Have your say on how fire and rescue service information is accessed

Last month, Home Secretary Theresa May set out her vision for the fire and rescue service in England.

One element is to bring greater transparency to the fire and rescue sector by publishing more service information to the public online, just as the Home Office has done with policing.

By making information more accessible, the public can compare fire and rescue services in England on issues such as performance, value for money and diversity, monitor trends over time and hold elected leaders to account.

The Home Office is currently considering how it can deliver this commitment and is keen to work with the public to develop proposals further.

It has opened an online survey which aims to understand what fire and rescue service material is currently viewed online, why it is viewed, and where this information is currently obtained from.

Additionally, the survey asks what other information could be published, and how it could be made more accessible.

Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service is keen to help publicise this survey and would like to encourage as many people as possible across Merseyside to take part. The survey should take no longer than 10 minutes to complete, and it is open until 5pm on Friday, July 8.

You can take the survey here: http://www.homeofficesurveys.homeoffice.gov.uk/s/onlinefrspublic_scmiu_kc/

Any information you provide will be stored on secure government networks and will not be processed outside those networks. It will be kept for a maximum of one year from the closing date.

The Home Office will only use the information for internal purposes and it will not be shared with anyone from outside government.

Purdah should not mean the closing down of government

I was recently reminded about the time I was ‘disciplined’ by the Cabinet Secretary.

In April 2008, as Home Secretary I spoke at an excellent conference about the role of neighbourhood policing in counter terror work. I announced funding for further local police officers to strengthen counter terror policing at a neighbourhood level. I was reminded of this when I heard the Prime Minister’s recent announcement about additional armed officers to help counter a Paris style attack on the streets of London.

Like mine, it was a good announcement, but I found my eyes turning to the calender to check the date. Despite being well received, my announcement landed me in hot water. I had made it during the official pre-election purdah period and received a civil service ‘telling off’ for breaching purdah.

I’d like you to imagine this as me knocking nervously on the door of the Cabinet Secretary/headmaster with exercise books down my trousers in anticipation of the punishment I was to receive. It was rather more a ‘disappointed’ word passed on from the Cabinet Secretary via my Permanent Secretary to me and my special advisers. Why the fuss?

Outside the political world the word ‘purdah’ is associated with the idea of women being screened or veiled from the eyes of men. In government it requires civil servants and politicians to coyly draw a gauzy veil over the business of party politics in the run up to elections or referendums.

The various pieces of legislation and codes which provide guidance on purdah are pretty clear that the restriction is about not using public resources to promote a particular party or candidate. This means being careful about announcements and communication using official resources. It does not – and should not – mean the closing down of government.

I accept I was wrong to make that announcement. Purdah has an important function. However my transgression doesn’t change my view that for many civil servants – and even for many others with very little relationship to elected government – local or national – purdah is an excuse to close down any public facing or vaguely innovative government activity.

This year we face two purdah periods – the one we’re now in for the local, London and PCC elections and the pre EU referendum period.

There was a parliamentary row last year when the Government tried to remove purdah provisions from the EU Referendum Bill. They tried to argue that the normal business of government (in relation to EU Councils and legislation) wouldn’t be able to continue if Section 125 of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendum act 2000 applied to the EU referendum. This argument was widely debunked by the Electoral Commission, the Public Administration Select Committee and former Ministers and the government was defeated.

One interpretation of the government’s attempts was that they wanted the ability to be able to put the case for remain in the referendum campaign.

The recent £9m leaflet and website exercise suggests that purdah requirements haven’t been a bar to this happening, although it would have been much more difficult if renegotiation had continued until much nearer the date of the referendum.

Despite these obvious sensitivities, I still believe that purdah can be far too broadly interpreted. For example, NHS Providers have provided advice to NHS Trusts that their Board meetings shouldn’t discuss issues relating to future strategy or resources during the purdah period.

As the Chair of a Trust, I think this is nonsense and would make a Board meeting meaningless. The NHS is notoriously bad at acting sensibly in situations like this. A hospital reconfiguration near to my home was put on hold for up to a year before the General Election last year and, on occasion, this was justified due to ‘purdah’.

In fact, this was a case of the NHS deciding not to make a controversial decision which could be the subject of election campaigning. In one way, this is a justifiable position, but it certainly isn’t required by ‘purdah’ conditions except for a very tight time period before the election.

In another case, I know of a private company which has been told by government officials not to showcase one of their projects for journalists during ‘purdah’ because it has previously received Ministerial support and government money. Frankly, I think this is an over interpretation of the restrictions.

Like ‘data protection’ and ‘health and safety’ purdah requirements are often interpreted in the most restrictive way – and there is a suspicion that some use the magic purdah word to get a quiet April every year. If you’re confronted by the excuse of purdah to stop something happening, at the very least it may be worth questioning whether it really falls fouls of the rules.

I hold up my hands to going too far in the past, but there’s a very big grey area which falls short of my bad behaviour!


An article by Jacqui Smith that was sourced from a press release by Total Politics Party UK.

Police and crime commissioners: the choice is yours

When I became Home Secretary in 2010, police governance was broken and in need of radical reform.

At that time, police authorities were theoretically responsible for holding forces to account. Yet in reality these bodies were nothing more than invisible committees of appointed councillors.

They were tasked with acting on behalf of the public and had a duty to engage local people and businesses in setting priorities and local taxes, but they did nothing of the sort.

Attendance at public meetings was often very poor, only 1 in every 15 people knew that police authorities even existed, and their decisions were far from easily available, often hidden amongst lengthy minutes posted on their websites.

In 2010, an inspection by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary found that only 4 of the 22 police authorities inspected were judged to have performed well in 2 of their primary functions – setting strategic direction and ensuring value for money for taxpayers.

That is why, in 2012, I introduced police and crime commissioners (PCCs) to be powerful local figures, directly elected and accountable to the people they serve.

They have engaged with the public over the past 3 and a half years in ways that police authorities never did or could.

Collectively their websites are being visited by over 85,000 people and they receive upwards of 7,000 pieces of correspondence every month.

They are elected, visible, well-known in their communities and accountable for the decisions they take.

But there is scope for PCCs to go further. We have included new measures in the Policing and Crime Bill, which is currently passing through Parliament, which enable PCCs, where a local case is made, to take on responsibility for fire and rescue services and even create a single employer for the 2 services.

We have also been exploring what role PCCs could play in the wider criminal justice system. There is after all a reason why we included the words ‘and crime’ in the title of PCCs.

According to the Independent Crime Survey for England and Wales, PCCs have presided over a fall in crime of more than a quarter since their introduction, during a time when police funding has reduced by a fifth.

This is no mean feat. The accomplishments of PCCs matter, they matter to local people and they matter for the integrity of the policing system as a whole.

But, most importantly they matter for the historic principle of policing by consent. Because if you haven’t been impressed by your PCC, or you think they haven’t achieved what they said they would, in just a few weeks’ time you can say so in the strongest terms possible – by voting for someone else at the ballot box.

Conversely if you believe your PCC has made a real difference then you can vote for them to continue their important work. The choice is yours.


Theresa May MP is the Home Secretary for the UK Government.

Investigatory Powers Bill has mixed reception

The UK Government introduced the Investigatory Powers Bill to Parliament today. The Bill has had a mixed reception.

The Investigatory Powers Bill sets out the powers available to the police, security and intelligence services to gather and access communications and communications data in the digital age, subject to strict safeguards and world-leading oversight arrangements.

Theresa May is the Home Secretary for the United Kingdom.
AT HOME: Theresa May is the Home Secretary for the United Kingdom. Courtesy: Originally posted to Flickr by the Home Office.

Home Secretary Theresa May introduced the Bill. “This is vital legislation and we are determined to get it right,” she said. “Our proposals have been studied in detail by a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament established to provide rigorous scrutiny, and 2 further committees.
The revised Bill we introduced today reflects the majority of the committees’ recommendations – we have strengthened safeguards, enhanced privacy protections and bolstered oversight arrangements – and will now be examined by Parliament before passing into law by the end of 2016.
This timetable was agreed by Parliament when we introduced the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act in summer 2014.

Andy Burnham is the Shadow Home Secretary.
HOME ALONE: Andy Burnham is the Shadow Home Secretary. Courtesy: NHS Confederation

Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham was more critical. “Labour has taken a responsible and constructive approach to working with the Government on this important legislation and we will continue to do so,” he said. “However, it has major implications for privacy and how we are governed and policed.
We will therefore take time to get this legislation right and will not be rushed into reaching our judgement on it.

Home Secretary Theresa May disagreed. “[T]he Government has also published an operational case for bulk powers as set out by the security and intelligence agencies – giving unprecedented detail on why they need their existing powers and how they are used,” she said. “Terrorists and criminals are operating online and we need to ensure the police and security services can keep pace with the modern world and continue to protect the British public from the many serious threats we face.

Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham conceded the Bill was an improvement on the Draft Bill. “It is clear that the Government has made a number of changes to their original proposals,” he said. “We welcome that and the stronger safeguards they have incorporated into the Bill.

A spokesperson for the The Worker Revolutionary Party UK added: “May’s bill is nothing more than an attempt to put this illegal mass surveillance on a legal footing – to put into law the right of the state to monitor and hack into every phone, tablet and computer in the country. It will legalise the use of already existing facilities on these devices that enable them to be hacked and taken over.

The Investigatory Powers Bill is scheduled to pass into law before the end of 2016, addressing themes which were the focus of the Joint Committee, Intelligence and Security Committee and Science and Technology Committee reports.

Home Secretary defends Investigatory Powers Bill

Theresa May is the Home Secretary for the United Kingdom.
AT HOME: Theresa May is the Home Secretary for the United Kingdom. Courtesy: Originally posted to Flickr by the Home Office.

A joint House of Lords/House of Commons committee has recommended that legal professional privilege (LPP) should be protected in the Draft Investigatory Powers Bill and not merely in a code of practice.

In a report, the committee said it was concerned that there were no substantive provisions addressing LPP on the face of the Bill, and considered that “this may call into question the application of LPP when the Bill’s powers are exercised…”

The committee said it had made a number of detailed recommendations on the Bill, including those aimed at ensuring that vital protections for lawyers and journalists were not compromised.

The report stated: “The committee recommends that provision for the protection of LPP in relation to all categories of acquisition and interference addressed in the Bill should be included on the face of the Bill and not solely in a code of practice.

Theresa May is the Home Secretary. “Our draft Investigatory Powers Bill brings together all of the powers already available to law enforcement and the security and intelligence agencies to obtain communications and data about communications,” she said. “[I]t introduces a double-lock on the way these powers are authorized using Secretary of State approval, backed up by the decision of a judge; and it ensures these powers are fit for the digital age.

Home Secretary launches new joint fraud taskforce

Theresa May is the Home Secretary for the United Kingdom.
AT HOME: Theresa May is the Home Secretary for the United Kingdom. Courtesy: Originally posted to Flickr by the Home Office.
Home Secretary Theresa May today announced a new taskforce to crack down on fraud in the UK, saying that “fraud shames our financial system”.

The Joint Fraud Taskforce will be made up of made up of key representatives from government, law enforcement and the banking sector. The Taskforce will create a new era of collaboration, resulting in shared intelligence, a unified response and greater awareness of the risk of fraud among consumers.

The Taskforce will include the City of London Police, National Crime Agency, Financial Fraud Action UK, the Bank of England, Cifas and CEOs of the major banks.

At a roundtable attended by key sector bodies and co-chaired by the Lord Mayor and the Home Secretary, members came together to sign a declaration of their commitment to tackling fraud and reducing its devastating impact.

The Home Secretary set out the work for the new Taskforce. “Our economy relies on the financial system and everyone in this country benefits from its global success,” she said. “But the scale and volume of financial activity also brings serious risks of economic crime and real opportunities for criminals to defraud hardworking taxpayers of their savings and earnings.

The work of the Taskforce will include: understanding the threat – working to identify key priorities for the Taskforce and spot intelligence gaps and vulnerabilities; collective response – fast-tracking intelligence sharing between banks and law enforcement for a more coordinated approach to serious and organised crime gangs, including the creation of a new top ten most-wanted fraudsters victims and vulnerability – more efficient identification of victims and potential victims, including national roll-out of intervention training for bank staff behaviour change – finding out why victims fall prey to fraud and helping to raise awareness of the steps they can take to protect themselves tackling systemic vulnerabilities – removing the weak links in systems and processes, which fraudsters can exploit

This new Taskforce will build on ongoing work across the financial sector and law enforcement to protect consumers, such as the Dedicated Card and Payments Crime Unit, where police work alongside industry fraud investigators to disrupt fraudsters and secure convictions, which the Home Secretary visited this morning. She also met officers from the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, operated by the City of London Police, and heard about their work identifying established and emerging frauds and those who are committing them.

The Home Secretary said the taskforce is essential. “Fraud shames our financial system,” she said. “It undermines the credibility of the economy, ruins businesses and causes untold distress to people of all walks of life.
For too long, there has been too little understanding of the problem and too great a reluctance to take steps to tackle it.
I am delighted to officially launch the Joint Fraud Taskforce, which will bring the collective powers, systems and resources of banks, payment providers, police, wider law enforcement and regulators to bear on this threat.

Jack Straw ‘peerage block’ is ‘disgusting’ says ex-Labour councillor

A former Labour Party councillor who documented New Labour’s reforms to data misuse laws says he is disgusted that former Home Secretary Jack Straw is to be denied a peerage by Jeremy Corbyn.

Independent councillor, Jonathan Bishop, wrote the research paper, “Tough on data misuse, tough on the causes of data misuse: A review of New Labour’s approach to information security and regulating the misuse of digital information (1997-2010)” says that Jack Straw’s contribution to legal reform should not go unrecognised.

Jack Straw introduced the Human Rights Act, Data Protection Act and Freedom of Information Act, all within the space of two years.
JACK OF ALL TRADES: Jack Straw introduced the Human Rights Act, Data Protection Act and Freedom of Information Act, all within the space of two years. Courtesy: Obtained from Wikipedia

Claims in The Guardian that Jeremy Corbyn is to deny Jack Straw elevation to the House of Lords was criticised by Councillor Bishop. “It was Jack Straw who introduced the Human Rights Act, the Freedom of Information Act, and the Data Protection Act,” he said. “These were the biggest reforms to data, information and privacy rights in the space of two years that the UK has ever seen.
So what if Jack Straw made some mistakes. It is my view that if Jeremy Corbyn does block his elevation to the House of Lords that he should apply to be a cross-bencher, as having seen in recent weeks the poor quality of the Human Rights Committee in the House of Lords scrutinising Justice Secretary Michael Gove, someone of Jack Straw’s caliber is desperately needed.

Bristol man jailed for trolling woman MP

A Westcountry woman MP becomes yet another female politician to have a young man sent to jail because she cannot handle the scrutiny that goes with the job of being a parliamentarian.

Charlotte Leslie MP has had a 23-year-old man sent to jail following criticising her supporting airstrikes in Syria.
TROLL-CALLER: Charlotte Leslie MP has had a 23-year-old man sent to jail following criticising her supporting airstrikes in Syria. Courtesy: Charlotte Leslie / SWNS.com

23-year-old Craig Wallace sent uncredible death and bomb threats to Charlotte Leslie, who is the Member of Parliament for Bristol North West. Leslie voted in favour of bombings in Syria, and received threats from Twitter users, including Wallace.

Willesden Magistrates’ Court heard how Wallace posted comments on a Facebook page known for fantasy posting. “I’m going to smash her windows and drop a bomb on her house when she is tucked up in bed,” he wrote, followed with him saying: “I’m going into find her and show her what it’s like to murder innocents.

District Judge, Mark Jabbit, jailed Wallace for 8 weeks for sending malicious communications. “You personalised a very, very serious debate by using vile, and I would say misogynistic language towards a sitting MP in a public forum, which no doubt caused distress,” he said despite the fact the law requires Charlotte Leslie to have a thicker skin as a politician.

Janaka Siriwardena defended Craig Wallace from the opportunist claims of Charlotte Leslie MP, who does not regret voting for airstrikes. “Clearly what Mr Wallace did was despicable and went far beyond any form of legitimate protest, and he is deeply sorry for what has happened,” he said.”He was involved and he felt he needed to protest against what he thought was something he disagreed with.
He is deeply sorry about that, and what he does want to mention is that he acknowledges he does have issues with controlling his emotions.

Councillor Jonathan Bishop is the parish councillor for Lower Cam, near to Charlotte Leslie’s constituency, and is also an Internet trolling expert. “The prosecution of 23-year-old Craig Wallace is further evidence of the ageism and sexism in trolling prosecutions,” he said. “It is my belief that because Charlotte Leslie is a woman and Craig Wallace is a young man, that he is being singled out because of the institutional sexism and ageism in the police.
My research into South Wales Police showed that they treated women who claim to be victims of trolling far more favourably than they did men who reported the same.
I have passed my findings on to the Home Secretary and Her Majesty’s Chief Inspectorate of Constabulary, and I hope they will do something to end the sexism and ageism towards young men who go overboard in their scrutiny of public figures.

Charlotte Leslie, who has been the MP for Bristol North West since 2010, declined to comment on the consequences of her actions for Craig Wallace.

Councillor Jonathan Bishop’s research paper on sex-biases in South Wales Police’s crime recording, “The Thin-Blue Web: Police Crime Records of Internet Trolling Show Chivalrous Attitudes That Can Be Resolved through Transfer of Powers,” is published by IGI Global in the book, “Handbook of Research on Cultural and Economic Impacts of the Information Society.”

Andy Burnham ‘wrong choice’ for Shadow Home Secretary

Andy Burnham is the wrong choice for Shadow Home Secretary – That is the opinion of homeland security researcher, Jonathan Bishop.

Jonathan Bishop, who authored a paper on New Labour’s reforms to data misuse law in 2010, says Jeremy Corbyn’s choice of Andy Burnham for Shadow Home Secretary will do little to rebuild Labour’s credibility on law and order. “Andy Burnham lacks a consistent record on any public policy area, flip-flopping depending on what he thinks is most popular,” he said. “With his partisan approach to politics I cannot see him convincing anyone Labour are a credible force when it comes to law and order.
It has been a great loss to the Labour frontbench for Yvette Cooper to no long be Shadow Home Secretary, and I cannot see Andy Burnham taking Labour’s appeal on home affairs forward to the extent Tony Blair did when he held the post.

Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham
NOTHING TO WRITE HOME ABOUT: Jonathan Bishop says Andy Burnham will do nothing to increase Labour’s credibility on law and order. Courtesy: Obtained from the BBC.

Jonathan Bishop’s research paper, “Tough on data misuse, tough on the causes of data misuse: A review of New Labour’s approach to information security and regulating the misuse of digital information (1997-2010),” is published in Volume 24 Issue 3 of the International Review of Law, Computers & Technology

Home Secretary publishes stop and search data

An overview of how fairly and effectively stop and search powers are being used by Nottinghamshire Police has today been published.

It is the latest in a series of measures from the UK’s homeland security department, the Home Office, which aim to reform police use of stop and search. It means for the first time people can see details like the number of stop and searches, the outcomes and the proportion of these outcomes that were linked to the purpose of the search in their area. It also provides a breakdown of the ethnicity and age of people stopped and searched and the time of day stops are carried out on a monthly basis.

This data, provided by 40 forces, including the British Transport Police, will sit alongside and provide context to stop and search maps currently produced by 25 forces including Nottinghamshire Police. Using geo-mapping technology, these maps allow the public to see where stop and searches took place in their local area, the reason for the stop and outcome of the search.

Theresa May is the UK’s Home Secretary .”Stop and search is undoubtedly an important police power, but when it is misused it can be counter-productive and an enormous waste of police time,” she said. “If it is not operated in a targeted and proportionate way and if innocent people are stopped and searched for no good reason, it is hugely damaging to the relationship between the police and the public.
Designed in partnership with police forces, community groups and young people, the summary pages provide the public with a visual representation of how fairly and effectively stop and search is being used in individual police forces.
This is a further step forward in the Government’s commitment to increasing the transparency of the police and ensuring the public can hold their force to account.

Deputy Chief Constable Adrian Hanstock is the National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead on Stop and Search. “It is important that we do not lose sight of the fact that, on a daily basis, officers utilising the stop and search power are finding weapons, stolen property and drugs,” he said. “The people committing a criminal act by carrying these items are the same people who can make communities less safe, and police must have appropriate powers at their disposal to find and deal with them.
It is, however, very important that this power is used with great care and precision, acting on intelligence and reasonable suspicion that a suspect is in possession of something they should not be.