UK Politics

Labour conference: Cooper calls for new police complaints body

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper
Image caption Private involvement in policing must be limited, Yvette Cooper said

Labour is calling for the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) to be replaced by a more powerful body that can launch its own investigations.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper told the party's conference the public needed to know that "poor policing" would be properly dealt with.

The IPCC took too long to conduct investigations, she said.

But the IPCC said it was committed to ensuring the complaints system was "robust", with officers held to account

The Conservatives accused Ms Cooper of "misleading" the public and "dishonest scaremongering" over crime.

Labour's proposed new body, the Police Standards Authority, would be able to compel officers to give evidence.

'Proper safeguards'

The IPCC was established in 2004 to investigate the most serious complaints and allegations of misconduct against the police in England and Wales.

The BBC's political correspondent Iain Watson said Labour believed the IPCC was too "passive" and needed a significant overhaul.

Ms Cooper said the IPCC had been unable "to sort out" high-profile cases involving the police such as the Hillsborough disaster and the death of Ian Tomlinson during the G20 protest.

And she said organisation's new chairman, Anne Owers, had warned about its lack of powers.

"The public need to see that poor policing is dealt with to maintain confidence and consent for the vital work the police do," she said.

"Police officers need to know serious problems will be rooted out so they don't cast a shadow over everyone else.

"I believe we need a new stronger Police Standards Authority - replacing the IPCC - to raise standards, pursue powerful investigations and ensure there are proper safeguards in place."

The IPCC said: "IPCC staff and Commissioners are committed to ensuring the police complaints system is robust and police forces and officers are held to account.

"The IPCC has been discussing with the government the need for additional resources and powers to assist our work and we look forward to discussing this with Ms Cooper when she visits the IPCC later this month."

Ms Cooper also announced a future Labour government would legislate to ensure those responsible for financial crimes can be jailed.

The shadow home secretary said it was a scandal no-one has been arrested for the "multi-billion pound" Libor inter-bank lending rate fraud.

A new Economic Crime Act would ensure all play by the same "fair rules", she added.

Economic crime

Libor is used as a benchmark for millions of transactions and determines some loan and mortgage rates.

In June, Barclays was fined £290m because its traders tried to rig the rate and chief executive Bob Diamond was forced to resign over the scandal.

In her speech, Ms Cooper said: "Look at the Libor scandal that emerged this summer. It is a multi-billion pound fraud. People were fiddling figures to get rich, while small businesses paid the price. Yet no-one has been arrested."

She added: "We need an end to the double standards. New action and new laws. People need to be able to invest with confidence knowing everyone is playing by the same fair rules."

The police must be allowed to tackle "21st-Century crimes" such as cyber fraud and money laundering, she added.

'Murky area'

Labour wants to bring clarity to what it says is the "grey and murky" area of financial crime - although its opponents say the party was responsible for introducing the "light touch" regulation of the City that allowed fraud to flourish.

Ahead of November's elections for police commissioners, the shadow home secretary said Labour candidates who are elected would "halt the Tory rush to privatisation of our police".

She said handing power over policing to private companies puts value for money at risk and accused the Conservatives of wanting to give "huge swathes" of policing, including neighbourhood patrols and and detective investigations, to private companies.

Policing minister Damian Green said: "Yvette Cooper needs to stop her dishonest scaremongering about crime."

"The powers of sworn officers will not be given to private contractors beyond those limited powers conferred by the last Labour government. Yvette Cooper must stop misleading people."