Skip to main content

Police Panels

Volume 532: debated on Monday 12 September 2011

2. Whether she has considered bringing forward amendments to the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill to ensure that proposed police panels are representative of the geographical area they will serve. (70926)

The Government have set out plans to ensure that police and crime panels are representative of the places they serve. We tabled an amendment to the Bill in another place, allowing many panels to co-opt further members. This will enable local authorities to address geographical imbalances.

I thank the Minister for that response and welcome the amendment, which is obviously a step in the right direction. However, he will be aware of the particular concerns of people in Cornwall that they might not get a fair geographic representation. What additional reassurance can he give that the Home Secretary will ensure that Cornwall is fairly represented on Devon and Cornwall police panel, and will he agree to meet a delegation from Cornwall council to discuss this issue?

I understand my hon. Friend’s concerns—they have been put to me by other hon. Friends. The amendment that we moved in the other place will allow for the nomination of an additional five members to the panel. Approval for that will lie with the Secretary of State, although there must be regard to geographical balance. I hope and believe therefore that we can reassure the people of Cornwall that they will be properly represented on these panels.

The Minister will agree on what lies at the heart and success of British policing—it should be by consent, local and rooted in the community. That is why I welcome what he has just said. Will he also agree, however, that it is vital that our senior police officers have spent a year or two on the beat in the local community? Will he hit on the head these ludicrous press reports that the Government are thinking of bringing in an elite group of officers—super-duper graduates, Bullingdon club boys—to be slotted in straight away to run our police services? Policing should be local, and every chief constable should have served on the beat.

That is a travesty of the Government’s position. We have asked Tom Winsor to consider these matters. The right hon. Gentleman should pay more attention to the views of the chief constable of Devon and Cornwall, which he expressed in an article in The Times today, co-written by me. He points out that the police have not made sufficient progress on diversity and that one way to address that might be to consider additional points of entry. We also point out that operational experience would be necessary.