Examination of Witnesses (Questions 120
WEDNESDAY 10 JANUARY 2001
MR D CLEMPSON
120. Is there any training in employment law?
This is not the first time you have come before us with evidence
of that nature.
(Mr Clempson) No, there is no training in employment
121. The code you have in terms of disciplinary
procedures appears to be broken by virtue of the evidence you
have presented. Why does your trade union at a national level
not take them to court?
(Mr Clempson) Unfortunately in the case in point the
person concerned was a temporary and geographical promotion, we
took the case to a tribunal but it was not allowed to continue
unless we paid costs and a deposit. We had a cost warning when
we took it to a pre-hearing tribunal and also a deposit to be
paid of £150. We are taking this through another channel
and hopefully will get the thing sorted out. The fact is that
the procedures used at the time were draconian. The fellow was
charged with an offence, he was found guilty of an offence and
he was downgraded from his temporary position as a temporary and
geographical watch manager to a watch officer without ever being
able to answer the charge against him. He is now on the sick.
122. Do you mean this is a civil charge?
(Mr Clempson) No it is an internal disciplinary charge.
123. I do not want to get into that. I have
done my years of trade union representation. May I take you back
to an area of concern a number of months ago and which certainly
featured during the last inquiry into the Maritime and Coastguard
Agency itself and that was the closure of some of the stations?
How has that affected the staff morale and how in practice is
it now panning out?
(Mr Clempson) Since the closure of Obanand
I shall speak specifically of Oban because that is the one which
has caused us the most problemsthe workloading at Clyde
and Stornoway has gone up. The members there have had to threaten
actual industrial action before they managed to get the staffing
levels right. At Stornoway there are 30 remote aerials listening
to channel 16, yet the proposals from the Aberdeen regional team
was that no more than one person was needed to monitor that.
124. How is the introduction of the digital
communication technology going? We were told that was going to
be the answer to all the problems.
(Mr Clempson) It is going ahead. It is really only
a replacement for the existing radio equipment. It can do a lot
more things, but according to reports from people who have operated
it, it is more labour intensive and for them to propose closing
down quiet stations at night and concentrating all the aerials
into the big main headquarters, which was in a report, is fallacious
at the moment because it cannot be done. The database used is
not compatible and will not be until 2004 when they can start
to use it.
125. I have had a complaint, as you know, which
I will hope to put in the Committee evidence, from the Mallaig
fishermen, which has been answered but there are several questions
still outstanding. I do want to ask you a particular question
about the Coastguard Sector Managers and the inspection of fishing
vessels under 12 metres in length. You did tell us you were concerned
about this. What effect has it had?
(Mr Clempson) What has happened there is that we do
have an agreement that search and rescue will take priority over
the fishing vessel inspections. It appears now to be working quite
well. As far as I am aware, it is being accepted and welcomed
by some of the Sector Managers. Our main problem at that time
was that they had a quota under which they had to do so many examinations
in a period of a month, say 32 or whatever. It was quickly realised
that that was not at all possible. What we are trying to do now
is look at bringing in additional inspectors at a lower grade
so that they can carry out these fishing vessel inspections.
126. You are saying that at the moment it is
not a problem in the way you envisaged because some other alternative
has been reached.
(Mr Clempson) No. They are looking at other alternatives
and the problem has really gone to the back burner now.
127. Before we go any further I want to ask
you about the disciplinary procedures. Are they compliant with
the ACAS code of practice?
(Mr Foster) No. The existing procedures do not comply
with the ACAS code of practice. It is recognised, and they have
actually acknowledged it in writing, that the present DETR disciplinary
procedures breach the ACAS code. However, to put the complete
picture, we are in the process now of looking at the whole staff
handbook for all DETR, including the new disciplinary code and
procedures that will actually comply with the ACAS code. Once
that is inand the deadline is 1 Aprilthen we should
have a staff handbook which will be one of the best.
128. I want to ask you about this odd incident
you have told us about in your evidence, the contractor who came
from outside and then applied for the job himself and was appointed.
Was the contractor appointed to advise the Agency on resource
accounting and budgeting? Did he or she introduce such a system?
(Mr Foster) He was originally brought in by our then
head of finance from his previous employer, which was British
Aerospace, to give advice on how we might implement resource accounting
and to develop a project for taking that forward. He then drew
up the specifications for that project and subsequently tendered
129. The consultant was paid an estimated £13
million. Is that correct?
(Mr Foster) Yes; I actually have a breakdown of the
figures here. In the last three financial years it adds up to
about £11.5 million, but he had been employed for the three
previous years. We think £13 million is a fair estimate.
130. Now there is a completely different consultant
who is being employed at a further cost of £9 million.
(Mr Foster) Yes, that is the budget for the project.
131. Because the first system did not work.
(Mr Foster) Yes, that is our understanding.
132. Have you looked at the cost of the time
taken to introduce the resource accounting and budgeting at the
Agency compared with other agencies?
(Mr Foster) We had a head of internal audit who did
a comparison with 12 other departments and agencies in 1998. He
found comparisons and the only one we can remember, because we
do not have a copy of this report, was the Land Registry where
it took 12 months at a total cost of £375,000.
133. Which is rather different from a total
cost of £22 million.
(Mr Foster) Indeed, which is why we bring it to this
134. How much of that £22 million was wasted?
(Mr Foster) In our opinion, we cannot see that any
of the systems introduced have any value whatsoever, so we would
maintain all of it.
135. Did the member of the PCS who raised concerns
about the arrangements for the introduction of resource accounting
and budgeting get thanked for his or her pains?
(Mr Foster) He was immediately suspended from duty
and was subsequently reinstated elsewhere in the Department.
136. As the union representative you have sorted
(Mr Foster) He did not want to take any formal action,
beyond being re-employed by the Department, which they agreed
to because there were no grounds to take any disciplinary action
Chairman: Thank you very much indeed. That has
been very helpful and it addressed the matters which particularly