Select Committee on Public Accounts Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 140 - 159)



  140. What you are doing is listing the various advantages there are going to be out of the system. I understand that there are going to be advantages. My question is: how did you decide that those advantages were worth £300 million?
  (Mr Gieve) We did not look at it as £300 million extra, we looked at it as the full cost of Airwave. This is not a different question from asking whether if we let the Airwave contract at £1.5 billion over ten years that is going to produce a service worth £1.5 billion. It is the same judgement. I do not think we did.

  141. It is not necessarily the same judgement, is it? You might find that there was another potential service which you could get for £1.4 billion which you knew was a slightly worse service, but actually better value for money. It is not just a question of whether Airwave is worth £1.5 billion but it is a question of whether this is best value for money.
  (Mr Gieve) Yes, it is a comparative judgement. The ACPO review was done on a different basis which did not have a national requirement, did not have right to roam. It was one among a different set of options. I suppose my answer to how we decide whether this is good value for money if we have not priced the benefits is that it is a political judgement, it is a judgement shared with the Police Service on what sort of services are worth doing. Is this a reasonable use of money compared with the other uses we could make of the police's money in terms of the benefits, in terms of public order and crime and the service they provide?

  142. What you seem to be telling me is that before you took this decision you had not actually priced the benefits at all.
  (Mr Webb) I think that is stated in the report. In fact we are doing a benefits realisation exercise: we did start late in the day; it is now going on; we are putting in place measures to identify how current policing is done prior to Airwave going in and the benefits which are approved subsequent to its being delivered.

  143. Is there anything in the contract which says if one of these benefits is not delivered a certain sum will come back to the Police Service?
  (Mr Webb) The contract is not determined in terms of benefits: the contract is determined in terms of delivery of functionality.

Mr Gibb

  144. May I just clarify the cost with you? Is it £1.4 billion fixed cost over the period of the contract and then £180 million of annual charges in addition to that? Is that right?
  (Mr Gieve) No.
  (Mr Webb) No.

  145. How does that £180 million fit in?
  (Mr Gieve) As I understand it the £1.47 billion is the net present cost of the stream of forecast payments over the lifetime of the project.

  146. So £180 million is the net present value of 19 x £180 million.
  (Mr Gieve) Not quite, because we are not paying anything like £180 million this year. I think £180 million is the steady state when everyone is up and running with the full functionality. It is a more complicated sum.

  147. In addition to that there is £130 million in purchasing the hand radio sets for police officers. Is that right?
  (Mr Gieve) No.
  (Mr Webb) It is all included in the £1.47 billion.[8]

  148. I thought in answer to Mr Jenkins you said that the cost of buying the £1,000 hand-held radio sets was in addition to these.
  (Mr Webb) Was down to the Police Service but in fact we have made an estimate within that as to how much that is likely to cost.

  149. That is included in the figure. Is there any other capital equipment which has to be purchased?
  (Mr Webb) There is some capital equipment in terms of control room configuration.

  150. That is also all included.
  (Mr Webb) That is all included. It is either the core charge or the two menu charges.

  151. It is very helpful to have that clarified. What problems have there been with the police communicating with other emergency services?
  (Mr Webb) In the past there is a variation of levels by which they actually communicate. In the past generally it has been done at command level rather than individual officer level and in fact that has generally worked reasonably well though there have been examples where it has not worked terribly well. What we are looking for here is providing an improved way of doing that. It needs to be interoperable with whatever the Fire Service have.

  152. The proposal therefore is that the individual police officer is going to communicate with the individual fire, ambulance and other emergency services.
  (Mr Webb) That is not something which the Fire Service said they want. The police officers can communicate with any other police officer at an incident, even if they come from a different force. That is not so at this moment with the Fire Service.

  153. When I asked you what problems there had been, you said the command structure seemed to work okay but this will enable police officers to communicate with each other. Now you are saying that is not wanted by the other services.
  (Mr Webb) It is not wanted by the Fire Service but it is desired in some cases by the Police Service, particularly for incidents at airports.

  154. Who will pick up this call when a policeman makes a call to the Fire Service and they do not want to receive it?
  (Mr Webb) It will go to their command centre.

  155. In the same way as under the existing structure.
  (Mr Webb) No, at the moment this can only be done command centre to command centre. Police officers have to get to their command, it will then pass across the Fire Service command and then it will pass down the chain.

  156. So the advantage of this system is that the PC no longer goes via his own command centre.
  (Mr Webb) Yes, that could be the case; it could be the case if that were how they wanted to do it.

  157. Is that extra facility worth £1.47 billion?
  (Mr Webb) We are not necessarily looking at that cost. The bulk of the £1.47 billion we have identified here is for interoperability between police forces. At this moment we have a number of different police forces operating across the country. There is a large amount of interoperability across borders of counties and there are areas where we have police forces like British Transport Police and a number of other police forces which operate across a number of police forces.

  158. When has the lack of being able to do that caused a problem? What kind of problems does that give rise to currently?
  (Mr Webb) The sort of thing they are currently experiencing, particularly at airports and activities like this where you have a mixture of police forces, is their ability to be able to talk effectively to each other in an incident.
  (Mr Gieve) Brian Jenkins mentioned a case where his police force had to use public phones to communicate with the nextdoor police force.

  159. Does that happen at the moment?
  (Mr Gieve) Yes.

8   Ref footnote to Q 75. Back

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Prepared 28 November 2002