Examination of Witnesses (Questions 260
MONDAY 22 APRIL 2002
260. May I ask about responsibility for this
within government? The Home Office are responsible for the police.
The Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions
are responsible for the Fire Service. Health are responsible for
ambulances. The Cabinet Office are responsible for emergency planning
and for joined-up government. The OGC is responsible for competition
and procurement at the DTI. The Radio Agency with yourselves are
responsible for the emergency spectrum. Who do you see as the
main champion in all of this for your main project?
(Mr Webb) For our project it is the Home Office.
261. Not the Cabinet Office?
(Mr Webb) No, not the Cabinet Office. We are delivering
a service solely to the Police Service.
262. You are not looking for help or sponsorship
or support from the Cabinet Office.
(Mr Webb) We have had discussion through the Home
Office with the Cabinet Office, the same as we have had discussions
with other enterprises. As far as we are concerned we are as keen
as everyone else to provide a far more joined up environment.
263. Do you think this project represents a
good example of joined-up government?
(Mr Webb) Not at this present time, but it is a good
step on the way to that in the sense that for the first time we
have provided a joined-up service for the Police Service which
is a major step forward.
264. If the research you are undertaking led
to a belief or suspicion that the technology could be a health
hazard, what effect would that have on the contract?
(Mr Gieve) If there were evidence that this was damaging
to health, then we would have to change it. First of all the police
authorities as employers would have their obligations under health
and safety. Secondly, O2 as suppliers of the technology have to
meet all health standards, which they currently do. If research
led us to change those health standards because of new science,
then we would have to change the system.
265. With a potential loss of up to £2.9
(Mr Gieve) No. Who the cost would fall on would depend
on who pulled the plug and in what circumstances. If international
health standards changed, our first response would be with O2
to see whether we could not make the system work consistent with
the new health standards. You have to understand that the main
danger which is thought to arise from mobile phones arises more
with the existing analogue system than with a digital system like
Airwave. Nonetheless, if science moves on and we set new health
standards, we will have to negotiate some changes, not necessarily
at public cost.
Chairman: Thank you very much, gentlemen,
for appearing before us. This is a very important contract. The
whole Committee recognises the need for radios to be improved
but, as you have heard, members of the Committee do have some
serious questions about whether the system is over-engineered,
whether it provides value for money and interoperability with
other emergency services. We are very grateful to you for the
way in which you sought to answer our questions. Thank you very
much. Order, order.