Examination of Witnesses (Questions 20
MONDAY 22 APRIL 2002
20. Would you not argue that it is quite a lot
of money extra to pay for the improvements?
(Mr Gieve) It is a lot of money but we think that
it is worth paying for the improvements.
21. Various police authorities thought it was
not worth paying. According to paragraph 1.21 of the report several
police authorities said they had an obligation to pursue best
value and that this radio system did not meet their requirements
under local best value. Were they wrong?
(Mr Gieve) They were right in thinking they could
have bought something else more cheaply which would have met some
of the requirements locally, but not all. You have to understand
this was also part of the negotiation with the Home Office on
funding this project.
22. Which you solved by bunging all the local
police forces money specifically for the Airwave project. You
resolved the project by stuffing their mouths with gold.
(Mr Gieve) We resolved it by saying we would pay the
costs in the first three years.
23. One of the original ways in which you structured
the deal was that local police authorities were going to buy the
equipment separately and that was going to encourage them not
to over-order their equipment. By paying them directly now and
helping them with the initial startup costs are you not watering
down that mechanism?
(Mr Gieve) I do not think so. The thinking behind
leaving a competitive market in some of the equipment was to get
some contestability within the market. If you have more than one
person offering terminals, that in itself would be the main constraint
on the price rising. The second point is that we were not paying
for the full cost of this. This is a 19-year contract and we offered
to pay £500 million in the three years of the last spending
review, that is up to 2003-04. They still have a very big interest
in the costs.
24. I am not a technology expert, so you will
have to forgive me if I get this wrong. According to paragraph
1.14 you did conduct a review in 1998 of mobile phone technology
developments. You tried to identify whether future developments
in mobile phone technology would make the system you were buying
obsolete. You concluded that was not the case. Do you still stand
by that? Have you updated that review? Mobile phone technology
has moved on a lot.
(Mr Gieve) This was the examination by Professor Benjamin
who reported in 1999. We have not updated that since then. Equally,
we have no new reason to think this is going to be outmoded technology.
25. To the complete layman, apart from the encryption,
what is the difference between this system and giving all your
police officers mobile phones?
(Mr Asque) The difference between the technologies
is that this technology was designed to meet a requirement which
is subtly different from people using a mobile phone. This requirement
for emergency services calls for a high level of integrity in
the signal, but especially a very fast call setup. For example,
making an emergency call is almost instant in this technology,
whereas we all know with a mobile phone, where you have to dial
through, it does take an awful long time to make that connection.
The technology facilitates that very fast call setup. That is
one of the main differences between the TETRA technology and the
mobile phone technologies and this includes the ones which are
developed now rather than the ones developed originally; it includes
third generation mobiles, not just the second and first generations.
26. According to figure 2, "A police force
joining Airwave will receive a grade of service across its geographical
area based on a greater than 87% probability that an officer wanting
access to Airwave would receive a channel without having to queue.
It does not sound that great. What happens if you are one of the
13 out of 100 police officers who desperately needs to get through
and cannot get through?
(Mr Asque) There is no way of giving an absolute guarantee
with a radio system that it will always make a connection and
always be interference free. There is always a risk that can be
engineered out to a very small percentage.
27. Thirteen% is quite large.
(Mr Asque) That is based on an assumption of an implementation.
That is a starting point. If you require better than that, you
can engineer the system to increase that level. It is not an absolute,
it is a figure just based on an assumption of the way a network
can be put in. If a police force had an extra requirement, the
contract allows for additional facilities to be added on to meet
their individual requirements. That is just a base level. It is
not an absolute. There is no technological level which you cannot
28. What police force in their right mind would
not be forced to buy the improvements, given that otherwise they
have a system which gives them at least a one in ten chance when
they are trying to get through of not getting through? Presumably
this could be an officer with his life in danger.
(Mr Asque) Compared to the existing systems which
do not provide comprehensive cover and where it is not possible
to measure the performance available, this new system has been
engineered with a much higher level of integrity than other systems.
The figures may not look good in the way that you have described
them, but in practice we are actually providing a much better
level of integrity of radio system.
(Mr Gieve) Coverage is the other thing. There has
been discussion about coverage but the figures we are talking
about for Airwave are hugely better than you get on commercial
mobile phone networks. If you have been on a train, you will know
that it cuts out now and again.
29. I have never seen a police officer on a
train, or in the rural area where I live in Cheshire, so I am
not sure the police need the technology.
(Mr Gieve) The coverage in rural areas is a plus point
for Airwave, In North Yorkshire, which is trying it now, they
say it has absolutely transformed the position.
30. If you were one of the 13 out of 100 police
officers who could not get through, then you might try your mobile
phone, because you have another way of getting through to the
(Mr Asque) It is very unlikely that a mobile phone
would work better than this system because it has been engineered
to a much higher standard. There will always be cases where it
might not work, but it may be that just taking one step to one
side will make all the difference. It is that critical in these
sorts of radio systems. It does not mean that you are completely
out of coverage; it may mean that a small change would bring you
back into coverage.
31. Paragraph 1.11 says "There were also
two deadlines putting additional pressure on PITO and the project.
First, Greater Manchester Police needed the new radio communications
service in time for the Commonwealth Games. I represent a Cheshire
constituency so we are close to the Commonwealth Games. Will Greater
Manchester Police have this system up and running for the Commonwealth
Games this summer?
(Mr Gieve) No. We hope they will have it up and running
in some districts of Manchester but it will not be the main system
used at the Commonwealth Games.
32. So one of the two deadlines putting additional
pressure on PITO was completely missed because it is not going
to be used for the Commonwealth Games. The other is the vacation
of the radio spectrum.
(Mr Gieve) We have moved that one as well in the sense
that we will not switch off the existing systems until the police
are satisfied they can do without them. Nonetheless, these were
two reasons why we wanted to press ahead.
33. Why was it so important for the policing
of the Commonwealth Games that this system was up and running?
(Mr Webb) It was a request at the time from the Greater
Manchester Police that we actually did that. Quite frankly they
were concerned about their existing system. The existing system
is perfectly capable of supporting the Commonwealth Games but
it was a desire, if they had to have this in for operational purposes,
to get it in before the Games rather than doing it during the
34. Do you think it will affect the policing
of the Commonwealth Games?
(Mr Gieve) It will affect the "how" and
we have sought assurances from GMP that it will not affect the
safety of the Games and they are satisfied that they can do it
without Airwave. They would have preferred to do it with Airwave.
35. You cannot have it both ways. You cannot
say this is worth all the money because of the incredible improvements
in the efficiency of policing it would bring and at the same time
say that it will not make any difference.
(Mr Gieve) No, I am not saying it will not make any
difference. They would have preferred to do it with Airwave because
no doubt it would have allowed them to do it more efficiently
than they can with their existing system.
36. Do you agree with the conclusion of this
report in paragraph 15, that the events on 11 September ".
. . make it all the more important that all our emergency services
have the best communications and information sharing capability"?
Do you agree with that?
(Mr Gieve) Yes.
37. Do you therefore think that the fact the
Fire Service is not on board undermines that?
(Mr Gieve) No. I should say that since 11 September
in government we have been reviewing and are still currently reviewing
whether we should change the requirements on interoperability
which underlie the Fire Service procurement and will underlie
the Ambulance Service procurement. The experience in New York
brought out two things. The first is that if you pull people in
from outside the region, which they had to do, it is very important
they have equipment which can work with the equipment in a particular
place. So that is service interoperability. The Fire Service procurement
which is currently under way allows a modest amount of that but
not full interoperability between regions of the Fire Service.
Secondly, you need to be able to communicate with the other emergency
services efficiently. We are currently reviewing whether we should
put greater requirements on the Fire Service procurement and the
Ambulance Service procurement than we have hitherto. We are hoping
to reach a decision on that very quickly.
38. I recently went to the fire control centre
in Cheshire which runs the whole of the Cheshire Fire Service.
While I was in the control centre, there was an accident on the
M6 and they despatched fire engines to the scene of the accident.
It took them a while to find it; in fact they could not find it
because it turned out that the police had got there first, dealt
with the accident but not bothered to tell the Fire Service who
were then going up and down the M6 looking for the crash. I cannot
see that the Airwave system, because the Fire Service is not involved
in it, is going to make any difference to that kind of daily problem
the emergency services face which was one of the original reasons
for this whole project.
(Mr Gieve) There are attractions in having a single
set of networks and we may well get that in Cheshire. The Fire
Service has not yet placed any orders. The Lancashire Fire Service,
for example, has taken Airwave so there you do get that correspondence.
Whether you would want individual police superintendents able
to talk directly to fire engines is a subject for some debate.
In crises especially you would want to have a clear chain of command;
you can get confusion if people are corresponding laterally.
39. They start co-operating with each other.
(Mr Gieve) No, they will co-operate. This is what
the review I have spoken about is currently looking at. Do you
want individual policemen to be able to communicate with individual
fire officers? Do you want in an emergency to keep a clear chain
of command on a team basis down the fire side and the police side
but to co-operate at other levels? There are different levels
of interoperability and deciding which of these is essential is
what we are trying to nail down now.
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