1. The Police Reform Bill was introduced into
the House of Lords on January 24.
It emerged somewhat battered on 25 April. It is now the turn of
the Commons to see whether there is scope for improvement. To
assist Members in this task the Committee has conducted its own
scrutiny of the Bill. We have taken evidence, oral and written,
from all the main interested parties. Witnesses who gave oral
evidence included organisations representing all ranks of the
police, the Association of Police Authorities, Liberty and the
Minister, John Denham. We have also taken account of the deliberations
in the Lords and the reports of the Joint Committee on Human Rights
and the Lords Committee on Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform.
2. Although there is widespread recognitionnot
least among police officers themselvesthat the quality
of service they are able to provide leaves a certain amount to
be desired, it would be wrong to say that the welcome for this
Bill has been universal. Widespread concern has been expressed
about the increased powers to be given to the Home Secretary although
these have to some extent been met by amendments introduced and
undertakings given by the Government in the Lords. The proposal
for community support officers has also attracted much criticism
although the Metropolitan Police Service has welcomed the idea.
Some measuresthe creation of an Independent Police Complaints
Commission, for exampleare not controversial.
3. There are of course many aspects of the Government's
police reform agenda that do not feature in this Bill, if only
because they do not require legislation.
The most important of these is the urgent need to reach an agreement
on pay and conditions that will enable the police service to concentrate
more on front line tasks by reducing paperwork, abandoning outdated
working practices and introducing sensible disciplinary and retirement
Important though these are, this report is confined to the measures
contained in the Bill and possible omissions. All the oral and
most of the written evidence we have received is published with
this report. We are grateful to all those who responded quickly
to our invitation to give evidence within the relatively short
timetable available. A full list of witnesses and those who have
provided written evidence appears on pages 30 and 31. In this
report we refer to clauses by their number at the time the Bill
was introduced in the House of Commons, following changes made
in the House of Lords. Inevitably some of our written and oral
evidence uses the slightly different numbering for clauses in
the original Bill.
4. Only the Police Foundation, an independent
research institution, raises a cautionary note about the overall
approach of the Government towards reform.
It says of the White Paper, from which many of the measures in
this Bill are drawn, "the document accurately mimics the
hectoring tone of those campaigns for change about which officers
are most cynical". Of the Bill, it says, "there has
never been...any example of a Government producing a revolution
in management culture and style by legislative dictat".
We have borne these and other comments in mind. The main issues
we have addressed are:
A. Powers for the Home Secretary to give
B. New police complaints system
C. Removal of senior officers
D. Community support officers
E. Possible additions to the Bill.