Examination of Witnesses(Questions 20-39)|
MONDAY 29 APRIL 2002
20. I wonder if I can go straight to table 16,
paragraph 5.31, which I think is illustrative of the problem.
Can I just ask because these figures are for March 31 2001, we
are now well into 2002, whether you now have the estimates, the
figures, for the last year?
(Mr Broadbent) For the year we have just finished,
that finished 29 days ago, I do not have full sets of figures.
21. You will have estimates though presumably.
(Mr Broadbent) We have data coming in. If we take
a lot of the things we do, seizures, for example, take place all
over the world, so I do not have a full set of figures. Calculating
the impact of any given set of indicators on what is the key point,
which is the outcome target, is even more complex because you
have to calculate market shares, you need sales data. To get to
a judgment about whether we have achieved an outcome is something
that is going to take us several months. Over the next few months
we will have more and more data on the various activities that
we undertake which has to be brought together with analysis of
the market to produce the outcome judgment.
22. So what you are really saying is you are
(Mr Broadbent) I am sorry?
23. You are plaiting fog rather than managing
(Mr Broadbent) No, we are managing a process.
Jon Trickett: It sounds like you are
plaiting fog if you do not know
Chairman: I am sorry, what did you say,
Mr Trickett, I did not hear?
Jon Trickett: Plaiting fog. It is a Yorkshire
Chairman: We are speaking English here!
24. I will translate it for your benefit, Chairman.
What I mean to say is that there is no management information
then upon which you can measures your attainments?
(Mr Broadbent) We have management information. At
this stage of the year it is by no means complete because the
year ended only a number of days ago and we are covering a very,
very large number of indicators. The point I was trying to make
is the important judgment, which I thought you asked me about,
is are we achieving our goal, which is to reduce tobacco smuggling,
which is the target that we have been set. To get to that judgment
we make an assessment of probably 40 or 50 indicators and that
information will flow in.
25. Have you seized more cigarettes or less?
(Mr Broadbent) In the last year?
(Mr Broadbent) The current indication is we have probably
seized about the same.
27. Has consumption increased or decreased?
(Mr Broadbent) We do not know yet. I am afraid if
we go through a list of many different indicators it would not
be surprising in something as complex as this if we found that
some had gone up, some had gone down, some we have not got at
all yet because we do not have sales data, for example, and consumption
data until later in the year when the Household Survey comes out
later in the year. The point I would like to make because I am
not plaiting fog, I hope, if I can borrow your expression, is
if I was making a judgment today, now, which I will try and do
in a sense to be helpful, on the basis of the information that
I have now, which as I say is disparate, of different time periods
coming in and some I lack altogether, I would say that I am reasonably
confident that we have built on the success we had last year and
that we are moving towards stabilising this market. I could not
tell you now whether we are going to be actually on the dot but
I am confident that we are going to be there or thereabouts.
28. I seem to think you indicated to the Chairman
that you have increased the number of scanners, admittedly at
some funny parts of the year, and yet you have only seized approximately
the same number of cigarettes. It does seem to me that the key
to all of this is not so much the technology which this paper
would have us focus our minds on, rather the intelligence which
indicates where we ought to be. Intelligence, it seems to me,
is another way of saying management information and yet the management
information is singularly missing, is it not?
(Mr Broadbent) I agree with the importance of management
information, if I may say so, but intelligence is an absolutely
critical tool and it is not just management information. For example,
in the past year we have invested £11 million in bringing
together a national co-ordination unit which is designed to sort
data, which is not internal management data but it is things like
Customs hotline data, information from overseas agencies. We have
increased our tasking of covert sources. We have a range of intelligence
activities. If you measure our intelligence output it has gone
up, you can measure that, but it has not gone up, for example,
as much as our examination rate has gone up.
29. Let me try something different then but
on the same theme of management information. What proportion do
you think of the scans which you conduct are random and what proportion
are directed by intelligence towards particular operators or vehicles,
as an approximate figure?
(Mr Broadbent) We conduct effectively no scans at
random but we can think broadly in terms of two streams of intelligence.
One is very specific intelligence which has been developed through
target operations, through covert means, through information received,
and that set of intelligence is often down to say "we will
stop that lorry" through to "watch for something on
this shipment". That is one set of intelligence. Another
set of intelligence which essentially is analytic will look at,
for example, patterns of data, is the load commercial, how is
it paid for, you can analyse. In broad terms we try never to make
random stops because they are almost wholly ineffective but there
is intelligence at different levels and quality that guides us.
30. I understand. I think you said there were
150,000 scans last year, ish?
(Mr Broadbent) Yes, ish.
31. How many of those as a percentage produce
a successful hit in the sense of identifying contraband do you
(Mr Broadbent) Again, I am afraid it is very difficult
to generalise because most of those scanners were not in use for
a full year and I have to be very clear, and I have no problem
saying this, we are still learning how to make the best use of
scanner technology. If I take a port like Dover, for example,
we are looking at a hit rate of between 2 and 3%.
32. You might say that your intelligence is
not yet finally refined if all of those scans were based on intelligence
(Mr Broadbent) If I took detections based on what
I might call specific intelligence, that is the first sort that
I mentioned to you, the hit rate is 56%. The issue for us on intelligence
is maintaining the quality and increasing the volume. It is actually
relatively easier to increase your examinations, you can put people
on a dock and stop the lorries. Creating intelligence is actually
the critical intellectual task, and that is much more difficult
33. Probably then you have hit on about 4,500
(Mr Broadbent) I am sorry?
34. I think you have hit on about 4,500 contraband
(Mr Broadbent) In Dover?
35. Yes. Not in Dover. You said 3% of the scans
approximately produced successful hits.
(Mr Broadbent) I was taking Dover as an example. It
is difficult to produce a national figure because, as I say, not
every port has a scanner and in most ports the scanner has only
been there for a period of months. I instanced Dover because it
is a large port and the scanner has been there for a full 12 months.
36. I want to move on, but still within the
same theme of intelligence and management information and so on.
One of the problems was so-called methodological inconsistencies
in the data used to measure market penetration. Can you tell us
more about that, please? This is 5.29.
(Mr Broadbent) This goes to some of the complexity
of developing outcome targets. One of the things we need to know
in determining whether we are achieving our outcome is consumption
of tobacco. We use several sources for consumption of tobacco,
including the General Household Survey, the Omnibus Survey, and
one of the things that we have discovered as we go through our
data, which we do regularly, is that there is a technical inconsistency
between the way in which the General Household Survey and Omnibus
Survey describe smokers between packet smoking and tobacco smoking
and we are ironing that out. I think there are going to be a number
of these sorts of revisions, the revision is not material. The
development and the measurement of outcome targets, which as I
say is completely new, involves us in going back over the ground
again and again to try to improve the accuracy of the target.
Can I just say one thing, I do not want to mislead you. I believe
the figure of 2-3% I gave you in relation to the number of detections
at Dover was all detections, not just from those that have been
through the scanner. I am sorry, I would not want to get that
37. This Report would have us focus on scanners,
I think, and I think it is a conjuring act. I personally think
you would prefer us to look at scanners and maybe you think the
Committee are interested in technology and so on, but I rather
think that the focus of attention on tobacco smuggling ought to
be on intelligence and so on. I just want to turn to the C&AG
because I note Section 2 of the 1921 Act requires him to satisfy
himself about the adequacy of procedures and so on and so forth.
Do you feel that the methodologies which Customs are using to
measure themselves after all, which we have just heard about,
are sufficiently robust actually to determine whether or not the
21% figure is accurate in any way?
(Sir John Bourn) Mr Trickett, you say "accurate
in any way", within that context the answer would be yes
but I recognise the difficulty that is faced in developing the
methodology. That is really one of the basic reasons why I bring
it to the Committee's attention.
38. I think you are required to judge yourself
(Sir John Bourn) Yes.
39. Whether or not you think this methodology,
which was inconsistent at one stage, is now robust. I am asking
you, and I will try to use as few words as possible so you cannot
hang your answer on one of my words, whether or not you feel that
this methodology is now robust?
(Sir John Bourn) It is more robust than it was but
there is still scope for improvement.
2 Note by witness: 155,000 challenges, of which
70,000 were scanned. Back