PCC tells Welsh government not to use the police like ‘factory inspectors’

The Welsh government has been urged to change its mind about expecting police forces to act as “factory inspectors” to enforce a new law to keep workers 2m apart.

Apr 15, 2020
By Paul Jacques

North Wales police and crime commissioner Arfon Jones is backing the four chief constables in Wales who are unanimously opposed to the idea.

Under the new legislation introduced last week by the Welsh government, companies are being told to take “reasonable measures” to ensure the health of their workers.

Employers will be breaking the law if do not make sure that staff are able to maintain the 2m physical distancing rule but the rules will not amount to a complete ban on workers being closer than the social distancing guidelines.

Mr Jones, himself a former police inspector, says he fully supports the aim of the legislation but objects to the police being expected to enforce it. He said that senior figures in the UK Government, including the Minister for Policing and the Fire Service Kit Malthouse, are also understood to have expressed concern about the idea. The legislation gives the police and councils the power to enforce the rules with fines of between £60 and £120.

Mr Jones said: “I stand fully behind the four chief constables in Wales who have objected to this. “I support the legislation but I am totally against the idea of it being enforce by the police. It is like using police officers as factory inspectors when North Wales Police and the other Welsh forces have important work of their own to do during the coronavirus crisis.

“The Health and Safety Executive and local authorities should step up to the mark here and do their job – they should take responsibility for enforcement rather than expecting the police to do their job for them. The police have an important job to do during normal times but now, more than ever, they need to be able to concentrate on their own role.

“I am sure the public of North Wales would far rather that our police enforce essential travel legislation rather than have them visiting factories to ensure that employees are kept 2m apart, which is surely what the Health and Safety Executive should be doing.”

Mr Jones said the matter had been raised with the Secretary of State in a conference call. “I support the legislation to enforce the 2m rule within the workplace but this issue is who actually is responsible for the enforcement,” he added. “The chief constables have urged the Welsh government to change their guidelines as a matter of urgency and I am standing shoulder to shoulder with them on this.”

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