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Police Bureaucracy

Volume 464: debated on Monday 15 October 2007

As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary suggested, we have made good progress in reducing police bureaucracy, with improvements to, for example, working processes, work force modernisation and using new technology.

What plans does the Minister have for making police forces more locally accountable to ensure that the time police spend on the beat can be determined according to local requirements?

The hon. Gentleman knows that one of the key strands of Ronnie Flanagan’s review is local accountability. He has not waxed lyrical on it in the interim report, but he will by the end of the year, or January. If the hon. Gentleman has ideas about accountability, he is welcome to submit them to the review; I am sure that Sir Ronnie would welcome his input.

Would not one of the best ways of securing such efficiencies be to give officers the incentive of a reasonable pay settlement this year? Will the Minister remind us of the state of play in the arbitration process, and does he not agree that it is only reasonable for the outcome of arbitration to be binding?

As my hon. Friend will know, the arbitration panel is due to report on 2 November, and it would be entirely unreasonable of me to pass judgment on any aspect of the settlement while it is being dealt with by arbitration.

Can the Minister explain how police bureaucracy has reached such a point that a nine-year-old boy in my constituency fishing out of season in a royal park had to be subjected to the full process of caution, a stop-and-search procedure and the issue of statutory forms in order to be advised to fish at another time of year?

I always take Liberal Democrat renditions of particular stories with a pinch of salt—[Hon. Members: “Renditions?”] Yes, renditions, extraordinary or otherwise. However, if the hon. Gentleman gives me the details of the case, I shall certainly look into it.

Does the Minister accept that one of the worst examples of police bureaucracy is the requirement for a senior officer to spend a great deal of time on an appraisal before a suspect can be closely monitored? Such a procedure was thought unnecessary before the introduction of the Human Rights Act 1998.

Again, I am not entirely sure that I understand the import of the question. I should have thought that full assessment of whether people should be duly monitored in custody was quite important. If I have missed the point, perhaps we can talk about it afterwards, and I will ensure that the hon. Gentleman and the House receive a full response.

In the past week the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, has said that it is absolutely ridiculous that it now takes two officers an entire tour of duty to process just one arrest, because of Government-imposed burdens. Yet rather than dealing with the bureaucracy, the Government’s solution is to give cautions to violent criminals and issue penalty notices like parking tickets. I do not know whether this is “Life on Mars”, but are not Ministers simply living on another planet?

Sadly, I thought that I could trust the hon. Gentleman far more than I could trust the hon. Member for Twickenham (Dr. Cable) when it came to the rendition of particular speeches. That is an utterly unfair characterisation of what I thought was a very good speech by the commissioner, which followed the grain both of what Sir Ronnie has said and of what we have already done, and intend to do, about bureaucracy. I think that it is the hon. Gentleman who needs to decide what planet he is on.

Last year in Surrey, just over 8,000 burglaries were reported, and only 800—10 per cent.—were detected successfully, which means that a burglar had a 90 per cent. chance of getting away with it. Does the Minister agree that that is an appalling figure, and does he think that bureaucracy may have something to do with it?

I think that across a range of crimes, detection rates could and should be significantly higher than they are. The hon. Gentleman, perhaps in remiss fashion, forgot to mention that Surrey has an outstanding force, as was shown by the performance framework last week. None the less, collectively we—central Government, local government and all agencies—need to do more about the detection of all crime, not just burglary in Surrey.