Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80
TUESDAY 5 FEBRUARY 2002
STEVENS QPM, MR
80. You said, in your submission on the White
Paper, that you wanted clear agreement about what "unsatisfactory
performance" means; what sort of definition are you after?
(Sir John Stevens) Basically, along the
lines of what I have been saying, what does "unsatisfactory"
mean and what does "the public interest" mean; these
are terminologies that some of us who have been brought up in
the law and trained in the law would perhaps have a better grasp
of. But there are one or two phrases there that we have difficulty
with, and here I speak not on behalf of ACPO, but I know my colleagues
in ACPO have similar problems with it.
81. You have spoken about operational independence;
there is another bit of the Bill that says, the Secretary of State
may make provision requiring all police forces in England and
Wales to adopt particular operational procedures or practices.
Is not that the man in Whitehall, sitting at his desk and saying,
all policemen must stand on one leg, or wear pink?
(Sir John Stevens) I do not know. I think
these are the details that no doubt this House will look into.
82. What would be your view, as a serving police
officer, about the Home Office having those sorts of powers?
(Sir John Stevens) I think it goes back
to what I said earlier on. If there is best practice, I was an
HMI for nearly two years and we actually used best practice when
we inspected forces, if it is about doing a thing in a better
way that is better than the way we do it and can be proven, then
I do believe those recommendations should have force, not of law
but force that we actually have to follow those recommendations.
83. And they should not be able to insist that
you do something, even if you think it is a bad idea?
(Sir John Stevens) Where I think the
trick of this is, if I might say so, is to work through a scenario
where they think the operational requirement can be changed because
of good practice, and to see that that does not affect us when
we are doing particular and personal investigations of the like
which I talked about earlier. And the other trick, if I might
say so, is to look at the worst case scenario, think of a Home
Secretary who may wish to exercise operational control, I do not
believe Mr Blunkett or Mr Straw or others wanted to do that, but
look at that scenario, to make sure there are safeguards within
the Act to ensure that does not take place.
84. Do you think there are safeguards there at
(Sir John Stevens) We will wait and see
what comes out of the Houses of Parliament.
(Mr Blair) Can I just point you to paragraph 8 of
Clause 41(a), because there is a very important one in here, which
we did talk to the Home Secretary about, which says that nothing
in this Section should authorise the Secretary of State to direct
the inclusion and an action plan, which is what we have just been
talking about, of any requirement to do or not to do anything
in a particular case. It is a very important one.
85. Section 53(a) does say, he may, by regulation,
make provision to require all police forces to adopt particular
operational procedures or practices, or to adopt operational procedures
or practices of a particular description. And that is very precise,
what the Home Secretary is allowing himself to tell you what to
do, is it not?
(Mr Blair) I think it is very precise,
but I think what will come as the issue that Sir John is raising,
which ACPO will die in a ditch for, is the issue about operational
independence of any single investigation. And that clause that
I read out, I think, is that piece. The key to the whole area
about power to give directions to Chief Officers is about what
Sir David Phillips describes as "doctrine" and who draws
up that doctrine; as long as ACPO is heavily in the drawing up
of that doctrine then I think ACPO will be content. If this is,
as you say, the man in Whitehall just deciding that it is wearing
pink then ACPO will not be content.
86. But if you are worried about future Home
Secretaries and what they might do, are you not worried that that
power should not be allowed to sit on the Statute Book?
(Mr Blair) There is a whole area here
where the House has to decide, is there enough on the face of
the Bill to give the kind of protection that you are describing
and we are concerned about. It does seem right, that where, for
instance, police officers involved in gun chases arrive at the
border of the county to find that they cannot talk to their colleagues
on the other side of the county border, because nobody has ever
directed two Chief Constables or two Police Authorities that they
should have the same radio system, I do understand why a Home
Secretary would feel strongly that he should have those kinds
of powers. So there is a piece here of a dilemma. As Sir John
quite rightly says, we have got to prepare for the worst case
scenario; but I also think there has been too long a period in
which 43 feudal barons have said, "We do it our way, and
it's not been invented here, so we're not doing it." So I
do think there is a balance to be struck; but I agree that perhaps,
the face of the Bill and in debate, you will need to consider
87. I am sure we will. Just a question, if I
may, on the Police Standards Unit. Could you explain how it is
different from the Inspector of Constabulary?
(Sir John Stevens) Yes. We do not know,
at the present time.
88. No, neither do I. Have you thought of what
it might be?
(Sir John Stevens) I think this is something
that has to be worked out over time; having met Mr Bond, the Director
of that unit. I think they have got to discuss really what the
HMIC is delivering and what it has delivered, as distinct from
the Standards Unit. I think the Standards Unit, it would appear,
is going to be concentrating on Basic Command Units. I think it
also needs to concentrate on some of our pan-London delivery as
well. So, in all honesty, I do not know.
89. But would it not have been better, if the
Government does not like the Inspectorate, to reform it and change
it, rather than set up a duplicating body next to it?
(Sir John Stevens) I think you will have
to ask Mr Blunkett about that.
90. Are you concerned, running the largest police
force in the country, that you are going to have two lots of people
snooping over you and trying to tell you what to do, rather than
(Sir John Stevens) I am the most accountable
police chief in the world. We have a most complex political kind
of environment here in London, which we do not have elsewhere,
and I am accountable to so many people I will not bore you by
going through the list of them; so another two will not worry
Mr Cameron: We will have the opportunity to
ask the Government when they come; but thank you for such a frank
answer to my question.
91. Is the range of tasks assigned to the Standards
Unit, even assuming it is a good idea, too ambitious?
(Mr Blair) We have got a reservation,
that it is mentioned on a great number of occasions in the White
Paper; but I think it will be an evolving scenario. It seems to
be concentrating, in its initial stages, on purely best practice,
on BCUs. And HMIC, it has to be admitted, is a very, very small
organisation, there are only four inspectors for the whole country;
if you compare that with the educational inspectorate, with hundreds
of inspectors, then you begin to see the difference. And if HMIC
is concerned, as it is, with the overall effectiveness of forces,
then it may be that there is room for a Standards Unit that concerns
itself purely with good practice and almost exclusively on BCUs,
though I think it should be extended to other operational units.
92. There is clearly a need to improve standards,
given the extraordinary variation, for example, in sickness rates,
or whatever, from one force to another, there is clearly something
(Sir John Stevens) I think that goes
across the board, in terms of what is delivered, and I think that
is where the Standards Unit should really get tucked into. We
know that certain things will work, even in London, as distinct
from Liverpool, or from Manchester, and those things that work
should actually be used, especially when we have got the demands
that we have got at the moment, which are unprecedented; none
of us who have been in policing, at the moment, in London, have
ever had the demands like we have now, we can prove that categorically.
So any help we can get from a Standards Unit, or any other unit,
or people like yourselves, must be welcomed.
93. Sir John, in the Metropolitan Police response
to the White Paper, about commercial events and the recovery of
policing costs, the Met said, and I quote: "We would like
to see the legislation and Home Office guidance changed to allow
for the recovery of the costs for all the resources which are
planned for deployment at an event held for profit." What
is the definition of a commercial event, and would it be all events,
because, quite specifically, you have not said every event?
(Sir John Stevens) Here I will bring
in Mr Luck, otherwise he will accuse me of bringing him along
to say nothing.
(Mr Luck) Indeed; and we are looking particularly
at events like football matches, etc., and we would need to tighten
up what those sorts of definitions are. But, clearly, the Metropolitan
Police is involved in considerable expense, in policing a number
of matches across London, and in one case we have been looking
at recently, Chelsea Football Club, we have a very small amount
recovered, only £300-odd, really, for police officers directly
involved within the ground, and yet many thousands of pounds involved
in the public order and other operations outside of the ground.
94. Is this policing activities outside the ground
or inside the ground?
(Mr Luck) We can only, under current
rules, recover the cost of police officers directly inside the
grounds, and, of course, the football clubs have responded by
putting in more stewards, etc., and, indeed, in many clubs, the
safety certificate is issued with only one or two police officers
that need to be actually inside the ground; it is only those officers
whose costs we recover. In fact, there is a whole extensive piece
of work under way now within the Police Service, certainly within
the Met, about the cost of recovery, and indeed income generation;
and, indeed, in collaboration with the MPA and the GLA and the
Mayor's office, we have got consultants looking and advising on
this very area.
95. But if the Metropolitan Police were given
the powers, who is going to decide which are commercial events;
if a football match is, in fact, deemed to be a commercial event,
some would say it is a public activity, who would make that decision?
(Mr Blair) I think this is actually a
matter for public debate, and I think the Authority needs to be
involved in it. But the figures are astonishing. A Category C,
which is one of the biggest matches that, say, Chelsea raises,
our costs are £28,000; we recover from them £397. And,
in terms of the precept that they pay, that one match is more
expensive than Chelsea pays in its policing precept. Now what
we are looking at, of course, is that the 500 officers every Saturday,
who go and police the various matches in London, are not policing
their local communities, and it is a very expensive item. What
we want to do is to protect the charity events, like, say, the
Marathon, and so on, from having costs imposed on them; but some
of these football clubs are extremely big and extremely profitable
96. And would you now give us the figures for
(Mr Blair) Again, that is exactly the
piece we need to be careful of, and we want to be sure that we
are not penalising small and struggling clubs, and it is a difficult
area. But having policed, in a previous life, Royal Ascot and
seen the enormity of the policing operation there, in relation
to the cost that was recovered from Royal Ascot, I know how difficult
a piece of regulation this is to justify. In those cases, a very
large proportion of Thames Valley Police was actually standing
round outside that racecourse.
97. Would you not accept though that if a decision
was made to try to recover policing costs at so-called commercial
events, the lawyers would have a field day in determining what
was a public event and what was a commercial event? Because I
would suggest that, whether a football supporter is going to watch
Leyton Orient or Chelsea, he, or she, is a taxpayer and has contributed,
through his, or her, taxes, towards policing?
(Mr Blair) I think it is a complex area,
but it is one that at the moment is extremely heavily weighted
in the favour of the commercial enterprises. I know, taking a
different view, if you go to Romford on a Friday and Saturday
night, there are at least six or seven enormous clubs, which all
pile out at two o'clock in the morning, with some grave difficulties.
Now we have no ability to charge the owners of those clubs for
the fact that we have to put police officers there, at two and
three in the morning, to cover that issue; and I think that is
something that, in terms of an organisation that is expending
very considerable amounts of public finance, we ought to consider
seeing how we could get into a charging regime.
98. And would the same philosophy for football
also apply to Wimbledon tennis, Twickenham rugby?
(Sir John Stevens) Interestingly, Wimbledon
tennis is one that we do recover a lot of money from.
(Mr Blair) Yes; and it is, in fact, oddly, football
that is the most difficult.
Bob Russell: I am fascinated by that last response.
99. Before you move on from that, who decides
whether you are able to...
(Mr Blair) It is Home Office Regulations,
it is a very clearly laid down regulation that says you can only
charge for the officers inside the ground; all other officers
are at public expense.