HC Deb 05 June 1980 vol 985 cc1658-60
8. Mr. Dormand

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what recent representations he has received about the functioning of the Police Complaints Board.

Mr. Whitelaw

I have received a few representations from Members of Parliament and others commenting on the functioning of the Police Complaints Board. I shall take these into account in considering the board's triennial review report.

Mr. Dormand

Will the right hon. Gentleman accept that my question is not an implied criticism of the police in this matter? Is not the fact that police investigate police an inherent weakness in the scheme? The only evidence which the Police Complaints Board considers is submitted from the police themselves. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the concern felt by a number of hon. Members that it is not possible to get a straight answer to the question of how many complaints are submitted to the board and how many are sustained?

Mr. Whitelaw

These are matters which properly arise when we consider the board's triennial review. I think that we must all remember, that after exhaustive discussions, the Labour Government decided to introduce the Police Complaints Act, on the basis that it was introduced. They went into all the matters to which the hon. Gentleman has referred and decided that in all the circumstances this was the best way of proceeding. Whether it is the best way and whether we should change it we have every right to decide after the three-year report. But it was this House, under the Labour Government, which introduced the Act as it stands.

Mr. James A. Dunn

At the time of the triennial review, will the right hon. Gentleman consider a different system for submitting complaints? Will he accept that there is a case to be made for the possibility of complaints being made direct to the Police Complaints Board and not necessarily to the constabulary of which complaint is being made? That would resolve some of the doubts and anxieties which naturally occur from time to time and are further stimulated from time to time by comment, particularly in the media.

Mr. Whitelaw

I appreciate what the hon. Gentleman says. I think that we would find in the procedure very considerable problems as far as police investigations are concerned.