Police Reform Bill [Lords]

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Schedule 8

Repeals

Amendment made: No. 245, in page 147, line 36, at end insert—

    'Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994

    Section 54(5).' (c.33)—[Mr. Denham.]

Mr. Denham: I beg to move amendment No. 262, in page 148, line 4, at end insert—

    'Employment Rights Act 1996 (c.18)

    In section 200(1), the words ''Part IVA,'' and ''47B''.'

The Chairman: With this it will convenient to take Government amendment No. 263 and Government new clause 16—Protected disclosures by police officers.

Mr. Denham: The Government accepted in principle that the same level of protection provided to employees and workers by the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 should be provided to police officers. We now accept that the best way to achieve that is by removing the exclusion of police officers from that Act. Accordingly, new clause 16 amends the Employment Rights Act 1996 so that police officers in England, Wales and Scotland who are reporters of wrongdoing—whistleblowers, to use the popular jargon—have the same rights as other workers under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998. Police officers will be treated as employees for the purpose of that Act.

Such protections are likely to lead to a more open police service and to greater confidence in the police service. The change will allow for compensation to be paid to officers who suffer any detriment as a result of making a protected disclosure, and for claims of unfair dismissal if officers are dismissed primarily because they made a protected disclosure.

Police officers will be able to make a claim to an employment tribunal if they suffer detriment or dismissal by virtue of making a protected disclosure. Protected disclosures include disclosures that a criminal offence has been committed, that a person has failed to comply with a legal obligation to which he is subject or that a miscarriage of justice has occurred. It is intended that protections under the 1998 Act should be available to police officers at any stage prior to or during the disciplinary process.

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The change will give a police officer the assurance that failing all the safeguards already in the system, he has a route to an employment tribunal. He will be able to report wrongdoing with the assurance of full protection if he is subsequently discriminated against, or if he suffers detriment for doing so.

The change will cause the protections provided by the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 to apply to police officers, seconded police officers, officers in constabularies maintained otherwise than by a police authority, and NCIS and NCS police members. The protections will extend to England, Scotland and Wales.

Amendments Nos. 262 and 263 are consequential amendments to schedule 8.

Mr. Hawkins: We acknowledge that many police officers will welcome the protection of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998—the so-called whistleblowers' protection Act—should they want to report matters of serious concern. However, I want to flag up a slight worry in order to get reassurance that the Government will not move further down the road of treating police officers as employees in other senses. In another context, the Minister rightly said this morning that police officers' terms and conditions put them much more on a par with members of the armed forces than with any other category of profession—and they are not treated as employees in other respects.

This is simply a move to give them extra protection, and it will be welcomed. However, I flag up another warning. I do not want this to become the thin end of a very large wedge of many compensation claims, which would be a burden on police force budgets that are already very stretched. The police force has to spend a lot to deal with the compensation culture that currently exists, where civil claims are brought against police authorities, so that—as it were—the police are defending themselves against other people. Often, a lot of money is spent on that, instead of on policing.

It has been suggested that the Government are largely responsible for the huge explosion in the compensation culture since 1997, and that, therefore, police forces should receive extra provision from central funds to counteract the costs that are imposed on them as a result of the growth of the compensation culture.

This provision will not, of itself, necessarily lead to many more claims for compensation being brought by police officers against their employers—as it were. However, I want to hear what the Minister has to say, so that his comments are on the record.

3.15 pm

Norman Baker: I can be even briefer. I warmly congratulate the Minister on bringing this forward. It is sensible, and it enhances rights that police officers should have. It has my party's full support.

Mr. Denham: I am trying to recover from my shock at that intervention by the hon. Member for Lewes.

I come to the points that were raised by the hon. Member for Surrey Heath. Nobody wishes there to be

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an explosion in the compensation culture. The hon. Gentleman is the first person who has blamed this Government for having caused that. Regrettably, there has been a rising trend in compensation claims over several years.

It was always the Government's intention that the existence of this legislation would lead to employers putting in place proper systems for employees who are aware of something wrong to report that, and to be confident that action will be taken. It was also the Government's intention that, by having proper systems in place, the likelihood of someone needing to use the provisions of the Bill would be minimised—rather than that there should be a lot of whistle-blowing, because that almost always occurs when someone has given up in frustration after the failure of all of their other attempts to have wrongs addressed. If we have the intended response to this, that should prevent any addition to the compensation culture, which, in a wider sense, is a worry.

I assure the hon. Gentleman that this does not presage a series of measures designed to reduce police officers to the level of employees. However, treating police officers as employees for the purposes of the Act is a simpler way of extending this protection to them than would be the construction of entirely separate and parallel legislation for the police service.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments made: No. 263, in page 148, line 15, at end insert—

    'Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (c.23)

    Section 13.'

No. 264, in page 148, line 16, column 2, leave out '7' and insert '4'.

No. 265, in page 148, line 39, column 2, leave out '51' and insert '151'.

No. 246, in page 148, line 43, column 2, at end insert—

    'Section 80(2).'—[Mr. Denham.]

Schedule 8, as amended, agreed to.

New clause 11

Duty to provide information for certain persons other than complainant

    '(1) A person has an interest in being kept properly informed about the handling of a complaint or recordable conduct matter if—

    (a) it appears to the Commission or to an appropriate authority that he is a person falling within subsection (2); and

    (b) that person has indicated that he consents to the provision of information to him in accordance with this section and that consent has not been withdrawn.

    (2) A person falls within this subsection if—

    (a) he is a relative of a person whose death is the alleged result from the conduct complained of or to which the recordable conduct matter relates;

    (b) he is a relative of a person whose serious injury is the alleged result from that conduct and that person is incapable of making a complaint;

    (c) he himself has suffered serious injury as the alleged result of that conduct.

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    (3) A person who does not fall within subsection (2) has an interest in being kept properly informed about the handling of a complaint or recordable conduct matter if—

    (a) the Commission or an appropriate authority considers that he has an interest in the handling of the complaint or recordable conduct matter which is sufficient to make it appropriate for information to be provided to him in accordance with this section; and

    (b) he has indicated that he consents to the provision of information to him in accordance with this section.

    (4) In relation to a complaint, this section confers no rights on the complainant.

    (5) A person who has an interest in being kept properly informed about the handling of a complaint or conduct matter is referred to in this section as an ''interested person''.

    (6) In any case in which there is an investigation of the complaint or recordable conduct matter in accordance with the provisions of Schedule 3—

    (a) by the Commission, or

    (b) under its management,

    it shall be the duty of the Commission to provide the interested person with all such information as will keep him properly informed, while the investigation is being carried out and subsequently, of all the matters mentioned in subsection (9).

    (7) In any case in which there is an investigation of the complaint or recordable conduct matter in accordance with the provisions of Schedule 3—

    (a) by the appropriate authority on its own behalf, or

    (b) under the supervision of the Commission,

    it shall be the duty of the appropriate authority to provide the interested person with all such information as will keep him properly informed, while the investigation is being carried out and subsequently, of all the matters mentioned in subsection (9).

    (8) Where subsection (7) applies, it shall be the duty of the Commission to give the appropriate authority all such directions as it considers appropriate for securing that that authority complies with its duty under that subsection; and it shall be the duty of the appropriate authority to comply with any direction given to it under this subsection.

    (9) The matters of which the interested person must be kept properly informed are—

    (a) the progress of the investigation;

    (b) any provisional findings of the person carrying out the investigation;

    (c) whether any report has been submitted under paragraph 23 of Schedule 3;

    (d) the action (if any) that is taken in respect of the matters dealt with in any such report; and

    (e) the outcome of any such action.

    (10) The duties imposed by this section on the Commission and the appropriate authority in relation to any complaint or recordable conduct matter shall be performed in such manner, and shall have effect subject to such exceptions, as may be provided for by regulations made by the Secretary of State.

    (11) Subsections (6) to (9) of section 19 apply for the purposes of this section as they apply for the purposes of that section.

    (12) In this section ''relative'' means a person of a description prescribed in regulations made by the Secretary of State.'.—[Mr. Denham.]

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

 
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