Examination of Witnesses (Questions 620
THURSDAY 21 MARCH 2002
DENHAM MP AND
620. Why does the Bill not contain measures
on police pensions?
(Mr Denham) Because we have not yet resolved the issues
we need to about the future of police pensions. It is the next
priority in terms of new policy-making in terms of police reform,
and we need, as we said in the White Paper, two things really.
One is we would like to bring greater certainty and stability
for police authorities and chief constables in particular on the
issue of paying for pensions because, although we changed the
contributions and the grant formula to cover pension costs, at
any individual police force level if you have a retirement bulge
over a couple of years you can actually get quite out of kilter
with what you were seeking to advance. We would like to bring
greater certainty into that but not in a way which would incentivise
poor management of ill-health retirement or other areas of retirement.
The second thing we need to do is look at whether the benefit
structure, which is very good and very generous but very structured,
is the right one. I do not want to say something which could suggest
that we are about to change every police officer's pension scheme,
otherwise we would have problems, but looking to the future have
we got the right pension scheme for those joining the force in
the future, are there different types of structures, are people
always going to have near-30 year careers. We need to look at
those issues but it is complicated and it is work which is going
on with the Home Office and with the Treasury as well.
621. I wanted to come back on the point you
made to Mr Watson about the cost of private commercial activities.
The example the Met gave us in particular was what they referred
to, rather engagingly, as "a low level Premiership game at
Chelsea". I do not want to go into the comments which were
made in response to that. Firstly, the cost of even a low level
game at Chelsea is quite substantial to the Met compared to the
money they get back, so I would hope you will look at that again.
The second thing I wanted to in a sense tie that into is, is the
policing of football grounds on Saturday afternoons, or the area
around football grounds, a role which the CSOs could be usefully
(Mr Denham) I think the general answer is probably
yes, but you have to remember that policing football matches is
not just a matter of having large numbers of people on the streets.
Some elements of policing football matches does involve quite
serious operations against quite unpleasant and violent people
who are going to football matches for violent and unpleasant reasons,
and you would not want to be getting CSOs involved in that area
of activity. The other area which may be relevant to the Bill
is that the Accredited Community Safety Officer system may well
be something that clubs themselves will want to work with the
police on to embrace stewarding within the ground. Many clubs
already have very, very good links with the police about the accreditation
of stewards, but that is part of the framework which would also
be relevant in the Bill.
622. Have you done any analysis, or has the
Met done any analysis, of the cost in terms of the rise in street
crime post-11 September and the move of officers from the boroughs
to Central London? It strikes me that one of the reasonsand
I do not hear ministers referring to thisthere has been
a huge rise in street crime in the London boroughs after that
might well be due to the fact that police officers were in Central
London. I raise that here because the Met's argument is that if
they had CSOs doing the eyes and ears job in Central London, police
officers would be out doing the work they are paid to do, detecting
(Mr Denham) I am cautious at this stage, until it
has been possible to do a much more robust analysis than has been
done so far, of saying cause and effect. But I have a lot of sympathy
with the argument that the impact of 11 September meant that officers
who might have been deployed to deal with the rise in street crime
were not as readily available as they otherwise would have been.
I think one of Sir John Stevens' most persuasive arguments about
CSOs is that he needs the flexibility to be able to target his
police officers at the major crime problems but also to cover
these other needs, particularly reassurance work, which have come
high on the agenda since 11 September.
623. Minister, if you do revisit the policing
of football grounds issue, could I urge you and your officials
to appreciate that the financial situation of a club like Manchester
United is in a different league from a club like Colchester United.
The serious point is that just because a few clubs could afford
it, many clubsand Bury is another one close to the line
at the momentwould go out of existence if they had any
additional costs to bear.
(Mr Denham) I think you make a very real point, and
this is an area, as we said in the White Paper, of concern to
us. One of the things we also have to bear in mind is that the
policing costs do not necessarily directly relate to the business
income of the club, and some clubs unfortunately with relatively
few fans attract some people who cost a lot to police and others
do not. Secondly, we have to be mindful of the very important
role that football clubs play in many communities. Whilst we have
indicated concern about policing costs, we have to say to the
Committee we also need to look at the broader relationship between
football, police and the role football plays in the community
if we are going to move forward.
624. I appreciate that very constructive response.
Thank you. Can we move on to another area of interest, why has
the opportunity not been taken to bring police officers within
the terms of the Public Interest Disclosure Act, the famous whistle-blowers'
act, of 1998?
(Mr Denham) It is our intention to bring forward amendments
which will put police officers in that.
625. That is following on what was said earlier?
(Mr Denham) You have hit twice
626. I had better put some money on the Lottery
this week, had I not?
(Mr Denham) See if you can get three lemons in a row!
627. I think I will quit there, Chairman.
(Mr Denham) I have to say that the formal position
is that we are considering doing so, but we have acknowledged
the case which has been made on this one. I will be in real trouble
now with the Leader of the House for promising an amendment for
which I have not got clearance.
628. Minister, the Riot Damages Act of 1886
raised its head again recently following the fire at Yarl's Wood,
which makes police authorities liable for damages to buildings
and their contents if a riot occurs under the Public Order Act,
even if there has been no negligence of default on the part of
the police. After the riots last year at Oldham, Burnley and Bradford,
we understood this Act was being reviewed. Is there any hope this
review will be concluded in time for an amendment to be part of
the Police Reform Act?
(Mr Denham) I must not even talk about the Riot Damages
Act in the context of any of those incidents you have mentioned
because it is the case in every case that no one has accepted
that they have liability under the Act and nor do we want to encourage
any lawyers anywhere to believe that liability does exist under
the Act. But, you are right, the broad issue of whether an Act
which is well over 100 years old is still appropriate has been
raised. I honestly cannot say to you whether any conclusions will
be reached about that in the timetable of the Bill and the issues
are quite complex.
629. But the review is on-going?
(Mr Denham) Certainly the issue has been raised, yes.
630. To what extent do you think that actually
delivering the success of police reform is dependent on police
pay and conditions?
(Mr Denham) I think getting the right package on police
pay and conditions is a key part of the reform process. Obviously
we are disappointed by what happened in the Federation ballot.
It was our intention from the beginning to do two things. One
was to make sure that the vast majority of police officers would
be better off. The second was to encourage new features in the
pay system which would encourage and reward new ways of working,
in particular to make sure that people doing difficult and demanding
jobs got extra recognition for doing so and the financial incentive
to stay in those jobs. So it is an integral part of the overall
picture. Of course, we are now in conciliation discussions with
the Federation which have been constructive to date and we are
very much hoping we can reach agreement.
631. Do you think you will be able to reach
agreement before the Bill is discussed in the Chamber?
(Mr Denham) I would not want to set an artificial
timetable. I think everybody involved sees the advantages in making
progress but, equally, nobody wants to force themselves into a
deal on an artificial timetable if there are still issues or details
to be resolved. But the process is going on actively and there
have been two meetings so far of the PNB since the conciliation
632. On paperwork, everybody seems to agree
that a police officer's job involves a lot of paperwork and that
it would be desirable to reduce it, but every change we hear about
seems to increase it slightly. Is that fair?
(Mr Denham) It is quite funny because this is always
talked about as, "the Home Office has revealed that",
and it was actually Ministers who set up the study of the diary
of police officers because we were worried about the situation.
It showed that 43 per cent of police officers' time is spent in
police stations. What we did in response to that report was to
ask Sir David O'Dowd, who is the retiring Chief Inspector of Constabulary,
to set up a team of people to look at how this problem can be
overcome and different ways of doing it. We should get their interim
report very soon. I think quite sensibly the team has probably
spent as much of their timeand this is a team drawn from
the Police Servicelooking at why nothing happened with
all the other reports produced on reducing bureaucracy as coming
up with good ideas. There is clearly going to be a range of things
which can be done. Some will be literally about reducing paperwork,
some will be about where the earliest wins are on the effective
use of IT. I visited my own local police station on Friday and
you see the same piece of information being written down by hand
three or four times when somebody is brought in for arrest. Some
of it is about the way things are organised. For example, where
an officer arrests somebody, if the officer is responsible for
the booking in, the interviewing and all the rest of it, it can
take an awful lot of their time. Some police forces are beginning
to organise a system where the patrolling officer who arrests
somebody and brings somebody into the police station does the
absolute minimum of processing and is then back out on the beat
again, and so there are organisational changes of that sort. Because
Sir David O'Dowd's task force is very heavily rooted in experienced
police officers, including front-line police officers, I am optimistic
at the moment we will get a good programme of work in the next
year or two to really make a difference.
633. Do you think there is a role for the humble
bicycle in patrolling, for example, difficult estates?
(Mr Denham) You know what is going to happen, the
headline will say, "Minister says all police officers should
be on bicycles". If I take your question as you put it, I
am quite sure that there is a role for some police officers on
bicycles in some circumstances but I would not like to give the
impression that this minister is about to say which officers or
634. Do we have any mechanism for encouraging
the use of the bicycle? It seems to me that very often police
forces seem to go for the higher form of technology and they all
insist they need whatever Manchester has got or whatever the neighbouring
force has got.
(Mr Denham) At the moment the main mechanism we have
for promoting best practice has been through the Thematics which
were produced by the Inspectorate. I seem to remember that the
Thematic, which was published just before Christmas, about high
visibility policing looked at issues like this and promoted them.
It is possible, and I cannot say this will happen, the new code
of practice which is set out in the Bill, which is not mandatory
but would be guidance to officers, might look at some point in
the future at how you make police officers more visible in the
community and could include ideas of that sort. This is not an
area where we are looking at mandatory approaches
635. I appreciate that.
(Mr Denham)but it is an area where, if we get
police forces with the new performance system, to say, "How
are we doing on public accessibility, public visibility",
and forces find they are not doing that well in that area, we
would want them to be able to look at the models of best practice
which people use. Lots of low-tech things are actually happening.
A lot of mobile police stations are being used in more rural areas
at the moment, so people go around on a regular basis to different
communities; there are drop-in surgeries and things of that sort.
I do not think it is quite fair to say that everybody is going
for the high-tech solution. I think in recent years there has
been quite a swing back towards getting visible, accessible policing
out on the streets and we are very keen to encourage that.
636. Did you say there was a Thematic Report
by the Inspectorate on high visibility policing?
(Mr Denham) Yes.
637. Does it contain the word "bicycle"
anywhere in it?
(Mr Denham) I believe it does but I will need to come
back to you on that.
The name of the Thematic was Open All Hours. If not, I
will have a word with the Chief Inspector of Constabulary who
actually wrote it and ask him if he looked at bicycles as part
of the work.
Chairman: Thank you. On that happy note, we
shall conclude. You have been very helpful, Minister, thank you
11 See Appendix, Ev 166. Back
See Appendix, Ev 166. Back