The Police and Social Responsibility Bill is to be debated on Second Reading in the House of Lords on 27th April. Mayor Boris Johnson has today circulated a briefing to members of the House of Lords on the Bill.
He doesn’t mince his words:
“The stated policy intent of the Bill is to strengthen democratic accountability. There are some matters that need urgent resolution so that there is not an unintentional, but significant, reduction in the role and powers of the MOPC compared with that of the MPA. If the government’s intention is to re-balance the tripartite, in particular by reducing the central role of the Home Office, the local governance role needs to be strengthened. Currently the drafting of the Bill gives the MPS Commissioner significantly more powers and the local elected policing body significantly fewer powers, than at present.
For example, the MOPC will have to consult with the MPS Commissioner on the Police and Crime Plan, which will be a formal Mayoral strategy and the flagship document, with the MPS Commissioner who thereafter has only to give ‘regard to’ it in delivering local policing. We understand from the House of Commons Committee debate that ‘have regard’ carries considerable weight, however it is vital that it be made clear that the MPS Commissioner cannot refuse to deliver the MOPC plan and priorities, both national and those that matter to Londoners.”
Given the apoplexy created on the eighth floor of New Scotland Yard by previous remarks about “having the hand on the tiller”, I wonder what the reaction of Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson will be to the phrase
“it is vital that it be made clear that the MPS Commissioner cannot refuse to deliver the MOPC plan and priorities, both national and those that matter to Londoners“.
And what will Deputy Commissioner Tim Godwin make of it – particularly as he was recently overheard telling those that would listen “What Kit Malthouse* has got to realise is that we run the Met not him”.
Police accountability matters and the phrase in the Mayor’s briefing is quite right: the purpose of the Bill should be to strengthen democratic accountability and not inadvertently weaken it.
*Deputy Mayor Kit Malthouse AM, Chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority and putative Deputy MOPC.