Compare and contrast the USAF and RAF missions ….

The Royal Air Force mission statement is:

“‘An agile, adaptable and capable Air Force that, person for person, is second to none, and that makes a decisive air power contribution in support of the UK Defence Mission”.

That is pretty clear and fits in with the RAF image, “The Few” and all that.

By contrast the mission of the United States Air Force is:

 “To fly, fight and win in air, space and cyber space.”

The “and win” bit is maybe a tad more aggressive than making a decisive contribution, but the interesting bit is the inclusion of cyber space.

Now this may be a bureaucratic land-grab with the USAF making a bid for the cyber-security leadership role in the United States Government, but it does pose the question who has the lead for cyber-defence in the United Kingdom?  Answers on a postcard (or email) please. 

Royal Air Force Typhoons

Pressing David Cameron to act on the reunification of Cyprus

Along with twelve MPs (six Labour and six Conservative), I have written to David Cameron about Cyprus.

The letter is as follows:

“Nearly four decades after the illegal invasion of Cyprus, Turkish troops continue to occupy approximately 38% of the island’s territory. For 37 years, the world has condemned the occupation and Turkey’s intransigence in efforts to find a solution to reunite Cyprus.

In that same time, apartheid came to an end in South Africa, the USSR disintegrated, the Berlin Wall fell, former eastern bloc countries joined the European Union, and the people’s calls for democracy have triumphed over dictatorship in some Arab countries in the Middle East. During the same period, British troops have been engaged in conflicts around the world, fighting injustice, protecting British sovereignty and safeguarding or seeking to deliver democracy.

Since signing the 1959 Treaty of Guarantee, the United Kingdom has been a guarantor power of the independence and territorial integrity of Cyprus, with the full weight of responsibility that such status entails. But against the backdrop of the UK’s active role in international political progress around the world, the problem of Cyprus remains virtually at a standstill. While successive UK Governments have paid lip service to delivering justice in Cyprus, these same governments have effectively allowed the Cyprus problem to be downgraded as a foreign policy priority. In addition to the Treaty of Guarantee, Cyprus is a member of, and this country’s partner in, the European Union, Council of Europe and the Commonwealth, as well as a country on which Britain maintains sovereign military bases: these facts alone demand the focus and attention of the British Government to help reunite the island.

Since Turkey’s invasion in 1974, hundreds of thousands of Cypriots have remained refugees, unable to return to their rightful homes, while their properties have been appropriated and exploited by the unlawful regime in the occupied north. In the last 37 years, tens of thousands of Turkish nationals have been moved to the occupied areas by Turkey, as part of an orchestrated policy to change the island’s demography. What is more, cultural and religious sites in the occupied area have been deliberately desecrated. Ignoring relatives’ desperate pleas to respond on a deeply humanitarian issue, Turkey has stubbornly refused to investigate the fate of hundreds of Cypriot men, women and children who disappeared without trace during its military invasion. On top of all this, Turkey has been allowed to disregard numerous UN Security Council resolutions and the decisions of international courts with complete impunity.

Such a situation raises serious questions about the UK’s own role and responsibilities in this continuing tragedy. It is not only on behalf of the sizeable Cypriot community in the UK that we write to you, but on behalf of all other Britons who believe that their country should work, on the international stage, in order to defend justice and human rights.

We are writing to remind you of the clear and irrefutable responsibilities that the British Government holds with regard to Cyprus. We call upon you, as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, to demand unequivocally that Turkey works sincerely for the reunification of Cyprus and that it fulfils its obligations to the EU in relation to Cyprus. Further, we urge you to use Britain’s diplomatic leverage with the United States of America and through the UN, the EU and NATO to press Turkey to end its unacceptable military occupation of Cyprus and the island’s unlawful and unjust division.

To that end, and as a first step in that direction, we, the undersigned, call upon you to extend an urgent invitation to Cyprus President Demetris Christofias to meet with you, in an official capacity, so that he can inform you on the latest political developments regarding Cyprus and so that you can explore with him ways in which the United Kingdom can actively contribute to efforts to bring to an end this continuing injustice.”

Leader of the Lords agrees with me that Home Office answers were inadequate

I have previously reported my frustration with the answers I have received to Parliamentary Questions from the Home Office, saying that I had received:

“the sort of answer that gives non-answers a bad name.”

Pointing out that:

“A request under the Freedom of Information Act would, I am sure, have elicited a fuller answer”

and in a shorter time.

So I wrote to the Leader of the House of Lords to complain.

I have now received his reply, which says:

“I agree that the answers given to the examples you have supplied are not adequate and fall considerably short of providing you with the information you seek.  If that information is not available for whatever reason, I would expect the answer to reflect why that is the case.  These do not and that is not appropriate in response to a Peer.”

He has asked the Home Office to supply me with the information requested and also to respond more fully to future Parliamentary Questions and to respond within the ten working-day target.

We will see what happens ….

A tense and subdued meeting of the Metropolitan Police Authority

The Metropolitan Police Authority is in session and Deputy Mayor Kit Malthouse AM is in the Chair – the first meeting since Sir Paul Stephenson resigned as Commissioner and John Yates as Assistant Commissioner.  The meeting is subdued and rather tense.

Tim Godwin, the Acting Commissioner (or that is what is name badge says, but apparently he is Temporary Commissioner which has a slightly different legal status), and Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Acting Deputy Commissioner (again this is what it says on his name badge, but apparently he has neither “Acting” or “Temporary” but is seconded into the Metropolitan Police from HM Inspectorate of Constabulary to “fill the role”; he is the former Chief Constable of Merseyside) are present. Tim Godwin is choosing his words with care and Bernard Hogan-Howe, who has so far said nothing, is looking as though he wonders what he has got himself into.

The meeting started with twenty-two questions tabled by Jennette Arnold AM on issues surrounding the investigation of the murder of Daniel Morgan and the “intervention” in it of the News of the World.  The Acting Commissioner responded by saying that he was not able to answer any of these as they were all subject to other investigations.  I asked for some clarity on precisely which investigation covered which question and was promised that this would be circulated when it was clear.

The meeting then spent a happy half hour pursuing questions initially raised by Jenny Jones AM and Joanne McCartney AM aimed at establishing whether Mayor Boris Johnson had been briefed about continuing police investigations into phone hacking when he described the continuing concerns as “codswallop” and “a put up job by the Labour Party”.  In the end Deputy Mayor Kit Malthouse AM had to explain that the “Mayor likes to express himself in a particular way” and, when asked (by me) whether the Mayor sticks to the briefings he receives, to say the “Mayor knows his own mind”.  I am not sure anyone was terribly reassured or satisfied.

And finally – nearly two hours into the meeting (and not before time) – the Authority moved on to more general policing issues, such as knife crime, murder, street crime etc.

An evening with Tottenham Labour Party and despite all the dramas at the top of the Metropolitan Police the real concerns are with the future of local Safer Neighbourhood Teams

Earlier this evening I spoke at a meeting of Tottenham Labour Party – well-attended and lively as ever.  I had been invited several months ago to talk about policing – little expecting that by the time the date came round the Commissioner would have resigned.  And, yes, there was considerable interest in the turbulent events of the last few weeks, but as I answered questions attention shifted to the challenges facing the Metropolitan Police over the next year or so and, in particular, what was going to be the local impact of the budget restrictions. 

There was real fear about what would be the impact of the decision to cut by 50% the number of sergeants in Safer Neighbourhood Teams.  There seemed to be unanimity about the value of local Safer Neighbourhood Teams and the beneficial effect they had had in Tottenham and widespread concern that Teams in some very pressured areas would have to share a sergeant, both diminishing the resource available but also seriously undermining the problem-solving capacity of the Teams.

A salutory reminder that when the Metropolitan Police Authority meets tomorrow what will really matter is making sure that London is still policed effectively and appropriately.

Were the 2004 Presidential Elections in the United States hacked?

An intriguing story is drawn to my attention by Team Cymru, leading experts on cybersecurity issues.  This highlights some strange goings on with the electronic voting system used in the 2004 American Presidential Elections in the State of Ohio.  As I remember it, early exit polls from Ohio suggested that John Kerry had won the state but that as the votes were counted it appeared that the exit polls were wrong and that Ohio had voted for George W Bush.  The electoral college votes from Ohio were pivotal and had they gone for Kerry he would have become President. 

The report says:

“A new filing in the King Lincoln Bronzeville v. Blackwell case includes a copy of the Ohio Secretary of State election production system configuration that was in use in Ohio’s 2004 presidential election when there was a sudden and unexpected shift in votes for George W. Bush.

The filing also includes the revealing deposition of the late Michael Connell. Connell served as the IT guru for the Bush family and Karl Rove. Connell ran the private IT firm GovTech that created the controversial system that transferred Ohio’s vote count late on election night 2004 to a partisan Republican server site in Chattanooga, Tennessee owned by SmarTech. That is when the vote shift happened, not predicted by the exit polls, that led to Bush’s unexpected victory. Connell died a month and a half after giving this deposition in a suspicious small plane crash.

Additionally, the filing contains the contract signed between then-Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell and Connell’s company, GovTech Solutions. Also included that contract a graphic architectural map of the Secretary of State’s election night server layout system. 

Cliff Arnebeck, lead attorney in the King Lincoln case, exchanged emails with IT security expert Stephen Spoonamore. Arnebeck asked Spoonamore whether or not SmarTech had the capability to “input data” and thus alter the results of Ohio’s 2004 election. Spoonamore responded: “Yes. They would have had data input capacities. The system might have been set up to log which source generated the data but probably did not.”

Spoonamore explained that “they [SmarTech] have full access and could change things when and if they want.”

Arnebeck specifically asked “Could this be done using whatever bypass techniques Connell developed for the web hosting function.” Spoonamore replied “Yes.”

Spoonamore concluded from the architectural maps of the Ohio 2004 election reporting system that, “SmarTech was a man in the middle. In my opinion they were not designed as a mirror, they were designed specifically to be a man in the middle.”

A “man in the middle” is a deliberate computer hacking setup, which allows a third party to sit in between computer transmissions and illegally alter the data. A mirror site, by contrast, is designed as a backup site in case the main computer configuration fails.

Spoonamore claims that he confronted then-Secretary of State Blackwell at a secretary of state IT conference in Boston where he was giving a seminar in data security. “Blackwell freaked and refused to speak to me when I confronted him about it long before I met you,” he wrote to Arnebeck.

On December 14, 2007, then-Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, who replaced Blackwell, released her evaluation and validation of election-related equipment, standards and testing (Everest study) which found that touchscreen voting machines were vulnerable to hacking with relative ease.

Until now, the architectural maps and contracts from the Ohio 2004 election were never made public, which may indicate that the entire system was designed for fraud. In a previous sworn affidavit to the court, Spoonamore declared: “The SmarTech system was set up precisely as a King Pin computer used in criminal acts against banking or credit card processes and had the needed level of access to both county tabulators and Secretary of State computers to allow whoever was running SmarTech computers to decide the output of the county tabulators under its control.”

Spoonamore also swore that “…the architecture further confirms how this election was stolen. The computer system and SmarTech had the correct placement, connectivity, and computer experts necessary to change the election in any manner desired by the controllers of the SmarTech computers.”

In the Connell deposition, plaintiffs’ attorneys questioned Connell regarding gwb43, a website that was live on election night operating out of the White House and tied directly into SmarTech’s server stacks in Chattanooga, Tennessee which contained Ohio’s 2004 presidential election results.

The transfer of the vote count to SmarTech in Chattanooga, Tennessee remains a mystery. This would have only happened if there was a complete failure of the Ohio computer election system. Connell swore under oath that, “To the best of my knowledge, it was not a fail-over case scenario – or it was not a failover situation.”

Bob Magnan, a state IT specialist for the secretary of state during the 2004 election, agreed that there was no failover scenario. Magnan said he was unexpectedly sent home at 9 p.m. on election night and private contractors ran the system for Blackwell.

The architectural maps, contracts, and Spoonamore emails, along with the history of Connell’s partisan activities, shed new light on how easy it was to hack the 2004 Ohio presidential election.”

Interesting, if true.

The Norwegian atrocities demonstrate yet again the danger of jumping to conclusions

My good friend and webmaster, Jon Worth, has it absolutely right in his blog written earlier tonight:

“We have known for a few hours that twin attacks have taken place in Norway – an explosion in central Oslo and a series of shootings at Utøya, an island in Tyrifjordento the north east of Oslo where a Labour Party youth meeting was taking place.

Beyond that what do we actually know? Rather little, at least for sure. That’s indeed the position taken by Norwegian PM Jens Stoltenberg, who was calm and collected in a television statement (can’t find the video of it online), saying it was not known who or what was to blame, the priority was for everyone’s security, and people should remain calm. Spot on, and my good friend Bente Kalsnes who lives in Oslo agrees.

But what do you then get? 24 hour news channels start an endless stream of speculation about what may or may not have happened.”

And his latest update notes:

“Partial volte-face from BBC’s Gordon Corera from BBC’s Live Text? (BST to CET explains time difference)

2211: Gordon Corera Security correspondent, BBC News During the day, after an initial focus on an al-Qaeda link, the possibility of domestic extremism increasingly came into focus. The choice of targets – government buildings and a political youth rally – suggested a possible political agenda rather than the mass casualty approach typically employed by al-Qaeda.

Maybe you should not have been so swift to jump to conclusions at the start?”

It is always worth remembering that in the immediate aftermath of an incident even knowing what has happened may be difficult to determine for some while. Remember the initial reports of a “power surge” on the London Underground on the morning of 7th July 2005.  Or the misreporting of the man who jumped over a ticket barrier wearing a bulky coat at Stockwell Station fifteen days later (he turned out to have been one of the armed police team pursuing the tragically unfortunate Jean-Charles de Menezes rather than a suicide bomber).  Or for that matter the initial reports assuming that the Madrid train bombings were ETA-related.

Generals used to talk of “the fog of war”.  But rolling media with their desperate need for an endless supply of talking-head experts create their own fog.  I was in New York on 9th September 2001, sitting in a diner listening to a feed from one of the New York radio stations, when first one “expert” opined that the attacks on the World Trade Center could have been so much worse – “suppose those airliners had been packed with anthrax spores” – which prompted the radio station to produce another “expert” fifteen minutes later to tell listeners what the symptoms of anthrax were and what they should do if they started to have difficulty in breathing ….

This is not to suggest that the media should be censored in the aftermath of atrocities like those today, but rather that media editors and presenters should be responsible and avoid speculation until more facts are known. Maybe, given the excitements about the News of the World and the British media over the last few weeks, the idea of the media acting responsibly looks like a forlorn hope.  However, I do not believe it is an unreasonable aspiration.

After 111 days in the House of Lords the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill is sent back to the House of Commons

The House of Lords finally gave a Third Reading today to the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill and the Bill will now return to the House of Commons in September.

There were five divisions today on the Bill – much to the irritation of the Government Chief Whip, even though she won all of them. 

This was the thirteenth day of debate on the Bill, since it was introduced in the Lords on 1st April 2011.  Despite the many, many hours of consideration – the only disputed amendment passed was on the first day of Committee when the first few lines of the Bill were removed. 

 The Government has made it clear that they intend to reverse this change when the Bill goes back to the Commons and that reversal will then have to be considered by the Lords.  It is unlikely that there will be any further opportunities to fine tune the Bill – despite the wish for this to happen being expressed in all parts of the House today. See, for example, this exchange between Lord Cormack (a Conservative peer who served in the House of Commons for 40 years bbefore entering the Lords last year) and myself:

“Lord Cormack: My Lords, … . I remind the House that the Bill to which we recently gave a formal Third Reading is in fact very different from the one that came from the other place. It is the expectation of most of us that the other place will indicate its dissatisfaction with the major amendment made in Committee by this House. Obviously we must wait and see, but I say this to my noble friend the Minister. The Government will have to look at this Bill again because of that amendment, but because of what has happened over the past three weeks, ….  surely it is necessary to enact a Bill that truly deals with all the problems, ones that were not foreseen—I blame no one for that—when the Bill was first placed before Parliament. This is a golden opportunity for the Government to come back to us with amendments that recognise that there are areas of policing which are not adequately dealt with in the current Bill. Certain problems have been highlighted in recent days which it is incumbent on Parliament to recognise and adequately to legislate for.

My plea to my noble friend the Minister, who has shown herself to be painstaking, thorough and responsive to the feelings of the House, is that she should talk to the Home Secretary and her other ministerial colleagues with a view to ensuring that when the other place comes back to this House, one would assume either in September or October, we will have before us amendments which deal fully with many of the issues that initially provoked the noble Baroness, Lady Harris of Richmond, to move her amendment, and that subsequently have built upon that feeling of unease. I do not seek lengthy Divisions this morning, but an assurance that the final shape of the Bill proves to be up to the circumstances that we are now aware of.

Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, I hesitate to interrupt someone with such long parliamentary experience, but I would be grateful if he could give the House his guidance. I share with him the objective that, even at this very late stage, the Government should look again at how the proposals they would like to see enacted will work and how they could be improved in the light of the events of the past week or so. But is not the real dilemma for the Government that what will go back to the Commons for consideration are simply those narrow areas of the Bill which have been changed by the decisions of your Lordships’ House? The safeguards that I am sure we all want to see—perhaps with one or two exceptions—will be very difficult for the Government to introduce during the course of ping-pong.

Lord Cormack: Like the famous Irishman, I would not have started from here. The truth of the matter is that on the very first day in Committee, a major amendment was passed in this House. It is therefore likely that the Government, unless they are going to see their Bill completely torpedoed, will wish to reject that amendment and come back to the House. As we saw earlier this week and last week, when ping-pong is played, there is an opportunity for the Government to insert further amendments. It is not a desirable situation, but the Government are going to want to put back all the provisions for police and crime commissioners that were taken out by the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Harris. When they do that they will have an opportunity, as I see it, to further refine the Bill in a way that reflects not only the general concerns expressed in this House, but also the need to deal with the sort of situations which have disturbed us all so much in recent days.

Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, I am delighted to hear that advice. My understanding of the problem is that essentially all that will be sent back to the Commons, apart from the government amendments which will be nodded through, are the three lines from the beginning of the Bill which the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, deleted, and the sole fairly short clause which was then added. Someone incredibly ingenious needs to insert into those first three lines all the safeguards that Members of your Lordships’ House are seeking. I am delighted that the noble Lord, with all his parliamentary experience, thinks it is possible, but I have to say that I have deep reservations over whether a way can be found of doing it.

Lord Cormack: In turn, I am delighted to hear that. I am merely making a few remarks in the hope that my noble friend the Minister will discuss this matter to try to make it possible because it is clear that we have an unsatisfactory situation. I believe that it is possible, when the Government decide to disagree with us in that fundamental amendment, for them to make some additional comments, as it were. I hope that that is what will happen.

This is not a situation that I or the noble Lord would have wished to see. The dilemma is that the problems have been compounded by the events of recent days and weeks. The Government have time during the Recess in which to look at this, and I hope that they will be able to do so. Then, when a police and social responsibility Bill goes on to the statute book, it is legislation that is truly adequate for policing in the next quarter of the 21st century. That is because we do not want to be, as the Americans say, continually revisiting this situation over the coming years.”


Is the Home Office treating the House of Lords with contempt or has it really got something to cover up?

Back in May I reported the failure of the Home Office to answer a simple question tabled in the House of Lords for written answer:

“what meetings have been held by Home Office Ministers with (a) the Mayor of London or the Chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority and with (b) the Commissioner or Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police since May 2010?”

The answer when it came after eight weeks was grossly inadequate:

“Since May 2010 Home Office ministers have met regularly with (a) the Mayor of London or the Chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority and with (b) the Commissioner or Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, to discuss poliicing matters and policing in London.”

I tried again with:

“To ask Her Majesty’s Government (further to written answer HL7906) to state on what dates meetings were held by Home Office Ministers with (a) the Mayor of London and/or the Chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority and with (b) the Commissioner and/or Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police since May 2010.”

Another eight weeks passed and a few days ago I finally got the following:

“Since May 2010 Home Office ministers have met with the Mayor of London or the Chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority, and the Commissioner or Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, regularly throughout 2010 or 2011.”

This is the sort of answer that gives non-answers a bad name.  A request under the Freedom of Information Act would, I am sure, have elicited a fuller answer and the statutory timetable requires an answer within a month.

I have today tabled the following:

“To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer s given by Baroness Browning on 17 May (HL7906) and on 11 July (HL9332),:

    1. What were the reasons for the delay in responding to the two questions tabled?
    2. Will they now place in the Library of the House a schedule of all meetings held by Home Office Ministers with (a) the Mayor of London and/or the Chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority, and (b) the Commissioner and/or Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, showing the dates of all such meetings, their duration and a list of all those present?”

And for good measure I have written to the Leader of the House of Lords as follows:

“Dear Lord Strathclyde


I am writing to express my concern about the quality of answers given to Parliamentary Questions.  There have been a number of occasions in the past when I have felt that the response to Written Questions I have submitted has been woefully inadequate.

Most recently I would refer you to HL7906 and HL9332 (copies attached). Both questions took an inordinately long time to receive a response.

 I hope you will agree that the first answer failed adequately to address the question asked.  I then tabled a more specific question, referring to the previous answer, and received an equally uninformative response. 

I am certain that, if I had submitted the question to the Home Office by writing as a member of the public using the Freedom of Information Act, I would have received a fuller answer.  (I am pursuing this separately with a further question.)

In your view, is it acceptable for such poor answers to be given?  Is it not contemptuous of the House for less information to be provided in response to a Parliamentary Question than would be provided under the Freedom of Information Act?

I look forward to your reply.  I am copying this letter to the Lord Speaker, the Lord Speaker Elect, the Leader of the Opposition, the Government Chief Whip, the Opposition Chief Whip and Baroness Browning.

Yours sincerely,



(Lord Harris of Haringey)”

The dramatic events of the last few days suggest there should be a pause before the Police Reform Bill is finalised

The dramatic events of the last few days have engulfed the Metropolitan Police in crisis.  Those events have highlighted the importance of strong and robust governance arrangements for policing.  And they have also called into question whether the Government’s proposals in the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill are going to be fit for purpose. 

I highlighted one example when the House of Lords considered the Home Secretary’s statement on recent events yesterday afternoon:

“My Lords, I declare an interest as a current member of the Metropolitan Police Authority, and associate myself with the very positive remarks that the Minister has made about Sir Paul Stephenson and John Yates. However, given what she has just said about the referrals to the IPCC, perhaps she could ponder for a moment what the circumstances of today would have been had the Bill currently before this House been passed.

The Metropolitan Police Authority sub-committee on professional standards met this morning to consider complaints against named officers. It considered those complaints, and, as the Minister has just reported to the House, it made recommendations in one instance that an officer be suspended, and in other instances that matters now be investigated by the IPCC. Under the Bill which she is steering through this House, that would not happen. Any allegations against individuals would be considered by the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis or the Chief Officer of Police outside-of course the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis has now resigned-who would then decide whether something should be investigated or another officer suspended. Surely the interests of openness and public support for the process demand that there be some independent structure to handle complaints and consideration of whether an inquiry should be opened. That will disappear under this Bill.”

In responding to the statement for the Opposition, Lord Philip Hunt spelt out why a rethink was needed:

“What are the implications of the Home Secretary’s proposals to bring in American-style elected police and crime commissioners? The nearest Britain has to an elected police chief-the London mayor-did not stop these problems at the Met. If anything, he made them worse. Boris Johnson described the phone hacking allegations as “codswallop”. He went on to say:

“It looks like a politically motivated put-up job by the Labour party”.

What backing does the Minister think that Sir Paul Stephenson and John Yates could have expected from the mayor if they had decided to reopen an investigation that he described as politically motivated? The truth is that the elected mayor made it harder, not easier, for the Met to get to the heart of this issue. The Mayor of London is now looking forward to working with his third police commissioner in his current term. To lose one commissioner is a misfortune; to lose two looks like carelessness. Above all, it shows the risks of the closeness of the relationship between politicians and operational policing.

I come to the implications of all of this on the police Bill, which we are told is based on experience in London. In light of what has happened, I would ask the Minister for a pause in consideration of the Bill, currently due for Third Reading in your Lordships’ House on Wednesday. Whatever the ups and downs of the British police force over the decades, its political impartiality has shone out to international acclaim. However, this Bill threatens a disaster. Party political commissioners to be elected in nine months’ time risk undermining the very impartiality of which we are so proud. The Bill threatens the politicisation of operational policing; and it threatens a huge loss of public confidence in the untrammelled power given to party political commissioners to appoint or to dismiss chief constables at will.

The London situation is particularly worrying. As Sir Paul said in his statement today, the Met faces extraordinary challenges: the phone hacking investigation, the public inquiries, the inquiries that the Home Secretary announced today; its responsibility in counterterrorism and national security issues; and the Olympics. There is now huge disruption in the senior ranks of the force with the resignation of the commissioner and Mr Yates. What are the Government doing to stabilise the situation? They are introducing legislation to scrap the Metropolitan Police Authority, threatening yet more disruption. That is the last thing that the Metropolitan police force needs now. I believe that Third Reading of the police Bill should be postponed so that the consequences of the proposed legislation can be seen in the context of this week’s very disturbing events. Will the Minister agree to that?”

Others also made the case for a pause:

Baroness Smith of Basildon: My Lords, when it became clear that there was no widespread public or professional support for the health Bill, the Prime Minister wisely stepped back and paused the Bill for consideration. What I find incredible in the noble Baroness’s answers is that she does not seem to think that the events of the past couple of weeks have had any impact on, or should be considered in any way in connection with, the police Bill. Will she take this away and think about it? People across the country who support the Metropolitan Police will find it incredible if these events do not impact on deliberations on the Bill. The best thing now would be for the Bill to be paused for consideration, and for the Government then to come back with more effective and thought-out proposals.


Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, would it not be infinitely preferable for the Government, and particularly the Minister, to consider the events of the past few hours and days with some calm, and therefore to postpone reflection on the Bill until the Government have had a chance to come to a sensible reaction?

So what was the Government’s response?

“The Government believe very firmly that chief officers should be held to account, on behalf of the public, by police and crime commissioners for the way in which they conduct business-not operational business-in their force. The public have been the losers in all this. They have lost confidence, and we believe that the police and crime commissioners, on behalf of the public of their police force area, are the answer to ensuring that the police are held to account both for the way in which they tackle crime and for the way in which they prioritise and carry out what the public want, which is a reduction in crime. …. I suspect that there will always be a difference of opinion between this Bench and that Bench, as there was when the Bill came to the Floor of the House, so I am not in a position to say to the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, that we intend to defer Third Reading of the Bill, which has reached its final stages now, having gone through another place and had a great deal of scrutiny in this place.”

I think that is a “no” then.

The House of Lords will therefore consider the Bill at Third Reading (effectively the last moment when detailed changes can be made) on Wednesday – the last day before the Summer Recess – and it will go back to the House of Commons in September.