There was a warm response today in the House of Commons when I called for a debate on the role of Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs).
When can we debate the office of police and crime commissioners, which is causing disruption, waste and unhappiness throughout the country? The concept of having two people in charge, one of whom has almost unlimited Henry VIII powers while the existing chief constables have their powers diminished and threatened, is a matter of great concern and a threat to the independence of our police.
I know that the hon. Gentleman has raised the issues relating to the police and crime commissioner in his part of the world with me and with the Prime Minister, and he will have heard the reply. I would say two things. First, democracy matters and, in this context, the accountability that comes with election is important in itself. I know that it is enabling people across the country to feel that to a greater extent than in the past their priorities can be directly reflected in the priority setting of police services for their area. Secondly, if he has specific issues about his constituency my hon. Friends from the Home Office will be available for questions on Monday 15 July.
It was a foolish doctrinaire idea that could never work. Putting two bosses in charge of each force has inevitably led to disruption, waste and dissent. Lincoln and Gwent are the worst examples in the first seven months of this experiment. But the unhappiness is nation wide. The PPCs have Henry V111th powers: chief constables have lost their authority. They are fearful that their jobs and roles are at risk. The worst threat is to the delicate independence of the police. That has been established as the result of generations of checks and balances.
One PPC defends his conduct by claiming a democratic mandate. He amassed the votes of 6% of the electorate. He would do well to remember the 94% who did not vote for him. It was suggested at the Select Committee that MPs rarely get more than 50% of the vote. True but none of us are here on a mere 6% of support. The PPCs have the weakest democratic mandate possible.
Alan Hardwick, the Commisioner for Lincoln suspended Neil Rhodes because he believed he was in pursuit of a racial discrimination claims that he thought was a contrivances. The suspension was quashed by a Manchester Judge as he saw it as irrational and perverse. The two sides continue to disagree.
On the other hand, the Chief Constable's position was achieved after 30 years of high quality service including long periods heading police forces elsewhere. She found herself defenceless because the new PPC law denied her justice. Her forced resignation was an outrage. She had less protection under the law than a person in the most humble job in the force. Any protracted defence of her job would have been distressing and would have ultimately led to failure because a bad law has given the PPC the whip hand.
MPs have a duty to speak openly and freely on a perceived injustice. This is not always possible for others to do so in a situation where access to unlimited legal support is available to one side only. I raised two previous major examples of gross unresolved injustices in the history of the Gwent force in the past 20 years. They should have public attention.
I am seeking a debate in which I can speak freely about this growing scandal.