Examination of Witnesses (Questions 400
THURSDAY 7 MARCH 2002
400. In terms of the Home Secretary, he is under
pressure from the Treasury. Do you accept with a degree of national
purchasing power you can get huge economies of scale? Would all
authorities go into that?
(Mr Peel) I accept that.
(Dr Henig) We accept that. We have as an Authority
actually very much tried to develop a corporate approach here.
One of the advantages of having a strong association with all
the chairs of the police authorities is that if at corporate level
we do agree on somethingand I could not agree with you
more that at national level there are great savings to be madeif
we can agree on that as an APA we then have the probability of
being able to make that stick in the 43 police authorities.
401. Do you nationally audit the purchasing
policies of each police force so that you could produce a list
of what police forces buy which cars?
(Dr Henig) If that was something that we were focusing
on then obviously we could do that.
402. That would be helpful because I have some
questions on this, Chairman, as you know and have been told that
it is the responsibility of police authorities and the information
is not collated centrally.
(Dr Henig) We collate all sorts of information that
we happen to want at any given time in pursuit of our policies.
403. If you could furnish us with that information
I would be grateful.
(Ms Leech) I think it is worth saying that the APA
18 months ago, and arguably should have done it sooner, took the
lead in identifying the need for both police authorities and forces
to operate corporately where the kinds of issues that you have
been talking about arise. We published our strategy on that and
we tried to set out in our strategy the issues and the criteria
that we would apply when we were seeking to operate corporately,
in other words to try and define what it is where we should act
corporately and we should all act together as 43, and where there
should legitimately be local flexibility. We tried to set that
out in a strategy document and that was agreed by all police authorities.
From that, ACPO similarly developed a corporate strategy which
primarily focused on IT and IM issues at the time but we think
it applies more generally and will be trying to develop it more
generally. We have tried to set out in our policy statements exactly
where that dividing line should be in our view.
404. Would you agree that all police authorities
are quangos and tax raising quangos on every household in the
(Dr Henig) I am sorry, I did not hear the second part.
405. And you are a tax raising quango on every
household in the country.
(Dr Henig) I am not entirely certain that I would
agree with "quango". We are an odd animal, I think.
I am not sure that we are like any other body I can think of in
the sense that we have some directly elected people, although
they are not directly elected to the police authority so in that
sense they are indirectly elected but nonetheless they are councillors,
and then there are magistrates and then there are independents.
We have got three types of member, all of whom have different
appointing processes, if I can put it in those terms.
406. But two-thirds of them are not elected
and the one-third that are elected are councillors.
(Dr Henig) It is not two-thirds. Nine are councillors
and eight are magistrates and independents, so over half are elected.
407. And the nine that are elected are not directly
answerable to the electorate they serve.
(Dr Henig) They are. I would regard myself as directly
answerable to my electorate on a whole range of matters, including
police matters, and I am sure my colleagues would feel the same.
Certainly the electorate does not distinguish, if they want to
ask questions on policing they will assume that I, as an elected
councillor who chairs the police authority, am the person to talk
to. The fact that there may be distinctions to you and I about
direct and indirect election are not necessarily that apparent
to the local community who see councillors as being elected and,
therefore, will put pressures on us, quite rightly.
(Mr Peel) I think councillors are representing a particular
area of the county or the district, or whatever, whereas I always
say to my members "you are not representing that part of
Essex, you represent the entire county. All the public of Essex,
for policing purposes, are represented by us".
408. But the good folk of the said county cannot
remove the police authority if they disapprove of it. At least
they can remove a whole government if they disapprove of it at
the General Election.
(Dr Henig) There are nine councillors within their
county who will come up for election. They will come up for election
on a whole range of matters, not just police matters, but they
nonetheless do have to stand for election every four years.
409. Can I just ask, do you feel that what we
are seeing with the Police Reform Bill is not necessarily the
individual Home Secretary who is there at the moment but rather
the Home Office seeking by another route to get a national police
(Dr Henig) I do not personally see that as an agenda.
I know there are people who do see these sorts of agendas. I actually
make a distinction between the Home Secretary and Home Office
officials. I think the Home Secretary, understandably, wants to
achieve what we all want to achieve, which is an improvement in
services, and he wants to try and do this by whatever means are
at his disposal. I totally understand where the Home Secretary
is coming from. I might disagree with him on the best means by
which to achieve what he wants but I totally understand what he
is trying to achieve and I do not think he particularly wants
a national police force, I think the Home Secretary wants to improve
the services. I think the Home Office officials' job is to try
and make things work in the best possible way. I think they do
have a lot of expertise and they are trying genuinely to advise
the Home Secretary on the best means of operating. They have a
lot of good ideas but they do not have a total monopoly on wisdom
and I think sometimes we perhaps feel that we have things to contribute
in addition to what is coming out of the Home Office and I see
that as quite a healthy tension. There are those who may want
to work towards a national police service but I do not think there
is a conspiracy to that end, at least I have not seen it if there
410. You agree with that, do you?
(Mr Peel) I do indeed, yes.
Chairman: Clause 7: Regulation of operational
procedures and practices, Mrs Dean?
411. First of all, can I ask you to expand a
little bit on what role police authorities play currently in operational
procedures and practices?
(Dr Henig) We do not directly intervene, and I think
that is very important, it is a safeguard for us. Just as MPs
have people raising issues, so people raise issues with members
of police authorities and it is a great safeguard for us to be
able to say that we do not get involved with detailed operational
issues. Having said that, I see our role very much as setting,
with the chief officers, the strategic direction of the force.
I think strategic direction in a local context means how the area
is going to be policed and to some degree an agreement on the
kind of equipment that might be used and the way in which policing
tactics are going to be delivered. I do not think that our role
is any more detailed than that, it is strategic. We set the bounds
within which the locality is policed but we would not get involved
in operational issues as such.
412. What is the definition of strategic as
opposed to more detailed?
(Dr Henig) For example, we help to draw up the policing
plan. We draw up the policing plan on the advice and in consultation
with the police force and the policing plan sets out very clearly
the sort of policing that will take place, how it is delivered,
what it costs, what equipment will be used, but it is then left
to the police force to carry out that policing plan.
413. Would you support the suggestion that the
proposed power in clause 7 for the Home Secretary to make regulations
on operational matters should be subject to statutory consultation
(Dr Henig) I think so and the Association of Police
Authorities. Both partners should be involved. We would press
for a statutory consultation with both partners. Again, it comes
back to this tripartite structure operating at national level
and then having a clear framework within which we are all operating.
414. Is there a risk that this power could be
used to enable politicians to influence individual investigations,
the power that is proposed?
(Ms Leech) The legislation, as I understand it, is
framed in a way which tries to rule that out. So the intention
of the current administration, at least, clearly is not to try
to use the power in that way. Whether it is sufficiently well
drafted to avoid any possibility of that, I think we are not equipped
415. So you are not saying that at the moment
the legislation would point that way?
(Dr Henig) There is obviously a possibility, a danger.
(Mr Peel) It could.
416. On this operational issue, let us just
look at armed police officers for example. In a particular area
would it be your decision, would you have anything to do with
(Dr Henig) No.
417. So if your chief constable wished to introduce
armed police officers on the street that would be entirely his
(Dr Henig) I would draw a distinction. Yes, we would
clearly need to be involved in that overall decision to have armed
officers but how they were deployed, what role they would play,
that would be for the chief constable to decide. I think there
is an important distinction there.
418. But could you block the chief constable
(Dr Henig) "Block" is an interesting one.
This is where we would get to confrontation. You can give your
views extremely strongly to a chief constable, as clearly in Northamptonshire,
for example, there were strong views about the use of CS spray.
If the chief constable at the end of the day said "for these
reasons I would like to go ahead", if the police authority
to a 17 person committee was opposed to that I would be very surprised
if the chief constable went ahead in that situation. I think you
are operating through negotiation, through consensus, you are
trying to find a middle way through here. In the last seven, eight
years we have not had those kinds of confrontations that perhaps
were a feature of the late 1980s. By and large the new Act that
was drafted puts the onus on both the authority and the senior
officer team to work through negotiations, it does work very effectively.
419. If a chief constable said "I wish
to have armed police officers on patrol in this area" you
could not stop that but with this new legislation presumably the
Home Secretary could?
(Dr Henig) If, as drafted, we were not in on the loop
then clearly we would be left on one side. This leaves us in this
difficult position, you see, where under the 1995 legislation
we have powers to help set the strategic directions and yet under
this new set of clauses we are not in on it. It leaves us in a