Headlines: July 10th, 2002

The Police Reform Bill comes to the House of Commons today (10th July) with two key concessions.The Government has tabled amendments following criticism of the Bill by those within the police service.

The Bill aims to modernise the police service – ending restrictive working practices that stop police commanders using their officers to best effect, and raising the performance of poorer performing police forces to the level of the best.

It is the promise – or threat – of Home office intervention where forces are failing that has caused the most controversy.

Even though the Government insists powers to intervene would only be used in a last resort, some chief officers saw it as a threat to the ability of police forces and chief officers to operate independently of Government.

The Home Secretary David Blunkett is now offering safeguards. Intervention may only be triggered by a poor report on the force in question by Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary (HMIC). A plan for improvement must then be negotiated with the force through its police authority, rather than directly with the chief constable.

Another concession concerns plans in the Bill to give basic police officer powers to people in accredited community safety officer roles. Originally, the Home Secretary was going to reserve powers to increase these powers at a future date through secondary legislation. That clause has been removed, and any further enhancement to these new roles would have to re-involve Parliament.

The Police Reform Bill is available on the Parliament website at www.parliament.uk