Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60-79)|
MP, SIR DAVID
NORMINGTON KCB, MS
12 DECEMBER 2006
Q60 Mr Benyon: How many of those
were referred to the police for possible
John Reid: Any one where there
were allegations or any prima facie case of illegality
would be referred to the police, and the police are a completely
independent body from IND and will follow up their enquiries,
as they do in every single case, and I think they would resent
it if anybody suggested that they did not because it was the Immigration
Authority and happened to come under the Home Office. There are
hundreds of people who are sacked every year from the Home Office.
Q61 Bob Russell: Including the Home
John Reid: Not on an annual basis,
but with regularity, Mr Russell, indeed. Thank you for that vote
of confidence. But, if there are allegations of illegality, of
course we pass them on to the police. We would not do otherwise.
Can I guarantee, any more than any other human organisation can
guarantee, that there are not malfeasants which go undiscovered?
No, and it is probably the same in Parliament, or the media, or
anywhere else, but we certainly take robust action. It is in our
interest to do that.
Q62 Mr Benyon: We are told there
is a new mood of transparency. But only through a trawl of endless
Parliamentary Questions, did I find the victim of the case in
The Observer was not actually informed that Mr Dawute had
been sacked; I had to tell her.
John Reid: Had been?
Q63 Mr Benyon: Had been dismissed.
There does not seem to be a particularly transparent process for
investigating these things and keeping all the people who are
John Reid: I was not aware of
that. I do not know the specific circumstances of the case. Notwithstanding
the fact that there are obviously proprieties to be observed on
any case, I would have thought that the alleged victim in this
case ought to have been kept informed of developments, but for
all I know there are proprieties. I do not know, and I will look
at that and, if any offence is caused, of course, I am very sorry.
Q64 Mr Benyon: The Immigration and
Nationality Directorate has obviously gone through a lot of changes,
and most of them, I am sure, we all support, but can you inform
the Committee that it will not be blown off course by any other
events that could occur in a similar way to, for example, the
foreign prisoners problem that we experienced last year? We need
to see that firm leadership is in place.
John Reid: Yes. I said, I think,
the last time to the Committee, I can promise that I will do my
best to get leadership, but I cannot promise to be the Wizard
of Oz. I am not coming here today saying that everything is perfect.
I am saying that progress is being made, and let us remember that
on asylum, which is one of the great issues of illegal immigration,
we are now at the lowest level for 14 years. That has not happened,
as I said, by accident. Decisions are now taken in under two months
compared to 22 months in 1997, removals for the third quarter
of this year are 89% up compared to removals in 1997 and in the
first three quarters of 2006 are 19% up on last year. So there
is a lot of good work being down by Lin Homer and her staff as
well. We come from a position where the world changed so rapidly.
As I said the last time I was here, I thought we were not up to
meeting that challenge without a step-change, a transformation
in IND. We published a document here.
Q65 Chairman: Home Secretary, you
are intimately setting this out possibly at more length than the
Committee can take at the moment. I think we should move on to
the next question.
John Reid: We do not have a surfeit
of good news.
Chairman: The Committee is trying to
recover from the news that you are not going to be the Wizard
of Oz, but, as we do not wish to be a bunch of Munchkins, we will
move on quickly to Mr Clappison.
Q66 Mr Clappison: Can I just ask
you a brief question about the removals process. One of the things
that struck us in our inquiry into immigration control was that
there was not a strong enough link between individuals who were
given the news that they were not able to stay in the country
and the process of actually removing them from the country. There
was not a smooth enough process between people being told they
could not stay here and then actually being removed. Are you satisfied
that has been improved?
John Reid: Would you mind if I
passed on that? That seems to me to be clearly an operational
question. We are trying to develop a relationship, a so-called
contract, which places the burden of responsibility where it ought
to be. I know that much of this is a grey area, but that would
seem to me to be an operational equation where I would take the
advice from the Director General, if I might.
Ms Homer: Mr Clappison, I think
one of the things we talked with you about before was our movement
to what we call the new asylum model, essentially an approach
which has a case owner and which looks to have some end to end
responsibility for a case as it goes through the system. We were
due to roll that out during the year, with it becoming operational
in the new financial year next year, and we are on target to deliver
that, but we have already been introducing that concept as we
have gone forward, not just in asylum but throughout our business,
and I think that is one of the ways we ensure that there is continuity,
there is a focus on the outcome that we are looking for rather
than the series of decisions on the way (and I think it is one
of the major ways) in which we will continue to get an improvement.
Q67 Mr Clappison: Can I ask you about
people who are given permission to stay in the country, the legal
immigration in the system, which is something within your responsibility.
You will know that concern has been expressed in many quarters
about the level of net migration being experienced by the country
today. Are you happy with that level of net migration?
John Reid: I think in the last
few years the level of migration has been commensurate with the
demands of the economy, and we have been able to absorb that migration.
I think that most commentators would say that the work that was
commissioned by the Home Office got the projections pretty wildly
wrong, but, as it happened, the contribution that was made on
the cost-benefit analysis appears to have been very beneficial
to the country. However, you may say that is arguable, time may
tell. What I am saying is that it seemed to me that, in the light
of that experience, we ought to take an approach to Bulgaria and
Romania, for instance, in a more managed fashion, and that is
why I announced that we would attempt to limit the number of low-skilled
workers from those countries. Simultaneously, we are introducing
a points-based system, which means that we try to make sure that
those who come to this country turn to the labour market, are
needed here and bring badly needed skills. Simultaneously, I personally
would like to see an independent Migration Advisory Committee,
a committee independent of government, which indicates to government
publicly advice on the most beneficial level of immigration, taking
into account the needs of the labour market but wider issues.
All three of those, I think, are a response to your question:
should it be managed? As to the optimum level, that will change
from time to time, but one of things I want to bring in is a body
that would give us advice on that.
Q68 Mr Clappison: I will come to
that in a moment. You have mentioned the optimum level. Your projection
into the futureI hope you are aware of itis 145,000
people coming to the country net, adding to the population every
year for years to come. Are you telling the Committee you are
happy with that and with the consequences which will flow from
John Reid: The level that actually
will be required in any given year will depend on a huge number
of factors, not least the birth rate, the death rate, the emigration
level from this country, which is now not people leaving because
they are in impoverished circumstances seeking a better life,
as was the case some time ago, but people who are reasonably affluent
and want to spend their last years of retirement abroad. It will
depend on the growth of the economy, the specialism and skills,
and so on. There is a huge number of factors. The idea that you
just pick a number and say: are you a happy bunny or are you discontent
with this arbitrary number
Q69 Mr Clappison: Home Secretary,
I am sorry for interrupting you but time is moving on. These are
your government projections.
John Reid: I understand that.
Q70 Mr Clappison: It is within the
capability of government to change that figure and to control
immigration through the issue of work permits, which is something
the Government did when it significantly increased work permits
as soon as it came into power. I am not talking here about the
Eastern European accession, I am talking about the net figure
for work permits, which was more than doubled very shortly after
the Government came to power, which more than doubled the rate
of net migration. You can control that, so are you happy with
the consequences which you see?
John Reid: The consequence of
what we have done over the past 10 years of which you are so critical,
Mr Clappison, is that we have had the biggest period of sustained
growth in our economy for 200 years, we have two and a half million
people more in jobs, we no longer have 25% male unemployment as
we had in my area under the last government, but around 5%, we
are spending three times much in on our public services, we have
reduced the national debt and altogether we have had a growth
in living standards. Immigration has contributed towards that,
and so to pluck a number and say the last 10 years has had high
immigration, therefore it has had awful consequences belies the
historical facts. What I am saying for the future is I think we
would benefit from independent advice on this matter. I think
we would benefit from managed immigration more fairly and more
effectively than we have done in the past, tackling illegal immigration,
getting unfounded asylum seekers out of the country, making sure
that those who come to the country bring qualifications which
are those which are needed and making sure that the net cost to
our society, not only in the labour market but elsewhere, is of
benefit to usthat the benefits are greater than the cost.
Q71 Mr Clappison: Can I ask you about
your Immigration Advisory Committee, because what it conspicuously
does not do is set any sort of limit or give advice on the sorts
of issues which you refer to. In your consultation you have not
asked this. You have not asked them give to give advice about
housing, which the Government does not seem to be taking into
account; you have not asked them to take into account environmental
consequences, infrastructure, cultural cohesion. There is no mention
of a limit being set by the committee. It is giving you advice
about the fine tuning of the points system. In your opinion, are
you happycan I come back to the original questionwith
this level of migration which your government foresees continuing
into the future?
John Reid: I am sorry, but the
whole premise to your question is wrong. The consultation is precisely
about what it should consider other than pure labour market statistics.
That is precisely what we are asking. If you feel, and you obviously
do, that it should be considering wider aspects, then it is open
to you or the committee to make representations on that point.
If you do, you are pushing at an open door as far as I am concerned,
because I think it should not just look at the narrow labour market,
otherwise we would have stayed with the Skills Advisory Council
(we could have done that), but what we said is, no, let us look
a little wider than that and have a Migration Advisory Committee
which can give advice to the Government and do it in public, and
I would have thought that would have met some of the objections
you appear to have about sailing blind in the past.
Chairman: Mr Clappison, we must move
on to another topic before we close. Can we turn now to policing
and related issues. Mr Browne.
Q72 Mr Browne: Home Secretary, I
would like to ask you two questions about police force mergers.
Earlier this year members of Parliament were told that there was
a strategic imperative to change the 43 force structure in England
and Wales, that it was inadequate for modern policing requirements.
That was then shelved when you were the Home Secretary, and, in
the speech you gave announcing this decision, you said, "I
fully recognise the powerful arguments behind the strategic force
approach and I have said already that the status quo is not acceptable."
So, although it was shelved, you appear to imply there that there
was not going to be a 43 force model but they may not go as low
as 17. I am curious to know what you have in mind, particularly
given today's headlines in the newspapers which appear to suggest
that the terrible murders in and around Ipswich are potentially
problematic for a force as small as Suffolk. So, if we are not
going to have 43 forces, how many are we likely to have?
John Reid: I think this is based
on a misapprehension. What I shelved was not either the views
of the inspector of the constabulary or the benefits of bringing
forces together. What I shelved was the process of getting to
that destination by pushing it through Parliament against an opposition
in Parliament that may well have defeated it, without the necessary
fiscal arrangements from the Treasury to raise the precepts, without
the money to do it, against the opposition of a great number of
the forces themselves and with the likelihood, on the timescale
or revision, of judicial review finding me legally at fault. So,
when I looked at this, there were a number of reasons which suggested
to me that the process on which we had embarked was not, in my
judgment, a process that would ultimately beneficially lead us
towards the destination to which we wanted to get. The destination
to which we wanted to get, which is collaboration between forces,
whether that is partnership, merger or whatever, we are attempting
to get to through discussion and dialogue. Tony McNulty has been
engaged in discussing with a lot of the forces throughout the
country. We will continue to do that. If it takes a little longer
than already envisaged, my judgment was that the problems we were
going to run into under the other process of trying to do it would
have caused us to take an awfully long time as well. So that is
basically where we want to go.
Q73 Mr Browne: Home Secretary, with
respect, I think you are blurring the distinction between collaboration
and mergers. I know very few people who object to police forces
collaborating with each other, but I know lots of people in the
part of the country I represent, for example, who do not want
to see a south-west strategic force that goes from Swindon to
the Scilly Isles and thinks that is too big for the scale of policing
that they envisage. I am interested if you could clarify that
distinction between collaboration and mergers?
John Reid: I am not blurring it.
Q74 Mr Browne: What individual forces
are we are looking at then?
John Reid: I am not blurring the
distinction between partnership, or merger, or collaboration.
Some people want partnership; some people want to collaborate.
As it happened at least two forces wanted to merge; so that is
available. What I am saying is it was not the destination of collaborative
approach to fill that gap in our police services that we are opposed
to, it was the process of getting there that was not likely to
lead us to the destination we wanted. What we are trying to do
now is to persuade people to fill that gap, which is particularly
evidenced in small forces, by some means other than enforced merger.
It could be mergers for those who wished to merge, it could be
collaboration for those who do not wish toas you pointed
out some do notit could be some form of joint partnership
in certain areas, and it could be different aspects of that for
different subjects, for instance counter terrorism or organised
crime, and that is a process that is underway at the moment in
discussion with ACPO and the individual forces. That is all I
Q75 Mr Browne: At the moment we have
43 forces in England and Wales with their own chief constables
and their own distinctive badges and everything else. At the end
of this process, how many do you envisage that being?
John Reid: That is what the discussions
Q76 Mr Browne: You have no view on
what that number ought to be?
John Reid: The important thing
at the end of this is not how many people have egg on their shoulder
or checks on their cap, it is how many forces have the capacity
to deal with a range of major crimes without dragging people out
of neighbourhood policing, and everything I do is centred around
preserving neighbourhood policing and then making sure that the
other aspects are filled as well.
Mr Browne: A very tiny supplementary
to this, which is that forces, including my own, have some concerns
about the amount of compensation that they have received from
the Home Office for the money they spent on investigating and
exploring merger options. It is very unfortunate that this has
coincided with an announcement about reductions in envisaged additional
police community support officers. This obviously does not apply
to the area you represent, but do you understand the concern there
is in areas like mine, when people see potential squeezes in police
budgets, that compensation for money spent on mergers has not
been adequately given?
Q77 Chairman: Can you restrict your
answer to the compensation issue, because we want to come to CSOs
in just a moment?
John Reid: I hope, in areas like
yours, they have recognised there is a record number of police
probably moving out to neighbourhood policing, and in compensation
I hope they recognise that I think there was a total of six and
a half million pounds asked for. It is rarely that any of us get
everything that we ask for. Four million pounds was paid out,
which in more than half of the cases was everything that was asked
for. In some cases we paid for everything except what was budgeted
for as "opportunity costs". We did not feel that that
was a legitimate claim, but we paid out considerable amounts of
money. The final thing I would say, paying out four million out
of six and a half million pounds, I think, was reasonable. Not
all of the work that was done was wasted. In some areas, for instance,
the teams that were set up and the work that has been done is
being continued, so I think we have made a reasonable compensation
for what was spent.
Q78 Chairman: Are there explicit
standards for the capacity to deal with level two crime that you
want forces to achieve by collaboration? This whole thing was
kicked off by concern about level two crime. There do not seem
to be any set standards that you expect police forces to achieve?
John Reid: I think there are judgments
that are made by HMIC, and those judgments identified that there
was a deficit in some of these areas which would be filled by
mergers. I think the previous Home Secretary took the view (and
history may prove him right) that these mergers would never take
place unless they were imposed from the top. I took the view,
because different people make different judgments
Q79 Chairman: Are there clear standards
that must be met? We understand the process, but are you now clear
that collaboration will be required to achieve a defined level
of standards for dealing with level two crime? That is what kicked
off this whole debate.
John Reid: Yes, they did, and
the optimum level of response to that crime would only be achieved
by people collaborating togetherI think that is the casebut
it need not be a template that is imposed on every area in the
same format. Indeed, it may be that we have to disintegrate some
of the services, like counter terrorism, and have different forms
of collaboration for different areas, Chairman.
Chairman: If you could give us a couple
more minutes, Mr Prosser has some questions on CSOs.