Part of Science, Technology and Engineering (Careers Information in Schools) – in the House of Commons at 2:55 pm on 13th February 2013.

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Photo of Keith Vaz Keith Vaz Chair, Home Affairs Committee 2:55 pm, 13th February 2013

Another Select Committee member, Dr Huppert is also present, and he is nodding in agreement. We suggested that in part because we were worried the NCA might not have enough to do, which is, indeed, the case at present. It has very few staff and it is not yet established to the satisfaction of the Government and the Select Committee. We need to have a decision on this matter soon, and we were promised a decision after the Olympics. I do not know whether the Minister wants to answer that question now, but if not, I am happy to wait until the winding-up speeches.

I am also concerned about the huge amount of money currently being spent on historical investigations. The Select Committee has asked witnesses about that on many occasions. At present we have Operations Alice, Elveden, Weeting. Tuleta, Pallial, Yewtree and Herne. We heard only yesterday from the Home Secretary that Herne—which has been under way for the past year, with a number of police officers involved, and at a cost to the taxpayer of £1.2 million—will now be taken over by the chief constable of Derbyshire. That operation deals with important issues involving undercover agents and the recent public revelations, and a lot of money is being spent on these matters. I calculate that £44.8 million is currently being spent on the police investigating other police officers who have failed to come up to scratch. A lot of money is going to the Independent Police Complaints Commission, too, to deal with past errors by certain police forces, such as at Hillsborough. In discussing the reduction of the grant to local police and crime and commissioners, we need to consider all the money currently being spent on all these operations.

The hon. Member for Bury St Edmunds is the spokesman on good procurement in this House, and we have had many discussions about the matter. I welcome the decision of the deputy mayor of London, Stephen Greenhalgh, to take a careful look at how the Metropolitan police have spent their procurement budget. He took evidence from Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe on the issue. When we commission companies to act if the public sector cannot act, we must choose only companies with a good track record. Only yesterday it was announced that G4S was going to have to hand back to the taxpayer about £70 million. We should take into account the expenditure from the police budget that goes on companies such as G4S. The Select Committee was very clear that, as a result of the big mistakes G4S made, it ought to have handed back all its management fee of £57 million plus all the other money it ought to have spent. My hon. Friend the Member for Walsall North became an internet hit with his famous “humiliating shambles” soundbite. He will always be remembered for uttering those words on the Select Committee—and for many other words uttered, too, of course—because it was, indeed, a humiliating shambles. As the hon. Member for Bury St Edmunds has said, we ought to be very careful about dispensing public money to private companies that do not come up to scratch.

Finally, I want to say a few words about the need to carry people with us. The Minister, who has responsibility for security matters, is an avuncular type who seeks consensus. We will see that when he comes to the Dispatch Box. I will not say he is the most courteous of the Home Office Ministers as the others might get upset if I were to do so, but he does not pick a fight. The current Home Office policy is, in effect, picking a fight with the people who have to implement the changes, however. Now is not the best time to be cutting police officers’ pensions, forcing them out under rule A19 and cutting their pay retrospectively—although I perfectly understand why we might need to make changes for new recruits.

I remember my last conversation with Paul McKeever on this subject. He passionately supported treating police officers with the respect, courtesy and dignity they deserve. My only real row with the former Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend Mr Brown, was about police pay. He was quite robust with me when he asked me not to go on a demonstration under the last Labour Government in support of the police who were having their pay cut. I said to him then—and I say to the Home Secretary and Home Office Ministers now—that we must carry the work force with us. If we say we have the best police service in the world, the only way to express our admiration for what the police have done is to treat them with proper respect—to have a dialogue with them, to stop cutting their pay and conditions, to speak to them because they know best day in, day out. As we have seen recently in Manchester and other parts of the country, they lay down their lives for us. They go out in the morning and they do not know whether they are coming back at night, unlike all of us in this Chamber today. If we do not carry them with us, the world-class brand reputation that we currently have will be damaged for ever.