The London Local Authorities Bill gives power to Police Community Support Officers power to issue Fixed Penalty Notices for such offences as dropping litter. Excellent news. I have long thought how absurd it is that PCSOs – of we are to have them at all – have such little power in law enforcement.
But more controversial is that the power will also be extended to other "accredited persons." Before the election the Conservatives were critical of extending police powers to civilians. Now we are extending the thing further. On the other hand anyone who has been canvassing will know that "minor" issues such as litter and dog mess are important to quality of life in a neighbourhood.
Anyway Jacob Rees-Mogg, who was only elected last year but has already emerged as a great Parliamentarian, raises the issue of how we will recognise an "accredited person."
Will they wear a uniform?
I have further concerns about these accredited personages. How do we know who is and who is not an accredited person? I said that they should wear a bowler hat, though it occurred to me subsequently that there might be a few wigs going spare because I believe the Supreme Court has given them up. Certain people in the House of Commons have given up wearing wigs too, so perhaps there are a few wigs that could go round to these accredited persons so that we would know who they were as they went about their duties—fine full-bottomed wigs in 18th-century fashion. But perhaps in the 21st century we should be more modern and it should be the bowler hat, which is perhaps a better symbol nowadays of authority than the full-bottomed wig.
What we currently have—Westminster city council did this with its parking attendants—are some desperately scruffy tatterdemalions who wander around as accredited persons. They are parking meter attendants and they look as though they have been dragged through a hedge backwards. Their uniforms are anoraky things, not the sort of thing that an officer of the Crown would ever be seen wearing—the sort of thing that could be worn by anybody. Who knows who may come up to us and say, “I am an accredited person. You are fined £10. Cash only. Thank you very much.”
As we go about our lawful business, are we to be shocked and appalled by the attempts to extort money from us that come from accredited persons who are accredited only by themselves, because they have no fixed uniform, no set outfit, no clarity of purpose in what they are doing? I am very much with my hon. Friend in getting rid of all the references to accredited personages under section 47 of the Police Reform Act 2002 or any form of accrediting of these personages until we settle exactly who they are and whether they should be officers of the Crown and constables.