Devolution of Policing
Plenary Wednesday 10 May 201715:21:06
Spoken Contribution – 15:21:06
Thanks to the individual Members for bringing today’s debate. I think devolution of policing is an important issue, and I should point out that it is an issue on which we in UKIP are thus far undecided. I do think that we need to be wary, though, before we embark on this step. I think that, if the Assembly calls for greater powers, for devolution over more things, then there have to be good reasons for it. I think it can’t just be because other parts of the UK have it, therefore we must have it. When we debated this subject in 2014, Ann Jones made the very pertinent point that, and I quote:
Simply saying that we want powers because Scotland has them is a very weak argument.’
End of quote. I think that still holds true today, and I think it does hold true even if we extend it to references to greater Manchester also, as we’ve had today. What are the actual practical benefits of devolving policing to this place? They are, at best, unclear. [Interruption.] Okay, Steffan, we’ve heard what you said. I was going to raise some of the points you made. You mentioned the argument of the other two emergency services are already devolved; Julie Morgan also made that point. Well, this point had been made before. In the last Assembly—[Interruption.] Okay, well, you are saying it’s right. I am addressing the point; please let me address it. We had in the last Assembly a Member called Byron Davies, who actually had 32 years’ operational experience in the Metropolitan Police. Now, when this issue was raised last time, in 2014, he said the only connection between the three emergency services is that they all have the same telephone number, 999. He was not convinced that devolution of policing was going to be effective.
The cost-saving argument that Steffan has advanced is speculative at best. Would we actually get the financial settlement for the police that he is suggesting? In fact, costs could well rise.
Spoken Contribution – 15:23:16
Spoken Contribution – 15:23:37
Okay. I was aware of the argument the first time that you put it. Thank you for putting it again. I’d be interested to hear what the Minister would have to say on that point. I’m sure he will take that on board.
Some fairly concrete—[Interruption.} Some fairly concrete disadvantages of police devolution have been aired in the past. Now, I was interested by the Minister Carl Sargeant’s intervention earlier regarding comments from chief constables. I would be very interested in hearing more on that, because, so far, from what I have read, many experienced officers have voiced concerns over the prospect of the devolution of policing. For instance, former Gwent Police Chief Constable Mick Giannasi has stated that the devolution of policing could pose ‘serious operational risks’ and, with under 7,000 officers, Welsh forces would be heavily reliant on English forces for support in many areas of crime-fighting.
The cost of creating “stand alone” resilience would be prohibitive’,
he stated. These fears were echoed in 2016 by the Gwent police and crime commissioner, Ian Johnston, who warned that Wales could become the poor relation of UK policing. The Dyfed-Powys police and crime commissioner, Chris Salmon, said at that time that there is nothing that the Assembly can do—
Spoken Contribution – 15:24:57
Spoken Contribution – 15:24:57
Spoken Contribution – 15:25:13
Yes, and as I stated, Lee, I am very interested to hear what he says about the chief constables and to elucidate on what he hinted, that the chief constables are in favour of this. My mind is not closed on this issue, but you must appreciate I have to raise the concerns so that we properly debate them.
Right. I mentioned Byron Davies. I’ll quote what he said in the last time—possibly the last time—we debated this, 2014:
During my time as a police officer, there were always many experts lining up with ideas and plans to reform policing. It was to some of us a source of annoyance that there were always people who knew better. It was often, if not always, the case that these people lacked some understanding of what policing and operational policing are really about and lacked practical knowledge of policing. I do not believe that policing should be devolved to Wales…. Cross-border crime, international crime and online crime make the case for the Welsh Government taking over from the Home Office very weak indeed.’
End of quote. We in UKIP Wales do not think the case for devolution of policing has yet been made. That is why it is our intention to abstain on today’s motion.