Examination of Witnesses (Questions 540
THURSDAY 21 MARCH 2002
DENHAM MP AND
540. Is this really just the first step towards
a national police force?
(Mr Denham) I do not think it is. A sensible recognition
that criminals will not stay in one area suggests that there are
some things, some levels of consistency which have to go beyond
the individual force. Potentially anti-terrorism operations is
another area. That is not a move towards a national police force,
it is not changing the police force boundaries or the roles and
powers of police authorities, but it is recognising that some
policing functions actually have to be consistent across a wider
area if we as the public are going to be properly protected.
541. Does that suggest that some police forces
(Mr Denham) As you know we looked at that when writing
the White Paper and we took a very clear view that we did not
want to precipitate a major or wholesale reorganisation of police
forces. Our view was very clear, you can only absorb a certain
amount of change in any system at any one time. If we go for a
massive reorganisation of police forces that is all that we could
have done, forget about police performance, and all of the rest
of it. Whilst historically no one can really defend the mass of
police forces, which is based on a mixture of Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms
and the results of the Norman Conquest, which is largely middle
60s boundary reorganisation thrown in, and you might not start
from here, we do not want to see a wholesale upheaval. There are
provisions within the Police Act if police authorities want to
bring forward proposals for change, but I am not aware of any
imminently going through.
542. Are you sure it will not be possible for
directions to be given to a police officer in relation to any
(Mr Denham) Yes. That is the intention of Clause 5.
543. Can I seek clarification on something you
said about Clause 6 and police vehicles, did you say that police
vehicles might be included under Clause 6 to give central direction?
(Mr Denham) No, I did not.
544. Clearly there could be huge economies of
scale if there was central direction. There appears to be no collation
of data about what contracts are held by each police authority,
either by the Association of Police Authorities or the Home Office?
(Mr Denham) I did not indicate that I thought we were
about to do this for police cars. It is not an issue on which
I think we can take a particular view.
545. Do you think there could be economies of
scale if there was central direction?
(Mr Denham) I guess if there were economies of scale
there might be. You have probably raised an issue on which more
research should be done. It is equally possible that the needs
of different forces are quite considerable. The needs of the force
that has large stretches of motorway might be very different to
areas which are predominantly rural and the types of public order
that people have to deal with might vary. I rather suspect that
the idea of a simple standardisation as a solution is not right.
546. Do you think that under the current system
it could be that one chairman of the Police Authority would decide
to buy a rather more expensive model, say a German-made BMW, where
another chairman might go for a more robust and cost-effective
Rover 75. Is that possible?
(Mr Denham) Going back to Mr Russell's question, I
hope that these are issues which will be looked at by the best-value
process at the very least. This is the way in which these things
should be exercised. I have absolutely no doubt that the hypothetical
chairman you are talking about would be well satisfied with his
Rover 75, knowing which constituency you come from.
Chairman: I feel a contract coming on!
547. The point is, we do not see any statistics
about what cars are purchased, how many there are and what the
price is. No one seems to be collating this central information,
so we cannot really analyse whether people are getting the best
(Mr Denham) I think it is a very interesting question
and perhaps I can come back to the Committee in writing.
The question being raised it would be of interest to see which
forces have chosen, if they have, this area of best-value to look
at. The best-value framework is one that we would expect to pick
this up over time.
Mr Watson: Thank you.
548. On this regulation of Operational Procedures
and Practices I think you agreed in the Lords to make it subject
to an affirmative resolution?
(Mr Denham) It has been subject to an affirmative
resolution. We are giving some consideration, Chairman, to whether
the drafting of the Clause could not more closely reflect the
answer that I have just given to Mr Russell about the cross-border
national interest. That is what is intended already in the drafting
of the Clause by the reference to the national nature of the issues.
We are giving consideration to that and, indeed, I think this
is an area where the views of the HMIC, as to whether that need
is established, might well be helpful, so we are giving consideration
to the detailed drafting of the Clause to make sure it does what
we want it to do and not things that we do not.
549. Sir David Philips of ACPO was rather agitated
by this and he said that historically, "We", ACPO chief
officers "have been the authors of operational policing policy,
mainly because if anything goes wrong operationally we are the
people who have to appear in the coroner's court or are precariously
liable for the action of our officers". That is a fair point,
is it not?
(Mr Denham) There is no doubt that ACPO have to be
centrally involved in the production or the guidance, whether
we are talking about the regulations here or the codes of practice
that are dealt with else where. It is absolutely our intention
that that will be the case. ACPO is represented directly on the
CPTDA, which is the body which will be charged with drawing up
regulations and guidance, that will establish a group to draw
up the details of guidance and ACPO will always be well represented
in the group drawing up the guidance. I think it is sensible to
say that there are areas of policy where some other inputs are
also useful, and other areas where it is purely a professional
matter that that may not be the case, but ACPO will be involved.
I had an exchange of correspondence with David Phillips round
the time of the White Paper making that assurance. I am sure Lord
Brooke has said this in the House of Lords, but I will be committing
ourselves to that in the committee.
Chairman: In part two turning to complaints
and misconduct in the Bill.
550. Minister, the setting up of the Independent
Police Complaints Commission has been described by some as the
most important provision in the Bill, do you think its constitution
is independent enough?
(Mr Denham) I think that it is. You always have this
problem that if the Government sets up anything the Government
sets it up, and it is difficult to see how more independent you
can be. I think the constitution is independent. What is important
about it is not just that it is established as an independent
body, but the system is designed to have safeguards built in so
that complainants do not end up feeling that they have been fobbed
off, or their complaint has been unreasonably not recorded or
not investigated, so you have this ability to appeal. Also the
IPCC would, of course, be able to investigate on its own behalf
in a substantial number of cases and to manage the investigation
in another substantial number of cases. The extent to which the
whole system looks as though it depends on the Police Service
investigating itself, whether it is one force investigating itself
or another force investigating a force, that will change significantly.
I think the perception of the current system as being too much
the police investigating themselves will change when the IPCC
551. What about the chairmanship of the Commission?
He or she will be appointed by the Queen, that truly means it
is a gift of the Minister, would it not have been better, more
transparent and more independent if that had been with the consent
and advice of Parliament?
(Mr Denham) I might take advice on whether there would
be any precedent for that sort of appointment by Parliament. The
normal practice over a huge range of public bodies that are regarded
as independent is for ministerial appointments. I do not really
see a particular problem in following that precedent in this case.
552. With respect to the Chief Executive of
the Commission, the Home Secretary will have powers to approve,
which could be translated as powers to veto that appointment as
(Mr Denham) Again, it is the normal procedure with
non-departmental public bodies. My own feeling is that probably
Home Secretaries are more likely than, perhaps, if you like, the
Members to produce people who want to be effective and independent.
553. One of the contrary examples we have been
given is the chief executive of the Electoral Commission. I think
that it is not within the gift of Ministers to approve the chief
executive of that body?
(Mr Denham) I will look at that further. That is Mr
Younger, is it? Who made that appointment?
554. It was the chief executive.
(Mr Denham) If we look across the range of government
bodies there are some that do and some that do not. It is normally
the practice of the Home Secretary or a Minister to approve. My
feeling, to be perfectly honest, is I think that modest level
of involvement is probably helpful to the system in making sure
you have somebody who is going to be vigorous in pursuing the
system. I am not always sure, if I am quite honest, if the system
is allowed to produce its own people that it produces people who
are going to have independence and the vigour we would like. The
argument does not all stack one way in terms of having an effective
organisation. I can see no particular reason why a Home Secretary
would have a motive not to have an effective IPCC.
555. Thank you. I move now to police discipline,
we have heard quite a lot of evidence from many senior police
officers about how archaic the present system is and how inflexible
it is and how drawn out it is and lots of other defects. You made
the point yourself that police bills do not come along every year,
would this not have been an opportunity to have a comprehensive
reform of the police disciplinary arrangements?
(Mr Denham) The disciplinary arrangements were changed
in 1999 after fairly extensive discussions with the Police Service
and are therefore relatively new in their current form. Although
people have made various suggestions for changes I cannot say
that I have yet seen any that really stood out as things that
would make a massive difference to the way in which the system
operates in terms of the regulations. I think that most of the
problems that people are experiencing with the disciplinary system,
not all of them, but many of them, are about poor management or
grievances and discipline issues within the system. If you look
at the report by David Muir for the Metropolitan Police Authority
into the case of Gurpal Virdi the conclusion there is that the
system was run really badly, it was not so much the rules were
wrong, but things got locked in, as I understand it, to a very
formal disciplinary conduct process instead of being resolved
at an earlier stage by good management. I think that is the emerging
picture round the Police Service. I think Sir David Phillips said
something quite similar when he was at the Committee. We have
obviously looked at things like should we impose a time limit,
because the length of time of some of these cases is a real worry.
There are very big difficulties. What do you do if a case quite
legitimately takes a long time and you run passed the time limit,
do you say, that is the end of it, there is no disciplinary matter.
Whilst I would not rule out reform in the future I was not convinced
there was something fundamental we could do in this Bill. There
may be opportunities for further tweaking of the system because
we currently have different types of different disciplinary approaches
for senior and more junior ranks, and we need to bring those together
in the future so there will be the opportunity for change. That
is basically how we came to where we did here.
Mr Prosser: Thank you.
556. As far as the Independent Police Complaints
Commission is concerned, Minister, I see that you have been criticised
by a number of bodies, the Police Federation and Liberty, and
I expect your response is, if both are against you must be about
right. Liberty takes the view that it is not as independent as
it should be and the Police Federation, surprisingly, perhaps,
say, "The Independent Police Complaints Commission should
be much more independent and have a far wider remit of complaints
investigation." Do you take those criticisms at all seriously?
(Mr Denham) I think if we compare what the IPCC would
be able to do compared with the PCA it is significantly more effective
and in practice able to be independent. For example, the PCA currently
supervises 800 to 900 cases a year. I understand that less than
100 of those involve one force being investigated by another force
into that particular complaint. We are looking at the IPCC which
will have the capacity to mount about 1,000 investigations a year
on its own account, as well as managing another 1,000, so in terms
of the ability to look at the most serious cases and put in people
who are working not for the Police Service but for the IPCC there
is a big capacity which did not exist previously and a very substantial
number of managed cases on top of that. Coupled with that is the
ability of the complainant to be kept informed and to appeal if
at any point, particularly in other cases where they feel they
are not being investigated properly, that provides real protection
for the complainant and the system as a whole.
557. The present situation is unsatisfactory
and, of course, it is being, hopefully, rectified by the new body.
Up to now is it not the case that the general feeling is that
the police force investigating another police force arising from
the complaints made, the Police Complaints Authority, to a large
extent, if not discredited is not looked upon in any way as an
(Mr Denham) That is certainly the perception.
558. You do accept it has been the perception?
(Mr Denham) I think the perception has been that the
police are investigating themselves. That is not, I hasten to
add, the same as making a judgment that has led to a string of
wrong investigations or wrong handling of complaint, or whatever,
that would be a very sweeping claim to make and I have not seen
any evidence to suggest that is right. The problem is that if
somebody makes a complaint and they feel it has not been properly
investigated it is not surprising if their reaction is to say,
the police were investigating themselves. The IPCC I think gives
people much greater reassurance that in serious cases they will
be able to investigate directly and in cases where, for example,
it might be initially agreed that the matter would be investigated
by the force itself, the complainant will be told properly about
the results of that in the way that they have not been in the
past and be able to appeal to the IPCC and say, this was not handled
properly. There is both direct investigations and the ability
to appeal against something that is handled at a lower level in
the system. Neither of those operate in the system at the moment.
559. Correct me if I am wrong, under the new
system which has been proposed of the IPCC the police will have
an input, will they not, in complaints being made against another
(Mr Denham) Yes.
4 See Appendix, Ev 164. Back
See Appendix, Ev 164. Back