MONDAY 12 FEBRUARY 2001
  
                               _________
  
                           Members present:
              Mr Robin Corbett, in the Chair
              Mr Ian Cawsey
              Mr Michael Fabricant
              Mr Gerald Howarth
              Mr Martin Linton
              Bob Russell
  
                               _________
  
  
                 MR CHARLES CLARKE, a Member of the House, Minister of State, MR BERNARD
           HERDAN, Chief Executive, Criminal Records Bureau, and MR BOB WRIGHT,
           Head of Criminal Records Section, Action Against Crime and Disorder
           Unit, Home Office, examined.
  
                               Chairman
        107.     Thank you, Mr Clarke, for making time to come and see us.  We
  do understand the difficulties of your busy life.  Thank you too for your
  letter explaining why the Committee had not been told at the same time as the
  written PQ was being answered.  We were delighted, of course, with the
  decision which has now been taken not to charge volunteers for checks, which
  was one of the principal concerns not just of this Committee but of those
  working in the voluntary sector, above all in this United Nations Year of
  Volunteering.  We welcome that.
        (Mr Clarke) Could I reinforce that apology to the Committee, Chairman? 
  We had intended to make an announcement during the course of last week before
  the hearings of this Committee, to whom some credit is due for the whole
  process, but at the end of the day sorting out the final detail was
  complicated in terms of giving the answer, it happened at the last moment on
  that day, and it was an oversight on my part entirely, for which I can only
  apologise and hope you can understand in the circumstances.
        108.     You might just say to Ms Hetherington that I am also a Member
  of Parliament; she forgot to acknowledge that.
        (Mr Clarke) I will pass that on.
  
                              Bob Russell
        109.     It did come as a very pleasant surprise and a shock because
  only three weeks previously the Prime Minister in reply to a question I put
  to him during Prime Minister's Question Time denounced the suggestion that
  this charge should be free as being something which would not happen.  I am
  delighted that all the efforts you obviously put in behind the scenes to
  convince him of the error of his ways proved to be successful.
        (Mr Clarke) The Government's policy was set out by the Prime Minister
  in that exchange but, as I think he also acknowledged - I do not have Hansard
  in front of me - we were going through in some detail a consideration of the
  very large number of responses, and I certainly put on the record on a number
  of occasions that we had heard the various submissions by a wide range of
  organisations and a wide range of Members of this House and we were
  considering that very carefully.
        Bob Russell:   Chairman, I hear what the Minister says, but that is not
  quite what the Prime Minister said in reply to my question, but I am delighted
  the Minister here was able to convince the Government his line was the correct
  one.
        Chairman:   The fact the Minister is persuasive is no surprise to us.
        Bob Russell:   I am delighted that is the case.
  
                              Mr Howarth
        110.     Minister, you gave an answer to Mr Wyatt on 6th February,
  last week, when you said, "Consideration of the appropriate regime and
  structure for other users of jury services ..." ---- no, that is not the right
  quote but you gave a non-committal reply.
        (Mr Clarke) The answer we gave, I think a day later, on the 7th - I
  am speaking from memory - was pursuant to that answer.
        111.     Can I put it to you, Minister, it seems rather curious you
  should have given a very non-committal reply on one day, following it up the
  following day with this breath-taking announcement, and in your letter to the
  Chairman of the Committee you say, "Matters moved rapidly yesterday, once we
  found the way was clear to make an announcement".  Can you share with us the
  way in which matters moved rapidly at the Home Office?
        (Mr Clarke) As the Committee will be aware, matters always move
  rapidly at the Home Office, that is the way we like to work, but the fact is
  in this situation we were very conscious of the fact this Committee was
  meeting and was taking evidence last week from the voluntary organisations,
  and this week from myself and my colleagues.  By the way, I have omitted to
  introduce them, Chairman, and I would like to do that.
  
                               Chairman
        112.     I should have asked you to do that.
        (Mr Clarke) Bernard Herdan is the Chief Executive of the Criminal
  Records Bureau, and I would like publicly to pay tribute to the work he has
  done in bringing the project to this particular point; he has been very
  committed to it and very successful with it.  Bob Wright is the Head of the
  Criminal Records Section of the Home Office and is an official of the Home
  Official.  What happened was, we were aware we would be giving evidence this
  week, and I think you are also taking evidence this week from the Data
  Protection Commissioner, and we thought it was important we should give you -
  we had been working on it for some time - the most up-to-date information we
  could about this important matter about which we had very substantial
  representations.  So we had been clear for sometime we wanted to make a final
  announcement of the Government position before this Committee met, ie last
  week.  The reason why we had the rapid events to which Mr Howarth refers is
  that we thought on reflection at the beginning of last week that if we could
  make it clear to the National Council of Voluntary Organisations, which was
  having its AGM last week and had make many representations, as the Committee
  will be aware, that would be a better way or proceeding than doing it towards
  the end of the week.  So we had substantial discussions within the Home Office
  and also between the Home Office and other government departments,
  particularly the Treasury, to see if we could secure the agreements necessary
  to make the announcement we did, and that is how the process ---
  
                              Mr Howarth
        113.     What I quoted to you earlier was not the answer you gave on
  5th February, I apologise, but you gave a very non-committal answer on 5th
  February, only the day before, and I am curious as to why your officials
  decided to answer that question the day before given they were working, as you
  say, very rapidly, knowing that the NCVO conference was going to take place
  on the Wednesday.
        (Mr Clarke) The point of non-trivial correction is that I made that
  decision, not my officials.  The reason I say it is non-trivial is that
  certainly all the answers I give are ones I personally approve at least, and
  sometimes amend and put down.  The reason I decided to do that was it seemed
  to me to give anything other than a non-committal answer, when one was not in
  a position to make a full statement, was mistaken; hence the non-committal
  answer.  The alternative is to delay answering the question entirely, which
  I prefer not to do in general - there are occasions when it happens but I
  prefer as a matter of practice normally to try and give an answer even if non-
  committal rather than not give one.  The reason why the first answer referred
  to making a statement, as indeed it did, was an indication of the fact we were
  hoping shortly to be able to make a statement, which is what I said.
        114.     All frightfully plausible, Minister, and of course it had
  absolutely nothing to do with the fact that the Department got wind of the
  fact Mr Hague was going to make an announcement at the NCVO conference to say
  the next Conservative Government would not charge fees.  That, of course, did
  not enter your consideration at all?
        (Mr Clarke) I think you sum up the position quite accurately, as a
  matter of fact.  What we had got wind of was two Government Ministers at least
  were participating in the event - my Rt Hon friend, the Secretary of State for
  Education and my Rt Hon friend, the Minister of State dealing with
  volunteering, Paul Boateng, as indeed was the Leader of the Opposition, I
  subsequently discovered - and we felt it was important, as I said, that at the
  NCVO event we were able to set out the position clearly.  I did not know quite
  frankly whether we would be in a position to make the position as clear as we
  could before the NCVO event, but I was keen that we should if we could.
        115.     Did you know at that point William Hague had intended to make
  this announcement?
        (Mr Clarke) I personally discovered the Leader of the Opposition was
  going to be at the NCVO event at the beginning of that week; last week.  I saw
  press speculation - I cannot remember whether there was press speculation but
  certainly speculation - he would make an announcement around this particular
  aspect before we finally made the announcement at the end of the Tuesday.  As
  I say, the principal concern was we always were going to say whatever we were
  going to say, if I can put it like that, before the meeting of this Committee
  because it was important to do that.  We decided to try and see if we could
  get to a final decision before the NCVO event because a large number of
  organisations there were the ones who were motivating the whole process. 
  Obviously you can suggest it was because Mr Hague was making a speech that we
  did that, and I understand you are making that suggestion, but I can tell you
  as a matter of fact it was not the single fact of Mr Hague attending and
  speaking in whatever way he was going to, it was the fact that the NCVO event
  was taking place which led us to work hard to try and make the situation clear
  by that point.  But in any event, we would have made the position clear by the
  end of last week in order to be able to inform the meeting of this Committee.
        Mr Cawsey:  He does change his policy quite a lot, so you would have had
  to do a lot of work if you were going to change your policy in line with his.
  
                               Chairman
        116.     I am not anxious to start this sort of exchange.
        (Mr Clarke) I know, Mr Corbett, you are a non-political Committee.
  
                              Mr Howarth
        117.     This is not an attempt to score a political point, but it is
  a legitimate point, I hope, Minister, that William Hague had a prepared speech
  in which it was stated that the next Conservative Government will abandon
  these charges in respect of voluntary organisations, you then give a wholly
  written answer which is entirely non-committal, all of a sudden you rush out
  this statement, you fail to tell this Committee, you then have to send us a
  letter of apology which is not signed by you but by your official, and I do
  put it to you, Minister, that even though there were ministers going to be
  present and you wanted to try and make an announcement, I suspect this was all
  rushed out the night before simply to spike the guns of the Leader of the
  Opposition.
        (Mr Clarke) Firstly, I apologise if the lack of personal signature was
  offensive.  In fact it was not possible for me personally sign it at that
  event, but it was specifically not only authorised by me but briefed by me,
  agreed with by me in every respect, and I am sorry if it gave offence, and I
  do not think that the fact that I did not sign it personally in those
  circumstances should have given offence.  I have never seen, and to this day
  have not seen, any draft speech released from the Leader of the Opposition on
  this matter.  As I said, I heard speculation about what might be in it but I
  have never seen any test or any proposal.  You are entitled to your cynicism
  about it and I cannot contest that at the end of the day, except to say that
  I think even a Conservative Government might have thought it was at least as
  important to inform the voluntary organisations of these things as it was to
  try and score a party political point in a particular context.
        Mr Howarth: That is why Mr Hague, of course, made it.  Anyway, the
  fact is both political parties are agreed now that this is the right way to
  proceed.
        Chairman:   It is better than that because the Liberal Democrats are
  agreed as well, are they not?  Can you speak for them?
        Bob Russell:   I can indeed.  I can assure this gathering that this was
  going to appear in the Liberal Democrat party manifesto.  Presumably it need
  not now because the Government, not for the first time, has seen Liberal
  Democrat policies are the right way forward.
  
                               Chairman
        118.     So we are all unanimous on this.  May I now ask you,
  Minister, you repeated the point in that written answer that it remains the
  Government's intention that the Bureau should be financed by means of the
  charges it makes.  Does that mean that those who are employed, paid, to work
  with children and vulnerable adults will face higher charges to subsidise
  those who are being offered free charges in the voluntary sector?
        (Mr Clarke) It does mean they will face higher charges in the sense
  it is free for volunteers and not free for employees.  The question of subsidy
  or not is still a matter which is finally being resolved, about the extent to
  which there is direct funding for the overall funding of the proposition, and
  the extent to which fees might otherwise be slightly higher than they would
  otherwise have been.  I think it would be frank to say to you that I would
  anticipate there will be a slightly increased fee for employees, for example,
  than there would otherwise have been as a result of the change we have made,
  but only a slight increase.
        119.     Minister, you and I have been around long enough to know that
  when you draw a line there is always somebody you did not mean to be on the
  wrong side of it who ends up there.  The National Childminding Association
  told us last week that the average net income of child minders was 106, more
  realistically was about 160, but in homes with adults over the age of 16 they
  would all have to have checks on their criminal records for them to become
  registered.  So with one hand the Government is, where we are now, saying,
  "You have all got to pay whatever it is to have this check done", but with the
  other hand, quite properly, it is giving start-up grants for childminders to
  get into the business because of the growing need for them.  Is this something
  that you are willing to take another look at?
        (Mr Clarke) No.  The entire motivation for the policy decision that
  we announced last week was because of the Government's very strong commitment
  to encouraging volunteering.  We believe that volunteering, for reasons which
  I will not bore the Committee with, ought to be an important stream of public
  policy and that was the thrust of many of the representations made to us, both
  by Members of Parliament and by other organisations.  We acknowledged that
  once you go over the line, you are into the more difficult area of the poverty
  or otherwise of people in meeting particular needs, but the Government remains
  of the view that even in the context of the relatively low paid people you are
  describing, the kind of order of fee we are talking about is not prohibitive,
  and if at the end of the day individuals decide to go into business, because
  that is what it is, as a childminder and to charge for their services, one of
  the things they ought to be prepared to pay for is the not very significant
  charge involved in ensuring they can demonstrate they have no related or
  important convictions.  So we are not thinking of changing that position.
        120.     Is this something you have discussed with your ministerial
  colleagues who have put this scheme in place to give start-up funds for
  childminders?
        (Mr Clarke) I have not personally discussed it with colleague
  ministers in other departments.  There has been a large range of discussions
  between my officials and officials in other departments around precisely this
  point.  I do not know, Bob, whether you can tell the Committee whether there
  has been specific discussion on this point at official level?
        (Mr Wright) I do not recall one.
        (Mr Clarke) We do not recall one specifically on this.
        121.     You can see the point I am making, particularly concerning
  joined-up government, and to some of us at least there appeared to be a bit
  of an anomaly in this.
        (Mr Clarke) There is an interesting argument which has run through all
  of this which perhaps I can share with the Committee.  There is an argument
  that if it is in the policy interest of, for the sake of argument, the
  Department of Education, the Department of Health, the Department of Social
  Security, to encourage, for example, childminding but it could extend to a
  large number of other areas, they should pay for it rather than the Home
  Office or somebody else paying for it.  This has been an entertaining
  discussion around departments ---
        122.     A nod is as good as a wink to a blind horse, Minister!
        (Mr Clarke) --- and it is one which we are entirely agnostic about. 
  If, for policy grounds in another area, it is thought to be beneficial to
  subsidise the certificates in another area, that is fine as far as we are
  concerned, but our job is to set up a system which works efficiently and
  effectively and to charge hopefully a reasonable cost for that.
        123.     Mr Herdan, you are due to publish your five year plan in
  March, is that still on course?
        (Mr Herdan) Yes.
        124.     Are you confident that the systems you have in place can cope
  with the problems which other parts of the Home Office empire faced when
  similar systems have been started?
        (Mr Herdan) Yes.  It is a very complex project and extremely
  challenging, not least because of all of these joined-up government aspects
  you mentioned and we have to integrate and pull together data bases from other
  government departments and the police, so it is a challenging project.  I am
  certainly confident that all the plans are in place and the assessments of
  risk and so on have been made.  We will need some time to get everything
  ready, we are certainly not going to go live with a service for customers
  until we are confident that the testing programme has been satisfactorily
  completed.  It is going well, there is a lot to do but it is going well, and
  I am confident it will come into operation satisfactorily and not cause great
  problems.  We have to be careful to learn all those lessons from previous
  projects and make sure we do not have the same problems.
        125.     For how much longer will you be doing the work with the
  Bureau as well as the important job at the Passport Agency?
        (Mr Herdan) My job is to cover both functions.
        126.     Will that remain the case?
        (Mr Herdan) Yes.
        127.     For the foreseeable future?
        (Mr Herdan) Yes.
        Chairman:   I see.
  
                              Mr Howarth
        128.     Can I just go back to childminding.  The Association did
  express very considerable concerns and there are 85,000 child minders, and
  when you say, "Not to worry because those who will continue to pick up the
  cost of running this service will be in business", and you say, "Only slightly
  higher fees", the Childminding Association told us last week that there is an
  initial registration fee of 12 and an inspection fee of 10.  How much do you
  expect to load on to them as a result of this change?
        (Mr Clarke) Firstly, to correct your question, if I may, I did not say
  it was not an issue, I simply said that I can acknowledge it is an issue but
  at the end of the day someone has to pay for this service, it is going to be
  a very complex service, as Mr Herdan has just indicated, and the question is
  who pays for it.
        129.     It is paid for by the Government at the moment.
        (Mr Clarke) It could be a straight Exchequer grant which comes through
  in the way it operates, or it could be each government department paying in
  the way it does for each particular service.  What I said was, if there was
  a real matter of concern here, then that was a matter for the most appropriate
  government department to address in moving it forward, as I would say in
  relation to other areas of employees where it arises, and that is a perfectly
  legitimate thing for Government to say.  As I said, the amounts of money that
  would be charged for this I do not believe are disproportionate when compared
  with the income derived over a year or even over a shorter period than a year
  by an individual.  This is effectively a ticket to be able to practise in this
  area.
        130.     Yes, but you say the charge will be slightly higher.  In
  anticipation of making the announcement last week - and as you said, "The way
  was clear", presumably in clearing the way you had to discuss with the
  Treasury and other government departments the fact that the burden which would
  have been assumed by the voluntary sector, the contributions the voluntary
  sector would have paid, towards the cost of Mr Herdan's services, are now
  shifting to the commercial organisation including childminders - instead of
  being 10 for an advanced check, what do you think it will be now?
        (Mr Clarke) The position is that we will make our announcement on the
  whole fee structure in due course, relatively soon.  The point I was trying
  to make is, when you take the costs of what would have been the charge for the
  volunteers, that is being subsidised from two sources.  Firstly, an overall
  Exchequer grant because of the overall government policy on volunteers, and,
  secondly, to a very small extent, by the increase in charges for employees,
  for example, childminders but others too, compared to what they otherwise
  would have been paid.  I am not in a position to tell the Committee today
  precisely what those quantums are, but I am saying the difference between the
  charge to, for example, the childminder as a result of the decision we have
  taken on volunteers, compared to if we had not taken that decision, is
  relatively small.
        131.     So if I get you right, what is happening is that a large slug
  of the cost of providing a service to the voluntary organisations will be
  picked up directly by the Exchequer?
        (Mr Clarke) Correct.
        132.     So there will be only a limited amount which will feed
  through to the other users?
        (Mr Clarke) That is absolutely correct.
        Mr Howarth: Thank you.
  
                               Mr Linton
        133.     I want to come on to the thorny question of soft information,
  but before I do that can I welcome the announcement.  Certainly Big Brothers
  & Sisters, a very large mentoring organisation based in my constituency, are
  very glad to have that assurance about the voluntary sector.  However, it does
  sound a bit as though we will have the problem where childminders will be in
  a rather invidious way asked to cross-subsidise the record checks on, for
  instance, scout masters.
        (Mr Clarke) Can I clarify that.  It is not a question that the
  childminders in particular will be asked for that, I was asked a question
  about childminders as an example of employees.  It is the case that all
  employees right across the whole range who work with children and vulnerable
  people will be in a position of having to make some - but I emphasise
  relatively marginal - contribution to the cost of what will be done through
  volunteering.  The bulk, as I said to Mr Howarth, will come directly by
  Exchequer grant.
        Mr Linton:  Can I move you on to soft information, as it is described, in
  other words information that will be released at the discretion of chief
  officers.  There are considerable concerns about this and obviously some of
  this has been highlighted in the television programme which, for instance,
  mentioned the case of the head teacher who, when he applied for another job, 
  had allegations about homosexual behaviour which had not even been
  investigated by the police ---
        Chairman:   Forgive me, Mr Linton, it was a radio programme; Radio 4.
  
                               Mr Linton
        134.     Sorry, it was a radio programme.  ---- because the boy who
  was the alleged victim had denied it.  This was cited to his prospective
  employers who cancelled his appointment on the basis that he had a date in his
  application out by six months.  These are the kind of cases which can arise
  when information is passed on from chief officers to prospective employers. 
  What I really would like to know is what kind of work will be done over the
  next few months to ensure these registered bodies treat the information they
  receive in an appropriate way?
        (Mr Clarke) I think there are two things to say about this and I will
  ask Mr Herdan to expand on my answer if he will.  Firstly, we have a very
  substantial process of inducting, if I can put it like that, registered
  bodies.  I was at the first seminar which was held in London on this question. 
  Registration will begin in April, a brochure is being produced for potential
  registered bodies, of which over 10,000 copies have been distributed, and
  seminars are being held throughout England and Wales - a total of 20 - and so
  far we believe about 3,000 people have attended the seminars with about 2,500
  expressing an interest in becoming registered bodies.  So there will be a very
  substantial programme of induction of registered bodies to the rules and the
  protocols which exist.  In addition to that, we will of course monitor
  extremely carefully the way in which the registered bodies operate and take
  the situation forward to deal with the kind of problems you are describing. 
  That is the first aspect of it.  The second aspect is I think the fairly well
  publicised problem of the quality of the data itself which the police hold. 
  We have a substantial programme on that to try and address it.  You will be
  familiar with the Inspectorate of Police report on this area which indicated
  significant problems.  They are, of course, very concerning to us and in fact
  there was a meeting just last week with the Data Protection Registrar, ACPO
  and the Inspector of Constabulary, to discuss exactly how we can take this
  forward.  We are faced with a hard choice which is, do we simply accept our
  data is not good enough and therefore we cannot do anything in this field, or
  do we alternatively say, "We have to improve the quality of the data" and work
  to that end in a culture of operational independence of the police forces
  where we have to work together with the forces to do it.  So I do think it is
  a two-pronged attack on the problem you have identified.  Firstly,
  establishing a registered-body regime and, secondly, seeking to improve the
  quality of the data.  With your permission, Chairman, can I ask Mr Herdan if
  he would like to add anything to what I have said?
        (Mr Herdan) So far as the specific question of the soft information
  is concerned, ACPO is putting out guidance to police forces on what kind of
  information should be released and in what circumstances.  It will be the
  judgment of the nominated chief officer in the police force - the Assistant
  Chief Constables - to make those judgments.  That information will be passed
  to the registered body and will form part of the disclosure that is also
  passed to the individual.  So an important difference compared to current
  arrangements is that it will be more transparent.  The individual will receive
  the information at the same time as the registered body and, except under very
  rare circumstances where the police wish to say something privately, normally
  both parties will see this soft information and there will be a fast track
  appeal system so we will be able put right anything which is wrong.  In the
  case which was mentioned in that particular radio programme, it was alleged
  they had the wrong individual, and that kind of thing will come to light very
  quickly through the appeals system.  The registered bodies will be working
  under a code of practice, they will be briefed and informed about how they
  should operate.  As the Minister has said, we currently now are running a
  whole series of seminars to start briefing them and educating them on what we
  expect from them, and there will be lots of guidance given to them on how to
  handle that kind of sensitive information.
        135.     Cases of mistaken identity are relatively easy, but in this
  case I quote the chief officer really has to distinguish between cases, at one
  extreme, of a person acquitted on a legal technicality and, at the other
  extreme, a person who has been maliciously accused.  One has to decide, after
  a case has been closed in whatever circumstances, whether you put it down to
  malicious accusation or technical acquittal or somewhere in between.  That is
  a very difficult decision for even a chief officer to make.
        (Mr Herdan) These are the judgments they have to make now of course
  under the current vetting arrangements, and I suppose this is getting into the
  question of balance between protecting the rights of the individual and
  protecting society in circumstances where there are at least some suspicions
  about an individual, and those are decisions which will be down to the police
  to take also when the CRB is in existence.
        136.     What sort of penalties will there be for registered bodies if
  they misuse the information disclosed to them?
        (Mr Wright) The legislation includes a range of offences for
  unauthorised disclosure.  For example, the member officer or employee of a
  body registered commits an offence if he discloses information other than in
  the course of his duties to another member, et cetera, et cetera, so
  unauthorised disclosure is an offence.
        137.     What would happen in the cited case if a registered body
  takes a decision on the basis of information which the other person believes
  is unjustified.  How can he challenge it without revealing what the
  information is?  In this case he was refused a job, allegedly on the grounds
  that he got a date wrong on his application form.
        (Mr Wright) I am not familiar with the particular case, but if the
  issue is that information was supplied by the police and, then, looking at the
  future situation, where the CRB is in operation, that information is supplied
  to the Criminal Records Bureau, conveyed to a registered person and then
  passed on.  Then the form must eventually go back to the police if that
  information was incorrect.
        138.     The other aspect of this that has caused some concern is, how
  do the organisations know what level of check would be appropriate in
  different cases?  Clearly many organisations want to assure their customers,
  the users of their voluntary services that they have the highest level of
  checks available.  Who will decide which level of check is available in each
  case?
        (Mr Herdan) That is largely set out in the legislation which defines
  the three levels of disclosure, they are called certificates of legislation,
  who is entitled to  which level of check.  We will be providing interpretation
  of that to the registered body networks, so they will know and they will be
  making those decisions about which level of disclosure to request.  We will
  also be able to get that information from the Criminal Records Bureau.  There
  is a significant difference, I would say, compared to the current
  arrangements, in that many more people will be able to get the highest level
  of disclosure information in all these jobs where they have regular contact
  with children or vulnerable adults.  A lot of the complaints at the moment are
  that the police will not give this information out.  Obviously the CRB Police
  Act, Part 5 legislation changes quite a lot of that and makes it less
  restrictive and narrower in its definition.
        139.     Mr Boateng drew a distinction between somebody who takes a
  scout summer camp and somebody who works on a Wednesday night as a volunteer
  with a Scout troop.  Will people within the same voluntary organisation have
  different levels of ---
        (Mr Herdan) Yes.  The Scout Association are very lucky to be a
  registered body in their own right.  They will get to know very well what the
  rules are about which level of disclosure and which kind of activity and they
  will operate that.  Then we will have a compliance audit role to make sure
  that the rules are not being abused by any organisation.
        (Mr Clarke) One obligation I want to emphasise is the obligation on
  the CRB, ACPO, the Home Office and registered organisations themselves to give
  clear guidance which is mutually compatible.  That is something which is very
  much within the CRB's terms of reference, working closely with the Home
  Office.  I hope the levels of misunderstanding which have arisen across
  different departments, different types of occupation and in different
  organisations will not arise.  That is not to say there will not be issues of
  judgment on the margin in all cases, there will be.  The guidance as to how
  it should be operated I hope will be clear and transparent.
  
                               Chairman
        140.     Can you just explain to us how you are going to monitor the
  compliance of registered bodies with the guidance they are given in handling
  this information, including the soft information in certain circumstances?
        (Mr Herdan) There will need to be regular inspections to make sure
  that that information that should be held secure is held secure.  There will
  be a small team of staff who will do regular checks.
        141.     Can we go back to the file on forward transmission on 5th
  December.  We were told there of a case, the details do not matter, in a
  sense, "Court information could have been checked by the police in a matter
  of minutes but it took six months to do it".  In this booklet which you have
  sent out to employers and to also to voluntary organisations you have made it
  clear in there that you propose making a charge for correcting the mistakes
  in the information which you provide in the first place.  Is that still the
  position?
        (Mr Herdan) No, that is not our position.  We recognise that if there
  are appeals or disputes about the information we have issued we have to deal
  with it quickly, there has never been a question of charging for it, that is
  certainly not the intention.
        142.     In terms of the speed at which that can be done, are you
  confident that can be done in hours rather than weeks?
        (Mr Herdan) We have a service standard of achieving any resolution of
  disputes within five days, or a week effectively.
        143.     Five working days?
        (Mr Herdan) Except there will be a small number of cases where it
  takes longer if we have to go back to the court records.  There will be some
  that take will longer.  The vast majority we can solve by re-checking the
  Police National Computer and local police records, we are setting that at five
  days.
        144.     While we are in the neighbourhood, could you explain how you
  are going to satisfy yourself that the individual seeking the information is
  who he or she says he or she is.  Are you going to ask for a National
  Insurance number or a driving licence number.  Commendably in the booklet you
  say you want to do as much as this business by e-mail if you can.
        (Mr Herdan) For the higher level disclosures the first stage of
  identification will be done by the registered body of the employer, we would
  expect them to know who they are about to offer a job to.  They have probably
  checked somebody's identity by asking for their passport or driving licence
  to check who they are on the first level.  We then check on a variety of
  databases to make sure that in terms of width and department the identity as
  presented matches what we can find out about them through the various
  databases we have access to.  There is obviously some balance there that has
  to be struck with Data Protection Legislation about what we can and cannot do. 
  All of this will be gone on the basis of informed consent.  There will be a
  statement already signed saying they agree to us checking the kind of
  databases we mentioned.  We will also be making use of  commercial sector
  databases.
        145.     If I have been working outside of the United Kingdom for any
  lengthy period and then come back and either seek a job working with children
  or vulnerable adults as a volunteer you cannot get at that at the moment, or
  can you?
        (Mr Herdan) That is a gap that we have identified, really, in a way
  that the legislation was framed and the way the CRB has initially been
  established.  We do not have the right and means to check that information
  overseas.  We would flag up to an employer that there are gaps in someone's
  record if that was the case.
        146.     Theoretically this ought to be possible to do through Europol
  or Interpol.
        (Mr Herdan) We are establishing contacts with the other authorities
  in other countries.  We are going to look at what we can do.  We can certainly
  provide help to an employer in terms of telling them the point to which they
  can write to get the information.  Other countries will issue certificates of
  good conduct, that kind of thing is available but they would have to do it by
  contact with the relevant international authorities.
        (Mr Clarke) Both the communication data between the institutions in
  the United Kingdom law enforcement system, the police, the prisons, probation,
  magistrates  courts, crown court, the Crown Prosecution Service is nothing
  like as fluid as it needs to be.  There is massive investment now going on to
  try and get data shifted across the system much quicker and more effectively. 
  They are currently completely separate systems.  That is the true a fortiori
  in relation to other countries as well.  We are very committed to working with
  our own internal communications in the United Kingdom and also with other
  countries much more effectively.  It would be false to give the impression
  that we are there, because we are not, we are a long way away from there.
        147.     The point, I am sure you got it, if you go down the sharp end
  of this we are talking about paedophiles, to take one startling example of
  this, they do business worldwide wide, as it were.  There are mechanisms in
  place now in another part of Government trying to deal with this.
        (Mr Clarke) We have a case in the courts today which illustrates the
  effectiveness of Government working internationally to be able to deal with
  this.  We are giving that increased priority for the reasons you are implying. 
  I also ought to place on record here for completeness that we are tabling
  amendments to the Criminal Justice Bill before this House to clarify the 
  CRB's power to go into these matters in very great detail, indeed.  I would
  not volunteer that to you, but it is precisely in response to point you have
  just made, we have to be absolutely certain that we can do whatever we can to
  address any paedophile, individual or organisation who try and come in under
  cover to get that kind of assurance.  Mr Herdan has been determined throughout
  to ensure that the credibility of the test is absolutely at the maximum level. 
  We as a government want to support his determination in that for the exact
  reason you imply.
  
                             Mr Fabricant
        148.     I just want to follow on from Martin Linton's question, we
  were made very aware of the importance of soft evidence, if you like, when we
  heard evidence from the scouts last week.  They were talking about Dunblane
  and saying while there was no criminal record as far as Hamilton was concerned
  in Dunblane he had made several applications for the scouts but soft
  information from the police made it very clear that he would be the wrong sort
  of person, for all sorts of different reasons, to employ.  I certainly
  recognise the importance of that.  Like Mr Linton I have the same concerns
  that soft information given in the wrong way may be used inappropriately
  against someone.  What I want to ask you, and to some degree you answered that
  point, you said there would be a right of appeal, does that mean that the
  person against whom soft information is given will have sight of that soft
  information?
        (Mr Herdan) Yes.  The legislation prescribes certain situations where
  the police can provide a separate bit of information to a registered body, for
  example if somebody is under surveillance.  That is clearly something that an
  individual should not be told.  In very unusual cases the Chief Police officer
  can take a decision to reveal certain information only to the registered body
  and not to the individual.  Most of the soft information might be, for
  example, if someone was accused of an offence and acquitted on a technicality,
  as your colleague mentioned, that kind information will be printed on the
  disclosure, they will know that.  That will be transparent.
        149.     Are you not concerned about litigation?  Supposing it was
  reported that an individual was hanging around a playground.  It is a sad
  state of the world that people can hang around playgrounds innocently,
  actually, those who like kids in the nicest possible way, and that information
  was given with the implication that that person is a paedophile could that
  person then not sue the CRB, the Home Office or whoever and say, "Look, you
  are accusing me of being a paedophile while I  am quite innocently doing
  whatever I want to do in my spare time, which is perfectly lawful, perfectly
  legal with no ill intent".
        (Mr Herdan) The police, will, as I mentioned earlier, make a judgment
  as to what is released.  It is the judgment of the police as to what will be
  released. I imagine they would take a lot of care in such cases that what they
  say is substantiated and defensible were the individual to take it on. 
  Conversely, I think it is very fair to the individual they know why, for
  example, their employment is refused and what the reasons are. It is this
  balance again.  The intention is this would be released with proper
  justification.
        (Mr Clarke) Can I ask Mr Wright to add a point here.
        (Mr Wright) In discussions with the police it is quite clear that they
  would agonise over a decision in a case like this.  That information would
  only be disclosed if they had strong grounds for believing that it was
  relevant and should be taken into account in the circumstances of the job or
  the position or the voluntary post in question.
        150.     I appreciate how awfully difficult this is and God forbid
  somebody slipped through the net, but on the other hand I am rather concerned
  that people might be accused of something of which they are entirely 
  innocent.  I also wonder if there is fear of litigation and now we have set
  up a formalised structure, which I think on the whole we all welcome, whether
  or not the police might be more cautious then they have already been about
  releasing information because they might fear litigation.
        (Mr Clarke) I understand the question, which is a perfectly fair
  question.  From my dialogue with the police about this, as with everyone else
  in the partnerships, it is to be absolutely sure they are doing the maximum
  possible to prevent people who might want to exploit children and vulnerable
  adults from doing so.  I think that would be their first consideration.  I do
  not think the litigation point, valid though it is, would significantly upset
  their determination to ensure that they were protecting vulnerable people in
  their care or for whom they bear responsibility.
        151.     I am glad to hear you say that.  I am not convinced.  I feel
  that some police forces might well take the view that they cannot afford
  litigation if it were to come about, and in a case when things are on the
  margin, if you like, they might hold back where previously they might not have
  held back because they know that under the previous structure there is no way
  that the person being accused, if you like, would have  had sight of this
  information being given to the voluntary services.  I think it is a worry, but
  I know there is no clear answer to that now.  There is also slight concern of
  the example being given of the guy who was a homosexual.  Someone who might
  be a homosexual is very different from somebody who is a paedophile.  There
  is one hell of a difference, the two certainly do not go together.
        Chairman:   Mr Fabricant, would you mind, just on this point.
  
                               Mr Linton
        152.     I just wanted to be sure that these disclosures to the
  applicant will be protected from the laws of defamation or is it possible they
  will be published?
        (Mr Clarke) I do not think we know the answer to that question.
  
                               Chairman
        153.     Perhaps you would write to us.
        (Mr Clarke) Can I be clear of the question, "Is action of this kind
  subject to the law of defamation?" Was that the basic question.  Sorry we
  cannot answer that right now.
  
                              Mr Howarth
        154.     Can I on this very important put to you the difficulty that
  the police might face, as was exemplified in the Panorama programme last
  night, about the Dream World Paedophile Group, where they knew that  one of
  people was working with sea scouts and were able to monitor that person.  If,
  for example, that person applied to work with young children in the sea scouts
  they might have been faced with the difficulty there of not telling the sea
  scouts what they knew about the individual because of a fear of disturbing the
  comprehensive, coordinated that is going on by 15 countries.
        (Mr Clarke) I think that is covered by the particular point Mr Herdan
  made earlier.  There are very difficult matters of policing judgment here. 
  What I would say is that the experience of police in dealing with these
  matters, individually for their own forces and in co-operation with others,
  is regrettably, in a sense increasing.  The effectiveness of the police in
  working with others organisations is better.
        (Mr Herdan) Without knowing the details of that particular case
  because I did not see the programme.  In a case where the police would be
  concerned about telling individuals they are under surveillance, for example,
  that is the sort of situation which the legislation allows for, where they can
  write a separate letter to the registered body about that particular
  individual, which will not appear on the disclosure, so the individual will
  not know.  It will be rare but  occasionally that will occur.  That, of
  course, would encourage the police to tell us things they know.
  
                             Mr Fabricant
        155.     I want to move on now to questions of the operation, if you
  like, of the system, the nuts and bolts.  Mr Herdan, you frightened me by
  saying you are still associated with the Passport Agency.  The Passport
  Agency, the Department of Social Security, even the Home Office all had
  problems with computers - I do not make a political point about that, I am
  well aware of the problem of setting up large databases - what sort of
  estimate have you given so far of the likely demand? Various figures have been
  given, eight million applicants per annum was the original thought.  Then it
  was revised, then it might be nine, 12 million, then in April 2000 it was
  thought to be closer to five million. What is the current guesstimate about
  the annual number of enquiries you have to deal with?
        (Mr Clarke) Before asking Mr Herdan to deal with the direct point, can
  I just make a general observation, which I think is important to do in the
  light of the introduction that was made, shortly after I became the Home
  Office minister with the responsibility for this, July a year ago, the
  department had to take a decision about how to proceed with the establishment
  of the CRB .  There was a decision taken by the Home Secretary  and fully
  supported by everybody concerned.  The right way to proceed was to do it in
  relation to the Passport Agency in the way you are familiar with, and has been
  set out.  The reason for that was an absolute confidence, which I have to say
  has been entirely vindicated from my experience subsequently.  The Passport
  Agency structure, and Mr Herdan particularly - as a result of their ability
  to improve the situation in the Passport Agency from where it was, which has
  been a very substantial record of improvement, apart from any other
  consideration - were better placed to deal with this very substantial project. 
  I think that that decision has been entirely vindicated by the process we are
  in.  It was not a straightforward choice, because of the presentational points
  Mr Fabricant makes, the points were presentational rather than substantial. 
  I want to emphasise that point as part of the introductory remarks.  I should
  also say, Mr Corbett, that the whole question of government IT projects, large
  government projects IT projects, whether Home Office ones or Social Security,
  or whatever, have been subject to the most extraordinary review process by the
  Cabinet Office IT Unit because everyone in government - this is not a party
  political point - is acutely aware of the dangers of this going wrong.  With
  the experience of things  having gone wrong it is determined to sort out
  matters for the future.  If I can be so bold, perhaps the whole question of
  Home Office IT projects might be an interesting matter for this Committee to
  look at to get a wider public understanding.
        156.     If we are going to avoid the problems the Passport Agency
  know how many people are going to make enquiries.  We do not want to get into
  a situation whereby using your excellent ability Mr Herdan we get out of a
  problem, we do not want to have a problem in the first place.  What is your
  estimate, which was my question, as to the likely annual demand over the next
  couple of years?
        (Mr Herdan) This is not, perhaps, terribly reassuring. The estimate
  of demand for the CRB is an extremely difficult greenfield operation.  What
  we have to go on as a starting point is the level of demand that the police
  currently satisfy with those that have access to criminal record checks, which
  is around one million a year, of what would be in our terminology high level
  disclosure.  Then we have done quite a lot of demand modelling and there has
  been market research over several years, going back to the White Paper in
  1996, about this.  I cannot really sit here and say we know what the demand
  is going to be.  Frankly we do not.  The  estimate that we have, if we look
  at steady states, which we characterise as year four, when all of the
  disclosures were available and demand was built up to what we expect it was
  about eight and a half million disclosures a year, of which 2.5 million would
  be the high level disclosures, which are really close to the government's
  policy objectives, and the others are the basis disclosures for general
  employment.  We have also done a lot of work around potential variations.  We
  have a dimension system to cope with quite a wide variation certainly, plus
  or minus 30 per cent or 40 per cent on those numbers.  It will be very
  challenging.  We also do not know about the seasonality of that demand, which
  is obviously what the Passport Agency issues, how you cope with seasonal
  demand.  We do not yet know what the seasonality will be.
        157.     I fully accept you cannot make accurate predictions.  I spent
  four years doing a DPhil in economic forecasting and I am well aware that any
  form of prediction is not likely to be very accurate at all. I perfectly
  accept that.  Do you feel now in a position to say that if your 8.5 million
  that you predicted is actually down by that 40 per cent, it is 40 per cent
  more, it goes the other way, and that you have high seasonal demands that your
  computer system will be able  to cope with it?
        (Mr Herdan) It is dimensional with that in mind.  We will also, before
  we ever reach that kind of level, which is three or four years out from now,
  we will be learning and re-forecasting, we are re-forecasting on a quarterly
  basis at the moment.  The Minister mentioned the registered body of seminars,
  which are currently being run to build the registered body network, and all
  of those registered bodies are being asked to give us updated information on
  what they think the demand will be.  We are also going to start with a pilot
  operation. Before we go on to full scale operation with all comers we are
  starting with the current organisations that are currently checked so there
  is some build up of our experience before we hit the maximum volumes we can
  see.  We will be quite dynamic.  We are dimensioning for those kind of scales
  of operation, which are very large actually.
        158.     That is very reassuring because you appreciate that you
  cannot be learning at the organisation's expense --
        (Mr Herdan) No.
        159.     -- because of all of the reasons you pointed out earlier on. 
  One of the reasons why you have to be able to estimate demands, of course, is
  not only  to be able to configure a computer system that can handle it but
  also in order to determine what sort of charges you can make.  I am right in
  saying, am I not, that the Criminal Records Bureau has to be self-funding. 
  With the good news from the Government, that voluntary organisations are not
  going to have to now make a contribution, can you give me an estimate,
  firstly, out of the 8.5 million, how many million - you have already given us
  an estimate of the number of enhanced enquiries - what percentage of that will
  be people who will have to pay a fee?  What is that fee likely to be?
        (Mr Herdan) I cannot answer the second part of the question, of
  course.  I am sure you appreciate that. The voluntary sector, my colleagues
  will correct me if I am wrong, is about 30 per cent of the high level
  disclosure demands, around 800,000 out of that 8.5 million would be voluntary
  sector disclosures.  We will obviously be setting up our system to cope with
  that. There is also some interesting interaction, as you might appreciate,
  between the level set for the fees and the level of demand.  Clearly the
  decision just taken to make disclosures free of charge for volunteers is
  likely to increase the demand for the voluntary sector.  People will make
  decisions to check them frequently, things of  that nature.  You get
  interesting interactions.
        160.     I am sure you are absolutely right and I am glad you
  recognise that demand is likely to increase because of the no fee basis.  I
  would be rather worried if were I running a business which required these
  investigations to be made if I had no idea whatsoever what the fee would be. 
  I would be even more worried to read the report of this meeting to find out
  that the Chief Executive does not have any idea what the fee would be.  Can
  you not give us a ball-park figure?
        (Mr Clarke) There is no question of the CRB being up and running
  without people knowing what the fees are.  The point is, we consider, and I
  think it would be good practice, that it would be ridiculous for us to
  speculate what the fees are before announcing.  We think it would be better
  to announce the situation rather than to put ball-park figures into the air. 
  We will make those announcements when we have fully concluded all of our
  modelling on the various issues and when we come to firm decisions on it.  As
  Mr Herdan has just indicated, an important factor in that regard, is the
  decision that has been taken on the decision on the question of volunteers
  which we have to take into account.  Which is one of the reasons why we are
  not in a position to say to you today, this is what the fees will be.  We are
  not  going to be in the position that the organisation starting operations
  were without the fees being publicly known.  As I understand it that is the
  process that we are talking about.  We are talking about annual reviews once
  the system is up and running in the way that is conventional for very many
  organisations. I was going to say at a later point, Mr Corbett, perhaps I can
  so now, when I said to Mr Howarth that the exchequer would pick up the tab for
  what was going on here I was perhaps guilty of shorthand, which I should not
  have been guilty of, the actual process is that in the end the whole of the
  CRB funding is self-financing.  Because of the pattern of it, before it gets
  to a break even point the question of the pay-back period is the key point. 
  The way in which that extra exchequer revenue is coming to the system is by
  extending the period of the whole scheme for pay-back, for the arithmetic of
  what money comes in.  That is the way that that is being done.  It is not
  simply a hand-over from the exchequer, it is the way in which the cycle of the
  money is dealt with.  I think that that is the way in which it operates.  The
  fee levels within that will be annually reviewed.  The question of starting
  the operation, as Mr Fabricant was fearing might be the case, as the Chief
  Executive of the  business without knowing what the fees would be is not
  imaginable in that position.
  
                              Mr Howarth
        161.     Are you suggesting that the Bureau will run at a deficit for
  the first few years?
        (Mr Clarke) That is the case for a large number of new organisations. 
  You start out running at a deficit and then you start to make a surplus in
  later years and there comes a break even point.  The question that I was not
  clear about in what I said, and I was slightly worried I have been misleading
  was that there---
  
                               Chairman
        162.     It did sound unusually generous of the Treasury.
        (Mr Clarke) It is unusually generous of the Treasury for the reason
  that there is a standard time frame they work on for pay-back on these new
  schemes.  They have agreed to extend, unusually and generously, the period for
  pay-back, which effectively adds up to more exchequer payment at the beginning
  of the scheme in order to meet the particular needs of the government's target
  on volunteering.
  
                             Mr Fabricant
        163.     I appreciate what you are saying, that you are not in a
  position to give this information now.  The government is embarking on this
  policy, I think we all welcome it.  As the Minister quite rightly said it
  follows on from a White Paper produced in 1996, so we  all support it, but I
  have to say that the Government is embarking on the policy now, businesses,
  therefore, know there will be a charge and I think it is worrying that the
  Government has got no idea at this stage what that charge might be.  What I
  am going to ask the Minister to do or, indeed, Mr Herdan is to come up with
  a guess off the top of their respective heads.  I wonder if the Minister or
  Mr Herdan can think about it before the inquiry is finished and, give us some
  sort the ball-park figure.  You must have something in mind when you bring
  forward legislation.  I cannot believe that the Home Office or any government
  department would bring forward legislation which has to be self- financing and
  where there is no figure in mind at all.     I do accept that the information
  may not be available now but I do ask the Minister to write to us with some
  figures when the time is appropriate.
        (Mr Clarke) I am certainly prepared to give the commitment that Mr
  Fabricant has asked for to write at an appropriate time with the information,
  that is fine.  I am not prepared to go so far as he said in the first part of
  his question, to do so during the course of the inquiry of this Committee. 
  Not because there is anything to hide about this, there is not, but because
  I think good business practice in introducing any new regime, which is what
  we are doing, a very major prospect, is to publish only data which is accurate
  because I think the scope for confusion here with publishing ball park
  figures, speculative figures, or whatever, would be very bad business
  practice.  The commitments I can give are, firstly, to write to this Committee
  immediately we come out with a decision on this matter and, secondly, that we
  will be publishing the figures, of course, before the CRB is in operation for
  people to apply to in the way that we have set out.  The commitment I cannot
  give is to say that letter will come during the period of consideration of
  this report by the Committee.
  
                              Mr Howarth
        164.     Minister, I am sorry but I cannot reconcile your difficulty
  in providing us with figures now with your written answer last week and your
  letter to us saying that the way was now clear to make an announcement. 
  Perhaps I can put this to you:  did the Treasury accept this concession to the
  voluntary sector?  Did it accept the new arrangements for the deficit funding
  of the Bureau?  You must have had some figures.  If you had come to us and
  said "we still have not worked out how we can alleviate the burden on the
  voluntary sector", fine, but you have not, you have told us that you are going
  to alleviate that.  You cannot arrive at that decision given what you have
  told us about the extensive work going on in your Department unless some
  calculations have been made as to how you are going to fund this big hole by
  the voluntary sector being exempted.
        (Mr Clarke) The answer to the first question is, yes, the Treasury is
  fully committed to the announcement we made.  Secondly, I said at the
  beginning in answer to Mr Howarth, I may be wrong, that there are two
  questions which we have in consideration in setting the fee levels.  Firstly
  is the work that is being done on the modelling now by CRB on what precise fee
  levels ought to be set, and that work is ongoing and moving forward all the
  time as the estimates are updated and the practicalities of the operation of
  the scheme are further refined.  Secondly, there is the impact of the decision
  announced last week on the charging to volunteers.  Specifically they are two
  factors which are informing the situation of what is the fee when it finally
  emerges.  We are considering those things very carefully.  We are prepared to
  make the announcement on volunteering for the reason that I indicated earlier,
  because of the priority the Government gives to encouraging volunteering. 
  That changes, as Mr Fabricant acknowledged, the arithmetic of the various
  other aspects which come through when looking at the overall funding of the
  project.  What I am not prepared to do is to give ball park figures.  I think
  it is important that we give accurate figures as to what will actually be
  charged.  I think the confusion between ball park figures and accurate figures
  is one which is dangerous and I think it would be irresponsible of Government
  to go down that line.
        165.     We are only a couple of months away from this thing going
  live and this organisation accepting requests from the public for this
  information.  You are going to have to produce the figures PDQ, are you not?
        (Mr Clarke) The current schedule for going live is late summer, that
  is what we have talked about.  Perhaps I should have said this earlier on in
  response to one of Mr Herdan's points, that it is much more important to get
  it right in all respects than it is to do it immediately.  Given all the
  experience that Mr Fabricant was referring to earlier, it would be a total
  mistake if we were to go down the course of getting that before we were
  completely ready, so it is conceivable that may slip into early autumn or
  whenever.  I can certainly give the assurance, as I have just given, in terms
  that we will publish the fees well before we get to the point of going live
  in that way and we will communicate that to the Committee when we do.
        166.     Last week some of the voluntary organisations told us that
  some Government departments are no longer providing them with information, so
  they are now in a state of limbo, they cannot go to the Government departments
  and get the information.  Are you now suggesting that this whole programme
  might slip to the autumn so they cannot go to Mr Herdan's Bureau, so we are
  faced with a widening black hole, if you like, where the voluntary
  organisations, which we all accept have an obligation, which they accept too,
  to secure the maximum protection for young protection, are going to have
  nowhere to go to get the information that we all think they need to have?
        (Mr Clarke) We are faced with two imperatives.  The first is the
  imperative that Mr Howarth quite correctly identifies, which is to get this
  up and running in its complete form as fast as possible, no question about
  that.  I not only accede to but agree with the point that Mr Howarth is making
  about the imperative need to do that.  Secondly, the imperative need to ensure
  that we do it accurately, well, effectively and do not make mistakes in
  setting it up  which will effectively discredit the operation of the whole
  system.  Those are the two competing pressures that we have and under which
  the CRB is working.  What I said was my instruction - that may not be the
  right word - the guidance I have given to Mr Herdan is that it is very, very,
  very important in my view that when we do it we do it accurately, because if
  there were mistakes made because we had not done enough preparation to get it
  right then that would be more damaging than the damage of delay.  The
  Committee may disagree with that.
        167.     I am sure we all accept that, and given the history of these
  various IT projects introduced by the Government we accept that, and we
  certainly would not criticise you for wanting to make sure that the system is
  reasonably reliable once it gets up and running.  But there is a real problem
  for voluntary agencies, and perhaps I can put it to you that the Government
  should reconsider the present arrangements whereby it is preventing the
  voluntary organisations from having access to the previously existing system
  of checks with Government departments pending the satisfaction of Ministers
  with the operation of the Criminal Records Bureau?
        (Mr Clarke) I will come on to that in a second.  Can I just ask Mr
  Wright to add to what I said earlier, which may cover some of what you have
  asked.
        (Mr Wright) If I can just pick up the point you mentioned about access
  to Government information or information from Government departments.  I think
  there may have been a misunderstanding the other day.  The situation was that
  the Department of Health maintained a list of people who were considered
  unsuitable to work with children and the DfEE maintained a list of people who
  were considered unsuitable for working in the education system.
        168.     List 99?
        (Mr Wright) List 99.  The arrangements under which they function were
  changed last October with the implementation of part of the Protection of
  Children Act.  The change, so far as voluntary organisations were concerned,
  was that whereas voluntary organisations by and large had not had access to
  that information before, they now have access to that information.  I think
  the point that was being made was that there would be a charge for this
  information in the future, not that the information would not be available. 
  The charge, of course, would only occur when the Criminal Records Bureau came
  on stream because access to those lists will be through the Criminal Records
  Bureau under a one-stop shop arrangement.  That will not now apply to
  voluntary organisations, volunteers, because they will have access to those
  as well as to the CRB free of charge.
        169.     So what you can tell us today is that as far as voluntary
  organisations are concerned, pending the establishment of the Criminal Records
  Bureau, they will continue to have free access to the checking arrangements?
        (Mr Wright) They have greater access than before.  Originally
  primarily the lists were for the statutory sector, now they have been opened
  to the voluntary sector as well.
        170.     So they are not going to be charged and they will have
  access?
        (Mr Wright) They will not be charged.
        171.     There is not a black hole?
        (Mr Wright) No.
  
                              Bob Russell
        172.     Are they being charged as of today?
        (Mr Wright) No.
        173.     So it is free now?
        (Mr Wright) It is free now.
  
                               Chairman
        174.     Minister, you wanted to say something I think?
        (Mr Clarke) No, I think Mr Wright has settled the point.
        175.     Let me see if I can persuade you to say something.  Can you
  give us an idea of what the cost to the Treasury was of the amendments which
  you made last week, the decision to expand this run-in period before it breaks
  even?
        (Mr Clarke) As I have said before, I am not in a position to do that. 
  I can say, as I said to Mr Howarth earlier on, that the Treasury is entirely
  committed to the arrangements that we have made.
        176.     They do not often sign blank cheques, do they, the Treasury?
        (Mr Clarke) The Treasury is very poor at signing blank cheques, for
  reasons that I have not yet been able to fathom during my membership of this
  House.  What they have been prepared to do, and I do think it was a
  significant point, as I say, is to extend the pay back period of what is
  involved.
        177.     Could you say from what to what?
        (Mr Clarke) Again, I am not in a position to give the detail on that
  today.  I can see from your expression you do not think that is a satisfactory
  response.  I will consider whether I can write to you with that.
        178.     Thank you, Minister.
        (Mr Clarke) The reason why I am hesitant is this, Chairman:  there is
  a whole series of assumptions and models which are being operated in this area
  and I am really very loath indeed to give information in the public arena
  which could lead to confusion about what the fee regime will finally be.  I
  think it would be much better for us to publish all the detail in that
  circumstance, and that is what I wish to do.  I take Mr Howarth's point in
  pressing the point as he has, the sooner we are able to do that the better,
  and I accept that without any qualification, but up until that point every bit
  of information simply leads to a further discussion around these points.
        179.     So if I ask you what the budget of the Bureau is likely to be
  in 2004-05 I will get a similar answer?
        (Mr Clarke) I think you will.  I do not know if we can help more than
  that, Mr Herdan?
        (Mr Herdan) Probably not.  This is all part of the jigsaw.
  
                              Mr Howarth
        180.     What about the budget for 2001-02, can we have that figure?
        (Mr Clarke) I think we are again in exactly the same position.  I am
  sorry to be unhelpful.
        Mr Howarth: Forgive me, Minister, but I must say, welcome as last
  week's decision was, this has got all the hallmarks of a panic decision either
  in advance of William Hague's announcement to the National Council for
  Voluntary Organisations or, indeed, such being the reputation of this
  Committee, in anticipation of your appearance here today.
        Bob Russell:   Absolutely.
        Mr Howarth: We are trying to investigate this issue.  It is not rocket
  science that we are looking at.  It does appear that we just cannot get any
  information about the figures.  We were told by the NCVO last week that
  Government has given estimations for the total cost of exempting volunteers
  and this varied  from 48 million to 200 million.  Nobody seems to have a
  handle on this business.
  
                               Chairman
        181.     Shall we start buying the Comprehensive Spending Review for
  the next three years, would that assist us?
        (Mr Clarke) I will tell you exactly where we are, Chairman.  We are
  on a timetable to try to get the CRB up and running as fast as possible and
  as accurately as possible, which we are targeting in the way that we are. 
  There is a substantial roll-out programme.  The roll-out programme includes
  the work we have mentioned, for example on registered bodies, but it also
  includes the precise business planning arrangements to be able to establish
  where we are with all the points that Mr Howarth has made as we have gone
  through.  We had not intended to bring this into the public arena, because we
  had not finished the work on all these points, at the point where we are now
  in early to mid February.  However, once your Committee decided that it would
  meet, we felt that it was important to try to address what we understood from
  the terms of reference of the Committee was a key point that you had set out,
  which was the question of charging to volunteering.  Of course, the Government
  was acutely aware of the very many submissions that had been made by many
  Members of the House on this question, so we endeavoured to get to an answer
  to that point earlier than we would otherwise have done, because of the
  meetings of this Committee.  In that sense Mr Howarth is quite right, it is
  the tiger-ish reputation of this Committee which has caused the change, and
  I think the Committee should congratulate itself on its reputation and power
  in these areas.
  
                              Mr Howarth
        182.     Sucking up to us will not do you any good but we like it all
  the same.
        (Mr Clarke) That is the fact.  We are still not in a position,
  however, to publish in a coherent way all the various other financial elements
  which add up to the budget, the business plan, the fees and so on.  We want
  to keep on our timetable to be able to do that in accordance with when we
  launch the document.  There is work being done literally on a week-by-week
  basis to refine these facts and move them forward.  Mr Herdan referred, for
  example, to estimates about the volume of enquiries that will come through
  which are drawn from the seminars of registered bodies.  I am sorry if it is
  inadequate but I am loath to give any particular little snapshot of any bit
  of information which could be misleading, other than taken in the whole.  What
  I am ready to do, and keen to do, is when we do have the full package to let
  you have an absolutely full statement of every aspect of it in every regard,
  but I could not guarantee what Mr Fabricant was asking earlier on, that we can
  do that within the passage of the time of this Committee.
  
                             Mr Fabricant
        183.     I understand that you want to exercise caution, and you are
  right to do so, but you have undertaken to say what the pay back period will
  be.  In order to produce a pay back period you know as well as I that you have
  got to know what the income is going to be.  To know what the income is going
  to be you have to make projections as to demand.  In order to get the final
  equation into it, or the final answer, you have got to know what the fee is
  going to be.  Can I make this point before I go on to one final question. 
  Businesses too have their budgets and you have got to be fair to them, so the
  sooner you can get this information into the public domain the better, because
  you are going on stream, as you say, late summer and businesses are trying to
  budget for next year and the year after and they cannot do so until the fee
  structure is made public.  That needs to be done as soon as possible.
        (Mr Clarke) Chairman, I completely accept that point, it is a well
  made point and it is one that we accept.  Mr Wright just had a point on some
  of the figures that were made earlier, can he just add a point in answer?
        (Mr Wright) You quoted some very wide figures of numbers of volunteers
  and income and so on and so forth.  Can I just say that they were at a very
  early stage when the legislation was going through in 1996-97 and there was
  no clear idea as to how many volunteers there were and how many of them would
  apply at the different levels of certificates, different levels of fees and
  so on and so forth.  That was very much "it could be as little as so and so,
  it could be as much as so and so", which was how that figure of 200 million-
  odd originated.  That was way back in 1996-97 during the passage of the
  legislation.
  
                              Mr Howarth
        184.     No doubt if the NCVO's information was based on more recent
  knowledge from the Government they will tell us, but otherwise I am happy to
  accept your point.
        (Mr Wright) I think the witness was quoting from the figures that were
  quoted at the time of the legislation.
        (Mr Clarke) Could I be helpful, Chairman, as always, of course.  Would
  it be helpful if I gave a commitment to the Committee that we will publish to
  the Committee the information that you are looking for by the end of March
  this year and, therefore, well before any launch date and, therefore, meeting
  some of the points Mr Fabricant made?  If I can give that commitment then I
  am happy to do that.
  
                               Chairman
        185.     If you found that you were able to do it a fortnight earlier
  then even better.
        (Mr Clarke) I will do my very best to do it before that but I am
  prepared to commit myself to the end of March.
  
                             Mr Fabricant
        186.     One final area of questioning.  We have spoken about the
  evidence in terms of soft evidence, but with regard to hard evidence that is
  going to be dependent, I believe, on the Police National Computer and Phoenix. 
  As they say in relation to computers "rubbish in, rubbish out".  The Data
  Protection Commissioner recently said "The current state of Phoenix data must
  call into question how well the Secretary of State, in the guise of the CRB,
  can discharge his responsibilities under Part V of the Police Act 1997 when
  issuing conviction certificates."  Basically she is saying she does not give
  much to the accuracy of the PNC.
        (Mr Clarke) This is a major concern, Chairman, as Mr Fabricant
  correctly addresses.   The Inspectorate produced data on this last year and
  the conclusion they drew in their latest report, On the Record, which was
  published in July 2000, was "Overall Her Majesty's Inspector considers the
  level and nature of errors, omissions and discrepancies found to be totally
  unacceptable", that is the phrase of the Inspectorate, "especially given that
  many of these same observations were made in the 1998 Report.  They reflect
  an unprofessional approach to data quality by forces".  That is a pretty
  serious set of indictments by the Inspectorate and it is one that we take
  exceptionally seriously because Mr Fabricant's observations about garbage in,
  garbage out are obviously right.  Therefore, firstly, we are delighted that
  ACPO - the Association of Chief Police Officers - has produced a Compliance
  Strategy for forces to implement.  That is an important first step to get us
  to a situation where all forces are prepared to comply with the basic
  requirements of data quality which not only the Inspectorate but everybody
  thinks are necessary.  We are continuing to monitor what is happening there
  and to that end, as I said earlier, the Data Protection Commissioner has had
  a meeting with representatives of ACPO and the Inspectorate and colleague
  officials of mine in the Home Office to map out a plan of further action,
  which we hope will lead to a very significant improvement.  Perhaps I can take
  this opportunity to say how much we welcome the positive attitude that the
  Data Protection Commissioner has shown and the co-operation that she has
  offered to help achieve the result that all of us want.  As I said in answer
  to Mr Linton, we are faced with a very hard choice here.  It is whether we say
  the data situation is so serious that we basically abandon the project or we
  say the other way around, that we are determined to improve the data to a
  level that we have to achieve.  The combination of that and what we are trying
  to do in IT generally is the course that we have decided to follow.  I am
  aware that is not a very satisfactory answer, Chairman, but I think it is the
  only truthful answer I can give, which is we recognise the problem and we are
  doing what we can to sort it out with the co-operation of everybody as rapidly
  as possible.
        187.     Can you just give us some idea of time?  The PNC record base
  will never be perfect, no record base is ever perfect, but you are aiming to
  improve on it, to get reasonable reliability, and yet you are starting this
  scheme at the end of the summer.  How big an overlap is there going to be
  between the start of the CRB scheme and reasonable accuracy, if you like, from
  the PNC?
        (Mr Clarke) I will ask Mr Herdan and Mr Wright if they want to add to
  the situation.  The Compliance Strategy was endorsed by the ACPO Council in
  spring last year, a considerable time ago, and it now includes performance
  indicators, which were also important for each force as to how they move
  forward.  We do now have a plan of action, agreed on 9 February, to take it
  forward seeking a dramatic change in performance.  The outstanding action
  plans will be expedited.  The Data Protection Commissioner's office will
  discuss the action plans with ACPO, the Inspectorate will consult with ACPO
  regarding future auditing arrangements and Peter will be engaged on the
  development of the strategy to provide appropriate IT support.
        188.     Have you set any time target for it to be completed?
        (Mr Clarke) No, we have not.  We have set a process for it.  I wonder
  if Mr Herdan could add anything on time to help Mr Fabricant?
        (Mr Herdan) I do not think so.  It is a process of continuous
  improvement that we are embarked on, I do not think there is a hard and fast
  date where we can say "right, everything is now good enough that everything
  is going to be fine".   I think it is going to be a continuous improvement
  process.  HMIC will be involved in this with us as well.
  
                               Chairman
        189.     We had better have some, Mr Herdan, had we not, because in
  the File on 4 programme it was said: "In 1997, the Metropolitan Police
  compared computer records with the original documents held at a sample of 15
  police divisions.  The auditors found an overall error rate of 64 per cent and
  recommended an urgent programme of improvement.  Last year the Met returned
  to the same police divisions and found the records had become even more
  inaccurate."  On that evidence this is not an improving record at the moment,
  is it?
        (Mr Herdan) There is a lot to be done but, of course, these large
  percentages - I do not wish to diminish the significance of the problem -
  which are quoted by the media, 60/70/80 per cent errors, are every kind of
  error or omission, including the colour of people's eyes and the fact the
  postcode is missing as well as the things that are very important.
        190.     The colour of somebody's eyes could be absolutely critical to
  making sure we have got the right person.
        (Mr Herdan) Probably not to the CRB in fact.
        191.     Somewhere I saw a case of somebody contesting the police
  record precisely on that basis.
        (Mr Herdan) The point I was making ----
        192.     The suspect had got brown eyes and the applicant had got
  blue.
        (Mr Herdan) The point I was making, which is not quite the best
  example, was many of the details on those police records will not affect the
  accuracy of our service, but clearly there is still a lot to do and we need
  to work with the police to achieve that.
        193.     It goes on to say "In one police division, Vauxhall," which
  is a part of London, I think, "the error rate was found to be 100 per cent". 
  That is pretty substantial.
        (Mr Clarke) The Home Office certainly does not have a defence against
  the charge that the police records system is seriously inadequate, that is why
  I quoted at the beginning the Inspectorate of Constabulary's Report.  This has
  been the case consistently for a very long period of time and it is
  exacerbated by the fact that we have hand data collection so that, for
  example, basic data about you or I in a police station is filled in by hand
  at a series of points and we have not got proper IT connections and all the
  rest of it.  It is a very bad state of affairs and it is one the Government
  gives a very high priority to solving.
        194.     It is not just that, Minister, because this goes on to say
  "The delay in entering court results into the police computer system varies
  from 25 days in the best force" and that is long enough, is it not, "to 413
  days in the worst", that is over a year?
        (Mr Clarke) It is the same thing ---
        195.     This is between the courts and the Police National Computer.
        (Mr Clarke) As I said earlier, Chairman, you have got six agencies
  here - police, prisons, probation, crown courts, magistrates' courts, CPS -
  all of which are seriously under-invested historically with the proper
  information technology and which are not properly connected in the way that
  they operate between themselves.  That is why these mistakes have arisen,
  because the data is being collected by a wide range of different people in
  different ways, by hand and not inter-connected.  We have a major programme
  on hand, called the NCPS(?) Casework and Custody System, to address that and
  sort it through, not to do with the CRB points in particular but because we
  need a far better system right across the whole system.
  
                             Mr Fabricant
        196.     Should you not get a grip and set some targets, you are the
  Minister?
        (Mr Clarke) Mr Wright is going to say something.
        (Mr Wright) The first piece of action that is being taken is,
  following the Inspectorate Report, each of the 43 forces was asked to produce
  an action plan by this month to set out how it was going to implement the ACPO
  Compliance Strategy, and those reports are coming in now.  The Inspectorate
  of Constabulary will itself assess and evaluate those reports.  Not all of
  them are yet in, so one of the first pieces of action will be to chase those
  which are not.  The Compliance Strategy includes quantified performance
  indicators so, to pick up the particular point about entering court results
  on to the system, the target will be 100 per cent within three days of receipt
  of the information from the courts.  That is the target they will be working
  towards and the Inspectorate will be looking ----
        197.     But no target when it is to be achieved, that is the problem?
  There is no target about when we should be getting reasonable accuracy and no
  target as to how quickly it can be entered.
        (Mr Wright) There are also a number of targets about accuracy,
  although gauging, measuring and monitoring accuracy is more difficult.  If I
  can just pick up a wider point.  The Phoenix application is a wide-ranging
  application which is intended for police operational and investigative
  purposes as well as for logging information about convictions.  So a lot of
  the information is on there which is critical for investigative purposes, like
  colour of eyes, although I think many policemen would doubt whether the colour
  of eyes is critical when you are dealing with a crime on the street.
  
                               Chairman
        198.     Sure.
        (Mr Wright) I understand that the Inspectorate found that most of the
  errors or omissions were about things like colour of eyes, height, colour of
  hair and so on and so forth, and not about conviction data, which is the sort
  of data that the CRB will be drawing off the system.  That is not to minimise
  the problem, if there are problems there they must be addressed.  One of the
  worst problems is the problem of delay in getting information on to the system
  in the first place.  As I said, there is a quantified target that forces have
  got to work towards.
        199.     Do you want to add something, Minister?
        (Mr Clarke) Firstly, it is right not to minimise the problem but it
  is also right, on the other hand, to say that we are trying to change and
  transform a culture which has become well established through the whole
  criminal justice system over a very long period of time, and that is down to
  management leadership, it is down to providing resource for the technology
  which can help solve these problems, and changing work practices in a wide
  variety of different ways.  I quite understand Mr Fabricant's drive for
  targets, I do not think the Government can be criticised for a lack of targets
  in the way it seeks to manage things through in a variety of different ways,
  but the truth of the matter is we are talking about such a big area here that
  we have to make sure we get it right and that is why the Compliance Strategy
  that Mr Wright was referring to is so important.
        Bob Russell:   Chairman, Mr Fabricant has covered this area very
  extensively but 8.5 million checks a year are being talked about, I believe. 
  How many bad guys and girls do you expect to find in that 8.5 million?
  
                               Chairman
        200.     You hope to find them all presumably.
        (Mr Clarke) I was just going to say, we hope that everybody will be
  included.
        Bob Russell:   The reason I say that, Minister, is when the Chief
  Executive of The Scout Association gave evidence last week, he was talking
  about 70,000 volunteers a year who are currently checked out by the Scout's
  own inhouse system and the numbers that caused them concern were relatively
  few.
        Mr Fabricant:  Ten.
  
                              Bob Russell
        201.     A dozen or a couple of dozen, something like that.  What
  concerns me, Minister, and I wonder if you can give me an assurance here, is
  that a degree of complacency may well come in because there will be haystacks
  galore and only a few needles and it may well be that those operating the
  system may just pass everything through without being as diligent as they
  might be if there is only the occasional needle.
        (Mr Clarke) I will ask Mr Herdan if he has got anything to add but it
  seems to me that is very unlikely because the whole process of the system will
  be a system of routines and checks which are absolutely standard for every
  case with a series of indicators being thrown up which will, of themselves,
  generate further scrutiny and address.  I myself hope that the existence of
  the scheme will minimise the ability of people on the margin who might have
  some nefarious purpose to get involved in the whole process, so you will find,
  as it were, the number of needles in your haystack becoming smaller because
  people's perceptions will be that it will be a system they will not be able
  to get through and that would obviously be the desirable state of affairs. 
  But the only way in which that can be established is by the very systematic
  routine checks that are gone through.  Of course, a lot of it will be
  mechanised by hypothesis.  It will be not be a question of the weariness of
  a particular individual weakening the scrutiny element but a system which is
  rigorous.
        (Mr Wright) I certainly agree with the Minister that the deterrent
  effect of the CRB may be to make those needles even less frequent, but clearly
  the whole culture of the organisation is to be based around the concept of no
  stone being left unturned - mixing my metaphors - to make sure that every case
  where we would find a positive hit is uncovered and revealed.  That will be
  part of the way in which we have got to induct and train all the human beings
  who will also be part of the system; it is not all just about computers.  It
  has been suggested that the number of cases where there is no information on
  the Police National Computer but then there is softer information would be
  quite small.  I think that may well be the case but some of those are going
  to be the most vital cases and obviously there we need a culture of the police
  forces and ourselves to make sure that that small number of cases is picked
  up.  I can assure you that the scenario you are describing where we might go
  to sleep on it and lose interest in the cases where there is something to be
  found is not at all the way I see it. 
        Chairman:   There is the dreadful warning of Thomas Hamilton and Dunblane
  where nothing was known in terms of convictions but many people locally knew
  "something was wrong".   We were heartened by the evidence of the Scout
  Association who told us that their own internal enquiries reveal this.  It is
  a good point.  We were very impressed by the evidence we were given on behalf
  of all of the voluntary bodies as to the seriousness with which they carry out
  the present checks and the thoroughness as well, for very obvious reasons, but
  nonetheless it was very impressive the evidence they gave.  Ian Cawsey?
  
                               Mr Cawsey
        202.     Thank you, Chairman.  I want to ask you a few questions about
  the timeliness of information.  We have spoken a lot about accuracy but how
  quickly the information is available is also very important and a previous
  Committee report going back to 1990 - and of course it is so long ago now that
  some of the acronyms have changed - recommended that: "When the National
  Collection of Criminal Records is computerised, court clerks rather than
  police forces should be responsible for providing records of court results to
  the National Identification Bureau."  The then Government agreed with that but
  nothing actually happened and in 1995 the Masefield Scrutiny into the criminal
  justice system also recommended that courts should directly update results
  onto the PNC.  Again nothing has happened since that time.  ACPO have told us
  that "the accuracy and timeliness of court results would be dramatically
  increased if the courts entered their own results."  Why is that not an option
  that you are putting forward?
        (Mr Clarke) Can I say, firstly, that it might be helpful to set out
  what our service standards are in this area.  Firstly on disclosure turn
  around times, the standard is enhanced disclosure, the highest level, 90 per
  cent in three weeks, standard disclosure, 95 per cent in one week, basic
  disclosure 95 per cent in one week.  And on response times, written enquiries,
  one week, e-mails, one day, and disputes 95 per cent within three weeks.  So
  those are the service standards which we set for this approach.  In terms of
  the inputting of data that Mr Cawsey asked about, the purpose of the whole
  discussion about IT and the criminal justice system is to indicate that we are
  trying to get a common system of inputting data that reads across each other
  and we think that is the best way to proceed.
        203.     You do not agree with the comments in the Report that it
  would be better? 
        (Mr Clarke) On the question of where the data is held I think it is
  best to base everything on the Police National Computer and that is the right
  way to operate it.  Where I agree with the comment is it is important that the
  data that the police enter into the system and the data that the courts,
  whether magistrates' or crown courts enter into the system, is compatible and
  that the information flows right across the whole system.  Maybe I
  misunderstood the question.
        204.     At the moment the police enter it on the PNC.  I think the
  recommendation is that the courts do it directly rather than pass it onto the
  police and then the police having to do it.
        (Mr Wright) I think this is the intention, the way things are going,
  that the courts will put data straight onto the Police National Computer in
  the future.  It is a question of time and on that I have no information.
        205.     Mo information on that?
        (Mr Wright) Sorry, it is not my field but, no, I have no information.
        206.     Is it the Home Office's general acceptance that that will be
  an improvement in the system if that were to happen? 
        (Mr Wright) I am certain that is the case.
        (Mr Clarke) What we are trying to do is establish a central database
  which contains all the data that we work through and that requires entering
  it from all of the elements within the criminal justice system, but achieving
  that is a lot easier said than done.
        207.     I appreciate that but earlier, in answer to Mr Fabricant's
  question, we were told about a target of 100 per cent within 72 hours once the
  police received it but now you are saying the policy is not when the police
  receive it but just to go straight onto the system.
        (Mr Wright) That is a target for as long as it remains the case that
  the courts supply the information to the police and the police put it onto the
  system.  Obviously the position would be different if the courts input
  directly.
        208.     Of course the courts are not the only body that provide this
  information, there are other bodies as well.  The 72-hour target which it is
  now, and moving towards direct input; is that going to apply to other agencies
  that provide information to the system?
        (Mr Clarke) Mr Cawsey, I will try and summarise where I think we are
  and I am going to suggest, if I might, that I write to you about this matter
  to set it out fully.  We have a situation where we have a series of parallel
  databases about the same people and the same crimes that are held in ways that
  do not communicate with each other.  That is, in my opinion, a very strong
  indictment of the system and the way it operates, which is why we are about
  investing in both the interconnections between the different services and in
  the new system of developing data in this way.  Our ambition is as Mr Wright
  described, to get to a position where information is entered directly from
  each of the elements as it reflects their part in the process which then can
  be sent out in a way that is the most efficient and comprehensive and has the
  least problem that can occur in the process.  But the truth is that we are
  quite a long way from being in that position in a way that would be desirable,
  further away than I would like.  That is why I may appear to be being evasive
  in response to your questions because I do not have good answers to the
  timescale to get to that point.  We are talking about a five-year strategy,
  for example, for reinvesting in the whole of our IT throughout the criminal
  justice system, in a way that moves it forward properly.  I am not able to be
  as precise as I think you would like me to be in answering the questions.
        209.     I was going to move on to ask you about whether you saw one
  of the solutions being some sort of centralised inputting but, in fact, it is
  the opposite of that, is it not?  At whatever specific point (which you have
  not announced) it will go the other way, will it not?
        (Mr Clarke) You have essentially got six different databases for the
  different agencies at the moment, some of which are computerised, some of
  which are not, and so you have all the interfaces between those different
  agencies which you have to operate.  There is a serious debate about the merit
  of going to a central database for all the agencies which everybody inputs and
  then goes out.  The implications of going to that structure, if you can
  imagine the central database as the centre of a star with six agencies going
  into it rather than six separate satellites, are absolutely enormous in terms
  of culture and what happens, and we are currently debating which of those
  courses to follow.  That is why I am not being as clear as I would like in
  answer to your question.  Would it be helpful if I try to write a
  comprehensive letter in answer to Mr Cawsey?
        Chairman:   That is very kind of you.
  
                             Mr Fabricant
        210.     You are going to be writing a lot of letters.
        (Mr Clarke) Three as I recall from this Committee so far. 
  
                               Mr Cawsey
        211.     That would be helpful, Minister.  There are just a couple of
  other points that are linked to that.  One point is you have the 72-hour
  target for the time being at least, but of course that is only from the point
  that information is handed over to you to use.  You heard from the Chairman
  earlier some extremely long delays of records making it onto the system.  What
  are you putting in place to ensure that as well as promptly appearing on the
  system the information moves across promptly as well, again not just from
  courts but from all the various sources of input? 
        (Mr Clarke) Precisely the kind of changes I am talking about right
  across the whole system.  The best illustration I can give is on the youth
  justice reforms.  We have talked about trying to speed up the youth justice
  system in ways that we are very strongly committed to as a Government.  It is
  absolutely revealing as you go through the system the amount of time a
  particular case has been held in a particular part of the system before being
  transferred to the next part and it requires major changes in culture to move
  that forward.  In the case of each of the agencies we have got a set of
  targets about the way in which they should deal with the process because we
  are always keen to do whatever Mr Fabricant suggests in terms of targets when
  they come through.  We have not got a system where I can put my hand on my
  heart and say to you, "Here is a great system for making it happen".  What I
  can say to you is that everything we are about, both in setting up the CRB and
  in terms of general communication between the agencies, is designed to
  minimise the waiting times within the system because they are very, very
  deleterious to the whole criminal justice system.
        212.     I agree with that.  One of the concerns I have about the
  scenario you are outlining of making it a much more on-line system so
  information can move quickly and promptly onto this system, is that it almost
  reminds me of the Internet to a certain extent where there is masses of
  information and yet nobody is responsible for any of it and there is no
  accreditation of it either but everybody can get their hands on it.  In the
  1997 Act in a very carefully worded phrase - not by you personally of course
  - it says: "No proceedings shall lie against the Secretary of State by reason
  of an inaccuracy in the information made available or provided to him."  You
  get a similar disclaimer at the end of Heartbeat every week.  So who is going
  to be responsible for all of these people all putting information into this
  great big database, on-line eventually, and ensuring that it is going to be
  accurate?
        (Mr Clarke) Can I say as the Minister concerned I am absolutely
  delighted that was what the officials at the time drafted because I am sure
  it was the right approach.  Mr Cawsey is raising very profound issues about
  the operation of the system.  You have the operational independence of the
  chief constables, you have the judges and their courts, you have the Crown
  Prosecution Service, again independent, in the way that they operate, all
  rightly independent of the Executive.  As we as an Executive say, "Let's start
  to get more of a grip on this", for the reasons Mr Cawsey has rightly
  identified, quite serious constitutional issues arise at each juncture both
  about the way we manage the data because obviously data in one part of the
  system cannot be made available to people in other parts of the system, but
  also in terms of administratively how to drive it.  If I can be encouraging
  at all to Mr Cawsey there is very, very positive thinking going on at the
  moment about precisely how to manage this process through.  There is a
  Committee across the criminal justice system chaired by the Home Secretary
  with the Lord Chancellor and Attorney-General which meets very regularly which
  is trying to address precisely these points about how we can manage efficiency
  through the system in a positive way.  That is where the responsibility lies
  ultimately, that group of three government Ministers, to try and ensure that
  their responsibility, as it comes through, drives it on.  To say that does not
  advance us very far because there are still major inhibitions to making that
  work.  The small changes we have made, for example the criminal justice area
  committees which now mean that all the agencies are at least organised on the
  same geographical basis, which was not the case until a year or so ago, is an
  important step down that route.  I genuinely say to you that a Home Affairs
  Committee inquiry into this area has quite a lot of merit. 
        Chairman:   You are a hard taskmaster, Minister.  Martin Linton?
  
                               Mr Linton
        213.     There are six different organisations that you say are
  independent but they are all part of the criminal justice system.  Do I
  understand that if there is to be a central computer system that would enable
  a case to be followed right the way through from police enquiries to
  probation?  
        (Mr Clarke) That is correct.  The gateway to the whole system will be
  the so-called Case Prep System for the police which is part of the NCPS
  national information systems process which starts with the police, which is
  when you arrive in the police station and the data is first onto a PC in each
  police station.  That becomes the core of the system that then goes right
  through the whole area.  Even that has not started rolling out yet although
  we are committed to rolling it out.  You are quite right, the idea is that
  that data should transfer across the different agencies so at least certain
  big chunks of core data are simply moved on the push of a button rather than
  having to re-enter the kind of example Mr Wright was giving, the colour of
  eyes and hair, whatever it might be, at each different stage and doing it in
  different ways which gives rise to all the errors that the Chairman was
  pointing to earlier on.
  
                               Chairman
        214.     I am conscious of the fact that we will be required elsewhere
  very soon.  Mr Herdan, just two quick questions.  What kind of definition are
  you going to be working on of the word "vulnerable".  It is much easier to
  understand with children and young people but when it comes to adults it is
  not simply a matter of their age or frailty.  The second question is there was
  a lot of concern expressed by voluntary organisations last week as to which
  level of certificate they should be seeking and a very strong demand for much
  more clarity from the Bureau about that.  Could you comment on those two
  points please. 
        (Mr Herdan) Could I pass those to my colleague, Mr Wright, to answer.
        (Mr Wright) In terms of "vulnerable" a definition has been circulated
  for consultation purposes.  It is at the back of one of the annexes to the
  memorandum we sent you.  It proceeds on the assumption that not everybody who
  is old or disabled is necessarily vulnerable.  So it takes the process through
  a thinking process of about three stages.  "A person may be considered
  vulnerable if he receives..." and then it lists the services.  And then that
  is in relation to a "substantial learning or physical disability, physical or
  mental illness ...", etcetera, etcetera, and then is "substantially dependent
  upon others who can overcome his will".  It is shorthand but it is that
  three-stage process that we are looking at at the present time to narrow it
  down to those who are truly  said to be vulnerable.  Anybody can feel
  vulnerable.  A woman being taken home in a taxi, for example, in a strange
  area may feel vulnerable at that moment.  Here we are looking at vulnerable
  adults who are vulnerable through that sort of thinking process.
        215.     The second point was the call of the voluntary organisations
  for some better guidance on the appropriate level of certificate they should
  seek.  There would be a tendency for them to go for the biggie,
  understandably.
        (Mr Wright) Yes, which will only apply if it is within the
  legislation.  Of course, there are terms within the legislation that people
  are seeking guidance on.  The legislation, for example, talks about "regularly
  involved in caring for, training, supervising and being in sole charge" so
  there are questions about what does "regularly" mean and so on and so forth. 
  It is not at the end of the day for us to interpret the law but we will give
  some guidance as to what CRB understands by those particular expressions which
  hopefully will help organisations to see which is the right level for them.
        (Mr Clarke) What we have done in the draft guidance document is set
  out at paragraphs 124, 125 and 127 our understanding of the basic disclosure,
  the standard disclosure and the enhanced disclosure, and we are very
  interested in the response of voluntary bodies to that and we are prepared to
  modify our guidance in the light of the submissions that are made to us on
  those.
        Chairman:   That is very helpful.  Right, Minister, it is always a
  pleasure seeing you, and Mr Herdan and Mr Wright.  Thank you for your
  assistance.  You have all been very helpful.