Labour MP to advise police

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THE Police Federation yesterday appointed a Labour MP as a parliamentary adviser amid growing signs that the Home Office faces unexpectedly stiff opposition when it publishes its Police and Magistrates' Courts Bill today.

On the eve of publication of the Bill and the Criminal Justice Bill, the federation, which represents 126,000 officers below the rank of superintendent, announced that Michael O'Brien, Labour MP for North Warwickshire, would be one of two parliamentary advisers.

Although the federation has been seeking for some time a second MP adviser to join Michael Shersby, Tory MP for Uxbridge, and it had a Labour adviser up to 1974, the move comes as the federation is preparing to oppose key sections of the Bill.

High-ranking police officers, as well as the federation, are known to be increasingly uneasy about the plans of Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, to appoint police authority chairmen and five out of 16 members of the authorities.

While the Government has been assured of enthusiastic support from the police for the thrust of the Criminal Justice Bill, there is much more opposition to some clauses in the Police Bill.

Many senior policemen fear they will reduce local accountability and mean a step towards a national police force, carrying the risk that Chief Constables will fall within central political control.

Tony Blair, shadow Home Secretary, in a speech to the police college at Bramshill, Hampshire, will argue that the Government has failed to come up with a balanced law and order package. Labour is expected to tackle dilemmas posed by the Criminal Justice Bill by supporting some sections and putting down amendments to others.

Labour will argue that the secure units for young hardcore offenders provided for in the Bill should be in the control of local authorities, and on the 'right to silence' will back the Royal Commission proposals for a modified right rather than the outright abolition that will be contained in the Bill. Labour will also use exisiting Home Office reports on drug control and truancy to put down amendments seeking more action on the 'causes of crime'.

Robert MacLennan, Home Affairs spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, said yesterday that the Government was travelling 'two thirds of the road' towards a central police force by imposing 'paid creatures' of the Home Secretary to chair police authorities.