HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services

Home Office written question – answered on 21st June 2021.

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Photo of Lord Rogan Lord Rogan Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

To ask Her Majesty's Government what formal role Ministers have in scrutinising the work of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services.

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department

HMICFRS is deliberately independent of government and the bodies they inspect. However, Home Office Ministers have a number of formal scrutiny / oversight roles in relation to its inspection work, which are laid out in legislation:

  • Provisions in the Police Act 1996 require Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary in England & Wales to obtain the Home Secretary’s formal approval of the Inspectorate’s annual police inspection programme and framework. The Chief Inspector must also submit to her (and lay before Parliament) an annual report on these inspections, including its assessment of the efficiency and effectiveness of policing in England and Wales. The Chief Inspector may also decide to carry out inspections that have not been set out in the inspection programme, but prior to doing so must consult the Home Secretary. The Home Secretary can also direct HMICFRS to carry out additional policing inspections on issues of concern.
  • Provisions in the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004 require Her Majesty’s Chief Fire and Rescue Inspector for England to obtain the Home Secretary’s formal approval of the Inspectorate’s fire & rescue inspection programme and framework. The Chief Inspector must also submit to her (and lay before Parliament) an annual report on these inspections, including its assessment of the efficiency and effectiveness of fire & rescue services in England. The Chief Inspector may also decide to carry out an inspection of a Fire & Rescue Authority in England not set out in the inspection programme, but prior to doing so must consult the Home Secretary. The Home Secretary can also direct HMICFRS to carry out additional fire & rescue service inspections on particular issues of concern.

For both policing and fire & rescue service inspections, Ministers can ask for HMICFRS to take account of pertinent issues. Ministers also have the opportunity to scrutinise HMICFRS inspection findings. They will often receive embargoed copies and a briefing prior to publication of reports where they can discuss and raise any concerns on any of HMICFRS’ findings.

Responsibility for scrutiny of the corporate aspects of HMICFRS lies with the Permanent Secretary (as the Principal Accounting Officer). However, Ministers will have sight of pertinent issues and their approval is sought where necessary e.g. Ministers approve the annual operating budget for HMICFRS.

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