Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill second reading

28 April 2011

Baroness Newlove (pictured), Baroness Berridge and Lord Blencathra made their maiden speeches in the House of Lords on Wednesday 27 April in the second reading debate on the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill

The Bill includes provisions to replace police authorities with directly elected Police and Crime Commissioners, with the aim of improving police accountability.

Baroness Newlove

Speaking of her apprehension at being invited to become a Member of the House of Lords Baroness Newlove said she felt truly humbled and honoured: ‘I want so passionately to do justice for the many campaigners and victims whom I represent. I know that I am hugely privileged to be singled out.’ As an ordinary woman from a working-class background, she had been ‘propelled into this elevated position by a set of horrifying circumstances, she said. Concluding a description of the events that culminated in the murder of her husband Garry, Baroness Newlove said: ‘On 12 August I woke up a wife but went to bed a widow.’

Since the death of her husband she has campaigned for victims whose lives are blighted by thugs: ‘Minor crime, disorder and anti-social behaviour should be a huge warning bell to us all. Unless this behaviour is nipped in the bud, it grows like a cancer, unseen and undetected until it blooms like a malignant flower, which, as we know, can kill,’ she said.

Baroness Newlove called for the ‘fuel of people power’ to make a difference. ‘Good neighbours and good deeds exist and we must learn from them.’ They must be celebrated and empowered. ‘When we enter a period of peace and kindness in this country, when everyone is able to go about their lives safely, day or night, then, and only then, will Garry's legacy, the high price he paid with his life, be deemed by me to be almost worth the cost,’ she said.

Helen Newlove (Conservative) is founder of the Newlove Warrington Campaign, which aims to make the town a safer and better place. She is the widow of Garry Newlove who was attacked and killed by a group of youths outside their home in 2007.

Baroness Berridge

Baroness Berridge spoke of her struggle to ‘grasp the issues’ at meetings with and learning from leaders of Britain’s black community. Insights she had gained from working in both Ghana and Trinidad though valuable had proved inadequate. The public, media and political response to the murder of 11-year-old Rhys Jones shot dead by teenage boys on his way home from playing football in 2007 had forced her to ‘confront a reality’ that was not her own experience, she said: ‘Why when so many young black people died in similar circumstances did it seem that the response was more muted? Was it because the media were not needed to catch the culprits? Was it because the victims were slightly older? Did they die when other items legitimately dominated the news cycle? Taking all that into account, I could not get rid of the lingering suspicion that there were assumptions about these black youngsters and that that lack of outrage would communicate to relatives that young black lives were less valuable in our society. I am not seeking to label this or give it an "ism", but I believe it to be there and to be wrong.’

Baroness Berridge said public institutions, such as the police, must have legitimacy: ‘Legitimate government requires the consent of the people and must accordingly be representative of the people whom they seek to govern.’ It was her sincere desire that directly elected police and crime commissioners and the police and crime panels ‘will reflect the population and, in particular, the ethnic diversity of the people whom they police.’

Elizabeth Berridge (Conservative) is a member of the advisory council Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East.

Lord Blencathra

The Bill goes ‘a long way towards getting national politics out of policing and lets chief officers concentrate on local priorities,’ he said. ‘We are told these days that all politics is local. That is a good thing. The Bill inserts an elected police commissioner between the electorate, with their aspirations and grievances, and chief constables, who have to deliver neutral, local policing. The policing panel of elected local authority councillors, the policing plan and all the consultation involved with police commissioners ensure that local priorities are addressed at that level. Chief constables should not then be dragged into political considerations.’

It was ‘absolutely vital’ that the House of Lords should support the Bill he said, ‘To prevent politicians like me being in charge of the police in future in the Home Office.’

David Mclean (Conservative) is the former MP for Penrith and The Border. He was Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food 1989-92 and Minister of State for the Department of the Environment 1992-93 and Home Office 1993-97.

Other Members of the Lords who took part in the debate included:

Former Commissioners of the Metropolitan Police Lord Condon (1993-2000), Lord Blair of Boughton (2005-2008) and Lord Imbert (1997-1993); Lord Howard of Lympne (Conservative), former Home Secretary; Lord Ramsbotham (Crossbench), former Chief Inspector of Prisons; Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate (Labour), a former President of the Police Superindendents Association; and Lord Bradshaw (Liberal Democrat), vice-chair of Thames Valley Police Authority.

Baroness Neville-Jones, Minister of State for Security, opened the debate.

Read transcripts of the individual contributions:

Further information

The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill covers five policy areas:

Police accountability and governance: This part of the Bill deals with police reform to improve local accountability. It makes provisions to abolish Police Authorities and replace them with directly elected Police and Crime Commissioners for each police force outside London and replaces the Metropolitan Police Authority with the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime, to be run by the Mayor of London.

Alcohol licensing: These provisions aim to address issues of alcohol-related violence. Among the provisions are amendments to the Licensing Act 2003 to give the police and local authorities stronger powers to remove or refuse to grant licenses to premises that are causing problems.

Regulation of protests around Parliament Square: This part of the Bill will repeal Sections 132- 38 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005, which concern demonstrations in the vicinity of Parliament and give the police new powers to prevent encampments and the use of amplified noise equipment.

Misuse of drugs: These provisions amend the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, introducing a new power for the Home Secretary to temporarily ban drugs. It also amends the constitution of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs to allow the membership of people with wide, recent experience of medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine, pharmacy, the pharmaceutical industry and chemistry and persons with wide and recent experience of social problems connected with the misuse of drugs.

Arrest warrants in respect of private prosecutions for universal jurisdiction offences: This part of the Bill aims to prevent the courts being used for political purposes. It introduces a new requirement for private prosecutors to obtain the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions prior to the issue of an arrest warrant for ‘universal jurisdiction’ offences such as war crimes or torture.  

The Bill completed all its stages in the House of Commons on 18 February and had its first reading in the House of Lords on 1 April.

The Bill completed all its stages in the House of Commons on 18 February and had its first reading in the House of Lords on 1 April.

Second reading is the first opportunity for Members of the Lords to debate the main principles and purpose of the Bill and to flag up concerns and areas where they think changes (amendments) are needed.

Image: PA

More news on: Crime, civil law, justice and rights, Parliament, government and politics, Parliament, Crime, Emergency services, Police, Drugs crimes, Public order offences, Anti-social behaviour, House of Lords news, Members of the Lords, Lords news, Parliamentary business, Bill news

Share this page