Criminal Justice and Police Bill

[back to previous text]

Mr. Charles Clarke: Several points have been raised, and I shall try to deal with them as quickly as I can.

The reason for the authority's basic structure is that it is designed to be a classic tripartite body. The three parts are ACPO, the police authorities and central Government. The Secretary of State will actively consider nominees from outside that tripartite body, such as people from the Police Federation and the Police Superintendents Association.

The hon. Member for North-East Hertfordshire was right to praise the Police Federation for the work that it has been doing, which was one of the first matters that was brought to my attention when I became Minister. I can say on the record that it is very much due to the campaigning of the Police Federation that distance learning has such a substantive role to play in the development of the work of the organisation. The Police Federation deserves credit for that. Its approach has been entirely constructive in style, for the good reason that it knows that its members will best be able to serve the public through an increase in its training capacity. That is why the Secretary of State is actively considering nominating someone from the Police Federation. It is good practice to have trade union involvement in the organisation.

On cluster colleges, the potential for collaboration has been actively investigated by ACPO and the APA. It is not in the Bill because the balance between the central-local force relationship in respect of training will remain as it is. However, the hon. Gentleman is right to say that the evolution and development of the body will change the entire nature of police training over time and will focus regional co-operation between forces on training. Eventually, it may change the central-local balance. At the moment, we have to raise the performance of the whole operation, and we cannot predict exactly how it will develop.

Mr. Heald: Is that really what the Minister would like to see? Given the way in which the central police college, the cluster colleges and the core curriculum will work, it is almost inevitable that the balance will change and the system will become more centralised.

Mr. Clarke: The system will not necessarily be more centralised. Speaking personally, rather than as the Minister concerned, a move towards stronger regional collaboration and co-operation is a positive way of taking the matter forward. There are serious issues about the identity of individual forces and their own historic training functions, and it is important that any developments are carried out in a co-operative and collaborative way, not imposed from the centre. In my judgment, that is how matters will develop over time, and that is desirable. It is not the same as having a national system.

We have appointed as chief executive Chris Mould, who has substantial experience in national health service training. It is an interesting appointment and the police were involved in the appointment process, which is a positive move. The hon. Gentleman met the inspector dealing with training and I am delighted to hear that. If he would like to meet Mr. Mould and discuss with him the sort of issues that he is raising, I would be happy to facilitate that if it would be helpful.

We foresee an entrepreneurial and driving organisation with the legal power to set up committees on the routine functions of finance, general purposes and so on. However, the hon. Gentleman is right and it would be wrong if the organisation entered a quagmire.

On size, we thought it right to specify the minimum but to provide flexibility. I agree that we could have acted differently and not specified a minimum or maximum, or specified both, but we decided to specify a minimum to ensure a basic solid engagement of people. Setting a maximum might have restricted us in future and required changes to primary legislation.

The hon. Gentleman referred to points raised by the Police Federation on terms and conditions of service, pension arrangements and remuneration for seconded constables. I understand the problems, but it does not follow that a trainer must be a police officer, so it does not follow that the terms and conditions, pension arrangements and so on of a trainer must be those of a police officer. We are discussing the matter actively with the Police Federation and Unison.

With those explanations, I hope that the Committee will agree to schedule 4.

Question put and agreed to.

Schedule 4 agreed to.

Clause 87

Functions of the authority

6 pm

Mr. Heald: I beg to move amendment No. 295, in page 73, line 5, at end insert—

    `(aa) to determine the curriculum for police training;'.

The amendment would add to the functions of the authority the determination of the curriculum for police training. The Government consulted on a mandatory core curriculum for police training and the response to the consultation exercise concluded that there was support for the general idea. It was thought that a mandatory core curriculum should not prescribe every conceivable aspect of police training, but there was general support for a core curriculum to be phased in over a period, although some respondents thought that it might not be necessary. The Government intend to introduce a core curriculum for personnel in various ranks. It will be devised incrementally by the Central Police college, which we can now refer to as the authority, in consultation with the other principal stakeholders, such as the national training organisation, and will be approved by the Police Training Council and then prescribed by the Home Secretary. It is intended that the Central Police college--the authority--will devise the curriculum.

One reason for the first group of amendments to this part of the Bill was to work out what the Government have in mind for the institution. If it is to be an independent, genuinely non-departmental public body and if it is intended that the authority will devise the curriculum incrementally, why should it not determine what the curriculum should be? I always worry that when such matters are left to the Home Secretary we end up with things being added, as happened with the core curriculum for education under a different Government, I am sorry to say. I am anxious that the core curriculum should not be motivated by specific issues that arise, or be overloaded. It is right that subjects such as how to approach people from different cultural backgrounds—to which the Lawrence inquiry referred—first aid, basic skills for policing, analysis and so on should form part of the curriculum. However, when I read the document that the Minister helpfully produced--``Police Training: Core curriculum and qualifications framework''--I began to worry that we would end up with a curriculum that is overloaded with various subjects. Even the words, ``devising something incrementally'', suggests that the curriculum will be continually added to.

The groups involved in bringing together the proposals for a core curriculum have some of the features of the approach that was adopted in education. Various worthy committees and bodies grouped together to produce the curriculum and we ended up with something that was far too substantial and rather unworkable. Paragraph 4 of the document refers to many groups being involved in the Police Training Council implementation steering group. I welcome that, but I want to test with the Minister why he believes that the Home Secretary should make such decisions.

The document also states:

    ``Core curricula could be devised in a number of areas to reduce costs and improve standards.''

There are 10 initial core curriculum subjects, all of which seem sensible, followed by 12 possible subjects. Is the Minister satisfied that we will not end up with some of the problems that can arise when a committee devises a curriculum? It would always add worthy items to the curriculum, and it would end up without the core functions being slimmed down to their essential agenda.

Police officers regularly say to me that there are great geographical differences in what is involved in policing. In some rural areas, fighting illegal hare coursing is the main topic. It is quite a specialism in itself, because the law is complicated on that matter. In some areas, police activities are concentrated on burglaries on suburban estates, while in others it is late-night violence in towns. It is important that the core curriculum relates to the training that all police officers need rather than it bolting on too many specialisms.

Under the Macpherson recommendations, officers should learn about community race relations. Let us imagine an area with a high ethnic population where there are racial difficulties in the community. In such circumstances, extra training would be necessary to ensure that all sensitivities were fully understood. However, in an area where there were few people from ethnic minority backgrounds and good race relations, different training might be needed. I should be grateful if the Minister would give us some assurances that the core curriculum will be streamlined to cover what is genuinely needed and that we shall not get too much committee-itis.

Mr. Clarke: I can help the hon. Gentleman with the assurances that he seeks. The purpose of the centrally agreed curriculum is to help address some of the main criticisms of police training that have been made in recent years, such as inconsistency of standards, uneven quality of training and greater accountability. The curriculum will cover aspects of training that are delivered at both national and force level. Currently, 87 per cent. of police training is delivered locally by forces and only 13 per cent. is delivered nationally. At all stages, we shall consult key stakeholders. The curriculum will be agreed with the national training organisation, when it is established, and the Police Training Council to incorporate all the main stakeholders before it is submitted to the Home Secretary for his agreement.

The amendment would remove from the Home Secretary the power to prescribe a core curriculum for the police. It is important to emphasise that that is a fundamental part of the modernisation agenda that is published in ``Police Training: The Way Forward''. It has been agreed after considerable consultation with stakeholders. I know that the hon. Gentleman is not seeking to disrupt that process, but I wanted to place such facts on the record.

The Police Federation has recently written to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary expressing concern that the introduction of a core curriculum and mandatory qualifications would allow the introduction of differential rates of pay without proper consultation through the right channels, the Police Negotiating Board and so on. I wish to take the opportunity to place on record that is not the intention of the Bill. Its powers could not have any impact on pay rates. Those rates would have to be determined through the normal statutory arrangements.

The hon. Gentleman's key worry follows on from some of the experiences of the national curriculum in schools of an over-weighty, over-bureaucratic and perhaps over-prescriptive core curriculum. That is not our intention. It is important to distinguish between the establishment of the core curriculum and the responsibility of the national training organisation to provide the training.

As for hare coursing, local forces will be free to supplement the mandatory curriculum by carrying out additional training to support local needs. The process will help police officers and support staff by making clear what training development they should expect to receive upon undertaking a particular role.

Previous Contents Continue

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries ordering index

©Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 8 March 2001