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Police and Crime Commissioners

Volume 793: debated on Monday 15 October 2018


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the concerns raised by the National Police Chiefs’ Council about Police and Crime Commissioners and their impact on applications for Chief Constable positions.

My Lords, we are committed to ensuring that policing continues to attract the leaders that it needs for the future. The 2015 College of Policing Leadership Review set the foundation, and we have built on this by funding a leadership hub. Chiefs, PCCs and the college are rising to this challenge.

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that Answer, but she will be aware that there is increasing concern about the rapid turnover of chief constables, particularly women. It seems to be a problem, too, that new appointments are often made from a shortlist of one—often, the deputy chief constable. She will be aware that Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary has expressed concern that bright officers are not applying for these posts because they think police commissioners have already made up their minds. Will she use the powers that she has to determine that any appointment must be made from a strong shortlist, and that no one should become a chief constable unless they have also undertaken a senior post with another force, rather than simply being promoted from the inside?

I certainly recognise the point that the noble Lord makes about the feeling that people are promoted from the inside and, therefore, that perhaps officers do not apply from other forces. On female turnover, we should welcome the fact that we have a female commissioner of the Met police, which is fantastic news. The chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council is also a woman, and the director-general of the NCA is also female. However, I understand the noble Lord’s point. I also think that chiefs themselves have a role to play in attracting and encouraging talent coming up through the pipeline. The College of Policing published a code of ethics, guidance on flexible working and guidance on the use of positive action to increase the recruitment and retention of underrepresented groups, including females.

My Lords, it has always been the case that incumbent chief officers have had an advantage over outside candidates, but this has been made worse by the fact that there is a one-to-one relationship between the police and crime commissioner and his or her chief officer team. Why will the Home Office not reimpose the requirement that a national Home Office-led assessment is part of the selection process? Even the noble Lord, Lord Sugar, has a panel of experts to help him decide who his apprentice will be.

The PCC, in recruiting his chief constable, has to be mindful of the quality of candidate he is recruiting. The thing about PCCs, which was not true of police authorities when they existed, is that the public can hold them to account at the ballot box.

My Lords, I declare my interest as the police and crime commissioner for Leicestershire. As the Minister knows well, Leicestershire has a long-standing chief constable—who is still fairly young, by comparison—who it is a pleasure and an honour to work with. Police and crime commissioners do come together in their joint concern—a concern the Minister will know of, and which is shared around the House—that Her Majesty’s Government have allowed cuts in this area to go too far, and this is seriously putting at risk the ability of the police anywhere to do their jobs.

First, I express my sympathy with the noble Lord—Parliament’s one and only PCC—regarding the number of times that his Benches stand up and criticise PCCs. I have been to Leicester, I have seen him in action, I have met his chief constable and I pay tribute to the work that they do. In terms of funding, the noble Lord will know that the Policing Minister visited every police force in England and Wales with regard to coming to a funding settlement for 2018-19. In addition, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary has recently said that he appreciates the pressures that the police are under, not least because of the things that they have had to deal with in the last 12 months.

My Lords, my noble friend referred to the fact that PCCs can be held accountable, but does she not recognise the problem in the case of Wiltshire? After Operation Conifer, the chief constable moved to another area and the PCC is not standing for re-election. How, then, can the public make their views known?

I fully understand the sentiments expressed by both my noble friend and Members of the House on this issue in general. In terms of the chief constable, although I am not referring to this particular case, moving force does not of itself absolve someone from accountability for their actions. As I said, certainly the PCC who, is much more high-profile than local police authorities, can be held to account by his or her voters.

My Lords, I refer to my interests as listed in the register. When I was involved in appointing chief officers in the police service, we had the benefit of receiving advice from the Home Office senior appointments panel, which the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, referred to, which told us whether the shortlist was adequate and broad enough, and we also had the benefit of advice from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary. Legislation now precludes the Chief Inspector of Constabulary from providing advice to chief constables. Why is that?

My Lords, I do not know the answer to that question. I will have to take that back, if the noble Lord does not mind, and come up with a reply, because I am not quite sure of the history of this.

My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that a senior police officer who had to leave Police Scotland under allegations of bullying has been appointed an inspector of constabulary in England? Has she any comments on that?

As I said, I do not have comments to make on individual cases, but I said in response to a previous question that moving forces does not absolve you from being accountable for the actions that you have taken in another force.