§ 3.9 p.m.
§ Lord Kingsland rose to call attention to the role of the police service in modern British society; and to move for Papers.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, perhaps I may say first how much I am looking forward to hearing the maiden contributions of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Carlisle and the noble Lord, Lord Norton.
§ Being a policeman in a free and democratic society is a testing vocation. There are strict laws of criminal evidence and criminal procedure to protect the accused. There are open frontiers for people to cross freely without let or hindrance. There is the constant possibility that if a police officer makes a wrong decision, he will be sued in an increasingly litigious society.1653
§ I suppose that in our own democracy the test for the policeman is even greater. In this country the police carry no weapons. In the special circumstances when they do, the use of those weapons is tightly circumscribed. The individual, thank heavens, is not obliged to carry identification; and the police enjoy no special constitutional protection under our law. On the one hand, a policeman is a public officer; if he neglects his public duty, he commits an offence. On the other hand, if in apprehending a criminal, or a person in the course of an act of public disorder, a policeman uses excess power beyond what is reasonable in the circumstances, he also commits an offence. Walking that tightrope and getting the balance right for the man on the spot who has to think quickly is extremely difficult. Our constitutional history is littered with examples of how the constable on the beat has had to cope with such difficulties.
§ That is particularly true today when we are faced with so many single issue problems such as animal welfare and animal rights, the building of motorways and the construction of nuclear power stations. People who would never have dreamt of committing an offence in their life suddenly feel bound to protest in public. The policeman then has to deal with individuals who are normally his own supporters. In facing that dilemma, the policeman must clearly have our support.
§ The powder and shot of the debates in another place on the police is statistical, with references to the relationship between the number of crimes and the number of policemen who are employed to confront those crimes. However, the truth of the matter, as I hope all your Lordships will agree, is that the effectiveness of the police is only one factor in determining the level of crime in this country. We all have our own views about other factors, which may include the breakdown of the family unit, the breakdown of authority in schools and the uncontrolled violence on our television screens. The latter is a controversial point for some people; I have no doubt that it is a big factor. Above all, perhaps I should refer to the awful events recently in Dunblane. All of those factors are beyond the reach of the Home Office. They are matters that run deep into the history of post-war British society. We cannot pretend to solve those problems overnight.
§ In any case, the impact of the police on crime is not simply a question of numbers. Indeed, if it were simply a question of numbers, I would be extremely depressed; because in our democratic society the Secretary of State for the Home Department has to compete for resources with the Secretary of State for Health, the Secretary of State for Education and Employment and the Secretary of State for Defence. In the long run it would be extremely difficult for the Home Office to have a greater claim for an increase in resources than those other important departments. What is crucial with regard to policing and the way in which we tackle crime is to make effective use of the resources available to us.
§ I remember reading the Royal Armoured Corps tactical manual some 30 years ago. Its details are now somewhat dim, but three important principles stand out. The first is that the single most important ingredient of 1654 success is morale; the second is that time spent on reconnaissance is seldom wasted; and the third is, "Concentrate for effect". That is quite a good way of analysing the effectiveness of our police force today.
§ I turn first to morale, which in a way is the most difficult ingredient to analyse although it is the most important. I congratulate my right honourable friend the Home Secretary and my noble friend the Minister on their efforts—successful efforts, I believe—to improve the security of the individual policeman on the beat with improved body protection, better truncheons and the possible use of CS gas. They are all crucial for the individual policeman's sense of security and well-being. We owe it to our police to provide them with that security. I refer also to the investment which Her Majesty's Government are now making in the DNA database and in national access to the automated analysis of fingerprints. Those are all important in terms of building up police confidence as are questions of pay and conditions of service.
§ However, there remains the elusive factor of morale. The 16th/5th Lancers had morale when I had the honour of serving under the command of my noble friend Lord Vivian. Many of our police forces have high morale, but some do not. It boils down to a question of leadership—that unfashionable, politically incorrect ingredient which is everything in a crisis. The trouble about leadership is that by the time you discover that you do not have it, it is usually too late to do anything about it. That is why I think that the relatively short-term contracts between police authorities and their chief constables are rather a good thing.
§ My second precept—that time spent on reconnaissance is seldom wasted—is perhaps the area in which the greatest improvement can be made. Recent American studies suggest that 60 per cent. of crimes in urban areas are committed in only 5 per cent. of the area. That is an astonishing statistic, but I believe that it is borne out throughout most of the United States. It is likely also to be true of our own country. It is crucial that each police authority invests resources in trying to identify such locations in its areas of responsibility so that police resources can be directed and targeted accurately.
§ In this context, I should like to raise the question of assessing police performance. The Audit Commission is doing extremely good work in this area. The speed with which telephone calls are answered and the response of incident units are vital when gauging the efficiency and effectiveness of a particular force. But it can be taken too far. It will encourage chief constables to skew their resources in the direction of activities which are measurable. The Chief Constable of West Mercia, for example, has 20 of his constables going around schools in the area to talk to pupils about drugs. That is a vital and important task. I suspect that in the long run its benefits will prove immeasurable; yet that work will not show up in the measurements of the Audit Commission. Perhaps telephone calls will be less swiftly answered; but I suspect that in the long run crime will be reduced in that area because of that initiative. All reconnaissance 1655 activities are of that nature. I hope that my noble friend the Minister will take account of that factor when looking ahead at the question of police assessment.
§ My third precept relates to the maxim, "Concentrate for effect". Clearly, the more accurate the information that is available, the more targeted and concentrated will be the response. That must be the focus of our police forces over the next few years. But the fact remains that however effective we are we will still not satisfy the demands of the public for more policing in their particular area. Indeed, there is no way to satisfy that demand completely.
§ But much can be done through communication and education. I greatly applaud the work of most chief constables who, in preparing their policing plans, now involve local communities, not only to see what contribution they can make in terms of Neighbourhood Watch and so on, but, just as importantly, to explain why particular police forces have to be concentrated in certain areas; and, if there is a policing gap about which individuals within the community are worried, to find out how it can be filled. In part, it can be filled by technology. Her Majesty's Government have done a great deal to encourage the use of closed circuit television. In my home county of Shropshire I know how much that has helped to reduce crime in Telford New Town. I think it is important to commit more resources to it.
§ One also has to take into account the special constabulary who are part-time, properly trained, uniformed volunteers; if you like, the Territorial Army of the police force. We need more special constables. I trust that some attention is being given to the matter by my noble friend the Minister. I wonder whether, if we are to generate the number of special constables we shall need in future, some thought may be given to changing their terms of service. I would far rather have that than see ordinary citizens, even in the guise of security guards employed by a security firm, going on to the streets to take on the task of a constable. I believe that that is undesirable; I trust that it will be discouraged.
§ One of the great constitutional glories of our police is that the system of command and control throughout our history has been highly decentralised. That has been extremely important in underpinning our freedom. At the time of the passage through Parliament of the Police and Magistrates' Courts Act 1994 concern was expressed about the threat to that decentralisation. The Bill was subject to substantial pruning. We now have a year's experience of the relationship between police authorities and chief constables. I believe that the experience has been good. I am particularly struck by the new transparency in the system which has resulted from the preparation of the annual police plan. I also believe that the new composition of the police authority has brought to the supervision of police work a wider range of individual experience than was available under the old watch committee. For that we have to be very grateful.
§ The potential worry posed by the new contractual relationship between the chief constable and the police authority can be avoided provided that police authorities 1656 do not attempt to interfere with the day-to-day business of policing, which must remain exclusively under the control of the chief constable. I have great affection for the watch committee, which served this nation well for over 150 years. But I believe that the police authority will prove to be an even better guarantor of good relations between the police and local communities.
At the beginning of the 1960s there was a Royal Commission report on the police. Mr. Leslie Hale, a Member of another place who served on the commission, spoke about the supervisory standards of watch committees. He said:
We went to one borough … where we found that the former chief constable had been absent from duty almost continuously for years. Every time the pigeon shooting season began on the Riviera he gave himself long sick leave and the corporation had never seen the report of the inspector of constabulary … We said, 'What about it?' Members of the corporation said, 'We wanted it, but think what would happen if we reported the matter to the Home Office. They would send him back'".
§ I believe that we have much to be thankful for in the present management of the police.
§ I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.25 p.m.
§ The Lord Bishop of Carlisle
My Lords, your Lordships must have heard many a blushing confession from episcopal maidens that they find the prospect of addressing your Lordships' House daunting in the extreme. We can cope with the ceremonial of introduction to the House, accustomed as we are to participation in ritual the exact significance of which is not at all clear to the uninitiated; but from our usual vantage point in the pulpit, described as six feet above contradiction, speaking on the Floor of your Lordships' House leaves one feeling very exposed. I take comfort from the generous welcome that I have already received and hope that growing experience will gradually encourage confidence.
In this very important matter before us I want to refer to four aspects of relationships between the police and the people at large. First, the police are our surrogates. We rely upon them to uphold the law, to keep the peace and to secure our freedoms of speech, movement and assembly. They do this on our behalf. Any element of "them" and "us" in attitudes between the people and the police is to be abhorred. But just to say that is to be reminded how complex that task has become and how much work still needs to be done in educating attitudes. Perhaps we should heed Shylock in the Merchant of Venice:Hath not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?".If we were to substitute for Jew, on the one hand, the words "the police" and, on the other, such phrases as "young persons", "football hooligans", "blacks" or any other group that thinks of itself as a target, we might 1657 just begin again to treat one another as human beings. Unless we acknowledge our common humanity we are lost.
Secondly, the police are working largely on the edges of society. Queen Elizabeth I reminded her Parliament of the very fine dividing line between liberty and licence. That is a tightrope that the police walk every day. We need to recognise the delicacy of balance in making judgments about policy and police practice and the difficulty for individual commanders or officers on the ground in making such decisions in the heat of the moment. These are matters which require frequent, open review and open accountability. Police authorities have a particular responsibility here. Most of us need friends on whose support and encouragement we can rely but who will also tell us frankly the very things that we need to hear when our integrity is at stake, and especially when nobody else will.
Thirdly, I mention the importance of partnership. At almost every meeting that I attend with secular bodies the need for partnership is in the air and there is a great deal of willingness to put it into practice. This certainly includes the police. But I believe that there are many creative developments yet to take place; for example, in shared training which includes police, probation officers, community workers, some teachers and clergy, to name but a few of the professions whose work regularly takes them to the edges of society. This is often focused in a particular community or on a particular street. Shared training and reflection on experience would secure any of those groups I have named from developing a ghetto mentality when times are hard or public opinion is hostile.
Excellent work has been and is being done between community relations and the police in improving racial awareness. It was heart-warming to hear the other day the parents of Stephen Lawrence, whose private prosecution of those alleged to have murdered their son had just failed and who understandably felt at the time that justice had not been done, nevertheless, paying warm tribute to the police, who had greatly assisted them in mounting their prosecution.
I have recently chaired a Church working party on working with young people. The report Youth Apart has just been published. So your Lordships will understand my fourth point, which is that there needs to be positive discrimination in favour of the young.
I am aware that some noble Lords share my distaste for an over-reliance on statistics. But in national figures, kindly supplied by the Chief Constable of Cumbria, relating to convictions in magistrates' courts in 1994 the following picture emerges: there were convicted between the ages of 10 and 14, 2,653 boys and 287 girls; between the ages of 14 and 18, 28,587 males and 3,970 females; and between the ages of 18 and 21, 36,781 males and 5,180 females.
. Our working party's report revealed that one third of all children had been subject to some sort of racial assault; more than a quarter had been threatened with violence; one in 10 had been the subject of street theft; and nearly one third of girls aged between 14 and 15 1658 had been victims of some kind of sexual assault by an adult man. The record of proceedings in your Lordships' House on 25th April elicited the information that four children had been convicted of murder and two of manslaughter in the three years 1992 to 1994. Today we have the outrageous news that Louise Allen of Corby was kicked to death while trying to stop a fight between fellow 13 year-olds.
It is no wonder that the Bishop of Hull yesterday called for a great deal of increased energy and resource to be put into the whole business of parenting. Every parent and every professional involved with those age groups needs to address the challenge of positive discrimination to contain and, it is hoped, to reverse those alarming increases.
It is said that a country gets the politicians it deserves. I have no doubt it is also thought that the Church gets the Bishops it deserves; but it is of critical importance that we all get the police we deserve. That will happen only if the police know that their work, in all its complexity, is understood, supported and resourced, to enable the constabulary to fulfil—on behalf of us all—its essential service, which is to ensure that this country continues to enjoy the liberty it deserves.
§ 3.34 p.m.
§ Lord Bethell
My Lords, it gives me great pleasure to be the first to congratulate the right reverend Prelate on his maiden speech. It was delivered with an eloquence which I am sure matches his eloquence from the pulpit. He was right to emphasise what seems to many of us to be the parallel work of the clergy with that of the police. It is the duty of the clergy to maintain the good and to put down the wrong, just as it is that of the police. The words that we have heard, and will hear, from the Bishops' Bench are I am sure very much in point. In works of reference, the right reverend Prelate gives his recreation as politics. I must say that if this is his idea of recreation, he must do what his profession tells him to do with an amazing amount of skill and eloquence.
I wish to say just a few words about the prospect of the international element of police work being developed in future years. Before I do so, I want to make it clear that I have an interest in the police in that I am a consultant to the Police Federation. On the other hand, I am not here as a representative of the Police Federation, nor, indeed, have I taken the advice of the Police Federation in this matter. I am expressing entirely my own views about the police service without having consulted or spoken to any organisation about it. I hope I am therefore in order.
It has been a customary practice for British service people to think little of being in the international sphere. Indeed, the British Armed Forces have taken part in activities overseas perhaps nearly as much as they have in this country. It was not thought strange in 1944 that the entire British Army of Europe was under the command of a foreigner. However, it has always been thought that the police are constables engaged in work on an exclusively British sovereign basis.
1659 I wonder whether that idea will be able to survive the developments, the treaties, and the agreements between nations that are springing up more and more widely throughout the world; whether it will be possible to maintain the pure Britishness of the British policeman without creating an intolerable security deficit in view of the breaking down of barriers between countries.
In that connection, I should like to mention one or two areas where the overseas element of police work is expanding, and is likely to expand, and needs to be taken much more into consideration. British training of police officers is being extended more and more overseas.
I recently visited Bramshill Police College near Hartley Wintney in Hampshire where I was interested and pleased to see the range of nationalities of the students at that academy. There were even some officers from the new Palestinian entity being trained to be police officers in the West Bank and Gaza.
It is obviously vital, as the world becomes narrower in terms of time and volume of movement from country to country, that policemen should be involved closely in cross-frontier work, whether it is in preventing, deterring, or punishing football violence, or in the wide area of drug abuse.
I wish to mention two areas that might be called growth areas of international police work. The first is what might be called—if it were to exist—the EU criminal offence. I know that there is no such thing at the moment as an EU criminal offence, but there are activities which are contrary to the treaty and which cost the taxpayer billions of pounds every year. I have in mind in particular agricultural fraud. The ability of the police to deal with agricultural fraud is seriously circumscribed by the lack of any code of criminal activity and punishment system, and by the precept that activities against agricultural fraud are taken by the authorities of the country where the fraud takes place rather than by the Commission in Brussels which might be seen as the central authority—the fount of the laws in question—or by any servants of the Commission in Brussels. Could there be a role for the police in that activity? Some may think strange the idea of a police officer dealing with olives or surpluses of agricultural produce, but the amount of money involved is no joke and the cost to British taxpayers is enormous.
Another area in which international police activity may well expand is in respect of what has become known as the international outlaw. It is now seen as desirable that certain individuals who are suspected of having committed terrible crimes should be brought to account on criminal charges, even if those crimes were committed outside the territory where they were arrested or brought to book. For instance, an alleged Bosnian war criminal is on trial in The Hague and a man who allegedly committed crimes in Hitler's Germany is on trial in this country. At least two men who allegedly committed crimes in Hitler's Germany were on trial in Israel. I believe that a member of the Government of Iran would be arrested for criminal offences of a heinous nature if he were to come to this country or to any other country in Europe. A person who murders an American 1660 citizen commits a crime against American law even if the crime is committed outside United States territory. How are we to handle that and retain, if we must, a purity of the sovereignty of the British constable? I suspect that it Will not be possible to achieve that.
We know that there is a further movement towards international policing in the Europol organisation in The Hague, a matter which was debated by your Lordships some months ago. We are frequently told by Ministers of all EU countries that there is no intention to set up an FBI, either through Europol or any other organisation. The bridge towards the idea of an international crime is not yet fully crossed, although it is beginning to be crossed as regards agricultural fraud and the concept of the international outlaw. I should be pleased if my noble friend the Minister could indicate her thoughts on the idea of the internationalisation of the British bobby and on his or her duty to uphold law and order abroad as well as at home.
§ 3.43 p.m.
§ Lord Norton
My Lords, I am informed that maiden speeches are to be short and unprovocative. I shall attempt both but ask your Lordships' tolerance for my first attempt at a contribution in your Lordships' House. However, I have a view that British society faces a far more serious problem than is generally realised. I shall quote statistics from official sources which, by their very nature, are thought-provoking and which many noble Lords may find hard to believe.
First, I must declare an interest. I have connections with loss adjusting and insurance which sometimes comes across policyholder fraud, which in turn involves the police. I would like to refer to that aspect of the police service later.
Policing is tough and demanding. One is constantly hearing how the role of the police service requires more and more resources. Recently three men were arrested on information received. There was no room in the cells nor in the interview room so they were locked in the waiting room. The police station then received a telephone call from an informant who said that the wrong people had been arrested. The three suspects were released. The telephone has now been removed from the waiting room.
I submit that the very title of this debate indicates a role change from what British society sees as the role of the police—namely, catching criminals—to the softer picture of service to the public, rather than a force against crime.
The last of the six performance targets of the Metropolitan Police is:To leave our customers with a good impression of the service received".Who would guess that the police now have customers? Is it the role of the police to have customers? Who are the customers? Is it a satisfied criminal with a good impression of the service received? Effective policing requires the co-operation of British society—a partnership, not a supplier/customer relationship.
1661 Now the police service has charters and performance targets, an abundance of literature about answering telephones in 15 seconds or 30 seconds, car arrival times, letter writing times and statistical surveys on a mass of topics. The police role has to contend with charter principles and the setting of standards, information and openness, choice, consultation, courtesy, helpfulness, redress, and value for money.
Of course, those are important, but I submit that their proper emphasis is in police training. I submit that this marketing and public relations approach confuses the role of the police. It is the constable on the beat who has the closest social contact and who makes the decision affecting the public. He must have a clear role and he must understand it.
The role of the police service is not just catching criminals. Youth education, crime prevention, crime targeting and victim support all play a part. The problem of deciding the emphasis that each aspect of policing is to have starts with the facts such as they can be ascertained. How much crime is there and how many victims are there in British society?
When studying crime, the important word is not crime but reported crime. The two are very different and constantly confused. In the 1994 Home Office crime report the Home Office acknowledges, on page 15:The statistics of recorded crime do not necessarily portray the full picture of crime experienced by society at large".The report also records on page 27 that the 1994 British crime survey suggests that total actual crime in categories that can be compared to police figures may be four times police recorded crime.
When violent crime is such a priority, how can the police play an effective role when it is estimated by the survey that actual wounding crimes are four times the police figures? Thefts from people are eight times the police figures. How do lower figures help British society to co-operate and place their trust in the police when they are experiencing more crime than the police record? The British crime survey titled Trends in Crime Fighting suggests that British society goes to the trouble of reporting half the crimes and the police record a third of those crimes. What is the purpose of that practice?
I put it to your Lordships that if company accounts were prepared on the same basis as the police figures there would be many directors and accountants being interviewed by the police. The police station has discovered creative accounting.
Having contrived the problem, how do we measure the success of the police role? Crime is not solved, it is cleared up. One of the criteria that will clear up a crime is to charge someone with the offence being investigated. That will clear the crime up. If the defendant is found not guilty the crime is still cleared up. At present 12 per cent. of crimes cleared up fall into this category.
The crime has been recorded and solved, so how do we pass the Home Office inspection? The Home Office assesses the efficiency of the police service. When it 1662 comes to an annual certificate of efficiency inspections, fraud—a cancer in society—is not one of the national performance indicators. At present the police service receives no credit for devoting resources to this area. Fraud investigations are often costly and complex, so it is only natural for the police to think of other priorities if their work on fraud is not recognised as valuable and effective.
The figures for fraud are staggering. Sir Dennis Henry stated in a speech to the National Fraud Forum in 1994 that reported fraud in 1992 totalled £8.5 billion. The Director General of the National Criminal Intelligence Service estimates corporate fraud at £10 billion annually and rising. By way of contrast, the 1992 figure for burglary totalled £500 million and car crime £700 million.
According to the business section of a newspaper last Sunday, a report prepared for a meeting of the Law Society's ruling council this Thursday will reveal that out of 621 solicitors' firms that were spot checked, 60 per cent. were involved in fraud. Evidence of mortgage-related fraud was found in 105 cases of the same sample. I do not know how those 621 firms were selected. I am sure that 60 per cent. of solicitors' firms cannot be engaged in fraud.
The role of the police service against this tidal wave of fraud is 850 anti-fraud police officers out of the total strength of 120,000—less than 1 per cent. of the police service. Fighting fraud is not at present a key objective for the 43 police forces in England and Wales.
We are not being fair to the police service if we do not acknowledge the true extent of the crime problem. There needs to be realistic analysis of crime, free of political considerations, to provide the resources required. The role needs to be planned and defined, long-term roles such as youth education cannot be switched on and off: they take many years to be effective. If we do not give the police service the correct resources then we are letting British society down and there will be further social decay as a result.
§ 3.53 p.m.
My Lords, it falls to me to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Norton, on his quite excellent maiden speech. I trust that his warnings will not fall on deaf ears because they are most timely. I can find out very little about the noble Lord other than that he is the same age as my elder son. He is a chartered accountant. However, his interests, including flying, skiing and music, indicate to me that he is a true and independent spirit. We much look forward to hearing future contributions to our debates.
My noble friend Lord Kingsland has provided us with an excellent opportunity to discuss the role of the police. As an aside, perhaps I may say that I envy greatly his ability to speak without a note. It seems to me essential that the police should have the necessary resources, both in terms of finance and manpower, and all the latest technological equipment in order to prevent and combat crime. As my noble friend Lord Bethell said, so many crimes involve overseas co-operation. Are we wrong to 1663 object to the European Court of Justice supervising Europol activities and arbitrating in Europol disputes? Do the police agree with that policy?
There has been a great deal of publicised success for police operations that involved co-operation with local authorities and the public by way of speed cameras and neighbourhood and farm watch schemes. I understand that the BBC "Crimewatch" programmes, which are seen in many countries, are also extremely successful.
The arts loss register was set up only four years ago. It has already shown that many valuable items stolen both in this country and abroad can be recovered, even after many years. Again, that shows the need for worldwide co-operation among police forces.
My noble friend Lord Kingsland mentioned closed circuit television cameras. I asked a Question of my noble friend Lady Blatch about that last week. She was able to tell the House that the policy has been extremely successful and that it is expanding. It has enabled the police to pursue successful prosecutions.
Following lengthy discussions on the possible introduction of identity cards, for which a number of your Lordships have been pressing, I note that a voluntary identity card scheme will be proposed soon by the Government, based on the new European Union driving licence. The voluntary option is preferred by the police who understandably wish to avoid unnecessary confrontation with the public.
The members of the police service cannot do their job, which is often extremely unenviable, without the assistance of the public. I hope that the Government will listen to the concerns of the police service and will act upon all of them. The future is always uncertain but it is to be hoped that we shall all feel more secure and that the police service is, with our support, doing its best to make us so.
§ 3.57 p.m.
§ The Lord Bishop of Chester
My Lords, I join in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Norton, on his maiden speech which was excellent because it analysed so many of the problems which we face in society today. I congratulate also the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Carlisle on his maiden speech which was excellently delivered. As one who retires this year and thus effectively falls off the end of this Bench, it is extremely good to welcome him to the other end of the Bench. Whether, when he falls off, he will still follow politics as a hobby or whether, like me, he will then prefer to walk the mountains alone remains to be seen.
I wish to concentrate on the relationship and interplay between the police and the Church, which is of increasing importance in today's society. It is highly relevant to this debate. Most Bishops have an excellent rapport with their chief constable. That is of mutual value. High-level discussion and action results from that contact. Quite a number of clergy, including my own chaplain, are valued members of police authorities and there are many excellent friendships between the clergy and the police at local level.
1664 A major development in recent years has been that of police chaplaincy. It was introduced in 1851 but it is only in the past eight years that the number of police chaplains has increased from 20 to 200, mainly in England. It is expected to increase further as the value of those chaplains is experienced.
They work confidentially. They are drawn from all the Christian Churches and provide moral and spiritual support to the police service. They also develop links between the other faith communities and the police. The chaplains are aware of and are concerned about the great pressure under which police officers work, especially when they have been involved in an incident in which they have suffered injury. For example, there were 640 assaults on police officers in the county of Cheshire last year. That is twice the national average. But against that it is important to note that our county has one of the highest crime detection rates. My own chaplain, recently accompanying a police sergeant to see things at first-hand in Runcorn, saw the officer's life being seriously threatened with two kitchen knives in a domestic incident. He again saw at first-hand how the danger of the police task is worsening.
The police have adopted a statement of common purpose and values. Underlying this is the belief that in a democratic society a police service will be successful only if it enjoys the trust, confidence and respect of the public it serves. Such respect can be won only if the service upholds the highest professional values which the public have a right to expect. One practical implication is the need to monitor the reaction of the community, who are in a real sense the customer. The aim is to install a sense of personal commitment within individual police officers to an ideal of service to the community.
As the stated primary purpose of a police authority, at least in Cheshire, is,to secure the maintenance of an efficient police force",in the area, there is always the need to balance the concept of force with that of service by the police. Chaplains can assist in that process. But chaplaincy to the police is essentially pastoral. The chaplain's presence allows for a point of contact that is independent of rank and the accountability of the police service. One important role is that chaplains can clarify ethical issues. Community relations, the surveillance of suspected criminals with a past record and involvement in domestic violence all raise difficult questions of the values which an impartial police service should follow. In many areas where the police serve there are acute racial tensions, unemployment and broken marriages or other relationships. It is not easy to discern what are the appropriate responses of the police in such examples of social breakdown, and the chaplain can assist the police in discussing how they respond.
There is also an important role for parochial clergy who may not be chaplains. They know their area at first-hand level by living there. They know the fears, the hopes and the experiences of those among whom they work and live—be it inner city, housing estate, town or village.
1665 The demand for community safety is considerable. As the recent quality of life survey of Cheshire County Council has shown, despite a lower level of crime than the national average, the county's citizens gave high scores concerning crime and the fear of crime. Chaplains can empathise with the police in the gap between expectations and possibilities and in the real tension between delivering police performance targets and core business, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, ancillary and unquantifiable service, including reassurance. They can meet with police in consultative committees.
In Hackney there have been regular meetings between police and clergy. One parish priest, Peter Hobson, who is the adviser to the Bishop of Stepney on police relations, speaks of that dialogue. He says that they have reached,a degree of mutual understanding that has been of real benefit and has enabled sharp criticisms to be made and heard".In that way, the police are becoming more accountable to the community and Churches are effectively contributing to the well-being of society. I find that encouraging and I hope that your Lordships do so as well.
However, I add a postscript. In the light of that growing relationship, there must be serious questions asked about the plans for a national crime squad which will cross county boundaries and thus presumably not be accountable to the chief constable or to local police authorities; or, indeed, to the interplay with the Church. I urge the Government to look closely at those aspects of their plans. What could be seen as an advance in fighting national crime as a force—with national accountability only in budgetary control and strategic planning—could be a regrettable backward step in policing as a service, with serious implications for the ethical responsibility and local accountability that have been developed in recent years; and that is discouraging.
§ 4.4 p.m.
§ Viscount Simon
My Lords, there are quite a few viewpoints from which the police may be assessed. There is the public's perception, that of the motorist, government and criminals; and there is the force's opinion of itself. It seems that there are government moves afoot to address core functions and for the police to relinquish historical responsibilities. This means changing the role, albeit inefficient and ineffective, of the traditional constable, previously known to everyone on his beat, so that his only contact with the public becomes confrontational. If the service is to become a law enforcement agency only, and policing by consent is removed, what will happen when you can no longer turn to your helpful officer in an emergency?
Can you turn to the social services? No; of course you cannot. They are not available all the time. If the police have to forgo their social role, the support of the public will be lost. The police will still be arresting people but the number of assaults on officers will increase because of changed attitudes. After all, if your local bobby helps you, you, in turn, will help him. But if you have only 1666 seen him rushing to an incident in his motor vehicle and have never met him in a passive, community role, why—notwithstanding your legal obligation—would you assist him?
Different organisations produce different, sometimes conflicting, reports, and the police have had to endure many changes over the past three years. They have become somewhat fatigued as a result and now need time to take stock before the next changes are imposed upon them. It seems that all the Audit Commission is concerned about is making savings through cost cutting with little being said about improving the service to the public. But savings could be achieved and more efficient policing would result from having a common computer system.
Each force has its own system which does not necessarily talk to an adjoining force's computer. Consequently, intelligence operations, which might affect many areas, are denied to forces which could benefit. I am led to believe that about 80 per cent. of crime is committed by people who live within five miles of the incident. If this occurs over a boundary where computers are not always compatible, it means that the offender may not be apprehended. So a standardised computer system would benefit all forces.
I believe that the main policing objectives are currently aimed at property-related opportunist and violent crime. The former can occur at any time, as, indeed, can the latter, but I believe that a large proportion of violent crimes can be associated with youngsters affected by drink and/or drugs and occur mostly on Friday or Saturday nights. However, there seems to be little or no government support to reduce the number of road deaths which would, in turn, reduce the burden on the health service. That has led to some chief constables disbanding their specialist traffic departments which could handle complex European and UK legislation and, incidentally, assist prosecutors in court.
Those forces which no longer have traffic departments as such rely on quick-response vehicles when an officer is expected to attend to a problem immediately. I understand that some forces regret disbanding and dispersing their traffic officers to the detriment of road safety. Traffic violations by heavy goods vehicles and public service vehicles (as they used to be called) are dealt with by the police. But the inspection of vehicles, which always produces defects and highlights poor maintenance, is generally done by ministry personnel who do not necessarily work unsocial hours. That means that unroadworthy vehicles could be slipping through the net.
Tiredness affects everyone. The hours that a PSV or an HGV driver has spent behind the wheel can be checked by the trace on the tachometer graph. However, a specialist traffic officer would, if doubt existed, assess fatigue by including an investigation into a whole month's graphs—not just the current one—which illustrate the trend towards tiredness much better.
1667 In years gone by, officers often used to sacrifice opportunities for promotion in order to follow a specialised area of interest. Now that officers are sometimes rotated on a 10-year service cycle, it means that there is a need for continuous training with newcomers replacing experienced officers who, in turn, may have to be retrained. Because of the uncertainty of a career path thus caused, morale can be affected.
Police forces are budget-led and are often unable to produce what the public want. Any extra, unexpected policing requirement, such as that necessitated by people protesting against the Newbury bypass and the export of live animals from Essex ports, for example, can severely reduce manpower elsewhere; can mean that the purchase of capital items has to be postponed; and can lead to officers experiencing additional stress through the extensive hours worked.
Modern society seems to take more care of the physical and mental well-being of the offender than of the victim or of the police. I hope that this focus of attention will be changed. The low morale and, sometimes, lack of direction do not hide the fact that officers of all ranks still maintain their complete enthusiasm for the job. For this we should all be thankful.
§ 4.10 p.m.
§ Lord Milverton
My Lords, we are grateful for the two good maiden speeches, which were helpful. We are not only discussing the solving of crime and the spotting, discovery and prevention of attempts at crime, as can be gathered from what has been said; we are considering this matter far more deeply and fully.
The firm hand of the police is welcome in all this, but that must be combined with understanding and sensitivity. This, on the whole, the police have, as is revealed in the Police magazine. That magazine shows the various activities of the police, not only those directly connected with their work but also the indirect activities in which individuals take part in trying to help their local communities. We are grateful for the police who undertake those activities on their own initiative. As is revealed in the Police magazine, those policemen have achieved wonderful things in their relationships with the local communities.
The police need the public to put themselves out to appreciate the wide and immense task that they have. In this way their role can be strengthened and improved. The police would appreciate that effort from us. It would help achieve a healthy harmony between the public and the police. I am sure that that is possible. In my experience of the police I have found them to be helpful. One day I received a call from my wife while I was in this House to say that our rectory had been burgled. I could not have been more grateful to the police for the way they responded to the situation. They gave much help and comfort to my wife and two daughters until I returned home.
1668 The public need to achieve a partnership with the police to enable the police successfully to set their priorities. However, they need to have the necessary resources. I have been taken on a useful visit to the headquarters of the Wiltshire Police in Swindon. Two policemen showed me round the headquarters. We discussed their work, their hopes and their fears. They also accompanied me round their "beat". I travelled in one of their cars and they showed me the gadgets and explained how they enabled them to detect motorists' misdemeanours. We should try to understand how the police feel and to understand their worries. We should realise that they, like us, have families. If we try to understand the police, they will respond to that.
I believe that the police, in partnership with the Government and the public can, and will, establish more peaceful communities. I have some idea of what it is like to be a policeman. Some years ago I was in Kenya. Noble Lords will realise that was some time ago when I refer to the Mau Mau emergency which occurred at that time before Kenya achieved its independence. There was a call-up and one chose either to serve in the police or the army or to serve as a prison officer. As I was already in the police reserve I chose the police force and for about 18 months I served as a full-time policeman. That experience enables me to appreciate the work of the police. The situation in this country may be slightly different from that which occurred in Kenya but it is not totally different. At that time in Kenya I—there was another European—had about 20 African askaris under my command. That experience has given me an insight into what the police have to do.
I fully support the police. I believe that Her Majesty's Government, along with the Minister on the Front Bench and the Home Secretary, are trying to help them. Sometimes when I have shown my enthusiasm for the police and what they are trying to do, and how well they do it, some individuals are surprised that I should express such enthusiasm. I hope and believe that those people are in the minority. Let us help the police fulfil their role and give comfort and strength to them and to their families. As we know—this has been stated—they, too, suffer. They should not have to suffer any more than they do. That may seem an odd phrase, but they should not have to suffer as much as they do. May God help our police and bless them. I believe that they are the finest. It would be hard for any other nation's police force to do better. Other forces look up to our police and seek to learn from them.
§ 4.16 p.m.
§ Lord Knights
My Lords, anyone researching the nature of policing in this country would no doubt find it interesting, if not indeed somewhat surprising, that, unlike the position in, for example, Scotland, the functions and responsibilities of police forces, originating as they do largely from common law and established practice, have never been formally expressed statutorily or otherwise.
They would also be surprised, I suggest, to find that when the first paid, professional police forces were created by statute in 1829 it was not Parliament or the 1669 Home Secretary who first set out their role but the newly appointed Police Commissioner. As is probably well known, he said that their,principal object was the prevention of crime",and that the security of person and property, the preservation of public tranquillity and all other objects of a police establishment would thus be better effected than by the detection and punishment of the offender after he had succeeded in committing the crime.
When I joined the force some 110 years later that was still the police philosophy, and I was taught that my responsibilities were to protect persons and property, to prevent crime, to detect, pursue and arrest offenders, to secure obedience to the law, to preserve the public peace and to prevent vagrancy—perhaps the only aspect at which we have been successful.
The Royal Commission on the Police in 1962—which has already been referred to this afternoon—commented on this non-statutory position and added to the generally recognised list of duties responsibility for prosecutions—which has now been removed, of course—controlling road traffic, certain duties on behalf of government departments and befriending anyone who needed their help.
More recently the 1993 White Paper on police reform stated that the main aim of the service should be to fight and prevent crime, to uphold the law, to bring to justice those who break the law and to protect, help and reassure the community. It made no specific reference, however, to keeping the Queen's peace. The subsequent Sheehy Report on police remuneration and rewards set out yet another list of responsibilities: to prevent crime, to pursue and bring to justice those who break the law, to keep the Queen's peace—Sheehy saw the need for that—and to protect, help and reassure the community.
Quite apart from the vast changes we have seen in society in the past 50 years, over the past decades there have been many developments which have impinged on the role of the police, whatever that should be. We saw the 1981 Royal Commission on Criminal Procedure, which led to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984; and in 1993, within weeks of each other, three quite separate reviews of policing were published: the report of the Royal Commission on Criminal Justice; the Sheehy Inquiry into police responsibilities and rewards; and the Home Secretary's White Paper on police reform. Each was quite separate from the other and each recommended radical change in the structure and functioning of the service. These were followed by the Police and Magistrates' Courts Act in 1994 and a further Home Office review of police core and ancillary tasks which reported in 1995.
In addition, there has been a stream of reports from the Audit Commission dealing with police efficiency and effectiveness on matters such as organisation, criminal investigation and, more latterly, the police patrol function. All had different things to say, but none addressed the real question that needs answering: what is the fundamental role of the police in this country? What are they here to do?
1670 Ever since 1829, the usual answer has been that they are here to fight crime. That has figured very largely in our debate this afternoon and it is generally given first priority over everything else. However, the evidence of many public surveys indicates that that is not their main preoccupation. The British Crime Survey, for example, shows that just one-fifth of public contacts with the police are about crime incidents (20 per cent.). A further 12 per cent. involve disturbances of one kind or another, while almost two-fifths (40 per cent.) involve simply the giving and receiving of information.
As to priorities, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, in his report on the 1981 Brixton disturbances, suggested that, in the event of a conflict of aims between the maintenance of public tranquillity and enforcement of the law, the former should be the prime responsibility of the police. In the light of all this and the lack of consensus and general confusion about the real role of the police, noble Lords may think that it is little wonder if the police themselves share the confusion.
Recognising the need to update the old Victorian philosophy and to reflect the changing values and perceptions of the public, the police themselves, in a statement of common purpose some time ago, said:The purpose of the police service is to uphold the law fairly and firmly; to prevent crime; to pursue and bring to justice those who break the law; to keep the Queen's Peace; to protect, help and reassure the community; and to be seen to do this with integrity, common sense and sound judgment".The House may feel that that is not a bad start.
Whatever the role of the police is, clearly they need help from the community in achieving it. That raises many important and complex questions. For example, what should be the fundamental responsibilities of the police in the next century? Who should define them? Certainly not the police themselves, I suggest. Who should set the priorities? What part can the public play and how can their views be best obtained? What should be the role of local authorities and other agencies in reducing crime?
I used to think that local authorities should be statutorily required to take the lead in crime prevention and reduction because of the many services they controlled, such as education, housing, police, public health, leisure and recreation. But now that so many of their original functions have been taken over by other bodies, I am not so sure. Should they perhaps be statutorily required to co-ordinate the local activities of all the agencies that have a part to play and are involved, and from that produce what we might call a community crime reduction plan? Certainly all these agencies cannot, and must not, be allowed to work in isolation. What should be the boundaries between public and private policing? What should be the role of the private security industry? That issue was recently examined by a Select Committee in another place, and the reaction of the Home Office is still anxiously awaited.
These are but a few of the problems. What is required, it may be thought (certainly there is a belief that this is what is required and it is one that I share), is the need for a wide-ranging examination of these matters by a body representative of government, police, local 1671 authorities, industry, commerce and the community at large. Some have suggested a Royal Commission. I appreciate that such a step is unlikely to be taken in advance of a general election; but perhaps the political parties could consider it for inclusion in their manifestos.
Some steps along these lines were taken in 1993, when the Police Foundation and the Policy Studies Institute jointly set up an independent inquiry into the role and responsibilities of the police. I must disclose an interest. I am a trustee of the Police Foundation. Its report was published a few weeks ago, and I have drawn considerably upon it in preparing this speech.
I conclude by simply asking one question of the noble Baroness the Minister. Presuming that the Home Office has received a copy of that report, can she say whether any of the recommendations it contains are likely to be taken forward? Many are extremely important and are relevant to what happens to policing as we approach the next century.
§ 4.26 p.m.
§ Lord Gisborough
My Lords, I was so pleased to hear that the noble Lord who introduced this debate was from my regiment that I felt I ought to come out and support him.
The police really do need our support. They are going through a period when there is a great lack of respect on the part of youth. They are deliberately set upon by youths who set out deliberately to provoke them for the fun of being chased. In their efforts, the police have their hands tied behind their back. Every legal restriction makes their task more difficult. Even their time is restricted, given the amount that they have to spend on paperwork to deal with any case that they are able to prove.
There is also a lack of support on the part of the courts. I remember a case in which the police swore that they had seen, in the middle of the night, two people dropping jemmies. The two concerned swore that it was not them but two others who happened to be walking down the road at the time (who were in fact not there at all). The magistrates believed the potential criminals because they had sworn on oath, regardless of the fact that the police had also given sworn evidence. The pendulum has swung far too far in the direction of the defence. Electronic surveillance has been a great help in many cases. It has clearly enabled the police to bring evidence that they would not otherwise have been able to bring.
I should like to raise two points. First, the police are associated with solving crime. It is essential that they not only solve crime but do what they can to prevent it happening in the first place. That is where we should direct a lot of our effort. Many of the police are involved with youth groups. That is a good thing. But certainly the prevention of crime is infinitely better than its cure.
. My second point is that so much crime now is cross-border. A national police squad may well be a help in tackling that sort of crime. But to whom will it be accountable? What body will be responsible for budgetary control? How will a balance be struck 1672 between local and national police forces so that there is no conflict and the kind of trouble that is evident in the United States?
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Lord Hooson
My Lords, I am sure that the House is grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, for initiating the debate and for his speech of introduction which I thought was extremely positive. One point in his speech occurred to me as being very important. It is the danger at times, when we live in a statistical world, for the police to concentrate too much on "measurable success" as opposed to the pro-active long-term view of policing.
We have had two notable maiden speeches which I greatly enjoyed, they were positive but not controversial. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Carlisle made a distinctive contribution and I agreed with nearly every word. I particularly agreed with his suggestion of shared training and a shared approach between the police and other disciplines on the enormous problem of youth crime. I agree with him that the benefits must be given to youth as they emerge to cope at a difficult time and in difficult situations with the problems attendant on their age.
I was interested in the comment of the noble Lord, Lord Norton, which came from the London police about the sixth requirement referring to "customers". I do not believe that the police have customers any more than do the armed services. The police are a service, as many other organisations are services. One of the faults of our age is to try to import from business the idea of customers into services like the police to which it has no relevance. The service is one of which the police themselves are justly proud.
The noble Lord, Lord Knights, enabled us to consider at length what the real role of the police is. But in my view it does not change, even though the methods of discharging the role clearly do. The stability of our society is rooted in law and order being upheld in families and communities at every level. It is right that we should reflect from time to time, as we are doing today, on the best way that the police should respond to the changing pressures of modern society.
I start with the interesting statistic that the ratio of police officers to citizens in our country, England and Wales, is one to 407. Save for Denmark, that is the lowest of any European Union country. The average for the European Union is one to 257. Yet, interestingly enough, the cost to the UK of the Prison Service per head of population, as well as the cost of providing new prisons, is the third highest in Europe. We come after Portugal and Greece. I express the view that if we want to reassure the populace on law and order, we should do it by investing much more money in the police force and less on future prisons.
I wish to refer briefly to internationally organised crime, which has been mentioned. In an ever smaller world, with great movement of people and goods and with the revolution in communications, it is inevitable that much well publicised crime has taken on a distinctly international guise. That kind of organised crime requires an appropriate response. However, this country 1673 has been in the forefront, it is right to say, in establishing bilateral arrangements. Additionally, following Maastricht, the European-wide system for exchanging information, Europol, was established.
Taking that with the full benefits of Interpol, I believe that we are on the right lines. However, we should remind ourselves that the best estimate I can obtain of internationally organised crime is that, at its worst, it constitutes less than 1.5 per cent. of the actual crime in this country. Local police forces have a clear role to become more effective agencies of international crime protection and prevention, but we are in danger at times of thinking that internationally organised crime is becoming so dominant that it requires priority attention. In reality, it is still a relatively small proportion of our crime.
The basic, traditional philosophy of policing in the United Kingdom seems to me to be that of neighbourhood policing. It is to that notion, though it has to be interpreted in modern conditions, that we must return for effective and acceptable policing. There are increasingly sophisticated crime intelligence and crime pattern analysis systems as well as crime solution aids available to enable the police service to target offenders. But one must never underestimate the value of gossip. I remember as a young barrister being at an assizes when a highly respected chief constable pointed out to me a statement by another chief constable who had just been appointed. He was going to put all his men in panda cars. The experienced chief constable said to me: "Silly fool; they won't get the gossip". There is a great deal in that. With all the modern aids, the value of gossip, knowledge of the character of a neighbourhood and the sheer honed instinct of the experienced and trusted police officer in solving crime is still very important in this country.
The police relationship with the community must be correct. Several noble Lords made that point. A police officer is, of course, in his service vertically accountable within the force, but he is also horizontally accountable to the public. He meets the public face to face and there is an unspoken accountability there. The public rightly want a police force which is approachable, visible and whose presence delivers security and succour to the community.
We must remember that crime does not happen uniformly. The everyday pattern or method of crime is different in an urban area from areas such as the one where I live, a rural area. The vast proportion of crime is essentially local in character. That is what affects the daily lives of people in this country, even though in an area like mine, mid-Wales, 40 per cent. of the crime is now committed by travelling criminals from relatively distant conurbations. Many of them live by crime. Incidentally, more than 60 per cent of the crime in this country is committed by 7 per cent. of offenders. I am extremely optimistic about the eventual power of the police to overcome modern problems with modern aids, but it is my belief that in the future more and more of the persistent criminals will be apprehended. The greatest deterrent to the commission of crime is the fear of 1674 apprehension. Such activities will also eventually prove to be not worth the candle in many respects, and that is another effective deterrent.
We need a combination, surely, of the most modern techniques and aids, together with well tried methods of securing public support for the functioning of the police, rooted in the old Dixon of Dock Green era, brought up to date. That relationship between that officer as presented and his community was a lesson that we should not forget.
Community conscious and community supported police are better agents of a sensible policy for restoring a belief in law and order than all the sabre-rattling and threatening propaganda of endless imprisonment, although for some endless imprisonment is inevitable. I remember when the punishment of preventive detention was introduced post-war in this country. It proved eventually to be a great failure. I entirely agree with those speakers who said that the Government should encourage much greater co-operation between education authorities, medical authorities and television authorities and with local government and parents etc. in order to have the broadest possible approach to make crime increasingly unfashionable and rare.
Let me take your Lordships over to New York for a moment. I have recently read several articles about the success of the Commissioner of Police in New York. He seems to have founded his policy on effectively stamping out local minor crime, on the basis that if local petty crime is not tolerated, it is not allowed to escalate into a climate for more serious offences. If community values are allowed to be destroyed by petty criminals who get away with their crimes, one undermines the necessary faith which must exist between the police and that community. The New York police chief has transformed a city which was regarded as having one of the worst crime records in the United States into a city with a very much lower serious crime rate because he has tackled first crime at the community level.
In my area the police have also believed in having local beat officers to tackle minor misdemeanours. I think that is very important. If we allow the breakdown of community values and a diminution in community pride, we pave the way for a more lawless society.
I want to express a few of my other concerns as we have a little time in hand. In my view there is too much power of direction centralised in the Home Secretary. I do not believe in such highly centralised control. We could do with less central control and direction. In business there is at times an increased tendency to centralise and when that is found not to work, one must then decentralise. There is also far too much bureaucracy and, consequently, far too heavy a workload on police officers, so that they spend more time on bureaucratic activities rather than policing. That could be relieved a good deal.
Few speakers have mentioned drugs. It is very important that the police should be allowed, through the Police Foundation and assisted by the Home Office, to go abroad to study other countries in Europe—not so much the United States, but 1675 countries in Europe where there are two different and conflicting methods of dealing with the drug problem: for example, the soft approach in the Netherlands and the much tougher approach in France, Germany and elsewhere. Certainly, we should send officers there to study and to pool their experience, and eventually we should decide on the best approach in this country.
I entirely agree with the point made that there are too many private security forces in this country which are at the moment completely uncontrolled.
The noble Lord, Lord Knights, referred to the Select Committee report which recommended regulation of the manned guarding industry, including individual vetting and minimum training requirements. I wonder whether the noble Baroness is in a position today to tell us the reaction of the Government to that recommendation.
Lastly, I believe that there is great scope for the development of the special constabulary. The police need help in the community. Just as the Territorial Army was a marvellous adjunct of the Regular Army, so in our country we need responsible citizens at all levels to be encouraged to become special constables. A great deal of support should be given to that objective.
Perhaps I may raise just one further query. There is a danger of the national crime squad being used as a means of further centralisation. I do not believe that it is necessary but perhaps one will monitor carefully that development. Although the pooling of information is important, it must not be used as an instrument to undermine local control.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Baroness Hilton of Eggardon
My Lords, I am sure that we are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, for introducing this interesting debate. It seems to me that two quite clear themes have emerged during the course of the debate. One is that there has been too much emphasis on the role of the police service as a crime-fighting organisation. Its roles in public tranquillity and crime prevention, as my colleague the noble Lord, Lord Knights, said, have been an important historical part of the work of the police and in fact consume far more time than their attempts to reduce crime or catch criminals.
The other theme was introduced in a very interesting maiden speech by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Carlisle; namely, the importance of local partnership. Most police activity is based locally and it is important to work with other organisations at that level in society.
Owing to the way in which the police service is portrayed in the media, most people tend to see it in its exciting, dramatic and crime-chasing mode. Fictional television programmes such as "The Bill" and factual programmes, such as "Crimewatch", mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharples, have tended to form the public perception and, to some extent, I think regrettably, the perception of politicians that the role of the police service is entirely to be out there chasing in an exciting way, swooping on robberies and so on.
1676 Therefore, the measurement of police success or failure has tended to focus entirely on crime detection, clear-up rates, arrests and so on.
In consequence, there has been what the noble Lord, Lord Norton, referred to in his interesting maiden speech: namely, the importation of business-speak into descriptions of police work. So there is not only a tendency to talk about "customers" but also an attempt to measure police work with performance indicators, which almost entirely rely on things which can be counted and measured, such as response times, clear-up rates and arrests. There has been neglect of the much more subtle role of the police service in acting as a reinforcing agency in local networks, local communities and so on, which I see as a very much more important part of the police role. Just like the Church, one of the few clear permanent features of a local community very often is the police service with the local police officer. In an increasingly fragmented and uncertain world, that provides some sense of continuity and of what society will tolerate.
As we heard, only 20 per cent. of police work is directly concerned with crime. In that context, it is particularly refreshing to read the two latest documents about the police service, which paint the much broader picture. The Audit Commission's most recent report, called Streetwise, looks at effective police patrol and attempts to discover what the public would like to see in the attempt to provide a sense of security in their neighbourhoods. In fact, it reflects some of the elements that we tried to introduce into the Metropolitan Police some 10 years ago, when I was responsible for some of the forward-looking projects under Sir Kenneth Newman—things such as graded response, crime pattern analysis and the attempt to match police responses to demand, all within the context of local police patrolling and the attempt to have a local policing system which reflects what people would like to see within their local areas.
The other report that I read recently is the independent inquiry by the Police Foundation and the Policy Studies Institute which looked at the role and responsibilities of the police. There is a lot of common ground between those two organisations.
As we know, it is a fact that a tiny proportion of crimes result in arrests—something like only 15 per cent. of burglaries, for example. Although the Metropolitan Police has had some success lately through targeting known criminals, and produced a reduction in reported robberies and burglaries, that may be as much a matter of demographic factors as anything else. There is also the fact of the decline in reporting levels that has been apparent. The apparent diminution in crime figures may be a consequence of the recession; that is, people are less likely to be able to afford insurance on their household goods and therefore do not have to report to the police when they are stolen.
One should therefore be wary of crime figures. It is regrettable that they have become part of the political patball between the parties because they are insecure ground. The fact that they may have increased over the 1677 past six months should not be used as party political ammunition, though I shall be interested to hear from the Minister whether in fact there have been rises during four out of the past six months because this is an issue that has been made a matter of politics. Matters of crime, policing, crime levels and so forth should not be issues on which we differ; they should be matters on which there is joint enterprise and common ground between the parties.
Because crime forms such a small part of police duties, it is all the more important that we should regard patrolling and the prevention of crime as essential features of the police role. There are more philosophical roles of the police which are extremely important also. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Carlisle referred to the balance of liberty and responsibilities in society and the protection of the disadvantaged and minority groups as being an essential role of the police. He said that that is far more important in terms of providing a just and fair society and security for all our citizens than the attempt to catch criminals who are sometimes, I feel, rather inadequate members of society.
In that context it is extremely interesting to see that every developed industrial society in the past 50 years, except Japan, has seen a startling rise in reported crime levels. Since 1950 there has been a tenfold increase in England and Wales of notifiable offences and a 28-times increase in motor vehicle thefts. Those extraordinary rises in reported crime are the same throughout the developed industrial world, except Japan, which has remained level over the past 50 years. I believe, therefore, that it is within our own society that we should be looking at rises in crime and ways of levelling it off and reducing them. We should not make facile assumptions that the police service can make major differences to crime, or that, as the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, said, increases in the number of prisons in the Prison Service will have much effect on crime levels.
Those are the stuff of party political broadcasts and not of the social world in which people develop as criminals or develop careers in crime. They are related to social trends such as mobility, decline in social controls, levels of unemployment, new technology, the increase in material goods and therefore opportunities for committing crime, and a more acquisitive society. They are not to do necessarily, except at the margins, with the efforts of police, politicians or prisons.
The Police Foundation report, therefore, when it says that the public continue in some respects to view the role of the police as being to stem increases in crime, concludes inevitably that the public have been disappointed. The public expect the police service to do things about crime and, in certain respects, when enormous resources can be thrown at a specific crime—like, for instance, murder, where there is a 90 per cent. clear-up rate, or other crimes where large numbers of resources and police officers can be deployed—the police service can be effective. I do not believe that in relation to ordinary thefts, burglaries and so forth, there is a great deal that the police service can do, and certainly not alone.
1678 That brings me to the other theme of this debate; that it is only where the local community combines together in various forms of partnership; where local authorities, police authorities, the Church, probation officers and other agencies combine together in partnerships that one can be effective in changing the nature of the local community and introduce social controls which affect crime levels.
In that respect I should like again to deplore the fact that, when we had the opportunity under the police Bill, we did not include crime prevention as one of the responsibilities of the newly set up police authorities. That was desperately short-sighted. Both local authorities and police authorities should have a clear responsibility for crime prevention and for being involved in partnerships with all the organisations that can provide the kind of security and local crime control that can only be achieved by communities working together with all the agencies and all the people involved in a local community.
§ 4.55 p.m.
My Lords, this has been a relatively short but important debate. I want to open by thanking my noble friend Lord Kingsland not only for initiating this specific subject but also for the excellent way in which he presented it to the House. We have been served two quite outstanding speeches today by the noble Lord, Lord Norton, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Carlisle. I am sure that they will enhance our proceedings greatly and we look forward to hearing their next contributions to our affairs.
My noble friend raised for debate a subject of the greatest importance. In recent years the policing of this country has been the cause of much public debate. It has also been a period of unprecedented challenge for the police as they tackle ever more highly organised and violent crime.
First, it is a core duty of any government to ensure that the police have the resources, tools and powers to meet these challenges. We must listen to what the police tell us they need to do the job. This Government have been an attentive listener. Secondly, we need to sustain the police in their traditions of public service which are greatly valued by the public and which have served us so well.
It is fitting to start a speech on the role of the police by reminding your Lordships of the scale of the demands that we as citizens place upon them. From the very early beginnings of what we would today recognise as a police service in this country, the public service ethic of the police has been defined in broad and rigorous terms. Every police officer is still required by law to make an important declaration before taking office. The declaration requires that every police officer will truly serve without favour or affection, malice or ill-will; that he will to the best of his power cause the peace to be kept and preserved; and prevent all offences against the persons and properties of Her Majesty's subjects, faithfully according to law. That is a challenge by any standards.
1679 In this country we require that policing should be by consent. The police therefore must be responsive to what the public wants. And what the public wants is visible assurance that the preservation of peace and good order is in safe hands. In practice, that means that we expect a service from our police officers that goes wider than fighting crime and law enforcement. We regard them as an emergency service of last resort. At the same time we expect the police to mobilise themselves effectively against sophisticated crime which increasingly transcends force or even national boundaries. In addition, we expect them to play a part in crime prevention work, which, as my noble friend Lord Gisborough said, is an important dimension. A tall order indeed.
We expect, and receive, the very highest standards of service from our police. It is our duty to ensure that they remain equipped to deal with the increasingly challenging demands placed upon them as we move into the next millennium.
What are the Government doing to support our police service and help them meet the demanding expectations we have of them? First, we must ensure that the police have the resources to do their job. Since this Government took office, police expenditure has increased in real terms by 100 per cent. In 1996–97, the money for spending on the police will total over £7 billion; 1996 will show an increase of 16,000 police officers since 1979; and we will provide the resources for 5,000 extra police officers over the next three years. We are also providing £10 million of new money for special constables.
We are embarked on an unprecedented programme of technological advance to support the investigation of crime and free the police of unnecessary and burdensome paperwork. The national DNA database, which went live in April 1995, is the first of its kind in the world. It is already notching up important successes in matching suspects to crimes and crimes to each other. The new Police Information and Technology Organisation which we have established and our national strategy for information systems bring the police into the centre of decision-making about the technology they need and are designed to produce compatible systems to reduce paperwork, improve effectiveness and provide the police with better value for money. We are investing £8 million to upgrade the police national computer.
The police have a right to expect that they are properly protected for the difficult and sometimes dangerous job they do. The Home Secretary fully supported the introduction by the police of the new batons which provide officers with greater protection and confidence to carry out their duties effectively. He has also supported the trials of CS gas currently being organised by the Association of Chief Police Officers. We are supporting a range of proposals in the Offensive Weapons Bill aimed at combating the menace of knife carrying. The national firearms amnesty, recently announced by the Home Secretary, has been strongly supported by the police. We have listened to police advice about the importance of closed circuit television as a weapon in the detection, investigation and 1680 prosecution of crime. We are investing £45 million over the next three years in closed circuit television, a point that was welcomed by my noble friend Lady Sharpies.
We have looked at the way the criminal justice system imposes unnecessary burdens on the police. The Criminal Procedure and Investigations Bill, which has now passed to another place, is designed to provide a scheme which reduces the unnecessary burdens of the current disclosure requirements while not denying the defendant access to material he needs. The Bill aims to reduce the reams of paper that the police have to supply for the defence and narrows the issues in dispute before the trial. It is also designed to protect sensitive material, such as the identity of police informants, more effectively than at present.
Police officers said time and again that hardened criminals were refusing to answer questions which were put to them, only to ambush the prosecution at the trial. We changed the law so that if the defendant exercises his right of silence, then the courts have the right to know. That is only fair and allows the courts to draw their own conclusions, rather than being prevented from making such commonsense judgments.
We believe that forces should be free to manage the resources they have in a way which best meets local policing needs. Central government no longer determine what the number of police officers—the "establishment"—in forces should be, nor will they allocate funding on that basis. Funding is now distributed in accordance with a formula based on relative policing needs. Similarly, we will be withdrawing detailed controls on capital expenditure. And chief officers now have management of their civilian employees.
The Police and Magistrates' Courts Act 1994 reinforces the accountability of the police to the local community which they serve. For the first time, police authorities are required to publish an annual police plan drafted by the chief constable, on which they must consult the local community. The plan must be followed by a published annual report containing an assessment of how far the policing plan has been fulfilled.
The new, free-standing police authorities created by the 1994 Act will be leaner, fitter decision-making bodies with greater freedom to serve the needs of the community. With the introduction of independent members they are able to represent a broader cross-section of the community. Magistrate members continue their valuable role. But locally elected councillors continue to play an important part in the management of local policing since they form the majority of the membership.
We therefore have an effective framework within which the police can do their work while continuing to ensure that they answer to us, the public, for how they do it.
I shall obviously not be able to address all the points that were raised in the debate but I shall select a number of them. My noble friend Lord Kingsland and many other noble Lords referred to the issue of performance indicators. The Government, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary, the police service and others involved 1681 in policing all recognise that performance indicators provide a partial picture of policing. They look at some of the more important areas which are of particular concern to the public. The important message is that it is only a partial picture. The method of measurement must be rigorous so that performance can be viewed across the years. That is why guidance is issued by the inspectorate, by the Association of Chief Police Officers and by the Audit Commission to that end.
My noble friend Lord Kingsland was concerned that police authorities should not meddle in operational policing. I can assure him that chief police officers retain full operational independence in policing matters. Nothing in the Police and Magistrates' Courts Act 1994 changes that. My noble friend went on to mention the valuable role of special constables. I agree with that. We want more specials, no matter how many regular officers there are. Specials are volunteers who work when they can and could never replace full-time regular officers. But they can and do add to and assist the efforts of regulars.
The costs involved in having specials are relatively small and there is enough money in police budgets to allow chief officers to support them. The Government have found an extra £10 million to offer forces, mostly as a challenge fund, to take more specials on board and to make arrangements for bringing specials up to date. The extra money is not a continuing commitment and could not benefit the regular force in a significant way. Separate money has been found to recruit the 5,000 more regular officers over three years and a working group set up by the Home Office is near the end of a thorough review of all aspects of special constabulary service.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Carlisle, in what I have already said was an excellent maiden speech, mentioned the death of Stephen Lawrence. Any shortening of a young person's life is tragic, but it is doubly so in the case of Stephen Lawrence, when simply the colour of his skin seems to have provoked his murder and when his family have not yet had the comfort of seeing his alleged killers brought to justice. My heart goes out to Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence and the rest of Stephen's family and I welcome the right reverend Prelate's remark about the role of the police in this case. I also share the right reverend Prelate's sadness at the tragic event this week in Corby where Louise Allen was murdered. Having lost a 14 year-old son myself, but in very different circumstances, I can only say that the pain of adjusting to the loss of their daughter will go very deep indeed. Our thoughts and our prayers are with the family at this time.
The noble Lord, Lord Norton, referred in his excellent speech to training. I fully endorse the remarks made by my noble friend Lord Kingsland about the importance of police training. In recognition of the central importance of police training we have established in the Home Office a national directorate of police training to develop a national training strategy.
My noble friend Lord Bethell referred to the Britishness of our police forces and introduced internationalism into the debate. I found his remarks 1682 very interesting. In these days of organised international crime, co-operation between countries is vital and in particular the sharing of expertise and information. I can assure my noble friend that the uniquely British characteristics of our police service, locally based, with policing by consent, will continue to play an enduring role at the heart of our police service. My noble friend posed a question about extending the ethos and effect of the British Bobby beyond our shores. I need to understand more fully the question posed by my noble friend before responding. I shall read Hansard very carefully to recap on what he had to say on this subject.
The noble Lord, Lord Norton, mentioned the charter principles. I welcome his view that these principles should be stressed in police training, but they are also important principles for every individual police officer to observe throughout his or her career. I agree with the noble Lord's comments about the importance of stability and rigorous analysis producing long-term solutions to long-term problems. That is why we believe that the key performance indicators should not be changed with every tide of fashion or trend.
The noble Lord, Lord Norton, again raised the magnitude of the crime of fraud and questioned its absence from the performance indicators. I believe that we were all shocked by some of the statistics that he gave in his speech. The performance indicators are relatively new; they relate to the main tasks that the police should be tackling as matters of priority across England and Wales. Fraud, of course, is taken very seriously. I know that the speech of the noble Lord will be read most carefully both in the Home Office and by the police service itself.
Many noble Lords have mentioned the number of crimes recorded by the police. The recording of crimes by the police is governed by detailed Home Office instructions that deal with the recording process and the counting of offences. These instructions provide the basis for a constant series of recorded crime statistics for England and Wales. When carrying out force inspections Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary looks carefully at how forces record crime. If it seems that crimes are being wrongly recorded, the inspectorate will ask forces for an audit and advise accordingly. However, unless crimes are reported, they cannot be recorded, and that is why it is so important that the victims of crime report such incidents to the police. I remind noble Lords that the British Crime Survey and the police recorded crime figures are two different exercises. One is a victim survey from which estimated figures are derived. The other represents incidents reported to the police. It is quite interesting that given that car crimes form a very large proportion of crime, we know it to be the case that the most readily reported and most readily recorded crime is that of car-related crime.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester made a very interesting speech in referring to the co-operation between the police and the chaplaincy. We greatly welcome his comments about the role of police chaplains and I very much endorse his views about the important contribution that they can make to the morale and well-being of the police service, as well as the links 1683 that they foster between the police and local communities. I take this opportunity to say that I for one do not look forward to the day when the right reverend Prelate falls off the end of that great Bench in this House. His contribution has been very considerable in this place and we have been enriched enormously by his presence.
My noble friend Lady Sharpies referred to identity cards. She was being rather prophetic because the Government have not yet decided whether an identity card should be introduced, and if so, what kind of card should be proposed. I hope that we shall be in a position to do so in the not too distant future. But we can look forward to hearing the views of the Home Affairs Select Committee in another place, which is expected to publish shortly a report following its inquiry into identity cards, to which I gave evidence. When I gave evidence to the committee, I made clear that none of the options contained in the Green Paper on identity cards has been ruled in or out at this stage. Although the option for a compulsory card has not been ruled out, there is a widely held view that a voluntary card could have many benefits. We know that that view is shared by the police service in its response to the Green Paper on identity cards.
The noble Viscount, Lord Simon, brought up the question of traffic police. I believe that he was rather sceptical about the priority given to it. We believe that that is not the case. The Government have the objective of reducing the number of road traffic accident casualties by one third by the year 2000. Traffic policing does have high priority with police forces in their local areas.
The noble Viscount, Lord Simon, also referred to the very important issue of victims. I fully endorse his concern that in pursuit of tackling crime we should not overlook the needs of the victims. This Government attach the highest importance to the welfare of victims and their families. The victim's information pack which we issued last year provides valuable advice to the families of murder victims. I understand that it has been very widely welcomed. Our recent reviews of the task that the police perform have paid special regard to the need for care and sensitivity in dealing with vulnerable victims as their cases progress through the criminal justice system and to the use of Victim Support, which does impressive work and which complements the work of the police and is well supported by the Government.
My noble friend Lord Milverton referred to the partnership between the public, Victim Support, the police and all the agencies working together and, indeed, the importance of partnership. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester also asked about the national crime squad. This proposal is being discussed with the Association of Chief Police Officers and the police authorities through their representatives. A new national crime squad would build on the success of the regional crime squads, ensuring that there is an adequate national response to organised crime. The new squad will not be a British FBI. Local police forces will remain the primary focus of policing in the United Kingdom. The intention is to introduce any legislation to establish a national crime squad at the earliest opportunity.
1684 The noble Lord, Lord Knights, who again speaks with great experience on matters concerning the police, asked about the Police Foundation Report. The report by the Cassel's Committee, which comes from a body independent of government, will no doubt contribute to the continuing debate on policing. Its publication in the wake of the parallel report by the Audit Commission is timely. I was pleased to see that the proposal for a two-tier police service contained in the original discussion document did not figure in the final report. I emphasise at this point that this Government support the present organisation of the British police service of regulars and specials.
The report contains support for many of the reforms enacted in the Police and Magistrates' Courts Act 1994 such as local policing plans and consultation which is welcomed. Its recommendations will be considered very seriously along with those coming from the other recent report on patrolling from the Audit Commission.
The noble Lord, Lord Hooson, introduced European comparisons. I was slightly disappointed about their use. The problem with them is that they compare apples with pears. Police forces in Europe often perform functions which are not carried out by the police in England and Wales. An example of that is the immigration authorities. Immigration duties are carried out separately in this country. The Government have a proud record on providing the right resources to our policing service.
The noble Lord also asked a straight question about the Government's view on the report of the Home Affairs Select Committee on the regulation of the private security industry. We have responded to many of the recommendations made by the Select Committee. We are now looking in detail at possible ways of tackling the problem identified in the guarding sector and we shall reply as soon as possible.
The noble Baroness, Lady Hilton, welcomed the report from the Audit Commission, Streetwise. It rightly makes a number of recommendations which it directs not only at the Home Office but also at police authorities, forces and the public. Many of these recommendations cover areas within which we are already very active; for example, the continuing role of special constables and the contribution played by CCTV. All these recommendations are being considered by the Government together with the police and other key groups like the police authorities.
Due to the constraints of time, it is not possible to continue this debate further, so I apologise for any points that I have missed in the course of responding to it. I record again my thanks to my noble friend Lord Kingsland for initiating the debate. It has given us an opportunity to examine the role of the police in modern British society. The first duty of government is to maintain law and order; to protect people's freedom to sleep safely in their homes and to walk safely on the streets. The police are at the forefront of the fight against crime and this Government are backing them every inch of the way. Day in and day out they put their lives on the wire so that we can all live safely. They do a fantastic job and they deserve our wholehearted support.
§ Lord Kingsland
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have contributed to the debate, which I hope all of your Lordships will agree has been most fruitful. I looked forward greatly to the maiden speeches of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Carlisle and the noble Lord, Lord Norton, and I can now look back on them with great pleasure. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion for Papers.
Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.