|Police Reform Bill [Lords]
Norman Baker: I beg to move amendment No. 149, in line 37, at end insert
The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to take the following amendments: No. 48, in schedule 4, page 126, line 14, leave out from 'shall' to 'in' in line 15 and insert
No. 49, in page 126, line 22, at end insert—
No. 50, in page 126, line 31, at end insert—
No. 51, in page 126, line 37, at end insert—
No. 52, in page 128, line 16, at end insert—
No. 53, in page 129, line 48, at end insert—
No. 54, in page 130, line 30, at end insert—
No. 30, in schedule 5, page 137, line 23, at end insert—
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Mr. Paice: We move to the power of CSOs. The reason we tabled the amendments relates to the philosophy of CSOs and to how we feel that they can best be used in the community. We firmly believe that any new tier of people with police powers must be acceptable to the community. As we have seen with the street warden schemes in Newport and other places, it is best if such people gain the support of the community so that they can, effectively, police by consent. It is more productive if they gain the tolerance and aid of the community, and work with the agreement of the community rather than exercising powers that may be antagonistic in certain circumstances. [Interruption.] I do not know why the hon. Member for Dartford (Dr. Stoate) laughs. There is nothing wrong with trying to gain support for a particular end in a non-confrontational way. In fact, it is a sensible solution—hard cop, soft cop. Police officers have a full range of powers to come down hard on people, if necessary, and another group of people can cajole and achieve the correct result in a non-threatening way. That ideal will be spoilt if CSOs are given powers that will bring them into confrontation with members of the public, and they will be exposed to ridicule, attack or at least lack of support, if they do not receive full training as necessary. The Minister will doubtless tell the Committee that they will receive full training, but the Police Federation and others are concerned about that.
The amendments would remove those powers, which will undermine respect and support for CSOs. They would thereby increase their effectiveness. As Labour Members have testified in Committee and on Second Reading, it is possible for schemes, such as street warden schemes, to operate successfully with the consent of the community and to achieve the ends for which they were established. A moment ago, the Minister was waxing lyrical about the effectiveness of one particular scheme. I am delighted to hear of that success, which brings into question whether further powers are needed to bring about those same results.
Mr. Denham: I hope that the hon. Gentleman will give me credit for going out of my way to say that the scheme in Newport is looking to gain extra powers under this legislation. That hardly makes the case that extra powers are unnecessary.
Norman Baker: Yes, I readily accept that the Minister said that, but he also said that the scheme was working well.
Mr. Osborne: Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the Stockport scheme, near my constituency, which was one of the first warden schemes in the country, does not want more powers? It is feared that it would break down the bond of trust between wardens and the Stockport community if they were seen to be more like police officers than neighbourhood wardens.
Norman Baker: That is a common view, not just among street wardens but among police officers and local authority employees and officials.
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Mr. Hawkins: Does the hon. Gentleman recollect that, on Second Reading, several Labour Members, including the hon. Member for Bury, North (Mr. Chaytor), said that they had spoken to warden scheme organisers and leaders who made it clear that they did not want extra powers?
Norman Baker: That is a helpful and accurate intervention. I refer Labour Members to the Second Reading debate when such comments were made. The matter is not as clear-cut as the Minister may wish to paint it. There is trepidation about the consequences of giving wardens extra powers when schemes are already operating successfully.
Ian Lucas: Is it not the case that the amendment relates to detention officers, whose powers, according to part 3 of schedule 4, are exercised in the police station, not in the community?
Norman Baker: That is not accurate, because if the hon. Gentleman looks at this group of amendments he will find that some of them do not relate to detention officers.
The Chairman: Order. That is right. The amendments go wider than detention. They also deal with being accompanied by a constable in exercising certain powers.
Norman Baker: The hon. Member for Wrexham (Ian Lucas) has drawn me on to the subject of detention officers, and I am happy to discuss that.
Officers who are civilians rather than police officers are to be given a range of powers that are obtrusive and liable to bring them into conflict with members of the public. It is quite likely that members of the public will not wish to be fingerprinted, subjected to intimate searches or photographed. They would be more likely to accept being subjected to such intrusive operations if they were required to do that by a police officer than by a civilian—particularly in the case of intimate searches, which is addressed by a later amendment, so we will discuss that when we reach it.
Paragraph 20 of schedule 4 gives these citizens the right to make an arrest at a police station for another offence. It would be odd if we had to rely on civilians to make an arrest in a police station; one might have thought that it would be possible to find a police officer somewhere in a police station to make that arrest, but apparently not. Perhaps we will have surrogate police stations that are staffed by civilians, with no police officers anywhere near them to make arrests.
That reminds me of a true case in Lewes. Three or four years ago, the police rang up the environmental health department of the district council—which was quite a distance away—to complain that the pub next door to the police station was causing a noise disturbance; health officers had to be called in to deal with that.
I hope that we do not get into a situation where there is an absence of police: thankfully, we are getting more police, and I pay tribute to the Government for that—and I hope that they will raise their target. However, if we are to have more police, I cannot believe that we will not be able to find one or two of
Column Number: 232them to make an arrest at a police station, and yet part 3 of schedule 4 is giving powers to civilians to make such arrests.
Mr. Challen: Does not the hon. Gentleman understand that the whole object of this exercise is to get the police out of the police stations and on to the streets?
Norman Baker: Of course I do, but I also understand that there is potential for conflict in giving civilians powers that the public will accept if they are exercised by police officers, but will not necessarily accept if they are exercised by civilians. I hope that the hon. Gentleman also understands that.
Even if we manage to get the police out on the street, I hope that the hon. Gentleman is not suggesting that there will be no police in the police stations, and that they will be entirely staffed by civilians. That would be a very curious situation, but it is what the hon. Gentleman implied.
I have explained why it is inappropriate for controversial powers to be exercised by CSOs or detention officers, unless they are accompanied by a constable. Other amendments in this group—Nos. 48, 49, 50, and so forth—focus on different powers of that kind, such as the power to stop vehicles, to carry our road checks, and to deal with cordoned areas. Those are operations that will require more than one person—it is difficult for one person to cordon off an area. Several personnel will be used in such circumstances, and therefore it would not be unreasonable to expect at least one constable to be around to ensure that the people who are helping him are doing their job properly. As for detention officers, it is not unreasonable to expect there to be one constable somewhere in a police station who can make an arrest.
Therefore, these are not radical amendments. On the contrary, they attempt to strike a balance by allowing the use of CSOs, to help the police and to remove the necessity for the police to do everything, while at the same time ensuring that the police are present in a supervisory capacity—even if that is merely a minimal supervisory capacity—to give the public confidence about situations that CSOs may not have anticipated or be experienced in dealing with.
|©Parliamentary copyright 2002||Prepared 20 June 2002|