Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Fowler: My Lords, I should like one point of clarification from the Minister. He was forthcoming so far as concerns the police forum. Can he state further the bodies that the Home Secretary will consult before setting out the national policing plan? One of the bodies which it would be sensible to consult is the Police Federation. It has vast experience. It represents rank and file officers in this country. It would be foolish to proceed without its input.

The Home Secretary's statement in February that the Police Federation had been,

does not exactly lead to confidence that its voice will be listened to. I personally do not agree with what the Home Secretary said; nor, I imagine, do many others. I can certainly believe that at times the Police Federation represents a view which is not in line with Home Office thinking; for example, on community support officers, which we come to later in the Bill, or on police recruiting. But, goodness knows, it is not alone in taking that view. So it would be absurd if the Police Federation were to be excluded. I hope that I can infer from what the Minister is saying that not only will the Government consult with a body that includes the Police Federation, but that there is no question of its view simply being cast to one side.

It was an unjust remark by the Home Secretary. I hope that the Minister will think again on the Government's attitude and will confirm that that view— perhaps put at a particular time—does not represent a disdainful view of the Police Federation's contribution to this debate.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil: My Lords, I want to make a few comments. The noble Lord was dealing with the government amendments in the first group of amendments. There are two amendments to which I should like to draw attention. The first is Amendment No. 5, which states:

    "the specification, under section 4 of the Local Government Act 1999 (performance indicators), of performance indicators (within the meaning of that section) for police authorities".

That is a fairly ghastly piece of drafting—ugly is a polite word to use about it—but I shall return to performance indicators in a moment. Amendment No. 10 raises a similar point. It states:

    "'general direction' means a direction under section 38 establishing performance targets for all police authorities to which section 37 applies".

After some of the Minister's comments in Committee, I am absolutely sure that he will have done his best to push, influence, squeeze or press the Home Office, which is not always responsive to Ministers, into some sort of positive action. When amendments

15 Apr 2002 : Column 730

deal with matters such as performance indicators and performance targets, I begin to shake in my shoes with fear and horror.

I should be grateful to the Minister if, when he replies, he could tell us in some detail what are meant by performance targets, how they are measured and what are the indicators that will show whether the targets have been reached. One could easily joke about the matter, but performance indicators and performance targets, when applied to the immense complexities of operations such as that of the police in the difficult climate of crime with which they must contend today, are likely to prove unhelpful rather than the reverse. I hope that the noble Lord will do his best to set at rest my real doubts about those two matters.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, when the Minister is trying to put at rest the doubts of my noble friend Lord Peyton, perhaps he may also put my doubts to rest. I have a great deal of sympathy for what my noble friend has said. Nowadays, everything is about setting targets. Targets must be set for people to achieve. In the case of policing, that is difficult, as it is in the case of the National Health Service. People end up trying to chase the target and ensure that they achieve it. That becomes the pre-eminent factor, whereas the people being served are secondary.

I remember when one of the targets was the number of cases resolved. The police have been known to go to people in prison to ask if they did this or that. If they said yes, the number of cases solved rose and the target was achieved. That is not the right way to proceed. I am concerned that the police will find themselves fettered by the targets and that all their efforts will go to achieving them, as opposed to achieving better policing. I hope that the Minister will give a great deal of thought to that.

5.15 p.m.

Lord Borrie: My Lords, I am not sure that I share the anxieties and concerns of the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, and the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, about performance indicators or performance targets, which may be just as good for policemen as they are for other parts of the public sector—and, indeed, the private sector.

I wonder whether one of the objections of the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, to Amendment No. 5 was the sheer duplication of the phrase "performance indicators". First, we are told in parentheses that that is what Section 4 of the 1999 Act is all about; we are then told that the words "performance indicators" are to be understood within the meaning of that section. There seems to be a duplication there, which I hope can be avoided.

Lord Dholakia: My Lords, I have much sympathy with the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, for asking precisely what the Home Office has in mind for performance targets. I chaired a group called Policing for London,

15 Apr 2002 : Column 731

which published its report only last week, and on which both the Home Office and the police were represented. A key finding of the report stated:

    "The current emphasis on narrow numerical performance measures in police management is distorting performance and reducing the quality of service".

That is the most recent research in which the Home Office has participated. Will the Minister therefore elaborate on what is likely to happen about performance indicators?

Lord Rooker: My Lords, tempted though I am by noble Lords who may want to change the basis of the debate, I shall not go into detail about the indicators.

Perhaps I may deal first with the important point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Fowler. I listed the representatives on the National Policing Forum, but may have omitted some in the interests of brevity. They include the Association of Police Authorities, the Association of Chief Police Officers, other police staff associations—namely, the Police Federation and other bodies such as the Police Superintendents' Association—representatives of victims and of ethnic minorities. I might add Unison, the trade union for civilian staff. So no battle lines have been drawn, as it were. It is quite unfair of the noble Lord, Lord Fowler to drag up things that were said in February; it is now April and we have moved on a little since then.

The noble Lord, Lord Peyton, picked on Amendment No. 5 because he thought that its drafting was ugly. I am sucking up to everyone to get this Bill through. The parliamentary draftsman has done an excellent job and your Lordships' House has done an excellent job of scrutiny of his original drafting. Not having the Local Government Act 1999 in front of me, I should imagine that the words that appear to be duplicated are not effectively so, it is just legalese. Reference is made to Section 4, which must have a side title, "performance indicators", which I suspect is given for declaratory purposes.

I am not sure whether the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, was in the Chamber—he may have been arriving at his seat—when I made the point that the provision is being added to the Bill now, having been omitted from the first draft, because the Association of Police Authorities, which, I have discovered, is well represented in this House, drew to our attention during Committee that we had not mentioned best value performance indicators in the Bill. The amendment is to correct that omission, because they concern general, strategic matters.

The noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, is quite right: if one does not manage properly, one can be obsessed with the indicators to the point of failing at the main job. That means that we must be careful how we set the indicators. During my time at the Home Office, we have drastically reduced the number of best value indicators. I know that because I was discussing one indicator relating to the Immigration Service with my ministerial colleagues. It was thought that it was not strictly necessary. We were trying to cut down on indicators so that those responsible could agree targets

15 Apr 2002 : Column 732

and indicators and have a number of them such that their management did not become an obsession to the extent of falling down on the main job.

Noble Lords have given an important warning about the issue, but, on the other hand, no private sector company, in the marketplace or anywhere else, that wants to deliver quality services to its customers and use quality staff will do so without some measure of performance as it goes along. It will not wait until it discovers that it has a failure on its hands and say, "We didn't measure what we were doing at the time". Most firms will set a budget; this is like a budget for management.

The performance indicators are subject to consultation with the Association of Police Authorities and the Association of Chief Police Officers before publication. Examples include a 25 per cent reduction in burglaries per thousand households; a 30 per cent reduction in vehicle crime per thousand of population; and a 14 per cent reduction in robberies by 2005 in five of the major metropolitan areas. Those are generalised; they are not micro-management indicators. It would be difficult for anyone to argue against them, although they might argue about the actual figures. It is useful to have a target.

I hope that I have answered the question about duplication, perhaps not to the total satisfaction of the noble Lord, Lord Peyton of Yeovil, as he is, I think, about to point out.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page