It is not often the case that I take against
Party Coalition policy, but I'm one of those who remain wholly unconvinced that elected Police Commissioners are a good thing. The idea of a partisan, politicised appointee flies in the face of neutral, needs based crime and justice policy, and so it was with great interest that I noted an amendment sponsored by Baroness Harris of Richmond, or Angie to her friends.
Amendment 1 to the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill didn't mess about, it sought simply to remove Police and Crime Commissioners from the proposed legislation. I won't quote from the debate, except to highlight her summation...
Baroness Harris of Richmond: My Lords, the time is late. We have had nearly three and a quarter hours of debate on one amendment. First, I thank my noble friend the Minister for her thoughtful and sensitive summing up of what has been a very important debate and the way that she has responded to the concerns that your Lordships have eloquently and strongly put this afternoon.
It has never been my practice in the 12 years that I have been a Member of your Lordships' House to vote against my Government - I am proud to say that this is my Government - so today I find this very difficult. This Bill has brought forward something that I consider a true principle. It is an appalling Bill. I simply cannot believe that having directly elected police commissioners will improve the policing of this country, which is what we want. That is what we all want. I have heard all the arguments about how different police authorities have not been very good: I know that. But they have been a jolly sight better than they ever were before and we can improve on them. We should improve on them. My biggest concern, therefore, remains about putting so much power into the hands of one person in the form of police and crime commissioners.
I do not want to waste your Lordships' time any more. The debate has gone backwards and forwards and I have to say that I simply do not believe that these proposals will be beneficial in any way to improving policing in this country. I wish to test the opinion of the House.
The division was called, and when the dust had settled, Angie returned to the chamber with the pointy stick of righteousness (I must find out what it really is...) as teller for the 'contents', those in favour of her amendment, to hear that it had been passed by 188 votes to 176.
Interestingly, this is being treated as a Liberal Democrat rebellion, which is an interesting spin, and as a response to Nick Clegg's call for a stronger liberal voice. It might well be the latter, but it isn't really the former. In fact, only 13 Liberal Democrat Peers supported the amendment, whilst 33 supported the Government. That said, the number of our Peers who let their displeasure be known by simply not voting was significant...
So, time for the roll of honour, as I salute the gallant thirteen - Avebury, Bradshaw, Cotter, Goodhart, Greaves, Harris of Richmond, Linklater of Butterstone, Maclennan of Rogart, Methuen, Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay, Steel of Aikwood, Strasburger and Tonge.
And you'll note that they're a pretty serious bunch, so I think that the Government will want to give some real consideration to the matter before they overturn it in the Commons where, of course, it will rely on Liberal Democrat votes to do so...