Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers
Rt Hon Nick Herbert MP
18 January 2011
Minister, thank you very much for coming. We do appreciate you
have had a very tough morningor maybe it wasn't a tough
morningat the start of the Committee. Of course some of
our Members were there. We will try and be as gentle as possible
with you, bearing in mind the subject matter of this inquiry.
May I start with a couple of issues that are in the
public domain at the moment, which Members would like to ask you
a question on? With regard to undercover police officers, who
at the Home Office sanctions undercover infiltration?
Nick Herbert: It
is important to understand the distinction between the role of
the Home Office in setting the legal framework, and indeed Parliament's
role in setting the legal framework, which is governed by the
Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, and what are operational
matters for the police. So RIPA authorisations in this case are
made by the police. There is governance in place in relation to
that in the form of the Surveillance Commissioner, who has oversight
of that, and of course the chief officers, who make these authorisations,
are accountable to their own police authority. Ministers would
not interfere in the operational decisions. What we expressly
do not do is tell the police what intelligence to gather, how
to gather it, how to use the intelligence; that is not our role
and I think it is important to understand that distinction.
No Minister would have sanctioned an undercover infiltration?
Nick Herbert: No.
In relation to these kinds of undercover operations, these are
operational matters for the police, but they must be conducted
according to the law as specified by RIPA. That is the point.
Clearly, in the case to which I am sure you are referring, it
is clear to us all that operationally something has gone very
wrong, and that is now the subject of
Shall we just call it the Kennedy/the environmental cases?
Nick Herbert: The
Kennedy case. Something has gone very wrong and that is now the
subject of an IPCC investigation.
Would you want to take this further? Lord Macdonald, your reviewer
of counter-terrorism, has suggested guidelines should be issued
and this matter should be investigated by the Home Office. Are
you happy to leave this with the IPCC or, as a Minister, would
you have concerns and want to look at this further?
Nick Herbert: In
relation to this specific case, it is right that the IPCC should
look into it and then we should take note of that. Wider issues
are raisedwhich I am happy to addressin relation
to how national policing functions are organised and the accountability
for that. But the Home Secretary and I are keen that we should
ensure the proper division of responsibility, between that which
is operational and that which is the responsibility of the Home
Chair: Sure. But these
recent cases, of course you are concerned and they need to be
looked at, that is what you are saying?
Nick Herbert: I
think everybody is concerned by the Kennedy case. We have an IPCC
specifically to investigate this kind of thing.
One final question from me on this concerns the national public
order intelligence database, which gathers the names of people
who attend these protests. I understand that Vince Cable, a Minister
in your Government, and the leader of the Green Party, Caroline
Lucas, were both present at one of these protests. Would their
names be on the database as well? Whose name gets on this database?
Nick Herbert: I
have no idea whether their names are on such a database or not.
Police forces, individually, do hold databases of intelligence
About people who attend protests of this kind?
Nick Herbert: They
hold intelligence about people of varying natures. If you remember,
the thrust of concern after the Soham incident and the Bichard
inquiry was far from suggesting that we should be restricting
this information. It was that it needs to be properly shared;
hence the proposal for the national database.
But, as the Minister for Policing, are you concerned that everyone's
name might be on this database who attends a protest of this kind?
Nick Herbert: I
don't think everybody's name is on the database.
Chair: Not everyone in
Nick Herbert: Let
us be clear that the Government strongly supports the right of
people to protest peacefully, and we made this point in relation
to the student riots. But, of course, the problem for the police
comes when peaceful protestand some of those who ostensibly
are engaged, or initially in peaceful protestspills over
into criminal activity, some of which can be very serious in relation
to criminal damage and worse. The police do have an important
job to do in keeping us safe and in ensuring that this kind of
activity is prevented, if possible, and then dealt with.
I should just make the general point to the Committee
that, in relation to the first student demonstration that we had
before Christmas, there was general criticism of the police for
a failure to act or to interpret properly intelligence. People
across the House of Commons were saying, "Should there not
be better intelligence?" So we cannot have it both ways.
Chair: Indeed. We will
come back to this as a Committee in the future. This session,
of course, is about police finance, but Members of the Committee
will ask you brief questions on this and then we will go on to
Q206 Mark Reckless:
Minister, we agreed at the Second reading debate that the police
should not operate within a political vacuum. But with respect
to these environmental casesand my police Authority in
Kent has not been able to exercise effective scrutiny of what
ACPO has been getting up to with these officers, for instance,
at the Kingsnorth climate campthe Chairman perhaps assumed
that Ministers might be exercising a level of oversight, but it
appears not. Isn't the reality that these types of ACPO-led operations
are operating in a political vacuum and that we need to do something
Nick Herbert: Two
things: first, in so far as the conduct of your individual chief
officer is concerned, that is a matter for the police authority,
and of course we are strengthening the governance of local policing
through directly elected police and crime commissioners. In relation
to this national unit, which you are expressing concern about,
I think we are all agreedincluding ACPO themselvesthat
it is not desirable that national operational units like this
are run by ACPO.
The Government has been absolutely clear that we
wish to have proper accountability for the organisation of chief
police officers, in whatever form that takes going forward, and
that in response to HMIC's report, Adapting to Protest,
which was published in December 2009, this unit should be moved
out of ACPO. That is under way, and the plan is to move it, in
relation to this particular unit, to a lead force model, the Metropolitan
police. Discussions have been undertaken with the Metropolitan
police authority about that and they will then exercise the governance
that is necessary, so that will be strong, democratically accountable
governance of the unit.
In relation to ACPO itself, it is agreed, and the
Government is determined, that ACPO needs to reform; that it should
not be, itself, running operational units like this, that it should
be the professional body of policing. We have just received a
report from Peter Neyroudthe former chief executive of
the NPIA and chief constable of Thames Valley policeinto
how such a professional body may be created. So I believe that
we are embarked upon the greater accountability, reform and transparency
that the Committee seeks, including of course, already having
taken a decision to make ACPO subject to Freedom of Information
Q207 Mark Reckless:
To link that to the issue of police finance, we have just heard
from representatives of police authorities that they are likely
to cut funding to ACPO. They don't feel they can hold ACPO to
account or are getting value for money for that. I understand
that the Home Secretary has written to Rob Garnham saying that
she is considering available options in the event that the funding
is removed. Wouldn't one option be for ACPO to make some economies
with its £15 million, I understand it has been spending on
this undercover operation, including a £200,000 expense account,
it is suggested, for an undercover officer to pose as an environmental
Nick Herbert: To
answer generally, we have said to ACPO that, in relation to their
request for ongoing funding, if it does not come from police authorities
we would expect them to make significant economies, as we are
asking police forces themselves to make savings. In the end, this
money will come from the taxpayer, whether it is through the route
of police authorities or not. We have also asked the Association
of Police Authorities to look at this again. While we have ACPO,
whose members are doing important jobs, then it must be funded,
but it must also ensure value for money for the taxpayer at this
Chair: To make progress,
could Members could just ask brief questions on this.
Q208 Mr Winnick:
You said to the Chair that something clearly went wrong over the
Kennedy/Stone business. It all seems pretty murky and sordid to
say the least. When did you first know about the position? Before
it went into the public domain?
Nick Herbert: No,
I myself did not know about this before it went into the public
Mr Winnick: So the first
time that you knew of these allegations was when the rest of us
knew. Is that so?
Nick Herbert: Yes.
Q209 Mr Winnick:
How long will this investigation take?
Nick Herbert: That
is a matter for the IPCC. I'm not sure; I think we are as keen
as anybody is that it should not drag on. Equally, it is very
important that it is thorough, not least because of any wider
implications that may be drawn from this particular failure.
Q210 Mr Winnick: You
said to me last week in answer to my question on the Floor of
the House that the whole business of undercover agents is to keep
the country safe, and one takes that for granted. That is the
purpose of the exercise. But in this case a police officer indulged
in actions that he says would only have been authorised by the
police; that he took no action without being authorised by his
superiors. What do you say to that?
Nick Herbert: I
am afraid that I am going to say what you might expect me to,
which is this really is the subject of the IPCC investigation.
Q211 Dr Huppert:
I have two quick questions, one about accountability and one about
honesty. On accountability, I believe that under RIPA, undercover
officers can be authorised by anyone of the rank of superintendent
or above, although in practice it is done by ACCs, because of
concerns. Would you agree to change the rules so it is at least
an assistant chief constable who has to authorise?
Nick Herbert: I
can't agree with you about that. I think we would want to look
at what the IPCC says in relation to this, and also take any advice
from HMIC which, I believe, will be consulted about the move of
the function of the order unit to the Metropolitan police and
the governance arrangements that surround that. So, as in any
of these areas, we are happy to keep this all under review, but
I'm afraid I can't give you a commitment to make that change now.
I think it would have to be based on some evidence that it was
Q212 Dr Huppert:
My other question is about honesty. You will know that a former
Member of this Committee, Tom Brake, was involved with the G20
protests, where he was toldI believe this Committee was
toldthat there were no undercover officers at that protest.
That turns out to have been deeply inaccurate and there were a
large number of undercover officers. Do you think there should
be transparency, and do you think, for example, this Committee
should be told the truth about what is happening there?
Nick Herbert: As
a general principle, I think, any parliamentary Committee should
be told the truth. I am happy to agree with that.
Chair: I have written
to the Commissioner to ask him to clarify his comments.
Q213 Steve McCabe:
I don't want to pre-judge any inquiry but, given that you are
the person that Parliament holds responsible and accountable for
the conduct of the police, how comfortable do you feel about,
and how well served do you think you are by the fact that these
very sensitive decisions are being taken and no one thinks it
is important to give you even the most cursory of briefings on
what is going on?
Nick Herbert: The
system that Parliament has set up is for the review of these authorisations
to be done by the Surveillance Commissioner, and that review is
then published on an annual basis. So the governance is in place.
I repeat: what we have to be careful of is Ministers trespassing
into operational decisions, and ensuring that our role, along
with Parliament's role, is to provide the right legal framework,
and so on. Having set up the office of the Surveillance Commissioner,
surely it is proper that it should report on these matters.
Q214 Nicola Blackwood:
On a slightly separate issue, but subsequent to all of these claims
regarding the environmental protests, there was a suggestion that
private security firms are also sending undercover operatives
into protests, specifically, those surrounding big business. Do
you have any particular views on that?
Nick Herbert: I
have no knowledge of that at all.
To conclude this, Mark Kennedy is not James Bond, but are you
as worried as I am about this £200,000 that Mr Reckless just
mentioned as being the expense account that is used? Will you
write to the Committeeof course it is an operational matter,
but this is taxpayers' moneyand assure the Committee that
these matters are being looked into? You don't have to give me
an answer now, but if you could
Nick Herbert: This
is not something that has been raised with me, and you may wish
to question the appropriate people about that.
Q216 Mark Reckless:
With respect, who are the appropriate people? Under RIPA, we get
a surveillance report a year in arrears, perhaps. But the fact
is that this matter has only come to our attention because this
one officer broke the rules, is accused of revealing another officer,
and has gone public with what he was doing. Frankly, there is
absolutely no evidence that we, or any other Committee, or Parliament,
would have heard about this from the RIPA surveillance, and I
don't know who the appropriate authorities are, who were supervising
that aspect. Was anyone supervising it?
Chair: Mr Reckless' point
is that if I don't write to you about it, or you don't write to
me, who should I write to to ask about this expense account?
Nick Herbert: If
I understand what you're talking about, this in relation to the
unit that currently exists within ACPO?
Nick Herbert: So
it seems to me to be appropriate for you to take this up with
the president of ACPO. Of course, we have an interest in how taxpayers'
money is being spent. But I have already agreedand I think
it is important to restatethe Government is strongly of
the view that there needs to be a proper accountability for ACPO
and its successor body, and that units like this should not be
operated by ACPO and that they should be operated either by a
lead police force or, in future, the National Crime Agency, where
there is proper governance in place so that Committees, like yours,
can have access to this kind of information.
Chair: I will take your
advice. I will write to the president of ACPO on the issue of
the expense account. Let us now move to something uncontroversial,
Q217 Alun Michael:
Getting to the subject you were coming to speak to us about in
the first place, do you accept the general view that there is
a correlation between the number of police officers and levels
Nick Herbert: What
I have said, to be absolutely clear, and I have been extensively
misquoted in this area, largely by people who sought to make mischiefI
am sure it is a familiar experience to us allis that there
is no simple link between the numbers of officers and levels of
crime. I think most thoughtful people, most independent academics,
would agree that there is no simple link.
Q218 Alun Michael:
Would you agree that there is a link?
Nick Herbert: Yes.
As Bill Bratton said when he came over to London, and of course
he gave evidence to your Committee, "Cops count", and
of course they do. But the real question is how resources are
deployed; what use is made of officers. Simply to focus on overall
numbers of police officers misses the point that we should pay
much closer attention to issues of deployment, how visible and
available, for instance, police officers are. We know from the
HMIC report that visibility and availability are relatively low,
at 11% of the police work force, by their estimate. We also know,
although we need to be careful of international comparisons, that
there are countries, such as Spain and Sweden, where police officer
numbers have been rising but so has crime. Equally there are countries,
for instance, the United Statesspecifically New Yorkwhich
over the last decade has seen a reduction in the police workforce
of something like 10%, so significant numbers of officers, but
much larger falls in crime, of about a third. So I think we have
to be careful of making a simple link.
Q219 Alun Michael:
Accepting that it is not a straightforward link, which is a reasonable
point, what research does the Home Office do on the relationship
between police numbers and crime before deciding, first, on the
level of savings that will be required under the CSR, and secondly,
on the front-loading of those savings?
Nick Herbert: On
the two issues: I think the former Permanent Secretary, Sir David
Normington, gave evidence to you about that Home Office research
and subsequently wrote to you. So the Home Office has attempted
to collate the various elements of research that have been conducted
by independent bodies. Essentially, what it has established is
exactly as I say, that there is no simple link between crime rates
and numbers of police officers. Our focus, in the Home Office,
has been on how resources are deployed and how we can drive savings
and ensure efficiencies to ensure the most effective deployment.
Q220 Alun Michael:
Okay, so we are agreed that there is a complex relationship between
police numbers and crime levels. It is certainly the case, isn't
it, that a reduction in police numbers means that there will be
alterations in the tasks carried out by police, the way that they
are deployed; the point that you made yourself. How do you expect
the range of tasks undertaken by the police to alter as a result
of the savings that are now being required?
Nick Herbert: Firstly,
decisions on deployment are for Chief Constables to make and discuss
with their police authorities. We don't direct that from central
Government. What we have said is that we want to assist forces
in driving savings in what you might call the back and middle
offices, to ensure that resources can be prioritised for what
we might broadly call the front line; in particular, what I think
is the people's priority, which is visible and available policing,
to ensure that police officers remain available for the public
and on the streets, and that we maintain the investment in neighbourhood
policing, which I think has been very important to the public.
Our belief is that, building on the savings that HMIC identified,
it is possibleby driving those kinds of savingsto
ensure that the service that the public receive will remain as
good or improve, in spite of there being tighter resources for
Q221 Alun Michael:
I'm sure you would accept, Minister, that a lot of the back-office
functionsthe ones that aren't visibleenable the
front line to be effective. So, what view do you have of the sort
of tasks and services that the police should prioritise in coping
with the changes that they are going to have to cope with over
the immediate period?
Nick Herbert: Yes,
those back and middle office functions
Chair: I know you are
giving us detailed evidence. But briefer answers would be very
much appreciated, and briefer questions, please.
Nick Herbert: Sure.
Those back and middle office functions are important, but it is
not to say that they cannot be done more cost-effectively, more
efficiently, or in an innovative way. So when it comes to looking
at issues such as the better use of IT, better procurement, shared
services, and collaboration, these are all areas where functions
can be delivered more cost effectively and efficiently.
Q222 Bridget Phillipson:
Minister, will crime be higher, lower or the same by the end of
the Parliament, do you think?
Nick Herbert: Of
course, it is the Government's ambition that crime levels should
be lower. Any Government wants to reduce crime and make the public
safer. The Home Secretary has set a very clear mission for the
police, which is to cut crime, by which we mean prevent crime
and anti-social behaviour as well.
We understand the ambition, but what do you think it will be?
Nick Herbert: I
am not in the business of making guesses here. We are absolutely
determined to do everything possible to drive down crime and to
tackle anti-social behaviour, and so on.
Q224 Lorraine Fullbrook:
Minister, I would like to talk more about how we achieve these
savings. Exactly how do you expect these savings to be made by
more effective procurement, and how do you think this would be
carried out among the forces?
Nick Herbert: Procurement
is one of the areas where we can expect significant savings to
be made. We know that police authorities are spending some £2.8
billion a year on equipment, goods and services, which is a very
substantial sum of money. We have identified that something like
£200 million worth of savings could be made annually by better
procurement. That is, essentially, by forces procuring together
and using collective buying power. I have already announced at
the same time as we launched the policing consultation, that the
Government is willing to take powers to drive that, starting with
equipment, like vehicles, in the non-IT area. But we also need
to look at the potential savings from IT as well, which are very
significant, and where we think that by better purchase of IT
we could save another £180 million a year. It is worth reflecting
that there are 2,000 different IT systems between forces and between
them they employ 5,000 staff.
Q225 Lorraine Fullbrook:
The obvious things are IT, uniforms, vehicles, and so on. I am
absolutely staggered how many forces have 24/7 helicopters on
standby with the requisite pilots and maintenance. Is there a
need for as many forces to have helicopter forces, in effect?
Nick Herbert: No,
Chair: Do you know how
many helicopters there are?
Nick Herbert: We
are very close to agreeing with chief constables that there will
be a national police air service, where forces will be sharing
helicopters, and that will save £15 million a year, and it
then has to be agreed by police authorities. The Government's
message to police authorities will be that if the operational
commanders judge that this is a cost effective arrangement that
will nevertheless provide a perfectly good service for the people
in their area, police authorities must not stand in the way of
achieving that kind of saving. It is a very good example of where
we can deliver the same or better service operationally, but at
far lower cost.
Q226 Mr Clappison:
Let me give you an example of an area that you might want to look
into for savings, on the basis of the evidence that we heard just
before you came in. We heard from a very distinguished extradition
lawyer who told us about the large amount of police time that
was being wasted in this country pursuing trivial European arrest
warrants, involving detectives travelling up and down the country,
as well as the substantial cost of people being held in custody
for trivial matters. Could you look into that and perhaps write
back to us about it?
That is an absolutely fair representation of the evidence.
Nick Herbert: I
think I had better not be drawn into talking about European arrest
Chair: Well, could you
write to us about the savings?
Nick Herbert: Having
said that I wouldn't write to you on one matter, I think I had
better write to you on another. Yes, I'm happy to do that.
If I can make a wider point: there is another area
of savings, which I think will be very important for the police,
and that is savings in the criminal justice system and how it
is operating. We know that in London, where integrated case management
teams have been piloted, £16 million-worth of cashable savings
have been identified over a 10-year period. It is possible to
extend that, and that is simply by the police working together
with the Crown Prosecution Service and reducing paperwork.
Q228 Steve McCabe:
I just want to go back to the shared use of equipment before we
get carried away. Obviously, if there are savings to be made in
helicopters, that is a good thing. But would you accept, Minister,
that one of the things that is currently under discussion is,
depending on where the helicopters are located, you could add
to the fuel bills, which will offset some of the costs, and at
a time of rising aviation fuel, that would be a really important
thing to take into account.
Nick Herbert: I
am sure that the chiefs who are discussing the development of
the national police air service have taken that into account and
that, nevertheless, the savings that they are identifying will
Can I just add very quickly, Chairman, that one of
the things I am keen for the Committee to take on board is that
the kinds of savings that I'm talking aboutvery significant
savings from procurement and savings from ITare all additional
to those savings that HMIC identified could be made by police
forces of over £1 billion a year. It is because we can drive
savings in this area that do not in any way reduce the service
that the public is receiving, that we are confident that the spending
reductions will not impact negatively on the service the public
is currently receiving.
Chair: Thank you; very helpful.
Q229 Mark Reckless:
In Kent we have already identified £11.5 million of savings
through collaboration with Essex, and there are one or two other
examplesHerts and Beds comes to mindwhere there
has been good progress. But generally the savings from collaboration
have been rather disappointing, and I wondered whether you thought
Ministers might be able to accelerate this, or whether you would
look to the directly elected police and crime commissioners to
be able to drive out much more substantive savings through collaboration?
Nick Herbert: I
think I agree with you that progress up until now has been too
slow, but I think that is partly because there hasn't been the
kind of fiscal driver to do it. Now that police forces know that
they are receiving less grant for the next four years, that is,
I think, changing the incentives, both for chief constables and
for police authorities. It is driving much more interest on the
part of police forces in collaboration, outsourcing, better procurement,
and so on. Because they all share the same desire as we do in
the Government, which is to maintain the front-line policing service
and the service that the public receives and find savings in other
ways, in better use of taxpayers' money.
Q230 Mr Winnick:
Last week the chief constable of West Midlands police said, obviously,
his force would do their utmost to bring about the usual service
despite the cuts, but when he was pressed about whether the reduction
in public expenditure would have an adverse effect, he admitted
it would do so. That is very worrying in the west midlands. Do
you share that concern?
Nick Herbert: I
am not sure that he said that, having read his evidence. In every
meeting that I have had with the chief constable he has reiterated
his determination to drive savings. He has already, of course,
instituted a very significant redesign of the policing organisation
in the west midlands so that he can continue to deliver a high
quality service for the public. I don't underestimate the challenge
that police forces face, but we do think that it is possible for
police forces to make the kinds of savings I've been talking about
in order that
Q231 Mr Winnick:
Yes, you have said this repeatedly, of course, in the Chamber,
but when you question whether the chief constable actually said
so, when pressed by the Chair at last week's meeting he did say
that it would have an adverse effect, qualifying it, as I said
earlier, by saying that the force would do their utmost to try
and avoid a deterioration of services arising from the reduction.
The particular point, Minister, which has been made in the west
midlandsand I have sent the Home Secretary a letter from
the chair of the police authorityis that the west midlands
considers it unfair that apparently no account has been taken
that the sum of money they receive, other than from central Government,
is considerably less than other police forces, yet the west midlands
has been treated in the same manner; and your response?
Nick Herbert: First,
it is an important point that police forces do not raise all of
their revenue from central Government. On average they are raising
about a quarter of their revenue from the local taxpayer, but
that is an average figure and it varies as between police forces.
So, some have arguedand I have no doubt that people in
the west midlands would be amongst themthat therefore we
should have varied the reduction in Government funding to take
into account how much was being raised from the local taxpayer.
As I have said to Members in the west midlands before,
there are two problems about that. The first is that what we would
effectively be doing is saying to people in areas who are already
funding far more through their local council tax, through the
precept, that they should be penalised for the fact that they
have funded far more. The second is that, in order to give effectively
redress to forces like the west midlands and to reduce the cut
in grant to them, that would have required us to have increased
the amount that the grant would be cut by other forces, which
would have meant that they would have had more than a 20% cut
over four years in their central Government grant.
I didn't see people putting up their hands and volunteering
the forces that should have a bigger cut than 20%, nor was itif
I may make a final pointthe basis upon which police forces
were working. They were expecting a reduction of 20%, expecting
that it would be applied to them all evenly and for those reasons
the Government made the decision to apply it evenly.
Q232 Mr Winnick:
Your message to the west midlands, Minister, is that there will
be no change; no matter what representations have been made by
the police authority or by Members of Parliament for west midlands
constituencies, there will be absolutely no change in what has
Nick Herbert: I
listened carefully to those representations and considered the
matter very carefully indeed. I understand the point that is being
made. This will be subject to parliamentary determination.
Chair: Indeed. We have
three very quick areas to cover; so, again, brief answers and
Q233 Mark Reckless:
Minister, we understand that there is some level within the formula
grant of allowing for differences in income or even differences
in crime levels between different areas, but is it really fair
that Dorset should have to pay 44% of the costs and Surrey 49%,
when the west midlands pay a mere 14% of the costs of their policing
and Northumbria a mere 12%?
Chair: Before you answer
that, let me bring in Dr Huppert because his question is on the
Dr Huppert: Yes. I was
going to ask whether you would consider reviewing the formula
because it has been perceived certainly as very unfair over a
long time. Cambridgeshire, for example, is the fastest growing
county, a relatively high number of incidents per head; it has
one of the lowest levels of funding and one of the lowest levels
of police per head. Will you be reviewing the whole funding formula
so that we can have a fairer system?
Nick Herbert: I
think we're now hearing the other side of the argument, which
is specifically the view that council taxpayers in areas where
far more has been taken from the precept over the last few years
have paid an unfair burden. That is exactly the opposite view
to that expressed in the west midlands. The average increase in
precept since 1996-97 is 236% but in Surrey it is 362%. So those
local taxpayers have already been penalised.
I think there is also specific concern about damping,
which is a form of redistribution that has in the past ensured
that there was a measure of equalisation in relation to funding
and that no force should receive below a certain amount. Of course,
that is popular with forces that receive what is in fact a subsidy;
very unpopular with forces, such as the west midlandsI
notice Mr McCabe is noddingthat have to pay out.
What we have said is that we will look again at this
issue in two years' time, but it is much easier to make these
kinds of adjustments and do what I think everybody wants us to
do, which is to move to a full formula and a fairer allocation,
when the tide is rising, when grant is going up. It is highly
problematic to do this when the tide is falling, which it will
be over this immediate period. That is because you end up with
some forces that would have to pay far more than the average cut
in Government reduction, and that is why we don't think it's a
sensible thing to do.
Q234 Bridget Phillipson:
When it comes to police finance, when it comes to local government
finance the message to my constituents in the Northumbria force
area is, "Have done with it and move to Dorset"?
Nick Herbert: That
is not my message, but it's certainly true that other areas have
had to pay very much more in their council tax over recent years
than council tax payers in Northumbria have. Therefore, it is
possible to point to that perceived unfairness. I think my brief
experience on these issues is that absolutely nobody is satisfied
with the allocation of funding. Every force believes that it has
been treated unfairly, makes a very persuasive claim for an increase
in grant, and my consistent point back has been to pay great attention
to these arguments and to try and be as fair as we possibly can,
but those who argue for a greater subsidy for their force may
also have to answer the question of which force they wish to take
it away from.
Chair: Minister, I'm trying
to finish before 2 pm because I know you have important meetings
to go to, as do Members of the Committee. So could you try and
bear that in mind. This is not a reflection on you, Mr Michael,
but you are next.
Q235 Alun Michael:
I can't avoid reflecting on the fact that losers shout and winners
are silent, and that there is no such thing as a perfect formula
and it's important to build ina serious pointcontinuity
We have the situation, which was referred to earlier,
that the Home Office decided to require police forces to make
the bulk of savings in the first two years. Perhaps this is one
we should nail on the Home Secretary rather than yourself, but
are you able to tell us why the Home Office took that decision?
Nick Herbert: Of
course, it was the Treasury that set the profile. I don't think
you can characterise that as a unilateral decision of the Home
Office. Of course it reflects the need to deal with the deficit.
I don't think it's fair to characterise the funding reductions
that we have required forces to make as wholly front-loaded. They
are not as big in the first year as they are in the second, and
the cash reduction is just over 5% in 2011-12 and then 6.7% in
2012-13, but that is before you take specific grants into account.
Once you take those into account, the overall cash reduction for
policing as a whole in central grant is 4% in the first year and
5% in the second year. Expressed like that, it is possible to
appreciate that these are challenging reductions but they are
Q236 Bridget Phillipson:
What do you think the risks are of requiring forces to make these
savings at the same time that you're looking to bring forward
new governance arrangements?
Nick Herbert: I
don't think that there are risks in that. The savings that we're
requiring are from police forces. It is important that police
authorities, for the remainder of their life, are assisting the
drive to make those savings, and that job will then be taken by
police and crime commissioners. Police and crime commissioners
is a change in the governance of policing and these challenges
face police forces, irrespective of who is governing them at the
local level. So I do not believe that there are risks from the
reform programme. In my view, it is an absolutely essential programme
to rebuild the bridge between the police and the public.
Q237 Bridget Phillipson:
Could I just clarify: where is the money coming from for the police
commissioners and what is the cost?
Nick Herbert: We
don't expect that police and crime commissioners will cost any
more than police authorities do at the moment, except that there
is clearly a cost of holding elections once every four years and
that is a cost of £50 million to run the election. That has
been provided for by the Treasury in the settlement. It does not
come out of force budgets. It was allocated by the Chancellor
as an additional sum of money. So there will be no cost to police
forces in terms of the introduction of police and crime commissioners.
In my view, the police and crime commissioners will drive savings;
collaboration; shared services and focus on value for money rather
more effectively than police authorities have done.
Chair: You have prompted Mr McCabe to
ask a very quick question.
Q238 Steve McCabe:
I just want the Minister to clarify this: he says that is extra
money from the Treasury but the reality is it is part of the settlement
from the Home Office, and you could be choosing to spend it on
policing. It's a conscious choice that you're making to take £50
million and use it for elections. That is what it says here. It's
one of your specific grants. So you are taking money that could
be used for policing and you are using it for elections. That
is true, isn't it?
Nick Herbert: No,
I can clarify that we secured it as additional funding from the
Q239 Steve McCabe:
So you would have received an even bigger cut if you hadn't had
an election to finance?
Nick Herbert: No.
We secured an additional
Steve McCabe: You can't
have it both ways, Minister.
Nick Herbert: No,
Mr McCabe, I want to make it clear. We secured an additional £50
million to run the election. I happen to think it's a very bad
argument to advance against a reform that a democratic process
costs money. We could advance the same argument against a referendum.
It's a fraction of the overall policing budget, and in my view
the savings that will be driven by police and crime commissioners
will more than outweigh it.
The Committee hopes to have a report on this very shortly in order
to assist the Government. Just on the figures: the APA said it
estimates a loss of 26,000 jobs in four years. Mr Balls told the
Committee that he thought it was about 14,100 and the federation
said 20,000. Do you have any specific figures to assist the Committee
before we conclude our inquiry?
Nick Herbert: No.
I assume that you're talking about police officer numbers. I note
that the Police Federation's estimate was half that that they
gave before Christmas. The Government has never given a guarantee
on police numbers and the previous Government wouldn't either.
We don't directly control police numbers. We provide the funding
for police forces. We can't, of course, guarantee police numbers.
What we do want to ensure is that as police forces make savings
they are prioritising spending on the front line, that we are
sustaining an investment in neighbourhood policing. For the most
part, we have sustained the investment in the neighbourhood policing
fund so as to ensure that PCSOs can remain in place. It is that
visible and available piece of policing that the public particularly
value. I do not believe that that needs to diminish because of
the spending settlement that we've instituted, provided that forces
rigorously drive the savings that they can make.
Chair: Minister, we are
most grateful. Thank you very much for coming in today.