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UNCORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE To be published as HC 1006-i

House of COMMONS

MINUTES OF EVIDENCE

TAKEN BEFORE

HOME AFFAIRS comittee

 

 

WORK OF ACPO

 

 

Tuesday 13 October 2009

SIR HUGH ORDE and CHIEF CONSTABLE TIM HOLLIS

Evidence heard in Public Question 1 - 34

 

 

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Oral Evidence

Taken before the Home Affairs Committee

on Tuesday 13 October 2009

Members present

Keith Vaz, in the Chair

Tom Brake

Ms Karen Buck

Mr James Clappison

Mrs Anne Cryer

David T C Davies

Mrs Janet Dean

Patrick Mercer

Gwyn Prosser

Bob Russell

Mr Gary Streeter

Mr David Winnick

________________

Witnesses: Sir Hugh Orde, President, Association of Chief Police Officers, and
Chief Constable Tim Hollis, Vice-President, Association of Chief Police Officers, gave evidence.

Q1 Chairman: Sir Hugh, Mr Hollis, thank you very much for coming to give evidence today. I know that you have had other engagements, Sir Hugh, and we are very grateful to you for sparing your time to come and see us. As you know, the Committee has embarked on an inquiry into counter‑terrorism generally so we are going to ask you a couple of questions about that in view of your vast experience in Northern Ireland and then we are going to move on fairly swiftly to ACPO and issues concerning ACPO. Sir Hugh, you courted controversy in 2008 when you met with Loyalist paramilitaries. Do you regret what happened? Are you glad you did it? Do you think police officers in other parts of the United Kingdom ought to be engaging with extremists?

Sir Hugh Orde: In terms of controversy, it is a judgment call, frankly, Chairman. When I took over in Northern Ireland I formed the view that I would talk to anyone who wanted to make a difference to policing. Against that background I have talked to extremists from all sides within the Northern Ireland context and not only that, of course, I have a policing board which I am held to account by, which has people who have interesting histories on and I am obliged to communicate with because they are the accountability body in Northern Ireland. My learning from it, frankly, is it is good to talk. Certainly the state where Northern Ireland was of course when I took over it was the only way forward and I think a consequence of those conversations, difficult though many of them were, was that people are alive today who would not have been and that is a pretty good backdrop against which one can justify those decisions. What I did not do was compromise my position as a police officer. I made absolutely clear to all those who I did speak to, be it privately or indeed on some occasions publicly, that I would do the policing role and they needed to be aware of that but I was happy to listen and try and understand where they were coming from so they could bring their communities with them and, by and large, they did of course. You know the great complexity of Northern Ireland and, of course, the endgame is difficult and it is more dangerous now than it was two years ago, quite frankly.

Q2 Chairman: Your recommendation to colleagues in the Met or those urban areas where some of these threats have been identified would be to talk to extremist groups, whether they be in mosques or wherever, and start an engagement process without compromising obviously their position as police officers.

Sir Hugh Orde: I think there are those conversations which take place with people who have access to people who perhaps had extremist views already. It is how you do it, it has to be bespoke to the situation you are facing. I am not saying that the Northern Ireland model would work over here, the endgame of terrorism in Northern Ireland is fundamentally different from the challenges faced by the mainland forces currently. No-one has yet been able to give me an example of any terrorist campaign, for want of a better description, that has been resolved simply by physical force or military intervention. I am not sure there is one, but I have not heard about it.

Q3 Patrick Mercer: Sir Hugh, this sounds like a broad question, but if you could keep it as narrow as possible. What are the main lessons in countering terrorism that you have learned in the service of Ulster?

Sir Hugh Orde: Of course I took over when the actual real terrorist threat of the Provisional IRA and, indeed, the major Loyalist groups had realised they were not going to win the so‑called war. I was not there at that point, so perhaps that is a question better directed at others. I think the police role is a relentless pursuit of those who are engaged in serious criminality, which of course is what terrorism is, to create the conditions where they come to terms with the fact they are not going to win this war and come to the table. If you look at the history of Northern Ireland, that is where it got to. The RUC was very successful in preventing and detecting terrorist offences to the point where the world moved on. The first point is we have our primary duty which is to preserve life and enforce the law. That is what we bring to the party.

Q4 Patrick Mercer: At a much lower level I was profoundly impressed by the establishment of the Regional Transition Co-ordinating Groups, RTCGs. Has it not surprised you that it has taken the English, Welsh and Scottish establishments so long to replicate something like them in the shape of regional intelligence units?

Sir Hugh Orde: I think it was driven by the threat quite frankly. It is a matter for UK forces to work out when they move in that direction. I think what it does identify is the complexity of British policing. We have 44 police forces. The regional centres have been a great example of the ability to bring together to deal with more strategic issues cross‑force a structure that is working. I know Margaret has already spoken to you about that and she would be far better briefed, as would John Yates, than I on the intricacies of that, but it shows we can do it. Of course to achieve it cost a lot of money and it would not have been achieved, quite frankly, without that pump‑priming from Government to make it happen that quickly. My personal view and the current position of ACPO is that larger forces are the way to go. I think if you do that, what you achieve are far less false boundaries, barriers and personalities, quite frankly. What you do is you create larger units that can deliver against the international and national threat at the top end of the business without compromising local policing. That is doable.

Q5 Mr Winnick: Sir Hugh, we saw on television screens in the last few days the dissident Republican group, trying to get as much publicity for itself as possible, paying tribute to someone who died in a suicide or otherwise. Undoubtedly there has been tremendous political progress in Northern Ireland, whatever may be the position at this moment in time. Are you at all surprised that dissident Republican groups have resurfaced?

Sir Hugh Orde: Yes, and, as I said, in about 2007 the world was looking very positive. In about 2007 we started to pick up intelligence of small groups, Real IRA, Continuity IRA, Oglaigh na hEireann, starting to build some level of greater support, albeit small in the context of Northern Ireland so, yes, I was slightly surprised that they had held on as long as they have. I thought the endgame was always going to be difficult. What I do know is there is no support within communities as evidenced from the feedback after the murders of the two Sappers and, indeed, my officer, Stephen Carroll, just a few months ago. On the most difficult and challenging estates there was a groundswell of disgust that would not have been seen seven years ago. They are still isolated; they still have sufficient grip to be very difficult. What is critical at the moment is the support from An Garda Siochana which we are getting at 110% because many of the attacks are mounted from the Republic of Ireland and again making sure that our resources deployed on terrorism in Northern Ireland are not denuded in any way, shape or form. They are beatable, but it is going to take a little time. Of course, Government gave us additional funding to make sure we did not drop the critical intelligence effort against these people because on many occasions I can say with absolute clarity events have been prevented, disrupted and not gone ahead because of the very effective use of intelligence from ourselves, An Garda Siochana and security forces.

Q6 Mr Winnick: You are reasonably satisfied that nowhere near the sort of violence which existed for 30 years is likely to return to Northern Ireland insofar as anything can be certain about Northern Ireland.

Sir Hugh Orde: I think it is a fundamentally different threat. If it does start to gain any ground, it will be a different sort of campaign. This is not the Provisional IRA, it does not have, as a starting point, that depth of support within any community. Loyalism has moved on in that sense. Loyalist terrorist groups, so‑called, are basically criminal organisations now, they are not a threat to the State. In terms of dissident Republicans, they do not have that support. On the murder of Stephen Carroll, the information that came from a deeply Republican community was substantial and where they could not give evidence or information they gave support and that is why it is different.

Q7 Chairman: Could we now turn to general ACPO issues. Could I start by asking, if you had three top priorities as the new President of ACPO - it is one of the top jobs of policing in the UK - what would those three priorities be?

Sir Hugh Orde: The first would be to go back to Ireland, frankly, Chairman!

Q8 Chairman: Matt Baggot might have something to say about that.

Sir Hugh Orde: Yes, he would. I thought running Northern Ireland was difficult until I took over this job. A number of things. One is I think we need to be very clear about what ACPO is. In my judgment it is the professional voice of the Service. I am supported by three vice-presidents, of which Tim Hollis is but one, Sir Norman and, indeed, Matt Baggott being the other two, but of course I am the only full-time chief constable involved in ACPO. These people have a day job. I think we need to become the voice of the profession and fill the gap perhaps where HMIC has gone in a slightly different direction where traditionally it would have been seen as the voice of the profession, that needs to be our role. We need to be very clear on that, I think. That would be the first one. I think the second one would be clarity on how we are organised. I have no difficulty with being a transparent organisation. We are more than happy to be subject to the Freedom of Information Act. Of course, most of our information is owned by chief constables anyway so it is absolutely retrievable, but I do think we are more than happy for that and work is underway on that front with legislation that, I am told, will be necessary to achieve it. I think transparency is important and also we need to be clearer on how we articulate what we do, which is a huge piece of work. We try and draw together common policies across 44 forces so there is a consistency of approach on the key issues of policing, be it crime, terrorism, operational policing or diversity. Different chief constables do this in addition to their day job. I have asked for a piece of work to be done to clarify, if you want to do it differently, and I am happy for that debate, what would it actually cost because this work is done by my colleagues in addition to other pieces of work. I think a professional voice for the Service, clarity about what we are here to do in terms of national policy against a localised backdrop and I will ask Tim Hollis to give the third because I cannot think of one.

Chief Constable Hollis: I think the big issue for us is the high level protected service meets the complexity of policing, Chairman, and to retain the balance. Last Friday you will be aware there was a big announcement on the delivery of the Policing Pledge which is very much about the grass roots of policing, delivering for local communities at neighbourhood policing level. Sir Hugh already indicated, and there was a question from one of your colleagues, that the high level issues around the serious organised threat of crime, counter‑terrorism, cross-border co‑operation and joint working are also part of that same tapestry of policing. There is a tension in policing between the local, national and regional work currently taking place.

Chairman: We will be coming to all those points with questions for you shortly.

Q9 Tom Brake: Sir Hugh, you said you want ACPO to be the professional voice of the Service, but at the same time ACPO is being given powers which are statutory powers which mean that in some respects it is a public body. Is it possible to be both a public body and the professional voice of the Service?

Sir Hugh Orde: Yes, I think so. We have very little power. I have no power, I have influence frankly. I can influence 44 chiefs so I can try and get commonality of approach and because most police officers come from roughly the same point we can deliver a degree of consistency against an operationally independent bunch of people, but I think we can be, yes. I do not see where the conflict is, if you could help me with the particular detail of what causes you concern.

Q10 Tom Brake: Would you agree that the fact that ACPO is part financed by the Government, part financed by the police authorities, as Lord Stoddart of Swindon has said, really means that, in effect, you are a public body which has specific responsibilities and which needs to be open and transparent I think in the ways you said you wanted it to be, but in some ways that does conflict, does it not, with what you have described as being the professional voice of the Service because those two things may not always sit comfortably together?

Sir Hugh Orde: The short answer, I think, is no. All police forces are funded by public money and chief officers are not backward in coming forward with their professional judgments on things. Frankly, I think the financing of ACPO is not satisfactory. I am absolutely up for debate on how ACPO is financed and there may be a better way.

Q11 Tom Brake: I am sure we would like to hear.

Sir Hugh Orde: There may be a better way of doing it. I do not know the answer. I started conversations with the Home Office when I took over. The budget of ACPO is about 2 million to run the business and we handle money on behalf of the Home Office which goes to forces, about 17 million last year, if I remember. Very pragmatically about ten years ago to try and get some transparency on what was a band of volunteers, ACPO became a limited company. Am I comfortable being a limited company? No, I am not frankly. I think that it is an awkward mix, but at least it gave us an ability to hire people, to rent premises, to do the hygiene factors and to publish accounts so we could have transparency in our accounts which are, by the way, as ever, unqualified. We had to have something. I am absolutely happy to have a debate with whoever it needs to be on is there a better way of structuring ACPO. The question I would raise is if people think they have a better version we need to step back and reflect on what it would look like and what it would cost because at the minute the actual running of ACPO's central office, which co-ordinates all this work and brings together the chiefs, the assistant chiefs and our experts from our support side, is 2 million. To beg and borrow, as we do, some from police authorities, some from the Home Office, smaller amounts to do specific research is not a satisfactory way of running what I think is a very important piece of business.

Q12 Tom Brake: Do you think the fact that there is not any clarity in terms of the funding arrangements is actually getting in the way of ACPO doing the job it is supposed to do?

Sir Hugh Orde: Yes, I think it does.

Q13 Tom Brake: In what way is it getting in the way?

Sir Hugh Orde: It gets in the way because it is a very easy shot that ACPO is this limited company full of people. I am not sure the public understands the Association of Chief Police Officers is a limited company. As a member of the public that seems a bit strange, so I think it is a debate to have. In the meantime we have to have some legal status so we can run the business, and that was exactly why it was set up. It was not for some deeply sinister reason. All chief officers deliver additional work at no extra money. The police authorities allow them to do it, and thank heavens they do. I am very interested in sharing the load and we have a conference in November to see if we can widen the load across the 360 or so members because some of our guys are doing a huge amount of national work as well as their local jobs.

Q14 Bob Russell: Sir Hugh, looking back to the speech you gave to the ACPO conference in July, what do you see as being the greatest challenges facing the Police Service over the coming decade?

Sir Hugh Orde: The obvious one is funding, money spent on policing. About 80% as you will know is spent on people, about 61% on sworn officers, about 19% or 20% on unsworn officers. Any substantial cut into the budget against a backdrop of increasing efficiencies being delivered over the last five to ten years at some stage will have an impact somewhere. Our job has to be to make sure the frontline is protected as best as it can be. In relation to that, the debate around the structure of policing comes to the fore. With Tim and colleagues, having attended every party conference in the recent months the debate around a formal or independently led review of the police structure does not seem to be on any party's agenda. I think the White Paper will come up with encouraged collaboration which at best will be suboptimal. We have got a struggle there, a challenge, and we will do our level best - Tim will speak more eloquently on this because he runs the front end of the business - to make sure the front end is protected. That is a key issue. In terms of crime trends, I think the terrorism issue has to remain right at the top of the national agenda and international agenda. I know you are seeing people specifically in relation to that so I will not touch on that in detail. Organised crime, cross-border crime, and we have many borders, is also top of our agenda. I was at a regional meeting only last week where the south east region is mobilising already to reflect the HMI's report on getting organised around organised crime, Bridging the Gap, and I am at Suffolk tomorrow to look at the eastern region. The work is going on and at the front of every colleague's mind is, "How can we do this without something else giving?" The reality is that police officers say "yes" to everything. I think what you will see in the future is, "If you want more of this, please tell us what you do not want" because people are very good at adding stuff on, they are not very good at taking stuff off, and it is those hard choices.

Q15 Ms Buck: Sir Hugh, can you give us an indication of how many targets you feel the Police Service is now working to?

Sir Hugh Orde: Well, I have only got ten fingers so I will ask Tim to deal with that because he deals with this on a daily basis.

Chief Constable Hollis: I carry some personal baggage here in the sense that I am Chief Constable of Humberside Police. When I took over that force in April 2005 it was a force that was in special measures, it was engaged with the Home Office on the Police Standards Unit and we were in a difficult place on a very narrow set of targets to deliver. We have now moved on and the comment is that the Home Office and the Police Service have won the overarching target, which is public confidence, albeit it is articulated as public confidence in the police and the local authorities delivering satisfaction on crime and anti-social behaviour, so it is quite a complex one but it is one target. The other targets do still remain and are still being monitored. There is a tension for us at the moment as police chiefs about where we put our energies because, albeit we are working hard to deliver the confidence target, and that is being monitored, there is the PPSG - Police Performance Steering Group - which is chaired by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary, which is a shift from the Home Office responsibility, which is still monitoring police forces individually and collectively and comparing between similar families of forces on a fairly narrow range of particular targets. The question about are we working, there is one national target - confidence - and I think that is right, but in practical terms we are also trying to manage, monitor and deal with a plethora of other targets that we are managing, not just to the PPSG, there are other people who come into police forces to challenge you, looking at performance and inspect. There are multiple targets we are trying to manage simultaneously.

Q16 Ms Buck: How many would you like?

Chief Constable Hollis: You do need targets. We are accountable to the public, and there is a link here between police accountability, be it to police authorities or whoever, and understanding what is being delivered by the local service. The majority of people in this country will judge us by how it feels for them within their neighbourhoods. They judge us by the feel, how their families and friends feel about the local police. As a public service we clearly do need to be able to articulate and account for performance. It is not as simple as saying "Just get rid of targets". We do need a well-informed debate between ACPO, the Association of Police Authorities and the Home Office to agree what are the critical ones and what are the ones that are less critical, the risks involved are less significant, and where perhaps we can spend less time. With any target you need to capture data, record data, collate it and send it up the chain, so there is a link here to the performance and bureaucracy in the recording issue.

Q17 Ms Buck: Can we have a slightly more sophisticated debate about this because it seems to me, Sir Hugh, that you told the ACPO conference that targets were not disappearing as quickly as you would like, the Home Secretary said there is only one target, and you say there are a number of operational targets for judgment and, indeed, accept that has to be so as a management tool. It is very hard to understand how it is possible to do without targets at all to monitor performance and efficiency. It seems to me that debate is being conducted at an air wall level and the Home Secretary, public opinion and yourselves are not really engaging at the same level of debate. How do we resolve that?

Sir Hugh Orde: I think you just described the complexity of policing and it is very hard to get a satisfactory set of measures. I am absolutely for confidence in policing and fear of crime, I think that is what the public understands. One could simplify what we have. Frankly, if you are thumped you are not that interested if it is a section 18, a section 20 or a section 47 or the fine tuning of crime recording, which actually adds huge complexity to describing what is going on on the streets. A radical look at how crime is recorded may go some way to establishing a new baseline as confidence in stats, as we all know, has plummeted, and it could not get any lower, and that might be quite helpful in being able to capture some sensible numbers which people understand, violence being one area. If we look at the Americans, and they are not necessarily the best place to look, they really only have confidence now in their murder figures because dead bodies are hard to hide, but if you look at other trends of violent crime they tend to track murder, and that has been going on ten to 15 years in the States. If you follow the murder trend, the trends around violent crime and knife crime tend to mirror it in the large cities. A different way of looking at it in which the public have confidence is critical. I have no difficulty with Her Majesty's Inspectorate going into the outward-in look, that is where the Inspectorate is now positioned, which is fine, that is representing the public view of policing and it has been a fierce advocate of public policing. I have no difficulty with challenge. I think colleagues would plead for a simplification of the number of agencies and bodies involved in the oversight. Northern Ireland was a case study. I needed four PowerPoint sites just to get the oversight bodies' logos on to the screen, and we were a hub of the industry. I think if we had some more simplicity around who we are being held to account to and how we are being checked, that may add some more clarity to that process.

Q18 Chairman: I think we would be astonished at what Mr Hollis has said, that in order to bring these targets or decide on the right targets there ought to be discussions between the Home Office and ACPO. Surely this is what you do all the time. Is ACPO not in and out of the Home Office on a regular basis discussing things?

Sir Hugh Orde: I have not got a pass!

Q19 Chairman: Apart from you, Sir Hugh, is that not how it all works, that you work very closely with the Home Office on a whole range of issues?

Sir Hugh Orde: Certainly since I have been here I think we have achieved a step change in relationship. Too much was done on paper, frankly, and understandably the Home Office moves on fairly tight timescales. Working with Stephen Rimmer and the Permanent Secretary we now have an ability to pull together the right people in my world. I see one of my roles is to bring together the experts in whatever field it is, be it crime recording, issues around the White Paper, accountability, to make them available to those who are charged with legislating and influencing policing, and to have a frank and open discussion. We were asked to do that, we delivered it and I am happy to deliver it again. Yes, the door is open within the Home Office. I do not want to be in a position where I am seen as shaping to the point of influencing inappropriately because accountability has to be independent and it is that balance. I am very conscious of that balance and it feeds in some sense from the question from Mr Brake on accountability.

Q20 Chairman: I will give you an example. In our last report, Policing in the 21st Century, we went to Staffordshire and saw the example of reduction of paperwork from 42 forms down to one form. We have written to the Home Secretary on a number of occasions saying, "Why is this good practice not adopted by other areas?" and the answer is, "It hasn't been". We find this extraordinary when there is a good idea like this. Surely this is a role for ACPO.

Sir Hugh Orde: Tim can touch on that because he is looking at it in his own force.

Chief Constable Hollis: You are absolutely right, there is a role for ACPO and there is a chief officer lead who looks at that. There is also a role for individual chiefs. My force was very closely associated with colleagues doing that work and we looked at that. Of course, there are differences between where police forces are. My force has invested quite heavily in electronic handheld devices which allows frontline officers, police officers and police community support officers, to input data direct. That is superior to any form and it is superior to having to ring things through. Staffordshire have quite a sizeable form for recording their crime. Some of the forces had previously moved to a much more simplified version. It was not that all the forces were using the same technology or the same forms, but there is a lot of exchange of common practice and good practice that is done through ACPO. I can assure you that individual forces do look at what one another are doing to try and find those efficiency savings and simpler ways of doing the business.

Q21 Mrs Cryer: Sir Hugh, could we talk about police financing because I understand you have been taking an interest in it and at the ACPO conference you said: "The emerging realities of public spending will mean tough choices and we need honest conversations now with Government about priorities". Do you personally think that spending on policing will actually decrease considerably over the next decade?

Sir Hugh Orde: I think the short answer, looking at the current financial climate and speaking to those who know far more about this than I do, is yes. It will not just be police. Some of the real successes in policing have been partnership work. I was reading a paper last night that suggests more people are being put into drug treatment, drug referral, taken off the habit than ever before, which is a really good news story, in a partnership between police, health authorities and, indeed, the third sector, the charity world and voluntary bodies. It will not just be police being cut. We have got to be very alive to the fact that much of the partnership work could come under pressure as people revert to core business and we have got to fight long and hard again to encourage our partners to continue to work with us and we work with them so we do not lose some of the huge benefits for long-term solutions against short-term physical pressures. That having been said, it is utterly inevitable that money will be cut. Just before I left Northern Ireland we were being asked to make in-year savings, and I understand that, the country is not in a great place financially, and I think that will continue. As I said earlier, the problem with policing is that it is - an awful expression - people rich, most of its money is spent on people. We have delivered on Gershon, we have delivered savings year-on-year in terms of driving efficiencies out of the business. If you are looking at where efficiencies come from to protect the front end now, I think it is getting tougher. 40% of our budget is non-people and 10% of that is only 4% of your budget which is not going to be enough. The pressure is on the numbers game. We have got to make sure as much as possible does not come from the front end which goes back to the question around are we structured properly for the new world and if we are not we need that debate led externally. We know the history of that debate, it was not hugely successfully and we need that debate probably fairly quickly. The point I make is there does not seem to be a lot of will to take that bit of business on.

Q22 Mrs Cryer: I think you are suggesting that there could be something of a transfer from actual frontline policing to crime prevention, or at least drug prevention.

Sir Hugh Orde: What I am saying is I think everyone will come under pressure and if I am in the business of trying to deliver drug treatment at one end of my business as a health authority and a hip replacement at the other, they have got the same tension that I am going to face. What was really interesting at the fringe events that I attended at all of the conferences, and the Chairman was at one, was no-one could tell me what they wanted us to stop doing. We are getting on now, we joined in the 1970s and there was no police role at all for someone who was released from prison, that was probation. We now have sex offenders, dangerous offenders which take a huge amount of resource, quite properly because they are dangerous people in communities, which is now a police responsibility. That is different, it never used to happen. That is just one example. I think stuff has been bolted on, budgets have gone up, police budgets have been well treated over the past few years, and we have recognised that, but I think now we are in a different place so I do think that the potential is impact on the frontline.

Q23 Gwyn Prosser: Sir Hugh, if I could continue on that same theme. When the Home Secretary came before this Committee in July he said that we cannot expect what he described as the abundance of monies going into the police forces over the last 12 years over the next few years to come, but then he made a caveat, almost a demand, that that reduction should not impact on frontline spending or frontline policing. Is that a reasonable demand to make?

Sir Hugh Orde: I will ask Tim to deal with that.

Chief Constable Hollis: I speak both as a serving chief but also I happen to have the Home Secretary as one of my local MPs so I have a particular interest in his views and how he feels. I have to say that I was delighted he was with us last Friday when the force was celebrating our success on the Pledge. I have an apprehension that in many people's views, particularly the media, the press, that "frontline" means uniformed police officers as solo, and you do hear this debate on police numbers. Policing has become very complex in recent years and also the workforce has changed significantly. When I arrived Humberside had 19 police community support officers, we now have funding for 332. There is no doubt there has been massive support and an increase in public confidence in my force through neighbourhood policing which has been delivered, not just by PCSOs but by neighbourhood officers, special constables and police staff. One of the big challenges in my force when I arrived was call handling. People were really frustrated that they could not get through, particularly on the non-emergency number, and there were time delays and I was not proud of that record. We put enormous energy, effort and resources into that, but most of those call handlers now are not police officers, they are police staff members working there but providing, I would suggest, frontline because the majority of people contact my police force initially by phone, landline or mobile. The frontline delivery of service is more complex than simply visibility of uniformed police officers on the street. I have a worry that it can be translated into that and I think we need to make sure that people understand how that service is now delivered.

Q24 Gwyn Prosser: That is very encouraging, but as we get into that era of less spending then what we see every year or every three years is individual forces taking a different view towards their particular settlement. Some forces do quiet negotiations behind the scenes; others tend to use megaphone diplomacy. What is the view of ACPO? What is the best approach? Is it a tactical, strategic approach to these matters?

Chief Constable Hollis: I will speak as a chief and then invite Hugh to give the higher level. One point I would make, and colleagues would make it, is their legacy issues are different so we are not all starting from the same base, some forces have actually inherited better. Of course, police authorities have a critical role in providing an efficient and effective police force in their area so the legacy issues for different forces are different. Expensive things like IT legacies are different as well. Where we are moving towards a national delivery now and bringing national systems into place sometimes there are big sums of money involved on IT and that will represent a different challenge to different police forces. I think individually each force has to look and each police authority will be in a slightly different position. The role then in terms of ACPO having a more consistent approach about what matters and what we want to maintain investment in, or possibly increase, and what areas we may need to pull back from, do less or look for partners to do more coherently, that is how the challenge starts to fall to how ACPO itself is organised, has conversations and gets that agreement amongst our number.

Q25 Chairman: One issue is, of course, the involvement of the private sector. The Chief Constable of South Wales has privatised her custody suite. When I was in Sutton with
Mr Brake we saw that fingerprinting and DNA testing in Sutton was all conducted by a private company. Do you think this is going to happen in other police forces?

Sir Hugh Orde: It is happening in Sussex, which I think also has a privatised custody service, and different forces are doing it differently. Again it is back to we will create a series of suboptimal solutions because of the number of forces we have rather like the funding, and funding is as much a function of history as it is common sense, frankly. The history in Northern Ireland was we had a Treasury budget which is a very different beast in its own particular right. My concern at a national level is around national resilience, so I think there is a cut-off about how far you can privatise because whatever else we say about efficiency in a national event, and ACPO has a role in co-ordinating national events and mobilisation plans, you need small offices. There is a risk in terms of ad hoc changes across 44 forces that means all of a sudden we find we are losing so many police officer numbers, we have a real issue of some of the major events unseen or even seen, like the Olympics, which will have a substantial impact on national policing.

Q26 Chairman: Why should the private sector do it cheaper than the public sector on the issues I just described, the custody suite and fingerprinting?

Sir Hugh Orde: I guess you can cherry-pick the bits you are going to make money out of, frankly. I am not sure that the private sector is going to want to do a night shift at five o'clock in the East End, that is where cops come in. There is a limit to how far you can go. If you specialise in a piece, be it custody or human resource, and there is an interesting debate around human resource, I think you can drive efficiency up. There is a very interesting debate to be had around can we bring a number of forces together to take head office functions out. I think you can do all of that. In Northern Ireland we outsourced one of the biggest outsourcing of IT management to a large company that specialised in IT management, but you end up with a core business, which is policing, that needs sworn officers or specialist staff employed by the police. You can do more, I am sure you can. I think in the current model of 44 forces it will be fairly ad hoc. The HMIC work on value for money may add some value to this, allowing forces to compare similar events in different places to see if that adds any value to that particular debate.

Q27 Tom Brake: I want to come back to the issue of frontline policing. Is it not the case that there is not in fact a definition of what a frontline police officer is and, therefore, while the Home Secretary might want to ensure that cuts do not hit the frontline, you do not have a way of measuring it so we will not know whether it has or has not?

Sir Hugh Orde: Frankly you cannot have that description, you are absolutely right. In Northern Ireland my intelligence officers were as crucial to the frontline, because they could inform how safe it was to patrol, as the police officer who was brave enough to walk out on that street, and that is no different from here. International terrorism has been discussed; the role of the officers employed solely on international terrorism is as much a community function in my judgment as a PCSO. That is around the complexity debate which I also talked about in my speech. It is our responsibility to get that debate out into the open so people understand it so they can see it is not as easy as saying, "We will cut 10% here". You have got to look at the implications and, frankly, in my previous life achieving nothing, where nothing was success, was hugely expensive.

Q28 Mr Streeter: Sir Hugh, you have mentioned several times today that we have got 44 police forces and obviously you think that is far too many. I was a fierce opponent of the amalgamation when it happened, however many years ago it was, in the West Country but I have changed my mind on this. I see that if you are going to achieve this on the savings you need to achieve, we do need larger police forces. How many should we have and what are you going to do to put this back on the political agenda because, as you rightly said, it is not there at the moment?

Sir Hugh Orde: I think the point is we need to learn from our history. It needs to be done by an independent body, not by the police, we have learned from that. I would not put a number on it because I think someone needs to look at it in a rational and independent way. Amalgamation is the ACPO position, albeit some chiefs would oppose it very clearly and they are all independent, they all have a right to air their views, but the majority view is that amalgamation is the way forward. In terms of what I am going to do, I have raised it with every party and will continue to be fairly boring on it until someone chooses perhaps to listen and look at it. I think the first step will be the White Paper will encourage, as we have already been encouraged, to collaborate and that is a good starting point. We have proved that we can do it. If you look, for example, at the response to serious crime in Wales, it is a regional response. If you look at serious crime in the East Midlands, there is a standing army but that took quite substantial central funding to start it. Other forces are looking currently, and I have been to many in my first month, at the task force approach because they can afford to bring a load of people together on different pay, different conditions, different conditions of service and all of that to create a standing army to cover a number of police forces. I think you will see a different approach, but the common wisdom would be you need a regional response to cross-border crime.

Chief Constable Hollis: Yes, to build on that, I took my job in Humberside in April 2005. I expected to be made redundant three years later because I had just come from HMIC, I knew the merger debate was underway. That did not happen. The full force of Yorkshire Humber is just under 10% of British policing. We are working well, the police authorities have a joint police authority committee, the four chiefs get on well, we respect each other, but it is suboptimal. We are wrestling with the fact that we are lawfully empowered to deliver policing in our force areas and trying to create regional units other than for short-term mutual aid, which we have historically done, is problematic, so we are trying to find innovative ways around that but it is a constant compromise. I think the debate will come back on the agenda at some stage.

Q29 Mr Streeter: Secondly and finally from me, Sir Hugh, there was a small hint you dropped in your ACPO conference speech that you are against directly elected police chiefs. You may have been quite nuancing there but if you think that, and I know you hold that position quite firmly, surely the current position in terms of accountability does not work very well either? Can you suggest some improvements which do not go all the way?

Sir Hugh Orde: Again we have to be held to account by the structure that is designed by Government. It came up again, this was a common theme at the fringe events I attended. Equally common, frankly, was the lack of support for one individual at any party conference and there is quite an interesting debate about it. It is not just my view, I think that it is the view of every professional chief constable. They hold operational independence very dear to their hearts and the whole style and tradition of British policing, as do I, but they are absolutely prepared to be held to account in a robust way for the decisions they make. I think that is a distinction. There are other models. I know the APA is reviewing and looking at itself as we speak. It is not saying, "We are the best model". For me it is something about being very public and again, as I have discussed and this is not saying it is transferable, the Northern Ireland model was a very public process of accountability where not only was I obliged on demand in law, I could be summonsed to the police authority, which is unique actually, although I never played, because I always attended, as most chiefs would. A minimum of eight and routinely nine or ten times a year there was a public meeting, attended by the public and filmed and televised, of me being held to account for what I did with my senior team. The board was 19 people, 10 of whom were elected representatives under the D'Hondt principle so it mirrored local government. That is another model. There are other models out there, I think, is the point. One of the things I learned again at these fringe events was the value people there put on independent members, so I think there is something about balancing. People who really understand the business of business, the business of human resource, added huge value and certainly did in my world to the political voice of those who had a right to be there because they were representing people in their communities.

Chairman: You seemed to have enjoyed the party conferences more than the MPs!

Q30 Mr Streeter: A lot more.

Sir Hugh Orde: The interesting thing for me, Chairman, was ACPO had never been before which I find quite interesting. It is about having conversations and learning as well as delivering.

Chairman: We were glad to see you there.

Bob Russell: Sir Hugh, the population of Essex is greater than some European countries. In your ACPO speech on 7 July you made reference to the commitment of certain communities and you knew full well that there was massive opposition from communities across the country for police mergers and, indeed, in that same speech you said the way forward was to continue to work together. Could I suggest that bringing back police force mergers is contrary to community support. Working together is exactly the way forward because the proposal to merge Essex with Bedfordshire was barking in the extreme - Metropolitan Police barking and that is a well known description - whereas the Essex Police have greater affinity and working collaboration with Kent and that is the way forward, not forced mergers. Please remove that from your thoughts.

Q31 Mr Winnick: We are never parochial on this Committee.

Sir Hugh Orde: Very briefly, my professional view and judgment and the judgment of my colleagues is that if you want to drive the maximum efficiency to deliver the maximum local service we need to organise it in an organised way rather than a disorganised way. Collaboration, frankly, rather than individuals, I think, is a bigger debate. It does not remove local accountability and local policing. We have a well established BCU structure and, again, in terms of your accountability framework you simply add a local policing board where statutorily the chief superintendent is obliged once a month to report there on how they deliver locally.

Q32 Bob Russell: We will have a national police force then.

Sir Hugh Orde: I think it is a question about too big.

David Davies: Tying all this together, when you were with the PSNI did you not find that the people who ended up on these boards tended to be the ones with strong views in either direction rather than people like perhaps myself who are perfectly satisfied with the police and, therefore, do not feel the need to go and get on a body to grill my chief constable about it on a regular basis?

Chairman: I think you need to declare your interest.

Q33 David Davies: I am a special constable as well but not with Met Police.

Sir Hugh Orde: Everyone in Northern Ireland has a strong view on everything. It is how you do it. What I am absolutely not saying is that is the right model. I think there is something about people who have a voice because they have been elected through a democratic process being involved in policing and that is a good thing provided you make that distinction between holding us to account rather than allowing us to ---

Q34 David Davies: You have answered the question about the direction we should go in quite well but I think there is further debate to be had and perhaps if any papers come out of ACPO you will let us know on how we can merge without merging, if you know what I mean.

Chief Constable Hollis: I have the honour of being chief of a place that does not exist because Humberside is not normally loved, it is either East Riding or Hull, and they are very proud of their roots, or it is North Lincolnshire. Most of that local accountability, what I would call BCU, is at local authority level. I go into a council chamber with the local police chief and the chief superintendent once a year to talk to them about policing in their area because that is their interest. That was what I said earlier, that where people live locally they are interested in how their neighbourhood policing team are operating. Candidly, I do not think they are too bothered who the chief is and whether they know where their office sits. Strengthening that link particularly for police authorities, what is the relationship between the police authority, the Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnership, the elected members on the police authority and those who sit in the council chamber, that is the big challenge for police authorities to try and get. We want to retain it but most people see the local rather than the next level up.

Chairman: Sir Hugh, Mr Hollis, thank you very much for coming in. I am sure you will know that the Committee will be in touch with you over the next few months with further enquiries and further information. Once again, can I congratulate you on your appointment and wish you the best of luck. Thank you very much.