Clause 114

Part of Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 8:45 pm ar 27 Tachwedd 2007.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Vernon Coaker Vernon Coaker Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Crime Reduction) 8:45, 27 Tachwedd 2007

I apologise to the Committee, but this important amendment would have an impact on police authorities across the country and I need to read my response into the record. When I have done so, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will feel reassured. Given that my comments will be read by many people, I hope that the Committee will bear with me, notwithstanding the lateness of the hour.

Police authorities play a critical role in securing continuous improvement in the police service, and we need to ensure that they are performing their functions effectively. A systematic process for the assessment of police authority performance would enable judgments and comparisons to be made about performance, help to drive further performance improvement, and make it possible to target support to poorly performing authorities. It is our intention, therefore, to make it possible for inspections to be carried out jointly by Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary and the Audit Commission across the full range of police authority functions.

While the inspectorate of constabulary and the Audit Commission between them will bring to bear wide professional expertise and knowledge of policing and the inspection of police authorities, we agree that police authorities provide valuable experience that should be available as part of any inspection process. We see peer  review by authorities forming an integral part of the programme of inspections carried out by the inspectorate of constabulary and the Audit Commission. However, it is right that legislation specifies at this stage only the bodies that will have responsibility for inspecting authorities and the extent of the inspection process.

Giving an element of the inspection process legislative force, as is suggested by the amendment, would confer unnecessary prominence, reduce flexibility and limit the ability to take account of different circumstances in different police authorities. I would argue that that sort of detail is best set out in the joint inspection framework and methodology that will be developed to inform the work. A protocol will be drawn up by all those involved and will provide a clear basis on which to manage a programme of inspection activities. It will set out the respective roles and responsibilities of all the bodies involved and ensure that all appropriate skills and knowledge are available.

The protocol will be developed with the Association of Police Authorities to ensure that its knowledge and understanding of the work of authorities is reflected. The role of peer review will be spelled out. The inspectorate of constabulary and the Audit Commission are ready to explore how best to bring that into the inspection process.

I might further add that the Home Affairs Committee report on police funding welcomed the development of an inspection framework by the inspectorate of constabulary and the Audit Commission, and supported its speedy implementation. I hope that with my reference to the importance of peer review, the hon. Gentleman will feel sufficiently reassured.