Motion to Regret
That this House regrets that the Police Federation (Amendment) Regulations 2015 prevent the federation from being properly funded in order to represent its members (SI 2015/630).
Relevant document: 33rd Report, Session 2014–15, from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee.
My Lords, I remind your Lordships of my registered interests and, particularly, that I chair the interim independent reference group of the Police Federation of England and Wales. In the debate on the gracious Speech, I intimated that I would be putting down a prayer to seek to overturn Statutory Instrument 630, which was made on 9 March this year and came into force on 2 April. Unfortunately, I was unable to do this because of a misunderstanding of timings following the dissolution of Parliament. I am grateful to the Chief Whip for giving me time to express my deep concerns about this SI in the only way that I am able—through a Motion to Regret.
I believe this legislation to be very heavy handed; it represents, I believe, a fundamental attack on the rights of police officers by imposing draconian measures on their representative organisation. The statutory instrument refers to the membership of the Police Federation of England and Wales. Prior to the amendment regulations, the position was that membership of the federation was automatic for police officers in ranks from constable to chief inspector inclusive but that payment for that membership was voluntary. Now, membership ceases to be automatic and, in relation to subscriptions, various additional requirements have been made on the federation to inform police officers that payment of subscriptions is voluntary and to give members who choose not to pay contributions various rights. I will say a little more on that later.
As many of your Lordships will know, the Police Federation is in the process of implementing in full the recommendations of the independent review by Sir David Normington into its organisation. It set out 36 recommendations for a comprehensive organisational overhaul to deliver a more efficient, effective and transparent Police Federation of England and Wales. Given its compliance with the Home Secretary’s demands regarding the implementation of Normington, I also question the necessity of such legislation and whether it is appropriate for the Government to interfere in arrangements between the federation and its members.
The police service already has severe strictures on its industrial rights and now the Home Secretary has imposed further conditions on this member-led and member-funded federation through statutory instruments. I fear that this can only serve to further weaken an organisation which has already lost a great deal of its strength over the past few years, not least from the huge fall of nearly 35,000 front-line police officers and staff, who have been lost across both England and Wales through government cuts to the police service.
As I said in my speech, this is the first time I can remember that law and order was hardly on the agenda during the general election. It was almost a footnote in manifestos focusing more on the NHS, education and immigration. However, we should not pander to the media or the politically prescribed flavour of the day as we would be failing to serve the public good. If we are to believe that police reported crime is down, why is it that the Government are continuing to compromise the very apparatus that has brought this about? It is counterintuitive. Cuts to policing have led to fractures appearing up and down the country to the very foundations of the police service.
Figures from the Independent Police Complaints Commission show that levels of complaints against the police in England and Wales have reached a record high, with a clear rise in the majority of police forces. The number of cases was 34,863, including a rise of 98% in one force, with the majority of complaints stating that the police are intolerant, rude and dismissive of the victims of crime. The fact is that this dramatic rise in complaints does not reflect a change in the determination and commitment of police officers. It comes down to a simple equation which shows ever-increasing response times and less time spent with victims of crime. The factor causing these results is a huge reduction in the resources available to the police service, and the outcome is a growing detachment and alienation from the communities of England and Wales.
The Peelian principles now present an almost impossible challenge for today’s police service. Principle 2 of the nine principles asserts:
“To recognise always that the power of the police to fulfil their functions and duties is dependent on public approval of their existence, actions and behaviour, and on their ability to secure and maintain public respect”.
Further cuts can lead only to greater public discontent. If police numbers keep falling, the last resort will become the first response. Is this what the public want for the future of their police service? Is this what the Government want? If so, we need the police forces of England and Wales to revise and rework both their police charters and their victims’ charters. If the public do not have revised expectations, given the cuts, the reputation of the police service will continue its downward spiral, overwhelmingly and through no fault of its own.
Because the Police Federation has been bogged down with internal restructuring and reorganisation—which may well take another couple of years to fully complete—it has not been able to be as effective as it has been in the past in representing its members to their elected representatives, regionally, nationally or in Parliament. We need this to change if we are to properly understand how crime is changing and where best to direct our focus to make best use of the resources available. A strong Police Federation means a stronger police service, which can only be beneficial to the public.
This statutory instrument will make the job of the Police Federation harder at a time when it has difficulties enough with dwindling subscriptions, because of the huge fall in membership due to the cuts in police numbers. However, if we help the Police Federation, we will help the police service as a whole and in turn help them to serve the communities of England and Wales. This SI enables an officer to demand help from the federation even if he or she has not previously paid any membership fees. How can any organisation operate in this way? It is like saying to an uninsured motorist who has had an accident: “It’s all right. The insurance company will look after you. There was no need to fork out for insurance before you needed it”. That would be ludicrous, and yet that is exactly what this SI does. There is no need for a police officer to become a member of the federation or pay any dues, but that officer can demand help from the federation, which can add up to huge amounts of money in matters of litigation when it is needed.
This is an awful piece of legislation and I deeply regret having to bring it before your Lordships in a Motion to Regret, as I would have preferred us to vote on it. However, I hope that my explanation of its effect will move the House to express its concern and dismay that things have come to such an unhappy place for our police service. I beg to move.
My Lords, I rise in support of the Motion moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Harris. I declare an interest as a former member of the Police Federation—which every officer is, as the noble Baroness said—and also as a former president of the Police Superintendents’ Association of England and Wales. It concerns me that a police service that is held in very high regard throughout the world is to some extent being trampled into the ground. The police service lost the right to take industrial action in 1919. It does not seek to have the right to strike, but since it does not have that right, it is entitled to expect fair treatment.
The Police Federation has not been perfect. It has made mistakes—we acknowledge that, and the police service will acknowledge that. However, this regulation goes a step too far, as the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, pointed out. It is probably reasonable to give officers the option of whether to join the Police Federation, which at the moment is not the case: it is a closed shop. Whether officers should have to pay dues is a difficult issue, because funding is critical for the federation to do its job of representing its members in legal cases and going round the country doing what it does.
Crucially, the police are in such a position that they have to be treated fairly by the Government. I know that there have been one or two skirmishes with the Government—I am thinking of Downing Street-gate, as it is called—and I hope that this is not simply revenge for that type of incident. The police service is far too important for this type of trivia to be brought upon the Police Federation with that purpose in mind.
There is room for reform. The Normington proposals recommend reforms and the Police Federation accepts reforms. But the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, is absolutely right to bring this Motion before the House. I certainly support it, particularly her point about an organisation that says, “You needn’t join the Police Federation, but should you find yourself in difficulty and therefore require its services, you are not prohibited from joining, for that reason alone, to get the benefits from the organisation and then simply withdraw when things go smoothly”. That is grossly unfair.
I hope that the Government’s motives are not those to which I alluded and that they will give deep thought to this issue. The police service in this country is extremely important. It does not have the right to strike for obvious reasons. It is such a critical organisation, particularly at present when cuts are obviously affecting manpower. There is a restriction of a 1% pay rise for the next few years, which applies to other members of the public sector. Morale is particularly low at present. The Police Federation has just held a survey and I have never seen such figures. Usually you get people complaining about this and that but this serious survey suggests that the service is feeling really badly about itself. It is not the time to kick the service when it is down. I hope that that is not the intention of the Government. We do not want to destroy what I believe is the best police service in the world.
My Lords, I remind your Lordships of my registered interest as a member of the interim independent reference group for the Police Federation of England and Wales, which is so ably chaired by the noble Baroness, Lady Harris. Having commissioned a wide-ranging review, the Police Federation has been committed to reforming itself following the publication of the Normington report last February. The organisation has worked hard to implement the recommendations of the report in full, as demanded by the Home Secretary at its annual conference in Bournemouth in May 2014.
Reforming large, unwieldy institutions with complex histories is never easy and transforming the Police Federation, which has remained largely unchanged for nearly a century, is certainly not a straightforward enterprise. When I was asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, to join the then constables’ advisory panel, I confess that what I knew of the Police Federation was limited to what I had read in the press and seen on television. The vast majority of that information was very negative following revelations of poor conduct subsequent to what became known as “plebgate”. Successive high-profile media revelations regarding the apparent lack of transparency around funds and activities further harmed its reputation. In addition to that, there have been several high-profile cases that suggested corruption, unwarranted violence and racism.
Shortly after absorbing all this, I was engaged in chairing the Young review, which was tasked with making recommendations that would contribute to improving outcomes for young black and/or Muslim men. Here, again, although I was aware that some sections of the country’s police force had been working towards changing their practices, the problems encountered by some black, Asian and minority ethnic populations and female officers did little to change my perceptions.
Since then, through my involvement initially as a member of the constables’ advisory panel and now the interim independent reference group, and having had several opportunities to talk in some depth with PFEW members from different parts of England and Wales, I have developed a different, more nuanced view of the hugely complicated task that lies ahead. I have listened to officers describe their frustrations and anxieties regarding how they want to work more effectively with, for example, mental health services and social services. I have heard how efforts to modernise are sometimes resisted or misunderstood. I have heard how black, Asian and minority ethnic, and women members, express their frustrations at the slow progress being made in making the police force and the PFEW more diverse and representative.
Listening is really important. These concerns have not been represented to me as moans and whines. In the vast majority of instances, members are looking actively for solutions, being very positive and not just articulating problems. They are doing their best to look to the future, not backwards.
There is a long, complex narrative underpinning the process of instigating the changes recommended in the Normington review. What may surprise some noble Lords, particularly those who are more dependent on media accounts of the PFEW than on other accounts, is that the majority of representatives of the organisation whom I have met have expressed their strong disapproval of the actions of those who have brought so much negative attention on the organisation. In addition, those to whom I have been talking are very keen to move forward.
This is not to say that every police officer working in PFEW is wholeheartedly behind the changes—of course not. Nor are they all necessarily in agreement as to how and at what speed the review’s recommendations should be implemented. Again, that is only to be expected. With so many divergent and complex strands and threads involved and with the weight of historical antagonisms and schisms within and outwith the organisation, the task of delivering an end product which brings together the different requirements of the Home Secretary and the Normington review and delivers an efficient, effective, representative Police Federation is clearly a painstaking and protracted process.
While there can be no doubt that serious damage has been done to the organisation’s reputation, leading to a breakdown in political relations, we now have an opportunity to repair that damage and improve on the understanding between parliamentarians, government, the PFEW, police officers and the public.
I referred earlier to the destructive actions of a few within the organisation. The ability of regional federations to act autonomously is at the root of some of the circumstances which arose—a consequence of the structure of the federation itself, with its 43 regional branches. It remains to be seen whether that situation can be prevented from arising again in future.
Given that the Police Federation decided to review itself following this crisis and given the decision to implement wholeheartedly and in full the Normington recommendations as demanded by the Home Secretary, it appears disproportionately punitive to impose further strictures outlined in the statutory instrument. As the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, observed, the reduction in resources comes at a time when police forces across England and Wales are having to deal with the changing nature of crime, the rollout of new technologies and the training that that entails, and diminishing resources available for looking after the mental well-being of officers. All these factors and more mean that they will be facing huge challenges in the years ahead.
I believe that the Police Federation needs to move ahead and to do so quickly. It needs to tap into the momentum that has been gathering and work with those who want the organisation to do its job by affirming its commitment to the public interest, as recommended by Normington. That makes sense and is achievable only if the Police Federation is enabled to be a progressive, strong, diverse and adequately funded representative organisation. In this way, it will be able to ensure that it makes the best use of resources available, as well as working in the best interests of police officers. What may be characterised as punitive action taken by the Government through this statutory instrument is not helpful. It seems to be out of step with the basic tenets for bodies charged with representing their members. With the right support, guidance and advice, a reinvigorated Police Federation can be a force for positive change and an essential resource for government in combating the continually evolving landscape of crime throughout our communities in England and Wales.
My Lords, I begin by declaring that I am a member of the police service parliamentary scheme committee and I have also taken part in the police service parliamentary scheme itself.
I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Harris of Richmond, for giving us an opportunity to discuss these regulations. The three speeches that we have heard so far have been eloquent and forceful. I am afraid that is not something I will be able to match, given that much of my contribution will be in the form of questions to the Minister as I am not entirely sure what these regulations mean in practice. I am sure he will be able to provide me with the answers since, as I understand it, these regulations have now been in force for some three and a half months, unless they have somehow been delayed. I hope that the Minister will respond on the basis of his experience of how these regulations are working and the impact they are having.
First, I refer to the report of the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee. It is a fairly old report, given that it was published on 26 March this year. The committee stated in paragraph 8 of the report on the regulations:
“The concept of not allowing a closed shop to operate is well established but no-one, including the Home Office, is aware of a precedent for the proposal that members can opt into a ‘union’ and use its services without also paying a subscription”.
I would be grateful if the Minister would say whether he believes that is a fair statement—namely, that the Home Office is unaware of a precedent for the proposal. In fact, it is no longer a proposal but a reality in these regulations. Will he also say why the Home Office felt it was necessary to have this arrangement uniquely for the Police Federation?
As the Minister will also be aware, the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee expressed surprise that no estimate of the predicted financial impact of this legislation on the federation had been provided. I am sure that will not be a surprise question for the Minister and that he expected it to be raised. Why was no estimate given of the predicted financial impact of this legislation on the federation, and why did the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee feel moved to comment on that fact? What is the Government’s estimate of the predicted financial impact of this legislation on the federation, since, presumably, they have not embarked on bringing these regulations into force without knowing the answer to that question? Therefore, I would be grateful if the noble Lord would answer the question, which was also raised by the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee.
If officers previously paid no subscription but then opted to pay one, can they at any time opt back into paying no subscription—for example, in circumstances where they received advice or support that led them to change from paying no subscription to paying one? Can they yo-yo to and fro between paying no subscription and paying one simply to cover the period during which they feel they require advice or support from the federation? Then, once they have had that advice or support, can they immediately opt back into paying no subscription? I would be grateful if the Minister would answer that question.
Can the Police Federation alone decide whether it will provide any level of service at all to officers who join the federation but decline to pay any subscription, or would it be stopped from doing this by these or any other regulations and be compelled to provide some level of service to officers who join but do not pay any subscription? At the moment that is not entirely clear to me from the information in front of me.
Paragraph 10 of the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee report states:
“The Home Office also states that, apart from the provisions about specified matters outlined in these Regulations, legislation does not otherwise set out which members are eligible for what benefit. Further detail on the specific benefits that the Federation provides and the eligibility criteria for these benefits would be outlined in the Police Federation’s Fund Rules”.
That is a direct quote from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, telling us what the Home Office has stated. In the light of that, do the Police Federation’s fund rules have to be approved by the Secretary of State, or is it a matter solely for the federation to decide what these rules say, provided that they do not conflict with the provisions about,
“specified matters outlined in these Regulations”?
Is there anything in these regulations that prevents the federation from deciding that someone who joins and declines to pay either the normal subscription or any subscription will receive no benefits at all? Once again, I would be grateful if the Minister could respond to that point.
Paragraph 9 of the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee report starts:
“In relation to the new requirements the Home Office has stated”,
and one thing that the Home Office has stated is that:
“Officers who currently withhold payment of their subscriptions have a limited entitlement to support”,
from the federation,
“compared to a member paying their subscription fees”.
What actually is the “limited entitlement to support” from the federation, mentioned as having been referred to by the Home Office in paragraph 9 of the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee report? Can the federation decline to accept an officer into membership under these regulations, or is it compelled to accept into membership anybody who says they want to join? Can the federation lapse from membership any member who declines to pay a subscription? Is that a matter for the federation to decide?
Can the Minister also tell us the sources of funding of the Police Federation, apart from voluntary subscriptions? What percentage of its income comes from voluntary subscriptions and what percentage from other sources? I ask this in the context that, up to now, the Government do not appear to have provided any estimate of the predicted financial impact of this legislation on the federation, so clearly it is of interest to know what percentage of its income is made up of the voluntary subscription and what percentage of its income comes from other sources.
With reference to the regulations themselves, this is, on the face of it, a relatively minor point, but in Regulation 5, new Regulation 4A states that:
“Each branch board of the Federation must—
(a) notify each new member below the rank of superintendent, or police cadet, of that force that they may, but are not required to, opt to join the Federation”.
Can the Minister confirm that this means that “each new member” covers everybody and not just those expressing an interest in joining the federation—in other words, that “new member” is a reference to all people joining the police force? If that is correct, who will provide the federation with details of such new recruits? I ask that question in this context because new sub-paragraph (b) says that each branch board of the federation must,
“notify each new member below the rank of superintendent, or police cadet, of that force who wishes to join the Federation”.
To whom is that referring, since you cannot be a new member until you have joined? You cannot therefore come under the category set out in new Regulation 4A(b) of someone “who wishes to join”. If you wish to join, surely by definition you are not a new member. I would be grateful for the Minister’s explanation of what that part of the regulations means.
I turn back to the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee’s report. I am sorry if I am going from one part of it to another but there is a quote at the end to which the noble Baroness, Lady Harris of Richmond, has already referred. In paragraph 12, the report says:
“The Federation particularly objects to the requirement that it must provide services to someone who has not previously subscribed at the same level as a long-term subscriber”.
Referring to the letter from the federation, the committee says that it,
“compares the proposal to ‘a driver using an uninsured motor vehicle, having an accident and then contacting the insurance company for cover after the event’”.
Can the Minister explain why that is not an accurate parallel of the situation in which the Government are placing the federation through these regulations? Finally, which part of the regulations says that the federation must provide some services to members who pay no subscriptions?
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, for tabling this debate. At this late hour, I have indulged in a quite unique experience of opening my fast at Ramadan at the Dispatch Box, so every day certainly brings a new challenge and a new experience. I also thank all other noble Lords for their contributions on this subject.
I say from the outset, in response to various points made by noble Lords, that the Government—the Home Secretary, all Home Office Ministers and I, as a Minister for countering extremism—recognise the important role that the police service plays across a variety of important areas, none perhaps more pertinent than some of the challenges we currently confront. Along with other Ministers and the Home Secretary, I was with the chief constables only yesterday at a conference where we looked at general policing issues and, more specifically, at some of the issues we face in countering extremism.
Turning to the issue under discussion this evening, the Government’s view is that it is vital that the Police Federation can command the trust of its members and the public. Sir David Normington’s independent review found that the federation had lost trust and it was clear that the organisation required fundamental reform, a point to which the noble Baroness, Lady Young, alluded. I take this opportunity to explain how the amending regulations assist with addressing this issue. In line with the Government’s statutory obligations, these changes were subject to a period of consultation with the federation last year. The Home Secretary was clear in her speech to the federation’s annual conference in May 2014 that the Government welcomed its commitment to implementing the Normington reforms. At the same time, she outlined her intention to make a number of additional regulatory changes to support greater transparency and accountability for the federation.
Since 1919, when the federation was established, all officers automatically become members on joining the police, as has already been mentioned. Every officer from the ranks of constable to chief inspector was compelled to join the federation. They had no choice. The statutory instrument, which came into force on 2 April, ensures that new officers now actively choose whether and when to join the Police Federation at any point in their service. It is therefore their choice. Officers previously had the right to opt out of paying federation subscriptions, and so forgoing certain member benefits or services, but this was not necessarily consistent or clear to officers. The recent changes mean that officers will in future actively choose whether to pay subscriptions and receive the services and benefits to which they entitle them. This in part addresses a question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser. It is also vital that the federation earn the right to represent its members. These changes, which are integral to federation reform, will help ensure a future where that will be the case.
The unique status of police officers, and their importance to the public, means they cannot join a trade union. The federation was created by statute as the recognised mechanism for representing the interests of officers. However, this should not mean that it can complacently rely on all officers being members. That is why the changes made ensure that the federation cannot discriminate in respect of certain core services it provides to its members based on the date they choose to join and pay subscriptions.
I understand that the federation has objected to this change, comparing it to,
“a driver using an uninsured motor vehicle, having an accident, and then contacting the insurance company for cover after the event”.
This point was raised by both the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, and the noble Lord, Lord Rosser. However, there is a key flaw in this analogy. A motorist who is dissatisfied with their insurance company has the option of taking their business elsewhere. This is simply not the case for the thousands of rank and file officers up and down the country who continue to show professionalism, dedication and sacrifice in the line of duty. These changes are about putting power in these individual officers’ hands to influence their federation.
It cannot be right for a federation that fails to command the confidence and trust of its members to be able to hold them to ransom. The ultimate conclusion of the federation’s position is that all officers should become members as a form of insurance, rather than be convinced of the merits of federation membership. That is the opposite of what we are seeking to achieve, which is giving officers the power to decide whether the federation has set out a compelling case for membership. The federation effectively holds a monopoly when it comes to providing support and representation to police officers. It should not be able to use that position to threaten to withhold assistance from any officer who chooses to join later in their service.
The noble Baroness, Lady Harris, also asserted that this will lead to an unreasonable financial burden for the federation—a point also made by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser—in representing new members who have not “paid their dues” earlier in their career. We would dispute that. Although all subscribing officers should have access to the same support, a member who chooses not to pay subscriptions will continue to have only limited entitlements.
Does the Minister intend to go on to tell us what those limited entitlements are? Are they the same limited entitlements that I understand such officers are allowed now, and is it provided for in the regulations that they have some limited entitlements? I would be grateful if the Minister could spell out what they are. Are they actually set out in these regulations or are they in the regulations which I think the SI before us seeks to amend?
I will come to some of the specific points the noble Lord has raised. On the exact entitlements, it will be more appropriate for me to write to the noble Lord and other Members. I say to the noble Lord and to the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, that one of the issues raised was concern about the financial capacity of the federation to deal with changes that are being made. A review of the federation’s accounts last year found that it currently holds reserves of over £54 million. Indeed, the Normington review also recommended that the federation should reduce annual member subscriptions by 25% per cent, from an average of £258.96 to £194.22, given the level of federation reserves. In the very unlikely event that the federation finds itself in financial difficulty as a result of subscription income reducing, that would surely suggest that it had failed to convince rank and file officers of the merits of membership. That said, with the level of reserves currently held, that is highly unlikely.
The noble Baroness, Lady Young, also talked about a disproportionate response from the Government. In the interests of upholding openness and transparency, the instrument also clarifies the Home Secretary’s powers to scrutinise details of all funds held for federation purposes. Normington was also clear that the federation must convince its members and the public of the good value for money of the work that the federation undertakes.
Finally, at the request of the federation, the instrument also makes provision for it to reimburse police forces for the payment of salaries of members of the national federation’s joint central committee and for the central co-ordination of federation funds. This supports the Normington recommendation that there should be greater national oversight and transparency of federation finances.
If I do not cover all the questions that I have been asked this evening, I shall certainly review the contributions and write appropriately. On what the instrument does, the regulations laid on 12 March covered areas of membership, removing compulsory membership of the federation and applying a duty on the federation to inform new officers that they may opt in. Secondly, officers will pay subscriptions only if they actively choose to, and the instrument applies a duty on the federation to inform new officers that they may opt to pay subscriptions. On the accounts—this is a point that I have already made—it clarifies the Home Secretary’s powers to call in and scrutinise all the accounts held by the federation at national or local branch level, for all moneys held by the federation.
The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked specifically about membership and subscriptions. The PFEW provides a range of benefits and services, which is primarily a matter for the PFEW. It includes, for example, financial and legal services. Secondly, the regulations mean that the PFEW must support a subscription-paying member in formal matters of conduct, disciplinary or performance matters. Any further benefits or services are a matter for the PFEW.
The noble Lord also asked whether the federation was now required to inform each new officer of the non-compulsory nature of membership. The short answer to that is yes. The recent changes impose a new duty on the federation to inform new officers that membership is non-compulsory. This duty may be satisfied through internal communications to staff, on notice boards and through local representatives.
How will the federation know who all the new officers are? Will it be told by chief constables, or what? Is it left to the federation to find out who the new recruits are? Will there be an onus on the federation, or on the police forces to tell the federation whom has recently been recruited and whom it should give this information to?
The onus is on the federation. As I said earlier, it is for the federation to make the case for new police officers to say that they need to join the federation and tell them that it offers the services that it does. This is something that the federation will need to do to ensure that officers realise the benefits of being part of the body. Any representative body would have to make that case.
What the Minister is saying—and I am just trying to get this clear—is that the federation will have to advise any new officer who is recruited into a police force of the fact that they can join the federation but they do not have to and that, if they join, they do not have to pay any subscriptions: it is up to them. The Minister is saying that it is for the local branch of the federation to find out who the management of the local police force has recruited into the force. Surely, there must be some obligation on those who run the police force to tell the local branch federation whom they have recruited and whom the federation then has—as I understand it—a statutory responsibility to advise that they can join the federation but they do not have to. Indeed, if the federation does not do that, it is liable to a penalty. Yet the Minister is saying that it is up to the local federation to find out who the management has recruited into the local police force. Surely that cannot be right; it must be for the management or the local chief constable to tell the federation who the new recruits are.
I think that the noble Lord is putting words into my mouth. I did not say that—I said that it was for the federation to make the case for its membership. So I think that he should reflect on what I have said from the Dispatch Box. In his usual style, he has asked a raft of questions and, as I said earlier, on specific areas I shall reflect on contributions made and respond accordingly.
Perhaps I can make my point; I have listened to the points that he has made. Every police force locally and every local branch has a relationship. As it works currently, they will be informed of new recruits joining, and it is for the federation to make the case for new recruits to join. No doubt they will outline the membership benefits at that time. The important thing with these regulations is that they put the choice in the hands of the individual police officer. In any representative body, no matter what profession you are talking about, that is how it works.
I think that the noble Lord has answered the question. If he had answered it before and I had not heard him, I apologise. What the noble Lord has just said is that the federation will be advised of the new people who have joined the force, and that was simply the question that I was asking: will it be advised by the police force who the new recruits are, rather than the federation itself having to find out? As far as I understand, the Minister has now made it clear that the local branch of the federation will be advised who the new people are and therefore the people that the federation have to advise. That has answered the question I asked.
Perhaps the reason why there was some confusion on my part is that that is how it works now. There is no change. The noble Lord is perhaps pursuing a line that is actually currently the way it works. Perhaps I can move on, given the lateness of the hour, and answer some of the other questions. I assure him once again that if there is anything I have missed, I will seek to write to cover those points.
The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, also asked whether an officer could still receive benefit if they choose not to pay a subscription, and whether it was in the gift of the federation to decide whether it supports non-paying members. Prior to this arrangement, it was possible for an officer to withhold payment of their subscription, and as a result they were entitled only to a limited number of benefits, dictated entirely by the federation. It is entirely in the gift of the federation to determine what benefits it would provide to members who opt out of paying subscriptions.
The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, said that the PFEW is unique, in that members can access services as soon as they opt in. Yes, the PFEW is unique and police officers cannot join a union. As I said in my main contribution, the PFEW is the only organisation they can join in the rank and file and it is absolutely right that police officers, who do a unique job, have arrangements that give them access to strong representation.
The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked what the reference to “each new member” meant in new Regulation 4A(b). The reference is to a new member of the police force, not to a new member of the PFEW. The noble Lord asked other questions and I will seek to review the comments that have been made.
The Government of course value the incredible contribution that police officers up and down the country make and the vital role they fulfil. The relationship between the Home Office and the police remains very strong. It is a constructive relationship, and as I have said on several occasions this evening, it is the Government’s view that it is important for the Police Federation to earn the confidence of officers in order to make the best use of members’ subscriptions and represent them with transparency and integrity. The changes made by the Police Federation (Amendment) Regulations 2015 will assist in that.
The noble Lord Mackenzie asked about the recent PFEW survey and evidence that government policy is leading to low morale among officers. I assure him and all noble Lords that the Government are determined to ensure that policing remains a rewarding, professional and respected career, and our reforms are certainly seeking to achieve just that. Part of that is ensuring that the Police Federation represents its members with both integrity and transparency. I have already spoken about the Government’s strong support for our police forces.
We believe that the changes made by the Police Federation (Amendment) Regulations 2015 will assist the federation in ultimately regaining the trust of its members and indeed the public.
Before the Minister sits down, will he confirm that similar provisions do not apply to the Police Superintendents’ Association, which was established at exactly the same time in 1919? Will he also confirm that the Ministry of Defence Police Federation has a specific provision in its rules that says it will not provide assistance for people who join the organisation for any incident that applied prior to joining, which is exactly the opposite of what is going to apply to the national Police Federation?
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister. He will not be surprised to hear that I am not at all satisfied with his remarks. He has quoted extensively from the Police Federation independent review by Sir David Normington, which I shall also refer to. First, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken—the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and the noble Lords, Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate and Lord Rosser—for their remarks and their strong support. I thought that the questions from the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, were particularly apposite.
The report says that the Police Federation,
“was established to represent every constable, sergeant, and inspector (including chief inspectors) in England and Wales. There was also an unspoken understanding that the Federation would receive relatively generous direct and indirect public resources for its representation and access to chief officers and to local and national policy makers”.
Of course the generous indirect public resources have now gone; the Home Secretary decided to take those away.
“Despite many reviews and reorganisations of policing this basic settlement has remained intact for 95 years. In our view it is as important and valid now as it was in 1919”.
This is the view from the chair of the independent review, Sir David Normington.
“Police officers need—and greatly value—an organisation that represents them in individual cases of investigation or discipline; and can give them and their families”—
I stress “their families”—
“wider support when they are under stress. This absolutely necessary protection means that it is desirable for membership to be universal given the widespread risks that individual officers face. That is why membership of the Federation is automatic upon enrolment (although officers can opt out of paying the subscription). This is the most practicable arrangement currently and one which we support”.
Lastly, the Police Federation told me that the amendments relating to subscriptions were unnecessary and not appropriate, as members already had a choice whether or not to pay subscriptions. The federation believes strongly that it should be free to choose what arrangements it reaches with its members in relation to subscriptions, and that it is not for the state to interfere in relation to the rights that late-subscribing members should have to assistance of any kind, from the federation or otherwise. However, as I have indicated to the Government, I do not intend to call for a vote—there would not really be much point at this late hour—so I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.
House adjourned at 9.58 pm.