Criminal Justice and Police Bill

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Mr. Charles Clarke: I will not repeat the points that have been made. This part of the Bill contains an important development, about which I am delighted. It represents the development of an entirely new approach to training, which brings us to the key point of the remarks by the hon. Member for Taunton. The authority has a range of different functions, which clause 87 sets out. It will provide police training, promote the value of the provision, give advice about it, provide persons serving or employed for policing purposes with assistance in relation to the provision of training and provide such persons with advice and consultancy services.

The Home Secretary, in nominating the board, will nominate from the service as a whole, because we want the authority to be owned by the service as a whole. That is critical. That is the important distinction between an agency and an authority. An agency, in the classic structure of government, is excluded from the definition of a non-departmental public body, as it is deemed to be part of a Government Department. It is particularly important that the new authority is not seen as part of a Government Department, like the Benefits Agency, which has a direct relationship with the Department of Social Security.

The authority is so called because we want to reflect the important aspiration for training to be the property of the police service and not the Home Secretary alone. In addition to that fundamental reason, it is an authority because of the results of widespread consultation on the matter. I always enjoy debating names—although I confess that it is not always the first item on my agenda—whether the debate concerns phrases such as ``the British Islands'' or names of bodies such as this. Considerable consultation took place, and we decided that we did not want the connotations associated with being part of a Government Department, which is why the term ``agency'' was not high on our list.

Mr. Heald: Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Clarke: In a moment. We consulted key stakeholders such as National Police Training, ACPO, the APA, the Police Federation, the Police Superintendents Association, Unison and Her Majesty's inspectorate of constabulary. Those organisations expressed considerable opposition to use of the term ``agency''. They felt that it did not offer an accurate description, and wanted to ensure that the authority would not be simply a part of the Home Secretary's empire. They were also unhappy with terms such as ``university'', ``college'' or ``academy'', which were seen as too academic.

5.45 pm

Eventually, we came up with the loose description ``authority'', and there is consensus throughout the service that that is the right way to proceed. It can be used to describe a number of differently managed organisations and implies nothing about status, unlike the term ``agency''. That is why we took this view and I will defend it, but I confess that the matter is not at the top of my agenda.

Mr. Heald: I am merely trying to tease out the nature of the organisation, and I have similar questions in respect of schedule 4.

The term appears not to be included in the November 1999 consultation document on police training, although the document is quite substantial and I might have missed it. What was HMIC's view on using the term ``authority'' rather than ``agency''?

Mr. Clarke: The consultation proposed setting up and retaining a central police college that will replace National Police Training. It is an arm's length organisation, and will be governed by the tripartite partners and managed by a separate board. However, as the hon. Gentleman said, the fundamental issues were how to get matters right and how to bring police training into the 21st century. Those are the issues that Bill Stubbs' report and the consultation paper focused on, so the criticism can perhaps be made that the name itself is not the core issue. However, I understand why the hon. Gentleman, whose points are perfectly reasonable, wanted to explore the reasons why we reached our conclusion. I merely say that, for me, this is not a grade 1 issue in the scheme of things.

Mr. Heald: Obviously, I was probing, and I have further questions about the detailed structure, which I will ask in relation to schedule 4. However, on the basis of what the Minister has said, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 86 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 4

The central police training anddevelopment authority

Question proposed, That this schedule be the Fourth schedule to the Bill.

Mr. Heald: I have a number of questions about the schedule. Picking up on the Minister's comments towards the end of our discussion on clause 86, I understand that the central police college will be run by the authority that we are discussing. However, do other proposed provisions such as cluster colleges still form part of the overall picture? The explanatory notes refer to a ``re-organised Police Training Council'', a ``national review team'', the ``improved use of information'' and so on, but seem not to mention cluster colleges. How will the balance between the force's training and central training, which I described at the outset, be affected? Will there be a significant change in that regard?

It appears that appointments, including that of the chairman, will be made by the Secretary of State in the light of advice from the APA and ACPO. The membership will consist of two APA representatives, two ACPO representatives and a civil servant. Why are the police organisations not to be included? I have already said that the Police Federation's two reports ``Project Forward'' and ``Police Training: The Way Forward'' not only helped to initiate the debate, but made good points about the way in which direct learning and modern technology can help officers' training without disrupting the shift system in local police stations. Training officers in that way is attractive because we can get the maximum amount of hours on the street by avoiding taking officers away for lengthy periods on courses that are residential or involve travel.

The key components of the Government's training package come from the Police Federation, which shows that it has a contribution to make. I have occasionally heard police constables say that they are dissatisfied with their preparation for the job, the effectiveness of their mentoring and the encouragement and knowledge that they receive. In some cases they are satisfied, but one occasionally meets police constables who make that complaint. The input of those who represent police constables, sergeants and inspectors in the training process would therefore be useful.

I wonder whether it would be possible to find a role for the Police Superintendents Association and those who represent superintendents. They run the command units, so in a management sense their input is closer to the ground than that of ACPO, which is nevertheless an organisation that I hugely respect. Indeed, one could make the same point about the APA, which is another useful organisation with much knowledge.

My second question about schedule 4 concerns why it is impossible to consult and appoint officers' representatives up to inspector level and superintendents to the authority. Surely a board of seven would be no more unwieldy than a board of five.

Have the posts on the new authority been advertised and filled? In the case of the probation body, that had happened by the time that the Committee sat. It would be useful to know who the successful applicants are if that has occurred.

We should make provision for those who judge training needs to be young enough and close enough to active policing to understand the latest thinking, the latest challenges and the most modern techniques. Some bodies rightly have elderly people on them, but—without wishing to be rude to members of ACPO or the APA, who I am sure are young and sprightly—we ought to ensure an element of youth and activity on a body that trains officers for the modern world.

I also note the proposal to set up committees of the authority. Why is that and what does the Minister have in mind? It seemed reasonable when I examined the beginning of schedule 4, but as I read on, the authority began to sound like a council. I have nothing against local authorities, but does the authority need a labyrinthine structure with committees? It would be a pity if paragraph 15 made it into a bureaucratic body. The authority must be a businesslike operation that provides services rather than something akin to a local authority. Does the Minister get the flavour of an unwieldy organisation being set up?

Finally, I shall ask three questions that the Police Federation raised with me. It states:

    ``You should note that staff of the authority are appointed on terms and conditions of service approved by the Secretary of State. Such terms may not therefore be based on the Police Regulations and/or Codes of Practice and neither is it necessary to consult with respective Staff Associations...This would seem a rather loose scenario when one considers the terms of appointment for a Police Officer.''

How would the Minister respond to that?

On staff remuneration and pensions, the federation seeks

    ``clarification if ``Staff'' in this instance''—

that is, in paragraph 11—

    ``includes `Police Officers' as temporary service under Police regulations is determinable under different provisions.''

In respect of the term ``seconded constable'', the federation says:

    ``we believe there to be a consideration under discrimination law to ensure that appropriate protection is in place to allow both for claims to be made by and against such constables.''

It would like to know what provision has been made in that respect.

Jackie Ballard: I have one question. When the hon. Member for North-East Hertfordshire argued in favour of the inclusion on the authority of representatives from the Police Federation, he said that that would make the membership up to seven, which he felt was no more unwieldy than five. In fact, the schedule says that there should at no time be fewer than 11 members. Given that a minimum number has been set, and that there is concern about the balance of representation from the APA and ACPO as opposed to other appointments by the Secretary of State, why is not a maximum number set? Does the Minister have a view on the ideal size of the authority? As the Bill stands, it could be anything from 11 to infinity.

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