THURSDAY 21 MARCH 2002
Mr Chris Mullin, in the Chair
THE RT HON JOHN DENHAM, a Member of the House, Minister of State, and MR STEPHEN RIMMER, Director of Policing Policy, Home Office, examined.
(Mr Denham) It is, Chairman.
(Mr Denham) Chairman, Stephen Rimmer is with me who is the Director of Policing Policy. Two points I think, Chairman. One is that of course the White Paper went on to say after paragraph 1.34 that part of the decline in conviction rates reflected better ethical standards in recording crime and increased evidential standards in courts, so there has been a progressive change over time. As I understand it there have been two changes to counting rules since the figures published in 1980: in 1998 when there were changes to the counting rules and in 1999 in guidance on how the Home Office recognises detections. RDS, which is our research department in the Home Office, do not believe that the 1998 changes would have had a significant impact on detection rates and that the 1999 changes might have made a one to two per cent difference to detection rates but not enough to account for the downward trend outlined in the White Paper. That is the advice that I have on this issue. I am perfectly happy to write further to you if there are particular points you think are not covered by that.
(Mr Denham) That is my understanding in terms of our own guidance. Clearly if there were changes in force practice in individual forces at different stages over the period of time that we are talking about that could have had its impact on the figures recorded by forces, which is why we try to acknowledge in the White Paper that over a period of time there have been changes in the ethical approach to recording. It probably is a good idea to distinguish between those places where the Home Office formally issued guidance and where there may have been an evolutionary change in recording practices. The White Paper went out of its way to say that this is not comparing directly like with like because there have been changes of standards over that period of time. Whether it is possible to disentangle perhaps force by force changes or changes in professional standards from the overall figures I am not sure but I am more than happy to ask RDS if they can provide any further information to what I have given to you.
(Mr Denham) I think that if there was any major problem on this it should by now have become apparent from the inspections by HMIC and I am not aware of any current concern about falling standards.
(Mr Denham) When new standards have been established then HMIC will certainly inspect to those standards.
(Mr Denham) I am advised that the impact of Home Office guidance at the time that it was issued would have been no more than one to two per cent. I am less confident, Chairman, in saying that there may not have been changes in force practice over the period between 1980 and 1999 that could have brought about further changes and we have tried to reflect that in the White Paper. If we are able to estimate what the impact of those changes might have been then I will certainly come back to you. I am not confident that we will be able to do that.
(Mr Denham) I think that would be true. One of the big drives that is under way at the moment between the Home Office, ACPO and, particularly within the Home Office, the Police Standards Unit, is to make sure that all of the sources of data that come into the Home Office and will be used in the future for performance measurement are accurately audited and verified because clearly we cannot pursue our aspirations to raise the standards of performance of police forces unless we can all rely on the quality of the information that we are getting in. We cannot go back, in a sense, and improve past data but I think we can take every reasonable measure to make sure that the data we use in the future is sound.
(Mr Denham) On what we are now doing?
(Mr Denham) I do not think we have had any representations on the 40 per cent figure. We have had representations, or at least comments, about the dangers of relying exclusively on detection rates as a measure of police performance. Because of the danger, if it becomes an exclusive measure then you put incentives in the system to up your detection rates which may not be the same as your effectiveness in catching criminals overall or reducing the level of crime. I cannot recall seeing any strong representations about the use of the 40 per cent figure in the past. My sense is that whatever people say about particular figures, there is not any challenge to the idea that detection rates have fallen or that the detection and conviction rate is lower than it should be.
(Mr Denham) Partly, as we say in the White Paper, it is due to better ethical standards in recording crime, so that would include the issue that you yourself covered, Chairman. Beyond that I think it is quite difficult to know with any precision as to why the detection rates should have fallen as they have done.
(Mr Denham) Yes, and I think there will be a number of amendments along similar lines to the Bill to specify certainly APA And ACPO as consultees in relevant parts of the Bill, often where it currently says that the Home Secretary consults those who he sees fit. I think there has never been any doubt in anybody's minds that we would be consulting those bodies but we will be bringing amendments forward along those lines.
(Mr Denham) There was never any doubt in our mind or, indeed, in what we ever said to the police authorities on this.
(Mr Denham) Obviously in developing the Bill and the White Paper we considered a number of options. The police authorities have responsibilities for the efficient running of the police force and they have responsibilities certainly in the areas of finance and of best value. They do not have responsibilities over some of the operational aspects of policing which are covered by clause 5 of the Bill. I think our view is that it would certainly be a very major change to the role of police authorities to extend that power to them which they do not have at the moment. To the extent that we believe it is necessary at the end of the day for the Home Secretary to have powers to intervene, our view is those are ones that should lie with the Home Secretary rather than with the police authorities. It was a conscious choice, as it were, to have constructed the legislation in the way that we did so that the Home Secretary has the power at the end of the day to intervene rather than to give that power to the police authorities.
(Mr Denham) We are very clear in the Bill, and I think we have laid it out for the first time, that it is not our intention and we do not want to be able to intervene to direct the way a particular operation is carried out or if Bill Smith is to be arrested or whatever. We do think it is part of the Government's job to help to ensure that people enjoy high quality policing in every part of the country. If, therefore, a circumstance arises where the performance of part of the Police Service is persistently poor, persistently bad, local communities are failed, local people are failed, and all of the other measures which are available to address that have failed, we do think that the Home Secretary needs to be able to act. I think that is right.
(Mr Denham) Police authorities do not have the ability to get involved in the way, for example, that resources might be deployed within a police force, that is beyond the powers of police authorities. Police authorities are an important body, they are an important part of the tripartite system. They are not directly accountable in the sense that the Home Secretary is accountable to Parliament for the exercise of his powers and we actually think that it is more acceptable that it should be the Home Secretary who has these powers of intervention rather than 43 individual police authorities up and down the country.
(Mr Denham) It is really very, very difficult, I think, not least because I have only been a Minister since June, to look back, as it were, through the files and say we would have used it in this situation or that. It is certainly true that I think in any case we have brought through the Police Reform White Paper a much sharper Government focus on police performance and the variations of police performance than has existed previously. There may have been circumstances in the past where Government would have said "it is not very good but it is nothing to do with us", where Government is now saying that it is our responsibility to work with the Police Service to raise the standards of performance. I do not think it is feasible to go back and pick up individual instances over the last ten years and say we would have used it in those circumstances.
(Mr Denham) If you have a situation where, for example, in a particular part of a Police Service area it is very clear that the crime levels are way above those that exist in comparable areas, and it would need to be a comparable area, that the fear of crime in those areas is completely out of hand, the anti-social behaviour is completely out of hand, and yet there is a refusal to ensure that an established best policing practice is applied in those areas to tackle those problems, so you have in a sense both a failure of performance, a failure of outcome, and a failure to use the best policing tactics and best policing methods in those areas, that is the sort of circumstance where if all else has failed, support from the HMIC, support from the Police Standards Unit, discussions with the police authority and so on, the Home Secretary needs to be able to have the power to intervene and say "you have got a problem, you need to address this problem and we want to see how you are going to address that problem". That requires, as I was saying at the outset to the Chairman, good robust information on performance measures, which we partly have but partly do not have at the moment and which we will construct over the coming year through the Police Standards Unit so we have a solid base for that type of intervention. That is the sort of circumstance that we have in mind.
(Mr Denham) What we set out in the Police Reform White Paper was that we would want to have a protocol between the Home Office and the Home Secretary, ACPO and the APA, about how the use of these powers would be governed. We are considering whether it would be to the advantage of the House, certainly in the Lords, certainly in the Commons, to see how that protocol would look, what its key features would be. This is a matter really of trying to put into legislation things that we had always intended to have perhaps in a protocol. There is a case for saying that the Home Secretary would need to present the evidence on which he or she were making the case that something needed to be done, that there would perhaps need to be the ability for the chief officer to show how he was going to put his house in order before receiving a direction from the Secretary of State. Changes of that sort I think, which we have always intended to be part of the procedure, might make it clear that this cannot be, and should not be, a power that is used, in Lord Condon's words, in an arbitrary or subjective manner.
(Mr Denham) "or otherwise", for example, could include information provided to the Home Secretary by the Police Standards Unit, which is part of the Home Office and has no statutory existence, so cannot be referred to separately in the legislation. But if the work of the Police Standards Unit, following up poor performance in a particular force or Basic Command Unit area, brought solid information to the Secretary of State's attention to say that there is a clear pattern of under-performance in this area, the way the legislation is phrased would enable him to respond to that. It clearly gives the ability, if necessary, to respond quickly to a major problem. That is the sort of circumstance that we have got in mind.
(Mr Denham) Absolutely. No-one sensibly wants to use this power on a routine basis. I have to say in the vast, vast majority of cases if the Police Standards Unit is working with a BCU where there are problems things are likely to be sorted out at that level through discussion between the Police Standards Unit and the chief superintendent in charge of the area and possibly, if necessary, discussion very likely perhaps with the chief constable about the issues and with the police authority. That is what we would expect to be the norm in the vast majority of cases. You simply would not want to have a situation where you were using these powers on a routine basis. All of the emphasis that we are putting behind the Police Standards Unit is to support areas of poor performance in getting better at their performance as quickly as they can do, and that is far more likely to happen in the vast majority of cases through those informal support mechanisms than through anything formal.
(Mr Denham) I think that is slightly unfairly putting together two answers to two questions. It would be wrong, I think, for the reasons I said earlier, to try to pick out an event from 1996 and say "we have the data that shows in x town this power should have been used". That is why I cannot say when it would have been used precisely in the last ten years. I do believe that the evidence, for example from the Audit Commission, of variation in police performance from one part of the country to another in comparable areas is sufficient to say that we have to address that issue much more robustly than we have done in the past. That is one of the reasons for setting up the Police Standards Unit. I think having the back-up to intervene if all else fails is necessary. We do not get the chance to have police legislation every day of the week or every year and I think it forms a small, in the sense it will not be used very often, but important part of raising standards in the Police Service.
(Mr Denham) I think we expect that local policing plans will reflect local circumstances but also do need to reflect national priorities. I do not actually believe that we would necessarily have seen the very significant falls in car crime or in burglary without the focused national as well as local attention that those targets have had in recent years. I do believe though that we can do considerably better than we have at the moment in developing methods for measuring police performance than we have. You will know, I expect, that the Home Secretary has reduced the number of best value performance indicators by very nearly half in the latest round to try to reduce the number of different performance indicators pointing in different directions that the police were needing to respond to. We want over the next two or three years to go much further in changing the system and in particular to recognise that there are different areas, domains is the technical language I am learning to use, of activity, the economy and the efficiency of the force, the effectiveness in catching criminals, the effectiveness in reducing crime, the effectiveness in public accessibility and public response and public satisfaction. We are looking really for a model of measuring police performance that enables a force and an area of a force to see how well it is doing in each of those areas. At the moment the performance indicators do not give you that rounded picture of police performance. We are in very active discussion with the Police Service, including ACPO and the APA, about doing this and I hope that over the coming year we will gradually shift from the focus on the individual performance indicator to this much more rounded assessment of police performance. That, I think, will enable police authorities and police forces to be able to look at how they are doing locally and compare themselves with similar forces and perhaps say "Well, we are actually doing rather well on reducing crime but not so well on the fear of crime. What are we doing differently which means our performance is lagging behind other areas?" That is quite difficult to do with the performance measures that we have at the moment.
(Mr Denham) I have got to say, Chairman, I am sharing with you work that is at the fairly early stages in preparation but I hope the Committee will find it helpful. It is probably the case that we would need to build it around a common set of national indicators because otherwise a force will not be able to compare its performance in those areas with another part of the country and part of the value of that benchmarking will disappear. I think forces will find it useful in setting their own local priorities. The second thing you want to do is to put all this in the context of the national policing plan which we have set out in the Bill and part of the aim of that is to make sure that there is much more consistent and coherent consultation with the Police Service, with the police authorities and with other organisations in the development of the broad strategic direction of policing and that does not really happen at the moment. There are various different indicators on which we consult separately but there is not a proper process of discussion each year about the strategic direction of policing.
(Mr Denham) Absolutely, that is right. Police forces must, within their overall plan, put the resources to where the problem is and those problems do vary from one part of the country, one part of a force, to another.
(Mr Denham) Yes.
(Mr Denham) There is a difference in role between the Inspectorate and the Standards Unit. The independent Inspectorate is responsible really for inspecting and monitoring the overall performance of every single police force in the country, and more recently has developed a similar system of inspection for Basic Command Units. The Police Standards Unit is going to concentrate much more specifically on particular areas of performance, identifying what works particularly well in some forces, working with other areas with poor performance to enable them to increase their performance. You could say in that sense it has a more directly interventionist and supportive role and one that is focused very much on performance improvement in specific areas rather than the overall inspection of forces. I always worry about using this analogy because it breaks down after a bit, but there is a difference between, for example, the work of Ofsted in inspecting schools as a whole and the work of DfES in promoting the literacy hour or the numeracy hour. One is the inspection of the performance of the system as a whole, the other is to identify areas of proven best practice and to promote those as effectively as possible across the service. There is a similar split, but you cannot push it too far, between the HMIC and the Standards Unit.
(Mr Denham) No. I was rather putting the HMIC into that category, which is why the thing breaks down immediately because the HMIC is a long established and very effective body.
(Mr Denham) Two things. On data collection, you are quite right to raise concerns because they are exactly the same ones that I share as a Minister. The outcome of this must be that we have a rationalised and simplified system of data collection which feeds not just the HMIC and the Standards Unit but is providing the management information on a timely basis that police forces need and also, I hope, very much to align what is provided to the Audit Commission through this process at the moment. There is a fair criticism at the moment that people in the Police Service can be providing quite similar but not exactly the same data to quite a lot of different people who come round inspecting them, so one of the things we must deliver is a better data system on the boundaries between the two. Of course, the potential for overlap or confusion could be there but in the last few months everything that I have seen and heard from Kevin Bonds, who is the Inspector of the Police Standards Unit, and Sir Keith Povey, who is the Chief Inspector of Constabulary, suggests that has actually been worked out professionally between the two different organisations in a way that is not giving rise to the problems that people were talking about when the PSU did not actually exist.
(Mr Denham) That is precisely what I am saying. We are not there now but that is what we are doing. One of Mr Rimmer's jobs is to make sure that the technicalities of that actually work. It is absolutely essential that over time we get a performance measurement system, for example, which makes sense to you as a member of the public looking at your community, makes operational sense to the chief superintendent and the chief constable deciding where to put their resources, and is aligned with what the HMIC inspects and the PSU's focus on performance. At the moment there is a reasonable criticism that those are not properly aligned. Having a consistent data system is essential to delivering that.
(Mr Denham) No, I do not believe that it will.
(Mr Denham) I do not think that is the case. There is likely always to be a role for a body that is able to concentrate specifically on particular areas of performance with the Police Service and not be, if you like, bothering itself with a lot of the other things the Police Service does, and that will be typical of the Standards Unit, and a body like the HMIC whose very job is to ensure that they are looking right across the board into the whole performance of the force. I think there is a logic to that separation and certainly I would not like to suggest that I think it is likely to change in the immediate future.
(Mr Denham) There has been concern in the past about, for example, the use of incapacitant sprays which have not necessarily been tested, in the Home Office's view, to the standards that we would like before they were introduced. There is no power at the moment in the existing legislation to prevent a police force, for example, introducing an innovative pepper spray or something of that sort or possibly a supposedly non-lethal alternative to firearms use. If a chief constable chooses to use equipment then we do not have the power to intervene to stop that, so one of the areas where standardisation might be possible is in that area. I think there are many examples, particularly in the area of IT, where the failure to ensure a commitment to a standard system across the Police Service has left us with a legacy of IT systems which do not talk to each other, which do not communicate, and that is a problem. This certainly gives us a clear ability to perhaps use that in the future.
(Mr Denham) Radio equipment is one. That is being dealt with at the moment through the airwave system, as you know. There will always be a judgment. Airwave is proceeding without the use of legislative back-up but it has been a very time consuming process to get everybody committed and involved with it.
(Mr Denham) That is very possibly correct, so I think a power like this would have to be used with discretion, of course.
(Mr Denham) Yes. I do not think there is any attempt to standardise every single item of police equipment. I think where we would be most concerned is the example I gave of incapacitant sprays where the public might reasonably expect that the same standards of scientific evidence have been taken into account before the material is used or the situation which can be the case with some IT systems where the failure to have compatible systems can not only weaken the operation of one force, it can weaken the co-operation that takes place between forces or, for example, other parts of the system, like the criminal justice system, with whom the police IT system needs to communicate.
(Mr Denham) Best value is still in its relatively early days at the moment. This Bill does not remove the best value requirements and I would not want to say in any way that best value has failed. As best value develops we are learning actually that we can approach it in a more strategic way. The best value exercise that is looking at training provision over the coming year I think is very important because we have got everybody doing a best value exercise on the same area of activity whereas previously people might have done it over different timescales. I think best value has got a lot to offer and I am actually very keen on using it strategically like that.
(Mr Denham) I think this takes us into a wider debate, but my own view is that the best value framework - and I hope we will see this on training over the coming year - is a good way of enabling people to fundamentally re-examine the way they are doing things and see if there are not more efficient and more effective ways of delivering them. I do think in the future there will be areas of common services, it is dangerous to speculate, for smaller forces and, perhaps, payroll functions, and things of that sort, which could be provided a lot more cheaply with the pooling of support services.
(Mr Denham) Let me give you two or three, and this really gives us a back-up power if we are not able to the make the progress we would like. The National Intelligence model is more than a computer system with information on it, it is a system for receiving police intelligence and information, for analysing that into patterns of criminal behaviour, enabling you to identify key criminal suspects, their linkages, their wider criminal activities and as a result of that to target police activity effectively on those criminals. There are forces which are making very good use of the National Intelligence model and there are areas where progress has been very slow. The problem that we have is that the failure to have a consistent approach in using intelligence does not just have an impact at force level, it has a wider one, with criminals stubborn refusal just to operate in Police Authority areas, so the ability to share information across the systems is limited. If I can give you two or three others. I am grateful for this, you phrased the question, "in potential areas", where we have had in the past public disturbances and it has been necessary to call on mutual aid from other forces it is important to be confident that the training from those other forces is of the same sort and the same standard and approached in the same way as the forces which they are joining if the mutual aid is going to be fully effective. If you have a police operation, for example, round armed robbery, which might involve tracking suspected robbers from one police force area to one many miles way, across several police force boundaries where the robbery is due to take place, one needs to be able to ensure that there is a consistent quality of armed support available throughout that journey if need be so the operation or the public or the officers are to be put in jeopardy. The common strand in what I am saying here is that there is an element of national or cross-border interest, where the standardisation of approach is important to deliver an effective policing service across England and Wales as a whole.
(Mr Denham) Personally I wish the National Intelligence model was far more widely adopted and imbedded in the Police Service than it is at the moment. If you are asking me to pick out one particular driver behind this, where we have looked round at where we are and the pace of change it would be the National Intelligence model.
(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.
(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 Bill if police authorities want to bring forward proposals for change, but I am not aware of any imminently going through.
(Mr Denham) Yes. That is the intention of Clause 5.
(Mr Denham) No, I did not.
(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.
(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.
(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!
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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 comes in.
(Mr Denham) I might take advice on whether there would be any precedence 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.
(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 Ministers to produce people who want to be effective and independent.
(Mr Denham) I will look at that further. That is Mr Younger, is it? Who made that appointment?
(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, but 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.
(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.
(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.
(Mr Denham) That is certainly 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.
(Mr Denham) Yes.
(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 procedure.
(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: A white, male, middle-class Minister.
Bob Russell: It sounds like you, David.
(Mr Denham) That covers a lot of people would hate to be described as an 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 extraordinary 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.
(Mr Denham) We are not talking about discipline here?
(Mr Denham) The regulations - to avoid in any way misleading the Committee I may want to follow this up in writing, Chairman - I 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 the 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.
(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.
(Mr Denham) I think a change in the regulations will help, because there have been a variation 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 too.
Chairman: Thank you very much.
(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.
(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 applies.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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 I think it was the Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police who was required to retire. There have been probably - and this is actually quite hard to pin down - a 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.
(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.
(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 answer.
(Mr Denham) We would regard this as an operational matter 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.
(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.
(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.
(Mr Denham) That is difficult but I would like to see a substantial increase on the numbers we have at the moment.
(Mr Denham) I think it could make a significant difference in many different parts of the country, to be honest. I had the privilege last year of presenting the Ferrers Awards, which is the annual awards to specials, and you had from London and other parts of the country examples of specials tackling real local problems very, very effectively. One police officer in London had sorted out a problem in a street market and had largely eliminated the petty crime which had been taking place there. Another special had done superb diversionary youth work on difficult estates in Northumberland. They have got a key role to play.
(Mr Denham) I think it is very unlikely we could reach that sort of number in that sort of period of time. It would be great to think we had that number of people coming forward. I think we will need to do more to revamp the image of the specials, we will need to do more work with forces to make sure their recruitment and their induction is very good and that the specials are well-supported and deployed on interesting and challenging jobs. I do not think we can achieve that in that sort of timescale, but the sense of direction is absolutely right.
(Mr Denham) I do not know whether it is true the number of volunteers are declining. What I do believe though is that there is potentially a much bigger pool of people who would join the specials than we have yet managed to tap into. I think we need to get the message across much more clearly that almost any community that has successfully tackled crime has required local people living in it to stand up and say, "We have had enough of this." Being a special is not the only way of doing that, you could do it through residents groups and community groups, but it is a particular way of doing it and, for a variety of reasons, I think that message has been lost over recent years and I think we need to revive it.
(Mr Denham) Yes there is. It is an unfortunate question because you have just asked about something which we are going to do, so I have now revealed it, and there you go. It is slightly different with the TA because you give people time off and long weekends and all those sorts of things, but I do think we could do a lot more with employers to support them in encouraging their employees to join.
Bob Russell: I am delighted, Chairman, to help shape Government policy.
Chairman: Community Support Officers next.
(Mr Denham) The Bill makes it clear it is for the chief officer to decide whether he or she wishes to have Community Support Officers as part of their force. Section 4 of the Bill provides no mechanism for forcing a chief officer to take that decision.
(Mr Denham) No, I do not think so. Certainly being able to co-operate even more closely with the neighbourhood and street wardens and similar non-police groups is very important, and I think the accreditation system which we set out in the Bill will be very useful in enabling those people to be drawn together as part of the extended police family. I know it is the view of the Metropolitan Police, who have particularly been keen on Community Support Officers, that there is a role for a new type of police employee carrying out a range of patrolling duties, and provided uniform and things of that sort are sorted out sensibly there should be no difficulty in the public identifying who is doing what. Most neighbourhood and street warden schemes I have come across have a very distinctive dress but it is usually very casual dress - typically a sweatshirt or something of that sort - and we are talking really about an insignia they would carry if they are an accredited person working with the police. I think we would anticipate that Community Support Officers would be more like traffic wardens in terms of their public visibility, ie distinctively uniformed but distinctively not police officers.
(Mr Denham) This is obviously a very important point. What we have tried to do in the Bill is to set out as clearly as possible the roles and powers of Community Support Officers. The legal position is quite interesting in that every single one of us here has the power of arrest under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, we have the power under section 3 of the Criminal Law Act of 1967 to use reasonable force to prevent a crime, and we have a common law right to arrest people to prevent a breach of the peace. So I suppose you could have approached Community Support Officers by saying, "Let's just employ these people and train them up in their civilian powers of arrest and using reasonable force." I think that would have been regarded by most people as unsatisfactory as an approach. What we have tried to say on the face of the Bill is, "This is the role we expect these people to be carrying out." Clearly nobody, certainly not the police chiefs we have talked to, would intend deploying Community Support Officers by sending them out to catch people, to use the 30 minute power of detention, and then get a police officer along, but it is obviously the case that in the course of their duties the need to detain somebody may arise. What we had to look at was, what is a reasonable length of detention and should you go as far as giving the power of arrest. Our view is that the power of arrest has a whole series of consequences, somebody is taken to a police station, they are booked into custody, they are interviewed following that and may well be charged; quite a long and important process is triggered by the power of arrest. Our view is that that is something which should be exercised by a fully sworn constable, which is why we want a constable to attend. So you have I think to give the CSO a more limited power, and that is why we have settled on 30 minutes and the ability to use reasonable force. We have had some representations to make that period of time longer and there clearly is a balance to be struck between the length of time for which somebody can be detained and the reasonable expectation there would be that a police officer would be able to attend. Our view at the moment is that 30 minutes would appear to be a reasonable balance between the operational realities of getting a police officer to attend if summoned by the CSO and the desirability of not putting too long an extension of time for detention on the face of the Bill. We have developed this whole approach very closely with the Metropolitan Police Service in particular. I am glad we have done that because it will be chief officers who are responsible for the training and the deployment of these staff and therefore for training them on how to handle themselves in circumstances when they might use this power.
(Mr Denham) This is one where I think I should rely on the lawyers. The term "reasonable force" is used elsewhere in law. I would strongly suspect that it has been tested in the courts in the past. What we have used is precisely the same formulation here as applies to police officers in the course of their duties, but I would be happy to follow that up, Chairman, if it would be helpful to come back to the Committee on how that term may have been interpreted by the courts in the past.
Chairman: Thank you.
(Mr Denham) To enable a police officer to attend and take the final decision as to whether the individual should be arrested and taken into custody.
(Mr Denham) There may, of course, be some who will go into the job to get to know the Police Service, to decide if they do want to apply to be a police officer, but the role of the CSO, with its emphasis on patrolling, assisting the police, dealing with minor disorder issues, is substantially of a very different nature from the full responsibilities of a police officer. A police officer would be routinely called upon in road traffic accidents, armed incidents, sudden death, public order disputes, dealing with serious violent criminal gangs, a whole range of activities which make a police officer's job a difficult and dangerous job, and they fall outside the functions for which people want the Community Support Officer, for which the Police Service in London has argued. I think there will be a set of people who do not feel able to take on or want to take on the full responsibilities of a police constable but nonetheless will want to work with the Police Service as part of the reassurance and public presence of that service to the public.
(Mr Denham) What we have done in the legislation is to give CSOs specific powers which relate, sometimes to measures in this Bill but primarily to established legal powers, for example, fixed penalty notices for littering and dog fouling and so on, and the legal powers of the CSO apply to those pieces of legislation. So "deal with" in the narrow legal sense means they would have fixed penalty notice powers over, for example, dog fouling or littering or whatever. We would also expect CSOs to be able to do a wide range of other activities which would be useful in support of the police as well as issuing fixed penalty notices.
(Mr Denham) The new Central Police Training and Development Agency, which comes into being in early April this year, will be looking very much at the training requirements for CSOs. It is a little too early, I think, to set out in detail precisely how that training is going to be provided. People obviously have to be trained in how to use these powers we have been discussing, in first aid, in safety, in their anti-social behaviour role. We would expect them to be able to act as professional witnesses, for example, a very important role because often local residents are unwilling to come forward. There is the whole agenda of the Lawrence Inquiry, of diversity, of understanding the needs of different communities and so on, all that will have to be covered, but it is too early I think to say exactly how it will be delivered. We will need to work very closely with the Police Service because I think the fundamental thing to recognise here is that the chief constables will be as responsible for the conduct, well-being, training and deployment of CSOs as they are for police officers, and I think the chief constables will want to assure themselves that the training is adequate to produce the people who are going to have this job.
Angela Watkinson: Thank you very much.
(Mr Denham) It is primarily from the Metropolitan Police. They are the people who came forward with the idea in the early summer and pushed very strongly for this and, I do not mind saying, persuaded us this is the right way forward. I think the events of 11 September, when the Metropolitan Police Service had to put thousands of people on the streets to reassure the public in patrolling roles - a job which many police officers found deeply frustrating after the novelty wore off because they are trained, professional police officers, they did not primarily join up for walking around Westminster and Canary Wharf reassuring the public - convinced them that roles like that could be played by the CSOs to free up the police for other activities which are obviously important. But there are other forces which are now talking about CSOs in the future. Whilst a handful of people have declared outright opposition to the idea, I think the majority of the Police Service wants to see how the Metropolitan Police and one or two other places get on with it and learn from their experience.
(Mr Denham) I think London. I understand that Surrey and Northamptonshire are the other two forces which have expressed an interest, but I do not think they have committed themselves to do it in the way Sir John Stevens has done in London.
(Mr Denham) Discussions essentially with the Police Service to try and set the right balance between what I think would be quite difficult, which would be to give an untime-limited power of detention using reasonable force until whenever a police officer got there, and having a time period which was so short that operationally you could not reasonably expect a police officer to come.
(Mr Denham) Yes.
(Mr Denham) The Metropolitan Police in particular have worked most closely with us on the development of the CSO legislation.
(Mr Denham) If the time limit runs out, the time limit runs out, so you would normally expect the person to be released. There is an issue, as I mentioned earlier, of the wider citizen's powers which exist in common law and in some legislation anyway, but I am very anxious not to encourage the idea that the main aim of these people is to be trained up to use a citizen's powers of arrest. We have tried to prescribe the role of the CSO in a fairly limited manner quite deliberately.
(Mr Denham) Police officers have the power to arrest, which is the reason why the law was constructed in that way. The question really is, do we want these people to be able to exercise the full powers of arrest in the course of their normal employment. Our judgment is that the role which is conceived for them is one where that would be taking their powers too far, further than we intend and further than those who want to have CSOs want to go in deploying them.
(Mr Denham) I would say to that that the chief officer of the force which deploys the CSOs is responsible for the way in which they exercise their power and training. I think we can be reasonably assured that chief officers who decide to have CSOs on their force will make sure they are deployed in ways where the powers are effectively used. No chief officer is going to encourage a set of CSOs to be out there getting themselves into difficulty and tying down the time of police officers. Some of the discussion, frankly, about this has been as though the CSOs will be employed and then unleashed on a town or city to wander the streets doing what on earth they want as though there are no constraints over their powers. I really do not think that is going to happen. These are accountable members of the Police Service.
(Mr Denham) I have confidence in the professionalism of police officers, even if some have reservations about this development, that they would not react in that sort of way. Traffic wardens could potentially be like this. Very similar arguments in fact were deployed almost word for word in some cases about the introduction of traffic wardens in 1961, about the relationship with the police being changed, they would get themselves into trouble, police officers would spend all of their time rescuing traffic wardens. On occasion, it has to be said traffic wardens do get into trouble, but I do not think anybody would say that the general experience is that the Police Service spend all their time going round helping out traffic wardens.
(Mr Denham) Going back earlier in your question - and fortunately these are not operational decisions for ministers, they are there for police officers - I somehow doubt that a CSO would normally be out patrolling on their own at 11.30 on a Friday night. It is perhaps possible that CSOs would be out with police officers in town centres at that time as part of a well-organised presence on the streets.
(Mr Denham) Yes, I can. Clearly in some circumstances that would not be the case, and patrolling and reassurance and anti-terrorism security-type work, which we have seen and enjoyed around Westminster over recent months and in Canary Wharf, could well be done by CSOs operating on their own. There might be other circumstances, and this is not for me to determine but at the discretion of the chief constable, where they would actually be working with police officers. In some parts of the Bill it is quite clear that has to be the case, as in the terrorism part of the Bill.
(Mr Denham) I will look at the Bill. I do not think it does that, Chairman, but I will look at, as you raise the question.
(Mr Denham) I am very relieved to hear it. I, of course, cannot see the shaking heads but you can. It is an interesting question which has not been previously raised and I will go away and have a look at that.
(Mr Denham) We will consider the representations we have got. Certainly one or two rural forces have said that 30 minutes is not so long in a rural area and it could be longer. We will continue to consider it. I have to say, I do think we have to get the balance right between what would be a publicly acceptable power of detention by people who are not police officers and the operational side of being able to provide the support. My feeling at the moment is that we have the balance right. My instinct is to be quite worried if we were to envisage a circumstance where somebody might be so far away from the police officer with whom they are working, it could be a couple of hours before somebody turns up to complete the process. Of course, we will continue to listen to the representations, at the moment I see no reason to change the position we have got.
(Mr Denham) The legislation I think is pretty clear.
(Mr Denham) The chief constable has to take the decision according to the legislation. I do not know if there are nodding or shaking heads behind me.
David Winnick: They are leaving you to it actually, Minister!
(Mr Denham) I can say what this Bill does, and this part of the Bill says chief constables take the decision.
(Mr Denham) Two things. One is that I have been very struck by the success of neighbourhood wardens employed by local authorities in some of the types of communities you are talking about, people who are there who spend the vast majority of their working day out in the community with the ability to stop to people, to talk to people, to get to know people but also to gather information about what is going on. Yes, obviously, there is always a hard core who will not respond to that, but I think the ability to have a patrolling presence which gets to know a community has already been demonstrated to work by people working for local authorities, and I am confident that people working for the police can do that. I would also make the point that if you have communities which have such problems that they need more intensive input from the police, the ability within a Police Service to give reassurance in other areas by CSOs and to use your police resources more effectively in these areas is clearly a bonus. If you have forces at the moment which are stretched in every direction, despite the record number of police officers we have and the increase over the last few years, and you are trying to provide a presence everywhere, you are not necessarily able to concentrate in the way you would like on persistent offenders in the higher crime areas. So I think it does add a flexibility to police deployment.
(Mr Denham) The general answer would be yes, but there is nothing to preclude funding CSOs in other ways.
(Mr Denham) To be perfectly honest, I think firstly it is far too early to say and, secondly, no one can say what the situation will be in five or ten years' time. At the moment police authorities receive ring-fenced money for police officers, as you know, which has been one of the reasons why we have had a record increase in police officers. A few years ago that was not the pattern. Although we do not have any particular plans to do what you say, there is nothing in the Bill which affects that one way or the other.
(Mr Denham) I can certainly understand those concerns but I come back to the point, the section of the Bill clearly says it is the chief constable who has to decide whether he wishes to have these CSOs.
(Mr Denham) I do not think so but I do think, if you look at the Bill in the wider sense, there are some circumstances which we cover in the Bill where the person you want to see first is not necessarily a police officer. One of the reasons for strengthening the powers of civilian investigators and scene-of-crime officers is that there are circumstances where the first person you want to get round is somebody who is a skilled investigator who can make sure they get the DNA samples and the other scientific evidence properly. I think what many forces want to do is to be able to have the person with the right skills, including appropriate police powers, to be round there quickly to get the evidence, rather than send somebody round a few hours later and then the person you really want 24 hours after that. So the ability to deploy the people working for the Police Service flexibly is a very important one, but I do not envisage any sort of routine system where you always see a CSO before you see a police officer, far from it.
(Mr Denham) Two things. One is, I do not believe that is what anybody has in mind to set up here, and I do not think that is what we have in mind. Secondly, with record numbers of police officers, and we will have over 130,000 by this time next year, on any conceivable scale of expansion of CSOs there will be vastly more police officers than Community Support Officers for a very, very long time to come. Let us not forget that over the past few years there has been an expansion of support officers in the Police Service who are not police officers, that has been very useful, it has helped to free up the time of police officers to spend their time on the duties which we and the public want to see them on, and nobody has said that is about a two-tier Police Service.
(Mr Denham) Yes, they could be front-line and we want to make additional use of civilians in detention jobs and scene-of-crime jobs and so on as part of this Bill. I just cannot envisage a future, I have to say, where your routine first contact with the Police Service has to be with a CSO rather than with a police officer, because I do not think that fits the role being allocated for CSOs within the Bill or indeed what the Police Service will want to do with CSOs.
(Mr Denham) And whether the public's fear of crime is reduced and whether we are more effective in gathering information on people perpetrating anti-social behaviour so we can introduce anti-social behaviour orders, whether the links with local authorities to deal with abandoned vehicles and that sort of thing improves, so we do not have streets with burnt-out, abandoned vehicles which make people feel scared even if there is no crime in the street. The CSOs add a capacity to deal with those sorts of things with other agencies which actually it is difficult for the Police Service to give the priority to at the moment which people would like.
(Mr Denham) The things you would have put in the Bill if you had been here.
Chairman: Not at all, they are just gentle enquiries.
(Mr Denham) The White Paper which we published before Christmas set out the Government's policy position quite clearly, that in principle there are areas of activities like, broadly, entertainment businesses which give rise to police costs where we would like more money going to the Police Service. There are some imaginative schemes up and down the country on a voluntary basis with night clubs which are funding police officers. No final decisions have been taken in the months since the White Paper about how such a scheme might work or what it should cover and whatever. Clearly we need to make sure we have it right but it is an issue of Government policy which we are certainly interested in.
(Mr Denham) In terms of Government policy, it is an area we would like to address, but it is also quite a complex area. It is one thing to say, "It would be great if there was more money coming to the police to cover the cost of policing a town centre on a Friday night", but it is another matter designing a scheme which would actually work.
(Mr Denham) Because we have not yet resolved the issues we need to about the future of police pensions. It is the next priority in terms of new policy making in terms of police reform, and we need, as we said in the White Paper, two things really. One is we would like to bring greater certainty and stability for police authorities and chief constables in particular on the issue of paying for pensions because, although we changed the contributions and the grant formula to cover pension costs, at any individual police force level if you have a retirement bulge over a couple of years you can actually get quite out of kilter with what you were seeking to advance. We would like to bring greater certainty into that but not in a way which would incentivise poor management of ill-health retirement or other areas of retirement. The second thing we need to do is look at whether the benefit structure, which is very good and very generous but very structured, is the right one. I do not want to say something which could suggest that we are about to change every police officer's pension scheme, otherwise we would have problems, but looking to the future have we got the right pension scheme for those joining the force in the future, are there different types of structures, are people always going to have near-30 year careers. We need to look at those issues but it is complicated and it is work which is going on with the Home Office and with the Treasury as well.
(Mr Denham) I think the general answer is probably yes, but you have to remember that policing football matches is not just a matter of having large numbers of people on the streets. Some elements of policing football matches does involve quite serious operations against quite unpleasant and violent people who are going to football matches for violent and unpleasant reasons, and you would not want to be getting CSOs involved in that area of activity. The other area which may be relevant to the Bill is that the Accredited Community Safety Officer system may well be something that clubs themselves will want to work with the police on to embrace stewarding within the ground. Many clubs already have very, very good links with the police about the accreditation of stewards, but that is part of the framework which would also be relevant in the Bill.
(Mr Denham) I am cautious at this stage, until it has been possible to do a much more robust analysis than has been done so far, of saying cause and effect. But I have a lot of sympathy with the argument that the impact of 11 September meant that officers who might have been deployed to deal with the rise in street crime were not as readily available as they otherwise would have been. I think one of Sir John Stevens' most persuasive arguments about CSOs is that he needs the flexibility to be able to target his police officers at the major crime problems but also to cover these other needs, particularly reassurance work, which have come high on the agenda since 11 September.
(Mr Denham) I think you make a very real point, and this is an area, as we said in the White Paper, of concern to us. One of the things we also have to bear in mind is that the policing costs do not necessarily directly relate to the business income of the club, and some clubs unfortunately with relatively few fans attract some people who cost a lot to police and others do not. Secondly, we have to be mindful of the very important role that football clubs play in many communities. Whilst we have indicated concern about policing costs, we have to say to the Committee we also need to look at the broader relationship between football, police and the role football plays in the community if we are going to move forward.
(Mr Denham) It is our intention to bring forward amendments which will put police officers in that.
(Mr Denham) You have hit twice ----
(Mr Denham) See if you can get three lemons in a row!
(Mr Denham) I have to say that the formal position is that we are considering doing so, but we have acknowledged the case which has been made on this one. I will be in real trouble now with the Leader of the House for promising an amendment for which I have not got clearance.
(Mr Denham) I must not even talk about the Riot Damages Act in the context of any of those incidents you have mentioned because it is the case in every case that no one has accepted that they have liability under the Act and nor do we want to encourage any lawyers anywhere to believe that liability does exist under the Act. But, you are right, the broad issue of whether an Act which is well over 100 years old is still appropriate has been raised. I honestly cannot say to you whether any conclusions will be reached about that in the timetable of the Bill and the issues are quite complex.
(Mr Denham) Certainly the issue has been raised, yes.
(Mr Denham) I think getting the right package on police pay and conditions is a key part of the reform process. Obviously we are disappointed by what happened in the Federation ballot. It was our intention from the beginning to do two things. One was to make sure that the vast majority of police officers would be better off. The second was to encourage new features in the pay system which would encourage and reward new ways of working, in particular to make sure that people doing difficult and demanding jobs got extra recognition for doing so and the financial incentive to stay in those jobs. So it is an integral part of the overall picture. Of course, we are now in conciliation discussions with the Federation which have been constructive to date and we are very much hoping we can reach agreement.
(Mr Denham) I would not want to set an artificial timetable. I think everybody involved sees the advantages in making progress but, equally, nobody wants to force themselves into a deal on an artificial timetable if there are still issues or details to be resolved. But the process is going on actively and there have been two meetings so far of the PMB since the conciliation process started.
(Mr Denham) It is quite funny because this is always talked about as, "the Home Office has revealed that", and it was actually ministers who set up the study of the diary of police officers because we were worried about the situation. It showed that 43 per cent of police officers' time is spent in police stations. What we did in response to that report was to ask Sir David O'Dowd, who is the retiring Chief Inspector of Constabulary, to set up a team of people to look at how this problem can be overcome and different ways of doing it. We should get their interim report very soon. I think quite sensibly the team has probably spent as much of their time - and this is a team drawn from the Police Service - looking at why nothing happened with all the other reports produced on reducing bureaucracy as coming up with good ideas. There is clearly going to be a range of things which can be done. Some will be literally about reducing paperwork, some will be about where the earliest wins are on the effective use of IT. I visited my own local police station on Friday and you see the same piece of information being written down by hand three or four times when somebody is brought in for arrest. Some of it is about the way things are organised. For example, where an officer arrests somebody, if the officer is responsible for the booking in, the interviewing and all the rest of it, it can take an awful lot of their time. Some police forces are beginning to organise a system where the patrolling officer who arrests somebody and brings somebody into the police station does the absolute minimum of processing and is then back out on the beat again, and so there are organisational changes of that sort. Because Sir David O'Dowd's task force is very heavily rooted in experienced police officers, including front-line police officers, I am optimistic at the moment we will get a good programme of work in the next year or two to really make a difference.
(Mr Denham) You know what is going to happen, the headline will say, "Minister says all police officers should be on bicycles". If I take your question as you put it, I am quite sure that there is a role for some police officers on bicycles in some circumstances but I would not like to give the impression that this minister is about to say which officers or where.
(Mr Denham) At the moment the main mechanism we have for promoting best practice has been through the Thematics which were produced by the Inspectorate. I seem to remember that the Thematic, which was published just before Christmas, about high visibility policing looked at issues like this and promoted them. It is possible, and I cannot say this will happen, the new code of practice which is set out in the Bill, which is not mandatory but would be guidance to officers, might look at some point in the future at how you make police officers more visible in the community and could include ideas of that sort. This is not an area where we are looking at mandatory approaches ---
(Mr Denham) --- but it is an area where, if we get police forces with the new performance system, to say, "How are we doing on public accessibility, public visibility", and forces find they are not doing that well in that area, we would want them to be able to look at the models of best practice which people use. Lots of low-tech things are actually happening. A lot of mobile police stations are being used in more rural areas at the moment, so people go around on a regular basis to different communities; there are drop-in surgeries and things of that sort. I do not think it is quite fair to say that everybody is going for the high-tech solution. I think in recent years there has been quite a swing back towards getting visible, accessible policing out on the streets and we are very keen to encourage that.
(Mr Denham) Yes.
(Mr Denham) I believe it does but I will need to come back to you on that. The name of the Thematic was Open All Hours. If not, I will have a word with the Chief Inspector of Constabulary who actually wrote it and ask him if he looked at bicycles as part of the work.
Chairman: Thank you. On that happy note, we shall conclude. You have been very helpful, Minister, thank you for coming.