The Association of Chief Police Officers and the Home Office conducted a review of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, as my right hon. Friend knows, and identified that some processes are excessively bureaucratic owing to an over-zealous interpretation of the Act. The Home Office is currently working with ACPO and the Office of Surveillance Commissioners to eliminate such excessive bureaucracy.
I draw the Minister’s attention to the comments from Sir Ian Blair during the recess, that whereas as young policemen they used to anticipate being able to make three arrests during the day, now young officers say that they can only make one arrest because of the red tape, particularly as a result of RIPA. Does not an imbalance seem to be developing between the interests of the public and the police, as opposed to the interests of the criminals and the avaricious lawyers? I welcome the steps that my hon. Friend has announced. Can he tell us the time scale, and can the process begin fairly soon so that the police officers on the streets of Sandwell will be able to get out and arrest the criminals?
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that question. On the specifics of RIPA, the review showed that there were unnecessary forms in place, unnecessary bureaucratic duplication by forces, and in some cases an unnecessary desire to find out information that they already knew. In one case a police force made a RIPA application for a subscriber check on a telephone which turned out to be in its own headquarters and for which that force was the subscriber and paid the bill. In the case of RIPA and other legislation to which my right hon. Friend alludes, there must be a clear understanding of what is anticipated within the overall strategic demands of the Home Office, and those at the centre must let police forces get on with it, as we are seeking to do.