Examination of Witnesses (Questions 420
THURSDAY 7 MARCH 2002
420. If there was something that Parliament
saw as nationally undesirable which a police force was doing,
the Home Secretary would have the power to stop that which he
does not have now. Is that the case with this legislation?
(Ms Leech) My understanding is the legislation is
intended for the Home Secretary to make interventions which would
apply across all forces and not to direct individual forces to
individual operational practices. He might be able to do the latter
through the Clause 5 route of identifying that he thought the
particular force, through not adopting the practice, was failing
in some way and then directing the chief officer to put that right
by an instruction but certainly it is not the intention of Clause
7. We have not assumed that Clause 7 would be the route you would
use if you wanted to tackle an issue in an individual force. We
have assumed the Home Secretary would be more minded to operate
through Clause 5 and that would be the intention.
(Mr Peel) I would just make one point on Clause 7
and that is the regulations. What we are saying is we think we
ought to be consulted. It could be that the Home Office will say
"We are consulted in that you will notice that the regulations
are drafted to go before the Central Police Training and Development
Authority, CPTDA". The difficulty we have with that is that
came into existence or we knew about it before we knew about this
Bill. We have appointed our representatives on that CPTDA. Of
course who we appointed are people who are specialists in training,
which is what that body is about, they are not specialists in
drafting Bills or drafting regulations.
421. We will be ready for that.
(Mr Peel) Thank you.
Chairman: If they try to get away with it that
422. We had ACPO making the same point. ACPO
are disappointed they are not being consulted and yet the Central
Police Training and Development Authority are.
(Dr Henig) That is right.
423. Everyone does seem to be concentrating
on Clause 7. How serious do you think this is? It has been put
that a future Home Secretary, less liberal and reasonable than
the current one, could use this to do some quite extraordinary
things. I draw your attention to Part 1 "The Secretary of
State may by regulation make a provision requiring all these forces
in England and Wales to adopt particular procedures or practices".
To take two examples. Could the Secretary of State say "You
must arrest picketing miners or you must arrest members of the
National Front"? How bad is this? Is it something that Parliament
should be really worried about or do you think it is being blown
(Mr Peel) No, I think you are absolutely right. I
am not suggesting the present administration would do that, on
the other hand things could change. Once it is there it is there
and yes it couldcouldbe used for that purpose and
that is what worries us.
(Ms Leech) Ultimately I suspect it is to do with the
courts. It would be open to the courts I think and maybe the courts
would be asked to determine whether or not picketing miners, for
example, could be said to be an operational procedure in practice
or whether that is actually an operational decision, if you like.
It is around those words and what is a procedure and practice.
Is that a generic thing which is about a particular policy approach
which applies across all forces or can it obtain to the level
of detail that you are talking about.
424. You are sufficiently worried about it.
It is of that magnitude.
(Dr Henig) It needs to be flagged up as a concern.
(Mr Peel) It must be considered.
Chairman: Okay. Now we take a great leap forward
to Clause 28: resignation in the interest of efficiency and effectiveness.
425. Yes. I have been very interested in your
responses so far. Mostly it seems to me you are concerned you
have not been consulted as much as you might. I just wonder why
you think the Home Office has found it necessary to take more
power to dispense with chief constables? What is the thinking
behind that or do you have any views?
(Dr Henig) Clearly in the recent past there have been
one or two difficult situations which may well have led to consideration
of this area of powers. There have been in the pastthough
very fewsome difficult cases involving chief constables,
let us be clear about it. I support any opportunity to try and
find a way through. Actually if you do have a difficult situation
and if you do have a chief constable, as we have had in the past,
who had to be perhaps filtered out and retired then you can carry
out that process as effectively as possible so I do support that.
It does not happen very often but it happens very occasionally
and we know of times when it has arisen in the last five years.
Clearly I think that needs to be there. We do not have any problems
with the existing powers.
426. You have no problems with the existing
(Dr Henig) That is right.
427. What do you think about the powers that
are now going in Clause 28?
(Ms Leech) It is Clause 29 we have more problems with.
Clause 28 extends the existing powers, both of police authorities
and of the Secretary of State. That is around the situation where
the chief constable, it is agreed, should go in the interests
of the efficiency and effectiveness of the force. We have, as
Dr Henig said, less difficulty with that than with the concept
of suspension. We welcome the ability of the police authority
to take a judgment about whether that is appropriate in the light
of public confidence locally in the force but we think it is wholly
inappropriate that the Home Secretary should take the power to
direct the police authority to suspend.
(Dr Henig) It is 29 which is the problem for us rather
428. This is the point I want to get to. You
said existing powers have been used a few times in the past. Roughly
how many times in the past?
(Dr Henig) I am not sure they have been used. I think
they have been there in the background.
429. They are clearly there.
(Dr Henig) The Home Secretary's powers I am not sure
have been used. I think the police authorities have exercised
their power once or twice. There have been one or two, I do not
want to go into details, there have been a couple of cases, and
it is at the end of a long road, there has been an accumulation
of problems, if I can put it in those terms. It has become very
clear that a chief officer should actually be retired and that
process has finally come to an end. I think we should do all we
can in that situation to get to that end point. It has become
apparent for quite some time that there is a major problem, these
things do not just arise. 28 I think is trying to help that process,
which is always going to be difficult, wholly exceptional, it
is always going to be difficult, just help that process to come
to an end as soon as possible.
430. What do you think is the thinking behind
the view that the Secretary of State should have?
(Dr Henig) This is 29?
(Dr Henig) I think this could be a very different
situation. 29 could well be a situation where something blows
up in an area, these things can happen as we have seen. There
could be perhaps a major demonstration, somebody gets killed in
the course of this demonstration, not necessarily anybody's fault
in particular but it could happen, it could cause a big outcry,
there could be a great media taking up of this crisis and the
Home Secretary could come under pressure to do something. He might
well feel that the way of dealing with this particular situation
is to want to suspend one of the chief officers involved. Now
the crisis might have blown over locally, the crisis might have
resolved itself, people might feel locally that there was no longer
a problem. I think there could be a difference of view nationally
and locally as to whether suspension is needed in that situation
and that is what we are worried about. For a Home Secretary to
be able to say to a police authority "You must suspend X"
if the police authority does not feel that actually that is warranted,
that could lead to a direct conflict. What if 17 members of a
police authority said "No, we do not agree, we do not feel
suspension in this case is appropriate" I can see all sorts
of problems here. It is actually unprecedented, it does not exist
at the moment. What we were talking about before, it was the end
of a long road where there had been problems. The police authority
agreed there had been problems and it was trying to expedite this
very unusual and out of the way situation. 29 could be something
of a very different kind.
432. Could it not be the case that the 17 are
actually incompetent themselves and really the Home Secretary
does have to take a view rather than allow the police authority
to carry on regardless?
(Dr Henig) That is possible and it may very well be
that the 17 say "we do not agree with the Home Secretary"
and the 17 presumably then resign. It seems to me that does lead
to a crisis of confidence because how is it then that there are
17 members of a police authority who are so incompetent, all 17
of them, including three magistrates and five independent members,
that it has led to this situation. I cannot see that there could
be that kind of difference. Normally speaking, if there is a complex
political situation, let us say there has been a big demonstration,
let us say there has been a fatality, you would expect in the
local police authority there would be a division of view, there
would be people who would take different lines on this one. I
think therefore, again, in a situation of this kind you would
expect that there would be some sort of consensus between where
the Home Secretary was coming from and some members of the authority,
if not all members of the authority. I find it hard to conceive
of a situation where the Home Secretary feels "yes, we have
got to suspend this chief officer" and none of the 17 members
of the police authority see that is a need. I think that is a
real unprecedented flashpoint of a kind that I think could be
433. You think it is almost so unlikely, almost
impossible, that such a situation would arise?
(Dr Henig) I find it hard to see how this would arise,
yes, I have got to be honest.
434. You think on that basis there is no need
for the Home Secretary to take this further?
(Dr Henig) No, I do not actually. I think if the Home
Secretary feels that there is a major crisis, that what he needs
to do is to actually urgently talk to the police authority. What
is the nature of the crisis, does the police authority think there
is a crisis? If the police authority is of a different view, why
are they of a different view? Where are the differences? There
must be a way in which there can be some negotiation here. Police
authorities themselves, as I have already indicated, are used
to operating through consensus measures, that is how they operate
as local bodies. What we would say is not that the Home Secretary
should not have this power but that it should be operated together
with police authorities which would actually strengthen it. It
should not be operated potentially against police authorities
because if the Home Secretary comes and says to me, or to Anthony,
or to any other chairman, "you will suspend your chief constable"
and the police authority did not feel that that situation was
warranted, you have a recipe there for conflict which in the tripartite
structure is wholly undesirable.
435. What then do you think are the practical
implications of requiring a chief constable to "resign"
rather than "retire"?
(Mr Peel) I think we have all puzzled slightly over
this because all section 28 does is to add "resign"
to "retire". I assume it is something to do with pensions
but it is an assumption we can only make. So you could get a chief
constable who is late 40s, early 50s, long before he gets to his
retirement, who wants to resign and presumably if he resigns there
is a different situation with this pension. I do not know, I am
to some extent guessing, but I suppose equally if he has resigned,
he has resigned from that particular post rather than the policing
service as a whole and he could presumably apply for chief constableship
somewhere else. I have to say we are guessing, we do not actually
know what the rationale for that reason is.
436. You think there is a pension implication?
(Mr Peel) I think there is a pension issue to it but
I cannot lay my hand on my heart and say I know that because we
have not actually asked that question.
437. Perhaps when we see the Minister we will
be able to tease that out of him.
(Mr Peel) It could be a worthwhile question. Otherwise
I do not see any particular logic to it.
438. Could I ask one final question on your
comments on clause 28. You say that "The power for the Home
Secretary to require the police authority to suspend the chief
constable is however inappropriate and further evidence of the
Ministers centralising agenda. . ." Why do you use the phrase
"further evidence of the Ministers centralising agenda"?
(Mr Peel) I think it is just one other matter out
of a whole range of matters which we believe are doing that. It
is giving the Home Secretary direct control, if you like, it is
hopping over the authority down to the chief constable. It is
just one other matter, there are a whole range of them.
439. Are you suggesting that the whole Bill
has a centralising agenda?
(Ms Leech) Yes.