Home Affairs Committee - Minutes of EvidenceHC 235-i

Back to Report

Oral Evidence

Taken before the Home Affairs Committee

on Tuesday 16 July 2013

Members present:

Keith Vaz (Chair)

Nicola Blackwood

Mr James Clappison

Michael Ellis

Lorraine Fullbrook

Dr Julian Huppert

Steve McCabe

Mark Reckless

Chris Ruane

Mr David Winnick


Examination of Witness

Witness: Rt Hon Theresa May MP, Home Secretary, gave evidence.

Q1 Chair: Home Secretary, my apologies for keeping you waiting. I know you must be extremely busy. We apologise. Our last two witnesses were very interesting to the Committee.

Thank you very much for coming today. The last time you appeared here before us, you spent 25 minutes talking about Abu Qatada. On behalf of the Committee, could I thank you for your personal efforts in ensuring that Abu Qatada finally made it on to a plane and out of the country? It must be a source of great satisfaction to you that this chapter has been closed. Are you satisfied that that is now the end of the matter; there is no risk that he might be sent back to us?

Mrs May: I am satisfied that it is the end of the matter, Chairman. Thank you for your kind remarks. I should say that an awful lot of people have worked very hard on this, some of them who have been working hard on it for quite a considerable period of time. A real effort was put in by officials in the Home Office, and by others, our ambassador in Amman and others, to ensure that we could achieve this, and obviously by working with the Jordanian Government. I am satisfied in the assurances that we received from them, and the Treaty, both of which enabled Abu Qatada to be deported.

Q2 Chair: Do you have today a figure for us as to the final cost of the Abu Qatada case? Or if you do not have it today, can you write to us with the cost? The last cost we had was £1.7 million. Would you be able to let us have those figures?

Mrs May: I won’t be able to let you have a complete cost, Chairman, because some of the figures will relate to activity by the police and others. As you will be aware, we do not normally reveal those figures. The figure of £1.7 million which you received, I believe is a figure which predominantly relates to legal costs. Of course, some money was taken from Abu Qatada’s frozen assets here in the UK, some £220,000, to cover some of those legal costs.

Q3 Chair: His final departure: was that on a plane that we paid for, the British taxpayer? Or was that paid for the Jordanian authorities?

Mrs May: We provided the plane.

Q4 Chair: Did it then come back or did it stay in Jordan? Or was it just hired?

Mrs May: I have to say, Chairman, that beyond its arriving in Jordan and Abu Qatada getting off it, I really had little interest in what was happening to the plane. If you wish to know where the plane went to, I am very happy to-

Q5 Chair: No, no, I am very happy with it. We saw him getting on, and we saw him getting off, so I assume he is still there-but we paid the cost.

Let us move on. We have just heard evidence from Mick Creedon, and you, no doubt, like the Committee, have tried to absorb the very useful report that Mr Creedon has produced on Operation Herne. We have heard the apology from the Commissioner to the families of those whose children had died and whose identities had been used. Was the Commissioner right to apologise for this, and would you like to add anything to what he has said about the use of the identities of dead children in those circumstances?

Mrs May: As I understand it, the Commissioner apologised for the shock and offence that was caused by this. Obviously, at the time when it was first suggested that this might have been the practice, I think many people were very concerned to hear that it was a practice, and, I think, welcomed the fact that Pat Gallan, when she appeared before your Committee, indicated that this was no longer the practice, and, indeed, could not take place under the regulatory system that is now in place. I understand the significant concerns that people had that this was a practice that was used by the police.

Q6 Chair: You of course have deprecated that practice?

Mrs May: I have been clear that I completely understand why people are concerned at that practice, that the practice was used. We are going back, of course, some years in relation to how this came about. As I understand it, and obviously from the figures that have been released today, Chief Constable Creedon has suggested that some 42 dead children’s identities may have been used in fake identities.

Q7 Chair: Do you think the families ought to be contacted, because clearly some families, after Pat Gallan appeared before this Committee, immediately contacted the Metropolitan Police. Do you think that all the families ought to have been informed about this use?

Mrs May: This is a very difficult question, which obviously the Chief Constable, in looking at this issue, has addressed today, because it is a balance between the natural concern of families perhaps to know whether or not the identity of their dead child has been used, but also a concern about some families where perhaps this would reopen emotions on an issue which they have been able to move on from. Then on the other side, of course, there is the question of those officers who were using those identities, who, if the identities did become public, that could become known to those they were working among as part of their undercover jobs.

Q8 Chair: Would you like to see people informed, subject to those parameters?

Mrs May: It is important that we recognise that when we ask people to do very difficult jobs such as going undercover, that there is an onus on ensuring a degree of protection for them. If it is the case that they become identified and potentially harm can come to them as a result, of course that first is a problem in relation to those individuals, and also could mean that others will not undertake that work. Society asked them to do that work, and I recognise the decision that the Chief Constable has taken today.

Q9 Chair: You have been very clear on the Lawrence case. You were pretty shocked when you heard about it and, indeed, made a statement to the House about your great concern that undercover agents may have been involved in smearing the Lawrence family. You asked Mick Creedon to look at this subject, and you widened the scope of the Ellison inquiry. But we heard evidence from Doreen Lawrence last week, who was sitting in the chair that you are sitting in at the moment, and she was very clear that she does not have confidence in the inquiry at the moment, and that she would prefer a public inquiry. Bearing in mind what the Prime Minister has said, that everything is on the table, do you think it would be right now to have a public inquiry into these very serious allegations?

Mrs May: As you say, Chairman, I was concerned by the serious allegations that have been made, and I recognise the concern and worry and anxiety that this has raised with Doreen and other members of the Lawrence family. I have had the opportunity to talk to Doreen on two occasions now about that, and where the Government is going on this, and I know that Mark Ellison, when he gave evidence before this Committee, was clear that he did not feel that it was right to have a public inquiry at this stage. So the position that I am in is that I believe it is right to allow the Ellison review work to complete: he is clear that that should be completed by the end of the year. Mick Creedon’s work in relation to this in Operation Herne should, I believe, be completed by around the same time. I am asking Mark Ellison, specifically, in his report to report to me as to whether or not he believes that he has been able to get to the truth-I think if he is able to, this is the quickest way of doing it-but that if he has not been able to get to the truth, if he feels he has not been able to get all the evidence he needs, to tell me whether he feels that a public inquiry is necessary. I commit now that, if he says a public inquiry is necessary, then we will indeed set up a judge-led public inquiry.

Q10 Chair: That is extremely helpful, but of course the Prime Minister made another commitment, which was that he would support an inquiry that had the confidence of Doreen Lawrence and the Lawrence family. He was very clear about that, and these two inquiries do not have the confidence of Doreen Lawrence. We, on this Committee, have heard this for ourselves when she sat before us last week. Although Mr Creedon has made it very clear that he would like to meet with her, and convince that she is wrong, or that he is right, and that she should support what he is doing, she has no confidence in it. You have quoted Mark Ellison, and he is not the decisive person in this, is he? The decisive person is Mrs Lawrence, and she said, "I have no confidence in it."

Mrs May: Doreen Lawrence has obviously made her views clear to this Committee and in other ways, and as I said, I have met with her twice-

Chair: Yes, you have.

Mrs May: -and discussed what the Government is doing in relation to this issue. I understand that her preference is for a public inquiry to be set up now, and she is concerned about further delay. Mark Ellison has been working at this for a year, almost a year. He is clear that he will be completed by the end of this year. I think that is a possibility of getting to the truth, of getting to the bottom of what happened, rather more quickly than if a public inquiry is set up. I am going to specifically him ask the question, to report whether or not he thinks that there is still a need for a public inquiry because he has not been able to get to the bottom of this, then I commit now that there will be a judge-led inquiry.

Chair: And that commitment is very welcome.

Mrs May: And the other point, if I may, Chairman, I have invited Doreen Lawrence to appoint somebody independent, to work alongside Mark Ellison to give an increased level of confidence in the work that is being done, if she chooses to do so.

Q11 Chair: Is that new as of today? Because we have not heard of this before?

Mrs May: I have spoken to her about this this morning, yes. The Home Office has been in discussions with Doreen’s representatives, and so this is an issue that I am making public for the first time, but it is something that we have been discussing with her.

Q12 Chair: That is extremely helpful. So the scenario is this: you have spoken to Doreen Lawrence this morning. You have said to her that she and her solicitors or representatives can appoint somebody to work with Mark Ellison. If Mark Ellison decides a public inquiry is necessary, you will have a public inquiry, but at the moment, the Prime Minister’s offer, which is that she has to be the decisive person in all of this, is kind of left in abeyance until Mark Ellison comes up with his recommendation. Or you are hoping that the basis change will convince her that she should support it?

Mrs May: What I am clear about, Chairman, is that I am going to ask Mark Ellison specifically to recommend whether he believes a public inquiry should be held, and if he does, as I say, I am now committing to holding that judge-led inquiry.

Chair: That is very helpful.

Mrs May: But also I will look, even if he does not say that he feels a public inquiry is necessary, at the extent to which there is confidence in the work that he has done. I think, as I say, his work is currently the best possibility of getting to the bottom of all of this as quickly as possible, but if it is clear that there is not confidence in what he has done, then, obviously, I will also consider the issue of a public inquiry.

Q13 Chair: If he needs more help-because he is apparently working on this on his own; he made the point that he has to read every document, along with his junior-you will be able to give him whatever support he needs? Because he told this Committee last week he did not think he could conclude the first part until December this year, but if he comes to you and says, "Well, actually, there are 50,000 documents here; I need to go and visit Mick Creedon, and I need to do much more work," you would be prepared to give him whatever he needed?

Mrs May: We have been clear that we will make resources available. I think what is happening is that Mark Ellison has obviously been in touch with Chief Constable Creedon who, as you say, does want to have an opportunity to meet Doreen, I think just to talk through, and part of it is going to try and persuade her that what he was doing was absolutely right, but I think he wants to ensure that she is fully aware of what he is doing, and what Operation Herne is. But it is important that the review that Mark Ellison is conducting is also able to work with the work that Mick Creedon is doing in Operation Herne, because obviously there may be evidence from one of those that would impact on the other.

Chair: I speak for the Committee in saying we are very grateful to you for the time and effort you have taken on this, especially the new appointment and the offer that you made to Doreen Lawrence today.

Q14 Mr Winnick: When Mrs Lawrence gave evidence to us the other week, Home Secretary, she said she had little confidence in the criminal justice system. Bearing in mind what has happened to her and her family since the brutal murder of Stephen in 1993, can you understand that sentiment?

Mrs May: I can entirely understand why she feels like that, and I can also entirely understand her anxiety that yet further allegations have come out in recent weeks, which add to the picture from her point of view, and from the public’s point of view, as well as from our point of view, as to what was happening around the investigation into her son’s murder and the subsequent years, but I can fully appreciate and understand why she said that to this Committee, and why she feels like that.

Q15 Mr Winnick: Would you understand, as well, that the manner in which at the moment a public inquiry is not being accepted by you, the various answers you have given to the Chair and what has happened very recently, that it may appear to her rather like the objections to having a public inquiry into the murder of Stephen and the failure of the police at the time? As you know, the inquiry was finally set up, but there was a great deal of opposition, and I remember it very well in the House, to having any such inquiry. Can you see a similarity there?

Mrs May: If, at the end of the Ellison review, the recommendation is that a public inquiry should be held, I have been absolutely clear that we will do that. I am not waiting until the end of that and saying I will take a decision then. I am saying if Mark Ellison recommends a public inquiry should be held, then I commit now that such an inquiry will be held. So I hope that that would add an extra degree of confidence to this. But I fully appreciate that, when you have spent as long as Doreen Lawrence has had to spend fighting to find the truth about not just having the individuals who murdered her son brought to justice, but also fighting to find the truth of how the police dealt with the case, and how they dealt with any allegations subsequently, then I can understand-

Chair: Thank you. The final question, Mr Winnick?

Q16 Mr Winnick: As far as the use of the identity of dead children is concerned and the report which has just come out, would you consider it morally repugnant that the names of dead children were used by undercover agents and sanctioned apparently at the highest level?

Mrs May: As I understand it, it was sanctioned at high levels within the police. I think that is what the Chief Constable has made clear. This was a practice that was used by the Special Demonstration Squad and possibly by others in the police-

Mr Winnick: Was it morally repugnant?

Chair: Mr Winnick, I think we have an answer. We must allow the Home Secretary. Thank you very much, Home Secretary.

Mr Winnick: She has not quite answered, with respect. Would you consider it morally repugnant?

Mrs May: I recognise the degree of concern that people have over this practice that was undertaken, and it is a practice that I think it is right that is no longer open to us.

Q17 Mr Clappison: Very briefly, Home Secretary. I say, as an individual member of the Committee, having sat through the evidence about the undercover policing by the Special Demonstration Squad, that I have to say I found the evidence to be utterly bizarre. I also believe that the issues arising out of the Doreen Lawrence case certainly need to be got to the bottom of, and I think you deserve strong support in your efforts to get to the bottom of it in a thorough way to the satisfaction of all concerned, if possible.

Can I just suggest to you that it is also important to keep a sense of balance in this, and to remember that there are many brave and professional police officers who are going about their work, including in doing undercover work, who help to keep the public safe. We always need to keep that in mind as well.

Mrs May: I think you are absolutely right in that, and obviously there are some issues that have been raised as a result of the work that Mick Creedon is doing looking at the Special Demonstration Squad, which people have concerns about, in terms of some of the operations. But also it is absolutely right to say that there are undercover police officers, who operated as part of that squad in the past, who operate today, in often putting themselves in the potential of significant harm and danger for the good of society in order to help keep people safe and secure, and society asks them to do that, and we owe them a duty of protection.

Q18 Nicola Blackwood: I just want to clarify this. Even if you were to set up a public inquiry immediately, surely such a public inquiry would have to wait until Operation Herne had completed its investigation as to whether any criminal offences have been permitted, because prosecutions otherwise would be undermined?

Mrs May: Yes, you are absolutely right. There is a very real prospect that, even if a public inquiry was set up tomorrow, the judge would actually have to defer taking evidence until the Operation Herne investigation had taken place, and of course it is Operation Herne that has the potential to lead to criminal charges, whereas a public inquiry of course would not do that.

Q19 Nicola Blackwood: So even while we can all understand Mrs Lawrence’s position on this, in fact, to build up on the evidence which will be produced from Operation Herne and Mr Ellison’s review would be a much better platform to make a decision about the direction of any such public inquiry?

Mrs May: I believe it would be. I believe it is important that we get to the bottom of this, and it is possible that that work, both Operation Herne and the Mark Ellison review, will do that. If it does not, we will be in a better position to focus the inquiry, I think, on the issues relating to potential corruption in the police, and the whole question of use of undercover policing in that particular case.

Q20 Chair: Before we move on to Europe, are you concerned about all these various investigations, Weeting, Pinetree, Tuleta, Herne, Elveden, Yewtree, Pallial, Alice, Fernbridge, costing now £23 million, 294 members of staff, five convictions, 34 people charged: so much resource being used on all these historical investigations. Herne, indeed, 18 months to two years, and absolutely no reports and no arrests. Does this worry you as Home Secretary?

Mrs May: I think it is obviously important that a balance is struck in these matters, but I think it is important when we identify that there have been issues around policing in the past or potential issues about criminal acts in the past that people feel were not investigated properly at the time, which, of course, in a lot of the cases in relation to child sexual exploitation that is the issue we are dealing with, I think it is important that we do provide for those cases to be considered and looked at.

I think it is then important, both that if it is right for criminal charges to be brought, the evidence is followed where it leads. I also think it is important, in terms of the operation of investigations, that lessons are learnt if there are lesson to be learnt. Obviously, policing today is different than it was in some of the cases that we look at, but it is important to learn the lesson.

Q21 Chair: You do not agree with Mr Rupert Murdoch that, in terms of the phone hacking investigation, the police were being incompetent?

Mrs May: If I am right, I think that was a quote that was undertaken by somebody who was in a meeting and tape-recording it without his knowledge, so talking about some of these matters, I am not sure is appropriate.

Q22 Chair: We heard last week from Cressida Dick that News International was not co-operating as much as it should do. Do you think they ought to?

Mrs May: When the police are investigating potential criminal charges, I would hope that everybody would co-operate with the police in their investigations. I think what is important, as I say, as well as looking at any criminal charges on these cases, and you have a listed a number, Chairman, is that lessons are learnt if they need to be learnt, in terms of how the police approach particular matters and how they undertake investigations.

Chair: Let us move on to the uncontroversial subject of Europe, and the votes of yesterday, and one of the Committee’s resident experts on European and Home Affairs and Justice issues, Mr Reckless.

Q23 Mark Reckless: I think it started with the European constitution, and that was rejected in referendums in France and the Netherlands, and I think after, what you would probably agree, were fairly cosmetic changes, it was brought back under the previous Government as the Lisbon Treaty. Are the opt-out and possible opt-in decisions we face Treaty decisions?

Mrs May: There are obviously two sets of these decisions. I am sure that I do not need to explain this to you, Mr Reckless, but for the avoidance of doubt, obviously for anything that is introduced as Justice and Home Affairs, after the Lisbon Treaty, we have an ability to make a decision as to whether to opt in or opt out of those individual measures, and indeed the vote yesterday the new regulation on Europol was one of those decisions. We then have this opt-in or opt-out and, of course, the House of Commons yesterday voted to opt out of around 130-odd measures that were pre the Lisbon Treaty. That is written into the Lisbon Treaty, and therefore is a right that we have, as a result of what was negotiated at the time of the Lisbon Treaty. But they are not Treaty decisions in the sense of negotiating a new treaty which triggers other votes in this in Parliament.

Q24 Mark Reckless: Given the vote we had last night on exercising the block opt-out, if, down the road, we fail to reach agreement, either within the Government or with the European Commission, or between Government and Parliament, will that leave us just with the block opt-out?

Mrs May: Following the opt-out, if the UK does not seek to opt in and is not accepted by the Commission and other member states for opting in on certain measures, then it would be opted out.

Q25 Mr Clappison: In looking at all of this, Mr Reckless rightly refers to the constitutional treaty and, of course, we were told at the time that the key difference between the constitutional treaty, which became defunct, and the Treaty of Lisbon was that we were not signing up to the area of Freedom, Security and Justice-Justice and Home Affairs, which became Freedom, Security and Justice-in which the European Union has great ambitions.

Are you fully aware of the significance of this, the fact that it was one of the reasons which was given as to why a referendum was not required on the Treaty of Lisbon, and the fact that the European Union has large ambitions in this area, and that any measures which we now opt into or retain as a result of the decision on the block opt-out will be subject to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice and, therefore, very different propositions from anything that we may have been party to under the old justice amendment measures.

Mrs May: I fully accept the point you make about the proposals that were put at the time in relation to the constitutional treaty, and the extent to which that was or was not different from the Lisbon Treaty, and, obviously, I, as you did, at the time, and a number of others, prior to the signing of the Lisbon Treaty, would have preferred to have seen a referendum vote for the British people on that particular matter.

The ambitions of the European Union are exactly one of the issues that we have concerns about in a number of areas, and this was, for example, why we are concerned about the new Europol regulation, which suggests that it would be possible for Europol to effectively direct police forces to conduct investigations, to share information, that, for national security reasons, we would not wish to be sharing. That is precisely why we think those issues need to be addressed before we are willing to opt into that new regulation. So I recognise that there are issues, and one needs to look at these very carefully and, of course, the European Court of Justice jurisdiction does raise another aspect to this, and one that we have to look at very carefully, and we have done.

Q26 Mr Clappison: Just one final point on this. Anybody listening to the debate yesterday would have seen that it was quite a technical subject, but isn’t the long and short of it this, that the issue at stake here is whether we make our criminal justice subject to the jurisdiction of our courts, or whether we allow the European Union to take it over bit by bit so that the decisions are taken and laws are made by the European Commission, the European Parliament, the Council of Ministers, under the jurisdiction of the European Courts of Justice? That is the fundamental issue, isn’t it?

Mrs May: Of course, there is an issue about the relationship of the UK and UK courts to the European Union and the operation of the European Court of Justice. I would also say that there is another issue, which underpins the whole question of whether we should to seek to rejoin any of these measures, and that is ensuring that our law enforcement agencies have the tools necessary to be able to do the job that, I, the Government and the public want to do of catching criminals and reducing crime and fighting crime.

Q27 Dr Huppert: Thank you, Chairman, and I agree with what you were just saying that the policy has to be about giving the police the tools that they need.

Can I just be clear though, do you agree, as Justice Secretary said that he was clear last night, that it is in the national interests to rejoin the European Arrest Warrant, suitably reformed, Europol, Eurojust, indeed all the list as in the Command Paper 8671?

Mrs May: Yes, that is Government position that we believe that those 35 measures that are in that Command Paper 8671 are ones that it is in our interest to rejoin. They are largely about cross-border work, co-operation in the fight against crime. Obviously, the majority of issues would relate to Home Office matters. Some obviously relate to the Ministry of Justice, but matters like rejoining the current Europol and the issue of the European Arrest Warrant, as I have said; I think that is in the national interest, because I think it is important to have that capacity available to our police force.

Chair: Thank you very much. Let us move on to counter-terrorism. Michael Ellis?

Q28 Michael Ellis: Home Secretary, can I just move the subject on a little to issues relating to counter-terrorism and criminality, and I am sorry to go back to Abu Qatada, who you may think you completely got rid of, at least in these questioning sessions, but there has been some controversy surrounding members of his family who remain in the United Kingdom. Do you feel that the Home Office has sufficient powers to deal with situations like this where people are successfully extradited from this country, perhaps in circumstances where it is declared that their presence in the United Kingdom is not conducive to the public good, but members of their family remain in the United Kingdom? Do you think that should be the case? Do you think it should be looked at separately? Or are you happy with the law that currently stands?

Mrs May: Well, obviously I would not comment in public on an individual case in relation to any immigration decisions. I have said in public that obviously his family will have a decision to make themselves as to where they wish to be and where they see their future. One of the issues-

Michael Ellis: Generally speaking.

Mrs May: Generally speaking, one of the issues that we are looking at is this whole question of deportations, the length of time that it takes in relation to deportations and the rules surrounding those. Of course, the current situation is that individual immigration decisions will be taken on a case by case basis. But I think we do need to look at the process of deportation and the ability for this to be such a long, drawn-out process, which means, of course, that it can take, as we saw in this particular case, many years before somebody can be deported.

Q29 Michael Ellis: Far too long. That leads me on to my next question, which is about foreign national offenders. I think you have spoken before in the House, if I remember correctly, about the appeals process. Clearly, it can take far too long and we have heard from a previous witness in this Committee about the willingness of lawyers to proceed with a large number of appeals, which can delay processes for years. Now, that is not necessarily the lawyers’ fault but maybe it is the fault of the system for allowing so many avenues of appeal. Do you have any plans to deal with that and perhaps expedite the process somewhat?

Mrs May: Yes. If I may, two parts to my answer. The first is we have in the Crime and Courts Act made some change in certain cases to enable us to deport people and for them to then have an out-of-country appeal rather than having an in-country appeal. But I think this is an area where we do need to look further and that is what I would anticipate doing in the Immigration Bill, which the Government will be bringing forward later this year. I think we need to look at the number of appeals processes that are available to people.

Q30 Michael Ellis: Do you think the Immigration Bill that you propose for later this year will contain measures that will reduce the number and avenue of appeal open to people who wish to obstruct and defeat the system of getting them out of this country?

Mrs May: It is my intention that the Immigration Bill will enable us to deport people more swiftly and to take action against people more swiftly. It is, of course, right that people should have an avenue of appeal and that it should be possible for their case to be heard and properly heard, but I think members of the public get very upset when they see people-and this is not just in deportation cases but in other cases-going from appeal to appeal, trying one route to stay here, appealing, finishing that route, trying another route. I think we do need to look at that whole system.

Q31 Michael Ellis: Yes. There are even appeals within an appeal, so that a particular decision made by one court can be questioned, in relation to bail or something of that sort, when it is not even an appeal about the whole generality of the case. There are subdivisions of appeal, which can cause further delay.

Mrs May: Indeed, and as I say many people feel that they look at a system where people are able to effectively stay in the UK for a considerable period of time because they are going through some of these different and lengthy processes and we want to address that.

Q32 Michael Ellis: Now, Edward Snowden, who is, as you know, a fugitive and has apparently today asked Russia formally for asylum, is wanted on espionage charges. I would like to ask you about the impact that you feel that the wider knowledge of programmes such as those discussed by Mr Snowden and others has on the United Kingdom’s counter-terrorism capabilities. I appreciate that there may be limits about what you can say in relation to questions of this sort, but do you think that these sorts of revelations are injurious to the national interest?

Mrs May: I have a policy, indeed across Government we have a policy, that we do not comment on information that has arisen as a result of leaks that have taken place. What I would say, though, generally, is that leaked information can be injurious to the operation of measures in relation to national security, and I think that is a matter of concern not just to Government here in the UK. We have been absolutely clear in relation to what has been suggested in this particular case, obviously as the Foreign Secretary made clear in the statement that he gave shortly after this case first came to light, that as far as the UK is concerned we have a very good and strict regulatory framework in which any decisions in relation to intelligence are taken.

Q33 Chair: On counter-terrorism, the Prime Minister, of course, when he was Leader of the Opposition made it very clear he wanted to ban Hizb ut-Tahrir. When he sees you at Cabinet every Tuesday morning, does he ask you about this? Does he say why is it that you as Home Secretary have not been able to do what he would like you to do, which is to ban this organisation? What is the problem about banning this organisation?

Mrs May: Well, the issue is that there are a set of criteria that need to be met before it is possible to exercise proscription. As you will know, Chairman, we have recently proscribed a couple more organisations, one of them Boko Haram. Criteria have to be met before it is possible to proscribe an organisation and we have over the last three years looked at Hizb ut-Tahrir and the possibility of proscription.

On a wider point about proscription, the question not in relation to that organisation but more generally, of course, did come to the fore following the incident in Woolwich, the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby.

Chair: Yes, I was coming on to that.

Mrs May: This is one of the issues that the extremism taskforce the Prime Minister has set up will look at, and I am keen that we look at whether there is, if you like, a potential banning order that might be not quite proscription but different criteria.

Q34 Chair: This is kind of class B, it is not quite proscription but it is the next tier down?

Mrs May: We are looking at whether it would be right to have something in that sort of category and, if so, what that would cover.

Q35 Chair: Because the concern-and I was present in the debate and you know all about it because it was your order-is over people like Anjem Choudary, whose organisations are proscribed. They then come back with different names: Islam UK, Al-Muhajiroun, Call to Submission, Islamic Path, the London School of Sharia. This is not an advertisement for him, but the fact is they can form themselves in different organisations amoeba-like. Will you seek to try to stop that happening with your second tier proscription?

Mrs May: Well, you are absolutely right that, of course, a group of people can reform into a slightly different group with a different name. Of course, in relation to that individual and the groups that he has set up over time, they have successively been proscribed.

Chair: Then they form themselves into another group, which you then have to proscribe.

Mrs May: The purpose of looking at the banning order is about: do we have all the powers that we need to ensure that we are dealing with those who would be promoting extremism and hatred on the streets? People are raising the right question as to whether the Government has those powers and that is something we are actively looking at.

Q36 Chair: We understand that Ofcom are to investigate comments that he made immediately after Woolwich, whether or not they were offensive. At the time, you said that the Government had to look at whether we have the right processes, the right rules in place, in relation to what is being beamed into people’s homes. Have you done anything about that? Because obviously when you saw Anjem Choudary on "Newsnight" or whatever it was you were very concerned that he was given the oxygen of publicity. Have you taken any action?

Mrs May: This is one of the issues that is being looked at as part of the work from the extremism taskforce and we will be looking at that. We are progressing a number of avenues of work in relation to the extremism taskforce, but the question of access to broadcast material such as this is one that we will need to look at. It is an issue. There are a number of issues around the use of, for example, the internet in relation to extremist material, just as there have been issues that the Government has been taking up in relation to child abuse images on the internet. The ability to put things on the internet is one of the things that we need to look at.

Q37 Chair: Yes, but Maria Miller is chairing that work and the Prime Minister is chairing the extremism taskforce. This is core Home Office work. Are you able to put in your influence over what is going on there because obviously it affects your portfolio in a very big way?

Mrs May: Yes, Chairman.

Q38 Mr Winnick: It may be outside your ministerial responsibilities as such, but as a member of the Cabinet, do you feel that more could be done by schools, colleges, prisons, in dealing and trying to deal more effectively with extremism, those who preach hatred and, indeed, do their utmost to convert the more vulnerable, at least the more vulnerable mentally, to extremist causes and terrorism?

Mrs May: I think this is an area where we could, indeed, be doing more. When we came into Government we took a decision around the issue of the Prevent strategy that had been set up: two key decisions, one of which was that integration would no longer be part of the Prevent strategy-the integration work would go to the Communities and Local Government Department-but also that Prevent would not just look at violent extremism but would look at extremism generally and would look at all types of extremism. I think it was right that we took that view and we have since then been developing work. There is some very good work that has been done by Prevent coordinators at local level in relation to information available in schools. There is also work that has been done with universities in relation to those extremist preachers who might be looking to use universities as a platform for their preaching. But there is more that we can be doing, I think, to work with a variety of organisations, and you mentioned prisons. I think that is another area, indeed, where we do need to look at it.

Q39 Mr Winnick: Were you much encouraged by the reaction in the community at large, all sections of the community, to the foul murder in Woolwich and the way in which so many connected with the Muslim community made it perfectly clear that their attitude towards this horrifying murder was no less than the rest of us?

Mrs May: I absolutely agree. I think it was very good to see so many people in the Muslim community coming forward in that way and making clear their condemnation of the attack that had taken place, the murder that had taken place.

Chair: Thank you. We will move to asylum and immigration.

Q40 Steve McCabe: I will lead on immigration. Home Secretary, I think there is broad agreement that net migration is down by about 82,000 now. Are you satisfied with the accounting measures used to help us arrive at that figure?

Mrs May: Well, obviously, the way in which we are able to arrive at that figure uses some of the international passenger survey material. In due course, of course, the Government is committed to exit checks, which will enable us to have a rather sharper ability to find those who have exited.

Q41 Steve McCabe: Thank you. Obviously, student visitor visas, which have grown by about 30,000 over two years, do not count in the net migration figures, but I notice that the Independent Borders Inspector did say he was concerned they could be subject to abuse. Are you taking any particular steps to look at those visas?

Mrs May: We have looked at that and some work is being done to analyse those who have been coming on student visitor visas. That work has shown that, in fact, there is not abuse taking place there. The majority of people who come to study for a short period of time are genuinely coming, a lot of them, to learn English language, and, in fact, if you look at the areas where student visas have been reducing because of concerns about abuse, that is not mirrored in the increase in student visitor visas. We have done some work to do further analysis of student visitor visas.

Q42 Steve McCabe: Thank you. We heard David Wood give evidence earlier this afternoon, the current interim director. He told Mr Clappison that it was his belief that most illegal immigrants in this country are people who come on a visa and overstay, but surprisingly he went on to say that there is no effort made to identify people who are coming to the end of their visa so that they can be tracked. Of course, there are no checks on passports when they leave the country so he has absolutely no way of working from that initial information to determine how many people are overstaying. We were quite surprised to hear that. Are you surprised?

Mrs May: First of all, it is absolutely right that the majority of people who are here illegally will be people who came here legally and have overstayed their visas. Secondly, one of the issues that we are addressing and that I have been able to address because of the changes that I have brought about by abolishing the UK Border Agency-something I know that this Committee called for for some considerable time-and splitting it into UK Visas and Immigration and Immigration Enforcement, it has been possible to put a much greater focus on how we operate in Immigration Enforcement. Under Dave Wood some changes are already taking place in a much sharper focus on enforcement in that part of the Home Office. As part of that, I believe that it will be possible for us to make some changes that would enable us to be more proactive in ensuring that people who are at the point where their visa has expired are not then overstaying. This is a significant piece of work. The whole change that we are bringing about to modernise what was UKBA will take some considerable time to be able to ensure that that is in place and, indeed, there will be a constant need to improve and to develop. But I think this has enabled us to say, "How can we better enforce?" Sadly, for many years the situation that you described, Mr McCabe, was the case, but we are now able to start the process of addressing it.

Q43 Steve McCabe: When do you think it might start happening? The specific thing about tracking people when you already have information, I genuinely say I was surprised that there was not any focus on that. I just wondered when that change might start to happen.

Mrs May: I am not sure I am able to give you a date about this because I think we have to think very carefully how the systems are set up. One of the big challenges here is modernising the systems that the two parts of the organisation use-and are used, indeed, across the whole platform in relation to immigration-to improve the information that is available on which action can be taken.

Q44 Dr Huppert: We have had various interesting sessions. We have been doing an inquiry into asylum and we have had some particular issues raised with us. One of them is to do with the support that is given for asylum seekers, particularly the Azure card, section 4 support. The evidence that we have been given from Still Human, Still Here among others is that this is a very expensive way of providing support. I am sure you know it is a card-based system. It does not provide very much money to the people who get it and they cannot save up, they cannot use public transport, they cannot buy warm coats and things like that. It has also been suggested it is very expensive to run and costs £2 million to £4 million a year just to run the system. Assuming all of that is correct, would you agree with their suggestion that it should just be rolled into the section 95 support, which would save the taxpayer money?

Mrs May: Well, we have been doing a piece of work now constantly looking at the asylum issue, the way we deal with asylum requests and, of course, looking into asylum support. The sum of money that is spent on asylum support has significantly reduced over the years, partly, of course, because the numbers of people receiving asylum support have reduced. There is always a balance that needs to be achieved here in terms of the administration of a scheme and ensuring that a scheme is operating properly for those who are in receipt of these arrangements. We do from time to time look at how we undertake this and with every effort to make sure that we do it as cost effectively as possible for the taxpayer.

Q45 Dr Huppert: I think that is helpful. It will fit in very well with our inquiry. One of the other issues is, as you know, the Government has a policy of trying to encourage people to work rather than to rely on the state for support. People who have been hanging around, in some cases waiting for more than six months, to get an initial answer from what was the Border Agency, now the Home Office, on an asylum application are not allowed to work and must instead get support. A number of details about that. Do you think it would be sensible in the spirit of other Government policy to allow them to work so they were not dependent on the support, particularly where we have been keeping them waiting for more than six months?

Mrs May: I think it is right that we maintain the policy that we have, which is that that is not available to somebody until they have been here for 12 months, but I also think it is right that one of the focuses we should have is on trying to ensure that we give people decisions within a reasonable space of time. Obviously, for some people there are difficulties in relation to the decision because some of the cases are very complex, but I think one of the focuses we certainly have is on trying to ensure that looking ahead we are able to give people a decision in a reasonable space of time so that they are not finding themselves waiting for a significant time. But I think 12 months is the appropriate cut-off.

Q46 Dr Huppert: You have presumably seen that the number of people who we do not give an initial decision to within six months has been going up. Does that concern you? Will you be making sure that that does not happen?

Mrs May: Obviously, as that number has been going up, the number we have been able to deal with within the 12 months has been increasing. The performance within 12 months has improved. But yes, we always have to be looking at how we deal with these issues and always looking to ensure that we are providing a good performance and, where we can, improving that performance.

Q47 Dr Huppert: I think the 12 months is conclusions of cases rather than initial decisions, but I think that is a statistical thing and I may be wrong on this. Can I just be clear that you think that asylum seekers who have been waiting for 12 months, all of them, if they are kept waiting for that long, they should then be allowed to work?

Mrs May: Well, I believe that six months is not the right period-

Q48 Dr Huppert: But 12 months would be?

Mrs May: I am right in saying, I think, that there have been court cases in Europe suggesting that 12 months is appropriate, but I am very happy to write to you, Dr Huppert, about that.

Q49 Mr Clappison: Home Secretary, one of the objectives the Coalition Government set itself was on net migration. What is your view of what has been happening with that?

Mrs May: Well, the figures are very clear that net migration has fallen by more than a third since 2010, since the Government came into power. I think that is a direct reflection of the policies that we have introduced, of the work that we have done to ensure that we remove abuse from, for example, the student visa system, and we remain on course to do what we hope to do as a Government, what we have set as our aim, of reducing net migration from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands.

Q50 Chair: We have not seen you since you abolished the UKBA and, of course, we are very grateful that you have done so, but we were a bit surprised to read the email from Mark Sedwill saying that he thought that everyone was in the same job at the same desk doing the same work answerable to the same boss. That is not the case, is it? There are going to be changes?

Mrs May: Indeed. First of all, obviously there is the structural change. It is now part of the Home Office. There are two interim Director Generals over the two areas.

Q51 Chair: Yes, but David Wood is the same. He was the old Chief Executive. Sarah Rapson we agree is new.

Mrs May: Has come in, yes, and, all right, Dave Wood was the Deputy Chief in the previous organisation. He is the interim DG for the Immigration Enforcement. Sarah Rapson is the interim DG for UK Visas and Immigration. They have been looking at the teams that they need to build around them at that senior level and there have been a number of changes taking place, a number of new people brought in or going to be brought in in terms of those teams. I think with UKBA there are issues about making sure the processes are right, about making sure that everything is being done as efficiently as possible, and also that there are issues about the culture of the organisation, which I explained when I made my statement to the House.

Q52 Chair: You did and it was a very welcome statement, but you cannot go to Sainsbury’s and buy a new bottle of culture. You really have to change the people in there and change the motivation because you described it as "closed, secretive and defensive", which must rank alongside "not fit for purpose" as one of the great statements any Home Secretary makes about the immigration service. When do you think it will cease to be closed, secretive and defensive?

Mrs May: Well, what I hope that you will see over the coming time is a gradual improvement in relation to that. I do not think there is a day when you suddenly say, "Right, this organisation is no longer closed, secretive and defensive." I think this is a process that takes place.

Q53 Chair: Two years?

Mrs May: You are right, you cannot buy a bottle of culture. It is about leadership. It is about motivation for people, but I hope you will see already that in terms of the sort of information that is being provided there is a willingness to look at that. There is a lot of work to be done here because the management information systems need to be looked at as part of the modernisation of the service, as part of this transformation that needs to take place, in order to ensure that the correct information is available on which judgments can be made and matters taken forward.

Q54 Chair: As far as G4S and Serco are concerned, they have 11 contracts with the Home Office worth £1181 million. Mark Harper said in the House yesterday that Francis Maude had started a review of the issue of quality and charging. He mentioned charging; he did not mention quality. Are you looking carefully at these contracts to make sure that they have not done to the Home Office what they did to the Ministry of Justice?

Mrs May: Some work has already been done within the Home Office on this. The Permanent Secretary initiated that work at an early stage obviously when this issue surfaced. But there is this wider piece of work being done across Government and so obviously what the Home Office has done now fits into what the Cabinet Office is doing in looking at all Government contracts with these organisations.

Q55 Chair: But you are looking at it as well specifically? You want to do what Chris Grayling has done, which is to say-

Mrs May: We have been looking at it within the Home Office and that will now fit into the wider work that is being undertaken by the Cabinet Office.

Q56 Chair: I am sure you saw the report we published last week. We were very concerned at the increase in the level of consultancy fees from £27,000 to half a million at the same time as there was a reduction in staff. Are you concerned about half a million pounds being spent on consultants?

Mrs May: I always want to ensure that where consultants are being employed it is absolutely right and proper to employ consultants to do particular pieces of work. Across the board at the Home Office we have a very good record on reducing consultancy costs.

Q57 Chair: But this has gone up?

Mrs May: That one has gone up, but I am saying across the board at the Home Office we have a good record in reducing consultancy costs. In the last financial year I think we reduced consultancy costs by about 58%.

Chair: Sure, but it has gone up, yes.

Mrs May: Yes, and there will be some parts where that is what will happen.

Q58 Chair: You don’t mind about that?

Mrs May: As long as each case is subjected to the appropriate level of consideration in terms of whether or not it is right to be bringing those consultants in, then obviously there has to be a proper process of agreement to that taking place.

Q59 Chair: As far as bonuses are concerned, the Committee has taken a view that nobody associated with immigration, visas, enforcement should be getting a bonus until the backlogs are cleared and until you are satisfied that the organisation is not closed, secretive and defensive. I understand that bonuses have been signed off for the Home Office. Have they come to you yet? Do you know what bonuses people are going to get in your Department?

Mrs May: No, the decision about bonuses in the Department is largely one that is taken by the Permanent Secretary. There are rules across Government in terms of, certainly for the senior civil service, bonuses that can be paid and the percentage of staff. There is a cap on the amount of bonus that can be paid for any one Department.

Q60 Chair: But are you happy for them to get bonuses?

Mrs May: I have to say, Chairman, I understand the view that the Committee has had in relation to the operation of the immigration system and the bonus issue is one that I think I am right in saying you raised with me at my very first appearance before your Committee and it has been raised on a number of occasions since, as indeed you are today. All I would say is that when you look at this question, obviously decisions have to be taken in relation to individual performance, but there is a cap that Government sets on what can be done in relation to bonuses in the senior civil service.

Chair: Yes, I think you have also said that every time you have appeared before us and we are grateful for that explanation of process.

Mrs May: I am pleased for your confirmation of my consistency, Chairman.

Chair: You are in everything always consistent, Home Secretary. Let us move on to drugs and Dr Huppert.

Q61 Dr Huppert: Can I firstly just ask about the evaluation framework? I asked a written question that was answered on 15 November 2010 about what was happening about that for the new drugs strategy because obviously you have to know how you are going to measure success and if a strategy is working. The answer I got said that it would be published in December. I asked another question in June of this year and was told it was still being worked on. When do you think we will get that evaluation strategy framework?

Mrs May: Well, I think it would be unwise of me from what you just said to suggest a date by which you will get that evaluation strategy. This is an issue that we have been looking at very long and hard because, as you will know, we have introduced a number of pilot schemes that are operating on a payment by results basis. We are looking at how we make sure that we get that right and in terms of obviously making sure that taxpayers’ money is being used as effectively as possible. This is not just a very simple, "Is there a tick box?" two or three things that would lead to that evaluation. It is, I think, quite a more complex issue that has been worked on, as you say, for some time.

Q62 Dr Huppert: It just seems a bit odd. You should know what you are going to try to measure before you start the thing, otherwise I am sure we can come up with a metric that will make any strategy work. I look forward to seeing it published. Can I move on to two other policy decisions that were made recently? I do not want to go through the whole of the drugs policy because I think we both know where we stand on it. One was just to commend you for the decision you made about foil. I just wanted to register that that was a good, sensible decision. It took a long time but it was the right decision in the end. Then to turn to somewhere I think we will disagree, which was the decision about khat.

Chair: Khat.

Dr Huppert: Sorry, the Chair’s pronunciation is clearly better than mine. Professor David Nutt wrote a very amusing article comparing the mispronunciation. The letter from the ACMD and the comments were, I thought, quite clear, "On the basis of available evidence, the overwhelming majority of council members consider khat should not be controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act. The ACMD considers that the evidence of harm associated with use of khat is insufficient to justify control and it would be inappropriate and disproportionate to classify khat under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971". It goes on to say reasons why it should not be controlled, and yet your statement says the exact opposite.

Mrs May: Yes, and I was clear. I obviously spent some considerable time not just looking at the review that the ACMD had done but also talking to the chairman of the ACMD about this matter. It is right that we looked to the ACMD to give us their best scientific advice on these matters but, of course, as Home Secretary I have to look at this in a wider context. I have concerns. We are, I think, the only northern European country and only major country in Europe not to have banned khat and we have seen significant change taking place in terms of potential trafficking of khat through the UK since the Netherlands banned it in January of this year. There was the potential for the UK to become a smuggling hub for khat. I did not think that was right and it is on those wider context issues that I thought it was appropriate to ban khat. It is also the case that the ACMD on one or two areas made the point that the evidence base was limited in a number of areas and I think there is a question. There has been significant concern expressed from particular communities about the use of khat and the social impact that the use of khat has. Obviously, I considered that as well.

Q63 Dr Huppert: The report does look at these things. It says there is no evidence of a connection with gang crime. It talks about no direct causal link to adverse medical effects other than a small number of reports about liver toxicity. You are right that there is not a huge problem at the moment. The reports are quite clear. We make tax from it; it brings in £20 million a year in tax revenue at the moment. Are you not concerned that by banning something like this we will generate a gang crime problem, as we see associated with other drugs that have been banned, and indeed that if we are going to have any police enforcement of it, having extra police enforcement, which would effectively only be for one very small, relatively marginalised community, could significantly worsen community relations for the police?

Mrs May: What I would say to you, Dr Huppert, is this, and I apologise if it is partly repeating what I have just said. It was important for us and for me to look at a wider set of issues. You talk about the potential impact in relation to criminality, but what we were already starting to see was the potential for the UK, because it was the only country in northern Europe not to have banned khat, to become effectively a hub for the smuggling or trafficking, whichever phrase you choose to use, of khat into other countries like the Netherlands, where they banned it in January. Some of that evidence came forward following the ACMD’s report. Obviously, they looked at their scientific evidence. You are right, they did go slightly wider than that in the report that they produced. I do not have the concerns that you raise in relation to the impact. There are some very striking views that have been expressed by particular communities about the impact of khat within those communities and a concern that it should be banned. It is not the case that there is just one view out there in relation to khat.

Q64 Dr Huppert: The ACMD is supposed to look at the social problems as well. That is exactly what the Act says. I suspect we are going to continue to disagree on this-

Mrs May: I suspect so.

Dr Huppert: - but if there is new evidence that you say has come up, would you be able to get the ACMD to write to say that they have changed their opinion in light of the new evidence? Because I would have thought you would want to get their support.

Mrs May: First of all, I of course work with the ACMD and it is absolutely right that we do so and Government looks to the ACMD to give us their expert advice. But it is the politicians who make a decision on this matter and in some circumstances, as I have done in this case, I have decided to ban khat because of a number of other issues that I think should be taken into account. You said that we spent some time considering the foil issue. We did spend some time. I had a number of discussions with the chairman of the ACMD in relation to foil and I asked the committee on at least one occasion to look at another particular aspect of the use of foil so that I was absolutely clear about the evidence base there. But I have taken the decision in relation to khat, as I say, with a wider context than that that was looked at by the ACMD.

Q65 Dr Huppert: Lastly, a factual question: have you laid the order that would ban khat?

Mrs May: I will have to check on that, I am sorry.

Dr Huppert: If you could let us know when you do.

Mrs May: Yes.

Dr Huppert: Thank you.

Q66 Chair: Could I declare my interest as someone born in Yemen and someone who has actually had khat, and you may think that that explains a lot about me. The community does, of course, chew this on a very regular basis and the only worry is that it will now go underground because they will carry on chewing it because they like doing it after lunch, so this may well be a problem for us. Please monitor that.

Mrs May: With extreme efficiency, I have just been passed a note to say that-

Chair: It has been unbanned.

Mrs May: No, there is a draft order. We will be laying the order in the autumn.

Chair: On khat?

Mrs May: Yes.

Chair: I see.

Mrs May: I hesitate to try to pronounce properly.

Chair: As we often do, let us move from khat to police computers and Lorraine Fullbrook, a small leap.

Q67 Lorraine Fullbrook: Home Secretary, last July I believe you incorporated the excitingly named company, The Police ICT Company Limited, which had a very serious aim, which was to bring together some 2,000 or so systems operating in the 43 forces with some 4,000 employees operating those systems, none of which would speak to each other, into one system. At the time, obviously, the police and crime commissioners had not been elected when the incorporation of the company happened. Has the business plan been laid down now for The Police ICT Company Limited?

Mrs May: Indeed, there was an original business plan, on the basis of which the company was established. You are absolutely right, with 43 police forces with 2,000 IT systems it seemed only sensible to try to bring a degree of greater consistency and interoperability into these systems. The ICT company has been working with a number of police and crime commissioners looking in terms of the contracts that they are interested in at the moment and is in the process of developing some of that work with a small number of police and crime commissioners at the moment. Obviously, as you have indicated in your question, it was formed before the PCCs were in place. It has taken obviously time for the PCCs to be able to get their feet under the table and look at this issue. A small number have shown particular interest in this and it is being taken forward with those as able to exemplify to others the work that the company can do.

Q68 Lorraine Fullbrook: When would you expect the system or the company to be handed over to the police and crime commissioners en masse?

Mrs May: Well, that is a matter we are currently discussing with both the company as it exists at the moment and obviously the police and crime commissioners who are interested in it. I am afraid I am not able to give you a date at the moment, but I will obviously in due course hope to be able to give more information about that process. It is because of the process of getting the PCCs in place and in a position where this is an issue they wish to look at and are able to look at. I am not in a position to say absolutely a date for you at the moment.

Q69 Lorraine Fullbrook: In, say, a five-year business plan that will be worked on currently with those police and crime commissioners who are involved with the company in the interim ownership, if you like, currently is to have this interoperability between the 43 forces, excluding the national database. The police and crime commissioners will take ownership of that completely?

Mrs May: Yes, that is the intention.

Q70 Lorraine Fullbrook: They will own it entirely 100%?

Mrs May: Well, that has been the intention. The question is it may be the case that some systems that are of interest to the Home Office may be part of what we have involved in the ICT company. Interoperability is obviously one of the issues of concern in relation to looking at the work of the ICT company, but also it is just generally to ensure that we bring a greater degree of cost effectiveness to the use of ICT and the use of ICT contracts. I believe there is one company that has 1,500 contracts with police forces. This cannot be sensible in terms of cost effectiveness for police forces.

Q71 Chris Ruane: On the issue of PCCs, we have had the sacking of two chief constables within the past six months by PCCs. Do you think there is enough regulation around the PCCs to take such big steps, especially early on in the appointment or the election of these PCCs? David Jones, the Secretary of State for Wales, said at Welsh questions that there is parliamentary scrutiny, the parliamentary scrutiny of our Select Committee. Is that enough parliamentary scrutiny? Do you think big decisions like that should come before yourself?

Mrs May: I think it is absolutely right that we put in place the ability for the PCCs to be able to make a decision about the hiring and firing of chief constables. Of course, we have put around that a scrutiny process at local level through the police and crime panels and there are certain responsibilities that they have and they are able, obviously, to-

Q72 Chris Ruane: I think in the case of Gwent the scrutiny panel was not consulted prior to the decision to sack the chief constable. Is that right?

Mrs May: We have put in place the ability for the police and crime panel to be scrutinising and certainly in relation to the hiring of individuals they have an ability to have a public hearing or to give advice to the police and crime commissioner. There is an ability if a police and crime commissioner wishes to remove a chief constable-you used the word "sacked", although, of course, it is not the case that police and crime commissioners have necessarily been sacked in the cases that you have referred to. The police and crime commissioner advice is available from the HMIC and it is possible for the police and crime panel to scrutinise decisions that are taken.

Q73 Chris Ruane: Do you think the sacking of two chief constables within six months has enhanced the power and prestige of PCCs within Parliament and among the public?

Mrs May: Well, I think it has certainly alerted the public to the powers that the police and crime commissioners have. They have those powers. Parliament gave them those powers. The Act is very clear on this and I think it is right. We wanted the police and crime commissioners to be the voice of local people in local policing and this is one of the powers that they have. As I say, you have used the word "sacking" in your description. A number of decisions have been taken, a number of conversations have been held, and there have been changes in a number of chief constables.

Q74 Chris Ruane: The turnout for the PCC elections in November was I think only around 15%. It was warned by people in all parties that there may be a low turnout because there was no funding available for a mail-out. The elections were held in deepest darkest November when it gets dark at 4 o’clock in the afternoon. The fact that the turnout was so low, do you think there is a case for bringing the elections forward or later to, say, May when most elections are held? Do you think there is a case for public funding to advertise the fact that these important elections are going on?

Mrs May: As from the next set of elections they will revert to May, so they will be held in May rather than in November. It was just the first election, a standalone election, held in November. We did take a decision to operate on a different basis from general elections in relation to literature that was available, making it available through a website. There was a telephone line that enabled people to request a hard copy if they preferred hard copy literature about the police and crime commissioners. This was the first election for these individuals and as time goes on, as people see their PCCs, as they see the actions that they are taking as their PCCs are around and about in local communities, I think people next time round will understand rather better. The Home Office did advertising about the PCC elections and what the role of the PCC was, but I think next time round people will recognise more clearly what the role of the PCC is. I am sure that the turnout will be higher at the next set of PCC elections.

Q75 Chris Ruane: What would you estimate the turnout to be at the next election?

Mrs May: Well, I never predict election results and I don’t think it is a very good idea to try to predict turnout at elections.

Q76 Chris Ruane: Higher or lower?

Mrs May: I have just said I think it will be higher.

Chris Ruane: You do?

Mrs May: Yes.

Chris Ruane: Considerably higher?

Mrs May: Higher.

Q77 Chris Ruane: All right. Will the power of the PCCs to remove their chief constables have an effect? As I say, two sacked in six months; will this have an effect on the future candidates for chief constable? Will they be more wary about going for this position when they can be sacked at the drop of a hat by somebody who has no experience of policing issues? Will it affect the calibre of chief constable coming forward?

Mrs May: Obviously, the police and crime commissioners have been drawn from a diverse range of backgrounds. As you will know, there are some police and crime commissioners who do, indeed, have a policing background and have had experience because they have been police officers themselves. It is wrong to say that every PCC does not have a policing background. There are some PCCs-

Chris Ruane: I did not say that.

Mrs May: You described PCCs as not having a policing background but some of them do. Some of them have a background of involvement with policing because they have been on police authorities in the past. Obviously, some have not had that background. I think that it is right that we have that diversity of background. I don’t think what has been happening will discourage people from going forward to be chief constables.

Q78 Chris Ruane: Will it encourage them?

Mrs May: I think that we will see people make individual decisions about how they wish their careers to progress and there will be those out there who still wish to be chief constables who will put their names forward. We have some very good new chief constables. There is always a regular turnover of chief constables and we have some very good new chief constables in place.

Q79 Chris Ruane: Finally, do you think all PCCs have now declared publicly their interests and is there a case for a national register of PCCs’ interests?

Mrs May: I believe that it is right that we have required PCCs to publish certain information about their own pecuniary interests and about contracts that they are entering into as PCCs and expenses and so forth. I think that it is right that that information is published locally because it is local people who will be making the determination on it. It is local people who will decide whether they think the PCC, if they choose to stand again, has done a good job, whether they have spent their money wisely, whether they have delivered for them locally. It is not going to be for us nationally to say that. It is the whole point of PCCs. It is for the local electorate to decide.

Chair: I am not sure whether Mr Clappison wants to ask a question. He is looking at me.

Mr Clappison: I am just tempted to observe that we had a distinguished former member of this Committee who was I think a Labour spokesman and a Labour Minister on Home Affairs who would not strictly have a background in policing but certainly had an interest in it.

Chair: Indeed.

Mr Clappison: The Committee was aware he had a very conscientious interest in it.

Q80 Chair: Before we go into all our yesterdays, have you met Sir Hugh Orde? He was very keen to meet you to discuss PCCs. Has this happened or is your private office fixing it?

Mrs May: It is being fixed up. Unfortunately, we had a meeting in the diary that had to be postponed. I think from memory it was because of parliamentary commitments that came up, but we are rescheduling that.

Q81 Chair: We are coming to the end now, just two quick issues of policy. First of all, at the Home Office somebody briefed The Sunday Times that there was going to be a bond scheme introduced for immigration cases. You talked about this in the House yesterday. Six countries came up: India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Ghana and Nigeria. You told the House yesterday that there would be a pilot. We understand that you have not worked out the details, but I have written to a number of these presidents and prime ministers and I have received two replies so far. The President of Ghana through his High Commissioner says, "This is unacceptable and, indeed, inappropriate. However, requesting the payment of the bond prior to entry into the United Kingdom is not very effective. You are, in effect, telling the applicants that upon deposit of the bond they have paid they can get lost in the UK. After all, they would have paid for the privilege". The President of Nigeria through his High Commissioner says that they have not been either informed or consulted on this, "We view this as discriminatory and targeted at only non-white members of the Commonwealth". Now, these are initial reactions; I have not received responses from others. Are you going to talk to these countries before you introduce the bonds? Are you going to explain to them why it is being done? Because I was the Minister for entry clearance many years ago and the last Labour Government tried to do this unsuccessfully because entry clearance officers were telling us that it was very, very difficult to administer. You are right to introduce a pilot. I am not saying you are right to introduce bonds, but starting with a pilot is probably a good idea rather than a blanket for a series of countries. How long do you think it will be before you have worked out the details of the pilot?

Mrs May: Well, I would certainly hope to be able to bring forward the proposals for the pilot later this year. I would expect it to be a fairly limited pilot. What we need to be able to do is to have a pilot that is going to give us the evidence as to whether or not this is a scheme that is going to work in the future and part of that will be issues like what the criteria are for selecting how this is going to be operated, how much the bond would be. I think the question arose yesterday in the House in oral PQs it would need to be sufficient to ensure that it had the impact that it was intended to have but obviously not disproportionate. All of those issues need to be looked at and I obviously will come forward with the proposals in due course, but I would expect to be able to do that before the end of this year, so some time in the autumn.

Q82 Chair: That is very helpful and I think that is the right approach because there are a lot of practical difficulties.

On alcohol minimum pricing, you told the House on 23rd March 2012, "We will, therefore, introduce a minimum unit price for alcohol. We will consult over the next few months on the level of the minimum price and we will seek to introduce legislation as soon as possible". A lot of "wills" in there, not "maybe" or "perhaps" but "We will do these things." What has happened to that now?

Mrs May: Chairman, as you know, we had a consultation and we have been looking at the results of that consultation, the views that were expressed. I anticipate that the Government will be in a position to be able to publish its response effectively through its alcohol strategy very shortly.

Q83 Chair: So not before Thursday?

Mrs May: I am not able to give you a date, Chairman, but I hope that it will be very shortly.

Chair: Right, because I was told that it might be before we rise, which is Thursday. Well, if it is Thursday, please let us know.

Sorry, Michael Ellis has a final question and then we will close.

Q84 Michael Ellis: You have answered questions, Home Secretary, for a couple of hours now. Could I just ask you this? Until relatively recently, there was a convention that Home Secretaries attended royal births. I understand this happened with Her Majesty the Queen. Do you have any plans to visit the Lindo Wing any time soon following this convention?

Chair: I think Mr Ellis would like to accompany you.

Michael Ellis: I am being mischievous.

Mrs May: I was tempted to say, Chairman, that in fact it is no longer the case that the Home Secretary is required to attend a royal birth, but I suspect, Mr Ellis, with your royal connections you might have more information about these things than I do.

Q85 Chair: Was the reason that you had to give them passports or something? Why did the Home Secretary attend a royal birth?

Mrs May: It goes back many centuries to the warming pan issue. The Home Secretary had to be there to evidence that it was genuinely a royal birth and that a baby had not been smuggled in.

Michael Ellis: I think the Queen was the last one, Mr Chairman.

Chair: Anyway, order, everyone. We learn something new every time you come to this Committee.

Mr Winnick: There may be a knighthood around for one or two.

Chair: That completes the evidence. Thank you very much, Home Secretary.

[1] An annual value of £153 million

Prepared 4th October 2013