Examination of Witness (Questions 80 -
THURSDAY 7 FEBRUARY 2002
80. Going to the Bill, with which you are familiar.
(Mr Morris) It is not exactly exciting reading, I
81. I understand that. Which do you particularly
agree with of the proposed reforms that are in the Bill?
(Mr Morris) I think the main bit around the Bill that
we feel comfortable with is that we have had such an important
input to it. It has not suddenly hit the service, it has not suddenly
hit the Superintendents' Association. What we have been doing
since Jack Straw was the Home Secretary is discussing these things.
Perhaps the speed at which things changed was a little difficult,
trying to get it all in to respond. Many of the ideas we have
discussed. That leaves myself in a difficult position with some
of my colleagues who perhaps have not had the benefit of discussing
it at various levels and then ask "why the hell are we agreeing
to x, y, z?" There are some important things there about
moving the service forward as a modern organisation. Perhaps the
bits that we are still worried about are how we are expected to
finance that given the current round of budgets in particular
and allocation of funds to forces.
82. Before we come to finance let us go through
one or two of the things within the Bill that you can tell us
whether you agree or disagree with. Do you share Sir David's concern
about the Home Secretary's plans to give more power to the Home
Office and take some away from the local forces?
(Mr Morris) We do have concerns and we tried to explain
those. For superintendents it is quite straightforward, if we
are not performing we would expect our chief constables to take
us to task and do something about it.
83. What would you expect to happen to a chief
constable if he was not performing?
(Mr Morris) That is the problem. It would appear that
the Home Secretary can demand certain levels of performance but
has not got the stick to enforce it with. It is understandable
that somebody should want to be in that position. I do believe
it is entirely right that an elected representative who then becomes
Home Secretary should demand certain levels of performance. I
need not tell the Committee about the British constitution and
how you keep the legislative body and the enforcement side and
the judiciary apart whilst there are obvious overlaps. Our main
concern comes about perhaps not with this Home Secretary but in
the future. The opportunity for political appointments at chief
officer level come to mind and that raises a whole new terms of
reference for policing this nation that I think we would feel
very uncomfortable with.
84. Are there any plans to change the method
of appointment of chief constables?
(Mr Morris) Not that I am aware of. As I tried to
say in our response to the White Paper, the opportunity for somebody
to be mischievous in the future is quite clear in our view. Not
that we suggest the current Home Secretary would do that.
85. You mean in getting rid of people he did
not like rather than appointing people he liked?
(Mr Morris) That, plus it has already opened the door
to make it possible to have a political appointment. In particular,
if you take another leap forward in time, as many people have,
and say we have got too many forces at 43, if you get it down
to a manageable number of ten then the pressure on those people
to conform to a political will rather than an operational need
is going to be quite significant.
86. Do you think that 43 is a reasonable number
or too many?
(Mr Morris) It is very difficult because the localness
that we have, I think, is absolutely vital. Whether that can be
translated still through Basic Command Units is another matter.
There are economies of scale that quite clearly are being overcome
by forces working together. If we were to redesign the UK now
I do not think we would design it around the 43 forces but then
I doubt whether we would stick to the baronial boundaries that
we have between the counties as they are at present either.
87. You see some merit in reducing the number?
(Mr Morris) I think sooner or later we will have to
look at it in more detail.
88. You do not want to see it reduced to the
point where all influence is in the hands of someone in the Home
(Mr Morris) That would bother me.
89. Getting rid of chief constables, I see the
reservations that you have expressed in your paper but in practice
that happens nowadays, does it not? There was a very recent case
that you are familiar with, as are the rest of us, when the Home
Secretary indicated that a chief constable should go and go he
did. What is going to happen is simply this will be more directly
a way in which the Home Secretary will say what he will say, namely
the chief constable should go. What is wrong with that?
(Mr Morris) In that case I think it is unfair to pick
up on a personal issue that I do not know the full circumstances
of. I do not disagree in general in principle with the idea that
a Home Secretary should have the ability to do it but, if I can
keep it on a practical level, if one of my constables was not
performing I would expect the sergeant to do something about it
and if he or she did not then I would tackle the sergeant. All
the way up the line that is the case. If it was my chief inspector
then I would expect the chief constable to have words with me
or threaten to remove me from the post I was holding.
90. There is a difference, is there not
(Mr Morris) Yes, quite considerably.
91.between those ranks and the chief
constable in charge of an area which chief constables are in charge
of where one would have thought the Home Secretary would be very
sensitive to not taking any action unless it was pretty well justified?
The reaction in the media and in the House of Commons if he or
she was to act in a way that was considered wrong would be pretty
obvious, would it not?
(Mr Morris) I would hope it would be. This is on a
personal level rather than just the Association because obviously
I cannot talk to 1,300 superintendents about this specific one.
A chief constable is appointed by a police authority and I do
wonder whether the Home Secretary's wrath should be directed at
the authority rather than the chief constable, albeit that the
end result may be the same.
92. You have slightly answered my point. The
police authorities do not seem to have much of a role in the Bill.
Do you think that the real responsibility of hiring and firing
chief constables should be with the police authority?
(Mr Morris) Yes, I do. We do have this tripartite
structure which gives the police authorities quite a lot of discretion
and a role to play within policing. Some of them are answerable
to their electorate because of their positions and some are appointed.
I believe it has worked fairly well but it would appear that there
are flaws that we could overcome if we strengthened their role.
I think that would have a firmer basis in our current constitution
than what is being proposed.
93. Is there something that is not in the Bill
that really disappoints you? One of the things we talked about
with the Metropolitan Police Commissioner the other day was the
disciplinary procedures which make it very difficult for superintendents,
your members, to manage their forces in many ways. Does that disappoint
you, that there is not a proper reform being done there?
(Mr Morris) The superintendent on a BCU, of which
I have commanded two, is in a difficult position because we have
this historical basis with the police regulations but we now also
have employment law. Although police officers are often referred
to as not being employees, they can certainly call upon that legislation.
There is a double edge to that. On the one hand it affords them
some protection but it is also something to hide behind. It is
not that simpleI have tried itto sack a civilian
member of the service. I would rather see one set of rules for
all of us if that could be achieved but we would need the discipline
regulations to make the public realise that we are accountable
as police officers with the quite awesome powers that we have
at our disposal.
94. Is that the most disappointing thing that
is not in the Bill or is it something else?
(Mr Morris) I think there are a number of things.
If I could focus on one. Because it is called a Police Bill it
is naturally pointing towards the service but the service exists
within a larger judicial system and getting our side of it right
will improve things but it will be rather like pouring water into
a leaky bucket. I think there are a lot of other things that need
to be considered in the round rather than just pretending the
police are going to solve everything.
Mr Cameron: Thank you.
The Committee suspended from 4.24 pm to 4.35
pm for a division in the House.
95. Right. Let us see how long we can get away
with this time. We were just going through what you agreed with
in the Bill. You dealt with the new powers the Home Secretary
is proposing to grant himself. Is your Association happy with
the police complaints provisions in the Bill for independent authority?
(Mr Morris) We understand and would like to see the
service to be in a position where the public primarily have faith
in a complaints system, I think that is absolutely critical. Second
to that, but perhaps no less important, the police must also have
faith in it. Our concernand this bounds back from our colleagues
in Northern Irelandis where do you get the investigators
from and if they are retired police officers will it achieve independence
in the eyes of the public which is clearly of concern. Secondly,
if the investigations are not adequate and are not properly conducted,
and the police are upset by the result, then the adverse publicity
could rebound on the whole system.
96. The publicity could not be any worse, could
it, than it has been up until fairly recently, not immediately
but fairly recently.
(Mr Morris) Perhaps that is a little unfair on Sir
Alistair Graham and his colleagues. I think the lack of credibility
at some times has been extremely damaging so we do need to change.
I have just got concerns about how it would take place.
97. Would you make a change or would you not?
(Mr Morris) No, I think it has got to be done, yes.
98. Community Support Officers, where does the
Association stand on that?
(Mr Morris) We understand the need for them, we understand
that lots of Community Support Officers in different guises are
out on our streets now. It is vital that we are able to talk to
them. I think we can do a lot with them to help with training,
with understanding their role and how we can work together. The
problem comes, and I think you alluded to it earlier when questioning
Sir David, around Schedule 6, is it?
99. We can check that.
(Mr Morris) I just do not know how this 30 minutes
came out, where it came from and what the effect will be. It is
quite clear when an officer says "You are under arrest"
and lays on hands and says the caution that that person is under
arrest. When a detention starts does not seem to have been explained
satisfactorily. Is it when they are first spoken to or is it when
they are told, as they would under PACE perhaps, that they are
being detained? We have to question what the difference is between
a detention and an arrest.