Select Committee on Home Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 100 - 119)



100.  So have you made representations to the Home Office?

  (Mr Blair) We have, indeed.

101.  And what response have you had?

  (Mr Blair) We await a response.

102.  When did you make your representations?

  (Mr Blair) As part of the reform process.

103.  Is there any sign of movement?

  (Mr Blair) It is in the White Paper; there is a clear indication that that voice has been heard.

  Chairman: Good; well we shall look forward to seeing the outcome.

Bob Russell

104.  Moving on to retirement matters, and you responded briefly to that earlier on in the proceedings, very briefly, are you satisfied with the new proposals to continue for four years, although it is after 30 years?

  (Sir John Stevens) Yes; but we must make sure that that is backed up by proper financial rewards.

105.  And how many officers do you feel, out of those after 30 years, you would wish to retain as a percentage, and who will make the decision, will it be a Police Service wish that "We would like you to stay," or would the officer seek to stay?

  (Sir John Stevens) It would be an amalgam of both, really, because not all officers will want to stay, because, as I said earlier, it is a demanding job and you can get burned out, you might not have an appetite for it, you might not have your health, for that matter, or you might want to do something which is far more relaxing and take your pension money. So, first of all, they would have to be someone who said they wanted to stay; secondly, there has to be an assessment that that person was going to be very valuable to the organisation; and then, thirdly, it would be a matter for us to say that that person was going to add value in terms of what they are doing.

106.  But on the experience you have at the moment, do you have any rough idea as to how many officers we are talking about, a year, would wish to stay on for another four years?

  (Sir John Stevens) No, it is difficult to say, but, going round, talking to focus groups and talking to officers, there is quite a big appetite for it, and you would have to work it out in terms of where you put those officers and what benefit they give to the organisation. But the bottom line is, we would want to keep as many as possible; if they were good working officers, we would want all of them to stay, quite frankly.

107.  Finally, Chair, if I just move on to sickness. What change would you like to see in the arrangements for allowing officers to retire on sickness pensions?

  (Sir John Stevens) The sickness pensions, we are now down to below 33 per cent of what the pensions are. My own view is that the job is demanding, people have to have the right to leave on a sickness pension. But we all know that, in the past, over a lot of years in the past, that has been abused, and at one stage, I think, in certain forces it was up to 75 per cent; well, that is just not on. So I think the rules and regulations and the targets that were set by the Home Office of 33 per cent of pensions being for medical reasons is about right; we would like to bring it lower than that. But there still has to be something within the regulations that allows a police officer who is injured on duty, and I am commending people every week for outstanding bravery, sometimes one gets very frustrated by the amount of publicity that gets, I am talking about people who are unarmed, taking on people with guns, who are getting injured, and so on and so forth, so for that type of person, injured on duty, there must be a system that allows them to leave on a medical pension; but the system must not allow abuse.

108.  I do not think anybody would have any problem with the scenario you have just stated, but is it still being used as a get-out clause by both an individual officer and the Metropolitan Police to get rid of somebody who may be an embarrassment if they stay?

  (Sir John Stevens) No. We would certainly not like that to happen, because it costs us money; and the bottom line is that that was used in the past, as you know. But, again, I am afraid, it is a matter of medical opinion. No-one can actually leave the Police Service without a medical pension unless the doctor gives the medical opinion that that is the right course of action; it is not a decision that is made by myself, as the Commissioner, it is a medical decision that is made.
  (Mr Blair) And if I might just add, on that, that may be part of the issue, that the management control is actually not there, because the medical decision is the one that counts. And on a number of occasions across the country Chief Constables have been taken to judicial review by the Federation for refusing a medical pension, and every time the Chief Constables have lost, because the actual piece is, the Regulations state, in extraordinary language, that if a member of the force cannot carry out the ordinary duties of a policeman, it does not actually mention that there might be actually somebody else there, then he is entitled to a medical pension. And if you build a system that has got that level of incentive in it, do not be surprised when somebody uses it.


109.  Are there any plans to reduce the level of incentive in it?

  (Mr Blair) It is not so much the incentive, I do not think there is much chance of that, because it is actually parallel to many other occupations; the key issue, which I know the Home Office is seized of, is whether managers, and, in particular, say, the Authority and the Chief Officer, have got the final say, or whether, as soon as that certificate hits the desk, there is nothing you can do about the fact that, because he, or she, cannot do the whole duties of a police officer, well, very few people can do the whole duties of a police officer, in their late forties, we are not built necessarily to be able to do riot training, and riot training is being held to be part of the duty.

110.  Besides which, you will have noticed, as I have, and the public certainly have, that people tend to make a remarkable recovery once the money is flowing, and are able to do things they were previously not capable of?

  (Sir John Stevens) Although we have prosecuted, that has to be accepted as being abuse of process, and something needs to be done about it. The general feeling, certainly within the Met and other forces, is that this should not be allowed, by police officers.

111.  And the solution is to give the Chief Officer the final say, rather than the medical?

  (Sir John Stevens) Indeed; absolutely.
  (Mr Blair) And also to change the definition of what the ordinary duties of a policeman are.

112.  Thank you, that is very helpful. Can you just remind me, you may have mentioned but I missed it, what percentage of officers in the Met retire on sickness grounds?

  (Sir John Stevens) It is now down to below 33 per cent, it is 32 per cent, I think, exactly, which has come down considerably from what it was. The level of sickness in the Metropolitan Police is also a success story, it was 14 days a year, it is down now to 10.5, coming up to 11, I think.

113.  A lot of it is to do with management, is it not, sickness?

  (Sir John Stevens) I think it is. It is very interesting to see why people leave the Service, and normally they will leave the Service because they feel they have not been treated in the right way, and some of the reasons they have not been treated in the right way are exactly that, management and leadership. It is like we are talking about, you know, a Chief Inspector saying someone is leaving too early; well, that Chief Inspector is paid to lead that officer, encourage him, whatever, to stay and do the job, that is what he is paid for, as a supervisor.

114.  I did hear, in the Transport Police, I do not know whether it applies to the Met, that the level of sickness was highest amongst Inspectors; well that would explain a thing or two, would it not?

  (Sir John Stevens) It would, yes; it is not the same in the Met, no.

  Chairman: I am glad to hear that. Equality and diversity; Janet Dean.

Mrs Dean

115.  Sir John, you mentioned before the welcome news that 40 per cent of specials and volunteer cadets are from the ethnic minority communities. Could you tell us how you have managed to achieve that?

  (Sir John Stevens) It is a question we have asked ourselves time and time again, the Commandant of the specials, and we said how come that we are actually getting 30, 40 per cent, if you take volunteers and specials joining, as distinct from 11.5 per cent to 12 per cent which are now joining the training school. And we have come to the conclusion it may well be that people are putting their toe in the water, seeing what the organisation is like, will they have confidence to join the Metropolitan Police as an ethnic minority officer, and the evidence is showing that we are getting more people joining now; we need a lot more. If actually we can keep it up between 12 and 15 per cent, I think we will double the number of ethnic minority officers in this force over five years, and that will be a considerable success story. But, being specific about why they are joining, we do not know, but we are having entry interviews to see why and we are doing a lot more work on that, because if we can come up with the reasons maybe that will have some effect on our regulars as well.

116.  The 11-12 per cent that are going to the training centres, how does that compare, say, with two years ago?

  (Sir John Stevens) We were down something like 5 or 6 per cent then, and it is a considerable improvement. There is still a long way to go; if we could get it up to, say, 18 or 20, we would know we would even meet the targets set by Jack Straw when he was Home Secretary two years ago, which were very, very difficult targets that had been set, but we are aiming for them.

117.  What about retention and what evidence is there that those who are going into training are actually staying in training?

  (Sir John Stevens) We are losing only 4 per cent of people from training school, which is the national average. The other aspect, if I may mention, is the business of women joining the Service; we have got only 16 per cent of people who are in the Metropolitan Police Force who are women, we need more.

118.  Yes, I was going to come on to the females. How has that changed over the last couple of years?

  (Sir John Stevens) It has gone up slightly, but we do need more; and I think it is all about women being home-makers, and so on and so forth, as men are, these days, of course, but there has to be a far more flexible system to allow people to work part-time working and how they work their shifts than we have had in the past. I think the rigidity of what we have had in the past has actually not encouraged people to be willing to join, and even worse has encouraged them to leave. And a lot more of that needs to take place in the future; there need to be role models, as well, more role models about ethnic minority and women officers at higher levels, still more.

119.  Is that flexibility already in place now?

  (Sir John Stevens) We are working on that, and there is a lot more to be done on that; things like nurseries, schools, and so on and so forth, and child welfare, this needs to be looked at. And I know the Metropolitan Police Authority, in particular, are on the case, in relation to that.

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