Police reform and funding

Nick Herbert is interviewed by Adam Boulton on Sky News, Sunday Live

ADAM BOULTON:

Last month's spending review revealed cuts of 4 per cent a year to the police budget but the Policing Minister, Nick Herbert, insists the prospect of few police won't lead to a rise in crime and soon he will be publishing the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill and he joins me now, welcome to you indeed.

NICK HERBERT:

Good morning.

ADAM BOULTON:

I mean, you are relying quite a lot on the police to put up with these cuts and implement them and yet you are pressing on with this post of having elected commissioners for the police which is desperately unpopular with them.  Why are you doing that?

NICK HERBERT:

Well firstly we are convinced that the police can make savings and the Independent Inspector of Constabulary says they can save over a billion pounds a year by working more efficiently, sharing services and so on, while protecting the front line and that's the crucial thing.  We are convinced that the front line policing services, the crime fighting services, police officers in the streets where the public want them, can be protected provided that forces are making efficiencies.  On our proposals to enhance local accountability or policing, I think police forces should answer to local people.  The problem is increasingly they have been answering to Whitehall which has instituted this box ticking, process driven, performance culture that we saw under the last government that imposed a huge amount of compliance costs so we have been stripping away the bureaucracy, releasing hundreds of thousands of hours of officer time in order to free them up for front line duties and at the same we are saying we want forces to answer to the local community, not to some Whitehall bureaucrat or indeed to Ministers.  At the moment the public have no idea who the Police Authority that is meant to hold the police to account is and 96 per cent of people can't even name the chair of their local police authority. 

ADAM BOULTON:

Well you assume you have got a police authority and most people can't name their local councillors either but that wouldn't be a ...

NICK HERBERT:

But the point is in London they can name the Mayor, they know who Boris is and they know that ultimately Boris is accountable for the police and that's been popular in London.  It has meant for instance that people feel a greater sense of connection and Boris was able to stand on a platform where he said, look, I want to do something about knife crime, I want to put more officers on public transport and that was delivered while protecting the operational independence of the police. 

ADAM BOULTON:

So in the areas which you hope will adopt mayors, will the mayor automatically be the Police Commissioner in that area?

NICK HERBERT:

Well the mayoral boundaries outside London don't follow police boundaries so what we're going to do is say that the police should answer to the new directly elected police and crime commissioners and they will have a wider responsibility than just holding the police to account, for driving down crime in their areas, holding budget, to engage in crime prevention ...

ADAM BOULTON:

But that will just be confusing won't it  because you will have, I don't know, a Mayor of Newcastle or a Mayor of Birmingham and yet the police operating in that area won't be accountable to the mayor and ...

NICK HERBERT:

But they are much smaller areas within the whole police force, they'll still be involved because they will be involved as local government will be involved.  We're going to keep the involvement of councils in part of the governance of policing and I think that's important, in fact we are going to extend that, district councils will be given a voice for the first time on new police and crime panels and this is all about ensuring that the police can be crime fighters and not form writers. 

ADAM BOULTON:

A slogan there but another aspect of your proposals is to make it easier to challenge alcohol licences.  Now who is going to do that, is that going to be the Police Commissioner, is that going to  be the police, is that going to be the local people, is that going to be the councils - how is that going to work?

NICK HERBERT:

We are publishing the proposals shortly and it is about tightening up the licensing laws and recognising that this ludicrous idea of the café culture that Labour thought they could introduce has not worked.  We know that half of all violent crime is actually alcohol related and 20 per cent of this problem is ...

ADAM BOULTON:

So how is it going to work then?

NICK HERBERT:

Well we'll be announcing that but it is basically involving toughening up the licensing procedures, making it easier to close down problem premises, looking at the level of fines particularly for failed ...

ADAM BOULTON:

But will that be through the magistrates, the councils?

NICK HERBERT:

That is through the existing system of councils.  The Police and Crime Commissioners have a wider responsibility which is to hold the police to account, to set the budget, to hire the Chief Constable and if necessary to fire the Chief Constable and to ensure that there is a strong link between local people and the performance of the police and what they are doing.

ADAM BOULTON:

So if you are living somewhere and you have got a problem with alcohol in your area, who should you go to about that problem if you want to get a licence stopped?

NICK HERBERT:

In terms of concern about drinking, it is the sort of thing that you would raise, yes, with the directly elected Police and  Crime Commissioner because his or her responsibility is to hold the police to account.

ADAM BOULTON:

But he wouldn't control the licensing though?

NICK HERBERT:

No, he is not going to control it but the point is he holds the police to account for their performance and at the moment you don't  know where to go to, do you, because you don't know the name even of your local police authority chair, you have no idea who they are and they receive on average only a couple of letters a week from the public because they are frankly invisible and we have got to strengthen this local accountability.

ADAM BOULTON:

So where does your responsibility for the police as Police Minister lie?

NICK HERBERT:

I think this is really important because at the same time as strengthening local accountability we also need to strengthen what the police need to do nationally and that's about having to deal with terrorism, having to deal with serious and organised crime, the things that cross force boundaries and I think one of the paradoxes of the last few years is that government was interfering far too much in what should be local and in prescribing how the police should do things and actually not being strong enough when it comes to the national.  We are going to set up a new National Crime Agency that is going to link in with local forces and that is going to lead the fight against serious and organised crime and we also want to ensure that forces can procure together, work together and share services and act more effectively together. 

ADAM BOULTON:

So if I say to you are you satisfied with the way in which the police handled the two central London student demonstrations, is that question you think it is legitimate to ask you?

NICK HERBERT:

Yes, it is a perfectly legitimate question to ask the government of course. Ultimately though those forces have to account to their local police authority and the commissioner of the Met made his account to the Metropolitan Police Authority, effectively to Boris.  Am I satisfied?  The first protest the Commissioner said they got wrong and clearly they did, the second one they had more resources ready and they adopted tactics which ensured that violence didn't spread and the Home Secretary has said that she felt that they did a good job in dealing with it. 

ADAM BOULTON:

A lot of people feel that perhaps some of those youngsters, irritating though they may have been, were rather young to be subjected to the sort of kettling treatment that the police went in for. 

NICK HERBERT:

Well I went down there, I don't know whether you did, and saw what was happening.  One police officer had their arm broken, there was serious damage ...

ADAM BOULTON:

Thought to be because he fell over a barrier didn't he?

NICK HERBERT:

Well there was serious damage being done, there was damage to the police vehicles, the damage we all saw on our television screens thanks to Sky's coverage of windows being smashed.  Now I'm sure there were innocent people that got caught up in that  but there is no doubt that there is a hardened group of trouble makers, a minority, who were setting out to cause violence and criminal damage, we saw what they did the week before and I think the police were right to contain that whilst ensuring of course that people are properly treated within the containment area.  They were of course offered water and loos and things like that but we can't expect that the police would allow them to run rampage through the streets potentially causing greater violence.

ADAM BOULTON:

Finally, you succeeded Howard Flight as MP, that was the last time he shot his mouth off, he shot his mouth off again talking about people on welfare breeding, why does Howard Flight deserve to be honoured with a peerage?

NICK HERBERT:

Well I guess I am living proof to the fact that it is an ill wind that blows no one any good.  He has apologised for his remarks but let me just say one thing, when I took over from him and he had lost his seat which was a very upsetting thing for him, he actually supported me.  He asked the local members of the public to support me, he wrote round to the party members asking them to support me, he behaved in the most impeccable manner towards me, his successor in spite of the fact that he had lost his seat and I think actually that is the mark of a man and perhaps that another side to Howard Flight that people should reflect on. 

ADAM BOULTON:

Nick Herbert, thank you very much indeed for joining us this Sunday Live.

NICK HERBERT:

Thank you.


Document type

Speeches

Published

28 November 2010

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