HL Deb 16 June 1982 vol 431 cc695-7WA
Lord O'Hagan

asked Her Majesty's Government:

When they will publish guidance on local consultation arrangements between the community and the police; and whether they will make a Statement.

Lord Elton

Guidance about local consultation arrangements between the community and the police is being issued today to chief officers of police and police authorities in England and Wales, and separately in the Metropolis, to the Commissioner of Police and to the chief executive of each borough and district in the Metropolitan Police District. The guidance covers the purpose and aims of local consultation and the machinery that might be appropriate to support it within the existing statutory framework for policing. It has been prepared after discussion with a wide range of bodies. My right honourable friend has placed copes of the guidance in the Library.

The development of better understanding and mutual support between the community and the police is a crucial element in enhancing police effectiveness. A regular means of consultation can enable local views to be taken into account by chief officers and police authorities in carrying out their respective statutory responsibilities and, at the same time, provide opportunities for the community to gain a better understanding of the police. We firmly believe that there is a need in all areas for an agreed means of consultation, and we hope that this two-way flow of information will, in its focus on local problems, encourage an agreed and constructive response by the local community in joint efforts to discourage and prevent crime.

Because the needs and problems of different areas vary, a uniform pattern of consultation would, in our view, be neither necessary nor constructive. The guidance to chief constables and police authorities offers, therefore, illustrative examples of possible arrangements. As Police Authority for the Metropolis, my right honourable friend has concluded that the arrangements most likely to be effective in the Metropolitan Police District would be based on the boroughs and districts, but this would not preclude more informal arrangements for consultation being made within these areas. We hope borough and district councils in the Metropolitan Police District will play their full part in the develpoment of consultation arrangements.

The success of consultation arrangements depends on the full support and active participation of the community. Those who become involved will need to understand the purposes of, and the limits to, consultative arrangements, and those to whom the guidance is addressed will, of course, make it available to all those involved in consultation groups. It is also being distributed, with the assistance of the CRE and NCVO, to community relations councils and ethnic minority organisations, and to councils for voluntary service. Because of the general public interest in consultation, copies of the guidance will be available on request from the Home Office. The guidance is also being circulated to chief probation officers, chief education officers, and directors of social services. My right honourable friends, the Secretaries of State for Education, the Environment and Social Services share our wish that local representatives of the services for which they have statutory responsibilities should play a full part in helping to prevent crime.

The issue of this guidance fulfils the commitment my right honourable friend made after the publication of Lord Scarman's report. My right honourable friend is still considering the wide range of views that have been put to him on the question of statutory provision to govern consultation arrangements, and will make his views known as soon as possible.

Much good work has already been done in many areas. My right honourable friend is sure that chief officers and police authorities, and the commissioner and the boroughs and districts in the Metropolis, will seek to build on this work in the light of the guidance and develop consultative arrangements best suited for their own areas. For my right honourable friend's part, he accepts that it is his responsibility to review the arrangements made on a regular basis.