Howard accused of police authority vetoes

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Indy Politics
Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, has vetoed nominations for independent members of a police authority for political reasons, according to a charge circulating in senior Home Office and police circles.

The complaint of political interference in appointments to the Warwickshire authority coincides with a Government admission that party business managers were consulted before Mr Howard made his nominations for co-opted members of the 41 new English and Welsh authorities created by the 1994 Police and Magistrates' Courts Act.

The disclosure, in a written parliamentary reply from Baroness Blatch, the Home Office minister, to a Labour peer, Baroness Hilton of Eggerdon, a former senior officer in the Metropolitan force, contradicts Government assurances that appointees would be made independently of political considerations. Baroness Blatch on Tuesday admitted the Home Office whip was consulted.

The Act created new co-opted members to serve with local councillors and JPs on new, slimmer, authorities. Under the appointments procedure devised by Mr Howard in the face of a peers' rebellion, the existing Warwickshire authority tried to draw up a "balanced" list of 20 candidates in conjunction with the Chief Constable, Peter Joslin.

The Act allowed Mr Howard to prune the list to 10, from which the authority would select five. Nominees from Labour areas, ethnic minority candidates and most women were deleted from the returned list.

Mr Joslin is known to feel an opportunity was missed for the authority to reflect all parts of the community. The authority later sent a formal letter of complaint to Mr Howard.

Alun Michael, a shadow home affairs minister, said: "The whole point is to make appointments independent of politics in the local area. It is therefore peculiar that the Government reverted to the `usual channels' and consulted whips."

Mike O'Brien, Labour MP for Warwickshire North, said the idea of consulting with whips to make nominations confirmed Labour's fears that the Home Secretary was still committed to the centralisation and politicisation of policing in Britain.

A source close to Mr Howard said that he was entitled to consult whom he liked.

"You can't stuff these things with Tory appointees and I would be staggered if Labour did not do something similar to consulting a whip. It would be naive to suggest they never consulted politically," he said.