The Government are committed to making substantial reforms to their public bodies and intend to bring forward a public bodies Bill later this year, giving Ministers the power to abolish or merge public bodies, or transfer their functions back into Departments. The Home Office is pursuing radical reforms as part of a Government-wide review of public bodies and I have already signalled my intentions by announcing the abolition of the National Policing Improvement Agency.
The Association of Chief Police Officers, or ACPO, is not a conventional non-departmental public body. As a private company, it receives millions of pounds in Home Office grants, has a massive say over how we are policed, is exempt from freedom of information requests and is almost totally unaccountable. Is that status compatible with the Home Secretary’s admirable desire to democratise control over policing? Will she either change ACPO’s status or stop giving it so many grants and so much say over public policy?
I thank my hon. Friend for that question. He has referred to our intention to change the accountability of police forces, set out in our consultation document “Policing in the 21st Century”. We also said in that document that we are looking to change the role of ACPO and talking to ACPO about the necessary changes. Moving ACPO on to a basis of leading in setting standards and showing professional leadership in the police force is the appropriate way forward, and that is what we will be talking to the organisation about.
While the right hon. Lady is looking at her review, will she consider what happens with the funding of sexual assault referral centres, or SARCs, in Wales? Wales SARCs are still awaiting their funding. It is important that the services they provide should be carried forward for women, children and men who have been subject to rape and other sexual offences. Will she please have a look at that issue?
I am certainly happy to do so. At the moment we are considering, and will soon be making an announcement on, some funding in relation to SARCs. As we look at the issues of people who have been subjected to sexual abuse, we need to consider not only the SARCs but rape crisis centres. It was a great shame that under the hon. Lady’s Government, the last Labour Government, so many rape crisis centres had to shut because of funding problems. That is why as a coalition we are committed to making money available from the victim surcharge to open new rape crisis centres.