Impact of the Comprehensive Spending Review on the Home Office - Home Affairs Committee Contents

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1-101)


23 NOVEMBER 2010

Q1   Chair: Sir David, thank you very much for coming to give evidence. This is the annual meeting of the Committee with the Permanent Secretary, and you brought Helen Kilpatrick with you. Can I start by asking any Members to declare any further interests, other than the interests that are in the Members' Register?

Mr Burley: From 2006 to 2007, I worked in the Home Office when Sir David was in charge.

Chair: Excellent. Anyone else? No? Good.

  Sir David, can I start? I'm sure you'll find this is not a surprising question. You appeared before the Public Administration Committee very recently, and Mr Walker questioned you about the use of taxpayers' money to fund a course that you went on to improve your chairmanship skills. I was looking at the transcript and I felt that perhaps you didn't have a chance to explain why the Home Office felt it necessary to pay for you to go on a chairmanship course when you are one of the most senior figures in Whitehall.

Sir David Normington: Yes. Well, in fact, I didn't go on a course. We had somebody employed for a short period in the Home Office to help me and my senior management team improve the way we were working in terms of taking decisions, monitoring performance and implementing what the Home Secretary wanted. It was a short bit of development for me and my team. I think that's what senior teams should do. I may have been a Permanent Secretary for eight years—or now 10, nearly—but you can always go on improving. So it was nothing more than that. I think the fuss about it is completely out of proportion to what it was about.

Q2   Chair: But do you think it was wise, bearing in mind the pressure on the public purse and the cuts that are being implemented, that those at the top of the Home Office—a Department with a budget of £11 billion—should, at this stage in their career, be asked to learn some skills on management?

Sir David Normington: It was two years ago—that doesn't change the answer to the question—and we are responsible for over £10 billion of money. I think that we need to make sure that we are at the top of our game in how we spend that and how we monitor how it's being spent. That was what it was about.

Q3   Chair: Do you know what the cost was?

Sir David Normington: I'm afraid I don't. If I'd known you were going to ask me, I would have found that out. I'm afraid I don't.

Chair: Well, I'm surprised you thought the Committee wouldn't ask you, in view of the fact that it was before another Committee. Would you write to us? Could you let us know by midday tomorrow how much it cost?

Sir David Normington: Yes, I can.

Chair: Mr Winnick?

Q4   Mr Winnick: Like the Chair, I am puzzled, Sir David, about this course, because as the Chair stated, you are one of the most senior civil servants in the whole country. I would have thought it would be the other way around—that you would be inviting people, be it in the public and certainly in the private industry, to learn from all your experience. I'm not being in any way sarcastic. You haven't reached the top other than by your abilities, like other people in your position. For the life of me, I must say, I'm absolutely puzzled what you could possibly learn at public expense.

Sir David Normington: Well, the board of the Home Office was at that point—

Mr Winnick: If you could keep your voice up.

Sir David Normington: Yes, I will. The board of the Home Office at that point made up of a number of new people, including a number of people who had been Chief Executives in their own right, and getting that team to work really well together—to take decisions quickly, to make sure we had the right processes in place for taking those decisions and so on—needed a bit of work and teams can always improve. This is something that happens across the public and the private sector. It's quite common, and it immeasurably improved how my team worked and how they then went out and worked in the Department, and I think that's a good thing.

Q5   Mr Winnick: Could I just ask what you gained as a result of what happened on the course?

Sir David Normington: It wasn't a course. This person came and observed us—

Mr Winnick: Well, whichever word you like to use.

Sir David Normingtonand played back to us what they saw.

Mr Winnick: What did you gain?

Sir David Normington: What I gained was that we took decisions better; we had a collective view of what the Home Office needed to do; we had a better process in place for monitoring our progress; we reviewed how our meetings had been at the end, and so on. It was just a more efficient way of operating, and also, when we went out into the Department, we led the Department better.

Chair: Dr Huppert?

Q6   Dr Huppert: I'm delighted to hear—subject to cost, of course—that you're committed to continuous improvement. I'm sure there's nobody on this Committee who would say there is nothing more for any of us to learn. On the subject of improvement and learning from some of this, can I ask about your Department's attitude to learning from scientific information? For example you have a Chief Scientific Adviser.

  Sir David Normington: We do.

  Dr Huppert: I asked a parliamentary question before the summer about how often the Chief Scientific Adviser had met with the various Ministers. It took a couple of months to get an answer, at which point I was told that there'd been one meeting with the Home Secretary just before the answer. How embedded is this culture of taking professional advice from the scientific and statistical angles?

Sir David Normington: I think it is embedded. One of our Ministers of State is the Minister for science and research in the Department. That's Baroness Neville-Jones. She takes that responsibility very seriously. It may be that the Chief Scientific Adviser has only met the Home Secretary once, or maybe more by now, but he would meet with Baroness Neville-Jones on a fairly regular basis. I think that all through the Home Office we have embedded both science and research, in its broadest sense.

Q7   Dr Huppert: Is he on your board? How often would you meet with him?

Sir David Normington: He reports to me, but he isn't on my board. I meet him regularly.

  Chair: Mr Michael?

Q8   Alun Michael: Like Julian, I think it's important for people at board level in Government Departments and in Parliament to accept the need to refresh their skills, even if they are ones they are using on a regular basis. Would you accept something that is increasingly being put to leaders in industry, at chief executive level: that IT and use of the internet is now too important to be delegated to an IT officer or an information officer? Is that now firmly on your desk as the Permanent Secretary in the Home Office, and is it somewhere where you've sought to improve your knowledge and skills?

Sir David Normington: Well, it is, because most of our big projects and programmes in the Home Office have IT as part of them, and it's rarely something separate. It's usually part of how you are making your major investments. So I have to at least understand enough about what is being done on the technical side to be able to judge whether the investment is worth it. Helen is my board member with responsibility for IT, although she's not an IT specialist.

Q9   Alun Michael: Does she make sure that you don't get away with delegating the responsibility, then?

Sir David Normington: She does. Go on, you can speak for yourself.

Helen Kilpatrick: Yes, and you can use your Blackberry and computer. The whole of the Home Office board has reports regularly on the IT strategy and the IT investments we're making in order to improve productivity.

Q10   Chair: Can I turn now to the impact of the CSR? There is criticism about the lack of consultation with the police. We, the Select Committee, held a seminar in Cannock Chase yesterday attended by numerous Chief Constables and chairs of police authorities. There is widespread concern about the cuts and the effect they're going to have on front-line policing. How many staff are you going to lose at the Home Office, centrally, as a result of the CSR?

Sir David Normington: Centrally, overall, the Home Office and its executive agents are going to lose 6,500 staff over the four years, starting next April, and 650, which is just over 21%, will be from the Home Office core. Remember, the bulk of staff in the Home Office are in the UK Border Agency.

Chair: Indeed. We'll come on to the UK Border Agency in a moment.

Sir David Normington: I should have said that this year we're reducing our number of jobs by 2,500, maybe 2,600. So you have to add that to the 6,500 next year.

Q11   Chair: But as far as the police are concerned, what is disturbing is the different analysis of different Chief Constables as to the effect that the cuts are going to have on front-line services. This was, of course, raised at Prime Minister's questions, and it was raised at the Liaison Committee with the Prime Minister last week. Is there any clarity that the Home Office can give us as to how many front-line police officers will be lost as a result of these reductions?

Sir David Normington: No, because this is something that is going to be done force by force, and because forces are of very different sizes and in very different places in terms of their planning for this, I think there will be a differential effect. Over the 43 forces, there are huge forces like the Metropolitan Police, and there are very small forces like Lincolnshire, and they will be having different impacts.

Q12   Chair: So we basically have to accept what the Chief Constables say, because they run things locally, have control over the budget, and will know how it will affect local people? You don't have, somewhere in a drawer in the Home Office, figures that can challenge this?

Sir David Normington: No. It's always been the case that Chief Constables have taken the final decisions with their police authorities on these matters, and that will be so. I don't have a blueprint that says, "This is how many jobs are going to be lost." I was reading some reports of your seminar yesterday. As I understand it, all of them start from the position that they want to try to maintain the front-line service. Any responsible Chief Constable would want to do that, of course.

Q13   Chair: You're right: every responsible Chief Constable should do that. What worries the Committee is how they were allowed to spend the kind of money they had spent without making the savings before. You've been the Permanent Secretary now for four years. Where is the role of the Home Office in all this?

Sir David Normington: Over the last three years of the spending review, they made efficiency savings—and most of this is properly audited—of over £1 billion; I think it was about £1.2 billion. However, they were allowed to reinvest that money into their services. They didn't take that money out because, of course, budgets were increasing. So they have shown that they can—

Q14   Chair: But should you all have done more? The Prime Minister raised, at questions last week, the fact that Manchester has 204 people involved in IT. He was talking about back office staff. Surely somebody should have pointed this out to Manchester?

Sir David Normington: Well, except that the Home Office, before the election and since, does not run the police.

Chair: We understand that.

Sir David Normington: We do not, therefore, take responsibility for how many people it is decided locally to employ in an HR function or an IT function.

Q15   Chair: So how does the taxpayer get value for money when—

Sir David Normington: Because the police authorities were there in the past to hold the police to account for this. In the future, of course, the Government are introducing elected commissioners to increase the local accountability.

Q16   Chair: Finally from me: just before the general election, the Home Office produced a report to the previous Home Secretary anticipating a rise in crime during any recession period. With the researchers you have at the Home Office, has any research been done about the levels of crime as a result of the cuts in the Home Office budget, the police budget?

Sir David Normington: If I may just go back to that work, it was done maybe two years ago—maybe nearly three—and, as a result of that, action was taken during that recession and crime did not rise in the recession.

Q17   Chair: But have you done any similar work?

Sir David Normington: We have not done any similar work, no, and we're not expecting crime to rise as a result of these reductions.

Q18   Chair: You're not expecting crime to rise?

Sir David Normington: It is the expectation that every force will be seeking to organise its services to try to maintain its impact on crime. I can't guarantee that, of course.

Chair: Of course. And, anyway, you're retiring soon.

Sir David Normington: Yes, but my words will still be used.

Chair: Mr Clappison and a number of other colleagues want to come in. James Clappison?

Q19   Mr Clappison: The Chief Constable of Hertfordshire has told me and other Members of Parliament that he's doing all he can to work in collaboration with other forces, particularly Bedfordshire on some issues and Cambridge on others, and to pool resources and do things more efficiently. In the decisions that you can take in this field—I understand that your decision making is limited, as you've told us—and in the leadership that you can give as well, are you encouraging forces to work together to achieve efficiencies of scale and to reduce perhaps some of the administrative costs that have been allowed to linger in the past?

Sir David Normington: Yes, it's very much part of the plan that we should encourage, and in some cases mandate, forces to purchase together, to share their IT together, and to share their assets, basically. We are ready, and the Government are ready, where that isn't happening, to say it must.

Q20   Mr Clappison: From what you have seen so far, are you able to say whether this is happening sufficiently?

Sir David Normington: It is happening, but I think probably it can happen some more. We're on course, but I don't think it's happened everywhere yet.

Chair: Could I ask colleagues to concentrate on police cuts? We'll do the others later. Steve McCabe?

Q21   Steve McCabe: Sir David, I think your answer on crime isn't good enough. I think it sounds a bit mealy-mouthed. You are the permanent official, the senior official, giving Ministers advice on the extent of the cuts, and you're saying to us, "I don't expect crime to rise, but I can't guarantee it." Does that mean if it does rise it's just bad luck and you made a bad guess?

Sir David Normington: No. I think that there's quite a complex relationship between police numbers and whether crime rises or falls. One of the key issues is how you deploy your police numbers and your police staff. It's not just about absolute numbers. It's about deployment, and that's what the police would tell you.

Q22   Steve McCabe: But what research have you done on that?

Sir David Normington: Well, there's a lot of research, but I'm afraid that it doesn't tell us the answer to what is the right number. It shows that, if you deploy your forces properly, particularly in visible policing and in response areas, you're likely to have a bigger effect on crime. But it doesn't tell you what the right number is. We do have evidence, of course, from other countries where police go on strike that if they all go on strike, crime goes up. You would expect there to be some relationship between numbers and crime.

  Chair: Bridget Phillipson?

Q23   Bridget Phillipson: Just to carry that on, obviously I appreciate the complexity of the relationship between police numbers and whether you would have an increase in crime, but given that we are facing massive cuts in the police force, combined with predictions that we are facing a bleaker economic picture, will you be doing any research into any likely increase in the crime rate in the years ahead?

Sir David Normington: We will be continuing to count whether crime is going up, and we will be looking at whether we can get more data about the interaction between how you deploy police numbers and what the crime levels are, but all the work that has been done on this, over quite a number of years, says that all these factors are interrelated, and it's hard to disentangle them. Clearly, there is some relationship between a recession and upward pressures on crime, but we've shown in recent times that it doesn't follow that one follows the other.

  Chair: Dr Huppert?

Q24   Dr Huppert: If I can turn back to procurement and how that could be used to gain money, I am sure we would all agree that we want to get costs down and definitely support collaboration between forces. You talked about mandatory collaboration; you would make sure that people must do this. I am sure you are aware, as many of us are, of examples where buying from the catalogue can be more expensive than just going down to a local shop or making a local deal. How far do you think mandation would help, and how much would it just set up a straitjacket for forces?

Sir David Normington: I'm personally not keen on mandation except as a last resort, for the very reason you describe. Clearly, it is better for a group of forces working with the Home Office and the National Police Improvement Agency, while it continues, voluntarily to decide that this is the best way of doing things, because there's always the danger, if you mandate from the centre, that you mandate the wrong thing. The police want these savings as much as we do and, therefore, I think we may need to use mandation very little, because I think we're all on the same page here, working together to try to produce the best outcomes.

Chair: Lorraine Fullbrook?

Q25   Lorraine Fullbrook: Thank you, Chairman. Sir David, I would like to ask if you have received any indications in the Home Office from constabularies who are making announcements about front-line services and the cuts that they expect. Have there been any indications in the Home Office that this is an easy route for constabularies to take, rather than reviewing their budgets in total, and particularly their back office staff, as was suggested in the Prime Minister's question time last week? Is there an indication that they are taking the easy way out?

Sir David Normington: No. There is a danger of that but, of course, every Chief Constable is saying to us that they are going to do their very best to make sure that they redesign their support—the back office services—as well as their front-line operation to maintain the service to the public and to maintain the impact on crime. No one is saying to us, "We're going to take the easy route." There is always that danger because there are constraints on the police about how quickly you can reduce the number of warranted officers and so on. So that does mean that you have to look in particular places to make reductions. But everyone, as I understand it, is starting out with the positive aim of making these reductions while trying to maintain or improve the service to the public, and I take heart from that, but it is very difficult; it is not straightforward. Some forces have been planning for it for quite some time, some have not, and it's going to be quite tough for them.

Q26   Lorraine Fullbrook: I agree with you. I am not sure some of them are taking a positive view on this.

Sir David Normington: Well, some may not be, but they're not saying that to us.

  Chair: Mark Reckless has a supplementary.

Q27   Mark Reckless: Sir David, could you explain the rationale for the front-loading of the reduction in Home Office police grant?

Sir David Normington: That was the outcome of the discussions with the Treasury, and that was the profile that we were given. That makes it tougher; there is no doubt about it.

Q28   Mark Reckless: Did you agree this profile? You said it was given.

Sir David Normington: It was a negotiation between the Home Secretary and me and my colleagues and the Treasury, and this was the outcome we came to.

Q29   Mark Reckless: But why, within that negotiation, did we come to an outcome that had such significant front-loading, particularly in the context where police authorities are being replaced by elected commissioners? It is being left to the outgoing bodies—of which I should declare I am a member—to make those cuts, rather than the elected commissioner.

Sir David Normington: We were all working within a wider set of objectives from the Treasury to reduce the deficit, and some of that deficit has to be reduced in the early years, not just in the late years. There was a determination not to back-load all those cuts. Sometimes it's better to get them over with. However, there are two specific things I want to say. First, the chiefs have been expecting this, and something on this scale, for quite some time, so they have been planning on it. Secondly, we are freezing pay—police pay—in the first two years, starting next September, when the present pay deal runs out. That's worth £350 million, and that does ease the position a bit in the first two years.

  Chair: Aidan Burley?

Q30   Mr Burley: Sir David, you will obviously be involved in drafting the legislation around police and crime commissioners, which you referred to earlier. There's a debate for me about the interface between the police and crime commissioners, who will be elected in 18 months' time, and the operational responsibility of the police. My question to you is: in 18 months' time, if you have a police and crime commissioner who has been elected on a mandate to put more police on the streets—as, one suspects, a lot of them will be standing on the platforms to do—and they say to their Chief Constable, "Right, I want the officers out of these cars. I want them on the beat. I don't want them patrolling in pairs. I want them patrolling individually," is that an operational matter for the police, or is it a democratic mandate that they can instruct officers to be out of the cars?

Sir David Normington: That is something that you would expect the elected commissioner to have a serious view about, because they've been—

Q31   Chair: A serious view? Can you answer Mr Burley's question? Would he override what the Chief Constable says? That's what Mr Burley wants to know.

Mr Burley: Just for your information, Sir Hugh Orde, yesterday in Cannock, was asked exactly this same question by me, and said that that was an operational matter for the police, and that would be the police and crime commissioner interfering in an operational matter.

Sir David Normington: Well, I don't agree with that.

  Chair: Okay. David Winnick?

Q32   Mr Winnick: Can I first of all ask you this, Sir David? Obviously, hopefully, you do not decide on policy; elected politicians do that. We know the role that you play, like your predecessors and successors. But without giving any confidences away—you are not likely to do that—you are responsible, presumably, for the negotiations with the Treasury at civil service level. Would it be a leading question to ask whether those negotiations were very complex?

Sir David Normington: Well, they were very tough, because we were dealing particularly with the police. That is why we've been having that discussion. You would have expected us to go on talking about the impact on the police and examining it all through the spending review period, which is what we did.

Q33   Mr Winnick: Can I ask you about counter-terrorism? Obviously, there is no one who is likely to minimise the acute danger of another atrocity or atrocities. We know that Britain is far from safe, yet counter-terrorism, as far as the police are concerned, is going to be cut by 10%, in real terms, by 2014-15. How on earth could that be considered a wise decision?

Sir David Normington: That, of course, is a smaller cut than the police are taking generally, and it was deliberately so because of the concerns about counter-terrorism. If you look at what has been happening to the special grants for CT policing since 2006, they have been going up very sharply. We thought—we agreed this with John Yates and ACPO—that it was possible to make efficiency savings within that scale of budget. He was comfortable that 2.5% a year, real terms, which is about a cash flat amount, was perfectly manageable, and actually would be an impetus to them just to make sure that they were getting the maximum efficiency out of the extra resource that we've been putting in over quite a few years.

Q34   Mr Winnick: Obviously, this is much more for a politician like your boss to answer, but what about what some people would say—and it probably will be said in the House of Commons, in the Chamber—that such a cut, and it is obviously a cut, could be at the expense of lives? What would be your response?

Sir David Normington: I'm absolutely confident that we are providing the money, and that the 10% reduction does not seriously impact on our ability to counter terrorism. I am confident that these reductions can be made without making an impact on lives and so on. We wouldn't—I wouldn't—have been party to a settlement that cut the CT budget in a way that was dangerous.

Q35   Chair: How much do you currently spend on consultants at the Home Office?

Sir David Normington: Last year, up to last March, £160 million.

  Chair: £160 million?

  Sir David Normington: Yes.

Q36   Chair: Is it to one set of consultants, or is it to a group of consultants?

Sir David Normington: It's to a whole range of consultants. Remember, we have some of the biggest programmes in Government, and those consultants have mainly been helping us manage and run those big programmes.

Chair: It would be very helpful to the Committee if you could send us a list of these consultants and the amount of money paid and the work that they have done. Lorraine Fullbrook, on consultants?

Q37   Lorraine Fullbrook: Yes, thank you, Chairman. Just a quick supplementary. The £160 million—was most of that spent on the ID cards proposals?

Sir David Normington: No is the answer. I mean, there is a whole range of programmes. There's the e-Borders programme; there's the intercept modernisation programme; there's a whole range of programmes, of which ID cards is one.

Chair: Sir David, if you could just write to us and give us the list, that would be helpful. Mr Clappison?

Q38   Mr Clappison: Could you also just give us some indication of how the list has changed and the spending has changed over a period of time?

Sir David Normington: Yes, I can. If I may just say one sentence, this year, we are halving it.

Chair: Excellent, because when we had the NPIA before us last year, they spent £70 million on consultants. So adding the £70 million to the £160 million you have spent, that is about—thank you, Mr Burley.

Mr Burley: £230 million.

  Chair: You worked for the Home Office, so you can add up. [Interruption.] As a consultant?

  Mr Burley: As a consultant.

Q39   Chair: That is a considerable amount of money, isn't it, when we are talking about savings for front-line policing?

Sir David Normington: It is, but most of those programmes were about improving the effectiveness on the front line, either in the Border Agency or for policing. It is really important to say that. You probably don't want to go on about consultants but—

Chair: We do. Do you have more to tell us?

Sir David Normington: I want to say that sometimes we can't manage without consultants because that is the only way we can get the technical expertise we need to run some of our big programmes.

  Chair: Okay. Dr Huppert?

Q40   Dr Huppert: Could I just come back briefly to the counter-terrorist issues? I am sure you will be aware that one hot topic recently has been control orders. How effective do you think they have been, given that several people on control orders have managed to abscond and get away? Indeed, one came here to an event in the Palace of Westminster. Do you think they are an effective tool at all?

Sir David Normington: I think the last Government and this one are on the record as saying that they are unsatisfactory, but they're the best thing we have at the moment to control a small number of people who are dangerous. However, this is being reviewed at the moment. The Government are coming towards the end of a review, and they will decide whether they should continue or not.

Q41   Dr Huppert: You say it is to control a small number of people, and quite a lot of that small number of people have managed to get away and hence not be controlled. What is your opinion on that?

Sir David Normington: That's why I think that they're not perfect. Some have gone abroad, which is a mercy, in a way, because they are not here, and there are eight people on control orders at the moment. They're not perfect, because unless you lock people up for 24 hours, you will always have the possibility that they will be able to abscond and disappear. They're a very blunt instrument.

  Chair: Bridget Phillipson?

Q42   Bridget Phillipson: Thank you, Chairman. With the present Government committed to cutting costs centrally and expecting local forces to take on further responsibilities, do you expect to be making any savings under your cut crime, especially drug and alcohol-related crime, budget?

Sir David Normington: There will be reductions in almost every part of the Home Office budget, including the budgets that we spend specifically on grants to reduce crime and to tackle drugs. We are still working through precisely what they will be like. On drugs, we are working with the Department of Health there because there is a Department of Health budget that is more protected than ours that is about drug treatment. Therefore, we are working with them on what the total investment in drugs will be. The Government's approach, as you know, is to try to reduce to a minimum the number of separate, ring-fenced funding streams given out by the Home Office, and to devolve those to police authorities or, eventually, to the elected crime commissioners so that we don't give out lots of money from the Home Office. That's the general trend. Over quite a short period, I think we'll see most of those budgets disappearing but being put into general grant.

Q43   Bridget Phillipson: Again on the issue of research, are you looking to do any research into whether we can expect to see drug or alcohol-related crime rising? Again, this is a complex relationship, but it is at times related to socio-economic factors and, again, we are facing a continuing, and perhaps worsening, economic situation.

Sir David Normington: Sorry, I know you want me to say that we are expecting crime to rise. We are doing everything we can to make sure that it doesn't.

Q44   Bridget Phillipson: I don't expect you to say crime is going to rise. What I expect is that the Home Office, when looking at making cuts to front-line policing, might consider what impact that might have on crime. I find it incredible that we are facing this level of cuts to front-line policing without any real assessment having been made of its effect.

Sir David Normington: But all the evidence is that it's how you deploy your money and your people, rather than what the absolute numbers are. It's the deployment that is the issue, and we have quite a lot of evidence, through things like our QUEST programme, of how you deploy to get the maximum efficiency. Of course there are some risks here. It would be extraordinary—I'm not going to deny there are some risks. Of course there are some risks, but we and the Chief Constables are trying to make sure that we can make these reductions without having an impact on crime.

  Chair: Steve McCabe is requesting some information from you. Mr McCabe?

Q45   Steve McCabe: I just wondered if you could send us the evidence that you are referring to.

Sir David Normington: I can certainly refer you to the research studies that there have been, yes. I can make those available. Most of those are external.

Q46   Steve McCabe: We want the evidence that you've based your judgements on.

Sir David Normington: No, I can't do that, I'm afraid.

Q47   Steve McCabe: Why not?

Sir David Normington: That is, in a sense, giving you the advice to Ministers.

Q48   Steve McCabe: You said you had evidence. What is it?

  Chair: I don't think Mr McCabe wants you to disclose any private conversations you have with Ministers, but I think what he is keen to know, in view of what you have just said to Ms Phillipson—that you have based your judgment on certain evidence—what that evidence is, not what your advice is.

Sir David Normington: I can give you the publicly available evidence about the relationship between numbers and crime.

Q49   Chair: And that is what you based your advice on?

Sir David Normington: Yes.

  Chair: Right. Mr Winnick has a question.

Q50   Mr Winnick: Sir David, I am a bit puzzled, because you were doing your job when the previous Government were in office, and that Government substantially increased the number of police officers as well as community officers. Surely they did not do it for the fun of it. There must have been a reason, and the reason, presumably—the only possible reason—was to reduce criminality, which was reduced in the last few years. What would you say to that?

Sir David Normington: There was a great increase in the numbers and there was a reduction in crime. All I am saying is—

Q51   Mr Winnick: No relationship between the two?

Sir David Normington: I am saying that there is a relationship, but it's not a linear relationship between the two. It's more complicated than that. It's what is happening in the economy. It's how you make your deployments. Therefore, it doesn't follow that if you reverse this you will increase crime. Indeed, there are plenty of international comparisons that show that you can reduce numbers and crime can go down as well.

Mr Winnick: Sir David, you are doing your best.

Chair: I hope you are not inviting the Committee to go abroad to find out this information. We will go instead to Kent and Mr Reckless.

Q52   Mark Reckless: Recently, we had Lin Homer from the Border Agency tell us she was going to make 5,000 further staff reductions after, I think, 1,700 this year. Are you confident that those reductions can be made without any further deterioration in the quality of service from UKBA?

Sir David Normington: I just want to preface my remarks by saying that these cuts are extremely difficult, and no one should pretend otherwise, and there will be areas where we're under pressure as a result of them. Our job is to minimise that impact. We've been through with Lin Homer, as she said, in detail, where we think those cuts can be made and we believe it is possible to make them and maintain—and maybe in some areas, improve—the service. I think she talked through what those were but, briefly, they are: reducing the head office very sharply; ending the work, which has been very expensive, on the backlog—the legacy cases; greatly improving our case-working systems through automation, which allows online applications; and also just better administration within the UK Border Agency; and automation at the border. These aren't just hopes or wishes. They are things that are happening.

Q53   Mark Reckless: Why haven't they been done before?

Sir David Normington: They were tried in the past, in 2001, and they didn't work, some of them. What we have been engaged in, as she explained, was that in the last five years we have been rebuilding this agency and steadily trying to put back in place the processes and systems that weren't there. That gives me confidence that we can now move forward from here.

Q54   Mark Reckless: In terms of your core Home Office staffing, could you give the Committee some indication perhaps of the areas that you are particularly focusing on for the headcount reduction?

Sir David Normington: Since the Home Office, at core, is mainly about policy regulation and support services, all those areas will be taking at least a third cut in its costs, which will translate into probably about a quarter reduction in staff—maybe slightly less in some areas, but there will be differences from place to place. So we will be trying to develop, for instance, shared services with other Departments, so that we can offer to the Home Office IT services and estate services that are provided from a shared service, not from a devolved service, as would have been the case in the past.

Q55   Mark Reckless: You have quite a substantial statistics and analysis section. Is that something that may be reduced or outsourced?

Sir David Normington: There's going to be a review of the statistical function, but overall, all the functions will be taking around the same level of reductions, all the support functions. So I would expect to see about a one-third cut in costs in those functions.

Q56   Chair: What you have just told the Committee is that the proposals to deal with the budget of the UKBA were tried nine years ago and failed.

Sir David Normington: No, I was specifically asked why this hadn't been done before. There was a big attempt to automate the case-working systems in around 2000 and 2001, which was a failure, and a lot of the problems with the UK Border Agency's handling of cases stem from that failure.

Q57   Chair: To press you on Mr Reckless' point, why has it taken you nine years to do this, since the failure?

Sir David Normington: There coincided with that failure a huge increase in the number of people coming into this country through asylum and immigration. The systems didn't cope. My predecessors threw resource at it to control it, and once we had taken back control of asylum numbers, which we have, we then decided we would try again to invest in the IT.

  Chair: Thank you, that's very clear. James Clappison?

Q58   Mr Clappison: Which brings me on to the point I want to make. I think it was about four years ago and three Home Secretaries ago that the then Home Secretary sat where you are sitting now and declared that the system was not fit for purpose. I think that was after a period in which there had been substantial increases in public spending. So there wasn't, therefore, a linear relationship between increased public spending and increased efficiency, at least as far as that part of your work was concerned. Are you satisfied now that you have learned your lessons from that episode—the Department has learned its lessons; that it has got on top of the problems; that it knows what is going on; and that there aren't any backlogs or other hidden secrets that are creeping up on us and will be revealed at some point in the future?

Sir David Normington: Yes, I am confident that we are on top of it. Four and a half years ago was when he made those comments, and I remember them because I was sat next to him.

Chair: I couldn't remember whether you were there or not.

Sir David Normington: Fortunately, I'd just arrived; otherwise I probably wouldn't be here telling you this story now. So it's four and a half years ago, and it was specifically in relation to both the problems in the UK Border Agency as it was—it was called something else at that time—and also our problems in producing our accounts and so on. Those things are put right. We are nearly at the end of clearing the John Reid backlog of 450,000 cases, which he declared. We said we would clear it by next year, and we will.

Q59   Chair: Of course, Ms Homer has said that she will not take her bonus next year, unless the backlog is cleared. That, presumably, goes for other senior figures in the Home Office.

Sir David Normington: Yes. I'm not sure whether there will be bonuses in the future, but I have noted what she said.

  Chair: Dr Huppert?

Q60   Dr Huppert: Certainly judging by my case load, UKBA could save a lot of money by getting things right the first time rather than the fifth, so I hope that will be looked at. But can I look at the trajectory for the whole Home Office? It was always one of the great Offices of State, and then part of it was hived off into the Ministry of Justice. If I look at the outline of the spending at the moment, most of it goes to police, which is essentially money that is passed over, and as for a lot of what is left, the next biggest section is immigration and, of course, that goes out to an agency, UKBA, so it is not really core to the Home Office.

Sir David Normington: It is really core to the Home Office. It is an absolutely core subject for us.

Q61   Dr Huppert: But it is interesting that when we interact with it, we are passed out to UKBA, rather than getting responses from the Home Secretary, so it is clearly somewhat outside. What is left, and what is the future trajectory of the Home Office? Is it just going to have the role of dealing with agencies and telling Members of Parliament and others that they need to talk to the agencies?

Sir David Normington: No. There are three big strands in the Home Office. One is crime and policing, one is the lead across Government on counter-terrorism, and the third one is immigration and asylum. I hope what we pass out to the agency is case work. That's why you have an agency—because it's supposed to be dealing with cases. But actually, responsibility rests with the Home Secretary and the Home Office for making sure that the policy, the organisational framework, the resourcing, and the regulatory and legislative framework is done by the Home Office. We'll have to see. Somebody else will decide what the future trajectory is, whether we go up or whether we go down.

Q62   Dr Huppert: So we should be expecting the policies all to be made by the Home Office and not by ACPO, not by UKBA, not by any of these bodies?

Sir David Normington: The UKBA does have a policy function, but that policy function works as part of the Home Office with the Home Secretary and the Immigration Minister in developing the policies.

  Chair: Aidan Burley?

Q63   Mr Burley: Home Secretary, you employ Lin Homer?

Sir David Normington: I do. She reports to me.

Q64   Mr Burley: You pay her £208,000 a year.

Sir David Normington: Yes.

Q65   Mr Burley: Which is £66,000 more than the Prime Minister earns, whether or not she gets her bonus on top. Do you think she is overpaid?

Sir David Normington: Perhaps I can answer it like this. She was recruited in 2005 on that salary and, at that time, that was what we had to pay to get her. We wouldn't have got her if we had not paid that amount of money. It was very difficult in 2005 to recruit a chief executive of the UK Border Agency, or IND as it was, because it is a very tough job and I'm afraid people don't queue up to do it. She came from a local authority, as you know. She came from Birmingham—

Chair: It is Mr McCabe's local authority; that is why he is sniggering.

Sir David Normington—where she was, no doubt, paid a large amount of money.

Chair: Mr Burley?

Q66   Mr Burley: If people watch the recording of this Committee on a Friday night in my constituency, where the average salary in £21,275 a year, can you explain to them why she needs to be paid £66,000 more than the Prime Minister earns, or is it time that she now took a third cut in her salary along with the rest of the Departments, who you've just explained are taking their third in cuts? How can it be justified, in this new world of massive public spending reductions and having to live within our means, that she is still paid over £200,000 a year?

Chair: Could you just clarify whether she is paid more than you, Sir David?

Sir David Normington: Yes.

Chair: She is. Go on.

Sir David Normington: Because, as you well know, Mr Burley, the market works like that, and sometimes you have to recruit people at that level.

Q67   Mr Burley: Are you telling me that there is no one else in this entire country, or indeed the world, that would do this job for less than £208,000 per year? I would. I will make that offer now.

Sir David Normington: Yes, but—

Chair: Sir David, just to clarify this point, because this is a serious point that Mr Burley is making, is this a fixed-term contract, or is it an ongoing contract?

Sir David Normington: She's a permanent employee of the Home Office and, therefore, that is the contract. It gives her permanent employment until either she decides to go or we decide to ask her to go. At that point we would be able to decide whether we can recruit someone at a smaller amount, and I'm quite sure we will try.

Q68   Mr Burley: In the question from Ms Phillipson, you have just said you have reduced the grant that you are giving to police forces up and down the country, who have to use that money to pay their salary costs and so on. Why don't you now reduce her salary by a third, in line with all the other public sector reductions you are making, to send a signal that we are now going beyond the days of public sector excess?

Sir David Normington: Because I think she is worth that amount of money. She's done a great job.

  Chair: Thank you, Sir David. Alun Michael?

Q69   Alun Michael: I wonder if you can relate this to purpose, as well, because there is a tendency to talk about cuts and efficiencies in isolation. We have had pressure for efficiency savings over a number of years, so would it be right to think that there is not a lot more to be squeezed out, and how do you think you are going to achieve the 33% decrease in administration costs?

Sir David Normington: Well, there have been major efforts to improve efficiency over a number of years, but a lot of that money has been reinvested and the challenge for us and for the police is to take that money out. That will be tough, but it will mean doing less, as well as doing things more efficiently.

Q70   Alun Michael: So how are you going to do it? We are talking about the administration.

Sir David Normington: Yes, I understand that. I'll give you one example and this is a cross-Government one. Across Government, there are 2,000 people employed, across the whole of the civil service, providing learning and development to the civil service. The aim is to bring them all together into one service providing a service for the whole of the civil service and to reduce the numbers from 2,000 eventually to 200. That is a very big saving to the civil service that will be shared out. We will be looking for those kinds of efficiency gains. They won't all be as dramatic as that.

Q71   Alun Michael: That's a very dramatic figure. Are you saying that there will be no loss in what you described in your answer to the earlier questions as being very important: continuous learning and development of skills at every level?

Sir David Normington: Well, I think that it will mean that we will probably do less learning and development as well.

Q72   Alun Michael: Is that not going to lead to inefficiencies?

Sir David Normington: Well, I hope not. We're going to have less money, and we're going to have fewer people, and therefore we'll need fewer support services and we're going to do them more efficiently. That's the most dramatic example. Some of the others will be smaller than that.

Q73   Alun Michael: I accept the importance of bringing things together rather than operating in silos. It's always been a passion of mine. But if you're going to get organisations to work together, that needs incentives for them to do it effectively and it needs good organisation. What you've described as a drop from 2,000 to 200 sounds very extreme. Why wasn't it done before if there are such gains to be made?

Sir David Normington: Because in the past, and for a long time, we've been operating on the basis of a much more decentralised and devolved service, and we are now beginning to draw those things back into centralised services.

Q74   Alun Michael: But isn't a key principle of this Government to be devolving responsibilities closer to the point of activity?

Sir David Normington: Yes, but I'm talking about administration here in the civil service, and I don't think it is the Government's aim within the civil service to devolve to Government Departments. I think the aim is to bring it all together and there is quite a tight grip being put on us by the Cabinet Office at the moment.

  Chair: Thank you. Mark Reckless?

Q75   Mark Reckless: In Policing in the 21st Century, the Home Office complained that police forces were almost drowning in trolley-loads of guidance. Doesn't the Home Office have to take some responsibility for that—for having essentially abdicated its role for setting national policing policy to ACPO? We saw a great rise in ACPO guidance as the number of Home Office circulars declined. Isn't it time that the Home Office and elected Ministers took back that role of setting national policing policy?

Sir David Normington: Well, it's an interesting question, really, because—

Chair: It's very important in respect of the new landscape.

Sir David Normington: Yes, it is.

Chair: That's why Mr Reckless asks this.

Sir David Normington: I don't think it is really appropriate for the Home Office to be setting professional standards for the police and operations.

Q76   Chair: Sorry, Mr Reckless is not talking about the standards only; he's talking about policy.

Sir David Normington: Professional standards and operational standards. Policy, if you like. But they're very much about how the police operate. I still think it is right that the police should be developing that policy for themselves when it is about the operations of the police.

Q77   Chair: Yes, but that is not what Mr Reckless has asked you, Sir David. He asks what the purpose is of the Home Office in view of the fact that there are other organisations, like ACPO, that seem to make policy. What Mr Reckless says is: shouldn't this be done by Ministers through the Home Office?

Sir David Normington: Well, I'm saying no, it shouldn't. It should be done by the professional leaders of the service. It depends what you mean by "policy". A lot of the guidance—the 2,000 pages of guidance that was produced by ACPO—is about how the police operate in their day-to-day operations, and I think that has to be professionally led. I agree with you that it's completely unacceptable that this has produced all this guidance, but I don't think the answer is to transfer that function to the Home Office.

Q78   Mark Reckless: Sir David, we had a tripartite system where we had the Chief Constable, the police authority and the Home Office, but gradually over the last 10 or 15 years—without, as far as I can see, any sanction from Parliament—ACPO has inserted itself into a dominating role in that system, and it's not democratically accountable. You have said earlier to Mr Burley that getting more police on the streets, patrolling singly rather than in pairs, visibility—that was a proper field for the elected commissioner. Where things are national rather than local, shouldn't those types of issues be dealt with by the Home Office, accountable through Ministers to Parliament, rather than by ACPO, a private limited company?

Sir David Normington: Yes, there are some things that the Home Office and the Home Secretary have to take responsibility for, but I still maintain that where we're talking about the way in which the police operate, those standards have to be set—to be led, anyway—by the police. The Home Office can't do that, I don't think.

  Chair: Thank you. Steve McCabe?

Q79   Steve McCabe: Sir David, you said to one of my colleagues earlier that the police were expecting cuts on this scale. That was directly contradicted by at least three Chief Constables in Cannock yesterday, who indicated they weren't expecting this level of cuts or this time scale. Who is right, you or them?

Sir David Normington: Well, if that's what they've said, then I stand to be corrected. Clearly there were differences between the last Government and this on what level of cuts they were expecting and so on, but—

Q80   Steve McCabe: But the point was they talked about this size of cuts in this time scale. You implied that they've had plenty of time to prepare for this and they were expecting it.

Sir David Normington: No, I believe they've been preparing for very serious reductions. I accept that they were not expecting the scale of reductions in years one and two.

Q81   Steve McCabe: Tell me: your Department is taking one of the biggest cuts in the CSR. Is that because there's a lot of excess fat, and do you feel some personal guilt for being a very profligate Permanent Secretary?

Sir David Normington: No, I don't. This is really a matter you have to take up with Ministers and with the Government.

Q82   Steve McCabe: But you presided over it, didn't you?

Sir David Normington: No. The decisions of what services to protect and what level of cuts to impose on each Department was not a decision taken by me.

Q83   Steve McCabe: No, but I'm trying to understand why the Home Office is taking such a big hit. Presumably, that's because there's a lot you can afford to cut out?

Sir David Normington: No, in our administration budgets we're taking almost exactly the same as anyone else. It was a given that every Department should take 33% cuts in administration.

Q84   Chair: Except Education and Health.

Sir David Normington: No, I think I'm right that they've all taken the same cut in their administration budgets.

Chair: In administration, I understand.

Sir David Normington: I think I'm right in that, am I?

Helen Kilpatrick: Yes, but they can reinvest it.

Sir David Normington: But they can reinvest, yes. They can keep the money and we have to give it up.

Q85   Chair: Sorry, they can make the cuts, but keep the money?

Sir David Normington: They have to find those savings, but they are able to reinvest them.

  Chair: Mr McCabe, final question, please?

Q86   Steve McCabe: Just tell me one last thing. How much money are you spending in order to wind up ID cards?

Sir David Normington: I think it will cost us, net this year, just £5 million, that is, when we have—

Steve McCabe: Just £5 million.

Sir David Normington: Just £5 million. When we have ended the contracts and made the savings this year, this year's costs will be plus £5 million. Over the four years of the spending review, it will be a saving of £86 million.

Chair: Okay, Mr Michael has one supplementary and Dr Huppert has one.

Q87   Alun Michael: It's really on the issue of finances, particularly in relation to the police funding figures. We had a very useful note, which is based on Home Office figures, that showed the distribution over a number of years of central Government finance and police precept and the balance between those; so that was both in real terms and showing the percentage terms. I was concerned about one footnote that says, "Equivalent figures for capital funding are not available". It seems to me quite an important comparator. Particularly, it's a matter of interest in my police force area, where a different approach to capital funding is taken by the Welsh Assembly Government. Could you provide us with that information?

Sir David Normington: Yes.

Chair: Would you do that? Would you write to us with that information?

Sir David Normington: We can certainly provide you with what we have on capital, yes. It's a different system.

Chair: Excellent. Dr Huppert?

Q88   Dr Huppert: Thank you, Chairman. Mr McCabe asked about identity cards. He comes from one perspective; I come from another. Can you remind us how much has been spent so far creating the identity card system?

Sir David Normington: As long as I'm not completely held to this, I think it's about £250 million.

Q89   Dr Huppert: So a lot more than the £5 million?

Sir David Normington: Yes, I was answering the question about the closure costs this year.

Dr Huppert: Yes, indeed.

  Chair: Yes, Ms Phillipson, if it's a brief, quick—

Q90   Bridget Phillipson: Are you able to share with the Committee whether, at any point, you discussed with Ministers reimbursing ID cardholders for the costs they had incurred when buying the cards?

Sir David Normington: Well, that clearly was a discussion and the outcome of it was in the legislation; the Government decided not to reimburse. But that has been defeated in the House of Lords, as I understand it.

Q91   Chair: Sir David, I have a question about e-Borders. We produced a report last year indicating our concern about the way in which the e-Borders system was being operated. You terminated the contract in July for Raytheon.

Sir David Normington: Yes.

Chair: Why is Raytheon still delivering the service, if you've terminated its contract?

Sir David Normington: Because it's very important that the investment we made is used and that we're using the assets that we've invested in, and Raytheon continues to provide that service until we move it on to someone else. You can't just cut off a contract, because Raytheon has been providing those services.

Q92   Chair: Well, absolutely. That's the concern, I think, of this Committee. You terminated the contract because Raytheon defaulted, in your view. You have not found somebody else to deliver this service, and it is six months since you terminated. Isn't that a cause for concern? Why is it taking so long to find a successor organisation?

Sir David Normington: I don't think it is, because I think it is an opportunity to revisit the shape and scale of the project to make sure that when we re-let it, we re-let it on the right basis. So we are going to go ahead with e-Borders, but I think it's important that we don't rush into a new contract. It's a very complex and very large contract. We must not just switch it to someone else. There will have to be a full tender exercise.

Q93   Chair: No, we understand it is complex. That's why we were concerned, when this Committee published our report on e-Borders, the Home Office didn't seem to take much notice of what we were saying. We warned that this would happen. But the point I'm making is: if you're so dissatisfied with this firm, why is the firm still delivering the service?

Sir David Normington: Because otherwise, the service that we already have will stop.

Q94   Chair: But is there a timetable to this, because you don't seem to have found another supplier?

Sir David Normington: Well, I'm not an expert on precisely what the timing is in terms of the transfer from Raytheon to another, but for the moment—until we re-let this contract, which will take some time—Raytheon is providing the service.

Q95   Chair: Well, I think this might well end up before the Public Accounts Committee, so I will write to you about these particular questions.

Sir David Normington: It may do.

Q96   Chair: I think we would like to see either a timetable or some kind of information, because we were very firm on this in the report.

Sir David Normington: I promise you, we did take this seriously. This has been a very complex contract.

Q97   Chair: Well, you didn't act on the report that the Select Committee produced.

Sir David Normington: We did do some things with Raytheon as a result, but it's really important that I don't say too much about this. We're in litigation with Raytheon.

Chair: Right, we will write to you then, without prejudice. Nicola Blackwood?

Q98   Nicola Blackwood: Sir David, the Committee hears a terrible rumour that you're planning to retire soon. Could you give us an indication of what challenges you think your successor might face? I don't know if you were going to write a Liam Byrne­esque note to him or her. What might it be?

Sir David Normington: I don't think I will write a Liam Byrne note. Clearly, we've been talking about the biggest challenge all through this hearing. The biggest challenge is how to make a 23% cut in the Home Office's budget and maintain the impact of what we do and the service to the public, and that will be very tough. I would think that my successor will be focused on that most of the time. There are certain to be places where this produces serious pressures and having the systems in place to know where it's happening before it becomes a serious problem will be the task. We were talking about backlogs emerging; we're all over this issue of backlogs and where they occur. And clearly, when you have less resource, you need to be even more all over that issue; otherwise, we'll get back into the same problems we had with the UK Border Agency and its predecessor when I started.

Q99   Chair: You haven't confirmed Ms Blackwood's rumour. Is it true? Are you retiring?

Sir David Normington: Well, I announced this in September.

Chair: So it's not a rumour then?

Sir David Normington: It's not a rumour.

Q100   Chair: And when will you be leaving the Home Office?

Sir David Normington: Well, formally, on 31 December, but at Christmas, really.

Q101   Chair: So this is your last appearance before us?

Sir David Normington: It is.

Chair: Sir David, thank you very much for coming to give evidence. We have given you a lot of homework.

Sir David Normington: You have given me quite a lot, yes.

Chair: And we will send you a list of all the questions we feel that it would be helpful to this Committee if you could answer.

Sir David Normington: Okay.

Chair: Thank you very much.

Sir David Normington: Thank you.

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