Select Committee on Home Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 400 - 419)



  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 something—and I could not agree with you more that at national level there are great savings to be made—if 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.

Bob Russell

  404. Would you agree that all police authorities are quangos and tax raising quangos on every household in the country?
  (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 force?
  (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 is.


  410. You agree with that, do you?
  (Mr Peel) I do indeed, yes.

  Chairman: Clause 7: Regulation of operational procedures and practices, Mrs Dean?

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 with ACPO?
  (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 to judge.

  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.

Mr Singh

  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 that?
  (Dr Henig) No.

  417. So if your chief constable wished to introduce armed police officers on the street that would be entirely his decision?
  (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 in this?
  (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 difficult position.

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 7 May 2002