Examination of Witnesses (Questions 560
THURSDAY 21 MARCH 2002
DENHAM MP AND
560. It will not be totally independent of the
(Mr Denham) We think about 1,000 cases a year will
be investigated entirely independently of the police by investigators
who are employed by the IPCC. That, of course, will be reserved
for the most serious and most difficult cases. There will be other
cases which will rely on police investigation, probably another
1,000, where the IPCC will manage or supervise them very directly,
whereas at the moment the PCA will invite or ask another force
to investigate, but the investigation is entirely the responsibility
for the investigating officer from that force, the PCA has no
ability to say it should be investigated in this way or you need
to take the following concerns into account. That is quite a different
561. Perhaps this is a little delicate and controversial,
but when it comes to the chair of the new bodyhow can I
put this, as I say I am trying to be as delicate as possiblewould
it not be useful if it was not seen immediately as an establishment
figure? You know pretty well what I mean by an establishment figure?
(Mr Denham) I think it is very important that the
chair of the IPCC is seen by everybody as somebody of complete
integrity and somebody who will run an organisation and lead it
with vigour and establish it to do the job of maintaining public
confidence in the Police Service. I think that is important not
just from the public's point of view or Parliament or Ministers
but for the Police Service as well.
David Winnick: White, male, middle-class?
Bob Russell: It sounds like you, David.
562. Except for the class!
(Mr Denham) That covers a lot of people who would
hate to be described as establishment figures. What they will
turn out to be in that sense I do not know. When you set up a
new organisation like this you have one opportunity to get it
right, and you have to have the right team in charge of it for
the first few years. I am not here today to rubbish the work of
the PCA, I think people have worked extraordinarily hard, but
the legislative framework they have worked within and the powers
that they have had have made it very difficult to overcome this
perception problem which we were talking about earlier.
563. Just going back to police retirement or
police discipline, we have had conflicting evidence on whether
a senior police officer is bound by medical evidence when considering
retirement or whether he just has to take it into account. Can
you help us there at all?
(Mr Denham) We are not talking about discipline here?
564. No, early retirement on medical grounds?
(Mr Denham) The regulationsto avoid in any
way misleading the Committee I may want to follow this up in writing,
ChairmanI think require medical evidence to be taken into
account and there is a test which is based essentially on the
ability of the officer to carry out the normal duties of a police
officer. I do not have the exact wording in my mind, but it is
along those terms. One of the things that we have made progress
with police reform is actually to have a definition which is not
quite as stringent as that. Perhaps I can bring you up to speed
on that. I am fairly certain, Chairman, that an officer cannot
say, "I am just not taking into account your medical condition",
I am pretty certain he cannot just dismiss it.
565. He is not absolutely bound by it. He must
take it into account but he is not bound by it. We have had some
bizarre cases of people coincidently of 27 and a half yearswhich
I understand is the point where the pension maximisesof
somebody suddenly becoming too ill to carry on with their duties.
(Mr Denham) What we need to do and what we will do
is to have a much more consistent system for assessing people's
medical capability in those circumstances. What we will be taking
forward is a system where there is a good deal of independence
between the assessment of somebody's medical condition and the
Police Service itself. Again, I can certainly write to the Committee
setting out how that is going to be done.
It is true at the moment I think that in some forces at least
there is perceived to be too much closeness, for example, between
police surgeons who are involved in this and the medical assessment.
I think the issue here is to ensure that we have a level of independence
and a clear objective criteria, and a clear objective assessment
of people's medical conditions.
566. Do we think the problems lie with inadequate
management or inadequate regulations?
(Mr Denham) I think a change in the regulations will
help, because there have been variations in the interpretation
of the existing regulations as to quite how fit somebody needs
to be if they are 50 to carry on being a police officer. An agreed
change in the procedures so they are consistent from force to
force is essential. I also think that good management in the wider
sense of ill-health issues is very important too. Of course we
need to do some other things ourselves, we hope to be introducing
from April next year a national approach to occupational health,
which we have not had previously. We do recognise that the Police
Service have to make some input into this to support officers
Chairman: Thank you very much.
567. Minister, in what way has the Police Act
of 1996 been deficient in the detail in requiring the removal
of chief constables?
(Mr Denham) There are two issues here, one is there
is not a suspension power at the moment and we think that there
should be suspension power. Secondly, the removal power is, I
think, somewhat over-elaborate, particularly where it is initiated
by the Police Authority, because there is some duplication of
hearing the same evidence and the same representations over and
over again. What we are seeking to do in the Bill is, firstly,
to make it possible to suspend a chief officer where their removal
is actually being actively considered in the interests of confidence
in the force. Secondly, we are simplifying the powers to remove
a chief officer. Finally, the approach in the past has always
been that if the chief officer has to go it is through retirement.
Particularly with much younger chief officers coming through to
simply say that you have to retire as opposed to being required
to resign does not make sense, so the ability to require somebody
to resign is also part of the proposals.
568. That is intended to aid those who are younger.
(Mr Denham) You have chief officers now who are 41
and 42, the idea that if their performance fell below an acceptable
standard and you retire them on pension at 42 seems to be a bit
unacceptable. If somebody is required to resign you may well have
to make appropriate financial provision, as you would do in other
circumstance where people's job contract was changed. When the
original rules were drawn up the assumption was that people became
chief constables pretty late on in their policing career, when
they would probably have achieved their full pension rights and
be over pension age. That, again for very good reasons, no longer
569. Would you envisage a watershed age? Are
you likely to set an actual age below which you would ask somebody
to resign rather than retire?
(Mr Denham) I do not think we have thought about a
watershed age as such. You would have to treat each case on its
merits, to be honest.
570. You would not agree therefore with the
Police Superintendents' Association who said, "A chief constable
is appointed by a police authority and I do wonder whether the
Home Secretary's wrath should be directed at the authority rather
than the chief constable"?
(Mr Denham) We would all agree that the police authority
is in the front line. The police authority appoints the chief
constable, employs the chief constable, it is the police authority
one would normally look to to deal with matters of performance,
conduct and so on. The question really is whether that is such
a secure system that one can always rely on the police authority
to do what is right in the interests of people in their area,
or whether there is not a case for the Secretary of State being
able to act. For some time now the recognition of the principle
that the Secretary of State should be able to act has been accepted
in law, we are not introducing a new principle here by saying
the Secretary of State can over-rule the relationship between
the police authority and the chief constable, what we are doing
is developing that in this legislation. It has been the case for
some time that the Secretary of State has had the power to require
a police authority to require a chief constable to retire.
571. In what circumstances would you expect
the Home Secretary to use the power in clause 29 to suspend a
(Mr Denham) The power in the Bill, if I recall, is
that there will be two tests essentially. One is that it is necessary
to maintain public confidence in the Police Service, so something
very serious would have had to have happened for the judgment
to be that the chief constable should no longer be actively in
their post. Secondly, the Secretary of State would have to be
actively considering using further powers to require the chief
constable to retire or resign. So they are both quite tough tests
and they are in the legislation because it should be laid down
in legislation so people know the grounds on which they could
challenge the Secretary of State if they thought he was using
them in an arbitrary or capricious way.
572. On either, are you able to say how often
you think the power would have been used in the last ten years?
(Mr Denham) It is very difficult to say. Over a long
period, about 20, 25 years, we think there are a couple of cases
where chief constable have been required to retire. One was where
the Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police was
required to retire. There have been probablyand this is
actually quite hard to pin downa similar number of cases,
possibly slightly more, where chief constables have come to the
end of their careers earlier than would otherwise have been expected
but without the formal use of the powers. One of the things we
have tried to look at in this legislation is actually that the
difficulty of using the powers is such that sometimes the process
has not been a particularly transparent one where action has had
to be taken where there has been dissatisfaction. I think it is
better to have an open, transparent and accountable system where,
if the Home Secretary has taken action or indeed a police authority
has taken action, that has been done in the open and through proper
procedures, with proper regulations setting down what the rights
of representation are, what evidence should be put in front of
the chief officer and so on.
573. I wonder, Minister, whether any consideration
has been given, apart from the powers which will be in the Act
for the chief constables, to have powers whereby the Home Secretary
would be able to act if a police officer of whatever rank but
not a chief constable has been dealt with in a disciplinary way
which perhaps would not be considered appropriate by Ministers?
(Mr Denham) No. We have not thought about it in those
terms. If the disciplinary action arose from a complaint or an
allegation of misconduct as set out in the IPCC part of the Bill,
then the IPCC would have the ability to intervene if they were
not satisfied with the disciplinary action which had been taken.
So there is in a sense the ability, through that route at least,
to have somebody else looking at whether they are satisfied about
disciplinary action which has been taken.
574. So if the measure was actually in force,
which obviously it is not at the moment, and there was the current
case of Commander Paddick, would he be able to have his case looked
at by the IPCC?
(Mr Denham) You have asked about a very specific case
and I would rather not speculate on the answer to that question
here. It may be we would have to take a hypothetical case of somebody
who had been suspended for a period. Could I come back to you,
Chairman, on that point, partly because it has been asked in open
Committee and I do not want to speculate but to give you an accurate
575. I see from the London press that the caseand
obviously I do not want to go into details and it would be inappropriate
to do sois causing a good deal of disquiet and I am wondering
if the Home Secretary is considering the matter in any way at
(Mr Denham) We would regard this as an operational
matter for the Commissioner.
576. Purely and simply for the Commissioner?
(Mr Denham) I know the Chairman of the Metropolitan
Police Authority made a statement on the issue earlier today and
I believe the MPA were meeting today. We would not normally expect
to be involved in something at this level of the Police Service.
577. You seem a bit hesitant, perhaps it is
a bit embarrassing, so I will not pursue the matter.
(Mr Denham) No, it is not, Chairman. I am just very
well aware that it is an issue which incites a great deal of public
comment and it does involve a named individual, and I do not want
to make any comment which would give any idea at all that this
has been handled outside the Commissioner of the Metropolitan
Police or the Metropolitan Police Authority.
David Winnick: I respect your comments.
578. Could I take you to the subject of police
specials. We have had some written evidence, which was very forcefully
reinforced by the Police Federation lobby last week to those of
us who went to meet them, about the use of specials as additional
auxiliaries in police forces. They want to see a huge increase
in numbers25 per cent I think of the total number. To what
extent do you think that is realistic and had you considered that
when it came to framing the new legislation?
(Mr Denham) We certainly want to see an increase in
the number of specials. That would be a very substantial increase,
of course, to 40,000. There has been a decline in recent years,
partly because of people joining the Police Service as a whole,
partly because of management issues and dissatisfaction with the
way specials have been deployed, and partly because some police
forces have understandably been demanding a higher level of commitment
and professionalism from specials if they are to be fully deployed.
We are working at the moment on ways in which we could improve
the management, training and recruitment of specials. We are looking,
as we said in the White Paper, at whether or not it would be appropriate
to pay some sort of allowance to specials in recognition of their
essentially voluntary service and a number of other measures under
way at the moment. We share with the Police Federation a desire,
which of course is rather a new one for them now, to see the number
of specials increased.
579. I know it is difficult but could you say
what your best estimate of what the increase could be over, say,
the next three or four years?
(Mr Denham) That is difficult but I would like to
see a substantial increase on the numbers we have at the moment.
6 See Appendix, Ev 164-5. Back
See Appendix, Ev 164-5. Back
See Appendix, Ev 165. Back