Examination of Witnesses (Questions 380
THURSDAY 7 MARCH 2002
(Ms Leech) We are fundamentally opposed to the idea
that the Home Secretary should take a judgment about efficiency
and effectiveness and what needs to be done to improve it in a
force without reference to the local body which is statutorily
responsible for delivering efficiency and effectiveness. Therefore,
we would think it wholly inappropriate for such targets to be
set without reference to and through the police authority, which
is the statutory local body responsible for delivery.
381. Had this power been in existence for, say,
the last ten years, could you hazard a guess as to how often it
might have been used?
(Mr Peel) I think on three or four occasions it might
382. Will it, in fact, make a difference?
(Ms Leech) I imagine that the Home Secretary intends
that it should. In practice, we struggle I think to understand
how it is, as Mr Peel said, that the Home Secretary operating
remotely will be able to come to a different judgment from a judgment
that the local body, which is there day in and day out overseeing
performance, would come to about what measures were necessary
to tackle poor performance in the force. In practice, it is difficult
to see how the power could operate effectively, although it may
be easy to see how it could operate where it was being used because
it was there and the Home Secretary wanted to use it.
383. On a slightly different topic, the Home
Office is seeking the power to require forces to use only specified
equipment. Perhaps you would like to comment on that and how there
might be any incompatibility between the equipment used by different
forces and if that might be overcome, whoever is the appropriate
person to answer that?
(Ms Leech) I think that we can see that there may
be cases where it is appropriate, whether it be for economies
of scale in purchasing, procurement and so on or whether it be
because there is an appropriate national standard which should
be set that can effectively only be met through a single procurement.
There may be cases where it is appropriate to actually think about
commissioning and operating through equipment of a particular
type so we do not, as a matter of principle, entirely oppose a
structure which enables that to happen and allows that to happen.
What we say is that if it is to happen it should be a tripartite
decision, it should not be something imposed unilaterally by one
part of the structure, the tripartite partners who are responsible
jointly for delivery of policing should jointly make those decisions
and, therefore, we should be consulted by the Home Secretary before
he considers a measure to mandate a particular type of equipment.
384. You think there should always be reference
to local circumstances and local needs?
(Mr Peel) I think it should be allowed to happen rather
than imposed. It may be, for example, I want to use a different
car from the one they use in Lancashire. I want to be able to
make that decision. I want that freedom to say it. For example,
Northamptonshire do not use CS spray. I happen to think they are
wrong and that it is a good thing but, on the other hand, they
have a right to decide whether they want to use it or not. I do
not want to see that imposed upon them.
Angela Watkinson: Thank you very much.
385. I think the example that comes to mind
is police radios where you have forces that cannot talk to each
other because they have got different equipment. There might well
be a case for imposing that kind of technology, might there not?
(Dr Henig) The partners would agree with that. We
all did agree at national level that we did want to make that
change and introduce those radios for exactly the reason that
you say and there was no disagreement. Because we had agreed nationally
we were able to make sure that across the country police forces
and authorities signed up to this.
(Mr Peel) Admittedly there was one authority that
did not. I think the answer to that one is financial pressures.
If the Secretary of State says "there is x million pounds
if you do it" then you have got to have a jolly strong case
for not doing it. Certainly in the case of the Airwave service,
that eventually worked.
386. What is the role of the police authorities
in selecting equipment?
(Dr Henig) It derives really from our role in helping
to set the strategic direction of the force. It is important that
before certain types of equipment are used locally, whether it
be CS spray or whatever sort of batons, that the police authority
knows what the chief constable is going to do, what sort of strategy
they are going to adopt, what weapons they are going to use, because
you after all are accountable to the public for the kind of policing
that is taking place. Our role, therefore, I think, is to be consulted
by the senior officers, to be shown the equipment and to give
387. How have they all ended up with different
radios and IT and so forth?
(Mr Peel) With respect, of course, they will not.
Once Airwave is fully in they will not.
(Dr Henig) We have signed up to changing. Originally
there were no such things in place.
388. When did you sign up?
(Dr Henig) Last year.
(Mr Peel) It is going through at the moment. By 2005
we will all have the same equipment for radio communication.
389. What do you say to what Jeff Rooker has
to say about tripartite systems at present where one third of
the system has the money, one third has the power and the Home
Secretary gets all the blame?
(Dr Henig) I was very interested in that because in
the House of Lords the assumption was that the people who had
the money was the police force whereas I think the Home Secretary
thought the people who had the money were the police authorities.
There seems to be some disagreement or misunderstanding about
precisely who is who in what the Home Secretary said except I
think probably we all understand his sentiment, his frustration
that perhaps he gets some of the blame.
390. When you pick up about the force with,
say, 65 per cent medical retirements, it is possible the management
of the force themselves might be blamed for that? It is possible
somebody could ask what the Home Secretary is doing about that.
It is not considered a very adequate reply to say "I do not
have the power to do anything about it".
(Dr Henig) Is this not a general problem? There are
a whole number of areas, it seems to me, of which you have quoted
one, where Home Secretaries, or indeed any ministers are going
to come under pressure to take action to respond to a situation.
Surely they do that by citing whatever arrangements are in place.
The fact is in policing there is a tripartite relationship and
actually to make that work effectively the Home Secretary knows
that actually the key players on that particular one that you
cite are the police authorities because they are exercising the
pressure at local level to bring those levels of sickness down.
Indeed many of us have been working really hard in those areas.
The key, therefore, to improvement in that area is a very close
working relationship between the Home Secretary and the police
authorities and he knows that and we know that. So in a sense
I would have thought he has to make it clear to whoever is putting
pressure on that that is the realistic situation that is facing
391. My information is a little out of date
but it has always been my impression that in some police forces,
often those where there is most need for some change, the chief
constable has the authority eating out of his hand.
(Dr Henig) I think you might be somewhat out of date
392. Do you remember when that was so?
(Mr Peel) Yes, I do.
(Dr Henig) I think the old-style police committees,
which were much larger of course, were perhaps somewhat different
animals. I have to say since 1995 the new police authorities are
different. I have to hold my hand up and say that one of the great
differences is the five independent members who many of us were
not happy about at the time but who nonetheless have actually
made a great impact in terms of strengthening some of the skills
and professional input that members can make in this area.
393. It is not just a question of a few free
rides in a police helicopter.
(Dr Henig) Not at all. Police authorities are really
genuinely holding their senior officers to account to such an
extent that we do, when we talk to our colleagues in ACPO, have
every now and again to discuss with them tensions arising out
of relationships across the country where police authorities are
exercising their powers most vigorously and are often not necessarily
disputing but perhaps challengingconstructivelysome
of the powers the chief constables and chief senior teams are
exercising. There is a genuine challenge, I think. One of the
reasons for that, of course, is the best value legislation. The
best value legislation has put the responsibility for best value
on police authorities. Through the exercise of best value police
authorities are now required to go through the whole operation
of their police force within five years and look at the various
processes and challenge them. That has given an entirely new orientation
to the relationship. Do you agree with that?
(Mr Peel) Yes, I do.
394. I just want to explore this for a second.
It is the "why" question. Why do you think the Home
Secretary wants to bypass police authorities in this way? It is
striking under the headings: giving directions to police forces,
regulating equipment, operating procedures. If, as you say, police
authorities have raised their game in the last five years, why
do you get so little mention in this Bill? Why do you think you
are being so bypassed?
(Dr Henig) I think in a sense he has answered that
question, to some extent, because somewhere he has said he wants
more levers. He feels he is not able to make as constructive an
input as he would like. I think he has used this phrase that he
wants to be able to pull on more levers. In a sense pulling on
more levers implies a direct line which at present is not there
and would have the effect of short circuiting some of the present
395. Do you believe that if he has direct levers
that will reduce your ability to call police forces to account?
(Dr Henig) I think inevitably this is where we started.
It is going to create very strong tensions between national imperatives
and what he would like to do at the centre and local accountability
and what different communities up and down the country would like
to see in terms of the policing of their areas.
396. Do you think you just have not got your
message across to him? What is making him produce a bit of legislation
which sidelines you in this way?
(Dr Henig) If I could come back to where we started.
I would say that we support a lot of the legislation, a lot of
the changes which have been put forward. We do genuinely feel
that this is the time for reform, that there are a lot of things
that do need to be improved. A large number of these reform proposals
we do support very strongly. Just because we may not be mentioned
here or there as we would like, that is not a reason for throwing
this out. We do genuinely go along with most of the reform proposals.
Here and there we think to make them more effective, they can
be perhaps slightly changed, they need to bring perhaps the police
authorities in in a different way or spell the powers out in a
397. If through this Bill the Home Secretary
is able to sack every chief constable in the land, instruct every
police force what to do, tell you what equipment to buy, bypass
you when it comes to reports, what is left for police authorities
to do? How can you support this Bill? What is left for you if
this goes through unchanged?
(Mr Peel) Effectively what we are saying is "Please
take out Part 1". Most of the rest of it is very much a matter
of detail. It is this whole question of, as I say, the tripartite
arrangement being pulled into a single straight line rather than
the triangle, the Home Secretary bypassing almost, going rapidly
through the authorities, down to chief constable. It is the remainder
of the Bill that we are supporting.
398. The first seven pages.
(Mr Peel) It is about that, yes. It is Part 1.
(Ms Leech) I think what is left is what is there already
which are two very strong statutory responsibilities: efficiency
and effectiveness of the police force in the 1996 Police Act and
the best value responsibility from the Local Government Act 1999.
Those powers and those responsibilities on police authorities
are unchanged and police authorities will continue to deliver
them to the best of their ability. The danger is that you will
have another whole set of processes going on in parallel which
may or may not be properly aligned. Our argument has consistently
been that there is no need for a tension because you can have
a system which properly aligns national and local accountability
if you have a partnership approach and that is what we have argued
for throughout and the decision we have taken on the Standards
Unit for example where we have welcomed the introduction of the
Standards Unit as an enabling tool to make sure those responsibilities
are fully aligned. Unless you have the mechanisms to align them
or at least to have the debate where there are tensions and they
do not align properly but sorts that out, then you do potentially
have a horrible mess. Most importantly where you have a horrible
mess is for the poor officers on the ground who are trying to
police, trying to work out to whom they are accountable, what
their targets are and which priority comes first.
399. It was just on your purchasing policy,
Mr Peel, I think you said you would want discretion to purchase
your own cars. Do you accept that if there was a national purchasing
plan for cars you could have huge economies of scale?
(Mr Peel) Indeed, so long as I can go into that voluntarily.
It may be a situation would arise where I would say "Okay,
yes, if I go into that I will get my cars at X but the car I am
going to get is Y" whereas I want a different car and I am
prepared to pay more for it. I want that local choice.