The shadow Home Secretary raised several concerns about whether the Bill would lead to cheap policing by the back door and the convergence of roles. I remind

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him that the fire department in New York conducts both the fire and emergency response that one would expect from a normal fire brigade and also runs the ambulance service in New York. There is no blurring of roles. The ambulance crews are explicitly ambulance crews and the fire crews are explicitly fire crews. It is only at the top of the organisation, with emergency call handling, mobilising, deployment, finance procurement and so forth, that there is convergence. I hope that such a model will be replicated here.

The Bill represents absolutely the right direction of travel. I have seen how cluttered and ungainly the current system is. It is absolutely right that we move to much clearer, cleaner lines of accountability, and I commend the Bill to the House.

7.41 pm

Liz Saville Roberts (Dwyfor Meirionnydd) (PC): The Bill legislates to deliver some of the Tory manifesto’s policing commitments. The people of England voted for that manifesto, and the people of England are within their rights to expect to see those commitments delivered. The people of Scotland did not vote for those commitments, and the people of Scotland will rightly not be subject to the greater part of these reforms, because policing is devolved to the Scottish Parliament. The people of Wales did not vote for the Tory manifesto either, but they will have no choice but to accept what London tells us to do in the greatest part of our policing.

Plaid Cymru sees no reason whatsoever why police priorities should be dictated by the UK Parliament and not the Welsh Parliament—the National Assembly. Given that policing is devolved to Scotland and Northern Ireland, we see no reason why it cannot be devolved to Wales. What is it that makes Wales an exception? The four Welsh police forces are unique within the UK. They are non-devolved bodies operating within a largely devolved public services landscape. They are thus required to follow the dual and diverging agenda of two Governments. Additionally, all four forces in Wales reflect the need to provide a service in Welsh and English. North Wales police does this with great effectiveness and is held up as a model among public sector organisations in Wales for its language training support and initiatives.

Transferring responsibility to the Welsh Government would not be the tectonic shift that many in this House claim it would be. Relationships between the Welsh forces and UK services such as the police national computer and the Serious Organised Crime Agency would continue as at present, as is the case in Scotland. Why should not the people of Wales be given the same democratic freedom enjoyed by the people of Scotland? Doing so would lead to greater clarity and efficiency by uniting devolved responsibilities, such as community services, drugs prevention and safety partnerships, with those currently held by the UK Government.

It is not just Plaid Cymru saying this. The Silk commission was established by the Tories and comprised all four main political parties in Wales, including the Conservative party. Its members spent two years consulting the public, civil society, academia and industry experts on the powers necessary to empower and strengthen Wales. It received written evidence, heard oral evidence and visited every corner of Wales. It heard evidence

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from the police themselves and from the Police Federation calling for the devolution of policing, and the report recommended accordingly.

I note that the Labour party in Cardiff has today published an alternative Wales Bill calling for the devolution of policing. I welcome the Welsh Labour party’s U-turn, although it appears to have been immediately flushed down the U-bend by the Westminster party. That is hardly surprising, and today’s response will serve to remind people in Wales only that Labour vetoed the devolution of policing last year. Indeed, it is evidence that Labour says one thing in Wales and is not listened to by the party here in Westminster.

The Bill provides an opportunity to bring Wales into line with the rest of the UK. Had that been done before the 2010 election, Wales, like Scotland, would have been spared the unnecessary imposition of elected police and crime commissioners. The people of Wales did not want them and only 14.9% of us voted in those elections.

That said, I would like to take this opportunity to raise the significance of how we equip the police to deal with another issue, which a number of Members raised earlier: the growing threat of cybercrime, which affects every police force. Indeed, the College of Policing estimates that half of all crimes reported to front-line police staff now have a digital element. I hope to present a ten-minute rule Bill on Wednesday that would simplify the present complexity of statute, as well as showing the need to improve the training of criminal justice professionals in matters relating to digital crime. Given that only 7,500 police officers out of a total of 100,000 in England and Wales have yet received such training, I am disappointed that the Government’s Bill has not yet been used as an opportunity to remedy a lack of understanding and an ambiguous interpretation of existing laws to protect the public against cyber-abuse and fraud.

7.46 pm

Kit Malthouse (North West Hampshire) (Con): It is a great pleasure to come so far down the batting order because we get to hear what everyone else has to say, and I was particularly pleased to hear the right hon. Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham). He and I were brought up in the same city at the same time, although we obviously had different reactions to the years of Militant and Derek Hatton, with me being radicalised in one way and he, unfortunately, the wrong way.

It is a great pleasure to support this Bill because it finishes the job of policing reform. When I was deputy Mayor for policing in London I was, of course, in the thick of it during the great years of policing reform that saw the creation of police and crime commissioners. In many ways, I am the Home Secretary’s very own Frankenstein’s monster because I was the first creation of the Bill that reformed the governance of policing to produce the statutory deputy Mayor for policing in London.

One thing that frustrated me immensely in doing that job was my inability to compel, cajole or encourage some of the other people who were sitting in the same control room, rushing to the same emergencies, flashing the same blue lights—effectively doing broadly the same job—to collaborate. It seems extraordinary, does it not, when those people seem to work so closely together,

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that we have to legislate here to compel exactly that collaboration between forces that are in the broadest sense doing the same things.

I therefore believe that the Bill provides a big opportunity to establish and embed among the security forces the idea that they should all work together much more closely. I shall go through some aspects of the Bill and I shall add some tweaks and nuances along the way, in the hope that Ministers might consider what I have to say later in the Bill’s progress. Collaboration is one important element in that context.

One service in particular—it is not an emergency service—gives us an opportunity to include it in the family of collaborative services dealing with emergencies and crime in their widest sense. I am talking about probation. It is often the case that police officers deal with exactly the same human beings as does the probation service, yet at the moment the collaboration between the two is broadly voluntary. I would like the Minister to consider the idea that probation should be included in this compulsion for collaboration, alongside some of the other emergency services, because I think it could have a big impact on criminal justice generally.

Bob Stewart: As I listen to my hon. Friend’s description, I am thinking of an incident on the ground. I am reflecting on the fact that without proper co-ordination, there might not be anyone in charge. I assume that SOPs— standard operational procedures—will automatically appoint someone in charge. That will be decided very quickly at a major incident.

Kit Malthouse: My hon. Friend is exactly right. As he knows, a gold commander will be appointed, and more often than not it is the senior police officer in charge of the incident. Control is taken, certainly in London, through the control room, in tandem with the fire office and other emergency services required. The system already operates in emergencies, and the fact that we are having to outline that in legislation seems extraordinary, although nevertheless necessary.

When I was chairman of the Metropolitan Police Authority, I was astonished by the sheer time involved in dealing with complaints. There were reams of paper and endless committee meetings. My hon. Friend the Member for Braintree (James Cleverly) sat through hours and hours of many of those complaints hearings, some of which were frivolous and some not, but all of which, hopefully, were taken seriously. Any measure that streamlines the complaints system should be welcomed by all, police officers included.

I think that the idea of super-complaints is a knockout. As chairman of the Metropolitan Police Authority and deputy Mayor for policing, I would receive, endlessly, what were essentially super-complaints from charities and other organisations claiming that systematic problems involving the police needed to be addressed. If we could find a way of organising mini-inquiries into some of those issues—which is, essentially, what super-complaints would be—we might secure quicker resolutions.

One of the big issues, which the police themselves resolved in the end, was the investigation of rape. It became clear that the way in which the police investigated rape was seriously deficient, and that rape victims were not being dealt with properly at the front end—the inquiry desk at the police station. Once the mounting

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voices of complaints became so loud that the police had to do something, strangely enough, we secured change straight away. I think that if a charity involved in women’s welfare, or indeed men’s welfare, were able to lodge a super-complaint—rather like the Office of Fair Trading, or the Competition and Markets Authority—the issues could be resolved much more swiftly.

There is no doubt that one of the things that have undermined confidence in the police is the idea that someone can resign just before being subject to disciplinary action. We have seen police officers do that time and again, and they are often in collusion with a leadership that does not want to become involved in a significant inquiry into someone’s conduct. The extension by 12 months seems about right to me. There might be a case for 24 or 36 months, although I think that a lifetime might make matters more rather than less complicated. The extension beyond retirement is certainly welcome.

There will be rejoicing across the land at the final abolition of the Association of Chief Police Officers, in word if not in deed. It is great to see ACPO finally erased from the statute book, for all sorts of reasons. However, there is one small tweak that I would quite like the Minister to consider. One of the duties that are to be transferred to the new Chief Officers Council, or whatever it is called, is the requirement to co-ordinate the national police response to national emergencies. I was on the eighth floor of Scotland Yard on the Monday night of the 2011 riots, listening to the present Metropolitan Police Commissioner—who was then acting Deputy Commissioner—ringing all his mates in the police forces and asking whether they had any spare coppers to deal with the riot as 22 of London’s 23 boroughs went up in flames. It became clear to me that the idea of voluntary co-ordination was never going to be entirely seamless. I think that devising some method of compelling police forces, in extremis, to send officers to the aid of cities, or other areas, that needed them—rather than that being done on the basis of an understanding between police forces—would be useful for future resilience.

I welcome the proposed changes in the treatment of 17-year-olds in police custody. I think we are slowly beginning to realise that 16 and 17-year-olds are in a particular position of vulnerability: that they are still children in the eyes of the law, but are being treated inconsistently with that. The changes in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 that will allow them to be treated as children, and given the protections that are afforded to children, are extremely welcome. They weave into a general theme, which is building up in the House and which has been mentioned earlier in the debate, concerning the status of 16 and 17-year-olds in the law generally. Like the Children’s Society, I believe that we should extend protections to that group.

I also think that we should consider extending child abduction warning notices to 17-year-olds, because they are often useful in that context. Either during the later stages of this Bill or during the stages of a sentencing Bill, if one is forthcoming, I shall be looking into the possibility of protecting those children through a general aggravated sentencing framework relating to offences against children, as well as the possibility of extending sentencing for child cruelty.

I greatly welcome the extension and strengthening of licensing conditions. I think that it is a fantastic move. As we all know, alcohol is an enormous driver of

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offending, and an enormous absorber of police time. The recent pilot trialling the alcohol abstinence monitoring orders in Croydon was so successful that the Minister has extended it to the whole of London, and we hope that it will subsequently be extended to the rest of the United Kingdom. However, there are a couple of tweaks that I would like the Minister to consider, because I think that they could make this tool really effective.

The first of those tweaks relates to police bail. Conditions apply to it, but, at present, none of them is a requirement to abstain from alcohol. I think that a huge volume of work that is currently dealt with in magistrates courts and beyond could be removed if the police could offer offenders the option of police bail on condition that they wore an alcohol monitoring bracelet for one, two or three months. If offenders breached that requirement, they would effectively be breaking the terms of their bail, and could end up in the criminal justice system as they did before. Vast swathes of paperwork in the magistrates courts would be reduced at a stroke. The police would have the power to manage alcohol on a real-time basis in their own communities.

Mike Penning: One of the privileges of being the Minister for Policing, Crime and Criminal Justice is being part of the Ministry of Justice as well as the Home Office. What my hon. Friend is talking about, essentially, are out-of-court disposals, and I think that we are moving in that direction rather than in the direction of police bail when it comes to such matters as sobriety bracelets.

Kit Malthouse: I welcome the Minister’s support. He has been a great proponent of the use of such bracelets, and I think that one of his first acts in office was to extend their use. I do not really mind how the bracelets get on to a person’s ankle. We know from the Croydon pilot that they are 92% effective. I do not mind whether this is done by means of out-of-court disposal or police bail, as long as it is done swiftly. We know that the best kind of criminal justice is swift and certain, and the bracelets are exactly that.

In the context of alcohol abstinence monitoring orders, there is another tweak that I should like the Minister to consider. In the United States, a system has been highly successful, and is spreading across the whole country like a virus. Authorities are allowed to charge for physical testing. People turn up twice a day to blow into bags to prove that they have not been drinking, and they pay a buck a test, which finances the whole project. It is self-financing: the polluter pays. That is a brilliant principle. We do not have such a power in this country, but it would be wonderful if we could insert it in the Bill. In the case of the pilot in London, the Mayor had to put in half a million quid and the Secretary of State for Justice had to put in another half a million. Instead, we could start this project and charge the criminals for their own disposal. Surely that makes sense. The money is money that those people would be spending on alcohol anyway, and they would be saving it because they would not be drinking: they would be wearing the bracelets. We know that the model works in the United States.

I am a great supporter of the Bill. I shall be monitoring its progress during all its stages over the next few weeks, and I hope that the small and helpful tweaks that I have suggested will somehow make it into a Bill which, as a result, would go from being good to being great.

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7.58 pm

James Berry (Kingston and Surbiton) (Con): The Conservative Government were elected on a manifesto commitment to finish the job of police reform. Having worked for the last eight years or so primarily in police law—and I should declare that I have represented many police forces, and lecture at the College of Policing—I have some knowledge of the subjects that we are discussing. I was pleased to be elected on the basis of that manifesto.

Let me recap what has been achieved by the Conservative Government, and, previously, the coalition, over the last five years. Police and crime commissioners have brought local democracy and accountability to policing. A police misconduct system has meant that, for the first time, hearings have been open to the public, there have been independent legal chairs, and there is a disapproved register of officers who have been dismissed and cannot seek re-admittance. A National Crime Agency has been established to tackle organised crime, and is now headed by the excellent Lynne Owens. A College of Policing has been established to improve police training and guidance, beefing up Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary, and the Association of Chief Police Officers has been reformed to become the National Police Chiefs Council, led by the excellent Sara Thornton.

Our manifesto, however, included a promise to finish that job of police reform, to overhaul the police complaints system, to develop the role of police and crime commissioners, and to encourage closer collaboration between the police and other blue light services. And, as I said in my own election literature, we need to ensure that we give the police the tools they need to do their job, because crime and criminals are always changing and we must do what we can to minimise legislative drag. The amount of police-related legislation that has come through this House in the past five years shows that this Home Secretary is very much committed to doing that. I want to speak to those four key themes briefly if I may.

My first point relates to the police complaints system. The whole purpose of the system is to increase public confidence in the honourable profession of policing. The Chapman review found that the system was complex and lacking in transparency, but it did not need a retired major general to work that out. If the system cannot be understood by the public, let alone by police professional standards departments, it will not command their confidence.

There is a clear case for simplification, and I am pleased to say that that is being realised in at least six areas of the Bill. Replacing the dichotomy between a complaint and a direction and control matter with a mere expression of dissatisfaction will remove a misunderstanding that has resulted in many appeals and legal challenges. The confusion over whether a complaint should be recorded at all has led to a number of appeals and legal challenges, but now, virtually every complaint will be recorded. The introduction of a single route of appeal, with the appellate body having to decide whether a complaint has been handled in a reasonable and proportionate way, will remove the five avenues of appeal which were confusing to individuals without legal representation.

Furthermore, having all complaints against chief officers dealt with by the Independent Police Complaints Commission will resolve the need to refer matters to

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other police forces and ensure that when the most senior officers are the subject of a complaint, those complaints are dealt with entirely independently. Additionally, there will be a presumption in all kinds of complaints being investigated by the IPCC that the investigation will be an independent one rather than a directed one. It is important, however, that where the IPCC takes control of an investigation and has the power to decide whether a matter should be referred to a misconduct panel, the appropriate authority—the chief constable—should be consulted and the consultation should be genuine. There are cases in which the IPCC might say that the officer does not need to be referred to a misconduct panel but the appropriate authority thinks that the officer should be so referred. In such cases, the appropriate authority in the force is far better placed to know what the local standards and priorities are.

I am also pleased to see the beefing up of protection for police whistleblowers. The police conduct regulations include a duty on police officers to report misconduct by their colleagues, but this is obviously a difficult standard to follow where there is a threat or perceived threat of reprisals. This beefing up of protection is very important in that regard.

Another important feature of the Bill is the extension of Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary’s powers to non-police organisations that perform what were traditionally police roles. The public have a right to expect that where public functions are outsourced, a service that receives taxpayers’ money to perform those services will do so no less professionally and will be monitored no less rigorously than before. HMIC having the power to extend its investigations to private companies is therefore very welcome indeed.

I must respond to a point made by the hon. Member for Barrow and Furness (John Woodcock). I am sure that it was well intended, but I think he perhaps misunderstood my intervention and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Braintree (James Cleverly). Case law relating to professional regulation across all fields—doctors, dentists, nurses, barristers, solicitors, police officers—makes it quite clear that the purpose of sanctions in professional regulation is to maintain the reputation of and public confidence in the profession, not to punish the registrant. In my view, therefore, it would be wrong to suggest that a sanction that was not available when someone was serving in office when disciplinary proceedings took effect should be greater than that for someone who is still in office.

The hon. Member for Barrow and Furness went on to talk about the docking of pensions. The police have the power to do that when an officer is convicted of a criminal offence. There may well be a case for extending that power and adding it has a power at first instance, but I do not see how such a power could be used differently depending on whether an officer had retired at the time the misconduct came before the panel. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman says that he did understand my point but did not agree with it. Fair enough. His point is certainly worth exploring, but I think that it would cut against the nature of the police conduct regulations, which in respect of sanctions have remained unchanged for a very long time, and against the whole thrust of case law in the field of professional discipline.

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Jake Berry: On this specific issue, does my hon. Friend think it is worth exploring extending the slightly arbitrary 12-month period after retirement during which someone can be pursued? Should the fact that someone has been retired for 12 months mean that they can escape punishment?

James Berry: On this issue, the Berrys are ad idem.

My second point relates to developing the role of police and crime commissioners. I entirely agree that PCCs should have a greater role in the complaints system. That will add a level of independence to it, and they, rather than the chief constable under whom the officer complained about serves, will become the appellate body with respect to complaints. They will also have the power to deal with local resolution. I personally would have gone further by introducing a power of recall for PCCs, but perhaps that is a matter for another day.

My third point relates to encouraging collaboration between blue light services. This is probably the most far-reaching aspect of the Bill. I ask the House to consider what would happen, knowing the cost of public services and of the estate and knowing the amount of co-working that blue light services do, if we were to step back and start from scratch. I suggest that for reasons of efficiency and effectiveness we would choose to have shared premises, shared control rooms, shared back-office staff, shared first responder services for incidents such as crashes and explosions, and shared local accountability. There is a strong case to be made for that to be the direction of travel for blue light services across the UK.

However, the Bill does not mandate collaboration. It introduces a duty on the police and the fire service to consider, and keep under consideration, whether blue light collaboration would increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the services. So this is not collaboration for the sake of it; it would involve collaboration where efficiency and effectiveness would be improved. I believe that that is what local residents and taxpayers would demand of their blue light services. Nor is the Bill prescriptive about how collaboration should take place. It can be done to suit local needs.

My fourth point relates to giving the police the tools they need to do their job. This is very much how the House should approach legislation relating to the police, with officers on the ground telling us what powers and resources they need to tackle the changing nature of crime. When they tell us that legislation passed by this House is not working in the way that we intended, we should do all we can to put that right. In Kingston, which is covered by my constituency and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith), we have done just that by encouraging the council to purchase extra police officers to police the town centre as a result of problems created by the night-time economy. Also, the local council and the local police force have set up a Korean information centre with a specific police and community support officer employed to help the Korean community with the issues that it is facing.

The House has responded in a similar way in the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016, which bans the supply of psychoactive substances and their possession in prison, and in the Investigatory Powers Bill, which will ensure that the police’s current powers are brought up to date to deal with the challenges that we face from the new technologies that criminals are using. In this Bill, Parliament

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will provide powers of entry and arrest to deal with suspects who have breached bail, and there will be new provisions with respect to sexual offences relating to live streaming on the internet. There will also be provisions on the use of decommissioned and antique firearms, and a new offence of being in possession of the tools to convert an imitation firearm. All these powers are important for the police in their day-to-day fight against crime.

The Bill contains a smorgasbord of provisions, all of which will improve policing on a day-to-day basis and complete the job of police reform on which this Home Secretary and her team have worked so hard for the past five years. I do not have time to touch on the important provisions on the treatment of 16 and 17-year-olds in custody, on the reduction of pre-charge bail, and on the reduction of the use of police cells for people detained for reasons connected to their mental health. None the less, I welcome this Bill because it enhances the transparency of the complaints system, it puts together a framework for bottom-up collaboration between our blue light services, and it provides very important updates on the police’s powers. For those reasons, this Bill is worthy of the support of the whole House.

8.9 pm

Byron Davies (Gower) (Con): I have had the privilege of hearing everybody speak in this debate, and I am delighted that I, too, now have the opportunity to participate. As a former Metropolitan police officer, I speak with some pride on this issue. I wish to make some brief observations, but, like my hon. Friend the Member for North West Hampshire (Kit Malthouse), I will start by saying that the Government are of course committed to finishing the job of reforming the police. It is not an easy task, but a very necessary one, and I broadly welcome the Bill.

The Bill is the cornerstone of police reform, which has now been going on for the past five years. It is the last part of the solid foundations that have been laid for the future of policing in the UK. It will help to build up public confidence in policing at a time when policing is becoming ever more complex.

I am pleased that the Government are committed to improving the efficiency of the police force. It is about not just numbers, as we hear so often, but efficiency. It is something about which I feel quite passionate. Enhancing the democratic accountability of the police is crucial. The public must have confidence in those who serve them, and ensuring that there is a direct democratic link to their police forces only serves to enhance that confidence.

This Bill will not only provide justice for the victims of crime, but ensure that those who have come into contact with the police have the correct protections in place. Recently, we have seen that we cannot allow confidence in the police to be undermined by what has now become a media frenzy surrounding many high-profile cases. We must guarantee that, if there is evidence to take a case forward, the correct safeguards are in place to ensure that all those involved in any police investigation are tried not by public opinion, but in the courts.

Briefly, let me make a number of points about this Bill. First, I am pleased that the police complaints and disciplinary systems will be altered and that there is greater protection for police whistleblowers. It is crucial that people feel enabled and protected if they bring forward a serious complaint or issue.

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I have to admit that, when police and crime commissioners were first mooted, I did not particularly agree with them, but after seeing them in operation over the past three and a half years, I have changed my mind. I now fully support them and think that they are one of the best things to happen in the police service. None the less, I do have concerns about them becoming the appellate body for appeals—currently, that is the job of the chief constable. I look at that measure with a deal of trepidation as there could well be political connotations to such a move. I ask the Minister this: can we have full confidence that dealing with complaints will be both fair and impartial? It is such a crucial part of policing, that we must ensure that public confidence in policing is not subject to any level of doubt. I need absolute assurance from the Minister that there will be no unfair element to this process. As a police officer, I spent a number of years investigating complaints against fellow officers. Although it is often said that police should not investigate the police, I have to say that a more rigorous method and form of investigation would be hard to find. I say that as the standards that we expect of each other are so high. When an officer transgresses criminal law or indeed the disciplinary code, the investigations are ruthless.

Let me move on now to the concerns surrounding the extension of powers to police and community support officers and other staff. Although I am not against chief officers having greater control and powers over volunteers, I believe that there is no substitute for a fully trained, warranted police officer. It is important that there will be a list of core powers available only to police officers, and it is crucial that volunteers are not supplementing roles and duties that should be undertaken by officers who are thoroughly trained and who have experience of the duties of policing day after day. That said, the special constabulary has an important role to play, and its contribution should not be underestimated.

Although I appreciate that the initiative of using volunteer police officers in Lincolnshire has been seen as a success, the proposal requires greater scrutiny and discussion before any major changes to the structure of policing is made. This Bill, as I have mentioned, is crucial in ensuring public confidence in the police, and supplementing police duties with people who are not adequately trained could possibly undermine that confidence. I look forward to hearing the Minister address those points, as I know that he has given this Bill a huge amount of thought.

I do have concerns about collaboration between the emergency services, but, as much has been said on that subject in this debate, I will not dwell on it too much, except to say that success of such collaboration will be very much down to whether local police and fire chiefs can make the arrangements work. Indeed there is some intrigue over the single employer model, which could be fraught with problems. I am unsure how chief officers from very different services who have to tackle their own distinct problems can oversee the duties of another agency of which they have very little experience. I know that the Bill mentions training, but I would like to hear what training will be given to prepare them for such a role.

Importantly, I also have concerns about transferring the power to appoint assistant inspectors of constabulary from the Home Secretary to Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector

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of Constabulary. I believe that the Home Secretary, as an informed and impartial judge on matters to do with policing, is best placed to ensure that these crucial roles are filled with people who are robust, experienced, independent and up to the task of the vital role of inspecting how the police operate and whether they are up to standard. The current system has worked admirably, and I am, as yet, not convinced of the need to change it. Sir Tom Winsor, Her Majesty’s chief inspector of constabulary, is a competent leader of the organisation, but, as this is all about independence, the Home Secretary is best placed to do the job.

May I move on to the amendment of police powers under sections 135 and 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983? I have heard what has been said by my hon. Friends the Member for Halesowen and Rowley Regis (James Morris) and for Broxbourne (Mr Walker). The review of the Department of Health and the Home Office was right to highlight the overuse of police cells as places of safety, especially for children and young people. Will the Minister tell us what locations will be used as places of safety given the reduction in the use of police cells, and how will the definition of places of safety be drafted correctly to ensure that it reflects local capacity and is flexible enough to ensure that different police forces with diverse capacity issues can respond to local needs?

There is some difficulty around understanding the practical role of police officers in the situations in which they find themselves. It could be the middle of a wet, windy night, under Archway bridge in Holloway, or it could be on a railway track between Euston and Scotland. It is very difficult. It could be a domestic scene, with somebody who has gone absolutely berserk and wrecked the house, and now holds his or her family with a knife. It is about getting in there, getting hold of that person and ensuring the safety of others, as well as their safety. Sometimes, the police station is the only place or the most immediate place that somebody can be taken to. It does not necessarily need to mean a police cell, of course. It could be a detention room or a surgeon’s room. I believe that there is further discussion to be had about that.

I strongly support the changes that will be made to arrangements for how theNational Crime Agency enters into collaborative agreements with other law enforcement agencies to enable the quick identification of foreign national offenders. The Bill will supplement powers to give the police and immigration officers more opportunities to establish identity and nationality on arrest and obtain documents from foreign nationals when they cannot use existing search powers, which has always been a stumbling block in the past.

There will be a statutory requirement on all defendants, regardless of their nationality, to state their name, date of birth and nationality in court. These are strong measures that will enable the police and immigration officers to identify and detain foreign national offenders. Like probably most Members, I received an email from Liberty talking about the dangers of this provision for foreign nationals, but if we travel abroad to eastern Europe, to places such as Romania where they carry ID cards, as a visiting foreign nationals we have to carry our passports—it is the law. I see nothing wrong in having to state where one comes from.

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Generally speaking, this is a strong Bill that is crucial to reforming the police service in England and Wales. I look forward to scrutinising it and discussing it with Members from all parties as it makes its passage through the House. I commend the Home Secretary and the Policing Minister, as well as their support staff who work so diligently, on this key plank of police reform. As a parting shot, I would say that there is only one thing missing for me, and that is the regionalisation of police forces, but perhaps that is for another day and another Bill.

8.20 pm

Jack Dromey (Birmingham, Erdington) (Lab): From the start, I want to make it clear that we welcome many of the proposals in the Bill. There are many constructive and positive proposals on which we will seek to build in Committee. We welcome, for example, the improvements to—nay, the fundamental reform of—the IPCC, an organisation that is badly in need of that.

In a very good debate, both the shadow Home Secretary and the hon. Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Jake Berry) made a powerful case for the fact that Hillsborough demands that those who covered up are called to account. We therefore hope that the Government will think again about the 12-month limit. We also welcome what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow and Furness (John Woodcock), and the constructive response of the Government, about having to learn lessons from the very sad case of Poppi Worthington.

We welcome the additional steps to protect police whistleblowers and the updates to the firearms and alcohol licensing legislation. The Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz), made a powerful case for the more general consolidation of firearms legislation, but the steps contained in the Bill are a welcome step in the right direction. On alcohol licensing, I hope that the Policing Minister listened to the rather intelligent contribution made by the hon. Member for North West Hampshire (Kit Malthouse) about appropriate changes that might be made during the passage of the Bill.

We welcome the improvements to how the police deal with people suffering from mental health crises and the fact that police cells will no longer be considered a mental health safe place. To this end, there were some first-class contributions from the hon. Member for Broxbourne (Mr Walker), my hon. Friend the Member for North Durham (Mr Jones) and the hon. Member for Halesowen and Rowley Regis (James Morris). We will certainly seek to work together across the House on the legitimate issues of concern that have been raised.

We welcome the measures to ensure that 17-year-olds detained in police custody are treated as children, and at this point I pay tribute to the hard campaigning work done by my hon. Friends the Members for Rotherham (Sarah Champion) and for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson) on this issue over many years.

We also welcome the proposals on police bail, but my right hon. Friend the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee was right to point out that the case ofPaul Gambacciniunderlined that we have a system open to abuse, with protracted uncertainty. On the other hand, however, the shadow Home Secretary was absolutely right robustly to argue that there are also dangerous loopholes and that the Dhar case shows that further steps need to be taken to ensure that terrorist suspects do not flee our shores.

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It is often at the most difficult, traumatic and devastating times in a person’s life that they come into contact with the emergency services. The police, fire and ambulance services are the final safety net in the most difficult situations. That is why at the heart of this issue is the fact that the British public want to know that if they dial 999 in the most desperate times, there will be a police officer, firefighter or a paramedic ready to come to their assistance. They want to know that the officer, firefighter or paramedic who comes will not take too long, is properly trained and has the right equipment. Providing such a service and, crucially, ensuring that it is well resourced and adequately funded and staffed, is surely one of the most important duties of any Government.

Equally, at the other end of the spectrum, it is the Government’s duty to do their utmost to ensure that citizens do not get into that critical situation to begin with. This can involve preventive work, whether that is good neighbourhood policing or the fire service’s excellent work on fire prevention such as that at the ground-breaking Safeside facility in Birmingham, close to my constituency. Crucial, too, are good community relations, education work, preventing harm and risk, and stopping people from getting to that critical desperate stage. Achieving that is the crucial duty of any Government, but it is those duties that I have described that Ministers all too often fail to honour.

The Home Secretary once again asserted today that police reform is working and crime is falling. In the debate, we heard some good examples of progressive police reform over the past five years that we support, such as the establishment of the College of Policing, which the hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (James Berry) referred to in his contribution. Nevertheless, for all the talk of reform, the Bill cannot cover up the fact that the Government have failed to protect the police. Some 18,000 police officers have gone—12,000 from the frontline and 1,300 in the past six months alone. Nearly 5,000 police community support officers have gone. Community policing has been increasingly hollowed out, putting the community at risk. There is increasing evidence of growing concerns among the public about the visibility of their police service on the one hand and, on the other, a crisis of morale in the police service, whose members serve this country so well.

In the previous Parliament there were cuts of 25% cuts. In this Parliament, we have already had the broken promise from the Government that they will protect budgets, as £160 million in real terms will be cut in the next year. The public are being asked to pay more for less. The hon. Member for North West Hampshire was right to talk about resilience, but there must be growing uncertainty about the capacity of our police service to respond at a time of a crisis such as that in 2011.

The Government have also failed to protect the fire service from the sharp knife of austerity, as they cut it by 23% in the previous Parliament. When that is taken with the cuts in this Parliament, the fire service is being cut nearly in half. According to the National Audit Office:

“Savings have come predominantly from reducing staff costs.”

Thousands of firefighters have gone and response times are getting longer. In the west midlands alone, 294 full-time fire personnel have gone.

Not only have the Government failed to protect funding for our crucial emergency services, but they

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have slashed funding in the most unfair way possible. The Policing Minister waxes lyrical about being a former firefighter, and I pay tribute to his origins. We have much in common, but my understanding of firefighters is that normally they put fires out. On this occasion, the Minister started a fire with the omnishambles of the review of the police funding formula, for which he was good enough to apologise on the Floor of the House. That Home Office blunder means that high-need, high-crime areas such as Northumbria and the west midlands have seen cuts that are twice as big as those in Surrey.

Similarly, the Government have failed to address a fire funding formula that, in the words of the National Audit Office, means that

“the Department has reduced funding most to fire and rescue authorities with the highest levels of need.”

Time and again we have seen this unfairness of approach and broken promises to the public.

As for the protestation that crime is falling, it is certainly true, as we have said repeatedly, that volume crime is falling—for example, cars are now much more difficult to steal. However, crime is not falling; it is changing. Only six days ago in this Chamber the Policing Minister acknowledged in answer to a question that as people are now more likely to be mugged online than in the street, when at last the truth is told on crime and those 6 million crimes are included in the crime survey of England and Wales, the survey will show a very substantial increase in crime. May we have an end to the protestation of that which is plainly wrong?

Melanie Onn (Great Grimsby) (Lab): I am a little concerned that we seem to be going down the route of accepting that physical crime is no longer happening. In my constituency, violent crime is up by 24%, and it is worth acknowledging—[Interruption.] It is worth acknowledging on both sides of the House—Government Members should stop pointing their fingers at the Opposition—that there is still a significant issue around physical crime. People are worried about the lack of a police presence on the street and about everything being moved online, and such a focus could really undermine that police presence.

Jack Dromey: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. If one looks at the profoundly worrying trends in violent crime and sexual crime, it is clear that, after a generation of progress, we are now seeing, in the words of Sir Hugh Orde, that a tipping point being reached, with worrying signs of some of the most serious crimes going up. Let us have an end to the protestation that crime is falling when it is doing nothing of the kind.

The sensible measures in the Bill—there are many—cannot hide the fact that the Government are failing to protect the emergency services and the public in the way they should. On the fire service, they talk of collaboration. The Opposition understand the power of collaboration. I have seen it first hand, and the Policing Minister will have seen it as a result of his previous experience, as well as now as a Member of Parliament and Minister. The Opposition absolutely understand the importance of greater collaboration and integration, not just between police and fire, but with the national health service, local government and a range of statutory agencies.

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There are already some innovative and effective examples of blue-light collaboration across the country, many of which were initiated by Labour police and crime commissioners. One that I saw first hand in Coventry was led by the fire service and involved excellent joint working on getting vulnerable people and taking pre-emptive action to protect them. In Greater Manchester, local authority leaders have worked with fire, ambulance and health services to oversee excellent examples of joint working and more meaningful integration. Irlam fire station in Salford is one of the first in the country to host fire services, police and paramedics under one roof, which means that front-line officers are working together every day to improve the service to the public. The station also provides vital community health services.

Those are some of the excellent examples of the best practice in collaboration that we very much want to encourage, but there is a real risk under the Government’s proposals that the fire service will become a poor relation to the other emergency services, disappearing as a statutory service in its own right—the notion of a single employer being profoundly suspect—and potentially being taken over by a police and crime commissioner, whatever local people and locally elected representatives have to say. I was surprised, in what was a good contribution, that the hon. Member for Braintree (James Cleverly) downplayed the importance of the voice of locally elected representatives being heard. The Opposition say yes to greater collaboration, but it must be led by local need and with local agreement from all parties concerned. That was why the shadow Home Secretary was absolutely right to say that a simple takeover by a PCC, supported by the Home Secretary, regardless of what local people want, cannot be right.

On volunteers, there is a long and honourable tradition —several Members on both sides of the House spoke to this—of specials on the one hand and neighbourhood watch on the other. I made a presentation on Friday to Maureen Meehan from the neighbourhood watch scheme in Stockland Green. She is an outstanding woman who has helped to run that scheme for 29 years in her local community, so there is a long and honourable tradition of voluntary contribution. However, as our brilliant police and crime commissioner for Northumbria, Vera Baird, has rightly said:

“Volunteers have a very important role to play in supporting policing, but not to place themselves in potentially dangerous situations…When the Home Secretary consulted on her proposals to increase volunteers’ powers, I said at the time she was trying to provide policing on the cheap.”

Moreover, the public demand it as absolutely vital that essential police functions are discharged by police officers. That point was made by the hon. Member for Gower (Byron Davies), speaking from his experience as a former police officer. Many volunteers want to support the work of police officers, but do not want to do their jobs for them. As Vera Baird has said, the use of CS and pepper spray should be undertaken only by full-time officers who are regularly trained in their usage and, importantly, in the law surrounding their use. As such, we will probe the Government’s proposals rigorously. We will oppose plugging gaping holes in the police workforce with volunteers, as well as any further moves to privatise essential police functions.

Let me return to the positive, but stake out where we hope to go during the passage of the Bill. We genuinely welcome measures to change the police’s treatment of

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those with mental health problems, but mental health care still does not have the parity of esteem that the Prime Minister recently spoke about. My hon. Friend the Member for North Durham made a powerful contribution in that regard. As other services contend with funding reductions, there is a growing crisis in our mental health system, and progress on the concordat has been painfully slow. As a consequence, sadly, the police are still all too often the service of last resort. In January,

The Guardian

revealed that they are spending up to 40% of their time on mental health-related incidents. We are glad that the Government recognise, as we do, that police cells are no place for those suffering from a mental health crisis. However, as the shadow Home Secretary said, banning inappropriate places of safety alone will not solve the problem of why police cells are used in the first place—a lack of beds and alternative places of safety.

There is a great national will to tackle the evil of child sex exploitation. The one measure in the Bill on that is a welcome step in the right direction, but it is not, in itself, enough. The most recent data from the NSPCC, which have been brought to the attention of us all, estimate that half a million children are being abused. Yet, as my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham has worked so hard to expose, and as the shadow Home Secretary said, one year on from the landmark summit held by the Prime Minister to determine a response to child sex exploitation, which was a very welcome initiative, many of the Government’s key pledges remain unfulfilled. The national child abuse taskforce still has not been established. As a result, the whistleblowing portal has no taskforce to report to if more large-scale child abuse cases arise.

On firearms, as the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee said, we welcome the Government’s proposals updating the existing law in line with the recommendations of the Law Commission. We are keen to work with the Government on the next stages, including on explicitly outlawing new threats such as the printing of firearms by 3D printing machines. The Home Office recognised that as a problem three years ago, but has failed to act thus far, so we hope that we can make progress in the context of the Bill. We will seek to amend the Bill to stop the sale of not only firearms, but something equally injurious to health and safety: zombie knives, which are terrible weapons that can have only one purpose—to inflict grievous harm on the individual.

I am pleased that we see in the Bill welcome progress that has been argued for on both sides of the House, as has been reflected in the debate. There is much common ground—of that there is no doubt—but, as the shadow Home Secretary said, we will try to improve the Bill, and there are fundamental issues in relation to fire, tougher police bail and more accountability in the complaints arrangements that we will seek to reach agreement on. Sadly, if that proves not to be possible, we will divide the House.

We cannot let the debate conclude without paying tribute to the people about whom we have been talking all day. We agree that the brave men and women in our emergency services are ordinary people doing often extraordinary things in the most difficult circumstances. They deserve nothing but the best from this House of Commons, and that is precisely what we intend to stand up for.

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8.40 pm

The Minister for Policing, Crime and Criminal Justice (Mike Penning): I say genuinely that this has been a really good and sensible debate, and it has been conducted in the correct tone, apart from some of the bits in the speech of the shadow Policing Minister, the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Jack Dromey). Let us take the bits we agree on and work from there.

I was slightly surprised to hear the shadow Home Secretary say that we should do more. Anybody would think that this Government had been in power for 20 years—they probably will be—but his party had 13 years to modernise the police force and the other emergency services.

I thought there was a slightly critical tone about the fact that I used to be a firefighter. I am very proud of that and it is an obvious thing for me to mention, just as colleagues across the House mention specialist roles that they have held. When I was in the fire service, I wanted to protect the public better and to have the same skills, equipment and emergency services as other countries. This Bill will help address that. It will not be done on the cheap. We need to ask whether we need two chief executive officers, two finance directors and two health and safety officers. Do we need so much bureaucracy at the top of our emergency services taking money away from the frontline? We see examples around the country of collaboration taking place, but there are also examples of collaboration not taking place. That is why the Bill is very important.

The Chair of the Home Affairs Committee apologised to me for the fact that he would not be back for the wind-ups, but he said some very important things about the need for public confidence in the Independent Police Complaints Commission. Common sense is needed. It is clear that more complaints could be dealt with at constabulary level. That will often mean just saying, “Sorry, we got it wrong. We didn’t intend to get it wrong —that’s the last thing in the world we wanted to do.” It is important to say very early on that only serious offences should get to the IPCC. The Home Secretary and I were just telling each other that we will need to table a lot of amendments in Committee to remove the word “commission”. Further amendments will also be tabled.

The Bill is not perfect. I could accuse Labour Front Benchers of moaning, but I will not—I am trying to work collaboratively. The fire service needs to work closer with the police, the ambulance service, the coastguard and other emergency services. We need to make sure that we get more for the taxpayers’ buck. [Interruption.] That is enough chuntering from Labour Front Benchers. Let us see what we can get.

Rather than address what is coming from Labour Front Benchers at the moment, I will address some of the points that were made during the sensible part of the debate. Mental illness is no different from any other illness, and it must be treated as such. For too many years, the police force has been used as the first, rather than last, point of call. Even though police officers are well trained and do good work on our behalf, they are not mental health professionals. They are also not experts on many other conditions, including learning difficulties. Sometimes we have to use them to provide a place of safety, but that should not be the case. Unless we actually put a stop to that and say, “Enough is enough,”

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we will not get the provision we need from other agencies. That is a really important part of the changes. The firearms changes have been needed for some considerable time, and we can work together on those.

I say to the Scottish National party that we will work closely with the Scottish Parliament. There was no consensus at all among political parties on the Silk commission, which is why we are in the position we are in. There was no consensus on the Silk commission between the Labour party in Wales and the Labour party in this House, so how could we have got consensus on the matter? As we go into Committee, let us work on what we can work on to try to make the Bill better. Let us not decry our emergency services and say that they cannot work together, because they can.

Andy Burnham: Will the Minister give way?

Mike Penning: No; I am going to conclude. On that point, in a debate that has been particularly important, let us make sure that we deliver what the public sent us to do, rather than sitting here and moaning at each other.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Policing and Crime Bill (Programme)

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 83A(7)),

That the following provisions shall apply to the Policing and Crime Bill:

Committal

(1) The Bill shall be committed to a Public Bill Committee.

Proceedings in Public Bill Committee

(2) Proceedings in the Public Bill Committee shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion on Thursday 14 April.

(3) The Public Bill Committee shall have leave to sit twice on the first day on which it meets.

Proceedings on Consideration and up to and including Third Reading

(4) Proceedings on Consideration and proceedings in legislative grand committee shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion one hour before the moment of interruption on the day on which proceedings on Consideration are commenced.

(5) Proceedings on Third Reading shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at the moment of interruption on that day.

(6) Standing Order No. 83B (Programming committees) shall not apply to proceedings on Consideration and up to and including Third Reading.

Other proceedings

(7) Any other proceedings on the Bill (including any proceedings on consideration of Lords Amendments or on any further messages from the Lords) may be programmed.—(Jackie Doyle-Price.)

Question agreed to.

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Policing and Crime Bill (Money)

Queen’s recommendation signified.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 52(1)(a)),

That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Policing and Crime Bill, it is expedient to authorise:

(1) the payment out of money provided by Parliament of:

(a) any expenditure incurred under or by virtue of the Act by the Secretary of State; and

(b) any increase attributable to the Act in the sums payable under any other Act out of money so provided;

(2) the payment of sums into the Consolidated Fund.—(Jackie Doyle-Price.)

Question agreed to.

Policing and Crime Bill (Carry-over)

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 80A(1)(a)),

That if, at the conclusion of this Session of Parliament, proceedings on the Policing and Crime Bill have not been completed, they shall be resumed in the next Session.—(Jackie Doyle-Price.)

Question agreed to.

Business without Debate

Delegated Legislation

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 118(6)),

Pensions

That the draft Occupational Pensions (Scheme Administration) (Amendment) Regulations 2016, which were laid before this House on 1 February, be approved.—(Jackie Doyle-Price.)

Question agreed to.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 118(6)),

Local Government

That the draft Greater Manchester Combined Authority (Election of Mayor with Police and Crime Commissioner Functions) Order 2016, which was laid before this House on 1 February, be approved.—(Jackie Doyle-Price.)

Question agreed to.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Ordered,

That Valerie Vaz be added to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee.—(Bill Wiggin, on behalf of the Committee of Selection.)

Communities and Local government

Ordered,

That Jo Cox be discharged from the Communities and Local Government Committee and Jim McMahon be added.—(Bill Wiggin, on behalf of the Committee of Selection.)

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Medical Centre (Brownsover)

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—(Jackie Doyle-Price.)

8.47 pm

Mark Pawsey (Rugby) (Con): I am grateful to have secured the debate, which gives me the opportunity to raise an important issue in my constituency. I will speak about the delays that have occurred, over several years, in the provision of a new medical facility in the area of Brownsover, in the town of Rugby.

Rugby is one of the fastest growing towns in the country, and we have a positive attitude towards new development. There has been a great deal of new housing development in recent years, mostly in the north of the borough in and around the area known as Brownsover. Historically, Brownsover has faced a number of complex challenges, which the community and the local authority, Rugby Borough Council, have not shied away from. A lot of investment has been put into overcoming those challenges. The area comprises a mix of social, sheltered and affordable housing as well as privately owned homes, with a population made up of a broad range of different age groups. A large number of young families live in the area, as well as a substantial elderly population. Despite the much-welcomed investment in Brownsover, with additional retail outlets and new housing, and the significant increase in population that has come with it, we have yet to see significant investment in the vital area of local health provision.

The original doctors’ surgery, which dates back 50 years or so, was established as the area developed. Despite the growth of the area and of the population, there is no evidence that the surgery was extended or that there was any recognition of the need for a bigger surgery. Plans for a new medical facility in Brownsover were first proposed back in 2002. The local authority, conscious of the specific needs of the area, began working on plans, under which it would supply land it owned, free of charge, to a developer willing to provide a community centre, alongside an all-encompassing modern medical facility, as part of the wider plan to revitalise the area.

The years passed, and for many years there was no progress, but plans for a new medical centre resurfaced in 2011. A planning application was submitted to the local authority and was approved that year. At the time, there was a real expectation that work would begin the following year, but, once again, local residents were left exasperated as the months and years passed and no works were begun. The community, which had been so optimistic when plans were first revealed in 2002, was once more left angry and frustrated—even more so when they were forced to watch from the sidelines as plans for new medical facilities elsewhere in our growing town were approved, particularly a very smart new development on the old cattle market site.

I hope the picture I am painting shows that, for many years, my constituents in Brownsover have suffered disappointment after disappointment, and false promises and false dawns about getting their new medical centre. I must say that the anger in the community reached a tipping point in February 2015, when the news broke that NHS England had withdrawn the contract for the existing local GP practice in Brownsover and that the

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practice was to close in April—just three months later—which left little time to arrange alternative facilities within the community. The announcement was met with considerable fury within the community, which, as I have said, has complex needs and challenges.

The news of the closure of the GP surgery caused real disquiet within the community. A GP, who was held in high regard, had practised there for 30 years, and this much-valued and much-needed facility—as I have said, the only one in the urban area in the north of Rugby—was serving over 6,600 patients in partnership with its sister surgery in the town centre. Residents felt at ease with the local GPs, who in turn knew the residents’ medical history. There was real concern at the sudden nature of the news. I will come on to the actions taken by NHS England to deal with that concern.

To its credit, one of the first things NHS England did was to provide an opportunity for local residents to pose questions in a series of public meetings. The community expressed real anger at those meetings. They took place on 2 and 9 March, while Parliament was sitting, and on Friday 13 March 2015, when, as I was in my constituency, I was able to attend the one in Brownsover scout hut. The concerns of some pretty angry residents revolved around three issues: first, the lack of notice they had received; secondly, the interim arrangements that would be made; and, thirdly, whether the new surgery they had been promised would actually be delivered, given that they had been given such promises many times before. At the meeting I attended, residents were assured that the new surgery would be provided, and that it would open in the late summer or autumn of 2016.

The news that the new surgery was coming was intended to be the light at the end of the tunnel to appease an incensed community, but there was concern over whether the assurances would be fulfilled. When I attended the meetings, it seemed to me that a delivery time of 18 months was rather optimistic. It seems that that caution was justified, because we are yet to see evidence of any activity to supply the new surgery. There is absolutely no evidence of a spade getting anywhere near the ground. I have recently described the delays in delivering this provision as completely unacceptable. The original opening date of autumn 2016, which was promised by NHS England in the public meetings and to me in meetings in my office, will definitely not be realised.

It is a matter of regret that NHS England has not covered itself in glory in this matter. The news of the closure first came out in February 2015 and patients were informed by letter that the practice would close its doors on 17 April that year. I was notified by NHS England by email on 16 February. That led to a flurry—an avalanche, in fact—of emails from concerned constituents. There was concern about the method by which the news was communicated. One resident showed me a two-page letter that had details on only one side of the piece of paper, leaving them to guess what the other information might be.

The intention was that the surgery would close within three months and that residents would be able to register at a new temporary surgery some 2 miles away in Rugby town centre while the new surgery was built. The distance of 2 miles to the site in Lower Hillmorton Road was a concern for many of the residents for whom it would cause difficulties. Many of those with young children or

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with particular health needs felt that travelling to the temporary practice would be too much to bear, despite an offer from NHS England to provide transport for residents.

It is easy to understand why people were concerned when the facility in their community had been taken away and a new one had been promised for a number of years. Within the community, we managed to convey the message that there would be some temporary pain in order to achieve a long-term gain. Regrettably, that long-term gain seems to be some distance away.

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP): This debate is not about my area, but I am curious to know whether any consideration has been given to the increasing population? In Belfast, the population will double in the next 20 years, so Northern Ireland has to look forward strategically and have a long-term vision. Has consideration been given to population growth in planning the new surgery? Is it not time for the Government to look to the long term and create the provision for the next 20 or 30 years?

Mark Pawsey: The hon. Gentleman raises an interesting point. To a certain extent, that involves chasing a moving target. The surgery that was in the community was completely inadequate for the needs and size of the population. I fear that some of the delays in the delivery of the new surgery are happening because we are trying to anticipate what will be needed in the future. The sense in my community is that we do not have anything now, so let us get on with delivering what has been promised for many years.

I met NHS England in February last year and learned about the temporary arrangements for transferring patients to Lower Hillmorton Road and the cost involved in modifying those premises, which had been deemed inadequate for use as a surgery. Money was therefore spent on that building. I also heard about the plans for delivering the new surgery. Again, I was told that it would be delivered in the late summer or autumn of 2016. I was keen to do all that I could to ensure that those commitments were met. I kept in contact with NHS England and representatives of the Brownsover patients action group, which came together under the capable leadership of Jake Stevenson.

In the second half of 2015, some of us perhaps took our eye off the ball and thought that plans were being worked up and that work would start imminently—we simply waited for things to happen. Things came to a head in early 2016 when, after visit after visit to the site, nothing seemed to be happening and I thought that it was probably time to arrange a further meeting with NHS England, and to invite representatives from the Brownsover patients action group. We also invited NHS Property Services, which had come to take over the project. At that meeting in January or February this year I became increasingly concerned about the lack of progress, and it became clear that the opening of the surgery would be put back for one, two or three years—it was not clear exactly when it would be, because a new business plan needed to be put in place and that was still being worked on, despite previous assurances that the work was going out to tender.

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It was equally alarming when we were told at that meeting that it was now possible for a practice to be put into the original buildings on the Brownsover site, which we had originally been told was unsuitable. We learned that that site was to be brought back into operation on a temporary basis, having closed for a year and with 6,600 patients relocated to new practices in the town. For many of my constituents, being told that the old site would once again be available might have been good news, but it meant that the new surgery that the community had been waiting for would be delayed. We now hear that the old site will be made available as a temporary site for three to five years, and we do not believe that that is temporary—it is getting close to being permanent once again.

There are no issues with the availability of land because the local authority will make the land available, and no issues of planning consent because that has already been granted. It seemed that bureaucracy and red tape within the system was going to cause a significant and unacceptable delay, and the light at the end of the tunnel that was promised to my constituents was fading fast. At that point I contacted the Minister, who I am delighted is in his place, and I alerted him to the situation. I am grateful to him for meeting me so swiftly after we made contact.

A couple of weeks ago on 22 February, I and Jake Stevenson from the Brownsover patients action group met the Minister, together with representatives from NHS England and the Department of Health, to outline our concerns. One outcome of that meeting has been that NHS England has become a lot more communicative. It was kind enough to email me on 1 March to update me and advise me that it has awarded a contract to a company to assist it with the business case for the medical centre. That is not a contract for building or delivering the surgery, just to assist with the business case. It is disappointing that in the past 12 months we have got absolutely nowhere. We are no further forward than we were this time last year, and clearly the promises that were made will not be realised.

One key reason why I have brought this matter to the attention of the House is the long history of disappointments that my constituents in Brownsover have gone through over the years. We are now looking for firm assurances that whatever date we are given for the delivery of the new service, it will finally be delivered.


I am very grateful to the Minister for the attention he has given to this matter so far, for the understanding he displayed to members of the patients action group when he met them, and for his sympathy. It is clear that the Minister gets it. He understands why the delivery of the surgery is so important. I was very impressed by his willingness to bring parties together, to talk around the table and to bring about a solution to the challenges in getting this very important provision delivered at the earliest opportunity. I very much hope that in his response to my remarks he will be able to provide the assurances my constituents in Brownsover are looking for.

9.5 pm

The Minister for Community and Social Care (Alistair Burt): I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mark Pawsey) for bringing the debate to the House, and for the courtesy and kindness with which he has

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described my role. I certainly get it. I certainly get the frustrations involved in dealing with property matters in relation to the NHS, matters to which I have become more accustomed in the past nine months or so. I wish I was able, at the conclusion of my remarks, to give him all the assurances he wants, but as the NHS is an independent body I cannot quite do that. However, we can, perhaps, get somewhere towards it, because of how he has brought the case and defended his constituents’ interests.

My hon. Friend has fairly described the issues in his community of Brownsover, with its mix of peoples and complex needs. The medical centre is a matter of extreme concern to his constituency. The uncertainty over the future provision of GP services in Brownsover has continued for more than a year, and that is only the latest chapter in the catalogue of events that he described. It is clearly unacceptable to him and his constituents. I am fully aware that local people and patients have expressed their frustration in a number of ways. I know he shares that feeling, and so do I. I will say a little about the general position of our GPs, their premises and the pressures they are under, and then turn to the particular.

Like every other part of the country, Brownsover needs good local health services, in particular its local GPs. General practice is the bedrock of the NHS and it is at the heart of this vision. It reflects the GP’s key role in providing continuity of care, which is especially important to people with long-term health conditions; the importance of expert generalists, doctors and wider practice teams who look at the whole person, including their medical, social and psychological needs in the round; the fact that general practice is rooted in local communities; and the key role of general practice in public health in immunisation and screening programmes. We ask our GPs to look after people from cradle to grave, and to know when and where to refer patients when specialist care is needed. We also expect them to commission much of the specialist care provided in hospitals.

The key factors affecting the environment within which general practice works, and the challenges and the opportunities they present, include: an ageing population, with increasing numbers of people living with multiple health conditions; higher public expectations, linked to the role of digital technology; a very constrained financial position over the past five years, with general practice seeing a steady decline in its share of the overall NHS budget, albeit after a rapid growth in resources after the 2004 GP contract; and a change in the structure of practice, including a struggle to maintain partners, a growing proportion of salaried GPs, a growing number of GPs wanting to work part time—not just women, but men—and a rise in portfolio careers.

There has been an increase of about 25% in GP consultations since 1998—an estimated 340 million consultations every year. That is the work we expect our GPs to do and which they perform extraordinarily. Within five years, we will be looking after 1 million more people over the age of 70. Quite simply, if we do not find better and smarter ways to help our growing elderly population to remain healthy and independent, our hospitals will be overwhelmed. That is why we need effective, strong and expanding general practice more than ever before in the history of the NHS—an NHS committed

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both through its premises and through its commissioning to respond to the sorts of pressures my hon. Friend rightly described in relation to Brownsover.

At last year’s election, we committed ourselves to the challenging objective of increasing the primary and community care workforce by at least 10,000 and ensuring that 5,000 more doctors work in general practice, as well as more practice nurses, district nurses, physicians, associates and pharmacists. We will focus recruitment on the most under-doctored areas, where the problems are most acute. Since 2010, the GP workforce has already increased by 5%, with an additional 1,700 GPs working or in training. Over 90% of all NHS patient contact happens in general practice. The average person in England sees their GP six times a year.

All that has profound implications for how general practice works—for the clinical model, the business model and the career model—but, under all that pressure, the profession is rising to the challenge. Practices are increasingly coming together in federations or networks to build on all the traditional strengths of general practice, working at a greater scale to improve efficiency and spread innovation to offer a range of services they struggle to provide individually. There is a strong push towards greater integration with community health services, mental health services, social care and some specialist services, and there is increasing use of the wider primary care team, including nurses and particularly pharmacists.

That is the background to the work, the concerns about general practice and how the Government intend to meet the challenges by delivering pilot projects and vanguards and by looking at different ways of providing GP services. However, people need premises to work out of, so I will now turn to the circumstances that my hon. Friend described. This matter goes back some time, but I can deal in detail only with the events since the notice of closure last year. I am grateful to him and representatives from NHS England and NHS Property Services for meeting me recently to discuss the matter in the round.

The Albert Street medical practice in Rugby and its branch surgery in Bow Fell, Brownsover, closed in April 2015, and Rugby Town medical practice took over the provision of GP services for the patients affected, with the expectation, at the time, that a new practice in Brownsover would open in 2016. In November 2015, representatives of NHS Property Services met NHS England and the Coventry and Rugby clinical commissioning group, and subsequently the Department of Health, and it was agreed that NHS Property Services would be the lead property company supporting NHS England on the development of the new Brownsover facility. NHS England is the lead organisation for the new development.

At a meeting with members of the Brownsover patient action group and my hon. Friend, NHS England explained that the business case previously approved for the development required reviewing because of the change in the size of the development and the change to the lead organisation. A project team, which included members from NHS Property Services and NHS England, was set up to determine the most appropriate method for delivering the scheme. Additional information required for the development of a new business case is now in

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place. At a meeting with me and my hon. Friend on 22 February, NHS England in the west midlands confirmed that a decision to award a contract would be made that week, and the partner has now started work. This included an initial meeting, on 29 February, with NHS England, the community health partnership and a representative of the Brownsover patient action group.

As I indicated to my hon. Friend, the provision of premises in the NHS is not always straightforward. Ownership of existing premises tends not to be in the same hands—they might be owned by a former GP, a property company or the NHS itself—and all the issues connected with the division of proceeds of land and the need to move carefully on planning come into play even for GP premises and services. Add to that the uncertainty around new developments and the like, and the difficulties, although frustrating, can mount, and that has been the situation here.

Some questions and answers might help my hon. Friend and his constituents. Patients in Brownsover were told that their facility would open this year. When can they now expect it? I understand that NHS England has updated him, as he said, and he is now aware that a contract was awarded on 24 February, but a full business case needs to be developed, which NHS Property Services estimates will take nine months to produce. There will then be a two-month period in which to reach financial close, and around a year for construction and commissioning.

I will say a little about that because it is complex and it might help my hon. Friend’s constituents and others if I put it on the record. It may also help me, in dealing with NHS Property Services, to see how we might streamline the processes rather more than they are streamlined at the moment.

The outline business case and full business case process is an NHS England requirement for commissioners to progress where public capital funds are being invested. Commissioners are required to develop and update an estate strategy that aligns with their commissioning strategy. For very large investments, it might be expected that a strategic outline case is produced. This aims to ensure that all relevant parties are signed up to the associated expenditure.

The clinical commissioning group has included the proposed new Brownsover surgery in its strategic estates plan. This is fundamental if NHS England and the CCG apply for primary care transformation funds or customer capital investment moneys. Once the capital investment has been approved in the estates strategy, the scheme moves forward to an outline business case, and demonstrates the options, costs and benefits. There may be some preliminary design work to establish that planning consent will be achievable. The outline business case also sets out the preferred option and confirms affordability. Because there are different methods of procurement, the outline business case will establish the preferred procurement route and identify the source of funding.

Once the preferred option is identified and approved as being value for money and affordable, the case moves on to the more detailed design and costing to confirm that it meets all requirements and that the budget is set. Again, this detailed work is used to confirm value for

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money and affordability. The timescales for each stage tend to vary depending on the complexity and scale of the business case.

The Brownsover case is relatively small and less complex than some, but it still involves an option appraisal, land acquisition, design and costing, planning application, procurement tendering processes, agreements for lease and then construction. The House will be glad to know that NHS Property Services advises that it has streamlined its approvals requirement so that investment capital or lease acquisition requires executive approval by two directors and does not need to go before a committee.

That outlines some of the issues pertaining to the background and the agreements that need to be put in place before planning permission can be approved and the matter can move forward. The timetable will be determined partly by the commissioners’ approval process and partly by NHS Property Services procurement route.

“Why so long?”, patients will ask, and they will say that it is a bureaucratic mess. Well, it perhaps sounds more complex than it might be, but this is a public scheme with public value for money, and detailed work is needed to confirm that value for money and affordability. While the Brownsover case is relatively small and less complex, it still involves, as I said, an option appraisal, acquisition, design and costing, planning application, tendering, agreements for lease and then construction.

It must be frustrating for patients and for my hon. Friend to hear all that set out, but in all honesty, I felt that I had to do so. It is not all the fault of those handling property services. They know that if there is a flaw in their process and something goes wrong, they will be hauled over the coals. However, the mere recitation of the process—to you, Madam Deputy Speaker, and to the House—gives rise to the thought that perhaps somewhere, something might be telescoped to give patients the hope that an element of urgency might be produced, particularly where a closure has been in place and it was anticipated for some time before that that new premises might be available. In those circumstances, it is perhaps the Minister’s job to stay on hand with my hon. Friend to make sure that any such urgency flows into the system.

In conclusion, I can confirm that NHS England now believes that the previously approved business case had to be reviewed because of the changes in the size of the development, but it is working on amending the business case and I am told that it will be completed shortly. Once that has been done, NHS Property Services will be in a position to decide how the Brownsover scheme is to be delivered. Although it seems it will not be built in 2016, the fact that progress has been made—in no small measure due to my hon. Friend’s activity—means, I hope, that there will be good news in the future. The closure was not of NHS England’s own choosing, and it has had to respond to that fact. The difficulties outlined by my hon. Friend, together with the frustrations involved in dealing with the complexity of the building processes, have combined to make the situation for patients sadly more difficult than it should be, but there have been reasons for that.

I hope that we can now move on, given the determination of NHS Property Services to fulfil the commitment that it has given to me, and to my hon. Friend, to do all that

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it can to work with him and with the patients. It is working very hard in that regard, and I pay tribute to those who are now involved in the process of moving that work forward. I pay tribute to the patients for their own patience. Perhaps in due course, they will have the new facility that they so richly deserve.

Question put and agreed to.

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9.20 pm

House adjourned.