Clause 90 - Setting of performance targets

Criminal Justice and Police Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 6:15 pm on 8th March 2001.

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Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 6:15 pm, 8th March 2001

The clause states that when

``an objective has been determined under section 88 and notified to the Authority, the Secretary of State may direct the Authority to establish levels of performance (``performance targets'') to be aimed at in seeking to achieve the objective...A direction given under this section may impose conditions with which the performance targets must conform...The Secretary of State shall arrange for any direction given under this section to be published in such manner as appears to him to be appropriate.''

One of the Opposition's concerns is that there should not be too many performance targets for the police training authority, and that it should not become subject to a huge amount of bureaucracy and too much monitoring.

Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath

Does my hon. Friend agree that it is vital not to repeat the nonsense that the Government have imposed on police authorities as a whole? He and I have repeatedly raised the issue in the Chamber. As the chief constable in Surrey has repeatedly complained, a sensible analysis is not possible if a police authority such as Surrey is given 58 performance targets by the Government.

Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

Performance indicators have their place but there is no doubt that police authorities have been overburdened with performance indicators and targets during recent years. The original figure was as high as 58, although steps have been taken recently to reduce it.

Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

Yes. There is no doubt that if the system is overloaded with performance targets, the purpose of which may be beneficial, the effect on performance can be damaging, and it can cost a great deal of money in terms of bureaucracy.

On best value, which my hon. Friend the Member for Surrey Heath mentioned, a range of indicators have been greatly criticised. For example, value performance indicator 131, which measures work on case files, is a political best value performance indicator. It is being forced on the police in order to allow Ministers to ensure that the early pledge in Labour's manifesto on young offenders is met. As the Minister will be aware, not only will that not be achieved—

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Minister of State, Home Office

The pledge was to achieve the targets over the course of a five-year Parliament. By March 2002, they will be met.

Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

I always enjoy it when the Minister stands up to defend bluffly a position that we all know is totally flawed. Perhaps no one does it better. Anyway, it is certainly good value, although not best value. To call the process best value is an example of new Labour speak. It is certainly not good value for many forces.

The recent best value performance indicators consultation gave rise to a the following response from the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions:

``There was some criticism of this indicator. The police have argued that performance in this area has more to do with the CPS than with the police. They point out that the indicator is overcomplicated and is not an issue of particular concern to the local community—the true test of Best Value.''

When we consider the sort of performance targets that may be set for the training authority, we must be careful that we do not repeat the mistakes of the past. The performance indicator in relation to the police has an obvious political value. However, in terms of the work of the police and achieving an improvement in law and order and the police's ability to do the job on the front line—which everybody wants—it is not helpful to have unnecessary performance indicators that are driven by pledge cards and the like.

The consultation document states:

``Policy interests have stressed that we need to raise performance in this area and that, by having the indicator and by HMIC's interest in this... the attention of Chief Constables is focused on it''.

I do not know what you think, Mr. Gale, but I think that ``policy interests'' in this context means Ministers. We want to ensure, as far as is possible, that the setting of performance targets by the Secretary of State is done sparely—what is necessary but no more—so that we do not end up with a great deal of further bureaucracy being imposed on the authority.

I shall give an example of the sort of chaos that the best value regime is causing. Apart from its effect on local authorities, which has been extremely damaging, in the context of the police almost everybody agrees that it has been a bit of a nightmare. I think that the chief constable of Lincolnshire, Richard Childs, was the first to break cover on the subject when he said:

``in my force Best Value bureaucracy is costing over''

£4,000 a year—£40,000, rather; no, £400,000.

Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

No, there is no advance on £400,000 a year. Richard Childs said that the police are

``in danger of sinking under a sea of targets and measures'' .

That was in his speech last year to the Royal United Services Institute for Defence Studies.

The Police Superintendents Association has called for the number of performance indicators to be further reduced. The Association of Chief Police Officers says that the best value system should be made more manageable, and the Association of Police Authorities says:

``We are working hard to get the Home Office to reduce the number of Performance Indicators.''

Those comments all come after the Minister had somewhat reduced the initial indicators. A welter of police authorities and chief constables make similar points. Tony Butler, chief constable of Gloucestershire, has said that best value is costing his force £200,000. He recently said:

``do not tie us down with a bureaucratic nightmare which will not mean anything from one force to another''.

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Minister of State, Home Office

On a short point of information, the training authority is not a best value organisation. Obviously, it will be expected to deliver value for money, but it is not a best value organisation. The hon. Gentleman's comparisons with best value situations are not valid for that authority.

Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

I do not agree. My point is that in setting performance indicators and targets, the Government may have the best possible intentions, but the result can be a disaster of bureaucracy and over-regulation. Obviously, the best value regime is a good example of that, because under it there are certain principles and performance targets and indicators against which they are measured.

Photo of Mrs Jackie Ballard Mrs Jackie Ballard Liberal Democrat, Taunton

Does the hon. Gentleman recall—I do, because I was a member of a local authority at the time—which Government were in power when performance targets were set for local authorities?

Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

I do indeed, and I am proud of that. I am not in the least disconcerted by the hon. Lady's comment. I am proud that we introduced management techniques to local authorities and surprised some of them with what could be achieved. Some Conservative authorities have led the way in using modern management techniques. We introduced some of the principles that we are now discussing, and their effect was beneficial, but—

Mr. Hawkins rose—

Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

I shall give way to my hon. Friend and come back to the ``but'' in a minute.

Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath

I want to stress to my hon. Friend that several local authorities—largely, as he says, Conservative local authorities—have made great strides in that regard. What is so damaging, as he rightly points out, is the additional cost of so-called best value. My local authority would say that that is the biggest misnomer in Britain's entire political history: best value has the completely opposite meaning to that of the natural meaning of the words. It is so far from plain English as to be Kafkaesque.

Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

I agree with my hon. Friend.

The ``but'' to which I was coming was this: if we produce a bureaucratic system with far too many indicators and far too many people inspecting each other, instead of having a spare, sensible, efficient management system, we end up with the nightmare of best value, which is costing police forces a fortune. That money could be spent on putting officers on the front line, as it would be under our proposals. I do not want to speak at length about all the bureaucracy that Labour is producing. The Minister is nodding.

Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

The Minister is nodding, so he must agree that I have been brief so far. The Bill is full of proposed new bureaucracy. Luckily, he has suggested today that two of the clauses will be dropped for that reason.

I shall give an example of what the police world is going through. In 1996-97, 62,172 officers were assigned to patrolling duties. By 1999-2000, that figure had fallen to 61,401, a reduction of 771 officers. An Audit Commission report showed that only 20 per cent. of the public were satisfied with the level of foot patrols, and that less than half the public were satisfied with the level of mobile patrols. Those figures were higher the previous year. One of the many reasons for that fall is the extra paperwork and bureaucracy introduced by the Government.

The Government always say that they are doing the opposite of what they are actually doing. They talk about best value, yet introduce a system that costs a huge sum to implement. I would be interested to hear the Minister's response and to have some assurances from him that the regime to be set up for performance targets will be simple. I hope that he can tell us how many such targets he has in mind and what they are aimed at. I want him to give us some satisfaction that the regime will not be another nightmare of red tape.

Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath

I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate will speak in a moment, and I hope that I do not steal his thunder by talking about Surrey issues. However, there is no doubt that I speak with the complete authority of the chairman of Surrey police authority, Alan Peirce, who is a county councillor for a ward in my constituency.

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Minister of State, Home Office

Does the hon. Gentleman know why the hon. Member for North-East Hertfordshire walked out of the Committee as he began speaking?

Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath

I do not know precisely. My hon. Friend did a courtesy to the Minister and me by indicating that he had to pop out of the Room as I began to speak. The Minister knows that the Parliamentary Secretary has only recently returned to the Committee, as he was replying to a debate in Westminster Hall. We all have other duties to perform in the House.

I shall continue with what I was saying before I was interrupted by the Minister's peculiar and unusual point. Alan Peirce is the county councillor for Windlesham, Bagshot and Lightwater in my constituency. He has always taken the view that Surrey police have been consistently underfunded by the Government. The Minister knows that, as he met him in a delegation with me recently. The Government appear to believe that shire counties such as Surrey have no need of proper funding. Alan Peirce recently said that it was appalling that the Government appeared to take the view that Surrey would have to get down to a position of almost third world policing before they would fund it properly.

At the same time as the Government are underfunding police authorities, they are also loading on more bureaucracy.

Photo of Mrs Jackie Ballard Mrs Jackie Ballard Liberal Democrat, Taunton

On a point of order, Mr. Gale. Would it be in order for me to mention that the hon. Gentleman does not seem to have mentioned clause 90 in the past three minutes?

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Conservative, North Thanet

It is up to the Chair to decide what is in order and what is not. I am getting perilously close to deciding that the hon. Gentleman is out of order.

Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath

I do not want to go on at length—[Laughter.]—but it is important that the Minister responds in full detail to the points about best value and bureaucracy raised by my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Hertfordshire. I imagine that my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate will have similarly strong views.

Photo of Crispin Blunt Crispin Blunt Conservative, Reigate

I do not want to detain the Committee for long. On considering this part of the Bill, my heart began to sink at the extent of the powers of detailed prescription over the authority that it gives to the Secretary of State. Do such powers add anything to the likely effectiveness of the authority? The question applies to clauses 90 and 91. If the Secretary of State appoints the right people to the authority, those clauses should not be necessary, and I am surprised to see them in the Bill. If one comes from a military background, one knows that it is better to allow people as much freedom, flexibility and authority as possible to conduct the operations with which they are charged. That principle holds good in the case of the new authority.

I return to clause 87, where there is a reference to clause 90. If the functions of the authority are laid out in subsections (1) and (2), with a limit on the Secretary of State that he needs legal authority to establish the authority, that is the maximum amount of guidance required. If the Secretary of State does not like his appointees and they are not conducting the authority as he deems fit, he has powers under schedule 4 to remove them.

Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

At the outset of the debates on police training, I made the point that ``agency'' might be a better name for the organisation than ``authority''. I did so because, under the Bill, there is so much direction and interference in the organisation by the Secretary of State that the body is not really separate and independent like a normal quango.

Photo of Crispin Blunt Crispin Blunt Conservative, Reigate

I agree. Will the Secretary of State really want to get involved in giving detailed direction to the authority to the extent to which the Bill empowers him to do so? I am concerned that that would be indifferent management practice. If things go wrong with the authority and it does not achieve his desired objectives, he may want to become more involved in the detail of its running. However, in those circumstances, I would have thought that he would consider changing the personnel who are running the authority.

It is a poor principle to have all the additional powers contained in clause 90, and in clause 91, which we will discuss later. I want the Minister to consider whether it would be better not to include the powers in the Bill. I am concerned that once they have been included, the whole bureaucratic machine will crank into action, and the civil service and the Home Office will feel that they must send out all the instructions, because the Bill requires it. The directions will have to be given and the authority will then have to reply to them and produce a huge, bureaucratic plan about how it will put in place the training that is its remit.

Perhaps, when the Bill comes back after a general election, the Minister will consider whether it is necessary to include so much direction for the authority. I hope that he will.

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Minister of State, Home Office

I am happy to express my appreciation for the hon. Gentleman's hope that I will return as a Minister after the general election and be able to deal with that point.

On the first point made by the hon. Member for Surrey Heath, it is extraordinary that he described the Surrey constabulary as providing third world levels of policing to his constituency. Those remarks are extraordinary.

Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath

On a point of order, Mr. Gale. Is it in order for the Minister deliberately to misrepresent the remarks of another Member? I was quoting the chairman of Surrey police authority, who said that only if Surrey police were reduced to offering third levels of policing did he anticipate that—

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Conservative, North Thanet

Order. That is not a point of order for the Chair. The Minister is responsible for his own remarks. Hon. Members do not mislead the Committee. What was said and what has been said will be a matter of record and there for all to read.

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Minister of State, Home Office

I would like to place it on the record that the past half an hour has been an extraordinary example of the official Opposition's determination to take up time rather than to debate issues. I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Taunton for her commitment to trying to deal with our business effectively, rapidly and with proper scrutiny of the Bill.

No significant points of substance were raised on the Bill by any members of the official Opposition. All that can be said is that I am glad that the hon. Member for North-East Hertfordshire committed himself to the idea of a targeting regime to raise standards. We share that view, as well as the view that he expressed that the judgment on the number of targets and their nature is important, and that it is important to have fewer rather than more. That is why the Government have recently reduced the number of targets for the police. However, targets are necessary in training both for specific policy goals--a good example is the Macpherson inquiry--and the fundamental importance that informs the whole of the Bill--[Interruption.]

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Conservative, North Thanet 6:45 pm, 8th March 2001

Order. Right hon. and hon. Members who are not members of the Committee are not allowed in the Committee while it is sitting.

Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

On a point of order, Mr. Gale. The Bill consists of 132 clauses, eight schedules and 150 pages. On Second Reading, the Minister offered us 16 sittings. I made it clear at the time that that was inadequate. If—

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Conservative, North Thanet 6:46 pm, 8th March 2001

Order. Before we go any further, the right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe) and the hon. Members for Beverley and Holderness (Mr. Cran), for West Derbyshire (Mr. McLoughlin) and for Cotswold (Mr. Clifton-Brown) must leave the body of the Committee. I hope that they will not force me to have them evicted. If they refuse to leave, I shall have no course but to suspend the Committee and report the matter to the House.

Sitting suspended.

On resuming--

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Conservative, North Thanet 6:55 pm, 8th March 2001

I have to advise the Committee that unless the right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald and the hon. Members for Beverley and Holderness, for West Derbyshire and for Cotswold, who are not allowed in the Room while the Committee is sitting, are prepared to leave, I must invite a member of the Committee to move a motion that they be reported to the House. If that happens, I shall name them and put the motion forthwith without debate. If they then refuse to move, I shall have no alternative but to adjourn the Committee for gross disorder without further Questions being put.

Mr. Heald rose—

Mr. Charles Clarke rose—

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Conservative, North Thanet

I am not taking any points of order on the subject before asking the right hon. Lady and the hon. Gentlemen, for the final time, to leave the Room.

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Minister of State, Home Office

On a point of order, Mr. Gale. Is it in order for me to move a motion that the right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald and the hon. Members for Beverley and Holderness, for West Derbyshire and for Cotswold, who are not members of the Committee, be asked by the Committee to leave?

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Conservative, North Thanet

It is in order, but I have already done that and the right hon. Lady and the hon. Gentlemen have made it clear that they do not intend to leave.

Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

On a point of order, Mr. Gale. I understand from ``Erskine May'' that there have been occasions, when issues of importance were concerned, when hon. Members have entered a Committee and stayed there until the House has had the matter reported to it. The Committee has no power to require Members to leave. My understanding of the procedure set out on pages 703 and 704 of ``Erskine May'' is that after the requests have been made, the position is reported to the House in a motion and that the House can then move to give you powers to require them to leave. As far as I can see, it does not refer to naming the Members in question and I ask for your ruling on that.

During the First Scottish Standing Committee proceedings on 19 January 1988, there was no question of naming the Members concerned. It was a question of reporting the matter to the House and then requiring the position to be dealt with to give the Chairman the necessary power.

A disgraceful situation has occurred in this Committee. We made it clear from the outset that insufficient time had been allowed for scrutiny of this important criminal justice Bill. On previous occasions, between 20 and 25 sittings have been allowed for such Bills. I made that clear at the outset and in the Programming Sub-Committee time and again. I have pressed the Minister and told him that it was vital for us that the situation should not be allowed to continue. He admits--

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Conservative, North Thanet

Order. I have heard enough. I have made the position clear. I have taken advice from the senior Clerks and have reviewed the notes given to Chairmen of Committees on the circumstances of gross disorder. I consider this to be such a circumstance.

I cannot go to the Floor of the House and make a report. The hon. Gentleman may have misconstrued the naming process. In this context, it is a matter of identifying the Members, not naming them as Mr. Speaker would do on the Floor of the House.

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Minister of State, Home Office

Further to that point of order, Mr. Gale. I move that the right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald and the hon. Members for West Derbyshire, for Beverley and Holderness and for Cotswold be reported to the House.

Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Gale.

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Conservative, North Thanet

I am sorry. I have been given a motion and I shall put it to the Committee forthwith.

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Conservative, North Thanet

No. I have said that I shall put the motion forthwith and I made it clear that it is not a motion for debate.

Motion made, and Question put,

That the right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe) and the hon. Members for Cotswold (Mr. Clifton-Brown), for West Derbyshire (Mr. McLoughlin) and for Beverley and Holderness (Mr. Cran) be reported to the House for gross misconduct.

The Committee divided: Ayes 10, Noes 4.

Division number 44 Adults Abused in Childhood — Clause 90 - Setting of performance targets

Aye: 10 MPs

No: 4 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Nos: A-Z by last name

Question accordingly agreed to.

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Conservative, North Thanet

The Committee is adjourned in gross disorder, without Question put.

Committee rose at one minute past Seven o'clock.