Examination of Witnesses(Questions 40-59)|
GIEVE CB, MR
THURSDAY 18 JULY 2002
40. It was rather a tough one, as I recall,
when it came out of the Home Secretary's or the Prime Minister's
hat a year or two back.
(Mr Gieve) I would contest that. We still have the
target. It is to reduce vehicle crime by 30 per cent from 1998
to 2004 and we have made big strides towards that. It has not
been all our doing or all the police's doing if you broaden out
the Home Office group. The industry has had a lot to do with it
too and insurance companies and so on, but I think that is the
sort of target we should be set because that is what the public
wants to change. You need to make sure that your ministers and
the Civil Service machine is genuinely aiming and being judged
on whether it achieves the progress that people want to see.
41. Mr Narey, you have some difficult targets,
I imagine. You have the prison population increasing exponentially
and that jeopardises all your targets on time out of cell, education
and value added, does it not?
(Mr Narey) Yes, it does. The recent rise in the population
from January, when I expected the population to be flat and it
rose by more than 5,000, has eroded our performance on educational
qualifications and so forth. It is very difficult, when you are
having to move prisoners up and down the country to wherever there
is a spare bed, not to disrupt those things. We try very hard
to protect them and we are trying hard to move prisoners who are
not involved in those things, but it is simply not always possible.
42. The size of the prison population is absolutely
outside your control, is it not? You have to take who is delivered,
do you not?
(Mr Narey) We take everybody who comes, no matter
what, unlike some European prison systems. We do not have a waiting
list. Everybody comes in.
43. Do we have a target for the size of the
(Mr Gieve) No. Interestingly, the two headline targets
in our new PSA in this area are, firstly, to reduce reoffending
and, secondly, to maintain the very low level of escapes. One
is a measure of protecting the public from whom it needs protection
and the other is to do with using the time, not just in prison
but in community services, to best effect. It is perfectly true
we do not determine the prison population; nor does it just come
out of the blue. It is a product of, among other things, the criminal
law, which the Home Office has responsibility for and the availability
and nature of community punishments, for example, which again
the Probation Service has responsibility for. We definitely can
influence this but you are right, as in other respects, we cannot
completely control it.
44. The change from the 17 targets to the ten
targets: what has been dropped?
(Mr Gieve) Reducing the economic cost of crime has
disappeared. The fear of crime which we used to have separate
objectives for and crime itself have been merged. We have dropped
something on disrupting the number of organised crime organisations.
Do you want a note which shows you which ones have gone?
45. The concern is that ministers say they are
great sounding targets so we are all going to think: wonderful,
they are going to, for instance, enforce the immigration laws
more effectively by removing in excess of 30,000 failed asylum
seekers by 2003-04. The impression is given that a great bit of
action is going to happen. The target is published and, a year
later, the targets are altered and we do not hear about which
target is dropped. A new set of targets appears and again this
feeling of action. Should not targets be a bit more consistent
one year to the next because some of these targets have not been
met and they have probably been dropped?
(Mr Gieve) The last spending review set a public service
agreement for three years and we will continue to report on those
targets for those three years.
46. The 17 still exist?
(Mr Gieve) Yes. You will still be able to go back
and say, "How did you do against this one?" We will
publish the results. However, consistency is fine so long as it
is not consistency in the wrong thing. We have learned a bit over
the last two years about how best to measure progress. We have
come to the view that we got one or two things wrong or not quite
right and I think it is sensible to have a rolling review.
47. What is the process of dropping them? How
does a target get dropped?
(Mr Gieve) In this case, we negotiated with the Treasury
and in our case the Delivery Unit at Number Ten a new set of targets
starting from the old set of targets. Some of those have been
dropped. If you take the removals one, we have not entirely dropped
it. We are still talking about removing a great proportion of
unfounded applicants, which is where we were in SR2000, but it
is now grouped under a broader outcome target, which is to reduce
the number of unfounded applications. Last time on asylum, we
had process targetshow many people do you remove, how quickly
do you deal with asylum applications; this time we have moved
to an outcome target which is what is the purpose of this whole
machine. It is to reduce the number of unfounded applicants.
48. The cynic would think that they had some
process targets which they have not met and they think they have
to have some other targets which they might meet, so you make
them a bit more general. All the time, it is like pushing jelly
uphill. You will never be able to cope with what is actually happening.
(Mr Gieve) I can see what you are worried about, but
I do not think there is much risk of that because you are here
to rub our noses in it. We have hit some of our process targets.
49. It will be important to see how the process
targets go on in future years.
(Mr Gieve) Yes indeed.
50. Most of the targets you have mentioned sound
very sensible but reducing fear of crime? I ask you. If I were
Permanent Secretary and somebody said, "You have to reduce
fear of crime by a given percentage", I would say, "What
do you want me to do? Lock up the Harmsworth newspapers?"
(Mr Gieve) Sir Humphrey's categorisation of pledges
includes courageous. This is obviously extremely courageous, but
it is one of those which we are hitting at the moment.
51. Please tell me how you do it.
(Mr Gieve) I do not think it is difficult to explain
at all. Firstly, you have to reduce crime and then you have to
persuade people that it is happening.
52. How do you measure it?
(Mr Gieve) We have just published last week a new
British crime survey which has and has had for many years a set
of questions on whether people are worried, very worried or not
worried at all about certain sorts of crime. Despite your prejudice,
it has been falling over the last couple of years.
53. It strikes me as something that is almost
outside your grasp, but perhaps it is not.
(Mr Gieve) These are extremely difficult because they
are not about, for example, processing asylum applications quicker
which, with enough people and the right IT, you can be pretty
confident of doing. They are about changing social behaviour and
attitudes. Therefore, they are much more risky from our point
of view. On the other hand, that is what really matters.
54. I am on your side; I just do not want to
see you loaded with a lot of targets which are not within your
gift to deliver but if you feel that is within your gift to deliver,
who am I to contradict?
(Mr Gieve) I am not saying it is in my gift, but I
think we can influence it.
55. In the annual report, you have your 17 targets.
Then you go to each aim. You go to page 44 and you then have the
targets written out again with what you have done so far, what
progress you have made and what you are going to be doing. It
is not until you get to page 158 that you find out whether you
have hit them. Would it not be better to have that bit closer
to the beginning of the book and say, "This is the target.
This is where we have got to"?
(Mr Gieve) This is the first year in which we have
tried to combine our report on what we have done as well as our
plan of what we are going to do in the year ahead. We may not
have got the structure right, so we will take delivery of that
comment and try and do better.
56. Why has robbery risen so much over the last
year? It was up 14 per cent according to this report.
(Mr Lyon) It has increased significantly not throughout
the country, but particularly in the metropolitan police area
and in other metropolitan cities. There are a number of suggestions
as to why. This is not an exact science as I am sure the Committee
well knows. The first thing is availability. We have seen that
a huge number of people now carry mobile phones. They are very
desirable objects, particularly to young people, and they are
very easy to take. There is that opportunity there for people
to take those phones. That has had a big driving effect on the
level of robbery in this country. A lot of these offences are
committed by young people on young people and there has been an
increase in the rate at which young people are doing that. Part
of that is a real increase; part of that is an increase in the
reporting rate of young people on those crimes. Some years ago,
a 14 or 15 year old might have taken money from a pocket. It would
not necessarily have been reported. Those children wrongly think
it is the sort of thing that happens in the playground or on the
way home. If you lose your mobile phone, you have to go home and
explain that so you say you have had it taken and it does get
reported. There is partly a real increase and partly an increase
in reporting rate and partly an increase in the seriousness of
goods being taken. You have seen the effect of that in the figures.
The Government too have seen the effect of that and with the street
crime initiative, led by the Prime Minister, have committed themselves,
the police, other government departments and other agencies, to
doing something about it and bringing down that very high level.
57. The target is the reduction of the level
of recorded robbery in our principal cities by 14 per cent by
2005. Yet, in the last 12 months to March 2001, it has gone up
by 13 per cent and it has got even worse since then.
(Mr Lyon) It is now 28 per cent.
58. Does that 14 per cent target by 2005 still
(Mr Lyon) It still stands.
59. Is the Home Office still in charge of the
street crime initiative or have you been usurped by the unit at
number ten? Where did this team of ministers come from? How does
(Mr Gieve) It is run from the Home Office. We have
a team of people working in John's directorate on this. They work
with the police inspectorate and the standards unit which also
is in the Home Office. The Prime Minister has taken a personal
interest in this and ensured, by bringing in other departments,
education, culture and so on, and work and pensions, that they
contribute by focusing their services on everything from truancy
to job finding to diversionary schemes for young people. They
come in behind the sharp end policing work that the police are
doing. The whole thing is orchestrated by our team.
2 See Ev 39, 41-48. Back