Select Committee on Home Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum submitted by the Home Office


  1.  Reporting Arrangements for the new Office of Security and Counter-Terrorism (including whether there will be an annual report). (Question 22.)

  The new Office of Security and Counter-Terrorism will have, as its head, a Director General who will report directly to the Permanent Secretary. In addition and as announced on March 29, the Prime Minister has agreed to establish a new Ministerial Committee on Security and Terrorism, subsuming the current Defence and Overseas Policy (International Terrorism) Committee and the counter-radicalisation aspects of the Domestic Affairs Committee's work. The Prime Minister will chair the committee, with the Home Secretary normally acting as deputy chair, although other ministers such as the Foreign Secretary, and the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, will deputise as appropriate. It will be supported by a sub-committee focusing on counter-radicalisation, which will be chaired by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. The Committee will meet regularly, and will be supported by a more frequent weeking meeting focusing on the threat to the UK, chaired by the Home Secretary; and in order to support the Home Secretary in his new role, to establish an Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism, based in the Home Office and reporting to the Home Secretary. The Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism will take on overall responsibility for the CONTEST strategy, reporting through the new Ministerial Committee. The OSCT will also report, as with all other strategic parts of the Home Office, through the annual departmental report.

  2.  A paper for the committee in three months' time giving a detailed account of how the Machinery of Government changes have been implemented—to include some extra information promised by the Permanent Secretary about cross-departmental, as well as internal, working arrangements. (Question 54.)

  A paper will be provided prior to the summer recess but, as an aid, attached are three documents which outline the working protocol between the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice, the Ministerial Responsibilities within the Home Office and a vision document entitled, `The Home Office—Protecting the Public and Securing our Future' which was prepared principally for Home Office staff.

  3.  Will the changes lead to a delay in production of the Home Office Main Estimates? Is a Supplementary Estimate likely to be needed to deal with the consequences of the split?

  The Machinery of Government change did not delay the production of the Home Office's 2007-08 Main Estimate, which was laid before Parliament by HM Treasury on Monday 30th April. The Home Office will subsequently be taking a Supplementary Supply Estimate in order to implement the changes arising from the 9 May Machinery of Government change.

  4.  Will responsibility for resilience-issues such as the protection of sensitive sites and post-attack planning and civil contingencies fall to the OSCT?

  Following the Machinery of Government changes, responsibility for coordinating resilience activity (across a range of threats and risks) will remain with the Civil Contingencies Secretariat in the Cabinet Office. As the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism develops we may need to review how these relationships work, particularly in relation to our resilience to terrorist activity. But it is important to remember that the resilience agenda goes much wider—including massive issues such as our preparedness for natural disasters, pandemic flu, etc.

  5.  What steps will be taken to shift resources from spending on prisons to other more preventative interventions, once budgets have been transferred to the Ministry of Justice? Who will take these steps?

  This is a matter for the Ministry of Justice to determine.

  6.  Does the split affect the timetable for agreeing new Home Office PSA targets? What progress has been made towards drawing up new targets? Will this committee be consulted before the targets are finalised, in line with your predecessor's undertaking to us?

  The CSR is due to be published in the Autumn. This will include the new PSA targets. The changes should not affect this timetable.

  Performance indicators and targets are under development and have not yet been agreed by Ministers. We will send you a note by the end of May indicating the direction of travel we are considering for your comments.

  7.  Given the Home Office responsibility for reducing crime, how can the Government ensure that the Ministry of Justice has sufficient incentive to reduce re-offending? Could there be a joint PSA target shared by the two departments covering reduction in crime and re-offending?

  The incentive regime will be considered as part of the work to develop new performance indicators and targets. Departments remain committed to working together to create an end to end justice system that reduces crime including through reducing re-offending.

  Cross cutting PSAs that are shared by a number of departments will be a feature of the SR07 PSA framework. A joint PSA covering crime reduction and re-offending would be in line with this approach.

  8.  What ministerial posts will there be in the Home Office after 9 May, and with what responsibilities?

  Details of Ministerial posts within the Home Office, along with details of their responsibilities, are listed in the attachments as identified in question 2.

  9.  What consultation have you had with staff and unions about ensuring equity of pay and conditions of staff who transfer departments? What is your assessment of the effect of this split on staff morale and relations with senior departmental staff? Is there a danger that anxiety over staff changes will distract from core Home Office business?

  In line with normal handling of machinery of government moves, the receiving department has responsibility to undertake consultations with employee representatives. This approach is set out in the Cabinet Office Statement of Practice (COSOP) for transfers of staff in the public sector. The Home Office has held separate meetings with its employee representatives to explain that the transfer of staff will be handled in accordance with COSOP. Home Office officials have also had met with DCA officials and provided them with the necessary information to enable the transfer of staff. This information includes the details on pay terms and conditions.

  10.  Will Home Office Ministers henceforth represent the UK at European Union Justice and Home Affairs Councils?

  The UK is currently represented at meetings of the EU Justice and Home Affairs Council by Ministers from the Home Office, including the Home Secretary, the Department of Constitutional Affairs, the Attorney General and the Scottish Executive, depending on the agenda items for discussion at each meeting. This will not change as a result of the Machinery of Government changes to be implemented on 9 May. The Home Office will continue to engage at all levels of negotiation on those EU proposals which will remain within its remit

  11.  How do you envisage that the change in Home Office functions will impact on the role of this Committee? Will the greater degree of focus by Ministers on a smaller group of functions enable them to be more pro-active in involving the Committee at an earlier stage of policy development?

  The Committee needs to take the lead in considering its own role. I hope that we will continue to be able to involve the Committee as much as possible in our work.

  12.  Please supply the Committee with a full list of Home Office responsibilities as at 29 March, showing which will transfer and which will remain, including an outline of working level arrangements to ensure that transferred areas are sufficiently joined-up with non-transferred areas. Likewise a list of Home Office agencies and associated public bodies showing which will transfer and which will remain.

  Details of Departmental and Ministerial responsibilities within the Home Office are located in the attachments as identified in question 2.[2]

  13.  You have said that lead responsibility for all crime types will remain within the Home Office. Please provide us with a breakdown of these crime types.

  As the Home Office will continue to remain responsible for crime, crime reduction and crime prevention, responsibility for all crime types will remain within the Home Office. As crimes are a function of the law at a given point in time, it is not possible to provide a list: nonetheless, if something is a crime, then lead responsibility for that crime will remain with the Home Office.

14 May 2007

2   See Ev 20. Back

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