Examination of Witness (Question Numbers
28 June 2011
Q644 Chair: Mr
Barnett, my apologies for keeping you waiting. As you saw, the
Committee was asking the Commissioner a number of questions of
importance. Your presence at this hearing is, of course, extremely
important to this Committee. I want to start with a fairly general
question, which is about your wish for a Royal Commission. Is
it still the case that you believe that the establishment of a
Royal Commission would help in respect of what is happening with
the new landscape of policing?
Thank you, Chair. Around about 10 years ago, the Superintendents'
Association debated whether or not to call for a Royal Commission.
At the time, we took soundings clearly from the wider police family
but also from our members. At that stage, we were persuaded that
a Royal Commission would take too long and would be too expensive
and, therefore, as an association, our view was that we should
not push for a Royal Commission. Nothing has changed in the intervening
years because, quite clearly, we understand the imperative to
review policing, but still we are not persuaded that a Royal Commission
is the best way. I think what we do believe, and I certainly believe,
is that there is an awful lot of reform of the police service
in general. A lot of it is very good, very valuable, but there
is a sense that it is not connected up with any coherence or vision.
Q645 Chair: How
would you describe morale at the moment among superintendents,
members of your organisation? Is it good?
It is a question that has always been asked of the police service
since I joined in 1978, 33 years ago. Morale, I think, is something
that changes from individual to individual, from force to force
and from unit to unit. So I think it is always a dangerous thing
to say that is there a general picture of morale across either
the service or my members.
Q646 Chair: You
must be able to gauge this. You have an organisation; obviously
some people are necessarily happy people, some people are sad
people; but, generally speaking, what is morale like?
At the moment we have 1,468 members. Twelve months ago we had
1,650 members. So clearly we are seeing a significant reduction
over a relatively small period. That is bringing about a sense
among our members that they are being asked to do more, and command
a more challenging and complex environment, with reduced numbers.
So that is bringing some challenges in terms of our members' own
personal resilience and the resilience of the officers they command
and the units they work in. So there is a question, in that respect,
about their own resilience.
But there is another element clearly; they are facing
many challenges themselves personally in terms of not only reduced
numbers but terms and conditions, pensions, pay and the pay freeze.
That is having an impact on people, but not to the point where
it is to the detriment of the work that they are doing. My members
are superintendents and chief superintendents in key positions
and it is not deflecting them from the work they are doing.
Q647 Nicola Blackwood:
Mr Barnett, now that we have seen the detail of Peter Neyrouds'
review, could we ask for your opinion on his proposals for the
creation of a professional body and, in particular, what role
you see superintendents and chief superintendents having within
that new body?
I think, for a group of senior people within policing, it would
be perverse if we did not want to see the professionalism of the
service. So we have always agreed in principle and support in
principle Peter Neyroud's view about professionalising the service
and we supported in principle a professional body. The difficulty
appears to have been in the terminology, because nobody is quite
clear what a "professional body" means in policing.
The Royal College of Nursing, for example, is a trade union that
acts in furtherance of the interests of its members. I think what
Peter Neyroud is suggesting is something that is both regulatory
but also membership-focused, and that has caused us a bit of difficulty
because it becomes a bit of a hybrid organisation.
The second thing is that Peter Neyroud suggested
that this new professional body would be led by ACPO, which would
be the head and the heart of that organisation. Clearly, for senior
people in policing, that causes us a little bit of disquiet because,
if there is to be an overarching professional body for policing,
or whatever we call it, it should be one that takes in governance
and engagement from the whole of the service, including superintendents
and chief superintendents.
Q648 Nicola Blackwood:
Have you taken soundings from your members? What recommendations
will you be making for the formation of such a bodythat
it should be primarily membership-led, that it should be primarily
regulatory? What would be your preferences?
Strangely enough, we are the only body in policing that has asked
the question of all our members and, among the 1,500 or so members,
there are quite split views, I am afraid. There is no consistent
view. I have talked about the confusion about the name "professional
body", and about how it would be governed. So there is no
clear consensus about what this should look like. But I think
there is clarity that the reason for the creation of a professional
body is primarily the demise of the NPIA, the desire to see a
change in the governance of ACPO and, clearly, the financial situation.
Our view as an association is quite clearly that that should be
fixed first before you then move on to a professional body, because
there is the fear that the professional body is a way of masking
Q649 Nicola Blackwood:
In what form did you ask your members that? Was it a survey or
a letter to which you received responses?
It was a direct e-mail from me to every single member, forwarding
Peter Neyroud's report and an executive summary and then posing
a number of questions about it and seeking their views.
Q650 Nicola Blackwood:
Would you be willing to send the results of those responses to
the Committee in some kind of digested form? It would be very
interesting for us to see it.
Certainly we have made a formal response to the Home Office, which
will be published, and you are very welcome to see that, yes.
Nicola Blackwood: Thank
Q651 Mark Reckless:
Mr Barnett, I have never fully understood this great divide in
status between assistant chief constables and chief superintendents.
The Police Authority has played a role in their appointment and
they have been through the strategic command course, but isn't
it just that they are a member of this organisation called ACPO
and people of your rank are not? Is that a barrier we should be
breaking down in the new landscape?
I agree entirely. We are a product of where we are now, but in
years gone by I guess we lived in a far simpler world than we
do now and policing was divided into the practitioners right the
way through to chief inspectors, and chief officers from ACC onwards,
and chief superintendents sat somewhere in the middle. That worked
and has been proved to work, but what we are finding now is that
in the new landscapeto use the terminology of the Committeewe
are seeing a blurring now of the lines between chief superintendent
and ACC. I have no doubt at all that, in the future, that line
will become even more blurred and then we will question what exactly
it is that we ask an assistant chief constable to do that is different
from what we ask a chief superintendent to do. We have the quite
bizarre situation in some forces now that chief superintendents
are directly line-managed by one ACC, so almost a one-for-one
situation. Clearly that is not something that we believe is right.
In time, I think we may see a more sensible division of labour,
if that is the right way to describe it.
Q652 Lorraine Fullbrook:
ACPO receives around £10 million of taxpayers' money. Does
your organisation receive any taxpayers' money?
We receive a grant that is called "grant in aid" each
year from the Home Office, but we are funded primarily one third
by that grant and two thirds by our members' subscriptions.
Q653 Lorraine Fullbrook:
How many pounds is that?
Gosh, I'm not the treasurer so it would be difficult to answer
that for you, but it is two thirds, one third. I guess it is between
£500,000 and £600,000.
Q654 Steve McCabe:
Can I just ask you quickly about the National Crime Agency? When
the Police Federation gave evidence on thisthis was before
the Government had published their plan on 8 Junethey described
it as an "empty vessel". Obviously, since then the Government
have produced this plan. Are you clear now about what functions
and responsibilities the National Crime Agency will have and how
it will operate?
Clear inasmuch as I have seen the document produced by the Home
Secretary proposing the NCA. As an association, we welcome that
focus on serious and organised crime and recognise the impact
on the economy between £20 billion and £40 billion per
year. So I think we welcome that particular emphasis. We do have
some concerns about the detail but, listening to the Commissioner,
I would agree entirely that what we desperately need now is to
appoint the head of that organisation. I think, once we have cleared
that particular hurdle, some of the detail will become more apparent.
Q655 Steve McCabe:
On that, do you have any idea of when you think that head may
be appointed? I am just conscious that we legislate for this in
2012; it gets going in 2013. I do not know what the technicalities
of appointing someone to a body you have not legislated for yet
might be, but what kind of time scale do you envisage for appointing
Other than knowing that the job description has now been finalised
and an advert completed, I do not know the time scale. I should
imagine there will be a relatively small number of people applying
for that role, which I think would foreshorten the process; but
it is about getting that individual in place as quickly as possible
and then taking forward some of that detail.
Q656 Michael Ellis:
Mr Barnett, in your written evidence you express some concern
about the future of some functions currently performed by the
NPIA and also the gap between the phasing out of that agency and
the setting up of the new National Crime Agency. That was a few
months ago now, so I am just wondering if your concerns have been
No, I think those concerns are still there. What we are unsure
and unclear about is what exactly will happen to those legacy
services and products that the NPIA currently provide. We have
to remind ourselves that the NPIA was set up to bring together
all those parts of policing that had hitherto been in different
places, so it did fulfil a function. With the demise of the NPIA,
we are not sure where some significant pieces of work will go
to. We have a feeling that some of the IT things will be taken
care of in some sort of organisation, but we have concerns about
those things that are not big ticket items like PNC, PND, DNA
and witness protection.
Q657 Michael Ellis:
You have suggested, have you not, the possibility of creating
a new body to manage certain of those NPIA functions like the
DNA database and the police national database?
No, we haven't suggested that. There will be something, I am sure.
There will have to be something that will take hold of those
services. The worry I have is about where what remains will go
to. We believe that that is in the region of £60 million
and if there is not a proper home or funding for that, that burden
will then fall on individual police forces.
Q658 Michael Ellis:
Could those functions go to a lead force, for example, or to Her
Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary or something like that;
a functional model?
As it is currently constituted, I don't think HMIC could, because
a lot of these things require people and they require them to
do things. It is the people that cost money. It is less about
the buildings. But some of these things are about vital services
such as operational support in times of crisis and the co-ordination
of activity to deal with critical incidents. Our fear is that
eventually somebody somewhere will take control of that, but the
cost will fall across the police service generally. If that goes
into individual forces, each of the 43 forces will have to take
their share of the £60 million or so, and that will then
have an impact, again, on service delivery to the public.
Q659 Alun Michael:
In your written evidence, you were critical of the fact that only
the abolition of stop and search forms had contributed to reducing
bureaucracy. There have been recent announcements. Do those go
What is positive about the Home Secretary's recent announcement
is the clear, determined focus to reduce bureaucracy, and that
is welcome because the
Alun Michael: I was not
talking about focus. I was asking you whether it is achieving
I think the point I was coming on to is that that focus is probably
more unremitting than it has been in the past, because we have
had previous attempts to reduce bureaucracy. I think already we
have seen stop and account, but we are beginning to see, for example,
the return of charging powers to custody sergeants, which has
the potential, I think, to reduce the bureaucracy even further.
But when I ask the question of police officers and my members
about we are seeing any evidence yet of bureaucracy reduction,
the real answer is that it is slow progress. I think one of the
reasons for that is that quite often it is our own members, our
own senior officers, who contribute to the bureaucracy. I think
it will take some time.
This is why I come back to the unremitting focus.
It is something that has to be pursued as a long-term objective.
It is not just a question of cutting out forms. It is not just
a question of giving better technology. It is about moving on
from this culture that everything has to be written down because
if it isn't, it didn't happen. Lawyers tell chief superintendents
that, when you are managing a critical incident you have to write
every single decision down and the reason behind every decision.
That is bureaucratic in the extreme.
I also think we have been very comfortable as a service
within a performance culture, because that sometimes is easier
to manage than a culture that allows discretion. Again, I think
the message to my members and to chief officers is to trust the
police officers more, trust our staff and give them the discretion
to do the job without being overly prescriptive.
Q660 Steve McCabe:
Can I just ask a very simple question on that? I am with you in
wanting to cut bureaucracy and trust police officers; but when
you are facing criticism for having got something badly wrong
in a major inquiry, if you cannot point to how you made your decision,
how are you going to defend yourself?
Absolutely, and that is the advice that we get; so I don't think
the answer to that particular problem lies within the police service.
I think that lies much more generally with people like yourselves,
in politics, but also people in the legal profession. There is
no short-term answer to that question about being accountable.
It is also right to remember that, as a profession and as a service,
we are daily making decisions that affect people's livestaking
their liberty, using legitimate force, prosecuting people and
putting them before the courts. So it is right that there is a
measure of accountability in what we do, and people have a right
to expect accuracy as well as detail.
Q661 Chair: Can
I just finally ask you about the Winsor proposals? How have they
gone down with your members?
There has been an understanding, I think, by our members of the
reasons why, perhaps, the Winsor Part 1 Report was commissioned.
Our members are particularly disappointed with one or two specific
recommendations and one of those is the recommendation to freeze
annual increments of pay. But, generally speaking, the concern
among our members is less about ourselves and more about those
whom we supervise and managethe federated ranks. We do
have concerns about how the report will impact on them. It is
worrying to see the focus of their mind-set taken away from the
profession and the service they should be providing and a distraction
towards pay and conditions at a time when they also face a two-year
pay freeze and changes in pensions. It is the same for them as
everybody else in the public service, and they understand that
and accept that as well.
Q662 Lorraine Fullbrook:
A very quick question. Can I ask how you disseminated the Winsor
Review to your members so each of your members was aware of
the facts, rather than the perception of the facts?
Again, I took a personal decision that every single member of
the Superintendents' Association would get a full copy of the
report and they would also receive the executive summary and they
were all invited to comment and feed back responses to me at the
Lorraine Fullbrook: So
they all had a copy?
Every single one.
Chair: Mr Barnett, thank
you very much for giving evidence, and thank you for the co-operation
that you show with this Committee. You are always very ready with
your organisation to supply us with the views of your superintendents
and we are most grateful.