to £3 billion by 2020, such are the scale and complexity of the cases involved, both current and historical, and the investigation necessary.

Secondly, there has been an enormous increase in cybercrime. As we were rehearsing only yesterday, someone is more likely to be mugged online than in the street. Some of the major banks have estimated 20% or 30% increases in attempted crime against their customers every year. The scale of it is enormous.

Thirdly, there is the sheer scale of what is required for counter-terrorism. Last November, the Government decided not to go ahead with what would have been 22% cuts on top of 25% cuts. One reason for that decision was the strong representations, made by people like Mark Rowley and Bernard Hogan-Howe, that numbers matter, both for surge capacity in the event of a Paris-style attack and for neighbourhood policing, which was described by Peter Clarke, the former head of counter-terrorism, as the “golden thread” that runs from the local to the global. The patient building of community relationships is key to gaining intelligence; as a consequence, arrests for terrorism are now happening at the rate of almost one a day. As Bernard Hogan-Howe and Mark Rowley have said before the House, that is a consequence of good neighbourhood policing, but it is incredibly resource-intensive.

Fourthly, there is the wider problem of the police being increasingly seen as the force of last resort. In his powerful contribution this morning, my hon. Friend the Member for North Durham rightly made the point that, if there are no other agencies ready to respond, the police are the force of last resort. Sara Thornton, the chair of the National Police Chiefs Council, said recently that the police tend to be the people who, after 5 o’clock on a Friday, can be counted on to turn out when others perhaps do not because they no longer have the resources. Classically that includes going after looked-after children.

To meet demand, the nature of the demand must be understood. Our thinking is, in part, inspired by very good work from the College of Policing. Its infographic—the Minister will be familiar with it—pointed out that, in purely policing terms, about a quarter of police time is spent dealing with crime. Some might ask what they do with the other three quarters. In counter-terrorism, for example, they are cementing good relationships with the local community, which is key to intelligence gathering. The intelligent work from the College of Policing points to the fact that much more needs to be done to understand the nature of demand. I very much hope that the Government will agree to this new clause because it is about understanding what the public needs and using that understanding to inform what is done to protect the public.

Photo of Mike Penning Mike Penning The Minister of State, Home Department, The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice 3:00 pm, 12th April 2016

Let me say from the outset that I recognise the importance of understanding the demand on police forces, which is exactly where the shadow Policing Minister is coming from. However, I do not see the need for new clause 10, as we are actually doing many of the things that the shadow Minister has asked for.

It is for a chief constable to assess the demands that their forces face and ensure that resources are allocated accordingly. The purpose of inspectors of constabulary is clearly set out in section 54(2) of the Police Act 1996. Their role is to inspect the “efficiency and effectiveness” of every force. Section 54(4) and section 54(4)(a) of the 1996 Act require the chief inspector of constabulary to prepare an annual report, and for that report to include his assessment of the efficiency and effectiveness of policing in England and Wales.

Reliable, independent information is crucial in understanding the demands on the police force. It is for this reason that the Home Secretary asked the inspectorate to introduce annual, all-force inspections, which has led to the development of the Police Effectiveness, Efficiency and Legitimacy—commonly called PEEL—programme. As part of the efficiency assessment, the inspectorate assesses how effectively each force understands and is responding to the demand that it faces. The inspectorate also works with forces to support them to better understand the demand that they face. There is work going on as we speak, including from the College of Policing, which I think everybody accepts has been a great success.

That includes the development of force management statements, which will be prepared with chief constables, and are intended to ensure that information on a force’s available resources and the demand they face is produced annually to an agreed standard—ensuring the same across all forces—and is accessible to chief constables, PCCs and, most importantly, the public. I accept that this is a work in progress, but it is in progress, and the police are doing it themselves with the inspectorate and the College of Policing so, respectfully, I do not see the need for new clause 10. I hope that the shadow Minister understands that.

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

Some of the things that the Minister said were helpful. We have common ground on wanting to understand the nature of need. I hope that the Minister’s comments on what the Government are doing and will do in the next stages will contribute to exactly that. In those circumstances we will not push the amendment to a vote. I beg to ask leave to withdraw it.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

New Clause 16