Select Committee on Home Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 160 - 179)



160.  To license, or ban?

  (Sir John Stevens) Ban them.

161.  And would you increase the age at which a youth can use an air weapon, or possess an air weapon, I should say?

  (Sir John Stevens) I think it is 16 at the moment, is it not? I do not know. I would like to come back to you on that one.[6]

162.  Is it 14 when accompanied? I do not know.

  (Sir John Stevens) Can I come back to you on that one, if I may, Chairman, by written answer.

163.  Yes. Have you got any suggestions on air weapons?

  (Sir John Stevens) Yes.

164.  Which I am very interested in. I do not know whether they are a big problem for you, but certainly they are in other parts of the country?

  (Sir John Stevens) No; they are a problem for us.

165.  It will be very helpful to have a note; thank you.

  (Sir John Stevens) Yes.[7]

166.  Has any progress been made in finding a non-fatal weapon for police to use when dealing with situations involving firearms?

  (Sir John Stevens) We have been looking at a variety of these, both by the use of electronic movement and by the use of other means. What we want to be absolutely sure of is that, by creating another weapon, we do not actually put members of the public's lives in danger, and officers' lives in danger. But there has to be, from our point of view, from the Metropolitan Police point of view, a weapon that is capable of taking on someone who may be mentally disturbed and is at a distance, other than bringing up a firearm and using that firearm, which will probably result in the loss of life.
  (Mr Blair) If I may, Chairman, I think in your question there may be just a slight confusion between two issues. We would not be using those weapons in cases where there was a firearm involved; you cannot expect officers to face a firearm, whether it is imitation or not, obviously not knowing whether it is imitation or not, with something like one of the these Tasar weapons, which, by the time you have fired the Tasar weapon at him, if he has got a real firearm, you are dead.

167.  So if somebody, to take a topical example, has a cigarette lighter which looks like a gun, he must still expect to be faced by armed officers?

  (Mr Blair) There is no other answer.
  (Sir John Stevens) There is no other way of doing it.
  (Mr Blair) These are really more around the person with the sword or the machete, or the person who is just going berserk.

  Chairman: Thank you, that is a very helpful clarification.

Mr Malins

168.  Could I ask you to make an informed guess, only, on these two points. How many illicit firearms do you think, real firearms, are circulating in London, would it be 500 or 5,000, just a guess? Secondly, how many people do you think, who have used firearms to kill, are still around in London, unarrested, uncharged, a real guess; are we talking dozens or hundreds? Just give me your best kind of guess on those two points?

  (Sir John Stevens) I do not think I can say, in terms of circulation, other than there is a large number. We can come back to you on that.[8] I will speak to people who are working on Trident and have more of an informed guess. I would not like to put a figure on it.

169.  Thousands, probably?

  (Sir John Stevens) We do not know. I could not say.

170.  Certainly a large number of killers?

  (Sir John Stevens) A large number, in terms of guns circulating. In terms of killers, we have been highly successful, a 90 per cent murder clear-up rate, the highest ever, last year; whether we achieve that this year is another matter. But I would like to come back to you on that, if I may.

171.  But dozens of killers? I just want to get some idea of the scale; are we talking, in terms of these gangs, dozens of people in London?

  (Mr Blair) I do not think we are. Bearing in mind that the murder rate in London, over the last few years, has been 150 and 200 cases, I do not think we are looking for dozens of killers.
  (Sir John Stevens) And it has stayed static, it is no increase; so there are not dozens of killers around, and if they are about we want to arrest them and put them inside, which is what we are doing.
  (Mr Blair) But it would be worth noting that in 2001 the Met were called to 10,463 armed incidents.

Mr Cameron

172.  What percentage of firearms that you pick up in London would you say has leaked out of the sporting firearms market, so shotguns, or .22s, or something like that?

  (Sir John Stevens) Very few.

173.  Can you put a percentage on it?

  (Sir John Stevens) No; but very few.


174.  Just on police complaints for a moment, because, as you know, a large part of the Police Bill is taken up with the new complaints procedure, are you happy with it?

  (Sir John Stevens) Yes. We have been pushing for a very long time for an independent kind of investigation of complaints; because, however good we are at investigating ourselves, however good we might be, the public perception is, the police should not be investigating themselves. So I think this was a move absolutely in the right direction, we welcome it, not before time.

175.  So there are no amendments you would like to see?

  (Sir John Stevens) No; not where it stands at the moment, Chairman.

  Chairman: It is nice to have satisfied customers. Finally, on resources, Mrs Prentice.

Bridget Prentice

176.  Back, I am afraid, to the bread and butter issues. You have just done the Resource Allocation Formula, and you have sent London MPs briefings on that. And, as you know, I represent a constituency in a borough which we like to think is, in fact, the safest borough in London. However, that is not a reason for it to have fewer resources than some of the others. I think that is down to the excellence of the borough commander and his troops, as well as very good council and police community relations. So do you think that the Resource Allocation Formula is (a) a fair way of dividing the cake between the centre, i.e. Scotland Yard, and the boroughs, and also actually between the inner and outer London boroughs?

  (Sir John Stevens) I will leave Ian to take that.
  (Mr Blair) I do not think I have ever had such a marvellous postbag as I have had in relation to the Resource Allocation Formula.
  (Sir John Stevens) And the Chairman of the Police Authority.
  (Mr Blair) Yes, he had a few, too, I think. Let us divide that, as you have done, quite properly, into two questions. There is no formula for how many people there are at Scotland Yard versus how many people there are in the boroughs. We have raised the percentage on the boroughs slightly. But it has got to be accepted that, if we compare, say, the Met with the NYPD, it is not just the NYPD, it is also the FBI and part of the Secret Service and part of the DEA as well; and so the people who arrested the Real IRA up in north Yorkshire are Met officers, the people who dealt with anti-terrorist arrests in Leicester are Met officers, the people who dealt with the Dome robbery are Met officers, and none of those are from boroughs. There is obviously a requirement, in terms of economy of scale and expertise, for anti-terrorism, for murder investigation, for child protection, etc., which is at the Yard; we use our best judgement to decide on those numbers. When you then move down to the borough versus borough argument, we spent six months with some pretty expensive consultants, and doing a lot of consultation around what were the indicators that genuinely showed policing need between one borough and another, and there was a whole set of ways in which those indicators were developed. First of all, they had to be available, you had to be able to have that information and it had to be able to be broken down to borough level, if it was not breakable down to borough level it was not usable. And I think we have got a pretty robust formula now. When we went through the major consultation processes that we did, particularly open meetings, where we invited representatives of every London borough to them, some of whom brought along their own statisticians, there was a general acceptance that when they asked a question they got a genuine answer back as to, yes, we did take that into account; yes, we do understand that research from UMIST, or whatever else. And so I do think, yes, we are pretty close to it. There will always be a need for what we described as the Commissioner's judgement, but we have used that, at the moment, in only two cases, one of which is relating to City Airport, which is not yet a designated airport, so we are providing extra officers for that, and hoping, in due course, to be able to reclaim that from BAA; and the second is in relation to Lambeth, which is the only place where the formula on what the needs should be was completely out of kilter with demand. And one of the things we have said to that borough is, "We will give you extra officers, but we are very concerned about the nature of the partnership here, and as to whether you are putting in sufficient resources into youth provision." And we are going to examine that very carefully, because, otherwise, we may be in the position that 31 other boroughs are subsidising Lambeth for not providing enough youth social workers, for instance.

177.  So conversation goes on between you, the GLA and the boroughs individually on that type of issue?

  (Mr Blair) In that particular one, it was between ourselves and Lambeth.

178.  So you would get the other boroughs to gang up on Lambeth?

  (Mr Blair) No; we did not get them to gang up on Lambeth. I assure you, if you had been at the public meeting, you would not have needed me to suggest that there was a gang-up process, there was a lot of concern. And I think what came out of it was a general consensus that we were about right.

179.  Can I then, just finally, ask you, do you think that, in general, now, the Met has got its finances in good working order?

  (Sir John Stevens) Yes, I do. We had to make, reform and the finance side of things have been a major project for all of us. We were a Government Department, as part of the Met and the Home Office, up till about a year and a half ago; we are now driving our way forward very quickly to becoming more of a local authority, the type of organisation the rest of us have been used to, outside London, anyway. We have made £160 million savings over the last three years, we have made £20 million a year previously, £20 million up to last year, we are looking for another £60 million savings, in terms of efficiency savings. We are looking to delegate authority financially, personnel-wise, on Pathfinder boroughs, six of them, across London; and what we are trying to do, and very quickly, is get proper control of where we are spending the money and what results we are getting from spending that money. In addition, we want to make sure the borough commanders and departmental heads, whether they be Keith's personnel, some of our specialist operations squads have delegated authority, and therefore are accountable for the money they spend; up to now, I am afraid, that has not been the case, in the purest sense. So a lot more work needs to be done. But I think there is a general acceptance, and the Police Authority in particular, and the Mayor, who has set up a scrutiny, and this is extremely helpful to us, are in acceptance of the fact that we are moving towards what we should be moving towards. There is still a way to go during the year, but I think we are going to get there.

6   See Appendix, Ev 108-9. Back

7   See Appendix, Ev 108-9. Back

8   See Appendix, Ev 108. Back

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