UNCORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE
To be published as HC 67-ii

HOUSE OF COMMONS

ORAL EVIDENCE

TAKEN BEFORE THE

Home Affairs Committee

Leadership and Standards in the Police Service

Tuesday 18 June 2013

Right HOn. Damian Green

Evidence heard in Public Questions 419 - 510

USE OF THE TRANSCRIPT

1.

This is an uncorrected transcript of evidence taken in public and reported to the House. The transcript has been placed on the internet on the authority of the Committee, and copies have been made available by the Vote Office for the use of Members and others.

2.

Any public use of, or reference to, the contents should make clear that neither witnesses nor Members have had the opportunity to correct the record. The transcript is not yet an approved formal record of these proceedings.

3.

Members who receive this for the purpose of correcting questions addressed by them to witnesses are asked to send corrections to the Committee Assistant.

4.

Prospective witnesses may receive this in preparation for any written or oral evidence they may in due course give to the Committee.

Oral Evidence

Taken before the Home Affairs Committee

on Tuesday 18 June 2013

Members present:

Keith Vaz (Chair)

Nicola Blackwood

Mr James Clappison

Michael Ellis

Lorraine Fullbrook

Dr Julian Huppert

Steve McCabe

Mark Reckless

Chris Ruane

Mr David Winnick

________________

Examination of Witness

Witness: Right hon. Damian Green, Minister of State for Policing and Criminal Justice, gave evidence.

Q419 Chair: Can I welcome the Minister for Policing, and could I ask all those present to declare any interests that are not in the Register of Members’ Interests that are relevant to this session?

Mark Reckless: Chair, can I say that until May 2011, I was a member of the Kent Police Authority.

Chair: Thank you. Minister, welcome. I think on the last occasion when you were here, it was a brief visit, but we did not have the chance to properly congratulate you on your appointment as the Policing Minister. I think that you have been in office for some time now, and we felt it was good to be able to let you get your feet under the table before you came in.

We would like to start by asking you a couple of questions about your tenure as Immigration Minister, because this is obviously an issue that has come before the Committee since you gave up that post. You know, of course, that for the first two and a half years of this Government, you were the Immigration Minister and you presided over the UKBA, which was formally abolished by the Home Secretary in March of this year. She told the Commons that she found the organisation to be "closed, secretive and defensive". When did you discover that it was "closed, secretive and defensive"?

Damian Green: It is some time ago, so I have not bent my mind to immigration or the UKBA for some months now. I think my verdict, looking back, is the same as it was-which I think I gave to this Committee-which was that the UKBA had progressed from being famously not fit for purpose in the middle of the last decade to being good in parts. I think I said it was a curate’s egg when I was the Minister responsible, and again, looking back, in terms of a policy delivery, it did well. This Government came in with a clear policy to reduce net migration; 250,000 down to 150,000 is a significant achievement. There will be members of this Committee who do not agree with this policy and members that do, but either way, policy delivery, I think the UKBA did well.

In terms of its day-to-day business, that is clearly the reason that drove the Home Secretary to make the decision to divide the remaining UKBA in two. I think we collectively came to the view throughout that the organisation brought together, no doubt with the best of intentions by the previous Government, simply could not cope with the multiplicity of its obligations. Indeed, that is why we split off Border Force.

Q420 Chair: We know all that, but I am asking about her description, because you came before this Committee on a number of occasions to give evidence and nowhere when you gave evidence could I find in the transcripts of your hearings you making such a very scathing conclusion, that it was "closed, secretive and defensive". That is a pretty severe statement from the Home Secretary. I am surprised that the Immigration Minister, for two and a half years, didn’t feel that when he came to this Committee.

Damian Green: I said before this Committee I thought it was good in parts, and the parts that were not good exhibited the symptoms that the Home Secretary-

Q421 Chair: So you agree with her, it was closed, secretive?

Damian Green: Yes, and that is why, as I say, over two stages we took out Border Force in one go and then now visas and enforcement have been split off as well. So you now have three organisations.

Q422 Chair: The organisational changes. I wanted to look at the description, since this had never been raised with the Committee in all the hearings that you had before us.

John Vine, in his report of November 2012, said that for a number of years, since 2006, the agency had been regularly supplying this Committee with information that was incorrect. You presumably did not know this when you were Immigration Minister and came before us?

Damian Green: No, indeed. I think it was one of the points you put to me when I last came here when you were talking about immigration, and I said at the time that I was shocked to discover that even after many years of successive Ministers in both this Government and the previous Government had, if you like, turned over stones and found things, there were forevermore stones to turn over in the UKBA garden.

Q423 Chair: Yes. So you did not know anything about the fact that this information had been given to us? It came as a complete surprise to you?

Damian Green: Yes, absolutely. Clearly if there had been information that the Committee had requested that the UKBA had thought it had, then it should have given it to the Committee. It goes without saying.

Chair: Excellent. Mr Winnick has a question on this point.

Q424 Mr Winnick: On this issue, Minister, we were indeed taken by surprise over the abolition of UKBA, if only because constantly you, as the Minister, gave assurances that changes were taking place. For example, on 4 July 2012 downstairs during oral questions, if I can quote what you said to Committee, "I have said previously to the Committee that the Agency is in good par, but needs to improve". By the way, this is what you said, and continued, "That is why a transformation plan has been initiated by the Chief Executive, Rob Whiteman, to address precisely the weaknesses identified by many Right Honourable and Honourable Members" and went on to say that, "If Fiona Mactaggart doesn’t necessarily agree, she would, she said, like the system to work properly" and you continued, "and I can assure her that is the purpose of many of the changes that Rob Whiteman is making". So all the indications going from that quote and others that you made seemed to indicate that UKBA started from a weak position from, you blamed, the previous Government-surprise surprise-but improvements were taking place and that is so. Then finally, out of the blue, we were told at the last moment that UKBA was going.

Damian Green: I am glad you have quoted something I said last July, which is exactly what I have just said off the top of my head, so I claim consistency in a way that I suspect not every Minister in every Government always can. Yes, absolutely, Rob Whiteman was brought in to try to transform the organisation. I should say it is unfair to say that I was criticising the previous Government for what was wrong with the UKBA. It was the Labour Home Secretary, it was John Reid that used the phrase, "Not fit for purpose". So I don’t think that was a partisan point to make.

Evidently, there were successive leaders of the UKBA came in, found problems, did their best to solve them. What became clear, and the reason the Home Secretary took the decision she did earlier this year, was that however much effort one put into it, whatever talents all the new senior management brought in, many of the same problems seemed to be recurring and therefore the sensible thing to do was evermore radical surgery. As I say, the first intimation of this was when we took Border Force out of UKBA, and I would say that I observe now from the outside, as a fact, problems at the border are considerably less now than they were when Border Force was part of the UKBA.

Chair: Yes, thank you. I think that is very helpful. Let us move on to policing.

Mr Winnick: "Helpful" would be an interpretation some may put around it and some may not, Chair.

Q425 Chair: I think both the question and the answer were very helpful. Can I move on to policing now and ask you this question. Do you believe our police force is relatively honest?

Damian Green: Yes. You are clearly quoting at me what the Prime Minister said, and the Prime Minister was making the point, it was a question in comparison with Libya and countries with much less stable institutions than ours, particularly less stable security forces, that ours are relatively more stable, more honest.

Q426 Chair: He did say more. So you are telling this Committee, as the Police Minister, that you believe that our police force is relatively honest compared to the Libyans’?

Damian Green: I am saying it is relatively honest compared to most police forces. It is overwhelming honest, full of hard-working brave people who do a very difficult job very well and increasingly successfully. That is why crime is down more than 10% over the past three years.

Q427 Chair: Yes. Sticking to this "relatively honest" point, the Prime Minister obviously had something in mind, and maybe you do. Of the 133,000 police officers, what do you think the level of dishonesty is?

Damian Green: If we knew someone was dishonest, then there would be disciplinary action against them and disciplinary action takes place against a tiny percentage of those police officers every year.

Chair: So basically what you are saying is-

Damian Green: I can give you the figures, if you like, Mr Chairman.

Chair: Please. Yes, that would be very helpful.

Damian Green: Obviously misconduct hearings vary back and forth. We understand there are between 100 and 200 hearings nationally per annum, and according to Home Office figures there were 178 officers dismissed in 2011, 2012.

Q428 Chair: Yes. So basically, in response to the question, you are saying that the British police force is relatively honest compared-

Damian Green: I am saying it is overwhelmingly honest-

Chair: It is now overwhelmingly?

Damian Green: Absolutely overwhelmingly honest.

Q429 Chair: The vast majority, yes?

Damian Green: The facts are here. We had 178 officers dismissed, there are something like 130,000 police officers, so-

Q430 Chair: But I am just asking you this because there was a reaction from the police force when the Prime Minister said that his police force is relatively honest compared to the Libyans. Well, I would hope so. You are saying in fact it is better than that, that the overwhelming majority of the police officers in this country are honest?

Damian Green: I have just given you the facts, so I think that shows that and I would point you to the response of the Police Federation to what the Prime Minister said, which was extremely sensible and they realise that he was making the point that precisely our police force is something we admire and that it is, if you like, both a tribute to those who belong in it and a symptom of living in a stable democracy.

Q431 Chair: Excellent. We will come on to integrity later. One final question from me on the proposals that we saw in the weekend press that Police and Crime Commissioners were going to take on responsibility for fire and ambulance services. Is that right? Are all blue light services going to be under PCCs?

Damian Green: There are clearly ideas floating around. Several PCCs, notably Jane Kennedy in Merseyside and Adam Simmonds in Northamptonshire, are exploring what can be done in terms of synergies, but it would be very premature to say there are plans for that to happen.

Q432 Chair: So you have not signed off anything on that?

Damian Green: No, we have not decided anything. It is clearly a sensible thing to look at, and not just police and fire, but ambulance as well. It is sensible to look at how we, for example, send people out to deal with serious road traffic accidents and see if there isn’t a better way that can save lives better.

Chair: Excellent. Chris Ruane will continue on the theme of Police and Crime Commissioners.

Q433 Chris Ruane: A tug of war is developing at the top of policing. Is it acceptable for PCCs to be grappling for power with Chief Constables? I give the latest example, in Wales, the PCC, Ian Johnston, has asked Carmel Napier, the Chief Constable, to resign or to retire. One of the four grounds that he quotes in his submission to our Committee is, "You" that is the Chief Constable, "are deeply hostile to the very concept of the office of PCC". Is this grounds, bearing in mind that the vast majority of the public, 85%, did not participate in the elections, you could interpret that as being hostile? Was he right to use this as grounds to get rid of the Chief Constable?

Damian Green: PCCs and Chief Constables have different jobs and the role of the PCC is to hold the Chief Constable to account, and each PCC will do that in their own way. It is clear there was a breakdown in that very important relationship in Gwent and Ian Johnston did what he did and Carmel Napier decided to retire. Had she challenged it, there is an elaborate system by which that judgment can be tested itself. The PCC is not all powerful, there are panels to control them and to comment on particular actions. In this particular case, if Carmel Napier had decided to challenge it, then HMIC, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, would have come in and done a report for the panel, which the panel would then have presumably made a recommendation on. So there are checks and balances in the system that I think mean that the relationship between the PCC and the Chief Constable can be one of equals.

Q434 Chris Ruane: One of the checks and balances is the Police and Crime Panels. Can you point to any successful examples of scrutiny by these Police and Crime Panels and why have they allowed PCCs to make such perverse decisions? I think, Chair, is it two or three sackings that we have had so far?

Chair: Around about that.

Chris Ruane: It is two or three sackings in a seven-month period. There are 43 Chief Constables. At this rate, they will all be gone in four or five years’ time.

Damian Green: No. I just think factually that is wrong. Many PCCs have appointed new Chief Constables-I think more than seven have been appointed. There have been two big disputes. There has been Gwent, that you have mentioned, and Lincolnshire and you are assuming that all of them must be perverse. I think-

Q435 Chris Ruane: Is this how you envisioned the position of PCCs unfolding within six or seven months?

Damian Green: Partly because a lot of Chief Constable appointments were held up for the PCC elections for very good reasons, so that you did not have a Chief Constable appointed for five years just before you had the new PCC. There was always going to be more of a turnover, but I would point to the Lincolnshire example, because you talk about perverse decisions. Of course, all PCCs, one of the greatest constraints on them is the law. They all have to operate under normal public law, and public law can stop someone doing something that is irrational. Indeed, the High Court quashed the suspension of the Acting Chief Constable of Lincolnshire, precisely using the phrase "irrational and perverse".

Q436 Chris Ruane: Was that good use of public funds, to take it to the High Court and to bring in the legal profession and incur these extra costs?

Damian Green: I have read the evidence session from this Committee from the former Chairman of the Panel in Lincolnshire, so this Committee is well aware, frankly, of sub-optimal performance, as I say, by the former Chairman of the Panel, who wrote to me-

Q437 Chris Ruane: Was it good use of public funds?

Damian Green: As I say, it would have been much better if it had been done through the system that has been set up, and as you know, the Chairman of the Panel wrote to me saying could he use his powers, could he hold a meeting, and I went back saying, "Yes", effectively. He then took legal advice that meant that he didn’t hold a meeting, by which time it was going through the court. So I think there is a system set up to avoid spending public money on court hearings that was not operated in that place. I can only hope, and indeed assume, that every other chairman of every other panel will have seen that and decided to use the powers that are given to them by the legislation.

Q438 Chris Ruane: Do you believe that some of these PCCs are behaving like little dictators?

Damian Green: No, I think that would be unfair. I think the most recent case is really today’s news from Kent, my own county, where the PCC used the powers given to her in the Act to call in HMIC to look at the statistics collected by the Kent Police and discovered serious problems. I think this is a really good piece of evidence about how the system works, because of course the Kent PCC was formerly the Chairman of the Kent Police Authority, so you have the same person there holding the Chief Constable to account, but because she is a PCC, she has powers that make her much more effective at holding the force to account than she did have when she was Chairman of the Police Authority. Normally in public policy, you cannot get scientific experiments. This is as near as you can get to a scientific experiment and it has worked.

Q439 Chris Ruane: Just finally, I do not think you answered the question that I put. Do you think it is acceptable that one of the grounds, one of the four grounds for getting rid of the Chief Constable, was, "You are deeply hostile to the very concept of the office of PCC"?

Damian Green: I think as long as the PCC is dealing in facts and not dealing irrationally and perversely, then the PCC is entitled to express an opinion. As I say, if the Chief Constable concerned, who had 30 years plus of distinguished service, had wanted to challenge that and not retire, then the system is there to give her the power to do so and that, as I say, provides the appropriate balance for giving the PCC-

Q440 Mr Clappison: Very briefly, it has just been put to you that PCCs are behaving like dictators. I think it is a little while since you studied politics, but wasn’t one of the features of a dictatorship that they were not elected? Isn’t it worth bearing in mind that these PCCs are all elected and subject to election in the future, which was not the case with the previous arrangements?

Damian Green: Of course. The fact is nobody knew who was running the Police Authority. That is an observable fact, that police governance and the actions of Police and Crime Commissioners are much higher in the public consciousness than anything that used to be done by a police authority, and that indeed is a tribute to the fact that when you introduce democracy, when you have people who have to not only get elected but get re-elected, then you have people who are much more in the public spotlight, and therefore much more, in the end, accountable. That was one of the purposes of the reform and, as I say, I think what happened in Kent is-

Q441 Mr Winnick: I am somewhat surprised, Minister, that you were so laidback, so to speak, when my colleague quoted from one of the grounds for dismissal, namely, "You are deeply hostile to the very concept of the office of PCC". The other points that he makes for dismissal can be decided accordingly, perhaps in the court or what have you, but this one, "You are very hostile, you are deeply hostile" how does he know in the first place? The position has only been in existence for a very short time. Can he read her mind? Did she say anything of the kind? Doesn’t it strike you as somewhat totalitarian, such a comment as he made?

Chair: You can give us a brief answer.

Damian Green: I will try to be briefer than the question. I think we have moved from dictatorship to totalitarianism and I think Mr Clappison is quite right. These are elected people who have to go back in a few years’ time to their electorates and say, "Will you re-elect me?" so the short answer is I have no idea what conversations took place between Ian Johnston and Carmel Napier and I cannot be expected to have any knowledge of those private conversations, but I can know that Mr Johnston will have to justify whatever decisions he takes-and this is clearly a big decision-to the people of Gwent in a few years’ time if he seeks re-election. As with all of us, democracy is the ultimate mode of accountability that we all have to go through, and that is a good thing.

Q442 Chair: Indeed. One of the features of the exchange that we have just had and your allusion to the evidence session of the Chair of the Crime Panel for Lincolnshire was perhaps the fact that they have not had sufficient guidance, so they do not know where to get their legal advice from. In his particular case, he went to a local district council to give him legal advice. I do not know where the PCC from Gwent went. Do you think that there needs to be more guidance and more assistance, because when they came to see us in the very short session we had, I think both the PCC and the Chairs of the Crime Panel were asking for more assistance from the Home Office. We know at the end it is a local matter, but could we provide them with more help?

Damian Green: We do provide them with guidance and we hold regular meetings with all the PCCs. It is interesting that you would expect them all to turn up to the first one, but they all turned up to the second one as well, so they clearly find them valuable, and obviously there are officials within the Home Office whose job it is to make sure they are giving advice. It is absolutely clearly the case that if any PCC or any chairman of the panel phoned up the Home Office and said, "I have a situation here. I want some advice" then we would give them advice, as indeed when the Chairman of the Panel in Lincolnshire wrote to the Home Secretary and me and asked for advice, I gave him advice. He chose not to take it, but some things you cannot control.

Q443 Chair: You have been very open here in saying you met the PCCs twice, but when I put down a parliamentary question on 22 April and asked whether or not you had a meeting with PCCs, you replied by saying, on 13 May, "It is not the Government’s practice to provide details of such meetings" yet on 17 December, in answer to David Hanson, you gave enormous detail to Mr Hanson about the meeting that you and the Home Secretary had with 39 of the 41 Police and Crime Commissioners. You said where they came up from, who did not turn up, who paid the cost, but you did not want to tell us how many meetings you have had. Do you now accept that it is important that when Members of Parliament and members of this Committee ask how many times you and the Home Secretary have met PCCs it is important to tell Parliament the information?

Damian Green: As you know, as indeed you have just said, Mr Chairman, I try to be as open as possible. Clearly there are some meetings that need to be kept private and I am aware that you have raised a point of order about-

Q444 Chair: But that was about the Home Secretary’s trip to Romania. That is not about this. It is scrutiny. One of the points of having Select Committees and Members of Parliament is they can ask the Home Secretary how many times you have met Police and Crime Commissioners and in what circumstances. Of course private meetings are private meetings, but when the Home Secretary and the Police Minister meet Police and Crime Commissioners and Parliament wants to know when that happens, surely you have to tell them?

Damian Green: We do, and details of-

Chair: No. It says here, "It is not the Government’s practice to provide details of all such meetings".

Damian Green: Yes, details of all such meetings. You make my point for me. The meetings we have are passed to the Cabinet Office on a quarterly basis and are published on the Cabinet Office website. Details of all meetings are not necessarily provided, because some of them, particularly in the Home Office, have to remain confidential, as you know.

Chair: Minister, I have been a Minister before.

Damian Green: Well, indeed. I was about to make that point as well.

Q445 Chair: I know that you might find that hard to believe. But the fact is if you are asked a question whether the Home Secretary, in the week commencing 22 April, met Police and Crime Commissioners, there has to be an answer, either yes or no. It can’t be, "We do not talk about these meetings" when it has already been in the Independent, surely?

Damian Green: It can be, because as I understand it, the reply for questions about ministerial diaries exists from Government to Government. You will have given that answer as a Government Minister, I assume, at some stage in the past. I seem to remember in my long years in Opposition, I never got any details about ministerial meetings.

Q446 Chair: Minister, I have never given that response. In response to previous comments, the Home Office is getting very defensive about having open meetings. Of course a private meeting is a private meeting. You asked about my point of order. That related to whether the Home Secretary visited Romania, which is quite an open and transparent question to ask and to be answered. This has gone to the Chairman of the Procedure Committee and it will end up back with the Speaker. I think Parliament needs to know when these meetings are happening, unless there is a good reason for not telling us.

Damian Green: That is why, as I say, we do. They are published on the Cabinet Office website on a quarterly basis. We are more transparent than any previous administration about ministerial meetings.

Chair: Anyway, we are obviously not going to make any progress with that. Let us go to Nicola Blackwood.

Q447 Nicola Blackwood: Thank you, Mr Chairman. I did want to move on to pay and conditions, Minister, and ask you in particular about the pay and pensions reports, which I understand Tom Winsor has said are now going to be delayed until July 2014. I wonder if you could tell the Committee why those delays have happened and what is going on with the negotiations to cause those delays?

Damian Green: It is the normal process, as it were. I know Tom Winsor would like it to go faster, but in the Bill that we just had a second reading for, the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Bill, to give its full title, that is the Bill that abolishes the current police negotiating machinery and replaces it with the Police Remuneration Review Body and the legislation has to be passed in both Houses and all of that. So that PRRB will be in place in autumn 2014 and therefore will be making recommendations for the year 2015/16. It is simply a question that we have to pass primary legislation to get the new machinery into place and so that is what we are now going through. The Committee stage started today.

Q448 Nicola Blackwood: Okay. I understand the Chief Inspector has been pretty clear that he wished he had recommended earlier the abolition of the Police Remuneration Board. It is now in the Bill. Is there any way that it can be expedited, the date of abolition, or is it just going to have to make its way through the House at that date?

Damian Green: No, because for obvious and good reasons, the police pay negotiating machinery is set out in statute, we have all the obvious sensitivities, and therefore if it is going to be changed radically, as it is being, it has to be changed radically by primary legislation and primary legislation takes some time. As I say, I have seen I think it was Tom Winsor’s evidence to this Committee where he said he wished he had recommended some kind of interim procedure, but the truth is you have to do it by primary legislation.

Q449 Nicola Blackwood: Okay. One of the pieces of evidence that has become pretty clear is that quite a few forces are choosing to pay considerably over the suggested starting salary of £19,000. I think that quite a lot of the new Constables are starting higher than that. Have you gathered any evidence from ACPO Chief Constables about why they are choosing to depart from that suggested scale, what impact that is having on recruitment and morale?

Damian Green: £19,000, that is indeed the lowest salary, but it wouldn’t apply, for instance, in London, it wouldn’t apply to those who brought any particular skills or expertise, so it probably would not apply to specials or PCSOs who apply. So it was always to an extent a figure not plucked out of the air, but that was the absolute minimum, so I am not surprised that most people are offering more than that. It is part of the operational independence of Chief Constables that they can decide how, within the payscales, they operate them. All I can say about the response is that, for example, one advert in Avon and Somerset, they advertised for between 100 and 200 positions and had over 4,000 applicants, so that suggests to me that the desirability of becoming a police officer is as high as ever.

Q450 Nicola Blackwood: Yes. Can I ask about the turnover between forces, because obviously in some force areas such as Thames Valley, a lot of officers are lost to higher-paying areas like the Met, because of exactly the reason that you point out, because of payscales. Have you noticed any change in that over the last few years as a result of the changes that have been brought in?

Damian Green: The truth, I can answer anecdotally, because I haven’t seen figures, but I am very conscious of it, being a Kent MP, because Kent is one of areas where-

Nicola Blackwood: Yes, you will have the same problem.

Damian Green: -you can go and work in Bromley and you may only be 10 miles from home, but suddenly you are in a higher pay area. It doesn’t feel like as much of a problem as it was some years ago. That may be because inevitably in these kind of stringent times, there is less recruitment going on than there was 10 years ago, so therefore there is just less movement between forces. But as I say, that is anecdotal and I will go away and see if we have some more hard figures that I will write to the Committee about, if the Chairman would permit that.

Q451 Nicola Blackwood: The last point obviously is the pay and conditions proposals have quite an impact in terms of morale and obviously we noticed that with some of the campaigns. Can I ask what your current assessment is of the way that that has been managed through Home Office communications and so on?

Damian Green: Obviously at a time of stringency, then we are very conscious of the mood of officers. In this, I defer to Sir Hugh Orde, who has a considerably longer experience of direct relationship with the police than I do. He says that since he joined the force in 1977, morale has always been at rock bottom; this is just a continuous condition. So I do not underestimate at all the difficulties that we have gone through, but the main pay and pension changes are now there, people know what is happening and I just observe two facts. First of all, through this period, the police have continued to do their job more effectively than ever before, and secondly, as I have just quoted, the recruitment figures suggest that in current circumstances, the desirability of a career in the police force is as high as ever.

Q452 Nicola Blackwood: One of the issues that was evident to me from the correspondence that I was receiving just as a constituency MP was that there was some confusion about what the impact would be for individual officers about these proposals. What effort has there been to make sure that there is greater clarity about what the proposals will mean on a sort of officer by officer basis? Is there some kind of portal by which people can put in their circumstances and find out exactly what it means for them?

Damian Green: There is a website into which officers can type in the details. Now, the problem, one of the reasons why there was some confusion was that inevitably you set up a website and it has to assume the worst, because the last thing you want to do is give people false information that is too cheerful, and so I think many officers found that when they did a ready reckoner, the results seem worse than they would be for those individual officers. So as time has gone on, people have now checked out their individual circumstances, and in many of them, they are not as bad as that ready reckoner suggested. As I say, I am not blaming the algorithm; it is what you have to do.

Q453 Steve McCabe: Minister, when we are talking about police pay and conditions, can I also ask, how worried are you about the compensation culture that seems to be developing in our police? We have recently had the story about the person who forgot about the conviction; we had the officer in Stretford who tripped over the step at the filling station; one in Maidenhead who fell down a drain while investigating a burglary; one in Nottinghamshire who is reported to have been given £16,000 after falling over a pile of blankets; another one who was paid compensation for being bitten by fleas; in fact, over a four-year period, £67 million of taxpayers’ money. How concerned are you about this compensation culture and are you taking any steps to deal with it?

Damian Green: Yes. I have talked to the Police Federation about this, because their job is to defend their members, and it seems to me there are two principles that you have to adhere to, first as an employer, as the forces are, of people whose job can be as dangerous as any job in the country, that the employer owes a duty of care to the employee, as any employer does, so that if carelessness happens, if somebody is injured as a result, then it is-

Q454 Steve McCabe: These are fairly reasonable risks.

Damian Green: No, sure. I mean, we have all seen the cases and some of them are fairly eye-watering. But I think the other principle, as I say, there is a duty of care of the employer, but the other principle, which seems to me to be absolutely important, is that no member of the public should ever fear dialling 999 if they have a problem for the thought of, "Oh, my God. Am I going to get sued? Am I going to end up paying compensation?" and what we need to do is to adhere to both of those principles and that requires detailed guidance and so on in certain areas.

Q455 Chair: But I think what Mr McCabe wants to know is has it gone too far? We accept that it happens, but has the balance-

Damian Green: Again, the compensation culture isn’t the sort of phrase that you would apply to the vast majority of police officers. There are clearly individual cases where, to be polite about it, all of our eyebrows go up, thinking, "Really?" and as I say, the thing that really got me annoyed was the thought that members of the public might think they do not have the recourse to the police that they need to have because of potential compensation.

Q456 Steve McCabe: Also I think when you are under such pressure over budgets, which I think most people would understand, if the figures are right, £67 million over four years sounds like an extraordinary amount of money going on something like this.

Damian Green: It is, but as I say, to some extent it depends what has wound up in those figures, because officers do very dangerous jobs, some of them are genuinely injured and seriously injured or terribly killed in the course of duty, but some of them can be seriously injured and one would expect them to get quite considerable compensation. So I think there is no substitute for looking at an individual case and saying, "That individual case is wrong". That illustrates a principle that we then need to operate through the force.

Chair: Thank you. Let us move on to integrity. Mr Ellis.

Q457 Michael Ellis: Thank you, Mr Chairman. Minister, could I ask you first about something that this Committee heard evidence about several weeks ago, which was the integrity and conduct of some undercover police officers, because we heard evidence about some certainly alleged impropriety with officers who had been placed undercover as part of their official duties. There was some concern about the state of policy in this area. Has your ministry done anything about that?

Damian Green: It has. I agree, this is a really important issue and I know it attracted both the Committee’s attention and great public attention as well, so I am pleased to be able to tell the Committee today that we will shortly be bringing forward secondary legislation to require that all deployments of undercover enforcement officers, undercover police, are notified to the Office of Surveillance Commissioners so that they can monitor them during their regular inspections. Those deployments that last for more than 12 months, which is one of the ones that caused the most serious problems, will require the approval of the OSC to continue for that period. The recommendation of HMIC said that this safeguard should be applied to intelligence-gathering operations, but we want to go further and apply it to all undercover officers, whatever the task at hand is, and we are also going to put into law another HMIC recommendation that is that the authorisation for these kind of activities should go up to the level of Chief Constable, so we are considerably tightening the monitoring.

Q458 Michael Ellis: Where was it before?

Damian Green: It was senior officers, I think, so making the Chief responsible.

Q459 Michael Ellis: So does that mean that there will be a layer of independent oversight with the Office of Surveillance Commissioners as to future undercover operations?

Damian Green: Exactly so. The OSC is obviously a completely independent body and it will be notified in advance; it will have to give approval for the long-run operations that have caused some of the issues of very serious concern in the past. So we will now have, as it were, a double system where it has to be approved by a Chief, so the Chief has to know what is going on, and an outside body.

Q460 Michael Ellis: Did you say that is only for operations of 12 months or longer that the Chief Constable or-

Damian Green: No, the Chief Constable will need to authorise.

Michael Ellis: For all of them?

Damian Green: Yes.

Q461 Michael Ellis: Good, thank you for that. Can I also, on the subject of integrity, ask you about Operation Alice, as it is called, which you will be familiar is a Metropolitan Police investigation into the possible fabrication of evidence and the circumstances in that details of a police log came to be leaked to the press in connection with an alleged incident at the gates of Downing Street. It is taking some time, is it not, for this police investigation to proceed? Do you have any information about how long it is likely to take? Are you in contact with the Metropolitan Police about it?

Damian Green: I am not, and nor should I be. It is an inquiry going on and I observe, as a fact, that last weekend there were more arrests made, so this is clearly a live criminal investigation and therefore as Policing Minister-

Q462 Michael Ellis: You are keeping well clear of it, are you?

Damian Green: I am keeping well clear. I, perhaps more than anyone in this House, feel very strongly that politicians should not become involved in operational police matters, so I do not intend to do so myself.

Q463 Michael Ellis: Yes. I was not thinking of that when I asked you the question, but I see what you mean.

There are several police officers of very senior rank, ACPO ranks, as they are called, who appear to be currently facing misconduct hearings. I wonder if you could say something about that? Do you know the numbers involved and why it is that we are in a state of situation where there are so many officers of Chief Constable, Deputy Chief Constable, Assistant Chief Constable rank who seem to be facing disciplinary or misconduct hearings of one sort or another?

Damian Green: The factual answer is it is nine or 10. It is of that order who have had some kind of hearing over the past year or so, as well as the figures I gave the Chairman earlier about general dismissals and hearings of officers altogether. It is a matter of serious concern, as you would expect, and that is one of the reasons why the Home Secretary made the announcement she did in February of a significant across the board tightening of the rules and increasing of the transparency around police operations in terms of second jobs, expenses and so on, as well as the proposal to increase both the powers and the scope of the IPCC so that the more serious and sensitive complaints can be heard both more effectively and faster than before. It is exactly the same sort of driver that led the Home Secretary to make that announcement.

Q464 Michael Ellis: Just one more from me, if I may. I understand that there is going to be a register of Chief Constables’ interests. Do you know where that will be held and how that is going to work?

Damian Green: The register of interests of certainly PCCs will be on police.uk. That is the obvious place to put-

Michael Ellis: So online?

Damian Green: Yes. I think the interests-

Q465 Chair: Sorry, are you telling the Committee that the register of interests, in answer to Mr Ellis’ question, of Chief Constables’ second jobs is going to be online-

Damian Green: No, no, no.

Chair: -because that is different to what the Home Secretary said.

Damian Green: No, exactly. That was PCCs.

Michael Ellis: No, he was referring to PCCs.

Q466 Chair: So where is the register of PCCs?

Damian Green: Of Chief Constables? Can I write to you about it, just to make sure? I think it will be up by individual forces, yes.

Chair: I think you have not decided. I think the last time this was raised with the Home Secretary, she had not made up her mind.

Michael Ellis: There may not have been a decision.

Damian Green: But as a principle, it seems to me that this sort of information, the transparency information, is best held online. I mean, that is in the modern world, it seems to be the way to do it.

Michael Ellis: Yes. Perhaps you could write to us when there is an answer. It is not particularly pressing, but perhaps you could.

Q467 Mr Clappison: Just going back to Operation Alice, I can well understand the approach that you are taking on that, but given the circumstances of the case and its sensitivity and the background, would it be your expectation that there would be the greatest amount of transparency in the police’s dealings and particularly their dealings with the press?

Damian Green: All I can say in response-you appreciate the constraints that I have just explained-is that the investigation is being conducted by the IPCC. It is being done under the management of the IPCC and all I can say is that IPCC is extremely aware of the need for the fullest possible and best possible investigation and of all the obvious implications and sensitivities that surround the case and I know they are in contact with Andrew Mitchell. Deborah Glass, who is the Deputy Chair of the IPCC, has written to Andrew Mitchell in relationship to the media reports and the various speculations surrounding the investigation.

Q468 Mr Clappison: Do you think that briefings of the press in that no notes are taken, that that is consistent with such an approach?

Damian Green: I think you are enticing me on to ground that is likely to be the substance of the criminal investigation and therefore the very serious point I would make is that, as I have said, we have six people arrested already. It is at least possible that there will be criminal proceedings and therefore anything I say at this stage might conceivably have implications for those criminal proceedings, so therefore it is not sensible for me to say anything.

Chair: I will call you in a minute, Mr Winnick. Can I first of all, on behalf of the Committee, welcome your announcement today about undercover agents as a positive step forward and in line with the recommendations that we have made. We think this is the right thing to do, and thank you for coming to tell the Committee this first. We look forward to seeing the regulations when they are produced.

Damian Green: You should have a letter with you today I sent this morning, yes. You have that.

Q469 Chair: Indeed. On the issue of undercover agents though, you presumably share the Committee’s concern, as expressed in our last report, about the use of the identities of dead children by undercover agents. I think in your response today you said both you and the Home Secretary were astonished and disappointed. Is that correct?

Damian Green: Yes, absolutely. I think it is inarguable that that kind of behaviour is unacceptable. I think the Home Secretary said that when she was last in front of the Committee.

Chair: Yes, but you went further, you were astonished and disappointed, which is quite severe criticism of the use of that.

Damian Green: Yes.

Q470 Chair: It will not be used again and it is not being used again?

Damian Green: It is not being used at the moment and we have been assured by the senior officers involved, and as you know, there is a significant investigation going on.

Q471 Chair: Indeed, but in respect of what Mr Ellis and Mr Clappison have said about Alice, we of course understand why you cannot comment on operational matters, but there are now eight investigations currently being conducted by the Metropolitan Police costing £23 million, involving 300 officers and there has only been five people convicted of any offences. Does it worry you, as the Policing Minister, that there are so many historical investigations going on about police failings that don’t seem to come to a conclusion? On the subject of Herne, that went on for 18 months and cost £1.2 million and of course nobody was arrested. While we accept that Ministers cannot intervene or set timetables, is it a worry that so many of these investigations are ongoing?

Damian Green: I would not say it was a worry, but like you, I have asked, "Are there historical investigations going on that officers do not think are going to reach a conclusion, and if they are, why are we spending money on them?" and the answer, I mean, senior officers are obviously concerned about this as well. They do not want to waste time, money and effort when there is no possible conclusion, and they only proceed, they assure me, with investigations where there is the possibility, the likelihood of an outcome. The point was put to me, particularly in the context of the terrible historic child abuse allegations, the matter of historic investigations and how much they would cost-because inevitably they are more difficult and therefore more expensive-was that as long as there are victims alive who have not had justice, then it is worthwhile to spend police resources and public money on pursuing people, because those victims deserve justice, whether they had crimes committed against them yesterday or 50 years ago.

Q472 Chair: So is it a blank cheque then until that is-

Damian Green: Nobody has blank cheques, and therefore every Chief Constable has to decide where they put their resources, as any public servant does, and they all think about it very carefully, but I do take this point, that there may be historic investigations, but there are victims still alive who deserve justice.

Q473 Mr Winnick: You mentioned, if I understood you correctly, Minister, that the investigation into how names were used, the names of dead children, was still being investigated, am I-

Damian Green: Yes, it is.

Q474 Mr Winnick: Would you give an indication when there is likely to be an outcome?

Damian Green: I do not think I can. You have had, I think, Chief Constable Creedon in front of you on these issues.

Chair: I am sorry, what did you say, Minister?

Damian Green: You have had Mick Creedon in front of you.

Chair: No, he has written to the Committee. He has not been here.

Damian Green: Oh, he hasn’t? I am sorry.

Q475 Mr Winnick: Is it likely that before the House goes into recess in four weeks’ time we will have a report, a report if not to the Committee, perhaps to the House itself, of how this disgraceful episode occurred?

Damian Green: I just don’t know. The investigation is taking place and Mick Creedon, as you know, is leading it, and the same applies as with Operation Alice. The officers do not report back to Ministers about the progress of investigations on an ongoing basis, so I just do not know.

Q476 Mr Winnick: So at this stage, it is simply a matter of continuing the inquiry, leaving aside Alice, how these names were used?

Damian Green: Yes. The investigation is going on and obviously we all want it concluded as swiftly as possible, but even more important than that is making sure it gets to the truth.

Q477 Mr Winnick: Yes. I wonder if I can, Chair, just go to another topic, the question of free hospitality and the rest of it, in no way questioning the integrity of the previous Met Commissioner. Indeed, when he was giving evidence, I made it clear that if I wanted to question his integrity, I would do so, but I had no intention of doing that. However, it did appear, and hence the reason that he was questioned, that he received while he was Met Commissioner free treatment after medical treatment. It was that he had not received free medical treatment, but what happened afterwards when he was convalescing. Would you take the view that it would be inappropriate from now on for any police officer, the most senior or the most junior, to receive free treatment?

Damian Green: I think the first line of defence is-

Mr Winnick: In the terms that I have just described, from a company.

Damian Green: If you like, it is transparency and if people know, and we have introduced measures to make sure that there is more transparency, and the obvious analogy is that if people know that everything they do is going to be made public, then that acts as quite a significant deterrent for most people against doing something that would be regarded as improper. Clearly, in terms of receipt of any kind of hospitality, first of all, it has to be open, and secondly, it has to be of a nature that could not give rise to any prospect of someone thinking that the exercise of your function was being affected by it and that applies very clearly and very significantly to Chief Constables, who have enormous powers. So I think that is where we would draw the line.

Chair: Thank you. I know that Mr Reckless has a question that he wants to come back on.

Q478 Mark Reckless: Yes. Minister, you referred to the controversy with which our Kent Police and Crime Commissioner has been involved today. Were you also aware of the issue, what this Committee described as a "fiasco" around the appointment of a Youth Commissioner, and prior to that, the issue of £70,000 being paid to a PR adviser and a similar amount to a social media adviser?

Damian Green: Yes. I read my local media as well.

Q479 Mark Reckless: Do you think those are the sort of issues that should be investigated by the Police and Crime Panel?

Damian Green: I think very strongly that the Police Minister should not try to second-guess the Police and Crime Panel in an individual area. We have set up democratically accountable Police and Crime Commissioners and as a check on them, Police and Crime Panels. There are clearly very far backstop powers that the Home Secretary has to direct all bits of the policing organisation, but they should be used as backstops, and so it is for the Police and Crime Panel to decide whether or not any individual Commissioner has done something improper and what steps they should take about it.

Q480 Mark Reckless: But is it for them to consider?

Damian Green: They have the powers set out in legislation, and those powers are to look at precisely the activities of the Police and Crime Commissioner. That is what the panel is for. So if there are matters that they think the Commissioner has done that are questionable, then yes, as I say, that is what the panel is for.

Q481 Mark Reckless: Minister, you may not be aware, but Anne Barnes has today called for every Police and Crime Commissioner in the country to commission HMIC to conduct exactly the same type of investigation that has been done in Kent in each of the other counties. Is that something you would support and would you be able to fund HMIC for that work?

Damian Green: I think HMIC is already doing it. HMIC said yesterday, in the wake of their report into Kent, that they are now going to do similar things around the country and so that is what HMIC is for, so it is not a question of special funding. I think they are already doing that. In principle, yes, I want the crime statistics to be as accurate as possible. Currently, international standard-setting bodies have some of the most reliable crime stats in the world. Let’s make them even better, that is my view.

Q482 Mark Reckless: When you voted in the Kent Police and Crime Commissioner elections, did you judge Ann Barnes to be the best candidate?

Damian Green: No, I voted Conservative in the Kent Police and Crime Commissioner elections, as I do in all elections that I am faced with.

Chair: I am surprised. Normally people say it is a secret ballot. It is very good of you to say that. Minister, I have just been told there is a vote that is imminent, so I am going to adjourn the Committee. We just have one final topic to go through with you. We will adjourn the Committee. We will resume as soon as the vote is over, as soon as we have a quorum. Thank you.

Committee suspended for a Division in the House..

On resuming-

Q483 Chair: Thank you for allowing us to have that short break. We are now going to move on to the College of Policing, Minister. Other colleagues will join us but we will start with other questions and then the College of Policing from Dr Huppert.

Dr Huppert: Sorry for missing your earlier comments, Minister. On the College of Policing, I had a really interesting meeting last Friday, I think it was, with a team from the College of Policing, ACPO, (inaudible 1:08:54 PTV), IPCC, the Met, CAST, about the subject of tasers. It was a very interesting briefing and I thank them all for it. One of the issues that came up was the publication of taser statistics. As you will probably remember, the figures used to be in quarterly reports. They have not come out since quarter 4, 2009. In February 2011 I asked your predecessor when they were coming out and was told the spring of that year. In April 2012 I was told that they would be out in the May of that year. In October 2012 I asked you and was told they would come out in the autumn of that year. When will we get the taser statistics and would you agree that it is important for transparency that these are published?

Damian Green: I am tempted to answer either spring or autumn. It is a very good question and in principle, yes, we should have those statistics. The most sensible thing I can say is I will find out and as soon as we have them in an orderly form we will publish them but I don’t want to-

Q484 Dr Huppert: In an orderly form? As I understand it, there is huge logging on tasers to keep track of every single time they are fired.

Damian Green: Yes, there is. That is why I am puzzled. I had not heard that there was a problem with this, but I now have so I will go away and do something about it.

Q485 Dr Huppert: Thank you very much. If I could then turn to the College of Policing. The whole idea is it should be an evidence-based body so having evidence is clearly important. Can you talk us through the process now with fully establishing it? I understand you have a full board of directors. When will it become a statutory body and when will it receive the other rules that it needs?

Damian Green: The answer to when it will become a statutory body is when the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill receives Royal Assent, which one assumes, if parliamentary proceedings go well, will be in some months time. That will give it the powers it needs and put all of that on a statutory basis.

Q486 Dr Huppert: As I understand it, the Government has guaranteed only two years of funding for the college. Is that right and how could the college support itself after that?

Damian Green: It is an odd interpretation. The fact is we know what the college’s funding is for the next two years because that is what we know funding is for. As you will be aware, next week we will hear more about 2015-16 and out of that we derive the details of the Home Office budget. So at the moment the college is funded more or less two-thirds, one-third; two-thirds from Home Office grant, one-third from commercial activities it does itself. The decision about the future funding will come and the college in the end will be responsible for its own funding model. One of the things that Alex Marshall wants to do is to expand its commercial activities. There are huge opportunities for training, particularly overseas, and so on that the college can look at. As I say, all will be revealed in the wake of the spending review.

Q487 Chair: In terms of the appointment to the college board, of course the new chair was appointed after the rest of the board was appointed. Will there be some discretion to enable her to make ex officio appointments? At the moment it does lack diversity. I think there is only BME member on the College of Policing board.

Damian Green: Yes, I agree with that. I think it is reasonably diverse in terms of gender diversity, particularly compared with other bodies in the policing world, not just the chairman but one of the chief constables, Irene Curtis, on from Superintendents and so on. I am looking down the list. There are six women in a row in the list of board members, which you do not often get in public appointments.

Q488 Chair: You don’t normally get six women in a row in the Home Office?

Damian Green: You speak for yourself, Chairman.

Chair: Your words, Minister.

Damian Green: I agree they have done gender diversity better than they have other forms of diversity. The board has to have 15 individuals, 14 of whom have already been appointed. The other one is for the police staff.

Q489 Chair: Could we look at the issue of diversity, because it is pretty bad?

Damian Green: It is, but I think in a sense that is a symptom of a wider point about policing and, candidly, I take diversity as very important in the police service as a whole and I am very much urging forces to do something about it.

Q490 Chair: Peter Fahy said that the police are not as effective as they could be in countering terrorism because of a lack of ethnic minorities within their force. For all the years I have been in Parliament-and you have been in Parliament a long time, Mr Winnick, probably longer than both of us put together-we have all been saying, "We must do more, we must do more" and nothing seems to happen. Should we be looking at positive action, which is what Peter Fahy was talking about?

Damian Green: I have seen the suggestion that there are plans to suspend equality laws to allow the police to discriminate. I don’t think that is the right way to go. It might solve one problem but it would cause other problems. But absolutely there is a lot more and many senior officers, particularly the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, are very concerned about this. I know the Met are doing something about and so is Stephen Greenhalgh at MOPAC. They are not just the biggest but obviously the force that ought to be the most diverse, reflecting the population around them, and I know that is very high on the Commissioner’s priorities.

Q491 Chris Ruane: The Certificate of Knowledge used by some forces costs £1,000. If it was rolled out nationally should all officers be expected to meet the costs and how should initial policing qualifications be paid for? Why was it introduced? Prior to its introduction, was there any analysis of the impact of this £1,000 cost on recruitment of police officers from poor and deprived neighbourhoods and from the black and ethnic community?

Damian Green: Where it came from was Tom Winsor estimated it would cost about £600 and that cost has risen. Clearly, as with any profession, somebody has to pay for the training. I think the answer to what is a very good point-we don’t want this to make diversity more difficult to achieve-is that just as with other professions, firms will pick desirable candidates and say, "We will pay for your training and what you need to do", my expectation would be that the same sort of thing will happen with policing. I have already quoted the figures. In Avon and Somerset 4,000 people applied for between 100 and 200 jobs. That ought to leave a force in a position to say, "We really want you, you and you" and therefore one of the things they could offer, as they do in other professions, is to pay for the things.

Q492 Chris Ruane: Do you think it would be a disincentive to, say, someone who is on the dole and thinks, "I want to become a police officer"? Do you think it would be a disincentive to that person to pay that £1,000?

Damian Green: I don’t think so. As I say, to get into any profession you have long training periods that entail lots of costs, if you look at the medical and legal professions and so on. Since one of the things I am most keen on is to make policing regarded as as much of a profession as the traditional professions, it seems to me that the process for getting into it will get more like the other professions.

Q493 Chris Ruane: Is the impact being monitored? I think statistics are collected on the percentage of recruits from black and ethnic minorities. Are these statistics collected from certain socioeconomic categories, the poorest?

Damian Green: They are not, I think partly because what socioeconomic class you belong to is less definitive. If you are joining the police at 18, 19, 20 your ethnic origin is obviously fixed for life, your socioeconomic class is not.

Q494 Chair: Is there any news on when the police IT company, which has been promised for the last two years, is actually going to get started?

Damian Green: It is sort of up and running. The reason it has been slower than the other big reforms in the policing landscape is that we were very keen that PCCs should play a very significant role.

Q495 Chair: Sure. When you say it is sort of up and running, it sounds a bit vague, "sort of up and running" from a Minister. Is it there, is it not there? Do we have the software? Do we have the hardware? Is it in a building? Are there people?

Damian Green: It has a board, there are people. I have been to a board meeting and there were PCCs.

Q496 Chair: You have been to a board meeting. Does it exist?

Damian Green: Yes. It will start doing its work in the autumn.

Q497 Chair: So it is not there yet?

Damian Green: Well, it is there but you will see benefits in terms of the services it is offering in the autumn.

Q498 Chair: So, we have a board, we know that because we had a board a year ago. We have a building where it is operating from?

Damian Green: It is operating from bits of the Home Office at the moment. We are not looking for new buildings. We are moving people into the Home Office rather than out.

Q499 Chair: Fine. But the way in which we can see it doing its business well is in the autumn of this year?

Damian Green: It will be in the autumn that it will start offering services to police forces.

Q500 Chair: It would be very helpful if we had some more precise information, perhaps in writing from you on that. On the work of CEOP, did you go to Maria Miller’s meeting today?

Damian Green: I did.

Q501 Chair: Was it useful for you?

Damian Green: Yes. More to the point, I think it was useful for promoting our defences against one of the more disgusting crimes in our society, which is child sex abuse.

Q502 Chair: Have the internet companies promised to do more as a result of this meeting? Are you satisfied that they now take this issue really seriously and that it is more than just what has been said in the newspapers, when somebody searches a particular site they will get a warning to say that it has child sex photographs, "Please don’t go on this site"? Is it more than that?

Damian Green: Yes, it is more than that. That is not an insignificant element.

Q503 Chair: No. What more are they doing?

Damian Green: They are providing a significant extra sum of money, for example, to be used both by the Internet Watch Foundation and in co-operation with CEOP to increase the amount of activity that can be done in searching out illegal images and therefore that is the first step to allowing CEOP to take them down.

Q504 Chair: Are they prepared to move this stuff on the internet? They can identify it but are the internet companies making a proposal that they will remove this content?

Damian Green: Well, they block it.

Q505 Chair: They can block it?

Damian Green: There are different types of internet companies. What an ISP can do, what BT or Virgin can do, is different from what, say, Facebook can do because Facebook is not an ISP. Facebook is a different type of animal and Google is a different type of animal again. You can’t generalise about internet companies. One of the successes that the IWF has achieved is that the number of illegal images of child sex abuse hosted in this country is less than 1% of those that people can access, so there are clearly lessons to learn in the policing world about better co-operation worldwide and so on.

Q506 Chair: Figures released today show that two out of three people convicted of child pornography were spared jail, were either given suspended sentences or out of court disposals. This is a worry, is it not?

Damian Green: Clearly all sentences should fit crimes and child sex abuse offences are hugely serious. It is part of a wider look that, as you know, we are taking in terms of child sex abuse, not just online but offline as well. I am now chairman of the cross-departmental group on sexual violence against children and vulnerable people. The online work is a significant strand of that but there is a lot to be done in terms of grooming and on the historic sex abuse allegations we have seen, so it is a big area of cross-departmental work.

Q507 Chair: But are you satisfied as a result of the meeting today that the internet service providers, the internet companies, take this issue very seriously indeed and are going to do something more than they have been doing so far?

Damian Green: They take it seriously but we are absolutely not in the position where everything is fine. There will need to be continuous action, both by the companies and by Government and by other governments as well. This is a global phenomenon so therefore it needs to be dealt with by global actions.

Q508 Michael Ellis: Minister, I realise this is not exactly your portfolio but I understand that there has been some news on Abu Qatada inasmuch as the King of Jordan has endorsed the treaty arrangements between the UK and the kingdom of Jordan. Do you know anything about that?

Damian Green: Yes. What you say is correct. As the Home Secretary told Parliament and told the House, there is a twin track parliamentary proceeding. We have put secondary legislation down and on Friday we will know whether or not anyone has prayed against it. Similarly the Jordanians have been going through their own parliamentary proceedings and I understand that the King is signing that.

Q509 Michael Ellis: So that is very good news.

Damian Green: That is good news, but we all know how long this has taken so I think we just observe that what we have been setting out to do for the last few months is happening.

Q510 Chair: You are not giving us a timetable for when he is going to leave the country?

Damian Green: I am not.

Chair: Minister, thank you very much for giving evidence. We are most grateful.

Prepared 25th June 2013