MPs have pledged to “relentlessly pursue” Britain’s most senior policing body and accused its leadership of “arrogance” and “unaccountability” after revelations it has been paying ex-police chiefs up to £1,100 a day as consultants.
The growing scandal over the huge payments made by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) to former chief constables reached Parliament yesterday as backbench MPs vented their fury at an organisation described as “riddled with conflicts of interest and poor governance”
The Yorkshire Post was singled out for praise in the Westminster Hall debate following an investigation which revealed more than £800,000 was paid to 10 consultants, largely over the last three years, from ACPO’s central office.
The newspaper revealed last month that payments of up to £205,982 had been made to consultants, many of whom were former chief officers.
The payments were nearly all made to private companies set up by the consultants.
Skipton and Ripon MP Julian Smith told MPs: “Our police leaders should be beyond reproach – but the example set by the leadership, the Association of Chief Police Officers, leaves much to be desired.
“We all agree on the need for a co-ordinated approach to policing in this country... However, the organisation that provides such leadership needs to be professional and clean – but ACPO is riddled with conflicts of interest and poor governance.”
The Tory backbencher listed the many private interests of ACPO – largely funded through Government and police authorities – and said the recent revelations had only emerged after it was finally brought under the scrutiny of Freedom of Information laws following changes in legislation.
“ACPO is being dragged, kicking and screaming, towards transparency,” Mr Smith said.
Northern Ireland MP Dr William McCrea warned that the “vagueness and the secrecy” surrounding ACPO “only lead to suspicion”.
And Conservative Priti Patel said it “is clear some significant concerns about transparency have been raised” and called for ACPO to “give some reassurance to the victims of crime whom it has failed through its conduct”.
Mr Smith said it was vital the body now faces major reform.
“Many people involved in ACPO have, at best, been negligent or, at worst, corrupt in how they managed the resources and opportunities they were granted,” he said.
He added: “Many of the problems at ACPO seem to have come from an arrogance, a lack of challenge from the lower ranks and a belief that command and control means that the chiefs are accountable to no one. My message to ACPO is that I and a number of colleagues will relentlessly pursue what it has been doing.”
ACPO has already launched its own internal review following the revelations in the Yorkshire Post.
Home Office Minister James Brokenshire said this showed the body is taking the matter seriously, and that the investigation must now be allowed to run its course,
“ACPO has played a valuable role since it was established in 1948, providing a means for chief constables to come together to agree a common way of working,” he said. “This Government fully appreciates the contribution chief constables continue to make at a national and local level.”
ACPO released a statement following the debate, saying: “ACPO is the Association of Chief Police Officers, each one of whom is highly accountable to the public, a police authority, and to the law.
“ACPO is subject to the Freedom of Information Act and is working with the Home Office towards reforms which preserve its vital public safety role as the body which allows for national coordination of operational policing.”