Criminal Justice and Police Bill

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Mr. Heald: I realise that the Home Secretary will be consulted on the matter, but if the body that the Minister describes will be non-departmental, why should the Home Secretary determine what the curriculum is? If the body is composed of stakeholders in the police—the Association of Police Authorities, the Association of Chief Police Officers and possibly the Police Superintendents Association—why should the Home Secretary say what the curriculum is?

Mr. Clarke: First, the role of setting the curriculum is different from that of providing the training. Secondly, the core curriculum will be established by the Home Secretary on the basis of advice from the service as a whole, from across the range. Thirdly—this is not a criticism of the existing state of affairs or that which we inherited—to achieve the ambition, stated by the hon. Gentleman, of having an entrepreneurial, active and non-committee-driven approach to the provision of training. Giving that role to the Home Secretary will strengthen and develop that approach.

With that, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will consider withdrawing his amendment, and that the Committee will agree that the clause stand part of the Bill.

Mr. Heald: The Minister has gone a good way towards satisfying my concerns. I want to think over some of the points that he has made. He may also wish to reflect on exactly what kind of body he is setting up. If the body is designed to represent the interests of police authorities, ACPO and so forth, if police forces are independent bodies and the training organisation will be independent, it is odd that the Home Secretary should intervene. It is good that there will be plenty of consultation, but I hope that the Minister will reflect on the matter and ensure, should the police training authority go ahead, that the training authority is the body that makes decisions.

Mr. Clarke: I make a small point, which may help. The new chief executive was appointed through the tripartite structure, not directly by the Home Secretary, although he finally approved the appointment. Since then, a number of events have introduced the new chief executive to all sections of the service, including the Police Federation. The whole way in which we intend to conduct the matter is in precisely the spirit that the hon. Gentleman describes.

Mr. Heald: I am grateful to the Minister. Basically, if an operation is entrepreneurial, one would normally expect those involved to say what needs to be learned. The Minister may have gone far enough to satisfy me. I will think about that, and I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Mr. Heald: The Police Federation has raised a question that is slightly different to the point made by the Minister. It says:

    ``Subsection (7) allows `the authority' to provide training and `opportunities for professional development'''

to private sector bodies

    ``that is bodies outside those listed in Clause 87(8). We would question the financial benefits open to an `authority' in offering such training in a prioritised situation against Police Officers. Such is the requirement in the present recruitment campaign that the system is unable to cope with basic training—should `private' training be given priority on an income basis, this will make the situation worse. Adequate safeguards must therefore be considered within this section.''

The points that are being made are that basic police training of probationers is a priority, that police officers and police training are centred on that, and that nothing in the Bill should encourage subcontracting to other bodies at the expense of the basic functions that are the core of police training. I should be grateful for any assurances that the Minister can give Mr. Moseley.

Mr. Clarke: I agree, and there is no intention of doing that. However, training for the many civilians in the police service is important. Once the Private Security Industry Bill receives Royal Assent, as I hope it will once it comes here from the other place, I imagine that such services will be developed.

The hon. Gentleman is right to say that the priority of the organisation is proper training for the police. A personal preoccupation of mine is the importance of developing police training side by side with that of members of other professions, such as lawyers and social workers. A weakness of current training systems is that different professionals work in similar areas but have different training, and in some areas, joint training is important.

The authority is required to provide training to officers; other trainees are provided for on a business-case basis. That requirement provides the priority to which the hon. Gentleman referred.

Mr. Heald: That is helpful. Are joint qualifications for joint training proposed for particular professions? The structure involved is much greater than we have discussed so far. The proposals suggest particular qualifications for police officers, including basic skills and academic qualifications. Three are proposed. Is that package of three qualifications to be jointly worked with other professions? Is the Minister saying that academic training might be combined with that for the CPS, for example? It is hard to envisage who might jointly train for some of the core curriculum subjects detailed in the briefing note, but civilian staff and the police could work together on some issues. Perhaps the Minister could explain what is meant.

Mr. Clarke: I just want to confirm the priorities for the police. It will take a long time, but developing joint training has benefits. However, joint qualifications are rather more complicated and would require a lot of consultation and consent. Nevertheless, I would not rule them out, as they would be positive. However, the first requirement is to put in place a framework that will work, and that is what the Bill will do.

6.15 pm

Mr. Heald: The Minister provided some assurance on the point made by the Police Federation, and we do not intend to vote against the clause. However, perhaps he would consider Mr. Moseley's point—he may want to write to me about the matter in detail—about ensuring that basic training takes priority over anything additional and exciting from the private sector.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 87 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 88

Setting of objectives by the Secretary of State

Mr. Heald: I beg to move amendment No. 296, in page 75, line 21, at end insert

    `; and

    (d) such other persons whom he considers to represent the interests of police officers in England and Wales.'.

The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to take amendment No. 297, in clause 89, page 75, line 35, at end insert

    `; and

    (d) such other persons whom they consider to represent the interests of police officers in England and Wales.'.

Mr. Heald: The clause relates to a point that I made earlier. It allows the Secretary of State to set objectives for the authority in consultation with the authority, the Association of Police Authorities and the Association of Chief Police Officers. Under clause 89, the authority will set its annual objectives in consultation with APA and ACPO—or, at least, I assume that that is what it means; the clause refers to representatives of chief police officers and police authorities.

We believe that it is important for bodies such as the Police Federation and police superintendents to be included so that training is not too far removed from the needs and interests of front-line officers who do the job. The amendment is an attempt to ensure that we do not set objectives that are far removed from the reality of undertaking training or being a police officer.

Mr. Charles Clarke: The hon. Gentleman is right. I can assure him that we will consult the Police Federation and other bodies to develop a better dialogue—with Unison, for example—about training civilian staff in the areas to which he referred. The Bill is specific because of the historic tripartite structure of the service, which relates specifically to the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Association of Police Authorities co-operating with the Government, and does not specifically relate to the trade unions. That does not detract from the force of his point, which I accept, that the process must involve full consultation with all the relevant interests. I give him the assurance that, although I cannot agree with the amendment and hope that he will withdraw it, I appreciate its spirit—that is, the need to engage such persons whom he considers to represent the interests of police officers in England and Wales in consultation on these matters, as on others.

Mr. Heald: The previous issue involved the exclusion or non-appearance of the Police Federation and the Police Superintendents Association. The Minister was prepared to consider suggesting appointments from those bodies to ensure the representation on the authority of the grass roots and the senior line manager at basic command unit level. Although I understand the tripartite approach taken in these proposals, I do not agree that the Police Federation should not be consulted about the objectives for the year and, indeed, for the longer term. Is there any reason, other than history, why he is unwilling to make that change?

Mr. Clarke: The reason is that the formal consultation under the tripartite arrangement—which may, as the hon. Gentleman says, be history—remains an important part of the structure of policing in Britain. I give him an assurance that the Secretary of State will consult the interests within the service as a matter of course. That is not, however, a matter of formal legal consultation. For historical reasons, we have the tripartite structure set out in the Bill.

 
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Prepared 8 March 2001