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Mr Lansley: The hon. Lady will have heard what the Prime Minister had to say on that subject. From memory, a threshold of £3 billion—if I am wrong I will provide her with more details later—must be reached before an application can be made. An application for additional resources from Europe would also have implications for our rebate.

Mr Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth East) (Con): Bournemouth is pleased to be receiving some emergency funding for the flooding that took place on the River Stour in my constituency, but storms have also affected the seafront—one of the beach huts has been washed away and 10 have been damaged. Sea levels are expected to rise by 3 feet over the next few decades, so may we have a statement on the Government’s thinking on financial support for improved sea defences?

Mr Lansley: I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I am afraid that other Members will have similarly sad tales to tell about the impact of flooding, and not only recently but all the way back to early December. I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave our hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Miss McIntosh). We will certainly look for an opportunity for that if we can.

Paul Flynn (Newport West) (Lab): When can we debate the actions of the ingrate President Karzai, who is about to release 65 Taliban murderers from Bagram prison and has insulted our armed forces by saying that the sacrifices they made in Helmand were a disgrace? Can we also look at the delusional complacency of the Government who say that the mission has been accomplished, at a time when civilian deaths are at a record high, heroin production is at a record high and large tracts of the country are occupied by the Taliban?

Mr Lansley: The House will know how strongly we feel about the work that has been done by our armed services and others in Afghanistan and the difference it has made in creating a much better position. We set about the process of ensuring that the Afghan national army and security forces were in a position to maintain security after we left, and I think our forces have made tremendous progress in that direction. What is needed alongside that is political commitment and will, alongside security capacity. I am afraid that in the past couple of days we have sometimes seen evidence of a lack of the political will to ensure that that security is maintained to the same extent.

Robert Halfon (Harlow) (Con): Has my right hon. Friend seen my early-day motion on the future of independent petrol retailers?

[That this House notes that there are 5,000 independent petrol filling stations in the UK; recognises the valuable contribution that they make to the economy and the national infrastructure; further notes that independent filling stations are closing at a rate of four per week with the loss of 1,500 jobs per year; believes that this is a real loss for those in rural communities who rely on them, as well as Government due to lost revenue; and therefore urges the Government to implement a plan to ensure fair competition, fair taxation, and fair planning in this industry to secure a sustainable future for the UK's independent petrol filling stations.]

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Is my right hon. Friend aware that independent petrol retailers employ thousands of people across the country, yet four such outlets close every week, causing about 1,500 jobs to be lost every year? May we have a debate in which we can discuss introducing fair competition, fair taxation and fair planning so that these retailers can continue to thrive?

Mr Lansley: Yes, I have seen my hon. Friend’s early-day motion. I recollect that he had one of a similar character at an earlier time and we had an opportunity to talk about that as well. He will recall that last year the Office of Fair Trading, having undertaken inquiries, published a report. I completely agree that fair competition is absolutely what this is all about. If there is evidence of any lack of such competition, it is important for it to be given to the Office of Fair Trading so that the competition authorities can look at it and intervene.

Barry Gardiner (Brent North) (Lab): Earlier this year, the Government told us that deaths from human-made air pollution had gone down. A freedom of information request has now revealed that this was because pollutants called PM 2.5s had been reclassified as residual and non-anthropogenic. It has now been admitted that that is not the case. May we have a debate on transparency in the classification of particulate matter?

Mr Lansley: Fortunately, I know that PM stands for particulate matter because of my former responsibilities for public health and the way in which Public Health England is responsible for assessing these things. Concerns were raised 10 or more years ago in my own constituency about the health impacts of given levels of particulate matter of different sizes. I will of course ask the Minister responsible at the Department of Health, in the first instance, to respond to the hon. Gentleman.

Andrew Bridgen (North West Leicestershire) (Con): Yesterday I had the pleasure of giving the opening speech at the annual Love Business East Midlands conference at Donington Park in my constituency. I am pleased to inform the House that delegate numbers and business confidence were at record levels, replicating a report by BDO which said that business confidence is now at the highest level since 1992. As investment intention relies on confidence, may we have a debate on investment in UK businesses and the threats posed to it by the disastrous and reckless policies of the Labour party?

Mr Lansley: I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I applaud the opportunity he has taken, along with his colleagues in the east midlands, to bring together business and to continue to push forward that sense of business confidence, which is very important. What BDO found in the east midlands was mirrored nationally in the recent biannual survey undertaken by Lloyds TSB, which reported business confidence at its strongest since January 1994. That is a clear reflection of the success of this Government’s long-term economic plan, which is giving rise to that increase. Through reducing the deficit, creating more jobs and cutting taxes, we are inspiring business confidence and getting business investment coming back.

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Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East) (Lab): Lord Lawson said on the radio this morning that there was no evidence to link climate change to floods. The Energy and Climate Change Secretary is due to give a speech saying that Conservatives who deny that human activity causes climate change are ignorant, and contribute to extreme weather events such as the recent flooding. Now the Energy Minister, the right hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Michael Fallon), has said:

“Unthinking climate change worship has damaged British industry and put up consumer bills.”

May we have a debate on climate change so that the coalition parties can have this out with each other once and for all?

Mr Lansley: The Government’s position is very clear. We, as a country and as a Government, are among those at the forefront of tackling climate change and recognising the risks it represents. Speaking personally as somebody whose constituents have included many of those who work at the British Antarctic Survey, I have never been under any illusions about the man-made impacts on global warming. But that does not mean we should ever close down a debate that says we understand—it is exactly this point—the nature of man-made impacts on the climate. What we have to understand equally are the causative effects that that leads to and how we can adapt and mitigate those, as well as trying to minimise man-made impacts on the environment.

John Glen (Salisbury) (Con): My constituent Chris Taylor worked as a Civil Aviation Authority test pilot for 10 years but was recently made redundant. Will the Leader of the House make time for a statement from the Minister on how the CAA can retain the same capabilities and influence at a European level, given the loss of its last dedicated full-time test pilot?

Mr Lansley: I will ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport to respond to my hon. Friend, although I know that my hon. Friend has had a chance to meet the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr Goodwill). He knows and the House will be aware that test pilots are employed to undertake flight tests to evaluate aircraft design as part of certification processes. The European Aviation Safety Agency is responsible for the type certification of aircraft manufactured inside the European Union or registered in an EU member state. The Civil Aviation Authority is not responsible for type certification and therefore does not require the services of test pilots to meet its statutory duties. That is enough from me, but I will ask my right hon. Friend at the Department to add a reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury (John Glen).

Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op): It is Valentine’s day tomorrow. In that spirit, may I inform the Leader of the House that we probably have in this country the envy of Silicon valley in the United States in the wonderful tax incentives for individuals to invest in new start-up businesses? With the Budget coming up quite soon, may we have an early debate on expanding that tax incentive to people who invest in social enterprises? The whole world of social enterprise, crowdfunding and social impact investment is changing. It is a great

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opportunity for our country. May we have a debate so that we can get those added benefits to include social enterprises?

Mr Lansley: I am sure the House will be interested in what the hon. Gentleman says. I will make sure that the Treasury sees what he has said and he may find other opportunities between now and the Budget to raise the matter. I entirely agree with him. I know from business angels in the Cambridge area that we in this country have a very strong environment in which to undertake start-up investment. One of the key things we need is to ensure that we have the quantity of venture capital available to support those start-ups through development, because we in this country have a very high level of the initial research and start-up businesses, but sometimes we lose control of the business as it grows.

Mr David Burrowes (Enfield, Southgate) (Con): May we have a debate on Cyprus, following the courageous decision on Tuesday by President Anastasiades and Dr Eroglu to restart talks to reunify Cyprus? We can then join the Prime Minister in fully supporting efforts to reach a just, lasting and comprehensive settlement for all Cypriots.

Mr Lansley: I am glad my hon. Friend raises that. I saw that and I shared with him the sense of optimism that those brave steps generated. It was important for Cyprus and for the European Union and member states of the European Union that those steps were taken. I will, if I may, refer what he says to my hon. Friends at the Foreign Office, who might want to find an opportunity to say something about that to the House at some point.

Dan Jarvis (Barnsley Central) (Lab): Given that the House rises today and that the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill is scheduled for Second Reading on the day of our return, may I raise a concern that relates to schedule 4, part 1, which deals with the restraint of children in custody? My concern is that in the light of a judgment by the Court of Appeal in 2008, permitting the use of force for good order and discipline in secure colleges may not be lawful. Will the Leader of the House use his good offices to liaise with his colleagues at the Ministry of Justice to confirm that this is indeed the intended position, as currently stated in the Bill?

Mr Lansley: Of course I will raise the point with my colleagues at the Ministry of Justice. The hon. Gentleman will understand that the Second Reading debate will offer an opportunity to debate the principles of the Bill, but the point he raises might also profitably be pursued then and in Committee.

Damian Hinds (East Hampshire) (Con): There is now wide recognition that character and resilience are as important as GCSEs for young people as they enter adulthood. May we have a debate on what that actually means and implies and what more can be done in and out of school to help young people develop those key traits?

Mr Lansley: I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. I am happy not only that our Education Secretary has said, with verve and commitment, that he wishes to build activities in state schools that mirror those that often occur in independent schools, but that, only today,

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the shadow Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Tristram Hunt), has followed his lead, as he is sometimes wont to do. Reinforcements such as extending school sport support and support for the development of cadet forces in state schools are just some examples of the ways in which we can help build character. Finally—sorry to go on, Mr Speaker—this is about not just character building in the sense of having a wider range of attributes and abilities, but the self-esteem that goes with it. Whatever can build self-esteem will develop in children and young people something that will be of value to them throughout their lives.

Tom Blenkinsop (Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland) (Lab): Charlotte Pocklington from Guisborough in my constituency was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer and needed treatment at the Freeman hospital in Newcastle after attending the James Cook hospital in Middlesbrough for diagnosis. She expected the ambulance that was to take her there to arrive at 4.30 pm on the same day she was diagnosed, but no ambulance arrived until 4 am the following morning—a 12-hour wait. This time last year I raised the case of an elderly lady in Marton in my constituency who had to wait 11 hours for an ambulance to respond. May we have an urgent about ambulance responses?

Mr Lansley: To assist the hon. Gentleman, I will make sure that my colleagues at the Department of Health hear what he has said. This also provides an opportunity for the North East ambulance service in particular to let the hon. Gentleman know what the situation is. If he wishes to raise the issue further, Health Ministers will be available to answer questions from the Dispatch Box on Tuesday 25 February.

Andrew Jones (Harrogate and Knaresborough) (Con): Last week I visited Claro Precision Engineering, a high-quality company in Knaresborough in my constituency. The company is growing well and it has reported that one of the trends driving that is the reshoring of manufacturing projects and jobs, which is clearly a very positive trend. May we have a statement from the Business Secretary to update the House on what his Department is doing to promote that trend and so further boost UK manufacturing?

Mr Lansley: My hon. Friend makes a very good point. He may have heard how positively the Prime Minister feels about the way in which reshoring opportunities have been used in recent years to help boost the 1.6 million private sector jobs that have been created since the election and the very positive steps taken in relation to manufacturing. I am pleased to hear my hon. Friend tell the House about Claro Precision Engineering and I hope that many other companies will share in the sense that they can do more here and not outsource and offshore their activities to other countries as much.

Kevin Brennan (Cardiff West) (Lab): May we have a debate about altering the fixed-term provisions to four rather than five years? As has been intimated, the coalition currently resembles the characters from the film, “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court”, who sang:

“We’re busy doing nothing, working the whole day through, trying to find lots of things not to do.”

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We could then have a general election in May and a change of Government.

Mr Lansley: Is that where it comes from? I thought it was the dwarfs in “Snow White” who sang that, but I am sure the hon. Gentleman is right, because his knowledge of music is so much greater than mine. Perhaps he should stick to music. I have no immediate plans for any debate on revision of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011.

Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (The Cotswolds) (Con): May I add my voice to those of others and ask the Leader of the House for an urgent debate on flooding, particularly so that I can highlight Thames Water’s lack of investment in its sewerage systems in Cirencester, Fairford, South Cerney and other places? I have serious sewer flooding in my constituency and, unfortunately, it has been exacerbated this week by the grant of a large planning application for residential dwellings in the floodplain.

Mr Lansley: My hon. Friend will have observed that on Monday 3 March, which will be an estimates day, the House will discuss managing flood risk. I hope he will also emphasise to Ofwat—as I and other Members have done over the years—the importance of identifying, quantifying and supporting in its price control review the investment required to minimise sewer flooding of properties.

Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab): Given that the Prime Minister has announced that he wants to think again about his new flood insurance scheme—perhaps because of the Help to Buy scheme, which the Government are promoting heavily in areas that are prone to flood risk but will not be covered by the new scheme—and the fact that the clauses in the Water Bill for the scheme were tabled very late, may we now have one of the right hon. Gentleman’s famous legislative pauses to get the scheme right?

Mr Lansley: I remind the hon. Lady that the Water Bill is in the House of Lords, not this House, so her question does not relate directly to the business of the House at the moment. Her question was a bit rich, given that this Government worked incredibly hard to get an agreement with the Association of British Insurers to give people the security of knowing that access to affordable flood insurance was backed by a statutory scheme. That could have been done in the last Parliament, but it was not.

On the fact that the scheme was added to the Water Bill at a late stage, we made it clear from the outset, through the inclusion of place holder provisions, that we would consult on it and bring it in later, so I cannot accept the proposition that there is consequently any case for a delay.

Martin Vickers (Cleethorpes) (Con): Good rail services, particularly to the capital, are essential for the economic development of our provincial towns, such as those I represent in northern Lincolnshire. Open access operators have demonstrated that they are well capable of filling the gaps left by the main franchise holders. Will the

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Leader of the House arrange for a debate so that we can discuss the availability of services provided by open access operators?

Mr Lansley: My hon. Friend makes an interesting point. It is probably best for my hon. Friends at the Department for Transport to respond to him. Other hon. Members may be interested in such a debate, and if he thinks that they might join him in seeking to secure time on the Adjournment or through the Backbench Business Committee, he might find that an interesting line to pursue.

Huw Irranca-Davies (Ogmore) (Lab): Will the Leader of the House pass on my sincere best wishes to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in his recovery from a very serious eye operation?

When the Leader of the House has a chance for a word with his right hon. Friend, will he, at an opportune moment, seek a guarantee that the independent expert panel report on the failed badger culls will be fully debated and possibly voted on by all Members before an announcement is made about any further roll-out of another 10 culls this summer?

Mr Lansley: The hon. Gentleman is very gracious, and I will indeed make sure that his good wishes are passed on to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, who I know is making very good progress. As we might expect, it turns out that he is quite resilient.

The independent expert panel is still preparing its report. The timing of the completion of the report and of its submission to Ministers is a matter for the panel. The hon. Gentleman will know that the report will include an assessment of the costs, and an economic assessment is being prepared to inform decision making. We will of course keep the House informed about that.

Jeremy Lefroy (Stafford) (Con): I thank my right hon. Friend for providing Government time to debate the Francis report. Officials at the Department of Health have written to a constituent of mine in respect of the trust special administration of Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust that

“the Secretary of State cannot develop his own solution or accept the proposals only in part, nor can he require any amendments to the TSAs’ proposals other than by using his veto.”

With respect, I challenge that interpretation, given the Secretary of State’s overriding powers under sections 1, 2 and 4 of the Health and Social Care Act 2012. Although they accept the broad thrust of the trust special administrators’ recommendations, my constituents look to the Secretary of State to protect local services, especially for the most vulnerable in the areas of maternity and paediatrics. May we have a debate on the powers of the Secretary of State for Health?

Mr Lansley: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for what he said about the debate on the Francis report and the Government response. I have said before that it is important that we have such a debate and I am glad that I have been able to announce it.

The foundation trust special administration regime could and should have been put in place by the Labour party as part of the creation of foundation trusts, but it

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was not. The regime has to be carefully specified. It is important that it does not become a means by which the independence of foundation trusts and the role of Monitor as the regulator of foundation trusts can be overridden, other than specifically in relation to the Secretary of State’s adherence to his general duties. The Secretary of State must use the measure only in exceptional circumstances, which implies that it is a veto, rather than to impose his view of how services should be configured over the views of the local commissioners.

Mr Jim Cunningham (Coventry South) (Lab): Is the Leader of the House aware of the online petition organised by Coventry City football club supporters and the local newspaper, which asks the Culture, Media and Sport Committee to take evidence from both sides in the dispute? Those on both sides of the dispute have agreed to give evidence. Will he nudge the Chairman of the Committee to take evidence from both sides in order to end the dispute, because they are calling for conciliation? Finally, can we have a date for when the Minister for sport, the Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, the hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Mrs Grant), will come to the House and tell us what her proposals are for reorganising the Football League?

Mr Lansley: The hon. Gentleman will be well aware of the important report that has been produced by the Culture, Media and Sport Committee. The Government will respond to that in due course, although I cannot recall precisely when we are due to respond or what the character of the response will be. Although I must not tell any Select Committee what it should or should not do, I will raise the issue of Coventry with the Chair of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee.

Julian Sturdy (York Outer) (Con): With the country suffering some of the worst flooding in living memory—our thoughts are with the communities that have been affected—may we have a debate on the need to strengthen the safeguards in the planning system to prevent houses from being built on the floodplain? City of York council is proposing development on flood-risk areas in my constituency. Is it not time that we started to learn the lessons of the past?

Mr Lansley: My hon. Friend makes an important point. I am sure that people in York are only too aware of the risk of flooding, following the serious floods in 2007. He will know that the number of dwellings being built in areas of high flood risk is at its lowest since the land use change statistics began in 1989. To mitigate the risk of flooding, the Environment Agency is consulted on planning applications for areas that are at risk of flooding. In the last year for which figures are available, 2012-13, 99% of planning decisions on housing by councils were in line with the agency’s flood risk advice. I hope that that gives him some reassurance about the role of the Environment Agency in the decisions of his council.

Mark Lazarowicz (Edinburgh North and Leith) (Lab/Co-op): In Environment, Food and Rural Affairs questions earlier, the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the hon. Member for Camborne and Redruth (George Eustice), said that the reason for

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the delay in publishing the report on food banks was that it was going through the quality assurance process. The quality assurance process seems to be taking longer than the writing of the report. Perhaps I should ask for a debate on the quality of Government reports, but, in all seriousness, will the Leader of the House speak to his colleagues and get the report published, because this issue is of interest to many Members and the report will inform the debate on both sides of the House?

Mr Lansley: I had the benefit of hearing my hon. Friend’s reply to the right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr Field) at DEFRA questions. I have also responded to the hon. Member for St Helens North (Mr Watts) on this subject. We are ensuring that the report is in a position to be published. However, I am afraid that I am not in a position to say when that will happen.

Henry Smith (Crawley) (Con): Will the Government consider updating the role of the Minister for cities, the Minister of State, Cabinet Office, my right hon. Friend the Member for Tunbridge Wells (Greg Clark), to make him the Minister for cities and counties, in recognition of the fact that growth deals are just as important in non-metropolitan and county areas as they are in our great cities?

Mr Lansley: My hon. Friend will know that some 20 areas have been included in the second tranche of city deals. Those are not only major conurbations, but cities and towns with a population of about 100,000. Many of the deals include the surrounding rural areas, where an awful lot of economic activity and growth can be generated. I say that advisedly because Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire are promoting a city deal jointly. The Minister for cities and constitution is pursuing that model. He is identifying where growth is happening in order to construct city deals that support that growth.

Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): Will the Leader of the House take advantage of the relatively light legislative programme—which, in itself, is not a bad thing—to arrange for daily oral statements from Departments on a rota basis to enhance the accountability of the Government? Given the poor quality of debates on unallotted Opposition days, will he scrap them and replace them with extra days for Back-Bench debates? Will he consider creating a Back-Bench week that would be entirely devoted to issues that Back Benchers want discussed?

Mr Lansley: My hon. Friend tempts me. [Interruption.] Yes—a little bit. However, I will resist that temptation because we are a Government who believe in ensuring accountability and scrutiny in the Chamber. We have deliberately in this Parliament seen through reforms to the Backbench Business Committee, which has afforded time, and from now on in this Session time in this Chamber for that Committee will be in excess of its 27 allotted days. As I said earlier, the same is also true for the Opposition, which is fine and as it should be. We cannot have a sort of closed period for scrutiny and opportunities for debates generated other than from within the Government. Finally, I will take issue again with my hon. Friend. We have just seen the introduction of the 20th Government programme Bill in this Session, which, for a Session of this normal annual length, is

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broadly speaking what one would expect and what we have seen in previous Sessions. There is no merit in having a large number of Bills as such—perhaps the contrary—but the idea that there is a light legislative programme when we have introduced 20 programme Bills is, I am afraid, simply not true.

Mr Speaker: Order. We now come to the Back-Bench debate on the Normington report on reform of the Police Federation. Before I ask the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis) to open the debate, I will mention that four hon. Members who have applied to speak are not currently present in the Chamber. Further and better particulars of those hon. Members can be provided to the Whips. It is incumbent on Members who apply to speak in a debate to be present at its start, both because it is a courtesy, and in this case because I feel sure that they would want to benefit from the wisdom of the right hon. Gentleman, from which the House is about to benefit.

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Backbench Business

Police Federation Reform (Normington Report)

[Relevant document: Oral evidence to the Home Affairs Committee from the Police Federation, on police and crime commissioners: progress to date, HC 757-iv.]

12.2 pm

Mr David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden) (Con): As ever, you flatter me too much, Mr Speaker.

I beg to move,

That this House notes the Independent Review of the Police Federation conducted by Sir David Normington and calls upon the Government to take action to implement the report’s recommendations and to reform the Police Federation.

I spent a large proportion of the last decade defending the police one way or another, yet I have never experienced a time when public trust in the police was at a lower level. In my view that is a tragedy, both for the vast majority of decent officers who joined up to catch criminals and protect the public, but also for the wider public. We must deal firmly with those who bring the police into disrepute if we are to restore the reputation that most policemen properly deserve.

There was a similar crisis of confidence as far back as 1918-19 after the police strikes of those years, the first of which was called during wartime and caused a similar low perception of the standing of the police. That strike was ended after one day. The police were granted a considerable pay increase, but as a result, as a vital service they were forbidden both membership of a trade union and the right to strike. The Government effectively established the Police Federation in place of a union, to represent the concerns of police officers around the country. They gave it a statutory closed shop, which lasts to this day.

There is no doubt that the Police Federation had a noble beginning, and for many years it was a constructive force behind British policing, raising the reputation of the British copper to the position it ought to hold. Regrettably, the federation today is a bloated and sclerotic body, and has acquired the worst characteristics of the worst trade unions that we thought—and hoped—we had seen the end of in the ’70s.

Mr David Burrowes (Enfield, Southgate) (Con): Police representation crosses boundaries. This is a matter for the police rank and file on the ground, whose confidence has been shaken, and for the public; and it is a matter for hon. Members on both sides of the House and should be beyond party politics. The federation has unfortunately engaged in party politics and has politicised itself by its actions. Does my right hon. Friend agree that hon. Members on both sides of the House need to express our concerns, and that it is therefore disappointing that there are Members in number on only one side of the House to engage in the debate?

Mr Davis: I accept one aspect of what my hon. Friend says. He has had cases relating to the misbehaviour of police officers in his constituency and has done a great deal to defend them, sometimes but not always with the help of the federation. [Interruption.] If the right hon.

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Member for Delyn (Mr Hanson) wants to speak from the Opposition Front Bench, I will happily take his intervention. The breadth of the appeal of the debate is an issue, but I do not want to make this party political. There are now two Members on the Opposition Back Benches and they have strong views—the right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy) has tabled a motion jointly with me in the past, and the right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz) is the Chairman of the Select Committee on Home Affairs. I would not make this a party political issue. Members on both sides of the House have something to gain from the police being truly apolitical and truly upholding our democracy rather than interfering in it in the wrong way.

Julian Smith (Skipton and Ripon) (Con): Does my right hon. Friend agree that leadership comes from the top, and that the Association of Chief Police Officers has not led from the top? Many of the criticisms in the excellent report could also be made of ACPO.

Mr Davis: My hon. Friend has a point. I do not want to broaden the debate to include all police issues, but he is right. ACPO is badly constituted and should never have been set up in the way that it was. There are signs that ACPO should have done more to lead firmly. We saw that in the west midlands cases, where the various chief constables were perhaps not as strong in upholding justice as they should have been.

That brings me to the federation itself. I am talking primarily about the national federation, but also about some of the regions. I say that because some of the local federation organisations do a very good job on very thin resources to represent, as they properly should, the interests of their members.

Nevertheless, there are many criticisms to level at the federation, including that it is inefficient and wasteful. There is a duplication of tasks and structures. It is profligate, spending its members’ money on grace and favour flats and on huge bar bills. It is badly governed, with no apparent strong leadership to guarantee direction and stability. It behaves in a manner that sometimes brings police forces into disrepute by pursuing personal and political vendettas—the sort of things to which my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr Burrowes) has referred—against prominent public persons and bodies, and legal actions against private citizens, sometimes even the victims of crime.

After the Police Federation’s attack on my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell), the view of the public, and damningly of the federation’s members, was that the federation had to change.

Mr Crispin Blunt (Reigate) (Con): Given my right hon. Friend’s reference to our right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell), will he comment on today’s front page of The Times, which I am sure he has seen?

Mr Davis: I do not want to widen the debate and have a rerun of the Mitchell case, but I should say a couple of things about it. The House knows full well that I did not approve of the Leveson process—I strongly believe in a free press—but even I am astonished that, after Leveson, a police force has yet again leaked with an incredible spin a confidential document to which the victim in the

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case, my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield, has not had access. First, I expect the Metropolitan Police Commissioner to have a proper leak inquiry into that—I have told him that this morning. Secondly, an astonishing interpretation was put on the leak. The leak shows that an officer, four hours after attempting to stop my right hon. Friend going through the main gates of Downing street—this did not happen in a panic or a rush and was premeditated—wrote to his seniors not to say, “We have a security issue. Will somebody please have a conversation with Mr Mitchell to ensure he understands that we cannot let him through?”, which would have been the proper thing to do and what hon. Members would have done, but to set up a circumstance in which the situation would be resolved by a public confrontation at the front gate after the officer had ensured that his seniors supported him in doing so. If anything, that reinforces the story we were told by an anonymous whistleblower that this was a premeditated action. Today’s press coverage is not a good reflection on the police in two ways: it undermines their main case and it is something that they simply should not have done under these circumstances.

If the House will forgive me, I will try not to rest too much on the Mitchell case, because it is just one of many in which we have reason to be concerned about the role of the federation.

Mr Dominic Raab (Esher and Walton) (Con): My right hon. Friend is right. Does he agree, as the Normington report sets out very clearly, that the Mitchell case is just one illustration of the, frankly, flagrant and endemic bullying and harassment that often goes on among the federation’s own members, whether online or in person? That is set out very clearly in the report.

Mr Davis: My hon. Friend—he is also an old friend—is entirely right. I will elaborate in some detail on some of those cases in a moment.

The federation chose a very good person to write the report. David Normington, a distinguished ex-permanent secretary at the Home Office, is a classic Whitehall mandarin. If anything, he is more tempted than most to be careful and sober in his language, and to pull his punches in his descriptions or at least to mitigate them. However, it is in the best interests of police officers across the country that we reveal very clearly, and perhaps in starker detail than Normington did, the extent to which the federation has failed.

Even in its sober language, the Normington report was, as my hon. Friend intimates, utterly damning of the federation’s performance. It made 36 recommendations, focusing on returning professionalism, democracy and efficiency to the Police Federation. To fully understand the extent of the problem, we should examine a number of areas where the need for reform is particularly apparent.

It is a matter of great concern that the Police Federation is as profligate as it appears to be. There are numerous examples of that. It spent £26 million building its Leatherhead headquarters. Frankly, that is extravagant enough to do justice to one of the London merchant banks at the height of the City excesses. The headquarters have a hotel, a bar, an indoor swimming pool and 11 grace and favour apartments. Even more outrageous is that, to pay for the extravagant cost, members’ subscription fees had to be raised by 23%. The federation’s

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officers, with their salaries still paid by their respective forces, receive salary enhancements of up to £25,000 from the federation. They are given those enhancements for doing what is, after all, an easier job than being on the cold streets of Britain on the night shift: sitting in their luxury headquarters, instead of performing public duties. I have been told that full-time federation officers have free use of the grace and favour flats and live on company credit cards. The purchase of large quantities of food and alcohol on those cards is apparently not uncommon.

To put a number on this, the accounts show a provision of £2 million in a tax dispute with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. As I understand it, if that provision is to meet any tax liability, at a tax rate of 40%, that means that £5 million of claims have been made on perks, and perhaps unjustifiably claimed as a proper expense. That is astonishing.

In the newspapers only a couple of days ago a police widow—herself a serving police constable, if the report was right—said that federation officials treated memorial services, those most important and high-gravitas of occasions,

“like a drunken jolly, getting drunk on federation credit cards. Their drunken excess upsets families every year”,

so this is not an exception. I heard similar allegations about the behaviour of federation officials at conferences, at which bar bills of hundreds of pounds were again being charged to federation credit cards.

Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con): Does my right hon. Friend agree that the money might be better spent restoring the damaged national police memorial, on the Mall, which remains broken and damaged, and that that would be a fitting tribute to the brave and dedicated police officers who form the majority?

Mr Davis: That is an extremely imaginative suggestion. I have my own ideas about what should happen with the money, but my hon. Friend’s idea should be taken into account.

In making these assertions, I have largely depended on whistleblowers—people who have bravely come forward, shocked at what they have seen—but police whistleblowers are particularly at risk and so are loth to enter the public domain, which makes it hard to check what they have said. As a result, I called on the federation to publish its expense accounts and live up to generally expected standards of transparency. I did this so that I could confirm or deny whether these claims were correct. As far as I am aware, the federation has not published these expense and credit card accounts, which leads me to believe that the whistleblowers are right.

It is up to the federation’s members to say whether they consider this profligacy acceptable, because mostly—but not entirely—it is their money, but they cannot make that judgment unless they know exactly what is being done in their name with their money. So that is another reason to have total transparency in these accounts. Yet another reason concerns my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Damian Green), who as Minister for Policing, Criminal Justice and Victims represents the Home Office on the Front Bench today. We put taxpayers’ money into the federation—it is there

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properly to perform a function we want performed—so it might be the case that taxpayers’ money is being wasted at these conferences.

The federation appears to have a problem with transparency. It is telling that it failed to answer even Sir David Normington’s requests concerning the so-called No. 2 accounts used by the various branches. This money comes from selling insurance and then keeping a rake-off or commission, but so far the federation has not been willing or able to provide the information that Normington asked for. I understand that this probably accounts for £35 million of assets just sitting around the country. Again, this is money that belongs to serving police officers, not the organisation.

Contrary to the federation’s claims earlier this week, the full details of the 11 grace and favour apartments are not published in its accounts. I will not spend much time on this, but, to save colleagues time looking it up, I recommend they read note 3 of the federation’s accounts. It is the only reference to the apartments, but it does not contain what I would recognise as details telling us that these are grace and favour apartments used for the benefit of federation officers, with or without the approval of its members. It is clear that the federation does not know what transparency means, but it can only restore trust in itself if it imposes transparency on all its operations as a matter of urgency.

The federation’s use of funds raises another matter. It has formidable financial muscle. I guess its total assets come to about £70 million, the majority coming from subscription fees, but some from the No. 2 accounts. The last set of audited accounts showed the federation with a surplus, over and above all its costs and profligacy, of £3.5 million per annum.

In addition, we see in the costs that about £10 million was spent on administration, including the profligacies that I talked about. Most astonishingly, £8 million every single year was spent on legal actions. Furthermore, there are provisions against the loss of certain active legal cases—in one case, for up to £1 million. Other such provisions are for £350,000 or £450,000.

Let us understand something. The right hon. Member for Tottenham is here and will well understand that sometimes there are good reasons for the federation to act vigorously on behalf of its members. Big legal and individual interests will be in play in the Duggan case, and in such cases it is entirely proper that provisions should be made. I do not in any way criticise that element of legal defence, although I have to say that it should come about through an insurance function rather than through the discretion of a Fed rep. Never mind.

Such legal action is justifiable, but on many occasions aggressive litigation should not be carried out against those bringing complaints against the police. Chris Mullin, the distinguished predecessor of the Home Affairs Committee Chairman, has previously said that although most unions will not act on behalf of a member who is clearly in the wrong, the federation has a long track record of defending the indefensible and will gleefully launch claims against the victims of crime.

There are two recent examples of the federation’s appetite for litigation. PC Kelly Jones sued a burglary victim after she tripped on a kerb outside his garage and PC Richard Seymour sued another burglary victim after falling over a drain on his property. In both

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instances, it was the Police Federation that assisted in progressing the claims, despite the pleading of senior officers that such claims were detrimental to the image of the police force. This is based on press reportage, so I cannot be sure of it, but the federation has been accused of pressuring PC Kelly Jones into making her claim when she had no desire to do so. I hear from other whistleblowers that it is not uncommon for federation members to be actively encouraged to make claims that Members might find inappropriate. A particular concern—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dawn Primarolo): Order. I gently remind the right hon. Gentleman that the Backbench Business Committee recommends that the opening speech should last for 10 to 15 minutes. He has now been speaking for 20 minutes. Ten Members wish to participate, and there is another debate this afternoon. We are all hanging on the right hon. Gentleman’s every word, but he should bear it in mind that other people are involved. I would be grateful if he concluded soon.

Mr Davis: Absolutely, Madam Deputy Speaker. I have been generous with interventions—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dawn Primarolo): Order. I have to tell the right hon. Gentleman that that does not count; the 10 to 15 minutes are not qualified in any way. The right hon. Gentleman has been generous in giving way, but other Members will want a reasonable time to participate.

Mr Davis: I will be as brisk as I can, Madam Deputy Speaker.

I come to the most serious point of the debate: the bringing of defamation cases against people who disagree with the police’s version of events. There is no downside for a police officer when they pursue a libel action backed by the enormous resources of the Fed. That raises two distinct and concerning issues. First, action against the press, who must hold the police to account, is utterly against the interests of a fair and free society except in very clear-cut circumstances. Secondly, there is the action taken against members of the public, whom the police are charged with protecting, who disagree with the police’s version of events. That insulates the police from criticism and from being held to account for what they do. Such actions should not take place. If the federation is using its financial might to crush legitimate claims against officers or—worse—to pursue those who have already been subject to a police stitch-up, to take an extreme example, that huge injustice would compound existing injustices.

My next point is about the Normington report on politically motivated campaigns. It said:

“Throughout our inquiry we have heard allegations that some Federation representatives who have personally targeted successive Home Secretaries, Andrew Mitchell, Tom Winsor and others, bringing the Federation into disrepute and risking the police reputation for impartiality and integrity…If the Federation wants to be respected and listened to in the future, this has to stop.”

Such actions are completely unacceptable and contrary to the purpose of the Police Federation.

Finally, I turn to what should be done. As we consider whether progress and reform should be left to the federation, we should bear two simple points in mind. Are the interests of its officers, who have something to

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lose—a cushy job and good pay—or are the interests of the members being pursued? It is vital that the members themselves should be properly represented.

Last week, Fiona McElroy, a former principal private secretary brought in to help the federation achieve the reforms, was fired; her deputy also left the federation in outrage at her treatment. I ask the Minister to give the federation two ultimatums. First, it should immediately sign up to recommendation 1 and accept the revised core purpose to act in the public interest, with public accountability alongside accountability to their own members. Secondly, it should accept all the other Normington recommendations before its triennial elections this year, when it will lock in place a whole set of officers for another three years. If it does not do that, the Government will, I think, be properly authorised to intervene. In my view, if they do intervene, they should implement Normington-plus—put in place all the Normington proposals and in addition act to deal with the profligacy and misuse of public and members’ money.

Such a move, I am afraid, would mean selling the Leatherhead headquarters, centralising the money and giving back to members the funds that the federation has inappropriately used in the past several years. That would be about £500 a member and would still leave a viable federation. That is how we can make the Police Federation serve its members and, equally importantly, serve the public of the nation that its members are there to uphold.

Several hon. Members rose

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dawn Primarolo): Order. Eleven Members now wish to speak. I suggest that each takes no longer than 10 minutes, including interventions. I will not put that limit on the clock, but if it looks as if some Members who have sat here patiently will not get to speak because we are running out of time, I will impose a formal time limit. Hopefully, however, 10 minutes with interventions will be enough for the main points to be covered.

12.28 pm

Keith Vaz (Leicester East) (Lab): I congratulate the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis) on an excellent speech. I thank him and the other sponsors of this Backbench Business Committee debate for ensuring that the House can discuss the recommendations of the Normington report at an early stage. This is our first opportunity in many years to have such a discussion, although we often discuss policing issues in the House; we discussed the police grant here only yesterday.

I begin by paying tribute to the hard-working police officers in the police service, including those such as PC Craig Smith. With an off-duty paramedic, David King, he struggled to free the driver of a burning car in Leicestershire and saved the person at risk. He was a runner-up in the police bravery awards, which I, with Ministers and others, attend annually to pay tribute to the marvellous work being done throughout the country by individual police officers.

I have to say that, following a proposal from the hon. Member for Northampton North (Michael Ellis), the Select Committee on Home Affairs has unanimously agreed to hold an inquiry into the Police Federation. The terms of reference will be announced next week,

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and I hope that they will provide an opportunity for a full-scale inquiry into the matters that have been raised. I shall return to this point at the end of my short speech.

Morale in the police service is at an all-time low, as the Stevens report recognised. Indeed, if Members talk to any police officer stationed here in the Palace of Westminster, they will hear that people are deciding to leave the force because of the current state of affairs in policing. That is regrettable. There is an obligation on all of us to ensure that we have the best police service in the world—which I think it is—and we also need to ensure that the concerns of Police Federation members are met.

I want to mention the case of the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell). It is not the subject of the debate—we are talking about the Police Federation—but the right hon. Gentleman and his family have gone through a terrible ordeal. I believe that he has now been vindicated, given that 11 of those involved have now become the subject of misconduct hearings and one has gone to prison. The cases of three witnesses who appeared before the Home Affairs Committee are still outstanding and are the subject of an Independent Police Complaints Commission inquiry that has been held in abeyance because of a judicial review application.

Those of us who have been around for a long time have asked ourselves: if this could happen to a serving Cabinet Minister, what hope would there be if it happened to one of our constituents? The right hon. Gentleman has done the House and the public a great service, from his position of power as an elected Member of the House, but his situation is quite different from those of people in Leicester and elsewhere in the country. He has been vindicated, and it is important that a line should now be drawn and that people should move on, for the sake of him and his family, and of the reputation of the police as a whole.

Mr David Lammy (Tottenham) (Lab): My right hon. Friend makes his point very effectively. Does he agree that in cases such as these, continuing litigation could eventually bankrupt someone, and that the organisation is capable of going way too far? What would that mean for our ordinary constituents, who simply would not have the means to defend themselves in similar circumstances?

Keith Vaz: I thank my right hon. Friend for his intervention. I am a little concerned at the number of cases in which someone criticises a serving police officer and ends up being served with a legal notice or threatened with legal proceedings as a result of raising issues of legitimate concern. The Select Committee inquiry will want to look at such cases.

The right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield and his family must have been through a terrible ordeal. It is time to draw a line and move on, and to think about how we can reform the structure, now that the personal issues have been resolved and people have gone to jail or faced misconduct hearings.

Mark Pritchard rose—

Keith Vaz: I will give way, but this will be the last time, because I am mindful of what Madam Deputy Speaker has said.

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Mark Pritchard: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. He mentioned moving on. Does he agree that the fact that carefully placed stories and leaks have found their way into national newspapers ahead of today’s debate does not help to restore public trust in the police service—particularly the Metropolitan police service? It is time to move on, and it is time for the Metropolitan Police Commissioner to get a grip of his officers. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the commissioner ought to have learned from Leveson, and from his previous mistakes in dealing with some parts of the media?

Keith Vaz: Of course I deplore leaks, but we have a free press. And of course it is important that everyone should learn the lessons.

Let me turn to the subject of the debate, the reform of the Police Federation. The Normington report is pretty scathing in its criticism of the federation. It says that it should be changed “from top to bottom”, and talks about the present crisis being the result of strategic failures. Sir David Normington also found that 91% of federation members wanted the organisation to change, so this is not a case of Parliament dictating to the federation and telling it what it should do. I am sure we would all want to step away from doing that. The members themselves are saying that they want change.

We need to ensure that the report’s recommendations are implemented by the current leadership of the federation. I pay tribute to Steve Williams, Steve White and Ian Rennie, the chair, vice-chair and general secretary of the organisation. It was Steve Williams who set up the Normington inquiry; we would not have had an inquiry, had the chairman not decided to do that. I also welcome the fact that they told the Select Committee that they intended to implement every one of Sir David’s recommendations. Our inquiry will commence shortly, and I hope that we will be able to look at the length of time it will take to implement them.

I see that another member of the Committee, the hon. Member for Rochester and Strood (Mark Reckless) is in his place. There were two things that caused the Committee some concern. One was the lack of knowledge about the No. 2 accounts that are being held across all the regions, which the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden mentioned. No one knows the figures involved. I would have thought that the chairman of an organisation as important as the Police Federation would know how much money it was holding locally. He told the Committee that he had written to every regional chairperson to ask for that information, and I hope that they will provide it. If the leadership of the federation is to succeed in implementing the Normington report, as we want it to, it must have that information.

The second issue that struck me and other members of the Committee was the fact that even Steve Williams did not know how many members the federation had, because the database was not up to date. That is also a matter of concern. Surely an organisation that speaks on behalf of thousands of police officers ought to have the names, addresses and e-mail addresses of every single member. That information is kept on a regional basis by the regional chairs and committees, but it is not passed on to the national headquarters, even though the national leadership has to speak on behalf of the federation. I hope that those two important issues will be resolved.

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The leadership issue is an important one. The hon. Member for Skipton and Ripon (Julian Smith) mentioned the need for effective leadership earlier. I want to pay tribute to Paul McKeever, who sadly died at the end of last year. He was a splendid leader of the Police Federation. However, we can have the best leaders in the world, but if the structures are not right, we will not be able to implement change. The Normington report is about changing the structure of the federation, and I think we all agree that it has to change. The federation must also be open and transparent—not necessarily to Parliament, although I would love that to happen. It must be open and transparent to its members. In the end, we are all parts of organisations whose leaderships need to respond to the members, but the members also need to respond when leadership is shown.

I shall end by outlining some of the issues that I hope the Select Committee will look into. These are not agreed terms of reference—those will be agreed at the next meeting—but they are the elements that I think we need to look at. We need to look at the federation’s spending and its use of public money; the contents and usage of the reserves and the federation’s No. 2 accounts; the use of members’ subscriptions by representatives; and the leadership of the federation at national and regional level, including the elections; the current membership and ensuring that the Police Federation’s communications with all members are robust; and ensuring there is co-operation between regional and national boards. We do need to hear from some of the people who work for the federation and have made statements in the public domain—we would like to hear from them at Home Affairs Committee hearings.

Although the Normington report is damning—no organisation would like to read such a report about the way in which it conducts its business—I have confidence that the leadership is going to implement what Normington has said, because it has told the Committee that that is what it wants to do. The role of the Home Affairs Committee is to monitor that and make sure that those good words are translated into good deeds, for the benefit of the federation’s members and the country as a whole.

12.41 pm

Mr Henry Bellingham (North West Norfolk) (Con): It is a great pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz), the Chair of the Select Committee, who speaks many words of wisdom. I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis) on initiating this debate. As he has pointed out, the Police Federation was set up nearly 96 years ago, as part of a concordat between the police and Her Majesty’s Government. A simple deal was struck: in return for not striking and not joining a trade union, the police would have a federation that would have unprecedented access to Ministers and would receive taxpayers’ money. Over many years, the federation built up a superb reputation for being measured, fair-minded and discreet. It built that strong brand, which was the envy of many other representative organisations and trade associations in this country and around the world.

When I first became an MP, the Police Federation actually had parliamentary advisers on both sides of the House, as my right hon. Friends the Members for Haltemprice and Howden and for Sutton Coldfield

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(Mr Mitchell) will well recall. When I first came here, the adviser was the then Member for Bury St Edmunds, Eldon Griffiths, and he was followed by Sir Michael Shersby, the Member for Uxbridge at the time. They were well paid, as indeed was the Labour representative of the Police Federation, they were always called early in debates and they had a status within the House that gave them the chance to speak up for the police. That was accepted as being within the traditions of the House and it was very much part of the concordat struck all those years ago.

As my right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden has pointed out, there has been an incredibly unfortunate downhill spiral, which probably started 20 or 30 years ago, and professional standards have slipped. Part of the blame must lie with the previous Government, who in many ways undermined the police. They lost the confidence of the police on many different issues, not least through their determination to drive through force mergers and the fact that they encouraged the building up of this compensation culture.

My right hon. Friend has listed a large catalogue of examples that point to a totally unacceptable culture within the national Police Federation. I have had a lot of dealings with my local police federation in Norfolk, and I stress that at all times the people there have been totally professional and really impressive. They have gone out of their way to stand up for the interests of members of the constabulary within my constituency, and I do not believe they have ever leaked anything to the press or done anything that would undermine the integrity of the local police federation. Unfortunately, that excellent set of high standards and conduct has not been replicated within the Police Federation nationally. He described a culture of excess, explaining that it is so well exemplified by the new headquarters at Leatherhead and the whole saga of different incidents that have taken place over the past few years.

I wish to discuss two recent incidents that have led to grave concerns. The first is the behaviour of the three Police Federation members who went to the office of my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield in his constituency: Inspector Ken MacKaill, Detective Sergeant Stuart Hinton and Sergeant Chris Jones. Their behaviour was totally and utterly unacceptable. They were shown to have lied and to have misled the Select Committee, and they should have been dismissed immediately.

Mr David Ruffley (Bury St Edmunds) (Con): Does my hon. Friend share my disbelief that when the three midlands officers were invited to give an apology in the Home Affairs Committee they declined to do so?

Mr Bellingham: Indeed. Their performance was utterly abysmal and it brought the federation into huge disrepute.

The other incident relates to what happened outside the gates of No. 10 Downing street. PC Richardson, the officer on duty, was quoted the other day as saying that it was “so wrong” of federation officials to stage-manage the incident. He said:

“It was nothing to do with them. Certain people thought they had a silver bullet with which they could overturn police reforms.

I’m speaking out because I feel I have been betrayed by the leakers, mischief makers and sections of the Federation. It has caused me 18 months of grief and by going public I expect I’ll get a lot more.”

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That speaks volumes about a culture that has to change, and change soon.

In conclusion, we now have the Normington report, which contains a set of positive, constructive recommendations. Every hard-working, decent police officer up and down the country must reclaim their federation and try to restore it to the glory days of the past, when they had a federation that was the envy of every other organisation in this country. The Normington report provides the opportunity to do it, if it is accepted in full and implemented in full.

12.47 pm

Mr David Lammy (Tottenham) (Lab): It is wonderful that the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis) has secured this debate, although it is sad that we have reached a point where there is such deep concern across the House about one of our most noble and great professions. It has been a great privilege for me, over the past year or so, to serve on the police parliamentary scheme and spend time with front-line officers across London and beyond. The scheme continues and I am looking forward to spending time with front-line officers next week. Overwhelmingly, the scheme has confirmed my childhood belief, which began at about the age of nine when I said to my parents that I wanted to be a police officer, that the men and women who serve in our police forces across the country do a fantastic job.

These officers do a fantastic job at a time when, as has been said by the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, morale is pretty low, they feel pretty battered and they feel that contracts forged with them, particularly in relation to their pensions, have been totally changed around them—reform has come, as it has to so many other professionals across this country. I know how these officers deal with the public not just because I was there to see it, but because I have met many hundreds of officers. I have seen how they interact with tricky situations. I have seen how they have dealt with the vulnerable—alcoholics, vagrants, drug addicts. I have seen them do an assortment of things, and I have seen armed officers deal with the huge burden and responsibility of carrying a gun, and it has overwhelmingly left me impressed.

It is against that truth that this discussion and this debate are so important. All of us have had the privilege of travelling to countries where corruption is endemic in the police force. I think of sitting in meetings in Brazil and also of the challenges and problems in eastern Europe. However, we all understand that, in a growing democracy such as ours, how we treat the most vulnerable and the areas of our life where light often does not shine is an indication of the state of our democracy. The day-to-day job of the police is to deal with a small criminal minority—fortunately, it is a small minority in our country. The light often has not shone and certain practices can build up. That is why it is so fundamental that here in this Chamber we are able to shine that light.

Julian Smith: Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the report shows that the light is not shining in the Police Federation on women or on people from ethnic

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minorities? One of the most shocking things about the report is the lack of effort that the federation has made on people and on serving members other than white men.

Mr Lammy: The hon. Gentleman makes his point strongly. That point comes across crystal clear in the report. I was going on to say that many of us have watched in this country as cases involving minorities have often been overlooked. The truth is that there are many cases, some of which emanate from my own constituency, where there have been concerns about the Police Federation and a closed shop, particularly in relation to getting at the truth. However, what is so startling is that what may have been a minority concern has broken into the mainstream. When three officers so blatantly tell mistruths and so blatantly refuse to apologise over an event involving a Cabinet Minister in a country such as this, it must tell us something about a culture of impunity that has become endemic in the system. It must also say something about the necessary reform that must now come. I am pleased, therefore, that the Police Federation has accepted the report’s recommendations. The tipping point must surely have been reached if it has come to pass in this way.

As we have this debate in 2014, it is clear that a number of our institutions need to reform and to look closely at these closed practices. We as Members of Parliament are premier among them. We have had debates about closed practices in the NHS and the need for a stronger whistleblowing culture. In the Leveson report, we saw real concerns about parts of the journalism profession. Now, as we come to the police, we must see an end to those closed practices and to the refusal to get to the truth.

We have such discussions not to attack but out of sadness. The practices under discussion have chronic effects on ordinary people’s lives and they put tremendous pressure on families. It is the nature of any state that it leaves the individuals caught up in this feeling desperately powerless. That is why we juxtapose the situation in which the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell) has found himself with so many others.

Mr Raab: The right hon. Gentleman is making a powerful speech. Does he agree that the way in which the Police Federation uses its funds in litigation is critical to the balanced approach that he is discussing? It is one thing for it to defend its own members from litigation—to use the fund as a shield—but another thing to use those funds as a sword to pursue other people, especially victims or other members of the public?

Mr Lammy: Absolutely. The point is that some of those funds involve taxpayers’ money, which must demand close scrutiny. I am pleased that the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee suggested that scrutiny should be No. 1 on the agenda. It is also the case that the federation has seen fit to go after leading members of our society who are looking at police reform issues. Why is it that it thinks that it can get away with challenging a senior Cabinet Minister? Is it because parliamentarians, MPs and Ministers at this point in the cycle just happen to be a minority group that is up for attack and the federation thinks it can get away with it? There is a connection with the way it might deal with certain types of criminals.

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There is a connection with the way it might deal with some parts of the Irish community in this country, who would say that they have experienced some sharp practices from parts of the Police Federation. I am talking about the notion that, “It is a minority, the public don’t care that much and we can get away with this.” We must challenge that, because the honour of a great profession is at stake. Some £8 million is spent annually in relation to litigation. These are important budgets. We must ensure that they are being used for the right purposes.

I have been concerned, especially in the Duggan case, that officers have been advised by the Police Federation not to give interviews. Attempts to suspend officers facing serious allegations are always fought, whatever the circumstances. If any of us were caught up in a situation that involved the death of another individual, we would not be able to refuse to give an interview. Why would we accord that power to people who are in uniform? This is a very important issue.

One of the fundamentals of our system is the fantastic idea that we have policing by consent. That is at the heart of our police service. Here in London, there are only 32,000 police officers, and a population heading towards 10 million. In reality, it is the 10 million people who work alongside the police who give us that feeling that we are safe almost anywhere in London. The idea is that we police by consent, not by fear as is the case in America or in parts of continental Europe where police officers carry guns. It is an idea that we must treasure and protect. It is grossly undermined when a minority of police officers misbehave, they are not challenged sufficiently, there is not sufficient scrutiny, and there is the sense of a closed shop where even those who are blatantly lying are protected. That is why this report is so important, why the House must look closely at implementing it and why we must revisit these issues not just in Backbench debates over the coming months and years but in debates in Government time where we are absolutely rigorous about protecting this important fundamental of our democracy.

12.59 pm

Sir Richard Ottaway (Croydon South) (Con): It is a pleasure to have heard two excellent speeches from Opposition Members. I particularly welcome the decision of the Home Affairs Committee to look into this matter. In a Parliament that has been dominated by Select Committees, that is welcome. The right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy) has just made an excellent speech. I agree with him that this is not a political issue and that it is not about my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell). Indeed, 99% of police officers are good people to whom still we turn in times of trouble.

Over the past couple of hours I have ascertained that the flooding situation in my constituency is seriously deteriorating, so I hope that you will accept my apologies, Madam Deputy Speaker, and forgive me if I do not stay for the whole debate.

Three words—transparency, accountability and credibility—go to the heart of today’s debate. They ought to describe the values of the Police Federation, which was set up by statute almost 100 years ago to protect the “interests and welfare” of rank and file officers, but they are conspicuously missing according to Sir David Normington’s devastating forensic review.

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Our 21st century Police Federation has become a vehicle for a vocal minority to pursue their own personal agendas. That is punishing not just the public, to whom the independent statutory body is accountable, but some 130,000 members, many of whom are fed up with the antics of the federation reps who are bringing their profession into disrepute. I am struck by an independent poll that has found that 64% of the federation’s members are dissatisfied with its overall performance and 91% believe that it is time for the organisation to change. Those are opinion poll figures that any one of us would die for.

That vote of no confidence will have been consolidated by recent reports of the dismissal of a senior employee— Ms Fiona McElroy, the director of communications—after just three months because she dared to challenge the federation’s finances. Her deputy resigned in protest. As that resignation shows, finances are a touchy subject because cash is key. In Sir David’s words, finances

“are inextricably linked with some of the deeper cultural, structural and operational changes“

that he is trying to bring about. One of his recommendations is to publish for the public to see all accounts from which the federation derives income or to which it contributes revenue. In particular, we need greater transparency about the so-called No. 2 accounts, which are generated from fees in addition to membership subscriptions for additional legal and support services. Those accounts, held by several local federation branches, are worth an estimated £50 million, but they are largely kept off the books. Only 7 out of 43 local federation branches disclose details on their annual return. Why the secrecy? This cynic would say that secrecy is a pretty good way of avoiding scrutiny.

Let me pick up on the point that was made earlier about it being perfectly legitimate for the police to fund legal actions to protect their members. What needs to be scrutinised is why this organisation, which is secretive about its finances, is funding libel actions. It cannot be right for a police officer, who is after all a public servant, to be backed by the might of a multi-million pound outfit that is shrouded in secrecy to sue members of the public who do not have the resources to defend themselves. That seems an improper use of money for a statutory body that was established to look after its members, in cases ranging from misconduct allegations to personal injury claims, and, of course, genuinely to serve the public good.

This week, the human rights group Liberty has spoken out against this “dangerous” precedent, which it believes breaches the right to freedom of expression and other articles under the Human Rights Act. The public must be able to defend themselves against police claims without fear of civil proceedings, and Liberty raises concerns about the “discriminatory inequality of arms”, as police get financial support from the federation. Its excellent director, Shami Chakrabarti, says:

“It would effectively place officers beyond criticism, silencing those wanting to protest their innocence.”

I agree. What right does the federation have to pursue bloody-minded campaigns against individuals? Do these actions serve the public good, or do they serve the interests of the federation’s own members at a time when they are facing major policing reforms and changes to working conditions?

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Sir David’s review described the federation’s opposition to police reforms and personal attacks as “strategic failures” and highlighted the case of my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield, among others, as an example of the extent to which

“some representatives feel they can pursue local action and campaigns regardless of the impact on the wider federation and the views of their colleagues.”

Just reading those words, one realises that they are out of touch. The price they pay is not just bringing the federation into disrepute, but risking the police’s reputation for impartiality and integrity. I cannot agree more with the right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz) that as far as that particular case is concerned, it is time to move on.

The federation’s dual accountability to its members and to the public has always been an implicit part of its statutory purpose. However, implication, by definition, is not a strong enough deterrent for some of the bad practice we have seen. There is evidence in the review that despite regulations containing

“a clear ethos of transparency”

in areas such as funding, for example, the spirit of those regulations is not adhered to.

In my judgment, only legislation can define a clear and non-negotiable core purpose for the federation. Only legislation can compel the federation to review its commitment to serving its members honestly, with integrity and with the public interest at heart, and only legislation can restore trust in the federation.

We know that the federation is resistant to change. Since the publication of Sir David’s review, we have seen nothing concrete to suggest that the federation will adopt its recommendations in full. The federation’s chairman has agreed that “deep cultural change” is needed, but actions speak louder than words, and my suspicion is that no matter how persuasive the proposed reforms are, a “powerful minority” will continue to do everything they can to protect their own positions and self-interest.

In conclusion, today we have an opportunity to give those three words—transparency, accountability, credibility—real meaning. I believe, and I hope that the Minister will take this on board, that legislating is a critical first step for Parliament in testing the federation’s commitment to meaningful change.

1.8 pm

Mr Crispin Blunt (Reigate) (Con): It is a pleasure to follow my parliamentary neighbour, my right hon. Friend the Member for Croydon South (Sir Richard Ottaway). I hope that I will not have to detain the House for too long, as the tenor of my remarks will be completely consistent with everything that has already been said. The direction of travel is extremely clear.

Like the right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy), I have taken part in the parliamentary police scheme and have seen at first hand in both London and Surrey the terrific work that officers do on the front line. I want to pick up on the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Croydon South: 91% of officers want change in their federation. That is an utterly devastating figure. I commend Steve Williams, the chairman of the

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Police Federation, who, as far as I can tell—I am not as close to these people as the Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee—appears to be the driving force in seeking change and commissioning this report.

Let us be in no doubt: the report is utterly devastating. Its authors—Sir David Normington, Sir Brendan Barber, Sir Denis O’Connor and others—are people of enormous public standing who are worthy of our greatest respect. The devastating detail of the report is reflected in stories that are coming out about the federation’s actions, such as the discomfiting behaviour of its representatives on memorial day and the astonishing financial excess whereby £35 million or more in No. 2 accounts is not properly accounted for. I am delighted that the Home Affairs Committee will follow up the report, especially through an inquisition on the use of public money. My right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis) suggested that police officers should receive a dividend from their federation by having their funds returned. The amount involved would be pretty substantial—£500 per police officer—but in these straitened times, the taxpayer probably has an interest, so I hope that the Select Committee’s detailed inquiry will examine whether it would be proper for the taxpayer to receive some restitution.

The federation has completely and utterly failed not only the people it serves in the police, but in its public duty outlined in its founding Act—the Police Act 1919. The federation has a responsibility to the whole country. If the representatives of the police are seen as rotten, what conclusion are we meant to draw about the police force itself? When we go out on the front line, we have the opportunity to see the police at first hand, so we know that most of the time they are doing a difficult job extremely well. It can be difficult to deal with members of the public who demand the highest standards of their police force, but that is precisely the standard that we should expect.

There have been huge strides forward in policing over the past two or three decades. The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 brought about a profound change in policing, as did the reaction to the Macpherson report and the way in which senior officers have tried to lead on the culture of the police. However, in policing, as is the case in the federation, pockets of resistance remain, as do old-fashioned approaches that are simply unacceptable in this day and age. The federation must be a proper representative of all its officers, but it has comprehensively failed in that task.

Let me reinforce the message about the scale of legal actions taken by the federation. It is truly frightening that people can be intimidated so they do not properly criticise and complain about our police force as a result of legal actions initiated by the federation. The situation is so rotten that I understand that, informally within the federation, police officers are encouraged to bring actions that are known as garage or extension actions because the officers end up with a new garage or extension as a benefit of being persuaded to take legal action. Stories also circulate about the incentives that law firms offer policemen to take action. I hope that the Home Affairs Committee’s inquiry will cover such practice on legal action which, frankly, stinks and has an especially unhappy consequence if it makes the police seem to be as defensive and backward looking as the federation has been in its attitude to the public and dealing with straightforward requirements of substantial police reform. I hope that

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there will be at least restraint on decisions about whether legal action should be taken. Perhaps the Police Federation’s insurers should make decisions about whether actions should take place, rather than federation officials themselves aggressively pursuing actions by using their members’ and, no doubt, public money.

There are plainly one or two people in the federation’s senior leadership who are trying to do the right thing, which was why they commissioned this extremely authoritative report, and their evidence to the Home Affairs Committee is that they intend to deliver on all the recommendations. We have heard further ideas during the debate and there will no doubt be more. However, we should be absolutely clear that if the federation does not deliver on the reforms required by the report, it will fall to us to do so for it.

1.15 pm

Michael Ellis (Northampton North) (Con): It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Mr Blunt) and the excellent speeches of hon. Members on both sides of the House. It is clear that something is very wrong in the national Police Federation, and has been for some time. The continual drip-drip effect is reaching its zenith—or, should I say, its nadir—and is causing considerable embarrassment and distress to the rank and file officers of a noble and honourable profession that has brought, and continues to bring, great honour to this country.

Our police service is genuinely the best in the world. It deals with extremely severe threats and incidents. It deals daily with historic episodes and threats to the state and security of this nation, and it does so without being armed and by consent. I am very proud of the profession, and we all can be very proud of it, which is why the Police Federation’s dysfunction is a humiliation to rank and file officers throughout the country. Many officers have told me that if they did not feel that they needed the protection of an organisation such as the federation in case they should get into trouble, they would not choose to be members of it and to pay the exorbitant dues that have caused it to become bloated.

The Police Federation may have started nobly in 1919, but owing to several recent scandals and cover-ups, it has lost that nobility. An opinion poll released only today, which has been the subject of media attention, indicates that a third of people have lost confidence in the police. The lowest level of trust in the police ever now subsists in this country. In large measure, that is due to the disgraceful misconduct of previous leaderships of the federation.

I have had dealings with police officers and my local Northamptonshire federation. They do a good job, but we have to address the egregious examples about which we have heard in the debate before they cause even greater damage to this country and its reputation.

As for the incident at the gates of Downing street, if my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell), then a Cabinet Minister, can be traduced in such a way, in such a location and in such circumstances, what hope is there for any of our constituents, without that authority and without the resources to defend themselves?

The review, chaired by Sir David Normington, has done a good job. It was set up to examine signal failures within the federation. Its report, which was delivered a

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couple of months ago, found fault with almost every aspect of the federation’s operations. I cannot recall a report that was quite so damning. Federation tactics have been a particular source of shame, and I am appalled that, despite the publication of the report in January, they are still going on.

The report states that

“many from outside have criticised its tactics particularly in responding to the Winsor review.”

That was about police pay. The federation

“has too often fallen back on its traditional tendency to attack and try to undermine those who are proposing the changes, rather than take on the issues…This constitutes a strategic failure; the politics of personal attack and shouting has proved to be a wrong-headed response.”

It goes on to say:

“The Federation should be a powerful voice for standards in British policing but at present it is badly placed to be that voice. Throughout our inquiry we have heard allegations that some Federation representatives who have personally targeted successive Home Secretaries, Andrew Mitchell, Tom Winsor and others, bringing the Federation into disrepute and risking the police reputation for impartiality and integrity. We have also been given evidence of bad behaviour within, including poor treatment of staff at HQ and the targeting of representatives in social media, at Conference and elsewhere simply because they hold a different point of view. If the Federation wants to be respected and listened to in the future, this has to stop.”

These are nothing more than bully-boy tactics from those who are in a position to be bullies, and who are hiding behind their position to intimidate others, including democratically elected representatives. It is intolerable that successive Home Secretaries should be subject to this level of personal attack and abuse. The federation is incapable of making the arguments. That is the only explanation for such personal attacks.

I agree with the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee that my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield has been entirely vindicated. I was a barrister in criminal practice for more than 15 years, but the police case was so undermined that no case could rest on it. I understand that my right hon. Friend has already received an apology, and rightly so, from several chief constables, and several police officers now face internal misconduct or gross misconduct charges and one has gone to prison. However, I am appalled, as I know the House will be, that the federation is even now funding litigation that seeks to keep this matter alive.

Keith Vaz: The hon. Gentleman will remember the evidence given to the Committee by the officers from West Mercia, Warwickshire and West Midlands police, whom he cross-examined extremely effectively. He will recall that they had the opportunity to draw a line. Does he not agree that that could be done, even at this late stage, to bring the whole sorry episode to a conclusion?

Michael Ellis: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman, who leads the way in putting Select Committees at the forefront of getting to the issues in this Parliament. An apology is still due, and he is right that those officers’ conduct and appearance before the Committee, on which we both have the honour to sit, was an embarrassment to the Police Federation. I have asked for an inquiry in the Home Affairs Committee, to which the right hon. Gentleman has already alluded, partly because of that, and partly because of the repeated episodes that we still

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hear and read about in the media. For example, the chairman of the Police Federation told the Committee that he did not know the exact figure, but he agreed with my suggestion that there were tens of millions of pounds in the No. 2 accounts. We do not have the answers. These are enormous sums, some of which have been funded by a huge 20% uplift in constables’ dues to the Police Federation. It is a shocking indictment. Meanwhile, £26 million has been spent on a luxurious headquarters that looks like something out of science fiction. Apparently, senior federation officials travelled to Italy to source the right slate for part of the edifice of that structure. Expense accounts have not been published and salaries are not fully disclosed. According to media reports that appear almost daily, Police Federation officials are misconducting themselves, embarrassing themselves, and behaving extremely improperly in regard to their conduct and expenses.

But it is the bully-boy tactics that most concern me, as they will concern hon. Members on both sides of the House. Ninety-one per cent. of members of the Police Federation—an extremely high figure; it is almost unprecedented in opinion polls to get 91% of people to agree with anything—of tens of thousands who apparently answered the questions, want change in their own federation. This change is not being driven by the House or by one political party; this is a cross-party issue and it is being driven by the members of the Police Federation, who want and need change. I do not think that I have ever agreed with the right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy) quite as much as I did when he spoke today.

Policing is an honourable and great profession. We owe the police a great deal, and that is why we want to see their leadership within the Police Federation changed, changed soon, and changed for the better.

1.27 pm

Mark Reckless (Rochester and Strood) (Con): As my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton North (Michael Ellis) said, it is a shocking statistic that 91% of members of the Police Federation demand change. But another shocking statistic from a poll is that only 1% of police officers believe that politicians support the police. It is important that it is understood by police officers in particular that this debate is not Members of Parliament having a go at the police, still less the constables, sergeants and inspectors who do the vast amount of policing work. In terms of even-handedness I would add that last month I was fortunate enough to have a debate in Westminster Hall when we examined the Association of Chief Police Officers, and Members were as excoriating of that organisation as hon. Members have been today of the Police Federation.

The background to the Police Federation is important. We had four police strikes between 1872 and 1919, and the federation was a resolution of the labour discontent involving John Syme and Tommy Thiel, the people who set up the initial police unions, and what was seen in the first world war.

Of my various books on the history of the police, the one that I think contains the best summary of the setting up of the Police Federation is Richard Cowley’s “A History of the British Police.” He writes:

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“The Police Federation was established in 1919 for the ‘purpose of enabling members of the police forces in England and Wales to consider and to bring to the notice of police authorities and the Secretary of State, all matters affecting their welfare and efficiency, other than questions of discipline and promotion affecting individuals’. At long last, for the first time in ninety years, the Police Federation gave the police what they had been agitating for—the right to confer; a representative, negotiating body.

But in granting this, constraints were placed upon it. The right of the police to take strike action was specifically withdrawn, and it was made a criminal offence for any police officer to strike or for anyone to induce him to do so. Thus it was called the Police Federation rather than a police union”.

That is really important in informing what we say today.

We also need to understand that the structures of the Police Federation date all the way back to 1919 and that much of its internal organisation relies upon statute. Those structures have changed significantly less, to put it mildly, than have most organisations and institutions over the past 95 years. That might require Parliament to change some measures in respect of the Police Federation, but I think that ideally any such changes should be led by the federation.

When Stephen Williams gave evidence to the Home Affairs Committee, in contrast to the three officers who appeared before us in our previous inquiry, whom we did not see as representative of the Police Federation—he was elected—we felt that our concerns were being listened to and that he was dealing with the federation’s affairs as openly as he could, subject to some serious constraints. We wish him well in changing that organisation, having commissioned the Normington report. We want to see it pushed through, so it is really important that we do not just have this debate today and then let the issue go off the boil. That is why the Committee is having the inquiry. We have followed up on a number of our inquiries, which I hope will be one mechanism by which we can keep accountability and public reporting of these changes.

Recent reforms to the police have contained so many detailed changes that it can be difficult to keep track. The Police Federation is almost unique in not having unionisation—there are also the armed forces, of course—as the police do not have the right to strike and do not have a union as such. Some of the recent changes for the police have been different from what has happened elsewhere in the public services. To give just one example, the police had their pay increments frozen for two years. That might sound like a small thing, but I do not believe that it is, because across much of the rest of the public sector, despite the vaunted public sector pay freeze and now the 1% maximum increase, public servants have been receiving rises almost automatically year on year as they serve in a post. Those increments push them up pay scales in a way that the police have been specifically excluded from. That is one source of discontent among the police.

Another thing that stands out about the police is that, uniquely in the public services, they cannot be sacked, except for gross misconduct. There is no mechanism by which one can insist that a police officer is made redundant. I thought that we were going to change that. Tom Winsor rightly drew attention to it. The idea that after two years of probation someone has a job for life, or at least for 30 years, has been done away with in every other sector, if indeed it was ever there.

I will enjoy hearing the Home Secretary when she strays beyond her brief and sets out some of the principles that we, as Conservatives, should seek to apply in future.

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It is difficult to reconcile those principles with leaving that “jobs for life” specific legislative exemption for the police while every other employee is potentially subject to that type of dismissal. Once a police officer has a job and has been in probation for two years, irrespective of the level of the crime or the amount of money in the public sector, they have that job and nothing can be done about it. That sets the police apart, and I was looking forward to seeing that changed. I will be disappointed if the Home Secretary does not take that forward.

Another area that we need to look at, in relation to the straitened financial circumstances, is facility time, meaning the number of police officers working on Police Federation business and the amount of their working time that is taken up by it. There have been reductions in police officer numbers overall, as the shadow Minister, the right hon. Member for Delyn (Mr Hanson), vigorously emphasises, although they have not been as great as they might have been, as a result of the efficiencies and changes that we have made, for which the Minister deserves much support. However, when we have had those changes, have we seen similar, and indeed appropriate, reductions in the amount of time spent on Police Federation duties?

Although it is good to have wider consultation, I think that some of the structures of the Police Federation lead to a use of time that is perhaps not the most productive. We need to look carefully at the extent to which police officers could be spending more time on front-line duties and less on that part of federation business that might not be delivering directly the representative benefits that its members need. I hope we will consider that in addition to whether some of the police officers could get back the £500 that it is said is being held on their behalf.

I would like briefly to discuss the No. 2 accounts. I have not seen evidence that anything has been going on within the accounts that should not have been, and still less that there has been any misappropriation of funds—I would like to make it clear that I am not suggesting that there is. However, the very fact that they are known as No. 2 accounts raises, for many people, the idea that money might not be properly accounted for. We hear of people running a second book of accounts in a business: one that is real and one that is for the tax authorities. When people hear of the Police Federation No. 2 accounts, they wonder whether something like that is going on. I have no evidence that it is, but I am concerned that people will draw conclusions that may not be justified until such a time as that money is properly accounted for, the chairman of the Police Federation knows what is going on with those accounts and they are put properly into the public domain. As a body, the Police Federation should not operate only for its members, but act in the public interest.

In talking about the public interest, I think that legal action is an incredibly important area for us to examine. The Chair of the Select Committee, the right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz), spoke earlier about our terms of reference. I strongly questioned the officers who appeared before the Committee on what they were doing with regard to the legal actions. I think that is an area for us to include in our terms of reference and in our report. I do not think that should mean delving into the details of current legal actions, but we should look back and get some baseline about what actions

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the money has been spent on, how often the police defend a member and how often they proactively go out with a sword, as my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton North said, rather than simply defending their officers, making members of the public subject to a legal attack from the Police Federation and funded by it. That is an area of huge concern. We need first to understand how much of that is going on and what the baseline is before we can say what should be done about it.

I worry about how much the law firms involved are earning and on what basis they are given fees and are being commissioned. It is simply not good enough for the federation to say that it looks at the merits of each case and then decides on the basis of the prospects for success. Simply because a case might have a better than even chance of succeeding is not a sufficient reason for engaging in legal action. The federation also needs to take into account its reputation as an organisation, that of the police, the interests of its members, of course, and the public interest. I think that area of legal spending by the federation should be very closely examined.

Ultimately, I wish the chair of the Police Federation, all its elected officers and its members the very best in getting the organisation back into the sort of shape that will mean that both officers and the public can take pride in it.

1.39 pm

Richard Graham (Gloucester) (Con): We have heard some great speeches from colleagues on both sides of the House. I will try to be brief in bringing some additional thoughts to the debate rather than repeating too much of what has already been said so well.

The chairman of the Police Federation called for an independent review of his federation by Sir David Normington, and that was a brave and sensible decision. We have an opportunity to discuss the report and its findings and what it may mean in each of our constituencies. I am therefore grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis) for successfully getting it debated today.

Let me start by summarising some of the report’s key findings. The first covered the whole issue of reform. It found that the federation had

“been a weak voice in the discussions around reforms”

due to indecisiveness and division. It continued:

“It has too often been unable to decide whether to oppose outright or seek changes which help its members.”

Reform is an issue for all of us in public service, and that comment in the Normington report clearly gives the federation an opportunity to take a different view.

On austerity, the report concluded:

“The Federation as a whole”


“trying to resist some of what was inevitable given the wider economic and public context.”

That has been a challenge for all public services, and again there is an opportunity for the federation now to focus on moving forward, recognising some of the reforms that have already been put in place and implemented.

On police pay, conditions and pensions, the report concluded that the federation has fallen back

“on its traditional tendency to attack and try to undermine those who are proposing the changes, rather than take on the issues.”

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I suspect that all of us in our constituencies will have met members of the federation who echoed that tendency.

The report goes on to mention the federation’s habit of personally targeting “successive Home Secretaries, Andrew Mitchell, Tom Winsor and others, bringing the Federation into disrepute and risking the police reputation for impartiality and integrity.” It concluded:

“If the Federation wants to be respected and listened to in the future, this has to stop.”

I think we would all echo that from the point of view of our constituents. It has not been the approach of most of the police officers I know in Gloucester or in Gloucestershire as a whole, but for those who have held those views, the lesson is clear. Other Members have mentioned the views of federation members, particularly the large number who seek change. That aspect is vital, and it is the clue to future reform.

On the views of elected representatives, the report concluded that there was

“a tendency for the workload to fall on a few while others enjoyed the fruits of elected position and with the wish of some to play political games while ignoring the interests of their members.”

That comment could be relevant to all of us in this Chamber, as well as to people in other organisations. Again, it provides an opportunity for change. On the views of external stakeholders, the report concluded:

“Almost all expressed frustration at the negative behaviours and tactics of the Federation”.

That issue must also be tackled. Again, having it so clearly spelled out in the report gives the chairman an opportunity to take reform forward.

This leads on to constituency feelings and what happens close to home for all of us. MPs, bankers and estate agents compete for the occupation that is generally held in least regard and most contempt, and I would not wish for the police to join us in that league. The key locally for all of us is to enhance the reputation of our office through hard work and integrity. Although I, like others here, still have bruising e-mails and letters from a few officers in the constabulary who perhaps saw an opportunity to use plebgate as a negotiating tool during talks on police reforms, I do not believe that anything like plebgate could ever have happened in Gloucestershire. Our constabulary would never contemplate that sort of political stitch-up, which, as so often with conspiracies, has turned out to be a huge own goal.

Locally, our constabulary are rightly focused on the major problems of human and drug trafficking, reducing crime, and sorting out antisocial behaviour. The police community support officers are our bobbies on the street—the community face of the law—and they build confidence in our police and all the experts who are seen less often because they work behind the scenes. I am grateful for what all members of the Gloucestershire constabulary do in resolving these vital issues in our city. Crime is down in Gloucester, and that is what matters. That is also why I will be delighted—through the wider police service parliamentary scheme, which offers us all an opportunity better to understand policing—to spend time this year with our constabulary seeing what police officers learn, how they train, and how they pursue their aims.

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The conclusion of the Normington report has 36 recommendations. They deal with issues that have been raised by other Members, including the transparency of the No. 2 accounts, which hold £35 million, and call for a 25% reduction in federation members’ 2015 subscriptions, which I suspect many police officers across the country would welcome. Above all, they call for an ambitious programme of reform, noting that the Police Federation itself commissioned this independent review in order to set and take control of the agenda. The test now, as the report concludes, is whether the federation can show the same leadership in implementing this reform programme.

The motion calls for the Government to implement the recommendations of the Normington report. I call instead for the Police Federation to implement the recommended reforms and for us, as parliamentarians, to give them all our support in doing so. As the report concluded, this is something worth striving for. It is what federation members most want, and it is now for their representatives to work together to deliver it. At this stage, it is not for the Government to interfere but rather to support and encourage, and that is what I will be doing locally.

1.47 pm

Jacob Rees-Mogg (North East Somerset) (Con): Usually when reports are called for by bodies, they come out with anodyne statements saying that everything is pretty marvellous. It is a rare civil servant who comes out boldly and states what he views as the unvarnished truth. Sir David Normington’s report is absolutely stunning in its conclusions. Although my right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis) mentioned this, it is worth repeating: a statutory body—I repeat, a statutory body—used its powers to target personally

“successive Home Secretaries, Andrew Mitchell, Tom Winsor and others, bringing the Federation into disrepute and risking the police reputation for impartiality and integrity.”

That is an enormously damning statement to have been made about a body that has particular rights and protections by statute. Yet it is worse than that, because this body that behaves in such a way—the Police Federation—finds that many of its members, while they still look to it to represent them in times of difficulty or crisis, say that they would not otherwise pay their subscriptions. In an independent report that one might usually have expected to be relatively anodyne, the voice of policing is utterly damned by both its actions and the view of its members.

What concerns me most is the constitutional aspect. We know that the federation conspired, lied and leaked to remove a Cabinet Minister from office. We know this because we have the transcript of the meeting that took place with my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell) in his own constituency, and the response after that meeting of Inspector Ken MacKaill, who said:

“I think Mr Mitchell has no option but to resign.”

At that point, therefore, a statutory body representing the police, who have very particular powers under our constitution, was conspiring to bring down a Cabinet Minister. That is what happens in third-world countries, where the democratic rights of the people are overtaken by the forces of law and order, which intervene to have the type of government that they want, rather than the type of government that the people want. It is such a dangerous position to have got into when a body that

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has particular protections and a place in the state is able to abuse them and undermine the very constitution that gives them those powers.

That is also very damaging, as the right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz) and others have said, to the concept we have in this country of policing by consent. When the police force was set up, there was great concern that having a permanent, paid police force would undermine basic civil liberties. The feeling was that they would be used to develop a police state, act as an arm of the Government, enforce laws unfairly and harass people, and that they would, therefore, lead us to being a less free society. We have been very lucky that that has not occurred and that the police have, by and large, been very responsible.

I am very glad that my right hon. Friend the Minister for Policing, Criminal Justice and Victims is sitting on the Front Bench and will respond to the debate, because he himself felt so personally and directly an abuse of the police’s power when they came into the Houses of Parliament—a royal palace—to search the office of an Opposition spokesman. We have, therefore, seen the leadership of the police—once involving the federation and once not—using their exceptional and extraordinary power to arrest an Opposition spokesman and to force from office a Cabinet Minister.

That should worry us extremely gravely, because our constitution works on the basis that we are a free society with a civilian police force that plays no part—no role—in the political life of the nation. That is why it has to have a Police Federation that is outside the political ambit, that is not a trade union—and that, therefore, might be supportive of a particular political party—and that is not able to strike because it is not able to wield its power in a way that could appear to be politically motivated. It is given special privileges and protections, but the Police Federation has abused them not just once but, as we have discovered, systematically in its approach to Home Secretaries of both parties and, indeed, Tom Winsor.

The report sets out the problems with extraordinary clarity and certainty. It also sets out what it perceives as being the solutions, but my goodness we should worry if membership of the Cabinet is decided not by the will of people, but by a conspiracy of dishonest members of the Police Federation. We should also worry, as other hon. Members have said, that if it can happen to my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield—one of the most senior Ministers in the Government at the time and one of the Prime Minister’s closest confidants—which of us going about our lawful business and which of our constituents, who do not have the protections of being a Member of Parliament, can feel safe?

That is the real problem of leadership in the Police Federation and perhaps more broadly in the Metropolitan Police. We all see at our local level and, indeed, in the Palace of Westminster the finest standards of traditional policing. There is a disconnect between the constable level and those who seek to lead them. It is damaging our constitution and it needs to be reformed.

1.54 pm

Mr Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth East) (Con): It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for North East Somerset (Jacob Rees-Mogg). I pay tribute to many of my colleagues for their comments. The words

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“change” and “reform” have been used a lot in this debate and I want to focus not on specific events, but on how the force needs to evolve. The Police Federation is made up of different levels, including constables, sergeants and inspectors, who make up the majority of the police force. If change is to come about, they must embrace it.

In a fast-changing world, I think we would all call ourselves reformers, but there are, perhaps, two kinds: those who want reform and those who want reform but not now. I wonder which category the Police Federation falls into. If we observe any major traffic incident, we will see that the efficiency and ease with which all three of our blue-light services work together—the gold-silver-bronze command structure—is extremely impressive. However, if the incident is more complex and involves other agencies or wider geographical areas—such as the tragedies at King’s Cross, the events at Buncefield, the 2007 floods and the 7/7 terrorist attacks—an altogether more complicated wiring diagram is relied upon, which attempts to link together organisations, agencies and Government Departments by using complex processes and protocols that have been built over decades, but that urgently need to be updated. They are so embedded that successive Governments have been reluctant to address them.

The Police Federation must appreciate that there are cultural and technical shortcomings that affect the ability of different constabularies to work together and with other agencies. Even today, different voice procedures are used in the 43 constabularies in different parts of the country. When Cobra sits, decision making is swift, as we have seen over the past few days, but when it breaks there are 43 separate police forces, 46 separate fire services and hundreds of local authorities running separate independent local resilience forums without any formal co-ordination from above.

We can all be very proud of the London 2012 Olympics. It was the largest and most complex event the nation has ever hosted and it was incident free, thanks to the years of preparation for a time-limited event and the additional resources and structures that have now largely been dismantled. The federation needs to appreciate that. I hope it will start to appreciate that there are strategic, operational and financial efficiencies to be gained from not only simpler and stronger ministerial leadership, but the streamlining of policy formulation and unambiguous inter-agency operational command at both national and local levels.

The federation recognises and is in fact involved in the Joint Emergency Services Interoperability Programme, designed to improve joint doctrine. The federation must appreciate that if a forum such as JESIP needed to be created, there is something wrong with the way in which our emergency services work together. Given the types of natural and man-made threats we now face, it is time to overhaul our resilience capability, from the local resilience forums—the basic emergency decision-making units found in every county—all the way to Cobra at the top.

Mark Reckless: Will my hon. Friend explain what specific role he sees the Police Federation playing in assisting that process?

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dawn Primarolo): Order. Before the hon. Member for Bournemouth East (Mr Ellwood) answers that, may I say to him that this

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debate is about the Normington report on reform of the Police Federation and that the debate on the police was yesterday? He needs to focus on the Normington report and not every so often in a sentence say, “Police Federation,” to make himself in order.

Mr Ellwood: I accept your guidance, Madam Deputy Speaker. I am also conscious of the time and that the Front Benchers want to conclude this debate.

My hon. Friend the Member for Rochester and Strood (Mark Reckless) makes an important point. The changes I have discussed can come about only if the federation itself embraces them. As we have heard again and again today, it has been an obstruction against, and a hurdle for, those changes. My hon. Friend is right to ask the question, but it needs to be put to the federation itself so that it can address what it needs to do to recognise the changes needed.

In conclusion, the Police Federation has an important role to play—from bottom up, not just top down. If changes are to take place and if we are to see greater collaboration between constabularies, that needs to be embraced and promoted by the federation itself. Even with the advances in communications and technology, traditional practices across the police force, as well as those between all three emergency services, have resulted in a silo mentality and a convoluted web of interoperability that successive Governments have been deterred from overhauling. The longer we wait, the more complicated it becomes to improve inter-service procurement, training, operations and ministerial oversight. I believe that the Police Federation will rise to the challenge of reform, and I hope that it will consider some of the ideas and solutions proposed in this debate.

2 pm

Mr David Hanson (Delyn) (Lab): I welcome you to the Chair, Mr Deputy Speaker, at the end of a very good debate. I congratulate the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis) and his colleagues on securing this timely debate. I pass on the apologies of my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Jack Dromey), who is the official Opposition spokesperson on policing matters. He has a long-standing constituency engagement, so I have been repatriated back from immigration to police matters to wind up the debate.

I declare a sort of interest, in that as a former police Minister and as the then shadow Minister, I met Sir David Normington and members of his review team to give them my private view of the issues we are debating today. I am glad that the analysis that has come out—there is broad consensus on it across the House—is what I shared with Sir David at my meeting with him.

There is common consensus not only about the issues raised in the Normington report, but about how the police do a good job in very often dangerous and difficult circumstances. The hon. Member for Bournemouth East (Mr Ellwood) has just mentioned that point, as did the hon. Member for Northampton North (Michael Ellis), my right hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy), the hon. Member for Reigate (Mr Blunt) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz); I look forward to his Select Committee’s report on this matter.

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I had the very great privilege of attending the bravery awards, as the Minister will have done, for officers who have put their lives and limbs at risk in very dangerous circumstances. There is no officer who does not wake up every day of the week potentially to face a life-threatening situation or to have to seek a depth of courage that none of us in this Chamber has to experience. Even this week, police officers have been deployed to deal with floods and serious crimes. If the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden was in his place, I would tell him that every year I have had the privilege of attending memorial services for officers who have given their lives for their community. The police memorial services that I have attended have been dignified, solemn events, at which the police have paid tribute to their fellow officers.

On behalf of Her Majesty’s Opposition, I welcome the fact that the Police Federation itself commissioned the Normington report. I also welcome the fact that the Police Federation recognises that mistakes have been made and that it might be out of touch with its members, as has been discussed, and that it has acknowledged the need for reform. As has been expressed from both sides of the House, the Police Federation independent review is a candid, frank, hard-hitting and strong report. The hon. Member for North East Somerset (Jacob Rees-Mogg) referred to that in his speech. The report looks in detail at how the federation operates and how its membership is represented, as well as at its structures, finance and professionalism, and it makes 36 wide-ranging recommendations for change.

We should remember a point that has been slightly lost in the debate, which is that Sir David Normington and his team were commissioned to produce the report by the Police Federation itself. Even given what hon. Members have said, there is scope for the federation to reflect on the report and its contents.

I spoke this morning to Steve Williams, who is the chair of the Police Federation. He happens to be from my local North Wales police, where he has been a senior officer for many years. He has been officially in post as chair only since last May, but he took over after the sad death of Paul McKeever in January. I think that he recognises the concerns expressed from both sides of the House about the need for reform and review. I know from talking to him that since the report was published that the Police Federation has held meetings across the whole of England and Wales this week in a two-day examination of the recommendations. I think that there is clear support for the direction of travel, and I hope that when the federation meets in May matters can be resolved in a way that meets the aspirations of every hon. Member who has spoken today.

Mr Ruffley: Is it the right hon. Gentleman’s understanding that the Police Federation has adopted all the Normington recommendations in full?

Mr Hanson: I have only had a brief conversation with the chair this morning, but I know that the Police Federation is trying to decide a response to put to its conference in May. I am not a member of the federation or party to its discussions, so I can do no better than to repeat the Home Secretary’s words at Home Office questions two weeks ago. She said:

“It is important that the federation has had the review.”

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She went on that if changes are required, the Home Office would

“stand ready to work with the federation on them.”

She also said that the chair wanted

“properly to review the federation’s role and whether it represents officers”,—[Official Report, 27 January 2014; Vol. 574, c. 651.]

but that it is for the Police Federation, which initiated the review, to look at such issues. In his speech, the hon. Member for Rochester and Strood (Mark Reckless) reflected that the Police Federation should have a chance to look at the issues.

The hon. Members for Gloucester (Richard Graham) and for North West Norfolk (Mr Bellingham) and the right hon. Member for Croydon South (Sir Richard Ottaway) have all supported the recommendations. On behalf of the official Opposition, I want the federation to look very closely at resolving to support the recommendations, which include the important issues of having a revised core purpose; an annual public review of value for money; national guidelines on expenses, honoraria and hospitality; the publication of all expenses and of accounts; guidance for local forces about committee papers; a director of equality and diversity, which was a point made by the hon. Member for North West Norfolk; a rolling three-year equality plan; and an examination of professional standards, as well as ensuring that there is proper capacity of professional staff at head- quarters. The creation of an executive team, proper governance and decision making, a new professional means of selecting the general secretary and the election of the chair by the whole membership are positive recommendations to which I hope the federation will respond positively.

There may be some water between Government Members and me on the fact that I take the view that the Police Federation is a body in its own right, and that the best person to reform it is the federation itself. If it does not, there will certainly be matters for this House to look at, but only in due course.

The report relates to police professionalism and the need for reform more generally. The Police Federation needs to be part of that reform. The Independent Police Commission report on the future of policing, chaired by Lord Stevens, was established by my right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper).

Mr Ellwood: On the right hon. Gentleman’s point about general reform, does he agree that it cannot be pushed by the Government or from up in Westminster? It could be argued that Dorset constabulary is now too small to exist on its own, but mergers or greater collaboration are hindered by grass-roots policing. Does that indicate that we should start to consider such general reform?

Mr Hanson: When I was lucky enough to hold the post of police Minister in the previous Government, I supported voluntary mergers—for example, between Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire. That was stopped not by the Police Federation, but by the elected members of what were then police authorities. The members did not want mergers, although the chief constables and the Police Federation were happy for them to happen. However, I digress slightly from the Normington report.

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Reform is important, because we need professionalism and standards in officers. We need officers to be registered in relation to their core professionalism, and we need the potential to withdraw registration if officers transgress, as they occasionally do. They have done so in the case of the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell), with an officer now serving a prison sentence because of his actions. It is important that such standards are set in place.

It is important, as Members have said, that there is diversity in Government action. It is particularly important, as the Stevens report mentioned, that the relationship between the media and the police improves. All contact between police officers and the media must be recorded. That will have an effect on the potential for transgressions.

I am conscious of the time and of the fact that we still have to hear from the Minister and the hon. Member for Bury St Edmunds (Mr Ruffley). The official Opposition believe that much of Sir David Normington’s report is welcome and we want the Police Federation to address the points that it raises. Steve Williams has had the confidence to take on the issues in the federation and I wish him well in seeing that through. I look forward to the federation responding to the issues in May. I will let my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington deal with this matter from the Front Bench when the report is examined and, I hope, implemented in due course.