Examination of Witnesses (Questions 520
THURSDAY 21 MARCH 2002
DENHAM MP AND
520. Just on that point, would the Police Standards
Unit not first bring such a report to the police authority?
(Mr Denham) Absolutely. No-one sensibly wants to use
this power on a routine basis. I have to say in the vast, vast
majority of cases if the Police Standards Unit is working with
a BCU where there are problems things are likely to be sorted
out at that level through discussion between the Police Standards
Unit and the chief superintendent in charge of the area and possibly,
if necessary, discussion very likely perhaps with the chief constable
about the issues and with the police authority. That is what we
would expect to be the norm in the vast majority of cases. You
simply would not want to have a situation where you were using
these powers on a routine basis. All of the emphasis that we are
putting behind the Police Standards Unit is to support areas of
poor performance in getting better at their performance as quickly
as they can do, and that is far more likely to happen in the vast
majority of cases through those informal support mechanisms than
through anything formal.
521. On the basis that it is not going to be
used on a routine basis, and there has been no example you can
tell us of over the last ten years, we are still left wondering
why you need these powers at all.
(Mr Denham) I think that is slightly unfairly putting
together two answers to two questions. It would be wrong, I think,
for the reasons I said earlier, to try to pick out an event from
1996 and say "we have the data that shows in x town this
power should have been used". That is why I cannot say when
it would have been used precisely in the last ten years. I do
believe that the evidence, for example from the Audit Commission,
of variation in police performance from one part of the country
to another in comparable areas is sufficient to say that we have
to address that issue much more robustly than we have done in
the past. That is one of the reasons for setting up the Police
Standards Unit. I think having the back-up to intervene if all
else fails is necessary. We do not get the chance to have police
legislation every day of the week or every year and I think it
forms a small, in the sense it will not be used very often, but
important part of raising standards in the Police Service.
522. I would just like to press you a little
further on this performance issue. At the moment local police
forces concentrate on those areas of crime which are subject to
key performance targets, often to the detriment of other areas
of crime. Would it not be better for police authorities with their
knowledge of local circumstances to identify their own key performance
target areas rather than having them imposed centrally?
(Mr Denham) I think we expect that local policing
plans will reflect local circumstances but also do need to reflect
national priorities. I do not actually believe that we would necessarily
have seen the very significant falls in car crime or in burglary
without the focused national as well as local attention that those
targets have had in recent years. I do believe though that we
can do considerably better than we have at the moment in developing
methods for measuring police performance than we have. You will
know, I expect, that the Home Secretary has reduced the number
of best value performance indicators by very nearly half in the
latest round to try to reduce the number of different performance
indicators pointing in different directions that the police were
needing to respond to. We want over the next two or three years
to go much further in changing the system and in particular to
recognise that there are different areas, domains is the technical
language I am learning to use, of activity, the economy and the
efficiency of the force, the effectiveness in catching criminals,
the effectiveness in reducing crime, the effectiveness in public
accessibility and public response and public satisfaction. We
are looking really for a model of measuring police performance
that enables a force and an area of a force to see how well it
is doing in each of those areas. At the moment the performance
indicators do not give you that rounded picture of police performance.
We are in very active discussion with the Police Service, including
ACPO and the APA, about doing this and I hope that over the coming
year we will gradually shift from the focus on the individual
performance indicator to this much more rounded assessment of
police performance. That, I think, will enable police authorities
and police forces to be able to look at how they are doing locally
and compare themselves with similar forces and perhaps say "Well,
we are actually doing rather well on reducing crime but not so
well on the fear of crime. What are we doing differently which
means our performance is lagging behind other areas?" That
is quite difficult to do with the performance measures that we
have at the moment.
523. Will there be consultation between the
local force and the Home Secretary in identifying or selecting
the most appropriate performance targets?
(Mr Denham) I have got to say, Chairman, I am sharing
with you work that is at the fairly early stages in preparation
but I hope the Committee will find it helpful. It is probably
the case that we would need to build it around a common set of
national indicators because otherwise a force will not be able
to compare its performance in those areas with another part of
the country and part of the value of that benchmarking will disappear.
I think forces will find it useful in setting their own local
priorities. The second thing you want to do is to put all this
in the context of the national policing plan which we have set
out in the Bill and part of the aim of that is to make sure that
there is much more consistent and coherent consultation with the
Police Service, with the police authorities and with other organisations
in the development of the broad strategic direction of policing
and that does not really happen at the moment. There are various
different indicators on which we consult separately but there
is not a proper process of discussion each year about the strategic
direction of policing.
524. But an individual force would have the
freedom to divert resources from a town where there is a high
incidence of burglary, for example, to another area where there
is perhaps a high level of disorderly conduct which can only come
from local knowledge?
(Mr Denham) Absolutely, that is right. Police forces
must, within their overall plan, put the resources to where the
problem is and those problems do vary from one part of the country,
one part of a force, to another.
525. Minister, is Her Majesty's Inspector of
Constabulary going to continue?
(Mr Denham) Yes.
526. So why do we need a Police Standards Unit
(Mr Denham) There is a difference in role between
the Inspectorate and the Standards Unit. The independent Inspectorate
is responsible really for inspecting and monitoring the overall
performance of every single police force in the country, and more
recently has developed a similar system of inspection for Basic
Command Units. The Police Standards Unit is going to concentrate
much more specifically on particular areas of performance, identifying
what works particularly well in some forces, working with other
areas with poor performance to enable them to increase their performance.
You could say in that sense it has a more directly interventionist
and supportive role and one that is focused very much on performance
improvement in specific areas rather than the overall inspection
of forces. I always worry about using this analogy because it
breaks down after a bit, but there is a difference between, for
example, the work of Ofsted in inspecting schools as a whole and
the work of DfES in promoting the literacy hour or the numeracy
hour. One is the inspection of the performance of the system as
a whole, the other is to identify areas of proven best practice
and to promote those as effectively as possible across the service.
There is a similar split, but you cannot push it too far, between
the HMIC and the Standards Unit.
527. Please give us an assurance that the Police
Standards Unit is not going to be like Ofsted?
(Mr Denham) No. I was rather putting the HMIC into
that category, which is why the thing breaks down immediately
because the HMIC is a long established and very effective body.
528. Would you agree, however, that the police
rank and file, the Police Federation, are not impressed? They
told us that "unless clear demarcation lines are drawn, we
see the potential for role confusion, overlap and duplication
of effort, particularly with data collection". Surely you
are setting out to create duplication and/or confusion?
(Mr Denham) Two things. On data collection, you are
quite right to raise concerns because they are exactly the same
ones that I share as a Minister. The outcome of this must be that
we have a rationalised and simplified system of data collection
which feeds not just the HMIC and the Standards Unit but is providing
the management information on a timely basis that police forces
need and also, I hope, very much to align what is provided to
the Audit Commission through this process at the moment. There
is a fair criticism at the moment that people in the Police Service
can be providing quite similar but not exactly the same data to
quite a lot of different people who come round inspecting them,
so one of the things we must deliver is a better data system on
the boundaries between the two. Of course, the potential for overlap
or confusion could be there but in the last few months everything
that I have seen and heard from Kevin Bond, who is the head of
the Police Standards Unit, and Sir Keith Povey, who is the Chief
Inspector of Constabulary, suggests that has actually been worked
out professionally between the two different organisations in
a way that is not giving rise to the problems that people were
talking about when the PSU did not actually exist.
529. Minister, can I just push that a little
bit further. Are you telling us that the Police Standards Unit
and Her Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary will not be asking
for, or demanding, different sets of figures produced in different
ways but there will be a common line of questioning and a common
line of request and there will be no confusion over what is being
(Mr Denham) That is precisely what I am saying. We
are not there now but that is what we are doing. One of Mr Rimmer's
jobs is to make sure that the technicalities of that actually
work. It is absolutely essential that over time we get a performance
measurement system, for example, which makes sense to you as a
member of the public looking at your community, makes operational
sense to the chief superintendent and the chief constable deciding
where to put their resources, and is aligned with what the HMIC
inspects and the PSU's focus on performance. At the moment there
is a reasonable criticism that those are not properly aligned.
Having a consistent data system is essential to delivering that.
530. So the Police Federation nightmare will
not come to pass?
(Mr Denham) No, I do not believe that it will.
531. Does that not, therefore, lead us on to
the logical conclusion that these two bodies will merge?
(Mr Denham) I do not think that is the case. There
is likely always to be a role for a body that is able to concentrate
specifically on particular areas of performance with the Police
Service and not be, if you like, bothering itself with a lot of
the other things the Police Service does, and that will be typical
of the Standards Unit, and a body like the HMIC whose very job
is to ensure that they are looking right across the board into
the whole performance of the force. I think there is a logic to
that separation and certainly I would not like to suggest that
I think it is likely to change in the immediate future.
532. I am sure we will be revisiting that whole
area in due course. If I can move on to clause 6, the regulation
of equipment. Could you give us examples of the occasions when
you expect the power in clause 6 would be used to require all
forces to use only specified equipment?
(Mr Denham) There has been concern in the past about,
for example, the use of incapacitant sprays which have not necessarily
been tested, in the Home Office's view, to the standards that
we would like before they were introduced. There is no power at
the moment in the existing legislation to prevent a police force,
for example, introducing an innovative pepper spray or something
of that sort or possibly a supposedly non-lethal alternative to
firearms use. If a chief constable chooses to use equipment then
we do not have the power to intervene to stop that, so one of
the areas where standardisation might be possible is in that area.
I think there are many examples, particularly in the area of IT,
where the failure to ensure a commitment to a standard system
across the Police Service has left us with a legacy of IT systems
which do not talk to each other, which do not communicate, and
that is a problem. This certainly gives us a clear ability to
perhaps use that in the future.
533. Another good example presumably would be
(Mr Denham) Radio equipment is one. That is being
dealt with at the moment through the Airwave system, as you know.
There will always be a judgment. Airwave is proceeding without
the use of legislative back-up but it has been a very time consuming
process to get everybody committed and involved with it.
534. But surely you are not suggesting that
every chief constable in the country should purchase the same
type of car for his police officers? The Chairman of the Essex
Police Authority, for example, said that Essex may not necessarily
want the same cars as they have in Lancashire. I do not know what
he meant by that.
(Mr Denham) That is very possibly correct, so I think
a power like this would have to be used with discretion, of course.
535. So it would be discretion?
(Mr Denham) Yes. I do not think there is any attempt
to standardise every single item of police equipment. I think
where we would be most concerned is the example I gave of incapacitant
sprays where the public might reasonably expect that the same
standards of scientific evidence have been taken into account
before the material is used or the situation which can be the
case with some IT systems where the failure to have compatible
systems can not only weaken the operation of one force, it can
weaken the co-operation that takes place between forces or, for
example, other parts of the system, like the criminal justice
system, with whom the police IT system needs to communicate.
536. Are there any respects in which the so-called
best value requirements are not achieving their objective?
(Mr Denham) Best value is still in its relatively
early days at the moment. This Bill does not remove the best value
requirements and I would not want to say in any way that best
value has failed. As best value develops we are learning actually
that we can approach it in a more strategic way. The best value
exercise that is looking at training provision over the coming
year I think is very important because we have got everybody doing
a best value exercise on the same area of activity whereas previously
people might have done it over different timescales. I think best
value has got a lot to offer and I am actually very keen on using
it strategically like that.
537. I did preface my question with the phrase
"so-called" because best value for one person, would
you agree, is not necessarily best value for the man or women
in the frontline who is actually carrying out the work that the
public expects of them?
(Mr Denham) I think this takes us into a wider debate,
but my own view is that the best value frameworkand I hope
we will see this on training over the coming yearis a good
way of enabling people to fundamentally re-examine the way they
are doing things and see if there are not more efficient and more
effective ways of delivering them. I do think in the future there
will be areas of common services, it is dangerous to speculate,
for smaller forces and, perhaps, payroll functions, and things
of that sort, which could be provided a lot more cheaply with
the pooling of support services.
538. I understand. If we can move on to Clause
7, could you give examples of when the power in Clause 7 to regulate
the operational procedures and practices would be used or could
(Mr Denham) Let me give you two or three, and this
really gives us a back-up power if we are not able to make the
progress we would like. The National Intelligence model is more
than a computer system with information on it, it is a system
for receiving police intelligence and information, for analysing
that into patterns of criminal behaviour, enabling you to identify
key criminal suspects, their linkages, their wider criminal activities
and as a result of that to target police activity effectively
on those criminals. There are forces which are making very good
use of the National Intelligence model and there are areas where
progress has been very slow. The problem that we have is that
the failure to have a consistent approach in using intelligence
does not just have an impact at force level, it has a wider one,
with criminals' stubborn refusal just to operate in Police Authority
areas, so the ability to share information across the systems
is limited. If I can give you two or three others. I am grateful
for this, you phrased the question, "in potential areas",
where we have had in the past public disturbances and it has been
necessary to call on mutual aid from other forces it is important
to be confident that the training from those other forces is of
the same sort and the same standard and approached in the same
way as the forces which they are joining if the mutual aid is
going to be fully effective. If you have a police operation, for
example, around armed robbery, which might involve tracking suspected
robbers from one police force area to one many miles way, across
several police force boundaries where the robbery is due to take
place, one needs to be able to ensure that there is a consistent
quality of armed support available throughout that journey if
need be so the operation or the public or the officers are to
be put in jeopardy. The common strand in what I am saying here
is that there is an element of national or cross-border interest,
where the standardisation of approach is important to deliver
an effective policing service across England and Wales as a whole.
539. Clearly it is felt in the Home Office there
is a need for Clause 7, so can you give any examples where in
the past 10 years perhaps it would have been used had Clause 7
been in existence?
(Mr Denham) Personally I wish the National Intelligence
model was far more widely adopted and embedded in the Police Service
than it is at the moment. If you are asking me to pick out one
particular driver behind this, where we have looked round at where
we are and the pace of change it would be the National Intelligence