Police Reform Bill [Lords]

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Mr. Ainsworth: The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right, and he raised a question that I touched on. The word ''a'' rather than ''all'' is used. We intend—we shall get the wording right in the regulations—that in the overwhelming majority of cases, people who will inquire will be the main relative, who is usually the next of kin. We want to allow for circumstances, such as those due to family situations, in which two main people may inquire. We do not want to impose the burden of a necessity to inform all people down to second cousins or to have a situation such as that about which the hon. Gentleman is rightly worried. It is highly appropriate and desirable to keep families informed through a main person or, if one person is insufficient, a couple of people.

Ms Bridget Prentice (Lewisham, East): The Opposition have a point, and I hope that the Under-Secretary will give us some reassurance. I am sure that many of us are aware of people who jump on bandwagons at times of crisis for families in such

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circumstances. Such people, usually a makeshift organisation, persuade families in emotional difficulties to take them on board, and front up the complaints system. I hope that the Under-Secretary will ensure that such people will not have to be constantly kept informed.

4.45 pm

Mr. Ainsworth: I hope that some of my comments have reassured my hon. Friend. We are discussing a person who has been identified as responsible for keeping a family informed. Obviously if they do not want to be informed, that will not be forced on them. We do not intend to give everyone a right to be kept informed but only a main individual.

In addition, a complaint does not have to be made for an investigation to be conducted. The commission may decide to conduct an investigation without a complaint having been made, in a proactive way. In such circumstances, we need the legal ability, which the Bill would lack if the amendments were not made, to keep a family member informed of progress.

Hon. Members are right about the burden that could result if we do not get this right. I am sure that everyone agrees with the sentiment behind the proposal and that we must have the legal ability to do what we want competently and without imposing a duty on organisations that would detract from their main purpose of conducting the investigation. The points have been well made and are well accepted, and I hope that we shall satisfy hon. Members when we draft the regulations.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments made: No. 155, in page 117, line 5, leave out sub-paragraph (4) and insert—

    '(4) It shall be the duty of the Commission to notify the persons mentioned in sub-paragraph (4A) if criminal proceedings are brought against any person by the Director of Public Prosecutions in respect of any matters dealt with in a report copied to him under sub-paragraph (2)(c).

    (4A) Those persons are—

    (a) in the case of a complaint, the complainant and every person entitled to be kept properly informed in relation to the complaint under section (Duty to provide information for certain persons other than complainant); and

    (b) in the case of a recordable conduct matter, every person entitled to be kept properly informed in relation to that matter under that section.'.

No. 156, in page 117, line 46, leave out from '(7)(b)' to 'setting', in line 48, and insert

    'the Commission shall give a notification to—

    (a) in the case of a complaint, to the complainant and to every person entitled to be kept properly informed in relation to the complaint under section (Duty to provide information for certain persons other than complainant); and

    (b) in the case of a recordable conduct matter, to every person entitled to be kept properly informed in relation to that matter under that section.

    (8A) The notification required by sub-paragraph (8) is one'.

No. 157, in page 117, line 50, leave out 'that determination' and insert

    'the Commission's determination under sub-paragraph (7)(b)'.

No. 158, in page 118, line 31, leave out sub-paragraph (4) and insert—

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    '(4) It shall be the duty of the appropriate authority to notify the persons mentioned in sub-paragraph (4A) if criminal proceedings are brought against any person by the Director of Public Prosecutions in respect of any matters dealt with in a report copied to him under sub-paragraph (2)(b).

    (4A) Those persons are—

    (a) in the case of a complaint, the complainant and every person entitled to be kept properly informed in relation to the complaint under section (Duty to provide information for certain persons other than complainant); and

    (b) in the case of a recordable conduct matter, every person entitled to be kept properly informed in relation to that matter under that section.'.

No. 159, in page 119, line 3, leave out from '(5)' to 'setting', in line 5, and insert

    'the appropriate authority shall give a notification to—

    (a) in the case of a complaint, to the complainant and to every person entitled to be kept properly informed in relation to the complaint under section (Duty to provide information for certain persons other than complainant); and

    (b) in the case of a recordable conduct matter, to every person entitled to be kept properly informed in relation to that matter under that section.

    (6A) The notification required by sub-paragraph (6) is one'

No. 160, in page 119, line 7, leave out 'that sub-paragraph' and insert 'sub-paragraph (5)'.

No. 161, in page 119, line 36, after 'authority' insert

    ', every person entitled to be kept properly informed in relation to the complaint under section (Duty to provide information for certain persons other than complainant)'.

No. 162, in page 120, line 39, after 'complainant;' insert—

    '(bb) to every person entitled to be kept properly informed in relation to the complaint under section (Duty to provide information for certain persons other than complainant);'.

No. 163, in page 120, line 45, after 'complainant;' insert—

    '(aa) to every person entitled to be kept properly informed in relation to the complaint under section (Duty to provide information for certain persons other than complainant);'.

No. 164, in page 121, line 35, after 'complainant;' insert—

    '(bb) to every person entitled to be kept properly informed in relation to the complaint under section (Duty to provide information for certain persons other than complainant);'.

No. 165, in page 121, line 41, after 'complainant;' insert—

    '(aa) to every person entitled to be kept properly informed in relation to the complaint under section (Duty to provide information for certain persons other than complainant);'.

No. 166, in page 123, line 14, after 'complainant' insert

    'and every person entitled to be kept properly informed in relation to the complaint under section (Duty to provide information for certain persons other than complainant)'.

No. 167, in page 123, line 24, after 'complainant' insert

    'and every person entitled to be kept properly informed in relation to the complaint under section (Duty to provide information for certain persons other than complainant)'.—[Mr. Ainsworth.]

Schedule 3, as amended, agreed to.

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Clause 13

Direction and control matters

Mr. Ainsworth: I beg to move amendment No. 153, in page 12, line 42, leave out 'or conduct matter'.

It is necessary to make this drafting amendment to the clause to ensure both consistency in the Bill and that the Government's intentions are clear. In its current form, the clause excludes from the ambit of the new system any part of a complaint or conduct matter that relates to the direction and control of a police force. However, the Bill defines conduct matters as matters that relate to conduct, which could give rise to criminal or disciplinary proceedings. In contrast, direction and control refers to operational matters that relate to the deployment and administration of policing. There is no question of disciplinary or criminal misconduct if no question of disciplinary or criminal misconduct arises. Therefore, any matter that could give rise to criminal or disciplinary proceedings would not be a legitimate direction and control issue and should not be excluded from the remit of the new system. The amendment accordingly removes conduct matters from the scope of the clause.

Mr. Hawkins: I was slightly puzzled, because the Under-Secretary seemed to be saying that the provision should never have been in the Bill in the first place. Was there simply a drafting error that was realised when someone came to look at the clause? It seemed clear that the Under-Secretary was firm that conduct matters should not be in schedule 3, so I wonder how the provision came to be in Bill. I do not know whether he can shed any light on that, as I am sure that it was not down to him personally. I do not have a problem with the amendment.

Mr. Ainsworth: To be honest, I cannot shed light on the origin of the provision. The arguments for removing it are fairly straightforward, and I ask for the hon. Gentleman's support in doing so.

Amendment agreed to.

Norman Baker: I beg to move amendment No. 9, in page 13, line 9, at end insert—

    '(4) All police authorities, in carrying out their duties with respect to the maintenance of an efficient and effective police force, and all inspectors of constabulary, in carrying out their duties with respect to the efficiency and effectiveness of police forces, shall keep themselves informed as to the working of this section.'.

As we have heard, the clause is about handling complaints relating to direction and control matters, which are of course outside the scope of the IPCC. Section 77 of the Police Act 1996 requires police authorities as part of their duty to maintain

    ''an efficient and effective police force'',

and says that they should

    ''keep themselves informed as to the working''

of complaints procedures. That, of course, will be repealed along with the rest of the 1996 Act's complaints provisions, and will be replaced with part 2.

Although the clause contains a similar provision to section 77 of the 1996 Act, it does not go far enough in tying police authority oversight of complaints to efficiency and effectiveness, and it therefore gives

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those authorities insufficient scope to act if things go wrong. The purpose of the amendment is to try to get the Government to recognise that. Issues relating to complaints and direction and control go to the heart of the efficiency and effectiveness of the force. Police authorities have responsibilities in those regards.

The Under-Secretary will be aware that the issue was raised in the House of Lords. I have looked at the Hansard of that debate; my colleagues in the other place were not happy with the response that was given, and we are therefore having a second bite of the cherry by raising the matter again this afternoon. I hope that the Under-Secretary will be able to accept the spirit of the amendment. He may well feel that there is an alternative way of dealing with the matter, but the point about tying in police authorities to that aspect is important, and needs greater clarification than that provided in the Bill.

 
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Prepared 13 June 2002